Monday, June 4. 2007
Your comments, questions, thoughts on Archbishop Job's letter are welcome
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AXIOS! AXIOS! AXIOS!
What a humble and loving icon of Christ! His words and concern brought tears to my eyes and much hope that the Holy Spirit is indeed acting and helping some of our Bishops see the awful reality we find ourselves in and the great suffering of the people, and find the love, wisdom, and courage to stay the course.
Thank you Archbishop Job, you are a true shepherd who truly cares for us the wounded and scattered sheep. We hear your call and pray that God will strengthen and support you to do what's right and rescue our Holy Orthodox Church from the spiritual and leadership crisis that is destroying her.
God bless Archbishop Job and those who stand with him. May the Holy Spirit protect and strengthen him. Let us pause and think how much pain is born by those of our hierarchs and senior clergy who are at the forefront of this battle... I daresay those who call these epistles "sappy" have no heart and no shred of Christian charity...
Holy Trinity Cathedral
#2 Inga Leonova on 2007-06-04 13:45
I echo Inga's sentiments. I cannot begin to fathom how much pain the Archbishop, as well as countless others, are enduring as a result of this mess.
The line "I ponder on such things as 'Desperate situations require desperate measures.'" leaves me wondering if Archbishop Job is referring to things already known (Palatine Resolution) or actions only spoken about in hushed tones (breaking away from the OCA).
I fear this will get even worse before it gets better.
#2.1 Chris Holmes on 2007-06-04 14:58
Please know that if anyone referred to Abp Job and his writings as 'sappy', it was not Fr Robert Kondratick, who affirmed this in my telephone conversation with himthis afternoon.
#2.2 Monk James on 2007-06-04 17:36
It is our wish Fr. Kondratick would be so quick to respond to everything as he did to what was posted about +Job's epistle. We could not care less if he called a writing years ago "Sappy" or not. What about those allegations of what happened years ago? His keen memory of that time could answer what we have all been asking.
#2.2.1 Alex Shaw on 2007-06-05 04:34
What abbot are you under obedience to? I take it you live in the world, but surely all monastics have to be under obedience to an abbot or abbess.
#2.2.2 Linda Weir on 2007-06-05 12:34
I too wish to add my voice of support to Vladyka JOB. His, patron, if memory serves, is the Holy Prophet Job, the Long-Suffering. I hope that on the day of prayer and fasting yet to be set, people outside of his diocese will join with those in that diocese. I hope also that people wil include among their prayers, prayers for the spiritual sustenance and encouragement of Vladyka JOB.
It is feels great to be able to wholeheartedly say, "Eis polla eti, Despota!" His Eminence deserves that accolade.
#2.3 Mark Harrison on 2007-06-04 23:55
The words of His Eminence move me. His attitude, long-suffering and the humility that he expressed reminded me of the Beatitudes. I say this because I believe Archbishop JOB is a true candidate for all the blessings mentioned by the Lord in that sermon. If there is anything to be admired, it's that he can control his tongue/pen/keyboard, at least from what I can tell.
Any insult Archbishop JOB may receive for this letter is from Hades.
EIS POLLA, ETI DHESPOTA!
#3 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-06-04 14:04
Your Eminence, bless.
I'm told that it is improper for one to ask God's blessing for a clergyman. However, I have prayed and continue to pray God's every good and holy blessing on you.
Burke's apocryphal quotation seems appropriate:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Thank you for doing something, and thank you for inspiring me to "do something" as well.
Your servant in our Lord,
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#4 Marty Watt on 2007-06-04 15:02
I admire Archbishop Job's willingness to be open and honest about what is on his heart. We have been hoping that one bishop would open his heart to us. Otherwise what can we make of the stone cold and hardened silence in the hierarchy? Are they untroubled by where the OCA has come from, where it is right now, and where it might be headed?
But, Your Eminence, enough hand wringing. Jesus said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) Time to use your hands to continue the work to be done rather than just for hand wringing. The day for inaction has come and gone.
You proposed a day of prayer and fasting. Let us get to it.
The Diocesan Council was given clear guidelines by the Palatine Resolution. Advocate it.
The OCA needs more public and open discussion on all the issues facing her in our current leadership crisis. Speak to it.
Your voice is needed to encourage, exhort, enlist, engage, enable, enjoin and entreat your fellow bishops, the Metropolitan Council and priests and membership of the Diocese of the Midwest, and probably the rest of the OCA.
"Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light" (Rom 13:11-12).
#5 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2007-06-04 16:13
AMEN!!! AMEN!!! AMEN!!!
#5.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-06-05 05:28
Thank you, Fr. Ted,
This is it in a nutshell.
Now the HS and MC must act.
#5.2.1 Patty Schellbach on 2007-06-05 16:11
The way your writers can help the church move in a positive direction is by prayer! not by Gossip or saying one bishop is better than the other~ Are you trying to destroy the spirit of the church? One person made a mistake! cant we forgive him and move on! "LET HIM WHO IS WITHOUT SIN CAST THE FIRST STONE" Christ also said "LOVE ONE ANOTHER" this website is full of Hate! and Gossip!
#5.3 Anonymous on 2007-06-07 20:09
I am saddened by Abp. Job’s sorrow, but encouraged by his perseverance and dedication.
Keeping the tragic sadness of all this front and center in our minds and hearts may be painful, but it is necessary. Sorrow is our guard against passionate excess.
Let us all pray fervently that this sad chapter in our collective life be brought to an end in a way that makes it possible for us to go forward with humility and faithfulness. Let us not fear truth, no matter how painful. Most of all, let us pray that our Lord strengthen those who have undertaken the duty to pursue these matters that they may do what needs to be done and may not be weighed down or destroyed by the burden they bear.
His eminence may not account himself a good man, but his example of obedience to truth and to duty show prove him a worthy hierarch.
#6 Rebecca Matovic on 2007-06-04 16:41
Amazing! After two years of this mess one of our bishops has asked the parishes of his diocese to collectively pray, actually pray. Forgive me if I'm wrong but I have not heard this call from our metropolitan. It is interesting that the Russian Church Abroad has prayed during liturgy for some time about its struggles and look where their prayers have taken them. I'm appauled that our metropolitan did not direct his flock in America from the very start of this whole mess to pray. Special petitions are periodically added to the litany of fervant supplication. Maybe our current mess is not tragic enough for us to collectively pray over. Or maybe our leader doesn't know how we should pray and behave concerning our struggles?
#7 Anonymous on 2007-06-04 19:26
"Special petitions are periodically added to the litany of fervant supplication."
We have already been doing this at our parish for some time now. And we have set this Saturday, the eve of the feast of All Saints of North America, as our day of prayer and fasting.
#7.1 Michael Strelka on 2007-06-05 07:57
Please get your facts straight ... it was not "after two years" that a bishop finally asked his parishes to pray. The Diocese of the Midwest, under +Job, composed and distributed a prayer to be inserted into the Augmented Litany in February of 2006 when this was all beginning.
As far as the other bishops, I think Fr. Bobosh is right in saying they exhibit a stone cold silence. I will add that the fruit of the tree indicates the character of the tree: we have a synod of bishops with stone cold hearts when it comes to the sufferings of the clergy and laity. They are far more concerned with covering their own backsides and each others' backsides than they are concerned with anything else. They are a synod of fear of everyone except God, a synod of cowardice, and a synod of lies (enough of which are adequately documented on this site).
They are pre-occupied with preserving their images, yet in doing so, they are soiling those images far worse than they realize. (My goodness, even in the most recent post on oca.org, there is an article about who was represented at the 15th anniversay of some event in Ukraine, and most importantly which autocephalous churches were represented and which weren't.)
