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"It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over"

Feb 20, 2009 — Categories: ,

In baseball, there is an old saying about the game: "It ain't over 'til it's over." It's the reminder that you can't leave after the seventh inning and assume you know the outcome. As we have seen cases of sexual abuse by clergy emerge in recent years, it might be easy to assume that we have seen the worst of it. Yet the news continues to inform us of cases still waiting to be heard and justice still waiting to be experienced. It's definitely not over yet.

In baseball, there is an old saying about the game: "It ain't over 'til it's over." It's the reminder that you can't leave after the seventh inning and assume you know the outcome. As we have seen cases of sexual abuse by clergy emerge in recent years, it might be easy to assume that we have seen the worst of it. Yet the news continues to inform us of cases still waiting to be heard and justice still waiting to be experienced. It's definitely not over yet.

In 1985, Joel Engleman was 8 years old when he says that Rabbi Avrohom Reichman, his principle at United Talmudical Academy in Brooklyn, New York, began molesting him in school. This is just one instance of disclosure by adult survivors who grew up in the Hasidic community. There are many others. A year ago after other victims of Rabbi Reichman came forward, he was fired. According to NPR, several weeks later, a school official asked Engelman’s mother this question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad was the molestation?” She was shocked.

Then the official said, “We found out there was no skin-to-skin contact, that it was through clothing.” Mrs. Engleman concluded: “So he's telling me, 'On a scale of 1 to 10, this was maybe a 2 or a 3, so what's the big fuss?'” The school hired Reichman back. That was in July 2008--one week after Joel Engelmen turned 23 and could no longer bring a criminal or civil case against the rabbi.

At least 43 Native Alaskan survivors of child sexual abuse by pedophile Roman Catholic priests have filed suit alleging that they were abused in the '80s and '90s by Jesuit priests known to be pedophiles. More survivors are expected to join the suit. The suit alleges that the Jesuits knowingly sent pedophiles to the Diocese of Fairbanks and that these priests were then assigned to isolated, rural parishes with no supervision. The question is, who knew or should have known and could have prevented this devastating pattern of abuse among Native Alaskan children who, because of their life circumstances, were extraordinarily vulnerable? The court will decide.

The same issue is being raised again in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles where a federal grand jury is investigating whether Cardinal Mahoney and the Archdiocese mishandled the cases of priests who had abused children. They are looking into documents related to the transfer of priests and whether parishioners were informed about the priests’ histories of sexual abuse.

How long, O Lord, will it take to address these long, painful years of the history of abuse in all of our faith communities? The words of the prophet Jeremiah (31:15) from Hebrew Scripture describe the anguish we feel:

“Thus says the Lord:

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.

Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

And a response of promise (31:16-17):

“Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears;

For there is a reward for your work, says the Lord: They shall come back from the land of the enemy;

There is hope for your future, says the Lord: Your children shall come back to their own country.”

Let us pray that through the efforts of many survivors and advocates that it will be so.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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