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Part Two : Syosset Strikes Back
It’s Not About the Money:
Why the Resolution from the West Misses the Mark

The resolution adopted unanimously on October 3, 2007 by the Diocese of the West was addressed to “its sister dioceses”, but since only one diocese, as a whole, is currently withholding there is no mistaking for whom it was intended: The Diocese of the Midwest. “Whereas...” the resolution begins:

“..withholding financial support from the central administration of the Orthodox Church in America presents an impediment to the work of the Special Commission/Committee and the efforts of the Church, in general, to address the current crisis,

Be it resolved the 2007 Diocesan Assembly of the Diocese of the West encourages its sister dioceses to continue with us in providing the financial means necessary to carry on the work of the Church and the Special Commission/Committee to bring the investigation in progress to a full and thorough conclusion.”

The West’s resolution makes three assertions. All of them are, well, the technical term is “prevarications.” They are not lies, but, to paraphrase the dictionary, they ”speak falsely, misleadingly, so as to create an incorrect impression”. They miss the mark.

For Once, It is Not About the Money

The first assertion suggests “...withholding financial support from the central administration of the Orthodox Church in America presents an impediment to the work of the Special Commission/Committee”.

The second assertion suggests “....withholding financial support from the central administration of the Orthodox Church in America presents an impediment to the efforts of the Church, in general, to address the current crisis.”

It is completely misleading to suggest that the work of the Special Commission has been impeded by lack of funding, and false to suggest that the efforts of the Church, in general, to address the current crisis have been affected by withholding.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Special Commission from its investigation, based on its charge when established in December 2006, (re-confirmed by the Metropolitan Council and the Synod of Bishops in March 2007) to “complete its work without outside interference of any kind”, or was it Metropolitan Herman’s interference in January 2007 in reducing the scope of that charge? It was the Metropolitan, not money, that impeded the Commission.

(Read that story here.)

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Special Commission from interviewing any witnesses in February, 2007, or Metropolitan Herman’s interference? (Read that story here.)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Special Commission through the arbitrary removal of one of its members in March, 2007, or was it Metropolitan Herman’s interference? (Read that story here.)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Special Commission from meeting by “suspending” its work in May 2007, or was it Metropolitan Herman’s interference? (Read that story here.)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Special Commission from meeting from April until August 2007, or was it Metropolitan Herman’s interference? (Read that story here.)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Special Commission from resuming its work, as the chairman and its members agreed to do in August 2007, or was it Metropolitan Herman’s interference?

(Read that story here.)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that finally caused the chairman of the Special Commission and three other members - two thirds of the Commission - to resign in protest in September, 2007, or was it Metropolitan Herman’s continuing interference, month after month after month after month after month as listed above?

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

The Special Commission was never impeded by lack of financial support. It was the Metropolitan, not the money. To suggest otherwise is to purposefully distort the past.

The Present

But the Diocese of the West may not have been talking about the past. The West’s assertion can be read only in the present tense. If we are to understand it as solely speaking of the present, the West would be asserting that the Special Commission is impeded because Syosset has no money to fund it now and that, in fact, the lack of funds is impeding the efforts of the Church, in general, to address the crisis. But either assertion would be misleading as well.

• Syosset seems to have plenty of money, even now, for those things the Metropolitan desires. Take, for example, the recent cuts in staff and stipends at Syosset as proposed by the Metropolitan’s Reorganizational Task Force. The housekeeper at Syosset still makes $70,000 a year (and the Metropolitan hardly even lives there but one night a week, if that.) The part-time bookkeeper more than $50,000. The Youth and Christian Education departments (priorities of the 2005 All-American Council in Toronto) get nothing. The stipends for almost every department are eliminated - but not one of the Metropolitan’s personal staff of four takes even a cut in pay.

• Syosset seems to have plenty of money for the Reorganization Task Force’s desires as well. Consider the stated salary ranges for the new hires in Syosset from the December 2006 joint meeting of the Metropolitan Council and Synod of Bishops. (See the Reorganization Task Force, Exhibit E here). The list includes a proposal for four new hires around $80,000 each. In fact, the three current new hires (Chancellor, Secretary and Director of Ministries and Communication) each receives a salary of more than $95,000 plus an additional compensation package to total more than $135,000 each. That’s a generous 18.75% higher in salary alone than authorized by the Metropolitan Council or the Synod of Bishops. And who made those decisions? The Reorganization Task Force, appointed by the Metropolitan, not the Metropolitan Council, nor the Synod of Bishops.

The above would suggest that there is money at Syosset; it just depends whether one is necessary to the goals of the Metropolitan, Fr. Kucynda, and the Reorganization Task Force; or not, like Youth, Christian Education, Music, Archives, etc.

(And as a side bonus to Syosset, some members of the Central Administration are suggesting that, given the money shortage, it might be best if Fr. Paul Kucynda, the Acting Treasurer, remains in his post for the foreseeable future....)

And if one is still hesitant to believe the above evidence about there being money, depending on the will of the Metropolitan, let me offer one final piece to those still struggling in denial. If it were true that the work of the Special Commission was being impeded by there being no money in Syosset to fund its work, how is it the Metropolitan announced on Friday, October 4th, 2007 that he has asked Bishop Benjamin of the West to attempt to reconstitute it? (Read that story here.) Apparently, between Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning someone in Syosset found some money, making the first assertion of the Diocese of the West not only a prevarication, but a moot one at that.