I too suffer with our archbishop. I too stand with Fr. Bobosh and say enough hand-wringing. The time has come for action. Let us not let the Peter & Paul Feast come and go without movement to rid ourselves of this darkness.
Priest Christopher Wojcik
P.S. Monk James, if you really think people are going to trust you and your phone conversations with Mr. Kondratick instead of the published words of Archbishop Job, you're more foolish than any of us originally thought.
#7.2 Priest Christopher Wojcik on 2007-06-05 08:36
You have indeed focused on significant spiritual and sacramental problem in the OCA leadership that many of us (including scores of priests) have also witnessed and suffered from in our Church for many years. I will re-post a portion of your comments here because they represent such an important reality check for everyone who has seen and experienced this truth and understood the significance and implications of this deadly spiritual cancer:
"As far as the other bishops, I think Fr. Bobosh is right in saying they exhibit a stone cold silence. I will add that the fruit of the tree indicates the character of the tree: we have a synod of bishops with stone cold hearts when it comes to the sufferings of the clergy and laity. They are far more concerned with covering their own backsides and each others' backsides than they are concerned with anything else. They are a synod of fear of everyone except God, a synod of cowardice, and a synod of lies (enough of which are adequately documented on this site). They are pre-occupied with preserving their images, yet in doing so, they are soiling those images far worse than they realize. "
This is EXACTLY the kind of bishops we have allowed to thrive and prosper in the OCA; wolves in sheep's clothing who devour and scatter the flock. Unless and until such cold-hearted, self-centered, and spiritually bankrupt cowards -- who present the antithesis of the self-sacrificing, loving and courageous shepherds who are called to lay down their lives for their sheep and are supposed to be a living mirrors of Christ -- either repent and drastically change their hearts and ways or are forcefully removed from our midst, little if anything of significance will be accomplished and the spiritual death and destruction we have seen will continue and increase unabated.
Thank you Fr. Christopher for the wisdom, courage, and love you have shown all of us in speaking the truth in love and working tirelessly to encourage, comfort, and strengthen those of us who dearly are seeking the TRUE SHEPHERDS who can help us in these dark days. Mere words cannot express the depth of gratitude I feel in seeing your light shine before in these troubled times.
Speaking of "news" on oca.org, I keep waiting for some coverage of the pilgrimage. I suppose that even for that, we have to depend on ocaNEWS.org. As Archbishop Job told Met. Herman, 'there is no communication.' Do the faithful of the OCA not deserve to hear about OCA events that they could not attend? Isn't that the whole point of these 'news items.' Of course the truth is, that oca.org reports only what it wants to report, and since the pilgrimage (from what little I've heard) was a bust, this is probably why nothing has appeared yet. Of course, coverage of the pilgrimage itself isn't the issue--the issue is that we the faithful are continually treated either like children who don't need to be bothered with grown-up business or like adults who becaue of their lowly station, don't deserve news and information, whether ilt's about the pilgrimage or about the scandal. There is absolutely no transparancy or opennes, whether about small or large issues, and this is why the current administration has to go.
#7.2.2 AnonPriest on 2007-06-05 16:33
I always knew you were a good man, Fr Chris! Your article was spot on, and so is this post! Thanks for being so vocal!
I don't know Fr Ted personally, but a "thank you" to him also - and to his parish - for having a truly Orthodox yearning for the Truth coupled with genuine charity.
#7.2.3 Mark Harrison on 2007-06-05 20:20
Regarding the bishops you wrote: "They are pre-occupied with preserving their images..."
With respect to Bishop Benjamin, I am convinced that he is trying to keep his flock from sinning, and is trying to keep himself from sinning. He takes his responsibilties to the the Holy Synod and Holy Tradition very seriously. That is what I know. However, I suspect that he doesn't think what goes on in the Metropolitan's chancery is very important in the life of the Diocese of the West. I could be wrong about that, but that is what I think.
#7.2.4 Matt Karnes of Holy Trinity Cathedral, San Francisco on 2007-06-07 00:18
Dear Fr. Wojcik,
I stand corrected! I do not live within the midwest diocese and am not aware that your diocese under +Job issued a prayer to the midwest churches in February 2006. I don't want to belabor
this issue but my observation was directed at the metropolitan and not your archbishop whom I have known from the time you were in diapers. My remark was not hand-wringing.
Forgive me but while your writing is spirited you might consider conveying yourself with a little less arrogance. You would do well to follow in your father's footsteps.
#7.2.5 Anonymous on 2007-06-08 06:41
Like previous contributors I found myself moved and saddened by how much agony this endless crisis is causing to our Bishop as well as many other members of our Church. In no way was His Eminence’s reflection “sappy”, but I am troubled that it is taking him so long to take a decisive step. A heavy burden indeed, but without the unifying power of hierarchical authority no cohesive and effective measures can be taken.
I understand that it is easy to form strong opinions and demand action for those of us who are not personally involved in this ugly mess. But it is still painful to watch it go on for so long. Several people on this website have announced in frustration and desperation their decision to walk away from the OCA. I fear that at this time further hesitancy and resulting inaction may damage the OCA beyond repair and possibly destroy it.
A drastic measure would at least allow people to make personal choices as opposed to the current suspension in limbo. The latter is demoralizing and depleting.
This crisis is way beyond the point of no return. God is not going to “save us from our bishops”; without the bishops there is no Church. I hope our Bishop can finish what he helped start. An action taken out of genuine care and love for the Church has to bring good fruit. People have expressed time and time again their love and readiness to support his leadership by fervent prayer and action. I am grateful for his endurance and devotion to his flock.
#8 Karina Ross on 2007-06-04 19:52
Most Reverend Master Bless!
If there was ever a clarion "call to arms" more clearly stated than your words against the leadership of Metropolitan Herman, I have not heard them publicly articulated any better.
The Holy Synod must stand up for our beloved Church. A special session must be called and it must be called at once.
Metropolitan Herman's leadership is hanging by a thread and the upcoming Metropolitan Council meeting , if it does meet, should have one order of business, a "No Confidence" vote in Herman.
Your Eminence, lead the way again by calling a special session. You are "dead on" in saying that Herman, in so many words, has HIJACKED THE OCA. Call your brothers and enlist their support for a special session. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Others are just afraid to take on Herman. You can help the others find their voice.
Let us all encourage Archbishop Job to slay the dragon called Herman and free our Church.
#9 A Senior Priest of the OCA on 2007-06-04 21:16
As the good senior priest said, a special session should be called. The disbanding of the Special Commission is a betrayal of the trust of the faithful, of getting to the truth, and of healing the OCA. That MH dismissed the Special Commission is, quite, indeed, a "call to arms." I hope that the HS and MC can right the wrong.
What a test our OCA is going through. To put a metropolitan in his place has been NO SMALL TASK. Various strategies are being employed. But the HS and MC MUST find the courage to act. As Daniel Fall said, I believe this is largely an issue of failed governance. If Bishop Job is consistently reading this site, he may be leading the way. He, as a bishop, has the same rank and status to take on +Herman.
#9.1 Patty Schellbach on 2007-06-06 15:28
Dear Mark, I have found a way to express my feelings having read Valdyka Job's letter: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.......But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.......And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.........The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away......."
#10 Luke on 2007-06-04 22:23
I wonder often what if Bishop Job would have been our Metropolitan...? But of course those who are true believers are humble and those who in it for the money will be the ones who push everyone out of the way to ascend to the top. It is quite paradoxical but the Metropolitan should have been probably the bishop that is wanted by the people but he himself does not wish to hold such a position.
