Saturday, August 11. 2007
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Guidelines for Initial Response to Allegations or Charges of Sexual Misconduct an official document of the Synod of Bishops which was adopted by the Synod in 1994 and reaffirmed by them in April of 2002 provides specific directions for how allegations of sexual misconduct by a priest is to be handled (see http://www.oca.org/DOCindex-misconduct.asp?SID=12).
In how the OCA struggled with handling or mishandling its yet to be completely resolved financial scandal, it is appropriate to ask: Did the OCA Synod of Bishops follow its own procedures in the case of the Sidebottom letter and allegations of misbehavior in Alaska? Surely, once again accountability is put to the test. Do the official Guidelines for Response to Sexual Misconduct meant anything? If the Guidelines can be ignored depending on who is being accused, who is making the allegation and which bishop is involved, then the Guidelines mean absolutely nothing, and the OCA de facto has no policy. And I think in the current climate in America regarding clergy sexual misconduct, most parents and members want a policy to be in effect and to be followed to help assure the safety of all loved ones and little ones.
The Guidelines specify that the Diocesan Bishop is to inform the Metropolitan of any instances of sexual misconduct by a priest to the Metropolitan. Did Bishop Nikolai inform the Metropolitan of what Sidebottom and perhaps others have told him about Fr. Isidore? And since Fr. Isidore’s own comments (even though made while intoxicated) implicated the bishop himself in some form of abusive behavior, didn’t Paul Sidebottom do the appropriate thing in informing the Metropolitan via letter? And if the diocesan bishop and/or the Metropolitan failed to take the appropriate actions based on the Synod’s own officially documented Guidelines, should not the bishops themselves be held publicly accountable for their failure? I think the answer is yes, because all of us need to know that the system works and that the bishops as the officially responsible leaders of the church are acting in the best interest of the members they are supposed to be serving.
The officially adopted Policies Standards and Procedures of the OCA state the following among many other things:
Any member of the clergy who finds himself at risk of probable acts of sexual misconduct in response to an inappropriate sexual or romantic attraction or impulse, or for any other reason, shall immediately seek counsel and pastoral guidance from an individual trained and experienced in the field. With approval of the Bishop, the costs thereof shall be paid or reimbursed by the diocese.
Any person receiving a report under subparagraph (a) of this paragraph shall forthwith inform the diocesan Bishop. Any member of the clergy believing that possible sexual misconduct has occurred, even if he has not received a report from any other person, shall forthwith inform the Bishop. Any Bishop receiving such information shall forthwith inform the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations.
The Guidelines further specify the OCA is to have persons trained in sexual abuse and sexual addiction issues. Again if the OCA has such persons these trained individuals should be publicly identified and their credentials and accredited training also publicized. A person claiming such skills or who the bishops think is skilled enough but who lacks credentials doesn’t fit the OCA’s own policy.
These issues do matter. The OCA just went through this excruciating procedure of adopting its “Best Practice Principles and Policies for Financial Accountability.” But if as in the case of the Sexual Misconduct policy, the guidelines and procedures can be ignored depending on who is in power, who is being investigated, who is blowing the whistle, or whose agenda is being served, then in effect the Best Practice Document also means nothing. Either we are going to adopt policy and procedures and then enforce them publicly to show no one in the church is above accountability or we are going to continue the old and discredited OCA practice of silence, coverup, denial, and scandal.
#1 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2007-08-11 08:09
I posted a pointed reply to Mr.Stokoe's comments about Met. Philip and the issue of whether or not Orthodox Christians for Accountability is itself accountable to anyone. Due to the "spam closing" of the other thread on the Sidebottom letter, apparently my message will not appear there. Since this thread deals with the same issue, I ask Mr. Stokoe to post my reply here, and then answer it if he wishes.
#2 Fr. George Washburn on 2007-08-11 08:13
Natural consequence of the Synod's inaction. Anyone think the Anchorage Daily News and AP won't pick this story up?
#3 anonymous on 2007-08-11 10:51
Thank you for posting a link to the story in Kodiak Daily Mirror.
What must the non-Orthodox on Kodiak think of the Orthodox Church? Is this the sort of example that brings unbelievers to Christ?
What doubts may the seminarians and their spouses have as they arrive for the new academic year? Let us keep them, the seminarians and their families in our daily prayers, that the Holy Spirit will strengthen them throughout his more difficult period. Let us, especially those here in the "Lower 48" consider sending additional financial assistance to St. Herman's Seminary and to the seminarians.
