NY- Orthodox chancellor posts on clergy sexual misconduct policy, SNAP responds

Author: Melanie Jula Sakoda
Date Published: 08/22/2014

For immediate release: Friday, August 22, 2014

Statement by Melanie Jula Sakoda of Moraga, California, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), SNAP Orthodox Director (925-708-6175melanie.sakoda@gmail.com)

The chancellor of a New York based Eastern Orthodox Church published an entry in his online journal yesterday concerning the group’s sexual misconduct policy.

Archpriest John A. Jillions, chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), shared a question he received about the guidelines, along with his response.

Jillions wrote that he received an email from someone concerned that the OCA’s policy does not do enough to protect clergymen from “false allegations.” In his response, the chancellor nailed one very important point: “If on balance of probability there is likelihood that misconduct occurred, then the bishop has to err on the side of protecting his—Christ’s—flock.”

However, we are disappointed that the chancellor failed to mention an even more important point: that is, false allegations are extremely rare. At least one of the resources on the OCA website spells this out explicitly.

Moreover, as survivors of clergy sexual abuse we are extremely disturbed that the OCA apparently still feels that allegations and investigations must be shrouded in secrecy. Jillions said the issue is “not something that needs to be reported on the front page every day. I think of it as a sanitation department: every town has to have one but it shouldn’t make headlines unless something goes badly wrong.”

We vehemently disagree. When an accusation is made, each and every parish where the alleged perpetrator worked should not only be informed, but any survivors, witnesses or whistleblowers should be actively encouraged to report. The Church should be begging victims to come forward, get help and begin healing.

In this same vein, when the OCA finds that abuse allegations are credible, the information should not be kept secret, treated like yesterday’s garbage in a tightly lidded can. Instead, the Orthodox should join the roughly 30 Catholic bishops in the United States and post the names of these predator priests on their website so that families, neighbors, employers and others will be warned about these potentially dangerous men.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, as well as those abused in other settings, such as the Boy Scouts and the military. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)