OCA: Information on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response

OCA

The Orthodox Church in America has been working for the past several years to improve its Policy, Standards and Procedures for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct in the church.   These updates in the policies were needed to make the institution more responsive to allegations, to give better attention to the needs of victims and to keep the OCA up to current societal standards for churches in dealing with such complaints.  While such policies are always being reviewed to meet current needs and standards, the OCA probably has some of the best policies and highest standards regarding dealing with sexual misconduct of any Orthodox jurisdiction in the world.

You can view the a new web page featuring detailed information and resources is now available at http://oca.org/about/sexual-misconduct.  The site also offers Information on the OCA’s Office of Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations [ORSMA], which is responsible for assisting the Holy Synod of Bishops and the Church with matters concerning allegations of sexual misconduct.  

LOGOThe OCA’s Synod of Bishops issued a revised Policy, Standards, and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct at their Fall 2013 Holy Synod meeting.  They have been engaged in a long and taxing process to improve policies, the culture and the institution.   The bishops have come to understand the importance for the entire Church to provide a safe and healthy environment for all of the faithful. The Church laments the sin of sexual misconduct, and will not tolerate sexual misconduct by its clergy or any layperson.  The more rigorous and proactive stance regarding sexual misconduct better meet the societal and legal expectations for an organization in the modern world.  Taking all allegations seriously means taking a closer look at the policies, standards and procedures of the organizations, as well as taking the time to investigate complaints brought to the attention of the church’s leaders.

One example of a more proactive approach to dealing with the social and human problem of sexual abuse is that the OCA now provides a way for people to confidentially report a case of misconduct by calling the toll-free number 855-398-2600. 

Synod2012When the Church investigates allegations of sexual misconduct, it is not attempting to replace or even duplicate investigations which might also be done by civil authorities.  The Church has its own standards for dealing with sexual misconduct by its clergy or membership.  Even the mere appearance of inappropriate sexual behavior especially by clergy is considered a moral issue within the Orthodox Community.  Our bishops have to maintain a high level of moral standards and discipline on these issues, regardless of whether civil authorities would involve themselves in the cases brought to the attention of church authorities.

Other documents and links of interest to parishes available through the OCA’s webpage:

Enabling Sexual Misconduct

For the past four years, serving on the OCA’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee has heightened my awareness of issues related to sexual abuse in general and more specifically clergy sexual misconduct in the church.  I have paid more attention to news stories about such misconduct and abuse and have read more material about the issue, trying to discern what are the appropriate policies for dealing with sexual misconduct in the church, especially that which is done by clergy.  We are trying to enforce policies that will bring an end to a culture of willful silence which might enable misconduct to be inflicted upon vulnerable victims.

Recently, while visiting my son in Washington, DC, I went to the Corcoran Gallery of Art.  There I saw a painting that for me captured what happens both in society and in the church when leadership engages in sexual misconduct.  The painting by Robert Morris was done in 1989 and is titled, Private Silence/Public Violence.

I really don’t know what Morris intended to convey in his work, but it did make me think about sexual misconduct in the church, though the painting has not the hint of sexual anything.

The painting caught my eye because I thought, “Yes, that’s it exactly…  Privately, clergy and perhaps men in general choose to stay silent when we observe other men/clergy engaging in sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual conversation or sexual misconduct.  We create an unreal world in which we pretend or we delude ourselves into thinking nothing bad is happening while maintaining our image of ourselves that we are normal, decent men.   But our silence, our failure or refusal to confront bad behavior, enables the misconduct to continue.  We thus tacitly allow victims to be harmed while by our silence approve of what is happening.  It takes courage to speak, and it takes good men choosing not to remain silent to bring an end to transgression.   Sexual harassment as all sexual misconduct is trespassing.

There are many things in the painting that seem so perfect to me in speaking to sexual dereliction.  The characters are all male and in the reflection at least smartly dressed.  They appear to me to be just having stood up and beginning to applaud what they see.  Perhaps they are watching something pass by – but they are also looking at their own reflection.  The reality is their thinking is fuzzy, distorted, confused – they see themselves in far better light than they really are.  The reality is there is blood on their hands as indicated in the red blur, but in their self image, all is clear.   The victims of their behavior don’t even appear in the painting, as I think is true of what one would see in the minds of those who commit sexual misconduct and of those who enable it: the victims don’t exist and they never imagine the victims as fellow human beings.  How often perpetrators of sexual wrongdoing deny there are any victims – they don’t exist because the abusers use stealth self-deception to make them invisible.

