Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


How to govern a church: a case study

posted by Rod Dreher

I want to contrast the way the institutional Catholic Church is struggling to deal with its problem bishops, versus the way the Orthodox Church in America (my church) has done it recently. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but I probably need to: this is not an argument for why Orthodoxy is more true than Catholicism. It is only a comment about administration.
A church is both a human and a divine institution. Because of its human element, there will always be sin among its people, including its leadership. As the famous saying goes, if you find a perfect church, join it, but know that the minute you yourself walk in the door, it will cease to be perfect any longer. It is hopelessly unrealistic to expect that the clergy of any church will always be free from sin. What matters is how those in authority deal with that sin once they become aware of it. The Catholic scandal is not really over priests molesting children, but over bishops who became aware of it refusing to deal effectively and justly with the sins and crimes.
When I joined the OCA, it was embroiled in a very serious scandal at its summit. The then-Metropolitan, one Herman, stood accused of fraud and corruption, possibly criminal. As I understand it, the scandal was primarily financial, but it was a messy one indeed. There had been longstanding attempts by concerned laity and priests to compel the Holy Synod to deal forthrightly with this cancer growing in the church, but they kept kicking the problem down the field. Whether out of weakness, naivete, loss of nerve, or whatever, the Synod of Bishops, who had the authority to act, did not. Meanwhile, the laity and some prominent voices in the clergy grew ever angrier.
Note well: they did not want to change church doctrine. They wanted rather the Metropolitan to live by church doctrine, which included not committing fraud, and involving the church in potentially criminal activity (btw, the OCA just released the executive summary of its own investigation into Herman’s corruption). They kept up the pressure in a direct way. The church really was coming apart over all this, and over the inexplicable paralysis of the Holy Synod in the face of Herman’s behavior. And then, at an anxious All-American council of bishops, priest and laity called to elect a new Metropolitan, the newly ordained Bishop Jonah was told he had to address the assembly. He had three minutes to prepare.
If you go to this item on my old Crunchy Con blog, you can find your way to an audio link of the speech Jonah gave that fateful night. I remember standing in my kitchen in Dallas listening to it. Jonah, who had only recently left the monastery of which he was abbot, spoke with a gentle but firm voice, but he said things that that landed like thunderclaps. He said the two previous Metropolitans were “corrupt,” and had “raped the church.” He said that the OCA had been without leadership for 30 years. He said that had to end, and it was going to end. He said that if the church is only about beautiful liturgy, nobody should care about it. And then he said:
“Authority is responsibility. Authority is accountability. It’s not power.”
A friend of mine in the audience said as he spoke, you could feel the atmosphere in the room changing. Suddenly, people had hope, and could see the way clear. Shortly thereafter, his brother bishops elected him the next Metropolitan.
He has had a very, very difficult time trying to clean up the filthy messes his predecessors left. But his view of the primate as a servant of Christ and his people, and not as an enabler of episcopal power exercised for its own sake, and in service to lavish episcopal lifestyles, was not only the correct one, but had the power to renew a church in despair over decadence among its bishops. Jonah spoke the truth — and it changed everything. But if his were only words, and had not been accompanied by the Synod, under fire from the laity and the lower clergy, forcing Herman to resign, they would likely have made people cynical.
Words and deeds. Humility. Authority inseparable from accountability. That’s what a true servant-leader of mine or any church should be about. With great power comes great responsibility.



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hlvanburen

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm


“Words and deeds. Humility. Authority inseparable from accountability. That’s what a true servant-leader of mine or any church should be about. With great power comes great responsibility.”
It is what _any_ organization should be about, Mr. Dreher, but even more so an organization that claims, as part of its mandate, the duty to point out moral flaws in the rest of society. It is hard to take seriously a church, synagogue, mosque, or any religious institution that calls others to a high moral standard while failing to hold itself to a similar level of morality.
I know of nobody calling for the Catholic Church to be perfect. I, and many others, are calling on it to at the very least live up to the standard it holds up as an example for the rest of us. If it cannot live by that standard why should any of us even think of doing so?



