Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children

Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 750
Madison, Wisconsin 53701
Copyright 1988, Annie Laurie Gaylor

The first nonfiction book addressing the religious scandal of molestation of minors by members of the clergy was “Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children” by Annie Laurie Gaylor, which was published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 1988. Although the book is now out-of-print, and cites cases dating to the 1980s, it unfortunately is not out-of-date; all too little has changed since the first public exposure of pedophilia by priests and pastors. “Betrayal of Trust” (92 pages) documents the patterns of denial, inaction, cover-up, collusion, “forgiveness of sins,” and blame of victims endemic in many church congregations and denominations.

 The entire book (now out of print) is reproduced below.

 “He’s a respected member of our community. . .”

“. . .one drop of ink in crystal clear water. . .”

“Hey, Father, we’ve got a little problem. . .”

“It’s not our job to judge . . . it’s the Lord’s job.”

“He’s a wonderful person. He’s got our support 100 percent.”

“When he preached, his face was just shining like an angel.”

“It’s not for you to judge. That’s for God to do.”

“He’s a good man. If he did this, he will have to answer to God when he dies.”

“I thought he was doing the right thing, because he was a priest.”–Eleven year old boy victim

“I feel like my church has betrayed me.”–His mother

“We have the right to know if an abuser is living among us.”–Letter to editor

“Something like this can destroy a person.”–Parent

“Being a preacher, we thought he was a good man.”–Father of girl victim

“This is the worst case of sexual abuse I’ve seen during my 30 years in law enforcement.”–Sheriff

“He wrapped himself in religious piety, used his position in the church and the community to shield himself and . . . to find children . . . to seduce them.”–U.S. Attorney

“The defendant used his position of trust to get these girls.”–Prosecutor

“Dressed up in sheep’s clothing, he is a wolf that preys on our children.”–Prosecutor

“This family turned to the church for help, and all the doors slammed shut.”–Victims’ Attorney

“I think the Catholic Church has its atonement to make as well. They helped create you.”–Judge

“Priests now have a license to sexually betray their parishioners and the church will turn its back on innocent victims.”–Attorney

“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” —Matthew 7:16,18,20

“Since the primary motive of the evil is disguise, one of the places evil people are most likely to be found is within the church. What better way to conceal one’s evil from oneself, as well as from others, than to be a deacon or some other highly visible form of Christian within our culture? . . . . I do not mean to imply that the evil are anything other than a small minority among the religious or that the religious motives of most people are in any way spurious. I mean only that evil people tend to gravitate toward piety for the disguise and concealment it can offer them.” –Martin Buber, Good and Evil, (Philosopher/theologian)

“. . . [Regarding] the convention that clergymen are more virtuous than other men. Any average selection of mankind, set apart and told that it excels the rest in virtue, must tend to sink below the average.” –Bertrand Russell, “Religion and the Churches,” 1916, (Philosopher/ social critic)



This publication is dedicated to Sherry,
three times the victim of religious men,
and to the multitude of children
betrayed by “pillars of the church.”




The author is indebted to newspapers and reporters in North America for disclosing the facts on clergy abuse of children, sometimes involving exemplary investigative journalism in the face of heated controversy. The author is also grateful to the many readers of Freethought Today who conscientiously clipped and sent in many of the news accounts used in this book, as well as to several individuals, especially former minister Dan Barker, for encouraging an activist stance.


Chapter 6 — SEE NO EVIL
Chapter 10 — HEAR NO EVIL
Chapter 15 — CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION: A religious scandal

This is a book that had to be written, not one that I or our organization had ever sought to publish. It started writing itself when, through the pages of our monthly newspaper Freethought Today, we started chronicling the alarming and startling number of criminal cases involving ministers and priests who are molesting children. The sources are unsolicited clippings from area newspapers sent in by our relatively small readership. A brief sampling from over the years:

Case, 1982: A Louisville, Kentucky pastor convicted of sodomy and sexual abuse of young boys testified anonymously before a Senate subcommittee in April, 1982, about hunting boys for sex. He recounted how he had cruised areas where teenaged boys congregate in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Louisville. He received a suspended sentence in March 1982 of 10 years in prison and was given five years’ probation. (Source: Lexington Herald, 4/2/82)

Case, 1983: Rev. Wilbert Thomas, pastor of the Christian Alliance Holiness Church in Trenton, New Jersey, was indicted on charges of conspiring to control his congregation through criminal acts, including sexual assault, lewdness, involuntary servitude and beatings of women and children. He was convicted in 1985. (Source: Trenton Times, 2/83; 1985)

Case, 1984: Denouncing the “high degree of viciousness and cruelty” in the crimes, a judge sentenced Rev. Lawrence Gerard Smith, a priest, to eight months in prison. Smith, who was convicted of molesting Vietnamese boys he worked with in Hayward, California, was accused of taking advantage of their inability to speak English. (Source: [Lehighton, Pennsylvania] The Times News, 3/1/84)

Case, 1984: Rev. James E. Wynn, pastor of Mount Pisgah Baptist Temple in Asbury Park, New Jersey, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for sexually assaulting two young girls who were members of his congregation. Wynn was diagnosed as a “compulsive, repetitive sex offender” by doctors who examined him. The girls ranged in age from nine to 13 at the time of the assaults, which occurred at church or in the minister’s home. The pastor steadfastly maintained his innocence. His attorney Charles Frankel told the judge at the time of sentencing that his client “stands before your honor with a clear conscience head unbowed.” The church fired him from his duties a month after his conviction. Superior Court Judge James Kennedy stated that “these offenses involved the most drastic breach of trust anyone can imagine.” (Source: Newark Star-Ledger, 10/13/84)

Case, 1985: Rev. P. Henry Leech, one of three Roman Catholic priests in Rhode Island accused in 1984 of having sex with children, pleaded no contest in August 1985 to eight counts of sexual assault, including sodomy and battery. (Source: Newark Star-Ledger, 8185)

Case, 1986: Baptist Rev. Bobby Harold Epps of Starke, Florida pleaded guilty in May, 1986 to performing a lewd and lascivious act in the presence of a child under the age of 16. He was convicted of fondling a girl in a church office, and masturbating in her presence when giving her a ride home following a church activity. (Source: Gainesville Sun, 5/28/86)

Case, 1987: Father Robert William Klein of Brainerd, Minnesota, was found guilty on December 18, 1987 of third-degree sexual conduct involving children. Klein possessed a collection of 650 photos of boys modeling underwear or wrestling, and was described as “on the spectrum of what it means to be a pedophile.” The priest/child molester used treats such as cookies, trips to Dairy Queen, and a treehouse in his backyard to lure youngsters. County Attorney Stephen Rathke said Klein might be a good, generous man, but “unfortunately, he’s also a child molester.” (Source: Brainerd Daily Dispatch, 12/18/87)

Case, 1988: Rev. William S. Barrett, a rector of Episcopal churches in Moreau and Fort Edward, New York, pleaded guilty to providing alcohol and drugs and showing pornography to two 14 year old boys with whom he engaged in oral sex. Barrett’s crimes were particularly shocking to those who knew him since he had made a 20-year volunteer career of supposedly helping troubled youths. He was a certified foster parent for eight years, and had founded Project STRIVE in the late 1960s, a program for troubled youths. Barrett was known as a very religious man, who offered prayers during class reunions. (Source: Schenectady Gazette, 1/15/88)

On the average, three or four such reports cross my desk every week. All of these reports continue to stun me: priests, ministers or other “men of God” flagrantly abusing large numbers of children or young adolescents under the very noses of devout, unsuspecting parents, during church events and on church property, while churches cover up or rationalize abuse, and church members not uncommonly side with the abusers by blaming the victims.

When you read about a case of child molestation by a priest or minister, it may seem like an isolated phenomenon. But based on a study of child abusers by Dr. Gene G. Abel of Emory University, what appears to be a single aberrant case actually may involve hundreds of victims of the same pedophile. Even if crimes by sexually abusive clergy were confined to those documented in this book–a sampling of some of the criminal and civil cases reported by newspapers mainly in the years 1986 and 1987–the problem would be staggering. In recent major scandals in the Catholic dioceses, publicity from one case usually has led to the exposure of a network of pedophilic priests whose actions have gone unprotested by church superiors. This makes public exposure a vital part of prevention of future crimes.

Some readers may protest that spotlighting clergy criminals is taking a cheap shot, or may even object that it is “religion-bashing.” This book carefully outlines many reasons why it is not unfair to place clergy abuse in the spotlight. Betrayal of Trust documents the special advantages clerical abusers have with their church, the state and with child victims. The most important reason for this book, however, is that “while Nero fiddles, Rome burns.” Unpleasant as it may be to face, there are pedophiles among the clergy who are harming children at this moment. Even if some in our society consider it a topic beyond the pale, only awareness can help these children.

Hypocrisy is yet another major issue that must be addressed when sexual abuse by clergy occurs. When a profession claims a “calling of God,” divine guidance and moral superiority, it begs for close scrutiny. Clergymen portray themselves as of a higher moral caliber, which makes their crimes at minimum newsworthy, even, arguably, worse than others.

It is everyone’s business to protect children, the most vulnerable group in our society. Only when the public is aware and educated about this hidden abuse can we prevent future abuse. Church-going parents, and those who depend on church organizations for child care, Scouting and other social activities, should not be kept in ignorance of this aspect of child sexual abuse, particularly if it happens in their church! The parents of children who have been victimized by ministers and priests need to know their children are not the only ones. Groups already set up to deal with sexual victimization need to be fortified in their efforts to stop abuse when a clergyman is involved. The media need to be aware that the problem is not isolated to one sensational case in their community, or to some case buried in the back pages of a local newspaper.

It is true that pedophiles seek refuge in professions other than the clergy that can also provide access to children (but none giving them quite the prestige the typical minister receives). The Committee to Protect Children from Abusive Clergy would welcome more public attention focused on all aspects of child abuse, including incest or the problem of pedophilic coaches, police officers or pediatricians. This book, however, is restricted to those cases involving pedophiles under the cover of the church, for the excellent reason that, as documented here, churches are essentially providing sanctuary to pedophiles among their official ranks. The emotional reaction of the public to this problem, the modus operandi of such abusers and the psychology of denial when a pedophile is a priest or minister make the crimes of sufficient complexity to warrant special attention.

The Committee to Protect Children From Abusive Clergy was formed when it became clear that no one appears to be policing the clergy, that in fact most churches have dealt with such crimes in a callous and irresponsible manner. Church officials have looked the other way, or ostracized families who have complained about clergy abuse. Through the details gleaned from documented cases, patterns emerge. Certain refrains are heard repeatedly. From Victims: “I thought it must be right since he was a priest.” From Victims’ Families: “Being a preacher, we thought he was a good man.” From Abusing Ministers: “I was only trying to help this family.” From Defenders of Molesting Ministers: “We are taught forgiveness of sins.”

As this book was nearing completion, the subject of molestation within the ministry took on a sudden, timely prominence, with the national syndication of several articles about the crisis of molesting priests within the Catholic Church. Associated Press Religion Editor George Cornell included the problem in his list of the top ten religion stories of 1987. Even religious pollster George Gallup spoke out in late 1987 against child sexual abuse in the church: “The most heart-rending thing is that our children are defenseless. The church should be the protector of children. But sometimes, incredibly, the ministers are themselves the molesters. And when such cases have surfaced their fellow clergy or hierarchy have hidden the facts. But the church could give a gift to children . . . the knowledge of how to protect themselves against child molesters. . .”

The problem is by no means confined to the Catholic Church. But with its financial liability for sexual abuse–with estimates at $1 billion in damages by 1995–and the massive stonewalling and cover-ups as documented here, the problem is seen in the Catholic Church at its worst. In some dioceses, pedophilia truly appears to be viewed by some Catholic officials as a way of life. Decisions by the Catholic Church to flagrantly ignore abuse or even reward pedophiles with greater responsibility over children, prompt the question of whether the church has tacitly condoned pedophilia. Why? To risk alienating its dwindling supply of priests? As a bizarre twist on a sexist attitude that priests must “sow their wild oats”–like that typical rationalization of a parent protecting a rapist son? Is child molestation a pillar of the priesthood? Without it, would its male hierarchy and doctrine of celibacy crumble? These are not unfair questions, given the Catholic officials’ awe-inspiring track record of inaction, indifference and collusion.

The facts can speak for themselves. Full documentation of recent criminal and civil court cases involving pedophilic clergy is presented here, in an overall context of understanding pedophilia, wherever it occurs. The cases selected are not inclusive–to list all of the data collected by the Committee to Protect Children from Abusive Clergy to date would be prohibitive and reading them all would be numbing–but they are representative. An appendix summarizes up-to-date professional advice on “protective behaviors” and “antivictim training” with resources suggested.

Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children is written not just as an exposŽ and sourcebook but as an aid to parents, educators, churches and professionals dealing with this facet of child sexual abuse. This hidden abuse needs to be fully exposed, documented and halted. (A caveat: A rational approach is required. Sensitivity, precaution and education are in order, not hysteria, or even, as has occurred in some places, a paranoid witch-hunt looking for “Satan worshippers” or “occultists.” In the cases documented here, the only “demons” are those which may exist in a pedophile’s threats to terrify a religious child into submission. These cases involve “the priest or minister next door,” and the abuse can be detected and prevented.)

The privilege, prestige and power of pedophilic priests and pastors has been maintained at the expense and pain of children, who may suffer all their lives because of this betrayal of trust. It is time to protect children from abusive clergy.

–Annie Laurie Gaylor
January, 1988

“I have been betrayed by my church”

They are like victims of incest, taken advantage of by a person in authority and then trust has been betrayed.
–Attorney Gloria Allred

Several case histories

Faye and Glenn Gastal of Louisiana, devout Catholics, were overjoyed when their seven year old son became an altar boy. They were especially pleased that Rev. Gilbert Gauthe, their son’s priest, took a personal interest in him, inviting him on outings and sleepovers at the rectory for “religious training.” They did not connect this new friendship with their son’s altered behavior. Nor did anyone, even doctors, connect it to the need to hospitalize him once for unexplained rectal bleeding. Father Gauthe, incidentally, visited the boy in the hospital, bringing a present.

Only several years later, when another family went public with the shocking news that Father Gauthe had molested their son, did the Gastals learn that the same thing had happened to their child.

The sexual reign of terror imposed by Father Gauthe upon the Gastal boy started with sodomy on his first day as an altar boy. He and other victims were told by Gauthe that sex with priests was a special religious rite for which they had been chosen by God. Gauthe admitted to molesting 37 boys and one girl, although officials suspect him of abusing twice as many children. These children were continuously molested (some as many as 200 times by the priest), and anally and orally raped–during church outings, when alone with the priest, and in the company of other altar boys. Gauthe also pornographically photographed children. The crimes occurred in the rectory, sacristy, confessional, and the priest’s camper.

The Gastal boy testified at age 11 that at first he believed that being molested by priests was part of being an altar boy, and that his parents knew what was happening: “I thought he was doing the right thing because he was a priest.” Later, the priest guaranteed his silence by threatening that “he would hurt my daddy, he’d kill him.” Even after the abuse had ended, he testified that he “feels funny” when his own father hugs him. His mother characterized him as frightened and unable to accept affection.

This boy received a one million dollar award for damages from the Catholic Church on February 7, 1986. His parents received $250,000 as compensation for their pain, and for ostracism and harassment by the Catholic community. Unlike the other victimized families, the Gastals refused to settle out of court with the Catholic Church, and insisted on their day in court. The Church has paid at least $12 million to Gauthe’s victims as of late 1987 in 16 cases, with more pending. The priest, who pleaded guilty in October 1985, is now serving a 20-year prison sentence. Gauthe was only one of several priests from the same Louisiana diocese implicated. Trial lawyer J. Minos Simon, retained by one of the families from the Esther-Henry, Louisiana area, publicly subpoenaed diocesan files on 27 other local priests he said had been accused of sexual improprieties. The church responded by admitting liability in the Gauthe case.

When the Louisiana scandal initially broke, the first family to go public with a complaint was forced out of business by the community, which felt it was wrong to “attack the Church in public.” When the weekly newspaper, The Times of Acadiana of Lafayette, Louisiana, published an article about the cover-up and editorialized that the local bishop should resign, a monsignor in the diocese persuaded prominent local Catholic businesspersons to boycott the newspaper, costing it a painful $25,000 in lost advertising revenues.

“At first everyone wanted to circle the wagons and protect the church. Then they were afraid the civil suits would be taking money out of their own pockets because they are the ones who support the diocese. Now they want to know what the church has done to make sure this kind of crime doesn’t happen again,” one church member told the New York Times in 1985.

Community protectiveness toward the Church changed when it was revealed that a bishop and monsignor were aware of child molestation reports against Rev. Gauthe for more than 10 years before his abuse was halted. Attorney Paul Hebert, who represented one of the first families to pursue prosecution of Gauthe, said the church did not react with shock or even concern, although his complaint resulted in Gauthe’s removal from the diocese. He said Monsignor Richard Mouton told him: “If the kids would come in and confess their sins, and still want to go forward, we’ll see what happens.” Hebert’s reply was “See you in court.”

The church dealt with Father Gauthe’s abuse by transferring him. Parents confronted the priest as early as 1972. In 1974, Gauthe admitted to a bishop that he had made “imprudent touches” in “one isolated case.” Nevertheless, the following year the bishop appointed him chaplain of the diocesan Boy Scouts. In 1977, more parents complained. Gauthe was directed to seek psychiatric treatment, but in 1978 was transferred to another family parish. The sworn statement of one church official was “I am trained as a priest to forget sins.” The enormity of the scandal prompted even the National Catholic Reporter to condemn the cover-ups.

The fallout from Father Gauthe’s pedophilic reign continues. A reward of $1.8 million was made in late 1987 to a victim who is now an adult, Calvin John Mire of Intracoastal City, Louisiana. A claim by the victim’s wife was dismissed.

Says Faye Gastal about her son’s abuse: “I wanted to teach him to be a good Catholic, to believe in God. I have been betrayed by my church.” Unfortunately, the Gauthe case, as this book documents, is only the tip of the iceberg. (Sources: Washington Post/New York Times 1985; Miami Herald/Associated Press, 2/8/86; San Jose Mercury News, 12/31/87; Wisconsin State Journal, 12/13/87)

“Priests have a license to sexually betray their parishioners”

Rita Milla was a 16 year old teenager, a devout Catholic whose activities centered around St. Philomena Church, Carson, California, where she sang in the choir and taught religion to young children. Her confessor Father Santiago Tamayo began to reach through the broken screen in the confessional to fondle her breasts. Telling Rita’s parents that she was accompanying him on his rounds at convalescent homes, he began to take her to his brother’s apartment, where he engaged in various sexual activities. By January 1980, Father Tamayo was engaging in sexual intercourse with her. Then he introduced Father Cruces to her, who also used her sexually. Next he introduced her to five other priests, all of whom encouraged her compliance, flaunting their religious authority over her. Rita told news media that the priests had said sex was natural and that “priests get lonely, too.” They assured her that it was morally and ethically right to allow priests to touch her, and to have sex with them. By doing so, they told her, she would help them in their religious work. They used their church position as spiritual advisors, counselors and confessors to induce her cooperation.

She became pregnant in January 1982. Tamayo packed Rita off to the Philippines, telling her parents that Rita would “study medicine,” intending that she have her baby in secrecy and leave it there. She was sent only $450 to last seven months. She lived with cockroaches and ate only one meal a day.

“As a result,” said her attorney Gloria Allred of Los Angeles, “she became malnourished,” and nearly died during a Caesarian section. She gave birth to a daughter in October 1982 and kept her.

Rita said Bishop Abaya of the Philippines visited her at the hospital, promising to help. After she returned to the states and no help materialized, she then consulted Bishop Ward in Los Angeles. His response: there was nothing he could do. Rita said that she still “believed in the Church”–up until that point. After that final betrayal of trust, Rita and her mother filed a landmark “clergy malpractice” suit on February 8, 1984 to establish paternity, set up child support, and sue the priests and the Church for civil conspiracy for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, deceit and clergy malpractice.

“Rita and her mother’s purpose in filing this lawsuit,” explained her attorney, “is to protect other young women from the pain and suffering caused by priests who abuse their position of trust. Rita’s mother feels that Catholic parents have a right to expect a high standard of conduct from their priests, when they entrust them with their children, and this trust must not be betrayed.”

The suit also sought to force the church to establish a policy to support children fathered by “fathers.” The courts dismissed the case, citing a one-year time limit.

“Her faith in the Catholic Church prevented Rita from bringing suit earlier. Priests now have a license to sexually betray their parishioners and the church will turn its back on innocent victims,” commented Allred. However, she filed a new suit in 1987 to represent other women who were similarly seduced as devout teenagers and used by Catholic priests, then abandoned when they became pregnant. “They are like victims of incest,” Allred noted, “taken advantage of by a person in authority and then trust has been betrayed.” (Sources: Legal brief of Rita Milla v. Los Angeles Diocese, 1984; Los Angeles Times, 3/87; Donahue Show, 11/87)

“Three religious experiences”

The following account is an excerpt of an article written by Sherry Matulis, a writer who is featured in the Planned Parenthood film “Personal Choices.” She has testified before Congress about her search for an illegal abortion, after becoming pregnant from rape. Clergy abuse, as this testimony and the two letters which follow exemplify, is not a new problem. These personal histories poignantly reveal how victims’ lives are shadowed by abuse occurring long ago:

My first major bonafide Religious Experience, the remembrance of which is thankfully hazy with age, was at the hands (and other appendages) of a master of just such hypocrisy, a deacon of the church and the Dirty Old Man prototype. It’s anybody’s guess how many youngsters, babies really, this pious old pervert “deflowered” in his time; telling them if they spoke of it to anyone, God would rend them asunder and send the pieces directly to Hell to burn forever.

He raped me when I was five. I know I wasn’t the first. I sincerely doubt I was the last. And I also doubt that any of his small victims ever did snitch on him. Threats like being “rendered asunder” and having to “burn forever” have a very ominous ring to the ears of five and six year olds. . .

Seven years after this initial “baptism by fire,” we left the little Iowa town and settled in Peoria, Illinois, where, within just a few short months, I had my second Religious Experience; this one falling in the near-miss category. A bit too near for comfort.

I was a very, uh, “developed” twelve going on twenty at the time; and on coming to the Big City, I had discovered that wonder of wonders: lipstick. Suffice it to say that within the more fundamentalist churches, this sort of discovery ranks just slightly below Darwin’s. Brazen hussies wear lipstick. Brazen sinful hussies wear it to church. I wore it to church. I believe my reasoning was, at the time, that since I was doomed to Hell anyway, I wasn’t about to go without my make-up.

