Orthodox bishops say church leader who resigned failed to remove 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.