The moral fiber of our times

Author: Staff
Date Published: 03/03/2007
Publication: The National Herald

When authorities zeroed in on the hulking pizza shop manager, Michael Devlin, in Kirkwood, Missouri this past January 12, they were looking for 13-year-old Ben Ownby, who Mr. Devlin allegedly kidnapped at gunpoint.

Thankfully, they found the child just four days after he was abducted. To a stunned nation’s surprise, however, authorities also stumbled across a totally unexpected find in Mr. Devlin’s apartment: 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, who had been missing not for four days, but four years.

This past Thursday, March 1, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Mr. Devlin’s attorneys, on their client’s behalf, entered a plea of not guilty to felony counts of kidnapping and armed criminal action in the January 8 abduction of Ben.

Mr. Devlin is also charged in Missouri’s Washington County with kidnapping Shawn in 2002, and St. Louis County officials have charged hum on two counts of kidnapping and 69 counts of forcible sodomy.

When this story broke in mid-January, it gripped the entire country. Within days, both boys appeared on national television with their families. Shawn, members of his family and his rescuers were on the Oprah Winfrey show on Monday, January 15, just three days after he was found.

Ben Ownby’s parents have said they think he will be fine. He was only gone for four days. As horrible as those four days must have been for Ben, however, his case pales in comparison to Shawn Hornbeck’s experience.

Shawn has not opened up about what he underwent while he was in captivity, but his soulful brown eyes aside, his psychological and spiritual recovery will likely be extremely difficult. One of Mr. Devlin’s neighbors reported that he sometimes heard angry shouting and whimpering emanating from Mr. Devlin’s apartment. While that may or may not be solid evidence in a courtroom, it speaks volumes to the general public.

Much as we would like to be in our own little cocoon at times, our own community is not immune from such horrors. We are part and parcel of American society, too, and what happens in America also happens in the Greek American community.

We got wind of rumors concerning Father Nicholas Katinas and his alleged sexual activities with minors several months ago. When Theodore Kalmoukos first investigated it last fall, he met up with resistance. Why was Father Nick suspended from priestly duties just a few days after he retired, he asked the Archdiocese? But for months, no answer was forthcoming – not from the Archdiocese, and not from the Metropolis of Denver, which released the Dallas community’s former longtime pastor to the Archdiocese, also without explanation.

And when we learned that the Archdiocese was sending a representative to speak to the Dallas parish on the first Wednesday of Lent last week, the Archbishop still declined to confirm the reasons why.

The cat is out of the bag now, of course, as the local media in Dallas made sure to attend the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy at Holy Trinity Church last week and promptly report what the Archdiocese representative had to say.

Many in the Dallas community are understandably shocked. Some are reportedly in disbelief: “I’m going to go to my grave not believing it,” Chris Canellos, 42, who grew up attending the Dallas church, told the Dallas Morning News. “This is the Greek community. We don’t keep secrets. We would have known about it.”

Not necessarily. As is often the case with sexual abuse of children, it can take many years for information to surface. Transparency is a huge problem. Not only did the Archdiocese try to keep the matter concealed for several months (perhaps much longer), Metropolitan Isaiah also concedes in his letter to the Dallas community that he “had been informed last summer of rumors.”

That being the case, we must ask why it took so long for the information to come out. If the Archdiocese and Metropolitan Isaiah have known about this for a long period of time – in the Chicago area, it allegedly goes back to the 1970’s, when the late Archbishop Iakovos was at the helm – then the Church can expect more heady lawsuits, in addition to the one being filed by a Dallas lawyer right now.

The fact that at least two people are coming out and accusing Father Katinas, heretofore considered a pillar in our community, could be just the tip of the iceberg. Other victims may come forward, and other Greek Orthodox priests could also be implicated.

In the end, those of us who wanted to believe because Orthodox priests (unlike Roman Catholic priests) can marry that this problem is mitigated in the Orthodox Church, could be in for a very big surprise.

And the backlash will be punishing, too. One Missouri state senator, John Loudon, has just introduced legislation to allow the death penalty for people who kidnap and sexually abuse kids.

And the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children axed FOX TV’s Bill O’Reilly as its keynote speaker for a March 9 meeting in Naples, Florida following outrage over his comments during “The O’Reilly Factor” on January 15, when he said that Shawn Hornbeck perhaps even enjoyed the time away from his parents. Mr. O’Reilly touched off a storm of criticism, in fact. Lowe’s, the home-improvement chain, pulled its ads from his show.

Most Americans want to protect their children and eradicate the scourge of child abduction and molestation, which tears families apart and typically ruins children for life.