Welcome to what promises to be a rainy weekend. There will be football, there will be Trump tweets, there will be some sort of outrage from political quarters, so pretty much a standard weekend from all appearances.
What it appears there won’t be, at least not yet, is a satisfactory response from the Pope about these recent allegations that have been roiling the Catholic church for about a month.
As a protestant, and a man who loves my friends within the Catholic church, I was very interested in how this would turn out, and if it would cause some more theological/ecclesiological soul searching. I hadn’t seen that until Marc Thiessen’s column titled, Suddenly I understand how the Reformation happened. It’s worth reading. Though he (and presumably others of the Catholic faith) might now see how internal struggles of the church could have led to a reformation – because they were ignored 500 years ago – what he didn’t mention is that not only were issues ignored, the church actually doubled down on their mistakes by reiterating their mistaken doctrines at Trent.
I’m concerned that this new revelation is only superficial. For instance, the papers frame this as an issue of “conservative wing of the church” vs. “liberal wing of the church”, but that’s only who the players are. The real issue is theological/doctrinal. It is the practical consequences of ideas that are deeply embedded in the Catholic faith – in the traditions. An enemy’s weapon deeply embedded festers and corrupts the body, and is extremely painful to remove.
I find that very often I write about the Catholic church, because its in the news a great deal, and because Francis has been such a decisive figure. The truth is that it breaks my heart to see such obvious neglect of the clear teaching of the Bible and how it impacts those I know and so many others around the world. There is such comfort in tradition and great community spirit as well. Knowing that all around the world others are speaking the same words and worshiping in the same way. But their is also mortal danger when traditions of men become more sacred than the words of our Creator. It breaks the heart of our God as well. We know that from Scripture. In Ezekiel 34 we have a similar example. The priests had been taking advantage of and abusing their flock. The shepherds on earth were inwardly ravenous wolves. God did not turn a blind eye. Here is what He said:
“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?  You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep.  The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.  So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered;  they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep,  therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves… (Ezekiel 34:2–10a ESV)
What about today? Admittedly, I don’t live within the literary ecosystem of the Catholic faith, but I haven’t seen a single article discussing how maybe its not a good idea to forbid men in the ministry from marrying. That perhaps there was a reason for many of the great church fathers and apostles to have had wives. That it is possible that God designed men to have a companion, and that this truth extended to those in church leadership. Indeed, the “Rock” Peter was most likely married. If the Bible is to be our guide and the antiseptic to our self-inflicted wounds, then we must read what it has to say with wisdom – even if it means reluctantly chucking our comfortable traditions – even if it means leaving the church establishment where we feel so at home. Paul calls us to wisdom in this area, and addresses the issue at length in 1 Corinthians 7. Though even in 1 Timothy 3, where the qualifications for church eldership are given, not only is marriage not forbidden, but there is an assumption that many of the elders of the church will be married!
Being in ministry and being single is a calling as much as being married and being in ministry. But those who are single must have an extra measure of self-control – a measure that has been assumed and imposed by tradition and Catholic law for many years now, but ought to be closely discerned by those serving and the community of elders around these men (I won’t even go into the natural arguments for having a plurality of elders/church leaders to keep each other accountable here, though it does get the wheels turning…). The question is this: When will the church learn to bow before the Scripture and not simply their own traditions? How many more young people will suffer before they take a step back and look with more weight upon God’s revealed word instead of their own traditions?
Let me close this topic by returning to Ezekiel. Along with a word of rebuke, the Lord had a word of comfort for those who have experienced distress and abuse at the hands of the leaders of the church in Ezekiel’s day – a word of comfort that many desperately need today:
Ezekiel 34:10–11 says…
 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.
 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.
Then He says there is a future hope for His people, even while caught in the darkness of this world – even when the darkness extends into the church, yet he will rescue those in distress in the end:
“I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.  And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.  And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them.  They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid.  And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations.  And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD.  And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 34:25–31 ESV)
The ultimate comfort then, is that even in the midst of the wilderness of this world, God reaches down to place His sheep within a context of peaceful relationship with Him. The first thing He does is not take us out of the world or the dangers from abusive church leaders. The first thing He does is rescue us from ourselves and our sinfulness. He says to His sheep: I know you want peace, and I am going to take the initiative beginning with You and me. But He does not leave us here. God is not ignorant of our distress, He knows that we are in need of rescue. He not only brings us into a covenant with Himself, but He will one day ultimately rescue us from every oppression, every evil leader who oppresses us, and feed us forevermore on His pasture (verse 31).
I’m praying that many of the flock are protected from the abuses of the Catholic priests, and that the Catholic organization is roiled enough to chuck many of its traditions, submitting them to the scrutiny of the Word of God.
On to other stuff and other articles
Here are some other interesting articles you might enjoy on this rainy day!
Dueling perspectives here. First the crazies: Bible prophecy FULFILLED as first ‘red heifer born in 2,000 YEARS’ signalling END OF DAYS…versus a more grounded approach: Living in These Last Days. (interesting that the latter would have arrived in my inbox just days before the former).
That’s it! I hope you enjoy this soggy weekend!