The Crisis in the Catholic Church


All of us, I am sure, have been shocked and saddened by the repeated revelations of serious sexual misconduct (and an apparent cover-up in many cases) by priests inside the Catholic Church. How should those of us outside that particular church respond? A recent editorial in Christianity Today points out that celibacy is not the root problem. After all, marriage is a gift but so is celibacy, a point Paul makes forcefully in I Corinthians 7. The unmarried can serve the Lord without the distractions of family life. This is a great benefit, especially in times of great crisis. And surely it is true that a mature Christian man does not begin molesting teenage boys simply because he is prohibited from marrying. The problem lies elsewhere. This week I received a kind e-mail from a single person asking me point blank a familiar question: “How far can we go?” In my reply I stated that all sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. That includes premarital sex, extramarital sex, any form of promiscuity, homosexuality, polygamy, bigamy, adultery, and fornication. I added that Christians are called to modesty, purity and holiness. Our behavior with others is always to reflect those qualities. There is no third option besides marriage or celibacy. The fact that many people, including many Christians, fail to live up to that standard doesn’t change what God has said. Finally, it is not out of place to suggest that the Lord has a purpose in mind through all that is happening. Across history some of the greatest crimes have been done in His name and by His representatives. The appropriate response to this truth is not to hide our heads in shame but to fall on our faces in repentance before the Lord. Before we point at anyone else, we ought to say what the disciples said when Jesus predicted that one of them would betray him. No one–not one!–said, “Oh, it’s Judas. I knew it all along.” To a man, they were dumbfounded, and said, “Lord, is it I?” Although the verse has been badly misused in recent public debates, this is one time when we ought to heed the words of Jesus when he said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” That disqualifies me, even if I felt like throwing a stone, which I don’t. It is not out of place to suggest that the Lord may yet purify His church, the whole Christian church, through the current trials of the Catholic Church. And if that happens, then we will say once again that God has vindicated Himself in a most unlikely way and that what others meant for evil, he meant for good. May it be so, for the sake of the gospel of Jesus.

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