OCA: Information on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response


The Orthodox Church in America has been working for the past several years to improve its Policy, Standards and Procedures for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct in the church.   These updates in the policies were needed to make the institution more responsive to allegations, to give better attention to the needs of victims and to keep the OCA up to current societal standards for churches in dealing with such complaints.  While such policies are always being reviewed to meet current needs and standards, the OCA probably has some of the best policies and highest standards regarding dealing with sexual misconduct of any Orthodox jurisdiction in the world.

You can view the a new web page featuring detailed information and resources is now available at http://oca.org/about/sexual-misconduct.  The site also offers Information on the OCA’s Office of Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations [ORSMA], which is responsible for assisting the Holy Synod of Bishops and the Church with matters concerning allegations of sexual misconduct.  

LOGOThe OCA’s Synod of Bishops issued a revised Policy, Standards, and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct at their Fall 2013 Holy Synod meeting.  They have been engaged in a long and taxing process to improve policies, the culture and the institution.   The bishops have come to understand the importance for the entire Church to provide a safe and healthy environment for all of the faithful. The Church laments the sin of sexual misconduct, and will not tolerate sexual misconduct by its clergy or any layperson.  The more rigorous and proactive stance regarding sexual misconduct better meet the societal and legal expectations for an organization in the modern world.  Taking all allegations seriously means taking a closer look at the policies, standards and procedures of the organizations, as well as taking the time to investigate complaints brought to the attention of the church’s leaders.

One example of a more proactive approach to dealing with the social and human problem of sexual abuse is that the OCA now provides a way for people to confidentially report a case of misconduct by calling the toll-free number 855-398-2600. 

Synod2012When the Church investigates allegations of sexual misconduct, it is not attempting to replace or even duplicate investigations which might also be done by civil authorities.  The Church has its own standards for dealing with sexual misconduct by its clergy or membership.  Even the mere appearance of inappropriate sexual behavior especially by clergy is considered a moral issue within the Orthodox Community.  Our bishops have to maintain a high level of moral standards and discipline on these issues, regardless of whether civil authorities would involve themselves in the cases brought to the attention of church authorities.

Other documents and links of interest to parishes available through the OCA’s webpage:

Archbishop Seraphim’s Trial Begins

SeraphimWinnipeg news outlets are reporting that the sexual abuse trial of the OCA’s former Archbishop of Canada, Seraphim (Storheim) has begun.  The Winnipeg Sun reports, “Sex abuse trial for former Orthodox archbishop Seraphim Storheim begins.”  The Winnipeg Free Press said, “Ex-altar boy tells archbishop’s Winnipeg sex assault trial he felt ‘disgusted’”. 

It is only with the trial’s beginning that some details about the allegation are coming forth.  A court ordered publication ban prevents certain details from being released since those making the allegations were minors at the time the events were claimed to have occurred.  Archbishop Seraphim was still a parish priest when the alleged abuse occurred between 1984-1987.  He became a bishop in 1987.

We will soon learn what the Crown is able to prove regarding the case and how Archbishop Seraphim will be judged by the court.  Whatever is proven in court, the Orthodox Church in America will still and also have to render a judgment on Archbishop Seraphim and whether anything he did violated church canons and requires a church court or church discipline.  The OCA has chosen to let the Crown make its case and judgment first before dealing with the case in the church.  This was partly necessary perhaps because the OCA did not have all of the details of the case which are only now being revealed.  Still the OCA needs to review its own inner culture that allowed the events to be ignored for so long without opening an investigation into the allegations.

LOGOObviously, there is a tragedy here, no matter what decision the court renders.  There is of course the possibility of sexual abuse of two at that time 10 year old boys.  Even if that is not proven in court, there are issues of possible pastoral indiscretion which the OCA may have to deal with or a failure to take seriously a complaint and investigate it.  Some aspects of the story and allegations were known about the time they occurred according the mother of the two men who claims to have contacted church authorities though not the police.    Unfortunately, the allegations were not investigated at that time, and those who knew of the allegations apparently did not follow through in dealing with them.  According to the news story, one of the men making the allegations now suffers from mental health problems – which may count against him in the eyes of a jury as the defense attorney attacks his credibility.  Whether the mental health problems preceded the alleged events or are somehow related to them may be another issue which must be determined.  Meanwhile the Archdiocese of  Canada has to suffer the trauma of watching its longtime leader be put on trial.  There are no winners in such cases for even if justice is done, there are still victims of abuse and in our fallen world there are abusers, even in church.  There is the difficult additional tragedy of a church which perhaps did not respond as well as it could to the allegations or how to handle them, the alleged victims or the alleged perpetrator.  Some aspects of the allegations were known almost 30 years ago, but only were brought to light 5-6 years ago.   Then there are also the family members of all those involved as well, and what they have suffered.   Many wounds to be tended to and many victims in need of care.  We do need at a minimum to pray for all that God might establish truth and justice on the road to His healing the wounds of all those hurt by these events.

