Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ruth Krall, Religious Leader Sexual Abuse: A Pan-Denominational Approach

Transferring an Ebola Patient for Transport to a Care Facility  

I recently had the privilege of publishing an essay by Ruth Krall entitled "Prolegomena: An Act of Re-Thinking" (here and here). That essay challenged readers to re-think how we've come to view the phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people in religious contexts, and to consider applying terms and concepts from the realm of public health (e.g., epidemic, endemic, or pandemic) to this phenomenon.

"Prolegomena" is the first in a multi-part set of essasys on which Ruth has been working, with the title (for the entire series), "Recapitulation: Affinity Sexual Violence in a Religious Voice." In her manuscript gathering essays together under that title, Ruth includes a dedicatory note acknowleding the influence of her father Carl S. Krall on her life, work, and thought. It reads,

In Memory, Carl S. Krall, 1901-1963 
A guiding principle for my adult life and its ethical development has been a quite simple question: if my father had lived to see my adult professional life unfold, would he be proud of the person I have become? Certainly, there have been many mis-steps and errors in personal judgment in eighty years, but this underlying question has been a polar star — an internal guidance system by which to shape my ethical development as an adult. Growing up in poverty, he never got the university education he wanted. But he made certain that each of his three children graduated from college. Just before he died, I told him that I would be going to graduate school with the goal of becoming a college professor. 

It's my privilege to share with you now Ruth's second essay in her "Recapitulation" series. This essay, entitled "Religious Leader Sexual Abuse: A Pan-Denominational Approach," continues Ruth's analysis of religious leader sexual abuse of vulnerable individuals from the standpoint of public health. It proposes that "any effort to eliminate sexual abuse as a public health problem must, therefore, be both a national and an international effort. It must also be pan-denominational — reaching into multiple religious communities." Here's Ruth's second essay, which I'll publish, as with its predecessor, in two installments: 

Religious Leader Sexual Abuse: A Pan-Denominational Approach

Ruth Elizabeth Krall, MSN, PhD

Introductory Comments

In a recent conversation with a friend, I told her that I am fascinated by the emerging technologies of containment for the Ebola virus. The world health community has mobilized life-saving treatment services for patients. It has mobilized preventive methodologies to limit (contain) the spread of Ebola. The world’s healthcare equipment manufacturing communities have produced a wide variety of isolation devices and protective clothing to be used to protect care-givers and the public in situations where diseases caused by the Ebola strain of viruses are prevalent. The goal (of aggressive treatment and public health prevention measures combined) is the world-wide containment and then eradication of Ebola. To this end vaccines have been developed and isolation equipment has been produced. Demographic data have been collected, quantified, and widely disseminated. Assertive and pre-emptive community education and outreach programs — even inside active war zones — have been instituted. In short, the world's public health community has mobilized itself to protect the physical health and safety of the world's Ebola-vulnerable citizens.

As I have studied the Ebola crisis what, I have wondered, is needed for the world’' public health community to commit itself to the containment and eradication of clergy and religious leader sexual abuse? What is needed to mobilize the world's public health community to take substantive action to end this contemporary affinity violence plague inside religious and spiritual teaching organizations?What is needed to activate a plan devoted to the eradication of sexual violence in the global human community? What is needed to gather scientifically valid demographic information? What, I wonder, is the beginning place? For Typhoid Mary, it was a single sanitarian who followed the sanitation clues that led him to recognize a single individual was spreading typhoid. For malaria, it is a world-wide team of scientists and inventors who recognized the role of mosquitoes in the transmission of the malaria-causing organism.

Again, looking slant at these questions, another example of world health containment programs is the polio virus, which in 1988 was present in more than 125 countries — paralyzing 350,000 people a year. Once successful vaccines came on the market, the goal of a polio-free planet became a realistic possibility. The World Health Assembly and private foundations launched an all-out effort to rid the world of polio. (i)

For an update as of May, 2019, see the Polio Global Eradication website for its report of the Annual World Health Assembly meetings in Geneva. (ii)

The stated measurable goal is to totally eliminate polio from the global world by 2023. That is four years away. But the goal of eradication is specific and progress towards that goal is, therefore, measurable. The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee evaluated the latest global polio virus epidemiology and concluded that the goal to eradicate polio remained a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. (iii)

The following reminder is part of the Polio Global Eradication information outreach. It is sobering to read.
All countries remain at risk of polio until the disease has been completely eradicated from the world. Until then, the best way for countries to minimize the risk and consequences of polio infection is to maintain strong population immunity levels through high vaccination coverage and strong disease surveillance in order to rapidly detect and respond to polio. (iv)

What about Religion and Religious Leader Acts of Sexual Violence?

