Tag Archive: Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Eternally Shielded in Rome

sistine chapel

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

When you go to France, people expect you to complain about the French. On the other hand, if you go to Italy, they expect you to rave about Italians.

Well, I confound both expectations. I have been to France several times, and lived there. Yes, there are rude and arrogant French people, particularly in Paris. But I live in New York, so I am rarely put off by other people’s attitudes. And I have encountered many French people who are helpful and generous, including some who have become friends.

Moreover, as someone who loves history, the arts and bicycling, there seems to be no end to what France can offer. Oh, and they sure know how to do food!

Of course, I can say the same for Italy. Now, I will grant that, on the whole, Italians are, if not warmer, then at least more emotionally demonstrative than the French are. I’ve met some who are generous and truly wonderful in all sorts of ways. Oh, and dare I say this? I prefer Italian coffee.

Still, on my most recent trip to Italy — the summer before last — I didn’t enjoy myself, at least for part of it. In fact, I was depressed enough that I didn’t even want to taste gelato.

You might have guessed that part of my trip was in Rome. Don’t get me wrong: I was happy to see the Forum and Coliseum, and to wander through ancient streets on foot and by bicycle. But, even in the seemingly endless sunshine of Roman summer days, I felt as if were enveloped in a gray rain.

At first, I thought I was just feeling guilt over leaving Chairman Meow, my aging cat whose health took a turn for the worse after I booked the trip. I called my friend, who was taking care of him. She assured me that he was okay, and I had no reason not to believe her: She rescued him and nursed him to health before I adopted him.

Still, I could not shake the gloom that gripped me. That I couldn’t fathom any reason for it made it all the worse.

It finally made sense when, as you might have guessed, I visited the Vatican. It’s one of those things you’re “supposed” to do in Rome; mainly, I wanted to see the Sistine Chapel again. I did, but even seeing one of the greatest accomplishments of one of my artistic heroes couldn’t lift my spirits.

I felt as if I were being crushed, and it wasn’t because of the crowds of tourists that surrounded me. And it wasn’t just the stifling heat and lack of space that made it difficult to breathe. Rather, I felt more like I was stuck in a vise-like pair of giant scissors. I just wanted to get out. The last thing I wanted was to get sick in that place: I might’ve gotten the best medical care available, but I felt as if I would never get out of the grip of the pincers I felt around me.

Later, I realized that those levers I felt at my sides; the crush I felt against my chest, were human legs and another human chest. Except that, even in that crowd, no one was that close to me: I would not allow it. In fact, I also wanted to get out of there because I did not want to end up in the hands of the Carabinieri if I kicked or punched — or in an asylum, in a foreign land, if I screamed.

What I realized, later that night, was that for the first time in years, I was re-living the sexual molestation and abused I suffered, as a child, from a parish priest. And, although I didn’t verbalize it, I understood that I was in the world headquarters, if you will, of the very organization that enabled my abuser. Even so, I would never get to say anything to the old men—priests—who run the organization, any more than I would have the opportunity to confront my long-dead abuser.

I also understood why I visited the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore — one of the major Papal basilicas and the largest Marian church in Rome — just once, even though it stood less than a block from the hotel where I stayed. Although I was awed by the mosaics as well as the other artwork — It was fabulous, even in comparison to other artistic and historical treasures of a city so full of them! — I couldn’t wait to get out of it and away from the piazza that rings it.

At that moment, the enormity of the place, and its close association with the Papacy, was enough to make me want to scream. But the following night, I was looking for something else on the internet when I came across an article about the basilica — or, more specifically, the cardinal who was its archpriest from 2004 until 2011.

He was none other than Bernard Francis Law. Although he wasn’t involved in the diocese in which I grew up, I couldn’t see him as anything but someone who covered for priests like the one who abused me.

After he resigned as Archbishop of Boston, Law moved to Rome. Shortly thereafter, Pope John Paul II appointed him to his post at Santa Maria Maggiore. This move made Law a citizen of Vatican City and, thus, immune to prosecution by US authorities.

When I looked at the domes of Santa Maria Maggiore again, all I could see were golden parachutes. That there were beggars around the church didn’t surprise me; I could only wonder how many other functioning but broken people — people broken by the priests shielded by Law and others like him — shuffled past the church on Esquiline Hill every day. For a few days, I was one of them.

The rest of my trip to Italy — which I spent in Florence — was better. But I needed to get home: I had much work to do. And, I confess, when people asked whether I had a good time in Italy, I nodded and mouthed the usual platitudes about the food and culture and history.

P.S. I am of (mostly) Italian ancestry.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Victor Monteiro Pleads Not Guilty to Sex Crimes

victor monteiro

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Malo “Victor” Monteiro, former youth pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, California and former assistant pastor at Menifee Baptist Church in Menifee, California, stands accused of sexually abusing numerous children over a twenty year period. On August 16, 2018, Monteiro pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Three women have gone public with allegations that Monteiro sexually molested them while employed as a youth pastor at Faith Baptist Church — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution.

Joe Nelson, a reporter for The Press-Enterprise wrote a feature story detailing the allegations. What follows is an excerpt from his report:

April Avila said she was 14 when her youth pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar began grooming her for sexual abuse.

It started out as horseplay with Malo “Victor” Monteiro, who was twice the girl’s age. He would throw a playful jab to her arm, teasingly touch or tug at her hair, call her pet names, and often ask her to help with special projects and work.

Then, things got intimate.

Malo “Victor” Monteiro, 45, of Colton was arrested July 27, 2018, on suspicion of sexually assaulting several underage girls, members of his youth group at Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, from 1999 to 2017.

“What was once a friendly punch to the shoulder became a caressing touch. He would often wrestle me to the ground in response to teasing, his hands ending up in the wrong places. He would splash water on my shirt or push me into a pool or the ocean and then stand and watch as I walked out, laughing and ogling the entire time,” Avila, 32, said in an “open letter” she recently posted on Facebook.

Two other alleged victims of Monteiro, as well as Monteiro’s sister-in-law, Kathy Durbin, also have posted their stories on Facebook. Durbin claims to have been sexually abused in her teens by the church’s former bus director, which was never reported to police, even though church pastor Bruce Goddard and his wife knew about the allegations.

The four women went public with their stories following Monteiro’s July 27 arrest by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department on suspicion of molesting several teenage girls from the church over an 18-year period, from 1999 to 2017. They said they hope that by coming forward, any others who have endured similar abuse will be encouraged to come forward as well.

….

Less than 10 days before Monteiro’s arrest, one of his alleged victims, Rachel Peach, filed a lawsuit against Faith Baptist Church in Riverside County Superior Court, alleging the church was negligent in allowing the abuse to occur. Peach claims her relationship with Monteiro started in the fall of 2007, when she was 15, and advanced to sexual intercourse in the summer of 2008.

Monteiro, according to the lawsuit, threatened Peach, telling her if anyone found out “it would damage her reputation and he would simply deny it.” She claims the church was aware of other inappropriate sexual relationships between youth pastors and their congregants and should have known Monteiro had been sexually abusing her.

Bruce Goddard, pastor of Faith Baptist Church, did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.

Grooming started with texts
Although the Southern California News Group typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, Avila, Peach and another woman, Lea Ramirez, have come forward publicly with their stories. Ramirez claims she was 14 when she began receiving inappropriate text messages from Monteiro, who is married and has four children.

