"If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” ~Yeshua, Matthew 18:6
How much is a LITTLE BOY worth?
A job suspension? A zip code transfer? $116,279.07*?
A ridiculous suggestion, but the above three are what it cost the priest, and ultimately, the Boston Archdiocese, when it settled the case of one rapist that it sheltered. (*One 10 million-dollar settlement divided by 86 victims.)
According to Karen J. Terry and Joshua D. Freilich in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse: “Priests abused more male than female victims and had significantly greater access to male youth historically. When access to female youth increased in the 1990s, abuse of females as a percentage of victims also increased.” (from “Understanding Child Sexual Abuse by Catholic Priests from a Situational Perspective”)
Have you seen the movie Spotlight? It came out in the fall of 2015, but I just got around to watching it. I knew about this heavy story but seeing the dramatization about The Boston Globe's excellent investigative journalists brought the reality of it flooding back.
The Globe won a 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for how they researched and wrote about a decades-long coverup of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Their reporting led to criminal prosecutions and a cascade of national and global reports of widespread abuse that was systemically covered up by institutional power-brokers placating accusers and reassigning abusers to different locations.
Predator priests were shown to have a pattern of identifying fatherless and otherwise vulnerable children to abuse. Criminal behavior was overlooked as religious leaders and lawyers quietly settled out of court and attempted to hide the abusers.
This despicable behavior is not unique to one religious affiliation. In February of this year, the Houston Chronicle and San-Antonio Express-News published an investigative report of widespread sexual abuse and its subsequent coverup in the Southern Baptist Convention.
This is bad déjà vu. Twenty years, 700 victims. Victims as young as three, molested, repeatedly raped by pastors inside pastors' studies and Sunday school classrooms. In eerily familiar fashion, church leadership displayed a pattern of lies and coverup to protect the abusers.
And as with The Globe story, we know there are more victims who remain silent, in some cases because they have taken their own lives as a result of the overwhelming pain the abuse caused.
How is this?! That the people we should be able to trust and look to as our protectors and spiritual leaders are often our abusers? How is it that the implicit worth of our little boys and little girls is so cheap?
These are not new questions. Rather, they have perplexed us from the beginning.
When the LORD asked Cain his sibling’s whereabouts, he answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” just after Cain murdered him.
Adonai knew where Abel was. He knows where each little boy is who has been raped by someone who lied to that little boy and said that he loved him. He knows where each little girl is who has been manipulated and molested by someone she trusted.
Just after reiterating the Golden Rule near the end of the discourse known as Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua warns us:
"Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’"
Yeshua told the religious leaders of his day, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness."
I opened this three-part series with the question Rachael Denhollander posed during her powerful victim impact statement, “How much is a little girl worth?”
Before answering her own question, Denhollander did something amazing. She told her abuser, Larry Nassar, that she forgave him. Moreover, she told him that there is an even greater opportunity for him to experience ultimate freedom:
“Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you. I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me -- though I extend that to you as well.”
Wrapping up this three-part exposé, it is clear, the cost of abortion, slavery and sexual abuse are steep. However, the value of a person is inestimable. Because, as Denhollander succinctly answers, her and his true worth is “Everything.”
That is what every little boy and every little girl is worth. Every man, every woman. Though we are prone to wander, prone to hurt ourselves and others, our loving Creator has designed us for ultimate redemption, for which he paid the ultimate cost.
This is absolutely good news for the brokenhearted and all those who mourn. It's good news for every one of us. If you haven't already, it's time to trade shame and disgrace for joy and praise, delighting greatly in the LORD:
"For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."
More from Rachael Denhollander:
“Throughout this process, I have clung to [this] quote by C.S. Lewis:
'My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call something crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.'” ~ Clive Staples Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Collier Macmillan, 1960, paperback), 31.
SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
The largest, oldest and most active support group for women and men wounded by religious and institutional authorities (priests, ministers, bishops, deacons, nuns, coaches, teachers, and others).
RAINN - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
The nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
Find a certified counselor.