Posted Monday, May 16th, 2005
Crisis of Faith
I am struggling. It’s not so much with my own belief system as it is things within the church I attend.
A few weeks ago our local newspaper informed our community that a repeat offending child molester was returning to our town. I struggled with this information and sought to learn more. I thought seeking additional information was the right thing to do. Some members of our church have declared that only those of little faith would do such a thing, that it’s wrong to stir up someone’s past after they’ve repented.
I learned that the offender is my age, though male. He is married. He raped his 4 year old son repeatedly. He was convicted when his mother learned of the abuse. He returned home to rape his son again. He was convicted and sentenced to jail. He served a few years time in prison. He is now released and has returned to our town to reunite with his wife, with whom his son (now 9) still lives. I am outraged over this information.
This offender and his family were former members of our church. I hear through the grapevine that he intends to return to our congregation. I have grave concerns about this. When I try to share my concerns, I am told that I’m judgmental and not Christ like. My feelings are hurt.
I was not advocating vigilante ways. My fear is over the many children we invite to our church each week, a sadly large portion of them are just dropped at the curb by parents who speed away for an hour. I am a Sunday school teacher and I take my responsibility to these children quite seriously. To have a known repeat child molester in the midst of them seems more than unwise. I am condemned for what is considered my lack of belief in atonement.
I am told that we must embrace this man because our lack of including him in a caring congregation may drive him to offend again. I am cautioned that even the sinful need somewhere to be loved.
I am cut off short when I try to explain myself further. They don’t hear me when I attempt to bare my soul to them so they might understand where I am coming from. I was a victim of rape in my youth. My daughter was sexually molested as a young girl. Her molester was one of my own sons.
Because of that son of mine, I know better than many people that person’s such as my son need to be loved and nurtured. I also know that they need help and that sometimes they need protection from themselves. I also know they need to not be placed among those whom they’ve molested. It may be a trivial way to categorize it… but it’s along the same principle of not putting a diabetic in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
I know that my own violent rape left scars that will be with me for a lifetime. It changed who I was and how I see myself, even to this day. It affects the way I relate with people, my ability to trust, and a constant fear for my safety.
I know that my daughter’s molestation, even after years of counseling and being enveloped in a loving home, has shaped the friends she chooses, the boys she now dates, the way she relates to her loving dad and her self-image.
I know that sexual offenses leave a person’s spirit and mind forever changed. I know that it changes their body image. It changes their hopes, their dreams, and the confidence in their ability to achieve those.
When I spoke up to voice my concerns about this offender being released into our community, I did not speak lightly. I also did not speak callously.
The following Sunday I walked into church to find the offender sitting in the very pew that my family usually sits in. I chose another pew. At the greeting of peace, I did greet him with sincerity that he be at peace. I did not condemn my daughter for discreetly avoiding this man’s hand.
During the service when we usually have a special musical performance, this man rose from the pew to walk to the front of the church. He took a seat at the piano and he played and sang a hymn. The music was beautiful and this man is truly gifted. I learned later that he’d learned to play piano while in prison. I struggled however with the song he’d chosen, ‘In My Eyes You’ll Always Be a Child’. My husband cautioned me to remember that the song was written from the viewpoint of God and that He will always see us as His children. I understand that, truly. I just felt that perhaps a different song could have been chosen. I will also admit that I wished he’d waited a while to perform at church instead of that first Sunday back in our fold.
I continue to struggle with my feelings regarding this situation. I did not rant and rave or speak falsehoods. I did not call for different terms of justice. I did not whisper behind closed doors. I merely chose to express my own opinions and speak of my own personal experience. For doing so, within my own church, I was told that I am not truly practicing Christianity. I am sad. I’m having great difficulty. I continue to search my soul.
I carry the burden of knowing that sexual molestation occurred within my own home, involving my own beloved children, without me knowing. My personal belief is that after the heinous situation in my own family, God helped me to survive (at times against my own will) so that I might use that knowledge to inform and protect others. I continue to do my very best to insure that no other person is injured on my watch. I will not turn a blind eye to a potentially dangerous situation, not even in the name of religion.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Katrina Denza on Monday, May 16th, 2005 at 1:23 PM
What an emotive, well-written, and particularly courageous essay. My heart goes out to you, your children, and all survivors of sexual abuse.
Posted by Sharon Hurlbut on Monday, May 16th, 2005 at 1:45 PM
Cecilia, this is incredibly eloquent and honest. Thank you for having the courage to share your story with us. Beautiful, thoughtful writing.
Posted by Ashley Minihan on Monday, May 16th, 2005 at 3:50 PM
Thank you for this sad and moving essay.
Posted by Anna McDougall on Tuesday, May 17th, 2005 at 4:19 PM
You have described a horrible situation with compassion. The respect you show for every human involved is magnificent.
Posted by Michael Green on Wednesday, May 25th, 2005 at 10:50 AM
Cecelia. I serve my local church in Massachusetts as both a deacon and a Sunday School Director. In order to carry insurance on our church, we HAVE to run CORI checks on anyone involved in children's ministry. This is where I would start at your church - with a call to the insurance company. If your church leadership won't protect its children and the children with whom it is entrusted for religious reasons, then they sure will when the insurance company starts threatening to drop their coverage. Second, if your church participates in a larger denomination, I would start talking to people on the administrative level about your concerns. Should a claim be made against your church, even a false claim, the legal fallout would be devestating and expensive. In other words, don't get sad, get on the phone and make real changes in the policy of your church for screening anyone and everyone with access to children.
Posted by Mitzi McMahon on Tuesday, May 31st, 2005 at 5:40 PM
Unfortunately, lots of folks are victims of sexual abuse. But most don't have the courage you've shown. My hat's off to you.