Mark C. Phinney
#4 Mark C. Phinney on 2007-08-11 12:29
If Fr. Isidore is allowed to return to Anchorage and no one intervenes we will be participants in a high tech version of the Kitty Genovese incident out in New York back in 1964. Newspapers often write stories of the outcomes of women sent back to abusive boyfriends or husbands.
It's terrifying for us to think what Fr. Isidore is about to go through. We cannot imagine what is going through his mind.
Lord have mercy on those of us who have turned our backs.
#5 Sleepless in the Midwest on 2007-08-11 14:46
"By and large, the Church approves stability of government and does not encourage revolution. Just as it recognizes the great evil in war, yet at times understands and accepts the need to wage war in defense of the homeland, so also, but even more reluctantly, does it accept the right to revolution in cases of severe and unbearable injustice. In most cases, the Church's support of revolutionary causes has been related to efforts of national independence.
However, there is nothing in the tradition which would reject out of hand revolutions which are motivated by a sense of unbearably oppressive injustice in other spheres. Such concerns, as embodied in modern day "Liberation Theology" movements, have their antecedents in the writings of Church Fathers such as St. John Chrysostom, who railed against the exploitation of the poor by the rich. What the Orthodox Church finds unnecessary and unacceptable in "Liberation Theology" is the Marxist theoretical underpinnings of this theological movement. However, its concern for the downtrodden and the exploited is recognized to be essential Christianity."
-Rev. Stanley Harakas T.h.d
The Stand of the Orthodox Church on Controversial issues
#6 MOTHAETHIO on 2007-08-11 15:33
In this matter, as usual, Fr Ted gets it wrong. Nowhere in the policy does it state that the diocesan hierarch must inform the Metropolitan. (In fact, the word "Metropolitan" only appears twice in the entire document.) The diocesan bishop is the highest authority in his diocese, and the guidelines rightfully acknowledge this. The Metropolitan has no authority in any diocese except his own.
"7.0.1 (a) Diocesan Bishops have full hierarchical authority for all Church activities within the diocese, *including all matters concerning allegations of sexual misconduct*. Bishops may fully exercise that authority in accordance with these Policies, Standards, and Procedures, and may impose any clergy discipline not requiring action of a Church court.
(b) Bishops also may refer all or any part of a review or investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct to the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations, which is created in paragraph 7.02 below, or may request assistance from such office in connection with the matter."
Additionally, paragraph 7.0.3 make it clear that any contact outside of the diocese is always "*at the request of the bishop*." No one has the right to interfere in the diocese of a ruling bishop. No one.
The guidelines clearly give the diocesan bishop full authority in this matter. He does not need to inform anyone, except in the case of child abuse, where he bound to report to the authorities, suspend, and with the Holy Synod, depose. Otherwise, he is to use his discretion with the Holy Canons.
Or is Fr Ted invoking the so-called "Brum Doctrine" that he and his parishioner, Mark Stokoe, seem to deride so often, and apply it only in circumstances which favor his position on any given day?
Editor's Note: Quite the contrary. The Brum doctrine held that all positions in the Church were extensions of the Metropolitan's ministry. That has been repudiated by the Synod. The Metropolitan's " right of pastoral initiative and guidance, and when necessary the right of pastoral intervention, in all matters concerning the life of the Church within the framework of the holy canons" is a part of the Statute of the OCA, Section 2, 1, adopted by the Synod itself.
I have always denied the former, and never, ever, challenged the latter. It was Bishop Nikolai who denied the Metropolitan's authority by Statute: first in the case of Robert Kondratick, now in his own instance.
To argue that Bishop Nikolai has a canonical "right" to commit any crimes and be free of investigation by qualified investigators "because he is a diocesan Bishop" is absurd. The great Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out that the Constitution of the USA, although it guarantees the freedom of speech, does not guarantee the right to advocate the violent overthrow of the US Constitution. "The Constitution" he argued, "is not a suicide pact". Neither, it should be pointed out are the canons of the Orthodox Church, nor the Statute of the OCA. To cite "canons" to avoid a simple investigation as to whether priests have been beaten and abused is not righteousness or fidelity to the Tradition; it is evil masquerading as righteousness; it is duplicity twisting fidelity beyond recognition. This same duplicity, evil masquerading as righteousness, is at the center of these allegations that need to be so sorely investigated. To claim otherwise is to overlook the forest for the trees. )
#7 Anonymous on 2007-08-11 17:13
We must fear what happens if Fr. Isidore returns to active ministry in Alaska. Fr. Isidore has shown that he has an alcohol problem and that when inebriated he gropes. What happens if he falls off the wagon and is in the presence of children? If our insurers are following this we should not be surprised if they cancel our policies!
