Friday, September 30, 2005

Sex-abuse victims suffer legal setback

Victims of sexually abusive priests in Pennsylvania lost a battle to let them sue dioceses over old assault cases, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday (Sept. 29). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected their suit (Meehan v. Archdiocese of Philadelphia), which pushed for a suspension of the statute of limitations on the grounds that dioceses concealed the commission of these crimes. Under Pennsylvania law, victims must file suits by the time they reach age 30.

The case, filed on behalf of 18 victims, was a victory for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. A recent grand jury report lambasted the archdiocese for deliberately concealing the sexual abuse of minors by priests. The state Supreme Court ruling protects all dioceses in the state from similar lawsuits, the Inquirer reported.

David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) stated: “This is a setback for public safety, a victory for child molesters, a relief for duplicitious bishops, and yet another heartbreak for those want to warn families about dangerous predators and who have been and are deeply wounded because of abusive clergy and complicit church officials.

“There's just one remedy now: State lawmakers must open a ‘window’ so that the victims of horrific sex crimes and deception can have their day in court, expose their abusers, safeguard children, and get justice,” Clohessy said in a statement posted on SNAP’s Web site Wednesday (Sept. 28).

SNAP statement
Current Faith Issues and Controversies
Complete Blog Index

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Beyond the High Holidays

By Rabbi Baruch Price
Director, The Jewish Learning Experience
Teaneck, N.J.

Editor’s note: Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year 5767) begins at sundown Monday (Oct. 4). Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) will begin at sundown Oct. 12.

According to our tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of the creation of mankind. This indeed is a significant event deserving commemoration and perhaps even a little celebration (although a brief survey of the world around us leaves much doubt whether man’s creation is a cause for celebration). However, even a superficial glance at the way Jews observe Rosh Hashanah will leave an objective onlooker perplexed.

The day is joyous, but bears no resemblance at all to the raucous reveling that characterizes the secular New Year. There is a palpable mood of sobriety, perhaps even anxiety. Why does it have to be so serious? Why don’t we Jews just “chill” and enjoy the party? The secular New Year is the celebration of the recurrence of an arguably arbitrary date. Perhaps people are celebrating the fact that they have survived another year; perhaps they are celebrating the potential of the coming year; perhaps they have absolutely no idea why they are celebrating at all, but why not throw a party anyway?

There seems to be a universal, innate human need to mark time. We need a frame of reference by which we can measure and organize our lives. Rosh Hashanah furnishes this, just as New Year does, but it possesses a dimension that goes way beyond the pragmatism of providing a beginning and end point for our wall calendars.

Rosh Hashanah is not just a measure of passing time, but is the yardstick of our moral and spiritual development.

Read more of this article.

Current Faith Issues and Controversies
Complete Blog Index

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Victims’ Group Weighs in on Sex Abuse Report

SNAP – the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests – has posted a report criticizing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. SNAP and other reform groups are unhappy with the archdiocese’s efforts to deny that its leadership deliberately covered up the sexual abuse of minors by priests. A Philadelphia grand jury report directly accused two previous cardinals of intentionally hiding the criminal behavior of abusive priests.

Read my original post: Cardinals Implicated

Current Faith Issues and Controversies
Complete Blog Index

Friday, September 23, 2005

Cardinal’s Remarks Upset Catholic Reformers

Cardinal Justin Rigali's coat of arms. The Latin motto means "the Word was made flesh," a phrase from the Gospel of St. John.

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

When a grand jury report blasted the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s response to sexually abusive priests, Cardinal Justin Rigali and other church officials deflected some of the criticism.

That reaction has saddened Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), a lay group formed in response to the sex abuse crisis.

A grand jury report accused Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua and John Krol of deliberately covering up sexual abuse committed by priests. Although he apologized for the harm done to the victims, Rigali said the report unfairly criticized his predecessors. An official archdiocesan response also tried to punch holes in the grand jury’s findings.

“It’s time for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and for dioceses across the country to stop ‘shooting the messenger’ and to get their house in order,” VOTF President Jim Post said in a statement posted Sept. 21 on the group’s Web site. “Catholics cannot have accountability in our Church without the commitment of its leaders.”