“I was confused because he was a married man, but flattered that he was thinking about me. He was my youth pastor, after all,” Ramirez said in her Facebook post. She said she never had sexual intercourse with Monteiro, but added that he would make her feel guilty when she refused.

“He then became very persistent and would say things like, ‘Stop pretending you don’t want it.’ ‘You’re all talk and no game.’ ‘You’re just a tease,’ ” Ramirez said in her Facebook post. She said Monteiro was the reason she left the church when she was 15.

Durbin, Monteiro’s sister-in-law, alleges she was a victim not of Monteiro, but of the church’s former bus director — a man whom she considered a father figure and whose family she often babysat for. He initiated a sexual relationship with her in the early 1990s, when she was 15. He frequently complimented her on her looks, bought her gifts, and was someone Durbin could confide in. Father-daughter-like kisses on the cheek turned into kisses on the lips, and then the two started having sex.

“I didn’t like it. I felt awkward and it was uncomfortable and gross,” said Durbin, 43, who now lives in Montana with her family. “I was emotionally his little girl, and so I let him have what he wanted to keep this father-daughter relationship going. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, it’s very clear that he had groomed me.”

When Goddard learned of the relationship, he did not contact police, but instead moved the bus director, who was never charged with any crime and therefore is not being named, to another church out of state, according to Durbin. She said Goddard’s wife, Tammy Goddard, blamed her for what happened and called her a “homewrecker.”

“She just assumed it was my fault. I just remember sitting there crying and feeling so completely alone. I remember regretting telling Pastor Goddard,” Durbin said in her Facebook post.

She said she and Monteiro both attended the church as teens, and that Monteiro was aware of what happened to Durbin because he was dating her sister, whom he married.

“Victor has used my story and the cover-up of my situation to keep multiple teen girls quiet about what he was doing to them,” Durbin said. “Victor told these girls my story and that nothing happened.”

….

You can read the entire story here.

You can read a previous story about Pastor Bruce Goddard here.

Everybody But the Church Understands

rape is never the victims fault

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Not so long ago, rape was seen merely as a “sex crime.” I say “merely” because its “sexual” designation made it, at best, less worthy of attention or, worse, something the victim brought on herself. (Rape was also, for all intents and purposes, defined as something done to a woman by a man.) Thus, it could be seen as something that happened because a woman was out at the wrong time or wearing the wrong clothes — not a way in which one human being violated another.

But then a shift occurred. As someone who is not a criminologist or a scholar in any related field, I can’t tell you what caused the changed. What I know, however, is its result: policy makers and law enforcement officials are, increasingly, treating rape as a violent crime. While there are still police officers and departments, as well as public officials, who treat victims with condescension or even hostility, increasing numbers are doing what they can to give rape victims the same sort of attention and avenues of redress afforded people who have been mugged or suffered other random assaults — which, of course, is what they deserve.

Thankfully, I see a similar sort of change in the winds for people who have been sexually molested by priests or other authority figures, including employers, teachers and directors. One result is that more of us are coming forward, whether in the days or weeks after the incidents — or even decades later, as I finally did.

This is not to say, of course, that coming forward is easy or without repercussions: why do you think I’m writing under a nom de plume? But the fact that I, and others, have been able to speak up, in whatever ways and to whomever (I’ve told a few good friends as well as a therapist and social worker) shows that at least some people have a different, and more accurate, perception of sexual harassment, molestation, abuse and assault from the ones they had just a few years ago. And, of course, people who hadn’t been paying attention are now focused on the issue.

The change I see is this: people are starting to understand that when a priest takes advantage of an altar boy who doesn’t yet know the names of the parts of his body the priest is touching — or a director demands sex of an aspiring actress — or a coach or trainer forces him- or herself on an athlete whose life plans depend on staying on the team and keeping a scholarship — it’s no more a mere “sex crime” than the attack of a waitress on her way home from the lobster shift — a work shift that covers the late evening and early morning hours — or forced intimacy by a spouse, shift  partner or paramour. Instead, the abuses I’ve described are abuses of power imbalances — and, perhaps even more important, abuses of trust.

That last point cannot be overstated. People usually enter marriages trusting each other. Employees go to their jobs trusting that their supervisors or employers will treat them with personal and professional respect. And, every day, parents entrust their kids with — and teach their kids to trust — teachers and coaches.

And priests. In communities like the one in which I grew up, priests were trusted more than anybody else. That is one reason why abuse and molestation from them is so traumatic and alienating: The faith parents and other adults have, and teach their children to have, in their priests—whom they see as representatives of God — makes it difficult, if not impossible, for kids to speak up, even if they have the language to do so.

That implicit, unquestioned trust in priests makes abuse from them all the more egregious: violating that trust is worse than almost anything else that can be done to a vulnerable child — or, for that matter, to adults who lack the confidence to speak with other kinds of professionals. Very often, people like the ones with whom I grew up could confide in almost no one else, and they and their kids don’t have much else in their lives besides work, school, family and the church.

People are outraged over sexual abuse from priests, as well as other authority figures, because they’ve come to understand what I’ve described. My closest friend, the widow of a blue-collar worker, “gets it.” So does another friend who grew up without religion and says she never experienced abuse from anybody. So does a male friend who has practically no formal education.

Lots of other people get it, too. Sometimes it seems everybody does — except for Church officials. Rather than seeing sexual abuse by priests as an exploitation of trust and power, the church blames other things. Like the Sexual Revolution — never mind that victims have been reporting abuse they incurred decades before the SR supposedly corrupted us. Or homosexuality — forgetting that nearly all men (including priests) who sexually molest boys never have any sort of sexual experience with adult men, or any desire for it.

That last fact about the proclivities of pedophiles is something that I knew even before I had the language for it — or for my own body or desires, for that matter. I suspect most people these days understand as much, even if they’ve never read the research that corroborates it.

I understand. They understand. Everyone, it seems, understands — except for church officials — that priests preying on vulnerable young people is, more than anything, an abuse of trust. Perhaps it’s just not in their interest to understand. In the meantime, if not the sexual revolution or gays, they’ll find something or someone else — including the victims themselves — to blame.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Ray Comfort on Why Catholics Priests Molest Children

ray comfort atheists hate god

Recently, a very angry man took out his frustrations on me because of pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t blame him for being angry. His language would curl your ear hair, but I certainly felt his pain. He was frustrated because I was preaching in California, seemingly unconcerned that these robed vultures were perched in this religious institution and were swooping in on the most vulnerable among us.

He wanted me to stop preaching in California, and instead go to Rome, talk to the pope, and tell him to clean the filth from the Catholic Church.

I told him that I hated what was going on even more than he did. What I didn’t tell him is that there’s a reason that the Catholic Church is filled with homosexuals and pedophiles who molest little boys (most of the thousand known cases just in Pennsylvania involved boys). This is happening because the institution denies the necessity of the new birth. Jesus said in John chapter 3 that every one of us must be born again or we will not enter Heaven—which happens through repentance and trusting alone in Jesus. They believe that this happens at baptism.

The Bible speaks of this throughout the whole of Scripture—Old Testament and New Testament—where God says that He will forgive us and transforms us so that we love righteousness rather than sin.

If we let people into any religious institution without the new birth, they’re going to take their sinful heart with them, whether it be homosexuals molesting boys or heterosexual priests peering at pornography.

