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Published 7 November 2012.

Why I Disbelieve What the OCA Bishops Said about Metropolitan Jonah

Part Two: Testing the Only Argument That Can Be Checked Publicly

Joel Kalvesmaki

I mentioned in the previous essay that only one argument in the July 16 statement can be checked against sources available to the public. That argument, which takes up about a quarter of the statement, is presented as the best specimen of +Jonah's malfeasance. Although the bishops claim that some names need to be withheld, it is well known that they are discussing Fr. Symeon Kharon, the subject of much public discussion in Orthodox Internet venues.

For checking the bishops' account we are fortunate to have a number of publicly available documents. I have listed all sources known to me in the appendix, and refer to them in this essay by roman numeral.

First, a bit of background. On 8 April 2009, Metropolitan Jonah requested from the Monastery of Petra the release of a Fr. Seraphim (Starkhof) and with him other monks for the establishment of a monastic community in the Dallas or Oklahoma area (source II). The only one released with Fr. Seraphim was Fr. Symeon Kharon (sources III–V). He seems to have met +Jonah only in December 2009 in Moscow (source VIII). He came to the United States shortly after, where a series of disturbing events occurred.

The July 16 statement's account of this “most disturbing and serious matter" takes the story from there, covering events from December 2009 up to and beyond February 2012. But their account is difficult to reconcile internally and externally. Indeed, more than 40% of the claims made by the bishops about this affair contradict key, publicly available sources.

Because my case rests upon a core part of the Synod's July 16 statement, I reproduce the relevant section here.

[¶4] The most disturbing and serious matter, indeed the final matter that caused us to ask the Metropolitan to resign or take a leave of absence and enter a treatment program, involves the Metropolitan's poor judgment in critical matters of Church governance, lack of adherence to the PSPs, and the risk of serious harm to at least one other person. While the names, dates and other details must be held in confidence to minimize the risk of further harm, we can say the following.

[¶5] At some point after his enthronement as our Primate, Metropolitan Jonah unilaterally accepted into the OCA a priest known to him and to others to be actively and severely abusing alcohol, which more than once was coupled with episodes of violence and threats toward women. One of these episodes involved the brandishing of a knife, and the other the discharge of a firearm, the foimer resulting in the man's arrest. The man was also incarcerated for three days in yet another incident, shortly after he was accepted into the OCA by Metropolitan Jonah. While under Metropolitan Jonah's omophorion, this priest is alleged to have committed a rape against a woman in 2010.

[¶6] Metropolitan Jonah was later told of this allegation in February 2012, yet he neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops, nor notified the Church's lawyers, nor reported the matter to the police, nor in any other way followed the mandatory, non-discretionary PSPs of the OCA. The alleged victim, however, did report the rape to the police. We know, too, that the alleged victim and a relative were encouraged by certain others not to mention the incident, and were told by them that their salvation depended on their silence. As recently as last week Metropolitan Jonah was regularly communicating with one of those who tried to discourage the reporting of this crime by the alleged victim and her relative. In addition, the Metropolitan counseled the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy, without informing the military recruiter of any of the priest's problems. Finally, the Metropolitan attempted to transfer the priest to other Orthodox jurisdictions, and ultimately did permit him to transfer to another jurisdiction, in each case telling those jurisdictions there were no canonical impediments to a transfer.

[¶7] We have started an investigation into the rape allegation, and cannot assume whether the allegation is true or not. We only know that earlier allegations of misconduct by this priest were handled by Metropolitan Jonah in a manner at a complete variance with the required standards of our Church.

It is not easy to see the specific problems without first breaking down the four paragraphs into a chain of claims. Some of those claims are merely inferred or insinuated, and I have marked them below with square brackets. Each claim that is problematic I have highlighted.

