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 More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Thu May 10, 2012 10:22 am

One thing i wanted to pull out from this article is this statement:

“There is no nice way of saying it,” Mrs. Engelman said. “Our community protects molesters. Other than that, we are wonderful.”


The story that there is only this one thing wrong - this isolated one area -- other than that, "we are wonderful." Really? Is that even possible? Human nature does not work that way. This is a clear example of institutional blindness. Lots of ignoring going on -- lots of ignorance. It's the "one bad apple" syndrome. Just get rid of the one bad guy or the handful of bad guys and all will be well.

Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse
By SHARON OTTERMAN and RAY RIVERA


The first shock came when Mordechai Jungreis learned that his mentally disabled teenage son was being molested in a Jewish ritual bathhouse in Brooklyn. The second came after Mr. Jungreis complained, and the man accused of the abuse was arrested.

Old friends started walking stonily past him and his family on the streets of Williamsburg. Their landlord kicked them out of their apartment. Anonymous messages filled their answering machine, cursing Mr. Jungreis for turning in a fellow Jew. And, he said, the mother of a child in a wheelchair confronted Mr. Jungreis’s mother-in-law, saying the same man had molested her son, and she “did not report this crime, so why did your son-in-law have to?”

By cooperating with the police, and speaking out about his son’s abuse, Mr. Jungreis, 38, found himself at the painful forefront of an issue roiling his insular Hasidic community. There have been glimmers of change as a small number of ultra-Orthodox Jews, taking on longstanding religious and cultural norms, have begun to report child sexual abuse accusations against members of their own communities. But those who come forward often encounter intense intimidation from their neighbors and from rabbinical authorities, aimed at pressuring them to drop their cases.

Abuse victims and their families have been expelled from religious schools and synagogues, shunned by fellow ultra-Orthodox Jews and targeted for harassment intended to destroy their businesses. Some victims’ families have been offered money, ostensibly to help pay for therapy for the victims, but also to stop pursuing charges, victims and victims’ advocates said.

“Try living for one day with all the pain I am living with,” Mr. Jungreis, spent and distraught, said recently outside his new apartment on Williamsburg’s outskirts. “Did anybody in the Hasidic community in these two years, in Borough Park, in Flatbush, ever come up and look my son in the eye and tell him a good word? Did anybody take the courage to show him mercy in the street?”

A few blocks away, Pearl Engelman, a 64-year-old great-grandmother, said her community had failed her too. In 2008, her son, Joel, told rabbinical authorities that he had been repeatedly groped as a child by a school official at the United Talmudical Academy in Williamsburg. The school briefly removed the official but denied the accusation. And when Joel turned 23, too old to file charges under the state’s statute of limitations, they returned the man to teaching.

“There is no nice way of saying it,” Mrs. Engelman said. “Our community protects molesters. Other than that, we are wonderful.”

Keeping to Themselves

The New York City area is home to an estimated 250,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews — the largest such community outside of Israel, and one that is growing rapidly because of its high birthrate. The community is concentrated in Brooklyn, where many of the ultra-Orthodox are Hasidim, followers of a fervent spiritual movement that began in 18th-century Europe and applies Jewish law to every aspect of life.

Their communities, headed by dynastic leaders called rebbes, strive to preserve their centuries-old customs by resisting the contaminating influences of the outside world. While some ultra-Orthodox rabbis now argue that a child molester should be reported to the police, others strictly adhere to an ancient prohibition against mesirah, the turning in of a Jew to non-Jewish authorities, and consider publicly airing allegations against fellow Jews to be chillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name.

There are more mundane factors, too. Some ultra-Orthodox Jews want to keep abuse allegations quiet to protect the reputation of the community, and the family of the accused. And rabbinical authorities, eager to maintain control, worry that inviting outside scrutiny could erode their power, said Samuel Heilman, a professor of Jewish studies at Queens College.

“They are more afraid of the outside world than the deviants within their own community,” Dr. Heilman said. “The deviants threaten individuals here or there, but the outside world threatens everyone and the entire structure of their world.”

Scholars believe that abuse rates in the ultra-Orthodox world are roughly the same as those in the general population, but for generations, most ultra-Orthodox abuse victims kept silent, fearful of being stigmatized in a culture where the genders are strictly separated and discussion of sex is taboo. When a victim did come forward, it was generally to rabbis and rabbinical courts, which would sometimes investigate the allegations, pledge to monitor the accused, or order payment to a victim, but not refer the matter to the police.

“You can destroy a person’s life with a false report,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, a powerful ultra-Orthodox organization, which last year said that observant Jews should not report allegations to the police unless permitted to do so by a rabbi.

Rabbinic authorities “recommend you speak it over with a rabbi before coming to any definitive conclusion in your own mind,” Rabbi Zweibel said.

When ultra-Orthodox Jews do bring abuse accusations to the police, the same cultural forces that have long kept victims silent often become an obstacle to prosecutions.

In Brooklyn, of the 51 molesting cases involving the ultra-Orthodox community that the district attorney’s office says it has closed since 2009, nine were dismissed because the victims backed out. Others ended with plea deals because the victims’ families were fearful.

“People aren’t recanting, but they don’t want to go forward,” said Rhonnie Jaus, a sex crimes prosecutor in Brooklyn. “We’ve heard some of our victims have been thrown out of schools, that the person is shunned from the synagogue. There’s a lot of pressure.”

The degree of intimidation can vary by neighborhood, by sect and by the prominence of the person accused.

