Cover Story

Why do we cover this?

Issue: "Clergy Sexual Abuse," March 30, 2002

WORLD is purposely leaving out of this story gross specific detail, but some readers may wonder why we are running it at all. The essential reason: Churches can take steps to prevent or at least reduce the frequency of clergy sexual abuse-if leaders and members are informed.

Reporting on evil is always difficult, because we're well aware of Paul's injunction to the Philippians: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things"(Philippians 4:8). That's our goal. We also know, though, that Paul thought and wrote about sexual immorality in Corinth, idol-worship in Athens, legalism in Galatia, hypocrisy in Jerusalem, and many other false, dishonorable, unjust, and impure practices.

Was he breaking his own rule? No. Imagine a family going to the beach on Saturday, or to church on Sunday, and driving by garbage heaps on the way. Should parents and children be depressed? No, they should concentrate on what is lovely. That's the goal, so as not to drown in the sewage of the world. But the world will be a better place if a newspaper columnist on Monday describes that garbage dump and insists that it be cleaned up. Paul was called to look at and write about some rotten stuff at times, and so are journalists.

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As we wondered at times whether we should take the easy out and drop this story on clergy sexual abuse, we were also heartened by what Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Ephesians 5:11). It's shameful to have to do this, but actions exposed by the light become visible, and that's how evildoers are pushed to change their lives. As commentator Matthew Henry wrote three centuries ago, it's vital that evil acts "be made to appear in their proper colours to the sinners themselves, by the light of doctrine or of God's word in your mouths, as faithful reprovers."

John Calvin's point on Ephesians 5:11-12 is also good: Would evildoers "lay aside all shame, and give loose reins to their passions, if darkness did not give them courage,-if they did not entertain the hope that what is hidden will pass unpunished? But do you, by reproving them, bring forward the light, that they may be ashamed of their own baseness. Such shame, arising from an acknowledgment of baseness, is the first step to repentance."

So this is our message to anyone who thinks he can engage in clergy sexual abuse, or can cover it up: Don't. If the thought of God watching doesn't stop you, be aware that others may see. By bringing this question out into the open, we hope Christians will work toward establishing sexual-abuse policies in their own churches, and that church leaders will educate members about the problem and how to prevent it. We also hope that other Christian publications will investigate other occurrences of CSA and bring to bear the power of shame on any who take advantage of those who trusted them.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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