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The American Christian Right has a problem that I think has not been adequately addressed by most interested journalists, scholars and activists. The problem is that the conservative Catholic Bishops and the conservative leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have such a bad record when it comes to child sex abuse, that it should be counting against their moral and official standing far more than it has.

The ongoing scandal of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy and cover-ups by the hierarchy is not only well-known but is so horrific that the moral and the official standing of these leaders and those who run interference for them needs to be directly questioned.

Frank Cocozzelli is an exception who proves the rule in this area. He has been zeroing-in on the way that the American Catholic Right (notably prominent neoconservatives and members of Opus Dei) has consistently defended the hierarchy against all comers when it comes to the clergy sex abuse scandal.  Frank, among others, has called for the ouster of the convicted enabler of a priest convicted of producing child pornography, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph.  But much more could be said and done by so many more -- and not only by Catholics.  

I would like, for example, to highlight that the Catholic hierarchy not only routinely violates its contemporary claim of zero tolerance for clergy sex abuse, but has engaged in a double standard when it comes to disciplining prelates.  While Bishop  Finn remains in office, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit who advocated that the Ohio state legislature extend the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases, was removed from office.

That the same U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that has done such a poor job of addressing the sex abuse scandal is stacked with and led by culture-warring, family values proclaiming conservatives appointed by the last two popes is well-known.  Much less well-known is the struggle within the Southern Baptist Convention.  I was struck by a post by Christa Brown at the blog of the Associated Baptist Press which asked:  "When will SBC address clergy sex abuse?".  Brown, who also blogs at Stop Baptist Predators, discusses how the SBC has yet to develop policies to protect children in its care.

While other major faith groups have recognized the need for clergy accountability mechanisms, Southern Baptists persist in denominational do-nothingness.

Since 2006, clergy abuse survivors, and others, have been asking the Southern Baptist Convention to implement denominational safeguards against clergy child molesters. Southern Baptists have refused.

The requests are nothing radical. We asked for the sorts of safeguards that already exist in other major faith groups in this country. We asked that the denomination provide (1) a safe place where people may report abusive ministers, (2) a denominational panel for responsibly assessing abuse reports (particularly those that cannot be criminally prosecuted), and (3) an effective means, such as a database, of assuring that assessment information reaches people in the pews.

In 2008, TIME magazine ranked Southern Baptists’ rejection of a sex-offender database as one of the top 10 underreported stories of the year.

Now here we are in 2012, and Southern Baptists are still sitting on the sidelines.

Robert Parnham of the Baptist Center for Ethics sees the matter clearly:
Catholic and Baptist leaders have more similarities than differences on the child-abuse front. Both have harmed church members and the Christian witness by not swiftly addressing predatory clergy and designing reliable protective systems.
By way of contrast, let's also consider that the liberal mainline Protestant denominations -- the ones that respect the moral capacity of women to determine their reproductive life, and many of which not only welcome LGTB people, who are then treated with dignity and equality, but may serve in leadership roles -- do not turn a blind eye to the problems, but also seek to prevent and address child sex abuse by clergy and others.  

These include, among others, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church, USA, United Church of Christ (PDF), The Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church as well as the Unitarian Universalist Association.  What's more, the progressive Religious Institute has resources for religious organizations considering developing policies and programs in this area, and consults with those who are looking to improve their policies and performance.

What I have outlined here is far from a comprehensive treatment of the subject, but it is a fair sketch of the difference between the conservative churches that provide much of the base and leadership of the Christian Right and many other traditional religious denominations.  

My question is:  Can the SBC and the Catholic Bishops be taken seriously on anything else when they cannot get it together to actively protect children from sex predators -- especially their own clergy?

Originally posted to House of LIGHTS on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, Anglican Kossacks, Street Prophets , and Pro Choice.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Guess you can't blame child sex abuse (26+ / 0-)

    On the Catholic Church's celibacy requirement for its priest, if this problem exists in denominations where the clergy marry.  Here in Baltimore, we had a father-son duo, Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro and his son Yisrael Shapiro.  You can draw your own conclusions about the younger rabbi's childhood with a molesting father.  Unfortunately, the ultra-Orthodox community rallied around the accused and are still angry that this ever ventured out of their insular community.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:28:07 PM PDT

  •  Republished to Anglican Kossacks. (40+ / 0-)

