For context see the complete Metropolitan Joseph: The Scandal section in our Archives 2020-22 linked at the top of this page.
Metropolitan Joseph (L), Patriarch John (R)
Today marks three full weeks since Orthodoxy in Dialogue began exposing Joseph Al-Zehlaoui’s long-term adulterous relationships and co-ownership of expensive homes with two married Orthodox women under his spiritual care—women deeply involved in Archdiocesan and local parish activities—and two full weeks since Patriarch John of Antioch issued a personal response with assurances of public transparency, followed by a promise of “direct contact with the people,” in his handling of the scandal. Six days ago His Beatitude and Al-Zehlaoui sat down in Lebanon for two long days of questioning. Al-Zehlaoui was apparently given the opportunity to resign, to which we objected as inadequate and which he is said to have refused anyway. It has been four days since informants told us that his days as Metropolitan were already over.
While we encouraged our readers to give the Patriarch the benefit of the doubt and to trust his promises, with every passing day of inaction and noncommunication growing numbers of our readers contact us asking where is the transparency and why the silence and delays.
We repeat: the only proper canonical response to credible allegations of this magnitude is immediate suspension. Assuming the truth of the allegations, the only proper canonical response is deposal from holy orders (“defrocking”) by synodal decree pursuant to an ecclesiastical trial, and reduction to the status of a simple lay monk. “Resignation” would allow Al-Zehlaoui to remain in his episcopal status and therefore reassignable as an active bishop elsewhere. In fact, multiple insider sources in Englewood tell us that he was initially assigned to the Antiochian Archdiocese in the US precisely because of the scandal of an adulterous affair with a woman in Syria or Lebanon. Is it really the Patriarchate’s practice to reassign sexually transgressing bishops? We remind our readers that Al-Zehlaoui attempted to do precisely that with a bishop convicted of sexual assault in the US. Al-Zehlaoui has dispatched priests at the snap of his autocratic finger for much less serious offenses than he has been charged with.
Beloved Patriarch John, the people are losing patience. Orthodoxy in Dialogue serves only as the conveyor of this message.