Mathematics and Sexual Misconduct: 2/0 = ?

Zero Tolerance in clergy sexual misconduct will yield the impossibility of a second chance as a clergyman.  This is not because clergy sexual misconduct is the unforgiveable sin.  Rather it is because the second chance for clergy guilty of sexual misconduct is the opportunity to spend the remaining time of their life in repentance, which they obviously failed to do in their life as a clergyman.   We each are called by Christ to repentance.  Some are called to live out their repentance as clergy.  If they fail to live that repentant life and engage in sexual misconduct, they are given a second chance to live out their repentance away from the clerical office.   This is specifically true if one used one’s office and the power that comes with that office to create opportunities for sexual misconduct.

Years ago I heard a phrase used about alcoholics:  one drink is too many, two is not enough.   It of course deals with the notion that an alcoholic must avoid that first drink because once they’ve had it, they are already down a path in which no number of drinks can satiate the alcoholic.

The alcoholic’s life is a world in which “second chance” takes on a new meaning.  Giving the alcoholic a second chance cannot mean allowing them to drink one more time to see if they can control the drinking.  That’s known as enabling the alcoholism.  The second chance is giving them the opportunity to stay in your life because they are staying sober which means they are abstaining from alcohol.

This concept of a second chance makes sense to many when dealing with the alcoholic.  We learn that ‘second chance’ does not mean watching them drink to see if there will be a different result, but rather the second chance is watching to see if they will stay abstinent and  therefore sober on that day.  It is by their sobriety that they win back the trust of those around them.  This comes when they abdicate any claim that they be given chances to show they can drink and remain in control.  They admit they are really powerless and not able to control the drinking and so must surrender any claim to ever possessing this power to drink again.

It is this understanding of a second chance which we are also grappling with in the church in dealing with sexual misconduct.  We don’t put the person back in a position where they can abuse power to engage in sexual misconduct.  The sobriety they need is to keep them out of the position of being able to abuse power.  Sobriety for them means avoiding those situations in which temptation to engage in sexual misconduct can occur.  Clerical power can be intoxicating to some.

We see this idea that if one has abused power he/she should not be given that power back has gained acceptance in many places in our society.  One such organization is in the U.S. military.  The recent scandals involving prominent military leaders which led to their losing their commands is an example of what is socially expected.

Greg Myre of NPR in  What’s the Punishment for Adultery these Days? deals with public officials caught in a sex scandal.  Myre says the best way to deal with such scandal is for the guilty party to “Confess Before The Media Break The Story”.   Interesting advice for a non-sacramental organization, but certainly one would think an idea that church leaders would acknowledge and follow.  The worse thing to do according to crisis management experts is to deny the story.

Myre says the right thing for a public official to do after engaging in sexual misconduct is to resign immediately.  This is especially true if one is involved in a line of work which depends on public trust.  Myre writes:

“The military has to have ‘higher standards because of their need to trust each other and to lead people in very dangerous circumstances,’ Richard Kohn, who studies civilian-military relations at the University of North Carolina, told NPR’s Morning Edition.”

So too the church has to have such higher standards.  Myre’s conclusion is

“Once tarnished in a sex scandal, government officials and military officers need to find a new career.”

There is little doubt that the role of priest or bishop in the church involves public trust, and the church’s standards certainly should not be less than the standards of secular society.

Recently I read an email from attorney Bob Koory in which he described his own thoughts about the standards the church should hold for its clergy.  I liked the way he worded his thoughts and got his permission to quote the email here:

“My own view is that zero tolerance should mean zero tolerance.  The problem with anything less than that is in my view twofold:

First, the legal problem that you reference:  While as a practical matter, in my legal experience, an arbitrary decision is harder to defend in court than a reasoned decision, cases are always based upon 20-20 hindsight.  Bad decision, no matter how long debated or reasoned, are never easy to defend and can always be prosecuted on the basis that the Church simply looked away or through rose colored glasses because the cleric was a hierarch or priest of some standing.

Jurors in my experience apply a great deal of common sense and are likely to say that the best proof that it was a bad decision, or poorly reasoned decision, is that the perpetrator struck again.  I’m sure you would agree that it would not be hard to find an expert who would testify, with studies to support the testimony, that there was a significant possibility (probability) that the perpetrator would repeat his/her actions and the Church knew or should have know of that likelihood and should have taken such disciplinary action to insure that it would not happen, e.g., removal from employment or in the case of a cleric, suspension or defrocking.