    One of the things which I think has been instrumental for denominations that have addressed clergy abuse issues and have policies in place to deal with them has been the presence of women in leadership roles, up to and including--as in the case of the Episcopal Church--their Presiding Bishops or other titular heads. I find it interesting that the mainline Protestant denominations you mention all (to the best of my knowledge) allow female clergy and woman lay leaders. The Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist Churches have severe limitations as to the ways women may participate in the Church including barring them from ordination. The artificial atmosphere created by an all-male power structure coupled with the fact that most of the sexual predators in church cases are men, creates an atmosphere of denial and conspiracy poorly equipped to deal openly and honestly with allegations of abuse. By contrast, a church structure in which men and women share together the responsibilities of leadership in a hierarchy which includes checks, balances and oversights creates an atmosphere which fosters greater transparency and mutual respect. Such an atmosphere is not as conducive (not to say it's perfect) to abuse and the cover-up of abuse.

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:30:25 PM PDT

  •  If They're Old Enough to Breathe They're Old (8+ / 0-)

    enough to be guilty. Seems to be what passes for thinking among these authoritarians.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:30:27 PM PDT

  •  It's the same story with certain sects... (9+ / 0-)

    ... of Orthodox Jewry, including Chabad, Satmar, and even Modern Orthodox (Yeshivah University).

  •  I probably didn't say enough (12+ / 0-)

    about the media.  Time magazine, to its credit, said that the failure of the SBC to address clergy sex abuse was one of the most under-reported stories of 2008.  And here we are, six years later...

    Where is the reporting?

    •  This sure was news to me. (4+ / 0-)

      Impossible to stay on top of it all. Given my mental filters, it should have jumped out rather than been screened.

      Just searched Media Matters, nada.

      "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

      by Ginny in CO on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:47:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  FC, a compelling challenge to the media (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      But I ask in response What Media?

      The media needs to be continually taken to task and challenged on its sources, spin and patronage.  News and information is now primarily in the hands of pr & media consultants that seek:

      1)  to 'form' public opinion with their version of the information for their 'employers' - political, corporate, religious.  (Otherwise known as propaganda.)  and

      2) to  feed their carefully crafted product through an 'infotainment' filter whose sole purpose is to improve network/site ratings.  Whose sole purpose is to make $ for the stockholders, the truth or quality of the report be damned.

      We are very fortunate that there are some Internet sites (such as the ones in which you participate,) that are interested in getting the real story and the real context to that story.  To me this conversion of investigative journalism/news reporting to a massive propaganda/pr system is one of the most dangerous things that has happened in our world; a world that has become filled with danger.  

      If the public has no clue as to what is really going on and rather is fed mind-numbing propaganda in order to manipulate and placate them, then how can real improvement/change be made?

      The recent Papal Selection was and yet another example of a carefully crafted public relations operation where the media was carefully fed 'talkings points' ad nauseum (Francis is so humble, e.g....) reminding me of the Fox News and the Republican echo chamber.  Since Francis became pope, the 'media' or should I call it the 'propaganda arm' has been trying to paint a more acceptable face on the rcxch.  And a lot of people are fooled by their verbal sleight of hand.

      However, this pope is, imo, just a wolf in sheep's clothing, putting a more populist face (emphasized, no doubt, by the pr consultants whom they hired,) on a system that still pledges to be reactionary and authoritarian.  The new claim that he is going to work with collegiality, imo, is to fend off the claims by the International Court to hold the pope accountable with regards to several issues about the sexual abuse plague.   I now understand that a lot of rcxch's media campaign is to improve their image for the primary purpose of protecting/improving their prestige (!) and protecting their mind-numbingly vast wealth.  Color me utterly cynical when it comes to the manipulation of the rcxch.  Trying to put "Lipstick on a Pig" to quote a former vice presidential candidate.

      Your article makes the very important point that where there is media silence on this abuse issue, there is concern of some sort.  It is important to know what you told us about the SBC and their silence.  And Commonmass' very important observation about the lack of women in leadership in those organizations who abuse all things sexual (anti gay, vs. reproductive rights, and sexual abuse,) really points out the flaw in the patriarchal/authoritarian structures.

      The main concern is will people believe the media whitewash or not?  Without proper information, journalism, how are people to know?  How can people challlenge the propaganda and spin they are being continually fed?

      But as you say:

      My question is:  Can the SBC and the Catholic Bishops be taken seriously on anything else when they cannot get it together to actively protect children from sex predators -- especially their own clergy?
      Thank you for your well reported article; well worth the read.

