Posts Tagged ‘clerical child abuse’

“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v12)

August 13, 2011

I have recently returned from a trip to County Donegal, that beautiful most north-westerly county of Ireland. Thoughts of the scenery and the friendly people we encountered in the more remote regions still lingered in my thoughts as I heard some news upon our return home… that of a forthcoming report which is expected to reveal the abuse of hundreds of children in the diocese of Raphoe by at least twenty priests.

It has been reported that in many instances the hierarchy within the Roman Catholic system has protected those who have been responsible for this horrific abuse for many years, while some of those directly responsible for it have had the audacity to think that they are immune from prosecution because of the positions they occupy.

I mostly think of how it must have been for the children involved. How confused they must have felt when they were treated in this manner by someone who was looked up to by people they respected, as a ‘spiritual leader’ and how fearful and agonising the knowledge that they had no voice to articulate the horror of what they were being subjected to. In some cases it has been revealed that not even the parents of children in those days would listen to them or believe them.

Yes, many parents did believe their children – but when they tried to report the matter, it was not even recorded and when the Gardaí (Irish police) became involved, the church was quoted as having been “uncooperative, obstructive and misleading.”

Many years ago in Ireland (and perhaps still in some places today) it would have been deemed outrageous to accuse a priest of anything untoward. These days we only hear about the crimes which have been reported but perhaps there were many more victims in bygone years who remained silent on the subject of their traumatic abuse.

But some day “we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.” (Rom.14v10)

“For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14v12)

Most people in Ireland (whether they belong to the religious hierarchy or otherwise) abhor these crimes against children, but it is a fact that every soul needs to be “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” (1Peter 1v23)

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3v3)

This does not happen when we are baptised, confirmed – or when we join any religious organisation.

Rather, it is a spiritual awakening brought about by our repentance of all that previous life of sin and the giving of our hearts, our all, to the Living Saviour “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col.1v14)

These words speak of Jesus… “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” (Hebrews 7v26&27)

Surely… there is no other priest in whom we can put our trust, but “the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7v28)

My prayer is that the unsavoury news that they hear would urge souls throughout Ireland to question the very nature of this religious system in which they have put their trust and that a spiritual awakening and hunger for the truth would spread throughout the country.

Can those responsible for horrific abuse be forgiven? Yes… but only if they truly and humbly repent of (and turn away from) their sin, putting their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

And when they do so, they will no longer want to be part of an erroneous system of belief whose ordinances are contrary to scripture in so many ways.

Reaching out with Christian Literature in Balbriggan, North County Dublin

October 24, 2010

I remember seeing this small town for the first time back in the early 1980’s when it was little more than a village with a few extra housing estates under construction. I don’t know what the population was back then, but according to the census in 2006, it had reached 15,559. Today it is estimated that more than 20,000 people live there, many of whom are of African and East European origin. Last week, armed with Christian literature and a burden for souls, I apprehensively set out to reach one estate in particular. It was a cold, dark evening as I rang the first doorbell. No one was in! I found this to be the pattern at quite a few houses, although perhaps people were reluctant to come to the door after dark – especially when they had to climb down a couple of flights of stairs, as this particular estate had narrow three-storey town houses. On these occasions, I pushed a tract into the letterbox. After a time I came to a house which was completely decked out for Halloween – although Halloween at that point was nearly three weeks away! I felt suddenly an evil presence and also very despondent and alone in my endeavours. Here I was trailing around houses where the vast majority of people probably just didn’t want to know. Recent disclosures about the clerical abuse of children in Ireland have resulted in anger, cynicism, apathy – and a reverting to old Pagan ways. Many feel justifiably hurt and furious about the horrific abuse that took place over the decades, but sometimes they look at anyone whom they would view as ‘religious’ with this same cynicism. Despite this, the human soul has a need to worship and some are turning to systems of belief other than Roman Catholicism.

This is where other cults sometimes step in. A Bible study set up by a group in this town is mysteriously unforthcoming about who is running it; I have reason to suspect that these may be ‘Cooneyites.’ My conviction is that any system of belief which has its roots in ‘salvation by works’ as opposed to faith must be termed ‘a cult.’

I thank God for His gifts of freedom and faith – something that is missing from erroneous systems of belief. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8v36) I do not have to ask permission from anyone before I embark on telling others of the wonders of His love for mankind. He sent His Son to die that people in Balbriggan, in Dublin; in every country, city, town, village, hamlet and tiny homestead in the world might have life – and life that is more abundant. And so those of us who know Him as Saviour must keep our lights burning as we witness to others until the Lord calls or comes to take us Home.

Above is a photograph of Balbriggan lighthouse which reminds me of that hymn: “Let the Lower Lights be burning!” The story behind this hymn by Philip Bliss is that many lives were lost on a ship, all because the man who was supposed to light the lower lights along the shore, failed in his duties. In this allegory, the lighthouse is that Great Light of the gospel, through the Word – while Christians are ‘the lesser lights along the shore.’

