As archdiocese builds new system to address clergy sex abuse, trust grows

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Ron Bean's picture

I recently watched the movie Spotlight again. It's the true story of the extent of abuse in the RCC and the absolute and harmful folly of dealing with these things internally. As one comment stated, the initial reaction should be, "Call the cops!"

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jay's picture

Call me crazy, but when people talk about building something like this out for the SBC, everyone loses their mind.  But if the Archdiocese of St. Paul does it...then "trust grows" according to the paper and nobody bats an eye. 

It's long past time for something like this.  I get the dangers inherent in creating and maintaining a systemic database of sex offenders/abusers, but the old method of paper trails and missing information simply isn't sufficient anymore, and the courts are not going to look favorably on the "well, we terminated his employment and sent him on his way" defense offered by a church (a la Jack Hyles's sons).  I don't think that SI is the place or has the capacity to do this, but surely the FBFI or GARBC or CBA someone like that could, right?  And isn't that worth supporting even if we aren't in 'their camp'?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

G. N. Barkman's picture

We watched "Spotlight" recently for the first time.  I was astonished at the extent of abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.  Did you see the list of known offenders in scores of cities in the USA and around the world?  As I recall, Boston had around 350.  The total must be in the thousands, and that's only cities where investigations took place.  The true, but unverified figure must be in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands.

Which makes the number of offenses in FBF, SBC, and other evangelical organizations pale by comparison.  Yes, it's shameful whenever and wherever it occurs.  But to compare others to the RC is simply misguided.  Nobody else comes even close.

G. N. Barkman

Larry Nelson's picture

 

This fact was reinforced in my mind just recently.  Where I live (the Mpls./St. Paul, MN area), the local RCC Diocese has been the focus of a widespread child abuse scandal for several years. 

At my (Baptist) church, we recently opened a new auditorium addition.  As the finishing touches were being completed, one of our Children's staffers happened to overhear something as he was walking past the new Green Room (comfortable seating area, kitchenette, attached restroom, and attached dressing room).  It's very nice.  Being "backstage" (if you will), it's also relatively secluded.  As used for its intended purpose, it's also a place where children are not likely to be. 

Nevertheless, here's what our staffer overheard one worker say to another: "I wonder how many kids will be abused in here."

My church has never had even a hint of an abuse scandal.  Yet there's apparently some perception of guilt that abuse scandals, in whatever church or denomination they may occur, cast on all churches in the minds of the general public.

Bert Perry's picture

Folks, the apparent disparity in relative numbers derives from the simple fact that with 70 million members, the Catholic Church dwarfs any one evangelical or fundamental denomination, and quite frankly outnumbers evangelicals and fundamentalists as a whole by a fairly significant margin.  It also results from the fact that the media furor over priests molesting children and teens--mostly teens actually--gives other victims a reason to come forward.  

So for us, by and large, "our turn" hasn't come up yet that would expose predators in our midst.  The apparent disparity between the Catholics and "us" may simply be an artifact of the fact that "our people" haven't seen one of their own step forward.

The Boy Scouts had their turn, and worked with outsiders to come up with a child protection program that is still world class, and then the Catholics had their turn, and they're working with outsiders to come up with child protection programs and culture that are world class.  With MSU and USC, it's arguably higher education's turn, and the smart schools (which sadly does not include my alma mater, MSU) are working with outsiders to make their child protection world class.  As I've noted before, that's not just policies; it's corporate culture, audits, and the like.

Brothers, our turn is coming (may have already started), and we have a choice; we can learn from what these groups have learned and suffer a little, or we can push our heads into the sand and suffer a lot.  

