Recently, I have been hanging around a blog called Deep Thoughts that is run by a skeptic. He has recently been posting a number of entries about Christians (especially pastors) who have been accused of, been charged with, or admitted to committing child sexual abuse. My feeling was that he was trying to paint Christianity in a false light by making it appear that pedophilia was running rampant in the Christian church but nowhere else. So, I commented (with a couple of typos corrected):
Pedophilia is not limited to priests and pastors. All types of people have committed pedophilia from a position of authority from day-care workers to youth sport coaches. The crime is horrible and should be neither accepted, covered-up nor tolerated.
The fact that you are focusing on pastors and priests who have done so but not others simply mirrors a viewpoint that is being hoisted on the world that Christians are worse than others in this area. That's not true.
Also, it should be noted that the vast majority of Christians are loving to children and would not think of commiting such a heinous action. Christian organizations and professionals provide counseling services for children (Christian and non-Christian) who have been abused and adults who were abused as children. The vast, vast majority of Christians care very deeply about this problem.
There is no excuse for child sexual abuse whether from a pastor, a teacher, a coach, a babysitter or any other person with authority over kids. But the entire field needs to be examined -- not just focus on pastors who have gone bad.
The author of the blog responded (typos uncorrected so that I don't misrepresent what he said):
"…simply mirrors a viewpoint that is being hoisted on the world that Christians are worse than others in this area" This is not why I cover clergy abuse. As an atheist, I am constantly told that I am immoral, that without god it is impossible to be moral. I track clergy abuse under the heading "Hypocrisy Watch" to show my detractors that being a Christian does not make one moral. Instead, I show that what one does with ones life is the define factor. Being a Christian has nothing more to do with being "moral" than the war in Iraq has to do with fighting terrorism.
"The vast, vast majority of Christians care very deeply about this problem.", you cannot tell this form within the world of blogging. The vast majority of these cases are ignored by Christians if the lack of blog traffic can be taken as an indicator. I think your point is a "feel good" error.
While I disagree with most of what the author of the blog said, I do think it's a valid criticism that Christian bloggers have not been very outspoken about child sexual abuse by those in authority in the church. I am sure there are reasons for this relative silence. On this blog, for instance, where we focus on issues of apologetics, the abuse of children by members of the clergy would not ordinarily be an issue that we would discuss. For my own part, I thought it would be painfully obvious to anyone involved that Christians (being largely seen as sexual prudes due to the Biblical teaching that we remain sexually pure) neither approve nor accept child sexual abuse.
Apparently, I was wrong on this point. Apparently, people who are skeptics are looking to the church to speak out more loudly on this issue and understand our relative silence as some type of tacit approval of the child sexual abuse being committed (on rare occasions in comparison to the total number of Christians) by clergy or other Christians. It appears that some people may see this as a reason to find Christianity untrue.
So, I want to state uncategorically that Christians should unite to drive any trace of child sexual abuse out of the church. Pastors who engage in such practice should be stripped of their authority and sent to jail. We should stand up and demand that such activity not be covered up by others in the church. Child sexual abuse is immoral, contrary to the teaching of the Bible, and unacceptable in any civilized world. Covering up such practices communicates the message to unbelievers that the church actually approves of child sexual abuse and that it doesn't truly love the children of the church.
However, in doing so, we must continue to stand by our principles that we should love one another. We should forgive. Thus, if the abuser is truly repentent we should not turn our back on him/her. We should help him and love him. However, while we should always welcome a person who has sinned into the church because (1) we are all sinners and (2) God's love extends to everyone no matter how heinous of a crime that person has committed, a person who has abused their office by abusing children should not be allowed to pastor or work with children in the church ever again. Does this mean they are excluded from doing work for the church? No. There are many other ministries that don't involve children, and if the person wants to work in those areas (after having paid the penalty for his/her crime) then that person should be welcomed to volunteer in that area -- but not as a pastor. It would be irresponsible for the church to have people who have so badly abused their offices and hurt children to be given the opportunity and position to do so again. If the person is truly repentent and desiring to lead a more Godly life, they should willingly accept that sacrifice since it keeps them away from further temptation.
I call on all other Christian bloggers to make their own statement against child sexual abuse in the church. You don't have to agree totally with my stance, but I do hope that the Christian bloggers will take their own stands and speak out loudly and clearly that we, as Christian bloggers and members of the body of Christ, find child sexual abuse to be unconscionable and the continued employment of pedophiles as pastors to be inconsistent with the directives of the Bible.
If you read this and blog, I ask you to link back to this blog through the comments section. Challenge other Christians who read your blog to write their own blog and link back to you. By this means, I am hopeful that we can develop a web of links that show that Christian bloggers have taken a stand against child sexual abuse -- especially, child sexual abuse in the church by pastors or others in positions of authority.