Catholic Online: Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America Suddenly Resigns His Office: Why?

Unbeknownst to most Orthodox, Met. Jonah was the voice of Orthodoxy in the other Christian communions. His words reached into Baptist meetings, Episcopal assemblies, even the Vatican. He traveled these halls effortlessly because he held to the simple teaching of the Gospel but in the fullness of the Orthodox moral tradition. That enabled him to be heard by our non-Orthodox brethren and strengthen them at the same time for he was able to impart a depth and wisdom that many were looking for but had yet to discover.

Met. Jonah’s successes, as well as the genuine fondness and respect shown him by Christians of other communions, shows us that Orthodoxy can speak to the larger culture and that it has some very important things to say. It also shows, as his forced retirement this week makes clear, that the afflictions borne by other other communions afflict us as well.

From the article:

There is another element in this which is of immediate importance, and directly follows on the above. As was written about by Robert Terwilliger, a great Anglican divine of the 20th century, there is a coming realignment within Christianity, one which we can already see the strains of. Whenever schisms happen within the Church, they are generally because certain individuals lead a group out of the Church, being disobedient to the Faith and Doctrine, and refusing to submit to the authority of the hierarchy, which is trying to discipline them and call them to repentance.

What is happening now is somewhat different: a split between those who hold to traditional, biblical faith as interpreted by the Fathers of the Church and the ecumenical councils; and those who espouse a secularized belief, subject to the rationalizations of the scholars according to contemporary philosophy, who dismiss the Fathers and the Councils as no longer relevant, who dismiss the moral teachings of the Scriptures and Fathers as culturally relative. This could be called, by one side, a break between traditional Christianity and post-modern worldly philosophy. Or it might be labeled as the freeing of people from fundamentalist oppression to the light of their own reason.

Source: Catholic Onine | By. Dn. Keith Fournier

There is a radical cultural shift away from traditional Christianity, toward something unrecognizable

I followed with great interest and Christian hope the work of Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. His passionate stance for the rights of our first neighbors in the womb and efforts to promote alliances between faithful Christians – Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical and Protestant – have set him apart. His compelling personal faith journey from an Anglican background into the Orthodox Church, by way of the fathers of the Church, is personally inspiring. I am a revert to the Catholic Church and walked a similar road through the apostolic Fathers home to Rome many years ago.  Why did he suddenly resign?

WASHINGTON, DC  (Catholic Online) – I have followed with great interest and Christian hope the work of Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America. His passionate stance for the rights of our first neighbors in the womb and efforts to promote alliances between faithful Christians – Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant – have set him apart. His compelling personal faith journey from an Anglican background into the Orthodox Church, by way of the fathers of the Church, is personally inspiring. I am a revert to the Catholic Church and walked a similar road through the apostolic Fathers home to Rome many years ago. 

Last month the Primate gave an address to the leaders of the Anglican Church in North America, who gathered in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. He showed his prophetic insights into the common struggle which faithful Christians must engage. Here are a few excerpts: 

“There is another element in this which is of immediate importance, and directly follows on the above. As was written about by Robert Terwilliger, a great Anglican divine of the 20th century, there is a coming realignment within Christianity, one which we can already see the strains of. Whenever schisms happen within the Church, they are generally because certain individuals lead a group out of the Church, being disobedient to the Faith and Doctrine, and refusing to submit to the authority of the hierarchy, which is trying to discipline them and call them to repentance.”

“What is happening now is somewhat different: a split between those who hold to traditional, biblical faith as interpreted by the Fathers of the Church and the ecumenical councils; and those who espouse a secularized belief, subject to the rationalizations of the scholars according to contemporary philosophy, who dismiss the Fathers and the Councils as no longer relevant, who dismiss the moral teachings of the Scriptures and Fathers as culturally relative. This could be called, by one side, a break between traditional Christianity and post-modern worldly philosophy. Or it might be labeled as the freeing of people from fundamentalist oppression to the light of their own reason.”

