6.1.07 Four Ways to Initiate Change
(Editor's note: In the following open letter to the Diocesean Council of the Midwest, Fr. Christopher Wojcik discusses the yet another way to initiate change - by withholding assessments from Syosset. Coincidentally, as this letter was received by OCANews.org, yet another Midwestern parish, St. Stephen the First Martyr in Crawfordsville, Indiana announced it too would join the growing number of parishes that are withholding. They write: "Our parish reached a unanimous consensus in a special parish meeting on Sunday May 13 to withhold the national portion of our assessment. A separate bank account has been established and these funds are being deposited there until we feel the various issues in the OCA that need to be dealt with are adequately addressed. A letter to this affect was drafted and mailed to Archbishop Job on Friday May 18th.". You can read the Palatine resolution of the Diocese of the Midwest here.)
An Open Letter to the Midwest Diocesan Council
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
To say that I and others were disappointed by the decision of the Midwest Diocesan Council to not withhold assessments would be an understatement. This is nothing personal to any members individually. I respect all of you, and most of you I know well (two of whom happen to be close relatives). I also do not know which eight members voted against the motion to withhold assessments, which five voted for it, and (most distressing) which two abstained from voting on such a crucial motion. But your recent failure to act is troublesome.
The lone statement defending this failure to act is found in the minutes in the words “some positive changes have been enacted by the OCA.” If this is an accurate summary of the reasons our Diocesan Council failed to enact the Palatine resolution, then you, as our Diocesan Council, have failed to do your duty.
In the first instance, this decision lacks shows a sad lack of courage and resolve to do what is so blatantly obvious to everyone else. Let me say it clearly: cutting off funding is the only way that any true change will happen. Due process has failed; it is insanity to think that continuing to feed a serpent will somehow turn it into a dove.
This line of reasoning is also frighteningly reminiscent of the pattern one sees in abusive relationships. For anyone who has worked with abuse victims, the pattern is clear and universal. An abuser commits ten violations. The victim finally puts her foot down and threatens to leave. The abuser then backs off on his last two violations, and “shows positive changes” for a while. She stays, and the pattern begins again. Everyone sees the pattern -- her pastor, her relatives, the social worker, even the perpetrator -- everyone except the victim. She stays because of fear, because of misplaced trust, because she really believes that “some positive changes” are being made.
This is exactly what is happening in Syosset. Ten violations of trust, followed by lip service to one or two, and the hope that we will be satisfied that “positive changes” are being made. That this kind of reasoning could be made just weeks after the dismissal of Gregory Nescott and just days after the suspension of the entire Commission is mind-boggling. But eight of you have fallen for it: “We bought new software! Please ignore our other abuses! We are making positive changes!”
More disappointing than this failure to see and respond effectively to a pattern of abuse, you have failed to act as stewards of a clear mandate from the Diocesan Assembly in Palatine, the body from which the Diocesan Council derives its authority in the first place. Our Palatine resolution was clear: unless financial transparency was being practiced and unless the Statute was being followed, funds would be withheld beginning in March of 2007. This was passed by a near-unanimous margin, and was described at the time by some who even now sit on the Diocesan Council as being “the clear will of the Holy Spirit.”
I know for a fact that you had in your possession a working draft of nine ongoing violations, having been asked to author this draft myself. These nine violations were not nit-picky reaches, but germane and core violations of the Statue and glaring failures of financial transparency. These included
• the fact that the Metropolitan Herman has been controlling the scope of an investigation that he has neither the moral nor statutory authority to control;
• the fact that an elected representative was dismissed from the Metropolitan Council not for moral or sacramental failures, but for speaking the truth;
• the fact that the report of the Special Commission has still not been released;
• the fact that we are not getting quarterly budgetary reporting;
• the fact that an accounting of the last three charity appeals has yet to be made public;
• and the fact that the proceeds from the $1.7 million loan have not been accounted for.
These are clear, traceable, and germane violations of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America.
My brothers and sisters of the Midwest Diocesan Council, you were given responsibility over enacting the Palatine resolution. This was your stewardship. You were not entrusted to determine if “some positive changes” were being made; you were entrusted to determine if the Statute was being violated and if financial transparency was being practiced. Nine germane violations were presented to you, yet as a body, you did not act.
I do not know who you are, but two of you did not even vote. Please, if you cannot make crucial decisions when we most need them made, you really should stand down from the Council. Eight of you decided to ignore a clear mandate of the entire Diocese and make up a new criterion. This is unfortunate at best. Worse, it is a betrayal of the stewardship entrusted to you. Five of you are to be commended for doing both what is right and for being faithful and courageous stewards of the mandate of the Diocese of the Midwest.
Thankfully, the Lord may provide a second opportunity to you on June 26. I beg of you to not only remember your stewardship to the Diocese as a whole, but also to recognize the pattern of abuse that we have been living through. Please do not fall for “some positive changes.”
Do not be deceived: the abusers have not been rehabilitated.
Priest Christopher Wojcik