Well, in order to talk about another Metropolitan the current Metropolitan would have to step down (or be forced to stop down). What does the OCA statute say about this? And if it doesn't it should say something perhaps. If +Herman had any concern for the flock, any true belief and any common sense he would have stepped down by now. That is regardless of involvement in the scandal. He should know he is not trusted anymore. And we can be ( 100% ) sure that he knows since he is throwing $700/hour of our money to read this site....
Speaking of that:
Here is a note for P.R. attorneys reading this site for $700/hr.
Dear P.R. attorneys/interns/paralegals,
Thank you for spending our money reading this site. I would rather that money go to the needy...but hey, you are already here, right!? Well, please let +Herman know that we do not trust him anymore and would would like him to step down.
Sorry for the exclusive message everyone, but this might be the only channel of communication between us and Syosset. And if +Herman hears this message and steps down, that's the best $700 ever spent!
#11 Alex K. on 2007-06-05 04:23
Maybe we should all wear wooden crosses (Clergy and Laity) again to remind us of the True Cross and what it means; all of this gold, silver, ivory, and jewels seems to be symbolic in some way of what is wrong (?)
#12 Moses on 2007-06-05 10:32
Yes, you are correct. Competition to climb the ladder to the in-group to get to the treasury, to be privy to the secrets (this is worse than gnosticism for at least a gnostic is not totally stonewalled with the so-called need-to-know principle), and to lord it over others, all in the interest of material gain and increased social status has been the ruling ethos for too long. Jesus said where your heart is there will your treasure be. Where is our heart? We have certainly found that out through this scandal, and for that we should praise God, for He has exposed our sin, our error, our missing the mark. The Church is founded on the blood of the martyrs, the true witness to the death and resurrection our Lord.
It gains its very life through sacrificial service of each of its members. It grows by selfless love which alone makes our faith efficacious. We have lost our way, the narrow way that leads to Life, but
the Lord is faithful to renew and revive all who repent. He has sent us a bishop who hearkens to His voice, a voice that calls us to prayer; he has pricked the hearts and conciences of many of us and caused us to speak out for truth and transparency. May our prayers include praise for all that God is doing and is accomplishing through all the complexities of this scandal. God's will be done.
#12.1 Karen Jermyn on 2007-06-05 12:34
Not a bad idea, Moses.
Relatedly, how nice if we heard (though maybe we have?) a hierarch request to not be called "Your Eminence," "Your Beatitude," "Your [Insert-Superlative-Here]" (though we'd probably be happy to disregard the request if it came from someone humble enough to make it and mean it). In fact, how nice if only those humble enough to flee the office were those consecrated to it, but here I wax as unrealistic as idealistic.
#12.2 Anonymous on 2007-06-06 11:39
You know it is really tough to muster up the strength to lead when internally you think or feel you may not have what it takes to do what is required. I don't know if this is what His Eminence is going through, but I know if I were having to deal with this from the seat he is in, this would be my failing the coward that I can be at times. It is during these times that I keep on thinking of what was said prior to being ordained, "The grace divine that heals that which is infirm, that completes that which is lacking..." I do agree that the time has come to act. May our Lord send down His Holy Spirit upon His Eminence Archbishop Job to give him what He needs to carry on with the task the Lord has laid on him.
Fr. Paul Gassios
#13 Fr Paul Gassios on 2007-06-05 13:07
Archbishop Job has set a wonderful Christian example for all OCA(and non-Oca) bishops, priests, deacons and lay parishioners to follow when he confessed that he has set aside his ivory panagia and other gifts which he has received in the past from what I assume are Syosset friends. I am aware of many other clergy and laity who have also received such Syosset largesse in the past decade or two. We each must follow our Orthodox conscience as to what we should do with such gifts we have received. Sending them back to Syosset at this particular historic point in time is not a good idea. Not wearing or displaying these gifts, per Archbishop Job, is a first step.
An OCA deacon
#14 Name withheld by request on 2007-06-05 16:21
Dear Fr. Deacon et al.,
Just a word about awards. The whole system of "nagrady" ("up the steps" isn't a bad translation) is one we inherited from the Russian Church. It was created primarily to be the ecclesiastical equivalent of all the various ranks on the civil side of the Empire. Since 1970 we have trimmed it a bit, in that priests are no longer awarded the mitre (although on-line one can find pre-1970 pictures of Frs. Schmemann and Meyendorff wearing the mitre), the second jeweled cross, serving with the royal doors open up to various points in the Liturgy, etc.
But mark you this: SYOSSET DOES NOT GRANT THESE AWARDS!!!
The first three for priests (purple skufia, nabedrennik, and purple kamlilavka) are within the gift of the Ruling Hierarch of the Diocese. The rest (gold cross, archpriest or igumen, palitsa, jeweled cross, archimandrite) are within the gift of the Holy Synod UPON THE REQUEST OF THE DIOCESAN BISHOP. The Synodal awards are given usually at five-year intervals; I believe the gold cross is awarded after ten years of faithful service. I'm ashamed to admit it don't know exactly how the system works for the double orar and the rank of protodeacon; but it is along the same lines. It's simpler, largely, I suspect, because deacons are less neurotic about it all. (In Russia and Ukraine---I don't know about anywhere else---abbesses are also awarded gold and jeweled crosses.)
Whether or not we should have retained the Russian system is one we can debate endlessly, I suppose. The Greeks, Antiochians, Serbs, &c. have a different system; but it seems to me just as complex in its own way. Hearing the Lord say on that day, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord" should be enough for us. But it seems that throughout the Orthodox world there is one system or another for recognizing faithful service and bucking up priestly or diaconal morale with some kind of bling, addition to the "uniform" or other kind of clerical merit badge. It's a guy thing, I guess.
#14.1 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-06-08 04:19
I am not a member of the OCA, but rather of the Antiochian Archdiocese. I have been praying for my sisters and brothers in the OCA ever since becoming aware of the seriousness of all this through my friends in the OCA and this web site. I don't often respond to things on the internet, but this time I feel moved to do so. After all, this scandal is no longer an "OCA thing," it has grown to bring pain and shame to all the Orthodox in our country.
I decided to write because I am amazed that Igumen Philip's reflection struck some people as manipulative or spiritually abusive. If it were, it would seem that the charge would have to be laid at the feet of our Blessed Savior, his Holy Apostles and Evangelists, and our Fathers among the Saints... since the meat of the admonitions in the reflection are theirs, not the Igumen's. He does little more than suggest what the sometimes-hard-to-hear teachings of the Word of God might mean in the current situation.
To live in anger and animosity to those who have done evil towards us (as some in the OCA administration certainly have done and, it seems, are doing still) not only does not bring punishment to the guilty, it poisons our souls. Too late did I learn the truth of this, after some who had done me terrible wrong had themselves "moved on," while I alone continued to suffer and, through my anger and hatred, magnified my pain over and again.
Forgiveness of our enemies is not given by the Lord to his disciples as an optional means of processing wrongs done to them. It is a sine qua non of discipleship itself. Do our repeated failures in this matter nullify the Lord's command? No, rather, they should cause our hearts to desire all the more the grace-given ability to fulfill in our lives what we pray daily, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
In Igumen Philip's reflection I heard neither a call for abandoning the process of bringing the truth to light, nor a hope that those who have done wrong would go unpunished. I did hear a pointed and moving call that we remember that the Christian way is to use truth and discipline not as weapons to achieve our personal and self-righteous satisfaction, but to bring erring sisters or brothers back to the path of salvation from which they have strayed and the unity of faith that their actions have broken.
Praise to our Lord and Savior who did not say, from the depths of his pain and anguish on the Cross, "Father, forgive them after you make them suffer terribly," but, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Certainly, the civil and religious leadership thought that they knew what they were doing... but the deeper meaning of their deeds escaped them. Is this not true of all of us when we sin? Do any of us really know the full extent of the ripples that our sins send out into the world around us? Was the prayer of our Lord any less for those who abuse the trust of his Body the Church in our time than for the Roman and Jewish authorities who mocked and murdered him so long ago?
