29 Nov 2008

11 boys removed at faith-based Reclamation Ranch

The Birmingham News - November 25, 2008

Beating, torture allegations probed

by Kent Faulk

A faith-based program plans a protest this morning near the Blount County Courthouse where a hearing is to be held on what will be done with a group of boys removed Saturday from one of its facilities by law enforcement officers investigating allegations of severe abuse, beating and torture.

The faith-based program is calling the accusations false and misleading on its Web site. About 11 boys were removed from a Reclamation Ranch facility in Empire on Saturday and, based on court orders, placed into the custody of the Blount County Department of Human Resources, said Blount County District Attorney Tommy Rountree. The pastor and founder of the facility put the number at 17 boys.

Based on a complaint of "severe abuse, beating and torture of a minor child" at the ranch, a search warrant was executed by the Blount County Sheriff's Office, Alabama Bureau of Investigation, and the district attorney's office, Rountree said in a press release.


"The search by law enforcement and the questioning of involved minors yielded corroboration of the original allegations and evidence of other instances of mistreatment. The investigation is ongoing," Rountree said in his statement.

No arrests or charges had been filed as of Monday, Rountree said. He declined to give details of the allegations, although he said there had been no allegation of any sexual abuse.

A court hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. in Blount County, which Reclamation Ranch's Web site says will determine whether the boys will be returned to their parents or remain in state custody. The ministry plans to rally near the courthouse.

On www.reclamationranch.com, the facility called the allegations false and misleading and said it doesn't condone abuse. "We don't use any corporal punishment," said Pastor Jack Patterson, director and founder of Reclamation Ranch.

According to its Web site, Reclamation Ranch operates two facilities in the Empire area for boys and girls ages 12-17 and one program for men ages 18-35. The girls facility called Rachel Academy is in Walker County about a mile and a half from the boys campus in Blount County.

Girls at Reclamation Ranch were questioned at the Sumiton police station on Saturday but were later released. Patterson said the girls facility was still in operation on Monday and he planned to continue operation of the boys facility.

The Web site describes the program as working with boys and girls who have had problems in different areas that resulted in a family member placing them with the program.

"The Lighthouse for Boys is a minimum one-year program that incorporates Bible teaching, character training and respect for family," according to the Reclamation Ranch Web site. "The boys learn how to obey authority, how to complete chores in a `Christian' fashion with a good attitude and to complete all they do to the best of their abilities. They are given individual counseling sessions with the superintendents where they are taught how to deal with bitterness, anger and rebellion with the Word of God as our foundation. We keep the boys busy with exercise, school, chores and lots of fun!"

This article was found at:

http://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/statebriefs.ssf?/base/news/1227604555195750.xml&coll=2

Priest In Boston Clergy Scandal Denied New Trial

WBUR - NPR Boston
November 27, 2008

Associated Press

BOSTON - November 27, 2008 - One of the central figures in Boston's clergy sex abuse scandal lost his bid for a new trial yesterday when a judge ruled a victim's repressed memories were rightly used against the defrocked priest.

Paul Shanley is currently serving a 12- to 15-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2005 of repeatedly raping and fondling a boy at a Newton parish in the 1980s.

The victim testified he did not remember the sexual abuse until 2002, when memories came rushing back amid media coverage of the scandal.

In his bid for a new trial, Shanley argued his trial lawyer did not properly challenge the theory of repressed memory, and should have presented proof that it's questioned within the scientific community.

But Superior Court Judge Stephen Neel, who presided at Shanley's trial and heard his motion for a new trial rejected Shanley's argument today. The judge acknowledged there is considerable controversy over repressed memories, but said the theory "is generally accepted by the relevant scientific community of mental health professionals."

He said Shanley's trial lawyer was given an opportunity to challenge the theory by putting on his own expert and cross-examining a state expert.

Shanley's lawyer, Robert F. Shaw Jr., said Wednesday he would appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Judicial Court.

"The entire theory of the case ... was that (the victim) completely repressed his memory for 20 years, and that despite memory triggers throughout that period of time, he was not capable of remembering supposed abuse that occurred week after week after week for a period of years," Shaw said.

"The evidence not only does not corroborate his claims, it contradicts them," he said.

Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said the court rightly denied Shanley's request for a new trial.

"We believe that Paul Shanley received a fair trial and that a just verdict was rendered by the jury," he said.

Shanley was known in the 1960s and 1970s as a "street priest" who reached out to troubled children and homosexuals. He became a central figure in the abuse scandal after internal church records released in 2002 showed that officials were aware of sexual abuse complaints against him as early as 1967, but did not remove him.

This article was found at:

http://www.wbur.org/news/2008/81662_20081127.asp

St. Louis Archdiocese Wins Effort to Dismiss Clergy Sex Lawsuit

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release - November 28, 2008

Church Wins Effort to Dismiss Clergy Sex Lawsuit

Victim May Appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court

State Law Is Still Unclear on When Those Molested May Sue

In a victory for the St. Louis archdiocese, a three-judge appeals panel has tossed out a civil child sex abuse lawsuit against a now deceased priest. The decision may be appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Church attorneys do not contest that the former altar boy, suing as “Matt Doe,” was actually molested. But they claim he allegedly came forward too late.

Earlier this week, the Eastern District Appeals Court in St. Louis, by a 3-0 margin, agreed with Catholic officials.

Leaders of SNAP blasted both the decision and the archdiocese itself for “exploiting legal technicalities to keep the truth hidden and keep victims silent."

The case, filed in August 2006, is against Fr. Louis F. Kertz and the archdiocese. It charges that church officials knew he was a predator but warned no one and transferred him repeatedly. The victim reports that Kertz molested him at a movie theatre in 1981 when he was a student at All Saints School in St. Peters.

SNAP's David Clohessy says that this “out-of-touch ruling” may hurt other civil cases pending against several other alleged abusive clergy.

SNAP has repeatedly asked former Archbishop Raymond Burke and other church officials to not use technicalities to “dodge their legal and moral responsibility in helping those who have been raped or sodomized by clerics and ignored or rebuffed by church authorities.”

“The archdiocese spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on high-priced defense lawyers seeking to escape accountability for horrific crimes and cover ups,” said Clohessy. “It’s an unChristian misuse of parishioners’ donations.”

In May 2006, in a separate legal action, a Florida inmate named Michael K. Orf also sued Kertz. That lawsuit was filed in St. Charles County. Orf reports suffering abuse by Kertz at the same Catholic school in St. Peters.

Kertz was ordained in 1948 and was an Air Force chaplain in 1957. Locally, he worked at the following parishes: St. Liborius--1949, Our Lady of Sorrows--1954, St. Aloysius Gonzaga--1960-62, St. Ferdinand in Florissant--1964, Holy Guardian Angels--1965-66, Cure of Ars in Shrewsbury--1974-75, All Saints in St. Peters--1977-81, Immaculate Conception in Flat River--1982-85. He died in 1985.

The victim whose suit was just tossed is in his 30s, lives in Missouri, works in education, and is single. He is represented by Clayton attorneys Ken Chackes (369-3902 cell) and Susan Carlson (872-8420).

The archdiocese is represented by Ed Goldenhersch (516 2667), Bernie Huger (516 2659) and Lucie Huger 345 4725.

For more information:
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director (314) 566-9790 cell, (314) 645-5915
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director (314) 862-7688

This article was found at:

http://www.snapnetwork.org/snap_press_releases/2008_press_releases/112808_church_wins_effort_to_dismiss_
clergy_sex_lawsuit.htm

Retired Archbishop blames protective church hierarchy for clergy abuse scandal

Journal Sentinel - Wisconsin   November 20, 2008
By Marie Rohde


Now-retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland, in a videotaped deposition released Thursday, said his attempts to oust two sexual abusers from the priesthood were stalled by a protective church hierarchy. He also attempted to spread blame beyond himself to court officers, his fellow bishops and the high offices at the Vatican.

A portion of Weakland's deposition, taken over two days in June in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was released to the media last week. In it, Weakland, now 81, admitted that he transferred priests with a history of sexual misconduct back into churches without alerting parishioners. In the testimony released Thursday by Jeffrey Anderson, the St. Paul lawyer who filed the suit, Weakland also acknowledged that reports of abuse were not turned over to law enforcement authorities, that some incriminating mental health records were destroyed and that bishops spoke in code in correspondence discussing abusers who had been moved outside their diocese.

Those statements prompted a call Thursday for a criminal investigation by a group known as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Peter Isely, a spokesman for the group, turned over a transcript to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office. Kent Lovern, the office's chief deputy, said the records would be reviewed.

Rita McDonald, a Marquette University emeritus professor of psychology who was long involved in archdiocesan affairs, was critical of Weakland for spreading the blame to others.

"He accepted some responsibility for what happened, but he never called the police," McDonald said. "There was always that caveat: 'You have to understand how things were back then.'

"Well, didn't you know it was sinful? Didn't you know it was a crime? What the bishops needed was a whistleblower in their midst, someone to say this is wrong and we have to tell the truth."

Weakland testified that he held a local church trial - a formal internal proceeding that he said had not been done elsewhere - to get rid of two abusive priests in the 1990s. The priests appealed to the Vatican their removal from the ministry.

In 1998, Weakland testified, he went to the Vatican and met with officials in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, a top church office then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI.

