Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Fallen idol

It is certainly true that having great expectations of a Church makes the Church’s failures to live up to those expectations especially hard to take. Had the Roman church not made such grand claims for itself, as Matt elaborates, its failure to live up to them would not have landed as such a blow to me, and to others...By the time the bell rang, so to speak, the idea that the Catholic Church had the spiritual authority that it claimed was implausible to me. I honestly did not see how it could be that way. I thought I had had a good understanding of its history, and what the history of papal and hierarchical corruption meant. Those things were abstractions, though. It is one thing for Alexander VI Borgia to make his son an archbishop, and that son to host an orgy in the Vatican; it is another when you discover that your own bishop facilitated multiple clerical molestations of minors in your own diocese, and sent his lawyers after victims and their families seeking justice.

Strictly speaking, none of those things negate the truth claims of the Church. But they can have the effect of making it difficult to impossible to take those truth claims seriously.

Think of the example of the Mormons. The Latter-Day Saints Church also makes massive claims for itself. It says that it is the restoration of the original church founded by Jesus Christ, and that its foundational tome, the Book of Mormon, is a revelation from God on par with the Bible...If I see grotesque corruption in the ranks of the Mormon hierarchy, I may be grieved on behalf of faithful Mormons, but I don’t regard that corruption as vindication of Mormonism’s truth claims. Nobody outside the Mormon church would say, “Wow, look at how rotten the LDS leadership is, even though they claim to be the exclusive voice of God on this earth. They must really be what they say they are.”

Now, for faithful Mormons, deep corruption within their church’s leadership would probably spark a crisis of faith akin the the crisis of faith I had as a Catholic. Believe me, I can understand that. I can agree with Matt Schmitz that the subjective experience of being a member of a Church that makes such exclusive, totalist claims makes challenges to those claims stemming from internal corruption a much deeper personal crisis than it would be for, say, a megachurch Evangelical. The revelation of evangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s sexual corruption no doubt caused a lot of pain for his followers, but it’s not likely that it caused any of them to doubt basic Protestant theology. Protestants simply do not make the same claims for the role and meaning of the institutional church that Roman Catholics do.

1 comment:

  1. Was totally confused until I read parts of the article. Would appreciate it if you put quotation marks!