Ron Bean's picture

I didn't mean to imply that the abuse in our circles is as epidemic as those of the RCC. (I am angry that the RCC gets a general pass in the MSM media. If I were a RC parent with a child I would run away from the church as fast as possible.) I am saying that we need to guard ourselves against self-policing. I watched one serial abuser avoid justice for years and I'm determined to never see that happen again. I had a deacon who was accused of abuse by his somewhat rebellious step-daughter. I ignored advice to "get all the facts first" and physically escorted him to the police station. He got jail.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

For reference, the best statistics we have are that about 4% of Catholic priests are implicated in child/teen sexual abuse (again, mostly teens), and if we take nationwide statistics seriously--about 20-25% of girls are molested by people who abuse an average of eight victims, and about 16% of boys are molested by people who abuse an average of hundreds of victims.  That would imply about 3% of adult males (the vast majority of perpetrators are male) are guilty of this crime.  For comparison's sake, about 850,000 people are on Megan's List, and a look at DOJ statistics indicates that only about half of likely offenders have a previous felony record--indicating that the number of offenders likely is somewhere in the 3% of adult males range (plus maybe 0.5-1% of women or so).

So first of all, we are not talking about a night and day difference between the Roman Catholics and the nation as a whole.  There are great reasons not to be Catholic--sacramentalism, rejection of the Solas and the Council of Trent for starters--but given that the Catholics have just purged a huge number of offenders and taken big steps to deal with known risks, it could well turn out that one of the safest places in the world today is as an altar boy in the U.S.  Just like one of the safest places for a boy today is, for all the organization's faults, in the Boy Scouts.

That leads to the second reality; given that we can expect that up to about 3% of men walking into the church may have committed such a crime, or may be "bent" in such a way that they might do so, what are we going to do to deal with possible risks like the room Larry discussed?  It ought to be more than simply assuming kids won't go back there.  

G. N. Barkman's picture

So, according to Bert's statistics, we know that RC priests are sexual molesters above the national average.  We have no way to know if church staff in Evangelical churches represent the national average, but my observation would lead me to believe it's below average.  While even one is too many, the RC rate of abuse could easily be two or three times higher than evangelicals.  

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

GN, this is one place where you cannot make a confident assertion simply because the confidence ranges are so wide.  To draw a picture, ABWE, MSU, and USC looked pretty good until the world learned about Ketcham, Nassar, and Tyndall, no?  The Catholic Church looked pretty good until the dam broke, and so did the Boy Scouts and the public schools.  

Where we are now, really, is in the position of having had a number of scandals in our ranks, and with a huge number of churches that are not even doing basics like two-deep and background checks.  Couple that with a huge resistance to take known scandals seriously--e.g. SGM issues--and the ugly reality is that when it's our turn, it's going to leave a mark.  Best guess is that we are, plus or minus, statistically similar to what the Catholics experienced.

Or, put differently, known experts on the matter like career prosecutor/investigator Boz Tchividjian are sounding the alarm that we are setting ourselves up for huge problems.  We need to take people like him seriously. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Granted that there have been a number of serious cases of sexual molesters among Evangelicals.  (I use the term broadly to include Fundamentalists.)  Every case is destructive and inexcusable.  Still, where the Bible is believed and taught, the percentage of offenders must surely be lower.  There will always be some who are hypocrites, but the truth of Scripture stands as an effective barrier to discourage such behavior.  The more serious a church is about preaching the Bible with conviction, the less likely they are to have sexual predators in their ranks.  If you do not believe this is so, you must not believe in the power of God's Word.  If the incidence of Roman Catholic abuse is no greater than that of Evangelicals, the gospel proclaimed by Evangelicals is no more true than that proclaimed by Roman Catholics.  The true gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  The RC gospel has no such saving and life-changing power.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

....those who get into children's ministry are actually believers, maybe.  But in too many "easy-believism" churches, what are the odds you're going to lay on that?  I dearly want to believe you're right on this, GN, but in a world where the test for starting work in children's ministry is basically whether you can fog a mirror on a cold day, I'm not betting my mortgage payment on it.  

An argument that we could be worse; evangelicals have also been far more successful at getting numbers into kids' programs.  So if you're a sicko, do you volunteer at Easy Believe Baptist with 200 kids in the bus ministry, or do you go down the road to the United Methodists where they're scraping to get 50?