Given the fact that citizenship in a religious organization is simultaneously accompanied by an individual's citizenship in the political sphere of the nation-state, what is the nation-state's obligation to guarantee the safety and well-being of every member of its society? What, therefore, is the state's public health obligation to guarantee the safety of its citizens who religiously practice?

If we had citizens in Ashram X or Synagogue Y or Parish Z who were dying of intractable childhood diarrhea, would the state claim that because these cases of lethal infantile diarrhea are occurring inside religious groups, we — the state — have no obligation to intervene? Would it matter if the state's supply of safe drinking water was imperiled? How many infants and small children would need to die before public health mandates for action were set into motion and assertively implemented?

My questions assume that just as the state isolated Typhoid Mary against her will in an earlier era of American history, and just as the world health community and political states are interested in containing modern-day epidemics such as measles in the United States, Ebola in Western Africa, infantile diarrhea in impoverished countries, and polio in the developing world, the sexual safety and well-being of all citizens must be a priority concern.

This issue of clergy sexual abuse, by its very nature, is rooted in religious systems that exist inside the political state and, simultaneously, by the nature of world religions, transcend national borders. These systems should not be, in my opinion, exempted from prosecution for failure to protect their members from abusive clergy and other religious leaders.

Any effort to eliminate sexual abuse as a public health problem must, therefore, be both a national and an international effort. It must also be pan-denominational — reaching into multiple religious communities.

Even as I write, I know that the Ebola virus does not recognize political boundaries; the rubella virus or the polio virus goes where its human hosts go — be that on an airplane or in a car or walking down a city street. They, too, do not recognize political boundaries. These viruses do not respect religious ideologies. Where individuals are vulnerable or accessible to these viruses, the viruses multiply and spread. They must be contained, therefore, where they actually manifest.

Vaccinated people with healthy immune systems and other vital resources such as safe water and adequate food supplies are safer than unvaccinated people with poorly working immune systems and limited access to resources such as uncontaminated water and food. We can say, I suppose, that vulnerable individuals suffer more because they have fewer resources at hand to prevent contact with these virulent diseases. Contact with these virulent organisms, therefore, affects the world's most vulnerable citizens.

Contact with sexually abusive clergy is somewhat similar. The most vulnerable among us are targeted by clergy abusers. Those of us with the fewest resources to build resistance to corrupt religious practices are, therefore, more vulnerable. These manifestations of sexual violence (like viruses) must be contained where they actually are present inside religious organizations. In addition, some individuals are vulnerable because of their educational or employment location. For example, seminarians abused by seminary faculty members or young priests abused by their bishops fall into this category.

By Analogy: World-wide Religious Leader Sexual Abuse Phenomenons

Cry out with a thousand tongues.

~ Mary Pezzulo

On her Steel Magnificat blog at Patheos, Mary Pezzulo writes:
Men who are ordained to the priesthood … had better spend their entire lives striving to be worthy. And if they fail in this regard– if they sexually harass or abuse anyone even a little bit, if they have sex with someone under their care and direction or if they try to have sex and get rebuffed– they must be removed from ministry. That is where the line needs to be drawn. Priests who sexually harass and take advantage of underlings are dangerous. Bishops who allow them back into ministry are endangering the faithful.
Any bishop who doesn't have the spine or the decency to do this must resign, because such a bishop is unable to fulfill his responsibility to his flock. (v)

The Journey to Understanding

Collectively, the world community is becoming aware of clergy and religious sexual violence. Multiple author-survivors around the world have written personal narratives. Theologians, clinicians, social scientists, journalists, and lawyers have persistently been alerting the commons that there is a serious problem inside religious communities and that this problem is religious leader sexual abuse of vulnerable individuals inside their respective communities. In addition, some political governmental agencies have begun to get involved because of criminal liability. Metaphorically, today's spiritual and religious sanitarians and some of its governmental watchdogs have described and diagnosed the source and structure of this sexual abuse plague which is lodged inside religious organizations.

