17 Responses

  1. […] Ministers Guilty of Sexual Sin […]

  2. I have a tangent on this I believe has the potential to do enormous harm to our churches. That is sexual assault of our children by fellow members, in our case, a prior minister of our congregation. I fear we did not take sufficient action to ensure the perp cannot harm more children, a college he has chosen to associate himself with and, ultimately, the churches of Christ. The sad and sorry story of this pedophile, his assault on our daughter, the ineffective response from us and the church is instructive. Worse, the perp now has access to children at a major Christian college. This differs from the adulterous preacher because the sexual assault on our daughter was a criminal matter that should have been reported to the district attorney rather than relying on internal church procedures.

    The pedophile sexually assaulted our daughter when we let him take her camping with his daughter. We confronted the pedophile shortly after the assault. He freely admitted the assault (in retrospect, it seems he was so depraved he did not understand the heinousness of the crime he committed) and said he was going to get therapy with a certain family therapist we both knew. He “played us” and we were naïve and foolish enough to believe he would voluntarily get effective treatment. We were in a state of shock and not thinking clearly. Additionally our church leadership impressed upon us that the perp was such a fine person and we needed to be kind and forgiving with him. One of the elders, now departed, even told us we “shouldn’t be so critical of him because all us men have normal sex drives.” We have never viewed sexual assault on a child as part of normal male sexual drives.

    We did not take legal action against the perp because we did not want to further traumatize our daughter and the church leadership had made it so clear they did not want us to do anything to inconvenience the pedophile.

    Not too long after the assault, the perp moved to a distant state and, as far as I knew, did not put himself in a position where he would be a danger to children or the institutions that serve our children. However, a few years ago I became aware the pedophile had associated himself with a major Christian college where he appeared to have access to the children. We have not contacted the administration of the college because the perp has
    threatened me and it has been so many years. I fear the fox (the pedophile) is just outside the door of the hen house and may be unable to control himself around the precious young women there. This may be a perfect example of where our propensity in the churches of Christ to handle the matters within the church, forgive and go forward serves us poorly. It leaves the perp, as in this case, free to prey upon children again when the matter blows over.

    The churches of Christ are having trouble keeping our young people. I personally believe we have an epidemic of child molestation just under the surface that may destroy us. We lost both of our daughters to the churches of Christ because of this pedophile combined with our poor response and poor advice from church leaders. Sometimes church leaders need to recognize when they need to consult with professionals to properly handle such a serious matter.

  3. Carr,

    You describe a deeply tragic situation and obviously have a lot of regrets. If I were in your shoes, I’d contact the college and tell them what I know. It’s the Golden Rule. If I were the college administrator, I’d want to know that I have a pedophile on staff. As the pedophile has made threats of suing for defamation, you should first check with a lawyer in that state. Many states have laws protecting people from suit in these cases. Besides, generally, truth is a defense. Tell the college.

    Readers,

    In the case of child abuse, it’s critical that the authorities be notified. Some state laws require it. More importantly, most schools and churches now do criminal background checks when they hire (this wasn’t true until recently). If there’s no criminal complaint, nothing shows up in the background check.

    More importantly, pedophiles are nearly always repeat offenders. And they very rarely get better. If he repents, forgive him, but turn him in anyway.

    The Catholic Church made the truly horrific mistake of confusing forgiveness with naivete and repeatedly put pedophiles in a position to abuse children, figuring the pedophile had repented. But repentance hardly guarantees the ability to overcome temptation. Even for sins much less dark than pedophilia, it can sometimes take years to overcome the temptation. There’s no reason to imagine that a pedophile will become instantly cured just because he shows genuine remorse. And it’s wrong to put someone wrestling with such a sin into temptation.

    In a nearby church, the pastor was recently fired because he put a known pedophile in a position of responsibility in the teen program — without telling the parents. When they found out, they insisted that the pastor be fired for sheer stupidity. They were right. There are lots of jobs a pedophile can do in God’s kingdom. None of them involve being around children.

  4. Carr, my heart goes out to you and your family. As a minister, I’m very hard line on cases such as you have described. As a church we should have a “one strike” policy. I think the elders need to investigate and if found credible, he is not only relieved of ALL his duties, he is also arrested. I know that in the congregation I used to serve, our elders had someone come in and make recommendations to keep anything like this from happening. Common sense suggestions like putting windows in the doors of our classrooms. A part of a shepherds responsibility is to protect the flock. If they were unaware, that’s one thing. To be worried about the preacher’s reputation at the expense of a child is something quite different!

