“Evil cannot and will not be vanquished by evil. Dark will only swallow dark and deepen. The good and the light are the keenest weapons.” ― Nora Roberts, Heaven and Earth link
The Gospel Coalition and Spotlight
We cannot see ourselves, especially when it comes to admitting to the darkness of sin not only in ourselves but in our religious institutions and our leaders. Take, for example, this recent Facebook posting of The Gospel™ Coalition. The moment I saw it, I thought "Hoo boy, are they ever going to get slapped upside the head."
TGC deleted comments like the RCC ignored complaints of child sex abuse.
TGC apparently thinks it is worthwhile to see this movie. However, I am absolutely shocked that TGC's Facebook rulers did not anticipate the comments that ensued. I bet a number of our readers could well imagine what subject those comments addressed. Almost all of them were deleted by the official gospel™ sanitizer. (Is gospelizer a word?) They're all gone except for one which happens to be from a reader of TWW.
A few other astute, yet quickly deleted, commenters called out TGC on their support of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Churches) and its leaders, especially CJ Mahaney. Those comments were removed within 30 minutes of posting. Those comments specifically called out TGC for their unwavering support of Mahaney and the SGM leaders in the cover up of numerous allegations of child sex abuse.
As I observed people tweeting about how their comments were being deleted, I was bewildered by the nearsightedness of TGC. They endorsed the movie which appeared to me a way for them point their fingers outwards to the Catholic church, not seeing their own involvement in protecting a system of their own making.
Systemic abuse in the Catholic church exposed by media
At first, the Spotlight team was focused on proving that the Archdiocese of Boston was protecting a few specific pedophiles, one of whom was Father Birmingham, the priest I knew well during my childhood. However, the new editor of the Boston Globe told them he wanted more. It was not enough to to nab a couple of priests since the system would still continue to protect others. He wanted the protective system to be unmasked.
This was a bold move on the editor's part. The Boston Globe was known for its close, collegial partnership with the Archdiocese of Boston. The Globe had exposed a couple of priest pedophiles but had done so discretely, burying the stories within the metropolitan section of the paper. The paper had apparently been given documentation by a few local individuals who had been molested, one of whom was the local SNAP representative. (Yay SNAP!!) However, the documented abuse was studiously ignored, even by the Spotlight team. (I plan to write about that on Wednesday.)
Some of the incidents were reported to the Archdiocese by victims and even some priests. These were apparently handled out of court, involving monetary payoffs to the victims and their families. Those victims had to sign a confidentiality agreement. According to the movie, these acts alone involved @20 priests!
So, the reporters began to dig and they found over 100 priests that had been involved in molestations in the Boston area alone! These priests were moved from parish to parish. Some were sent away for some form of counseling, reportedly ineffective, but were then allowed back into the system. Most of this was overseen by Cardinal Law. Read what happened to him as the scandal continued to grow.
Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston on December 13, 2002, allegedly in response to the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal after church documents were revealed which suggested he had covered up sexual abuse committed by some Catholic priests within his archdiocese.
Pope John Paul II appointed Law as Archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome in 2004; he resigned from this position upon reaching the age of 80 in November 2011.
Law was accused of protecting the pedophile priests.Then it appears that Law was protected by none other than the Pope himself, who granted Law a position (and some might say asylum) within the Vatican. As you may know, the Vatican is its own independent state and can refuse to extradite priests for trial.
Finally, the Globe broke its longstanding ties to the Archdiocese and published its reports. This encouraged victims who had been silent to speak out, eventually exposing over 200 priest.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley on Thursday released a long-awaited list of priests accused of child sex abuse in Boston in the last 60 years, but he opted not to include certain priests, including ones who died without being publicly charged.
In a letter, O’Malley said 248 of Boston’s priests and two deacons have been accused of child sex abuse since 1950. But he said he decided against releasing 91 of the names, including the deceased priests who weren’t publicly accused; those working in Boston under religious orders or other dioceses; and priests named in unsubstantiated accusations that never went public.
Systemic abuse in the Catholic church exposed by litigation
I want to thank SNAP for putting me in touch with Jeff Anderson when we started this blog. I spoke with him on the phone, and he gave me all sorts of advice that the Deebs have applied on this blog. He told me that if we ever had any legal issues, to give him a call. You can be sure I keep his cell phone number right next to my computer. Thank you Jeff Anderson!!
