Yesterday, our family was quite shocked to learn of the revelation that Josh Duggar had sexually molested his sisters when he was a teenager. We heard the news through LifeSite and then read the statements from him and from his family on their Facebook page.
This is the gist of what happened, via LifeSite:
A 2006 police report leaked to the media states that Josh was investigated for sex offenses, including “forcible fondling” against five minors.
According to the report, the first allegations surfaced in March 2002, the same month he turned 14. At the time the family dealt with the allegations internally. A year later, however, when further allegations were made, the family sent Josh to work with a family friend for three months, after which his father took Josh to see a state trooper.
According to the report, the trooper gave Josh a “stern talk” about what would happen if he “continued such behavior,” but no formal action was taken at the time.
Having raised four teenagers (two boys and two girls) I can relate to the Duggars’ frustration. Though my kids never acted out sexually, they have acted out in troubling ways that fly in the face of the Catholic Faith that I have tried my best to teach them. It is harder to live a life of virtue as a teenager than it is to live one as an adult. Even I myself did many things as a teenager that I have since repented of and would not want hashed out in the public square. I truly did learn from my mistakes, and I truly have learned that God will forgive all manner of wrongdoing, provided that I repent and ask his forgiveness. Clearly, Josh Duggar has repented and has allowed God to transform him into the person he is today.
When my daughters first heard the news about Josh, they were deeply wounded. I immediately reminded them of St. Paul and St. Maria Goretti. Saint Paul was in the business of murdering Christians when our Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus and changed his life forever. St. Paul went on to pen many books of the New Testament and was a great apostle of the Church. St. Maria Goretti was a young girl who was molested by a boy (Alessandro) who lived with her family. When she refused his advances, Alessandro stabbed her. In the hospital, on her death bed, she forgave him. She is considered by the Church to be a martyr for purity. Alessandro attended her canonization, a changed man, forgiven not only by St. Maria Goretti and by our Blessed Lord, but also forgiven by the whole Catholic Church. There are no members of the Catholic Church who dispute the change in Alessandro. In like manner, there should be no members of the Church who dispute the change in Josh Duggar, who has clearly repented and changed.
I realize that there are many in today’s culture who know nothing of such things. There is a sort of “lynch mob” mentality where bodies are not hung from trees in the public square, but reputations are surely lynched. Bill Cosby is an example of this. There is an aversion to charging him in a court of law, but a feeding frenzy to destroy his reputation in the public eye. One of the principles that makes America free is the principle that all are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. We have, sadly, lost this principle. It would be better for America if we could learn again these two things: God can change those who repent, and all should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.