Aimee Green 08-21-2012

A federal judge on Monday dismissed the Vatican from a lawsuit filed by a former Portland teenager who says he was sexually abused by a pedophile priest who was transferred from Ireland to Chicago and then Portland in an alleged church effort to hide his past.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman of Portland said the Vatican didn't employ the Rev. Andrew Ronan, who — according to the lawsuit — molested the teenager in 1965 and 1966. Mosman's ruling means the Vatican can't be held financially liable for the abuse.

"It's clearly a disappointment, but we're definitely not discouraged," said Jeff Anderson, the Minnesota attorney who is representing the victim, listed in the suit as John V. Doe.

Brian E. Konkol 08-09-2012
Basketball image, Yuri Arcurs / Shutterstock.com

Basketball image, Yuri Arcurs / Shutterstock.com

While I strongly believe that physical activity and participation within sports can offer excellent avenues for education and wellness on an individual and community level, my role as a fan of sports has been significantly tested over recent years. In other words, I have come to wonder whether or not something inherently good, such as sports, has reached excessive levels to the point of having far too many negative consequences in society. For example, in the U.S. we experience massive inequality and outcry surrounding government budget shortfalls, yet we seem to have more than enough funds for stadiums, tickets, TV packages, and team-related memorabilia. While our public servants receive salary cuts and loss of jobs, millionaire professional athletes argue with billionaire owners over income distribution and so-called “fairness." And of course, while I hear countless people complain about how busy they are and how financial times are tough, those same individuals seem to have plenty of time to watch a few hours of sports on TV each night, and more than enough resources to support their favorite teams. With all of this in mind — and one could list countless more examples — we have to wonder whether our priorities have been distorted, as our collective love for sports may have crossed the line from entertainment to idolatry. Or in other words, how we went from being spectators and participators to devout worshippers.

Maryada Vallet 07-23-2012
Via PBS's "Need to Know."

Sexual assault survivor (name withheld) recounts her alleged attack by a Border Patrol officer. Via PBS's "Need to Know."

What would you do if you were offering a voluntary service, like medical or pastoral care to a vulnerable population, and the clients repeatedly spoke of abuses by a specific perpetrator? You would be a “mandated reporter,” which for the caring professions means you must report certain cases of abuse to authorities. But then you find out that federal employees—law enforcement, in fact—are committing the atrocities. How do you call the cops on the cops?

This was my dilemma as I started working on the Mexico-side of the Sonora-Arizona border washing blistered feet and bandaging wounds of migrants who were just repatriated back to Mexico. 

We set up the Nogales Migrant Aid Station to provide basic care to upwards of 1,200 deported people each day. But we did not expect that human rights documentation would become the most pressing part of that work. With each Homeland Security busload of migrants being released from Border Patrol custody, we listened and then documented case after case of abuse. 

The abuse involved cussing and yelling, being pushed into barbed wire fencing, sexual assault, denial of life-saving medical care, denial of adequate food and water to children and the list continues. 

Joshua Witchger 05-16-2012
Apple image by OlegSam / Shutterstock.

Apple image by OlegSam /Shutterstock.

Typcially, cults don’t garner media attention unless they do something really big, like when Heaven’s Gate rose to the public eye in 1997 after 39 members committed mass suicide. And while cults may welcome newcomers openly or warily, it seems they prefer to remain elusive and secretive.

In the feature-length drama Sound of My Voice, Peter Aitken, a 20-something school teacher, is angry at the cultish fanaticism that led to his mother’s death (per her cult’s teaching, she refused to take medicine when she was gravely ill) and turns a cynical eye toward belief patterns he believes distort reality.

Shaped by an experience that left him void of parental companionship, he searches for meaning alone, not knowing what to believe.

Lisa Sharon Harper 05-04-2012
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

House Republicans' news conference on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act in April. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

When we look deeply into our mothers’ eyes we see the beauty and power of grace; their grace offered to us and our grace offered to them.

And so their abuse is unthinkable …and the thought that their abuse would be deemed unworthy of protection by the state—for any reason—is unconscionable.

Why, then, is the House GOP insisting on a scaled down version of the bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that the Senate reauthorized with bipartisan support in April? Because they have decided certain women are worth protecting and others are not.


Fraidy Reiss 04-24-2012
RNS photo by Jerry McCrea/The Star-Ledger

Fraidy Reiss of Westfield. RNS photo by Jerry McCrea/The Star-Ledger

Where I come from, girls are married off as teenagers to men they barely know and are expected to spend their lives caring for their husband and children. They are required to cover their hair and nearly every inch of their skin, and to remain behind a curtain at parties and religious events.

Where I come from, if a woman wants to feel her hair blow in the wind or wear jeans or attend college, the courts have the authority to take her children away from her.

Where I come from, you might be surprised to learn, is the United States. Specifically, New York and then New Jersey, in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Debra Dean Murphy 03-21-2012
Photo by Jana Birchum/Getty Images

Lynndie England in 2005 during her courts-martial. Photo by Jana Birchum/Getty Images

You remember Abu Ghraib: the correctional facility in Baghdad where such atrocities took place that the prison’s very name is now synonymous with and shorthand for torture, degradation, military scandal, and unchecked American hubris.

A young army reservist named Lynndie England came to represent the horror of that dark chapter (one of several, as it turned out) of the war in Iraq. Photographs of England posing with abused Iraqi detainees led to a dishonorable discharge, a felony conviction, and a two-year prison sentence. Also revealed during and after the shame of Abu Ghraib was England’s own status as both a co-conspirator and an unwitting casualty. She was not a victim in the same way that the Iraqi prisoners were but, given her rank, gender, background, and the weird sexual dynamics she shared with the scandal’s ringleader (and father of the baby she would give birth to a few months later), England’s culpability, like that of many who commit heinous acts, was not separable from her own troubled life.

