Law or no law, there are men and women of the cloth who understand that there are, as Sissela Bok puts it, “reasons sufficient to override the force of all these premises, as when secrecy would allow violence to be done to innocent persons” (qtd. in Fortune). I expect that all clergy members sincerely strive for what is best for everyone involved. When child abuse or neglect occurs it must be stopped; a stern talking to by a priest is not sufficient and may be seen as cheap grace. The pastor should have a “clear purpose: to protect the one who has been victimized and to hold the offender accountable” (Fortune).
Alaska’s lack of legislation regarding this topic could be seen as placing confidence in Alaskan clergy. By giving them less law, and more room to deal with abusive situations, they can accomplish in private what the court system rarely accomplishes publicly – protecting the child and restoring the abuser. It is critical to note, however, that offenders minimize and deny their actions. Treatment is most effective when monitored by the courts, and most clergymen, educated in scripture, simply do not have the resources to deal with these issues alone.
Finally, it should be observed that it is rare for an abuser to come forward and confess to a minister. Most often reports of abuse to clergymen come from the child or a family member seeking help, and in this case the minister is not bound by confidence. Alaska law should no longer remain quiet on this issue; we must bolster our clergy by giving them a mandated legal avenue to pursue justice, healing, and safety.