Friday, November 18, 2011

How the Church of Sexual Abuse™ Can Still Call Itself “The Church that Christ Founded®”

While the topic of the Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal is fresh on our minds, it’s important to understand how Rome, and its apologists, look at “the Roman Catholic Church”. Not long ago Steve wrote a post entitled The Invisible Church of Rome. In this context, it’s important to look at in its entirety:
Roman Catholics constantly attack the Protestant distinction between the visible and invisible aspects of the church. For a classic statement of the Protestant distinction, see chap. 5 of the Westminster Confession.

Bryan Cross has coined the phrase “Ecclesial “Docetism” to designate this altogether appalling distinction.

But what’s ironic about all this is that Catholic epologists like Bryan have a conception of The One True Church® which is at least as dualistic or “Docetic” as the Protestant conception (or their caricature of the Protestant conception). Catholic apologists constantly alternate between two One [True] Church(es). They dichotomize The One True Church® into the functional equivalent of the visible/invisible church.

Let’s take some examples. In the same breath as Bryan touts the “visible Body” of Christ, he also touts the “Mystical Body” of Christ. Yet, on the face of it, a “Mystical Body” is conspicuous for its lack of empirical properties. Has anyone ever seen a “Mystical Body”? What color is a “Mystical Body”?

But that’s just for starters. Catholic epologists bifurcate The One True Church® into a phenomenal church and a noumenal church. They conveniently relegate all the bad stuff to the phenomenal church. That’s just a shell. A simulacrum.

No matter how bad the church becomes, that can never impinge on the real church. For the real church is an inner, ethereal, indetectible, unfalsifiable quintessence of one true churchliness.

The real church is a suprahistorical entity which requires no historical evidence commensurate with the scope of its historical claims. The real church is impervious to historical counterevidence. The real church is a timeless, spaceless, airtight ideal.

For instance, the True church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. However, under no circumstances should the marks of the True church be confused with concrete, identifiable properties.

It doesn’t matter how much actual disunity you have in the church of Rome. That can never count as evidence against the unity of the church. Rather, any degree of disunity, however, wide and deep, is shunted off to the phenomenal shell of the church. That can never penetrate the essence of what makes the church “one.”

Likewise, it doesn’t matter how unholy the Roman church may be in practice. However corrupt, in time and space, from top to bottom, that only pertains to the outer shell of the church. For the True church remains spotless underneath the accumulated layers of turpitude.

Even though no amount of turpentine will ever be able to peel away the accumulated layers of turpitude to expose the hidden holiness of the church, buried beneath centuries of corruption, the faithful know in their heart of hearts that at the inaccessible core of the church there resides a pristine essence of sanctity.

The True church is indefectible. But not for a minute should that be connected with the actual performance of the church. No matter how error-ridden the Roman church may be in the actual administration of its internal affairs, each and every declension, however large or small, is automatically reassigned to the accidental shell of the church, while the unseen substance of The One True Church® remains intact and inviolate.
You may think Steve was joking about this, but serious Roman Catholics are very serious about this distinction. It’s the only way that an organization so obviously corrupt as the Roman Catholic Church can, with a straight face, say it is “the Church that Christ Founded®”.

Now, I myself grew up as a “Cradle Catholic” – I grew up devoutly Roman Catholic; I left as a teenager, for what I thought were all the right reasons. I drifted back “home to Rome” as an adult in part, because of a story like this one. But the more you look at it, the more you look at the particulars, the more stretched and strained this notion becomes.

This is one reason why I continue to have hope for even the most hardened Roman Catholic apologists. It’s one thing to submit your will to “the Church that Christ Founded®”. It’s quite another thing to use the brain that Christ gave you.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Here's an interesting story by a Catholic columnist:

    "Thomas R. Hampson, an Illinois licensed private investigator and founder of the Truth Alliance Foundation, is determined to expose corruption — in the church and in society at large.

    "It's clear to me that the crime problem has expanded as our collective values and character have deteriorated," says Hampson. "We need to address that core problem, and the church — defined as the people of God, not the institution or denomination — needs to take the lead. The first challenge is to clean up our own house."

    Hampson knows it will be a daunting task, but he's ready, willing and able. His résumé is impressive: In the 1960s he worked for the U.S. Air Force Security Service as an intelligence analyst. In the 1970s and early 1980s he worked for the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission as a chief investigator. From 1983 to 2004 he served as president of Search International, Inc., a company he established as an international investigation and security agency.

    And from March 2006 to September 2007, Hampson was hired as a contract employee by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to investigate the sexual exploitation of children by priests.

    It was that portion of his career that shook him up the most.

    "In all the years I've been doing investigative work, it was the year-and-a-half of my investigation into clergy abuse that really took its toll," he says.

    The Truth Alliance Foundation plans to help Christian churches and non-profit organizations combat child sexual abuse by: educating leaders and members on the scope and nature of child sexual abuse; helping to set up screening programs to identify potential perpetrators; conducting crisis response investigations in the event an incident occurs; investigating selected cases of abuse and/or selected networks of predators in order to add to our knowledge and understanding of the problem.

    One case Hampson has been investigating involves the unsolved 1984 Chicago murder of Frank Pellegrini. Pellegrini was a prominent figure in the local Italian-American community who was known by several priests, including novelist Andrew Greeley, who subsequently alluded to the murder in one of his non-fiction books.

    A friend of Pellegrini told the homicide detective assigned to investigate the murder that Pellegrini was about to blow the whistle on a group of priests and others who were collectively engaged in sexually abusing children. The group called itself the "Boys' Club," and the witness believed Pellegrini was murdered to silence him about these activities."

    Read the rest: Here.

  3. Truth: Yes, it's as current as today's news.

    Here, by the way, is a summary of Chicago.

  4. The "Ghost Wars" article linked here about a month ago reminded me of this. The idealized essence of One-True-Churchliness doesn't exist in the real world, and thus doesn't make any decrees or hold councils or have popes or pronounce new dogma. All that has come from the patently corrupt actually visible Catholic church. So in abstracting the Catholic church so far that it is detached from all verifiable properties, Catholicism fails to account for why even one syllable of Roman Catholic dogma is legit. Catholicism is from start to finish a reification fallacy: treating something abstract - the idealized noumenal RC Church - as if it were real. And it's not.

    1. Hi Stephen, probably there is some idea of "noumenal" in there, but certainly an Aristotelian form. Present within the thing itself. That's how they hold onto the notion that "the Hierarchy" is an essential part of "the Church". And all the rest seems to follow from that.