Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hurt by the pastor, destroyed by the church

The title is a slight paraphrase of a statement made by Diana Garland, dean of Baylor University’s School of Social Work, and author of a groundbreaking study on clergy sexual misconduct in the church. She personally interviewed 83 victims of clergy sexual misconduct and said,

...victims were “hurt” by a religious leader, but they were “destroyed” by the congregation. Operating from what she called a “normalcy bias,” congregants want to believe they are nice people, and their pastor is a nice person and it’s normal to be nice. Such an accusation is not nice, therefore not normal and the accuser must be the one in the wrong.

To read of ministerial colleagues involved in such deplorable and often criminal conduct is appalling but to read of victims being re-victimized by the reaction of the congregation is especially painful.

When cases of such abuse are made public, it is sad that many have this exact scenario: a victim hurt by the pastor but destroyed by the church.

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