"I pleaded that even though (one abusive priest) was retired and in ill health, that he be reduced to the lay state to bring some kind of closure . . . ," Weakland testified. "And instead it dragged on and he died about six months later."

Whether Weakland made his plea for reform directly to Ratzinger is unclear. Weakland said he made his case during an ad limina visit to Rome. In a column written for the Journal Sentinel in 2005, Archbishop Timothy Dolan described such visits as "required of bishops every five years to render an account of their office to the pope and the heads of Vatican congregations."
'Mistakes were made'

Jerry Topczewski, speaking for the archdiocese, said Thursday that the appeals procedure for these cases changed in 2002, and that these cases are now handled more quickly.

"Back then, were these cases treated with the urgency that we are used to in the United States? Probably not," Topczewski said. "Mistakes were made. We do things differently today."

Regarding SNAP's call for a criminal investigation, he said it has been the archdiocese's policy since 2002 to release any records requested by law enforcement agencies, but it has maintained a policy of not making such documents available to the public, the media or advocacy groups.

Weakland's comments are contained in a deposition taken over two days in June by lawyers representing seven men and women who are suing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for abuse they say they suffered as children decades ago. The trial is expected to begin in June or July.

Messages left for Weakland and with the priest who heads the church court here were not returned.

In the deposition, Weakland also blamed the criminal justice system for abusive priests, decrying a probation sentence ordered by one judge and the decision by a district attorney not to prosecute a case if an abuser was removed from his county.

"It was the priest's individual lawyer who was working with the D.A., and it was that lawyer who then reported to me what that conversation was all about and what was expected of me," Weakland testified.
Two choices

Weakland said the failures of others left him with what he perceived as two choices in dealing with abusers: Send abusers for treatment or move them to other dioceses.

Bishop Richard Sklba, who served under Weakland and now serves under Archbishop Timothy Dolan, was the "go-to guy" for church investigations of sex abuse cases, Weakland testified.

"He was auxiliary bishop, so I would say he was my main go-to guy on many things," Weakland said. "Certainly he would be involved in all of them (sex abuse cases)."

Weakland also was questioned extensively on the scandal that resulted in his sudden departure from his post in 2002: The payment of $450,000 to a man who accused the archbishop of date rape in 1979. In 1998, the man, Paul Marcoux, wanted Weakland to buy back a love letter for $1 million. Weakland's personal lawyer went to then-District Attorney E. Michael McCann, and criminal charges were considered.

"Counsel had advised that since it involved - would have involved - depositions all over Europe, etc., that the cost of trying a case like that would have been as much as the $450,000," Weakland said.

Bishops Accountability, a national nonprofit group that is attempting to document the sexual abuse scandal, posted in a searchable format the full deposition at its Web site at www.BishopAccountability.org/Weakland.

This article was found at:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/34823894.html

28 Nov 2008

Two cite beatings, file suit on Alamo

Arkansas Democrat Gazette
November 27, 2008

by Andy Davis

TEXARKANA — A beating administered by evangelist Tony Alamo and the man described as his “enforcer,” John Kolbeck, at Alamo’s religious compound in Fouke last year caused “serious and permanent injury” to a teenager’s left hand and wrist, according to a lawsuit filed by the teenager and another former church member.

Eighteen-year-old Spencer Ondirsek said in the lawsuit that Alamo struck him three times during the beating. At one point, he said, Alamo taunted him, saying, “You think I like doing this ? I love doing this !” The lawsuit was filed by Ondirsek and Seth Calagna, who is also 18, on Tuesday afternoon in U. S. District Court in Texarkana. Both teens left the church this year and now live in the Spokane, Wash., area.

Their attorney, W. David Carter of Texarkana, Texas, said Alamo has made “millions” through his businesses in Arkansas, California and New Jersey, and the teens are hoping to put a dent in the organization. Carter said he’s also hoping that other former members file similar suits.

“Any organization that’s going to oppress people like that, if you get a number of judgments against them, they’re no longer going to be able to do that,” Carter said.

Alamo, 74, has been incarcerated since his arrest in Arizona on Sept. 25 on charges of transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes after an investigation by the FBI and Arkansas State Police. According to his attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr. of Little Rock, Alamo is charged with engaging in sexual acts with five underage girls since as early as 1994.

Alamo has pleaded innocent to the charges and has denied that the church administers beatings.

Authorities are still searching for Kolbeck, 49, who is wanted on a charge of seconddegree battery in a beating that Calagna said he received at a warehouse in Fort Smith earlier this year.

If he can’t find Kolbeck, Carter said he will publish a notice of the lawsuit in the newspaper and ask a judge to declare a default judgment.

At a hearing in Alamo’s criminal case in October, Ondirsek, who was born into the church, testified that he plays the piano and had attended a music school in California.

The lawsuit says Ondirsek’s hand was injured while he was trying to protect himself from Kolbeck’s blows.

Carter said Ondirsek’s hand is still “stiff” from the beating, and Ondirsek is concerned about it affecting his ability to play.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to have evaluated by a doctor,” Carter said.

The teenagers say in the lawsuit that Alamo ordered the beatings that Kolbeck carried out.

Each time, Kolbeck would strike the teen in the face several times, then hit him on the buttocks with a board, the teens allege.

Ondirsek said he was beaten at the Fouke compound three times, at ages 12, 14 and 17. During the most recent beating, in October, Alamo reportedly introduced Kolbeck by saying, “Here’s Johnny !” The beating reportedly stopped when Ondirsek blacked out.

Calagna said in the lawsuit that, in addition to being beaten at the warehouse in Fouke, he was beaten at the compound in Fouke in 2006. After that beating, he said, his face remained swollen for several weeks.

This article was found at:

http://www.nwanews.com/adg/
News/244772/

Jehovah's Witness jailed for molesting boys

The Sydney Morning Herald

November 27, 2008

by Bellinda Kontominas



A member of the Jehovah's Witness church who molested three male church members after "ingratiating himself" into their families has been sentenced to more than 10 years in jail.

Robert Leslie Souter pleaded guilty to eight charges of sexual assault of the boys, who were aged between 14 and 16 at the time of the abuse, following prolonged negotiations with prosecutors.

Two of the victims were brothers whose parents had met Souter when the family first become involved with the church in 1970.

The elder brother, 14, known as CT, was first abused when he did a week of work experience with Souter, a qualified carpenter.

As CT climbed a ladder Souter followed him up, slipping his hand up the boy's shorts and rubbing his penis before climbing down and ejaculating himself.

Later when CT helped him at a carpentry job, Souter rubbed himself against the boy simulating sex and told him to think about the woman who owned the house. He then masturbated CT after telling him to put on the woman's stockings.

CT's younger brother, NT was about 10 years old when he first met Souter who would visit their home for dinner and family barbecues and go to the beach with them.

Four years later, while NT helped Souter to build a new church hall, Souter asked him, "Do you want me to show you how to become a man?" before making the boy perform sex acts.

Later, while taking the boy on a bike ride Souter said to the boy: "Let's go to the sand hills. I can show you how to make babies." He held his hand to the boy's mouth while having anal sex with him.

NT told health workers about the abuse after he experienced an anxiety attack while on a church convention in Alice Springs.

Souter was expelled from the congregation before being readmitted after he apologised to church elders.

Souter abused the the third boy, who worked for him, several times including while the boy slept as they drove home from a job.

Souter sat with his head down throughout the sentencing while his three victims, now adults, and their family and friends sat in the back of the court.

He is serving a prison sentence for the sexual assault of another brother of CT and NT, the court heard.

Judge David Freeman said the facts of this case were "distressingly similar to the case for which he is already serving time".

"That he has debauched all three sons of the one family has done extreme damage," Judge Freeman said. "The guilt of the parents for allowing a fellow member of their church to defile their sons is palpable."

Souter will serve a maximum of 10 years and six months in prison with a non-parole period of seven years and nine months.

He will be eligible for parole in 2015.

Outside court the victims said they were relieved by the sentence and that they could now begin to move on with their lives.

This article was found at:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/jehovahs-witness-jailed-for-molesting-boys/2008/11/27/
1227491709541.html

Broken lives: Nigeria's child brides who end up on the streets

Times Online - UK November 28, 2008

Child brides in Nigeria are often crippled by childbirth. Their injuries lead to incontinence, shame and exile

by Ramita Navai in Kano


In a small, dimly lit brothel in the red-light district of Kano in northern Nigeria nearly all the young prostitutes lined up on plastic chairs are runaway brides.

“I was married when I was 15 years old. I was forced into it,” said Hadiza.

Whenever her husband attempted to consummate the marriage, Hadiza would flee to her parents’ home, but they kept returning her to the man to whom she had been married off.

Finally her husband raped her: the attack was so violent that Hadiza was sent to hospital.

“We have no choice. If you’re not married by the time you’re 16, people think there must be something wrong with you,” she said. The girls around her nod silently - some of them had been forced to marry when they were only 12.

Northern Nigeria has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world: nearly half of all girls here are married by the age of 15.

The consequences have been devastating. Nigeria has the highest maternal mortality rate in Africa and one of the world’s highest rates of fistula, a condition that can occur when the pressure of childbirth tears a hole between the vagina and the bladder or rectum. Many women are left incontinent for life. Up to 800,000 women suffer from fistula in Nigeria.

