I was disappointed this week to learn about a Catholic priest in South Mississippi who admitted to having sexual acts with a 12 year old boy -- the boy's father accusing the priest of having "inappropriate behavior" with his son; the priest being arrested and charged with sexual battery.
In similar news a New Orleans Baptist pastor committed suicide after having been unable to negotiate the emotional pain attending the intent or act of infidelity suggested by his name being listed on the hacked website Ashley Madison.
There are many reasons for anyone of faith to be disappointed on hearing these reports. While these men are indeed humans, sinners like us, they are/were nevertheless not expected to grossly betray the moral base and faith principles by which they conducted their respective vocations -- one having betrayed a minor, the other having betrayed his wife.
There's no defending either's actions, both ministers of Christian faith -- one who took a vow of celibacy, the other who had been married for years. Both driven by unrestrained sexual urges, one whose desires, a crime, were homosexually inclined, and the other not. It's difficult to write about, much less think about.
And it's no surprise to see the headlines in our local newspaper begin, "Priest jailed..." and stretch across the entire page. The obvious intent by the publisher being to shock the reader's attention. But for some reason this sad news, at least for me, seems to lack the shock and awe similar news had some years ago when the clergy scandal broke in Boston.
While those who harbor anti-Christian sentiments revel in such news, including those who suffer from spiritual and denominational narcissism, it is fair to say that neither Catholics nor the Baptist clergy have a corner on the sexual abuse market. If you hobby is reading about clergy sexual abuse here's a link to 838 cases of Protestant minister abuse. If your spiritual pride has an anti-Mormon bent, you can feast on this link. Similar stories abound about Jewish rabbis here and here. And Muslim imams are not immune to this problem.
The clergy is not the only vocation that suffers from sexual abuse of minors. Teachers, caregivers, relatives, and family, and others in authority have been accused and convicted. It is not just a clergy problem; it is a human problem.
The U.S. Catholic Conference of bishops commissioned the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to produce an accurate report on the status of sexual abuse among Catholic priests. Over a fifty year period surveyed (1950 - 2002), out of the 109,694 priests and religious studied, 252 or less than 0.26% were convicted. This is equivalent to less than 26 priests out of every 10,000. Not only is this an oddity, but it's a rarity. But any percent is too much. The report can be viewed on the Internet.
Hearing about one's priest, pastor, or rabbi engaging in such lurid behavior is enough for some to perhaps lose their faith. This is understandable, but only if they're placing their faith in the person, and not God or Christ. I remember well the former pastor of my church repeatedly urging his parishioners at the outset to not put your faith in the priest -- not himself, not the bishop, or even the pope -- for priests and others are agents and ministers of the Good News which transcends all sinners and all time. But rather to place your faith in God, in Jesus Christ -- in his teachings and those of Scripture as handed down from the apostles.
Since this is in fact a human problem, I doubt we have heard the end of these reports. But as Christians, taught by Christ to love one another, we can only pray for those clergy, and others, who succumb to these temptations, hoping they repent and change, and that they, and we, receive the graces to be followers of Christ -- and not followers of men.
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