“This is not the protestant/catholic divide; it is not the evangelical-charismatic vs. mainline divide. It cuts across all communities in the West, even affecting the Orthodox and Roman Churches in some degree. As Anglicans, you are no strangers to this: it is the reason you are here, and not in TEC. It is creating a massive realignment within Christianity; those who hold to the traditional Scriptural and patristic Faith and discipline of Orthodox Catholicism; and those who reject it, criticize it, and I will add, as you well know, persecute it. You and the ACNA are part of that realignment.”

“There is a radical cultural shift away from traditional Christianity, toward something unrecognizable. The “Secularists” (for lack of a better, non-pejorative term) reject the virgin birth of Christ, the resurrection, even His Divinity; that His words are recorded in the Scriptures and that the Scriptures are even relevant to our days; rather they are oppressive and keep humans in darkness. Another Episcopalian bishop, a certain Mr. Spong, wrote that “Christianity must change or die,” referring to traditional orthodoxy, espousing the radical secularization of the Episcopal Church and all Christianity. It is my prediction that it is not the Orthodox Churches that will die.”

“Solzhenitsyn said that “what the Soviet death camps could not do, Western secularism is doing more effectively. In Russia, 20 million died in the last century as martyrs for the Orthodox Faith, and countless millions of others were thrown in the gulag, for standing up against militant secularism. Many perished because they resisted the Renovationists whose schism distorted the Orthodox Faith. Whether you call it Soviet atheism, or Western secularism, it is the same enemy.”

“Our battle is against secularism. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has called for us to stand together against this enemy. This is the realignment: to stand together for the faith once delivered by Christ to the Apostles, and thence to the Bishops, without alteration, without change, without revisions; against those who would submit their faith to the current of the age, the wisdom of this world. We must stand together, and we cannot stand alone. Even the immense Roman Church is buffeted by the militant secularists, who defy authority and criticize that which they know not, and we can see in this country how increasingly fragile their unity is.

“Brothers and sisters, we must embrace the Cross of Jesus Christ, the foolishness of the Gospel, the wisdom that is not of this world. We must rejoice in the salvation that God has given us in His Son Jesus Christ, who was crucified for us and rose from the dead. We glory in His Resurrection, and await His Coming Again. We must overcome the divisions that separate us, so that we can stand united in one mind and one heart, confessing that God has come in the flesh to raise us to heaven. We must live according to the moral and ethical commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ enshrined in the Gospel, and reject sin and recognize its corruption.

“This is the orthodox faith of the Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils and the undivided Church. We will have to accept the scorn and derision of those who are of this world, even those who call themselves brethren, being cast out of their synagogues and ridiculed, sued in civil courts, and count all things as worthless that we have lost for the sake of Christ. This, my friends, is our cross. We have to support one another in bearing it. The closer we come, the greater our mutual support will be, and we will not lose heart, or forget that Christ has already won the victory: He has overcome the world. By accepting to go by way of His Cross, we too will share in His Victory.”

Readers of my articles will quickly see why I took such hope in the work of this young Orthodox Metropolitan. You will also see why I am saddened to report that he has resigned his office. Here is the official statement:

Metropolitan Jonah tenders resignation

SYOSSET, NY [OCA]

In a letter addressed to the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops dated Friday, July 6, 2012, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah tendered his resignation as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. His Beatitude composed and signed the letter at his residence in Washington, DC, in the presence of Archpriest John Jillions, OCA Chancellor. On Saturday, July 7, the letter was presented to the Holy Synod in the course of a conference call in which all of the hierarchs participated, except His Eminence, Archbishop Alejo of Mexico City. The text of His Beatitude’s letter reads as follows.

To the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America,

“Brothers,

“As per your unanimous request, as conveyed to me by Chancellor Fr. John Jillions, I hereby tender my resignation as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and humbly request another Episcopal assignment. I had come to the realization long ago that that I have neither the personality nor the temperament for the position of Primate, a position I never sought nor desired.

“It is my hope that due consideration will be made for my financial situation, both in any interim and in consideration for any future position. I am the main financial support for both my parents and my sister, beyond my own needs.

