Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weberman's case may very well be our community's most important abuse trial during our lifetimes

Nechemia Weberman's Trial is on October 30th:

Come to the Hearing - and Understand What Went Terribly Wrong

By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

During these days leading up to Succos, our z'man simchaseinu, (time of collective joy), one might consider it inappropriate to write about topics that are far from joyous. However, having spent Rosh Hashana at an amazing and inspiring Madraigos retreat, where there were more than a few abuse survivors in attendance, I feel compelled to release these lines at this time, to fulfill a promise I made then to let the survivors among us know that they are not standing alone, and with the hope that it will result in safer practices among those in our community who are seeking help for their children.

After many delays and much legal wrangling, Nechemia Weberman will finally stand trial in Brooklyn Criminal Court on October 30th for allegedly abusing a young girl in the Williamsburg community over a period of three years -- beginning when she was 12 years old.

Mr. Weberman is entitled to his day in court and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Having said that, quoting the Halachic terms employed in the Teshuva of Rav Elyashiv zt"l, there is clearly far more than "raglayim l'davar" (credible suspicion) in this case. In fact, all indications point to the inescapable conclusion that something is very, very wrong here.

What Parents Need to Know

One of the most important things frum parents - especially those in the "heimish" community - ought to be developing, is a deep understanding of the norms and accepted practice in the mental health profession. Gaining this would allow devoted and caring parents the ability to obtain suitable professional help for their children who need it, and avoid the trauma associated with following the recommendations made by untrained, well-meaning folks (unfortunately, an all too frequent occurrence, one which sometimes creates horrific results).

Moreover, it would help undo the denial and cognitive dissonance of those who defend Weberman -- by pointing out how disturbing were the circumstances of his "treatment" of the young girls referred to him.

Don't Ignore the Warning Signs

Think of it this way. Wouldn't alarm bells go off in your mind if a doctor performed an invasive procedure without using latex gloves, or if he/she picked up a used syringe to give you an injection? Wouldn't you think it strange, if you were a single mother and were requested to meet with your son's Rebbe or principal at 9:00 p.m. one evening in a deserted Yeshiva building to discuss your son's progress?

What Went Wrong

Well, those of us familiar with the do's and don'ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should you when the facts were made public that Weberman:

1) Had unregulated access to many girls over a number of years in his inappropriate and illegal role as their unlicensed "therapist."

2) Had these young girls referred to him for counseling by very Chassidish schools, whose general level of gender separation far exceeds those of the typical "Bais Yakov" (and it would be exceedingly rare for non-Chassidish girls' schools to regularly refer their Talmidos to a male therapist).

3) Engaged in private, unsupervised counseling sessions with young girls -- often in an office/apartment that contained a working bedroom -- violating all norms of Yichud and Tzniyus.

In addition to all these disturbing facts, it has become clear that these serious allegations are in fact not isolated ones. In fact, since Mr. Weberman's arrest, I was personally contacted by immediate family members of four additional alleged victims of his who are afraid to come forward, and those of us close to the community have heard similar reports from others as well.

All the victims - none of whom know each other and all of whom are terrified to go to the authorities because of fear of backlash from the community - report striking similarities in the MO of Weberman (his manner of working), fueling suspicion that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

What is most chilling is that each and every one of his victims who came to us is currently married; meaning that 1) this has been going on for a very long time, 2) if there are current victims who are single, they are even more terrified than the married women of coming forward, for fear that going public will ruin their chances of doing a decent shidduch.

Weberman's case may very well be our community's most important abuse trial during our lifetimes. It is imperative that we have a huge turnout in support of this courageous young lady who, may she be gezunt and ge'bentched, is determined to see this through to the end so others won't suffer like she did. Unbearable pressure is being brought to bear against her and her family to drop the case, which is one of the reasons that a show of support is so important.

Now That You Know

Those of us who work with abuse survivors respectfully implore you to please, please stand with this victim on October 30th, and with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching this case unfold very carefully, and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.

Please pass this on to your friends and family members and I hope to see you at the trial, heeding the timeless charge of Yeshayahu (Isaiah) (1:16) to "Seek justice [and] strengthen the victim."

Yakov Horowitz


The link between childhood trauma and adult outcomes was striking

In the 1990s, Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda conducted a study on adverse childhood experiences. They asked 17,000 mostly white, mostly upscale patients enrolled in a Kaiser H.M.O. to describe whether they had experienced any of 10 categories of childhood trauma. They asked them if they had been abused, if family members had been incarcerated or declared mentally ill. Then they gave them what came to be known as ACE scores, depending on how many of the 10 experiences they had endured.

The link between childhood trauma and adult outcomes was striking. People with an ACE score of 4 were seven times more likely to be alcoholics as adults than people with an ACE score of 0. They were six times more likely to have had sex before age 15, twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer, four times as likely to suffer emphysema. People with an ACE score above 6 were 30 times more likely to have attempted suicide.

Later research suggested that only 3 percent of students with an ACE score of 0 had learning or behavioral problems in school. Among students with an ACE score of 4 or higher, 51 percent had those problems.

In Paul Tough’s essential book, “How Children Succeed,” he describes what’s going on. Childhood stress can have long lasting neural effects, making it harder to exercise self-control, focus attention, delay gratification and do many of the other things that contribute to a happy life.

Tough interviewed a young lady named Monisha, who was pulled out of class by a social worker, taken to a strange foster home and forbidden from seeing her father for months. “I remember the first day like it was yesterday. Every detail. I still have dreams about it. I feel like I’m going to be damaged forever.”

Monisha’s anxiety sensors are still going full blast. “If a plane flies over me, I think they’re going to drop a bomb. I think about my dad dying,” she told Tough. “When I get scared, I start shaking. My heart starts beating. I start sweating. You know how people say ‘I was scared to death’? I get scared that that’s really going to happen to me one day.”

Tough’s book is part of what you might call the psychologizing of domestic policy. In the past several decades, policy makers have focused on the material and bureaucratic things that correlate to school failure, like poor neighborhoods, bad nutrition, schools that are too big or too small. But, more recently, attention has shifted to the psychological reactions that impede learning — the ones that flow from insecure relationships, constant movement and economic anxiety.

