Sexual Abuse and The Church: Have We Lost the Moral High Ground?
More sexual abuse allegations have been revealed in the Catholic Church. How should we respond?
By now, almost everyone has heard that Trinity Western University has made the decision to rescind its covenant. Until now, TWU has demanded that every student entering into the Christian university sign a document in which, among other things, they agree to refrain from all sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage. But now, after having lost the case in the Supreme Court of Canada, TWU will no longer require students to sign such a document.
I have decided not to comment on the decision of TWU. Instead, I encourage Christians to actually log onto the TWU website and read their justification for their action. If you are concerned about what TWU has done, at the very least, give them the chance to explain their decision.
Have we, as Christians, lost the moral high ground?
I mention the TWU case only because of the wider sexual abuse scandals now surrounding the Christian community. Most specifically, I am thinking about the explosive revelations that came from Pennsylvania: at least 300 priests are implicated in the sexual abuse of boys. But that’s only half of the scandal. Over the years, the Catholic bishops seem to have protected these evil priests.
Furthermore, in my estimation, the response from the Vatican has been wholly inadequate. Even while the Pope has expressed remorse and concern, his actions fall short of an appropriate response. Up until now, the Vatican has not removed any priest or bishop from office, nor has there been an investigation as to who in the Vatican knew, and why this matter has not been dealt with. This state of affairs is both unacceptable and outrageous.
I mention the TWU case and the Catholic church sexual abuse scandal in one blog for only one reason. For the secular world, the church has lost the moral high ground. It does not do good to try to explain the vast difference between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. This distinction is lost on a great many. For them, the church has nothing to teach the world about sexual ethics. For them, the church either persecutes those in the LGBTQ community or protects sexual predators.
It is important to see how far we have come. A little over a generation ago, the Christian teaching that sex should be consigned to heterosexual marriage alone was considered the moral high ground. We are now at a place where this same position is seen as both immoral and obscene.
What is to be done?
In my estimation, there is no easy fix. I suspect that things are going to be “bumpy” for some time to come. But I do suggest several things that we must do.
1. All clergy involved in any sexual acts outside of marriage be removed from office. Yes, we must forgive and we must restore. But, leadership is another matter. We must not allow those who have sexually abused others, or who have committed adultery to remain in leadership. In the case of the Catholic church, if the protection of abusing priests extends to the papacy, we also expect the resignation of the pope. We simply must recapture Christian sexual purity. Furthermore, we should be clear that we will not shelter offending clergy. We also will hold each other accountable.
2. We will learn to clearly articulate why the Biblical view of sexual morality is both justifiable and leads to the best possible life. We must learn to clearly and reasonably explain this matter to a new generation. This must become intentional. We need a curriculum, and we need leadership.
3. We will express love to those with whom we profoundly disagree. That means that we learn to both expect Christian sexual fidelity among believers, while we express friendship and affection for those in the LGBTQ community.