Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pope Francis you have company: other faiths and groups that abuse children

There’s a saying, “birds of a feather flock together” and in this case the birds are different religious groups and what they all do is sexually abuse children.  Although Pope Francis and the catholic church are notorious for abusing the most children for the longest time these perpetrators are not alone.

It’s good that the catholic church has had so much press and revelation of what goes on behind closed church doors.  Now, the truth about other religious organizations (and Boy Scouts and athletic organizations) is seeing the light:


SNAP, the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests has a new chapter: SNAP-Menno an Anabaptist-Mennonite chapter formed by twelve survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates. One of the founders, longtime victim-advocate Ruth E. Krall, an emerita professor at Goshen (Ind.) College who dedicated decades of her life to understanding and penetrating the deeply hidden plague of sexual abuse among Mennonite clans.  Krall wrote a book, The Elephant in God’s Living Room, about Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse of women.

Barbara Graber, a former professor at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., is an associate editor of, a website devoted to preventing sexualized violence among Mennonites. As a survivor of sexual abuse, Graber was drawn to the “wealth of knowledge and hope” in the SNAP organization.  “I was overwhelmed with emotion walking into a room of several hundred survivors who had, like me, been sexually violated by the same persons who taught us about God and were members of our faith community,” Graber says about the 2014 SNAP annual conference.*  There are other SNAP chapters for Presbyterians, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, children of missionaries, Orthodox Christians and Boy Scouts, among others.

2015 Conference Information (July 31-Aug 2 in Alexandria, VA)

Mormons and the Boy Scouts Link

Child molester + Mormons = easy prey

The Sins of Brother Curtis: A Story of Betrayal, Conviction, and the Mormon Church by Lisa Davis is an account of one of the most prolific serial child molesters in the U.S., Frank Curtis. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Curtis was a Sunday School teacher and Boy Scout leader, so he had double access to children. He molested boys in several Portland, Oregon from 1976 to 1991. At a lawsuit trial against the LDS Church is was discovered that bishop had told the victim’s mother that they “knew” Curtis was a pedophile and hadn’t warned the family—that it was discovered that the church had known for years that Curtis was a danger to children. (Sound familiar Pope Francis?) Curtis was excommunicated (for homosexuality rather than pedophilia) then re-baptized and returned to the positions from which he preyed upon children.

So what do the Mormons have to do with Boy Scouts (other than molesting them)?   According to Davis while the Boy Scouts of America is a separate entity from the LDS Church, but the Mormon church is the largest single sponsor of the BSA. So almost all Mormon boys are Boy Scouts and many have been molested in both places.  So the LDS Church decided that leaders of church Boy Scout troops had to be checked out by the BSA – that’s like asking the fox to watch the chickens.  

The LDS must have used the catholic church for a role model: it took so many years before their crimes saw the light of day, there were so many victims, and the church fought a battle to keep it secret and the perpetrator “repented” and was given another chance to have access to children. Like the catholic church, the LDS had the deep pockets and the lawyers to wear the victim’s lawyers down. [The LDS Church’s lawyers] were fighting a war of attrition, in which one side wins just because the other side can’t keep up.
It turns out that Curtis had a criminal record from way back – stealing, armed robbery in the same area where Al Capone did his dirty work. Curtis’ criminal record said that he had inappropriate sexual behavior with boys. There was a clue that was missed. If, in 1929, they say that he’s having sex with young boys, and his last victim was molested in 1991, that’s more than 60 years.

Jehovah’s witnesses

Again, like their counterparts in the catholic church Elders in the Jehovah’s Witness leadership have been covering up child sex abuse.  Recently, a group of ex-Jehovah’s Witness members put up a billboard calling out leadership in the church for failing to adequately address sexual abuse — and even for actively covering it up. The billboard points viewers to a website ( that offers evidence for the claims. The group hopes for the message to make an impact during upcoming conventions, which thousands will attend.

They want to hold Elders accountable for failing to report sexual abuse. Now, Elders are instructed to only turn over to authorities cases in which there are two witnesses — which means that in addition to the victim, either the perpetrator must confess, or the abuse must have been performed where another church member could witness it — something most sexual predators know how to avoid. They’re asking every Jehovah’s Witness to contact the governing body of the church and call for change -- to call for Elders to be ordered to report every incident, with or without a witness. The billboard will be present through two Jehovah’s Witness conventions on July 31, and August 7.  Having the Elders be accountable is a good step to take but direct reporting to the police would be better for the children.

Revelations on Rabbis

It not only Christian denominations sexually abusing children, the Jewish institutions in Israel and in the U.S. do their share of abuse.

In Israel the past week, two men heading religious institutions in Israel were added to the list of sex predators in the religious Jewish world. Rabbi Ezra Scheinberg was caught by police two weeks ago at Ben Gurion airport trying to avoid arrest on charges of rape, sexual harassment and indecent assault. Ten women have come forward – with more expected because the court lifted the ban on releasing his name. Scheinberg, 47, married with eight children raped women who came to him for spiritual counseling, and told the women it was part of their healing treatment. (We’ve heard that story before).

One of his victims said, “After all these years of your intimidations, we are no longer scared. Your scare-tactics no longer work on us….If you had one drop of integrity of justice, of truth you would ask for our forgiveness. But your heart was always made of stone.”  Scheinberg’s students,  originally shocked, threw his books in a big trash can, and staff are calling him “an abomination.

Just like Pope Francis and his bishops, the Chief Rabbi Eliyahu, was the cover for abusive rabbis. Dr. Hannah Kehat, one of the founders of a group established by Orthodox activists to investigate complaints of sexual abuse within the religious sector, said Eliyahu “waged terror against any woman who dared to complain.”  The victims were called liars in public and learned that rabbis support the offender and not them.

Like their catholic counterparts, many rabbis advise and encourage victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their families to not report these crimes to the police. They believe that incidents of child sexual abuse should be addressed internally, led by the rabbi. To keep victims from going to the police, they defend the perpetrators saying “he has a wife and children so why make his entire family suffer?”, “the abuse happened many years ago,” “it was a moment of weakness,” “he’s a righteous, God-fearing person,” “you’ll be bringing shame on you, your family and our community,” “you’ll ruin your marriage prospects,” and so on. 

Because of the closed Orthodox society there is greater opportunity for abuse and cover-ups – for example, having large families, use of male mikveh (ritual bath-house), limited or no sexual education, desire to protect the reputations of leaders/rabbis and institutions, isolated communities that often reject the use of mainstream law enforcement, the existence of extreme taboo/stigma etc.  Some experts believe that around 50% of Hassidic boys in Brooklyn are sexually abused. Much of the community is in denial but like the catholic church, exposure will wake up the faithful.