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Reaganite in NYC

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm


“He said the two previous Metropolitans were ‘corrupt,’ and had ‘raped the church.’ He said that the OCA had been without leadership for 30 years. He said that had to end, and it was going to end.”
Rod, in the incident you describe (the speech by the Bishop Jonah and the response of those present in electing him Metropolitan), the Holy Spirit was the operative force. This was a very beautiful, grace-filled event. Rod, thanks for sharing it.
But it’s worth noting that it occurred after 30 years of rot at the top of the OCA. And it ended when a truly holy and prayerful individual, guided no doubt by the Holy Spirit, spoke truth with clarity and calmness.
This suggests that the answer to this kind of problem is not programmatic but spiritual, not institutional but indiviual. All members of the Church must at every turn promote prayer, inner conversion and fidelity. From this soil will there grow good fruit, from this environment will their emerge the kind of good and holy leaders like the Metropolitan Jonah whom you have described. It happened in this instance in the OCA. It has happened before and will happen again in the RCC.
We err when we apply political or programmatic models to the Church. This is an error so many of us interested in politics (including me) often commit when we examine and discuss the Church.



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MikeW

posted March 24, 2010 at 5:29 pm


“This suggests that the answer to this kind of problem is not programmatic but spiritual, not institutional but individual.”
I don’t buy this. Sounds like the OCA had organizational problems, leadership problems, and spiritual problems at the top. Most relgious organizations, I think, confuse spiritual leadership and organizational leadership. You might have the most saintly person heading your denomination, but if they suck as a manager and leader, there are going to be serious problems. Count on it. Add in the tendency of many Christians to become apologists for idiot leaders because they don’t want to appear “condemning” or “judgemental,” and you have the ingredients for ongoing messes. Likewise, you could have the best manager in the world leading your religious organization, but if they don’t buy any of the tenets of the faith, that can be a problem, too.



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CaboTennisDude

posted March 24, 2010 at 5:51 pm


Oh for the days when Christians demanded competence in their bishops.
As when the bishop of Milan died and the people rose up to demand that the regional governor Ambrose (then only a catechumen I believe) be made their bishop.
My wife works at a commercial real estate office with amazingly competent management. Her Uber-boss has a strict “No Asshole” policy on the part of its brokers.
What I wouldn’t give to elect her boss as Antiochian metropolitan.



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Charles Curtis

posted March 24, 2010 at 6:07 pm


The funny thing about Metropolitan Jonah, whom I met when he was abbot at Point Reyes, is how unassuming he is. I didn’t even get that he was the abbot when i was there. His physicality is almost funny – very mild and gentle, a little overweight, bespeckled, a bit cross-eyed (if I remember right) and with a really unruly beard.
It made me laugh when I heard he’d been elected. Nice choice. Many years, Metropolitan Jonah, many years.



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted March 24, 2010 at 6:11 pm


Rod, Christ made the exact same point in John 13, when he washed his disciples’ feet — a task that the lowliest slaves was expected to do — as an example of true Christian leadership after his disciples had been arguing about who would be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom.
Every Holy Thursday, the Pope washes the bishops’ feet in an elaborate ceremony at the Vatican. Unfortunately, the bishops don’t get it, haven’t gotten it for some time — and, unless they repent, won’t.