“They marry young, they get pregnant young, they deliver young and they pick up the fistula,” said Kees Waaldijk, the chief consultant surgeon at the Babbar Ruga hospital, the world’s largest fistula clinic, in the northern state of Katsina.

Most cases happen to young girls during their first pregnancy, and nearly half the patients at Babbar Ruga are under 16.

Dr Waaldijk operates on up to 600 women a year, with no electricity or running water. He sterilises his equipment in a steel casserole pot that sits on a gas camping stove. Rows of girls and women - some as young as 13 - lie listlessly on rusty hospital beds, each connected to a catheter.

The smell of urine is overpowering and many of the women have been cast out from their communities. Some have been divorced by their husbands - it is estimated that up to half of adolescent girls in northern Nigeria are divorced. “If nothing is done the woman ends up crippled for life: medically, socially, mentally and emotionally,” Dr Waaldijk said.

The Nigerian federal Government has attempted to outlaw child marriage. In 2003 it passed the Child Rights Act, prohibiting marriage under the age of 18. In the Muslim northern states, though, there has been fierce resistance to the Act, with many people portraying it as antiIslamic. “Child marriage in Islam is permissible. In the Koran there is no specific age of marriage,” said Imam Sani, a liberal cleric in the northern state of Kaduna. He said that this was the root cause of the opposition among the more hardline mullahs, who believe that matters of Islamic “personal” law - marriage, divorce and inheritance - must be governed by the Koran, not the state.

“The Muslim clerics have a problem with this Child Rights Act and they decried it, they castigate it, they reject it and they don’t want it introduced in Nigeria,” Mr Sani said.

He said there would be serious repercussions if the federal Government attempted to impose a minimum age of marriage. “There will be violent conflict from the Muslims, saying that ‘no, we will not accept this, we’d rather die than accept something which is not a law from Allah’.”

Half of Nigeria’s 36 states have passed the Act, but it has been adopted by only one of the dozen Muslim states - and even that one made a crucial amendment substituting the age of 18 for the term “puberty”.

Each state in Nigeria has the constitutional right to amend legislation to comply with its local traditions and religion, meaning that central government is powerless to impose a minimum age of marriage.

Other vocal opponents to the Act include village heads and elders - almost all men - highlighting the tribal and cultural constraints that hamper attempts to stamp out child marriage.

“It is important we have the right to marry our girls young so there is no risk of pregnancy outside marriage. It is to preserve the purity of our girls,” said Usman, an 84-year-old man from the village of Yammaw Fulani, who married a 14-year-old girl four years ago. “We will never accept this law,” he said.


This article was found at:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article5248224.ece

27 Nov 2008

Lawyer: Alamo ordered punitive fasts over slights

KUAR - NPR Arkansas
November 26, 2008

Associated Press

Sexually abused woman loses bid to sue Mormons



The Sydney Morning Herald   November 27, 2008


by Bellinda Kontominas



A woman has lost her bid to sue the Mormon church after it allegedly failed to report to police that she had been sexually abused.

The woman, 36, who cannot be identified but was referred to in court as SDW, claimed that a Queensland chapter of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints knew that she had been abused by her stepfather, a church elder who ran a youth group, between November 1986 and October 1989 when she was a teenager.

During a Supreme Court hearing earlier this month, the woman claimed the church had breached its duty of care to her and sought damages for serious psychiatric problems she had developed as a result of the abuse.

However Justice Carolyn Simpson today denied the woman the chance to sue as the statute of limitations for commencing court action had expired.

The court had heard that, when she was aged about 16, the woman had told her mother that her stepfather had touched her and had sex with her.

Her mother reported it to the bishop of the church, who was also a police officer, and the church conducted a disciplinary tribunal, known as a "church court", which ruled the man be excommunicated.

From then, her stepfather stopped working at the church, no longer wore his temple garments and ceased taking the sacrament. Neither the church or any of its members took any further action.

The family moved to Wagga Wagga in 1989 where the sexual assaults allegedly continued.

However the woman did not report them to police until 1999.

Her stepfather was charged for the Queensland offences and sentenced in 2001 to a maximum of seven years' jail.

He was also charged for the NSW offences, but the case did not proceed as the woman was unwilling to give evidence against him after intimidating and threatening approaches were made to her by his daughter.

The woman had told the hearing that she had been unaware that members of the church knew of the abuse until 2004.

Justice Simpson ruled that a provision allowing plaintiffs to commence legal action up to one year after knowledge of pertinent facts supporting their case could therefore not be granted.

She also declined to use her discretion in this case as she believed it to be difficult to prove that the church owed her a duty to contact police and that any breach could be directly related to her current psychiatric condition.

She dismissed the claim and ordered that the woman pay the church's costs.

This article was found at:

Hillsong: Exorcism in the suburbs

LiveNews.com - Australia
November 26, 2008

by Tim Brunero

Mercy Ministries kept saying there were no exorcisms.

The Hillsong backed group seemed prepared to cop the charge that they forced sick girls in their Mercy Ministries residential program to sign over their Centrelink payments.

They seemed comfortable admitting that while they advertised girls would have access to psychiatrists and other health professionals, in fact, the only treatment they were really offered was housework and bible study.

But they didn’t want to own up to the medieval practice of exorcisms.

And you can’t blame them. Who would want to admit they had been trying to cure anorexia, drug addiction and other problems with such hocus-pocus?

They’d already lost high-profile sponsors like Rebel Sport, Bunnings and LG after news of their activities broke earlier this year.

But the girls I spoke to earlier this year when the scandal hit the headlines were unequivocal – they had been exorcised.

And now they believe they have hard evidence – documents, taken from a Mercy Ministries residence by a girl who “escaped” the program, that give instructions on how to exorcise demons.

The documents, provided to LIVENEWS.com.au, are highly disturbing. [see related article below]

Under subheadings like ‘Identifying Additional Demons’ and ‘What to do With Obstinate Demons’ detailed instructions are given on how to rid a person a possessed person.

“They sometimes talk: they may threaten the person or you. They have been know to say, ‘I am going to kill you,’ and other unsavoury phrases. Command them to be quiet in the Name of Jesus,” the book advises.

Later, the book, Restoring The Foundations published by an American Christian group warns those exorcising demons to be firm.

“The minister’s attitude is one of commanding. He needs to be firm and prepared to press in. He does not need to be loud. (Demons are not deaf.) The ministers’ commanding attitude resembles that of a person speaking to a little “yappy” dog commanding him to go home and stop barking,” says the book.

Megan Smith (not her real name) told me in March after her condition worsened at the group’s Sunshine Coast residence and she began self-harming she was exorcised.

“The whole time I was there, all I heard was that I'm demonic,” she said.

“They kept telling us that the world can't help us, professionals with all their 'worldly qualifications' can't help us, only Mercy could because only they have God's power.”

It sounds unbelievable that this group funded by a large influential church could be so irresponsible to think they could cure serious illness with prayer.

It’s one thing to con your flock to tithe a chunk of their income to the church, to pass off concerts as worship, to be browbeaten by charismatic preachers like Pastor Brian Houston, and to finish each service by laying hands of the sick and speaking in tongues.

It’s another to endanger vulnerable young women.

You might find it hard to believe.

But having grown up in the Hills district when Hillsong was just getting its patter down you can be assured this church is as crazy as it sounds.

Having been to one of their ‘HSC Hype’ study camps for Year 12 students, where they tried to brow-beat kids into becoming born again and stories about exorcism were de rigour – I have no doubts these stories are quite true.

Knowing as I do that Brian Houston’s first book was the decidedly un-Christian tome You Need More Money I find it easy to believe the claims of the many girls I have spoken to.

I believe former residents, who refer to themselves as “Mercy survivors”, when they say the group has recently attempted to remove their critical clips from YouTube and has attempted to remove references on Wikipedia to the recent controversy.

At the end of the day, you can’t blame Mercy Ministries for trying to deny there were exorcisms at their centres.

But when people start coming forward with exorcism handbooks, you’d think you’d admit the game is up.

LIVENEWS.com.au contacted Mercy Ministries for comment. They are yet to respond.

This article was found at
:

http://www.livenews.com.au/Articles/2008/11/26/Hillsong_Exorcism_
in_the_suburbs





RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS BLOG



Australian church affiliated with US fundamentalists opens school to teach how to raise the dead and cure cancer



Hillsong: Exorcism in the suburbs


They sought help, but got exorcism and the Bible 

Mercy Ministries exorcism books leaked

LiveNews.com - Australia
November 26, 2008

by Tim Brunero

'There's no exorcism - that's not how the program works': Hillsong's earlier denial

THE HANDBOOK: Leaked photocopies of the Mercy Ministries guide
Handbooks allegedly used to perform exorcisms on sick girls at the controversial Mercy Ministries residences in Sydney and on the Sunshine Coast have been leaked to LIVENEWS.com.au.

Mercy Ministries, which is bankrolled by the Pentecostal Hillsong Church, has previously denied performing exorcisms on residents.

The documents, obtained clandestinely by a girl who “escaped” the group’s clutches, shows counsellors how to rid ‘demons’ from girls struggling with anorexia, depression and drug addiction.

Mercy Ministries’ activities hit the headlines in March this year when former residents claimed they were subjected to exorcisms, were cut off from friends and family and had to sign over their Centrelink payments to the group.

Some of the young women say they had little or no access to the promised psychologists and other mental health professionals but were instead counselled by bible studies students whose solution to all problems was prayer.