It is a private silence for it is not openly discussed – rarely is anyone ordering someone else not to talk about it.  The secrecy is mutually shared and necessary to maintain the facade that we are good men,  not engaging in sin, but behaving as men always behave.

For me, the painting captures what happens in the church in the case of clergy sexual misconduct, especially if we think the misconduct is ‘not that bad’ or barely constitutes misbehavior.  It is  a consciously chosen silence of our hearts and minds that distorts reality but allows us to see ourselves as well behaved and laudable.  Collectively we are like Narcissus looking at his own reflection and falling in love with that reflection, oblivious to what everyone else can see, but trapped in a mirror which reflects the reality we wish to be.

The words of our Savior eerily come to mind:

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says:

‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive.  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.”   (Matthew 13:13-15)

Some may object that these words were directed to the Jews.  But during Lent one only has to pay attention to the liturgical poetry and hymns of our church (especially like St. Andrew of Crete) to know that an Orthodox and Patristic way of reading Scripture is to search for their spiritual meaning – namely, how the ancient text can be applied to our lives today.

Mathematics and Sexual Misconduct: 2/0 = ?

Zero Tolerance in clergy sexual misconduct will yield the impossibility of a second chance as a clergyman.  This is not because clergy sexual misconduct is the unforgiveable sin.  Rather it is because the second chance for clergy guilty of sexual misconduct is the opportunity to spend the remaining time of their life in repentance, which they obviously failed to do in their life as a clergyman.   We each are called by Christ to repentance.  Some are called to live out their repentance as clergy.  If they fail to live that repentant life and engage in sexual misconduct, they are given a second chance to live out their repentance away from the clerical office.   This is specifically true if one used one’s office and the power that comes with that office to create opportunities for sexual misconduct.

Years ago I heard a phrase used about alcoholics:  one drink is too many, two is not enough.   It of course deals with the notion that an alcoholic must avoid that first drink because once they’ve had it, they are already down a path in which no number of drinks can satiate the alcoholic.

The alcoholic’s life is a world in which “second chance” takes on a new meaning.  Giving the alcoholic a second chance cannot mean allowing them to drink one more time to see if they can control the drinking.  That’s known as enabling the alcoholism.  The second chance is giving them the opportunity to stay in your life because they are staying sober which means they are abstaining from alcohol.

This concept of a second chance makes sense to many when dealing with the alcoholic.  We learn that ‘second chance’ does not mean watching them drink to see if there will be a different result, but rather the second chance is watching to see if they will stay abstinent and  therefore sober on that day.  It is by their sobriety that they win back the trust of those around them.  This comes when they abdicate any claim that they be given chances to show they can drink and remain in control.  They admit they are really powerless and not able to control the drinking and so must surrender any claim to ever possessing this power to drink again.

It is this understanding of a second chance which we are also grappling with in the church in dealing with sexual misconduct.  We don’t put the person back in a position where they can abuse power to engage in sexual misconduct.  The sobriety they need is to keep them out of the position of being able to abuse power.  Sobriety for them means avoiding those situations in which temptation to engage in sexual misconduct can occur.  Clerical power can be intoxicating to some.

We see this idea that if one has abused power he/she should not be given that power back has gained acceptance in many places in our society.  One such organization is in the U.S. military.  The recent scandals involving prominent military leaders which led to their losing their commands is an example of what is socially expected.

Greg Myre of NPR in  What’s the Punishment for Adultery these Days? deals with public officials caught in a sex scandal.  Myre says the best way to deal with such scandal is for the guilty party to “Confess Before The Media Break The Story”.   Interesting advice for a non-sacramental organization, but certainly one would think an idea that church leaders would acknowledge and follow.  The worse thing to do according to crisis management experts is to deny the story.

Myre says the right thing for a public official to do after engaging in sexual misconduct is to resign immediately.  This is especially true if one is involved in a line of work which depends on public trust.  Myre writes:

“The military has to have ‘higher standards because of their need to trust each other and to lead people in very dangerous circumstances,’ Richard Kohn, who studies civilian-military relations at the University of North Carolina, told NPR’s Morning Edition.”

So too the church has to have such higher standards.  Myre’s conclusion is

“Once tarnished in a sex scandal, government officials and military officers need to find a new career.”

There is little doubt that the role of priest or bishop in the church involves public trust, and the church’s standards certainly should not be less than the standards of secular society.