In August 2009, the rows in a courtroom at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn were packed with rabbis, religious school principals and community leaders. Almost all were there in solidarity with Yona Weinberg, a bar mitzvah tutor and licensed social worker from Flatbush who had been convicted of molesting two boys under age 14.

Justice Guston L. Reichbach looked out with disapproval. He recalled testimony about how the boys had been kicked out of their schools or summer camps after bringing their cases, suggesting a “communal attitude that seeks to blame, indeed punish, victims.” And he noted that, of the 90 letters he had received praising Mr. Weinberg, not one displayed “any concern or any sympathy or even any acknowledgment for these young victims, which, frankly, I find shameful.”

“While the crimes the defendant stands convicted of are bad enough,” the judge said before sentencing Mr. Weinberg to 13 months in prison, “what is even more troubling to the court is a communal attitude that seems to impose greater opprobrium on the victims than the perpetrator.”

Silenced by Fear

Intimidation is rarely documented, but just two weeks ago, a Hasidic woman from Kiryas Joel, N.Y., in Orange County, filed a startling statement in a criminal court, detailing the pressure she faced after telling the police that a Hasidic man had molested her son.

“I feel 100 percent threatened and very scared,” she said in her statement. “I feel intimidated and worried about what the consequences are going to be. But I have to protect my son and do what is right.”

Last year, her son, then 14, told the police that he had been offered $20 by a stranger to help move some boxes, but instead, the man brought him to a motel in Woodbury, removed the boy’s pants and masturbated him.

The police, aided by the motel’s security camera, identified the man as Joseph Gelbman, then 52, of Kiamesha Lake, a cook who worked at a boys’ school run by the Vizhnitz Hasidic sect. He was arrested, and the intimidation ensued. Rabbi Israel Hager, a powerful Vizhnitz rabbi in Monsey, N.Y., began calling the mother, asking her to cease her cooperation with the criminal case and, instead, to bring the matter to a rabbinical court under his jurisdiction, according to the mother’s statement to the court. Rabbi Hager did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

“I said: ‘Why? He might do this again to other children,’ ” the mother said in the statement. The mother, who asked that The New York Times not use her name to avoid identifying her son, told the police that the rabbi asked, “What will you gain from this if he goes to jail?” and said that, in a later call, he offered her $20,000 to pay for therapy for her son if the charges were dropped.

On April 24, three days before the case was set for trial, the boy was expelled from his school. When the mother protested, she said, the principal threatened to report her for child abuse.

Prosecutors, against the wishes of the boy’s parents, settled the case on April 27. Mr. Gelbman was given three years’ probation after pleading guilty to endangering the welfare of a child.

Mr. Jungreis, the Williamsburg father, had a similar experience. He first suspected that his son was being molested after he came home with blood in his underwear at age 12, and later was caught touching another child on the bus. But, Mr. Jungreis said, the school principal warned him to stay silent. Two years later, the boy revealed that he had been molested for years by a man he saw at a mikvah, a ritual bath that observant Jews visit for purification.

Mr. Jungreis, knowing the prohibition on calling secular authorities, asked several rabbis to help him report the abuse, but, he said, they told him they did not want to get involved. Ultimately, he found a rabbi who told him to take his son to a psychologist, who would be obligated to notify law enforcement. “That way you are not the moser,” he said the rabbi told him, using the Hebrew word for informer. The police arrested Meir Dascalowitz, then 27, who is now awaiting trial.

Prosecution of intimidation is rare. Victims and their supporters say that is because rabbinical authorities are politically powerful; prosecutors say it is because there is rarely enough evidence to build a criminal case. “The intimidation often works, at least in the short run,” said Laura Pierro, the head of the special victims unit at the Ocean County prosecutor’s office in New Jersey.

In 2010, Ms. Pierro’s agency indicted Shaul Luban for witness tampering: he had sent a threatening text message to multiple recipients, urging the Orthodox Jewish community of Lakewood, N.J., to pressure the family of an 11-year-old abuse victim not to cooperate with prosecutors. In exchange for having his record cleared, Mr. Luban agreed to spend about a year in a program for first-time offenders.

Mr. Luban and others “wanted the phone to ring off the hook to withdraw the complaint from our office,” the Ocean County prosecutor, Marlene Lynch Ford, said.

Threats to Advocates

The small cadre of ultra-Orthodox Jews who have tried to call attention to the community’s lack of support for sexual abuse victims have often been targeted with the same forms of intimidation as the victims themselves.

Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg of Williamsburg, for example, has been shunned by communal authorities because he maintains a telephone number that features his impassioned lectures in Yiddish, Hebrew and English imploring victims to call 911 and accusing rabbis of silencing cases. He also shows up at court hearings and provides victims’ families with advice. His call-in line gets nearly 3,000 listeners a day.

In 2008, fliers were posted around Williamsburg denouncing him. One depicted a coiled snake, with Mr. Rosenberg’s face superimposed on its head. “Nuchem Snake Rosenberg: Leave Tainted One!” it said in Hebrew. The local Satmar Hasidic authorities banned him from their synagogues, and a wider group of 32 prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis and religious judges signed an order, published in a community newspaper, formally ostracizing him.

“The public must beware, and stay away from him, and push him out of our camp, not speak to him, and even more, not to honor him or support him, and not allow him to set foot in any synagogue until he returns from his evil ways,” the order said in Hebrew.

“They had small children coming to my house and spitting on me and on my children and wife,” Rabbi Rosenberg, 61, said in an interview.

Rabbi Tzvi Gluck, 31, of Queens, the son of a prominent rabbi and an informal liaison to secular law enforcement, began helping victims after he met troubled teenagers at Our Place, a help center in Brooklyn, and realized that sexual abuse was often the root of their problems. It was when he began helping the teenagers report cases to the police that he also received threats.