Earlier this year the then head of Mercy Ministries, Peter Irvine, said exorcisms were not practised at the residences. Mercy Ministries has been forced to shut their Sunshine Coast residence.

“There’s no exorcism, no driving out of spirits it’s not how the program works,” he told Today Tonight’s Marguerite McKinnon earlier this year.

But the handbooks tell a different story and corroborate accounts given to LIVENEWS.com.au by former residents of Mercy Ministries.

In the handbook, under a section entitled ‘Identifying Additional Demons’ those practising the exorcism are advised to ask the demon’s name, but not for any more details.

“They sometimes talk: they may threaten the person or you. They have been know to say, ‘I am going to kill you,’ and other unsavoury phrases. Command them to be quiet in the Name of Jesus,” the book advises.

Later, the book, Restoring The Foundations, published by an American Christian group, warns those exorcising demons to be firm.

“The minister’s attitude is one of commanding,” it reads.
“He needs to be firm and prepared to press in. He does not need to be loud. (Demons are not deaf.) The ministers’ commanding attitude resembles that of a person speaking to a little “yappy” dog commanding him to go home and stop barking.

“We also want the ministry receiver to set his will to resist and then command the particular demon or grouping of demons to leave him, in Jesus’ name. This is repeated until the demons are gone.”

Later in the book, those performing the exorcism are given more complex techniques in a subheading called ‘What to do With Obstinate Demons’.

Later a list of ‘Scriptures that Demons Hate’ is provided.

“But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you,” is one such passage singled out.

The emergence of the exorcism handbook lends weight to other claims made by girls who went through the Mercy Ministries program.

Megan Smith (not her real name), who spoke to LIVENEWS.com.au earlier this year, said her panic attacks only got worse.

“I was self-harming,” she said.

“I was cutting my arm with anything I could get my hands on – scratching with anything from my nails to paper clips.

“I never really had a problem with self-harm beforehand. When you tell them about self-harming they said I was trying to get attention and I was taking their valuable time away from girls with real problems.”

Finally, she was subjected to an exorcism.

“The counsellor gave me a list of different demons – demon of anger, demon of unforgiveness, demon of pride, there were lots of them and I was told to go away and circle the demons I had in me or around me,” said Smith.

“I was really scared… they cast demons out of me, one by one, and they became quite excited and animated during the process, and spoke in tongues.

“It was the counsellors and myself and they put their hands on me and started praying one by one for each of the demons that were on the list to be cast out of me.

“After each demon was cast out I had to say ‘I confirm the demon of X has been cast out of me in the name of Jesus and is unwelcome to return.'

“The whole time I was there, all I heard was that I'm demonic.

“Even after the exorcism, when I had the next anxiety attack, I was told that they had already cast the demons out, so therefore I was obviously either faking it, or I had chosen to let the demons come back, in which case I was not serious about getting better.

“They kept telling us that the world can't help us, professionals with all their 'worldly qualifications' can't help us, only Mercy could because only they have God's power.

“So when I was kicked out for being 'demonic, unable to be helped, not worth a place at Mercy’ and because I had taken too long to pray to become a Christian... it left me worse than I had ever been before in my life.

“They told me I would never get better now because I had blown my chance. I started cutting my arms and wrists more than ever, with their voices echoing in my mind as I did it.”

Suicidal and self-harming after being removed from the program, which she now thought was her only hope, she went to see a “proper psychologist to prepare me to go back to Mercy to help me fit in better.”

“The psychologist had never heard of them but told me to stay away from them… that person helped me more in the 40 minute session – really listening to me and understanding me.”

LIVENEWS.com.au has contacted Mercy Ministries for comment and is still awaiting a response.

This article was found at:

http://livenews.com.au/Articles/2008/11/26/EXCLUSIVE_Mercy_Ministry_
exorcism_books_leaked



RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS BLOG

Australian church affiliated with US fundamentalists opens school to teach how to raise the dead and cure cancer



Hillsong: Exorcism in the suburbs


They sought help, but got exorcism and the Bible 

Child can be given blood against parents' religious objections, judge rules

Irish Times - November 27, 2008

A HIGH Court judge has directed that a Dublin hospital can, provided it is absolutely necessary, give a possible life-saving blood transfusion to a four-year-old girl despite the religious objections of her Jehovah's Witness parents.

The hospital made an emergency application to Ms Justice Mary Laffoy on Tuesday seeking an order allowing it to administer a transfusion after the parents refused to give consent.

The court heard the child was admitted to the hospital last Sunday suffering from pneumonia and an X-ray had revealed she needed to have fluid drained from her lung. It was possible the draining procedure would lead to severe loss of blood and the child would need a transfusion.

The parents, whose religion prohibits blood transfusions, had objected to any transfusion and the father had said he would go to court to stop it, it was stated.

The hospital then took its proceedings seeking permission for the transfusion.

Yesterday, the mother of the child appeared in court accompanied by two Jehovah's Witness members of a liaison committee with the hospital, which works with patients and their families in situations like this.

One of the committee members, Harry Homan, said that while the mother did not wish to address the court, she wanted it to be known that she was very happy with the hospital's treatment of her child but was objecting on deeply-held religious grounds to a transfusion.

Ms Justice Laffoy said she was satisfied she had the power to make an order directing the hospital to provide all necessary care for the child, including, if necessary, a blood transfusion but only where no other method is available and where the child requires medical intervention. "It is only if it is absolutely necessary", the judge added.

Mr Homan asked the judge if it was possible for a protocol to be issued for dealing with cases like this because they were very upsetting for those involved. The judge said she would leave that up to the hospitals and the Medical Council.

This article was found at:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/1127/
1227699548565.html

Child-Sex Case Grips Turkey Amid Religious Young-Brides Split

Bloomberg.com - Germany   November 27, 2008

by Ben Holland



Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Huseyin Uzmez denies having sex with a 14-year-old girl. He just defends a man’s right to marry one.

Uzmez, 76, a columnist at Turkey’s Islamist Vakit newspaper, is pleading not guilty to charges of sexually abusing a minor in a case that has gripped the country of 70 million. Since his release on bail on Oct. 28, Uzmez has publicly defended Islamic rules that permit girls to wed below the legal age of 16.

“A girl who’s reached puberty, who’s having periods, is of age, according to our beliefs,” Uzmez told national television the day he got out. “And if she’s of age, she can marry.”

Uzmez returns to court on Dec. 16. Whatever the eventual outcome, the case has widened the gulf between Turks promoting Islamic law and those who support the secular system put in place by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. The state religious authority, which employs imams at Turkey’s 80,000 mosques, opposes child marriage, though the practice remains rife.

Thirty-nine percent of married women in the southern province of Sanliurfa were 16 or younger on their wedding day, according to the Istanbul-based Social Democracy Foundation, which is campaigning against the practice.

They typically marry in religious ceremonies and delay civil marriage until they’re of age, according to the foundation.

“As long as you have people in Turkey who say this is okay and who use Islam to justify it, it remains a big problem,” says Amanda Akcakoca, an analyst at the European Policy Center in Brussels. “When people think Turkey, they think human-rights violations and problems with women’s rights.”

Out on Bail

Uzmez is accused of the abuse of the girl, called B.C. in the indictment, on several occasions in Istanbul and Bursa provinces. His first hearing was in September in Bursa, northwest Turkey. He was released after a second hearing, when the court ruled he no longer needed to be kept in jail.

His lawyer, Bulent Demir, says Uzmez will be found not guilty next month because there is no forensic evidence. He also argues that Uzmez is the victim of a witch hunt that was intensified because of his religious background.

“Without waiting for the result of the court case, everyone’s behaving as if he did it,” Demir said in an interview. “His Islamic identity has been used as a weapon against him.”

The Milliyet newspaper’s cover story on Nov. 21, illustrated with a photo of Uzmez, cited forensic data showing that as many as 120 child-abuse cases are being reported each week. “Turkey, What Happened to You?” was the front-page headline.

Longer Sentences?

After Uzmez’s release, female lawmakers from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party responded by proposing laws doubling prison sentences for child abuse.

Fatma Sahin, a sponsor of the child crime bill, said the Uzmez case is “upsetting” and highlights the need for penalties that are “tough enough to deter.” It has nothing to do with religion, she said.

Erdogan, 54, has passed human-rights laws, many aimed at protecting women, as part of his bid to edge Turkey closer to the European Union. It started membership talks in 2005.

A 2004 overhaul of the penal code stiffened penalties for so-called “honor killings,” the murder of women seen as staining a family’s reputation, and classified rape within marriage as a crime for the first time.

Sahin said Turkey, which ranked 123rd of 130 countries in a World Economic Forum study of gender equality, is “weaker on the implementation” of such measures.

‘Serious Problem’

The EU’s Nov. 5 report on Turkey’s progress to membership said “domestic violence, honor killings and early and forced marriages are still a serious problem.”

At the same time, Erdogan also has promoted measures that opposition parties say were inspired by Islam.

This year, he attempted to end the ban on Islamic-style headscarves at universities. That law, later overturned by the Constitutional Court, prompted prosecutors to demand Erdogan be removed from politics for undermining the secular constitution. In 2004, he tried to make adultery a crime, dropping his proposal only after EU pressure.

Uzmez’s comments showed how religious culture in Turkey can be oppressive, according to Canan Aritman, a lawmaker from the opposition Republican People’s Party.