The group, which formed three years ago in Newton, Mass., is urging all lay Catholics to demand accountability from their leaders.

To read the entire VOTF statement, click below:
  • VOTF

  • To read original story, click below:
  • Cardinals Implicated

  • To return to index, click below:
  • Current Issues and Controversies
  • Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Cardinals Implicated in Sex Abuse Cover-up

    Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has criticized the grand jury report that condemned his predecessors. This portrait of Rigali was taken during his tenure as Archbishop of St. Louis.

    By Lisa Haddock
    NJ Faith Forum Editor

    A Philadelphia grand jury has accused Cardinals John Krol and Anthony Bevilacqua of knowingly covering up sexual abuse committed by 63 priests from 1967 to 2002, the Washington Post reported Thursday (Sept. 22). The abuse allegations involve hundreds of children.

    Krol and Bevilacqua both served stints as heads of the archdiocese. Krol, who died in 1996, served from 1961 to 1988. Bevilacqua, who retired two years ago, served from 1988 to 2003. Bevilacqua retains the title of “archbishop emeritus.”

    According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the report stated: "In its callous, calculating manner, the archdiocese's 'handling' of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself."

    Among the most heinous cases reported, a priest repeatedly raped an 11-year-old girl and then took her for an abortion after she became pregnant.

    In a 2002 Dallas meeting, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops established a policy requiring that any priest suspected of sexual abuse be removed from ministry. The policy mandates that the accusations be credible.

    The Philadelphia Archdiocese allowed 10 accused abusers to continue in ministry even after the 2002 meeting. Two currently remain in active service, the Post reported.

    To read MORE of this article, click below:
  • More

  • To return to index, click below:
  • Current Issues and Controversies
  • Saturday, September 17, 2005

    Investigation Targets Unitarians, Racism

    This Unitarian Universalist ad proclaims the movement's opposition to discrimination. Copyright the Unitarian Universalist Association (used by permission).

    By Lisa Haddock
    NJ Faith Forum Editor

    The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is soul-searching after alleged racist incidents occurred during the movement’s General Assembly, the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth, Texas, reported.

    UUA President Rev. Bill Sinkford appointed a commission to investigate allegations of racist treatment toward young non-white convention delegates during the meeting, held in June in Fort Worth, Texas.

    In an apology posted in July on the denomination’s Web site, UUA Secretary Paul Rickter stated: “We have been disturbed by reports of other unfortunate incidents during General Assembly within our own Unitarian Universalist family, in which some UU youth of color were made to feel that they were not welcome.”

    The statement describes a verbal altercation involving an adult delegate and young non-white members.

    “Based on the reports of witnesses … a UU adult … questioned their right to be there, provoking an angry response from the youth.”

    A minister jumped into the fray to defend the adult. A young white attendee spoke up in defense of the youth of color. The young white delegate and minister exchanged heated words, according to the statement.

    “This was not the only incident,” Rickert’s letter continues. “We have also heard that on several occasions in Fort Worth , white UUs assumed that UU youth of color were hotel service people and asked them to carry luggage or park cars. We are troubled that some UUs may have treated other UUs as if they did not belong among us. We can and must do better.”

    Ironically, the 200,000-member, Boston-based association strongly condemns discrimination. The UUA’s statement of purpose says, in part: “The Association declares and affirms its special responsibility, and that of its member societies and organizations, to promote the full participation of persons in all of its and their activities and in the full range of human endeavor without regard to race, color, sex, disability, affectional or sexual orientation, age, or national origin.”

    To read the letter describing racist incidents:
  • Paul Rickert letter

  • To read the UUA’s Principles and Purpose, click below:
  • UUA

  • To return to index, click below:
  • Current Issues and Controversies
  • Friday, September 16, 2005

    Archbishop Wants Seminaries to Bar Gays

    The Most Rev. Edwin O'Brien's portrait from his archdiocesan Web site.

    By Lisa Haddock
    NJ Faith Forum Editor

    A high-ranking Catholic prelate wants to ban gay men from seminaries.

    Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, who is supervising a Vatican-mandated investigation of U.S. seminaries, says he wants all gay men out of seminaries. The investigation comes in the wake of the sexual-abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the U.S. Most of the abuse victims who have come forward are male.

    "I think anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity, or has strong homosexual inclinations, would be best not to apply to a seminary and not to be accepted into a seminary," O’Brien said in an interview with the National Catholic Register.

    O’Brien, who is head of the Archdiocese of the U.S. Military Services in Washington, D.C, said that even gay men who had been celibate 10 years or more should be barred from the priesthood.

    In news reports, Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), stated that by focusing on priests, the church is overlooking the role that the bishops played in the scandal.

    In 2004, O’Brien fired Air Force chaplain Thomas Doyle, who had been aiding sexual abuse victims in their legal cases and speaking out on their behalf. In an interview with the New York Times, Father Doyle refused to say that his removal was related to his advocacy work. ''I don't think it would be fair for me to say yes it is, no it isn't,'' he said.

    But he acknowledged that his work had not been well received by many bishops, the Times reported.


  • Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests

  • To return to index, click below:
  • Current Issues and Controversies
  • Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Faith Requires Compassion Toward Animals

    By Richard Schwartz, Ph.D.

    Editor's note: This item was originally posted as a comment on the PETA article.

    As author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism" and a longtime advocate of better treatment of animals, I agree that PETA’s methods are often insensitive and counterproductive.

    However, while its methods sometimes deserve criticism, PETA does put a necessary spotlight on animal-based diets and the horrors of factory farming, and these are issues that religious communities should address. The widespread production and consumption of animal products contradict religious mandates to protect our health, treat animals compassionately, preserve the environment, conserve resources, and help feed the hungry.

    Also, the raising of over 50 billion farmed animals annually worldwide on factory farms contributes significantly to global climate change, water shortages, and many environmental problems that threaten humanity. Hence, our diets and the ways we treat animals should be put squarely on religious agendas, not as a concession or favor to PETA, but because our religious teachings demand it and global sustainability requires it.

    To visit read more about Dr. Schwartz, click below:

  • To read the original PETA piece, click below:
  • PETA

  • To return to index, click below:
  • Current Issues and Controversies
  • Sunday, September 11, 2005

    PETA Campaigns Anger Religious Groups

    This PETA ad has angered the Catholic League.

    By Lisa Haddock
    NJ Faith Forum Editor

    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is known for its provocative ad campaigns. Once again, the Arlington, Va.-based organization’s recent flyers have caused anger, Religion News Service reported Sept. 7. This time, religious groups are protesting.

    In the items considered objectionable, the following images have been used:

    -- Lab monkeys are compared victims of Nazi experimentation.
    -- A picture of a concentration camp’s sleeping quarters, filled with prisoners, is juxtaposed with a chicken coop. The slogan says: “To animals, all people are Nazis.”
    --The Virgin Mary is shown with a dead chicken. The slogan says: “Go Vegetarian. It’s an Immaculate Conception.”

    The Catholic League and the Anti-Defamation League have condemned the flyers. Earlier in the year, PETA had agreed to stop using holocaust imagery after complaints from Jewish groups.

    Last year, PETA stirred controversy by secretly videotaping kosher slaughter practices at an Iowa plant. The extremely graphic and disturbing video may still be viewed on the PETA Web site. Jewish authorities maintain the slaughterhouse adhered to kosher practices, which demand that an animal’s throat be slit by a very sharp knife. The process should inflict the least suffering possible. (Islamic dietary laws require similar slaughter processes.) As a result of the video, changes were made at the plant.

    In the past, images of kosher slaughter have been used for sinister purposes. The 1940 notorious Nazi propaganda film “The Eternal Jew” (“Der Ewige Jude”) used similar images to whip up hatred of Jews. During the kosher slaughter scene, the narration states, in part: “Jewish law has no love and regard for animals in the Germanic sense. Jews refuse to put a suffering animal out of misery. … These pictures prove the cruelty of this form of slaughter. It reveals the character of a race which conceals the brutality beneath a cloak of pious religious practices.”

