Keeping Faith When Priests Cause Scandal

Victor Ajluni

It’s no secret that the Church is comprised of sinners. However, when we become discouraged in the Church, and are perhaps at risk of losing faith and walking away, do we ever stop to remember that Jesus is the Builder of the Church?

All throughout salvation history, God has utilized sinners to build His Kingdom here on Earth. Noah drank too much. Abraham had a hard time trusting God’s promises about having an heir, and ended up sleeping with a slave woman. Moses couldn’t follow instructions, and ultimately wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land. David was an adulterer; and Solomon was a womanizer who fell into idolatry.

Yet through it all, God was in control. Somehow, history unfolded from the beginning to the promised Redeemer, not because of us, but despite us. God, the ultimate musician, makes a perfect symphony despite the most faulty instruments.

In our culture, there seems to be a tendency to put some people on a pedestal, because of their position: musicians, politicians, actors, doctors, and even our parish priests. Typically, what goes up, must come down. When this fall from grace happens, there is a loud bang that nobody will admit they saw coming. “I can’t believe that this could be true. He would never do such a thing.” I can appreciate this perspective, because I’ve witnessed this disappointment.

There is a tendency for some to react with disgust, and use scandal as an excuse to leave the Church. Others will come to the rescue of the accused and reject out of hand any possibility that any allegations against them could be true. Those same extremes may even go so far as to label the other as a “bad” or “disobedient” Catholic.

This assertion, I would propose, is to miss the forest for the trees. Both despair and denial are extremes that must be avoided. Accountability and faithfulness are necessary.

There is no doubt at all that the Bride of Christ is under attack. Satan will leave no stone unturned in his efforts to discourage souls and lead them away from the life giving sacraments of the Church. This effort means that you and I must be constantly on guard and prayerful for each other, our priests, bishops and deacons and the Holy Father.

Each and every one of us is a sinner. Yet, we are still the building blocks of the Church. God can make perfect bricks, even without straw.

But as much as we count on the clergy to guide us, we have a role to play, not the least of which is our prayers for our shepherds. The devil certainly knows that, despite the flaws of our priests, they are the ones who bring to the faithful the sacraments that Jesus entrusted to them for our spiritual health and salvation. It’s no wonder Satan spends so much time attacking them.

For those who may at times despair when some scandal or another is made known, it is important to remember that our priests are humans first. They sin just like the rest of us. They can and should be held accountable for their actions. But, we are accountable for our actions as well. Giving up on the Builder of the Body, because we are troubled by the material He uses, is one act which none of us should consider, regardless of how much scandal may arise in our midst.

Jesus Christ warned us that there would be scandals in His Church. “Woe to the world because of scandals! For it must needs be that scandals come, but woe to the man through whom scandal does come!” (Matthew 18:7 DRA)

Of course, we have all heard of Judas Iscariot? Should we forsake the Rock of Peter, because of the sin of Judas? No. The indispensable gift of the sacraments, most notably the Eucharist, come from the hands of our priests. Jesus is truly present to us — body, blood, soul, and divinity — no matter the spiritual soundness of His instrument. In this regard, I will conclude with the words of St. John Chrysostom and the Catechism:

It may happen that the rulers of a nation are bad and corrupt, and their subjects good and pious, that the laity live moral lives while the priests are guilty of iniquity. But if grace always required worthy [ministers], there would be no Baptism, no body of Christ [Eucharist], no sacrifice [of the Mass]. Now God is wont to operate through unworthy men …. (Homilies on 1 Corinthians, Homily VIII)

None of us is worthy. But by God’s grace and mercy, we are all called to unite with Him in love, through the graces He gives us in the Sacraments of the Church.

Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers. In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1549)

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25 thoughts on “Keeping Faith When Priests Cause Scandal”

  1. A better approach to the situation would be to be “as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Catholics are not meant to be stupid. Catholics are not meant to be willfully ignorant. Catholics are not meant to be political sheep to the ruling class. Catholics are meant to understand and uphold the truth of Christ and the Church’s deposit of Faith. Clerics of any stripe who preach heresy from the pulpit and act on it do not get my sympathy. Of course it is fine to pray for them–before, during, and after they are stripped of their clerical garb and removed from all priestly duties.

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  3. There is no doubt at all that the Bride of Christ is under attack. Satan will leave no stone unturned in his efforts to discourage souls and lead them away from the life giving sacraments of the Church.

    This statement is both a superstition and a strategy to keep people from questioning and leaving the Church. It plays on people’s fear of the consequences of not believing and following Church teachings.

    It is a superstition in that Satan does not actually exist. It is a strategy in that it portrays critical thinking and reasoning as tools of this imaginary enemy of the Church. It keeps us from making decisions based on the examples set by those running the Church by using the excuse that their bad behavior is caused by the enemy of the Church instead of by the Church itself (such as its requirement that priests be celebrate and not allowing normal healthy married men to be priests).

