Thursday, September 24. 2009
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Shinn’s essay is one of the best I have seen on any subject and especially good on the delicate matter of sexual abuse; it is a far cry from contributions made by other sources. This commentary is excellent because it is methodical, respectful, reasoned, referenced and balanced – the polar opposite of the increasing number of anonymous rants which shed no light, but only heat.
#1 Terry C. Peet on 2009-09-24 10:29
This is a very thoughtful, and well presented essay from a theological and spiritual point of view, and our bishops should do well to follow its recommendations. I have only one issue regarding the recommendations of "what +Philip should do". Given my background as a former prosecutor and current member of the legal community, I have seen enough false or unproven claims of abuse to know the damage they can create. Posting a list of clergy "credibly accused of abuse" in any public forum, particularly the internet which can easily go viral in seconds, could be very dangerous. As is pointed out in the article, registering as a sex offender is a black mark against a person and that person's name, usually for life. Such a posting would seem to be almost as bad, without defining a credible accusation. Who would determine whether the accusation is credible? What standards are used? It may be the safer practice to post a listing of those that plead guilty or are proven guilty at a criminal trial, or who are found civilly liable for such actions.
Regardless, the Archdiocese, and all of us as well, should act to comfort and protect victims and potential victims, to hold abusers accountable and to preserve the Church and the teachings of Christ rather than hiding behind the false protection of tortured interpretations of Canon Law.
#2 David Najjar on 2009-09-24 10:48
i suggest you pull your little reflection regarding sexual abuse and clergy otherwise i will fully explore and publish all the accounts and information regarding the recent allegations of sexual abuse by ........ i will tell you that theantiochian.com will sure love to have that on their website.
im tired of the hypocrisy. you bash bishop demitri and yet did not once even mention the allegations against .... you published the reflection that was based on nonsense ....
i suggest you stop your crap or i will submit to theantiochian what i know.
(Editor's note: I do not publish anonymous reflections on allegations of sexual abuse. That would be inappropriate. There are no allegations against Bishop Demetri - he was convicted in a court of law. So your threats to reveal allegations against ............. are apples to oranges. Moreover, OCANews.org has been informed that the allegations you refer to were dealt with according to the policies and procedures of the jurisdiction involved and the allegations were found not to be credible. That is the purpose of such policies: to protect the rights of both the alleged victims, and those who are accused. Therefore I would suggest that publishing them on any website would be inappropriate. Your goal, as your threat makes clear is simply to threaten or blackmail, not to address the issues of clergy sexual abuse.
Mr Shinn has expressed his opinion on an extermely difficult and painful issue in a serious way, citing facts. Such adult discussions , while painful, are welcome because we gain nothing by hiding this problem. We gain much by following responsible policies. I am sure our brothers and sisters in the Catholic church can give you 1.6 billion (that's billion with a "b") reasons why this is so.)
#3 Anonymous on 2009-09-24 11:22
My mind keeps returning to the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians:
1Co 5:9-13 In my other letter I told you not to have anything to do with immoral people. But I wasn't talking about the people of this world. You would have to leave this world to get away from everyone who is immoral or greedy or who cheats or worships idols. I was talking about your own people who are immoral or greedy or worship idols or curse others or get drunk or cheat. Don't even eat with them! Why should I judge outsiders? Aren't we supposed to judge only church members? God judges everyone else. The Scriptures say, "Chase away any of your own people who are evil."
I would venture that the admonition against eating with them probably had to do with more than social dining - perhaps the intent is even to stress avoid sharing the Eucharistic meal with such a one.
I don't see how it could be more plain. And I don't see how the writing can be misinterpreted.
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#4 Dn. Marty Watt on 2009-09-24 11:50
This is a very intelligent, informed, and well-researched Reflection. It presents a healthy ecclesiology that is based on the sources of our Holy Tradition: the Scriptures, the canons, and the writings of the Church Fathers! It is also a testament to the skewed and mutilated ecclesiology that, unfortunately, is very prevalent in our Church today. This can be seen even on this website, when people post comments encouraging others to turn the other cheek, sweep everything under the rug, and not rock the boat. Those who do speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) are accused of being judgmental, condemning, and without Christian love. Actually, as this article proves, it is those who deny the truth who are not acting Christ-like, since our Lord said of Himself, "I Am the Way, *and the Truth*, and the Life!" (John 14:6). Furthermore, this speaking the truth, as articulated in this Reflection, applies not only to sexual misconduct, but also to any and all inappropriate behavior and sin within the Church. Therefore, the courageous action of Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, in speaking the truth about the misappropriation of funds, was in total harmony with the Gospel, the canons, and the patristic writings! It is incumbent upon all of us in the "royal priesthood" of the Church (1 Peter 2:9), clergy and laity, together, to speak the truth in love, to preserve the integrity of the Orthodox Church, to God's glory, and not our own!
