Today's Topic



Professional Perpetrators

Natalia J. Garland

Print Version

It now appears that Ted Haggard, an evangelical pastor, has indeed joined the disgraced ranks of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. It is said that he solicited sex from a male prostitute, and he himself has just admitted to sexual wrongdoing (but without stating the specifics). Why are we always stunned to hear of sexual misconduct perpetrated by religious or political leaders? It is because we expect them to role-model our moral values and social institutions. It is even more shocking, and absolutely unacceptable, when priests sexually abuse children.

Priests, pastors, politicians, doctors, psychotherapists, and teachers are in positions of instruction and authority. The American public does not tolerate hypocrisy from professionals. Human imperfection can be overlooked, but an outright hypocritical lifestyle discredits leadership. People who are entrusted to help, heal, and teach, must not be permitted to harm those in their care.

Those of us in the counselling professions might have a little more latitude in terms of human weakness and error. A divorced social worker, for example, probably carries more credibility than a divorced pastor. Many of us may have been initially motivated to study human behavior in order to understand our own troubled lives. We probably all know a colleague who is a recovering alcoholic or who had an alcoholic parent, who is an incest survivor, who continues to struggle with depression or anxiety, or who has personality disturbances.

A social worker who commits adultery is not necessarily obstructed in his ability to be of help to others; although he obviously must resolve the betrayal and heartbreak which he has brought to his marriage. A politician who commits adultery, however, could be viewed as unable to manage his own household and therefore unable to manage the country. But any professional who visits a prostitute has committed a crime, and has degraded himself and another human being by reducing sexual intimacy to an impersonal encounter and business transaction. He is living a double life. This is hypocrisy.

We can feel sympathy for the families of sexual perpetrators, but the perpetrators themselves should not remain in any professional capacity where they can continue misconduct. A priest who abuses children is not answering God's calling. Perpetrators seek places where they can find victims: a church, a school, a private office. The professional role provides a disguise and the dynamics for denial and justification. These are not leaders who went astray, but cowards who sought and found convenient systems which were open to abuse.

For those who have been harmed by sexual perpetrators, or deeply disappointed in human inadequacy, turning to Holy Scripture could provide validation of reality. "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help" (Psalm 146:3). King David was one adulterer whose advice we can appreciate. (Written 11/06/06)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

Find More Topics in the Table of Contents

Return to Homepage


Copyright 2006 Natalia J. Garland