Keeping before us the need to have forgiveness for those who have done wrong even while we are trying to bring them to repentance and set things right again is crucial if we are to avoid becoming even worse than those whose punishment we seek. We are not told to love our enemies after we have thrashed them, but to love them even while they ill use us. We cannot do that if we let ourselves believe we are better than they are... do we really know that the effects of their sins are worse than the effects of our own?
I hope and pray that, with courageous leadership from Hierarchs like Archbishop Job and continued hard work by dedicated clergy and lay people like those who are making their voices heard, the OCA will be able to float free of the reef that is gashing it open and causing it to sink. But I also pray that, when it does, its crew and passengers will remember to show mercy to those who caused the ship to run aground and to those who delayed its rescue. Please, don't put them back at the helm or even let them crew! But don't make them walk the plank, either. The noblest part of you - of us all - will sink to the bottom and die along with them.
Rasophore Monk Michael
#14.1.1 Monk Michael on 2007-06-08 19:20
Antiochians, have monks?
#22.214.171.124 Pleasently Suprised on 2007-06-09 06:51
Thank you, Bro. Michael, for saying the things that needed to be said about Fr. Philip's postings and the reaction to them. You've saved me a lot of time and thought and put it all much better--and more piously and charitably, I have no doubt--than I would have.
Seems to me, though, that this posting is out of place, and should go under another of Fr. Philip's postings and Cathy Tatusko's reply, et al.
Mark, could you possibly see to this?
#126.96.36.199 Fr. Dennis Buck on 2007-06-11 08:25
Reading Abp. Job's letter brought tears to my eyes, and reading this thread has brought them, again.
I am so thankful that he is my bishop. His genuine honesty and humility and love for his flock have been demonstrated time and time again.
Your Eminence: It is now time to act. Please take the lead. Lead us out of this horrible mess.
Your servant, Priest Daniel
#15 Fr. Daniel Swires on 2007-06-05 17:01
The OCA has a broken and failed governance model.
I doubt that Bishop Job, had he been Metropolitan would have fixed it. It would have slapped him the same way it hit +Herman.
I sadly doubt he will be the person to fix it as a Bishop unless all of his clergy recognize the root issues and help him and the other Bishops fix them.
The entire community must come together to first agree the allegations are certainly true and move past the details. We must then ask, how did our governance structure allow it. Not who allowed it my friends. In my book, we allowed it, you and me.
If we had a parish council that misused funds in our local church, the priest and the people would have them leave. We didn't. In fact, we didn't even demand reporting.
The proof of broken governance is in the number of resignations and quits and lack of teeth the Metropolitan Council has for the OCA. They are not equals to any local parish council in their capacities to govern. Any parish of the OCA with a bad administrator [on or not on the council] would expect its parish council to fire the administrator. If they didn't, they'd demand the council and administrator leave. If they didn't provide a financial report for one year, they'd demand the council all resign.
The Palatine Resolution doesn't address the broken governance. It is only demanding what a good governance should provide. And governance is the method, not the people, for a reminder to everyone that thinks I'm asking for resignations.
Firing or demanding the resignation of +Herman doesn't address broken governance, although he owes us this badly.
The governance is easily repairable if politics are set aside. I have a few crude notions.
1. If the Metropolitan and members of the administration are not on the Metropolitan Council as voting members, but advisory members, a principal problem of the conflict of interest cited by Nescott is gone, and the chancellor placed by the Synod/Metropolitan is subject to the rule of the Council in #2 below.
2. The Metropolitan Council needs to have the power to fire the chancellor for reasonable cause. This is what a small parish would do if they had a bad administrator that didn't report financial information.
3. The position of chancellor must not be allowed vacant, and must be a ceded position, so a bad administration couldn't remain in power by taking the power away from the council.
4. The Metropolitan Council is responsible for providing the financial transparency via a functioning administrator. If the Metropolitan Council doesn't provide the transparency, the members are subject to recall if they don't take action.
Withholding money by the laity is not a method of governance that will stand the test of time. It doesn't address the root issue which is a powerless Metropolitan Council.
Firing +Herman is not a method of governance that will stand the test of time.
Firing RSK is not a method of governance.
Special Commissions reporting the minute details of misuse of funds is not a method of governance.
The Palatine Resolution doesn't address root cause failures of governance, but it is a step towards governance. The Palatine Resolution needs to demand the Metropolitan Council has the authority to fire the Chancellor and the Chancellor position must be ceded.
The leadership in the OCA must address the governance failures or they aren't leaders. In fact, this is an omission of the Palatine Resolution. (hindsight is much clearer for an observer)
Lawsuits, such as those suggested by RVW (no disrespect intended), do not address governance failures, they merely identify the fact we have a powerless Metropolitan Council in our governance structure.
The governance has failed for years and under different Metropolitans.
If the Synod doesn't address the governance failures, they don't belong as Bishops. No sympathy from me for Abp. Job, I really don't think he understands, I don't think the rest of them care, and I think the church will run poorly for years to come.
The 2008 AAC must focus getting power to the Metropolitan Council so that it can terminate the Chancellor, and the Council must also be weak enough before the laity that they can be removed for not providing financial reporting via the administrator (chancellor).
Absent repairs to the governance structures of the church, I predict the national church will fail because none of us will want to continue support the baloney and spend any of our time and energy devoted toward it.
+Herman spent thousands on legals on what should have been managed by good governance.
To this very day, 18 months beyond the first cries of foul, we don't have a balance sheet. Compared to a small parish, we would have called for the leave of the administrators and the entire council.
#16 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-06-05 21:19
Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, Article V, Section 2: The decisions of the Metropolitan Council shall become effective upon approval of the Metropolitan or Holy Synod, depending on the nature of the decision.
Article X, Section 8b: All officers and members of teh Parish Council shall, after their election at the parish meeting and approval of the Diocesan Authority, be duly installed by the Rector, making a solemn commitment to uphold their office.
Our current statute is clear that authority remains with the hierarch, not the elected Councils, be they Metropolitan, Diocesan, or Parish.
I agree we need to modify the statute, but I do not think it fair to place responsibility at prior Metropolitan Councils or membership. Yes, perhaps they should have been stronger, yet our statute allows a non-overridable veto by the hierarch.
There is perhaps an unwritten or implied expectation that the hierarch will refrain from interference in the activities of the councils, and will only formally approve the actions taken, much as the Crown in England still approves each and every act of Parliment.
Here we get into a very sticky issue, however. What is the authority and responsibility of the hierarch? Historically that rule has evolved into absolute rule, checked by the Synod to which the hierarch belongs.
Actually, I think the solution to our problem exists (although somewhat buried) in the statute, Article X, Section 8c: # The Orthodox Church teaches that there should be an active cooperation between clergy and laity on all levels of Church life. And since the Parish Council is the main parish organ of such cooperation, none of its meetings may be held without the knowledge and blessing of the Rector who, as the head of the parish, must take part in the discussion and solution of all parish affairs. While the priest is the head of the parish, he does not have to be Chairman of meetings. Laymen may be Chairmen. The minutes of all meetings of the Parish Council shall be signed by the Rector and the senior elected officer of the parish. In the case of the Rector's disagreement with one or several decisions of the Parish Council, his motivated opinion shall be recorded in the minutes and the matter referred to the parish meeting.
So, we indeed find cooperation, but this time disputes are not resolved by the hierarch, but by the parish meeting.
