“It was important, Dumbledore said, to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated. . . .” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince link
Most every morning finds me at my computer scanning religious news from around the globe. I particularly look for news items that deal with the issues we write about: child sex abuse, domestic violence, and churches accused of abusing members. Sadly, nary a day goes by without some noteworthy report.
The Anglican Church in Australia released a damning report showing a decades long, widespread cover-up of child sex abuse within all dioceses.
Every Anglican Church diocese in the country bar one has received complaints of child sexual abuse in the past 35 years, a report has found.
…The Anglican Church says it is ashamed that between 1980 and 2015 there were 1,082 complaints of child sexual abuse, with 22 of the 23 dioceses reporting at least one complaint.
Did the victims receive apologies or just compensation?
It was also reported that only 25 per cent of complainants had received an apology from the church and the average compensation payment was $67,000.
The victims were primarily young and male.
The average age of victims was 11 years old, 75 per cent were men
The average time it took to report the abuse was 29 years!
This mirrors our experience with victims. Many do not feel comfortable in talking about what happened until they get older. That is precisely why we advocate for extending the statute of limitations for cases involving child sex abuse.
The Bishop of Newcastle resigned after 3 years of working on the commission dealing with this issue.
In Newcastle Anglican bishop Greg Thompson quits after working hard to deal with abuse issues. He was allegedly treated very poorly at the hands of those who wanted to whitewash the truth.
An emotional Bishop Thompson last year told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse his efforts to expose a decades-old culture of abuse and cover-ups had led to a concerted push to get rid of him.
The bishop is himself an abuse survivor and said he was resigning to put his health and family first.
"The impact of leading the diocese at various levels and addressing that culture has had a personal impact on my health, and I think has been something that got me thinking about how long I could have done it for," Bishop Thompson said.
The bishop said he had worked hard to end a culture of not listening.
"I think the serious matters of the past, the crimes against children, the culture of not wanting to know and the culture of covering up are being addressed," he said.
Bishop Thompson says the child sex abuse cover up is a religious protection racket. In other words, the church acts like the Mafia.
"What's particularly distinctive about the story of abuse in this diocese is the habituated protection of perpetrators and the undermining of survivors as they came forward. It was like a religious protection racket," Bishop Thompson told 7.30.
…In an exclusive interview with 7.30, Bishop Thompson spoke out about the intimidation and bullying he was subjected to when he started giving survivors a voice.
…"I think, what struck me wasn't about simply their personal attack, but a culture to which even the bishop is subject to such harassment told me that here was an environment where vulnerable … If they could do it to a bishop, they could do it to people who wanted to speak about crimes against children," he said.
Bishop Thomas also discussed his own abuse as a teen by two Anglican priests who were part of an Anglican priest pedophile ring.
He believed that he was the only victim. Sadly, he would learn that, in fact, he and many others were victims of a Anglican priest pedophile ring.
For three decades, a network of paedophile priests operated with impunity in the Newcastle Anglican diocese. They found their victims by infiltrating an orphanage, youth groups and boys camps.
He told his story of abuse to the commission. It was reported in Royal commission: Newcastle bishop told by priest sexual favours would further his career.
Bishop Thompson said Barker told him he would be "looked after" and made a priest in Newcastle if he had a relationship with him.
"Through his body language, Barker left me in no doubt that when he said I would have to have a relationship with him, that I would have to have a sexual relationship with him."
Influential members of the church attempted to prevent the Bishop from speaking out on his own abuse as well as attempting to prevent him from disciplining pastors who abused.
The royal commission has previously heard a group of parishioners at Newcastle's Christ Church Cathedral were actively working against Bishop Thompson, angered by his work to uncover abuse.
Bishop Thompson told the commission the group was already trying to influence him as early as his consecration as bishop, where he was told to reverse the decisions made by the previous bishop, Brian Farran.
Those decisions included disciplinary action against the former dean of the cathedral, Graeme Lawrence, who was defrocked along with priests Andrew Duncan and Bruce Hoare in 2012.
"There are those who feel that this has brought shame on the church. That it's brought shame on people they revered," Bishop Thompson said.
The bishop said the criticism intensified when he made his own abuse public.
