Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rabbi's shocking comments on sexual abuse - "Young Boys May Have Consented To The Abuse!"

Rabbi Boruch Lesches, a former senior leader at Sydney's Yeshiva centre, talking about sexual abuse in the Jewish community.

A senior Australian rabbi who failed to stop an alleged paedophile from sexually abusing boys at a Sydney Jewish school said some of the man's victims may have consented to sexual relations and warned that involving police now would ''open a can of worms''.

Former senior Sydney rabbi Boruch Dov Lesches, who is now one of New York's leading ultra-Orthodox figures, made his remarks in a recent conversation with a person familiar with a series of alleged child rapes and molestation carried out by one man associated with Sydney's Yeshiva community in the 1980s. Rabbi Lesches' comments are likely to increase scrutiny of Australia's senior rabbinical leaders' handling of child sex abuse cases, amid allegations of cover-ups, victim intimidation and the hiding of perpetrators overseas.

In a legally recorded telephone conversation heard by Fairfax Media and provided to NSW detectives investigating the Sydney Yeshiva cases, Rabbi Lesches admitted to counselling the alleged abuser upon learning that he had sexually abused a boy a decade his junior. Rabbi Lesches said he told the man that both he and the boy would be forced to leave the Yeshiva community if he could not control his urges.

''If not, both of them would have to leave,'' he said.

 Rabbi Lesches, who never informed police of the abuse, said he did not know that the man had ignored his warning and gone on to sexually interfere with at least three other boys during the late '80s. He said other Yeshiva leaders were responsible for supervising the man.

In the conversation, Rabbi Lesches suggested one of the man's victims, who was aged about 11 at the time of the abuse, may have been a consensual partner. ''Everyone was telling different stories and trying to put the blame on someone else,'' he said.

''We are speaking about very young boys … everybody says about the other one that 'he agreed to this'.''

When challenged on his position that young boys could give consent, Rabbi Lesches replied, ''You would be surprised,'' and added that some non-Jewish boys, who he termed ''goyim'', began acting or thinking sexually ''from the age of five''. He also said teenagers from poor backgrounds had ''nothing else to do in life, only thinking 24 hours about sex'' with each other, members of their own families and even ''dogs''.

Rabbi Lesches also said reporting the alleged abusers to police so many years after incidents occurred would ''destroy them and their children'' and cause pain for victims.

''Do not talk this way … when it is such a long time ago, everybody suffers,'' he said. ''If you start to do something about it will not be productive.''

A traditional rule known as Mesirah, which prohibits a Jew from reporting another's wrongdoing to non-Jewish authorities, remains a big influence in some ultra-Orthodox communities.

Rabbi Lesches, who did not respond to questions from Fairfax Media, is the third senior rabbinical leader to be identified as having known something about the abuse of boys at the Sydney Yeshiva in the '80s.

In February, Fairfax Media reported how the alleged perpetrator, who was sent overseas, had recently admitted guilt to some of his victims and told of how the centre's spiritual leader, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, once warned him to stop what he was doing.

In response to that story, Rabbi Feldman released a statement saying he had no recollection of anyone confessing to him their involvement in child sexual abuse 25 years ago.

In early March, another senior rabbinical leader, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, admitted he did not contact police after a young boy contacted him more than 20 years ago to report sexual abuse at Bondi's Yeshiva.

Rabbi Gutnick, who heads the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, said he received an anonymous phone call and alerted senior members of the Yeshiva to the boy's claims. He said that with the benefit of hindsight ''I would have probably called the police''.

Rabbi Gutnick is understood to have told Bondi detectives recently all that he could recall about the phone call. In a statement published in the Australian Jewish News earlier this year, he said he ''felt deeply saddened that I had not recognised what I only now know was a legitimate cry for help''.

''I appeal to the entire community - to victims and their parents to community members and leaders. If you have information please come forward to the police. Don't be afraid.''

