Over at SDA to RC, Hugo asserts that the Catholic understanding of the church is platonic–it is an ideal, not realized on this earth. Thus, the church can’t be charged with any sins or errors. By definition, he says, it can do no wrong. If torture is wrong, then the church cannot have tortured.
Well, it did. Popes and councils approved it, and condemned and excommunicated those who opposed it.
You have a couple of ways out of this. Either you argue in a convoluted fashion that the torture they approved wasn’t torture, or wasn’t wrong, or you try to argue that the church is somehow something different than its members (as Hugo does) or you admit the fallacy of your premise.
I think the fallacy lies in the assertion that the platonic model accurately represents Catholic teaching on the church. Catholics affirm that the church, like Christ, is fully human as well as divine. See Lumen Gentium, for instance.
While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled(81) knew nothing of sin,(82) but came to expiate only the sins of the people,(83) the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal. The Church, “like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God”(14*), announcing the cross and death of the Lord until He comes.”(84) By the power of the risen Lord it is given strength that it might, in patience and in love, overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without, and that it might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light.
Take note of the language–this Vatican 2 document uses the same language for the church that Luther used for the individual: “at the same time holy and always in need of being purified.”
If there’s one thing that Catholicism asserts clearly and unequivocally, it is that it is this visible church that is essential to salvation and is the Mystical Body of Christ. There’s not a dichotomy between the two. It grounds its ecclesiological realism in both Paul’s description of the church as the Body of Christ and in the promise to Peter that what is bound or loosed on earth is bound and loosed in heaven. It says this visible, earthly church is the “one, holy Catholic and apostolic church” “outside of which there is no salvation” (though that phrase has been understood differently at different periods of time).
You can’t then say this church is exempt from the earthly consequences of its actions, which are the actions of men. It authorized torture, and aggressive war, and execution. It persecuted men and women for preaching the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. It promoted commerce in sacred things. It encouraged contempt for Jews and stood by silent when people took its teachings to their logical conclusions. It created an overwhelmingly homosexual priesthood, with a culture of self-protection and clericalism, and turned a blind eye to sexual misconduct and abuse, punishing victims and their parents, while protecting and promoting offenders and those who covered up for them.
Some Catholics freely admit this and say, “Yeah, we messed up. God forgive us.” Others look for convoluted ways to pin the blame solely on individuals to keep the church pure and spotless. It doesn’t work.