Pope Acknowledges Nuns Were Sexually Abused by Priests and Bishops

Pope Francis boarding his plane on Tuesday to return to Rome from Abu Dhabi after a trip to the Middle East.

By Jason Horowitz and Elizabeth Dias

Pope Francis said on Tuesday that the Roman Catholic Church had faced a persistent problem of sexual abuse of nuns by priests and even bishops, the first time he has publicly acknowledged the issue.

Catholic nuns have accused clerics of sexual abuse in recent years in India, Africa, Latin America and in Italy, and a Vatican magazine last week mentioned nuns having abortions or giving birth to the children of priests. But Francis has never raised the issue until he was asked to comment during a news conference aboard the papal plane returning to Rome from his trip to the United Arab Emirates.

“It’s true,” Francis said. “There are priests and bishops who have done that.”

The pope’s admission opens a new front in the long-running scandal of sexual abuse by priests, recognizing nuns who have tried for years to call attention to their plight. With the #MeToo movement going strong, and Francis under pressure for neglecting the victims of child abuse, the nuns’ pleas have gained traction.

In November, the organization representing the world’s Catholic women’s religious orders, the International Union of Superiors General, publicly denounced the “culture of silence and secrecy” that contributed to abuse, and urged nuns to report abuse to law enforcement.

A top official in the Vatican office that handles sexual abuse allegations resigned last month after a former nun accused him of making sexual advances during confession. The official, the Rev. Hermann Geissler, chief of staff in the Vatican’s doctrinal office, denied the allegation, the Vatican said.

An article last week in Women Church World, the women’s magazine of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, blamed the abuse on the outsize power of priests.

“The abuse of women results in procreation and so is at the origin of the scandal of imposed abortions and children not recognized by priests,” wrote the article’s author, Lucetta Scaraffia, a feminist intellectual and the editor in chief of Women Church World.

Asked about these developments on Tuesday, Francis said that it was a continuing problem and that the Vatican was working on the issue. Some priests, he said, have been suspended.

“Should more be done? Yes,” Francis said. “Do we have the will? Yes. But it is a path that we have already begun.”

Francis recalled that his predecessor, Benedict XVI, had been “a strong man” who he said had sought to remove priests who committed sexual abuse and even “sexual slavery.”

Francis spoke about a case in which Benedict dissolved an order of nuns “because a certain slavery of women had crept in, slavery to the point of sexual slavery on the part of clergy or the founder.”

A Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, said later that Francis was referring to the Contemplative Sisters of Saint-Jean, a small group in France that confronted a variety of problems.

Even though the abuse of nuns gets less attention than the abuse of children and young men, it is not new. In the 1990s, as the child sex abuse crisis was starting to emerge in the United States, leaders of women’s religious orders wrote several reports calling attention to cases of priests abusing nuns.

Many examples came from Africa, where priests were said to have turned to nuns for sex during the spread of AIDS. One sister at the time, Maura O’Donohue, wrote of a case in Malawi where priests impregnated nearly 30 sisters in one congregation. When they complained to the archbishop, she wrote, they were replaced.

Last year, a nun in India accused a bishop of repeatedly raping her between 2014 and 2016. The bishop was arrested after she reported him to the police, a decision that divided the local Catholic community. Many priests celebrated when the bishop, who faces trial this year, was released on bail.

In a high-profile case in Chile, the Vatican is investigating reports that priests abused nuns. Current and former nuns said the women had been removed from the order when they reported the abuse.

Last summer, an investigation by The Associated Press found cases of abuse of nuns in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, and reported that the Vatican had not adequately punished offenders or supported victims.

At a conference in Pakistan recently, Sister Rose Pacatte, who is based in Los Angeles, spoke to leaders of women’s religious orders on how to prevent abuse.

“Don’t report to bishop or priest as the first step to deal with the situation,” warned one slide in her presentation. “They may be the abusers or may protect them.”

Last year, Mary Dispenza, a former nun who works with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a victims’ advocacy group, helped popularize the hashtag #nunstoo on Twitter. She intended to gather stories of people abused by nuns, but started to hear from nuns about abuse by priests.

“I’m really angered by the words of the pope just now,” Ms. Dispenza said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I am angered by the Pope not standing up and really speaking out about the tragedy, and actions he will take.”

The majority of the pope’s visit to the United Arab Emirates was focused on interreligious dialogue with the Muslim world, and it culminated with the signing of a sort of manifesto for brotherhood with Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s influential Al Azhar mosque.

