By Douglas Wilson
I had thought to bring this in for a landing in the previous post, but it turns out a few more thoughts need to be set out for consideration. These are not offered to that unique personality type that will not be satisfied by anything, but rather to any honest souls who have been puzzled by the commotion. These souls are not part of any lynch mob, but they do have questions that occurred to them after the mob marched past their house, chanting free information.
If court documents are carefully and judiciously read — which isn’t happening here either — they can give a person a good indication of why the court decided the way it did. They don’t give any indication to speak of about the counsel provided to Steven, the books I had him read, the cautions and counsel I gave to him and to Katie before their marriage, the reasons I had for writing a letter to the judge before sentencing, etc.
In short, the court documents are a record of merely a fraction of what is currently the topic of dispute. And so when Boz Tchividjian is barely introduced to the subject, and then pops off with this, “Wilson’s unwillingness to acknowledge his ignorance about child offenders makes Christ Church an unsafe place,” one doesn’t know where one should look exactly. Boz doesn’t have an earthly about what I know or don’t know, counseled or did not counsel, said or did not say, and this means that he wants to protect your church from such offenders using his amazing gifts of clairvoyance.
So let me play Nebuchadnezzar to Boz the Chaldean when the king required them to tell him what his dream was. What don’t I know? What books haven’t I read? On the basis of my ignorance, determined from afar, what books did I have Steven read? What was the outline of my counsel to Steven? What did I say to him? What did I say the root problem was? Well, Boz doesn’t know, does he?
On the basis of my amazing powers of clairvoyance, I have determined that Boz has a ministry that can help safeguard your outfit from sexual offenders, he saw that a ruckus on this general topic had developed out in Idaho, and decided to run a Labor Day special in order to gin up some donors. Do you see how easy it is to wrong somebody when you don’t know what you are talking about? Maybe clairvoyance is over-rated.
In the pastoral counseling I provide, which I have been doing for four decades now, I never promise absolute confidentiality. The reason I don’t is that I always need to reserve the right to call the cops. If a situation comes up, like the present one, where I discover that someone in a vulnerable position is being abused, the first priority is the protection of that vulnerable person, and not the position, situation, or reputation of the abuser. So I do not ever make that promise.
But I do promise pastoral discretion. That means that if someone tells me something about their sins in the course of pastoral counseling, or I discover something about their sins in the course of that counseling, I don’t take it outside except on a strict need-to-know basis. A need-to-know basis would be defined by things like the righteous requirements of criminal law, or the necessity of protecting another victim from a gross injustice. But defending myself against the irrational demands of an irrational mob does not reach that threshold.
Relationship meltdowns can be very messy, and sin can leave a big smoking crater, and the same thing is true when a family blows apart. If I were in the middle of one such situation, and one participant in it comes out years later to “tell the story,” I am not in a position to set the record straight if the cost of defending myself is to volunteer information about other people involved in the meltdown. A shepherd doesn’t use the sheep to shield himself from wolves. It is supposed to go the other way. And if you are not a hireling, it does go the other way.
In this, I am not being coy or evasive. I am refusing. I do not have the right to renege on my commitment to discretion with the information I have simply because some people on Twitter got themselves a warp-spasm going. They demand answers. They want answers. Well, how does it feel to want?
Also, in what I wrote above, I am not giving hints about any particulars. But I do say that in both the Steven Sitler situation and the Jamin Wight situation, the principle outlined above is extremely relevant. So you want me to write a tell-all account of those episodes? Let me think about it, no.
Conducting the Wedding
The wedding between Steven and Katie was a lawful wedding. There were no biblical grounds to prohibit it. When there are grounds to refuse, a minister should refuse. I would refuse to do a wedding if one of the parties was unlawfully divorced, for example. There was no basis for such a refusal in this instance. There were going to be challenges, certainly, but the wedding itself was not unlawful, not unscriptural. That being the case, I performed the wedding because I am their minister.
Now when a couple “with challenges” come together in marriage, they need the blessing of the church all the more. They need additional support, guidance and so on. That is something I gave to them, and would be happy to give to them again. Would I do that wedding again? Yes, I would. Would I bless them again? Yes, I would — and had I known how vile people were going to be to them, I would have given them an extra blessing. There are a lot of people out there who don’t care how many people they have to injure or trample if only it gives them a chance to score points on me.
Do I think that marriage is an “automatic” cure for the temptations of pedophilia? Of course not. Marriage is not an automatic cure for anything. But the apostle Paul does teach that marriage, approached rightly, is given by God as one of His assigned helps against immorality (1 Cor. 7:2).
Take another example. Would I perform a wedding for a couple when I had been counseling the man for years about an ongoing problem with porn? Yes, I would. Would I do it lightly? No, I wouldn’t. Would I think that marriage would automatically “fix it?” No, I wouldn’t. Would I think that marriage, approached rightly and with wisdom, could be a great help to him in his temptation? Yes, I would. Would I think that his bride should know what we had been dealing with? Yes, I would.
But if you want to know the specifics of my counsel to them, if you want to know all the tawdry details, if you want his browser history, and if you want to know how I measured the seriousness of his problem with the porn, then you will have to ask Boz the Clairvoyant.
Special note to those who have challenges reading what I write: I am illustrating a principle here, not equating porn use with pedophilia.
I trust that some have noticed the odd juxtaposition between accusations that I am a cult leader whose word has absolute sway in our community, over against the vituperation leveled against me for not requiring a vasectomy for Steven before his wedding. I am also responsible for Jamin Wight still running around loose. Gee, I don’t know how that happened. The locks on the Christ Church jail must be all broke.
Just a mild suggestion: Don’t rail against me for having power that I don’t actually have, and then turn around and abuse me for not using those powers.
I am a pastor, not a despot. I give counsel and advice to my parishioners, most of which is none of other people’s business, and I cooperate as needed with all the relevant authorities.
Seriously? What do you think my Twitter feed would look like if I did order a parishioner to get a vasectomy? If I did have a jail, run by good kirker deacons? A good half dozen of my enemies would have to be hospitalized simply for treatment of their adrenaline high.
Why Some, Not Others
This is a serious situation, and the fact that I have been interacting with the challenges posed is a good indication that I do take this seriously. But I don’t take everybody in the fray seriously. One particular avatar is demanding answers now, and wants to know why I am ignoring his/her/its most perspicuous questions. Given the fact that the questions are Hindenburg-scale bloviations and the avatar in question has 16 Twitter followers, let me think about it. I don’t think so, Scooter.