Posts Tagged “child abuse”

Jesus WeptA man working for a church who committed a long serious of sexual assaults. His supervisors who found out about it and got him out of the way. Those same supervisors never reported the assaults to police, and what’s more, tried to block an investigation. One would think I was talking about the Roman Catholic Church — but I’m not. I’m talking, instead, about the VineLife Church in Longmont, CO. It’s some sort of Protestant evangelical church; I haven’t been able to find out which exact denomination, if any, it belongs to. In any event, KMGH-TV in Denver tells the sorry tale of abuse and cover-up (WebCite cached version):

Five officials at Vinelife Church in Longmont are accused of failing to report that a youth pastor had allegedly sexually assaulted a church member since she was 15 years old.

Boulder police said Wednesday detectives have served summonses on Vinelife Church executive pastor Robert Phillip “Bob” Young, pastor Luke Humbrecht, pastor Edward Bennell and church elder Warren Lloyd Williams. A fifth church official, who is currently out of the country, will be served a summons when he returns to Colorado, said police spokeswoman Kim Kobel. Police will identify the fifth after he’s been charged.

Each official faces one charge of duty to report child abuse, and is accused of failing to report the alleged child abuse to law enforcement or human services officials.

Boulder police arrested Vinelife youth pastor Jason Allen Roberson, 35, on Sept. 4 and charged him with one count of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust; one count of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of unlawful sexual contact. After reviewing the case, the Boulder County District Attorney added one count of stalking.

The alleged victim, who is now 24 years old, is also a former church staff member. She told police the “inappropriate” relationship with the youth pastor began when she was 15 years old and continued for seven years. She said she “trusted (Roberson) as an authority figure and spiritual guide, and felt uncomfortable disclosing the relationship to others,” police said.

VineLife insists it’s done nothing wrong. On its Web site, the church claims to have cooperated with police — which police say is not true — and contend they’re not subject to mandatory child-abuse reporting laws (cached). They even threw their own lawyers under the bus over that last point:

[T]he Church sought and obtained legal counsel, who indicated that the Church leadership would not violate Colorado law by not reporting the incident given the current age of the victim.

Now, I’m no lawyer, but it’s not difficult to look up the relevant law here (Colorado Revised Statutes 19-3-304, Persons Required to Report Child Abuse or Neglect) and see that it clearly states that “clergy” are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse. So I’m not sure if VineLife’s excuse will fly.

At any rate, for you Catholic apologists out there who read my blog (yes, there are some of you!) and are incensed that I seem to “only” report child abuse cases when it’s R.C. clergy who’ve done it, this post constitutes a refutation of that tired whine. Not that it was true before today, in any event; I’ve certainly mentioned child abuse by other sects’ or religions’ personnel before. I’ve never said, nor even suggested, it was “only” a Catholic problem, even if you think I have. So stop lying already, and stop bellyaching about how I dare criticize your precious Church.

Photo credit: Jenner8675309, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Twelve Tribes Wedding 001By now this must seem like an old story: Devout Christians abusing kids for Jesus. Perhaps the most common version of this kind of story is clerical child abuse. That’s something I’ve blogged about numerous times over the years I’ve been at this. But there are other examples of it, such as parents letting their sick kids die because they refuse to take a chance on mortally offending their loving, merciful Jesus by getting them the medical care they need. And there are still other examples, such as the FLDS commune where young girls were married off to old men at too young an age.

But the most recent example of this deals with corporal punishment. The Guardian reports that German officials raided the compound of a Christian sect and removed its children (WebCite cached article):

Forty children have been taken from a Christian sect in Bavaria, southern Germany, following police raids at a monastery and a farm after accusations of child abuse.

The children, aged between seven months and 17 years old, are members of the Twelve Tribes sect, which has its roots in the US. They have been placed with foster families while the group is being investigated.

The group, whose teachings are based on the Old and New Testament, is known to believe in corporal punishment. It had been under observation by authorities for some time, particularly for its refusal to send its children to school.

The article explains the nature of their corporal punishment:

By their own admission, parents of the Twelve Tribes, which has around 100 members in two locations in Bavaria where it has had a base for 15 years, are instructed to beat their children “with a small reed-like rod which only inflicts pain and no damage”.

