A Reflection on the Patriarchate of Antioch and the Recent Roman Catholic Sex Scandal
Many have expressed concern over the recent decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch to revert all diocesan bishops to auxiliaries. This concern is justified, especially considering the now infamous email of ‘Abdallah Khouri’ and its allegation that Metropolitan Philip was directly involved in the decision through bribery. (Read that story here) Perhaps more disturbing, however, is that another aspect of Abdallah Khouri’s email has gone largely unnoticed even though it is at least equally as serious as the Synod’s recent decision.
What could be more disturbing than bribery used to make a power grab?
The answer: The relocation and reinstatement of Bishop Demetri Khoury.
This reinstatement has been documented by Pokrov.org (here), a website that dedicates itself to tracking Orthodox clerics who are sex offenders.
For those who do not recall, Bishop Demetri pled guilty in February 2004 of ‘attempted fourth degree sexual misconduct’ and spent 28 days in jail. As part of his sentence he was also required to register as a sex offender. If he had not pled guilty to this lesser charge, he was facing a certain conviction on a felony charge of sexual misconduct which could have carried a sentence of two years in prison. Subsequent to his conviction, Bishop Demetri also confessed to having an alcohol problem and was required by the Archdiocese to seek professional treatment.
Bishop Demetri should have been deposed both for the actions themselves and also for the public scandal it brought upon the Archdiocese. However, as an act of mercy, he was allowed to merely retire and work for the Archdiocese in a non-hierarchical capacity. But this wasn’t enough for certain loyalists to Bishop Demetri (especially those from the Detroit area who have publicly expressed smug satisfaction at the recent decision by the Holy Synod). These priests, who resented the loss of their Bishop and his subsequent replacement (Bishop Mark), have not ceased to make noise and create problems in an attempt to get Demetri reinstated as an active bishop.
Thankfully, the local synod of bishops blocked an attempt by the Metropolitan to have Bishop Demetri, a registered sex offender, reinstated here in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. But what happened instead?
He has been reinstated in Mexico.
And so I am left with the question: How is this any different than the actions of many dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in conjunction with their recent sexual scandals? I have heard some of my brother Orthodox express time and again “how glad they are that the Orthodox Church does not handle these scandals in the same way that the Catholic Church does”. And yet what was the most offensive part of the Catholic Church’s scandals? Rather than deposing or suspending priests that were implicated in sex offenses, they merely moved them to other dioceses where no one knew of their past histories.
What has the Antiochian Church done?
Move a convicted and registered sex offender into another diocese in another country where few, if any, knew of his history.
This in itself raises another important question.
Bishop Demetri was on the Archdiocesan payroll when in retirement here in the United States. Is there any indication that this is no longer the case? It is quite possible that he remains on the payroll even while serving as an active bishop in another country. Of course, there is no way to support or refute this speculation because there continues to be no accountability for what the Archdiocese does with its funds. External audits have been suggested in the past but have been firmly opposed by Englewood.
Financial accountability is absolutely necessary if the people of the Archdiocese are going to have any assurance that their hard-earned monies are going to good causes – and not to bribery and/or support of a sex-offender in a foreign land.
May God guide us in this difficult time,
– A deeply troubled Antiochian clergyman