Saturday, January 15, 2011

Law firm's letter
Patriarch Bartholomew Gets Letter of Complaint on Paisios Conduct
Author: Theodore Kalmoukos

Date Published: 1/13/2011

Publication: The National Herald online

Patriarch Bartholomew faces a dilemma in the growing scandal surrounding the Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria, N.Y. where charges of sexual abuse have led to a possible civil claim of damages against the Church.

Patriarch Bartholomew Gets Letter of Complaint on Paisios’ Conduct

BOSTON - A letter charging that the former Abbot of the Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria, N.Y., Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana, had sexually abused their client was sent to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to the members of the Holy Synod by The Zalkin Law Firm New York, which also said Church officials did nothing to prevent alleged sexual misconduct or help the victims. “This letter is written on behalf of Andrew G., survivor of repeated acts of sexual abuse inflicted your brother and servant Metropolitan Paisios Loulourgas,” stated attorney Irwin M. Zalkin in his letter dated January 10, 2011. It also added that “Andrew has already shared the details of the abuse in a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Andrew also met with the Patriarchal Exarchy team headed by Metropolitan Nikitas that was sent to New York to investigate allegations against Metropolitan Paisios.”

Patriarch Bartholomew faces a dilemma in the growing scandal surrounding the Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria, N.Y. where charges of sexual abuse have led to a possible civil claim of damages against the Church.
The letter further alleges that Andrew had been traumatized by the alleged abuse the lawyer said had been committed by Paisios, who has repeatedly refused to take calls from The National Herald on the burgeoning scandal nor make any comments. The Patriarchate has similarly refused to talk about the case in which Bishop Vikentios, who worked with Paisios at the Monastery, charged that the former Abbott was involved in sexual misconduct. A former nun at the monastery also went to the police and FBI to make similar charges, but so far no criminal charges have been filed, although the law firm’s letter sets up the possibility of civil claims that could seek significant damages against the church. The monastery is under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate.

The law firm’s letter added that, “As you must be aware, the acts inflicted upon Andrew resulted in substantial damage,” and it said that “Andrew must be provided a remedy for what he endured,” without stipulating what was being sought, although similar cases have cost the Church considerable monies. Zalkin told the Patriarch and his Synod that his office specializes in sex abuse cases. “Our office has substantial experience representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including people abused by clergymen. In this case, our preliminary investigation has revealed allegations that Metropolitan Paisios routinely crossed the physical boundaries of others and inflicted great harm upon the faithful of all ages and genders.” It is also alleged that other clergymen and servants of the Church were either aware of the abusive conduct, or aware of facts that would have put any reasonable person on notice that the abuse was inflicted.

The letter also stated to Patriarch Bartholomew that “While fear and embarrassment may have previously silenced the victims of Metropolitan Paisios, that moment has passed. In our experience, the sooner you respond compassionately to the survivors of the wrongfulness brought by Metropolitan Paisios the sooner the healing process for the victims and the Church can begin. Avoidance and delay serves only to squander your own moral authority.”

In a further criticism, the letter alleged that while directives have been given for the reorganization of the Monastery by the Patriarchate, nothing has been done about Paisio’s victims. “Press reports indicate that Ecumenical patriarch ordered Metropolitan Paisios to leave the United States. It has also been reported that the Patriarchate is planning to reorganize the Monastery in Astoria and its Dependencies in the U.S. administratively, financially and legally. Yet nothing has been done to respond to the human suffering. It is fair to infer from these reports that the Church to date has been more worried about the possibility of scandal than responding to survivors and their families.” Zalkin invited the Patriarchate to communicate with his office. He stated in his letter to Patriarch Bartholomew that, “At this time, we invite you to enter into a dialogue with us that will lead to a compassionate response to Andrew and others harmed by Metropolitan Paisios.” The issue of Paisios and Vikentios was discussed again at the Synod’s meeting on January 12th. The Synod reaffirmed the suspension that was placed on both hierarchs Paisios and Vikentios and referred the matter to the Canonical Committee of the Patriarchate for study and recommendation to the Synod, which is scheduled for Feb. 10.

After the charges came to light, Paisios went to Athens but after the Exarchy team’s report on its investigation during a visit to New York was given to the Patriarch, the Patriarchate decided not to punish him initially, declaring he deserved “ecclesiastical leniency” before growing charges about alleged sexual misconduct and other wrongdoings at the monastery led to his being suspended.

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