Quote for the Day

An atheist in my combox has the startling insight that the Church is full of really repulsive people, just like the rest of the human race.

Reader Ghosty remarks:

We expect about one out of twelve bishops to murder God, so we’re not laboring under any illusions about the sinners in the Church, and never have been.

Not to mention 10/12 of our bishops running around cutting off people’s ears and fleeing into the night, with only one actually showing up for the crucifixion.

The whole point of this “salvation” thingie that Jesus is on about is that his followers need saving. We’re a sorry lot, the Church. Only the thing is, so is the rest of humanity, including the ones gloating about the egregious sins of Jesus’ followers. The Church is the Church, not because it’s full of awesome people who are so much better than the rest of mankind, but because the Holy Spirit has picked the most ridiculous and repellent people in order to make clear that he’s the one doing the saving of the world. not Jesus’ followers.  Even the whole “infallibility” thing boils down to “We’re such doofuses that the Holy Spirit makes an exception to his normal rule of not getting in the way of our stupidity and sees to it that, when it comes to preserving the really crucial bits of the gospel, the Church is prevented from dropping the ball.”

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  • Irenist

    Ghosty, I will be stealing that remark early and often. Awesome.

  • Stephen Sparrow

    Mark you should tell your atheist mate that if he finds the human race so repulsive and the Church as well, why doesn’t he resign from it – tell him to go off and join the chimpanzee race

    • Jon W

      Chimps are pretty damn repulsive, let me tell you.

      • Stu

        Never throw things at chimps.

        They throw back.

        And they are accurate.

        And when they run out of things to throw, the “make” things to throw.

        • Max Lindenman

          Are you kidding? Read the headlines — they’ll eat your testicles or your face, whichever you’ll miss more.

          • Debbie

            Thanks ….I laughed, I teared up …. hilarious

  • Tim Jones

    “the Church is full of really repulsive people, just like the rest of the human race.”

    And that’s true, but there is more to it. The Church IS just as bad as the rest of the human race… *except* where it’s a lot better. That’s why I asked yesterday, “Where is the secular Mother Theresa? Where is the atheist Father Damien?” These people – the saints – have been rare enough all through the history of the Church, and may be even more so now, but they are there, and their heroic virtue passes beyond anything that really fits into a materialist view of human nature. There is something supernatural at work, sometimes to the point where the world is made quite uncomfortable and begins to wonder about the sanity of these people (witness the reaction of St. Thomas Aquinas’ family, or that of St. Francis). There are *kind* people of all religious and non-religious descriptions all over the world, but the saints, well… they’re just a little *unbalanced* about this idea of self-sacrificing love.

    • David Norris

      I wouldn’t want a secular Mother Theresa quite frankly. She’s become entirely overrated due to a brilliant marketing campaign by the Catholic Church. She didn’t want to lift people out of poverty–she thought poverty and suffering was a GOOD THING because that made you closer to God.


      • Jmac

        [citation needed]

        • Hitchens, obviously. Catholics are fond of pointing out Mother Theresa as a shining example, so Atheists such as Hitchens had to take her down by making her work out to be a bad thing, and his unthinking followers swallowed his spin whole, and are fond of repeating it whenever they can. It is as if they believe repeating a lie a thousand times over will make it true, rather like UFO believers presenting a hundred thousand pictures of flying hubcaps as proof of the existnece of UFO’s.

          However, if repetition means anything, I prefer to think of the hundred thousand people lining the streets on the day of the funeral- y’know, all those people whom she apparently never helped- crying out “You are now immortal!” and charging the carriage for a chance to touch her as she passed them by over the testimony of a bitter nihilist who truly never helped anyone in his life.

        • David Norris

          Go read Hithcen’s book, and there’s also a YouTube video with a presentation by Hitchens from the early ’90s exposing the whole racket. I’d provide a link but I’m afraid I’d end up in the spam filter.

          Again, it was a brilliant marketing campaign on the part of your Church, so much so that people still uncritically swallow their version of it.

