Mixed Signals From Syosset
Despite repeated pleas for 'order' by the Synod of Bishops, recent statements by top church officials themselves to the press and on the Internet are adding to the consternation of clergy and laity as the OCA
scandal receives growing national attention.
Sunday's front-page story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette illustrates the mixed signals from Syosset, as the Chancellor and Acting Treasurer offer differing responses; while Bishop Tikhon contradicts both, despite having pledged to his fellow Bishops not to engage in further debate on the Internet. Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Bishop Seraphim, has sent an email letter to his Canadian parishioners in which he offers yet another account of what is
The Post Gazette Story
In this latest coverage of the OCA scandal by a major metropolitan daily many of the principal players continue to successfully evade comment. The Post Gazette reported that efforts to reach former Metropolitan Theodosius 'were unsuccessful' and Archbishop Kyrill was 'out of town' - although the two appeared together at Sunday of Orthodoxy services in
the Pittsburgh Deanery that very evening. Fr. Paul Suda, of Allison Park, the current Chairman of the OCA Audit Committee, simply 'did not
The Post Gazette story was notable in that, for the first time, one of the men at the heart of the scandal, OCA Chancellor Fr. Robert Kondratick, did respond to questioning. In a surprising explanation Kondratick said that his long-standing silence has not been by choice.
The Post Gazette reported that Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the OCA, has ordered Kondratick not to address the accusations. "I hope, at some point in the future to be permitted to express my own point of
view", Kondratick is quoted as saying.
Kondratick's statement is surprising, since Metropolitan Herman has apparently made no such request of Kondratick's colleague, OCA Acting Treasurer, Fr. Paul Kucynda, who has spoken not only to the Post Gazette, but to the Washington Post about the scandal. And whereas Kondratick would only say that he "looks forward to (the) recommendations" of current audits and reviews, Kucynda openly anticipated the conclusions of both. "There will not be any invasion, for any reason, of any designated funds," Kucynda told the Post Gazette, "from here forward."
Kucynda's startling coda – "from here forward" – is the first public admission by a Syosset insider that any of Deacon Wheeler's allegations, in this case Syosset's diversion of special appeal funds, has substance.
Bishop Tikhon Dissents
Tikhon, OCA Bishop of the West, asserts just the opposite. Also anticipating the audit and review, Tikhon stated flatly, in a public posting dated 11 March that: "Allegations of criminal wrong-doing are
The Bishop continued: "Now, having answered that question *****once again,*****.... I add that it would now be against an Apostle's injunction against indecency and disorder to answer any question that goes, 'AND how do YOU know, BISHOP?' Absolutely refuse. It's way too late for any voluntary, kind, and, according to Faith uncalled-for, explanations."
While declining to explain the source of his knowledge, Tikhon did reveal in another public email, this time to diocesan priests, previously undisclosed decisions by the Bishops concerning the scandal, apparently made during the Synodal meeting held March 1 in Syosset.
"I will confide to you all," Tikhon wrote, " though, that it is very clear what His Beatitude meant when he said that he wanted all the Bishops to agree that there will be no further discussion of 'these matters' on the Internet. As you know, with the exception of Bishop
Nikolai and me, the Holy Synod is made up mostly of Luddites when the subject of the cyberworld comes up, and the restriction only applied to me. However, the general prohibition made it possible for His Beatitude
to avoid addressing me directly.."
It is hard to determine which is more surprising: Tikhon's public disclosure of private agreements of the Synod, or the fact of his continuing public comments and commentary about the scandal on the Internet, despite having agreed with his fellow Bishops not to publish...
Canada Seeks A Middle Way
Between the hiding, imposed silence, curt confirmation and open denials coming from the OCA leadership, Bishop Seraphim of Canada has chosen yet another way. In an email addressed to the faithful of the
Archdiocese of Canada on 11 March Seraphim wrote: "As can be seen from the (attached) Statement, the Holy Synod of Bishops is in the process of examining both the allegations, and also the facts of the financial situation. We can only act on the basis of concrete information, and this can only begin to be seen after the completion of the mentioned audits."
(Read the letter here)
Bishop Seraphim's assertion is at once revealing and confusing. While affirming that the Holy Synod "is in the process of examining the allegations", the first public mention that this is indeed being undertaken, the Bishop states that action can only take place after
the completion of the 2004-2005 audits. The Bishop does not explain how audits for 2004 or 2005 are to elucidate "concrete information"regarding allegations of financial misconduct that is alleged to have taken place from 1993-2003.
Bishop Seraphim continued: "Although it is possible that mistakes were made by one or another persons, or groups of persons, it remains the responsibility of the Holy Synod to make sure that, whatever will be
found, all things will be put in the best possible order, so that if there were mistakes, they may be corrected quickly, and if there were no mistakes, but rather misunderstandings, then our reporting can
demonstrate quickly and clearly the state of affairs."
Once again the Bishop's statement is confusing. As Secretary to the Synod, Seraphim was a signatory to the Lesser Synod's statement of January 2006 which has already admitted "mistakes", "errors", "lack of
judgement" and "sin". Now he hesitates and affirms only that it is "possible that mistakes" were made; or even less seriously, it is all "misunderstanding". The Lesser Synod's statement declined to mention who had made these "mistakes" or who had sinned. Seraphim's new statement suggests it may be "groups of persons" who are responsible.
In short, somewhere between denial and affirmation, the Canadian Bishop seems to be suggesting that the errors might be less serious than previously suggested, but the circle who committed them much wider.
The Muddle Continues
In the past two months the Lesser Synod of Bishops has admitted mistakes. A month later, the Synod as whole admits nothing, but its members privately agree not to discuss the situation further on the Internet - an agreement immediately broken by the very Bishop crying the loudest for the restoration of 'order'. This week the embattled Chancellor, who has refused all previous comment to the media, now claims he would speak, but is prevented by the Metropolitan from so
doing. Curiously, the Treasurer, who is also directly under the Metropolitan, speaks openly, tacitly admitting serious problems exist. Enters now yet another Bishop claiming the way forward is to conduct audits of years not in question...
Somewhere between the affirmations, denials and about faces that are now taking place the truth may be found. OCANews has learned that the Administrative Committee - the executive body of the Metropolitan
Council - will hold an unannounced meeting shortly in Wayne, New Jersey, home parish of OCA Treasurer Fr. Paul Kucynda, rather than in Syosset. This meeting might be a good occasion to begin clearing up the
current confusion by just answering the simple question that lies at the root of the trouble: Are the allegations true or false?
- Mark Stokoe