On its website, the group declares itself to be an “open and transparent community that does not tolerate any form of child abuse. Our children grow up in a loving environment and are educated in the spirit of charity.”

But Helmut Beyschlag, head of Noldingen district court, said: “We suspect that parents were exercising abuse.”

According to initial reports, the disciplinary rods used were soaked in oil to make them more pliable during a beating, when children were allegedly struck on their bare feet, arms and backs, inside the former Cistercian monastery.

Let’s be clear: The idea that you can hit children with something so as to cause only pain and never “damage” them, is a fiction. Any time you strike a child with something, you run a very real risk of “damaging” his/her body … with a bruise, or worse. (And yes, I consider a bruise to be “damage.” Bruises only appear when blood vessels are broken, and blood-vessel breakage is certainly a form of “damage.”)

The sect in question is reclusive, and originated in the US in the 1970s. While I’d heard of it before, I thought it had died out sometime in the 1990s. Instead, it seeped into Europe around that time. They’re considered a “cult” in most places they’ve ventured to. In Europe, because they refuse to send their children to school, they’ve run afoul of education laws — and in this case, that’s what put them in the sights of German authorities in the first place.

The Twelve Tribes sect’s reclusiveness stems, it seems, from their belief that they’re recreating the “original” Church as described in Acts of the Apostles. The problem with this is that Acts is not considered wholly reliable. It likely was composed in the late 1st century CE or early 2nd as something of a propaganda piece, sort of a “golden age” retrospective of the Church’s first generation, by its third or fourth. There are very real historical and critical reasons to conclude this, among them being that Acts conflicts, at points, with Paul’s genuine epistles, which were written right in the middle of the 1st century, during the Church’s first generation.

At any rate, along with their probably-invalid interpretation of Acts, the Twelve Tribes sect seems also to have an unhealthy obsession with the Old Testament, in particular the famous “spare the rod” verse:

He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. (Proverbs 13:24)

Over the years a lot of ink has been spilt over this verse, explaining how it doesn’t advocate child abuse; e.g. the “rod” mentioned is merely a pointing-stick that shepherds used to guide their sheep where they want them to go, and not a bludgeon to pound kids with; as well as other rationales. But I don’t buy any of these creative reinterpretations. It’s true that ancient fathers used rods to beat discipline into their children … which is why this verse and a few others like it (Prov 19:18 & 22:15, etc.) are present in the Bible … but we no longer do that, nor should we. In the 21st century, we understand that “discipline” means much more than just causing physical pain when a child breaks the rules s/he is supposed to abide by. And we understand that beatings don’t necessarily instill “discipline” in them. We realize there’s a big difference between “discipline” and “abuse”; while the former is just fine (and expected), the latter is unacceptable.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Roma, sant'Anselmo all'Aventino, via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve blogged about the release of documents by the Catholic Church in Los Angeles. This was the result of a lawsuit settlement back in 2007. That’s right … 6 years ago, the Church agreed, presumably in good faith, to release these documents, but resisted doing so until this year. I admit I don’t really understand the logic of agreeing to release some documents, yet staunchly refusing to release them — but hey, I’m just a cynical, godless agnostic heathen, so what could I possibly know about such things?

At any rate, over 6 months after the archdiocese coughed up its records, some of the religious orders of L.A. released their own, and as the Los Angeles Times reports, they reveal how evasive and dodgy the Church hierarchy was (WebCite cached article):

Confidential personnel records from five Catholic religious orders were turned over to victims of sexual abuse Wednesday in the first wave of a court-ordered public disclosure expected to shed light on the role the groups, operating independently of the L.A. Archdiocese, played in the region’s clergy molestation scandal.

The documents pertain to a dozen priests, brothers and nuns accused of sexual misconduct in the landmark 2007 settlement with hundreds of people who filed abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles. An additional 45 religious orders will release the personnel files of their accused clergy by this fall, completing what is believed to be the fullest accounting yet of the abuse crisis anywhere in the Catholic Church.

