Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Southern Baptist Versus Catholic Church Sex Abuse Cases Coverage - Dateline Louisiana

I wanted to make some comments on a sex crimes related to  minors case that happened right down the road from me at a Southern Baptist facility.

 By chance the Catholic Bishops released the child protection audit for this year today. See a overview here.  The report which can be viewed here in in a pdf is quite extensive.

The overall good news is much progress had been made. I have not reviewed the report very intently , but I think it shows the implentation of these programs have been very successful.

I intend to read the report more fully tonight because I still have some questions . For instance it is still not clear to me what the term "credible" report ,or allegation actually means. I have seen some Dioceses use that term as simply matching time and place. That is it could have happened. Which means that is not  even close to probable cause. Others might be using it in a more probable cause fashion. I hope a more closer reading of the report helps me find if a consistent use of credible is being use.

Second is something more concerning , and has consequences on how the issue of sexual abuse and protection of minors is treated.


With the number of Lay People in the Catholic that are Youth Ministers, Missionaries, CCD teachers, Coaches , Catholic school teachers it just is not realistic we are not hardly seeing any allegation. I am fully aware that being abused by a cleric or a religious had a added dimension of violence. But Lay people play a role in the Church also. A very important role. If we are not assessing that side of the equation , and how those allegations are happening we are missing perhaps a big part of the picture.

In a sense the sometimes excessive anti clerical tone to how Catholic sexual abuse in the Church is viewed and handled seems to transform into a dangerous Clercialism only attitude. I submit  that is putting kids at risk perhaps. An irony that have commented on often.

One standard for the Clergy for others a different one perhaps. Perhaps the report gives some light on this. But at my first glance it does not.

Which leads us to the reporting of a Louisiana Southern Baptist sex crime literally just down the street from me.

Victims of sexual abuse in non Catholic "Church" settings often have some legitmate gripes of how the coverage of the Catholic Sexual abuse problem affects them.

The biggest complaint is the coverage on the abuse and often cover up is just Catholic based.

 Second is the clerial nature of the coverage. For instance in many Faith Communities the line between Cleric and Lay is not all that clear. Often the media reports a accused  Deacon or a Youth Minister as just some guy or woman in the Church

Last but not least is many non Catholic sexual abuse victims say the particular focus on Bishops and the Hierarchial nature of the Catholic Church is counterproductive. That is there is not a real attempt to pierce a real sort of corporate veil of non Catholic Churches in order to impose sanctions and accountability. For instance we see Bishops being held responsible but perhaps Board of Deacons and other lay leadership not so much.

Now to this case. First let me say I am not accusing anyone in the Southern Baptist Church on any level of anywrongdoing. Further I am not accusing  the defendant here of doing  anything  beyond what he plead guilty too. However this case and how it was covered and handled shows the dangerous double standard between Catholic and non Catholic. Further as to an Catholic angle its shows warning signs to us about the lay dynamic
Also I am not picking on the Southern Baptist. Insert lets say Pentecostals and it's likely to be the same story.

From the headlines. Former Baptist camp director pleads guilty to sex crime ( Associated Baptist Press)

SHREVEPORT, La. (ABP) – A former Louisiana Baptist camp director has pleaded guilty to sending pornographic photos of himself over the Internet to an undercover police officer posing as a 14-year-old girl, according to media reports.

Michael P. Latham, 45, faces sentencing Aug. 8 in U.S. District Court for attempting to transport obscene material to a minor, a federal law that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.

Latham was arrested last October in a joint investigation by the Louisiana State Police and Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office targeting online sexual predators. At the time he was director of Harris Baptist Conference and Retreat Center, a Southern Baptist campground owned by the Bienville, Concord Union and Webster Claiborne Baptist associations in northwest Louisiana.

ABP is not owned by any Southern Baptist group.

First if you go to the link they provide to the secular news story you see a difference. It is just a Baptist camp. No mention that is affiliated with a Southern Baptist Body. There are all kinds of Baptists. In fact many Churches that are Southern Baptist don't even have Baptist in the name. Yet time and time again when a cleric or lay "Minister" is accused of sexual abuse the FAITH COMMUNITY it is associated is not clearly defined. There can be no Southern Baptist Abuse Problem because I am not seeing Southern Baptist mentioned as it were. ( See related link at bottom of post).

What else is it  appears no one from the Louisiana Baptist Convention and /or in this case the local Southern Baptist association is talking. What's worse perhaps is that is because the reporters failed to even think they should talk to them.

Finally and most horribly common we see elsewhere  is the lack of interest of who is this dude and where has he been.