Aritman said she has needed 24-hour armed protection since March, after she called on families not to make their young daughters wear Islamic-style headscarves. Such practices deny girls the right to remain children, she said. Aritman said she frequently meets women who are aware of sexual abuse within their own families, though they feel powerless to stop it.

Left on the Street?

“I’ve told a lot of women that they have to go to the courts, but they refuse,” Aritman said. “They say they’ll be left on the street.”

Levels of abuse in Turkey are probably no different than in Western Europe, though are half as likely to be reported, said Fatih Yavuz, a specialist in forensic medicine at Istanbul University who is regularly consulted in child abuse cases.

Gulsun Kanat, whose Purple Roof Foundation helps women who suffer from domestic violence, said she’s concerned about the Uzmez case because his prestige as a writer on religion backs up his comments on sexual maturity and marriage.

“It gives other people the green light,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Holland in Istanbul at bholland1@bloomberg.net.


This article was found at:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=
20601100&sid=adMYJfm7OC2I&refer=germany#

26 Nov 2008

Parents refuse possible transfusion for girl (4)

The Irish Times - November 26, 2008

THE JEHOVAH'S Witness parents of a 41/2-year-old girl who may need a blood transfusion are to be given the opportunity to address the High Court today after a hospital sought an order allowing it to give the child a transfusion if necessary.

The Dublin hospital made an emergency application to Ms Justice Mary Laffoy yesterday seeking the order after the parents refused to give consent for a transfusion.

The child, whose parents are from the Congo, was admitted to the hospital last Sunday after being transferred from a country hospital suffering from chest problems, fever, sharpness of breath and vomiting.

An X-ray revealed that fluid needed to be drained from her chest, a hospital doctor told the High Court. The doctor said that the procedure could involve potential loss of blood and even the possibility of bleeding to death, particularly as in this case the child's haemoglobin was low.

The girl's mother was told that a transfusion would be necessary in the case of bleeding.

The doctor told the court the mother then phoned her husband, who then spoke to the doctor telling him, "Don't transfuse under any circumstances."

The father said he would challenge it in the courts if the hospital tried to transfuse. The court heard the parents were put on notice that the hospital would be applying to the High Court for an order in relation to the child.

After hearing the procedure would not need to be carried out until today between 10am and midday, Ms Justice Laffoy said the parents should be put on notice that they could come to court before any order is made. She ordered the hospital to put the parents on formal notice of today's hearing.

This article was found at:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/1126/
1227486583462.html

Attorney: 8 new charges filed against Alamo

WXVT-TV Delta News November 25, 2008

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An attorney for jailed evangelist Tony Alamo says his client faces eight new charges in a sealed federal indictment.

Alamo remains in federal custody, accused of taking a minor girl across state lines for sex. Defense attorney John Wesley Hall Jr. tells The Associated Press that the indictment lists charges similar to the ones Alamo already faces.

Alamo pleaded not guilty to the new charges in a motion filed Tuesday.

Hall says it's "the same kind of stuff, just more of it." Hall declined to offer specifics on the charges, saying he had filed paperwork to waive Alamo's right to an initial hearing on the new charges.

Typically, sealed indictments are made public after an initial hearing. Debbie Groom, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Arkansas, declined to comment Tuesday morning on the indictment.

This article was found at:

http://www.wxvt.com/Global/story.asp?S=9411958&nav=menu1344_2

Deal reached on baby born to polygamous-sect teen

The Honolulu Advertiser - November 25, 2008

Associated Press

SAN ANGELO, Texas — A teenage member of a polygamous sect who had refused to reveal the whereabouts of her newborn reached an undisclosed agreement Tuesday with authorities seeking a DNA sample from the baby so they can find out whether the father is an adult.

Texas District Judge Barbara Walther ordered that the terms of the compromise between the 17-year-old and the state be kept secret, said Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the state department of Child Protective Services.

The girl had previously been ordered to allow the agency to examine the baby, born after the April raid of the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado. Earlier Tuesday, the girl was called to the stand and repeatedly refused to say where the baby was.

"She is living out of state. ... I just don't want anyone to know where she is," said the teenager, wearing a dark blue prairie dress and her hair braided back, the typical style of female members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

She buried her head in her hands and rubbed her eyes at one point as she sat in the hall outside the courtroom with her attorney. Late in the day, she was served with a search warrant by a Texas Ranger, though it was unclear what the warrant was for.

Her attorney Kelly Ellis declined to comment while leaving the courthouse, as did child welfare agency attorney John Dolezal.

State officials believe the girl was married to a man in FLDS when she was 14. In Texas, someone younger than 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult.

FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop said the girl is afraid that Texas officials will take the newborn if she allows them to examine her.

"There has been a total breakdown of trust between the mothers and the department," he said, adding that the mothers cooperated with authorities during the initial raid only to have their children taken from them.

He disputed that CPS doesn't know who the baby's father is, citing the thousands of church marriage documents seized from the ranch during the weeklong raid.

A motion filed by the state says the girl gave birth June 14, less than two weeks after she and the other 438 children taken from the ranch were returned from foster care to their parents. The child welfare agency collected DNA from all the children swept from the ranch in April, but the baby was born after the teen mother was returned to her parents.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled in May that the state had overreached in placing all the children in foster care when it could show that no more than a handful of teenage girls had been abused. The children were returned in early June, and only one, a teenage girl whose mother wouldn't cooperate with welfare authorities, has been returned to foster care.

All but 36 of the children's cases have been dropped from court oversight.

Twelve FLDS men have now been indicted on charges related to underage marriages and bigamy.

The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

This article was found at:

http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20081125/BREAKING/81125067/-1/RSS01?source=rss_breaking

Agreement on West Texas polygamous-sect newborn reached

KFDA News10 - Amarillo, Texas
November 25, 2008

Associated Press

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - A polygamist sect teen, who refused to disclose her baby's whereabouts, reached an agreement today with Texas child welfare authorities.

They're seeking a DNA sample from the baby girl, believed to be out of state, in an effort to determine whether the father is an adult.

An agreement with the now-17-year-old was reached in San Angelo, but a judge ordered that the terms not be disclosed.

The girl previously was ordered to let Child Protective Services examine the baby born after the April raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch at Eldorado.

It's part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

State officials believe the girl was married to a man in FLDS when she was 14.

FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop says the girl is afraid that Texas officials will take the baby if she allows them to examine the child.

This article was found at:

http://www.newschannel10.com/Global/story.asp?S=9415112

25 Nov 2008

Appeals court lets Vatican sex-abuse case proceed

The Associated Press - November 24, 2008


By Brett Barrouquere


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A lawsuit can continue against the Vatican alleging that top church officials should have warned the public or authorities of known or suspected sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Louisville, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the go-ahead for the lawsuit filed by three men who claim priests abused them as children. They allege the Vatican orchestrated a decades-long coverup of priests sexually abusing children throughout the U.S.

Louisville attorney William McMurry is seeking class-action status, saying there are thousands of victims nationally in the scandal that haunts the Roman Catholic Church. He is seeking unspecified damages from the Vatican.

"This is an enormously huge moment," McMurry said. "We're finally going to get to the root of the problem."

Jeffrey Lena, a Berkeley, Calif.-based attorney for the Vatican, said the appeals court's decision narrows the plaintiffs' case because the court upheld dismissing several issues.

"It's gratifying to see the hard work the judges put into the opinion," Lena said.

Lena declined to say if he would appeal the decision. McMurry said he expects the case to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Several lawsuits around the country have sought damages against the Vatican, but many have been bounced around in lower courts. Attorneys for both sides say the Louisville case is unique.

It centers on a 1962 directive from the Vatican telling church officials to keep under wraps sex-abuse complaints against clergy. The document became public in 2003. McMurry claims that document makes the Vatican liable for the acts of clergy whose crimes were kept secret because of the directive.

U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II ruled in January 2007 that the men may pursue their claim that church officials should have sent out warnings about abusive clergy. But the judge also dismissed a large chunk of the lawsuit.

The appeals court upheld Heyburn's decision to dismiss claims that the Holy See was negligent in failing to provide safe care to the children entrusted to the clergy, along with claims of deceit and misrepresentation by the Vatican.

McMurry also sought to depose Pope Benedict XVI, but Heyburn rejected the request. With Monday's ruling, McMurry said, he would seek documents and possibly renew efforts to depose the pontiff.

"We will get to the bottom of this," said McMurry, who represented 243 sex abuse victims that settled with the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003 for $25.3 million.

Appeals Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, who authored the 20-page opinion, rejected part of the lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, which generally gives immunity to foreign countries from most civil actions. McMurry contended that the Vatican as a country and the religious institution were separate, but Gibbons said they are legally the same.

"Consequently, we reject plaintiffs' contention that they are not suing the Holy See that has been recognized by the United States government, but a parallel non-sovereign entity conjured up by the plaintiffs," Gibbons wrote.

The decision makes it tougher for plaintiffs to sue the Vatican as a religious institution without first overcoming the restrictions under the foreign immunity law.


This article was found at:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hdhHSdf_vyZtFBLi54Q_mEOH4e
ZgD94LGQ7G0

Losing My Religion [Book Review]

AG Think Tank - November 25, 2008

Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America-and Found Unexpected Peace by William Lobdell
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Collins (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061626813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061626814
Reviewed by George Wood

Losing My Religion is William Lobdell’s memoir of becoming an evangelical, then a Roman Catholic, then a reluctant atheist. It is an engrossing and quick read. And unlike Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, Lobdell is not vicious. He disagrees with believers, but he does not despise them.

