Predator Priests, Part 2

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The Roman Catholic Church is not alone in facing accusations of clergy abuse.

Pastor, Heather Larson and elders of the Willow Creek Community Church, a Chicago-based megachurch, recently resigned amid a sexual abuse scandal involving church founder, Rev. Bill Hybels, and multiple women [1][2A].  Hybels resigned in April, but denies the accusations made against him.

Willow Creek meanwhile paid $3.25 million to settle lawsuits against a volunteer who sexually abused two disabled children [3].  The volunteer, Robert Sobczak, Jr. pled guilty, and is currently serving a seven-year prison term.

Lack of Accountability

“In many evangelical churches, a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests, making accusations of harassment particularly difficult to confront.  Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ, giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.

In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru who discovered the formula for bringing to church people who were skeptical of Christianity.  His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.

Mr. Hybels built a church independent of any denomination.  In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable.  Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.

But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches [3B].”

Additional evangelical leaders involved in sex scandals include Rev. Andy Savage of High Point Church in Memphis and Rev. Harry Thomas, founder of Come Alive International and the Creation Music Festival [4][5].  Thomas, who admits sexual assaulting four minors and “inappropriately interacting” with a fifth between 1999 and 2015, has been sentenced to 18 years.

Not all predator priests and ministers, however, accept responsibility for their actions.   Some characterize the accusations against them – no matter how well documented – as groundless satanic attacks.  Others cloak themselves in “forgiveness” without any real attempt at repentance or restitution.

Victims are simply abandoned.

[1] US News, “Willow Creek church pastor, board resign amid sexual misconduct investigation of founder”, 8/9/18, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/08/09/willow-creek-pastor-board-resign-bill-hybels-sex-scandal/944310002/.

[2A and 2B] New York Times, “He’s a Superstar Pastor; She Worked for Him and Says He Groped Her Repeatedly” by Laurie Goodstein, 8/5/18, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/05/us/bill-hybels-willow-creek-pat-baranowski.html.

[3] US News, “Chicago-Area Megachurch Paid $3.25M over Child Sexual Abuse”, 8/14/18, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/illinois/articles/2018-08-14/chicago-area-megachurch-paid-325m-over-child-sexual-abuse.

[4] New York Times, “I Was Assaulted. He Was Applauded.” by 3/9/18, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/opinion/jules-woodson-andy-savage-assault.html .

[5] Cherry-Hill Courier Post, “Medford pastor pleads guilty to sex assaults” by Jim Walsh, 2/16/18, https://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/crime/2018/02/16/medford-pastor-harry-thomas-sexual-assault/345834002/.

The Catholic Church sex scandal was addressed in Part 1 of this series

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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16 Comments

Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Rape, Religion, Sexual Abuse

16 responses to “Predator Priests, Part 2

  1. Great post Anna!
    I do not understand why a church would turn a blind eye to sin..
    We are to attempt to restore a pastor who has fallen.. not use tithe money to pay for their falling.. I pray God comforts the victims of abuse..

    • There must be a point at which corruption on this scale invalidates a church.

      • VERY well said, my Dear Anna. But, in that case we could not have ‘any’ church today!

      • I agree completely Anna. Any church or denomination that has a proven history of sexual abuse in its midst should be invalidated. Can one really believe that Paul for example would look the other way, or even worse participate in the cover up of sexual perversion in the Church?

        I’d rather think he would name names and openly,publicly rebuke all involved while declaring them unfit for the ministry.

  2. Reblogged this on Anchor Thy Soul and commented:
    Post by Anna Waldherr: At A Voice Reclaimed

  3. Reblogged this on lovehappinessandpeace and commented:
    *******

    Too much of all this springs from Man’s desire Only to ‘Get.’

    People go to church to ask for material benefits, health, …things.

    Though Jesus had paid So much attention to Healing, the Central part of His teaching is Love, Concern, Care, …Righteousness.

    One is Absolutely Astonished at the fact that ecclesiastical authorities, of any and every denomination, seem Not even to have Realized that.

    The ‘Laity,’ as they are termed, the Everyday, Non-Ordained Disciple of Christ, have the ‘Responsibility’ to Keep their pastors in check.

    *******

  4. A great post. Really eye-opener.

  5. There are wolves among the sheep, but we must be careful not to believe every accusation. Some people do lie. And those who are mentally ill can have false memories.

