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.

Taking a Page from the Old Coach’s Book

The allegations of child sex abuse occurring at Penn State involving a football coach has caused literally a riot among fans, friends and the public.  Though a lot of the energy which has been reported has focused on what some see as the head coach being treated unfairly, what everyone in the Church should note is the direction in which U.S. law and the courts are headed when it comes to child sex abuse.  Zero tolerance means just that.

I’m not particularly interested in Penn State, I take note of the events because I serve on the OCA’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee.  I point to what happened at Penn State as yet another wake up call to bishops, priests and parish members.  Sexual predators are real, they aren’t limited to a minority of Catholic priests.  They exist in every walk of life, and our Church is no less susceptible to their predations than any other organization in which children are present.

I advise you to read two articles from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED about the events.  I’m referring to these articles from a sports magazine as I’ll assume the magazine is not involved in current politics but is viewing the events from the point of view of sports writers.  Both articles are written by Andy Staples (I know nothing about him, I admit I don’t normally read SI and am a luke warm sports fan at best).  The first article is titled, “With no explanation for inaction, Joe Paterno must go.”  The second article is “Paterno’s Penn St. legacy forever marred by Sandusky scandal.”

I want to repeat and emphasize I have no real interest in this being related to sports, football, Penn St., or Joe Paterno.   I have nothing against any of these institutions.  My interest is purely what implications any of this has for the Orthodox Church.   Already the press, including my home town newspaper are making the connection:  Institutions in Sex Scandals try to Protect their Own.

Coach Paterno is not accused of sexual abuse.  The story is that someone reported to him witnessing a sex act between a coach and a 10 year old boy in the college football complex.  He reported it to Paterno, Paterno apparently following policy reported the event to a campus atheletic director.  But then nothing happened, no follow up, no outcry, no report to the police.  Life went on as if nothing happened.   As it turns out there were other victims of sex abuse from the same accused coach.  I think I heard he is indicted on 40 counts.  (You can read the indictment on line.)  Some of those might have been prevented had Paterno and others taken the allegations seriously and followed through in an investigation.  No one did.

All Orthodox in America need to pay attention to these events.  Child abuse is not merely unfortunate, nor is it merely a deadly sin [the type of which Jesus Himself suggested the perpetrator of such a horrible sin should have a millstone put around his neck and be drowned in the sea (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2)],  it is also a crime.  That is the part of child abuse that is now coming to roost in every church.  It will not be enough for us to feel sorry that sin happens.  The state in the case of child sexual abuse is saying we must actively and proactively work to prevent it from happening.  If we fail to do so, we will make the headlines of every news agency in the country.  But that isn’t the worst part.  The worst part is we will have failed to protect a child.  However terrible the behavior of the predators and sex abuse, it is those who suffer abuse whose suffering we should be concerned about.

Bishops, priest and parishioners of the Orthodox Church must not stay silent or on the sidelines on this issue.   We must all actively work to prevent child abuse in our parishes.  Wherever there are children, predators are interested in being there too.  Fortunately, predators are a very small portion of the total population.  But we must work proactively against them.   We each and all should be demanding our parishes, parish councils, priests, bishops and dioceses to take every step possible to help prevent even one child from being abused in our churches.  (See also my blog Lessons Learned on Sexual Misconduct from Penn State).

We also should take note that we cannot hide behind having good policy.  Joe Paterno appears to have followed policy.  He reported the event to an atheletic supervisor, just not to the police.   Bishops and priests especially should take note of this.  If we try to “protect” ourselves by merely following policy, rather than by following up with real investigation of reported sexual abuse, we will find ourselves both in the scandalous position of Coach Paterno, and with the searing knowledge that we failed to protect our children.

Maybe the publicity of the Penn St. case will awaken more of us to the problem.  Too many have thought this a problem of the Catholic Church, or that it could only occur somewhere else.   We see now the problem is in society and the world of the fall.  This is the world in which we too abide.

See also my blog series which began with State Wants to Hold Bishop Accountable for Priest’s Misdeeds

In the Church, Not of the Church?