The orders’ officials used some rather novel strategies in order to avoid revealing anything or creating any sort of audit trail:

For the most part, the files have little or no reference to abuse allegations that surfaced in lawsuits a decade ago, suggesting the orders were either unaware of molestation claims or opted not to document them.

When matters of abuse were referenced, officials sometimes seemed reluctant to commit the ugly details to paper. In the case of Benedictine priest Mathias Faue, one supervisor wrote vaguely [cached] of “his problem” or “difficulty.” In the file of Oblate Father Ruben Martinez, an order official repeatedly switched to Japanese characters [cached] to note sensitive subjects, including his admissions of “homosexuality” and “relations with boys.”

This official must have thought he was really clever. As though no one could possibly have thought he was covering something up, or that no one who ever saw one of these documents might recognize Japanese characters.

Setting this revelation apart from many others, is that this one includes the records of abusive nuns:

Wednesday’s release also covers the Marianists, the Benedictines, the Oblates and two orders of nuns. The disclosures by the Cabrini Sisters and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet mark the first time in the L.A. litigation the files of women have been made public. The two nuns, who are deceased, were accused in lawsuits of sexually abusing students decades ago. Their files contained no information on misconduct allegations.

All by itself, strategies like writing comments in Japanese characters reveal, conclusively, that Catholic officials knew they were dealing, at best, with unsavory characters doing things that weren’t allowed; or at worst, with criminals committing crimes; and that they didn’t want anyone else to know about them. Even so, I’m sure the Catholic Church’s defenders will continue blaming others and making ridiculous excuses for this behavior, just as they’ve been doing all along. The cold fact, though, is that there is no reasonable excuse for this. Not one.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The UConn Husky cries / PsiCop graphic, based on UConn logo by NikeSome correspondents complain that I focus too much on child abuse allegations in the Roman Catholic Church and ignore it when it happens elsewhere. This is, of course, a flat-out lie. I’ve blogged about accusations of child abuse among clergy in the Orthodox churches, Protestant churches, Orthodox Jews, and the Mennonites … among others (such as anti-gay activists). What happens is that the Catholic Church’s defenders read just one of my (admittedly many) posts on Catholic clergy abusing kids and assume — based on that one entry — that I’ve never, ever ever taken note of anything else. They don’t bother to do any research … which is easy enough, given this blog has a Search feature … to find out whether or not it’s the case. They just leap to that conclusion, due to their sanctimonious rage over some insolent agnostic heathen blogger daring to talk about the Catholic Church’s scandal.

The latest example of a child-abuse scandal, though, that I must comment on and cannot ignore, comes not from the Catholic Church. It doesn’t even come from any other religious institution. It comes, instead, from my alma mater: the University of Connecticut. The Hartford Courant reports on the investigation both into a music professor who may have abused kids while volunteering at a camp, and into how much UConn officials knew about what he’d been up to, and when (WebCite cached article):

The University of Connecticut will pay an outside law firm to investigate its own employees’ handling of allegations the school received as early as 2006 that a music professor engaged in sexual misconduct.

The school said it is cooperating in multiple law enforcement investigations into allegations against Robert Miller, 66, a former head of the music department who has worked at UConn since 1982. Miller was placed on administrative leave June 21 and barred from campus. He could not be reached for comment Monday. He is being paid his $135,741 salary and has not been charged with any crime.

However, investigations by UConn and state police are continuing – and now UConn’s Board of Trustees has asked state Attorney General George Jepsen to solicit proposals to retain an outside law firm to investigate whether UConn officials handled the allegations properly. The firm also would represent and advise UConn in an internal probe into whether it complied with federal Title IX procedures concerning sexual abuse allegations.…

Some of the alleged misconduct by Miller, according to court documents and Jepsen’s office, involved claims of improper physical contact with boys at a summer camp.

A spokesman for The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford confirmed that Miller was a volunteer at the camp from 1989 to 1992 when the improper contact was alleged to have taken place.

“These events date back more than 20 years. At that time, the camp immediately removed Mr. Miller from his position,” Ryan Thompson, the organization’s senior development officer, said in an emailed statement. “When the current investigation began several months ago, it was unclear whether the matter was reported to the appropriate authorities at that time. Therefore, the camp immediately made a report to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and has continued to cooperate fully with authorities.”

