Whistle blowers and the church
When I was in secondary school one of the teams we played against was from the Verona Fathers, a Roman Catholic seminary where boys were being trained as prospective priests. We cheered our team and jeered theirs during the game but before and after the game things were OK between us. How were we to know that these boys we were with were being systematically sexually abused?
This week there was an article in BBC news about some of these boys having an audience with Pope Francis, who has told them that he will tell the leader of the order that ran the college to engage with the group.
This involves people I have met, but it is not unique and it is not just the Roman Catholic Church, there is an ongoing story of the beginning of reform in the Southern Baptist Convention, USA and historic cases in the Methodist Church and in the Church of England. The history of abuse spans denominations and involves conservatives and liberals.
It should not be like this.
Jesus said a lot about truth. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” he said (John 6:45) in stark contrast to the Greek philosophy of the time which said the truth could not be known. But truth does set free, as shown by the reaction of the victims of the Verona Fathers to their Papal audience. But too often the reaction of churches has been anti-Christian, going against the teaching of Jesus, trying hard to sweep abuse under the carpet to prevent them from looking bad. All that serves is to let abuse continue. Not only the original abusers but also those responsible for the cover-up need to face justice, the justice of God which sets the abused free.
We need transparent leadership. Restructuring from the top down so that irresponsible abusive leadership can be caught early before it causes too much damage. That is where the damage is done, it is not done by people complaining they were abused as children. We should be showing love first to the most vulnerable.Only then will we be able to see what we pray for, God’s Kingdom to come.
We need whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are doing the work of the Kingdom of God by exposing the things that are hidden. We need whistleblowers in every walk of life, but especially in the Church.