Monday, July 4, 2016

Catholics return fire in abuse scandal

In my previous column I naively asked, in light of all the pedophile scandals, why Catholics remain Catholics. The answers I got from Catholics really put me in my place.

My city in Arizona is more a Mormon town than a Catholic one. Still, there is enough of a presence here for them to make their feelings known, and they did. I had no business, I was told, assuming that people would turn their backs on a set of beliefs due to the behavior of some individuals within their church. There have been scandals in all religions. Never should we expect or encourage a person to turn their back on God because of the actions of an individual, or even a group of individuals.
All True. 

Does that argument hold true even when those individuals are the religion’s leaders
After all, another news story broke today in which a bishop Balke of Minnesota sent a warning letter about a priest to the office headed by Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict) in 2005. Balke wrote that according to an internal investigation, Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul took a teenage girl to his rectory where:
"He proceeded to kiss her repeatedly, pulling her on top of him and at one point touching her beneath her clothing." Balke also stated that it would be “impossible to say that Father Jeyapaul does not at present pose a risk to minors… I cannot in good conscience allow this matter to be passed over" simply because Jeyapaul has now returned to India, Balke said. "In my mind, that would be a shameful act of betrayal towards the women and girls in India to whom Fr. Jeyapaul could at present pose a serious risk."

Though the Vatican acknowledged the letter, no action was taken.

We’ll come back to that. But the argument of the Catholic readers of this page is: 'Our church is THE Church, therefore any bad thing that happens within it is an attack from Satan.' I get the logic; but it is based on a faulty assumption.
Many Catholics assume, because they've been told theirs is the oldest and largest organized sector of Christianity, it must be The True Church, and all other churches have apostatized from it. Two problems with that assumption: One, it is not the oldest, and two, bigger isn’t always better.

The oldest Christian church is the one described in the Bible. The Bible was completed by the end of the first century. The Catholic Church wasn't formed until the fourth century, and the Catholic Church did not write the Bible. (Sorry, Dan Brown got it wrong.) The Church held a Council at Carthage in the year 397, at which they claim to have finalized which books should make up the Bible. However, the Bible as we know it had already been finalized and in use for over two hundred and fifty years. True Christians, some of whom lived while the apostle John was still living and writing, had already determined which books were inspired and which were not, and they made lists called “canons,” something like a table of contents. Several such lists have been found. (You can read my column about the early origins of the Bible here.)

What does the Bible itself say about The Church?

Jesus never indicated approval of all Christians. Jesus’ illustration about the wheat and weeds describes true Christians versus false Christians, not Christians versus pagans. The same is true of his parable of the sheep and the goats, wherein the goats also call Jesus “Lord.”
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, ‘Go in by the narrow door; for wide is the door and open is the way which goes to destruction, and great numbers go in by it. For narrow is the door and hard the road to life, and only a small number make discovery of it.’ Was Jesus here talking about Christianity versus paganism? No. A few verses later he says: ‘A great number will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, were we not prophets in your name?’ Calling him “Lord” meant that they were calling themselves Christians. 
This narrow door/wide door illustration indicates something else about True Christianity: If you’re in the majority, you’re in the wrong group.

But Jesus didn’t leave it at that. In this same passage he said: ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.’ What an apt description of pedophiles dressing themselves up as respectable priests! Yet, as we pointed out earlier, any church can have a scandal. The question is, What does the church do about the scandal?

Read 1 Corinthians chapter 5. Paul writes to Corinth: ‘It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and such immorality as is not even among the heathen--that a man has taken his father's wife!’ Pretty scandalous. But what did they do about it? ‘You are not to associate with anyone who, although a Brother in name, is immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or abusive, or a drunkard, or grasping - no, not even to sit at table with such people… Expel that wicked man from among you.’ (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) Paul brooked no excuses for the man’s conduct. Nor did he suggest moving the man to some other congregation.

