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I have been following the news coverage of the suspicion of cover-up by then cardinal Ratzinger(pope Benedict) during his tenure in Germany.

I have observed a number of things about the coverage:

(i) Since it has been focused on the catholic church some people think that the celibacy issue is really driving the abuse crisis in the church.

(ii) Some, like Bill Donohue of the one-man Catholic League, retort that the victims and perpetrators are just homosexuals who should never have been allowed to serve openly in the church.

(iii) Some Catholics and skeptical observers wonder if money is driving the victims and that some of the victims are just liars who have a hidden agenda to malign the catholic church and reap benefits in the process.

Having experienced abuse myself, I think I might be a case study for people who are looking at this issue and have questions.

I was abused at age 17 by an evangelical pastor. My experience shows that sexual abuse by clergy might be more widespread and across-the-board than thought.
I was molested by my pastor(an evangelical pastor). My mother got me permission to live in the mission house of the church(a privilege many churches give to members who travel) when i finished high school because I needed to go to my boarding school to finish my college applications(letters of recommendation, transcripts etc). The pastor and his wife were away the entire time I was at the house. I made friends with the house help and his kids. As i was leaving, the pastor and his wife returned from their trip.He asked to pray with me for safety. His wife and family were not in the living room at the time.

Before he prayed with me he asked me if I was a good girl(I was a virgin, I dressed very conservatively at the time, had never even kissed before). He asked me if I prayed, etc. Then he proceeded to pray with me.I closed my eyes as he had his hand over me and prayed. Nobody(his kids, house help, wife) came into the living room during this time, perhaps to give him time to pray with me.

When he finished the prayer, he moved my head and gave me a wet kiss(he put his tongue in my mouth and licked my tongue in a weird way) and held my breasts(i barely had breasts: i was rather masculine for a 17yr old). I was shocked and moved away and gave him a stare(which i believe will be the last image that will flash through his head before he dies-it was a cold stare of an innocent teenager who had respected and trusted pastors her whole life). But most of all, I was confused and lost. I looked around for help. I grabbed my bags and run out of the living room.

When I exited the door of the living room I saw the entire family sitting outside the living room and they were all just staring at me. None of them said a word to me. Did someone see something? Remember, I had stayed in the house with his kids and house help for at least 3days and made friends with them, but none of them said a word to me as I bolted out of the house. I was so confused that I didn't say a word to them. I just wanted to get away from the house. I started crying when i left the compound and started clearing my head. I had never kissed before and I worried that the saliva from this tongue would give me AIDS( I grew up very scared of AIDS because one of my uncle's wives contracted AIDS and killed her husband and young children from it). I spat and wiped my mouth and spat some more. I kept crying.

The irony is that I grew up with a fundamentalist christian mother who trusted her pastors more than she trusted her own husband. She often volunteered to clean the house of the local pastor and often donated food and clothing to the pastor's family. She made us love, fear, worship pastors. I grew up reading books written by my church leaders and thought of them as God's messengers. I loved the call to serve God here on earth and would have slept soundly in a pastor's arm without fear of abuse or harm.

Within a minute I snapped out of that funk. I felt an instant disgust and relief. I realized that this pastor was a total fraud and i began to doubt all my religious upbringing. As a teenager who had maintained my 'purity'/virginity I was disgusted that I would forever have to live with the fact that my first kiss was with a child molester.

When I got home my mom picked me up from the bus station and as we drove I told her about it. She almost lost control of the car when I recounted what had happened. She never reported it to the church and refused to tell my dad (a skeptic of religion ) about it for fear that he would insist that we stop going to church.

For me that incident sealed my increasing distrust of religious dogma. I was already tired of attending church and hearing weird stuff that I couldn't honestly believe. As a teenager on a 1year hiatus from school it was a good excuse to stop attending church services.

I tell this story as a cautionary tale to those who believe that perhaps abuse is limited to single catholic priests who are celibate.

I believe abuse is very common among religious people and other people who are least expected to abuse kids.

You see, pastors know how highly they are regarded in the community. They are aware that the community trusts them and would never suspect them of these heinous crimes. That lack of accountability might explain the surprising high number of abuse by priests.

I would like an investigation of all religious institutions to find the extent of abuse.

It will certainly shut up Bill Donohue for two reasons: maybe his theory of homosexuality will be disproved by the 'social science data' that would come out of such a study; secondly he might be relieved to find out that the catholic church is not unique in the rampant abuse of the flock the shepherds are supposed to guard.

Originally posted to pmb on Wed Mar 31, 2010 at 01:25 PM PDT.

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