Monk's Past Continues to Haunt

Former sex offender beaten by monastery worker.

When construction worker Chris Keating moved from California to Cañones in March to make repairs to a local monastery, ***image1***he had no idea the monk who lived at St. Michael's Skete was a convicted child molester [Outtakes, June 9, 2004: "Sins of the Father"].

After discovering Father Andrew Rayburn's past via the Internet, Keating's relationship with Rayburn not only turned sour but also violent. On June 20, Keating assaulted Rayburn at Holy Trinity Antiochan Orthodox Church in Santa Fe. It's a move Keating, 29, regrets but says came about because he feels Rayburn still poses a threat to the community.

Rather than remain in isolation at his Cañones monastery, Rayburn makes routine trips to Holy Trinity, an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church. "Every weekend he sleeps in the children's playroom," Keating alleges. "We stayed there during Easter for two or three days." A church member who did not want to be identified confirmed that Rayburn sleeps in the parish nursery. However, the member says, "There are absolutely no [children] there. There's absolutely nothing inappropriate occurring. I mean, I was there. You're talking about a man who committed a very serious crime over 27 years ago or something. He is not continuing [his abuse] and has not continued at all as a perpetrator of any of those kinds of crimes in this whole time." Father John Bethancourt of Holy Trinity says Rayburn visits the church to receive communion and says he is unaware of where Rayburn sleeps. He says several other adults also sleep overnight at the church on weekends and that Rayburn never comes into contact with children, in accordance with orthodox policy concerning child sex offenders.

But Greta Larson of Pokrov, a California organization that monitors clergy sexual abuse and has posted information about Rayburn's past on its Web site, says that isn't good enough. Larson contends Rayburn presents a risk just by visiting the parish for communion because children also attend for services. "I personally feel that Father John is taking a risk with the children in his parish by allowing [Rayburn to visit]. He has an admitted history of manipulating people. A pedophile needs only an instant to molest a child."

In addition to his concerns about Rayburn's visits to the church, Keating alleges Bethancourt arranged for Rayburn to counsel an adult survivor of clergy sexual abuse. After initially stating that he could not discuss the matter, Bethancourt subsequently told SFR those allegations are false. He says he confirmed with the individual involved that Rayburn is not counseling him. Rayburn himself could not be reached for comment.

Because Rayburn has not been convicted of additional sex abuse charges since his first conviction some 25 years ago, the Holy Trinity community considers him to be recovered. The member who spoke to SFR anonymously says, "This is a man of genuine repentance and, frankly, he is a walking miracle. He is an example of a life transformed." Moreover, the member believes Keating reacted with violence to Rayburn due to pre-existing biases.

Bethancourt says evidence of Rayburn's character is that he decided not to file charges against Keating, despite the fact that Keating kicked Rayburn with such force that he had to be treated at an emergency room. Bethancourt also implied that Pokrov played a role in bringing about the incident but refused to elaborate. Larson denies this allegation. "We talked to Chris once. We had no intention of inciting him towards violence." But, Larson adds, "Father Andrew is a manipulator, a liar and a criminal. If you donated your time for three months and you find out he's a criminal, you'd be angry, too."

Keating says he's confused as to why Bethancourt "defends" Rayburn. "He was a priest. He earned people's respect and abused them. Why anyone would give him spiritual authority over others I don't know. Once a pedophile always a pedophile."

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