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The Trial of Fr. Kondratick

The trial of Fr.Kondratick will follow as closely as possible the sequence of steps outlined in Article XI of the Statute of the OCA, according to sources close to Syosset.( You can read Article XI in full here)

The Court

"Section 2: The Diocesan Court is composed of four voting members: two members of the clergy and two members of the laity, appointed by the bishop from among the members of the Diocesan Council. The Diocesan Bishop himself, or a member of the clergy appointed by him, shall preside over the court as a non-voting member. In cases involving accusations against members of the clergy, the court shall be restricted in its membership to members of the clergy."

In case of Fr. Kondratick, has learned that the Court will be composed of four priests: Fr. Michael Dahulich, Fr. John Erickson, Fr. David Garretson and Fr. Joseph Lickwar. Three are married (Fr. Dahulich is a widower), three are Archpriests, two are in stavropegial institutions, the other two are parish priests from the Diocese of Washington and New York.

Fr. Dahulich is the current Dean of St. Tikhon's Seminary in South Canaan PA, where he is also an associate professor of New Testament and Ethics. Ordained to the Holy Priesthood by the late Bishop John of the Carpatho-Russian Diocese in 1973, he served as Vice-Chancellor of that Diocese, Secretary to two bishops and Dean of the Mid-Atlantic Deanery. Fr. Dahulich began teaching at St. Tikhon's in 1994, and joined the OCA in late 2001.

Fr. John Erickson is the outgoing Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary in Scarsdale NY, where he will remain the Peter N. Gramowich Professor of Church History. Having written, co-authored, and edited works in canon law, church history and music, Fr. Erickson has not only an active academic career, but has served the OCA in numerous capacities. He is the current Chairman of the Department of History and Archives, was a Unit Coordinator for Church Order Ministries (1992-1999) and was a member of the Metropolitan Council from 1999 through 2006. He was ordained to the priesthood last year.

Fr. Joseph Lickwar serves as both the parish priest of SS. Peter and Paul Church in Jersey City, NJ and as Chancellor of the Diocese of the Washington and New York. Upon graduation from Christ the Savior Seminary in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. he was ordained to the priesthood in 1963 and served several parishes of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. In 1974 Fr. Lickwar was received into the Orthodox Church in America and assigned to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Whitestone, NY where he served for 17 years. In 1991 he transferred to his current parish of SS. Peter and Paul, Jersey City.

A graduate of St. Vladimir's seminary, Fr. David Garretson has served SS. Peter and Paul Church in South River New Jersey since 1998. In 2005 Garretson coordinated disaster relief efforts for the IOCC in Biloxi MS in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Accuser

" Section 4 - General Procedure
a. Accusers shall present their accusations in writing to the Bishop of the Diocese of the accused.
b. Before examining the case, the court shall establish the accuser's good and irreproachable character. The accuser shall agree in advance in writing that the decision of these courts is final and non-appealable to the civil courts. If the court is not satisfied in these matters, or considers that the accuser, by lodging his accusation, pursues personal advantage or acts out of personal animosity, the case shall be dismissed."

At the request of the Metropolitan, Archbishop Job has agreed to serve as the official "Accuser" in the case of Fr. Kondratick. As the "Accuser" the Archbishop will not conduct the actual prosecution itself. The presentation of evidence, examination of witnesses, cross examination, etc., will be conducted by de facto OCA general counsel, Jim Perry.

"c. If the court determines that there is probable cause to come to trial, the accused shall be summoned in writing by the court. The summons shall specify the nature of the accusation and the name(s) of the accuser(s), and the accused shall be given appropriate time to prepare his defense. If he does not answer two successive summonses, the court shall try the case in absentia."

The Special Commission Report, presented to the Metropolitan Council and Synod of Bishops last month will not serve as the as actual accusation. Many of the facts contained in the report, however, will be contained in the allegations that will be included in the summons. The formal letter of suspension was sent last week; but a second letter setting the time, date and location of the actual trial as well as the official order that he appear, will follow. Given that the trial is to take place within 30 days of the suspension, the summons is expected to be sent this week.

"d. The accused is entitled to request that a third party act as his defense. Both the accuser and the accused may request the testimony of experts and witnesses acceptable to the court."

It is not known who Fr. Kondratick's "Defender" will be: recent speculation on the internet has run rampant from a canonical expert from Greece, to a Bishop flown in from the Ecumenical Patriarchate; from his New York attorney Harry Kutner Jr., to lesser known figures. Given that Fr. Kondratick has never admitted to any of the allegations lodged against him, one should expect a vigorous defense.

The rest of the Statute regarding the Court is fairly self-explanatory:

"f. The decision of the court shall be made by unanimous vote, approved by the Diocesan Bishop, and communicated to the accused in writing within 30 days. If the decision is not unanimous, upon the request of either party the Diocesan Bishop shall appoint a court of four new members, according to the procedure specified in Section 2. The new court shall make a decision by a majority vote, approved by the bishop. If the bishop rejects the decision of the court, upon the request of either party the case shall be referred to the Holy Synod, in accordance with the provisions of Section 6 .

g. Penalties imposed by the court (against persons judged guilty after trial as well as against false accusers) are prescribed by the canons of the ecumenical and local councils and the holy fathers. Their application is subject to approval by the Diocesan Bishop who must use the pastoral discretion which belongs to his office in applying penalties."

In this case, Metropolitan Herman will approve what penalties, if any, are recommended by the Court.

"h If one of the parties is not satisfied with the judgment of the Diocesan Court, he may appeal to the Holy Synod, as the Supreme Court of Appeals of the Church, within 30 days of receipt of said judgment."

One can assume this appeal will be automatic should the case go against Fr. Kondratick. Thus Section 6 of Article 9 is relevant:

" Section 6
The Holy Synod as Supreme Court of Appeals
a. The Holy Synod shall act as the Church's Supreme Court of Appeals.
b. If a person, clerical or lay, is dissatisfied with the judgment rendered in his case by a Diocesan Court, he may file an appeal addressed either to the Metropolitan or to the Secretary of the Holy Synod through the Chancery of the Church.
c. The Holy Synod shall take up the case at its regular session, provided the appeal has been filed at least a month before the session.
d. The accused shall be entitled to the rights specified in Section 4 (d).
e. The Holy Synod shall never act as a court of first instance in cases which are within the competence of Diocesan Courts.
f The rulings of the Holy Synod are final, except for those instances which the canons reserve to the judgment of the universal Church."

That being explained, the Statute stipulates:

" i. Judgments requiring the final deposition (defrocking) of clerics are effective only upon their confirmation by the Holy Synod."

This can only take place at their next meeting. The next scheduled meeting is in autumn 2007. And finally:

"k. Trials are held subject to any other procedural rules as established by the Holy Synod."

As the non-voting judge, much of what happens in the trial will be determined by Metropolitan Herman. We will most likely only know the outcome, as it is the practice in all the Orthodox Churches to hold these trials in secret.

- Mark Stokoe


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