Attention has shifted toward the psychological for several reasons. First, it’s become increasingly clear that social and emotional deficits can trump material or even intellectual progress. Schools in the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, are among the best college prep academies for disadvantaged kids. But, in its first survey a few years ago, KIPP discovered that three-quarters of its graduates were not making it through college. It wasn’t the students with the lower high school grades that were dropping out most. It was the ones with the weakest resilience and social skills. It was the pessimists.

Second, over the past few years, an array of psychological researchers have taught us that motivation, self-control and resilience are together as important as raw I.Q. and are probably more malleable.

Finally, pop culture has been far out front of policy makers in showing how social dysfunction can ruin lives. You can turn on an episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” about a train wreck working-class family. You can turn on “Alaska State Troopers” and see trailer parks filled with drugged-up basket cases. You can listen to rappers like Tyler, The Creator whose songs are angry howls from fatherless men.

Schools are now casting about, trying to find psychological programs that will help students work on resilience, equanimity and self-control. Some schools give two sets of grades — one for academic work and one for deportment.

And it’s not just schools that are veering deeper into the psychological realms. Health care systems are going the same way, tracing obesity and self-destructive habits back to social breakdown and stress.

When you look over the domestic policy landscape, you see all these different people in different policy silos with different budgets: in health care, education, crime, poverty, social mobility and labor force issues. But, in their disjointed ways, they are all dealing with the same problem — that across vast stretches of America, economic, social and family breakdowns are producing enormous amounts of stress and unregulated behavior, which dulls motivation, undermines self-control and distorts lives.

Maybe it’s time for people in all these different fields to get together in a room and make a concerted push against the psychological barriers to success.


The leaders who cover up the abuse must be held accountable as well (regardless of the color shmattes they wear)

 Dear Paul,

I'm a Catholic and I take my kids to church every Sunday. Church is supposed to be a safe place. But Bishop Robert Finn, who is the head of my diocese (that's a regional group of churches), made our church unsafe for my children when he covered up a child sex abuse scandal.

Last month, Father Shawn Ratigan -- who was a priest in a church near mine -- plead guilty in U.S. Federal Court to producing and possessing child pornography. Father Ratigan used his position as a priest to take lewd images of children in his faith community.

Now a judge has found Bishop Finn guilty of covering up Ratigan's crimes -- Bishop Finn is the highest level leader in the church ever to be convicted in a sex abuse scandal. But despite his conviction, Bishop Finn still has his job as head of our diocese.

I started a petition on Change.org asking Bishop Finn to resign as head of the Kansas City diocese.

Since Bishop Finn's conviction, groups like the National Survivor Advocates Coalition have called on him to resign, and the Kansas City Star published an editorial saying it's time for him to go. Our diocese needs a leader who protects children, not one who protects their abusers.

As a Catholic, I believe in forgiveness, and I think Bishop Finn should be forgiven. But as a father, I don't think he should keep a job where he could put more children in danger. Forgiveness and change can work together.

The Catholic church needs to see that it's not enough to get rid of priests who abuse children -- the leaders who cover up the abuse must be held accountable as well. I know that if thousands of people sign my petition, Bishop Finn will have to resign.

Please sign my petition calling on Bishop Robert Finn, who was convicted of covering up a child pornography scandal, to resign as the head of the Kansas City diocese.

Thank you,

Jeff Weis

Kansas City, Missouri

The Proven Petition Site

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Looks Like The Guy From Ocean Parkway, No?

                                                         Really Bibi? 90%?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tell The Supreme Court Sholom Rubashkin Does NOT Deserve a Life Sentence!

On the eve of Yom Kippur, please take the time to sign this petition on behalf of Sholom Rubashkin. He has committed serious crimes, but does not deserve in effect the same sentence meted out to the likes of Charles Manson, David Berkowitz, and other mass murderers. In these Days of Awe, and with the tefillot of Klal Yisroel, may we pray that the Supreme Being and the Supreme Court of the United States see fit to grant Sholom a new trial with the possibility of a sentence that would enable him to serve God as a free man, with a horrifying sentence of 27 years reduced to single digits.

A g'mar chasima tova to all of Israel.


Petitioning The Supreme Court Of The United States

In our current legal system, prosecutors have tremendous power to choose and amplify charges while the Judges they argue before have extreme discretion as to how they hand down sentences. And when this happens, we are faced with the shocking reality that stands in direct contrast to our nation’s claim to guarantee the accused a fair trial.

The Supreme Court is currently in a position to address these issues in the case of 'Sholom Rubashkin v. The United States of America.' The case is before them for review.

It is not the guilty verdict that demands the Supreme Court’s attention, but the charges and harsh sentencing of a seemingly over-zealous judicial system. It is critical that the Supreme Court agree to review this case as it stands to set legal precedent for certain gray areas of the current law, like mandatory minimum sentencing, over-criminalization, prosecutorial power and the boundaries of the relationship between judges and the prosecutors who argue before them.

Tell the Supreme Court to ACCEPT this case. Tell them to HEAR this case. Tell them to rein in the Justice System they preside over -- a system that currently sees over 95% of all cases end in a plea bargain rather than a constitutionally guaranteed trial by jury. Prosecutors are routinely piling on charges to create "slam dunk" cases and improve their personal "conviction rates." Judges are sentencing for crimes with wildly varied results -- your punishment may no longer fit the crime so much as it fits the courtroom in which you are tried.

In the case of Mr. Rubashkin, the federal government turned the largest immigration raid in US history into a bank fraud case concerning a $35 million business loan. Rubashkin was found guilty on 86 of 91 counts related to fraud. For those crimes, he faced over 1,000 years in prison. At sentencing, prosecutors sought a life sentence until six former US Attorney Generals and other Justice Department veterans wrote to the judge objecting to such harsh punishment. Prosecutors revised their request to 25 years in prison; Judge Linda Reade sentenced Mr. Rubashkin to 27 years - more than many other white-collar criminals whose crimes far exceeded the value of Mr. Rubashkin's.

A subsequent Freedom Of Information Act request returned documents demonstrating Judge Reade had worked with prosecutors in the months leading up to the initial raid on Mr. Rubashkin's business, creating what his defense argues “at the very least the appearance of impropriety.’

America is a nation of laws. Those laws must be administered fairly and equally, not separately and with creative discretion.

