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How to Answer Protestants Forum: Evil Popes

by Catherine Frakas 02 Aug 2002

Evil Popes QUESTION from Diane Windsor on August 16, 2002 First and foremost I am Protestant.
We all know of the evil Renassiance popes such as Alex VI. I understand that RC popes are sinners. I also understand that a person's actions do not negate the authority of an office. Otherwise the Presidency of the United States would be in serious jeaopardy LOL!
We know that deacons are held to a very high standard in Scripture. This leads me to my question. How can God set a high standard for deacons, but the Catholic Church have such a low standard for popes?
Respectfully Yours, Diane
ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on October 3, 2002 Dear Diane:
Thank you for your question. Sorry for the delay in responding, we were experiencing technical difficulties that are hopefully all worked out now.
As you point out, there is a seeming disparity between the Scriptural description of the qualifications of the deaconate and its lack of address on the issue of Popes. This comes from a large number of modern Bible translations more concerned with promoting an egalitarian (and Protestant) view of the Church then with properly transmitting the Word of God.
Take I Timothy 3 for example. I am sure that this Chapter is part of what you consider (rightfully so) as the Biblical model for the life of a Deacon. But this section of the Letter to Timothy deals with the life and qualifications of all three levels of the Church Hierarchy. Here are various translations of I Timothy 3:1

King James: This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of bishop, he desireth a good work. American Standard: Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of bishop, he desireth a good work.
New International: Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. [Italics mine]
Douay-Rheims: A faithful saying: if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
Greek (phonetically in English letters): Pistos ho logos. Ei tis episkopees oregetai, kalou ergou epithemei. [Again, italics mine]

Basically, verses 1-8 deal with the conduct of Bishops. The Greek word episkopees is the source of the English word epicopate which Webster's New World Dictionary defines as: 1. the position, rank, etc. of a bishop or 2. bishops collectively. Similarly, I Timothy 5:17-22 discusses the office of priest. The Greek word presbuteroi is often translated as elder. But if we look again at Webster, we find that the word priest comes from the word presbyter which is a direct borrowing of the Greek word.
Now, I know that you may be asking What does this have to do with my question?
In a word, everything. Remember, the title Pope is primarily is a nickname from the Italian Il Popa for Father (see Isaiah 22:20-22 where a man is given the Key to the Kingdom of David and shall be a father to the House of Judah -- then compare that with Matthew 16:18-19). The simplest proper title of the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. As Bishop of Rome, every Pope is called to live up to the Biblical standard. The VAST MAJORITY of Popes have been good men dedicated to living lives of holiness and service to the Church (like our wonderful current Holy Father!).
Because a few Popes have grieviously sinned does not reflect on the dignity of the office of Bishop of Rome anymore than a sinful and lawbreaking President negates the dignity of his office. It merely shows that both men are human and have chosen not to live up to the standard set before them.
The more appropriate way to state your question would be to ask:
Why have a few Popes failed to uphold the clear Biblical standards they are called to uphold?
The answer is the same reason that few (if any) of us live completely the life of a Christian: Because sin and temptation exist, and because we have the free-will to choose it.
Pray for the grace to resist temptation and choose to follow Christ.
Pax Christi, Troy
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