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Question Title Posted By Question Date
Corruption and Opulance in the Church John Tuesday, July 20, 2004


I was recently in a debate in which I beleive I gave a rather poor showing, so I'd like to have some help if the topic were to be broached in the future.

How does one defend the Church in light of the current abuses? What I am referring to are the priest child abuse scandal, etc. How does one defend celibacy in light of these abuses?

Also, how does one also defend the opulance of the Church? It is one of the richest organizations in the world with priceless masterpieces everywhere, yet it preaches the values poverty and selflessness. One of the examples given was the opulance that the local archbishop lives in (a multimillion dollar high rise).

I took the position that the church may have corrupt elements but that comes from being a very old buracracy. I said that every organization goes through periods of relative decadence and the Church is fallible in matters of buraucratic administration and efficiency and therefor mistakes are to be deplored but not unexpected. I also stated that loyalty in the Church was, and needs to be, to the faith of the church. The people who left the church after the abuse didn't "get it." Apastolic tradition is still valid before as well as after and the same is true of Christ's message. He responded by saying, in effect, "by their fruits you shall know them." So, could you help give me some ammunition to help defend this in the future? I honestly beleive he's overstating his case as far as corruption is concerned, but I don't have enough facts to prove it.

Thanks in advance.

Question Answered by Bro. Ignatius Mary, OLSM

Dear John:

The first thing to remember is the these arguments are false arguments made by unthinking people who are bigots. Remember the source of such ignorant arguments.

With that said, the issue of celibacy has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with sexual abuse. The FACTS are that most child abusers are MARRIED MEN.

Among professionals the 66% of the perpetrators come from the professionals of (in this order) psychiatry, psychology, and social work. This is according to a study by the Wisconsin Psychological Association.

The same study found that only 11% of  those in the profession of clergy have molested. Now ANY percentage other than ZERO is too much, but the point is that the largest problem of molesting children is not priest (only 1 1/2 percent of priest have sinned in this way), nor is it clergy; it is the Mental Health Profession.

Who do children end up going to for help once they are molested by clergy? Social workers, psychologist, and psychiatrist (the largest group of professions who molest children).

Secondly, the Church does not teach that molesting children is a good thing. Those priests (who by the way are mostly NOT pedophiles, but homosexuals with teenage boys) committed SIN against the children, against the Church, and against God. The Church does not support sin.

Maybe 1 1/2 percent of priest have sinned in this fashion. A handful of bishops have sinned in covering it up perhaps. There are about half a million bishops and somewhere around 4-5 million priests. In the United States the figures I think are around 46,000 priests and around 428 Bishops and Cardinals. There is a better statistical probability that there is a higher percentage of child molesters in the families of these people who attack the church than there is among priests.

The Church herself cannot be blamed for the sins of its people any more than I can be held responsible for my great, great cousin who was a horse-thief and tarred and feathered and run out of town. Those priests and bishops who committed the sin are responsible for that sin.

As for the "opulence" of the Church and its riches, there is nothing to defend since the Catholic Church is NOT even close to being the richest organization in the world and is NOT opulent. I use to be a member of a Baptist Church that had a budget of $4,000,000 and that was only ONE parish. The Baptist Church down the road had a budge of $20,000,000. Keep in mind these are 1976 dollars.

The artwork at the Vatican are not assets of the Church to use as it pleases to buy expensive steaks or something. That artwork is held in trust in the Vatican museums. Like ANY museum its holdings are in trust to the public. To sell off those holdings is as stupid as any other museum selling its holding so that the hungry can eat for a few days. As the old cliche says, it is better to teach a person how to fish than to give him a fish; to give the hungry food for a week has no meaning against teaching people to fish or farm whereby they can feed themselves for life.

If the Vatican would sell all of these holdings, the hungry of the world will be fed for about one week, and the world will be deprived of the art auctioned off to private collectors and museums scattered throughout the world.

Jesus said that the poor will always be among us. It was Judas who criticized Jesus for what he thought was "opulence". Jesus chastised Judas.

If we are to construct great buildings for kings and presidents, should not God be given a great building? God thinks so. Take a look in the Old Testament when poverty and hunger was about 1000 times worse than today. Despite the hunger and poverty God directed the building of a great and expensive Temple.

Those who make this argument are ignorant of the Bible, and worse, are usually hypocrites. At the same time they are attacking the Church on this, they are spending $20+ on Internet Access (something utterly unnecessary), on coffee, soda pop and meat and other lovely foods while at the same time people are starving, even here in the United States. Think of all the hungry who would be fed for a couple days if all the bigots got off the Internet, gave-up smoking and drinking, sold their boats, move to a low income areas for a cheap house, etc. and spent the saving on feeding the poor. Until they do that, I shall not throw my pearls before swine.

The fact is that the Catholic Church is the NUMBER ONE charity in the world helping the poor. The fact is that nearly all of the great vestments, marble floors and statues are DONATED to the Church by private citizens. The fact is that we can honor God by giving God the best we can offer and at the same time help the poor.

I live on less than $400 per month and I still find the money to support a girl in India whose family makes less than $100 per month. Almost 20% of their income comes from me. Once can do both.

I might add that the apartments of the Pope are small and not that comfortable from what I understand. Until recent years much of the Vatican was falling apart. But let us not confuse the bigots with the facts. :)

For the most part, I would advise NOT arguing with dingbats who make such stupid arguments. St. Paul tells us to not involve ourselves in unproductive argumentation.

In addition, we need to remember Proverbs:

Proverbs 26:4  "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes."

God Bless,
Bro. Ignatius Mary