The Lambs are Roaring - News Report

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    The Lambs Are Roaring

    Posted by silentlambs [silentlambs] on January 29, 2001 at 07:50:46 {}:

    This article appeared on the front page of the Paducah Sun in Paduach KY, 01-28-01

    Jehovah's Witnesses' handling of child sexual abuse criticized
    The cases aren't reported by police, and elders may allow violators to remain, critics say.

    By C.D. Bradley [email protected].8650

    Carl and Barbara Pandelo, as devout Jehovah's Witnesses, did what they thought was right when their 12-year-old daughter came to them and told them her grandfather had molested her: They went to the elders of the church. Thirteen years later, they are no longer Witnesses, their case remains in court, and Carl Pandelo now believes "that organization is as corrupt as any other."
    Mario Moreno, associate general counsel at the church's New York headquarters, said when church policy is applied to child molesters, "as a parent, an attorney and an elder, I'm comfortable with our policy."

    William Bowen, 43, of Marshall County was raised a Witness and served as an elder in his Draffenville congregation for nearly two decades, along with service throughout the region and the country for the church, also known as the Watchtower Society. Last month, Bowen resigned his leadership position in the church because of a policy he claims "has harmed thousands, is leaving many unprotected, and provides refuge to outright criminals."

    Since Bowen's resignation, the Sun has been contacted by several current and former Witnesses with concerns about the church's policy regarding child molesters, or who say they themselves have been victims.

    Moreno said while he believes in the church's policy, he knows that some members have been hurt, and "my heart goes out to them." But he said that some elders don't follow the policy as they should, and that's where trouble begins.

    Carl Pandelo, of Hackensack, N.J., was naturally shocked when his daughter came to him and his wife in 1988 and told them she had been molested by his father. What he would later find would shock him even more. At the time, Pandelo's daughter told her parents that her grandfather, Clement, had molested her once. They took the matter to the elders, who in turn questioned Clement, and he confessed. The elders advised him to turn himself in, which he did. He was removed from the fellowship shortly thereafter.

    The elders also advised Carl and his wife not to pursue prosecution but to settle for a plea bargain because going to court would only worsen the girl's mental state. They agreed, and in 1989 Clement Pandelo was ordered to undergo counseling and given five years probation, according to court documents.

    "We thought we would never have to see him again," Barbara Pandelo remembers. "But we saw him the next day at Kingdom Hall." "He continued going and sitting right behind us like nothing was wrong," Carl Pandelo added.

    Clement Pandelo was reinstated as a member 18 months later. To do so, he had to show repentance and admit his wrongdoing, as well as being judged by the elders to be ready to be accepted back into the congregation.

    By that time, the Pandelos had their daughter in therapy. "The wall of denial and secrecy began to come down," Carl Pandelo said. "When she began talking about the extent of the abuse, it became clear he had been molesting her every time she was in her grandparents' care since she was a couple of years old."

    Barbara Pandelo said one of the first things the therapist asked was what Clement had admitted to the prosecutor. The Pandelos hadn't been aware they were privy to that information, but they soon obtained it.
    When he turned himself in, Clement Pandelo told a prosecutor's investigator that he had molested Carl and Barbara's daughter as well as their niece, according to a transcript of the interview. He also admitted that he had been fondling young girls for four decades. Investigators' reports note that he was investigated in 1986 for fondling his female teen-age neighbor, but her mother declined to press charges.

    The Pandelos requested information from the elders about their investigation, but were refused. "We were told, 'That's all confidential,'" Barbara Pandelo said. Other people began to come forward, and Clement Pandelo was dropped from the fellowship a second time in 1994.

    The Pandelos filed a lawsuit against Clement, seeking compensation for the therapy, for which Carl and Barbara had been paying. Clement filed a countersuit, later dismissed, charging that they had been at fault because they had let their daughter come to his house. While the suit was still being litigated, Clement was again reinstated in the church in 1996.

    "He has the freedom to go door to door and minister," Carl Pandelo said, referring to the faith's practice of public ministry.
    During a deposition in the civil lawsuit, Anthony Valenti, an elder in the Pandelos' congregation, said he had discouraged them from pursuing the investigation against Carl's father based on a scriptural encouragement against taking another brother to court, according to a transcript of the deposition. During the course of the civil case, several Witnesses claimed that Clement Pandelo had molested them as well, and they waived ecclesiastical privilege so the elders could testify to what they had been told, Carl Pandelo said. The elders, citing ecclesiastical privilege, refused to testify.

    In December 1999, the civil case was decided against Clement Pandelo, and his son and daughter-in-law were awarded nearly $1.8 million, plus $500,000 in punitive damages. Clement's wife, Olga Pandelo, was dismissed from the suit, and with her went the insurance company that would have been able to pay the decision.

    Carl and Barbara are arguing on appeal that the Witnesses' elders cannot claim ecclesiastical privilege because they are volunteer, thus unpaid, clergy. They are also trying to have Olga Pandelo reinstated. A hearing is scheduled Feb. 26 in New Jersey Appellate Court. "They're harboring criminals at the risk of families in the neighborhood," Barbara Pandelo said of the church.