So, who is Jeff Anderson and why is he important? Here is an excellent summary by Wikipedia. Anderson is probably the most famous attorney when it comes to the lawsuits regarding the abuse of pedophile priests.
Jeff Anderson is widely recognized as a pioneer in sexual abuse litigation and a champion of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In nearly four decades as a litigator he has represented thousands of clients, has tried over two hundred and fifty jury trials to verdict and is credited with being instrumental in exposing the large scale cover-up of pedophile priests in the early 1980’s.
As one of the first trial lawyers in America to publicly and aggressively initiate lawsuits against sexual predators—and the institutions that conceal and protect them—his efforts have obtained justice for thousands of survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
In an effort to expose Catholic bishops, and the Pope himself, in what Anderson says is a global conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse of children by clergy, he has obtained and released thousands of church documents pointing to church officials moving priests from parish to parish while knowing of their history of sexually abusing children.
An indicator of the impact Anderson’s work has had in the effort to seek justice for children who have been sexually abused is the number of national and international media outlets that have featured his work. Anderson’s work has resulted in major stories on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, BBC, and Italian Public Television. In addition, he has been featured in articles and profiles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, People Magazine, the ABA Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Anderson's efforts extend beyond the courtroom where he is a frequent lecturer, survivor advocate and author who argues for legislative and judicial protection of children and the prevention of childhood sexual abuse.
In 2009, Anderson received the National Crime Victim Bar Association’s Frank Carrington Champion of Civil Justice Award for his efforts to pursue justice for victims of crime through civil litigation.
In 2011, Anderson’s firm joined with London-based Solicitor Ann Olivarius to create an office in the United Kingdom.
Pay attention to what Anderson claims. He claims there is a global conspiracy to cover up child sex abuse within the RCC. He has now opened an office in the UK. There will be more to come.
Systemic abuse in the Catholic church exposed by SNAP
Finally, exposure of this cover up came from an incredibly effective victims advocacy group known as Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests. It was to this group that I turned when I encountered a poorly handled pedophile situation in a former church. SNAP has put victims in touch with attorneys, provided supportive networks, and has area directors throughout the US. Our good friend, Amy Smith of Watchkeep, is the Texas representative.
Here is SNAP's mission statement from their website.
Our most powerful tool is the light of truth.
Through our actions, we bring healing, prevention and justice.
SNAP is an independent, confidential network of survivors of institutional sexual abuse and their supporters who work to:
Protect the vulnerable:
We expose predators and those who shield them.
Heal the wounded:
We share our stories and empower others to confront the truth. Together, we find healthy ways to recover.
Expose the truth:
We educate ourselves and our communities about the effects of abuse. We speak in a unified voice to bring about change by exposing the malignant actions of abusive religious ministers, suspected abusers, priests we suspect of being suspected abusers, and the church officials who shield them or are tangentially related to them in any way.
In order to achieve this mission, SNAP will:
- Build a continually expanding world-wide network of chapters united under the SNAP banner and website.
- Recruit and train a flourishing team of staff, volunteers, leaders and activists who will form an insurmountable force for recovery and change
- Expose predators across the globe and ensure that they are never placed in positions where they can abuse again
- Work for justice, both criminal and civil, in the cases of abuse and cover-up
- Reform archaic, predator-friendly laws that endanger children
- Hold church institutions answerable for enabling abuse and shielding predators
Summary: How did the pedophile priest scandal become exposed?
Sadly, I wish I could say that it was the leaders of the RCC that reacted to this problem. But, it wasn't. The exposure came because of:
- Media that was freed from its previous ties to the RCC.
- Attorneys that litigated on behalf of the victims which allowed priests to be deposed under oath.
- SNAP and other victims' advocacy groups who supported victims by believing them and getting them the help they needed.
How The Gospel Coalition and assorted friends along with other denominations mimic the hierarchy of the RCC when it comes to abuse.
Let me be clear about pedophiles and the church. Pedophiles target the church because they can hide out and safely conduct their nefarious activities in the shadows, which are created by those who trust their leaders implicitly. A few of the victims in the movie said that the priest was almost like speaking to God Himself.
