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Pastors Who Don’t Report

Aug 13, 2010 — Categories: ,

Pastors Daniel and Laura McCluskey from the Church on the Word in Phoenix have been arrested. The pastors were both arrested Tuesday and booked on one count each of failure to report sexual abuse. One victim of incestuous abuse disclosed to them in 2008. The pastors confronted the abusive father who admitted his abuse of his daughter but was “repentant.” The pastors counseled the victim to “forgive” her father and restore the relationship. The father allegedly stopped abusing this daughter (who then moved out) but continued to molest her younger sister.

Pastors Daniel and Laura McCluskey from the Church on the Word in Phoenix have been arrested. The pastors were both arrested Tuesday and booked on one count each of failure to report sexual abuse.

One victim of incestuous abuse disclosed to them in 2008. The pastors confronted the abusive father who admitted his abuse of his daughter but was “repentant.” The pastors counseled the victim to “forgive” her father and restore the relationship. The father allegedly stopped abusing this daughter (who then moved out) but continued to molest her younger sister. This sister has now recently disclosed to a neighbor who subsequently reported the abuse to law enforcement.

There are two issues at stake here. First, in Arizona clergy are mandated reporters along with teachers, doctors, etc. because sexual abuse of a child is a crime. Secondly, regardless of the law mandating reporting by clergy (this differs from state to state), we strongly urge that clergy report any disclosure of sexual abuse of a child--because none of us have the capacity to handle these situations in isolation and without outside collaborative intervention. Professionals to whom sexual abuse is disclosed need help in protecting a child and holding an abuser accountable.

I have heard this story over and over. Well-meaning but misguided clergy who try to deal with child sexual abuse in-house. I have come to realize that this represents, as a colleague of mine once said, savage ignorance with dreadful and unnecessary consequences for victims.

My predictions: This church and many others will come to their pastors’ defense and argue that the mandatory reporting law violates their First Amendment rights to religious freedom. There will be a long, drawn out court battle and, within this process, the fact that a child was sexually abused for two years, after the abuse was disclosed to the pastors, will be lost in the hot air generated by the trial.

Let this be a wake-up call for spiritual leaders: we need the help of our secular colleagues to work in concert with our pastoral guidance to stop sex offenders.

I can never forget the night I sat with a group of incest offenders in treatment, most of whom were active Christians, and listened to each one recount going to his pastor after arrest and confessing. And each one was sent home with a prayer and “forgiven.” They said, “Please don’t forgive us so quickly. It was the worst thing our pastors did. Because it meant we could continue to avoid responsibility.” Their witness is a powerful reminder to clergy of the limits of our resources and the breadth of our responsibility to protect children. Generally this means we need to report disclosures of child abuse.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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pastors not reporting

Posted by Kathy at Aug 16, 2010 01:48 PM
I am a pastor and I report. However, the California family law system is broken beyond repair. My heart aches now for a little boy who is well cared for by his grandparents who has court ordered non-supervised visits with his mother who married the man that has physically abused both her and her child. The court officials will not do the right thing in this situation which is to protect the little boy from his step-father.

Clergy counselings victims-survivors or offenders of child sexual abuse and teen/adult intimate partner violence

Posted by Rev. Al Miles at Aug 16, 2010 01:48 PM
Thank you for your words of wisdom, Dr. Fortune. I too am a national trainer on the topics of child sexual abuse and teen and adult intimate partner violence awareness. Over the course of the past 20 years, many victims and survivors of these crimes have said they were "counseled poorly" by clergy and other pastoral ministers to "forgive and forget," and to also consider the ways they, the victims-survivors, "contributed" to the injustices perpetrated against them. Most spiritual leaders lack the education, licensing, and training to "counsel" either victims-survivors or offenders. It is therefore critical for us to refer these individuals to people serving in secular communities who have the appropriate credentials.

sex offenders

Posted by Sherry at Aug 16, 2010 01:49 PM
Not forgiving so quickly is a valid point. I worked with inmates for several years, many of them sex offenders. The only ones I saw a measure of hope for those who found their way to Christ but also made a connection to their victim; understood the victimization, the pain and the years it took for them to recover from their sense of loss and violation. Inmates who were forgiven but did not identify how it would be if they were the victim were likely to return to prison, sometimes after a couple or as much as 5 years but they still came back with the excuses and reoffensives, with more damaged bystanders and family.

Pastors Who Don't Report

Posted by Reverend Sandra R Mackie (ELCA) at Aug 18, 2010 01:55 PM
Thank you, Dr. Fortune, for this article and for your groundbreaking work. Your courage and commitment are to be commended and your work supported.

Help with a answer.

Posted by M Quill at Feb 15, 2018 01:05 PM
My Pastor did not report another sexual abuse silent victim.
he said by law he has too. Its been since november since I told him. Its now february?
I was one of his victims till the age of 12.