This is the 3rd  and final blog in this series dealing with the effort of the state to hold a Roman Catholic bishop legally accountable for failing to follow church procedure in dealing with the sexual misconduct of a clergyman as reported in the NY TIMES on 14 October 2011, Bishop is Indicted; Charge is Failing to Report Abuse.  The previous blog is Holding Bishops Accountable for Clergy Misconduct.

A lot of the responsibility for ensuring policy compliance starts with and falls upon the bishops.   Our bishops insist that monarchical episcopate puts all power in their hands.   So too responsibility for what happens falls upon them, and it appears that the state agrees with this and is going to hold bishops accountable for abuse committed by their clergy.   Church leaders failing to follow PSP (even on small issues), being too trusting of the accused and not responding to accusations with urgency are going to find themselves facing criminal charges in America.   These are all exact issues which the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee (SMPAC) has been endeavoring to make our bishops aware of.  Bishops according to St. Paul are supposed to be good managers  (I Timothy 3:1-4; Titus 1:7-9) – not just the focal points of liturgical events, but good administrators.   Canon law even requires that bishops have someone help them manage diocesan finances because the bishop is responsible for overseeing (administering) his diocese.  Today, an additional requirement is being asked of them – be effective administrators.   These problems have been brought on not by the world invading the Church but by church leadership not doing what they needed to do within the Body of Christ.  (see Stanley Fish’s Is Religion Above the Law?  for a recent discussion on the complex relationship in America between the church, its doctrines and disciplines and the rights of American citizens).

While some are complaining that society’s interest in clergy sexual misconduct amounts to nothing more than secularism trying to invade the church and destroy it, there is a different reality these folks are ignoring.   What we face in clergy sexual misconduct is that people in the church have encountered evil in the church, hidden under the guise of clerical leadership.  It is abuse at the hands of clergy and then abuse and lies and cover-up from the institutional leadership.  This is a failure of the Church itself.  If there is an invasion of the church by the world it comes in the form of clergy who engage in abuse and misconduct.  We have for reasons inexplicable embraced secrecy and darkness, the devil’s friends, as the very means and methods of dealing with sin.   The world is asking us to lead by allowing light to shine on every operation of the Church.  However, truthfully, Christ is asking us to do the same to protect His flock.  We in the church shouldn’t need the world to tell us to do what is right.  Christ has already told us, but if we don’t listen to Him, He will speak to us through the world.

The Church which is supposed to be a light to the world, which is supposed to convict the world of sin, which is supposed to save people from evil, has shown itself at times  not to be a safe place and has shown itself to be very subject to the effects of the Fall.   This is a stunning failure for the Church; it is a call to repentance for all who have accepted positions of leadership in the church.

And it is not the world attacking the church – the church is being attacked from within, from its leadership which does not resist its own passions and temptations.   People who are or were in the Church and members of the Church  have been abused by institutional leadership.  This is not the world attacking the church, though perhaps Satan, but we have men in the church who are willing to be agents of evil.

Additionally, part of the sickness we see in the Church is that Church hierarchy declares that the Church is equated to and made co-terminus with the institutional leadership.  Thus the leadership no matter how corrupt is the church and so in defending itself and its decisions, the leadership is defending the church (and sinful behavior) against the membership!   The people of God no matter how much Christ embraces them as His own and as His own Body become viewed as a threat to the church (= the institutional leadership).  And so allegations of abuse are often treated as threats to the church.  Rather than the abuse itself being the threat to the church, leadership views the laity making the allegations against the clergy as threatening – as allowing secularism into the church.   It really is sad that the church itself cannot distinguish between what is truly evil and what merely exposes the evil.

Categories of “the church” and “the world” are meaningless in this mess.  The Church is reduced to the institutional leadership and “the world” is expanded to include the laity.

But people in the church who are victimized by clerical abuse are the Church and those who abuse have placed themselves outside of the Church no matter how many panagias they wear.

The church is not under attack from the world, we are not under attack but rather the attack is from within – shepherds who are wolves and who are intent on defending their institutional power and privileges against the people of God.     We are all and each attacked by these offending clergy and bishops; we are not attacked by the victims who expose the crimes. Nor, as a friend added, are we attacked “by the lawyers, investigators, mental health professionals who offer advice on the matter.”   All of these people are working to help and heal the victims and to help the church uphold its high moral standards.

