In recent times the Roman Catholic Church has been much in the news for all the wrong reasons. The mask of pious pretence came off to reveal fearful depths of depravity among her clergy.
Corruption in the papacy, however, is nothing new. Before the Protestant Reformation, immorality of Roman Catholic priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes was paraded for all to see. Priests lived shamelessly with multiple concubines and openly acknowledged children born to priests, though they had sworn an oath of celibacy. In part, their open disgrace in immorality became the Church of Rome’s undoing first as the light of the renaissance — the revival of learning —and then as the light of the gospel of Christ rolled across Europe. The stench of moral corruption among the clergy became the subject of open jest among the people. Priests became as one of them in lust and all manner of deceit.
In the late 1800s in North America, converted Canadian priest Rev. Charles Chiniquy exposed the sins of the Roman church in his book, The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional. In it, he highlighted the corrupting influence of the confessional box where even young females revealed the most depraved thoughts and sins of their hearts to their priests. While fiercely opposed by the Roman church, Chiniquy’s shocking stories of the ruination of priests through the confessional box were no exaggeration, for it was, and still is, destructive to the minds of confessor priests and more so to bachelor priests!
Strangely, none of the modern media critiques dealing with the abuse of children within the Roman Catholic Institution that I have heard dealt with the error of celibacy, the real cause of the corruption that foments the debauchery among their clergy. In the clearest terms, God condemns those who forbid to marry as instruments of Satan:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
Sadly, even with married clergy, incidences of sexual abuse have also scandalized the evangelical church. Unspeakable things are too frequently alleged, and in many cases proven to be true. These intolerable evils deeply affect the work of the gospel at large. Sins of the church harden the public and give ammunition to her accusers to shoot freely at all things Christian.
Leaders of gospel churches must, therefore, take heed to the warnings of God’s Word that such men will infiltrate the church for their wicked devices. We are called to resist this evil whatever the cost. The apostle Paul warned young Timothy to prepare for these things.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-7).
The Protestant Reformers applied the remedies of marriage and its sacred trust to the wholesale corruption among the clergy. Monks and nuns were brought out of their cloisters and given freedom to marry. German Reformer Martin Luther married nun Katharina von Bora, whom he had helped escape from a life of religious darkness.
Today, gospel ministers, elders, and churches must work for the purity of the church by insisting that marriage is God’s order for holy living and is to be promoted and protected. Proper church discipline must be exercised to prevent sexual sins and so rid the church of the scandals they cause in the community.
The apostle Paul called his message of Christ to fallen sinners, “The doctrine which is according to godliness” (1Timothy 6:3b). Just as the gospel is the power of God to release souls from the guilt of sin, it is also the power of God to lift sinners from the gutter of sin. The mark of the true church of Christ is her genuine burden to pursue holiness. The command of the Lord, “Be ye holy; for I am holy,” was first spoken in the Old Testament (Leviticus 11:44), and repeated by Peter in the New (1Peter 1:16). For godly living the Lord has ordained the holy estate of marriage – a union between one man and one woman. To deviate from God’s order is a recipe for immorality in society.
The Lord’s command that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” still stands, and the Larger Catechism (Question 138) asks, “What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?” Its answer is a timeless warning to flee from every avenue that may lead to sexual sins.
“The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.”
This is wise counsel, for “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Rev. Ian Goligher is the Editor of The Current and minister of Cloverdale FPC in B.C.