If we do nothing on this front we could be liable for big time damages if something occurs and it won't just be Alaska that gets sued. That alone should be something that the Synod considers along with our legal counsel. This is one time we know in advance of a bad situation.
#8 Not wanting to take out ANOTHER loan on 2007-08-11 20:21
I think Anonymous's analysis is incorrect. Article 8 of the policies is also relevant to these questions. For example:
"Reports of sexual misconduct in any other unit of the Church shall be made to the ecclesiastical head of that unit unless he is the person believed to have committed the acts, in which case the report shall be made to the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations." Section 8.01(b)
"Any Bishop receiving such information shall forthwith inform the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations." Section 8.01(c)
"Unless the Bishop is able to easily determine that a report received under paragraph 8.01 is entirely without any foundation whatsoever, the Bishop shall designate a Response Team of one or more individuals to conduct an investigation and assessment of the report." Section 8.04(a)
The use of the word "shall" in all three sections means that these are not matters subject to the Bishop's discretion.
#9 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2007-08-12 01:51
8.01(b) refers to ministry units within the OCA (departments). This case clearly is not within this perview.
The other two points you mention must be taken within the context of previous paragraphs already cited, as well as the clear Orthodox principle (which is stated previously in the policy) that the diocesan hierarch is the final authority in all matters, including accusations of misconduct. Matters of clergy discipline (except involving child misconduct) are always at the bishop's discretion and under his direction, including the use of canonical prescriptions.
#10 Anonymous on 2007-08-12 09:16
The Firing of Paul Sidebottom by +Nikolai AFTER he documented the events (witnessed and corroborated by Fr. Innocent) with Fr. Isodore, is a rather disturbing and suspect event that adds even more credibility to the disturbing actions and unstable behavior of +Nikolai (storming out of Holy Synod meetings, refusing to abide by the OCA statutes, sending self-praising letters to all OCA members, firing staff without due process, etc. etc.).
Based on the ocanews.org story:
June 25, 2007 - Paul Sidebottom, at the request of Metropolitan Herman, writes the letter documenting the events of May 18 that he witnessed along with Fr. Innocent.
Early July - "Bishop Nikolai conducted a telephone conference with the "Executive Committee" of St. Herman's Seminary Board of Trustees to discuss the situation. During this conference call Bishop Nikolai recommended Paul Sidebottom be dismissed from the Seminary "due to budget cuts". Sidebottom was subsequently informed by email of the Executive Committee's decision."
July 25, 2007 - Decision to fire Paul Sidebottom is "then communicated to the rest of the Board of Trustees on July 25th. The dismissal provoked at least two letters from Board members protesting the decision."
August 9, 2007 - Matushka Mona Soot posts the letter written by Fr. Isodore in which he claims: "Regardless of what the investigation reveals pertaining to the allegations against me, I can't allow Paul Sidebottom to succeed in his attempt to `kill two birds with one stone' and assassinate Bishop NIKOLAI's character as well as my own."
A handful of defenders of +Nikolai and Fr. Isodore immediately hinted that Paul Sidebottom's letter was in retaliation to his firing by +Nikolai with the collaboration with Fr. Isodore, he participated in the same conference call when decision made. Fr. Isodore's own comments in the 8/9/2007 letter re-enforces the idea that Paul Sidebottom was out for revenge.
Slight PROBLEM with this "version" of the events! How can Paul Sidebottom be retaliating for being fired when his letter to Metropolitan Herman was written almost one (1) MONTH prior to the decision to fire him?
Time for the Alaska propagandists and apologists to get back to the drawing board and spin out some other wild explanation and contrived motivations to smear Paul Sidebottom and attempt to discredit his eyewitness account of the dreadful events with Fr. Isodore. I am certain they will continue to shift the blame for their own derelictions of duties and grossly unethical conduct to the messenger(s) and anyone else with the courage to challenge their near-criminal conduct and gross violation of the duties of their office and positions.
