05 February, 2011

Why do religious leaders fall to temptations? Who is responsible?

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'.


  1. Interesting commentary and it carries a lot of truth. It serves as a warning to everyone how easily those in high positions fall. It also proves that the position one holds is no guarantee of not falling into these things. It can happen to anyone.

    Biblical christianity teaches that if we rely on our own strength, that is, the human flesh, we are not going to be able to resist the wiles of the devil, but that we must rely on Jesus Christ and His Word.

    "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." Proverbs ch9 vs10

    Romanism teaches the struggle is fought through the administration of the sacraments plus following what they are taught by the church. This is especially so with the Eucharist which is worshipped by RCs. But many Bible believers do not believe God is in the host. If God is not in it, then it must be a false god or idolatry. The danger in worshipping a false god is that we are without an anchor for our souls. There are many false gods that men worship. It is easy to think of examples of them.

    The true God is the God who inspired men to write the Bible, created the universe and sent his Son Jesus to die for the sins of His people, and was then raised from the dead. From then He went into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God interceding for His people. He is also spiritually present with His people always. He has said "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

    David wrote in the Psalms:

    "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word." Psalm 119 vs9

    "They word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." Psalms 119 vs11

    David spoke much in Psalm 119 about how he trusted and believed in God's Word.

    Today the temptations are everywhere and especially with the internet. Even in just the last 20 years the world has changed exponenially and is a much different place. Today Bible believers need the full armour of God spoken about in Ephesians chap.6.

    The first parts of the armour which we need to take:

    "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians ch6 vs17

  2. People do make mistakes but you would think these leaders would play a scenario in their mind like what would they do if their secret came to light or they got caught. Is it all worth it?

    They are willing to gamble it all away, all that hard work, all that schooling & their reputation & even bringing shame upon their families & others for those moments or many moments for all that forbidden fruit either with a male or a female.

    Maybe some religious leaders fall into temptation because they simply just want too. A built up of frustration that needs a special tension release. Part of that bliss & high is probably the thrill of not even getting caught. It is exciting, they feel so alive, but they still ignore the fact that what they are doing is living a very big lie.

    When a leader is exposed & all he did is now in the opened. Then it's not so exciting, the secret is out, & now the mystique is gone, everybody seems to know about him & furthermore, this leader is the butt of all those awful jokes.

    Everything has changed when the reality of the scandal sets in. These powerful charismatic leaders had a false sense of security that they were above that morality law, rules & other stuff (stealing from church funds).

    I remember reading about a well loved priest in the U.S. he was known as Father Oprah (not his real name). Somebody took pictures of him with his girlfriend on the beach. That was a shock to many who knew this popular priest. He was such a good example what a good Roman Catholic priest should be. His actions hurt many folks.

    He eventually left the Roman Catholic Church for another Christian church.

    He was in love with this woman & this female was deeply in love with him, a Catholic priest. They were married & they had a child. Somehow this ex-Catholic priest weathered the scandal storm.

    It takes two to tango if you get my drift. If the devil is a part of these scandals...why not blame the devil, the devil doesn't care.

    No matter who it is that falls into temptation they must be ready to live with the fall-out by taking full responsibility for their actions.



    I remember a parish priest that left the priesthood & married an ex-nun. I thought it was romantic until my mom put an end to that fantasy of mine. What can I say, I was reading a lot of those Harlequin Romances books way back then. I do admit when I heard about this Father Oprah & his girlfriend those romantic thoughts came back to me but not for long.

  3. Tim writes: “…(Satan) does not absolve clergy of their offences, nor does it lift from their shoulders the personal culpability they carry for their crimes.”

    Reply: And yet you go on to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Satan when you write: “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!”

    Which is it? Are the clergy to blame or is it “Satan”? You seem to want to have it both ways. Overall, I find your comments utterly lacking in consistency and coherence.

    What I believe you and other theists are struggling with is good old fashioned cognitive dissonance. Once again, members of the clergy (who apparently are the recipients of “grace” and “power” via the Holy Spirit and Holy Orders) are behaving as badly as - or even worse than - those individuals who are not the recipients of such “grace” and “power”.

    The fact of the matter is that events are unfolding exactly as if there was no God (or Satan). You keep telling us that all existence, life and power allegedly flows from your God. It does not matter how many agents you place between God and evil – you cannot erase the fact that God (if he is omniscient and omnipotent) is ultimately responsible. Even free will does not explain it away, because in the end, God could have given us better human natures as well as free will. Presto – much less “human-caused evil” in the world.

    In my opinion, what we are witnessing with respect to “fallen” clergy is plain old human nature, which requires no appeal to supernatural powers in order to explain it.