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Erin Manning

posted March 24, 2010 at 6:59 pm


Rod, in contrasting the two situations I think a little look at the chronology might be interesting.
Most American Catholics became aware of the Scandal in 2002, when the Boston Globe broke major stories about it. Granted, there might have been some awareness here and there prior to that, but I think it’s fair to say that few Catholics had heard of sex abuse scandals involving the Church before that time.
In the time period between 2002 and this year, a period of some 8 years, only one high-ranking cleric (Law) has left his position. However, the adoption of the Dallas Charter has had a positive effect, and a recent news report mentioned that abuse cases are declining significantly (again, granted, even one case is too many, but the Charter seems to be making it much harder for abusers to gain access to children, which was the point).
According to the “Orthodox Christians for Accountability” website, the financial scandal became public knowledge in 1993, though the irregularities dated to 1990 and possibly earlier; awareness was raised again in 2005 by Protodeacon Eric Wheeler. It took from 1993 (or 2005, depending on how you look at it) to 2008 for Metropolitan Herman to resign (“voluntarily”) and Metropolitan Jonah to be elected. I haven’t studied the chronology on the OCANews website in enough detail to learn how many other high-ranking clerics might have been kicked out or when, exactly, it happened. There do seem to be aspects of the financial scandal still under investigation, and I’m unsure if the OCA has adopted new strict across-the-board financial policies for its churches to follow to make sure such accounting irregularities don’t plague the OCA again, though I’d welcome the insights of any Orthodox on the matter.
My point is that whether you “kick out bishops” or not, scandals and corruptions in Churches take a while to clear up entirely, and the speed with which things might improve seems not to depend on whether kicking out bishops is the first action, the last one, or an ongoing process (as we’re seeing now in Ireland).



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hlvanburen

posted March 24, 2010 at 8:54 pm


Ms. Manning posts: “Most American Catholics became aware of the Scandal in 2002, when the Boston Globe broke major stories about it. Granted, there might have been some awareness here and there prior to that, but I think it’s fair to say that few Catholics had heard of sex abuse scandals involving the Church before that time.”
Well, it depends on how you define “awareness”. For example, here is a story from 1987.
nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=SJ&s_site=mercurynews&p_multi=SJ&p_theme=realcities&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EB72CDF38FD5DE3&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM
“San Jose Mercury News (CA) – December 30, 1987 – 1A Front
THE CHURCH’S SECRET CHILD-ABUSE DILEMMA CATHOLIC PARENTS BRING CHARGES WITH LITTLE RESULT
At a time of heightened national awareness of the problems of child abuse, the Catholic Church in the United States continues to ignore and cover up cases of priests who sexually molest children, according to court records, internal church documents, civil authorities and the victims themselves. Church officials insist that a notorious 1985 Louisiana case in which a priest molested at least 35 boys has taught them to deal firmly with the problem. But a three-month Mercury News… ”
We also have this report, again from 1987.
nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=MN&p_theme=mn&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EFE48FC43EC2E42&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM
“Bishop says church erred in handling of sex abuse case
Published on February 16, 1987
The chancellor of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Sunday that it had been a mistake in allowing a priest to resume parish duties after he had admitted sexually abusing a boy, but that there was no negligence or cover-up by the church.
Bishop Robert Carlson made the remarks at a press conference to address the concerns of parents and parishioners after two lawsuits were filed this month alleging that Roman Catholic church officials knew the Rev. Thomas”
Also found was this article from 1985.
news.google.com/newspapers?id=srgfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=stcEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4492,1642985&dq=catholic+church+child+abuse&hl=en
The article references a Washington Post article that speaks of instances of abusive priests in Los Angeles, Portland (OR), Boise, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, San Diego, and Bristol (RI).
Now, an argument can be made that the national news media did not necessarily become aware of the widespread nature of the abuse until 2002 (though I think that case might be weak if the Washington Post article is checked), but certainly regional newspapers were carrying stories of abuse some 17 years prior to the Boston revelations.
If we take the reference to the story in the Washington Post as perhaps the first story indicating a public awareness of multiple instances of abuse in a variety of locations, that puts the starting point at sometime in 1985.
30 years ago.



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hlvanburen

posted March 24, 2010 at 9:17 pm


I’ve also found references such as this one: “In 1985, when the U.S. bishops held their first national discussion on how to deal with sexual abuse of minors by priests, Father Michael Peterson, founder of St. Luke and one of the nation’s leading priest-psychotherapists, wrote to them saying that the question of why priests or others are sexually attracted to youngsters “is just (now) being investigated in a scientific fashion.”
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/abuse/abuse15.htm
Honestly, I think there appears to be evidence that the Church can be said to have become aware of the scope of the problem as early as 1985, which becomes a key demarcation point in the discussion.



