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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Bill Donohue Says Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal Over

bill donohoe

There is no on-going crisis. In fact, there is no institution, private or public, that has less of a problem with the sexual abuse of minors today than the Catholic Church.

— Catholic Apologist and Right Wing Extremist Bill Donohoe

CWR: The subtitle is “Clarifying the facts and causes of the abuse scandal”. So do you discuss that misinformation, disinformation, misunderstanding? What is it exactly that needs clarified?

Donohue: There’s no question that the media has convinced the public. I call it the poisoning of the public mind. They’ve convinced the public, and many Catholics as well, that the scandal is ongoing. In fact, the scandal is largely over and it’s been over for about a half a century. The worst damage that was done in the Catholic Church by molesting priests, almost all of whom were homosexual, was done between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s.

We still have cases of it here and there. What you’ll typically see in the media are reports of an old case, but a lot of times, people won’t read past the headline. And if you do, you find out this is back in 1963, 1971, 1985. And, by the way, they don’t bother to tell you almost all the molesting priests are either dead or they’ve been thrown out of ministry. The idea that the priests are walking around looking for kids is simply a lie, and it’s a vicious lie. So I wanted to set that straight.

The other thing is, we’ve made tremendous progress. We are down to single digits now in terms of the average number of substantiated accusations made against approximately 50,000 members of the clergy. There is no organization in the United States, secular or religious, which has a better record today in maintaining the safety of minors than the Catholic Church.

Yes, we dropped our guard—particularly in the 1970s. It was a terrible, terrible decade. And the Church deserves criticism for what happened then. But also, if we’re going to be fair about it, we have to give credit where credit is due: the Dallas reforms, as well as many other reforms that were taking place. We’ve made tremendous progress and I’m very proud of that. The Catholic Church has largely turned the corner on this issue.

CWR: Why do you think public perception is that the problem of sexual abuse of minors lies primarily within the Catholic Church? People hear about child sexual abuse and they think of priests. Why is that?

Donohue: That’s the perception. Well, it’s really not hard for me to figure out at this point. As someone who has a doctorate in sociology, the Catholic Church is hated by secular militants within the activist organizations, many of them legal organizations, non-profits, and large segments of the media, in large segments of education (particularly in higher education), as well as in other quarters.

And the reason for that is because we live in a society obsessed with sex. It’s not the Catholic Church which is obsessed with sex. It’s the secular militants who are. They don’t want any restrictions on anything they do, no matter how many people have wound up with STDs and in the grave as a result of practicing liberty-ism (liberty with license, without any restraints). They never seem to learn.

The Catholic Church—like our Jewish friends, and for that matter, Mormons and Muslims, evangelical Protestants—we all agree to an idea of sexual reticence, of a sexual ethics which emphasizes restraint. And marriage and sexuality should be entered into by a man and a woman—a biological man and a biological woman. And that other forms of sexuality are not really well-accepted. We live in a society today where the three most dreaded words in the English language are “Thou shalt not…”

So when they see bad news about the Catholic Church, they’re going to drum it up. They don’t want to let it go. They want to convince the public that the scandal will never end because they want to weaken the moral voice of the Catholic Church. And after they do that, they’ll go after the Orthodox Jews, evangelical Protestants, Mormons and Muslims and everybody else who agrees to a more traditional understanding of sexual morality. That’s why this is happening.

CWR: The public, for the most part, seems to ignore or deny the role that homosexuality and the sexual revolution in general have played in the abuse crisis, in the Church and across society. Why do you think that is?

Donohue: Well, the denial is in the Catholic Church as well. The denial is in the Vatican. Let me be very explicit about it: in the book, I talk about the Vatican summit in 2019. Everyone from the Pope on down, all the Cardinals: all they talked about was clericalism as the driving force of sexual abuse.

Clericalism, or a sense of elitism, certainly may have something to do with why some bishops were enablers, but has absolutely zero to do with why a priest would molest a minor. Nothing. They don’t want to talk about homosexuality.

….

Pedophiles are about three and a half percent. When a man has sex with a post-pubescent—an adolescent or above—man, that’s homosexuality. I am not saying that all homosexuals are molesters. That would be gay bashing. What I’m saying is that gays, more so than heterosexuals, are more likely to abuse minors. And this is clearly the case in the Catholic Church.

Why? Because of the emotional and sexual immaturity that marks so many homosexuals—not all of them, but so many of them. And it is immaturity—sexual and emotional immaturity—that leads to this kind of sexual abuse, because these guys are stunted, and their psycho-sexual development hits a plateau. They can’t identify with anybody beyond adolescent age, which is why they associate with them. And, in some cases, molest them. That’s the God’s honest truth.

— Bill Donohoe, The Catholic World Report, “We’ve been lied to.” Bill Donohue on clergy sexual abuse, homosexuality, and the media, May 26, 2022

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Words Matter

words

When you say homosexuality is an abomination . . . you are saying your gay son and neighbor are abominable.

