Bishops Endangering Children By Silence

December 5, 2009  []

By Stan Shinn

One might wonder why the recent police raid on former Orthodox Priest Gabriel Barrow’s residence (reported here) seizing evidence of child pornography deserves attention. Surely church leaders didn’t know the danger Barrow posed to children, and — when they learned of his abusive ways — they quickly defrocked him. Right?

Wrong. Unfortunately, Barrow was first accused of sexual misconduct with boys while he was serving at St. Elias Church in Sylvania, Ohio (source). The Antiochian Archdiocese did not defrock Barrow; instead they quietly suspended him. “A former Detroit resident who said he was 16 when Mr. Barrow molested him in Toledo in 1975 reported his allegations to the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese headquarters in 1998 and was told that Mr. Barrow had been removed from the ministry.” (Source: Toledo Blade (Toledo OH), 5/13/2005).

But Barrow was not removed from ministry — the Antiochian Archdiocese instead transferred Barrow to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) .

An abuse report was made again in 2000 from a victim claiming he had been sexually abused by Barrow when he was a teen; this report was relayed in writing to Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver and Archbishop Demetrios, the head of the GOA (source). Still the GOA did nothing to prevent Barrow’s access to children.

When victims from Toledo discovered the priest was again serving in a parish, they brought the matter to church court. Only in 2005 did the GOA defrock Barrow (source).

Moreover, the Webster, TX parish where Barrow attends still referred to this defrocked priest as “Rev. Fr. Gabriel Barrow” as recently as 2008 on their website at http://www.stjohnclearlake.org.

And, according to a recent police report, as of May 2009 Barrow continues to wear clerical garb in public (see the police report, p. 13).

Concerned Orthodox Christians are left to wonder what, if any, action is being taken in Barrow’s current Webster, TX parish to restrict his access to children.

The silence from Orthodox church leaders taking action to protect children is deafening. A search on the Antiochian Archdiocese web site yields no information on Barrow’s suspension; the only articles listed still reference Barrow as a priest. The Greek Archdiocese site is not much better: a search lists Barrow as “Returned to the Status of Layman” but fails to mention why. Equally troubling: neither the Greek nor Antiochian jurisdictions has implemented any national child safety policies and procedures to protect minors and vulnerable adults at the parish level.

The silence of many of our bishops in the face of clear danger to our children is a sin. Our bishops need to take three simple, proven steps to prevent abuse and help heal those already abused:

  • First, stop supporting sexually abusive priests.
  • Second, post a list of clergy credibly accused of abuse on the archdiocese website.
  • Third, aggressively reach out to anyone who may have been victimized and offer them help.

In addition, they should urge anyone who saw, suspected or suffered clergy abuse crimes to come forward, get help and call the police.

We invite readers to email us at news@orthodoxbeacon.com with any information on Barrow or his activities at Orthodox parishes.


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