Lobdell is an award-winning journalist who covered the religion beat for the Los Angeles Times. As a one-time resident of Costa Mesa, California—where Lobdell lives—and a former reader of the Times, I personally know some of the people Lobdell reported on, and I remember reading some of his stories. His reportage on the sins of Paul and Jan Crouch and their Trinity Broadcasting Network sticks in my mind even to this day.

The book begins with Lobdell’s life in a mess. A friend tells him he needs God, and he ends up going to Mariners Church, an evangelical megachurch pastored by Kenton Beeshore. As he matures in his faith, he switches to St. Andrews Presbyterian, pastored by John Huffman. Eventually, however, he finds himself drawn to Catholicism, and he and his wife enroll in catechism classes.

At about the same time, he begins to cover a clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Orange Diocese, involving Father Michael Harris, the longtime principal of Mater Dei High School. In 1996, a one-time student at Mater Dei named Ryan DiMaria sued Harris and the Diocese and won a judgment of $5.2 million dollars. DiMaria also successfully forced the Diocese to reform the way it handled clergy sexual abuse cases.

Lobdell was disheartened at the way the episcopal hierarchy covered for abusive priests and vilified their victims, using strong-arm legal tactics to silence them. Even more, he was utterly shocked by how pliant congregations rallied to the side of their abusive priests rather than to the side of the children those priests had molested. As he began reporting on clergy sexual abuse in other dioceses, Lobdell saw the same pattern of cover-up, vilification, and strong-arm legal tactics play out over and over again. This pattern delivered a “spiritual body blow” to Lobdell’s faith, which never recovered. (And despite completing catechism, Lobdell decided not to join the Catholic church after all.)

Losing My Religion is memoir, not apologetic. Lobdell narrates his story of “de-conversion” rather than offering airtight arguments for disbelief. Nevertheless, the corruption of the Catholic church, not to mention the sinfulness of television evangelists, is the main reason he offers for his loss of faith. If the Christian God exists and does what the Bible says he does, surely Christians should be better than they are. He raises additional objections based on the problem of evil, the ineffectiveness of intercessory prayer, and the hard-to-believe stories of the Bible.

As the pastor of an evangelical church who is trained in both philosophy and theology, I find Lobdell’s arguments less than convincing. They are the standard objections to Christianity for which the standard replies suffice, at least in my opinion. But as I wrote above, Lobdell’s narrative is engrossing. I cheered his initial conversion and mourned his (hopefully not final) apostasy. I’m quite sure that Lobdell’s story is the story of many a parishioner who wants to believe but can’t because of the sins of the church.

As an Pentecostal pastor, I recommend reading this book as a spiritual discipline. Christians can be too smug in their beliefs and too self-righteous in their actions to see the incredible evils that are taking place right under their noses within their own churches. And if the church doesn’t live according to the Bible, why should it expect anyone else to.

This article was found at:

http://www.agthinktank.com/
?p=382



RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS BLOG


Record number of German Catholics renounce church membership in 2010 over clergy child abuse scandals


Defections increase as thousands leave German Catholic church in wake of clergy abuse scandals


Growing number of Belgians join global movement to de-baptize from Catholic church


Catholic Church changes canon law on defection, status of thousands of Irish wanting to leave church in limbo


Defections from Catholic church increase after publication of Ryan report on clergy abuse in Ireland

Polygamous elder and two others surrender to authorities

The Associated Press - November 24, 2008

Latest polygamist ranch indictment names leader


by Michelle Roberts

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — An elder of a polygamous sect and two other church members surrendered to authorities Monday to face felony charges relating to the marriage of underage girls to older men.

Fredrick "Merril" Jessop, 72, a leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who oversaw its Yearning For Zion Ranch in west Texas, faces one count of conducting an unlawful marriage ceremony involving a minor on July 27, 2006 — the same day one of his daughters was allegedly married to jailed FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

The girl was 12 at the time and is now the only child from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in foster care after her mother refused to cooperate with child welfare authorities.

In all, 12 FLDS men have been indicted since Texas authorities raided the ranch in April looking for evidence of underage girls forced into marriages and sex with older men. Hundreds of children were placed in state custody for weeks before they were ordered to be returned to their parents.

A grand jury in Eldorado, Texas, indicted Jeffs, Jessop, Wendell Loy Nielsen and Leroy Johnson Steed on Nov. 12. Only Jeffs' name had been released before Monday, when the other three men were booked and released after posting bond.

"We've said all along we're not running. We're going to take it head on," said FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop. "The allegations they're making and what they're trying to do is nothing more than harassment."

Nielsen, 68, is charged with three counts of bigamy. The indictment includes few details, but church records released as part of a separate child custody case list 21 women married to Nielsen in August 2007.

Leroy Johnson Steed, 42, is charged with sexual assault of a child, bigamy and tampering with evidence. Church records show that Steed was married to a 16-year-old girl in March 2007.

Jeffs was convicted in Utah and is awaiting trial in Arizona on charges related to underage marriages of sect girls. He faces charges in Texas of sexual assault of a child and bigamy.

Church records and journal entries released in the custody case indicate several of Merril Jessop's daughters were married to men in the church when they were 16 or younger.

One of Merril Jessop's wives, Carolyn, fled the FLDS community on the Arizona-Utah line with her children in 2003 and wrote a best-selling book, "Escape."

Generally, teens younger than 17 cannot consent to sex with an adult under Texas law. Bigamy is also illegal. While the FLDS plural marriages are not legal marriages, Texas law forbids even purporting to marry.

Willie Jessop said the state is making criminal cases to justify what he called a botched child custody case. Child welfare authorities have dropped most of the cases involving the 439 children taken from the YFZ Ranch; only about three dozen remain under court oversight.

The child welfare case was prompted by calls to a domestic abuse hot line from someone claiming to be a teen mother who was abused. Those calls are now being investigated as a hoax.

The FLDS, which believes polygamy bring glorification in heaven, is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

This article was found at:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iIdMpRHjN4hpNKBhfYyAsR4D
Do4QD94LKDO00

10 arrested in Taliban-ordered acid attack on Afghan schoolgirls

AFP - November 25, 2008

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Security forces have arrested 10 men suspected of involvement in a Taliban-ordered acid attack on schoolgirls in southern Afghanistan and some have confessed, authorities said Tuesday.
The 10 were Afghans who had each been promised 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,300 US) by Taliban rebels in Pakistan to carry out the Nov. 12 attack, deputy interior minister General Mohammad Daud told reporters.
Men on motorbikes used water pistols to spray acid into the faces of 15 girls and female teachers as they arrived at school in the southern city of Kandahar.

Most were given partial protection by their burqas, garments which cover the face and body, but one was seriously wounded in the face with some of the acid entering her eyes.
Daud said the men were all Afghans and had been arrested over several days. He did not say how many of them had confessed.
The men had been given orders by Taliban insurgents across the border in Pakistan, he said.
"They were led by Taliban...they were taking orders from the other side of the border from those who are leading terrorist attacks in Kandahar," he said.
Afghan officials say much of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan is plotted in extremist sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Most of the four teachers and 11 schoolgirls caught in the attack were only slightly wounded because they were shielded by burqas, which most Afghan women wear in public.
Six of the girls were treated in hospital and the one who suffered the worst injuries, a 17-year-old named Shamsia, was transferred to a military hospital in Kabul.
All of them except Shamsia were back at school, an AFP reporter in Kandahar said.
The attack on the girls drew wide condemnation including from President Hamid Karzai and US First Lady Laura Bush who described it last week "cowardly and shameful".
A Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, said at the time that his group was not responsible.
The motive appeared to be to try to warn girls off going to school, something from which they were banned by the conservative Islamic Taliban regime that was toppled in a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.
There were around 230 attacks on schools in Afghanistan from January to June this year, according to the United Nations.
About half of those attacks were on girls' schools even though they make up only 15 percent of schools in the country, said a report to the UN Security Council this month.
About 100 school staff and pupils had also been killed in the past year, the Afghan education ministry says. Insecurity linked to the insurgency has meanwhile forced 640 of the country's 11,000 schools to close.
About 35 per cent of the 6.2 million Afghan children in school this year are girls, the ministry says.
While a vast improvement from 2001 when only about one million children were in school, the total enrollment represents only about half the country's school-aged children.
This article was found at:
http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=8d4283e1-9eed-4201-bb3c-ac52fd470dc7

24 Nov 2008

Child sex abuse claims divide Orthodox community

The Associated Press - November 23, 2008

by Jennifer Peltz

NEW YORK (AP) — It started as a radio program discussion about a taboo subject: child molestation among members of the insular world of Orthodox Jews.

Since he broached the subject on his radio show this summer, says a state assemblyman, dozens of people have come forward with stories about children being molested in the Orthodox community, which strictly follows Jewish law.

Dov Hikind says as many as four people a day have come to him over the past three months with painful accounts of secrets often kept for decades, accusing more than 60 individuals.

Hikind says he would eventually consider unmasking accused sexual predators but wants to focus now on setting up a broader framework for addressing the issue.

His campaign has set off a firestorm in the Orthodox community, where people are reluctant to involve secular authorities. One rabbi said he got death threats for speaking out.

