+Dmitri Defends The Indefensible
The split between the Archbishop of Dallas and the Synod of the OCA over the fate of former OCA Chancellor Fr. Robert Kondratick went public today as +Dmitri sought to defend his actions through a letter posted on the diocesan website. The letter reads:
“To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the South:
I wish to share with you my thoughts related to a particular action taken this past week at the Synod meeting in Syosset.
There was an attempt to “rescind” the canonical transfer of a cleric in my diocese from the Diocese of Washington and New York to the Diocese of the South. Although I affixed my signature to a document, the action to “rescind” a canonical transfer is not canonically sustainable and thus it is null and void. A cleric cannot be transferred from one diocese to another unless the ruling Hierarch of that cleric is freely willing to transfer him to another bishop and that bishop is freely willing to accept him. I did not transfer the cleric in question back to his former diocese. Further, I have never transferred a cleric to another bishop without the free consent of the cleric. The cleric in question remains in the Diocese of the South as set forth in a letter dated March 22, 2007. See attached. (Read that letter here)
As a bishop, I am a shepherd of souls and not a master of men by lording over them. True love and obedience are free of coercion. My archpastoral decisions are made with the spiritual care of my entire flock in mind and nothing else.
Sadly, I have heard that the cleric in question may be suspended. Of course, he can only be disciplined by me, since I am his diocesan bishop. Thus any action to suspend him by someone else would be improper, especially in light of my support for his cooperation in the current situation that faces The Orthodox Church in America.
My love for all of my brothers on the Synod of Bishops is not diminished in the aftermath of our most recent meeting. In fact, I pray even more fervently for their well-being as I am sure they do for mine. We are united in a bond of love, even if, from time to time, we may differ in our views as to what is best for our respective dioceses and for the good of The Orthodox Church in America.
I ask all of you to pray for our Metropolitan. He is called to be a figure of unity in the bond of love as “the first among equals” of the bishops of our Church. He finds himself in a very delicate situation which I trust he will carefully navigate without concern for himself since we do all things not for our own glory but for the glory of God.
It is unfortunate but not uncommon that the “sower of division” the Evil One, works very hard to distract us during the Great Fast and even more as we approach Holy Week and the Feast of Feasts, the Resurrection of our Lord. Nonetheless, we must be ever vigilant to keep our focus on Christ and not be distracted by those who would twist our words, or worse, the words of the Gospel, and leave us spiritually dissipated and disunited.
As many of you know, I am currently working on a Commentary on the Gospel of John, and in that research I have also been reading his Epistles. I ask you to consider his words from 1 John 4:17 ff as we bear one another’s burdens in the bond of love:
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Mindful of the saving Grace of our Lord, the Physician and Healer of our souls, I humbly ask for your continued prayers as I remain yours,
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Dallas and the South”
The Synodal Meeting
The present controversy originated at the Synodal meeting last week. On Tuesday, March 20, the Synod received individual copies of the Special Commission’s report. As the other bishop’s followed along, Bishop Benjamin read the Report. Later that day Fr. Kondratick was asked to join the meeting, as he had earlier requested, to offer any explanation he could concerning the facts detailed in the Report. As reported by OCANews.org that evening “Fr. Kondratick offered no substantive answers to questions from the Bishops”. The Bishops themselves expressed it this way in their Statement the following day: “After substantial deliberation in executive session, we concurred that the explanations provided were neither credible nor persuasive.” Following Fr. Kondratick’s appearance, Attorney Jim Perry spoke to the Bishops about possible courses of action. The Bishops then retired, each with a copy of the Report, so as to be able to read the extensive supplemental materials.
Wednesday, March 21, the Bishops did not discuss the scandal, focusing on other issues confronting the Church.
On Thursday March 22rd, Archbishop Dmitri, who expressed his unwillingness to suspend Fr. Kondratick on his own, proposed a solution to the problem, and indeed even the language of the solution. In the words of the subsequent Archpastoral Statement: “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.”
The Bishop’s concluded their meeting, dispersed, and later that evening the Archpastoral Statement was published on the OCA website. (Read that statement here)
On Friday morning, March 23rd, the Metropolitan sent Archbishop Dmitri a letter formally confirming the agreement to rescind the transfer mentioned in the Statement and stating that “effective immediately” Fr. Kondratick was once again under the omophor of the Metropolitan.
No sooner had that letter been sent than Syosset received an email from the Archbishop, dated Thursday evening March 22nd, renouncing the agreement to rescind the transfer. Above the Archbishop’s name appeared the following:
"March 22, 2007
His Beatitude, The Most Blessed Herman
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
PO Box 675
Syosset, NY 11791
Your Beatitude and Concelebrant in the Lord:
Having the benefit of time to reflect on the actions initiated by us in rescinding the canonical transfer of Protopresbyter Rodion Kondratick from the Diocese of Washington and New York to the Diocese of the South, I must respectfully ask that we recognize that he is still a cleric of the Diocese of the South. I believe that rescinding a canonical transfer is not a proper action and thus could be challenged either by appeal to a spiritual court or by a court of another venue.
