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Source: (consider it) Thread: Spiritual abuse is now a recognised crime
Chorister

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# 473

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A vicar being the first to be found guilty of spiritual abuse: will this open the floodgates to similar cases, and how does one decide what constitutes abuse?

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Mudfrog
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I think the word 'abuse' is being 'abused'.

Though I shall probably be abused for saying so...

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"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

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Gamaliel
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So how the vicar acted was appropriate, then?

I'm sure you wouldn't advocate such intense levels of apparent control when it comes to caring for your own flock, Mudfrog.

It is a tricky one,though. At what point does some rather intense pastoral pressure cross line into outright criminal abuse?

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
I think the word 'abuse' is being 'abused'.

As is the word “crime” in the thread title. No “crime” has been recognized here, and it’s misleading and unhelpful at best to suggest otherwise. The vicar in question was found guilty of “misconduct” by a church tribunal, not of a “crime” by a court.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Chorister

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The Church Times article uses such words as 'convicted' 'guilty' and 'penalty'.

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Mudfrog
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No, I recognise inappropriate behaviour and it is unacceptable; however, I worry that a word that is a strong word that describes instances of 'real' abuse, is now being used by people (NOT in this instance) when they are simply disagreed with verbally.

If a word becomes overused it loses it's power in instances when it is properly used.

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"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
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hatless

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
It is a tricky one,though. At what point does some rather intense pastoral pressure cross line into outright criminal abuse?

What’s pastoral pressure, intense or mild? An oxymoron, surely. It is pastoral to respect, indeed indicate and activate, the freedom of others.

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Gee D
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As Nick Tamen has said, these were not criminal proceedings, but internal church disciplinary ones. And there's no novelty in this sort of case. Fortunately they're not common but certainly there have been past instances here.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
I think the word 'abuse' is being 'abused'.

Though I shall probably be abused for saying so...

I was a victim of spiritual abuse, Mudfrog. When I understood what moral harassment was, I quickly realised that had I been in a regular employment situation rather than in the employ of a church (which is not quite the same thing under French law) the treatment I received would have been a prosecutable offence.

In what way do you think the word abuse is being abused as regards the linked case, exactly?

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
No, I recognise inappropriate behaviour and it is unacceptable; however, I worry that a word that is a strong word that describes instances of 'real' abuse, is now being used by people (NOT in this instance) when they are simply disagreed with verbally.

If a word becomes overused it loses it's power in instances when it is properly used.

Did you read the article?

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Nicolemr
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Seriously, Mudfrog, if you don't think what he did to that boy was abuse, I'd hate to see what you think is.

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
The Church Times article uses such words as 'convicted' 'guilty' and 'penalty'.

But not, so far as I can tell, the word “crime,” which has a specific meaning: an act prohibited by the state and for which the state may punish a person by imprisonment, fine or some other method.

When the article talked about being “guilty,” it meant guilty of misconduct under church policies, not guilty of a crime. Any “penalty” would be a form of church discipline, not a criminal penalty.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
No, I recognise inappropriate behaviour and it is unacceptable; however, I worry that a word that is a strong word that describes instances of 'real' abuse, is now being used by people (NOT in this instance) when they are simply disagreed with verbally.

If a word becomes overused it loses it's power in instances when it is properly used.

quote:
She told us that [Mr Davis] would say that he was God’s anointed, and a person had died because he did not do something that [Mr Davis] wanted.
Yeah, using God and one’s purported authority through him isn’t abuse. [Roll Eyes]

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Dave W.
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# 8765

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Here's the text of the tribunal's judgement.
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Amanda B. Reckondwythe

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quote:
Originally posted by Nicolemr:
Seriously, Mudfrog, if you don't think what he did to that boy was abuse, I'd hate to see what you think is.

From the linked article:
quote:
The boy, who cannot be identified, told the tribunal that Mr Davis hugged him while crying . . . because . . . "God was saying that is what I should do". The pair went for dinner in Oxford together . . . and to the cinema. . . . The boy said he found the mentoring "too intense but he found it impossible to tell TD that he wanted less contact." His mother said she did not try and end his relationship with her son as "she was scared of going against God".
Abuse is too mild a euphemism for that.

