Following up on my previous proof that the Roman Catholic Church is illegitimate, it occurs to me that a much more modest, albeit equally damaging argument can be made about the good ol’ Pontiff himself.
- If a man is not above reproach, then he is not qualified to be a bishop and cannot legitimately hold that office (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9)
- Benedict XVI is not above reproach
- Therefore, Benedict XVI is not qualified to be a bishop and cannot legitimately hold that office
This leads pretty obviously to a second argument. Let’s assume that Catholics are right about the papacy. By definition, the pope must be a bishop. The Catholic Encyclopedia observes:
The title pope, once used with far greater latitude, is at present employed solely to denote the Bishop of Rome, who, in virtue of his position as successor of St. Peter, is the chief pastor of the whole Church, the Vicar of Christ upon earth.
This being the case…
- Benedict XVI is not qualified to be a bishop and cannot legitimately hold that office
- Therefore, Benedict XVI is not qualified to be the bishop of Rome and cannot legitimately hold that office
- Therefore, Benedict XVI is not qualified to be the pope and cannot legitimately hold that office (by definition)
Or, put another way, therefore, Pope Benedict XVI is an illegitimate pope.
I’m not sure exactly what the trickle-down effect is if this is true—I’ll let Catholics work that out—but I imagine it is somewhat debilitating. For one thing, how can Benedict XVI be a legitimate successor to Peter if he is not a legitimate pope? But if he is not a legitimate successor to Peter, then we don’t have unbroken apostolic succession, which is central to Rome’s authority (and presumably Benedict isn’t the first bishop of Rome to fail the grade). So at least you get sedevacantism. But given Rome’s top-down hierarchy, it’s easy to see that the implications would be far more wide-reaching. Indeed, it seems likely they’d be catastrophic.
You might object…
“Benedict XVI is above reproach after all”
Obviously this hinges on what Paul meant by “above reproach” when he wrote to Timothy and Titus; and what the actual facts are about Benedict’s conduct. And if his conduct were less dubious, I might have a thorny job on my hands proving just what standard Paul was assuming. But I think the following statements are just obviously true, and if anyone disagrees with them it is clearly not I who has the burden of proof:
- A person is not above reproach if he knowingly places a child-molester into a position of authority over minors, against the explicit warnings of a psychiatrist. But then-Archbishop Ratzinger did exactly that, and six years later that child-molester was convicted of sexually abusing minors while in the position Ratzinger had given him.
- A person is not above reproach if he knows the details of serious crimes by colleagues, but does not reveal these crimes to the authorities for prosecution, nor take any action to address them except to conceal them as well as possible. Yet, as the cardinal in charge of reviewing sexual abuse cases for the Vatican, then-Cardinal Ratzinger must have known about these sorts of crimes, perpetrated by hundreds if not thousands of clergy, against thousands or possibly tens of thousands of people—including many children. By not taking action he made himself a moral accomplice to these crimes.
- A person is not above reproach if he orders the termination of an investigation into the now-confirmed molestation of perhaps 200 deaf boys by a priest, despite protests by two archbishops who knew the priest and were involved in the situation. Yet that is what then-Cardinal Ratzinger did, after the priest, Fr Lawrence Murphy, wrote him a letter saying it was cool because he’d already repented, and pretty-please let me “live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood”. Yes, the word “dignity” doesn’t seem quite appropriate there, does it?
“If Benedict is an illegitimate bishop, then so are lots of others—maybe even in your own denomination”
Well, I’m Reformed Baptist and we don’t have bishops, but let’s say “elder” and the point stands. So what? Obviously I think many Catholic bishops are illegitimate because many Catholic bishops are implicated in these kinds of scandals. And many Catholic bishops are not even Christians, which naturally enough excludes them from legitimately taking a Christian office. Etc.
But perhaps my argument proves that lots of bishops or elders in lots of churches are illegitimate. So much the worse for those bishops and churches, I’m afraid—it doesn’t show that the argument is wrong.
“You’re a filthy Catholic-hater and you’re only saying this to upset your sister”
That’s not really an objection, is it? I don’t hate Catholics, though I do hate evil institutions such as the Catholic Church. “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10); “the fear of the Lord is hatred of evil” (Proverbs 8:13).
Now, if my sister (or any Catholic) is upset by my calling attention to those evils, wouldn’t it be better to leave the institution that fosters them—rather than shoot the messenger?