By Angela Smith, HEAL Coordinator
Responsible employers and authority figures hold employees/individuals accountable when a wrong has been committed. For those who rely on religious doctrine in order to demand forgiveness and absolution for wrongdoers; we recommend you seriously review the directives of your doctrine in regards to true repentance. Luke 17:1-4 (KJV), "Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him." Repenting takes more than "lip service" to an expected value. One must recognize his/her wrongdoing; admit to it; and make an effort at amends. This includes recognizing the loss of trust his/her actions may have caused and not expecting his/her community to allow him/her to work/play in the same role that the individual abused formerly.
Too many innocent children and adults have been exploited and seriously injured through this notion that forgiveness of wrongs includes absolution and reinstatement of an individual's former title/position in the community. This applies to both religious and secular organizations and offices. It is unacceptable for a business or church to cover up sexual abuse, sexual assault, physical abuse, fraud, deception, and other wrongs under the guise of forgiveness or protecting a reputation that is undeserved when all facts are considered. And, it is even more offensive when the business or church chooses to blame the victims and demand of them forgiveness and absolution while they allow the perpetrator to continue harming others without holding them accountable or turning them over to law enforcement/authorities for prosecution when appropriate.
If someone has raped a child and claims to repent the act while laying blame on the child for "seducing" the rapist, he/she has not truly repented. If someone decides blaming the innocent victim for his/her own perverse and twisted abuses is the best way to create confusion and keep up the appearance of their entitlement to their position of authority, they are not doing the right thing and deserve to be rebuked, not forgiven. It is unacceptable to allow such deceivers to manipulate good people and continue harming the innocent.
It is truly vile to blame the victim of abuse for the abuse suffered. And, if we are to avoid hypocrisy, we must equally apply the notion of forgiveness and absolution to everyone and in the same compassionate, passionate manner as we would forgive and absolve those truly guilty of illegal and/or immoral conduct. And, it is this hypocrisy in the abuse of power and confusion created by the unequal application of forgiveness and absolution that more than suggests there is an evil at work in those who abuse that power and cover up wrongdoing by those in alleged positions of authority.
An employer would be expected to fire an employee who stole from the cash register; molested customers/clients; over-charged clients/customers and pocketed the difference; destroyed company property; and/or any other unprofessional/immoral/illegal act. If you would be outraged at WalMart for allowing a clerk to fondle a child in a dressing room or steal from customers and would demand WalMart fire the clerk at once and turn them into the police, then you should require the same of a church, politician, charity, school, group home, or other organization/business. To have different standards, based on titles alone, is hypocrisy and promotes injustice, deceit, and oppression of the innocent.
Responsible leadership by employers and authority figures requires that wrongdoers be held accountable and that reasonable standards and restrictions be applied in the event someone has caused harm to others. It does not matter who the individual is or the title the individual holds; it matters what they do and if they honor or abuse the authority entrusted to them.
It is a beautiful thing to forgive a wrong. Old wisdom says, "To err is human, to forgive is divine." But, forgiveness does not equate to absolution. And, forgiveness does not require that we leave our ability to reason at the door and allow those who have caused harm access to the very population they have repeatedly been shown to harm and exploit. If someone is truly willing to repent; they should also humble themselves to accepting whatever title or position that the community feels they can be trusted with given their history. And, the community should not be exploited, guilted, accused, victimized, or otherwise manipulated into recognizing a value of an individual based on the desire to protect an undeserved reputation when the truth is that individual should be deprived of authority and title and should humbly accept the new boundaries and parameters set by the community until trust can be re-established through honest and evident change.
Once trust has been broken, it may never be recovered. But, this is the risk one takes when they exploit and harm those who have entrusted them with authority. And, in a free society, one must always weigh the risks against the benefits of any action and make the most prudent decision or face the consequences. And, such applies to everyone. So, with that... Please use your best judgment when choosing whom to trust and to whom to grant authority. We the people vote and approve of those we allow to lead and we have the responsibility to remove the privilege of authority when the responsibility of that authority has been neglected or refused. And, for those of us of faith, we choose what church to attend and to whom we entrust our spiritual guidance. If a church is leading you astray through oppression, deceit, hypocrisy, exploitation, and abuse, then it may be most appropriate to find a new church.