Friday, May 31, 2013

"Stunningly cruel"

David Clohessy
David Clohessy, the national director of SNAP, took Southern Baptist leaders to task for publicly throwing their support behind pastor C.J. Mahaney, who was accused in a lawsuit of covering up numerous sex crimes against children.

SNAP is the largest international support organization for people who were sexually abused by religious authority figures – i.e., by priests, preachers, ministers, deacons, nuns and others.  Clohessy himself is widely recognized as one of the world’s top experts on the subject of clergy sex abuse. He has appeared on numerous television news programs, including the Oprah Winfrey Show, Sixty Minutes, the Phil Donohue Show, and Good Morning America.  In 2002, People Magazine named Clohessy as one of the “25 Most Intriguing” people of the year. (Also included in that 2002 list were such other prominent names as Jimmy Carter, George Clooney, and Pat Tillman.)

So suffice it to say that Clohessy is the world’s number 1 go-to-guy for reliable information about the dynamics of clergy sex abuse and church cover-ups.

On May 28, 2013, Clohessy issued a statement casting shame on Southern Baptist leaders Al Mohler and Mark Dever, among others, for their public display of support for pastor C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries. In a Maryland lawsuit, eleven plaintiffs had alleged years of a child sex-abuse cover-up conducted by Mahaney and other Sovereign Grace officials.

Eleven. And that’s just the ones who have come forward.

The allegations of the lawsuit are awful, but they tell a consistent story of a horrific cover-up that was allegedly endorsed and promoted by the highest of Sovereign Grace officials, including Mahaney.

The lawsuit was recently dismissed on the ground that most of the victims had waited too long to pursue their claims. In other words, the dismissal was on a legal technicality and had nothing to do, one way or the other, with the truth of the plaintiffs’ claims. Ironically, as some have observed, this is often the very purpose of a child-sex-abuse cover-up – to avoid accountability under the law by causing the pursuit of claims to be delayed until after the statute of limitations has run. At this point, it appears Sovereign Grace Ministries may have accomplished exactly that. However, the dismissal is being appealed on the ground that the alleged conspiracy to silence victims and shield pedophiles was not discovered until 2011, within the statute of limitations.

C.J. Mahaney
Meanwhile, evangelical leaders have rallied behind Mahaney. Last week, members of a coalition called Together for the Gospel, which includes Southern Baptist leaders Al Mohler and Mark Dever, issued a public statement of support for Mahaney – a statement that has been widely criticized. It was an arrogant display of blatant cronyism, asserting that no “accusation of direct wrongdoing” was ever made against Mahaney, and that Mahaney was instead charged with “teaching doctrines and principles that are held to be true by vast millions of American evangelicals.”

In other words, Mohler and Dever put forward their canard of “the Christians are being persecuted,” and they talked as though Mahaney were the victim instead of the many kids who claim that they were raped, sodomized and sexually abused within Sovereign Grace Ministries. And as for their assertion that Mahaney was not accused of wrongdoing, that strikes me as being flat-out inconsistent with the allegations of the lawsuit. Mahaney was accused of being “a member of the ongoing conspiracy”. . . “to permit sexual deviants to have unfettered access to children for purposes of predation and to obstruct justice by covering up ongoing and past predation.” That sure sounds like accusations of wrongdoing to me.

Clohessy took a look at this sordid saga and wisely drew attention back to where it belongs – to children who have been victimized by sexual abuse. “It’s dreadfully hurtful to child sex-abuse victims when people in authority publicly back accused wrongdoers,” said Clohessy. “Support Rev. Mahaney if you must,” he pleaded, “but do so privately in ways that don’t further harm, depress and scare other child sex-abuse victims into keeping silent and thus helping child predators escape detection and prosecution.”

That’s just one example of why so many people turn to Clohessy when they need information about a clergy sex abuse scandal. Clohessy goes straight to the heart of it.

In prior statements, Clohessy has made clear that he has no illusions about Southern Baptist officials and their unwillingness to ferret out clergy-predators and make kid-protection a top priority.

“I just can’t imagine a more recalcitrant church hierarchy,” said Clohessy in a 2010 interview. “I’ve seen Baptist officials be stunningly cruel. . . .”
Here’s what I see as a small beacon of light in all this. As reported in a comment on the Wartburg Watch, when those men at Together for the Gospel posted their Mahaney support letter on Facebook, they quickly received well over 100 negative comments. So, they started deleting comments right and left, until finally, they gave up and deleted the whole post. But a guy named Bill Kinnon managed to capture a screen shot before the posting disappeared. Just take a look at how many ordinary decent people saw right through their arrogant charade and called them on the carpet for it. One reader summed up the criticism of the evangelicals’ support letter with this statement: “Shame on you for belittling the victims’ abuse to protect your boys’ club.” Yeah! Thank you to everyone who stood up to these guys! Bravo!