Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Baptist abuse survivors envy Catholics

Baptist clergy abuse survivors often tell me how much they envy Catholic survivors.

Their feelings aren’t based on any notion that Catholic victims endure any less trauma from the abuse itself. Rather, Baptist survivors’ feelings of envy are based on what they often see in the press about how Catholic abuse survivors get treated when they report their abuse.

Consider this recent article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The wife of a 42-year old man reported to the Fort Worth Catholic diocese that her husband was abused three decades ago by a now-deceased priest.

What did the diocese do?

  • The diocese forwarded the abuse report to a review board, which determined the report to be “a credible allegation.”

  • The diocese immediately offered counseling to the victim.

  • The diocese contacted the local newspaper in accordance with its “policy of openly airing allegations of sexual abuse.”

Thus, even when the perpetrator was dead, the diocese still made the “credible allegation” public so as to reach out to other possible victims.

The diocese’s public acknowledgement was also important because, even when a perpetrator is dead, it can still help toward the healing of the victim when he is able to unburden himself of such a horrible secret and receive help from the faith community in which the abuse happened.

But where would a Baptist abuse survivor go to unburden himself? Who in the faith community would do anything about it? Who would help him?

For this Catholic survivor, he only needed to make a single report to one office, and action on the report was immediately commenced.

Can you even imagine such a reaction for a Baptist abuse survivor? I can’t.

Typically, a Baptist survivor goes from office to office, trying to find someone who will do something. And no one will. Everyone turns away and essentially says “Not my problem.”

With Baptists, the buck stops nowhere. No one even takes responsibility for looking into clergy abuse allegations, much less for warning others or helping the victim.

Ultimately, the Baptist abuse survivor usually gives up. He gets no help from the faith community nor even any acknowledgement of the wrong that was done to him.

With such a do-nothing response, the Baptist faith community betrays the survivor all over again. Instead of helping the survivor who reports abuse, the faith community winds up deepening his wounds.

And while the Fort Worth Catholic Diocese has a “policy of openly airing allegations of sexual abuse,” the Baptist General Convention of Texas still keeps a confidential file of ministers who have been reported by churches for sexual abuse. (They don’t even bother with reports from mere victims.) There’s no such thing as any “open airing” and no one even bothers with an objective assessment of whether a victim’s allegations are credible.

Even when the clergy-perpetrators are still alive, and even when they are still in pulpits, and even when they are still ministering to children, the Baptist General Convention of Texas doesn’t even undertake to warn the congregations (much less to remove the men from ministry as other faith groups do).

And while the Baptist General Convention of Texas has long provided counseling for clergy-perpetrators, it has no policy or practice of providing readily available counseling for clergy abuse victims. Baptist clergy abuse survivors are left to struggle on their own.

Is it any wonder that Baptist abuse survivors feel envy when they read articles like this one in Fort Worth?

19 comments:

Phyllis Gregory said...

The peope who make up the BGCT and all other state conventions that act in this way are evil and corrupt. There is no other answer. Good, decent, persons called of God would not function in this manner. As much as we would like to think that these are people who just live in denial and choose to hide their collective heads in the sand -- WRONG!! They KNOW exactly what they are doing and who they are protecting. AND I am afraid it is this way convention wide -- not just in Texas.

I would love for just one person to disagree with me on this. I think we have tried way too long to be understanding and make excuses for the REASONS these people act the way they do. Not any more!

Just like snakes. They are what they are. They are full of venom and they will infect you with that venom given the opportunity. So goes it with SBC leaders.

PG

Christa Brown said...

Phyllis: You're absolutely right that it's not just in Texas. Though I frequently use the Baptist General Convention of Texas as an example, as best I can tell, things are no better in any other state.

