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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

For the Devoured

Shepherds who abuse sheep consume them; they devour their dignity, trust, and faith. Scripture makes this clear in Ezekiel 34 when God through the prophet rails against pastors who ‘eat the curds, clothe themselves with the wool, and slaughter the choice sheep’ (v. 3).

No better description of the impact of clerical abuse: demonized consumers-in-collars who gobble up the innocent and leave them with gaping wounds and parts missing.

Abusers usher their prey into ‘the day of clouds and darkness’ (v. 12) where they become ‘food for all the wild animals’ (v. 5). Anyone abused by predatory priests becomes vulnerable to a host of moral, spiritual, and relational compromises. Other predators smell blood and discern the disorientation of those weakened by abuse. No wonder that a disproportionate number of adults who identify as LGBT+ have experienced sexual abuse as children. And now resist the Church as a healing community.

We as Christians must take seriously how clerical abuse and its cover-up have fueled alternate communities that celebrate sins against chastity. Their exotic sins sprout from our toxic soil. Look at Ireland—once the pride of European Catholicism. The recent exposure of the Irish Church’s grotesque, long concealed abuses have scattered the sheep there and empowered them in the last two years to vote in a ‘gay’ prime minister, ‘gay’ marriage, and abortion rights.

Unless and until we confess and renounce our self-protection (rather than victim protection), we limit our authority to call sinners to repentance. How can we champion chastity when our shepherds eat sheep and we fail to rout them on behalf of the consumed?

Ezekiel nails decisive action toward the shepherds and their collaborators. To those who knew and minimized the devastation, the prophet rebukes: ‘Woe to those shepherds who only take care of themselves! Should not the shepherds take care of the flock?’ (v.2)

Shepherds at the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy need to do just what Ezekiel declared: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says, ‘I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I WILL REMOVE THEM FROM TENDING TO MY FLOCK SO THAT THE SHEPHERDS CAN NO LONGER FEED THEMSELVES. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them’ “(v. 10).

The application is obvious. Starting at the top with Pope Francis, a sword needs to be wielded that severs from the Church all priests who abused any person sexually, as well as any overseer (cardinals, archbishops, bishops and so on) who knew that sheep were being consumed and looked away. The faithful should tolerate nothing less. The scattering of sheep and rise of wickedness in our land demand nothing less.

The devoured can only be restored when the Church acknowledges her complicity with predators. The abused cannot heal while disintegrated shepherds roam the Church undisciplined! Inaction speaks louder than sweet apologies; it minimizes victim suffering and sustains an unsafe environment for all. We need to let go decisively in order to take up our mandate to bind up the wounded.

Only then will Ezekiel’s promise of restoration for the devoured be fulfilled. As members of Good Shepherd Jesus, we shall “search for the lost and bring back the strays; we shall bind up the injured, shepherding the flock with justice…No longer will wild animals devour them; they will live in safety and no one will make them afraid…they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nation. ‘You my sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are people, and I am Your God’, declares the Sovereign Lord” (vs.16, 28-31).

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family synod

The Bad, the Good, the Urgent: An initial take on the Synod of Family Report

Rome’s synopsis of its synod on ‘family life’ includes 3 paragraphs (out of 58) on homosexuality which could be a cause for alarm. The bishops appear to grant ‘homosexuals’ a kind of ethnic status—homosexuals are treated as a people group whose ‘sexual orientation’ we are ‘to accept and value.’ (50) Further, ‘it must be noted’ that the supportive components of homosexual unions are to be treated as ‘precious’. (52)

This troubles me for many reasons, not the least of which is the faulty anthropology on which the bishops base their views. Persons with same-sex attraction are not an ethnicity but a diverse group of persons made in His image as male and female whose desires are disordered; ‘gay’ feelings cannot achieve the end for which God intends human sexuality.

Basing identities and relationships on homosexual desires is uninspired, at least. Of all communities, the Church can and must know better in order to love better. Relatedly, I weary of Churchman who split homosexual desires from action—ascribing nobility to homosexual desire while slapping hands for ‘acting out.’ Perhaps Jesus is a little more holistic in His approach.

And this is where the good of the document comes in. Early on in the document, we get the best of Pope Francis (and of Christian redemption) when he speaks of our decisive need to fix our eyes on Jesus and follow Him upon new paths, into new possibilities. Jesus reveals both the order of creation and redemption (12, 13), a direction profoundly relevant for persons riding the wave of the ‘gay everything’ 21st century.

I long to see that theme of redemption developed for persons with same-sex attraction. Let us as Christians embody His merciful gaze, so tender and burning with love toward ‘homosexuals’ that they are invited to cast off their old selves and follow Him into newness of life. Sadly, the small part of this document that applies to homosexuality fails to point in this direction at all. It affirms the status quo but not the call to genuine conversion. In that way, paragraphs 50-52 cannot be deemed genuinely Christian.

Over the last 30 years, I have witnessed nearly every mainline Protestant denomination lose its salt due to a failure to recognize and minister effectively to the sexually broken, especially persons with same-sex attraction. I trust that my Church will not do the same. Please join us in our 40-days of prayer for the whole Church, starting tomorrow. The Synod has given us much to pray about.

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