Once again, the horrific actions of members of the Catholic Church who have both abused their positions and the innocent people they were expected to protect and shepherd, has been brought to light. It’s fair to say that this kind of abuse is despicable no matter what venue or institution it is practiced in. For those who covered up, or turned a blind eye to the abuse, they are as guilty as those who performed the horrendous acts.
But to say that the Catholic Church is not the Church Christ began on this earth because of the sins of its leaders, is taking the claim to far. Quite simply, if scandal amongst the leaders of a group constitutes a false teaching, then the Apostles that Christ chose could not have written true inspired doctrine. Christianity itself must be false. This is the kind of thinking that drives me crazy. When Christians (of the Non-Catholic kind) point there fingers at the priestly scandals in the Church as if to say “see, that’s what it means to be part of the Catholic church”. As if they subscribe to a christianity that does not, and would never have people in leadership positions performing such sinful acts like pedophilia, adultery, rape, sodomy, abortion, murder, fraud…..must I go on?
But it is rather convenient to throw stones when you have a clear and present target that is constantly being criticized and dragged through the dirt at every chance the world gets. You would think that the Priest problem had run rampant and the numbers were staggering, when in fact, compared to protestant leaders, islamic leaders, teachers, jewish rabbis, and even families, the priesthood has a far less number of accounts as do these other groups.
However, I have found that argument to be lacking in the sense that ONE failure in this area is too many in any group of people, especially those who claim Christ as their leader. But then again, we are all living in a battle with sin, and none of us is immune to falling into our own despicable activities at time in our lives. So what is the answer?
The answer is the same as it has always been in the Church that Christ founded. It started with scandal. Only one apostle remained at the foot of the Cross. Peter denied Christ. Judas betrayed Christ, despite spending nearly 3 years with him. The early Church was ripe with heretics like Marcion, Arius, Pelagius, Nestorius, etc. No doubt there were scoundrels at the head of the Church from time to time. But the Church is resilient, and it tends to overcome the scandals and learn from them. And that tends to be the way God works with all of us. He allows us to fail in order that we might learn and grow. Just as it is possible for any of us to fall into sin, or to become prideful and feel as if we are invincible, so the Church at times has had to overcome those same types of circumstances. The amazing thing is that, despite it’s epic failures, it is still a force for good in this world. It remains only because of the grace of God over His Church. Any other institution would have crumbled long ago, and many have come and gone in the last 2,000 years.
When I was an evangelical christian I once read a book called “God Meant it for Good”. It was the story of Joseph and how God took the horrific evil acts of Joseph’s brothers (selling him into slavery), and turned it into a good thing. Perhaps the corruption, however deep it is within the Church, needed to be brought to light in order that God could take the bad and use it to create a greater good in the Church. It starts with the Church setting up new stronger standards of accountability for priests. Whatever steps they take, it will help eradicate the problem. That’s all we can ask for. We can’t expect that no Priest will ever sin again, but we can help bring the ones who do to justice.
So the Catholic Church will survive and continue to develop incredible people devoted to Christ and to the salvation of souls. It always has, and it always will.