#5 David Barrett on 2009-09-24 11:55
+Jonah's recent words about "sinful reactions":
Metropolitan Jonah stated that resentment is healed by forgiveness. "Forgiveness is not justifying the abuser. Forgiveness means acknowledging the sin and sorting out what was the other person's sin and what was one's sinful reaction. If we watch ourselves, taking responsibility for our own sins, we cannot judge anyone."
How can we ever have a safe place for our children in the OCA when we teach them that their hurt or pain is "just a sinful reaction."
After hearing +Jonah's statement you can only agree that the OCA will be a playground for pedophile's. Abuse now and just ask for forgiveness! Oh, and if they don't forgive you don't sweat it... it's their sin anyways!
+Jonah's statement is so offensive and resemble's Muslim teaching about victims. Victims are taught to believe they caused the sin. The victims feelings are worthless!
+Jonah speaks about forgiveness. Yet where does a victim go in the OCA to begin healing and find the path to forgiveness?
#6 anonymous on 2009-09-24 15:10
Dear Dn. Marty:
Your interpretation of I Cor. 5 is noted for the record. I don't knw what it is you find so clear other than the obvious: if someone continues in such sins the person should be ostracized.
Somebody else advanced the same argument as you last month, I think. And I replied by directing his attention to I Cor. 6, and the phrase "and such were some of you."
My take on the two passages read together is that the sins listed in I Cor. 5 and 6 do not automatically disqualify anyone for communion with Christ and His people. Which leads to the questions a) how to tell the difference between those whose sins do disqualify and those whose sins don't, and b) who is qualified to make the judgment call in such cases.
Seems to me Orthodoxy is clear on the latter if not the former.
#7 Fr. George Washburn on 2009-09-24 19:11
The real question is how many times did Bp Demetri sexually assault someone priorto getting caught?
It theychoose to enable his behaviourit will notbe the last
How many families have someone who is a victim of sexual abuse?
Stop giving to the aoca until +Demetri is no longer on the payroll!
If in fact Patriarch Ignatius asked for Bp Demetri, Mp could have said no!
The Neither MP or the Patriarch have the canonical authority to reinstate Demetri.
Additionally, all bishops, which includes metropolitans and patriarchs are still accountable to their synods OR THEY ARE NOT ORTHODOX!
Ceertainly, the last seven months should suffice to demonstrate metropolitans and synods are not infallible
in the case of Gabriel barrow. MP knew exactly why he removed him from priestly office in the aoca.
He knew this when he signed the release for him to the Greek Archdiocese.
The lawyers of Mr Barrow's newest victims knew this too and brought suit against the AOCA.
Did we pay a settlement?
Does the relieve the pain ofthe victim who is FOREVER SCARRED!?!?!?!
Has MP no shame?
If MP has any compassion for our past victims, he will immediately remove from the ranks of the clergy all who have brought reproach to Christ's Holy Church regardless of their friendship or possible financial loss.
What liability do we face by not following our own Holy Teachings nevermind the wisdom of this world
#8 Anon and anon on 2009-09-24 20:23
God bless Stan Shinn
His post is a very concise and to the point dissertation of the current situation in the AOCNA. What on earth are the other bishops in the Antiochian Diocese waiting for? Enough is enough. If they do not have the intestinal fortitude to step up to the plate and call a spade a spade, they are of no use to the Church. If St. Paul would call out St Peter about his hipocracy of not associating with non-Jewish believers, exactly what the hell is it going to take for them to exercise their authority and censor Philip and Demitri for their actions.
In the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, if the salt has lost its savor, it is good for nothing but to be cast out on the ground to be troden under the foot of men. In another passage, because you are neither cold nor hot but lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth. You bishops apparently are not just celibate but eunichs.
If the shoe fits gentlemen, wear it!!!!!!!!!!!
#9 Fr. Blues on 2009-09-24 20:35
Thank you, David, for pointing out that:
"Furthermore, this speaking the truth, as articulated in this Reflection, applies not only to sexual misconduct, but also to any and all inappropriate behavior and sin within the Church."
