Ethical Question

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by Pastork, Aug 13, 2003.

  1. Pastork

    Pastork
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2002
    Messages:
    434
    Likes Received:
    0
    Here is the situation: A Pastor has a couple approach him for marital counseling. At first it appears to be a typical case, but then, after significant probing into the situation, the husband confesses a past of pedophilia. He claims that he molested children for about 15 years, but then stopped about 10 years ago. However, he has a problem with chronic lying and shows no clear remorse for having molested children. When confronted with these facts, he adamantly denies any current desires toward children and persists in saying he is well. The pastor doesn't believe him and is convinced he is lying when he denies such feelings, etc. So, what does the pastor do? The man refuses to turn himself in and claims counselor-counselee confidentiality, asserting that the pastor has no right to tell anyone else. Does the pastor violate this confidentiality and warn others, including turning his name into the police? Or does he maintain confidentiality and risk the man hurting another child or children?

    What are some of your thoughts? This is a very big issue right now, and there are probably going to be many more situations like this faced by clergy, etc. I look forward to hearing your views.

    Pastork
     
  2. Iakobos

    Iakobos
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2002
    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    0
    Pastork, that is a difficult situation. I am very curious to read the responses to this thread.

    I did some research and found the following on a law firm's website concerning Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse:

    Given the fact that the confessed abuse took place (supposedly) over a decade ago, I don't know how this would apply.

    I guess I would recommend the pastor approach the man about further counseling regarding this problem to insure he has controlled that problem. Perhaps a reminder of how the current environment is so attuned to possible child abuse that he might want to seek further counseling to prevent any perception of guilt?

    A difficult situation indeed. Sorry I couldn't be of much help.
     
  3. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2000
    Messages:
    29,402
    Likes Received:
    12
    Our church has a general insurance policy with a large church-related company. To get a special rate we must sign agreement to a special "child-care" provision

    Screen OUR workers (background checks, etc)
    Records of counseling with any possible offender in congregation
    Report to authority

    I had a young girl crying after SS some months back and she confided that her step-dad (actually just mom's live in) was "touching her" inappropriately.

    We have a police/church liason officer in Casper and he came and talked with me, then with the family. Before anything could be done, they quickly moved out of state.

    We HAVE an obligation. I could not live with myself knowing an unrepentant sexual predator was on the loose and not doing SOMETHING about it.
     
  4. Salty

    Salty
    Expand Collapse
    20,000 Posts Club
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2003
    Messages:
    22,082
    Likes Received:
    218
    Lets expand this disscussion a bit.
    When an individual comes to us for conseling, do we have the individual sign a statement such as:

    I understand that if I offer certain information including but not limted to:

    sexual crimes against children
    suicide
    considering a crimial act (eg murder)

    I understand my counsler is under obligation to report same to proper authorities.

    *************
    If we require such a notification, then will that person come to us for counseling? By not helping, is it possible he may committ a nother crime?

    What are some of your experiences and policies?
     
  5. Artimaeus

    Artimaeus
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2002
    Messages:
    3,133
    Likes Received:
    0
    Christian Ethics that preclude doing the right thing is neither Christian nor ethical.
     
  6. Paul of Eugene

    Paul of Eugene
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2001
    Messages:
    2,782
    Likes Received:
    0
    We are not catholic priests. We don't offer confessionals as the standard way to achieve forgiveness for sins.

    Therefore if a brother takes a counseling confidence relating to serious danger and acts on it for good outside the counseling arena I would not quarrel with the whole idea of doing that. But it should not be a common thing.

    Because where do you draw the line? Suppose a member of the congregation comes and asks for help overcoming a habit of adultary. Do you "help" by informing the spouse? Most of us would not.

    It should be in deadly serious situations - ongoing assaults, eminent suicide, things like that.
     
  7. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2000
    Messages:
    29,402
    Likes Received:
    12
    Phrase "Sanctity of the confessional" is often used of private/personal conversation and counseling situations, even for Baptists.

