Fr. Michael Simerick, SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Detroit MI, in a posting to the OCA Clergy Forum on 5 December 2005 (reposted with permission)
May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit fortify us as we seek forgiveness of our sins in this season of Advent that we might celebrate worthily the Nativity of our Lord who came to offer us reconciliation to God and each other.
It appears that many of our brothers have chosen not to speak out about the financial issues that are plaguing our central administration through the use of this OCA clergy internet forum due to fear of censorship, being deleted from the list of clergy participants, or other forms of ecclesiastical retaliation by those in authority. I have received a plethora of personal e-mail from brothers surfacing these concerns. Many of our brothers have chosen to discuss these issues by contacting personally priests they believe might have additional information regarding the validity of Fr. Deacon Eric Wheeler’s accusations or to simply commiserate with brother clergy who they feel will be willing to listen to their concerns and give them unbiased advice.
Recently in the e-mails I have received one theme! seems to be most prevalent. The concern is over the shame, embarrassment, and perhaps the loss of our autocephalous status, if what appears to be a scandalous situation becomes known to others outside our holy Church. Many fear that if the accusations prove true, criminal investigation and indictments might be forthcoming. If so, legal prosecutions could cause our Church to lose its non-profit status and even its ability to be chartered. Although I agree that these are serious issues, I struggle with something which I believe should be considered an even greater concern to us who are called to be shepherds (spiritual leaders and guides) to Christ’s flock. My concern is what do we do about the souls of those individuals, if Fr. Deacon Eric Wheeler’s accusations are true, that are found responsible for these abominations. By not thinking about these issues first, does this indicate that we have lost our spiritual compass and are
found to be! more concerned about the civil law and the judgment of men than of God’s law and His judgment?
As you are aware, in St. Luke’s gospel, 18:18-20, a ruler asks Jesus “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “You know the commandments.” And then Jesus proceeded to state some of them: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother. Two of these commandments are directly connected to the accusations made by Fr. Deacon Wheeler--Do not steal and Do not bear false witness. According to Christ, to violate these commandments is sinful and can prohibit one from inheriting eternal life.
In the epistle to the Romans, 6:23, St. Paul says “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus instructs us that in order to inherit eternal life, the minimal prescription is to obey the commandments, for to break them is a sin; and St. Paul state! s that unrepented sin leads to death. Do we not care as believing pastors in Christ’s Church that God’s judgment will be our final fate? Are we not concerned for the souls of those who have committed these sinful offenses if these accusations are true?
There must be a full investigation that the truth be known. Every opportunity should be given those found guilty of any wrongdoing (any sin) to repent and seek reconciliation with God and the members of the body of Christ. We as clergy must be the defenders of God’s moral law, for all civil law is predicated on the divine law and not vice-versa. I would urge all to seek, as the Lord compels us, full disclosure of all facts concerning these issues. I implore any one who has done anything amiss to make full confession immediately that sins may be forgiven and the possibility of the loss of salvation be averted.
St. Paul in Ephesians, 4:28,! states “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has a need.”
In my opinion, what would be far worse than any scandal or legal sanctions we might have to bear as an Orthodox Church if these accusations prove true would be our failure to act as the Church in seeking the truth. In addition, we must demonstrate that we are the Church and we function in accordance with a higher authority. If our leadership members are found guilty, they must step down from their positions, make restitution if applicable, and seek forgiveness by making full confession. Our Lord came to save all of us from sin that we might inherit eternal life. Reconciliation to God and His holy Church after true repentance must be our ultimate goal that the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit might be experienced by all members in order for this wound to Christ’s body be made whole.
May God help us in all that we undertake for His glory and the building-up of His holy Church.
Fr. Michael Simerick