In February, for example, he received a call asking him to urge an abuse victim to abandon a case. “A guy called me up and said: ‘Listen, I want you to know that people on the street are talking about what they can do to hurt you financially. And maybe speak to your children’s schools, to get your kids thrown out of school.’ ”

Rabbi Gluck said he had helped at least a dozen ultra-Orthodox abuse victims bring cases to the Brooklyn district attorney in recent years, and each time, he said, the victim came under heavy pressure to back down. In a case late last year that did not get to the police, a 30-year-old molested a 14-year-old boy in a Jewish ritual bath in Brooklyn, and a rabbi “made the boy apologize to the molester for seducing him,” he said.

“If a guy in our community gets diagnosed with cancer, the whole community will come running to help them,” he said. “But if someone comes out and says they were a victim of abuse, as a whole, the community looks at them and says, ‘Go jump in a lake.’ ”

Traces of Change

Awareness of child sexual abuse is increasing in the ultra-Orthodox community. Since 2008, hundreds of adult abuse survivors have told their stories, mostly anonymously, on blogs and radio call-in shows, and to victims’ advocates. Rabbi-vetted books like “Let’s Stay Safe,” aimed at teaching children what to do if they are inappropriately touched, are selling well.

The response by communal authorities, however, has been uneven.

In March, for example, Satmar Hasidic authorities in Williamsburg took what advocates said was an unprecedented step: They posted a Yiddish sign in synagogues warning adults and children to stay away from a community member who they said was molesting young men. But the sign did not urge victims to call the police: “With great pain we must, according to the request of the brilliant rabbis (may they live long and good lives), inform you that the young man,” who was named, “is, unfortunately, an injurious person and he is a great danger to our community.”

In Crown Heights, where the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement has its headquarters, there has been more significant change. In July 2011, a religious court declared that the traditional prohibition against mesirah did not apply in cases with evidence of abuse. “One is forbidden to remain silent in such situations,” said the ruling, signed by two of the court’s three judges.

Since then, five molesting cases have been brought from the neighborhood — “as many sexual abuse-related arrests and reports as there had been in the past 20 years,” said Eliyahu Federman, a lawyer who helps victims in Crown Heights, citing public information.

Mordechai Feinstein, 19, helped prompt the ruling by telling the Crown Heights religious court that he had been touched inappropriately at age 15 by Rabbi Moshe F. Keller, a Lubavitcher who ran a foundation for at-risk youth and whom Mr. Feinstein had considered his spiritual mentor.

Last week, Rabbi Keller was sentenced in Criminal Court to three years’ probation for endangering the welfare of a child. And Mr. Feinstein, who is no longer religious, is starting a campaign to encourage more abuse victims to come forward. He is working with two prominent civil rights attorneys, Norman Siegel and Herbert Teitelbaum, who are asking lawyers to provide free assistance to abuse victims frustrated by their dealings with prosecutors.

“The community is a garden; there are a lot of beautiful things about it,” Mr. Feinstein said. “We just have to help them weed out the garden and take out the things that don’t belong there.”

Friday: The Brooklyn district attorney is criticized for his handling of ultra-Orthodox Jewish child sex-abuse cases.
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breljo

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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Fri May 11, 2012 12:28 am

This article from the N.Y.Times calls to mind a certain herd mentality. People like to maintain the status quo, don't like to have their traditions undermined by dissenters. People in any institution, whether governmental, financial, religious or others, have vested interests in them that need to be protected. A lone individual trying to challenge those often powerful and communal interests, whether valid or not, when running counter to the interests of the majority who have their own particular interests that a continued flawless appearance of their particular institution be maintained, need to be prepared that the majority has little sympathy or interest to lend any support to those efforts.
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Fri May 11, 2012 2:06 pm

breljo wrote:
People in any institution, whether governmental, financial, religious or others, have vested interests in them that need to be protected. A lone individual trying to challenge those often powerful and communal interests, whether valid or not, when running counter to the interests of the majority who have their own particular interests that a continued flawless appearance of their particular institution be maintained, need to be prepared that the majority has little sympathy or interest to lend any support to those efforts.

Back for a brief visit and couldn't help not commenting here. In a religious community it is not only that there are powerful communal interests, but there is powerful individual identity. And in the religious realm, the more constricted and authoritarian the community and institution is, the more fear there is by individuals of confronting the institution and being cast out.

My own experience as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse as an adolescent bears this out. Mostly, even friends and family of the survivor don't want to hear about the abuse and the implications for it. In my fifties when I began to speak openly about my experience as a process of healing, there was great impetus to change the subject. What was most disappointing was the reaction of my parents, who were then in their 70s. I told them separately because it was important for my healing to tell them. My mother had a stunned look on her face, composed herself, then said, "Was it serious?" Then quickly changed the subject. Never spoke of it again. This from a woman who has railed all her life about her concern for abused children. From my father, he was in greater conflict, but it didn't affect his absolute loyalty to the church as an institution and he tried to make excuses for the monsignor, a good friend and mentor, who was responsible for the cover-up.

For such persons as my parents, advanced in age, and for any member of an authoritarian organization, that is fear based, they believe their religious authorities control the gate of heaven, are the gateway to God or the greater Mystery of life and that they will be excluded and cutoff. And that is always the threat and means of control. So it is not surprising that the silence and denial happen, even to the point of not protecting your own children. That is the price that we pay for refusing to grow up spiritually, refusing to bring forth the Light we've been given in our own life and stand on our own two feet. We betray even our children and whatever sense of integrity we might have had.
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sat May 12, 2012 1:42 pm

Oh Bill

This is so sad,and true for many survivors.

