Beliefnet News

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

A constant stream of bad news has brought American’s trust in clergy members to its knees, and not because Americans are flocking to religion. Mismanagement of funds, sexual abuse, fraud, affairs and other scandals have brought Americans’ perception of the clergy’s trustworthiness to a record low. According to a recent Gallup survey, only 37 percent of Americans rated the honesty and ethical standards of clergy members as “high” or “very high.” The largest number of respondents said that they felt clergy’s honesty and ethics were “average.”

Gallup has never had a response that ranked clergy so low on the trustworthiness scale since 1977 when Gallup first began examining how trustworthy people found those in various professions. It is likely that the drop in trust is due in large part to the sexual abuse scandals and #ChurchToo movement that rocked the Christian religion in 2017 and 2018. As such, trust in clergy shows distinct differences along denominational lines. After dealing with an ever widening ring of sexual abuse and cover ups for some time, only 31 percent of Catholics rated the clergy positively. Protestants, on the other hand, had only been facing the revelation of their clergy’s numerous sexual misdeeds recently. As such, 48 percent of Protestants continued to rate the clergy’s honesty and ethics highly.

Another potential reason for the falling trust in clergy members is the habit some pastors and priests have adopted of preaching politics as much as Gospel from the pulpit. Multiple churches have split over issues such as gay marriage, and others have drawn fire for drawing hard lines on controversial issues. St. Susanna’s Parish Dedham, for example, drew fire for having a nativity scene that involved Jesus in a cage and a wall keeping out the wise men.

Adding politics to preaching is a bad move when Americans are wary of trusting anyone in a position of authority following a year of endless scandals that caught everyone from Hollywood stars and bishops to journalists and politicians in their nets. With people’s trust in clergy members shaken, many Americans feel that pastors have no right to lecture them about controversial social issues much less during times that are meant to be dedicated to prayer. Clergy members may be experts on God’s word, but that does not make them experts on public policy. Besides, by taking an uncompromising stance on controversial issues, churches are all but guaranteed to alienate roughly half of their congregation and local community unless the church is incredibly homogenous.

Whether the clergy will manage to win back some of the lost trust of Americans in 2019 is uncertain, but there is definitely a long road ahead. Keeping controversial politics away from the pulpit and avoiding more scandals, however, would be an excellent start. As they say, if you find yourself in a hole the first thing you have to do is stop digging.

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Everyone knows that one person in their church who praises God loudly on Sunday and then promptly forgets how to live a Christian life when they walk out the door. They talk about how people should be charitable and give to the poor, and then they throw out half of their meal when they eat out and refuse to lend a helping hand to those in need. They brag about how much they volunteer, but never contribute anything without making a scene. They are modern Pharisees, and half of the time they are the ones who sing the loudest “hallelujahs” on Sunday.

Hypocrites drive everyone crazy, regardless of what faith they practice, but there is something especially galling about encountering them in the house of God. In fact, hypocrisy apparently drives Pope Francis batty enough that he said it was better to be an atheist than to be a Christian who speaks the Word loudly with their mouth and then ignores it in their lifestyle.

“How often do we see the scandals of these people who go to church and are there every day, and then they lead a life in which they hate others or talk badly about other people?” Pope Francis said during his general audience in the Vatican on Wednesday, January 2, 2019. “Better not go to church: Live like an atheist.”

The sentiment that atheism is preferable to even half-hearted Christianity is surprising to hear from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination on the planet with an estimated 1.2 billion adherents. A closer examination of the Bible, however, shows that Pope Francis’ statement is not as out of left field as it may first appear. Story after story shows Christ forgiving gentiles and sinners but condemning the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and elders. Christ never advocated for the Pharisees to abandon Judaism, but He did make it clear that He felt they were not living up to the faith that they claimed to profess. What the hypocrites Pope Francis called out will do is unclear. Regardless of their response, however, Pope Francis once again endeared himself to the average Catholic by speaking out about an issue that the everyday person encounters all too often.

Christopher Halloran/

Christopher Halloran/

According to a recent report, there has been a dramatic rise in paganism and the number of Americans identifying as witches while Christian denominations have been losing members.

An estimated 1.5 million Americans now identify as witches, more than the total number of Presbyterians. As Christianity declines, paganism has come to the mainstream and witches more recently surfacing in the news for political reasons.

In October, Christianity Today reported that dozens of Christians were protesting a public hex of President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in New York.

Catland Books which organized the hexing, live streamed the event online and described it as “an act of resistance and resilience.”

Dakota Bracciale, co-owner of Catland Books, told BBC News that the goal of the hex, which included candles and photo representations of President Trump, Kavanaugh and GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was “aimed at exposing Brett Kavanaugh for what he truly is, to cause him harm and see him undone.”

Bracciale, is pleased with the Hex they placed on US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October. The event was well attended by witches, atheists and humanists/

Millennials, says Bracciale, are looking for spiritualism outside of traditional religion.

“The hex centres on the notion that we live in a universe of chaos, entropy, destruction, death, decay with final ending of oblivion – scientists are telling us. So the witch does everything for themselves – there is no other help in the universe of decay and chaos. If you don’t get in the driver’s seat things will just get worse,” he said.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Bracciale, talked in detail about political hexes and witchcraft.

According to Bracciale the main goal of the three hexes on President Trump from Catland Books this summer, along with the Kavanaugh Hex was to “let them be exposed for who they are – especially as impotent men.”

The hex began with the recitation of the Bible verse Psalm 109:8: “let his days be few, let another take his office.”

Bracciale says that Catland Books has experienced a pretty severe amount of backlash in the form of hate mail and death threats due to the ritual, this isn’t stopping their movement.

Bracciale also feels that previous hexes placed on President Trump have been successful.

“We feel the rituals were a success as they sought to expose Trump for what he is, and that has happened on many levels; from the Russia probe to the expose on his finances to Stormy Daniels.”

Marco Verch |

Marco Verch |

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro stated that a surge of outside inquiries has come since the investigation into the clergy sex scandal in Pennsylvania began. Since August, when the investigation began, Shapiro said that the Pennsylvania hotline that was set up for dealing with the issue has received nearly 1,500 calls. Many of those calls had provided information that had not been previously uncovered during the two-year inquiry by state investigators.

“We are learning a lot of new information that we and other law enforcement agencies are investigating,” Shapiro said. “Law enforcement, in many ways, is just getting started. I think we’re probably in the third or fourth inning, meaning that we still have a good ways to go and a lot more horrors to unearth.”

Pennsylvania authorities have been working with their counterparts across the nation to craft search warrant applications and grand jury subpoenas while working to hunt down the predators that have infested the clergy across America. So far, the attorney generals from 14 different states have publicly acknowledged that they have launched clergy abuse inquiries of their own, and the United States Justice Department is in the midst of a broader review of its own.

Attempts at bringing the perpetrators to justice have been stymied, in part, by the fact that the statue of limitations has expired for a large number of cases. Indeed, of the 300 predators so far identified in the Pennsylvania investigation, only two of them were still able to be charged for their crimes. The actions of the others had been deliberately buried for too long. Unfortunately, those who hid the actions of the guilty are unlikely to face jail time either.

“None of those who enabled the cover-up could be charged under our laws,” said Shapiro.

The information that has come in over the hotline could end up changing things, but so far, the information is still under investigation.

“There is a lot that is of interest to us; there is a lot that is of interest to law enforcement in other jurisdictions,” Shapiro said. “It is too soon to say what could be actionable or not.”

One can only hope that the information given over the hotline enables Shapiro to bring those responsible for such horrid crimes to justice once and for all.