Damage Control

Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis
By Robert Barron
Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, July 22, 2019, Kindle edition

1 Star

The American Catholic church had already experienced substantial setbacks prior to 2018. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) had introduced liberalizing initiatives that either thrilled or demoralized the membership, depending upon which end of the ecclesiastical spectrum they identified with. Advancing secularism and the relentless news reports of clerical sex abuse and cover-up then chipped away at the “faith” of millions of Catholics who remained. But in 2018, the flood of reports of clerical sexual abuse and cover-up turned into a tsunami, with accusations aimed at some of the church’s most powerful prelates. The irony was not lost on the average Catholic in the pew who ruminated, “Sunday after Sunday, the priests admonish me to attain personal holiness so that I ‘might’ merit salvation, yet they themselves commit abominable sins, and the bishops and cardinals have either enabled them or acted as predators themselves.”

The Roman Catholic church is a slow moving freight train, but some steps are being taken in an attempt to counter the damage from the 2018 scandal tsunami, including the widespread distribution of this new, inexpensive booklet from Catholic media darling, bishop Robert Barron.

Let’s take a look:

Chapter One – The Devil’s Masterpiece

In this introductory chapter, Baron outlines some of the details of the 2018 scandal tsunami and posits that the entire clerical sexual abuse and cover-up situation was a plot orchestrated by Satan himself to undermine the Roman church. I would reply that the RCC is a faux (c)hristian institution and that this scandal is one of the unmistakable fruits of its corruption.

Chapter Two – Light from Scripture

Baron cites passages of the Bible, especially the story of Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phineas in 1 Samuel, as Scriptural antecedents for scandalous clerical abuse and hierarchical enablement among God’s people. The difference is that the RCC does not have a mandate from God as Eli did.

Chapter Three – We Have Been Here Before

Baron then cites events from church history to show that church leaders and even several popes were involved in corruption in the past. It’s quite interesting that Catholic spokespersons like Barron now readily refer to dark and embarrassing episodes in Roman church history in order to mollify the sting of the current scandal. Such honesty and objectivity was not so forthcoming in the past.

Chapter Four – Why Should We Stay?

Barron holds up the Roman church, despite “shortcomings” by individual clergymen, as still the best way to salvation via its sacramental system.

Chapter Five and Conclusion – The Way Forward

Barron calls for increased tightening of clerical oversight and more participation by laypersons. He lays the ultimate blame for priests’ and bishops’ failings on the overall culture of the Catholic church: “The bottom line is this: if we want holier priests, we all have to become holier ourselves” (location 635). He challenges disaffected Catholics to recommit themselves to their church rather than bail: “This is not the time to leave; it is the time to stay and fight” (loc. 684). Fight for what? The impossible task of meriting their salvation?

My closing comments:

As would be expected, celibate bishop Barron dismisses the Roman church’s mandatory celibacy rule as a factor in the clergy sexual abuse phenomenon (loc. 626). Some Catholics who have studied the abuse problem in detail, like sociologist, Richard Sipe, have concluded otherwise. Between apologies, Barron is not above slipping in the oft-used canard that “the percentage of abusers among priests is roughly equivalent to the national average” (loc. 610). However, some researchers like Sipe have estimated the percentage of sexual abusers among priests to be nearer to twice the national average.

How effective will “Letter to a Suffering Church” and other efforts by the American Catholic bishops be in stemming the exodus of laypersons out the doors of local parishes? The negative impact of the clergy abuse and cover-up scandal continues with every new headline and revelation. There’s simply no putting the horse back in the barn. Here’s my bottom line, bishop Barron: The scandal is a refutation of the Roman church’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit. If the priests and prelates, with their alleged spiritual prerogatives that were divinely-bestowed upon ordination, are unable to lead holy lives worthy of meriting Heaven, as these scandals so boldly reveal, what chance have the laity? The Catholic church misleads souls by teaching works salvation. If a particular Catholic parish church never had an abusive priest problem, we could still say with absolute confidence that the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone was NEVER preached from its pulpit.

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28 thoughts on “Damage Control

    1. Thanks, Jerry! Yes, teaching people that they must lead increasingly religious and moral lives in the hopes of possibly meriting salvation is putting the cart before the horse, but the religion of works-righteousness “seems right” to the natural man and goes all the way back to the religion of Cain.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. “If a particular Catholic parish church never had an abusive priest problem, we could still say with absolute confidence that the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone was NEVER preached from its pulpit.”

