06 November 2007

A Statement on Clergy Abuse

Once is one time too many.

When James B. Nelson wrote Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology, he did not imagine the current crisis regarding sexual and emotional abuse of parishoners (expecially children and teens) by ordained clergy and other representatives of the Church. Such abuse betrays a person's basic trust — in God, in the Clergy and the Church, in the world, in humanity, and even in the person's own self. This basic trust is essential for the development both of Love and of Faith.

Thus, the abuser destroys what he or she is specifically called to build — a person's relationship with God. And the abuser selects his or her targets for virtues that can be exploited into vulnerabilities.

Consider the case of a young person who can be trusted to sacrifice his or her own well-being rather than harm another. That's the kind of virtue you'd look for in a firefighter, a doctor, or a priest. But it is also the kind of virtue that an abuser exploits in order to keep from being caught. Trustworthy people are so because they value trust so highly — hence it hurts them all the more when they are betrayed. And our society colludes by creating a culture of subversion in which the breaking of a vow or a promise seems to have no consequences, as long as the one doing it espouses the proper ideology.

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