The same concept can, in my view, be adopted at all levels. Since the authoritative body at the national church is the All-American Council, the decision of the metropolitan council, if "vetoed" by the hierarch/Synod, the decision can be overridden by a 2/3 vote of the Council. The decision, with appropriate objections of the hierarch noted, should then be presented at the next All-American Council for formal adoption or rejection.
I think this would provide the necessary checks and balances that can enable us to operate in a conciliar, yet responsible and respectful, manner.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#16.1 Marty Watt on 2007-06-06 08:17
For this to be a timely way to address acute problems, wouldn't the AAC have to meet much more frequently? Is there a new mechanism which could be formulated to address acute problems quickly in the interim?
#16.1.1 Paula Brkich on 2007-06-07 10:41
I don't believe more frequent all-american councils are necessary. The Metropolitan Council is empowered to act between AACs. If the MC has a 2/3 consensus to act contrary to the Metropolitan, then the action should be implemented. However, that contrary act should be presented to the next AAC, to ensure the entire church is aware and has the opportunity to provide feedback. These acts contrary to the wishes of the Metropolitan would be disclosed in the minutes of the meeting when they occur, and again in the report to the All-American Council.
Such decisions to "override" the wishes of the Metropolitan may even require the 2/3 vote at two consecutive Metropolitan Council meetings. The process of taking action contrary to the wishes of the Metropolitan should be careful and deliberate.
Sdn. John Martin Watt
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#188.8.131.52 Marty Watt on 2007-06-07 12:26
So that sounds, to me, even more time consuming. Under those constrictions, how can the MC act at all unless with the approval of the Metropolitan? There must be something in what you have said that I'm not understanding.
In the matter of Proskauer Rose, can the MC inform PR that, absent a contract signed by the MC the OCA is not going to pay the legal bills incurred, can this happen quickly? It seems to me that time is becomming of the essence in several ways if we are to get any sort of new administrative people installed at Syosset and get the central church administration reorganized and up and running.
#184.108.40.206.1 Paula Brkich on 2007-06-08 13:18
May I have your blessing!
I can imagine how difficult this letter was to write. Thank you, for your continuing boldness, putting the needs of Christ's Body ahead of any other concern. Your letter, as well as Your Eminence's previous actions, foster hope, to the salvation not only of souls under your care, but all around the O.C.A.
I support wholeheartedly your call to a special day of prayer and fasting, including a special service in our churches for this crisis. May we, as a diocese, come together in such unity that the doors of heaven give aid!
I was encouraged to hear that the Special Commission was not "dead," but I am concerned that there is no difference between "dead" and "suspended," unless the good men and women on the Special Commission revive themselves to action under the authority of the Metropolitan Council (which also still has the Holy Synod's official blessing).
As you know, I believe it is long past time to withhold all monies from Syosset. I did not come to that position quickly, nor with triumphalistic glee. Just the opposite! It took a long time to convince me, and I felt great sadness when I realized I could come to no other conclusion. But Your Eminence, there is no other way to get through to the leaders we have. I love and respect them for the good things they have done, but they have not listened to the laity, nor to the clergy of the Midwest, nor to 70 archpriests, nor to Your Eminence --a senior archbishop-- time and again. Their actions seem to indicate that even besides Father Bob's embezzlement, they still have too much to cover-up. For the good of the church, and for their own good (for silencing and cover-up and suspensions harms their souls as well), we as a diocese should stop funding. I urge you to openly and strongly advocate the Palatine Resolution. "If anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." We can and should emphasize that this is only a temporary measure, until the Report is released to all and the Special Commission is revived, unhindered and unlimited in its scope. We should also emphasize that assessments are still being paid, albeit to an escrow account.
Parenthetically, I must again state my opposition to the growing number of calls for civil action, be it bringing suit or phoning the attorney general, FBI, IRS, etc. I believe such a move would be our downfall as a church. Not only are the Holy Scriptures absolutely clear on this, but if we can't correct ourselves, we have no business calling ourselves the Light of the World. For Christ's Body to rely on the world as her problem-solver "crutch" is to admit that our salt has, indeed, lost its savor and, as Jesus said, "is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men."
In the Orthodox Church we talk alot about the Cross, and rightly so, but our talk and our hymns are meatless unless we do what we say. Now is the time to carry our cross. As one senior priest put it, if we don't bring this crisis to a complete and open resolution, the O.C.A. may continue in name, but the damage to our integrity will irreparably compromise our message to the world. Platitudes without action to back them up. "Holding the form of religion, but denying the power of it." Souls are at stake; our vision of interjurisdictional unity in America is at stake; the message of the Gospel is at stake. Thank you, Your Eminence, for taking up our cross. We support you. We encourage you. May God Himself grant you the strength and unwavering determination to fight this good fight, for the sake of all of us.
Asking your archpastoral blessing,
Rev. Mark Hodges
St Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Mission
P.S. Your handwritten letter to clergy wasn't "sappy" in the least; quite frankly, I was very encouraged by it. It was my mistake not to thank you, and tell you that in response. Your honest and personal communication has strengthened the bond of trust shared among your servants, the Free Clergy of the Midwest.
Fr. Mark makes a good point. His point is probably close to the true purpose of separation of Church and State. The intent was a separation of governance, not a separation of morality, as some would profer.
However, here's the problem Fr. Mark. The OCA adopted absolutely no criteria for objectively judging the performance of its leadership. Therefore, it cannot now create benchmarks by which to judge the wrongdoers after the fact. That is why it seems inevitable that the only judging that can be done at this point must be done by the civil authorities, since the wrongdoers, as Americans, are also subject to the civil laws.
Going forward, however, I agree with you. Let us govern our own house so that we do not have to burden the civil authorities with such matters.
#17.1 Name withheld on 2007-06-06 15:53
Before we can objectively judge our leadership we need to know the facts. Transparency is the first objective, then we can come up with meaningful performance standards.
But, at the end of the day, the big thing is to have quality people in important positions. We are suffering because we did not have quality people, people of faith, in positions of trust. Plain and simple. We didn't pay attention earlier and now we are paying the price. We can come up with all the checks and balances for future administrations, but it's kind of defeating the purpose because we have to assume mistrust on the future clergy because we allow ourselves to be fooled and taken advantage of by the regime that was in there.
What we do know in this case because its so blantant is we just have to look at the ten commandments for the standards to judge the performance of the players involved in this scandal. If we can't maintain those standards, and we haven't, any other standards are meaningless.
#17.1.1 Stonewall on 2007-06-07 11:59
I am truly relieved that His Eminence has now brought to light the subject of gifts as, this is a topic which certainly was planned on being addressed at our next Diocesan Assembly in October. I am also happy to see that the Archbishop desires to make full restitution to that end. This is indeed a bold-spirited, courageous action, and an unbelievably admirable gesture; one which I hope will then not only help him to clear his own conscience but, allow him to more-positively lead those entrusted to his Archpastoral care!
Unfortunately, given the present state of affairs in our Church and, with the rumor-mill's ongoing intimations, I believe that, at least for transparency's sake, it would be appropriate to see a full accounting of all gifts the Archbishop may have received in the past to which he wishes to make restitution upon. In this way, no one will be able to fault the Archbishop, question his motives, honesty, or integrity.
In addition, at our last Diocesan Assembly, Fr. Simerick seemingly spoke knowingly of the fact that many clergy of the Diocese of the Midwest have taken or received such "gifts" themselves. Given our Archbishop's brave and valiant posture, I would hope that his leadership example might encourage all recipients of such gifts to come forward and make public restitution for the good order and well-being of our Church. This will help to sustain and/or save the character of clergy within the Diocese of the Midwest because, it is far better to have your character tested now than to have anyone question your character later on.
a worthless priest
BTW: Archbishop JOB's patron saint is NOT the Long-Suffering Prophet but, St. Job of Pochaev.
