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?