The focus of the investigation is on Miller’s activities at the camp, however, the possibility he might have been involved with UConn students has been broached:

Authorities also are investigating a statement that a student made to a UConn faculty member soon after news of Miller’s suspension last month “that the student was not surprised to hear” of the investigation “because the faculty member was known to have visited freshman dorms, provided drugs to students and had sex with students.”

The latter statement appears in Jepsen’s 40-page request for law firms’ proposals to do the investigation. It also says that the faculty member who reported the student’s comment “also indicated that the faculty member now being investigated was known to have a history of having sex with boys.”

This whole situation is just intolerable. It’s possible that university personnel might have known about Miller as long ago as 2006. If so, it will have been 7 years that UConn might knowingly have had a child predator in its faculty.

As for the R.C. Church … I’m sure a lot of their apologists are jumping for joy, pointing to this case, and screaming, “See? It happens at public universities, too! It’s not just a Catholic problem! Stop picking on our Church!” I hate to break it to them, but this case hardly makes any such point. That other organizations’ personnel abuse children, does not and can never make it acceptable for R.C. personnel to do so. That some folks at UConn might have known about Miller but kept quiet, does not and can never make it acceptable for R.C. hierarchs to cover up for and protect abusive clergy. That kind of reasoning is called “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and it’s fallacious.

What it means is that abusing kids and obstructing justice are not acceptable at any time, and can never be tolerated, no matter where it happens. It means it can conceivably happen almost anywhere, and one must always be ready to deal with it. It means Catholic hierarchs need to stop ignoring it, stop looking away, and stop making excuses. It means that the organization that views itself as the sole remaining arbiter of morality on the planet, cannot afford to use other groups’ misdeeds as justification for its own.

And lastly, it means numbers are not on the Church’s side. Miller may turn out to be the only UConn employee who’s ever accused of child abuse that was known to university staff. The same cannot be said for the archdiocese of Hartford, which is on at least its third case in only the last couple years … and it has many other cases before then.

Photo credit: PsiCop modified UConn logo by Nike.

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Manitoba Family Services would not say Wednesday how many children had been taken into care (file photo)Once upon a time, Anabaptist Christians (known mainly as Mennonites or the Amish) had a reputation for being passive and non-violent. Whether or not that reputation was deserved, it seems to be waning. With the arrival of the “reality” TV series Amish Mafia, and the eruption of infighting among them, it’s clear that there’s more to them than meets the eye. Yet another story that forces one to rethink how Mennonites are viewed, is this story, by the Canadian Press via the National Post, about rampant child abuse in one such community in Canada (WebCite cached article):

Children have been removed from an orthodox Mennonite community in southern Manitoba, where more adults have been charged with assaulting youngsters using items such as cattle prods and leather straps.

Manitoba Family Services would not say Wednesday how many children had been taken into care, or reveal any other details about the case.…

Two adults from the tiny orthodox community were charged in March with various counts of assault and assault with a weapon on several boys and girls between July 2011 and January of this year.

This week, two more adults appeared in court to face similar charges involving 12 alleged victims. The allegations are once again that the assaults were repeated and over roughly the same 18-month time frame. They were released pending their next court appearance.

I suppose leather straps are implements one might find among Mennonites, who eschew modern technology … but cattle prods? Seriously? And using them on children, no less? These are pretty serious allegations, especially with the RCMP involved.

Photo credit: National Post.

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Church of the Gesù in Rome / By Maus-TraudenOnce again, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church must be dragged kicking and screaming (metaphorically, anyway) into admitting their complicity in the abuse of children by clergy working under them. The Chicago Tribune reports the Jesuits in that city finally owned up to having protected and aided an abusive priest, for several decades (WebCite cached article):

Internal church records released Tuesday show that Chicago Jesuits consciously concealed the crimes of convicted sex offender Donald McGuire for more than 40 years as the prominent Roman Catholic priest continued to sexually abuse dozens of children around the globe.…

The documents contributed to a $19.6 million settlement between the Jesuits and six men from four states announced Tuesday. With an average payout of $3 million per person, the amount per individual is the largest in the history of the U.S. Catholic sexual abuse crisis, the victims’ lawyers said. The settlement and the documents add one more chapter to the still unfolding story of sexual abuse in the church.

