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Tag: Sexual Abuse

(Updated) Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Frank Lenz Accused of Sexual Misconduct

frank lenz

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.

Frank Lenz, a retired Catholic priest, stands accused of sexual misconduct.

UpNorthLive reports:

A northern Michigan priest is on administrative leave after allegations of sexual misconduct.

According to the Diocese of Marquette, Father Frank M. Lenz, a senior (retired) priest with the Diocese is being accused of sexual misconduct with a minor dating back to the 1970s.

Records show Father Lenz has denied the allegation.

The Diocese said Father Lenz has been removed from all public priestly ministry and prohibited from presenting himself as a priest in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The Diocese said this is not a final determination of guilt. Administrative leave is a precautionary measure while a credible allegation is being investigated.

“On behalf of the Catholic Church, I offer a sincere apology to all victims of clergy abuse,” said Bishop Doerfler. “There is no excuse for what happened to you. You are in my thoughts and prayers, and I am willing to journey with you to find Christ’s peace and healing.”

Bishop Doerfler encourages anyone who may have suffered sexual misconduct by clergy, a church worker or volunteer to come forward to receive pastoral care leading toward healing. [ Yes, right after you report your allegations to law enforcement.]

….

WNMU-FM adds:

The action against Father Frank Lenz was taken because of a recently-made credible allegation of misconduct with a minor in the 1970s. Lenz has denied the claim.

The allegation has been reported to law enforcement and the Marquette County Prosecutor’s Office. Lenz has been removed from all public priestly ministry and prohibited from presenting himself as a priest, in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The diocese says administrative leave is a precautionary measure while a credible allegation is being investigated.

Lenz was ordained in June of 1969 and retired to Senior Priest status in 2007.

Diocese Bishop John Doerfler responded by saying, “On behalf of the Catholic Church, I offer a sincere apology to all victims of clergy abuse. There is no excuse for what happened to you. You are in my thoughts and prayers, and I am willing to journey with you to find Christ’s peace and healing.” [Sorry Bishop, but if you have been paying attention of late, offers of thoughts and prayers no longer suffice.]

….

Update:

In October 2020, TV-6 reported:

A Church tribunal has determined an accusation of sexual misconduct with a minor in the early 1970s against Father Frank M. Lenz is inconclusive. A canonical (Church law) process authorized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) was unable to establish guilt or innocence to the standard of moral certainty in the case.

The accusation was received by the Diocese of Marquette in early 2018. At the time, Father Lenz, a senior (retired) priest of the diocese was put on administrative leave effective immediately. In accord with diocesan policy, the allegation was reported to the Marquette County Prosecutor.

Following review of the accusation by civil authorities, the case was forwarded to the CDF, which authorized the bishop of Marquette to establish a special tribunal to adjudicate the case. Canon lawyers from outside the diocese heard the case.

Father Lenz has continued to deny the allegation.

From the time of the accusation, Father Lenz was removed from all public ministry and prohibited from presenting himself as a priest in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

In light of the tribunal’s decision, Father Lenz is returned to ministry with strict limitations in place by Bishop John Doerfler, which include prohibiting him from priestly ministry in parishes and schools.

NPR Story on Mack Ford, Sexual Abuse, and New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, Louisiana

mack ford new bethany home for girls
Mack Ford, Bethany Home for Girls, a Lester Roloff disciple and ritual child abuser. He is now rotting in the grave.

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

What follows is an NPR Morning Edition story titled Finding Strength In Shared Stories Of Childhood Sexual Abuse, featuring my friends Jo Wright and Tara Cummings:

New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, La., opened in the early 1970s as a religious reform school for, as its founder said, “the incorrigible, unwanted rejects” who “haven’t been loved and haven’t had a chance in life.”

Over the next three decades, law enforcement officials repeatedly investigated claims of physical and psychological child abuse at the school.

Joanna Wright was 16 years old when she first arrived at New Bethany in the 1970s. She says she had been sexually abused as a child and hoped the school would be a refuge. But she says when she got there, she was raped by the man in charge of the school.

