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�The most powerful evidence against the papacy being biblical is the record of the popes themselves. There have been numerous bad popes, men who murdered, stole, were greedy, arrogant, violent and incredibly immoral. This alone disqualifies the papacy as being part of Christ�s plan for His Church. There�s no way He would have entrusted the �papacy to sinful men.� This is one of the thirty myths about the papacy among non-Catholics and misguided Catholics.

As apostles for Christ, we need to know these facts. First of all, how do you account for Christ entrusting the office of Apostle to sinful men like Judas? He was one of the Lord�s hand� picked prot�g�es and he was a pretty sinful character, yet he was chosen as an apostle. We learn in the Scriptures that at one time or another all the Apostles failed to live according to Christ�s commands. Though they never appear to have slipped into sexual immorality, the Apostles did blunder their way into plenty of other sins before the New Testament story was finished.

By turns they were violent (Peter cut off the ear of the high priest�s servant in the Garden of Gethsemane), vain (they bickered bitterly more than once over which of them would be highest in heaven), lazy (�Can you not stay awake with me one hour?� Christ asked them as they slept during his agony in the Garden), and disbelieving (Christ identified by name as a �devil,� one of those who refused to believe His teaching on the Eucharist in John 6:7-71). The Apostles were cowardly (running away from Christ when he was taken into custody by the Jews). Peter denied three times, once under oath, even knowing his Lord.

Clearly, Christ entrusted the role of Apostle to weak, even at times wicked men. But does that fact somehow disqualify them from fulfilling the purpose for which He called them? Of course not; God�s grace is more powerful than man�s sin, and the same is true when it comes to the papacy.

Yes, there have been some wicked popes. Corruptions, immorality, even murder, were sins committed by some bishops of Rome. But what does that prove, except that they, like the Apostles, were not always faithful to the graces that God gave them? This is true of all of us, to one extent or another. The fact that there have been bad popes , a fact no Catholic disputes, does not disprove the doctrine of the papacy. Why? As we�ve seen, Christ entrusts important work to men who are sinners. He offers them all the grace necessary to be faithful and holy, even though some spurn those graces and choose sin anyway.

Another problem with this fiction is that it seems to assume that all the popes have been scoundrels. That�s very far from the truth. The fact is, most of the popes have been good, even heroically good men. They have been on the whole, good examples of Christian virtue and perseverance in the apostolate. Critics of the papacy easily forget that fact.

 

And there�s another issue here. Scripture is clear that God can and does confer special teaching authority on men even if they are sinful. One striking example concerns Caiaphas, the high priest at the time of Christ�s Crucifixion:

Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, �You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.� He did not say this his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him.�

This is a good example of God using a sinful man�a wicked man, it seems�to utter inspired prophecy. The Holy Spirit spoke through his lips, in spite of the fact that Caiaphas was actively plotting to kill Jesus.

Another episode that illustrates this point, though from a different angle, is found in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus points to the Jewish leaders and reminds his audience that they possessed a God-given authority to teach. This authority was valid even though many of them were corrupt.

Christ later calls them �hypocrites� , a �brood of vipers,� �blind guides,� �whitened sepulchers full of dead men�s bones.� The Lord made it clear that even though these men were personally corrupt and unworthy of their position of authority, they nonetheless had that authority: Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, �The Scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all the things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.�

In the same way, the Lord commissioned sinful, weak, impetuous Simon Peter to feed His sheep and tend His flock, to carry the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to bind and loose in His name and with His authority, to strengthen the other Apostles in times of crisis and uncertainty, to be the rock on which the Church would be built. Peter�s successors, the popes, continue in that ministry. Some fulfilled it poorly, hobbled by the chains of sin and personal failings, but most carried out the task well, many of them completing their sacred ministry with martyrdom; their supreme effort to �strengthen their brothers.�

Patrick Madrid is the editor-in-chief of Envoy Magazine. This article is condensed from Pope Fiction, answers to 30 myths and misconceptions about the papacy and is available on-line at www.sfspirit..com

 

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