Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another comparison

The San Antonio Archdiocese should have revealed the abuse allegations a lot sooner. But consider this comparison. These priest abuse allegations have now been made public and there’s a record of them. If these were Southern Baptist abuse survivors, none of these things would likely have happened.

“The Archdiocese of San Antonio said Monday that it considers “believable” allegations that three former priests sexually abused a male teenager more than 25 years ago.”

Southern Baptists have no process for making any assessment of whether clergy abuse allegations are “believable” or “credible.” Note that this is the lead line of the news article. The fact that the archdiocese made this assessment is what gave rise to the news story and allowed people to find out about the allegations. That possibility doesn’t exist for Southern Baptists, which is a big part of why you don’t read about as many Southern Baptist abuse stories. It’s not that the abuse doesn’t happen. It’s that there are less possibilities for reporting on it.

“The recent allegations were first made public Sunday in the weekly bulletins at the 15 parishes where the men ministered.”

Can you imagine seeing news about a credibly-accused Baptist preacher-predator in a church bulletin? In the bulletin of every church where the man worked? Doesn’t happen. Not ever.

“...the allegations were also posted on the archdiocese Web site.”

Can you imagine seeing news about a credibly-accused Baptist preacher-predator posted in one of the state-wide Baptist publications or in the Baptist Press? Doesn’t happen.

“The public notices invite anyone with concerns to contact the archdiocese.”

When a Baptist abuse survivor contacts a larger Baptist organization – a regional, statewide or national body – there is no “public notice” and there is no invitation to others. Instead, the survivor is essentially told “good luck with that,” and the information is kept secret from everyone else.

“The victim… requested counseling, which the archdiocese is paying for.”

Southern Baptists have no office to which a clergy abuse survivor could even safely go to request counseling, much less any procedure or policy for actually providing counseling.

“The statute of limitations to file criminal charges or for the victim to file a lawsuit has expired.”

Again, it’s important to observe that it was the archdiocese’s own abuse assessment that formed the basis for the news report, not a criminal prosecution and not a civil lawsuit. The possibility of bringing Baptist clergy abuse reports into the light of day via a denominational assessment simply does not exist for Southern Baptists.

“The victim contacted the archdiocese in light of Pope Benedict XVI's apology to victims of sex abuse by priests during his historic U.S. visit a year ago.”

Just a couple months before the Pope made his public apology to abuse victims, the highest Southern Baptist leader, president Frank Page, publicly called the clergy abuse survivors’ support groups “nothing more than opportunistic persons.” I don’t imagine that did much to encourage any other Baptist abuse survivors to speak up. Do you?

“The pope also called for sex abuse victims to contact Catholic officials.”

Which Baptist official would a Baptist clergy abuse survivor contact if he wanted to? Typically, state, local and national Baptist leaders tell abuse survivors to “go to the church.” But that’s like telling a wounded sheep to go back to the den of the wolf who savaged them. The sheep won’t do it. And for the few who try, they typically wind up being re-wounded all the worse.

6 comments:

Curt Szajnecki said...

Christa,


May I suggest you go to this federal website: www.childwelfare.gov and enter this in the upper right hand corner of the search box. Enter "clergy as mandated reporter", and encourage your readers to check out the federal laws as they apply to the state where they reside.

This law applies to all faith groups, including the Southern Baptists.

It was this law that helped to provide "justice" through the legal system to my family, many years ago. We encourage "victims" when reporting any complaint to "clergy members", to always take a witness with you. Then if the clergy member does not file a "clergy as a mandated report of suspected child abuse, or neglect",to child protective services, the victim now has some power to do something about it.

In Michigan this law applies to not only teachers, but also to members of the clergy. Failure to report in Michigan as of 2003, the clergy could face up to 90 days in jail,and or a $500.00 fine.

Curt Szajnecki

Anonymous said...

Christa,

I'm afraid you are beating an old horse to death. Southern Baptists are not going to go to the lengths that the Catholics have gone. But then, Catholic priests (and plenty of them) have been molesting boys for years and are now finally having to pay up.

Southern Baptists are not the same as Catholics. Our structure is totally different and what you are wanting is not ever going to happen.

My recommendation would be for you to start a data base and keep it updated. Then write every SBC church and pastor and ask them to participate for the sake of the children.

You'll get a lot more done than what's happening now.

John Doe said...

I like both comments, Christa.. I could help you start a database and keep it going.. It will take time but it could eventually be the internet clearinghouse for all baptist predators (and any other) that you wish to include..

John Doe

Helen Wisocki said...

With the Southern Baptists and other denominations "policing" their own and then doing nothing about a credibly-accused predator clergy member hiding out in churches across the country, the time is now to contact legislators to make changes in state laws.

If mandatory reporting for teachers, counselors and others is already on the books, then ask your legislators to add "clergy" to the list.

Until laws are in place to counteract the deceitful practices of those who hide predators, it seems like we're all just spinning our wheels to get those in power to do the right thing.

Contact your state reps and let them know how you feel!

Christa Brown said...

Anon said:
"My recommendation would be for you to start a data base and keep it updated."

Many people, including Baptist clergy, have suggested that I simply take responsibility onto my own shoulders for starting and maintaining a Baptist clergy predator database. This suggestion hugely underestimates the nature of the undertaking and the extent of the problem.

In other major faith groups, there are review boards (often staffed with various sorts of professionals with experience in the field) who make the assessments as to whether clergy sex abuse reports should be deemed credible. There are often multiple review boards who serve on a regional basis. Obviously, I can't make those sorts of assessments on my own. The denomination needs to take responsibility for its own clergy -- i.e., for clergy who carry the "Southern Baptist" brand into the world.

A review board process -- even one that simply "informs" as opposed to removing from ministry -- is an undertaking that would require some measure of financial resources. The Southern Baptist Convention at the national level has some $200 million in annual revenues (through Cooperative Program dollars), some very small part of which could be directed to the protection of kids through a review board process (and the maintenance of a database of those review board assessments for the informing of congregations).

Over 800 Catholic priests have now been removed from ministry, but only about 2 percent of those were ever convicted of anything. The vast majority were removed from ministry based on an assessment made within the faith group. This is what is sorely lacking for Baptists. (And note that we're actually asking for LESS than what other major faith groups do because we're merely asking for a review board that would provide assessments and objective information to congregants.)

There are about 43,000 Southern Baptist churches in this country alone, and over 101,000 Southern Baptist clergy. I find it fascinating that anyone would even imagine that I could write to every one of them. In all likelihood, the only organization that has the resources to speak to this large of a group and to provide them with information about clergy predators, is the national Southern Baptist Convention. (After all, they manage to provide Sunday School literature to all those churches... and all sorts of other stuff... so why not info about credibly-accused clergy predators?)

Christa Brown said...

Curt,
We urge people to ALWAYS take a support person with them if they want to try to report clergy abuse to another clergy-person. We urge this primarily because we have received so many accounts of so many people being terribly re-wounded in the process of trying to tell someone within the church. The pattern is way too common. People should never go alone.

The re-wounding of Baptist abuse survivors is truly awful. Many survivors (who are often adults by the time they try to report it) say that the re-wounding that occurred in their attempts to report it within the church and/or denomination did as much psychological and spiritual damage to them as the original abuse. (This is one more reason why a review board process is so sorely needed for Baptists - i.e., so that people will have a better chance at being able to safely report abuse to trained professionals.)

Even in states where clergy are mandated reporters, abuse reporting laws are seldom enforced... sad but true. The biggest legal change that is needed is "windows" legislation to open and extend statutes of limitation so that child molestation survivors can at least get into the courthouse doors.