c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<
NEW YORKOnce a month, Sharon Kalker, an Orthodox Jewishwoman, clears the basement of her house in Hillcrest, Queens, andunfolds 30 chairs on the brown-carpeted floor. In the middle of theroom, she rests an overturned bookcase on a table, placing a coverover it.
On the following Saturday morning of Sabbath, Orthodox Jewishwomen from the area arrive. They pray, sing and read commentary onthe Torah. But the highlight of the nearly three-hour meetingoccurs when a woman opens the folding doors of a closet and bringsout a Torah from its ark. The sacred scrolls are passed from fromwoman to woman, kissed and laid on the table.
And thenin an act that some Orthodox Jews see as greaterreligious participation for women, others as a threat to the unityof their communitya woman reads from the Torah.
``I knew there was a part of the community that felt this wasnot acceptable,'' Ms. Kalker said. ``But I didn't realize theextent or the depth. I certainly didn't think 20, 30 women gettingtogether once a month, that was going to be an issue for anybody.''
Indeed, when she and a dozen other women founded the firstwomen's prayer group in Queens in November 1995, they were part ofa growing movement in Orthodox Judaism. They met quietly once amonth, as word of mouth attracted new members. Since the Orthodoxdo not drive on the Sabbath, some walked a few miles to her house.
But last month, a local rabbinical association, the VaadHarabonim of Queens, issued a resolution prohibiting women's prayergroups, in part because the women broke Jewish tradition, therabbis said, by publicly reading the Torah.
The ensuing brouhaha was perhaps predictable. But the resolutionhas caused intense debates in Orthodox communities outside theborough, because it touches on one of the most important issuesfacing them.
The sharply differing roles of men and women remain an importantway in which the Orthodox distinguish themselves from more liberalbranches of Judaism. But many Orthodox women in their 30s and 40s _who, thanks to changing attitudes, became the first generation towidely receive religious educations equal to their brothers'arepushing for a greater role in their religion.
Whether the women say they are motivated by feminism,spirituality or both, their quest can cause conflict in a religionthat regards its laws as given by God for all eternity. A measureof the movement can be seen Sunday and Monday in the Grand HyattHotel in Manhattan, at the first conference on feminism andOrthodox Judaism.
``The big challenge for the Orthodox in this generation will be:how will they deal with women?'' Samuel C. Heilman, professor ofsociology at Queens College, said. ``Feminism and women's rightshave affected all of Western civilization, and the Orthodox alwaysbelieved they were insulated from this.''
In Orthodox Judaism, women and men are separated duringsynagogue services, and women do not count in the minyan, thequorum of 10 men required for public worship. Reform andConservative Judaism are more liberal, and began ordaining womenrabbis in the 1970s and '80s, respectively.
Orthodox Jewish women's prayer groups began more than 20 yearsago in Manhattan, but the number has increased in recent years,said Bat Sheva Marcus, head of the Women's Tefillah Network, aco-sponsor of this weekend's conference. The network estimatesthere are 40 such groups worldwide.
``Orthodox women often go to synagogue and feel they'respectators,'' Ms. Marcus said. ``Judaism wasn't meant to be aspectator sport.''
The reading of the Torah is the most important and contestedpart of the women's services. Critics of the prayer groups,including the Vaad in Queens, say it constitutes a public reading,permitted only for men in a minyan. Supporters say the readingadheres to Jewish law, or Halakha, because it is a form ofstudying.
For the Orthodox women, who in synagogues take no part inleading prayers or reading from the Torah, the prayer groupreadings provide an ``intellectual and spiritual connection to theTorah,'' said Blu Greenberg, an author who has called for theordainment of women.
``It's a heightened experience,'' said Ms. Greenberg, the wifeof an Orthodox rabbi. ``It's true for having it read to you, butit's truer for learning how to read it yourself.''
In Queens, the women who attend the prayer sessions are notnecessarily advocating sweeping changes in the role of Orthodoxwomen.
``For me, it had nothing to do with equality and feminism,''said Ms. Kalker, a social worked educated at Queens College andYeshiva University. ``For me, it had to do with having had in mylife very significant spiritual experiencessome of whichoccurred in an Orthodox synagogue settingand the desire to havethem more frequently.''
