Category Archives: Justice

A Long Silence

Broome County Courthouse, Binghamton, NY, Author Doug Kerr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Statutes of Limitations are time limits under the law within which accusations can be criminally prosecuted or civil damages pursued.

Purpose

Statutes of Limitations serve a dual purpose.  They encourage investigation while evidence is still available and memories fresh.   And they allow society to move forward in an orderly fashion, with old disputes resolved.

Tolling

Murder has consistently been viewed as the exception.  The crime is considered so grave by society that it warrants investigation whenever uncovered…even after many years.  The question we must ask is how closely other allegations parallel this.

Most states suspend or “toll” their Statutes of Limitations to allow injured minors to reach majority.

Many states have made special provisions for child sexual abuse cases – in part because of the breadth and heinous nature of such crimes, in part because victims are often reluctant to come forward for years, and in part because there may be repressed memories involved [1].

A Long Silence

Systemic suppression of the truth – as, for instance, by the Catholic Church – may result in a long silence.  That does not ensure societal peace…much less justice.

[1]  National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), “State Civil Statutes of Limitations in Child Sexual Abuse Cases”, 5/30/17, http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/state-civil-statutes-of-limitations-in-child-sexua.aspx.

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Credibility

Detail from “Allegory of Justice” by Claude Laprade (1702), Museo Nacional Machado de Castro, Portugal, Author P.Lameiro (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Given the recent #MeToo Movement, the Roman Catholic Church sex scandal, and the growing frequency of child abuse allegations in the context of custody disputes, the issue of credibility is crucial.

False allegations – whether of rape or child abuse which did not occur – are a serious concern.  Lives and careers can be destroyed by them.

Signs of Truthfulness

There are factors which tend to support the truthfulness of victims.  These include the following:

  • A complaint to authority, in close proximity to the alleged event.
  • Documented physical injury, in close proximity to the alleged event.
  • Changes in the behavior of a child, in close proximity to the alleged event.
  • Detailed descriptions of sexual interaction by a young child.
  • Multiple victims, unrelated to one another.
  • Recurrent victims, when an accused relocates or is reassigned.

None of these factors, by themselves, assure that allegations are grounded in fact.  Each, however, carries some weight.  All are present in the Catholic Church sex scandal. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Predator Priests, Part 1

Facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Author Alessio Nastro Siniscalchi (CC BY-SA 2.5 Italy)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, this week released the results of what may be the most comprehensive state investigation into child sexual abuse and cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church in the nation’s history [1A].

Examining over 70 years of church records, the grand jury investigation identified 301 predator priests, and more than 1000 child victims, across six dioceses (Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton).  Sexual abuse by priests was earlier uncovered in two other Pennsylvania dioceses (Philadelphia and Altoona).

Background

The Catholic Church sex scandal first began to surface in the 1980s [2].  A seminal investigation by the Boston Globe in 2002 led to the criminal prosecution of five predator priests [3].

Subsequent investigations revealed a widespread pattern of abuse across the United States and the globe, with an institutional cover-up extending to the Vatican.  Despite complaints, predator priests were moved seamlessly from parish to parish, and allowed to continue in ministry, sometimes for decades.

As Shapiro expressed it:

“Church officials routinely and purposefully described the abuse as horseplay and wrestling and inappropriate conduct.  It was none of those things.  It was child sexual abuse, including rape [1B].”

Some 17,000 victims have come forward in the US.  Papal apologies and new protocols have done little to correct the situation.

Victimized

Victims were primarily boys.  However, girls were victimized, as well.  One 9 y.o. had his mouth washed out with holy water after oral sex [6].  Another victim was 18 months of age, and still in diapers.

Along with oral sex, abuse included groping, forced masturbation, vaginal and anal penetration.

When complaints were made to church hierarchy, victims were accused of fabricating lies (or seduction, if pregnancy resulted).

Continue reading

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A Good Life

Bleeding hearts (dicentra spectabilis), Author Wildfeuer (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Most parents want a good life for their children.

