Former priest Bojan Jovanović does not give up the battle for criminal responsibility of the clergy who rape and sexually abuse children
Last year, Bojan Jovanović presented evidence to Montenegro’s authorities too. Since it happened immediately prior to closing the borders due to the COVID pandemic, the story has not yet received an epilogue. Jovanović believes that Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnić will invite him for an interview and inquire about the collected documentation.
The late head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Amfilohije Radović, and the current administrator of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, Bishop Joanikije Mićović, have been covering up the bishops and priests of this church for years, paedophiles who destroyed the lives of dozens of boys and girls. In his interview for Pobjeda, Bojan Jovanović, a former deacon of the Serbian Orthodox Church, claims that these unfortunate youth, who sought salvation from private and family tragedies in the church, instead became victims of brutal crimes.
His book Confession: How We Betrayed God, in which he talks about these crimes, was recently promoted in Cetinje. The book was published by the NGO “Montenegro International,” which responded to Jovanović’s appeals for someone to get involved and support his long-term struggle for the prosecution and punishment of the rapists.
Although Jovanović has been offering evidence of paedophilia in the Serbian Church for years, all cases have been covered up. The attempt to open this story before a court in London (Great Britain) failed.
Last year, Bojan Jovanović presented evidence to Montenegro’s authorities too. Since it happened immediately prior to closing the borders due to the COVID pandemic, the story has not yet received an epilogue.
– I believe that Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnić will invite me for an interview and ask for the documentation I have, Jovanović expects.
In his interview for Pobjeda, Jovanović claims that the late head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in our country, Amfilohije Radović, knew about cases of paedophilia for decades, but he kept silent.
– He knew about the deception of children when he was the Bishop of Banat. He knew who those priests were. Joanikije, whom I do not consider a bishop, was informed of everything too. From 2011 to 2014, the church commissioned him to investigate paedophilia in the monasteries in Cetinje and Dajbabe. We cooperated then. He wrote the minutes by hand and gave me a copy. I have it, but I will not give it to the media until I hand it over to Katnić. To my knowledge, the other records were destroyed. He participated with the bishops in covering up those cases.
Jovanović told us that investigation into the paedophilia in the Serbian Orthodox was declined by the countries in whose churches and monasteries these crimes took place – Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Instead of criminals ending up in prison, he says, they are allowed to prosecute victims.
Jovanovic himself was a target of paedophiles in the church. He was threatened to be sexually abused by the former bishop of the Zvornik-Tuzla diocese (BiH), Vasilije (Kačavenda), who retired by a decree of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2012. Bishop Vasilije was never held accountable for the serious accusations that he was a paedophile, that he may have been behind the murder of a young man, that he organised orgies with boys …
– I have written to many organisations in the world pleading for attention to the problem of paedophilia in the Serbian Orthodox Church. So, by recommendation, I came to “Montenegro International.” I introduced them to the documentation, and they decided to support my fight for justice. If the states of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, due to the powerful influence of the Serbian Orthodox Church on politicians, could not prosecute paedophiles from this church, I hope that your special prosecutor Katnić will do it. These boys deserve justice – Jovanović says.
He points out that he was not the first to speak about paedophilia in the Serbian Church. He reminded that crimes against children were also pointed out by “the late professor Žarko Gavrilović and priest from Vranje Goran Arsić, but due to the connection between church and politics, all cases are always stopped.”
– The case of Bishop Pahomije was proven entirely, but he wasn’t punished either. For decades, commissions have been set up in the Serbian Orthodox Church to investigate paedophilia. However, their function is not to process the cases but to gather as much evidence as possible to hide and put pressure on victims to change their statements. They deal with blackmail, threats, bribery – Jovanović is categorical.
In BiH, Jovanović claims, the church successfully covered up the case of the murder of the boy Milić Blažanović, who, according to the official version, blew himself up in a monastery. Jovanović claims that the young man was Kačavenda’s victim.
– Boys like Blažanović, who come from more impoverished families, whose parents are divorced or who have some other personal and family problems, are precisely the profiles of children that paedophiles in the Serbian Orthodox Church look for. These sexual predators choose them because they can more easily break their psyche. It is an elaborate network of paedophiles in conjunction with the top of the Serbian Orthodox Church and politics – claims Pobjeda’s interlocutor.
Jovanović argues that the investigation into the case of Blažanović’s murder in BiH has never been conducted, although all the evidence indicated that the young man was killed.
– First, the documents allegedly disappeared from the investigation, but when we pressed the case, they were suddenly found in an archive. But even then, nothing was done. The child was returned to his mother in a metal box, without head, arms, legs, and meat from the ribs.
Jovanović adds that there is a document that proves that on the night when the investigation took place, the case was registered as murder.
– It is written in the minutes that the priest who was questioned that evening gave a statement on the circumstances of the murder. Nobody mentioned suicide – Jovanović points out.
Institutions, he adds, never asked why the priest who witnessed the detonation of the bomb did not first break into Blažanović’s room, nor did he call the police, but drove “as far as Zvornik, 60 kilometres, for another priest. They returned to the monastery, broke down the door of the room and found the body of the young man.” Only then was the case reported to the police.
– And no one accuses them of that … Why? How is that possible? – Jovanović asks.
Jovanović says that he will not give up his fight to hold the criminals accountable for the crimes, even if the Montenegrin authorities ignore the evidence. He points out that many families whose children were victims of abusers in the Serbian Orthodox Church address him, but they do not dare to speak publicly for fear of shame, revenge, stigmatisation…
– These people live in fear that, if they speak publicly, the church will be stronger than the state and that their children will go through Golgotha again. They are not ready for that.