Phyllis Bruder, a public high school teacher who considersherself a feminist, has been attending the monthly meetings sincelast spring.
``I found it more satisfying spiritually because it was muchquieter than our usual services,'' she said. ``I was able toconcentrate more on the prayers. There's a feeling of being moreinvolved, whereas services are just a routine. It's noisy. Peopletalk. There are distractions.''
Ms. Kalker volunteered to start the group in the fall of 1995after she and five women discussed the need for one. She approachedRabbi Simcha Krauss, a widely respected scholar and the head ofYoung Israel of Hillcrest, who agreed to supervise them. RabbiHerschel Welcher, the Vaad's president, said his organization sawno need to get involved with the women's prayer group until itspractices began affecting the entire Orthodox community in Queens.
That happened, he said, when an 11-year-old member of the groupbegan planning a bas mitzvah with her mother, who was also amember. The event was to take place in a rented ballroom of asynagogue, and invitations were sent out to the girl's friends,including classmates at Yeshiva of Central Queens.
The yeshiva's administrators were in a bind, Rabbi Welcher said,because the invitations said the girl would read from the Torahduring the ceremony. Classmates from various synagogues wanted toattend, but some were unsure whether they should. So theadministrators asked the Vaad for a ruling before the event on Jan.18.
Ms. Kalker met with many rabbis, who warned her that thingswould `'spin out of control.''
A founding member of the Vaad, which was created in the 1950s,said the rabbis would not have objected if the bas mitzvah had notincluded a Torah reading. For the Vaad, he said, the reading was athreat to maintaining the division between the sexes, which wasnecessary for the the strength and unity of the Orthodox Jewishfamily and community.
``Where is it going to stop?'' he asked, speaking on conditionof anonymity. ``Why do we want to keep the division between womenand men? Because the Reform movement has no division and theConservative is headed in that direction. There comes a point youhave to say, `This is the Rubicon,' even if it means giving Judaisma bad name.''
Four days before the bas mitzvah, at the Vaad's monthly meeting,Krauss prepared a lecture to defend the Torah reading as beingwithin Jewish law. Around 5:15 p.m., 47 members of the Vaad ofQueens, which includes some rabbis from Long Island, arrived at akosher Indian restaurant on Queens Boulevard.
Krauss, suffering from butterflies in his stomach, did not eat.``The greatest enemy of Orthodox Judaism is not Reform orConservative,'' he told his colleagues. ``The greatest enemy ofJudaism is the secular ethos and world view that tears apart everybit of spirituality from a person.''
``Some people want something. We are rabbis. We are guardians ofthe law. Other people want something, and it's a quest forspirituality, a yearning to be closer to God, and if we can sayyes, we should say yes.''
Two rabbis left before the vote. Three abstained. One, a rabbifrom Great Neck, N.Y., who supervises a women's prayer group in hissynagogue, supported Krauss and later resigned from the Vaad.
The Vaad issued a resolution acknowledging many women's desireto express their religious feelings, but it said that prayer groupsand Torah readings were prohibited because they breached Jewishtradition.
News of the resolution drew condemnations from a dozen Orthodoxrabbis outside Queens. The Women's Tefillah Network saidregistrations surged for Sunday's conference.
The family went ahead with the bas mitzvah, and about 100 womenlistened to the girl read from the Torah, Ms. Kalker said.
``It's not our role to censure those who do not follow ourprescriptions,'' Welcher said. ``If this particular group wishes toaccept our opinion or not, it's their own choice. But for thecommunity as a whole, we have articulated what we feel rabbinicallyis an appropriate standard.''
c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<
NEW YORKOn Wednesday afternoon, they kept to their officeshigh above Madison Avenue, juggling and often dodging calls fromwealthy movers, politically connected shakers and journalists fromall over the world.
``It's CNN!'' pleaded a secretary as she delivered another sheafof pink telephone messages to Elan Steinberg, executive director ofthe World Jewish Congress, and Israel Singer, secretary general ofthe organization. Steinberg shook his head. CNN could wait.
