By Danni Moss
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To make matters so much worse in this issue, the fall-out from revelations of sexual abuse has a ripple effect that tears through the lives of many people for every single person who is abused. We want to shy away from exposing abusers because it is immediately obvious that exposure will tear apart church members and the lives of abuser’s families. But acting on this reluctance only stores up and increases the devastation that will come. Evil will not be hidden in darkness forever. Eventually it will come to light. And the longer it is hidden, the greater will be the devastation when it is revealed.
I hear often from people who don’t want to believe their pastor is guilty. I hear from family members who either cannot accept their husband/brother/father’s guilt or who feel the incident is being blown out of proportion and their family member isn’t “like those predators.” This response is completely normal. And sometimes they are right – in their case the person wasn’t guilty. That doesn’t happen often – but a false accusation carries with it its own set of painful consequences.
There was a time when people would automatically assume a clergy member or widely-respected church member was not guilty – and they would be right. But because of the prevalence of legitimate abusers in the church now it is far more likely that 1) people will assume guilt first, and 2) they will be right. In a very real way, the pain of a false accusation, with all its consequences, is a direct effect of the fact the church failed to be responsible with abuse in the church 20-50 years ago. This is part of the delayed consequences that are magnified now because the church did nothing years ago.
While people involved in situations where there have been unjust accusations want to strike out at those who are speaking out for victims, they need to be looking where the blame really lies — the church’s failure to properly uphold righteousness a generation ago. As horrible as it is, this is a direct consequences of that failure. The lives being scarred by unjust accusations today are the delayed fruit of festering unrighteousness in the church of yesterday that has erupted in systemic infection in the church today.