          • No sir, I put to you that, gicen the testimony of the people of Calcutta, including large numbers of Hindus and Muslims who stood along the route of her funeral cortege is to be more believed than Hitchens. Unless you wish to argue a. That those people who lived in the same city as her and saw her work first hand knew nothing of what she was truly doing; b. that Hitchens knew from a distance better than they did up close; and c. that Catholic propaganda works on Hindus and Muslims.

            I have read some of Hitchens works, and have heard him speak on television and on youtube. I found him to be unimpressive to the last degree.

            • Mark Shea

              Just as women do not know what they should be thinking without Dave to stoop down and tell them, so the poor of Calcutta are too stupid to understand the correct view of Mother Teresa with Dave enlightening them.

          • Mark Shea

            It’s really thoughtful of you, having stooped down to tell the girls how to think about their own reproductive systems, that you now stoop down to correct the poor of Calcutta on their erroneous view of Mother Teresa. You’ve seen a video on Youtube. Clearly you are the expert. And the moral superior. Is there no end to the enlightenment you pour out on the ignorant? Thank you, Dave, for the gift your greatness to a people unworthy of you.

            • The True Will

              Are you questioning the infallibility of Hitchens? Obviously, we should look to an axe-grinding atheist to tell us about ourselves

      • deiseach

        And that, of course, is why you’re currently posting from a city in India where you are setting up a foundation to educate, feed, clothe and shelter poor men, women and children that you go out every day and pick up from the streets, isn’t it, David?

        • LUKE1732

          Indeed – the vast international network of atheist hospitals, universities, soup kitchens and other forms of benevolence stand in witness against your shallow publicity-seeking celebrity nun. Religion is the cause of every problem in the world and atheists work tirelessly to free all peoples from its wretched tentacles of charity.

          • David Norris

            I believe the good people at Medicines Sans Frontiers would like to talk to you about a secular organization that does quite a bit to truly lift people out of poverty and alleviate suffering–and without any medieval superstitions.

            • LUKE1732

              I said atheist, not secular. Secular means religion-neutral. I wonder how many health care providers in MSF are motivated by their personal religious beliefs. Or are you claiming that everyone in MSF is an atheist?

              • David Norris

                Well I certainly know a practicing Catholic wouldn’t be allowed to donate or work for MSF–they strongly promote the use of contraception and condoms in the developing world to combat poverty and disease, something that your church just can’t stand.

                • LUKE1732

                  First you equate atheist with secular. Now you’ve equated it with anyone but a practicing Catholic. The point is – show us a atheist charitable organization. Just one.

                  • PatrickG

                    It’s a silly request, since atheism is not a religion, and is not organized like the RC Church. The more important point should be that belief in the supernatural is not really important to helping people. Sure, there are theists who help others. And there are atheists who help others.

                    • LUKE1732

                      I know it’s stylish to say atheism isn’t a religion so folks can deploy the “separation of church and state” canard (with all of its inherent flaws) but it just doesn’t ring true.

                      It’s not like atheists are apathetic about the notion of God like I’m apathetic about the sport of golf. Atheism is a worldview that includes a theology about the nature of God – namely, his nonexistence. Now, back to golf – there’s nothing in the rulebook about God one way or the other. So golf isn’t a religion (except to those who treat it as such). Atheism, on the other hand, has distinct teachings about God just like every other religion.

                      So, I assume Hitchens et al, like any good evangelists for their faith, believe they’re going a good thing to open peoples’ minds to the truth (as they see it) of their particular religion.

                      So, the question remains, why don’t atheists organize to do good deeds to remedy the multitude of ill effects brought about by the world’s religions and their repulsive adherents?

                    • PatrickG

                      This was to luke… but I guess comments don’t go any deeper. How is separation of church and state a canard? Because those specific words aren’t in the Constitution?

                      Well, but not all atheists are Hitchens- not by a long shot. I would argue that most are agnostic atheists- they do not believe in god’s nonexistence, they simply do not believe in his existence.

                    • LUKE1732

                      Yes, that, and ignorance of the fact that the intent of the First Amendment was to prevent an official state religion like many of our ancestors experienced in Europe. At the same time, I resent our recent movement towards establishing Atheism as our national religion to the exclusion of all others – and it is a religion as I already explained. This violates the original intent which was to protect religions from the government.

