Jared Olivetti, pastor of a church in Indiana, has come under fire for allegedly protecting a teen relative accused of abusing several children in his congregation and failing to warn members in a timely manner.
The Indianapolis Star reports:
Jared Olivetti, who is the head pastor at Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church, and other elders who served in 2020 are under investigation by the denomination and are facing religious charges at the national level, according to multiple interviews and documents obtained by IndyStar, after the elder board intentionally kept quiet allegations of abuse involving eight children from six families.
The perpetrator, a teenage boy, is a relative of Olivetti. The pastor failed to recuse himself despite the clear conflict of interest and shaped Immanuel’s internal investigation. (IndyStar is not indicating the relationship between the two to avoid identifying the boy. The Star does not name minors unless they are charged as adults.)
The publication goes on to reveal that Olivetti was informed in October 2019 that the teen had been seen inappropriately touching two young children. Several months later, in discussion with a pastor from a different church, Olivetti was recorded saying: “We’re not sending a report up.”
The Indianapolis Star reveals that church elders knew of the abuse at least five months before the congregation was informed of the potential danger in their midst.
According to court records, the teen may have abused up to 15 children, including some outside of Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church. As a juvenile, he “was found delinquent on what would be seven felony counts of child molestation in July of this year.”
Pastor Failed to Heed Own Advice on Protecting Victims
In December 2017, Olivetti published an article titled “Dealing with Sexual Abuse as the Church” on gentlereformation.com, a blog described as “a cooperative effort by friends” in the Reformed and Presbyterian faith.
In his article, Olivetti used the rape of Dinah as recorded in Genesis 34 to illustrate how churches should handle cases of abuse in consideration of both the victim and the perpetrator.
“When those who have the ability to bring light to wickedness refuse, the wicked are further enabled to fulfill their dark desires,” Olivetti wrote in a section about how silence enables wickedness.
Olivetti went on to argue:
“Again, the American church — including the reformed church to be sure — proves this case. When we decide to handle abuse cases ‘in house’ without bringing criminal acts to light, we enable the wicked. When we force abuse victims to forgive their abusers but let the abusers remain undisciplined, we enable the wicked. When we silence those who speak up about abuse, we enable the wicked. When will we learn?”
The pastor concluded his article with an appeal for churches “to do better” when faced with cases of abuse.
“The church lives to honor Jesus Christ. And we need to do better. We need to be more willing to speak about these horrifying things. We need to love and care for the vulnerable in our midst,” Olivetti wrote.
“We need to hold our leaders more accountable and disentangle ourselves from hierarchical ministries and leaders surrounded only by yes-men. We need to be more willing to listen to victims and vindicate them of their abusers’ actions. We need to be more willing to pursue justice, both in civil and ecclesiastical courts. We need to be more ready to give sacrificially to help the victims of abuse,” he concluded.
Olivetti, who shares six children with his wife, reportedly started pastoring Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church in 2007.
It was unclear if Olivetti or any elders accused of conspiring with him to handle the sex abuse allegations internally face any criminal charges, as “Indiana law requires any adult who suspects a child is being abused or neglected to report those suspicions to law enforcement or the Indiana Department of Child Services.”
A previous study by LifeWay Christian Resources found that 94% of churchgoers believe “their church is a safe place where children and teenagers are protected from sexual abuse.” Meanwhile, 87% were confident that their church “is likely to report suspicions of abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities.”