Reflections On The Scandal
Seeking the Truth in Love
Archpriest John M. Reeves, State College PA
There can be no one who does not now believe that the recent controversy in the OCA is a tragedy. One may differ as to what constitutes the tragedy. One certainly may disagree as how to remedy the situation. Yet, no one can say that the issue at hand is not both tragic and its outcome one of dire consequence for us all.
What have been most disturbing to me have not been the allegations. Indeed, I wish to know whether the allegations are true or false. They have been levied. And answers to them must be forthcoming and forthright. Yet, our behavior in this tragedy has been the most tragic of all, for we have failed to speak or even to seek the truth in love as befits the followers of Christ.
From the beginning of the publicizing of the accusations, and continuing until the present, there has been a concerted effort to avoid dealing with them. Slowly, haltingly, grudgingly we have gone from defiance and denial to defensiveness and posturing. Bishops have attacked one another. Intention and motivation have been impugned; reputations, besmirched. Messengers have been savaged, if not actually shot; and technology has been blamed for the information it disseminated, much like blaming Gutenberg for the Reformation.
While the initial allegations were against administration, much of the defensiveness and much of the posturing is now focused upon the episcopate: its role, its prerogatives and its responsibilities in the Church. In particular, the Metropolitan, criticized for inaction, was likewise stingingly rebuked for action. That the Church is hierarchical, and yet, conciliar, we might all agree. But we disagree about what this means and how this applies. We quote canon and statute at one another, but there appears to be more rage than remedy; little remorse or repentance, and no reconciliation. With such an impasse, we should not expect rectification in the immediate future.
It is a false issue to attempt to frame the debate in terms of competing ecclesiologies, one of hierarchy versus democracy, or democracy versus hierarchy. Occupying the episcopate does not elevate one beyond reproach or critique. The honest entreaties of laity and clergy are not equal to that of a polity foreign to episcopal governance. Such an attempt to interpret the current tragedy in the Church in political terms, in dichotomies rather than by unity, with one mind, one mouth, one heart, with one accord, does not serve us well. Rather, this is but another obfuscatory effort to avoid the quintessential issue: truth.
Had truth been the ultimate objective, I suspect that we would not be where we are today. Had truth been our ultimate concern, then questions would have been asked, and answers sought out and willingly given, years ago. Auditors’ recommendations would have been followed; reports would have been forthcoming. Consciences would have refused to be complicit in anything untoward. Responsibility for rectitude would have been at the forefront of the whole culture of the Church, its administration and its hierarchy, its laity and its clergy.
Truth be told, there has been no such culture. Statistics have been disingenuous on the right hand and on the left. We have pretended to be what we are not. We have not exposed the poverty of our own souls to the searing judgment of Christ. We have called good, evil, and evil have we cloaked with piety for the sake of the “good” of the Church. The truth has not been in us and God’s blessing has been withheld from us.
Ultimately, this is the question which should be asked: Are we now willing to seek the truth: come, what may and cost, what it will? Are we willing to seek the truth about ourselves and not merely about the allegations? And if there is anyone unable to lead us, anyone unwilling to assist us to ascertain that truth, the same must for the sake of truth stand aside, without regard for rank or privilege, without defensiveness or posturing, without platitudes or threats. It is a duty incumbent upon anyone who bears the Name of Christ. Our further dissimulation will serve none of us, much less Him.
Indeed, it is now high time to cast off the works of darkness and to speak the truth in love to another. Let our perfect love for one another cast out our fear. Should we prove unable to do so, we, indeed, shall fail to be taken seriously in our witness as the Church to Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life whose Body we are.