Unconditional Love

    July 1999

    The Locked Doors

    In May1998, The Times of London reported that a man named Michael Cope, who had served time for child sexual abuse, had been permanently barred by the Anglican Diocese of South Yorkshire from attending any services in the diocese when young people might be present. "I have spent many years regretting that this happened . . . [and] I have absolutely no intention of offending again," said Mr. Cope. "It will be a hardship of course but it looks like I will not be going to church."

    The issues raised by this incident are difficult, and no easy answers can be provided; indeed, the article noted that Church of England officials offered pastoral care to the man in question. Yet in other respects the incident is symbolic of the manner in which faith communities have chosen to deal with such matters. In many cases, adults who are attracted to minors, both those who have have acted upon their sexual feelings and those who have always been celibate, report feeling alienated from their faith communities. They tell of being rejected by their clergy and by the fellow members of their faith, or of having left their faith communities voluntarily because they had concluded that it was impossible for a minor-attracted adult to belong to a religious faith. Wrote one celibate pedophile:

      I'm 18 now, and I grew up thinking homosexuality was wrong because the good book says it is. Then, at about age 15 I realised I was in love with someone of the same sex. Religious beliefs conflicted with personal feelings. I got suicidal because I could not reconcile the two. Religion almost killed me. Shortly afterward I stopped believing. When another crisis hit me, I turned to God for a short while the crisis being that I realised I wasn't actually gay, but a paedophile . . . and I needed guidance. Guess what, religion was no help again. I asked for it, and my local priest told me I was being influenced by negative forces. I cannot change my sexuality. And since my sexuality is who I am, I cannot be religious.

    Similarly, a heterosexual pedophile who is celibate spoke of his struggles over the years, struggles he felt he could not share with others of his faith:

      To get the satisfaction I needed the pictures had to become more and more explicit and extreme. But suddenly there was a moment when I noticed that there was no photo any more that could give me satisfaction. This was the moment when I noticed that there was only one more way to get the next "kick" (a kick I needed like a drug addict). . . . This was the moment when I got afraid of myself and my [sexual feelings]. . . . Without this site [Baumstark-online, a religious support forum] I would have gone mad, gone to jail, or would have killed myself! Only by trying to come to an understanding of this topic and by ceasing to be isolated was I able to prevent the worst.

    The premise of this site is that it is possible for an adult to be sexually attracted to minors and still belong to a faith community. This is not to say that his behavior is of little importance; his moral decisions are as likely to have significant consequences as are the moral decisions of any other religious person. But this site is founded on the belief that a sexual attraction to young children or youths does not in itself alienate a person from the divine. Adults who are attracted to minors can indeed be religious, not by being hypocrites holding a mock faith, but by showing loyal reverence and devotion toward their God or gods.

    One reason so many adults who are attracted to minors believe that they cannot be religious is that the media rarely connects faith and pedophilia, except to publicize sexual scandals. In recent years, a small amount of publicity has been given to religious resources available to sexual abuse survivors. Religious resources for minor-attracted adults, though, are still scarce and are almost never publicized. The purpose of this site is to provide links to as much information as is available to help sustain minor-attracted adults in their religious lives.

    It should be emphasized that none of the views represented in these links and on-site articles necessarily represent the views of this site's editor; likewise, a link to a site or the inclusion of an article here in no way indicates that the author necessarily endorses the beliefs of the editor. In the words of the editor's faith, "We see through a glass, darkly," and the honest struggles of each author to understand religion and pedophilia may serve either as a cautionary message or as a model for others to follow.

    Not all of the sites that are linked here will be appropriate for every person visiting here, but all have proved useful to some minor-attracted adults as they have sought support in their journeys of faith. As in every other decision in their lives, adults who are attracted to minors will need to take care in making their choices. In this respect, their lives are no different than those of any other religious person.

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    © 1998-1999 Heather Elizabeth Peterson
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