    1. Bill S’s argument that Satan as a being is functional superstition is quite correct. In Rabbinical Judaism, the context of the Old Testament, the notion of fallen angels (a concept introduced by Justin Martyr) is dismissed and interpreted as the existence of pervasive evil in humankind. The popularly held beliefs that Satan was once an angel who becomes prideful and eventually rebels against God are not portrayed explicitly in the Bible and are mostly based on inference (e.g., Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14:12–17). The fact is that Satan as a being or fallen angel is only an inferential concept. OT interpretation refers to evil, to adversary of the Israelites. Evil as a part of human nature is real. The reality is as Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and he is US!.” It is important to remember what I always have noted: A text without a context is a pretext to have Scripture say what we want it to say……

    2. Laurence Charles Ringo

      Since you have no scruples about calling Jesus a rank liar, Phil, I’m not sure what, if anything, the Scriptures say to you and those of your ilk.My challenge to YOU, and Bill S, is for you to prove that Jesus viewed Satan as a…”inferential concept”…and not the Enemy of Mankind’s souls, actual and real.I used to give scant credence to that old saying that Satan’s greatest trick was to convince mankind that he didn’t exist. Turns out that the adage is true! WOW.

    3. No one claims that evil does not exist; just saying that the contextual definition is that it is IN US and opposed to some force EXTERIOR TO US. We are our own enemy; no need for an external being with a tail and horns. You conflate Satan and Evil….my words are that Evil is another words for Satan in us. Read the Bible in the context it was written to the people it was written.

    4. no need for an external being with a tail and horns.

      Sorry, but here you show how pitiful your understanding of Christianity’s doctrine on Satan is. The tail and horn is just a pictoral depiction! No sane and intelligent Catholic thinks that Satan is like that.

      Your argument for the most part is a strawman.

      Read the Bible in the context it was written to the people it was written.

      So you are a dyed in the wool historico-critical adherent? Scripture is MUCH MORE than the limited purview the historico-critical method gives it.

      Jesus was a Jew and Rabbi

      And according to Himself, Son of God who came to take away our sins.

      the Bible is parable, allegory and metaphor

      Much, much more than that. It is the Word of God.

    5. For those who claim God does not exist, it is easy to claim Satan does not exist. The two claims go hand in hand. No functional superstition is necessary to keep Catholic faithful. Those who would be swayed by fear of consequences “of not believing and following church teachings” would have long ago given in to their sensual appetites and left the church, since the Catholic church requires so many other more unpleasant and difficult things than a belief in our enemy, Satan.

    6. Your comment is absurd! I never denied the existence of a God…I did strongly question the pedantic and simplistic definition of Satan. Early rabbinical authorities (OT) and oh, Jesus was a Rabbi, moved away from the nonscriptural fallen angels rouse to the fact that Satan is literally translated as forgotten…a forgetting about the existence of God. There is EVIL and it exists in us and it is most manifest in human indifference to God and to the most oppressed of his creation. Evil is allegorically depicted as Satan in red flames, horns and a tail…that is allegory for simple people. Read scripture and understand scripture in the context in which it was written and study the etymology of words. Jesus didn’t speak English nor was the Bible written in English.

    7. I did strongly question the pedantic and simplistic definition of Satan

      What you did demolish is your own caricature of Satan.

      There is EVIL and it exists in us and it is most manifest in human indifference to God and to the most oppressed of his creation.

      But since you like going back to the OT, if all that God created is good, where the did the evil come from?

    8. Bill, Catholic priests can be married. A little research will go a long way on that topic. The assertion that unmarried men are unhealthy, and only married men are normal and healthy is rather ridiculous.

    9. I understand the circumstances under which a priest might be married. They are rare. If you don’t want to admit the problems associated with priests having to be celebate then you are living in denial. Sorry for having to be the one telling you that.

    10. Also, in no way did Victor claim that those “running” the church should be excused. Rather, Victor stated, “Both despair and denial are extremes that must be avoided. Accountability and faithfulness are necessary.”

    11. Laurence Charles Ringo

      I’ve asked this question more than once, and I have yet to receive an meaningful, incoherent answer, but ONE MORE TIME : WHY do unbelievers comment on Christian websites? I mean seriously, what mileage do you get out of calling Almighty God a rank liar? Or, for that matter, Jesus Himself? Or would you actually have us (Christians) believe YOU instead of Him? Every since so-called ” Jesus Seminar”alum John Dominic Crossan claimed that Jesus’ body was dug up and eaten by dogs, I don’t care how many alphabets trail his (and those of his ilk) names, neither he nor they can EVER AGAIN tell me again tell me anything about either Jesus or the Scriptures.You God haters may find it clever,but I for one am not impressed with your smug, hateful opinions; Almighty God will be who He is when all of you are long-dead dust, so…get over yourselves. If the Lord our God is a liar to you, have the stones to come right out and say so; all this dancing around on pseudo-theological pins is idiotic and asinine. I can’t speak for anyone else, but you God – mocking, Scripture-disdaining haters will NEVER concoct an argument, theory, or philosophy that will EVER turn me away from He who IS my life-Jesus IS Lord, ALL.DAY.LONG!!!!!

