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Science, Culture, & Humanities
Topic: Organized Religion (Read 1280 times)
December 12, 2008, 11:16:09 AM »
I have always thought there was a correlation between celibacy/the lack of marriage (heterosexual sex) for priests and the Church's massive problems with pedophilia. The following article in today's WSJ challenges that assumption:
By ERICA SCHACTER SCHWARTZ
It began on the radio this summer. New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind ran a segment on his Saturday night talk show titled "We Are Only as Sick as Our Secrets: Sexual Abuse, Healing the Shame," featuring graphic accounts of sexual abuse of children in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.
There had been a few high-profile cases before, but this "was when the floodgates opened," explained Mr. Hikind, an Orthodox Jew himself. Following the show, additional victims and their family members came forward to share with Mr. Hikind their own stories. "Cases of sexual abuse are not worse among the Orthodox," clarifies Mr. Hikind. "But when there's a problem and you don't deal with it, it gets worse." Over the past few months he has collected hundreds of testimonies spanning several decades, naming at least 50 alleged pedophiles across the tri-state Orthodox Jewish community, including well-respected rabbis and teachers.
But now these testimonies have become a source of contention. They have been subpoenaed for a civil suit by a lawyer representing six former students of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a longtime teacher at one of Borough Park's leading all-male yeshivas, who has been charged repeatedly since the 1980s with sexually molesting his students. (Last year Rabbi Kolko pleaded guilty to child endangerment.) The problem is that Mr. Hikind had sworn to keep the testimonies confidential.
Mr. Hikind claims he will "do the right thing" about the subpoena without betraying the names of any of the victims. While he will not hand over his complete list of alleged perpetrators, he says that "we are starting to share names" with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.
Many people give Mr. Hikind credit for bringing much needed attention to an issue in the Orthodox community that has frequently been swept under the rug. (One exception to the silent treatment was the Orthodox Union's creation of a special commission in 2000 to investigate the sexual abuse charges against Rabbi Baruch Lanner, leader of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, who was later convicted.) He also deserves credit for getting victims to talk at all. Mr. Hikind says that he encourages each victim who comes to him to go directly to the police, but no one is willing to. They are too afraid of the repercussions for themselves and their families in terms of reputation and marriageability.
The trouble is that subpoena or no subpoena, he has valuable information that is not being effectively utilized to investigate the alleged offenders and get them off the streets. "Dov Hikind has decided that secrecy is a more worthwhile value than child protection," explains Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law and an expert in clergy law. By witholding the names of the perpetrators, "he is sharing in the responsibility of every child who is harmed by them."
What Mr. Hikind wants to do instead is tackle the issue from within the community. He has assembled a task force of rabbis, therapists, principals and pediatricians to help the community respond to cases of sexually abused children -- raising awareness, forming a registry of teachers (so that a teacher who is removed from one school does not simply go to another) and devising a system of investigating allegations. Investigation is extremely important, he adds, because "you have to make sure an innocent person is not being thrown to the wolves."
While Mr. Hikind's effort is well-intentioned, Prof. Hamilton calls it "a doomed project." Resolving cases of sexual abuse without the legal establishment in this country "has never worked in any other religious community," she points out, citing the Catholic Church as an example. And the truth is, many rabbis agree with her. According to Rabbi Mark Dratch, the chief executive officer of JSAFE (The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment), "Rabbinic authorities do not have the expertise or ability to handle these things. Making reports [to the legal authorities] is the only way to go."
Mr. Hikind insists that his plan does not look to circumvent law enforcement, but to collaborate with it. The question, though, is if the ultra-Orthodox constituency that Mr. Hikind is working with will be a real partner in this endeavor. In the past, they have unfortunately been resistant, worrying more about the consequences of disparaging renowned Torah scholars than about protecting a child's life. Some rabbis in the community have even impeded the efforts of other rabbis who are willing to speak out and take action. Orthodox rabbi and psychologist Benzion Twerski resigned from Mr. Hikind's task force for fear of tarnishing his reputation and his family's reputation within the community. In Williamsburg, Rabbi Nuchum Rosenberg received threats for speaking out against abuse in his community.
So is Mr. Hikind's plan "doomed"? It depends. If the community is willing to take more cases to the police rather than watching alleged perpetrators float from one community to another, where they will no doubt prey again, then great. But if they are not, if they succumb to the same social pressures that have paralyzed them for decades, then every day that goes by another community of children is at risk.
No matter what happens, though, Mr. Hikind promises not to reveal any victims' names. "I will not, God forbid, destroy a person's life all over again," he says. That's good. But let's hope another child's life is not destroyed either.
Ms. Schwartz writes a monthly column for the Jewish Week.