When a community becomes aware that their priest is a paedophile, Jovanovic claims, the church just transfers him to another place. He says that this was also the case with a priest who procured children to a place in Serbia, who was then sent to serve in Montenegro on Joanikije’s recommendation. This priest allegedly served in a church near Bijelo Polje and was expelled last year, not because of paedophilia but because of illegal documents.
– Last year, I talked about this case with the then director of the Police Administration, Veselin Veljović, who agreed to receive me at my request. Then he referred me to Katnić, Jovanović says.
Jovanović has served in the Serbian Orthodox Church since 1998, and he witnessed many trifles and crimes, especially Kačavenda’s.
– The members of the church organisation know each other well, and when you talk about paedophilia in front of anyone, it is immediately known. You have no one to confide in, Jovanović emphasises.
He says that he tried to talk about the problem of paedophilia with the late patriarchs Pavle and Irinej, but in vain. He also informed the police, the prosecutor’s office and addressed politicians, including the then President of Serbia Boris Tadić, but all without success.
– In Tadić’s office, in a conversation with his advisor, I mentioned Kačavenda and some other bishops. When I opened Politika on the following day, I saw that all of them had a meeting with Tadić on the previous evening?! It was horrible. They offered me various privileges to remain silent, membership in a board of directors, money, just to get hold of the documentation I have. I did not accept – Jovanović points out.
They also suggested sounding Jovanović’s and thus gathered information. However, he is convinced, there was only one goal behind it – to use the material he had gathered so that church dignitaries would get new evidence against those who could be their competition and who would then be blackmailed. When he realised that the institutions would not react, he decided to share his story publicly.
Reform is necessary
The church responded that he was a person who was excommunicated from the church after they found out he was secretly married.
– I did get married. But, is this offence of mine more severe than what they are doing? For them, it is not a crime if one is a bishop and has an illegitimate wife and illegitimate children. And everyone knows it. I did not want to be a hypocrite – says Jovanović.
He does not hope that the new Serbian patriarch Porfirije will open a story about paedophilia in the Serbian Orthodox Church.
– I don’t expect anything from them. I have evidence that Porfirije was elected by people who should be held criminally responsible, and I will disclose those documents. I will forward them to all relevant addresses, including the European Parliament and the United States. Porfirije should resort to one honourable act – to withdraw – says our interlocutor.
He is sure that his story will one day get an epilogue before the judicial authorities and the criminals will end up in prison.
– There are many honourable priests, even among the bishops. They provided me with a lot of data, documents … I will persevere. I’m not afraid. They are essentially cowards who hide behind the force of tramps. They can harass me, beat me, but I have already gone through all that, and I have no fear… I was on their lawsuits and in court and I was released – says Jovanović.
He is categorical that the church needs a profound reform of laws and canons.
– You cannot apply the laws of the 14th or 5th century in the 21st century. There are young people who want to change something, but those backward forces are still stronger – concludes Jovanović.
There are victims in Montenegro as well
Bojan Jovanović points out that Joanikije Mićović was in charge of investigating cases of sexual abuse in Cetinje and the Dajbabe Monastery. Three young men who attended the Cetinje seminary stated that they were victims.
– A young man who served in the Dajbabe Monastery also applied for school. He also came to Bijeljina with the late abbot Teodosije, the Dajbabe Monastery governor. As a minor, he also had sexual intercourse with Kačavenda… When, in the period 2011-2014, the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church questioned me about my knowledge of paedophilia, Joanikije and I talked about that boy from Dajbabe. The church knew that Joanikije wrote the statement by hand and signed it and wanted to crush him because he gave one copy to me. I will submit that proof to Katnić too – says Jovanović.
During that church investigation, Joanikije told him that he knew about the case of the boy from the Dajbabe Monastery.
– He told me that the boy was a student at the Cetinje seminary and that he also prostituted himself with a woman. Yet, they were sorry to expel him because he came from a family that survived a personal tragedy – claims Jovanović.
He says that everyone in the church knew what was going on in the Dajbaba Monastery, but they were silent only because Teodosije thought he would be a bishop before Joanikije.
– Teodosije brought children to Kačavenda so that he could propose him as a bishop. It was a well-organised group of people, Jovanović points out.
Montenegrin police asked Jovanović for the contacts of our citizens who reported cases of sexual abuse in churches and monasteries in our country.
– I refused to give them the contacts of those children’s families who turned to me with trust. When they are convinced that the police will do their job, they will turn to them as well. The state must be the one to do the job I do; I’m just a whistleblower. Victims must have confidence in their state. The state of Serbia has repeatedly abused the trust of those children, letting them be victims, again and again, Jovanović emphasises.
He especially points to the institution of a protected witness, stating that investigators should use it.
– But, knowing the connection between the church and the state, everyone is afraid that their identity would be found out “overnight.” I expect that your prosecutors will listen to Joanikije and ask him to present them with all the information he has about paedophilia in the church. Maybe his testimony would encourage the victims to speak for themselves, Jovanović hopes.
“Montenegro International” Issues a Case the Prosecutor’s Office
The special state prosecutor’s office formed a case based on the criminal report submitted by the NGO “Montenegro International” against the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and Littoral and its Bishop Joanikije for allegedly covering up cases of paedophilia within the Serbian Orthodox Church and bringing minors to the monasteries of Cetinje and Dajbabe.
As they said, the case is in the phase of the investigation.
The NGO previously announced that they had submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office Jovanović’s book Confession: How We Betrayed God and texts from the media published during Jovanović’s struggle to prosecute sexual predators and excommunicate them from the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Author Kaćuša Krsmanović
Pobjeda, May 16, 2021