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Clergy Scandal Is Widespread
Miami Herald | April 13,2002 | Donna Gelrke-White

Posted on 06/11/2002 8:29:40 PM PDT by Lady In Blue

Distraught over her crumbling marriage, the Lake Worth woman went to her pastor for help.

She says he gave her counseling -- and that led to sex.

When she complained to his bishop, he told her she was to blame.

Now as plaintiff Jane Doe, she has a sexual misconduct civil lawsuit that last month the state Supreme Court said her denomination -- the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida -- must answer.

While headlines are breaking almost daily about Catholic priests, other religions are facing the same problem : What to do when their clergy are accused of sexual misconduct? From coast to coast, Protestant and Jewish leaders have been charged with sexual abuse -- some in high-profile cases.

In the last three months, local police have arrested two ministers -- both non-Catholic -- for sex crimes.

It's a false impression to think only Roman Catholic priests are involved with sexual abuse, says Dr. Gary Schoener, a Minnesota clinical psychologist and national expert on sex abuse by clergy members. In fact, he estimates two-thirds of the 2,000 cases he worked on during the past three decades involved Protestant ministers. Most involved religious leaders abusing women or teenage girls. The same is true for Catholics, except for the high-profile cases in the Boston Archdiocese and other dioceses where a few priests molested scores of boys.

''But Protestant cases are tougher to bring,'' says Schoener, who runs the Walk-In Counseling Center in Minneapolis. ``With the exception of the United Methodists, you can't charge a diocese, synod or bishop with failure to supervise or negligent retention of an offending minister because they don't employ the pastor -- the congregation does.''

Nonetheless, many religious organizations are requiring background checks and setting up procedures on how to handle abuse cases.

''This is something that all churches are having to deal with -- and we haven't in the past,'' says Mary Cox, communications director for Southeast Florida's Episcopal Diocese.

While she says she can't comment on the ongoing case -- church leaders haven't decided yet whether to appeal the state Supreme Court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court -- Cox notes the alleged incidents happened before the Episcopal church installed new policies.

''We were once very blind that this could all happen,'' she says.

That changed when a jury awarded a Colorado woman $1.2 million in a sexual misconduct judgment against the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado.

Now, Episcopal Life, the denomination's monthly newspaper, reports that background checks are encouraged for all clergy and church volunteers, and that dioceses adopt sexual misconduct policies and follow procedure manuals, which the Diocese of Southeast Florida now has in place.

All religious groups have certain responsibilities -- and can be held accountable in civil courts, says Yale law professor Peter Schuck. ''They do have an obligation to hire and supervise people with care,'' he says.

In the 1980s, the New Jersey Supreme Court found a house of worship could be held liable for negligent hiring or retention, noting the danger of ``exposing members of the public to a potentially dangerous individual.''

''I think the time has come when society needs to recognize that simply to be ordained is not a license to prey,'' says West Palm Beach attorney Gary Roberts, who represents Jane Doe in Lake Worth.

He added that he is handling another case involving an Episcopal priest in Central Florida accused of molesting a boy at a party.

Religious groups are beginning to conduct their own investigations when sexual allegations surface.

An internal investigation by the Orthodox Union of rabbis, for example, found ''profound errors of judgment'' in its handling of allegations against New Jersey Rabbi Baruch Lanner, who is scheduled to go on trial Monday on charges of criminal sexual contact with two teenage girls.

And many religious groups have installed safeguards -- even without allegations arising in their own congregations.

Since the mid-1990s, Kendall United Methodist Church has required two teachers to be in each Sunday school class for children, said Mary Susan Ward, the congregation's minister of Christian education.

Background screenings are conducted for all paid staff and many volunteers, she said.

Despite measures like this, clergy abuse cases continue to surface.

A Southern Baptist minister, Fernando Garcia, made 26 videotapes of himself abusing numerous children before an 8-year-old boy came forward in Greenwood, S.C., two years ago. He recently began a 60-year prison sentence for sexually abusing 23 children.

Closer to home, Boca Raton Rabbi Jerrold Levy was sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison for having sex with a 14-year-old boy he met over the Internet.

The United Methodists have a case before the Florida Supreme Court to resolve whether the denomination can be held accountable for a volunteer at a Pensacola church who allegedly sexually harassed a female staffer.

And just recently, police in South Florida accused two non-Catholic Christian leaders of sexual misconduct.

Last month, Miami police arrested the Rev. Misael Castillo, 41, the pastor of Iglesia Bautista Jerusalen in Allapattah, after officers said they found him naked inside a parked van having sex with a 17-year-old boy. He was charged with having unlawful sexual acts with a minor and released on a $15,000 bond. Castillo will be arraigned May 6.

