• Herman Dismisses Nescott from Commission, Metropolitan Council
• Synod Has 'No Plans' To Release Special Commission's Report
• Dmitri Now Refuses To Release Kondratick, Says Charges 'Unproven'
The OCA is reeling as the unbelievable news spreads via phone, fax, emails and text messages. Despite the carefully crafted and reassuring words of attorney Jim Perry which the Bishops put forth in their Archpastoral Statement, nothing has changed. The horrible truth is the culture of fear, half-truths and deception continues its reign in Syosset.
Gregg Nescott, member of the Special Commission and delegate from the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania was informed by Metropolitan Herman on Friday that he has been 'removed' from the Special Commission and 'suspended' from the Metropolitan Council. In a letter to members of the Metropolitan Council The Metropolitan claimed that Nescott breached 'confidentiality' by allowing his remarks before the Metropolitan Council last week to be published. (Read those remarks here) Since the remarks were not made in an executive session with no minutes being taken, but rather, on the record while motions to continue the work of the Commission and to release its report to the Church-at-large were being debated; and since they do not disclose confidential materials contained only within the Report of the Commission (in fact, Nescott's remarks published on OCANews.org specifically note that all such materials had been edited out), the Metropolitan's stated reason is simply not valid.
It is far more likely the Metropolitan took umbrage at Mr. Nescott's statement in his remarks reminding all present that the Metropolitan and Fr. Kucynda, both former OCA treasurers, possessed inherent conflicts of interest in deciding the fate of a Commission and an investigation that could well implicate them. The Metropolitan and Fr. Kucynda were not successful in stopping the Council from renewing the mandate of the Commission as they wished. Nor were they successful in stopping the Council from unanimously voting that the Commission be 'independent' and 'free from all outside interference.' But revenge was swift. It is hard to imagine a more blatant example of 'outside interference' than removing a member who has given you trouble; and a more obvious constricting of the Commission's 'independence' than Metropolitan's removal of the only person on the Commission able to professionally challenge the stonewalling tactics of the OCA's own lawyers.
Nor did +Herman's revenge end there. Having first removed Nescott from the Commission, the Metropolitan then went on to 'suspend' him from the Metropolitan Council entirely. It is not clear where the Metropolitan's authority to do so is derived under the Statute - especially in the case of a Metropolitan Council representative elected by his diocesan assembly. If the Metropolitan's statutory authority and reasons are questionable, his message was nonetheless quite clear. Council members may vote unanimously, but the Metropolitan will remove them, one by one, as his needs require....
A Disappointed Nescott
OCANews contacted Mr. Nescott today for comment. He had had not yet received the Metropolitan's message to the Metropolitan Council regarding his dismissal from the Special Commission, but confirmed his dismissal. He said:
"Under the circumstances, I feel that there is very little I can, or should, say. I had submitted several Reflections to OCANews.org over the past year. The remarks published last weekend were simply my reflections on the nature of the truth, conflicts of interest, and 'for the good of the Church', as presented to the Metropolitan Council during its debate on whether or not the Special Commission should be permitted to complete its work, independent and unimpeded, and whether it should be recommended that the Holy Synod release the 13-page report of theÊ Commission (without the 200 pages of exhibits) to the whole Church. As has been reported, both of these actions were unanimously approved by the Metropolitan Council, and forwarded to the Holy Synod.
Before I submitted my remarks to OCANews.org, I carefully edited out any facts and information that were contained only within the report of the Commission, as presented to the Metropolitan Council, well-recognizing they should be kept confidential, at least until the Holy Synod met. The many facts I redacted were ones that had not previously been reported either on the OCA website or on OCANews, had not been reported to the joint session of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council in December and thereafter reported back by the diocesan representatives to their bishops and diocesan councils, or were not contained within the Statement of the joint session, published after that meeting on the OCA website.
When I was informed this past Wednesday that the Metropolitan might be contemplating action against me, I immediately e-mailed him an explanation of how careful I had been to edit out from my published remarks facts that were known only through the report of the Commission, and were originally contained in the statement I made to the Metropolitan Council. A list of those edits, totalling nearly 600 words, was contained within seven bullet points in the e-mail I sent to the Metropolitan.
At the same time, I contacted several members of the Commission, asking them whether or not they believed my remarks published on OCANews.org had breached our confidentiality. Their responses: "I had not."
It remains deeply troubling that the Metropolitan has now dismissed me from the Commission for allegedly disclosing confidential information from the report, without stating to me any single confidential fact that was so disclosed.
I remain hopeful that the Holy Synod will indeed release the 13-page report of the Special Commission, as unanimously recommended by the members of the Commission and the Metropolitan Council last week, which might do much to explain to the Church exactly what has been going on.
Beyond that, the facts speak for themselves."
OCANews.org has learned that the Synod has agreed to adopt all eight recommendations of the Metropolitan Council including release of the Report of the Special Commission to the Churc - but set no timetable for doing so. So like 'independence' and 'no outside interference', agreeing to release the Report may be simply another half-truth.
So, too, is the 'confidentiality' of which the Metropolitan claims to be so protective. The Report, which summarizes in 9-10 pages the financial malfeasance of the Kondratick administration includes some three pages of footnotes and some 200 pages of supporting documentation. This hefty tome was distributed to the Metropolitan Council during its meeting last week. Immediately following the session, all copies of the Report were required to be returned to the Administration. Just today OCANews.org learned that one of the Report subsequently 'went missing' shortly after the meeting, while under lock and key in Syosset. Who took it? Where did it go? Since Fr. Kondratick appeared before the Synod, armed with 'notarized' receipts that attempted to explain missing funds referenced in the Report, one might reasonably assume where, and to whom, it wandered.... If the Metropolitan wants to punish people for breaching 'confidentiality' he might begin at home with people who have really done so.
The bishops wrote: "At the written request of His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri, and following consultation with the members of the Holy Synod, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman agreed to rescind the transfer of Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick to the Diocese of the South. Further actions appropriate under the circumstances will be initiated by Fr. Kondratick's Bishop, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman."
That will no longer be the case.
Less than a day after the meeting, Archbishop Dmitri informed the Metropolitan that he will not honor the rescinding of the transfer. Rather, since Fr. Kondratick is doing a 'remarkable job' at his new parish in Venice, Florida, and in the opinion of the Archbishop 'the charges against him remain unproven', the Archbishop will simply wait until this 'all goes away' and keep Fr. Kondratick in place. The Archbishop agreed that the Special Commission could continue, but wrote that Bishop Benjamin, not Archbishop Job, should lead it.
The Archbishop's loyalty to the former Chancellor extends to Fr. Kondratick's former staff as well. Fr. Joseph Fester, Kondratick's long time chief assistant, resigned in protest when Fr. Kondratick was terminated in Spring 2006. He was quickly attached to the Archbishop's cathedral in Dallas; and since his arrival there has become the Archbishop's right hand man. Fr. Fester accompanied the Archbishop to the Synodal meeting in Syosset this past week, where the Archbishop put forth his name for the honor of a jeweled cross. The honor was granted.
More importantly, the Archbishop also put forth the name of Fr. David Brum to be elected to the episcopacy. Fr. Brum was Metropolitan Theodosius's personal secretary from 2000-2002, and later Metropolitan Herman's personal secretary from 2002-2006. He is the author of the Brum Doctrine, a controversial essay on authority in the Church that served as the rationale for Metropolitan's Theodosius' refusal to answer questions concerning his discretionary accounts. (Read it here). Fr. Brum, like Fr. Fester, resigned his position in protest when Fr. Kondratick, his mentor, was terminated.
