Feeling The Church’s Pain

Feeling The Church’s Pain

As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gets set to meet next month in Dallas to hammer out a policy on how to deal with priests who sexually abuse children, one Long Island rabbi is offering his help and empathy.

"We in the Jewish community feel the pain of the Catholic Church," said Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin of The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, L.I., and a vice president of the Long Island Board of Rabbis.

"We pray that God will continue to strengthen the faith of Catholics, and help the Church to heal itself. If there was a way to do so, the American rabbinate would consider it a privilege to help our colleagues in the Catholic clergy."

Rabbi Salkin spoke recently at a dedication of a Yom HaShoah menorah being placed permanently at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington.

Last week, Pope John Paul II and a delegation of American cardinals grappled with the Church’s national priest sexual abuse scandal. The meeting resulted in what some were calling a mixed message: A "zero-tolerance" policy toward new offenses but a less-clear approach to those guilty of a few past offenses.

Observers are looking to the Dallas meeting to resolve the two messages.

Rabbi Salkin, who holds a doctor of ministry degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, said, "because there were Catholic priests in [the Princeton] program, we had some very heartfelt discussion of celibacy. While it is clearly something outside the boundaries of Jewish practice, I came to understand the sacrifices involved in this choice."

Rabbi Salkin said "the issue goes beyond pedophilia. On its basic level, it revolves around transference and counter-transference of power," which he defined as when a congregant relates to the pastor in a way that inappropriately replicates other relationships in the congregant’s life, or when the pastor inappropriately plays out a relationship from somewhere else in his life."

He said the issue crosses religions, and clerics of all faiths could benefit by tackling the issue together.

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