The pain of abuse is followed by the pain of living in a world of denial.

One of my favourite and most harrowing passages in literature is in "The Drowned and the Saved " by Primo Levi.

Levi describes a recurring dream in which he returns home to Turin after the exodus from Auschwitz.He sees his beloved family,and is overjoyed.He starts to tell them of the horror he has been through in the concentration camp,and they turn away from him.This theme recurs in his writing.I sense he carried this burden,of knowledge,and the persistence of the denial he encountered,throughout his life.He wrote with integrity,and his story enriches the world.

I know you have found a place to tell your story,and to do so courageously.

It is a great gift.

Thank you
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sat May 12, 2012 4:23 pm

Ikuko wrote:
Oh Bill

Levi describes a recurring dream in which he returns home to Turin after the exodus from Auschwitz.He sees his beloved family,and is overjoyed.He starts to tell them of the horror he has been through in the concentration camp,and they turn away from him.This theme recurs in his writing.I sense he carried this burden,of knowledge,and the persistence of the denial he encountered,throughout his life.He wrote with integrity,and his story enriches the world.



Thank you

Thank you also, for validating my story. At the time when you may need them most, your friends, your family may turn away from you. For myself it is an example of persons being overcome by fear of the void, fear of a negative emptiness, that if our mentally constructed images and loyalties crumble before us, what will support us, where is our true refuge.

Strangely I had a similar reaction from friends and family when my young son died a painful and unexpected death from Acute Myelocytic Leukemia. I was just 31 years old. When I wanted to share what I was experiencing in this, both the profundity of pain and of reaching for a way to be with it, and the unexpected joy of being both in pain and in transcendence, no one wanted to hear about it. They wanted to change the subject. The thought of a young child suffering and dying, and of young distraught parents going losing their beloved son, forced to witness helplessly the destruction of his physical being before their eyes, was a reality they did not want to hear about, or think about. Their sense of safety, their sense of trust in external supports in danger of eroding.

When my father returned from WWII he had a similar reaction when trying to speak about the horrors he had experienced. His family turned away, didn't want to hear about it.

I have to say despite my previously stated criticisms of Shasta Abbey and its leadership, at a very young age I learned a framework and a practice for meeting some of the most grievous injuries and losses that life can bring and turning them into strength and blessing. (And admittedly I was not a monk and not a resident of SA.) Can anyone ask for more? Throughout my life the words of Dogen "No permanent succor in any external refuge" (paraphrase) have stayed with me, including especially religious authority figures. A koan question internally has always been, "where is my refuge?"

Thank you for your kind and understanding comments.
Bill
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sat May 12, 2012 9:35 pm

Bill I think that this illustrates the common teaching of three stages of spiritual life. The spiritual child , the spiritual adolescent and the spiritual adult, or as some christians would put it the slave, the servant and the son of the house. The child only wants to be loved and not to face the world and wants to be protected and shielded from the harshness of the world. The adolescent rebels saying they know the truth and that they can, and are standing on their own feet, petulantly demanding their freedom, when in truth they are still dependent. Adults stand on their own feet and meet the world head on, knowing that freedom is not always comfortable and that there is no protection. But understanding both their freedom and their interdependence on others, and accepting reality even when it is harsh and unforgiving.
Sadly we all bounce around the stages just as we did as we grew up. Hopefully progressively gaining maturity but often getting stuck, waylaid, or regressing along the way. It is sadly common to find spiritual children hiding behind the skirts of mother church, unwilling to face the truth and unable to understand the natural faults and frailty of 'mother' church. And all too often 'mother' church encourages this behaviour. Presumably because many in the hierarchy are stuck or waylaid too. (sorry a bit of a ramble! Just had to get it off my chest.)
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sat May 12, 2012 10:02 pm

Mark,
Thankyou, this is a helpful articulation of the process of spiritual development. It would be of great benefit if the religious traditions could articulate such a map of this process. Help prepare a young person for meeting this process and all the ways we are injured in life with a meditative spiritual practice. A practice that empowers us to take responsibility for doing the inner work and growth that takes us forward, and helps us see pain and loss as possessing the opportunity for maturation and greater peace with greater capacity to bring forth compassion and wisdom in the world.

Bill
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sun May 20, 2012 12:08 pm

from today's NYTimes. Good column.

May 19, 2012
Here Comes Nobody
By MAUREEN DOWD


I ALWAYS liked that the name of my religion was also an adjective meaning all-embracing. I was a Catholic and I wanted to be catholic, someone engaged in a wide variety of things. As James Joyce wrote in “Finnegans Wake:” “Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody.’ ”

So it makes me sad to see the Catholic Church grow so uncatholic, intent on loyalty testing, mind control and heresy hunting. Rather than all-embracing, the church hierarchy has become all-constricting.

It was tough to top the bizarre inquisition of self-sacrificing American nuns pushed by the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law. Law, the former head of the Boston archdiocese, fled to a plush refuge in Rome in 2002 after it came out that he protected priests who molested thousands of children.

But the craziness continued when an American priest, renowned for his TV commentary from Rome on popes and personal morality, admitted last week that he had fathered a child with a mistress.

The Rev. Thomas Williams belongs to the Legionaires of Christ, the order founded by the notorious Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, a pal of Pope John Paul II who died peppered with accusations that he sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children and abused some of them.

