Vasilije Kacavenda, the bishop of Tuzla and Zvornik in Bosnia-Herzegovina, retreated from his clerical duties months ago as allegations mounted that he had used his position for years to stage frequent orgies and rape underage boys and girls.
But the April 22 decision by the Holy Synod to accept his resignation appears to be the first acknowledgment of the church’s growing unease with the crush of lurid accusations that seem better suited to Caligula’s court than an Orthodox diocese.
Bojan Jovanovic, a former theological student in Bijeljina, the seat of Kacavenda’s diocese, says he observed numerous orgies organized by the 74-year-old bishop and attended by fellow clerics and prominent businessmen.
Jovanovic says Kacavenda personally appealed to him to supply young children for sexual purposes and frequently called on high-ranking church officials to organize trysts with young theological students.
"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. I was also a witness when abbots from other monasteries would bring theology students who would spend the night with the bishop.
"One morning, one of them called me and asked me to unlock the bishop's room so he could get his things. I said,'What are your things doing in the bishop's room?' He said,'Come on, it's not like you don't know. Don't pretend to be stupid.'"
Such anecdotal claims had swirled for years around Kacavenda, who had already drawn public ire for his lavish, gilt-edged lifestyle and notorious wartime ties to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and military chief Ratko Mladic.
Several people had already stepped forward with accusations against the bishop, including a Bosnian Muslim girl who said Kacavenda had forced her to convert to Christianity and then raped her when she was 16.
In 2010, rumors thickened when a photograph emerged showing the bishop posing informally next to a well-known Belgrade stripper, Dejan Nestorovic, who admitted to having a personal relationship with Kacavenda.
But a culture of silent obedience within the church kept hard evidence in short supply, until the Serbian daily “Blic” reported it had seen pornographic videos that appeared to show Kacavenda engaged in oral sex and other sexual activity with young men in various locations.(Brief, R-rated clips from the video have since been published online by a variety of news sites.)
Kacavenda, now defrocked, may face numerous charges in court. Dusko Tomic, a lawyer in Bijeljina, says he has collected evidence from numerous people claiming to have been sexually abused by the bishop.
These include two priests, as well as the mother and grandparents of Milic Blazanovic, a theology student who as a 16-year old reportedly rebuffed advances from Kacavenda and later died under mysterious circumstances in an isolated monastery.