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Reflection on the hurt inherent in knowing the “porn priest”

Reflection on the hurt inherent in knowing the “porn priest”

“It is painful, embarrassing, and a bit scary to loudly decry this sort of sin—though not as a sort of gossip or shaming of an individual—but it is also our duty as Christians. We must not protect the abusers. We must step away from the fear of impropriety and move towards honesty.”

 

This originally appeared at Anglicans Online

 

by Allie Graham

This past Tuesday, I discovered through an early morning text message that the senior priest of the parish we attended for several years before moving was arrested for three counts of child pornography as part of a regional sting, via a link to a major secular news outlet.

 

My husband and I were stunned. Hurt. Heartbroken. Some of our friends and colleagues have been through this before—personally victims of sexual assault in a church setting. News sources such as this have been uncovering paedophiles in the church for years. For those of us who just experienced this personally, Tuesday morning was some thing new. Something raw. Devastating. A breach of trust beyond comprehension. This happened to other churches, other ideologies, something that happened to THOSE PEOPLE.

 

With feelings of hurt, helplessness, and perhaps a bit of anger, we went to social media to find something from afar. Anything. Instead we were met with icy silence from our prior congregants—those we counted as friends. We found an about face from ‘welcoming’ congregants who loudly condemn the improper sexual escapades of politicians and champion causes of the oppressed and impoverished. Rather than decry the sin of child sexual exploitation, appeals were of ‘wait and see’—that he was ‘neither tried nor convicted in a legal court.’— what we consider to be the lowest bar Others with similar experiences have told us this reaction is sadly unsurprising. The call from leadership was to keep quiet. Those of us who put our trust in this man, which included many like us who have since relocated, were told to keep it to ourselves. Rather, it was deigned a ‘local issue.’

 

This priest was active in the community. He chaperoned Diocesan secondary school overnights and was a chaplain to special needs summer camps. He led Eucharists in the park attended by both homeless and local working congregants and served at a church with a large feeding ministry.

 

The Church, when at its best—when at its most Christ-like—faces outwards.

 

We must remember that a charge of distributing child pornography—’child abuse material’ as better described in the Australian legal field—leaves many communities shaken.

This is not a victimless crime.

 

Though the parishioners, former and current are hurt, the primary victims are, and always will be, the children who were sexually exploited and abused in the creation of this material. Creator, distributer, and viewer are all culpable— this material would not be created were there no audience.

 

It is painful, embarrassing, and a bit scary to loudly decry this sort of sin—though not as a sort of gossip or shaming of an individual—but it is also our duty as Christians. We must not protect the abusers. We must step away from the fear of impropriety and move towards honesty.

 

Last Sunday we observed the Feast of Christ the King. Though a late feast, not instituted until 1925 in response to fascism, it is, perhaps, one of the more comforting observances. Rather than recounting the Jesus of two thousand years ago and that influence on us today, we are reminded of his place as Supreme Ruler over all of us. His role, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as the Supreme King of the Universe. That he rules over earthly Queens, Sultans, and Rajas, Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Chancellors, Archbishops, Governors, Bishops, CEOs, Priests, Wardens, Choir Directors, Headmasters, Teachers, and all others we put in positions of authority.

 

Alleluia! Sing to Jesus; His the scepter, His the throne.

Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.

Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood;

“Jesus out of ev’ry nation has redeemed us by His blood.

 

Alleluia! Not as orphans are we left in sorrow now.

Alleluia! He is near us; faith believes, nor questions how.

Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er,

shall our hearts forget His promise, “I am with you evermore”?

 

Alleluia! Bread of heaven, here on earth our food, our stay.

Alleluia! Here the sinful flee to You from day to day.

Intercessor, Friend of sinners, earth’s Redeemer, hear our plea

where the songs of all the sinless sweep across the crystal sea.

 

All of us are all sinners redeemed by Christ. We do not begin to claim that we are not, nor that we do not—all too often—fall short of even a speck of the Glory of God. Rather, that we are called to protect those weaker than we—to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, give drink to the thirsty, yes even visit the prisoner‡ even through our own pain.

 

But, we all know this. Yet what will it look like when scandal comes to your parish? We can only hope, with wishes and prayers in the knowledge that God in Jesus Christ will one day, more fully, bring His kingdom back to Him.

 


A librarian by training, Allie Graham currently serves as Communications Specialist and Assistant Archivist for the Diocese of New Jersey, as well as being an editor for Anglicans Online. Coming to the Episcopal Church in her teens, Allie has served the church on the local, diocesan, national, and international levels through some extreme highs and lows. She currently lives with her husband in Bordentown, NJ.

 

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Ann Fontaine

Thanks Allie.

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