The World Needs Saving from Men of the Cloth

By Usha Nellore
The Examiner
December 5, 2008

Ted Haggard, disgraced pastor, is back as a Christian businessman. At the Open Bible Fellowship, in Morrison, Ill., a 350-member church, Haggard hawked insurance to the gullible. He told listeners his past peccadilloes should be attributed to sexual abuse suffered in second grade.

Supposedly three pastors were assigned to restore him. I bet they did not expect to see him emerge as an insurance agent. If you remember, he was once president of the 30 million-strong National Association of Evangelicals. He resigned in disgrace from this position after news of his sexual liaison with another man and his involvement with illicit drugs hit the media. No matter how rotten, he seems to have no expiration date.

Locally we have the mother of all scandals involving the Catholic Church. Father Fernando Cristancho of St. Ignatius Church in Forest Hill, it is said, convinced a platonic friend, Dalia Fernandez, to travel with him to his native Colombia and become a surrogate mother for children conceived by in vitro fertilization using his sperm and donor ova from another woman. Six years ago three children were born of this immaculate union, and Father Cristancho, in a "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" maneuver, kept his bundles of joy secret from the church for several years.

Surrogate mother Dalia Fernandez accused Father Cristancho of sexually molesting the two boys among her three children; Father Cristancho denied these allegations; the Department of Social Services intervened and removed the children from the care of the disgraced priest; Circuit Judge Emory Plitt Jr. of Harford County gave custody of the children to Dalia Fernandez; members of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, marched against the Archdiocese of Baltimore for its lack of transparency about this sordid affair; and the archdiocese defended itself by saying that Father Cristancho was long ago suspended for refusing to accept a transfer to another parish and the matter has been resolved appropriately.

These shenanigans in the Christian church are of interest to me because I come from India where, aside from the most recent terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists, Hindu extremists have been attacking Hindu converts to Christianity, forcibly returning them to Hinduism. While Hindu extremism against Christians cannot be condoned, its origins are complex. Hindus resent Christianity's constant search for members. Mass conversions to Christianity are not uncommon in the Third World.

Missionaries come bearing money, gifts and sweet talk about salvation to the poor and uneducated. Even moderate Hindus are not sympathetic to Christian proselytization, when Hinduism is disparaged by the proselytizers as a belief that won't lead to heaven, and Christianity is sold as the only spiritual path to the kingdom of God. How this kind of dogmatism fits in with freedom of religion and other lofty Western concepts baffles educated Hindus and drives some not-so-educated ones to intolerant behavior, quite antithetical to the average Hindu's laid back acceptance of all religions.

Victimized several times, by the Hindu caste system, by Hindu zealots, and by the illusion of Christian generosity with its promise of eternal life, the poor of India are no more than fodder for a numbers game. The parent Christian churches of the West do not monitor their missionaries, ministers and priests in the Third World as closely as they should. Poor Third World women and children, abused by Christian rascals claiming to be men of the cloth, do not have SNAP in their corner. If, in a developed nation like America, abuse victims are still looking for justice from the Catholic Church, what chance do the hapless Christian converts of this world have against the Catholic hierarchy or other ecumenical institutions hell bent on swelling the flock without accountability and transparency?

Western churches have lost their moral authority to spread the word of Jesus. They should put an end to proselytization and start cleaning house. With men like Ted Haggard and numerous pedophile priests infesting various churches across the West, Christianity should roll back its global aspirations.

Usha Nellore is a writer living in Bel Air. Reach her at


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