In many evangelical churches, pastors surround themselves with yes men who are sometimes disguised as a *plurality of elders*. In many of these churches, the authority of the pastor and other leaders is sacrosanct. There is an underlying meme that these men are speaking for God and are to be held in the highest of honor by submissive, tithing and adoring church members.
The problem with such submission is that Christian pastors and leaders are as susceptible to sin as the average church member/attendee. There is also the real probability that pedophiles are masquerading as pastors and lay leaders in a number of churches. Discovering a pedophile in the church does not mean the church is at fault for him being there. But, once the discovery is made, the church and its leadership are now responsible for acting swiftly and decisively to protect others from being harmed while at the same time openly helping and believing the victims of such a tragedy.
Unfortunately, TGC, evangelical churches and related friends have functioned in the same manner as the RCC when first confronted by such a despicable sin.
- If the church/pastor is in their tribe, they hold their friends up at all costs.
- The victims are often accused of lying.
- Treatises are written about how wonderful their BFF church is.
- Church members are told to stay away from any independent media such as blogs in spite of blogs being a key resource in helping the abused.
- Church members are told that it is always wrong to sue a church.
- The hierarchy does its best to hype its guy by having him speak at all of the "it" conventions.
What, pray tell, is the difference between the response of the RCC and the response of the evangelical world? Nothing, from what I can see. In fact, Boz Tchividjian claims that the abuse in the evangelical world is even worse, read that again, even worse than in the RCC.
Important elements in exposing the truth in the evangelical arena
1. Blogs have been instrumental in bringing the reality of sex abuse in the church to the attention of the public. As the public applies pressure, churches are forced to deal with the truth.
2. Litigation is essential in bringing to light the facts of abuse. Even pastors are concerned about lying after laying their hands on the Bible and swearing to tell the whole truth. Grant Layman's admission of not reporting abuse to the police was instrumental in helping many folks to accept, albeit reluctantly, that SGM did not handle child sex abuse in an appropriate manner.
3. Survivors groups are essential in getting out the truth and giving courage and strength to those who have been abused.
4. A church-wide/denominational apology goes a long way in validating survivors of abuse. TWW wrote a story about abuse in the Mennonite community: John Howard Yoder: Using Theology to Defend Pacifism and the Sexual Abuse of Women. Yoder was considered one of this past century's greatest theologians on the subject of pacifism. Yet this pacifist used his fame in the peace movement to molest women.
After years of denial and cover up, the Mennonite Church apologized. RNS reported about it in Mennonites apologize for history of sex abuse following theologian John Howard Yoder scandal:
From seminars to a service of lament to a statement confessing its failure to offer healing for survivors, sexual abuse was a prominent topic at the Mennonite Church USA’s biennial convention, which concluded Sunday (July 5).
In that same article was a message that I believe that TGC, T4G, SBC and others need to heed
Earlier this year in England, a recent book generated a backlash because it favorably cited Yoder without mentioning his misconduct.
Krish Kandiah, president of the London School of Theology, told the British website Christian Today: “You at least have to engage with it, you can’t just ignore that part of his life. Imagine how it feels if you’re a victim of sexual abuse and your abuser is still being used as a source of Christian ethics.”
Karen V. Guth, a theologian at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., agrees that scholars need to be transparent about Yoder’s abuse, emphasizing “healing for the women he violated and the problem of sexual violence” rather than “salvaging Yoder’s theological legacy,” she said.
“Anyone who wants to move forward should incorporate feminist insights about sexism and abuses of power into their work,” added Guth. “We all need to be concerned about how to combat sexual violence.”
Airing our dirty laundry in public is a gospel response.
I tire of Christians saying that we shouldn't air our dirty laundry in public. Yet, those of us who know grace know that while we were yet sinners God still loved us and gave Himself for us. The mere fact that we hang a cross in our churches means we publicly accept our dirty laundry and that it is forgiven.
The public is well aware of our foibles. What they do not hear often enough is: "We screwed up badly. We repent before God and ask you all to forgive us." Instead, they hear "You are all just a bunch of screw-ups, and God is really ticked off at you all; but He really likes us because we are good."
The light shining on the hill is our ability to admit to our sins and confess our failures to a watching world. Yet we are forgiven, and we need to offer all of that to a watching world. We need to confess the full breadth of the grace of Jesus Christ who was crucified, resurrected, ascended and is coming again!
Our Lullaby to the Child who will one day carry us!