During the past week:
- Bishops meeting in the Vatican rejected the kinder, gentler approach to divorced people and members of LGBT community as Pope Francis had proposed.
- An American Orthodox Rabbi was caught using spy cams on unsuspecting women utilizing his synagogue ritual bath.
- 34 year old Joe Diangelo who was raped in his Satmar Hassidic community ritual bath at age 7 and was then shunned by his community for trying to report the violation and his subsequent psychological struggles, committed suicide.
What do these three stories all have in common? They are the byproducts of cultures, communities and religions that are controlled by men.
A few years ago, I served as the Executive Director of a non-profit religious institution that was controlled by an old-boy’s network. Of course, as required by law, the institution had a board of directors that did meet for coffee’n a chat a few times a year. But the power was in the hands of 5 men who were the most significant financial supporters of the institution. The big-5 as I called them, met almost monthly at someone’s home or in a restaurant for lunch to make important decisions about the institution’s budget and personnel. These were good, decent men who with noble intentions. But every time I sat through one of their meetings I couldn’t help but envision doom and gloom on the horizon.
No charity, no institution can ultimately survive and flourish simply on money and good intentions. If the community that the institution is intended to serve is not politically, financially and emotionally vested and in control, it is a bankrupt institution regardless of its finances.
No one likes to surrender power and control, right? And tell me, where did you get that power? From the checks you write? From your last name? Maybe you have power because of a title given to you by others who believe that ultimately you will be more loyal to them than the people you are supposed to serve.
Leadership that is not subject to accountability is destined to fail.
The Catholic Church’s unwillingness and inability to responsibly and morally address the decades if not centuries of pedophile priests being hidden and protected is a perfect example of the old’boys network at its worst.
No doubt, many members of the Catholic clergy relish the authority granted to them by their title and revel in the opportunity to sit in moral judgement of others. “NO! YOU ARE A SINNER AND CANNOT HAVE COMMUNION! Golly gee, who would want to give that kind of power up? We’re told that many of the participants in the recent Bishop Synod in the Vatican were troubled by the Pope’s appeals for tolerance. After all they countered, what about all those absolute truths known as “Church doctrine.”
BTW, anyone who tells you that they have a monopoly on truth and the will of God is dangerous and should never, ever be trusted.
Recently, we learned that a congressman from Florida who advocated for people who receive food stamps to be tested for illegal drugs was himself arrested for cocaine use. Member’s of the old’boys network are quite sure that you have to do as they say, not as they do.
Barry Freundel was a highly regarded rabbi in Orthodox circles. He was on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and an authority on Jewish law. On a number of occasions, Freundel publicly expressed concern about technology and sex. Who would have guessed he was using his power, privilege and knowledge of technology to produce pornography?
In the totally male dominated world of Hassidic Judaism, men have the first and final word in all matters. And while some of the more politically savvy Hassidim like to perfume their incredibly paternalistic-cult like communities as enjoying separate but equal roles for men and women, ask them who among is empowered to make the important decisions in the home, school, business and religious life and that separate but equal bubbe-meise quickly flies out the window.
Joe Dieangelo was murdered by the old’boys network in the Satmar Hassidic community. In that world, it was and is still assumed that all the men are morally upstanding and trustworthy. Challenging the behavior of the men in the Hassidic world is tantamount to questioning the will of God! How dare you? The Hassidim and the Catholic Church are proof that moral depravity like pedophilia can flourish in communities where unaccountable leadership is in control.
But the good news is that what happened to Barry Freundel provides us with the obvious answer to the old’boys network. The Rabbi of Washington, D.C.’s prestigious Kesher Israel congregation was brought down because his victims shared their
suspicions with people who are not members of the old’boys network, the lay leadership of the synagogue. In fact, we now know that when the RCA learned a couple of years ago that Freundel was coercing prospective female converts to Judaism to do things unrelated to their studies or religious life, the RCA only gave him a slap on the wrist and never shared those chilling facts with the lay leadership of his synagogue.
If Freundel’s synagogue were controlled like a Catholic parish -by a hierarchy of rabbis instead of members of the community, would the whole world now know and be talking about his vile behavior?
Humanity is getting smarter and that spells trouble for the old’boy networks still in control of some institutions and communities. The average educated person in western civilization in 2014 is no longer inclined to automatically buy into the myth that this or that group of men have a monopoly on power, God’s will and the truth.
I may not write checks as large as yours by I’ll be damned if I will give you more than one vote on election day or in the board room of a non-profit organization. I may not be a cleric or a theologian but you can’t tell me what to believe and how to behave because my participation or membership in a religion or a community that you control is subject to blind obedience.
And for the record: God didn’t give the Torah to rabbis, God gave the Torah (teachings) to all the people. Jesus didn’t teach about love and tolerance just to empower a clergy that would be more committed to protecting itself and a cloistered institution that resists knowledge and change. And the American Constitution states I’m your equal Mr. David Koch and Mr. Supreme Court Justice. Don’t tell me rich people and corporations should have more say governing my country than individual citizens!
Guys, the jig is up. The days of the old’boy network are coming to an end. But don’t dismay. You are cordially invited to join a new up and coming club that intends to take control. It’s name, humanity. In this club everyone is equal. Deal with it.