Fairfax Media can also reveal the family of the man being investigated by NSW police over the sexual incidents at the Bondi Yeshiva are big financial supporters of the New York Monsey ultra-Orthodox community led by Rabbi Lesches. There are also allegations the alleged abuser has also lent a large sum of money to at least one senior ultra-Orthodox figure in Australia.

The alleged abuser was also appointed to the board of an Australian company involved in providing educational materials for Jewish students. He has in recent years been sheltered by a leading Los Angeles Jewish welfare group, with 2011 emails between the man and one of the organisation's senior members showing he was in danger of having his past in Sydney exposed.

''I have no idea how anyone found out - but calls are coming daily from many sources. So far, we've been protecting you,'' wrote an executive director from the LA organisation in an email to the man.

NSW police were alerted to alleged sexual abuse at the Sydney Yeshiva by their Victorian counterparts who were investigating two men over sexual assaults at the Melbourne Yeshiva school in St Kilda. Former St Kilda teacher David Kramer this year pleaded guilty to sex offences on students of the school and is awaiting sentencing. He was in a US jail over child sex offences committed in St Louis when he was extradited last year.

Another former worker at the Yeshiva St Kilda school, security guard David Cyprus, will stand trial next month over alleged sexual abuse offences against a dozen Yeshiva boys.

The school's former principal, Rabbi Abraham Glick, is now under police investigation over his handling of complaints about abuse over several decades, including the decision to send Kramer overseas. Rabbi Glick's nephew is the Victoria Police chaplain, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant.

Outspoken Melbourne Jewish sexual abuse campaigner and founder of victim support group Tzedek, Manny Waks, said Rabbi Lesches' comments ''unfortunately seem to be consistent with the approach of many senior Orthodox Jewish figures in the community who for decades have been more concerned with silencing victims and protecting perpetrators as well as their institutions, rather than with protecting innocent children''.

Mr Waks said his organisation would provide the royal commission into religious groups' handling of child sex abuse cases with full details of what has been happening for decades in Australian Jewish communities.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/rabbi-young-boys-may-have-consented-to-sex-20130622-2opkf.html#ixzz2X4mhNsTM

Timothy Dolan: Go To Hell!

The Church’s Errant Shepherds

...But over the last few decades we’ve watched an organization that claims a special moral authority in the world pursue many of the same legal and public-relations strategies — shuttling around money, looking for loopholes, tarring accusers, massaging the truth — that are employed by organizations devoted to nothing more than the bottom line....

BOSTON, Philadelphia, Los Angeles. The archdioceses change but the overarching story line doesn’t, and last week Milwaukee had a turn in the spotlight, with the release of roughly 6,000 pages of records detailing decades of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests there, a sweeping, searing encyclopedia of crime and insufficient punishment.

But the words I keep marveling at aren’t from that wretched trove. They’re from an open letter that Jerome Listecki, the archbishop of Milwaukee, wrote to Catholics just before the documents came out.

“Prepare to be shocked,” he said.

What a quaint warning, and what a clueless one.

Quaint because at this grim point in 2013, a quarter-century since child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church first captured serious public attention, few if any Catholics are still surprised by a priest’s predations.

Clueless because Listecki was referring to the rapes and molestations themselves, not to what has ultimately eroded many Catholics’ faith and what continues to be even more galling than the evil that a man — any man, including one in a cassock or collar — can do. I mean the evil that an entire institution can do, though it supposedly dedicates itself to good.

I mean the way that a religious organization can behave almost precisely as a corporation does, with fudged words, twisted logic and a transcendent instinct for self-protection that frequently trump the principled handling of a specific grievance or a particular victim.

The Milwaukee documents underscore this, especially in the person of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, previously the archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009 and thus one of the characters in the story that the documents tell. Last week’s headlines rightly focused on his part, because he typifies the slippery ways of too many Catholic leaders.