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Gramps49
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Maybe I am missing something here.

It sounds like the disciplinary tribunal is a religous court, not a secular court. How, then can this be a crime against the state?

I know this side of the pond many denominations have their own disciplinary procedures as they well should, but the separation of church from state would mean the secular courts would not be involved unless there is a crime against the state. An example would be if the minister would embezzle a million dollars against the church. That would be subject to both a disciplinary council of the church and a state investigation and trial because embezzlement is a state crime.

Now to the situation at hand. No, the vicar should not have tried to keep the boy from seeing his girlfriend. That is up to the parents, but I know when it comes to young love the more one is told no, the more they will want to see each other.

A bif issue on this side of the pond is conversion therapy in which "counselors," usually religions, will try to make a gay person straight. Some states have now banned this practice, making it a crime to practice this therapy in the respective states.

The only other crimes by a minister that would likely be prosecuted in state courts here is physical abuse and sexual abuse. Emotional abuse is hard to prove.

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Eutychus
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Nick Tamen is right that the ruling is not a ruling on whether a crime has been committed.

However, as I tried, perhaps clumsily, to point out, what I understand to be "spiritual abuse" overlaps to a very large extent with harcèlement moral ('moral harassment') which in this country is a prosecutable offence.

In fact I see the law in France has tightened up since this concerned me.

Here's Article 222-33-22 of the French Criminal Code (my translation):
quote:
Harassment of a person by the repeated use of words or behaviours the purpose of which is damage to their living conditions resulting in deterioration of their physical or mental health is punishable by one year's imprisonment and a fine of €15,000...
This penalty is doubled for a minor and tripled if combined with other aggravating circumstances such as vulnerability.

Your jurisdiction may vary, and the prosecution would in theory have to prove intent under this particular piece of French law, but if behaviour of the kind reported in the article were brought before a French court, and on the basis of cases I'm familiar with, the perpetrator could well be looking at a couple of years of prison.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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SusanDoris

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# 12618

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I gather from reading the posts above (not the article) that the mother did not intervene because of her fear of god. I find that such a deeply embeded indoctrination saddening.

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Golden Key
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# 1468

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Susan--

{Waves.}

The minister told her, rather forcefully, she'd be in trouble with God.

He's one sick something or other. IMHO, he needs in-patient psych care, and no more time around kids.

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Gamaliel
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Indeed, SusanDoris.

As a theist I find it deeply troubling too, particularly as the vicar seems to have set himself up as an apparently incontrovertible mouth-piece for the Almighty.

I suspect you may consider that an intrinsic and inherent danger in religious belief and practice per se.

I do think this is serious and am surprised Mudfrog doesn't appear to consider it so, although I would consider it an issue for the church authorities rather than the civic courts.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
The Church Times article uses such words as 'convicted' 'guilty' and 'penalty'.

The original judgement used "guilty" and "penalty" but not "convicted".
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mr cheesy
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I'm not sure of the correct terms here - the Clergy Discipline Measure is law (as far as I can understand it) and the tribunals used to make judgements are constituted by law and have legal weight. On the other hand they have limited powers and jurisdiction.

Anyway, leaving aside for the moment that legal-lingustic issue, I really fail to understand what this vicar thought he was doing. I've read that he actually moved into the home of the boy in question, when the mother was working for him.

Who does that? Who thinks that this is remotely a good idea?

Surely any sane person who entertained the idea of moving into the home of someone that closely entwined with the mechanics of the church would be questioning how closely they can work with a child - if nothing else because of the risk of accusations of (worse kinds of) abuse.

That was plain dumb.

Spiritual abuse seems quite a loaded term to me, given that there are very common forms of religion where this kind of "shepherding" is part of the deal. I'm not sure that it is a simple thing to draw a line between acceptable and unacceptable "spiritual" leadership.

But the behaviours here are clearly screwed up, stupid and unthinking. The guy in question clearly has shown himself to be unsuited for a leadership role in a religious organisation, in my opinion. He might not have done anything criminal in a strict sense (or at least in the sense that we're usually familiar with the term in the usual secular courts) but he has done something monumentally stupid.

