Thursday, November 01, 2018

Rape and the Holy Man - The Alleged Sexual Crime of a ROCOR Priest

By Nathan Lee Lewis

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
— Proverbs 31:9

[Editor's Note: The content posted here contains several e-mail blasts and personal correspondence sent by Carole Stephens, also known as Julianna Stephens (Orthodox name), to at least four clergy and numerous laymen, including myself, since 2012. It also contains e-mails from the victim, whose name is omitted. All e-mails have undergone minor edits for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Some names have been omitted for privacy and some content, unrelated to the event, has been omitted. Paragraph breaks are Editor's discretion for the purpose of clarity. ]

"If a secretly disturbed married man can fool around with a girl..."

Fr Matthew Williams
Saint Tikhon Russian 
Orthodox Church
Bristol, VA
"I [Carole Stephens] filed a police report with the police department in Roswell Georgia in 2013.  This is where the assault took place on my daughter, [name omitted] when she was babysitting for a deacon and his wife. [Now] Father Matthew G. Williams and his wife Elizabeth. [S]he was fifteen at the time. She was instructed by the perpetrator's wife never to talk about it to anyone....because she did not want her husband's reputation damaged.

When my daughter's godmother picked up my [daughter] at the bus station in Manchester TN, [she] was crying uncontrollably.  She asked to speak with a senior priest of the orthodox church by phone and would not tell her godmother, [Eleni] Jolly, what was wrong. [My daughter] begged Eleni not to tell me that she was crying [...]  [My daughter] spoke with a senior priest Fr. Anastasy Vertrelli, who also instructed her never to mention the rape to anyone.

Eight years passed and [my daughter] was a junior at [university name omitted] before this all leaked out to me. By that time she admitted the crime to me and her sisters after a serious nervous breakdown... I confronted the assaulting couple. The deacon had been ordained a priest of St. Tihkon's Russian Orthodox Church in Bristol, TN in [the] interim.  I wrote them for an explanation. They proceeded to harass my daughter at school and beg her to keep me off of their backs. That is when I began to circulate letters to many priests that had contact with Fr. Matthew Williams (the offender) and finally wrote the metropolitan of the church. There was an investigation initiated [b]ut [my daughter] would not come forward. 

[...] Father Matthew called me and tried to set up a meeting and begged forgiveness. He has daughters of his own who are now teenagers. [...] [My daughter] did not want to go to trial. Without her I have no case. The Roswell [GA] Police will not assign a case number without [her] [...] My daughter has had a lot of emotional struggles and failure in life, despite the fact that she did graduate from [university name omitted]. She suffered a horrible nervous breakdown that did cost her two years delay in school [...] I am shamed by the church as a trouble making slanderous woman [...]

Fr. Anastasy P. Yatrelis
[I]f the girl is raped as a minor, her parents have a right to prosecute and avenge her. In a church there is no place for even seducing a minor or statutory rape, and especially under the guise of babysitting. NO! You DO NOT bully a 15 year old child into silence for the good of position and a senior priest as Father Anastasy, should certainly have reported the rape as a mandated reporter to his bishop and to the civil authorities. He is also culpable for the cover up, thus prosecution. The girl would have been forced into counseling, which would have made her life better. The parents would not have been kept under the guise of spiritual well being in such an environment. God parents should be co-parents in the faith. The right people would have paid for their misdeeds instead of young girls suffering violation and shame. 

The double crime is pleading to the girl to lie to the metropolitan during the investigation. Not one of those clergy members would settle for this kind of abuse for their children. All of the perpetrators were god parents[.]  This is not a picture of holiness, it is a picture of corruption from within [...]"

[*Editor's Note: St. Tikhon's Russian Orthodox Church is just across the TN state line in Bristol, Virginia. The state line runs down the middle of Bristol, TN and Bristol, VA.]

Father Matthew Williams was a deacon at the time of the alleged sexual assault of the 15-year-old-girl. It is not known if Metropolitan Hilarion was apprised of the accusations toward the, then Deacon Matthew, when the Metropolitan decided to ordain him a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Fr. Williams is currently a local parish priest in Bristol, Virginia. According to Carole Stephens, Metropolitan Hilarion was apprised of the situation around 2013-2014 when she began to circulate e-mails to numerous clergy and laymen, claiming that Matthew Williams had raped her daughter. These emails prompted the attention of the Metropolitan's office and Father John Oliver, senior priest of Saint Elizabeth's Antiochian Orthodox Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who is also the brother-in-law of Father Matthew Williams. Father Oliver and Father Matthew's wives are sisters.