Recently I read an email from attorney Bob Koory in which he described his own thoughts about the standards the church should hold for its clergy.  I liked the way he worded his thoughts and got his permission to quote the email here:

“My own view is that zero tolerance should mean zero tolerance.  The problem with anything less than that is in my view twofold:

First, the legal problem that you reference:  While as a practical matter, in my legal experience, an arbitrary decision is harder to defend in court than a reasoned decision, cases are always based upon 20-20 hindsight.  Bad decision, no matter how long debated or reasoned, are never easy to defend and can always be prosecuted on the basis that the Church simply looked away or through rose colored glasses because the cleric was a hierarch or priest of some standing.

Jurors in my experience apply a great deal of common sense and are likely to say that the best proof that it was a bad decision, or poorly reasoned decision, is that the perpetrator struck again.  I’m sure you would agree that it would not be hard to find an expert who would testify, with studies to support the testimony, that there was a significant possibility (probability) that the perpetrator would repeat his/her actions and the Church knew or should have know of that likelihood and should have taken such disciplinary action to insure that it would not happen, e.g., removal from employment or in the case of a cleric, suspension or defrocking.

Unfortunately, with respect to the legal concern, the perpetrator becomes in a way a walking time bomb, with those concerned about the possible victims and/or legal concerns, never knowing when it’s going to go off, but in the heart of hearts knowing that there is always the potential it will.

The second problem is the perception of the action view from within the Church.  While certainly one is inclined to recognize the reality that we are all sinners and likely to sin, and that we need “second chances”, in my view, the response of the Church must also recognize that since we are sinners we are constantly falling and getting up again. The problem is when a perpetrator does that he not only causes injury to a victim but also to the Church.  If it is a cleric, all clerics are tainted, and the Church itself suffers from the impression that once again the Church failed to act appropriately.

Moreover, many laity, using their common like experiences, are likely to conclude that if the cleric did the act and was caught, how many times did he do it and was not caught. We know that studies show that perpetrators usually have acted several (in some cases dozens or hundreds of times) before they are caught.  There is also the concern that once through therapy the perpetrator would simply resume his old behavior.

Finally is the view that some may hold of how can this perpetrator now speak to us of the sanctity of marriage or of the virtue of honesty.  This is where the concerns are that the act has now become an impediment to his priesthood.  That is not to say the person might not repent and become a great saint, but only that he should no longer do so as a cleric.  Many other professions have zero tolerance policies and for good reasons.”

The other mathematical truth of sexual misconduct is that anything less than zero tolerance tends to multiply the instances of misconduct and abuse.

“He who winks the eye causes trouble,

but he who boldly reproves makes peace.”

(Proverbs 10:10)

Links to my other blogs on church sexual misconduct can be found at Sexual Misconduct in the Church Blogs.

Diocese of the Midwest’s Discussion on Sexual Misconduct

The Midwest Diocesan Assembly allowed a needed discussion on the current situation with Bishop Matthias on administrative Leave of Absence.   OCA Chancellor Fr. John Jillions did confirm that the allegations as reported on the Internet were accurate.

Some would say there was an emotional release as diocesan members expressed grief over the situation created by the bishop’s sexual harassment of a young woman.  Several speakers reported that their parishes expressed strong sentiments calling for the bishop to resign after learning the nature of the allegations.   Several noted that the bishop had violated trust in his behavior which would be difficult if not impossible to restore even if he successfully completes some treatment program.   On the other hand, those in the diocese who have had only positive personal experiences with Bishop Matthias expressed their dismay over the readiness of so many in the diocese to believe the allegations against the bishop.   Yet, the Response Team investigating the allegations apparently were convinced that sexual misconduct occurred, and the Synod of Bishops accepted their report and recommendations including the fact that the bishop had engaged in sexual misconduct as defined by the OCA’s policies.   The bishops themselves in their rendered decision showed they believed the allegations were substantiated by the evidence and the investigation.   So while a few maintain that there is just confusion about the bishop’s intentions and actions, the Synod of Bishops was convinced that misconduct occurred.   The Bishops do not seem to think the situation was merely a misunderstanding, nor did the woman who filed the complaint.

Resolutions calling for Bishop Matthias to resign were ruled out of order as were ones calling for a “no confidence vote” by the assembly.  Archbishop Nikon of Boston who presided over the assembly did affirm that no Synodal decisions have been made about what is going to happen except that Bishop Matthias must complete an intensive psychological evaluation and rehabilitation, and then undergo a peer mentoring time before he would be allowed to return to active ministry.  ‘Archbishop Nikon did not know how long the rehabilitation program would last, but he made it clear that no decision about the bishop’s return has been reached.

The assembly did vote by a wide margin to remove from the 2013 Budget a proposed 12.5% pay increase for the bishop – something the bishop himself had apparently requested.  The sense was that it was extremely inappropriate to give a raise to a clergyman who was on administrative leave of absence for having engaged in sexual misconduct.

