Reflections On The Scandal
A Way Forward
Fr. Ted Bobosh: Dayton, OH
"If you don't know where you are going, then any road will get you there." (Old Aphorism)
We in the OCA have been mired in the squalor of a scandalous swamp for quite some time - long enough, that like the prodigal we are now at least hoping that someone will feed us some of the pig's husks so we can survive where we are. Of course those husks will not be anymore satisfying for us than they were for him. And the time will be right for us to come to our senses and realize we need to leave where we are and find our way back to the road to our Father's kingdom. I want to offer a proposal for a possible way forward. Once we have fed enough on the husks called reports and audits, we will realize we are still unsatisfied, and hopefully we will decide we would like to move out of the slough of despair into which we have fallen.
(For those who read children's stories, I recommend The Berenstein Bears' TROUBLE AT SCHOOL in which Grampa Bear relates to Brother Bear what you should do if you have gotten yourself stuck deep in the swamp. It is an excellent yet easy to understand description of metanoia/repentance.)
Getting out of the slough however requires us to have some sense of where we want to go. Where do we want to be when this is all over?
"Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is wasted effort." (St. Mark the Ascetic, 5th Century)
A number of people already have reminded us that of utmost importance to our sojourn is that we follow the Gospel. As Lewis Smedes opined in one of his books, we don't need more codes to help us do the right thing, we need more character. Indeed, we need people of sound character and morals to lead our OCA. More rules and regulations will not help us if we don't have the fortitude to follow the crucified Lord. We need to uphold the Gospel in our life as Church. However, we must also acknowledge that in the history of Christianity, in our tradition, the Church discovered a need for councils, creed, canons, to help it remain faithful to the Gospel. Audits, investigations, Metropolitan Council, Best Practices, Statute, are all part of what we need today to help us restore the Gospel to our normal way of doing business. I am proposing that we try yet one more task force or commission to help us through the current mess so that we can get back on that straight and narrow path to the Kingdom.
"Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of virtue we want to forge or we labor in vain."
(St. Anthony the Great, 3rd Century)
The Statute of the OCA states that part of the competency of the Metropolitan Council is
1 Appoints officers and committees on matters within its competence;
2 Initiates, prosecutes, and defends all legal matters affecting the interest of the Church;
My suggestion for the Metropolitan Council to follow up on Archbishop Job's call for an episcopal panel to do an investigation into the scandal by creating a "Truth and Reconciliation Task Force" consisting of perhaps three bishops, and a proper number of priest and lay members.
This would not be an ecclesiastical court, but would be given exact parameters of its authority to do an internal investigation into the allegations, and in as much as is possible to call for an accounting of the stewardship of the various people who have been involved in Syosset: the Metropolitans Herman and Theodosius, the chancellor, treasurers and acting treasurers, the official "secretaries" to the Metropolitan and the various aids, the various staff members in Syosset, and the auditors - basically anyone who handled money or had any kind of financial or administrative authority. This task force would either be given specific powers to deal with what it determines, or it would have only authority to report back to a joint session of the Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council for their decision as to how to handle the situation. There would have to be bishops on this task force to allow the questioning of the Metropolitans.
Dn Eric Wheeler would be invited to tell what he knows, bring forth his allegations, to be questioned about what else he can tell us. Anyone else who has further allegations or evidence should be asked to come forward as well to speak to the Task Force or to submit their statements in writing. Fr. Kondratick should be invited to explain himself in terms of the allegations. Metropolitan Theodosius too for that matter should be questioned by the bishops on the Task Force. If anyone refuses to cooperate with the church and appeals to Caesar (the civil authorities) for justice so be it, that will say a lot. Some may feel they will speak only with their lawyers present or only through their attorneys. That will be their choice.
This Task Force would not have any "legal" authority. It isn't going to try to find every shred of evidence. It is however to ask within the framework of Christian repentance and forgiveness for members of the church to own up to their stewardship responsibilities and how they contributed to the scandal.
The Task Force would not have subpoena power as such but would simply try to establish who knew what, who decided what, who did what, who did what they weren't supposed to do, who didn't do what they should have, etc. We can use as the basis for our questions information we can garner from Proskaur Rose or the various independent audits which are done. It seems as if a lot of pieces of the puzzle are already known, so we wouldn't be trying to figure out what happened, but rather already establishing accountability for what happened.
Some people could be questioned by mail with a written instrument designed by the MC. Not everyone would have to appear before the Task Force.
Everyone could be invited to offer apologies/repentance for any wrongs they now know they were guilty of including negligence and dereliction of duty.
If civil authorities find sufficient evidence to establish guilt of criminal behavior or intent, that will be their business. Our task will be call for accountability within the framework of the church and its structure and authority. Either we have some kind of authority and power to deal with internal failures or we show the world that the church has no authority whatsoever to clean up its own mess. Either all of us who work in and for the church show some sign of recognizing the authority of the Christian community or we admit that the Church has no real existence and no real authority in our personal or "professional" lives.
If we think too much in juridical terms here - establishing guilt,etc - we are going to miss an opportunity to deal with our internal failures and problems as Church community. We are going to be saying the Church really has no authority. The Church doesn't have to concern itself with establishing criminal guilt, it does however have to deal with true repentance and forgiveness.
At the university where I'm a faculty member, they have policies for dealing with student violations of university rules. In certain circumstances students who violate a policy are brought before a committee and offered a chance to admit or deny the violation. The committee's decision is not built upon "evidence" but rather the university's investigative committee is trained to think about "what most likely happened here and whether someone should be held accountable." That is the model I think we can follow.
We don't need subpoenas and tons of evidence, as we aren't "convicting" people of crime (though they may have committed a crime and may have to answer to the civil authorities for that). What we can do is just establish whether someone should be held accountable for what happened. Perhaps the overriding question should be something like "How did this person's decisions and actions contribute to the scandal and to the harm that has been done to the OCA?" The goal is to establish the truth, not guilt as such. To determine accountability so that we can make the necessary changes in our system as well as to remove people from office who violated the trust and stewardship given them.
The church can decide how to deal with those whose actions did contribute to the overall scandal and loss of faith in the OCA administration. If monasteries can impose prostrations on monks for spilling lampada oil, certainly we can come up with appropriate consequences for those whose actions harmed the integrity of the Church. The goal is not to get fixated on all that went wrong, but to use that information to move on to our goal of a faithful and Gospel oriented Church.
"Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. ... but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus."
(St. Paul to the Philippians, 3:12-14)
- Fr. Ted Bobosh