There is much said (some of it too late, sadly) about sexual abuse. There are other abuses which are 'allowed' in the Church as well, with next to no recourse for the victims.
#10 Laurie Rodger on 2009-09-25 06:21
"Therefore I would suggest that publishing them on any website would be inappropriate."
Not only that, Mr Anonymous, it would be libelous.
#11 Michael Strelka on 2009-09-25 09:57
David Wrote: "Posting a list of clergy "credibly accused of abuse" in any public forum, particularly the internet which can easily go viral in seconds, could be very dangerous. Who would determine whether the accusation is credible? What standards are used?"
First off, thanks for your kind remarks, and to all who have made supportive comments on this forum. I really appreciate it!
Here's some background regarding what I meant when I said the Antiochian Archdiocese should "post a list of clergy credibly accused of abuse on the archdiocese website". I don't mean we should have a free-for-all, where anonymous or uninvestigated accusations could be make which would then cause a major scandal. Rather, the Antiochian Archdiocese needs something in place like the GOA policy available here: http://tinyurl.com/yafdken. An investigation should take place to validate the abuse claims. Ideally this investigation would be done by a third party outside the Archdiocese (perhaps by Praesidium, one such agency) and by a professional trained to deal with sexual misconduct issues.
With child sexual misconduct, in many cases our laws are still bad and a claim may be made by someone where the statute of limitations has expired (say, for example, someone abused as a child but emotionally incapable of reporting the abuse until they were in their 30's, and where typically you cannot convict the abusive priest of a criminal act).
Similarly, when a vulnerable adult has been abused (say an adult female who was in a counseling relationship with a priest, and he took advantage of his spiritual child), criminal laws may not apply. And so, a civil investigation can take place by trained professionals who, through interviews with the victims, witnesses, the accused, etc., can do their best to ascertain the truth. Additionally, it is common to then send the accused clergy, if the charges are found to have substance, to St. Luke's institute (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Luke_Institute) for residential evaluation. After a few days at the clinic with the accused clergy being screened by professionals, you will get a pretty good read on if the clergy has offended and if they have issues which will cause them to be dangerous in a position of trust.
Due process is something we are in much need of -- the above needs to happen, and justice and fairness to accuser and accused alike are sadly wanting in today's environment.
Once due process such as the above has taken place, the Archdiocese should act. If the abuse is credible and the clergy is a threat to those under their spiritual care, this is when the accusation can be made public.
Let me also hasten to add that clergy should be suspended pending investigation during the above process to protect the vulnerable until he can be disciplined or until his name is cleared.
Lastly, I want you to know that I've been involved in two different clergy sexual misconduct investigations (both in the GOA), and in both cases I was terribly disappointed in the way the GOA handled things. So I have no illusions about the GOA, the OCA, or the Antiochian Archdiocese. There is much that needs to be done to bring accountability to the Church, and to minister to the wounded, and discipline clergy, for the good of all.
Someone please tell me how can a clergyman, either priest or bishop, have a holy conscience to abuse others in varied ways, and then walk into the altar, consecrate the Body and Blood of our Lord, and hold it in his hand? Do you all see the many red flags continuing to pop up, every week for how many months now? Why is there still doubt that sometimes our clergy, no matter their rank, can be not so honest or forthright in the way they live their lives? That's not even the problem. The real problem is that when they are that way, with some type of addiction or dishonest way of life, they must acknowledge the problem, realize they cannot serve two masters, request a leave of absence, and get help. Then they must decide if they are going to be holy clergymen or unholy and continue their addictions. There is help for them, but until they do this, there is no room for them to minister to our faithful.
Dear Anonymous #3,
Try to imagine something — I mean, just for a moment.
Imagine that many of us who criticize Met. Philip's attitude toward Bp. Demetri actually care about the whole Church. Imagine that — if you had a case where a proven offender had been left in authority, or where a regular investigation had not been done — we would want it to be known, regardless of jurisdiction.
Imagine that the people you disagree with aren't playing an OCA-vs-Antioch power-game — that we say the things we do because they represent our simple, honest opinion.
Is that really so far-fetched?
