Sex, Shame, and the Catholic Church

“Sex, shame and the Catholic Church was Newsweek’s cover story for March 4th, 2002, subtitled “and new soul-searching across America.”[1]  One would have hoped that exposure of the Catholic teaching on virginity and celibacy would have been discussed.  Instead, the article focused on quoting some facts and figures, and who says what, with no reference to the official stand of the Roman Catholic Church.  Since what has happened is of a most serious nature, it would be in order to expect that some reference would have been made to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ on the abuse of children.  The pastoral teaching of the apostle Paul regarding marriage and ministry ought also to be brought to bear on the issue.  Instead of this, the Vatican has issued rules of secrecy regarding the scandals that have been revealed in Boston and across the world regarding Catholic priests abusing children.

Because of the outrageous behavior coming out of Boston, and similar scandals across the world, the Vatican has been asked for a response.  The late Pope John Paul II approved some new rules.  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, through the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published these rules, namely that “pedophile cases were subject to pontifical secrecy and that only priests should handle such cases, including those serving as judges, prosecutor, or defense advocate in church tribunals…[and] victims must make their accusations within 10 years after turning 18.”[2]  Had such principle of “pontifical secrecy” been produced in any other forum, an outcry would be heard.  The temptations of priests judging their fellow priests¾and that with “pontifical secrecy”¾would be similar to an appeal of Enron’s executives claiming the right to judge Enron’s executives and being allowed to exercise “executive secrecy.”  All of this is totally shocking, especially in light of the Lord Jesus Christ’s principles on this very matter.  If truth and justice are to be seen, it must be not judging concerning any outward appearance, not by person’s position in society, not in secrecy, but in the light of day, so that justice is seen to have prevailed.

Marriage and Ministry

In the Scripture, marriage is honored.  The Scriptural qualifications of a pastor or minister are that he is to be the husband of one wife, knowing how to manage his own home first and then God’s church.  “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.[3]  “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior…one that ruleth his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)”[4]The Lord Jesus Christ speaks about the gift of celibacy—a gift that is given only to a few.  On the very topic: “it is not good to marry,” Christ Jesus said, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.  For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.  He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.[5]  Therefore, it is in the context of speaking about marriage that the Lord speaks of the eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.  It is to be noted that the Lord does not speak of an institution of celibates; rather He says, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”  It is a personal matter between the Lord and the individual who is able to receive and bear up under the teaching.  It was not a universal counsel meant for all male believers serving in ministry.  What the Lord did NOT say was this: “for this cause shall a man also leave father and mother and join himself to a group of other celibates, and their way of life shall be established.”  No such form of life was ever established by the Lord; rather only for certain individuals between the Lord and those individuals this type of life is counseled.  Had the Lord envisioned “Master Generals” and monasteries, and “Mother Superiors” and convents in this context, He would have said so.  In the New Testament, however, there is no hint of the Apostles being celibate, nor those who were to follow them as pastors.  Rather, in Christ’s teaching, and that of the apostle Paul, marriage is an ordinance from which no profession is barred.  “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?[6]  The Scripture verifies that Cephas (Peter) had a wife and a mother-in-law.[7]  It is beyond reason or saneness to think Peter was celibate.  Forbidding marriage is one of the erroneous doctrines of the antichristian church.  In I Corinthians 7:8-9 and 7:32-38, the apostle Paul say it is permissible to be celibate if one so chooses, but it is never to be commanded; it is never law.  In the Apostle’s words, “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.[8]  Getting married includes the consummation of marriage.  Priestly celibacy has been the root cause for sexual immorality among priests, women, boys, and girls, as priests sexually proposition women and girls for adultery and/or fornication, and boys for sodomy.

