The death of one nun was just the tip of the iceberg

 

A new Netflix docu-series, “The Keepers,” premiers tomorrow, Friday, May 19th and it looks like something Christians may want to watch. I certainly will be.

The seven-part series focuses on the unsolved murder of a Catholic nun, Sister Catherine Cesnik, inKeep Baltimore, Maryland in 1969. One of the suspects was a priest, Father Joseph Maskell, a known sexual predator, who was shuffled from parish to parish by the church hierarchy. The documentary alleges that Maskell was abusing girls at the high school where Cesnik taught and she was attempting to expose him prior to her death.

It’s one thing to hear general information about the scandal of pedophilic and abusive priests and the subsequent cover-up by the church hierarchy. That’s bad enough. But it’s another thing to examine the personal aftermath of the abuse and cover-up in the lives of actual human beings with names and faces and in the lives of their families.

Catholicism has much to answer for, in regards to this scandal as well as for misleading its members with its false gospel. Not only were children, nuns, and young seminarians victimized by “celibate” sexual predators, but Catholics in general were and are being misled into believing they must merit their way into Heaven.

One-hundred-years ago, church spokespersons offhandedly dismissed accusations of abuse in Catholic schools, seminaries, convents, and rectories as “Protestant porn.” Now they’re keeping their mouths shut and wishing it would all just go away.


In Netflix’s “The Keepers,” a nun’s unsolved murder, a sexual abuse coverup and crumbling Vatican II hope
http://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2017/05/17/netflixs-keepers-nuns-unsolved-murder-sexual-abuse-coverup-and-crumbling

IFB Memories #12: Church and politics

There’s always been a tension within Christianity regarding what kind of a relationship the church should have with politics and the state. The early Reformers unfortunately adopted the Roman Catholic viewpoint that the state was the divinely ordained agent of the church. That concept still lingers in varying degrees throughout the West but especially in the United States. European countries still have official state-supported denominations although few people attend services.

In American evangelicalism today, at one end of the spectrum are Christians who argue the church and state should work hand in glove; elect Christian-friendly politicians, ensure the appointment of Christian-friendly judges, and legislate laws that reflect Judeo-Christian beliefs and values. At the other end of the spectrum are Christians who argue the job of the church is to evangelize and disciple and not to become entangled in worldly concerns. We are ambassadors of our Father in Heaven on a mission to evangelize, not to be deeply-rooted, nationalistic patriots.

My wife and I accepted Christ back in the early-1980s and we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church that patterned itself after Jerry Falwell (pictured) and his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Falwell and his Moral Majority were so focused on championing conservative causes that the Gospel was relegated to the back seat. Co-belligerency alongside religious unbelievers (e.g., conservative Catholics) eventually contributed to an “ecumenism of the trenches” as Chuck Colson once approvingly noted.

Our pastor regularly mixed the Gospel with politics from the pulpit. America was presented as a Christian nation that was in a covenant with God in the very same way as was ancient Israel. Old Testament passages meant only for Israel were regularly misapplied to the United States. Our church was heavily involved with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a political advocacy group supported by IFB and conservative evangelical churches in the state (see last article below). During election years, candidates from both parties were invited to our church to discuss their political positions but only Republicans bothered to show up. That church’s heavy involvement in politics and the constant harangues about the culture wars from the pulpit led to our decision to leave, among other reasons.

I don’t know exactly where the line is regarding the church’s involvement with politics and the state but I’m quite happy politics are never mentioned from the pulpit of our current church.

I’m currently reading “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America” by Frances FitzGerald, which was published in April. It’s a history of evangelicalism in America from an unbeliever’s perspective. It’s not always complimentary but the facts are fascinating, especially regarding the struggle to determine the church’s relationship with the state. Review to follow.

Below are a few articles that touch upon this church-state dichotomy:

With God on Their Side: How Evangelicals Entered American Politics

Don’t compromise the gospel in social cooperation
http://news.sbts.edu/2017/04/13/dont-compromise-gospel-social-cooperation-says-mohler-tgc-workshop/

Evangelicals gather in Albany
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/273279/evangelicals-gather-in-albany/

Dead bones religion

I just love me a good sermon from the Word of God from a Spirit-filled preacher. If you know the Lord and you’ve been to a Jesus-preaching, Gospel-focused, evangelical church with a pastor who has surrendered his heart to God, you know what I’m talking about. A Spirit-filled, godly evangelical preacher can expound on a single Bible verse for an hour and believers’ hearts will dance with joy at His Word.