G. N. Barkman's picture

My comment above was predicated upon churches preaching Truth.  Easy believism is as much a perversion of the gospel as RC doctrine.  So, you may be right.  If the number of churches that preach the gospel is so low that they represent only a small fraction of Evangelical churches, the percentage of sexual molesters is probably no better than in RC.  

G. N. Barkman

Jay's picture

Yes, obviously we are talking about churches that practice truth.

I'd just like to take a minute to advocate for the several different platforms that allow our churches to screen their potential nursery volunteers.  Our church has used Care of God's Children and another program that I can't remember right now.  Aly Raisman is personally subsidizing the cost of Darkness to Light, which may be good as well.  GRACE has a certification program as well and other tools.  I'm not pushing a specific program as much as that our churches put some kind of policy / training platform in place (at a bare minimum).  There are lots of options out there, and many are affordable and accessible via the Internet.

We ought to be leading the charge against abuse, and that starts with learning what to look for and what to avoid. That's where education is a key aspect.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

Let's not forget that the Bible predicts that vipers and wolves will creep in to the church; I don't know that we ought to say "we've got theology right so we're going to have far fewer problems", as Scripture records a few humdingers among churches taught by the very apostles, including at least one case (the lover of his stepmother) where those watching today's sex scandals would say "sounds familiar."  

No objection to good theology, no problem with the notion that those who have it might be less likely to offend, but we need to remember that SGM had non-easy-believe theology and intensive discipleship structures and had nasty issues, and ABWE had a lot of the same, as did BJU.  It's not for no reason that the ancients warned that hubris--overconfidence, really--was the biggest thing to watch out for.  

Plus, even the best churches scramble for youth volunteers, and that tends to cause problems.  

josh p's picture

Although I'm not a huge apologist for it, (although I do personally think it's better) this is another area where family integrated churches have an advantage. There are still plenty of opportunities for predators but at least it's more limited. If a church does have a children's program then I think its an absolute must to have something in place like Jay proposed.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Well, Bert, you finally got around to maligning BJU with ABWE again.  I, for one, am getting a little tired of it.  Am I too touchy?  I have asked on previous occasions exactly how BJU parallels ABWE and received only silence.  So I will ask again.  Has BJU had a staff member commit sexual assault and it was NOT reported to the police?  What sexual assault happened at BJU that was covered up?  I am not aware of anything.  If there is something, I need to know so I can stop being too sensitive.  If not, then please stop this nonsense!  The more you do this, the more it looks like you have an ax to grind, which calls into question the validity of your opinions about sexual misconduct.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

I've actually answered you about why I still name BJU here, I believe several times.  First, the crimes were real, and yes, there were many of them described in the GRACE report that were not reported to police.  Read.The.Report.  You will find references to being discouraged from reporting sex crimes to police starting on page 29, and none less than Jim Berg admitted calling pastors to "delegate" calling police when he knew a sex crime had been committed--a crime under South Carolina law since at least 1980.

Now the point here is not to simply beat on BJU.  It is, rather, to point out that just because you think you have good theology is not in itself a bulwark against this kind of crimes.  The GRACE report makes that very, very clear.  

Bert Perry's picture

Just because I mention ABWE and BJU together does not mean, by the way, that they are completely equivalent any more than ABWE is completely equivalent to MSU, New Tribes, USC, The OSU, or others.  It simply means that all of them have had huge problems in this area.  Again, what it means is that we cannot assume that, absent very clear data, that the distinctives of one organization will insulate it, partially or fully, from problems.  