On Thursday morning they ventured out, braving a gantlet oftelevision cameras in midtown Manhattan to attend the latesthearings into how Swiss banks would release money from the dormantaccounts of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
``Some stories have legs,'' Steinberg said at one point, in atone mingling amazement and pride. ``This one has stilts.''
He and his colleagues at the World Jewish Congress are walkingtaller than ever these days because their admirers and detractorsagree: If credit is due to a single group for getting Swissofficials to acknowledge the issue of dormant accounts andSwitzerland's dealings with the Nazis, it is due to the World Jewish Congressunder the leadership of Steinberg, Singer andEdgar M. Bronfman.
Their success in championing a cause that had languished forfive decades was made possible by more than just their owninitiative, savvy and doggedness. It arose from a fortuitousconfluence of circumstances.
These included the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe; theemotions stirred by the 50th anniversary of the end of World WarII; the political rehabilitation of Sen. Alfonse D'Amato , and aluncheon that Bronfman, the congress' president, gave for HillaryRodham Clinton early last year.
Their success also signaled the domination of one philosophy ofJewish advocacy over another. The methods of a more settled andassertive younger generation of Jews held sway over those of agentler, more frightened parent generation. And for that reason,among others, the victory was bittersweet for some Jews.
Tipping his hat to the World Jewish Congress, Abraham Foxman,national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said: ``If itwasn't for their persistence, we wouldn't be where we are today.They got not just Switzerland's attention, but the world's.''
But, Foxman asked, in their quest for what was clearly justice,did they lose good will?
``The Swiss began to see Jews as their enemy,'' Foxman said,adding that the crusade of the World Jewish Congress ``fed into thestereotype that Jews have money, that it's the most important thingthat preoccupies them.''
Roman Kent, chairman of the American Gathering of JewishHolocaust Survivors, registered a somewhat different set ofapprehensions in a letter published this month in The Forward, aJewish newspaper.
``The fact is that 6 million martyrs were tortured and killed,''wrote Kent, a survivor of Auschwitz, ``and the real perpetratorsare being put into the background by the `glitter of gold.' Is thathow we want the Holocaust to be remembered?''
Officials of the World Jewish Congress argue that the return ofthat money is simply a measure of justice.
But Bronfman, who has been president of the congress since 1981and was elected last year to a fourth five-year term, said: ``It'sthe moral issue that's exciting people, not the money. The issue isthe truth. The issue is morality.''
The congress, founded in 1936 in response to a rising Nazithreat, envisioned itself as a sort of United Nations for Jews, aconduit for the expression of Jewish concerns about internationalissues.
It successfully pressed Germans to make reparations to Jews inthe early 1950s. It became the Jewish community's officialinterlocutor with the Vatican during subsequent decades.
In the 1980s, after Bronfman became president, the group led thecampaign against the creation of a Catholic convent at Auschwitzand the effort to unveil the Nazi past of Kurt Waldheim, a formersecretary general of the United Nations who was then running forpresident of Austria.
The leaders of other Jewish organizations cite those twoexamples in complaining that the World Jewish Congress, at leastsince Bronfman took the helm, has chosen not necessarily the mostimportant issues, but rather the most incendiary ones. It has notso much heeded the wishes of its constituent groups worldwide,critics say, as it has the preferences of its leaders, especiallyBronfman, chairman of Seagram Company Ltd.
J.J. Goldberg, author of a 1996 book, ``Jewish Power: Inside theAmerican Jewish Establishment'' (Addison-Wesley), said the WorldJewish Congress had traditionally had weak support among AmericanJewish organizations, many of whose leaders found it quixotic andbrash.
``And if you represent every Jewish community except theAmerican Jewish community,'' Goldberg said, ``you representnothing.''
The World Jewish Congress focused again on reparations at thestart of the '90s, when Communist governments in Eastern Europewere falling. Previously, Jews in those countries had been unableto press claims for stolen property. Now they could, and theirquests, championed by the congress, touched off a wave of activitythat unearthed hidden records and lapped over into Western Europe.