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arse

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I'm not sure that it is a simple thing to draw a line between acceptable and unacceptable "spiritual" leadership.

My take is simply that leadership should be empowering and not enfeebling, and should seek to see the led function independently of their leader. The leader should be a servant, not a master.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Baptist Trainfan
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Excellent posts both, Cheesy and Eutychus. This does remind me of some of the excesses of 1970s charismatic "shepherding" - some of which (let's not forget) took place within Anglican contexts.
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mr cheesy
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Well the thing is that these behaviours don't seem all that unusual to me. When I was a youth, I moved in charismatic circles and this kind of intense spiritual intervention was fairly normal.

OK, maybe not the moving into the house thing, but the group I ran with regularly had intense prayer meetings and "shepherding" (although that term wasn't used).

I'd also say that this was self-organised and church leaders weren't involved - but I don't think it is hard to imagine a scenario where leaders would have been involved in this kind of thing. I certainly know of groups where it is fairly normal.

Was it abusive? Honestly, I don't know. It was uncomfortable at times and I think in the long term it contributed to my general dislike of this form of religion. And the window it gave me into other lives certainly made me wonder at the time whether it was a slippery slope into bad stuff.

I don't think I'd put myself in that situation again, and I'd be concerned if I heard about close relatives who were into it - even though what I experienced was a lot milder than described in this incident.

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arse

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Was it abusive? Honestly, I don't know. It was uncomfortable at times and I think in the long term it contributed to my general dislike of this form of religion. And the window it gave me into other lives certainly made me wonder at the time whether it was a slippery slope into bad stuff.

I don't think such situations are intrinsically abusive, but they can very quickly become abusive if the person in a position of authority:

- deliberately misuses their position

- exercises their authority without being properly aware of the implications of an "authority gradient"

- is deceived into thinking they have a God-given mandate to exercise their authority down an authority gradient.

Perpetrators are often victims, too, in such systems. I realised I was a victim before realising I had been an unwitting perpetrator, too.

I think this sorry situation is an excellent case study in an environment of spiritual abuse.

I'm in the middle of a translation of the mode of governance of a major multinational. There are pages and pages devoted to avoiding conflicts of interest and the like. The sons of darkness are wiser than the children of light.

I despair at how clueless many people in positions of spiritual responsibility seem to be about these things, and to have no moral compass for this kind of thing at all, and how this gives an opportunity for the truly predatory to wreak immense havoc in other people's lives.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Mudfrog
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My initial comment was simply a reflection on the broader use of the word. Everything now is an abuse - if a child is subjected to sexual advances quite rightly it is deemed an abuse; if a woman is subjected to rape, quite rightly it's abuse. But nowadays it seems that if someone is merely insulted, they have been 'abused'.

I am simply trying to suggest that overuse of the word abuse risks demeaning the use of the word in proper contexts.

In my second post I simply said that I recognise inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour. I didn't directly refer to the case in point I merely highlighted the use of the word abuse. I do believe, with you all, that it is a serious and reprehensible activity by the minister in question. It is bullying, it is controlling, it is, yes I agree, an abuse of his pastoral status and amounts to persecution and is quite a shocking thing to read. I simply can't understand how it got so far and when I first read about it - not here but elsewhere - I wondered if actually the 'problem' was not a spiritual motivation - a spiritual 'abuse' as if one can abuse another with spirituality - but something a little (a lot!) more sinister that had more to do with the feelings of the man for the young lad.

In which case the abuse is not spiritual but something else entirely.

On a related point, if we are going to say that someone can be abused spiritually, where does one draw the line? Can a sermon be spiritual abuse? Can church discipline over a moral or doctrinal issue be abuse? I can see a can here with a label marked worms.

And this gets back to my original question about the use of the word abuse. Once one says that an action is an abuse, rather than an insult, an act of bullying, etc, people treat it a lot differently and, in some cases, perhaps someone will shout 'abuse' in order to make the insult they have suffered seem more serious than it really is. All insults and acts of bullying are wrong and must be stopped, but I would want to keep the word abuse for specific levels of wrongdoing.

