The Church of Rome’s Archbishop Philip Wilson was sentenced in Australia recently for the covering up of sexual abuse. Two altar boys were abused by a pedophile priest in the 70s, and Wilson knew about it. Rather than report it to save these children, he simply did nothing to prevent their abuse. This led to another boy being abused in the 80s by the same priest. Though he does maintain that he can’t recall ever being told of the abuse, Robert Stone (Newcastle Magistrate) who sentenced Wilson stated that he didn’t report the abuse because he “wanted to protect the church and its image.”* That very well could be conjecture on the part of the magistrate and not a direct sentiment from the archbishop, but it is what we hear from those who cover-up these allegations.
On the one hand, as a pastor, I can understand the idea behind this cover-up. If the allegations prove false, the damage is done. The allegations are on the front page of the newspapers, while the negations are on page Z24. In other words, the negations are buried and only the allegations are remembered and thought true. People’s lives are ruined by false claims. Their entire lives will be lived with other suspecting and “what-iffing.” So, as I wrote: on the one hand I get the concept of the cover-up.
But on the other hand, we have not been called to cover-up allegations. We have not been called to “protect the church and its image.” We are called to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. We are called to care for those who are the most vulnerable. We are called to help the helpless and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Satan will do his worst to get the Church to fall. He will sow weeds among the wheat, and put goats in among the sheep. He will seek to put in hireling rather than shepherds, and wolves in sheep’s clothing to ravage the flock. As shepherds, it is our duty to fight for the flock. We are to protect those sheep in our care, from the youngest to the oldest. But we have not been called to “protect the church and its image.” At least not in the way that Stone (or those who cover-up abuse) intend it to mean.
We are assured that the gates of hades will not prevail upon the Church. No amount allegations will destroy the Church. Even this effort to protect the Church, which has done tremendous harm to the Church, will not be the end of the Church. God is greater than the allegations. Christ is stronger than the strong man, who seeks to bind His people. We must be aware that our sins will find us out. So let us deal with them immediately when they come. Let us not live in white-washed tombs and drink from dirty cups. Let us bring evil to light, for the darkness will not overcome it. Let us remember, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea,” (Matthew 18:6, ESV).