The following is the e-mail Carole Stephens sent to Father Williams. She forwarded the e-mail to JTO Editor, Nathan Lee Lewis, with the description:
"original reprimand to Matthew and Elizabeth. Forgive the grammar, I was still working night shift and home schooling."
"I have been trying to reach you over the past few days. [I] know that you now have a growing family and a growing church.[T]hat is why [I] thought you had been too busy to contact us or send things for the children on their name days. [Y]ou now have a sizable; family of your own. [A]nd [I] want to respect that. [B]ut the outrageous allegations of something really obscure keep popping up, never letting me rest. [T]his is something that keeps surfacing that has kept me in the dark for a long time. [A]nd what a way to find out -from my older children in front of my younger ones when [I] was supposed to be going to church [ ] last December,  and then, again, surrounding the event of [sibling's] graduation from homeschool highschool, when a lot of the family came together. [O]nly this time [I] was able to confirm the truth with [victim-daughter].
[I]t seems that you took advantage of [Daughter] when she was only 15 on one of her visits to help Elizabeth [Editor's Note: Elizabeth is Father Matthew's wife] with your children. Or maybe it happened more? [T]his was all common knowledge to the [my] older sons and daughters  --but hidden from me--because [Daughter] had confided in one of her older sisters, who was in turn outraged. [Y]ou don't realize what a great disturbance you have caused in my family. [W]hat a great breach of faith and trust. [T]here is nothing that could ever restitute what damage you have done to not only [Daughter], but to my children, the ones you were supposed to be godfather to. [I]t is an awesome task trying to raise children for Christ in this world of so many distractions and then with a spouse who is not always reasonable or supportive.[I]n the eyes of the older children who aren't faithful, the church has egg all over its face..and they doubt the credibility of all [I] have tried to accomplish at the [C]hurch of the [A]nnunciation all of these years. [Editor's Note: Carol and her family were members of Church of the Annunciation in Liberty, Tennessee, where the late Father Gregory Williams was a priest. Father Gregory Williams was Father Matthew Williams' father] 
[E]very vigil, every lit candle, every painstaking moment of schooling at home--all but thrown to the wind because of great indiscretion. [T]his is damage done more on an eternal scale. [I]ts repercussions so uncertain. [D]id you think that [Daughter] would live untroubled and never confide in anyone? [A]nd that [I] would never find out? [W]hat about your own sons and daughters? [W]ould [you] like for them to reap such devastation as you have caused us? [...] of so many distractions. [F]inding out about this right at the time when my youngest are coming of age is a great mocking of all that [I] have tried to teach them these years at the [C]hurch of the [A]nnunciation.  [I]t has disgraced the church in the eyes of my older children and has brought great reproach. [D]id you think that [Daughter] would never confide in anyone and that no one would get hurt?  [T]hat [I] would not eventually find out. [E]ven if [I] wanted to ignore this and forget the past[,] my older children are after me to check into this. [Daughter] doesn't want to drag this out so that she continues to be haunted by it. [S]he has had a lot of anxiety over this as a freshman and sophomore in college. [S]he allegedly tried to talk with another priest and a bishop and was told to keep quiet. [W]hat kind of a hierarchy is that?
[I] don't care if she were starry eyed and had a crush on you. [T]his kind of act [typo ommitted] constitutes statutory rape. [S]omething men go to prison for and are marked as sex offenders. [S]he was a minor. [Sibling] and [Sibling] couldn[']t figure out at first why all of the sobbing and confusion.  [T]hey thought she had just slipped out of your house with a [17-year-old] boy [a]nd felt guilt. [T]hat is why [I] called you a few months back. You really did lie to me. [content omitted] [...] [Y]ou were the portrait of piety. [A]nd where was your wife to protect my little girl from all of this? [W]hy did [I] think [I]could trust you?  [I] don't necessarily want to bring such woe upon your children as you have [d]one to my own, but you need to know and own up to your actions. [Sibling] has blamed himself. [T]o what extent did this occur? [N]ow [I] see the reason for the silence and why [Daughter] didn't want to go to your parish for [P]ascha year before last and why you never called her. 
[N]ow [I] can say that two of my [grandchildren] were indirectly damaged because of this parish.  [...] [A]nd you have to know that your actions hurt others lives and now as an officer of the orthodox faith how much more. [N]ow [Daughter]. [W]hen only 15 or even younger. [S]he was very troubled and unstable and had a nervous breakdown... and eventually stopped caring about church and the faith.  [W]hy should she if the people in the church are equal to those at large? [content omitted] [...] [Daughter] may never set foot in the [O]rthodox church again. [S]he continued to sing in the cleros until 18 and then visited some after she moved to [city]. [I] was so proud to look at her when she was 18 one [P]ascha, when she was still living at home and attending [university] with [sibling]. [S]he was the picture of beauty and an honor student..what seemed to me a shining maid with her lovely veiling. [L]ittle did [I] know of her troubled condition. 
[Y]ou need to face up to how your actions can hurt others. [content omited] [T]here are very few men of integrity to teach the young generation about God. [I] thought you were different, [I] thought you were the makings of  one with a beautiful wife at your officer of the orthodox church.
[W]hat about you[ ]? You have confirmed in your own God children that God doesn[']t matter in the face of temptation. [Y]ou should never have been left alone with my [Daughter]. For this you deserve a great flogging.  And you can ignore all of my messages to call.  I would like an explanation from your wife and from you.  You can ignore me, but that [won't] make the reality disappear that you have done this to us.                     
 [Editor's Note: Julianna is Carole Stephen's baptismal name]

Carole gave this explanation of the aftermath of the letter:
Father John Oliver 
"Father Matthew and his matushka did call me after my circulating the letter. They had been confronted by Metropolitan Hilarion's office.  I was actually stranded in a Megabus atop Donner's Summit when they reached me.  We went round and round for a couple of hours.  Prior to that phone call, a few days earlier, Fr. John Oliver of St. Elizabeth's Orthodox Church in Murfreesboro (who NEVER called me) called me when I was at my brother's house in California, saying that Fr. Matthew wanted to arrange a meeting with me at St. Elizabeth.  He was willing to drive all of the way from Bristol to meet me in Murfreesboro to discuss the matter.  But I was in California.  When I returned to TN I asked Father John what Fr. Matthew had said to him about the matter.  He claimed that he did not know the details: though I did send the first letter addressed directly to Fr. John.  To me, they were passing the buck around.  They were careful not to admit to what extent the assault happened nor have anything in writing. I was the one who discovered the orgin of the rape and DID make a [*] written police report in Roswell, GA.  But they did not maintain it nor give it a case# because the victim did not want to come forward."
[*Editor's Note: After several written and phone inquiries with the Roswell authorities, no written record could be found of the report that Carole Stephens claims to have made by phone. The receiving officer has retired and is no longer with the department. The Roswell, GA Police Department records officer confirmed to JTO that since the victim was not willing to come forward, it is possible that no written record was taken and no case number was assigned at the time of Carole Stephen's phone call.]

An e-mail exchange between Carole and JTO Editor Nathan Lee Lewis:
JTO: Did FMW admit to any of the allegations in the "round and round" phone call? Was there a complete denial or an excuse or explanation? What was the nature of the call? What was discussed for two hours?
Carole: Yes there was an admission o[f] guilt[,] forgiveness asked [.] But how do you forgive for such damage to your children? They have children[.] Clergy abuse[.]
JTO: Please forgive the specifics of this question...but I need to know if it was a rape [graphic description omitted] or another kind of physical violation. I am calling it a rape but need to amend my verbiage if it was not...
Carole: It was rape. What's more, my other children, god children of the couple, see no salvation in the Orthodox Church ...[Daughter] is the one who confided in her sisters and admitted this to me. 
JTO: Got it. Thank you for confirming this. 
Carole: They tried to minimize this.  Fr. John, I have a lot of respect for, but I feel he also tries to skirt around what was said to him by Fr. Matthew. I went to see him at his church specifically to ask him questions, point blank, about what he knew.  He was evasive. [...] Fr. Gregory Williams and Matushka, tried to minimize the assault and shame me. [...] [...] it goes without saying that there are many wolves in sheep's clothing who abuse their position of power (which in the case of the church should be a greater position of humility) who will receive the greater condemnation for harming the innocent. [...] I have seen this on the mission field in Latin America.  Do you want to be in communion with disturbed people who harm young people's lives? [Daughter] has been emotionally damaged and it is a long road to recovery.  Pray for us. 

Given that the meeting between Carole Stephens and Father John Oliver took place, one cannot help but ask the age-old question, "What did Father Oliver, know and when did he know it?"