Another contributing factor is that the Roman Catholic Church denies the biblical revelation of the sinful nature of mankind; they claim that even atheists don’t need God’s forgiveness—that they will make it to Heaven without the new birth. They also embrace the unscientific theory of evolution—despite the fact that the Scriptures say that in the beginning God made us male and female.

Roman Catholics don’t allow priests to marry, when the apostle Paul made it clear that it’s better to marry “than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). The Bible also tells us that Peter was married (Matthew 8:14), and that when he and the apostles traveled they took their wives with them (1 Corinthians 9:5).

Yet this monstrous institution has lived on, hiding these criminals from man’s justice for all those years. Every one of us should be as outraged as my foul-mouthed and furious friend. But we should also look at our own sinful hearts, come to the cross, and be born again.

— Ray “The Banana Man” Comfort, The Christian Post, Furious Man Rants About Pedophile Priests, October 21, 2018

Memo to Ray Comfort: Clean up your own back yard first. Evangelicalism has a huge sexual abuse problem. Evangelicalism also has a problem with preachers preying on congregants, using them to fulfill their wanton sexual desires. It’s easy to attack the Catholic church, and quite frankly they deserve it, but you ignore the growing sexual abuse/sexual misconduct scandal in his own back yard. Are all these offending Evangelical preachers, youth pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, college professors, and parachurch leaders “unsaved” too? Have they all followed after a “false” gospel?

How Evangelicals Use the Bible to Justify Their Support of People Accused of Sexual Assault

trump stands up for accused men

If I have learned anything over the past few years is that Evangelicals have sold their souls to the Devil in exchange for political power and a handful of culture war trinkets. Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination hearing made it clear that many Evangelicals have no problem with men who sexually assault women as long as those men can be used to advance their theocratic agenda. We should have expected this. After all, baby-Christian Donald Trump said:

I moved on her [Nancy O’Dell], and I failed. I’ll admit it.

I did try and fuck her. She was married.

And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture—I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her [Arianne Zucker]. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything

And eighty-one percent of voting Evangelicals STILL elected the man to the highest office in the land. If Evangelicals are willing to ignore Trump’s vile behavior, is it any surprise they support Brett Kavanaugh — despite his lies about his high school and college drinking habits and sexual proclivities? Think, for a moment, of all the Evangelicals who have come to this site to defend their pastors when I post a Black Collar Crime story about his alleged criminal behavior. Victims are called liars, whores, seductresses, Jezebels, and the like. This is not surprising. Evangelicalism is built on a complementarian foundation. Women and teen girls are expected to gatekeepers, covering themselves up lest weak, horny, uncontrollable Evangelical horn-dog males take sexual advantage of them. If they fail to do so? It’s their fault.

Think I am overplaying my hand? Consider this comment on an Evangelical forum:

was ford a virgin

I guarantee you countless Evangelical men and women have had similar thoughts. Evidently, prior sexual history or poor judgment is justification for ignoring allegations of sexual assault. In their minds, the whore got was coming to her. Don’t want to be raped, don’t drink or don’t go into rooms alone with boys. In other words, it’s the victim’s fault. It is ALWAYS her fault, to some degree or the other. To this day, some of Jack Schaap’s supporters believe the teen girl he sexually assaulted came on to him. She seduced him, they say. It matters not that he was old enough to be the girl’s father and was her pastor/counselor. In the minds of his defenders, if the victim hadn’t been a Jezebel, why Schaap would still be CEO of the Hyles Empire — First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana and Hyles-Anderson College.

Evangelicals say they are “people of THE Book,” people who believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, and infallible text. In their minds, if they can find a proof text for their abhorrent beliefs, all is well. I have heard Evangelicals use several proof texts to justify their support Roman Catholic Brett Kavanuagh. That they support a Catholic is astounding enough. Before the culture war fomented by Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich in the late 1970s, Evangelicals considered Roman Catholicism a cult. Many Evangelicals believed the Catholic church was the Great Whore of Babylon mentioned in Revelation 17.  Evidently, if it means overturning Roe v. Wade — Evangelicalism’s golden calf — Evangelicals are willing sacrifice their beliefs on the altar of political expediency.

Today, I received an email from an Evangelical man who said:

The absurdity of the Billy Graham rule? Apparently you haven’t read the bible :

Genesis 39:1-20

Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph ..He refuses her advances and runs from her. .Furious, she takes her revenge by accusing him of attempted rape.

In Genesis 39:1-20, Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph. He refuses her advances and runs from her. .Furious, she takes her revenge by accusing him of attempted rape.

While the email writer was addressing the Billy Graham Rule, I am sure his words could apply to Brett Kavanaugh too. In Genesis 39:1-20, we have a fanciful story about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.  According to the Good Book®, the wife of a captain in Pharaoh’s guard had the hots for Joseph:

And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured. And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out. And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home. And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out. And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

According to Evangelicals, Brett Kavanaugh, much like Joseph, was falsely accused of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh’s supporters believe there was no evidence to support Blasey-Ford’s claims (or that of two other women), thus he is innocent of all charges. Wait a minute, where’s the evidence for Joseph’s claims? The account in Genesis 39 was written centuries later. Its author was writing a story that had been passed down from generation to generation. No witnesses were brought forth to prove Joseph’s accusations? Why do Evangelicals accept this story as true? Oh, I know, it’s in the B-i-b-l-e. Evidently, living witnesses, yearbook statements, and the like don’t count, but words in an ancient religious text do.

The greater lesson, of course, is that Christian men should never, ever be alone in a room with a woman who are not their wives. Whores such as Ford lurk in the shadows waiting to seduce all who come their way. Isn’t that what is alluded to in Proverbs 7:

For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her [the harlot] corner; and he went the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

Another Bible claim made is that all accusations must be established in the mouth of two or three witness, especially those levied against pastors (and, I assume, Supreme Court justices and presidents). He said, she said allegations are to be rejected out of hand; well, unless the person in question is Democrat, as in the case of former president Bill Clinton. Here’s what the Bible says on the matter:

If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die. At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. (Deuteronomy 17:2-6)

One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. (Deuteronomy 19:15)

I have written several times about how these verses and others are used to insulate Evangelical church leaders from sexual misconduct allegations. (Please read If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen)

stoning of blasey ford

Finally, Evangelicals use what I call the “She Didn’t Cry Out” defense. Deuteronomy 22:22-24 says:

 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

If the woman had cried out then only her attacker would be executed. Because she didn’t, she too was stoned to death! Of course, Evangelicals pick and choose what they want to believe. This same chapter says:

  • Women shouldn’t wear men’s clothing (vs. 5)
  • Farmers shouldn’t use both John Deere and Case tractors (vs. 10)
  • Men shouldn’t wear cotton/polyester blend shirts (vs. 11)
  • If a man marries a woman, only to find out she isn’t a virgin, he is free to divorce her. If her parents can’t prove their daughter is a virgin, she is to be executed.  (vs. 13-21)
  • If a man sexually assaults a betrothed woman in the country, only he is executed (vs. 25-27)
  • If a man has sex with a virgin in the country and they are discovered, he shall pay the woman’s parents money and marry her.  (vs. 28, 29)

Ford and other Kavanaugh accusers shouldn’t be believed because they never CRIED OUT when the alleged assaults occurred. I am sure these very same defenders of Kavanaugh and Trump believe Bill Cosby got a raw deal. His accusers never said a word when he drugged them and took sexual advantage of them. NO Cry, NO Crime, say the bumper stickers on their cars.

