Rome’s “Earthquake” Should Shake Us, Too
Over last weekend, Archbishop Carlo Vigano released an eleven-page letter detailing the corruption and cover-ups in Rome’s sex abuse scandal, and they go right to the papal throne. Vigano names names, gives dates, and calls the Pope’s competence and character into question. On top of the horrific abuse perpetrated against children and seminarians, Roman Catholics now face the destabilizing thought that their ecclesiastical head knew, and did nothing.
The tragedy here is multi-layered. It is tragic that the abuse actually happened. Children had their lives bent crooked: children who are now in their 70’s and 80’s still struggle with the consequences. It is tragic that someone who was supposed to represent Christ was the abuser or covered for him: this complicates and deepens the psychological and spiritual damage. It is tragic that sheep are left looking at all shepherds with doubts and questions: who is a trustworthy leader? How can we know for sure?
But there is a particular tragedy here for the Protestant church: we are in no moral condition to welcome hurting Roman Catholics into our ecclesiastical fold. This summer has been one where cover ups have followed scandals. From Paige Patterson to Bill Hybels, Protestantism is having very similar struggles to Rome’s. Abuse and corruption are everywhere that selfish leadership is — beyond the places that make the news.
It is tragic that a church born partly out of the corruption of medieval Catholicism is in the same quandary 500 years later. We have stripped ourselves of moral authority here. We cannot condemn monastic celibacy as the cause of abusive immorality when married Protestants are abusers. We cannot claim that ecclesiastical hierarchy is inherently evil when Congregationalists cover for each other. We cannot tell our Roman Catholic neighbors that Protestant leadership is the answer. We cannot claim that their children will be safe in our churches. We cannot promise that if abuse happens, victims will be believed and cared for, and perpetrators brought to justice.
But do you know what we can do? We can point people, Roman Catholics and Protestants alike, to the One who is too pure to look on evil. We can bring all of our shock and grief and anger to the Good Shepherd, who carries the lambs in His bosom and gently leads those who are with young. We can trust the perfect Son of Man, who lived a life of poverty and suffering and died the painful, shameful death of the cross to protect His children.
Hurting Roman Catholics are turning to Mary in their prayers, seeking hope and help from one who can provide neither. We cannot offer them sinless churches or sinless leadership, but we can hold out a sinless Jesus, mighty to judge, mighty to save. It is His love for His church that will enable her to go forward, despite all the failures, sins, and crimes committed in her ranks. It is His love that provides undershepherds who are faithful, taking hits from abusers for the sheep in order to lead them safely. It is His love that will bring truth to the church and, as the Archbishop reminded reporters, “only the truth can make her free.”
This article is a guest post by Rebecca VanDoodewaard, author of Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians and Your Future 'Other Half': It Matters Whom You Marry.