#14 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2009-09-25 16:31
The answer to the question of whether the laity (or clergy, for that matter) should report knowledge of child sexual abuse is obviously YES. The first priest I ever know (I was a convert) was an abuser. I was shocked as we had considered him a most holy man. Later I found out I had been at his house when his young teenage 'neighbor and friend' had come by, and had actually been in the church building when he received the phone call that was recorded as evidence to convict him. What was worse was that members of the parish council new he had not been chaste by fact of his having come down with hepititis (not the fishy kind!) a year earlier. What was even worse was that the bishops had known of previous incidents and transferred him.
Cut to several years and a jurisdiction change later, and I discovered that a quite well known priest (still in office) had had a long-ongoing 'affair' with a teenage boy who later in life actually became the choir director of the parish. I had wondered for a couple of years why such an obviously anti-Christian, openly gay, character was not only tolerated but seemingly protected in the light of insults he routinely hurled at parish council members and even a visiting bishop.
To cap all of this off, a young priest told me that his proestaminos had told him he didn't care if he 'fooled around' as long as he made sure to keep it quiet. The young priest was rightly outraged.
Chastity is a major sign of our growing into the image and likeness of God. Whether unchaste through having an affair with a woman, a man, a teenage boy (ephebophilia) or a child, male or female (pedophilia), such acts and proclivities are exactly contrary to the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Faith.
Turning a blind eye to such sins is hypocritical and sinful in itself.
#15 Anonymous (isn't everyone?) on 2009-09-26 08:20
Well said, Mr. Shinn.
Reading this reminded me of a business trip to France several years ago. I was asked by my host and good friend why Americans were so concerned with the sexual improprieties of our President. I told him that I couldn't speak for Americans in general, but that, in my opinion, if I couldn't trust the President with my daughter, then I couldn't trust him to run the country.
I insist that our clergy and episcopate be held to at least as high a moral and ethical standard as our President.
#16 Scott Benton on 2009-09-26 20:02
St. Matthew Orthodox Church in Columbia, MD is having a festival next weekend, Oct. 3-4, 2009. The proceeds benefit their church building fund. The very church building which ignited the abusive chain of events in my legal situation. If you have been reading my posts regarding Fr. Raymond Velencia, who has yet to be disciplined by his superiors, I would encourage you NOT to attend or support this event in any manner.
#17 kristine patico koumentakos on 2009-09-27 14:38
As a former social worker who dealt with sex abuse matters for over 20 years, I second David's reply. It is too easy these days to make accusations, which many times are not proven. Sex abuse in any form is not only a sin, but a crime. Let the secular courts and their minions accuse, investigate, try, convict and punish. I found that in my own bailiwick (Los Angeles) that they were more than competent to do this. I think it is very important that victims and their advocates go to the civil authorites first, so that the accused perpetrator can be isolated if necessary. This would prevent the 'ecclesiatical authorites' from spreading a blanket over the accused and shielding him from legal penalties, if he is later proven guilty.
Rdr. James Morgan
former MFCC California,
#18 James Morgan on 2009-09-27 16:48
There are many who believe the + Dimitri episode was a set up. Yes, he did go to a casino with parishoners(?) Yes, he did have a few drinks - was one a mickey? Does the video REALLY show what the woman said - NO.
+ Dimitri admitted to having a drinking problem and sought help for it, but is he really a "sex offender?" Many disagree!
(editor's note: Many disagree, perhaps. Those who have seen the tape, that is, the police and the courts, do not. Nor did the Bishop - who did not contest the charges but accepted a plea bargain admitting guilt. End of story.)
#19 Anonymous on 2009-09-28 07:27
Prayer. Asectic effort. Working with your therapist, working with your spiritual father. I think you can find such help in the OCA, GOA, AOCA, etc. But the work, the real work is up to you.
#20 Anonymous on 2009-09-29 07:37
You all are fools. I'm sorry plan fools to keep attacking every single person for anything they say or speak. Seriously get a life and get a Christian one! God will forgive me for saying this because I believe it is my right to say this as a Christian going against stone throwers.
#21 William on 2009-09-29 09:55
The reverence paid many clergy who are not even guilty of the above mentioned sins borders on the idolatrous in many Orthodox Churches and unquestioning obedience in the face of the above mentioned transgressions is outright IDOLATRY. We have been priming our clergy for years for all the abuses of power, authority, confidentiality etc. because most people want to follow. Christ spent all his time on earth liberating people and all they seem to do is want to follow even at the expense of their children.
#22 ANON on 2009-09-29 14:45
Thank you, Stan, both for the original article and the expansion in this comment.
#23 Jason Barker on 2009-09-30 06:54
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