Sadly, millions of people attend churches – Catholic and most mainline Protestant – where the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is never preached. Congregants will hear snippets of the Bible and some platitudes about the God of love and being a good neighbor, but there are no convicting words from Scripture about their sinful condition and no invitation to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone.

Have you ever attended a Catholic mass? As part of the formalities, the priest gives a short talk called a “homily” (from the Greek homilia – to have communion or hold intercourse with a person). The Vatican advises its clergy to limit their homilies to around eight minutes so as to leave enough time for all of the many rituals of the 45-minute mass.

A homily’s listenability varies widely depending on the priest. Many of these men are socially withdrawn and were initially attracted to the priesthood because of the isolation it offered. Public speaking is generally not their forte. Beyond that, none of these priests preach the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Rather, they propagate a joyless religious system of sacramental grace and merit that leads no one to Heaven.

I was browsing the internet the other day and came across podcasts of the homilies from Peace of Christ Catholic parish. Peace of Christ incorporates three former parishes on the eastside of Rochester, N.Y., including the one I attended as a child and teen. Below is a link to the 9-minute homily given by current pastor, “father” Robert Schrader, on Sunday, April 30, 2017. I invite you to take a listen, even for only a couple of minutes if you’re pressed for time. Argh, this brings back memories of so many Christ-less Sunday mornings! Schrader is obviously reading his prepared homily from a sheet of paper. It’s excruciatingly dry and boring. There’s no joy, no passion, and most importantly, no Gospel of salvation by grace through faith! As a believer, I recoil from this message that’s spiritually DOA.

Take a listen to Schrader’s homily below. You’ll be amazed.

Robert Schrader, homily for 4/30/17

It’s a chore for Catholics to have to sit through these tedious, monotone homilies as well as the accompanying dead liturgical rituals of the mass. Many Catholics legitimately ask themselves, “Why bother?,” when their pope teaches that even atheists can merit Heaven if they follow their consciences and are “good.” Catholic sources report only 20% of Catholics attend obligatory weekly mass while a whopping 56% say they attend mass only “a few times a year,” “rarely,” or “never.”

Praise God, there’s an alternative to “dead bones” religion. His name is Jesus Christ. God the Son came into this world and lived a perfect life so that He could offer it up as a sacrifice for your sins and mine. But Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God as a free gift to all those who accept Him by faith alone. No one can merit Heaven by trying to follow the Ten Commandments or their conscience. No one. Go to Jesus in prayer and accept Him as your Savior by faith alone and then ask the Lord to help you find an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

Don’t you dare try to correct me! I’m a priest!!!

FC

Although I left Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior several decades ago, I like to listen to Catholic talk radio daily just to keep abreast of what’s going on within the RCC. The show I listen to regularly is “Calling All Catholics” on The Station of the Cross, WLOF (Our Lady of Fatima) 101.7 FM out of nearby Buffalo, New York. Catholic priest, Rick Poblocki, pastor of St. Josaphat’s in Cheektowaga, N.Y. (a Buffalo suburb), is featured on Tuesdays and Thursdays and he’s by far my favorite call-taker because he’s just so entertaining in a rough, gruff, unpolished, “youse guys” kind of way.

Rick is a hard-nosed, no-nonsense priest who sounds like he would have very much enjoyed the veneration given to the “alter Christus” clergy back in the pre-Vatican II, church-militant era, when the pious faithful used to kiss the hands of their parish priests, who claimed to change bread wafers and wine with their hands into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Back in those days, no Catholic would have even dreamt of standing up to their priest, which of course led to all kinds of abuses. On questions regarding evangelicals, Rick usually starts off in a very conciliatory tone but as things progress and he begins to get lathered up, he can be counted on to refer to evangelical ministers as “Reverend Billy Bob” and to evangelical Christians as “Bible thumpers” or “Bible bangers.” Yes, it’s all very entertaining when the polite facade comes down.

