Clergy Abuse Support Group Calls on Greek Bishop to Resign as Tribunal Chair

Author: Melanie Jula Sakoda
Date Published: 07/06/2004
Publication: Pokrov.org

A national clergy abuse support group says that a Denver Greek Orthodox bishop should not be responsible for the ecclesiastical court that will hear charges against a priest, since the bishop’s own actions in this case are in question. The group is also disturbed by the bishop’s recent appointment as the chairman of the clergy sexual misconduct advisory board of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA).

Leaders of Pokrov.org (a support group for Orthodox Christian abuse victims) are writing to Metropolitan Isaiah to urge him to pass the case of Father Gabriel Barrow on to another bishop and to resign from the GOA’s clergy sexual misconduct advisory board.

Metropolitan Isaiah oversees the Denver diocese of the GOA, which includes some 50 churches in an area from Montana to Texas. His title, Metropolitan, is one given to some bishops.

“Metropolitan Isaiah left an accused molester, Father Gabriel Barrow, in active ministry for nearly four years, despite allegations of sexual misconduct against the priest,” said Melanie Jula Sakoda, a spokesperson for Pokrov. “If Metropolitan Isaiah remains in charge of this tribunal, it is not clear that the charges will receive a fair hearing.”

Barrow, a Houston TX cleric, was suspended earlier this year, but records show that Isaiah received written notice of allegations against the priest four years ago. At that time, Bishop Antoun of the Antiochian Archdiocese (AA) brought molestation complaints to the attention of Isaiah.

A GOA spiritual court is currently scheduled to hear Barrow’s case in Denver on July 12. SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) initially brought the case to public attention on April 29, 2004, after three men came forward making credible statements about being abused by Barrow in the 1970s. (Refer to SNAP press release that is included below.) At the time, Barrow was a priest at an Antiochian parish in Toledo, OH. Shortly after the SNAP press release, on May 1, 2004, Isaiah was appointed chairman of the GOA clergy sexual misconduct advisory board.

Since Houston media reports surfaced, more recent allegations against Barrow have been made. “If Metropolitan Isaiah remains head of the clergy sexual advisory board, victims will not feel comfortable coming forward and the panel’s effectiveness will be hurt,” said Sakoda.

Sakoda also added that anyone who witnessed, suspected or experienced abuse by Barrow, or who has information on how Isaiah handled the case should come forward. Reports can be made to Pokrov at 415-820-9645, or to SNAP at 877-762-7432.

Pokrov www.pokrov.org was founded in 1999 by three Orthodox women who wanted to see the problem of sexual abuse in Orthodox churches addressed. Pokrov is the Russian word for protection, and is a short hand way of referring to the Protection of the Theotokos (the Mother of God), the official name of the site. There are a dozen or more Orthodox jurisdictions in the U.S.

SNAP, a clergy abuse survivors support group, was founded in 1989 in Chicago. It now has more than 4,600 members in virtually every state, and monthly support group meetings in 54 cities.

His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver, 4550 East Alameda Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80246-1208, Tel: (303) 333-7794 • Fax: (303) 333-7796 Email: diocese@godenverdiocese.org Web site: www.denver.goarch.org

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For immediate release: Thursday Apr. 29, 2004

For more information: David Clohessy of St. Louis, National Director (314) 566-9790 cell Barbara Blaine of Chicago, President (312) 399-4747 cell

Orthodox Priest Accused of sexually molesting minors faces Church Tribunal

He Allegedly Victimized Boys In Ohio And Was Suspended of his duties as a Greek Orthodox Priest, in Webster Texas in January 2004

V. Rev. Archimandrite Gabriel Barrow was suspended as priest of St. John the Theologian Greek Orthodox Church in Webster, TX in January 2004. Barrow is accused of molesting at least three boys. He also serves as an Instructional Specialist with the Houston Independent School District

A church trial was set for April 26, 2004, in New York City, but has been postponed.

Three men have made credible statements to Greek Orthodox officials in New York, alleging that Barrow molested them in 1975-1977 while he was a priest at St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Toledo Ohio.

Leaders of the nation’s largest support group for clergy abuse victims today called on Orthodox Church leaders to aggressively reach out to anyone else who may have been victimized by Barrow.

“Men who prey on kids and vulnerable adults rarely stop,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis. He is the national director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It is crucial that church leaders publicize this case and urge anyone who was experienced, witnessed or suspected abuse by Barrow to contact police and prosecutors.”

Clohessy suggested that the denomination and the individual churches where Barrow worked make public announcements in church bulletins and on web sites, as well as make verbal announcements from the pulpit.

“Many victims stay trapped in silence, shame and self-blame,” said Clohessy. “Jesus taught us to reach out to the lost sheep. This is the moral and compassionate thing to do.”

Barrow was first accused of sexual misconduct in 1977 by a boy who recorded a telephone conversation with him, in which Barrow spoke about sexual relations with teens in his parish. The cassette tape was given to the Antiochian Orthodox Bishop in Toledo. Barrow was immediately suspended of his duties as St Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Toledo in 1977.

Sometime afterwards, Barrow moved back to his hometown of Houston. The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese reinstated him in the late 1980s and “loaned” him to the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver, SNAP believes.

In February 1998, one of Barrow’s victims reported that he was abused in 1975 to Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. Over the phone, Basil acknowledged that he was aware that Barrow had been accused of sexually molesting boys and was suspended in 1977. He stated Barrow was working in Texas in a Greek Orthodox Church, although he was still technically a priest of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. The Greek Orthodox and Antiochian Orthodox Church share common communion but are separate legal entities and have separate governing bodies and laws.

In May of 2000, the victim mentioned above and his mother met with auxiliary Bishop Antoun of the Antiochian Archdiocese in Englewood, NJ. Antoun acknowledged that Barrow was suspended in the late 1970s. He stated that Barrow had received therapy and it was deemed “healed” of his pedophilia. He stated that the Antiochian Archdiocese had released him to the Greek Archdiocese, and thus no longer bore any responsibility to act to have him removed from the priesthood. He refused to call the Greek Orthodox Archbishop. He stated that the Greek Orthodox bishops had had full access to Barrow’s file and were aware that he had sexually molested minors in the mid to late 1970s. Subsequently, Bishop Antoun wrote to Bishop Isaiah of the Greek Orthodox Dioceses of Denver, and copied Archbishop Demetrios, stating that Barrow was accused of sexually molesting a minor. Bishop Isaiah took no known action.

In August of 2003, a second victim came forward and wrote a letter to Bishop Savas, the Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in New York. Seven months later, Barrow was suspended.

Civil and criminal charges against Barrow have not been filed.