    Again, I’m so sorry to hear about what your family has gone through…

  5. jdb and Carr,

    I agree with jdb. The wise eldership insists that procedures and put in place to reduce the risk of pedophilia. Sadly, some pedophiles join churches because they provide such easy targets. We cannot be naive. Do background checks on volunteers who would have the opportunity to abuse a child and be certain there will be a witness — such as by putting windows in the doors. GuideOne is an insurer specializing in churches. Their recommendations may be found at http://www.safechurch.com/Pages/Default.aspx.

  6. All-Thanks for all the kind thoughts. I do have a lot of regret we did not handle this better. The most severe result of our poor handling is that the matter was left as an open festering wound in our family. (Our daughter struggles to this day!) If we had done all we could to handle the matter properly, including criminal action, we could have at least have had the sense we did all we could. The second regret is that our inaction made it possible for the perp to access and harm numerous children including those at the major Christian college where he is now. I have tried to get a major brotherhood newspaper to publish (without names) my letter to the editor to point out the danger from this pedophile. However, they have refused to do so, apparently having a greater interest in protecting the pedophile. I believe it is unconscionable that the institutions that purport to serve our brotherhood conspire with pedophiles to allow those pedophiles access to our precious children. It sometimes feels like we have lost our collective minds. If we cannot get past our common mindset that forgiveness means it is safe to let pedophiles access our precious children, it may do our churches enormous harm. Shades of the Catholic church!!!

  7. Carr-again, I’m terribly sorry for what has happened to you and your family. I understand that what has happened doesn’t go away soon. I don’t think I would be as hard on you as you are on yourself. The old saying is true that we can only do the best with the information we have at the time. You do the best with what you had and if you had known different you would have done different.

    I am not surprised that brotherhood newspapers are not anxious tor print things like this without names, especially since there was no criminal charges filed. To them, without the criminal charges, it is more rumor than news.

    Again, my heart goes out to you and your family.

  8. I came across a news article which I have inserted below. That article shows the early warnings the Catholic church had, how the warnings were ignored (because the pedophile priests were such Godly men, so essential to the church and, supposedly, “cured”), and the subsequent meltdown in the Catholic church. As a brotherhood we face this fate if we continue to allow known pedophiles free access to children in our Christian colleges.