There was a subsequent e-mail exchange between Carole and JTO Editor Nathan Lee Lewis where JTO asked for clarity:
JTO: I must double check facts and verbiage is VERY important for finding the facts. Here is an example: I need clarification:
I asked you:  "Did FMW admit to any of the allegations in the "round and round" phone call? Was there a complete denial or an excuse or explanation? What was the nature of the call? What was discussed for two hours?"
Your answer was: "Yes there was an admission o[f] guilt forgiveness asked .."
In this instance, in a court of law or in a journalistic investigation, your reply would be deemed non-specific. It did not answer the question asked. I asked if FMW admitted to any of the allegations. You said, "there was an admission...". Given that Elizabeth was on the call as well and given that you all went "round and round", I need to [ ] know if it was FMW who admitted the actual rape in his own words to you. Did he say "I did it"  or was he evasive and non-specific? Did he ask your forgiveness for the rape of your daughter or was it a general, "I'm sorry for the whole event type thing?"
Carole: Elizabeth did say that she should have known better than to have a teenaged girl in her home. Matthew did say that if it made me feel any better, Elizabeth almost left him for the incident. I told him that he should love his wife all the more. They reminded me of all that they had done for me in the past and Elizabeth did say that her husband does a lot of good for people as a priest. They offered to do something for me financially. [...]  He was evasive about dates, location of the crime, and to what extent (how many times did it occur?) as I was asking point blank questions. They begged forgiveness over and over, but were non-specific. Of course they wanted to avoid prosecution.  

Archpriest Andrei Sommer
According to Carole Stephens, Metropolitan Hilarion's investigator, Archpriest Andrei Sommer, talked with Father Matthew and with her daughter. Stephens said her daughter had been compelled to lie to the investigator and so the matter was dropped. Carole recalls:
"... I found out about it after [daughter] was grown, but it happened at age 15. [...] [name omitted] came home on the Greyhound crying and was picked up by Eleni, her God mother to spend a weekend with her and her girls after helping Ma[t]thew and Elizabeth babysit their children in Atlanta.  She wanted to speak with Fr. Anastsy by phone and did not w[a]nt to tell Eleni what was wrong.  But she did beg Eleni not to tell her parents.  I found [a]out the truth around the time of [sibling's] high school graduation.  I would wait until my kids were at softball practice then I would try to call Matthew.  He would never answer.  Then I typed out an e-mail.  It took me 3 months to send it.  Right away, I got a response from [daughter], for they had harassed her by phone to get me off of their backs. I have filed complaints with the metropolitan and with the police. Nobody seems to care that this happened...but my older daughters hold me accountable, because I was the one who trust[ed] Matthew and Elizabeth.  I had to be ambiguous in my alert as not to hurt my daughter.   Matthew was only willing to call me when the letter hit the metropolitan's office...but later called [daughter] and convinced her to lie to the metropolitan's investigator..."
In her apparent frustration with the response of Father Williams and his wife, and the lack of progress with the Metropolitan's investigation, Carole Stephens went public with a very provocative, email blast. The e-mail was sent initially to twenty people:

This notification is to alert you that a horrible offense was committed against my daughter at the hand of your brother or brother in law and then swept under the rug, as my daughter was coerced into silence, then later harassed by phone when this finally came to light.  She could not help but to confide in  someone, namely her older sisters, and feared disrupting the stability of her family as well as that of the perpetrator as she suffered in tears.  The senior priest she confided in also told her that this should never be found out. To my dismay, there exists a huge organization called SNAP and a whole website,, dedicated to counseling victims and families of victims abused by clergy  AND I HAVE HAD TO GO THERE!!!  Think about your own lovely daughters when you consider this.  The victim pays the price and so does the victim's family.  Mothers, be forewarned and vigilant.  Clergy members...JUST STOP IT!!!  There are enough sex offenders running around hurting children.  Can the church NOT be a refuge?  Where is God in all of this?"
This e-mail prompted a response from at least one of its recipients, an OCA priest who happened to be a second brother-in-law of Father Matthew Williams:
Greetings in the Lord,
Joyous feast of St. Andrew the First Called!
Father Christopher Stanton
I am troubled at the pain I hear in your email. Our first concern needs to be towards healing, both for the victim and those who surround her. I hope she and those who need it are getting the counseling and attention they need at this time. Closely following this needs to be careful attention given to the accused. If this accusation mentioned involves a minor at the time of the event then the authorities need to be contacted for an official investigation to understand what has happened and what needs to be done for, not to, the accused. If the event does not have to do with a minor then the appropriate ecclesiastical authority should be contacted towards the same conclusion.  
I am saddened by the need for such a general and widely broadcasted email. In today's world rumor and hear say holds the same power and often more so than the truth, and the ambiguous nature of this email certainly lends itself to such; if not plain slander. The scriptures call for us to cover our brother's sin (not to hide it which could lead to further sin) so as to not color nor prejudice others against each other. We live in a world of sin, even and especially in the sinless and spotless Church of Christ, and because of this we need each other for support, confidence, and consolation. Let us not think, say, or do anything to cause division nor disruption among us. 
Finally, I offer my prayers, sympathy, and what ever counsel I can for your recovery, health and wellbeing at this time. 
In Christ's love,
Fr. Christopher Stanton 
The intentions of the priest seem to be from a pastoral heart.  The letter also seems to be an attempt at proper pastoral written discourse. What is lacking in the letter is a commitment to become personally involved and accomplish any of the things he suggests need to happen. 
  • I hope she and those who need it are getting the counseling and attention
  • careful attention given to the accused
  • authorities need to be contacted
Given that it is the priest's brother-in-law, his wife's brother, who is being accused, it seems the appropriate precursor to sending a response would be to get on the phone to his relative and ask, "So what is this all about?" Then a more informed response could be issued. As it is, the response can be likened to the parable:
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
To paraphrase, "Oh you look hungry. Sure hope you find some food."  In this case, it seems to be "Ohhorrible offense was committed against your daughter at the hand of my brother-in-law. I hope justice is done and you aren't being untruthful."

What is present in the letter is the warning to Carole Stephens that she may be engaging in rumor and hearsay and engaged in "plain slander." The priest and others might do well to understand the definition of "slander". The primary definition is: 
"The action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation...make false and damaging statements about (someone)."
To meet the definition of slander, the accusation must first be false.

There is a related synonym of slander, "spread scandal about", however, Carole Stephens seemed to have made an initial concerted effort to inform the appropriate civil and ecclesiastical channels before resorting to sending an e-mail blast to a limited number of clergy and laymen, not only appealing for justice, but also warning them to protect their own children who may come in contact with the accused. 

In any case, the warning against slander/falsehood fade in light of the victim's own words in which she seeming acknowledges the truth of Carole's e-mail.