The above elements missing , that ABP saw the importance of to some degree, were missing in all the reporting I saw. For example over the history of this case look here , here , here , here  , and here .

When a Catholic Priest or Deacon is accused it is does not take long for the media to get interested where else this guy has been at. In fact in Catholic Dioceses it's standard procedure to inform other parishes and  indeed other Diocese Dioceses where the accused  was at.

In non Catholic circles not so much , and the press seems very uninterested often also. We see that happen even more when the person is a non cleric.

We shall assume for the sake of argument that the Defendant here is not  an ordained minister. He might be but we shall assume he is not. Who hired this guy? Was he screened? What did he do before showing up at Harris? Why did he leave his past job ? all seems quite relevant questions for the media and other concerned Baptists in the Church to ask.

However as the coverage shows this is a typical example of disinterest that could have some bad consequences.

With a few google searches we find this info on the Defendant. We learn that before managing Harris Conference Center he lived in Santa Fe, NM from 2010 to 2011. Before that, he lived in Glorieta, NM from 1990 to 2007.

For any journalist that has any knowledge of Southern Baptist life that Glorieta stay should send off alarm bells. That is because it is the location of the biggest Southern Baptist retreat and Conference Centers in the USA. It is huge for Southern Baptist Youth for trips. What did the Lantham do at Glorieta. It seems we have a signs he worked there. ( see photo by)

So Mike Latham appears to have had a vocation running Baptist retreat and conference centers. Again we are assuming he had no other Church duties and functions in the past. He then gets a job running a camp of his own in Louisiana.

Were there complaints in New Mexico? What was his work record? What did he do with kids? Again there is a chance that Mike Latham present crime is because of a more recent pathology and problems. Maybe there was no complaints. But the problem is no one seems interested in asking or alerting others to ask that question.

So the band plays on. Sex Abuse in the Clergy and cover ups of it still is viewed as a Catholic problem. Catholic Bishops seem to be held responsible and questioned closely on Abusers and related folks , but others in positions of responsibility not so much.

I highlight this case to show just one that often occurs daily in other faith communties and how it is handled to show the comparision.

I was tweeting with someone on this as to the Catholic matter and why Lay people don't seem to be a focus in either the Catholic or non Catholic setting. He said :

The focus should be on the clergy because of their unique position of trust and privilege. Clericalism is/was very real.

Well very true to some extent. But people should be wary. If a major part of this is about protecting children we don't need to enable an attitude like I show above that puts kids at risk. I am afraid that is happening in both Catholic and non Catholic circles.

Related to this post see from the past Mystery Louisiana Bible Camp Linked With Sexual Abuse of Boy By Woman  , and
How A Non Catholic But Baptist Louisiana Clergy Abuse Story is Reported - Angelo “Doogie” Golatt


Katy Anders said...

As atrocious as the sex abuse scandal has been - and as much as it probably demonstrates the vestiges of a time when the Church was not subject to civil laws - I have ALWAYS suspected that the attention it got was due to the hatred of the culture to a celibate clergy.

It's something the media doesn't understand, doesn't trust, and for some reason, acts to destroy.

If you look at the stats of how many children are abused each year, it' not simply a matter of a being concerned with children.

James H said...

I think at times too there might be what I call the COKE effect going on This that the old Coke ad camapign of the "The Real Thing"

People sense that there something perhaps special abt a Priest and are understandabley horrifed when this happens.

However you are right I think a lot is many freak out over celibate clergy and I suspect like you said that is the biggest thing

Darrell said...

His position there would have been mostly upkeep, scheduling and organizing. Usually other groups come in to run the youth and children camps there during the summer. There are usually only a couple of camps for kids there during the summer. So his contact with young teens and kids would be minimal at best. We also have adult retreats there also. What he did was not with anyone at the camp and actually was not with a teen, but a grown police officer. So no abuse actually took place. But we don't tolerate that stuff and he if he didn't resign, he would have been let go. We take this stuff very seriously. I've worked with our youth for years and will not place myself in a position where I could even be accused of such and advise others including our pastors not to either. The last time we brought on a new pastor we were required to do a police background check. As far as coverage, we got more than enough for just a worker. I think the higher up u go in an organization the more coverage u will get. I believe there is proportionally more abuse going on outside the Christian community, but Satan will seize the opportunity. When you read the comments even about this guy you will find a deep distrust and dislike of Christians anyhow. I pray one day the stigma will be off of the Catholic church, but I am afraid someone will do it again and we will be back to square one.

Anonymous said...

you got some facts WRONG about the Latham thing.

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