    Moreno said when a Witness goes to an elder with an accusation of abuse, the first step the elders should take is calling the church's legal department. He said there are then three factors considered: protecting the child, complying with the law, and protecting minister-adherent confidentiality, with the last receiving the least weight.
    The legal department will then advise the elders what is required by law. Twenty-two states, including Illinois and the District of Columbia, do not require clergy to report accusations of child abuse. In those states, Moreno said, the legal department generally advises the elders not to report the matter to law enforcement authorities.

    J.R. Brown, public affairs director for the church, said the reason for this is "we do not think, as an ecclesiastical authority, we should run ahead of Caesar's laws," using a biblical reference to secular authority. "Even if secular authority does not require it, generally we have endeavoured to be more zealous for enforcing and seeing that these laws are complied with. If Caesar has a law, and it does not conflict with God's law, we follow it."

    Brown said the church does not necessarily equate reporting the matter to law enforcement to protecting the child because "not all the time does government authority provide the protection the child needs. We don't say automatically that, but unfortunately too many reports show that's the case. You can be sure they're going to take what action is necessary to see that the child is protected."

    Both Brown and Moreno said that the elders, who volunteer and are essentially untrained clergy, might err in their application of a policy both believe puts protecting children first. "It's a matter of trying to balance confidentiality and protecting the child," Brown said. "It's not always easy. Have mistakes been made? Very likely, they have. We're trying to see that everyone is educated to what needs to be done to see that innocent children are not victimized."

    Moreno agrees with Bowen's claim that no investigation is initiated in the church if there is only one witness and the accused denies the charge, but he said elders have the responsibility to watch the accused more closely. He added that elders sometimes advise the accused to not put himself or herself in suspicious situations. He also said that when members are disfellowshipped, the congregation is told but no reason is given in order to protect confidentiality. When asked if the parents of the victim would be allowed to tell fellow congregates why a member is disfellowshipped, Moreno replied, "That would be their choice. We don't tell them that, but it would be their choice. Is that encouraged? No."

    He agreed with Bowen's charge that a congregation would also not be told if a pedophile had joined the flock. But he said because of the church's structure, the fact that such a member, if male, who would have fewer rights in the congregation, would not be serving in a leadership role would alert members that "he obviously lacks spiritual maturity."

    Moreno said he believes that while some of the church's critics on this topic have legitimate concerns, most "have a problem with pride" and "want the organization to change for them. We go by what we believe the Bible says, and we don't change for anybody." He also said he feels the church is "being picked on" and added that he would be willing to put the church's policy up against any other. The church's critics believe that it is the church, not children, that the policy is designed to protect.

    Mike Terry, a therapist and a former elder in Arkansas, said there are many parallels between sexual abuse and spiritual abuse. He said he had seen a disproportionately large number of abusers and abused Witnesses for years in his work, which has centered on treating sex offenders.

    Bob Smith, a former elder in the Northeast, said part of the problem is that the victims, usually female, have to go before three elders, always male. "It's a repetition of the same sort of abuse," he said. Smith said both his wife and daughter remain Witnesses, which is why he asked that his hometown not be disclosed.
    "I try to appreciate the fact that my wife likes that comfort" that comes from the faith, he said. "She respects that I've made some changes. We talk about it, and she, like many other Witnesses, quietly questions some of it. But when someone asks questions like that, they always say, 'Where else is there to go?'"

    Steve Hassan, who operates the Resource Center For Freedom of Mind and is an author who has written several books on mind control and cultlike organizations, said he has seen several patients who were former Witnesses who had been abused "who tried to speak out and were disfellowshipped." He said the Witnesses controlled the flow of information to their members by demanding that members not read or view anything that disagrees with the teachings of the church. When the church allows its members to view such information without the fear of puishment, "they'll start looking less like a destructive cult and more like a benign denomination. Judaism and Christianity are based on free will."

    He said that when speaking to former Witnesses, he will describe the factors at play in a cult organization, and they will invariably reply, "That's the Watchtower."


    They are starting to speak up!!!!


    ... The following letter is from a former JW who was
    called to testify in court about sexual abuse by a JW
    elder in his congregation.
    You can contact him at the
    email address given at the end of his letter. Thank you
    and God bless your efforts in this important issue!


    While serving as an elder, I was involved in
    many meetings where a highly respected elder in our
    KH was involved in sexually molesting several young
    girls, including his own daughter. This matter was
    turned over to the authorities over the objections of
    the circuit overseer.
    as a result of my knowledge of
    the situation, I received a subpoena to testify before
    the grand jury. Since this is a legal document, I was
    legally required to appear. Of course I was more than
    willing to see justice carried out, so I appeared and
    related what I knew about the case.

    At the time I testified, I had just stepped down
    as an elder. A few days later I was called into the
    "back room" by the other elders. Now I was on the
    other side so to speak. The elders wanted to know why
    I had testified since they had been contacted by
    Brooklyn and informed that they wanted to speak with
    me first to advise me what to do.

    I informed the elders that a subpoena was not a
    matter of choice. They call, you go, that's final.

    At this point, it became clear to me that the
    governing body saw themselves above the law.

    I just hope that many posts like this will come
    forth and that the WT will get the message loud and
    clear. Don't say you are God's visible organization when
    your policies and mind-control have had such a negative
    effect on the lives of so many people. God speaks to
    us through His Word, not the WT.

    Ross: [email protected]

    bold & italics added

    Edited by - waiting on 29 January 2001 17:11:33

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    waiting, Thank you for keeping us current on lamb's activities.

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