IL Victims to leaflet at Orthodox cathedral, Chicago
Victims to leaflet at Orthodox cathedral
Seminarian charged with soliciting sex with a minor
SNAP: “Church officials should reach out to others in pain”
They ask parishioners to prod clerics to take “effective child safety steps”
After a church service, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will pass out leaflets to parishioners begging them to:
--urge their church officials to reach out to all parishes and institutions where an arrested seminarian worked, and
--beg anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered child sex crimes to contact the police;
They will also
--insist that church officials run criminal background checks on all clergy, seminarians, and employees or volunteers who work with kids,
--immediately report allegations of criminal behavior to the police; and
--publicize and simplify procedures for reporting clergy sex crimes.
Sunday, December 14, 11:45 a.m.
Outside Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, 5701 N. Redwood Drive (near corner of W. Seminole Road), Chicago
Three victims of clergy sex crimes and supporters who belong to an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including the organization’s founder and president
Dario Spasic, a seminary student from Saint Savas School of Theology in Libertyville, was arrested in September and charged with soliciting a minor for sex.
The school is located on the grounds of Saint Savas Monastery, which (according to the website of the Serbian Church) is part of the Metropolitanate of Libertyville-Chicago. Holy Resurrection Cathedral also belongs to this diocese, which is overseen from Serbia by Patriarch Irinej Gavrilovic.
Members of SNAP have already written to Gavrilovic. (See letter below.) Today they will distribute leaflets to parishioners, begging them to contact their patriarch and urge him to reach out to all the parishes and institutions where Spasic worked.
(In addition to attending the Libertyville seminary, in 2013 Spasic worked at Saint George Serbian Orthodox Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.)
“Those who abuse kids usually have more than one victim,” said SNAP president Barbara Blaine. “There are likely others who were hurt by Spasic and are still suffering in shame and silence. It’s imperative that church officials find out where Spasic worked and use church resources to reach out to those who saw, suspected or suffered these crimes. They should urge them to contact the police. We have already asked the patriarch to do this, but it’s crucial that parishioners also add their voices.”
The leaflet will also urge church-goers to insist that church officials run criminal background checks on seminarians, clergy and everyone who works with children.
“The admission requirements for Saint Savas do not mention a clean criminal record. Are background checks required at the seminary?” asked Melanie Jula Sakoda of SNAP Orthodox.
Sakoda continued, “The cost of a fingerprint check is minimal. However, the decision as to who should be working around kids in your Church should not be left to chance. A recent case in a Greek Orthodox Church in Maine uncovered a priest who had been convicted of a sex crime against a child in Michigan years before he entered the seminary in Boston.”
"Every seminarian, clergyman, and anyone who works with kids should be fingerprinted. We can’t trust our precious children to those who have been convicted of crimes against minors.”
The leaflet suggests two other simple and inexpensive ways parishioners can help make their parish safer for kids.
First, church-goers can urge their patriarch to make sure that all church officials immediately report crimes to the police, whether or not required by law. David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP, reminds parishioners, “The best way to keep kids save is to take predators off the streets. The police have the resources, education and experience to evaluate allegations, and can also send the charges on to the criminal justice system, so the perpetrators can be convicted and sentenced to prison.”
Finally, the leaflet also encourages parishioners to ask their patriarch to ensure that procedures for reporting sex crimes in the Church are easily accessible and easy to follow. The survivors’ group believes that making it easier for people to alert church officials to problems will make it easier for the Church to identify and remove those who are a danger to children.
Contact: Barbara Blaine of Chicago (312-399-4747 cell, bblaine@SNAPnetwork.org), David Clohessy of St. Louis (314-566-9790 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org), Melanie Jula Sakoda of Moraga, CA, SNAP Orthodox Director (925-708-6175 cell, email@example.com),
December 13, 2014
Patriarch Irinej Gavrilovic
5 Kralja Petra Str.
11000 Belgrade, Serbia
SENT BY EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Arrest of seminarian Dario Spasic
Dear Patriarch Irinej:
We are American victims of clergy sexual abuse, members of an international group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. We are writing to you as the Serbian Patriarch, and also as the current administrator of the Metropolitanate of Libertyville-Chicago. As you know, a seminarian at Saint Sava School of Theology in Libertyville, Dario Spasic, was arrested on September 19th and charged with soliciting a minor for sex.
We have heard that Serbians particularly abhor the sexual violation of their youth. We know that child predators usually have many, many victims. We implore you to reach out to each and every parish and institution where the seminarian worked. Please use your position to beg anyone in your flock who experienced abuse by Spasic, or who witnessed or suspected it, to contact the sheriff’s office in Lake County (847-377-2000). No child should have to suffer alone and in silence.
We also noticed that the requirements for admission to Saint Sava do not appear to include fingerprinting and a criminal background check. We hope that this step was simply omitted from the website.
The cost of a background check is minimal. However, the decision as to who can be trusted with your children should not be left to chance. A Greek Orthodox priest was recently arrested in Maine for child pornography. Father Adam Metropoulos had been convicted of a sex crime against a child in 1983. Yet because a complete background check was not performed, he was allowed to enroll at an Orthodox seminary and become a priest. According to police, Metropoulos admitted that he had fondled two Orthodox boys while a clergyman. This never would have happened to those children if the Greek Archdiocese had taken the simple step of running the fingerprints of all seminary applicants.
Moreover, if background checks are not already required of your seminarians and your priests, as well as anyone who works with your children, we implore you to institute them now. The safety and well-being of many in your flock could be protected by this simple, inexpensive measure.
We also urge you to take two additional easy and cost-free steps to help protect the youngsters in your Church.
First, when child abuse is reported to church officials, insist that they in turn report the allegations to law enforcement, whether or not they are required by law. These crimes are best investigated by professionals who have the education and experience to deal with them.
Second, make sure that all of your parishes and institutions prominently display how people should go about reporting abuse in the Church. If you encourage survivors and witnesses to come forward, you make it easier to identify and remove predatory clergy.
We hope that you will take our well-intentioned suggestions to heart. Please do not hesitate to contact either of us for further information and suggestions.