Ineffective Sex Offender Legislation

There is a great blog post about this issue at Sex Offender Issues. I am not copying the article here because I want to make a side point. The blog is very much worth the read. One quote from it —

A 1990 meta-study by the Freedom from Religion Foundation documented that 190 clergy convicted of molesting children were found to have abused 847 victims — some abused hundreds, even thousands, of times — before they were caught. Investigators believe these clergy had actually abused at least 4,000 children.

I would venture to guess that the numbers now, nearly 20 years later, would be significantly higher since the reporting of incidents of clergy sex abuse has increased as a result of the publicity of the sex abuse issue in the Catholic Church. Victims at least have some chance of realizing they are not alone with a secret to keep and that the authorities might actually do something about it if they tell.

I am also very certain the incidence of clergy sex abuse perpetration has not noticeably diminished in the past 18 years. The only church that is making serious attempts to address the issue is the Catholic Church. They are lightyears ahead of Protestant churches on this problem — which is ironic since the public image is still that clergy sex abuse is a Catholic issue because of clergy celibacy. And perhaps this stereotype contributes to Protestant churches’ continued belief that it’s “not that big a problem for us” and thereby excusing themselves (collectively) from taking the definitive and painful steps the Catholic church has had to take to address it. Since there is a tendency among Protestant churches to vilify the Catholic church in the first place, it is easy to classify clergy sex abuse as a problem distinctively characteristic of priests required to be celibate against their nature.

The truth is that clergy sex abuse is at least as systemic in Protestant churches as it is in Catholic churches because it’s not about sex or celibacy. It is about power and, unfortunately, church leadership is a classic “power” position. That doesn’t make every pastor a predator by any remote stretch of the imagination. But it does mean that church leadership is a position that will appeal to a predator — not just because it gives him/her access to prey but because it scratches that person’s basic drive for power.

Just pondering here, what might be some effective sex offender legislation that would affect clergy? There’s a limit to what the law can do without overstepping religious boundaries. But civil authorities could perhaps prohibit an authority figure from holding a job where he/she has oversight of children or their parents (since by having authority over parents he can influence and have access to the children). For instance, a convicted sex offender could not be a school principal, a day-care owner, or a pastor. Does that make sense? I’d love to hear some other ideas, too.


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