So, when one sues the Church over accusations of abuse of one nature or another, the central Church cannot be named as a party? It would seem sensible where the central church could be named as a party in cases of abuse that the diocesan bishop is not the absolute final word especially when those issues may be of a criminal nature. But this is splitting hairs. In the spirit of the Church we should be more concerned that the proper actions are initiated, the abuser disciplined, and the abused helped.
In the case where the abuse concerns a bishop and may be criminal in nature, the Synod can suspend said bishop and attend to matters themselves. In this case that appears to be clearly necessary.
#12 Anonymous on 2007-08-12 13:54
Msr. Banescu, please do not confuse this with the facts. They do nothing but cloud a very clearcut situation.
The Nikolai faction will always maintain that Sidebottom did this as retribution of his firing and no interjection of facts will change that. If the facts don't support that then they will change the facts. Like Rock made up those bogus financial statements.
According to the Kodiak newspaper account neither Metropolitan Herman and his office, nor Sidebottom, are necessarily the source of this letter. The newspaper did state this was given to the St. Herman's board so anyone there could have passed it along due to their disgust.
#13 Head spinning on 2007-08-12 14:06
I am a little mystified by your reply. You said that as usual I get things wrong, but then the only point you make is about the "Brum Doctrine" which as far as I remember I've never commented on, and to be honest couldn't even tell you exactly what his paper was about. So I'm wondering if you confused me with someone else? And I didn't in my comments say the diocesan "must" inform the metropolitan. So did you read what I wrote or simply react to an imagined comment?
Though a bishop may have full hierarchical authority, that doesn’t mean a bishop is unaccountable to anyone. A bishop cannot pardon himself, nor give himself sacramental absolution. He doesn’t have that kind of authority. In what remains as a liturgical remnant, the bishop in the Liturgy still says that the Eucharist “is given to …” when he receives Holy Communion. Yes, at one time even all bishops and priests were given Holy Communion from the hand of another. This was a sign of our interdependence and love and mutual accountability. If we speak about hierarchical love instead of hierarchical power, we might understand the power of the bishop quite differently. Dostoyevsky tried to make this point in his “Story of the Grand Inquisitor.” No hierarch can be consecrated nor can he consecrate without other believers participating in the service.
This website is dedicated to discussing issues related to the question, “In what manner are each of us including our bishops accountable to the rest of the Body of Christ?” If a bishop is mentioned as having engaged in some form of abusive behavior, what is the appropriate procedure for dealing with such an allegation? Even before there were sexual misconduct guidelines, the Orthodox Church knew of ways to investigate allegations and to hold church leaders accountable for their own behavior. The OCA’s Sexual Guidelines document acknowledges that clergy are held to a higher standard. If clergy fail to live up to that standard they and their alleged misbehavior must be looked into. And though the document seems directed at priests, I would think common sense would say it applies to bishops as well.
The recent discussions on accountability are not trying to undermine the legitimate authority of a diocesan bishop, but I think the discussions may be trying to reintroduce into our understanding of hierarchy issues of mutual love, conciliarity and accountability which sometimes get forgotten in a world in which power and might seem to trump all other virtues. Bishops are not supposed to be tyrants even if they are called despots. Bishops are not proclaimed as infallible nor as sinless in Orthodoxy. In some manner their true authority and worthiness also is drawn from within the community which they are supposed to sacrifically love and humbly serve not just rule over.
#14 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2007-08-12 15:55
This charade is getting goofier by the day!
Have we forgetten the issues here;
Was the guy drunk, inebriated, under the influence or not?
Did or did he not attempt to make unwanted physical advances on more than one occasion on the night in question?
Was or is there legal and medical reason/s that Fr Isidore should have been taken to a medical facility due to his incapacitation or worse?
Did he take medication (pills) and were they prescribed to him? Was the doseage proper or warranted at that time?
Its my guess that the Church has some sort of policy regarding all of these issues... if not the Laws of Alaska or any state do...
Maybe there needs to be a big investigative organization like 20/20, 60 Minutes or 48 Hours to get to the bottom of this... they have to money to find out all of the muck at the bottom of the pool, seems like we all need some outside help since our Synod and Hierarchs are willing to do much of anything in any of the issues here in Alaska or nationally.
By the way...
