sexual harassment

Scandal-Scarred Cardinal Keith O’Brien Renounces ‘Rights and Privileges’ of His Office

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, 2007. Image via RNS/Reuters/DavidMoir.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, 2007. Image via RNS/Reuters/DavidMoir.

Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who was accused of sexually harassing several men in a scandal that exploded on the eve of the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, has renounced the “rights and privileges” of his office but may keep his prestigious title, the Vatican announced March 20.

O’Brien did not take part in the March 2013 conclave and now he will be barred from any future conclaves. At age 77, he would have lost his voting eligibility at age 80.

Francis had been under pressure to take some action against O’Brien since one of his victims revealed that an internal church report on O’Brien had been sent to Rome and was “hot enough to burn the varnish” off the pope’s desk.

At least five men — three priests, a former priest, and a former seminarian — accused O’Brien of either sexually harassing them or pressuring them into sex, in allegations that went back to the 1980s. O’Brien was accused of being sexually active up through at least 2009.

Those were also the years in which O’Brien became increasingly outspoken in his denunciation of homosexuality and gay rights; he called to homosexuality a “moral degradation” that was “demonstrably harmful” to gay people. In response, the gay rights group Stonewall crowned O’Brien “bigot of the year.”

When Pope Benedict XVI accepted O’Brien’s resignation as one of his last official acts before retiring, O’Brien admitted “there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”

Adding to the urgency for Francis to take further action were recent reports that the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, which O’Brien headed until he resigned in the wake of the initial revelations, had spent nearly $300,000 on a retirement home for O’Brien in northern England.

Swept Under the Rug

Alexander Motrenko/Shutterstock

Sexual harassment and abuse to clergy, specifically clergywomen, is often swept under the rug. Alexander Motrenko/Shutterstock

Today churches are often rocked with sexual harassment and abuse perpetrated by priests and clergy. Yet, sexual harassment and abuse to clergy, specifically clergywomen, is often swept under the rug.

A 2007 study by the United Methodist Church on sexual harassment and abuse found that nearly 75 percent of Methodist clergy women have experienced sexual harassment and abuse. The common settings for such harassment are church meetings and offices where perpetrators are mostly men and increasingly laity. “Sexual harassment destroys community. This alienating sinful behavior causes brokenness in relationships,” the study states.

Despite the prevalence of increased boundary training and education, the 2007 study found that only 34 percent of small churches and 86 percent of large churches have policies to handle such situations.

In 30 years of ministry, diaconal and ordained, I have seen that church politics, ignorance of or lack of policies and procedures, tolerance for inappropriate behavior, status of perpetrator, and money are obstacles to dealing with sexual harassment and abuse to clergy in a healthy way.

Scientific American Blog Editor Leaves Over Sexual Harassment Allegations

Monica Byrne's blog

Monica Byrne's blog

Last week I found out about the unfolding cases of sexual harassment by a respected science blogger and the head of Scientific American’s blog, Bora Zivkovic. It shocked me because I’ve met the man, though I don’t know him well. And so I read the accounts of the three women science bloggers who exposed him. Thefirst one shocked me and made me angry. And the second one shocked me further, because she wrote of the harassment continuing at a conference I attended. It happened right under my nose.

Women are an important part of the science community, but there’s a group of powerful men who are gatekeepers, and some of them use this power as a tool to be overtly sexual with female bloggers looking to advance their writing careers in the science community. The allegations regarding Bora Zivkovic seem to be hard for many in the science community to swallow because he has been a vocal supporter of women’s importance in the field and has actively nurtured the careers of many bloggers.

‘How Far Is Too Far?:’ Sexuality and Sexual Violence on Christian Campuses

A young couple holds hands. Photo courtesy Peter Bernik/shutterstock.com

Unfortunately, sexual violence on college campuses is a widespread reality. As many as 20-25 percent of women will face attempted or completed assault over the course of their college tenure. Contrary to popular myths about “stranger-danger,” 9-in-10 of those victims will know their attacker. 

For Christian college administrators, who take seriously the formation not just of mind but of spirit, the reality of campus-based sexual violence is challenging for many to admit. Yet it has serious implications for how students learn, understand, and develop self-respect and love for their neighbor.

In speaking with students, former students, and staff at Christian schools across the country, what’s revealed is that education about the realities and effects of sexual violence among college students remains anemic at best. There’s much to suggest that students are finding their way, but many — particularly at more sexually orthodox campuses — face frightening barriers to knowledge. When it comes to educating mind and spirit on sexual violence, Christian institutes of higher education still have far to go.

To Tell the Truth: The Courage to Speak Out Against Respected Men

Close-up of intimidating man, JPagetRFPhotos / Shutterstock.com

Close-up of intimidating man, JPagetRFPhotos / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: As we continue reporting on the important topic of sexual abuse and violence, Sojourners has opened up the Sexual Violence and the Church blog series for submissions. This piece is one such submission. If you are interested in submitting a post for the series, please email the Web Editor HERE.

I know now, what I wish I knew then. Only after speaking up, did I learn how common stories like mine are to women across the globe. I know the warning signs and have a clearer picture of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. I long for each of us to wrestle with the truth that we are never to blame — no matter how we dress, what we look like, or how much we’ve had to drink.

We never, ever deserve to have our bodies treated as objects of shame.

 

Do Atheists Have a Sexual Harassment Problem?

Sexual Harassment definition image, Todd Taulman / Shutterstock.com

Sexual Harassment definition image, Todd Taulman / Shutterstock.com

Nontheists — both male and female — have shared stories of unwanted sexual attention at nontheist gatherings, including propositions for sex and unwelcome touching. Chatter has ranged from calls for more women to attend nontheist events to personal attacks on prominent female skeptics for discussing harassment. Meanwhile, two more skeptic/feminist bloggers announced they will not attend TAM.

The debate has had two major impacts — a call for cooler tempers and the immediate implementation of sexual harassment policies by all of the major nontheist organizations, both national and regional.

No one is suggesting that all nontheist events are unsafe for women. But the controversy has members of the nontheist community, which prides itself on its embrace of rational thinking, asking whether they have a sexual harassment problem. And if so, what should be done? 

The 'Field of Panties': Sexual Violence and Immigrant Farmworkers

Field image by eurospiders/Shutterstock.

Field image by eurospiders/Shutterstock.

They call it the field de calzon — the "field of panties" —because so many rapes happen there.

On Wednesday, the organization Human Rights Watch released the report Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability of Immigrant Farmworkers in the US to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. It’s filled with tales that would make Jeremiah, or Amos, or Micah weep: stories of some of the most marginalized, exploited, and impoverished people in the country.

HRW talked to 160 farmworkers, growers, law enforcement officials, attorneys and other experts in agricultural workplace issues in 8 different states, finding that most women working in agriculture have been — or know someone who has been — victimized sexually at work; confirming the findings of a 2010 survey of California Central Valley workers in which 80 percent reported having experienced sexual harassment or abuse on the job.

It’s common enough that some women farm workers see it as “an unavoidable condition of agricultural work.”

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