Leaders of Jewish groups say that those matters, including themoney in Swiss accounts, took on special weight in 1995 as Jewsmarked the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.
``There was a heightened urgency to complete the unfinishedbusiness of the Holocaust,'' said David A. Harris, executivedirector of the American Jewish Committee. The anniversary servedas a reminder that the community of Holocaust survivors wasdwindling, he explained. ``People woke up and realized that withina few years, there would be no one left from that generation.''
Steinberg pointed to another pivotal event in 1995: thepublication of a book that provided fresh evidence about theactivities of Swiss banks, ``Switzerland and the Jews: 1933-1945,''by Jacques Picard, a Swiss Jewish historian. The work fueledcuriosity about unreleased money in Swiss banks.
In Bronfman, these Holocaust survivors and heirs found aparticularly potent ally, the billionaire chairman of a corporationworth an estimated $22 billion. That wealth and influence openeddoors.
When he sought an audience of Swiss officials, he got one. Andwhen he did not like what they initially had to say in September1995, there were powerful people to whom he could complain. One wasD'Amato, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Politicalanalysts say D'Amato, R-N.Y., was approached at an opportunemoment, when he was suffering bad press and shaky approval ratingsafter attacks he had made on Mrs. Clinton.
The day before D'Amato started hearings on the Swiss banks lastApril, Bronfman gave a Democratic fund-raising luncheon for Mrs.Clinton at his East Side apartment. He took the opportunity to tellher about his battle with Swiss banks, he said, and she expressedcertainty that President Clinton would want to hear about it. Thenext day, he said, after appearing at the hearings in Washington,he met with Clinton at the White House and gained his support.
Leaders of Jewish groups say this receptive environment,enhanced by intense news coverage, reflected an increased publicinterest in the Holocaust. This sprang from the success of themovie ``Schindler's List,'' the opening of the Holocaust Museum inWashington and other such events.
Politicians, particularly D'Amato, succeeded in gaining accessto previously classified documents that shed light on the workingsof Swiss banks. Some talked of possible sanctions, sowing panicamong Swiss officials.
A meeting took place in December at the Seagram headquarters inmidtown Manhattan between leaders of the World Jewish Congress anda Swiss official, Thomas Borer. It left Swiss leaders with theimpression that a boycott of Swiss banks loomed unless bankscreated a special fund for Holocaust survivors and began a thoroughinventory of dormant accounts. A week and a half ago, Swiss bankersannounced the creation of the fund with an initial sum of $70million.
Steinberg said that although the World Jewish Congress had neverissued threats, it had used a strident style.
``For a long time,'' he said, ``the World Jewish Congress wasmeant to be the greatest secret of Jewish life, because the natureof diplomacy after the war was that it was quiet diplomacy. This isa newer, American-style leadershipless timid, more forceful,unashamedly Jewish.''<
c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<
SALANG PASS, AfghanistanAfter being stalled for months on theplateau north of Kabul, the forces of the militantly IslamicTaliban movement are once more on the march across Afghanistan.Their objective this time is a breakthrough into northern flatlandsbeyond the peaks of the Hindu Kush mountains.
With the white flags that symbolize their brand of Islamfluttering from their tanks, the Taliban have broken the impassethat settled in after they captured Kabul, the capital, inSeptember. Now they are close to a gateway through the mountainsthat would open the northern plains to their advance.
The challenges ahead are formidable, including a 12,500-footmountain pass and a precipitous gorge that have been obstacles forarmies crossing the Hindu Kush for at least 2,000 years. But theprize is great, too, since a breakthrough to the north would putthe Taliban, who already control 21 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces,in a position to fight for the remaining 11.
The situation has put new strains on the coalition known as theNorthern Alliance, which was hurriedly formed in October, when theTaliban's last big offensive carried them on a rapid conquest ofeastern Afghanistan, culminating in their seizure of Kabul. Threedisparate fighting groups opposed to the Taliban met urgently in asmall town on the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush.