When you say all non-Christians will go to Hell when they die . . . you are saying your non-Christian mother, son, and neighbor will be tortured by God in the flames of the Hell for eternity.

When you say abortion is evil, sick, and murder . . . you are saying those who are pro-choice are evil, sick murderers.

When you say Christians are idiots . . . you are saying your Christian mother and grandfather are idiots.

When you say people on welfare are lazy, good for nothing bums . . . you are saying your out-of-work cousin with cancer is a lazy, good for nothing bum.

When you say atheism is immoral . . . you are saying that your atheist daughter and cousin are immoral.

You can’t divorce your words from their implications.

Words matter.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Dear Frank, Is Bruce Backslidden or Was He Never Saved To Begin With?

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Rick, 1996, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio

Several years ago, I received a Facebook notification about approving something Rick, a friend of mine, wanted to post to my wall. Rick is a long-time friend, former parishioner, and frequent reader of this blog. What’s interesting about his request is that he meant his message to be a private one sent to a friend of his by the name of Frank. The reason I got the notification is that he inadvertently tagged me. Here’s the message Rick sent to Frank — also a man I have known for many years.message to frank

Don’t be put off by Rick’s poor language skills. Several years ago, Rick had a major stroke. This affected his ability to write sentences. Best I can tell, the stroke has not affected his ability to study and read the Bible, nor has it affected his ability to read religious materials.

I met Rick in the late 1990s. At the time, I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Rick, a Calvinist, was looking for a Calvinistic church to attend and someone recommended that he check out Somerset Baptist. Rick joined the church, happy in knowing that he had found a man who was conversant in the doctrines of grace (the five points of Calvinism). For the next five years, I would drive two times a week — thirty miles round trip — to New Lexington to pick Rick up for church.

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Frank and Rick, 1993, Somerset Baptist Church, Sunday Dinner

One Sunday night, while on our way to the church, Rick was waxing eloquently about double predestination and whether children who die in infancy and developmentally disabled people are automatically a part of the elect — those whom God, from before the foundation of the world, has chosen to save. I told Rick, with a slight irritation in my voice, that Calvinistic Baptist great Charles Spurgeon believed such people were numbered among the elect. Rick, not the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to social cues, continued to defend God having the absolute right to eternally torture anyone, including infants and developmentally disabled people, in the Lake of Fire. I could feel anger welling. I thought to myself, has Rick forgotten that I have a developmentally disabled two-year-old daughter with Down syndrome? Doesn’t he care how hurtful his words are? I slammed on the brakes and told Rick to get out of the car. He could walk to church, I told him. I quickly cooled down, telling him, I didn’t want to hear another word from him about whether infants and developmentally disabled people are elect. Rick complied, moving on to other hot button Calvinistic issues.

Let me share another Rick memory, one that I think readers will find funny. Rick worked third shift at a residential home for the developmentally disabled — Mount Aloysius. Unsurprisingly, Rick was quite tired by the time he arrived for Sunday morning church. Try as he might to stay awake, Rick would often fall asleep. Rick snored, so the entire congregation knew when Rick was sleeping. Sunday after Sunday I watched Rick fight sleep, his head bobbing back and forth during my hour-long sermons. One Sunday, Rick bobbed his head back and then forward just as he did Sunday after Sunday. This time, however, Rick’s head traveled forward farther than he intended, smacking the pew in front of him. I stopped preaching and went to Rick to make sure he was okay. Fortunately, the only thing harmed was his pride. After the service, I told Rick that perhaps he should skip the Sunday morning service when he worked the night before. That way he could be rested and mentally fresh for the Sunday evening service. By the way, this was the only time in twenty-five years of pastoring churches that I told someone, please don’t come to church.

I haven’t been Rick’s pastor for over twenty-seven years, and the last time I saw him was in 1996 when he and Frank drove to West Unity, Ohio to attend services at a new church I had planted. Since then, I have traded a few emails with Rick, but nothing of substance.

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Rick, Bruce, Greg, and boy, 1993 , Somerset Baptist Church, Sunday Dinner

Rick’s message is a reminder to me that people still talk about my deconversion. People who knew me well — as Rick and Frank once did — are still trying to square the pastor they once knew with the atheist named Bruce Gerencser. In Rick’s case, he wonders if am just backslidden, or is it possible that I never was saved. I am sure Rick prefers the backslidden explanation. I am sure trying to wrap his mind around the possibility of me never being saved is too much for him to emotionally and intellectually handle. If I was never saved, this means that Rick was taught for five years by an unsaved pastor, a man he heard expositionally preach hundreds of times; preaching that he believed was empowered by the Holy Spirit. I am sure he remembers the countless hours we spent after church talking theology. I am sure he remembers my love, kindness, and compassion, and my willingness to, week after week, drive to New Lexington and pick him up so he could attend church. I am sure he asks himself, how is it possible that the Bruce I knew was never a true Christian.