Asked on the plane home about conservative criticism that he had been Pollyannaish in his approach to the Middle East and been taken advantage of by the Muslim sheikhs, Francis joked, “Not only the Muslims,” and noted that his critics felt he had been manipulated by just about everyone.

But he said the document he signed was on strong theological footing.

“I want to say this clearly, from a Catholic point of view, the document has not moved a millimeter” from church teaching codified in the Second Vatican Council. He said he took the extra step of having the document vetted by a tough Dominican theologian, who approved it. “It’s not a step backward,” he said. “It is a step forward.”

He also made it clear that he had continued to voice his concerns about the persecution of Christians in the region — which he said his flock knew all too well — but that either “me or another Peter,” meaning a successor pope, would surely visit more Muslim countries.

Earlier Tuesday, the pope celebrated Mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi before roughly 135,000 Catholics, many of them migrants from India, the Philippines and South America, who had come to the Emirates to work.

The Mass, also attended by 4,000 Muslims, was the largest public celebration of a Christian rite in the history of the Muslim country, where the worship of other faiths is tolerated but is not typically done in such a public way.

The next major event on the pope’s schedule is a meeting with presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences at the end of February in Rome to focus on a response to the global sex abuse crisis that is threatening the pope’s legacy and the moral capital that is the currency of his pontificate.

Complete Article HERE!

Top Vatican official resigns, denies allegations of advances

Rev. Hermann Geissler

A top Vatican official has resigned after a former nun from his community publicly accused him of making sexual advances during confession, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The Vatican said that the Rev. Hermann Geissler denies the allegation and reserves the right to a civil suit.

Geissler, who said he wants the church to continue its investigation of the woman’s allegations, said he was resigning “to limit the damage already done” to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that handles sex abuse cases and where he was chief of staff.

Doris Wagner, a former nun in Geissler’s German order known as “the Work,” publicly accused Geissler at a conference on women and clergy sexual abuse that was held in Rome in November. The allegations stem from 2009, and Wagner didn’t refer to Geissler by name but by his position as section leader at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Wagner’s allegations come amid a reckoning of religious sisters denouncing sexual abuse and harassment by clergy, an outgrowth of the #MeToo movement and the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal. Pope Francis has convened a meeting of the presidents of all the Catholic bishops’ conferences in the world next month to discuss the issue sexual abuse scandals rocking the church.

Soliciting sex in a confessional is considered a grave crime in the church, given that the penitent is in a vulnerable state, asking for forgiveness for sin from a priest in a Catholic sacrament.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan Proves Once Again the Church Will Never Reform Itself without the Law and Civil Society Behind It

By

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the Child Victims Act, for which we have been fighting for 15 years, will pass this year with his full support. With both houses controlled by Democrats, the leadership of Sen. Brad Hoylman, now Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, he is surely correct. The barrier to passage until now has been Republican lawmakers kneeling to the Catholic bishops and in particular New York City Archdiocese’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan. The latter is not going down, though he is decidedly going down on this issue, without a final whining tour about justice for child sex abuse victims.

Dolan’s latest volley was an op-ed in the New York Daily News that is filled with misstatements and ugly implications.  He tries two “Hail Mary” passes. First, he says that the governor’s bill will not treat public schools the same as private institutions. This is simply not true, but even if it were, there is no question the intent is to put private and public entities on the same footing and any additional language Dolan wants to further nail home this point can be easily added. The Democratic leadership in New York is 100% on board in wanting to protect children from sex abuse in every arena. Therefore, at least from Dolan’s rhetoric, he should be on board with the CVA. Not so fast.

At the end of the op-ed, he sneaks in Hail Mary pass number two, stating: “A balanced bill would allow for compensation programs and mediation over litigation.…” Whoa! The Child Victims Act has never been about “mediation over litigation.” It’s always been about society’s need to empower victims by handing them the tools of civil litigation to force into the public square the true facts of abuse and cover up. Litigation is absolutely critically essential (I can’t emphasize this enough) to end the scourge of child sex abuse and its coverup. It is the only tool we can give the victims that unearths the secrets that hide child predators’ identities and the pernicious behavior of powerful men (and women) letting pedophiles get away with destroying children for the “greater good” of the institution and its welfare.

