Church Scandal

When parishioners (many times former parishioners) came forward, largely beginning two decades ago, with charges of priestly sexual abuse, the issue came to the fore of American consciousness and boiled as a hot issue. Recently, charges of abuse among Catholic priests have increased, along with a steady and growing drumbeat of outrage. Yet, are we getting the whole picture?

To be sure, the outrage and calls for compensation, punishment and safeguards against future sexual improprieties--and the infamous nod-and-wink in-house treatment of such charges--are appropriate, in general terms. However, mainstream media coverage is obfuscating the situation, charges Father Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-Chief of First Things, a well-reputed journal self-described as "a continuing survey of religion and public life." His latest month-by-month thoughts on the current crisis are featured here. We also "zoom out" to other sectors of Christianity in an effort to balance.

Are Catholics abandoning their church? Is there confusion regarding the focus on pedophilia as opposed to homosexual acts? What good could possibly come of all this? Are Catholic priests the only--or even the main--perpetrators of such offenses, or are they a convenient and desirable target? Indeed, where is the outcry and news coverage of Protestant improprieties? Find some balancing coverage, perspective and answers in our Special Focus.

—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Featured Columns:

Scandal Time
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, First Things
In the first of an ongoing series of commentaries on the scandal of priestly sexual abuse, Neuhaus writes, "Scholars point out that the incidence of abusing children or minors is no greater, and may be less, among priests than among Protestant clergy, teachers, social workers, and similar professions. But, it is noted, Catholic clergy are more attractive targets for lawsuits because the entire diocese or archdiocese cand be sued.... Moreover, the expressions of outrage by many in the media are attended by an ulterior agenda, namely, discrediting the Catholic teaching on human sexuality, about which they are genuinely outraged. These and other considerations can and should be taken into account, but the tragic fact remains that great wrongs have been done, and there is no avoiding the conclusion that, in Boston and elsewhere, some bishops bear a heavy burden of responsibility.... The current scandals constitute a painful moment of truth for bishops, heads of religious orders, and others responsible for the moral integrity of the Church's ministry."

Scandal Time (Continued)
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, First Things
Continuing his ongoing commentary on the scandal of priestly sexual abuse, Neuhaus writes, "If the gates of hell will not prevail [against the Church], no number of abusive priests or negligent bishops will prevail. That is ultimately important but it is not the immediate point. The point is that this is a crisis, and this crisis must be permitted to do its work. That work involves scrupulous self-examination, candid confession, firm contrition, and believable amendment of life. And the doing of that hard work is chiefly up to the bishops. They are the ones who got us into this mess and, given what we believe is the divinely constituted structure of the Church, they are the ones who have to lead in getting us out."

Homosexuality and Abuse
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, First Things
The second of an ongoing series of commentaries on the scandal of priestly sexual abuse features Neuhaus clarifying the main issue: homosexuality as practiced with older boys, rather than the popularly held view of the issue as one of pedophilia.

Breaking Faith
Lynn Vincent
As sexual scandal rocks the Roman Catholic church, Protestants face a lurking sex scandal as well. Will churches and national organizations take biblical steps to prevent further shame?

Where does the Baptist buck stop?
On Religion, Terry Mattingly
Syndicated columnist and professor Mattingly reports about the most recent Southern Baptist Convention gathering, at which leaders admitted that "America's largest non-Catholic flock has been hit by waves of clergy sexual abuse affecting untold numbers of women, men, teen-agers and children."

The Uses of Clerical Scandal
Philip Jenkins
Philip Jenkins, Professor of Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University and author of Pedophiles and Priests, reflects on the abuses of hyperbole and misrepresentation regarding abuse by priests in an earlier decade. He hails two key players as examples of integrity.

Related Article:

Responding to Pro-Gay Theology
Joe Dallas
This article addresses the pro-gay theology by dividing its arguments--or tenants--into three categories: social justice arguments, general religious arguments, and scriptural arguments. A brief description of these arguments is provided, followed by a response/rebuttal to each.

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