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G.K. Chesterton

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
I'm in the middle of a translation of the mode of governance of a major multinational. There are pages and pages devoted to avoiding conflicts of interest and the like. The sons of darkness are wiser than the children of light.

"Oh, but we're Christians! We're good people who don't need to be worried about all that worldly stuff". As if ...
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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
On a related point, if we are going to say that someone can be abused spiritually, where does one draw the line? Can a sermon be spiritual abuse? Can church discipline over a moral or doctrinal issue be abuse? I can see a can here with a label marked worms.

Yes exactly. As ministers of the Word (and under the authority of God) we do hope that our teaching and the actions of the Church will influence and persuade people. There are times when, both publicly and privately, we have to make some pointed comments. But, as you say, the danger is how far it goes.

One is reminded of the passage in "How Green Was My Valley" in which a young couple who have been caught "fornicating" are brought before the chapel congregation and given a harsh, formal and self-righteous dressing-down - that certainly goes too far.

And I remember reading (in a book written approvingly by himself!) of a well-known minister who wanted a loan from a bank to build a new church and told his many (and very docile "pastor knows best") members who banked there that they should all close their accounts and transfer their allegiance elsewhere ...

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mr cheesy
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It seems to me that where this gets into the weeds is when the person in question was (or appears to be) a willing participant.

In other circumstances, I think we might be raising an eyebrow if an adult was in a controlling relationship with a child - or even if there is adult-adult or child-child relationships of this kind.

And yet we commonly think that this is aOK when there is religion involved. An extreme version is monasticism - would we ordinarily think that something was fine where an individual is basically locked up? Would we say that this person has "volunteered" knowing what they were doing, or would we say that this was abusive?

Or imagine a non-religious confessional. Would we ordinarily think that it was healthy for an individual to spill all their deepest secrets to "get approval" from an authority?

When I think about the revelations of behaviours we hear about from the core of Scientology, it doesn't seem to difficult to imagine these as abusive. But it becomes tricky to see the difference between these and behaviours in our own religious contexts at times.

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arse

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Mudfrog
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In 1986 When I was training to be a SA Officer we had to go to Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park and join with all the speech makers, stand on a soap box and speak for a certain number of minutes.
It was not a pleasant experience.

The crowd gathered round and they 'abused' us in turn, as it were, as we spoke. I remember ne unfortunate young woman who had rather prominent teeth, being insulted by a heckler on the state of her appearance.
It was downright rude and offensive but I would not have said he was abusing her.
I actually don't recall her being upset about it, to be honest.

Anyway, after it was all over, as we were milling around, three Muslim men walked up to me and hemmed me in on all sides and started haranguing me about my Christian beliefs. Astonishingly they had come prepared with a copy of the Athanasian Creed! I had only been in in training for a few weeks and knew nothing about the Creed.
Anyway, they pressed me, cajoled me, insisted I was wrong, harangued me about my 'three gods' - and made me feel very uncomfortable. They made the Jehovah's Witnesses seem almost disinterested!

Was that 'spiritual abuse'?
What would have happened if I had walked up to a policeman and said I was being abused by the Muslims?
What would happen today if three Christians did that, holding a copy of a Koran, to a single Muslim?

We hear of people being offended and I believe that the law is that if someone feels offended then the accused has indeed offended them, regardless of whether they did actually say something offensive.

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"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

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Doc Tor
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Can church discipline over a moral or doctrinal issue be abuse?

Yes, of course it can.

Especially where the church in question forgets that it's a voluntary association with zero temporal power or authority, and acts like it's the One True Faith, Outside of Which is Nothing but Darkness and Despair.

Members of such outfits always have the option to cancel their standing order, raise their middle finger and decamp to St. Normal's down the street, even if it doesn't feel that way at the time.

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
It seems to me that where this gets into the weeds is when the person in question was (or appears to be) a willing participant.

In other circumstances, I think we might be raising an eyebrow if an adult was in a controlling relationship with a child - or even if there is adult-adult or child-child relationships of this kind.