The reasoning was deemed faulty, and the following Sunday the pastor said he wanted to have a talk with me. A private talk . . . After services . . . In the rectory . . . Whereupon, I made yet another discovery. He did indeed want me to remove that horrid lipstick. But in a most unconventional manner.

Well, friends, I hadn’t been hanging around the religious set for twelve whole years without picking up some savvy. I mean, we are no longer talking about a dumb, frightened five year old here. I let him get his pants down, all the way down, around his ankles. And then I ran like hell!

But one can never run far enough, I guess. I didn’t run far enough, anyway, to escape my third major Religious Experience, some years later . . . I will just say that I was again raped, quite savagely this time, by another religious nut. And this rape resulted in pregnancy. Which, in turn, resulted in my having to suffer an illegal abortion–a sort of “rape” in itself, and no less traumatizing than the original variety.

The following two remembrances of abuse are excerpted from letters by women molested as teenagers by clergymen, and were originally published in the Madison, Wisconsin Feminist Connection, April, 1984.

When I was in high school, specifically 10th and 11th grade, I was very actively involved in a Baptist church in Upper Northeastern Wisconsin. During this time I was very depressed about issues at home. I often sought counsel from my minister and also babysat for his children.

He began saying things that confused me–things about my looks and shape. He also began to touch me–hugs, pats, handholding, putting his arm around me. Although confused, I trusted him and was very needy. He also said things about taking my father’s place. This went on for a long time.

Then one night as he took me home he stopped the car and held me, then he began kissing me and saying he wanted to make love to me. I was very frightened and confused–I began to cry and he took me home. Of course, I received the famous last words: “Don’t ever tell anyone.” I was very upset and felt responsible.

I never told anyone about this until about three years later. I told a counselor at the college I was attending. This college is affiliated with my church and is about an hour away from the church. This lady didn’t believe me and broke confidentiality. She and her husband confronted this minister. Of course he changed the story, minimized his part, and blamed me.

My incident wasn’t as severe as it could have been but it has affected my life. I am afraid of getting involved with men because I can’t trust them.

Here is yet another memory of religious abuse.

Thirty years ago, when I was 12, 1 was “seduced” by a young parish priest to have an affair with him. My friend also was having an “affair” with him. Although there was no intercourse involved there was a lot of hugging and kissing and some petting. We often met secretly in the church or parochial school I attended for eight years. Sometimes we met off the church/school property and went for rides in the country in his car. I always hid on the floor near the back seat where no one could see me.

This young priest asked me to wear a gold friendship ring and he had one too. The rings looked like wedding bands. He asked me to come to be his housekeeper when I finished high school. Of course, even though I wanted to be a nun, I said I would.

Eventually the guilt of my deeds overcame me and I confessed this relationship to a priest at another church. Our C.Y.O. (Catholic Youth Organization) had visited another church for a retreat. The priest I confessed to made me agree to meet him outside the confessional so I could divulge the priest’s name. I was very scared, but I did.

Eventually the young priest was removed from the parish and asked to live with the bishop. I never told my parents or anybody for a long time. I was afraid my parents would not believe me or would severely punish me for my acts.

But interestingly enough, neither the priest I confessed to nor the bishop followed up on how I was getting along. I was 12 years old at the time and had to cope on my own with a very unpleasant situation. Needless to say, my self-image was affected by this experience. I also had trouble trusting authority, I guess, for a long time. I was psychologically damaged by the experience.

The pastor of the parish also touched the sweaters and budding breasts of sixth, seventh and eighth graders. When we told our parents that he did this, they thought we were letting our imaginations get out of control. In those days parents stood by adults and kids were not listened to as much as they are today.

Needless to say, I do not have much respect for the clergy. The young parish priest I had the “affair” with eventually left the priesthood, got married and had three children. He is now a principal of a high school. I often wondered what he would do if some clergyman had an affair with his daughter. I’m certain he’d be more than mildly upset.

We must teach women that their bodies belong to them and they owe nothing to anyone. Self-respect is the key. It is difficult to get this message to young girls when society still treats women as second-class citizens. I would warn young women to become suspicious of any clergyman that took an unusual interest in them. He might have sexual intentions in mind. I think that Rita Milla will never be able to collect enough money for the damage that was done to her psychologically.

Sexual abuse Of children

As outrageous as it might seem, there is an open season on children for the sexual predator.
–Roland Summit, M.D.

Sexual abuse of children is a major public health problem, if not an epidemic, conservatively involving an estimated 20 to 25 percent of all children. (Some studies estimate that half of all children are sexually abused in some way by the age of 18.) “As outrageous as it might seem, there is an open season on children for the sexual predator,” writes Roland Summit, M.D., an adjunct professor of psychiatry at UCLA and pioneer of treatment programs for child victims of incest and abuse. Statistics are shaky. Depending on the study, one out of every three or four girls, and one out of every five to ten boys, are sexually molested at some point during their childhood. In 80 to 90 percent of the cases, the offender is well known to the victim.

Any incidence of child sexual exploitation must be treated as a public threat, because research indicates that pedophiles do not target just one child. Where one molested child is discovered, there may be 20 or 30 or 60 or even more than 200 other victims of the same assailant.

Discussing the problem of the pedophile who wears a clerical collar–clergymen who prey on children–has been taboo. Pastors, priests, deacons and other religious leaders are a subset of the dangerous class of “respected members of the community” who betray their position of authority and trust by sexually assaulting children. While it is always painful to learn of betrayal of trust by such men, society wears blinders when the crime is committed by clergy. The myths that “men of God” or “good Christians” can always be trusted, are holy keepers of morality and are above suspicion protect clergy molesters from detection. Dr. Michael Cox, director of a sexual offenders program at Baylor College of Medicine, treats more clergymen than people in many other professions. Obviously no one would claim that most clergymen sexually abuse children, or that only clergymen abuse children. But a startling number of ministers, church officials and avowed devout Christians have been convicted of sexual abuse and exploitation of children and teenagers–a religious scandal few wish to acknowledge.

Sexual abuse of children by trusted authority figures is a crime comparable to incest in its betrayal of trust, particularly since offenders usually exploit children in the context of a trusting relationship. Religious language encourages the idea that the church is an “extended family” which meets an individual’s emotional needs for love, support and acceptance. Ministers purposely cultivate “father figure” images–Catholic priests are even formally addressed as “Father.”

“You’ve got to be Catholic to appreciate the indoctrination you get as a child,” explains George McGrath, an investigator with the Essex County, New Jersey prosecutor’s office, who worked on a case involving a priest assaulting boys. “Priests are Christ’s representatives on earth.”

“The symbolic aspect of the title ‘Father’ should not be overlooked in understanding the position a priest has in relation to a child,” wrote five Lafayette, Louisiana psychologists after interviewing 15 child victims of a priest. “Consider, if you will, the impact on a child [who] is sexually abused during the week, and on Sundays witnesses his parents bowing, kneeling, genuflecting, praying, receiving sacraments and graciously thanking the priest for his involvement in their lives. Such events [make] him believe that such sexual activities have been sanctioned by their parents. The even more astonishing act of molesting the child while in the confessional, followed by granting of absolution to the child, would be expected to inculcate very, very strong feelings of guilt.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that “Katherine R.,” a 14 year old girl molested at age 12 in her own home by a priest, told her psychologist, “When I was little and looked up at him, I thought he looked like God.”

“When the offender is a well-trusted authority figure,” writes Susan J. Kelley, a specialist in child abuse with the Boston College School of Nursing, “the child feels an obligation to obey the offender and comply with their demands . . . the child learns early on in the relationship that he or she is incapable of avoiding the sexual advances of the offender. There is always an unequal power relationship between a child and adult, which is exploited during sexual abuse.”

Sexual abuse of children is a crime of exploited power that can continue only in secrecy and when its existence and prevalence are denied. “Child molesters thrive in an atmosphere of ignorance, secrecy, and anonymity. If we are to protect our children from these criminals, we must educate where there is ignorance, reveal where there is secrecy, and identify where there is anonymity,” write Robin Lenett and Bob Crane in It’s O.K To Say No!

Just as it can be unthinkable that a family member is abusing his own child or young relative, it can be impossible for a church congregation or a victim’s own parents to accept evidence that a popular priest or devout minister is sexually abusing minors under his direction.

This is one of the reasons for the widespread cover-up of clergy crimes against children. Clergymen and their supporters may believe that clergy are “above the law” and need answer only to “their God.” Doctrines of “sin” and “forgiveness” can be promoted at the expense of the safety and rights of victimized children. As one angry churchgoer put it, “Some people worship preachers.”

When denial and disbelief get translated into open defiance of the law and harassment and persecution of families who bravely press charges, the results can sear an already betrayed child for life. When a church or society reacts to a clergyperson’s criminal acts by “overlooking” them, or by transferring him to another parish or church (out of sight, out of mind), or by a “wrist slap,” that is collusion. The inevitable result is that previous victims will receive no support or counseling, and many children will become his future victims.

Even when a child has the courage to report abuse at the hands of a minister, many people will go to great lengths to deny that such an outrage could have occurred. That is why it is vital to create awareness of the potential for sexual abuse of children. Silence works only in favor of the status quo–to protect perpetrators. Only when society admits that a problem exists and is willing to take sensible educational steps to empower children in all situations involving adult authority figures will children be less vulnerable. Tragedies involving clerical betrayal can only be avoided or minimized if parents realize they need to take precautions toward any authority with whom their children come in contact–including ministers, priests and religious officials.

Awareness is the best prevention. Parents can educate themselves and take steps to ensure that children receive practical and nonalarming instruction in protective behaviors and antivictim training in schools, homes and churches. (Specific suggestions on prevention, detection and resources are included at the back of this book). Empowered children who know they have a right to question authority, to think for themselves, to feel safe all of the time, to be believed, and who know it is okay to say no, are far less vulnerable to exploitation–by any adult in authority.

Facts on child sexual abuse

Researcher, physician and psychiatrist Gene G. Abel of Emory University School of Medicine directed the largest study of pedophiles ever conducted. Over an eight-year period Abel studied 403 child abusers for the Antisocial and Violent Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Considered a landmark study, it revealed that 403 pedophiles had molested more than 67,000 children! The pedophilic abuse ranged from indecent exposure and verbal overtures to more serious assault–that involving sexual touch. This study confirmed that little girls were molested most often when all forms of abuse were considered. But it revealed that almost two-thirds of the victims of the more serious offenses–those involving touch–turned out to be little boys. Not only did these molesters prey on boys more often than they assault girls, but they molested shocking numbers of boys. Pedophiles who targeted male victims in this study averaged 282 victims, compared to 23 victims among men who assaulted girls. (However, an earlier study by Abel found that molesters who mainly abuse girls have as many as 60 girl victims.) Other studies, as summarized in a 1986 article by Richard 1. Lanyon, Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, had more traditional findings, with close to three-quarters of male pedophiles victimizing female children exclusively, one-quarter choosing male victims, and a small minority victimizing both sexes. Given these disparate findings and a general consensus that boys greatly underreport molestation, it is vital that no assumptions be made, and that children and adolescents of both sexes receive support and antivictim training.

All research shows that the typical child molester is able to harm large numbers of children without being caught, in part because he has already established a trusting relationship, playing on children’s vulnerability, shame, naivetŽ, and loyalty, and fortifying his power to silence them through bribery, coercion and violent threats.

Many of the abusers studied in the NIMH research are “respected members of the community,” respected by parents, trusted by children. They are men who often move themselves into positions of trust over children. “Molesters often become youth ministers, day-care workers, Boy Scout leaders, teachers, Big Brothers and pediatricians,” according to Dr. Abel and Nora Harlow (“The Child Abuser,” Redbook Magazine, August 1987).

Prof. Lanyon summarizes common myths about child molesters: “A number of widely held beliefs about child sexual abusers have been shown to have no substance. Most prominent is the stereotype that child molesters are socially marginal persons or ‘dirty old men.’ Indeed, the molester is most commonly a respectable, otherwise law-abiding person, who may escape detection for exactly that reason. Furthermore, the median age of first offense is reported to be as young as 16 (Groth et al., 1982). Second, most molestation is done by men who are not strangers, but who are known to the victim, and in fact are often related to the victim (Conte & Berliner, 1981). Third, data and experienced clinical opinion suggest that children do not fabricate accounts of being molested except in rare instances, presumably when there are clear motivations to do so (Meiselman, 1978; Summit, 1983).”

The blame-the-victim syndrome that children invent stories about being sexually abused helps protect the pedophile’s “secret.” Unfortunately, children are much more apt not to tell, or if they tell, to retract or deny the truth following censure or inappropriate reaction by adults. Most children cannot talk about sexual occurrences unless they have experienced them.

Many people are skeptical of reports of long-term sexual abuse because they assume that children would tell their parents immediately if ever molested. First, remember that a parent might be the offender. Second, it may be very hard for children to tell parents if they have not been given the vocabulary, permission or freedom to discuss their own bodies and personal safety. Children need safety tips on the sanctity of their own body in the same way they need advice about crossing the street or wearing warm clothes. If children have not been educated about their right to say “no,” to question authority, to think for themselves and act in their own best interests, they are vulnerable to abuse. A child who has been molested also may be shamed or terrified into silence by a pedophile’s threats. He or she may be convinced that something terrible will happen to those they love if they tell.

“Pedophilia” is the clinical term for an abnormal adult sexual desire for children. Although a small percentage are female, most pedophiles are male, which is why this book refers to abusers as “men” and “clergymen.” A pedophile is someone who has a deviant sexual preference for children, sometimes male children, sometimes female children, or sometimes both sexes. Pedophilia is not homosexuality. The large majority of men who molest little boys are not gay, Dr. Abel’s study shows. “Only 21 percent of the child molesters we studied who assault little boys were exclusively homosexual. Nearly 80 percent of the men who molested little boys were heterosexual or bisexual, and most of these men were married and had children of their own,” according to Abel and Harlow. Abel’s research confirmed that many pedophiles start abusing children when they themselves are 16 or 17. [Note that the criminal cases cited in this book do not specify age of the assailant. Ages ranged, from the time of discovery of the assault, from 20 years to 77 years. Victims ranged from babies to teenagers. Many of the molesters who were in mid-life had apparently been molesting minors for 20 or more years before they were caught. Age of the assailant appears to be no factor in clergy abuse of children.]

Traditionally, social scientists categorize pedophiles as either “fixated” (those whose exclusive sexual preference is children), or “regressed” (those who have an “appetite” for both children and adults, and will take advantage of children when the situation avails itself, particularly when under stress). “Fixated pedophiles” are typically unmarried (or marry for convenience or camouflage), select boys, premeditate their abuse, deny wrongdoing, and seek children for their primary affectionate and companionate relationships. “Regressed pedophiles” are more apt to impulsively abuse girls, blame alcohol for their actions and feel ambivalence about their crime. Alcohol is often considered a “disinhibiting factor” to the point where professionals remind the public that children should not be left in the care of heavy drinkers.

“It is time to discover that men have many needs that they are too proud and too insecure to acknowledge, and that apparently normal men slip rather easily into exploiting whatever potential sexual object is most available and most easily subordinated,” analyzed Dr. Summit.

In a majority of cases, pedophiles do not rely on physical violence, and are distinguished from child-rapists who engage in a one-time violent act with a child they do not know. Children will tend to report sudden, brutal violence even if perpetrated by a respected authority figure (this generality does not necessarily apply to incest, where a child may feel there is no one to turn to). Therefore pedophiles “court” and “woo” victims, testing how passive, obedient and naive a child is before establishing the abusive relationship. A majority of children are not physically injured during molestation. “Fondling”–the sexually abusive touch–is the most common type of childhood sexual abuse. The fact that the harm may not be visible can be used against a child victim, for our adult-protective society often “overlooks” the harm of a touch that does not leave a bruise. Any sexual abuse is a violence against the personhood and psyche of the victim. Abuse also may take the form of masturbation and making the child touch the adult, of exhibitionism, and pornography. Even when molestation is confined to nonviolent touch of intimate parts, the effect can be terrifying to the child. Just as many rape victims report that their greatest fear during an attack is of being killed, child victims may also be haunted by fears of being killed, or of being responsible for the deaths of loved ones who have been threatened by a molester. Disruption of normal childhood and school life may ensue, with general depression or suicidal feelings. Victims may worry about “turning gay,” developing AIDS, being viewed and identified by their photos in the hands of other pedophiles, or growing up to become a pedophile.

When the abuse includes oral, anal or vaginal rape, this can be ravaging to an immature body. Consequences of sexual intercourse upon a child can include pregnancy, lacerations, prolapsed rectums or vaginas, genital infections and sexually transmitted diseases. Sexual abuse in this day of AIDS can mean a death sentence for any victim of rape.

The degree of damage which sexual abuse causes physically, psychologically and emotionally to a child will be shaped by factors such as the relationship of the offender to the victim, the type and severity of abuse, how long it continues, the reaction of the people the child tells, and the support available to the child to recover. Depending on these factors and especially when the abuse is discovered immediately and stopped, some children will experience few after-effects. Others have committed suicide as a result, including victims of clergy, as documented later. Sexual abuse is a betrayal that can cheat children not only of their childhood but of a sense of security and self-esteem, instead imposing pain, confusion, shame, guilt, fear and a loss of control. Children, the defenseless victims of a deviant sexual drive, should never have to carry the burden of such a “secret.”

Sadly, pedophilia can be a learned behavior. Cyclic pedophilia is a devastating consequence of boyhood molestation. Some researchers believe that most child abusers (physical and sexual) were themselves victimized as children. A Berkeley study found childhood molestation in the backgrounds of more than half of the abusers. The NIMH statistics reveal that although a majority of this particular group of molesters they studied had not been sexually abused, a large minority were. Forty percent of the pedophiles who molested boys were themselves molested as children, while 24 percent who molested girls were themselves molested. For whatever reason, boys who are molested are prone to becoming offenders themselves, although such a life sentence is by no means inevitable, particularly with intervention, support and counseling.

“If you want to use words like ‘molester’ and ‘victim,’ then a molester is a victim who grew up,” states Dr. Fred Berlin of Johns Hopkins University Medical School.

The medical treatment of pedophilia is still a nascent field. The San Jose Mercury News (12/30/87) summarized the somewhat bleak situation this way: “Success in controlling the disease has been obtained when highly motivated pedophiles agree to take the drug Depo-Provera, which reduces sex drive, coupled with intensive psychotherapy. Even then, however, experts emphasize that pedophiles still must be kept away from children. The only other known deterrents are castration and imprisonment.”

Jim Carlson, a Boise, Idaho prosecutor of a pedophilic priest, told the Mercury News, “What’s frustrating is that this sickness is so deep-seated that the experts say no one can ever be cured. You’ve just got to keep them away from potential victims. And they [Catholic officials] didn’t do that.”

Pedophilia is characterized by some as a disease, at minimum a compulsion that, once started, will not be halted by the abuser without constant, professional intervention. Certainly we know that religious sanctions, prayers and penance are ineffective, often counterproductive responses to this far-reaching criminal and medical problem.

Blindspots about pedophilic clergy

What better way to conceal one’s evil from oneself, as well as from others, than to be a deacon or some other highly visible form of Christian within our culture. . .
–Theologian Martin Buber

Why is clergy sexual abuse of children such a problem in our society? Based on an analysis of hundreds of such cases, there appear to be many blindspots which protect or promote child abuse by clergy, and risks which apply uniquely to clergy’s victims:

  • Some pedophiles choose the ministry because it can bring them into contact with children, yet shield them from detection.
  • We teach people, especially children, to give “men of God” blind obedience.
  • Clergy have special access to children.
  • Clergy, whose role includes “pastoral counseling,” are trusted and sought after for guidance.
  • Believers wish to deny evidence of clergy abuse.
  • Congregations may form a wagon circle, thereby protecting molesting ministers and priests, and ostracizing victims.
  • Churches may actively cover up, bribe, fail to act or knowingly pass on a child molester to another parish or congregation.
  • Pastoral counselors may use state/church separation as an excuse not to report evidence of child abuse.
  • Church teachings of “forgiveness” of sins can be promoted at the expense of victims.
  • The celibacy of the priesthood can be an exacerbating factor in child abuse.
  • Boys abused by men face a special stigma in the church.
  • Since ministers have a lot to lose with detection, there is a potential for escalation of violence.
  • Religious doctrine can establish and encourage power inequities leading to child abuse.

Why pedophiles may choose the ministry

In their book It’s O.K. To Say No!, Robin Levett and Bob Crane write:

“Because the abuse of children is a sexual preference formed relatively early in life, some offenders consciously or unconsciously choose career paths that will bring them regularly in contact with children. Others may volunteer to supervise children’s sports or club activities.

“Many,” they point out, “are highly respected members of the community. Some are in positions of authority over children-teachers, doctors, police officers, clergymen, coaches.”

Note Gene Abel, M.D. and Nora Harlow, “Many child molesters try to move themselves into positions or occupations within the community that will allow them to spend time alone with children without attracting much notice. Molesters often become youth ministers, daycare workers, Boy Scout leaders, teachers, Big Brothers and pediatricians.”

Abel’s findings include this fact about the typical child molester: “He is often an active Christian who is involved in his church. He never assaults children he does not know; he only chooses children with whom he can first build a trusting relationship.”

Abel adds, “Never assume that anyone is beyond suspicion by virtue of his respected position, strong religious beliefs, years in the community or kindness to children.”

A personal characteristic which many sexual offenders share is a “rigid and authoritarian background, such as military, religious, or a punitive family,” note authors Caren Adams and Jennifer Fay in No More Secrets, a book based on their work with child victims.

Many factors may be involved in a pedophile’s attraction to the ministry. As theologian Martin Buber noted, “What better way to conceal one’s evil from oneself, as well as from others, than to be a deacon or some other highly visible form of Christian within our culture. . . .”

Sexual repression common to many conservative religions, as well as the strict celibacy of the Catholic priesthood, are exacerbating factors. Organized sexual repression may either attract sexually deviant individuals, or, possibly, create them. The human sexual instinct rarely can be permanently repressed, but it can be perverted. Repressive sexual attitudes may predispose pedophiles toward sexual activities with children, according to research by David Finkelhor, Ph.D. Authoritarian religions which view children as property and place a premium on obedience may attract pedophiles, who like children because exploiting kids allows them to feel powerful.

