In January the Vatican issued new rules dealing with priests who abuse children. After years of trying to leave the problem in the lap of the local dioceses, the pope has now ordered church officials worldwide to immediately report such cases to the Vatican.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed in the last 20 years by parents of abused children, and by adults, who claim they were molested as youngsters. Many victims claimed that their accusations were met with stonewalling by church officials who often simply moved the offending priest to another parish where he continued victimizing others.
If the priest was removed from ministry, he was often sent on retreat for therapy and soon restored to ministry, sometimes again working with children.
Finally, church officials could no longer deny the problem. One of the first cases that garnered extensive media exposure occurred in Louisiana in 1985. Priest Gilbert Gauthe pleaded guilt to sex charges involving 11 boys. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison but won early release. In 1996 he pleaded no contest to a new charge of fondling a 3-year-old boy. This time he was only sentenced to probation.
In the latest high profile case, former priest John Geoghan goes to trial this month in Massachusetts. More than 130 people have accused him of fondling or rape during the three decades he served in Boston area churches.
Eighty-four civil lawsuits have been filed against him. Archdiocese records show that he was simply moved from one parish to another even though Church leaders had evidence that he was abusing children.
Two of Rome's unbiblical teachings appear to contribute to this problem. One is the evil described in 1 Timothy 4:3, forbidding their priests to marry. The other is the temptations brought on by the confessional.
Candid histories of Roman Catholicism describe a wide variety of sexual sins by "celibate" priests. Husbands of seduced wives have resorted to violent revenge. Numerous homosexual scandals are now overshadowed by high profile convictions of pedophiles.
Catholicism attempts total control of its priests, keeping them "married to the church." This bottles up the powerful sex drive from its normal (and biblical) expression in marriage. Often it finds an outlet in some form of sexual perversion.
In England and Wales, new procedures are being adopted for confessionals. Closed stalls are being replaced with glass enclosures or open boxes. This was recommended by an independent committee commissioned to recommend counter measures to child abuse by priests.
Former priest Charles Chiniquy detailed the unhealthy relationships that developed between priests and penitents in his book, The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional. Although divided by a thin partition, the intimacy of the discussion involves baring the soul.
To obtain full forgiveness by the priest, Catholic law requires the priest to probe for intimate details of the penitent's sin. Since many sins are sexual in nature, both parties are exposed to temptation. The priests are especially vulnerable because legitimate sex is denied them.
How can Roman Catholicism claim to be the church of Christ when they teach doctrines of men (or devils; See 1 Timothy 4:1). Like the Pharisees, they bind heavy, grievous burdens on men that they are unable to bear. (See Matt. 23.)
Priests and penitents both need to be told the Truth which will make them truly free.