Ask Amy

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: I have a close friend who lives in another state. My friend is married to a minister, "Bret," who is friends with another minister in another church. (I will call the second minister "Steve.")

Steve is about 60 years old and unmarried. For at least 10 years he has hosted teenage boys in his home, sometimes as foster children and sometimes as exchange students.

With many of these boys, Steve has engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior, which my friend has described to me.

One of these children suffered a breakdown, and his parents had to fly over from Europe to retrieve him.

Now Steve is hosting a 16-year-old exchange student with whom he is having a sexual relationship. (The age of consent in this state is 16, and the relationship is apparently consensual.)

My friend was very upset about this. I told her that she needed to tell the authorities.

It has been several months now, and neither she nor her husband has done anything except talk to Steve and try to persuade him to stop.

I am tempted to call somebody myself, but A. I was told this information in confidence, and B, I have no direct knowledge of any of this.

I don't know if Steve's actions are illegal, but it certainly seems that he is unfit to serve as a foster parent.

What do you suggest I do?

— Worried

DEAR WORRIED: The knowledge (or belief) that a crime is being committed absolves you of the implicit promise of keeping a confidence.

If your friend’s account of this activity is true, then their silence about this makes them complicit.

Regardless of whether "Steve's" current sexual relationship is consensual or legal, it is definitely a gross violation of the rules of every student exchange program I've ever heard of.

The thought that a minister is standing by while he believes a fellow minister is a sexual predator brings to mind the very worst of the sexual scandals roiling the Catholic Church.

Because your friend has chosen to discuss this with you repeatedly, you should say, "I can't stand by any longer knowing this is happening, so I'm going to notify Child Protective Services."

As a minister, "Bret" will understand your need to act on your conscience. He should be compassionate toward you and ashamed of himself.


DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for seven years, and I have watched his then-teenage children become extremely self-centered adults.

This was demonstrated most glaringly this past Christmas when they came to our house for dinner and present exchange, with their grandmother also in attendance. They came late and empty-handed. Their table manners were awful, and they expressed no thanks.

Afterward, my husband tearfully said to me that their lack of respect to even bring a card for grandma was beyond his comprehension.

My husband is kind and loving. They were raised in a loving home and received everything they wanted.

They were taught to not only receive graciously but also to give, share and have decent manners.

I want to tell them how much they are hurting their father and grandmother, but my husband says to let it go.

— Baffled in Alaska

DEAR BAFFLED: The fact that your husband would rather let this go than deal with it is the answer to your bafflement; without any consequences — or even objections — your stepchildren have no reason to behave differently.

You shouldn't advocate on your husband's behalf but encourage him to step up, face the fact that his kids are responding to a complete absence of standards and join you in confronting them about their behavior.


DEAR AMY: I am responding to the dialogue in your column about whether a professional artist should offer his work for free to a friend. I think he should; you never know who might see his painting and commission him for another work. The exposure is valuable.

— An Artist

DEAR ARTIST: Another reader cleverly noted that in some parts of the country, especially in January, "exposure" — artistic or otherwise — isn't always a good thing.

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