Dolan in particular fears litigation, because he is sitting on the largest set of secret archives in the United States not yet publicly disclosed. Why? Because of the embarrassingly short statutes of limitations in New York that have let the New York bishops avoid discovery by their victims. Let’s not forget New York is in the category of Alabama and Mississippi on these issues. Dolan wants discovery requests to land at the Archdiocese’s doorstep about as much as a vampire eagerly awaits a garlic delivery from FedEx. He and other bishops in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have set up voluntary compensation funds because they are terrified of the further release of the truth from their files. They want to avoid as much litigation as possible in the face of the unstoppable march forward of victims’ access to justice.

Dolan’s frantic fear proves the necessity of the Child Victims Act to change the Church’s behavior for the better. This institution cannot reform on its own, and children, their families, and the rest of us are paying for their failures until access to justice is real.

I have the honor to have been asked by the venerated debating society, the Oxford Union, to debate the following statement: “The Catholic Church will never repay its sins.” The debate will be held on February 28 at Oxford University. Some may be surprised that I am taking the “negative” position on this statement. It’s not that I will be representing the Church. We all know that is not going to happen. Rather, I firmly believe that the Catholic Church will repay its sins for child sex abuse, because the law and civil society will force it to.

Can Dolan not hear the hoofbeats of decency, goodness, and civil society behind him? This week saw the publication of the “Out of the Shadows” report, which ranks and benchmarks 40 countries on how they are handling child sex abuse. It is a remarkable, large step toward ending child sex abuse in that it holds countries to account for their policies. This study was the result of pioneering work by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the Oak Foundation, and the Carlson Family Foundation. The world is joining hands to end this scourge through better laws and policies; tolerance of abuse is no longer acceptable. That is the future.

If Dolan or anyone in the Church believes that they can continue to coopt the world into giving them latitude to keep their secrets, they need to wake up to 2019. Clergy sex abuse is now sandwiched in between abuse in sports, the family, the schools, and everywhere else. This is a worldwide problem. It’s not just the Church, which means that the time has come for Dolan to stop lobbying against all the victims and to start embracing the right thing to do: giving victims access to justice and respecting the legal system. The answer to Dolan’s “mediation over litigation” volley is a resounding, “Absolutely not.” My free advice: start preparing for the ramifications of truth and justice.

Complete Article HERE!

Cardinal Wuerl apologizes to priests, McCarrick victim, says he forgot he knew about harassment allegations

File under:  Are you freakin’ kidding me?  Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure!

 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl speaks to media at St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington on Feb. 11, 2013.

By Michelle Boorstein

D.C.’s embattled Catholic leader, Donald Wuerl, under fire in recent days for untruthful statements regarding what he knew about the alleged sexual misconduct of his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, apologized late Tuesday, saying he forgot he knew about the allegations and that it was “never the intention to provide false information.”

Wuerl apologized to former priest Robert Ciolek in the evening and then sent a letter to the priests of the archdiocese, where Wuerl is the acting administrator. Pope Francis received Wuerl’s retirement as archbishop earlier than expected last fall as the cardinal was being pummeled by criticism over his handling of abuse cases when he was the Pittsburgh bishop, and also by suspicions that he was not being fully honest about what he knew of the McCarrick scandal.

[Cardinal Wuerl’s letter to the priests]

In the letter, Wuerl said he forgot he was told in 2004 about Ciolek’s complaint against McCarrick. Wuerl in 2004 then took the complaint to the Vatican.

The ex-priest, in testimony then to the Pittsburgh Diocese’s Review Board, had said McCarrick pressured seminarians to sleep in double beds with him, requested and gave the subordinate unwanted back rubs and caused Ciolek trauma because he knew that Ciolek had been abused by clergy as a teen.

When Ciolek first went public last week with evidence that Wuerl had been untruthful since the scandal erupted last summer, Wuerl’s office issued a statement saying he had only been trying to protect Ciolek’s confidentiality. Then in a Saturday letter to the archdiocese’s priests, Wuerl repeated his claim that he was protecting confidentiality and said he had denied knowledge only as it pertained to allegations that McCarrick had abused children.

In the Tuesday night letter, Wuerl repeated versions of those defenses but said it didn’t matter.

“Nonetheless, it is important for me to accept personal responsibility and apologize for this lapse of memory. There was never the intention to provide false information,” the letter said.

He noted he had apologized to Ciolek, whose requests to meet Wuerl were rebuffed for several weeks prior. Ciolek had asked repeatedly to meet but was told no after negotiating with the archdiocese’s lawyer, who had suggested limits on the talk, such as no “interviewing” Wuerl, no recording and no note-taking, Ciolek told The Post. This was in the days before Ciolek went public with the fact that Wuerl knew in 2004.

