How Churches are called to handle sex abuse

2018 has renewed many problems within the Catholic Church and their handling of pedophile priest, along with other sex abusers. Many Catholics so boldly deflect the issue of sexual abuse within the Church as a problem within God’s universal church, not specifically their denomination. Matt Walsh, a notoriously devoted Catholic wrote this in defense, practically accusing non-Catholics of being in the wrong on the issue.

As I have been writing about the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal over the past week, I have received many emails, and read many comments, that can only be described as boastful. It appears that many Christians from other denominations believe sex abuse is a uniquely Catholic problem or at least that the Catholic Church has a uniquely bad case of it. Indeed, I have been informed numerous times this week that the best way to escape the sex predator problem is to join another church. These Christians remind me of the Pharisee in Christ’s parable: “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like them.”

Walsh’s article goes on to explain that sexual abuse is not unique to the Catholic Church for it is present in Hollywood, Capitol Hill, universities, and everywhere else in society, including other religions and denominations. But should we be surprised that the pagans, Buddhists, and Muslims all have sexual abuse in their confines as Walsh suggests? By no means! It is the result of an active and ongoing rebellion against God. How can we expect those who reject Jesus to follow God’s word on sexuality? Yet the Church is called to higher standards, sanctification. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. And whilst our sin prior to our relationships with Jesus can show people the depths of God’s love and mercy, the Church’s mishandling of sin is a powerful tool of Satan to undermine the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

What does the Bible say on sexual immorality in the Church?

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
The Bible is rather clear that those committing such atrocities within the Church directly undermine the mission of God (verse 1). As Christians we should be heartbroken if these kinds of events happen within the Church (verse 2). Indeed, God is forgiving, but the Church ought not associate with those who perform evil within her (verse 11). Lastly we must purge these offenders from our congregation (verse 13).

Does the Catholic Church follow God’s Word on handling sex scandals?

The short answer is “no.” The issue at-hand has been going on for decades, if not centuries. The Catholic Church has, famously, been inactive on the matter for at least two Popes now. Pope Francis has been accused of covering up and even elevating notorious offenders. The stain on the Catholic Church’s reputation has not gone away, rather it undermines the credibility of the Vatican and its congregation. The Catholic Church has hardly been heartbroken over these scandals as little action has been taken against offenders, historically. Furthermore, they have even stolen from tithes to pay for the defense of the accused. The National Catholic Reporter found that US Catholic Churches have incurred a cost of at least $3.99 billion during the priest sex abuse scandal over the last 65 years (from 2015). Now, not all of this money was stolen, as large portions went towards therapy costs, but all signs, in the report signaled that this was a low estimate.

“As a way of illustrating the magnitude of the costs to the U.S. church, if that amount were divided evenly among the nation’s 197 dioceses, each would receive nearly $20 million.” – NCR

Do non-Catholic churches really compare?

Sex and Power, an unmistakable connection

In a multitude of the articles pondered on the renewed Catholic sex scandal, many brought about comparisons to Hollywood and education. This necessitates confrontation with an unavoidable part of fallen nature. With power comes sex. Having power enables the doctor to molest the patient. Why? Because he can. “Because he can” is the only explanation as to why people sexually abuse, rape, or assault people. In institutions, giving uncheckable power to people, leads to sexual abuse. In the protestant church, many are given more “celebrity” status than one should humbly hold for the position. This minute amount of power in the grand scheme of things is enough. People let their guard down out of endowing these people this trivial celebrity status.

How prevalent is it?

Data cited by Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham, shows that in the United States, more insurance claims for sexual abuse are brought against protestant churches. Tchividjian writes:

In reality, the likelihood is that more children are sexually abused in Protestant churches than in Catholic churches. Regardless, the abuse of one child is one child too many. Instead of pointing fingers, we should be learning from each other and working together to bring an end to this epidemic that permeates all of Christendom.

Do Protestant Churches follow God’s Word?

As Boz Tchividjian describes,

I couldn’t help but recall the countless cases I have encountered in Protestant circles where offending pastors, missionaries, and other leaders have been reassigned or allowed to quietly resign all in an effort to insulate the institution. The youth pastor who rapes a child and is transferred to a new church and given a going away party; the pedophile missionary physician who is quietly sent home from the mission field; the church volunteer who admits to sexually abusing a child and is simply directed by the church leadership to move quietly to another state. The list could go on and on. It’s not just a Catholic problem.

Non-Catholic churches may not need the Pope’s assistance for a cover-up, but church leaders certainly seek to mitigate the damages to the church itself. Silent dismissals and transfers occur. They want to avoid the heartbreak that a church should endure when faced with its leaders acting inappropriately in accordance with scripture. They may also want to avoid losing members, credibility towards witnessing, and money. These utilitarian calculations are sinful. But these calculations are flawed like the philosophy from which they came. God is good. There is no evil we can perform to increase the goodness of God.

What is the way?

Sexual abuse, requires severe action and swift response. The Catholic Church has notoriously performed neither, becoming known as a fraternity for pedophilia. Non-catholic churches, suffer the same fundamental premise in human nature, therefore encounter the same issues. In both instances, these organizations have performed similarly. Both have had clergy sexually abuse, both have covered it up, and both have silenced victims and bystanders. The only reason to relish in non-Catholicism is that a non-Catholic church is more likely to have responded to sexual abuse within the congregation in the correct and biblical way, due to a more autonomous power structure.

The Bible is most clear on what action is to be taken to these evildoers who would use the Bride of Christ for Satan’s doing. Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church are clear. They should be removed from ministry, removed from payroll, and sent to a police station to answer for their crimes. This is not to say that the church shouldn’t exercise due process. By no means should the church ignore the possibility of Satan using lies to attack a devoted follower of God, much like the false teachers who attempted to discredit Paul. The church needs to seek the truth in this matter because the Bible’s instructions are so severe. These issues cannot be left as suspicions, in the air between guilty and innocent. Either no action should be taken because the accused is innocent or severe action is to be taken in light of their guilt. A middle ground has contributed to how we got to this point in the first place and will only undermine our ministries. The church must do everything it her capabilities to seek the truth in the matter, unafraid of involving law enforcement.  A church is to inform the congregation and police when they know one among them is guilty. Anything short of the severe action called for in 1 Corinthians 5:13 is rebellion towards God.


Raymond Fava is the founder of Startup Christ and the founder of EcoEats, Inc. EcoEats crafts exotic jerkies using unique flavors. To see their selection, click here.

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