(Originally posted before I had many readers. I’ve heard variations of this question several times)
Q: The Catholics I know have a reputation for getting drunk and sleeping around. How could the Catholic Church be right if they can’t get their members to follow Jesus?
A: It’s a good question, and a particularly sensitive one for those who had conversion experiences after living sinfully in Catholic schools growing up. A few thoughts.
1. There are over a billion Catholics in the world. Just like in Protestantism, there are people who don’t live out their faith. But there are tens of millions of faithful, wonderful people in the Church. I’ve met many already. Either way, it doesn’t disprove that the Catholic Church is the true Church.
2. The Catholic Church has been around for 2,000 years. There have been many highs and lows. The last five decades will not necessarily make the Top 10 list. It doesn’t disprove that the Catholic Church is the true Church.
3. If the Catholic Church is the true Church, then we need to weep when its members fall into sin (including the hierarchy) and pray earnestly for renewal. The burden of proof is on those who broke away from the Church, particularly the Protestants, to provide sufficient reasons for “protesting.” This would include defending the doctrine of “sola scriptura,”
the Bible alone as the sole authority (rather than including the Church too). As we witnessed
a couple months ago, that’s harder than it looks.
One more thing:
In Protestantism if there is strong disagreement over moral issues and sinful living the denomination or church can simply split (see newly formed Presbyterian group
). It’s happened many, many times over the last 500 years. Catholics don’t do that. As my priest told me, “We keep everybody on the roll.” An evangelical who compares her small niche group to all of Catholicism should remember that she would not feel comfortable walking into most Protestant churches any given Sunday. Not only does she reject all of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, but most of Protestantism.