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Anonymous

posted March 24, 2010 at 9:39 pm


Rod, I am an Orthodox Christian and a member of the OCA. When I was converting several years ago, I was aware of the controversy concerning Herman, but told not to focus on it. While I admire Metropolitan Jonah’s sentiments and think he is wonderful, I do not believe that the church handled this situation as well as you do. It took a very long time for the other bishops to hold Herman accountable, and as I recall several bishops dealt with a lot of backlash for trying to bring the claims against Herman to light. In addition, as I understand it, Herman has never been prosecuted but has been allowed to quietly resign and retire. That is hardly an appropriate punishment in my opinion.



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mdavid

posted March 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm


Reagan in NYC, We err when we apply political or programmatic models to the Church. This is an error so many of us interested in politics (including me) often commit when we examine and discuss the Church.
Well said. But it’s not just the Church. It’s everything, it’s the whole culture. Look at politics, look at the anger and assurance out there. Lot’s of heat. Lots of opinion. Little reflection.
It’s interesting to compare these discussions with political discussions, like the invasion of Iraq after 9-11 (which imo led to a very bad end, while calm opposition was vilified). Emotion always wins the day, and everyone has a “righteous” opinion about some new structural solution to fix this or that sin which by golly will work this time. Everyone who has zero responsibility gets to play god for a minute and seethe at cooler heads who look to history and logic for solutions, and move more carefully. In fact, reading the comments here is a fascinating exercise in observing self-righteous anger.
Having said all that, there is also something very interesting about how many people have strong negative emotions about the structure of the RCC. For example, the Church seems to generate a lot more anger in people who are not part of it and thus not even effected by it; this really reinforces the claim of divine nature by the Church…even unbelievers seem to believe, I guess. I mean, as a RC, I expect far, far less from my leadership than do even non (or anti) Catholics here seem to…what a trip that folk who do not believe its divine origin still seem to expect the RCC to be full of saints, to passionately want to reorganize it, and get all bent out of shape when it’s not done their way. It’s wild, really. Think about it: why do they care? Remember, no bishop is above American law – if they can be convicted of sexual abuse, they certainly will be. The reality is that a child is a heck of a lot safer in a RCC than most other places (for example, I’ve been a RC all my life and never have run across a single abuse case there, but have seen many, many cases in the schools I’ve attended during the same time). So why all the concern and heat? As I say, it’s fascinating. Must be that divine origin thing.



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Erin Manning

posted March 24, 2010 at 9:53 pm


Hlvanburen, I’m not saying that some weren’t aware that early that there were problems–but the idea that large numbers of Catholics really recognized a *pattern* of abusive priests being dealt with in wholly unsatisfactory ways prior to 2000 or so is not very tenable. Rod was speaking of lay Orthodox, joined by courageous clergy, calling for reforms when they became aware of the financial problems. If we’re going to compare the situation, I’d still have to say that lay Catholics weren’t hugely aware of child sex abuse before 2002 or thereabouts.



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Erin Manning

posted March 24, 2010 at 9:54 pm


That last sentence should of course be …aware of child sex abuse by clergy before…etc.



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Max

posted March 24, 2010 at 10:15 pm


The OCA is small; because of this, OCANews.org was able to whip up the Orthodox grassroots to put enough pressure on the Holy Synod to step up and act. If the OCA were the size of the Catholic Church would this have happened? Hard to say. My guess is ‘no’. This is not a slam on the OCA, just to point out that it is easier to demand accountability from smaller organizations. Also, let’s not forget, that the earlier OCA controversies are far from over and new ones have arisen.



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hlvanburen

posted March 24, 2010 at 10:20 pm


“If we’re going to compare the situation, I’d still have to say that lay Catholics weren’t hugely aware of child sex abuse before 2002 or thereabouts.”
If we accept that, can we then point to any large group within the Catholic laity that is showing signs of pushing back against the leadership in an attempt to force large systemic changes such as those made by the OCA? I’ve seen several victims groups within the Church be openly ridiculed as being “leftist” when it comes to the changes they desire. Is there any kind of push from Catholic laity that can be compared to that which developed during those 15 years in the OCA?



