IN--Indy pastor is deceptive in abuse case, group says
For immediate release: Friday, April 21, 2016
Indianapolis Presbyterian officials are “blaming the messenger” and being deceptive in an abuse case. We’re very sad that he and his staff are doing damage control instead of pastoral outreach.
Pastor Robert E. Hock of Southport Presbyterian Church (317-534-2900) is being deceptive and hurtful by describing child sexual abuse as being "between two teenagers." That’s minimizing a horrific crime. That's like calling a bank robbery a financial transaction between two adults.
If a 19 year old forces himself on a 13 year old, is Pastor Hock implying that this is OK? He and his lawyers and his public relations team knows that the power difference, not the age range, is what matters in sexual violence.
If a 42 year old rapes a 22 year old, will Pastor Hock call it “between two adults?” If a CEO sexually harasses a custodian, would Pastor Hock call this “between two adults?”
The word “between” implies consent. But there can be no consent when an older, more sophisticated person sexually exploits a younger, more vulnerable person.
And the word “teenagers” implies equality. In this case, there is not equality. The accused predator has far more power than his victim.
Pastor Hock says no abuse happened on church property, or at a church-sponsored event and no church employee was the offender. That’s his lawyer and his PR person talking.
No one said or implied otherwise. And no one, except the church’s defense lawyer and the church public relations staff, should care about any of this.
What matters is that church officials knew of or had strong suspicions about child sex crimes, yet chose to try to handle it quietly and internally, only later informing law enforcement.
And while Pastor Hock distances himself from the alleged abuser, he hides the fact that the accused was a counselor for several years, including last year, at a church-sponsored program.
Pastor Hock talks of forgiveness. When minister do this early in a child sex case, it’s usually an effort to shift the focus and imply that everything’s resolved. That’s disingenuous and self-serving. The time for forgiveness is later. Now is the time for prevention and disclosure.
The staff of Southport Presbyterian has a choice now. They can act like cold-hearted CEOs and “lawyer up” and duck and dodge. Or they can act like compassionate shepherds and admit their wrongdoing and do much more to heal the wounded, protect the vulnerable and expose the truth.
We hope they choose the latter course. But based on Pastor Hock’s news release, we aren’t optimistic.
Finally, it’s unbecoming of a professed shepherd to “shoot the messenger” and blame the news media and a support group for peeling back the secrecy with which he and his staff have handled a crime. Had Southport officials been honest from the outset, the news media and SNAP would likely have never felt compelled to step in and shed light on this troubling situation.
No matter church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Southport Presbyterian Church Says Claims of Cover-up Are Unfounded and Sensationalized
CONTACT: Robert E. Hock, Senior Pastor, (317) 534-2900
INDIANAPOLIS — The leaders of Southport Presbyterian Church are saddened and disappointed at accusations made against the church and reported in the media without anyproper attempt to vet the source of the allegations or substantiate the claims made.
Here are the key facts of the incident:
• No staff member of Southport Presbyterian Church was present or involved in the
incident, and no church-staff involvement is part of any allegation.
• The incident did not happen on church property or at a church-sponsored event.
• The incident occurred between two teenagers at a mutual friend’s home in a private
gathering that included several youth.
• The only connection to Southport Presbyterian Church is that both individuals attend the
• Southport Presbyterian Church was informed of the incident several days afterward by an
individual who heard about it not from the victim, but third hand; church leaders initially
had no way to know whether it was anything more than hearsay.
• After talking with both individuals involved, Southport Presbyterian Church’s pastoral
staff, in conjunction with the families at issue, immediately took appropriate action and
offered support and counseling for the victim. (The church does not wish to give more
details to respect the privacy interests of all concerned.)
• As both individuals were youth, the church sought counsel about reporting requirements
in this somewhat murky situation, and acted in compliance with all legal reporting
obligations, as confirmed by local police and Child Protective Services.
• The church did decide the event should be reported and did so both to local police and to
• Neither the police nor CPS had any concerns about the timeliness of Southport
Presbyterian Church’s report. Since that time, the church has continued to support all
Respecting confidentiality is far different than “covering something up.” People expect a church
to keep counseling confidences, and Southport Presbyterian Church did so with the highest
degree of integrity, in conformity with principles of morality and the law. Again, there was no
involvement by Southport Presbyterian Church other than to try to provide help and ensure the
victim and families involved were and are ministered to and supported through this difficult
“We have tried to treat this matter with appropriate confidentiality and not make this occurrence a broad public matter out of respect for the families involved. Sadly, an activist organization (SNAP) has contacted the media to try to push its otherwise well-meaning agenda. Our church is being unfairly maligned in the process,” said Robert E. Hock, senior pastor of Southport Presbyterian Church. “We wish to offer forgiveness and grace for any who have misstepped, along with assurances to all that the integrity of the ministry and actions of Southport Presbyterian Church have never been in question.
We are disappointed by the events of the last couple of days and would have welcomed the opportunity to share the facts with SNAP or Fox 59 and CBS 4 prior to the stations running a sensational story that has called into question the church’s integrity and plays on people’s emotions with such an accusatory headline. Southport Presbyterian Church has ministered to hurting people for more than 180 years, and that is exactly what we will continue doing as we love God, love each other and serve the world.”
SNAP will be Representing Clergy Abuse Survivors in Rome!
We are taking the fight to Rome and are standing up for all survivors on a world stage! From February 19-25, Board President Tim Lennon, Seattle Leader Mary Dispenza, Los Angeles Leader Esther Hatfield Miller and Austin Leader Carol Midboe will be traveling to Rome for Pope Francis' Papal Abuse Summit.
If you are a member of the media and looking to get in touch with these survivors while in Rome, click here for our media advisory and contact information. If you are interested in connecting with a survivor in the US from your area of coverage, please contact one of the SNAP leaders in the US listed below:
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- Midwest/Chicago: Zach Hiner (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
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If you are looking to help spread the word about the importance of this summit and for survivors to be heard, add your voice to the conversation on social media using the hashtag #PBC2019. Be sure to follow SNAP on twitter and Facebook and share our posts, add your comments, and let the world know that we are watching!Learn More