The latest kooky kerfuffle was sparked by the invitation to Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, to speak at a graduation ceremony at Georgetown University on Friday. The silver-haired former Kansas governor is a practicing Catholic with a husband and son who graduated from Georgetown. But because she fought to get a federal mandate for health insurance coverage of contraceptives and morning-after pills, including at Catholic schools and hospitals, Sebelius is on the hit list of a conservative Catholic group in Virginia, the Cardinal Newman Society, which militates to bar speakers at Catholic schools who support gay rights or abortion rights.

The Society for Truth and Justice, a fringe Christian anti-abortion group, compared Sebelius to Himmler, and protesters showed up on campus to yell at her for being, as one screamed, “a murderer.”

“Remember, Georgetown has no neo-Nazi clubs or skinhead clubs on campus, nor should they,” Bill Donohue, the Catholic League president, said on Fox News. “But they have two — two! — pro-abortion clubs at Georgetown University. Now they’re bringing in Kathleen Sebelius. They wouldn’t bring in an anti-Semite, nor should they. They wouldn’t bring in a racist, nor should they. But they’re bringing in a pro-abortion champion, and they shouldn’t.”

Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl called the invitation “shocking” and upbraided the Georgetown president, John DeGioia. But DeGioia, who so elegantly defended the Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke against Rush Limbaugh’s nasty epithets, stood fast against dogmatic censorship.

Speaking to the graduates, Sebelius evoked J.F.K.’s speech asserting that religious bodies should not seek to impose their will through politics. She said that contentious debate is a strength of this country, adding that in some other places, “a leader delivers an edict and it goes into effect. There’s no debate, no criticism, no second-guessing.”

Just like the Vatican.

Twenty-eight years ago, weighing a run for president, Mario Cuomo gave a speech at Notre Dame in which he deftly tried to explain how officials could remain good Catholics while going against church dictums in shaping public policy.

“The American people need no course in philosophy or political science or church history to know that God should not be made into a celestial party chairman,” he said.

I called Cuomo to see if, as his son Andrew weighs running for president, he felt the church had grown less tolerant.

“If the church were my religion, I would have given it up a long time ago,” he said. “All the mad and crazy popes we’ve had through history, decapitating the husbands of women they’d taken. All the terrible things the church has done. Christ is my religion, the church is not.

“If they make the mistake of saying that a politician has to put the church before the Constitution on abortion or other issues, there will be no senators or presidents or any other Catholics in government. The church would be wiser to take the path laid out for us by Kennedy than the path laid out for us by Santorum.”

Absolute intolerance is always a sign of uncertainty and panic. Why do you have to hunt down everyone unless you’re weak? The church doesn’t seem to care if its members’ beliefs are based on faith or fear, conviction or coercion. But what is the quality of a belief that exists simply because it’s enforced?

“To be narrowing the discussion and instilling fear in people seems to be exactly the opposite of what’s called for these days,” says the noted religion writer Kenneth Briggs. “All this foot-stomping just diminishes the church’s credibility even more.”

This is America. We don’t hunt heresies here. We welcome them.
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sun May 20, 2012 2:35 pm

Since the papacy of John Paul II the Roman Catholic Church has been taken over by a hierarchy intent on reversing the reforms and liberalization of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s and John XXIII. In the 1980s when the Vatican was under investigation and Bishop Marcinkus of the Vatican Bank was under arrest warrant by the Italian state for the role of the Vatican in the looting of $4 Billion and failure of the Banco Ambrosiano, Pope John Paul II paid off the Italian govt. $186 million provided by the secret organization Opus Dei. Not long after, the ultra conservative organization Opus Dei was given the unparalleled status and power of an independent prelature in the Church, with its own bishops and cardinals, its own seminaries, and a secret financial system. Its founder Jose Escriva Belaguer was placed on the fast track to canonization while the liberal Pope John XXIII has been quietly demonized, often called a heretic by conservatives. Escriva Belaguer, a Spanish right wing extremist, confidante and collaborator with the dictator Franco, is now a saint of the Catholic Church, while the cause of John XXIII and the standing of Vatican II are more diminished every day. The Vatican II hierarchy have all been replaced with the red-meat conservative allies of the former Cardinal Ratzinger( now Pope Benedict) the enforcer of the Congregation of Faith and Doctrine, formerly inquisition. Advocates of progressive and mystical Christianity like Mathew Fox are silenced or banished from the Church. Next in line are the American Catholic nuns who are now under investigation with purges fully expected. Top of the list is Joan Chittister, the social justice contemplative Benedictine nun. Among the latest targets of this pathetic group of hierararchs is the Girl Scouts. Arch conservatives politically and religiously like Bill Donohue help to drive the agenda, and make the links between the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. even more tied to the GOP and its political agenda. Despite this, the majority of lay Catholics tend toward more progressive views on gay rights, women's equality, and even abortion. Despite the Church stand on contraception it is estimated that 99% of Catholic women have used contraception. One wonders how this conscious return to an archaic and repressive structure and authoritarianism of the Counter-Reformation by the hierarchy and papacy dominated by a secret cult of Opus Dei is going to be sustained in a culture of the 21st Century.
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sun May 20, 2012 3:20 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
from today's NYTimes. Good column.


[b]“If the church were my religion, I would have given it up a long time ago,” Christ is my religion, the church is not.


.

