Sacramento Area Orthodox Priest Arrested for Child Sexual Abuse, SNAP Calls for Outreach
An Orthodox priest in the Sacramento area is awaiting trial in jail after being accused of committing lewd acts on a 14-year-old girl. These are obviously serious charges that demand significant outreach efforts by Indian Orthodox officials in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, headquartered in Kottayam, Kerala, India.
According to The Davis Vanguard, there were earlier allegations against Fr. Slomo George from the Indian Orthodox community in Chicago. Given what we know about how abusers seek opportunities to perpetrate their crimes, we cannot help but wonder if Fr. George became a priest in order to gain access to children. The disturbing information that the cleric was accused at an earlier assignment, plus the fact that he now faces criminal charges in Sacramento, makes us concerned that there are other victims who have yet to come forward. Data from the Department of Justice suggests that 86% of child sexual abuse goes unreported altogether.
Last month, the Diocese of South-West America announced that Fr. George was “relieved from any further parish responsibilities, suspended from performing any priestly or liturgical functions within the diocese, and banned from entering into any of the parishes within the jurisdiction of the diocese while the matter is under investigation.” The Diocese also said that it “stands by any and all individuals who have been affected by this alleged misconduct.”
While we applaud this announcement and the expression of support for those affected, we believe that Metropolitan Dr. Zacharias Mar Aprem must do more, particularly since reportedly the community both in Sacramento and back in India are pressuring the family to drop the charges and are supporting Fr. George. We believe all bishops and clergy in the Church, those in America and abroad, must do more to hold abusive clergy accountable. The Church must make sure this does not happen again.
Fr. George worked in multiple communities as far as we can ascertain, in Chicago, Phoenix and Sacramento. We call on the Metropolitan to personally visit each and every parish where Fr. George worked, detailing the charges against him and encouraging others who may have been hurt by him, or who witnessed or suspected any crimes, to step forward and make a report to law enforcement. The Metropolitan should also be cautioning the communities that false allegations of child sexual abuse are extremely rare, so for the sake of all victims any support for the priest should be private, not public. We have an article about “What to do when your priest is accused of abuse,” that might be helpful. The Metropolitan should also use parish bulletins and his diocesan website to further boost this information as well as to share contact information for all applicable law enforcement agencies.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)