In 2012, Carole Stephens had a series of e-mail exchanges with her daughter. The daughter was obviously aggravated by her mother's public attempts to bring Father Matthew to account. Although the testimony of others shows a distraught 15-year-old girl in tears at the time of the alleged event, the four e-mails, years later, seem to show a hardened, calloused, bitter, and angry young adult, frustrated with a mother who will not be silent. In any case, the exchange below is void of a denial by the daughter and seems to confirm that an event involving Father Matthew Williams did occur. One might notice the victim's exchange with her mother did not include, "Mom, what are you talking about", "Mom, nothing happened" "Mom why are you making stuff up" and the like. The exchange seems to assume an "8-year-old" event and the victim seems to have as her goal that the mother just stop talking about it and stop dredging up old pain, while expressing utter contempt for Matthew and Elizabeth Williams:  

[Editor's Note: BOLD emphasis is mine]

Email Exchange One:
Daughter: What will make you happy? What do you want? Money? A public humiliation and apology? Because you say you don't want to destroy their lives and yet you keep pestering them. What do you want?
Carole: I dont need anything from them. [B]ut they should be aware if they didnt have enough presence of mind at the time when you were 15, then what makes you think that anyone one of his relatives would be safe.  [F]or crying out loud..think of them.  [T]hose two need to be warned.  [E]lizabeth needs to be warned.  [Y]ou have even read the news about current violations and many child sufferrers.  [T]hey just cant get off with complete tranquility that this was OK.  [T]he [name omitted] girls were mad at their parents for not taking action against a man that bothered them.  [Name omitted] just merely kicked him out of the house.  [T]he girls thought that they werent worth it.  [F]or the love of [Father John Oliver's daughter] who is 12 and all [ ] of her little sisters and cousins, stop trying to protect a priest from rreprimand..a man  who is supposed to call others to repentance.  [H]e needs a little reprimand from an angry a forwarning.
 Email Exchange Two:
Daughter: I'm not even a real person to you am I? You don't care about my wishes or what Ive been through. Alright fine. Go nuts. Make yourself miserable. Make them miserable. Everything is about YOU after all. But you wont touch me with your poor pitiful martyrdom  because I am over it. I know that life goes on and I don't buy into this stupid modern American ideal that someone must suffer just because my life isn't perfect. As long as you keep talking to them, I am not your daughter. I am ignoring every call every letter. You can't accept me as I am. I'm not blond enough skinny enough church enough young enough virgin enough. Your romantic ideals are evil and destructive. I wish you well. But mostly I wish you would find a hobby besides gossip and feeling sorry for yourself and slaving away for [explitive] kids.
Carole: I care ab[o]ut your wishes. [S]top feeling sorry about your ownself. I have enough to do and have little time for hobbies.  [Y]ou should be proud of your brother [name omited] right now. [H]e is really going to college and is going to have less time to hang out with [name omitted].  I am not a martry.  Just because hard work is required for a family does not mean that I persay am a martry.  [Y]ou should not be referring to your brothers and sisters that way just because these terrible things happened to you.  [E]ven more things happened to me as a kid.  [T]hey wont happen to the younger girls.  If you want to be that way think about your own children.  [Sibling] thinks [I] am wimpy for not saying a thing.  [I] wrote that letter back in may and finally pushed the button. 
Email Exchange Three: 
Daughter: Oh yeah, one more thing: You are chasing after this eight-year-old ghost and yet you are perfectly happy to ignore the many issues right under your nose. FOR EXAMPLE:[...] [name omitted] lives at your house. He is 22 yrs old and a creep at the best of times. YOU KNOW THIS. And yet he continues to live there free of charge with your young daughters. If a secretly disturbed married man can fool around with a girl what do you think about a good for nothing pill head?! Even if he would never touch them, what kind of respect do you have for your family's integrity to let him be there?
Carole: [...] You should not be trying to shield an unconvicted sex offender if he is in a position of presiding over others lives and has a lot of extended family..especially if he has many  nieces.  [W]e all know that these things happen with people most trusted.  [...]  if he ever laid a hand on them we would know it and he would go to jail. If [name omitted] or the boys ever did that [I] would quickley forget that they are my sons.  I am not trying to fight about this or have [I] pressed charges.  [B]ut [I] am not the kind of wimpy mom who is going to just smooth this over without a word. [Sibling] is so outraged that she is ready to kick butt and [sibling] doesnt think it should be excused at all.  I have enough mercy to think of [M]atthews present situation his wife and children[,] but he needs a warning. [T]oo many guys get away with this then hurt others.  I think you should let go of your hostility toward me and stop trying to make a victim out of him.  [...] 
Email Exchange Four: 
Daughter: Well I am asking you to stop. This is about me protecting me. I don't give a damn about them. They can go to hell. Just for MY sake get over it.
Carole: I do care, [daughter]. I do know that these things have serious repercussions for any girl.  I was one of  those girls. [W]hen I talked with [sibling] about this, she was under the opinion that as a mother [I] had no right to even keep quiet about this.  [L]ike [I] said, [I] wrote that lettter in may and just pushed the button this past monday.  [Y]ou are still so young and do need to move on as [I] had to learn to do with the thing about my dad. [F]orgiveness is a powerful healing tool handed down from above. [content omitted] [Y]ou are my little girl.  [Y]ou always will be  no matter if you ever speak with me or not.  [A]t least know this..[I] would be less of a woman to let  the [W]illiams go along on one of their arrogant paths thinking they can do no wrong when they have wounded people exceedingly and also vexed peoples spiritual lives when they were self proclaimed leaders....and not  go out on a limb for my own child. [content omitted - discussion of similar events with others] you are exceptionaly gifted and beautiful and deserve to move on without any more pain.  [Sibling and sibling] think of you the same way that you think of [thee other sibilings]. [T]hey challenged me not to let this go at all... and you neednt  had to know that [I] pushed that button.  [J]ust think of the risk [I] took. [...] [D]ont think [I] didnt consider the risk of you saying that you would never speak to me again...however painful that  would be. [I]f something were to ever happen to anyone else, like the little [O]liver girls [I] would never forgive myself not having said a timely word.  [B]etter said in private to the source , then for me to go to [L]ara and [F]r. [J]ohn...and scandalize everyone. [W]hat motivated so many to keep quiet about sandusky.?  [H]ow many more were hurt by it because of silence  and fear of toppling sandusky? [...] A fair warning by email is the step in time that could save 9. [...] Love you , girl [...].
It seems the victim told the story of the event, the "it", in just a few sentences. It would be Clintonesque indeed if one were to question what the meaning of "it" is, especially given the context in which the victim is responding to the mother's specific discussion of the conduct of Father Matthew Williams, and how her daughter is failing to do something about "it".

A public humiliation and apology... what Ive been through... I am over it. I know that life goes on... eight-year-old ghost... If a secretly disturbed married man can fool around with a girl... This is about me protecting me. I don't give a damn about them. They can go to hell. 

