Cardinal Mahony faces scrutiny...
(Tim, w/thanks to David C.) From both outside and inside the Roman Catholic church, we've watched the exposure of sodomite priests across North America this past decade or so--priests who have raped minor boys they vowed to protect as church fathers. We've read the secular media's investigative reports. As a subscriber, I've also read the most conservative publications of the Roman Catholic communion respond to each revelation. Then too, I've followed the matter through personal letters received from a friend who was a priest, but now is doing prison time for crimes he claims he's innocent of.
Three things have stuck in my mind...
First, by now readers know I regularly contrast the preaching of the Reformers with the preaching of Protestant pastors, today --usually with the goal of pointing out how fearful and timid we are compared to the men we claim as our heroes. This present discovery of sodomite rapists in parishes across North America is no exception. Why is it that mainstream Protestant print media like Christianity Today and World, not to mention theological journals and pastors in pulpits, never point out the very first thing that would have been said by church fathers of past centuries: that the heresies and errors of the Roman Catholic church inevitably produce such fruit? That, theologically and pastorally, this fruit is inevitable?
Read anything Calvin or Luther ever wrote. Then try to imagine what they'd say today about sodomite priests raping altar boys in the rectory?Would they limit their comments to clucking their tongues over financial settlements and suggesting certain improvements in the way the church responds to such pastoral crises in the future?
No, they'd comment. Oh how they'd comment! The Reformers would pounce on this opportunity making Biblical, theological, and dogmatic declarations. Their blows against the Pope and his cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and priests wouldn't be glancing. No one familiar with the work of our fathers of past centuries could doubt if they were here today they would point out the theological consistency between the predations committed by Rome's doctrine and these rapes committed by her priests.
But rather than taking this opportunity to warn souls away from Rome, we Protestants have been largely silent, content to read of the work journalists and prosecutors are doing as we think to ourselves, "What a nasty job! I'm glad I don't have to say anything."
Has anyone in North America learned more about the doctrines of justification and imputation because of this failure within Roman Catholicism? Among those of us who claim to walk in the footsteps of Calvin and Luther, have even one of us availed ourselves of this perfect, God-given opportunity to point out the doctrinal error, even of papal infallibility and clerical celibacy, for instance?
No, we haven't. Instead, we're busy showing how kind and gentle and non-censorious we are.
We don't call it "sodomite rape," but "sex abuse." And the predators need "help." It's all so "sad" and "tragic." We pity these men who, often at the very end of their careers, are being exposed, are being humiliated for private failures now twenty, thirty, and forty years in their past. Then too, think of the financial losses these archdioceses have sustained.
Facing this pandemic of sodomite rape by men called "father," the great grandchildren of Calvin and Luther are so understanding and non-polemical.
We must have evolved.
But of course, we all know we haven't evolved. Rather, we've passed up an opportunity to guard the flock, to warn day and night with tears. We've failed to love the souls who would hear our voices if we took the risk of speaking a clear note to those under Rome's bondage.
Men, we must repent and return to our first love and duty.
Now, briefly, my two other thoughts.
Second, I can't help but think that the corruption we continue to read of extends to the very top of the Roman Catholic hierarchy--to the Pontiffs themselves. Look at it this way.
Mary Lee and I were once on a private boat in Southeast Alaska, where we saw a large ship we heard was commonly known, because of some television series, as the "Love Boat." We ran into the Love Boat in Glacier Bay National Park while watching for calving glaciers.
A few days later, our pilot told us he'd heard that the Love Boat had run aground that day. He expressed sadness, not because there was any harm to passengers, but because simply running aground was cause for the ship's captain to be terminated, immediately. Regardless of cause. Run aground as a captain and you're done.
It made quite an impression on me. No "guilty with an explanation, your honor" there. Run aground. Finis.
But there's been none of this accountability demonstrated in the Roman Catholic church the past ten years or so. Rather, most of what we've seen is lots and lots and lots of money changing hands.
So although I'm rather sympathetic to the Roman Catholic church compared to the regnant anti-Catholicism of our nation, I think it right that the courts appear now to be going after the hierarchy that ruled while this wickedness was tolerated. And let me add that there are clear implications for those of us who are Protestant pastors and approach our churches as preaching points rather than flocks. Or those of us who cultivate ignorance about the oppressions that are carried out in our congregation's homes.
Third, if this is what has come out about Roman Catholic priests, Protestant pastors should be on guard. How many times I've thanked my Dad for telling me, when I was first ordained, "Never counsel a woman alone. In fact, never have a meal at a restaurant or drive in a car with a woman, alone. Unless it's your daughter or wife. Never!"
The church is only going to be sued more often in the years to come, and the man of God cannot be too careful protecting himself against false charges; but also against transference. Against a woman's fantasies or his own lusts.