Unfortunately, with respect to the legal concern, the perpetrator becomes in a way a walking time bomb, with those concerned about the possible victims and/or legal concerns, never knowing when it’s going to go off, but in the heart of hearts knowing that there is always the potential it will.

The second problem is the perception of the action view from within the Church.  While certainly one is inclined to recognize the reality that we are all sinners and likely to sin, and that we need “second chances”, in my view, the response of the Church must also recognize that since we are sinners we are constantly falling and getting up again. The problem is when a perpetrator does that he not only causes injury to a victim but also to the Church.  If it is a cleric, all clerics are tainted, and the Church itself suffers from the impression that once again the Church failed to act appropriately.

Moreover, many laity, using their common like experiences, are likely to conclude that if the cleric did the act and was caught, how many times did he do it and was not caught. We know that studies show that perpetrators usually have acted several (in some cases dozens or hundreds of times) before they are caught.  There is also the concern that once through therapy the perpetrator would simply resume his old behavior.

Finally is the view that some may hold of how can this perpetrator now speak to us of the sanctity of marriage or of the virtue of honesty.  This is where the concerns are that the act has now become an impediment to his priesthood.  That is not to say the person might not repent and become a great saint, but only that he should no longer do so as a cleric.  Many other professions have zero tolerance policies and for good reasons.”

The other mathematical truth of sexual misconduct is that anything less than zero tolerance tends to multiply the instances of misconduct and abuse.

“He who winks the eye causes trouble,

but he who boldly reproves makes peace.”

(Proverbs 10:10)

Links to my other blogs on church sexual misconduct can be found at Sexual Misconduct in the Church Blogs.

Blogs on Sexual Misconduct in the Church

For the past several years, I served on the OCA’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee.  That work has caused me to think about and pay attention to news about sexual misconduct in religious organizations and also in other secular institutions.  In that time I’ve written several blogs about sexual misconduct in the church.  Often these were reactions to things I read which I thought had implications for our life in the church and how we deal with sin and evil, especially among the bishops, priest and deacons of the church.  Below are links to many of these blogs.  They are listed approximately in chronological order with the oldest/earliest blogs at the bottom and more recent blogs at the top of the list.   The blogs offer little in terms of details about cases in the OCA as they were written generically to discuss church issues related to church sexual misconduct.  Confidentiality concerns mean I didn’t create a scandal blog to attract church scandal voyeurs who want to know the latest dirt.  The blogs were written to examine policy, standards and procedures, not as titillating but of more importance to the work of the Church.

Tempting Those With Power

Disturbing the Predator

Mathematics and Sexual Misconduct: 2/0 = ?

Diocese of the Midwest’s Discussion on Sexual Misconduct

Reflection on our Diocese – the Situation with Bishop Matthias

Saints, Sinners and Sexual Misconduct in the Church

Nothing Hurts

Love Beyond the Veil of Rain

Sexual Misconduct PSPs for Police and Priests

Boy Scouts: Lesson from Their Secret Files

Consequences for Clergy Sexual Misconduct and Consequences for Clergy Sexual Misconduct (II) 

Standards of Conduct for Clergy and Clergy Responsibility in Sexual Misconduct 

Freeh:  Institutional Failure to Deal with Sexual Abuse

The Limits of Dealing with Sexual Abuse in the Church

Lessons from Sexual Abuse Convictions

  Lessons Learned on Sexual Misconduct from Penn State

Clergy Sexual Abuse is also Child Endangering

Sexual Abuse in the Church: Lesson from the Roman Catholic Scandal

Sexual Abuse in the Church: The Converging of Church and State

Sexual Misconduct in the Church:  Where Truth, Justice and Wisdom Meet

Christian Sexual Abuse: Apostasy of the Worst Kind

Sexual Abuse in the Church

Taking a Page from the Old Coach’s Book

State Wants to Hold Bishop Accountable for Priest’s Misdeeds , Holding Bishops Accountable for Clergy Misconduct and In the Church, Not of the Church

Canonical Ordination and Deposition

Questioning God About Sex Abuse in the Church

Culture War Vs. Spiritual Warfare

Archbishop Seraphim of Canada Arrested

Allegations and Accusations

Celibacy and Sobriety

Episcopal Celibacy and Residency

Love Beyond the Veil of Rain

For the last several years I have worked on the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee, wrestling, with others in the church, over the painful existence of clergy sexual misconduct.  Sometimes we wrestle together with issues, sometimes with each other in disagreement.  At times for me dealing with the issues has felt ‘soul destroying’: what some victims – who also happen to be my fellow church members – have suffered in sexual abuse and then suffered additionally by the attitude (including hostility, judgmentalism, callous indifference) of others in the church toward them.  Below is a poem taken from a fiction story written originally in Russian about a deacon in the church who reported the sexual misconduct of his bishop and was then punished for being a whistle-blower.