The reasons I write so much about the Baptist General Convention of Texas are: (1) it is the largest of the statewide conventions and could potentially have a huge impact; (2) because I have heard from more Baptist abuse survivors in Texas than anywhere else; (3) because the Baptist General Convention of Texas has had significant opportunities to get better educated on this, and they just keep failing over and over; (4) because the BGCT brags so much about how good they are in dealing with clergy abuse (and I figure if someone's gonna brag, they ought to have something to brag about, which the BGCT doesn't); and (5) because the BGCT inflicted huge additional misery on me personally.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Christa,
I don't think you talk about the BGCT too much. It is the same reason I talk about Oklahoma and Memphis SBC churches and the same reason I talk about so-called Christian parents who sexually abuse their children. We talk about what we know.

I am just saying they are all the same -- evil, corrupt, and not what they pretend to be.

PG

John said...

Let's consider the SBC's non-logic.These churches fly the SBC flag which requires SBC permission, finace the SBC's power house with high salaries, support and promote SBC programs and ministries, sing the praises of the SBC's efforts to have an effective political lobby effort, support the use of "mission" money to attend conventions, vacations, and all-together unecessary meetings, and publically must agree to agree with their written creed. But when sin is found in the camp - "why of course it is bad but we are soooo independent that nobody can influence anybody else to do the right thing".
This so obviously flawed that one must be totally ignorant or totally without moral convictions to back such a Godless position.
Please do not get discouraged. If we continue with what each of us can do the TRUTH will win.

Anonymous said...

"The diocese’s public acknowledgement was also important because, even when a perpetrator is dead, it can still help toward the healing of the victim when he is able to unburden himself of such a horrible secret and receive help from the faith community in which the abuse happened."

They would just say that this is wrong and that dead men should never be accused of something they cannot defend. They would dismiss the review board by saying these things even if there were other credible accounts of the same person. There is a reason they respond like this to what victims have gone through: They have no love and compassion for those who have been abused. We see it not only in this venue but in the venue of women being abused by so called 'Christian' husbands. It is the same response. Does not matter if it is women OR children.

What is quite scary about this is that God will teach those that belong to Him to have love and compassion for others who have been abused. He ALWAYS disciplines His own. Those who truely belong to Him. We are taught this in scripture. So, if some are not disciplined to have compassion and love for others then they should be very afraid.

Lydia

Anonymous said...

You are right. In reading about how the Catholic Church are dealing with this issue in the last two years and making compensation, there is defintely no claim for any Protestants to consider them Babylon.

John Doe said...

I suspect that, although the Catholics are looking good now and "doing the right thing" in regards to clergy-abuse survivors, that it wasn't always that way.

I could almost bet that they (the Catholic church) also initially ignored all claims, swept them under the rug, or accused victims of not being "Christian" [Guilt] as they made their complaints known.

Yet, somewhere, somehow, someone met with someone else, who met with someone else, who met with... well, you get the picture. All these "someones" became a voice of dissention against the Catholic church. These voices organized, hired aggressive, and saavy, law firms and sued the diocese(s) (sp?).

I suspect, it was then, and only then, where the tide turned in the Catholic church and they could no longer ignore the cancer that grew within. Now this cancer had to be erradicated. The parishioners demanded it.

Today, they are performing their regular health exams on a frequent basis to catch any additional cases of cancers as they arise. As they come across these cancers, in the early stages, they are also using those moments to educate others within their flock to come forward and get treated for their cancers..

It's an analogy, I realize, and yet the Catholic church cannot hide behind the veil of secrecy any longer. I've often wondered if they actually believe the many victims that have come forward? Who knows?

Yet, they have learned that doing nothing and ignoring a serious problem, has more to do with their economic survival, and by extension their complete survival as a world religion, than with anything else. This might be their main motivation in helping regardless of their concern for the victim..

Nevertheless, it is something, which is much more than baptist survivors are getting.

I believe it is only a matter of time before judgment day on earth, through the courts, will come to the southern baptist faith.

Victims will keep piling up and, sooner or later, they will organize. This organization will be a force that southern baptist leaders cannot ignore any longer.