The repercussive nature of a rape accusation being made public, should not be underestimated, but neither should the destructive nature of the rape of a 15-year-old girl, kept secret. According to her mother, Carole Stephens, her daughter's life has been in shatters, her soul damaged. If the account is accurate, her daughter, now, in her 20's must not only deal with the psychological ramifications of being raped as a child, but she has had to live with the knowledge that her alleged perpetrator has, not only paid no price for his crime but has been elevated and celebrated as a local parish priest. In December of 2011, His Eminence Hilarion visited St. Tikhon’s Church in Bristol, VA. where he awarded Father Matthew Williams the right to wear the nabedrennikan award given  "for long and dedicated service". Except for a tenacious and persistent Orthodox mother, who has had to endure the pressure of being called an unstable slanderer, this alleged crime by a clergy of the ROCOR might have remained covered-up. All would be remiss and miss the mark to show more concern for the reputation of a local church, priest, Bishop, or Metropolitan at this point than for the soul of the victim. Only Father Matthew would be responsible for the ramifications that his alleged criminal act has had, and will have on his wife and children, on the parish he now pastors and the Bishop he serves.

Prior to this post, one other blog has posted a similar expose' on this alleged rape. Apparently, ROCOR decided to ignore the blog post's allegations. Father Matthew Williams remains a priest in ROCOR. It is not certain whether or not the parishioners of Father William's church are aware of the allegations. It is also not certain whether or not the Bristol, Virginia community is aware of the allegations, however, the Bristol Herald Courier contributing reporter, Tom Netherland, is aware of Father Matthew Williams and the Saint Tikhon Russian Orthodox Church, having written a positive 2013 article on Father Matthew and the Bristol Church.

It would be a ludicrous act for anyone to judge the public journalistic exposition of this event as "not the way to do it." What is "the way to do it"? What has been done in all these years? This exposition has been made public and demands made for the opening of a new investigation, only after the mother attempted to follow the appropriate channels for hearing such matters. She has been met with silence, pushback, and threats. All the while, this  courageous mother has been persistent, enduring threats and warnings such as this e-mail comment from a female friend:

"Your repeated attempts to be heard and to get the justice you seek can be termed as harassment or more, making you vulnerable to legal action. This reality is, by itself, reason to let this go..." 
Carole has had strong words for such attacks. She told the JTO Editor:
"That is what I get for "talking". I get to lose my daughter, [omited] I get to be shamed as an instigator and a slanderer, I get to have a daughter who suffers emotional devastation. I get to be a loser. Congratulations to the ROCOR for ordaining a sex offender. They can receive communion from him and be in communion with him."
Nevertheless, Carole Stephens has been like the Persistent Widow:
"And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:1-8

It is the responsibility of the Orthodox Church to care more for the helpless and weak of the flock than that of the powerful man in black. In this case, it seems it has not. This alleged criminal act has gone unanswered. It has allegedly been covered up. Lies have allegedly been told, and an alleged, unrepentant rapist priest is the leaven that may spoil the whole loaf. It seems that some extended clergy, who may have known the facts of the criminal act of one of their fellow priests, have been leavened to a shameful silence. It is the responsibility of every priest to guard the flock, in particular, the innocent lambs. All clergy might take the words of Moses to heart when it comes to obeying their call from God:

"But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sins will find you out."

The Orthodox Church as a whole has typically dealt with such matters within its rank, in a prudent and timely manner. Orthodox laymen and clergy alike have deemed sexual misconduct, especially involving clergy, and in particular, perpetrated against an innocent minor, as dangerous leaven and have determined, time after time, not to follow the path of the Roman Catholic church in sweeping such conduct under the rug or simply transferring the perpetrators. There is the propensity of some, however, to prioritize the protection of the office of the priesthood, the image of the local church or jurisdictions, while being indifferent to the victims. In doing this, they adhere to a "well the priest can be corrupt but the institution still authentic" mantra, while failing to act righteously or lawfully in dealing with a criminal priest. 

Rod Dreher, the Senior Editor of the American Conservative, in his article, "Priest: Here’s Why Bishops Cover Up Abuse", speaks to this issue: 
"It is true that the validity of the sacraments do not depend on the worth of the priest through whose hands they are consecrated — this is true in the Orthodox Church as well — but this truth can easily be perverted into indifferentism toward the subjective character of the Christian life, and conversion. Many Catholics I know have had to compartmentalize their spiritual lives to deal with this scandal and other related scandals among the clergy, repeating to themselves the dogmatic truth (and I believe it is true, just so you understand me clearly) that however faithless, cowardly, and corrupt the priest may be, the Eucharist really is the Body of Christ. God bless them for that; I did that for a couple of years, but couldn’t keep it up. The thing is, though, when bishops and priests treat the Eucharist and the laity with such contempt, people may cease to believe in the authority of those priests when they teach that this is what the Eucharist is, and what the sacraments are. It begins to look like a sham."
One might understand, in this case, ROCOR's challenge of discovering the truth of a matter and its reticence to act when the victim won't talk about it or denies it. But, one may have less understanding if it is confirmed that the 15-year-old victim was coerced, prodded, cajoled, and threatened to silence by the perpetrator, his wife, and several clergy. As a legal matter, it is difficult to convict unless or until the victim, now an adult, is willing to talk. As an ecclesiastical matter, one must ask if ROCOR's initial investigation by Archpriest Andrei Sommer, included more than just a cursory look. Did ROCOR, ask the right questions to the right people--all of them? Shouldn't the information shared in this Orthodox Mother's letters and the victim's e-mails, be a good template for that list of questions?

The list might start out with these 15, asked in a face-to-face meeting with Father Williams:
  1. Did you have any type of inappropriate sexual contact with [name withheld]? 
  2. Why do you think the Mother is insistent that her daughter has admitted to her and to her siblings that you had inappropriate sexual contact?
  3. What was your relationship with the girl?
  4. Did she stay in your home from time to time?
  5. Was she staying in your home when the mother, Carole Stephens, alleges that the inappropriate sexual contact occurred?
  6. When and how did you first hear of the allegation toward you? 
  7. Were you aware of this allegation prior to being ordained a priest in ROCOR and did you make the ordaining entities aware of it? If not, why not?
  8. Since hearing of the allegation toward you, have you and/or your wife had contact either personally or by phone or letter with (daughter's name withheld]? If so, what was the purpose and content of that or those correspondences and how many have there been?
  9. Carole Stephens has claimed that you and your wife had a lengthy, two-hour, phone conversation with her and that she went "round and round" with both of you. Did this phone conversation occur? If so, what was the purpose and content of the call? Did you admit to the mother that you were guilty of raping her daughter or acting in a sexually inappropriate manner and did you ask for her forgiveness as she has asserted?
  10. Have you or your wife at any time offered to give money or financial assistance to Carole Stephens? 
  11. Did Father John Oliver attempt to set up a meeting with you and Carole Stephens? If so, what did you think was the nature of the meeting? Did you agree to the meeting?
  12. Are you willing to meet with us, Carole Stephens and several of her other children who claim that [daughter's name withheld] confessed to them that you were sexually inappropriate with her?
  13. Would you have any objections to us contacting [Daughter] to corroborate your answers?
  14. Have you read Carole Stephen's account of the event and her public e-mails she has sent out over the last few years? If so, is her account accurate? If not, what specifically is not accurate?
  15. Have you been truthful in your answers regarding this matter to us and others?
...and don't forget to ask:  "What did Fr. Anastasy P. Yatrelis of ROCOR and Father John Oliver of Antioch know and when did they know it?" This same question might be asked of other clergy named in this event.

