A decade ago, Southern Baptists who had been sexually abused, often as children, by pastors or others in their churches pressed denominational leaders to create a registry of abusers. They were rebuffed. Heedless of the callous, indifferent response to similar stories by the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention insisted its hands were tied because individual congregations were autonomous.
The overwhelming evidence of the convention’s tolerance for predators prompted calls for sweeping reforms, including mandatory background checks and more systematic education programs for pastors and other church officials.
The Catholic Church, having minimized, dismissed and denied allegations of abuse until the evidence became overwhelming, offers a cautionary tale. Given those missteps, and the possibility of more revelations about abuse in Southern Baptist congregations, the denomination would be wise to be proactive about making amends.