And yet we commonly think that this is aOK when there is religion involved. An extreme version is monasticism - would we ordinarily think that something was fine where an individual is basically locked up? Would we say that this person has "volunteered" knowing what they were doing, or would we say that this was abusive?

Or imagine a non-religious confessional. Would we ordinarily think that it was healthy for an individual to spill all their deepest secrets to "get approval" from an authority?

When I think about the revelations of behaviours we hear about from the core of Scientology, it doesn't seem to difficult to imagine these as abusive. But it becomes tricky to see the difference between these and behaviours in our own religious contexts at times.

I think I agree.
In the case in question is the abuse really 'spiritual'? Or is the minister merely abusive - and would be in any setting?

Would a scout master be committing 'scouting abuse' in a similar controlling situation?
A choir master be committing 'musical abuse.'

Does the stereotypical teacher from a bygone generation with a penchant for using the cane in order to drum the times table into a child committing 'educational abuse'?

Or is it simply a case that all these perpetrators are abusive bullies, control freaks who are just that. They use religion, scouting, music and education as vehicles to control younger or weaker people, but the subject matter is irrelevant perhaps?

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:

Was that 'spiritual abuse'?

No. If you go to Speakers' Corner, you go there for robust debate. I have a feeling that this is even written in law.

quote:
What would have happened if I had walked up to a policeman and said I was being abused by the Muslims?
Nothing. It happened at Speakers' Corner and you got what was coming to you: robust debate and disagreement.

quote:
What would happen today if three Christians did that, holding a copy of a Koran, to a single Muslim?
At Speakers' Corner? Nothing at all. I've seen it happen.

The only time anyone intervenes there is when the debate tips over into violence.

quote:
We hear of people being offended and I believe that the law is that if someone feels offended then the accused has indeed offended them, regardless of whether they did actually say something offensive.
Again, I think there are special rules at Speakers' Corner, in custom if not in law (although I've a feeling also in law). If you go there and were offended, then maybe you shouldn't have gone there.

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Can church discipline over a moral or doctrinal issue be abuse?

Yes, of course it can.

Especially where the church in question forgets that it's a voluntary association with zero temporal power or authority, and acts like it's the One True Faith, Outside of Which is Nothing but Darkness and Despair.

Members of such outfits always have the option to cancel their standing order, raise their middle finger and decamp to St. Normal's down the street, even if it doesn't feel that way at the time.

Yes, of course it can - but usually it's an abuse because the minister or Sunday School teacher has an abusive personality.

What if it's simply a reading from the Bible and a message that affirms that an action is sinful. If someone takes offence at that, has ab abuse been committed by the preacher?

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:

Was that 'spiritual abuse'?

No. If you go to Speakers' Corner, you go there for robust debate. I have a feeling that this is even written in law.

quote:
What would have happened if I had walked up to a policeman and said I was being abused by the Muslims?
Nothing. It happened at Speakers' Corner and you got what was coming to you: robust debate and disagreement.

quote:
What would happen today if three Christians did that, holding a copy of a Koran, to a single Muslim?
At Speakers' Corner? Nothing at all. I've seen it happen.

The only time anyone intervenes there is when the debate tips over into violence.

quote:
We hear of people being offended and I believe that the law is that if someone feels offended then the accused has indeed offended them, regardless of whether they did actually say something offensive.
Again, I think there are special rules at Speakers' Corner, in custom if not in law (although I've a feeling also in law). If you go there and were offended, then maybe you shouldn't have gone there.

My apologies, I don't think I've made myself clear.
This conversation was away from the soap boxes, away from the hecklers, away from the speeches. We were just in the area later and not taking part in the debates.

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Gamaliel
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It's down to the context.

I've seen all sorts of conservative Christians - of all stripes - working themselves into a lather as to whether all this is a slippery slope and they'll be hauled off to jail simply for preaching a morally conservative 'take' from certain scriptural texts.

I can see what they are getting at and can sympathise to some extent.

But I don't see the authorities booting down the door of your Citadel and hauling you in front of the Thought Police if you described something as sinful based on your interpretation of scripture ...

