The recent sad news about Fr. Michael Pappas of San Francisco admitting infidelity and leaving his position as a priest, also contained the ironic information that he had been a member of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s (GOA) Advisory Board on Clergy Sexual Misconduct.
It may be too early to know just how this matter will turn out, although his bishop, Metropolitan Gerasimos, while expressing deep sadness, also said he would be moving toward Spiritual Court and defrocking for Fr. Pappas.
In the meantime, the question can be raised: what about the Advisory Board? What do we know about it and what has it been doing? The short answer is that we know little about it and, from what we know, it has been doing virtually nothing.
The Board was established by the GOA’s 2002 policy on Clergy Sexual Misconduct, and an introductory session was held at that year’s Clergy-Laity Congress. However, it took at least a year for most of the several members to be appointed, and by mid-2004 there had only been two meetings, and the names of the members had still not been made public. In February 2005, the GOA, in its official paper, the Orthodox Observer, proudly headlined: “Six Distinguished Members Comprise Clergy Sexual Misconduct Advisory Board”. A highly-credentialed psychiatrist, certified in adolescent psychiatry, was one of those named, and, Fr. Pappas was one of two priests appointed.
The last of the few meetings that the Board has held was in the summer of 2006.
There have been at least three Metropolitans who have served as chairmen of the Board. The guidelines called for at least one bishop and at least one other clergyman as members, but did not say that a bishop had to be the chairman. One might think that with Metropolitans as chairmen, much would be accomplished, but it appears that exactly the opposite has been true.
In a May 2007 conversation with Metropolitan Isaiah, who served as one of the chairmen, he told me that he had not been clear about the role of the Board and said he was surprised when one of the members wrote to him asking when the next meeting would be held. He left the chairmanship without explanation, although there had been calls for his stepping aside by two abuse victims’ organizations, SNAP