The aforementioned verses are a poignant reminder of why Christians and atheists alike must tirelessly oppose the establishment of Evangelical Sharia Law in the United States. Let theocrats have their way, and there will come a day when abortion doctors and women who had abortions will be charged with murder — a crime punishable by death. And who will theocrats thank? Their patron saints Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh. Historians will look back to 2018 as the year when Evangelicals cast away any pretense of ethics and morality, choosing instead of re-victimize millions of women (and men) who have been sexually assaulted, raped, or otherwise sexually violated. Isn’t that exactly what they have done for decades with their insistence that raped/pregnant girls/teens/women carry their fetuses to term? They showed everyone the callousness of their hearts, so we shouldn’t now be surprised with their allegiance to and support of powerful men who commit sexual crimes or otherwise behave in abhorrent ways.

Jesus wept.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Why We Didn’t Tell

help sexual abuse

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

They’re never gonna believe me.

Nearly all of us have told ourselves that, for one thing or another, at one time or another. Some of us, though, echo that refrain in our minds any time we have to tell someone — especially if that person is particularly close or an authority figure — a difficult, unpleasant or painful truth. Or even a mundane fact.

No matter how truthful or authoritative we may be, we will have our credibility challenged by someone, on some issue. For a well-adjusted adult, this is not a problem: Such a person has confidence that with the facts and reason on his or her side, others will realize that he or she had no reason to lie, misrepresent or cover-up.

Some of us, though, expect to have our veracity challenged at every turn. That can make us into angry, defensive people — in other words, grown-up versions of children who are acting out. Or it can turn us into people who don’t speak up, who don’t advocate for ourselves — or, worse, who doubt what our eyes, ears, skin and minds tell us.

I know of at least one way that happens. A friend and I were talking about it recently.

We have this in common: sexual abuse at an early age. She, by the mayor of the town in which she grew up — who just happened to be her father. And I, by a father — of my church.

The real difference between her story and mine, though, is this: She told someone. I didn’t.

The person she told — her mother — beat her and washed her mouth out with soap for “lying.”

Me? I knew that something like that would happen if I said “Father did this to me.” That is, if I could have: I didn’t even have the words to tell about it.

The results for both of us were similar: shame and self-doubt that led to self-censorship and self-abuse of one kind and another. Not to mention relationships with abusive people.

Her father is long gone. So is any relationship with her mother. She tells me she doesn’t even have contact information for her: She heard that her mother moved, somewhere, some years ago.

The priest who abused me is also gone, long gone. I never got to confront him. And, although I know where my parents and siblings are — I speak to all except one sibling regularly — I have never told them about my abuse. Once, not long ago, I was talking with the sibling to whom I am closest about something involving my parents. “You know, even though I’ve ‘come out’ (about my gender identity and sexuality) and they know about my work, I have never really shared anything with them.”

A pause. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

“Aside from the night I ‘came out’ to Mom, I’ve never told her or him (my father) anything really personal, anything intimate about myself.”

“They’re not the kind of people you can go to with a problem,” he sighed. “And, you know, you could come in soaking wet and they still wouldn’t believe you if you told them it’s raining.”

I don’t know whether my brother had an experience like mine, with that priest or some other authority figure. I can’t help but think, though, that somewhere along the way — perhaps early in his life — he had some experience he couldn’t, or wouldn’t talk about with my parents, or anyone else.

They’re never gonna believe me.

Although he’s accomplished a lot professionally, he’s confessed to me that sometimes he doesn’t speak up when he should, or at least when it might help in getting to the bottom of something. “It’s just not worth the trouble when you know you’re not going to be taken seriously,” for bringing a situation to the attention of a supervisor or official.

Or, worse: They’ll blame me for it.

That’s what happened to my friend after her mother took out her fury on her. Well, my friend wasn’t exactly blamed for her father raping her — remember, her mother was still in denial about it. Or was she? In her eyes, her daughter was “always up to no good.”

Her treatment, and mine, led to another eerie parallel in our lives that seems all but inevitable: It took us far too long to get the help we needed to deal with our abusive relationships and other difficulties because we didn’t think we would be believed, or at least taken seriously. Worse, we expected blame for our situations.

They’re never gonna believe me.

And they’ll blame me.

About all I know how to do now is to be the person who believes, and doesn’t blame —  my friend, or Christine Blasey Ford, or Andrea Constand. And, perhaps, one day, my brother—and others who have yet to tell their stories.

Who is to Blame?

fault and blameGuest Post by Stephanie

There was a time in my life when I was far from a feminist. No surprise there, when I went to a church where women were not allowed to preach and were taught about submission in marriage. I distinctly remember being on a youth group trip and being told I couldn’t wear a tank top or two-piece bathing suit. I was chastised for talking to a boy without direct adult supervision. Sexual assault wasn’t even on my radar. That happened to other women, out there somewhere.

It seemed as though women had no voice. Wanted a leadership position? Nope, that’s for men; women are to be silent. Want to ask out a man? Nope, that’s not proper. Dare to show some skin? You got what was coming to you. Have to protect your virtue; your body belongs to your future husband! Abortion? Completely out of the question. Even birth control was sketchy — why would you reject God’s blessings? Every woman wants to be a mother! The message was clear, we know what’s best for you.

I started to actually listen to women. I learned that sexual assault is, tragically, not uncommon. I could fill this entire piece with stories of women I’ve known who have endured such abuse. The friend who was assaulted at a party and never reported. The woman who was raped at a music festival as a young girl and never reported. The woman who endured years of physical and sexual assault at the hands of her husband.

The story that sticks with me is one that is personal to me. I knew a rapist. He was a co-worker. I also knew the woman he assaulted. At the time I was working in an assisted living facility, mainly memory care with residents with advanced forms of dementia. I assisted them with dressing, eating, all the activities of daily living, trying in my own way to give them some quality of life, as were most of the other employees. There was one resident with advanced dementia, I’ll call her “Mary.” She had trouble communicating but was usually happy and compliant. One night the male co-worker was working alone on one particular unit where “Mary” lived. Shift goes on as usual, then suddenly everyone starts shifting around. I’m puzzled. I see the male co-worker sitting in a conference room by himself. He doesn’t say anything. His head is down. I think it’s strange but I don’t question it too much. Then the next day comes and the truth comes out.

A co-worker pulls up a news article. In the headline: “sexual assault,” his face prominently featured. I didn’t process what I was reading. When it sank in that the male co-worker sexually abused a resident, whom I later found out was “Mary,” I felt sick. It’s hard to describe a visceral reaction like that. I drove home while my mind raced and I cried. How could someone who didn’t even seem dangerous hurt a sweet, vulnerable old lady? How could I trust the men around me knowing one was a rapist and I couldn’t even see it? Knowing that women aren’t even safe in a long-term care facility, I was devastated. Old age doesn’t protect from sexual assault. He got sentenced after a year and a half. How much time? Fifteen months.

