Russian Orthodox leader faces sexual misconduct accusations

Author: James Halpin, The Associated Press
Date Published: 08/18/2007
Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain)
Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain)
Bishop Nikolai (Soraich):  Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire archive
Bishop Nikolai (Soraich): Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire archive

Russian Orthodox: Former missionary makes claim against chancellor of Alaska diocese.

The second-highest-ranking Russian Orthodox Church official in Alaska is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct, national church leaders said Friday.

Chancellor of the Alaska Diocese Archimandrite Isidore is accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with a former missionary and educational leader in Kodiak, according to officials with the Orthodox Church in America’s headquarters in Syosset, N.Y.

Bishop Nikolai, who heads the Alaska Diocese, also is facing ”extraordinarily serious” allegations, according to the senior church official in the country, although the nature of the accusations has not been revealed by church officials.

But in a letter to the church’s primate, Metropolitan Herman, the missionary accuses Nikolai of domestic violence, neglect and malpractice. Nikolai denies there have been any accusations made against him.

”I’m not under investigation from anybody, and there are no allegations against me,” Nikolai told The Associated Press on Friday. ”There’s hearsay, innuendo and rumor, but no allegations against me.”

However, in an Aug. 9 letter to Nikolai, as was first reported by the Kodiak Daily Mirror, Herman asked Nikolai to step aside from the investigation because the accusations posed a conflict of interest.

Herman wrote that the investigation should be conducted by a national church investigator rather than internally within the diocese because of ”diocesan disorder,” possible litigation and ”extraordinarily serious” allegations against Nikolai.

Five days after that letter, on Aug. 14, Nikolai requested the investigation be conducted by the primate’s office.

On Friday, Nikolai said he didn’t receive Herman’s letter until Aug. 14 and that he received it after he requested the investigation. He said the timing was a coincidence.

Herman requested the investigation, said spokesman Father Andrew Jarmus. He didn’t know how long it might take.

”We have an investigation under way and it is our policy not to comment on an ongoing investigation,” he said.

The accusing missionary also claimed in a letter to Herman that Isidore made improper advances toward him, including acts he characterized as sexual harassment and sexual assault. His name is being withheld because The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

Nikolai said Isidore is at a treatment facility in Minnesota and is not available for comment.

The missionary left Alaska shortly after reporting the alleged crimes, and phone messages left for him at his church in Kansas were not immediately returned.

The missionary worked in the diocese for at least two years, Nikolai said.

When the incident was alleged to have taken place, Nikolai said he was proposing that the missionary’s position be eliminated because of budget cuts.

The position was cut in July.

Alaska State Troopers and Kodiak police said a criminal complaint has not been filed against either man.

The incident is being investigated by Martin Atrops of Anchorage and Alexey Karlgut, the chief investigator for sexual abuse cases for the Orthodox Church in America. Neither could be reached for comment.