A religious child’s self-concept and attitude toward religious authority may give a clergyman with pedophilic leanings a special edge. Sherryll Kerns Kraizer of the Safe Child Book, who has pioneered the development of sexual abuse prevention, writes: “Many children tell me that their body belongs to God.” A young child who assumes his or her body is “owned by God” will be vulnerable to abuse by an esteemed “instrument of God.”

How the ministry shields abusers from detection

Molesting ministers exploit their special status and the deference paid to them, using their position to deflect suspicion. It is difficult for many pious people to question the behavior of clergy, whose profession is venerated, set-apart and inviolate. Child molesters in any walk of life attempt to camouflage their conduct and endear themselves to the community by their “good works” and reputation. Molesting clergypersons, simply by virtue of their exalted position, already have the reputation other child molesters must work hard to achieve.

Example: Rev. Jack Law, a Baptist minister in Nashville, was accused of molesting and raping three small sisters during church outings and visits, once raping a five year old girl under a church pew. He was also accused of molesting and raping the sisters at their family’s home and during an outing arranged to help him distribute religious tracts. The girls had tried to tell their parents, but were not believed. “Being a preacher,” the father said, “we thought he was a good man.” Law killed himself in July 1987 when facing trial for abusing the three sisters. (Sources: Nashville Banner, 7/26/86; Tennesseean, 7/10/87)

Example: Brazenly abusive behavior reportedly went unchecked for more than a year when Pastor Charles Brown of London Baptist Church, in Evergreen, Alabama, latched on to a teenaged boy and initiated a sexually abusive relationship by telling the boy he had a mental problem Brown could cure. The pastor’s prescription: to get “closer,” ply the boy with drugs, and move him into his own home and his own bedroom (the pastor’s wife was relegated to their daughter’s bedroom). Brown was convicted of a reduced misdemeanor charge in 1987 and was given a suspended sentence, although he was fired from his position as a public school teacher. (Source: Evergreen Courant, 9/25/86; 1987)

Example: Father Lawrence Nawrocki, parish priest of the prospering 5,300-member St. Isidore’s Catholic Church in Macomb Township, Michigan, was accused of molesting Catholic boys through his church position. The priest’s materially successful lifestyle allowed him to entice victims by inviting parish boys to his cabin in northern Michigan, with promises they could ride fancy motorcycles. The priest had received favorable publicity in the Detroit Free Press in 1986 for holding a “blessing” of recreational vehicles in the church parking lot. “He would go out to a movie with them, show them movies at night on his VCR [and] he also was active in youth sports,” said Macomb County prosecutor Carl Marlinga. Nawrocki was accused of molesting two 12 year olds and one 11 year old in the fall of 1987. The sexual abuse occurred in the church rectory and in the church before mass. One of the 12 year old victims had been promised a trip to Florida over Thanksgiving if he received good grades. The parish was reportedly “in a state of shock.” (Source: Detroit Free Press, 11/11/87)

Example: Gary R. Martin, who had served as a minister and was a volunteer chaplain for the Indian River County Sheriffs office as well as the Vero Beach Police Department, was charged with molesting 13 boys. He had trusted positions in the community, including an appointment to the school district’s sex education committee. His modus operandi was to tell victims he was researching children’s growth for a doctoral thesis at Trinity Theological Seminary in Indiana. He pleaded no contest to sexually mishandling three of the 13 boys. In October 1987 he was sentenced to seven years in a state prison with an additional 13 years probation, and ordered to receive treatment for his pedophilia. (Source: Florida Today, 3/1/87; 10/31/87)

Example: Deacon James Nordgren, a Sunday School teacher at Sherwood Park Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, was indicted for aggravated sexual assault of three boys under age 14. He was charged with assaulting the boys at his home after showing them a book with a cover resembling a bible but which contained pictures of nude people. (Source: [Irving, Texas] Daily News; 5/21/87)

Example: Rev. David Lee Taylor, of Grace Epworth United Methodist Church in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, was sentenced to two years in prison after admitting to two counts of sodomy involving a 10 year old boy he was assigned to help through the Big Brother program. Taylor also received eight years’ probation and was fined $3,600, as well as being ordered to pay $100 to the victim compensation program. Taylor was the victim’s “Big Brother.” (Source: Tulsa World, 7/3/87; 10/15/87)

Example: Rev. John S. Lower received three years unsupervised probation for molesting a girl, under age nine, during bible studies at her “home school.” (Source: Tulsa World, 4/15/87)

Example: Rev. Paul Margand, a Catholic priest in Lincoln, Nebraska, pleaded no contest to charges of molesting two altar boys, including a 12 year old boy taking private religious instruction. Margand had ordered him to pray lying on his back, then mounted him while continuing to ask the boy questions about Moses. (Source: Lincoln Journal, 7/10/87; Lincoln Star, 11/19/87)

The danger of blind obedience

Teaching children never to question adult authority makes them vulnerable to abuse by any adults–teachers, police officers, babysitters, coaches and parents. “Be sure and do exactly whatever Rev. Smith tells you to do” can be a recipe for exploitation.

Ministers, rabbis and priests–“men of God”–are not merely authority figures, they are “divine authorities.” The requirement that no religious teaching or assumption ever be questioned within a church-the fact that most religions are predicated on submission to authorityplaces ministers and priests on a unique pedestal of power. Children approached by ministers whom they have been taught to revere and address as “the reverend,” men whom they know to be greatly esteemed by their parents, feel helpless to ward off a threatening or abusive contact initiated by such a person. Children, seeing that clergy have special status and naively believing ministers or priests can do no wrong, are at special risk around a clergy pedophile.

Child abuse prevention activist Kraizer notes, “We need to look at the ways in which we teach our children to be blindly obedient to adults and authority figures. Most children do not know they can say no to a police officer, a teacher, a principal, a counselor, a minister, a babysitter, or a parent when an inappropriate request is made.”

The fact that parents tend to be very flattered if a priest or minister pays special attention to their child, or buys them gifts or takes them on outings, also works in favor of an abusive clergyperson.

Most child molesters exploit a carefully cultivated relationship with their child victims, then rely on bribes and threats to silence them, such as: “I’ll kill your parents,” or “I’ll tell the police what you did and you’ll to go jail,” or even play on a child’s misguided loyalty to the molester. Molesting ministers and priests enlist not just these but often more terrifying threats of “the wrath of God,” “fear of the church,” and “eternal damnation.” “Hell” is a powerful tool in the hands of a minister who wants to silence a young victim.

Example: “I thought it must be all right because a priest wouldn’t do anything wrong,” said a grown man recalling his abuse at the hands of Rev. Allen F. Bruening, a priest in Cleveland. (Source: Plain Dealer, 7/12/87)

Example: A priest in Rockledge, Florida used “fear of the church” and threatened the “wrath of God” to silence his victims. Rev. William Authenreith, of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, was given immunity but admitted to years of molesting four altar boys in his bedroom above the church office, in the sacristy, library, and church cars, as well as engaging in sexual catechisms and behavior at the Catholic School. The Diocese of Orlando agreed to pay $490,000 to the family of one of the victims, and settled out of court with two others. (Sources: Orlando Sentinel, 8/5,6/86; Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/8/86; Tampa Tribune, 5/6/87)

Special access to children

Pay close attention to adults who spend considerable ‘off duty’ time with the same child or children. –Church Mutual Protection Insurance Company

Many parents assume their children could not be safer than when in the care of a clergyman or church institution. Confessionals, youth groups, Sunday School outings, Christian Scouting, Christian day camps and summer camps, church schools and athletics, church nurseries and day/home care all give clergy special access to children and young teenagers–often otherwise unchaperoned. Churches and religious groups often successfully bid for public tax dollars to set up their own religious agencies providing foster care, detention centers, halfway houses, or “homes for unwed mothers.” Chaplains have special access to these as well as public facilities. Sexual abuse of children commonly occurs on church property: the sacristy, church offices, church-owned cars and residential dwellings, as well as in church homes or even the homes of trusting families of abused children. Molesting priests, for instance, have often invited a young boy for weekend trips, “sleepovers” at the rectory and similar outings which might otherwise be forbidden or would normally cause parental suspicion. Parents who are protective of daughters may not worry if the man alone with them is a minister. Parents may even heartily approve of an adult man spending a great deal of time alone with their son–if the grown-up is a “man of God” or a “good Christian.”

“Pay close attention to adults who spend considerable ‘off duty’ time with the same child or children,” advises the Church Mutual Protection Insurance Company. Dr. Gene Abel suggests that one difference between a nonabuser and a child molester is that the molester will manufacture many excuses to be alone with a child (or group of children). Abel also advises that if an adult is interested in spending more time with your children than you are, he may be a molester. If he seems too good to be true, he may be. Certainly “sleepovers” should be carefully scrutinized!

Example: Priest Richard Galdon pleaded guilty to molesting more than a dozen parochial schoolboys when serving as chaplain to three religious Boy Scout troops, where he participated in outings. Galdon sodomized one altar boy about three times per month over a period of a year after playing a strip card game. Yet another victim had been regularly molested over a two year period while watching television with the priest. He admitted to engaging in oral and anal sex with boys for 17 years. “I’m convinced, based on my investigation, that the Church knew about it,” said District Attorney’s investigator George McGrath, who spoke with 18 of his victims. “He’d molest a kid tomorrow if he could.” Galdon was sentenced to 25 years in prison, although his defense attorney asked that Galdon be allowed to remain at the Foundation House in New Mexico, a Catholic center for the care of pedophilic priests. “He gave his life to the service of others. He has, except for this offense, lived a law-abiding life,” argued attorney Peter Manahan. Prosecutor Edward Bilinkas said Galdon’s vocation should be weighed as an aggravating factor in deciding his punishment. “This man was put in a particular position of trust. He violated that trust and because of this he should be held more accountable.” Criminal Assignment Judge Sidney Reiss of Superior Court in Newark said the sentence would show “the safety of our children cannot be compromised even for our reverence for men of the cloth.” Galdon was remanded to the custody of the state Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, a corrections facility for sex offenders. (Sources: Newark Star Ledger, 3/5/87; 10/29/87; San Jose Mercury News, 12/30/87)

Example: Mormon Sunday school teacher Thomas Eugene Dawkins was accused of “the worst case of sexual abuse I’ve ever seen during my 30 years in law enforcement,” according to Richard County Sheriff Frank Powell of Elgin, South Carolina. “I’m not sure how a child can cope with something like this.” Dawkins was accused of brutally torturing and raping a girl over a two-year period starting when she was 13, terrifying her into submission by cutting her, showing her body parts he kept in jars, and threatening to dissect her. Much of the abuse occurred during church outings, or during privately arranged meetings. Dawkins denied guilt, instead, according to reports, “praying and reading from the Book of Mormon.” South Carolina Circuit County Judge John Hamilton Smith termed the abuse of a “sadistic and macabre nature.” Dawkins was found guilty and sentenced to 60 years in prison in November 1986. (Source: [Columbia, South Carolina] The State, 4/25/86; 11/8/86)

Example: Rev. Gordon Taylor of Keizer, Oregon was indicted for sodomy, sexual abuse and furnishing obscene material to minors. His reported victims were teenagers at a home for “wayward kids” which he directed. Charges were dismissed but prosecutors said they would reopen the case pending the location of a teenaged boy considered a key witness. (Source: Oregonian, 5/3/86; 6/17/86)

Example: Monsignor Rudolph Galindo of San Diego settled out of court after establishing a pedophilic relationship with a young Vietnamese teenager whom he took on countless weekend stays–even a 14-day cruise, and lavished more than $10,000 in gifts and benefits. Red lights were flashing all over the place–yet who would suspect a monsignor? (Source: San Diego Union, 12/29/85)

Example: Retired priest and part-time chaplain Father Edmund John Boyle pleaded guilty and was sentenced for a felony charge of lewdness involving a terminally ill, mentally retarded and mute 12 year old boy at the Riverside Hospital for Skilled Care in Reno, where Boyle worked as chaplain. (Source: Los Angeles Times, 4/25/87; Reno Gazette, 10/10/87)

Example: Priest Carmelo “Mel” Baltazar continually used his clerical access to dominate and exploit boys under his care. He was kicked out of the U.S. Navy as a chaplain and was transferred from three dioceses for abusive behavior, before finally being prosecuted for luring two teenage boys to his church house in the Diocese of Boise, Idaho. He was charged with molesting them by plying them with liquor, drugs and pornography. At a church position at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, California, he molested a boy on a dialysis machine. Despite this, the Catholic church in Boise hired him as chaplain at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. They took no action after an Episcopalian minister reported to Bishop Sylvester Treinen that Baltazar had fondled a boy in double-leg traction, Bishop Treinen compared Baltazar’s behavior to that of a car that, “no matter how well you take care of [it]” occasionally has a flat. Baltazar was sentenced to seven years for sexual acts with a teenaged boy whom he met in the psychiatric ward. Judge Alan Schwartz said at the sentencing: “I think the Catholic Church has its atonement to make as well. They helped create you.” (Sources: The Idaho Statesman, 11/20/84; San Jose Mercury News, 12/30/87)

Example: Catholic priest Rev. Donald Stavinoha pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a nine year old boy in a church van owned by Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Houston. Police officer Gerardo Gamez caught the priest in the act of abusing the boy, and reported ordering to him “keep your hands where I can see them. Pull the little boy’s pants up and step out of the van.” “Oh, my god,” was the priest’s reply. The victim’s mother, informed of the incident, began crying and told police that for the past two years the priest had taken the boy on trips, supposedly to see movies, go to church or to play video games. Jurors sentenced Stavinoha to almost 10 years in prison. “At issue was the fact that he held a position of authority and trust, like a police officer, a teacher or a scoutmaster. I find it very offensive when a person uses that position to commit a crime,” said jury forewoman Jacqualine Brown. “Hopefully the little boy will recover from this eventually–also the mother. They trusted this man, and he wasn’t trustworthy,” said juror Mildred Ridgeway. Prosecutor Jim Buchanan said, “Dressed up in sheep’s clothing, he is a wolf that preys on our children.” (Sources: Houston Chronicle, 1/6/88; Lufkin Daily News, 1/11/88)

Example: Ron J. Steckbauer, an Ocean Beach, California video arcade owner who ran a bible study group for boys and chaperoned them on weekend trips to Arizona, was arrested on molestation charges. Police believe there may have been more than a hundred individual molestations committed against 15 boys between the ages of 10 and 14 years. Steckbauer was also charged with failure to register with local police as a convicted sex offender. The bible study was reported to be his modus operandi and cover for finding victims. (Source: Los Angeles Times, 12/10/87)

Example: Rev. Bill Peckham, of Springfield, Illinois, known nationally for his work with the poor and homeless through Contact Ministries, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and a reduced misdemeanor charge of sexually abusing a 14 year old boy. The victim, a ward of the state, reported the abuse on January 1, 1986. He was then “wired” to secretly tape-record conversations with the minister, which led to Peckham’s arrest on January 5. Peckham also founded the Holy Fools Clown Ministry, which has chapters all over the nation. Although Peckham could have received three to seven years imprisonment for the felony charges, he was given only four years’ probation, and was sentenced to a year in jail for the misdemeanor charge. (Sources: [Alton, Illinois] Telegraph, 12/3/87; Peoria Journal Star, 1/7/88)

Example: Religiously authoritarian men are considered high-risk candidates as foster fathers, yet who would question a minister’s motives in taking in foster children? Rev. John Janney Sr. pleaded guilty to molesting three male foster children, following a wild attempt to elude authorities by fleeing to another state, during which time he tried to murder his wife and commit suicide. Ironically, as a pastor of the Calvary Bible Baptist Church, Bridgeton, New Jersey, he had been an outspoken opponent of humanist literature which he said would “corrupt the morals of youths.” (Source: Bridgeton Evening News, 12/26/85)

Example: Church deacon Harley Francis of Powers Drive Baptist Church in Orlando was convicted of molesting six girls, ages six to 13, whom he met through his Sunday School class. The elderly deacon bribed them with gifts and told the court he couldn’t understand how people could misconstrue his “kindness toward children.” (Source: Florida Today, 4/26/86)

Example: Rev. William Henwood, pastor of the Jericho Independent Church in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, pleaded no contest to charges of sexual contact with a 10 year old girl. He had molested her in his own home, as well as on the school bus he drove for the church. The little girl explained to investigators, “He’d drive with one hand.” (Source: Scranton Times, 10/9/87)

Example: Rev. William Bosley of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 55 years in prison for sexually abusing a six year old girl in his church while her blind mother was cleaning the building. Bosley founded the Sunrise Church of God in Christ, Waukegan, Illinois, in 1969. He also pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the child’s 12 year old sister in the home of their grandmother. The sentencing took into account Bosley’s recent conviction for firing a gun into a car. He had served a 28-month sentence for sexual abuse of an 11 year old girl in Washington state 20 years before. Sentencing Judge Walter Block stated: “He took his position, duty and responsibility and used it to facilitate his criminal behavior.” Assistant state attorney Victoria Rossetti, of Lake County, stated: “These people trusted him. He helped them, but he continuously violated these young girls.” (Source: Chicago Tribune, 10/22/87)

Example: Rev. Francis Guy Haight, principal of the Baptist Christian Academy in Monroe, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty to a reduced number of charges of sexually assaulting four young girls at his church school. He had had sexual contact with up to 11 girls at his school on an almost daily basis. Haight admitted the abuse was “happening pretty near everyday” and that he could not “even begin to estimate how many times this occurred.” Most of the abuse took place in his office. A five year old girl said she was molested in her preschool program at the church. An 11 year old was abused when Mrs. Haight sent her to the office, telling police that it “kind of hurt.” She didn’t tell, she said, because she was scared. A 12 year old said the contact began when she attended summer bible school, where the minister molested her once or twice per day. One former student said she left the school after the eighth grade to avoid the constant abuse. Two victims said the minister would molest them by touching them under their dresses. As principal, he required that all girls wear dresses as part of the school dress code. Haight had been asked to leave a previous job under mysterious circumstances. Apparently the school had not made inquiries. Haight’s attorney William Lansing said Haight plea-bargained in order to spare the children from testifying in court. “He’s a very religious man,” Lansing said. Haight’s views on religion and compassion toward children obviously did not preclude constant sexual exploitation of them. (Sources: Wisconsin State Journal, 11/12/87; 1/9/88)

Example: David B. Harrington, a respected educator and principal of the Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for molesting six boys through the Big Brothers program. Harrington was honored by President Reagan at a White House reception in 1986, and had been named Montgomery County’s Big Brother of the Year. Upon arrest in February 1987, he fled the country, disappearing with money entrusted to him by a student travel agency, but surrendered to authorities five weeks later. His past included faking his own death in 1970 when Vermont officials were investigating charges that he had molested children. Previously he had served 30 days in a Connecticut jail for child sexual abuse. Harrington pleaded guilty in the D.C. case to molesting six boys, ages 10 to 17, by plying them with beer and wine and allowing them to watch pornography. A prosecutor said Harrington videotaped sex acts with the boys. Judge James S. McAuliffe called him a “classic fixated pedophile.” Harrington said he was himself a victim of child sexual abuse. (Source: Washington Post, 12/1/87)

Example: Rev. Billy Walker of Sheepfold Ministries shelter home for transient and displaced workers in Lamar, Colorado abused his position of trust in order to molest a seven year old girl. He received eight years in prison. He had fled the state upon discovery, but was arrested later in Lake City, Florida. The judge recommended that Walker receive counseling and treatment in prison for pedophilia. Walker had three prior felony convictions for child sexual abuse. (Source: Rocky Mountain News, 10/25/87)

Example: Rev. Gary Willard Hambright, a Southern Baptist, was charged as a daycare worker with sexually abusing 10 little boys and girls at the U.S. Army preschool at its Presidio base. Four of the tots had contracted the sexually transmitted disease of chlamydia. A grand jury spent 10 months investigating charges. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 11/5/87; Wall Street Journal, 11/16/87)

Example: Rev. Robert Henry, of San Luis Obispo, California, a married man with two grown children, was accused of seven felony counts of child molestation, resigning from his position as Ventura church rector and dean of a school. Described as a “well-known and respected community figure,” he was charged with molesting two boys in 1984 and 1985 during private counseling sessions at the school and church office. (Source: Los Angeles Times, 10/23/87)

When counseling turns criminal

Members of the clergy are sought out for both psychological and spiritual counseling, affording them the opportunity for great power and influence with their counselees.
–1985 Legislative Report Minneapolis Task Force on Sexual Exploitation by Counselors and Therapists

Priests, ministers and other pastoral counselors are in an ideal position to exploit trust. All counselors are in a position to potentially abuse the trust of those who turn to them for help, an issue which has drawn discussion and action by professionals in the secular field. Studies show that 10 percent of counselors admit to sexual abuse of clients, while half of the counselors report they have seen clients who were sexually abused by others in their profession. There has been some discussion in some churches about the exploitation of women in pastoral counseling, but no public discussion about clergy who use their counseling status to prey on children.

Clergy are often in contact with depressed, vulnerable parishioners. Believers are taught that ministers and priests have a special calling to help people. Believers are expected to confess and confide deeply personal feelings or problems. The Catholic Church sets up a ritual confession in which children are encouraged to reveal possible “sins,” setting up the opportunity for children to be inappropriately questioned by priests on intimate or embarrassing subjects. One woman wrote a poem recalling a painful episode at the time she was 12, when a priest asked her prurient, leading questions from the confessional, such as “Do you touch yourself there?”

Syndicated advice columnists routinely recommend that people seek ministerial help, yet there is no guarantee a pastor who counsels has had any professional training. To be a legal minister, someone simply has to be ordained by a local church that is recognized by the state. The church can have any requirements, or no requirements. Some people who call themselves ministers are merely self-appointed or self-ordained, claiming “ordination from God.” While some ministers actually have professional counseling licenses or academic credits, others have none. Just because a pastoral counselor has a higher education or a license does not guarantee he is a nonabuser. Whatever can be imagined happens–both the best counseling situations, and the worst. . .