“I thought something was really wrong with me, that I must be a really bad person because this keeps happening to me in life,” Joanna told Tara Cummings, who came to New Bethany when she was 12, in a StoryCorps interview. “I started to think, ‘How could I dismember my body and spread the pieces around so that God couldn’t find me and put me back together to punish me?’ “

The two spoke in 2016 at Joanna’s home in Cypress, Texas.

“I used to wish that I would come back as a cotton ball or a Coke can, completely inanimate so I could feel nothing,” Tara said.

The women attended the school at different times, but they crossed paths when women began speaking up about the abuse they say they endured at New Bethany.

Several women who attended the school have come forward in recent years alleging abuse — including sexual, physical and psychological — by the same man.

Joanna, now 58, and Tara, now 47, were part of a group of women who in 2014 testified in front of a grand jury that the man who ran the school abused them. In January 2015, the grand jury did not indict him, The Times-Picayune reported at the time. He died the following month. NPR is not naming him because he cannot respond to the accusations. While he was alive, he repeatedly denied any kind of abuse at the school.

The school closed in 2001. Over the years, Joanna told people of the abuse, the first being her father. He made her take a lie detector test, she says.

I always wondered, ‘What do people see in me that makes them think it’s OK to abuse me?’ And that was something that I carried even into adulthood,” Joanna said.

“It put a fear in me that I’ve never shaken. I don’t know that I ever will. You know, I always thought, ‘There has to be other girls, I can’t be the only one.’ And so I’ve always blabbed about it,” she says.

Tara, on the other hand, kept quiet about the abuse.

“I was a really good liar. Always being the preacher’s kid and putting on a perfect front. I think I was trying to move on. But to get out of the hiding was a game changer for me,” she said.

Tara says Joanna helped her learn how to stop hiding.

“I know you don’t believe in divine path,” she told Joanna, “but I was at a fork in the road. And knowing you has changed my life.”

Transcript

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls

mack ford new bethany home for girls
Mack Ford

As many of you know, I have long been an advocate for those abused at Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) teen group homes (re-education camps). These homes, some of which are still in existence, routinely used violence to force teenagers into “Biblical” submission. Some of the residents were sexually violated. Where was the state, you ask? Sitting on the sidelines, often ignoring the cries of those beaten, abused, sexually molested, and raped.

One such home was the New Bethany Home for Girls, owned and operated by IFB preacher Mack Ford. Ford, who died February 11, 2015, was a protégé of famed abuser Lester Roloff.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune published numerous articles about New Bethany. Unfortunately, many of these stories are no longer available.

Over the years, the victims of Mack Ford and the staff at New Bethany have tried to bring their abusers to justice. Unfortunately, Ford wore a Teflon suit, and nothing seemed to stick to him. Weeks before he died, a grand jury declined to charge 82-year-old Mack Ford.

Rebecca Catalanello, in a Times-Picayune feature article, had this to say (link no longer active):

A grand jury has declined to indict a man accused of raping girls who were under his care at a notorious religious boarding school in north Louisiana decades earlier.

Mack W. Ford, 82, of Arcadia, was the target of what law enforcement officials describe as a year-long investigation into reports he molested young residents at his now-shuttered New Bethany Home for Girls.

A written statement released Tuesday (Jan. 6) by Bienville Parish District Attorney Jonathan Stewart, said “the grand jury was given research and information regarding the statute of limitations with regard to each alleged act and, after deliberation, returned a no true bill.” A no true bill represents a grand jury’s decision not to indict.

Three women who lived at the home in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s traveled from three states to testify before a grand jury Dec. 18 about their experiences with Ford. Other witnesses testified Oct. 15 and Dec. 29, according to state officials.

The women said their grand jury testimony was the closest they felt they had come to achieving justice for the crimes they said were committed against them as young girls in the place Ford once described as “a mission project to the incorrigible, unwanted rejects.” But after a Louisiana State Police investigator notified them by phone Monday evening that Ford would not face charges, the former residents sounded variously dazed, outraged and despondent.