For the Diocese of the Midwest, the period of waiting continues as the bishop follows the steps laid out for him by the Synod of Bishops – steps he must successfully complete before the Synod will give consideration to whether he can be restored to ministry.  A number of people expressed a notion that in many secular professions, the same misconduct committed by the bishop would have led to immediate dismissal.  The issue for the Midwest is not just personal as some allege.  It is principle and precedence and policy – how does the church respond to clergyman who have committed sexual harassment or other forms of sexual misconduct?   Because how we respond sends a message to victims about whether the OCA has a zero tolerance policy for sexual misconduct by clergy.

Links to my other blogs on sexual misconduct in the church can be found at Blogs on Sexual Misconduct in the Church.

Saints, Sinners and Sexual Misconduct in the Church

While news about clergy sexual misconduct sometimes seems to be on the rise, such stories are not new to the history of mankind.  We find in the Septuagint Book of Daniel the story of Susanna (written ca 165BC).  The narrative is about a young woman who two dirty old men – they also happen to be honored members of society – attempt to entrap and force her to have sex with them.  The men are judges and they attempt to use their power and position in society to sexually harass abuse Susanna.  The Prophet Daniel comes to Susanna’s rescue and publicly discredits the two men, revealing their evil plot to rape Susanna.

St. Gregory the Theologian (d. 391AD) mentions the story of  Susanna in a sermon in which he also tells the story of the Christian virgin woman, Justina.  Justina too is the victim of sexual harassment by a Bishop named Cyprian who inexplicably is overcome by his passion for her and is intent on engaging in clergy sexual misconduct.

According to church tradition, both Cyprian and Justina are later martyred in 304AD.  Here is the story as told by Nazianzen:

“There once lived a virgin of noble ancestry, endowed with the most perfect manners.  Hear ye and exult, O virgins, and all who honor modesty and love purity.  For this story is an elegy to both categories.

The virgin, Justina, was extraordinarily beautiful to behold.  Of her divine David sings together with us, saying: ‘The daughter of the king is clothed in beauty’ (Ps 45:14).  True spouse of Christ, hidden beauty, living image of God, inviolate sanctuary erected to the godhead, inaccessible sacred ground, enclosed garden, sealed fountain (thus Solomon also adds something – Song 4:12), reserved for Christ alone.

I do not know why or how the great Cyprian was seized with passion for this absolutely uncompromising and virtuous virgin.   And yet his greedy eyes, which of all the organs of the body are the most lively and eager, reached out to grasp even the most untouchable things.  But Cyprian was not only possessed with love for her; he also tempted her.  What singular stupidity, if he was hoping to seduce her, or rather what gross shamelessness in trying anything of the kind, and persisting in his attempts!

The devil also, from the beginning, insinuated himself into paradise to tempt the first man and stood amidst the angels when he sought to tempt Job: he did not even hesitate in the presence of the Lord himself, who was to defeat and condemn him definitively by his death; he tried to tempt him who cannot be affected by any temptation when, in the outward appearance of God, the devil saw the second Adam and, as it were, claimed to make him capitulate as had the first.  He was totally unaware that, by attacking the humanity of Christ, he had struck a blow against the Godhead.  Why then is it strange that, by means of Cyprian’s passion, he makes an attempt against the holy soul and virtuous body of Justina?       . . .

But pure and divine souls are quick to discover in this the sport of the devil, even though he is very subtle in deceiving and various in his attacks.  Thus the maid, as soon as she noticed the presence of evil and sensed the threat, what did she do and what method did she oppose to the artifice of the evil one?   Despairing of all other remedies, she took refuge in God and against this detestable passion took as her defender her husband, that is, the same who had freed Susanna from the wicked elders and saved Thekla from a tyrannical courtier and from an even more tyrannical mother.

But who is that husband?  He is Christ, who strengthens our spirits and raises up those who are drowning; he hurls the legion of wicked spirits into the abyss; he snatches away the just man from the pit in which he had been placed as food for lions and, stretching out his hands, binds the proud; he frees from the whale the fleeing prophet who, even while inside the whale, had kept the faith.  And, in Assyria, he frees the children from the flames; they are kept cool by an angel, and to the three children a fourth is added.