Example: Christian psychologist Charles Markham Berry, a married man with children, esteemed in his community as a war veteran and upstanding Christian, was convicted of child molestation and child pornography in Atlanta. He had founded his own Christian-oriented counseling clinic, where he preyed on troubled boys and orphans from the Christian City Home. He assured them that their parents or guardians were aware of his “treatment” methods. He took boys to a warehouse where he kept a camera, tripod and a mattress on the floor. When “treating” a convicted molester, Markham forced him to use his own name to order child pornography from Europe for Markham’s use. He kept detailed accounts of his molestations on a computer. As US Attorney Stephen Cowen said: “He wrapped himself in religious piety, used his position in the church and the community to shield himself . . . to find children . . . to seduce them.” (Source: Atlanta Constitution & Journal, 7/18/86)

Example: A civil lawsuit charges that a priest, Rev. John Surprenant, chaplain at the College of St. Teresa in Winona, Minnesota, forced a female teenager to have sex with him for three years, and exploited other students. Leah C. Wurthmann said she sought counseling for a personal problem in September 1982 and was referred to the priest. He was “held out to the students . . . as someone to whom students could go for personal as well as school-related counseling.” She said she became “emotionally dependent” and “unable to withhold consent to sexual contact” during psychotherapy. The suit charges that he “repeatedly and wrongly sexually exploited other students and has engaged in unpermitted sexual contact with other students who sought counseling with him.” It was the second case in 1987 charging the Winona Diocese for negligently failing to prevent a priest from committing sexual abuse. (Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 10/30/87)

Example: Army chaplain Lt. Col. Anthony Longval was convicted of sexually abusing young women whom he hypnotized before abusing. “He’s a hypocrite who prayed on Sunday, and preyed on young women during the week,” said the Army prosecutor. (Source: Yakima [Washington] Herald Republic, 6/8/86)

Example: When Rev. Ronald Lane Fontenot, a priest, was suspended from the diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana after complaints of child molestation, he moved to Seattle. Fontenot got a job counseling teenagers addicted to drugs and alcohol at the Deaconness Medical Center’s Nancy Reagan Care-Unit, where he victimized boy patients. He was charged with, and pleaded guilty to statutory rape and immoral communication with minors. “Something like this can destroy a person,” said the parent of one victim. Fontenot was sentenced to one year in jail and two years in a treatment program. (Source: Spokane Chronicle, 2/9/86; Seattle Intelligencer 2/13/86; Port Angeles Daily News 6/19/86)

Example: A minister in Santa Barbara, California was accused of sexually preying upon women molested as children, by offering them “special services” ostensibly to overcome painful childhood memories. (Source: Santa Barbara News-Press, 8/1/87)

Denying evidence and circling the wagons

. . . the problem of child molestation is so terribly upsetting, adults have a powerful desire to deny that it exists.
–Gene G. Abel, M.D. and Nora Harlow

Parishioners may deny symptoms or evidence of abuse by clergy. The pressure to deny is enormous when a liked and respected clergyman is involved. Many people, raised to hold what is often such a disproportionate respect for the clergy, cannot even begin to grasp the possibility of such crimes. It simply does not “compute.” They may have too much emotional investment in their religion to cope with the shocking reality, sometimes even if they witness the abuse, and even at the expense of their children’s well-being.

Example: A mother in Tampa, Florida walked in on Rev. Fonville Gandy when he was placing his hands on her son’s genitals. She accepted his (unacceptable) explanation that he was “discussing anatomy” with the youth. This mother realized the truth when Rev. Gandy was later arrested for other molestations, and she testified against him at his trial. Gandy was sentenced to five years in prison for molesting another 11 year old at the Ecumenical Counseling Center. (Source: Tampa Tribune, 6/26/86)

Example: A mother learned her young boy had played strip poker under the direction of Rev. Allen F. Bruening, a Cleveland priest involved in a 20-year scandal and cover-up. The priest told her “strip poker was a good way for the kids to relax and get acquainted.” The diocese never disputed the allegation, but their only response was to pay for a few hours of counseling for the family, who were successfully intimidated from further action, especially after being falsely assured the priest would be kept away from children. “I wish I would have gone to the police . . . today I’d do it differently,” said the father. The same priest had boys involved in many other inappropriate activities. Following exposure, many victims came forward to recount such abuse as skinny-dipping trips to a bathhouse where the priest sexually touched them. Had more families questioned their boys about the excessive amount of time spent in the company of the priest, had more families complained, and had the one family that complained pursued its complaint past the level of the Diocese, Bruening’s abusive behavior might have been stopped in the first year, instead of after the second decade. One victim, who recalled his humiliation at being one of four boys forced to strip in gym class to allow the priest to “demonstrate how to use a jock strap,” commented how “really devastating” the episode was. Another victim said, “I’m sure there were more parents who knew but were afraid to do anything about it because he was a priest. He may have been a sick man, but I’m sure he knew right from wrong.” Rev. Daniel Nealon, a priest in Elyria, said Bruening’s deviant sexual behavior was widely known. (Source: Plain Dealer, 7/12,19/87)

Example: Rev. David Ray Miller was indicted for sexually molesting a little girl from his congregation for two years. “We can’t weigh the damage,” said Police Chief Larry Barmore. Yet her parents were so intimidated by the prestige of their daughter’s assailant that they had to be talked into pressing charges. The exposure came none too soon. Miller had been in the process of opening a church elementary school. (Source: [Smithville, Texas] County Times, 9/24/87)

Example: When a 17 year old boy was challenged to a “test of manhood” by his priest, Rev. John Joseph Mike Jr., of St. Louis Catholic Church in Maryland, he was hung upside down from a basketball backboard and whipped. His parents, who called the police, initially backed away from pressing charges because the priest was such a well-known figure. He eventually pleaded guilty. (Source: Washington Post, 9/25/87)

Example: Episcopal priest and military chaplain Rev. Thomas Evans Dobson was convicted of pushing methamphetamines in exchange for sexual acts with young boys in Seattle’s street culture. His attorney defended him on the basis of his religious career, and because he is a “family man who has children.” Charges of pedophilia stuck in Dobson’s case–but the abuse continued undetected for so long precisely because of the perceived incongruity of someone of his status victimizing homeless boys. (Source: Seattle Times, 6/4/87)

Onward, Christian soldiers

Since clergy have traditionally been immune from criticism by outsiders, their congregations and fellow clergy may attack families who expose a pedophilic priest or minister. Ignorance also plays a role in such self-protective behaviors: uninformed people may believe it is a tragic, isolated occurrence. Believers are programmed to respond in the defense of their religious leaders: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). This same bias may extend to some religionists in the criminal justice system, who may be more lenient toward a convicted child molester who is a respected religious leader pleading fervent religious beliefs. Church-run rehabilitation centers where the Catholic Church urges that molesting priests be sent instead of to prison, are also a way of “circling the wagons.”

Example: The Martin family of Savannah, Georgia was hounded when they charged their youth minister, Rev. Jerry Sidell, First Christian Church of Jonesboro, with molesting nine children, including their two sons. “They just wanted us to keep it quiet, to let the church elders deal with it in their own way. It made me sick to think that if they hadn’t gone to the police, that Jerry could go somewhere else and start raping more kids,” said Mrs. Martin. A “friend” visited them to suggest they consider “sacrificing a few [their sons] for the good of all [the church].” She told the press, “I don’t think it would be right for me to sacrifice my boys by clamming up, keeping quiet, moving out of the city, not doing anything in order to save the reputation of the church. I couldn’t sacrifice my two boys for the sake of that church or anybody else.” Sidell had molested their sons for two years. He pleaded guilty to four counts of child molestation and one count of enticing a minor for indecent purposes and was sentenced in September 1984 to 10 years. The Martins and another family sued the church and Sidell for $3 million to pay for psychiatric rehabilitation plus damages but settled with the church for less than $5,000, agreeing to seek no further legal action. On April 25, 1984 Sidell pleaded guilty to another count of abuse, stemming from an incident in which he had taken the older Martin boy to Stone Mountain Park and molested him in 1981. He received another 10 year sentence to run concurrently. Following the convictions, the Martins received abusive and threatening phone calls from church members. The family has since become active in the California-based Society’s League Against Molestation. (Source: Atlanta Constitution, 4/26/84)

Example: The Rev. Clyde L. Johnson, pastor of the largest Baptist church in Petersburg, Virginia and a popular city council member for 14 years, was convicted of the rape and sexual battery of four girls, aged nine to 16, in his congregation. Despite the conviction, and Johnson’s cruel and slanderous statements about the young girls made in an effort to protect himself, he received continuous religious support, including prayers, rallies, money and special services. “The bottom line is that all of us . . . has [sic] some skeletons in his closets. That’s not our job to judge. It’s the Lord’s job,” said clergy supporter Rev. Kenneth Arrington of the Union Fellowship. One church member, Melvin Harwell, who was angered by this widespread support of a child rapist, commented: “Some people worship preachers.” (Source: Washington Post, 4/24/87)

Example: A 16 year old Nashville boy filed a civil lawsuit charging that he was not only sexually assaulted at a children’s camp but that others conspired to silence him. The boy had been recruited to work at the camp by Rev. Ron Teed, Family of Faith Lutheran Church. Following an assault by the minister, the complainant said he sought safety and protection from another counselor, who detained him on behalf of the minister. The boy reported that he was then subjected to an all-night meeting alone with his assailant. (Source: Tennesseean, 6/4/87)

Example: When her son “Jake” was molested by a Cub Scout leader, “Madeline Smith” noted: “I taught Sunday School, and yet my neighbors acted as though I had the plague. I received absolutely no support from the people at our church either. “Michael Jones,” Jake’s molester, was very well liked there. “. . .[After his arrest] our minister immediately went to his house to comfort his wife. But the minister never came to our house or offered support to any of the 10 families whose children were Jones’ victims. Eight of those families eventually left the church.” (Source: Redbook Magazine, 8/87)

Example: Priest and parochial school teacher Rev. John Anthony Salazar was left in his position by the church even after a mother reported molestation of her son in 1985. In 1986, when he was reported to police for sodomizing a 13 year old boy, it was learned that officials at the Los Angeles diocese had been told of a similar allegation three months before, yet had done nothing. “There was at least one more victim because the church didn’t do anything,” said prosecuting attorney Kenneth Wullschleger. Salazar was sentenced for molesting two altar boys at St. Lucy’s Catholic Church in East Los Angeles. Before the sentencing a letter-writing campaign was conducted by 100 faithfuls, including mothers of some of his other victims, asking that Salazar not be imprisoned. The judge sentenced the priest to six years in prison, taking into account the extent of his abuse of boys. In this case, the priest had the sad background of having been molested by his mother as a child, but showed little understanding of his role in recycling that abuse, claiming in classic pedophilic behavior that he was “in love” with the boys. An $11 million civil suit was brought by one family. (Source: Los Angeles Herald, 7/31/87; San Jose Mercury News, 12/30/87)

Example: Over the objection of prosecutors, Circuit Judge Robert H. Mason reduced a 25 year prison sentence he had imposed on a pedophilic priest in 1986 to only five years’ probation. He also ordered Rev. Peter M. McCutcheon, found guilty of sexually abusing three youths from 1981 to 1985, to spend at least a year in a Catholic-run treatment center and halfway house, called the Foundation House, in Albuquerque. He had spent 13 months in the Maryland Diagnostic Center in Baltimore, part of the state prison system, after pleading guilty in December 1986 to five counts of sexual abuse. Mason, a judge in Prince George’s County, Maryland, also ordered that the priest take Depo-Provera–a drug diminishing sexual desire, not work in a situation putting him in contact with children, and make restitution to the families. However, Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Harvey objected to the sentence reduction as special treatment. “He is still a pedophile, still a potential danger to the community. This program won’t guarantee he’ll be out of the community.” When Mason originally sentenced the priest to 25 years in prison, he had told him, “It’s very important for [the victims and their families] to see you walk out of here in handcuffs on the way to jail.” The 1986 sentencing had followed five hours of emotional testimony. The parents of victims said the priest had manipulated and confused their sons, and doctors and counselors had stressed that McCutcheon, who had been assigned to parishes in Waldorf and Chillum, was a pedophile, alcoholic and drug abuser in need of therapy. Mason defended the sentence reduction by saying that if McCutcheon had not been a priest, he would probably have been freed without treatment for his illness. (Source: Washington Post, 1/14/88)

Example: Rev. Donald VanLiew, pastor of the First Christian Church, Kentland, Indiana, was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and five years informal probation for one count of child molestation. He was given such a light sentence because he had no prior record. Originally, his sentence was proposed as a $1 fine and court costs! That his friends and family did not regard the offense as a serious reflection on the minister was indicated by his mother’s comment to the press: “This isn’t easy for us to take. We have a reputation to maintain, and it’s not true anyway.” (Source: Journal and Courier, Lafayette-West Lafayette, Indiana, 12/23/87)

Example: Church youth minister Timothy J. Ganzel was spared a flve-year prison sentence (receiving one year in jail and probation instead), because the judge said he took into account a courtroom full of relatives, friends and church members. Ganzel molested a teenage boy in Wisconsin Grace Baptist Church, Racine, Wisconsin. (Source: Capital Times, 4/21/87)

Example: Fred Beihl, an employee of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, raped and sexually assaulted four little girls between the ages of eight and nine, and received a 240-year sentence–despite the testimony in his favor of several religious leaders including Episcopal Bishop Gerald N. McAllister. The judge said, “We’re not going to have a fifth little girl that he rapes and sodomizes.” (Source: Tulsa Tribune, 8/29/86)

“Hey, Father, we’ve got a little problem. . .”

At a time of heightened national awareness of the problems of child abuse, the Catholic Church in the United States continues to ignore and cover up cases of priests who sexually molest children, according to court records, internal church documents, civil authorities and the victims themselves.
–Reporter Carl M. Cannon
San Jose Mercury News

A church may actively cover up, bribe, fail to act or knowingly pass on a child molester to another parish or congregation. Cover-ups in the Roman Catholic Church have been disclosed in Dallas; San Antonio; Portland; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Allentown and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Springfield, Illinois; several dioceses in Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; Orlando and Pensacola, Florida; Los Angeles; San Diego; Anaheim and Ventura County, California; Quebec; St. Paul-Minneapolis; Cleveland, Ohio; Jackson, Mississippi and other areas. It is only recently–following extensive and embarrassing civil lawsuits–that some elements in the church have even called on members to report suspected cases of child abuse by priests. Priest and Catholic attorney Thomas Doyle characterized the church’s typical reaction as: “A guy [priest] would be called in by his bishop who’d say, ‘Hey, Father, we’ve got a little problem,’ and they’d send him for treatment somewhere or ship him off to another parish.” The church’s new defense has been that priests who molest are really “independent contractors,” thereby, so the argument goes, relieving the church of legal responsibility. The fallout is ugly when a faithful, devout family is hit with the appalling news that their child has been sexually exploited by a trusted parish priest or other church official. Understandably expecting the same feelings of outrage to be shared by church administrators, parents in case after case have been figuratively slapped in the face when they turned to the church to stop the abuse, and ensure that it would not happen again. San Jose Mercury News reporter Carl M. Cannon, who conducted a three-month investigation into 25 dioceses, wrote a two-part series (December 30-31, 1987) called “Priests Who Molest” in which he noted:

“Confronted with complaints that priests have molested children, some Catholic dioceses have responded by attempting to discredit those who made the allegations. Catholic officials have sought to seal court records, attacked newspapers and impugned the motives and even the sanity of those who have brought complaints against priests . . .

“Keeping details of the cases secret has been a consistent church priority, according to court records, families of victims, law enforcement officials and attorneys who have sued the church. And those who bring it out in the open risk retribution.”

Cannon concluded that “in more than 25 dioceses across the country, church officials have failed to notify authorities, transferred molesting priests to other parishes, ignored parental complaints and disregarded the potential damage to child victims.

“To the devastated families, to the lawyers who are suing the church and to Catholics who are pushing for a national church policy, the churches’ reluctance to address the problem is a time bomb waiting to detonate within American Catholicism.”

The Mercury News quoted Ken Wooden, a child-abuse expert from Vermont, calling it “the liability trail.” Wooden explained, “You get a doberman pinscher attorney, he sniffs the trail. Who does it lead to? It leads to the bishop who reassigned the priest. Then they pay.”

Huge settlements and pay-offs have, in some cases, been made to ward off further investigation. For example, the diocese of Orlando paid $3 million to families of four victims, according to estimates by attorneys Sheldon Stevens of Merritt Island and Charles E. Davis of Orlando, not only because of diocese inaction but because of evidence that at least five other priests had been exposed by child victims since 1974. “We established that there was a record in that diocese going back 15 years of homosexual molestation of children and that the diocese had chosen to handle it by looking the other way,” Stevens told the Mercury News.

To cover up is criminal conspiracy. To hide and harbor a criminal and actually watch abuse continue without lifting a hand to stop it, to let loose an abuser on an unsuspecting public, is being an accessory to terrorism. It is supremely immoral.

Example: The Plain Dealer newspaper, following its exposŽ of a Catholic cover-up of three pedophilic priests, called the Cleveland Diocese’s actions similar to “playing musical chairs.” Case 1: The Church offered one family $50,000 to silence them after their 14 year old son was sexually assaulted in 1981 by Rev. F. James Mulica of Kirtland, Ohio. In spite of assurances to the family that the priest would not be allowed near children, he was reassigned to family parishes, and only briefly sent for alcoholic rehabilitation. Case 2: The mother of a youth molested by Rev. Joseph Romansky was offered a condominium, a van and a job–all of which were withdrawn when she filed a $6 million suit against the church. The priest had typically invited boys to the rectory for a sleepover, then out to McDonalds for breakfast, and bribed them with money gifts. Case 3: Priest Allen F. Bruening [see Chapter 6] was accused of separately molesting two brothers as children who were 20 years apart in age. The priest also invited a friend who was a coach to participate in the abuse. The Cleveland church officials brought out the “self-employment” defense to plead they were at no fault in this case of a criminal “independent contractor.” (Source: Plain Dealer, 7/12,13/87; San Jose Mercury News, 12/31/87)

Example: A Catholic couple in Newark, New Jersey charged in a lawsuit that when they told the diocese that their two sons had been molested-one subsequently committed suicide-” members of the Newark archdiocese advised the plaintiffs that they would be provided with financial assistance to help with their medical bills … provided that this matter was not made public.” When the father confronted the assailant, a Franciscan Brother of the Poor, the man “first denied what had occurred, and then claimed that he had been seduced.” [See Chapter 11] (Source: San Jose Mercury News, 12/31/87)

Example: “Charles R.,” the father of a 12 year old girl molested by a Florida priest in 1983, was outraged when he learned the same priest had been accused of molesting two other girls six years earlier. He said, “If he’s not causing a problem–they do nothing. If he’s causing a problem, they move him to another state.” (Source: San Jose Mercury News, 12/30/87)

Example: Charles E. Davis, a Catholic attorney practicing in Orlando, sued his own diocese in a case involving two molested boys. At first, he said, “I’d give the church–my church–the benefit of the doubt. Finally, I realized this was a cover-up that went all the way to the bishop. It’s one thing to have a bad priest. It’s another thing to have the whole hierarchy corrupt. And I told my wife: We will no longer go to a Catholic Church.” (Source: San Jose Mercury News, 12/30/87)

Example: A grandmother of a 13 year old altar boy molested by a priest in Florida initially reported the abuse to Catholic Social Services in Pensacola, and was assured by them that they would report the abuse to the state–as mandated by law. They never did. (Source: Miami Herald, 8/2/86)

Example: Father Andrew Christian Andersen, Diocese of Orange, California, continued regular contact with altar boys for three years after a mother reported to church officials that her son had been abused by him. The church never reported anything. He was sent for some counseling, but quickly resumed molesting, and was not removed from positions involving the supervision of boys. Andersen was reported to authorities by a psychiatrist counseling a 13 year old altar boy. Following his conviction, the priest was hugged by a church pastor and dozens of parishioners. Many in the congregation wrote letters asking the judge to pardon the priest; none wrote letters expressing any sympathy for the victims, including one whose family was forced to leave the church. Andersen was found guilty of 26 counts of child molestation and received five years’ probation on the condition that he go to a church-owned treatment facility in New Mexico. (Source: Los Angeles Times, 11/25/86)

Example: A U.S. Attorney’s report about Timothy Slevin, of Washington, D.C., a convicted child molester, former priest and church employee, said: “[We are] unable to comprehend how the church could . . . still interpose him [a known pedophile] with young boys in a church-ordained activity.” Slevin was sentenced to three to 12 years after pleading guilty to four counts of sodomizing a boy at Sacred Heart Catholic School. A suit against the church for $200 million was settled out of court. (Source: Washington Post, 4/13/86)

Example: Rev. Robert Foley, an Irish priest posted in Anaheim, California, was accused by a mother of molesting her son during a camping trip. Foley warned his victim that “the devil would get him” if he told. The priest was merely transferred to a different parish, although ongoing civil suits continue. (Source: Grange County Register, 8/11/87)

Example: Priest Alvin L. Campbell from the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, admitted to molesting boys for more than 20 years, forcing himself on victims, then giving them lavish gifts to keep them quiet. “They handled it the way they handle every other problem,” said Ray McGrew of the Illinois Division of Criminal Investigation. “They remove the problem to someplace else and forget it.” Campbell was sentenced to 14 years’ prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing seven boys when pastor of St. Maurice Parish in Morrisonville. Reportedly, the same diocese paid $2.5 million to three families victimized by Father Walter Weerts, sentenced in 1986 to six years in prison for performing oral sex on three teenage boys. The same pattern of transferring the priest from parish to parish had occurred. (Source: San Jose Mercury News, 12/30/87)

Example: When the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about efforts by the western Pennsylvania dioceses to seal court records on molestation cases, Catholic officials accused the Post-Gazette of waging “a subtle campaign of Catholic-bashing.” Said attorney Ken Kilbert, of Pittsburgh, “What the church has effectively done in these cases is seal up what happened. This wasn’t an isolated case. It’s happened all over. You never do find out anything about these cases. It’s an effort to keep them shrouded in secrecy.” (Source: San Jose Mercury News, 12/31/87)

Example: Rev. William Authenreith (mentioned previously) was transferred from parish to parish after parental complaints about him were stifled. No action was taken despite a four-month church investigation in 1983 revealing that he used “uncouth, vulgar language” at school, often questioning children about sex and pornography before their confirmation. The grammar-school children at All Souls church school in Sanford, Florida had a standing joke that if altar boys turned their backs on him, they would be pinched or patted. Teachers demanded an audience with the vicar general, Father King, to complain about Authenreith’s lewd behavior. Lorraine Mandeville, an office aide and cafeteria worker for five years at All Souls, wrote to school officials on March 30, 1984 reporting that the priest was telling dirty jokes and having improper physical contact with her son and other teenagers. She received no answer, except a notice four months later that she was being let go. The excuse was that the hot lunch program was being discontinued, although it never was. When the father of three boys molested by Authenreith reported the crimes to his parish priest at St. Mary’s, he said the priest recommended prayer and told him, “It’s not for you to judge. That’s for God to do.” Authenreith, whose history of molesting boys began when he was in the sixth grade, had told at least four other priests, one a monsignor, about his behavior–but nothing was ever done. He also mentioned his sexual activities in confession. In May, 1983, an anonymous letter about Authenreith’s behavior to St. Mary’s pastor Terrence J. Farrelly went ignored. When a lawsuit was filed in 1985, Authenreith was sent to a House of Affirmation in Massachusetts and was suspended as a priest. However, the state inexplicably had given him immunity from prosecution, so he was never convicted of any criminal offenses. (Source: Orlando Sentinel, 8/5,6/86; San Jose Mercury News, 12/31/87)