Roman Catholic Law on the Clerical State

The Roman Catholic teaching regarding marriage and ministry heads in a totally different direction.  Total servitude to the Roman Catholic system replaces an individual’s intimate relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.  For the Catholic priest, marriage is not “honorable and undefiled”; rather, it is called a scandal.  By Roman Catholic Church law, priests and bishops and are forbidden to marry.  The exact words of Roman Catholic law are given in their Code of Canon Law,

Canon 1394, Sec. 1“…a cleric who attempts marriage, even if only a civilly, incurs an latae sententiae suspension; if he is does not repent after being warned and continues to give scandal, he can be punished gradually by deprivations, even by dismissal from the clerical state.”[9]

Celibacy, in the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, is solely for the individual who can receive that gift.  Canon 1394 clearly contradicts the Lord Jesus Christ’s teaching.  Boldfaced enough to admit that her iron laws are not based on the Bible but on her own tradition, the Vatican teaching reads,

“In any case, the [Roman Catholic] church of the West cannot weaken her faithful observance of her own tradition.  And it is unthinkable that for centuries she has followed a path which, instead of favouring the spiritual richness of individual souls and of the People of God, has in some way compromised it, or that she has with arbitrary juridical prescriptions stifled the free expansion of the most profound realities of nature and of grace.”[10]

It is shameless arrogance that the same pope, and his Church, while freely admitting that their laws of celibacy came not from the Lord Jesus Christ, nor from the Apostles, but rather from “her own tradition,” yet state that it is “unthinkable” that the Roman Catholic Church “has with arbitrary juridical prescriptions stifled the free expansion of the most profound realities of nature and of grace.”  How could a church that recognizes that ecclesiastical celibacy is not from Christ and the Apostles, still make such teaching her law?  Her own official answer begins benignly enough,

“Let us look openly at the principal objections against the law that links ecclesiastical celibacy with the priesthood.  The first seems to come from the most authoritative source, the New Testament, which preserves the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.  It does not demand celibacy of sacred ministers but proposes it rather as a free act of obedience to a special vocation or to a special spiritual gift.  Jesus himself did not make it a prerequisite in his choice of the Twelve, nor did the Apostles for those who presided over the first Christian communities.”[11]

The Roman Church states that the principal objections “seem” to come from “the most authoritative source,” the New Testament.  Yet, for her, the Scripture is not “the most authoritative source”!  While recognizing that virginity is not of the nature of ministry in itself, Rome is bold enough to declare that priestly celibacy is still for the Church of Rome a “sacred law.”

“Virginity undoubtedly, as the Second Vatican Council declared, ‘is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself.  This is clear from the practice of the early Church and the traditions of the Eastern Churches.’  But at the same time the Council did not hesitate to confirm solemnly the ancient, sacred and providential present law of priestly celibacy.”[12]

Clearly in terms of ultimate authority, the Roman Church contends that Roman Catholic Tradition stands above the Holy Scripture!

In the face of all this, the Holy Spirit had warned of such absurd teaching and practice in the New Testament.  “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.[13]This text plainly applies to the Roman Catholic Church, which has put her traditions above the Holy Scripture.  Forbidding to marry was one of the steps towards that great apostasy, which is and has been for centuries enshrined in the paying of veneration to the relics of martyrs, erecting altars, burning incense, consecrating images and temples, making prayers and praises to the dead departed, and generally deceiving those who have not received the love of the truth.  Such demon-worship also includes forbidding marrying, and commanding to abstain from meats.  The same priests, who are forbidden to marry, are the ones who also are commanded to abstain from meats on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Eliminating the Law to Remove the Occasions for Infidelity?

The Vatican freely admits that what has happened and is happening is saddening, and it might appear that the solution would be to allow the Roman Catholic clergy to marry.  The official stand of the Church of Rome recognizes this as an option,

“There are those who are convinced that a married priesthood would remove the occasions for infidelity, waywardness, and distressing defections which hurt and sadden the whole [Roman Catholic] Church.  These also maintain that a married priesthood would enable Christ’s ministers to witness more fully to Christian living, by including the witness of married life, from which they are excluded by their state of life.”[14]

While Rome officially admits this, in practice she does nothing; rather, she continues to insist on her laws of celibacy.  The laws of Rome are de rigueur,[15] enforced, and unchangeable, in the words of the Pope and Vatican Council II, the Roman Catholic Church imposes celibacy by law.  Her official words are,

