For immediate release: Friday, Oct. 18, 2013
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
A prominent Baptist official is telling church members “don’t take matters to the press.”
We hope every Baptist rejects this self-serving, unhealthy and often dangerous advice, especially when it comes to sexual and financial crimes, whether known or suspected.
There may be some “unbelievers” who can better fix the church roof or who give a lower bid to replace the church boiler. And there are definitely some “unbelievers” who can better protect kids, investigate suspicions, prosecute predators and prevent abuse. They are the experienced and unbiased professionals in law enforcement. They should be called promptly – and anonymously, if need be – every time a Baptist church member or staffer suspects that a child has been or is being hurt.
And especially when police or prosecutors are reluctant or unable to help, victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers in churches should call journalists.
We suspect that Rev. Patterson will claim to have “misspoken” or been “misinterpreted” or been “imprecise.” But his words are pretty clear. He apparently doesn’t mention any exceptions to his “no whistleblowing” advice, not even for child sex crimes and cover-ups.
Though our focus is on child sex crimes and cover ups, we also advise church-goers to call police about possible financial misconduct in churches for two reasons. First, it’s our duty as citizens to call law enforcement about ANY suspected crimes. Second, it’s our experience that often clergy steal money to buy expensive gifts for victims or pay “hush money” to them.
Patterson admits that his advice isn’t popular. That’s because it’s wrong. It flies in the face of common sense and civic duty.
Look at what’s happening in the Twin Cities. In the last three weeks, three credibly accused clerics have been publicly exposed for the first time: Fr. Jon Shelley, Fr. Rudolph Henrich, and Fr. Michael Keating.
Shocking revelations about other proven predator priests have also been made: Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer and Fr. Robert Kapoun.
Kids are safer as a result.
Why is this happening? Largely because of a church whistleblower.
Yes, this is a different denomination. But no, cover ups of clergy child sex crimes and clergy sexual misconduct don’t happen just in Catholicism.
More wrongdoing in churches needs to be reported more often to more people who are more apt to stop it and prevent future wrongdoing.
Civic duty does NOT require reporting anything at all to the media. Our current media hysteria full of half-truths and outright lies surrounding the shutdown of the federal government should be a shining example of why the media is not the appropriate route to take if there is an allegation of abuse of any nature in a church. There are also no laws in my jurisdiction of which I’m aware that require me as a professional or even a mere citizen to report crimes to the media. The media is simply not the manner in which accusations should be handled. How many false accusations of what a person said have been bandied about on the airwaves and in the print media lately?
Yet, Jesus would not approve of a church doing nothing. He counseled followers to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s which includes following the laws of the land. Laws are in place for reporting abuse or other crimes, but again, it isn’t to be reported to the media. However, some churches may be unable or unwilling to handle an internal investigation with any degree of competence. Moreover, overzealous police can also be an issue in the arena of alleged sexual abuse especially of minors. But church officials or congregants cannot remain silent. To do so violates the Word of God in more than one way. You can’t “do unto others” by letting someone committing crimes continue to create victims. You can’t love God first and foremost with all you have and are if you are permitting someone to harm His children.
There is a fine line to be drawn, but it doesn’t involve the media in any way, shape, or form. The media is not an appropriate outlet for resolution of anything when it comes to criminal accusations. In fact, during voir dire of a jury, the members are asked if they’ve heard anything about the particular case in the media. If they have, it’s bad news (pun intended) for both sides to an argument.
A church should be diligent on the front end of things as well as keeping an eye out for problems. If someone is suspected, hire an independent and qualified person to investigate and then notify the appropriate authorities whether that be the social services agencies or the law enforcement agencies if the allegations are not completely unsubstantiated. Otherwise, report directly to the law enforcement officials with everything you know and let them do their jobs