The victims find themselves forced to go outside of the church to find healing, to find safety, to find mercy, to find justice. And again, as a friend noted, sometimes “this mercy and justice will take the form of prosecutions and civil suits.”

That is what is so sick about clergy sexual abuse.   As St. Paul said when one member of the Body suffers, all suffer (1 Corinthians 12:26).   Sexual abuse in the church is a sickness that affects the entire Body.  And even if there is but one case of sexual abuse in the Church, the entire Body suffers.

What has been decided by the state in charging the Kansas City Roman Catholic bishop is that “ministerial exception,”  which Stanley Fish defines as the case law  that “exempts religious associations from complying with neutral, generally applicable laws in some, circumstances”, does not apply when the abuse of children is involved. Ministers, priests, bishops, clergy are not protected from prosecution in pedophilia cases, and now no longer will clergy supervisors, namely our bishops, be protected if in negligently failing to protect children they do not use due diligence in proactively dealing with abusing clergy.  Churches are expected to have Policy Standards and Procedures which proactively protect children from abuse.  Failure to follow these PSP may now lead to criminal prosecution not only of abusing clergy but of the bishops who have the responsibility to oversee them and compliance to PSP.

We are trying to cure the illness, not just cope with it.  We have to work in the Church, as another friend noted,  to remove  any opportunity for the responsible  leadership to make future excuses about what happened.   We don’t need excuses.  We need to allow the light of Christ to shine into every corner of the Church and into every heart of our church members to expose sin and evil wherever it may be and to perform the healing which is necessary for the church to be the Church.

See Also:  Questioning God about Sex Abuse in the Church and Taking a Page from the Old Coach’s Book

This blog series can also be read as one PDF:  Blog Series (PDF).

State Wants to Hold Bishop Accountable for Priest’s Misdeeds

When the NY TIMES reported the story, Bishop is Indicted; Charge is Failing to Report Abuse, it caught the attention of many people who are working in their denominations dealing with clergy sexual abuse.  The efforts of law officials in the U.S. to help protect children from sexual abuse in churches has turned to making a concerted effort to hold ranking church officials responsible for what their clergy do.   The Kansas City bishop in this case is not charged with sexual abuse himself, but with not doing enough to stop abuse and an abuser among his clergy.

Historically there had been a standing practice in churches to deal with cases of clergy sexual abuse, especially pedophilia, as quietly (secretly) as is possible and to suppress any publicity of the case.  The supposed justification of this was that such behaviors were absolutely rare anomalies and so there was no use scandalizing the faithful over the behavior of the very uncommon abhorrent clergyman.  Unfortunately in the mix was also the practice of trying to save the clergymen’s ordination.   And in order to avoid having to publicly explain anything (for example why a clergyman was defrocked), churches frequently moved these aberrant clergymen to new locations (no defrocking, no explanation needed) and in effect spread the disease to new communities.  [One wonders why they didn’t see as a means to prevent scandal defrocking these misbehaving clergy.  But somehow having to defrock clergy was more scandalous to church leadership than was having clergy misbehave in new locations].

Of course in their new assignments, the church hierarchy seemed to think it was just fine not to inform the new parishes why the clergyman was being moved to their community.   Thus the parishioners naively and wrongly assumed that the clergy were totally trustworthy and that the hierarchy was looking out for them.

The change occurring now in U.S. law which holds bishops accountable for the misbehavior (and sometimes criminal misbehavior) of their clergy is forcing churches to acknowledge that trying to deal with clergy misconduct through internally secret methods is unacceptable.   If we are going to protect our children and the vulnerable and fragile members of our flocks, then we have to much more publicly deal with clergy abuse and misconduct especially through defrocking the clergy guilty of misconduct and abuse.    In a sense the new laws are going to force churches to live up to the Church’s supposedly high standards of moral conduct for its clergy.

