Popes, Child Abuse, & Fantasy Land


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe would be naïve and dishonest were we to say this is a Roman Catholic problem and has nothing to do with us because we have married and female priests in our church. Sin and abusive behavior know no ecclesial or other boundaries.” Rt. Rev. William Persell, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, Good Friday Sermon, 2002.

According to a 2007 article, Protestant Church insurers handle at least 260 sex abuse cases each year, yet we rarely hear about these.  We only hear about abuse in the Catholic Church.  One of the reasons is that there is a major cover-up with other denominations.  Child abuse in evangelical denominations is a very serious problem, with little being done to stop it, in many cases.  Jewish child molesters are rarely mentioned in the news. Children who report ultra-Orthodox clergy are often shunned, as are their parents.  As far as the Amish, abuse is probably more widespread in their cult than any other denomination.  Then there are the Jehovah’s Witness stories.

Author Steven Tracy wrote:

“…“It is exceedingly difficult for us to accept the fact that abuse is rampant.  I have vivid memories of a pastor who was highly offended when I gave him a Christian book about sexual abuse. He dogmatically asserted that the book’s author (a noted evangelical authority on sexual abuse) didn’t know what he was talking about when he wrote that abuse is prevalent in the church. This pastor reasoned that he had been a shepherd in a large church for several years, and of the several thousand individuals in his congregation, he only knew of a couple individuals who had been sexually abused. Furthermore, he contended that the book’s discussion of sexual abuse put impure thoughts into people’s minds. It apparently hadn’t occurred to him that, given his mind-set, it was unlikely anyone would disclose sexual abuse to him. Ironically, my wife and I knew of several dozen individuals in his church who had been sexually abused.”…”

If you think that only the Catholic Church has child molesters in it, you are very, very wrong.  The person who molested me was the son, grandson, and great-grandson of big-time Baptist ministers.

Early Monday morning, The Pink Flamingo Tweeted that I was in tears hearing that Pope Benedict XVI was resigning.  I have been a fan of his for years, way before he became pope.  So, when someone Tweeted back about his responsibility for the child abuse scandals that have plagued the Church, I did not know how to respond.

I realized my answer to this person might sound a little strange, but I don’t hold the county school superintendent either guilty or accountable for what happened to me when I was a child. The person who molested me was hired by a local group of individuals who ran a country school in Fair Play.  The superintendent did not know that the principal was a child molester.  He was never told.  The man’s background was hidden.  No one even told him that the man had been hired straight out of the state mental institution where he had been placed after the United States Army covered up the fact that he was abusing the children in the nursery facilities he was running on base.   Am I going to go around hating the US Army for covering up the man’s background?  That would be foolish.  I don’t blame the local superintendent for what happened.  He later became a friend.  He did everything he could to help me and my family, immediately demanding the man be fired.  It was not his fault that local political authorities on the school board covered up the story to the point where there were no records of the man’s having been employed by the county.

I’ve been there.  I know what happens to a child.  Our lives were destroyed and shattered.  But – to blame Benedict XVI for something that was beyond his control, and in many ways, still is, is just plain, well, it defies logic.  He didn’t do it.  Neither did John Paul II.  Child molesters are like roaches.  They hide from the light, hiding their true nature.  That  – is the real problem.  There is no way to even spot a child molester.

..Benedict became the first pope to meet with victims of clergy sex abuse. In 2010, he issued an unprecedented apology to Ireland for chronic abuse, appealing to any remaining guilty clergy to “submit yourselves to the demands of justice.” In another dramatic move, he ordered a full-scale reform of the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative religious order that Pope John Paul II had championed whose founder for years sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least three children. However, Benedict didn’t discipline church leaders who kept guilty priests in ministry or hid claims from parents and police. “His method was to translate crimes into sins, and sins can be forgiven, sins of the cardinals and bishops,” said author Jason Berry, who has written extensively on the crisis, including the book “Render Unto Rome.”…”

Religious Tolerance
Religious Tolerance

What truly annoys me is the fact that the Catholic Church and the ECUSA have been out there in trying to deal with the subject of child abuse, far more than the other denominations, that are still hiding it.  It is status quo in the Baptist Church to simply ignore the situation, and hide it.  When the scandals in that denomination are finally revealed, it’s going to be truly disgusting and far more reprehensible than what is going on in the Catholic Church.  As far as Evangelical churches, they are still in denial.  The LDS Church appears to finally be trying to do something about rampant abuseGive them credit for that.

Religious Tolerance
Religious Tolerance

For some strange reason, everyone concentrates on the Catholic Church. Trust me, they are enlightened when it comes to dealing with abuse. Try dealing with evangelicals and the fundamentalist churches and see what you getTo think that only Catholic priests and workers abuse children is just plain stupid.  It happens everywhere.  The worst abuse, outside of homes and families comes, not via priests but in a school setting.  More teachers and educators abuse children than another non familial situation. Several years ago a long-time minister wrote a series about churches and child abuse.  He said something that is quite true.

