Child Abuse and the Clergy

Child Abuse and the Clergy

Reports of child sexual abuse in houses of worship throughout our nation has become an alarmingly frequent occurrence. The high-profile cases that are surfacing almost daily serve as a wake-up call to everyone in America to protect our children!

Child abuse isn't just in our churches and it isn't just happening in Boston or New York … it's happening all over the country. What is happening among priests and the Catholic Church are not isolated events. A small, yet growing group of religious leaders are abusing their roles all over America. It crosses faiths and denominations ... from an Episcopal priest in Illinois who was accused of molesting two boys at a boarding school in western Maryland more than a decade ago, to a prominent rabbi in New Jersey who was ordered to stand trial on charges of sexual misconduct with two teen-age girls, to a Baptist minister in South Carolina who videotaped himself molesting children, and pleaded guilty to sexually abusing nearly two dozen youngsters, to Houston where a Hindu priest was sentenced to two years in prison for raping a young parishioner. Although the vast majority of clergy are not child abusers, the stories - many dating back decades - continue to unfold throughout our nation, and throughout the world.

Children are taught to respect and honor parental authority figures such as clergy and not to question their actions. Religious communities are trusted to protect their most vulnerable members, yet there is complete and utter silence when it comes to the sexual abuse of children. It's swept under the rug. So most abusers remain undetected and free to continue their abuse of power and violation of professional ethics.

To believe it can't happen to us and our children - that no one we know would ever abuse our kids, and certainly not someone entrusted with their care or well-being --- is to live in denial. Sexual abusers tend to choose occupations that put them in close contact with children. They can be found in every profession. They are heterosexual and homosexual -- they don't discriminate.

What can you do?

The current law in 18 states mandates that health care workers, school officials, day-care workers, law enforcement officers and social service workers report suspicions of child molestation. But it exempts clergy. In 19 other states church officials are mandated, as well as everyone else, to pass on the information, with the exception of incidents that come up in "clergy-penitent" conversations, such as confession. In six more states, "all persons" must report child abuse, but the clergy's status is unclear.

Write to the Archdiocese or the leaders in your house of worship and demand "Zero Tolerance."

Contact your politicians and ask for stronger laws that protect our children, and for a stronger statute on mandated reporting of child abuse. All responsible citizens with knowledge of child abuse, which is a crime should be required to report it, even if it's only suspected. Write letters, e-mail, make phone calls … take action.

It's time for America to wake-up! Knowledge is power. Learn all you can about child abuse. Educate yourself, your children, your family, your friends, your neighbors --- everyone you know. Talk Loud, Talk Proud!

We must keep our children safe!

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