This was the saddest pilgrimage I have ever attended, even outsiders and journalists could feel it... If it wasnt for having the Bishop Maxim with us... well.... I dont know how it would've turned out... yeah.. there are some sheep with blinders on.
#15 Ted P on 2007-08-12 17:09
If you check the definitions in Section 2, you will find that "unit" is not limited to "departments" of the OCA.
"Church means, as the context requires, the Orthodox Church in America, and its departments, boards, and commissions; any diocese, episcopate, parish, or mission thereof; and any stavropegial church, theological school or monastic community."
You will also find that the policy is binding on all clergy, and clergy expressly includes bishops:
"Clergy means any bishop, priest, or deacon in the Church; any bishop, priest, or deacon received from another Orthodox jurisdiction for service in the Church; and chaplains in the armed forces, veterans’ hospitals, and other institutions outside the Church."
Matters involving clergy discipline are generally at the discretion of the bishop. There is an exception when the bishops voluntarily yield this authority by adopting a policy that prescribes a certain response to reported misconduct. There must also be a second exception when the bishop is one of the clergy implicated in the reported misconduct. How could it be otherwise? How could anyone have confidence in the policy if it were otherwise?
#16 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2007-08-12 17:11
While the bishops indeed adopted the policy, we must not read something into the policy that's not there or draw conclusions that simply don't exist. The policy reads very clearly - diocesan bishops may follow certain steps in (except in the case of child sexual misconduct), such as "informing the Office of Sexual Misconduct Allegations," but they do not have to. Other steps, such as following through with the accuser, discipling a guilty priest as he sees fit , etc, are to be followed. This is what they agreed to. It's not the Magna Carta.
In other words, there are certain parts of the policy which, rightly so, are used at the discretion of the diocesan bishop. Only he can and should make that determination. The beginning of the policy makes that perfectly clear. Again:
"7.0.1 (a) Diocesan Bishops have full hierarchical authority for all Church activities within the diocese, including all matters concerning allegations of sexual misconduct . Bishops may fully exercise that authority in accordance with these Policies, Standards, and Procedures, and may impose any clergy discipline not requiring action of a Church court.
And by the way, the word "unit" (as in "any other unit" of section 8.01(b) in the context of the OCA is always used in reference to "ministry units," meaning the departments of the national Church (this is why they refer to "Ecclesiastical Head," because every ministry unit has one. You're quite wrong about equating "unit" with all aspects of the Church at large.
#17 Anonymous on 2007-08-12 18:12
Why does every discussion about bishops on this board have to denigrate into name calling like 'despots'? Why do bishops in the OCA have to be stripped of their hiearcharchical and pastoral authority in virtually every matter? Are we now to tie bishops hands and make them mandatory reporters to Syosset on every allegation of misconduct (except for child sexual misconduct and crimes, obviously)? What happened to the pastoral discretion that is extended to every priest in reference to their parishioners? It's no different with bishops in reference to the pastoral administration and discipline of their priests - it is at their discretion.
Yes, bishops are accountable. Their held accountable by their brother bishops on the Synod, if those brother bishops so choose. That's the Orthodox way.
My goodness, we're becoming Donatists.
(Editor's note: It is hardly name calling to sing "Eis Polla Eti Despota", that is, "Many Years to our Despot" is it? No one is asking the Bishop's abdicate their authority - quite the contrary - they are being called on to take it up and do what only they can do. They are under obligation to report things - both according to the OCA Policy and now, Best Practices - and neither compromises their authority. They enhance it. Moreover, yes they are obligated by civil law to report crimes - and allegations of domestic violence and assault are both crimes. As the Roman Catholic bishops have discovered 1.2 billion times, a number still rising, the discretion of a Christian Bishop does not involve not reporting crimes. Covering up crimes is not "discretion", it is itself often a crime. And covering up crime is not "The Orthodox Way".
I suggest you re-read Bishop Kallistos Ware again. Obeying the law is not "Donatism", either. Re-reading Bishop Kallistos' "The Orthodox Church" might help clarify that as well.)
#18 Anonymous on 2007-08-12 19:04
What on earth are you talking about and who are you? I don't believe I met you. It was a glorious pilgrimage. Here are the photographs. http://flickr.com/photos/olympiada/sets/72157601387535317/
The guidelines clearly give the diocesan bishop full authority in this matter. He does not need to inform anyone, except in the case of child abuse, where he bound to report to the authorities, suspend, and with the Holy Synod, depose. Otherwise, he is to use his discretion with the Holy Canons.
