Metropolitan Jonah presides at review of sexual misconduct issues, policies

On August 24, 2009, a meeting took place at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America to discuss issues related to how the Church addresses cases of sexual misconduct.

Metropolitan Jonah presides at review of sexual misconduct Issues, policiesHis Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, presided at the day-long meeting, attended by the Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs, Chancellor; the Very Rev. Eric Tosi, Secretary; the Very Rev. Michael Matsko; the Very Rev. Theodore Bobosh; Protodeacon Peter Danilchick; Attorney James Spencer; and the OCA’s General Counsel Thaddeus Wojcik.

The meeting opened with a review of the history of the OCA’s development of policies and procedures in response to sexual misconduct cases. Noted were the contributions of previous personnel, including the Very Rev. Alexey Karlgut and the late Matushka Ellen Gvosdev, who was credited with special contributions. This was followed by a discussion of how to improve both the content and effectiveness of the Church’s current Policies, Standards, and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct, which represents the sequential accumulation of previous policies. Discussions led to the recognition that a number of specific areas need to be addressed, including the following:

  • The extent to which the Church’s policies, standards, and procedures have been implemented in practice and how compliance with them is ensured.
  • The need for the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations, under the authority of the Primate of the Church and responsible to the Holy Synod, to find and designate qualified professionals, who would be called on to do investigations when occasions arise.
  • While complaints formerly had to be made in writing in order for an investigation to begin, non-written allegations should also be investigated.
  • Training for clergy and Church employees should be increased and improved, so that there is a better understanding of their duties under the Policies, Standards and Procedures, including their mandatory reporting obligations under various state laws.
  • Alleged victims of sexual misconduct should not be required to release claims against the Church in order to have their allegations investigated.
  • Any retaliation against a person or persons reporting allegations of sexual misconduct will be explicitly prohibited in the Policies, Standards and Procedures.

Metropolitan Jonah presides at review of sexual misconduct Issues, policiesThe meeting participants agreed that the complexity of sexual misconduct allegations requires a multi-dimensional awareness of issues and skills in various disciplines and that allegation of misconduct must be considered from several perspectives — spiritually, ethically, legally, clinically as well as pastorally. They also agreed that the overlapping and interrelation between these disciplines can best be handled by a team approach. With that fact in mind, Metropolitan Jonah stated his desire to create a standing Review Committee to assist him and the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations. A final determination on this will be made by the Holy Synod of Bishops.

Discussions concluded with a review of several pending cases of sexual misconduct allegations.

A full report on the meeting will be presented to the Holy Synod meeting on September 1-3, 2009.