A Reply to Fr. Washburn
By An Antiochian Priest
Thank you for your thoughtful contribution to the on-going discussion(s) in our Archdiocese. Initially, I thought that my response should be simple: you are using this forum, this medium, to respond to my message and the countless other messages that have been spread--both good and bad--via OCANews. That you responded via OCANews is counterintuitive to your thesis, and simply proves my point: we cannot avoid modern technology; we cannot escape the world wide web; we should use it for the benefit and building up of God’s Kingdom rather than ranting against it as if none of the truths presented via OCANews are real.
On second thought, you made some good points in your article that deserve a rebuttal, in the name of open and fair discussion, and in a spirit of brotherly love. Therefore, I will not limit myself to my primary argument (that your article disproves your own thesis and supports mine), but will address each of your eight points separately.
1. The democracy of OCANews: You are right, OCANews is essentially democratic. You pointed out problems with democracy. Living in a democratic-republic nation, we are well aware of the problems with democracy. It is not perfect. Neither is OCANews. But at this point in my life, I have not found an option that I think is better or provides more--yet not complete--fairness to all members of society/members of the Church.
Contrary to what you said, on OCANews, just as in a university lecture or sporting contest, we distinguish between those who know what they are doing and those who do not. The difference is that Mark has rarely pre-screened his commenters; he leaves the validity of their claims and their trustworthiness to the discernment of the reader. Regardless, the popularity of Mark’s site is due to his track record of “knowing what he is doing.” Therefore, your criticism of this site is unfair in the broad sense. You should distinguish between the articles posted by Mark, the reflections, and the comments. Almost all readers of this blog have learned to distinguish between these different types of posts; perhaps you should do so as well, if your criticism is to have any justification.
2. This site is participatory: I agree completely, but don’t see a problem with that!
3. News is instantaneous: Again, you are not distinguishing between the news stories, reflections, and comments. News stories are primarily--if not exclusively--factually based. We do not need any reflection to state that the Board of Trustees adopted the internal audit approach vs the external approach. Besides, we had months to consider the possibilities and even an “editorializing” beyond the mere facts could have been the fruit of reflection.
With respect to the reflections, most of them are just that: reflective. Most of the reflections, like yours, indicate a grappling with the facts and situation for many hours, weeks, months, even years. The same is true about some comments. But in any case, this site allows individual readers to discern whether or not reflections are well thought out or hasty.
Finally (on this point), while a pessimist might say the people who contribute here “have the most time on their hands,” implying that they are lazy bums or have nothing better to do (and if that is the point you were trying to make, as it seemed to me, you stand self-condemned), an optimist would say that contributors are the ones who care most about the Church.
4. The site is un-edited: I can, for the most part, agree with this point, but do not see the problem. The only problem would be if the site claimed to be edited. As is, people are allowed, for better or worse, to discern what is good or bad, true or false, worthy or unworthy, etc.
5. The site is reactive: To some degree we can agree on this. With respect to a significant number of comments, I can agree entirely. I cannot, however, agree with this statement vis-a-vis the main contributions of the site (news stories and reflections). The progression of articles on this site is logical. In many cases, such as the issue with an audit, the site is pro-active, calling on the Board of Trustees to make a good, informed, and proper decision (which they unfortunately did not end up making).
6. Much on the site is unverified or unverifiable: While the example you provide is a good example for your point, to say it is representative of the website over these past years is patently false. Much of what has been said HAS been verified. For example: Bishop Demetri receiving money from the Archdiocese through the form of a gift. This was verified; Englewood admitted it and corrected the situation.
Those of us who have been reading have clearly seen that Mark has a reliable source(s). In fact, that is what so bothers Englewood about OCANews. Even a simple person like myself can read this site and see that not only does Mark have a reliable source(s), but he has a source(s) very well placed within Englewood and/or the Antiochian Archdiocese. How else did he learn about the “gift” to Bishop Demetri? Even the Diocesans were unaware. No wonder OCANews is so scary to Englewood!
7. Anonymity: In addition to working well for groups like AA, anonymity has worked well in police protection programs; programs for whistle-blowers, etc. I admit, there have been some anonymous posters--many, in fact--who are out of control, who evidently hate our Metropolitan, and who will not be satisfied with anything but his head. However, to ignore why so many rational and thoughtful people post anonymously is to do them an injustice.
You are obviously not concerned with sharing your name. If I were to post an article like yours, I would be sure to post my name! You have never once come close to criticizing the Metropolitan or stepping out of line. Why would you not post your name? I am not accusing you of this, but it is certainly possible that some posters have included their name(s) to gain “the praise of men.”
Regardless, your criticism of anonymity, especially in light of the Fr Oliver Herbel story, the punishment of priests after the Fr Joseph Allen saga, etc. shows an injustice towards those who may be choosing, like me, to protect their family.
8. The news is intrusive and inclusive: If “intrusivity” and “inclusivity” are inherently wrong, then we should tear down our entire ecclesiastical system in the Church and start from scratch. My life as a priest is intruded and included. Parishioners gossip about me and my family, as they do in every parish. They know essentially everything I do; it’s just the way the system works. The same can be said, to a large degree, about our bishops. And they can, according to the teaching of many, “intrude and include” my life as long as they are not “teaching heresy or asking me to commit sin.”
I admit, Father, I do not like the “intrusivity” and “inclusivity” of the priesthood. I’m sure our bishops and Metropolitan do not either. Nor would most people. But as our Church teaches, there will come a day when our Lord Himself, the Judge of all, will intrude and include. And I’m thankful that our bishops and Metropolitan, who previously had few checks on their power, now have to be aware of the internet. I trust it will help them on the Day of Judgment.
So, in answer to your question, I still believe that we have to “bow to the manifestation of the internet” because it is the reality in which we find ourselves. And contrary to your conclusion, I do not believe the internet undermines the “Church of the 7 Councils.” Instead, it provides us an opportunity to increase communication and accountability.
I admit and agree that the internet, democracy, etc. are not perfect; but I trust in the theology of our Church that God can transform the things of this world for the benefit of His people and of His Holy Church.