08.15.06 Latest News
OCA Risks Rebuilding on Quicksand
In an official letter to all his diocesan clergy dated August 11th, Archbishop Job of Chicago has broken his five month silence about the scandal complaining that the pleas of “good people” (including his own
clergy) are being ignored by Syosset, stating he now has his doubts about Proskauer Rose, revealing that he has possession of the infamous Moscow tapes, and warning that continuing “silence, lack of transparency and cover-up” make “confrontation” about the scandal
“inevitable”. Confirming the attempt at the beginning of March to remove him as a diocesan hierarch was the “worst day of his life”, +Job asks forgiveness from the clergy for his “silence” and “incompetence” and challenges the clergy and faithful of his Diocese to
begin planning in special parish meetings or through their parish councils how to address the crisis at the Diocesan Assembly to be held at the beginning of October in Palatine, Illinois.
Appended to the letter is an outline transcript of a controversial sermon the Archbishop delivered on Holy Monday, April 17, 2006 during a Chicago Deanery Bridegroom Matins service. In the sermon the
“ As lay people, as clergy, as diocese, as hierarchs, as Holy Synod we must deal with REALITY - OUR reality, as unpleasant or even tragic as it is. We must not “lay aside these earthly cares” at this time, but
rather, we must deal with them and recognize the dysfunction in our midst - a dysfunctional Synod, a dysfunctional Central Church Administration, a dysfunctional Metropolitan Council, dysfunctional
dioceses and parishes, and dysfunctions in our own Diocesan Church. Only after we recognize and admit these dysfunctions can there be responsibility, repentance and forgiveness. Otherwise, we remain as the barren fig tree, and we too may hear the words:
Woe to you, Orthodox Christians of today, hypocrites! For you bind the Book of Gospels in covers of gold and silver and jewels, but you fail
to live by its teachings.
Woe to you, Orthodox Christians of today, hypocrites! For you give lip
service to the precepts of the Church, and place your trust in the wisdom of this world....”
(Read the entire sermon here)
The sermon was much-discussed in the Chicago area, but until now, has not been released by the Archbishop.
The Archbishop’s latest letter to his clergy begins:
Holy Martyr and Archdeacon Euplus of Catania
“But whosoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
Beloved Fathers and Brothers - Co-workers in the Lord’s Vineyard entrusted to our care: The Diocese of the Midwest,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I greet you with these familiar words - words, however, which must retain their power. The glory of the Lord must always be precious to us.
Please forgive me for my silence about the crisis/scandal of our Orthodox Church in America. I have not ‘withheld information’ from you;
the fact is that I have little information to share. However, I have been urged by some of our brother clergy to communicate, even if there
is little to report. I had not heard from His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN since Memorial Day, but that silence was broken by a telephone call from him earlier this week. I had heard that the investigation was
concluded and the report was in, but His Beatitude stated that it is ongoing, although slowed down because of summer vacations.
Please forgive my lack of coherence in this epistle: I am in a hurry to get it out to you before I leave in a couple of hours for an archpastoral visitation. I have state to you before that I am not a writer by nature, and each communication is a challenge for me. Please
allow me to convey my thoughts in an outline form.
1. In the Orthodox Study Bible, the aforementioned quotation from St. Matthew’s Gospel provides the following commentary:
“The little ones are the humble and simple, whom ay be ignored or offended by more influential members of the Church, against whom Jesus issues severe warnings. Scandals may be inevitable, but those who cause them will be punished by God.”
My dear ones, many good people are being continually ignored and offended - and these ‘little ones” in this day and age, are not so 'little’. They are seventy veterans, highly respected Archpriests of
our Church, they are the presbyterate and diaconate of the Diocese of the Midwest, and they are highly-educated, respected and faithful lay persons, attorneys, who have offered their professional services to the
Church, pro bono, as well as others who have been ignored and repeatedly are being offended.
2. On the first day of March 2006, and extraordinary meeting of the Holy Synod was convened in Syosset (only “ruling bishops”). For me personally, that day of “infamy” is numbered with the crash of the
Hindenburg, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, and 9/11. There was a concerted and highly organized attempt to destroy me as a person and
to remove me as your diocesan hierarch. It remains the worst day of my life, but glory to God, I survived. One of my holy Brothers, challenged me, asking why I had not censured Mark Stokoe and demanded that his
OCANews.org website be dismantled. I replied: “We are free men in the Midwest!”