“...Because Christian people are trusting and accept people at face value they are an easy mark for people who have evil intentions. In amongst the sheep are criminals, thieves, child abusers, and sexual deviants,to name a few. These people make an outward show of Christianity but inwardly they are ravenous wolves seeking sheep to devour. This is true not only in the local church but also in Christian camps, group homes, and Christian schools

Churches make it easy for deceivers to set up camp in their midst. The deceiver quickly embraces the church family, begins to regularly attend services, and even gives money to the church. They are soon embraced as brother or sister. Before too long they are given access to places of responsibility within the church. They now  have access to the treasures of the church. (monetary, physical, spiritual)

Countless churches, after just a short time, readily appoint newcomers to positions of authority within the church. The reason for this is simple. Most churches need a steady supply of new workers. Sadly many churches practice the four W’s: win them, wet them, work them, waste them.(it is not uncommon for Baptist churches to turn over their membership every 5 or so years) So it is not uncommon to find new church members quickly appointed as deacons, Sunday school teachers, Jr church workers, youth workers, nursery workers ,etc. Rarely is the past life of the new church member examined. (either through an interview or background check)

What I have written above also applies to pastors. Over the course of 25 years in the ministry I candidated at a number of churches. Not one church did a criminal background check. Several churches did check my references but the references they checked were the references I gave them. (who would ever give a reference of a disgruntled church member or board member) Every church I candidated at readily accepted the information on my resume. I found every church to be trusting, and while this is a trait that should be commended, it is a trait that often results in churches hiring men who are deceivers.

The focus of this post is bad people people who do bad things. Bad people are people who become members of a church for ulterior reasons. They are pastors who have a secret past, who go from church to church preying on unsuspecting churches….”

That is the whole problem, put quite succinctly.  Christians, church people, and decent people in general are far too trusting.  Good people don’t grasp that such evil things exist, even, often, when confronted by the festering evil.  Families can’t accept it when it occurs in their own families, often trusting the abuser and truly damaging the child who has been abused.

The article I’ve quoted, by Rachel Zoll, points something out that truly bothers me.  As a victim of abuse, I know the only way that you can recover is to forgive your abuser.

“…”His method was to translate crimes into sins, and sins can be forgiven, sins of the cardinals and bishops,” said author Jason Berry, who has written extensively on the crisis, including the book “Render Unto Rome.”…”

This is an irrational quote.  Of course the abuse was a sin. And, yes, the Lord forgives sinners.  I don’t know what more can be said, other than there are Ten Commandments.  When someone sins and breaks one of the commandments, if one confesses, those sins can be forgiven.  That’s the way of Christ.  In the Lord’s Prayer we are cautioned Forgive us OUR sins as WE forgive others.  As Christians, we cannot be forgiven until we forgive.

Trust me, forgiving one’s abuser is the most difficult think you will ever do.  It is also the easiest, once you do it.  I don’t care about that person.  He’s dead.  It’s over.  I care about me and about my mental health.  I could not begin to heal until I managed to forgive.  In forgiveness comes peace.  With peace comes the healing process.   I never thought I would ever even be able to let it go, but I have.  Once upon a time, I wondered if there would ever be a time when I did not constantly think about the abuse.  Then I wondered if I would ever be able to go an entire day without thinking about it.  With the peace of forgiveness and letting go comes the fact that I rarely think about it. When I do, it is to write about it, to write about helping others through the process.

I think what really bothers me are those who don’t want the sinner to be forgiven.  I can’t go that route and survive.  Forgiveness is the only way to go forward.  It is a cleansing process, that I seriously recommend, for any serious issue in a person’s life.  It’s worth a fortune in therapy bills.  Trust me, I’ve been there, and done that.  After fifty bucks a pop, three times a week, I discovered that it is a heck of a lot cheaper to forgive!

Evil people are all around us. To think that evil is simply a Catholic problem is extremely ignoring the problems of the real world.  To blame Pope Benedict XVI for what happened, and for what is currently happening is terribly wrong.  He is no more to blame for  a child being molested than any other decent person is.  What the average, decent person doesn’t understand about child molesters is how well they  hide their true nature and blend in to society.  Good people just don’t want to accept that they even exist.  I truly think that is why John Paul II had such a difficult time dealing with the issue. He was so good, he couldn’t even grasp what it was all about.

As someone who spent years working with young people in my Episcopal church, it was shocking to discover how many denominations still do not require back-ground checks and classes for anyone working with a child.  In our diocese anyone who works with children must have at least 8 hours of classes on abuse, and have that back-ground check.  If your license expires, you don’t work with kids.  I became so burned out that I finally let my license expire.  I have had something like 35 or so class hours in dealing with abuse, and working with kids.  I even took classes that were given for local law enforcement.  When I had my youth group, I was like a mother hen.  It was my job to protect those kids.  We went so far as to establish a safe room at the church, a place where kids could go for help.  We listed “safe” adults, those who would immediately call the cops if they needed help.

You need to be pro-active when working with kids.  The numbers today, for abuse, are startling.  Right now, 1 in 5 kids will be sexually abused, molested by the time they turn 18.  In any group of kids, if there are thirty kids in a youth group, the odds are at least 6 will have either been sexually abused or will be.  At least now, the Catholic Church, like many ECUSA  diocese  is being pro-active.  The worst part is if a person is a true pedophile, all the background checks in all the world will not catch him/her.