In Indiana, Southern Baptist pastor Daniel Moore, age 50, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for molesting a 15-year-old church girl.
When the girl’s mother showed up for the April 8th sentencing hearing, she encountered a courtroom packed with church members who were there to support the pastor.
The mother had been an active member of the church for nine years. Yet, once she went to the police, only two church members had ever even called to see how she and her family were doing.
This was a case in which the pastor’s DNA evidence was on the girl’s bedsheets.
Yet, even with such irrefutable evidence, and even with the pastor’s guilty plea, rather than reaching out to help the girl and her family, church members supported the pastor. It’s a sad pattern that we’ve seen in many, many cases.
Here are some excerpts from the victim’s impact statement that the mother made at the sentencing hearing:
“As time went on, I could see that he lied to me by using God and the Bible, to make me believe him and trust him, just as he did with my daughter. He brainwashed her into trusting him and I can understand how easy it was for him to do that to a child, because he had me believing his lies as well. …
I felt physically and emotionally sick that evening when the detective came to my house to remove the bed sheet off of my daughter’s bed and that is when I began having nightmares. . . .
I had a complete breakdown after reading the Probable Cause Affidavit. I could not believe the mental hold he had over my daughter. He came into my house when I was not there, which I have to be reminded of on a daily basis every time I walk into my house and more so when I go into my daughter’s bedroom. Knowing that he had been there and what he had her do. The cleaning day at the church, while I was upstairs cleaning the baptistery, he was in the basement kissing my daughter.
I have had several things that have really thrown me back during all of this, but most of all was then results of the DNA testing from the bed sheet. It was hard to remain in control of myself when I was told that the sperm found on the bed sheet was an exact match to the Defendant’s DNA.
I feel so betrayed by this person who was supposed to be a preacher, OUR preacher for the past several years. I feel that he kept me so busy at the church that it caused me to be there on several occasions and my children as well and that because of being so active I did not fully see what was going on behind my back, the lies, the manipulation the deceit.”
Thank God this wise mother ultimately did see those lies, manipulation and deceit. Let’s imagine what this case would have been like in the more typical scenario.
What if the parents of this 15-year-old had NOT intervened? What if they simply never found out? (That’s the usual case.) Or what if they couldn’t bring themselves to fully believe something so awful? (That’s also common.) Or what if they accepted the faulty forgiveness theology that so many Baptist leaders preach -- as if forgiveness meant no consequences?
Then that 15-year-old girl would have been on her own to deal with the impossible. So she likely wouldn’t have dealt with it at all. And pastor Moore wouldn’t have been prosecuted. And he wouldn’t have a record. And he could have gone on to some other Baptist church where he could have easily found new prey.
Then, a couple decades later, that girl may have started thinking about it. And perhaps she would have eventually reached the point when she understood the harm of what was done to her and when she wanted to try to report the pastor so as to protect others.
That’s the typical scenario. Almost all experts recognize that, without parental intervention, most clergy sex abuse victims don’t speak of it for many years -- often not for decades.
But who would that girl be able to tell a couple decades later?
By then, it would likely be too late for criminal prosecution. And there would be no one in denominational authority who would give a hoot -- no one would take responsibility for looking into her allegations -- no one would even keep a record of her allegations.
She will be lucky if she can even locate the pastor at that point. No one in the denomination is likely to help her and the pastor may have moved several times by then.
But assuming she can locate him, what then?
Denominational leaders will wash their hands of it and say “not our problem.” They’ll tell her to “go to the church” to report him.
They know this doesn’t work, but it’s what they say anyway, and it’s flat-out cruel. It’s like sending bloody sheep to the den of the wolf who savaged them.
In this case, the victim’s family had been a part of the church for nine years. There was overwhelming evidence and a guilty plea. Yet, church members still supported the pastor and ostracized the victim.
Given this common pattern, can you imagine how much more hostile a church’s reaction might be if some outsider -- someone they didn’t even know -- brought to them an abuse report about their pastor? And if it involved abuse that happened twenty years ago?
For Baptist leaders to tell abuse survivors to “go to the church” is unrealistic and always has been. It’s a side-stepping system that fails to acknowledge the reality of human nature, that refuses any accountability for clergy, and that betrays the safety of kids.
Church letter of support for pastor, 4/1/10