For immediate release: Friday, August 22, 2014
The chancellor of a New York based Eastern Orthodox Church published an entry in his online journal yesterday concerning the group’s sexual misconduct policy.
Archpriest John A. Jillions, chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), shared a question he received about the guidelines, along with his response.
Jillions wrote that he received an email from someone concerned that the OCA’s policy does not do enough to protect clergymen from “false allegations.” In his response, the chancellor nailed one very important point: “If on balance of probability there is likelihood that misconduct occurred, then the bishop has to err on the side of protecting his—Christ’s—flock.”
However, we are disappointed that the chancellor failed to mention an even more important point: that is, false allegations are extremely rare. At least one of the resources on the OCA website spells this out explicitly.
Moreover, as survivors of clergy sexual abuse we are extremely disturbed that the OCA apparently still feels that allegations and investigations must be shrouded in secrecy. Jillions said the issue is “not something that needs to be reported on the front page every day. I think of it as a sanitation department: every town has to have one but it shouldn’t make headlines unless something goes badly wrong.”
We vehemently disagree. When an accusation is made, each and every parish where the alleged perpetrator worked should not only be informed, but any survivors, witnesses or whistleblowers should be actively encouraged to report. The Church should be begging victims to come forward, get help and begin healing.
In this same vein, when the OCA finds that abuse allegations are credible, the information should not be kept secret, treated like yesterday’s garbage in a tightly lidded can. Instead, the Orthodox should join the roughly 30 Catholic bishops in the United States and post the names of these predator priests on their website so that families, neighbors, employers and others will be warned about these potentially dangerous men.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, as well as those abused in other settings, such as the Boy Scouts and the military. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
One of the “behind the scenes” responsibilities of the chancery is to deal with preventing and addressing sexual misconduct. As we all know this is a concern that affects every organization, but it’s not something that needs to be reported on the front page every day. I think of it as a sanitation department: every town has to have one but it shouldn’t make headlines unless something goes badly wrong.
Father, I just wanted to say how offensive and inappropriate is just such a comment wherein you characterize the work of addressing and preventing sexual misconduct among the clergy with the work of a sanitation department. It seems like our Church leaders have a poor and detached understanding of the impact, suffering and heartache that sexual abuse causes to its victims and families since just this week, Cardinal George Pell of Australia compared the Catholic Church’s responsibilities to its abuse victims to a trucking company’s responsibility and liability when one of its truckers should commit such criminal acts while on the road in performance of his work.
Sir, my faith has been the cornerstone of our lives in our 39-year marriage with four children and now with two beautiful grandsons, God has blessed us immeasurably. As a father, you do know how special, innocent and precious are all of our children. In your position as a leader and administrator, I am quite sure that you have addressed just such issues within your organization many times before and your congregations are entitled to know the full extent of the risks, dangers and potential perils of any of your religious who pose a danger to their children and grandchildren. This is hardly a problem of a “sanitation department” and nothing should be held back, kept secret and not shared with the parishioners.
I thank you for allowing me to share these important concerns with you and look forward to any comments you wish to share with this writer.
Philadelphia Police Dept
St. Joseph’s University ’74