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What is the cause of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?

Catholic abuse, pedophile priests

Question: "What is the cause of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church? Why are there pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church?"

Answer:
In recent years, hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals have come forward claiming sexual abuse from priests in the Roman Catholic Church. Numerous "pedophile priests" have been identified. Sadly, rather than defrocking the priests (removing from the priesthood), the Catholic Church has in most instances attempted to cover up the sexual abuse by transferring the offending priest(s) to different parishes. The scandal and attempted cover-up continues to expand, reaching all the way to the papacy itself. So, what is the cause of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church? Why does pedophilia seem to be such a common problem among Roman Catholic priests?

First, let us be abundantly clear, as an Evangelical Protestant Christian organization, we have strong disagreements with virtually every area of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice.

Second, with the priesthood of all believers and Jesus' fulfillment/completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system and priesthood, we do not believe the New Testament instructs that there should even be priests. Biblically speaking, a priest is a mediator (primarily through sacrifices) between God and man. With Jesus as our High Priest, we already have direct access to God (Hebrews 4:14-16) and have no need for any other mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).

Third, it is important not to take the horribly evil actions of some Roman Catholic priests and attribute them to the entire Roman Catholic priesthood. While we strongly disagree with Roman Catholic doctrine and practice, we have no doubt that many Roman Catholic priests truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, truly desire to minister to people, and would absolutely never molest a child. It is impossible to discover how many "pedophile priests" have been, or still are, active in the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever the number is, it is surely an exceedingly small percentage. The vast majority of Catholic priests has never, and would never, molest or harm a child in any way.

Back to the question at hand, what is the cause of the sexual abuse that has taken place in the Roman Catholic Church? Our contention is that the unbiblical requirement that priests be celibate is a primary cause. It is biblical to say that celibacy can be useful to ministry (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). At the same time, it is completely unbiblical for any church to require celibacy of its leaders. In the qualifications of church leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9), the apostle Paul assumes that bishops, elders, overseers, and deacons will be married and have children. While these qualifications should not be viewed as requiring marriage/family to serve in church leadership, they are most definitely an allowance for married men to serve as leaders in the church. It is, therefore, completely anti-biblical for any church to require celibacy of its leaders.

The unbiblical requirement of celibacy on priests in the Roman Catholic Church likely contributes to sexual abuse in that men whom God never intended to be celibate are forced into celibacy, resulting in sexual tension and stress. Also, the stricture of celibacy is appealing to some men with abnormal sexual tendencies who view the priesthood as a means of keeping their desires under control. These men find that external rules do little to change the heart, and, when they give in to sexual temptations, the result is unnatural sexual acts, such as homosexuality or pedophilia.

Compounding the problem is the Catholic teaching of “once a priest, always a priest.” The fact that the “sacred ordination” cannot be invalidated has contributed to a reluctance to defrock pedophile priests. When abusive priests are transferred to different parishes, the same behavior is repeated. Also, lax rule enforcement and cover-ups have encouraged the application of pedophiles to the priesthood. Many pedophiles see the priesthood as a means of easy, unsupervised access to children.

Whatever the cause of the sexual abuse in the church, pedophile priests should be arrested and punished just as any other pedophile would be. Anyone covering up or, by negligence, enabling pedophilia in the church should be prosecuted. A priest who has sexually abused anyone should never be allowed back into church leadership, as he could most definitely not be considered "above reproach" (1 Timothy 3:2).

The pedophile priest scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is absolutely horrid. There is nothing more antithetical to the message of Christ than priests sexually abusing children. May God use this scandal to awaken the church of Jesus Christ to the presence of apostates within the church and to strongly motivate the church to be fully biblical in all of its beliefs and practices.

Recommended Resources: The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and The Word of God by James McCarthy and Logos Bible Software.

While he is not the author of every article on GotQuestions.org, for citation purposes, you may reference our CEO, S. Michael Houdmann.


Related Topics:

Does the Bible teach the celibacy of priests?

What does the Bible say about confession of sin to a priest?

What is the cause of the recent plague of child molestation incidents?

What does the Bible say about pedophilia?

I am a Catholic, why should I consider becoming a Christian?



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What is the cause of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?