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hlvanburen

posted March 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm


“The OCA is small; because of this, OCANews.org was able to whip up the Orthodox grassroots to put enough pressure on the Holy Synod to step up and act.”
True, but if we compare the OCA to the Catholic Church in America (the domain of the USCCB) do we have a more apples-to-apples comparison?
And let us not lose track of another point. The OCA scandal came to light in 1993, some three years after the events happened. Is there any evidence that the OCA leadership had met prior to 1993 to address this issue, as the USCCB had met in 1985 to address sexual abuse by priests?
Finally, and I would ask those more familiar with the situation to correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that ocanews.org was (and in many quarters still is) considered a pariah because of its “harping” on the problems in the OCA.
orthodoxbeacon.com/nation/philip-condemns-ocanews-org-editor-responds/
ocanews.org/news/PhilipAttacksStokoe9.29.09.html
Is there a similar exchange taking place between the USCCB and any organization/group/entity?



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Rod Dreher

posted March 24, 2010 at 10:38 pm


While I admire Metropolitan Jonah’s sentiments and think he is wonderful, I do not believe that the church handled this situation as well as you do.
Oh, look, I think they handled it horribly. I think they handled it contemptibly. The point is they ultimately couldn’t hide from the truth of the situation. The point is they ultimately had to face the facts. They could not put it off indefinitely. That’s all I’m saying. It got dealt with because they couldn’t gut it out forever, like the Catholic bishops are able to.



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Chris Jones

posted March 24, 2010 at 10:54 pm


if we compare the OCA to the Catholic Church in America (the domain of the USCCB) do we have a more apples-to-apples comparison?
Hardly. The membership of the OCA is somewhere between 25,000 and 100,000, depending on how you count it (baptized members, average Sunday attendance, etc.). It’s pretty small even among Orthodox jurisdictions.
On the other hand, there are over 60 million Roman Catholics in the United States, which makes the OCA about 1/10 of 1 percent of the RCC in the US. Not nearly close enough for an apples-to-apples comparison.



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Yishay

posted March 25, 2010 at 12:47 am


As long as the adulterous church continues celebrating the Pagan feast and worshiping their babylonian, roman and greek idols on days like Sun-Day just like antichrist Constantine taught them they will continue to fall in the temptation of their father. This is all part of the great harlot that has worship all the pagan gods and virgins since before constantine. Good friday to Ishstar Sun-Day were not 3 days and 3 nights. The true Messiah died on Passover and rose on Shabbat. Celebrating Lent is the celebration of the Virgins weeping for 40 years of Tammuz the son of Nimrod the sun god of Babylon. Get our of her my people. Stop kissing the feet of Jupiter and making your children play with the eggs dipped in the blood of the babies of the virgin nuns. Stop eating the pagan sun cross buns and the Ishtar ham. Eating fish in the name of pagan fish gods and counting beads of egyptian pharaohs. The cross you worship with a decrepit skinny dead jesus is the cross of Mithra the roman god. Come out of her my people wake up. The Messiah is coming soon and He will not know you workers of iniquity. Stop celebrating pagan saint feasts like christmas the birth day of Tammuz and Mithra. Stop celebrating Easter the Ishtar celebtarion of the re encarnation of Seramis. Stop Celebrating St Valentines, Lent, ad all the other non biblical feasts before is too late. Repent, The Kingdom of YHWH Elohim is at hand. Get out of her. Blessings