“I will appreciate your consideration in this, and beg forgiveness for however I have offended you, and for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment. Asking your prayers, I remain faithfully yours, 

Metropolitan Jonah, Archbishop of Washington

I invite our readers around the globe to pray for Metropolitan Jonah and for the Orthodox Church in America. His letter seems to depict a sadness of spirit. It also raises a number of questions and concerns. I would welcome any further information and insight into this story and what prompted his resignation. I haver reached out to friends in the orthodox Church whom I deeply respect. Sadly, the reports emerging in the blogosphere indicate there may be more behind the former Metropolitan’s decision. For example, former Catholic become Orthodox Christian Rod Dreher opined

“They finally got him. What they don’t understand is that they probably signed the OCA’s death warrant in so doing – not because Jonah was necessarily an exceptional metropolitan (he had his problems as an administrator, and though a very good man, was temperamentally ill-suited for the job), but because the sleazy, corrupt way the Synod has handled this from the beginning shows them to be a pack of ravening wolves.”

Those are very harsh words. Pray for authentic peace for the Orthodox Church in America and pray for Metropolitan Jonah. Finally, pray that his successor continues to stand propehtically and courageously in this age which cries out for authentic collaboration between those who bear the name Christian.

Comments

  1. Bishop John SDR Nakka :

    I do not know what are the real reasons for His Grace Jonah to tender his resignation for the post of the Primate. I will pray for the Orthodox Church in America and for Met.Jonah.

    +John from India who was with the Orthodox Syrian Church-India for 10 years and joined with the Anglican Church during 2005.

  2. I think it proper to take a moment to pause and reflect on where many of us agree with Metropolitan Jonah and his vision for the OCA.

    1). We agree on vigorous mission to North America which reflects a Centrist – Traditional presentation of Orthodoxy.

    2). We agree on cultivating traditional Orthodox monasticism and piety to see the day of an American Orthodox spirituality and local tradition.

    3). We agree on outreach to the communities where our faltering legacy parishes find themselves, rooted in witness to the Orthodox immigrations, traditional Christians and Americans interested in a Faith with a sound, consistent moral core.

    4). We agree that North American Orthodoxy is to be formed not at the direction or by the “intentional neglect” of “mother churches” but that the time has come to recognize that we are in a different chapter in America where various ethnic “jurisdictions” are called to unity for survival and joint effort. In the OCA, we presume to structure this unity beginning with absorption of bodies which reflect our original Russian and Romanian heritages, but then to branch out to Bulgarians, Serbs and Antiochians.

    5). We recognize that assimilate Orthodoxy is not local Orthodoxy, but a denaturing of ethnic Orthodoxy. It is our intent using the paradigms set by the local churches to oversee an American Orthodoxy which cares for the souls of cradle, convert, revert and assimilate in a Centrist – Traditional coalition.

    6). The financial soundness and stability of the OCA is a matter of transparency which calls for not only righting the ship of the OCA, but preventing further abuses and projecting a model for growth.

    7). We endeavor to produce a 20 to 25% presence in North America and Latin America within a century. We foresee an incremental process commensurate with growth or multiple metropolias structured around a Katholikosate, then a handful of Katholikosates structured around a Patriarchate which will become the exclusively canonically presence in North America and be recognized by other local Orthodox churches with whom we will share Communion.

    8). We endeavor to save our legacy parishes, rebuild them and populate them while creating an infrastructure of new missions, parishes, monasteries, seminaries, charities and religious institutions for America.

    9). We endeavor to engage America and her culture for the propagation of Traditional morality and moral order. This will include political activity.

    10). We endeavor to foster an Orthodox formation which is founded upon prayer, Sacramental witness, immersion in Scripture and the LIFE of CHRIST as well as regular church life to consecrate America to Orthodoxy and to work out our personal and corporate salvation. Unus Christianus, nullus Christianus. We are not saved alone, but in community with CHRIST in the HOLY EUCHARIST constituting the Church.

    11). We endeavor through dialogue to better understand religious and irreligious institutions and movements here to witness to all and convert some. It is our goal to first unite liturgical and likeminded Christians to Holy Orthodoxy in North America while making common cause with other Christians and those of good will toward the betterment of society. This is not ecumenism inasmuch as it is witness and mission.