Good parents want their children to grow up in peace and security; want them to express their personalities, and develop their talents; want them to become fine young men and women, capable of loving others and contributing to the world.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj was not such a parent.  Authorities in New Mexico have found eleven malnourished children in rags, at a derelict compound in the desert [1][2].

The makeshift compound, surrounded by tires, had no electricity or running water.  Wahhaj though was heavily armed.  Evidence suggests that he and another man, Lucas Morten, were training the children to conduct school shootings [3].

There were, also, three women present at the compound.  Preliminary indications were that the women had been brainwashed.

The children, themselves, range in age from one to fifteen.  What are thought to be the remains of Wahhaj’s four year old son were found buried nearby.  Evidently, Wahhaj had believed the boy (who was physically and mentally handicapped) possessed by demons. Continue reading

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Facade

Jonathan Allen and his wife, Ina Rogers, of Fairfield are accused of torturing 10 children. Photo: Solano County Sheriff's Office

Photo: Solano County Sheriff’s Office

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Like the infamous David and Louise Turpin, Jonathan Allen and Ina Rogers of California are alleged to have tortured and mistreated their 10 children. 

The children, aged from 6 months to 11 years, were “continuously punched, strangled, bitten, shot with BB guns, hit with sticks and bats, subjected to ‘waterboarding’ and splashed with scalding water [1].”  They bear scars and the evidence of broken bones.  One child under the age of 14 has disclosed sexual abuse. 

Garbage, feces, and rotten food were found scattered around the home the family occupied.  However, Allen and Rogers maintain their innocence.  Allen declared to the press, ” ‘I’m not 100% perfect, I’m not perfect, no one is perfect.  But I am not an animal, I’m not a torturer and I’m not a monster.  I’m just not [2].’ ”

There are many good men in the world, more than those of us abused as children or adults dare believe.  But there are others masquerading to the world as good men, and leading a double life.

These men can pass as good employees.  They may work hard; may dress appropriately, wear a suit and tie.  They can live in nice neighborhoods.  Their homes may look attractive from the outside.  They may even attend church, be considered pillars of the community.

Such men maintain a façade of normality, all the while taking out their hostilities and frustrations at home.  Jonathan Allen seems to have been one [3].   But his carefully crafted facade has been shattered.

Despite what he is thought to have done, Allen is not an animal.  Animals do not torture their offspring.  No, Allen is not an animal.  He is a moral agent, responsible for his actions, whether he chooses to acknowledge that responsibility or not.  His self-delusion cannot shield him from guilt.

But neither are his children animals.  They did not deserve treatment like this.  Not even an animal would have deserved that.

[1][2]   Angeles Times, “New Charges Against Father Who Allegedly Tortured His 10 Children” by Brittny Mejia, 5/24/18, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-fairfield-father-20180524-story.html.

[3]  Allen did have a 2011 domestic violence conviction.

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Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture, Part 4 – Public Shame

Purple flag at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC, in commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Source https://www.marines.mil (PD as work product of federal govt.)

Women are often reluctant to make abuse public, as if their lives did not matter.  Speaking out about domestic violence, and seeking help for it, are said to bring shame on the family and the church.

The truth is that abuse starts an avalanche of harm that can extend for generations.  Whatever consequences flow from domestic violence, they result from the abuser’s actions – not the attempts by his victim to defend herself and her children, or escape the abuse.

The Catholic Church sex scandal illustrates how bad the organized church is at dealing with victims.  Focus Ministries http://www.focusministries1.org is just one Christian organization helping the victims of domestic violence, while training churches how better to respond to abuse [1][2].

Though priests and ministers have endorsed them at times, the Scriptural passages keeping women in abusive relationships are taken out of context.  Satan uses these snippets – these lies – to undermine women’s faith, and destroy their lives.

But in Christ we are set free.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5: 1).


[1]  Today’s Christian Woman, “The Silent Epidemic” by Corrie Cutrer, September 2004, http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2004/september/silent-epidemic.html.

[2]  1 Cor. 6: 1-11 and Matt. 18: 17 address conflict between Christians, and the use of secular courts.  However, church intervention was never intended to shield sinful behavior, or place lives in danger.

