Thursday, June 19, 2008

No basis for BGCT brag

Albert Einstein described “insanity” as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

It’s a good description of how the Baptist General Convention of Texas handles clergy sex abuse. And it’s why the recent comments of Baptist Standard editor Marv Knox are so disturbing.

He’s absolutely right, of course, that “the Southern Baptist Convention missed a great opportunity to protect its members when the SBC Executive Committee declined to create a sexual-offender database.”

But Knox is wrong to proceed with bragging about what the Baptist General Convention of Texas does.

Why? Because the BGCT has been doing the same thing over and over again, with the same sad results, and yet they don’t seem to learn. Theirs is a failed system and it’s insanity to expect different results from it in the future.

For starters, the Baptist General Convention of Texas accepts reports of clergy sex abuse only from churches, not from victims.

Yet, the BGCT’s own expert has publicly acknowledged that “churches don’t have to report abuse cases to the registry and aren’t likely to.”

“In the normal scenario, they just try to keep it secret,” he explained.

So, it’s insanity. The BGCT has seen what happens, and yet they keep doing – and not doing - the same things.

They know that, in the normal scenario, churches try to keep clergy abuse reports secret. And yet, they don't change their procedures to incorporate that reality.

It’s a Catch-22. The BGCT brags about how they keep a file of ministers reported by churches, and yet they know that, in reality, most churches don’t report their ministers.

Furthermore, the BGCT’s blindness to reality heaps enormous additional hurt onto abuse survivors. By insisting that abuse reports can come to the BGCT only from churches, the BGCT forces the wounded to try to report their abuse to the den of the very wolf who savaged them.

Most ordinary people can readily see the insanity of such a system, but not BGCT officials.

Perhaps the craziest part of all is that, even in the rare case of a child-molesting minister who actually does get reported by a church, the BGCT still doesn’t do anything to warn people in the pews where the minister is currently working. The minister’s name simply sits in a file cabinet in the Baptist Building in Dallas.

My own perpetrator’s name sat in that file cabinet while he continued to work in children’s ministry in Florida.

The BGCT knows. They keep records. They keep quiet.

How is this much different from what Cardinal Roger Mahony did?

Here’s the difference I see: BGCT officials are so mired in their own self-deception and self-delusion that they actually think they’ve done something to brag about. They are so utterly inured to their own complicity that they congratulate themselves on it.

It’s bad enough that the BGCT doesn’t warn people in the pews about credibly accused clergy child molesters, and it’s bad enough that they do nothing to help the victims in their efforts to protect others, and it’s bad enough that they provide readily available counseling for clergy-perpetrators but not for victims… but on top of all this, they think they’ve got bragging rights!

It would be comedy if only the real-world impact of their hubris were not so terribly tragic.

But before I begin to weep, let me point out a couple other interesting issues that Marv Knox’s comments bring to light.

Notice how he says that “most notably among Baptists,” it’s women who are abused. It’s as though Knox is trying to suggest that Baptist ministers are more likely to abuse women rather than children.

On this, I think Marv Knox is just pushing the party line. It’s Baptist propaganda.

How would Knox have any clue about whether Baptists are more notable for abuse of women rather than abuse of children? Who’s keeping records? Who’s keeping track of abuse reports from people molested by Baptist ministers as kids?

The limited data we have is data that shows the opposite of what Knox suggests. Based on data gathered from insurance companies by the Associated Press, we have every reason to think that clergy abuse of children is just as widespread among Baptists as it is among Catholics.

Furthermore, let’s not forget that ministerial abuse of women is indeed abuse. In fact, in Texas it’s a felony when a clergyman uses a position of spiritual trust to sexually exploit someone.

Finally, it’s important to notice how Knox says the BGCT’s file includes the names of “proven predators” and “proven abusers.” He also states that the process of getting a minister’s name into that file is “deliberate and serious,” and that “undocumented accusations are not accepted.”

This is very different from what BGCT leaders said just a few months ago when they were publicly challenged about their file. They told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the reason the BGCT doesn’t reveal the names of ministers reported for child molestation was because the reports were nothing more than “unsubstantiated claims.”

But now, when Marv Knox talks to the BGCT’s own constituency of Texas Baptists, he says the BGCT's file contains “proven predators” with serious, documented accusations.

So which is it? “Proven predators” or “unsubstantiated claims”?

Assuming Marv Knox is telling the truth, which I believe he is, how can there be any moral basis for the BGCT to keep a file of “proven predators” without telling people in the pews who those “proven predators” are?

Prior BGCT-related postings:


Anonymous said...

Didn't you report some time ago about the number of names on the BGCT's list?

William Thornton

Christa Brown said...

A year ago, Associated Baptist Press reported on the number saying "fewer than 100."

Anonymous said...

Here is why they didn't do a database. Becasue it appears too harsh. Sadly, Gilyard got where he did because of the many references he had made outside of Patterson. There does need to be some sort of follow up.