WHAT DOES IT MEAN to say, "I believe in the holy Catholic Church?"
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part One (The Profession of Faith) Section Two (The Profession of the Chrisitan Faith) Chapter Three (I Believe in the Holy Spirit) Article 9 ("I Believe In The Holy Catholic Church") states:
"881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head." This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope....
"890 ...It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. ...seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:
"891 The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.... The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself."
LITTLE DO I SUSPECT, though it should not be surprising at all, not all Catholics believe in the infallibility of the Pope and his magisterium. One thought that female priests might be accepted by the Church one day, citing the Galileo controversy as example and suggesting that i read Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Said "It may even shaken your faith. Good challenge. Highly recommended by [a certain priest]."
Actually, I would not be surprised at all to learn that there were sinners (even big sinners) among the 260-odd popes through the Church's 2000-year history. First, one should expect "weeds among the wheat" as Jesus had foretold about a kingdom of God parable (Matthew 13:24-30). However, "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20).
Second, infallibility does not mean moral impeccability. "Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.'" (Matthew 23:1-3)
Such is the power that Jesus has conferred on the chair of Peter: Even when the popes are sinners themselves, they are infallible when (and only when) they make pronouncements ex-cathedra, that is, "When the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error. His teaching act is therefore called "infallible" and the teaching which he articulates is termed "irreformable"." (See Papal Infallibility by Dr Jeffrey Mirus.)
Third, regarding the Galileo controversy, there's actually an unexpected twist to this well-known story. Check out Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius, a book by William R. Shea and Mariano Artigas based on a wealth of historical letters and archives. In any case, Galileo wasn't the first scientist to suggest that the Earth is not in the centre of the universe. Copernicus, a Polish Catholic official, was. "Because of his caution, many church scholars indeed viewed his theory as a possible alternative to Ptolemy's."
Even if it did happen according to popular legend, it would be an unfortunate incident where some church leaders had mistakenly tried to control areas outside their expertise and authority. In any case, "the pope never tried to make an infallible ruling concerning Galileo's views." (For more details, see The Galileo Controversy.) It was afterall about science, and not faith or morals.
By contrast, in 1975, Pope Paul VI had declared in an apostolic letter that "The Church holds that it is inadmissible to ordain women to the priesthood for very fundamental reasons." Reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing His Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for His Church.
On May 22, 1994, Pope John Paul II promulgated an apostolic letter entitled "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis", concluding with these words: "In order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
"Rome has spoken; the case is closed." (See A Gender Gap in the Church? by Father Jay Scott Newman in EWTN.)
(See also Discovery of the Solar System, Saints & Sinners All.)
Interesting! Parallel thoughts from Fr Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey for October 17:
"The Church, Spotless and Tainted
The Church is holy and sinful, spotless and tainted. The Church is the bride of Christ, who washed her in cleansing water and took her to himself "with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless" (Ephesians 5:26-27). The Church too is a group of sinful, confused, anguished people constantly tempted by the powers of lust and greed and always entangled in rivalry and competition.
When we say that the Church is a body, we refer not only to the holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and Eucharist but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members. Only when we keep both these ways of thinking and speaking together can we live in the Church as true followers of Jesus."
And from the October 20 reading:
Over the centuries the Church has done enough to make any critical person want to leave it. Its history of violent crusades, pogroms, power struggles, oppression, excommunications, executions, manipulation of people and ideas, and constantly recurring divisions is there for everyone to see and be appalled by.
Can we believe that this is the same Church that carries in its center the Word of God and the sacraments of God's healing love? Can we trust that in the midst of all its human brokenness the Church presents the broken body of Christ to the world as food for eternal life? Can we acknowledge that where sin is abundant grace is superabundant, and that where promises are broken over and again God's promise stands unshaken? To believe is to answer yes to these questions."