My heart breaks. They ask why don’t women report? Dr. Ford was not believed and threatened. The president laughs about sexual assault and call dozens of women “false accusers,” and calls this a “dangerous time for men.” There are people in this country who don’t even care if Kavanaugh were guilty, they still wanted him in the Supreme Court. If the co-worker wasn’t caught in the act I fear he would still be free. He chose a woman who didn’t have the cognitive ability to report her abuse. Women are told over and over and over that they brought it upon themselves. The church wants women to be silent, never assert an opinion. Your body doesn’t belong to you. Trust us, we know what’s best. When we’re living in a world where women can’t even go to a woman’s health appointment without being told by other people what they should or shouldn’t do with their own bodies. Oh, and if you’re a man who has experienced abuse, you run up against toxic ideas about masculinity. You should have been strong enough to stop it, don’t be like a woman.

With these attitudes, is it really any surprise that women are blamed? Women need to be anything but silent. Be angry. Be angry every time a sexual abuser is let off lightly or not held to account at all. Be angry every time those in power try to take away a woman’s right to control her own body. Be angry every time the church places blame on the abused and pardons an abuser. I’m past the point of feeling ashamed if I get called “uppity” “bitter” or a “feminazi.” If standing up against abuse and destructive social attitudes and promoting women’s right to live with dignity and respect makes me a “feminazi” then I’m damn proud of it!

Ask yourself once again: “who is to blame?”

Abuse and Alienation: In The Church, Away From Yourself

alienation

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

In a previous essay, I wrote about the conservative blue-collar community in which I was raised. Although it was in one of the world’s major cities, it very closely resembled, in many ways, a small town or village.

For one thing, everyone knew everyone else—or so it seemed. Also, nearly all of us were living at the same social and economic level, and our parents and grandparents had similar backgrounds. Most of them even came from the same places: the grandparents, and in some cases the parents, of just about every kid I knew, were immigrants. They came, not only from the same country, but from a group of towns and villages within a circle of 100 kilometers or so.

That meant we shared the same culture and, if we didn’t speak English at home, we spoke the same language—actually, the same dialect. In my earlier essay, I mentioned that nearly everyone had the same attitude about the Vietnam War, which claimed young men from my neighborhood. Well, there also wasn’t much diversity of opinion when it came to other issues of the day, as well as political figures and other famous people. Even someone like my uncle, who regarded Martin Luther King Jr. as a hero, believed—like most of my family and neighbors—that “Hanoi” Jane Fonda was a traitor or worse.

One more way in which my community resembled a small town in the South or Midwest (or even in the more rural areas of my Northeastern home state) is that on Sunday, nearly everyone went to the same church. While the churches in those far-flung villages and hamlets were, as often as not, Baptist or Presbyterian or of some other mainstream Protestant denomination, ours was Roman Catholic. But the effect it had on us was not unlike that of those small-town denominations on their congregants.

For one thing, going to the same church inculcated us with attitudes and values that some of us still hold to this day. (So, for that matter, did attending the Catholic school I attended along with many of my peers.) Perhaps even more important — at least for a child, especially the sort of child I was — it gave me a sense of belonging that I could find nowhere else. I made some of my first friends in the church, and being an altar boy was really the first experience I had of male camaraderie: not only did we practice and prepare together for the masses, weddings, funerals and other ceremonies in which we served, we also went on picnics and other outings, including ball games, together. It was, I just recently realized, my first attempt — however doomed it was to fail — to forge some kind of male identity.

You see, in the neighborhood in which I grew up, there weren’t many other ways to meet your peers while engaging in positive (or, at least, socially approved and legal) ways besides church. For that matter, it was difficult for people a bit older than myself to meet potential dates or get any sort of guidance about life without going to church, or someone connected with the church. And for adults, there weren’t many other things to do after a day or week of work, paid or unpaid, besides going to the church—or a bar.

That means, in such an environment, that if you are not part of the church, you are not part of the life of your community. It means that you will probably have few or no friends, and may find yourself alienated from family members. Ironically, not having the relationships most people take for granted — or, purely and simply, people to talk to — is just as detrimental to someone who is different and who is bound to leave one day as it is for someone who could, and wants to, be wholly integrated and raise his or her children in such a place.

I came to understand the way alienation — caused by sexual abuse from a priest — affected my own development as a transgender woman only recently, when by chance I found myself talking, for the first time, about my abuse with other survivors—and hearing their stories. One is a gay man from an insular community deep in the center of America. He told me that because he couldn’t talk about the attacks he endured from his parish priest, he essentially couldn’t talk — or learn — about his mind or body. He therefore couldn’t understand, until many years later, why his body reacted as it did even though, as he said, he didn’t feel any sexual attraction to the priest. And it took him even longer to know that there was no contradiction between feeling repulsed by that priest and being attracted to men. Why, even his first therapist told him that because he didn’t enjoy (or consciously elicit) what that priest did to him, he couldn’t possibly be gay.

It took him two more therapists and a failed marriage to understand, finally, that he is gay. Not coincidentally, he came to terms with it only after he was able to talk about his experience with that priest with someone who understood.

As you can imagine, I cried while listening to him. I finally started to clarify, for myself, my own gender identity and take steps to live by it after I told someone about my abuse. Until then, I couldn’t make any sense of how my body responded, involuntarily, to his, and how it — or his actions — had nothing to do with whether I was a girl or boy, or gay or straight, or anything else. Until then, I’d gone through my life trying to live as a gay man — something unsatisfying to me — or asserting a kind of masculinity some would call toxic but which, deep down, wasn’t any more mine than a same-sex attraction to men.

Of course, in the place and time in which I grew up — and in the world in which I’ve lived until recently — sex and gender identity issues weren’t discussed as openly, much less understood as broadly, as they are now. But even by the standards of my schools, communities, workplaces and other environments, I did not talk freely (actually, at all) about my own identity or inclinations. Because the priest who abused me swore me to silence — and because I knew that even if I could talk about it, I wouldn’t, because I would probably be disbelieved or blamed — I learned that talking about such things was not merely taboo: it could end my life. Or so it seemed.

So I kept quiet and, probably as a result, had a roof over my head, food in my mouth and the opportunity and means to an education. But I lived in isolation from all of those people who could talk with their friends, families and others about the issues that, as it turns out, almost everyone faces at some time or another. They learned what it was like to meet people, to form bonds and to support, and be supported, emotionally. Or, through interacting with other people, they realized how and why they were different and figured out what they needed to do before embarking on courses of study, careers, marriages and other relationships — including relationships with themselves — that were bound to fail.

In brief, when your church is the center of your community’s social life — whether in a rural village or an urban enclave — being alienated from it (even when you’re still participating in it) makes it much more difficult to define yourself, whether by or against or outside of it. For people like me and the gay man I’ve mentioned — and, I’m sure, many others who grew up in church-centered communities — that is what is so damaging about being abused by priests or other authority figures — or, more precisely, being sworn to silence and secrecy about it.

The Far Reaches of Sexual Abuse

i believe you

Guest post by ObstacleChick

Awareness of sexual abuse seems to be at an all-time high. Whether the stories are from the entertainment industry, religion, politics, or your neighbor next door, it seems that more and more people are telling their stories. For some people, this is the first time they have felt safe to tell their stories. It is not uncommon for people to have tried to bury their stories deep within themselves for years, decades even. Now some people are ready to open up, and it seems that sexual abuse has lain just below the surface for decades, centuries, millennia perhaps, and now it is erupting to the surface. So many of my friends are coming out with their stories, and even if they are not ready to tell the whole story, they are saying “something happened and it traumatized me.” “Hear me.” “Believe me.”

