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Truth & Misinformation

To begin, a correction.

OCANews.org reported this past week that "Minutes of the Midwest Diocesan Council" confirmed that Archbishop Job intends to continue withholding assessments from Syosset. The Diocesan Chancery informs us that the Minutes were actually from the Bishop's Council, not the Diocesan Council. We regret the error.

In a later news item in that same posting OCANews reported that the former Chancellor of the OCA was spotted in Moscow last week. This has been vigorously denied by the monk James Silver, in a posting published yesterday in the comments section of OCANews.org, as well as on the Orthodox Forum.

It would be easier to believe monk James' clarification about Kondratick not being in Moscow if the rest of his post were not so full of misinformation. It is a graphic example of why seeking to uncover the truth in this scandal has been so difficult. The truth, the facts, are far too often clouded by personal invective and misinformation on the part of the major participants. One is often tempted to just throw the whole thing over - to lapse into a self-righteous silence, abstaining from creative effort or assessment. Winnowing the truth from the chaff of personal advantage seems an almost impossible task, whereas moral amnesia beckons with all the warmth of the comfortable and easy.

Unfortunately, St. Paul forbids just that. In yesterday's Epistle reading (Ephesians 5:9-19) we heard:

"(for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),
finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.
Therefore He says: 'Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.'
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,
redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."

It would be easy, as many in the OCA still recommend, to speak to one another only in psalms and spiritual songs, while dissipation continues. But such is not to be Spirit-filled. To be wise is to understand the Will of the Lord, and the Will of Lord is to redeem the time, for the days are evil. Therefore, we are to walk circumspectly, but not as fools do, doing nothing; but exposing the works of darkness, as do wise men.

Those who have sought to expose the works of darkness in recent diocesan assemblies - in the Midwest, Western Pennsylvania, in New York and Washington DC, Alaska and in Eastern Pennsylvania- have been denounced (by priests, monks and assorted bishops) as themselves 'workers of evil', 'angels of Satan' and the like. Such words betray the mind and spirit of those who use them.

St. Paul, on the other hand, calls such men and women by another name: awakened sleepers. The Metropolitan, some of his episcopal supporters, his Reorganization Task Force, among others, would have us all to nod off again - their constant refrain whispering in our ears, lulling our senses: "Everything's OK now: calm down, rest again, Syosset's in charge again, sleep once more, there is a new computer system...."

It is to the Metropolitan's chagrin that those formerly asleep, having awakened, will not sleep again. And the evidence shows that more and more are waking up; at every meeting, at every gathering, every day. Not a majority in every diocese yet, but clearly the numbers of the awake are growing. (And if truth be told I doubt few are still asleep - many are just pretending to sleep, listening in fear like a child to adults arguing, waiting to see what happens.)

The dividing line between wisdom and foolishness, as St. Paul says, is truth. For that is what is acceptable to the Lord, the truth. From it goodness and righteousness - indeed all the fruits of the spirit - will come. It is a lesson the new 'Special Investigative Committee' might take to heart - not to mention the Preconciliar Commission lest they plan nothing more than another council of sleepwalkers. (But those are words for another day....)

Let us turn rather, to the words of the monk James Silver, winnowing the truth from chaff, and thereby redeeming the time. In his first four paragraphs we have all the charges against the Metropolitan and Fr. Kucynda we have heard before; which does not make them any more or less true. His opinions are his opinions. But they conclude with a insight shared by many, and admitted by most outside of South Canaan: until Metropolitan Herman "resigns, retires, or gets the axe himself, our problems cannot begin to be solved." Amen.

It is the remaining paragraphs, full of personal invective and misinformation, which cloud his testimony. Silver claims: "Now Mark Stokoe has joined the chorus of liars, publicly and falsely accusing FrRK of taking his case personally to the Patriarchate of Moscow this week." Moreover, "This is not the first time ocanews has published false reports about FrRK". Silver states: "Most recently, I objected to Mark Stokoe's assertions that FrRK's attorney had 'threatened' the Holy Synod; noting my objections, MS published some minimal correspondence between him and myself on ocanews, and challenged me to produce the correspondence between the attorney and the bishops, but I was not ethically free to do so. When FrRK's attorney wrote directly to MS clarifying the matter, MS acknowledged his misrepresentation but refused to withdraw his false assertion, again falsely asserting that he'd already done so in a note replying to my own comments.'

