Sexual Abuse by Clergy Not Limited to Catholics

San Antonio Express-News [Texas]
May 1, 2004

A sexually abusive minister; multiple victims and their grieving families; charges of cover-up by church officials who ignored all the warnings.

The narrative is familiar, but this time the tragic story played out in a Lutheran congregation in Marshall, located in East Texas.

A court there ordered the Dallas-based Lutheran synod to pay $36 million in damages to nine victims of Gerald Patrick Thomas Jr., who is serving a 397-year prison term for sexually assaulting boys.

Last month, the Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Ohio and the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America reached a settlement of $32 million for failing to warn the Marshall congregation about Thomas' suspicious history.

Recently, most of the cases of sexual abuse have been made against Catholic priests and the Catholic hierarchy.

But, as the case in Marshall shows, sexual abuse by ministers is not limited to any single denomination or religious faith. It happens in Protestant churches as well as Catholic ones.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church has had a zero-tolerance abuse policy since the early 1990s, but it did not stop Thomas from repeatedly sexually abusing young boys. Now the denomination will focus on tighter screening of candidates for ordination.

One way that these crimes against children can be prevented is for the public to be aware that ministerial sexual abuse occurs - and it happens in all faiths.

When these terrible crimes occur, they must be reported and prosecuted, and the abusers - as well as the institution involved - must bear responsibility.


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