Recalling these and other circumstances and imploring the Virgin mary to bring her assistance, since she, too, was a virgin and had been in danger, she entrusted herself to the remedy of fasting and sleeping on the ground.”  (in Luigi Gambero’s MARY AND THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, pp 166-167)

In the story of Justina, St. Gregory Nazianzen acknowledging that even a saint and martyr can be overcome by sexual lust.   St. Gregory asks why we should be surprised about sexual misconduct when we know that the devil is active in our world.   There is no attempt by St. Gregory to deny the story, cover it up or make it less than the evil it is; rather he publicly proclaims it in order to overcome such sin and evil in the Church.    Such stories remind us that clergy sexual abuse in the church is best overcome when we openly acknowledge its existence and expose it rather than by attempting to cover it up.  The story is scandalous, but it is a story that needs to be told to help protect the flock and the public.  The Church whose sole purpose for existence is to proclaim the truth, must not shy away from telling the truth about sin even in its own leadership.   Telling the truth about ourselves is part of being real and the church is supposed to be dealing with reality, not with mythologies or misinformation, nor with pretense or fiction.  We have a sacrament of the Church – Confession – devoted to telling the truth about our weaknesses, temptations, sins and faults.  There is a prayer in the Orthodox tradition which says, “I offer up my wicked and lawless acts, triumphing over them and publishing them.”   We don’t triumph over sin by denying it exists in our lives, but rather by openly confessing it and then spending a life time of repentance to overcome it.

St. Gregory’s story of St. Justina is interesting for another reason.  According to Gambero it is the first known instance reported in church history (304AD) of someone calling upon the Virgin Mary as an intercessor and a help.

For links to other blogs I’ve posted on this topic see Blogs on Sexual Misconduct in the Church.

Blogs on Sexual Misconduct in the Church

For the past several years, I served on the OCA’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee.  That work has caused me to think about and pay attention to news about sexual misconduct in religious organizations and also in other secular institutions.  In that time I’ve written several blogs about sexual misconduct in the church.  Often these were reactions to things I read which I thought had implications for our life in the church and how we deal with sin and evil, especially among the bishops, priest and deacons of the church.  Below are links to many of these blogs.  They are listed approximately in chronological order with the oldest/earliest blogs at the bottom and more recent blogs at the top of the list.   The blogs offer little in terms of details about cases in the OCA as they were written generically to discuss church issues related to church sexual misconduct.  Confidentiality concerns mean I didn’t create a scandal blog to attract church scandal voyeurs who want to know the latest dirt.  The blogs were written to examine policy, standards and procedures, not as titillating but of more importance to the work of the Church.

Tempting Those With Power

Disturbing the Predator

Mathematics and Sexual Misconduct: 2/0 = ?

Diocese of the Midwest’s Discussion on Sexual Misconduct

Reflection on our Diocese – the Situation with Bishop Matthias

Saints, Sinners and Sexual Misconduct in the Church

Nothing Hurts

Love Beyond the Veil of Rain

Sexual Misconduct PSPs for Police and Priests

Boy Scouts: Lesson from Their Secret Files

Consequences for Clergy Sexual Misconduct and Consequences for Clergy Sexual Misconduct (II) 

Standards of Conduct for Clergy and Clergy Responsibility in Sexual Misconduct 

Freeh:  Institutional Failure to Deal with Sexual Abuse

The Limits of Dealing with Sexual Abuse in the Church

Lessons from Sexual Abuse Convictions

  Lessons Learned on Sexual Misconduct from Penn State

Clergy Sexual Abuse is also Child Endangering

Sexual Abuse in the Church: Lesson from the Roman Catholic Scandal

Sexual Abuse in the Church: The Converging of Church and State

Sexual Misconduct in the Church:  Where Truth, Justice and Wisdom Meet

Christian Sexual Abuse: Apostasy of the Worst Kind

Sexual Abuse in the Church

Taking a Page from the Old Coach’s Book

State Wants to Hold Bishop Accountable for Priest’s Misdeeds , Holding Bishops Accountable for Clergy Misconduct and In the Church, Not of the Church

Canonical Ordination and Deposition

Questioning God About Sex Abuse in the Church

Culture War Vs. Spiritual Warfare

Archbishop Seraphim of Canada Arrested

Allegations and Accusations

Celibacy and Sobriety

Episcopal Celibacy and Residency

Nothing Hurts

The Previous blog, Love Beyond the Veil of Rain, is a poem by Vassily Borisevitch, tranlated by  Dr Nikita J Eike, which is taken from a short story in which a Russian Orthodox deacon is punished for being the whistle-blower on his bishop’s sexual abuse.  It happens when the church leadership sees whistle-blowers as a greater threat to the church than clergy who commit sexual abuse.  The verses below are words I myself wrote about the inner turmoil I experience when seeing the church failing to have the courage and integrity to deal with the evil of clergy pastoral misconduct and abuse of any kind.

Nothing Hurts

The pain screaming in my heart:

The silence of power muffling pleas of victims.