In part, the content of my brief presentation in 2015 to SNAP (vi) was based in my awareness that these world-wide clergy sexual abuse scandals are an endemic problem facing the worldwide public health community. In the past thirty-five years, clergy sexual and religious leader abusiveness has become very visible on the world stage: hundreds, perhaps thousands, maybe even millions, of news reports have surfaced around the globe. Dozens, perhaps hundreds or even thousands, of books have been published. Individual nation-states such as Australia (vii) and Ireland (viii)  have called governmental study commissions, have listened to informed testimony and published reports of their findings. In the United States, state attorneys general have called Grand Juries to examine clergy sexual abuse practices inside the Roman Catholic dioceses of their individual states. An example is the 14 August 2018 Pennsylvania Diocese Victims' Report. (ix) By June, 2019, sixteen state attorneys general had launched investigations into clergy sexual abuse in Roman Catholic dioceses. (x)

We now know: religious leaders' sexual abuse of their adult devotees, institutional subordinates, and the religious community's children negatively affects the lives of thousands of children, teens, and vulnerable adults. The phenomenon of sexual abuse crosses denominational lines and linguistic barriers, and is influenced by factors such as economic status, family stability, gender, race and ethnicity. Even non-quantifiable variables such as belief systems, personal piety, and doctrinal orthodoxy affect the demographics of this kind of abuse.

Clergy and religious leader sexual abuse of vulnerable individuals is, therefore, a pan-denominational and world-wide inter-religious phenomenon. Sexual abuse of their followers by religious and spiritual leaders is perhaps the most common ecumenical, inter-faith phenomenon of today's religious and/or spiritual landscape.

By its very nature, sexual violence and abuse leaves victims with life-long consequences. The emotional or psychological costs are socially incalculable. The life-long physical and medical costs per individual are unknown but we have some windows into the cost issues. The ACE survey study instrument has begun to give us needed information about long-term health effects. (xi)  Quantifiable issues such as post-abuse suicides have yet to be studied and calculated.

Buddhist gurus abuse (xii); Jewish rabbis abuse (xiii); Orthodox priests abuse (xiv); world-class Roman Catholic university professors abuse (xv); Mennonite preachers abuse (xvi); Mormon religious leaders abuse (xvii); Southern Baptist preachers and youth ministers abuse (xviii); international missionaries abuse (xix); Zen spiritual teachers abuse (xx); Hindu swamis abuse (xxi); mega-church pastors abuse (xxii); televangelists abuse (xxiii); Pentecostals abuse (xxiv); Roman Catholic cardinals, bishops, and diocesan priests abuse (xxv); seminary professors abuse (xxvi), seminary rectors abuse (xxvii); world-famous theologians abuse (xxviii).

While most professionals in these various world religious or spiritual teaching traditions manage their interpersonal sexual behavior in ethical and morally-principled ways, a certain subset of individuals (male and female) does not do so. When abuse occurs, the question becomes quite simple: what do religiously-based organizations do about it? How do they manage the abusive behavior of leaders and subordinate employees inside their organization's structures of administration and work? What, if any, policies are in place to manage employee abusiveness? If policies are in place, are they followed?

In many professions (from medicine to social work; from law to clinical psychology; from corporate financial headquarters to centers of political governance), the reality is that abusers are frequently protected inside organizational patterns and informal policies of secrecy. (xxix) However, professional codes of ethics do have value and a preventive dimension. In general, when professional regulatory agencies receive a complaint about a sexually abusive professional, they begin to investigate it. Licenses to practice may be withdrawn. Employing organizations may terminate employment. Referrals to the criminal justice system are likely. Survivors may be provided with information which can lead to legal proceedings against perpetrators and/or the agencies in which these perpetrators worked.

When Catholic bishops in the United States claim that they are not alone in their administrative encounters with abusive religious leaders and staff personnel, they are correct.  However, they then fail to mention that as religious and spiritual administrators, they have the moral and ethical obligation to manage these socio-pathologic disorders in order to actively protect their religious followers. In addition, I believe they have a moral and ethical obligation to protect the welfare of the whole.They fail to acknowledge their complicity in maintaining systemically corrupt administrative structures that fail to assertively monitor and manage abusive clergy and vowed religious. They fail to acknowledge the failure of their own individual and institutional accountability.

In some cases, members of the administrative caste of the Roman Catholic Church are also abusers. (xxx) An old aphorism applies: where there is moral corruption at the top of an organization, it is quite likely that moral confusion and ethical corruption will pervade the entire institution.