    Early Alarm for Church on Abusers in the Clergy
    By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
    Published: April 2, 2009
    The founder of a Roman Catholic religious order that ran retreat centers for troubled priests warned American bishops in forceful letters dating back to 1952 that pedophiles should be removed from the priesthood because they could not be cured.
    The Rev. Gerald M. C. Fitzgerald, founder of the order, Servants of the Paraclete, delivered the same advice in person to Vatican officials in Rome in 1962 and to Pope Paul VI a year later, according to the letters, which were unsealed by a judge in the course of litigation against the church.
    The documents contradict the most consistent defense given by bishops about the sexual abuse scandal: that they were unaware until recently that offenders could not be rehabilitated and returned to the ministry.
    Father Fitzgerald, who died in 1969, even made a $5,000 down payment on a Caribbean island where he planned to build an isolated retreat to sequester priests who were sexual predators. His letters show he was driven by a desire to save the church from scandal, and to save laypeople from being victimized. He wrote to dozens of bishops, saying that he had learned through experience that most of the abusers were unrepentant, manipulative and dangerous. He called them “vipers.”
    “We are amazed,” Father Fitzgerald wrote to a bishop in 1957, “to find how often a man who would be behind bars if he were not a priest is entrusted with the cura animarum,” meaning, the care of souls.
    His collected letters and his story were reported this week by The National Catholic Reporter, an independent weekly. Father Fitzgerald’s papers were unsealed by a judge in New Mexico in 2007 and are now becoming public in litigation, although some letters were public before now, said Helen Zukin, a lawyer with Kiesel, Boucher & Larson, a firm in Los Angeles. The letters were authenticated in depositions with Father Fitzgerald’s successors.
    The scandals, which began in the 1980’s and reached a peak in 2002, revealed that for decades bishops had taken priests with histories of sexual abuse and reassigned them to parishes and schools where they abused new victims.
    It was not until 2002 that the American bishops, meeting in Dallas, wrote a charter requiring bishops to remove from ministry priests with credible accusations against them.
    Asked why Father Fitzgerald’s advice went largely unheeded for 50 years, Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., chairman of the United States Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, said in a telephone interview that in the first case, cases of sexually abusive priests were considered to be rare.
    Second, Bishop Cupich said of Father Fitzgerald, “His views, by and large, were considered bizarre with regard to not treating people medically, but only spiritually, and also segregating a whole population with sexual problems on a deserted island.”
    And finally, he said, “There was mounting evidence in the world of psychology that indicated that when medical treatment is given, these people can, in fact, go back to ministry.” This is a view, he said, that the bishops came to regret.
    A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he could not comment because he did not have enough information.
    Responding to Bishop Cupich’s comment about Father Fitzgerald, Ms. Zukin, who represents abuse victims, said: “If the bishops thought he was such a bizarre crackpot, they would have shut him down. In fact, they referred their priests to him and sent him financial contributions.”
    She also said the psychiatrists who worked at the Servants of the Paraclete’s centers said in legal depositions that they had rarely recommended returning sexually abusive priests to ministry, and only if the priests were under strict supervision in settings where they were not working with children.
    From the 1940’s through the 1960’s, bishops and superiors of religious orders sent their problem priests to Father Fitzgerald to be healed. He founded the Servants of the Paraclete in 1947 (“paraclete” means “Holy Spirit”), and set up a retreat house in Jemez Springs, N.M.
    He took in priests who were struggling with alcoholism, drug abuse or pedophilia, or who had broken their vows of celibacy, whether with men or women. He called them “guests.” His prescription was prayer and spiritual devotion to the sacraments, which experts say was the church’s prevailing approach at that time.
    At one point, he resolved not to accept pedophiles at his center, saying in a letter to the archbishop of New Mexico in 1957, “These men, Your Excellency, are devils, and the wrath of God is upon them, and if I were a bishop I would tremble when I failed to report them to Rome for involuntary layization.”
    Laicization — or removing a priest from the priesthood — was what Father Fitzgerald recommended for many abusive priests to bishops and Pope Paul VI.
    But that step was rarely taken, said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a whistle-blower who often serves as an expert witness in cases against the church, “because the priesthood was considered to be so sacred that taking it away from a man was something you simply did not do.”
    The Paracletes did not return calls for an interview.
    After Father Fitzgerald died, his order grew and established retreat centers around the country and overseas, which became regular way stations for priests with sexual disorders.
    His successors added psychiatry and medical treatment to the prayer regimen. They sent priests back into ministry, at the request of bishops. The Paracletes later became the target of lawsuits, and had to close most of their centers.

    THE CONSEQUENCES OF IGNORING THESE LESSONS ARE EASILY PREDICTABLE-WE IGNORE THEM AT OUR OWN PERIL!!!

  9. Bingo. There is an atmosphere where we went that encourages this kind of behavior. We left because of it, and were cast as sinners, crazy, and divisive. It was frightening. I’ll never go back to another Church of Christ. Everyone we asked for help from turned their backs.

  10. It was an elder who was behind this mess in our case and the other elders sided with him. No one wanted to cross them.

  11. The problem will remain until its brought into the open.
    I fear openness will split alot of cobrgations wide open. Maybe that is what needs to happen. Why protect these people at the expense of the innocent?

  12. Marlow,

    I entirely agree. Elders have a duty to root out sexual abuse, especially within the eldership.

  13. Jay,
    This is a very good article and issue about preachers and sexual abuse. I cam across this issue in Ft. Worth in 1967. My girlfriends dad called me one time and asked me to come over to be with the family. I wondered what this was about, and my girlfriend and I had always been chaste lover- nothing below the neck. I got to the house and she, her mom and ad were in the living room with their preacher and a deacon. I wondered what this was about . Her dad wanted me there as I was a witness and fairly manly, in case anything happened. Her dad was an elder in this church. He said he wanted me there as his daughter, my girlfriend, accused the preacher of putting his hand up her dress when she went to him for counseling. This girl was pure in all ways and told the truth at all times. I was shocked. The preacher went on to deny anything happened, and then went after her for looking “so good” and dressing in a feminine way (dresses). Then the deacon said that this has to be stopped as my girlfriends mother tried to seduce him when he went to see her in the hospital after she had surgery. I knew this was not true.
    I was in shock hearing all of this stuff. I asked the preacher if he wanted to leave by the door or through the window. ( an immature response on my part), He became mad and attacked me verbally. Anything to skirt the issue (no pun intended!).
    What happened was that my girlfriend and her mom and dad left that church, where her dad was an elder. This man probably went on to sexually abuse women. He is in hi 80’s now. A few years ago, I called him out of the blue and asked him if he was still sexually abusing women in his churches. There was silence for about 5 minutes, and then I asked him again “Are you?”, He then hung up.