This is not my story, but it is my mom’s story, and I believe that I owe it to her to tell it.

My mom died from metastatic breast cancer in November, 2014, at the age of 71. A couple of years before she died, she told my brother, my sister-in-law and me that she had been sexually abused when she was 5 years old. She said she had told only one other person – my stepfather, who had also been sexually abused as a child. That means she waited over 30 years to tell someone (my stepdad) and over 60 years to tell anyone else. We were stunned, but a lot of things about my mom and how she raised me made a lot more sense after this revelation. (I asked my mom why she waited until after her uncle’s death to tell us, and she said she was afraid I would call the uncle and rip him a new orifice; she was not wrong in her assessment).

My mom’s abuser was her 14-year-old uncle. While my mom said he never penetrated her, he forced her to touch him and he touched her. She didn’t go into detail about the experience – I suppose that even 60 plus years later she didn’t wish to relive it. He threatened her that if she ever told anyone, everyone would think she was a bad, dirty, filthy girl. He told her that people would think she was a liar. He also warned her that if she told her parents that her daddy would kill him and that it would be my mom’s fault if her daddy went to jail. As a 5-year-old, those were scary reasons that sealed her silence. She told us that she didn’t understand what was happening but instinctively she knew that it was bad.

Growing up, my mom buried herself in books, in schoolwork, and in learning. Books were her escape from reality. I remember my mom habitually reading 2 books of fiction and one book of nonfiction at any given time, and I was amazed that she could keep them all straight. As a voracious reader myself, I can only handle either one book of fiction and one of nonfiction, or two works of nonfiction. As a high school student, my mom excelled and was one of the few female students put into advanced science and math classes. In the late 1950s and early 1960s there was a push to pursue excellence in mathematics and sciences in order to compete with the Soviet Union’s advances in those fields, particularly in regard to the space program. My mom tied with another student for salutatorian in her graduating class of about 300 students, so the school gave both students a test to determine the salutatorian. As my mom was painfully shy and terrified to give a speech at commencement, she purposely answered questions wrong so she would not become salutatorian. I asked her why she didn’t tell her guidance counselor that she did not want to give a speech instead of going through the testing, and she said she never thought of that as she always tried to do what was expected of her. My mom’s parents had not graduated from high school, though her dad had completed refrigeration training courses through the G.I. Bill and her mom got her GED just because she wanted to. My mom’s guidance counselor suggested that my mom should go to college, so as a good girl, my mom did what she was told and enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University. She completed 5 semesters before dropping out and getting married.

Everyone always remarked about my mom’s intelligence but how quiet and sweet she was. As a teenager, my mom developed ulcers. She was terrified of going out in public, especially in any situations in which she might be alone. She told me that it was torture for her to walk past the college dining hall because she had to walk past all the windows where people looking out might see her. As she grew older and needed to work, she became better at managing her extreme shyness and fear of people, of being seen, but she never outgrew it completely. When I was planning my wedding, I told my mom that I did not believe in having someone “give me away” as I was capable of making my own decisions and did not want to promote an archaic system whereby women had to be “given away” in marriage. She thought I should not buck tradition and suggested that I should ask my uncle to walk me down the aisle. Knowing her shyness, I told her that if anyone should walk me down the aisle, it should be her. She didn’t bring up my walk down the aisle again, and I happily strolled alone as a symbol of my autonomy as a human being.

Unlike the parents of most of my friends at the time, my mom taught me about sex at a very early age. For as long as I can remember, she told me to fight, run away, and tell a trusted adult if anyone ever tried to touch me in my “private” areas. We even had an identification code for which adults she trusted and which ones she didn’t; if she referred to someone as Mr. Will or Ms. Betty, those were trusted adults, but if she referred to them as Mr. or Mrs. Smith, then they were not on the approved list. My mom explained sex to me with all the appropriate body part names and where they were located when I was 6 or 7 years old. She told me that I should not tell the other kids because their parents should tell them. I was repulsed by what she was telling me, but I knew that it must be true because I had witnessed dogs copulating. After my mom told us about her sexual abuse, suddenly it made sense why she had taught me about sex with the correct terms for body parts when I was as young as I was. I don’t know if she had similar conversations with my brother, but she may have.

Other things about my mom made more sense as well, like how she seemed to be afraid of so many things. She was easily startled by sudden or loud noises. She was terrified to walk anywhere alone. Her doctor prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, both of which helped take the edge off her irritability. My mom was in poor health most of her life, suffering from arthritis since she was in her mid-twenties in addition to a plethora of other ailments as she aged. My mom would not allow me to play sports or go too many places with friends, though there were 3 families at church with girls my age whom she trusted. She had two failed marriages, the first that lasted only a year and the second to my father, lasting only 4 years due to his emotional and psychological abuse. (In his next relationship he fathered 6 more children, and his abuse escalated from verbal to physical and sexual. None of his children has contact with him today). When my mom married my step-dad, she became the bully who verbally abused my step-father for the 25 years they were married until he passed away. My mom used books, food, religion, interest in politics, and craft and jewelry making as ways to derive enjoyment (and probably escape) during her life.

The only time my mom talked with me about the abuse was when she told us. She said that she had forgiven her uncle (I have not, but as he has passed away, I suppose the issue is moot). He was a retired chief master sergeant in the US Air Force, and he and his wife lived in Destin, Florida, near Eglin Air Force Base which was his last posting. The uncle and aunt used to visit his mother, my great-grandmother who lived with us, while she was still alive. I did not like this uncle, and I don’t know if I had picked up on cues from my mom or if I just did not like him generally. I asked my mom why she allowed this uncle around me when I was a child, and she said she knew that she was always watching and she observed that I did not like him and would not get too close to him. That is true — as a child I thought he was a jerk.

My mom coped the best she could. Who am I — someone who has never suffered from sexual abuse — to determine whether she handled things the right way or not? Each person handles it with whatever coping mechanisms he or she has. Would my mom’s life have been different had she not been sexually abused? I have no doubt that it could have been quite different.

Forgiveness is Not Enough, When it Comes to Healing for Sexual Abuse Victims

interceding virgin mary

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Much has been made of the smaller-than-expected audience and sometimes-hostile reception Pope Francis encountered during his visit to Ireland. While commentators noted the contrast with the more enthusiastic greeting that awaited Pope John Paul II when he arrived in 1979, they did not make the connection between something Francis said and young Irish people’s drift away from, or even outright rejection, of the church.

At the Marian Shrine of Knock, he begged for forgiveness of the sins of members of the Church of Ireland who committed abuse of whatever kind and asked the blessed mother to intercede for the healing of survivors and to never again permit these situations to occur.

One can say that, although he did mention young people who were robbed of their innocence and children taken from their mothers, his appeal was still too vague. And, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a priest, I feel that he placed too much emphasis on “forgiving” the “sins” of the perpetrator and not enough on the healing for the victims.

Then again, it may be that neither he nor the Church can do otherwise. For one thing, addressing the plight of survivors in a more specific way would open up the Church to even more scorn and more lawsuits than it already faces. But more to the point — at least from the point of view of survivors and the general public — clergy members, from parish priests all the way up to the College of Cardinals, simply are not equipped to help survivors move on from the abuse we have suffered.

