The American Conservative
Rod Dreher October 17th, 2011
Earlier this year, there was a battle-royal raging among the elites of my church, the Orthodox Church in America, over the leadership style of Metropolitan Jonah, the primate. A number of the bishops on the Synod were plotting against him, along with some key and vocal activists associated with the OCA old guard. I involved myself in the defense of Jonah, blogging under a pseudonym to prevent the chance that that controversy could bring negative publicity to my then-employer. I and the other bloggers were outed after a bishop accessed (probably illegally) the e-mail account of a friend and former pastor, and spent two months reading all the man’s private e-mails, including correspondence from me. The fallout from all that made me decide that I need to stay the hell away from anything to do with bishops, because there is nothing but trouble there for me. I never should have gotten involved, because it was all, in the end, pointless. I say that not to “re-litigate” that whole controversy — and if you wish to have that argument with me, I’m not going to post your comment, so let’s drop it — but only as way of background to what I’m about to say.
During all this, some of Jonah’s enemies within the OCA made accusations that he was going soft on priests guilty of sexual misconduct, and violating the OCA’s own policies in this regard. From my point of view, much of the evidence for these charges was cherry-picked and spun; it seemed pretty clear to me that people who hated Jonah for other reasons were trying to manufacture a case to get rid of him. That said, there were some instances in which Jonah’s leniency on sexually aberrant clerics was, in my view, indefensible. One that was public involved the enfeebled Archbishop Dmitri’s decision, under duress, to return to the altar a gay deacon in Miami who had abandoned his post and gone to California to “marry” another man. The deacon returned and took up residence with his old housemate, a retired Orthodox bishop, and asked to be reinstated. Jonah, as the Diocese of the South’s locum tenens, did not change Dmitri’s decision.
I told my wife Julie that as much as I cared for Jonah and wanted to defend him, I was troubled by seeing in him the same old patterns of clericalist softballing of sexually incontinent priests that she and I had seen among the Catholic bishops, and that ultimately destroyed our ability to believe as Catholics. Again, there was nothing remotely along the lines of the Catholic abuse scandal at issue, but I was seeing evidence that, however unfair the accusations against him from his enemies were, the Metropolitan was failing to take this kind of clerical corruption seriously enough.