The Pope, The Paedophile, and The Gospel

As the centre point of any venn diagram of reformed Christianity, youth ministry, and child protection procedures, I’d be negligent not to say something about the current scandal involving the Pope and the apparent cover-up of abuse. Last week the story broke that shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) took up responsibility for the Catholic church department that deals with disciplining abusive priests a letter was sent to that department asking whether they could un-priest a priest who had been convicted of molesting children in his rectory. Four years later and a letter is sent back, signed by Ratzinger stating that more time was needed to work out the best course of action and that the “good of the universal Church” must be taken into account, so maybe don’t defrock him just yet. (The Times” has the best article for more details.) Obviously this is not the best way to handle the situation. (And obviously, this isn’t the only church, individual or denomination, to have done evil like this.)

The reason it’s been dealt with like this seems to come down to wanting to protect the reputation of the church. The logics goes, if a priest was found to be engaged in this sort of… it’d destroy the church! And that isn’t the attitude of a church based on the gospel. That attitude says that we need to be strong and powerful and we need to defend the reputation of our church because of what the world will think of us. But the attitude of a church based on the gospel says we don’t need to be strong and powerful and protect our church’s reputation because we trust that Christ’s death made perfect and beautiful his church and won the victory over hell for his church. And if you forget that, or believe that you can defend your church better than Christ can, you start taking defensive measures like not barring a paedophile from leadership in a church because of the upset it might cause. And that’s not a great place to be. So, if you want to keep to your child protection policy and keep young people safe, then you have to hold on to the truth that God through Christ has won the battle for your church’s mission and identity and has cleansed it. It’s not your job to worry about protecting it’s reputation, it’s your job to obey God and trust Him that He will bless you. Through knowing that and through the Spirit’s power you have the strength to trust in Him when you’re told to obey the laws of the land, and care for the oppressed, and not hurt the weak.