Pope Francis has spent the last four days with 200 bishops and heads of religious orders who he has gathered from around the world for a global summit in Rome to discuss the crisis facing the Catholic Church over sexual abuse scandals and cover ups. Before the summit had even begun, Francis had warned against excessive expectations for the summit, saying it was a human problem that would continue (“Pope says Vatican abuse summit will not end crisis”, Reuters 2019-01-28). As horrific stories of the abuse of power continue to come to light, sadly it seems unlikely the pattern will change.
On February 13th, under the headline Why the pope’s upcoming summit needs to do a full accounting of the cover-up of sexual abuse theconversation.com news site reported that:
“In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury that investigated abuse in six dioceses over a period of 70 years found that bishops in the state failed to report credible sexual abuse allegations against 300 priests involving 1,000 children.”
“In December of 2018, another investigation by the Illinois attorney general concluded that bishops in that state withheld the names of more than 500 priests accused of molesting minors. More than a dozen similar probes are currently underway by attorneys general in other states.”
“Revelations like these have not been limited to the U.S. Similar investigations, spanning the globe from Chile to Germany to Australia, have exposed sustained efforts by church officials to conceal sex crimes.”
“Although the scandal of sex abuse by clergy did not come to light in media reports until the 1980s, personnel files in dioceses around the U.S. contain allegations of sexual misconduct against priests dating back to the 1930s.”
The CBC in Canada has this week recalled the Tragedy at the Mount Cashel orphanage in St Johns, Newfoundland 30 years ago where the Christian Brothers abused boys in their care escaping criminal charges with the help of the Justice Department. This disturbing history is documented in the book Unholy Orders: tragedy at Mount Cashel by Michael Harris (1990) based on the exhaustive record of the Royal Commission.
The National Catholic Register web site reported that,
“The summit is the sixth major initiative of Pope Francis on the sex-abuse file. And it opens with his chief lieutenant for sexual abuse, Cardinal O’Malley, expressing his frustration with the shortcomings of the previous five.
In 2013, the Holy Father established a papal commission to advise the Holy See on best practices. Last week, prominent articles appeared that gave voice to Cardinal O’Malley’s frustration, namely that the Holy Father hears the commission’s advice, accepts it, but does not follow through.
The frustration appears to be mutual. Cardinal O’Malley is conspicuously absent from the summit’s program…
In January 2015, a new panel was set up within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to hear appeals of sexual-abuse cases, supposedly to expedite matters. Archbishop Scicluna was put in charge. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Cardinal O’Malley found the decisions of Archbishop Scicluna’s appellate panel to be a ‘scandal,’ as it favored more lenient penalties. On the eve of the sexual-abuse summit, the Holy Father’s top adviser on sexual abuse was at odds with the Vatican’s ‘chief prosecutor.’” 2019-02-19
In an article with the headline Abuse victims: Italian law helps bishops dodge investigation, cruxnow.com reported that,
“U.S. and Italian advocates for victims of pedophile priests are pressing for Italy to overhaul legislation that allows bishops to dodge accountability for predator clergy in the predominantly Roman Catholic country where the Church wields considerable political influence… Francesco Zanardi, who heads an Italian survivors’ advocacy group, said Italy must revise its 1929 Lateran Treaty with the Holy See. He noted that under that agreement, bishops can refuse to respond to magistrates investigating their alleged roles in hiding pedophile crimes by priests. Thus, as long as they personally are not being investigated for abuse, bishops ‘have the right to refuse to answer questions from the judiciary’…” 2019-02-22
The mountain of information and analysis related to these scandals is enormous. However, we have heard enough to understand the scale of the problem. It is a global epidemic. What most of the analysis does not point out, is that the Roman Church’s law of celibacy that their priesthood is subject to, is not Biblical. The Church’s disregard for Bible truth is an important factor behind this issue.
So then, turning to the Bible, let’s see what it has to say on these things. In 2Thessalonians 2 the man of sin is revealed. A system of belief that was already in existence at the time of the Apostle Paul, and was to continue until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2Thes. 2:3-10)
This is a strong message. There is only one system that claims to have a continuous line back to the first century, with a leader who assumes the authority of God, and that is the Papacy. The pope, with his claim to infallibility and power to forgive sins, “showing himself that he is God.” Certainly, we see an “unrighteous deception” with the abuse scandals and cover ups, and sadly it seems likely to continue until the Lord Jesus Christ comes in judgement to destroy this evil and establish righteousness.