    12). We will foster an evangelical community which welcomes our country in to share in the transfiguration of our Orthodoxy, upholding the Truth and piety handed to us and sharing it and its blessings on all who are sincerely interested in upholding it without adulteration.

    This was and is what Metropolitan Jonah stood for. This is what we are “clamoring about.” This is what we are working for. This is what we envision for our OCA as our American local church. This is what we call ourselves, our clergy and our hierarchy to uphold.

  3. I like the inclusion of Latin America in that. I particularly hope that becomes true for Brazil.

  4. Sue Ranstead :

    As a convert from the Evangelical Orthodox Church in the 80’s (chrismated into Orthodoxy by Metropolitan Philip) now attending an OCA church in CT, I am very sadden by the news that our bishops have “removed” +Jonah. I met +Jonah once and was impressed by his humility and caring, characteristics that should be honored but instead appear to have been used against him. When he, as a new bishop, was elevated to Metropolitan, I believed it was done to molify those of us in the OCA who were angry over the petty politics, greed and cover-ups we had been witnessing over the years, and was hopeful that new life would be felt in the Church. Now I realize this young bishop was elevated in the hopes that he could be more easily manipulated. Was he our last hope to return Truth and Accountability to our hierarchy, to develope respectful communion with other denominations, to evangelize as did the Holy Apostles? I pray a true leader is elected who will bring the OCA into this century, into the lives of our young people, and discard the status quo which has descimated our parishes. If not, this Orthodox-loving woman will no longer be a part of the OCA, refusing to help finance the greed and isolationist policies of the current hierarchy. I pray for +Jonah, the OCA Holy Synod, and all Orthodox faithful, that they embrace God’s will and help carry the cross so eloquently described by +Jonah.

  5. I would suggest that anyone who wants to know the truth please refer to ocanews.org and read all the well documented stories from Jonah’s election onwards.

  6. Maybe this will provide some concrete information to counter the speculation and rumors:

    http://midwestdiocese.org/news_120716_1.html

    While former Metropolitan Jonah was a gifted speaker, whose views on traditional moral standards did not really differ from the other bishops, it appears Jonah was involved in a coverup of a rape and violence, as well as a continuing pattern of disregarding Policies, Standards and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct, and unilateral action on other legal matters – the head of the Orthodox Church In America does not have authority to act independent of the other bishops. In light of Penn State and Jerry Sandusky and the Kansas City and Philadelphia dioceses of the Catholic Church, it looks like there was no other choice except to demand his resignation. It is sad, and prayers for former Metropolitan Jonah and all involved are needed.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Strong charges Bob and while I don’t intend to discuss them here (and will delete any posts that do), any man charged with these crimes (and the charge of coverup of rape and violence is a crime) deserves to be heard before final judgments are made. The Church has Spiritual Courts as a way of dealing with these things, and if Met. Jonah is indeed guilty of these charges, he deserves his day in court. Short of that, it falls to others to determine their accuracy and/or veracity. That’s what freedom of the press is for.

      • Agreed, Fr. Johannes, strong charges indeed, and very sad, very tragic. The OCA Synod of Bishops has now published (http://oca.org/PDF/NEWS/2012/2012-0716-holy-synod-statement.pdf) the (apparently) same statement as first issued by Bishop Matthias, referenced above. “Cover up” is my wording, and I should have prefaced it by “alleged”, but after reading the statements, who (except perhaps a lawyer) could call it anything else? The disclosure statement was delayed for days, contributing to speculation such as those above in the post, including disparaging the Orthodox Holy Synod by the words of Rod Dreher about the “sleazy, corrupt way the Synod has handled this”. There is a line between compassion and protection of members of the church, and society in general, from potential harm by those in positions of trusted authority. Earlier statements by Chancellor Jillions (http://oca.org/reflections/fr.-john-jillions/july-13-2012 and http://oca.org/reflections/fr.-john-jillions/july-12-2012) expressed “[J]udgment is a tricky business and is always imperfect. No one really knows how well or poorly anyone is carrying out his or her stewardship except God. […] Still, if we love the Church we can’t avoid the hard, imperfect decisions required of trustworthy stewards. That’s what adults have to do, deciding and acting in the absence of perfect knowledge. Anything less is irresponsible.”

