I am beginning a new project, which I am labeling “Scriptural Apologetics Project.” You can find entries by searching for the category of the same name. My goal is to arm myself, and you, since I’m supposed to love you as much as myself, with Scriptural passages for use in apologetic endeavors.
One ever-popular objection to Catholicism, from the so-called Orthodox, Protestants, and Modernists of all stripes, is that Popes have been sinful. The Renaissance Popes held orgies, Pope Pius XII didn’t try to stop the Holocaust, recent popes covered up sex abuse. On and on. Some organizations put out historical analyses trying to disprove these claims one by one, or put the claims in historical context. This is one approach, and for some people, likely history buffs, it might work.
However, I think it is of limited value. It requires a good amount of historical research that a lot of people don’t have time for. The person you’re speaking to might just dismiss all your sources as biased. When I tried to defend Pope Pius XII and other Catholics for their conduct in saving Jews from the Nazis, the guy I was talking with just repeated, “I’ve never heard that before,” without showing much interest in accepting what I was saying.
I propose a more efficient route for use in arguments with Orthodox and “Bible-believing” Protestants. Your Scriptural counter-argument is that Christ knew that St. Peter was a sinner and made him Pope anyway. Here’s how the argument works:
You: Let’s analyze the principle you seem to be asserting. *IF* someone is a sinner, *THEN* that disqualifies that person from exercising the type of office the Pope claims for himself. Is that correct?
Them: Yes. [You may need to do some arm-wrestling to get the other person to commit to the principle, or any principle at all. They’ll suspect that they’re setting themselves up for a fall, which they are.]
You: *IF* the Bible shows that Christ does not apply that principle Himself, *THEN* does that invalidate the principle?
Them: Yes. [Again, the other person might suddenly realize that they need to go give their dog a bath at this point. They might sense some serious trouble coming.]
You: Look at the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 5, verses 1-11. Here is the sequence of events:
1.) Christ gets into (Simon) Peter’s boat, and preaches to the people from it. He could preach to the people directly, but He chooses to do so from a boat that Peter is in charge of. To hear the Gospel, the people have to look to and follow Peter’s boat. Our Lord makes the people’s reception of the Gospel dependent on how Peter directs the boat.
2.) When Peter sees the miraculous catch of fish, he tells Our Lord to depart from him because he is a sinner.
3.) Our Lord does not depart from Peter, although he is a sinner. He does not get out of Peter’s boat and go back to preach to the people on land directly. Instead, he commissions Peter there and then to be a fisher of men.
Everything that the Pope claims to do reduces to this: he directs the boat from which the Gospel is preached. The boat stands for the Church. The miraculous catch of fish stands for new believers. The present Pope is a self-confessed sinner, just as St. Peter was. And Our Lord still commands him to direct the Church and cast out nets to catch new believers, just as Our Lord did for St. Peter.
If you reject St. Peter’s successor because he is a sinner, then you are saying that Our Lord was wrong, and that He should have rejected St. Peter. You need to stop accusing Our Lord of mistakes, which is blasphemy. Repent, and hear the Gospel as preached from St. Peter’s boat. Allow yourself to be caught in Peter’s net.
An addendum: I have no idea what the acoustics on the Sea of Galilee are, but I wonder how much of Our Lord’s preaching from the boat could even be heard by the multitude on land. I suspect that, once the newly-commissioned Apostles put ashore, the multitude had to ask them what Our Lord was saying out there, at least for clarification. If my suspicion is correct, the multitude ended up hearing the Gospel from the Apostles, just as we Catholics do, hearing it from the bishops, who are the successors of the Apostles.