Many of you know that I began my seminary studies at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. St. John's is the seminary of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. I started in August of 2001. Not long after I started the events of September 11th happened and then in January of 2002 the clergy abuse scandal broke in the news. Now all these years latter it is in full swing again.
One of the things that amazes me about the entire situation is the number of people who left the church because of the abuse. The title of this post is Put No Trust in Princes. If your faith lies in the Institutional Church you will be let down at every turn. Why do I say that, because human beings are in charge of it and we are flawed. Your faith belongs in one man and one man only and that is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have often said that the wheels came off the wagon for the church the day after the Ascension. It was the first full day that humans were in charge of the church and if you read Acts you will see that the arguments began almost right away. The Hellenists complained that their widows were not getting attention. The Gentiles complained that they should not have to follow the laws of the Jews and so on. I will say again, if your faith is in the Institutional Church then you will be let down.
Orthodox and Catholic Theology states that the priest stands In Person Christi, in the person of Christ. Not that the priest is another Christ, but the priest stands in for Christ. The Sacraments of the church do not rely on the Holiness of the Priest, thanks be to God for that! We pray to God that my insignificance and sins should not be held against anyone. The Holy Spirit is the one who "performs" if you will the Sacrament, I am just the vessel that is used by the Holy Spirit. I can be the most horrible wretch on the face of the earth, yet the Sacraments are valid and Grace filled because they do not rely on me but on the Holy Spirit.
If you belong to a church because of a person or a program, then you belong for the wrong reason. You should find a church whose theology you agree with regardless of the priest, minister, rabbi, Imam, or what have you. We do need community as this is where we live out our spirituality but I say again you should not belong to a church simply because you like the guy who stands in front.
The Institutional Church is as flawed, if not more so, than any other corporation in the world. The Devil is after the church, and make no mistake about it, sin comes from the Devil! Yes the Devil is real and sin is real! The Devil wants nothing more than to bring the church down. Each time a person leaves the church, and does not return, the Devil rejoices.
I am not saying that people should not be held accountable for their actions. Clergy, Priests, Bishops, Popes, etc are held to a higher standard. We are the moral leaders of the community and we should be held to a higher standard. To my clergy brothers and sisters who read this, if you do not want to be held to that standard it is time to find another line of work. It is hard being in the spotlight, but we chose this and we knew this coming in. Yes when the church fails it hurts, the cover up, the lies, the tom-foolery that goes on needs to stop.
I submit that anyone who abused, covered up abuse, or in anyway tried to hide things from proper authority should be removed from their position in the Church. The Church needs to come clean and open the records of all and for all to see. The best disinfectant is sun light. The Church, and by that I mean all Churches because believe it or not, all of our churches are guilty of this, needs to come clean and repent of her sins.
If you are considering leaving your church because of something that someone has done, I would ask you to reconsider and to stay because of something that someone has done. Jesus Christ died for your sins and mine. For the Popes sins, for the bishops sins, and for the priests sins. Jesus is the reason one attends church not a man or a woman who stands in front and leads the church. You will be disappointed in the flawed nature of that person. Listen we all make mistakes, and clergy are no different.
Put no trust in Princes. Put your trust in Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the only one that will not let you down!
V. Rev. Fr. Peter-Michael Preble is the Pastor of St. Michael’s Orthodox Christian Church in Southbridge, Massachusetts and the host of the Shepherd of Souls syndicated radio program. Visit Fr. Peter's blog.