The victims never seem as important

The NY Times has an editorial on abuse in religious groups.

 the truth is, there are not two kinds of religions — the enlightened and the medieval. Every religion has evildoers stalking its corridors. They just survive, and thrive, with different strategies.

Take Zen Buddhism, the paragon of open, nonhierarchical spirituality. Anyone may practice Zen meditation; you do not have to convert, be baptized or renounce your old religion. Yet leaders of major Zen centers in Los Angeles and New York have recently been accused, on strong evidence, of exploiting followers for sex. This weekend, Zen teachers ordained by Joshu Sasaki, the semiretired abbot of the Rinzai-ji Zen Center in Los Angeles, are holding a retreat to discuss sexual harassment accusations against Mr. Sasaki. The Zen Studies Society, in New York, is under new leadership after its longtime abbot, Eido Shimano, was forced out after he was accused of inappropriate sexual liaisons with students and other women.

Paul Karsten, a board member of the Rinzai-ji Zen Center, said the intense relationship between Zen teacher and student can be trouble. For example, in private meetings, some teachers touch students. The touching is never supposed to be sexual, but there can be misunderstandings, or outright abuse.

It’s like therapy in that way – an intense but hierarchical one-on-one relationship. It’s no big surprise that the priest/teacher/shaman/therapist can parlay that into sex. Priests and teachers get to be seen as special, wise, “spiritual,” enlightened – they don’t get rich but they do get admiration. No doubt to some it would seem just plain wasteful not to leverage it for sex.

That is everyone else, not just religious people. The Satmar Hasidim may have wanted to protect a beloved member, the Modern Orthodox administrators probably worried about their community’s reputation — and the Penn State loyalists enabled Jerry Sandusky. Somehow, the victims never seem as important as the rabbi, the Zen master, the coach. In the words of a once-revered rabbi, Norman Lamm, may as well let the perpetrators “go quietly.”

Oh yes I forgot to say coaches.