Voices from Russia

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Washington Post: OCA Head Metropolitan Jonah Dismissed Over Alleged Rape Cover-Up

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The Orthodox Church in America announced that it forced its controversial leader, Metropolitan Jonah, to resign earlier this month chiefly because he’d failed to remove a priest accused of rape. in a statement dated Monday 16 July, the Holy Synod, the OCA leadership board, said, “In light of the recent widely-publicised criminal cases involving sexual abuse at Penn State and in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Kansas City Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, the extent of the risk of liability to which Metropolitan Jonah exposed the Church can’t be overstated”.

The case concerned a priest who Jonah accepted into the OCA despite knowing about the man’s past problems with alcohol and record of violence toward women. Then, the synod said, in February of this year, Jonah, 52, learned that the priest was accused of rape in 2010 and he didn’t alert the police or church authorities or investigate the matter. OCA leaders also said Jonah, who was elected metropolitan in 2008, was involved with unnamed others in attempting to keep the alleged victim and a relative of hers from pursuing the case, telling them, “Their salvation depended on their silence”. Jonah resigned last week and in a letter “begged forgiveness … for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment”. Monday’s statement was an effort to clarify rumours that he’d been forced to resign over a rape case. The incident was only the latest in a long-running drama that has shaken the OCA, which includes about 85,000 members in North America, during Jonah’s stormy tenure. The OCA is one of several Orthodox Christian bodies in the USA.

Jonah was born James Paffhausen in Chicago, and raised Episcopalian, but converted to Orthodoxy when he was 18. Soon after his election as bishop, and then, First Hierarch, of the OCA, he sparked tension by appearing to try to align the church with conservative culture warriors. The tensions only grew worse over time, and what synod leaders called his “unilateral” style of decision-making led them to ask him to go on medical leave last fall. The alleged rape cover-up was apparently the last straw. The synod said in a statement detailing “a long series of poor choices that have caused harm to our Church”, “When this latest problem came to our attention at the end of June, we felt that we had no choice but to ask him to take a leave of absence or submit his resignation”. Church authorities are cooperating with police on the rape investigation against the unnamed priest, and the OCA said it’d continue to pay Jonah’s salary and benefits, at least until the next meeting of the Holy Synod, due in October.

20 July 2012

David Gibson

Religion News Service

As quoted in the Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/orthodox-church-in-america-head-metropolitan-jonah-dismissed-over-alleged-rape-cover-up/2012/07/20/gJQAHAGcyW_story.html

Friday, 20 July 2012

AP: Leader of US Orthodox Church Quits Amid Rape Claim

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The leader of the Syosset-based Orthodox Church in America resigned and been replaced amidst questions about whether he failed to report to church officials or law enforcement an allegation of a rape by a priest and other sexual-misconduct claims. The church issued a statement saying Metropolitan Jonah, the Archbishop of Washington, submitted his resignation in a letter on 6 July. The letter from Jonah noted the resignation had come at the request of the Holy Synod of Bishops. Jonah didn’t refer to the rape allegation in his letter. Part of the letter to the bishops said he begged “forgiveness for however I have offended you, and for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment”. There was no telephone listing for Jonah, who couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.

On Monday, the church issued a three-page statement detailing Jonah’s four-year tenure as its leader. It said Jonah failed to report a 2010 rape allegation involving an unidentified priest to authorities when he learned of it last February. The statement said in light of sex abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church and at Penn State University, “the risk of liability to which the Metropolitan has exposed the church can’t be overstated”. It also said Jonah had “repeatedly refused to act with prudence, in concert with his fellow bishops” regarding the church’s standards and procedures regarding sexual misconduct. It said for several years there had been a repeated pattern of Jonah “taking other unilateral actions that were contrary to the advice of the Holy Synod and/or the church’s lawyers”. It added he withheld information from brother bishops and church lawyers “concerning litigation matters, and matters that might have resulted, and still might result, in litigation”. It said he gave unauthorised people a detailed internal church report concerning “numerous investigations into sexual misconduct”, which risked leaking names of accusers and the accused.

Father Eric Tosi, a church spokesman, referred any additional questions to the church statement. There are approximately 80,000 OCA members in more than 800 parishes and institutions in the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

20 July 2012

Frank Feltman

Associated Press

As quoted in the Long Island Press

http://www.longislandpress.com/2012/07/20/leader-of-us-orthodox-church-quits-amid-rape-claim/

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Philadelphia Inquirer: OCA Exec Fired For Not Removing Rapist Priest

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Citing the sex-abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and at Pennsylvania State University, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has dismissed its presiding archbishop for failing to remove a priest who had raped a woman and been jailed for other violent acts. This week, the OCA Holy Synod, with about 85,000 members in the USA and Canada, announced that Metropolitan Jonah, 52 {slight error, JP’s 54: editor}, stepped down Saturday after ignoring Church procedures for responding to sexual misconduct. In a statement, the Synod said, “Metropolitan Jonah repeatedly refused to act with prudence, in concert with his fellow bishops, in accordance with the Holy Synod’s policies. In light of the recent widely-publicised criminal cases involving sexual abuse at Penn State and in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Kansas City Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, the extent of the risk of liability to which Metropolitan Jonah exposed the church can’t be overstated”. Church leaders say they’re cooperating with law enforcement and investigating the rape allegation. On Tuesday, Rev Erik Possi {Eric Tosi? This has to be a garble caused by mishearing: editor}, a synod spokesman, said the church wasn’t releasing the accused priest’s name.

