Summary: Jesus warns against abusing His "little ones." The study of this saying becomes vital to the welfare of contemporary congregations.
“The disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Catholic bishops met in Dallas in the Spring of 2002. The purpose of their meeting was to discuss the spate of revelations revealing sexual predators lurking among the Catholic clergy. Despite their best efforts toward damage control, they were faced with a growing rebellion as ordinary worshippers learned of their spiritual perfidy throughout years of excusing the ordination of homosexuals and permitting them to prey on unsuspecting boys wishing to serve within their church. The bishops returned home and for months tried to sell their compromise to the people in the pews and to a host of other critics.
It was an embarrassing time for Catholics; but there remained a difficult question that was hardly asked by news media: Were there still other, perhaps even worse, child abusers out there, not yet called to account for the awful things they had done? The answer is, “Yes—by the thousands and tens of thousands.”
The point is not merely some rhetorical device to make an abstract and theoretical point. We are weighing abuse of children so severe that Jesus said those who do it should be thrown into the ocean with huge stones tied to them so that there’s no way for them to resurface and become repeat offenders. I am telling you that even after a massive cleanup in the Catholic Church, these evil abusers are out there in enormous numbers.
Not that what has happened in Roman Catholicism is not terrible in its own right. Catholic bishops were saying so themselves. “This is a harsh day,” confessed Cardinal Edward Egan to parishioners in New York after the bishops’ meeting a couple of days earlier in Dallas. “We are all outraged, scandalised. We need to pick up the pieces, and we will.”
Neither is it clear yet that either the Roman Catholic hierarchy, or especially the secular media who were so fixated with this scandal at that time, have been honest either with themselves or with the public they serve about the uniquely homosexual nature of the problem. Both the church and the media have tried hard to suggest this is just a general problem with adults abusing children—as if that sad picture might somehow mask the harsher reality that this is overwhelmingly an issue of adult homosexual men taking sexual advantage of young boys.
In “Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse,” a paper published by the Family Research Council, Dr. Timothy J. Dailey statistically and scientifically highlights the unmistakable correlation between the two. It is a link that simply must be acknowledged by both the churches and the media if any long-term correctives are to be put in place.
Tragically, it is all but impossible for such an acknowledgement to be made in today’s politically correct culture. And it’s precisely at the point of that refusal that we find the colossal assemblage of child abusers I mentioned earlier.
For if it is terrifying to tamper with a child in a manner that for the rest of his life leaves him struggling with his own sexual identity or with his ability to relate to other humans, how much worse is it to confuse a child about his own identity as a creature of God—and about how he can be properly related to that God? The first offence, as most reasonable folks in our society (but not all) seem now to agree, is so bad that at the very least, those found guilty of it should be removed from their jobs and from all further contact with children. Capital punishment, Jesus says, is a preferable alternative to the accountability that shall be demanded when that individual stands before the Living God!
Specifically, the behaviour that earns this incredibly strong response from Jesus in three of the four Gospels is simply causing “one of these little ones” to sin. But given the nature of the people to whom Jesus was talking, it’s not likely that the sin He was warning them against was something as blatant and unsavoury as tempting some little boys to engage in activities most people know to be sinful. The really insidious danger was that the Pharisees would teach people to be blind to their own sin—and indeed by failing to see sin as sin, to walk the rest of their lives in sinful paths.