I think this is a very good read
To our dear members who still attend churches or who have family members who attend churches,
I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts on the traits I have come across that characterize priests, pastors and religious community leaders who are untrustworthy and abusive.
One of the most telling aspects of untrustworthy and abusive priests, pastors and religious community leaders is the way they protect each other—at the expense of the innocent, particularly those who call them out. All the while, these untrustworthy and abusive priests, pastors and religious community leaders claim to be protecting the church and doing the work of the gospel.
This tribalism has obvious negative consequences. It leads to the exclusion of others, to outsiders being treated unjustly, and to crimes and corruption being concealed. It quickly develops into an excessive sense of privilege and entitlement as we see today in Australian and New Zealand churches by priests who are being imported from countries overseas where clericalism is rampant.
This tribal mentality has led abusive priests, pastors and religious community leaders to collaborate in the same crimes, as happened for instance in Ballarat, Sunbury, Philadelphia, Guam, Fiji, Christchurch and Wellington.
Beware of priests, pastors and community church leaders who stick together at the expense of truth and justice. Good priests should be known to condemn the crimes of their own. If they do not, then they are complicit. Complicit priests who preach at the pulpit though remain quiet about abuse, betray themselves.
Trustworthy priests, pastors and religious community leaders would plead for accountability. Those who are unwilling to be held to account or who operate in secret, especially when dealing with abuse, are obviously hiding something. Beware! Call them out.
For example, what was said recently in public by priests, pastors, and religious community leaders about a fair and compassionate response to survivors of abuse, and what is taking place behind closed doors are two completely different things. This is deceit. When they do not hold themselves to account in the public arena, then they are simply not trustworthy.
Beware of priests, pastors and religious community leaders who cannot receive criticism or who become defensive when questions are raised. Faith-based communities where criticism is treated as threatening are not safe environments for anyone.
Priests, pastors, and religious leaders who see their tribes as the defenders of truth will resist necessary correctives from those outside their ranks. They will be reluctant to admit failures or report abuse to outside agencies for fear of derailing their mission.
Defensive behaviour has the purpose of distracting you from your right intuition about such untrustworthy and abusive behaviour. Those who deflect and divert questions are defensive. Their objective, whether they realize it or not, is to shift attention aware from the issue.
A New Zealand bishop did this recently when contacted by the local press for comment on survivors’ complaints about his national redress office not following its own professional standards. The survivors called for an external audit but the bishop’s response was to talk about how his office was continuously reviewing itself. To deflect away from the issue of an external audit, he focused instead on his office’s internal review.
Be wary of priests, pastors, and religious community leaders who feel entitled to special treatment. How many times have you heard them say, “I’m in charge. We’re doing it my way!” Be careful! Their church is actually your church.
If you inquire into the kinds of lives these priests, pastors, and religious community leaders are leading, you might be surprised to see how they have cultivated a life of indulgence by taking advantage of you, especially your money.
Rather than being entitled, a good priest, or pastor, or religious community leader will install a system of checks and balances. They would not usurp the power that is essentially yours.
Be particularly wary of those who have disbanded their parish councils and taken all power and control to themselves.
How many priests and pastors do you actually see out there in the field ministering to the poor, oppressed, hungry and homeless?
Good priests, pastors, and religious community leaders would be generous with their resources and time. Beware of the ones you never see apart from at mass on Sunday preaching and asking for your money. Behind that weekly appearance they lust after sex, money, power, attention, and the appearance of godliness.
Slothful priests, pastors, and religious community leaders will use you for their personal gain. These people are isolated and isolating. They care only about their own gratification.
Check out how your priests or pastors talk about sin. In my experience, those who are focused on sin have a problem with their own sins. Check their speech to see if they are fixated on sin, usually yours, and usually that which they think involves sex which they like to think about a lot.
Check also to see how Catholic priests in particular, and male pastors and religious community leaders speak about women and other religions and faith-traditions? Do they chauvinistically characterize women in ways that portray them as less valuable or talk about the gods of other religions as devils?
Also, note how they speak to, or about, those with whom they disagree. Do they get angry and defensive when legitimate inquiries are made?
A lack of flexibility and gentleness is a clear warning sign that these priests, pastors and religious community leaders cannot be trusted.
How to respond to these kinds of people
Priests, pastors, and religious community leaders who lack the values of basic human decency are very dangerous people. If you feel, for whatever reasons, you still need to be around these people, hold back your support, especially your money.
Also, don’t be afraid to speak up and continue to speak up. Speaking up in a kind and honest way is a virtue. It will help make your church a safer community for all. Untrustworthy and abusive priests, pastors, and religious community leaders will try to shut you down. But they will eventually change or leave when you continue to speak up.
The primary danger of these untrustworthy and abusive priests, pastors, and religious community leaders lies in their deceitfulness. By pretending to be holy and trustworthy, they cause severe damage to you even without you knowing it. They are like parasites who take and take and take, and ironically, they claim to have need of your generosity.
There are other traits common to these untrustworthy and abusive predators that will also expose them for who they are. I am sure you could mention some more. However, these are the main ones I have come across in my experience—tribal, unaccountable, defensive, entitled, slothful and rigid.
The question remains, how can you trust your church leaders today, those priests, pastors and religious community leaders who are tribal, unaccountable, defensive, entitled, slothful and rigid?
Thank you for your attention. I am interested in any constructive feedback.