Rod Dreher has a strong and important post up about sexual abuse in the Haredi community. My only reservation, and I’ve thought about this for a long time, concerns Jewish and other blogs like the ones mentioned in the New York Times article that Rod cites. Some of these crusading blogs allow, even encourage, anonymous or poorly sourced accusations. This is absolutely ripe for a different but also insidious kind of abuse.
Yes, Jewish and Christian spiritual leaders have been shown to harbor a certain number of sexual predators, but the Internet too harbors its share of people psychologically and spiritually twisted in other ways who use the power and lack of accountability built into the medium to hurt or humiliate, with no proper journalist’s regard for truth. If we can believe that rabbis and priests do terrible things, we can also believe that anonymous Internet users would use blogs to strike at clergy members (or whole religions) they hate, using this most hideous of accusations, including for reasons that have nothing to do with sexual abuse.
There are a lot of crazy, spiteful people out there, and a whole lot more who are eager to pass on rumors and innuendo if it suits their prejudices. Very tragically, rabbis and priests cannot any longer be assumed to be reliable. But neither can people who write on the Internet, especially when they do so anonymously or pseudonymously.