Ten police officers went to the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos in Greece on Tuesday to arrest the, Father Ephraim as though he were “a gangster,” raged The Voice of Russian. But as Angeliki Koutantou and Harry Papachristou of Reuters explain:
The abbot of one of Greece’s richest and most powerful monasteries went to jail on Wednesday awaiting trial for hoodwinking the government in a high-profile land swap deal six years ago. Cypriot-born Efraim, 56, chief of the Vatopedi Monastery at the monastic community of Mount Athos, is accused of inciting officials to commit acts of fraud, perjury and money-laundering, a charge that can fetch him a jail term of several years.
The government is said to have lost tens of millions of euros in a series of land swaps with Vatopedi, a monastery with many prominent fans in Greece and abroad including Britain’s Prince Charles, who is a frequent visitor. Exposure of the scandal precipitated the fall of the country’s then conservative government in 2009.
It is obvious that the most visible religious institutions — from the Vatican, to Mount Athos, to the Southern Baptist Convention — are enormous bureaucracies virtually swimming in cash. Their relative immunity from taxation and the normal rules of fiscal oversight are troubling. But this case is especially jarring for the contrast it draws out between the grinding poverty of the Greek people under their new program of enforced austerity and the immeasurable wealth of the Orthodox Church. The same contrast will be drawn out in coming months in Rome, and I dare say in the U.S. as well.
The very public arrest of Catholic priests in Belgium or the U.S. for sexual crimes is one thing; the revelation of the Greek (or Roman) Church’s complicity in white-collar theft, pork-barrel politicking and a form of nepotism whose sole purpose has been to line the clerical elites’ own pockets is something else again.
Without question, the sex crimes are more heinous, but even outside criminal court there is a perhaps growing interest in financial accountability and other kinds. A few arrests, even at the level seen in Greece, aren’t enough action.
Dozens of parents said they are left scrambling to find a school for their children after leaders at New Birth Christian Academy said the campus will not reopen next week.
School officials told Channel 2 Action News that money and not enough students are the main issues, but some parents said they believe it’s more than that.
How much more than that?
The academy is housed inside the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. A spokesperson made it clear that the school closure has nothing to do with the sex abuse allegations against Bishop Eddie Long.
“I don’t believe that. I believe that this last straw with the divorce, the sealed settlement, it just does not look good,” said the parent.
Parents received the letter on Dec. 22. School reopens there on Jan. 4. The DeKalb County, Ga., school system has said it will help place the refugee students.
Catholic coverup in another country. The Los Angeles Times reported:
Tens of thousands of Dutch children were sexually abused by priests and other Roman Catholic religious figures in the last 65 years, but church officials failed to take adequate action or report problems to police, an independent commission said Friday.
Many of the victims spent part of their childhood in Catholic institutions such as schools and orphanages, where the risk of abuse was twice as high as in the general population, the commission said. But complaints were often ignored or covered up by authorities who were more intent on protecting the church’s reputation than providing care for abuse victims.
Efforts are being made to give the victims legal recourse, says The Irish Times:
THE POSSIBILITY of changing the law to allow prosecutions against Catholic clergy believed to have been involved in child abuse is being examined by the Dutch cabinet. This is despite the fact that the statute of limitations on their alleged crimes has run out, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said last night.
The 1,100-page report of the Deetman Commission revealed last Friday that more than 800 Catholic priests and monks – 105 of whom are still alive – had systematically abused as many as 20,000 children, many of them sexually, in church-run institutions, between 1945 and 1985.
Holy Cross religion professor Mathew N. Schmalz sees the scandal as a requiem for Dutch Catholicism
But for some Catholics of my generation, the press conference was a coda, a requiem of sorts. Back in the ’70s, Dutch Catholicism represented an open and engaged Catholicism. It embodied a vision of what Catholicism could become in the wake of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
More apologies, too late and without credibility.
They aren’t moving with superluminal speed, but there is no “church reputation first” here:
LONDON — Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has set up an inquiry in Chichester diocese in southern England, reportedly after allegations that paedophile priests were allowed to continue working despite being accused of sexual abuse.
The archbishop’s decision to investigate the diocese will throw the spotlight on abuse by clergy in the Church of England, raising an issue which has already rocked the Catholic Church in a number of countries.
A spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace refused to say whether the concerns related to current or historic child protection issues.
In May, a review found serious failings in the senior clergy after two priests were allowed to continue working despite being accused of serious child abuse offences.
An earlier investigation found a history of problems, BBC reported:
Lambeth Palace said it would ensure recommendations of the report by Baroness Butler-Sloss were implemented.
She was appointed by the Church of England to examine how senior clergy dealt with historical claims of abuse.
Her report last May found there had been “a lack of understanding of the seriousness of historic child abuse”.
The report looked into the cases of Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard, who abused children in the 1970s and 1980s.
