Churches, Pedophiles, & Forgiveness


suffer-the-little-children-to-come-unto-meAnyone who even claims to be a Christian must acknowledge the fact that the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth was all about children, caring for them, loving them, protecting them, and keeping them safe.  If we are truly followers of Christ, decent and ethical humans, then our churches should be safe places for children.  Yes, as Christians we are required to forgive, but we must be reasonable about forgiveness, when it comes to the ‘corporate’ kind.  You cannot forgive the evil deeds of someone, if they’ve not been done to you.  Sorry.  That is between the doer and the person who has been harmed.  We can have sympathy and compassion, for both parties, but, as protectors of the innocent, it is our duty to protect the children, not the pedophile.  In fact, most pedophiles are required to stay away from children. How can they even be allowed in a worship service when children are present.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to protect the innocent.

Boz Tchividjian has an excellent commentary about Alice Gray and the church who forgave her.  He pointed out the obvious, that most child sexual offenders are extremely self-serving.  It is about them, and how they are going to manipulate their way to get a better deal.

A comment was left about convicted pedophile, Alice Gray and the church who forgave her.

“...I do not see the woman here who bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes his feet with her hair and anoints him with precious ointment. I do not see deeds worthy of repentance. I see no effort to repair the damage. This woman may be sincere in her gratitude to God for what he has accomplished for her but it is very clear that she has only begun to face the magnitude of her sin. I am afraid the treacly sentimentality of this video will do nothing for the victim and do nothing for the cause of Christ. Christianity is not about feeling loved despite what we have done, it is about loving the God who loved us first. And this love is evidenced by actions not by words and certainly not be emoting in public. One wonders what this pastor is trying to accomplish. The message he sends is that in his church, they will try to make you feel good no matter what you have done….”

I feel the same way.  There is more too it than that, though.  Churches should be a safe place for children.  When I was the youth director for my parish, we designed what was literally a ‘safe room’ for kids.  They knew when they were in that room, only adults who had been licensed to work with children, who had passed back-ground checks, and had been trained to deal with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, were present.  They also knew that anything they discussed, unless their lives were in danger, would not leave that room.

When a church allows even a ‘repentant’ pedophile to go into their congregation, the signal is that a child is not safe in their congregation.  It doesn’t matter if the ‘pedophile’ is cured.  What matters is the safety of the child.  When a person has been convicted of a sexual offense, they are usually on a sexual offender registry and required to stay so many feet away from children.  Ministering to those in need is terribly important.  Church is for sinners, that much is true, but it is also, if you have children in the congregation, to be a safe place for them.

This said no one should take a child to a church where those who work with children have not passed background checks, and are not trained and licensed through the denomination, to work with children.  In the ECUSA this is very specific.  Every so many years, you must have at least 8 hours work on child and sex abuse.  I went farther, attending classes for local law enforcement, having about 24 class hours in dealing with and spotting abuse. One of my responsibilities was in making sure the kids of the church were safe.   I would never have tolerated someone like Alice Gray being allowed back into the church.

No, it is not because I no tolerance or compassion, but because there is a stark and nasty reality when it comes to dealing with pedophiles.  Evidence suggests that they cannot be cured.  They are basically narcissistic personalities and even psychopaths.  They will like, manipulate, and do what it takes to get their way, and come out looking good.  Forgiveness is laudable, but you can forgive and keep the pedophile away from children.

Any church that doesn’t do this, is to be avoided like the plague.