First, let me say that I am not claiming religious folks are the only sickos on the planet. There are plenty of perverts who are not practicing Christians and I’m sure we Atheists have some bad apples in our basket as well. OK? So don’t you true believers go accusing me of picking on you.
That said, I am truly horrified at the sheer number of abusers who are supposedly followers of Christ. One cannot turn on the news without seeing yet another religious figure trapped in a sexual scandal. What bothers me most about this is the painful breach of trust involved. People want to trust their religious leaders. They’re told from childhood that they can and should trust them. But should they?
I doubt any believer at this point remains unaffected by this. It’s gone on too long and hurt too many people. One cannot shrug it off as a few isolated incidents. At present the most visible problems exist within the Catholic Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But other Christian denominations have seen scandals as well.
There are several issues here worthy of discussion. I’m going to hit the ones that speak loudest to me, though I cannot claim to touch upon all of them.
Credibility is important for any religion because the lack thereof can lead to a crisis of faith for its followers. The Catholics and the Jehovah’s Witnesses went to extreme lengths to cover up allegations of sexual abuse within their congregations. This cannot help but create justifiable doubt among the faithful, if not in their beliefs, then certainly in the church hierarchy. Consider these bits from Wikipedia…
The Society’s child abuse policies have been published in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publications, although more specific guidelines are only made available to elders, or on request. Press releases issued by the Watch Tower Society’s Office of Public Information state that if a person accused of molestation repeatedly denies the charges of his victim, and there is no other witness to the incident, “the elders cannot take action within the congregation at that time”, but would report to authorities if required by local laws. In 2015, it was disclosed that the Australia Branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses had records of 1,006 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse, relating to more than 1,800 victims since 1950, none of which were reported to police by the church.
Some media and courts have reported that Jehovah’s Witnesses employ organizational policies, which the group says are “Bible-based”, that make the reporting of sexual abuse difficult for members. Some victims of sexual abuse have said they were ordered by local elders to maintain silence to avoid embarrassment to both the accused and the organization. Members are told they have every right to report crimes to secular authorities separately to reporting the “sin” to congregation elders. (Click for full article)
From 2001 to 2010 the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, considered sex abuse allegations involving about 3,000 priests dating back fifty years, reflecting worldwide patterns of long-term abuse as well as the Church hierarchy’s pattern of regularly covering up reports of abuse.[note 1] Diocesan officials and academics knowledgeable about the Roman Catholic Church say that sexual abuse by clergy is generally not discussed, and thus is difficult to measure. Members of the Church’s hierarchy have argued that media coverage was excessive and disproportionate, and that such abuse also takes place in other religions and institutions, a stance that dismayed critics who saw it as a device to avoid resolving the abuse problem within the Church.
In a 2001 apology, John Paul II called sexual abuse within the Church “a profound contradiction of the teaching and witness of Jesus Christ”. Benedict XVI apologised, met with victims, and spoke of his “shame” at the evil of abuse, calling for perpetrators to be brought to justice, and denouncing mishandling by church authorities. In 2018, Pope Francis began by accusing victims of fabricating allegations, but by April was apologizing for his “tragic error” and by August was expressing “shame and sorrow” for the tragic history, without, however, introducing concrete measures either to prosecute abusers or to help victims. (Click for full article)
Christianity has long been obsessed with sex. Unwed sex, gay sex, sex using contraception (Catholics) are all considered taboo. Christian leaders stress that sex is only “blessed” if it’s between one man and one woman who are married to each other. But then Father John rapes a twelve year-old altar boy and when he gets caught, it’s all swept under the rug and the good Father is transferred to another diocese. And of course this provides him with a fresh supply of youngsters to abuse.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but does the old saying, “Practice what you preach” apply here?
The Lives Destroyed…
Many adults are coming forward nowadays to speak out about what happened to them when they were children. Most are angry. Some are in anguish. All are in pain. They deserve closure. Will they get it? Is it even possible? Given the grotesquery of what happened to them, I doubt it.
The Bottom Line…
People are people. Regardless of how you slice the human pie, you’ll find both good and bad in any cross-section of humanity. Christianity is not exempt from this. Christians are just as likely to be murderers, perverts, con artists or telemarketers as any other group. Before Christians again launch a campaign to protect “traditional marriage” or rant about those evil homosexuals, perhaps they should first clean up their own back yard. Maybe then they’d actually have a smidgen of credibility.
Sources and Related Reading
- Pastor and Coach Charged with Voyeurism Over Indecent Videos of Children
- Protestant Churches Grapple With Growing Sexual Abuse Crisis
- Pennsylvania priest charged with indecent assault…
- Catholic priests arrested after allegedly engaging in sex act in car
- Priest arrested, accused of impregnating teenage altar girl
- Catholic Church sexual abuse cases
- Jehovah’s Witnesses’ handling of child sex abuse
- Jehovah’s Witnesses Hit With $66 Million Sexual Abuse Lawsuit…
- More Explosive Accusations of Sex Abuse in Catholic Church