Abuse

Federal Court Says Accused Abusive Priest Didn’t Work for the Vatican

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.

High Appreciation or Holy Adoration? The Slippery Slope of Sports

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.

 

How Do You Call the Cops on the Cops? Sobering Accounts of Abuse by Border Patrol

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. 

'Sound of My Voice': Belief, Skepticism and Cults

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.

Mothers, Violence and the House GOP

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.

 

Breaking the Chains of Religious Tradition

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.

Abu Ghraib, Unrepentance, and the Way of the Cross

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 'Exorcism' Leads to Gay Teen's Suicide

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.

Defending (and Empowering) the Vulnerable

IMPACT:Ability. http://www.triangle-inc.org

IMPACT:Ability. http://www.triangle-inc.org

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?

Say It Ain't So, David

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.

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