By which I mean that another priest in the Orthodox Church in America has been removed as part of what appears to be a broader effort to shake the dust out of the hierarchical rugs, so to speak. Says the Chicago Tribune:
The local bishop of the Orthodox Church in America has been placed on administrative leave amid allegations of “inappropriate” behavior with a woman…
In a letter to parishioners, Bishop Matthias, 63, denied the accusations, which he said came to light in a formal complaint submitted to the church last week.
“The allegations are that I made unwelcome written and spoken comments to a woman that she regarded as an inappropriate crossing of personal boundaries and an abuse of my pastoral authority,” he wrote.
Metropolitan Jonah, of course, was ousted not so very long ago over allegations that he protected another priest on an even more serious charge, rape. Jonah, curiously enough, is a Chicago native.
There are a number of ways to interpret the broader trends at work here in light of this latest high profile discipline. The first–most amusing and least substantial–is to make lighthearted note of the perennial corruption that is as essential to Chicago identity as wind and cursed baseball. More seriously, and more dangerously, it is easy to allow ourselves to slip into the assumption that this is indicative of widespread corruption in the church, sexual deviancy on the scale of, if of a different type than, was seen in the Roman Catholic Church. That’s possible, of course, and the faithful should be careful not to let pious devotion interfere with a serious consideration of that possibility.
It is just as likely, if not more consistent with the facts thus far, that what is being seen in the OCA right now is exactly the kind of diligence and constructive transparency that the public as well as parishioners want from their clergy. This is not a witch hunt; the bishop is question is on leave pending further investigation. There certainly has been no rush to rash judgment. The wheels of bureaucracies, and church bureaucracies in particular, spin slowly. Nevertheless, the OCA seems to be making a concerted and public effort to clean house, an effort which can and should be met with a cautious and measured optimism. Maybe, just maybe, when they say they have learned from the mistakes of others, they mean it.