Is our hierarchy's commitment to our kids' safety a joke?
One of the most distressing problems our church faces is that of sexual abuse of children by the clergy. Our hierarchs seem to be responding with the same disastrous attempts at denial, deception and secrecy as their Roman Catholic peers. In a recent letter to the editor to Orthodox News, republished on Orthodox Reform, Catherine Metropoulos describes the mindset. A concerned lay person who attends each Clergy-Laity Conference (since 2000) entirely at her own expense, she hopes to foster awareness regarding clergy sexual misconduct within the church. She seeks to ensure that effective preventive policies might be developed and enacted.
Her reasons for doing so are personal. She points out that while attending the Clergy Laity in 2006 she met three well-respected clergymen. They assumed she was attending as a Philoptochos member. She responded that she was a member of the Archdiocese’s Clergy Sexual Misconduct Advisory Board. She describes the reaction:
Immediately one of the priests began to laugh. He called the Archdiocese’s misconduct policy a “joke.” He added that for many years the Greek Orthodox Church had mishandled matters of clergy sexual misconduct and that this problem continued. To illustrate his point, the priest then shared the history of a former clergyman by the name of Emmanuel Koveos. He said that some 30 years ago he had personally attended spiritual court hearings after Koveos had sexually molested a young girl while he served in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. The priest continued, poking fun at how for many years thereafter Koveos was moved from parish to parish while many knew of his continuing sexual improprieties. He joked how, decades later, Koveos was caught abusing another young girl while he served in Vermont, but this time he went to prison and was finally defrocked.Mrs. Metropoulos informed them that it was her child whom in 1997 Koveos had sexually victimized in Vermont. Embarrassed, they apologized. The attitude however indicates that little has changed despite her efforts and those of others. The mockery of the subject should make us wonder if our well-being and that of our children is of any concern - or is it a joke? - to the "shepherds of the flock."
Unbelievably, our hierarchy continues to support these criminals and to foist them upon unsuspecting communities, placing children in jeopardy. Pedophiles in their lifetimes average about 150 incidents of child sexual abuse. Do the math. Aside from the pain and heartache that statistic implies, the ongoing mindset exposes the Church and individual parishes to huge potential liability. When will our hierarchs at least understand this concept?!
Archbishop Demetrios initially refused to defrock Fr. Nicholas Katinas even though a church investigation revealed that he had sexually abused children. The result is that he and other hierarchs and clergy are now named as co-defendants in the upcoming lawsuit in Dallas. The Dallas community is also named and stands to lose its church and properties if a settlement cannot be reached. Of course the rest of us will be asked to pay as well.
We join Mrs. Metropoulos in imploring that delegates attending the Clergy-Laity Conference this summer challenge the Archdiocese’s Clergy Sexual Misconduct Policy. We must:
- Question the hierarchy's commitment to child safety within the church.
- Insist that the corruption and secrecy within our hierarchy be stopped, and that those who sexually violate our children be held completely accountable.
- Stipulate that victims deserve compassion, not alienation and blame.
- Ensure that preventive procedures, policies, and appropriate responses be better developed and utilized.
- Demand that the Archdiocese provide on their Web site a link listing the names and photographs of all clergy suspended or defrocked for sexual misconduct so that they do not infiltrate other unsuspecting communities.
To this we would add one more reform:
- Require that all individual Greek Orthodox parish communities are acknowledged and respected by the hierarchy as the rightful and proper owners of their own incorporated properties.
The future of our church depends upon it.