For any baptist leader who might be reading this, laugh now for the day of truth will soon come. At that point, there won't be much laughing. I can guarantee it!

It is my prayer that I am a part of that when it happens.

John Doe
www.SurvivorsPage.com

BloggerT7165 said...

For good or ill the Catholic Church also invested in the Virtus Program (Virtus.org).

I fear that these Baptist organizations are being run by sociopaths whose only concern is power and nothing more.

David Brown said...

The Catholic Church really has not done as well as some think. Yes some Dioceses have stepped up but far too many have not and are still doing the same things they have been doing all along.

I have personally seen way too many times when victims trust the “Church” to help them. They made their report to their local priest; then they are sent to this “review” board to have their case heard. What happens in most cases is their cases are stalled until the statute of limitations has run. I have witnessed that too many times here in Tennessee. I have encountered two cases recently where they took over 18 months to render a decision and when they did they denied the victims and told them their claims were not credible. That is the main reason we tell victims to not turn to the Church for help. They get re-victimized when they do.

Please don’t forget that in 2002 the Catholic Church commissioned John Jay University to conduct a study of all the Dioceses in the United States with regards to the number of priests that have had “credible” allegations made against them. All the Dioceses responded. In Memphis there were 7 names turned over. You would think the Diocese would be willing to tell us where those men are today and what they are doing. Well lots of luck. They and most every other Diocese in the United States refuse to disclose that information. There are only a few and I mean you can count them on one hand that have released those names. Just ask the local Catholic diocese in your home area the names and locations of those reported priests. Does one of them live next door to you? Are they working with children in your city? What about those who were removed from ministry and moved to another city or state? Where are they today? But let me warn you; don’t hold your breath waiting on an answer. You will pass out first. No, the Catholic Church has not done any better.

It really this isn’t different from other denominations. It would appear as if the Baptists have borrowed the play book from the Catholic Church. The pathetic excuses, nice sound bites like “uncharted waters”, I have never encountered this before, or “under the Blood” don’t work yet they continue to use them. Why, because it sound so nice to the people in the pews. Folks don’t go to church to hear their religious leaders say they messed up. Yet those same leaders don’t have a problem telling us when we don’t tithe enough.

One thing we must never do. We must never give up. We must keep plodding along even when it seems we are not making a difference. Yes you do hear some of the same voices often but if it were not for them victims would not have the courage to come forward. We will never know the number of victims we have encouraged. I work with too many victims that will never speak out publically. Yet they appreciate our efforts. The more light we shine on this horrible evil; the more we will win. I often say we do it one heartbeat at a time.

It is my prayer that in time we reach those religious leaders. They need to understand we are not going away. Nothing they can say about us or do to us is worse than what our abusers have already done to us. And sadly the religious leaders do not understand that. In time they will. God Bless!

David Brown
SNAP Director of Tennessee-Memphis
davidbrown@bigriver.net
901/569-4500

Phyllis Gregory said...

David,
Do you really think the SBC religous (which is not the same as spiritual)leaders will really understand anything "in time". I don't think so.

How you remain SB I do not know. But then that is none of my business is it?

Christa Brown said...

John Doe: You are exactly right, and I hope other Baptist survivors will read your words and will simultaneously take heart from them and put on their armor - for we are engaged in what will be a long battle.

Catholic abuse survivors were out working in the trenches, trying to bring about change and accountability among Catholic priests, a full 12 years before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops finally created the Office of Child and Youth Protection in 2002, when it finally adopted policies and started implementing review boards and started addressing the problem. And even after policies and procedures were adopted in 2002, there have still been huge failures in implementation, and there are still some dioceses that are virtual hell-holes on the clergy abuse issue. But some dioceses have begun to do better, and about 15 have publicly released the names of credibly accused clergy (though it’s hard to tell whether they’re holding some back or not). And they’ve removed from ministry over 800 priests based on “credible accusations.” Meanwhile, Southern Baptist leaders won’t even assess “credible accusations,” won’t remove the men from ministry even when accusations are substantiated, and worst of all, won’t even keep records on credibly accused clergy or tell people in the pews about them. Some of those 800 “credibly accused” priests could go to work in Southern Baptist churches, and who would do anything about it? After all, most of them have never been criminally convicted of anything.