Of course today a motive stronger than high moral standards at work in the church is the fear of devastatingly expensive civil lawsuits.   That has become the motivating factor for many churches to change their lax practices.   Churches are coming to  recognize that no matter how much it hurts the church and scandalizes the faithful to admit to sexual abuse in the church, the pain and damage of having the abuse and its cover up discovered later is far more devastating.  Even in the church money talks.   And though St. Paul condemned civil lawsuits between Christians (1 Corinthians 6:7), such lawsuits have forced church hierarchy to pay attention to those members of their flock injured by the clergy.   Up to this point bishops frequently saw it as their duty to defend the clergy from such allegations, now they have to realize that those members of the church injured by abuse are every bit as much members of the church and as important to the Church as their clergy.

There is another lesson to which priests and bishops need to pay attention:   Law and its standards change.    The bishop in this case and the police chief may want to argue that they were following what had previously been thought of the standards for dealing with these issues.   But because law in a democracy is subject to change based on changing standards and ideals current in society, we cannot comfort ourselves with thinking “we were following our Best Practices” or we were following the current Policy Standard and Procedures (PSP).    Such claims may not be enough if the church’s current Best Practices and PSP are not up to the existing standards of law.   What the new court cases mean is that having correct Policy Standards and Procedures are not enough – SOMEONE (namely the bishop in a hierarchical church) must be practicing due diligence in enforcing the PSPs and ensuring compliance by all clergy and parishes.

PSPs regarding sexual misconduct are undergoing intense scrutiny and serious change in our country.   People are angry and no longer willing to tolerate what they view as incompetence, negligence, or under reacting by church authorities in cases involving sexual misconduct in the church.   The mood in the country, which is now in law and in the courts, is that the church cannot passively wait for the civil authorities to deal with crime in the church.  The expectation is for the church to actively and aggressively investigate allegations and proactively root out offenders.  This means when warning signs are noticed – the clergyman may not even have broken a law YET – the church is going to be expected to deal firmly with that clergyman, removing them from office in order to protecti children, the vulnerable, and the fragile.    Church leaders are going to have to monitor their clergy more than currently is being done.  For example the background check that Oxford Documents does – looking at credit history, all brushes with the law, driving record – may have to become standard fare in the Church.  Many church denominations already have acknowledged that sexually misbehaving clergy often have troubles in many areas of their lives – their marriages, their credit, frequent moves, relational troubles with parishioners, bad driving records, etc.    There are warning signs which the courts are going to start demanding churches pay attention to in the lives of their clergy.   [Some denominational officials say they have in fact come to recognize that sexually misbehaving clergy frequently have credit problems – they run up huge porn bills on their computers, they have expensive sexual dalliances with prostitutes or have to pay off people to keep them silent or are being black mailed.   If the state comes to recognize these as legitimate warning signs of future sexual misconduct, the church is going to have to pay attention to these things in its clergy.]

Next:  Holding Bishops Accountable for Clergy Misconduct

Clergy Sexual Abuse is also Child Endangering

The news about the Grand Jury’s investigation into the Philadelphia Roman Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal is shocking:   It should also be a warning to all bishops that in the United States, the police and courts are not going to be sympathetic to a church that does not actively and pro-actively work to prevent child sex abuse.   As the news story says, what is happening in Philadelphia is going to send shock waves across America in how the police, prosecuting attorneys and courts deal with clergy sex abuse – in any church or denomination.  Churches which try to hide behind protecting clergy rather than protecting children by claiming the dangers of “false allegations” are going to find themselves in deep trouble with the law and with courts.  As the news reports it (emphases is mine):

“The grand jury report accused a monsignor, three priests and a parochial schoolteacher of abusing kids or failing to prevent abuse by others. It also said that as many as 37 priests remained in active ministry with allegations or reports of inappropriate behavior or sexual abuse of minors.”

Failing to remove priests or bishops against whom allegations of sexual abuse are brought from positions of ministry is now going to be interpreted as a failure to protect children from abuse.  Churches will pay for this failure through summary judgments against them in courts.  Showing some form of sympathy to sexual abusers – moving them to a new location, allowing them to serve under some form of watchfulness or mentoring –  is going to be interpreted as the church failing to protect its own children.

“Anytime a credibly accused child molester is publicly identified or suspended, kids are safer. However, it’s crucial to remember that the grand jury found widespread fault and deceit and recklessness by church officials.”