Several Bible writers spoke of a coming apostasy. Writing to Christians in Thessalonica who believed that Armageddon was coming within months rather than centuries, Paul said, ‘it will not come until after the Great Apostasy.’ (2 Thessalonians 2:3) He went on to say that the apostasy was already at work, but that it wouldn’t really take off until after the apostles died. ‘After I am gone, evil wolves will come in among you, doing damage to the flock; from among yourselves will come men who will give wrong teaching, turning away the disciples after themselves.’ (Acts 20:29, 30) 
The Bible mentions men such as Diotrophes, Hymenaeus and Alexander who were moving away from true Christianity and trying to get others to follow them. By John's later years, (Revelation 2:6) a man named Nicolaus had formed a 'Christian' cult. (Probably not the origin of St. Nicholas, but who knows?)

Still, Catholics don’t put a lot of stock in the Bible. They believe the word of "The Church" has as much weight, or even more weight, than the Bible. Part of the Catholic Catechism states: 
“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out of the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal.”
For that to be true, the “sacred tradition” would have to completely harmonize with the Bible, as Catholics are also commanded to believe that the bible is the infallible word of God, as should all Christians. 
Jesus castigated the clergy of his day for putting their own tradition on a par with sacred scripture. The only way for both to be correct would be for the 'sacred tradition' to perfectly harmonize with the Bible. If the “sacred tradition” conflicts with the Bible, the tradition has to be wrong. Let’s take a look:

Catholic tradition holds that Mary was ‘ever-virgin.’

The Bible says she had other children: "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? Are not his sisters all living among us?’ (Matthew 13:55,56) No, they were not his cousins. Greek is a very expressive language: “Brothers” is adelphos, “cousin” is anepsios. Also, Matthew 1:25 says that Joseph “didn't know her sexually until she had brought forth her firstborn son.”

Catholic tradition: The wicked are tormented forever in Hellfire.

The Bible: “His breath goes forth; he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” (Psalms 146:4) “The living are conscious that death will come to them, but the dead are not conscious of anything.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) What is the punishment for sins? “He who has paid the penalty of death stands absolved from his sin.” (Romans 6:7)

Catholic tradition: Clergy wear special clothing, have special titles, and receive special honor. The two-horned mitre the Pope wears when he sits on the high altar at Rome and receives the adoration of the Cardinals is suspiciously similar to the mitre worn by the priests of Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines and Babylonians. 

The Bible: Jesus said of the clergy of his day, "See that you are on your guard against the Teachers of the Law, who delight to walk about in long robes, and to be greeted in the streets with respect, and to have the best seats in the Synagogues, and places of honor at dinner. They are the men that rob widows of their homes, and make a pretense of saying long prayers. Their sentence will be all the heavier." (Mark 12:38-40)

Catholic tradition: The clergy are to be celibate.

The Bible: “The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife.” (I Timothy 3:2) And, as mentioned in the previous article, Paul warned that the Great apostasy would include “the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created.” (1 Timothy 4:3)

Catholic tradition: The Vatican has ruled that the word Yahweh must not "be used or pronounced" in songs and prayers during Catholic masses. The ruling read in part, “As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: 'Adonai [Lord].'” That's actually an unbiblical Jewish tradition that the Catholic Church has no good reason to adopt as their own.

The Bible: Jesus prayed concerning his disciples, “I made known to them your name, and will make it known." (John 17:26) He commanded his followers, “make disciples of all the nations; baptize them into the name of the Father.” (Matthew 28:19) That's hard to do if you don’t know what the Father’s name is.

We could go on. Clerical garb, candles, incense, images, rituals, ‘holy’ water, confession, holidays, and many, many more traditional church observances are not of biblical origin. You have the internet… if you care about pleasing God, look up the origin of these things. You’ll find they have pagan roots. “What fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness? What partnership does light have with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? What agreement does a temple of God have with images?” (2 Corinthians 6:15, 16)
What can you do? You can’t reform your church. As Paul continued, he quoted from Isaiah 52:11. “Go out from there! Touch not the unclean. Cleanse yourselves, ye that bear the vessels of Jehovah.”

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at can help support this site by purchasing a book.

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