Abusive priests biggest religion news in '02
Bishop Edward Kmiec lends an ear to concerned Catholics after a meeting in Nashville in St. Ann's Catholic Church. The August meeting was held at the request of a local group of Voice of the Faithful, formed in response to the sex abuse scandal.
By BRIAN LEWIS
Sexual abuse and cover-up scandals involving the Catholic Church have dominated news about religion in the past year.
When members of the Religion Newswriters Association voted on the top 10 religion stories of 2002, four of the top five stories involved the Catholic Church's handling of abusive priests.
Other stories included criticisms of Islam by evangelicals and regional controversies over public displays of the Ten Commandments.
In the Catholic scandals, news organizations revealed that bishops across the country had repeatedly transferred priests who had been accused of sexually molesting children.
Locally, one of the biggest religion stories of the past year was the formation of a local chapter of the Voice of the Faithful, a group of local Catholics who wanted to support the victims of sexual abuse and also change the structure of the Catholic Church so that such abuse and cover-ups would not happen again.
Here are some of the other major religion stories from 2002.
The American Civil Liberties Union won lawsuits against Rutherford County and Hamilton County requiring government officials to take down displays of the Ten Commandments.
Many counties across the state had posted the commandments as part of a patriotic shift toward traditional values that came after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks found many people returning to houses of worship to pray and remember the past year.
It also caused many people to want to study to learn more about different religions, particularly Islam.
While local mosques held many open houses, there were also some churches that denounced the faith.
The Rev. Maury Davis of Cornerstone Church in Madison preached a sermon series in January that called Islam an ''evil religion.''
The Covenant Association, an interfaith group in Nashville, organized a citywide study of the book Constantine's Sword by James Carroll.
The book is about the history of Christian anti-Semitism.
The group bought an ad to display an Advent affirmation inspired by the study and placed it in The Tennessean.
The ad said that it was wrong to say there was only one way to heaven. It invited other Christians to call and add their names.
More than 200 people called to add their names to the list.
''The Gathering 2002'' kicked off the last year, seeking to promote revival, racial reconciliation and community renewal. More than 7,000 people attended.
This year, the program will be in May with featured speaker the Rev. Tony Evans, author of several books, radio show host and a popular evangelical preacher from the 4,000-member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Texas.
As in the past, the event will have a 1,000-voice choir.
A national county-by-county study of religious affiliation was published by the Glenmary Research Institute, a Catholic research center with headquarters in Nashville.
The data, released every 10 years, showed that the Middle Tennessee area has become increasingly more Catholic and Pentecostal.
Many Pentecostal denominations have plans to aggressively start new churches, helping them continue to grow in the coming years.
The Catholic Church had seen an average of 500 people joining the faith through a yearlong process called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.
Despite the national clergy sex abuse scandal, early reports showed the numbers of converts would remain steady.
The Rev. Ed Sanders, one of Nashville's most prominent African-American ministers, ran for governor as an independent.
Sanders drew less than 1% of the vote statewide.
A Tullahoma woman was one of the leaders in saying that Jehovah's Witnesses need to change their policies of dealing with people who have been accused of molesting children.
Despite strong opposition from conservative and liberal religious leaders, Tennessee voters in a November referendum supported a state lottery.
While sales in many genres of popular music declined in 2001, sales of contemporary Christian and gospel music increased.
Top 10 Religion Newswriters Association stories of '02
1. Clergy sexual abuse scandal rocks the Catholic Church, amid new disclosures that many bishops moved priests alleged to have abused minors from parish to parish without warning parishioners or notifying authorities.
2. Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston resigns after protests mount over his handling of his abusive priests.
3. Controversy erupts over growing criticism of Islam by some evangelicals.
4. At their meeting in Dallas, Catholic bishops listen to the stories of some abuse victims and adopt a ''one strike and you're out policy'' to permanently remove any priest who has abused a child from any public ministry. Five months later, at Vatican insistence, they approve creation of tribunals to consider cases of priests who proclaim their innocence
5. The clergy sexual abuse scandal gives rise to new groups seeking a greater role of the laity in Catholic Church decision-making. The new lay group Voice of the Faithful draws 5,000 people to a convention in Boston.
6. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the use of school vouchers for children attending religious schools.
7. A Circuit Court of Appeals judge in San Francisco rules that the words ''under God'' in the Pledge of Allegiance are unconstitutional.
8. The National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ and other religious bodies express their opposition to a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq.
9. Palestinian gunmen take refuge in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, setting the stage for a 39-day siege by the Israeli military.
10. Scholars announce they have discovered a 2,000-year-old burial box that bears the words, ''James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.''
The Kansas City Star Newspaper
Posted on Sun, Dec. 29, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
The unchanging parts of the Mass are the only foundations not shaken in church
By KEVIN ECKSTROM
Religion News Service
In the Roman Catholic Church, the liturgical year is partitioned into a series of festivals and seasons such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. The downtime between the holidays, the glue that holds the church calendar together, is called "Ordinary Time."
For American Catholics, 2002 was anything but ordinary. In fact, it may have been the most extraordinary year ever for the U.S. church as a sexual abuse crisis brought Catholics to their knees and forced the resignation of the most senior American cardinal, quickly becoming the top religion story of the year.