The easy out for Rick is for him to embrace Arminianism with its belief that saved people can and do fall from grace. Doing so would mean that I once was saved, but now I am not. Of course, Rick’s Calvinism keeps him from believing I have lost my salvation, so he is forced to psychologically torture himself with thoughts about whether I am backslidden or was never a Christian to start with.

I wish Rick nothing but the best. I hope he will, in time, come to terms with my current godless state. I chose to be exactly where I am today. Or did I? Perhaps all of this has been decreed by God, and the person ultimately responsible for my lost condition is the divine puppet master, John Calvin’s God.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: Anti-Abortion, Forced Birth Zealots Are Gaslighting the American People

gaslighting

So when men—because it’s pretty much always men—lecture you about what red-state legislatures—which are pretty much always controlled by men—are not going to do when Dobbs comes down, it’s most likely because they believe you to be either stupid or fundamentally powerless or possibly both.

This is all called gaslighting, and it’s a tactic of bullies, thugs, and authoritarians everywhere. The same Wall Street Journal opinion page that promised on July 2, 2018, that the court wouldn’t overturn Roe is now actively trying to cudgel the court into overturning Roe. Spectacularly stupid men gloat about the end of women’s freedom and then turn around and deride women as hysterical for worrying publicly about their freedom. Gaslighting is very much the point. When people in power tell you the precise thing you are witnessing isn’t happening before your eyes, it is done with a purpose. They are confident that if you let yourself be mollified by all the soothing talk about how, sure, you may feel (incorrectly, they will add) like they misled you at their confirmation hearings, but they are emphatically not misleading you now, then they can amass more power and more credibility to do more freedom-restrictive things with impunity in the future.

Whenever you’re being told by powerful people who don’t know anything—and don’t much care—about health, poverty, inequality, or how reproduction happens, that the thing that is currently happening isn’t actually happening, the important thing to do is not to argue with them. You are irrelevant to them, and traveling back to the Middle Ages with them in order to debate them on whether you are in fact a witch serves no useful purpose. Nor should you allow yourself to be distracted by fatuous comparisons between a Supreme Court leak and the events of Jan. 6, 2021. The latter was a coup attempt. The former was a systems failure of an institution that largely operates without systems. When actual Supreme Court justices tell you that they cannot plausibly discern the economic implications of an abortion ban because it’s never been empirically studied, that is also gaslighting. It’s been studied.

These sorts of distractions are another weapon of bullies who want to keep you from doing your work. Don’t be distracted. If the constituencies that have organized to end legal abortion for largely religious reasons for 50 years are telling you this has nothing to do with religion or abortion, you are being gaslit. When you are being told that women aren’t going to be harmed and that no other liberty interests are implicated and that fetal personhood is not connected to any of this, and that all these claims are somehow a certainty because polling, or because voting power, well, gaslit. But please understand that if you are being drawn into unknowable speculation about who the leaker is, or what precedents still survive post-Dobbs, or whether the Republican Party would in fact push for a federal ban, you are being distracted from Dobbs and its immediate and certain harms, which is not a luxury for which you have time.

Gaslighters thrive on calling you hysterical and emotional. They’ve been calling women hysterical and emotional for centuries. Sometimes with lethal consequences. (See witches, above.) Don’t bother performing sober fact-based disputation with a gaslighter. He thought you were hysterical when you told him in 2018 that Brett Kavanaugh would do what Brett Kavanaugh actually is now planning to do in 2022. He told you that you were hysterical when the Supreme Court allowed S.B. 8 to go into effect in September and he said so again when Dobbs was argued in December. He says you are hysterical now, and when morning-after pills, IUDs, and IVF are regulated and monitored and imperiled, he will tell you again that you’re still hysterical. That—and the reaction he hopes it will generate—is all he has. It’s your choice about whether or not to give it to him.

— Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, The People Who Promised Roe Was Safe Are Already Selling Their Next Bridge, May 16, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Leak: A Spin of Bishop’s Roulette?

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— Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

A few days ago, I wrote “Bishop’s Roulette.” Since then, the draft of Supreme Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion on striking down Roe v. Wade has been leaked. 

To many — actually, the majority — of us, the “leak” was like the first bomb dropped in an attack that “everybody knew” was coming. The particular blow surprised us simply because, like the first shot of a war, nobody can anticipate the moment it comes, even if its aftermath is what everyone expects.

As I am neither a political scientist nor reporter, I can’t add much to the analysis that the end of Roe v. Wade wouldn’t be the “will of the people.” More than one poll has shown that the overwhelming majority of people support the right to safe and legal abortion. That we now have a Supreme Court “packed” with Justices who seek to do the opposite of what most Americans want is a result of a political system that has allowed vocal, virulent, and often violent groups of people who claim to be motivated by faith to gain majorities in state legislatures and governorships — and may usher them into a Congressional majority later this year.