  1. +Jonah became acquainted with a priest he knew to be an alcoholic (herein, AP). [¶(aragraph), 5 §(entence) 1]
  2. +Jonah unilaterally accepted the AP into the OCA. [¶5§1]
  3. Episode 1: In a drunken state the AP was violent, threatened women, and brandished a knife. He was arrested for this. [¶5§2]
  4. Episode 2: In a drunken state the AP was violent, threatened women, and discharged a firearm. He was not arrested for this. [¶5§2]
  5. Episode 3: The AP was incarcerated for three days shortly after acceptance into the OCA. [¶5§3]
  6. The AP is said to have raped a woman in 2010. [¶5§4]
  7. There are [other] allegations against the AP. [¶7§2]
  8. +Jonah mishandled allegations against the AP. [¶7§2]
  9. +Jonah was told in February 2012 of the event in ¶5§4. [¶6§1]
  10. +Jonah did not [in February 2012]: [but he should have done so.] [¶6§1]
  11. [The AP was still in the OCA in February 2012.]
  12. The alleged victim (AV) told the police. [¶6§2]
  13. “Certain others" encouraged the AV not to mention the incident. [¶6§3]
  14. “Certain others" said the AV's salvation depended upon silence. [¶6§3]
  15. +Jonah regularly communicated with one of the “certain others." [¶6§4]
  16. [+Jonah orchestrated a cover-up.]
  17. +Jonah counseled the AP to pursue a military chaplaincy. [¶6§5]
  18. +Jonah withheld from the military recruiter information about the AP's problems. [¶6§6]
  19. +Jonah tried to transfer the AP to other Orthodox jurisdictions.
  20. +Jonah told each jurisdiction that there were no canonical impediments to a transfer. [¶6§6]
  21. [+Jonah did Q–T in 2012, after being told of the rape.]

Anyone may spend time reading the sources to test these claims for him or herself. Here are the contradictions I have found:

There is a major problem that has no bearing on the sources. Claim P—Metropolitan Jonah orchestrated a cover-up—is an insinuation built upon a hasty generalization. That is to say, the only way one can get from claims M, N, and O to inferred claim P is by assuming a middle premise, something like “All persons who communicate regularly with anyone encouraging someone to be quiet about a crime are orchestrators of a cover-up." If that is true, then about a decade ago anyone who regular contacted those who tried to cover up financial irregularities in the OCA are themselves guilty of orchestrating the cover up, no matter how innocent the communication.

The accusations that +Jonah was covering up a rape and harboring a rapist priest (combination of claims P and U) are especially troublesome. They are not my invention. They were understood by most ordinary readers. The secular media used these insinuations to shape the headlines of their stories: “Orthodox Church in America Head Metropolitan Jonah Dismissed over Alleged Rape Cover-Up" (Washington Post, 20 July 2012) and “Orthodox Church in America Exec Fired for Not Removing Rapist Priest" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 17 July 2012).

If the bishops were mistaken in accusing +Jonah of P and U, a retraction or clarification should be offered, since the statement falsely damaged +Jonah's reputation, among Christians and non-Christians alike. If the bishops did mean to accuse him of P and U, then they need to clarify their logic and explain why their chronology conflicts with those of independent sources.


This does not prove that the July 16 statement is wrong. But it does give excellent reason to doubt it, and to ask for clarification from the bishops. Are some of the sources forgeries? (Three features of source X make me suspect it is fraudulent.) Are there additional details that explain their position? Was the July 16 statement put together too hastily? Who wrote it? Could the faithful be given a more trustworthy, complete account of what happened? Would the principal authors of the July 16 statement, as well as the earlier official OCA report (source VIII) it so frequently contradicts, recuse themselves from an investigation process? More important, how many of the other fourteen allegations, most of which are asserted without argument, have the same problems as this one? How can the rest of the July 16 statement be trusted?

In the next essay I will argue that the statement cannot, because it exemplifies the OCA's culture of deeply flawed reporting.