    Most people that come to me expect strict "confessional" confidence.
     
  8. swaimj

    swaimj
    Expand Collapse
    <img src=/swaimj.gif>

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2000
    Messages:
    3,426
    Likes Received:
    0
    In counseling situations, counselees should always be informed up front that the counselor cannot and will not protect them if they have committed an illegal act.
     
  9. swaimj

    swaimj
    Expand Collapse
    <img src=/swaimj.gif>

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2000
    Messages:
    3,426
    Likes Received:
    0
    In counseling situations, counselees should always be informed up front that the counselor cannot and will not protect them if they have committed an illegal act.
     
  10. David Ekstrom

    David Ekstrom
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2003
    Messages:
    326
    Likes Received:
    0
    Here's my two cents.
    Yes, counseling is confidential. Even the fact that someone is seeing a pastor for counsel is confidential. A pastor can be sued for breach of confidence. But more importantly, the pastor's own ethics demands that he respect the privacy of his ministerial conversations. That includes sermon illustrations. Relate in a sermon, "I once had a man say to me . . ." and you've eroded your respect in the eyes of your congregation. And don't say, "Back in my last church. . ." Then the people will wonder, "Is he going to talk about me at his next church?"
    No, that doesn't include pedophilia or threats made against persons. The pastor is legally, but most of all, morally bound to report such cases.
    No, one does not have to inform the person about such cases. The pastor is not duty bound to keep confidence, nor is he duty bound to inform the counselee that he will be reported. The pastor does not have an obligation to a pedophile or a violent person. He must not be an enabler of sinners.
     
  11. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2000
    Messages:
    29,402
    Likes Received:
    12
    You are right, David. When pastors use such illustrations, I turn them off.

    My wife is a naturopath and folks call and ask about this and that. NOT telling them even that someone that they're asking about is there (or not there) is REQUIRED by law! Could lose a license.
     
  12. Circuitrider

    Circuitrider
    Expand Collapse
    <img src=/circuitrider2.JPG>

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2000
    Messages:
    729
    Likes Received:
    0
    A further note on this subject relates to the responsibility of pastors to reveal certain privates given in a private counseling session. While we do have a moral responsibility to deal with information given in counseling sessions the legal requirements vary from state to state. As pastors in Wisconsin we are not legally required to reveal child abuse, etc. However, since I am an Wisconsin EMT I am required to report any such knowledge under penalty of law. Of course with the current problems with Catholic priests, our law might change. [​IMG]
     
  13. Pastork

    Pastork
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2002
    Messages:
    434
    Likes Received:
    0
    Illinois has only recently listed pastors as mandatory reporters. I think it became law just this year. I suspect all the scandal with the Roman Catholic priests may have been a factor in this decision.
     
  14. TheOliveBranch

    TheOliveBranch
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
    Messages:
    1,597
    Likes Received:
    0
    Does the protection of the innocent ever come into play? If I were a parent in the church where the (ex)pedophile was attending, and that man had never actually given up his practices, but had learned how to hide it better, I would look at the pastor as being responsible for this man. If the pastor sees no remorse in a lost soul, does he stop preaching the Gospel because that soul says he's saved? And when the person oversteps his boundaries and violates another person to satisfy his perverse ways, someone has to stand up for what is right in God's eyes, not in what is written to protect the violator.
     
  15. dianetavegia

    dianetavegia
    Expand Collapse
    Guest

    Before anyone in our church can work with children they undergo a criminal background check and the church also contacts previous churches where they've worked with children and people they've given for references. Some of our long time church members were upset that they had to be 'checked out' but it was mandatory for all of us. Even my husband, who is a listener for AWANA in a room with probably 12 other listeners had to be 'checked out'.

    I would be VERY upset if a pastor did NOT report a man or woman who had done wrong like in that situation mentioned above! I've contacted a police officer friend when a visiting 4 year old child in VBS told me about Daddy hitting Mommy and how scared he was of his Daddy.

    Diane
     

Share This Page

Loading...