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Serbian Orthodox Church Rocked By Sex Scandal

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.rferl.org/content/serbia-orthodox-church-bishop-orgies-rape-scandal/24965214.html Tuesday, April 23, 2013 Serbia Serbian Orthodox Church Rocked By
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 23, 2013
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      http://www.rferl.org/content/serbia-orthodox-church-bishop-orgies-rape-scandal/24965214.html

      Tuesday, April 23, 2013
      Serbia
      Serbian Orthodox Church Rocked By Sex Scandal

      BELGRADE -- The Serbian Orthodox Church has approved the resignation of
      a powerful cleric amid sex-scandal claims that culminated this week with
      the publication of a graphic video appearing to show him engaged in
      sexual activity with young men.

      Vasilije Kacavenda, the bishop of Tuzla and Zvornik in
      Bosnia-Herzegovina, retreated from his clerical duties months ago as
      allegations mounted that he had used his position for years to stage
      frequent orgies and rape underage boys and girls.

      But the April 22 decision by the Holy Synod to accept his resignation
      appears to be the first acknowledgment of the church's growing unease
      with the crush of lurid accusations that seem better suited to
      Caligula's court than an Orthodox diocese.

      Bojan Jovanovic, a former theological student in Bijeljina, the seat of
      Kacavenda's diocese, says he observed numerous orgies organized by the
      74-year-old bishop and attended by fellow clerics and prominent businessmen.

      Jovanovic says Kacavenda personally appealed to him to supply young
      children for sexual purposes and frequently called on high-ranking
      church officials to organize trysts with young theological students.

      "They tried on many occasions to put me in a compromising situation
      myself or to pull me into their circle," Jovanovic says. "[The bishop]
      also suggested that I should use the school where I was teaching science
      to bring him children up to the age of 10, but of course I refused. I
      was also a witness when abbots from other monasteries would bring
      theology students who would spend the night with the bishop.

      "One morning, one of them called me and asked me to unlock the bishop's
      room so he could get his things. I said, 'What are your things doing in
      the bishop's room?' He said, 'Come on, it's not like you don't know.
      Don't pretend to be stupid.'"

      Silent Obedience

      Such anecdotal claims had swirled for years around Kacavenda, who had
      already drawn public ire for his lavish, gilt-edged lifestyle and
      notorious wartime ties to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic
      and military chief Ratko Mladic.

      Several people had already stepped forward with accusations against the
      bishop, including a Bosnian Muslim girl who said Kacavenda had forced
      her to convert to Christianity and then raped her when she was 16.

      In 2010, rumors thickened when a photograph emerged showing the bishop
      posing informally next to a well-known Belgrade stripper, Dejan
      Nestorovic, who admitted to having a personal relationship with Kacavenda.

      But a culture of silent obedience within the church kept hard evidence
      in short supply, until the Serbian daily "Blic" reported that it had
      seen pornographic videos that appeared to show Kacavenda engaged in oral
      sex and other sexual activities with young men in various locations.
      (*Brief, R-rated clips from the video
      <http://www.kurir-info.rs/skandal-poljubac-vladika-kacavenda-usta-na-usta-sa-mladicem-clanak-754947>*
      have since been published online by a variety of news sites.)

      Kacavenda, now defrocked, may face numerous charges in court. Dusko
      Tomic, a lawyer in Bijeljina, says he has collected evidence from
      numerous people claiming to have been sexually abused by the bishop.

      These include two priests, as well as the mother and grandparents of
      Milic Blazanovic, a theology student who as a 16-year-old reportedly
      rebuffed advances from Kacavenda and later died under mysterious
      circumstances in an isolated monastery.

      *'In Big Trouble'*

      Tomic, reacting to the April 22 ruling, says the decision should send a
      warning to Kacavenda and other members of the church and government
      elite that no one is beyond reproach.

      "When I read all the information and all the reports from different
      people that he abused, from people to whom he did much harm, I'm shocked
      as an Orthodox believer and as a human being that this kind of person is
      still present in public life," Tomic says. "Kacavenda became a
      politician. And let's not forget that he is a general of the Serbian
      Army. Let's not forget that he's a close friend of [Serb Republic
      President Milorad] Dodik and a lot of influential businessmen and
      entrepreneurs. All of them are in big trouble now."

      Kacavenda has denied any wrongdoing and on April 22 threatened to sue
      those who had "smeared and slandered him." The church, in accepting his
      resignation, avoided any mention of the scandal, saying only the bishop
      was stepping down for health reasons.

      But his apparent fall from grace is likely to embolden critics of the
      Serbian Orthodox Church, which has already stifled a series of sex-abuse
      charges leveled at a second cleric, Bishop Pahomije, who was accused of
      sexually abusing four minors between 1999 and 2002.

      The Belgrade-based church has maintained strict silence on all
      allegations of sexual misconduct, even as its patriarch, Iriniej, has
      vocally opposed plans for a gay-pride march in Belgrade, saying such an
      event would cast a "moral shadow" over his country.

      The church's stance has drawn unfortunate comparisons with the Vatican's
      handling of its own sex-abuse scandals. Mirko Djordjevic, a sociologist
      in Belgrade, says the Orthodox leadership has long thought of itself as
      untouchable even as rampant evidence of wrongdoing came to light.

      "Our church tried to push these things under the carpet. Or, once things
      could no longer be hidden, the civil courts have waited for the statute
      of limitations to kick in," Djordevic says. "In the case of Bishop
      Pahomije, the state is simply waiting for the whole thing to get old,
      even though the phenomenon of pedophilia in the church and in society is
      widespread. The trouble is that in our country, except for some notable
      exceptions, the public is asleep or intimidated and doesn't have the
      courage to face these problems."

      Bishop Grigorije of Zahumlje and Herzegovina, a member of the
      five-member Holy Synod, urges caution in rushing to judgment, saying a
      church investigation into the matter "cannot take place quickly."

      "My suggestion to believers is not to judge anyone until the truth has
      come out," Grigorije says. "When we learn what the truth is, then
      according to our faith -- and this is the paradox of our religion -- we
      shouldn't hate a man but love him and pray for him. But the court will
      do its job."



      Written in Prague by Daisy Sindelar based on reporting by
      Branka Trivic in Belgrade and by Marija Arnautovic and Tina
      Jelin in Sarajevo





      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Bill Samsonoff
      http://www.rferl.org/content/serbia-orthodox-church-bishop-orgies-rape-scandal/24965214.html April 22, 2013 Serbian Orthodox Church Rocked By Sex Scandal by
      Message 2 of 2 , May 7 4:03 PM
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        http://www.rferl.org/content/serbia-orthodox-church-bishop-orgies-rape-scandal/24965214.html

        April 22, 2013
        Serbian Orthodox Church Rocked By Sex Scandal

        by Daisy Sindelar, Branka Trivic, Marija Arnautovic and Tina Jelin

        BELGRADE -- The Serbian Orthodox Church has approved the resignation of
        a powerful cleric amid sex-scandal claims that culminated this week with
        the publication of a graphic video appearing to show him engaged in
        sexual activity with young men.

        Vasilije Kacavenda, the bishop of Tuzla and Zvornik in
        Bosnia-Herzegovina, retreated from his clerical duties months ago as
        allegations mounted that he had used his position for years to stage
        frequent orgies and rape underage boys and girls.

        But the April 22 decision by the Holy Synod to accept his resignation
        appears to be the first acknowledgment of the church’s growing unease
        with the crush of lurid accusations that seem better suited to
        Caligula’s court than an Orthodox diocese.

        Bojan Jovanovic, a former theological student in Bijeljina, the seat of
        Kacavenda’s diocese, says he observed numerous orgies organized by the
        74-year-old bishop and attended by fellow clerics and prominent businessmen.

        Jovanovic says Kacavenda personally appealed to him to supply young
        children for sexual purposes and frequently called on high-ranking
        church officials to organize trysts with young theological students.

        "They tried on many occasions to put me in a compromising situation
        myself or to pull me into their circle," Jovanovic says. "[The bishop]
        also suggested that I should use the school where I was teaching science
        to bring him children up to the age of 10, but of course I refused. I
        was also a witness when abbots from other monasteries would bring
        theology students who would spend the night with the bishop.

