Posted by: justrememberthebasics | June 24, 2019

The Choice is Each of Ours to Make

A View on the Roman Catholic Church Sex Scandal

The Roman Catholic Church has a mess on its hands in the form of a sex scandal that has lasted many decades.  How did the church miss the target by so much?  The target of the church, any Christian church, is to introduce the flock, one person at a time, to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Then, the church through its leadership is to shepherd the flock with God’s Word – both the Old & New Testaments – as the cornerstone of that shepherding.

The good news of the Gospel in the Christian faith fundamentally relays God’s love for humanity and teaches us there is a plan in place, God’s plan, that when understood will literally inspire every person to “shout it from the mountain tops.”

In essence, the church’s mission is to bring hope, healthy esteem, faith and joy to people’s lives. The church as an entity exists to shepherd people to the understanding, comfort and hope of God’s true plan of love and redemption.  But, too often the church’s leadership has robbed individuals in the flock of that hope and brought shame, despair and disgust on all touched by the abuse.

Sexual abuse by church leadership brings the diametric opposite result to people’s lives of what it is designed to do.  Abuse creates despair rather than hope … shame rather than healthy esteem … doubt rather than faith … anger rather than joy.  I repeat, how did this happen? How did so many church leaders end up on a path of abuse when the church’s sole existence is to bring people to an understanding of salvation?  Why such personal scandal from an organization supposedly designed to represent God on earth?

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?  ANSWER:  MAN’S WAYS WERE CHOSEN OVER GOD’S WAYS

God’s word is the arbiter of truth; the authority on spiritual matters.  In the New Testament, both in Mathew and Paul’s writings, Celibacy is identified as a spiritual gift, a unique and rare gift such as Apostleship, Prophesy, Evangelism and Teaching.  All of these gifts come from the Holy Spirit and are very special indeed.

Many centuries ago, powerful men in the church ignored the word of God on this matter:  “Celibacy is a spiritual gift”.  They replaced it with a revolving door of policies that were ultimately driven by selfishness and the thirst for power.

SYNOPSIS OF DYSFUCTION

A brief history of celibacy in the Catholic Church is valuable in understanding how we got to where we are today.  Notably, most of the apostles that Jesus chose himself were married men, including Peter. In the second and third centuries most priests were married, but what followed was hundreds of years of dysfunction, which ultimately morphed into the dysfunction on the front pages today.

  • In the fourth century, the Council of Elvira decreed that a priest who sleeps with his wife the night before Mass will lose his job.
  • The Council of Nicea decreed that after ordination a priest could not be married, but could be married if prior to ordination.
  • The Council of Laodicea decreed that women are not to be ordained; suggesting that prior to this time there was ordination of women.
  • That century ended with a pope leaving his wife to take that position and ultimately a decree that priests may no longer sleep with their wives.
  • In century number five, St. Augustine wrote that nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman.
  • The sixth century included the following: any priest found in bed with his wife would be excommunicated for a year and reduced to a lay state; Pope Pelagius II policy was to not bother married priests as long as they did not hand over church property to wives or children.
  • Pope Gregory said that all sexual desire is sinful in itself.
  • In seventh century, France documents showed that the majority of priests were married.
  • In the eighth century St. Boniface reported to the pope that in Germany almost no bishop or priest were celibate.
  • In 836 the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle openly admitted that abortions and infanticide took place in convents and monasteries to cover up activities of uncelibate priests.
  • At the same time, a prominent Bishop argued from scripture and common sense that the only way to purify the church from the worst excesses of celibacy was to permit priests to marry.

The dysfunction lived on!

  • In the eleventh century the saga continued with Benedict the IX dispensing himself from celibacy and resigning in order to marry.
  • Pope Gregory VII said, anyone to be ordained must first pledge celibacy and priests must first escape the clutches of their wives.
  • Pope Urban II had priests’ wives sold into slavery, while children were abandoned.

This summary brings to the forefront the obvious:  the church’s history does not in any way align with Mathew and Paul’s writings of the gift of Celibacy given by God’s Holy Spirit as a special gift indeed.  Rather, this summary shows a level of dysfunction within the Roman Catholic Church that was on par with, or greater than, sexual dysfunction in the world at large.

