"If a secretly disturbed married man can fool around with a girl..."
|Fr Matthew Williams|
Saint Tikhon Russian
|Fr. Anastasy P. Yatrelis|
[*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.]
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 side..an 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.
[J]ulianna"[Editor's Note: Julianna is Carole Stephen's baptismal name]
Carole gave this explanation of the aftermath of the letter:
"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."
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.
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|
"... 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 [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:
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..."
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:"BETRAYAL AT ITS WORST!!!
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, pokrov.org, 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?"
Greetings in the Lord,
Joyous feast of St. Andrew the First Called!
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.
Father Christopher Stanton
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 StantonThe 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
"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 "Oh a horrible 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?
Email Exchange Two: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 mom....as a forwarning.
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.
Email Exchange Three: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.
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?
Email Exchange Four: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. [...]
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 [...].
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.
"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
"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."
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."
The list might start out with these 15, asked in a face-to-face meeting with Father Williams:
- Did you have any type of inappropriate sexual contact with [name withheld]?
- 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?
- What was your relationship with the girl?
- Did she stay in your home from time to time?
- Was she staying in your home when the mother, Carole Stephens, alleges that the inappropriate sexual contact occurred?
- When and how did you first hear of the allegation toward you?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- Have you or your wife at any time offered to give money or financial assistance to Carole Stephens?
- 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?
- 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?
- Would you have any objections to us contacting [Daughter] to corroborate your answers?
- 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?
- Have you been truthful in your answers regarding this matter to us and others?
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."
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|
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: "...no 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?
The Most Reverend Metropolitan HILARION of Eastern America and New York
Your Eminence, July 4, 2018
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:
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|
Father Mark Rowe went on to say,"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 again...it'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."
"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."
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:“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
"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."
"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."