G. N. Barkman's picture

I read the Grace report when it first came out.  I doubt I will have time to read it again unless it becomes necessary.  I do not recall any charge in the report about sexual assault by BJU staff not reported to police.  I believe you are talking about pastors and churches in other locations.  That is a horse of a different color.  ABWE covered up a long standing series of serious crimes by one of it's most illustrious missionaries.  I don't recall seeing anything similar regarding BJU.  I am aware that the Grace report was severe in its criticism of Jim Berg.  I believe the Berg problems concerned the way he counseled students who had been molested by pastors or others in their home churches prior to coming to BJU.  Berg's counseling was, shall we say, inadequate and misguided.  But again, that's a horse of another color.  I am not convinced that equating BJU with ABWE is a fair comparison.  To simply say that these two situations indicate that Fundamentalism "has a problem" is too vague.  The way you equate the two strongly implies that BJU was guilty of the same thing as ABWE.  As far as I can tell, it was not, and I do not think you help the cause of truth by putting them together with the same charge.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

I'm not comparing BJU and ABWE line by line.  That noted, the victimizers at BJU include, according to the report, men who have gone into vocational ministry.  So we might argue that while BJU hasn't harbored the crimes of a current Donn Ketcham employed by them, as did ABWE, they could very well have enabled the next one who went on to be employed by someone else.

Splitting hairs based on whether the person was "currently employed" by the institution really ignores the fact that sexual offenders tend not to stop with just one victim, sad to say.  

G. N. Barkman's picture

Bert, it appears that you are stretching to prove your point.  "Could have enabled" is a shot in the dark, an unsubstantiated opinion.  I guess I "could have become a millionaire" if I had invested in Apple when it was a dollar a share.  Why don't you just admit that you erred in implying parity when the situations are quite different.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

GN, it appears that you're willing to ignore facts to make yours. If you wish to quibble about the fact that we don't know the names of any former BJU students who went on to commit more crimes, and what those crimes were, fine, but statistically speaking, those who commit sexual assault tend to repeat their actions until they are harshly punished.  Generally this is by incarceration.  Stretch?  No, it's a fact.  If you want to reduce the likelihood of recurrence, you've got to take these statistics seriously and act on their implications.

I would also dare suggest you need to ask yourself why you feel such a strong need to distance your alma mater from ABWE.  What I see in both cases is administration looking the other way as dozens of people were victimized.  Trying to differentiate based on the number of perpetrators, their employment status, and the like simply misses the major point; that administration was looking the other way as women and girls were victimized. 

Missing the major point, of course, means that the pattern is far more likely to be repeated.  It's a dangerous game you're playing, GN. 

Ron Bean's picture

Please answer these two questions with direct answers. Admonishing people to read the rather long Grace Report is seen by some as an evasive response. Just save us some time and give a direct answer. 

Has BJU had a staff member commit sexual assault and it was NOT reported to the police?  What sexual assault happened at BJU that was covered up? 

Direct answers would help us all. Thanks.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jay's picture

Here's the hyperlink to the report for those of you who don't believe me.  This is on page 33.

Here's the text:

The survey findings support a possible conclusion that BJU representatives may have sometimes discouraged the reporting of sexual crimes to the proper authorities.

Specifically, 47 percent of survey takers who self-identified as abuse victims stated that BJU personnel either directed them not to make a police report or discouraged them from doing so.

These survey comments relate to the issue of abuse victims being discouraged from making police reports. Victims heard, consistently, from chapel speakers and faculty/staff, that abusers should be forgiven, that they bore the sin of bitterness, and that they should not report abusers.

[D]eal with your own “sin;” keep knowledge within the church.

Its [sic] best not to make a big deal out of this for the good of the school.

A person in administration who knew that I was assaulted by one of their preacher boys stated that I would destroy this godly man’s education and future if I reported his crime.

I received a slip in my P.O.[Box] to report to the stage following a specific chapel service. At that time, Drs. Bob, Jr. and III told me that they were sorry such a thing happened but that I now had the choice to honor God by my response and not be selfish in sharing the experience with others and gaining inappropriate attention for the school.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

G. N. Barkman's picture

The counsel reported above is just plain wrong.  I have no hesitation to say so.  I still don't know what is involved with the statement, "I was assaulted by one of their preacher boys."  Was this preacher boy currently enrolled as a student?  If so, he should have been dealt with by the school AND reported to the police.  However, the earlier statement, "The survey findings support a possible conclusion that BJU representatives may have sometimes  discouraged the reporting of sexual crimes to the proper authorities" raises legitimate questions.  Even the Grace report is not willing to state unambiguously that BJU was, in fact, guilty of such conduct.  Maybe so, but Grace is not able to prove it.  Which means:  1)  Either the ones who made such charges have credibility problems, or 2) Putting all the evidence together does not support such a conclusion beyond doubt.