Let us never fail to serve Him on the darkest, most depressing nights; in spite of the prevailing cold winds of apathy, cynicism and the threat of ‘spiritual wickedness in high places.’ May the Lord empower all who do so with a clean heart, a bright light, courage – and a love for the souls of this world for whom He died.    

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/l/llowerlb.htm

On Millstones, the Sea, Sin – and Amazing Grace!

June 5, 2010

“Millstones…” Isn’t it strange how our train of thought takes an unusual tangent, when we are disturbed by something we hear on the news? The particular item I refer to is that of a recent report on the clerical abuse of children throughout Ireland. This abuse spanned a period of many years we are told – who knows how long? Well actually, God knows. In fact there is nothing He doesn’t know, hence the term that we use to describe His nature – “omniscient.” Every word spoken in secret, every evil and clandestine behaviour on the part of man (or woman) – He knows it all, and some day everything shall be exposed!  (Matt. 12v36; 1Cor. 4v5; Rev. 20v12).

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 18v6. Having had an opportunity to view millstones in an old converted mill, I was impressed by how solid and massively heavy they were. There is no way that they could be lifted by ordinary human hands! Many would be of the opinion that these abusers deserved ‘a millstone necklace, and to be subsequently launched into the sea.’ As a mother, I felt justifiably furious by the idea that people in positions of ‘spiritual’ authority would use those positions to abuse children, given that we can never even begin to estimate the psychological damage sustained by the victims.

Then I thought of those millstones again – and the sea, and someone who had been a sailor. This person had taken advantage of his position to abuse African slaves on board ship, during the vile slave trade of the 18th century.

The seas were often treacherous on his long journeys back to his native England, but it was on one such journey that the Lord spoke to John Newton. On March 9th 1748 he happened to pick up and read a Christian book that he found in his cabin. Already disturbed by the contents of this book, the infamous slave trader became terrified the following day when the ship was caught up in a violent storm. Sadly, one man was swept overboard and the vessel severely damaged by the crashing waves. However the Lord used this terrifying situation to bring John Newton to his knees. He became acutely aware of his sin, to such an extent that he was convinced that he could not be forgiven. For weeks his ship drifted at sea, violently tossed to and fro by the angry waves; furthermore the crew were rapidly running out of rations. But during this time John Newton searched the scriptures, with a desire in his heart to get right with God. Then, miraculously, the winds abated and the ship found a safe haven in Irish waters, anchoring on the shores of the lovely Lough Swilly, County Donegal.

Here the locals helped the crew to repair the damaged ship and John Newton came to see that God’s grace and mercy is extended to the most ‘hopeless’ sinner – even him. Soon others noticed the changed life of this man who “once was blind – but now could see.” How marvellous that one who once blasphemed the Saviour’s name was inspired to write some of the most beautiful poetry and hymns in the English language. Perhaps the best known of these today is “Amazing Grace.” Written in 1772, it lived on to touch hearts over the centuries and continues to be sung even at secular events today. His numerous other hymns include: “How Sweet the name of Jesus Sounds” and “In evil long I took delight.”

Having been a drunken infidel, sunk in the mire of the deepest sins known to mankind, John Newton had put His trust in Jesus who still calls out to all who will hear His voice today: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16v26).

Whether a man wears the robes of a priest or bishop, or the rags of a debauched John Newton, is irrelevant to God, for He can see beyond the outward appearance, to the ‘inward man’ and his spiritual condition. In 1Samuel 16v7, we learn that… “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” What is more, He is willing to forgive the most awful sins of mankind, providing that they repent and put their trust in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary; He wants too, to heal the victims of abuse and crime.

Most of us have probably never sunk to the depths of depravity that John Newton sank to, but every one of us needs a Saviour, and not one of us will get to heaven without taking the humble route that John Newton took! Whether we wear a clerical robe, a salesman’s suit, a police uniform, or a judge’s wig – we must get right with God, if we have not already done so. We need to recognise the truth in those words in Romans 3v23… “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Then we must be willing to let God put matters right, by simply repenting of our sins and asking Him to take over our lives.

When we do this, it will be as if “our sins have been cast into the midst of the sea;” we read in many portions of scripture of the great mercy of God in this respect. While men may find it hard to forgive us, God does not remember our sins and hold them against us, when we are truly repentant, turning away from sin in His strength. “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7v19). He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Peter 3v9) Not willing that a millstone be hanged around anyone’s neck, but rather that their sins would be cast into the sea! If the Lord can bring about dramatic changes in the life of a man like John Newton, there is no limit to what He can do with your life, whatever it has consisted of in the past! Please trust Him now – for your destination for all eternity depends upon it, and in this life God can use you for His glory, just as He used His servant, John Newton.

© Elizabeth Burke 2008

Link for hymn: “Amazing Grace”: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/m/a/amazing_grace.htm