The problem of sexual misconduct by clergy has been much in the news in recent months, and has been shown to have devastating consequences, not only for the individuals involved, but for their communities as well. In order to make clear the extreme seriousness with which the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America regards this matter, and also to promote healing for the victims of misconduct, the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese put into effect in the year 2000 a national policy on the investigation and resolution of complaints of sexual misconduct by clergy. At this time, the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese would like to reaffirm its position and provide the faithful with a greater understanding of the existing policy.
The most recently updated version of this policy includes a carefully planned procedure designed to ensure that allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy are taken seriously, investigated thoroughly, and adjudicated justly. Responsibility for administering the process is assigned to the Chancellor of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese will also cooperate with applicable civil authorities in investigating these issues, particularly if the charge involves a minor.
To assist in the investigation process, a telephone hotline - (212) 774-0332 - has been established to answer questions regarding the policy and to accept complaints relating to sexual misconduct by clergy. All calls with questions or complaints will be taken seriously and allegations will be investigated fully and impartially. Callers can ask to speak with a male or female volunteer in either Greek or English. Calls may also be made directly to the Archdiocesan Chancellor’s Office, (212) 570-3513.
Persons staffing the hotline are all lay volunteers and come from a variety of backgrounds including psychology, social work and human resources. Hotline staffers attempt to return calls as quickly as possible, and generally within 48 hours.
The Church’s policy on misconduct was developed by working groups that included hierarchs, clergy, lay leaders, lawyers and clinical and academic experts. The chancellors of the dioceses, who play an important role in all matters affecting the clergy, were key participants. The group also reviewed policies developed by other religious denominations.
The full text of the policy is available below. Copies have also been mailed to each priest and parish council within the Archdiocese. The telephone hotline will be ready to receive calls beginning June 17, 2002.
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Statement of Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Clergy
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (the “Archdiocese”) recognizes that Sexual Misconduct by Clergy can have devastating consequences for a Victim and his or her family, for the Church community at large, and for all individuals involved. The Archdiocese therefore adopts this Statement of Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct By Clergy (the “Policy”).
The Archdiocese will not tolerate Sexual Misconduct by Clergy. It shall:
Treat all allegations of Sexual Misconduct seriously;
Educate Clergy and the Church community, as appropriate, about the issue of Sexual Misconduct, and shall set in place reasonable screening procedures and policies relating to this subject for those training for the ordained ministry; and
Cooperate fully with applicable civil authority, subject to canon law and in accordance with the Church’s constitutionally protected rights.
For purposes of this Policy, “Clergy” or “Clergyman” means any person canonically ordained and serving the Archdiocese. “Sexual Misconduct” means inappropriate or offensive sexual behavior or conduct by a Clergyman.
An advisory board (the “Advisory Board”) shall be established to assist the Archdiocese with the implementation of this Policy. The Advisory Board shall consist of: (a) at least one bishop; (b) at least one (1) additional Clergyman; (c) at least one (1) female; (d) at least one (1) licensed mental health professional; and (e) at least one attorney. The members of the Advisory Board shall be appointed by the Archbishop for two (2) year renewable terms. The Archbishop shall also appoint a Chair of the Advisory Board.
The Advisory Board shall be consultative in nature and shall report to the Archbishop or his designee. (For purposes of this Policy, “Archbishop” means the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The term “Archbishop” also includes, if applicable, the duly and canonically designated temporary head of the Archdiocese.) It shall be an independent body and generally should not be involved in conducting specific investigations under this Policy. Members of the Advisory Board generally should not serve as Contact Persons. The Advisory Board shall have the authority to periodically evaluate the effectiveness of this Policy and to propose revisions as deemed appropriate in the Advisory Board’s discretion.
The Advisory Board shall meet periodically and may, as requested, provide recommendations concerning policy matters such as: assistance for Victims, treatment for affected Clergy, contact with parish communities, ongoing education for Clergy and the Church community, and other issues involved in dealing with Sexual Misconduct.
Telephone Line/Contact Persons
A toll-free telephone line and/or other mechanisms shall be established to assist in answering questions regarding this Policy and to provide additional means for complaints of Sexual Misconduct to be communicated to the Archdiocese for investigation.
Telephone lines established under this Policy will be staffed by designated non-clergy “Contact Persons” who have agreed to (and are authorized by the Archdiocese to receive) reports of Sexual Misconduct by Clergy. Specific workflows and procedures regarding such telephone lines may be established, from time to time, by the Advisory Board.
The list of Contact Persons shall include: (a) at least one (1) male and one (1) female fluent in English; and (b) at least one (1) male and one (1) female fluent in Greek. Contact Persons will be asked to attend such training sessions as the Archdiocese considers necessary and appropriate.
