You may be surprised to learn that the Lord never intended His local churches (assemblies) to have two classes of people – the clergy and the laity. There is no outline in Scripture for a ruling class made up of priests, bishops, pastors, ministers, cardinals and so on.
Very simply, the Lord Jesus was and is to be the head of every local church (Revelation 2). And, every local church was to be completely autonomous. There was to be a plurality of elders (1Timothy 5:17), recognized by each assembly, to lead and protect the flock. They were to lead the flock to food (Scriptures) and protect it against false doctrines and heresies.
These elders were not to preside over the church in terms of prayer, teaching and worship or in any other elevated manner. These men did not have to graduate a seminary or be ordained by some human religious institution, they didn’t have to wear special clothes and they were never to be recognized as intermediaries between God and man. They had absolutely no power to forgive sins.
Prayer and worship were everyone’s responsibility and teaching was to be done by those men, who were gifted by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:11). It was an honor to be recognized as an elder and these men were to lead by example, in humility: “…for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.” (Luke 9:48)
There is no Biblical blueprint for a multi-divisional hierarchy of religious elite that was to rule over a vast network of local churches with each one reporting back to and funding headquarters. Despite the lack of any Scriptural mandate, the Catholic Church adopted just such a vast system sometime in the 3rd or 4th centuries. To a lesser degree, the protestant churches followed suit soon after the Reformation.
There were priests in the Jewish Levitical system (Old Testament). However, no such office is mentioned in the New Testament – except by Peter when he referred to all believers in Christ as a royal priesthood (1Peter 2:9).
Some will argue that “bishop”, “pastor”, “elder” are synonymous in translation. This is true to some extent, but never do these words imply that a person with such a title is in a ruling position to the extent we see today.
This does not mean that priests, pastors, etc. are bad people and that their work is of no value. It’s the tendency of people to seek leadership positions, some with good intentions and others with self-serving motives. The Lord will be the final judge of man’s motivations.
What is most perplexing are the titles by which these clerics must be addressed. Many are called “reverend”, some “Minister”, some “Pastor”, and others “Father.” The first-century church never used these titles, even when addressing the apostles. As far as we read, the apostles were unassuming men that suffered severe reproach because of their identification with Christ. They didn’t expect and neither would they allow anyone to greet them as being “revered.”
Somehow the words of Christ are lost on the clergy: “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets…”(Luke 20:46)
The titles previously mentioned were functions, not titles. Someone who ministered the Word of God was never given the title of “Minister.” Today, churches, especially evangelical churches, are referred to as “Pastor Smith’s” church or “Pastor Clark’s” church as if the particular church was their property.
We read this verse in Matthew 23:9, “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Despite this very clear and direct statement by the Lord Jesus, the whole of the Catholic Church is required to address priests as “Father.” The Apostles never called each other father nor asked anyone else to call them father, so why then has the Catholic Church adopted a policy which is in direct contradiction to the expressed will of the Son of God?
I’m sure the policy is buried in some ancient tradition of the Catholic Church, thereby, once again, elevating the traditions of men above the commandments of God.
Why is it necessary among several religious groups, who claim to be Christian, that the clergy dress in a fashion separate from the rest of us? Where is it proclaimed in the New Testament that any of the apostles wore a white collar or arrayed themselves in medieval costume when conducting the affairs of the local church? I realize that every part of the priest’s attire has some religious significance. Unfortunately, it only serves to further distinguish between two classes of people which were never ordained by God.
When one of these elevated clergy falls into gross sin of one kind or another, defenders of this system quickly remind us that he is only human and no one is perfect. Yet, we are all required to consider these men holy, consecrated and ordained as special agents of Christ. So, which is it?
Such hypocrisy has been tolerated for centuries and the position of these “special agents” is hardly challenged, even when the sin involves worldwide exploitation of the most innocent among us. Indeed, the upper echelon of the Catholic Church took great strides to cover up these atrocities.
And, to compound matters, these “offenders” were transferred to unsuspecting parishes knowing that these crimes against children would continue. Millions of dollars were paid in retribution to known victims, but only after the Catholic Church was ordered to do so by the secular courts. You might want to consider how your offerings are used the next time the collection basket comes in front of you.
How ironic, it was The Domain of Darkness that forced this “bastion of holiness” to address their own egregious behavior. Do you really believe that God is in any manner affiliated with such an organization? If you do, then exactly what will it take to wake you from your stupor?
Some may ask: What about other religions and denominations? Don’t they have scandals also? Yes, pastors, deacons, ministers and elders fall into sin. However, the overriding difference is that these men do not claim such a lofty position as Catholic priests. Priests claim to have the power and authority to forgive sins and issue penalties for sin (penance), and they claim to be able to turn ordinary wafers and wine into the “actual” body and blood of Jesus Christ, just to name a few of their alleged powers.
Clearly, to have such authority on earth one would think them to be above the grossest of all sins – pedophilia. In addition, the hierarchy of such a holy system would be expected, more than any other organization, to deal swiftly with such abuse instead of covering it up and perpetuating it for fear of scandal.
In the 5th Chapter of 1Cornthians, the apostle Paul criticized the Corinthian believers for not excommunicating an individual guilty of a gross immoral sin. However, his sin was still less foul than that of Catholic priests who engage in child molestation. Paul wasn’t worried about scandal. This account is recorded in God’s word for all the world to see.
In warning his disciples of false teachers that would come, the Lord Jesus had this to say: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
The apostle Peter gave us this warning: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” (2Peter 2:1)
I am not surprised that more than a few Catholic priests have been found guilty of such reprehensible sin. After all, they really are just ordinary men despite claims to the contrary. However, for an institution that claims to originate from the Lord Himself it is unforgivable that this internal cancer was covered up and allowed to continue with full consent of the hierarchy.
The fact that there was, and still is, no moral outrage from the Catholic “laity” speaks volumes about the degree of indoctrination of the Catholic people. The “laity’s” total disregard for child safety and blind allegiance to their priests and bishops is incomprehensible.
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