    Anyway, that is my story of first hand experience. I have one more under my hat. I hope I was discreet in this post, as I do not wish to cause harm to my ex-girlfriend. Thanks for listening. If Jay wants the name of the minister, he can privately email me.
    Thanks
    Gary

  14. i wonder how many preachers become one in order to somehow try and overcome their weakness by doing “His will”. There may be a better way of saying that but it seems that ministry might be attractive to those unable to conquer their sins – not spiritual enough or dedicate enough or something like that.

  15. I believe you are onto something here. I believe some people struggle with these demons and think they can somehow purge themselves of their perverted desires by getting into ministry. Of course, this does not purge them of the evil desires but gives them access to innocent victims while clothed as a minister eager to help the victims. This was apparently standard operating procedure in the Catholic church. The enemy you don’t see is the one that gets you. My father tells me this is what his B-17 crewmates said as they flew over Germany in WWII. We as Christian brethren can be absolutely blind to the risks posed by vipers like these men.

  16. Following is am article from the Denver Post pointing out what may very well happen to the major Christian college because of its continued tolerance of a pedophile on its staff.

    “Past and present University of Northern Colorado students say theater professor Vance Fulkerson engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct with male students for nearly two decades and that while school officials were aware of complaints, they did nothing.
    Christopher Johnson says he submitted to a sexual act with Fulkerson in 1991, when Johnson was a senior and Fulkerson was a first-year professor. Johnson says he filed a written sexual-harassment complaint with then-dean of music Howard Skinner but got no response. Johnson then quit the school for a year.
    “I’ve been haunted by that monster for 18 years,” said Johnson. “Just hearing his name still sends shudders down my spine.
    “But while I am furious at him, the longer it went on, the more angry I became at UNC because they protected him.”
    Fulkerson, 63, was charged Tuesday with one felony count of sexual exploitation of children and one misdemeanor charge of unlawful sexual contact after a complaint that he had a video monitoring system set up in the bathroom at his home.
    Then-musical theater department chair Jeannette Kolokoff, now executive director of the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra, encouraged Johnson to file his complaint after the 1991 incident. She resigned four years later, in part, she said, because of her inability to get Fulkerson out.
    “When he got tenure in 1994, that was the last straw,” she said Wednesday.
    Skinner said he did meet with Johnson and heard his allegations. “I did follow up on the matter and took what I believed to be appropriate action,” he said.
    Asked what that action was, he responded: “I am not going to comment on the specifics at this time.”
    Johnson said he thinks that if action had been taken in 1991, it might have protected future students, as well as the university’s nationally regarded theater program, which now faces a legal crisis.
    “It saddens me that students there are still telling the same story 18 years later,” Johnson said. “They weren’t even born yet when this all started.”
    Outside investigation
    Officials at the 12,000-student university have requested an outside investigation to determine whether they should have acted on prior complaints about Fulkerson. They declined to comment in depth while that review is underway.
    Last week, Greeley police, responding to a complaint by a student staying at Fulkerson’s house, found a wireless video camera hidden in an alarm clock on the back of the toilet in his bathroom. The camera, which captured guests urinating or showering, fed directly into a TV in Fulkerson’s bedroom. Greeley police spokesman Sgt. Joe Tymkowych said many recorded tapes and DVDs were found in the bedroom.
    Fulkerson initially told police he filmed only consenting, paid models and sold the tapes to raise money after having to file bankruptcy.
    “And that’s a crock of (bleep),” UNC senior Nick Izzo said. “That’s just not true.”
    Two years ago, Izzo was taking a private voice lesson at Fulkerson’s house. He was sent to the bathroom and told to try urinating while singing.
    “He told me, ‘You know the muscles you use to pee? Well, that’s where you need to sing from, so why don’t you go in and try using the bathroom and sing?’ ” said Izzo, who went into the bathroom but said he couldn’t go through with it. “I thought it was weird, so I left, and I never came back.”
    Johnson, who teaches at a performing-arts camp in New Jersey, said Fulkerson’s “pee exercise” is well known, “and there is no known vocal pedagogy for it whatsoever. It’s completely absurd.”
    Fulkerson was to direct “Forever Plaid” for UNC’s summer company, the Little Theatre of the Rockies, opening July 29. He has instead been placed on administrative leave and now faces up to 18 months in prison and $100,000 in fines if convicted. Fulkerson has been released from jail pending trial and did not respond to a request for comment.
