We would like to make an appeal to our friends who are still a part of the Roman Catholic Church in regards to the conduct of that religious organization.
The sex abuse scandal that has become very public over the past few years has been a terrible thing. We all understand that the abuse of young men and women by anyone is sinful (cf. Galatians 5:19), and when it is committed by persons with perceived spiritual authority, it is quite distressing and intolerable. Whatever motivates such behavior is wrong, and while it has become a public problem for Roman Catholicism, it is sadly true that it has also happened within other religious organizations. Nevertheless, it is not our purpose or intention to focus on the abuse that took place.
What is perhaps even more unconscionable than the abuse itself is how the Roman Catholic religious organization responded to the claims of the abuse over the past forty or more years. We have all seen the numerous reports of how priests accused of abuse were often just transferred to another diocese and allowed to continue in their positions, how the organization most often took the side of the priests or the “church authorities” over that of the victims, and the consistent campaigns to minimize what was going on and to keep it out of the public view.
Yet that which is done in the darkness will inevitably be exposed in the light (cf. Ephesians 5:13): and now the Roman Catholic organization is attempting to engage in “damage control.” For a time the organization preferred to blame the media for anti-Catholic persecution rather than admit the systemic improprieties of not just the priests who committed the horrendous actions but also of the bishops, archbishops, and cardinals who poorly responded to the claims that were brought to them. As the evidence of impropriety has mounted, the organization has come to admit the misdeeds of many of its leaders, and yet beyond a few forced resignations here and there, precious little has been actually done to reform the institution. The organization continues to bet that all of this will somehow “blow over” and they can get back to “normal.”
This type of behavior in the face of such serious claims of wrongdoing is understandable if it came from a government or a large corporation, even if unconscionable, but we hope that you can understand that it is an intolerable response for an organization that claims to represent the body of Christ. Sadly, this is not the first time that the Roman Catholic organization has responded poorly to behavior done by those within its ranks. There is a long, sordid history of underhanded dealings within the Roman Catholic organization.
Therefore, we appeal to all of our Roman Catholic friends to soberly consider the question of whether this type of religious organization is really the church for which Christ died or whether it is an organization that has apostatized from the true faith.
We encourage you to consider what the New Testament teaches regarding Christ’s church. Christ’s church is His body, and it is headed only by Christ Himself (Ephesians 5:23-24). Christ’s church is expected to be the pillar and support of the truth revealed by God in His Word (1 Timothy 3:15, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Those who comprise Christ’s church are to reflect Christ and the way He conducted Himself on the earth (1 John 2:3-6). Christ’s church cannot tolerate unrepentant sin within its midst, and persons who engage in such sin are to be disciplined (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, Ephesians 5:25-27). A religious organization may claim to represent Christ’s church, but if it does not abide by His will, Christ will not recognize it (Matthew 7:21-23, Revelation 2:1-11).
Please also consider what you fail to find in the New Testament. You will fail to find a hierarchical religious organization headed by a pope with cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and priests. Instead you will find individual, autonomous congregations, each of which was to be shepherded by a plurality of married bishops with children (Philippians 1:1, Acts 14:23, Acts 20:17-38, 1 Timothy 3:1-8, 1 Peter 4:1-3). You will fail to find an organization that restricts people from understanding God’s Word, claiming that it can only be understood through the lens of its own tradition. Instead you will find Christians encouraged to study the Scriptures and a warning about following the traditions of men (Acts 17:11, Matthew 15:3-9).
We appeal to our Roman Catholic friends to consider these things well and to recognize that the religious organization known as the Roman Catholic Church is not the church we see in the New Testament. The Roman Catholic organization does not represent the Church of Christ as revealed by the Scriptures. You can continue to hold firm to Jesus as the Christ and your precious faith in Him while dispensing with the corrupt clericalism of Roman Catholicism. We encourage you to depart from that apostatized organization, to become obedient to the true Gospel of Christ, and to find a church of Christ which embodies and proclaims the truth (Romans 1:5, 12:9, 1 Timothy 3:15)!
Ethan R. Longhenry