8.16.07 The Secret Report Pt. 2
Behind +Nikolai's "Request" for Assistance
Is A Report And A Letter
If the first third of the Secret Report dealt largely with allegations, the second continues with an analysis of the issues involved and offers recommendations to mitigate potential legal and pastoral problems. The Report continues:
In order to adequately begin a discussion the dynamics of an alcoholic system, it would be necessary to engage a licensed or certified substance abuse counselor. However, there are some basics in alcoholic systems. First, there is the alcoholic. Second, in an alcoholic system involving two people, if one is the primary addict, the other person must be to some extent co-dependent.
That the archimandrite is possibly in an advanced state of alcoholism. It is also possible that alcoholism is a concern in the household of the Bishop and archimandrite. If the concerns about alcoholism are validated, then simply returning the archimandrite to the residence of the Bishop without insuring therapy for the Bishop as well would be absurd and self-defeating to the health and salvation of both parties. This also means that it would be pastorally negligent to allow them to cohabitate without substantial and substantive change on the part of both people involved. This means that both Bishop Nikolai and Archimandrite Isidore need to undergo significant psychotherapeutic treatment in terms of their personal issues within the alcoholic system, as well as any other pertinent issues.
Dangers to Archimandrite Isidore
Allegedly, while Archimandrite Isidore was highly intoxicated, he verbalized suicidal ideation. To dismiss this under the pretense that Archimandrite Isidore is "too Christian" is simply irresponsible. Additionally, as a consequence of his alleged actions, Archimandrite Isidore potentially faces several issues that are known triggers (red flags!) for future potential suicidal gestures, or worse, attempts.
Potential triggers are among others, the loss of status, the loss of a job, the loss of income, and the loss of a significant relationship. At the present time, it would seem that all of these potential suicide triggers may become immediately present within Archimandrite Isidore's life. Therefore, out of concern for the archimandrite's personal safety, extreme caution should be exercised as to how any changes in canonical and employment status are implemented as well as how and when they are communicated. It would be best for all served if any unpleasant news was relayed in person to the archimandrite while he is still in inpatient treatment. The support network that already exists in his inpatient facility would be most helpful for him in addressing the news of any of the very necessary changes to be made in his life."
The report continues by discussing allegations of sexual misconduct against the Archimandrite, concluding that "It is recommended that the Archimandrite undergo extensive psychological assessment and interviews as part of the investigation." The Report states Fr. Isidore is not the only one in potential danger in this situation.
"Dangers to Bishop Nikolai
Although Bishop Nikolai is not known to have expressed any suicidal ideation, he is facing potentially serious charges that threaten his job, status, income, as well as some of his significant relationships. Therefore, it is recommended that any issues that might affect any of the above-mentioned triggers be communicated to Bishop Nikolai in the presence of two or more people. In this manner, a group assessment can be made by those present as to whether or not it would seem that Bishop Nikolai needs some follow- on intervention to deal with potential changes in his future.
Presumably, Bishop Nikolai needs treatment for the issue of codependency. The issue of 'codependency' is usually an indication that there are other significant issues. It is recommended that the Bishop undergo extensive psychological assessment and interviews as part of the investigation."
The Report proceeds to recommend what the Synod should do:
Therefore, it is recommended that both Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) and Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) be immediately suspended and remain suspended from all sacramental pastoral functions as to such a time as they can be exonerated of the allegations against them. It is further recommended that both Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) and Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) be removed from the canonical and geographical limits and boundaries of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska of the Orthodox Church in America until such time as they are exonerated publicly or publicly charged and deposed by applicable canonical and civil laws. If anyone is found guilty of the allegations, they must be permanently removed from the diocese, and canonically forbidden to travel within or through it.
It is also recommended, in accordance with the policy standards and procedures of the OCA on sexual misconduct, that the local law enforcement authorities and necessary civil authorities are notified of the actions taken and of the investigation being conducted.
It is recommended that all of the investigations into the other allegations, whether of sexual misconduct or physical or violent misconduct, are conducted within the norms of the Policies, Standards, and Procedures of the Orthodox Church in America on Sexual Misconduct Adopted by The Holy Synod of Bishops on April 2, 2003. This recommendation is made because no other set of policies, standards and procedures exists to pursue clarification on the truth of the non-sexual allegations. Additionally, the above policies, standards, and procedures seem, for the most part, generic and prudent enough in their application to work well in this type of investigation. Although new in their compilation, they accurately reflect the Orthodox churches' tradition and treatment of guilt, innocence, and investigative procedures.
The Report makes it clear that should the allegations be proven, the OCA itself, as well as its hieararchs are in legal danger. The report warns:
"It should also be noted that failure to act on the part of the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America may constitute a violation of the 'failure to protect' law of the state of Alaska. Subsequently, a primate or other members of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America may find themselves criminally liable for 'failure to protect' and prosecutable under that law in the state of Alaska."
The Report turns to specific recommendations regarding Fr. Isidore:
"Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain)
It cannot be overstated that the allegations against Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) are extraordinarily serious. However, it is completely plausible that the archimandrite is both a perpetrator as well as a victim. Although his status as a victim does not alleviate him of the responsibility he has if the allegations against him are true. Rather it simply helps identify the pathos involved.
It may well be impossible to pastorally rehabilitate Archimandrite Isidore in the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska of the OCA, regardless of the findings of an investigation. It may further be impossible to pastorally rehabilitate Archimandrite Isidore in a leadership role anywhere within the OCA.
