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Question
Posted by: Simon | 2008-12-13

Church Paedophile

I need to find out if the congregation body has a legal obligation to report a paedophile within our congregation? Please if you could refer me to the letter of the law. I need that! The matter/incident has apparently been handled by the congregation elders and the offending party scripturaly reproved and all parents in the congrgetion have been told of the danger and have been given very contructive counsel wrt to protecting your child and how vigilant you should be.
The offending party is a retarded 40year old, who is still being looked after by his mother. There has allegedly been other incidents over the past ten years. I am obviously concerned for my two daughters and this guy still comes and tries to engage with them. Our family is very firm with him, but still we feel nervous. I was a victim of abuse, so I am not sure if I am thinking clearly. My judgment feels a bit off. Does the church have a legal obligation to report this to the authorities. I live in Cape Town,ZA. Brgds Simon/

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Our expert says:
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I dopubt that there's any specific legal right granted to such an organization, but surely any citizen who is aware of possible paedophile or other abusive behaviour, is entitled to report it to the police and to child welfare authorities and ask for this to be investigated. I think a legal duty to report such behaviour rests on doctors and othe profesiionals who become aware of it. The situation is complicated if you say the alleged perpetrator is mentally retarded, because although he may be physically an adult, he may be psychologically and socially still a child himself. He could probably be helped, after full assessment by a specialist and clinic, with medication to reduce his sexual interest and behaviour. He may not be considered legally responsible for his behaviour, depending on his mental age and degree of retardation --- he may be much les aware that this is wrong than one might expect. And one should also consider that it may well be distressing for the children to have to testify in such a trial. But the problem may be better solved if he can be treated and mecome sexually inactive towards others.

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