“If he had been indicted for just one thing, it would have been justice for so many people,” said Simone Jones, a 47-year-old police dispatcher in Kansas who told police that Ford raped her in 1982 or 1983. “Why does this man continue to walk free?”

The grand jury convened almost exactly a year after Jones and other former residents journeyed to Bienville Parish to support Jennifer Halter, an ailing woman from Las Vegas, as she fulfilled a dying wish to report Ford, who she said began molesting her shortly after she arrived at the school in 1988 until her 1990 departure. Their trip was documented in an April NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune series that chronicled decades of abuse allegations at the home for which no one was ever prosecuted.

Ford, who still resides at the former New Bethany compound at 120 Hiser Road, has declined to comment about the allegations against him. He could not be reached by phone Tuesday morning, nor could Jesse Lewis Knighten, a nephew who court records show assumed power of attorney for Ford in January 2013.

Halter and Jones said that Mike Epps, an investigator with Louisiana State Police, told them Monday evening that the grand jury decided that the crimes they described were not prosecutable under current law.

“The reason given in the short-term was not that the grand jury didn’t believe us. It was because of the statutes,” Jones said.

Jones told police she was 14 when Ford approached her while she was doing chores, asked her if she was “a pure lady,” unbuttoned his overalls and then forced her to perform oral sex.

Jones said that Epps explained to her Monday that though current law considers oral sexual intercourse to rise to the level of “forcible rape” in some circumstances, at the time she said she was victimized in the early 1980s, the law only considered it “oral sexual battery.” Forcible rape has no statute of limitations, while sexual battery does.

“They let us down again,” Halter said. “I can’t understand why it’s OK for these people to do what they do and walk away like nothing was done wrong. It’s like laughing in our face all over again. What is justice? When is enough enough?”

Halter told police that Ford was chief among her abusers during her time at the home. In interviews with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, she described repeated abuse, including frequent sexual contact by Ford during choir trips he chaperoned to churches in nearby towns and states — information she said she also reported to police in 2013.

Louisiana State Police Capt. Doug Cain said Epps would not be able to discuss the investigation or the grand jury’s decision. “We have to respect the court’s decision,” Cain said.

Former residents who were aware of the latest police investigation, recalled decades of abuse allegations recorded by state social workers and local police that never materialized in criminal charges.

“This has gone on for years,” said Tara Cummings, a resident at the home from 1982 to 1983. She said that if the statute of limitations was an issue, the state attorney should not have convened a grand jury to begin with…

…Ford created New Bethany Home for Girls 44 years ago on a plot of land 50 miles east of Shreveport, on more than six acres he bought for $30,000 from a 60-year-old widow, according to court records. The site had served as a penal farm and later a nursing home before he turned it into a home for what he called “wayward” girls.

New Bethany was affiliated with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church. Residents were subject to strict rules, harsh punishment and maintained restricted access to the outside world, according to interviews, news reports and legal documents.

“We are reaching out as a mission project to the incorrigible, unwanted rejects,” Ford told attorneys in a 1997 court deposition. “Destitute, lonely, prostitutes, drug addicts … These kids haven’t been loved and they haven’t had a chance in life.”

Ford was a high school dropout-turned-tire-salesman who said he was inspired to open the school during a retreat in Arkansas. There, he once said in a court deposition, he met two little blonde 12-year-old girls who had been impregnated by their father and was inspired to help such troubled children.

Until its closure in 2001, the school took in hundreds of children and young women from across the state and country.

To some who heard of New Bethany’s mission and others who encountered the school through its traveling girls’ choir it appeared a worthy charitable cause. But records, interviews, news reports and other documents show residents also went to extraordinary lengths to escape the home.

Stories of physical and mental abuse plagued New Bethany for almost as long as it was open, documents and news stories show. Girls who ran away from the school described brutal paddlings and harsh physical punishment. They were rarely allowed to call home and when they did, their calls were monitored, according to accounts.

Runaways often scaled the tall chain-link fence, crawling over the inward facing barbed wire at the top, and ran through dense woods to find someone who might believe them.

State and local officials escorted girls from the property during several raids. But the home was repeatedly allowed to reopen and reenroll children.