Example: Rev. Donald Roemer, a Ventura County, California priest, had “confessed his sexual attraction to young boys” to church officials well before being arrested for child molestation. Civil suits by parents of victims alleged that one child was molested in a confessional and another during a camping trip when he asked Roemer’s help in saying his prayers. Roemer pleaded no contest in 1981 to three counts of child molestation involving boys in the church, and admitted to several other molestations. He was committed to Atascadero State Hospital, then released in 1983 and placed on 10 years probation and ordered to pay the boys’ counseling fees. (Sources: The Recorder, 2/27/87; Orange County Register, 1986)

Example: A lawsuit charged the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and Winona with a cover-up conspiracy to ignore 25 years of known pedophilic action by priest Rev. Thomas Adamson. The suit charged that church officials were told by a psychiatrist that Adamson’s condition was “incurable” as early as 1967. He started molesting Catholic altar boys in 1962. As early as 1963, the suit charged, the bishop of Winona Diocese was informed of this, yet named the priest an associate principal the following year. He was given some therapy and transferred again, yet he continued sexually abusing boys, which was reported to his superior. In 1976 he was reassigned to work with altar boys. As late as 1986 officials publicly denied knowledge of Adamson’s sexual contact with boys. (Source: Minneapolis Star/Tribune, 2/5/87)

Example: A woman told authorities in 1983 that she saw her 12 year old daughter being sexually touched by Father Eamond O’Dowd, of the Orlando, Florida diocese. During a sermon from the pulpit in church a few days after O’Dowd’s arrest, Father Richard Steinkamp, in the presence of the victim, said that the allegation was a “terrible accusation,” that he could vouch for O’Dowd’s character, and that the priest would be “vindicated.” Yet Steinkamp later admitted in a deposition that six years before, two sets of parents reported that O’Dowd had improperly touched the breasts of one girl and touched another in a way that had alarmed her. The family of the 12 year old sued the diocese. Their response was to offer to settle, with a threat to sue both the lawyer and the girl’s father if the offer was not accepted. (Source: San Jose Mercury News, 12/31/87)

Example: Rev. Tom Bender was charged in civil and criminal court with sexually abusing a boy in Reading, Pennsylvania when the victim was between the ages of 10 and 15. The child’s mother told media, “I was very, very involved with the church, close to all the priests.” When Father Tom took an interest in her son’s singing and acting, taking him to New York on trips to see plays, she “thought it was great.” Yet the boy became depressed, did poorly in school, got hooked on drugs and had to be treated in three different centers. While the mother didn’t understand, the diocese knew why. An aide to Bishop Thomas Welsh of Allentown, in threats paralleling the kind of pressure put on victims of incest, warned the boy of the frightening consequences should his parents find out, that his mother “would have a nervous breakdown” and his stepfather “might kill somebody.” Bender was transferred to another parish, where he was given direct authority over children. He was able to continue to take the boy on trips for the purpose of abusing him since the parents were still unsuspecting. Finally, the boy told his parents, who confronted the church. Diocese reaction was to send the boy to the same psychiatrist who was treating the priest! The parents demanded that Bishop Welsh defrock the priest and turn him over to the police. According to the suit, Welsh replied: “He’s a good man. If he did this, he will have to answer to God when he dies.” (Source: Mike McManus/Montgomery Advertiser & Alabama Journal, 12/19/87)

While the Catholic Church has been able to rely on the device of transferring molesters, Protestant churches also have been accused of culpability for knowing but not reporting abuse, or for failing to do proper reference checks when hiring, and similar negligence.

Example: Priest Rev. Francis Papworth, rector of the Santa Rosa Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, was sentenced to seven years for molesting several teenagers at his Windsor home. A $120 million lawsuit was filed against the Northern California Diocese of the Episcopal Church, claiming church leaders knew of Papworth’s problems but failed to take action. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/87)

Example: The Church Mutual Insurance Company documents that one of its client churches was forced to pay damages for hiring a married male teacher who abused several young boys in class, and had been convicted for that. “This teacher,” the company stated, “had been fired from three other church schools for similar offenses. Reference checks would have revealed this.” (Source: Safety Tips on a Sensitive Subject: Child Sexual Abuse–The Church Mutual Protection Series)

Absolution is no solution

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
–The Lord’s Prayer

People who are ignorant about child sexual abuse may not only deny that a respected member of the community could be an offender, but may blame the child or the child’s family. Molesters typically have excellent relations with adults to guarantee that very reaction. While the accused is innocent until proven guilty (or pleading guilty), it is the job of the suspected molester’s defense attorney to defend him. The first priority of everyone else should be the safety and well-being of a child who reports being abused. Certainly, at minimum, church members and officials should withhold comments which by implication convict the child.

Sometimes a congregation will not contest the fact that abuse occurred but will evade the issue by calling only for “forgiveness.” Believers may insist upon “forgiveness” if one of their flock is accused of sexual crimes. After all, the Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The Sermon on the Mount insists: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14,15) “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) A child victim of abuse should not be expected to carry the onerous theological burden of “forgiving” an adult offender. Certainly nobody can forgive a molester on behalf of a victim. Religious forgiveness is irrelevant to the crime of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is illegal, a crime not only against the victim but the state (that is why there are criminal statutes). The abuse must be halted, the victim attended to and protected from further abuse, and the offender prosecuted. If “forgiveness” is even material, it is only in the context defined here: “a matter of the victim’s being able to say that she or he will no longer allow the experience to dominate her or his life–and will let go of it and move on.” That definition is offered by Marie M. Fortune and Judith Hertze in their essay, “A Commentary on Religious Issues in Family Violence,” Sexual Assault and Abuse: A Handbook for Clergy and Religious Professionals. “This is usually possible,” they add, “if there is some sense of justice in the situation (through the legal system). . .” Professionals emphasize that, if victims are to become “survivors,” they must heal at their own pace. Ardent believers may want to forgive and forget the problem because it reflects poorly on their church, but the last thing a victim of child abuse needs is more self-protective manipulation by adults.

Fortune and Hertze note that some contemporary religious ideas attempt to “teach that there are very simple answers to the very complex issues that people face,” such as sexual abuse.

“Keep the commandments and everything will be fine.”

“Keep praying.”

“Just accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and you will be healthy, prosperous, popular, and happy.”

“Go to services each week.”

“Pray harder.”

Such teachings, they argue, “set up a dynamic that blames the victims for their suffering.”

Mary D. Pellauer, a religious activist who has worked to educate churches about violence, advises in the same handbook for clergy: “We believe firmly that ministers and religious leaders are not appropriate counselors for assailants, whether rapists, batterers, or child sexual abusers. The special skills and expertise required are simply beyond the reach of the ordinary parish pastor . . . . It is extremely easy to be drawn into colluding with the offender’s world view and distorted processes. Offenders minimize their behavior so typically that it is essential for a counselor to have the court record of the victim’s story (or some other record) available in order to maintain a grasp of reality. This alone requires the coordination of many kinds of information and resources not available to the pastor.

“Indeed, special risks and dangers exist for the parish pastor in dealing with offenders. Without the institutional connections for working as a team with other professionals, clergy may work at cross-purposes with them and so sidetrack the best therapy available. One measure of this difficulty, for instance, is the increasing concern of mental health practitioners whose clients have significant contact with churches. Such practitioners often find offenders appealing to pastors for confession and absolution as a substitute for rehabilitative therapy. This is extremely dangerous. Furthermore, if the victim is also a member of the religious community, the victim may view you as allying yourself with the offender.”

Some believers possess a kind of “religious fatalism” which makes it easy to bear the suffering of others. “Suffer the little children. . .” (no matter how those words are interpreted) is no answer to abuse, particularly that perpetrated by clergypersons. Such a reaction invalidates the pain and betrayal of victims, and diminishes and trivializes criminal behavior. When a scandal involving clergy abuse is publicized, it is common for a bishop or church superior to call for “prayers” or “understanding.” Child abuse, rape and sexual exploitation are not crimes which can be absolved by prayer or a request for forgiveness.

John Money, M.D., from Johns Hopkins University School of Psychiatry and Medicine, has noted that the Catholic Church has dealt with pedophilia “as a sin requiring repentance, forgiveness, and transferral of the offender to another parish. Elsewhere some offenders were referred to regional psychiatric centers run by the church for the priesthood. There the treatment was, in essence, moral treatment … It did not succeed.” Money reported that the church has made some changes. “In resorting to hormonal therapy for priestly sex offenders, the church has in fact admitted that its own time-honored moral procedures and penances for the control of human sexual behavior are insufficient. It is necessary to resort also to a medical procedure. By calling on medicine, the church has relinquished some of its own absolute authority. The thin edge of the wedge has been inserted.” However, as late as 1987, Rev. William Parri, a priest and co-director of the Servants of the Paraclete rehabilitation center, told the Rocky Mountain News: “What we do here is forgive. That means sometimes making some very hard decisions because some things are very hard to forgive. But I think ultimately that forgiveness is what leads to healing.” Notes Jason Berry, a reporter for the National Catholic Reporter, “First, bishops are coming out from a tradition of forgiveness. Secondly, they are used to priests being good men, so they’re inclined to think they’ll get better with a little help. It is a scandal that there is no national policy in dealing with this.” Money advocates psychotherapy for priestly offenders augmented with antiandrogenic hormonal therapy. A far cry from “forgiveness.”

Christianity teaches “original sin” and the doctrine of human depravity. This can provide an excuse to a religious offender who may blame “Satan” or “human nature” for his offenses, then feel redeemed when regularly seeking forgiveness: “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. . .”

Example: Rev. Edward Stefanich, an Illinois priest convicted of initiating a sexual relationship with a 14 year old female parochial school student, was deemed “a wonderful person” by one parish family man. “He’s got our support 100 percent.” A bishop declared: “It’s not a time for gossip [but for] the need for forgiveness.” (Source: Chicago Sun Times, 2/15,16/87)

Example: Rev. James Britton Myers, a Kenosha, Wisconsin minister, was convicted of the heinous crime of raping a little girl at his Christian school over a five-year period, starting when she was age five. Yet his Christian supporters from three states filled the courtroom, and one member of his congregation called the crime “one drop of ink in crystal clear water.” (Source: Milwaukee Journal, 4/23/86)

Example: The grandmother of a minister who abducted an 18 year old woman for 24 days and raped and molested her, could only comment, “If you had seen him when . . . he preached, his face was just shining like an angel.” This diabolical crime involved kidnapping Maria C. Smith from a shopping mail in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on July 9, beating her with belts and raping her, and imprisoning her bound-and-gagged in the trunk of a car for what a judge later termed a 24-day reign of “terrorism.” On August 2, the assailant Rev. Karl Strahan and his father purported to discover the missing teenager, and were touted as heroes. Two days later police realized Strahan was the abductor. He had threatened Smith’s life if she had not backed up his story. On February 6, 1987 he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and armed robbery in Forrest County, where he received a 25-year concurrent sentence. The same day in bordering Covington County where he had taken his victim, Strahan pleaded guilty to rape and sexual battery. He received a sentence of life imprisonment on the rape charges and 30 years on sexual battery to run consecutively. Strahan was a licensed Mississippi Baptist minister. (Sources: Jackson Mississippi Daily, 8/6/86; 8/8/86; Hattiesburg American, 2/6/87)

Example: Baptist minister James Luttrell, Bible Baptist Church, Bend, Oregon, was convicted of raping a six month old baby boy. The evidence was incontrovertible, yet another minister outspokenly defended him and paid for his legal help. (Source: Corvallis Gazette-Times, Oregon, 5/8/87)

Example: Wilson A. Mears, Jr., convicted of sexually assaulting his 14 year old stepdaughter, later became a Baptist pastor, and was granted a full pardon by the Florida cabinet. He sought the pardon for his 1977 crime in order to be allowed to serve as a chaplain for the state prison system. He had served 15 months in prison. “If I stood before my God and answer for my crimes, I can certainly stand before my governor and my Cabinet seeking their grace and mercy . . . I’ve tried to help men with the same crimes I had.” He received an appointment as pastor of Pine Grove Baptist Church in Quincey. What does this favoritism say to rape and incest victims, and to imprisoned sex offenders? (Source: Florida Today, 3/8/87)

Example: Youth minister Richard Cole of Community Chapel and Bible Training Center in Burien, Washington, received prison time for molesting a 14 year old boy. A psychologist’s report said Cole’s religious beliefs allowed him to shirk responsibility for his own actions. (Source: Seattle Times, 7/29/87)

Celibacy and pedophilia

If you tell a man that he’s not allowed to have particular friends, he’s not allowed to be affectionate, he’s not allowed to be in love, he’s not allowed to be a sexual being, you shouldn’t be surprised at anything that happens.
–Dr. Jay Feierman

Is celibacy a contributing factor?

“If you are a 17 year old male and are attracted to boys, the fact that celibacy is socially sanctioned for a priest may make the priesthood attractive,” reports Phillip J. Resnick, a Cleveland psychiatrist who has worked with pedophiles.

Dr. Jay Feierman, a psychiatrist who works at a Catholic treatment center for abusive priests in New Mexico, has met with “hundreds” of priests attracted to adolescents. Feierman believes celibacy is not a “natural state for humans to be in,” but that sexual desires can be redirected rather than misdirected.

“If you tell a man that he’s not allowed to have particular friends, he’s not allowed to be affectionate, he’s not allowed to be in love, he’s not allowed to be a sexual being’ you shouldn’t be surprised at anything that happens,” says Feierman.

While celibacy is surely a factor in many cases of pedophilic priests, it is no reason and no excuse for it. Many adults for personal reasons or merely happenstance, are “celibate” for all or much of their lives, and live happily and lawfully. Pedophilia is a sickness, not a side effect of celibacy. Professionals uniformly believe pedophilic tendencies emerge by adolescence, thereby predating entry into the priesthood. That said, it is obvious that any factors which might discourage healthy adult relationships and a wholesome attitude toward sex may exacerbate pedophilia. Some people would argue that religious celibacy itself is deviant, because it is predicated on assumptions that regular sexual relations are evil, that women are impure or inferior, and that consensual homosexuality is immoral. Some men under a religiously enforced vow of celibacy who might otherwise acknowledge sexual needs and seek consensual adult partners may feel safer “seducing” little boys or girls. Although we don’t know whether the celibate priesthood produces pedophiles, we do know that the celibate priesthood offers a haven to the pedophile, giving him a chance to join a prestigious profession in which he can hide his feelings from himself and others, yet retain close access to children and young teenagers.

What do the experts say? The Catholic Church, writes Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University, “becomes a magnet for youths who enter the priesthood having already recognized their sexual status as homophiles, in some instances as homophilic pedophiles attracted exclusively to younger boys. These future priests become seminarians partly in the belief that they will, through religion, gain control over the very sexual desires that they resist or fight against. Eventually, however, they find that theology, prayer, and penance do not have the answer. On the contrary, the sex-segregated order of the church offers a haven to . . . pedophiles, attracted to young boys. . .”

Without offering analysis, Lafayette, Louisiana District Attorney Nathan Stansbury, who learned a lot about pedophilia in prosecuting the notorious Father Gauthe case, said he believes pedophilia is overrepresented in the priesthood. “We’d be in really sad shape,” he told the Houston Post (January 17, 1988), “if it was that much of a problem in the general population.”

Richard 1. Lanyon, with the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, writes: “The following factors would appear to be related to good prognosis [of recovery from pedophilia]: (a) manageability of life crises and financial needs; (b) good heterosocial and heterosexual skills and experiences, plus a cooperative and committed adult sexual partner, or the willingness and motivation to learn such skills and find such a partner; (c) motivation and willingness to persist in treatment and follow therapeutic instruction; (d) relative freedom from other disorders such as alcoholism or drug addiction, psychosis, or substantial neurosis or character-disorder; and (e) relative freedom from constrictive religious or moral beliefs about normal adult sexuality.” Clearly priests bound to a celibate order automatically strike out on two of five requirements. If a pedophile’s only or major sexual experiences involve children or adolescents, and if he is denied legal outlets with consenting adults it will be difficult to recondition his sexual urges and behavior, a goal of treatment involving behavior therapy. In fact, although Catholic rehabilitation centers differentiate between pedophilia and other problems warranting treatment, the priesthood nevertheless regards any sexual attraction to anyone as a problem, regardless of age, commitment or consent–a concern shared uniquely by religious groups demanding celibacy.

“It was once thought that a child molester was interested only in children and that if therapy could stimulate his sexual interest in an adult woman, such as his wife, his obsession with children would disappear. Now we know that, in most cases, the child molester has a normal sex life with his wife but still maintains his deviant sexual interest in children,” notes Dr. Abel. It is common to assume that allowing Catholic priests to marry might diminish the problem of child abuse. While such a reform would be useful for other reasons, the answer is not a simplistic one of marrying off molesters! Think what message that sends to the prospective wives! Women are not sacrifices whose wifely duties include policing abusers. The answer is to rearrange the patriarchal equation that gives adult men most of the power while children and women have little or none.

Child sexual abuse, like other forms of abuse, is a crime of unequal power, not a crime of sexual deprivation. Fixated pedophiles clearly only act on sexual attraction with somebody who can’t say no–a child. Rape of women is a parallel crime. Most rapists have access to consensual sex yet choose to rape as an act of dominance and violation. Sexual subordination distinguishes all forms of sexual abuse, and obviously is the element that attracts the pedophile to children. When children are empowered with the knowledge and self-confidence they need to say “No!” pedophilia–whether perpetrated by a single or married man–will diminish.

Homophobia and sexual abuse of boys

When a male minister is accused of molesting a young boy or male teenager, some people may react more to the stigma of “homosexuality” than to the abuse of a minor. They may therefore wish to deny that a minister could have committed what they see as a “homosexual act” by denying that the sexual abuse of a boy occurred, or by blaming the victim. For those in the religious community who are strongly intolerant of homosexual relationships involving consenting adults, facing the reality of man-to-boy criminal molestation may be such a taboo that no practical steps are taken to stop an offender or help a victim. Boys who are molested by men or older boys may face ostracism by many in the religious community should their complaint go public, even though they were the victims of a sexual assault or a sexually exploitative relationship.

It needs to be emphasized that pedophilia is a deviant sexual preference for children or teenagers. Most abusers who molest boys will not seek consensual relationships with adult men. It is not homosexuality–it is child abuse. Homosexuality is no more responsible for child sexual abuse than is heterosexuality, and, of course, the vast majority of sex crimes are perpetrated by avowed heterosexuals.

While most gay men are not pedophiles, some critics of the Catholic Church allege that rampant homosexuality in the priesthood is a hypocrisy that indirectly undermines church policy on sexual transgressions. Paul Hebert, the Lafayette, Louisiana attorney who sued the diocese in the Father Gauthe case [see Chapter 1], commented: “In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the church, in its desire to get new priests, accepted homosexuals–and they knew it. In time, a lot of these individuals took over administrative positions. The result is that if [a pedophile’s superior] is not celibate, his willingness to exert discipline is lessened.” In other words, a church official who fears exposure for consensual noncriminal behavior which breaks his vows of celibacy may be reluctant to combat criminal sexual behavior by underlings.

The NIMH study of 403 pedophiles led by Dr. Abel revealed that almost two-thirds of the victims of abuse involving touch were boys. The cultural sex stereotype that male children should be “tough” is probably responsible for the fact that many young boys are given even less help in avoiding sexual abuse than young girls, and therefore may be at equal or greater risk. It is believed that the taboo of discussing same-sex molestation means it is grossly underreported. Some experts in the field of child abuse report that when the stigma lessens, the cases of child victims reporting abuse will be made up of equal numbers of boys and girls.

“Unfortunately,” write Abel and Harlow, “the societal belief that little boys should be able to protect themselves from child molesters prevails even after the boys identify themselves as victims. During legal questioning, Derek, for example, was asked by a lawyer, ‘Well, if you didn’t like it, why did you let it go on for so long?’ And when Peter’s mother, Sara, asked a trusted member of her church why no one spoke to her anymore and why their minister refused to counsel her or say any prayers for her son, the man said, ‘Look, every man is approached by some homo. Peter should just have said No!’

“But the adults who made these comments don’t understand that a molester makes it impossible for a boy to say no. Unfortunately, society tends to ‘blame the victim’ in sex crimes when the victim is a child, just as they do when the victim is a woman . . . Never blame the child. Studies reveal that in almost every incident of sexual assault, the victim–whether that victim is an adult woman, a little girl or a little boy–feels in some way responsible for his or her victimization. The child molester knows this and will use this knowledge against his young victims, reinforcing their fear that they are to blame by telling them things like, ‘Well, you did come to my room,’ or ‘You did get an erection.’ Children are never to blame for their abuse at the hands of adult men. They must be told that clearly and repeatedly.”

Clergy may not report abuse

Confidentiality is not intended to protect abusers from being held accountable for their actions or to keep them from getting the help that they need. Shielding them from the consequences of their behavior likely will further endanger their victims. . .
–Marie Fortune

Clergy may collude with child sexual assailants by not reporting abuse. Clergymen may invoke immunity, the “confidentiality of the confessional,” to avoid having to report child abuse. They may protest that the separation of church and state makes them “above the law.” Mary D. Pellauer, Barbara Chester and Jane A. Boyajian, who edited Sexual Assault and Abuse: A Handbook for Clergy and Religious Professionals, note:

“In many states, clergy are included among those professionals who must make a mandatory report; in other states, clergy are exempt from mandatory reporting . . . However, even in jurisdictions with a general clergy exemption, it is not generally considered to apply outside of the confessional relationship between penitent and confessor. Thus, ordained persons who are social workers, teachers, or daycare directors, for instance are considered mandatory reporters even though they are ministers.” Anyone can and should voluntarily report suspected abuse. Reporting is the only way to ensure protection of the child. Mandatory reporters must personally report suspected crimes. It is not enough simply to report the suspicion to a superior.

Marie Fortune, in “Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting: A Clergy Dilemma,” an article appearing in the handbook for clergy, writes:

“Confidentiality is intended as a means to assist individuals in getting help for a problem so as not to cause further harm to themselves or others. Confidentiality is not intended to protect abusers from being held accountable for their actions or to keep them from getting the help that they need. Shielding them from the consequences of their behavior likely will further endanger their victims. . .

