Leader of US Orthodox church quits amid rape claim

Author: Frank Eltman
Date Published: 07/19/2012
Publication: KTUL (Tulsa OK)

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) – The leader of the Orthodox Church in America has resigned and been replaced amid questions about whether he failed to report to church officials or law enforcement an allegation of a rape by a priest and other sexual-misconduct claims.

The church issued a statement saying Metropolitan Jonah, the archbishop of Washington, submitted his resignation in a letter on July 6. The letter from Jonah noted the resignation had come at the request of the Holy Synod of Bishops. Jonah did not refer to the rape allegation in his letter.

Part of the letter to the bishops said he begged ”forgiveness for however I have offended you, and for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment.”

There was no telephone listing for Jonah, who couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.

The church, based in Syosset, on Monday issued a three-page statement detailing Jonah’s four-year tenure as its leader. It said Jonah had failed to report a 2010 rape allegation involving an unidentified priest to authorities when he learned of it last February. The statement said in light of sex abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church and at Penn State University, ”the risk of liability to which the Metropolitan has exposed the church can not be overstated.”

It also said Jonah had ”repeatedly refused to act with prudence, in concert with his fellow bishops” regarding the church’s standards and procedures regarding sexual misconduct.

It said for several years there had been a repeated pattern of Jonah ”taking other unilateral actions that were contrary to the advice of the Holy Synod and/or the church’s lawyers.” It added he withheld information from brother bishops and church lawyers ”concerning litigation matters, and matters which might have resulted, and still might result, in litigation.”

It said he gave unauthorized people a detailed internal church report concerning ”numerous investigations into sexual misconduct,” which risked leaking names of accusers and the accused.

Father Eric Tosi, a church spokesman, referred any additional questions to the church statement.

There are approximately 80,000 Orthodox Church in America members in more than 800 parishes and institutions in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.