An Open Letter
In a recent comment posted on OCANews.org you wrote:
“I rarely visit this site. I am surprised, actually, that it is still up and running. Some interesting articles - but sad that one can’t just get on with it - pray for our hierarchy - pray for our own failures - and just move on. The point has been made. The scandal has been revealed. Thank God. Isn’t it time you just shut this thing down and retired to your prayer corners? How can this website possibly build up the faithful, glorify God, or do anything more? - other than divert our focus away from God and turning it onto revenge, a crusade to fix, anger and bitterness, etc. I don’t get it. “
I want to thank for your comments and offer this brief public response. I agree that you have failed to fully grasp the import of our “interesting articles”. But I disagree with almost everything else you say. It is not this site that has failed to “get on with it”; it is the OCA, specifically our hierarchy, who have failed to “move on”. This necessitates our continuing publication.
You assert: “The scandal has been revealed”. That is true- but no thanks to our hierarchy. The Bishops voted in 1999 to cover it up by denying audits of secret “discretionary accounts”; a decision they reaffirmed in 2000, and again as late as early 2006. They have still not rescinded those decisions. Fortunately, the FBI does not lack the courage to look where they fear to....
In their defense, the Bishops did agree, after being publicly challenged, to audit 2 years of the 10 years in dispute. Even those two selected years of audits failed. What has been the result? Nothing. So I suggest it is the Bishops, not OCANews.org, that should “get on with it”.
In his defense, the Metropolitan and his current administration did agree, after being publicly challenged with unfavorable articles in many large US newspapers and wire services, to launch an internal investigation of that administration. That investigation concluded, for all intents and purposes, about 4 months ago. What has been the result? Nothing. So I suggest it is the Metropolitan and his current administration, not OCANews. org, that should “get on with it”.
You assert: “The point has been made”. Has it? The current administration has admitted to financial malfeasance, diversion of funds, improprieties, failed audits - the list goes on - and what has been the result? Practically nothing. One person was terminated from his position, two resigned – and all three were reassigned to parishes. Everyone else is still in their same positions, as if nothing has happened. Is it “revenge” to ask that those who have failed in their responsibilities be called to account? Does not our Lord ask the same of each of us? Is it a “crusade to fix” to ask that the Church of God be run with a modicum of integrity? Once again, I suggest it is the Bishops and the current administration, not OCANews.org, that should “get on with it”.
You ask: “Isn’t it time you just shut this thing down and retired to your prayer corners?” Retiring to a prayer corner will not restore integrity to this church; taking action to stop the misdeeds and insuring those who were responsible cannot repeat their misdeeds will. There is a time and place for prayer and action - but now is the time for action as well as prayer. That is why this website will not shut down - somebody has to do something, since nobody, apparently, did much for the last ten years. Perhaps you are more comfortable praying rather than acting; but in that case, do not disparage those of use who choose to do both.
You ask: “How can this web site possibly build up the faithful, glorify God or do anything more?” I do not believe diverting money from orphans and widows “glorifies God”. I do not believe that refusing to be open, honest, transparent or accountable about the responsibilities entrusted to one “builds up the faithful”. God is not glorified by theft, nor are the faithful built up by deception or being kept in ignorance.
I do believe, however, that more can and needs to be done. Let’s start by telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the events of the past ten years. That would not alleviate the bishop’s or current administration’s responsibilities - but it would be a beginning towards restoring integrity to our badly shamed OCA.
That is the fundamental issue in this scandal: integrity. Integrity does not come with a metropolitan’s white hat, or a bishop’s black one, with a priest’s collar or a beard, with a parishioner’s money or position, with rank, gender or age. It can only be earned; or squandered. And at present the lack of truth, lack of action and lack of responsibility by the bishop’s and current administration is hemorrhaging the integrity of the OCA faster than they ever sold land in Alaska.
Restoring integrity cannot be accomplished by silence, pious platitudes, attacking the messengers or just plain stalling in hopes that people will eventually tire of it all. It cannot be accomplished by hoping people forget. Integrity can only be restored with an honest confession, clear repentance and full acceptance of consequences for the misdeeds committed. And as our Tradition make very clear, these sins may be “of knowledge or of ignorance”. Sins of omission (failing to act, failing to heed warnings, failing to attend, etc.) are no less sinful than sins of commission. That is no one’s agenda; that is the teaching of the Orthodox Church itself. Is it too much to ask that the administration of the Church of God begin to act with the integrity it preaches to others?
If you occasionally read “anger” and “bitterness” in the Comments section of this website it is because people are angry at being stolen from, and bitter at being deceived by those in whom they put their trust. Ignoring their bitterness by asking them to focus on “our own failures”, denying their anger because it is more convenient to “ just move on” is not piety - it is denial. And after a time, say a full year of reports about this deepening scandal, denial becomes little more than collaboration in the soul-destroying status quo. Even Archbishop Dmitri now states we can no longer “deny the reality that confronts us”. The usually-silent Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia admitted to his diocesan assembly this past week that we are in “a mess.”
Denial will not solve this mess. Retreating to prayer corners will not solve this mess. Confession, repentance, accepting the consequences of one’s actions, and taking action to correct past failings will; because then, and only then, can integrity begin to be restored.
Dianne, I am sorry “you don’t get it”. But no personal confession of being “A Sinner-at-large” can overcome the fact that the first thing to do when involved in sin is to stop the sinning. As a member of the OCA, you are involved, whether you like it or not. The old secular adage of the 70’s is no less relevant or true of the OCA today: if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
I know you do not want to be part of the problem. I encourage you to become a more active part of the solution. Try to listen to what is being said: even if you don’t want to hear it, even if it is painful, even if it is embarrassing, even when you think can’t stand any more. Our current crisis concerns every member of the OCA. The bottom line is that the integrity of the Orthodox Church in America is worth fighting for.
With all best wishes,