Kentucky church ordains a pedophile to be their minister.

Here’s a news item I didn’t think I’d ever see:

Church ordains sex offender as minister – msnbc.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A tiny Louisville church’s newest minister is a gifted music leader and popular among its three dozen members.

Mark Hourigan is also a sex offender. Almost a decade ago, long before he joined the flock at the City of Refuge Worship Center, he was convicted of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy in central Kentucky. Hourigan served a five-year sentence and the 41-year-old was placed on Kentucky’s sex offender registry for the rest of his life.

A former leader at the church along with an abuse victims advocacy group say Hourigan is a risk to hurt another child and he should not have been placed in a position of authority.

I’ll be honest and admit I’m torn on this one. On the one hand I can see the arguments being made by the critics that placing a pedophile in a position of authority where he may come in contact with children is probably a stupid thing to do. On the other it certainly qualifies as an example of the sort of forgiveness Christians are always claiming they have for those that have wronged them. It’s also true that Mr. Hourigan has served out his time in prison and on probation and as such has paid his debt to society under the rules we have set up.

Fields, who sometimes serves as a guest pastor, said she asked Meadows about why he decided to make Hourigan a church leader.

“I asked him flat out about it because I wanted to get behind his thinking,” she said. Meadows believes firmly in the “redemptive power of Jesus Christ,” and told her Hourigan had served his prison term and completed probation.

“I believe they followed Biblical principle,” Fields said.

One of the arguments often used against pedophiles is that they can’t be cured of their sexual attraction to children. Indeed it’s the argument being used by critics of this decision:

Pickerrell said Hourigan “has an illness that you can’t cure.”

Recidivism rates are high for sex offenders, with more than half reoffending, said Keith F. Durkin, a criminologist at Ohio Northern University who has studied pedophiles. He said that rate increases when the crimes involve prepubescent children, like Hourigan’s victim.

“I cannot possibly see him being reformed,” Durkin said. “(Sexual desire) is the most powerful drive we have as a human and (for a child sexual abuser) it’s kids.”

My knee-jerk reaction is to be outraged that they’d put a pedophile in such a position, but the more I think about it the less clear-cut that reaction becomes. The best I can say is that it’s not the choice I would have picked, but then I’m not a believer in Jesus Christ, let alone any redemptive powers he’s supposed to have. It seems a risk not worth taking and I worry about any kids that may end up in harms way as a result.

Sent in by SEB regular Sandy.

21 thoughts on “Kentucky church ordains a pedophile to be their minister.

  1. Pingback: Stupid Evil Bastard

  2. Precisely this sort of misplaced forgiveness is what enables all manner of abuse in churches. When some prominent authority figure is found having done something wrong, all he needs to do is to beg for forgiveness, from God, in public and he’s back doing what he was before. And those that express criticism are shunned as heretics that cannot show the same brotherly love.

  3. Wow.  My gut reaction to pedophilia is the “apply an angry mob with torches and pitchforks; repeat as necessary” kind of thing.  On that basis, it’s hard to support this church’s actions.

    On the other hand, we believe, not just religiously but as a society, in redemption: do your time, then go and sin no more.  Sexual offender registries tend to fly in the face of this, which is one reason I’ve always had a philosophical aversion to them.

    (I also wonder the extent to which the recidivism rate for pedophiles is actually increased by the social ostracism that offender registries cause.)

    Would folks’ reaction would be different if the man were a recovering alcoholic, or had a former conviction for theft, fraud, or murder. Are those more “forgivable” or redeemable sins, or manageable conditions?

    If the church in question follows the current recommended guidelines for adults and children that most churches adhere to (both because it’s the right thing to do and because their insurance companies now insist on it), the pastor will never actually have lone access to a child without another adult present (nor will any other adult).  That’s still a risk, though, esp. in a tiny congregation and with someone carrying the authority of the pastor.

    It’s a gutsy move, at any rate.  If I were on a search committee with a parish, it would be a very difficult decision to make either way.

  4. I guess you don’t have any God-given ultimate morality to judge this one on, Les.  If you can’t decide exactly what’s morally right and what’s not, then you are obviously lost.  See you in Hell.

  5. That does appear to be true, Zilch. My approach would be more pragmatic than anything else. The recidivism rate is high enough that I’d take a better to be safe than sorry approach and not recommend he be ordained and that’s definitely not approaching it from a morality standpoint.