What they, and the Pope, don’t seem to understand is this: those of us who have been sexually abused as children were traumatized. This is not the same as simply having one’s feelings hurt by a thoughtless word or some quotidian misdeed. It means that we have been changed, irrevocably, in fundamental ways. We lost our ability to trust, not only priests and the Church, but other people, even those with whom we have (or should have) our most intimate relationships. That is because, as modern research has shown, the stress caused by trauma affects our brains: It sensitizes the “reptilian” parts, which is more impulsive, and restricts the “limbic” area, which helps us record our memories and form our judgments from them. And, of course, that stress affects the body, manifesting itself in a number of health issues such as hypertension and diabetes.

So, while “forgiveness” of “sins” might give the perpetrator a clean slate, it does nothing to alleviate trauma and its effects in victims. If anything, asking (or, more precisely, guilt-tripping) a victim to “forgive” a perpetrator only re-traumatizes that victim. I know: whenever I’ve been asked to “forgive” someone who has caused me real harm — whether that priest in my childhood or an abusive ex-spouse or partner — it’s like another blow to my body, not to mention to my mind and heart.

As I’ve said, the Pope and most priests, as well-intentioned as they might be, simply don’t understand the difference between being sinned-against and being traumatized — and that the latter happens to children who are sexually molested by priests or taken away from their mothers. I think most of them can’t, in part because they don’t have the training that would allow them to do so. But even those who have such training, I believe, still operate under the belief that, when the victim forgives, he or she heals along with the victimizer. Too often, it just doesn’t work that way.

Really, all one can do after abuse is to prevent it from happening again. That doesn’t happen through “forgiveness” or “redemption.”  Only taking away the opportunities for abuse, for inducing trauma, can do that: priests (or any other adults) who abuse children must not be allowed access to them. And the abuse from my ex-partner stopped, not through “forgiving” him (as he begged me to do), but after an order of protection and the loss of his career.

Still, trauma remains. I work through mine every day. No amount of “forgiveness” can change that. I am sure other survivors could say the same — and feel exasperated or enraged, or both, by the Pope’s plea, even if he could not have acted in any other way.

Sexual Abuse Victims Have the Right To Be Heard — Whenever They Are Ready

catholic church sexual abuse problem

Cartoon by David Reddick

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

When I heard about the Pennsylvania grand jury report on children sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests, my reaction was, “Only 1,000 kids? Only 300 priests? — over 70 years?”

I am not a lawyer or any sort of expert on laws regarding child sexual abuse (or on any other kind of law, for that matter). But I do know that in most states, it’s all but impossible for anyone over the age of 30 to bring charges against a priest or church for abuse suffered at age ten, fifteen or even twenty. Depending on the state, a victim can only file a suit up to a certain age or, perhaps worse, a certain number of years (usually five to ten) after the abuse.

This all but prevents most victims from bringing their perpetrators — or the churches or other institutions that harbored them — to account. I know; I am one.

More than three decades passed from the times I was sexually molested by a priest in the parish where I was an altar boy until the time I finally told someone: my partner at the time, as we were breaking up. Until then, I had experienced a failed marriage, a bunch of other failed relationships, difficulties with supervisors and other authority figures, substance abuse, suicide attempts, financial ruin and general confusion about my sexual orientation and gender identity — the latter of which I began to resolve only after telling my now-ex-partner about my abuse.

The abuse I suffered — or, I should say, the experiences of abuse I can recall most vividly and terrifyingly — occurred when I was nine years old. I had received my first holy communion about a year and a half before that, and I was confirmed only a few months after the last of those incidents. The reason I recall those incidents most clearly and terrifyingly, I believe, has to do with the priest who committed them and the time in my life in which he victimized me. I will not get into either of them here; instead, I will try to answer the question of why it took so long for me to talk about them — and why the statutes of limitations regarding such abuse needs to be lengthened.

A Culture of Authority

That priest took advantage of my vulnerabilities — I was in a new school and didn’t have a very supportive home life — half a century ago, in the late 1960’s. That time is often associated with the Sexual Revolution and other changes in society, but those things could have just as well happened in a different world from the one in which I grew up. It was a milieu (a word nobody in that environment would have used) in which authority was to be, if not entirely trusted, then unquestioningly obeyed. Young men did not protest being drafted to fight in Vietnam; some even volunteered to go. Anyone who dared to question, let alone resist, fighting in the war was branded as a coward or traitor — or with the most damning epithet of all: Communist.

(My uncle, who was even more progressive than I am now on issues of race relations, gender roles and sexuality, nonetheless refused to watch any film, television program or other show in which “Hanoi” Jane Fonda appeared. He kept up this embargo until the day he died.)

Most of the men in my world — my own father, uncles and grandfathers, as well as those of nearly every kid with whom I grew up — were blue-collar workers.  Many had fought in Korea or World War II; nearly all had military experience of some sort. And just about all of us were children or grandchildren of immigrants who believed that their gratitude for what America offered them could be expressed only as unquestioning obedience, which they conflated with loyalty. I did, too, for a long time.

Most of them were also Roman Catholics, and their attitudes toward secular authority made them all-but-perfect candidates to follow the flock of their Good Shepherd — or, more precisely, his representatives on Earth. If you are of my generation and raised Catholic (I went to Catholic schools), you were taught that your parish priests, and even more so the bishop of your diocese, were just that: your connection to God, as it were. That, in a church, where the Pope is considered infallible.

You may not have known about that last doctrine (officially defended under Pius IX, but asserted long before that) as a kid, but you probably knew — or, more importantly, felt — the weight of the trust and authority granted to your priests and bishops. It was even greater than any power your parents, teachers or other elders held over you. When you are living under such an imbalance of power, you realize early on that if you speak up against someone who is held in as high esteem as your principal, let alone your priests or bishop, your credibility cannot hold a candle to theirs.

That is, if you can even explain what happened to you.

Human anatomy, let alone sex education, wasn’t part of the fourth-grade curriculum in my Catholic school — or most others, I imagine — in 1967. Or, for that matter, most kids’ homes, including mine. Even today, many parents avoid talking with their kids about the body’s processes, let alone sex, for as long as possible. In many families, even today, that discussion never takes place. I know it never did in mine.

So, when our parish priest molested me, I didn’t even know the names of the parts of my body he was touching. It almost goes without saying that I had no vocabulary, or any other way, to describe the ways in which my body reacted: I had not experienced anything like it before. I also did not have words, let alone expression, for the unease I felt: I knew that what he was doing wasn’t right, but I didn’t know why, and I never could have defended myself against those who would have blamed me for it. (Remember, this was at a time when the usual responses to rape were: What was she wearing? What was she doing there, at that time of day/night?) I am sure others abused by priests when they were children could say something similar.

Given the repressive conditions I’ve described — one in which authority is not questioned, church leaders have absolute authority and children do not learn about their own bodies, let alone how they can be used against them — is it any wonder that most victims don’t recount their abuse by priests to anyone but themselves — if, indeed, they ever do — until they are well into adulthood? Or that some never speak up about it? One reason, I’m sure, that the Pennsylvania report didn’t name more victims is that some have taken their stories to their graves. Needless to say, some are in those graves by their own doing. And, I’m sure, many priests parted this vale of tears before their victims could confront them. Mine did, about two decades before I told anyone, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

Whenever they are ready.

