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Sex Scandal in the Catholic Church

by Tom Stewart
May 26, 2002

Skandilizo is the Greek word from which we get the word scandalize. It is to entrap, trip up, or entice, as to sin; and it is translated offend or make to offend in the New Testament. "And whosoever shall offend [Greek, skandilizo] one of these little ones that believe in Me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea" (Mark 9:42). Since the sex abuse scandal erupted earlier this year (2002) in Boston, more than 177 priests have been dismissed or resigned. Allegations of priests molesting young boys have surfaced across the country; further, it appears that such abuse is worldwide throughout the Roman Catholic system, as similar abuse has been charged to have occurred in France and Poland, as related in a March 20th 2002 article, "Vatican wrestles with pedophilia scandals." "There is no new thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The uproar in the headlines became so serious that the Pope convened a meeting in Rome to demonstrate Catholic concern and to attempt to isolate the problem. At a standing room only "listening session" on May 16th in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, church officials were provided with plentiful feedback from the rank and file attendees, as reported in a May 17th 2002 article, "Parishioners discuss effects of church sex scandal." The article reported: "'The top is rotten,' said Faythe Weber during a discussion at St. Gregory the Great Church on Thursday. 'I don't believe a word they say right now. It was cover-up, cover-up, cover-up.'" Not all comments were as harsh. Though 78% of American Catholics recently polled still had a favorable opinion of Pope John Paul II, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted on April 29 - May 1 revealed that the vast majority (70%) of American Catholics disapproved of the Church's handling of the sex abuse problem, e.g., "Overall, do you think the Catholic Church has done a good job or bad job in dealing with the problem of sexual abuse committed by its priests?" "For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed" (Isaiah 9:16).

Though current events paint a dismal picture of the conduct of Roman Catholic priests toward their young parishioners, does the history of the Church of Rome demonstrate a different pattern? A candid look at Rome's history may be found in "Halley's Bible Handbook: An Abbreviated Bible Commentary"-- originally copyrighted in 1927, but the Twenty-Fourth Edition copyrighted in 1965 was consulted for the following quotations. Henry H. Halley wrote:
"The 200 years between [the Popes] Nicolas I [858-867 AD] and Gregory VII [1073-1085 AD] is called by historians the MIDNIGHT OF THE DARK AGES... Sergius III (A.D. 904-911). Said to have had a mistress, Marozia. She, her mother Theodora, and her sister, 'filled the Papal chair with their paramours and bastard sons, and turned the Papal Palace into a den of robbers.' Called in history The Rule of the Harlots (904-963)... [Pope] John XII (955-963), a grandson of Marozia, was 'guilty of almost every crime; violated virgins and widows, high and low; lived with his father's mistress; made the Papal Palace a brothel; was killed while in the act of adultery by the woman's enraged husband'" (p. 774). "How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?" (Proverbs 1:22). Hundreds of years later, during the Papal Schism (1377-1417 AD), in which there were two rival Popes in both Rome and Avignon, France, Rome's Vicar of Christ John XXIII (1410-1415) was "called by some the most depraved criminal who ever sat on the Papal Throne; guilty of almost every crime; as cardinal in Bologna, 200 maidens, nuns and married women fell victim to his amours; as Pope he violated virgins and nuns; lived in adultery with his brother's wife; was guilty of sodomy and other nameless vices; bought the Papal Office; sold Cardinalates to children of wealthy families; and openly denied the future life" (pp. 778-779). "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (Isaiah 1:6). The Renaissance produced Popes of little different morals, such as "Nicolas V (1447-1455), [who] authorized the King of Portugal to war on African peoples, take their property and enslave people... Pius II (1458-1464), was said to have been the father of many illegitimate children, spoke openly of the methods he used to seduce women, encouraged young men to, and even offered to instruct them in methods of self-indulgence. Paul II (1464-1471), 'filled his house with concubines'... Innocent VIII (1484-1492). Had 16 children by various married women... Appointed the brutal Thomas of Torquemada Inquisitor General of Spain, and ordered all rulers to deliver up Heretics to him" (p. 779). "We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto Heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies" (Jeremiah 51:9). [See our article, "The Reformation and the Church of Rome" ---New Window, for background on the Protestant Reformation.]

Is the institution of the Church of Rome any more salvageable in its present condition than in the day of the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther? The whole idea of coming
"out from among them, and be ye separate" (2Corinthians 6:17) is that Personal Holiness is not to be sacrificed even for the Corporate Holiness of the Church. "15 But as He which hath called you is Holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am Holy" (1Peter 1:15-16). When will the thoughtful Roman Catholic leave the Roman Catholic Church? At the point that it is realized that protest against the immorality of the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church will not truly change them-- knowing that only personal holiness will be sacrificed by remaining-- then that individual must leave. Evil company corrupts good morals, i.e., "evil communications [Greek, homilia, meaning companionship, intercourse, communion] corrupt good manners [Greek, ethos, meaning custom, usage, morals, character]" (1Corinthians 15:33). And, personal holiness is more important than saving the Church. "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4). Of course, this assumes that it is already understood that salvation lies solely in Jesus Christ and not in the Roman Catholic Church or any other manmade institution. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Salvation is irrespective of church affiliation and comes only by Jesus Christ, i.e., "the church of God, which He hath purchased with His Own Blood" (Acts 20:28).

What is the significance of this latest sex scandal in the Catholic Church? The very fact that such scandal has been allowed to surface for candid examination means that God is warning all that the Church of Rome cannot save those who trust her.
"It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man" (Psalm 118:8). Trusting the ex cathedra declarations of the Roman Pontiff in faith and morals as infallible, elevates the Pope's word to the level of the Infallible Scriptures-- but "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). The thoughtful Catholic must choose to pay homage to the Living Word or to a breathing Pope. "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isaiah 2:22). If God's Word can be trusted at all, should we not trust It for all? "16 All Scripture is given by Inspiration of God, and is profitable for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Correction, for Instruction in Righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2Timothy 3:16-17). Likewise, are we given the liberty to elevate the priest to the prominence of trust that he would be addressed as "Father"? Does not the Scripture teach us to reject these artificial titles designed to give mere men authoritative power over men's consciences? "2 Saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the Earth: for one is your Father, which is in Heaven" (Matthew 23:2-9).

Where has Auricular Confession the right to give a mere human priest the ability to grant absolution for sins committed against God or man? Does not the Scripture teach us to go to the offended party and make amends directly without priestly intervention?
"23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). Where has God granted a mere human priest the divine, transubstantive capacity to create Christ in the Mass? Does this not blasphemously make a human priest the creator of Christ the Creator? "1 In The Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The Same was in The Beginning with God. 3 All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:1-3). The thoughtful Roman Catholic must ultimately choose salvation through Christ alone or salvation by the Church of Rome, whose salvation will rival the deliverance of those abused, young boys at the hands of their trusted Fathers. "Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:5). [See our article, "An Earnest Appeal to Roman Catholics" ---New Window, for a more thorough, Scriptural treatment of Catholic doctrine.]

May God give thoughtful Roman Catholics the Grace and Mercy to thoroughly turn away from Rome and turn to the LORD Jesus Christ, Who is soon returning for His people.
"Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach" (Hebrews 13:13).

Tom Stewart

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