As you know, I refused on canonical grounds to suspend Protopresbyter Kondratick because he has done nothing wrong as a priest in my diocese, I could not be a party to calls for Protopresbyter Kondratick’s suspension. Nor, could I be a party to a “so-called Synodal suspension” since, again, I do not believe that such an action would be canonically sustainable.
I view the voluntary action of Protopresbyter Kondratick in seeking my blessing and your invitation for him to answer any questions the Holy Synod wished to ask him this week not as the end of his assistance but only a first step in shedding as much light as possible on the actions of the Central Church Administration during his time as chancellor to Metropolitan Thedosius and you.
I am sure, Your Beatitude that you wish to have this sad episode come to a godly conclusion for the life and well-being of our Church. I am also sure that those calling for Protopresbyter Kondratick’s suspension and even deposition, fueled by fear and intimidation from a website that the entire Holy Synod condemned, are totally premature and could be viewed as an expedient means to put this entire matter behind us as quickly as possible. Nothing but the complete and total truth, as much as can humanly be ascertained, in a spirit of peace, humility, and justice can be our goal, no matter how long it takes.
I am in full agreement with you and the other members of the Holy Synod that Protopresbyter Kondratick must continue to cooperate fully with the Holy Synod in its on-going investigation. I am in full agreement that Bishop Benjamin should take up the charge of working with Protopresbyter Kondratick in answering any and all questions related to the investigation, especially those raised by the commission’s report.
I have instructed Protopresbyter Kondratick that he be fully cooperative with the Holy Synod and make himself available to Bishop Benjamin. I have also directed him while he cooperates with the Holy Synod that he continue to serve the spiritual needs of the parish in Venice as a priest of my diocese. On this note, I should add that under Protopresbyter Kondratick’s guidance, over one hundred people have returned to the parish in Venice and are enjoying a renewed life in the Church. Before, our Holy Spirit mission was practically dead, but has now come to life again. If he does not continue to serve them, they can only go back to the state of a dying mission, only occasionally visited by some priest who may be available. At present, I have no one else to assign to them.
Your Beatitude, if Protopresbyter Kondratick proves either uncooperative in assisting the Holy Synod in this matter or if after his assistance ends and the final report of the Holy Synod demonstrates that he took actions that were against the good of the Church, he would be open to disciplinary action. In any event, we must be prepared to do all things in good order, following the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition of the Church as we deliberate this matter to a Christian conclusion.
Asking the Lord to continue to bless you, I remain,
Your brother and concelebrant,
The email caught Metropolitan Herman and other members of the Synod completely off guard.
It is hard to imagine this letter was really written by the Archbishop, as those who have known him for years witness: it is not his style, tone or manner. Moreover it is full of untruths:
• OCANews.org has learned that the Archbishop did not object to suspending Fr. Kondratick on canonical grounds - he simply did not want to be seen to do it alone.
• After a year-long investigation by Proskauer Rose LLP, a report by church’s independent accountants at Lambrides, Lamos and Malthroup, more than three months of work by the Special Commission, the unanimous recommendation of the Metropolitan Council, Attorney Jim Perry, and the entire Synod of Bishops, it is absurd to characterize the decision to suspend Fr. Kondratick as “premature”.
• The “entire Synod” has never condemned this website - at this meeting or at any other. In fact, more than one member of the Synod has publicly thanked this website for its work.
The real purpose of the letter is revealed in its pious-speak. “Nothing but the complete and total truth, as much as can humanly be ascertained, in a spirit of peace, humility, and justice can be our goal, no matter how long it takes.” The goal of Fr. Kondratick’s supporters has been the same since this scandal first emerged: misstate the truth, deny, and delay, misstate the the truth, deny and delay. The Archbishop’s letter is a classic example of how to do all three. It is little more than what the Soviet’s used to call “disinformatsiya” - a calculated attempt to spread confusion. And in getting the Archbishop to agree to publishing it, the supporters of Fr. Kondratick have succeeded to their fullest expectation.
The Metropolitan and Synod have yet to respond to the Archbishop. But it is clear that the letter of March 22nd and today’s subsequent posting are evidence of sad manipulation of the elderly Archbishop by supporters of Fr. Kondratick. The whole thing is reminiscent of the tragic episode of Metropolitan Vitaly in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Unless the Synod acts quickly and resolutely to this challenge, history may well repeat itself, as Karl Marx warned, the first time as tragedy - the second time as farce.
- Mark Stokoe