Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let Us Prey: A Tale of Two Clergymen

Let Us Prey: A Tale of Two Clergymen
By Hidden from History

Reverend Russell Crossley raped women and even young girls for over thirty years before he was arrested. The truth is he was caught right away, in the mid 1960’s, when as a young clergyman in the United Church of Canada he was named as a rapist by one of the parishioners whom he had assaulted.

The church lawyers gathered and convinced the victim not to press charges against Russell. Then they had him moved to another unsuspecting parish in Ontario, where he started raping all over again.

That went on for decades. Each time, after the latest rape, someone would come forward and spill the beans, and she would be silenced and Russell was shielded by the church and quietly shuffled to another group of innocent lambs. The rapes and cover up went on, and on.

The rapist was nearing retirement years when his past finally caught him, thanks to the persistence of one of his victims, who wouldn’t be silenced. She pressed charges, along with others Russell had assaulted, including an (at the time) under age minor. The RCMP threatened and cajoled these latest victims, but they wouldn’t stop. And so reluctantly, in the spring of 1998, the cops arrested Russell and he faced trial in Victoria, BC, where he enjoyed a “prospering ministry” at Metropolitan United Church.

His trial revealed the kind of friends Russell had, Including former United Church Moderators, RCMP Superintendents, and other prominent men who stepped forward to give character references for the rapist. Church people poured out their empathy for Crossley, not for those innocents he had violated. And so, dutifully, the judge slapped Russell’s wrist with a six month prison term, most of which he didn’t serve.

After he walked free from prison, Russell resumed his ministry; indeed, he had remained on salary with the church even after having been convicted of rape and assault. Elated, his congregation and the B.C. Conference of the United Church lauded him with testimonial dinners and awards for “thirty five years of successful ministry”. And Russell continued in the pulpit until the fall of 2008, when he finally retired, on full pension.

By way of a contrast: During exactly the same time, and in the same church body, where Russell Crossley was being exonerated for his crime, Kevin Annett faced ostracism, persecution, expulsion and professional ruination for having named some of the United Church’s dirty secrets involving stolen native land and murdered Indian kids.

Kevin Annett too was a United Church minister, although with none of the institutional pull of Russell. He had never sat on the church’s national governing body or written the church’s books and faith statement documents, as had Russell. Nor did he number as his friends RCMP Commissioners or politicians.

Kevin is not a convicted rapist, as is Russell. But now Kevin is an officially defrocked United Church minister and Russell is not. Kevin faces daily slandering and defamation from the church and its allies, and Russell does not.

Kevin is still a “man to be avoided” by respectable church society, and Russell is officially admired, and honored.

A cynical or perhaps clear-seeing man might conclude that it pays to do the wrong thing, not the right, in the
church of Jesus Christ – or at least, in the United Church of Canada.

Perhaps Kevin’s main mistake was not knowing what he part of. Nothing that his Sunday school teacher or seminary instructors taught him prepared him for the fact that rape, murder and most other beastly crimes go on with impunity in the Christian churches, and even in the all-Canadian, liberal- seeming United Church: and that these crimes seem to be valued, and certainly not punished.

Yet experience is a cruel teacher, and Kevin certainly received enough clues along the way about the actual nature of official Christianity, one of the most memorable being when a United Church lawyer named Paul Mills, when told by Kevin of drug dealing and prostitution going on in the Toronto Fred Victor Mission where he worked, said simply, “I know about all that. The only problem here is that you wrote a letter about it.”

Perhaps the real problem all goes back to Genesis, and the odd Christian notion of “fallen innocence”, of how there is something suspect in anything that is good, untouched, and seemingly unblemished. There can’t be, after all, in a “cursed” world like ours. And so wherever it manifests, innocence is a mockery to Christianity’s entire faith and weltanschaung, whether that’s the untouched splendor of an unlogged rain forest, or the unalloyed integrity of one man, or the happy cries of a child who isn’t like us. And so that purity must be crushed.

God did exactly that, after all, to his own Son Jesus: the most pure and perfect being ever created, so says the church’s Bible. This radiant being was offered up, tortured and killed by his own Dad. The fact that the obligatory justification of all abusers, that something good came out of the crime, is tacked onto the Biblical story as a sort of redemption for the rest of us, doesn’t detract from the basic message: don’t be good and innocent – it will get you nailed.

So is it surprising, at all, that a clergyman can rape and violate at will for decades, and be encouraged in his crime, by the Christian church and its top leaders? Or, that another clergyman can be destroyed and sacrificed publicly by the same leaders for simply asking why such things can happen?

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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