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Southern Religion

Baptist self-delusion about pastor/priest sexual predation

Ethicist David Gushee in an otherwise admirable column gets it exactly wrong when he writes:

Where Catholic and Protestant sexual misconduct tends to differ relates to the Catholic requirement that the priesthood be held only by men vowed to celibacy. Certainly there are Protestant ministers who abuse children. But more often Protestant ministers fall prey to heterosexual misconduct, as when married male ministers have affairs with women in their congregations. This violates chastity (not celibacy), and is still a form of clergy sexual abuse because it involves the abuse of clergy power.

Christa Brown at StopBaptistPredators politely corrects him, writing in part:

We’ve seen a whole slew of Baptist clergy abuse cases that involved married ministers. If priestly celibacy were the catalyst for child predation, then how should we explain the fact that so many molestation cases involve married men?

Basically, it’s impossible to explain because the assumption that underlies it is wrong. As Penn State religious studies professor Philip Jenkins said: “No evidence indicates that Catholic or celibate clergy are more (or less) involved than their non-celibate counterparts. Some of the worst cases of persistent serial abuse by clergy have involved Baptist or Pentecostal ministers, rather than Catholic priests.” (Jenkins, 2003)

There is simply no comparative data to support David Gushee’s suggestion that, for Protestants, the problem has more to do with married ministers who “have affairs,” while for Catholics, the problem has more to do with priests who abuse kids. To the contrary, the data that exists — two decades’ worth of insurance data gathered by the Associated Press in 2007 — suggests exactly the opposite. It suggests that Baptists likely have every bit as big a problem as Catholics with clergy who sexually abuse kids.

March 30, 2010 - Posted by | SBC | ,

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