A PUNCH IN THE GUT by an Antiochian Priest

For context see the Metropolitan Joseph: The Scandal section in our Archives 2020-22 linked at the top of this page. Although our editorial policy generally avoids anonymous articles, in some cases we are willing to consider exceptions. Reach out to us by email if you have something to contribute but require anonymity.

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Yesterday Orthodoxy in Dialogue published a communication between the attorney of the Antiochian Archdiocese and the attorney tasked with investigating the claims of a long-term adulterous affair between Metropolitan Joseph and a laywoman. The letter summed up the “investigation” into these accusations. After reading it I felt like someone punched me in the gut. It was sickening. It was demoralizing. It was shameful. Especially since up until that point it appeared the Archdiocese Board of Trustees and the Patriarch of Antioch handled the scandal well. But, alas, such was not the case.

The extent of the “investigation” into the accusations made against His Eminence, according to the letter, was essentially three interviews, as well as a recognition that Metropolitan Joseph made a loan to the accuser for the purchase of a home over a decade ago. One interview was of the accuser. Two were of priests who are well-known supporters of Metropolitan Joseph. One of those priests was the accuser’s pastor during the time of the alleged affair. Even if the accuser confessed those affairs to him, how could he break the seal of confession and implicate the Metropolitan? There were also two other interviews, both of which seem to be of low value. Although one of them (of Charles Ajalat) likely revealed a previous sham investigation was undertaken on this same issue during the time of Metropolitan Philip.

Why was the investigation stopped? It appears because the Metropolitan resigned. Even more so because it appears the Archdiocese and their “defense attorney” (the investigator) do not want to open a can of worms as it might expose them to a lawsuit. This is the same nonsense that got the Roman Catholic Church into trouble with their own scandals: secrecy and deception. Never revealing the truth of matters, just trying to quietly move on. But the clergy and laity notice and they distrust. They feel betrayed.

More troubling is the fact that Metropolitan Joseph and others are trying to proclaim his innocence. Even his martyrdom. That he only stepped aside for the good of the Church. As though he is an innocent sheep being led to the slaughter. And how can the general body of the Church know? Maybe that is the case. Maybe it’s true that Metropolitan Joseph leaves voice messages for all men and women in the Archdiocese by referring to them as “his” (insert their name), by calling them “sweetheart” and ending with “Love you,” as he did in the voicemail released by Orthodoxy in Dialogue. Maybe he gives loans for homes to all people in the Archdiocese who need it.

I highly doubt that is the case. Priests and laypeople I know who are well aware not only of the official “investigation” but also of other incriminating evidence against Metropolitan Joseph also seem to highly doubt his innocence. That is why he got so upset that none of them were “supporting” him. One thing is for sure, though: because the Board of Trustees and the attorney for the Archdiocese chose to stop the “investigation” they leave open the door for Metropolitan Joseph to claim he is a martyr. They leave open the door for confusion and chaos and division to reign.

This sham “investigation” is a punch in the gut to the clergy and laity of the Antiochian Archdiocese. We deserve better. We are owed the truth. Without it the Archdiocese is going to be divided. The new Metropolitan will face an uphill battle against those who believe Metropolitan Joseph. Many of them undoubtedly had positive interactions with him and so they will ignore the impropriety of lending a woman money to buy a home and leaving her a voicemail calling her “my Helena” and saying “love you.” I cannot blame them. I blame the people who are supposed to be unbiased leaders of the Archdiocese in situations like this. The members of the Board of Trustees. The Archdiocesan attorney, Deacon Emile Sayegh. They are the ones who have punched us in the gut. They owe us an explanation. No, I take that back. They owe us a true and full investigation unless His Eminence publicly admits and repents of his inappropriate behavior.

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