+Theodosius "Declines Comment"
OCA In Headlines Again
The ongoing scandal in the OCA drew renewed attention from the news media in the final week of 2006, with the following article by appearing in longer or shorter versions in newspapers throughout the country, from Kodiak to Canton. The story, in full, read:
"Auditors find financial misconduct in Orthodox Church in America
By: Associated Press
NEW YORK ---- A preliminary investigation of longtime financial wrongdoing in the administration of the Orthodox Church in America confirmed claims of impropriety that outside auditors said 'centered on and around one individual.'
The Holy Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council, which oversees church administration, said that financial controls had been 'circumvented' at least since 1998, and that auditors had uncovered a 'pattern of personal use of church money' for years.
The person believed responsible for the misconduct was not identified in the Dec. 12 statement and no figure was released on the amount of money involved. A spokesman for the 400,000-member church, based in Syosset, N.Y., said he could provide no further details.
Church leaders commissioned the audit following claims by former treasurer, Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, that the church chancellor, Robert S. Kondratick, and Metropolitan Theodosius, the now retired head of the church, were the chief perpetrators of 'financial corruption.'
Among the wrongdoing auditors said they uncovered were falsified financial reports and attempts to divert money that had been donated to charity.
Harry Kutner, an attorney for Kondratick, said Tuesday 'it's pretty obvious' the person singled out in the report is his client. Kutner insists that the clergyman, who was dismissed as chancellor in March, did nothing wrong. 'He has nothing to hide,' Kutner said, arguing leaders of the denomination are scapegoating Kondratick to maintain their authority in the church.
Theodosius, who retired in 2002, declined to comment.
Mark Stokoe, a Dayton, Ohio, layman who runs OCAnews.org, which is pressing the church for reform, called the preliminary results 'a step in the right direction.' The audit was conducted by the accounting firm Lambrides Lamos Moulthrop and the law firm Proskauer Rose.
The church has appointed a committee of laypeople and clergy to oversee the rest of the Proskauer Rose investigation, which is expected to conclude within a few months. Church leaders are also overhauling their administrative structure to prevent any future wrongdoing."
The OCA story, in slightly different form, was also included in a second AP article regarding a study of financial wrongdoing in Catholic dioceses. That article reads:
"VILLANOVA, Pa. -- An overwhelming majority of respondents in a study of financial controls in U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses reported cases of embezzlement in the last five years.
Eighty-five percent of the diocesan administrators who took part in the review told Villanova University researchers that internal thefts had been uncovered in their dioceses.
The report, written by Villanova professors Charles Zech and Robert West and supported by a grant from the Louisville Institute, did not include an estimate of the money lost. But 11 percent of respondents said total embezzlements in the last five years exceeded $500,000, while 29 percent reported cases of less than $50,000.
In nearly all of the cases, police reports were filed, the survey found.
Zech and West undertook the study in response to the clergy sex abuse crisis, which brought pressure on bishops to disclose how much they had paid in abuse-related costs and to be more open with parishioners in general about diocesan finances.
Forty-five percent of the more than 170 U.S. dioceses responded to questions for the report, which was released Dec. 13. The authors recommended dioceses establish fraud policies, conduct annual audits of parishes and establish a uniform budgeting process that uses standardized software.
Auditors Find Misconduct In Orthodox Church
In related news, a probe of financial wrongdoing in the Orthodox Church in America has confirmed claims of impropriety that outside auditors said 'centered on and around one individual.'
Former church chancellor Robert Kondratick's lawyer said 'it's pretty obvious' that the unidentified person mentioned in the report is his client, but insists that Kondratick did nothing wrong.
The Orthodox Church in America's Metropolitan Council and Holy Synod of Bishops say the auditors uncovered a 'pattern of personal use of church money' for years.
Among the wrongdoing auditors said they found were falsified financial reports and attempts to divert money that had been donated to charity."
The AP's belated notice of the story (which was released on December 13th by the OCA) may be attributed to the fact that its long-time Religion Editor Richard Ostling (who covered the events of last March including the termination of Fr. Kondratick and the launching of the Proskauer Rose investigation) retired that same week. The new editor, Rachel Zoll, has indicated she intends to follow the OCA story with interest.
- Mark Stokoe