Pedophilia: Not Just A Catholic Problem

Paltalk News Network
March 15, 2010

Paltalk News Network Contributor

If I had a list of the atheist leaders who committed sex crimes against children it would make writing this a whole lot easier. Fortunately for atheists, they have no set leadership and, therefore, there is nobody to hold up as a bastion of hypocrisy. And then, when you add in the fact that atheism is neither systematic nor does it have a creed per se, it makes life easier for the atheists. Can't blame the system when there isn't one.

But for religions, there is a problem. They have a system. And that system can be attacked and called into question easily enough when the representative leadership, whether national, international or local, comes under fire.

Such is the case with the recent Roman Catholic scandal.

The question to be asked is: why is it only the Roman Catholic church which comes under fire when pedophilia is discussed? Are religious leaders within other groups somehow off limits?

I suppose the response could be that since the Roman Catholic church is the largest single religious entity in the world. Since it wields so much influence worldwide, it's the example and therefore should be held to a higher standard.

As a non-Catholic (whom, by the way, believes that Catholicism errs in many areas) I have to say that I disagree with this approach. I believe it is intrinsically wrong to point to the "big guy" and say that he has to be the example for all the world and, therefore, should come under more scrutiny than any other group. Especially if being "the biggest" doesn't necessarily make one "the best."

That being said, let's look at pedophilia in other religious groups and see if this is a "Catholic thing" or perhaps a glance at the worst part of the human condition overall.

Rabbinic Pedophiles

For several years a group calling itself "The Awareness Center" has been following and reporting on sexual abuse cases involving rabbis and other religious leaders in Jewish communities around the world. The Awareness Center is an organization made up of Jews themselves, who have attempted to address the problem of pedophilia in its ranks via the International Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault. They have successfully documented, and called for action against, over 200 cases where rabbis have abused, or are alleged to have abused, minors.

Some of the cases involved child pornography, while others involved the actual physical molestation of boys and/or girls. To their credit, the Jewish community watch dog group tries to keep people informed. However, these stories seldom hit the media. At least, not with the fury that the ones about the Catholic church do.

Some of the cases are particularly disturbing:

Case of Rabbi Lewis Brenner

Convicted of child molestation. The original charges included 14 counts of sodomy, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. He agreed to plead guilty to one count of sodomy in the third degree, a Class E felony, in exchange for a sentence of five years' probation.

Case of Rabbi Alan Jay "Shneur" Horowitz, MD

Horowitz was convicted and sentenced to 10-20 years in prison for sodomizing a nine-year-old psychiatric patient. Allegedly, he has assaulted a string of children from California to Israel to New York in the past 20 years. Horowitz is an Orthodox rabbi, magna cum laude, M.D., Ph.D. A graduate of Duke University, and was a writer for NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association).

Case of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko (AKA: Joel Kolko, Yudi Kolko) - Yeshiva Torah Temimah (New York, NY)

Kolko was arrested in New York City on December 7, 2006 following a long-term police investigation. He was charged with four counts of sexual abuse, including two felony counts and endangering the welfare of a child. The most recent alleged sexual abuse was allegedly against an 8-year-old boy, who says he was abused while he was in the first grade during the 2002-03 school year.

Kolko and Yeshiva Torah Temimah were hit with a $20 million civil lawsuit on May 5, 2006, accusing him of molesting two students more than 25 years ago. One of the alleged victims said Kolko, 60, sexually assaulted him when he was a seventh-grade student.

The case of Baruch Lebovits

Just this month, a rabbi in New York was convicted on eight counts of sexual abuse. Baruch Lebovits was found guilty of, among other things, luring a teenage boy into his car with the promise of letting the youth drive the car. While the young man was driving, the rabbi performed oral sex on him.

There have been some news stories divulging the on-going problem of sexual abuse within Hassidic communities in particular. These stories often involve adult men who were abused as young boys and teens. The scene replays quite similar: a closed community which believes its own law has priority over the laws of the state, rituals which leave a child open for abuse and a secretiveness about bringing the problem out into the open as doing so could shake the faith of the devout.

For many of the victims of these rabbis, justice comes too little too late- if it ever comes at all. Kolko's abuse of minor boys allegedly spanned from 1967 to his arrest in 2006. Passed along from one place to another - much as priests have been passed around once allegations begin - the toll of Kolko's damage may never be fully disclosed since so many men never step up and report their sexual abuse.