    Note: The Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds that the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, was conceived without original sin. It is considered an infallible teaching of the church. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians venerate Mary as the Mother of God.

    PETA's kosher slaughterhouse video. WARNING: EXTREMELY DISTURBING CONTENT.
    Jewish response to PETA view of kosher slaughter practice, Jewish response
    Orthodox Union response to Iowa slaughterhouse procedures, Orthodox Union
    Stills and text from “The Eternal Jew” (including kosher slaughter scene),

    Current Faith Issues and Controversies
    Complete Blog Index

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    New Orleans: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

    By Nancy Palmstrom, M.S.

    Nancy Palmstrom is an aquatic ecologist with 20 years of experience in aquatic resource assessment, restoration, and permitting. Her areas of technical expertise include water resource modeling, ecological risk assessment, discharge permitting and aquatic resource restoration programs.

    Beyond the rhetoric, beyond claims of racism, beyond partisan politics, there are a few facts that may help put the speed and effectiveness of the response to Katrina in perspective. After watching the news coverage of the disaster and witnessing the devastation and human suffering, it is easy ask why aren't we doing more? Why can't we help these people?

    Many factors are at play in the current events that have unfolded in the last week. Among them are:

    *The scale of devastation.

    *The level of preparedness of residents.

    *What was known about the risks and what was done about it.

    *The slow pace of bureaucracy.

    Read more of this article.

    Current Faith Issues and Controversies
    Complete Blog Index

    Monday, September 05, 2005

    Where is God When Disaster Strikes?

    By the Rev. Charles Austin

    The writer is a retired pastor and newspaper reporter.

    We are now hearing the questions always asked after a disaster. “Where was God as Hurricane Katrina destroyed lives and property last week? Doesn’t God care? Why did God do this?”

    People always ask those questions, but they are the wrong questions.

    However, one of those questions does have an answer. “Where was God last week?” God was in the hearts and minds of believers who suffered; God was sharing their sorrow, grief and loss. God was in the hearts and minds and bodies of people who did brave things to rescue others, to provide aid and comfort and give others strength to go on in horrible circumstances. God was--and is--in the prayers and aid that the rest of the country and the world will send to the devastated area.

    God is not off on vacation. God was there: instantly, continuously.

    Those other questions--Doesn’t God care? Why did God do this?--are the wrong questions. We want to ask them, but they are the wrong questions.

    Read more of this article.

    Current Faith Issues and Controversies
    Complete Blog Index

    Is Racism to Blame for Hurricane Response?

    New Orleans, La., Aug. 31, 2005 -- Evacuees, carrying what few posessions they are able to save from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, exit a rescue helicopter and head for the main staging area. Thousands of city residents were left stranded by the storm that struck the area on Aug. 29. New Orleans is being evacuated following Hurricane Katrina and rising flood waters. Photo by Win Henderson / FEMA photo.

    Two prominent African-American religious leaders are charging that the federal response to the crisis in New Orleans is rooted in racism. The population of New Orleans is approximately 67.3 percent African-American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    From the Rev. Jesse Jackson:

    "The president has not put together a federal program or a coordinated effort to address this massive crisis. Mr. Bush came today and did what can be described as a ceremonial tour of the area. He would not touch the ground in New Orleans where suffering black people are dying.”

    “President Bush has come very late with very little.” Jackson described the scene in New Orleans as looking like “the hull of a slave ship.”

    From the Rev. Al Sharpton:

    "The question is why has it taken the government so long to get in. I feel that, if it was in another area, with another economic strata and racial makeup, that President Bush would have run out of Crawford a lot quicker and FEMA would have found its way in a lot sooner."

    Meanwhile, black members of Congress were hesitant to raise racial issues.

    "The issue is not about race right now," said Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, during a news conference covered by CNN.

    Jackson quotes in context, Rainbow/Push Coalition
    Sharpton quotes in context, Interview with Keith Olbermann
    Black lawmakers' responses, CNN

    Current Faith Issues and Controversies
    Complete Blog Index