Vassily Borisevitch, Liège, 1981.                                                                                        Translated by Dr Nikita J Eike

[Note from the translator: This poem is part of a short story called ‘The Visit’ that addresses the issue of sexual abuse in the Church.  It comes at a point in the story where the Deacon having spoken up about a child being molested by his bishop, is defrocked and has to work in a coal mine to support his family.  Eventually  an explosion has him trapped below the surface for days where he slowly dies.  He is the whistle-blower who suffers at the hands of Church rulers who have failed to become shepherds and who have turned  those who should have been their beloved flock, into the impersonal mass of ‘the governed’. ]

My heart is a suffering stone,

Lying helpless behind a gossamer of rain,

Drops forming a watery veil,

As impenetrable as the iron wall that stills the wind in my soul.


My pain grows ever sharper,

I am dying a loveless life,

Screams that never can pierce the silence,

Muffled behind a veil of rain.


My tears are raindrops that never fell,

Cried for a heart that never moved,

Poured for hands that never worked,

On a soul that never rose.


My mind was formed by the hopeless,

Who blinded my eye that never saw,

Desperate my heart refusing to forget,

To hope for the Love Who lives beyond the veil of rain.


My feet will follow the exile of the governed,

Who bear with arms outstretched the lusts of their rulers,

Swift the arrow: the whistle die,

My life bleeds out between my soul and my God…


 And the silence fell to the ground a large ruby red teardrop.

One of the most painful images for me in the above poem is exactly when the deacon sees his fellow Christian church members, not as the beloved flock of the Good Shepherd, but as “the governed.”  When the Church sees its membership not as fellow baptized members of the Body of Christ, but only as those to be governed – lorded over – it has ceased to be Church but becomes nothing but another human institution intent on controlling its unruly subjects.  The power in the Church is not ‘over’ others, but our willingness to love, co-suffer with and for, others.

The next blog is verse I penned about my own thoughts and feelings about clergy sexual abuse and the attitudes I’ve seen in the church toward abusers and the abused.

Next:  Nothing Hurts


Boy Scouts: Lessons from their Secret Files

Stories of how the Boy Scouts organization dealt with sexual abuse through the past decades are now surfacing as their secret files have been made public.  While there are many stories being published, this blog is going to quote from a story that appeared in my local paper, The DAYTON DAILY NEWS.

My interest in the story is not so much about the Boy Scouts and that institution but more the implications, if any, for how the Church deals with sexual misconduct.  What we see in the news about the BSA,   as in the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky case, sexual abuse can occur wherever there are kids present.  it is not religious institutions which have a penchant for child sex abuse but rather predators find their way to organizations where they can have access to children.  The temptation and tendency by institutional leaders to protect the institution and downplay the problems is prevalent in church and non-church institutions.

I am quoting from the Dayton Daily News story, Boy Scout Files Reveal Local Abuse.    (I have added the red highlight in the text to emphasize the part of the quote that I thought has implications for the Church’s handling of sexual misconduct).

The files reveal that some alleged pedophiles across the country and locally continued in scouting even after allegations were leveled against them. In several cases, community leaders such as judges and pastors helped keep the name of scouting out of the courts or the media, according to an Associated Press review of the files.

At the time, those authorities justified their actions as necessary to protect the good name and good works of Scouting, a pillar of 20th century America.”

The fact that scouting leaders were allowed to continue in positions even after allegations emerged against them is shocking and yet sadly is a common story told about the church and other institutions as well.  NOTE:  it is considered shocking that ALLEGED pedophiles were kept in positions after allegations were leveled against them.  Never mind convicted pedophiles.  The mere fact that men were allowed to keep working in the BSA after allegations were made is shocking to the author of the article as it is to current public sentiment.  Once allegations are made, organizations are expected to take action – not wait to see if the allegations are substantiated.  The protection of children trumps the protection of the reputation of the leaders.    Standards now call for such people to be removed from contact with the kids immediately following an allegation and during the duration of a full investigation.   Organizations are expected to have policies and mechanisms in place for dealing with allegations which include removing the accused from contact with children.

