Grace and forgiveness are often evoked in cases involving violence and sexual abuse. Domestic violence victims are told to go back to a "repentant" spouse. Victims of sexual violence and abuse are often told to forgive and move on without reporting the perpetrator. It is almost as if we don't quite believe them. The bruises tell one story, but maybe they asked for it. Maybe they didn't submit properly, maybe they wore the wrong kind of clothing, maybe they talked back.
In the case of the serial pedophile in Christ Church, we are told he has repented. Douglas Wilson said so after meeting and praying with him a few times and giving him books to read. (Read more here) This pedophile, who targeted children under twelve in three different states is said to have repented and the evidence of this is his marriage and the child he has now together with his wife. A child he is not allowed to be alone with at any time.
Is this what repentance looks like?
If I had a problem with, let's say, gambling, and I stole money to support my habit, but was ultimately caught and sent to prison for it, would repentance upon my release look like getting a job as an accountant at a Casino? In the case of a pedophile, does true repentance look like getting married and having children?
Stephanie Smith has this to say about pedophiles and relapses:
It is important that we distinguish between the different types of sexual offenders when addressing the issue of recidivism. For example, pedophiles represent a smaller number of offenders convicted for sexually abusing children. However, they tend to have higher numbers of victims and higher recidivism rates than any other type of sex offender. On the other hand, researchers have identified some sex offenders who assault adults that eventually stop perpetrating. Thus, studies that do not distinguish between pedophiles and adult rapists do not accurately reflect the risks to children. (Read more here)
A repentant pedophile knows that the chances of him ever getting better are slim. The temptation is always going to be there, especially since children are less likely to report the abuse. And this is why the church has a responsibility to keep children safe.
This did not occur in Moscow, Idaho. I had a long conversation about the subject on Facebook with members of Christ Church. I was reassured that although the experts say that Steven Sitler can never be cured, the Gospel can do what the professionals can't. And because of it, there is every reason to believe Sitler has changed.
About three weeks ago the court convened to deliberate whether Steven Sitler should be allowed to move back home, having lived in a motel for almost a year. His wife Katie had lost her chaperon status the previous year for failure to disclose incidences, which can only refer to Sitler having been left alone with the baby. And it appears he did admit having contact with the child that resulted in sexual stimulation. Katie was reinstated as a chaperon, but Steven was not allowed to move back home in August, for "family values" is not a reason for a serial predator to be anywhere near a child, his own or anyone else's. (read more here).
It appears Steven Sitler hasn't changed.
But while everyone focuses on Steven and Douglas Wilson, few focus on his wife Katie. Why did she marry a man who was a known serial pedophile? Or did she know?
Katie and Steven published a website called June11Eleven.com in reference to their upcoming wedding. On this website Katie describes how the two met.
As my classmates graduated in pairs without me (I needed to retake several classes and would be there another year) I felt something had gone dreadfully wrong. This was compounded by the fact that I was now 22. My mom had gotten married at 22.
So, to skip ahead, my second Senior year went by without a hitch. Literally. My other roommate/best friend of four years (Helen, for all of you wondering who that short girl I hung around with was) got engaged. She was 21. 21! How unfair, I thought. As I turned 23 (which, interestingly, was one of my very favorite birthday parties ever) nothing continued to happen. I decided to try boldness. I went in to Mr. Iverson and suggested that if Mr. Right was here, for Mr. Iverson to please find him for me.
The Iversons knew our plans were to leave Saturday night, but invited us to stay Sunday so that I could meet this guy they knew. He was funny, nice, godly young man, and all that stuff. Or so they said. I was not very impressed. You might say I was skeptical. In my very heart of hearts, I was absolutely positive that nothing would come out of this Steven guy except an awkward evening of “So, what is your major?” and “What do you teach?”. Thankfully, I’ve never been more wrong in my entire life.
My biggest surprise was that it wasn’t really that awkward at all. After dinner, he stayed and spoke with Dad, Mom and I. This means that he and dad talked a bunch and mom and I listened. Afterward Mrs. Iverson told me that I seemed very laid back. This was, I believe, because I had entered into a state of shock. At the Psalm sing that night in Friendship Square he stood next to me, and I realized he had a very good tenor voice. That made me happy. After the Psalm sing he asked me for my email, and that made me even more happy.
We began writing every day. We talked about all kinds of stuff, everything from cars to music to philosophies on marriage. We talked about the past and the present and what we did every day. (Read more here)
The starry-eyed bride to be.
Now a wife whose husband lives in a motel and is not allowed anywhere near their child.
Steven tells his side of the story too, about the courtship, proposal, and meeting the family. It's all lovey-dovey and icky sweet, like all these love stories always are. But there is something missing.
There is not one word about him telling Katie or his family about his past, and how they reacted to knowing their future son-in-law was a serial pedophile.
Not one word.
Can we expect to see it? Yes, we actually can. The founder of Dave's Killer Bread tells his story on every loaf of bread he sells. Reformed alcoholics tell every new person they meet. It's something people who have repented and changed do. But Steven Sitler didn't repent; he got caught. He didn't tell anyone, he was exposed.
So the question is, why did Mr. Iverson think Steven was the right man for Katie, and why did Katie marry him?
The clue is found in her own words, "Something had gone dreadfully wrong."
Katie went to New Saint Andrews College, not to get married, but expecting to meet someone while she was studying. But semester after semester went by and nothing happened. She asks Mr. Iverson to help her and he is more than happy to help. And so enters Steven. But did anyone explain to Katie what Steven had done? Did anyone actually take the time to explain what a serial pedophile does? Or did they all assure her that he was now better, and that her love would keep him on the narrow path, it would save him, just the way God's love had saved her? Was the pressure to get married so overwhelming that she ignored his past thinking she would never have to deal with it? What was she thinking standing in the courthouse, waiting for the judge to allow their marriage?
Marriage is the Golden Calf of evangelicalism. But it's not only about marriage, it's ultimately about patriarchy. We are often told that patriarchy protects women and children and that it is the only system that does so effectively. In reality, patriarchy protects the men, and only the men. Katie is just another victim of a system that believes that a woman's role is to marry and bear children, and that the institution of marriage is more important than the character of the man. This year, also Anna Duggar found herself married to a pedophile, and the response was much the same from the church: a man needs sex and only sex will keep a man from straying and molesting children.
Except that it doesn't.
What should our response be? As church, we need to bring about a general recognition that marriage is not Molech and we do not need to sacrifice our children to the idol of family values. Institutions were made for humans, humans were not made for institutions. We shouldn't marry young women to men who cannot be near children, and we shouldn't place such pressure on them to get married in the first place. Only then can tragedies such as this be prevented.