Headquarters careers wrecked: Court hears how thousands of child abuse cases were covered up to keep the religion's name from becoming tarnished in the public eye
New York Times, Wednesday, December 31, 2003
BROOKLYN - Members of the Watchtower Society's Governing Body had a reputation as the most important spiritual leaders in the entire world. They were at the pinnacle of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization. In a matter of a few short years they were scheduled to lead the worldwide association into a new world where paradise conditions would replace the present system of things.
But instead of occupying lavish offices in Brooklyn and Patterson, New York, all members of the Governing Body have spent the past month in the courthouse four blocks away, fighting a legal battle to salvage a name and a reputation that seem to have been irrevocably tarnished during the past few years.
The trial has laid bare a scandal in which, as a Brooklyn Superior Court Justice observed yesterday, "everyone loses." The Watchtower Society's lucrative assets, used mainly to promote the interests of the Jehovah's Witnesses sect worldwide, have evaporated. The Governing Body has seen their corporation and authority dissolve in disgrace after 125 years of existence. Jehovah's Witnesses around the world, whose faith in the organization has disintegrated, are trying to re-establish themselves in their families and communities in order to start life all over again.
All Governing Body members remain tormented by the events of 2001 to 2003, when many members of their organization began stepping forward to reveal how they were sexually abused as children and received no help at all from the elders to whom they reported such cruel and inhumane treatment. In fact, it has been learned that the elders covered over such incidents with the full endorsement of the Governing Body. The purpose was to shield the organization from bad publicity. Victims were discouraged, even forbidden, from reporting the abuse to proper law enforcement authorities.
Rarely has the media paid great attention to the inner workings of the Governing Body of the Witnesses, but this case is so sad and despicable that it has become irresistible. We can expect this case to make front-page headlines around the world for weeks to come and no doubt much longer.