Ousted Orthodox bishop serving in Pennsylvania parish
Bishop ousted amid sexual misconduct allegations returns to ministry
The former Chicago bishop of the Orthodox Church in America who was asked to retire amid allegations of sexual misconduct two years ago has been serving as a parish priest in eastern Pennsylvania without permission from the national church.
Bishop Matthias, born David Lawrence Moriak, has been serving at the parish in Hermitage, Pa., at the request of another bishop, said a church official. He stepped down from his post as head of the Midwest diocese in April 2013 after the church deemed sexual misconduct what he described as “unwelcome written and spoken comments to a woman that she regarded as an inappropriate crossing of personal boundaries.”
“I do repent of using poor judgment, of using inappropriate words that I thought were being received as humorous,” Matthias said at the time of his ouster. “It was never my intention to cause a complaint of any harm or discomfort. In fact, I was quite concerned for her health and well-being. I am sorry that my kindness and generosity to this person was viewed with suspicion and ulterior motives.”
At the time, Metropolitan Tikhon, leader of the denomination in North America, said Matthias would not return to his leadership post in Chicago. Whether he would be allowed to serve in a ministry role during his retirement was unclear.
“The healing of the diocese and of the complainant as well as Bishop Matthias’ own healing would not be possible should he be returned to the diocese as a ruling hierarch,” the Metropolitan said in a statement at the time. “The Holy Synod offered him some time to reflect upon this action and to plan for his transition.”
But victims advocates say allowing the bishop to return to any form of active ministry violates the church’s zero-tolerance policy.
“They’ve done a good job as an Orthodox Church in trying to get a handle on it,” said Melanie Sakoda, a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It’s not perfect, but they’ve done a good job of trying to change their ways.”
The Rev. John Jillions, chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, said the national church’s leaders are reviewing the conditions of Bishop Matthias’ retirement.
“The fact is that no such assignment has been made,” Jillions said. “Bishop Matthias continues to hold the office of a retired bishop in the Orthodox Church in America.
“Another bishop did ask Bishop Matthias if he would be interested in the pastoral position in Hermitage,” Jillions added. “However, the matter has not been fully discussed or approved by the Holy Synod of Bishops, nor has Bishop Matthias been released to assume any church positions.”
Bishop Matthias did not return calls for comments.
The Orthodox Church in America, one of several branches of Orthodox Christianity in the U.S., claims about 100,000 adult members nationwide and 5,000 in the Midwest.