A Sin or a Crime?


February 5, 2020

By Ruth Krall

Sentence: 38-76 years of imprisonment: This means that Smucker will likely die in jail. The crime: 20 felony counts for sexually molesting children, i.e., rape, of his grandchildren.

I have been following this case by means of media coverage. Mennonites often idealize the Amish —while not wanting to be Amish. I have never done this kind of idealizing.

I don’t know what my Lutheran father knew but he was quite clear with me that many Amish men and many Mennonite men were not nice men and that, as I began to date, I needed to protect myself. It was an explicit message about not dating and not marrying a Mennonite man.

Even as a very young girl I absorbed the warning and protected myself. As I became a teenager on the cusp of adult life he was much more explicit with me about the need to protect myself when he could no longer do this as my father — because he was not going to be present as I matured into young adult life.

My answer, therefore, to the sin or crime dilemma is that sexual abuse of children and adolescents, i.e., rape, by their grandfather, is a crime and a sin phenomenon. It is a sin problem for the perpetrator’s religious community to manage and it is a crime problem for the perpetrator’s secular community to manage. It is, therefore, simultaneously both a sin and a crime problem. For the victims of child or adolescent sexual abuse, the act of sexual violation is a sin against them and it is also a crime act against them.

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