    The man who made the initial report to police, a May graduate and an actor in the school’s repertory company, says on July 1, he exited Fulkerson’s bathroom as Fulkerson was going in. He then noticed Fulkerson’s usually locked bedroom door open and peeked in. He saw five TV sets, one of which showed a
    Vance Fulkerson, a theater professor at UNC, had a video system set up in a bathroom at his home. (9 News)
    live feed of Fulkerson urinating in the same bathroom he had just exited from.
    He contacted police, who also found in a locked safe 29 images of nude boys as young as 5 in provocative poses.
    In the past two days, The Denver Post has heard from five men who said Fulkerson initiated unwelcome sexual contact with them when they were students; four said they contacted a UNC official and nothing was done. Twelve additional men and women said they have witnessed what they believed to be inappropriate contact between Fulkerson and students.
    None filed complaints with police, and even today none allege they were sexually assaulted by Fulkerson. Each, however, believes the professor took advantage of his position to seek sex.
    UNC regularly produces actors who go on to Broadway, so it draws top high school students from around the country to its 320-student theater program. Former and current students said Fulkerson used his position to create sexual opportunities. Johnson said Fulkerson often used overnight trips, alcohol and marijuana, and promises of future jobs.
    “I think he intentionally preyed on young men who weren’t necessarily out (of the closet),” Kolokoff said. “They weren’t going to say anything. Who were they going to say it to?”
    That belief is shared by UNC alumnus Kelly Lardie, who said he has several friends who were involved with Fulkerson from 1989 to 1993, “and I have been kicking myself over and over again for not doing something about it,” he said.
    UNC spokesman Nate Haas said the university can’t legally forbid sex between a teacher and a student when it is a consensual act between two adults. But “any conduct unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational environment” violates the school’s sexual harassment policy.
    “We hold ourselves to higher standards here, especially because we are in positions of trust,” Haas said.
    An overnight trip
    Johnson says Fulkerson used his position inappropriately in 1991, when Fulkerson asked Johnson, then a senior, along for an overnight trip to Denver.
    Fulkerson was to conduct a class at a high school thespian convention. Johnson said he was told there would be other students and separate hotel rooms. Instead, it was just the two of them, in a shared room.
    “And once we got there, he said the class was canceled so our night was free,” Johnson said. “He took me out to dinner, we both got very drunk and he said he wanted to go to a porn theater.”
    Back at the hotel, Johnson said, Fulkerson emerged from the bathroom, stripped and lay down on Johnson’s back. A sexual act ensued.
    “I pretty much pretended I was passed out so it would end,” said Johnson. “I can’t say I welcomed it. I had never been in that position before. He was my professor. I was of age, but I was a student, and obviously it was wildly inappropriate.”
    Johnson told Kolokoff, the department chair, who verified that a written complaint was filed. “I think it was a totally legitimate and warranted complaint, and it was always inferred that incidents like this were continuing to go on,” she said.
    Johnson said, “I always felt like the dean was embarrassed about it being a gay situation, and he didn’t want to deal with that. I live my life as an out and proud gay man, so I bear no prejudice toward the man’s sexuality at all. It’s not about that. It’s about the abuse of power — by him and the university.”
    Kolokoff said she was so repulsed about Fulkerson’s dalliances with students that it led to a yelling match in a school hall.
    If it is confirmed that the university has known of Fulkerson’s indiscretions, the ramifications could be felt for years, from litigation to enrollment.
    “I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the incoming freshmen change their minds because of this,” Izzo said. “I am definitely worried about whether the program is going to survive this.”
    But Haas said due diligence must come before judgment. Toward that end, the university has authorized an independent investigation to be conducted by the Mountain States Employers Council to determine what has happened, who knew about it and when it was known. “I’m sure those kinds of things will turn up if there has been any sort of documentation in the past,” Haas said.
    Skinner, who retired in 2007, is cooperating with the investigation. “I’m sure we will be reviewing all of the pertinent matter in detail,” he said.
    UNC president Kay Norton issued a statement saying, “I want to assure you that we absolutely do not tolerate or condone the behavior that has been alleged. . . . As members of the university community, we share the responsibility for creating a respectful, caring and inclusive climate on our campus.”
    As the shock and potential ramifications of the news settled over the UNC theater community, one alumnus commented, “Everyone who is a fan of this program is a victim.” While another, Brad Ramsey, concluded, “They are all guilty.”
    John Moore: 303-954-1056 or jmoore@denverpost.com

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