To those we grant power, we demand accountability.

Tell the Supreme Court to HEAR THIS CASE.

Tell them to hear your voice.

Online Petition Template

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rosh Hashanah 5773 -- Who Are You?

We confront G-d as individuals on Rosh Hashanah, and not as members of a group. His first question will be the same as that of the assistant: Who are you?

And as I found out , answering that question is not so easy. Nor is it a question that many of us have spent much time thinking about. Sure most of us could provide a resume of some sort. We might describe our profession, or name our spouse and children, perhaps add a brief biography, or tout a few awards. But none of these matters really go to the heart of the question. We are left describing various attributes of ourselves, but nothing of our essence, our unique individuality.

THE REAL QUESTION which Rosh Hashanah beckons us to face is: What is my mission in life? What do I have to contribute that no one else in the world does? That is hinted to in the Musaf of Rosh Hashanah, in which each person is described as being judged according to his "ma'asav v'p'kudotav – his deeds and his mission." The first refers to his or her mitzvah observance. But the second is no less important, for it refers to a person's unique mission (tafkid) in life.

We might think that from the point of view of a mitzvah observant Jew, care in the observance of mitzvot is by far the most powerful determinant of the judgment of Rosh Hashanah. But that is not the case. Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, used to bring a Midrash to make the point. The Midrash discusses Navat the Carmelite, who refused to sell his vineyard to the wicked queen Jezebel. Jezebel caused false witnesses to be brought against him, and he was put to death.

The Midrash asks: What could such a righteous man have done to deserve such a horrible fate? It answers that Navat had a beautiful voice. Every pilgrimage festival those who had gone up to Jerusalem looked forward to being spiritually aroused by his davening. One year, Navat failed to come to Jerusalem for the festival. That was the year that Jezebel had him killed. The lesson that Reb Shraga Feivel derived is that the suppression of some special gift that G-d gives a person is also the basis for judgment.

Rosh Hashanah is the day that G-d first breathed into Adam's nostrils, and thereby established the connection between Man and the Upper Worlds. Like G-d Himself, Man is a creator, G-d's partner in bringing the world to its ultimate purpose. The judgment on Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the birth of Man as a spiritual being, focuses on the question: Does this person deserve to be created again? Does he have a role to play in bringing the world to its purpose? And if the answer is affirmative, what tools does he need to fulfill that mission?

HOW DOES A PERSON begin to think about his or her particular mission? Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz believed that just as every animal instinctively does that which is needed to ensure its survival so each person has some instinctive sense of his or her purpose in life. Some have a strong sense of calling from an early age – e.g., musical or mathematical prodigies who are passionately drawn to particular endeavors.

Others notice something that requires repair in their society or even in the smaller circle of family or friends. And instead of telling themselves that everyone else must have noticed the same thing, and that someone more talented or powerful or influential than they will surely address the problem, they take responsibility upon themselves. They reason that if G-d revealed a certain problem to them, then that is a sign that the problem is related to them in some way. Like Yosef, they not only interpret Pharoah's dream to ascertain the approaching danger, but offer a plan for alleviating the threat.

And for still others, their mission is thrust upon them by the circumstances into which they are thrust, and the way they respond to challenges they could have done little to anticipate.

All this requires preparation. Ideally, the entire month of Elul is devoted to an analysis of where one is holding in life, what is still to be achieved, and what resources – both internal and external – are required to achieve that goal. The process starts with the recognition that each of us was only brought into being because we have something unique to contribute to the world – each of us has a task given to no one who preceded us and no one who will follow.

TRAGICALLY, the requisite self-knowledge has never been farther from us. That is why the question, "Who are you?" is almost certain to trigger something akin to panic. The title of Nicolas Carr's popular book on the impact of constant connectivity on our neurological hardwiring, including our capacity for contemplation, captures our situation: The Shallows. We have become shallow, distracted people, who live our lives in public on Facebook because we are so utterly lacking any sense of self and so dependent on the reactions of others as a means of affirming our own existence.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year filled with all manner of material and spiritual blessing.


Agudath Israel & A Deadly Ritual - Both Must Be Abolished!

If you want to understand just how religious authoritarianism harms children, look no further than the actions of a powerful group of rabbis in New York known as Agudath Israel. AI is a Jewish communal organization that represents the most conservative Jewish believers, the haredi or ultra-Orthodox Jews.

These rabbis are seeking to sue the City of New York after the health department announced it would adopt a measure that requires parents to sign a written consent form warning them of the dangers of a circumcision ritual called metzitzah b’peh. (The policy was just passed.) If you have not heard of metzitzah b’peh, brace yourself: It involves the sucking of the bleeding penis by the circumcising rabbi or mohel.

The practice of metzitzah b’peh is thousands of years old. Originally, it was believed to clean the wound. Fast forward to today and not only do we find that this segment of the Jewish population is allowing rabbis to do what would normally be considered to be sexual abuse, the ritual has led to babies dying or suffering brain damage after contracting the herpes simplex I virus.

Neonatal herpes infections of all kinds are nearly always fatal in infants. An investigation by the New York City Board of Health found that, in the last decade, an average of one baby per year who underwent metzitzah b’peh contracted the virus. Two of the infants died, and two suffered brain damage.

“This is a ritual. . . that’s come down through the ages, and now it has met modern science,” the chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University told ABC News. . “It’s certainly not something any of us recommend in the modern infection-control era,” he said.

Not surprisingly, AI proclaimed that, in passing the parental consent policy, New York health officials are impeding on religious freedom, indicating that the religious leaders know more about infectious diseases than doctors. In a statement signed by 200 haredi rabbis, the group accused the health department of “spreading lies” and that participating in the “evil plans” of the department is forbidden by the Torah.

Most people would be shocked that religious leaders would support such a disgusting—and potentially deadly—practice. In a letter he wrote to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center infectious disease specialist Dr. Jonathan Zenilman wrote that the AI is “doing a terrible disservice to the Jewish Community and the public at large.”

But as I have repeatedly pointed out, such disregard for children’s rights is part and parcel of religious authoritarian cultures like the haredi. Members of this segment of the Jewish population consider their belief system to be the one, true faith, and they are convinced that all other believers, including other Jews, are spiritually inferior. In addition, the haredi manifest the three perfect-storm characteristics of a religious authoritarian culture: They have a strict, social hierarchy; they are unusually fearful; and they are socially separatist.