It is true that Silver objected to my assertion that Kondratick's lawyer's recent letter to the Bishops threatened the Synod. (Read that story here) It is true 'I challenged him to produce the letter'. For if Silver disputes my reading of the text, I said let people read and decide for themselves. Silver says that he is "not ethically free" to do so.

This is a remarkably convenient excuse, for if he has a problem discussing confidential correspondence between Mr. Lloyd Weinstein (Kondratick's lawyer) and the bishops, he seems to have little problem discussing confidential correspondence between Mr. Weinstein and myself. How Silver learned of it I do not know - but it was not from me. Mr. Wienstein asked me not to reveal our correspondence. I did not. However, Silver did, and proceeded to report it inaccurately.

It is true that "FrRK's attorney wrote directly to MS (Mark Stokoe) clarifying the matter". What Silver fails to mention was Mr. Weinstein's letter offered me a deal: take back what I had said about his letter to the bishops as being 'threatening', and Kondratick might be willing to do an interview with OCANews.org. I declined - but offered to publish a Kondratick interview should he grant one. That is hardly "acknowledging misrepresentation". Chaff and truth.

Having misrepresented the communication between Mr. Wienstein and myself, Silver then criticizes OCANews.org's "journalistic integrity" as a "broker of information, not to mention the wrongly persecuted priest Fr. RK and the good name of the Church of Russia." My most urgent task, he contends, "is to offer correction and retractions" for my "comments about the attorney letter and the assertion Fr. RK travelled to Russia" and "to apologize to Patriarch Alexei and the Church of Russia" for my "lies about their canonical propriety and integrity."

It is a terrible legacy of the Kondratick years that humility, perspective and common sense seem to have been abandoned in the OCA for ever greater and more pompous assertions of importance. It ranges from the silly (CAPITALIZING all the Bishop's names) to the grandiose and illegal (such as attempts to buy influence and position by diverting charity funds to buttress the Potemkin village of an internationally significant OCA) to the surreal (such as Bishop Nikolai, sorry, NIKOLAI, recently asserting "to most I am the symbol of our faith as it stands true to how we are called to live it and make it more present, more visible to the world."

How such delusions of self-importance have infected our very discourse is evidenced by the fact that Silver would now have OCANews.org apologize to Patriarch Alexei and the entire Russia Church for a news item about Robert Kondratick. I'm sorry, but like so much in this scandal, that is just over the top. While more than 10,000 read this site every night and as many as 35,000 a night on occasion, it is absurd to suggest that the OCA, OCANews.org, Robert Kondratick, you, or I, matter more than we do. It is true every person is a mediator and microcosm of the universe, to paraphrase St. Maximus; and thus of unutterable importance. But not everything about us or everything we say, is of universal importance, or even of local interest. If the 180-million member Russian Church feels OCANews.org has sullied its good name by reporting Kondratick was in Moscow, even mistakenly, it surely will let us know, presuming someone can even find Dayton, OH, on the map, or would expend the effort to do so. Let us strive to regain some perspective, though.

Secondly, a letter to the judges stating that what Kondratick has revealed so far is but the "tip of the iceberg" cannot be understood as anything but threatening, even if that is not what Mr. Weinstein intended. If Mr. Silver thinks that it is incorrect, I again call on him to publish the letter and let all decide for themselves. That just seems like common sense.

Finally, accuracy and humility demand that if our sources in Moscow misidentified Robert Kondratick, we apologize for the error and any confusion it caused. The problem is we just don't know the truth yet, given the conflicting reports. Mr. Silver says Kondratick was not there- in a letter that otherwise misinforms. Someone claiming to be James Kondratick (RSK's son) also denies it, but this poster uses multiple alias, making the source, and testimony, suspect. As always, the truth will out, eventually.

The bottom line is that common sense tells us sometimes chaff gets in with the grain. One error of fact, if such proves the case, does not make one a "liar"; and a mistake, if one occurred, does not make one a fool. Going back to sleep makes one a fool. The important thing, as St. Paul says, is that the wise man never stops winnowing.







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