Originally posted 10/4/15

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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Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture, Part 3 – Forgiveness

“Drunk Father” by George Bellows (c. 1923), Source Library of Congress (Digital ID cph.3g04623) (PD-Art, Old-70)

We continue this series on abuse in Christian marriage with the widely misunderstood topic of forgiveness.

Christ came to forgive sins (Matt. 26: 28; Rom. 5: 28).  He repeatedly forgave sinners (Luke 7: 44-50), using the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” even from the cross (Luke 23: 34).

Christians are called on to love their enemies, to forgive those who persecute them (Matt: 5:44; Luke 6: 27-29).  The Lord’s Prayer contains the line, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6: 12).

“Forgiveness Requires that a Woman Return to an Unsafe Marriage”

But the assertion that forgiveness requires a woman to return to an unsafe marriage is patently false.

Forgiveness and trust are distinct from one another.  A Christian woman may choose to forgive her husband’s caustic comments, his violence and brutality – electing not to waste any more of her life in bitterness or regret.  She need not live in fear under his roof, and run the risk of additional harm to herself or children.

“There Is No Escape from Marriage but Death”

Many an ignorant minister has described submission to the point of death as the hallmark of a Christian woman, and divorce as more harmful to children than a childhood spent in an abusive home.

However, the biblical right of self-defense supersedes any duty of “submission” to an abusive spouse.  Women and children were not ordained as sacrificial lambs to the tempers of men. Continue reading

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Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture, Part 2 – Faith and Fault

“The journey to eternity” by Walter Crane, National Gallery in Prague (1902) (PD-Art, Old-100)

We continue this series on abuse in Christian marriage with a few more of Satan’s lies.

“Abuse in a Marriage Is the Woman’s Fault, a Result of Her Sin”

Not only are women frequently blamed for the abuse to which they are subjected.  A Christian woman may be told that, as a sinner herself, she cannot criticize her husband’s behavior.  If anything, it is her duty to reform him.

While a clever way of shifting blame, this is circular logic.  It has no basis either in fact or Scripture.

Abuse – physical, emotional, financial, or sexual – is a deliberate act by the abuser.  It is not the woman’s fault, and not her sin.  No one deserves to be abused – not a “witch”, not a “nag”, not a “pig”, not an “old bag”, or any other offensive term the abuser may devise to excuse his reprehensible behavior.  No one.

True, a sinner will reap what he sows (Gal. 6: 7).  However, it is the abuser – not the victim – who has sown the wind, and will reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8: 7).

As for reform, it may take criminal liability – if that – for an abuser to change his lifestyle. Continue reading

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Christian Marriage and the Misuse of Scripture, Part 1 – Satan’s Lies

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted in the desert.  And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’  But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” ’ ” (Matt. 4: 1-4).

In the wilderness of an abusive marriage, stones can all too easily be mistaken for bread.

Satan, we should never forget, is the father of lies (John 8: 44).  Familiar with Scripture, he is adept at twisting the word of God to suit his purposes.  This can cause even the most sincere among us to be misled.

Here are a few of the adversary’s favorite lies.

“Christian Men Are Never Abusive”

Emerging Directors Showcase (2016), Author University of Fraser Valley, Source https://www.flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

A glance at the news makes it abundantly clear that abuse is not foreign to Christians and men of the cloth.

Pastor Arthur Schirmer of the United Methodist Church was convicted in 2013 of murdering his wife [1].  Televangelist Joyce Meyer’s bodyguard, Christopher Coleman, was convicted in 2011 of murdering his entire family [2].

No Christian has the right to abuse anyone – man, woman, or child, inside marriage or out.  Christ came as the Servant to all (Mark 9: 35).  But not everyone holding themselves out as “Christian” has truly accepted Christ, and sought to emulate Him.  And Christians, themselves, are not immune to sin.

“There Is No Such Thing as Rape in a Christian Marriage”

Christian women are often taught that they give up all rights over their bodies to their husbands, and must submit to their husbands as to Christ.  While the Apostle Paul, at 1 Corinthians 7, does speak of a husband as having authority over his wife’s body, he, also, speaks of a wife as having authority over her husband’s body. Continue reading

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