      We Must DISARM THE NRA The next life you save may be ONE OF YOUR OWN!

      by SeaTurtle on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 06:54:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I knew Bishop Gumbleton (13+ / 0-)

    He was assigned to our parish as a deacon and then as a priest when he was first ordained.  He rose up very quickly and must be the last of the John XXIII kind of priest.  Sad that they would do this to him.  He went to Iran during the hostage crisis during the Carter administration.  He's don a lot of good things and it's a shame that he's not the norm instead of the exception to the bishops.

  •  nothing will ever be done (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    their argument is always either 'theyre not christian' or 'its not unique to the church - everybody is a sinner'

    •  That is not their argument (6+ / 0-)

      And besides, this is not about arguments.  This is about compelling powerful institutions to do the right things. It  has been done before and it will be done again.

    •  their argument becomes (3+ / 0-)

      it was a teeny little momentary lapse of judgment.  Meanwhile, all children are born sinners and must have the sin beaten out of them with plumbing equipment so the marks don't show, and act as burnt offerings up to God, while predators in leadership roles just had a little mental slip up and must be immediately forgiven and let's just drop the whole thing, shall we?

      The Independent Fundamental Baptist church has a notable perv, Jack Schaap who used Jesus as his excuse to kidnap a vulnerable teenager and have his staff take her across state lines.  Mental slip up, yeah right.   And his flock rushed to his side, saying what a good man he is and blaming the girl.  He's a good man, he wasn't BORN bad, right??? But wait, all children are born sinners.

      There's a disgusting video of Schaap fondling an arrow in front of his flock and a revolting rant of him saying he would never listen to anything a woman had to say ever, and you can hear the hallelujah chorus as the people shout their approval.  There's your "good" man.

      •  A sick story indeed (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cama2008, SeaTurtle, Cassandra Waites

        and no doubt there are a lot more such stories out there.   But not to put too fine a point on it, this was not an SBC church.  

        Baptists of all sorts have a proud tradition of independent local congregations, which the SBC has used as an excuse not to come up with the reasonable policies mentioned in the diary.  But it could create national policies on this, just as it has on many other things without interfering with local church governance.  The SBC could lead by example, and probably influence many other smaller Baptist groups and independent congregations.

        •  No, I know it isn't SBC (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I was just presenting this particular argument, this particular method of avoiding accountability and anything resembling standards and ethics.

          •  fair enough (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SeaTurtle, Cassandra Waites

            But I also noticed that you recced the comment at the top of this mini thread that asserted that "nothing will ever be done."  

            We must point out the horror stories, but lets also point out what can be done and who should do it.  The SBC is getting a free pass by our society, for example, while insisting on restricting marriage to heterosexuals, often in the name of the children, the SBC through its inaction is setting up those very same children for potential abuse at the hands of their own clergy.  Its not that the SBC has no problem in this area and its not like this has not been an issue to the point of making Time magazine a few years ago, and blogged at the Associated Baptists Press a few days ago.

            •  OK (0+ / 0-)

              but I wasn't just pointing out a horror story. I'm trying to help by presenting information about how these people get defended by their flocks.  

              The congregants seem to like things just as they are, they don't see  a problem, or if they do, they're too scared to speak up, they can get viciously attacked if they do, and they know it because they've participated in that viciousness themselves, against others.  Child abuse is not only tolerated, it's mandated.  We are the ones with the problem because we don't see how great, holy and Godly they are, we just pay attention to the bad news, not all the great stuff they do.

              They are the real victims, being persecuted by the worldly people who don't know God's truth, the real truth and we are the real enemy, the worldly disbelievers, who don't practice religion in the correct, biblical, legalistic way, who are out to squash Jesus and everything they believe in, we raise our sons to be lazy drug addicts, our daughters are sluts and whores.  Yes, the straw men have been carefully constructed.  This is the battle they've been hoping for and they're ready for it.

              Not that I agree with any of this, I'm just, you know, this is their perspective.

  •  The problem is not in any way (8+ / 0-)

    confined to the Catholics, SBC, Mormons, etc.  There is something about authoritarian hierarchies that produce this result.  And predators seek out these organizations, knowing they will be protected.

    What is the problem?  These groups place themselves, the leadership and the 'name' of the group, above their parishioners.  Certainly above the children.

    Some reading

    190 milliseconds....

    by Kingsmeg on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:25:46 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for mentioning (4+ / 0-)

    the other faith traditions which do not condone abuse and work to root it out, within and without.