But the pact they signed has been undermined by personal,political and tribal enmities. The three partnersAhmad ShahMassoud, leading the Tajiks; Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a formerCommunist who leads the Uzbek minority; and Abdul Karim Khalily,leader of the Hazara peoplehave not pooled their forces. Thishas played into the hands of the Taliban, whose units, mainly fromthe nation's largest ethnic group, the Pathans, have beenincreasingly effective in battle.
The commanders in northern Afghanistan, reeling from setbackssustained in a Taliban offensive that began in mid-January, havebeen trying to steady their troops. Although the Taliban havepaused while emissaries try to persuade front-line units of thenorthern armies to switch sides, many Afghans believe the Talibancould be fighting on the northern side of the mountains in a fewweeks.
Some northern commanders have started evacuating their familiesand packing their household belongings. Others have said they willfight. Massoud told his commanders last week that they shouldprepare for the most difficult period in nearly 20 years of war.
``I told them, `If you stay with me, consider yourselves to beas good as dead,' '' Massoud told visitors to his stronghold in thePanjshir Valley. Massoud added: ``The commanders talked it overwith their families. Then they all came back.''
A new test seems likely soon, since the weakest alliancepartner, Khalily, controls the 12,500-foot Shibar Pass, whichstands immediately in the Taliban's path. The route they arefollowing, a 150-mile loop through the mountains, was forced onthem when one of Massoud's commanders halted their advance inJanuary by blasting a key bridge on the main north-south route.
From front-line positions barely five miles east of the pass,Taliban commanders have opened talks with Khalily, urging him notto fight. If he agrees, the Taliban could sweep forward rapidly.Beyond the pass, a local leader with nominal loyalties to Massoud,with forces controlling a gorge along the Bamian River, has toldreporters that he will ``run up the white flag.''
The 5 million Afghans who live in the northern provinces, out ofa population of perhaps 16 million, enjoy freedoms that have beenextinguished by the Taliban. In contrast to restrictions on womenin Kabul and other cities under Taliban control, in the north womencan work and dress as they please. Girls' schools remain open, andmosque attendance is voluntary. Alcohol, though officiallyproscribed, is freely available.
But alliance forces have been weakened by corruption andplunging morale. And there has been little sign of support fromRussia and the Muslim countries on Afghanistan's northern border,formerly part of the Soviet Union, which met in October and brandedthe Taliban a threat to their own security.
What assistance there has been has gone to Dostum, commander ofthe alliance's most powerful military force. But even this appearsto have been minimal.
``We have had no military support, because we don't need it,''said Gen. Mohammed Yusuf, an aide to Dostum, who retains largenumbers of Soviet-made tanks and artillery pieces, as well as anaging squadron of jet fighters and attack helicopters.
Dostum has concentrated most of his firepower in the regionaround Mazar-i-Sharif, the northern city that serves as hisheadquarters, leaving more vulnerable areas to the south to fendfor themselves.
But military strategies are not the only problem. Popularfeeling, too, has shifted against the northern leaders. InMazar-i-Sharif, and in towns and villages all the way to the HinduKush, people in bazaars and alleyways lower their voices when askedabout the Taliban. Then, many say they would welcome the Islamicmilitants. ``Under the white flag, we will have peace,'' they say.^@
^@ These people say the northern troops, especially Dostum's, havehoarded food staples and raided local markets to take grain to sellin the Muslim states to the north, short of food themselves as aresult of poor harvests last year. By dumping carloads of Afghancurrency into curb-side exchange markets to buy up Americandollars, Dostum's commanders have also worsened an inflationaryspiral that has caused many families to go hungry.
The afghani, worth roughly the same against the dollar in Kabuland Mazar-i-Sharif in October, has been devalued in northernmarkets by more than 500 percent in four months, half of that inthe last three weeks.
A university dean's monthly salary, $10 in October, is less than$2 now, enough to buy a few days' supply of the flat, unleavenedbread that is the staple of the Afghan diet.
Faced with large numbers of people who want to flee, Dostum hasasked consulates of neighboring Muslim countries in Mazar-i-Sharifnot to issue visas to would-be refugees. A tightening of patrolshas virtually sealed the border along the Amu Darya River tonorthbound travel by all except Dostum's loyalists, who shuttlenorth to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with family members, householdgoods and briefcases stuffed with dollars.