Church leaders need to be aware of how the courts and the law are going to interpret actions taken for or against both the victims of abuse who make allegations and those alleged to have abused others.   It is not only the abusers themselves whom the courts are now going after – they are looking to hold accountable the church officials responsible for supervising these clergy including bishops.

“This report takes it to another level because they go after the vicar for clergy — that person who has the authority of the Archbishop Justin Rigali to handle priest affairs and priest assignments, and that person now is being called to justice,” says Wall, who has worked on priest sex abuse cases across the country.”

Bishops, priests and parishioners need to make themselves totally familiar with their church’s Sexual Misconduct Policies as well as the laws in the states in which they live.   A failure to adhere to Church policies or to recognize the authority of the state in child sexual abuse cases will prove costly in court to the church and to church leaders personally.

He says the situation in Philadelphia could have ripple effects on litigation nationwide.

“It really does change the face of things, because not only can we look to the bishop or the religious superior, but now we can specifically look at how different lower, midlevel managers could be charged with child endangerment,” Wall says.

The failure by bishops to enforce Church policies regarding sexual misconduct, the failure to remove from ministry sexual abusers and predators is going to be understood by the police and courts as the crime of child endangerment by bishops.

As Orthodox, perhaps we have imagined that the sexual scandals of the Catholic Church will not touch us.  The law of the land however will treat our church, priests and bishops the same as Catholic priests and bishops who engaged in sexual abuse or who failed to protect children.

Bishops and priests are charged to keep watch over their flocks and spiritual children by taking seriously our policies and procedures in dealing with cases of clergy sexual misconduct, of predation, and of abuse.  Those who engage in these immoral and illegal behaviors can indeed repent and express remorse, but they should not be allowed to continue as clergy in the Church under any circumstances.  Bishops should not put themselves in the position of being accused of child endangerment by failing to deal with sexual misconduct, abuse or predatorial behavior by any clergy.  While some may fear this imposes secular/state law over Church canon law in dealing with such problems and curtails the power of the bishops in these matters, there is the reality that we are supposed to be in the world, but not of it.  In the world the Church recognizes certain authority that the state has over its citizens.  Sexual abuse of children is in the eyes of the United States not simply a sin or spiritual problem, it is a crime and the state reserves the right to deal with such crimes committed against its citizens.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” (Ephesians 5:11-13)

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

A 300 page report concerning the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy done by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice was recently released.   Some of its findings were summarized in a Religious News Service article by David Gibson, Causes of Catholic Abuse Scandal Pinpointed by Study.

Being a member of the OCA’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee, I’ve read some of these articles with interest.  There were two excerpts from the article I thought particularly relevant for Orthodox in this country.

1)    “The John Jay researchers take pains to credit the hierarchy for making important strides in combating child abuse — an assertion victim advocates will strenuously dispute — and they point out that society as a whole was only slowly coming to understand the nature of child abuse as U.S. dioceses were swamped with cases.

At the same time, however, researchers note the bishops’ abysmal track record in so many tragic instances, and say church leadership was reflexively defensive and self-protective — behavior that fits a well-defined pattern of crisis management in large institutions.

Indeed, the authors convincingly argue that the clerical culture that fostered and concealed deviance by priests is remarkably similar to the law enforcement culture that allows police brutality. The church, like the police, is a hierarchical organization that operates in a decentralized way, with each department (or diocese) an authority unto itself and not inclined to open itself to oversight.”

2)     “The doctrine of the undiluted authority of the bishop, combined with the hierarchy’s track record as a group of crisis managers concerned with protecting the institution, may be the central problem for the bishops revealed by the sex abuse crisis.

That’s certainly the main challenge put forth by authors of the new John Jay report, who argue that the American Catholic hierarchy must finally adopt uniform, secure policies characterized by genuine transparency and true accountability, especially for bishops.

Taking that difficult step is the only way the bishops can begin to show that the hierarchy is different from Wall Street financiers or a protective police bureaucracy. It’s also perhaps the quickest way for the bishops to restore the Catholic Church’s credibility as a compelling witness to the faith rather than just another suspect institution.”

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.

