Secrecy and Sexual Abuse in the Church

Foreword: Sexual Abuse in the Church and by Christian ‘sects’ such as Christian Assemblies International points to a highly disturbing and continuing trend for sexual abuse to be swept under the carpet and go unreported to police. In this powerful piece of writing, Graeme Ness, a former Uniting Church Minister, reflects on the poison that continues to fester in our communities while a culture of denial and deceit remains the characteristic response of Church and Spiritual leaders.

In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, the following words attributed to Jesus, appear:

“If any of you puts a stumbling block before one of these little ones [children], it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” [Matthew 18:6 NRSV]

“The first [commandment] is ‘the Lord our God, the Lord is one, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” [Mark 12:29-31 NRSV]

Enquiries into past sexual and physical abuse of children in Australia, both within the states and federally, have emphasised the fact that abuses have occurred across a wide range of church and community organisations, and that those organisations have often kept them secret.

It is also clear that the Ostrich Approach [head in the sand] taken by these organisations has simply compounded the damage.

The leaders of the organisations, by failing to deal with the abuse issues, have magnified the damage to the victims and also damaged their organisations. The credibility of the leaders is opened to question, as is the credibility and trustworthiness of those who work within these organisations, whether they work in a paid or voluntary capacity.

Over 20 years ago a Roman Catholic priest who had many years of experience in the church, told me “If a child falls over in the playground of the school, I can no longer go and comfort the child, I have to go and get a teacher.”

Because past abuse by some priests, brothers and others had not been dealt with by the Catholic Church, but hidden, his freedom to work as a caring human being and a priest were damaged. His actions became suspect and questionable because of the behaviour of others. Like any wound with poison in it, if it is not treated it will fester, spread and become far more damaging.

Religious and other organisations have also used the loyalty of the victims and/or their families to the organisation and to their “good” name, to put pressure on them and ensure that no reports are made to police: this to limit the damages they need to pay out, assuring them that the organisation will deal with the perpetrator/s, but frequently failing to do so in any proper manner. They have also failed to live up to the standards which they proclaim from their pulpits and expect their members to uphold. As they do this, they deny the “Light” that they claim to bring to the world.

When the leaders have failed to deal with the issues, seeing themselves as beyond or above the law, they have not understood that they may be seen as accessories to the crimes that have been committed, and to the crimes that will be committed in the future by those they have failed to deal with and report to the police.

It is well beyond the time when the leaders must be required to live by the standards they proclaim.

By Graeme Ness, Retired Minister of the Uniting Church in Australia, Woolgoolga, NSW, Australia

Related Reading:
Secrecy and Sexual Abuse: Is the Confessional failing the Church and its Members?

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382 thoughts on “Secrecy and Sexual Abuse in the Church

  1. The thing is, that it has damaged the work of many who have really tried to live and work by their faith, only to have that work tarnished by the church’s failure to deal with the abusers.

  2. What I can feel is how loyalty has a hard time admitting being betrayed, and would rather sympathise and protect.

  3. The day will come where all these transgressions will be understood. One would think that the church would lead the way, but the understanding of True religion shall bring us the understandings that will deliver us from these evils.

  4. It is common knowledge yet we choose to close our eyes & shut our ears. How is it that millions of people around the world still follow those who rape and abuse children? Activists, protesters, people who proclaim to be fighting to restore the good in the world, all under the umbrella of this evil rooted institution…

    1. Regrettably, too many church leaders still have not got the message. Abuse in any form must be dealt with; especially abuse of children. Recently the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church made a move to ensure that priests who are accused of abuse are reported, but sadly, it seems the report only goes to the Vatican. There is still the assumption the the Catholic Church operates outside of the law of the country the abuse occurs in. When will church ;leaders recognize that their failure to act is simply doing more and more damage to their church ?

      1. We cannot recognise something for what it is if it keeps us in our comfort if it keeps up the illusion. So for somebody to see the mess they’re in they need to take a step back and observe, but when we’re engulfed in it there’s no chance – hence why we have accidents, lose our things etc. – something has to snap us out of it.

  5. “Like any wound with poison in it, if it is not treated it will fester, spread and become far more damaging.” The festering poison of child abuse within established church organisations continues to affect people for many years after the initial occurrence.

    1. Nothing has really changed within those establishments, they continue to, for some reason hold themselves above the law, and we, the people, allow that!

    1. It is amazing to see how ‘things’ are being exposed, that they are all coming to the surface and no longer allowed to be buried.

  6. ‘It is well beyond the time when the leaders must be required to live by the standards they proclaim.’ Absolutely. And this should go across the board everywhere in the world whereby people, especially leaders are actually walking their talk. It is shocking how this, the abuse within the Church (well abuse anywhere!) has been happening for so long with no consequences or accountability.

  7. “It is well beyond the time when the leaders must be required to live by the standards they proclaim.” I agree that the world needs standards – especially if you profess to lead – then your every move is watched and set as a benchmark for everyone else – then the integrity of our standards becomes everything.

  8. ‘It is well beyond the time when the leaders must be required to live by the standards they proclaim’. Very well said Graeme and this principle should be applied to and lived not just by our religious leaders but by every leader in every governing level of every culture or system be that legal, corporate, education, welfare, health, policy making, everywhere.