Contact Persons shall be selected by the Chancellor of the Archdiocese (the “Chancellor), subject to the approval of the Archbishop. Contact Persons may be removed by the Chancellor, subject to the approval of the Archbishop. The Advisory Body may make recommendations to the Chancellor concerning the appointment and/or removal of Contact Persons. Contact Persons act on behalf of the Archdiocese and are obligated to share information (received by virtue of their service as Contact Persons) with the Archbishop, Chancellor and bishop (or temporary bishop) of the applicable Archdiocesan diocese (the “Bishop”) and their authorized representatives. (However, that information need not be shared by a Contact Person with any individual who is the alleged perpetrator of the Sexual Misconduct at issue.) Contact Persons shall not be deemed to function as counselors, advocates, attorneys or fiduciaries with respect to any Complainant or Victim. (A “Complainant” means any person who reports Sexual Misconduct to the Archdiocese. The Complainant may or may not be the victim of any alleged Sexual Misconduct (the “Victim”).)
II. Prevention / Disclosure
The Archdiocese will not condone Sexual Misconduct and is committed to preventing Sexual Misconduct. The Archdiocese will implement an ongoing program to educate Clergy with respect to issues of Sexual Misconduct. Additionally, the Church community should be made aware of the Archdiocese’s concerns regarding Sexual Misconduct and of the existence of this Policy, through means deemed appropriate by the Chancellor or his designee. Appropriate education, screening and evaluation shall be carried out by the Archdiocese with respect to those training for the ordained ministry.
Except in unusual circumstances (as determined in the discretion of the Chancellor), the disciplining of a Clergyman for Sexual Misconduct should be disclosed to the parish of the Clergyman and to the Church community in general. In instances where the Clergyman is found to be innocent of Sexual Misconduct, it may be within the discretion of the Clergyman to determine whether a disclosure shall be made. Except in unusual circumstances (as determined in the discretion of the Chancellor), disclosure should not include the name of the Complainant or Victim unless such individual(s) has/have consented to the disclosure or unless his/her/their name(s) have become a matter of public record.
Retaliation against an individual for cooperating in an investigation of alleged Sexual Misconduct shall not be condoned by the Archdiocese.
Sexual Misconduct occurring within an Archdiocesan workplace shall also be subject to any applicable laws and workplace policies adopted by the Archdiocese.
Any person who knows or suspects that any Clergy may have been involved in Sexual Misconduct should inform the Bishop, Chancellor or (via any toll-free telephone line or other established processes) a Contact Person. Contact by the Complainant may be made by mail, telephone, or in person. The Complainant may choose to remain anonymous. In such case, the Complainant should be made aware that his or her anonymity may impede or prevent an investigation of the alleged Sexual Misconduct.
In cases of anonymous complaints, the Chancellor shall generally conduct an initial inquiry (as may be appropriate in his discretion) to determine whether or not any reasonable basis exists for conducting an investigation as described below.
The Bishop, Chancellor or Contact Person should inform the Complainant that the Archdiocese does not tolerate Sexual Misconduct, make this Policy available and indicate that care is available to the Complainant and/or Victim. The Complainant should be informed that any allegations shall be viewed only as allegations until the circumstances are thoroughly investigated, but that all allegations of Sexual Misconduct are taken seriously by the Archdiocese.
In cases where initial contact has been made with a Contact Person or Bishop, such Contact Person or Bishop should promptly notify the Chancellor, who will commence an investigation (or, if the Complainant remains anonymous, an initial inquiry to determine whether an investigation should take place.) Any Contact Person involved should be informed of the final outcome of any investigation. The Complainant and/or Victim should be informed that a friend, a family member or other person may accompany him/her to any proceedings. However, except as may be determined necessary and appropriate by the Chancellor, the Contact Person generally shall not be present at any meetings.
The Chancellor (or, if applicable, the Bishop or Contact Person) should ask the Complainant and/or Victim whether he/she is in need of pastoral or other professional care. If so requested, the Archdiocese shall generally seek to assist the Complainant and/or Victim in locating appropriate pastoral or other care. No Clergyman involved in the processing of the complaint should be asked to provide such care.
In certain circumstances (e.g., if the Victim is a child), the Chancellor may be legally required to report information regarding alleged Sexual Misconduct to applicable civil authorities. The Chancellor or, if applicable, the Contact Person should notify the Complainant that such reporting may occur.
Once a complaint is received in accordance with this Policy, the Chancellor shall conduct an investigation, taking into account the report of the Complainant, any records involving the Clergyman and such information as might be provided by anyone who, in his discretion, the Chancellor chooses to question. The Chancellor shall inform the Bishop of the investigation, as soon as possible, and shall continue to consult with the Bishop throughout the entire investigation.
The Chancellor shall, in conducting his investigation, consult with such licensed mental health professionals as he may deem necessary and appropriate under the circumstances. Individuals contacted should be asked to keep the inquiry in strictest confidence. (The investigative process will be confidential to the extent consistent with an effective investigation, subject to the requirements of the Archdiocese and any applicable laws.) Notwithstanding the obligations of the Chancellor as described below, all or a portion of the investigation may be conducted by the Chancellor’s designated representative, subject to the oversight of the Chancellor.
