Willful Children

What an exciting time it had been. The people of Jerusalem had seen many great and wondrous things. The Nazarene had made a king's entrance into their city, riding on a donkey colt traveling over a path spread with palm branches and robes. He had been upset with what He saw in the Temple courtyards and He tossed out the money changers and sellers of animals. (Matthew 21)

After He had cleansed the Temple of merchants, He healed the blind and lame who came to Him. The crowd shouted His praises and the Temple courts resounded with cries of “Hosanna to the Son of David.”

This was not at all pleasing to the priests and scribes. They confronted Jesus, demanding to know if He heard what the crowd was saying of Him. Jesus' reply must have crashed like thunder in their ears:

Yea, have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? -- Matthew 21:16

With that, He withdrew from the Temple and went to nearby Bethany to pass the night. In the morning, He returned to the Temple to teach. Once again, the priests and elders confronted Him, demanding His authority for what He was doing. Jesus responded by asking them about the baptism of John – a question they chose not to answer.

At his point, Jesus recounted the Parable of the Two Sons:

28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
-- Matthew 21:28-32

The lesson is about repentance – and about the intransigence of the religious establishment that constantly challenged the authority of Jesus to teach and to heal. This parable demonstrates the supremacy of repentant sinners in the Kingdom of Heaven. Both sons are willful, but the first son's change of heart – his repentance – sets him apart from his recalcitrant brother and makes it possible for him to obey his father. The second son pays lip service to his father's request but continues in his disobedience.

Jesus involved His audience in this moral issue. When He asked, “What think ye,” He was asking them to decide for themselves which son had done the right thing. The priests and elders answered correctly, and in so doing testified against themselves. The point of the parable is that walking the walk is more important than talking the talk. Jesus contrasts the intransigence of the priests and elders with the willingness of sinners to repent. That repentant tax collectors and harlots would enter the Kingdom before outwardly religious hypocrites was a recurring theme in Christ's ministry.

What about the haughty priests and elders of today's Roman Catholic Church -- which claims to be Judaism fulfilled? Are they different from those of Jesus' time? Or do are they so inflexibly locked into a bureaucratic hierarchy of rules, rites and recriminations that they cannot or will not recognize God's truth when confronted by it?

What is God's truth? A simple message: Believe and be saved. With the gift of faith comes rebirth, repentance and good works – obedience to God's will. This simple message is liberally salted throughout the Bible in passages such as:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. -- John 3:16-18

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. -- John 5:24

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. -- Ephesians 2:4-10

Like the second son of the parable, the Roman Catholic Church pays lip service to the Father and then continues to reject the clear teaching of Scripture. Her bishops and priests have, like the sages of rabbinical Judaism, created a religious labyrinth of such incredible complexity that the faithful must have recourse to a priesthood to guide them through it. Catholic laity are bound to strict conformance to a body of religious laws and practices that govern every aspect of their daily lives. Failure to conform to any of these rules, knowing that conformance is demanded, is to sin, if not against God then against the RCC – and any sin renders the sinner unacceptable to enter into Heaven or, as Rome calls it, “The Beatific Vision.” Only confession to a priest can bring absolution of the soul-killing effects of “serious” sin. Good works and prayer can wipe the slate clean of “daily” sins. Though both classes of sin may be forgiven, there may remain vestigial stains on the soul that can only be purged by a sojourn in the terrible flames of Purgatory. The duration of this penitential roasting may be lessened by various means prescribed by Mother Church.

Yet the same bishops and priests who pile such burdens on the backs of the Catholic faithful often live lives untrammeled by similar restrictions. O! They do of course claim to be bound by the same body of rules and regulations as the laity as well as even more rules applicable only to the priestly class. Yet when priests sin, the Catholic hierarchy as often as not turns a blind eye or administers token correction.

Nowhere is this proclivity to talk the talk but not walk the walk more apparent than in the Roman Catholic Church's irresponsible handling of priests given to sexual sin. Priests who violate their oaths of celibacy by practicing abhorrent acts with other priests or with children and young people generally are neither defrocked nor delivered to civil authorities for adjudication of their crimes. They may receive counseling at a retreat center, but soon are placed in another parish where they are once again free to prey on they flock they are charged to watch over.

Is this really a problem? According to a report by a Catholic priest in a position to know of what he speaks, homosexual activity is rampant in Catholic seminaries. Are aggressively homosexual seminarians eliminated from training for the priesthood? Quire the contrary, their predations continue to such a degree that “straight” students are driven out.

Not infrequently...the sexual contacts and romantic unions among gay seminarians create intense and complicated webs of intrigue and jealousy leading to considerable inner conflict,'' he writes.''... The straight seminarian, meanwhile, feels out of place and may interpret his inner destabilization as a sign that he does not have a vocation to the priesthood.' -- Michael Paulson, Rector's book on clergy, sex is bestseller - among priests, Boston Globe, June 3, 2000, © 2000 Globe Newspaper Company, p. A01)

What happens once these sexually active candidates are ordained and turned loose on trusting parishes? One watchdog agency reports some shocking statistics:

Current estimates of Roman Catholic priests in the U.S.= 49,000 to 50,000

Estimates of pedophile priests = 3,000 (6.1%) to 8,000 (16.3%)

188 Dioceses in the U.S. Divide 3,000 by 188 = 16 perpetrators per diocese
Divide 8,000 by 188 = 42 perpetrators per diocese

Some experts claim a pedophile could abuse 200-265 children in a lifetime.
200 x 16 perps/diocese = 3,200 victims/diocese
200 x 42 perps/diocese = 8,400 victims/diocese
3,200 victims/diocese x 188 dioceses = 601,600 victims in U.S.
8,400 victims/diocese x 188 dioceses = 1,579,200 victims in U.S.

Average American family consists of 4-6 people
(3,200 victims/diocese) 601,600 victims x 4 family members = 2,406,400 indirect victims
60l,000 victims x 6 family members = 3,609,600 indirect victims
(8,400 victims/diocese) 1,579,200 x 4 family members = 6,316,800 indirect victims
1,579,200 x 6 family members = 9,475,200 indirect victims

These numbers are a reflection of immediate family only and do not reflect the indirect victims within the parishes that are affected.

188 Bishops are responsible for the pain of at least 601,600 direct victims and as many as 9,475,200 indirect victims — a total of as many as 10,076,800 people. Clearly, something is wrong. --Tom Economus, Catholic Pedophile Priests: The Effect on U.S. Society, The Survivors of Clergy Abuse Linkup, Inc., © 2000

I do not doubt that some who read here will deny the reality of these estimates. I urge them to do the research to discover whether those figures are accurate. Talking the talk is easy but the Roman Catholic Church certainly does not walk the walk.

Are you seeking to conform to the instruction of hypocrites who do not follow the rules they burden you with? Look instead to Christ, Who said:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."\ -- Matthew 11:28-30

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