When I became pastoral prey no one was talking about clergy sexual abuse. The topic was relegated to insurance boards, therapist offices, confessionals, a handful of academics, and a whole legion of silenced and slaughtered victims. Since that time, there has been a literal explosion of exposures — some small vindication for the plethora of victims and some small accounting for more than a few abusers.
The pens of many have been a powerful force in this public reckoning. Some writers have been more accurate than others. While I appreciate some aspects of a recent article written by David French entitled “The Crisis of Christian Celebrity,” I take issue with others.
Mr. French self reports to be “confused” about the clergy sexual abuse that that nearly destroyed me and my family. The protracted and pulverising misery that we went through — minimised in one line. Mr. French also obfuscates the severity of the abuse we incurred in comparison to other “more serious charges” by victims — as if he could accurately evaluate each persons evisceration.
He does appear to have more clarity about flashy “fallen” folks that he perhaps admired less. He rightly points out that clericalism contributes to the catastrophic sequela of clergy sexual abuse for victims and for the community at large, but falls just sort of correcting naming. He also fails to mention that American Evangelicalism has a particular set of false assumptions that make faithful folks vulnerable to clerical carnivores (naive trust, triumphalism, etc.)
Clergy sexual abuse is literally centuries old and so is the silence the has shrouded it. While Mr. French makes some valid points about they current culture (a general overview of some of the latest outings of serial sex offenders and the enduring lure of Lewis/Tolkein’s luxurious “inner ring”) — I have no patience for the way he writes about “fallen” folks.
This whole “falling” thing burns my butt — that and a flame about 2.5 feet high. Y’all “fall” down the stairs. Those who abuse their office, eat what they should feed. It’s not a confused stumble y’all — it’s a slaughter.
“Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.”
We are uneasy with the possibility that we ourselves could be “vulnerable.” How utterly un-American. We assign blame to victims to protect ourselves from the possibility of victimized — even in our own minds. “I would never put myself in that position” — implying that human vulnerability is an innate fault rather than universal trait.
We also assign our own moral compass to those who lack one, after all, we are in this together, right? Wrong. This works to abusers advantage and to our personal peril. Words woo. The wicked drive up and dine on the wounded. Right. In. Front. Of. You. And you believe it not. Why? Because you wouldn’t eat the weak — you’d feed them.