As I continue to reiterate, the way religious authoritarianism harms children is through the parents—or, rather, through parental impotence. In religious authoritarian cultures, parents lack autonomy in how to raise their children. Instead, they rely on—or are forced to adopt—child-rearing practices that fail to attend to children’s physical and emotional needs. In fact, the New York health department has received numerous complaints from parents whose mohels went so far as to perform metzitzhah b’peh on their babies without their consent.

It stands to reason that the powerful rabbis of Agudath Israel don’t want parents to be informed about the dangers of metzitzah b’peh, even though it puts children at risk for death or being left permanently disabled. Instead, these men prefer to leave mothers and fathers in the dark, where they will remain powerless to make critical decisions in their children’s lives.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

NYC Approves Ritual Circumcision Consent Form

After the deaths of two children who contracted the herpes virus through an ultra-orthodox practice of circumcision, the New York City Board of Health voted today to require parents to sign a written consent that warns them of the dangers.

In the most contentious part of the Jewish ritual, known as metzitzah b’peh, the practitioner, or mohel, places his mouth around the baby’s penis to suck the blood to “cleanse” the wound. The city wants parents to know the risks before circumcision.

Some estimate that 70 percent of the general population is infected with the Type 1 herpes I (HSV-1), which can be transmitted from the mouth to the child. It is different from Type 2 or genital herpes (HSV-2), which is a sexually transmitted disease and can cause deadly infections when a newborn passes through an infected birth canal.

Neonatal herpes infections are nearly always fatal in infants.

The 5,000-year-old religious practice of circumcision, performed during a ceremony known as the bris, is seen primarily in ultra-Orthodox and some orthodox communities. New York has one of the largest such communities in the country.

In 2003 and 2004, three babies, including a set of twins, were infected with Type 1 herpes; the cases were linked to circumcision, and one boy died. Another died in 2010. In the last decade, 11 babies in the city have contracted the virus, and two have had brain damage, according to health officials.

Dr. Jay K. Varma, the New York City deputy commissioner for disease control, told the New York Times, “There is no safe way to perform oral suction on an open wound in a newborn.”

But some rabbis have said that they will oppose the law on religious grounds, insisting it has been performed ”tens of thousands of times a year” worldwide. They say safeguarding the life of a child is one of the religion’s highest principles.

“This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child,” Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, told ABCNews.com. “If, God forbid, there was a danger, we would be the first to stop the practice.”

But Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told ABCNews.com during the investigation of one of the deaths last spring, “It’s certainly not something any of us recommend in the modern infection-control era.”

“This is a ritual of historic Abraham that’s come down through the ages, and now it has met modern science,” he said. “It was never a good idea, and there is a better way to do this.”

The modern Jewish community uses a sterile aspiration device or pipette to clean the wound in a circumcision.

About two-thirds of boys born in New York City’s Hasidic communities are circumcised in the oral suction manner, according to Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of the Orthodox Jewish organization Agudath Israel of America.

The Department of Health argues parents should be informed of the risks before making a decision. Since 2004, it has received “multiple complaints from parents who were not aware that direct oral suction was going to be performed as part of their sons’ circumcisions,” according to a public notice.

The law requires mohels to explain the oral suction procedure and its risks, including the possible transmission of herpes simplex virus, and have parents sign a waiver.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rosh Hashana Greetings to our Heilige Survivors

by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

As we prepare to stand before Hashem in the days to come, and daven (pray) for ourselves, our families and all of Klal Yisroel, those of us who work with survivors of abuse and molestation ask you to publicly show your support for them in these yemei rachamim (days of mercy)

Part and parcel of the strategy employed by many of the predators in our community is to discredit their victims who have the courage to step forward and press charges against them. Typically, the molester will point to the victim's 1) diminished level of religious observance and/or 2) self-destructive behaviors, like substance abuse, to "prove" his own innocence.

However, for those of us who work with at-risk teens, the fact that one of our tayere kinderlach engaged in hard-core drug use, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, or left Yiddishkeit, makes it MORE likely that the accusation is true, not less. Why? Because we have known for many years now that the vast majority of our kids who have descended into the gehenom of these destructive activities have done so because they were molested.

Of all the horror committed by predators against our innocent, precious boys and girls, the premeditated and deliberate defamation of their character is perhaps the most unforgivable; since it abuses them all over again and adds to their disconnect from our kehila – when what they need most is our acceptance and love.

With that in mind, I respectfully ask our readers to please stand with the brave survivors and their families who have the courage to take the lonely path of coming forward and pressing charges, with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching the high-profile cases unfold very carefully to determine whether they too should risk going to the authorities, and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.

Precisely because the predators attempt to discredit and disgrace the victims and their families, is all the more reason why we need to reach out to them and let them know how much we respect and care for them.

Kindly take a few minutes from your busy schedules and post a Rosh Hashana bracha in the thread following these lines and have them in mind in your Tefillos. Previous efforts to garner public support for victims were extraordinarily comforting to them as they help restore their faith in humanity and let them know that the vast majority of our community members are behind them.

 CLICK PLEASE:  http://bit.ly/TLCnJW

Please include your real names and the names of the cities where you live to personalize your message and to send a clear message that we proudly stand with the survivors and their families.

Abuse survivors are our heilege neshamos, our holy souls. They have endured unspeakable trauma in their lives and had their childhood cruelly stolen from them because they learned at a very young age, at the mercy of cunning and evil predators, to never trust again.

Nonetheless, the vast, overwhelming majority of survivors seek no revenge or retribution. They only hope and pray that today’s children be spared from the horror they endured. Regardless of their observance level, we ought to welcome these survivors as full and respected members of our kehilos. We ought to commit to them that we will do everything possible to remove from our community those who prey on our innocent children and speak truth to power if necessary in the coming year to keep all our children safe and secure.

If the great tzadik Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev zt’l were alive, I imagine that he would embrace abuse survivors in his shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and proclaim to Hashem, “Master of the Universe, look at these heilige neshamos who have endured so much with such dignity and in their ze’chus inscribe us all in the Book of Life.”

