Although many Orthodox Churches, including Russia, Greece, and Serbia, have denied the existence of systemic clergy abuse for years, pretending instead that there are just a few bad apples, the facts completely deny them.
For example, in the Russian Orthodox Church, the famous deacon Andrej Kuraev was respected and known throughout the Orthodox world. He publicly stood by the boys who had come forward as victims of pedophile priests, and as a result was expelled from the position of professor at the Spiritual Academy.
The reality is that pedophilia and sexual violence are present with the knowledge of both the Russian and Serbian patriarchs in the Courtyard of the Serbian Patriarchate in Moscow. This is testified by one of the SOC students who was in Moscow to study, tthe priest Petar Perić.
In another example, the Kotor priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Momcilo Krivokapic, wrote about the issue of clergy abuse back in 1978. In his work can be found the testimony of the priest Goran, who was born in 1967 and wrote about organized pedophilia during 1985 and 86, including the methods abusers used to locate victims and keep hidden. Because Goran told the public the truth about pedophilia in the Serbian Orthodox Church, he was also removed from office.
The situation in the Serbian Orthodox Church is very similar to the abuse crises in churches around the globe: a choice has been made to protect reputations and the church at the expense of children and victims. I believe that abusers within the church are not punished due to the closedness of the community and the connections that church leaders have with the political elite.
I am personally in contact with more than 70 victims. Most have permanent consequences and trauma, which can be seen from the medical documentation. Many are drug users. One girl who was raped by a priest at the age of 13 has a diagnosis of mental impairment to the point where she can no longer drive a motor vehicle.
Ultimately, the true number of victims will never be determined for several reasons, including the destruction of documentation, silencing of victims, pressure from church and political leaders to stay silent, and corruption that allow abusers to escape justice. Again, the situation in the Serbian church is one that clergy abuse victims from any denomination will understand.
Serbian Orthodox survivors need our help. Their plight is one that survivors can understand, and the fact that they are being silenced and ignored in their home country is something that many SNAP leaders and survivors experienced first hand. By sharing their stories and facts, we can demonstrate that change is coming, and when they Serbian Orthodox survivors see that something is happening, there is hope that the future will be much better.
Bojan Jovanovic is a survivor advocate for those who were abused within the Serbian Orthodox Church. Learn more about what’s going on in the Serbian Orthodox Church and how you can help these survivors by contacting Bojan at [email protected]