    EXACTLY!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Beth! Yup, people can get misled into thinking this abuse scandal is just a morality issue on the part of a percentage of priests and prelates, but what underpins this abuse scandal is that Roman Catholicism teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit. I’m sympathetic to the victims of clerical abuse, but Catholicism’s false gospel is the greatest evil.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom, thanks for accurately pointing out that the church is indeed going through a time of suffering. Especially suffering are the laity who suppress all their feelings and emotions concerning the betrayals. When our parish experienced betrayal, if our Bishop had come and explained the situation to us, and if we had had a chance to openly discuss our feelings and console each other, perhaps we would have healed. However, everything was covered up, and the sheep scattered and ran away. Thanks, as always, for sharing your excellent research skills.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Sally! My prayer is that some of these disaffected Catholic souls will hear the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone and trust in Christ as their Savior. They were not hearing the Gospel of grace from their priests.

      Like

  3. Reblogged this on I ONCE WAS LOST and commented:
    “. If a particular Catholic parish church never had an abusive priest problem, we could still say with absolute confidence that the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone was NEVER preached from its pulpit.”

    Exactly! If you feel like something isn’t quite right as you continue to practice Roman Catholicism- God is calling you out! Listen to His Holy Spirit- follow Him- not a MAN made religion -please 🙏🏻💕

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Getting ready to attend a Roman Catholic wake for a relative Thursday-though everything will be in one day -starting at 9 a.m. visitation at the funeral home not their “church building” I’m I will be making my exit when they pray to and bring up there version of Mary!
    Prayers would be appreciated 🙏🏻💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry for your loss and I will be praying for you regarding this wake and funeral service (I see your next comment). Yup, I know it is difficult attending a religious service that is anti-Gospel.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Baron then cites events from church history to show that church leaders and even several popes were involved in corruption in the past.” This Quote alone, brother, astonished me. I don’t see how pointing out that this is a systemic problem helps the cause. I do hope and pray, however, that many will hear the true Gospel as you’ve presented it in this post and be saved out of works righteousness.

    Thank you for this book review, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: Catholic spokespersons who now make it a point to acknowledge unflattering church history

      I am seeing this tactic used quite often these days, mainly by conservative Catholic apologists who are troubled by pope Francis’ progressive reforms. The rationale is, look, some popes back in the day were very bad (e.g., pope Alexander VI aka Rodrigo de Borja always makes the list of flagrantly corrupt popes), much worse than Francis, so if the church survived those guys, it will survive Francis, too!

      It’s really amazing for me to hear Catholic spokespersons denigrating previous popes. That was NEVER done in my 12 years of Catholic education. The closest I ever heard to a semi-admission of wrongdoing in those days by the nuns (grammar school) or by the Irish Christian Brothers (high school) was that some overzealous priests like Johan Tetzel did sell indulgences, but they did not represent the true theology of the church.

      Thank you for your prayers and good comments, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Re: Unflattering history

        Their typical mantra:
        Despite all the bad popes, the church survived, therefore we are the true church!
        Despite all the wickedness and unholiness, the church survived, therefore we are the true church!

        Yes, we can also apply the same logic and argument to Islam and conclude that they are a true religion! Oh wait, lumen gentium might have implied that…….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Right. They use the absolute corruption of pope Borgia as an example of the ultimate inviolability of the church while also claiming divine guidance for the magisterium. Which is it?

        Like

      3. Re: They use the absolute corruption of pope Borgia 

        Those corrupt Popes disqualify themselves from any office as they fail to meet the requirements for Presbytyr/Episkopos in 1 Tim and Titus.

        That’s why I LOL everytime a Papist tells me infallibility doesn’t mean that the Popes are impeccable! So why I should I then accept their claims but not that of Joseph Smith or Muhammad?

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Matthew 7:15-20
    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Propaganda is right. False sincerity. There’s little doubt that Barron consulted with a PR firm specializing in damage control on this project. Where were Barron’s predecessor prelates on this “issue” thirty years ago when the scandal headlines were first breaking?

      Liked by 1 person

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