Ford became known for his resistance to outside interference. He filed federal civil rights lawsuits twice after state officials from child protective services and the state fire marshal sought to inspect the facility or question children and staff about their complaints of abuse. A federal judge in 1992 dismissed a lawsuit in which Ford asked the government to keep officials from interfering in New Bethany operations. Seven years later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision determining there was no evidence that state officials were plotting to shut down New Bethany, as Ford complained…

…Joanna Wright, 54, of Houston, sounded tired when she spoke about the grand jury decision this week.

Wright, a preacher’s daughter, arrived at the home in the mid-1970s at age 14, excited for an experience outside what she describes as her insular, fundamentalist upbringing. But she said Ford soon began molesting her and, in 1977, forcibly raped her on the New Bethany compound.

Wright said news of the non-indictment left her feeling numb. She said she had told authorities about what happened to her on several occasions — she said she told a social worker about it in 1993 and spoke to a district attorney in 1998 — and nothing ever came of it.

But in July 2013, haunted and frustrated by her experience and the experiences of those she knows, Wright reached out to Jump, the assistant district attorney in Bienville Parish, and told her she was ready to make a police report in person.

On July 11, 2013, Jump wrote back:

“We are a long way from being able to arrest him. I have to sift through this stuff and talk to someone who was raped at the home and is willing to testify to that fact. And then determine if I can win the case. I don’t think it would be good for anyone [sic] of the victims to go through with what it would take to convict him if we can’t convict him. I will do my best and anything within my power to see that justice is done. But unfortunately justice for some of the victims will not be served on this earth. He will have to answer to God.”

I am personal friends with a handful of the women who were incarcerated (and I mean incarcerated — against their will) at New Bethany. I know from talking to them that their time at Ford’s group home left deep, horrible, lasting scars.

Video Link

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Mother Jones published several articles about New Bethany Home for Girls: Survivor Snapshots From Teen-Home Hell and Horror Stories from Tough-Love Teen Home — both written by Katheryn Joyce.

Victimized No More is a great repository of information about Mack Ford and New Bethany. Sadly, many of its links are broken due to the Times-Picayune removing (or moving) Mack Ford and New Bethany stories from its site.

Times-Picayune articles:

New Bethany Home for Girls endured 30 years of controversy, leaving former residents wondering why

New Bethany Home for Girls: Timeline

Previous posts about Mack Ford and New Bethany Home for Girls

Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sin

The Dogma that Followed Me Home by Cat Givens

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

The Bryan Times Allows Pastor Luke Nagy to Use Its Pages to Savage Simone Biles

simone biles
Simone Biles, a woman who lives a worthless life, according to Bryan, Ohio Evangelical pastor Luke Nagy

Luke Nagy is the pastor of First Brethren Church in Bryan, Ohio. An educated Christian Fundamentalist, Nagy is a regular columnist for The Bryan Times. I have mentioned Nagy several times before:

Pastor Luke Nagy, A Theological Anthropologist

Letter to the Editor: Evangelicalism is One of the Most Hated Religious Sects in America, And They Only Have Themselves to Blame

Several weeks ago, Nagy penned a vitriolic attack on transgender people. The aforementioned letter to the editor of The Times was my brief response to Nagy (I had bigger fish to fry: Evangelicalism). Then, last Thursday, Nagy set his sites on Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.

Nagy wrote (behind paywall):

So, everyone seems to have an opinion about Simone Biles. And the opinions seem to range from: “You go, girl!” to “She betrayed ‘Merica!” Which is strange, considering nobody cares about women’s gymnastics who isn’t actively participating in women’s gymnastics – unless it’s the Olympics.
….
But I must admit, the whole story is deeply confusing! Biles says she needs to stop competing for her mental health. If her mental state is actually in danger, then bowing out might be the best choice. But didn’t she realize her mental health was this fragile until now? She didn’t realize the pressure was getting to her until after qualifying and opening ceremonies, when the rosters are fixed and she’s already competed? She didn’t consider that this might be too much for her? And even if she didn’t, she can’t just stick it out for a few more days? She’s spent her whole life training for this moment and she’s just going to drop out?
….

