A Lutheran Looks at the Pennsylvania Priest Scandal. [VIDEO]

A Lutheran Looks at the Pennsylvania Priest Scandal. [VIDEO]

A Lutheran Looks at the Pennsylvania Priest Scandal. [VIDEO]

Since I’m a lifelong Lutheran, of the conservative Missouri Synod variety, you might think I’d be indifferent about the massive priest scandal in Pennsylvania. After all, it’s “not my circus, not my monkeys,” as the saying goes. In fact, I just might view it with a bit of Schadenfreude. See, Luther was right!

Actually, this is more personal to me than you may think. Our son-in-law is Roman Catholic. While our Lutheran daughter will not convert, she has agreed to raise their children as Catholics. They attend Mass as a family, and our grandson will begin first grade in a Catholic school next month.

But we’ve been content that in an increasingly secular society, she married someone who practices the Christian faith. My husband and I are thankful for that.

Yet here we all are, facing another scandal in the Catholic Church. And it’s far from the first.

The stories are nauseating.

  • In Greensburg, PA, a priest impregnated a 17-year-old, forged another clergyman’s name on a marriage certificate, and then divorced her after the baby was born. He was allowed to stay in the ministry.
  • In Harrisburg, PA, a priest raped a 7 year-old-girl who was in the hospital for a tonsillectomy.
  • Another priest molested five sisters from the same family.
  • Yet another abusive priest left the priesthood for a job at. . . Disney World. Church officials gave him a positive reference.

And on and on it goes. The stories from the survivors will break your heart:

Now it’s not as if the Roman Catholic Church has a monopoly on sex scandals. Televangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker became the evangelical poster boys for sexcapades. Nowadays Bakker is selling real estate and outrageously-priced water bottles — all in the event of an Apocalypse. Once a con man, always a con man, I guess.

jim-bakker
Credit: christianity today.

There have been murderers among the clergy, too. In 1983 Kansas Lutheran pastor Rev. Tom Bird killed his wife and then staged her body in a car-accident scene. He had been having an affair with the church secretary, and his poor wife was in the way.

But no powerful clergy tried to whitewash those cases. Bird and Bakker went to prison for criminal deeds. Swaggart still has a ministry, though, even though he has been defrocked.

So where does the Roman Catholic Church go from here?

Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh, a devout Catholic who is not everyone’s cup of tea, was blunt:

The Catholic Church in the West is beset by a plague. An infection. A virus that must be rooted out and utterly destroyed. There must be a purge in the Church. And the purge must be ruthless and brutal and uncompromising.

On his Twitter feed, Walsh took things one step farther, which riled up some readers. But that’s Matt Walsh for you:

Actually, I think Walsh may have a point.

Many years ago, I read a book entitled, Goodbye, Good MenWritten in 2002 by Michael Rose, a Catholic reporter, it tells how these scandals come from the seminary, where liberals in the church have allowed homosexuality in the name of “tolerance.” There is also prejudice, he maintains, against traditional seminaries.

future priest

Here’s what Rose said in an interview with a Catholic publication in 2002:

In bringing the “sexual revolution” into the Church, liberals have welcomed—even preferred—radicalized active homosexuals to orthodox seminarians in the name of “tolerance.” Now that tolerance has been exposed as a toleration of criminal acts.

Mind you, this book is now 16 years old, and we’re seeing yet again another sexual scandal. The crisis will not go away.

But allow this Lutheran to make a couple of suggestions.

First, as Matt Walsh suggests, the church should purge all corrupt hierarchy who have engaged in cover-ups. It should also turn in abusive priests to authorities.

Then, maybe the church should promote a married priesthood, instead of a celibate clergy.

Father Richard McBrien, who was a professor of theology at Notre Dame, believed the church should drop the celibacy requirement for priests. In 2004, he wrote why it’s a problem:

But that requirement of the priesthood will attract a disproportionately high percentage of men who are sexually dysfunctional, sexually immature, or whose orientation will raise the question – are they attracted to the priesthood because of the ministry, or because it is a profession that forbids one to be married?

That is not to say that all priests are gay or have sexual issues. However, as Fr. McBrien wrote, the priesthood tends to attract that sort of man. What better place for a good Catholic boy with homosexual urges to be: in the seminary where no family or friends will question why he’s not dating anyone. It’s because he’s devoting his life to the church. Such a devout boy!

Combine that with the scenario Rose describes of “tolerant” seminaries, and you have a perfect storm.