What horrible throe stabs His Body and my chest?

Nothing, . . . the response of those responsible.

Too hard to swallow or to speak.

Fearfully visible and so painfully obvious:

Darkness creates a void where compassion should be.

Gnawing at my memory:

Institutional amnesia trying to make the disagreeable disappear.

Christ speaks the word which heals the silence.

Christ, crying tears, as pain convulses His Body.  

His friend Lazarus comes to mind.

Christ opens the eyes so the blind can see the light.

Christ remembers when He comes in His Kingdom.

His Body bears the wounds from the cross

And the wounds of the abuse of Her members.

By His wounds are we healed?  

Sighing and sorrow are still heard, yet to have fled away.

Love Beyond the Veil of Rain

For the last several years I have worked on the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee, wrestling, with others in the church, over the painful existence of clergy sexual misconduct.  Sometimes we wrestle together with issues, sometimes with each other in disagreement.  At times for me dealing with the issues has felt ‘soul destroying’: what some victims – who also happen to be my fellow church members – have suffered in sexual abuse and then suffered additionally by the attitude (including hostility, judgmentalism, callous indifference) of others in the church toward them.  Below is a poem taken from a fiction story written originally in Russian about a deacon in the church who reported the sexual misconduct of his bishop and was then punished for being a whistle-blower.

LOVE BEYOND THE VEIL OF RAIN

Vassily Borisevitch, Liège, 1981.                                                                                        Translated by Dr Nikita J Eike

[Note from the translator: This poem is part of a short story called ‘The Visit’ that addresses the issue of sexual abuse in the Church.  It comes at a point in the story where the Deacon having spoken up about a child being molested by his bishop, is defrocked and has to work in a coal mine to support his family.  Eventually  an explosion has him trapped below the surface for days where he slowly dies.  He is the whistle-blower who suffers at the hands of Church rulers who have failed to become shepherds and who have turned  those who should have been their beloved flock, into the impersonal mass of ‘the governed’. ]

My heart is a suffering stone,

Lying helpless behind a gossamer of rain,

Drops forming a watery veil,

As impenetrable as the iron wall that stills the wind in my soul.

 

My pain grows ever sharper,

I am dying a loveless life,

Screams that never can pierce the silence,

Muffled behind a veil of rain.

 

My tears are raindrops that never fell,

Cried for a heart that never moved,

Poured for hands that never worked,

On a soul that never rose.

 

My mind was formed by the hopeless,

Who blinded my eye that never saw,

Desperate my heart refusing to forget,

To hope for the Love Who lives beyond the veil of rain.

 

My feet will follow the exile of the governed,

Who bear with arms outstretched the lusts of their rulers,

Swift the arrow: the whistle die,

My life bleeds out between my soul and my God…

 

 And the silence fell to the ground a large ruby red teardrop.

One of the most painful images for me in the above poem is exactly when the deacon sees his fellow Christian church members, not as the beloved flock of the Good Shepherd, but as “the governed.”  When the Church sees its membership not as fellow baptized members of the Body of Christ, but only as those to be governed – lorded over – it has ceased to be Church but becomes nothing but another human institution intent on controlling its unruly subjects.  The power in the Church is not ‘over’ others, but our willingness to love, co-suffer with and for, others.

The next blog is verse I penned about my own thoughts and feelings about clergy sexual abuse and the attitudes I’ve seen in the church toward abusers and the abused.

Next:  Nothing Hurts

 

Sexual Misconduct PSPs for Police and Priests

Inasmuch as I have been involved in working on the OCA’s sexual misconduct policies, I have paid some attention to the news regarding policies adopted by other agencies including non-church agencies.  I recently was directed to a webpage dealing with law enforcement and sexual abuse.  Any agency which has “power” over others has to be aware that such power is also abused.  So I found the document, Addressing Sexual Offenses and Misconduct by Law Enforcement: Executive Guide, to be interesting.  As a victim of police sexual misconduct says,

“I feel that I have been given a life sentence… I frequently have intrusive memories of the assault… I cringe every time I see… a male officer in uniform, or a law enforcement vehicle. I am not the same person I was before the assault and I might never be that person again.”   —Survivor of Sexual Assault by Law Enforcement

People who have power over others can be viewed with great respect or fear, but when they abuse their power and violate ethical norms they can cause long lasting harm to others.  This is what clergy must remember as well, for a clergyman who engages in sexual misconduct violates all issues of trust and morality and can destroy the faith others have in the church and in God.