The same folks who organized to elect lawmakers who enacted laws outlawing abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and deputized citizens to sue anyone who received, performed, or “enabled” a procedure also voted for Donald Trump, who promised exactly what’s come to pass, and may regain the Presidency in two years.

While some of those voters didn’t disguise the fact that their support of Trump and his political allies was borne from their hatred of liberals, gays, immigrants, and anyone else whom they don’t see as fitting into their notions of a White, Christian, and male-dominated nation, others couch their support in a system of faith that, they believe, tells them to love their neighbors as they love themselves. Some, mainly men, among them claim to “respect women” because they are mothers, nurturers, and partners.

If they actually “respect” women, how can they support a President, Supreme Court justices, governors, state legislators, and mayors who are doing everything they can to ensure that women (and girls) don’t get vital medical care at the exact moment they need it.

You see, in striking down Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court would leave abortion rights to the states.  Some had already all but outlawed abortion before Justice Alito wrote his opinion; others have enacted “trigger laws” that will do the same, or ban it outright, once Roe v. Wade is struck down.  It’s hard not to believe, as some legal and political analysts have pointed out, that such moves will also enable states to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act and enact their own rules on the availability of health care. 

Think about it:  If a state can tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies, can it also decide who does or doesn’t get health care, or what is or isn’t “appropriate” care for someone? Could it make such decisions on who is more “deserving” in a hierarchy that places people who are most likely to make “nuclear” families (i.e., straight cisgender) above, say, LGBTQ people? Or native-born citizens above immigrants, especially those who are here illegally? 

 I also can’t help but wonder whether striking down Roe v. Wade will give states more power to decide how health care and insurance are meted out. Given that concentrating power in fewer hands, especially if those hands are affluent White Christian cisgender males or their allies, all but inevitably leads to “privatization”— which often means nothing more than “getting government out of it” — it’s not hard to imagine more states in which people who need help are subject to a “Bishop’s Roulette.”

Now, even if you object to abortion on religious or other moral grounds, or simply think that the women who need them should have been “more careful,” here is something else to consider: prenatal care, and women’s healthcare in general, while far from perfect, have improved since Roe v. Wade. Some of that, of course, has come about because of medical and technological developments. Just as important, though, is the change in the way pregnancy and women’s bodies are seen. For one, doctors and other providers now better understand how pregnancy changes a woman’s body. Some of those changes, like high blood pressure, were previously linked to women’s pre-pregnancy lives and were not seen as consequences of pregnancy itself. Those conditions, and sometimes the pregnancy itself, can degrade the quality of, or even end, a woman’s life. 

Another reason, I believe, women’s health care has improved since Roe v. Wade is that as women gained more agency over their bodies and lives, they were seen — at least by some — as worthy of care for their own sake, and not simply to enhance their ability to bear and rear children. That development goes hand-in-hand with the separation of health care (and government) from religion, especially of the fundamentalist variety. 

In brief, Roe v. Wade did more to foster the respect for women than religious and other opponents of the decision claim to have.  Repealing it, as Justice Samuel Alito’s draft threatens, will do much to destroy that respect by degrading the quality of women’s health care and subjecting too many of us to some version of a “Bishop’s Roulette” to obtain it.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bob Sexually Assaulted Three Generations of Women, Yet He Went to Heaven When He Died

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My mom, Barbara Tieken, 1940s

Men have been sexually preying on women for as long as anyone can remember. Millions of women have been sexually harassed, assaulted, or raped. Worse yet, many of these crimes are never reported, let alone prosecuted. Some women feel shame after being assaulted and don’t want anyone to know what happened. Others fear retribution, job loss, or family ostracization. Still others fear they will not be believed. One such woman was my mother.

Mom was sexually molested as a child by her father. (Please read Barbara.) I know this because she told me. As an adult, Mom tried one day to confront her father over his “sins.” His response? Without ever acknowledging what he had done, he told Mom that his past sins had been forgiven by God, and if God had forgiven him, so should she. Mom’s lack of forgiveness became an issue when Grandpa’s wife, using Bill Gothard’s Basic Life Principles, decided to “confront” Mom’s bitterness. She let it be known that Mom’s bitterness was due to her unwillingness to forgive. Needless to say, the discussion turned into an angry shouting match. (Please read Dear Ann.)

In the late 1960s, we lived west of Farmer, Ohio in a rented farmhouse owned by my Dad’s sister, Mary. I attended fifth and sixth grade at Farmer Elementary School. One day, I was home sick from school. Unbeknownst to me, my uncle, whom I will call Bob out of respect for his wife and son, unexpectedly came to our home. Bob only stayed for a short while, but what he did during that time left a lasting impression on a mother and her twelve-year-old son.

I learned as an adult that Bob was known for sexually harassing and assaulting women, including teen girls. Many of the women in my family have stories to tell about Bob inappropriately touching them or coming on to them. Everyone knew about Bob. Oh, that’s just how Bob was, one close family member told me. As far as I know, no one has ever publicly accused Bob of sexually assaulting them; except for my mom, that is.

