Friday, August 21, 2009
The chutzpah of the Catholic Church
By Asher Lipner
Posted Friday, 21 August 2009
In the State of New York the Catholic Church has been fighting against the passage of the Child Victims Act of Assemblywoman Margaret Markey “with all their hearts, with all their souls and with all their might”. The proposed legislation extends the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children and opens a one-year window for adult victims to sue their childhood perpetrators with no statute of limitation at all. Aside from granting the victims the opportunity to receive justice and some level of compensation for their suffering, similar window legislation has proven to be the best way to help identify scores of sexual predators that were unknown to law enforcement in both California and Delaware.
The Church has postulated a conspiracy theory that sees the sole purpose of allowing adult survivors of child sexual abuse to sue their molesters as a way for enemies of the Church to do it harm.
The Church should be ashamed of itself after the publicly humiliating exposure of its tolerance of perverted behaviour by pedophile priests, and its cynical cover up and intimidation of victims it has perpetrated on a system-wide level. It truly gives a new definition to the word “Chutzpah”, for the Catholic Church to speak out in any but a humble and apologetic tone.
A grand jury in Long Island, New York, for example charged the Archdiocese there of stalling victims of abuse from pressing charges until the statute of limitations was up, so that the Church would not have to answer for the molestation perpetrated by their priests. In Los Angeles, Archbishop Mahony is being investigated by the FBI for the crime of placing priests who were known to have molested children in the past in positions of authority over children without notifying the children’s parents.
Aside from the audacity of an organisation claiming to speak for God placing their financial concerns over the welfare of victims, the tactics used in defending their “assets” by the Church have been extremely “un-Christian”. In Brooklyn, Bishop Nicholas Dimarzio has, in a Machiavellian threat, warned legislators that if the Child Victims Act passes, he will shut down churches in the precincts of those who voted against it.
Ironically, given the Church’s record of aiding and abetting pedophile priests, legislators who care for the safety of the children in their precinct would do well to view this outcome as a positive promise and not as an unwanted threat.
Child sexual abuse, however, knows no religion and is certainly not a plague that is limited to the Catholic Church, and therefore the Church is hurting children of all faiths when they use their considerable political power in New York to deny justice to survivors who have been abused. While the bill was in fact never intended originally by anyone to be “anti-Catholic”, once the Catholic Church has shamefully turned anti-children, they have made it so, because they have once again become actively pro-molesters and the bill is most definitely anti-molesters.
As a Jew, I cannot say I am totally shocked at the lack of concern by representatives of the Catholic Church over the past several decades (and indeed centuries) about the brutalising of innocent children by adults in power.
After all, this is a religious institution that only 60 years ago turned a blind eye to the wanton murder of one million innocent Jewish children in countries that were mostly dominated by practitioners of the Catholic religion.
Although the last Pope did “apologise” to Jewish survivors (the children are not with us to have heard it), not so much has really changed in the Church's sense of morality or sensitivity for child victims. This was recently on display by Pope Benedict’s appointing as a bishop a priest who openly denies that the Holocaust even happened and that Jewish children were gassed to death, and by his pursuing “sainthood” for Pope Pius XII, labeled by historians as “Hitler’s Pope”.
For those children who survived the death camps to have the Church once again treat their feelings like so much political nuisance, reminds them of how little they can trust their Catholic “friends” at a time of need.
But adding insult to injury, in New York, home to many Jewish children as well as Catholic, the Church now seeks to deny all children the right to their day in court when they suffer their own private Holocaust-like trauma of rape, sodomy and sexual molestation. It has been shown repeatedly by psychologists that for many victims of childhood sexual trauma, it often takes growing up into adulthood to even remember, yet alone understand the nature of the harm inflicted on them. Sometimes symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are only manifested once the victim has children of his or her own. And even for those who have suffered from symptoms for years and have had their lives forever damaged, many need years of professional help to regain the emotional strength it takes to confront their victimisers.
To withhold access to restitution for their medical treatment as well as for emotional pain and suffering, is to tell victims of all faiths and ethnicities that their pain is not our concern and their cries will continue to fall on deaf ears. All this from the "religion of love". Apparently the Church, once again, demands from its victims that they "turn the other cheek", while the Church itself aggressively continues to protect itself from being exposed for the destruction of lives that it has caused.
