OCA Monastic Addresses Issue of Sexual Abuse

Date Published: 09/19/2010
Publication: Pokrov.org

The recent issue of “Essays and Notes,” which is published Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, features an article which focuses on the issue of sexual abuse in the Orthodox church. The piece, by Mother Raphaela Wilkinson, is entitled “Spiritual Parenthood in the Church Family: An Essay on Power and Maturity.” The complete article is linked above.

Mother Raphaela writes:

“I write now of an event that directly sparked this essay. During a women’s retreat, I was a bit puzzled when I was asked if I would field anonymous written questions from the floor. To my dismay, a surprising and alarming number of the notes asked what a person should do when their unnamed spiritual father, who in one case mighte be a parish priest, in another a monk, in another an abbot, had sexually abused them. While I know that such allegations can be false, other women, visitors to our monastery, have asked me this question before. Especially when the question is asked in an honest attempt by the person to get on with her life rather than to expose her abuser, I find myself unwilling to doubt her. …. My initial response to the notes at that retreat was to say that if they had been sexually abused by a monastic or member of the clergy, they should go to their bishop. One after another, white-faced women stood up and replied that they did and that the bishop either blew them off or told them that being raped was their fault.”

While Pokrov.org advocates that abusers need to be exposed in order to protect others from becoming victims, we still find that this is a noteworthy piece. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first time that anyone in the Orthodox Church in America has openly acknowledged that complaints of sexual abuse by clergy and monastics have not been handled properly by church officials. In particular, this article is unique in that it lays the blame for this sad state of affairs at the feet of the bishops.