Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

June 21, 2012

Another View: Religious groups' responsibility

Organized religions are responsible for many wonderful things, too numerous to mention here.

But they also have a responsibility to safeguard against terrible things that are done in their name.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in two current controversies — one involving the Catholic archdiocese in Philadelphia, and the other an ultra-Orthodox Jewish congregation in Brooklyn.

Jurors are scheduled to hear closing arguments in the child-endangerment trial of Monsignor William Lynn involving his handling of several priest-abuse complaints.

Lynn, 61, was the Philadelphia archdiocese secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. Dozens of priests have been accused of raping or molesting children in the archdiocese, yet were not reported to the authorities by the church and were allowed to continue to interact with young people.

Lynn testified that he was prevented from getting accused priests into treatment programs or removing them from parishes by the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

A similar despicable situation exists in the Orthodox haradi congregation of Agudath Israel, where abuse victims are discouraged and often ostracized for reporting incidents to police.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has told Agudath Israel's leaders that police rather than rabbis should be the first ones notified in suspected child-abuse cases.

Agudath's executive vice president, David Zwiebel, has insisted that sex-abuse cases should be reviewed by rabbis before they are reported to police.

We understand that this policy is the result of centuries of warranted mistrust of authority in other countries by some Orthodox communities, but today, in the United States, this is terribly misguided.

While religious rights are precious and should be safeguarded, the Catholic Church and Agudath must understand that children must be protected. Nothing is more important than that.

Every state has "mandatory reporter" statutes identifying professions required to report child maltreatment under specific circumstances.

In New York, they include various medical personnel, including physicians, medical examiners, coroners, dentists, registered nurses, emergency medical technicians and social workers.

But not clergy.

Police — not priests or rabbis — are the experts in dealing with child-abuse claims. Hiding an abomination is an abomination itself.

-- The Daily Star

Oneonta, N.Y.

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