Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

So much for Christian charity.

Sister Mary McCauley, the former pastoral administrator at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville, Iowa, who provided support for families affected by the Agriprocessors raid, publicly condemned the complete acquittal of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin on charges of child labor violations as a tragedy. “I was heartsick,” she declared. “I had to just sit and deal with the heartbreak I was feeling.”

Never mind that a jury deliberated only 12 hours
to reach a verdict exonerating Rubashkin on all 67 counts. Never mind that
Rubashkin, a father of ten with a long of history of charitable acts feeding
the hungry and the poor, has been so demonized in the press that it was practically
impossible for him to receive a fair trial, and still he was found innocent.
The good sister is convinced that the man should have gone down. Her heart
tells her so. The jury be damned.

Funny that.

When I, as a Rabbi and broadcaster, read of the
unending accusations against countless priests and even nuns for molesting
children, and against the Pope himself for covering it up, I went on the air on
my radio show on America’s most listened to station, WABC 77AM in New York
City, and begged my audience to place the allegations in perspective. The Pope
had been tried in a media circus without being given an opportunity to respond
or defend himself. Further, all judgments about the morality of the Church had
to be assessed in the context of the global good it does in running the world’s
largest network of orphanages, hospitals, and schools. Whatever crimes were
committed against children by men and women sworn to G-d’s work were despicable
in the extreme and abomination against all that is decent. And they would have
to be held accountable. But wait before you lynch any innocent man.

I was heavily criticized on the air by my own
devoted listeners, with the angriest calls coming from Christians and Catholics.
‘How can you defend our Church, Rabbi Shmuley? You who promotes family values
and ethics? Do you not understand what these men have done?’

Yes, of course I understood. But allow the
facts to emerge before you disparage the whole of the Church. Don’t paint with
a broad brush. Point a finger only at the Priests who are guilty and refrain
from assailing the papacy itself until you hear more. Amid the caller
onslaught, I stood my ground. All people carry the presumption of innocence
until proven otherwise.

Unless you’re Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, that
is, in which case even once you’re found completely innocent on charges of
child labor by a jury of your peers you are still guilty.

Senator Obama, campaigning in Iowa to be
President in August 2008 and promising a new era of civil American political
discourse, forgot his commitment when it came to Rubashkin: “When you read
about a meatpacking plant hiring 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds – that is some of
the most dangerous, difficult work there is. They have kids in there wielding
buzz saws and cleavers? It’s ridiculous. And the only reason they’re hiring
these folks is because they want to avoid paying people decent wages and
providing them decent benefits.” The President is a politician and might be
forgiven for pandering for votes, although it would still be encouraging if
now, in light of the acquittal, he would publicly apologize for his slander.
But sister McCauley is a nun consecrated to Christ and has no such excuse.

I have no doubt that the sister is a good woman
who wants to defend immigrant children, even as they admitted under oath to
falsifying their work papers in order to work at Agriprocessors. I agree Sister
Mary that these children were desperate. The cowardice on the part of the
American government in repeatedly failing to address the immigration crises
with serious reforms leads to these tragedies. But does Sister Mary not reserve
even a tiny sliver of her heart for Rubashkin’s ten children, one of whom is
autistic, even as their lives have been turned upside down as their father has
been painted as the anti-Christ?

Let me be clear. I am on record in several
columns as saying that Rubashkin is no hero. He has been found guilty of
financial fraud and will be punished. Whatever good he and his family have done
– and they are justly renowned for their charity and philanthropy – in no way
cancels out his conviction, even if his intentions were to temporarily avert
near-certain bankruptcy that was caused by an INS raid and eventually pay the
bank back. Wearing a yarmulke and a beard, Rubashkin is a public representative
of the Jewish faith and he has let us all down. In our religion there is no
greater sin than desecrating the divine name. No doubt the pain Rubashkin feels
in having done so is more excruciating than anything the penal system can do to
him. He will have to repent of his actions before G-d and man. He will also
have to serve time, tragic as that is for a man with a large family who are now

But the time served must be fair and just. For
goodness sake, stop the never-ending lynching. Treat the man fairly.
Prosecutors, stop portraying him as a monster. Stop the absurdity of demanding
a life sentence. Don’t subvert justice in the name of justice. Six former
Attorney-Generals of the United States have already strongly condemned the
recommendation for a life sentence. Let the insanity end.

On the home page of the Sisters of Charity of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom Sister Mary is affiliated, it declares, “We are
women of steadfast love called to live the mission of Jesus through our core
values of FREEDOM, CHARITY, EDUCATION, and JUSTICE.” Those are values I applaud
and respect. Are you listening sister?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This
World: The Values Network. His new book is ‘Renewal: A Guide to the
Values-Filled Life.’ (Basic Books) Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. His
website is

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