Matt Walsh warned non-Catholics in his Twitter feed: “don’t call for accountability in a church you don’t even belong to. . .” He’s wrong here. As I wrote above, I have loved ones who are part of that church. Moreover, this also affects me as a Christian. When the Catholic Church engages and then covers up such horrendous behavior, it reflects back on all of us who claim the name of Christ.

Even if I am one of those renegade Lutherans.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

10 Comments
  • Red Dirt Man says:

    Pope Francis must make purging the clergy of rogue “priests” his highest priority. Their actions in Pennsylvania parishes are destroying the faith of Catholic laity in their clergy and the Church as an institution. These “priests” are criminals hiding behind clerical collars. And the Church “leaders” who hide these abuses are only a shade of gray less culpable than the perpetrators themselves. They should suffer the same punishment: full exposure to civil and criminal prosecution. It’s obvious that Church officials in the United States have learned absolutely nothing from earlier scandals.

    • scott says:

      Sorry RDM, Pope Francis is too busy trying to destroy the Catholic Church with his radical socialism, most recently saying the death penalty is wrong in all cases, to do anything about these scandals. As a lifelong Catholic, I have drifted farther and farther from the Church, because of all these things.

  • Gordon Scott says:

    Every time the details of a major, archdiocesan-wide scandal is unveiled, I think, well, maybe this time they have come clean. But they never have. This has been going on–the scandals–for nearly 40 years! And it’s not just the US, it’s in Europe and Australia also. The systematic abuse and coverup goes back at least another 20 years.

    If these people didn’t have titles like Bishop and Cardinal and Monsignor, they would have been charged under RICO statutes.

    • GWB says:

      And in South America. Remember that one of Pope Francis’ first things to deal with was exactly this sort of thing in his home country.

  • GWB says:

    But no powerful clergy tried to whitewash those cases.
    Though not entirely true in every church scandal in the Protestant realm, it is generally true, for one very important reason: no church hierarchy to speak of. Yes, there are bishops and presidents of synods and such, but there’s no large, multi-national, hierarchical kingdom to maintain.

    Most protestant churches in America are of the congregationalist governance sort, where the pastor is called by the church membership/leadership. While there’s some responsibility in the districts/parishes/synods/whatnot, the individual church is the one that says “You! Get out!”*
    Within the Roman Church, you have to get someone in authority over the priest in question to throw him out.
    (BTW, the other hierarchical church that is generally considered “protestant”? The Church of England. Guess who has some of the *exact* same problems with priests and “liberalism”? Yep, you guessed it.)

    Maybe the church should promote a married priesthood, instead of a celibate clergy.
    This wouldn’t necessarily solve the issue, though it might help.
    What would REALLY help? Stop being a top-down authoritarian church, and promote actual scriptural and doctrinal literacy to your parishioners. Then they might be able to get rid of priests they KNOW are bad without bishops covering their own arses.

    “don’t call for accountability in a church you don’t even belong to. . .”
    Wow, what a non-Christian thing to say. Non-Roman Catholic, too, since they consider all Christians to be lapsed Roman Catholics.

    (* We recently had a LCMS church here fire its pastor because of creepy crap. Then they had to go through calling a new pastor – which isn’t easy right now. But they didn’t have to wait on the approval of some bishop.)
    (BTW, there is also forgiveness within that church for the pastor. But he will never lead there again, not even after he foes his time.)

    One other note: The churches which have had these big scandals? Most of them are very authoritarian. Never ever put a human in the place of Christ in your church (or your nation).

  • Jim says:

    When I was a young and athletic [early 1970s] I was a member of a gymnastics club and competed in trampoline. The club was run at a Salesian seminary by Brothers-in-Training for the Catholic priesthood. I was raised in the Church of England and no familiarity with the Catholic Church. Being about the same age [early 20s] as the young Brothers I often chatted to them before starting training each day. They seemed to have an endless number of jokes of an often extreme sexual nature, the likes of which I had never heard before. Their focus on sex was in strong contrast to their pursuit of a religious vocation and made me wonder about the sense of rules of celibacy in the Church and the repression of a natural biological drive. Decades later it was revealed that some Brothers at that seminary had interfered with some of the boys.

  • Garland Twitty says:

    Thank you for an excellent article.

    Perhaps, in general, a society that condones consensual sex outside of traditional marriage will encourage sexual predators of all stripes. The Hebrew people and the early church outright and harshly condemned adultery and homosexual behavior. Overkill?

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