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

While the pedophile scandal of the Roman Church has grabbed the headlines regarding clergy sexual abuse, some studies (see the NEWSWEEK article,  indicate that about the same percentage of males in the general population are involved in sexual abuse as are the percentage of Catholic priests who have been involved in such abuse.  Insurers who handle church policies do not see much difference between denominations in the percentage of pastors involved in sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse and pedophilia are human problems within the entire population, not just problems of clergy or of one particular religious organization.

And it is the case that sometimes a church leader does openly confront these problems within the church.   Such is the story reported by Maureen Dowd’s op-ed article in the 4 June 2011 NY TIMES  An Archbishop Burns, While Rome Fiddles.

The story is of importance for all churches, including the Orthodox Church which is not somehow supernaturally free of sin or of clergy who are willing to commit crimes.  It takes strong church leaders, sometimes just one, to turn around a church’s attitude toward sexual abuse by clergy.  It is a hard battle to fight, partly because of mistaken ideas by some people as to who the abusers are or what an abuser is like.  Dowd speaking about the Irish bishop of Dublin Martin writes:

The pedophiles, he said, “have an ability to take the young children into their grips and make it impossible for them to talk. They look for the vulnerable and make them worse. You see that a lot of these men were driven not by faith but by hormones.

“One of the things that annoys me is when I see a priest get convicted, the newspapers try to get the most devilish photographs of them. The trouble is that child sexual abusers don’t look like devils. They look like charmers. If pedophiles had horns on their noses, no one would go near them.”

In a church where officials still put more energy into protecting their arcane prerogatives than protecting children, Martin has become a hero merely by stating the obvious.

“In the case of serial pedophiles, what should have happened from the very beginning, people should have said, look, stop, these people are real dangers,” he said. “They have to be brought out, they have to be prosecuted and so on.”

The fact that church members have turned to the secular authorities and civil courts for help in dealing with clergy sexual abuse causes some to doubt the good faith of the victims.  But the reality is there is a frustration with how the church handles allegations: there is often a knee-jerk denial of the allegations, and then a rushing to the defense of the accused clergy, something witnessed in the Orthodox Church in Canada recently.

There may be some good in this initial reaction – it may mean that the numbers of victims are few and that is why many can’t believe the allegations.  So an immediate denial is certainly a better sign than a rush of people coming forward with evidence that they suspected the clergyperson all along but had failed to report it.

However, there also needs to be among church leaders a realistic assessment of the facts of life – pedophilia occurs in the population as a whole; that it occurs among people in the church has to be admitted and taken seriously.   Churches must be willing to investigate every allegation brought to their attention.  And it is advisable to victims to take their complaints to civil authorities – let them investigate the complaint and let them decide if some action needs to be taken.

I have just finished reading a book on Constantine the Great, the Roman Emperor who granted toleration to Christianity in the 4th Century and then embraced the faith himself, and am in the process of reading a second book on the same man (I read Paul Stephenson’s CONSTANTINE: ROMAN EMPEROR, CHRISTIAN VICTOR, and am now reading Peter Leithart’s DEFENDING CONSTANTINE).  One of the things that happened as soon as the Roman Empire quit persecuting Christians and gave them legal status in the empire is that the Christians took their internal disputes to the state and even appealed to Constantine directly (while he was still a pagan) when they felt they could get no resolution to their complaints through the church.  The Donatist controversy is the perfect example of Christians disputing over bad behavior by clergy.  While Constantine tried to get the Christians to settle their disputes through church investigations and by the decisions of bishops, when all else failed he intervened with the force of the state.  Constantine’s concern as expressed in his decrees to the disputing Christians was that if the church did not live up to its own standards of holiness and concord God might punish the empire and Constantine himself.

We no longer live in a time when the state fears the anger of God over disputes within the church (the separation of church and state apparently is considered a good defense before God for the state not involving itself in church disputes).  However, as with Constantine, the secular state does have an interest in protecting its citizens, especially its children.  If the church fails to take appropriate action against clergy involved in sexual abuse of its members especially children, then the state is going to take an interest in its citizens and take whatever actions it deems appropriate to protect its citizens and children from a church that won’t do the same.