  6. There was a time when it was acceptable not to believe every accusation. Those days, in light of the frequency of sexual abuse in both the Catholic and Protestant Church, are long gone. Today, every accusation must be investigated or else we risk permitting yet another predatory minister to continue unabated. The stakes are too high, the risks are too high, and the horrors too real to allow that.

  7. I am inserting here remarks Michael Clark emailed to me. I highly recommend Michael’s blog A Wilderness Voice https://awildernessvoice.blog/ to readers.

    Aug 28, 2018, 6:25 PM

    Dear Anna,

    First of all I want to thank you for being so supportive of the things I write on my AWV blog. You have always been so kind to me in your comments.

    I just read your article on how Protestant “pastors” are just as guilty of this sin as the Catholic priests are. I agree…

    I would have commented on your Part 2 article but I could not access it on the web for some reason. There is a principle that never fails to be true whether it be in secular governments, corporations or Catholic or Protestant churches. Lord Akton of England said it well in about 1904 while talking to an Anglican bishop.

    “It is not a question of who has the right rule [over others]. No one has the right to rule. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely!”

    The… [lengthy] quote you wrote on your blog article is rich with many things that make today’s churches a breeding ground for sin in their leadership…

    “a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests”

    People flock to charismatic personalities. It is a form of idolatry. They are looking for a god that is in flesh and blood to stand before them. Jesus whom they cannot see is not enough, for to believe in Him requires faith and most “Christians” lack that very thing. They are not Christians at all, but pagans in reality. So they fall down before their god and worship. When these men have an “altar call” the faithful go forward and kneel before these men and pray. This tradition is not scriptural, neither the altar call nor kneeling before a man. For instance look at the way that Apostle dealt with this kind of idolatry when it was aimed at them.

    Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, ‘The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!’ Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.’ Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them” (Acts 14:8-18, ESV2011).

    Paul did not rely on his speaking ability to sway men to the gospel, either.

    And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1Cor 2:1-5, ESV2011).

    For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ” (1Thess 2:5-6, ESV2011).

    “a conduit to Christ”

    The apostles pointed all men to Christ and away from themselves. When the Corinthians were putting Christ’s messengers in the place of Christ, Paul called them carnal.

    But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each” (1Cor 3:1-5, ESV2011).

    “giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.”

    “In the evangelical world, Mr. Hybels is considered a giant, revered as a leadership guru who discovered the formula for bringing to church people who were skeptical of Christianity. His books and speeches have crossed over into the business world.”

    Did the apostles retail their messages as is so common today with the sales of books and tapes? Here is what Paul and Peter had to say about that.

    What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my right in the gospel” (1Cor 9:18, KJ2000).

    For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2Thess 3:7-10, KJV).

    But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2Pet 2:1-3, KJV – emphasis added).

    “In such churches, there is no larger hierarchy to set policies and keep the pastor accountable. Boards of elders are usually volunteers recommended, and often approved, by the pastor.”

    …elders or boards in these churches are expected to rubber stamp the wishes of the pastor. “It’s my way or the highway.”

    “But the most significant reason sexual harassment can go unchecked is that victims do not want to hurt the mission of their churches.”

    Oh yes. The “No Speak” rule. This is how it works. We have seen in recent years the fruit of this rule being carried out “in spades” in the Catholic church. But it is often the same in Protestant churches. The higher the profile (and the more money they bring into the denomination) the more they cover up the abuses of these men.

    Jesus said, to the church at Ephesus, “…you tried those pretending to be apostles, and are not, and have found them liars” (Revelation 2:2). The trial of those who pretended to be apostles is listed among the positive actions of the Ephesian Church, which pleased the Lord. We are fully aware that we are living in a day when many of God’s children fail to understand the difference between testing and judgment, discernment and criticism, and view all speech and writing of a negative nature as critical and destructive. This has led to a general no-speak climate enforced by those in control that resists reform and allows unchecked deception. We are commanded to prove (dokimazo – to test, examine, scrutinize) the genuineness of all things and hold fast to what is good. (See 1Thessalonians 5:21). (http://awildernessvoice.com/ApostlesTorF.html)

    Your two blog articles on corruption in the churches were spot on, dear sister. …

    Love you in Christ,

    Michael

  8. Pingback: Why Pastoral Abuse Continues Unabated in America « A Wilderness Voice

  9. “Others cloak themselves in “forgiveness” without any real attempt at repentance or restitution. Victims are simply abandoned.”

    thank you for being a voice and reminding us all. Anna.

    D

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