Consequences for Clergy Sexual Misconduct in the OCA (II)
This blog is the conclusion to comments I began in the blog, Consequences for Clergy Sexual Misconduct in the OCA. The POLICIES, STANDARDS, AND PROCEDURES OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA ON SEXUAL MISCONDUCT were established to guide the OCA in how to deal with issues of sexual misconduct within the church. The PSP spells out the following discipline for clergy who commit sexual abuse not involving children:
(c) Any member of the clergy who admits or is found to have committed acts of sexual misconduct other than child sexual abuse shall be subject to the discipline of the applicable Bishop. If not already removed from parish ministry, the Bishop shall prohibit him from exercising such functions or responsibilities of parish ministry as the Bishop determines is appropriate. Any clergy removed from all or any part of parish ministry shall not be permitted to return thereto unless, at the minimum, the following occur, all at the individual’s own expense:
(1) The individual shall have a psychiatric assessment by a provider satisfactory to the Bishop. Based on the assessment, a treatment course shall be developed;
(2) The individual shall satisfactorily complete a long-term program of therapy as recommended in the psychiatric assessment;
(3) At regular intervals the individual shall have professional rehabilitation assessments done by a credentialed professional approved by the Bishop. The assessment shall evaluate the individual’s progress in therapy, and contain prognoses for a future return to service in the Church;
(4) During this time the individual shall have a satisfactory work history outside the Church;
(5) The individual shall make public acknowledgement of his misconduct; shall exonerate and if possible make amends to the complainant; and provide restitution, all satisfactory to the Bishop;
(6) His return to service in the Church shall be endorsed by the Bishop of the diocese where the sexual misconduct occurred and the Bishop of the Diocese where the individual proposes to return to service in the Church, if different; and
(7) His misconduct as well as his rehabilitation shall be made known to the supervisory authority where he proposes to return to Church service, and a record thereof shall be placed in his personnel file.
The bishops are tasked with removing an offending clergyman from his office and permanently removing him from the ranks of the clergy if this is the proper discipline. If the clergyman’s offense is not such that it results in permanently removing him from the ranks of the clergy, the bishops are responsible for insuring that he is not restored to his office unless he successfully completes a series of therapeutic and healing actions. These include a professional psychiatric assessment, a long-term program of therapy and professional rehabilitation assessments done by a credentialed professional. In other words, to be allowed to return to ministry, takes a long time. There are no shortcuts acceptable to this process: the clergyman must successfully complete the prescribed treatment. He is not to be restored before treatment is complete. A clergyman removed from office for sexual misconduct should expect a long term process and a lengthy time away from active ministry. Additionally the PSP says, “During this time the individual shall have a satisfactory work history outside the Church.” A clergyman removed from office who hopes to be restored to office is not to be sitting around just waiting to be restored. He has to do something productive with himself outside of the church for which an acceptable evaluation by supervisors is made.
Besides completing successfully a professional advised course of treatment, the offending clergyman must also “make public acknowledgement of his misconduct; shall exonerate and if possible make amends to the complainant; and provide restitution, all satisfactory to the Bishop.” Part of the sign that the clergyman has successfully completed the required treatment is that he accepts responsibility for his misdeeds without in any way blaming the victim. For a truly repentant clergyman to harbor anger against his accuser would show that he himself has not in fact repented. It is not sorrow when one only regrets that one was caught or confronted. True repentance means accepting blame and responsibility for what transpired.
The OCA commits itself to not just move a clergyman found guilty of sexual misconduct from one diocese to another, for its PSPs say that if a clergyman is moved to a new diocese, the bishop of the diocese in which he committed the misconduct must also endorse his restoration as a clergyman. The bishop cannot simply be satisfied that the clergyman is no longer in his diocese – he must go on record as endorsing his restoration in any diocese.
The OCA’s policies for disciplining a bishop, priest or deacon found to have committed acts of sexual misconduct are clear that there is a process which takes a long time to fulfill. The goal is healing – spiritual, emotional and mental. The offending clergyman must demonstrate true repentance which exonerates the victim from any blame. The clergyman cannot be restored to office unless and until he has completed successfully and satisfactorily the professionally ordered therapeutic treatment. All of these steps are part of the way in which the Church demonstrates its commitment to fairness and shows its concern for both victims and those guilty of sexual misconduct. The Church endeavors not to enable an offender from simply returning to the same temptations or problems which would simply put his own salvation at risk. The Church is interested in true repentance and true healing of its clergy who fall into sin.
See also Standards of Conduct for Clergy
A list of other blogs I’ve posted on church sexual misconduct with links to them can be found at Blogs on Church Sexual Misconduct.