Kodiak religious academy headmaster placed on leave over abuse allegations

Author: Jerzy Shedlock
Date Published: 02/23/2015

The headmaster of an academy for troubled youth in Kodiak has been placed on a leave of absence following public allegations of abuse, the Eastern Orthodox diocese that runs the academy announced on its website.

The allegations center on the Rev. Paisius DeLucia, who’s accused of physical, verbal and psychological abuse of students at St. Innocent’s Academy.

The victims are so far unsatisfied with the investigation. The bishop looking into the accusations has also been accused of revictimizing three former students by inviting them for interviews at the school, according to the website Academy Abuse, which features posts by more than a dozen former students who claim they were abused by DeLucia in their time at the school.

St. Innocent’s is an alternative school for “at-risk” youths on Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. The majority of its students aren’t from Alaska.

Sgt. Eric T. Olsen with the Alaska State Troopers in Kodiak previously said troopers there are also aware of the allegations and there is an ongoing investigation. DeLucia has not been charged with any crime.

Academy Abuse emerged online after Metropolitan Joseph Bosakov — the leader of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the U.S., Canada and Australia who oversees the academy — failed to take satisfactory action, the authors said.

“I think that (DeLucia) being defrocked is a good step,” said Ray Richards, a former student and one of the authors of the website. “But we also want to see the bishops treating the victims of the abuse with care. All we’ve gotten is generic letters and stale treatment.”

The diocese reported that Bosakov has called a spiritual court to meet in March. The court consists of members of the diocese who judge a variety of cases, from disputes among clergy to breaches of church rules.

Bishop Daniil Trendofilow Nikolov is leading the investigation. Nikolov visited Kodiak and interviewed witnesses, and he plans to meet with others at two planned stops at churches in Syracuse, New York, and Indianapolis, according to the diocese.

The diocese encouraged people who’d like to testify to contact the churches.

“The diocese has deep concern for all those people affected in any way. The prayers of all the faithful are requested for all involved in this weighty and sensitive matter,” it announced on its website.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the nonprofit believes a suspension is the appropriate response in the face of such serious allegations.

“If the diocesan policy calls for a suspension upon receipt of a written complaint, then Father Paisius should have been suspended months ago, not placed on a leave of absence this weekend,” said Melanie Sakoda, Orthodox director of SNAP.

“It took several months for this to happen, and we don’t know why,” Richards said. “We want to see more responsibility taken by the bishops.”

Academy Abuse is asking for for DeLucia’s removal from the academy, as well as other, broader potential punishments.