Although the Jesuits insisted they’d found out about McGuire only recently, this turns out to have been a lie. They’d been warned long ago, and had even corresponded between themselves about it:

A memo in February 1991 expressed concern about a boy from Anchorage, Alaska, who traveled with McGuire and slept in the same room during a retreat in California. “This travel business is at least very imprudent, perhaps much more serious,” wrote the Rev. Robert Wild. He could not be reached for comment.

Another memo, dated April 1993, documented a call from the Rev. Joe Fessio, reporting that McGuire had been accompanied by several young men in Russia, “one of whom he was taking showers with and reading hard pornography.” Fessio reportedly contacted the boy’s father and “asked him to keep this quiet until he could represent this to McGuire’s provincial.”

Fessio could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In 1995, the Rev. Francis Daly, then acting provincial, wrote to McGuire after a mother copied his superiors on a memo telling him to stay away from her son. Daly could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“Let us hope that no more alleged incidents come to light,” Daly wrote. “You must understand the complaints raised in these situations are serious. There must be no more. I am calling you to a prudence greater than that which you have shown in recent years.”

Now, I’m pretty sure Catholic apologists out there who agree with the hierarchs that the Church has done nothing wrong, and that the whole scandal was caused by outside forces trying to destroy their precious holy Church, will continue to deny these documents show any awareness of McGuire’s wrongdoing. But Daly’s letter to him does indicate McGuire had crossed the line before. “I am calling you to a prudence greater than that which you have shown” makes no sense except in light of such knowledge.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'I am the Lord your God, and I need your kids to die for me!' / PsiCop original graphicNote: See below for some recent developments in this story.

A few years ago I blogged about Herbert & Catherine Schaible, who killed their son Kent by relying on prayer instead of medicine to save him from pneumonia. Well, it seems they managed to kill off another of their children. WCAU-TV in Philadelphia reports they killed an 8-month-old son for Jesus (WebCite cached article):

A couple that was sentenced to probation after their 2-year-old died in 2009 from pneumonia have had another child die.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible, fundamentalist Christians who believe in the power of prayer ahead of modern medicine, recently had their 8-month-old son die, according to Philadelphia Police spokeswoman Jillian Russell.

Honestly, I saw this coming a mile away. These people just don’t care about their own children’s lives. They demonstrated this conclusively, already, when they allowed Kent to die for no good reason. That they let another of their children die for Jesus was inevitable. The commonwealth of Pennsylvania also ought to have known this was coming. But they chose to do nothing. In fact, despite their conviction for Kent’s death, Pennsylvania courts and officials purposely and coldly allowed them to endanger more kids:

In 2010, a jury convicted the Schaibles, who have seven other children, of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in the death of their 2-year-old son Kent. The Schaibles were each sentenced to 10 years of probation — they could have faced prison time [cached].

Yes, folks, you read that correctly: For having been convicted of killing their own son Kent, the Schaibles were effectively unpunished, and didn’t even have their other children taken away from them so as to protect them. The commonwealth allowed them to go right back home, and just do whatever they wanted to their remaining kids. While the Schaibles are clearly deluded by their fierce, unrelenting, irrational and destructive religionism, the judge who sentenced them — and commonwealth officials who supposedly monitored them — have no viable excuse for their negligence. In a way, because of their comparatively-greater awareness of the problem, they’re actually more culpable for this second death than the Schaibles themselves!

Perhaps they, too, should now be hauled into court and tried for manslaughter. They cannot possibly have failed to know the danger. But we know they won’t be held accountable … because they, and the rest of Pennsylvania’s government, clearly just don’t fucking care about the Schaible kids. At least, they don’t care about them any more than the Schaibles themselves do — which quite obviously, is not at all.

Update: The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the death of Brandon Schaible has been ruled a homicide (cached).

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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