Bernardo M. Villegas
Articles  >> more topics
Gates of Hell Won’t Prevail

           During my formative years, I have been very fortunate that I have known only holy priests.  At the Holy Infant Academy in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, where I started Grade 1, I knew a certain Bishop Benito, S.V.D. who inspired all those in his Prelature with his holiness.  Then through all my years at De La Salle College, the Columban priests who were our chaplains were paragons of piety, not a whiff of scandal in their lives.  As a young faculty member in the same school, I became close to two Filipino priests who directed the souls of many of the faculty and students, i.e. the late Bishop Felix Perez and Msgr. Patrick Lim.  As an active member of Student Catholic Action during my college days, I also got to know a good number of chaplains whose exemplary moral lives were an inspiration to university students, not only from Catholic schools, but from the non-sectarian schools. While studying at Harvard, the Chaplain of the Harvard Catholic Club, Fr. Bill Porras, was instrumental for a good number of undergraduates and graduate students to resolve to live sanctity in the middle of the world.  I am sure many of my readers can actually cite from their own personal experiences many holy priests whom they have known in their lives.

          I am not suggesting, however, that there have been no Catholic priests who lived scandalous lives as child molesters or adulterers like Fr. Damaso of Jose Rizal’s novels.  There are enough well-publicized cases of these unfortunate souls both here and abroad.   That is why I was very glad to be among the tens of thousands of bloggers who read from an article that literally went viral.  It was entitled “The hypocrisy of Catholics is very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church—Peter Kreeft”.  The blog came out soon after then Presidential Candidate Rodrigo Duterte fumed against the hypocrisy of some Catholic bishops and priests whom he accused of immorality and corruption.  The blog wrote about a Calvinist thinker who turned Catholic after a wide search for one mistake that would prove the Catholic Church false.  So when his Calvinist friends found out that he was reading about Catholics, they recommended that he read the books of anti-clericals.  The book he read told a story that led him to the Catholic faith. 

          The story goes as follows:  There was a Jewish businessman who was thinking of becoming Catholic but had to go to Rome to do business with the Vatican during the time of some of the most corrupt Popes in history—the Borgias, popularized by a TV series in the United States.  A Catholic friend of the businessman tried to dissuade from going to Rome for fear that the scandalous behavior of the Popes would change his mind. The businessman insisted in going because he said that for him business was first, and the pleasure of converting was second.  Six months later, the Jew returned asking for baptism into the Catholic faith.  The clincher was precisely the hypocrisy of the Pope and the cardinals.  In his words, “I am a practical Jewish businessman.  One thing I know for sure:  no earthly business that stupid and corrupt could possible survive even 14 weeks.  Yours has lasted 14 centuries.  It is a miracle!”

          Peter Kreeft, a noted Catholic author in the U.S. explains:  The hypocrisy of some Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church.  When Popes were assassinating one another, they never added a doctrine that asserted that now it is moral to assassinate the Pope.  When they had 13 mistresses, they never declared that it was okay for Popes to have mistresses.  The doctrine of the Church remained absolutely pure even though some of the high officials did not practice it.  Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) told the same story and quoted the Jewish businessman as saying:  “It is because of all that I have become a Catholic.  For if the Church continues to exist inspite of it all, then truly there must be someone upholding her.”

          It is a fact that there have been plenty of human monstrosities in the Catholic Church through the centuries.  Peter Kreeft comments, however:  “That the Catholic Church still holds together, even if she groans and creaks, that she is still in existence, that she produces great martyrs and great believers, people who put their whole lives at her service, as missionaries, as nurses, as teachers, that really does show that there is someone there upholding her.  When some people say that they do not believe the Church because of the hypocrisy of pedophile priests and bad Popes, they are “misplacing the blame,” says Catholic Answers.  “If a preacher, religious, or layman fails to live up to the standards he is preaching, the blame lies with him and not with the message he preaches.  His actions say much about himself but not about the teachings of Christ…By way of analogy, if it were proven tomorrow that Albert Einstein was a child molester, that would not disprove the theory of relativity.”

          As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in par 827, “The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace.  If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity.  This is why she suffers and does penance for those offences, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  After more than two thousand years, the words of her Founder, Jesus Christ still ring true:  “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her.”  For comments, my email address is