Dr. Ted Tripp, the senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, came to Seattle recently preaching the importance of corporeal punishment beginning with infants. According to Tripp, he is commanded by God to preach to parents to spank their young children on bare skin and then tell them you love them in order to teach them respect for authority.
“Punching, flogging, assault and bodily attacks, hitting with the hand, kicking, ear pulling, hair pulling, head shaving, beating on the soles of the feet, burning, scalding, stabbing, severe beatings with or without clothes, being made to kneel and stand in fixed positions for lengthy periods, made to sleep outside overnight . . .”
The movie “Doubt” depicts the enormous complexity of the possibility of sexual abuse of a child by a Catholic priest. Fr. Flynn is portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a likable, middle aged priest deeply engaged in the life of the parish and school. He is open and progressive and wants to lead the parish forward.
There are times when the contradictions of life overtake me. I was flying home from the east coast last week and one of those times intruded. On the plane, I sat next to a mother and father and their two-year-old daughter; in front of them sat their five-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter. I was struck immediately by how thoughtful and respectful the parents were with the children and the siblings were with each other.
March 8 is International Women’s Day. So I was pleased this past week to be in New York City for events surrounding the 54th Annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Not only is women’s work never done, our agenda continues to expand.
Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn has been convicted of failure to report suspected child abuse; he is the first Bishop to be held accountable for shielding a pedophile priest. He received no jail time or fine; rather he was sentenced to two years of court-supervised probation.
Actress Ashley Judd recently disclosed that she was sexually abused as a child; American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi recently disclosed that she was sexually abused as a child; Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts recently disclosed that he was sexually abused as a child. When each made a public disclosure, the media described these disclosures as “confessions.”
We have become almost numb to the steady stream of disclosures of child sexual abuse: the Roman Catholic experiences continue even with serious efforts to stem the tide, the Penn State tragedy and subsequent campus situations. So in some ways this most recent release of a new documentary, “Standing Silent,” could easily be overlooked.
As the crisis erupts again in Europe and the U.S. with serious questions being raised about the Pope himself, one has to wonder if the men in charge have learned anything in the past 20 years. It would appear not. If the Vatican were to ask me for advice on how to handle this situation (which they will not), here are my ten steps to justice and healing.
The Penn State report and the conviction of Jerry Sandusky provide the irrefutable evidence that he was a sexual predator on the loose for over twenty years and there were numerous people with full knowledge of his crimes who could have stopped him. How does this happen?
Spotlight is the name of the team of Boston Globe reporters who investigated the Archdiocese of Boston in 2001 when the puzzle pieces began to fall into place surrounding the sexual abuse of children by priests. Their reporting yielded a Pulitzer Prize and finally blew the lid off the long-standing conspiracy of silence surrounding the protection of priest pedophiles in the Catholic Church. Spotlight, the film, is indeed a cautionary tale for us all. While non-Catholics might be tempted to walk away from the theater with just a tinge of self-righteousness, assuming that this is a Catholic problem, don't give into that temptation. And let us not spend time arguing (as some commentators have) over whether "the problem" is greater or lesser in our faith community. Neither will serve us well.
The recent film Spotlight highlights the investigation by The Boston Globe into the coverup of child sexual abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese. Using the lens of investigative journalism, it takes us as viewers/bystanders through the years of complicity by the legal system, The Globe, and the Catholic Church— as well as the active efforts by the Church to hide the abuse and protect the pedophile priests at the expense of the laity. The sexual abuse of children by faith leaders is no longer “news”. Sadly enough, it is too common to be “news”. But what is informative and important about Spotlight for those of us who are bystanders to these atrocities is the laying out of the institutional practices that have allowed this suffering to go on for decades. In November, 2015, the National Center for Victims of Crime called for a national commission on child sexual abuse to investigate institutional settings where children are particularly vulnerable and where we know there has been a history of child sexual abuse.
A former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, Jerry Sandusky (a priest in the Church of College Football), has been arrested and charged with sexual abuse of boys over a 15 year period.
You may have noticed that the Blog has been quiet for the past few weeks. That is because I just returned from a trip to Australia where I was the guest of Safe Church Ministries. I did training for them in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. I also keynoted their conference in Sydney, “Safe As Churches?” My first visit to Australia was around 15 years ago when I worked with Uniting Church leaders and others to begin to address clergy misconduct and abuse issues. Then 5 years later, I spoke at a national ecumenical conference during which I began to see the early efforts across denominations to put policy and procedures in place to address complaints of clergy misconduct.
Dear Pope Francis: I want to commend you for owning the painful fact of sexual abuse of children by priests as part of your Good Friday comments. Lent is surely the season for such a public acknowledgement. You named the reality of the abuse; you asserted the necessity of stringent sanctions; you acknowledged the profound vulnerability of children. All of this suggests that you are serious about acting to rectify the harm that has been done, to bring justice where there has been injustice, and to bring healing where brokenness remains.
There are two important stories this week within the Orthodox Jewish community in the U.S. The first is the conviction of Nechemya Weberman, a Hasidic Jew in Brooklyn, for sexual abuse of a child who had the courage to come forward and report him.
I was encouraged in early December by your announcement that you are convening a Vatican Commission on Child Sexual Abuse to help you address the needs of victims and the structural changes that must take place in order to avoid repeating the past. This seemed like an appropriate Advent effort coinciding with the new church year and the nativity of Jesus. While this planned Vatican Commission falls somewhat short of the call by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired Bishop from Sydney, Australia, for a Vatican Council to address the child abuse tragedy (For Christ’s Sake: End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church...for Good), it is a step in the right direction.
I was traveling and speaking at a conference in November when the story broke about Judge Adams beating his teenage daughter, Hilary, on tape.
The Jesuits have settled a lawsuit brought by Alaska Native survivors for $50 million, the largest single settlement against a religious order. At least 110 children and youth were sexually abused from 1961 until 1987 in remote villages in Alaska by Roman Catholic priests.
I’m still waiting for your call, but in the meantime, I’m quite happy to provide you with a free consultation because it’s so important that you get this right. So let me suggest some fine tuning to your efforts this past week. Please pass this memo on to your PR people.