All of the education--books, workshops, videos, seminary training, increased awareness of the need to screen seminary applicants,--yes, all of these have been great for exposing the problems of clergy sexual abuse. They are extremely important. But education is just the first step. It will accomplish very little unless the profession does the more difficult job of grieving.
In one sense, there has been a LOT of grieving over the past fifteen years. Most of the grief, unfortunately, seems to be about what survivors have done to the profession and to the community of faith at large. It has little to do with what wolves in sheep's clothing have done to the Kingdom.
Grieving is scary, gut-wrenching work. Survivors know this. Coping with the past, moving into the present, and accepting the challenge of the future all involve grieving. How is it that any member of the clergy can sit back in apathy or feigned helplessness when at least 75% of the profession's members personally know at least one colleague who has violated at least one person in his or her charge?** I believe the answer may lie in an unwillingness to do reality-based grieving.
What will happen when one is at least well into the process of grieving for the Kingdom? He or she will, in some way, be speaking out about the need to work for change. He or she will be preaching about the problems in the pulpit. There will be a boldness in that person's willingness to confront the potential child abuse in the congregation. He or she will not stop speaking out until true change has occurred, for it is impossible to stay in a self-destructive system without living either in denial or reality.
Facing reality leads to a willingness to bear the burdens of those suffering
from collusion, not just the problems created because the profession has
been found guilty of colluding with incompetency. Grieving involves three
emotions with which most of us have a lot of difficulty--anger, fear,
One only has to listen for a short time to a group of church leaders talking about clergy sexual "misconduct" to know that they believe getting the facts is the key to changing the system. Listen more closely. You will notice that the talk is much more about protecting the system than changing it. Such conversations are permeated with DIM thinking statements and game-playing. (For more insight, see Basic Facts about Collusion)
Through this author's work, the equally-serious problem of clergy domestic violence has surfaced. This problem is much more unrecognized than clergy sexual abuse and is largely unaddressed. Yet over and over survivors of clergy domestic abuse have said that they suffer as much, if not more so, from collusion within the church when they try to bring their abusers to accountability. Despite the increased exposure and empathy which survivors of domestic violence are receiving in the media, these women are almost always "tarred and feathered" and labelled as "insubordinate wives" when the abuser is a clergyman.
More and more denominations are requiring that their ministers attend a workshop to learn the facts and rules of clergy sexual abuse to protect themselves and their organization from being sued or from losing their insurance coverage. Without a doubt, some are also concerned with helping survivors in their midst. However, "helping" is all-too-often equated with "silencing" them. This is because speaking out is seen as a sign of illness, rather than health.
In hierarchal systems, it is a fairly easy matter to come up with a little therapy for perpetrators. Most are covered by health insurance which offers 10-15 outpatient mental health visits per year. Provided that coverage can be kept through provisions within the system, the denomination may not be out a penny. Some denominations are even willing to supplement what is provided. In the past few years, in some denominations, a limited amount of therapy is also provided for survivors.
In cases of denominations with autonomous congregations (such as Southern Baptists), help is often found for sexual offending ministers under an umbrella fund which helps rehabilitate terminated ministers. Yet rarely are therapy bills paid for survivors.
This author has strong suspicions that the resistance to providing survivors with adequate funding for therapy is not always about money. Knowledgeable church leaders know that the more therapy a survivor gets, the more likely she or he is to realize that there are many choices, one of which is speaking out as much and as long as one wishes to do so!
Still the greatest resistance may have something to do with where the church leadership is in its own healing.
**Several surveys have been published showing this as fact. For further information, contact the author or The Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence
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www.takecourage.org by Dee Ann Miller, author of How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct and The Truth about Malarkey.