Not yet, anyway ...

[Ultra confused]

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Mudfrog
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I don't see this as an exclusively evangelical problem.

Here's a question - are there situations where a minister would withold the sacrament from someone?

And if there are, could the person be 'offended' by this and have grounds for discrimination, calling it an abuse'?

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
My apologies, I don't think I've made myself clear.
This conversation was away from the soap boxes, away from the hecklers, away from the speeches. We were just in the area later and not taking part in the debates.

OK then I don't know what you are saying. It sounded like you went there to set up a stall and make a speech and were then offended when some other people subsequently gathered around you to debate the points that you'd made.

If it was within the area defined as Speakers' Corner, it seems to me that this is very likely normal, and accepted, behaviour. If it happened on the other side of the street then it probably wasn't and might be considered provocative behaviour.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:

Here's a question - are there situations where a minister would withold the sacrament from someone?

And if there are, could the person be 'offended' by this and have grounds for discrimination, calling it an abuse'?

No, I don't think so.

I think the only situations where things could rightfully be called abuse are where someone is being forced into something. There is a question about whether something can be abusive if/when an individual has freely chosen something which ordinarily one might describe as weird and/or abusive in other circumstances.

But I don't think withdrawal of a religious rite would or could normally be considered abusive. For one thing the Eucharist is freely entered into on the part of the communicant. For another, there are various restrictions (of different kinds) upon those celebrating the Eucharist as to whom they can distribute the elements.

I don't think one can walk into a Coptic Orthodox church and call it abusive when they don't immediately distribute the Eucharist to you.

In contrast, one might legitimately say that a church was abusive which forced visitors to participate in a rite that they didn't want to contribute to.

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Eutychus
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What you are missing, Mudfrog, is that abuse in this context isn't just an isolated event, it's a systematic practice forming part of a system.

Abuse doesn't mean "shouting at somebody". It means exploiting a dominant position to the detriment of an individual in a more vulnerable position.

This is certainly not the preserve of churches or religions but the danger for abuse in such contexts is heightened by the ease of allying God to the abuse of authority.

Again, for all preachers and leaders, the questions should be "am I empowering or enfeebling my congregation?" and "am I respecting them as individuals of equal worth to myself?"

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
What you are missing, Mudfrog, is that abuse in this context isn't just an isolated event, it's a systematic practice forming part of a system.

Abuse doesn't mean "shouting at somebody". It means exploiting a dominant position to the detriment of an individual in a more vulnerable position.

I have problems with this definition as long as it isn't practically articulated as something that ends up being un-falsifiable.
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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
What you are missing, Mudfrog, is that abuse in this context isn't just an isolated event, it's a systematic practice forming part of a system.

Abuse doesn't mean "shouting at somebody". It means exploiting a dominant position to the detriment of an individual in a more vulnerable position.

This is certainly not the preserve of churches or religions but the danger for abuse in such contexts is heightened by the ease of allying God to the abuse of authority.

Again, for all preachers and leaders, the questions should be "am I empowering or enfeebling my congregation?" and "am I respecting them as individuals of equal worth to myself?"

I'm going to agree and disagree [Smile]

Where I agree is where you say it;s not isolated but is systematic practice. Yes, of course it is - which is why a one-off insult is not an abuse.

Where I might disagree is where you go further and say, 'it's a systematic practice forming part of a system.'

I do not believe that in the case referred to originally, the system was at fault. What is the spirituality that was abusive? What is the ecclesial system that is abusive?

I think it is entirely down to the one man who is a controlling, manipulative man who was unhealthily involved with a young boy who he evidently came to see as being in a position of submission and obedience to him.

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balaam

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Spiritual abuse seems quite a loaded term to me, given that there are very common forms of religion where this kind of "shepherding" is part of the deal.

