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Every denomination needs one of these...

New York Times picks up pedophile story

Monday, April 09, 2007

From The New York Times:
CARLSBAD, Calif. — On a marquee outside and on a banner inside, Pilgrim United Church of Christ proclaims, “All are welcome.” Sustained by the belief that embracing all comers is a living example of Christ’s love, Pilgrim now faces a profound test of faith.

In late January, Mark Pliska, 53, told the congregation here that he had been in prison for molesting children but that he sought a place to worship and liked the atmosphere at Pilgrim.

Mr. Pliska’s request has plunged the close-knit congregation into a painful discussion about applying faith in a difficult real-world situation. Congregants now wonder, are all truly welcome? If they are, how do you ensure the safety of children and the healing of adult survivors of sexual abuse? Can an offender who accepts Christ truly change?

“I think what we have been through is a loss of innocence,” said the Rev. Madison Shockley, Pilgrim’s minister. “People think of church as an idyllic paradise, and I think that is a great part of that loss.”

Pilgrim’s struggle mirrors those of other congregations, of various faiths, across the country.
The Times article is pretty shallow and doesn't really add anything new to this ongoing story... except for publicity. In the end, there is little doubt that Pilgrim UCC will make the necessary accommodation for Pliska to attend. Clearly, boundaries and rules will be established that will protect the children of the church while allowing Pliska to attend.

But there are still reasonable questions the mediadoesn't want to ask - at least publicly. For instance, why would a pedophile further complicate his life with all of the publicity and negative attention just to attend church?

Granted, it's an odd question. After all, we don't normally ask people why they want to attend church because it doesn't really matter.

Pliska, however, isn't just another parishioner. After coming forward in the church, Pliska lost his job and residence. Since talking with the church, Pliska hasn't tried to hide - he's been interviewed numerous times in the media and has been pretty candid about who he is. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:
He also wanted the congregation at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad to “know that I'm not this monster that the press keeps portraying sex offenders as. There are those of us who are trying to change and put our lives together and be acceptable members of society.”

He believes the Lord has forgiven him. He wants the church to forgive him, too.
This troubled me because it looks like Pliska wants more than just a place to worship - he wants forgiveness and he wants to rehabilitate his image. I was reminded on our message board that this could simply be a matter of semantics since the church can't literally forgive anyone but "the church can manifest God's forgiveness; that's what we do".

Yes, we do... but should the church be the means for pedophiles to shake the image that society has of them?

There are no easy answers here except that the church should make every accommodation possible for Pliska to worship.
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, April 09, 2007


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