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy other trademarks of this system, which would fall away from the faith, are revealed to us:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1Tim. 4:1-3)
It is the Catholic Church that today forbids its priests to marry. It is a unique requirement that marks out this system. It is claimed that Paul advises this practice in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” 1Cor 7:1-2 (NIV 1984).
This edition of the NIV is translated in a way which gives support to the claims of the Catholic Church by using the word marry instead of touch in verse 1 and exaggerating Paul’s statement in verse 2. However, this has been changed in the current revised edition of the NIV. The RSV translation of this passage is typical of many translations:
“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
Michael de Semlyen, in his book All Roads Lead to Rome? The Ecumenical Movement (1993), states, under the heading “Ecumenism and the NIV”, that “the NIV could be called the ‘New Catholic Version’”. As has been noted in The Bible Magazine, we need to be careful in our use of different Bible translations and must take the time to examine their character beginning with the preface and reviewing several key passages.
If we continue reading what Paul has to say in 1Corinthians 7, we find that he also says his instruction regarding marriage was said “not as a commandment” (v.6), and in verse 9 continues, “but if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” It is clear then, that marriage is not to be forbidden. We also find that priests throughout the Bible were married. Peter, claimed to be the first bishop, was married: “…when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.” (Matt. 8:14)
Abuse is certainly not limited to the Catholic Church and must be confronted wherever it is found in all its ugly forms; however, this issue has continued to follow the Roman Church like a plague with countless revelations and victims. In the book of Revelation, chapters 17 and 18, we are shown a symbolic immoral woman, sitting on the seven mountains of Rome and John is told, “the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18). There is no world leader like the pope, who commands the attention of prime ministers and presidents around the globe. In chapter 18 John “heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Rev. 18:4-5). Here then is a call to come out of this immoral system “lest you share in her sins.” Sadly, many compromise the truth to obtain the riches and power that may come from an association with her.
Rising Anti-Semitism in Europe
It was also this week that NPR.org reported that “seven members of Britain's Parliament quit the main opposition Labour Party on Monday, accusing its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, of letting anti-Semitism flourish and failing to support a plan to hold another referendum on Brexit.” Anti-Semitism is rising again in Europe. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that “In France, which is home to nearly half of Western Europe’s approximately 1.3 million Jews,” anti-Semitism is again coming out in the context of the “yellow vest demonstrations over fuel prices and taxes that began in November… Last week, yellow vest protesters mobbed a Jewish philosopher who has declared his principled support for their cause. As police officers escorted Alain Finkielkraut to safety, the crowd chanted for him to ‘go to Tel Aviv’ and called him ‘dirty Zionist.’”
This is another area where the Church appears on the wrong side of Bible truth. More than 50% of the population is Catholic in France. Therefore, the Church has had and can have significant influence.
In Robert Michael’s book, A History of Catholic Antisemitism, The Dark Side of the Church (2008), he shows a link between the doctrine of the Church and their position on the Jews, including in France, a subject to which he dedicates a full chapter. In his Introduction he quotes Robert Willis who “concluded, ‘There are obviously, political, social, and economic factors that must be taken into account in assessing the causes of the Holocaust. What is at stake is a proper understanding of the contribution of theological antisemitism to the creation of a social and moral climate that allowed the ‘final solution’ to become a reality. . . . It is necessary . . . to appreciate the cumulative impact of a centuries-long tradition of hostility towards Judaism and Jews within the church as a crucial condition enabling [Hitler’s] mobilization [of public opinion] to take place.’”
A fuller consideration of the role the Church may play in the rise of antisemitism in Europe today is a subject for another week, but what is clear is that her teachings continue to contribute to a social and moral climate that supports not only abuse, but also ongoing hostility toward Jews. A political manifestation of this hostility, for example, can be seen in the relationship that the Papacy continues to have with the leaders of the Palestinians, a subject which has been dealt with previously on this program.
All these events are not only in harmony with Bible prophecy, but also illustrate how beliefs influence behaviour. Therefore, we must search the Scriptures, as did the faithful Bereans in Paul’s day: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)
So keep watching for the Bible in the News, and pray for deliverance from the wickedness of this world. This has been Daniel Billington joining you this week.