  6. I don’t see an inherent problem with this as long as there is full disclosure.  It is sad sometimes what people will do when they find out someone is living in their neighborhood who is a registered sex offender, but I agree with the list in principle.  And I understand what Les is saying about the recidivism rate among sex offenders, but either they paid their debt or they didn’t.  You can’t have it both ways.  The double standard we apply to some crimes is not good, and we need to resolve it somehow.  I don’t claim to know the answer, but releasing sex offenders, then not employing them and running them out of neighborhoods is NOT it.

    There’s a Chinese proverb that works very well in this situation: “If you suspect a man, don’t employ him.  If you employ him, don’t suspect him.”

    In other words, if they aren’t safe to be on the streets, keep them locked up.  If you let them out, then you are stating that they can be productive members of society, so allow them the chance to be productive members of society.  As a society we can’t let people walk around free yet be scared that they’re going to commit a crime wherever they go.  Pick one, and let the other go.

    In any case, if the neighborhood knows about him and accepts him, then that…as they say… is that.

  7. if they aren’t safe to be on the streets, keep them locked up.  If you let them out, then you are stating that they can be productive members of society, so allow them the chance to be productive members of society.  As a society we can’t let people walk around free yet be scared that they’re going to commit a crime wherever they go.

    This.

  8. In other words, if they aren’t safe to be on the streets, keep them locked up.

    I have to think there’s a middle ground there, because I’m uncomfortable locking people up for crimes they might commit.  As an example: if someone embezzles money from their company, and they go to prison and then are released, I say release them, but they should be forever unable to certify as an accountant.  Or an ex-addict, shouldn’t be allowed to be a pharmacist, and so on.  As a general principle, at least don’t let them work in a place that was specific to their crime, especially if that crime is more like a personal weakness than merely a crime of opportunity.

    In other words, it’s all right to release him, but I don’t have to hire him to work with kids.

  9. Well, I DO think it is a bit of a problem if a (supposedly ex) pedophile wants to be a scout troop leader, or a baby-sitter.  For the same reason alcoholics simply can’t drink, I think children should be completely off limits.  Unfortunately our society’s double-standard carries it to ridiculous levels.

    Beyond that, what happens if an ex-pedophile wants to settle down and have a family.  Suppose he (or she) gets a spouse that is aware of their little “condition” but is okay with it.  What do we do if they have kids?  Do we say “Sorry dude, you can’t have children” and take them away or sterilize him?  And whatever we decide, how do we reconcile that with how we treat other ex-cons?

  10. I don’t have to hire him to work with kids.

    You didn’t have to hire him before he molested anyone though.

    I’m kind of ok with the non-criminal ostracizing of criminals. A lot of criminals are bad people, and even if they weren’t terrible people before we sent them to prison the only people they’ve socialized with for several years are criminals.

    What I have a problem with is criminalizing their freedom, and measures extended to encourage vigilantism. I think people should have the right to submit a resume to the government to go “is this guy a pervert?” but I’m not sure they have a right to know Mr. Beasley down the street was convicted of any crime at all just by looking on a website. My daughter’s more in danger from wolfish young men in uniform these days than pedophiles, where’s my website for cads? My father had his Ipod stolen from the driveway while visiting this weekend. Where’s my website showing me the car thieves? Shouldn’t I be able to check up on a potential girlfriend to check if she was once a coked out prostitute?

    I think the answer for all of those sorts of questions should probably be no, because honestly you should be able to figure that sort of shit out without the government making a law out of it these days thanks to the internet and people’s blogs. I know my stepmother’s very personally active informing people of the whereabouts of the man just released for molesting her mother a few years back before her death. I sympathize with her efforts that way, but the weird sex offender laws have him nearly pushed out of the county because of the spacing of the schools and that’s just bullshit. The guy’s freaky evil kink is old ladies, not little boys and girls. Legislators have raced to give the public the worst possible laws the public’s demanded.

  11. Or an ex-addict, shouldn’t be allowed to be a pharmacist, and so on.

    Or an ex-Christian, shouldn’t be allowed to blog.  tongue wink

  12. Or a Texan shouldn’t be allowed to become President.

      Nobody should be ALLOWED to become President or a member of Congress.  We should have to force people to do it.

  13. MisterMook:  Yes, well… my point being that the job shouldn’t be so lucurative.  Senators used to be called ‘public servants’ back in the “old” days.

  14. And, they only worked part time at the office. SIGH Oh, for the return of some of those “good old days.”  zipper

  15. Considering the cases of corruption that went on in the past, you’re engaging in wishful thinking, SB.

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