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Alaskan clarification?

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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
    ... (This essay is self-explanatory as to the reasons for its composition. It requires no introduction.) Paper on verbal allegations & issues as well as those
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 12, 2007
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      --- In Orthodox-Forum@yahoogroups.com, "peterzwick2" <peterzwick2@...> wrote:
      (This essay is self-explanatory as to the reasons for its composition. It requires no introduction.)

      Paper on verbal allegations & issues as well as those in the June 25th Sidebottom Letter

      The following document is the result of a request by a member of the
      Holy Synod for a clarification on certain types of issues that are
      related to allegations against Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) and
      Bishop Nikolai (Soraich), as well as a compilation of resources.
      Under no circumstances should this document be viewed as a clinical
      psychological assessment of either of the two individuals. Nor
      should this document be viewed as a legally reviewed brief. The
      author is neither a lawyer, nor a clinical psychologist. Nor is the
      author attempting to present themselves as a lawyer, psychologist, or
      an expert in any field.

      Listed below are assessments of the first-hand written account by
      Paul Sidebottom of the words and actions of Archimandrite Isidore.
      Archimandrite Isidore's words and actions took place during the
      evening and day of the Ascension Feast 2007, and additions were made
      where information was orally given concerning other allegations.
      The letter cited was apparently written to His Beatitude Metropolitan
      Herman on the 25th of June 2007 by Mr. Paul Sidebottom, Associate
      Dean of Academics, St. Herman's Orthodox Theological Seminary in
      Kodiak, Alaska.

      It is known, at this time, that Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) is
      undergoing inpatient substance abuse rehabilitation.

      If only a portion of the events detailed by Mr. Sidebottom are
      accurate, then there are serious pastoral, canonical and legal issues
      at hand, any one of which demands immediate and decisive action.
      This response must necessarily encompass the moral and religious
      situation of the persons named, but also must guarantee their
      physical safety and well being. The health and integrity of the
      church, and its legal and financial standing, are obviously at great
      risk unless the correct actions are taken, and without hesitation.

      - Civil law
      The potential civil legal issues are presented first because they
      represent potential transgressions and concerns that must be
      addressed and cannot be "pastorally" swept away.

      Several civil and criminal legal issues are immediately evident
      within the context of the events that are presented. In some
      instances, the civil legal issues are violations of local, state and
      federal laws.

      These legal issues, among other issues presented, are, at a minimum,
      workplace sexual harassment , domestic violence, assault, neglect,
      malpractice, and suicidal ideation.

      In addition to allegations in the letter, further verbal allegations
      have been made. It is the nature of the verbal allegations and how
      they are connected to the written allegations that make a thorough
      investigation of all allegations simply unavoidable.

      - Sexual Harassment
      It is clear is that Mr. Paul Sidebottom was allegedly sexually
      harassed by the Chancellor of the Diocese of Alaska and the newly
      appointed Rector of Saint Herman's Seminary . This fact was clearly
      stated in several places throughout the letter.

      Mr. Sidebottom understands the seriousness of the alleged actions by
      Archimandrite Isidore and has been advised to retain legal counsel
      for this reason.

      On April 2, 2003, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America
      compiled and subsequently published a list of policies, standards and
      procedures on sexual misconduct. It is believed that, according to
      civil law, the OCA is now legally bound to act in accordance with his
      policies, standards and procedures. It is also believed that the OCA
      can be held legally accountable in civil court to adhere to and to
      implement, as legally necessary, these policy standards and

      - Ecclesiastical and canonical
      However, what can and should be stated immediately and is fully in
      accordance with the OCA policies and standards for sexual misconduct
      is the following: Archimandrite Isidore must be suspended by no one
      less than Bishop Nikolai. However, it is recommended that, in fact,
      if possible Archimandrite Isidore be suspended by Metropolitan
      Herman. This is because, as will be described in more detail later,
      Bishop Nikolai is implicated in such a manner on other allegations
      that he should be suspended immediately as well.

      In addition, because of his position as Chancellor of the diocese and
      Rector of the seminary, ultimately Archimandrite Isidore has impact
      and influence, analogous to a priest in the parish. Therefore,
      Archimandrite Isidore must be removed from the diocese, both
      canonically and geographically, pending the results of the
      investigation of the allegations of sexual harassment directed
      against him.

      Witnesses may exist, such as Father X and others, that can verify the
      extent of the accounts given in the letter. In addition, there are
      probably many other witnesses to the public intoxication of Father
      Isidore. Some people may have witnessed Father Isidore's
      inappropriate touching, groping, or attempts at touching Mr. Paul

      Mr. Paul Sidebottom's allegations of sexual harassment by
      Archimandrite Isidore are alleged to have taken place during a
      prolonged episode of public intoxication by Archimandrite Isidore.
      Due to the state of intoxication of Archimandrite Isidore, he would
      not be able to present himself as a credible witness to the night's
      events. Therefore, it is unlikely that an investigation could
      produce results more favorable to Archimandrite Isidore's
      circumstances than what is referred to by the OCA policy as "Mixed

      In addition, the OCA guidelines refer to the possibility that both
      the complainant and the respondent are members of the same parish.
      If this is the case the bishop may require that both individuals may
      be removed for a time from the community until an investigation is
      completed and the issues are addressed and resolved.

      In this case, if Mr. Paul Sidebottom were to be removed temporarily
      from the diocese, ethically and morally, he must be done so with full
      pay and benefits as well, until the investigation is resolved.

      This is because Mr. Paul Sidebottom is an employee of the Seminary,
      and therefore, the Church. Dismissal of Mr. Paul Sidebottom without
      a full, thorough, and complete investigation not only would be
      unethical and immoral, but it would potentially be a violation of
      Federal and State Laws regarding Sexual Harassment.

      - Assault
      Additionally, it is clear is that there are at least two allegations
      of physical abuse by Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) towards two members of
      the clergy, Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) and Father Z (although
      Father Z is not named in the letter, his name was given as the name
      of the "alleged physical abuse victim" in the letter. This fact was
      disclosed by Father X). A verbal allegation of physical abuse by
      Bishop Nikolai against Subdeacon A exists as well.

      To verify or disprove these allegations of physical abuse by Bishop
      Nikolai, at a minimum, all of the following will have to be
      interviewed: Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain), Father Y, Father X,
      Father Z, Subdeacon A , Matushka Z and any other witnesses that
      maybe found. Each of them will have to be reminded that the spirit
      of their cooperation is to be the same as that which is expected in
      the OCA policies and procedures regarding investigating allegations
      of sexual misconduct.

      Needless to say, any potential allegations of assault are serious,
      and any actions involving assault carry serious canonical and civil
      penalties. Obviously, an investigation must be carried out on these
      allegations as well.

      - Neglect
      There seems to be a potential for personal neglect here, bringing
      into question the ethical, moral, canonical, and the legal liability
      of the Bishop's alleged comments and directives.

      Mr. Sidebottom himself showed genuine concern and an understandable
      ignorance of the full implications of the Archimandrite's condition.
      However, the alleged comments of Bishop Nikolai call into question
      not only the Bishop's judgment but his concern for the health and
      well-being of the archimandrite. Failure to render or inhibiting
      rendering of proper aid in many cases can be seen legally as neglect.

      - Malpractice
      Malpractice is typically and legally defined as acting grossly
      outside the scope of one's competence, training, and certification.
      The allegation of the Bishop recommending or perhaps commanding that
      Archimandrite Isidore be allowed to sleep off his ingestion of drugs
      and alcohol falls within the areas of neglect and malpractice. This
      is particularly poignant because the alleged information and
      communication received was simply telephonic. Therefore, Bishop
      Nikolai was in no position to personally assess the archimandrite's
      physical condition or potential for harm. In fact, the responsible
      pastoral Christian action and the responsible actions of an ordinary
      citizen would be to recommend that the Archimandrite be brought to a
      competent medical authority for examination.

      However, how the allegations of the judgment and the conduct of a
      hierarch are reviewed is up to the Holy Synod. If the allegations
      are true, and this type of reprehensible lack of episcopal pastoral
      concern is not publicly corrected, the lack of action by the holy
      Synod most likely would have a devastating impact on the already
      fragile trust and morale amongst the faithful.

      - Domestic Violence
      Domestic violence has been brought up as an issue for two reasons:
      First, because there is an allegation of physical violence by Bishop
      directed towards the archimandrite.

      Second, because the Bishop and the archimandrite share a residence.
      Therefore, by definition, a domestic arrangement of some sort exists
      between Bishop Nikolai and Archimandrite Isidore.

      A domestic partnership does not have to be sexual in nature.
      However, domestic violence is defined as something that happens
      between people who live under the same roof. This is the applicable
      definition of domestic violence in the laws of the State of Alaska.

      - Psychological dynamics

      Cycle of Violence
      Included below are two descriptions of the cycle of domestic
      violence, as well as descriptions of Stockholm and battered persons
      syndrome. They are included because it would seem that there is
      enough evidence to suggest that a cycle of violence could exist in
      the relationship between the Bishop and the archimandrite. If, in
      fact, such a relationship of domestic violence did exist, then it is
      completely plausible that the archimandrite could be suffering from
      battered person syndrome. It would, therefore, be perfectly normal
      for the archimandrite to be unhelpful in addressing matters
      concerning health or safety within their household. The articles
      start immediately below and continue for four pages.

      References about domestic violence:
      http://incestabuse.about.com - "The Domestic Violence Cycle"
      Another description of the cycle of violence from www.psychpage.com . -

      The Cycle of Violence
      - Stockholm syndrome
      There is a strong possibility that in a relationship that includes
      domestic violence, the victim can suffer from Stockholm syndrome or
      battered person syndrome. In this case, the alleged victim most
      likely afflicted with the syndrome would be Archimandrite Isidore and
      potentially any other alleged victims of the alleged violence by
      Bishop Nikolai.

      - Battered person syndrome is a physical and psychological condition
      that is classified as ICD-9 code 995.81 "Battered person syndrome"
      NEC or otherwise included within DSM-IV as a sub-category of post-
      traumatic stress disorder. This condition has been used as a defence
      by women who have experienced long-term physical and psychological
      abuse, and have killed their abusers. This was called battered woman
      syndrome by Lenore Walker (1979).

      � Roth D. L. & Coles E. M. (1995). "Battered woman syndrome: a
      conceptual analysis of its status vis a vis DSM-IV mental disorders".
      Medicine and Law. Vol. 14(7-8): pp641-658.
      � Walker, Lenore E. (1979). The Battered Woman. New York:
      Harper and Row.

      - Alcoholism
      In order to adequately begin a discussion the dynamics of an
      alcoholic system, it would be necessary to engage a licensed or
      certified substance abuse counselor. However, there are some basics
      in alcoholic systems. First, there is the alcoholic. Second, in an
      alcoholic system involving two people, if one is the primary addict,
      the other person must be to some extent co-dependent.

      That the archimandrite is possibly in an advanced state of
      alcoholism. It is also possible that alcoholism is a concern in the
      household of the Bishop and archimandrite. If the concerns about
      alcoholism are validated, then simply returning the archimandrite to
      the residence of the Bishop without insuring therapy for the Bishop
      as well would be absurd and self-defeating to the health and
      salvation of both parties. This also means that it would be
      pastorally negligent to allow them to cohabitate without substantial
      and substantive change on the part of both people involved. This
      means that both Bishop Nikolai and Archimandrite Isidore need to
      undergo significant psychotherapeutic treatment in terms of their
      personal issues within the alcoholic system, as well as any other
      pertinent issues.

      Dangers to Archimandrite Isidore
      Allegedly, while Archimandrite Isidore was highly intoxicated, he
      verbalized suicidal ideation. To dismiss this under the pretense
      that Archimandrite Isidore is `too Christian' is simply
      irresponsible. Additionally, as a consequence of his alleged
      actions, Archimandrite Isidore potentially faces several issues that
      are known triggers (red flags!) for future potential suicidal
      gestures, or worse, attempts.

      Potential triggers are among others, the loss of status, the loss of
      a job, the loss of income, and the loss of a significant
      relationship. At the present time, it would seem that all of these
      potential suicide triggers may become immediately present within
      Archimandrite Isidore's life. Therefore, out of concern for the
      archimandrite's personal safety, extreme caution should be exercised
      as to how any changes in canonical and employment status are
      implemented as well as how and when they are communicated. It would
      be best for all served if any unpleasant news was relayed in person
      to the archimandrite while he is still in inpatient treatment. The
      support network that already exists in his inpatient facility would
      be most helpful for him in addressing the news of any of the very
      necessary changes to be made in his life.

      The allegations of sexual misconduct against the archimandrite,
      coupled with his alleged reputation, make it reasonable to believe
      that the archimandrite may be struggling with his sexual orientation,
      as well as a sense of acceptance of "self".

      It is quite common for gay young men to be substance abusers. The
      rapid and severe onset of alcoholism, as well as the archimandrite's
      alleged proclivities, make it necessary to examine the potential
      etiology of these issues as they relate to one another within his
      life. Attached you will find a reference to the nexus of alcoholism
      and homosexuality.

      It is recommended that the archimandrite undergo extensive
      psychological assessment and interviews as part of the

      Dangers to Bishop Nikolai
      Although Bishop Nikolai is not known to have expressed any suicidal
      ideation, he is facing potentially serious charges that threaten his
      job, status, income, as well as some of his significant
      relationships. Therefore, it is recommended that any issues that
      might affect any of the above-mentioned triggers be communicated to
      Bishop Nikolai in the presence of two or more people. In this
      manner, a group assessment can be made by those present as to whether
      or not it would seem that Bishop Nikolai needs some follow- on
      intervention to deal with potential changes in his future.

      Presumably, Bishop Nikolai needs treatment for the issue of
      codependency. The issue of "codependency" is usually an indication
      that there are other significant issues. It is recommended that the
      Bishop undergo extensive psychological assessment and interviews as
      part of the investigation.


      Therefore, it is recommended that both Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) and
      Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) be immediately suspended and remain
      suspended from all sacramental pastoral functions as to such a time
      as they can be exonerated of the allegations against them. It is
      further recommended that both Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) and
      Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain) be removed from the canonical and
      geographical limits and boundaries of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of
      Alaska of the Orthodox Church in America until such time as they are
      exonerated publicly or publicly charged and deposed by applicable
      canonical and civil laws. If anyone is found guilty of the
      allegations, they must be permanently removed from the diocese, and
      canonically forbidden to travel within or through it.

      It is also recommended, in accordance with the policy standards and
      procedures of the OCA on sexual misconduct, that the local law
      enforcement authorities and necessary civil authorities are notified
      of the actions taken and of the investigation being conducted.
      It is recommended that all of the investigations into the other
      allegations, whether of sexual misconduct or physical or violent
      misconduct, are conducted within the norms of the Policies,
      Standards, and Procedures of the Orthodox Church in America on Sexual
      Misconduct Adopted by The Holy Synod of Bishops on April 2, 2003.
      This recommendation is made because no other set of policies,
      standards and procedures exists to pursue clarification on the truth
      of the non-sexual allegations. Additionally, the above policies,
      standards, and procedures seem, for the most part, generic and
      prudent enough in their application to work well in this type of
      investigation. Although new in their compilation, they accurately
      reflect the Orthodox churches' tradition and treatment of guilt,
      innocence, and investigative procedures.

      It should also be noted that failure to act on the part of the
      Primate of the Orthodox Church in America may constitute a violation
      of the "failure to protect" law of the state of Alaska.

      Subsequently, a primate or other members of the Holy Synod of the
      Orthodox Church in America may find themselves criminally liable
      for "failure to protect" and prosecutable under that law in the state
      of Alaska.

      Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain)

      It cannot be overstated that the allegations against Archimandrite
      Isidore (Brittain) are extraordinarily serious. However, it is
      completely plausible that the archimandrite is both a perpetrator as
      well as a victim. Although his status as a victim does not alleviate
      him of the responsibility he has if the allegations against him are
      true. Rather it simply helps identify the pathos involved.

      It may well be impossible to pastorally rehabilitate Archimandrite
      Isidore in the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska of the OCA,
      regardless of the findings of an investigation. It may further be
      impossible to pastorally rehabilitate Archimandrite Isidore in a
      leadership role anywhere within the OCA.

      It is recommended, after Archimandrite Isidore exits his residential
      treatment program and obtaining his permission first, that the
      following actions to be taken: Archimandrite Isidore should be sent
      to a monastic community. The monastery should be isolated, and the
      archimandrite should be forbidden from all casual, public or pastoral
      contact with anyone until such time as a favorable outcome of the
      investigation may be announced.

      If the archimandrite is found guilty of the allegations and
      permanently canonically sanctioned, it may still be possible to help
      him work out his salvation within the Church. If it is prudent
      within the civil statutes, perhaps he can be offered a place in the
      aforementioned monastic community permanently as a brother who has
      restricted contact with the public as well as no contact with
      children and no pastoral responsibilities.

      This is because, if the archimandrite is found guilty of or has
      substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct, he would be eligible
      (perhaps legally mandated) to be permanently placed upon a national
      registry of sexual offenders. The Church in good conscience cannot
      allow casual, public or pastoral contact between a sex offender and
      anyone who could become a potential victim.

      It is recommended that the archimandrite be ordered under threat of
      canonical sanction not to contact Bishop Nikolai and that the
      archimandrite's location remain unknown to Bishop Nikolai.

      Bishop Nikolai (Soraich)

      It cannot be overstated that the allegations against Bishop Nikolai
      (Soraich) are extraordinarily serious. Bishop Nikolai should be
      entrusted and ordered to remain within the confines of a monastery.
      The monastery should be isolated, and the bishop should be forbidden
      from all casual, public, or pastoral contact with anyone until such
      time as a favorable outcome of the investigation may be announced.
      If he cooperates by going to the monastery, Bishop Nikolai should be
      ordered to be strictly obedient to the abbot or hegumen of the
      monastery. The abbot of course will be acting completely in
      accordance with the expressed directives of the Holy Synod. The
      Bishop should remain there until the results of the investigation are
      completed, compiled, and published.

      In addition, because of the potentially unhealthy psychological
      dynamics of the diocese and seminary, it is recommended that Bishop
      Nikolai be forbidden in writing under threat of canonical sanction
      not to contact or reply to contact by anyone who is a member of the
      diocese or seminary or to communication with any member of the
      diocese or seminary in any way, either directly or indirectly.

      Furthermore, Bishop Nikolai should be ordered, under threat of
      canonical sanction, not to contact or reply to contact from
      Archimandrite Isidore for the duration of the investigation. It is
      recommended that Bishop Nikolai's location remain unknown to
      Archimandrite Isidore.

      If the investigation into the allegations find against Bishop Nikolai
      in any way, it would be impossible to pastorally rehabilitate Bishop
      Nikolai in the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska of the OCA or
      anywhere within the OCA. Substantiated allegations might also
      indicate that Bishop Nikolai has a significant predatory disposition.
      If the charges are substantiated and the Bishop is permanently
      canonically sanctioned, according to prudence within the civil
      statutes, perhaps the bishop can be offered a place in the
      aforementioned monastic community permanently as a brother who has
      restricted contact with the public as well as no contact with
      children and no pastoral responsibilities.

      If the Bishop is found guilty or substantiated of domestic violence,
      he would be eligible (perhaps legally mandated) to be placed upon a
      national registry of violent offenders. The church cannot, in good
      conscience, allow casual, public, or pastoral contact between a
      violent offender and anyone who could become a potential victim.

      The severity of all the issues presented makes normal functioning of
      both the diocese and the seminary impossible without a public
      exoneration of those accused, Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) and
      Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain), or a public canonical sanction of
      these two men (souls) by the OCA at the national level.

      It is recommended that the Holy Synod of the OCA elect/appoint a
      Locum Tenens immediately to oversee the Diocese of Alaska.

      The Investigative Team

      An investigative team must be appointed to examine the facts and
      allegations against Bishop Nikolai. All members of the team must be
      of good repute and not possess any known issues that are similar in
      nature to those issues that are alleged. It is recommended that this
      team be composed of three to five people and include at the minimum
      following personnel:

      a. At least one active Bishop (two bishops would be better) in
      good standing without undue ties to Bishop Nikolai that might
      prejudice his decisions and findings in one way or another. For
      this reason, it may be necessary to ask a Bishop from another
      jurisdiction to help conduct the investigation.
      b. At a minimum, two certified or licensed mental health
      professionals (licensed clinical psychologist, LCSW, LMHC, NBCC etc.,
      mental health) who possess extensive documented experience and
      education in substance abuse (specifically alcohol abuse) and
      domestic violence. It is preferred, for the sake of procedural
      transparency and integrity, that at least one of these mental health
      professionals be a lay person.
      c. An additional person to act as a recorder and secretary for
      the investigations and proceedings.

      Additionally, the members of the investigative team must be above
      public reproach and have had no prior record of misconduct or
      substance abuse or publicly made allegations of either issue made
      against them.

      At a minimum, the following people should be interviewed:
      a. Bishop Nikolai (Soraich).
      b. Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain).
      c. Father X.
      d. Father Y.
      e. Father Z.
      f. Subdeacon A.
      g. Reader Paul Sidebottom.
      h. Matushka Z
      i. Matushka A
      j. At least two to four other people as seen fit. These should
      either be witnesses to the events at the Ascension vigil at 2007 or
      potential witnesses to other allegations.

      All investigations and interviews must be conducted in person, as
      well as transcribed both in a written and audio form, at a minimum.
      Hopefully, the interviews can be conducted and recorded within
      current standards of video products and technology.
      It is further recommended that all findings of the investigative team
      of all the known and subsequently found allegations, as well as their
      details, be presented in a full hard copy version with references to
      the entirety of the Holy Synod. It is recommended that this report,
      finalized and legally reviewed, be published for public dissemination
      on the OCA website and other national church media venues.
      Prior to the interviews, each respondent should be contacted in
      writing with a copy of the guidelines of clergy cooperation and an
      explanation that any attempt to mislead, obfuscate, or any other
      attempt at deception will result in a canonical sanction from the
      Holy Synod. These letters should be signed and returned by the
      interviewees during the interviews.

      If the clergy interviewees refuse to cooperate, they should be
      canonically sanctioned, unless the cooperation violates their Fifth
      Amendment Rights.

      Every aspect of the letter and the verbal allegations are
      newsworthy. In an era of a popularly controlled media, whether it is
      commercial or publicly controlled via the Internet, means that a
      failure to act will eventually be found out by people who seek to
      embarrass the faith, the faithful and the leadership of the Church.
      As has been clearly expressed by a member of the Holy Synod, it is
      not a matter of `if' people will find out about the allegations, it
      is just a matter of `when' and `how'.

      It is plain that under the civil legal code, the hierarchy of the
      church must act to clear and exonerate the two accused or to sanction
      them. A lack of action would constitute an abuse of leadership that
      would also greatly and financially imperil the Church.

      We only need to look to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston's
      legal crises as an example. These numerous and extremely expensive
      legal losses were precipitated not by the fact that a priest was a
      pedophile, but rather by the episcopal leadership's failure to act to
      protect the faithful when the bishops had knowledge of a predator
      amongst the diocese's shepherds.

      The recommendation is that a group of bishops (who are already in
      complete agreement on the "path of" and the need for action, as well
      as the desired outcome, the "end state") sit down and confront the
      primate with the gravity, severity, and potential implications as
      well as the liabilities of the issues presented.

      --- End forwarded message ---

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