Monday, December 10, 2018

Abuse of Vulnerable People and Churches: Recent Reports, from Baptists to Nuns Raped by Bishops and Priests to Jesuits to a German Princess Saving the Church

This is a collection of reports on the abuse situation as it is unfolding in various churches now. These are all recent statements, and not by any means a representative report on all that is happening on the sexual abuse front in religious groups right now. Stories are breaking on that front fast and furious — this is only my own selection of reports that have drawn my attention recently, for reasons that will be apparent as you read:

For decades, women and children have faced rampant sexual abuse while worshiping at independent fundamental Baptist churches around the country. The network of churches and schools has often covered up the crimes and helped relocate the offenders, an eight-month Star-Telegram investigation has found. 
More than 200 people — current or former church members, across generations — shared their stories of rape, assault, humiliation and fear in churches where male leadership cannot be questioned. … 
Twenty-one abuse allegations were uncovered exclusively by the Star-Telegram, and others were documented in criminal cases, lawsuits and news reports. But victims said the number of abused is far greater because few victims ever come forward.

Pastor Bruce Goddard acted immediately when he learned the principal at Faith Baptist Church’s school in Wildomar, California, had been intimately involved with a 17-year-old student. 
He rented the 35-year-old principal a U-Haul and shipped him out of state. He did not call the police. 
The accused wound up at First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, a church affiliated with Goddard’s alma mater, working again with teenagers. The abused girl was later told that church officials in Indiana were aware of his involvement with her when he arrived. 
An eight-month investigation by the Star-Telegram shows that what happened at Faith Baptist is just one example in a nationwide pattern of cover-ups and shuffling of suspected abusers among churches and universities that, like Faith Baptist, are part of the independent fundamental Baptist movement. 
The cover-ups are reminiscent of the scandals of the Roman Catholic Church, but distinctly different. 
Decisions in the Catholic Church are made within a hierarchical structure that governs all churches. Independent fundamental Baptist churches operate with no oversight or structure outside their own walls.
One thing does bind the churches that face abuse accusations: a culture that uses fear to control and gives men in power the role of unquestioned and ultimate authority. In that environment, abuse has visited scores of fundamental Baptist churches. 
And many abusers have escaped consequence-free, often with the help of the pastor in charge.

An Associated Press expose this summer, which cited the Chilean case and others in Europe, Africa and India, found that the Vatican had long known about the problem of the sexual violence committed against religious sisters but done next to nothing to stop it.
Church authorities have long downplayed the prevalence of the problem, often blaming the nun for seducing a priest when a scandal became known. 
The issue though has gained such prominence that the international association of the world’s religious sisters recently issued an unprecedented statement urging that nuns report any abuse they had suffered to police and their superiors. 
The statement from the Union of International Superiors General, which represents 500,000 of the world’s 660,000 nuns, was even more significant since it was issued to mark the U.N.’s day for the elimination of violence against women, a strong show of solidarity with all women who are victims of sexual violence.

The Associated Press reported earlier this year that the Vatican has known for decades about the problem of priests and bishops preying on nuns, but has done next to nothing to stop it.

In June, police in the southern Indian state of Kerala registered a case against the bishop of Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, in the northern state of Punjab.  
A nun had alleged that the bishop, Franko Mulakkal, had raped her repeatedly between 2014 and 2016 at a convent in Kerala.  
The nun is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus congregation based in Jalandhar. 
The bishop was arrested but then released from prison on October 15 on bail on the condition that he presents himself in the police station once every fortnight. 
Five nuns of the same congregation have come out in support of the complainant. Six of them live in a convent in Kerala, under police protection.

I have questions: Could someone please explain to me how attacking gay priests and barring gay men from the priesthood would address the problems apparent in the news reports above, about nuns being raped by bishops and priests? This problem is only now beginning to be discussed openly in the Catholic world, though it's a huge problem in some sectors of the Catholic world.  

I have questions: Will the huge problem (in some sectors of the Catholic world) of bishops and priests raping nuns be glossed over when Catholic leaders address the abuse situation in Rome early in the coming year? Or will bishops and cardinals from those sectors of the Catholic world in which this problem is such a serious challenge continue to seek to divert attention to gay priests as the problem that should preoccupy the attention of the global church?

Because I graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans — which belongs to the Jesuits of the Southern Province — I look at the names on this list with dread, suspecting some of them will be people I once knew.

