Clergy-Laity Seminar Focuses on Molestation Cases

Author: Theodore Kalmoukos
Date Published: 08/07/2004
Publication: The National Herald

NEW YORK — An important seminar on the issue of child molestation by Greek Orthodox priests was held in New York last week during the Clergy-Laity Congress. The National Herald has reported in recent issues that in the past three years the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has borrowed a total of $1.5 million for legal compensation for molestation victims. The Herald has also been told that the Archdiocese has established special regulations in order to deal with the issue.

At the seminar, Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver said that, until a few years ago, it was the Church that decided if someone was fit to become a priest. “Today we have to refer to psychologists. Psychological profiles form the criteria in order for someone to enter the priesthood and the role of spiritual fathers has been reduced,” he said. A Denver priest named Gabriel Barrow was recently accused of child molestation during his past service at the Antiochian Archdiocese. On the issue of when an investigation into a particular accusation should begin, Met. Isaias said that a priest should be given, “a leave of absence.” The Metropolitan said that accusers often have other problems in their lives and that their motives should be examined as well. “The Greek Orthodox Church, ” he added, “has a just system of dealing with such cases, on its first-, second- and third-level spiritual courts.” Bishop Savas of Troas, whose Archdiocesan office deals with molestation cases, argued that it is hard to investigate an accusation when it is made anonymously and pointed out that although the Church is concerned about the victims, it is also obligated to maintain a priest’s, “presumed innocence until he is proven guilty.” “In the case of an underage victim, we immediately report the issue to the authorities,” added the Bishop. He then revealed that such an accusation has occurred, “once or twice,” and that a suspect priest, “is immediately placed on a leave of absence from performing any service.”

Also discussed at the seminar was the issue of founding an evaluation committee for dealing with child molestation cases. Archimandrite Gabriel Karambis suggested that the person overseeing the hiring of the committee members should be a priest.