However, I think I already stated the real problem. You probably skimmed it over, so I’ll repeat it: “she’s spent her whole life training for this moment.” Sadly, and I can’t say that this is true for Simone, but it is true of MULTITUDES like her, her life revolves around sports, which is a cruel and merciless idol. Gymnastics is not kind to gymnasts, especially women gymnasts.

….

Most of these girls (and guys) build their life around something that is destined to end before their prefrontal cortex is fully formed! They dedicate themselves to something that will be of no use to them after they “retire” in their teens!

Sports is an idol, and like all idols, sports disappoints. I think Simone Biles is coming to grips with the reality that dedicating your life to being the greatest gymnast in history is actually a pretty meaningless and empty life. I think she’s learning just how soul-crushing it is to learn that idols aren’t the living and true God and therefore cannot give life, love, purpose or peace.

I’m sad she’s learning this in such a public and vulnerable way. But maybe it’s good that it’s public, so that maybe American parents will learn from this oft-repeated lesson and not subject their kids to idolatry. Maybe, but I doubt it.

Nagy is a Jesus-loving Fundamentalist, so there’s little I can say about his verbal assault of Simone Biles, athletes in general, and people who struggle with mental illness or other psychological challenges that will make a difference. The focus of this post is on The Bryan Times.

According to its web page:

The Bryan Times was founded in 1949 and has been owned by the Cullis family since its inception. Based in Bryan, Ohio, its coverage area includes Williams County and rural northwest Ohio, with a circulation of nearly 10,000. The Bryan Times is a publication of The Bryan Publishing Company, which also publishes the Napoleon Northwest Signal, The Countyline and Realty Northwest.

Chris Cullis is the editor of The Times. I have known Cullis for years. During my Evangelical days, I wrote numerous letters to the editor to the newspaper:

I also wrote several Community Voice editorials, 800-1,200 word articles that appeared on the editorial page. I found Cullis to be thoughtful and fair. Cullis had me re-write several pieces, concerned over the “tone” of my writing. Remember, I was a Fundamentalist Christian. I was, in effect, Luke Nagy. The difference between Nagy and me is that I grew up and matured, even going so far as to write a letter of apology to the readers of The Times for some of the things I said (I was still a Christian, at the time). Cullis asked me at the time, “are you sure you want me to print this?” I replied, “yes.”

Why is Nagy’s writing not subjected to tone policing (and Cullis was right about my tone) as mine was thirty years ago? It seems Nagy can say whatever he wants without an editor’s red pen being taken to his bilious screeds. In successive articles, Nagy has savaged marginalized people. While I don’t want Nagy to be censored — he’s the best advertisement for atheism I can think of — Publisher Cullis and Editor Ron Osburn could have attached editor’s notes to Nagy’s columns. Or they could have asked someone to respond to Nagy. That no clergyperson has responded to Nagy’s attacks on transgender people and Simone Biles is telling. When people don’t stand up to bullies, they will continue to verbally beat on those they disagree with. Memo to The Bryan Times: I would be more than happy to respond to Nagy’s column, but I cannot do so in the space of a four-hundred-word letter to the editor.

As I write this post, I am listening to the Cincinnati Reds-Cleveland Indians baseball game — a game played by people with meaningless, empty lives, according to Nagy. Except for the Christian athletes, of course. They have Jesus, so their physical endeavors matter. With Jesus, everything matters. Without him? Your life is worthless. I wonder if Nagy is aware that Bilies is a professing Christian? Of course, she’s a Catholic, so according to Nagy’s Evangelical theology, she’s headed for Hell.

Premier Christianity reports:

On finding out that his grandchildren were in care, Simone’s grandfather adopted her at the age of three and she was raised by him and his wife in a Catholic home. Her adoptive mother, Nellie, believed that God had called her to take in the young girl: “It was meant to be, without a shadow of a doubt, nothing was supposed to be different and it’s the best decision we’ve ever made,” she said.