As an addendum I would say that Mario Cuomo's quote here is probably representative of the American Catholics I know. (Just as a disclaimer, I am a former and still recovering but not Catholic. But I do have relevant observations and experiences.) All Catholics out of survival, have learned to be "cafeteria" Catholics. That includes the conservative fundamentalist Catholics who reject the social and economic justice teachings of the Church, as well as the teachings of the primacy of individual conscience articulated by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Mario Cuomo's comment demonstrates a long standing tension within the Roman Catholic Church since it was created by the Emperor Constantine, and anointed as a "Divine Institution". This doctrine of the Divine Institution, unique within the Christian movement was further reinforced by the promulgation of Pope Pius IXth that papal teachings on faith and morals are "infallible." The fundamentalist Catholics seem to love this doctrine of papal infallibility, although, once again, they are good at "cherry picking" which pope and which teachings are "infallible."

When religious leaders and their institutional creations and teachings are elevated to the status of Divine, as exclusive intermediaries of the Absolute, there is no accountability, everything is beyond scrutiny, the only option for any follower or adherent is total and absolute submission. This doctrine has been true since the time of Constantine and Augustine. It was relaxed and critiqued in Vatican II and for a time interreligious dialogue flourished both between the RCC and other Christian groups, and between RCC monastics and Buddhists and Hindu monastics. Since 1999 that has been largely shut down and the papal letter "Ad Tuandem Fidem" -'In Defense of the Faith' by John Paul II restated the Augustinian teaching that the RCC was the sole source of salvation on the planet. Since then the MID (Monastic Interfaith Dialogue started by Thomas Merton) has pretty much evaporated, along with the ecumenical discussions between the RCC and other Christian faiths. The present Pope Benedict called Buddhism "spiritual masturbation".

The "Blue Meanies" are in charge for the forseeable future in the RCC unfortunately. Are lay Catholics waiting still for the "yellow submarine" or are they going to go their own way? Mathew Fox says that the Roman Catholic Church and Christianity in general need a new reformation. http://www.matthewfox.org/

I'm of a mind that these old corporate institutional structures are doomed in any religion, and the future of spiritual communities is not hierarchy or bricks and mortar, but local and global networks of mutual support that are egalitarian. Those structures still wedded to the Domination Paradigm of reality are reacting and retrenching but there's no future for them.

I apologize for the voluminous writing but the Dowd article triggered some thoughts.
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sun May 20, 2012 3:57 pm

cmpnwtr wrote:
The present Pope Benedict called Buddhism "spiritual masturbation".

This strikes me as bizarre. What is it supposed to mean?
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sun May 20, 2012 5:46 pm

Isan wrote:
cmpnwtr wrote:
The present Pope Benedict called Buddhism "spiritual masturbation".

This strikes me as bizarre. What is it supposed to mean?

To be more precise the exact words were " a spiritual auto-eroticism of some sort". http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1390460?uid=3739856&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=47699018620727

Yes, you're right, it is bizarre. What I interpret it to mean is that he looks upon Buddhism and its meditation practices as a self-absorbed detachment from the world in order to attain some kind of blissful private experience. But mainly he is someone who denigrates anything that isn't of his brand of fundamentalist Roman Catholicism. I should also mention, however, that his predecessor John Paul II did not do the cause of interfaith understanding any good either, when he called Buddhism " a religion of despair."
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sun May 20, 2012 6:54 pm

Ah! for the old days of Etienne Lamotte when it was possible to be a Catholic priest in favour with the Vatican and Europe's leading scholar and translator of Bhuddism

Now as you say Bill ecumenicism is going down the drain; faster than the Euro!
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Sun May 20, 2012 8:46 pm

One wonders if Ratzinger's days in the Hitler Youth Corps in the formative years didn't have a lasting effect on his judgment and character.
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Wed May 23, 2012 4:20 am

I hope the following by Buddhist Joseph Marshall won't further stir up matters...
http://shotofpolitics.blogspot.co.uk/2005/05/this-is-emergency-post.html

(Here is a link to the article by Rabbi Michael Lerner, to which Joseph Marshall referred...
http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0420-28.htm)

I wonder if this is what the Pope would think of the motivations of someone like the late Hugo-Enomiya-Lasalle, a Jesuit priest who was certified as a Zen teacher and roshi in the late 60s, while yet professing his continued belief in Christianity...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Enomiya-Lassalle

...I seem to recall that some other Catholic renunciates (priests and nuns) continued teaching after he died, but I do not know what became of this.
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Wed May 23, 2012 12:47 pm

Anne wrote:
I hope the following by Buddhist Joseph Marshall won't further stir up matters...

I wonder if this is what the Pope would think of the motivations of someone like the late Hugo-Enomiya-Lasalle, a Jesuit priest who was certified as a Zen teacher and roshi in the late 60s, while yet professing his continued belief in Christianity...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Enomiya-Lassalle

...I seem to recall that some other Catholic renunciates (priests and nuns) continued teaching after he died, but I do not know what became of this.

Anne,
Lasalle was the first teacher of what is now a lengthy tradition of Christian Zennists. To my knowledge most of them trained in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage and were trained by Yamada (heir to Yasutani-author of Three Pillars of Zen) and Robert Aitken. Many of them were Jesuits (who have had a lengthy history in Japan) such as William Johnston (author of Christian Zen and many other books), Thomas Hand (author of A Taste of Water), Robert Kennedy, Reuben Habito (author of Loving God, Living Zen ) (presently laicized), and also Willigis Jager, a German Benedictine Abbot and author of several books on Zen and Christian Contemplation. Yamada's heir, Robert Aitken, continued that tradition of training and certifying Christian teachers who include Pat Hawk ( deceased just this month and a priest in the Redemptorist Order, a teacher of mine along the way) and at least two Catholic nuns. Contrary to Joseph Marshall's defense of Ratzinger, he had a strong antipathy towards Eastern religion, and I have read a document he put out in the Church when he was head enforcer of the Congregation of Doctrine and Faith ordering Catholics not to practice Eastern forms of meditation. He ordered a ban on the books of Anthony DeMello from Catholic institutions who was an advocate of Hindu Christianity. Many of those priests and nuns who practiced and taught Zen had the protection of their religious orders as long as they maintained a low profile. Nevertheless Abbot Willigis Jager was forced out of his Order and out of the Church in old age when he refused the order of being silenced. And Monastic Interfaith Dialogue, which had been started by Thomas Merton is all but dead at this point.