                      The common sense meanings of “secularism” and “tolerance” should imply the allowance of all religious expression in public (even Atheism) but in practice we’re moving towards prohibiting any religious expression.

          • David Norris

            And btw, contraception and family planning services have done more to lift people out of poverty and misery in the developing world than anything else with the exception of childhood vaccinations. And your church, and Mother Theresa, stand against it.

            • LUKE1732

              Contraception also leads to bad behavior which leads to additional health problems.


              But, I’m sure they meant well.

              • LUKE1732

                I have to correct myself.

                The drug mentioned in this article actually increases HIV transmission. It’s not the bad behavior.

                I confused it with this link between condoms, bad behavior, and the increase in HIV/AIDS.


                • Irenist

                  Luke, all you’ve got here is an article by a senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health that echoes intuitions about risk compensation from the wider behavioral economics literature. More faith-based nonsense! Cool rationalists like David Norris only heed YouTube videos. You’ve got to up your game.

            • dpt

              “atheist, not secular. Secular means religion-neutral”

              Some atheists do get confused by this.

              • The Deuce

                For atheists, the definition of “atheist” is extremely nuanced.

                For instance: Christians working at secular charities? Really atheists.

                Stalin and Mao? Not really atheists.

                Hope that helps.

                • dpt


                  Yes, that seems about right.

                • PatrickG

                  What are you talking about? It’s not that Stalin and Mao were not atheists (though their belief in their own godlike nature, and their followers’ religious worship does make one wonder…), but rather that their atheism had nothing to do with their abhorrent behavior. Totalitarianism- from communism to nazism- is its own sick religion that is in no way based on “atheism” (I don’t even know how you could base a whole ideology on lack of belief in something).

                  And nobody thinks that Christians working at charities are not Christians. The point here is that, given that people of all faiths, and indeed no faith, can do very good things, religion is not really relevant for getting people to be nice.

                  • dpt

                    “rather that their atheism had nothing to do with their abhorrent behavior”
                    Beg to differ…
                    The way these atheistic regimes deliberately targeted religious institutions, leaders, and intellectuals with persecutions was driven by their in-depth hatred for all things sacred and based on their atheistic worldview that society/mankind needed to be “free” of religious bonds.

                    Of course, since religious thought and association are perfectly natural within the human condition, the above atheistic leaders only option was to turn to extreme violence in an attempt to make it happen in their lifetime.

                    Why one, in this day and age with our in-depth understanding of the brutality of these regimes, would try to disassociate the connection is sad.
                    Societies do need something to bind them together, and if what was common to provide such cohesion (no matter its faults, failures and short-comings) gets cast away because of an ideology “lacking a belief in nothing”, then that ideology of a belief in nothing needs brute force.

                    • PatrickG

                      Why did they attack faith-based communities? Simple, they were a threat to the governing authority’s power. Mao and Stalin had to cultivate a religion in which they were the godlike saviors, not Jesus or a prophet.

                      Even if it’s true that they actually tried to exterminate faith because they felt it got in the way of progress, well, that isn’t atheism. Just because you say it requires atheism, doesn’t mean that atheism necessarily leads to it. Pervasive anti-homosexual bigotry seems to require theism (note that I said pervasive; I’m sure there are some non-religious bigots), but that doesn’t mean theism results in pervasive anti-homosexual bigotry. In short, you’ve confused atheism with Communism- a religion that may rely on atheism (though I don’t think it does). On that topic, I find it appalling that people don’t realize that the central evil of communism is not atheism, or being anti-God, but being anti-individual rights and enforcing central planning (which is inherently doomed to failure).

                      I don’t agree that the only way to have a population “deconvert” is by force. The Nordic countries are very irreligious, but this is not the result of banning religion. Nor have their countries descended into some chaos, nor do they lack a means of social cohesion (ever hear of secular humanism?). By the way, to say “no matter what its shortcomings” seems profoundly misguided- one cannot ignore very serious shortcomings.

                      Lastly, I just want to point out that even if what you said is true about atheism (that it leads to evil dictators), that doesn’t actually change whether atheism is true.