Today I was listening to the podcast of the 12/03/2013 show and a listener had the audacity to send in an email correcting the priest. In an earlier portion of the show, Rick had referred to the deceased mother Teresa (d. 1997) as being in Heaven. But the Catholic church wouldn’t actually canonize mother Teresa until September 4, 2016, almost three years after this show was broadcast. Let’s pick up on Rick’s reaction to the insolent listener:

Mike Denz, show moderator: We’re gonna go to one of those emails we got from Jim in Rochester (N.Y.). “Father Rick mentioned that mother Teresa is in Heaven. How does he know that?” And then he puts a Latin phrase in there that I believe…

Rick Poblocki, priest: Oremus Pro Invicem.

MD: “Let’s pray for each other,” is that right, or “Pray for one another”?

RP: Who knows.

MD: [Laughs]

RP: Anyway, here’s the thing. Well, Jim, I’d say this, nobody really knows until the church canonizes her but there’s a sure bet that she probably is. Probably because she never asked such a snotty question of a priest or tried to make him look stupid. And if you want to say something in Latin, why don’t you try the “Miserere,” Psalm 51, and see how that one works? Next question. Let’s do something real here.


It became very popular among some compromising evangelical pastors to hold up Billy Graham and mother Teresa as exemplary Christians to their congregations. Unfortunately, Billy Graham drifted into ecumenism early in his career and then into universalism. Mother Teresa upheld the Catholic church’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit and also championed universalism. Despite what Rick and the Catholic church claim, nobody really knows if mother Teresa is in Heaven. If she accepted Christ as her Savior by faith alone before she died then she is in Heaven. But if she held onto the Catholic church’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit then she died in her sins and went to hell.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:13-14

Father Jones and Mrs. Jones?

Thorn
Cardinal Ralph (Richard Chamberlain) and his “friend,” Meggie (Rachel Ward), in 1983’s television mini-series,”The Thorn Birds.”

Pope Francis continues to shake things up in the Catholic church to the chagrin of traditionalists. This week he announced that he’s going to look into the possibility of allowing priests to marry (see stories below).

There appears to have been some prejudice against married clergy for centuries before 1075 when pope Gregory VII officially barred married priests from ministry. It was argued that celibate priests practiced a higher form of spirituality and were able to concentrate on their priestly duties more effectively. Probably even more troubling to the hierarchy were concerns about married priests and church finances. A few decades previous, Pope Benedict VIII issued a ruling prohibiting the children of priests from inheriting property.

But a celibate clergy soon created all kinds of problems for the church. It was once reported that Rome had the highest number of prostitutes per capita among major European cities. Many popes, cardinals, and bishops kept secret (and not so secret) mistresses. Illegitimate sons of the church’s princes were often awarded high offices within the church bureaucracy. Human nature being what it is, “celibate” priests preyed upon married and unmarried women within their parishes. The church’s rule of clerical celibacy also attracted sexual deviates and social misfits. The scandal of clerical pedophilia and the subsequent cover-up by the hierarchy has rocked the church to its foundations over the last twenty years.

But Francis is being pragmatic. The Catholic church has experienced a significant decline in priests in the last fifty years. There were 60,000 priests in the U.S. in 1965 but that number has shrunk to 37,000 in 2015 and many of those men are elderly. Parishes are closing or consolidating because of the shortage of priests (and declining attendance). Now that priests are no longer venerated in Catholic society anywhere near the degree they were fifty years ago, there is little that attracts warm-blooded, young Catholic men to a celibate lifestyle. Conservative Catholics will fight this change just as they are fighting Francis’ “Amoris” encyclical allowing communion to remarrieds. This switch to married clergy will take some time but by floating this balloon we can see that Francis is greasing the skids.

From an evangelical point of view, it’s very clear from God’s Word that a mediating priesthood and sacrifice for sin were done away with by the ministry of Jesus Christ. The Bible also warns against religious leaders who forbid marriage. Roman Catholics claim their church is “Semper eadem,” never changing, but even a casual student of history knows the Catholic church has changed its teachings and disciplines rather frequently.