"Found guilty of Spiritual abuse" is a term used in the Torygraph headline. In the Bishop's Disciplinary Tribunal the accusation was that a breach of safeguarding procedures ... amounted to spiritual abuse. (Introdution, para 2)

The conclusion of the tribunal was that it s possible to spiritually abuse someone unintentionally, (Para 58, page 18) but I cannot see any conclusion to that effect in this case. The conclusion being that the vicar is guilty of abuse of spiritual power and authority and is guilty of misconduct which was unbecoming and inappropriate to the work and office of a Clerk in Holy Orders.

As the evidence is that a vicar abused his position and authority, not that anyone was spiritually abused, even though this was alleged in the complaint, I find the Torygraph headline to be misleading. Nobody has been found guilty of spiritual abuse.

quote:
I'm not sure that it is a simple thing to draw a line between acceptable and unacceptable "spiritual" leadership.

But the behaviours here are clearly screwed up, stupid and unthinking. The guy in question clearly has shown himself to be unsuited for a leadership role in a religious organisation, in my opinion. He might not have done anything criminal in a strict sense (or at least in the sense that we're usually familiar with the term in the usual secular courts) but he has done something monumentally stupid.

Pretty much what the tribunal concluded.

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Doc Tor
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Yes, of course it can - but usually it's an abuse because the minister or Sunday School teacher has an abusive personality.

What if it's simply a reading from the Bible and a message that affirms that an action is sinful. If someone takes offence at that, has ab abuse been committed by the preacher?

This is you literally moving the goalposts.

You asked whether 'church discipline' can ever be abusive. I said yes, in certain contexts. Now you're asking a different question while ignoring the implications of the first.

So let's drag it back to the first. Yes, church discipline can be abusive, and it can be uniquely abusive in the context of spiritual guidance. In the OP, the boy was essentially imprisoned and interrogated. This was not a sermon context.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Can church discipline over a moral or doctrinal issue be abuse?

Yes, of course it can.

Especially where the church in question forgets that it's a voluntary association with zero temporal power or authority, and acts like it's the One True Faith, Outside of Which is Nothing but Darkness and Despair.

Members of such outfits always have the option to cancel their standing order, raise their middle finger and decamp to St. Normal's down the street, even if it doesn't feel that way at the time.

Strict churches lose members all the time. In fact, very strict movements prefer non-compliant members to go because otherwise their presence will eventually dilute the doctrinal and behavioural absolutes that the movement cleaves to.

What interests me is that this example of spiritual abuse took place in the CofE. On the positive side, at least the institution has a system in place to deal with the problem. But if the floodgates are opened, as the OP says, it might just confirm the nation's suspicions that the CofE is no longer a benign, tolerant guardian of our heritage, but that it's being consumed by something much more alien and dangerous.

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Gamaliel
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Mudfrog, might a better way of looking at it be that it was a systemic issue within the context of that particular congregation that became systemic and embedded due to the actions of a particularly controlling and authoritarian individual.

That way it is both the individual and the system that is at fault - because the individual effectively set the agenda and shaped the system.

I don't think anyone is saying that the broader system or context - the Church of England, Christianity in general, is therefore at fault or to blame.

I agree that the Telegraph headline could be misleading, but that often happens with headlines in all newspapers of all stripes - it's often a feature of sub-editors going for the easy-option or a quick sound-bite rather than trying harder to match the headline to the overall thrust of the article.

It's a tricky thing to do as by their very nature headlines are short, snappy and prone to be more strident than the articles they accompany.

Unless it's The Sun of course ...

[Roll Eyes]

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balaam

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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
Abuse doesn't mean "shouting at somebody". It means exploiting a dominant position to the detriment of an individual in a more vulnerable position.

Yet although the vicar certainly did the latter part of that, the conclusion is not that he abused the boy, as alleged, but that he abused his position.
quote:
This is certainly not the preserve of churches or religions but the danger for abuse in such contexts is heightened by the ease of allying God to the abuse of authority.

Again, for all preachers and leaders, the questions should be "am I empowering or enfeebling my congregation?" and "am I respecting them as individuals of equal worth to myself?"

The church in question has guidelines for the mentoring programme: (Church guidelines taken from the Disciplinary Tribunal in italic. My comments in upright text.