“Neither is confidentiality intended to protect professionals rather than those whom we serve. It should not be used as a shield to protect incompetence or negligent colleagues or to protect us from our professional obligations.”

Fortune, who says “quick forgiveness is likely to be cheap grace,” lists some ramifications of criminal sexual abuse:

  • Batterers or incest offenders will reoffend unless they get specialized treatment.
  • Offenders against children minimize, lie, and deny their abusive behavior.
  • Offenders cannot follow through on their good intentions without help from the outside.
  • Treatment of offenders is most effective when it is ordered and monitored by the courts.
  • The secret of the child’s abuse must be broken in order to get help to the victim and offender.
  • Clergypersons do not have all the skills and resources necessary to treat offenders or to assist victims.

Example: A lawsuit against a clergyman who failed to report sexual child abuse was dismissed by a Denver judge. A young girl who was being assaulted by her adoptive father went to Rev. Lou Montecalvo for counseling. He told her to “get on your knees and pray for forgiveness” for violating the sanctity of her parents’ marriage. The father eventually was sent to prison. The girl’s attorney called the minister’s behavior “an outrageous, intentional infliction of emotional distress on the girl.” (Source: Denver Post, 6/3/87)

Example: Church elder Edward Scott Hartley of Community Chapel and Bible Training Center in Burien, Washington, had been told that a 12 year old girl had been sexually molested by her stepfather since she was four, but did not report this information to the proper authorities. The stepfather was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison, no thanks to Hartley. Hartley was found guilty of violating Washington state law requiring that suspected child abuse cases be reported. King County Superior Court Judge Faith Enyeart ordered him to enroll in a 16-hour program on how to deal with family violence and sexual assault, and to report to her what he learned. (Sources: Peninsula Daily News, 9/18/87; Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12/2/87)

Example: Rev. James Leech, an Episcopalian priest formerly at St. Paul’s Church, Minneapolis, was charged with sexually molesting a 15 year old boy who came to him for religious instruction before confirmation in 1985. According to a complaint, he molested the boy at his house when his wife was away. Reports of other victims have surfaced, and a psychiatrist recommended treatment for a drinking problem. In February 1986 Episcopal church officials offered Leech a chance to sign a document saying that he would enter a program at the University of Minnesota for sexual evaluation and/or treatment, and that he would tell his wife everything. If he had signed it, they told Leech he would have been suspended rather than fired. Leech resigned and moved to Massachusetts with his wife. He was charged with criminal sexual conduct on a Minnesota warrant. The youth said that he had not reported the abuse earlier because he was “ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it.” Although Minnesota law requires people who have professional relationships with suspected victims of child abuse to report it to authorities, a county attorney was apparently not pursuing the failure of Episcopal officials to report the case. (Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1/9/88)

When the violence escalates

It wasn’t worth living.
–Suicide note left by a 12 year old victim of a pedophilic priest

Tragic repercussions of pedophilic abuse include psychological damage, violent vengeance or suicide by victims, recycled pedophilia or even transmission of AIDS. While most child molesters rely on psychological manipulation rather than physical violence to abuse children, there is always a potential for violent force where furtive, criminal acts are taking place and where an offender has a great deal to lose with exposure. When a clergyman is involved in child molestation, he may, because of his position, feet trapped and unable to seek help even if he realizes he needs it. Child sexual abuse is indicative of deepseated psychosexual problems, and is often viewed by abusers as an uncontrollable compulsion. This, combined with guilt and denial, is like a tinderbox.

Example: Rev. Simon Douglas Jr., a minister at an East Spencer, North Carolina church, was charged with murdering a 13 year old girl. Her body was found gagged and bound with wires in a church parking lot. Douglas’s record involved a sexual offense in Alabama in 1976. At that time, a babysitter wrote a testimonial that he was a “warm, gentle and courteous Christian-hearted young man who loves his wife and family.” (Source: Charlotte Observer, 8/8/87)

Example: An American missionary and her daughter were stabbed to death near American Bible College in Yapeka, Liberia by Baptist seminary graduate Benjamin Moley Morris. He confessed, saying he killed the pair after the mother had caught him trying to molest the child. (Source: Sacramento Bee, 11/30/87)

Example: In 1979, a 12 year old Emerson, New Jersey boy took his own life after a summer spent at a Boy Scout camp in upstate New York where he was made a “virtual sexual slave” of a Franciscan brother, according to a lawsuit by his parents. “It wasn’t worth living,” he wrote in a note before taking a pill overdose. Attorney David Jaroslawicz of New York said church officials knew the boy and his brother were being molested, but refused to help. “This family turned to the church for help, and all the doors slammed shut.” (Source: San Jose Mercury News, 12/30/87)

Example: In April 1987, a 27 year old, “Dennis C.” of Orlando, Florida, after having suffered from molestation as a 16 year old at the hands of a priest at Bishop Moore High School in Orlando, hanged himself in his backyard. (Source: San Jose Mercury News, 12/30/87)

The cycle of abuse continues to harm:

Example: Gregory John Riedle, whose civil suit accuses Rev. Thomas Adamson of St. Paul of sexual abuse and the Catholic Church with a cover-up, was himself arraigned for sexually assaulting a two year old girl. (Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/28/87)

Just as child sexual abuse can be cyclic, it is also possible that victims may grow up to take vengeance for abuse:

Example: A man who was sexually abused as a boy by a church bookkeeper, Raymond Culver, beat Culver to death with a wooden religious statue on April 6, 1987. Donald Carlton, who was convicted of manslaughter, testified that he was “afraid of being raped again.” (Source: Detroit Free Press, 8/14/87)

Religious doctrines promote child abuse

Blessed are the meek
–Matthew 5

Religious doctrines encourage power inequities leading to abuse. Christian doctrine emphasizes submission and teaches that exemplary Christians should follow like obedient sheep. The widely quoted verse Matthew 18:3 advises the believer to “become as little children.” The classic Christian concept that human nature is innately “depraved” and sinful may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Viewing women and children as inferior or as property which exists for the use of men promotes abuse. Since all sexual abuse hinges on the unfair use of power against someone “weaker” or of lower status, this makes women and children more vulnerable in cultures where religion promotes their subordination. Belief by men in a deity who is male and has ultimate authority encourages the authoritarian idea that men are more valued, and can do what they like with people who are less valued (women and children). Nineteenth-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton noted in The Woman’s Bible: “As long as our religion teaches woman’s subjection and man’s right of domination, we shall have chaos in the world of morals.”

“It is not surprising that women and children are the most frequent victims of assault, when our religious and civil traditions have conspired over the centuries to institutionalize their powerlessness,” writes Episcopalian priest Patricia Wilson-Kastner. “The victims of violence, overwhelmingly women and children, have been consistently exhorted in the Christian tradition to be meekly submissive, and obedient.”

Here are just a few of the bible verses which promote a sexual double standard for men over women: sexist story of creation Genesis 2:22; men rule women Genesis 3:16; men can have plural wives Genesis 4:19; using women sexually Genesis 16:2; women marked as targets of sexual violence Genesis 19:1-8; rape Genesis 38:2; female servants may be kept and used sexually Exodus 21:2-6; polygyny Exodus 21:10; seduction Exodus 22:16-17; punishing rape victims Leviticus 19:20-22; burning “whores” Leviticus 21:9; women worth less than men Leviticus 27:3-7; women as war booty Deuteronomy 21:11-14; polygyny Deuteronomy 21:15; barbaric virginity test Deuteronomy 22:13-21; stoning rape victims Deuteronomy 22:23-24; women must marry rapist Deuteronomy 22:28; unfair divorce law Deuteronomy 24:1; “thine eye shall not pity her” Deuteronomy 25:11-12; sacrifice of daughter Judges 11:30-40; sexual murder Judges 19:22-29; virgins stolen Judges 21:11-12; God ordering rape 2 Samuel 12:11-12; Lord discovering secret parts Isaiah 3:16-17; women ravished Zechariah 14:2; Jesus tells polygyny parable Matthew 25; men rule over women 1 Corinthians 11:3,4-15; women keep in silence 1 Corinthians 14:34-35; wives, submit Ephesians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:18; women shamefaced 1 Timothy 2:9-15; women talk to husbands in fear 1 Peter 3:1-7.

Bible teachings that may foster child abuse include: The Sunday School story of Abraham almost slitting his own son’s throat to show obedience; the story of Jephthah who does burn his own daughter as an offering of thanks to the biblical god; the story of Elisha in which 42 children are slaughtered by bears merely for teasing a bible patriarch; the Mosaic law that “stubborn children” can be killed with impunity (Deuteronomy 21:18-21); and Proverbs’ promotion of severe physical punishment. The lynchpin is the lesson that religious authority must be appeased with the sacrifice of children, since after all, the biblical god sacrificed his own son.

Teachings that breed low self-esteem, such as that people are unworthy sinners, may play a role in the immature psychosexual profile of abusers, and may make a religion-influenced child vulnerable to abuse and bribery. Children in particular can be easily cowed by the awe-inspiring concept of a male deity who has a human male conduit (a minister, priest or church official).

The Bethesda Psych-Health Institute in Denver was formed in 1987 to focus on problems of people abusing children in the name of religion, targeting fundamentalist groups where an all-powerful figure tends to lead abuse and demand secrecy and retaliation. The institute believes fundamentalist groups are susceptible because of emphasis on supremacy of the father, submissiveness of the wife and children, and intolerance of other beliefs.

Accepting some religious authority without question as the final word, and affiliating with an authoritarian religion, are characteristic attributes of rapists, according to research by West Florida Professor Dallas Blanchard.

Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral has a favorite saying: “When I am good, I’m good. When I’m bad, I’m human.” How would a child molester interpret such a statement? (“It’s not really my fault. It’s my fallen human nature. I can’t help it. Blame Satan, not me.”) Molesters can turn to their bible, to Christian pop psychology and to standard Christian doctrine to find concepts about power relationships, authority and sexuality which may bolster their abusive behavior. It is surely not a coincidence that so many offenders are religious or hold a position of religious authority, and that so many victims are raised in devout homes.

Example: An Ann Landers column printed in October 1987 included this letter from a woman survivor of abuse committed “in the name of God.”

“My mother and father were experts at it,” she wrote. “They quoted the Bible while they flogged away at my brothers and me. I have scars on my shoulders and back, partial deafness and bumps on my head that will be there forever.

“When I was eight, my grandfather began molesting me sexually. He, too, used the bible to justify his actions. He said in King Solomon’s time the king had access to any virgin in his kingdom and that King Solomon was the wisest and holiest of men. I realized what was going on when I was about 10. 1 told on him but nobody believed me. I was shunned by most members of my family. The religious people in town thought I was a crazy liar. (Daddy was a preacher.) It has taken years of self-examination to get right with myself and realize that I am a worthy person.”

Example: Rebecca Hargrave testified before a grand jury about a devastated childhood and youth spent in sexual slavery to her father, who claimed to be Jesus Christ. Rebellion was met with physical punishment and biblical threats. “He told us he was Jesus Christ. We believed him.” Ronald Hargrave, charged with criminal sexual penetration and sexual abuse, was found guilty of rape and incest charges involving two daughters, and was sentenced to two life sentences on January 14, 1988. (Source: El Paso Times, 3/30/87, 1/14/88)

Example: Sex abuse and mind control in the name of Jesus was uncovered at the Holy Way religious commune in Florida. “Brother Bill” Clarence E. Williams, its leader, was convicted of sexually abusing two girls during church ceremonies; inducing the sexual performance of children and other indecent assaults. Williams’ commune was established on strict adherence to traditional sex roles and patriarchal rule. (Source: Palm Beach Post, 3/13/86; Tampa Tribune, 4/5/87)

Related religious abuse

Discipline and physical abuse

Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
–Psalms 137:9

The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil; so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.
–Proverbs 20:30

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
–Proverbs 19:18

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
–Proverbs 22:15

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
–Proverbs 23:13-14

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
–Hebrews 12:6-8

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
–Hebrews, 12:11

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
–Proverbs 13:24

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame . . . Correct thy son, and he shall give ye rest.
–Proverbs 29:15,17

These bible verses, promoted from the pulpit, cause grievous harm. Often, religionists will deny the connection between the bible and the religious criminals who act out biblical instructions. Admittedly, most such religious criminals have taken their obedience to the words of the bible to an unusual extreme. But just because the abuses may not reflect well on the bible does not mean the religiously motivated criminal has strayed from it.

Tragedies are regularly reported involving parents or guardians who beat or kill their children because the bible and “God” or “Jesus” tells them to. Bible teachings can warp parents whose literal belief impels them to view normal childish behavior as “satanic.” A particularly heartbreaking case involved four year old Angela Palmer of Auburn, Maine, burned to death in an oven in October 1984 because her mother Cynthia Palmer and mother’s boyfriend John Lane decided she was “Lucifer.” Religious fanatic Bartley James Dobben, of Muskegon, Michigan, incinerated his baby sons in a foundry ladle on Thanksgiving Day, 1987, following a biblical obsession. Below are a few of the cases involving ministers who have physically abused or murdered children.

Example: Rev. Philip Curcio, a Pentecostal minister from Allentown, Pennsylvania, was charged with killing his six week old baby. Curcio told authorities he was deeply involved in studying a bible passage when Benjamin, strapped in a carseat indoors, began crying. He admitted to pushing the carseat violently against the wall, although his statement did not account for the baby’s 19 fractured ribs. The infant had multiple recent bruises. The minister’s wife told officers her husband previously had dropped Benjamin deliberately, had picked him up by his wrists to carry him, and had hit the baby on the head with a spoon. She said that after the minister had pushed the baby’s stomach to “get air out,” she heard a cracking noise in his chest everytime he breathed. Curcio stated: “I wanted to be a good minister and give my all.” (Source: Morning Call [Pennsylvania], 8/25/87)

Example: Fort Lauderdale evangelist Robert Lettman was sentenced to 15 years for causing the death of his two year old daughter Tanisha, after striking her with a belt. He admitted that he often “chastised” babies with a belt. After his arrest, a neighbor said she had seen him “every day, his bible in his hand, walking with his children.” Speaking in his defense, the minister said he wanted to train the baby “as I was trained myself–according to the bible.” (Source: Miami Herald, 1/15,24/87)

Example: The New Bethany Baptist Church Home for Boys in Walterboro, South Carolina was raided in connection with mistreatment of children. Sheriffs deputies reported that four young students cried with relief and hugged them when they were rescued. Forty-three boys were taken into emergency protective custody by the South Carolina Department of Social Services after two boys ran away from the school and reported being beaten, handcuffed to beds, and locked in a small, unlit cell. School administrator Olin King had run another boys’ school in Longstreet, Louisiana which had been shut down in 1981 on charges of child abuse. All disciplinary practices were based on scripture. Boys were beaten with a plastic pipe called a “rod of correction.” Police photographed bruises on the legs of eight New Bethany students. One officer described them as “black welts.” A logbook reported beatings, which were administered for such infractions as laughing, failing to march properly and talking back. A three-tiered disciplinary structure involved boys “on bondage” in a “chain gang” who did field work linked together by a rope; “bonded servants” who did chores but were allowed more freedom, and “sojourners” who were excused from chores and allowed to ride horses. All boys were given school work based on biblical teachings. The day started with pushups, prayers and scripture recitals. Little or no contact was allowed with the outside world or parents. Administrators defended their actions by quoting Proverbs 22:15 and similar verses. (Source: New York Times, 6/3/84; Miami Herald, 6/4/84)

Example: Heiress Elizabeth Dovydenas testified that Rev. Carl Stevens told her to beat her children, then two and four years old, with wooden spoons. “Spank a long time to break their spirit. If they get bruised and blistered, you should not worry,” they told her. (Sources: Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/31/87; Associated Press 4/2/87)

Example: The book “What the Bible Says About Child Training” by J. Richard Fugate (1980, Aletheia Publications), has been accused of fostering child abuse. It was endorsed by Tim LaHaye, Jerry Falwell and the Association of Christian Schools International. The state of California began investigating it after it was linked to cases of physical child abuse. A quote from the book: “[It] is difficult for parents in our generation to accept the need for the use of physical pain on our children.”

Medical neglect and faith healing

Many churches and some major denominations forbid or actively discourage the use of medical care to treat children’s diseases or accidents. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, forbid blood transfusions. The Christian Science church teaches that people are made well by believing they are well and were never sick in the first place. Some Pentecostal groups likewise teach their believers to avoid doctors, or throw away medication, particularly in conjunction with “faith-healing.” Preventable deaths are regularly reported from childbirth complications, diabetes, pneumonia, and even accidents that would have been treatable.

The American Academy of Pediatrics announced in the January 1988 Pediatrics magazine that more children than is commonly thought die because their parents’ religion discourages medical help. The academy found that 44 states have child-abuse exemptions limiting investigation and prosecution of religiously motivated medical neglect. Regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1974 required states to write religious exemptions into their child-abuse laws, or risk losing federal funds. Although the requirement was dropped about 10 years later, the exemptions remain intact in most states. Religious groups such as the Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that the principle of state/church separation protects them from prosecution. However, there have been recent convictions.

Another group working to stop the abuse, Children’s Health Care Is A Legal Duty, Inc., was formed by Rita Swan, a former Christian Scientist who, due to antimedical church directives, lost a baby suffering from the most common form of meningitis.

“Why should any group have a religious right to cause ‘substantial bodily harm’ to a child? No court has ever ruled that the Constitution required religious exemptions from parental duties of care,” stated Swan.

Belief in “faith-healing” can likewise result in tragic deaths of children. It can also be a very cruel belief when a devout child stricken with a terminal or crippling disease fails to get better through prayer. As investigator James Randi (The Faith Healers) and others have observed, so-called “faith-healers” rely on sleight of hand and crowd deception, almost always avoiding the persons, especially children, with visibly serious ailments. Children taken to faith-healers can be given a false sense of hope, or worse, be denied the medical attention that could save their lives or lessen their pain or handicap. The fundamentalist belief that “demons” can cause illness, a superstition which the biblical Jesus promoted (Matthew 17:13-18), means that children are sometimes blamed, neglected or abused for being sick or mentally or physically handicapped. In the cases documented below, “faith-healing” has killed or maimed children:

Example: Rev. Antoinette Mason, of Jacksonville, North Carolina, was sentenced in November 1985 to six years in prison for the strangulation death of a four year old boy during a “faith-healing” ceremony to rid the boy “of the devil.”

Example: Five church people were implicated in the strangulation death of an eight year old girl during a faith-healing ceremony in Jeanrette, Louisiana, to “exorcize” her from Down’s syndrome. (Source: Arizona Republic, 1/11/87)

Example: Andrea Cowan, sister-in-law of Rev. Kevin Cowan of the Rock Zion Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was indicted in November 1987 for plucking out the eye of a 16 year old boy during a church exorcism ritual. Cowan told police she usually just prayed out “the demons,” but in this case resorted to following Jesus’s exhortation in the Sermon on the Mount (“And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.”–Matthew 18:9). The boy’s parents attempted to nurse the wound at home. The boy was babbling when he entered a hospital several days later with his left eye dangling on his cheek. (Source: Baton Rouge State-Times, 11/3/87)

Of course, the harm extends to adults:

Example: Ella Peppard, 85, broke her hip at a faith-healing service led by evangelist Benny Hinn of Orlando, Florida, and died 15 days later of complications. Hinn knocked another parishioner into her during the service, which consisted of striking people on the forehead and claiming they were “slain in the spirit.” Her family filed a $5 million lawsuit noting that the church failed to call an ambulance or even provide assistance, because it was “contrary” to the doctrine of faith healing. (Source: Washington Post, 8/29/87)


Criminal cases involving ministers charged with the rape of adult women, especially those who are vulnerable or handicapped, often parallel crimes of child sexual abuse.

Example: Rev. Raun Barretto of Hackensack, New Jersey, was convicted of sexually abusing a blind woman under his care while he worked as a recreation program specialist for Essex County. He was originally charged with raping three blind women. (Source: Newark St Ledger, 7/15/86)

Example: Rev. Don Shipman was sued by five women who claimed the Baptist director of the Women’s Gospel Mission Shelter in Chattanooga raped or abused them. Loraine Shipmen, Lois M. Parr and three other women claimed the minister committed assault and battery while they were staying at the shelter for homeless women and children. (Source: Associated Press, 2/86)

Example: Rev. Gary M. Heidnik, who founded the United Church of the Ministries of God out of his tax-exempt Philadelphia home, was charged with kidnapping, rape and murder. Heidnik claimed to hold services for the handicapped and mentally ill, but appeared to prey on black, disadvantaged or retarded women for sex. Police found three partially-clothed women chained and manacled in his basement, two of whom had been imprisoned for as long as four months and were ill. Police found parts of the dismembered body of Sandra Lindsay, and evidence of cannibalism. He was also accused of electrocuting Debby Johnson and leaving her body in the woods. Heidnik was accused of raping women captives every day, torturing them and feeding them only dog food. A former wife told police Heidnik had imported her from the Philippines, then beat and sexually abused her. She petitioned the court for protection. The petition read: “Defendant is the bishop of the Church of the Minister of God. Defendant uses his position of authority to seduce women into having sex with him.” He had amassed a fortune through investments over 10 years using his church to shelter finances from the IRS. (Sources: Washington Post, 3/26/87; Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/26,27/87; Courier News, 3/28/87)

Ministers have sexually abused their own children. Any strong belief in the primacy of the father as the patriarch of the family sets up the kind of authoritarian hierarchy which breeds incest abuse, in which a man believes his daughters (or sons) exist to serve him, meet his sexual and emotional needs, and whose own feelings and rights do not matter.

Example: Rev. Gilbert Hewlett was convicted of the rape, assault and sexual abuse of his 16 year old daughter. The mentally retarded girl had scars covering her face and body. (Source: Dothan Eagle, [Alabama], 6/28/86)

Sexual harassment/exploitation

The opportunities for sexual harassment or exploitation by ministers, priests and other pastoral counselors are rife, as documented in the chapter about ministers who molest children in counseling situations. The booklet “Sexual Contact by Pastors and Pastoral Counselors in Professional Relationships” by the Washington (State) Association of Churches notes:

“The problem of unethical sexual contact, a form of sexual abuse, by clergy and pastoral counselors is becoming increasingly evident. . .