Best wishes for a k’siva v’chasima tova and may Hashem answer our tefilos b’rachamim u’vrazon.

Yakov Horowitz
Dean, Yeshiva Darchei Noam

Those Goyim! They Sound As Confused As The Jews!

In the wake of the first conviction of a Catholic bishop in the decades-long clergy sex abuse crisis, bishops throughout the country have to recognize they are accountable to their own people for their actions to protect children, the bishop who heads the U.S. bishops' committee tasked with advising their national conference on sexual abuse said Tuesday.

Bishops also have to be "firm" in applying the procedures that the body of bishops adopted 10 years ago to prevent child abuse, said Joliet, Ill., Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, the chair of the U.S. bishops' committee for the protection of children and young people.

Conlon spoke to NCR by phone from the sidelines of a meeting of the U.S. bishops' administrative committee. He addressed last week's conviction of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Bishop Robert Finn for failing to report suspected child abuse.

In a non-jury trial Sept. 6, Finn was found guilty of one count of failing to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor in the state of Missouri, making him the first sitting U.S. bishop to be convicted of a crime stemming in the decades long sex abuse scandal.

During Tuesday's interview with NCR, Conlon discussed the impact of that conviction on the continuing progress of the national church to address sex abuse, 10 years after the U.S. bishops' adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

"We've got a long, long way to go," Conlon said. "But I think that diligent application of the Charter is essential. That doesn't mean that there's going to be 100 percent perfection because we're still human beings.

"And we have 190 dioceses in the United States. I can't help the fact that if there is a flaw in one place, that it's counted against one of us. I can't help that."

Following is NCR's interview with Conlon, edited slightly for context and length.

NCR: How do you see the U.S. bishops' conference addressing concerns about how the church handles reports of abuse in the light of Finn's guilty verdict?

Conlon: I think what this case brings up is that we always have to err on the side of caution -- we have to err on the side of protecting children. If there's any, any possibility that the law has been broken, if there's any possibility that an act of abuse has occurred, whether recently or in the decent past, then we need to report it to the civil authorities. We should never hesitate.

In the Kansas City case, we know that Bishop Finn never consulted his diocesan review board about a priest in possession of child pornography. How is that being dealt with by the national conference? What happens when a bishop doesn't report it to a review board?

I think we have to make a distinction between what is printed in the charter -- and that, of course, is what we have bound ourselves to -- and what is good practice. The charter states that diocesan review boards are "to advise the diocesan/eparchial bishop of its assessment of allegations of sexual abuse by minors and its determination of a cleric's suitability for ministry."

That's what it says. Not -- it seems to me by interpretation, and this is just a matter of interpretation -- that if the review board is going to fulfill its responsibility as laid out in the charter to advise the bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse, then it has to be notified that there's been an allegation.

Again, as I said in terms of reporting to civil authorities, likewise in reporting to the diocesan review board. The bishop has to, it seems to me, report any allegation of abuse to the review board so that it can fulfill its obligation of advising them. And I don't think the bishop should put a doubt before that obligation to bring the matter to the review board.

In cases like Kansas City, how do you see the issue of accountability for bishops who don't follow the guidelines in the charter? What should happen to them?

The responsibility that we have to deal properly with allegations of abuse, to try to create a safe environment for young people is part of our overall responsibility for pastoral care of God's people.

In looking at that general responsibility, the first person to whom we are accountable is Christ, who is the good shepherd, and we're called to act in his place. That's a very serious responsibility to the Lord himself.

Secondly, a bishop is accountable to the representative of Christ who calls a bishop to that office of bishop and that's the pope. So each bishop is directly on earth accountable to the pope.

And then a bishop, I think, is also accountable to the people of the diocese. And has to be attentive to what people say, what he hears people say -- the priests, the deacons, the laypeople in the diocese. He has to listen to what people say in terms of how they feel he is fulfilling his office.

In terms of accountability on the issue of child abuse and child protection, all of us, every day, have to ask ourselves if we are being accountable to all three points.

In instances like this, is there any accountability for bishops from the members of the U.S. bishops' conference or does everything have to come from Rome?

There definitely is no accountability to the conference of bishops. There is an accountability to the college of bishops, the whole college of bishops. But the conference of bishops has no authority over individual bishops and the individual bishop has no accountability to the conference other than a sense of fraternal responsibility.

I mean, I pray for the bishops of the United States, and I am concerned about my brother bishops across the country, that sort of thing, but we have no line responsibility for other bishops. It's more the spiritual, fraternal kind of responsibility.

How do you address the questions of trust here? Even with the changes since adoption of the charter, laypeople in parishes and schools around the country have to trust that their bishop will report these things to the review board or to civil authorities, should they come up. How do you address that issue after the verdict in Kansas City?

I think sometimes in our human relationships, we have to presume trust. I think that, for example, when two people marry, they have to presume trust in one another. I think that when a bishop is appointed to a diocese, the people have to presume that they can trust him to carry out his responsibilities.

And if they begin to see that he fails in that trust, then they're going to lose trust. And just as spouses may lose trust in one another as they see each other fail. But they don't start out with the presumption of not trusting.

And I think that it's important to treat each human being on his or her individual terms. I think it's wrong, for example, for a husband or wife to say, "I'm not going to trust you because I know there are a lot of husbands and wives who are not trustworthy."

So I don't think we should treat all bishops as untrustworthy because one or two or three or 10 or 20 have failed to fulfill their responsibilities in one form or another. But this issue of child abuse is extremely important. A lot of human lives have been devastated by sexual abuse within the church.

So I believe that bishops have an extraordinary level of responsibility to deal with these allegations. At the same time, there is a lot of prudential judgment that has to be exercised. And I have discovered over the years that no two cases ever seem exactly the same.

But the basic responsibility of reporting an allegation to the civil authorities and cooperating with the civil authorities in any investigation that they undertake is very straightforward. It's a very simple obligation. And I think that people should be able to assume that the bishop or anyone who is operating directly under the authority of the bishop is going to make those reports.

You were reported in recent days as saying that the church's credibility on this issue was "shredded." In the light of hoping that there's trust there, how can the bishops address that trust when their credibility seems to be so devastated over the past few years?

I was speaking at a national conference of safe environment coordinators and victims' assistance coordinators, so I wasn't addressing bishops.