Born James Paffhausen in Chicago, Jonah converted to Orthodoxy from Episcopalianism at 18 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He was made a bishop in early 2008, when he took the name Jonah, and was elected primate, or presiding archbishop, later that year. He was the first convert to head the OCA, which is based on Long Island.

The Synod’s statement said, “At some time after his enthronement as our primate, Metropolitan Jonah unilaterally accepted into the OCA a priest known to him and others to be… severely abusing alcohol, which more than once was coupled with episodes of violence and threats toward women”. These episodes included the “discharge of a firearm” and the “brandishing of a knife”, which led to the man’s arrest. In 2010, he was alleged “to have committed a rape against a woman”. Although informed of the rape allegation in February, the Synod alleged that Jonah “neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops”, and didn’t report the incident to police or church lawyers. When the woman reported her alleged rape to police, however, unnamed church officials admonished her and a family member “that their salvation depended on their silence”. The Synod reported on Monday that as recently as last week Jonah was “regularly communicating” with the person who was instructing the woman to keep quiet. Furthermore, it said, Jonah first encouraged the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy “without informing the military recruiter of any of the priest’s problems”, and then allowed the man to enter another Orthodox jurisdiction whilst assuring it there were “no canonical impediments” to a transfer.

Church law calls for a new metropolitan to be elected within 90 days, but Possi said there were “many steps that must be taken” and indicated that it could be longer. The Orthodox Church in America traces its roots to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose missionaries created their first North American missions in Alaska in the late 18th century. After the Russian Revolution, in the 1920s, the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America became self-governing, and in 1970 severed itself from Russian Orthodoxy to become the OCA. There are 36 parishes in the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania, which comprises half the state, and about 2,000 members in the Philadelphia area.

While the bishops and archbishops of many Roman Catholic dioceses have been accused of covering up clergy sex abuse, only Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston MA and the late Bishop Manuel Duran Moreno of Tucson AZ have resigned for that reason. On Tuesday, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge is scheduled to sentence Msgr William J Lynn, former head of the archdiocesan clergy office. Last month, Lynn, 61, was found guilty of felonious child endangerment for his 12-year role in recommending the assignments of priests whom prosecutors said he knew to be child abusers.

Jonah’s resignation isn’t the first scandal to mar his church in recent years. In 2005, the OCA’s former treasurer, Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, accused the administration of spending millions of dollars in church assets for personal use, or to mask deficits in church accounts. According to some reports, Jonah was elected primate three years later because, as the newest bishop, he was untainted by financial scandal.

17 July 2012

David O’Reilly

Philadelphia Inquirer

http://articles.philly.com/2012-07-17/news/32714883_1_holy-synod-priest-allegation

Editor’s Note:

This reporter is perceptive… maybe he misheard Tosi’s name, but he could recognise arrant bullshit when he heard it spouted. He uses the blunt term “dismissal”… which is what, indeed, happened. The Holy Synod shitcanned Fathausen for lying, sneaking around, messing up relations with the Greeks and the Serbs, and mucking about with Church records to an extent that would make even a Po City pimp blush. However, let’s not kid ourselves. Beyond the removal of JP, nothing’s happened. NOTHING. The First Families are as secretive as ever, SVS is as arrogant as ever, and the archpriestly cabal that’s been running the OCA since the days of Ireney Bekish is still in the driver’s seat and the Metropolitan Council does nothing (“The records simply don’t exist”, as Tosi put it so smarmily and superciliously… of course, we can’t go after Iggy… we might find something out, and, then, we’d have to do something).

As my MP contact pointed up, the OCA Holy Synod has elected three crank First Hierarchs in a row. There is NO candidate with any cred for the white hat. Of course, the million-dollar question is, “Did Lyonyo & Co move against JP because of the upcoming London Conference? Are they scared of what’s coming out of it?” Let’s be blunt here… there are going to be changes in diaspora Russian Orthodoxy that the OCA is going to have NO input into. At the least, it’s common knowledge that the merging of the ROCOR and the MP’s dioceses outside the CIS countries is a done deal. It’ll be the first major change since the creation of the OCA in 1970. It’ll change the face of the map and the promises made by the Centre to the Schmemanndorff duo will become history.

At the same time, the OCA is dealing with a secession crisis. Some of JP’s claque (primarily in the Diocese of the South) is talking schism. Remember, these folks jumped once, they’ll jump again. For instance, take Reardon… he started out as an RC, became a Trappist hieromonk, left the monastery, converted to the Anglicans, got married, ordained again, converted to the OCA, left for the AOCANA when Feodosy wouldn’t ordain him, and he teaches at an oddbod rightwing “continuing” Anglican seminary. God alone knows where he’s going to end up. Reardon is TYPICAL of these sorts, sadly enough (and he’s not the most chequered… that dubious distinction goes to the HOOMie cultists… who were brought into the Church by JP).

We haven’t even BEGUN to muck out the byre, and the shit is encrusted thickly on our boots and it stinks to high heaven. I’d be funny if it were a Poruchik Rzhevsky joke, but it’s for real, and it’s not funny in the least. We have a period of stasis that may last until the London Conference. After all, the Centre is patient… they’ve waited this long, what’s another three months? It’s only 90 days…

BMD

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