Next...Part Three: A Tale of Three Tales



Appendix: List of Publicly Available Sources Regarding Fr. Symeon Kharon

  1. 2006-Dec-07: “Warrant of spiritual fatherhood" from Metropolitan Kyrillos of Thessaliotis and Phanariophersala. Confirms the enrollment of Fr. Symeon as a priest-monk. Source: Pokrov.
  2. 2009-Apr-08: Email from +Jonah to Elder Dionysius requesting a Fr. Seraphim to bring a community monks from the Monastery of Petra, in Karditsa, to settle in the Dallas/Oklahoma area. Source: Entrance of the Theotokos Monastery. (All sources from this monastery, now named after St. Nina, were available publicly on their website from 17 August 2012 until removed at an unknown date; these documents continue to circulate on the Internet.)
  3. 2009-Apr-11: Selection of Minutes from the Monastery of Petra regarding +Jonah's request on 8 April 2009 for monks. An English translation is also available. Source: Entrance of the Theotokos Monastery.
  4. 2009-Apr-11: Canonical letter of release from the Monastery of Petra of two monks (Fr. Seraphim Starkhof and Fr. Symeon Kharon). Scroll to page 13. The English translation on p. 13 differs from the one issued by the monastery. Source: Pokrov, Entrance of the Theotokos Monastery.
  5. 2009-Apr-11: Letter from Metropolitan Cyril of Thessaliotis and Phanariophersala confirming the validity of the monastery's letter of release. An English translation is also available. Source: Pokrov.
  6. 2010-May-19: Pastoral letter from +Jonah to Fr. Symeon. Scroll to page 14. Source: Pokrov.
  7. 2010-Sep-01: Letter from Abbess Aemiliane to Dr. Nikita Eike in response to queries. Scroll to page 16. Source: Pokrov.
  8. 2011-Nov-16: Report of the Special Investigation Committee regarding Fr. Symeon, addressed to the Holy Synod of the OCA. This official OCA committee was specially convened to determine the basic facts of the 22 April 2010 incident concerning Fr. Symeon. Source: Pokrov.
  9. 2011-Apr-27: Email (6:58 p.m.) from James Spencer to the Holy Synod (cc to SMPAC) forwarding the following string of emails:
    1. 2011-Apr-23: Email from +Jonah to +Basil (Essey) regarding Fr. Symeon Kharon.
    2. 2011-Apr-27: Two emails (12:24 p.m. and 1:07 p.m.) from James Spencer to +Melchisedek and the SMPAC concerning previous item.
    3. 2011-Apr-27: Email (3:04 p.m.) from James Spencer to +Melchisedek and +Tikhon regarding previous items.
    Source: Pokrov.
  10. 2011-May-07: Letter from +Jonah, no recipient specified, granting Fr. Symeon to be enrolled in “another Most Holy Church." Source: Entrance of the Theotokos Monastery.
  11. 2011-May-24: Letter from +Hilarion (ROCOR) to Abbess Aemiliane inviting a canonical transfer of her monastery to ROCOR. Source: Entrance of the Theotokos Monastery.
  12. 2011-May-25: Letter from +Jonah to Abbess Aemiliane authorizing the transfer of her monastery to +Hilarion (ROCOR). Source: Entrance of the Theotokos Monastery.
  13. 2012-Jun-03: Letter from Fr. Symeon to +Hilarion (ROCOR) requesting to be released from ROCOR to the Monastery of Petra. Source: Entrance of the Theotokos Monastery.
  14. 2012-Jun-14: Email from +Hilarion to Abbess Aemeliane indicating that Fr. Symeon had never been accepted into ROCOR. Source: Entrance of the Theotokos Monastery.
  15. 2012-Jul-18: Statement from a person who identifies herself as the godmother of the alleged rape victim. Source: Monomakhos.
  16. 2012-Aug-22: Document from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia regarding Fr. Symeon's 22 April 2010 incident. Source: Pokrov.