                    • dpt

                      “On that topic, I find it appalling that people don’t realize that the central evil of communism is not atheism, or being anti-God, but being anti-individual rights and enforcing central planning”
                      Being anti-God, in the context of the regimes discussed above, is the same as being anti-individual. Yes, some deny that religious and spiritual thought and connections are no longer important in the modern world, the reality is that it is ingrained in the human condition down to the individual. Being anti-God is central to these regimes to achieve their goals in central planning and diminishing individual rights. Separating the atheism from the communism does not work.

                      “I don’t agree that the only way to have a population “deconvert” is by force”
                      I did not say it was the “only way”, just that the atheistic regimes discussed above, which specifically targeted religious individuals and institutions, only had force as an option to promulgate the deconversion.

                      “Pervasive anti-homosexual bigotry seems to require theism (note that I said pervasive; I’m sure there are some non-religious bigots)”
                      The atheistic regimes we are discussing were notoriously anti-homosexual.

                    • Irenist

                      First some sympathy, then a quibble:

                      Atheism is a religious stance, but not a religion, since it’s true that atheism need only imply “absence of a God belief” and is therefore not an organized religion. Thus, I can understand atheists’ frustration with having their negative stance toward religious claims confounded with a religion properly so called. Must be annoying. Sorry we theists tend to do that.

                      Similarly, however, to call Communism a religion is either special pleading (as if when something is bad, it is therefore not “atheist”) or involves such a broad definition of the word “religion” (as something like “zealously held worldview”) that most atheisms, not just Communism, are going to fall under it. Either way, you do your argument few favors with the claim, and might as well drop it. Communism was a political ideology that happened to include atheism among its tenets. Not a religion. Atheists and theists both tend to have happier conversations when the imprecise “Communism was a religion” claim is dropped.


            • On the contrary: For years I heard that the lack of Contraceptives and uncurbed population growth in India was going to lead to increased famine and economic collapse. Instead, the country of India is currently emerging as an economic superpower not despite the lack of easily available contraceptives but because they have so many people to comprise a huge workforce. Within the next twenty years they are poised to supplant China as the Chinese one child policy succeeeds in reducing China’s number one reasource, its people.

            • Subsistent

              I remember reading Mahatma Gandhi state his view of birth control in a discussion with Margaret Sanger published back in the Novenber 1936 issue of the magazine *Asia*. Gandhi — some of whose detractors called him a “half-woman” because he supported equal rights for women — indeed favored birth control for India. But he firmly opposed contraception, advocating abstinence instead, and supporting a wife’s right to refuse a husband’s request/demand for intercourse she considered unreasonable.

            • Mel

              “contraception and family planning services have done more to lift people out of poverty and misery in the developing world than anything else….”

              Really? How has contraception lifted more people out of poverty and misery as compared to…. lets say “Safe Drinking Water”?

            • (David) “And btw, contraception and family planning services have done more to lift people out of poverty and misery in the developing world than anything else with the exception of childhood vaccinations.”

              Then why aren’t the poor in these countries more grateful for it? (I can assure you that this is one of many articles by concerned Third World people I have read).


              “And your church, and Mother Theresa, stand against it.”

              Wrong. The Church does not object to people prudently deciding how many children they want to have. Mother Teresa was very involved in teaching Natural Family Planning to the women of India. This method has the advantage of being free-to-low cost and available anywhere (not dependent on the availability of foreign aid), fostering marital union, and being impervious to efforts at controlling population by foreign colonialist governments.

              Your mistake is in thinking that the technological advancements like birth-control pills and condoms, since they are nifty scientific advances, must therefore be unmitigated boons to mankind just by existing. Only a little experience in the area will demonstrate that this isn’t so.

              C. S. Lewis once wisely pointed out in *The Abolition of Man* “The power of man over nature really means the power of some men over other men using nature as the instrument.” (He specifically named birth control as an example).

              What we get with birth control is the ability of first-world governments to exploit Third-World ones — such as the case of the U.S. and WHO program in Peru back in the 90’s (I think) where poor Peruvian women were offered food and financial aid on the condition that they accept “voluntary” sterilization. How do you feel about this effort to lift people out of poverty, David?

