This photo released by the Orthodox Church in America shows...

This photo released by the Orthodox Church in America shows Metropolitan Jonah. Credit: AP

The leader of the Syosset-based Orthodox Church in America has resigned amid questions about whether he failed to report an allegation of a rape by a priest to church officials or law enforcement.

In a letter to clergy and church faithful dated Monday explaining the resignation, the church's governing body, known as the Holy Synod, said Archbishop Metropolitan Jonah knew as early as February that the priest had been accused of a 2010 rape but took no corrective action.

Instead, according to the letter, Jonah tried to get the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy, and later transferred him.

The priest had a history of alcohol abuse, violence and threats toward women, according to the letter, and was once arrested in an incident involving the discharge of a firearm. The synod said it has begun an investigation into the rape allegation and is working with authorities.

The synod's letter, which does not name the priest or his alleged victim, described Jonah's actions in the matter as "only the latest in a long series of poor choices that have caused harm to our church."

The resignation at the request of the synod came in a July 6 letter in which he said he had "neither the personality nor the temperament" to lead the church.

"I . . . beg forgiveness for however I have offended you, and for whatever difficulties have arisen from my own inadequacies and mistakes in judgment," he wrote. He also asked for "due consideration" for his financial situation as "I am the main financial support for both my parents and my sister."

A series of dated letters from the synod to the faithful posted on the church's website, oca.org, shows the group filling vacancies created by the resignation.

The synod said Jonah will draw "full salary and benefits until at least October," when the synod meets.

Jonah, 52, was born James Paffhausen in Chicago.

He joined the Orthodox Church in 1978, the priesthood in 1994, and was elected to the church's North American leadership position in 2008.

The Orthodox Church in America, which has ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, has 80,000 members in the United States, Canada and Mexico. There are 50 parishes in New York State and five on Long Island.

With The Associated Press

Latest Videos