Information about child abuse and neglect by religion

Religious doctrines often support the caring of the most vulnerable among us—children. Sadly, however, it’s not uncommon for adults to justify child abuse and neglect with religious doctrines. Both of these phenomena occur in just about every religious organization and community. This page provides up-to-date information about how children are being helped and hurt by those in their faith communities. Know of a great article on these issues? Tell us about it by scrolling down to the form below. If it’s right for our website, we’ll post it!

Christianity

The Archdiocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph will hold special services for survivors of sexual abuse in the coming months.

You’ve likely seen some of the lesson plans from Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute, for which the Duggars have advocated persistently, and which pushes an educational curriculum apparently comprised of some of the most damaging, unbelievably misogynistic viewpoints imaginable. To much of the public, the ATI lessons on sexual assault that have circulated online are basic examples of what we mean when we talk about rape culture and victim-blaming; to children who are raised in the homeschooling program — like the 19 Duggar kids — the lessons are “the truth.”

Cecil Chaudhry, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the Catholic Church’s human rights body in Pakistan, has expressed deep shock at the scale of the child sex-abuse scandal unearthed in the Punjab province, last week.

The pope has adopted a hard line on clerical sex abuse and at times asked for forgiveness while lambasting church leaders more than once for protecting abusers.

Last December he created the special commission of lay and ordained Catholics to look at child protection and pastoral care for victims, and he ordered the arrest of a former papal nuncio, Polish archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, on charges of abusing children during his term in the Dominican Republic.

Many believers — including Mr. Peterson, a vocal Christian — have confused the correction of children’s behavior with corporal punishment. The word “discipline” comes from the Latin “discipuli,” which means student or disciple, suggesting a teacher-pupil relationship. Punishment comes from the Greek word “poine” and its Latin derivative “poena,” which mean revenge, and form the root words of pain, penalty and penitentiary.

On May 23rd the Vatican’s split personality will be put to a new test when a UN committee releases the findings of an inquiry into the Holy See’s compliance with the Convention against Torture, which it signed in 2002. Most of the questions put to the pope’s representative, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, in the public hearings were about the sexual abuse of children and adolescents by Catholic clerics.

There is new evidence that leaders of the Catholic Church in Los Angeles maneuvered secretly to shield priests accused of sexually abusing children.

Documents just released indicate they never told parishioners — or the police — what they knew.

But what many people don’t seem to realize is that in the Evangelical alternative universe of the home school movement, tightly knit church communities and the cult following of a number of bigtime leaders and authors, physical punishment of children has been glorified for years.

Islam

This is the brutal moment a child’s forehead is cut as part of a religious tradition.

The Shi’a Muslim boy was slashed in the run-up to Ashura in Mumbai, India, and is considered by Shi’a Muslims to vanquish their sins.

As shocking as the Muslim-run sex ring in Rotherham, England, may seem to some—1,400 British children as young as 11 plied with drugs before being passed around and sexually abused in cabs and kabob shops—the fact is that this phenomenon is immensely widespread. In the United Kingdom alone, it’s the fifth sex abuse ring led by Muslim gangs to be uncovered.

However, this month’s plan by Iraqi parliamentarians to legalize underage marriage at nine follows the Pakistan Islamic Council’s demand last month that Pakistan abolish all legal restrictions on child marriage, the revelation that Syrian refugee girls are being sold into marriage against their will and the increased pressure in many African countries to ease the restrictions on selling child brides.

On the paradise island of Maldives, where tourists delight in beaches, sex, and rose petal bungalow beds with breathtaking views, a 15 year-old girl was arrested after years of sexual abuse Police discovered a dead newborn buried in an outdoor shower. The girl’s stepfather had been raping her for years. Her mother ignored the cries of her daughter. When the girl became pregnant as a result of rape, they pulled her out of school and waited out the nine months, then killed and buried the newborn after delivery. The stepfather was arrested and charged with pre-meditated murder, child sexual abuse of and possession of pornographic materials. The mother, also arrested faces charges for concealing the alleged sexual offenses.

Judaism

Australian rabbis continued to plead ignorance regarding the proper procedures for handling suspected cases of molestation on Friday, during testimony before a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Yeshiva Center’s Rabbi Yosef Feldman – appearing before the commission a day after his father, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, admitted he had neglected to inform the police a suspected pedophile was about to flee the country – said he was aware that the same suspect, identified as AVL, had massaged an underage boy.

Sam Kellner’s reputation in the Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn, began to suffer in 2008, when his teen-age son told him that he had been molested by a man who had prayed at their synagogue. Kellner’s first instinct was to run the man over with his van, but he didn’t know if his anger was justified. Molestation was rarely discussed in the community, and it didn’t seem to Kellner that any of the prohibitions in the Ten Commandments explicitly related to it. The most relevant sins—adultery and coveting a neighbor’s belongings—didn’t capture the depth of the violation. Kellner couldn’t pinpoint what was lost when a child was sexually abused, since the person looked the same afterward. But he sensed that molestation was damaging, because he knew a few victims, and they had gone off the derech, or religious way. “They became dead-enders, lost souls, outcasts,” he told me.

Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg—who is 63 with a long, graying beard—recently sat down with me to explain what he described as a “child-rape assembly line” among sects of fundamentalist Jews. He cleared his throat. “I’m going to be graphic,” he said.

Joel Engelman and Joe Diangelo are driving through their old Brooklyn neighborhood. Williamsburg is a place from another time and country. The shop signs are in Hebrew. The men scurry by in long black coats; their hair hangs in corkscrew curls. Married women wear wigs to cover their heads.

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