Nothing is hidden that will not come to light

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In the UK victims of child sexual abuse within churches and other religious organizations are asking that the law be changed to explicitly require churches etc to report all child abuse allegations to the relevant authorities rather than dealing with them “pastorally” in-house.

I fully support such a requirement. In my view there can be no legitimate reason for churches to oppose such mandatory reporting laws. Some people will say that such a requirement is incompatible with the Seal of the Confessional; however (a) most often church leadership hears about such allegations through channels other than the confessional, and (b) the Seal is intended to protect the repentant; a person who confesses to child abuse but is not willing to submit to the relevant authorities is not truly repentant.

Opposition to mandatory reporting laws because of the Seal are about as plausible and legitimate as the Southern Baptist Convention leadership’s refusal to act on credible allegations of sexual abuse in their churches because of “congregational autonomy.”

Anyway, most of the scandals involving the covering up of child abuse by religious authorities are not about protecting the Seal but are rather about protecting the reputation of the organization or of a beloved leader, and escaping liability for negligence. In the long run this does not work, for of course Jesus had it right when He said, “Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light,” and reputations are worth nothing in view of Jesus’ words, “Woe to the one through whom offenses come; it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.

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