That particular phrase, "our credibility is shredded," was specifically in a part of the talk where I was suggesting that the victims' assistance coordinators and safe environment coordinators might be of some help to the bishops in putting the work that they're doing out to the media. I was trying to say that the bishops' credibility with the media is shredded.

It is different. I was not saying that our credibility in general is shredded. I'd like to say that we still have some credibility with Catholic people and maybe in some other quarters as well. But we do have a credibility issue, there's no question about that.

On the other hand, I think we have made considerable progress. There's a recent Pew study that suggests we've made some progress in not only creating a safe environment for young people and dealing effectively with incidents of abuse, but in terms of our credibility.

But we've got a long, long way to go. And I think that in addition to the usual spiritual assistance that we have to count on -- and that's very important, we do have to count on prayer and the Holy Spirit to help us -- but I think that diligent application of the charter is essential. That doesn't mean that there's going to be 100 percent perfection because we're still human beings.

And we have 190 dioceses in the United States. I can't help the fact that if there is a flaw in one place, that it's counted against one of us. I can't help that.

But we have to try to prevent that by doing the best we can. But I don't think we're ever going to get to a point where there are not going to be failures. No institution in the world, including the Catholic church, even with the divine assistance that we have, is going to be perfect.

That doesn't mean that we should excuse our mistakes or that we should not be held accountable for our mistakes. I think continuing to be firm about applying the norms of the charter is a very important step.

Is there anything that we didn't get to that you'd want to say about this issue?

Just to be clear, I don't think that there's much room for making excuses for failures. To acknowledge that there are going to be failures is simply dealing with the reality of life. But, at the same time, I want to be clear that I'm not trying to make excuses. And I do think that bishops, in this area of child abuse, have to expect a very high level of accountability.

Accountability from civil and church authorities?

Yes. But all things in proportion.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never The Ultra-Orthodox....

Suffer The Children

Just how flagrant does a pedophile need to be before the people around him contact the police? Just how far beyond seeming to force himself on a boy in a shower or loading up his laptop with photos of little girls’ crotches does he have to go?

In the first instance I’m referring to Jerry Sandusky, whom Penn State officials allowed to continue working with children even after they were told that something was seriously amiss. In the second I’m referring to the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a Catholic priest in Missouri whose superiors acted no less despicably.

In May 2010, the principal of a parochial school next door to the parish where Father Ratigan served sent a memorandum to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, as Laurie Goodstein reported in The Times. It flagged his odd behavior, including his habit of instructing children to reach into his pockets for candy.

In December 2010, hundreds of troubling, furtively taken photographs were found on his laptop, according to court testimony given too long after that fact. One showed a toddler’s genitals.

In what jail or prison cell, you might ask, did Father Ratigan spend the first half of 2011? None.

After the photos were discovered, he attempted suicide, received counseling and was reassigned by Bishop Robert W. Finn, the head of the diocese, to a new post as a chaplain to an order of nuns. There he was allowed to celebrate Mass for youth groups and host an Easter egg hunt, and he was caught taking a photograph under the table, up the skirt of the daughter of parishioners who had invited him into their home.

In May 2011, a diocesan official finally told police about the extent of Father Ratigan’s cache of child pornography. He was convicted of possession of it in August 2011. And last week Bishop Finn was convicted of failing to report him to law enforcement authorities, and got two years of probation.

He’s the first American bishop to be found criminally culpable for his inaction in the face of suspected child abuse. It was a long time coming. Over the last quarter-century there have been hundreds upon hundreds of cases of molestation by Catholic priests. And one of the galling leitmotifs of this crisis, which was the subject of a 1993 book that a colleague and I wrote, has been church leaders’ refusal to treat priests as criminals rather than abashed penitents and to let them be prosecuted in ways that might keep them away from kids.

But I’m less interested in the grim milestone of Bishop Finn’s conviction than in the crucial lessons his story reiterates.

One is that institutions have a potent impulse to avoid public scandal, and do an execrable job of policing themselves. To protect their reputations or simply to avoid conflict, they minimize even the most destructive behavior. They convince themselves that they can handle it on their own. And they persuade themselves that their mission, be it the inculcation of religious faith or the scoring of touchdowns, trumps the law’s mandates.

Another is that for all the lip service that we pay to the preciousness of children and the importance of their futures, they remain the most voiceless members of our society. Many don’t know or understand what their rights are; many don’t have the maturity or mettle to exercise them. They depend on the vigilance and good faith of adults, which is to say they depend, all too often, on a fiction.

And a third is that we’re as likely to turn away from sexual pathology as confront it. It confounds and discomfits us.

These problems transcend the Catholic Church. Penn State is in part the parable of an institution that didn’t want to be distracted or humiliated and traded away the welfare of children, a shortsighted calculation with long-term wreckage.

The Boy Scouts of America covered up sexual abuse in its ranks. A recent Los Angeles Times review of files dating from 1970 to 1991 identified more than 125 cases of alleged molestation by men whom the organization had previously had reason to suspect of abusive behavior. “In some cases,” The Times noted, “officials failed to document reports of abuse in the first place.” In others, it failed to involve the police.

Over the last two decades the Catholic Church has spelled out stricter policies, including the prompt notification of law enforcement officials. And its defenders have complained that newly revealed instances of wrongdoing are usually old cases that predated better awareness of child sexual abuse, better education about it and a toughened resolve.

But the case of Father Ratigan postdates all of that — by many, many years. It suggests the tenacity of willful ignorance and deliberate evasion, even when the price is nothing less than the ravaged psyches of vulnerable children.


Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Welfare State is Not In Our Welfare! A Government That Gives You Everything is a Government That Will Eventually Take It All Away!

Regular readers of these pages are most likely strong supporters in the safety net programs set up in the New Deal, Great Society and now Obamacare legislative eras. They hold these programs to be good examples of America’s capacity to care for the ill, the poor, the destitute and the aged. And they find in these programs America’s expression of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, repairing the world as it is, in the service of God and Torah.

So in this presidential election, as in every election, these socially conscious Jews are lining up behind the candidate on the left side of the political divide. President Obama has certainly honored the wishes of those tikkun olam-minded voters who supported him in 2008. He expanded the welfare state in virtually every direction.