As I study the cross-religious issues of abusive leaders, I am struck by what appears to be a deliberate naiveté. Religious organization administrators claim they don’t know things they should know.  It seems apparent to me that they don’t know because they don’t want to know.  Or, even more problematic is the reality that they know about abusive subordinates but don’t give a damn.  In this case they are lying to protect themselves.  


i. Sipherd, R (24 Oct. 2017). "Bill Gates: For polio the endgame is near." CNBC.

ii.  Polio Global Eradication Initiative. "Polio this week as of 5 June 2019."

iii. Ibid.

iv. Polio Eradication Initiative. "Outbreak Countries."  

v. Pezzulo, M. (30 May 2019). "The Diocese of Buffalo is endangering the faithful." Steel Magnificat.

vii.  Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2017). Final Report.

viii. Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (2009). Final ReportFor information about the Ryan Report— the result of a nine-year study process — see Henry McDonald, see "'Endemic' rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care, inquiry finds," The Guardian, 20 May 2009.

ix. Shapiro, J., Attorney General, State of Pennsylvania (2018). Pennsylvania Diocesan Victims Report.

x. Crary, D. (31 May 2019). "US Catholic Church reports big rise in sexual abuse allegations." Associated Press.  

xi. Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health. ACEs Resource Packet: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Basics.

xii. The news media has reported charges made against Chogyan Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

xiii.  The news media has reported on abuse allegations, for example, in Brooklyn's Haredi community

xv. University of Notre Dame’s former provost and theology professor James Tunstead Burtchaell was forced to resign in 1991: see Pat Windsor, "Notre Dame's Burtchaell to resign, sources say," National Catholic Reporter, 6 Dec. 1991; for further information about Burtchaell, see Bishop Accountability's database for Burtchaell

xvi. For a list of credibly accused Mennonites in positions of leadership, see the Mennonite Abuse Prevention List's MAP List.

xviii. News media have been consistently covering news about multiple sexual abusers inside the Southern Baptist Convention and its affiliated churches. For more information, see Russell Moore, "Southern Baptists and the Scandal of Church Sexual Abuse, Russell Moore Blog, 10 Feb. 2019.

xix. On the history of missionary George Wade Thomas, Jr., see Lise Olsen and Sharon Smith, "Abused by missionaries: Baptist leaders stayed quiet after trail of abuse," Houston Chronicle, 31 May 2019.

xx. For more than a decade, public media and former devotees have reported allegations against Zentasu Richard Baker, Edie Shimano Roshi, Dainin Katagiri Roshi.

xxi. Public media have reported allegations against Satyha Sai Baba; for information about Sai Baba, see Sanal Edamaruku, "India would have been a better place without Sathya Sai Baba," New Humanist, 27 April 2011.

xxii. See Emily McFarlan Miller, "Former staff member at Dallas-area megachurch indicted for indecency with a child," Religion News Service, 28 Jan. 2019.  

xxiii. For allegations against Ernest Angeley and Angeley's admission of guilt, see this GateHouse Media documentary at YouTube.  For more information see , retrieved May 26, 2019

xxiv. On Assembly of God/Pentecostal preacher Jimmy Swaggart, see William Pike, "Jimmy Swaggart," Encyclopedia Brittanica

xxv. Bishop Accountability maintains a list of accused Roman Catholic clergy including cardinals and bishops. 

xxvi. John Howard Yoder's history of abuse was made public in 1992.  See Ruth Krall, The Mennonite Church and John Howard Yoder, Collected Essays, Enduring Space (2013). .

xxvii. See Mary Pezzulo, "Diocese of Buffalo is Endangering the Faithful," supra.

xxviii. Karl Barth's decades long affair with his personal assistant has been well known inside Protestant theological circles; in the past several years, it has made public headlines.  See Mark Galli, "What to Make of Karl Barth’s Steadfast Adultery?" Christianity Today, 20 Oct. 2017.

Hannah Tillich’s revelations about Paul Tillich's alcoholism and adultery were revealed in two books: Tillich, H. (1974). From Time to Time, NY: Stein and Day; and (1976). From Place to Place, NY: Stein and Day.  In addition, his biographers have also revealed evidence about Tillich's behavior changes in the wake of the Battle of Marne (World War One): see Pauck, W. and Pauck, M. (1976). Paul Tillich: His Life and Thought, NY: Harper and Row.

xxix. Rutter, P. (1989). Sex in the Forbidden Zone: When Men in Power Abuse Women’s Trust.  Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher.

xxx. Guidos, R. ( 16 January 2019). "Cardinal Wuerl Says He 'Forgot' He Knew About Sexual Accusation Against McCarrick." America Magazine.

(Note: as stated above, this is the first part of Ruth Krall's "Religious Leader Sexual Abuse: A Pan-Denominational Approach." The second part is here.)

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