#18 Anonymous on 2007-06-06 06:08
Dear Anonymous Priest (and, most likely, friend),
You wrote: "In addition, at our last Diocesan Assembly, Fr. Simerick seemingly spoke knowingly of the fact that many clergy of the Diocese of the Midwest have taken or received such "gifts" themselves. Given our Archbishop's brave and valiant posture, I would hope that his leadership example might encourage all recipients of such gifts to come forward and make public restitution..."
I remember Fr. Michael Simerick's comments about a very fancy cross that he had been given, which, after some time, developed a crack. He took it to a jeweler to have the crack soldered. The jeweler -- as I recall the story -- examined the cross, looked up and said, "Father, I can't solder plastic."
I guess that before anyone can offer up just restitution for their gift, they may need to have their gifts examined, as they may have received mere plastic with a flashy metallic coating.
But then, how does one put a price on such faux, yet glorious, flashiness?
Fr. Bartholomew Wojcik
St. Nicholas Orthodox Mission Church, Pella, IA
#18.1 Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik on 2007-06-07 19:10
Dear Fr. Bartholomew,
Blessings upon your feast day!
I believe the gifts that Fr. Simerick was referring to were not merely relegated to items such as pectoral crosses, icons, and religious artifacts of varying degrees of quality, worth, and workmanship but, more importantly, expensive excursions and trips which were doled out to specific clergy and their families.
a worthless priest
#18.1.1 Anonymous on 2007-06-11 13:47
Thank you for the correction, Father.
#18.2 Mark Harrison on 2007-06-08 20:27
Igumen Philip in his reflection elsewhere on this website quotes the "chilling" words of our Lord from Matthew 7:2, “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you”? Indeed, words that should make us slow to judge anyone. However, it does not absolve us from having to judge others *within the church fellowship*. It only tells us to apply holy and Spirit guided wisdom to our judgments.
St. Paul really challenges us in the Church with his words:
1 Cor 5:11-13: "I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you."
1 Cor 6:2-3 "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!"
The entirety of 1 Cor 6:1-8 is worth our thinking about. St. Paul lays down for us a most narrow path to follow. We must judge rightly others within the church, but overall judging others can bring condemnation down upon us. The task of following Christ in all aspects of our life in the Church is an exacting one, requiring wisdom, humility, the fear of God and love. This is exactly why early Christians postponed baptism until their death bed, and why St. Vladimir of the Rus wanted to abolish the death penalty.
"If thou, O LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." (Psalm 130:3-4)
#19 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2007-06-06 07:21
I carefully read and re-read the Sorrowful Epistle of Archbishop Job with great care, and was singularly impressed with its openness and honesty. Archbishop Job stands alone as the one hierarch who refuses to bury this scandal under the rubble of indiifference. This stands in bold contrast to the other members of the Holy Synod who are characterized by a wilful - and sinful? - indifference that has steadily drained the hopes of the faithful to honor their shepherds as men of courageous leadership. The complete absence of any such like-minded Sorrowful Epistles issuing forth from the other hierarchs of the Holy Synod only bears this out. The courage of His Eminence, Archbishop Job, thus stands out in bold relief - leaving us not hopeless, but hopeful.
However, I too was further hoping that His Eminence would have been more explicit in support of the Palatine Resolution to withhold the assessment from the central Church administration. A resolution must be approached with resolve for it to have its intended effect. At the next Midwest Diocesan Council meeting, we need to transform our words into deeds.
Fr. Steven Kostoff
#20 Fr. Steven Kostoff on 2007-06-06 07:57
Thank you for your reflection. I think we all understand the duty of priestly obedience, but does that duty eliminate the duty of the hierarch to listen and hear the concerns and opinions of his flock? In my feeble mind, it would seem the bishop who refuses to listen to the advise and council of his priests does so at their peril.
Also, can you address the appropriate duty of obedience a parishoner owes to his priest/bishop/metropolitan? Surely there are limits to obedience.
Sdn. John Martin Watt
Martin D. Watt, CPA (inactive)
#21 Marty Watt on 2007-06-06 08:28
As there is no way of posting in direct response to a “Reflection” on this Web site, I wish to comment here on the reflections of both Igumen Philip and Father Garvey. While both certainly contained valid warnings to be cautious as we approach judging any other human being—and while I fully agree that Father Kondratick deserves to be treated justly and fairly—I must say that portions of both reflections struck me as somewhat spiritually abusive and manipulative. I wonder if others have had a similar response to these postings. Are they an attempt to broker a “deal” with the OCA clergy and laity whereby we agree in advance to “pardon all” if they (the principle players in this scandal) will finally come forward and tell us the truth?
If this is the case, I for one must say “no deal.”
We are months into this open scandal, and probably years past the point where a brother in Christ gently taking aside any one of the principle players might have restored that individual to holiness of life—and saved the OCA in the process. Didn’t Deacon Wheeler attempt that very thing years ago? There are many among us who need to reflect long and hard on the part they played through their silence while all of this was happening. But to turn to the clergy and laity now and give sermons on the importance of our being willing to forgive strikes me as highly out of place and manipulative. And frankly, I personally found Father Garvey’s remarks about people wanting “heads to roll” quite inflammatory. To describe the many OCA members who in my view have responsibly called upon MH to step down and for Father Kondratick to be disciplined as having a “gleeful desire to see clerics on perp walks” is flat-out unfair. Most just want their church back! They want it restored to holiness, and they want it to go forward all the stronger and better for this difficult episode.
Yes, we are all sinners—terribly so. But we need to be careful not to let the church fall into the current pop-psych mentality that allows every “perp” to morph him or herself into the victim and thus garner more sympathy than the actual victims. We see this everywhere today—I certainly hope we are above being manipulated by it in the OCA. Father Kondratick deserves a fair and impartial trial, but then he also has to “take it like a man” (weren’t those someone’s words to Deacon Wheeler when he was fired?). While we may be called upon to forgive a child molester, there is no moral code in the world that requires us to hire him to baby-sit. Likewise, I’m sure most of us stand ready to forgive individuals involved in this scandal—but we don’t want them leading our church anymore. We want them retired and given all the time they need to reflect, to repent, and to begin again. They have my prayers, and always will. But they need to set us free.
#21.1 Cathryn Tatusko on 2007-06-06 12:55
The window for pardoning any offenses ended sometime back. It ended because of the continual contempt which the central players such as the Metropolitan and Fr. Kondratick have treated the Church and its members with.
Fairness must be first and foremost. A fairness that has not been the hallmark of either of these players. But do not let "fairness" be confused with the idea of "pardoning" not only the original infractions, but the actions since they were first brought out. You can pardon if a party has been unfairly accused has been dragged through the mud for no reason. Pardon can be done if there is a special case in which a party has been remorseful and needs special consideration. Pardoning is not properly done to broker a deal and let the accused get off scot free when they have shown only contempt for those that would be responsible for the pardoning.
At this point in time when neither side admits to any wrongdoing, what is there to pardon? How can we pardon people who's actions have shown anything but remorsefulness? Forgive the sinner, punish the crime. If they were man enough to do what they did, they have to be man enough to take the punishment.
After they have been afforded due process, the Metropolitan Council needs to sue the parties, if it has been shown that they improperly used Church funds personally, for restitution of those funds.
#21.1.1 Stonewall on 2007-06-06 13:36
In response to your question, yes, I had a similar response to yours to Igumen Phillip's and Fr. Garvey's "Reflections".
You have identified very clearly what prompted the discomfort I felt as I read them.
I can't add anything to what you have expressed so well. Except to say that I hope others will add their posts to mine in support of what you have made so clear and to the conclusions you have drawn.