"In our community, people don't talk about the things that they've come to my office" and revealed, said Hikind, himself an Orthodox Jew.

Among other faiths, the subject has meant turmoil in recent years for the Roman Catholic church. For decades, church leaders often transferred predatory clergy among parishes without telling parents or police. Victims have won millions in settlements from dioceses.

Members of a polygamous offshoot of the Mormon church have been charged with assaulting children in Texas. Children have been removed from the Arkansas compound of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries amid allegations of beatings and sexual abuse.

Hikind said he won't breach victims' trust by disclosing his private exchanges to prosecutors — or to a lawyer who subpoenaed him in a civil case against a school accused of concealing abuse.

However, he has been working on devising mechanisms within the Orthodox world for reporting sex abuse and sharing information on school staffers' previous positions. He aims to present a plan to rabbis this winter.

Studies have found Orthodox Jews account for as much as 10 percent of Jews nationwide, and a far greater share in parts of the New York metro area. Some 37 percent of the more than 516,000 Jews in Brooklyn are Orthodox, according to the UJA-Federation of New York, a Jewish social-service group.

Critics have said sex abuse claims are sometimes handled quietly in Orthodox rabbinical courts, rather than being reported to authorities.

However, some sexual abuse cases involving Orthodox Jewish schools have spilled into the secular legal system in Brooklyn.

In one case, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko was charged with sexually abusing boys at an Orthodox school. He admitted no sexual wrongdoing but pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor child endangerment charge. Kolko was sentenced to three years of probation and has been dismissed from the school, said his lawyer, Jeffrey Schwartz. The school's lawyer didn't immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Six former students are suing the school, saying it covered up Kolko's misdeeds. Their lawyer subpoenaed Hikind this month, seeking to find out whether he learned anything relevant to the case during his impromptu fact-finding.

He said lawyers were assessing how to respond to the subpoena.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Michael Dowd said he was willing to safeguard victims' identities but is determined to pursue whatever information Hikind has.

"I don't question his motivation, but at the same time, I don't accept it as a reason" not to provide information that could expose child molesters, said Dowd, who won $11.4 million in damages last year for two people raped as teenagers by a Catholic youth minister on Long Island.

Hikind said he encourages people who confide in him to talk to the authorities. But none will, he said, for fear of ostracism.

One rabbi and psychologist told Jewish media outlets he was hounded into quitting a task force on child molestation, days after Hikind appointed him to lead it in September; the panel is going on with other members. Another New York rabbi told the Daily News this month that vicious fliers and death-threat calls scared him into shutting down a sex abuse victims' hot line he had set up.

Some victims' advocates see little point in collecting information without bringing in law enforcement.

"The only way things are going to be cleaned up" is with authorities' involvement, said Vicki Polin, the founder of The Awareness Center, a Baltimore-based nonprofit group that works with victims of sexual abuse in Jewish communities.

But others praise Hikind's campaign.

"We can't achieve solutions without the public spotlight," said Elliot Pasik, an Orthodox attorney who represents plaintiffs in rabbi sex-abuse lawsuits unrelated to Kolko.

This article was found at:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5irUYN-jzvVqxM2-KINEi4mGpGJiQD94KR8SG0

Witchcraft on India's school curriculum

The Telegraph - UK
November 24, 2008

Primary school children in India will learn about witchcraft in the classroom as part of an effort to dispell superstitions and stop deadly witch-hunts.

Many tribal communities in the country believe in witches and their ability to cause harm to people, animals and the harvest.

About 750 people, mostly old women, are estimated to have been killed in witch-hunts in rural India since 2003.

In one of the worst cases, a family of four stoned and buried alive for allegedly cursing a relative of the village chief, the Times reports.

Advocates for a change to the syllabus say beliefs must be altered early if India’s witch-hunts are to be stamped out.

But some academics argue that witch-hunts are linked to economic conditions and claim that pensions, not education, are the best way to eradicate belief in black magic.

Studies suggest that more “witches” are identified during hard times, the paper said.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, an estimated one million women were killed in Europe for dabbling in the black arts.

Last month, a petition calling for a posthumous pardon for women and men who were executed as British witches was presented to the British government.

This article was found at:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/3509202/Witchcraft-on-Indias-school-curriculum.html

Young girl murdered after being accused of witchcraft

Albuquerque News.Net
November 23, 2008

A 16-year-old girl has been beaten to death by villagers in a suburb of West Bengal in India.

The girl had been accused of practising witchcraft and entrancing the son of her former employer to marry her.

Police say the girl, Tulu Dolui, 16, was dragged out of her hut in Ghoramara village late at night by at least eight people, who then tied her to a tree and beat her with sticks for over three hours.

While police intervened to rescue the girl, she succumbed to her injuries on way to the local health centre.

She had sustained serious head, abdominal, chest and back injuries.

The villagers alleged that Dolui was a witch and had hypnotised the son of a rich grocer, who decided to marry her against his parents' wishes.

She was working in the home of the grocer as a maid servant until the grocer came to know of the relationship and sacked her.

No one has yet been arrested in the incident.

This article was found at:

http://www.albuquerquenews.net/story/433735

No criminal charges will be laid in Anglican school abuse case

Brockville Recorder & Times - Canada

No charges in GCC abuse allegation
s


by Kim Lunman | Recorder & Times Staff Writer

There will be no criminal charges laid after a 14-month investigation into allegations of abuse at Grenville Christian College, Ontario Provincial Police announced on Friday.
The allegations of physical assault and mistreatment at the school by former students between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s were made after the private boarding school east of Brockville abruptly shut its doors in August 2007.
The Grenville County detachment of the OPP in Prescott opened an investigation into allegations against former staff of the Christian school on Sept. 10, 2007.
The OPP issued a brief press release Friday afternoon, announcing its investigation into the "historical abuse allegations" was concluded.
"The OPP, in consultation with the Crown attorney, have decided not to lay any criminal charges in relation to the extensive investigation," said the written statement. "All complainants have been notified."
"It wasn't in the interest of the public to lay any charges," said OPP Sgt. Kristine Rae in an interview. "When you're looking at historical allegations, you're looking at the whole picture."
Rae said there were "23 potential victims interviewed" during the lengthy investigation.
"There were other people that came forward with information," she said.
Andrew Hale-Byrne, a British civil servant who graduated from the school in 1990s and is a litigant in a class-action lawsuit against Grenville Christian College, said in an interview from the United Kingdom on Friday that he is shocked and disappointed no charges were laid.
"I am concerned to hear that the Crown and the OPP do not feel it is in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges. Perhaps it is in the interest of those devastated abuse victims to proceed. Just because the alleged behaviour is alleged to have taken place many years ago that is no excuse not to press charges."
The closure of Grenville Christian College and allegations of abuse by former students also sparked two class-action lawsuits amid a flurry of accusations in the national media and on the Internet.
The school as well as some former staff members are named as defendants in the civil suits. The allegations between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s claimed physical and sexual abuse at the former private boarding school and alleged bizarre cult-like behaviour that has left the pupils traumatized.
The claims allege students were subject to public humiliations and light sessions, in which pupils were dragged out of bed at night by staff shining flashlights in their face and denouncing them as sinners.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Meanwhile, there are still questions swirling around the future of the stately school overlooking the St. Lawrence River. In September, it emerged at an Augusta Township council meeting that developer are proposing to buy the property and build a residential development on the sprawling 264-acre campus.
http://recorder.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1310239

For previous articles related to this story see the labels "Anglican" or "education"

Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse [Book Review]

Law and Politics Book Review

November 23, 2008



Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse by Timothy D. Lytton. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008. 304pp. Hardcover. $35.00/£22.95/€24.50.

ISBN: 9780674028104

Reviewed by John C. Blakeman, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point


Although academic book reviews do not normally start with a discussion of the book jacket of the work under review, with Timothy D. Lytton’s new book, HOLDING BISHOPS ACCOUNTABLE, the cover is indicative of the content. On the jacket is a photograph of Cardinal Bernard Law, former Catholic Archbishop of Boston, departing a news conference during the 2002 annual meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Conference is one of the main policymaking arms of the American Catholic Church, and in this instance it was the primary institution responsible for formulating the American church’s response to the rising tide of lawsuits brought by victims of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests. By 2002, as Lytton’s account makes clear, the church’s institutional failure to deal with clergy abuse was becoming abundantly clear. In the photo, Cardinal Law is holding a sheaf papers and folders as if he is on his way to court, and he is somewhat hunched over, with a very stern, glaring look on his face. His right fist is clenched. He looks as if he has just been grilled by the press about something especially unpleasant, and he is very angry about it. He looks embattled.

Timothy Litton’s book is a detailed view of how litigants used tort law to sue the Roman Catholic Church in America over clergy sexual abuse of children. It adds to the literature on tort law, and law and society in general, and provides a critical, meticulous look at how tort law overtook the Catholic Church’s self-regulation of clergy misconduct and forced the church and government policymakers to confront a larger, more national problem. For Lytton, tort litigation against the church was “essential in bringing the scandal to light . . . focusing attention on the need for institutional reform, and spurring church leaders and public officials into action” (p.4). Lytton situates his analysis within the context of showing how tort litigation against “one of the largest, richest, and most powerful institutions in America” was more than just about dispute resolution between injured parties and the church. Tort cases served to bring about policy reform by enhancing “the efforts of church officials, law enforcement, and state governments to develop and enforce polices aimed at reducing clergy sexual abuse” (p.7).