Unfortunately, as a Jew, I am also ashamed at witnessing history repeating itself with the neglectful behaviour of many of my own people. While almost all mainstream Orthodox Jewish groups such as the Rabbinical Council of America, The Rabbinical Alliance of America, The Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, the Orthodox Union, and Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, and our two Orthodox Assemblymen Dov Hikind and Speaker Sheldon Silver have joined Protestant groups, Catholic victims advocacy groups such as the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests and Voices of the Faithful, and other non-denominational child advocate groups in lobbying for the Markey bill, our brothers and sisters of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism have been deafeningly silent about the spiritual holocaust for children in New York, much as they were during the Holocaust of Jews in Europe. While these branches of Judaism have impressive records in America of social activism, when it comes to standing up for victims of abuse their voices have not been heard.
To be clear, in traditional Torah Judaism, based on halachic law, there is no legal precedent for statutes of limitations on crimes of violence or harming another, neither in civil nor in criminal law. While not speaking directly to the issue of time constraints on claims of damages, one of the most famous dictums in the tort laws of the Talmud states "Adam Muad Le'olam". A person is always responsible (for the damage he/she does). Furthermore, every Jewish person has a biblical obligation to speak out for children’s safety: “Thou shall not stand by idly thy neighbour’s blood.”
Legislators of all religious backgrounds would be wise remember that one out of five or your constituents has been the victim of sexual abuse before the age of 18, although many have not been vocal about it. When facing your own conscience and being tempted to play politics with the lives of innocent children, remember that NO God, not the God believed in by Jews, Christians or Muslims, (and not even the God that atheists reject), could possibly countenance the violation of innocent children. We must all come together in support of our children and pray that the One Merciful God, will in His infinite wisdom, truth and justice, grant our legislature the common sense and the courage needed to enact both the Child Victims Act and other legislation to protect the children He has entrusted to us.
Rabbi Dr Asher Lipner, PhD is an ordained Orthodox Rabbi with a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. He is the Vice President of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author only, and do not necessarily reflect the position of any organisation.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Haredim attack Jerusalem mayor's entourage
As Nir Barkat visits prominent rabbi in capital's Ezrat Torah neighborhood, he is surrounded by ultra-Orthodox crowd who throw stones at his car. Police call for backup, escort mayor out of neighborhood. Barkat: I will not succumb to violence
A radical ultra-Orthodox mob encircled Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's car as he left the neighborhood of Ezrat Torah where he visited a prominent rabbi. Stones were thrown at his car, which was damaged in the incident. Barkat managed to leave the neighborhood after the police stepped in with reinforcements to escort his entourage out.
The incident occurred on Hana Street in Jerusalem where the mayor made a "personal visit" to a prominent rabbi who invited him to talk. The Jerusalem Municipality reported, "A radical group of haredim threw stones at his car, damaging the vehicle, and surrounded it."
According to the municipality, "The police, who escorted Barkat, needed to call for backup. Minutes later, they successfully cleared the way for the mayor."
Barkat himself responded to the incident: "I will not succumb to violence, and whoever thinks he will make strides through violence and bullying is incorrect."
The United Torah Judaism faction harshly condemned the attack. "The UTJ faction harshly condemns the attack against the mayor who made a courtesy call of respect to the holy rabbi from Kalin at his residence in Shikun Chabad. Violence is not the way of the Torah," the haredi faction said in a statement.
Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus (UTJ) expressed his dismay at the violent incident. "I am simply shocked by those who think they observe the holy Sabbath and yet forgot that it says in the Ten Commandments, 'Thou shall not steal.' The Torah teaches us that it is forbidden to cause damage with one's money, and certainly with one's body," he told Ynet.
The mayor has recently evoked the anger of the ultra-Orthodox community for allowing two of the city's parking lots to remain open on Saturday in order to ease the parking problem in the city. In recent weeks, haredim have protested, sometimes violently, on the weekends.
Dozens of haredim were arrested at the height of the protests for attacking policemen, throwing stones, and causing damage. A few weeks ago, the municipality also received veiled threats in an email sent to Barkat and his deputy.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Speaks
Good Jews, bad choices? Busted rabbis leave us wondering
Thursday, August 6, 2009 | by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
It’s become pretty rough being a rabbi in New Jersey, where your friends call you to ask whether you have a phone in your cell.
OK, lame joke, but this is one of the hardest columns I’ve ever written. How do you deal with the images of rabbis on the walk of shame, accused of money laundering and organ trafficking? How do you respond to charges of religious hypocrisy, and answer the unaffiliated Jews who use such outrages as justification for rejecting observance?