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          Well, it the letter doesn’t appear to be written by a lawyer. In fact, I think a competent lawyer would have advised it should never have been written at all. And this statement:

          [J]udgment is a tricky business and is always imperfect. No one really knows how well or poorly anyone is carrying out his or her stewardship except God. […] Still, if we love the Church we can’t avoid the hard, imperfect decisions required of trustworthy stewards. That’s what adults have to do, deciding and acting in the absence of perfect knowledge. Anything less is irresponsible.

          …is unacceptable. We don’t make an allegation against a man and lessen our responsibility for it by arguing it is “tricky business,” “imperfect” and made in the “absence of perfect knowledge,” and then turn around and claim that if “we love the Church” it is justifiable to make it anyway. This is sloppy and, worse, irresponsible. They better have airtight proof before alleging the man covered up rape and violence.

          This charge is so scandalous and so destructive to Met. Jonah’s reputation, that if it is ever proven to be false, those that made it should resign.

          • Fr. Johannes – you are confusing the bishops’ statement with the earlier “chancellor’s diary” (“Judgment is a tricky business”), written when everyone was wondering why Jonah had resigned, as opposed to being placed on leave. Many people at Penn State and within football loved “Papa Joe” Paterno as well, but he resigned before Sandusky was convicted, and everyone knows the story of that one and how it does affect Paterno’s reputation and the Penn State institution.

            Bloggers are worried about the OCA being mortally wounded. The Church will survive; if the bishops had done nothing after being knowledgeable (Jonah is still collecting a full salary until October out of compassion even though he resigned) and thereby subjected all of themselves to legal actions and criminal charges, then that truly would have been a tragedy for the Orthodox Church. Frankly, it is the reputation of the church (Catholic and Orthodox), more important than any one person, that is being tarnished by protecting men (not following the standards and procedures on allegations of sexual improprieties) who no longer are qualified or worthy of being priests.

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

            I don’t intend to discuss the particulars of the letter. I don’t know the history or the evidence. Still, this charge is so scandalous and so destructive to the man’s reputation, that if it is ever proven to be false, those that made it should resign.

            I’m not as gleeful about Church survival as you are. Yes, the Church will survive but not everywhere, it never has. And while it is true that the gates of hell will never prevail against her, pray that we never see them. Those are times of great injustice and suffering.

            • Michael Bauman :

              Fr. Hans, it is obvious to me that there are at least two very strongly held positions on Met. Jonah both of which are probably wrong. I would caution anyone to avoid certainty about any of the situations surrounding his resignation.

              It is obvious to me that Met. Jonah quickly and irrevocably upset a number of powerful constituencies within the OCA thus making it impossible for any brotherhood to be evident.

              As many pieces of ‘evidence’ as Mr. Graban and ‘George’ seek to bring forward there are at least at equal number of pieces on the other side.

              That is the real problem: sides. Since Mark Stokoe took to the internet, there has been fostered a culture of the scapregoat in the OCA that is not just at the top levels but seems to infect everyone who actually cares.

              Trust me, “getting rid’ of a person or a series of people will not help a bit no matter what anyone thinks. Looking for a scapegoat is one of the most profoundly un-Christian attitudes we can have. Once it is fostered and grows in a community it becomes a statanic game of whack-a-mole that is deeply destructive to the community and the spiritual lives of everyone in the community.

              Stop blaming, stop looking for bad guys, stop, just stop. Every single time you say so and so did this and that was just wrong!, you are playing into the evil one’s hands.

              My own bias is for Met. Jonah, but I don’t know. I have come to the conclusion that if folks in the OCA want healing they should just shut up and go to confession frequently. That is where the truth is. Anything else is unrighteous anger, moral posturing and power politics that have no place at all in the life of the Church.

              • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

                Scapegoats arise as a substitute for repentance. Whenever I see scapegoating, then I know no one is really dealing with sin/dysfunction. You see it everywhere too, Churches (across all denominations), business, social groups, etc. It should not exist in the Church, but it does. Rene Girard has done some great work on this.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scapegoating

                • Geo Michalopulos :

                  We are very much dealing with scapegoating here Fr. You are completely correct. That is why the OCA will collapse.

                  • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

                    Yes, it is scapegoating George. The OCA, like the GOA, doesn’t have much to show for the last 20 years unfortunately. Both have some very good people of course and some excellent priests. But overall we can’t say that we have risen to the challenges before us in any appreciable way. That’s not to say that their have not been some successes or that on a local level in isolated instances good work has not been done. Clearly that is not true. But on weighed on the scales the efforts fall far short of what they should and could be.

                    • M. Stankovich :

                      This comment is particularly disturbing to me when you say the OCA does not have “much to show for the last 20 years,” or has not “risen to the challenges before us in any appreciable way.” You made it a point to repost Fr. John Peck’s essay on the American Church of the future, and I will repeat what I stated then: the foundation for Fr. John’s inspirational words, as well as the former Metropolitan Jonah’s articulations, are the shoulders of the architects of autocephaly. Certainly I refer to the most visible and the most vocal, but many more are the unacknowledged priests who were and are “unsung” inspiration, “good [men], and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith: and many people was added unto the Lord.” (Acts 11:24) These were and are the rocks upon whom converts to the faith, themselves now likewise “some excellent priests,” whom Fr. John notes are becoming the majority, the ones who will lead the Church in America in the future.

                      You were not Orthodox when worse crises befell the church and many prognosticated the “demise” of Orthodoxy in America: the Metropolia’s decision to refuse the directive of Patriarch Sergius to promise to be silent on “politics” and allegiance; the separation from ROCOR and the years of accusations of “schism” and “heresy” that literally divided families to this day; the fear and hostility of “betrayal” by some American jurisdictions who had initially supported autocephaly and had made commitment “in principle,” but later capitulated; and the portend at the All American Council in Montreal, when a spontaneous “outburst” of the clergy and faithful who overrode the choir in signing the Creed in English. My point is that the conflict in the OCA today is, by contrast, a “ripple” fueled by the internet – the other events were battled face-to-face, by sermons, by official “letters,” and in the theological publications – that is barely even interesting to the indifferent majority.

                      I have considered at length, what would Fr. John Peck change in his prediction of the future America Orthodox Church given the current events – and let him chastize me as he will – but I strongly suspect nothing. As I noted at the time, he has most honorably joined a very lonely rank of “architects” who have paved the way with vision; who, having accepted the consequence of the “marshal [of] anger against [them]” defer reward for later, rather than sooner. Church leaders and personalities will cycle “like the grass,” for whatever reason, but vision will steadfastly continue to drive us forward.

                      American Orthodoxy has a firm foundation in our native saints – from Kodiak to Brooklyn – and martyrs, teachers and confessors, apostles, monastics, and the simple, persistent, and resilient clergy and faithful who are being saved, unknown and silent. Certainly, we have “all sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23), and I personally may never live to see a true American church. But to say the OCA “will collapse” on account of our current conflict is a reflection of one’s own lack of faith and trust, and no reflection on the foundational rock, the shoulders of the “architects” who drive this vision.

          • Fr. Johannes,

            The allegations made against Jonah are indefensible. Even if such a charge were true, neither proper Christian conduct nor sound legal judgement would lead to the kind of statement that was published. It is a fearful thing, of course, for me or anyone to make such a comment about Bishops of the Church, but even the Apostle Peter was publicly censured when his public behavior made it necessary. The following link contains the testimony of the God-mother of the woman who was raped. Jonah’s conduct appears to have been entirely appropriate.

            http://www.monomakhos.com/another-hole-in-the-official-story/

            • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

              Dan, I am letting Monomakhos handle the ins and outs of this conflict and don’t really want to discuss it here. However, I went on record in the Chicago Tribune saying that I think the censure of Met. Jonah is a rush to judgment. I think that the decision of the Synod to releasing the letter was unjust and created a public narrative Met. Jonah should not have to deal with, although I will grant that perhaps they acted ignorantly. Their ignorance does not excuse them; it just explains why they handled it as they did. In any case, now when anyone searches for Met. Jonah’s name, the allegation of covering up a rape will come up. This is the wrong way to treat the man.

