Clergy sexual abuse should be a title that betrays an obvious oxymoron. Too often it is not. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who is presently serving a small congregation as their Lead Minister, I know that two things are true.
First, the way clergy has been viewed in the past–sometimes just this side of sainthood–makes it vulnerable for attracting people who lust for adoring people who give them–what they perceive as–command, power and control. Second, traits of predators lure them towards the clergy because of the perceived adoration of people and command, power and control that is often associated with their calling and profession. These traits are described in a recent article entitled, “5 Indicators of an Evil and Wicked Heart”. Listed briefly, they are:
1. Evil hearts are experts at creating confusion and contention.
2. Evil hearts are experts at fooling others with their smooth speech and flattering words.
3. Evil hearts crave and demand control, and their highest authority is their own self-reference.
4. Evil hearts play on the sympathies of good-willed people, often trumping the grace card.
5. Evil hearts have no conscience, no remorse.
If you just read this list and all of a sudden faces, names or situations shocked back into your memory may I suggest that you find a reliable confidant to whom you voice your sudden awareness. Particularly if they are among professionals in law enforcement, social work or the counseling field, they can advise you about whether or not to take action on your sudden hints or insights. You will also find helpful resources and links at the website for The Hope of Survivors and on their Facebook Page.
As a witness to the poison that clergy can inject into the body of Christ and trusting families because of their behavior coupled with churches that fail to address the predator decisively, this is one of those absolute zero tolerance matters. The priorities? First, protecting the victims and recognizing the damage that has been done so that the balm of Gilead can begin to bring about healing and growth. Be aware, this can take a very long time. Second, removing the predator from anything and everything related to the victim and his/her family while striving to see that help is administered. Be aware that the best potential for healing and reduced recidivism may include criminal prosecution and imprisonment.
This is one of those situations where the decisive action of a congregation to suspected clergy sexual abuse may speak more about God’s grace and forgiveness than expected. Conversely, how tragic for God’s people to suffer prosecution for not having taken the threat of clergy sexual abuse more seriously.