“The problem is manifest generally in sexual contact between pastor and parishioner or pastoral counselor and client in violation of professional ethics. In a pastoral role, the pastor or counselor is in a position of power vis-‡-vis a parishioner or client who is seeking his/her counsel and support. At any time that a pastor or counselor uses the influence of that role and engages in sexual activity with a parishioner or client, it is an irresponsible and unethical act which takes advantage of the vulnerability of a parishioner or client who is in need . . . the church is poorly equipped to deal with a problem that is becoming increasingly evident.”

When the female victims are still teenagers or young students, there is a fine line between such unprofessional and illegal exploitation, and outright child abuse. The priest paternity suits argued by Gloria Allred, a Los Angeles attorney, involve women who were gradually seduced or roped into sexual relationships with one or more priests when they were girls of 14, 15, 16, and 17 years of age, then abandoned when they became pregnant.

Example: Bishop Anthinos Draconakis of the Greek Orthodox Church was accused of sexually exploiting the teenaged daughter of a colleague during a three-year relationship marked by hypocrisy and violence. Ten years later Despi Gallas, suffering from anorexia related to the abuse, exposed his crime. She said she originally was in awe of Draconakis, who transferred her father George Gallas to Boston so that Despi could be near him when he became Bishop of Boston. The Greek Orthodox church requires celibacy unless a priest has married before entering the church. Only celibates can become bishops. She left the relationship after Draconakis sought to prostitute her in a mŽnage ˆ trois with an archbishop, and later threatened her with a gun. The Greek Orthodox Church did not punish Draconakis but instead demoted Despi’s father. Draconakis, however, was transferred to a position created uniquely for him, “Bishop of Denver.” Said George Gallas, Despi’s father: “. . . the hypocrisy and double standard of the church just sicken me. They provided him with sanctuary and a graceful exit so he could go somewhere else and do the same thing all over again. We were the victims.” (Source: People Magazine, 9/28/87, Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post, 1987)

Example: Peggy Cameron, of Wichita, Kansas, whose third child was fathered by a priest with whom she had had a long-term relationship, has waged a legal fight since 1982 with the priest and the Roman Catholic church to win child support payments. Cameron accuses Father Paul Ziegler of fathering Evonne, born with birth defects. “All the normal remedies are closed off to this woman because the church can hide him, the church can transfer him around, the church cannot turn over part of his salary toward support as it should. This child does not have the same resources that a child whose father was not a priest would have,” according to Linda Sorrell, a child enforcement supervisor from Wichita. (Source: Wichita Eagle-Beacon 7/26/87)

Example: The problem of clandestine relationships between priests and women is so common that a support group, “Good Tidings,” boasts 1,000 members around the world. The group was formed by Maggie Olson of Des Moines, Iowa, after a friend involved with a priest committed suicide. Olson said the typical pattern is that a priest promises to marry the woman if their relationship is discovered or if she becomes pregnant, then disappears. “There are women who are becoming pregnant, women who are being cornered, women who are being hurt, women who are being physically, emotionally and mentally abused by priests, and the church is protecting the priests,” according to executive director Catherine Grenier, headquartered in Canadensis, Pennsylvania. (Source: Wichita Eagle-Beacon, 7/26/87)

Example: Episcopal priest Rev. Robert Mason, of Morristown, New Jersey, was sued by a woman from Mt. Olive who claimed the priest convinced her to engage in sexual relations as part of a psychotherapy program. The woman went to him for marriage counseling, then psychotherapy. “He treated and counseled her for more than a year, during which time he convinced her vulnerable mind that sexual relations were appropriate,” said her attorney Herbert Korn. Mason was a licensed psychotherapist. (Source: Newark Star-Ledger, 5/3/83)

Example: Rev. Ronald Wallen, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Redwood City, California, resigned from his post in August 1984 amid charges that he had had sex with half a dozen women in the congregation who sought spiritual guidance. The San Mateo County district attorney’s office declined to prosecute him. (Source: San Francisco Examiner, 8/30/84)

Example: Psychiatrist Paul L. Warner, who worked at the Christian Mental Health Center in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, was disciplined by the state Board of Medical Examiners for sexually exploiting two patients. Between 1972 and 1977 he had sexual intercourse with two female patients, including one whom he had hired in order to maintain a long-term affair (ˆ la Elmer Gantry). He had been active in evangelical Christianity for 30 years, and taught Sunday school. (Source: Minneapolis Tribune, 2/5/86)

Rev. Charles L. Rassieur’s irresponsible book, The Problem Clergymen Don’t Talk About, epitomizes the kind of mindset that encourages exploitation of women by pastoral counselors. Rassieur, a minister, presents the problem in a titillating manner, viewing women counselees as sexual objects, some of whom who are inevitably going to inflame lust in ministers. Rassieur goes so far as to advise ministers generally to confide their “sexual attraction” to women counselees! (He also encourages ministers to confess such passing attractions to their wives.) His idea of discussing a topic which involves a breach of professional ethics is to present a list of physiological signs of arousal! Although his book counsels against initiating a sexual relationship in such circumstances, it buttresses sexist assumptions that men are victims of their hormones and that it is normal and natural for male counselors to view clients as sex objects. It is truly a masterpiece in double messages, showing no understanding of the misuse of power and trust involved, an abuse commonly compared with the crime of incest in its effect on a client. Pastoral counselors who harbor illusions similar to those promoted by Rassieur’s book are the ones who need the counseling!

Wife abuse/murders by ministers

The sanction against divorce affecting many ministers appears to lead to murders as an alternate way to end marriage. It can also be the outcome of habitual wife-beating, which is often bolstered by religious doctrine. The religious battered woman syndrome frequently prevents religious women from leaving life-threatening marriages, because of biblical injunctions mandating the submission of wives to their husbands. Pastors’ wives may also feel unable to seek counseling which might prove damaging to their husbands’ careers. Women may also receive pastoral counseling pressuring them to stay in battering relationships.

Example: Rev. Donald Lewis Clark, pastor of a church in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, committed suicide after being confronted with evidence that he had killed his two wives to collect on their insurance policies. His first wife Phyllis died in October 1981. His second wife Ronaele died in April 1983. (Source: Milwaukee Journal, 6/4/83)

Example: Rev. Robert Tisland, a Baptist minister, died at the hand of his wife Lucile, a battered woman who was regularly beaten, kicked, choked, and abused, submitting to it out of religious conviction. Lucile needed permission to leave the house or drive the car and was never allowed to carry more than 25 cents. During her trial Lucile testified that she had memorized, at her husband’s behest, five guiding principles: a woman must obey her husband, view her husband as if he were God and his words as if they were spoken by God, ignore her own feelings and thoughts, view marital problems as a sign that she was not submissive enough, and suffer, as Christ did, in order to help win her husband’s salvation. Me? Obey Him?, a book the minister told his wife to follow, instructs “not just to obey a kind and loving husband, but a harsh and mean husband as well.” Another book, Woman the Completer tells wives, “Every man’s right is to have a completer. That’s why God made you.” (Source: Minneapolis Star and Tribune, 3/8/84)

Example: Rev. Edward Fairley, a Baptist minister affiliated with the Calvary Baptist Church in Garfield, New Jersey, was convicted of abducting his wife at gunpoint from her workplace on one occasion, and of stabbing her repeatedly with a kitchen knife in October 1983. She spent three days in critical condition and underwent surgery for a punctured lung. Judge Frank Donato, Superior Court, Paterson, gave Fairley five years behind bars, rejecting a stiffer sentence because of Fairley’s service as a minister and his lack of a previous criminal record. Fairley acted as his own attorney, lacing his defense with biblical references and claiming temporary insanity. (Source: Newark Star-Ledger, 8/1/84)

Example: Rev. Loduca, a Lutheran pastor from Monahans, Texas, confessed to murdering his wife Mary, although the strangulation was arranged to look like a suicide. Detective work uncovered that the murder victim was a classic battered woman who had reached out in vain to at least three other ministers. Loduca confessed that he murdered his wife to retain his ministerial status. Divorced ministers are usually not tolerated in the Lutheran Church. (Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7/3/86; 8/86)

Example: Rev. James Allen Lewis, pastor of New Life Church, Burbank, received a one-year suspended sentence and three years’ probation for beating his wife. The particular beating was so severe that the court ordered that he pay her medical expenses. A prosecutor noted that Lewis was “held in high esteem in his church and community.” (Source: Los Angeles Times, 1987)

Example: Southern Baptist Rev. Grady Young of Port Angeles, Oregon was convicted of the shooting death of his wife Elva Mae, although he had arranged the murder to look like a break-in robbery. The murder weapon was found hidden in his home. Prosecutors said Young ambushed his wife of 38 years because he had grown tired of her and couldn’t risk damaging his church position by divorce. (Source: Spokane Spokesman Review, 4/2/87)

Example: Rev. Calvin Haywood, minister of music at Mission Baptist Church, was charged with fatally stabbing his young wife, Terri Lynn, 18 times in the couple’s bedroom one week after she gave birth to a son. The minister first claimed someone else did it, then said he was the victim of a satanic force. (Source: Brownwood Bulletin [Texas], 6/4/87)

Example: Rev. Larry McKinney of Batesville, Mississippi shot his wife to death, wounded his stepdaughter, then shot himself. He was pastor of Nelson Chapel Baptist Church in Pope. (Source: Jackson Clarion Ledger [Mississippi], 8/26/87)

“But he’s a respected member of the community. . .”

[The Catholic Church appears to be] an organization preaching morality and providing sanctuary to perverts.
–1985 Inside Report

Who monitors the clergy? To whom are they accountable? Clerical privilege continually has been abused, and that abuse finds its most vulnerable victims in children. The sad fact is that not only have clergy been proven incapable of policing themselves, but when crimes have come to the attention of church officials, they have reacted self-protectively, often to stifle information, instead of taking action in the best interest of children.

Almost all literature on sexual abuse of children identifies the ministry as one of the careers which provides a cover for pedophiles while giving them access to children. But churches have been almost uniformly silent on the issue. Only with a rash of civil suits charging church cover-up, negligence and liability has there been any open discussion in the U.S. Catholic Church. Following publicity about suits costing the Catholic Church $12 million in settlements and damages to the victims of one priest, Father Gilbert Gauthe of Louisiana, Rev. Thomas Doyle, a high-ranking Catholic official in Washington, D.C., was quoted in the New York Times calling pedophilia “the most serious problem the church has faced in centuries.”

However, Catholic response has been a case of too little, too late. In 1985, a confidential report for American Catholic bishops was prepared by Rev. Doyle, New Orleans lawyer F. Ray Mouton and the late Rev. Michael Peterson. (Peterson, a psychiatrist and president of St. Luke Institute, which treats priests dealing with emotional problems, alcoholism, homosexuality and child abuse, died of AIDS in April, 1987.) Information in the report was considered so damaging that church officials who received it were instructed to return the report without copying the contents. Undoubtedly its authors feared the report could incriminate standard church practice of transferring a molesting priest to another parish with no sanctions or action to block further abuse.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer obtained a copy of the secret report, and published excerpts in November, 1987. The report warned that the church appeared to be “an organization preaching morality and providing sanctuary to perverts.” It advised: “The church must remain open and avoid the appearance of being under siege or drawn into battle. All tired and worn policies utilized by bureaucracies must be avoided and clichŽs such as ‘no comment’ must be cast away. In this sophisticated society a media policy of silence implies either necessary secrecy or cover-up.” It advocated such basic and obvious responses as immediately removing molesting priests from parishes, giving them psychiatric evaluation and treatment, and not allowing contact with children. It warned that bishops and other church officials can no longer rely on sympathetic prosecutors and police to skirt the law, without risking prosecution for criminal conspiracy, and that such bishops might be found criminally negligent. It advised bishops to report all cases to authorities, on pain of more costly lawsuit settlements and criminal neglect charges. “Our dependence in the past on Roman Catholic judges and attorneys is GONE.”

The secret report was motivated by a fear that the church could face payments in excess of $1 billion by 1995 from lawsuits against priests who molest children and dioceses which let them. Already at least $25 million has been paid in such cases by the Catholic Church. “This will bankrupt the church in some dioceses,” suggested Doyle. The report correctly predicted that the church’s liability insurance would be rewritten to exclude coverage for damages claimed in cases of child molestation.

The report advocated a crisis management team to officially implement the recommendations. Not only was the report largely ignored at the 1985 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, but it was not put on the agenda for a vote. When it was resubmitted in 1986, it was again ignored. The bishops never adopted any of the common-sense and law-abiding recommendations. Pressed by the media, officials have said the protocol is left to individual dioceses.

Archbishop John L. May of St. Louis, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, gave this indifferent answer to a query from the San Jose Mercury News: “Because we have 185 dioceses of different sizes in different states where laws differ, we’ve decided to leave it to the local judgment of each diocese to handle the cases themselves.” Interestingly, this is an inadvertent admission that the church faces the problem everywhere. It also reveals the church’s true concern–avoiding action unless its hand is forced by prosecution of a priest or it faces an immediate threat of civil litigation. Sexual abuse, however it is classified in the several states, is nevertheless illegal in them all. Does Archbishop May believe otherwise? Or does his statement reveal the church’s primary interest in evading the laws on reporting child abuse, which do indeed differ from state to state?

“Thus,” said attorney Mouton, co-author of the report, “this church, which loudly proclaims uniform positions on significant sexual issues relating to the creation of children, did not deem this issue–the sexual abuse of children by its own priests–to be worthy of consideration.”

“Virtually every diocese in the country lost its liability coverage for any type of sexual misconduct by priests, teachers, religious lay people,” according to Bruce Egnew, president of Ordinary Mutual, an insurance company newly formed in 1987 by 12 western dioceses and archdioceses. Ten dioceses from California and one each from Arizona and New Mexico formed their own liability insurance company because of the loss of coverage. “Having seen the writing on the wall that these things are very, very expensive was one of the reasons we formed our own insurance company,” Egnew told the San Jose Mercury News. At least these united dioceses were reported to be working on guidelines to be sent to all priests in parishes, schools, hospitals and any church-owned facilities. (Obviously any guidelines should also be made available to the relevant nuns, Catholic laity and other officials who work with priests.)

“I’ve been a priest for 25 years, and I think it was a case of ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil,’ ” Father Miles Riley, an official in the San Francisco Archdiocese, said in a 1987 interview with the Mercury News.

There are 185 Catholic dioceses and archdioceses in the United States, with about 53,000 priests. National Catholic Reporter staffer Jason Berry said his research through 1987 showed 130 cases of pedophilia among priests and brothers which were reported to the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. from 1983. Almost all the cases involved boy victims. Ninety-five cases reached civil or criminal court, but in only 18 of those cases was a priest sentenced to any jailtime. “There are a vast number of cases which have not been reported. It is a huge problem for the Catholic Church,” Berry concluded, during an interview with the Houston Post. Doyle claims knowledge of about 200 Catholic priests who have molested children in the years 1983-1987. Doyle admitted that as many as 3,000 priests could be pedophiles. That works out to 1 out of 18 priests (or an average of 16 per diocese)–and that is conservative! In 1984, Dr. Jay Feierman, a psychiatric consultant at the Servants of the Paraclete Hospital in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, the largest church-owned facility for treating pedophilic priests, testified in a criminal case that the facility had treated 300 priests in the past eight years for “various sexual problems.” It began treatment for pedophilia in 1976.

F. Ray Mouton told the media in 1987: “I have consulted with dioceses and Catholic religious orders from every part of the country, and it is my impression that there is not one single solitary bishop or vicar in this country who has not dealt with the problem of a pedophilic priest under his supervision. Conservatively, I would estimate that in the last several years, hundreds of priests and other clerics have been discovered as pedophiles, leaving a trail of thousands of Catholic child victims.” How many thousands? If the average pedophilic priest molests 50 children, probably a conservative estimate, this means that even if the problem were confined at present to 200 to 300 priests, their victims would already total 10,000 to 15,000. That is an almost unimaginable trail of devastation. But, if Doyle is correct and there are actually at least 3,000 pedophilic priests, then the number of victims is ten to 15 times greater.

The Plain Dealer, in an editorial following its own 1987 exposŽ of cover-up of molesting priests in Cleveland, expounded: “The church must give families the assurance that the incident won’t happen again. It also must realize that the separation of church and state cannot extend to the church’s practice of protecting its own from the possible consequences of the law,” and criticized the diocese for playing “musical chairs with suspected child molesters.”

Syndicated columnist Mike McManus called “This general neglect . . . stupid, fiscally perilous and immoral.”

The U.S. Catholic Church might argue that it is taking care of its own problem by setting up various in-house Catholic rehabilitation centers around the country, which go by such euphemisms as “House of Affirmation.” There are five “House of Affirmation” centers treating about 200 priests, brothers and sisters a year; the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, New Mexico treating 200 to 250 people a year (claiming a third of them being treated for “psychosexual problems involving attractions to women, men or children”); alcohol treatment centers in St. Louis, Albuquerque, California and England; and St. Luke Institute, a licensed psychiatric hospital in Suitland, Maryland, annually treating 60 to 80 priests, brothers and sisters for alcohol, drug and emotional problems.

In some of the criminal cases documented here, the church has successfully persuaded judges to commute a prison sentence in favor of sending a priest to a church center. There is some indication that church-run centers now may be providing up-to-date therapy for pedophilia, which should be a top priority in any sentencing. But the issue is more complicated than that. The Catholic Church has not only promoted their own centers as alternatives to jailings, but has used them to, at times, sweep the scandal under the carpet, and evade detection, prosecution and criminal reporting laws. In many cases only when a family threatens public exposure or a civil lawsuit–when the abuse can no longer be hidden and could damage the reputation of the church–will Catholic officials finally remove a pedophilic priest from a parish and force him to undergo professional therapy. Such action is as tough as the Catholic Church gets. (In cases of expulsion a pedophilic priest is under even less supervision.) Pedophilic priests will “disappear.” Families whose children have been victimized can only hope that these priests will not reappear several years later in another parish, free of any criminal record, their abusive past cloaked in anonymity. Catholic policy has been to ignore the secular laws against child sexual abuse and reporting. Instead, it has acted as if above the law, dealing with the crimes as a scandal to keep under wraps.

Furthermore, we only know what the Catholic Church tells us about these centers. In a July 5, 1987 Rocky Mountain News article about the Servants of the Paraclete, officials claimed good success, with pedophilic priests spending 18 months in a program, some treated with Depo-Provera (which requires habitual maintenance to be effective). According to Dr. Feierman, only two or three priests have acted “inappropriately” following treatment. “Every time that happens, it makes us tighten our reins.” However, we have to take their word for it. Director Rev. William Perri told the Rocky Mountain News that about 20 men whose problems (including pedophilia) have not responded to therapy may be kept at a center in Albuquerque indefinitely.

Imagine if some other private institution whose employees worked with children discovered a significant number of them were active, promiscuous pedophiles, some of whom even told their victims that the sexual abuse was part of a formal educational program. Imagine if this institution did not report abuse that came to its attention. When the victims of these employees publicly complained, they would be told it was their fault, or that they should keep the problem within the confines of the organization. Anything else was disloyal. What if some of the employees, accused of exploiting teenaged girls, would even disappear in the face of paternity suits? Suppose that this institution’s most common response was to transfer the abusive employee to a new district or city, where he would be free to abuse other children. In this scenario, the institution would shuttle a few of its worst abusers to secret treatment programs. When victims and their families took civil legal action, the company would then claim as a defense that its employees were merely “independent contractors.” If this organization argued that it was “taking care of its own problem,” we would be more likely to accuse it of criminal conspiracy!

The scandal of church cover-up and liability is not strictly a Catholic problem. Dr. Michael Cox, director of a sexual offenders program at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Houston Post (January 17, 1988) that he treats more clergymen than people in many other professions, but he doesn’t see priests any more often than ministers from other denominations. “Persons are drawn to certain professions where they’re in contact with children–Boy Scouts leaders, coaches, camp counselors, ministers. It’s not done on a conscious level.” Cox noted there are reliable psychological tests churches could employ to weed out potential sex offenders. Sexual abuse by clergy in all denominations has reached such proportions of financial liability that the Church Mutual Insurance Company was prompted in 1986 to distribute a pamphlet: “Safety Tips on a Sensitive Subject: Child Sexual Abuse.” Sexual abuse by church officials “happens at churches of all denominations and at church-operated camps, schools and day care centers . . . And it can happen at your church.” The company cited two objectives for releasing its brochure (note that both objectives mention protecting the churches’ interests but neither is exclusively dedicated to the child’s interests):

“1. Help you prevent sexual abuse from occurring at your church operation, thereby protecting your childrenand shelter you from the serious financial and emotional disruption of legal proceedings.

“2. Minimize the severity of injury to children–and the legal ramifications you may face, when abuse does occur.”

Notes Dieter H. Nickel, the president of Church Mutual Insurance Company, “The problem of sexual abuse of children, and the growing wave of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, is a real one. It is being felt by churches and church-related institutions of all denominations.”

The brochure reiterates: “The problem of sexual abuse of children is not someone else’s problem. It doesn’t just happen in the home, or in some other town, or in public day care centers. It happens at churches of all denominations and at church-operated camps, schools and day care centers. It happens to Church Mutual policyholders.

“And it can happen at your church.

“It is not only the offender who is faced with legal proceedings. More and more churches and their organizations are being sued. Lawsuits, usually filed by the child’s parents, have alleged, among other things, that churches were negligent for hiring the offender, in supervising the children, and in failing to take proper steps when cases were reported or suspected.

“Church Mutual’s claims files are growing rapidly.”

The insurance company lays out seemingly obvious guidelines, such as selective hiring with conscientious screening and contact of references for volunteer and paid employees, especially for any jobs involving children. Inquiries should be made on pending criminal charges, where such questions are legal. The fact that churches have to be told by attorneys and insurance companies to undertake such basic safeguards as contacting all references and investigating gaps in resumŽs is a strong indictment in itself. Even insiders will admit that many churches are notoriously lax in screening applicants, a sloppy habit which is taking its toll on vulnerable members of the congregation. The additional fact that the insurance company is advising that churches check arrest and conviction records and that they fingerprint all church applicants is an admission of the alarming extent of hidden abuse in the church.

Church Mutual’s guidelines on supervision include sexual abuse awareness programs, requirements that activities be held not in private offices but in open areas (rooms with windows, open doors when possible, and certainly never locked), that more than one adult accompany children on field trips and related activities, that there is periodic inspection of sites for possible abuse (they even specified searching restrooms and closets), and that a written standard of conduct be adopted (including details on guidelines for transportation of children). Church workers should know, advises this insurance company, that all allegations will be investigated. “Encourage employees and volunteers to limit their physical contact with children,” and investigate adults who “spend considerable ‘off duty’ time with the same child or children.”

