NY--New bishop nominated for Orthodox Church Victims disapprove of candidate & urge reconsideration
For immediate release: Thursday, February 19, 2015
Statement by Melanie Jula Sakoda of Moraga, CA, East Bay Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (925-708-6175, [email protected])
A recent special assembly of the Long Island-based Orthodox Church in America (OCA) nominated an episcopal candidate for the long vacant see of the Diocese of the South.
While the selection of Archimandrite Gerasim Eliel is subject to approval by the OCA’s synod of bishops, normally such nominations are routinely approved. However, in this case SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is urging the synod to carefully consider this nominee and hold out for another candidate.
Eliel’s glowing resume leaves out some pertinent facts about him, in particular his long and close connection to two notorious Orthodox predators, Herman Podmoshensky and Pangratios Vrionis.
While the resume mentions that Eliel’s monastery, St. Herman of Alaska in Platina, California, went into schism from the Orthodox Church in the 1980s, it chooses to omit the fact that the abbot who led the monastery into schism, Podmoshensky, left the Church in the wake of allegations that he sexually abused young men and boys. The Church never made any findings on the abuse allegations, electing instead to defrock Podmoshensky on the easier to prove charge of disobedience. Eliel, unlike most of the Platina brotherhood, chose to follow this sexual predator into schism.
The resume also neglects to mention that after leaving the Orthodox Church Podmoshensky and Eliel joined a group led by a convicted child molester, Metropolitan Pangratios Vrionis. The metropolitan has two convictions for abusing minor boys, one in 1970 and one in 2003. He was defrocked by the Orthodox Church following his first conviction, but started his own church and made himself a bishop.
Finally, the resume claims that the reconstituted Platina brotherhood removed Podmoshensky as abbot “in response to the erratic leadership of the late Abbot Herman and his failure to decisively bring the monastic community back into canonical unity with the Orthodox Church.” However, it neglects to mention that the brotherhood was only one of many parishes and monasteries that left Vrionis after his first conviction was publicized on a website tracking Orthodox abusers (http://www.pokrov.org) in 1999. It also fails to mention Eliel wrote to his Orthodox bishop in 2001 saying that Podmoshensky was removed because of additional incidents of sexual misconduct.
Cappy Larson, one of the founders of Pokrov.org and now also a SNAP leader, was incredulous that Eliel had been nominated.
“The OCA is still reeling from the conviction of Archbishop Seraphim Storheim for the sexual abuse of a child. I can’t believe assembly would seriously consider a man who spent so much time in the company of two notorious sexual predators, and has yet to say a public word against either. I hope that the synod of bishops has more sense than to elect a candidate who thinks it’s more important to conceal predators then to protect the vulnerable and help heal the wounded.”
Melanie Jula Sakoda, also of Pokrov.org and SNAP, agreed. “If the OCA is serious about changing the way abuse is handled in their Church, Eliel seems like precisely the wrong kind of candidate.”