Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lessons from Jerry Sandusky and Pedophile Priests

This sentiment, expressed with various degrees of intensity, popped up regularly in public responses and official statements regarding the recent resignation of Metropolitan Jonah from his position as primate of the Orthodox Church in America:

They finally got him. What they don’t understand is that they probably signed the OCA’s death warrant in so doing...because the sleazy, corrupt way the Synod has handled this from the beginning shows them to be a pack of ravening wolves.

That's actually Rod Dreher over at the American Conservative, and he doesn't get any nicer about it: "I wish he had gone out like Samson instead of yielding to this pack of wild dogs. But what’s done is done. And what was done is dirty. Filthy." Even if others didn't feel the need to get that heated, there was a sense that Jonah was a crusader who was making the Orthodox relevant in the twenty-first century Christian social and political landscape. Having followed Mark Stokoe over at OCA News for years, my reaction was decidedly less indignant.

As more information begins to surface, it would appear that perhaps Dreher and others should temper their criticism of the Synod. It seems their primary motivation was concern over the possible criminal sexual behavior of a priest appointed by Jonah and the Metropolitan's questionable attempts to conceal it:

"Metropolitan Jonah has repeatedly refused to act with prudence, in concert with his fellow bishops, in accordance with the Holy Synod's policies," the synod said in a statement.

"In light of the recent widely publicized 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 has exposed the church cannot be overstated," it 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," the synod said.

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, Jonah "neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops," and did not report the incident to police or church lawyers, according to the synod.

In other words, the Synod is giving every appearance of doing exactly what people, in hindsight, wished that the Catholic Church and the administration at Penn State had done when their was suspicion of misconduct by their authority figures. They are cooperating with local law enforcement, being transparent about the accusation (save for releasing the priest's name), and removing the rogue administrator who allowed an accused rapist to be ordained in the OCA in the first place. And the revelations about Jonah just get worse:

When the woman reported her alleged rape to police, however, she and a family member were admonished by unnamed church officials "that their salvation depended on their silence."

As recently as last week, the synod reported Monday, 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 while assuring it there were "no canonical impediments" to a transfer.

I'm quite certain there were other factors involved in his removal, other less compelling reasons, but I can't imagine anyone reading that and thinking that the Synod is a pack of ravening wolves who have driven out the great hope of the Orthodox Church in America. If anything, the information now available shows the tremendous wisdom of the Synod in not allowing what's happened to the Catholic Church and to Penn State to happen to the Orthodox.

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