While some spokespersons and agencies deserve credit for speaking out against clerical abuse, it is a travesty that they have voiced their objections only after their churches are threatened financially. The credit for exposing this hidden abuse rests squarely, as this book documents, with the victims and their families who are forcing accountability in the many churches which have failed miserably at policing their own.

“By their fruits ye shall know them

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down. . .
–Matthew 7:18-19

This book has documented many horror stories of misused power and betrayed trust. The case of Father Baltazar, protected by the Catholic Church even after sexually abusing a boy helplessly attached to a dialysis machine, and another in double leg traction, epitomizes the ruthlessness of child molesters, the heartlessness of the hierarchy, and the vulnerability of their victims. All child victims, while not usually literally immobile, are similarly at the mercy of the adults in charge of their lives. The egomaniacal and rapacious drives of a molester who blots out all sense of right and wrong, brutally disregarding the pain he is causing children, have often found a parallel in churches bent on protecting themselves at the expense of thousands of victims. That disregard is a malignancy in the church.

Surely the bankrupt notion that religion and its adherents are “above the law” is largely responsible for this state of affairs. In the Catholic Church, perhaps as an arrogant legacy of its centuries-long state/church rule, loyal parents reporting abuse and seeking justice have been accused of “Catholic-bashing.” In many denominations families whose trust in a church official has been betrayed have experienced that Alice-in-Wonderland feeling of being called the “traitors.” The separation of state and church, a safeguard for freedom of conscience in the United States, was never meant to make religion and its leaders immune from prosecution when they break the law. State/church separation should not mean lack of accountability, allowing “hot” priests or ministers to seemingly disappear. The First Amendment was never intended to countenance an underground network of pedophilia or any other kind of criminal abuse. The insular atmosphere in some churches has provided a virtual license to “Go and sin some more,” when malfeasant priests or ministers have simply been transferred or expelled, with no concern for the victims or for the laws of the state. Many churches have exploited state/church separation as a privilege, demanding a preferred status, and the license to raise funds, hire employees and do “business,” yet accounting to no one for their deeds. Perhaps it is a form of justice that such churches are now paying for the fruits of their former immunity in civil damages reaching into the millions. They will also pay in loss of reputation and esteem as distrust takes the place of misplaced trust.

The major objective of this book is to document, expose and prevent further child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy. But there is another objective beyond “blowing the whistle.” That objective is to raise questions about our society’s attitudes toward religion and its (male) gatekeepers. The bible, after all, says, “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20). The general consensus that if it is religious, it must be good is irresponsible when it winks at religious crime or exploitation. When we worship a patriarchal, male, “Vengeance-is-mine,-saith-the-Lord” deity, when we submit to male conduits of that deity, and when we praise an authoritarian system of controls and a hypocritical morality, obviously we are asking for trouble. If we create and honor a system based on domination and inequality, is this not inevitably going to produce corruption and misuse of power?

If religion or any institution depends on the sexual exploitation or subordination of children or women, then it is better that such institutions should cease to exist. If it is a question of the survival of the institution of the church versus the survival and safety of children, then our allegiance clearly must be with children.

The religious scandal of clergy abusing children should rightfully close some church doors. As a Catholic official has predicted, it will certainly bankrupt some dioceses when victims win civil lawsuits charging negligence and cover-up. The financial threat hangs over every denomination. People should withdraw support from any religious institution which has harbored molesters or neglected or mistreated victims. Churches must be made accountable by their congregations.

In the 1970s and the 1980s we have seen so many crimes of exploitation and violence exposed: physical violence against children and the elderly, rape, battery of women, incest and child sexual abuse by trusted offenders. All of these crimes are cyclic, and have gone on for thousands of years in patriarchal societies where there is a power imbalance between the sexes, and between adults and children. They have thrived in an atmosphere of taboo, of secrecy. Sexual abuse of children and teenagers by clergy, or sexual abuse in the name of religion, is one of the last such taboos. Clergy abusers have betrayed not only children, but have exploited the loyalty of the religious faithful to keep the silence.

This book is intended as a public service. Abuse of clergy privilege is widespread, pernicious–and preventable. Awareness, and a change in the way we teach children to respond to adult authority and religious authority, can avoid a replay of many of the tragic cases described here. This area of child sexual abuse can be ignored only at the peril of children.



Many excellent books and resources are available for parents and children on “protective behaviors” and “antivictim training” for children. They suggest techniques emphasizing simple, nonthreatening and practical concepts which children readily understand. Children do not need to be frightened in order to be safe, nor do they need to be terrified with a graphic litany of ways in which they could be abused, and by whom. Proper antivictim training needs to be undertaken in a serious, matter-of-fact way, but should enhance a child’s confidence and security, not weaken it.

Peg Flandreau West, director of Protective Behaviors, Inc., suggests a positive four-step antivictim training process she calls “Safe, Adventurous and Loving:”

Step one. “Talk to your child.” Your child should know, “You have a right to feel safe all the time. Nothing is so awful you can’t share it with someone you trust.”

Step two. “Identify body signals: How does your body feel when you’re not safe?” Tell children, “You can trust in your feelings when danger is near.”

Step three. Talk to your child about “networking”–who would they talk with besides you if they don’t feel safe?

Step four. “Persistence.” Children should tell an adult that they don’t feel safe. If that adult doesn’t believe them, or doesn’t stop whatever is happening that makes them feel unsafe, they should keep telling adults until someone does believe them, and does stop the abuse or frightening behavior.

“Children who have been taught to think for themselves are the safest children of all,” notes Sherryll Kerns Kraizer, author of The Safe Child Book. She advises that children be taught very early that:

  • Your body belongs to you.
  • You have a right to say who touches you and how.
  • If someone touches you in a way you don’t like, in a way that makes you feel funny or uncomfortable inside, or in a way that you think is wrong, it’s okay to say no.
  • If the person doesn’t stop, you say, “I’m going to tell” and then you tell, no matter what.
  • If you’re asked to keep a secret, you say, “No, I’m going to tell.”
  • If you have a problem, keep talking about it until someone helps you.

The “safest child of all,” Kraizer believes, is taught:

  • Children can and must be responsible for their own well-being at all times.
  • Children can and should speak up for themselves.
  • Children are capable of making judgments.
  • Children should have a positive sense of their own power, know where to get help and know they will be believed.

She unilaterally advises that no “secrets” be allowed, even at home (birthday surprises are fine, of course). Parents, she writes, may inadvertently send dangerous double messages that demonstrate that adult feelings and pleasing adults are more important than children’s feelings–such as when children are forced to endure disliked kisses, bear hugs or other adult attentions.

Kraizer advises parents to play “What If?” games with children to give them the confidence to judge puzzling or new situations for themselves. Parents should follow up on a child’s unusual questions about adult acquaintances. Such questions probably reveal nothing significant, but communication fosters openness about anything potentially troubling to a child. Parents should ask questions if an adult is paying a lot of attention to a child.

Children need to know they are never responsible for adults who ask for their help (adults should ask other adults, not kids), that they cannot tell by appearance who is “good” and who is “bad,” and that, if necessary for safety, they have permission to be rude, impolite, scream, break promises, lie to or disobey any adult or older child who is acting inappropriately or asking them to act inappropriately. Children should not be told of specific people or professions they can “always” trust–such well-meant advice has caused anguish for children told they can always count on someone who turns out to be a molester.

They should be told clearly that no one except the child should touch the intimate parts of their body (educators of young children sometimes specify “the parts a child’s underwear or swimsuit covers” especially if that person is an adult or older child who wants to keep it a secret. (Of course pediatricians may need to examine a child but even some pediatricians can be pedophiles. Choose a sensitive physician who allows a parent to remain in the room with younger children, and who respectfully explains what she or he is doing during an exam.) Children should know they should not be asked to touch someone else’s body. Parents should also give children a right to privacy in the bedroom, bathroom and when undressing. Sex education is important, Kraizer writes, for this reason:

“The fact is that children who think there is something ‘secret’ or ‘different’ about their genital area are more vulnerable to suggestions that they are ‘bad’ for very normal kinds of play, such as masturbation. This suggestion of ‘badness’ can be a powerful weapon in the hands of a perpetrator. Being comfortable and at ease with their body is a simple and natural beginning for abuse-prevention training for children.”

The other important aspect of antivictim training for children is about adult authority. In the book It’s O.K. To Say No!, Robin Lenett and Bob Crane write: “In our society, many adults deserve respect from children. We must teach our children that a few adults may attempt to take advantage of their status.

“Children should be taught that being respected carries an obligation to act in a respectable manner. Respect is a two-way street. The child respects the adult, but has the right to demand respect in return. Children should be taught that anyone who attempts to get a child to do something that the child knows is improper forfeits the right to respect.

“You must keep in mind that misplaced respect is one of the leading contributors to our inability to reduce the number of child molestations that occur. Society is still too willing to excuse this crime when it is committed by a ‘respected’ member of the community.”


“If parents suspect that their child has been molested, it’s not enough simply to ask him if anyone has touched him inappropriately,” write Dr. Gene G. Abel and Ms. Nora Harlow (“The Child Abuser,” Redbook, August 1987). “Parents first need to assure the child that, no matter what anyone has told him, they love him and can protect him. If a child then reveals that he has been molested, parents must also be careful not to react in a way that will alarm him. Instead they should calmly assure him that what happened is not his fault and that they won’t let it happen again.”

Children, they add, need assurance that “if he does ‘tell on’ the molester, no one will kill his parents, his parents will still love him, and his parents are fully able to protect him from the molester.”

It is important to reiterate that children who report abuse are extremely vulnerable. They perceive the distress of an adult as anger or disgust directed at them, believing that they are to blame for what happened. A child should be assured that they are believed, that a parent is glad they told, that they didn’t do anything wrong, that the perpetrator should not have done what he or she did, and that the child will not be left alone with that person again. These reactions will aid recovery. Calm, age-appropriate questions and reassurances are needed. A county social services agency, police, and possibly an attorney should be contacted immediately. If a physician’s assistance is required to treat the child or for evidence, parents have a right to ask for someone trained to deal with assault victims and for an advocate to be present. The accused assailant should under no circumstances be contacted directly by the family of the victim, nor should a family agree to meet with him.

Many general symptoms of child distress can also be symptoms of child sexual abuse: bedwetting, clinging behavior, personality change, eating and sleeping disorders, a drop in school grades, withdrawal, regression or infantile behavior, agitation, hyperactivity, somatic complaints. Some symptoms that may be more specific to sexual abuse could include: excessive masturbation, sexually suggestive behavior or explicit knowledge of sexual acts beyond the developmental stage of the child, unexplained gagging, nausea and vomiting, frequent genital infections, and physical trauma to genital/anal area including pain or itching. Difficulty in walking or sitting, torn, stained or bloody underwear, or a diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease are other signs. So is pregnancy. Fear of a particular adult bears checking out.

For adolescents, additional symptoms can include anorexia, bulimia, fear of pregnancy, overly seductive or attention-seeking behavior, multiple runaways, withdrawal or isolation, suicide attempts, chemical abuse, truancy, drop in academic grades, poor self-image, prostitution.

Taking action

Awareness is the answer, and only a public outcry will bring that about. People concerned about child abuse and sexual abuse of women must demand public accountability by any institution which hides or excuses abusers. Believers must avoid the pitfalls of religious doctrine used to excuse abuse, inaction, or indifferent treatment of victims.

Families and children that report abuse need support. Any suspected child abuser should be reported to your county social services. This can be done anonymously. Reporting to a religious social service that a minister of that religion may be engaging in criminal activity may be like depending on a fox to guard a chicken coop. While any given religious social service may operate ethically and report such abuse to state authorities, there have been instances when this has not been the case. Since ultimately the suspicion must be registered with the state, it makes sense to go to them directly with your suspicion. If you are a professional or other worker covered by state reporting laws, you must report suspected abuse to state authorities. Sensitive medical assistance may be required if there is any possibility of penetration or transmission of diseases. If penetration has occurred or if there are bruises or other visible signs, medical assistance should be sought immediately both to aid the child and to secure legal evidence. Women physicians or those who have had special training can be requested in emergency rooms. Parents may not always be allowed to stay during an examination of a child, but have the right to demand that a trained advocate or nurse accompany the child.

Known child abuse should be reported not only to social services but to the police. Again, victims can request to speak with a female detective. Criminal charges should be filed since offenders respond only to exposure, court-ordered and enforced long-term therapy and monitoring, and the penalties of the criminal justice system. Anything less is ensuring that abuse will continue. Victims of abuse deserve social justice. None of this can be achieved in an atmosphere of secrecy or collusion.

Where negligence, cover-up, emotional and physical harm are involved, civil lawsuits should be undertaken. Churches have only started to acknowledge that a problem exists when their pocketbooks have told them so. Financial culpability will ultimately make church officials and church offenders responsible for their actions.

Responsible clergypersons and church members need to screen their own people, investigate irregular behavior, and make it their personal business to guarantee the safety and well-being of congregation members and children under the direction of church employees. Officials become party to criminal behavior if it is discovered yet confined within the walls of the churches. Churches, daycares, detention centers and other institutions hiring ministers must hold themselves responsible for hiring trustworthy individuals by screening them carefully and continuing to monitor their conduct. The suggestions issued by the Church Mutual Insurance Company are helpful.

Churches must sponsor their own anti-crime educational seminars for parents and children, drawing upon well-trained secular resources, which should be heavily dominated by women counselors and professionals. There are activists within the religious fold whose work can be turned to, such as Rev. Marie Fortune, who has pioneered work to bring sexual and physical abuse issues to the attention of the religious community. She is executive director of the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, Seattle, Washington, and is author of Sexual Violence, The Unmentionable Sin: An Ethical and Pastoral Perspective. Most rape crisis centers, battered women’s shelters and parental stress centers are available to present programs to churches in their communities. In general, ministers should not be asked to direct such seminars–they should be asked to attend them, along with other church personnel. As Dr. Abel points out, “Even when parents do become suspicious, the molester is usually able to deflect that suspicion because he is often a respected member of the community. Many molesters have told me that the first thing they did when suspicions arose about them was to join the parents and take up the cry that child molestation is a terrible thing and must be stopped.” Educating children about sexual abuse should not become another opportunity for an offender to abuse them! It is important that churches be willing to draw from outside the church when special expertise is required. If a minister or church board is unwilling to accept antivictim training by professionals, this is a symptom of a real problem–this church is being run in such a rigid, self-protective and authoritarian manner that there is a strong probability that if abuses are occurring there, the church would offer no accountability.

Seminaries should ensure that all seminarians receive instruction on issues of sexual abuse and violence, and not only screen candidates for the ministry and priesthood, but raise their consciousness on issues that affect the well-being of their future congregations.

As someone who has extensively researched clergy abuse, I strongly recommend that sexual abuse victims avoid clergy counseling, because most ministers are trained in theology, not psychology. If the abuse was committed by another minister, obviously the child or adult victim will be understandably distressed and distrustful, and the minister’s allegiance may lie with the offender. In any case, it is advisable to seek the best trained counseling available for sexual abuse or suspected sexual abuse of a child. An untrained counselor, even if well-meaning, may clumsily embarrass a child or adult victim, or be unable to hide his or her own discomfort. It may unnecessarily distress a child, teenager or adult victim to have to reveal painful details to someone they meet on a regular and social basis. Most child victims are acutely self-conscious and concerned that “everyone knows.” Most victims blame themselves, and retain residual fears–symptoms requiring professional handling by an unambivalent counselor whose only duty is to help the victim. Trained counselors will better recognize signals of distress and understand what the child is experiencing. Peer therapy involving groups of victims of the same age range is a highly successful aid for victims of any kind of abuse. It is especially important that boys who are victimized receive quality counseling, since a significant number of male victims go on to become abusers. This cycle, while not inevitable, can be avoided by the right attention to a victim’s fears and feelings.

Mary D. Pellauer, who taught the first seminary course on violence against women in 1976 at McCormick Seminary in Chicago, and is co-editor of Sexual Assault and Abuse: A Handbook for Clergy and Religious Professionals, makes this caveat from within the ranks of the church:

“Some words of caution are in order. We strongly encourage religious leaders to be supportive of child victims in appropriate ways–to ask about sexual abuse if you see patterns of symptoms, to believe child victims’ stories. But working directly in a therapeutic way with children requires special skills. Thus we encourage religious leaders to understand that therapy with child victims is best pursued by a trained child psychologist with experience in sexual abuse issues. Most victims of child sexual abuse and incest reach adulthood without disclosing the abuse they have experienced. Your supportive understanding, especially as a religious leader, can be a deeply important ingredient in the healing process. However, be realistic in assessing the victim’s needs and your own skill level. The damage such victims sustain may reach into many areas of life beyond your abilities; they may require long-term counseling.”

This book has already mentioned the grave damage that can be done to victims, to offenders and to society by church leaders who inappropriately engage in counseling with offenders.

All parents and concerned citizens should investigate what programs are being used in their schools. If it is one lecture in the auditorium once a year, that is not enough. If the programs are limited to “stranger-danger” that is better than nothing, but not adequate to a problem that is largely perpetrated by family members and trusted “friends of the family.” Thorough antivictim training should be a regular part of the preschool through 12th-grade curriculum in every school, public and parochial. Such training will not only help empower children in potential situations of incest or other child sexual abuse, but will help prevent little girls from growing up to become victims of domestic abuse and rape, and send a clear message to little boys that such violence is illegal and unacceptable. There are many excellent programs already available, with no need to reinvent the wheel. Such training can break the cycle of abuse.


Alerting Kids to the Dangers of Sexual Abuse by Joy Berry, published by arrangement with Living Skills Press by the Educational Products Division of Word, Inc. For grade school children (can be read to younger children). Three companionate books from the “Danger Zone” series cover “Dangers of Kidnapping,” “Dangers of Abuse and Neglect,” and “Danger Zones.” “Dangers of Sexual Abuse” can be ordered for $5.98 from Institute of Living Skills, P.O. Box 1461, Fallbrook CA 92028. The set of four books can be ordered for $23.92. A cassette tape read-along is also available for these books.

“The Child Abuser,” by Gene G. Abel, M.D., with Nora Harlow, Redbook Magazine, August 1987. Practical discussion for concerned parents of largest study of pedophilia ever conducted.

“Explanations of Pedophilia: Review of Empirical Research,” by Sharon Araji, Ph.D. and David Finkelhor, Ph.D. Bill Am. Acad. of Psychiatry & the Law, Vol. 13, No. 1, 1985.

Freethought Today newspaper (10 issues/year) regularly publishes incidents of sexual abuse of children by clergymen from sources around the country. $20/year. Freethought Today, P.O. Box 750, Madison WI 53701. (608) 256-5800.

It’s O.K. To Say No! A Parent/Child Manual for the Protection of Children by Robin Lenett with Bob Crane, RGA Publishing Inc. and Frank Smith, 1985. Briefing for parents with illustrated safety anecdotes for children.

“Learned Helplessness in the Sexually Abused Child,” by Susan J. Kelley, Boston College School of Nursing. Issues in Comprehensive Nursing, Vol. 9, No. 3, 1986.

Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-422-4453, sponsored by Childhelp U.S.A., handles crisis calls, provides information and offers referrals to local agencies.

No More Secrets: Protecting Your Child From Sexual Assault by Caren Adams and Jennifer Fay, Impact Publishers, 1979. Good source book for parents.

“Safe, Adventurous and Loving: A 4 Step Anti-Victim Training Process for Grown-ups to Teach Children,” by Peg Flandreau West, published by Protective Behaviors, Inc., 1984. Anti-Victim Training for Children, 1005 Rutledge, Madison WI 53703, (608) 257-4855. Ms. West also has developed an insightful, tested curriculum guide for grade-school level.

The Safe Child Book “A Commonsense Approach to Protecting Your Children from Abduction and Sexual Abuse,” by Sherryll Kerns Kraizer, Delacourte Press, 1985. First-rate guide for any parent.

“Safety Tips On A Sensitive Subject: Child Sexual Abuse,” the Church Mutual Protection Series, by Church Mutual Insurance Company (1986), 3000 Schuster Lane, Merrill, WI 54452 (715) 536-5577. This brochure directly confronts the problem of sexual abuse in the church, with specific guidelines for selecting employees and volunteers, and specific guidelines for people who work with children.

Sexual Assault and Abuse “A Handbook for Clergy and Religious Professionals,” edited by Mary D. Pellauer, Barbara Chester, Jane Boyajian. Harper & Row, 1987. Essays compiled on issues of sexual abuse and violence for the use of ministers and pastoral counselors who may be confronted with such issues in their work. One essay, “Responding to Clients Who Have Been Sexually Exploited by Counselors, Therapists, and Clergy,” by Jeanette Hofstee Milgrom and Gary R. Schoener, discusses sexual abuse of women by pastoral counselors. The authors have pioneered treatment of victims of exploitation by counselors and therapists, including clergy. They direct the Walk-In Counseling Center, 2421 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404.

“Sexual Contact By Pastors and Pastoral Counselors In Professional Relationships: A Study with Recommendations to Denominational Judicatories,” by Washington Association of Churches (1984), 4759 Fifteenth Avenue N.E., Seattle, WA 98105. Deals with unethical sexual contact by clergy and pastoral counselors (no specific reference to child victims).

A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse, edited by David Finkelhor, Ph.D. Sage Publications, 1986. Clinical essays.

“Theory and Treatment in Child Molestation,” by Richard I. Lanyon, Arizona State University, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1986, Vol. 54, No. 2, 176-182. Clinical discussion of pedophilia.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, P.O. Box 1182, Washington DC 20013.

“Vatican Sexology,” by John Money, M.D. Free Inquiry, Spring 1987.

Your local police department, your local county or state child protective services or social services.

Information on clergy abuse of children is being collected by Freethought Today, published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, P.O. Box 750, Madison WI 53701.

About the Author

Annie Laurie Gaylor is editor of Freethought Today, the only freethought newspaper in the United States, which is published ten times a year by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. She is also the author of Woe to the Women–The Bible Tells Me So, first published by the Foundation in 1981. Woe to the Women is a reader’s guide to the bible’s treatment of women, complete with bible citations.

A 1980 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Journalism School, Annie Laurie founded, edited and published the Feminist Connection, a Madison-based monthly advocacy newspaper for women (August 1980-January 1985). As a feminist reporter, she has had a long-time interest in exposing and preventing violence and sexual abuse against women and children.

She wrote Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children because, she said, “It was heart-rending to know about the abuse and report it regularly but to do nothing to prevent future abuse.”

She and her mother Anne Nicol Gaylor are founding members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national freethought association working for state/church separation.

Freedom From Religion Foundation