Issues Facing the Catholic Church 1

Title: Issues Facing the Catholic Church 1

Text: Matthew 19:11-12, 1 Timothy 2:12, Romans 1:26-27

Time: March 5th, 2013

 

 

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard that the Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI has resigned or retired or abdicated – or whatever you call it. He’s left the office. Now the Catholic cardinals are meeting in Rome to select a new Pope. It’s on all the television news broadcasts, it’s on radio, and it’s in the newspapers every day. It’s a worldwide event. Now you are probably asking yourself, “I’m a Protestant Christian, why am I concerned about what happens in Rome among Catholics?” Well, while I’m a Protestant and not a Roman Catholic, I do care deeply about the body of Christ and what happens generally speaking in the Christian world. I do consider Roman Catholics Christians — at least all those who have found salvation in Jesus Christ through faith alone, not placing confidence in their own good works to save them. There are plenty of Catholics who do believe in salvation by faith alone, just as there are many Protestants who do so also. Unfortunately, there are also many Catholics who are erroneously trusting in their own self-righteousness to save them, just as there are sadly many Protestants who believe this also. But we should all care greatly what happens to our brothers and sisters in other branches of Christianity, in other denominations and other churches. What does the Bible say? “So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it,” 1 Corinthians 12:25-26.  Today, the Roman Catholic church is suffering terribly, partly because of being treated unfairly by the media and press; and partly because of its own fault in failing to address its own problems. For example, while the Catholic leaders are in Rome picking a new pope, the world press is focusing on the priestly sex scandal rocking the church. It seems that news reports can’t cover anything concerning Catholics without also linking everything to the sex scandal. While the scandal is deplorable and needs to be dealt with, why must Catholics have it thrown in their face every time the church is mentioned? That’s not fair. So this is unfair treatment, and we should pray that it ceases for them. But on the other hand, Catholic leadership is partly to blame, which is obviously clear also. So some of the trouble in the Catholic church is brought upon it from outside, but some of it is brought about by the church itself. Today, I’d like to address three questions that the Catholic church is facing at this time, and try to answer them from a biblical Protestant perspective. These are all issues that concern all Christians.

 

First, what about celibacy among the clergy? Matthew 19:11-12, “Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and other have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’” In the Roman Catholic church it is mandatory that all priests, bishops, cardinals and pope – all clergy – be celibate. Now this isn’t so in other branches of Christianity. For example, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition it’s required that only bishops and above be celibate; regular priests and other leaders may marry. In the Protestant tradition, it’s permitted for all clergy to be married. Only Catholicism requires celibacy of all its clergy. Now there’s nothing wrong with celibacy; in fact, there is much right with the practice, there are many advantages to it. For example, an unmarried priest or pastor or church leader can devote himself full-time to the task of Christian leadership without the responsibility and obligation of providing for a wife and children. But there are problems with celibacy that can’t be ignored either. For one, it goes against the natural, biological urges of men, even holy men, even committed, obedient and dedicated Christian leaders who set an example for other Christians. It’s difficult, but not impossible to remain celibate as a godly Christian man. Some are called to it, while most are not. Now the Bible doesn’t require that all or even most Christian leaders in the church be celibate. Of the original disciples of Christ, some were also married, such as Peter, for example. In Catholicism, Peter is considered the first pope, yet as the New Testament describes he was a married man. So the so-called first pope was married. If this is so, why can’t a pope be married today? Why can’t a Catholic priest or bishop or cardinal be married? If there was no rule against marriage in the early days of the church, why is there one now for leaders? The answer is that it’s by tradition in the Roman Catholic church that leaders are single, celibate men; but that’s not a biblical requirement. So here’s the problem – and it ties in with the sex scandals to some extent – Catholicism is in trouble because it has made a rule where God has not made a rule. In other words, to require that all church leaders, like pastors, bishops, cardinals, and so forth, be celibate is wrong. It’s being more strict than Jesus in selecting church leaders. In my opinion, based on the Bible, the Catholic church needs to permit married priests at a minimum, or at least make marriage an option. This would create a healthier church for them and solve many other problems as well. It wouldn’t create a perfect church, but it would create a better church. Only a man made tradition is keeping them from it. I’m sure there would continue to be many or even a majority of single priests, but at least there would be an option for marriage.

 

Second, what about ordaining women to church leadership? 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Now what’s different about this question from the first question I asked and answered is that the ordination of women is not permitted in the church because the New Testament explicitly forbids it. This is not a man-made rule like celibacy among clergy, but it’s a clear biblical teaching – God forbids women from becoming church leaders and teachers. This is how it has always been until relatively modern times. Today, among Protestant Christians who dismiss the biblical teaching there are many women in positions of leadership within the church. There is no divine authority for such a thing. There is no biblical authority for women in the church teaching and leading in a Christian church service on Sunday morning. Yet, it happens all the time in many Christian churches around the world. In respect to this issue, I have to come down on the side of the Catholics because they happen to be right – the primary church leadership within Christianity is reserved for males only. Women are forbidden by the New Testament to teach and lead the church. That doesn’t mean they can’t teach and lead other women. That doesn’t mean they can’t lead and teach the children. But it means just what the biblical teaching says in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority of a man.” Now who is doing the teaching here in the New Testament? None other than the Apostle Paul, someone who was divinely inspired to be used as a vehicle of the Holy Spirit to communicate the truth of God to the church. Christians can’t simply “disagree” with the Apostle Paul. We can’t just dismiss what he teaches here because we don’t like it, yet accept what he teaches in other places, say, 1 Corinthians 13, where he teaches on love. That’s hypocrisy. He’s either a prophet of God or he isn’t. He’s either speaking divine revelation or he isn’t. As Christians we must believe that he is speaking for God when he instructs concerning church leadership. In this we must agree with Catholics. Pope John Paul II was once asked if he’d consider changing church teaching in order to allow for the ordination of women to church leadership. His response was that he didn’t have the authority to change the teachings of the church on this issue because it is based on the biblical teaching and has been the practice from the beginning. I wish Protestants who dismiss the Bible’s clear teaching in this instance would become more Catholic on this issue, because Catholics are right.

