Powerful Serbian bishop Vasilije Kačavenda organized orgies at which he and others raped underage boys and girls.
That’s among the sensational allegations that have been leveled against the holy man in recent months, culminating in Kačavenda’s tendering his resignation the other day, and the Orthodox Church accepting it.
One news report speaks of “a crush of lurid accusations that seem better suited to Caligula’s court than an Orthodox diocese.”
A key witness is Bojan Jovanovic, a former theological student, who claims he saw numerous orgies that had been organized or backed by the now-74-year-old bishop; and that Kačavenda personally asked him to supply young children for the sex parties. The lustful participants allegedly included other Christian-Orthodox clerics as well as prominent Serbian businessmen.
“They tried on many occasions to put me in a compromising situation myself or to pull me into their circle,” Jovanovic says. “[The bishop] also suggested that I should use the school where I was teaching science to bring him children up to the age of 10, but of course I refused.”
Three years ago, rumors started swirling around a photograph that showed the bishop in his extravagantly-gilded home with male stripper Dejan Nestorovic, who admitted to having a personal relationship with Kačavenda. Nice touch: In one snap, the two were posing next to what appears to be a Christmas tree.
After a Serbian newspaper recently obtained a grainy video purportedly showing Kačavenda in flagrante delicto with young men in various locations (you can look for snippets online if you’re so inclined), the walls came tumbling down.
Dusko Tomić, a lawyer in Bijeljina, says he has collected statements and other evidence from numerous sex-abuse victims claiming to have been molested by the bishop.
Among the people trying to get their story out are relatives of Milić Blažanović, a theology student who reportedly rebuffed advances from Kačavenda. Blažanović later died under mystifying circumstances in a remote monastery — when a bomb exploded in his room. It would be an odd way to commit suicide, especially for a usually cheerful young man with no known history of depression, but that’s the conclusion investigators reached — that Blažanović killed himself. The official finding didn’t stop unsubstantiated rumors that the bishop had had a hand in his death.
Other people, too, have recently slung accusations against Kačavenda, including a Bosnian Muslim girl who said the bishop had forced her to convert to Christianity and then raped her when she was 16.
Tomić, himself a follower of the Church, is incredulous over what he’s learned, and predicts that other careers will sustain damage in the sex-scandal fallout.
“When I read all the information and all the reports from different people that he abused, from people to whom he did much harm, I’m shocked as an Orthodox believer and as a human being that this kind of person is still present in public life. Kačavenda became a politician. And let’s not forget that he is a general of the Serbian Army. Let’s not forget that he’s a close friend of [Serb Republic President Milorad] Dodik and a lot of influential businessmen and entrepreneurs. All of them are in big trouble now.”
Kačavenda’s friendly relations with people in high places go back decades. He was said to be close to Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, later accused of genocidal war crimes (each man is sometimes referred to as the “Butcher of Bosnia”).
Kačavenda denies all charges of sexual abuse and other crimes. On Monday, he threatened to sue those who had “smeared and slandered him.”
The Church, in accepting his resignation, never mentioned the scandals, stating instead that the bishop was stepping down for health reasons.
That’s not to say that Church leaders aren’t vigilant about fighting immorality. Serbian Patriarch Iriniej recently has been vocal in his opposition to a planned gay-pride march in Belgrade, saying that such an event would cast a “moral shadow” over the country.