Sexual Abuse Problems without a Church Hierarchy

It’s no secret that the media has pointed to difficulties within the Roman Catholic Church’s dealings (or lack thereof) with respect to wayward priests.  Also, within Orthodoxy here in America, we have had a few bad apples as well (and let me be clear–sin is sin and abuse is abuse when Orthodox do it I think it’s nothing short of hellish).  We Orthodox don’t get the media coverage because we’re such a small church, I suppose, though I also think some of the media coverage is because some people still love to hate the Roman Catholic Church.

That said, it always seemed to me that a hierarchically structured church was preferential to one that wasn’t because a hierarchical church could deal with such situations with some efficiency and because when it didn’t, one knew where to start applying blame and pressure.  A hierarchy also functions as an anti-body system for the church body.  A while back (maybe two years ago now), I saw a special on 20/20 or Dateline, that took on this issue, noting the problems within Protestant churches, especially those that were “low church.”  Pastors could change locations/states by moving and set up new parishes, being unaccountable to a higher church authority.  It is a perspective that I think people still fail to appreciate properly.  I recently stumbled across an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that shows another problem when one lacks hierarchy–the local congregation may rally around the abuser and then the pastor need not even relocate to start another parish:

http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/faith-and-values/

It might be politically correct to pick on the Roman Catholic Church and church hierarchy more generally (which would include Orthodox, as Orthodoxy and Catholicism are the two Churches with the strongest formal hierarchical structures), but I suspect that in this case (as in others), being politically correct is not the same as actually being correct.

 

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