According to the news article, “good” people felt it necessary to protect the name of the BSA and so they worked to prevent the stories from being made public rather than warning the public about the stories.   This has become completely unacceptable to the police and the public.  Civil lawsuits in many church cases have gone against church organizations precisely because they failed to warn their members about suspected pedophiles.

To protect the good name of the church or the organization has too often been why the church and other institutions failed to be transparent about such allegations.  That is also listed as a reason why action was not taken in the Penn State case according to the Freeh commission.  It may be that at one time people saw as “good intention” efforts to prevent stories of sexual abuse from becoming public knowledge.  Such efforts to conceal these crimes today is seen as criminal itself.

“At a news conference Thursday, Portland attorney Kelly Clark blasted the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to try to keep the files secret.

You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children,’ said Clark, who in 2010 won a landmark lawsuit against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s.”

The protection of the public from evil and harm is expected to be part of the mission of the church and every public institution.  No matter what PR problems it may cause, the Church must be transparent about sexual misconduct in the church, especially related to children.  We cannot withhold from the public information that might help protect children.  Rather, the Church must find ways to go public with what it knows about sexual abuse and to actively seek witnesses and information about sexual abuse it suspects within the church.  Current standards would say it is not enough for a church to acknowledge one of its clergy engaged in sexual misconduct.  Now the church is expected to publicly ask anyone with information regarding sexual misconduct to come forward.  The institution may fear such an invite exposes the church to further bad publicity and to further liability if more allegations come forward.  The Church especially should live by the notion that God is not mocked – we cannot hide our misdeeds from Him, and neither should we attempt to conceal criminal behavior in the church for in doing this we expose more people to harm.

In many instances — more than a third, according to the Scouts’ own count — police weren’t told about the reports of abuse. And even when they were, sometimes local law enforcement still did nothing, seeking to protect the name of Scouting over their victims.”

The OCA’s policies do require that proper civil authorities be informed when sexual abuse involves children or whenever the law would require a report to be made.  Church leaders, including parish priests, teachers and parish council members, have to make themselves familiar with state laws to know when and what to report.  Not tolerating any instances of sexual misconduct is the best offense against them.

“The documents reveal that on many occasions the files succeeded in keeping pedophiles out of Scouting leadership positions — the reason why they were collected in the first place. But the files are also littered with horrific accounts of alleged pedophiles who were able to continue in Scouting because of pressure from community leaders and local Scouts officials.”

People don’t want to believe that someone who is “such a good man” could do sexual abuse.  People don’t want the name of the institution besmirched.  There are many reasons why people might pressure others to be silent.   Lesson learned is that all allegations must be taken seriously – which means investigated with written reports recorded about their findings.

“The files also document other troubling patterns. There is little mention in the files of concern for the welfare of Scouts who were abused by their leaders, or what was done for the victims. But there are numerous documents showing compassion for alleged abusers, who were often times sent to psychiatrists or pastors to get help.”

OUCH.   Compassion for the abusers but not for the victims.  Especially in the church there is a pressure and tendency to “forgive” the abusers while paying less attention to the victims.

We see how institutions of all kinds, not just church ones, respond in similar ways to reports of abuse:  protect the institution, shield the big names within the institution, don’t let people know about the abuse to prevent others from being scandalized.   Even if these were acceptable ideas at one time, they are no longer acceptable nor do they represent any standard of behavior for institutions and organizations.  Church leaders have to commit themselves to bringing the church up to the standards of the day.

Clergy Responsibility in Sexual Misconduct

In the previous blog, Standards of Conduct for Clergy, we saw that the OCA has endeavored in its Policy, Standards and Procedures to set out the case that all clergy bear a special moral burden due to the fact that their position in the church and society places them in a role of power vis- a-vis others in the church, whether these others are members or not.   Clergy must consciously keep themselves aware of the power inherent in their position for when they forget that power they become at risk to abuse or misuse it.  The OCA’s PSP state:

 “No member of the clergy shall use or exploit his position in connection with his sexual or emotional needs or desires.”

Every human has emotional needs and desires.  Clergy who allow their own emotional needs or desires to take control of their lives are at risk for engaging in sexual misconduct precisely because their role gives them “power” in a relationship.  Even if they are personally unaware of their own psycho-sexual drives, clergy who exploit their position to meet their own emotional and sexual needs and desires are engaging in sexual misconduct.   While the PSP forbids such behavior, it cannot stop an individual from acting.  That is why there has to be disciplinary measures taken against those clergy who cannot or will not control their own desires and needs.  Because the clergy role is always one of power, it is better that those who cannot control their sexual and emotional needs (or who are controlled by them)  be removed from a clerical position by church discipline so that they do not harm others.  The PSP further states:

“Members of the clergy should be aware of and not disregard any signs of sexual boundary breakdown in relationships with others.”