Pritchard served as the vicar of St Barnabas, Bexhill, until 2007, when he was arrested over sex abuse claims. In 2008 he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys and was jailed for five years.
Cotton was ordained in 1966, despite having a conviction for indecently assaulting a choirboy in the 1950s, and went on to abuse at least 10 boys from Eastbourne.
Baroness Butler-Sloss’s report found senior clergy, including bishops, were slow to act on information available to them and to assess the potential risk to children in the diocese.
There were some mumbling excuses in response to a BBC invesgitation.
We saw this pattern in the recent case in Port Orchard, Washington. “We want the truth to come out,” said senior pastor Jamie Greening, after another minister in his church was arrested on child sex charges and after police said he had “confessed on tape to raping a 12-year-old.”
Failure to protect other potential victims while awaiting an outcome at trial is negligent. As Brown explains:
Just because a man hasn’t been criminally convicted doesn’t mean that he hasn’t sexually abused a child. In fact, many experts estimate that 90 percent of active sex offenders have no criminal record. This is consistent with FBI data, which indicates that only about 1 to 10 percent of child molestation crimes are ever even disclosed, much less prosecuted or convicted.
Children and other potential victims are put at undue risk when a criminal conviction is a faith group’s only measure of “the truth” in these cases. The widespread Southern Baptist standard in these matters is wrong.
No, we don’t think it is.
Justice does not mean letting any of the abusers go unpunished and journalism does not mean leaving any of the abuse unchronicled.
Failing to report child abuse is a crime for which there is no justifiable church exemption. And as Christa Brown brought to our attention, the consequences of failure to report fell on the heads of a New Hampshire Southern Baptist pastor and two elders last week.
In New Hampshire, [at Valley Christian Church] Southern Baptist pastor Timothy Dillmuth and two church elders, Richard Eland and Robert Gagnon, were found guilty of failing to report child sex abuse. … According to the judge’s written ruling, pastor Dillmuth “had met with the parents of a child who had been molested by a member of the church, which he later confirmed after talking to the child.
“The information was shared with other members of the board of elders in September 2009,” and was discussed at some meetings of the church board.
A month later, when another member of the church urged the child’s parents to report the matter to authorities, pastor Dillmuth talked to the concerned church member and told him to “keep his mouth shut.”
They sought a religious exception to the law, the Union leader reported:
The three men, [District Court of Northern Carroll County Judge Pamela Albee] wrote, sought to have immunity from criminal liability in failing to report the case of suspected child abuse, “arguing that they acted in good faith in persuading the parents and the perpetrator to make report of abuse.” The men were arrested in early February by Conway police and charged that they had reason to suspect a girl had been sexually abused but did not report it as required by state law.
Suppression of the sort they sought punishes the victim, is shameful and deserves legal action.
Once the Christian Right’s most reliable Congressional culture warrior, former Republican House majority leader Tom DeLay was found guilty Wednesday by a Texas jury “of one charge of laundering corporate money into political donations and one charge of conspiracy.”
Leaders of the Christian Right rallied to him when he was indicted on Sept. 26, 2006. For example, Brian Kaylor wrote for the Baptist Center for Ethics publication Ethics Daily:
[The late] Jerry Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University compared the indictment of DeLay to President Richard Nixon’s “vicious” attacks on his political enemies, and argued that DeLay “is the target of an ugly political witch hunt.”
Falwell also wrote: “While the dogs continue to yap at his heels, I hope that Rep. DeLay can get past the nasty politics that have seemingly brought him to this point. And I pray that he can quickly prove his innocence and get back to work as one of our eminent political leaders.”
DeLay, apparently still a member of Second Baptist Church in Houston, echoed those sentiments and others like them following his conviction. He described himself as “innocent” and said “This is an abuse of power, and it is a miscarriage of justice.”
Yet the evidence him was at the end compelling. Perhaps most dramatically among widely publicized disclosures, at one point, during taped negotiations with prosecutors, DeLay admitted prior knowledge that a staff member was going to commit one of the crimes of which he (DeLay) was accused:
DeLay told prosecutors that he knew that Jim Ellis, DeLay’s chief political aide in Washington, was going to exchange 190,000 dollars of corporate money for campaign donations from the Republican National Committee.
“Jim Ellis told me he was going to do it,” DeLay said. “Before he did it?” prosecutors asked. “Uh-huh,” DeLay answered.
USA Today’s Catalina Camia reports that as a result of the jury verdict:
DeLay, a former No. 2 House GOP leader, faces five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 on the money laundering charge.
The hammer has fallen.
DeLay will remain free on bond until he is sentenced Dec. 20, reported the Austin American-Statesman:
[District Judge Pat ] Priest allowed DeLay to remain free on bond until sentencing, which is set for Dec. 20. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said no decision had been made on whether prosecutors would recommend prison time or probation for DeLay.
Yes, DeLay’s attorney is talking about filing an appeal.