Eleven days after his consecration as bishop, Metropolitan Jonah Paffhausen was elected to lead the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). The gathered clergy and laity believed that this synodal “outsider” would lead their church, which had been plagued for years by financial scandals at the highest levels, into a better future.
We didn’t. We strongly suspected that Paffhausen would be just like his predecessors when it came to clergy sexual abuse. He talked tough. However, the archbishop failed to follow the words with actions.
Shortly following his election as primate, he told a reporter, “With a crime in the church, the church leader's responsibility is that such a priest would be immediately removed from his role, and his case would be turned over to the civil authorities.” http://pokrov.org/display.asp?ds=Article&id=866
Yet in one of the major sex abuse scandals of his tenure, Paffhausen failed to act when the OCA’s Canadian leader, Archbishop Seraphim Storheim, was accused of child sexual abuse. Storheim was finally suspended from the priesthood almost two years later, and only after the Canadian authorities arrested him.
We'd glad that Paffhausen’s been removed from his position of authority. He did a wretched job of handling of clergy abuse/misconduct cases.
Moreover, with the metropolitan out of the way, we hope that the terms of the Sidebottom settlement will finally come to fruition.
The OCA’s synod of bishops should think long and hard about Paffhausen’s permanent replacement. Not only must this candidate by a man with "clean hands," it must also be someone who knows that actions protect kids, not words.
In the meantime, we remind current and former church staff and parishioners that no one person can make a denomination safe for kids. It's everyone's job. Whoever the next metropolitan might be, everyone who suffered, witnessed or suspected clergy sex crimes and cover ups in the OCA should step forward, expose wrongdoing, protect others and start healing. And we hope they’ll be sure to contact secular authorities first, not the church.
Congregants should also realize that church officials will ignore and conceal child sex crimes by clergy as long as archaic, predator friendly laws enable them to do so. Those who are serious about wanting a safer church will look outside the church hierarchy for real reform, and will join victims who are working to repeal arbitrary laws that enable child predators and their allies to escape detection and punishment.