Tears for the perpetrators. Anger at the victims.

Tears for the perpetrators. Anger at the victims. July 23, 2014

Amy @ Watch Keep highlights a rare story of a local church responding appropriately to finding an abuser on its payroll.

John Sluder was an associate pastor at Believers Church in Auburn, Alabama:

His arrest in May got him kicked out of the church where he had been for 30 years.  Lee County Sheriff’s detectives say the two adult victims came forward in April to report they were abused in the early 1990’s.

… [Attorney Ben] Hand represents Believers Church where his father is the pastor. Hand says the church was stunned, then angry, when Sluder was arrested by Lee County, after two adult victims revealed Sluder had molested them on several occasions in the early 1990’s when they were 8 and 9 years old.

“Every child, including my own daughter that has had contact with him has been questioned to make sure there are no other potential victims out there,” said Hand.

… “He was told if he came on church property, he would be arrested from trespassing and was forbidden from every returning to Believers Church. His bond was lowered from $100,000 to $25,000 and that is a nominal bond, and we have recommended that nobody make that bond. He needs to be there,” said Hand.

… “The full extent of the law needs to be handed down. And we have to do everything we can to protect these kids ant they need to know they are safe and that society will come to their defense,” said Hand.

Amy contrasts this response by Believers Church with the image-control, stonewalling and circling of the wagons she more often encounters in her work with SNAP (the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests):

Tears for the victims. Anger at the perpetrator. This is a refreshing response from a church who gets it. It’s not about them. It’s about the kids harmed by one of their own. But they don’t protect their own image and shun and silence these kids, now adults, who though it took a long time, bravely came forward to report the harm done to them. Kids will be safer now, and other possible victims of Sluder will know they are not alone and perhaps have the courage to come forward as well, begin to heal and protect others.

Those first two sentences cut to the heart of the matter: “Tears for the victims. Anger at the perpetrator.” That provides the basis for a very simple test for whether we’re opposing evil or abetting it. Who are we angry at? Who are we crying for?

That, I think, captures what’s so horrifyingly upside-down about the story Madeleine Baran documents in her four-part investigative report for Minnesota Public Radio, “Betrayed by Silence: How three archbishops hid the truth.”

This a remarkable example of the craft of journalism — Baran and her team did their homework, and she writes beautifully even when the subject matter is deeply disturbing. It’s a long read, and it’s depressing, enraging and unsettling, but you should read it all anyway.

Chapter One: It all began in Lafayette

Chapter Two: The church protects its own

Chapter Three: Archbishop makes vow, breaks it

Chapter Four: Cover-up unravels from the inside

The two-sentence summary of all that Baran documents is simply the opposite of what Amy wrote at Watch Keep: Tears for the perpetrators. Anger at the victims.

Time after time, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis failed that test, abetting evil instead of opposing it, directing their tears, and their anger, at the wrong people.

Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis. Photo by Jennifer Simonson, Minnesota Public Radio.


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