It doesn’t matter if you’re Pope or Patriarch, Priest or layperson. It has no bearing on the fact if you’re of great faith and no faith at all, why? Because scandal has a great way of penetrating all of us and bringing us to our knees. It has this domino effect and the hurt begins with the person committing the scandal and then reverberates around society destroying whole groups of people in its path.
Take for instance the scandal one Pope committed of not allowing Eastern Catholic clergy to convert in America. Thousands of Eastern Catholic parishes turned their churches into Orthodox ones. Take a look at how western society completely changed most of it being accelerated by sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Thousands left Mass and sought God in other churches or religions and went back to their Irish pagan roots.
All it takes is one foul word, motive or word from a priest or Bishop and things can go downhill from there very quickly. St.John Chrysostom in his treatise on the priesthood states that the behaviour of a priest committing the same act as the layperson has a different flavour to it. People are more scandalized when the priest does it because of the nature of his vocation. It is true what they say that words matter and how we behave really can affect existing believers and those considering taking up Christianity. This applies to all Christians from Catholic to protestant.
I remember the 90’s very well. Every time the national news on TV would cover sex abuse cover-up that same evening we’d hear knocks on our door. Who was it? Yup, Jehovah witnesses obviously out beating peoples doors down theologically cashing in on the sex abuse to get converts to their religion. If it wasn’t them it would be the Mormons. They were mostly successful in areas of low IQ and emotional intelligence. These people are unable to separate the scandal from the truth. If it’s hard for people who do possess the ability to grasp it imagine what it’s like for those who lack that intelligence?
Even in conversation, they’d shamelessly use it on you. sex abuse…sex abuse….you can’t stay in that Church any longer. They preyed upon peoples existing anger and got them when they were at their lowest in faith.
Scandal is so powerful that it can turn entire nations away from God and in the case of the great Schism give birth to wars and protestants. Take a look at the scandal of Michael Voris, Taylor Marshall and some Orthodox Christians publicly exposing the sins of their priests. Thousands of people watching are having their faith in Christ shaken. The secular media look at these lads and are rubbing their hands together thinking, “We don’t have to do any of the donkey work, the Catholics, Orthodox and protestants will bury themselves for us on YouTube. Look at the work they’re doing on exposing their clergy, you couldn’t buy this kind of investigative work.”
A lot of people with strong faith are oblivious to the fact that thousands upon thousands of souls are watching who don’t possess a strong faith. There are people in the world who reached great spiritual heights only to plummet to the ground because of one minor fracas they had with a local priest. They’re responsible for their behaviour but so too is he who orchestrated their demise. It would go better for Sodom and Gomorrah in those days than it will for anyone who scandalizes and harms the little ones in this way.
And that’s what speaking ill of your priest, patriarch, metropolitan, cardinal, Bishop or pastor or whatever Church will do. Doing that is like tying your noose and hanging your soul. You think you’re giving glory to God and unearthing the filth, but you’re crucifying the Lord by causing scandal. If a Christian apostatizes (that is leaves the Christian faith altogether and renounces Christ excommunicating themselves) because of these YouTube shows that influence such behaviour, then God help them is all I can say and many prayers need to be said.
We all have to be careful because we’ve all done and said things that have shaken someone’s faith. And the horrible part? We were ignorant of it until shown at Judgment our ugly sin. “I didn’t know. I’d no idea.” That’s what we’ll say. whoops!!! too late. The tongue is a very dangerous weapon and can get us into so much trouble. I’m aware of this. . . I am. . . I know because I have an awful tongue myself and need to work on it.
Many of us act without thinking of the consequences of that action. It takes a lot of emotional intelligence to grasp that truth. To be able to hold back on our emotions and reflect before we follow through on an idea takes grace and a will strengthened through prayer.
I know many protestants, Catholics and Orthodox who all left for each other’s churches. What was their reason? “My pastor verbally abused me so I left and became Orthodox.” “My priest told me and my family to get lost so I became Catholic.” “My priest sexually abused me so I became Orthodox.”
A scandal is quite literally what drives people away from one group to another. It can be a harsh word said in the heat of the moment or a not well thought out letter from the local Bishop full of fallacies. Whatever it is all I know is that when it happens, the Devil pounces on you. I always recall telling people who left the Catholic faith for another that they shouldn’t allow the scandal to do this to them. I would invite them to stay strong and don’t allow these people to drive you out of the Church and away from your salvation.
Then one day in 2013 when my wife had cancer I encountered a Bishop. This Bishop was on holiday from America and through my wife’s grandmother had been sent to our house. I nearly lost it when I heard a Bishop was coming to my house because I have so much respect and love for the clergy. I viewed it as a major visit by Jesus Christ Himself. I was pacing up and down my humble little abode thinking, “My house is ugly and terrible, why would you send such an important man to my house, Lord? I am not worthy of this visit.”
He came and saw on our wall a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we had bought for our new home. Every Irish home has one at the bottom of which you should have signed by a priest and blessed. I thought it would be great for the Bishop to do it because nobody had done it yet nor had we the house blessed. Dressed in civilian clothes and on holiday he didn’t want to do it. I don’t recall very well but one of the people present said he’s on holiday and not keen on it. Others pressed him to do it and so in the end he did.
Suddenly, my demeanour and attitude toward him changed greatly in a very negative way. I didn’t want it to, it just . . . happened even against my better judgment of knowing that scandalous behaviour should not determine one’s faith in the Church and Christ. In my opinion when you’re a priest and God calls you to do something, there’s no such thing as a “holiday.”
It was a humbling moment for me. The same happened a few years earlier when a priest shouted at me and called me a heretic and then tailgated me down the hall as I left his presence and tried to avoid him. At one point the old street fighting Stephen came to the surface and I thought, “Am I gonna have to knock him out? He seems like he’s lost his mind. No, I cannot knock out a priest. . . get a grip of yourself man.”
In the end, I kept my cool and ignored him. To his disgust, I even stayed for whatever Bible group had taken place that night. I did not allow him to push me away. I walked home that night very angry with God and began to cry because I wanted not to feel any anger towards the priest and God but my spirit could not do it. Imagine someone’s hand being over your mouth? You want to breathe but cannot do it. That is how it felt so you can only imagine the frustration.
He was sent away for 10 years because I complained about it publicly on Facebook. Nobody said anything it was just his sudden departure that told me something happened to him and he was sent away for a while. That’s what they do with a priest who is a bit of a lemon. They do a lemon dance and send them away to another diocese. When he came back some months ago and I saw him I couldn’t believe what I had felt but I couldn’t approach him. When I saw him doing confessions I tried to fight my dislike for him and learn to forgive and forget. While I’d certainly forgiven him the ability to face him was hard and so I ran away to another Church instead.
Seriously, scandal is very bad for all of us. The person committing it, the Church, the victim or the number of victims. It can destroy a person so it’s important for us to keep watch over our behaviour.