Looks like the shadow of sexual abuse of churchgoers and vulnerable children was not, after all, confined to Catholic institutions.
Usually, the issue of celibacy is advanced as the reason such abuse happens, but the latest revelation involves the Southern Baptist religion which is the second largest religious grouping in the U.S. after Catholics. Its ministers can be married.
In a sensational expose, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News uncovered a true viper’s nest when they investigated sexual abuse records among the Southern Baptist faithful.
What they found mostly in Texas was 700 victims, the youngest only three years old, and a massive cover-up that is just now being pierced by investigative journalists.
The reporters found that up to 400 Baptist ministers have faced sexual abuse allegations in the past two decades alone.
But instead of rooting out the predators, the Southern Baptist leadership chose to deny, dismiss and delay any actions.
Folks familiar with the Catholic Church cover-ups can only think, “here we go again” reading about that strategy.
The newspapers discovered that at least 35 ministers or congregation leaders who were found guilty were tagged as sex offenders on release. Shorafterwardards they were allowed back to teach and minister.
Again, a haunting reminder of what happened in the Catholic Church. Even the apologia could easily have been written by a Catholic bishop.
“We must admit that our failures, as churches, put these survivors in a position where they were forced to stand alone and speak, when we should have been fighting for them,” J.D. Greear, who was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention last summer, said on Twitter.
“Their courage is exemplary and prophetic. But I grieve that their courage was necessary.”
“The abuses described in this article are pure evil,” Greear wrote. “I join with countless others who are currently ‘weeping with those who weep.’”
We must admit that our failures, as churches, put these survivors in a position where they were forced to stand alone and speak, when we should have been fighting for them. Their courage is exemplary and prophetic. But I grieve that their courage was necessary. 3/9— J.D. Greear (@jdgreear) February 10, 2019
Greer did not address the vital question as to whether he himself knew anything about the abuse before taking over last summer. It is hard to believe he didn’t.
There are 47,000 Baptist churches and a congregation of 15 million in the United States. The Texas newspapers’ investigations are only the tip of the iceberg.
Once again it seems that a religious organization of great size and influence has disgraced itself in the eyes of the world. One six-year-old victim was raped during nap time at Sunday School; another remembered the horrible event when he was raped at age 12 and is livid the minister still works at the church.
There was also a new Catholic Church scandal a few days earlier when Pope Francis admitted that members of the Catholic clergy had abused nuns for years.
“The church’s credibility has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them,” Francis wrote in a letter to U.S. bishops last month.
“This has led to a growing sense of uncertainty, distrust, and vulnerability among the faithful.”
You don't say. If you are a Southern Baptist or a Catholic Church member it has got to raise fundamental questions for you about these institutions.
Cynics would argue they are rotten to the core. Given recent events, it is hard to believe otherwise.