A SKEPTICAL CHURCH
In the past 24 hours, numerous posters, clergy and lay alike, have expressed their disappointment and skepticism of the Archpastoral Statement even before learning of Nescott's dismissal, the quashing of the Report, or +Dmitri's deception. The response to the letter among posters was almost uniformly negative. Most saw it as yet another attempt by the bishops to end the scandal, consistent with their previous minimalist expressions, designed mainly to get them through the problem, rather than facing the problem and their own culpability. For many it was yet another example of episcopal diversion and obfuscation. Among the most eloquent of critics was Fr. Christopher Wojcik, a parish priest from the Midwest. Fr. Wojcik writes:
"To the hierarchs of the OCA, I am sorry, and I am hurt, and I am disillusioned, but your letter is hardly 'pastoral.' It is not comforting, it is not edifying, and it rings hollow on many levels."
Fr. Wojcik cites three examples of his unease. The first is a blatant misstatement of fact:
"'We', they write, secured the services of Proskauer Rose. Ummm, this is a nice re-write of history, but PR was hired against the kicking and screaming of several members of the Synod, and certainly not by 'we' bishops. According to Metropolitan Herman's address to the MC, he acted alone -- there was no 'we' in the hiring of PR."
He follows with examples of the bishop's deliberate distortion of the facts in the Archpastoral Statement:
"The reality, of course, is that PR was not hired because of some altruistic motive on the part of either the Synod or +MH himself, but because of the legal threat that was realized after 8 lawyers informed +MH that he could be held liable if he did not act. It would be nice if they would just admit this."
"Even now, the recommendation of the MC is received and touted by the Synod, yet where is Metropolitan Herman's apology for trying to stifle this same report less than a week ago?"
And Fr. Wojcik concludes with a sad truth:
"And still, the blame for pain is placed everywhere but where it belongs. They 'pastorally' write: 'Much has been said or written during this time that has added temptation, pain and suffering to so many.' So once again, it is the people who speak and write against abuse that are blamed for causing so much pain."
(You can read Fr. Wojciks letter here)
What Happens Now?
A week ago the OCA stood at a crossroads. The Metropolitan Council voted unanimously for the truth. The Synod apparently cannot agree on the truth. Rarely have words and actions been so blatantly at odds as the ones put forth by the Statement, and the Metropolitan's and Archbishop Dmitri's subsequent actions. Are these actions fully supported by the other bishops? Will the Metropolitan Council acquiesce to the Metropolitan's determining who can and cannot sit on it, based on his whim? Will it sink back into the lassitude from which it has only recently emerged? Will the diocese's who elect their representatives accept the Metropolitan's action? Why even bother with elections then? Will the Special Commission accept such interference in their mandate? What is the point of continuing the Commission if nothing they produce will ever be allowed to see the light of day? Will the laity of the OCA continue to support such an administration? And will their anger turn into action?
These are questions the other bishops, Metropolitan Council members, the Commission members, the dioceses and each and every member of the OCA must now answer. This is especially poignant for the members of the incoming administration. It is hard to see how Fr. Alexander Garklavs, the new nominee for Chancellor, can bring integrity back to the OCA under such circumstances; rather, he risks losing his. How can anybody accept the new Treasurer's numbers, when, if problems or questions should arise, we may never be allowed to know? What would it say about Fr. Jarmus, the nominee to be the Director of Ministries and Communications to have to publicly defend such actions? Good men are doomed before they even begin under these circumstances.
The patent absurdity of the situation the entire OCA has been place in by the bishops is truly inexcusable and unacceptable. It boggles the mind and kills the spirit. The Bishop's adopt a Report, which in their own words presents clear and compelling evidence of shocking financial crimes and they name the guilty party in a public statement.* The following day, the Metropolitan dismisses the man who gave so much of his time and efforts to creating the Report, and the Archbishop of the South seeks to give the guilty party a pass. Truly, this is March madness.
- Mark Stokoe
* The public naming of Fr. Kondratick as the perpetrator of the financial misconduct only further underscores the pattern of half-truths and deceptions still being perpetrated by Syosset. For more than 18 months the Metropolitan and the current administration have argued that nothing could be said publicly, lest the OCA be sued by anyone it named. Ostensibly this fear of potential civil litigation was a major reason why even the Special Commission's Report could never be made public without being heavily edited. And now, suddenly, the OCA itself publicly names Fr. Kondratick? Did something change - or was it all just a ruse whose efficacy was deemed to have ended? Madness.