The Expository Files

Catholic Priest Scandal: Separating Two Issues

Let's understand, Catholicism is not taught in the Bible. This has been so since the birth of this human religious institution. And even if every priest and official associated with Catholicism had no blame in any sexual sin, this would be just as true: Catholicism is not taught in the Bible. It is a human religious power that rejects the authority of Christ, perpetuates human domination, discourages independent Bible study, demands papal idolatry (see 2 Thess. 2:3,4), and is driven by meaningless ritual enforced by self-righteous men who have no regard for the teachings of the New Testament. It is outrageous that old perverted men have taken advantage of young altar boys. And whatever the Catholic organization does about it, impenitent idolaters who are sexually immoral will "have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death," (Rev. 21:8).

The debate will continue over the role of celibacy, and scrutiny will be given to issues of vigilance, rehabilitation, recovery and response to victims. For people who are objective students of the Bible and disciples of Christ - two things remain clear during the public attention and after: (1) Catholicism is wrong, and (2) Sexual immorality is wrong. Two things -- both wrong.

Those who protest Catholicism on Biblical grounds may be tempted to seize upon the sexual scandal as an additional argument against the system. "See what these priests have done! I told you Catholicism was wrong." That approach may seem obvious, simple and powerful. Yet we may need to think more carefully about this. It may be wise to separate the issues of institutional corruption and individual corruption.

Nero's brutal behavior does not argue against the existence of civil rulers, nor does the betrayal of Judas argue against discipleship. The awful sexual offense of individual Catholic "priests" should not be our main objection to their priesthood. We ought to express our resistance to sexual immorality wherever it appears. Our first objection to their whole religious system is, it is not according to the Scriptures. (Do we have no objection to the work of these priests, so long as they refrain from sexual sins with children? Of course not. We object to the system because the system is not authorized by God. We object to individual sexual immorality in anyone, whatever their religious association.)

If we use the sexual scandal of priests as an argument against the institution, it may be we are throwing out a boomerang that will find a troublesome trajectory back to us! Though not as well highlighted by the media, there have been cases of preachers associated with churches of Christ guilty of adultery, fraud, molesting children, drunk driving and abuse.

Their wicked behavior does not mean all preachers are corrupt, and does not mean the Lord's Church has no valid existence. In genealogical research, contemporary families may discover real scoundrels among their ancestors. This provides no argument that your family is invalid. It only shows that individuals made sinful choices. There is wisdom is separating institutional corruption and individual corruption (within the context of matters discussed here).

The Roman Catholic Religious Institution, System, Dogma, Structure and Papal Idolatry is not what God has said He wants men to do in response to Him; it is not the pure and undefiled religion of Christ. With or without the horrible acts of individuals who are part of it, it remains a corrupt system that opposes and exalts itself against God (see 2 Thess. 2:4). The whole institution has no valid existence in the eyes of God; this has been true since its inception. And if every priest were to abstain from all sexual sin, the corruption of the system would remain.

"Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted," (Matt. 15:13).

By Warren E. Berkley
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From Expository Files 9.5; May 2003