Defending yourself against the Church's attacks
When victims first come forward to the church with a complaint, they seldom realise what they are taking on. Not only the might of the Establishment, with all its financial and legal power, but also the outrage of the people in the pews, whose life view is threatened by the concept that perhaps their minister is not what he seems. Victims get a range of responses, most of which are unsympathetic and lacking in understanding, and amid the distress that comes from these unexpected attacks it's hard to maintain a sense of justice. When the Church itself tries to "shut you up" and make you go away, the distress becomes even greater.
Some familiar lines, and possible responses:
· "You're not supposed to go to court against your fellow Christian" - Yes, and no. We're also supposed, as Christian citizens, to report crime if we see it. Sexual abuse (particularly of minors) is a crime, and the offending minister is a criminal. I believe that the biblical injunctions make it clear that we are supposed to make every effort to settle disputes without going to court, but abuse is not a dispute between equals; it's bullying at least, and criminal at worst. And where the Church fails to stand up for the rights of the oppressed (ie. the victim) then secular action is the only avenue left.
· "How can you destroy his family and his job like that?" - Well, first of all, it's his actions when he abused you that have destroyed him, not yours in complaining. Secondly, if you were to have witnessed a robbery or some other crime, people would never expect you to protect the thief's family by keeping quiet; why should they expect it just because the offender is a minister? In fact, the law has a specific provision which applies here: it’s called conspiracy to conceal a crime and accessory after the fact. It is very clear that our legal duty is to report crimes, not to conceal them (regardless of the laudability of the motive for doing so). In the case of abuse, the law accepts that post-abuse trauma may make a victim unable to report, but when the victim is ready to do so, the law upholds them so doing. Other Christians ought to do the same.
· "But what about all the good he's done/doing?" - Given the bad he's done, it's all built on a sham foundation. THAT'S not work that God wants. But more to the point, good and evil isn’t some kind of point-scoring exercise where you can rack up brownie points that outweigh your sins. In fact, it’s closer to the opposite—all it takes is one blemish to mar perfection. Jesus said “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42) There’s no suggestion that if they just do enough good works to outweigh the damage, they’ll be all right again.
Here are some excerpts from Catholic Canon Law (full text available here) and the catechism that may help to see the "double-think" more clearly. (Canon Law is like the Federal, State, and local government laws under which we live. The difference is that Canon Law relates to the governing of the church's people. It is for the laymen and the ordained and everybody else who is actively "moving" within the structure of the Church.) The underlined numbers are the Canon Law numbers.
Anglican Canon Law in Australia is slightly different (and unbelievably hard to obtain!) but the rights of the Anglican Church in Australia to live by Canon Law are enacted by Parliament in this Act
With regard to Church cover-up of
1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
- by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
- by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
- by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
- by protecting evil-doers.
1903 Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, "authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse." (ref. C.23)
Obeying the Church:
2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."(C.48) "We must obey God rather than men". (C.49)
Misuse of power:
2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!"(C.89)
Against gag orders:
2480 Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct. Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another's vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.
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