(i) all mentors must abide by 'our Safeguarding or Child Protection Policy' at all times
when meeting with young people
(ii) each mentor has been given a copy of the CPP which states 'please read this
important document'
(iii) the mentor should meet with mentee at least once a month for 1 hour although 'you can do more'


Moving in with the family and insisting that he pray with the boy twice a day is excessive when compared to at least once a month for 1 hour.

(iv) the mentor team should be told if and when the mentor is meeting the mentee and to keep records of the meetings.

Another one broken I beieve

(v) an adult should not be left alone with a child/young person where there is little or
no opportunity of the activity being observed by others


Often alone with the boy.

(v) avoid if possible being alone in a room with a child/young person without another adult nearby: doors should be left open. It is better to meet in a public space like a coffee shop/Mcdonalds/park bench. 'Caution is always required'

The boy's bedroom with the doors closed and not directly above the living room would breach this also.

(vi) avoid counselling via text/email or Instant Messaging or phone.

I have nothing against the church's mentoring programme, it looks like it was properly though out. The problem being that these good guidelines were not adhered to by the vicar.

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balaam

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Mudfrog, might a better way of looking at it be that it was a systemic issue within the context of that particular congregation

That particular congregation had suitable guidelines. See above crosspost.

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Gamaliel
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Can church discipline over a moral or doctrinal issue be abuse?

Yes, of course it can.

Especially where the church in question forgets that it's a voluntary association with zero temporal power or authority, and acts like it's the One True Faith, Outside of Which is Nothing but Darkness and Despair.

Members of such outfits always have the option to cancel their standing order, raise their middle finger and decamp to St. Normal's down the street, even if it doesn't feel that way at the time.

Strict churches lose members all the time. In fact, very strict movements prefer non-compliant members to go because otherwise their presence will eventually dilute the doctrinal and behavioural absolutes that the movement cleaves to.

What interests me is that this example of spiritual abuse took place in the CofE. On the positive side, at least the institution has a system in place to deal with the problem. But if the floodgates are opened, as the OP says, it might just confirm the nation's suspicions that the CofE is no longer a benign, tolerant guardian of our heritage, but that it's being consumed by something much more alien and dangerous.

Nah. This isn't the first time there have been incidents like this in an Anglican context, nor will it be the last.

As Baptist Trainfan has reminded us, some of the 'heavy' aspects of 1970s style discipleship and 'shepherding' happened in Anglican contexts as well as in independent charismatic 'new churches' and indeed charismatic evangelical churches of all stripes to some extent.

Then there was the whole 'Nine O'Clock Service' thing in Sheffield in the late 1980s early 1990s which all went very ugly and very pear-shaped with terrible instances of emotional and other abuse.

That was an Anglican context too, of course.

I don't think this particular case will add anything other than perhaps to contribute to a growing sense of wariness that an increasingly secularised society feels towards organised religion in general.

I suspect that's the concern behind some of Mudfrog's comments on this thread. How long will it be before aspects that we wouldn't consider 'abusive' become labelled as such by an increasingly secularised society?

Mudfrog can correct me if I'm wrong.

If I have read him right, then I can understand his concern. There is a general atmosphere of suspicion towards organised religion across society as a whole. I've lost count of the number of times I've been at an open-mic poetry event or some kind of poetry workshop where someone or other has come out with a ranting poem about the evils of organised religion.

Heck, I was at one recently where someone produced a dreadful draft of a completely over-the-top poem which had the CofE authorities meeting conspiratorially to coin religious-sounding words - even architectural terms like 'narthex' - in order to hoodwink and bamboozle people.

As if there are Dan Brown-esque conclaves of hooded men meeting together in candle-lit crypts lined with skulls saying, 'Septuagisima! That'll really fox them ....' or, 'Nave and Narthex! That'll really mess with their heads! Now we can have complete and utter control! Mwa ha ha ha! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ...!'

So yes, there is an appetite for this sort of over-reaction but in this particular case, as we all seem to agree, the vicar did overstep the mark by a long, long way.

It may have a culmulative effect of reducing whatever trust people still have for religious institutions, but that process has been going on for a long time ...

This isn't anything new.

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