        "One morning, one of them called me and asked me to unlock the bishop's
        room so he could get his things. I said, 'What are your things doing in
        the bishop's room?' He said, 'Come on, it's not like you don't know.
        Don't pretend to be stupid.'"

        Silent Obedience

        Such anecdotal claims had swirled for years around Kacavenda, who had
        already drawn public ire for his lavish, gilt-edged lifestyle and
        notorious wartime ties to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic
        and military chief Ratko Mladic.

        ​​Several people had already stepped forward with accusations against
        the bishop, including a Bosnian Muslim girl who said Kacavenda had
        forced her to convert to Christianity and then raped her when she was 16.

        In 2010, rumors thickened when a photograph emerged showing the bishop
        posing informally next to a well-known Belgrade stripper, Dejan
        Nestorovic, who admitted to having a personal relationship with Kacavenda.

        But a culture of silent obedience within the church kept hard evidence
        in short supply, until the Serbian daily “Blic” reported that it had
        seen pornographic videos that appeared to show Kacavenda engaged in oral
        sex and other sexual activities with young men in various locations.
        (Brief, R-rated clips from the video have since been published online by
        a variety of news sites.)

        Kacavenda, now defrocked, may face numerous charges in court. Dusko
        Tomic, a lawyer in Bijeljina, says he has collected evidence from
        numerous people claiming to have been sexually abused by the bishop.

        These include two priests as well as the mother and grandparents of
        Milic Blazanovic, a theology student who as a 16-year-old reportedly
        rebuffed advances from Kacavenda and later died under mysterious
        circumstances in an isolated monastery.

        'In Big Trouble'

        Tomic, reacting to the April 22 ruling, says the decision should send a
        warning to Kacavenda and other members of the church and government
        elite that no one is beyond reproach.

        “When I read all the information and all the reports from different
        people that he abused, from people to whom he did much harm, I’m shocked
        as an Orthodox believer and as a human being that this kind of person is
        still present in public life," Tomic says. "Kacavenda became a
        politician. And let’s not forget that he is a general of the Serbian
        Army. Let’s not forget that he’s a close friend of [Serb Republic
        President Milorad] Dodik and a lot of influential businessmen and
        entrepreneurs. All of them are in big trouble now.”

        Kacavenda has denied any wrongdoing and on April 22 threatened to sue
        those who had “smeared and slandered him.” The church, in accepting his
        resignation, avoided any mention of the scandal, saying only the bishop
        was stepping down for health reasons.

        But his apparent fall from grace is likely to embolden critics of the
        Serbian Orthodox Church, which has already stifled a series of sex-abuse
        charges leveled at a second cleric, Bishop Pahomije, who was accused of
        sexually abusing four minors between 1999 and 2002.

        The Belgrade-based church has maintained strict silence on all
        allegations of sexual misconduct, even as its patriarch, Iriniej, has
        vocally opposed plans for a gay-pride march in Belgrade, saying such an
        event would cast a “moral shadow” over his country.

        The church’s stance has drawn unfortunate comparisons with the Vatican’s
        handling of its own sex-abuse scandals. Mirko Djordjevic, a sociologist
        in Belgrade, says the Orthodox leadership has long thought of itself as
        untouchable even as rampant evidence of wrongdoing came to light.

        "Our church tried to push these things under the carpet. Or, once things
        could no longer be hidden, the civil courts have waited for the statute
        of limitations to kick in," Djordevic says. "In the case of Bishop
        Pahomije, the state is simply waiting for the whole thing to get old,
        even though the phenomenon of pedophilia in the church and in society is
        widespread. The trouble is that in our country, except for some notable
        exceptions, the public is asleep or intimidated and doesn’t have the
        courage to face these problems.”

        Bishop Grigorije of Zahumlje and Herzegovina, a member of the
        five-member Holy Synod, urges caution in rushing to judgment, saying a
        church investigation into the matter “cannot take place quickly.”

        “My suggestion to believers is not to judge anyone until the truth has
        come out," Grigorije says. "When we learn what the truth is, then
        according to our faith – and this is the paradox of our religion – we
        shouldn’t hate a man but love him and pray for him. But the court will
        do its job."

        Written in Prague by Daisy Sindelar based on reporting by Branka Trivic
        in Belgrade and by Marija Arnautovic and Tina Jelin in Sarajevo
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