“…based on the mystery of Christ and his mission, celibacy, which at first was recommended to priests, was afterwards in the Latin Church, imposed by law on all who were to be promoted to Holy Orders.  This sacred Council approves and confirms this legislation.”[16]

Given such rash disregard for the Holy Scripture, is it really so “unthinkable” that “she has with arbitrary juridical prescriptions stifled the free expansion of the most profound realities of nature and of grace”?[17]

The Boston Disgrace

“Since the mid-1990s, more than 130 people have come forward with horrific childhood tales about how former priest John J. Geoghan allegedly fondled or raped them during a three-decade spree through a half-dozen Greater Boston parishes.  Almost always, his victims were grammar school boys.  One was just 4 years old.  Then came last July’s disclosure that Cardinal Bernard F. Law knew about Geoghan’s problems in 1984, during Cardinal Law’s first year in Boston, yet he approved his transfer to St. Julia’s parish in Weston. Wilson D. Rogers Jr., the Cardinal’s attorney, defended the move last summer, saying the archdiocese had medical assurances that each of Geoghan’s reassignments were ‘appropriate and safe.’ But one of Cardinal Law’s bishops thought that the 1984 assignment of Geoghan to St. Julia’s was so risky, that he wrote the cardinal a letter in protest.  The archdiocese already had substantial evidence of Geoghan’s predatory sexual habits.  That included his assertion in 1980 that his repeated abuse of seven boys in one extended family was not a ‘serious’ problem, according to an archdiocesan record.  And the St. Julia’s assignment proved disastrous.  First, Geoghan was put in charge of three youth groups, including altar boys.  In 1989, he was forced to go on sick leave after more complaints of sexual abuse, and spent months in two institutions that treat sexually abusive priests.  Even so, the archdiocese returned him to St. Julia’s, where Geoghan continued to abuse children for another three years.  Why did it take a succession of three cardinals and many bishops 34 years to place children out of Geoghan’s reach?”[18]

The Boston Affair is Only the Tip of the Iceberg

“Using the higher estimates of pedophile priests (8,000) and numbers of victims (265), the results are even more astonishing, giving a possible maximum of 2,092,440 direct victims and as many as 12,554,640 indirect victims for a total of 14,647,080.  For comparative purposes, using the lower numbers the number of direct victims and survivors alone could populate a city larger than Boston. Using the higher numbers, it would be the fourth largest city in the U.S., One between the size of Houston and Chicago.  Four in 10 US Catholic nuns report having experienced sexual abuse, a study by Catholic researchers supported by major religious orders, has found.  The study found that sisters who have known sexual abuse less in childhood, fled to convents to escape sexual advances.  During religious life, close to 30% of the nation’s 85,000 nuns experienced ‘sexual trauma,’ ranging from rape to exploitation to harassment.  A total of 40% reported a least one experience of that kind.”[19]  The Vatican memoranda state that priests have assaulted nuns in 23 countries, including the United States, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, and India.

The Roman Catholic Response

In face of these and other facts, the official Roman Catholic teaching declares,

“Life consecrated by the profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living by which [the] faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God.”[20]

The words “more closely,” therefore, contrast to the vows of marriage.  The meaning is that the consecrated life of priests and nuns is a closer following of Christ than is marriage.  Clearly, God has never declared this to be so, rather the opposite, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.[21]  The marriage covenant is the most tender and endearing of all human relations, more tender than even that bond which unites us to a parent.  The word ‘cleave’ denotes a union of the firmest kind.  This is God’s gift of marriage, and most understandable that the apostle Paul should also say, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife.”[22]

Marriage is honorable.  The understanding that a pastor should be the husband of one wife has full, scriptural backing.  Despite the agony, misery, and morality of thousands of Roman Catholic priests, the Roman Catholic Church continues to enforce its own law on its followers.  As Scripture says, those who teach such things have departed from the faith in order to propagate their demonic doctrine.  Rome has departed from the faith commending and enjoining celibacy and virginity to the office of a pastor, which God has never commanded.  What they consider “holy” turns out to be unholy, and what is in fact “holy,” Rome absolutely prohibits.  The present crisis of the Roman Catholic Church show what a disaster may come when the Bible is set aside as the basis of all truth, and in its place is set the inane Tradition of fallible man.  “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.[23]

