NYTimes: Complaining Clergy @ the 9/11 Ceremony = Chutzpah

The Times reports that clergy are complaining that they are not being included in the 9/11 ceremonies.

We think it's just wrong for rabbis, ministers and priests to seek publicity and self-aggrandizement on the backs of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Now those clergy might argue with us that they indeed are merely humble servants of God and of those victims and their families. They might proffer that they are just stepping up to serve the needs of the occasion. After all, they might assert, clergy must be there at the 9/11 memorials to show the participants how to pray. And religious leaders must be there at the 9/11 commemorations to make sure that everyone grieves in the proper manner.

We don't think that line of argument holds any credence. The public NYC 9/11 ritual makes no call for clergy intervention, leadership or participation. Here is how the NYC 9/11 events have been held in the past according to the Times report:
For a decade, New York City has conducted the same ritualized ceremony on each anniversary of the attacks. The heart of the ritual has been the reading aloud of the names of the victims. In 2003, the victims’ children read the names; in 2004, it was their parents; and in 2007, the honor went to first responders.

The names are read in a continuous stream for hours, with four breaks to allow moments of silence at the times when hijacked planes struck the two World Trade Center towers, and when each tower fell.

This year, there will be six moments of silence, to acknowledge also the planes that hit the Pentagon and the ground near Shanksville, Pa., said Stu Loeser, Mr. Bloomberg’s press secretary.

“The structure for this program was designed 10 years ago, with the consultation of a lot of families of those who died, and it is primarily for the families,” Mr. Loeser said.
We say, at a civil event like this, everyone knows equally well how to pray, how to commemorate. We will grant that in churches and synagogues, where specialized rites and rituals are conducted, the expertise of the clergy is an asset. They know the traditions of their respective denominations. They own those rituals and prayers. But here, at a public civil ceremony, that justification of expert knowledge is not credible.

We say, where people show up in synagogues, churches and mosques to seek solace, then and there the griever seeks the guidance of the spiritual leaders of those places. At my office I sit next to a man who climbed down 80 flights of stairs to survive the 9/11 terror attack at the World Trade Center. He goes to his temple each year on 9/11 to offer prayers of thanksgiving. But even though he attends, we doubt any clergyman can begin to know what he needs.

When people conduct services of memorial and grief and thanksgiving outside of houses of worship, clergy have no claim to be special participants. It is rude and disrespectful for clergy to complain about being omitted from the ceremonies that are not theirs. The technical term for that behavior is "chutzpah".

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