That is what the Grace report actually says.  That is totally different from what happened at ABWE, where there is absolutely no question of actual crimes and official coverup.  Obviously people like Bert and Jay read into the Grace report what they prefer to believe, namely that BJU is guilty of sexual misconduct and deliberate coverup.  Some of us have not yet seen clear evidence to support such a conclusion. I agree that BJU was wrong in the way it counseled some victims of sexual crimes.  Nevertheless, I am relieved to realize that no evidence proves BJU is guilty of the same crime as ABWE.  The Grace report is thorough.  The Grace report is critical.  But the Grace report also supports a relatively clean bill of health for BJU, which has undoubtedly learned from its mistakes, and has long ago changed its approach to counseling such victims.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

Ron, again, it really makes no difference except in the amount of damages that ought to be awarded whether the perpetrator was employed by BJU--that would simply indicate the length of time that BJU was looking the other way.  But, since apparently people cannot be bothered to actually read the document, here we go.  The emphatic answer is that yes, BJU staffers are implicated here.

Page 276: perpetrator was a former BJU student.  Page 278 lists a similar situation where the police report was actually made.

Page 278: BJU student and summer staffer fired for fondling boys at a summer music camp.  Perpetrator re-offended at a rescue mission BJU had found as a place for him to live.  No police report.

Page 280: BJU employee caught grooming male BJU students, proceeding to fondling, child porn.  No police report.

Page 282: BJU student assaults former student, no police report filed.  Victim discouraged from filing a report herself.

Page 285: BJU Academy student assaults two relatives, no police report filed.  

Page 286: BJU student, fondling.  Offender now in church leadership.

Page 288, BJU student, fondling of boys.  No police report filed.  

Page 290, BJU student, harassment of librarians and fondling, police report filed.

So yes, BJU employees and students are clearly implicated, including people who went on to vocational ministry.  Read the document for yourself.  And given that sexual assault is, for reasons of shame and other reasons, one off the most under-reported offenses on the books, it could well be the tip of the iceberg.

Jay's picture

I still don't know what is involved with the statement, "I was assaulted by one of their preacher boys."  Was this preacher boy currently enrolled as a student? 

Um, considering that the complainant was a student at the time and that you can't be called a 'preacher boy' without attending BJU, I think that's a safe assumption.  But maybe that's just common sense.

If so, he should have been dealt with by the school AND reported to the police.  

Except we're back to "IF", instead of dealing with what the report actually says happened.  Do I need to start quoting the exact statements of the people interviewed?

However, the earlier statement, "The survey findings support a possible conclusion that BJU representatives may have sometimes  discouraged the reporting of sexual crimes to the proper authorities" raises legitimate questions.  Even the Grace report is not willing to state unambiguously that BJU was, in fact, guilty of such conduct.  Maybe so, but Grace is not able to prove it.  Which means:  1)  Either the ones who made such charges have credibility problems, or 2) Putting all the evidence together does not support such a conclusion beyond doubt.

Or it may be because GRACE isn't the right venue for reporting and adjudicating criminal behavior.  Should Boz have taken staff out in handcuffs?  Was GRACE empowered subpoena documentation and compel staff to testify?  If you'll remember correctly, BJU did terminate their contract with GRACE at one point.  Do you suppose that it couldn't happen again?

That is what the Grace report actually says.  That is totally different from what happened at ABWE, where there is absolutely no question of actual crimes and official coverup. 

I disagree with your assertion that we are equating ABWE with BJU.  They are different situations (thankfully).  Neither, however, did things the way they should have been handled, which is exactly what we're talking about now on this thread.