The Chancellor or his designated representative should meet by telephone or in person with the Victim and/or Complainant as soon as reasonably possible after the Archdiocese first receives the complaint. The Complainant and/or Victim should be asked to prepare a written summary of the information available and to furnish it to the Chancellor. In the event they are reluctant to do so, the Chancellor or his designated representative may prepare a written report of the allegations, which the Complainant and/or Victim may be asked to sign. The report subsequently may be supplemented with the findings of additional investigations or with additional reports, as may be necessary or appropriate under the circumstances of the allegation of Sexual Misconduct. On the basis of the information obtained in this manner and any other information available, the Chancellor shall determine whether there is a reasonable basis for conducting further investigation. However, the Complainant's refusal to sign the complaint shall generally not be automatic grounds for closing an investigation.
If the Chancellor determines that further investigation is warranted, the Chancellor or his designee shall conduct such further investigation. As part of that investigation, the Chancellor or his designee may meet with the accused Clergyman and inform him of the allegations. The Clergyman may be asked to comment on the allegations of Sexual Misconduct. (The Clergyman may also be asked to provide a written statement addressing the allegations.) These statements of the Clergyman are not made in the context of confession and, consequently, the Clergyman should be made aware that any such statements made may be presented as evidence in a subsequent Spiritual Court or court of law.
The Chancellor (or, if applicable, the Bishop) should ask the accused Clergyman whether he is in need of pastoral or other professional care. If so requested, the Archdiocese shall generally seek to assist the Clergyman in locating appropriate pastoral or other care. No Clergyman involved in the processing of the complaint should be asked to provide such care.
The Archbishop, Bishop, and Chancellor and their representatives shall have access to and the right to review information contained in any complaint, investigation, statement, hearing, writing, document or any other materials related in any manner to an incident or allegation of Sexual Misconduct.
Hearing by Spiritual Court
In the event that: (a) the Clergyman has admitted to any of the allegations of Sexual Misconduct; (b) the Chancellor believes, in his discretion, that the Clergyman poses a threat of harm to the members of his parish and/or to the public in general; and/or (c) the Chancellor believes, in his discretion and based on his investigation, that there is any reasonable possibility that Sexual Misconduct has occurred, a Spiritual Court shall be convened in accordance with the Holy Traditions and canons of the Church and the Archdiocesan Charter. The Chancellor shall refer the matter to the Bishop, together with the Chancellor’s recommendations regarding further action. However, in the event that the Chancellor at any time believes, based on his investigation, that the immediate suspension of a priest is warranted, the Archbishop may request the canonical release of the Clergyman in question from the applicable diocesan Bishop.
When a Spiritual Court is convened, the Clergyman should be invited to attend the hearing, which shall generally be conducted in accordance with canon law, the Archdiocesan Charter and Holy Tradition. In the event that the accused is a bishop, the hearing shall be conducted by the Synod of Bishops of the Archdiocese or by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as may be required under canon law. The Chancellor shall be responsible for making a comprehensive presentation of the results of his investigation to the Spiritual Court.
It is recognized that the conclusion of a Spiritual Court does not put to an end to the consequences for a Victim and Clergyman and their respective families, for the individuals involved and for the Church community at large. The Archdiocese has a pastoral responsibility to help bring healing to the affected individuals and parishes and to the general Church community.
IV. Scope of Policy
Every report of Sexual Misconduct involves unique people and unique circumstances. This Policy describes the general approach that the Archdiocese should follow with respect to reports of Sexual Misconduct. It may not be possible or appropriate for the Archdiocese to follow this approach in every case. Nothing in this Policy is in derogation of, or an abdication by the Archdiocese of the Church's constitutionally protected freedom from governmental interference. Pastoral care and leadership in the case of alleged Sexual Misconduct (including, but not limited to, the decision of which persons may or may not serve as Clergy) is an act of ministry and, as such, is a constitutionally protected act. Nothing herein is intended to diminish these freedoms in any respect or to create any legal rights or responsibilities upon the Archdiocese or any of its representatives.
The Archdiocese will attempt to assist the Complainant, the Victim, the Victim's family, the affected Clergyman and others, as may be appropriate, in accessing pastoral care. However, the Archbishop, Bishop and/or Chancellor and their representatives who are involved with the investigation shall not be deemed to function as confessors, counselors, advocates, attorneys, or fiduciaries to any of these individuals. The ultimate responsibility of the Archbishop, Bishop and Chancellor and their representatives is to the Archdiocese and not to any individual within the Archdiocese. If a conflict arises between the Archdiocese’s interests and the interests of any individual(s), the Archbishop, Bishop, Chancellor and their representatives are obligated to act on the Archdiocese’s behalf.
This Policy may be amended, from time to time. Revisions to the Policy shall be communicated to the Church community as described in this Policy.
REVISED: MAY 14, 2002