Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime and the Era of Evangelical Scandal

By | September 7, 2013

2015-05-10 Mortal Sins cover shot

Based on the advice of Boz Tchividjian I have been reading the book pictured above.  I heard him discuss this book on the Janet Mefferd radio program of 6-6-2013.  The program dealt with the sexual abuse scandal plaguing Sovereign Grace Ministries and the unwillingness of the neo-reformed leaders such as Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, D.A. Carson John Piper and Kevin DeYoung to speak out against their friend C.J. Mahaney or express any concern for the multiple victims of sexual abuse.  If you would like to read the specifics of the lawsuit you can find them at this link:

Class Action Lawsuit Naming Sovereign Grace Ministries and C.J. Mahaney

I recommend you listen to this 17 minute interview of Boz Tchividjian by Janet Mefferd as it is quite insightful.  I found it to be a real “eye-opener” into the mindset of the above mentioned “leaders.” You can find it at the link below.  The interview starts at the 20:30 mark of the program.

Janet Mefferd interviews Boz Tchividjian

Boz Tchividjian mentioned the fact that the scandal in the Catholic church is so similar to what is currently taking place in the neo-reformed wing of Evangelicalism that it is almost erie.  Reading the book I would agree with him.  While Evangelicalism has no formal hierarchy like the Roman Catholic church there definitely is an informal hierarchy, what Boz Tchividjian referred to as almost a “good old boys” network.  This network is comprised of Christian “leaders,” some of whom are listed above, who have risen to “super-saint” status as a result of writing books and speaking on the conference circuit.  They seem more intent on protecting one of their own and preserving the cash cow provided by conferences and numerous book publications rather than caring for the wounded sheep. Below are some quotes from the book that could just as easily apply to the neo-reformed super-saints.


“This book is the story of the tragedy caused by the sexual crimes of priests, the movement that coalesced around the pursuit of justice for the victims, and the scandal of denial, cover-up, and indifference that continues to afflict Church leaders. As one priest observed during a public appearance of Pope Benedict in Austria, he is like a man who comes upon a burning house and focuses his attention on the pretty flowers in the front garden. The moral structure of the institutional Church has been burning for almost three decades. The question now is whether anything of value can still be saved.”

“The clergy considered themselves a type of family. They protected their own and projected to the world an image of perfection.”

“But as a man who had committed his life to the Church, he experienced a slow-motion personal crisis that left him feeling isolated, and sometimes unmoored. These feelings increased as he realized that almost no one in the priesthood adhered to the rules of celibacy and that a powerful culture of secrecy and discipline allowed priests to get away with serious sexual crimes.”

“As a matter of belief and practice, clergy expected extra privileges and consideration and protected the Church by closing ranks and keeping secrets. Indeed, upon their elevation bishops and cardinals usually took an oath to keep secret any information that might cause scandal.”

“In short, a priest could get away with a lot more than the average man.”

“In late summer the press in Louisiana began reporting on the Gauthe cases. Doyle found himself dumbfounded by the way that Frey and Larocque handled things. Every time he spoke with them they minimized the extent of the problem and downplayed the risk faced by the Church. Worse was the almost flippant way Larroque spoke about the kids. “By the way, what are you doing for the boys?” asked Doyle before ending one of his chats with Larroque. As Doyle would recall it, Larroque’s response was succinct, if disappointing.
“As far as I know, nothing.””

“Beyond the monetary damage, bishops were confronted by the prospect of being subjected to depositions, subpoenas for sensitive documents, and even police raids on chancery offices. They could expect this onslaught because they, and ultimately the Pope, were responsible for the priests who served under them.”

“As Jason Berry investigated and reported on the new cases, he watched church officials in Lafayette act like corporate officers instead of pastors, complaining about insurers who resisted settling claims and litigants who threatened the solvency of the diocese. He came to accept that deceptions and transgressions he never imagined possible occurred with regularity inside the church.”

“After they were brushed aside by the American bishops, the three experts who thought they might save the Church from a long nightmare related to sexual abuse continued to try to get their message across. Michael Peterson made hundreds of copies of the report and sent them to bishops across America. Doyle spoke to anyone in the Church who would listen, reminding them of their duty to laypeople, especially children. He received some private encouragement, but no public support… After he discovered that his desk and file cabinets had been searched when he was away from his office, Doyle began taking sensitive papers home at the end of every day.”

“A five-year statute of limitations meant most complaints could never be brought to a tribunal because child victims are usually so traumatized that they are unable to disclose what happened to them until they are well into adulthood.”