    12. OK, here is your answer ans I am sure you are looking for a meaningful chherent answer (you first line asks for a incoherent answer).
      I believe that Catholics and most Christians have strayed from the message of Christ, are intimidated by it and run for cover under the guise of pieties alone. The Christ of the Gospels came for the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the poor and needy, etc. That is why he brought his message to the people of Israel…desert dwellers, mostly uneducated and unread. His message was about meeting HIM in the poor, the disabled, the widowed, the homeless, the naked, the imprisoned, etc. That was the core of his message and that is what most Christians avoid. MATT 25…The parable of the goats and the sheep.
      If you follow most of the posts here, they focus on sin, on sex, on contraception, abortion, fornication….I would estimate that .05% focus on the Christian mandate to join with the oppressed, marginalized, etc. Review the hundreds of posts here.
      People avoid the prescriptions of MATT 25 because they are uncomfortable, unwilling to move into unknown areas, afraid to consort with homeless, poor, marginalized souls; unwilling to visit the imprisoned, the institutionalized, the widowed. And that these corporal works of mercy need to be attended to on a daily basis. That is what the Kingdom of God is all about.
      I come to these sites to confront the indifference of avowed Catholics and Christians to the parable of the goats and the sheep, to finding Christ in only place he really is. the “least of our brothers.” Confront people to go into the world and help and mingle with the “least”…there is too much human indifference to the pain of others. That is why I come here….to confront those who evade the message of Christ.
      I hope this answer is both meaningful and coherent, sir.

    13. I believe that Catholics and most Christians have strayed from the message of Christ

      How have they done that and what is the message of Jesus Christ?

      Secondly, how do you know that this is indeed the message of Jesus Christ and not the message that the Church preaches?

      The Christ of the Gospels came for the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the poor and needy, etc.

      Partly yes. For one thing, if the Christ of the Gospels came for the marginalized, disenfranchised and the poor and needy, there is hardly any account of : Christ standing for the marginalized which is what the zealots were doing, nor are there any account of Christ, feeding the poor, clothing the hungry, etc, etc. So if this is his message (considering that he is capable of miracles) how come he did not just make the poor rich and overthrew the Pharisees and Saducees?

      What do we find instead? Jesus over and over again declaring that He must suffer, that He is sent by God, that He is the Son of God.

      Then there’s the beautitude where instead of saying work towards the eradication of poverty, He says instead blessed are the poor, the meek, those who mourn, etc. And He ties all these “blesseds” to Himself when lastly He proclaims that you are blessed when men revile you and persecute you FOR HIS SAKE.

      The last time I checked, the New Testament was a lot thicker than Matthew 25.

      I come to these sites to confront the indifference of avowed Catholics and Christians to the parable of the goats and the sheep

      The perceived indifference is in your own mind. You will find that the orthodox and traditional Catholics are very much for the corporal works of mercy. But they do not believe that Christian life is ONLY about that, which you seem to think it is. There is also the Spiritual works of Mercy. And at the heart of the Christian faith is the question of who Christ is.
      The heart of the Christian faith is the PERSON of Christ. He is not just one more guru among many but the only Son of God.

    14. Laurence Charles Ringo

      Thanks, MarcAlcan! Phil Dzialo’s one-note mantra is guaranteed to foster the type of myopic focus that has the potential to turn a particular Biblical passage into idolatry; if Christians are’nt adhering to Phil’s concept of how any given passage should be implemented, well…he obviously feels warranted in judging them.Careful, Phil. Read Romans 14th chapter, and reflect.

    15. Laurence,

      You can’t appreciate why I enjoy engaging people like you in debate. You have these beliefs that you presume to call “objective truths”. I am compelled to call you on these “objective truths”.

    16. Laurence Charles Ringo

      You don’t engage in debate, Bill S, you spout your opinions; The Lord God Almighty is as objective a truth as any truth can be.One thing is for sure:YOU, and those of your ilk, won’t be the ones to prove otherwise. Our Saviour has proven Himself to OUR (believers) satisfaction beyond any mere human concept of what we regard as truth. As Jesus told Pontius Pilate…”everyone who is of the truth hears MY voice”…(John 18:37).

    17. Laurence,

      You think that the existence of your god is an objective truth. That is your opinion. If it really is the truth, then yes, it is an objective truth that people like me do not know. But the objective truth can just as well be the opposite in which case, you do not know the objective truth. A better example of an objective truth is something like Washington was our first president or 2+2=4.

    18. Laurence Charles Ringo

      Well, I guess there’s nothing left to say in that regard, Bill S–we will simply agree to disagree regarding the nature of some truths, and keep it moving. Au Revoir, and God bless you.

    19. I will agree to disagree. There is a great divide between believers and nonbelievers. One of us is very right and the other is very wrong. The rest are stuck in the middle. They’re not atheist but they’re not religious fanatics either

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