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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Clergy Gone Wild--Roman Catholics and Protestants Alike

With all the reports about clergy sex abuse in the news, it seem we live in the era of Clergy Gone Wild. The Roman Catholic Church scandals have been dominating the news but its not only the RCC that has a problem keeping its clergy under control. Protestant clergy, including Evangelical Preachers, seem to be trying their best to keep up with the Catholics.

Valerie Tarico, a former evangelical Christian, and a licensed psychologist, has an excellent piece on entitled: "The Protestant Clergy Sex Abuse Pattern." She begins:

One of the most striking aspects of the Protestant clergy sex abuse pattern is that most people don’t realize it is a pattern. The Catholic Church has taken a well deserved beating in the courts and in the court of public opinion as former altar boys, orphans and ordinary parishioners have come forward with appalling stories of sex abuse. Yet equally egregious violations by Protestant clergy have failed to generate the same level of outrage. Why?
She gives four reasons:

  • The Catholic Church is easier to think of as a monolithic entity. That means it is easier for the press to cohere the abuse incidents into a single story and our brains to grock it. The idea of one big conspiracy appeals to us: “The Church” did it and then covered it up.
  • The centralized hierarchy of Catholicism makes Catholic offenders easier to sue and guarantees deep pockets. The lawsuits in turn both generate their own news cycle and bring victims out of the closet.
  • Since most Americans are Protestants, the Catholic Sex Abuse scandal is a story about “them.” Protestant Pedophilia is a story about “us,” which makes it less gratifying and more uncomfortable.
  • Most Americans find the idea of celibacy peculiar at best. It makes for a more interesting narrative than a generic story about abuse of authority.

The truth is, though, that Protestants, including Evangelicals, have a big problem in this area too.

Here are some websites that document these abuses:

Blog on the Way
Stop Baptist Predators
Clergy Gone Wild
Black Collar Crime Blotter

1 comment:

  1. This phenomenon is somewhat easier to understand (I'm saying "understand", NOT condone, tolerate or forgive) within the framework of the Catholic clergy than Protestant. That is, it is easier to understand the causation. Need it be too surprising when we're talking about placing off limits the activities that satisfy the fundamentally powerful sex drive in human males?

    Protestants aren't prohibited from marriage or sexual activity (at least not within marriage). Or maybe the proportion of protestant clergy who are caught up in these illicit relationships are no more or less than that of the non-clerical population. I'd suspect that to be so. This could be seen as a vindication of protestant clergy, as a larger proportion aren't doing this.

    But is it really a vindication? I think we're looking at the wrong angle if we think so. I've been under the impression that "being saved" is purported to bring about a tendency toward not necessarily moral perfection, but an ability to behave more morally more often. Some denominations place emphasis on the notion of "sanctification". But aren't there certain theological implications that need to be addressed if we're able to empirically see that a Christian faith (or any other religion for that matter) doesn't effectively result in a different proportion of moral vs. immoral behavior, and even more so among the clergy who we should expect to be more fully immersed in the spirit?