Readers respond to articles about abuse in the church, children in Israel and wayward psychics.

Published January 10, 2003 10:29PM (EST)

[Read "Crystal Bawl" by Janet McDonald.]

Too funny. Ms. McDonald is a great role model. I love the way she was able to turn an embarrassing and rather depressing situation into a therapeutic purge and many good laughs. I've gone to her article, "Crystal Bawl," several times just to remember to lighten up and laugh sometimes when I want to cry. I would like to say thank you not only to Ms. McDonald but Salon for your great selection of writers.

Still wiping the tears away,

-- Gwen Wock

If Janet McDonald is an idiot, then so is almost every other person on earth. I don't have to be a psychic to predict that many, many people out there have also squandered ridiculous amounts of money, time, or energy on something that they knew on some level couldn't possibly deliver what it promised, but at the same time wanted very badly to believe in.

I appreciate Ms. McDonald's sharing her story with us. It shows something that's common to all of us -- black or white, rich or poor, educated or ignorant: Anyone can do something idiotic.

-- Jim Kasprzak

Gee, I'm just a white girl from Nebraska with no published books, no project upbringing, and no Ivy League degrees, but even I know that none of that has anything to do with the deep-seated ability to convince oneself of practically anything one really wants to believe. It's called being human, and nothing trains that out of you, not Yale, jail, or anything in between. Welcome to the club, honey -- it happens to the best of us. If it leads you towards humility, and compassion for your own and others' foibles, then the $700 wasn't such a bad investment after all.

-- Susie Macksey

I am so sorry to hear about Ms. McDonald's wasted dollars which were "contributed" to the Sylvia Browne Fund. I too blew a wad on a reading from Ms. Browne, although when I did, her price for a phone reading was $350 (still a very pricey psychic reading, and I've had several readings by other psychics). I had the exact same experience with Ms. Browne as Ms. McDonald. I'd read her first book and really believed what she was saying. I too consider myself an intelligent young woman.

I did, and still very much do, believe that there are some people with psychic gifts; however, I do not believe Ms. Browne is one of them. Actually, I believe everyone has the potential, but some of us are able to tap into it. I do not believe Ms. Browne knows how to, and I think the fact that she keeps taking (exorbitant) sums of money from people while giving them terrible results is abhorrent. I do not believe that psychics are 100 percent accurate, or that even the best of them is always correct, but I had the EXACT same experience as Ms. McDonald. Sylvia Browne started my reading by telling me to take a certain vitamin for a condition I did not have, but I thought, "OK, maybe it's something I should watch out for," so I listened eagerly. Well, 10 years later, I never encountered this problem, nor did I take the vitamin. After the rest of the terrible reading, NONE of any of what she said was remotely applicable to me. I thought, "I'm not taking any vitamin. If she was totally off base about everything else, I'm not listening to her regarding my health."

I see Sylvia Browne on shows these days, promoting her books. I guess her popularity is due to snowballing hype. I can't imagine a lot of people paying her prices for a reading, so I think people tune into her on these programs because they've previously heard her name from a past program she was on.

It's really a shame; Sylvia Browne gives truly talented psychics a bad name. Your author shouldn't feel bad though, I think a lot of people have been "taken" by Ms. Browne. My own mother arranged for a phone reading the same time I did, and got her 100 percent inaccurate reading a week after I did.

-- Stacey Brody

[Read "Devout and defiled" by Mary Papenfuss.]

Thanks for doing this article. It is, as stated, an area not considered "sexy" enough by the mainstream media to pursue: "What? Another woman/girl raped/abused? Boring."

It is unfortunate that even though the church has existed for -- by definition -- a couple of millennia, it is impossible in one article to do more than scratch the surface, to do more than address the problems of "now " -- the "now" which focuses primarily on the fact that there are gay priests and that a number of men, abused as boys, have now come forward. However, I think that the figure of one-third of the victims being female seriously understates the case of the church's history, and its "now." As mentioned in the article, that estimate reverses the trend in the rest of society -- where men do not, overall, have the same kind of power over the minds and thoughts over the women victimized. This mind control would cause in girls/women, as it apparently has in the boys/men victims, a far greater susceptibility than in the general population.

Therefore, I believe that the number is far, far higher than it would be in the general population -- perhaps 90 percent of abuse victims female, 10 percent male. (Not even mentioned in this article -- again, it can only cover so much ground at one clip -- are the victimized nuns, whose rapists/abusers, apart from the mind control aspect of the "holiness" of priests, are their bosses in the church's hierarchy. That's a surface that hasn't even been scratched, and may never be.) This is an issue that needs to be pursued and pursued vigorously -- not least by gay priests. Gay priests are being condemned for all of the sexual abuse in the church and threatened with being stripped of their calling (which, if I were a gay priest, would make me want to leave the church's horrible hypocrisy anyway, but that's another issue).

