Letter to Editor of San Francisco Chronicle

Author: Father Michael and Presbytera Elizabeth Tervo
Date Published: 10/09/2008
Publication: Pokrov

Pokrov Note: This letter has not as yet been published by the Chronicle. However, the authors also sent a copy to Pokrov.

While it is true that Met. Gerasimos was not the head of the San Francisco Diocese when he learned of the former Archimandrite Michael Rymer’s misconduct, his inaction still concerns us. We think that his response is a symptom of what is wrong with the Orthodox approach to this problem. The bishop may not have had the authoritiy to remove Fr. Michael Rymer from the priesthood, but he certainly could have reported what he knew and/or suspected to those who did have the authority.
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To the Editor,

Regarding the article about abuse in the Greek Orthodox Church, I believe that the author missed the very point of the story. The article portrays the case of the now-defrocked Fr. Michael Rymer as yet another case of clergy abuse which was covered up by the church hierarchy. If the author had researched Orthodox Christian church polity further, and checked the timeline more thoroughly, a very different picture would have appeared.

Metropolitan Gerasimos Michaleas was installed as Metropolitan of San Francisco in April 2005. Prior to that, he would have had no authority over Rymer. Indeed, Metropolitan Gerasimos was at that time stationed in New England and then New York, and had no jurisdiction whatsoever over matters in California during the 1990s. Bishops are canonically forbidden from interfering in the matters of another diocese. Furthermore, he was elevated to Metropolitan only in 2004, and prior to that was Archdeacon in Boston.

Metropolitan Gerasimos was installed here in April 2005. He immediately initiated the process leading toward Rymer’s defrocking. As your timeline states, Rymer then was called to appear before the committee on clergy misconduct later that year, and was defrocked in 2006, having been suspended since 2003.

I see a picture here of a hierarch who did not cover up abuse, but who acted immediately once he was in a position to do so. If further evidence is needed of this, see the case of the former Fr. Michael Pappas of the Holy Trinity Church in San Francisco (also mentioned in the article) who was suspended within one week of his misconduct being revealed and defrocked soon after.

Fr. Michael P. Tervo
Presbytera Elizabeth Tervo
Ascension Cathedral, Oakland