The Secret Report, Pt. 3
Warnings Were Given
The third part of this Report, prepared for an unnamed OCA hierarch to advocate for an appropriate response to the allegations made against Archimandrite Isidore, and Bishop Nikolai by Archimandrite Isidore, all contained in the letter of Paul Sidebottom to Metropolitan Herman, begins by focusing on the investigative team that will be required and its tasks. The Report concludes with a plea and a warning that the OCA needs be proactive, not reactive, when such allegations arise in a media society.
The Report continues:
“The Investigative Team
An investigative team must be appointed to examine the facts and allegations against Bishop Nikolai. All members of the team must be of good repute and not possess any known issues that are similar in nature to those issues that are alleged. It is recommended that this team be composed of three to five people and include at the minimum following personnel:
a. At least one active Bishop (two bishops would be better) in good standing without undue ties to Bishop Nikolai that might prejudice his decisions and findings in one way or another. For this reason, it may be necessary to ask a Bishop from another jurisdiction to help conduct the investigation.
b. At a minimum, two certified or licensed mental health professionals (licensed clinical psychologist, LCSW, LMHC, NBCC etc., mental health) who possess extensive documented experience and education in substance abuse (specifically alcohol abuse) and domestic violence. It is preferred, for the sake of procedural transparency and integrity, that at least one of these mental health professionals be a lay person.
c. An additional person to act as a recorder and secretary for the investigations and proceedings.
Additionally, the members of the investigative team must be above public reproach and have had no prior record of misconduct or substance abuse or publicly made allegations of either issue made against them.”
According to an Associated Press story carried in the Anchorage Daily News on Saturday, August 18th: “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.” The name of Martin Atrops was first mentioned in a story two days earlier in a story carried in the Kodiak Daily Mirror.
Dr. Martin Atrops, according to his website, “is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Anchorage. He provides psychotherapy to adults, older adults, couples, families, and ‘at risk’ youth, ages 10-18. He completed pre/postdoctoral internships (APA approved) at California’s Atascadero State Hospital (JCAHO accredited) and served as a staff psychologist for seven years….He developed a clinical specialization in the application of an augmented form of cognitive mediation training and ‘the Samenow approach’ to personality disorders, particularly sex offenders. He has provided assessment, treatment, management, and placement recommendations in Alaska since 1984 for adolescents and adults with inappropriate sexual behaviors. He has also worked with victims of assault, codependent spouses, disrupted family systems, and difficult adolescents (conduct disordered, oppositional, ADHD, learning disabled, and neurologicallly impaired). He provides expert witness and forensic experience in Alaska courts….He is also trained as a Lutheran clergyman, providing assessments of candidates for church vocations and consultation to churches.”
It is the last assertion that has raised red flags – not that Dr. Atrops is a Lutheran cleric, but that he “provides assessments of candidates for church vocations and consultation to churches”. In fact, Dr. Atrops has been assessing incoming students for St. Herman’s Seminary in Kodiak for several years, a consulting task for which he was hired by Bishop Nikolai, to whom he reports his findings. Moreover, there are reports that Bishop Nikolai asked Dr. Atrops to interview Paul Sidebottom shortly after the Bishop terminated him from the Seminary. Sidebottom refused to speak with Dr. Atrops. Thus, there would appear to be a conflict of interest here: How can a consultant investigate his own employer? How can a consultant investigate an alleged victim for an alleged abuser, and then investigate the alleged abuser on behalf of the Church?
The revised 2002 edition of Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, published by The American Psychological Association addresses such issues:
A multiple relationship occurs when a psychologist is in a professional role with a person and (1) at the same time is in another role with the same person, (2) at the same time is in a relationship with a person closely associated with or related to the person with whom the psychologist has the professional relationship, or (3) promises to enter into another relationship in the future with the person or a person closely associated with or related to the person. A psychologist refrains from entering into a multiple relationship if the multiple relationship could reasonably be expected to impair the psychologist’s objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing his or her functions as a psychologist, or otherwise risks exploitation or harm to the person with whom the professional relationship exists. Multiple relationships that would not reasonably be expected to cause impairment or risk exploitation or harm are not unethical.”
“Conflict of Interest:
Psychologists refrain from taking on a professional role when personal, scientific, professional, legal, financial, or other interests or relationships could reasonably be expected to (1) impair their objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing their functions as psychologists or (2) expose the person or organization with whom the professional relationship exists to harm or exploitation.”
In short, these are judgment calls. In a small community, like Alaska, if a psychologist disclosed potential conflicts and tried his or her best to contain biasing influences, perhaps it would be ethical. However, if other resources are available, and Alaska is not that small, the only prudent thing, it would seem, would be to disqualify a psychologist with such multiple relationships from doing the investigation.
According to reliable sources in the OCA, such concerns are expected to soon lead to the creation of an investigative team that will not include Dr. Atrops. Fr. Karlgut, given his responsibility in the Office of the Primate to deal with such allegations, is expected to oversee the investigation. Several of the team members will have credentials and experience in the field. No timeline for the work was given.
