“DENIAL is a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too painful to accept and rejects it instead….The subject may deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether, admit the fact but deny its seriousness (minimization), or admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility.”Mr. X, a long-time attorney for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, recently posted some online comments that, I believe, illustrate denial on the subject of clergy sex abuse. (His comments were originally posted on the Spiritual Samurai blog, and I reposted them here.)
Why should anyone care what Mr. X says? Because Mr. X has been advising the BGCT about clergy sex abuse for over a decade. He’s one of their main go-to-guys.
So imagine this….if these are the sorts of things he writes publicly, what does he say when he talks about clergy abuse behind closed doors?
Consider just one example: Mr. X pointed out that Christa Brown sued “the church and an individual within the church whose only involvement was to receive limited information from Ms. Brown about the minister’s conduct.”
Did you get that? “Limited information.”
Here’s what that so-called “limited information” actually was. In court-filed documents, the church expressly stated that its “music minister” had “knowledge about Gilmore’s sexual contact with Brown as a minor” (¶ 16) and that a “church leader” was able “to substantiate that sexual contact with Brown as a minor occurred.” The music minister also swore that Gilmore himself had told him “that some other member of the congregation may have seen him in a compromising position with Christa Brown.”
Knowledge about a minister’s “sexual contact with a minor” cannot rightly be characterized as “limited information.” That’s minimization. That’s DENIAL.
No wonder the BGCT seems to have such a moral disconnect on this issue. The BGCT is institutionally steeped in denial because its long-time adviser is steeped in denial.
Mr. X is also the person to whom the BGCT often refers churches when they are confronted with clergy abuse allegations. How can anyone imagine that church leaders will be assisted in getting past their own typical denial if the person sent to help is someone who discounts “knowledge about a minister’s sexual contact with a minor” as mere “limited information”? It looks like the blind leading the blind.
Isn’t it more than enough information when a minister knows about another minister’s “sexual contact with a minor”? Does Mr. X imagine that a kid should have to spell out specific details about the “sexual contact”?
Why isn’t Mr. X plainly and clearly stating that this sort of information should have been reported to the police, reported to the parents, and reported to the people in the pews of every church where the minister worked? Why? Because Mr. X STILL considers this to be nothing more than “limited information.” That’s DENIAL.
In that same single sentence, Mr. X manages to engage in denial in a couple other ways: (1) by saying that it was merely “an individual within the church” when it was actually another minister who knew about the abuse; and (2) by saying that he “only” received “limited information from Ms. Brown” when the minister squarely admitted that the perpetrator himself had spoken of it. These additional minimizations are just further illustration of the DENIAL.
When I look at the rest of Mr. X’s online comments, I count at least 16 instances of minimization and denial. Try it for yourself. Maybe we could combine Mr. X’s comments with those of SBC and BGCT officials and make a board game out of it: “Find the DENIAL!”
Of course, I doubt that it would really be much fun.