Thus, as long as there are implicit as well as explicit rules and forces that enforce obedience and silence, particularly among children, victims need the freedom and the space to discuss their molestation whenever they are ready — whether at 20 or 40 or 80. Whenever it is, we can only hope that it’s before marriages fail, jobs are lost, families are broken up, substances are abused and lives are ended prematurely. Victims deserve the right to repair or reclaim their lives; there should not be a time limit on that.

IFB Preacher Bob Gray, Sr. Explains How He Excuses Sex Crimes and Adultery

the-hyles-rule

Bob Gray, Sr. is the retired pastor of the Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas. Gray has spent his clerical career defending and standing behind men accused of all sorts crimes, malfeasance, and inappropriate conduct. One need only look at Gray’s resolute support of adulterer Jack Hyles (Please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles and The Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters.) and his sexual predator son David Hyles (UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored and Is All Forgiven for David Hyles?) Gray, a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College, believes, as did his god Jack Hyles, that if you didn’t see something, it didn’t happen. (Please read If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen.) In his mind, unless there are two or more witnesses to Pastor Johnny fucking his secretary at the Motel 6 or Youth Pastor Billy Joe having sex with a church teen in his office, then they are innocent of all charges.

Today, Gray took to his blog to defend Catholic Brett Kavanaugh of all charges. I find it hilarious that Gray — who hates Roman Catholicism as only a Baptist can — is defending Kavanaugh. Much like the “liberal” Evangelicals he condemns, Gray has sold his soul for a mess of political pottage. All that matters to Gray is that Republicans continue to control the government and that right-wingers dominate the U.S. Supreme Court. Why? Abortion. It’s always about abortion. That, and those damn queers who dared to come out of the closet and demand equal justice and protection under the law. Gray, as a man, has been reduced to being a shill for the Republican party, a man willing to defend all sorts of vile behavior if, in doing so, the desired political objective is gained.

According to Gray, all these women hurling accusations against Kavanaugh, President Trump, and countless other men, are a sign of the coming end of the world. Gray writes:

In recent days we have seen those who oppose Christian values use a very potent weapon against those who stand for what is right. It is a weapon that has been used since the beginning of time. It is a weapon Satan mastered and taught throughout the ages. It was first used in the garden of Eden against God. It has continued to be used throughout history. The Bible tells us that a sign of the times is the increase of the use of this weapon. What is the weapon you ask? It is a powerful weapon of accusation.

In our political arenas we have watched as the liberals have used accusation over and over again in an attempt to discredit an individual with whom they disagree. In recent days we have seen it used against politicians, Supreme Court nominees, and others who stand for conservative principles. Unfortunately we have also seen it used among preachers and Christians. Many an individual has been damaged permanently by an accusation that has been made against them. Political contests have been determined by accusation which were made. Nominees for positions in the president’s cabinet have been altered because of accusation. Accusation can literally alter the course of history.

In the Garden of Eden Satan began his attack on God by accusing him of not telling the complete truth. Joseph was placed into prison and stripped of his position because of an accusation. Our Saviour was hung on the cross to be crucified because of those who accused Him.

Gray goes on to list nine things Christians should do when hearing of accusations against someone:

1. Accusation must never stand alone.

Please follow that statement carefully. Accusation must always be accompanied by several things.

It must be accompanied with the proper presentation. The Bible clearly tells us that we are not to bring an accusation against an elder. The presentation of accusation should not be in the public forum. Accusation should be presented in the proper fashion.

It must be given to the proper person. When we accuse someone publicly we are not looking for justice as much as we are looking to influence opinion. A public accusation does not fix a problem. A public accusation creates a problem because it changes public opinion without justice being carried out. We must only accuse to the proper authority or person who is responsible for finding truth behind the accusation.

2. Accusation should not be assumed as true.

There was a day when we all believed that a person was innocent until proven guilty. We are now living in a society where guilt is assumed until innocence is proven. A person’s reputation is destroyed because we assume them to be guilty based upon what seems to be a credible accusation. In some cases we assume it to be true even if the evidence is by an unreliable witness. We seem to like assuming guilt. It is wrong to accept accusation as truth.

3. The accuser should be on trial as much as the accused.

This is critical. People who have been accused are often times judged while the person who accuse them is allowed to freely make the accusation without scrutiny. When an accusation is made the first person that should be scrutinized is not the one accused. It should be the one who made the accusation. What was their motive for making this accusation? What was their agenda in making this accusation? Did they make the accusation to the proper person in the proper manner? These are questions we should be asking when someone accuses.

4. Public accusation should never be considered reliable.

A person who makes a public accusation almost always has an ulterior motive. It is foolish to believe that someone who would use accusation to destroy a person’s reputation should be trusted.

….

5. We should not allow a person’s reputation to be changed by accusation.

Someone who has done much good is accused and suddenly we think bad of them. We don’t know the facts. We don’t know the reason they were accused. We know nothing other than what we have heard. To change our opinion of the one being accused merely because there is an accusation made is foolhardy.

….

6. Do not be the judge or the jury when you hear of an accusation made.

In fact, don’t be the private investigator either. May I just simply put it this way? Mind your own business. If it’s not your business to carry out justice then keep your nose out of it. You are doing no one a favor by deciding that you are going to be the one who investigates the person who has been accused. Do not make a judgment unless it is your area of judgment.

7. Defend the accused.

This is not popular, but it is the right thing to do. A person who has been accused should be defended until they have been proven guilty. Tragically we are cowards when it comes to this. Someone with whom we have had a friendship with for years is accused and we get as far away from them as we can to protect ourselves. What a cowardly way to behave. Stand by your friends when they are accused. I would rather be wrong in defending an accused friend, than to be right in having attack them before knowing the truth.

8. Apply Philippians 4:8 to all accusation.

It commands us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Most accusation would not stand up to that criteria so therefore we should not even entertain it in our thoughts. One reason to avoid receiving accusation is the danger of allowing your mind to think on the wrong things.

9. Never Never NEVER spread accusation.

If you spread accusation you are as guilty as Satan of accusing one of your brethren. Satan is the accuser…not just the false accuser. He is the accuser of the brethren.

….

10. Identify yourself with the accused.

This is one that I wish every Christian would follow. I would rather be identified with someone who has been accused than someone who is guilty of being an accuser. I run to the side of the accused. I identify myself with the accused. Christ was accused and I identify myself with him.

….

Well, there’s a load of bullshit. Is it any wonder, given Gray’s ten rules, that he repeatedly has defended adulterers, child molesters, pedophiles, and even murderers? Why, Jesus was falsely accused and so are good men who are having their lives ruined by accusations of sexual misconduct. I wonder what Gray thinks of pussy-grabber-in-chief, Donald Trump’s “alleged” rapes, sexual assaults, and adulteries. Just an innocent man falsely accused by women who want to destroy God’s chosen ruler?

Men such as Bob Gray, Sr. disgust me. His words reveal that he knows nothing about sexual assault and the sheer bravery required of women for them to go public with their accusations. And he sure as hell doesn’t know or doesn’t WANT to know, that very few of these allegations are later proven to be false. In other words, Bobby, you ought to be standing with these women. Instead, you defend and support their abusers and attackers. Shame on you for doing so.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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