The Vatican Solution

The Pope and Vatican’s resolution to the problem we have seen is pontifical secrecy, and a new stress on the law of celibacy and the turning to psychology for help.  On March 4, 2002, it was announced that homosexual men should not be ordained as priests.[24]  Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a chief spokesman for Pope John Paul II, made the comment.  “If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do the same damage to the church’s operation,” said A. W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist.[25]  Sipe has been studying the sexuality of priests for 25 years and has written three books on the subject.  “It would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world.  And it’s very much against the tradition of the church; many saints had a gay orientation, and many popes had gay orientations,” Sipe said, “Discriminating against orientation is not going to solve the problem.”[26]

The Real Solution

By nature, every person is born a sinner destined for hell.  Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone.  The real call of Scripture is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ alone, for it is by grace alone through faith alone that a person is born again to new life in Christ.  “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.[27]This call is made to all, but in a special way—to the sincere American Catholic of our day—we loudly yet gently say,  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.[28]Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.[29]

The Lord God used the Gospel message that is central to every true revival in the body of Christ, as it was in the Reformation.  Literally hundreds of thousands of Catholics are saved each year as they see the finished work of Christs redemption and the foolishness of the traditions, laws, and trappings of the Church of Rome.

The continual theme of Scripture to the believer is “In the LORD have I righteousness and strength[30] or in the words of the Apostle, “That I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.[31]  The believer who is totally accepted in Christ on this basis moves forward.  Thus, God’s grace can flow abundantly; God alone is glorified.  In the great wisdom of the apostle Peter we say to the sincere Catholic, downtrodden by scandal, tradition, and shame, “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.[32]  This is the only sound and lasting answer to “The new soul-searching across America,” of which Newsweek speaks.  In the counsel and command of the Lord Jesus Christ, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent[33]

Richard Bennett of Berean Beacon Ministries


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[1] Steve Wohlberg

[2] Associated Press, 1/9/2002

[3] Hebrews 13:4

[4] I Timothy 3:2-5

[5] Matthew 19:10-12

[6] I Corinthians 9:5

[7] Matthew 8:14 (Throughout article, bold added for emphasis.)

[8] I Corinthians 7:9

[9] Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Ed., New English Tr., 1999 (Washington DC:  Canon Law Society of America, 1983).  All canons are taken from this source unless otherwise stated.  Bolding in any quotation indicates emphasis added in this paper.

[10] Vatican Council II, Documents No. 95, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 24 June 1967, Vol. II Sec. 41, p. 297

[11] Vatican Council II Documents No. 95, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 24 June 1967, Sec. 5, p. 286

[12] Vatican Council II Documents No. 95, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 24 June 1967, Vol. II Sec. 17, p. 290

[13] I Timothy 4:1-3

[14] Vatican Council II Documents No. 95, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 24 June 1967 Sec. 9, p. 287

[15] Prescribed or required by fashion, etiquette, or custom: proper

[16] No. 63, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7 Dec. 1965, Vol. I, Sec. 16, p. 893

[17] Vatican Council II Documents No. 95, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 24 June 1967, in Flannery, Vol. II, Sec. 41, p. 297

[18] “Church allowed abuse by priest for years”

[19] National Catholic Reporter 1/15/99, as quoted in “Catholic Pedophile Priests”

[20] Vatican Council II Documents No.28 “Lumen Gentium” Vol. I Para 44. p. 404

[21] Matthew 19:5-6

[22] I Timothy 3:2

[23] Matthew 7:20



[26] Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 3/4/20

[27] John 3:35

[28] Acts 16:31-32

[29] Rev 18:4-5

[30] Isaiah 45:24

[31] Philippians 3:8-9

[32] I Peter 1:18-19

[33] John 6:29