It is recommended, after Archimandrite Isidore exits his residential treatment program and obtaining his permission first, that the following actions to be taken: Archimandrite Isidore should be sent to a monastic community. The monastery should be isolated, and the archimandrite should be forbidden from all casual, public or pastoral contact with anyone until such time as a favorable outcome of the investigation may be announced.
If the archimandrite is found guilty of the allegations and permanently canonically sanctioned, it may still be possible to help him work out his salvation within the Church. If it is prudent within the civil statutes, perhaps he can be offered a place in the aforementioned monastic community permanently as a brother who has restricted contact with the public as well as no contact with children and no pastoral responsibilities.
This is because, if the archimandrite is found guilty of or has substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct, he would be eligible (perhaps legally mandated) to be permanently placed upon a national registry of sexual offenders. The Church in good conscience cannot allow casual, public or pastoral contact between a sex offender and anyone who could become a potential victim."
It is recommended that the archimandrite be ordered under threat of canonical sanction not to contact Bishop Nikolai and that the archimandrite's location remain unknown to Bishop Nikolai.
These recommendations were not carried out. Fr. Isidore has remained in contact with Bishop Nikolai through his treatment, and continues to participate in both the Diocese and Seminary by telephone.
The Report turns to Bishop Nikolai:
"Bishop Nikolai (Soraich)
It cannot be overstated that the allegations against Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) are extraordinarily serious. Bishop Nikolai should be entrusted and ordered to remain within the confines of a monastery. The monastery should be isolated, and the bishop should be forbidden from all casual, public, or pastoral contact with anyone until such time as a favorable outcome of the investigation may be announced.
If he cooperates by going to the monastery, Bishop Nikolai should be ordered to be strictly obedient to the abbot or hegumen of the monastery. The abbot of course will be acting completely in accordance with the expressed directives of the Holy Synod. The Bishop should remain there until the results of the investigation are completed, compiled, and published.
In addition, because of the potentially unhealthy psychological dynamics of the diocese and seminary, it is recommended that Bishop Nikolai be forbidden in writing under threat of canonical sanction not to contact or reply to contact by anyone who is a member of the diocese or seminary or to communication with any member of the diocese or seminary in any way, either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, Bishop Nikolai should be ordered, under threat of canonical sanction, not to contact or reply to contact from Archimandrite Isidore for the duration of the investigation. It is recommended that Bishop Nikolai's location remain unknown to Archimandrite Isidore.
If the investigation into the allegations find against Bishop Nikolai in any way, it would be impossible to pastorally rehabilitate Bishop Nikolai in the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska of the OCA or anywhere within the OCA. Substantiated allegations might also indicate that Bishop Nikolai has a significant predatory disposition.
If the charges are substantiated and the Bishop is permanently canonically sanctioned, according to prudence within the civil statutes, perhaps the bishop can be offered a place in the aforementioned monastic community permanently as a brother who has restricted contact with the public as well as no contact with children and no pastoral responsibilities.
If the Bishop is found guilty or substantiated of domestic violence, he would be eligible (perhaps legally mandated) to be placed upon a national registry of violent offenders. The church cannot, in good conscience, allow casual, public, or pastoral contact between a violent offender and anyone who could become a potential victim."
The implications for the Diocese of Alaska are then discussed:
The severity of all the issues presented makes normal functioning of both the diocese and the seminary impossible without a public exoneration of those accused, Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) and Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain), or a public canonical sanction of these two men (souls) by the OCA at the national level.
It is recommended that the Holy Synod of the OCA elect/appoint a Locum Tenens immediately to oversee the Diocese of Alaska."
The latter will not happen. On August 9th, following publication of the allegations against Bishop Nikolai by Archimandrite Isidore brought to light by Paul Sidebottom in a letter to Metropolitan Herman written on May 25th, the Metropolitan wrote to Bishop Nikolai with the following alternative:
"Not only the matter of diocesan disorder, potential litigation, and serious allegations against you personally, but also The Orthodox Church in America Conflict of Interest Policy prepared by the Metropolitan Council and adopted by the Holy Synod of Bishops in its July 31-August 1st meeting, would require that an investigation into allegations in view of 'conflict of interest' be conducted not internally by Your Grace, but by the Orthodox Church in America.
The Policy clearly states and is applicable in this case: "An interested person shall have a conflict of interest if he has existing or potential financial or other interest that impairs or might reasonably appear to impair that person's independent, unbiased judgment in the discharge of his responsibilities to the OCA."
Therefore it would be advisable if Your Grace immediately removed yourself from any involvement with an investigation by means of the letter requesting official assistance from the Office of Metropolitan, which will follow the existent Policies and Procedures.
Dear Vladyka, it cannot be overstated that the allegations against Archimandrite Isidore (Britain) and yourself are extraordinarily serious, and now public. The severity of all issues involved makes it impossible for the matter to be addressed on the diocesan level, or by you as the Diocesan Bishop.
Therefore, as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and with full support of the Holy Synod, I request that you immediately remove yourself from any involvement in this matter (by means of official request for assistance) and fully cooperate with the investigation being conducted by the OCA at the national level."
Bishop Nikolai agreed to the above on August 14th, with the understanding he will not be required to leave the Diocese, although he is not to interfere in the investigation. The following day an investigation of Archimandrite Isidore, "at the request of Bishop Nikolai", was announced publicly on the OCA website. The OCA press release did not mention Bishop Nikolai himself was under investigation, but sources close to the investigation confirm that he is.
Albeit partial, it was indeed a victory for "Best Practices", signed by all the Bishops, at their July 31st meeting.
- Mark Stokoe
(On Monday, in part 3 of the Secret Report, the Report discusses how the allegations should be investigated.)