"They had an intent to challenge my character publicly and bring shame on my story,"' he said.
Bishop Thompson described how some parishioners turned their backs on him in the cathedral.
"It sends a strong message that I'm not safe in that place and there are consequences if I do not follow what they want me to do," he said.
Bishop Thompson said apart from public shame, he and his staff have also had their cars vandalised and received an "avalanche" of aggressive emails.
The Anglican church now admits it has a problem but they seem to be floundering in the "how do we fix this" department.
The church has been more concerned with its reputation along with a refusal of the rank and file to believe that their priest could be a predator.
The general secretary of the church’s general synod, Anne Hywood, made a statement to the royal commission on Friday. She acknowledged the church had been more concerned with its own reputation than those who had been harmed, and had failed to act to protect children when it became aware of abuse.
They discovered that people in the churches protected their pedophile priest because they refused to believe the evidence.
“Conflicts of interest that arise around friendships, where alleged clergy have offended, have been afforded a lot of protection at various levels, either at a committee level or in the local parish. People refuse to accept that their loved priest has been an offender.”
My concerns with the response of the Anglican Church of Australia to this report.
1. Why didn't the church hierarchy protect Bishop Thompson in his efforts to expose this issue?
He was the perfect man for the job since he was abused by Anglican priests.They let him quietly ride off into the sunset after he got beat up by influential members of the diocese. This does not portend well for the implementation of rules to protect the children. It also shows the difficulties that those who report actual abuse experience.
2. It still is not safe for victims to come forward since the church hierarchy appears to have trouble accepting and believing the stories of the victims.
We have recently been made aware that there is a group of leaders in the United States who are quietly calling the victims in the Sovereign Grace Ministries disaster "liars." These leaders are spreading misinformation that the lawsuit, naming SGM in the cover up of child sex abuse, was thrown out of court because the victims had no evidence. As most astute people know, the lawsuit was thrown out due to the statute of limitations.These leaders are attempting to rewrite history. Somehow, I get the feeling that this is what might go on with the Anglican Church in Australia.
3. Do any of these folks really understand the *Gospel?* What do they mean when they say they want to protect reputation of the church?
The Bible is clear. All men and women are sinners. Sadly, becoming a Christian does not make us sinless. We are positionally holy but we are functionally still sinners. Therefore the reputation of the church should be one of sinners who are working out their salvation with fear and trembling. We need Jesus because we are sinners. So, it is time to give up on the *pure as the driven snow* fairy tale. When we screw up, we need to confess it, repent of our sins and make restitution. "They confess and they repent" should be the motto and the continuing reputation of the church.
4. Does the church understand that evil men and women use the church to pursue their dreadful activities?
Pedophiles and other molesters are smart. They know that people in the church want to love and respect their leaders. Therefore it is logical that corrupt people will take advantage of this tendency. What better place is their to ply their disgusting inclinations? Sad as this may sound, I guarantee that every church will have pedophiles and other abusers sitting in the congregation or serving as a church leader. They are hard to spot because they are clever and know how to gain the trust and love of church people.
It is not the fault of the church when pedophiles come to church. They will do so. It is the fault of the church for not putting in place mechanisms for the safety of the children. Warning: background checks only work if the person has been convicted. The average pedophile has molested over 100 times before being caught the first time. So, the church must up their game. No one should be alone with a child. Parents need to watch the youth leaders who get chummy with their teens.
The pedophile in my former church could have been caught much sooner but the church leaders thought he was just using *locker room* humor. Boys will be boys, right? He told the boys to pull down their pants and moon their friends outside. He had them walk around their cabin naked and he loved to walk around naked himself. He was loved and trusted because he was a seminary student as well. I guess people thought that made him extra holy. So, the church leaders laughed it all off. That move condemned a number of boys to horrific abuse in the year to come. He is now in prison for 13 years and the church has not apologized for their stupidity in the matter.
We will be featuring, soon I hope (Lise are you reading this?), the story of a young woman who grew up with the boys who were molested. She watched as this mess occurred and she watched as many of the wounded, as well as their friends, have walked away from a callous church.
Will the Australian Anglican Church do the right thing or will secrecy and cover up continue? I am praying for the former but am fearing the latter as more likely.