    1. It would be like a prime minister passing a law, then they and the government officials doing exactly as they want, irrespective of the law, in total hypocrisy of the law…

  9. Exactly, Elizabeth. At the end everything will be revealed to us – we will be deeply reminded that we cant live in this way. Loveless. So, we must take care of the following: “It is well beyond the time when the leaders must be required to live by the standards they proclaim.” This means everyone.

  10. The church continues to operate behind closed doors when sexual abuse is reported or dealt with and it is through this lack of transparency and attempts to hush such things up that every member of the church is seen as a possible abuser, in their attempts to deal with it in-house, they have in fact made it far worse for themselves.

    1. thanks Sally, it feels to me that part of the problem is, that in claiming to deal with abuse situations, nothing is actually done. The mind set is still, keep it quiet and it doesn’t exist; move someone on and tell them to behave. Too often churches have been seen as soft targets by abusers, who know that if they are caught they won’t be dealt with.The churches and other organizations that do this to protect their names, continue to damage their credibility, and magnify the harm done to victims.

    2. And in truth – nothing can actually be swept under the carpet long term, there will come a point when that carpet needs to be lifted.

  11. Surely just one case of sexual abuse in the church should make everyone stop and wonder how something so ugly got entangled with God – but multiple cases must make you ask if this religion is missing something and is Christianity really it – or could our relationship to god and religion need to be slightly different?

    1. It amazes me that that question hasn’t been asked hundreds of years ago, ‘ if this religion is missing something and is Christianity really it – or could our relationship to god and religion need to be slightly different?’

  12. Thank you Graham, and may I add to the conversation by starting with “The leaders of the organisations, by failing to deal with the abuse issues, have magnified the damage to the victims and also damaged their organisations.” Then if we were also to consider reincarnation and the deviation from the truth that has occurred could it not be the organisations responsible for this will have to bring about a change so the healing of what has deeply affected everyone can start.

  13. We avoid dealing with the core issue, and hold up the resultant collateral damage as THE issue when it is really just a distraction – which makes us look like we are doing something about it, but we know so well how that would buy us time to continue with ill choices.

  14. All imprints we leave behind Will be there waiting for us next moment or next life.all get to be cleared and completed.
    Revanche is not needed, we all get to feel how it is.

  15. Could it be possible that the energy we pass-over in, is what we come back to until that ill energy is cleared? Understanding this because of being molested in my early years and then by the time I was thirty (30) there was a realisation that for this to happen to me, I had to have molested in a previous life. And in consideration of what I have just shared, maybe I came to this realisation because of the deep knowing from within, that I would never put another through those turbulent years of my teens and even up until the truth was revealed.
    Then there was my belief in reincarnation, which started when my father died when I was aged nine (9) and how this started a different way of living, so that there was a beginning to understand our responsibilities in life.
    But it was not until the discovery of the works by Serge Benhayon that I started to deepen my relationship with True Responsibility and how we can shift and heal these ill energies with the devastating affects they have on us.

    1. I absolutely agree – religion and abuse or religion and hate should never be mixed – they are two completely separate things, the grace and purity of religion should never be muddied by completely unreligious acts.

  16. ‘It is well beyond the time when the leaders must be required to live by the standards they proclaim.’
    It surely is and has always been required.
    A great example is the Code of Ethics by the EPA association. Which leads us to a high standard of requirements on energetic integrity and livingness that a practitioner who wants to practise an Esoteric Modality. The energetic assessment is done consistently (yearly) in order to keep the highest quality practised by an EPA members (practioners). This is something any business can work from, as it holds true principle based on respect and integrity. This is what needs to be restored in our world today.

  17. There was a time, long long ago before organised christian or catholic religions were so widespread across Europe, when the church did not have the power to exist outside of normal everyday law. This has in fact been a gradual development as more and more authority figures paid lenience to the members of the church. So the privileges of the churches was originally based on relationships with those who had the real power. It is unfortunate however that this special arrangement has actually over time become a festering ground for unacceptable behaviour, which has in turn affected the lives of so many people in so many ways. The damage here being huge.

    1. The failure of church leaders to act and prevent abuse has lead to the steady erosion of the authority of the leaders and of the churches. Any religion which seeks to operate separately from the law, or which seeks to mold the law for its own benefit, and deny rights to those who are not part of their “faith”, will find that its time and authority will gradually be eroded. Many members of religious groups struggle to maintain their faith and are deeply disillusioned because of these failures.

  18. The truth is that one can never hide from the quality of energy one has chosen, such as the evil of child abuse. To even think one can and this it is OK to do so, further highlights that evil at play and exposes the corruption behind the institutionalised religion of Catholicism, and the absence and corruption of true connection to and meaning of God in their doctrines. For God does not represent abuse of any kind, nor is it to be allowed or condoned, as our birth right is to freely live the love we are, this is the light of God that is our truth for all to live and see.

  19. How can the truth of living in our world, where all are held and treated as equal, be a reality when there are those who live as though they are beyond reproach. This is the highest form of arrogance and perpetrates the continued reality of many forms of separation.

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