Imams Not Immune

A 2005 story out of Pakistan highlighted the worlds AIDS day conference and the problem of "sodomy in the madrassas." Dr. Liaquat Husain announced the issue to a room full of people waiting for wisdom to explain why and how the spread of AIDS had become so rampant:

"During a raid on a madrassa in Karachi, I caught a cleric red-handed, abusing a student sexually. An inquiry was ordered."

He went on to tell the group that in 2004, there were some 500 reported cases of sexual abuse in madrassas and that in 2003, there were in excess of 2,000 reported cases. Sadder still was the fact that there had been no successful prosecutions.

Mosques aren't places of immunity from sexual abuse either. A recent story about a Muslm father who simply wanted to ground his son in the Islamic faith by sending him to an overnight prayer time at a local mosque reported that his son was molested while there.

Another case in 2009 involved a Bosnian imam accused of molesting young girls.

In February 2010, an imam was charged with raping three boys under the age of 13 and one count of raping a boy under the age of 15.

There are other stories of sexual abuse at the hands of imams as well. Though they haven't (to my knowledge) been accumulated into a concise form, there have been reports and these few make one wonder if there aren't more out there. Muslim leaders share this concern.

Protestantism Under Scrutiny As Well

An Odessa, Texas, youth minister was charged with the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old girl. A former music mkinister was arrested for sexually abusing young boys. A former pastor was given six months in prison for the sexual assault he committed back in the 1970's.

A watchdog group calling itself "Stop Baptist Predators" focuses specifically on the crimes committed by Southern Baptist leaders. And they are equally critical of the Southern Baptist Conventions' unwillingness to create a national sex offenders' database to assist churches in hiring processes.

A counselor at a children's home for abused and neglected children stands accused of sexually abusing 13 and 14-year-old children.

A former pastor at the First Congregational Church of Sutton, Massachusetts was indicted on charges of unnatural rape of a child and posing a child in a state of nudity. Andrew J. Bierkan, 54, is now pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ in Cincinnati.

Just about every branch of Protestantism has had some level of scandal surrounding this issue. Baptist, charismatic, Pentecostal, Methodist - you name it. Interestingly enough, there seem to be some groups for whom this behavior is a marked rarity. Among them are the Independent Fundamentalist Baptists. A web search showed up only one reported case of allegations involving sexual abuse within an IFB, that of a mentally challenged woman - yet the police investigation came up short when it came to the issue of whether or not the church adequately protected her. Later reports would show that she had been sexually active in the group home where she lived, so it was impossible to determine whether or not any sexual activity took place on church property.

In another incident, it was alleged that adult workers at North Sharon Baptist Church in Michigan were taking youth aside and molesting them. Police determined there was insufficient evidence to even warrant a probe.

Both cases came on the heels of the McMartin daycare trial, which catapulted several day cares and churches into the limelight.

Another group which seem to not have pedophilia as a problem within the church leadership levels are the Mennonites. This isn't to say that either group have no problems, indeed, they suffer the same issues as other groups. But it would seem that accusations against clergy involving the sexual abuse of minors isn't as much of an issue within these denominations while Catholic and Protestant offshoots do seem to have problems with pedophiles in the leadership.

What Drives the Problem?

I suppose the simple answer would be to let priests get married. But since not all churches have priests who have taken a vow of celibacy, this hardly seems a satisfactory response, though for the Catholic clergy, it could be a major step in reforming the church's tarnished reputation and curbing the problem.

Perhaps to understand it better, we need to get into the mind of the pedophile. This is a scary place to be and would make for far too long of an article. Maybe by looking at religious groups where this isn't an uncomfortably common phenomenon, we can discern the steps to lessening - if not eradicating - the problem.

Those who would say the problem is "religion" often lose sight of the fact that pedophiles encroach in all areas of life. They're in schools. They're in the medical and dental offices. They're at the local day camp and the local youth hang out.

So while the world around us seems to take great delight in pointing the accusatory finger at the Catholic church - what I can say is that where all systems err is when they refuse to acknowledge the problem in their midst. Perhaps its time to stop reinforcing the delusion that it's only the Catholics who have the problem. Being the biggest certainly doesn't make this kind of abuse worse than when it's committed by the smallest group.


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