Natalia J. Garland
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.
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
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
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.
Until we meet