The burden for maintaining relational and sexual boundaries thus fall on the clergy themselves.  It is the clergy themselves who bear the responsibility and the consequences should they disregard or ignore the sexual boundaries that must be maintained between clergy and those with whom they work in the church.  This is the “special moral burden” of the clergy.   The “power” the clergy has in its relationship with others, is not simply ‘over’ the lives of others, but is also exhibited through self-control, self-restraint and self-denial.  Again, if the clergy cannot control themselves and exceed the necessary sexual and emotional boundaries between themselves and others in the church, then the Church itself must step in and place disciplinary controls on the clergy, including suspension and permanently removing them from office.   The PSP implies that each clergyman himself is responsible for violations of the moral boundaries between himself and others:

“Any member of the clergy who finds himself at risk of probable acts of sexual misconduct in response to an inappropriate sexual or romantic attraction or impulse, or for any other reason, shall immediately seek counsel and pastoral guidance from an individual trained and experienced in the field.”

This of course assumes the clergyman has enough self-awareness and emotional maturity to recognize that he is crossing the lines and boundaries of appropriate behavior between a clergyman and others in the church.  Again, if the man shows himself not exhibiting such self-awareness and restraint, it is the duty of the Church to remove that person from office in order to protect the welfare of others in the church.  It is never pleasant for the Church to have to remove a bishop, priest or deacon from office, but it is the moral obligation of the Church as institution to take such actions to protect the public, all church members, the dignity of the clergy, and thus the Church itself.

None of this is exactly new.   One can look at the so-called Arabic Canons attributed to the Council of Nicea (325AD)  to see that problems of clergy sexual misconduct occurred in ancient times as well.  Canon IV comments  on the cohabitation of women with celibate bishops, presbyters, and deacons:

We decree that bishops shall not live with women; nor shall a presbyter who is a widower; neither shall they escort them; nor be familiar with them, nor gaze upon them persistently.  And the same decree is made with regard to every celibate priest, and the same concerning such deacons as have no wives.  And this is to be the case whether the woman be beautiful or ugly, whether a young girl or beyond the age of puberty, whether great in birth, or an orphan taken out of charity under pretext of bringing her up.  For the devil with such arms slays religious, bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and incites them to the fires of desire.  But if she be an old woman, and of advanced age, or a sister, or mother, or aunt, or grandmother, it is permitted to live with these because such persons are free from all suspicion of scandal.

Bishops and other celibate clergy are forbidden not just from having sex with women, but from escorting women, or being familiar with them or gazing persistently upon them.   Really these celibate clergy are not to keep company with woman, nor establish friendships with them.   The burden is on the clergymen – this is the cross he must bear himself, or leave the clergy or be removed from the clerical ranks by the Church.  The punishment for violating the canon will fall on the clergymen.  While this particular canon deals with celibate clergy, we can extrapolate from one such canon a moral sense that applies to married clergy as well.  “For the devil with such arms slays religious, bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and incites them to the fires of desire.”   The fires of desire which the devil incites can be heterosexual or homosexual or pedophile.  To be overcome by those desires for a clergyman means to have lost his ability to continue as a clergy.   All clergy must be “free from all suspicion of scandal.”  That too is part of the special moral burden which clergy bear.

The OCA’s PSP on clergy sexual misconduct do follow modern sensitivities and high standards of conduct.  For example, the PSP forbids not only sexual abuse but also sexual harassment:

“Sexual harassment means any unwelcome written, spoken, or physical sexual advance or conduct; … and any use or exploitation, by a layperson, of a supervisory position or other position of authority in connection with such person’s sexual or emotional needs or desires.”

It is clergy who have to lead the way in stopping sexual harassment in society. Whereas sexual harassment may not have been a recognized form of misconduct in the ancient world, it is not only considered immoral, it is illegal in our society.

Sexual Harassment:   It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Clergy should be setting the standards that others can follow.  This includes such things as   lewd jokes, sexually suggestive text messages and emails, comments demeaning of a gender, inappropriate contact or other forms of communications which might make others feel uncomfortable.

Clergy are forbidden from attempting to develop a sexual relationship with someone with whom they have a pastoral relationship.  Again the PSP is clear this is a clergy responsibility and the clergyman is the one who bears the blame and all disciplinary consequences for his failure in self-control.   It is the clergyman who must maintain awareness of and control of his own sexual and emotional needs and not allow them to influence his behavior toward any other person in the church.  As the OCA’s PSP on Sexual Misconduct states:

“Pastoral sexual abuse means the initiation, continuation, or pursuit of a sexual relationship by clergy involving a person with whom he has a pastoral relationship even if the relationship is consensual, or the use or exploitation of his position in connection with his sexual or emotional needs or desires.”