              Given the secularist (I almost wrote sexularist!) solution of using technology to control Third World populations as though they were insects whose numbers need to be kept down, and the approach of the Catholic Church (and Mother Teresa), who cherish the innate dignity of all people and work for their true freedom, I know which one I prefer.

              • PatrickG

                I just want to say that these policies (tricking people into sterilization) have nothing to do with atheism. Again, “lack of belief in god” does not in any way logically lead to forcible sterilization. And there are many secularists who oppose population control in all its forms. A lot of us support birth control *rights* simply because we believe individuals should have the right to choose what they want to do, not because world population is “too high.” I, for one, don’t buy that.

                • I didn’t say a word about atheism in my comment. Nor did I intend to imply anything at all about atheism, much less that it leads people to push for forced sterilizations. Once again I was talking about secularism (or if you will “sexularism”), which is quite a different thing.

                  I was simply pointing out to David that his repeated statements that artificial contraception is itself an unmitigated boon to mankind is false even on the face of it. Many so-called Christians have actually fallen into the same trap. Please read what I wrote again.

                  • PatrickG

                    “Given the secularist (I almost wrote sexularist!) solution of using technology to control Third World populations as though they were insects whose numbers need to be kept down…”

                    is what you wrote, and that is what I was arguing against. That is not the “secularist solution” nor do secularists necessarily think that population is too high!

                    • Irenist

                      Not all secularists think that. But David Norris, our current combox secularist paladin against the Dark Ages of faith, certainly seems to. I’d say that’s coloring the argument a bit.

                    • A moment ago you were defending atheists and now it’s secularists – make up your mind!

                    • PatrickG, sorry I missed where you also spoke about secularists. I agree, not all secularists argue this way, nor are all the people who argue this way secularists as such. But it is an extremely common attitude among secularists, and the attitude David, a secularist, I believe, adopted.

      • Roberto

        You mean that the Catholic Church is capable of a brilliant marketing campaign? Now, here is a novel idea!

        • Beccolina

          No, our marketing is often terrible, and sometimes out salespeople too. The product, though, can’t be beat, ever.

          • LUKE1732

            It’s been this way from the beginning. Even our founder got himself in big trouble with his reckless speech.

        • Advocate

          The late 20th Century Church’s utter inability to message anything properly is shining testament that the hand of God was at work with the Missionaries of Charity. That goes double when you’re dealing with a bunch of sisters in the slums of Calcutta. Not exactly the media-savvy type.

        • Roberto

          Oops! I forgot to indicate that I was being sarcastic. But thanks for the support 🙂

      • Subsistent

        Did Mother Teresa think “poverty and suffering was a GOOD THING”? Well, if she adhered to Catholic teaching, she thought that VOLUNTARY poverty — doing without luxuries — could be a good thing, but that DESTITUTION — lack of life’s ordinary material necessities — was quite evil. As for suffering, Catholic doctrine cinsiders it to be, in itsef, decidedly evil.

        • Subsistent

          Correction: As for suffering, Catholic doctrine considers it to be, in itself, decidedly evil.

  • Stephen Sparrow

    Hey Dave, you’ve got Blessed M Teresa completely wrong. The first thing with helping the poor is to restore their dignity by giving love – the love that confirms for them that they possess a soul. And actually she did do a huge amount toward lifting the poor to a better material state – esp in health. She also lived with the poor, she shared their status. She didn’t necessarily think suffering to be good but tell me a human being who doesn’t suffer or else go read Revs 21 : 4 and see what it is we all desire.

    • dpt

      He should really go to see for himself firsthand instead of relying on Youtube or Hitchens, but that would require an immense step on his part.

  • kara

    Somebody is sadly, desparately needy for attention. Perhaps X wasn’t hugged enough as a child.

  • Another Brian

    You are correct, David Norris, the Church cannot stand poverty and disease.

  • dpt

    “She didn’t want to lift people out of poverty–she thought poverty and suffering was a GOOD THING because that made you closer to God.”