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Reaganite in NYC

posted March 25, 2010 at 1:56 am


MikeW (5:29 PM) “I don’t buy [that the answer is not programmatic but spiritual]. Sounds like the OCA had organizational problems, leadership problems, and spiritual problems at the top. Most religious organizations, I think, confuse spiritual leadership and organizational leadership. You might have the most saintly person heading your denomination, but if they suck as a manager and leader, there are going to be serious problems.”
MikeW, thanks for responding to my comment. I understand where you’re coming from. The Church, like any organization of humans, needs to achieve basic levels of operational competence.
However, I think it is precisely the drive for managerial excellence — the achievement of material goals/targets — that often leads to trouble in the Church. Was it not a desire to protect the Church’s PR image (and its ability to continue to raise funds for its many worthy charitable and educational programs) that led to the problem with covering up pederasty? I’m guessing that the original source of the problem with the OCA had everything also to do with achieving non-spiritual organizational goals.
Today we see in the ECUSA the desire of Episcopalian bishops to hold on to Church properties against efforts by orthodox Episcopalian congregations to place themselves under the leadership of African bishops. These efforts violate the “spirit” of Church governance and will probably lead to very un-Christian behavior though, from the perspective of “corporate management,” they make perfectly good sense.
In Luke’s gospel, we have the wonderful story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary. As you’ll recall, Martha was the type-A personality focusing on worldly concerns while Mary wanted to do nothing else than to sit at Jesus’ feet and absorb His truth. While the Church appreciates the efforts and diligence of the “Martha’s” of the world, Jesus makes clear his preference for the fidelity of the “Mary’s.”
The Church is not only composed of humans in this world but also of the Saints in the next. That’s what makes it different from other worldly organizations and it’s why deeply-spiritual leaders like the Metropolitan Jonah are the key to its success in this world.



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Richard

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:10 am


Rod, I think your last comment above is exactly on point. And it is true for just about any church that’s ever gone through a scandal.
What Christians rightly wonder about and pray over is WHEN the RC church will finally face the truth and punish those responsible – publicly. One hopes that when they do so, people will still care about the RC witness.
As an aside, there is overhwelming evidence from local and regional news from 30 years ago that large numbers of Americans (let alone Catholics) knew the RC had a problem with pedophile priests. 2002 is when the RC church saw its influence over media stories begin to vanish, which it did quickly.



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Anonymous

posted March 25, 2010 at 8:56 am


I appreciate the clarification about how you think the OCA handled the situation as I was the one who made the comment about thinking Metropolitan Jonah is wonderful but the Church handling the state of affairs for poorly. And yes, I truly admire the bishops and priests who called for accountability. (I know my priest called for accountability, which I find very comforting and makes me respect him more.)



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Roland de Chanson

posted March 25, 2010 at 10:28 am


In the Boston area, we were aware of abuse as early as 1993 or so, when James Porter, a priest of the Fall River diocese (just south of Boston), was convicted and sentenced to prison for the abuse of children. Bernard Law blamed the press for their spotlighting the case. Seán O’Malley (now archbishop of Boston) was subsequently installed as bishop of Fall River and did clean up the filth.
The Porter case seemed exceptional at the time; little were we aware that Law’s own bailiwick harbored even more “aberrants” (as Law termed Porter). O’Malley was called into Boston to clean out Law’s stables.
Is the scandal over? Are the children safe? The bishops claim to have put safeguards in place. Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The bishops were called a “mafia” by Frank Keating, former Oklahoma governor, who resigned from the bishops’ own review board.
Until a few mitres are lopped from the heads of these swine and millstones hung from their necks, they asses they protect will be their own.



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George Strickland

posted March 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm


No doubt the bishops of the Catholic Church failed to take decisive action to remove priests involved in child sexual abuse. The cover ups by the bishops is as bad or worse than the abusive behavior of priests who had no business serving in the Church. Sad to say that bishops often acted as bureaucrats protecting the interests of the institution rather than as pastors driving out corruption.
As an Orthodox Christian, Metropolitan Jonah’s job #1 was to sweep clean the massive corruption caused by his predecessors and other high ranking clergy. Jonah had no other choice but to take decisive action under the close scrutiny of clergy and laity.
In both instances, corruption was ignored and hidden by church officials. Instead of cleansing the church of God, they allowed the filth to fester and putrefy. Both churches have paid a very high price.



