|Associated Baptist Press (April 5, 2010), http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/5017/9/: Catholic sex-abuse cases share window in Baptist house|
|By Norman Jameson|
|Monday, April 05, 2010|
(ABP) -- It's easy for non-Catholic Christians to observe from a distance the clergy sex-abuse controversies that torment the Catholic Church. We take comfort that the deviant behavior of sick "celibate" priests did not occur within the confines of our own churches.
Sex abuse in the church is not a Catholic crisis alone. A skeptical public repulsed at news of a priest abusing 200 deaf boys lumps local church leaders into the same putrid pot.
All Christians are stained in the sweep of the same broad brush, but a Baylor University School of Social Work study released last fall suggests that tainting is not without foundation. The study found just over 3 percent -- or seven women in a typical congregation with 400 adult members -- have been victims of clergy sexual misconduct since they turned 18.
American Catholics have instituted rules that immediately and forever remove a man from the priesthood who is shown to be guilty of abuse. The pope apologized for the sexual abuse of minors and pledged that pedophiles would not be allowed to become priests in the Catholic Church.
The Vatican even instituted reforms to prevent future abuse in the U.S. by requiring background checks for church employees and issued new rules disallowing ordination of men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies."
Sex-abuse cases also rock Baptist churches. Individually they are just as bad, and collectively we are doing a lot less than the Catholics about resolution.
Southern Baptists as a national entity have nothing in place to prevent abusers from carrying their satchels of pain to another church or to yank credentials from an abusive clergyman.
A motion to institute a national registry of abusers was rejected by the Southern Baptist Executive Committee in 2008 on the basis of church autonomy. The Executive Committee recommended instead that churches run background checks through an already available U.S. Department of Justice system.
That system contains names only of those convicted of a crime and not those times when a church forces a minister to leave and keep the reasons unstated to avoid lawsuits or embarrassment. We want to forgive and redeem, so we too easily accept apologies and promises of the offender never to do it again.
Several websites list Christians charged with sex abuses and crimes, and a shocking number of them are Baptists. The list of stories related to the arrest of Baptist church staff across the country for crimes against members of their flocks stretches on and on.
Writing recently about churches and sexual abuse, Christian ethicist David Gushee said: "The Baptist situation may be no better than the Catholic, only shielded more deeply from view. This situation demands reform, immediately, for the sake of the vulnerable and abused children among us -- not to mention for the sake of the gospel witness, so desecrated by the abuse behind our stained glass windows."