A couple of similar news stories are making headlines both sides of the pond at the moment:
Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State University American football team for the past 46 years, was fired for not having done enough in relation to sex abuse charges that have been filed against an assistant coach. Ealing Abbey has been in the papers in relation to the whole Roman Catholic child abuse scandal – priests there have been arrested and have even gone into hiding, believed to be in Europe.
What’s interested me has been my own reaction to the stories; apart from being obviously upset for those directly affected, I’ve caught myself thinking that these issues would have been avoided if certain situations had simply been banned outright – if the priests had never been in a situation in which they were alone with a child everyone would have been alright.
But then again, where should you draw the line? Not alone with children, but on their 18th Birthday suddenly it’s ok? Well, that’s just silly. Safer to say that a priest should never be alone with anyone.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking in relation to 1 Timothy 3:2 – I’m not an elder but the Bible tells us to imitate elders, so when Paul tells Timothy that ‘an elder must be above reproach’ I think that’s a good value for us to strive for. One way I’ve addressed this personally is that I avoid if at all possible being alone with a lady, to avoid even a hint of a compromising situation…but I’d never even thought there would be a problem with me being alone with a child, or being alone with a man. Looking at the news stories above, it’s actually these two situations that are the key ones.
Taking this to its logical conclusion, it’s clearly bad if a parent sexually abuses their own children, so perhaps everyone in any position of influence should never be alone with their own child?
What I’m basically saying is that there’s no way to force sin of any kind to just stop – people will always find ways around anything. The answer is the person and work of Jesus, who was without any sin, yet became sin for us. The guilty priests weren’t looking at Jesus; if they had been, none of that would have happened.