Whether Bob stopped at our house on a whim or knew that Mom would be home alone and wanted to use that opportunity to take sexual advantage of her, I’ll never know, but one thing is for certain: Bob raped my mother. I know, because she told me he did. After Bob left, Mom had me run down to the neighbor’s house to use their phone to call someone. For the life of me, I can’t remember whom she had me call. I do know that no one believed her. She was Crazy Barb, the woman with mental problems.

Is it any wonder Mom had mental health problems? Born into a family where both parents were violent alcoholics, she suffered significant trauma, including being sexually molested by her father. At age seventeen, she had an unplanned pregnancy, and by age eighteen she was married and had a redheaded baby boy — yours truly. Mom married a young Hungarian man, but he was not my father. Two years ago, I learned that my father was a married truck driver from Chicago. He met my teen mom at the truck stop where she worked in Bryan. (Please see What an Ancestry DNA Test Revealed About Me.)

A few years ago, Bob died. His funeral was held at First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio — the family church. Bob’s parents, Mom and Pop Daugherty, were instrumental in starting First Baptist, and they were lifelong members, as were several of their children. Bob didn’t attend First Baptist. As far as I know, he didn’t attend any church and hadn’t been to First Baptist in decades. The church is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, pastored by John MacFarlane, a man who was a boy in the church when I was a teenager. This boy, now a college-educated man of God, conducted Bob’s funeral.

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Barbara Gerencser, 1957, age 18. Holding her newborn son Bruce (Butch)

Having attended numerous IFB funerals, I knew what to expect: preaching and an invitation to accept Jesus as my Savior. I endured this nonsense for the sake of my family. During the service, the pastor spoke glowingly of Bob’s life. I began to feel anger rise up in me, knowing that the pastor was painting faux gold on a piece of shit. Even worse, the pastor shared a story about Bob coming to the church altar as a teenager and asking Jesus to save him. And glory to God in the highest, God saved Bob and he is, thanks to Jesus, in Heaven today, said the pastor, or something to that effect. I’m sure hearing that Bob was in Heaven brought great joy and peace to his elderly mother. But what about my mother — who at age fifty-four, turned a Ruger .357 magnum towards her heart and pulled the trigger, killing herself instantly? What about all the girls, who are now grownups, and their mothers, who endured the indignity of Bob groping and sexually harassing them (and who knows what else he might have done, secrets never spoken of)? How is it that everyone who took sexual advantage of my mother died and went to Heaven — all praise be to the one who overlooks the sexually predatory ways of his followers — yet my mother is burning in Hell because she committed the one “sin” that can never be forgiven — self-murder?

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Barbara Gerencser, 1956, age 17

Mom is buried at Fountain Grove Cemetery in Bryan, Ohio. From time to time, I will stop by the cemetery and ponder what life might have been like for my mom had it not been for the men in her life. She certainly had her faults, but I wonder how much of the carnage that became her life can be traced back to her being sexually molested as a child and being raped as a young woman. Mom would divorce my father three years after Bob raped her. She would go on to marry three more times, always thinking that she needed a man in her life to survive. Such were the times, I suppose, but I know this for sure: I miss my mother and curse those who harmed her and caused her so much anguish and suffering.

As for Bob, he is where all people — good and bad — end up when they die: the grave. There is no Heaven or Hell, except for that which we experience in this life. While Mom had moments where she experienced the joys of Heaven, sadly much of her life was Hell. I so wish for her that she could have a second run at this thing we call life, but alas there are no re-dos. All I can do now is tell her story and work to make sure that the Bobs of the world don’t have a chance to harm others. And when they do sexually harm others, I want to be a voice calling for their arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment. Perhaps then, those who sexually assault and rape young girls, teens, and adult women will experience a bit of the hell they so richly deserve — Jesus and his forgiveness be damned.

And for the preacher who preached Bob into Heaven? Fuck you, John. Your theology has turned you into a bad person.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bishop’s Roulette

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Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

Today I am going to make a confession.  (How Catholic of me, right?)

As I’ve mentioned in earlier guest posts, I was raised a Roman Catholic and, in my late adolescence and early adulthood, “gave my life to Jesus” and became an Evangelical Christian. My belief was eroded, if you will, by a combination of reading, study, and experiences that included finally coming to terms with my gender identity, sexuality, and the sexual abuse I experienced from a priest. I didn’t have a moment when I blurted, “I am an atheist!” or even “I don’t believe.” Rather, I realized that, somewhere along the way, I’d lost whatever faith I had.

Even so, I made one final attempt to be part of a “faith community.” For about a year and a half, I attended services at a church that would have appalled both the Catholics among whom I grew up and the Evangelicals to whom I professed my devotion to “the Lord.” (When I say that, I think of all of those African-Americans and women I’ve heard referring to “The Man.”) At the suggestion of someone whom I esteemed, and still do, I attended the services and participated in the programs of an “accepting” congregation.

