“MISCONDUCT” AND THE LOSS OF DISTINCTIONSOne of the reasons that we are told that a Sex Czar is needed in Syosset is the apparent hysteria involving sexual “misconduct.” This can be anything, from a priest being tormented by an exceptionally beautiful woman in the congregation to extra-marital affairs involving adults as well as the actual victimization of minors. By putting out the mere term “misconduct” and not defining it, we have relegated those activities which are merely notional and/or consensual and can result in civil actions (adultery, homosexuality), to the same class as criminal actions which by definition cannot be consensual (paedophilia).
In civil actions, the state is not the injured party, only the man’s wife and his ministry. And since most states do not consider sodomy to be a crime anymore, then consensual homosexual relations in no way injure the state. On the other hand, the molestation of children and/or the seeking of sexual favors from post-pubescent minors is an other matter entirely. The latter is no different from other violent felonies such as burglary, assault, rape, and murder. The penalties are justifiably severe.
This is not to say that consensual sexual indiscretions committed by priests are to be tolerated or merely waved away as unimportant. They are most unfortunate and ecclesial discipline is required if in fact they occurred. Having said that, to harness the machinery of the central administration in order to discipline an errant priest who may or may not have made a clumsy pass at a Sunday School teacher is a magnificent waste of resources for a church that is experiencing severe demographic and financial decline.
CHAIN OF COMMAND OR CHAINED TO THE WHIPPING POST?
Ignoring this very real distinction is an ingenious sleight-of-hand. It is by this subterfuge that our elites are able to convince us that they have a solution for a supposed problem. Unfortunately, this entire scenario is hitched to the falling star of eparchial ethnic jurisdictionalism, a highly centralized paradigm that is incompatible with a truly autocephalous Church, one that is composed of several autonomous, regional dioceses.
As we shall see from the job description itself, the end result of this highly paid new position is part of a plan to aggrandize more power within Syosset, not only within the actual position of Sex Czar itself but to the Chancellor as well. This alone should give pause to a Church which has had problems in the past with the strong-chancellor form of governance.
Under “Supervisory and Job Control,” we read that:
The Coordinator reports to the Chancellor, but has full decision authority to investigate and report on all allegations of sexual misconduct…
In other words, he doesn’t really have to go to the Chancellor. However if he does, then the Chancellor has even more leverage over the priest and indeed, within the inner workings of the diocese itself. In any event, the picture gets more muddled –and Syosset as a whole has the potential for even more power. In point #2 for instance others in Syosset (or anywhere else for that matter) may be apprised of specific investigations:
We read that the Sex Czar:
Advises OCA personnel on a day-to-day basis concerning matters of policy and cases involving sexual misconduct.
This means that anybody in the OCA can be privy to allegations involving certain priests. It’s up to the Sex Czar alone to decide who and what he’s going to tell about what he knows at any given time. If this wasn’t bad enough, it only gets more confusing the more we read. Indeed, one cannot escape the suspicion that the office of Sex Czar was carefully crafted for a particular individual in mind, no doubt somebody residing within the immediate environs of the central administration itself. If so, then we are talking about more power but less accountability and no transparency. More to the point, we are talking about a command structure that is extra-episcopal and which blurs the distinctions between any given diocese and the central administration.
The picture that is painted by the job description is a muddled one to be sure. Having said that, the possibility for extortion cannot be overlooked as well. Nor for that matter are there any guarantees that those in this confusing chain of command –and who may be compromised themselves–will be subjected to the same discipline as priests serving in the periphery.
If nothing else, the strictures of confidence placed on the Sex Czar (or the private investigator) are nowhere spelled out for others whom he may take into his confidence.
HOW BAD A PROBLEM?
Leaving aside the inability to make the necessary distinction between criminality as opposed to sexual sin and the extra-episcopal chain of command, the question still remains: how prevalent are allegations of sexual misconduct (of all types) in the clergy of the OCA in the first place? Is the OCA teeming with sexual predators in its clergy? The waving of the red flag by Syosset would seem to indicate that we do indeed have a problem. After all, the Roman Catholic Church has a problem, so why should we be exempt?
