Former Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla, Vasilije Kačavenda
Former Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla, Vasilije Kačavenda

Catholic Church is usual news theme when it comes to sexual abuse among religious communities in the world. Priests, Bishops and Archbishops even Cardinals were forced to resigned, Vatican demote them or they end up in jail for crimes committed against those entrusted to them either by family or community. But unfortunately they’re not alone in crime. Last week Serbian Orthodox Church forcefully retired Zvornik-Tuzla Bishop, Vasilije Kačavenda, officially due to “health issues” but the real reason according to media reports are sexual abuse, inappropriate behaviour, male prostitution and blackmail. For years former Bishop Kačavenda was suspected to be child molester and blackmailer with well developed network of assistants mainly priests targeting poor students or students in financial difficulties, single-parent students or those who’s parents are ill.

During the Bosnian war Kačavenda was one of the biggest supporters to Bosnian Serb leaders, and accused war criminals Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. In July 1995 he celebrate fall of Srebrenica, which later resulted in mass crime – genocide, taking more than 8.500 men, boys and elders in just two days of mass executions. Later he was one of the most prominent Bishops in smaller Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska, eagerly supporting radical Serb politicians including current President and the leader of the main party, Milorad Dodik. His lavish life in Bishop’s Residence located in the city of Bijeljina, actually built on the land forcefully expropriated from the previous Bosniak owners was one of the first signs that Kačavenda was not obeying his oath of poverty and simple monk life.

During the late 1990’s one of the local Theology Academy students, Milić Blažanović, allegedly committed suicide following repeated sexual abuse by Kačavenda. He was never investigated either by the Serbian Orthodox Church or by authorities in Republika Srpska, and this case is still unsolved.

Couple of weeks ago Serbian media lead by the Blic Newspaper published irrefutable evidence of Kačavenda inappropriate activities based on video, photo and audio material obtained through sources close to his diocese. Base on their reports one of obtained videos shows Bishop Kačavenda engaged in oral and anal sexual acts with four young males. Others are showing him kissing on the mouth and hugging young male protege. Blic also reported that they’re in possession of  audio material on which young male, brought to the Bishop’s hotel apartment by an priest, describes experience with Kačavenda and his personality as “extra good”.

Last week Church’s Governing body, Synod, decided to accept Kačavenda’s earlier offered resignation due to “poor health”, but not due to alleged crimes. Still there’s possibility that Kačavenda will be persecuted by the Church highest court which could brought him to different sentences. One of them could be removal from the rank of priests and ultimate transfer to the layman rank. That would able Serbian or Bosnian authorities to start official investigation and persecution of the former Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla diocese.

Bishops Vasilije and Pahomije with Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej
Bishops Vasilije and Pahomije with Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej

In 1990’s another Serbian Orthodox Church Bishop, Pahomije of Vranje, was accused and tried for similar crimes. Due to lack of will or action by Serbian authorities Pahomije was able to escape jail time and at the end to be convicted for these heinous crimes against young student of theology. Pahomije is still active Bishop and as far as current informations from Serbian Orthodox Church are indicating he’s gonna remain active and protected by the Church and Belgrade Patriarch Irinej.

Over the last few years Bosnian Islamic Community was faced with several cases of sexual abuse and pedophilia, ultimately one imam was brought to justice and sent to jail. After all it looks like Catholic Church is not the only religious community in the world involved in the most heinous crimes against their male or female proteges. We as a society should stand more against these criminals and stop them in their inappropriate behaviour.