The report continues:
“At a minimum, the following people should be interviewed:
Bishop Nikolai (Soraich).
Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain).
Reader Paul Sidebottom.
At least two to four other people as seen fit. These should either be witnesses to the events at the Ascension vigil at 2007 or potential witnesses to other allegations.
All investigations and interviews must be conducted in person, as well as transcribed both in a written and audio form, at a minimum. Hopefully, the interviews can be conducted and recorded within current standards of video products and technology.
It is further recommended that all findings of the investigative team of all the known and subsequently found allegations, as well as their details, be presented in a full hard copy version with references to the entirety of the Holy Synod. It is recommended that this report, finalized and legally reviewed, be published for public dissemination on the OCA website and other national church media venues.
Prior to the interviews, each respondent should be contacted in writing with a copy of the guidelines of clergy cooperation and an explanation that any attempt to mislead, obfuscate, or any other attempt at deception will result in a canonical sanction from the Holy Synod. These letters should be signed and returned by the interviewees during the interviews.
If the clergy interviewees refuse to cooperate, they should be canonically sanctioned, unless the cooperation violates their Fifth Amendment Rights.”
According to experts in the field, no matter what is discovered in the OCA’s investigation, it is not expected that any legal charges will be filed in response to any of these allegations, as both Sidebottom and Archimandrite Isidore have left the state.
The Report turns to the media:
Every aspect of the letter and the verbal allegations are newsworthy. In an era of a popularly controlled media, whether it is commercial or publicly controlled via the Internet, means that a failure to act will eventually be found out by people who seek to embarrass the faith, the faithful and the leadership of the Church. As has been clearly expressed by a member of the Holy Synod, it is not a matter of ‘if’ people will find out about the allegations, it is just a matter of ‘when’ and ‘how’.”
Both “when” and “how” have now been answered. Three stories have appeared in the Kodiak Daily Mirror this past week (read the latest story here) ; and one story in the Associated Press, carried by the Anchorage Daily News on Saturday, August 18th. (Read that story here) The story has also been featured on KTVA, a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, as well as KTUU, the Anchorage NBC affiliate. (Read that story here)
The Report continues:
“It is plain that under the civil legal code, the hierarchy of the church must act to clear and exonerate the two accused or to sanction them. A lack of action would constitute an abuse of leadership that would also greatly and financially imperil the Church.
We only need to look to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston’s legal crises as an example. These numerous and extremely expensive legal losses were precipitated not by the fact that a priest was a pedophile, but rather by the episcopal leadership’s failure to act to protect the faithful when the bishops had knowledge of a predator amongst the diocese’s shepherds.”
Interestingly, BishopAccountability.org, a Roman Catholic website that tracks episcopal decisions in the Roman Catholic Church precisely because “leadership’s failure to act to protect the faithful when the bishops had knowledge of a predator amongst the diocese’s shepherds,” has begun placing articles relating to Bishop Nikolai and the OCA investigation on its website as well. This issue is not ours alone.
With this warning, the Report rather abruptly concludes. It states that “a group of bishops … sit down and confront the primate with the gravity, severity, and potential implications as well as the liabilities of the issues presented”, followed by 3-4 pages of citations of OCA Church policy and references to Alaskan law.
To some extent the Report achieved its purpose.
A meeting of the Lesser Synod (sans Archbishop Nathaniel) was called a week before a meeting of the entire Synod to discuss the allegations in the context of the Report. Yet, the public report of the Synod meeting held July 31- August 1, published the following week on August 10th, stated: “The hierarchs discussed among themselves various rumors circulating with regard to the Diocese of Alaska. His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska addressed the matter, pointing out certain inaccuracies in some of the rumors, which will be further explored.” It was not stated what “inaccuracies” the Bishops were referring to, nor why, if the matters were just “rumors”, and inaccurate ones at that, they needed to be further “explored”. No explanation was given as to what “exploring” might entail, nor who would do the “exploring”. And as OCANews.org has confirmed, not all the members of the Synod even saw the secret Report.
Four days later, after a story had appeared in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, the OCA announced an OCA-led investigation has “been requested by Bishop Nikolai” into allegations made against Archimandrite Isidore. Bishop Nikolai now states that he launched an investigation, under his authority as the diocesan hierarch before the OCA launched theirs, and the fact that the OCA announced its investigation before he announced his was “just coincidence”.
Moreover, in a public statement to the Associated Press published on Saturday August 18th, the Bishop denies any allegations have been made against him, or that there is there any investigation into his activities. One can only speculate that since Archimandrite Isidore has alledgely retracted his claims, in a letter published by Matushka Mona Soot last week, the Bishop feels exonerated.
The OCA, meanwhile, has adopted a policy of complete silence on the issue, declining all comment on the investigation, including clarifying just who is being investigated…..