Unfortunately, the passage of time, the fear and embarrassment of the 15-year-old girl, her decision not to tell her parents, the alleged coercion by the perpetrator and his defenders, and a concerted effort by some to paint the very determined and vocal mother as unreliable, have allowed this event to fall into the shadows. The posting of this article and those to follow may bring sunlight into those shadows, as will the notifications sent to Bristol Herald Courier reporter, Tom Netherland, the members of Saint Tikhon Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Joseph, of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, who is the Bishop of Father John Oliver, and, once again, to the office of Metropolitan Hilarion.
Matthew 22:21 Jesus said, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" Romans 13: 1 "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which are established by God."
Both the church and the civil authorities are tools in the hands of God and are subject to His authority. If the church does not act then the civil authority must. If the civil authority does not act, then the church must. It is the responsibility of both to act to protect the innocent victim and the holiness of the church for, surely, Rape and the Holy Man is a classic misnomer. A Holy Man does not rape.

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has typically been keen to deal with such matters via a clear, concise, and strong written policy. ROCOR would do well now to follow its own policy in the matter of the alleged rape of a 15-year-old-girl by one of its priests. It is clear, in looking at the context of ROCOR's Sexual Misconduct by Clergy Policy, that the ROCOR has failed to thoroughly follow either the spirit or the letter of its own Policy and Procedures Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Clergy. 


This JTO editor was one of many who was a recipient of Carole Stephen's numerous e-mails over the last four years. It was difficult to divine the facts and easy to feel helpless to act, being on the outside looking in. As providence would have it, I entered the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on May 28, 2017. I did not make the connection that I was entering the same Orthodox Jurisdiction as Father Matthew Williams until a few months after that. We now share the same Bishop. The thought that I might eventually see Father Matthew Williams face-to-face, that he might concelebrate in a joint service with my own priest, in my own parish church, brought a discomfort to me, one that I could not ignore. I began to reconnect with Carole Stephens and talk with her personally via e-mail. I assured her that I was compelled to act, not only for her sake and the sake of her daughter, but I had a holy compunction driven by the words of Christ. "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." My lack of action would be as grievous a sin as what has been exposed here. At this point and in this case, it is not the mother making the complaint to the ROCOR, it is a member of the ROCOR. In a legal sense, the allegation of sexual misconduct is brought by the mother and not by this writer. In an ecclesiastical sense, the ROCOR is compelled by their own Policies and Procedures to take this mother's account from my hands, making sure, this time, that the event is "diligently investigated" while remembering that, "The person making the complaint is assured of an understanding and respectful reception" and that this complaint is "responded to with justice, compassion and charity for all person's involved."

Fr. Mark Rowe
With the ROCOR Policies and Procedures in mind, the JTO editor prepared a cover letter along with the full context of this post for the ROCOR Metropolitan, with the intent being to deal with the matter in a more private manner and foregoing the public posting. After first presenting the material to my local priest to get his advise and counsel on the matter, and taking him up on his offer that he would get the materials to the Metropolitan rather than me mailing it directly to the Metropolitan's office, I was surprised and disappointed to later discover that Father Mark Rowe, the "boss" of my local priest, intercepted and read the letter and document addressed to the Metropolitan. He justified this by saying, in a subsequent phone call, that, "This is the way it is done...No one sends communication directly to the chief hierarch." Where is this rule found that one can't talk directly with his or her pastor and who appointed this priest to be the spokesman and chief interceptor of communications sent to the Metropolitan? I would venture to say that there is no such rule and Father Mark Rowe appointed himself. Father Mark Rowe and other ROCOR priests would do well to familiarize themselves with their own procedures regarding reporting clergy sexual misconduct: 
Any person who intends to make a complaint of sexual abuse against a bishop, priest or deacon of the Church, or against any other clergyman, including subdeacon or psalm-reader, or against a parish warden (starosta), may telephone or may write to their Diocesan Office of Clergy Personnel at 75 East 93rd Street, New York, NY 10128, telephone 212-534-1601 (if writing, please indicate a way that you may be contacted, either in writing, or by telephone). The person making the complaint is assured of an understanding and respectful reception. In some instances, a complaint is first brought to a local priest or an official of a school or other Church institution. In such cases, the person receiving the complaint must advise the person making the complaint that the allegation and the identity of the person making the complaint will, to the extent possible and desired, be maintained as confidential. The person receiving the complaint must also make every effort to encourage the person who has made the complaint to contact the Office of Clergy Personnel directly.  [1.b. Procedures, The Policy and Procedures of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Clergy]
The key word here is "directly" to the Metropolitan's office. Not only did Father Mark Rowe not encourage me to talk directly to the Metropolitan's office, but he inferred that doing so is forbidden: " one sends communication directly..."  In this case, Father Mark had no authority to open, read, advise, or in any other way offer unsolicited instruction related to the document and letter addressed to the Metropolitan. Archpriest or not, Father Mark Rowe did not follow ROCOR's own procedures to which he as a clergy is bound. It is not up to Father Rowe or any other local priest to filter, approve and in any other way decide whether or not a communication should go directly to the Metropolitan's office, especially in a matter of clergy sexual misconduct. 

By his own admission, Father Mark Rowe is a priest, not a bishop, nor an official spokesman for the office of the Metropolia in matters of clergy sexual misconduct. He is an Archpriest of a Western Rite ROCOR Mission in Sarasota, Florida. In this case, he far overstepped his authority and a subsequent phone call with the JTO Editor revealed part of his motive.