“I wanted to apologize for any additional grief my failure might have also brought the survivor,” he wrote.

[Despite denials, D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl knew of sexual misconduct allegations against Theodore McCarrick and reported them to Vatican]

Ciolek Wednesday said he was up much of the night pondering what he said was a 45-minute talk with Wuerl. He wanted to take the call, he said, because he was still “holding out hope” that Wuerl would offer a frank admission and apology that would help heal Ciolek and restore some of Catholics’ distrust.

“In the end, it’s lacking in truth and substance. I do not believe for one moment that he forgot. I do not,” he said. Wuerl expressed what Ciolek called sincere sorry and regret for the clerics who abused and harassed him. “But substantively it doesn’t all add up. He’s shown himself to be better at expressing sorrow for actions of others. But he remains unable or unwilling to ackowledge the truth of his own actions.”

The married lawyer reached a settlement in 2005 with several New Jersey dioceses over abuse and harassment he says he suffered by three clerics as a teen and then in seminary. One of them was allegedly McCarrick.

The reaction of the D.C. Catholic community, weary after six months of scandal alleged by their current and last archbishops, wasn’t easy to predict.

Wuerl over the years was seen as an efficient and moderate, if bureaucratic, leader of the healthy, diverse archdiocese — until last summer, when McCarrick was suspended after allegedly groping an altar boy and questions arose about widespread rumors that McCarrick had been sexually harassing seminarians for years. Wuerl was also painted in a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury as not fully reliable in his handling of sex abuse. The report looked at hundreds of clerics.

A Washington Post investigation about the grand jury report found that while Wuerl built a reputation as an early advocate for removing pedophile priests from parishes, at times he allowed accused clerics to continue as priests in less visible roles without alerting authorities or other officials.

[Why don’t Catholic leaders who screw up just say they’re sorry?]

Wuerl’s apology comes at a key time. The Vatican is hoping to wrap up things related to the D.C. scandals before a first global meeting next month about clergy sex abuse and how to hold bishops and cardinals more accountable. Allegations that McCarrick abused several children and harassed many seminarians are being heard by a Vatican administrative trial, and some church lawyers think he might see his priestly status stripped. It’s possible Francis will decide a penalty, if any, for McCarrick. Wuerl’s successor is also to be named.

While Wuerl’s denials have centered on his claim that Ciolek requested confidentiality, documents from the time challenge the cardinal’s framework.

In 2004, Wuerl’s office asked Ciolek for permission to take his complaint about McCarrick to the Vatican. Ciolek wrote back that he would be fine with that but to please keep his name out of it, if possible. Either way, Ciolek wrote in approving the specific request, he was fine with his experience being told to church officials.

The Pittsburgh and D.C. dioceses in the past week have said this proves Wuerl was unable to come forward. But Ciolek’s 2004 request for his name to be kept out of it was specific to the request made by Pittsburgh. Church officials never asked him again for permission to speak publicly about his allegations, even in a general way, without his name. Wuerl issued several denials about having heard even rumors about McCarrick, even after Ciolek went public in July about his experience.

“Were you aware of rumors Cardinal McCarrick was having relationships with other priests?” CBS asked Wuerl in August. “No, no,” he says.

Complete Article HERE!

Women strive for larger roles in male-dominated religions

By DAVID CRARY

Women have been elected heads of national governments on six continents. They have flown into space, served in elite combat units and won every category of Nobel Prize. The global #MeToo movement, in 15 months, has toppled a multitude of powerful men linked to sexual misconduct.

Yet in most of the world’s major religions, women remain relegated to a second-tier status. Women in several faiths are still barred from ordination. Some are banned from praying alongside men and forbidden from stepping foot in some houses of worship altogether. Their attire, from headwear down to the length of their skirts in church, is often restricted.

But women around the world in recent months have been finding new ways to chip away at centuries of male-dominated traditions and barriers, with many of them emboldened by the surge of social media activism that’s spread globally in the #MeToo era.

Millions of women in India this month formed a human wall nearly 400 miles long in support of women who defied conservative Hindu leaders and entered an important temple that has long been off-limits to women and girls between the ages of 10 and 50.

In Israel, where Orthodox Judaism has long restricted women’s roles, one Jerusalem congregation has allowed women to lead Friday evening prayers. Roman Catholic bishops, under pressure from women’s-rights activists, concluded a recent Vatican meeting by declaring that women, as an urgent “duty of justice,” should have a greater role in church decision-making.