I worked with someone I’ll call “Jenna” in helping to feed un-housed people. She told me she was an atheist but got involved with the church for “social reasons.” One day, I asked her to explain. The church did charitable work in areas that were of particular interest to her, she said. That work included in LGBTQ equality and helping folks in places like the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia. Doing it under the auspices of the church “signaled” — she used that word — that she was “walking the walk.” Jenna’s family and friends didn’t take her work seriously — or believe she was doing it, especially the LGBTQ outreach — out of anything more than self-interest or money — never mind that she was a volunteer and used her own money to go to those places where she helped people, and to buy food, clothing and other items for the un-housed in our city — until she started working with the church. But she also admitted that being involved with the church spared her from having to explain her atheism to family members, co-workers, and others who wouldn’t have been sympathetic.

Likewise, that church legitimized, at least in the eyes of some people, the volunteer work I did in animal welfare, adult literacy, and LGBTQ equality. About the latter: I hadn’t yet come to affirm (or, in the parlance of the time, “change” or “transition”) my gender identity. But the church, which was among the first to hold funerals for victims of the HIV outbreak, gave me the “cover,” if you will, I wanted and needed in order to help people like me and to claim that it wasn’t about self-interest. Not only did my church involvement legitimize the work I was doing; but it also deflected the suspicions some people had about me. Hey, I didn’t even try to set some of my relatives and in-laws right (I almost said “straight” but the pun would have been too obvious!) when they expressed the hope that I would “meet somebody nice” and get married right on my second try.

Well, there would be no second try for marriage. Later, I did get involved in a relationship with a woman — whom I didn’t meet at church — and we lived under the protections of that document people associated with gay couples — the domestic partnership agreement — for several years. One funny thing, in retrospect, about that partnership is that it, like my church involvement, gave me “cover,” even among my conservative relatives and in-laws, at least for a time.

After being an atheist for, probably, about 30 years — roughly half of my life — I have come to realize how much legitimacy is conferred on all sorts of things done in the context of a church or other faith community by someone who professes his or her belief but is denied to those who do the same work without the imprimatur of religion. Also, there are some ceremonies and passages that are legitimized, by societal standards and even the law, by a declaration of faith or the “witness” of the faithful. Have you ever seen anyone take an oath of office without placing his or her hand on a Bible and ending his or her pledge with “So help me God” or words to that effect? And, even though conservative religious folks howl when cities, states, or countries tell people they can marry whomever they want as long as they are of age, those couples-to-be, whether they are two of the traditionally-defined sexes or nonbinary, are as likely as not to exchange their vows in a place of worship. Why? Sometimes they are trying to make their unions more palatable to prospective in-laws. Or one or both members of the couple may have grown up in the church and it is, therefore, the one place where everyone whom they’d want at their ceremony can gather. Another reason is convenience: while one can be legally married by a county clerk or some other secular official, getting married in a church or synagogue or other worship sites “kills two birds with one stone”: it sanctifies the union in the eyes of some and, in most places, makes the marriage legal, as, typically, the minister, priest or other officiating clergy member signs, along with other two other witnesses, the marriage license certificate shortly after the ceremony ends.

Knowing what I’ve just described, I am especially worried that far-right Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians, as well as conservative Catholics and their counterparts in other churches and religions, will try to make their churches — and, possibly, baptisms or professions of faith — the only way to give or receive charitable gifts or works. This is more or less the case already in Utah, where public benefits are among the lowest and most difficult to obtain in the US. As in most other states, caseworkers refer people who’ve been denied benefits to other organizations — including churches.

 In the Beehive State, most roads to such assistance lead to the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).  People in need are thus subject to “bishop’s roulette.” Some officials are generous with their help.  Others, however, are more rigid and judgmental, especially with LGBTQ people and single mothers, who are often assumed to be “sinners” who had their children out of wedlock. Or, if they are willing to help, it’s on the condition that the person in need reads aloud from texts, attends church, or even sets up a date to be baptized. 

When the intentions of churches and other religious institutions are assumed to be noble or pure, they lend legitimacy, in the eyes of many, to charitable work — or the denial of charity. Never mind that prelates and others in the church use their power to bully those same people they help, or choose not to help, or those who do the helping.  For now, I am living in a safely “blue” state where, while some religious groups have political influence, they don’t hold nearly as much power as the Mormons have in Utah—or religious conservatives, whether on the Supreme Court or in local school boards, want.  And for now, at least, most young people want little or no truck with religious institutions. Still, I worry that while the proportion of religious conservatives in the total population is shrinking, their influence is growing as they become more virulent and vicious.  I hope that one day I won’t have to proclaim faith I don’t have, join a church whose motives I can see all too clearly, or simply deny who I am, to get help I may need—or just to be allowed to rescue cats. And I hope those young people won’t have to be similarly duplicitous in order to get education, jobs, or housing because they ran into an admissions officer, HR Department, or loan provider who believes it is more important to “save souls” than to help. In short, I hope none of us become unwilling subjects in “bishop’s roulette.”

