By Bob Allen
A progressive blogger who monitors the Religious Right says conservative Catholic bishops and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention both have a poor record when it comes to child sex abuse, and it should be counting against their moral standing more than it has.
Frederick Clarkson, an independent journalist and co-founder of the group blog Talk to Action, wrote April 12 that America’s Christian right has a problem he thinks has not been adequately addressed by journalists, scholars and activists.
While much has been reported about the scandal of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy and cover-ups by Church hierarchy, Clarkson pointed to a much lesser-known controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics.
In the article Brown described unsuccessful efforts since 2006 to persuade Southern Baptists to implement denominational safeguards against clergy child molesters like those used in other judicatories including American Baptist Churches USA.
Clarkson also quoted from a 2010 EthicsDaily.com editorial by Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics observing similarities in “systems, secrecy and spin” used by Catholics and Southern Baptists alike.
“Catholic and Baptist leaders have more similarities than differences on the child-abuse front,” Parham wrote. “Both have harmed church members and the Christian witness by not swiftly addressing predatory clergy and designing reliable protective systems. And both have covered up predatory behavior until those outside the male-dominated system of preachers/priests rang the alarm bell.”
Clarkson noted that liberal mainline denominations are actively seeking to prevent and address child abuse, while conservative groups are more likely to turn a blind eye.
The Southern Baptist Convention refused in 2008 to create a database of Southern Baptist sex offenders or to establish an office to receive reports of abuse, but added a section on the denomination’s website containing resources for sex abuse prevention for local churches.
“My question is: Can the SBC and the Catholic Bishops be taken seriously on anything else when they cannot get it together to actively protect children from sex predators — especially their own clergy?” Clarkson concluded.