It’s the Metropolitan, not the Money

Lack of funds from withholding has clearly not impeded the Special Commission in the past, nor does it in the present.


But what of the second assertion? Has the lack of funds impeded the efforts of the Church, in general, to address the crisis? To assert this is to mislead.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Church from addressing the crisis when the then-Treasurer Protodeacon Eric Wheeler exposed it in September 1999, or the inaction of the man to whom he exposed it, and who was then chosen to replace him as Acting Treasurer of the OCA - Archbishop Herman?

(Read that story here.)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Church from addressing the crisis when the Chairman of the OCA Internal Audit Committee exposed it in October 1999, or the continued inaction of the then-Acting Treasurer of the OCA - Archbishop Herman?

(Read that story here.)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Church from addressing the crisis in April 2000, or the action of the Acting Treasurer of the OCA - Archbishop Herman - who bullied the Metropolitan Council into not questioning a letter from an accounting firm he would not identify, hired by Metropolitan Theodosius’ personal lawyers, which asserted “all was well”?

(Read that story here.)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Church from addressing the crisis when Protodeacon Eric Wheeler wrote a private letter to Metropolitan Herman in September 2005 detailing once again what he had already told him privately in September 1999?

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Church from addressing the crisis when Protodeacon Eric Wheeler wrote a private letter to the Synod of Bishops in October 2005, detailing the same, once again, or was it Metropolitan Herman who ordered Wheeler to remain silent? (Read that story here.)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Church from addressing the crisis in January 2006 when questions began to be raised on this website, or Metropolitan Herman who “reaffirmed the decisions made by the Holy Synod of Bishops, at the time these concerns were first raised, in 1999, and 2000” that the issue was closed? (Read that story here)

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Church from addressing the crisis in July 2006 when the report from Proskauer Rose LLP was completed, detailing the financial malfeasance of the former Chancellor, or was it Metropolitan Herman who then transferred Kondratick out of his jurisdiction for an eventual posting to Florida?

It was the Metropolitan, not the money.

• Was it lack of funding that impeded the Church from addressing the crisis through the Special Commission from January to April 2007 ; or was it Metropolitan Herman’s constant interference? The Special Commissioners have stated they had all the money they needed; it was the evidence they desired that was withheld. (Read that story here)

Once again, it was the Metropolitan, not the money.

And so on, and so on, and so on, for the last two years. Or rather, 14 years since the original auditor’s note warning and complaining of irregularities was ignored by Fr. Kucynda; eight years since John Kozey warned Metropolitan Herman - then Acting Treasurer - about secret discretionary accounts; and now two full years since Protodeacon Eric Wheeler warned Metropolitan Herman yet again about the financial malfeasance, diversions, and other irregularities. For the last two years it has been the Metropolitan, or those acting in his name, impeding the Church from addressing the crisis and bringing it to a full and thorough conclusion; not lack of money. It was the Metropolitan who, by cover-up, silencing of priests who dared speak out, refusing to release the findings of Proskauer Rose LLP, refusing to allow the Special Commission to investigate openly and honestly, interfering in the Special Commission itself, then refusing to release even their preliminary Report, then suspending them indefinitely, and finally dissolving them, who has failed to bring this to a full and thorough conclusion.

It is a fundamental lack of desire to address the crisis  fully and thoroughly - not lack of money that is the problem here.

Obedience And Truth

The resolution of the Diocese of the West sought to be a brotherly exhortation for unity and should be appreciated as such. That, in fact, it was based on prevarications does not diminish the bonds of brotherhood or unity. The shame of the prevarications does not lie with the West, but with those who misled the Diocese into believing less than the truth. If the priests and laity of the Diocese of the West were told it was the money, not the Metropolitan, they, too, were misled. Unanimously.

Where does one look for those who misled the Diocese?

In his “Salutatory Address” to the Diocese of the West, Bishop Benjamin stated:

“There are those who look at bishops and see nothing but authority and power. But these things are illusions. The relationship between bridegroom and his bride, the hierarch and his flock, is founded upon nothing less than love. Whatever the shepherd asks of his flock he does so for the good, the health, and the salvation of his flock. And the flock obeys, not because it fears him, God forbid, but because it knows the shepherd loves the flock and will lay down his life for them. This is Christian obedience. It is not oppressive, it is liberating.” (Read the whole address here.)

Bishop Benjamin was speaking from his heart here; and his own life of obedience in the Church as a choir director, deacon, youth worker, Archimandrite, Chancellor, Vicar Bishop and now Bishop is a sincere witness to the depths of such belief. Yet, in asserting the above, without qualification, the Bishop has left himself, and his Diocese, open to being misled. They failed to consider the further question, which events in the past two years of the OCA force one to consider again and again: What happens when the shepherd is not acting for the good, health and salvation of his flock, but say, for less honorable reasons, say to avoid criticism or possible indictment? What then? In such cases obedience is not liberation - it is oppression. What does Christian obedience require then?

I would suggest it requires the truth, not prevarication.

Anything less misses the mark.

- Mark Stokoe
___________________________________________________________

Next:

Part Three of "Syosset Strikes Back"
It’s Not Orange Juice: Reconstituting the Special Commission

 
 

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