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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The Pastor as Gatekeeper and Why Evangelical Churches Continue to be Rocked with Scandals

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As the Black Collar Crime series makes clear, Evangelical churches have just as big of a problem with sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct as Catholic churches do. Thanks to the internet and increasing awareness of sexual abuse, people are now more willing to speak out, and if warranted, report their assaults to law enforcement. Some victims are turning to civil courts to extract justice from their abusers and those who facilitated a climate where sexual predators could prey with impunity. Churches and their leaders are learning that it is quite expensive to ignore or cover up allegations of sexual impropriety.

I am convinced that we have yet to see the full depth and breadth of criminal conduct that has gone on behind the closed doors of countless Evangelical churches. As I think about the fifty years I spent in the Christian church, including twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, I am increasingly grieved over how little churches and pastors did to address allegations of sexual misconduct. Victims were routinely disbelieved or accused of lying. Why Deacon Bob would never do such a thing, Sally. Why are you lying? Sometimes, victims were believed but told to forgive their abusers. Jesus forgave you, Sally. Shouldn’t you forgive Pastor Billy Bob? Other times, predators were run out of the church, and told never to come back. He’s gone now, Sally. It is time to move on. That is what Jesus would want you to do. What rarely, if ever, happened was the arrest and prosecution of offending pastors, youth pastors, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, and congregants.

I can only remember one instance where a predator was accused, arrested, and convicted of his crime, and this only happened after he was caught a second time sexually assaulting a teen boy. Even then, after “justice” was served, he joined up with a new Evangelical church and is “faithfully” serving Jesus. As a pastor, I regularly attended pastor’s conferences and meetings. It was not uncommon to hear whispers and stories about this or that pastor being accused of sexual misconduct. I would hear stories about pastor so-and-so abruptly leaving his church, only to find out later that he was caught at a motel with a church teenager or was fucking the choir director’s wife. One pastor was having sex with his secretary in his church office every Saturday while devoted members were out knocking on doors, inviting people to come to church and hear their “godly” on-fire pastor preach.  He was run out of the church, but later surfaced, as Jack Hyles’ son David did, in another community busily “serving” Jesus.

Years ago, a concerned congregant told me that an unmarried man who had been attending our church was inviting young boys to spend the weekend with him on his farm. I investigated the issue and concluded that the man was probably a pedophile. What did I do? I ran the guy out of the church. I angrily told him that I knew exactly what he was. I also called the pastor of another Evangelical church the man attended and told him about the allegations. He agreed that the man, who is now dead, was likely a pedophile. Both of us thought we had done our duty by protecting church children from a predator. However, neither of us reported it to law enforcement, knowing that doing so would embroil our churches in controversy and harm the reputation and “testimony” of our respective churches. I now know that I did not do all I could have and should have done.

There were other instances of allegations of sexual misconduct or physical abuse, where I reported matters to the appropriate authorities. Later in my ministerial career, a man confessed to me that he had viciously murdered his girlfriend. I immediately called the police, who I knew were looking for him, and he was arrested. The man is now serving a life sentence in an Ohio penitentiary. Early in my ministerial career, my father-in-law, with whom I worked as assistant pastor, came to me and told me that a congregant had confessed to shaking his infant baby to death. At the time, the cause of death had been attributed to SIDS. I told my father-in-law that he should immediately report the crime to the police. He did, and the man was arrested and convicted of manslaughter.

Over my ministerial career, I became aware of child abuse on several occasions. One church member beat his children with a 2×4. One man who rode our church bus with his children, chained them to a radiator when they disobeyed. Another bus family allowed their young children to watch porn in the mornings while they slept in. I could go on and on . . . . Often, I reported these things to law enforcement or Jobs and Family Services (JFS) Other times, I tried to work my pastor magic. In retrospect, I should have reported every abuse report to the proper authorities.

child sexual abuseThe common thread running through the anecdotal stories above and current allegations/crimes is that often pastors serve as gatekeepers for their respective churches. Congregants are encouraged to bring ALL reports of sexual misconduct or other criminal behavior to their pastor. It is up to the pastor, then, to decide whether the authorities should be called. Keep in mind, pastors are not lawyers, nor do they have investigatory authority and skills as law enforcement professionals do. Unfortunately, pastors are often treated as a jack-of-all-trades. Most Evangelical pastors are not qualified to provide competent, professional counseling to congregants, yet, countless congregants are counseled by pastors who know little more than to quote Bible verses. Pastors are often considered vast repositories of wisdom and advice. Few congregants ponder whether their trust is misplaced. When pastors hear of accusations that could tear their church asunder, their natural inclination is to protect their churches’ reputations, thinking that in doing so they are protecting God.