Thank you, Lord, for freeing me from man-made doctrines and precepts. Thank you for opening my eyes to the glorious “Good News” of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Jesus Christ, the Perfect Priest
https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/1611/jesus-christ-the-perfect-priest


Pope Francis: ‘We have to think about’ married priests in Catholic Church
https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-we-have-to-think-about-married-priests-in-catholic-church

Pope Francis open to allowing married priests in Catholic Church
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/03/10/pope-open-allowing-married-priests/98998496/

Sex orgies, prostitution, porn: Allegations shake Catholic Church in Italy
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/03/09/sex-orgies-prostitution-porn-claims-shake-catholic-church-italy/98962674/

Speaking of demons and exorcists…

This past Wednesday, I commented on FOX channel’s new series, “The Exorcist.” See here. Justex by coincidence, the Catholic church reported last week that its chief exorcist, father Gabriel Amorth (pictured), had died at the age of 91 (see article below). Amorth was ordained as a priest in 1954 and became an official exorcist in 1986. By 2013, he claimed that he had performed 160,000 exorcisms (that number does not represent individuals; some people required multiple exorcisms).

As I stated in my previous post, I’ve never come across a person who was completely overtaken by demonic possession like the poor fellow in Mark 5:1-20 but the Bible also says demonic possession may be of a more subtler variety. See here.

But it seems to me that reports of full-blown demon possession come mainly from Roman Catholic areas and I have my theories about that. Could it be that demonic possession seems to be prevalent among Catholics because:

  1. Catholics are predisposed to the occult. Catholicism is notorious for syncretizing (mixing) pagan beliefs and practices with (c)hristianity.  Roman Catholic sacramentals, widely used by the faithful – candles, medals, holy water, scapulars, statues, crucifixes, rosaries, novenas, prayers to the dead – promote superstition and predispose the practitioners to occultic influences. From Catholicism, it’s not a long stretch to horoscopes, seances, palm reading, etc. My deceased mother-in-law was heavily into psychic practices prior to leaving Catholicism and accepting Christ. Throughout Central America and the Caribbean, as another example, Catholicism is tightly intertwined with voodoo paganism. So in these heavily Catholic areas where quasi-occultic practices flourish, perhaps people are more susceptible to full-blown demonic possession?
  2. Priests are exalted as deliverers. In these full-blown exorcism narratives, Catholic families are dependent upon their priest (proclaimed to be an “alter Christus” – another Christ) to rid the demon/s from their possessed loved ones. Consequently, priests are held in high esteem as saviors and redeemers. But priests do not bring the Good News of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone to anyone. They are in bondage themselves to a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Satan delights in false gospels of merit and may step in occasionally to assist the spiritually blinded clerics in blinding and leading their followers.

Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith and are born again by the blood of the Lamb and are sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit cannot not be possessed by a demon. See here. But demons can certainly tempt and influence believers. Just look at the current state of the evangelical church (TBN, prosperity gospel, doctrine-lite seeker mega-churches)! We must be constantly on guard and fighting the good fight of faith through the power of the Lord and His Word.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9


Rome’s exorcist, Father Gabriel Amorth, dies at age 91
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/romes-exorcist-father-gabriel-amorth-dies-at-age-91-29963/

Why does the scandal of pedophile priests continue within the Catholic church?

How long ago did reports of the abuse of children by pedophile Catholic priests andPR the subsequent cover-up by the church hierarchy first begin creeping into the news headlines? Thirty years ago? The scandal became full blown in 2002 with the Boston Globe’s detailed reports on the abuse and cover-up in the archdiocese of Boston. After thousands of victims have come forward and after several dioceses and religious orders have declared bankruptcy subsequent to paying out legal settlements, one would have thought that the Roman Catholic church would have enacted comprehensive measures to safeguard its children. As the stories below reveal, that has not been the case. Why not?

Within Catholicism, the all-important clergy – popes, cardinals, bishops, and even parish priests – were always entirely sacrosanct. Consideration for anyone victimized by the clergy was always secondary, if they were acknowledged at all. The reputation of the “holy” church was paramount. It was always thought better to avoid any hint of damaging scandal by transferring sexual predators and deviants rather than defrocking them. The civil authorities, in the rare number of cases they were involved in, could be counted on to cooperate with the church for the “greater good.” This ongoing scandal is only one of several marks of the spiritual corruption of Rome.


Abuse scandals multiply in pope’s backyard of Latin America

Abuse scandals multiply in pope’s backyard of Latin America

Detroit priest removed for abusing girl now works with pregnant teens
http://www.redding.com/news/378803451.xhtml