Are there in fact dozens of allegations reported to Syosset on a frequent basis? This question needs to be answered in a sober manner. Unfortunately, given the track record of Syosset in the past –we are talking after all about an administration that continued to employ the previously-fired Chancellor who engaged in subversive activities against the Metropolitan–it is unlikely that a realistic answer is likely to be forthcoming. Let us therefore examine the most recent numbers involving the Catholic Church in America, arguably the “ground zero” of the exploitation of children if news reports are to be believed.
And what is that number? Hundreds? Thousands? Actually, far less than one is led to believe.
According to the annual audit of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, last year there were only seven (!) “credible” allegations of child molestation by Catholic clergy in America. This out of a total population of over 41,420 priests. That’s 0.000169 percent. If we take that same number and multiply it by the number of the number of OCA priests in North America (say 1,000 at the outside), that would mean that there were 0.169 cases last year. In other words, it would take ten years for there to be one actual case of criminal molestation.
It’s also important to remember the overwhelming majority of the priests in the Catholic Church are celibate (the exceptions would be Eastern-Rite and Anglican-Vicariate priests). On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of priests in the OCA are or have been married. This being the case, the opportunity for sexual “misconduct” up to and including actual criminality would necessarily be minimized. To be blunt, it’s very hard for married men to initiate and perpetuate sexual dalliances over the long term. (Wives tend to have an acute radar for these things.) Read the actual report.
This isn’t what we were led to believe however. The media hysteria that erupted in 2002 made it sound like every other Catholic priest was a predator. By the time the story worked itself out, any priest who had ever been transferred from one parish to another for even the most mundane of reasons was living under a dark cloud. The reality is that the majority of the cases involving child molestation (real and alleged) in American Catholicism are from over twenty years ago. The scandal which erupted in 2002 in the Archdiocese of Boston for example, happened because Boston was the epicenter of an insidious game of clerical musical-chairs that was orchestrated by Bernard Cardinal Law, the Archbishop of Boston at the time. Many of those priests to be sure were molesters but (this bears repeating) they had already done their damage some twenty years earlier. To be sure, Boston was a locus of an active homosexual subculture and certain priests were participants in that milieu; what Archbishop Law was trying to do was find a way to minimize this activity (especially if it involved minors) by moving the offending priest from one parish to another. In doing so however, the events of the past exploded in his face and in time an extensive picture of rampant criminality became known.
Be that as it may, it would behoove us to notice the similarity to the one case which the OCA is presently investigating. Like those clerical offenders in the Roman Catholic Church, the case in question involves a priest who allegedly molested two youths some thirty years ago. Moreover, the alleged perpetrator was not then a member of the Orthodox Church, but the Episcopal Church (he converted years later). For what it’s worth, there were no allegations against him since his conversion or elevation to the episcopate. (As to why the Holy Synod chose to elect him bishop in the first place is another matter entirely and beyond the scope of this essay.)
The purpose of this essay is not to excuse sexual misconduct, whether it be consensual or criminal. Zero tolerance is the only option, especially when it comes to children. One child molested is one child too many. The problem is that by confusing criminal misconduct with consensual ones, unnecessary backlogs will ensue, causing some investigations to grind to a halt.
So are we hamstrung? Can we not be proactive? I imagine that there are psychological tests which can identify the propensity for sexual predation and compuslive behaviors. It goes without saying that sexually immature men, flagrant homosexuals, and those with a police record should be denied admission to the seminaries. Having said that though, there is no way that we can ensure that once ordained, a man cannot fall into sin or that he won’t be broken by the forces arrayed against the priesthood.
So where are we? Child molestation can be (and should be) dealt with by the civil authorities. Only they have the resources to do so. Lest we forget, time is of the essence in these allegations as well. Leaving aside criminality, the question remains: does consensual “misconduct” require a pastoral response or a punitive one? Is it better handled by the priest’s bishop or by a distant bureaucrat who alone decides how many other people are going to be involved in the process? It is my contention that by creating a Sex Czar whose office is not beholden to the normal legal procedures, we are incentivizing priests who are struggling with sexual sins to go further underground, to not come forward and seek help.
Perhaps it might be good to ask what causes this misconduct? It is my contention that most all Orthodox jurisdictions have created scenarios or ennable parochial dysfunctions to continue, all of which can break a man. We will explore these further in Part III.