Many feminist scholars are challenging the rightfulness of long-standing patriarchal traditions in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, calling into question time-honored translations of verses in the Bible, Torah and Quran that have been used to justify a male-dominated hierarchy.

Social media is seen as a big catalyst in boosting activism and forging solidarity among women of faith who seek more equality. The #MeToo movement has been evoked — even in the ranks of conservative U.S. denominations — as a reason why women should expect more respectful treatment from male clergy, and a greater share of leadership roles.

“Women are looking for opportunities to have their voices heard and be more effective in their religious traditions,” said Gina Messina, a religion professor at Ursuline College in Ohio who describes herself as both a feminist and a Catholic theologian. “Using social media is an opportunity to say what they think.”

She co-founded a blog called Feminism and Religion that has scores of contributors around the world and followers in more than 180 countries. She also co-edited a collection of essays by Christian, Jewish and Muslim women explaining why they haven’t abandoned their patriarchal-leaning faiths.

“The perception seems to be that it is a feminist act only to leave such a religion. We contend that it is also a feminist act to stay,” the three editors write in their foreword.

Here’s a brief look at the status of gender equality in several of the world’s religions:


ROMAN CATHOLICISM

Catholic doctrine mandates an all-male priesthood, on the grounds that Jesus’ apostles were men.

A decades-long campaign for women’s ordination has made little headway and some advocates of that change have been excommunicated. Women do play major roles in Catholic education, health care and parish administration

While the recent meeting of bishops at the Vatican produced a call to expand women’s presence in church affairs, no details were proposed. The seven nuns who participated along with 267 male clergy were not allowed to vote on the final document.

Earlier this year, a Vatican magazine published an expose detailing how nuns are often treated like indentured servants by cardinals and bishops, for whom they cook and clean with little recompense.

At the University of Dayton, a Catholic school in Ohio, religion professor Sandra Yocum says some of the young women she teaches “are having a hard time seeing where they fit in” as they assess the church’s doctrine on gender roles and its pervasive clergy sex-abuse scandals.

“They have a deep concern for the church,” she said. “They want to respond in some way and take a leadership role.”

Messina sometimes engages in “small acts of dissent” to show displeasure with patriarchal Catholic traditions. At the recent funeral for her grandmother, she changed a Bible reading to make the passage gender-neutral.

“We have to continue to push — regardless of whether it’s in our generation or five generations from now.”

Rose Dyar, a senior at the University of Dayton, says she’s determined to team with other young Catholics to help the church overcome its challenges. The ban on female priests isn’t enough to drive her from Catholicism, but it dismays her.

“I absolutely support women’s ordination,” she said. “Unfortunately I don’t foresee it happening anytime soon, and that breaks my heart.”


ISLAM

Some of the most important traditions and practices of the Prophet Muhammad were preserved and carried forth by the women closest to him— his wives and daughters. But as with many other major faiths, women in Islamic tradition have largely been relegated to supporting roles throughout recent history.

Women in Islam do not lead prayer or give traditional Friday sermons. In larger mosques where women are welcome, they are almost always segregated from men in the back or allocated spaces on other floors with separate entrances and exits.

In Saudi Arabia, a male-dominated interpretation of Islam bars women from traveling or obtaining a passport without the consent of a male guardian. Only this year did the kingdom allowed women to drive.

Changes are happening elsewhere. In Tunisia, President Beji Caid Essebsi has proposed giving women equal inheritance rights with men — a much-debated topic around the Muslim world. In the Palestinian territories, Kholoud al-Faqih became the first female Shariah court judge in 2009, in part to help women beset by domestic violence.

Some women are challenging interpretations that state only men must attend traditional Friday prayers. A few have chosen to create their own prayer spaces, like the Women’s Mosque of America in California where women lead the services and female scholars share their knowledge.

The bylaws for that mosque were drafted by Atiya Aftab, who teaches Islamic Law at Rutgers University and is chair of the board at her mosque — a first for a woman in New Jersey. She says moves in the U.S. to expand women’s roles in the Islamic community have sometimes been met with conservative backlash, but the momentum for change seems strong.

In Texas, Muslim women recently formed a group that has investigated and publicized instances of sexual, physical and spiritual abuse committed against women by Muslim community leaders.


JUDAISM

The gender situation within Judaism is markedly different in Israel and the United States, which together account for more than 80 percent of the world’s Jewish population.

