Lawsuit Alleges OCA Priest Breached the Seal of Confession

Date Published: 05/01/2008
Publication: Pokrov

Today in Howard County, Maryland, a lawsuit was filed against Met. Herman (Swaiko), the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the OCA’s Diocese of Washington and New York, Fr. Raymond Valencia,* the Orthodox Church of St. Matthew (OCSM), St. Matthew Housing Development, Inc (SMH), and the Board of Directors of St. Matthew Housing Development, Inc. (SMH BOD). This action was brought by Kristine Patico Koumentakos and her husband, Nicholas Koumentakos.

While the underlying dispute involves employment discrimination at SMH and retaliation for reporting that discrimination, the complaint contains a most troubling allegation in its recitation of facts. According to the suit, on or about November 1, 2007, Fr. Raymond sent an email (along with an attached letter) which contained information about Mrs. Koumentakos that Fr. Raymond had obtained in confession and during private counseling sessions, as well as knowingly false statements and embellishments. This material was sent to thirty-nine individuals, among them Mark Stokoe, the editor of Orthodox Christians for Accountability. The complaint calls Fr. Raymond’s inclusion of Mr. Stokoe “a clear mean-spirited attempt to publish his letter to individuals that were not associated with the incidents described….”

Also according to the suit, the OCA sent Fr. Alexey Karlgut, described as an “untrained investigator,” to look into the matter. However, Fr. Alexey allegedly dropped his investigation, never interviewing the witnesses given to him by Mrs. Koumentakos, when she refused to waive her right to seek further remedies in court.

Mrs. Koumentakos and her husband are seeking compensatory damages in the amount of one million dollars, and five million dollars in punitive damages. There are nine counts in the complaint:

Count I: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (All Defendants);

Count II: Loss of Consortium (All Defendants);

Count III: Defamation (Defendants Fr. Raymond, SMH and OCSM);

Count IV: Invasion of Privacy — Unreasonable Publicity Given to Private Life (Defendants Fr. Raymond, SMH and OCSM);

Count V: Invasion of Privacy — Placing a Person in a False Light (Defendants Fr. Raymond, SMH and OCSM);

Count VI: Breach of Fiduciary [“Confidential”] Duty (All Defendants);

Count VII: Negligent Hiring or Retention (All Defendants);

Count VIII: Employment Discrimination (Defendants Fr. Raymond, SMH and SMH BOD);

Count IX: Employment Discrimination [Retaliation] (Fr. Raymond)

A complete copy of the filed complaint is linked above.

On the OCA website, the spelling of Fr. Raymond’s last name is given as “Velencia.”