Also Missing From the Reporting on the GOA Clergy-Laity Congress: The Sexual Misconduct Issue

Author: Paul Cromidas
Date Published: 09/25/2002
Publication: Pokrov

In what can be seen as ongoing disrespect for the faithful, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, in its official paper, the Orthodox Observer, gave only a brief, general report about the charter discussions and motions at the Clergy-Laity Congress. This despite the fact that the charter was the dominant topic of business at the July Congress.

It is not surprising, then, that there was also no reporting about the sexual misconduct matter, even though it was a prominent subject in the Congress’ Finance Committee, and a separate workshop was devoted to it. These omissions illustrate once again how the Archdiocese suppresses information about important matters.

It should be recalled, also, that just prior to the Congress, the Archdiocese had issued its new policy on clergy sexual misconduct. In announcing that policy, it emphasized how serious it would be about this matter, especially in light of the flood of news about the Catholic abuse cases.

Perhaps the most surprising information on this subject at the Congress, came from the Finance Committee. There it was revealed that as of August 2002, the Archdiocese would no longer have insurance coverage for sexual misconduct, and would set aside monies in order to become self-insured. If this isn’t important enough for the faithful to know about, what is? It was also reported by the Archdiocese’s finance staff that unexpected monetary settlements for misconduct cases could drain on an already-tight budget.

At the workshop, provisions of the new policy were outlined and discussed by Attorney Cathy Buffides Walsh of the Archdiocese legal staff. The head table included the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Bishop Savas, whose office oversees the policy, and Emanuel Demos, legal counsel. About 75 people attended, most of them clergy. Neither the Archbishop nor any of the Metropolitans made an appearance. There was some apprehension about just how the policy would work. Ms. Walsh said that it would have to be in place for a time to properly assess it. She said that it could be revised, as necessary, and that an advisory committee could make further recommendations, based on experience. The Archdiocese policy established an 800-number that people may call with questions, or to register a complaint about misconduct. One priest expressed concern about clergy vulnerability to possible false accusations. This writer questioned the credibility of the Archdiocese in calling the policy “updated”, when no earlier version had ever been presented to the faithful.

Ms. Walsh also introduced a delegate whose daughter had been molested by a Greek Orthodox priest in 1997. This priest has since been defrocked. The woman gave a moving summary of her family’s ordeal. At the close of the workshop, several priests and others gathered around and offered her their support and concern.

Unless it was missed in one of the newspapers, the misconduct matter at the Congress was also not covered in the Greek-American press, even though one paper had praised the Archdiocese not long before for having misconduct insurance! Another reason why an alert press might have reported on this subject is that it was probably the first Congress where this issue was openly discussed. (Two years ago at the closing session of the 2000 Congress, this writer briefly urged the Archdiocese to address the misconduct issue, and to work on a policy). Over the years, this subject has been largely covered-up by the Archdiocese and by a “protective” ethnic press. In view of the continuing lack of news coverage cited above, it would appear that there hasn’t been much progress, after all.

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(Mr. Cromidas is a retired Family Service agency executive director and has taught sociology. He has served as a parish council president, and is a board member of OCL).