The largest U.S. branches, Reform and Conservative, allow women to be rabbis, while the Orthodox branch does not. In Israel, the Conservative and Reform movements are small, and Orthodox authorities hold a near monopoly on all matters regarding Judaism.

One major source of contention: the Orthodox-enforced policy of prohibiting women from praying alongside men at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site where Jews can pray. Numerous women protesting the policy have been arrested, and several American Jewish groups were angered last year when Israel’s government backtracked on plans to expand a space where both men and women could pray.

However, there have been moves to expand Orthodox women’s roles in religious life. A Jerusalem congregation, Shira Hadasha, has adopted a liberal interpretation of Jewish religious law that incorporates women’s involvement in services, such as leading Friday evening prayers and reciting from the Torah on the Sabbath.

An Orthodox organization called Tzohar is trying to advance women in roles where social custom, not religious law, has excluded them — such as teaching Jewish law or certifying restaurants’ compliance with kosher standards.

“If Jewish law does not say that something is prohibited, but just because of social or cultural reasons women were not involved, we see no reason that they should not be involved, said Tzohar’s chairman, Rabbi David Stav.


MORMONISM

Women in the Mormon church are barred from being priests, leading local congregations or holding the top leadership posts in a faith that counts 16 million members worldwide.

The highest-ranking women in the church oversee three organizations that run programs for women and girls. These councils sit below several layers of leadership groups reserved for men.

The role of women in the conservative religion, officially named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been a subject of debate for many years, with some members pushing for more equality and increased visibility for women.

The church has made some changes in recent years; women’s groups say they mark small progress. In 2013, a woman for the first time led the opening prayer at the faith’s semiannual general conference in Salt Lake City. Later that year, a conference session previously limited to men was broadcast live for all to watch.

Mormon women are still expected to wear skirts or dresses to worship services and inside temples, but the religion has loosened its rules in recent years to allow women who work at church headquarters to wear pantsuits or dress slacks and to let women serving proselytizing missions to wear dress slacks.

The church shows no signs of budging on women’s ordination. Kate Kelly, the founder of a group called Ordain Women that led protests outside church conferences, was expelled from the faith in 2014.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” said Lorie Winder Stromberg, 66, a member of Ordain Women’s executive board. “I think women’s ordination is inevitable — but I have no sense of the timing.”


HINDUISM AND BUDDHISM

The gender-equality situation in these two Asian-based faiths is difficult to summarize briefly. Neither has a single supreme entity that enforces doctrine, and each has multiple branches with different philosophies and practices.

In Buddhism, women’s status varies from country to country. In Thailand, a Buddhist stronghold, women can become nuns — often acting as glorified temple housekeepers — but only in 2003 won the right to serve as the saffron-robed full equivalents of male monks, and still represent just a tiny fraction of the country’s clergy.

India’s Sabarimala temple had long banned women and girls of menstruating age from entering the centuries-old house of worship. Some Hindus consider menstruating women to be impure.

The Supreme Court in September lifted the ban, and violent protests broke out after women entered the temple. Earlier this month, women formed a human chain spanning than 600 kilometers (375 miles) to support gender equality.

“The Hindu temples at present have almost 99 percent male priests,” said women’s rights activist Ranjana Kumari, director of New Delhi-based Center for Social Research. “Things have to improve.”


SOUTHERN BAPTISTS

While many Protestant denominations now ordain women, the largest in the U.S. — the Southern Baptist Convention — is among those that don’t. It advocates that women submit to male leadership in their church and to a husband’s leadership at home.

Southern Baptist leaders say this doctrine aligns with New Testament teaching. One passage they cite quotes the apostle Paul as writing, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.”

A recent statement from SBC leadership insisted that Southern Baptists “are not anti-woman.”

“However, because Scripture speaks specifically to the role of pastor, churches are under a moral imperative to be guided by that teaching, rather than the shifting opinions of human cultures.”

Cheryl Summers, a former Southern Baptist who has challenged the church to improve its treatment of women, describes this gender doctrine as “tortured logic” — especially given the accomplishments of SBC women in the secular world.

“There’s tremendous cognitive dissonance for a woman of faith who is leading professionally or through volunteer efforts when she experiences the glass ceiling and walls in her place of worship,” Summers said via email.

For the past year, the SBC has been roiled by a series of sexual misconduct cases involving churches and seminaries, prompting some activist women to demand new anti-abuse policies.

Complete Article HERE!