Church reinstates 4, including Holocaust denier
Reply #1 on:
January 25, 2009, 09:00:53 AM »
Pope Reinstates Four Excommunicated Bishops
Published: January 24, 2009
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI, reaching out to the far-right of the Roman Catholic Church, revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops on Saturday, including one whose comments denying the Holocaust have provoked outrage.
The decision provided fresh fuel for critics who charge that Benedict’s four-year-old papacy has increasingly moved in line with traditionalists who are hostile to the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that sought to create a more modern and open church.
A theologian who has grappled with the church’s diminished status in a secular world, Benedict has sought to foster a more ardent, if smaller, church over one with looser faith.
But while the revocation may heal one internal rift, it may also open a broader wound, alienating the church’s more liberal adherents and jeoparding 50 years of Vatican efforts to ease tensions with Jewish groups.
Among the men reinstated Saturday was Richard Williamson, a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe that six million Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers. He has also given interviews saying that the United States government staged the Sept. 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan.
The four reinstated men are members of the Society of St. Pius X, which was founded by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in 1970 as a protest against the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, also called Vatican II. Archbishop Lefebvre made the men bishops in unsanctioned consecrations in Switzerland in 1988, prompting the immediate excommunication of all five by Pope John Paul II.
Later that year, Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, sought to regularize the church’s relationship with the society. And as pope, he has made reinstating the Lefebvrists an important personal cause.
Indeed, even though the Society has given no public signs that it would reverse its rejection of Vatican II, one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Saturday because talks were continuing, said that the Vatican was willing to discuss making the group a personal prelature. Pope John Paul II did the same with another conservative group, Opus Dei.
In a public statement Saturday, the Vatican said that the pope would reconsider whether to formally affirm the four men as full bishops, but it referred to the men by that title. It said talks would seek to resolve the “open questions” in the church’s relationship with the society.
In recent years, Benedict has made other concessions to the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre, who died in 1991. The overtures including allowing the broader recitation of the Latin Mass, which was made optional in the 1960s and includes a Good Friday prayer calling for the conversion of Jews.
Chester Gillis, who holds the Amaturo chair in Catholic studies at Georgetown University, said that both Benedict and John Paul II before him had tried for years to bring these traditionalists back into the church, partly out of concern that their movement might grow and create an entrenched parallel church.
“I don’t think the Vatican doesn’t care about Jewish-Christian relations, but at least it appears that internal church matters trump external relations,” he said. “They’re thinking, let’s heal our own house, whatever the consequences are externally.”
The recent comments by Bishop Williamson, who led a seminary in Ridgefield, Conn., in the 1980s and later moved to a seminary in Argentina, inevitably overshadowed the debate about traditional and liberal strains in the Roman Catholic Church.
In a November interview broadcast on Swedish television last week and widely available on the Internet, the bishop said that he believed that “the historical evidence” was strongly against the conclusion that millions of Jews had been “deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Saturday that Bishop Williamson’s comments had nothing to do with the pope’s decision to welcome the schismatic bishops back into the fold. He added, “These are declarations that we don’t share in any way.”
Father Lombardi called the revocation of the excommunications a fundamental step toward the unity of the church, after two decades of rift. “We have to consider it very positive news,” he said. He said that Benedict had “greatly suffered” at the group’s excommunication and had long been “a protagonist in relations with Lefebvre.”
Jewish groups criticized the decision to reinstate the men on Saturday, and the decision is sure to complicate talks between the Vatican and Israeli officials about a proposed papal trip to the Holy Land this year.
In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League said that lifting Bishop Williamson’s excommunication “undermines the strong relationship between Catholics and Jews that flourished under Pope John Paul II and which Pope Benedict XVI said he would continue when he came into his papacy.”
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Abraham Foxman, the A.D.L.’s national director, added that the decree “sends a terrible message to Catholics around the world that there is room in the church for those who would undermine the church’s teachings and who would foster disdain and contempt for other religions, particularly Judaism. Given the centuries-long history of anti-Semitism in the church, this is a most troubling setback.”
In a statement released Friday, Rabbi David Rosen, the director of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, said, “We urgently call on the Vatican to reiterate its unqualified repudiation and condemnation of all and any Holocaust denial.”
In revoking the excommunications, the Vatican said it was responding to a letter sent in December by the director of the Society of Pius X, in which the bishops said they were “firmly determined to remain Catholic and to put all our efforts to the service of the church.”
The letter appeared to stop short of saying that the society would embrace, or even accept, the reforms of Vatican II.