#21.1.2 Jean Langely Sullivan on 2007-06-06 14:46
Thank you Cathy and Jean. Very perceptive of you. It somewhat amusing to observe that the seminarian education is rhetoric is not wasted; however, it is decidedly NOT being put to good use by these two clergymen.
#220.127.116.11 Inga Leonova on 2007-06-06 20:37
While I was favorably impressed with the posts of the two fathers, Cathy's words/admonition are certainly in order and, as always with her, eloquently put. Too much has happened to adopt a quick "forgive and forget" mentality. While for me, at least, the culpability of individuals is secondary, it is none-the-less important. We can not get on with the Lord's business with much of our current leadership. But in our zeal for Truth, Justice, and the Orthodox Way we must not adopt the tactics and ethics of those we are calling to account.
#21.1.3 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-06-07 05:58
Thank you for your post. Yes, indeed, there must have been many in positions of leadership and authority who knew and who could have courageously influenced the wayward to repentance years ago. Forgiveness is freeing your heart from all bittterness and hate, even as justice is administered. Maybe I was reading this interpretation into the 2 reflections of Fr. Garvey and Fr. Philip , but that is what came across to me. Thanks so much for your insightful post.
#21.1.4 Karen Jemryn on 2007-06-07 06:43
"I wonder if others have had a similar response to these postings. Are they an attempt to broker a “deal” with the OCA clergy and laity whereby we agree in advance to “pardon all” if they (the principle players in this scandal) will finally come forward and tell us the truth?"
Cathy, I must say that that I disagree with your assessment. I find absolutely nothing in either reflection that would even remotely suggest that they are trying to "broker a deal." Cynical is the first word that came to my mind when I read your post. Sorry.
#21.1.5 Michael Strelka on 2007-06-07 07:54
AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!
My thoughts exactly! The "gleeful" and "heads roll" comments are so out of touch with what we are experiencing; they reveal a deep ignorance.
Thank you Cathy.
#21.1.6 Priest Chrisotpher Wojcik on 2007-06-07 08:32
Thank you for your perfectly stated post. You are right on the mark - no further comment is needed!!
#21.1.7 Debbie Pound on 2007-06-07 09:39
Well said, Cathy! Thank you.
#21.1.8 Leaella Shirley on 2007-06-07 12:11
With respect, I must disagree with your assessment of the reflections of Igumen Philip and Fr. John Garvey. I do not believe there is any attempt to be spiritually manipulative or abusive. Both men have put forward with clarity the preeminent need (for all of us) to be forgiving; both have insisted the truth be told. The “heads to roll” comment is spot on; some of our people, those posting on this website as well as at coffee hour after Sunday Divine Liturgy, are using similar language and seem to view this catastrophe to our Church as some sort of gladiator sport. There are times, that the comments on this website, many “anonymous”, “name withheld” or some pseudonym”, are so strident and intemperate that it resembles a feeding frenzy. I realize that is inevitable when a public website is created for the purposes of discussing such a scandal and our long-suffering editor has performed a remarkable balancing act in ensuring most of us get posted while censoring over the top comments.
Part of the frustration for many of us is due, I believe, to perception. The central administration has failed to publicize some of its more positive accomplishments; it has kept us in the dark and ought to be more sensitive to our needs to be informed. Reports must be released to the whole church; because the errors, ineptitude and perhaps sins are public, much more needs to be publicly revealed.
To those in any way involved in this mess, it is never too late to tell the truth and to repent. And yes, for those confessing, I would forgo all sanctions and penalties, other than reassignments. Our survival depends on it.
Terry C. Peet
#21.1.9 Terry C. Peet on 2007-06-07 13:51
I agree with Terry, and I couldn't have expressed myself better.
However, I would add that we all need to remember the Gospel, and the simple fact that we must forgive in order to be forgiven. This requires suffering and humiliation. Furthermore, according to the Holy Apostle Paul, we must not seek revenge, but rather allow God to repay. I refer you to Romans 12 and 14.
I understand the anger regarding this mess. I feel it myself. At the same time, I must be sure I don't get in the way of a brother's repentance, even the repentance of a bishop.
Hopefully all of us, including the wrongdoers, are sincere when they pray "Lord, have mercy" and "...for a good defense at the dread judgment seat of Christ, let us ask of the Lord." These are not prayers that way hastily recite to rush our way through a service.
These prayers are given to us by holy men to remind us of what is most important on this Path. I believe the Lord calls us to pray these prayers on behalf of ourselves and ALL members of the Body, even those who greatly disappoint and take advantage of us.
#18.104.22.168 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-06-08 07:45
Beautifully and very eloquently stated. I agree 100%! Amen!
I regret your suspicion about any kind of "deal" being brokered. I'm not so powerful or influential as all that; on the contrary, I'm generally considered rather a fool, to be ignored as much as possible.
I also regret that anything I wrote may have come across as "spiritually abusive." What I wrote merely reflects the teaching of the Desert Fathers. Consider the following: "A certain brother had sinned, and the priest commanded him to go out from the church. But Bessarion rose up and went out with him, saying, 'I too am a sinful man.'...Once a brother in Scete was found guilty, and the older brethren came in assembly and sent to Abba Moses, asking him to come; but he would not. Then the priest sent to him, saying, 'Come: for the assembly of brethren awaits you.' And he rose up and came. But taking with him a very old basket, he filled it with sand and carried it behind him. And they went out to meet him, asking, 'Father, what is that?' And the old man said to them, 'My sins are running behind me, and I do not see them, and I am come today to judge the sins of another man.' And they heard him, and said naught to the brother, and forgave him...A brother asked Abba Pastor, saying, 'If I should see my brother's faults, is it good to hide it?' The old man said to him, 'In what hour we do cover up our brother's sins, God shall cover ours; and in what hour we do betray our brother's shames, in like manner shall God betray our own.'"
From this (and from my own experience of grace mediated to me through my Bishop), I understand that what brings us to repentance is not being prosecuted, punished, screamed at or beaten up; for "the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). What makes the difference is being loved with a love so intense that it cracks our self-protective shield, crushes our pride, and creates in us at least the longing for a clean heart. What has made the difference for me is another human being actually incarnating in his words and attitudes and actions the truth that "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (Jn.3:17).
Is that risky? Yup. Can one get stomped on by a conscienceless sociopath who takes advantage? Yup. But those occasional seeming failures (and I say "seeming," because who knows what seed of grace may have been planted in a human heart?) are outweighted by the many successes. And what is a "failure," if not an opportunity to hug to ourselves the Cross just that much closer?
Which leads us to the point that, contrary to what has been written elsewhere, we are NEVER to judge another PERSON, either inside or outside the Body of Christ!!! We may well have to judge actions and attitudes as good or bad; and we may be required to impose discipline to correct bad behaviour or bad attitudes. But NOT ONE OF US has either the right or the knowledge or the personal holiness to judge another PERSON; that is strictly and solely God's province. The distinction may seem fine; but it is nonetheless very real.
And FYI, I personally do NOT find it easy to live by the sayings of the Fathers and the Scriptures cited previously; I can be only too quick to judge and to speak, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering confessor. I can turn into the old man in a nano-second, if I'm not careful. So I'm not lecturing from some ivory tower. But "we fall and we get up; we fall and we get up; we fall and we get up."
One other word about "nagrady," which I forgot in another post: the award is "the right to wear" this or that doo-dad; you have to actually buy it yourself...much to Sofrino's delight.