From the law enforcement document, I want to point out a few things that I think are pertinent to the church’s efforts to have effective policy in dealing with sexual misconduct.  This document for law enforcement says each law enforcement agency is to have standards of conduct for dealing with sexual abuse:

“It is the agency executive’s responsibility to foster an environment in which ethical behavior is expected and each member of the department is held accountable for meeting those standards.”  —Chief Russ Martin, Delaware Police Department, OH

It is the leadership of an organization which has to set the standards of conduct.  If the leadership is lax then the organization in general will not take the issue of sexual misconduct seriously.  So changing the culture of an organization requires the leadership to lead on this issue.

“Within the policing profession some conditions of the job may inadvertently create opportunities for sexual misconduct. Law enforcement officers (1) have power and authority over others; (2) work independently; (3) sometimes function without direct supervision; (4) often work late into the night when their conduct is less in the public eye; and (5) engage with vulnerable populations who lack power and are often perceived as less credible (e.g., juveniles, crime victims, undocumented people, and those with addictions and mental illness).”

These same conditions which “may inadvertently create opportunities for sexual misconduct” among law enforcement are equally true among clergy.   Clergy also most frequently work alone with little supervision in their daily activities, they work all kinds of hours and with all kinds of people so it is easy for them to hide misbehavior or to keep it out of the public eye.

“Any type of officer misconduct erodes trust in, and respect for, the profession. When a leader fails to ensure the adequate monitoring of officer actions or disregards complaints or concerns about officer conduct, the department in effect condones the misconduct and enables it to proliferate. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that policies to address and prevent sexual offenses are implemented; that all employees regularly receive effective training … and that roles, responsibilities, and professional standards are communicated clearly and reinforced consistently throughout the department.”

The leadership (in the case of the church – in parishes, the priests and in dioceses, the bishops) is responsible for monitoring conduct and for ensuring that policies and standards are maintained.  It is a discipline, and one would think in the church where we are to be disciples, we would understand the importance of discipline when it comes to misconduct.  Failure to uphold high standards leads to a lowering of standards.

“[S]exual misconduct that is not documented, investigated and adjudicated often escalates.”  —Lonsway, Kimberly A., “Preventing and Responding to Police Sexual Misconduct,” Law and Order, Herndon Publishing Co., 2009, p. 2

Law enforcement agencies are called to establish and enforce their own codes of conduct in dealing with sexual abuse:

“It is imperative to have procedures in place in order to effectively handle incident reports or complaints concerning officers. The process must be:

1. comprehensive, where an agency investigates all complaints received, including those that are anonymous or from third parties;

2. accessible, where the procedures for making a report or filing a complaint are streamlined and not burdensome to the individual complainant and information about the rights of law enforcement personnel and the public to file a complaint and the procedures for doing so are widely available;

3. fair, where the officer accused of misconduct is treated respectfully and receives a detailed investigation into the allegation;

4. thorough, where the investigation is complete enough to determine validity of complaints and identify and unfound those that are false; and

5. transparent, where a formal process to accept complaints exists, and all personnel know how to handle a complaint.”

 Those who doubt that the church needs strict policies and accountability, need only consider that every agency in America today has to deal with these same issues or they will suffer the loss and consequences in courts of law, even the police.

The church’s policies are formed not in a vacuum, but in the context of the society in which we live.

“Collaboration with victim service agencies in the community can encourage the reporting of incidents. Victim advocates need to know that the department takes allegations seriously and wants to receive information about any incidents or offenses, with the consent of the victim, even if communicated through a third party.”

The church which believes there are standards of behavior set by God is expected by society to live up to societal standards of ethical behavior.  We in the church have to set an expectation that our bishops and priests will abide by the standards set up in church policy, will enforce those policies and will ensure through proper discipline of those who violate these standards and policies that there is a zero tolerance for any sexual misconduct by clergy.

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.

Boy Scouts: Lessons from their Secret Files

Stories of how the Boy Scouts organization dealt with sexual abuse through the past decades are now surfacing as their secret files have been made public.  While there are many stories being published, this blog is going to quote from a story that appeared in my local paper, The DAYTON DAILY NEWS.

My interest in the story is not so much about the Boy Scouts and that institution but more the implications, if any, for how the Church deals with sexual misconduct.  What we see in the news about the BSA,   as in the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky case, sexual abuse can occur wherever there are kids present.  it is not religious institutions which have a penchant for child sex abuse but rather predators find their way to organizations where they can have access to children.  The temptation and tendency by institutional leaders to protect the institution and downplay the problems is prevalent in church and non-church institutions.

I am quoting from the Dayton Daily News story, Boy Scout Files Reveal Local Abuse.    (I have added the red highlight in the text to emphasize the part of the quote that I thought has implications for the Church’s handling of sexual misconduct).