The problems facing the northern coalition seem clearer still inPul-i-Khumri, a town on the slopes of the Hindu Kush. The area'sdefenses are led by Said Jaffer Nadiri, best known in Afghanistanas a playboy who dropped out of a Pennsylvania high school tobecome a teen-age general in his father's pro-Soviet militia force.Now 32, Nadiri offered encouragement last weekend to hundreds ofmen sitting cross-legged on the floor of a local mosque. ``I willdefend you and your homes to the last drop of my blood,'' he said.
At his heavily guarded compound on the outskirts of town, adifferent attitude was evident. With his wife and children safelyin Mazar-i-Sharif, Nadiri had unplugged appliances, ready forpacking. In a building housing a swimming pool and a bar, even thepinup calendars were gone. Over a bottle of whisky, Nadiriconfessed to doubts.
``Nobody knows what's going to happen,'' he said. ``Anybody whotells you anything different is lying.''<
c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<
ANKARA, TurkeyThousands of Turks, most of them women, marchedthrough the streets of Ankara Saturday in the first major publicprotest against the policies of the Islamic-led government.
Marchers carried signs and chanted slogans condemning what theybelieve are efforts to move Turkey closer to sharia, the strict lawof the Koran, which imposes many restrictions on women.
``Let Turkey shout `Down with sharia,' '' they chanted. Onebanner proclaimed, ``Women's Rights are Human Rights,'' whileanother said simply, ``Women Exist.''
Turkey is the most secular Muslim country in the Middle East,and the role of religion in public life is restricted by both lawand custom.
Turkish secularists fear that moves toward Islamicfundamentalism here may set an example for other moderate Muslimcountries, and the organizers of Saturday's march hoped the protestwould prove that anti-fundamentalist sentiment remains widespreadin Turkey.
Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the Muslim-orientedWelfare Party, is seeking to end restrictions on women wearingveils or head scarves in the civil service and on public universitycampuses.
He contends that he is simply defending freedom of choice, butcritics believe he is using the issue as part of a campaign againstsecularism.
During his eight months in power, Erbakan has not imposed anymajor legal changes and has, in fact, stepped back from many of theradical proposals he made while in the opposition. Because he isthe first Turkish leader since the founding of the Turkish Republic74 years ago to strongly identify himself with Islam, however, manyTurks deeply mistrust him.
``We are definitely in danger because of what's going on now,''asserted one of Saturday's marchers, Ayse Topcu, a 43-year-oldhousewife who carried a sign reading, ``We Want a SecularDemocratic Turkey.''
``Part of the problem is Erbakan and the Welfare Party,'' Mrs.Topcu said. ``The other part is the Turkish people. We aren't doinganything to stop this from happening.''
Women played a crucial role in supporting the secular reformsdecreed during the 1920s by the founder of the Turkish Republic,Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and more than two-thirds of those whomarched through a cold rain in Ankara Saturday were women. Sponsorsof the march included not only women's groups but also laborunions, law and medicine associations, and cultural and retirees'organizations.
``We are marching against sharia and the darkness that aims tokeep women outside of humanity,'' said Senal Sarahan, a leader ofthe Modern Lawyers' Association, one of the groups sponsoring therally.
Another marcher, Sabiha Kizilirmak, 59, was draped in a Turkishflag to which she had pinned a portrait of Ataturk. ``I don't wantto live under a black sheet,'' she said. ``We are the real Muslims,not those who want to turn back the clock.''
Armored cars and hundreds of police officers, many of themwomen, lined the route of march, but no clashes were reported.Leaders of the Welfare Party had made no statements about themarch, and officials from the secularist True Path party, which isa partner in Erbakan's coalition, were divided.
Hasan Ekinci, deputy chairman of True Path, condemned the marchas an attempt to divide Turks, and said it was sponsored bypolitical groups ``looking for power on the streets.'' He saidmarchers were seeking to restrict religious freedom under the guiseof their ``so-called attitude of being contemporary.''
But another True Path leader, Minister of Defense Turhan Tayan,met on Friday with organizers of the march and pledged his support.