              Here’s the article:

              Source: Boston Herald

              Bishops say church leader who resigned failed to remove priest accused of rape

              CHICAGO — More than a week after a Chicago native resigned from the helm of the Orthodox Church in America, the bishops who requested the resignation now say he failed to remove a priest accused of rape.

              In a resignation letter addressed to bishops earlier this month, Metropolitan Jonah “begged forgiveness for however I have offended you, and for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment.”

              When asked at the time whether rumors of a mishandled rape allegation were true, Archpriest Eric George Tosi, secretary for the Orthodox Church in America, referred all inquiries to the news release posted on the church’s website. But this week, the church issued a revised statement.

              “We have hesitated to release further details surrounding the resignation of Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of our church, this in a desire to preserve his dignity and to prevent further harm to an innocent party,” the statement said.

              “We also harbored some hope that Metropolitan Jonah would show a willingness to accept responsibility for his actions and failures to act,” the statement added.

              Elected in late 2008 to lead one of several branches of Orthodox Christianity in the United States, parishioners looked to Metropolitan Jonah for reforms after his predecessor retired amid allegations that millions of church dollars were used to cover personal expenses.

              He insisted on amplifying the church’s voice in the public square, speaking up against abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

              In the most recent statement, the church’s bishops claimed any suggestions that the resignation had to do with a political or cultural shift inside the church were untrue. Instead, they pointed to the Metropolitan’s alleged mishandling of a priest accused of raping a woman in 2010.

              When the rape accusation came to Metropolitan Jonah’s attention in February 2012, the bishops said, he failed to share the information with them. He also allegedly discouraged the accuser and her relative from mentioning the allegation and arranged to transfer the priest without warning his subsequent superiors of the circumstances.

              Metropolitan Jonah could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but the Rev. Johannes Jacobse, president of the American Orthodox Institute, said “there was a rush to judgment here.” He said reports indicate that Metropolitan Jonah removed the priest before the allegations came to light and the details in the bishops’ letter are wrong.

              Melanie Sakoda of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, commended the Orthodox bishops for forcing Metropolitan Jonah to resign and for finally telling the truth without revealing the victim’s identity. But she criticized them for not releasing the name of the cleric or the names of the parishes where he might have worked and abused others.

              “Sadly, the church’s deeply rooted pattern of secrecy in sex cases continues,” Sakoda said.

              This week, bishops attributed the forced resignation and full disclosure of the details to lessons learned from the recent sex abuse scandals involving Penn State and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Diocese of Kansas City. They blamed Metropolitan Jonah for exposing the church to legal liability.

              • M. Stankovich :

                While I fully appreciate that you “don’t really want to discuss it here,” that was quite a “however” that followed. Monomakhos is censoring comments that do not fit his “story,” but I believe I should reasonably have a higher expectation of you.

                Someone elsewhere is quoting an address of Solzhenitsyn:

                Because instant and credible information has to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors and suppositions to fill in the voids,and none of them will ever be rectified, they will stay on in the readers’ memory. How many hasty, immature, superficial and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification. The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters, pertaining to one’s nation’s defense, publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: “everyone is entitled to know everything.” But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.

                The same action can be interpreted as “ignorant,” the “truth,” or the “last resort” in a storm, all depending on who is doing the interpreting. Opinion, upon opinion, upon opinion – which we all do not apparently agree is one’s “right” – naturally lowers the threshold for truth, leading to “information cascades” – where someone derives an opinion from the derived opinion of someone else, who has a derived opinion… – and, more often than not, results (if you believe the research) in error.

                It’s your sandbox, Abouna, but my opinion is that your “on the record” belonged on Monomakhos, and has only lowered the standard here.

                • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

                  Another flurry of words, but that this is not the way to treat the man still stands.

                  • M. Stankovich :

                    As you have so aptly and frequently quoted Solzhenitsyn: words have power. As I recall, Solzhenitsyn personally seemed to revel in a notorious penchant for “flurries of words.” I made no comment as to the merit of your statement. That is your business, not mine, though I suspect it is only as “refreshingly wholesome” as its accuracy. Fairness would suggest, however, that we both suffer a paucity of truth, or at least a chosen unwillingness to admit the possibility of an alternate context.

                    My concern was simply to say that the “way of the internet” is “rumor” leads to conjecture, which then leaps to “truth,” which if disputed leads to “conspiracy.” And should this “truth” be unconditionally refuted, there is never a retraction or apology, just silence, and not everyone gets the memo. This “way” dangerously relies on the essential element of a lack of cohesion and sense of community to lower the threshold for truth. I was simply pointing out a demonstrated, harmful phenomenon, not criticizing your “stand.” You are suddenly “sensitive” to my comments, Abouna?

              • Thank you, Fr. Johannes. Both the tone and the content of your “however” are measured and refreshingly wholesome. May God bless and keep you. May God bless His Church.

                There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was in the flesh, God did, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh; and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in you, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

                Father, bless!

  7. Pardon me for posting here. I was led to believe this was a Catholic forum (“Catholic Online”), and I was just trying to shed some light to them on statements from the OCA. If this is one of the blogs of Orthodox folks going after each other and espousing their own factionalism, I am very naive to have ever left a comment.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      This is an Orthodox blog, but I am an occasional columnist for Catholic Online. You will find strong opinions here but little factionalism unless you define holding contrary opinions as factionalism.

  8. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Catherine, I am answering this here because my reply does not show up in the comment thingy in the sidebar.

    Fr. Hans,

    Have you any recommendation for how an Orthodox Christian might manifest courage in a situation such as that presented in the blog above? Met. Jonah has seemingly demonstrated courage, but in the moment, it appears that his courage as he stands alone is not enough. Should others then courageously stand alongside him? If so, what might this look like for clergy and for laity?

    If we should not stand alongside Met. Jonah the person so as to avoid factionalism in our Church or for some other reason, then should we otherwise visibly stand for the foundational moral truths of our Church that Met. Jonah has been articulating at this time when these truths seem to be under assualt even from within the Church? If so, what might this look like for clergy and laity?

    Regarding the “this” that will pass soon enough: are you referring to the current discord and unrest surrounding the situation articulated in the blog above, or the modernist spirit that underpins the discord, or some other possibility?

    It seems to me that while the upheaval of this present moment will certainly pass (if for no reason other than that our human bodies and souls grow weary and need rest), the modernist spirit which has lead to it might well be here to stay if we do not actively expunge it from our Church.

    If you have thoughts to share in this regard, I would be grateful for them.

    Catherine,

    I have seen these kinds of conflicts before in the Church and there is always a period of deep confusion about facts, which we are seeing now. It’s correct that the truth will win out, but sometimes it takes a very long time for that to happen.

    In the meantime a person has to be willing to take the hits that speaking the truth sometimes (often actually) requires. In the case of Met. Jonah, it is clear that he speaks the truth with depth and coherence because he understands the dominant culture and how people think. He speaking has what I call a prophetic dimension and this gift (and it is a gift) only comes by conquering sin and temptation in one’s interior life.

    He’s a good man but inexperienced in this sense: he only now is learning that speaking in this way will marshal anger against him. He implicitly challenges those who have a basement full of Orthodox bromides but lack the prescience to speak within that prophetic dimension. Because they lack it, their words, while coherent, systematic, even true in their own way, never rise above merely assembling propositions together. That’s entirely appropriate in a classroom of course, but it is not preaching. Met. Jonah preaches and people listen.

    So what do we do? Recognize that not everything that calls itself Orthodox is Orthodox, and trust that Christ will lead us in all things, which He will. Live your own life in Truth, and then God will guide you and protect you.

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