As her talent shone through, Biles increasingly made gymnastics and training a feature in her life, leaving mainstream school in favour of home schooling in order to increase her training hours from 20 to 32 hours per week. Biles has always spoken openly about her faith, previously describing her gymnastic ability is a God-given skill that she believes she’s called to steward.

The Olympian said: “I think God gives every individual something special and mine was talent. So I never take it for granted. My dad always told me: don’t waste God’s gift that he gave you. Because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. One day I’ll be too old to do gymnastics. For now I have to use it to the best of my ability.”

Biles also uses her platform to speak about her faith and encourage others to be open about their own beliefs. Speaking to the Houston Chronicle in 2016, Biles said: “Kids today talk about faith, and I think it’s OK for me to share my faith so kids can see how it helps you through the whole process.”

In their faith-filled household, the athlete was always encouraged to pray and invest in her personal relationship with Jesus. Her mother Nellie said: “I am a very prayerful person so I encourage my children to do the same thing too, to pray. I know it doesn’t matter what situation you are ever in, you just put it in the hands of the Lord and he’s going to walk you through it.”

….

And it’s not just in moments of success that Biles has turned to prayer, the inspirational athlete has also said that she works through failure and hardship with the help of God.

Previously, she has said: “I didn’t make national team so I was super upset about that. But I knew that it was God’s way of telling me that I needed to go home, train harder, so that next year I could make it happen so I believe that some obstacles that we’ve had always work out for the better because God knows that without those you wouldn’t be as strong as you are.”

Aside from taking the practical, and understandable, step of withdrawing to protect her mental health, Biles will undoubtedly draw on her faith to support her at this time.

She said: “I was taught that you can go to him [God] for anything and he’s the one that directs your life. [My mum] would always tell you if you don’t know, leave it up to God. Pray to him about it.”

As Biles steps out to shine a light on the value of wellbeing over achievement, many will not see a woman crippled by weakness, but someone carrying a strength so vast, it can only have come from God.

Further, Biles is a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar. So in what universe is it okay for Nagy to use the pages of The Bryan Times to attack the character and mental health of a young woman, regardless of whether she’s a public figure? Never mind the fact that Biles’ aunt died during the Olympics.

Video Link

Here’s what Luke Nagy needs to do: apologize. And The Bryan Times needs to print his apology. Further, Cullis and Osburn need to stop printing whatever Nagy writes without, at the very least, some sort of editorial control. (I assume Cullis and Osborn do not agree with what Nagy has written about Biles and transgender people.) I know he writes a column for the weekly church page — a sermonette for Christianettes — but, make no mistake about it, Nagy is editorializing. Nagy asked if parents with sports-playing children will “heed” his “sermon”? He replied, ” maybe, but I doubt it.” The same can be said for Nagy apologizing. He speaks for God, and there’s no going back when you speak for the Big Man. Rare is the preacher who admits he is wrong and makes restitution. I did, but I’m an atheist — one who lives a meaningless, purposeless life, engages in deviant sex (WHAT? says my wife 🙂 ), and eats barbequed fetuses for dinner. My actions don’t count. I’m a hellbound child of Satan. Nagy’s behavior, however, “matters.” And I hope Christians and atheists alike are paying attention to his words. Does Nagy reflect what Jesus and Christianity are really about? Will a local cleric dare to come out of his or her study and say “no!” and call Nagy to account? We shall see.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Why I Write The Black Collar Crime Series

black collar crime

Updated August 9, 2021

The Black Collar Crime series is in its fifth year, having published over eight hundred reports of clergy and church leader criminal misconduct. Using Google Alerts, I receive an immediate notice any time a news story about clerical malfeasance is posted on the internet. It is important that these stories receive wide circulation. Victims need to know that there are people standing with them as they bring to light that which God’s servants have done in secret.

I realize that these reports are often dark and depressing, but the only way to dispel darkness is to turn on the lights. Clergy who prey on congregants — especially children — must be exposed, prosecuted, convicted, and sent to prison. By leveraging this blog’s traffic and publishing these reports, I am serving notice to law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges: we are paying attention, and if you fail to provide justice for victims, we will hold you accountable.