SYNOPSIS OF GOD’S WORD ON THE SUBJECT

The purpose of these statements is not to point fingers at people’s intentions, but rather to shed light on the difference between that which is ordained by God, and relayed through God’s Word, and that which is ordained by man, while being in contradiction to God’s Word.  Regardless of a person’s intentions and regardless of a person’s position in the church or any other organization, the scriptures are the authority on celibacy, not any church, including the Roman Catholic Church, or any church leader.

Celibacy is a gift of the Holy Spirit that when received comes from within.  It is not to be imposed.  It cannot be forced from the outside.  A theoretical church whose leadership consists of all Apostles, or all Prophets, or all Evangelists, or all Teachers would be particularly unbalanced.  The same would hold true of a church leadership that all have the true gift of Celibacy.

The Word of God clearly covers that there are a diversity of gifts and that collectively these gifts make up the body of the church.  These gifts complement each other so that in full the church (all Christian Churches in combination) accomplishes God’s work of bringing people to salvation through an understanding of God’s plan for mankind and mankind’s acceptance of that plan.

The primary take away is that all people can do God’s work, some as leaders that for now we will call “priests” and others as lay people.  Nowhere does God’s Word say a person cannot be female versus male or married versus celibate.  The requirement to do God’s work as a Christian is straightforward and pure:  hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized, accept the Holy Spirit of God, live & produce the fruits of God’s Spirit.  Demographics and marital status are not listed as priestly requirements.

IDENTIFYING ALL THE VICTIMS

So, where are we today in the R.C. Church on this whole sex issue?  While this is one man’s opinion, I believe any complete and honest assessment yields the following general answer:  We are a church whose leadership is a mix of both well-intentioned, spiritually-called men that have been given the gift of celibacy, and sexually flawed men who either conveniently entered the priesthood as a means of hiding sexual temptations and weaknesses long established in their lives, or in the minority of cases gravitated toward and ultimately caved to sexually flawed behavior after ordination.

Regardless of whether such dysfunctional sexual behavior was pre or post ordination, this scandal has very unfortunately created a long list of victims, which have been categorized below in perhaps a descending order of impact and gravity:

  • Sexual abuse victims.
  • Loved ones of sexual abuse victims.
  • Reputations of innocent priests being lumped together as though all priests are equally guilty.
  • The body of the church as a loss of confidence in the institution grows.
  • The multitudes of people outside the church as many wrongly conclude that they are correct in rejecting the Christian faith as they equate fallible human beings (sex scandal) with the purity of God’s message and plan for mankind.

The list of victims is long and sad.  The state of the church when it comes to this issue is grave and serious.  None of this will be easily or quickly overcome.  These conclusions are certain: there are many victims; it is a serious issue; it will be a painstaking road to overcome the scandal.

FOLLOW THIS PATH

In the R.C. Church sex scandal scenario, understanding the steps to take to rectify this crisis should be simple to understand.

Here’s an outline:

  • Follow God’s Word in identifying candidates for priesthood, not man-made, often self- serving criteria such as must be male, must be unmarried. This will yield a leadership team that is balanced with all of God’s spiritual gifts present and will yield a leadership team prepared to truly shepherd the flock into understanding how much they are loved by our creator and what an unfathomable plan He has in place for those who love Him.
  • Ensure church leadership – priests, bishops, cardinals and popes – are driven by a deep and unwavering commitment to the Gospel (“good news”) of Jesus Christ and that this commitment far supersedes: (1) their thirst for power – and – (2) the importance of dozens and dozens of institutional rules and regulations that take focus off of His simple message.
  • His message: “I made you.  I love you. I want to spend eternity with you.  Believe in me.  Love me in return.  Have faith and hope.  Love your neighbor.  Share that faith and hope with others by using the gifts I have given you.  ”

The path to solving these issues is simple and clear because God’s Word and common sense shed the light we need on the corrective path to take.  But, we all must understand that simple and easy are very different words.  It is simple to understand how to accomplish many things in life, yet many of those same things we know how to accomplish are extremely difficult to achieve.  They are not easy.

Yes, there are many – many – many steps and details that go into accomplishing the outline above.  Nonetheless, we must start somewhere with a target, a vision.  So, the question to those who are in the church is straightforward:  Will you … will I … be part of the solution in spreading the true, understandable, invigorating message that Jesus Christ delivered?  Or, will you … will I … walk away because the church is screwed up and the list of perpetrators and victims far too long?

The choice is ours to make.  I plan to stay and be part of the solution.

Jim Dobmeier

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