The U.S. bishops’ adoption of policies and procedures in 2002 at least provided a yardstick by which the accountability and progress of Catholic dioceses could begin to be measured and assessed. And people could begin to get just an inkling about the extent of the problem after U.S. bishops spent over $200,000 to commission the John Jay study – a flawed study in many ways – but again, at least the beginning of a measure for assessment.

Nowadays, people read about some of the large settlements in Catholic cases, but many of the early vocal Catholic abuse survivors got virtually nothing other than having all their teeth kicked in. It took years of persistence, sweat and tears from abuse survivors - and of new crops of survivors speaking out - and of some kicked survivors growing new teeth, etc. etc. - BEFORE the first real steps toward accountability among Catholics were finally taken in 2002.

The reforms of 2002 came about, belatedly and begrudgingly, by virtue of massive prolonged media pressure -- the sort of pressure that began to affect them economically as people left the Church and donations dwindled. And as to many, and perhaps most, of the powerful Catholic bishops, there is very little reason to think they got on board with reform measures because they finally understood that it was the right thing to do.

Nevertheless, however staged it may have been, at least the Pope made a public apology to clergy abuse survivors in both the U.S. and Australia. In the same time frame, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention publicly accused Baptist abuse survivors of being “nothing more than opportunistic persons.”

Catholic leaders still have a very, very long way to go, but Southern Baptist leaders are about where Catholic leaders were two decades ago. Baptist leaders are so far behind the curve that they haven’t even seen the curve yet.

Some of the mainline Protestant groups, such as Presbyterians, chose to learn from the Catholic experience and they began to implement reforms on their own… without waiting for the bodies to pile up so high. But Baptist leaders have chosen the hard-hearted road of recalcitrance instead. It is inevitably a dead-end. But in route to their dead-end, they will pile up many more bodies in the process.

A faith group whose leaders refuse to rid the ranks of clergy predators, and refuse to hear the cries of those wounded by predatory clergy, and refuse to implement measures for clergy accountability, is a faith group that has lost its very soul. Whether it takes 2 years or 20, I believe that reform within this denomination is inevitable – or else the denomination will die. And whether their wall of institutional protection crumbles chink by chink or in one big pile of rubble, I believe it is inevitable that their wall will fall.

“I believe in the hope,
And I pray, that someday it may raise me,
Above these badlands.”
Bruce Springsteen

Christa Brown said...

Phyllis: I often have similar thoughts about many Southern Baptist men I've encountered - men who seem to thrive on little more than pious appearances and the spouting of First Timothy 2. And as you say, we have made excuses for such men for far too long. Too many of them don't even measure up to bare civility. And no title after their name, however grand or ungrand it may be, will change that.

Jeri said...

I am so glad to see that this particular diocese did the right thing. It's a little hasty to think the Roman Catholic Church is doing the right thing, though. The last pope granted asylum to Bishop Bernard Law and made him a cardinal, able to flee to Rome, where he is immune to being prosecuted, although the evidence that he covered up for child molesters and colluded against victims is strong.

The closer you get to Boston or any other powerful enclave of the RCC, the more it looks like Texas and the SBC. I am not diminishing the good works and fear of God evidence in those RCC church officers who have vigorously defended the innocent. But the amount of corruption regarding child molesters in church office in the RCC, who have gotten away with it with assistance from the clerical hierarchy, is still huge.

Christa Brown said...