A record number — 45 million Americans — were on food stamps in 2011, a 70% increase from 2007. Spending for the program was $72 billion, up $30 billion from 2007. In the first quarter of 2011, slightly less than half — 49.1% percent — of America’s population was living in a household where someone was receiving a government benefit. That’s up from 44.4% in the third quarter of 2008, and a good indication to all those tikkun olam voters.

And since Obama has presided over the slowest economic recovery in postwar history and the worst jobs record in any recovery, we’ve had millions more opportunities to express our spirit of tikkun olam.

Obama speaks regularly of the need to make investments in America’s infrastructure and future, and I believe him. But in reality, America is not so much in the investing business as in the loss-covering business. Roughly $7 out of every $10 spent by the federal government goes toward cleaning up other people’s mistakes or problems: housing assistance, food stamps, free or reduced health care, free and reduced lunches in schools and other educational supports, and subsidies for farmers.

In perhaps the finest display of the spirit of tikkun olam, only half the country has to pay for it. Half of Americans pay almost no income taxes — and in some cases, because of tax credits like those awarded for every child a family has, they even receive income tax refunds despite having zero income tax liability.

So if you’re a tikkun olam voter, you should be thrilled.

Of course, all this tikkun olam comes with an enormous price tag — one so big that it has heaped trillion-dollar deficits on the nation each year of Obama’s presidency. The Social Security trust fund will be empty several years earlier than we expected when Obama took office. Medicare’s trust fund will hang on longer, thanks to Obamacare, but it still carries trillions in future liabilities that expected tax revenues won’t cover.

The president says that deficits would be far lower if Congress could only raise taxes on the super-wealthy to Clinton-era heights. But that would raise roughly $80 billion more a year. In other words, we’d still have roughly 90% of the same deficit problem we had before.

So while I’d say that tikkun olam has had a pretty good four years, it sure doesn’t look to me like it has a very rich future. At some point, all that tikkun olam is going to wreck the country, and that, if I’m not mistaken, is pretty much the opposite of the goal of tikkun olam.

So with all due respect to all those Rabbis for Obama, maybe we should try another approach. If our goal is to heal the wounds in the world, maybe the right way to do that doesn’t involve seizing wealth from people who work hard to give it to people who don’t. Maybe it shouldn’t involve the construction of a vast super state of regulatory czars and czarinas, people capable of writing a rule that could, without review from elected legislators, destroy a citizen’s life work. Maybe we should ask ourselves whether tikkun olam means making people even more dependent on the goodwill of the state.

Maybe the best form of tikkun olam is to give people freedom and free markets as opposed to more state-sponsored goodies. Freedom and free markets have worked pretty well in lifting people out of poverty, creating strong middle-class societies, and supporting great voluntary and charitable institutions.

And by the way, freedom and free markets have been good for the Jews and for tikkun olam. Cast your eyes over the sweep of our 5,000 years of history. Wherever Jews have lived in relative freedom and free markets — the United States, Britain and its commonwealth, the Ottoman Near East, post-Enlightenment Western Europe — we’ve done pretty well. We’ve built great communities. We’ve devoted ourselves to Torah. We’ve pursued tzedakah, charity, with abandon.

By comparison, in nations where freedom was under attack or in decline, and the power of the state in ascendancy — most notably, monarchist Spain, czarist as well as communist Russia, most of Europe during the Middle Ages — Jews have suffered and so has Judaism, including and especially our capacity to commit acts of tikkun olam.

You could say that freedom and free markets are just about the best thing that Judaism has ever known. And in that sense, free markets and freedom have been good for tikkun olam.

So you have a choice this fall: You can stick with a president who believes deeply in the power of the state and who has done a lot to make tikkun olam voters happy, but who is, without question, endangering our nation’s ability to pursue tikkun olam programs in future years; or, you can switch to a candidate who believes in the power of individual freedom — and has shown through his own example of voluminous giving of charity to his church and his community that prosperity and success breed far more tikkun olam than can be achieved through the taxing power of the state.

 Vote Mitt Romney. He’s the real tikkun olam candidate.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/161869/mitt-romney-is-real-tikkun-olam-candidate/?p=all#ixzz261H8mo74

Thursday, September 06, 2012

In the Torah it does not say, “And on Wednesday, God created many, many suns that from afar will look like many, many stars whose light will reach Earth after light-years of travel......”

Every day we lose an untold amount of kids because of their inability to reconcile Torah and science. Thanks to the yeshivas and Bais Yaakov girl schools who refuse to address this urgent issue.....as it will only get infinitely worse!


On a Tuesday in July 2007, I learned that the sun is a star. A friend of mine, formerly Hasidic, told me the secret. She informed me that the heavens look nothing like we think. I said, “Huh?”

“Look,” she said reasonably, “I swear. It explains it here, in this incredible astronomy book. The sun is a star, a medium-sized one — and just one of millions in our galaxy…”

She looked at me, waiting for my wonder. “Stars,” she said, pointing enthusiastically up to the clouds, “can also be suns.”

I looked suspiciously at the book in her hand. I turned away. I sat down heavily on the steps, pulling my maternity shirt over my swollen stomach. Good God. She actually believed that stuff. The school we attended, the ultra-Orthodox Bais Yaakov School, did not teach us astronomy. But, still, we know the sun is not a star.

No, the sun is The Sun. The one with six to nine planets around it. The one God created after painstakingly reading the Torah instructions. The one, and the only one, in this universe, lighting our way along with the single moon and the myriad stars.

My friend insisted. It isn’t like that.

I patted my friend on her shoulder. I told her it is okay — we all have mental breakdowns sometimes. She went on. It’s the way it is with breakdowns. She spoke about light years, the distance between stars. She talked about elements forged in light and stars, rambling for minutes at a time. It was disturbing. It is one thing to demand that the sun is a star, perhaps a matter of linguistic interpretation, but that other stars are suns, too — with planets around them — whole galaxies impervious to and in complete contradiction to His orders? God would never betray us like that.

It is not that we disagreed about the fact that light travels. It does — just not very far. I explained this to her. I tried to make her see the logic. It was simple, only one sentence long and in the Torah: On Wednesday, God created one sun and one moon. Separately, He created stars. In the Torah it does not say, “And on Wednesday, God created many, many suns that from afar will look like many, many stars whose light will reach Earth after light-years of travel......”