The scandal that first erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston last January seemed to come full circle by mid-December when Pope John Paul II accepted the resignation of Law, the fourth U.S. bishop to depart this year because of sexual or administrative misconduct.
Court documents unearthed by the Boston Globe showed how church leaders transferred abusive priests from one assignment to another, often with personal notes of commendation from Law. Other bishops, forced to clean house, removed nearly 400 priests from their pulpits.
"I am convinced that, with God's help, as we come through this, the church is going to be the better for it," Law said in February, rebuffing polls that showed half his flock wanted him to resign.
In April the scandal reached the Vatican, with Pope John Paul II lecturing U.S. cardinals that "there is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young."
Two months later U.S. bishops gathered in Dallas to develop policies to discipline predatory priests. Bishops opened their meeting to critics like Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame, who lambasted the prelates for leaving their church "morally bankrupt."
A "zero tolerance" policy assembled by the bishops quickly drew scorn from victims' advocates, who wanted to go further by stripping abusers of their priesthood altogether. Then Vatican officials ordered changes, saying aspects of the Dallas policy were too vague and rode roughshod over priests' legal rights.
When the final policy emerged from their November conclave, the bishops said their new rules would protect children by requiring background checks of all clergy, swiftly removing abusers and installing elaborate internal checks to make sure predators stayed out of the pulpit. Removing a person from the priesthood remains an option for each bishop.
The bishops brought in no-nonsense Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma to lead a blue-ribbon oversight panel and drafted the top female agent at the FBI to implement the bishops' new policies.
But for all their shame over the abusive priests, Catholics were still seething in anger at the bishops who allowed the problem to fester. As the bishops left Dallas, 90 percent of Catholics told USA Today/CNN/Gallup pollsters that they wanted negligent bishops, especially Law, to resign.
"The bishops' stock is now about as valuable as WorldCom and Enron," said the Rev. Richard McBrien of the University of Notre Dame in a recent interview. "(Catholics) know, based on concrete evidence, that many of the bishops are incompetent and untrustworthy, and some are worse than that."
Still, despite the scandal and the headlines, the faith of ordinary Catholics remained remarkably intact -- only 22 percent had questioned their faith, according to the June poll. Many channeled their anger into reform movements -- in Boston, the Voice of the Faithful movement grew from 40 members in a church basement to 25,000 in 40 states within months.
"People are connecting more viscerally than ever before that it's our church," said Tom Roberts, managing editor of the National Catholic Reporter. "We're the ones who pay the bills; we're the ones who fill the pews, and the leadership has betrayed us."
Beyond the Catholic Church, other denominations wrestled with their own abuse demons. The Jehovah's Witnesses fended off lawsuits and "disfellowshiped" several members who criticized the group's "cover-up" of abuse cases.
In the Presbyterian Church (USA), a 173-page report documented that at least 22 women and girls were abused by a missionary, who has since died. In both cases officials were blamed for failing to stop the problems earlier.
While Catholic bishops struggled to gain control of the abuse scandal, they also tried to marshal opposition to a possible war with Iraq. With the exception of some prominent evangelical leaders, American churches were nearly unanimous in their opposition to a pre-emptive war to dislodge Saddam Hussein.
Many religious groups said war against Iraq does not meet the traditional criteria needed to justify war and said another Middle East conflict would destabilize the region and plant the seeds for future terrorism. Even religious leaders were surprised by the breadth of their unity.
"Sometimes when we work on war, we're lonely," said Mary Lord, director of peace-building for the Quakers at a December anti-war news conference. "But this is not a lonely time."
Islam remained in the spotlight as American Muslims wrestled with the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Bush administration sent videotapes to Muslim nations, showcasing the tolerance and prosperity enjoyed by American Muslims.
Meanwhile, the president distanced himself from comments such as those by evangelist Franklin Graham, who called Islam an "evil and wicked" religion, and Southern Baptist leader Jerry Vines, who labeled the Prophet Mohammed a "demon-possessed pedophile."
Overseas, relations deteriorated between Palestinians and Jews as suicide bombers and Israeli military strikes left hundreds dead. In April Palestinians seized Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, believed to be the sight of Jesus' birth, in a 39-day standoff with Israeli troops.
In Rome, Pope John Paul II battled failing health but still managed trips to his native Poland, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Guatemala and Mexico. In Toronto, he told 800,000 pilgrims at World Youth Day not to be "discouraged by the sins and failings" of some church leaders.
The pope, who turned 82 in May, became the church's fifth-longest-serving pontiff, and celebrated the 25th anniversary of his papacy in October by adding five new mysteries to the rosary, the first major change in more than 500 years.
His counterpart in the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, announced in January his retirement after 11 years as spiritual leader of the world's 70 million Anglican Christians. Welsh Archbishop Rowan Williams was named Carey's successor and has already stirred controversy for his liberal-leaning stands on homosexuality.
At the U.S. Supreme Court, justices upheld the constitutionality of a Cleveland program that allows parents to use public vouchers at private religious schools. The high court also ruled that executing mentally retarded inmates violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment and said the Jehovah's Witnesses need not register with town officials before proselytizing door to door.
