Reflections On The Scandal
Fr. Christopher Wojcik: Clayton, Wisconsin
At the Midwest clergy convocation last February,
I was a voice opposing the withholding of assessments. I believed that with enough reasoning and pleading by people within the Church, charges would be addressed and changes would be made by those in the administration. I believed that once the moral crimes began to be exposed, those in the position of shepherds would immediately rally for both accountability and change. I was wrong.
The administration began to cover its sins with lies. Last fall, we were told that the allegations had been investigated by the Synod and were deemed false. This was a lie. The charges had not been investigated, and the charges were not false.
In the winter, we were told that all charges had been addressed, and the matter was closed. This was an attempted cover up, which looks even more foolish in hindsight than it did at the time.
Later in the winter, our Archbishop was terribly slandered, and there was an attempt to destroy him as a person by certain bishops. This happened in the presence of Archbishop Job's brother bishops, who shamefully watched in silence.
Pleas from clergy and laity have been consistently ignored. Attempts were made by bishops, including Metropolitan Herman, to silence clergy, monks, and laity who dared express opinions on the matter, including a very recent attempt by our Metropolitan to silence me. Apparently forgotten are Metropolitan Herman’s own words spoken at the last All-American Council: “Every Orthodox Christian, having received the Holy Spirit, may properly express concern for the Church, discuss the Church’s challenges and needs, and suggest insights and answers to the challenges found by the Church.”
Information continues to been hidden, and gross sins have been admitted to only when discovered by those on the outside. Action has not been taken unless the administration was compelled to either by lawyers or by public embarrassment. Acting on the basis of integrity has not been part of the equation, and simple morality has been irrelevant. Obedience has become the only virtue, and then only when practiced by underlings.
Extortion has not only been tolerated but rewarded by reappointments of the perpetrators to high-ranking positions.
Attempts have been repeatedly made (and accepted by some) to frame this as a strictly financial problem. This smokescreen is an attempt to hide the fact that at the core, our scandal is a moral scandal, not a financial one.
As a moral scandal, it cannot be solved by adding another guiding document to be ignored like our other guiding documents. If our administration consistently ignores the Statute, what makes anyone think they will not ignore "Best Practices"? (By way of simple examples, the Statue has been completely ignored regarding the competency of the MC, the periodicity of the AAC, & term limits for the MC, to name three among many.) If our administration lies in a sworn affidavit to a court of law, how can we believe they will not continue to lie to us?
Disappointing has been the silence of so many people, including clergy, who will not speak out to defend the vulnerable. Most disappointing of all has been our Synod of Bishops. There are those who have given no thought to systematic stealing from widows, orphans, missions, and terrorist victims, who have given no thought to using extortion to achieve some financial ends. Where are the shepherds who will protect us from these wolves? While we have one true shepherd on our Synod, we apparently have many hirelings who have cowered and withdrawn in silence.
My beloved and once-respected fathers, if you will not stand up against moral crimes against the vulnerable, against extortion by priests against other priests, against the defaming of your own brother who actually spoke out for truth and integrity, in whose defense would you ever speak out? Where are the statements of outrage at the amounts of money “owed to accounts” for orphans, widows, and other victims? What would you stand up for?
Some people, including clergy, have surrendered their confidence to the civil authorities in the hopes that they will finally force change. How pathetic. How utterly pathetic that we, the Church, have to wait on civil authorities to enforce the most basic morality within our administration. Is there not one wise man within the Church who can judge this situation for what it is?
Our administration has refused to listen to an archbishop, to a whole diocese of clergy, to the most respected senior clergy in the Church, to resolutions by parish councils and even whole parishes, and to thoughtful and well-reasoned pleas from educated and prayerful laity. I once thought any one of those would be enough to force accountability and elicit change. Sadly I was wrong.
It is because of this that I am now supportive of the withholding of assessments from the central administration. Barring grace and a miraculous repentance, money is apparently all that is left. It is either this, or we really do wait for the civil authorities. I for one am not willing to go to Judgment Day having surrendered our Church’s future to the hands of a federal prosecutor. On Judgment Day, I hope the children of Beslan can stand up and say the OCA made a valiant attempt themselves.
Priest Christopher Wojcik