For context see the Metropolitan Joseph: The Scandal section in our Archives 2020-22 linked at the top of this page.
Disgraced Former Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Since August 26, four days after Orthodoxy in Dialogue first exposed Ms. Helena Ditko’s (full name used with her consent) allegations against then-Metropolitan Joseph Al-Zehlaoui of having conducted a 16-year predatory sexual relationship with her, we have repeatedly questioned the legitimacy, independence, and credibility of the investigation. We asked Al-Zehlaoui in an open letter at the time, “What is the name and address of the law firm investigating the allegations against you? Who retained their services? The Archdiocese? The Board of Trustees? The Patriarchate? You personally? Who is paying their fees? Is the aim of the investigation to prove your innocence or to get to the full, unvarnished truth of the matter?” We subsequently asked why a general call for victims to step forward was never issued.
On October 14, we published the secret report of the “investigation.” As attested by a priest of the Archdiocese, who we know speaks for an enormous number of clergy and laity, the contents and timing of the report, its reliance on interviewees beholden to Al-Zehlaoui, and the timing of its release to the Holy Synod confirmed everyone’s worst fears that said investigation would amount to little more than a farce, and an expensive farce at that, presumably paid for with the heartfelt contributions of the Archdiocese’s faithful who imagined their money would be spent on better things.
Only today, upon further reflection, are we struck by the full extent of the corruption behind the “investigation”: with its being undertaken during Al-Zehlaoui’s reign and suspended on the day of his “retirement,” he most certainly exercised full control over it and the largely (but not entirely) sycophantic Board of Trustees who ostensibly commissioned it. One of our insider sources in Englewood writes:
The corrupt ones who stopped the investigation [at the behest of Al-Zehlaoui] are the most powerful (the so called members of the Temporary Operating Committee): Fawaz El Khoury, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Salim Abboud, Chief Financial Officer; and Archdeacon Emile Sayegh, Chancellor [and general legal counsel and the Archdiocese’s liaison with the “investigator”].
Our sources in Lebanon tell us that the Holy Synod will reconvene tomorrow and possibly Tuesday to adjudicate Al-Zehlaoui’s status and the Archdiocese’s short- and long-term future. It is our hope and prayer that our hierarchs leave no stone unturned in reaching a full understanding of all that has brought us to this impasse and a just solution for how to move forward.
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