In the phone call set up by my local priest, Father Mark Rowe initially reverted to the default, knee-jerk, circle-the-wagons, protect-the-institution position, by lashing out at the JTO editor, saying, "That document, frankly because of the way that you basically tell him, 'hey if I don't get the answer that I want, I'm blasting this all over social media...' "  At that point in the conversation, I could only think of the mother, Carole Stephens, and the years of similar intimidation she had endured, trying to get someone to listen and show some godly integrity. It seems that ROCOR and a few of its sister jurisdictions have an unofficial system of filters through which information regarding sexual misconduct of its clergy must pass. If one does not know the established procedures of reporting, then they may have to endure what Carole Stephens did when she was confronted by these filters from several priests. First, comes the seemingly consoling words, but they are soon laced with subtle warnings, then the criticism as to the methods, then the unofficial brush off, then the ad hominems such as "unstable woman" when she dared to take it public. 

It took Father Mark Rowe no more than three minutes into a one-hour phone conversation with the JTO Editor to jump right to the criticisms. It took him only three seconds to realize that he couldn't bully me as he might a grieving mother. Father Rowe backed down and apologized only after I cut him off, talked over his attempt to talk over me, and told him that the conversation was over and would only continue if he would be just a "little more courteous" and did not impune my methods or character. I also let him know that I would decide my own actions in this matter and did not care what anyone thought of me. I reiterated to him that my heart and first choice was not to "blast" anything and that I was trying to help a girl who had been raped (allegedly) by one of our priests. He said, "You're right. You're right. I apologize if it came off that way." I also informed him that I would not discuss the matter with him unless or until he was officially assigned by the Metropolitan to reinvestigate the matter. The rest of the phone conversation was he predominately talking, and cutting me off numerous times in the middle of a sentence. However, the bulk of his diatribe was agreeing with the content of the document, communicating that something did not pass the smell test with Father Matthew, that the 15 Questions contained in the document was his favorite part, that it was not necessary to have the victim come forward to adequately investigate, that the victim's own e-mails may constitute new evidence that warrants a new look into the matter, and that he would love to be appointed to re-investigate the matter. The most startling revelation in his diatribe was when he revealed that he, himself, was part of a "group" a while back that discussed priests that were having issues and that "this case came up." He said he remembered specifically that she (the victim) was not willing to cooperate and that's where they "left off." Father Rowe also pointed out that this case originally went through the "protocols of sexual abuse cases in the Russian Orthodox Church."

So this ROCOR priest and, by his account, a group of ROCOR priests, knows and have known of the allegation toward Father Matthews Williams. Did the determination that "she was not really willing to cooperate" take into account her alleged call to one of their fellow priests, Father Anastasy P. Vatrelis, just hours or days after the event? Was Fr. Anastasy P. Yatrelis in that "group" with Father Rowe that day? Would not such a call from the 15-year-old victim constitute cooperation, at least for the purposes of verifying that an event occurred?

To his partial credit, Father Mark Rowe informed me that he had already sent the document (hard and electronic copy of this post, minus a few updates) and the following cover letter to the Metropolitan:

The Most Reverend Metropolitan HILARION of Eastern America and New York 

FIRST HIERARCH of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
75 E 93rd Street
New York, NY 10128
United States

Your Eminence,                                                                                                   July 4, 2018

Master bless!

The information accompanying this letter was prepared as an article to be published on my blog,, and to be given to a reporter at a regional newspaper close in geography to and familiar with the person named.

My foremost desire would be that the issue be handled within the confines of the ROCOR according to, The Policy and Procedures of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Clergy. However, since a previous specific effort to do so resulted in a questionable outcome, I must advocate for the innocents who have been physically, psychologically, and spiritually harmed by the alleged immoral and criminal actions of one of your priests.

In my years-long investigation into the matter, I have come to the conclusion that deceit by the perpetrator, direct coercion of the victim, a cover-up by various clergy, and your previous investigator’s apparent decision to drop the matter, make it imperative for your office and your investigator/s to immediately revisit this issue with the due diligence that is required by our Holy Synod. 

If a resolute and just determination is not made, which includes giving serious credence to the written testimony of the mother, the e-mail testimony of the victim herself, a face-to-face interrogation of the priest, his wife, and the named clergy involved, the information will be published in a manner that will not go unnoticed, appealing to outside sources who may be otherwise motivated to take action.

I desire to defer to you, my bishop, giving reasonable time for the matter to be addressed, again, through ecclesiastical channels, but I appeal to you to discourage anyone from ordering me to cease and desist, for such an order would cause me to sin through my certain disobedience to such. 

I am praying for a Godly outcome and I am most assured that you will act in all wisdom and love.

Kissing your right hand, 

Nathan Lee Lewis
[address and phone number omitted]

Cc: Father Terence Johnston

      Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
      Orthodox Christian Church      
      Nashville, TN

Even with Father Mark Rowe's agreement that something was amiss with Father Williams, that the e-mails from the victim may constitute new evidence, and assuring me that the Metropolitan would read the document personally, one has to wonder if the Metropolitan actually read the document and considered all the facts or if the response he issued was based on an edited and filtered summary by a surrogate:  On September 18th, 2018, I received the following letter of response in the mail:

Dear Nathan,

I would like to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of July 4th and article.

The matter you have brought up was open to investigation by our ecclesiastical channels previously, but it was curtailed due to lack of accusation on the part of the alleged victim.

There has been no change in this matter to this day.

I appreciate your concern.

In Christ, 

+ Hilarion

Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

BAM! Another brush off. No questions answered. No determination to reopen the investigation. "I appreciate your concern"?

Given that the literal meaning of the word "curtailed" is "to reduce in extent or quantity; impose a restriction on", the inference is presumably that no conclusion was made as to the guilt or innocence of Father Matthew Williams.

With that in mind, one might ask His Eminence to consider a few things:

1. It was not the author of this article who "brought up " this matter. The matter was "brought up" by the original event, reportedly "brought up" to one of your priests, Father Anastasy P. Vatrelis, by the victim just days or hours after the event, "brought up" numerous times since the event, by the mother demanding to be heard, and "brought up" now, by the NEW discovery of the written words of the victim which corroborates the time and nature of the event.

2. No "change in this matter"? Would not the new evidence provided, i.e. the "alleged victim's" own e-mails, constitute a "change in this matter"?  What part of "if a secretly disturbed married man can fool around with a girl" is not clear to you? How about "what I've been through... I am over it. I know that life goes on... eight-year-old ghost... This is about me protecting me." What part of those is not clear?

3. If the original investigation was reduced (curtailed) and no conclusion could be made as to the guilt or innocence of Father Matthew Williams, what was the thinking behind awarding him the nabedrennik"for long and dedicated service"? Would this not cause some to think that you personally reached a conclusion about the matter and found Father Matthew William's reported denial of the event trustworthy and all other accounts false? Surely, you wouldn't award a man with a questionable accusation hanging over his head, and one who would have had to fraudulently present himself to you to become a priest in the first place.

