Earlier this week it was reported by various news organizations that archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., wrote a scathing report alleging that the Pope, Pope Francis, not only knew about ex-archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s cover-up of sexually abusive priests, but removed sanctions imposed upon the former archbishop. When did he know it? At least five years ago, perhaps more. Vigano has called on Pope Francis to retire.
The Church of Rome has been under fire from sexual abuse victims for two decades now. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long, and beyond that, it is hard to believe that when the stories broke years ago, there was not a full-blown confession, repentance, and an immediate start to making things right. Instead, it seems there has been an ever-increasing attempt to sweep it all under the rug, hoping it will go away. No matter how “religious” and “righteous” some believe themselves to be, for some reason we all ignore and disbelieve Numbers 32:23, “be sure your sins will find you out.”
That being said, I believe that we as protestants need to have a righteous (not self-righteous) response to the calamity befalling Rome.
- Mourn. While this story goes as high up as the Pope himself which can and should bring about a righteous indignation, we must not forget that there are thousands of victims whose lives have been turned upside down. Many are feeling shame, anger, hatred, distrust, loneliness, depression, and loss. Many have or are contemplating suicide.
The curtain has been pulled back and we are now seeing how things are and have been. As Jeremiah wrote, so should we feel: “For this our heart has become sick, for these things our eyes have grown dim,” (Lamentations 5:17, ESV). Understand that in using this verse, I am not comparing the Roman Church with Mount Zion, but simply expressing the sense of loss with those who are suffering.
- Do not rejoice. I know we are protestants, and we have been stating that the Roman Church has been corrupt for five-hundred years now. But now is not the moment to rejoice. It is not the time to be proud and point fingers. It is a time to be humble. When Abraham heard of the impending doom of Sodom, he did not rejoice, but prayed for God to spare the city if there were but ten righteous. He watched from a distance as the fire fell, no words spoken. Solomon wrote, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him,” (Proverbs 24:17-18, ESV). Is the papacy and the Roman Church corrupt? I believe with all my heart that it is. It needs to be cleansed, but I will not rejoice over its demise. As John Wooden stated, “Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.” The church had ample opportunity to get itself in line, but it refused to do so, and now time has run out. I do not know if this is the end of the RC; it most likely is not, but it is a time of rebuke and judgment.
- Examine ourselves. While the prevalence of abuse accusations in protestant circles is not nearly the number as in the Roman one, that does not mean that we are without sin. Paul wrote, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on one another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the same things,” (Romans 2:1, ESV). Obviously, I am not saying that every pastor, minister, deacon, or layperson is practicing molestation. However, we must be careful and examine our own churches and denominations. Is there a cover-up of sin? Or are we bringing sins into the light and dealing with them appropriately?
- Pray. Pray for the victims. Pray for the priests and bishops. Pray for the papacy. Pray for the Church of Rome. Pray for yourself, your church, and your denomination. Pray without ceasing.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin,” (Psalm 51:1-2, ESV)!
- Look to Christ. As heart-wrenching as all of this is, as mystifying and infuriating as these past few days, weeks, and years have been, we must not forget that Christ reigns. Why, in His reigning, did He allow these atrocities to occur? I do not know. But I do know that we must not allow such grotesque abuses to keep us from seeing the grandeur and majesty of He who sits in heaven.
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not things that are on earth, (Colossians 2:23-3:2, ESV).