I’m sitting here reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about the controversy surrounding the decision of a church in Milwaukee to pay suspected pedophiles priests to leave the ministry. It turns out that any priest suspected of pedophilia was given $20,000 to get out of the ministry and return to civilian life.
All the predictable points are raised about the pros and cons of the payments.
Naturally, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) protested the payments as payoffs and bonuses to priests for molesting children, saying “You don’t give a bonus to a man who rapes children,” and, “If they paid them anything, it should have been for therapy and counseling.”
Of course the archdiocese defended the payments, saying they’re just an incentive to get rid of the priests without getting into a lengthy, bureaucratic process of removal and the payments were to help the men transition to lay life without completely losing access to needs such as health care.
Whoooooah just a minute. Hang on a minute. I feel like somebody has a great big whitewash brush they’re trying to slap over my sensibilities. I have two problems.
First of all, where is there any mention of the victims here? All the focus is on the poor (suspected) predators who need to be looked after as they transition into the world in which the rest of us strive to survive. They need health care. They need counseling. They need therapy. They need. They need.
I can say from experience that when a church pays more attention to the needs of a predator, whether convicted or suspected, than it does to the needs of the victim, the spiritual fallout can be devastating. When a victim sees all the concern and attention going to the person who robbed them of their innocence, childhood and sense of themselves – and sees their own woundedness ignored – something dies inside. Disappointment in the establishment morphs into disappointment and rejection of God. When the rehabilitation of an offender takes precedence over the healing and restoration of a victim, it doubles the deep sense of victimization and injustice.
Anyone who has read my books knows that I place great importance on efforts to rehabilitate offenders, in hopes their restoration will prevent them from offending again. However, the victims have been robbed of so much and when there is no effort to affirm and attempt to recompense them, the wounding just goes deeper and the victim can build deep resentment against those who did not see the bigger picture. The priority must always be with the victim.
My second issue is with the word “suspected” as in “suspected pedophiles.” Why were they suspected? Someone must have complained. How can a suspicion be strong enough to warrant the paying of $20,000. without a conviction? If there were formal charges laid and the “suspected pedophile” was not convicted, that should mean he was exonerated – so why pay the $20,000.?
Let’s get clarity in dealing with predators. If they are “suspected,” they need to be formally investigated, charged (if warranted) and processed in a court of law – where they are found guilty or innocent. No profession should be above the law in being subject to its requirements. Victims always need to know that they matter to the courts, to the community and to the church. Affirmation of what has been done to them is the starting point for healing. Lastly, when convicted predators are released from prison, we need to do all we can to ensure they do not offend again. But that’s lastly.
© Diane Roblin-Lee - May 31/12