    If your God really makes a difference in the world, then we should be able to see some evidence of His hand in how the world works. Of course, we see absolutely nothing of the sort. Let me know if you are interested in links to behavioural studies of bible believing Christians.

    I absolutely love how you theists have rigged the game: God gets all of the credit when something “good” happens, and poor old Satan (or humanity’s fallen nature) gets all the blame when something “bad” happens. I wish my performance reviews at work operated in the same way.


  4. Martin: You know the proper answer to your question. We cooperate with evil via a series of self-deceptions, innocent enough at first but soon accumulating to the point where we become culpable for materially cooperating with Satan.

    These leaders are responsible for their conduct and this spiritual reality I'm talking about does not mitigate their culpability. I can hold them and Satan responsible without any contradiction.

    That is all that I am arguing for: that evil exists as represented in an angelic person we call Satan and that he is a force to be reckoned with. To deny his existence is to permit him to with hands down.


  5. Frustated. I wrote a posting and then it took to another page that said something about cookies not being enable, etc. and I lost the whole piece.


    It sounds to me like you are trying to share the blame with the devil. In a sense that may be true, but on the other hand, I'm not sure it is correct to spread the blame around.

    Isn't it correct to say the devil tempts, but the sinner succumbed to temptation. I doubt the devil (Satan) forced anyone to sin. Isn't the power of Satan limited to tempting people? We sin when we are drawn away by our own lusts and sinful desires.

  6. Hi Tim,

    So are we at least agreed that the "grace" conferred by the sacraments provides absolutely no demonstrable benefits?


  7. STG: You wrote:

    "Isn't it correct to say the devil tempts, but the sinner succumbed to temptation. I doubt the devil (Satan) forced anyone to sin. Isn't the power of Satan limited to tempting people? We sin when we are drawn away by our own lusts and sinful desires."

    This is the same answer I gave to Martin. Did you miss it?

    Fr. Tim

  8. Martin: One has to come to the sacraments to receive the grace therein! The further that one perceives that they have walked far from God:

    a) they are most likely already absent from them, &
    b) the disposition to sin that develops into a compulsion results in the coarsing of one's heart, mind and soul to God's call to holiness.


    P.S. Watching the Super Bowl tonight? Favorite team?

  9. Tim,

    "I can hold them and Satan responsible without any contradiction."

    This does explain what part Satan played which could be interpreted to mean the man had no choice. Wouln't it be better to explain how Satan comes into the picture and what responsibility fallen man played? "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

    Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
    James ch1 vs14, 15

    "Martin: One has to come to the sacraments to receive the grace therein! The further that one perceives that they have walked far from God:"

    This is the central teaching which Romanists teach and believe in and which Bible-believing christians reject as a man-made system whereby men claiming to be priests (whose existence the New Testament does not authorize) dispense the grace of God.

    For example, Rome claims one must go through the "Sacrament of Reconciliation" to receive forgiveness for his sins. But the Bible says nothing about that although Rome does use a couple of verses misinterpred to try to justify their vast system of the auricular confessional and absolutions.

    Forgiveness of sins is granted by God to those who turn to Christ in repentance and faith.

    "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43

    "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

    And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."
    Acts ch13 vs38, 39

    When the apostle Peter went to visit Cornelius, as recorded in Acts, what happened:

    "And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.

    But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man."

    Notice here Peter did not hear Conelius's confession and give him absolution. He did not accept obesiance or worship from Cornelius. He did not hear a private confession and grant absolution and penance to Cornelius. Why not? Because Peter was not a priest going around hearing confessions and giving absolution and penance. There was no such thing.

    What was Peter's commission then? The answer is in verse 42 and 43. Preach to the people and point them to Jesus Christ. "whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sin." vs43

  10. STG: I understand your position. I was responding to a remark about the grace of the sacraments that Martin brought up. You don't believe in the sacraments (except I assume, baptism).

    I do.

    Fr. Tim

  11. Tim,

    I believe in the Lord's Supper but not in the RC way. Prot churches believe "do this in remembrance of me". We believe Christ is present with believers in a special way. (where two or three are gathered together, there I am). Christ is also present in and with believers at all times.

    Reformed and Presbyterian churches do believe there is some grace communicated through the sacraments or concurrent with them, but not in the same sense as RC's sacramental grace. We believe grace is God's unmerited favour given to the undeserving.

    We don't believe salvation or forgiveness of sins is administered through the sacraments. We believe salvation is by faith in Christ and forgiveness of sins is received by going directly to God through Christ and confessing to Him. (1 John 1:9)

    We also believe in Baptism. Reformed churches call them sacraments; Baptists and Evangelical churches call them ordinances. We believe they are an outward sign of an inward grace, not necessarily at the time of the sacrament. They do not convey salvation.


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