``Know it and believe it by heart, Turkey will never be draggedinto darkness,'' Tayan assured them.
Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller, head of True Path and thecountry's most prominent woman politician, took no public positionon Saturday's march. Some who participated spoke bitterly of herdecision to join the government of Erbakan.<
c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<
NEWTON, Mass.Nothing seems unusual at the diocesanheadquarters of an Eastern Rite Catholic Church here, but for onefact. The earnest, affable priest who welcomes a visitor inside,the Rev. Andre St. Germain, is a married man, the father of twogrown sons and, he says happily, the grandfather of a couple oftoddlers.
Through his bishop's decision on how to interpret Vatican rules,St. Germain may be the first married man to be ordained in theUnited States as an Eastern Rite Catholic priest in almost 70years.
His recent ordination appears to point to a new, if limited,area in which a married American man can serve Rome as a priest,the first such change since the Vatican allowed married Episcopalclergymen to be reordained as Roman Catholic priests 17 years ago.
Father St. Germain is not a Roman Catholic as that term isusually understood, but he is under Rome's authority as a priest ofthe Melkite Diocese of Newton. He works in the diocesanheadquarters, a former convent on a quiet suburban street. Thediocese belongs to the Melkite Catholic Church, one of severalEastern Rite churches that maintain allegiance to the pope,although their origins lie in parts of Eastern Europe, Ukraine, theMiddle East and India, areas where most Christian communities areindependent of the Vatican. Roman Catholics may fulfill their Massobligations by worshiping at an Eastern Catholic Church.
In 1929, intervening in a dispute at the request of America'sRoman Catholic bishops, the Vatican decreed that no Eastern Riteclergyman could be ordained in North America unless he wascelibate. The ruling broke with Eastern Rite tradition, whichallows married men to be priests, as they can be in EasternOrthodox churches, which share geographic roots, liturgy and artwith Eastern Rite Catholics. There are about a half-million EasternRite Catholics in the United States.
The man who ordained St. Germain, Bishop John A. Elya of theMelkite Diocese of Newton, says the ban lapsed in 1990 when PopeJohn Paul II issued a new legal code for Eastern churches that didnot mention the decree.
Besides, the bishop said, he needed priests. In December 1996,without fanfare, he ordained St. Germain, 57, who had served as adeacon for 23 years.
Authorities on church law were circumspect in evaluating Elya'sdecision, suggesting a lack of agreement on whether the 1990 codehad superseded the 1929 decree.
The Rev. James H. Provost, chairman of the canon law departmentat Catholic University, said Elya could at least count recenthistory on his side. He pointed to two decrees of the SecondVatican Council (1962-65) that upheld the right of the Easternchurches ``to govern themselves'' according to their traditions,and that called for respect of Eastern church disciplines.
Since the council, Provost said, some Eastern Rite bishops havesent American men to Europe to be ordained by authorities inEastern churches there. The priests have later returned to work inthe United States.
``They've done it quietly,'' he said. ``There hasn't been anypublicity about it. They don't want to do anything that would harmtheir bonds with Rome. At the same time, they want theirtradition.''
(Elya said seven other married priests work in his diocese, allordained overseas, in or near Lebanon and Syria, where the Melkitechurch is strongest.)
The Rev. Ronald Roberson, associate director of the NationalConference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical andInterreligious Affairs, said that in the 1970s and 1980s, a numberof married men of Eastern Catholic background traveled to EasternEurope and the former Soviet Union to be ordained by bishopsoperating outside the scrutiny of Communist authorities. The newpriests, nominally under the authority of those European diocesesin which they were ordained, returned to the United States andCanada to serve immigrant Eastern Rite communities, he said.
The Rev. John F. Lahey, rector of Moreau Seminary at theUniversity of Notre Dame, said of the 1929 decree, ``I am surethere are going to be two different opinions on this matter.'' TheVatican, he added, might have to settle the question.
CLAYTON, Mo.In the movie ``The People vs. Larry Flynt,'' anepilogue notes that the sniper who shot Flynt and his lawyer in1978, during Flynt's pornography trial in Georgia, has not beenbrought to justice.