See also Consequences for Clergy Sexual Misconduct in the OCA

Standards of Conduct for Clergy

Because I have served for the last several years on the OCA’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee, I get asked occasionally questions about our policies and whether or not the OCA follows its own policies.

As with the policies of any institution, there is always a give and take debate about how broadly or narrowly policies are to be interpreted (and applied).

For those who are interested in understanding the OCA’s policies on sexual misconduct in the church, you can read them on the OCA’s webpage:   PSP of the OCA on Sexual Misconduct.

For those who want to avoid wading through the entire document, you can read below the  Standards of Conduct for Clergy which do currently govern how the OCA officially understands the issue of sexual misconduct for clergy.  These policies were originally adopted by the Synod of Bishops in 2003 so at this point in our history really should be the standard operating procedures for the OCA and should be ingrained in the thinking of the bishops and the chancery staff.

5.01. Canonical Obligations: Those set apart for ordained ministry bear a particular responsibility to pattern their lives after Jesus’ example. Members of the clergy have obligations to the Church, their Bishop, and those in their pastoral care that derive from their ordination. Nothing herein diminishes or changes those responsibilities and obligations.

5.02. Basic Prohibition: No member of the clergy shall commit, attempt to commit, or engage in any act of sexual misconduct.

5.03. Pastoral Authority: Members of the clergy, by their position, have an inherent power over others. That power, whether or not acknowledged by clergy or believed to exist by the others, creates a difference between themselves and the laity that places a special moral burden on the clergy. No member of the clergy shall use or exploit his position in connection with his sexual or emotional needs or desires.

5.04. Avoidance and Precautions: Members of the clergy should be aware of and not disregard any signs of sexual boundary breakdown in relationships with others. They also should be aware that there could be sexually aggressive people who could initiate improper relationships. Members of the clergy shall at all times take precautionary measures to avoid inappropriate behavior that could lead to sexual misconduct.

5.05. Counseling and Assistance: Any member of the clergy who finds himself at risk of probable acts of sexual misconduct in response to an inappropriate sexual or romantic attraction or impulse, or for any other reason, shall immediately seek counsel and pastoral guidance from an individual trained and experienced in the field. With approval of the Bishop, the costs thereof shall be paid or reimbursed by the diocese.

5.06. Cooperation and Discipline: All members of the clergy who are respondents in matters involving alleged sexual misconduct shall cooperate fully with all reviews and investigations; shall provide full, complete, and truthful information; and shall accept and abide by all recommendations and discipline that may result from the matter.

None of the above is any secret, it is posted on the OCA’s webpage as official policy, so we should be able to expect that the OCA will live up to and follow its own standards in dealing with allegations and in dealing with those clergy who violate the standards of conduct for clergy.


Next:  Clergy Responsibility in Sexual Misconduct

Freeh: Institutional Failure to Deal with Sexual Abuse

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh led an independent committee investigation into the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University involving convicted sex felon Jerry Sandusky.  They published a Report today with their findings which were very critical of the climate and culture at the University which enabled the sexual abuse to continue for several years.

My interest is not so much in Penn State or the university culture in general.  Rather I take an interest in those elements of these investigations that have, at least in my mind, some relevance to the church and church administration in dealing with issues of sexual abuse.  The Penn St. case taught us that sexual abuse exists not only in the Roman Catholic Church, but rather is a societal and human problem.  Every institution, including the institutional organizations of the Orthodox church need to take a look at themselves regarding their own culture and climate regarding sexual abuse allegations.   How we deal with problems that exist within the organization has bearing on whether sexual abuse is exposed and stopped when it is first detected, or whether the attitudes of the institution enable abuse clandestinely to continue.

What follows is a section from the official report, which does have application to and implication for church organizations.  We can substitute church equivalents for the university structures and personnel mentioned in the Report to get an idea how the church would look to independent investigators dealing with an abuse scandal.  The  Report says:

The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity Is the most significant, but not the only, cause for the failure to protect child victims and report to authorities.  The investigation also revealed:

A striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims by the most senior leaders of the University.

A failure by the Board to exercise its oversight functions in 1998 and 2001 by not having regular reporting procedures or committee structures in place to ensure disclosure to the Board of major risks to the University.

A failure by the Board to make reasonable inquiry in 2011 by not demanding details from Spanier and the General Counsel about the nature and direction of the grand jury investigation and the University’s response to the investigation.