Castillo has resigned from the church, said the Rev. David Cleeland, executive director of the Miami Baptist Association, a 280-church organization to which Iglesia Bautista Jerusalen belongs.

In January, youth pastor Monte Vaughn Benjamin of the nondenominational A Place Called Hope was charged with molesting two boys, 17 and 14. He has pleaded not guilty and a trial date is set for May 13.

Benjamin has told church leaders he is innocent. He has been relieved of duties until court proceedings and the police investigation are final, according to a church statement.

For their own protection, religious leaders must institute rules -- for example, not meet alone with children or adults -- to avoid any appearance of wrongdoing, said Fort Lauderdale attorney J. David Bogenschultz, who has represented some pastors.

''It's a shame,'' he said. ``It's the cost of doing business. You are in harm's way -- you have to protect yourself.''

The Herald wire services also contributed to this report.

TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS: alldenominations
FYI and Discussion.
1 posted on 06/11/2002 8:29:40 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
It is just amazing how many sick people are out there, in all walks of life. It is just so much sicker when they do their evil deeds while preaching God's Word.
2 posted on 06/11/2002 9:55:16 PM PDT by american colleen
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To: Lady In Blue
We run background checks on all volunteers who are going to be working with children.

I've said this before but the Catholic Church isn't a little church on the corner of Main and Gold streets. The sheer size of it and the fact that it is the largest Christian denomination in the world makes it a focus.

When I was a Methodist, our pastor's wife ran off with the choir director.

3 posted on 06/11/2002 10:22:10 PM PDT by tiki
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To: Lady In Blue
Say a Rosary a day this week and through the Conference for the Bishops
4 posted on 06/11/2002 11:11:57 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: tiki
5 posted on 06/12/2002 12:08:22 AM PDT by big'ol_freeper
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To: Lady In Blue
Distraught over her crumbling marriage, the Lake Worth woman went to her pastor for help.

This is a local woman but the Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fl) won't cover the story because it does not help them cast the Catholic Church ina bad light. Lake Worth is next door to West Palm Beach

I regularly exchange Email with one of the editors of the paper - he says he is Catholic - and they routinely deny bias but one sees how they ACT. I remind them of that repeatedly, but they have no shame

6 posted on 06/12/2002 5:05:27 AM PDT by Catholicguy
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To: Lady In Blue
Wise words from Cardinal Dulles on the Impending Bishop's meeting.

Cardinal Dulles Weighs In on Proposal for U.S. Bishops

Cautions That Outright Dismissal from Priesthood Is a Complex Issue

NEW YORK, JUNE 11, 2002 ( Cardinal Avery Dulles describes as a "compromise" the draft document which recommends how U.S. bishops should deal with priests involved in sexual abuse of minors.

Writing in the New York Times, the cardinal noted that initial reactions to the draft document fall into two general categories.

On the one hand are those favoring an approach of "zero tolerance" and "one strike and you´re out." A second school of thought,Cardinal Dulles noted, "cautions against hasty and simplistic solutions and asks important questions."

"The draft document," the theologian added, "[...] represents a compromise. ... On the issue of dismissal from the priesthood, for example, it seeks to steer a middle course, calling for the return to lay status of any who in the future commit a single act of abuse of a minor and all who in the past have committed more than one such offense."

The cardinal´s article appeared as U.S. bishops prepare for a crucial meeting this week in Dallas, Texas, to decide how to deal with the crisis of priestly scandals. A bishops´ ad hoc commission has published a draft program on how to deal with the sex abuses cases and how to avoid them in the future.

In the Times article, Cardinal Dulles cautioned: "The issue of dismissal from the priesthood is complex and contentious. Theologically speaking, anyone who is ordained remains a priest forever. To return a priest to the lay population is to obfuscate this theological principle. Is it not better, the second school will ask, for the church to take responsibility for its erring priests and continue to care for them as priests rather than dismiss them, as if expelling them from its ranks would protect society from them?

"There may be a need to limit a priest´s ministry, even severely. He may have to be sent to a monastery for a life of seclusion and penance. But involuntary return to the laity should be very rare and (as the draft recognizes) should never be imposed without due process."

He added: "The draft document does not explicitly raise the question of homosexuality, but it is a matter of obvious concern. Noting the large proportion of offenses against adolescent boys, some bishops will seek to screen out all homosexually inclined seminarians. Others will see the issue rather as one of obtaining psychologically mature candidates capable of living up to their commitment to celibacy."

The cardinal further cautions: "The bishops are understandably concerned to show that they are taking bold and decisive measures. But they should take care not to lock the church into positions that will later prove to be unwise."

7 posted on 06/12/2002 6:30:26 AM PDT by Catholicguy
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