I agree that the corruption among RCC officials is still huge. What I was trying to point out is how slowly change occurs. It took twelve years' of activists' focused efforts to put this before the bishops and to get their recalcitrance into the media BEFORE there was enough pressure on the U.S. bishops to force them into the adoption of the 2002 policies/procedures. And SNAP has had no shortage of work even after the bishops' adoption of the 2002 policies/procedures because so many dioceses have been recalcitrant in the implementation of their own policies. (But the very existence of the policies allows for those implementation failures to be better pointed out.) And don't forget, the 2002 policies/procedures were adopted ONLY with respect to U.S. bishops. Catholic children and abuse survivors in other parts of the world don't even get that tiny bit of protection and help.

But though it has been long, the enormous effort has not been a waste. Over 800 Catholic priests have been removed from ministry based on "credible accusations." Children are safer because those 800 priests were removed from ministry by virtue of a process WITHIN the faith community. That possibility does not even exist for Baptists.

Baptist officials not only keep their reported predatory ministers a secret from people in the pews, they still keep them in ministry. They do absolutely nothing.

This is what I want people to realize: Though it's not nearly enough, progress has been made for greater accountability among Catholic priests. Eventually, I believe we will see the same sort of slow progress toward accountability for Baptist clergy. But it will come about SLOWLY, and we will have to call them to task, publicly and repeatedly. We are still in the infancy of this effort.

Baptist officials will let us down over and over and over and over again - ad infinitum. But each time we give them the opportunity for reform, and then publicly show their recalcitrance, there will be someone out there who sees it and is affected by it. And sooner or later, the weight of public opinion will force Baptists into reforms similar to what other faith groups are doing.

As a side note, I often pray for the organization of some group among Southern Baptists that would be akin to the Voice of the Faithful among Catholics. Voice of the Faithful is not an organization of abuse survivors, but rather, an organization of committed Catholics who work separately, but also side-by-side with the survivor organizations, to struggle for greater accountability among Catholic officials. How I wish that Baptist abuse survivors could also see some organization of committed Baptists who would rise up and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with survivors in their efforts.

Anonymous said...

Ever noticed that the issue of tithing is not brought up with the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) but sexual propriety is!

oc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
oc said...

Hey friends. I'm getting a bit uncomfortable here right now, and I'm not quite sure why. I know that pain causes aversion, and expressing the pain may sometimes cause even more pain. But pain is not the enemy. It's injustice which causes much of the pain and that is the real enemy. And I also know this much, injustice breeds and festers when silence reigns. And so the quiet; whether it comes from the giver or the reciever of the injustice, will ultimately worsen the pain for the reciever. And so I pray tonight for those of you in pain.
And really, I care. And I guess I'm just thinking and praying out loud.
oc.

Anonymous said...

For all the victims of physical and spiritual abuse, 'submission and authority' abuse, and for those who are in a healing process of trying to trust again....

For the people who've been hurt terribly and have been abused in great measure, and have never received any form of apology, or any form of acknowledgment of wrongdoing from convention heads, church leaders and former, cultish, staff members who were involved in a pastor's abusive tactics, his schemes, and his lies...

To those who've been abused and feel they have no voice - here's a few songs that I heard lately. I'll write them down as a breath of prayer for you:

I have a Maker
He formed my heart;
Before even time began
My life was in his hands.

He knows my name
He knows my every thought,
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call.

I have a Father
He calls me His own;
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go.

He knows my name
He knows my every thought,
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call.

...

Father and Maker - we lift our eyes to You.
Lord and Master - we know that You are Faithful and True.
Jesus, Healer - what a wondrous God You are.
Great Physician - we trust You'll mend our broken hearts.

Christa Brown said...

Anon 8:01 - I believe that your intention was good, but what many people do not realize is that words of faith are often tricky things for clergy abuse survivors. For many of us, words such as yours sound a lot like the sorts of words our perpetrators used as weapons against us. Often such words are not comforting at all but instead seem more as though someone is brandishing in front of us the very weapon that was used against us. For many clergy abuse survivors, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to use faith as a resource for healing... because faith was the weapon.