    Well disregarding the educational efforts her congregation have underway (so much for didn’t want to lift people out of poverty), she simply attempted to provide some love and some comfort.

    Like a love one who cares for a terminally ill relative (maybe you have experienced this). They may not be able cure or end the suffering of their sick family member or friend, yet what they do is important.

    “Go read Hithcen’s book, and there’s also a YouTube video with a presentation by Hitchens “
    Why don’t you go visit one of her congregations and see firsthand, or is Hitchens enough you need to see and hear?

    “And btw, contraception and family planning services have done more to lift people out of poverty and misery in the developing world”
    But David, in other comments you decried the impact of overpopulation and how first world consumption is unsustainable. Seems that contraception enables consumerism and materialism to the detriment of the environment. So which way will it be for you?
    our scatter-shot arguments are bereft of reason and logic. There is a door open for you to grasp true meaning and begin to understand the fullness of mankind.

  • Margaret Catherine

    I’ve always been partial to a co-worker’s scathing retort, to wit: “The Catholic Church has been falling apart for 2,000 years!” Not sure, but I think he meant it as a criticism. 🙂

  • Calling all secular Pill Dudes –
    Contraception has done less to fight poverty and disease than soap. To paraphrase St. Ignatius Loyola once remarked, loving poverty does not mean loving dirt.

  • Bob

    “We’re a sorry lot, the Church. Only the thing is, so is the rest of humanity, including the ones gloating about the egregious sins of Jesus’ followers”
    Well, yes. Except that that the church claims infallibility and the rest of humanity doesn’t.

    • Mark Shea

      And, you do know that infallibility is not the same as impeccability, right? http://www.mark-shea.com/infallibility.html

      • Bob

        I do , yes. But only the impeccable should claim to be infallible.

        • Irenist

          Is that like how only paragons of generalship were able to accurately operate telegraphs receiving messages from the front during the Civil War? Contra the Donatists, the ability to accurately convey sacramental grace and dogmatic revelation from the Holy Spirit does not depend upon any impeccability in the cleric.

        • Subsistent

          On the contrary: Altho human impeccability is nonexistent among us earthly wayfarers, nothing is more common than human infallibility (as well as human error, of course). For each of us is infallible in affirming, “I exist,” “other beings exist,” “at least some things really change” — and, “people make mistakes.”

          • Bob

            It’s my understanding that infallibility, as we are discussing it here, means impervious to error. It does mean to simply get something right. So, infallibility is not ” the ability to accurately convey sacramental grace and dogmatic revelation.” It is, quite literally, the INABILITY to INACCURATELY convey sacramental grace and dogmatic revelation.
            There’s a big difference between getting something right (like stating “I exist”), and being protected by God from getting it wrong.
            I am more than happy to be corrected about this, if indeed I have misunderstood the principle.

            • Irenist

              Your openness to correction is admirable, Bob. Just as “theory” means something different in the context of science than it does in colloquial usage (a matter which leads to ignorant arguments from creationists who can’t tell the scientific and colloquial meanings apart), so “infallibility” has a specialized meaning in Catholic theology that differs from the colloquial. E.g., the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia begins its entry on infallibility with this definition:

              In general, exemption or immunity from liability to error or failure; in particular in theological usage, the supernatural prerogative by which the Church of Christ is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals.

              Your argument involves the general (i.e., colloquial usage). The Church claims only what is involved in the particular (i.e., technical) theological usage. In brief: the Popes and council fathers at Trent, Vatican II, or whenever are fallible (in the colloquial sense), sinful men. Anyone who has ever heard of the Borgia popes–or of the many stumblings of St. Peter in the New Testament–knows that. However, on certain very rare occasions, as for example in certain pronouncements of ecumenical councils of the Church like Trent or Vatican II, or in specific (even rarer) teachings by the Pope ex cathedra, the Church can and does infallibly teach regarding certain specific dogmatic points of faith matters of faith and morals. For example, since the dogma of Papal infallibility was defined in 1870, the Papal infallibility has applied to only *one* dogma proclaimed by a Pope: the solemn definition in 1950 by Pope Pius XII of the doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This may give an idea of how extraordinarily *rare* infallible teachings ex cathedraare. (It’s not like every time Pope Benedict XVI expresses a belief in the awesomeness of the German national soccer team, all Catholics have to accept it.) This is a very specific, technical theological matter. Here are some links for more information on the Catholic usage of the term “infallible”:

