Sexual Abuse in the Church

Crucifixion“…God sides with the victims of suffering…”  (T. Peters & M. Hewlett, EVOLUTION FROM CREATION TO NEW CREATION)

As I was doing further reading and research into how we might bring our theistic faith together with the conclusions of science, I read the above line in the book by Peters and Hewlett.   It lept off the page to me.  Though they were using it to explain the difficulties theistic believers have in dealing with natural selection, it struck me in terms of how the church has failed to deal with the victims of clergy sexual abuse.

God does not always side with the strongest or the fittest.  God does pay attention to the pleas of the suffering, of the weak, and the meek, of the widow, the fatherless and the minority stranger/sojourner.  The entire story of the Exodus Passover begins with the words:

“And the people of Israel groaned under their bondage, and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God.  And God heard their groaning… ”  (Exodus 2:23, RSV)

Orthodoxy certainly has understood salvation in terms of God liberating the suffering humanity from the oppression of death and Satan.  And Orthodoxy has understood that death’s rule over humanity could be seen as deserved – the end result of human rebellion against God.  The only one to suffer unjustly was Christ, who committed no sin.   Christ’s resurrection from the dead becomes the liberation of all humanity from the oppression of suffering.  God sides with the victims of suffering.   In Roman Catholicism, the priest holds up the consecrated Host and says, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”   Christ is the divine victim who God justifies in the Resurrection.  God sides with the victims of corruption, becoming Himself such a victim.  In Orthodoxy, sealed on the bread of the Eucharist are the Greek letters for “Jesus Christ conquers.”  The Orthodox celebrate Jesus victorious over all who oppress and Pascha2the giver of liberation to those who suffer.   God sides with the victims of suffering, becoming such a victim in order to triumph over the Last Enemy who inflicts suffering on humanity.

This is why I am often  troubled and disappointed when I feel the Church does not take allegations of clergy sexual abuse seriously, and when it fails to minister in love to the victims of such abuse.    We are too afraid to investigate  claims and too eager to set up methods which protect the institution from those alleging abuse.    I do not know how often false claims of sexual abuse are made against clergy, and certainly as a clergyman I would want the church to treat me fairly should an accusation be made about me.    However the victims of abuse should not be treated as threats to the church – the abusers are the real threat to the church.   It is not the abused who should end up being marginalized in the church, but the abusers whose place as penitents should be clear – and if they are indeed penitent they should willingly accept that place.

Some victims of  abuse continue to cry out because of their unjust suffering.

God sides with the victims of suffering, and so should the church.

A list of other blogs I’ve posted on church sexual misconduct with links to them can be found at Blogs on Church Sexual Misconduct.