Pastors wrongly think that they and their churches are indispensable parts of their local communities. Why, if scandal rocked the church, it would ruin our “testimony,” pastors think. There are souls to be saved and chicken dinners to be served. And just like that, pastors rationalize keeping wraps on all sorts of sexual misconduct, including the sexual and physical abuse of children. Where, oh where, are pastors who are willing to sacrifice everything to stand alongside victims of abuse? Is it not better for a church to close its doors than for it to silently stand silently by while sexual crime goes unpunished? No pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or congregant should be above the law. Yes, making allegations public can and will cause harm to churches and the families of abusers. But, the only way to stamp out sexual abuse in churches is for people in the know to be willing to report allegations to law enforcement and child protective services.

It is time for churches to take the gate keys away from pastors and other church leaders. It is time for congregants to be instructed to take their allegations to law enforcement and let them determine whether crimes have been committed. The duties of pastors are simple: preach, teach, and eat chicken and pie at potlucks. When pastors hear whispers of sexual misconduct that could be criminal in nature, they should not pass Go, nor should they collect $200. These men of God should IMMEDIATELY pick up the phone and call law enforcement (and if a police officer attends the church, he should NOT be the person to whom the alleged crimes are reported). Pastors shouldn’t investigate, call a board meeting, accuse the perpetrator, or pray about it. All of these things can wait until law enforcement has been contacted. The only people who matter are the victims. Yes, an allegation doesn’t equal guilt, but it not up to pastors and other church leaders to determine guilt; that’s for police and prosecutors to do.

Local prosecutors can help prod pastors and churches along by prosecuting them if they fail to report alleged sexual abuse. Many states consider pastors and church leaders mandatory reporters, who are REQUIRED to immediately report sexual abuse allegations; not investigate and then report, not pray and then report, not get your ducks in a row and then report; not huddle with the church board and then report. Throwing a few pastors in jail for not reporting might help other pastors “see the light” concerning sexual abuse.

The days of covering up allegations of sexual abuse are over. Pastors and churches who ignore this, do so at their own peril. From jail time to million-dollar awards, pastors and churches are learning that not only did Jesus take a dim view of those who harm children, so do those of us who believe that children deserve protection from those who dare to prey on them in the name of God.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Local Attorney Calls Me a Noted Flaming Liberal and I Feel Warm All Over

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Several years ago, I posted a letter I wrote to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News about black Defiance College football players kneeling for the National Anthem to social media.

Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Editor,

I write to lend my support to the Defiance College football players who have knelt during the playing of the national anthem. I commend them for their courage, knowing that most local residents oppose their actions. Their continued protest has brought calls for discipline, including expulsion from school. I commend college administrators and coaches for not bowing to public pressure to silence protest. These students, along with their counterparts in professional sports, need to be heard. Their protests have nothing to do with respect for the military or flag.

What lies behind their kneeling is inequality, injustice, and racism. While these issues might seem to locals to be the problems of urban areas, the truth is that we denizens of rural Northwest Ohio have our own problems related to these things. I recently participated in a forum discussion on racism in Northwest Ohio. Having lived most of my sixty years of life in this area, I can say with great certainty that we are not immune from charges of racism and injustice. We may hide it better, covering it with white, middle-class Christian respectability, but it exists, nonetheless.

Years ago, my family and I walked into a church towards the end of the adult Sunday school class. Teaching the class was a matronly white woman — a pillar of the church. She was telling the class that her grandson was not getting playing time on the college football team because blacks got all the playing time. She reminded me of a retired white school teacher I knew when I lived in Southeast Ohio. At the time, we had a black foster daughter. I had just started a new church in the area, and we were looking for a house to rent. This school teacher had a house available, so we agreed to rent it. When it came time to pick up the keys, she told us she decided to rent to someone else. We later learned that she said she wasn’t going to have a ni***r living in her house.

These stories are apt reminders of what lies underneath our country respectability. It is time we quit wrapping ourselves in the flag, pretending that racism, inequality, and injustice doesn’t exist. Our flag and anthem represent many things, but for many Americans, they represent oppression and denial of human rights; and it is for these reasons, among others, that players kneel.

Bruce Gerencser

Ney, Ohio

Many white — we’re not racists — locals have been in an uproar over the players not kneeling. In their minds, the players are disrespecting veterans and the flag — regurgitating Donald Trump’s lie. Never mind that the players say their protest is about inequality, injustice, and racism — locals know better. The faux outrage has reached hysterical levels on social media — especially on two local Facebook groups.

As is my custom, not wanting to waste my time trying to change the hearts and minds of people who already think they know everything, I stayed out of the discussions. One discussion, however, was so egregious that I decided to say my piece. Here are several screenshots of my short interaction with a local lawyer. Enjoy!

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Just another day in rural, white, Christian, Trumpist northwest Ohio

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser