--- 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
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
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
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.
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.
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 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
- 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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