I’ve mentioned before that part of the reason we pay so much attention to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is that they have good central recordkeeping and central authority. Paper trails are great for pointing fingers. However, that doesn’t mean the Catholic Church has a worse record than, say, Protestant evangelicalism.
In fact, when you’ve got a Liberty University law professor (yes, I know) who also happens to be Billy Graham’s grandson saying that Protestant evangelicalism is worse than the Catholic Church on this score, maybe it’s time to sit up and pay some attention.
“Protestants can be very arrogant when pointing to Catholics,” said Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), which has investigated sex abuse allegations.
Mission agencies, “where abuse is most prevalent,” often don’t report abuse because they fear being barred from working in foreign countries, he said. Abusers will get sent home and might join another agency. Of known data from abuse cases, 25 percent are repeat cases, he said.
Now, where have I heard about behavior like this before? Oh, that’s right. No wonder some countries ban missionaries.
There is some movement toward reform, encouraging investigation rather than stifling it. As much as GRACE’s name galls me, I’m glad they’re there, doing the work they do and making progress.
I was fascinated, however, by Tchividjian characterization of how the abuse has been maintained. Unlike the Catholic’s, evangelicals don’t have the structure needed to tell a congregation an abuser is being removed while shuffling that abuser off somewhere else. They have to take a different tack.
“The Protestant culture is defined by independence,” Tchividjian said. Evangelicals often frown upon transparency and accountability, he said, as many Protestants rely on Scripture more than religious leaders, compared to Catholics.
Abusers discourage whistle-blowing by condemning gossip to try to keep people from reporting abuse, he said. Victims are also told to protect the reputation of Jesus.
Calling accusations gossip? Putting reputation of the mission ahead of transparency? Hmm. Seems to me I’ve heard that somewhere before as well.