Churches need to put policies in place to protect children
The Roman CatholicArchdiocese of Los Angeles will pay $660 million in lawsuit settlementsto almost 500 people who were allegedly abused by clergy affiliatedwith the diocese. The deal is the largest settlement in the CatholicChurch's sexual abuse scandal, which began in the 1990s and has seencompensations totaling more than $2 billion for incidents dating as farback as the 1940s.
The Catholic Church has received mass media attention in thelast few years, but the church pedophile problem has lurked in theshadows of public awareness across a spectrum of denominations for manyyears.
Christian Ministry Resources (CMR), a publisher of tax andlegal advice for religious organizations that conducts an annual surveyof about 1,000 churches, reports that over the past decade, child abusein American churches has averaged 70 occurrences a week.
CMR's findings also indicate that most child sexual abuseoccurs in Protestant churches and the majority of abusers are churchvolunteers, not clergy or other paid staff, as recent incidents couldlead one to presume.
James Cobble, founder and former executive director of CMR,says that churches are the perfect environment for pedophiles becausethey have large numbers of children's programs, a shortage of workersto lead them and a culture of trust that is the essence of theorganization.
Indeed, the level of trust in the church environment is unprecedented.
In response to concerns about sexual predators using the BoyScouts of America programs to locate victims, the organization workedwith law enforcement to implement tougher recruitment procedures.Potential scoutmasters must now fill out lengthy applications and aresubject to criminal background checks.
However, in many churches, despite numerous media reportsexposing the church predator problem, individuals can still walk offthe street and begin working with young people with little or noscrutiny. Such lax policies are to the detriment of the children.
Pedophiles also take advantage of the church's culture of forgiveness.
Many incidents of abuse go unreported in the name of forgiveness, which does nothing to deter future molestations.
To combat the problem, trust should be accompanied by verification, and forgiveness by consequences.
Victims from the L.A. diocese case gathered outside thecourthouse and talked about the abuse that occurred during theirchildhood. One victim has spent a lifetime battling drug andalcoholism, another says she has lost 19 jobs and been divorced threetimes as a result of the molestation.
The Catholic Church scandals should cause religiousinstitutions to re-examine their policies and screening procedures -not for fear of litigation, but to prevent horrendous crimes that havelasting effects on the most vulnerable citizens of our society.
* COREY J. HODGES writes about current events and ideas from amoral perspective. Hodges, the senior pastor of the New Pilgrim BaptistChurch in Taylorsville, welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.You also may send comments to email@example.com.
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.Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia