June 20, 2013

Confronting Your Accuser

‘It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.’ (Acts 25:16)

Antonius Felix
Antonius Felix, Procurator of Judea 52-60 AD

Felix, the procurator of Judea 52-60 AD, like his earlier predecessor Pontius Pilate, was known for his cruelty and licentiousness. Even so, in prosecuting Paul he was unwilling to break fundamental principles of Roman law (though he may have also been waiting for a bribe: see Acts 24:26).

The right to confront your accuser is enshrined as well in the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed… and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

This constitutional right was especially important in an age that was easy prey to Inquisition-style procedures that left the accused in the dark with anonymous denunciations and closed-door trials.

The same principle holds true in canon law concerning church courts. True, there are many key differences between church courts and criminal courts. And for both there is a long history of interpretation and practice that complicates the apparent simplicity of this rule. For example, the accuser in criminal trials is the State, not the alleged victim. Similarly, the accuser in church courts may be someone appointed to present the case on behalf of the bishop or alleged victim. The State and the Church have the obligation to protect victims and potential victims from crimes or abuse. But the basic principle remains, that the accused must be treated fairly and have the full right to know the charges and evidence and to defend themselves vigorously.


I’m in Ottawa for the next few days, through Pentecost and the Day of the Holy Spirit. I had a beautiful drive up yesterday with my wife through the Adirondack mountains. On the way up I stopped at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary to see Father Sergius Halvorsen in connection with the Doctor of Ministry program he is heading up. Together with other DMin faculty (via teleconference) we met with two theology professors (from the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis and United Theological Seminary in Dayton) appointed by the New York State Board of Regents to review plans for the new program.

Earlier this week Archivist Alexis Liberovsky welcomed an Indian Orthodox student to the archives. Jessin Thomaskutty is in the Library Sciences Masters program at Queens College and doing research on archives in the New York City area. This week Dr. Scott Kenworthy, Associate Professor in the Department of Comparative Religion at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio is doing research in the archives on Saint Tikhon’s years in North America.

Met Tikhon & Fr Gisetti
Metropolitan Tikhon and Fr Seraphim Gisetti of the St Ephraim Center for Addictions Treatment and Education

On Tuesday Father Seraphim Gisetti (Denver, CO) came to the Chancery to meet with Metropolitan Tikhon and me regarding progress toward developing the Saint Ephraim Center. This is a new pan-Orthodox center for addictions treatment and education, and is mission is “To support and strengthen the Orthodox Church through education and effective, Christ-centered addictions treatment for Orthodox clergy, other church workers and their families.” Last year Father Gisetti made a presentation to the Holy Synod and the work was warmly encouraged.