Although sexual abuse cases involving clergy often provoke national media attention, new research points toward church volunteers and other staff as being more likely to sexually abuse church members.

Volunteer workers are the most frequent abusers, constituting half of all sexual misconduct offenses in churches, according to a profile last year by Church Law and Tax Report. Paid staff members represent 30 percent of the perpetrators, and 20 percent are committed by another child.

Churches typically are caught off guard. For example, former youth minister Bryan Buckley of Christ Community Church in Saint Charles, Illinois, was sentenced in February to a seven-year prison term after being convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in the congregation.

Kane County judge Philip L. DiMarzio declared that Buckley "preached abstinence and practiced indulgence." Larry Breeden, staff coordinator at Christ Community Church, says Buckley had excellent references, including having once been named youth minister of the year at Liberty University.

Buckley's references had been checked by staff members, and a criminal record check also had been conducted. "There was no indication that Buckley had any problems," Breeden says.

Breeden says Buckley managed to sidestep a church policy that forbids staff members from being alone with members of the opposite sex. "You can always find a way to circumvent church policies if you're determined," Breeden says. "We can only pray that God will protect his church."

SCREENING RECOMMENDED: James Cobble, publisher of Church Law and Tax Report, told CT that churches are not going to be able to screen out every pedophile. "But a screening program in the church is like putting a spotlight on the church and ...

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