Wed | Jun 26, 2019

Editorial | The sins of the Church

Published:Saturday | March 2, 2019 | 12:16 AM

Resignations, convictions, and imprisonment happening within the global Church community are enough to place clergy everywhere on the defensive. These egregious acts of sexual abuse by church leaders are deeply disturbing to believers and non-believers alike. Indeed, the sins of the clergy are too much to ignore.

Internationally, the Catholic Church has been hardest hit, with cases stretching from Australia to schools in Ireland and cities in the United States. Indeed, Pope Francis has just ended a meeting of bishops and church leaders intended to frame a global response to clergy abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

The summit was held even as the high-profile case of Cardinal George Pell, 77, who was third in command, was going through the courts. Indeed, a report of the Conference of Bishops of the United States released last year indicates that between 2014 and 2017, there were 3,573 allegations of sexual abuse of minors involving priests and deacons.

In all, US bishops have acknowledged that more than 17,000 persons have been molested by priests and other church leaders going back to 1950.

And a local Catholic priest has recently resigned after he was shamed internationally by an alleged victim of sexual abuse.

It’s not just the Catholic Church, however. There is mounting evidence of the unsavoury behaviour of predatory church leaders in other denominations. The Church of England said that up to 2016, it had received more than 600 allegations of sexual abuse involving its clergy and church officials.

The Methodist Church in the United Kingdom reported in 2015 that it had uncovered more than 300 cases of sexual abuse involving its clergy. We recall the sensational arrest of Moravian pastor Rupert Clarke in 2016 after he was reportedly caught having sex with a minor.

BEAR PAIN IN SILENCE

Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison has stated that reports of sexual abuse of minors have been received in relation to deacons, elders, and prayer warriors. Her office routinely investigates these reports. However, she cited the reluctance of some victims to put their complaint in writing.

It is believed that many others have remained silent out of fear of recrimination and worse, intimidation. There is evidence that many victims bear their pain in silence and embarrassment.

It is state agencies like the Office of the Children’s Advocate that is left to identify and seek to punish the offenders. Not the leadership of the Church, who we presume would have known of these allegations long before the information got into the public domain.

Charges of cover-up have been levelled at some church leaders who appear to have done nothing to investigate the complaints and/or hold persons accountable for their reprehensible behaviours. It means that some clergymen continue to escape accountability. The approach of the Church, in keeping with the scriptures seems to be to offer counsel to the victims and prayers for the abuser.

We submit that there is a moral and ethical duty of the church leadership in Jamaica to speak up. Silence will not help to restore hope in the Church. Let us know whether there have been reports of sexual abuse among their clergy and let them state what has been done.

For example, how many clergymen have been defrocked for alleged sexual abuse? And since sexual abuse is a criminal act, not only should the Church investigate, but it should turn over the evidence to the police and allow them to conclude the investigations.

There are indeed many hard-working, kind, and God-fearing clergy, but there are bad apples among them. The actions of the few hold up the rest to ridicule and charges of hypocrisy.

The bottom line is that pastors and church leaders are responsible for the children in their care, and if they neglect this duty and the children are harmed, they could be held liable.

Between 2000 and 2010, huge payouts were made by the US diocese to settle victims’ (many of them were minors at the time of the abuse) claims.

The Church must do more to address the abuse of minors and expose the abusers. The time has come for the Church to give a clear indication of how it intends to ensure that allegations of sexual abuse are reported to the authorities and that errant clergy are removed from their position of trust.