4. Have you, has anyone talked with your own priest, Fr. Anastasy P. Yatrelis, who reportedly received the initial phone call from the 15-year-old victim just hours or days after the original event? If that call occurred, THE VICTIM DID "COME FORWARD" AND THERE IS NOT A "LACK OF ACCUSATION" as you asserted.

5. In case you somehow did not actually read the totality of the victim's account written by her at about age 23, eight years after the event, here are the cliff notes: 

MOTHER: "...Stop trying to protect a priest from reprimand...a man who is supposed to call others to repentance.  [H]e needs a little reprimand from an angry mom..."

DAUGHTER: "You don't care about my wishes or what Ive been through... I am over it... I know that life goes on..."

MOTHER: "...these terrible things happened to you..."

DAUGHTER: ..."You are chasing after this eight-year-old ghost... If a secretly disturbed married man can fool around with a girl..." 

MOTHER: "...You should not be trying to shield an unconvicted sex offender if he is in a position of presiding over others lives."

DAUGHTER: ..."This is about me protecting me..."

Metropolitan Hilarion of ROCOR
At the very least, one would hope that the Metropolitan has previously just not been well-served by those he has delegated to handle this matter. At this point, however, the apparent decision not to reopen the investigation can seem, fairly or unfairly, a cover-up. Out-of-sight-out-of-mind will not cut it in today's climate or in any climate. ROCOR's investigation of this matter stopped with the alleged refusal of the victim to come forward with an accusation. What does that look like? Does the Metropolitan envision an open court setting where the rape victim stands up dramatically, points to the priest in front of a room full of witnesses and exclaims, "That's him! It was he who raped me"! while she breaks down sobbing? There are other ways to find the truth of a matter such as this. Many sound suggestions and evidence have been offered here. Even the self-appointed spokesman for the Metropolitan, Father Mark Rowe, a former police officer, offered a few good observations in his phone conversation with the JTO Editor, where he seemingly does not agree with the Metropolitan's position that the investigation should remain closed "due to lack of accusation". Father Mark said:
"I think there's plenty of room to find out more about that case, plenty, and it doesn't have to be with her. The first thing in my mind was the questions you wrote...I like the part about the questions. My thing is, you [referring to a hypothetical converation with Father Matthew Williams] are held to a higher standard, so I'm already wondering why we are having this conversation. 'Why are people calling me about you. Make me feel better about this...' Personally, I need about three minutes and a look at someone's eyeballs and I will know. I want to see. I want to ask one question and I will know if I need to deal with that or not. The truth is the truth and that is all that's important...We have a duty to make sure that we take it to where it needs to go and sort that out spiritually, so everything is right. I'm hoping that there is something to deal with's not egg on your face if it happens, well it is a little bit,  but it is egg on your face if you don't deal with it. I'm hoping some new eyes take a look at that...some who say, 'I think there's smoke there may be fire...' We can't keep kicking this can down the road. We should have dealt with it then. The fact is, had we dealt with it properly in the beginning, perhaps, then this becomes a non-issue... I'm praying that it comes to a resolution."
Father Mark Rowe went on to say, 
"One of two things that is happening in his [Father Matthew Williams] mind is that he is completely prideful and says, 'ha, ha, ha, nothing happened' or it's in the back of his mind all the time. Let's do what's right. Let's put it out there. It is what it is. We can say, 'okay father here's the thing, you need to deal with this which is on the table."
The alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl by a priest should merit an extreme vetting of the matter. Such an act is immoral. It is a sin. It is a crime. Do the "alleged victim's" e-mails mean anything? Does her call to Fr. Anastasy P. Yatrelis mean anything? Does the mother's testimony mean anything? What about the testimony of the "alleged victim's" siblings? There will continue to be "no change in this matter" if ROCOR does not step beyond its seemingly, self-imposed, and seemingly discredited, restriction of, "Oh well, the girl won't talk so what can we do?" She reportedly DID talk. 

For the Metropolitan to now ignore, table, or brush-off this matter is a sin unto God and his holy church. The Metropolia has had 14 years to deal with this matter. It is time to heed the words of Saint Athanasius the Great, that troublemaker, that rabble-rouser, that excommunicated busybody, that stubborn man, that self-deceived tenacious soul, that confronter of both Bishop and Emperor, that Saint:

 “As we walk the unerring and life-bringing path, let us pluck out the eye that scandalizes us-not the physical eye, but the noetic one. For example, if a bishop or presbyter-who are the eyes of the Church-conduct themselves in an evil manner and scandalize the people, they must be plucked out. For it is more profitable to gather without them in a house of prayer, than to be cast together with them into the gehenna of fire together with Annas and Caiaphas.” — St. Athanasius the Great, PG 26:1257c
Jesus the Christ was more specific in regard to the ramifications of conducting oneself in an evil manner against a child, in particular, a child who is a believer, seeking the Kingdom of God:

"Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name, welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to *sin (*Skandalizo- to cause to stumble or fall- to craftily entice or lead to ruin), it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

Both the perpetrator of this alleged crime against a 15-year-old girl, and the Bishop and fellow priests who have allowed him to remain, should they fail to repent, will share the same end. Jesus the Christ is specific as to the demonstrative nature of a such a repentance and the fateful end if one does not repent.

"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell."

Metropolitan Hilarion Awarding
Father Matthew Williams For
Long and Faithful Service

If the Metropolitan of ROCOR fails in this matter, then the world and faithful Orthodox Christians are presented with two shameful lessons. ONE: ROCOR is either inept or obtuse at investigating sexual abuse in its ranks and this carries the risk of earning a millstone of its own and the fire of hell. TWO: If one is a ROCOR clergy and commits a sexual crime, just make sure the victim doesn't talk and you will be in the clear. Later on, you may even get an award, personally presented by the Metropolitan. 


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JTO Blog Editor, Nathan Lee Lewis, has a BA in Radio, TV, Film from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and is a former news and talk show producer for a local CBS affiliate. He is an award-winning writer, having received a First Place Award for Radio Special Feature from Arkansas Associated Press Broadcasters Association. He is also the recipient of a Gold Addy from the American Advertising Federation given for Communication Excellence. Prior to entering the Orthodox Church in 2005, he earned a B.A. in Religion/Pastoral Ministries from Quachita Baptist University and completed one year of seminary at Saint Michael's Seminary (ICCEC). He has served on the clergy staff of seven churches. Since becoming Orthodox, he has served as a Reader in the Eastern Rite and a Cantor in the Western Rite. He and his wife, Xanthia, have been married for 38 years and have five daughters and seven grandchildren. Nathan is currently assisting a mission start-up in the Nashville area under Metropolitan Hilarion of the ROCOR. He has owned and independently operated the Journey To Orthodoxy Blog since 2006.