Priest-Monk Is Defrocked For Sexual Misconduct

Author: Melanie Jula Sakoda
Date Published: 07/01/2009

For immediate release: Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Priest-Monk Is Defrocked For Sexual Misconduct

Church Hierarchy Can’t Shut Down Wisconsin Monastery

Clerics Are Linked to Notorious Now-Closed Monastery in Texas

Support Group Says “Vulnerable Teens and Adults May Still Be At Risk”

SNAP Urges Victims & Witnesses to “Come Forward, Get Help and Call Police”

An Eastern Orthodox priest has been defrocked because of credible allegations that he molested a teenaged girl in the 1990s in Wisconsin. The alleged crimes happened at a monastery with ties to a now-shuttered Texas monastery.

In March, Metropolitan Joseph Bosakov of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia ousted Archimandrite Simeon Gitlis from the priesthood. Gitlis was also removed as abbot of a monastery in Boscobel, Wisconsin (between Dubuque, Iowa and La Crosse, Wisconsin). A woman who had lived at the monastery in the late 1990s, when she was in her late teens and early twenties, had made a written complaint to the bishop alleging that Gitlis had sexually molested her.

“We’re grateful that this dangerous man has been ousted from the priesthood, but fear he may still be at this facility so children and young adults may still be vulnerable,” said Melanie Jula Sakoda of Moraga, California. She’s the co-founder of SNAP Orthodox and of a website called, dedicated to helping those who’ve been victimized by Eastern Orthodox clergy.

Sakoda urged victims or witnesses to call SNAP, the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. “I want to let victims know they are no longer alone, that they are supported no matter how they choose to start their healing journey, and that despite the pain, there is hope,” she said.

In an April letter, notifying the victim that Gitlis was defrocked, Bosakov noted that the monastery was owned by an independent non-profit corporation. The Bulgarian diocese has since removed the monastery from its website, but the bishop cannot stop the group from operating independently. As a result, leaders of a support group called SNAP fear that vulnerable teens and adults may still be at risk at the facility.

The Boscobel monastery, called St. Isaac’s Skete, is an offshoot of Christ of the Hills Monastery (COTH) in Blanco, Texas. In 1999, a boy filed sex abuse charges against two Christ of the Hills monks. In response, the Russian Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), to which both monasteries belonged at the time, ordered COTH to disband. The Blanco monks refused. ROCOR removed COTH from its jurisdiction, but could not shut it down because the monastery was owned by an independent non-profit corporation. In solidarity with COTH, St. Isaac’s Skete left ROCOR, later joining the Bulgarian Diocese. Additional allegations of child sexual abuse at COTH were made by other boys in 2006. The new charges resulted in convictions for four Blanco monks (one of whom was also convicted in 1999) and the suicide of COTH’s founder. The Blanco monastery is now defunct.

SNAP strongly suspects there are others who saw or suffered similar abuse by Gitlis, either as teens or as adults. The group is urging victims and witnesses to come forward, get help, call police, and contact independent sources of support.

Boskov and his diocese are based in New York City.

Founded in 1989, SNAP has more than 8,000 members and 65 support groups. Most members were molested by Catholic priests, nuns, bishops, and seminarians, but a growing number were abused by religious figures in other denominations. SNAP has a nation-wide toll-free hotline, 1 877 SNAP HEALS. The organization’s web site is