Lytton presents a short history of clergy abuse litigation to frame the rest of his discussion. He discusses a few high profile abuse cases, beginning in the 1980s, and shows that the course of litigation over several years was “a time of learning” for both sides. “Bishops [*1021] were developing a better understanding of the problem . . .,” and “victims and attorneys were uncovering the role of church officials in facilitating child sexual abuse by clergy” (p.16). As he notes in detail later in the book, understanding how clergy abuse litigation progressed is important to understanding how victims’ attorneys and church officials altered their litigation strategies as each side became more experienced. Plaintiffs’ attorneys, for example, got much better at using discovery methods in civil litigation to compel more, and damaging, information from the church. The church developed several defense strategies as well – some successful, some not – to protect itself from an increasing number of lawsuits. The history is important, as it shows not only that the church was often aware of abusive priests, but it often sought to cover up clergy abuse by transferring priests to other parishes, and it buried incriminating evidence in secret diocesan files in keeping with an entrenched culture of secrecy in the church that sought to hide as much information about clergy abuse as possible. Interestingly, Lytton even exposes a church discussion to transfer some clergy files to the Vatican where they would be beyond the reach of civil discovery.

Lytton discusses several statistical measures of clergy abuse litigation too. He notes that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned a study in 2002, researched by scholars at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, that revealed thousands of allegations of abuse against priests between 1950 and 2002. As well, Lytton surveys insurances companies that paid out abuse claims, and he also surveys plaintiffs’ attorneys that filed lawsuits against the church. Even though Lytton notes that an accurate accounting of the number of lawsuits against the church is not possible, he strings together several sources of data to show that not only was there a very rapid increase in litigation in the 1980s and 1990s, but that thousand of lawsuits were ultimately filed.

The author follows his history and statistical discussion with an in-depth analysis of the legal issues involved. Here Lytton examines the diverse legal issues raised in lawsuits against Catholic diocese, from the many different types of plaintiffs’ claims to the various defenses the diocese raised. For instance, plaintiffs raised typical tort claims in an effort to hold the church vicariously liable for the actions of its servants (priests), along with various negligence claims for the inability of diocese to exercise reasonable care over their subordinates. It is noteworthy that many lawsuits were settled by the church prior to trial; thus there are no reliable statistics about the success negligence and vicarious liability claims in court. Of special importance in this section, especially for scholars of religion and politics and church-state relations, are the various defenses that the Catholic Church raised. One easy defense was based on state statutes of limitations, since many sexual abuse claims were filed years after the alleged conduct occurred. As Lytton notes, the church employed statute of limitation defenses, not necessarily to avoid liability altogether, but to limit it. However, such a strategy is a mixed blessing for the church; although it protected diocese “from potentially devastating liability,” [*1022] it also “opened up the Church to charges that it [used] a legal technicality to avoid liability in cases where it is clear that abuse occurred” (p.61). Other defenses raised by the church were predicated on First Amendment Free Exercise Clause concerns (for courts to impose liability on the church would violate the church’s free exercise of religion), comparative negligence (victims of sexual abuse and their parents were negligent in allowing unsupervised visits between their children and priests), charitable immunity, and clergy-communicant privilege. Lytton’s discussion of the how diocese attempted to defend themselves is thorough and offers insight into how the church sought to protect its resources and status and limit the damages it would have to pay. Importantly, Lytton points out that some defenses were more successful than others, and by and large courts in different jurisdictions often viewed defenses differently. That is, sometimes a diocese’s defense would work in one jurisdiction; in other courts, and at other times, it would not.

In the next section Lytton turns his attention to two important issues. First, he discusses how plaintiffs framed their legal narratives both in terms of the “problem of child exploitation by individual clergy members,” and in the context of the Catholic Church’s institutional failure to come to grips with clergy sexual abuse early and take steps to stop it. The story, or frame, of the church’s institutional failure became the dominant frame by which the news media presented the story nationally. The impact, as Lytton details, was that the “filing of numerous claims against the Church created and sustained a news theme,” which also led to even more clergy abuse cases filed against Catholic diocese” (p.100). Lytton’s analysis linking how plaintiffs theorized their torts cases – or framed them – to how the media reported on clergy abuse is interesting, in that he shows how court documents (plaintiffs’ filings) generated information that the media then used for reporting purposes.

Lytton next analyzes how institutions, from the church itself to state legislatures and local prosecutors, placed clergy sexual abuse on their own policy agendas in response to ongoing tort litigation. The Catholic Church, for example, began to devote more resources to discovering and dealing with abuse on its own, from the diocesan level to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Vatican. More importantly, at least in terms of the impact of tort law, is how government institutions began to respond to the increasing number of lawsuits. Prior to high profile abuse cases, local and state law enforcement agencies had typically been reluctant to prosecute priests and deferred to diocesan disciplinary measures. However, Lytton shows that deference to the church was often a political liability for local prosecutors after only a few years of clergy abuse lawsuits. As well, many state legislatures by 2002 were debating changes to statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse, in part as a response to ongoing litigation raised by adults who had been abused by clergy as children.

The church raised several affirmative defenses, as noted above, and it also stonewalled plaintiffs’ attempts to garner information from church sources. In a very informative analysis, Lytton shows how the church used various means at its [*1023] disposal to conceal information from discovery during litigation. Indeed, the church’s very culture encouraged it to cover up clergy abuse. For example, the church hierarchy with its top down management style did not encourage accountability among priests and others, and there was a “firm commitment” to keeping the government – and courts – out of the church’s affairs, which led many bishops to handle abuse allegations internally without involving local or state law enforcement. In addition, church doctrine in some ways supported reticence too, as many bishops viewed their role as protecting the church and the “mystical body of Christ” from defilement, and thus refused to be completely open and responsive to abuse allegations (p.142). And, as Lytton notes, canon law also dictates that each diocese should have a secret archive that are only accessible by that diocese’s presiding bishop. Lytton’s analysis shows how plaintiffs’ attorneys gradually chipped away at church secrecy through the discovery phases of litigation, and over time judges also loosened discovery rules to make it easier for plaintiffs to access church documents that not only supported tort claims against individual priests but also showed more broadly the institutional failures of the church hierarchy. Lytton here tells an important story about how in early cases information from the church was hard to come by. Over time, and as more abuse cases were filed and plaintiffs’ attorneys became more skilled at suing the church, discovery processes shifted from being essentially pro-defendant to pro-plaintiff. The church’s ability to frustrate discovery waned, and attorneys and judges began to seek and compel more information from it.

The final section in HOLDING BISHOPS ACCOUNTABLE assesses the overall impact of clergy abuse litigation on the church and other institutions. By amassing several different and diverse types of data, such as contributions to the church, donations to and expenditures by Catholic charities, and public opinion polls, Lytton notes that the church has been damaged in some respects, but not in others. The institutional prestige of the church has suffered, and the litigation and scandal “has seriously eroded the bishops’ credibility among both Catholics and the general public” (p.181). As Lytton correctly notes, Catholic Bishops’ statements on pressing social issues, from nuclear disarmament to welfare reform have historically been taken seriously by American Catholics and the general public. However, in the wake of the abuse scandals, as Lytton quotes one bishop, catholic leaders realized that their ability to be a moral voice “had been severely compromised” (p.182). Yet, charitable giving to catholic charities did not appreciably diminish, nor did the church’s provision of social services, even given the more than $2 billion in damages that the church has had to pay.

Finally Lytton focuses on how “tort litigation played a complementary role” to the manner in which other policymaking institutions addressed clergy sexual abuse. As he notes, tort lawsuits “reframed the problem and placed it on the agendas of other policymaking institutions, and generated new information for addressing it” (p.202). Civil litigation is public, as Lytton points out, thus clergy abuse litigation added transparency to an often closed process by which the church [*1024] resolved abuse allegations. Such transparency has implications for policymaking by giving tort claimants “the potential to frame issues, gain agenda access, and disseminate information” (p.210). Thus, through a very public accounting of clergy abuse claims, the church was forced to confront its own institutional failures, and other political actors, from local prosecutors to state legislators had to devise policy responses to address a growing crisis.

HOLDING BISHOPS ACCOUNTABLE is a thoroughly researched, readable, engaging account of how tort law brings about changes in public policy and in institutions. It is appropriate for several different types of political science courses. For example, it could be used in undergraduate and graduate courses on religion and politics, since Lytton deftly shows how Catholic Church doctrine and institutional practice affected the church’s conduct as a defendant in tort litigation. Lytton also places the church in the context of larger political and legal relationships with plaintiffs’ attorneys, local and state prosecutors, and other government actors and institutions, and thus provides interesting insight into the political choices that the church made when confronted with clergy sexual abuse, and how other political actors and institutions responded to those choices. The book is also useful for upper level undergraduate and graduate courses on the judicial process and law and society. Its detail on how plaintiffs structured, or framed, their arguments, how plaintiffs used civil discovery to seek information, and the church’s various attempts to safeguard that information, provides a fascinating window on the tort litigation process. Students and scholars of the judicial process, law and society, and law, religion, and politics, will find Lytton’s research very interesting and insightful.


This article was found at:

http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/reviews/2008/11/holding-bishops-accountable-how.html