Home > Mallinak, The Ministry > How Predator Pastors Escape Detection

How Predator Pastors Escape Detection

June 16, 2007

According to Anna Salter, only about three percent of sex offenses are ever caught. Only about five percent of offenses are ever reported (1). All things considered, there are hundreds, probably more like thousands of sexual predators on the loose. If this is the case among all predators, and I have no reason for doubting these numbers, then one has to think that the number of Pastors or Clergy who have been caught or even reported for such crimes must be even lower. After all, who would believe a pastor to be capable of such crimes? Even with the recent arrests and prosecutions of high profile religious leaders, we still don’t want to believe that a Pastor could or would do a thing like this.

We trust a Pastor. We want to trust a Pastor. We want to believe that if we couldn’t trust anyone else, we could still trust our Pastor. I for one do not wish to undermine this inherent trust that we have in Pastors. For, after all, I am one. But like it or not, there are men who have found that the ministry is the safest place for them to conduct their sexual misconduct. They use the position of trust that they have in a community in order to gain greater access to children.

Unfortunately, we as church members often unwittingly play into their hands. For example, in the case of John Price, the Predator Pastor which we have been exposing on this blog, those on John’s side will normally argue that since he is not in jail, we should be quiet about it. In their defense, let me say that I understand why they think this way. If John was in fact guilty as we claim, then he should be in jail. And I agree. He should be in jail. But should be and would be are two entirely different scenarios. Research will support the argument that in the case of sex offenders, guilt will not normally be reflected by jail time. Is says nothing about ought, and ought does not necessarily follow from is.

Predators escape detection for several common reasons. These reasons are universal among all predators, no matter their status in life, whether a plumber, a doctor, a grocery bagger, or a pastor. But these reasons apply especially to Pastors who prey on children.

Predators escape detection because these crimes, by their very nature, are committed privately. There are no witnesses, besides the victim. The Bible demands two or three witnesses, but that is impossible in this case. That is why, when a predator is arrested, the police will often ask other victims to come forward. If other, separate victims come forward, then the prosecution can collaborate testimony. If not, then it is a case of the victim’s word against the perp’s. And in those cases, a tie goes to the perp.

Predators escape detection because they prey on the vulnerable. Though certainly not unheard of, predators usually steer clear of girls who have a strong and secure relationship with their father. Predators normally work on the insecure, the unprotected, the needy children. Experts tell us that predators will begin grooming a potential victim, often taking months to build a bond with the victim before even attempting any sort of sexual contact. Only when the bond is built does the predator proceed with the abuse. In the case of John Price’s victims, all have confirmed this modus operendi. Price chose girls whose relationship to their father was not strong, telling them that he would be a “father” to them. Then later, as he groomed them for his designs, Price began to tell them that “God made them for this purpose.” “Everyone has some purpose in life,” Price said. “You were made for me.” Then later, after they had fallen prey to his deceptions, Price again used their insecurity and vulnerability against them, promising to embarrass them if they tell, promising his devotion if they will keep silent.

Predators escape detection because their victims suffer from shame and guilt so severely. Often when a victim will not come forward, it is because they feel that they were equally responsible for what happened. They feel ashamed of what they did, ashamed that they enjoyed it. Predators know this. They know that if their victim feels pleasure, if they can get their victim to enjoy the act, then that is insurance for later. Because the shame and guilt will silence the victim. Churches and pastors do little to help this situation. Often, we insist on blaming the victim for what happened. I’d ask all who read here to consider the irony of this. The victim, who is not responsible for the sin, because of the guilt and shame she feels, keeps quiet about what happened, taking the responsibility on herself. Meanwhile, the perpetrator feels no guilt or shame, relying instead on Christian culture to keep his victims from telling. It seems to me that we’ve turned the proper use of conscience on its head. Churches should be teaching diligently where the responsibility lies, and making it clear that victims need to come forward so that they can put away their guilt. But often, we pile the shame on top of the shame, shaming the victim rather than offering comfort and help.

Predators escape detection because their victims fear them. Especially when the predator is the victim’s pastor. Almost universally, once the sexual contact commences, the grooming changes from an emotional bond to a more sinister nature. Predators notoriously make their victims feel important and wanted before contact, and regularly threaten them afterwards. Beforehand, they promise love and affection. Afterwards, they promise exposure and shame. Beforehand, they promise pleasure. Afterwards, they promise pain. Beforehand, they promise friendship and security. Afterwards, they promise physical harm. Predators threaten their victims, once they have committed their crimes. They threaten to expose them, to embarrass them, they threaten that nobody will believe them, they promise to deny everything, and sometimes, they threaten physical harm. Thus, the victim does not come forward.

