Oil and Wine
by Fr. Andrew Moore
In preparing for the upcoming AAC, I, like many of you, am praying and asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in how to act and discern matters that are currently before us.
All theology, both written and practiced, is for the healing of mankind. This includes Holy Scripture, the writings of the Fathers and saints, the canons, and prayers, both public and private. The OCA was specifically charged by the HOLY SPIRIT to use Holy Tradition to bring the healing therapy of Orthodoxy to the people sojourning in North America.
When a Bishop of the Church is given his office, it is to be a physician in the Church. Rightly defining the Word of Truth is the gift to discern in every given matter which side of the Word of the LORD is to be used. Is the side that cuts to pieces - or the side the binds up and puts back together? Is it to forgive or retain? Is it to crush or build up? In the words of St. John Chryostom the 'art' of being a Bishop is knowing "whether to use the wine or oil".
Oil and Wine
Oil soothes and eases the suffering of the patient. Such are words of God as: "You are forgiven", "I will never leave you or forsake you", "You are healed", etc.. Wine is an antiseptic that burns out a dirty wound. Such are the words of our Lord as: "Woe to you, sinners....". It hurts! The Canon of St Andrew is full of wine for the sinful soul - but there are also ample measures of oil as well. My point is that our Bishops seem to wish to avoid the use of the wine in their response to criminality almost entirely. Why? Is it because they are involved? Is it because they are incompetent as pastors and healers? Is it because they don't know what to do, because they have no experience with oil, wine and healing? Or, are they afraid that even more will be exposed?
According to the SIC report at least three bishops knew about serious criminal behaviour and kept silent. Where is the wine in keeping quiet? Or is one really assisting the thief ? Where is the wine in helping them continue? Just as bad, under the guise of "concern for souls" we now hear a Bishop of the Holy Church say we should do nothing more because now they are "embarrassed". Since when is the embarrassment from getting caught the same as repentance?
First, the Bishops owe it to the Holy Church to state which canons apply to Bishops/Priests who have transgressed in these kinds of situations.
Secondly, the Bishops must articulate the historical penalties that have been imposed on Bishop/Priests who have stolen, lied, given false testimony, conspired to keep silent, and then condemned brother and sisters in Christ 'to Hell' for speaking out.
Then, and only then, can the Bishops make the case that the penalties for this particular individual are too much and can hurt his salvation for such and such a reason. Then, and only then, can the Bishops rightly suggest a course of economia. This order is not for the sake of legalistic retribution or judgment, but rather for the sake of actually healing the souls of those who committed these crimes and the victims, who's souls have been damaged. Sweeping comments like "they have suffered enough" only look like back-scratching, favors, accommodation, or worse, more than taking the Holy Tradition seriously.
If after the Bishops have examined these canons and penalties they believe that the full measure of the canonical medicine is too strong they can then administer medicine according to economia. (That is their job). What we have seen thus far, however, is a reluctance to offer any treatment at all. What we have seen so far is akin to ecclesiastical witch doctoring. The Bishops are blowing smoke and saying words - but alas the patient is still dying!
This in turn is begs the question: Is there a fear that there is even more they do not want revealed? Is there fear of their own healing?
Consider the striking absence in the SIC report of any reference to Alaska. Why is there no mention of the Alaskan money, land transactions, or leases in the SIC report? Are we to believe that there was no money flowing into this decades-long criminal enterprise from Alaska? Has the income from leases of property been diverted? Were there properties that were deeded over to individuals as favors that previously had belonged to the Holy Church in Alaska? At the very least, there needs to a full audit of the Alaskan accounts - the same type of audit as was directed by the Metropolitan Council for the former Diocese of New York- New Jersey. Transactions, trades, sales, going back for the last twenty years, need to be looked at.
There is a brief and dismissive paragraph in the SIC regarding rumored homosexuality and a cover-up going back for years. I will not entertain rumor - but neither will I ignore what is public knowledge and act as if it is not there. There was a recent elevation to the Episcopal ranks that was not attended by all hierarchs precisely because allegations of inappropriate behaviour surfaced prior to the elevation were not even investigated by the former Metropolitan Herman and the former Chancellor, Robert Kondratick. That is a public truth. If there were enough questions to keep some of our Bishops from participating in an elevation to Episcopal ranks then, why is there not enough evidence to ask those questions now? How is it that any number of priests know this story - but the investigation could not find any evidence of the issue?
I am sure that no one desires more investigation in this area. Why is this important? Because if there are Bishops compromised by immorality these Bishops are always prone to being used and manipulated. We cannot afford even one Bishop who can be influenced because of his past (or ongoing) lack of self-control. Such a compromised Bishop will never be able to attend to their first concern of shepherding and healing the lambs of God.
We must continue to ask why the Proskauer-Rose findings have not been made public. +Herman is no longer the impediment - so what is holding it up? Is it because we can't handle the truth? Or because it would force the Synod to really deal with what it reveals? It does not belong to an individual or even the Synod. The Church paid for those findings - and so the Metropolitan Council owns it. The Metropolitan Council should decide quickly to make their findings public prior to the AAC.
Finally, there is the ongoing attempt to accommodate two sides regarding the action/inaction of the Bishops. On one hand the SIC Report sought to accommodate those who are serious about the healing of our Church. The Bishops hope the Report itself will make this group happy enough to quiet down. Will this group content themselves with a measure of the truth? On the other hand, it appears the Bishops are hoping that that by not disciplining those involved too severely, it may be enough to keep them quite about other matters.
This effort of accommodation will does not work. Until the effort is toward the truth, as God the Holy Spirit understands it, the OCA will continue to bleed out. Neither of these accommodations is about the truth, or salvation, or healing. It will only lead to more blindness, deafness and paralysis. Like the woman in Scripture, life is still flowing out of us. Like her, the OCA has tried many ways to get well, often at great cost. But the only thing that can really heal us is Christ, who comes as both oil and wine.
Getting caught is not repentance. Letting people off is not mercy. Healing is impossible without Truth. The election of the Metropolitan will mean nothing if he tries to accommodate, rather than heal. And the truth is we have not even begun to heal.
Let us pray for a healer as Metropolitan, who knows the art of both the oil and the wine.
Fr Andrew Moore
St Thomas the Apostle