I guess you do so humbly. Here are the lessons I have culled.
• Rabbis are human, partly good and partly bad, like anyone else. Judaism recognizes no Jesus figure who is above the struggle between his inner angels and his inner demons.
Rather than any of this serving as an argument against religion, however, the opposite is true. Because men and women gravitate to greed as well as grace, and are prone to corruption as well as correction, we require a framework of law and the sprinklings of holiness to live righteously.
• Our community needs a moral and spiritual renaissance. We are good, law-abiding, generous people, but money is becoming too important to us. We all want nice things and to live in upscale communities, but such wishes must forever bend to the need to live humbly so we can serve as moral exemplars to our children, and to practice charity with our neighbors.
We require a renewed articulation of Judaism’s most important values, and an even firmer resolve to live by its tenets.
• Like everyone, there are two kinds of sins of which we rabbis can be guilty: Sins of commission and sins of omission. Commission involves serious wrongdoing.
But for a rabbi, omission can be even graver, as it can involve a failure to inspire the community to choose the Western Wall over Wall Street and spiritual growth over material acquisition. In this sense, no rabbi is completely innocent.
• The accused rabbis should be judged charitably. They were not Bernie Madoff, who used stolen money to buy a penthouse or a yacht. Several are men with long histories of sacrifice and selflessness.
Running a yeshiva, synagogue or school, with their incessant demands for funds, can be soul-destroying. It’s hard not to feel like a beggar — or to be made to feel like a beggar — as you run from one donor to the next. A friend who runs a successful Jewish day school quoted to me the words of Rivka: “I have come to loathe my very life.”
Not that this could ever justify the accused. It does, however, serve as a sober reminder that many of them were merely looking to fund communal institutions but were tragically compromised in the process. Some say they deserve our contempt. I respond that they deserve our compassion. The exception, of course, is the man accused of trafficking in human organs.
• Those who wish to justify the jettisoning of their faith on these and similar scandals should remember that there’s a difference between hypocrisy and inconsistency. The former involves proclaiming a belief for public consumption that one privately repudiates. The latter involves believing something but not always summoning the courage to live by one’s convictions.
• My dear friend Mark Charendoff, an exemplary leader who heads the Jewish Funders Network, wrote of the rabbis in the Jewish Week of New York: “There is a special place in hell reserved for these individuals. Not only did they play the part of pious clergy while pursuing their criminal paths, but they made religious and charitable institutions into (one hopes unwitting) accomplices.”
Before disagreeing with Mark, in the interests of full disclosure I should reveal that I feel a residue of bitterness at his having bested me in Newsweek’s list of America’s most influential rabbis. As it is, my fragile ego is hanging by a thread.
But hell, the state most distant from God, is surely reserved for people like Hitler and Osama bin Laden — people with no active good in them whatsoever. But these men, who chose community work over more lucrative professions, should still be applauded for the good they have done, even as they should be condemned if they are guilty of the transgressions for which they stand accused.
• Before we give up on rabbis or the Jewish community, let’s keep in mind that many questions remain to be answered. For example, how many rabbis were approached who turned down the FBI informant? And as far as the Syrian community is concerned, remember that few are as renowned for their generosity, philanthropy and devotion to the needy.
I have spent my life trying to bring Jewish values to the public. I know how much damage is done to that cause when rabbis are led away in handcuffs. Indeed, when I contemplate my own imperfections, I question whether I always do justice to the title myself.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the author of 20 books and the founder of This World: the Values Network. This piece first appeared in the Jerusalem Post.
Rally in Honor of Shabbos: Rabbi Aharon Feldman - Part 1 (WITH CHILD SEX-ABUSE RAGING IN BALTIMORE'S JEWISH COMMUNITY, THE FOCUS WAS ON CHILLUL SHABBOS, JUST BRILLIANT!)
- It is unfortunate that it has come to this. It is a big darn shame it has come to this. It is very hurtful that it has come to this. But yet, IT HAS COME TO THIS. It has come at the price of a GREAT CHILUL HASHEM. It has come to Hashem having to allow his holy name to be DESECRATED so that his CHILDREN remain SAFE. Shame on all those responsible for enabling and permitting Hashem's name to be desecrated! When you save children you save the future. You save the future you save generations. You save generations you save lives. You save lives you have saved the world!!!!!!!