However, gay priests can take a stand. They can help the public and the media to understand that most of the abuse has been against 1) women, by presumably heterosexual priests, and has been covered up by the church (sort of an endless Enron -- CEO after CEO gathering in their millions, lying, covering their asses and crapping on women in the bargain) forever, because the church's stand has always been that women deserve whatever any man wants to do to them -- at home, in church, wherever; and 2) children who were abused by pedophiles who do not care what sex they abuse -- they want to rape a child -- if the sex of preference isn't available it doesn't much matter. Rape is rape, and sex with a child, regardless of any "seduction" that takes place, is always rape.

One last thing mentioned in the article -- isn't it interesting that Cardinal George talked about a priest having sex with a 17-year-old girl as being less heinous than ... whatever -- but I notice even the good cardinal's fantasies don't extend beyond a teenager. If he were seeking to exonerate, or at least create a less repugnant atmosphere, couldn't he have come up with a better example of a "smaller crime" than the image of a drunken 40- or 50- or 60-year-old priest having his way with a 17-year-old? Why didn't he talk about the breaking of priestly vows with a mature woman in a non-rape, statutory or otherwise, situation? If sex for priests is wrong, it's wrong. Shouldn't that have been addressed? The bottom line here? I sure wouldn't trust the good cardinal around my teenage daughter, nor should anyone else, nor should any child, boy or girl, be left alone in the care of any of these "holy" men. Again, thanks for the article. I hope it is only the first of many to shed light on this subject.

-- Ardis Wade

Ms. Papenfuss makes an excellent point in her article about Catholic sex abuses: Gender should not be an issue.

However, she frames this point in the context of the tiresome and hurtful battle of the sexes. There is no need to attack male victims of sexual abuse, or those that help them prosecute the abusers, in her first page, in order to get readers to continue on to the rest of the article.

The gender transition movement in this country can be moved along more smoothly without such lame shock value statements as: "There's a tremendous bias against women in the U.S." as if only one gender experiences gender bias.

Salon readers deserve better than this tabloid-style journalism.

-- Steve Wilder

[Read "Is Israel Too Dangerous for Children?" by David Tuller.]

Americans have the luxury of being able to pretty much move where they please (North Korea, Libya, and assorted other countries notwithstanding). That any sensible American parent would willingly move his or her children to Israel at this time is, in my estimation, grounds for a criminal case of reckless child endangerment. Malicious divorce proceedings aside, what parent wouldn't be relieved to know that his or her child was able to live and go to school in the United States, which, Sept. 11 terrorism aside, is unarguably a safer place to live than Israel.

Furthermore, the emotional damage done to American children living in Israel, children who were brought up on our Declaration of Independence and Constitution which declare that all men are created equal and guarantee inalienable rights to its citizens, is unspeakable. Imagine being a child accustomed to American democracy being ostracized at school for questioning why Israeli democracy is anything but inclusive, fair, or in favor of equality for all.

Imagine a child used to the heterogeneity of the United States, watching the ghettoization of the new country in which he or she lives, and the stigmatizing of certain groups of people who are declared different and therefore dangerous, subversive, revolutionary and murderers by teachers, neighbors and the government.

How could any American parent subject his or her children to a life like that, when admission to and participation in American life is a viable alternative? There might come a time when Israel is safe and is an actual beacon for democracy in the Middle East, but that day is certainly not today, and I'd sooner break the law and risk jail than let my children stay there, with their father or otherwise.

It might be politically unpopular, but the judges who upheld Ms. Schuster's case and prevented her children from being forcibly returned to Israel were acting in the best interests of the children and should be commended.

-- Yelena Malcolm

Mr. Tuller, while demonstrating a basic understanding of the central legal concepts in the case he discusses, also shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the process of appellate review of lower court decisions. He ends with a prediction that the 8th Circuit, sitting en banc, will consider this decision or that, in deciding whether the Article 13 exception applies for children who may be returned to Israel. But it is just as likely, if not more likely, that the 8th Circuit will decline to hear the case en banc. En banc review is rarely granted, and there is no right to have a case heard by the entire court. Even if review were granted, it is just as likely that the 8th Circuit would not reach the issue of the Article 13 exception, instead upholding the decision of the lower court and the panel on the habitual residence question. Appellate courts, by their nature, generally address a question as narrowly as possible.

The only situation in which the 8th Circuit would address the Article 13 question is if they find that Israel is the boys' habitual residence, thus requiring them to determine whether any exceptions to return are applicable.

I think you get my meaning. It's a pretty good article, but the "ruling" that is the centerpiece of the article really doesn't have much legal significance, given that it's an alternate holding, and the appeals court that already addressed the question affirmed the decision on the main holding.

-- Glun Guymon

By Salon Staff

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