The third-oldest grandson of famed Evangelical pastor Billy Graham, Professor Boz Tchividjian, told a conference sponsored by the Religion Newswriters Association that the response of Evangelical Christian churches to sexual abuse claims have been “worse” than the Catholic Church’s handling of such accusations. Speaking on September 26, Tchividjian told the conference in Austin TX, “'I think we are worse [than Catholics],” adding that too many Evangelicals had “sacrificed the souls” of young victims. Moreover, said Tchividjian, overseas Evangelical Christian missions are a “magnet” for sex abusers. “Protestants can be very arrogant when pointing to Catholics,” Tchividjian said. “We’ve got the Gospels backwards.”
Professor Tchividjian teaches law at Liberty University, which was founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell, a politically active Southern Baptist pastor who died in 2007. Falwell founded the Moral Majority, a Christian political organization credited with helping in the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency. Tchividjian told the conference that Christian missionary groups keep reports of sexual abuse secret and fail to report abuse to local authorities for fear of being barred from working in foreign countries. According to Tchividjian, abusers may be sent home by the agencies but if their sex crimes go unreported they can easily join another agency and repeat their abusive behavior elsewhere. He said that at least 25 percent of abuse cases are repeat offenders.
Tchividjian is executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), an organization which has investigated sex abuse allegations. He was once Assistant State Attorney for Florida’s 7th Judicial Circuit where he created the Crimes Against Children' division of the State Attorney's office. His comments echo an interview he gave in which he claimed Christian institutions had put their own reputations before the welfare of sex abuse victims. “What makes such responses even more heinous is that they are often justified in the name of “protecting the name of Christ.” He also said, “Silence is one of the most common failures of the Christian community in preventing child abuse,” he said in the interview.
“Too many within the Christian community respond to the prevalence of child abuse with a dangerous and very hurtful silence.
“A silence that is too often preferred over acknowledging the existence of such evil within our midst. A silence that is too often preferred over openly discussing how to protect our little ones from perpetrators.”
Over the last twenty years, the Catholic Church has been besmirched by a series of highly controversial and widespread sex abuses cases around the world. It has also battled allegations that it systemically harbored abusers and provided a safe haven for them rather than turn the accused over to law enforcement agencies. The scandals have included allegations, investigations, trials and convictions of child sexual abuse committed by priests, nuns and members of the church's hierarchy, sometimes against children just three years old. Pope John Paul II once summoned all of the cardinals of the United States to Rome to confer on the accusations, while Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – the future Pope Benedict XVI – was in the forefront of investigating charges of abuse. It was Pope Benedict XVI who was the first pope to apologize personally to several victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy. He recently wrote a public response to a Italian journalist in which he denied having ignored the problem, which he characterized as “filth.”
Nine years ago, a report found evidence that bishops moved priests out of countries where they had been accused of abusing children and were able to start new lives elsewhere and, in some cases, continue working with children. The Dominican Republic was recently rocked by the departure of the papal nuncio, a Polish bishop who has been accused of sexual abuse of minors, while a priest has also been accused of misdeeds. The Catholic Church in Poland is investigating charges of paedophilia among priests. .The Secretary of the Episcopate, Bishop Wojciech Polak, told media that “sorry” was “the least that was owed to the victims.”
The Catholic Church has paid over two billion dollars in compensation to sex abuse victims in the U.S. alone. A 2007 case in Los Angeles saw the nation’s largest Catholic archdiocese settle its long list of sex abuse cases for at least $600 million.
Other religious groupings in the U.S. have also had their share of accusations of sexual abuse. The Jewish Community Watch website has a list, with photographs, of numerous rabbis and others who have been accused of sexual abuse of children and young people, for instance. And in a story reported by the Jewish Press website in August 2013, an investigation by the New York-based Sullivan & Cromwell law firm found significant instances of abuse of boys at the high school operated by Yeshiva University in New York City. The report confirmed that “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place” at the high school, perpetrated by individuals in positions of authority and continuing even after administration members had been made aware of the problem. The probe also found sexual abuse at other divisions of the university but, citing pending litigation, did not describe them in any detail or specify where they took place.”