In June the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are unconstitutional, prompting an outcry from religious leaders and members of Congress. Almost immediately the court stayed its own decision. It is currently on appeal.
Religious groups also wrestled with the souring U.S. economy, especially as it wreaked havoc on church finances and heightened need for social services.
Corporate scandals and ethical lapses also tested the faith of Americans who saw their retirement portfolios damaged by shoddy accounting. Indeed, it was a year when decisions at the top rattled the faith of the rank and file.
"God willing," said Bishop Richard Lennon, appointed as Law's temporary successor, in his first homily at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross, "not only can things change, but things can improve."
The Boston Globe Newspaper
Suit charges church coverup
Jehovah's Witness group is blamed in abuse of girl
By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 1/1/2003
A 14-year-old Dorchester girl and her parents are suing the Jehovah's Witnesses, arguing that the religious group covered up the girl's sexual abuse by a Bible study leader and discouraged her parents from reporting the abuse to police or prosecutors.
The girl, allegedly molested in her house by the son of a church elder from the Columbus Park Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Dorchester, was so traumatized by the abuse that she has spent most of the past three years involuntarily committed to local psychiatric hospitals, the lawsuit alleges. Her mother says that while church leaders coddled her daughter's abuser, they socially ostracized her for notifying law enforcement authorities and pressing criminal charges, according to court papers.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Suffolk Superior Court, highlights a sexual abuse scandal that has begun to envelop a religious group other than the Catholic Church: Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim 1 million followers in the United States and 6 million worldwide.
Those who have filed lawsuits against the church - calling themselves ''silent lambs,'' because they say the church has discouraged them from getting help - argue that doctrine requiring alleged sexual abuse victims to produce witnesses to their molestation breeds an environment that favors abusers and allows abuse to thrive. They also charge that the church's policy of investigating complaints on its own, and discouraging reports to authorities, is illegal.
Officials at the Columbus Park Congregation could not be reached yesterday. At the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., also a defendant in the Suffolk lawsuit, an employee in the media center yesterday referred inquiries to the church's Web site, where church officials speak in general terms about their policy on child abuse.
The church's third priority, after protecting victims and seeking help for perpetrators, is seeing that secular authorities are informed about the accusation, says Philip Brumley, general counsel for Jehovah's Witnesses, in a Web site video. A spokesman at the New York office did not return phone calls yesterday afternoon.
The group was also named in a 2001 lawsuit in New Hampshire Superior Court involving two half-sisters who accused a man - the father of one, the stepfather of the other - of sexually abusing them as children in the 1980s. The man, now serving a 56-year sentence for sexual abuse, was a member of the Wilton (N.H.) Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Although the women's mother repeatedly voiced suspicion of sexual abuse to church elders, they told her to keep it within the church, the lawsuit charges. The women charge that New Hampshire state law required the church leaders to report the abuse to authorities.
The Suffolk lawsuit outlines similar charges that church elders in Dorchester tried to keep quiet allegations of sexual abuse. The suit alleges that William Broadard, an elder in the Columbus Park Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, appointed his son as a ''pioneer'' in the church, even though he knew his son was a threat to children.
The suit alleges that Ronald Broadard had a history of sexually and physically abusing children.
Ronald Broadard went to the girl's home in Dorchester, specifically asking to ''talk about God with the kids,'' according to the lawsuit. When the girl's parents agreed, he began meeting with the girl in their home in 1998, when she was about 10. But while he was visiting her from 1998 to 2000, they charge, he was molesting her. The girl's parents alerted authorities in the fall of 2000. The Globe's policy is not to name alleged victims of sexual abuse unless they agree to be identified.
Even though Massachusetts did not then require clergy to report suspected child abuse - a law was passed last year after the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal erupted - the girl's family argues that the church leaders were ''guidance or family counselors,'' who were required to report potential child abuse.
The girl's parents did not learn about the abuse until their daughter's therapist told them the girl had been trying to kill herself. The girl, who had always done well in school, started having trouble. ''She became suicidal and started acting out and no longer was the angelic, well-behaved child that she used to be,'' said Stephen M. Born, the family's lawyer.
In October 2000, Broadard was arrested and charged with two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child and one count of assault and battery. But the charges were dismissed the following year. The lawsuit alleges the charges were dropped because Broadard was found incompetent to stand trial. Suffolk County prosecutors could not ascertain yesterday afternoon why the charges were dropped.
Meanwhile, according to the lawsuit, the local Jehovah's Witnesses elders, including Broadard's father, decided only to ''reprove'' him. He kept his title and responsibilities within the church, the lawsuit charges.
And when the girl's mother told church leaders about the abuse, they told her she should not talk about it. The church elders told her they would handle the matter and urged her to ''pray more about the situation,'' the lawsuit charges.
The girl was committed to psychiatric institutions after she was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the abuse, Born said. ''This is almost like a fresh wound,'' he said. ''The effect of it, the trauma, has been dramatic.''
Kathleen Burge can be reached at email@example.com.
This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 1/1/2003.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.