Despite the Vatican's active persecution of these threads of blended practice, Christian, primarily Catholic Zen, continues to flourish. And a Trappist/Cisterican Abbey here in Oregon hosts a Zen community led by a Christian Zennist Leonard Marcel, and was founded by the previous Abbot, Bermard McVeigh, himself a Catholic Zennist, who was also a mentor of mine for a time. www.SevenThunders.org And Catholic retreat centers still carry many of Anthony DeMello's books and books by Catholic Zen teachers and authors.

That said, popes and hierarchy have a long history of persecution of mysticism in any form. They fear anyone who challenges the idea that there is any direct route to the Absolute that bypasses their power ownership of the sacred in the "Divine Institution". In the 13th Century Marguerite Porete was burned at the stake in the town square of Parish for not renouncing her popular mystic work The Mirror of Simple Souls. Those mystics who received the Church blessing usually did after their death and only when they had written in such a way as to legitimize "Mother Church." (i.e. John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila) Michael Molinos wrote a short simple book on the mystic path in the 16th century and despite his being in the inner circle of Rome was forced to recant his writing and even then spent the rest of his shortened life in a dungeon. Jean Guyon, an aristocratic mystic in France, spent a good part of her life in the Bastille for her writings on "inner prayer and interior communion with God. There is huge paradox that the spiritual traditions of the Catholic Church can give birth to a rich tradition of mystic practice while the institutional power and privilege does everything to stamp it out.

There is an oft cited and important document from the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium) that asserts the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in other traditions. But it appears to me that since the election of John Paul II and even more so under Pope Benedict that the Catholic hierarchy has become fanatically fundamentalist in is negation of the truth of other faiths and their practices, and under Benedict the process of interfaith dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation has essentially come to a halt and been reversed.

A mind like that of Thomas Merton reached out to other traditions, particularly Zen Buddhism and Sufism, and sought to integrate what he found lacking in the Post Reformation Catholic Church, and as a validation of Christianity's oft forgotten mystic traditions. His take on the spiritual journey was that it transcended religion and doctrine. He had an awakening that took place on the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, KY.

"Then it was as if I saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depth of their hearts where neither sin nor desire, nor self knowledge can reach, the core of their reality. . Again that expression,, 'le point vierge' (I can't translate it.) It comes in here. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs only to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God written within us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond blazing as with the indivisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could only see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely."

Ratzinger doesn't get this, and rejects it if he can't establish institutional proprietorship over it. Thomas Merton is now in serious disrepute by the Catholic Church hierarchy. Another symptom of an institutional paradigm and structure that is imploding on itself.
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Anne

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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Wed May 23, 2012 1:29 pm

:-) Thank you, Bill, for that great detail on the Christian Zennists.

Quote :
...I have read a document [Joseph Ratzinger] put out in the Church when he was head enforcer of the Congregation of Doctrine and Faith ordering Catholics not to practice Eastern forms of meditation. He ordered a ban on the books of Anthony DeMello from Catholic institutions who was an advocate of Hindu Christianity. Many of those priests and nuns who practiced and taught Zen had the protection of their religious orders as long as they maintained a low profile. Nevertheless Abbot Willigis Jager was forced out of his Order and out of the Church in old age when he refused the order of being silenced. And Monastic Interfaith Dialogue, which had been started by Thomas Merton is all but dead at this point...

There is huge paradox that the spiritual traditions of the Catholic Church can give birth to a rich tradition of mystic practice while the institutional power and privilege does everything to stamp it out.

There is an oft cited and important document from the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium) that asserts the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in other traditions. But it appears to me that since the election of John Paul II and even more so under Pope Benedict that the Catholic hierarchy has become fanatically fundamentalist in is negation of the truth of other faiths and their practices, and under Benedict the process of interfaith dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation has essentially come to a halt and been reversed...
This situation is truly regrettable. Many thanks, Bill, for your knowledgeable input.
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Wed May 23, 2012 7:20 pm

cmpnwtr wrote:
"Then it was as if I saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depth of their hearts where neither sin nor desire, nor self knowledge can reach, the core of their reality. . Again that expression,, 'le point vierge' (I can't translate it.) It comes in here. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs only to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God written within us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond blazing as with the indivisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could only see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely."

Ratzinger doesn't get this, and rejects it if he can't establish institutional proprietorship over it. Thomas Merton is now in serious disrepute by the Catholic Church hierarchy. Another symptom of an institutional paradigm and structure that is imploding on itself.

Ironies abound. The OBC is very small potatoes compared with the deranged hierarchy of the RCC.

The great beauty of "it" is no one will ever establish proprietorship over it. How it must frustrate the pope and his ilk...
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Wed May 23, 2012 7:27 pm

Isan wrote:

Ironies abound. The OBC is very small potatoes compared with the deranged hierarchy of the RCC.

The great beauty of "it" is no one will ever establish proprietorship over it. How it must frustrate the pope and his ilk...

Indeed.. it is good to maintain perspective about one's own limited experience with dysfunctionality.