Sadly, many clerics have enormous power over people. How else do we explain that alleged repeat abusers of children and sexual predators such as Lester Roloff, Jack Patterson, and Mack Ford — to name a few — never spent a day in jail for their crimes? Mack Ford, in particular, spent decades physically and psychologically destroying teenagers, yet, thanks to his connections in the community, he was never prosecuted for his crimes. (Please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for GirlsTeen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your SinWhat Should We Do When Religious Freedom Leads to Child Abuse?)

Sometimes, these seemingly untouchable predators are brought to justice, but not before the public puts pressure on law enforcement and prosecutors, forcing them to act. The sordid story of abuse at Restoration Youth Academy is case in point. Decades of abuse reports were filed with local law enforcement, yet nothing was done. Yes, they finally acted and the perpetrators are now in prison, but what do we say to the hundreds of children and teenagers who were ritually abused before prosecutors got around to doing their job?

I am sure that this series will bring criticism from Evangelical zealots, reminding me that accused/charged clerics are innocent until proven guilty. While they are correct, all I am doing is sharing that which is widely reported in the news. In the thirteen years I’ve been writing about clergy misconduct, I can count on one hand the number of pastors/priests/religious leaders who were falsely accused — less than five, out of hundreds and hundreds of cases. The reason for so few false accusations is that no person in his or her right mind would mendaciously accuse a pastor of sexual misconduct. The social and personal cost is simply too high for someone to falsely accuse a religious leader of criminal conduct.

People often believe that “men of God” would never, ever commit such crimes. One common thread in the crimes committed by Jack Schaap, Bill Wininger, Josh Duggar, David Farren, Naasón Joaquín García, and a cast of thousands, is that family and fellow Christians were CERTAIN that these men of God could/would never commit the crimes with which they were charged. Even when presented with overwhelming evidence, their supporters, with heads in the sand, refuse to believe that these servants of Jesus did the perverse things they are accused of. (Please see What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused and Evangelicals Use ‘We Are All Sinners’ Argument to Justify Sexual Abuse)

Secondary reasons for this series have to do with exposing the lie that Evangelicalism is immune to scandal and criminal behavior. I remember when the Catholic sex scandal came to light. With great glee and satisfaction, Evangelical preachers railed against predator priests and the Catholic Church who covered up their crimes. Now, of course, we know — with the recent Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) and Southern Baptist sex scandals — that Evangelicalism is just as rotten, having its own problem with sexual abuse and subsequent cover-ups. Evangelicals love to take the high moral ground, giving the perception that their shit doesn’t stink. Well, now we know better. Not only does Evangelicalism have a sexual abuse problem, it also has a big problem with pastors who can’t keep their pants zipped up. (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

I receive threats from people defending their religious heroes. Threats of legal action are common, even though all I am doing is republishing stories publicly reported by news agencies. A pastor featured in one of my reports contacted me and said that reporters had it all wrong. As I do with everyone who asserts they are being falsely accused, I told this preacher that he could give his version of the facts, sign his name to it, and I would gladly add it to the post. Usually, this puts an end to any further protestations. Most often, the accused want to bully me into taking down my post. In this preacher’s case, he provided me his version of events and I gladly added it to my post. After adding the information, I decided to investigate this pastor further. I found more information about his past indiscretions and crimes. I dutifully added them to the post. I have not heard anything further from the good pastor.

I am not immune from making mistakes, so if you spot a factual error in one of the stories, please let me know and I will gladly correct it. If you come across a story that you would like me to add to this series, please use the contact form to email me. Please keep in mind that I need links to actual news reports in order to add them to this series.

I primarily use Google Alerts for Black Collar Crime reports. I also rely on readers to alert me to new stories or updates of previous reports. I am one man with a limited amount of time each day to slog through the brackish Evangelical swamp, so I don’t see every report or know the outcome of every case I’ve featured in the Black Collar Crime series. Keep in mind that I require EVIDENCE for me to update a story. Not gossip or personal opinion. Actual evidence such as reputable news stories (with links). Just because a reader or drive-by commenter says something doesn’t make it so. I appreciate your understanding.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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Bruce Gerencser