The state recognizes that some of its citizens may also claim membership in a church, and may feel themselves part of a kingdom not of this world.  But the state also recognizes these people live in the world and are part of a nation which is concerned about their welfare in this lifetime.  The state sometimes does a better job at honoring the dual citizenship of its denizens than the church does.

For the Church, including the Orthodox Church, the time is at hand for us to take seriously any claims of sexual abuse by the clergy, especially allegations involving the abuse of children.  It is time for open investigations to be done, to completely and fully cooperate with civil investigating authorities, and to take firm and decisive action against clergy who are guilty of sexual abuse, and also against any in supervisory roles (including bishops) who fail to take seriously allegations and who endanger children by failing to investigate allegations and by failing to take disciplinary actions against those involved in abuse.

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.

Archbishop Seraphim of Canada Arrested

News about the arrest and charging of Archbishop Seraphim of Canada on two counts of child sexual assault circulated widely yesterday (American Thanksgiving Day).  You can read articles: CTV Edmonton,, Global Winnipeg,  The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

The arrest means Canadian authorities believe the allegations have sufficient merit to warrant a trial.   The OCA’s Synod of Bishops had in their recent meeting (November 15-18) also approved a commission to look into these allegations.

However painful such a story is for the Church, the Church as an institution was called into existence to deal with sin in the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.  The purpose of the Church is to deal with sin and sinners, and now we will see how the Church, with its very human leaders deals with sin and sins, not only in the world, but in the Church.

While news within the church of allegations of misconduct comes as a shocking surprise and is often met with incredulity, I am much reminded of the Gospel lesson of the Last Supper as recorded in  Mark 14:16-23 (and the parallel account in Matthew 26:19-30):

And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover. And when it was evening he came with the twelve.  And as they were at table eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful, and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.

Images of the last supper resonate with us not only because of Holy Thursday and iconography but more because of Holy Communion which we receive each week.  We understand the event of the Mystical Supper to be one of high points of the liturgical remembrance of Christ during Holy Week – for Communion becomes our real participation in the life of Christ, in His death and resurrection as members of His Body.

In the midst of this Mystical and sacramental participation in Christ, we see the Twelve Disciples one by one verbalizing the fear of their own hearts: “Is it I, Lord?!?”  For Christ informs them around the Eucharistic table that one of them is going to betray Him.   Each disciple does not express the firm conviction and disbelief, “No!  It is not true, don’t say that, Lord.”  They each do not ask, “How can you say that, Lord?”  Rather each one asks aloud, “Is it I, Lord?”   Is it I, chosen apostle, one of the Twelve, who will betray you?  They each knew themselves.

What a scene!  The chosen and holy apostles each is able to vocalize that dreaded fear, “Is it I who will betray you, Lord?”  For each in that moment realized the truth and the depth of his own heart:  for each it was a possibility.  We each need to think about this truth before we rush to judgment or lose all faith in the Apostles or the Apostolic Church.   “Is it I, Lord, who can betray you?”  “Is it I, Lord, who does betray you by my sins?”

We deceive ourselves if we believe that church leaders are sinless for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  All includes priests, bishops, apostles, and saints.   We each stand in church as sinners, perhaps penitents, perhaps seeking forgiveness and mercy, perhaps redeemed by Christ, but sinners nonetheless. 

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.   (1 John 1:8-10)

This is the reality the Church claims to believe.  It is not for nothing that before receiving the Eucharist we recite in the creedal prayer, “Neither like Judas will I give you a kiss.”   The incredible truth about us as disciples is we are human and we are capable of betraying Christ – not only that, but betraying Him by the kiss of peace.   We do contemplate Judas each Holy Week as well, as a reminder of what it is to be human.

The reality of humans, the reality which God so grudgingly acknowledges in Genesis 6:6 and 8:21 in the story of Noah and the great flood, is that there is evil in the heart of humans even from when we are young. 

We are created in God’s image and likeness, capable of bearing God in us, capable of theosis.  We also are beings in whose hearts evil can and does dwell.  Both are the truths about humanity, and both are supposed to be included in how the Church sees itself, its members, and the world.  In the Church we deal with truth, even when it is painful and cuts to the heart.  “Is it I, Lord?”