The files reveal that some alleged pedophiles across the country and locally continued in scouting even after allegations were leveled against them. In several cases, community leaders such as judges and pastors helped keep the name of scouting out of the courts or the media, according to an Associated Press review of the files.

At the time, those authorities justified their actions as necessary to protect the good name and good works of Scouting, a pillar of 20th century America.”

The fact that scouting leaders were allowed to continue in positions even after allegations emerged against them is shocking and yet sadly is a common story told about the church and other institutions as well.  NOTE:  it is considered shocking that ALLEGED pedophiles were kept in positions after allegations were leveled against them.  Never mind convicted pedophiles.  The mere fact that men were allowed to keep working in the BSA after allegations were made is shocking to the author of the article as it is to current public sentiment.  Once allegations are made, organizations are expected to take action – not wait to see if the allegations are substantiated.  The protection of children trumps the protection of the reputation of the leaders.    Standards now call for such people to be removed from contact with the kids immediately following an allegation and during the duration of a full investigation.   Organizations are expected to have policies and mechanisms in place for dealing with allegations which include removing the accused from contact with children.

According to the news article, “good” people felt it necessary to protect the name of the BSA and so they worked to prevent the stories from being made public rather than warning the public about the stories.   This has become completely unacceptable to the police and the public.  Civil lawsuits in many church cases have gone against church organizations precisely because they failed to warn their members about suspected pedophiles.

To protect the good name of the church or the organization has too often been why the church and other institutions failed to be transparent about such allegations.  That is also listed as a reason why action was not taken in the Penn State case according to the Freeh commission.  It may be that at one time people saw as “good intention” efforts to prevent stories of sexual abuse from becoming public knowledge.  Such efforts to conceal these crimes today is seen as criminal itself.

“At a news conference Thursday, Portland attorney Kelly Clark blasted the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to try to keep the files secret.

You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children,’ said Clark, who in 2010 won a landmark lawsuit against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s.”

The protection of the public from evil and harm is expected to be part of the mission of the church and every public institution.  No matter what PR problems it may cause, the Church must be transparent about sexual misconduct in the church, especially related to children.  We cannot withhold from the public information that might help protect children.  Rather, the Church must find ways to go public with what it knows about sexual abuse and to actively seek witnesses and information about sexual abuse it suspects within the church.  Current standards would say it is not enough for a church to acknowledge one of its clergy engaged in sexual misconduct.  Now the church is expected to publicly ask anyone with information regarding sexual misconduct to come forward.  The institution may fear such an invite exposes the church to further bad publicity and to further liability if more allegations come forward.  The Church especially should live by the notion that God is not mocked – we cannot hide our misdeeds from Him, and neither should we attempt to conceal criminal behavior in the church for in doing this we expose more people to harm.

In many instances — more than a third, according to the Scouts’ own count — police weren’t told about the reports of abuse. And even when they were, sometimes local law enforcement still did nothing, seeking to protect the name of Scouting over their victims.”

The OCA’s policies do require that proper civil authorities be informed when sexual abuse involves children or whenever the law would require a report to be made.  Church leaders, including parish priests, teachers and parish council members, have to make themselves familiar with state laws to know when and what to report.  Not tolerating any instances of sexual misconduct is the best offense against them.

“The documents reveal that on many occasions the files succeeded in keeping pedophiles out of Scouting leadership positions — the reason why they were collected in the first place. But the files are also littered with horrific accounts of alleged pedophiles who were able to continue in Scouting because of pressure from community leaders and local Scouts officials.”

People don’t want to believe that someone who is “such a good man” could do sexual abuse.  People don’t want the name of the institution besmirched.  There are many reasons why people might pressure others to be silent.   Lesson learned is that all allegations must be taken seriously – which means investigated with written reports recorded about their findings.

“The files also document other troubling patterns. There is little mention in the files of concern for the welfare of Scouts who were abused by their leaders, or what was done for the victims. But there are numerous documents showing compassion for alleged abusers, who were often times sent to psychiatrists or pastors to get help.”

OUCH.   Compassion for the abusers but not for the victims.  Especially in the church there is a pressure and tendency to “forgive” the abusers while paying less attention to the victims.

We see how institutions of all kinds, not just church ones, respond in similar ways to reports of abuse:  protect the institution, shield the big names within the institution, don’t let people know about the abuse to prevent others from being scandalized.   Even if these were acceptable ideas at one time, they are no longer acceptable nor do they represent any standard of behavior for institutions and organizations.  Church leaders have to commit themselves to bringing the church up to the standards of the day.