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Oct 01 2013

Protestants Worse Than Catholics on Child Abuse?

I would be surprised to hear even the staunchest anti-theist claim that Protestant churches are worse than Catholic churches when it comes to the sexual abuse of children, but that claim is being made by a Liberty University law professor who is also Billy Graham’s grandson.

The Christian mission field is a “magnet” for sexual abusers, Boz Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor who investigates abuse said Thursday (Sept. 26) to a room of journalists.

While comparing evangelicals to Catholics on abuse response, ”I think we are worse,” he said at the Religion Newswriters Association conference, saying too many evangelicals had “sacrificed the souls” of young victims.

“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.

Those are seriously explosive allegations and from an inside source. That’s pretty shocking.

22 comments

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  1. 1
    eric

    Glass half full: its a somewhat positive sign that it IS an inside source.
    Glass half empty: mandatory reporting is a known cure that works at least reasonably well. The fact that none of these religious organizations implement it reflects really poorly on them; it makes them culpable even while they claim they are trying to fix it, even if they admit their problems.

  2. 2
    Orakio

    It’s not really very shocking at all, if you paid attention when the Catholic scandals first broke – The insurers who pay the churches claims run at around 225-230 claims a year against the Catholic church (Tho, not sure if that’s just in the US alone…) and at a rough 330 across three companies for about three quarters of the Protestant churches in the US, according to http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2007/06/18/80877.htm . These are the people that know – they pay for it.

    However, the huge size of the Catholic Church relative to the protestant Splinters makes it like airplane crash statistics vs automobile statistics. When a 777 goes down with 400 people on it, and they all die, it makes the headlines across the nation, and the FAA launches an investigation, while 400 individual fatal car accidents that kill 600 people make the back page on 400 seperate newspapers;

  3. 3
    robertbaden

    I’m not shocked. There have been various sites documenting clergy abuse by all denominations for a while.

  4. 4
    dickspringer

    Back in 1910 it was discovered that my grandfather’s Lutheran pastor was having an affair with a choirboy. There is nothing new about this.

  5. 5
    busterggi

    “Those are seriously explosive allegations and from an inside source.”

    In what way are they shocking? These are the people who want to reinstate OT law including stoning disobedient children to death – think a little pedophilia, which doesn’t even have a commandment against it, would bother them?

  6. 6
    Reginald Selkirk

    Protestant churches are not as centralized, but some individual denominations are very authoritarian. Reported last month:
    In Germany’s Twelve Tribes sect, cameras catch ‘cold and systematic’ child-beating

  7. 7
    abb3w

    @2, Orakio:

    When a 777 goes down with 400 people on it, and they all die, it makes the headlines across the nation, and the FAA launches an investigation, while 400 individual fatal car accidents that kill 600 people make the back page on 400 seperate newspapers;

    Actually, in both cases it’s the National Transportation Safety Board that’s responsible for investigation. Aside from that, however, the analogy is basically sound; individual car fatalities usually just get treated with epidemiological methods, except for various types of epic fail, but every aviation accident gets looked into.

  8. 8
    colnago80

    Sexual abuse of children in the Haredic Jewish community is equally bad. There are ongoing scandals in New York and Israel.

  9. 9
    Artor

    Back in 1910 it was discovered that my grandfather’s Lutheran pastor was having an affair with a choirboy. There is nothing new about this.

    Back in the 14th cent., Chaucer was familiar enough with the stereotype of the fiddly priest, that he lampooned it in writing. There was nothing new about it then either.

  10. 10
    Karen Locke

    It looks from the text and comments together, that the take-home argument is: people with religious authority can abuse it more easily than others. And too often, they do.

  11. 11
    raven

    Those are seriously explosive allegations and from an inside source. That’s pretty shocking.

    It’s not shocking at all. It’s been known for decades.

    Any authoritarian church has this problem. Notorious among them are the JW’s and Mormons.

    The fundies in general have higher than the general public rates of child abuse. The second highest predictor of child sexual abuse is membership in fundie churches. The first being drug and alcohol abuse.

  12. 12
    iknklast

    One of the things that shocks me is how little attention sexual abuse of young girls (and mature women in some cases) gets from the press – including the atheist press. We focus on the abuse of young boys, which probably suits the church at least a little because they can use it as propaganda in their anti-gay stance. See, homosexuals abuse young boys! But girls are also frequently abused, and you only hear about that occasionally. Why? Because sexually abusing young girls is seen somehow as more “normal”, therefore less newsworthy. That in itself should be a story.

  13. 13
    Susannah

    Of known data from abuse cases, 25 percent are repeat cases, he said.

    That’s among the small percentage that actually gets reported. Of all the cases I’ve heard of (far too many) I can only recall one that (possibly) affected a single victim.

    (I grew up in the missonary community, later worked with adults who had been abused as children in several mission agencies.)

  14. 14
    steve84

    Not sure about the numbers, but they are at least as bad. The Catholic Church is easy to blame because they have a central hierarchy. Given how splintered the Protestants are and that even in one sect there isn’t necessarily a strict hierarchy, abuse becomes much easier to hide and excuse. The standard line for the Baptists is “This isn’t out fault. Local churches are independent.”

  15. 15
    bushrat

    Well Ed, prepare to be surprised. I claim that every day of the week.

  16. 16
    aaronbaker

    Given how splintered the Protestants are and that even in one sect there isn’t necessarily a strict hierarchy, abuse becomes much easier to hide and excuse.

    Sadly plausible.

  17. 17
    ttch

    Reiterating a comment on Greta’s blog from a couple of years ago:

    A family friend who was a priest in a large “liberal” Protestant denomination, had his problem with alcohol progress to the point that he was assigned by his diocese for rehabilitation at a church retreat. Afterwards and some months later at a dinner with me, he volunteered that he couldn’t stand all the child abusers (plural) that were at the retreat.

    This was all years before news of the Catholic church’s abuses broke.

    In hindsight it is obvious that a diocese does not try to rehabilitate child abusers whom they have turned over to police.

    At any rate, this is a problem among churches in general and hardly confined to the Catholics.

  18. 18
    cptdoom

    The scandal in the Catholic Church was never about the abuse itself – realistically any industry that deals with children is going to attract child abusers. The difference with the Catholics is the cover up the Church conducted, which literally spanned decades, hundreds of abusers and thousands of victims. I highly doubt any other denomination has the record of obstruction of justice, fraud, aiding & abetting of rapists and witness intimidation enjoyed by the Catholics.

  19. 19
    anubisprime

    Reginald Selkirk @ 6

    In Germany’s Twelve Tribes sect, cameras catch ‘cold and systematic’ child-beating

    This lot have been at it in Blightyas well.

  20. 20
    anubisprime

    19#

    Excuses format failure…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-24330157

  21. 21
    democommie

    Well, the cath-o-licks do insist on their kids kneeling a lot, so there’s that to factor in. Of course the cath-o-licks also have confession–go in a sinner, come out a winner!–so it all comes out when washed in the blood of the lamb.

  22. 22
    Raging Bee

    These are the people who want to reinstate OT law including stoning disobedient children to death – think a little pedophilia, which doesn’t even have a commandment against it, would bother them?

    Well, no, it wouldn’t, especially after it’s drummed into the kids’ heads that questioning anything their elders does makes them “disobedient.”

    And here’s the next question: will this become a call to broader action — or an excuse to shut up, stop attacking other churches, and maintain “interfaith” unity against those dangerous secularists and atheists?

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