The other day, a CNN headline read "Preacher Killed Wife, Stuffed Body In Freezer, Police Say." Other publications headlined more simply, on the order of "Preacher Kills Wife." Not till you get a paragraph or two into the story do you learn that evangelical preacher Anthony Hopkins, 37, pastor of the Inspirational Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in Jackson, Alabama, allegedly molested minor children, including his own daughter since the age of 11.
Yes, Virginia -- there is child molesting among the non-Catholic clergy. In fact, there is quite a lot of it, judging by the caseload to be found if you start combing the search engines. But you would never know it, judging by the low profile that hedges these non-Catholic cases -- not only in the media but the political arena as well. Especially when compared to the screamingly high profile put on child molesting by Roman Catholic clergy.
So when is the other shoe going to drop? When will we see the screamingly high profile on child molesting by clergy of other religions?
According to a Christian Science Monitor report in 2002: "Despite headlines focusing on the priest pedophile problem in the Roman Catholic Church, most American churches being hit with child sexual-abuse allegations are Protestant, and most of the alleged abusers are not clergy or staff, but church volunteers."
The Monitor went on to reveal, "These are findings from national surveys by Christian Ministry Resources (CMR), a tax and legal-advice publisher serving more than 75,000 congregations and 1,000 denominational agencies nationwide. CMR's annual surveys of about 1,000 churches nationwide have asked about sexual abuse since 1993. They're a remarkable window on a problem that lurked largely in the shadows of public awareness until the Catholic scandals arose."
In Texas, right now, a similar "Preacher Killed Wife" story is in its closing stages and once again, the child-molesting part gets buried halfway down the page. Former Baptist minister Matt Baker is being sentenced for murdering his wife several years ago. The case almost didn't come to trial because the wife's death was originally ruled a suicide. It seems that Baker was a long-time womanizer. Along the way Baker allegedly had sex not only with adult women but also with underage girls. But no real investigation of these statutory-rape cases has happened.
The $64 Question
Why are major media and non-Catholic church authorities so eager to low-profile these non-Catholic crimes?
Because, by and large, the deed is being done by clergy who are usually married... and therefore supposedly heterosexual.
In other words, religious authorities and politicians can't play the "gay card" with these cases, the way they've fallen over themselves to do with the Roman Catholic clergy, who are required to be celibate.
Thus, all these years that the Catholic scandal has lasted, blaming the sex crimes of Roman Catholic clergy on the alleged illicit urges of closeted gay priests has been the major focus of investigation. It has touched off a tidal wave of anti-gay repression and witch-hunting within the Roman Catholic Church. Some Catholic authorities even come forward with the old fake theory that "there's a link between homosexuality and pedophilia," thus perpetuating the myth that all gay men are potential child molesters.
As a result, less attention has been paid to festering sex crimes against children of the opposite gender. Some Catholic parents are furious at the church's eagerness to blame it all "on the gays," thus minimizing the molesting of these parents' daughters by priests. According to SNAP, female victims of these offenses are often overlooked. The organization says, " 'Of the priests we've evaluated, more abuse girls than abuse boys,' says Gary Schoener, a Minneapolis psychologist and expert on clergy sexual abuse."
This minimizing of clergy crimes against minor girls sends the oft-repeated dreary and heartless message of our culture that females matter less than males.
Further on the comparative lack of attention paid to sex crimes committed in other religions: it's true that the trusty media have given us some screaming headlines on prosecutions of a few Mormon renegades like Warren Jeffs, who molested minor girls in his pursuit of old-time polygamy, But these cases are almost the exception.
ReligiousTolerance.org points out that the media actually believe "the percentage of Roman Catholic priests who abuse children and youths is much greater than for other Christian and non-Christian religious leaders (gurus, imams, ministers, pastors, priests, priestesses, rabbis, etc.).
But RT goes on to point out: "Even as media articles in the first few months of 2002 highlighted abuse by priests within the Catholic Church, a former Episcopal priest was convicted of molesting a 14-year-old boy, a Baptist pastor from South Carolina was starting a 60 year prison sentence for molesting 23 children, another Baptist pastor was dismissed from his church in upstate New York over allegations of abuse, a pastor in DeKalb, GA, was found guilty of 25 charges of molestation of a male teen-aged church member, and an Orthodox rabbi was about to go on trial for groping two teenage girls."
Roman Catholics are justifiably outraged and heartbroken at the ongoing revelations of sexual abuses in their church. The wildfires of their outrage are roaring up through the ranks of hierarchy, consuming bishops and cardinals alike, with the flames of their furious demands for accountability now licking right at the foot of the papal throne, and the Pope's slippers.
What strikes me as creepy is the self-righteous outrage against Catholicism expressed by conservative Protestant clergy -- for instance, the Archbishop of Canterbury's comment the other day that the Irish Catholic Church has "lost all credibility" because of its cover-ups. It seems to me that the Archbishop ought to be focusing on crimes of this nature committed by his own clergy -- some of which are detailed here.
An Extra Rational for "Ex-Gay" Strategies
As far back as the mid-90s, information on non-Catholic child molesting was hiding in plain sight, in low-profile venues on the Web. For instance, when America Online was still fairly new and maintaining its first community forums, one of these included a Christianity Today forum that had a number of message boards devoted to different issues. One board was a open discussion of child molestation by Protestant clergy. I stumbled across it during my original research on the religious right, and used to read the postings with my hair standing on end.
Inevitably the message board disappeared -- suggesting that conservative Protestant leaders suddenly realized that they didn't want to point public fingers at their own clergy -- though they didn't mind pointing at the Church of Rome.
No wonder the Protestant religious righters are so vociferous about the alleged ease with which homosexuality can be "cured." It helps them with damage control when their own ministers -- Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Paul Barnes and others -- are caught with their pants down in a situation that clearly reveals their gay sexual orientation. Following the twisted logic of rightist ideology -- if homosexuality and pedophilia are linked, and these pastors are doing homosexual things, then they must be viewed as potential child molesters as well. So if you cure the gayness (righters believe), you also cure the urge to molest children.
When is the other shoe going to drop? When are these crimes by non-Catholic clergy going to be investigated and prosecuted with all the rigor of the law...and of prime-time top-of-the-news media exposure?
When is some high-mucky-muck Protestant leader going to be threatened with arrest for his alleged role in a high-level cover-up? And when is the whole sorry array of other religions' cover-ups going to be exposed? When are all of the children, male and female, going to get justice -- not just some of the children?
I, for one, am waiting and listening for that sound of something hitting the floor.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP (multi-denominational)
Page detailing Protestant abuses