A Reformed Presbyterian pastor who’s preached against enabling sexual abuse in the church helped cover up his own relative’s abuse of multiple children, according to an investigation published Monday in the IndyStar.
He has also written numerous times for ChurchLeaders.com and GentleReformation.com. In a 2017 article he wrote based on one of his sermons, he uses the Biblical story of Dinah to illustrate how leaders can endanger the vulnerable and enable the wicked by failing to exercise authority in a godly manner.
Now, Olivetti is facing an ecclesiastical trial in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America concerning allegations he used his authority to interfere with his church’s investigation into a teenage boy’s abuse of other children at the church.
Olivetti and the boy are relatives, the IndyStar reported. The newspaper did not name the alleged perpetrator or specify Olivetti’s relationship to him because it doesn’t identify minors accused of crimes.
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Some men who were elders last year at Immanuel RPC are also accused of colluding to protect the pastor and minimize the abuse.
The Roys Report reached out to the church but didn’t immediately hear back.
Parents told the IndyStar the teen abused their children multiple ways, from touching over and under clothes to oral-genital contact and penetration. The abuse continued from spring 2019 until at least March 2020, church and court records obtained by the IndyStar show.
Olivetti first learned of allegations involving two child victims in October 2019. Another family reported abuse in April 2020 to both the church and the Indiana Department of Child Services. (It’s unclear whether Olivetti had immediately reported the earlier allegations to child services as required by law.)
The teen then confessed to elders in August 2020 to misconduct involving children from at least two other families, the newspaper found.
Between those cases and others reported outside the church, the teen could have as many as 15 alleged victims, records obtained by the IndyStar show.
Another local pastor, Joshua Greiner of Faith Church West, found out about Olivetti’s connection to the alleged teen perpetrator in summer 2020. Greiner then reportedly urged Immanuel RPC to notify an outside authority about the allegations.
But the IndyStar reported that “essentially, (the church elders) notified themselves and hand-picked the men who would advise them through the investigation.”
Greiner wasn’t satisfied and reportedly demanded specific action from the church, including cooperating with law enforcement and providing full details to denominational authorities outside the church. Greiner also called for the elders’ resignation.
Greiner told the IndyStar that Olivetti and the elders were “completely disqualified” from church leadership. “Everybody was covering their ears, closing their eyes to what was obvious.”
The Immanuel RPC congregation was kept in the dark for months, until September 2020, according to the IndyStar investigation. A Sept. 6 letter to congregants stated that sexual abuse between minors had occurred but did not name the alleged teenage perpetrator and did not encourage families to report suspected abuse to child services. The letter also didn’t detail what safety measures had been put in place to prevent future abuse.
Olivetti reportedly steered the elders away from naming the accused or barring him from church events. The same month the letter went out, the accused teen was back at youth group with a chaperone.
The IndyStar also reported Olivetti helped write a follow-up letter in October 2020. That letter told congregants the church had taken steps to prevent abuse by either the teen or anyone else — even though the church’s safety measures only applied to the teen.
In November, one child’s parents reportedly asked elders why other parents in youth group weren’t told what was going on. The elders said it wasn’t necessary, according to the IndyStar. The elders asked congregants to pray for the church leaders and not gossip about the situation, the newspaper reported.
One parent told the newspaper her family left the church because they saw its leaders protect themselves instead of the children.
A former Immanuel RPC deacon, Joshua Bright, resigned his post in December 2020, too. He and others emailed church members the next day, the IndyStar reported, to tell them about the extent of the abuse and the church’s failure to enact adequate safety measures.
Denominational authorities appointed an ecclesiastical judicial commission the next week – months after the first allegations had surfaced. Church documents show the commission considered charging Olivetti with leading the church in a way that’s contrary to God’s law, but the presbytery didn’t pursue the charges.
A new ecclesiastical judicial case is underway now at the national level and Olivetti could go on church trial as soon as January.
In the meantime, Olivetti continues to preach at Immanuel RPC.
This story has been updated to correctly state Mr. Bright’s first name.
Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.