These are Letters a good friend of mine wrote to the Editor or the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
To the Editor,
I read with interest your July 25, 2007 article on the naming of Monsignor Edward Scharfenberger as a “Promoter of Justice” in the Brooklyn legal community.
I urge that the corruption scandals in Brooklyn which have absorbed the public’s attention in matrimonial and family law matters deserve the close study of such a figure.
I propose for his consideration the positioning of an advisory moral and ethical authority such as his Diocesan Tribunal along with similar others from other faith traditions. The goal would be to respond to litigants who say they are being unheard and unheeded by the skeleton and fragmented crew of ethics and disciplinary bodies within the Judiciary and the Attorney Grievance Committees.
I think the need is greatest at the moment in family law. Granted, the Catholic Church does not approve of divorce, but does it approve of the rough handling of the sacred relationships between parent and child by the court system. Many veterans of divorce, both male and female, say that the process left them busy and broke for years without closure or healing as they were forced to watch the slow motion train wreck of their lives and their families.
Does our court system only know how to spell retribution and not restoration? Four years ago, Kings County D.A. Joe Hynes stunned the legal community in Brooklyn with the arrests of court officers and a [state] Supreme Court judge in the midst of the Levy v. Levy child custody case. According to witnesses, on the day the sentence was read mandating jail time of three to 10 years for Judge Gerald Garson and one year for Law Guardian Paul Simonovsky, Sigal Levy’s older sons were heard to publicly rail against their mother with rage and blame-filled venom, perhaps egged on by Garson attorney Michael Washor’s stab at blame shifting one last time against the traumatized and victimized mother, Sigal Levy, as if to say to the sentencing judge — the mother was going to lose custody of the boys anyway, so what’s the big deal? The big deal, we must ask, is what role did paternal and spousal bullying play in this going-to-win-anyway zero/sum litigation behind the scenes? What is the road back to parent/child restoration of relationship now that the criminal trial is over?
We have to ask ourselves what good is the court system to the Levy family even if the culprits are finally locked up? Is our system of jurisprudence off the hook if it leaves the soul of the family as bad off or worse in its suffering than when the family tragedy of divorce began? What the Levy family really needs is something our system hasn’t yet wrapped its arms around. Families like the Levys need to emerge as whole and healed as possible in spite of divorce and scandal. That won’t happen without intentional efforts on the part of people of good will and action. The giving and receiving of love, trust and emotional stability in parent-child relationships needs to get back on track and the wounded parties need to be allowed to heal. How to do that? First, for accountability, the question needs to be asked: Does the court system in fact play a destructive role in handing out the nails to the coffin for this and other families caught up in contested litigation? Hasn’t the court system ignored and compounded the financial and emotional exploitation by virtue of its very structure and modus operandi? Is the court system teachable? Can it be schooled in the ways of restorative justice by a bonafide and respected core group of interfaith promoters of justice from wisdom and faith traditions?
Is anyone in the court system ready to take a leadership position in order to discover the far reaching and soul-searing family abuse generated by a bullying and/or criminal spouse and parent with the help of court officials? This issue of spousal and parental bullying deserves its own column and is related to the nature of abuse of power — ethical, moral and personal — within the family and the court system.
— Nora Drew Renzulli
Staten Island, NY
The following letter was written in response to the July 25 article on Monsignor Edward Scharfenberger’s designation as a “Promoter of Justice” in the Brooklyn Diocese.
‘Bullying Spouse Syndrome’
In New York State we have recognized that elder abuse deserves our special attention so that the elderly are not exploited financially by their caregivers. The NYS Penal Code now provides for prosecution and specific focus on crimes against those age 60 and over. I believe that family abuse without age limit needs to be our next category for heightened awareness. We need to protect families of all ages, particularly those with children, from exploitation and abuse. As we know, the court system operates on the premise that the generation of conflict — our adversary system — is meant to lead to legal truth. We see, of course, that it can fall woefully short when the ability to reach the truth is short-circuited by lies, intimidation, and criminal behavior by court officials and litigants.
I respectfully suggest that the various faith traditions, be they Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic or others, not shy away from identifying the problem of corruption and unethical behavior in the court system itself. The self-regulation of the legal system is not working. We need respected outsiders to help establish a plumb line for measuring what is straight and what isn’t against the wall of deceit and manipulation we find ourselves confronting and recoiling from in the [trial of former Justice Gerald Garson, who was convicted on charges of bribe receiving].
Many people say that the glaring systemic corruption we were exposed to in that horrific case is only the tip of the iceberg. Interesting that they say iceberg. Ice is where in Dante’s imaginary journey to purgatory and hell he found the worst of sinners, those he recognized as traitors to family in the furthest distance of separation from God. They were not burning in the hellfires we usually picture in our minds as eternal damnation, but frozen in ice up to their necks.
The Bullying Spouse Syndrome (BSS) is my modest contribution as terminology to the naming of the problem and the search for solutions to family exploitation. I welcome readers to comment. I would like the Monsignor [Scharfenberger] to consider taking on a leadership role along with representatives of other faith traditions. I am anecdotally aware of a number of pending cases in which BSS is operating but presently under the radar screen or ken of family court and matrimonial judges in Kings County and elsewhere in the state. Obviously, the judge who took over the Levy case from Judge Garson has not been able to stop the ugliness and alienation that the children of the marriage were steeped in by a bullying spouse and father who was willing to corrupt his children by teaching them to hate their own mother and stunt them spiritually to achieve his end of “winning” custody. Avrahom Levy was the obvious catalyst and traitor to family — his children’s true interest to learn to give and receive love to both parents was obstructed and denied. This fraud on the children led to his attempted fraud on the court that ended with gaining the crucial participation of a venal judge and his favored law guardian. An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. May the wise and learned and spiritual masters in our midst help guide our way closer to human dignity and peace for bullied spouses and their children asking for justice from the court system.
— Nora Drew Renzulli
Staten Island, NY