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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chaos Closed: Philadelphia Church Official Jailed, awaits sentencing

Church official found guilty of cover-up in abuse cases

"Imperious" church leaders and an "insular camaraderie" among clergy promotes the cover-up of sexual abuse against women and children in local parishes. So says a source to the NYTimes article cited for this blog.

A Philadelphia Archdiocese official and advisor to the late Archbishop was found guilty on Friday of endangerment and covering up incidences of abuse. Endangerment. This is a key part of the charge.

Protestant church leaders, don't bother breathing a sigh of relief that it was them, not you. The justice system will find you too.

It is only a matter of time.

The tide has turned.

Twenty years when I began this work -- fighting abuse in the church -- I had a churchwide (ELCA) mandate but still had an uphill battle and precious, few allies. Today there are still too few in the church who seem to 'get it' and to take an aggressive approach against perpetrators. But the tide has turned. Without question. Chaos closed. There is no explaining this behavior, no defending it, no blaming the victims any more.

Oh, that still happens, but in all official circles of justice it is clear. There is no fuzzy boundary. And that is a good thing.

Church leaders, like doctors, take their own oath in their ordination vows and while the words, "First, do no harm," do not appear verbatim, their meaning is clear. Church leaders are always responsible for keeping the safe boundary between clergy and laity and that boundary never includes sexual contact. If a bona fide couple emerges, it is up to them to remove the danger of a misuse of power by ending the pastor/parishioner relationship and conducting an open and honest relationship. Otherwise, it always runs the risk, or it is outright, an abuse of the considerable power of the pastoral office.

So. This verdict is in. It is a shot across the bow of all judicatory and other church leaders. No more cover ups. You will be held accountable. I know of cases where this must have some bishops shaking in their boots. And rightly so. The justice system is coming for you. I suggest you plead guilty. Chaos closed.

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