 

Third, what about ordaining homosexuals to church leadership? Romans 1:26-27, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” It’s a disgrace that Protestant Christians even need to consider this issue – or that there is even pressure upon them to consider it. To quote a familiar and popular phrase, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” The Bible clearly and unequivocally prohibits homosexuals from serving as church leaders. First of all, the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin, a grave sin. Strong words are used to describe the sin of homosexuality, as the Apostle Paul uses in Romans 1 and elsewhere. Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible condemn the sin of homosexuality. Now the qualifications for church leadership within Christianity are stricter than for general church membership. In 1 Timothy 3:1-2, the Apostle Paul lists a few requirements for church leaders. I won’t take time to cover all of them, but I’ll just mention a few, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach. . . .” In another place, Titus 1:6, the Apostle Paul teaches that a church leader must be “blameless,” and so forth. Again, I don’t have time to go through the whole list of qualifications for leaders, but the basic point is that they must set a good example for others and be spiritually and morally qualified. An actively and unrepentant homosexual can’t meet the high standards for church leadership because he or she doesn’t meet, for one, the moral standards of even church membership, let alone church leadership. In other words, since homosexuality is a sin, and since to be a member in good standing of a church one must be willing to confess and repent of all known sin, an unrepentant homosexual wouldn’t even qualify for membership in a church. So then it’s obvious if an unrepentant homosexual wouldn’t qualify for church membership, he or she wouldn’t qualify for church leadership. This is basic. What some Protestant churches are doing in ordaining openly and unrepentant gays to leadership is outrageous. The curse of God is upon any church that does so. Again, Roman Catholicism has something to teach many Protestant churches about being faithful to the original teachings of Christianity. While their tradition of celibate priesthood is unwarranted, their firm stand against ordaining homosexuals to church leadership is commendable.

 

Every once in a while we hear in the news that Catholic laity are calling church leaders to open up the Catholic church to the ordination of women and the ordination of gays. As I’ve already said, repeating the words of the late Pope John Paul II, the church has no authority to ordain women because God has already spoken on the subject and he’s made his mind clear on it. The Bible forbids it. Now we can discuss the length and limits of this prohibition. For example, when and where can women teach and lead in the church? This is a legitimate question, since we know that in the early Christian church women played a big part. So it’s profitable and important to ask, “What roles did women play in the early church, in the original church?” And another question, “What roles can women play in the church today?” There are many roles women can and do play in the church today, but they must follow the Bible as in other things. Now in the case of ordaining homosexuals for church leadership, like I said before, it’s a disgrace that some churches actually do this. For example, the Episcopal church not only ordains actively gay clergy at the local church level, they also ordain unrepentant gays as bishops! I guess the attitude is, if you throw out the Bible in one area, you might as well throw it all out in every way! That’s what the Episcopal church seems to be doing. They no longer teach that homosexuality is a sin; they no longer call for confession and repentance of it as sin. So since they don’t discourage its practice anymore, they must figure, why not promote it! What better way to promote it than to make its practitioners the leaders of the church?  Shame on them. They will have to give account to God Almighty, at the Judgment Day certainly, but maybe even before that time. On these two issues, ordination of women and ordination of homosexuals, we should stand with our Catholic brothers and sisters. However, on their tradition of clergy celibacy, their requirement that all church leaders be single, unmarried men we should encourage them to reform. As Protestants, generally speaking, we don’t have much room to criticize Catholics, because after all Protestantism is in such a mess itself. But I’d encourage Catholics to consider reforming the rule that requires clergy to be single. It would solve a lot of their problems including the shortage of priests; and it would go a long way in solving the kind of dysfunctional sexual problems among the Catholic clergy that have come to light in recent years. It isn’t natural nor is it healthy to require all church leaders to be abstinent. It’s much better to allow priests to marry and fulfill their healthy biological urges, rather than impose a rule that should only be voluntary and for singles. I say now is the time for Catholics to follow the lead of the last Pope Benedict XVI, who did something not unprecedented but radical in stepping down for health reasons. Well, another pope could do something equally as radical in permitting clergy to be married. Again, there is biblical and historical precedent for it, although it would be a radical step for Catholics. But maybe the time has come for something radical to happen for the good of the church.

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2 Responses to “Issues Facing the Catholic Church 1”

  1. If Priests are Eunuchs, Castrate Them | MackQuigley Says:

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