Letters From the Laity
The Most Blessed Herman
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
PO Box 675
Syosset, NY 11791-0675
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I am writing in response to your letter, requesting the faithful to give to support the Annual Christmas Stocking Project. It is truly a lovely project, and our family has supported it in the past. I regret that we will not be supporting it this year, and I would like to take the opportunity to explain to you why we will not (though you should certainly be able to guess).
My immediate reaction when I read your letter on the OCA website was to say, “He’s got to be kidding!” When money has been diverted from this very fund, among many others, and used for God only knows what purposes, I find it incredible that you would ask us to donate to it again, when there has been no accounting of where the money went in the past, and therefore no assurance that the money given this time would actually be used for its intended purpose.
I appreciate especially all the love and devotion you have shown over the years to the pro life cause, and especially your presence at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. I would like to believe that you would use the same love and devotion to straighten out the incredible financial mess the OCA is in. I would like to believe that you want to regain the trust of the faithful. But you have made it nearly impossible. This mess happened “on your watch,” both as Treasurer and as Metropolitan. You have known about the seriousness of it not for weeks or months, but for years, and you did nothing until it began to be written about in the national newspapers. You repeatedly silenced those who asked questions and told the faithful that all had been taken care of. Now you want to regain our trust.
I appreciate that you have posted the 2006 budget on the OCA web site, but it is so vague as to be virtually meaningless. I also appreciate your willingness to answer questions in your interview with Protodeacon Peter. But I’m sorry; the answers just aren’t enough to restore my trust. You say that you only silenced priests in your own diocese. How can you possibly justify silencing anyone? We faithful are also responsible for the church, and we have both a right and a duty to ask questions if something is wrong. This “silence” was supposedly to “protect” the church, the church’s reputation. But a good reputation with corruption within is like a whitened sepulcher. Better to expose the corruption so that it can be cleaned out and cleanse both the inside and the outside. You say that you don’t believe that trust has been completely broken. Personally, I have no faith in what you say or in what anyone in the Central Administration says. We have been lied to for too long. It is very painful for me to say this. I would like to follow my shepherds. But no sheep should follow a shepherd over a cliff.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing, and supposedly no one knows where it went. Surely someone must know the truth. If checks were written for cash to individuals, those individuals must be questioned and held responsible. How can we trust that more dollars will not go the same way? You were the Treasurer, and you are the Metropolitan. You are the boss. To say, “It was always difficult to get accurate financial data” seems a poor excuse to me. When you are the boss, you can demand accurate financial data. But you never did this, and now you ask us to trust you.
In parishes I have belonged to, there was usually an annual parish meeting, and the treasurer prepared a report detailing income and expenditures for the previous year, along with a proposed budget for the next year. This was presented in considerable detail, and questions were invited. If there was, for example, an item for church repairs, one could ask and be told exactly how much went to repair the roof, the plumbing, and so forth. There were also details about how much was spent on office supplies, salaries, and benefits.
If you really want to restore trust, start by making all this data about the Central Administration public on the web site: salaries and benefits of each employee, electric bill, paper clips—everything. Give us a detailed income and expense report for 2006 so far. Tell how much was collected for the Seminaries Collection, and the amount disbursed to each Seminary, for example. If this type of accountability can be done in parishes, it can be done for the Central Administration.
It has been many years now since these problems surfaced. I love the OCA and I hope that it will survive this crisis, but until much more is done to uncover the truth about what has happened, and much more is done to assure that it will never happen again, my family will direct our charity dollars to IOCC, where we can get a properly audited financial statement on request, and where we will be assured that our dollars will go for the purposes for which they are intended.
I doubt that you will even see this letter. I feel that my effort on it will probably be futile, but I felt that I had to try, because I don’t believe that you really understand the depth of this crisis of faith in our hierarchs and our leaders. The problem is not that people have sinned, or that people have made mistakes. I am a sinful person myself, and I am not shocked by sins. The problem is the lies and hiding of the truth. When the truth is finally revealed, when we know what happened and how, then we can all move on and take steps so that it never happens again, so that no one is tempted by too much power. But it is only the truth, and the whole truth, that can make us free. There will be no trust until we are all assured that those who misused funds are no longer in positions of power and authority, that proper checks and balances are in place, and that those who should be exercising oversight are actually doing so.
I remain in prayer for you and for our beloved church.
Leaella J. Shirley
Orthodox Mission in West Bend, Wisconsin
cc: The Rev. Gregory Madlom, priest-in-charge,
West Bend Mission