“This is certainly a major concession to the traditionalists, part of a long effort by Rome to heal the only formal schism after Vatican II,” said John L. Allen Jr., a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. “Politically, this certainly emboldens the conservative reading of the council and emphasizes what Benedict XVI has repeatedly called the ‘continuity’ of Vatican II with earlier periods of church history.”
In a letter sent to followers on Saturday, Bishop Bernard Fellay, the director of the Society of St. Pius X and one of the four reinstated, said: “Thanks to this gesture, Catholics attached to tradition throughout the world will no longer be unjustly stigmatized and condemned for having kept the faith of their fathers.”
He added that the society welcomed an opportunity to talk with the Vatican “to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the church.”
George Weigel, a biographer of John Paul II, said he was troubled by Bishop Fellay’s implication in his letter that the schismatic group represented the tradition, while “the rest of us are, somehow, the true schismatics.”
He added: “It is not easy to see how the unity of the Church will be enhanced unless the Lefebvrists accept Vatican II’s teaching on the nature of the Church, on religious freedom, and on the evil of anti-Semitism, explicitly and without qualification; otherwise, you get cafeteria Catholicism on the far right, as we already have on the left.”
Israeli Rabbinate severs ties with the Vatican
Reply #2 on:
January 30, 2009, 11:26:40 AM »
Israel's Chief Rabbinate Severs Ties with Vatican - Ian Deitch (AP/Washington Post)
Israel's chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on Wednesday to protest a papal decision to reinstate Bishop Richard Williamson who publicly denied six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.
The Jewish state's highest religious authority sent a letter to the Holy See saying: "It will be very difficult for the chief rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before."
POTH: Sharp decline in number of Protestants
Reply #3 on:
October 10, 2012, 10:10:52 AM »
For the first time since researchers began tracking the religious identity of Americans, fewer than half said they were Protestants, a steep decline from 40 years ago when Protestant churches claimed the loyalty of more than two-thirds of the population.
A new study released on Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that it was not just liberal mainline Protestants, like Methodists or Episcopalians, who abandoned their faith, but also more conservative evangelical and “born again” Protestants. The losses were among white Protestants, but not among black or minority Protestants, the study found, based on surveys conducted during the summer.
When they leave, instead of switching churches, they join the growing ranks who do not identify with any religion. Nearly one in five Americans say they are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.”
This is a significant jump from only five years ago, when adults who claimed “no religion” made up about 15 percent of the population. It is a seismic shift from 40 years ago, when about 7 percent of American adults said they had no religious affiliation.
Now, more than one-third of those ages 18 to 22 are religiously unaffiliated. These “younger millennials” are replacing older generations who remained far more involved with religion throughout their lives.
“We really haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Gregory A. Smith, a senior researcher with the Pew Forum. “Even when the baby boomers came of age in the early ’70s, they were half as likely to be unaffiliated as compared with young people today.”
The “Nones,” as they are called, now make up the nation’s second-largest religious grouping. The largest single faith group is Catholics, who make up about 22 percent of the population. Their numbers have held steady, mostly because an influx of immigrants has replaced the many Catholics who were raised in the church and left in the last five years, Mr. Smith said.
The rise in people who claim no religion is likely to have political consequences, said Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Southern California.
“The significant majority of the religiously unaffiliated tend to be left-leaning, tend to support the Democratic Party, support gay marriage and environmental causes,” he said.
The Pew report offers several theories to explain the rise of the religiously unaffiliated. One theory is that the young adults grew disillusioned with organized religion when evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches became so active in conservative political causes, like opposition to homosexuality and abortion.
Another theory is that the shift merely reflects a broader trend away from social and community involvement, the phenomenon dubbed “bowling alone” by Robert D. Putnam, a public policy professor at Harvard University.
Another explanation is that the United States is simply following the trend toward secularization already seen in many economically developed countries, like Australia and Canada and some in Europe.
The United States has always been the great exception to this secularizing trend, and it is not clear that Americans are necessarily moving toward the European model.
The Pew report found that even among Americans who claimed no religion, few qualified as purely secular. Two-thirds say they still believe in God, and one-fifth say they pray every day. Only 12 percent of the religiously unaffiliated group said they were atheists and 17 percent agnostic.
The Rev. Eileen W. Lindner, who has chronicled religious statistics for years as the editor of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, has observed this complexity.
She said, “There will be lots of people who read this study and go: ‘Oh no, this is terrible! What’s it doing to our culture?’ I would, as a social scientist and a pastor, urge caution.
“A lot of the younger people are very spotty in their attendance at worship, but if we have a mission project, they’re here,” said Ms. Lindner, the pastor of a Presbyterian church in New Jersey. “They run the soup kitchens, they build the houses in Habitat for Humanity.”
They may not come on Sundays, she said, but they have not abandoned their faith.
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