Crime & Courts

Eastern Orthodox diocese defrocks Kodiak religious academy headmaster

Abuse allegations against the now-former headmaster of a small religious academy in Kodiak have resulted in the removal of his professional status within an Eastern Orthodox diocese.

What will happen to St. Innocent's Academy -- an alternative school for "at-risk" youths on Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska -- and its staff and students remains unclear.

The allegations center on Paisius DeLucia, who's accused of physical, verbal and psychological abuse of students at St. Innocent's.

Complaints from former students of the academy sparked an investigation by Alaska State Troopers as well as an internal investigation by the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the U.S., Canada and Australia, which oversees the academy.

The students posted victims' statements detailing allegations to the website Academy Abuse, which went live in early January. Students claimed there that DeLucia once slammed a young man's head against a wall and openly shared private confessions to embarrass a student, among other allegations.

A total of 18 alleged victims came forward and provided statements on the website.

The leader of the diocese, Metropolitan Joseph Bosakov, announced Saturday after a two-day spiritual court that DeLucia was deposed from his position as headmaster and defrocked, "but without ex-communication."

Bosakov said the headmaster broke church bylaws, including publicly shaming people, using vulgar language, "unbecoming behavior" while serving sacraments, "using improper pastoral approaches towards the faithful" and "violating the Mystery of confession."

The spiritual court was held in Syracuse, New York. Bosakov said DeLucia attended the proceedings and had an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

The meetings were not open to the public.

DeLucia had been placed on a leave of absence last month, when the diocese began its investigation.

The diocese and the academy could not be reached for comment this week.

Former student Ray Richards said the diocese's decision is a good first step.

"We'd actually say it was an unfortunate, necessary step," Richards said. "(The group of people behind Academy Abuse) don't take joy in this decision, but it's something we believe had to be done."

Richards and others are curious about the future of the academy. Stopping the abuse would mean the closure of the school or replacing its leadership, he said; otherwise, the problem will remain.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, shares the group's concerns. Cappy Larson of SNAP said the diocese needs to step up and explain its plans for preventing abuses in the future.

"As a mother it's very disturbing to me that St. Innocent's was billing itself as a treatment center for troubled youth without any oversight from the church or from the state. Kids with problems deserve a qualified and credentialed staff," Larson said in a prepared statement.

Troopers Sgt. Eric T. Olsen said the Kodiak post is continuing its investigation of abuse at the academy. He said troopers are preparing to submit their report to the local district attorney's office.

Olsen declined to say how many people, if any, filed formal complaints against the academy or DeLucia.

"We've spoken with more people who provided additional information," he said of the investigation's progress.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.