So, you are saying the diocesan bishop has full authority to dismiss any reports or claims of misconduct by himself? He is accountable to no one but himself? Is he the emperor?
This kind of thinking is not conciliarity - it is papism.
#20 Anonymous on 2007-08-13 06:02
You are cherrypicking the provisions you want to see and ignoring the rest. The net effect of your analysis is to completely gut the policy.
If you try making those arguments to a jury, you will be making payments to Honesdale Bank for a long long time.
Let's look at Article 8.01(a). Article 8.01(a) addresses reports of misconduct "in a parish". Section 8.01(b) addresses "any other unit of the Church" not covered by Section 8.01(a). The "Church" is expressly defined to include (1) the Orthodox Church in America, (2) its departments, boards, and commissions; (3) any diocese, (4) episcopate, (5) parish, or (6) mission thereof; and (7) any stavropegial church, (8) theological school or (9) monastic community.
What that means is that Section 8.01(a) addresses #5 and 8.01(b) addresses #1-#4 and #6-#9.
Let's take a look a closer look at the words you quoted in Section 7.01(a). You chose to boldface the word "may" in the second sentence, but lawyers, judges and juries are more likely to bolface the words "in accordance with" in the same sentence. In other words, the Diocesan Bishop is at all times the hierarchical authority in the Diocese, but he must act "in accordance with" the policy. By adopting the policy, he has bound himself and his diocese to its terms.
I welcome other viewpoints, particularly from the other attorneys who are reading this thread.
#21 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2007-08-13 07:34
You just equated the words "may" and "must". Wow! Great lawyer-ing!
#22 Anonymous on 2007-08-13 08:19
This is atually a common issue in legal drafting. The use of mandatory/permissive words such shall/may/must is usually straightforward, but when used with "words of limitation" (such as "in accordance with") then you must consider the entire context.
Consider the explanation in the State of Minnesota's online drafting guidelines:
"'Shall' is mandatory; 'may' is permissive (645.44). In practice, some drafters also use 'must' as a verb of mandate even though it is not defined by statute. A complication that is almost a contradiction is that 'shall' is often construed as directory rather than mandatory; and 'may' in some contexts is construed as mandatory. Context nearly always determines the meaning more surely than does the verb alone."
#23 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2007-08-13 18:20
Then let's acknowledge, as the first sentence defines the plain sense of the word 'may,' as being permissive or contingent, and not follow the 'contradiction' or 'complication' as the rule.
I'm done with this arguing over words. It's stupidity and a waste of my time. It shows to what lengths some will go to twist the plain meaning of guidelines so that they are clearly outside the bounds of our Tradition, whether you like it or not, whether it's 'American' or not, or 'democratic' or not. The bottom line being, there are some things that a bishop chooses to pastorally handle regarding his clergy (not regarding himself, which is obvious) that are clearly within his authority and no one elses (which is acknowledged by the guidelines), and he has the pastoral right, if not responsibility, not to share it with anyone, unless of course, we're bringing back the public confession of sins for the laity too? No bishop in his right mind would abdicate that pastoral discretion. If a crime has been committed, especially against children, he (or somone) must call the civil authorities.
So, you may or may not agree with me, but I shall not agree with you in accordance with your words.
#24 Anonymous on 2007-08-14 11:26
In reading all the comments, I can't help but feel sorry for all who can do nothing but patronize us. Platitudes and bible quotes just don't do it. WE live here and have been emotionally and spiritually bruatilized by Bishop Nikolai. I have not been on a pilgrimage since he's been here.
It would be to your betterment if you could come here to live for a year...even a few months. Maybe you'll witness an incident where he kicks someone out of the church as he did when a sister was trying to relay Nikolai's sermon to her hard of hearing brother, and he ordered them out of the church. There have been many such incidences. And many others. We live here, we see and feel what's g oing on. And any fancy sermons anyone may have who has not witness any of the brutality we've lived with is living in a fantasy world..
Take a walk into Holy Resurrection. It is gloom and doom. Once upon a time it was a happy church. The singing was communal, and joyous. Not so anymore. The former choir leader (now deposed) insisted on choir only.
Our family and so manyof the others here on the island have been Orthodox since the missionaries came in 1794. We don't need these psuedo-Orthodox telling us what Orthodoxy is about. We know it and live it. It's in our blood. And we hurt to see our beautiful church used as a meeting hall instead of the social hall more fitting to the task.
