What The Bishops Said
What the Bishops said last Wednesday hardly bears repeating.
What they did not say, though, is most revealing.
What the Bishops said we all knew weeks ago:
• that “Best Practices” has not been adopted, despite the continuing promises to do so;
• that in its place only six generic accounting “principles” are now “considered applicable” ;
• that the same accounting firm which, on at least three previous occasions (1993, 1997, 1999 and all with no discernible effect) has been asked yet again, to give recommendations about how the OCA’s accounting
processes could be improved;
• and that the Bishops will review the independent audits for 2004 and 2005, with the same care and scrutiny they reviewed the independent audits of 1995, '96, '97, '98, etc. – audits that all failed to find $5
million in misdirected funds because OCA audits do not include “discretionary” accounts.
It is what the Bishops didn’t say which is most revealing:
• The Bishops did not say anything to the 60 priests from the Diocese of the Midwest who had formally requested the that the Bishops address the
scandal through an open, free, impartial investigative committee;
• The Bishops did not say anything to the 70 senior OCA clergy from across the country who formally requested the same thing;
• The Bishops did not say anything to the thousands of laymen and laywomen who have written and called Syosset, who have written this site and many others, who have spoken in parish meetings, parish
councils and in hundreds of coffee hours across the United States and Canada, expressing their concern and outrage;
• The Bishops did not say anything to America either, although more and more newspapers throughout America are carrying reports about the scandal.
The Bishops did not say anything because at the heart of this scandal lies their inability to answer a simple question: Are the allegations true or false?
Without an answer to that question, other answers are meaningless. And therein lies the moral failure of most of our episcopal leaders. Worse, with their failure comes the increasing loss of trust within the Orthodox Church in America concerning those who are supposed to guide her...
There are those who point out that the process is “continuing”, that the “review” is still ongoing, and that action “may be appropriate” later this Spring. In fact, it is only the scandal, now going on seven years, that is continuing; the relevant documents are all online for the world’s “review”; and no “action” is needed beyond an answer to the simple question: “Are the allegations true or false?” That answer alone will make clear all the steps need follow....
There are those who will argue that as good children, we should now clothe our fathers’ nakedness, and mourn their failure in silence.
The only child we should now emulate is the one who had the honesty and self-presence to shout the obvious: “The emperor has no clothes!”
Indeed, that being said, it is the naked brutality of the Bishops continuing silence that is most disturbing.
Shortly before the meeting, anticipating the worst, one layman asked: “What will the priests and lay people do if they can no longer respect their Bishop?” My question in turn was: “What will the priests and lay
people do if it becomes clear that their Bishop no longer respects them?”
The answer to the latter now being clear, it is time for those who find themselves in the awkward position of the former to begin answering. And God has given us the perfect opportunity to do so.
We are now entering the Season of Lent, when throughout the Church, parishes, deaneries and dioceses will be gathering to worship, pray,
listen and speak together. Let us take full advantage of these God-given opportunities at precisely this time in our Church’s life to join together in prayer and in meaningful speech about our situation and
what to do about it with our brothers and sisters throughout the OCA. (You can find schedules for deanery and diocesan lenten services in your parish bulletins, on your diocesan websites, and at OCA.org.)
To our reverend fathers we ask that you not emulate the way of evasion and deception by ignoring the question confronting us in your Lenten sermons. Speak to the problem. Many of you are afraid of your Bishops (and rightly so), but do not be afraid of the Gospel. This Lent prepare us all for the spiritual journey each of us individually, as parishes, as dioceses and as a Church, must now undertake if we are to reach the truth - a spiritual journey that may not end in Spring 2006. Prepare us to celebrate this Pascha, knowing that Resurrection is gained only through the cross and suffering of the months to come.
To our brothers and sisters we encourage you attend your deanery Lenten services. Pray. And if there is a Bishop present, speak to him. Just ask the simple question: “Are the allegations true or false?” Let him know you care. Speak to each other at the coffee hour or potluck that follows. Share what you learn, share what you decide to do. Let us know at OCANews.org what you do, so that your example can inspire others.
We have been given a precious opportunity to meet this Lent about things that matter. Thus, our spiritual battle this Lent is especially clear and timely. Let us make this a time of spiritual renewal in our struggle against those who would reduce life in the Church to deception, fear, enforced silence, corruption and existence in untruth.
What the Bishops said last Wednesday meant little.
What you say, or fail to say, in the coming months will determine everything.