ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska has allowed a former theological student convicted of molesting minors to become a lay reader.
Terenty Dushkin is a registered sex offender. He was a student at a seminary in Kodiak when he was arrested at the age of 22 and spent more than a year in prison.
Church officials say they were aware of Dushkin's past when they invested him last month, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Although he is not a priest, he wears robes during services and the office could be a step toward the priesthood.
"This is not a scandal in any way," said Chancellor Archimandrite Isidore. "The church believes everyone is redeemable. We don't think people are necessarily damaged goods that have to be locked away."
Melanie Sakoda, a California woman who runs a Web site on sexual abuse in the Orthodox Church, said she is troubled by Dushkin's being invested with "an air of authority."
"He can come to church, he can go to communion," Sakoda said. "But he doesn't need to be a reader. He doesn't need to go even that far on the path toward clergy."