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MC Member Questions Restrictions On Observers at Forthcoming Council

In response to a posting in the Comments section of OCANews.org earlier this week, Gregg Nescott, Metropolitan Council member, has publicly responded by questioning the restrictions being placed on observers at the forthcoming Council in Pittsburgh. Nescott writes:

"Dear Fr. Basil,

In suggesting there was no conspiracy to limit the number of observers who seek to register for the upcoming AAC, you wrote this:

"Fewer attendees means smaller, cheaper venues, fewer materials to print/distribute, less postage, fewer meals, and so on. A crowd of observers further stretches the very thin budget. They're giving us what we've been asking for on this one, no?"

You are in error to suggest that more observers, at $250 a head, would cost the OCA money. Nothing could be further from the truth.

i sat on the AAC local committee in 1999, have been on many committees for national conventions and events, and presently sit on the Metropolitan Council, so I have some familiarity with these issues. 

When the AAC manager, Fr. Myron Manzuk, first presented the Pittsburgh AAC plans to the MC last year, he stressed that the Hilton was smallish, and therefore there would be no observers invited. "Firestorm" might be too strong a term to describe what followed that announcement, but the MC very strongly directed the church administration to include provisions for observers, even if the number of available rooms at the Hilton might be insufficient, and observers might have to stay in other hotels. 

The MC very clearly did not want to limit attendance of the faithful at this critical AAC, for obvious reasons, and Fr. Myron and the administration, to their credit, understood and agreed that observers would be included. 

(Now, it is troubling to me that apparently the registrations of all delegates and observers must be signed off on by the diocesan hierarchs. I don't know if that is a new requirement. If it is, then I could understand how some may argue that this is a conspiracy that gives our hierarchs veto power over permitting certain individuals (who are otherwise in good standing in the OCA) to attend the AAC. But I can tell you this: the requirement that the registrations of duly-elected AAC delegates be signed/approved by their bishops does appear to flatly contravene the Statute of the OCA.

Article 3 of the OCA Statute reads as follows:

"Section 6 Election, Qualification, and Accreditation of Lay Delegates 

The lay delegates and alternates to the All-American Council must meet the following requirements to be validly elected, qualified, and accredited:

Be elected by a parish meeting; 

Be a voting member of the parish in good standing (Cf. Article X, Section 5), at least eighteen years of age, having received the Sacraments of Confession and Communion at least annually for the past three years at his home parish. (Like holders of all offices in the Church, he may not be a person under ecclesiastical interdict, who is in violation of moral standards, who is married outside the Church, who is a member of anti-Church and/or secret societies.) 

The lay delegate or delegates will personally receive from their parish a uniform document supplied by the Central Church Administration. The parish rector shall forward to the Pre-Conciliar Commission the name and the address of the elected lay delegate or delegates and alternates two months prior to the All-American Council. 

*The document of accreditation must be signed by the parish rector, or Dean in case of a vacancy in the parish, and the parish secretary, and sealed with the parish seal.*

In case of a vacant parish, the parish is entitled to one lay delegate. The delegates from a theological seminary, if laymen, shall be accredited by a similar letter to the Pre-Conciliar Commission by the dean of the theological seminary, immediately after their appointment." 

So wherever this requirement for our bishops to sign off on all delegates came from, I don't know. But it is contrary to the Statute. And the decision to include this additional level of approval is just plain foolish, considering our much bigger problems and the current suspicions of the faithful. It's not exactly a step on which to build trust. But I digress......)

Let me get back to your statement, ""Fewer attendees means smaller, cheaper venues, fewer materials to print/distribute, less postage, fewer meals, and so on. A crowd of observers further stretches the very thin budget. They're giving us what we've been asking for on this one, no?"

Well, no, Father. 

"Smaller, cheaper venues"? No. Unlike 1999 in Pittsburgh, we aren't holding sessions at the convention center. The Hilton and its ballroom and meeting rooms is the one and only venue. The costs generally don't vary: you meet the room block, you get the meeting rooms. The hotel is not going to charge to set up an additional 100 seats, theater-style. 

"Fewer materials to print and distribute"? Perhaps. But it's not like additional printing couldn't easily be covered by what seems to me to be an extremely exhorbitant $250 observer registration fee. 

Now, I may be wrong, but I suspect that the old over-stuffed notebooks of past AACs might not be quite so large this time around. The grand study papers of the past cannot be written as long as we remain in this crisis and, at this point, so much remains unsettled --- that is, everything remains unsettled --and I would expect that the number of trees killed to paper this AAC might be fewer. (In any case, I hardly think that the cost of a binder and a few hundred pages copied at pennies per page will add up to more than a few bucks out of that $250.)

Of course, you do have that official "Observer" badge and lanyard to buy. Couple more bucks there, tops.

"Less postage"? Sure, if voluminous materials are indeed prepared and sent out ahead of time, then every observer should receive one. So figure, what, $6-8 by priority mail? 

So we've spent less than $20 of that $250 registration fee. (You might want to add a few bucks for a cloth bag to carry all your papers around, because I'm guessing that ADM may not be donating them this time.)

"Fewer meals"? No, Father, not so. More observers means more spent on rooms and room service and in the Hilton restaurant, and especially on those ubiquitous box lunches that have become such an important profit point for hotels --- grab a box lunch for $10 or so and head back into a workshop or session. Saves time, is efficient for the group, and makes a lot of money for the hotel.

After all, the only ones whose meals are paid for out of the AAC budget are the members of the Holy Synod, at their joint daily luncheons and dinners, and the VIP comps, or friends of Syosset (in days gone by), who would get freebie banquet tickets (or rooms). Everyone else has always paid for his own meals. And as a scaled-down banquet may be held in Pittsburgh, more people means more potential banquet customers; and the banquets are always critical to the profit made by the hotels.

In my opinion, the best thing that could happen would be for observers to flood this AAC. (It would also be nice if they were accorded the right to speak, but that has never been the case.) An outpouring of interest might just help to awaken some who seem to be still asleep.

So I agree with you, Father, that there probably is not a conspiracy to keep observers away from the AAC. 

However, I hope you agree with me that if certain crucial events do not occur before the AAC --- like the prompt disclosure of the full SIC report to the church at large at the time of its release to the Metropolitan Council and Holy Synod during the first week of September, and the recognition by all our hierarchs that trust has indeed been shattered and our leadership has failed --- then we needn't concern ourselves with observers at the AAC, because it will hold little promise of being an event worth attending.

Gregg Nescott"




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