              • Bob

                OK. Yes, I understand that ‘infallibility’ means impervious to (or protected from, if you prefer that phrase) error in certain and not in ALL things.
                Sorry if I was unclear; I took it for granted that we all understand that church leaders are also sinful and sometimes just mistaken, and the infallibility is only rarely applied.
                Beyond that, though, it looks like my definition holds up pretty well.
                Below, Mark says: “No. It means ‘protected from error, by the Holy Spirit, because we are idiots and sinners, and therefore require such protection’.”
                OK. That seems to basically what I said: ” impervious to error.”

                • Mark Shea

                  No. It doesn’t. The Church is not “impervious to error”. It’s protected from erring in very limited circumstances, not endowed with some blanket inability to be mistaken about anything. It’s really rather a modest claim that means, “We are such screwups that the Holy Spirit has to makes sure that, on the really crucial issues, we don’t drop the ball.”

                • Irenist

                  What Mark said: “Impervious to error in certain very limited circumstances.” Given how extremely limited those circumstances are, your claim that infallibility (in the very limited way in which the Church defines it) requires impeccability is just nonsensical. It really is, with all due respect, akin to creationists’ arguments from confusion about the application of the word “theory” in scientific contexts. You’ve been quite affable in this thread, and I hope I don’t offend by saying all this. I just can’t figure out how, if you do understand the Church’s technical definition of “infallible,” you can think that it logically implies impeccability.

                  • Bob

                    Good grief, I have fully conceded (and never denied) that the principle is limited in its application.
                    Beyond that I see no practical difference between “protected from” and “impervious to,” when the protection comes from God.
                    My point is simply that when a group of people believe that “on the really crucial issues, we don’t drop the ball,” because God won’t allow it, how does anyone claim surprise when that group of people turns out to be arrogant and out of touch with the laity, even on non-crucial issues like the protection of children?
                    The Bishops believe themselves to be above you. Better than you. How else could one possibly explain what the Bishop of Newark did recently? “Sure, the people will howl,” he thought, “but I know better.” Is this utter arrogance completely unrelated to their separate belief in the principle of infallibility? You may think so. I don’t.

            • Subsistent

              Well, while infallibility implies getting something right, it means further, getting it right without possibly getting it wrong: Not only do you happen to be right in affirming that you exist, you cannot possibly br mistaken — even though your existence, like mine, may be itself contingent rather than necessary.

              • Subsistent

                To spell correctly my whole point: you cannot possibly be mistaken in affirming your existence.

              • Bob

                To put a finer point on it: It means you couldn’t possibly say that you don’t exist.
                But here’s the thing: You COULD say that. You would be wrong. But there’s nothing to prevent you from wrongly asserting that you don’t exist, and even believing it.
                That’s because you are not infallible.
                And that’s the difference between being right and being infallible.

                • Subsistent

                  I never used the word “say”; I used the word “affirm”, thinking of a sincere judgment. That anyone can sincerely affirm, “I don’t exist, I’m just a figment in someone’s dream, or something”, is highly questionable, to say the least.

            • Mark Shea

              No. It means “protected from error, by the Holy Spirit, because we are idiots and sinners, and therefore require such protection”.

  • Marty Helgesen

    “But only the impeccable should claim to be infallible.” Why? The infallibility of the Pope, as the Church understands and uses the term, does not require any special virtue or knowledge, although they are good in themselves. The teaching that the Pope can exercise the infallible teaching authority of the Church by himself, without having to summon an Ecumenical Council, which is what the doctrine says, means only that God will not permit the Pope to teach error as the part of the official doctrines of the Church. If a Pope were considering defining a false statement as Catholic doctrine God could prevent it in various ways, includingy replacing the Pope. This would not be a punishment. Nobody lives forever and even holy priests can be mistaken.