The documents show that in 2007, as the Milwaukee archdiocese grappled with sex-abuse lawsuits and seemingly pondered bankruptcy, Dolan sought and got permission from the Vatican to transfer $57 million into a trust for Catholic cemetery maintenance, where it might be better protected, as he wrote, “from any legal claim and liability.”

Several church officials have said that the money had been previously flagged for cemetery care, and that Dolan was merely formalizing that.

But even if that’s so, his letter contradicts his strenuous insistence before its emergence that he never sought to shield church funds. He did precisely that, no matter the nuances of the motivation.

He’s expert at drafting and dwelling in gray areas. Back in Milwaukee he selectively released the names of sexually abusive priests in the archdiocese, declining to identify those affiliated with, and answerable to, particular religious orders — Jesuits, say, or Franciscans. He said that he was bound by canon law to take that exact approach.

But bishops elsewhere took a different one, identifying priests from orders, and in a 2010 article on Dolan in The Times, Serge F. Kovaleski wrote that a half-dozen experts on canon law said that it did not specifically address the situation that Dolan claimed it did.

Dolan has quibbled disingenuously over whether the $20,000 given to each abusive priest in Milwaukee who agreed to be defrocked can be characterized as a payoff, and he has blasted the main national group representing victims of priests as having “no credibility whatsoever.” Some of the group’s members have surely engaged in crude, provocative tactics, but let’s have a reality check: the group exists because of widespread crimes and a persistent cover-up in the church, because child after child was raped and priest after priest evaded accountability. I’m not sure there’s any ceiling on the patience that Dolan and other church leaders should be expected to muster, especially because they hold themselves up as models and messengers of love, charity and integrity.

That’s the thing. That’s what church leaders and church defenders who routinely question the amount of attention lavished on the church’s child sexual abuse crisis still don’t fully get.

Yes, as they point out, there are molesters in all walks of life. Yes, we can’t say with certainty that the priesthood harbors a disproportionate number of them.

But over the last few decades we’ve watched an organization that claims a special moral authority in the world pursue many of the same legal and public-relations strategies — shuttling around money, looking for loopholes, tarring accusers, massaging the truth — that are employed by organizations devoted to nothing more than the bottom line.

In San Diego, diocesan leaders who filed for bankruptcy were rebuked by a judge for misrepresenting the local church’s financial situation to parishioners being asked to help pay for sex-abuse settlements.

In St. Louis church leaders claimed not to be liable for an abusive priest because while he had gotten to know a victim on church property, the abuse itself happened elsewhere.

In Kansas City, Mo., Rebecca Randles, a lawyer who has represented abuse victims, says that the church floods the courtroom with attorneys who in turn drown her in paperwork. In one case, she recently told me, “the motion-to-dismiss pile is higher than my head — I’m 5-foot-4.”

Also in Kansas City, Bishop Robert Finn still inhabits his post as the head of the diocese despite his conviction last September for failing to report a priest suspected of child sexual abuse to the police. This is how the church is in fact unlike a corporation. It coddles its own at the expense of its image.

As for Dolan, he is by many accounts and appearances one of the good guys, or at least one of the better ones. He has often demonstrated a necessary vigor in ridding the priesthood of abusers. He has given many victims a voice.

But look at the language in this 2005 letter he wrote to the Vatican, which was among the documents released last week. Arguing for the speedier dismissal of an abusive priest, he noted, in cool legalese, “The liability for the archdiocese is great as is the potential for scandal if it appears that no definitive action has been taken.”

His attention to appearances, his focus on liability: he could be steering an oil company through a spill, a pharmaceutical giant through a drug recall.

As for “the potential for scandal,” that’s as poignantly optimistic a line as Listecki’s assumption that the newly released Milwaukee documents would shock Catholics. By 2005 the scandal that Dolan mentions wasn’t looming but already full blown, and by last week the only shocker left was that some Catholic leaders don’t grasp its greatest component: their evasions and machinations.