SNAP Writes to Coptic Orthodox Officials: Group Should Learn from the Mistakes of the Catholic Church

Representatives of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, have written to Coptic Orthodox officials here and in Egypt concerning the advisability of having people under the authority of an accused cleric pursue an investigation into the allegations against him. The group urged the Pope and a US Bishop to take a lesson from the Catholic Church and move the probe to another diocese.

The Coptic Archdiocese of North America (ANA) released a “Notice of Administrative Leave” on October 20, 2020, for Fr. Antonios Baky, who works as the Papal Secretary of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of Northern California and the Western U.S. (ANCW). Fr. Baky is assigned to St. Mary and St. John Coptic Orthodox Church in Pleasanton, CA.

While the notice did not say why this action was taken, the information was published on the ANA website which appears to be dedicated to the Archdiocese's Sexual Misconduct and Physical Abuse and Neglect Policy. SNAP has also been told that a police report has been filed in California against Fr. Baky.

Incomprehensibly to us, on October 25, 2020, the attorney for the ANCW, Saher Joseph Macarius, sent a letter to the ANA claiming jurisdiction over the allegations, requesting that the file in this case be forwarded to him for investigation, and directing the ANA to remove all orders relating to this case from their website. Bishop David acquiesced to the claim of proper jurisdiction on the same day.

SNAP has been told that both Fr. Baky in the ANCW and Bishop David in the ANA are acting within their respective dioceses as representatives of Pope Tawadros II, so it seems particularly ludicrous to in essence have Fr. Baky investigate the allegations against himself when Bishop David is available to do so on behalf of the Pope. The initial order that Fr. Baky be removed from ministry and from his diocesan position pending the outcome of the investigations, both criminal and ecclesiastical, seems to be the only sensible response.

The survivors' group urged the Coptic officials to take a lesson from the Catholic Church. If the recent report on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Catholic Church has taught the world anything, it is that internal church investigations into sexual crimes are likely to be biased in favor of the accused cleric. How much more likely is this to be the case when the alleged abuser is in a supervisory position over the investigators?

Pope Tawadros and Bishop David should be transparent with their flock about the allegations, SNAP says. The group also maintained that the Church investigation should only be conducted by someone outside of Fr. Baky’s diocese, and that the priest should be removed from ministry pending the outcome.

SNAP also recommended that the Coptic officials involved in the investigation do immediate outreach in the Pleasanton parish, not only publicizing the allegations, but also urging anyone who may have experienced, witnessed or suspected abuse to step forward and make a report to law enforcement.

The text of the letter is pasted below.

*****

November 19, 2020

 

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

PO Box 56539

Saint Louis MO, 63156

 

Pope Tawadros II

Coptic Orthodox Cathedral

222 Ramses, El-Demerdash, Al Waili, 

Cairo Governorate, Egypt

anba_tawadros@hotmail.com

 

Bishop David

The Coptic Archdiocese of North America

5 Woodstone Drive

Cedar Grove NY 07009

anba_david@yahoo.com

 

Re: Fr. Antonios M. Baky

 

Dear Pope Tawadros and Bishop David,

We are advocates for clergy sexual abuse survivors who belong to a group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. It has come to our attention that the Coptic Archdiocese of North America (ANA) released a “Notice of Administrative Leave” on October 20, 2020 for Fr. Antonios Baky, who works as the Papal Secretary of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of Northern California and the Western U.S. (ANCW). Fr. Baky is assigned to St. Mary and St. John Coptic Orthodox Church in Pleasanton, CA.

While the notice does not say why this action was taken, the information was published on the ANA website which appears to be dedicated to your Sexual Misconduct and Physical Abuse and Neglect Policy. We have also been told that a police report has been filed in California against Fr. Baky.

Incomprehensibly to us, on October 25, 2020, the attorney for the ANCW, Saher Joseph Macarius, sent a letter to the ANA claiming jurisdiction over the allegations, requesting that the file in this case be forwarded to him for investigation, and directing the ANA to remove all orders relating to this case from their website. Bishop David acquiesced to the claim of proper jurisdiction on the same day.

If the recent report on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Catholic Church has taught us anything, it is that internal investigations into sexual crimes are likely to be biased in favor of the accused cleric. How much more likely is this to be the case when the alleged abuser is in a supervisory position over the investigators?

We have been told that both Fr. Baky and Bishop David are acting within their dioceses as representatives of the Pope, so it seems particularly ludicrous to in essence have Fr. Baky investigate the allegations against himself when Bishop David is available to do so on behalf of the Pope. The initial order that Fr. Baky be removed from ministry and from his diocesan position pending the outcome of the investigations, both criminal and ecclesiastical, seems to be the only sensible response.

Studies show that false allegations of sexual abuse are extremely rare, so investigations into those allegations should error on the side of protecting more innocents from being harmed. The failure to do so can not only result in life-long damage to members of your community, but also in this country to serious monetary losses for a religious institution from civil suits.

Please, we urge you to take a lesson from the Catholic Church. If Fr. Baky has been accused of sexual abuse, you should be transparent with your flock about the allegations. The charges should be investigated internally by someone outside of Fr. Baky’s diocese, and he should be removed from ministry pending the outcome.

Moreover, the Coptic officials involved in the investigation should do immediate outreach in the Pleasanton parish, not only publicizing the allegations, but also urging anyone who may have experienced, witnessed or suspected abuse to step forward and make a report to law enforcement.

Sincerely,  

Melanie Sakoda

SNAP Orthodox Leader

msakoda@snapnetwork.org

925-708-6175

Zach Hiner

Executive Director, SNAP

zhiner@snapnetwork.org

517-974-9009

 

CONTACT: Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Orthodox Leader (msakoda@snapnetwork.org, 925-708-6175), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(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)


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