In the wake of Tuesday’s horrifying grand jury report on the sexual abuse epidemic within the Catholic Church, it has become increasingly clear that there needs to be a deep and serious process of expulsion among the global Catholic priesthood. That process needs to begin right now. There is no time to waste. There is no reason to delay it. There are no excuses to justify what has happened.
The document names over 300 predator priests, over 1,000 identifiable victims, and details an endless amount of brutally grotesque and shocking cases spanning a period of 70 years, some of which involve ruthless sexual assault, rape and even multiple abuses by the same priests within the same church. In one instance, a priest forced a little boy to pose naked and mimic the crucifix position of Christ. Fellow ministers took photographs of the boy, which were later printed and distributed on campus as child pornography.
Another report documents a priest who demanded that a little boy perform oral sex on him. Afterwards, he rinsed the boy’s mouth with holy water.
Another report documents the case of a young girl who was raped by a priest and subsequently forced to get an abortion.
Another report documents a victim who was “tied up and whipped with leather straps” by a priest.
Another report documents a priest who visited a young girl in the hospital because she was having her tonsils removed. He decided to rape her while he was there.
I could go on for the next three days listing additional cases, but I have neither the time nor the stomach to do so. As equally disturbing as the abuse is the fact that much of it was made opportunistically possible by the head bishops who — for whatever deranged reasons — chose to look the other way, rather than address the sin and evil in their midst. This is nothing short of Satanically wicked and, as far as I’m concerned, places them in the same league as those priests whose crimes they are guilty of attempting to hide. As I mentioned on Facebook recently, there is indeed grace and forgiveness under the cross for these men, but they should no longer be allowed to wear the collar or serve within ministry capacities. In fact, they should be publicly named, charged and criminally prosecuted. Lock them all in prison forever. Sin has consequences and justice must still be served. (And I suspect it will be, whether here on Earth or in the realms of Eternity.) Moreover, the truly faithful and honest priests who do remain (and, yes, they are out there) should be preaching sermons that denounce the depraved and fallen state of our culture.
With all of that being said, I think it is important for us as believers to step back, take a deep breath, and reflect upon a particularly relevant and important reality during this overwhelming controversy: Our leaders, pastors and priests will inevitably fail us in some way. This goes for every industry and every religious denomination, especially considering that the so-called “sexual abuse epidemic” is not limited only to the Catholic Church. Indeed, many folks in the Protestant Christian demographic would argue that it’s actually worse within their denomination. There have also been several reported cases among Buddhists and Muslims. Even the Jewish community has battled childhood sexual abuse according to a recent study by Science Direct.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying every pastor or priest will fall into sexual immorality. Obviously the vast majority of them — across denominations on the national level — have not done so. What I am saying is that there is no such thing as a perfect pastor or perfect priest. They do not exist. We would do well to keep this in mind. As the son of a pastor, I speak with some credibility here. Trust me. They will screw up. They will make mistakes. They will have leadership blunders. They will forget to attend funerals or weddings. They will say things they will later regret. They will unintentionally offend someone. After all, they’re human beings like the rest of us. (Romans 3:23) And any pastor worth his salt will readily admit this.
Instances of sexual abuse, however, are quite different. God Himself had stern words for shepherds who intentionally inflict sin and immorality upon their own sheep. (Ezekiel 34:2-10) Thankfully, as Christians and church congregants, we do not place our hope or confidence in our pastors. We place our hope in the true High Priest, the “great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…” (Hebrews 4:14) Why do we do this? Well, because He is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” and “has been tempted in all things as we are, yet is without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) He is perfect. We are not. He leads. We follow. He understands our needs and trials when no one else can.
Let the media coverage explosion of the Catholic Church scandal be a lesson to pastors and priests everywhere: You have a Divine Calling on your life to nurture, shepherd and guide your flock. This is not to be taken lightly. It is not a responsibility to be shouldered carelessly. Every word you speak matters. Every action you take is critical. Every eye in your congregation is on you — perhaps now more than ever.
But, at the same time, you are not perfect. Try as you might, you will still struggle. You will occasionally let your flock down. When you do, Christ will be there to pick them up. And, in His immeasurable grace and love, He will pick you up too. You may fail them, but He never will.