In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and TA, for a number of years the press focused on the sexual scandals involving evangelicals, such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, and now the focus is on the priests and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church. It seems that neither side has the right to point fingers at the other. Is sexual immorality simply an occupational hazard for religious leaders?”
Tom: Dave, do you think this is equal on both sides, or do you think the issues are the same?
Dave: Well, we know that the human heart is the same. Solomon said, “As in water [that is, a reflection], a face answers to face so the heart of man to man.” We’re all the same; we’re all sinners. On the other hand, I mean, this is a big, big difference. We haven’t had pedophilia that I know of—maybe there might have been a case or two among so-called Protestants, but it’s very rare.
Tom: Dave, I don’t know if you could say that. I think…
Dave: Very rare, I mean, when has it made the news, as compared with many priests. I mean, you have—some dioceses are bankrupt for out of court settlements—people coming forward again and again and again—I haven’t heard of that in any Protestant churches.
Tom: Even here in Oregon. I’m talking about east of the Cascades, the diocese of Baker—big time problem, and much, much money. Well, they thought they were going to go bankrupt, and there was the thought to spread the funds of the diocese among the parishes.
Dave: But then Tom, there is a reason behind it. You see, you do not have enforced celibacy except in the Catholic Church. Now there may be some Buddhist monks, and there are the monks in the Orthodox Church—Eastern Orthodox Church—but not the priests; the priests can marry. But you have a situation where they are enforcing celibacy on men and women, who then—the women are living together; the men are living together; and now the Catholics themselves acknowledge in some Catholic seminaries, 70 percent homosexuals. That’s because there is no normal outlet for their natural powers, their natural instincts, what God has given them, and they have no other way. So, they are forced into this.
Tom: And also, it’s attractive to homosexuals because this looks like a place where they can practice what they desire to do and with immunity.
Dave: And they do, and then they are not content with one another, so they have to prey upon young boys and so forth. And the church in the past has condoned this. Look, if you got married as a priest, they will throw you out! Marriage is a sin.
Tom: Yeah, cardinal sin.
Dave: But to continue in a homosexual relationship, that’s okay. You continue to be a priest, and if there is some complaint in the parish—parents may complain or whatever, you move them on to another parish. This has been practiced for many, many years in the Catholic Church and finally, we live in a day when people have learned how to sue. They have learned how to rise up and stand up for their rights, and so forth, and that’s why it is all coming out at this moment. This is nothing new.
So, is it the same? No, in response to this question. On the one hand, there may be other sins that pastors are guilty of. There is a lot of adultery, among even so-called evangelical pastors, running off with their secretary, divorcing their wife. There is quite a bit of that.
Tom: Dave, here’s an interesting distinction. You know, I grew up Roman Catholic, and I don’t remember—I’m, you know, in my late fifties—and I don’t remember any of this, to be honest with you. There was a lot of drinking, and we had priests in our homes, and I went to private schools, was raised by nuns, and so on. But, you see, the Roman Catholic Church teaches—and here’s the distinction—that it’s through the sacraments, it’s through all kinds of things that the church provides, the liturgy and so on, but you gain graces, and these graces create holiness. Remember, for the Catholic, by doing good works and so on, you have infused righteousness—you become righteous, and you become righteous through the taking of the sacraments.
Now, Dave, nobody receives the sacraments more than the priests. Nobody has access to all of these graces as much as the priest has. Certainly, you could say nuns, to some degree, but no, it’s the priesthood. Now, something is not working here, Dave. Now, certainly for evangelical pastors, we could lay something on them. But it isn’t this kind of infusion of righteousness that comes through these practices of the sacraments that the Church says, Hey, this is how you become holy.
Dave: Now, Tom, you were a Catholic, so how much of it would be the idea that, well, whatever I do, even if it’s a mortal sin, I can always go to confession and I can confess it. Won’t that take care of it?
Tom: Well, that was everybody’s M.O. You know, that’s why they have something called cafeteria Catholics—but this is the laity. I’m talking about the clergy—they had to go through it.
Dave: Well, yes, but they would have the same idea, and they confess to one another, and they keep it secret.
Tom: I know, Dave, but when you are sacrificing Christ, so-called, you know, on the altar, when you are partaking of all of these things continually, it’s supposed to have an effect.
Dave: When you are taking this wafer, turning it into the body and blood of Jesus, Jesus Christ’s whole and entire personality and divinity and so forth, you have that power and yet you are living this kind of a life—well, so, it is as you said, sacraments. You can get there by the sacraments. The life doesn’t have to be changed, but you can make it. The Church—and even after you die…
Tom: Well, that’s the claim.
Dave: After you die, Tom, they are going to continue to say Masses for you—get you out of purgatory and so forth. It’s a tragedy, a real tragedy.
Tom: So, Dave, is it an occupational hazard for religious leaders?
Dave: To be a religious leader carries a lot of responsibility, but of course, if you are just a religious leader, and you don’t really know the Lord, yes! The priest, a single man, is in touch with women who come to see him, and he counsels them and so forth. He sits in the confessional, and he hears all of this sordid stuff. I would say a terrible occupational hazard, and he must be a celibate, and he is with men.
As for a pastor of an evangelical church, it could be very hazardous, as well. He must be very, very careful; he should be a married man, and he and his wife should counsel married people. He would never counsel a woman alone, and so forth. So, yes, there are hazards, and Satan would like to make them fall. Therefore, you have to be very, very careful and walk in the Spirit.