Strongly worded SLTrib op-Ed, Utah protects 'penitent' abusers.

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Marcus
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Strongly worded SLTrib op-Ed, Utah protects 'penitent' abusers.

Post by Marcus »

An op-Ed piece from SLTrib, 3/9/23:
Dear God,

If your civic and ecclesiastical leaders are any indicator of who, or what, You are, we do not wish to know You.

Utah state Sen. Stuart Adams’ was quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune as to why he blocked legislation that would have removed the exemption for members of any church’s clergy from the general requirement to report child abuse when they learn it is happening.

“I think they have the First Amendment right of religious protections,” Adams said, “and I don’t think I want to put clergy in a spot where they have to be excommunicated or thrown in jail. Those are the options and I don’t think that’s right.”

That is at the heart of a major problem in the church – any church — and it’s pushing people away. Adams’ argument represents a prevailing focus on protecting leaders and institutions at the expense of child abuse victims. If clergy have a First Amendment right of religious protections, is he suggesting that we, child abuse victims, do not have the same right?

We’ve heard many arguments relating to the legal rights, privileges and liabilities of individual leaders and church institutions. Adams and those like him spout religious protections but their position is mutually exclusive. When you protect the “penitent” through laws like these, you create a conflict of interest.

Church institutional policies and procedures, and laws like this that they support, protect the “spiritual well-being” of the abusers and ignore the spiritual well-being of us child victims. You cannot support and protect the abuser and children this way. As soon as leaders take a position protecting the abuser, regardless of their intent, they have necessarily chosen a position in opposition to abused children.

When your leaders state from the pulpit that they have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to child abusers, but either do little or nothing to protect us or, worse, actively support legal privileges like the clergy/penitent privilege, their comments are as “sounding brass” and a “tinkling cymbal” culminating in the directive to, “Call the legal department.”

When a church leader’s first step is to contact legal for direction, they have divested their spiritual authority, goodwill and trust to a system that has historically marginalized those whose voices need to be heard. Legal’s interest is to protect the institution of the church, and we continue to be re-victimized by the process.

Do they not know that abuse offenders, especially sex offenders, often disclose their abuse because they want to relive it, as opposed to being honestly penitent? And, if they were truly penitent, wouldn’t they turn themselves in to law enforcement to answer for their wrongs? In that context, Adams’ comment on the “incentive for people to confess” takes on an entirely different meaning. But, that hasn’t been addressed.

Throughout this debate, I have not heard any discussion from Adams, or those like him, about how to protect us children who are being abused – only how to insulate the leaders and their institutions.

As Bishop Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

To your civic and ecclesiastical leaders who continue to support our offenders through the veil of protective legislation, please feel free to join us in the hell you continue to create for us.

Sincerely,

The thousands of child abuse victims whose voices have been lost in this debate.

Jamie Rikala

-------
Jamie Rikala is a billing specialist who lives in Pleasant Grove.

By Jamie Rikala | Special to The Tribune

https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commenta ... s-leaders/
[bolding added by me, for two arguments I find extremely meaningful.]

Comments have already been closed, not hard to see why. Here's just one highly inflammatory one:
“I think they have the First Amendment right of religious protections,” Adams said,

Pretty damn bold to admit that your religion holds kid diddling as a religious tenet.

https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commenta ... 0e90c6020f
ETA: here's a different link for the op Ed piece, in case the one above doesn't work. This one is from a reddit thread:

https://www.printfriendly.com/p/g/dphVnB
Philo Sofee
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Re: Strongly worded SLTrib op-Ed, Utah protects 'penitent' abusers.

Post by Philo Sofee »

Wow! What a perspective!
msnobody
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Re: Strongly worded SLTrib op-Ed, Utah protects 'penitent' abusers.

Post by msnobody »

Part of being truly penitent would be to willingly pay the penalty for your crime against the child. Recidivism rates should be an astounding reason not to endorse clergy penitent reporting exemptions for child abusers.
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Physics Guy
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Re: Strongly worded SLTrib op-Ed, Utah protects 'penitent' abusers.

Post by Physics Guy »

The argument for priest-penitent privilege is that if priests were required to report confessed crimes, no additional crimes would be reported, because criminals would just not confess crimes to priests. If priests are required to report confessed crimes, the only criminals who will be caught because their priests report them will be criminals who couldn't stop themselves from confessing even though they knew it would be reported. Criminals like that were going to confess to someone and be caught anyway.

In fact, the argument goes, more criminals will end up being punished if priests are allowed to keep confessed crimes secret, because priests will be able to talk some of those criminals into admitting their guilt publicly, as part of true penitence. That won't always work, but it certainly won't work at all if priests never get to talk with uncaught criminals about their crimes.

That's the argument. It gets difficult if a criminal draws some kind of comfort from confessing, even if the priest won't absolve them, and gets to walk free and unsuspected. One wants to deny them that comfort.
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Gadianton
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Re: Strongly worded SLTrib op-Ed, Utah protects 'penitent' abusers.

Post by Gadianton »

I agree that abusers simply wouldn't confess, but is that so bad? I start with thinking about secular therapists, who are required to report abuse. There are cases where this is sub-optimal. For instance, a friend went with his wife to therapy; his wife happens to be a therapist herself actually, and when they got into the details of their latest conflict, he admitted to physically restraining her with one arm (he's a big dude). The therapist grabbed a form from his desk drawer and thrust it to their faces. So they stopped their report. He was letting them know without saying anything, that if they continue to discuss a physical altercation, he has to file a report to the state. So I guess they had to find a way to tip-toe around the subject or speak hypothetically or talk about other issues.

But I can't think of many scenarios involving child abuse where there's an advantage to allowing the confession without reporting save the right of the abuser to confess his sins per freedom of religion, I suppose. I personally don't have much respect for such a right. Another argument would be that it's better to allow the confession, because even if one out of ten stopped, then it seems it could be worth it.

Well, in a religious context, it really goes against the grain of what the repentance process is supposed to be about. As others have said, to repent, you have to accept the punishment. So you could argue, that the person really isn't trying to repent if they aren't willing to turn themselves in. I believe that point was made (I'm coming back to this post a few days after reading it, I've been very busy). But the more serious the crime is, the greater the protection the criminal has. And so for minor offenses, you forgo the sacrament. For serious offenses, such as fornication or posting materials critical of Rusty online, you get sent to a bishops court. But for cases of extreme abuse, there can be no comparable way to disfellowship or excommunicate, or to handle the case in line with other serious offenses, because not only can you not contact the authorities, you can't let the cat out of the bag to your senior leaders, counselors, or any of the other presiding brethren who might leak the information. The more serious the crime, the more invincible you become.

And so my point would be that the repentance process from a church standpoint gets derailed from how it's supposed to work so badly that it's pointless to allow it.
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Re: Strongly worded SLTrib op-Ed, Utah protects 'penitent' abusers.

Post by slskipper »

It has reached the stage where people confess to their bishops precisely because they know damn well that there will be no consequences of they choose that route.
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Re: Strongly worded SLTrib op-Ed, Utah protects 'penitent' abusers.

Post by Moksha »

Reporting to the bishop is the easiest way for abusers to cover their tracks since the Church will devote its resources to helping the abuser and coercing family members to remain silent. Plus, the Church will provide free legal advice and may even help represent the abuser in court.

In this way, the Church helps to symbolically honor and justify the deeds of Joseph Smith.
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