    These include, among others, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church, USA, United Church of Christ (PDF), The Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church as well as the Unitarian Universalist Association.

    Unfortunately some who have been grievously hurt, not only by sexual abuse, but by those who would deny them their sexual orientation, have come to equate any church with harm.  

    Their decision not to explore more open churches, is of course theirs to make.  But to inaccurately lump them in with R Catholics, Southern Baptists, Mormons, and numerous fundamentalist sects, is incorrect and wrong.  

    Please add the "Church of Christ" to your laundry list of male dominated, authoritarian denominations.  Do not confuse it with the "United Church of Christ" or Congregationalists.  

  •  Insurance (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59, Cassandra Waites

    I serve on the leadership of an Episcopal Church and we follow all our church's requirements about prevention of abuse for two reasons, 1) we would not ever want anyone who comes to us to be victimized, and 2) if someone still managed to abuse someone at our church, we would have some legal protection because we had followed all our procedures.  Given the large amounts of money the Roman Catholic Church has had to pay out, I can't understand why any church doesn't take this more seriously.

    •  It's harder to get damages from a Baptist church (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassandra Waites

      Not because they're any less liable, but because there isn't a single parent organization.  It's decentralized.  The Catholic Church in the United States is more or less a single entity (technically, I think you're suing the archdiocese) and has enough assets to pay large damage awards.

      A "traditional" Baptist church has relatively few assets to recover.  (This has nothing to do with its ideology.  Baptist congregations are freestanding entities that can do what they want; there are more than a few very liberal Baptist churches in New England.)  And megachurches, being for-profit businesses that are taking advantage of a tax loophole and that often have rather shady financial arrangements, can easily hide their assets, and do so.

  •  It's basically ideological (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites

    Conservative ideology tends to de-link a lot of the pieces of this, even more so than the Catholic Church.

    Thus, to the leadership of a conservative Baptist congregation, the following are simultaneously true (even while being contradictory):

    1. Only unholy people molest children.

    2. Sure, the minister or whomever molests children, but it's not their fault because the (gays, liberals, athiests, Muslims, etc., etc.) create evil and it takes over their priests (who, facing a lifetime of registered sex offender status and some jail time, will gladly testify that Satan possessed them).  (In general, Baptists, and not just the crazy kind, put a high emphasis on redemption: you can get off the hook with God for almost anything if you repent sufficiently.)  

    3. It's actually (gays, liberals, atheists. Muslims, etc., etc.) who commit these acts and then falsely accuse all the honest Godfearing men of God.

    4. It's (gays, liberals, atheists. Muslims, etc., etc.) who make up the accusations to discredit God.

    For some part of the religious fundamentalist population, add:

    5. They tend to act on their impulses anyway, and their black and white moral view tends to prevent any of the self-restraint that any "sexually permissive" liberal would tend to exhibit.  No, liberals aren't perfect either, but our belief system tends not to rationalize in this matter.  We disowned Elliott Spitzer for overpaying for a prostitute and using money laundering techniques to cover it up, and we disowned Anthony Weiner for basically being the social media equivalent of a flasher in a raincoat.  Religious conservatives are generally about total denial of sexuality, so they don't tend to make good decisions about their own sexuality.

  •  Stupid Article (0+ / 0-)

    It's obvious that there are far more molestations that occur from older male homosexuals towards our teen youth. It's sad when they are in the ranks of Christian Churches, especially in areas of leadership.

    Obviously sex between a married man and married woman is the healthiest way to express one's sexuality, and anything that takes away from that can lead to molestation.

    And we Christian heterosexuals are not in total denial about our sexuality, we are just not hypocrites about it. We're not even sure why we keep seeing male homosexuals pretend to want to get married. Male homosexuality is infested with porn, 3-ways, Grindr meet-ups, hook-ups, bathroom meet-ups, you name it.

    Quite the opposite of a male and female, marrying, having kids, and focusing on the next generation.

    •  go away anti-gay troll (0+ / 0-)

      There is plenty of heterosexual sex abuse of children and abuses of trust and power relationships, by clergy and others, and not only against children.  But while we are on the subject, I guess you must have missed the nationally reported recent story about the sentencing of a married with children Indiana mega-church pastor who told a teenage girl that Jesus wanted them to have sex -- and he took her across state lines to do it.  And then there is the case covered up by Bishop Finn was that of a Fr. Ratigan who was caught, among other things, taking up-skirt pictures of a young girl.

      Your ignorance is one of the undoubtedly many sources of your bigotry.

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