People thought he’d sweep it under the rug. After all, he’s not supposed to be a touchy feely guy. Don’t they call him “God’s Rottweiler?” And the sordid mess didn’t even happen on his watch….why should he take the heat?
Instead, Pope Benedict tackled it head-on. While still en route for his April 2008 U.S.A. visit, he told reporters he was deeply ashamed for all the pedophile priests. ''It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future…..We will do everything possible to heal this wound.''
It was a true Oprah moment, the time that Americans love best. A rending apology [preferably with tears] from the top guy. Now, at last, Americans can “put it behind us,” “come together,” and “move on.” They love to do all these things….but only after Oprah moments…..and perhaps not so readily in matters involving religion, which is under the looking glass today.
Benedict won the highest praise that can be bestowed upon anyone in this country: "Basically, he seems like a nice guy, said John Allen Jr., a senior correspondent with the National Catholic Reporter. The man whose Jehovah’s Witness cousin remembers as a “naughty boy,” who was “everywhere he shouldn't [have] been….when I think today of what we did, it's a wonder that [we are] alive," was, at age 81, in the eyes of American Catholics, at exactly the right place at the right time. A childhood prankster no more.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become manifest, neither anything carefully concealed that will never become known and never come into the open. Luke 8:17
Twenty years ago could anybody have foreseen the upcoming child sex abuse scandal among priests? Who would have imagined such a thing? Yet, a 2003 report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice concluded that .2% of all U.S. priests had been proven abusers…..less than the popular imagination has it, no doubt, but still one heck of a lot of priests, considering the influence each has (4% of all priests have been accused, but not proven). Heightening the furor was the revelation that church authorities knew about the perversion, but did little to stop it. Instead, accused priests were transferred parish to parish, sometimes with brief periods of counseling. In the new parish they’d carry on as before, among a new batch of unsuspecting children.
But the real shocker for me was the accusation, several years later, that Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, harbored pedophiles! Nobody wants to be accused of that, and nothing in my 20 year experience with the faith gave credence to the accusation. Could it possibly be true, or was it just dreamt up and kept alive by soreheads upset with JWs for other reasons? You wanted to flat out deny that such things could ever happen among our people. Unfortunately, we are people, and one can’t quite go that far.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last 30 years, it’s that child sexual abuse is rampant in society, eclipsing anything anyone could have envisioned. Everywhere kids are, sexual abuse exists. Scouting organizations. Schools. Neighbors. All the time we read of respected persons in the community, even leaders of various sorts, caught with computers bursting with child-porn. Child molesters especially abound in the extended family and the step-family. It’s a sick world, as the slightest glance at the newspaper ought to daily convince anyone. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t claim to be immune to perverse influences. In general, though, applying Christian teachings equip us to resist those influences to a greater degree than run of the mill society.
In the United States there are currently 80,000+ elders serving in over 12,000 congregations. In the past 100 years, only eleven of them have been sued for child abuse in thirteen lawsuits. In seven of those lawsuits, accusations against the Watchtower Society itself were dismissed by the courts. Is this to say no other lawsuits have been filed naming Jehovah’s Witnesses? No. But it’s this figure that must be used if one wishes to compare their organization with large churches in which pedophilia has been shown to be rampant among the clergy. It’s plain that there is no comparison.
Doubtless, additional lawsuits have involved ministerial servants, roughly the equivalent of deacons. All remaining lawsuits pertain to congregation members or their family, not “clergy,” and the lawsuits attempt to hold the parent organization accountable. No other religious organization, to my knowledge, has been subjected to the same scrutiny. Most of these case also have been dismissed. Some appear to be largely efforts to malign the Watchtower organization. This one, for example. Some cases, however, have been settled. Even one instance is shameful, make no mistake. But in an organization of several million people you will find many instances of almost anything.
Some of the criticism stems from a policy which you would think would be a good thing. Jehovah’s Witnesses police themselves. Elders in every congregation are prepared to hear disputes among congregation members that they themselves have not been able to resolve. They also hear allegations of wrongdoing and are authorized to impose various forms of discipline up to, and including expulsion from the congregation. “Church discipline” used to be practiced by many organizations….it is not unique to us. Many decades ago, however, church members tired of being disciplined, so most churches gave it up. Not so Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, critics contend that makes them “insular.”
In such a climate, a case of child sexual abuse might be brought before local elders, instead of secular authorities, and the elders might be stymied by the matter being one person’s word against another…..how are they to know which party is truthful? The secular authorities would have been stymied by the same thing until very recently…..in any contest between a child and an adult, the adult’s word was generally accepted, and children were hushed up, even by parents too shocked to consider the implications of sexual abuse. But within a few short years, child sexual abuse captured popular attention. It jumped from something you never heard about to something you heard about constantly. Surely people my age remember how sudden was the change of consciousness. “One person’s word against another” was no longer enough……after all, how likely were there to be witnesses? Ones accused of molestation were suddenly confronted with those who specialized in the field, who probed thoroughly, and who often came up with corroborating evidence.
Might there have been real victims who went to congregation elders, rather than police, who later regretted not doing it the other way around? It's possible. Some have claimed those circumstances and have became embittered….it’s not too hard to understand. Others who don’t like Jehovah’s Witnesses for philosophical and other reasons take up the complaints as if they were their own. Most states have laws now decreeing that any allegation of sexual abuse be reported to the police. Congregation elders comply with these laws, but in the early days such laws did not exist, and people did the best they could based on current, not later, thinking.
From the blogs:
The written policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that a known child molester convicted may never be appointed to any position of oversight in any congregation. In this country, many states require that allegations of child sexual abuse be reported to police. Elders comply with this law. However, in addition to whatever consequences may come from police involvement, committees within the congregation themselves investigate. Penalties within the congregation can range up to disfellowshjpping (shunning). I’m not sure what more can be done to demonstrate seriousness on this issue. It is more than most religions do. You can’t shoot abusers.
“The policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that a known child molester convicted may never be appointed to any position of oversight in any congregation.”
That’s all?! Shunning–at least! He should never be allowed near your church again and in any country he should be reported to the police! The right thing is to denounce all such behavior sharply! Otherwise people are unaware of his tendencies and he victimizes someone else. (Which is what the school systems have been doing with molesting teachers, in many places, I’m sorry to say–just getting rid of them and not telling anyone and he or she goes elsewhere and starts over there. With the same behavior.)
“Shunning–at least! He should never be allowed near your church again and in any country he should be reported to the police! The right thing is to denounce all such behavior sharply!”…..Isn’t that what I just said? Shunning-yes, it happens. (and who else takes such measures?) And reporting to the police - yes, it happens. After which the full might of the law is thrown at such a person. About 20 years ago, police notification began to be required for all allegations of child sexual abuse from anyone in position to learn of it….health workers, school personnel, clergy. Without police involvement it was feared that such conduct might be too easily swept under the rug. If the law is notified and fails to convict, it is slander to publicly label a person as a child molester. But in the congregation (the only place our words have any meaning) you can still warn persons so they are protected.
"He should never be allowed near your church again." As you know, you legally cannot do that with any public place. What you can do is warn persons. Isn’t that among the effects of shunning? Depending on circumstances such ones may be publicly reproved. Again, it’s a policy that serves to notify all of the need for caution around such ones.
But I repeat, this conduct is very unusual among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yes, if you scour the globe and bring all allegations together in one place - both substantiated and unsubstantiated, ranging from rape to touching a child’s knee - not just per annum, but all cases that have ever existed down through the years - yes, if you do all that, they accumulate, I grant you. But the broad picture is that child abuse is exceedingly uncommon among our people when compared to the world at large.