In the tidy way we like these narratives to play out, England was supposed to pay her dues for the evil she had done and, with time for reflection and introspection, own her guilt and express her sorrow. Or at least, for public consumption, she was supposed to voice regret for the tragic choices she made back in 2003 and offer an apology to those whom she had wronged. But in a recent interview, England was unrepentant. Her only regret, it turns out, is that her actions at Abu Ghraib may have directly caused American casualties.

Christian Piatt 02-03-2012
Eric James Borges via Facebook.

Eric James Borges via Facebook.

Eric James Borges was teased his entire life for being different. Though he didn’t come out publicly until his sophomore year of college, he recalls emotional and physical abuse as far back as kindergarten for his differences. And though most children undergo some degree of hazing from time to time, the seeming indifference of the adults in his life made matters dramatically worse.

In a video recorded for the “It Gets Better” Project, an LGBT advocacy group focused on offering hope and community to LGBT people on the margins, Borges, 19, recalls being physically assaulted in a full high school classroom while his teacher stood by and watched.

The distressed teen had nowhere to turn at home either. His Christian parents decided to perform a ritual exorcism on him with the hope of “curing” him of his orientation. When that failed, they kicked him out of the house.

Though Borges went on to advocate for LGBT rights through the “It Gets Better” Project and his work with The Trevor Project (a group committed to preventing suicide among LGBT teens), the demons of his past still lingered. Despite finding a community that affirmed and embraced who he was, the damage had already been done.

He killed himself on Jan 11.

Jack Palmer 12-09-2011

Through the wreckage of the Penn State abuse scandal, we’ve all become witnesses to what happens when our principles of justice are not assured for those who most need them.

When we see people in positions of power and authority — particularly those who have held a huge amount of respect and clout in a community — fail to protect the vulnerable in our society, it moves something within society’s collective conscience.

I imagine that the questions people all around the country asked when the news broke were similar:

How could this happen? Who wasn’t living up to our expectations? How can we make sure that something like this never happens again?

James Colten 11-11-2011
King David (left, by Paul Reubens) and Joe Paterno (coaching in 2010)

King David (left, by Paul Reubens) and Joe Paterno (coaching in 2010)

Abuse of physical strength and power hasn’t been limited to the locker rooms at Penn State. Nor is it limited to middle-aged men. It's in every culture, every city and state, and in every generation. And, I might add, it is both wicked and foolish.

I think we’ve been given enough examples of such abuse being handled incorrectly—to be swept under the rug instead of dealt with directly. The silence of witnesses only allows the abuse to continue. When I spoke with Daniel Walker, author of the new book God in a Brothel, about child slavery and prostitution, he noted that the men who oppress women and children don’t need to be ministered to as much as they need to be held accountable.

Joe Pa, 84, who had coached at Penn State for more than 45 years, has been fired, and the university’s president has resigned over the abuse scandal. Both actions were reactive responses to a problem that really needed proactive intervention.

Timothy King 08-16-2011

The first few nights weren't so bad. It was on the fourth night, the night it rained, that it got to me. I had just spent the past week sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the Illinois state Capitol building in Springfield. Throughout the week, young people of faith, college students, as well as homeless and formerly homeless youth traveled from Chicago to Springfield. Some slept on the sidewalks at night, and others came solely to lobby their legislators. We were all there for the same reason -- because each year nearly 25,000 youth experience homelessness in the state of Illinois. Not only were there not the resources to help these youth, but most legislators and most of the general public didn't even realize the problem existed.

In the past few weeks, I've written about a lot of full-page ads. This full-page ad is different. Too often, homeless youth have been invisible. The Ali Forney Center, a service provider for LGBT homeless youth, has a full-page ad in this month's issue of Sojourners magazine. GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Association Against Defamation, connected the Ali Forney Center to Sojourners, as a part of an advertising campaign the Ali Forney Center is running. The ad highlights that up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. I have talked with many teens who became homeless because they were kicked out of their homes or ran away from abuse by their parents because of their sexual identity. After their homes became dangerous, they went to the streets, where many were attacked and some were trafficked or forced into prostitution.

Brigitte Gynther 01-11-2011
January 11 is recognized around the world as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Julie Clawson 09-15-2010
We live in a world full of pain and injustice; there is no getting around that fact.
Elizabeth Palmberg 09-09-2010
As debate rages on about Craigslist"s recent decision to delete its "adult services" section, some clues about their perspective can be found in their response to the http://www.womensfund
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a courageous and intelligent woman. Born in Somalia, she immigrated to the Netherlands in 1992. She served in the Dutch parliament from 2003- 2006.
Maggie Goddard 07-30-2010
"I hate civilians," Warden Clooney barked into the microphone.
Johnathan Smith 07-29-2010
I want to tell you a story. It's a tale about drugs, prison, race, and justice (or the lack thereof).
Joseph Nangle 06-28-2010
A friend tells me that she finds it difficult nowadays to admit that she is a Catholic.
Jim Wallis 05-27-2010
The insurgent Tea Party and its Libertarian philosophy is a political phenomenon, not a religious one.
Jarrod McKenna 05-21-2010
British Evangelist Steve Chalke upset a lot of evangelicals of a reformed bent with two little paragraphs in (his book that has so much worth reading in it beyond what has got all the attention)