That is true, but, in fairness, justice has had its hands full.
Joseph Paul Franklin has been indicted in the attack, andlaw-enforcement officials say he has confessed to the shooting, buthe is already serving life sentences for four murders and may soonpay the ultimate penalty for a fifth.
Those killings were among 15 attacks that he has admitted or issuspected of carrying out between 1977 and 1980 because of hishatred of blacks and Jews.
Last month, Franklin, 46, was convicted of murdering a manoutside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977. In the penaltyphase of the capital murder trial, he asked jurors to recommendthat he get the death penalty. They did, and a judge is expected tosentence him to death Feb. 27.
Daniel J. Porter, the district attorney in Gwinnett County, Ga.,where Flynt was shot in an attack that left him paralyzed below thewaist, said residents were upset that the movie says Franklin wasnever brought to justice.
``We know who he is and where he is,'' Porter said in atelephone interview, ``but we were sort of the last on the list injurisdictions in terms of seriousness. He's been punished. Why addanother notch to the stick? It's not a good use of our resources tobring him here. What would it accomplish?''
Porter said Flynt had not pressed to have Franklin tried.<
In a recent jailhouse interview here, Franklin said thatmeditating on the Bible had led him to have a change of heart abouthis murderous fanaticism.
``I was totally immersed in Nazi philosophy at the time, and Iwas obsessed with race-mixing,'' said Franklin, a drifter who oncebelonged to the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
He said he had shot Flynt after becoming incensed by seeing apicture in Hustler magazine, which Flynt publishes, of a whitewoman and a black man having sex.<
``I figured the whole magazine would fold once I got rid ofFlynt,'' Franklin said.<
``I have nothing in my heart but love for Larry now,'' saidFranklin, a tall slender man with dyed red hair and a goatee. ``Ireally regret what happened. Larry has some faults, but I don'thate him anymore. It's the only shooting I've committed that I'veever cried about.''
Franklin said he no longer hates blacks and Jews and thinks thathe may have been a Jew in a former lifetime.<
``Before, I used to blame Jews for all my problems,'' he said,``but I can see now how erroneous I was.'' <
Franklin has been in jail since he was arrested in 1980 in thefatal shootings that year of two black men who were jogging withtwo white women in Salt Lake City. He was convicted and given twolife sentences.
In 1982, Franklin was acquitted of shooting Vernon Jordan, thehead of the National Urban League and now a powerful Washingtonlawyer, in 1980. He later confessed to the shooting.
In 1984, he was convicted of bombing a synagogue in Chattanooga,Tenn., in 1977 and in 1986; he was convicted in the murders of aninterracial couple in Madison, Wis., in 1977. He received two lifesentences for the murders.
The bombing conviction was overturned.
He is suspected in the slayings of 10 people in Georgia,Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
Franklin is in jail here, the county seat of St. Louis County,awaiting sentencing in the murder of Gerald Gordon, 42, who wasshot and killed in the parking lot of a Richmond Heights, Mo.,synagogue after a bar mitzvah on Oct. 8, 1977, while two youngdaughters stood nearby.<
Franklin told the police that he had carefully planned theshootings so that he could kill as many Jews as possible. Anotherman was seriously hurt in the incident, and another was grazed by abullet.<
Franklin would have got away with the Missouri attack, too, ifhe had not confessed to FBI agents in November 1994, while he wasin a federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill., serving sentences forthe Utah and Wisconsin killings, said Douglas Sidel, the assistantprosecuting attorney for St. Louis County.<
Franklin was indicted in 1984 by a county grand jury inLawrenceville, Ga., on two counts of aggravated assault in theattack on Flynt. But he has never been tried because the murdercases took precedence.<
Gene Reeves, the lawyer who was wounded by the bullet thatripped through Flynt, said he had never felt a need for revengeagainst Franklin.<
``He is apparently a very sick person to kill people like he'sdone,'' said Reeves, now a Magistrate Court judge in Lawrencevilleand fully recuperated from his injuries. ``I'm just glad he didn'tshoot any better.''<
He said he had not seen the movie.<
``Been there, done that,'' Reeves said.<
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