A President who discouraged discussion and dissent.

A lack of awareness of child abuse issues, the Clery Act, and whistleblower policies and protections.

A decision by Spanier, Schultz, Paterno, and Curley to allow Sandusky to retire in 1999, not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State legacy….

A football program that did not full participate in, or opted out of some University programs, including Clery Act compliance. … the football program had not been trained in their Clery Act responsibilities….

A culture of reverence for their football program that is ingrained in all levels of the campus community.

Mr. Freeh in his verbal report also said the University’s Board, “despite its duties of care and oversight of the University and its Officers – failed to create an environment which held the University’s most senior leaders accountable to it.”  The University’s president “resisted the Board’s attempt to have more transparency.”    Additionally the PSU Board “failed in its duty to make reasonable inquiry into these serious matters and to demand action by the President.”  The senior PSU officers failed to “make timely, thorough and forthright reports of these 1998 and 2001 allegations to the Board. This was a failure of governance for which the Board must also bear responsibility.”

Again, we in the church can learn from this report.  All we need to do is substitute the word “church” for “university” and put the appropriate church words/organizations/personnel in the place of the university structures and we see how it applies to church administration.

The University’s fear of bad publicity was one factor that caused it to avoid exposing the scandal.  This is a destructive temptation that every organization faces:  people will think badly of us if they find out about the scandal, so lets minimize what people find out.  This strategy backfires when the scandal becomes known and people are enraged to discover that not only did the organization fail to deal with the scandal, but it also tried to cover it up.

The church faces its own particular complication in dealing with these issues in that historically, traditionally and canonically, the church invested power in individual clergy or hierarchs, rather than in church boards.   But church organizations which are incorporated in North America, also have to answer to laws which govern corporations.   These laws as pointed out in the PSU report place much responsibility not just on the senior officers of the institution (bishops or clergy  for example) but also on the boards (or councils) which have corporate legal duties to fulfill.  Any individuals or boards which have supervisory responsibilities within the institution are going to be called to account for whether they did the appropriate supervision.   This may in the church produce clashes at times about who is accountable for the failure to deal properly with abuse problems.   This is where the church must continue to work on having clear Policies, Standards and Procedures.  For though the church is not of the world, it is in the world and does answer to civil authorities in North America.

On all levels of the church, from parish, to the diocese, to the jurisdictional authority, officers and boards have legal and fiscal responsibilities to perform their duties in dealing with issues of sexual abuse and criminal activity.  The courts themselves and juries have become increasingly impatient with the failure of religious institutions in doing due diligence in investigating allegations, in meting out appropriate discipline, and in protecting children from abuse.  These are lessons for which all of us in the church need to take notice, and to exercise our appropriate spiritual and legal duties.  Ignorance is no excuse.

The Limits of Dealing with Sexual Abuse in the Church

My blog is where I write my reflections on things I’ve read that have seemed important to me.  Sometimes I simply quote what I read without saying what the significance is to me.

Having done some work on my church’s policies and procedures related to sexual misconduct in the church, I did find a couple of questions and answers posted by Rachel Zoll of The Associated Press dated June 24, 2012, to be pertinent.

She wrote about the Philadelphia Roman Catholic monsignor who was convicted of child endangering for failing to do enough to prevent child abuse in Priest’s conviction is a first, will more follow?

The existence of sexual abuse within the church raises many questions for which the church needs to respond.  Two questions which Zoll addressed seemed particularly interesting to me:

Q: Why is it so difficult to successfully prosecute bishops and other church leaders who mishandled abuse claims?

A: Most of the abuse cases that have come to light in recent years involve allegations of wrongdoing from decades ago — far beyond the statutes of limitation for criminal charges and often for civil lawsuits. Since 2002, when the scandal broke wide open with one case in the Archdiocese of Boston, a few prosecutors have struck deals with local dioceses to avoid indictment, and eight grand juries have investigated how local dioceses responded to abuse claims. All the grand jury reports found evidence that church officials consistently protected accused clergy more than children. However, only one such report found enough evidence within time limits to prosecute a diocesan official: the Philadelphia grand jury investigation last year that led to Lynn’s conviction.

Q: If government authorities can’t prosecute the diocesan officials, can’t the church at least hold them responsible?

A: The toughened child safety policy the bishops enacted in 2002 contains a discipline plan for abusive priests, but not for the bishops who failed to report them to police. Only the pope has authority over bishops, and none has been forced out for mishandling abuse cases from decades ago.

A list of other blogs I’ve posted on church sexual misconduct with links to them can be found at Blogs on Church Sexual Misconduct.