I do wish I could write every offense committed to the Church and parishioners here, but they are too manyfold.
I say, God Bless Paul Sidebottom for having the courage to tell it 'like it is'. I know him, and he is not one to tell tales. You don't know him, so don't crucify him without him defending himself first.
It's interesting, isn't it, that all the staff at the Seminary are gonegonegone!!! And all at once. They saw this coming.
Instead of battering down our doors, batter the doors of Heaven with prayers to bring all this beastly scandal to an end, and for the Grace of God to send us capable and God Fearing priests and workers to tend the church the origianl missionaries gave their lives for and was so lovingly tended and protected by the gentle natives of Alaska.
#25 Name withheld by request. on 2007-08-14 17:56
I guess we will disagree about what the policy says and what it means. Some of the issues in this particular case are moot now that the Holy Synod will handle this investigation. But for the future, I think that some matters warrant further discussion and additional clarifcation:
(1) What is the purpose of the Sexual Misconduct policy? Is it primarily pastoral? Or primarily a matter of limiting civil liability? Can these objectives be satisfied if the policy is non-binding?
(2) When the Bishops adopted the policy, did they mean to commit themselves to handle reports/complaints in a particular manner? Or did they really intend to adopt a superificial policy that did not commit themselves to do anything? If they did not intend to bind themselves to repond to reports/complaints in any particular manner, should they amend the policy to make this more explicit?
(3) How can anyone have confidence in a non-binding policy that does not commit to anything? How can anyone have confidence in a policy that claims to establish "minimum mandatory requirements" (Section 1.03) if the Diocesan Bishop is free to disregard the "minimum" requirements?
(4) How can anyone have confidence in the Sexual Misconduct policy if people who make reports under the policy are summarily dismissed on pretextual grounds after they make a report?
(5) Assuming that the policy is binding, is there a real issue of infringing on a Diocesan Bishop's canonical authoity if the Diocesan Bishop voluntarily adopts the policy and mandates that everyone in his diocese follow the policy? Where is the outside "interference" with the Bishop's authority if the Bishop himself promulgates the policy and requires everyone in his diocese to follow it?
(6) Even if the policy puts limitations on a Bishop's traditional scope of authority, at what point does good stewardship and prudent judgment require that a Bishop acknowledge the litigious environment in the U.S. and heed the lessons the Roman Catholics are learning from decades of the ad hoc approach (which often resulted in no response at all)?
The current incident in Alaska is a good opportunity to clarify exactly how the Bishops understand the policy they implemented, and whether the policy can be improved.
#26 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2007-08-15 04:16
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our prayers are with you, this is Exactly what Fr. John Hopko was talking about, The Real Illness of the Church. Please don't confuse this with the work of God, because this is definitely seperate than his work and heart. This demonic illness is spread about in the OCA like a snake. I understand more and more Mr. Stokoe's reasoning for exposing the Alaskan troubles. The illness needs to be rebuked and stopped and recognized for what it is, when it is exposed and dealt with in a healthy manner than all peace can be restored. But until then, these storms will not be contained. I do believe it needs to be started at the very top, the leadership needs to go and be removed to restore the sanity. For The Good Of The Church. Until then, more storms will continue to brew I'm afraid, so brace yourselves.
Please know that so many are feeling your pain, and struggles, for I too feel so spiritually drained, but I know that the Gift of the Holy Spirit was sealed inside of me through Baptism and Faith will Shine through. With Many Blessings to you all today and always. With Love Irene
#27 Irene on 2007-08-15 06:59
My husband and I have visited Alaska in better times. We witnessed the beautiful work going on to restore and beautify the Orthodox facilities in Alaska. I am saddened that this has reached into your lives so painfully. I am saddened that again, we want to shoot the messenger,rather than deal with the message. Mr. Sidebottom did the right thing. This is a legal issue and should be treated as such by the State of Alaska. It took a lot for him to come forward.
I pray that truth and love will continue to reach out to all of the faithful in Alaska who have borne this travesty by the Heirarchy. Prayfully, we ask God to continue to give you strength and faith until this macabre period ends. It is, after all, human beings in the church, not The Church that has refused to do the right thing. With Christian love and prayers from the lower 48 we stand with you.
#28 Carpathia on 2007-08-15 10:09
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