“Another one bite's the dust.” The rock super-group Queen probably never intended to provide a theme song for Christian leaders – but in the wake of the continuing sex abuse scandals among priests, ministers and religious leaders, the lyric seems to be an appropriate mantra for believers.
The latest leader to fall is Fr. Tom Eutreneuer, former executive director of HLI (Human Life International) and a Catholic priest of the Palm Beach Diocese in Florida. He has had to step down from his position and has had his religious faculties suspended after he admitted to inappropriate sexual activities with a woman who came to him for an exorcism. HLI is one of the largest pro-life Catholic organizations in North America and has been considered to be among the most fervent and outspoken voices promulgating the call to chastity and obedience to Roman Catholic sexual ethics.
This phenomena is not unique to the Catholic faith. Church leaders from Ted Haggart to Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart have been revealed to fall into the category of religious leaders who have not practised what they preach. Of course, there have been many other examples of priests and clergy of various stripes who have been convicted and removed for similar offences.
The question needs to be asked: Why does it seem that so many religious leaders are falling prey to these wicked and immoral acts?
The trite but correct answer is “the devil made them do it!”
To say this does not absolve clergy of their offences, nor does it lift from their shoulders the personal culpability they carry for their crimes. But it is clear, that with rare exceptions, they did not intend to fall into a state of sin and become an obstacle for others to believe in the 'good news' they preached when they first began their ministry. So it seems appropriate to look for whatever it is that turns men who start with noble intentions but find themselves in such an evil predicament.
C.S. Lewis in his book “The Screwtape Letters” offers insight into this phenomena. The book is a series of letters between two devils ('Screwtape' and 'Wormwood') in which the senior is teaching the junior devil how to win souls for Satan. The first step in the process according to Lewis is for the devil to convince his target that there is no such thing as evil, but rather everything is simply a matter of choice. By removing such concepts of sin and evil from ones mind, the devil will soon be able to confuse the believer such that soon he believes that he is justified in acting in ways that were previously considered 'wrong' or 'sinful'.
Yet the question needs to be asked: why are some many Christian leaders falling prey to this trap? The answer to that is easy to understand! The devil will target those who promote 'goodness' and 'grace' because they are his true enemy. He need not bother with those who have already decided to live as if sin does not exist. They are his already! For this reason, the forces of evil can focus more and more upon those who claim to follow Christ, especially as the numbers of nonbelievers continues to grow. Like any General engaged in combat, the forces of evil will endeavour to destroy the 'command and control' functions of their adversary, to facilitate their goal of confusing their enemies and thus gathering as many souls for Satan as they can. Religious leaders must be ever vigilant for this demonic siren call which leads them to corrupt the Christian message, for they are clearly targets of those forces who work against them.
Christians believe that the road that leads to salvation is difficult and narrow but the road to hell is wide and easy to take. It's a tribute to the realities and power of evil that the devil can effectively seduce so many. His capacity to plant self-deception in the hearts and minds of some religious leaders ensures that there are many who take a seat on the bus that runs the 'Highway to Hell' rather than walking the 'Stairway to Heaven'.