At this point, it should be noted that “Biblical convictions” will not normally cause a victim to come forward. In a home where the father teaches his children diligently, it certainly is true that the children are less likely to become victims (though this is not unilaterally the case). We certainly could argue that taught children are more likely to come forward if they become the victim. But predators know this as well. They often check out the relationship between parents and children, looking specifically for closeness of communication. Predators are cowards. They avoid situations where they might get caught. Since victims are often weak and insecure to begin with, it is unlikely that their knowledge of God’s Word will motivate them to come forward.

That is not all. Predators often escape detection because of who they are. This is never more true than when a pastor turns predator. We want to trust our pastors. We do not want to believe anything bad about them. And rightfully so. Not wanting to undermine this natural trust we have for people in general, and specifically for pastors, we need to think instead of the demands of justice. Justice requires us to lay aside our feelings about the people involved, and instead to weigh the evidence. In determining who we will believe (and don’t think that predator pastors forget who we are most likely to believe), we must examine the evidence in the case, following Scriptural standards of justice. Since it is unlikely that there will be any witnesses, we must look instead for signs of deceit. Disharmony will sometimes be the best indicator of this. Lies of omission are more common than lies of commission. Deceptions often take the form of deflection. Almost always in a case like this, there will be situations where the predator invaded the victim’s privacy and violated normal standards of behavior. All of these things need to also be considered.

Predators escape detection because they are good liars. When dealing with a potential predator, we must always remember this. Of course, we all know the signs of lying… gaze aversion, shifty eyes, nervousness, shaky voice. So, we figure we will catch it. But we overlook the fact that the liar knows what the signs of lying are, just like you do.
Finally, predators escape detection because we are afraid to believe such a thing about them, because we are afraid to lose their friendship, because we are afraid of confrontation. Don’t think that predators never thought of this one either. They know that we will most likely believe them over a child. Especially if that child has been in trouble, or has a troubled past.

May God give us wisdom in dealing with this problem in the future.

Footnotes:

(1) Anna Salter, Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, & Other Sex Offenders: Who they are, How they Operate, and How We Can Protect Ourselves and Our Children (New York: Basic Books, 2003), pp. 11-12.

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Categories: Mallinak, The Ministry
  1. June 16, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Great Post Brother.

    Lord Bless

  2. June 16, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    What would you say is the solution? As we’ve talked about this several times, I partly know what you’ll say. But to make it public and to expand upon it, and to set forth an attitude and pattern that is safe for church members to assume, how should members conduct themselves? Even the congregation cannot consider an accusation without 2 or 3 witnesses. What do they do when the first accusation arises? False accusations will still be made. We may know everything you’ve laid forth in your blog and on JackHammr, but what measures can we take to prevent this in our own churches and deal with it upon first occurrence, and not wait until after there are a dozen corroborating witnesses to substantiate a case?

    These questions aren’t rhetorical. I believe there are probably things that can be done. Perhaps the three hammers can sound off here.

  3. cathy
    June 17, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Jason,
    As I a victim of John Price. When I was at college, I went to a staff member about how uncomfortable I was about John Price and the way he had a touch feely problem. I explained that I wasn’t comfortable with the hugs and kisses he insisted on giving me. What I was told was that he just loved me like a daughter. I was just extra special to him and that there was no harm intended.

    I left college when John price told me he was going to move up there and be staff, he promised he would take care of me. I was considering leaving anyway, because of some personal spirituall problems I was having, when John told me he was being hired on staff, that sealed my desicion to leave.

    I will try to be realistic here. I understand the 2-3 witnesses part. God requires that for a reason, to protect the innocent. I am sure that many good pastors would have their name tarnished by a bitter family, woman, or so forth. Thus it is necessary.

    So where do we draw that line, who to believe, and what to do about it.

    All I ask,which I believe is a reasonable request, is that the person making that accusation be taken seriously, that it be checked into, that it truly be investigated.

    I wouldn’t be so bitter about it, if the staff member would have done that. I realize when I was in college, I wasn’t a good Christian, but I wasn’t a bad college student. I didn’t get into trouble, I didn’t get a whole lot of demerits, I made decent grades, but that was it. I was a bus kid that didn’t come from a good home, I didn’t go soulwinning everyweek, I didn’t always tithe, and I can go on. I didn’t hang with the in crowd, I didn’t hang with the bad crowd, I just hung around. Usually by myself.

    So my christian reputation probably wasn’t the greatest, so when I made my claim, if it was thoroughly checked out, if it was investigated, instead of played down, ignored, and I wasn’t believed after that, then I would understand. I would not truly have a reason to be bitter.

