What do we want? Justice.
by an Anonymous Priest
The explosion in the Antiochian Archdiocese has brought with it many demands: some want Metropolitan Philip’s retirement, others want an audit, others want more authority for the Diocesan Bishops… and some want all of the above.
But, I believe these demands center around one critical need shared by all. We want a ‘level playing field.’ We want to be judged not by our relationships with those in authority, but on a uniform standard that applies to all. We want fairness. It is Scriptural, it is Traditional, it is reasonable and it is good.
“If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will always be secure.” (Proverbs 29:13)
If Metropolitan Philip has one failing, it is that he has
been repeated and publicly unfair in his dealings with the clergy and parishes under his authority. He has allowed clergy and parish councils to openly scorn his own directives because he favors them, while he rigorously punishes others for relatively minor infractions.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” (Luke 11:14-15)
+Philip has never been ashamed to play favorites. This has caused a great many people to doubt Philip’s ability to judge their own situations fairly. Many clergy fear offending one of Philip’s ‘friends,’ since they can ask him to intervene on their behalf to the detriment of the ‘non-friend.’
This has caused a great deal of alienation within the convert community, who were raised with the understanding that favoritism is immoral. But, it has also caused feelings of disaffection within the Palestinian Christian community as well, who sense that Philip
‘discriminates’ against them, except for a select few. There would be no rumors or accusations of discrimination if Philip were reputed to be fair in his dealings. Since he is not, he leaves himself open to
The Clergy and Faithful, be they Immigrant or American-born, are clamoring to be treated according to what they do, rather than who they know. Many of us are tired of having embarrassing or even immoral behavior excused because someone is well-connected. We want
Bishops who will judge with justice rather than reward flatterers.
We would rather have a Bishop who sees our good works in our parishes and our sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, than a Despot who only sees us in terms of our haircuts and suits. Why mock
a priest for having a beard when he converts more people in a year than another priest who is clean-shaven does in a decade?
Our community is clamoring for leadership that stands for something. Right now, everything in our Archdiocese has been forced by Philip to be about him. He makes himself the focus of the Archdiocese, when it really ought to be more about all of us together. The only problem
with his strategy is that the more he makes himself the focus of all we do, the more blame he will have to take for its failures.
As he makes himself the sole judge of the Archdiocese, then every misstep is his own. We have seen where he has exercised his ‘prerogative’ to meddle in affairs remote from him, and the awful consequences of his uninformed decisions. Sure, he listened to his ‘friends,’ - but don’t these people act mostly out of their own self-interest?
Our hope has been that the Diocesan Bishops would be able to put an end to the effects of Philip’s favoritism. Most of our Bishops have succeeded in being fair. Bishops Joseph and Basil have both maintained long
track-records of being strict, but fair. The newer Bishops are also known in this regard. In fact, that’s a major reason they were in trouble: they treated Philip’s friends like all other clergy!
All of us are dreaming of a day when our next Metropolitan comes to preside over us with assurances of him impartiality and fairness. We await a Primate who will show equal respect to all the Clergy and Faithful, rather than coddling one and while despising the other.
Many of us resonate now with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King - “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.)
Make no mistake, I am not calling Philip a racist, but I am saying that he is not judging his people by the ‘content’ of their characters. He judges them by his own personal standards - primarily by loyalty to him. The effect on the Archdiocese is that we have double-standards which are breaking down not only our morale but our morality. Philip’s discrimination against those outside of his club is not unlike the discrimination Dr. King struggled against. He wanted equality, and so do we.
If there is one thing that brings me hope out of this whole ugly situation it has been to see clergy from various backgrounds come together as a single brotherhood. The struggle for equality is shared just as much by the Arab Immigrant priests as it is by the American-born convert clergy. Each seeks for his own benefit a new
sense of fairness within the Archdiocese, but in seeking his own good he also blesses his brother by seeking to share equality with all of the brethren without regard to race, background or even appearance. The brothers want to be judged for their commitment to God and the
Church, the fruits of their ministries, not political connections.
Metropolitan Philip is going to have to learn to stop playing favorites. He is going to have to punish his friends who have brought shame to the Church. He is also going to have to admit that he has protected wrongdoers and has acted in ways that he would never tolerate in others.
Obviously, I don’t think he has it in him to change at this stage of the game to encourage him to retire voluntarily, or failing that, force him into retirement by shutting off his cash supply. The Holy Synod of Antioch could always remove him because of ‘incapacitation.’ After all, a Bishop who sends his entire flock into rebellion is certainly ‘incapacitated.’
We can then hope that our new Metropolitan will be a man of fairness and equality.
“You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving
you.” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20)
“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and
equity;…” (Proverbs 1:1-3)
“Woe to those who enact evil statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of My people of their rights.” (Isaiah 10:1-2)