Bible · church · clergy · crime · law · religion

Sex abuser’s counsel argues priest-penitent law in WV entitles him to avoid trial

gavel with scales of justiceA 57-yr-old pervert in West Virginia is seeking dismissal of all sexual abuse charges against him. Timothy Probert appeared in court recently and his attorney argued that the charges brought against his client should be thrown out because Probert went to his pastor to confess his crimes “seeking forgiveness and restoration through the disciplinary channels of his church…” The attorney argued that making him go to trial would be a violation of West Virginia’s priest-penitent privilege, which guarantees conversations between parishioner and clergy be kept confidential. He added that most of the abuse happened decades ago.

For decades Probert volunteered at Westminster Presbyterian Church for a program to end child abuse and help victims of child abuse. Only he used his volunteer work to prey on innocent boys to do the exact opposite of what the program was about. After decades of sexually abusing boys, Probert confessed what he did to his pastor, Jonathan Rockness. The pastor then did the correct thing and reported Probert to the West Virginia State Police.

Probert was subsequently arrested in December 2013 and charged with 38 counts pertaining to child sexual abuse. More charges were added in February of this year when the case was brought before a grand jury. Between the child abuse program, the church, and the community at large, nine male victims emerged.

Prosecutors countered Probert’s attorney’s argument by pointing out the pastor stayed true to mandatory reporting laws established for the sake of children in danger of abuse. A ruling on the motion to dismiss will come in December 2015.

In my opinion, if a man commits a crime, confesses to it, but is unwilling to face the consequences of his actions, then he is not genuinely sorry for what he did. His apparent sense of entitlement to get off scot-free is just his selfish attempt to take advantage of the church after he took advantage of the boys.

According to the Bible, saints are not obligated to help people who violate God’s commandments to avoid the consequences of their criminal or immoral behavior. For example, after many murderous years of serving under King David, Joab (David’s nephew by his sister Zeruiah) finally got his just deserts when King Solomon ordered his execution. Joab fled to seek refuge in the tabernacle of the Lord, clinging to the altar as if expecting to be miraculously or mercifully spared by his religious show, but Solomon ordered his man to kill Joab right on the altar (1 Kings 2:28-34).

When people genuinely repent, they tend to be like Zacchaeus the chief tax collector, who joyfully and willingly made reparations for his wrongs by exclaiming, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold,” (Luke 19:8). Jesus even commended Zacchaeus for his actions of self-sacrifice which reflected the salvation that had already taken place in the man’s heart.

Harry A. Gaylord




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