Remember that, my brothers - we are free men and women in the Midwest. And don’t forget that there are others, from other areas of our vast continent, watching us. Among them are “those who love us and those who hate us”. But all take notice. Let us provide for them a godly example. We have by God’s grace, as the Diocesan Church, become an ICON of unity - hierarch, clergy, faithful. May it always be so!
3. I received a call last month from an attorney from Proskauer Rose to schedule a telephone interview. At the onset I asked if the law firm was acting on behalf of the Orthodox Church in America or Metropolitan
HERMAN. She stated that it was acting for the Church. I am not convinced necessarily that this is the case. Time will tell. Most of her questions dealt with the Beslan scandal and the aborted attempt of
embezzlement, had it not been averted by Fr. Zacchaeus. Yes, the rumors and story are true. In my possession are two copies of the now infamous videotape - evidence of the attempt to defraud our people and to rob orphans, widows, families – those suffering from blindness, dismemberment and psychological trauma - so that the well off might be
treated to overseas travel, fine meals, and entertainments, to buy their support and loyalty to bolster, albeit inadvertently, the ongoing
4. I am including for your perusal the outline of my sermon delivered at the first Bridegroom Matins at the Chicago Deanery sponsored service
at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago. (Read that Sermon here) Sad to say, since April nothing has changed - except for the “key players”,
different approaches and the revelation of various personal agendas. There is still silence, lack of transparency and cover-up. My initial
question of 28 November 2005: “Are the allegations true or are they false?” remains unanswered.
5. Next month the Lesser Synod will meet. I pray that we will be provided with at least some answers. I ask your prayers for a good and productive meeting.
6. In October we will convene our annual Diocesan Assembly in Palatine, Illinois. It will be the first time in at least fourteen years that we will have no representation from “Syosset”. This is very significant at this crucial juncture in our life as Diocesan Church. I will leave it you and your “pastoral discretion” to ascertain the feelings, concerns and opinion about the crisis of the faithful entrusted to your
spiritual care (by way of a special parish meeting or meeting of parish council) so as to provide direction to your delegates to the Assembly. There are many opinions out there as to what approach should be taken. We will be prepared to listen to them all, but we will act ultimately as Diocesan Church with oneness of mind.
7. I write this letter to you with love and sincerity. His Beatitude and my brother hierarchs, (with the exception of two who need no mention) have been very understanding and kind to me. Life has been
more peaceful and that is good. However, there was little doubt that it would be short-lived; confrontation is inevitable. I fully realize that with this communication I am once again putting my head to the chopping
block, since this letter will certainly “get out. It is definitely not a ”first” for me. So be it.
I am sick of “finances”. I am sick of “Best Practices”. Finances and financial concerns are but the “tip of the iceberg”. Our Orthodox ecclesiology and how we live it (or have failed to live it) is the issue. The “loan” is not an answer, only a complication.
In closing, once more I ask your forgiveness for my incompetence. Though I have had to deal with more than one “crisis” in my pastoral
experience, this is the first “scandal” of incredible proportions. I ask your patience, I ask your prayerful support. Perhaps, more than ever, I ask for your friendship. And I ask you to ponder my second
question of 28 November. If this question is not thoroughly answered, and we are persuaded to rebuild the house on a foundation of sand (or more appropriately, in our case of quicksand) “Can we really expect that God will bless anything that we do? “
Invoking God’s Blessing upon you, I remain,
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest”
In November 2005 the Archbishop of Chicago set the tone and agenda for the response to the crisis by asking a simple question that Syosset remains unwilling
or unable to answer: “Are the allegations true or false?” Ten months later the Archbishop is seeking to move the issue forward (even though the answers have not be forthcoming) by focusing on his second question: “Can we really expect that God will bless anything that we
do?” The Archbishop is now clearly more worried about the moral-spiritual future of the OCA than what its legal-institutional future may be.
- Mark Stokoe