 EVERY PARENT HAS A DUTY TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE: http://forward.com/articles/162232/the-sun-is-a-star/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=The%20Forward%20Today%20%28Monday-Friday%29&utm_campaign=Daily_Newsletter_Mon_Thurs%202012-09-06

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

"Zero Tolerance" is Zero!

Exchange words Gadol, Rabbi, Torah, Yeshiva, Synagogue... for the Catholic versions and we have the identical group of criminals who could care less for children!

"From the start, we could see that in diocese after diocese priests who had been preying on the young were being protected by their bishops. It was shocking to see such denial. It was a pattern that sent not one but two destructive daggers into the souls of the victims who had first been abused and then later termed deceitful liars by major church authority figures. We could hardly believe so many bishops, acting independently, it seemed, would throw children under the proverbial bus to protect their fellow clerics".

Cardinal Raymond Burke has reportedly expressed his profound sorrow that “the failure of knowledge and application of the canon law … contributed significantly to the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy in some parts of the world.”

His remarks, as far as they go, reveal a serious misunderstanding of the deeper nature of the clergy sex abuse crisis. Not to face its larger and, in the eyes of many, more troubling dimension, is to make it all the more unlikely we will ever get beyond it.

What makes the cardinal’s seemingly inadequate analysis all the more shocking is that he holds a critical position of authority within our church. As head of our church’s highest court, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, any inability – or unwillingness – to face, examine and respond to the scandal, now over a quarter century old, only adds to the crisis and feeds an already widespread pessimism that our church leaders are not up to the task.

Is it personality or structure? Is it the makeup of the leadership or the way that leadership carries out (or fails to carry out) its duties?

What is especially bothersome about Burke’s inadequate analysis of the abuse scandal is it comes after decades of news coverage and studies, civil and ecclesial, which suggest far larger institutional challenges than wayward priests who have failed to live by canon law.

To start with let’s note here the obvious: preying sexually on children violates much more than canon law. More fundamentally it violates God’s laws and every notion of decent human conduct in cultures throughout the world. As one NCR commentator recently wrote: It violates “the laws of the heart and soul, laws of human love, consensual adult expressions of that love, secular laws, criminal laws, and every other law--even if canon law never existed.”

Now, to the next level. What the cardinal fails to mention in his assessment of the scandal is that from the very beginning it has been a two-step violation against the Catholic family. The first has been the abusive acts by the priest; the second has been a consistent pattern of episcopal denial and cover-up. This second violation has been especially troubling, as it has revealed a generation of episcopal leaders more concerned about institutional image than gospel witness.

At NCR we first began reporting the sex abuse scandal at in 1985 and for some 15 years we were often quite alone in the vigil. However, it only took us several weeks of investigation early on to see the twofold dimension of the scandal, widespread sexual offenses and an equally widespread pattern of institutional cover-up.

From the start, we could see that in diocese after diocese priests who had been preying on the young were being protected by their bishops. It was shocking to see such denial. It was a pattern that sent not one but two destructive daggers into the souls of the victims who had first been abused and then later termed deceitful liars by major church authority figures. We could hardly believe so many bishops, acting independently, it seemed, would throw children under the proverbial bus to protect their fellow clerics.

At the beginning, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, parents were often reluctant to take on their church. Civil law suits were almost always a last resort. The parents of abused children would first approach their bishops believing their cases would be heard and acted upon in a compassionate way. But in case after case, they were soon disillusioned. They would find their bishop would deny the accusation and question the veracity of the child. In case after case the bishops would respond not with pastoral care but by surrounding themselves with attorneys would we be called in to protect the institution.

In case after case, the pattern would be the same. The bishop would side with the priest. When evidence against the priest mounted, often as more than one victim appeared before the bishop, he would cover up the priests actions and wound not bring these crimes to the attention of civil authorities. It was always thought this was a “family” problem.

But it was a “problem” that would only grow as the priests, often shuffled to new parishes, sometimes after treatment, sometimes not, would go on to abuse more children.

In the first decades of abuse reporting parents of aggrieved children would hire attorneys as a last resort. As news of these civil cases grew more widespread, many adult Catholics would have flashbacks, recalling sexual abuse they had suffered as children, often at the hands of clergy. These Catholics filed more suits. Once inside the legal networks, pastoral responses were almost impossible, not that they were ever the preferred manner of handling the abuse issues.

BishopAccountability.org, an archival website established by lay Catholics to keep track of clergy sex abuse cases reports that over 3,000 civil lawsuits have been filed against the church.

The patterns of abuse and cover-up have not been limited to the United States. They have, of course, been reported worldwide. The only nations in which Catholic clergy sex abuse has not become public are those lacking a relatively free press and relatively free judicial system. The media and courts have been shown to be the only two institutional forces of accountability the aggrieved have had at their disposal – short of any reluctant to absent efforts by the institutional church.

Cardinal Burke would do us all a favor to examine the second component of the clergy sex abuse scandal, that component that deals with his episcopal colleagues. He might ask why canon law has not come to the aid of the children in a forthright and active manner. He might ask how church law has allowed his fellow bishops to cover up the scandal rather than bringing to public. He might examine how church law has played a role in driving many Catholics, disaffected by the scandal, from the church.

It has been the collective failure by our church leaders – a failure lasting to this day – that is so disturbing to so many. It has been a failure to adequately address the episcopal complicity and cover up in the quarter century old scandal. This absence of accountability was evident in the June 2002 declaration by the U.S. bishops of their “zero tolerance” law for priests. At that time, the bishops promulgated a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It pledged the Catholic Church in the U.S. to providing a "safe environment" for all children in church-sponsored activities. But the documents said virtually nothing at the time about the episcopal patterns of abusive behavior that allowed the scandal to flourish for so many years.

It held no bishop accountable.

Had church law been effective in protecting Catholic children, it would have required arguably hundreds of bishops to be removed from office. To the contrary, church canons have been woefully ineffective in the eyes of many Catholics in upholding justice, to say nothing of compassion, within our church.

That the prelate who holds the highest position in our church as adjudicator of justice does not address the full dimension of the scandal is sad evidence we remain lost in the wilderness of disillusionment.