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MikeW

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm


I appreciate your comments, Reaganite in NYC, and I certainly recognize the special qualities of religious organizations, but most of the problems I’ve read about and observed have less to do with the “religious” mission of the organization and some fairly fundamental organizational failings. For example, we routinely require background checks for anyone working with children, we undergo regular financial audits and reviews, we routinely survey our patrons to make sure we are meeting their expectations, and so on. In other word, we’re accountable to our owners not just in word but deed. Raising money is also a particular challenge for us. In other words, how can we raise money to survive without compromising our artistic soul. Religious organizations, particularly ones that combine operational, spiritual, and financial responsibilities under the auspices of one person, are just looking for trouble. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when the bad person is finally ousted, but that’s the easy fix that will be undone when the next bad Metropolitan, Bishop, Priest, or Pope comes around. I guess I would argue that how an organization deals with that bad bishop will demonstrate whether the organization is a healthy one, or has some more profound ills.



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Janice Fox

posted March 27, 2010 at 5:33 pm


mdavid: As far as I know, the only religion which does not claim divine origin is Buddhism. All Christian churches claim divine origin. Many people resent those churches who claim to be holier than thou or to dwell in more light than thou. When the people in those holier or lighter churches have money or moral scandals, the people in other groups with some satisfaction look down on them and think that they can offer advice on how to reorganize to avoid these situations. Furthermore, churches with many adherents who can influence public policy by their votes will be closely watched by the media to determine if they are living up to their higher moral/ethical standards. A former friend of mine told me that the whole cause of the sex abuse crisis in the RC Church was that Satan was attacking the Church from the inside because it had the most truth. She went on to say that he did not bother to attack Protestant churches because he already had them in the palm of his hand. Can you see the holier than thou attitude? Can you understand why people resent those who hold such attitudes?
When such churches have scandals, many people want to offer advice on how to deal with those scandals and avoid them in the future. That is what we are doing here on this blog.
A hearty round of applause to the whistle blowers in the OCA and the RC. The SNAP organization is composed of particularly brave people who were called liars and threatened by members of their community. Because of these people both our money and our children are safer.



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Greg

posted March 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm


Perhaps we should not just yet hold the Orthodox Church in America up as an example of how to handle clergy criminal behavior, in particular sexual abuse. Not that this particular Orthodox jurisdiction hasn’t taken some steps in the right direction, but the issue may not be as fully revealed as it should. This web site appears to be a relatively new one, but it carries the potential to cast a cathartic era, or a bombshell, on the Orthodox Church:
“Were you abused sexually or otherwise by someone in one of the Orthodox churches, or in a church that calls itself Orthodox?… Often times, you may hear people say that ‘Abuse is unknown in the Orthodox Church!’ or ‘We may have problems, but we never move abusers around the way that the Catholics do.’” The web site POKROV.ORG wants to “teach the Orthodox both that abuse occurs, and that we have no right to point any fingers at our Roman brethren.”
Source: POKROV.ORG: A Resource for Survivors of Abuse in the Orthodox Churches
http://www.pokrov.org/default.asp



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Janice Fox

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:51 pm


Greg: Thank you for the link to pokrov. It seems to cover the entire orthodox world, not just the USA. I know the priest who is accused of improper firing practices and breaking the seal of confession. Circa 1970 I met a Russian Orthodox priest that had been quietly retired because of financial improprieties. I have also known a RC priest who was convicted and jailed for the sexual abuse of a minor as well as a female Protestant minister who was disciplined for sexual misconduct with an adult. And, I have not always been a regular church attender! My Protestant mother always said that the clergy was a great hiding place for confidence men, and it is known to God Alone which type of organization brings the best accountability. All of these denominations need good watch dogs and people who are will to blow the whistle when necessary.
Nonetheless, although never a member, I have a soft spot in my heart for the OCA.



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Janice Fox

posted March 31, 2010 at 1:26 pm


Giving credit where credit is due, I think it should be mentioned that the only denomination which, to my knowledge, has disciplined a bishop for malfeasance in office concerning the sexual abuse of a minor is the Episcopal Church under the leadership of a woman presiding bishop.
I refer to the case of Charles Bennison.
I have never been a member of the Episcopal Church, and I am not convinced that the ordination of women is a good way to go. However, that group has done the right thing in this case.



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