"Proprietorship" is the essence of their problem, their institutional koan, as it were, since the RCC was created in the image and likeness of the Roman Empire and its emperor, Constantine.
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PostSubject: Re: More on Shunning and Institutional Blindness - article from the NYT   Fri Jun 15, 2012 1:19 pm

[Admin note: This post was moved from the "Institutional Trauma" thread in since it ties in to the originating post in this thread re: abuse in the Hasidic community.]


Nechemya Weberman, Orthodox Counselor To Hasidic Community, On Trial In Sex Abuse Case

By COLLEEN LONG 06/10/12 06:53 PM ET AP


NEW YORK — The abuse went on for nearly three years before the schoolgirl told anyone that her spiritual adviser was molesting her while he was supposed to be mentoring her about her religion, authorities said.

But in Brooklyn's ultra-orthodox Jewish community, 53-year-old Nechemya Weberman has been embraced and defended as wrongly accused. The girl has been called a slut and a troublemaker, her family threatened and spat at on the street.

The rallying around Weberman, who goes on trial this month, and ostracizing of his accuser and her family reflects long-held beliefs in this insular community that problems should be dealt with from within and that elders have far more authority than the young. It also brought to light allegations that the district attorney was too cozy with powerful rabbis, a charge he vehemently denies.

"There are other people that claim misconduct and they can't come out because they're going to be re-victimized and ostracized by the community," said Judy Genut, a friend of the accuser's family who counsels troubled girls.

Brooklyn is home to about 250,000 ultra-orthodox Jews, the largest community outside of Israel. Step onto a Williamsburg street and tall guys in skinny jeans and tattoos are mingling with a flush of men in dark coats and hats carrying prayer books and speaking Yiddish. The Hasidic Jews appear to outsiders as though they come from another time; embracing centuries-old traditions, they wear black clothes, tall hats, long beards and earlocks. Women wear long skirts and cover their heads after they marry.

They have their own ambulances and schools, called yeshivas, their own civilian police and rabbinical courts. Members are encouraged to first speak to a rabbi before going to secular authorities – and as a result, cases rarely make it to outside law enforcement.

The topic has been studied and reported in the Jewish media for years and has recently made headlines in New York papers.

"They think that anyone who turns over anyone to the outside authorities is committing a transgression to the community at large," said Samuel Heilman, a professor of Jewish studies at Queens College.

The girl, now 17, was sent to Weberman at age 12 because she'd been asking theological questions and he had a reputation for helping people back on the spiritual path. He often counseled people, though he had no formal training. But during sessions, authorities say, he forced the girl to perform sex acts.

The girl started dressing immodestly, was deemed a troublemaker and removed from her school – one Weberman was affiliated with – and sent to another, family friends said. The allegations surfaced in 2011 when she told a guidance counselor there she'd been molested.

The Associated Press typically doesn't identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault.

Weberman has pleaded not guilty, and articles in Hasidic newspapers have proclaimed his innocence and begged the community for support. More than 1,000 men showed up for a fundraiser aiming to raise $500,000 for his legal fees and, if he's convicted and jailed, money for his family.

"It's very hard for the town to believe the things that he's being accused of because he has a reputation of doing good and being good," Genut said.

George Farkas, Weberman's lawyer, said his client isn't guilty but is [banned term] regardless because the allegations will taint his reputation.

The family has said they would've preferred to handle the allegations within the community. But when accusations are managed from the inside, victims are rarely believed and abusers aren't punished – in part because the word of an elder is respected over the word of a child, victims and advocates say.

Joel Engelman said he tried to work with yeshiva officials, finally confronting them at age 22 about a rabbi who abused him as a child. Engelman was given a lie detector test and encouraged to keep quiet about the allegations, and the rabbi was temporarily removed – long enough for Engelman to turn 23, making him too old under state law to file a complaint.

"It's that they don't want to believe that the rabbis that they've been raised to respect could be so cruel and could be so criminal," said Engelman, now 26.

His mother, Pearl, herself an activist, said the community is overwhelmingly good and believes people must be educated about the crime to start standing up for the victims.

"I'm not an anarchist, I'm not a rebel," said the 64-year-old mother of seven. "I love this community, and I want to change it for the better and make it safer for children."

Outside law enforcement has also had a difficult time. Before 2009, only a handful of sex abuse cases were reported within the ultra-orthodox community. Then, District Attorney Charles Hynes created a program called Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice) aimed at helping more victims come forward about abuse, an underreported crime everywhere.

Part of the deal, along with a designated hotline and counseling, is that prosecutors don't actively publicize the names of accused abusers. The cases are still tried in open court, where the names are public.

Before Kol Tzedek, Hynes said, he struggled to mount a successful prosecution. "As soon as we would give the name of a defendant ... (rabbis and others) would engage this community in a relentless search for the victims," he said. "And they're very, very good at identifying the victims. And then the victims would be intimidated and threatened, and the case would fall apart."

Since then, 100 of the total 5,389 cases in the borough have come from the ultra-orthodox community, the district attorney's office said. Hynes also started a taskforce to combat intimidation attempts – and has said rabbis have a duty to come forward if they have been told of abuse.

But victims' rights advocates say Hynes has purposefully ignored some cases and hasn't pushed as strongly for full prosecutions of others – bowing to powerful rabbis in exchange for political support, a charge he strongly denies.

"He doesn't take care of victims," said Nuchem Rosenberg, a rabbi who says he was ostracized for speaking out about abuse. "He takes care of those in power, so they can all keep power."

Genut said the accuser is ready to testify. Her family, though, is looking for a higher judgment than criminal court.
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