Obviously people like Bert and Jay read into the Grace report what they prefer to believe, namely that BJU is guilty of sexual misconduct and deliberate coverup.  Some of us have not yet seen clear evidence to support such a conclusion.

I'm not sure what you need for 'clear evidence' when the report has tidbits like this:

"Specifically, 47 percent of survey takers who self-identified as abuse victims stated that BJU personnel either directed them not to make a police report or discouraged them from doing so." (pg. 33)

Here's some percentages for you, GN, from page 41:

BJU's Stance Towards A Victim Making A Police Report

  • Encouraged and/or assisted victim to report (7.8% investigative sample, 7.6% abuse victim sample)
  • Discouraged victim from making a report to legal authorities (20.9%, 21.2%)
  • Directed victim not to make a report to legal authorities (27.0%, 25.8%)
  • Unknown (13.9%, 6.1%)
  • Other (30.4%, 39.4%)

That's approximately 50% of the respondents (47.9% and 47% to be exact).

...The Grace report is thorough.  The Grace report is critical.  But the Grace report also supports a relatively clean bill of health for BJU, which has undoubtedly learned from its mistakes, and has long ago changed its approach to counseling such victims.

Yes, BJU has undoubtedly learned from it's mistakes.  But what is transpiring now doesn't ameliorate the past, nor does it affect those who came through the school and internalized their teachings and policies and who are still acting in accordance with the idea that some things should be kept 'in the church'.  No, the light should be used to 'expose the unfruitful works of darkness' (Eph. 5:11)

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

G. N. Barkman's picture

If the offenses listed by Bert and alluded by Jay are settled fact, why would the Grace report say, "The survey report finds a possible conclusion that BJU representatives may have sometimes discouraged the reporting of sexual crimes to the proper authorities."  Why the unwillingness to plainly state that this did, in fact happen?  Unless the investigators themselves were not fully convinced by the statements of those interviewed, and the conclusions of the evidence available to them.  If we are going to cite the Grace report to fault BJU, let's be honest about what it factually concludes, not automatically accept whatever anyone may have claimed.  Do we believe that alleged victims always tell the truth?  Experience shows us that sometimes people lie to advance a particular agenda.  If Grace was not convinced beyond reasonable doubt, how can anyone else assume the factualness of all of these claims?  I'm just asking.  I don't know the answers any more than you do.  Grace should know more about this than any of us, and they state their conclusions in cautious tones.  Does that tell us anything?

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

GN, there's nothing contradictory about the cases and GRACE's evaluation.  We know that BJU personnel and students were involved in some pretty sick behavior, and that BJU personnel failed to make required police reports.  The question you're referring to, however, is whether BJU specifically conspired to prevent people from making police reports.   

And GRACE is simply admitting that the data are contested.  47% of those filling out surveys say "yes, BJU did actively discourage this", Jim Berg and other BJU personnel say no.  Also on the "hmmm" side are a number of BJU personnel who reported (a) not being trained in mandatory reporting and (b) being of the opinion that that simply wasn't the way things were done at the time.

My best guess is that BJU was effectively discouraging reporting by doing something that GRACE does unequivocally condemn; using the dean of students to "counsel" victims to see their "own role" in their own victimization.  In a nutshell, when the dean of students (Berg) tells a victim that she's (or he's, in many cases) partially at fault for her (his) own rape, and that her (his) response is going to determine whether she gets expelled or not, then your victims are going to choose what a lot of those counseling materials recommended; handle it inside.  

In other words, BJU is either hiding behind plausible deniability, or they're discouraging reporting without knowing what they're doing.  

One final hint; studies of sexual assault have found that false accusations are very low, around 2-8% of the total.   If you want to know what happens when you cast doubt on accusations without having solid evidence to back yourself up, just watch what's going on at Michigan State.  Hint; you don't want to be quoting John Strampel (Larry Nassar's former boss) or members of the MSU Board of Trustees in matters like this if you ever want to have effective ministry to the 20% or so of young people who have been sexually abused.  

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