    But that isn’t what happened. The bitterness from the reaction about destroyed me. It wasn’t until 13 years later did I find out that not only did the staff member totally ignored me, but he also failed to tell Preacher about my concerns and the incidents. (Thus why I said what I said about Pastor Sextons poor judgement in friends in the last blog by Pastor B.)

    So what I am getting at? Well unless, Pastor Mallinak can give a better answer, with a logical rationale on your question. I personally think, that every claim should be taken seriously, that the accuser, no matter their reputation should be taken seriously. The matter should be investigated, and not swept under a rug. I don’t think that automatic disbarrment from pastoral leadership should be taken. Nevertheless, if it happens again, another victim. comes forward, then it should.

    In my case, it never would have happened, if past victims were taken serious.

    The only thing that scares me, is that after I came back in 2003. Pastor Jeff Voegtlin said to me, that if the situation took place again today, the results would have been the same. As much as love my church, that response truly scares me.

  4. June 22, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Cathy,

    Everything seems to be swept under the carpet, particularly those who are elitist or in power postions. This behavior goes on everywhere, from government, to corporations, even at your “favorite church”.

    The Bible admonishes us over and over NOT to trust man, but God. Man by nature is deceitful and fickle, even those who are born-again. I have had to learn this the hard way and painful as it was. I know what it feels like to be the victim, yet at the same time feel like the criminal. Truly this is why I have no desire for church because “church” today looks more like the local country club or glee club, especially in the mega-churches.

  5. June 23, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Cindy,
    I don’t think things are swept under the rug as much as I believe often it is just laziness.

    It takes work to actually believe that a predator could be out there infiltrated your congregation.

    I am shocked that you say you have no desire for church. The church is simply a body of believers, and we should have fellowship therein.

    I am very very busy this week, I am sure the men here can give a better argument in why it is biblically important to be apart of a good Bible believing church.

    Many of the mega churches are country clubs, some are not, nevertheless it doesn’t excuse us from attending a good church.

  6. June 23, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Whatever Cathy, I was simply trying to validate your feelings and show that someone understands you, but I guess I don’t. You have had your experience and I have had mine and that is why I feel the way I do, so obviously you and I have had very different experiences so we’ll leave it at that.

    Grace and Peace to you and I hope you will benefit from whatever you go through whether it is good or bad.

  7. June 23, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    I’m sorry you feel offended, nevertheless we can’t respond to emotion, but everything must be examined and held in light of the Word of God. The Scriptures must be our sole authority to how we respond to everything. that even includes church attendance.

  8. June 23, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Good for you! And that includes NOT trusting man, because that IS the authority in scripture.

  9. JackieRuckel
    May 30, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    The real answer is found in the Bible..Forgiveness.

  10. Karen Johnson
    August 17, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Well stated and surprising to learn these are a pastor’s words.
    It’s amusing, though in a sad way, how so many people, even those who consider themselves pillars of society, educated, intellectually minded, as well as peer pastors, go to such great lengths to protect their congregation’s or neighboring congregation’s predator pastor(s), even when the victim(s) statements are provable, obvious, and the congregation knows they are simply, consciously, refusing to believe the truth.
    It’s good to see the use of “Pastor” in this article as opposed to just “Priest”. Also good, is knowing there are those who understand this is not just a Catholic problem and the victims are not only children, but vulnerable adults.
    Abuse by clergy is a prevalent problem in the Lutheran Church as well. The Catholic Church isn’t dealing with this problem alone, though the Lutherans seem to have better stayed under the radar. The Lutheran Church is as good at, or better at cover up, as the Catholic Church.
    It’s interesting to see the similarities between the Church of today and the church of Medieval, Renaissance, and Early American times. The Church, now, as in the past, will always find a way to intimidate their problems away. They will do anything to protect themselves.
    Their accusers, even today, still experience mob mentalities, as they have through history, even here, in America. Witch hunts, which have always been associated with protecting the church, still go on, though the victim is now labeled an evil seductress, instead.
    Mob mentalities, the likes of which, in the past, threatened, tortured, and burned, are still a thing of today. At least, today, laws keep burnings from happening very often, any more, or, I’m sure they’d still go on.

  11. October 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I would really like you to read my article. Your article here is great and it sheds light on a taboo subject. Please feel free to share this blog in your comments to help readers resolve their concerns. https://ressurrection.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/the-problem-with-preaching-predators-in-leadership-chuck-adair-at-skillman-church-in-midland-dallas-texas/

  12. October 17, 2013 at 12:40 am
  13. bill bill
    February 24, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    pastors on pedestals, gays running the church, sodomy in the pews, regular folks turned evil through pornography gambling and drinking, satan poking jesus eyeballs with his devil horns, these are the last days.

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