“In fact, Doyle had become convinced that his old loyalty to the hierarchy had been misplaced. Although he hadn’t found a new basis for his faith, and this made him uneasy, he was certain that the clerics who claimed to be so much closer to God couldn’t have been more wrong about themselves, or the deity.”

“By the summer of 1986 Mouton was convinced that almost every ordained man in America bore some responsibility for the sexual abuse of children because the problem was an open secret.”

“All the things about the Church that rubbed him the wrong way – the spiritual class system, the authoritarian structure, the vestments and incense – seemed more irritating than ever. At the same time, he felt like he was the subject of gossip and scrutiny by his colleagues… Pio Lahi didn’t seem surprised when Doyle appeared in his office to resign. Although they conducted a face-saving exchange of good wishes, both men knew that Doyle had spoiled his chance to become a bishop, or perhaps a cardinal, and would be lucky to land any job at all.”

“Though not the most-watched TV program in America, Hour Magazine was seen by enough viewers that word of Doyle’s appearance spread quickly among the American bishops. Bishop Quinn, who had once encouraged Doyle’s work, wrote Laghi to complain that, “The continuing comments attributed to Father Doyle and Mr. Mouton are not serving the image of the Church and the priesthood.””

“He warned me that my future would be very negatively affected if I continued to speak out,” recalled Doyle. “I told him that when people ask me questions I was going to answer them honestly.” After the two men went back and forth on the matter Doyle interrupted Lahi and said, “Archbishop, what we call this in America is a Mexican standoff. It means you aren’t going to back down and neither am I.” Laghi looked at Doyle as if he was watching a man throw away his life,”

“Before the Lymans left his office, Anderson tried to allay their worries about suing an entity as vast and powerful as the Catholic Church. He reminded them that, at least theoretically speaking, no one in America is above the law. And while he had never heard of anyone filing such an action, there was a first time for everything. Since the check sent by the bishop had no strings attached he told them to go ahead and cash it and use the proceeds to help their son. Summoning up his best bedside manner, he shook hands with the couple and promised to start work immediately, with a call to the police. Greg had been the victim of a crime and it should be reported.”

“As his new clients departed, Anderson felt a combination of shock, sorrow, and rage. He had never contemplated the idea that a priest might abuse a boy in his congregation, or that the Church hierarchy would hide the crime and protect the perpetrator. At the same time, he had rarely seen a couple as grief-stricken as John and Janet Lyman. Their faith had been destroyed by a priest who had transformed their son form an ordinary thirteen-year-old into a shame-bound sex offender. Greg’s parents said their son felt profoundly guilty for what he had done and could barely look at himself in the mirror. Would he ever be able to recover his sense of self-worth? Would he be able to have a trusting relationship? What about having children of his own?”

“Jeffrey Anderson found himself blocked by the criminal law in Minnesota. The police wouldn’t accept Greg Lyman’s complaint against Fr. Thomas Adamson because the offenses took place beyond a three-year statute of limitations and he was no longer a minor. In the meantime the Church did whatever it could to slow Anderson’s efforts to discover the facts and context of his civil case.”

“The Church system seemed to Anderson like a perfect environment for the abuse of power at all levels. He suspected that more families like the Lymans were suffering, somewhere, from the trauma, loss of faith, and psychological injury that accompany sexual abuse. He also knew that the leaders of the Catholic Church possessed the means to ease their pain. As pastors they could acknowledge the sins committed by priests, recognize the injuries they caused, reform their culture of secrecy, and honor their victims. As corporate officers they could take responsibility for their employees. But just as in Wonderland, where nonsense rules, the shepherds favored wolves over sheep and tended to themselves while ignoring the flock.”

“Bishop Watters had obviously lied about what he knew of Adamson’s behavior but he honestly didn’t grasp that the priest had committed serious crimes. The same was true for every other bishop, priest, and counselor who dealt with Adamson. They showed enormous concern for his well-being and too little for the adolescent boys he had assaulted.”

“Indeed, much of what Adamson said on that stormy day in St. Paul described a bureaucracy that was more concerned with preventing scandal than protecting children, and wholly inadequate when it came to dealing with a priest who was a sexual predator.”

“Greg had committed his crimes when he was still a juvenile fresh from being victimized by an adult who was his most trusted friend. The criminal justice system had taken these facts into account when dealing with him and, like Anderson, cut him a significant amount of slack. Indeed, the mess that was Gregory Lyman’s life – his crimes, his dismal education and employment record, his sporadic homelessness – was all evidence of the harm don to him by Thomas Adamson.”