And they are. I have shared on social media previously that Ben Wren, whose name appears on this list, was my teacher at Loyola in a philosophy course that was team-taught by a group of Jesuits. He left the priesthood to marry another teacher of mine, a developmental psychology teacher whom I liked and admired very much.

It has been a shock to read the series of articles stating that he was credibly accused of raping a girl on the Loyola campus, with the rape beginning when she was 5 years old — and that the Southern Province Jesuits settled a case about this alleged rape.

Now I look at the names just released, and realize I know more of these men. These were men who represented themselves to me in the years I was at Loyola and the years when I lived and taught in New Orleans as men of integrity, morality — as religious leaders to whom I should look up.

I feel sick and betrayed when I read this list.

Eleven names linked to the Jesuit College Preparatory School were released Friday morning in connection to "credible" allegations of sexual assaults of minors.

That Jesuit high school in Texas about whose graduation ceremony I blogged in January 2015 (and see here), a school from which two of my cousin's sons graduated and on whose financial advisory board my cousin served? It was Jesuit Dallas. 

I have questions: Lots of dioceses are now releasing names of priests credibly accused of abuse. The Jesuits are releasing similar lists.

How long will the Charlotte, North Carolina, diocese be permitted to withhold this information from the public? 

And when will Benedictine monasteries, one of which is in the Charlotte diocese, release their own lists of names?

Do different rules apply to the Charlotte diocese and Benedictine monasteries than the ones applying to other dioceses and to the Jesuits? 

Given this report in the local media only a few months ago — "Catholic leaders in Charlotte, Raleigh allowed priests to continue ministry despite abuse reports" — it seems there is an imperative need for diocesan officials in the Charlotte diocese to come clean about what has been going on in that diocese with abuse cases. Until the recent past, if the report is correct — and I have no reason at all to doubt it….

Finally, a not-to-miss report by Jason Horowitz from Saturday's New York Times entitled "The 'It' '80s Party Girl Is Now a Defender of the Catholic Faith." It focuses on Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis of Regensburg, the previous hard-partying, punk-haired aristocrat and friend of Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol who is now all about saving the Catholic church — from Pope Francis. In her Yves Saint Laurent jacket, Comme des Garçons pants, Hermès shoes, rose-tinted designer glasses, and strings of mothball-sized pearls. 

Instead of partying with Jagger and Warhol, she now rubs shoulders with EPope Benedict, Steve Bannon, Cardinal Raymond Burke, and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, as she collaborates to save the church from the sex abuse crisis Pope Francis:

Many of them are hoping to use the sex abuse crisis that amounts to the greatest existential threat to the church in centuries to topple the 81-year-old pontiff, who they are convinced is destroying the faith.

The report is as full of memorable zingy lines as a Christmas fruitcake is of boozy currants — a few of them:

"We all want great things, but who is going to pay for it?" Princess Gloria, wearing a string of mothball sized pearls, asked rhetorically.


Later that month, Archbishop Viganò sent a letter to his friend Cardinal Raymond Burke, the American leader of the anti-Francis resistance, regretting that he could not attend the cardinal’s birthday party at a Tuscan seminary. 
The reason, Princess Gloria explained, was that he was in hiding. "He had a good excuse," she said. 
Still, it was a shame because it was a great party. Cardinal Burke — as close to her, she said, as a "family priest" — ate birthday cake in the shape of a red cardinal's hat, held champagne in one glass and blessed seminarians with the other, and watched fireworks light up the sky in his honor. 
"The good people know how to party," she said with a laugh, adding that Cardinal Burke deserved it, "because he's been so persecuted."

"Family priest," as applied to Cardinal Burke, means, you understand, The kind of priest people like us once held as retainers and private chaplains, with suites in our castles from which they could trek daily to our private chapels to say Mass for us and our families. The good old days — that's what this rhetorical marker points to…. 

I have questions: Isn't it amazing how these folks have suddenly discovered the abuse horrors? When those horrors have, these folks think, an instrumental use as they attack Pope Francis.

When these folks were totally silent about the abuse situation in the papacies of St. John Paul the Great and Benedict XVI — though it began to break wide open during those two papacies and the problems they now want to lay at the feet of the current pope began with those two previous popes.

Isn't it amazing that, as survivor after survivor spoke out about the harm done to them by abusive clerics during the papacies of St. John Paul the Great and Benedict XVI, their testimony fell on deaf ears in the hard-right sector of the Catholic church? But now those folks have discovered the abuse horror show….

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