#21.1.11 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2007-06-08 05:07
I can’t say that I found Fr. Philip’s or Fr. John’s reflections as “spiritually abusive and manipulative” or that they are trying to “broker a deal” with anyone. My first impression of both reflections was one of hope for the future. I have reread both and still feel the same way. In my opinion, neither of them tried to sugar-coat the situation. We all know that some terrible things have happened and that Fr. Kondratick was very much involved and others knew about what was happening and chose to turn the other way. I think that both Fathers were trying to remind us that we must remain true to Christ’s teachings as things begin to unfold and as the hard facts become known. And just as accountants and lawyers share with us their own professional knowledge, this clergy, as “church professionals,” are just doing their job.
Also, if we are not willing to forgive…whose church do you want back? The church that Christ left to us is supposed to be a forgiving church. There have been some very un-Christian remarks made in some (mostly past) postings. I believe that these are the things that Fr. Philip and Fr. John are talking about.
This website has allowed all of us, in our own way, to voice our concerns, our outrage, and our opinions…in addition to providing us with much information that we would not have gotten otherwise. So in a small way, there has already been something positive that has come out of this horrible mess.
I, myself, am very frustrated at the lack of progress and sometimes I feel really angry at some of the stuff I read; but, at the end of all of this, I truly hope and pray that I can find forgiveness in my heart for all those that ask for it…and even for those that don’t!
Please forgive my own ignorance, but I just didn’t see the need to criticize these two men who, in their own way, were trying to help share their own views and counsel.
(Holy Resurrection Church – Palatine, IL)
#21.1.12 Helen O'Sullivan on 2007-06-08 07:20
I offer these words of St. John Chrysostom, in support of Vladyka Job's letter:
Look at those who rule your city or nation. Some seem to have no qualities which mark them out for such a task; they hold a position of power through an accident of birth, or through ingratiating themselves with their superiors. Some have natural authority, so that they inspire confidence and respect in others. Some possess naturals wisdom, so they easily handle the complex affairs of state. But whether or not they have natural gifts, there is another type of gift which surpasses all others: the gift of knowing right from wrong, and the courage to choose what is right. This moral gift is not something which is given at birth, and which some posses and others do not. The potential of moral discernment is like a seed sown in every human heart; and this seed grows only if it is nurtured through reflection, education, prayer, and practice. It would be better that our leaders were poor in natural gifts, but rich in this moral gift, than that they exuded authority and wisdom, but used these natural gifts for their own ends. - St. John Chrysostom
Offered by your Antiochian brother in Christ, who loves the OCA and will keep her in my poor prayers.
The path forward is clear. We need a leader that can rally others to support his cause and take the decisive action needed in the Holy Synod at this crucial juncture. Without a doubt that leader is His Eminence JOB.
Also I pray that each Metropolitan Council member has read Robert Wachter's detailed and thoughtful post and will govern themselves accordingly.
#23 Subdeacon Robert Aaron on 2007-06-06 16:16
Can you post for us the dates of the upcoming meetings and/or events that will be taking place within the OCA?
#24 Patty Schellbach on 2007-06-07 08:32
How come you are are not letting us comment of Fr Philip's Reflection? You seem to be quick to post a reply page in the past for other Reflections. Why not now? Oh yeah, I forgot, this is your website and you can do what you want. So much for transparency. You are such a fraud!
(Editor's note: Usually I post 1-3 stories/reflections a week, each with a thread. The past 10 days have seen three times that number. To keep proliferating threads would be self-defeating. I thought it better to keep it all on one thread. I apologize if that is confusing. No fraud intended. )
#25 Anonymous on 2007-06-07 18:18
Thank you Cathy and Jean for being so perceptive. I am so glad most people here are not deceived by the clever yet completely misleading rhetoric of those two reflections, esp. the one by Igumen Philip. Just like a post on the "sick mother" by one of the Syosset priests some months ago, this attempt to lead people into a web of deceptive discourses is failing. There is hope still in/for the OCA...
#26 Inga Leonova on 2007-06-07 19:55
I do not know Igumen Philip, but Fr John Garvey was a classmate at SVS in the early nineties and we had many in depth conversations. I do not perceive any attempt to manipulate in either posting, and I hardly believe it of Fr John. I see one goal as common between the two: to encourage people to pause and reflect; to put the brakes on our emotions and let our souls catch up.
I, like so many here, want nothing more than ACTION, and I want it YESTERDAY; but, as someone pointed out to me recently, just because action isn't being taken, it does not necessarily mean that there is a failure in duty. There are times when a person is constrained by other factors - including legal factors - from acting as one might wish. Being the son of a lawyer, this point was all too clear. For better or for worse, there are so many protections around alleged culprits, one must be very careful in how one proceeds. It often means remaining silence to maintain the level of confidentiality required by the law, no matter how much others might perceive the silence as stonewalling.
Do I mean to excuse Syosset? NO!!! ABSOLUTELY NOT! I don't think for a minute that those in Syosset are covering anybody's backsides other than their own. I mean only to point to the very valid points being made by Frs Philip and John, and to reinforce that, in the case of Fr John at least (and I believe it is true of Fr Philip as well, based on his posts), the goal is to get us all to pull on the reins a bit and think about the other factors at play. We don't need a lynch mob mentality - no matter how guilty RSK or anyone else may be. As Orthodox Christians, we need to be the opposite: we need to be a clear voice of reason and integrity and sound moral judgement, especially when we speak collectively.
I once read a law review article that my mother had in which an attorney was specifically calling for the use of the death penalty as a tool for society to get revenge. In this person’s mind, revenge in such cases was the groundwork of a moral society. I am paraphrasing, but I am confident that I have the intent correct here, and am reasonable close to the actual words. This was not too long after the infamous rapist/murderer Ted Bundy was executed. I remember seeing on the news people with signs saying “Fry Bundy” or “Bundy Burgers” and I was sickened. No matter how heinous his crimes, as Orthodox Christians we must not ever consider anybody’s death something to rejoice over. It is a terrible tragedy, even when it can be seen as personal defence or the defence of society. I hope there were no Orthodox out there that morning, and I used the article in a letter to a non-Orthodox friend, with whom I was corresponding about abortion (he was “pro-choice”) as an example of a non-Orthodox attitude, and to make the point that Orthodox are consistent that death is always lamentable, from conception on, under all circumstances.
I see today the same reasoning applying to our situation in the OCA. If Fr Kondratick's trial is a sham it will not be justice, rather vengeance that is imposed. We don't need that. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." Vengeance does nobody's soul any good whatsoever. To paraphrase one of the canons, vengeance is neither justice nor the beginning of justice. It should be the farthest thing from our hearts and souls, and if Fr Philip's message is what I think it is, it is a call for all of us to really think about what it is that we are seeking, and to remember who we are collectively - the Body of Christ - and the real depth of sin that is alleged in this case.
If Father Kondratick is guilty, and from what we have been told, the evidence is damming, then we must act accordingly. But it should not be a cause for rejoicing. I don’t believe that the majority of people posting here are in favour of vengeance. If the matter is put to them that way, I am confident that they will recoil. But I believe that Fr Philip and Fr John (I am quite certain of it in his case) are trying to point out that our impatience slip over an invisible, fuzzy line into a spirit of vengeance. We are all inpatient. This whole matter has dragged on far too long, and the evidence of stonewalling is stark. How long shall we endure? Vladyka JOB, apparently, is beyond the end of his rope. We have all been given due cause to be impatient, to demand action – yesterday. That’s definitely where I am. However, that action must heed the Word of God, as Fr Philip quoted: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
#27 Mark Harrison on 2007-06-08 12:04
Please re-read Cathy's post which considers Fr. Garvey's and Igumen Phillip's "Relections".
Do you really see in anything she has written in her post anything that calls forth a need for you to warn against the danger of a vengful attitude? Where specifically in her post?
Are there those who may be suseptible to the temptation to desire revenge. Of course. In any conflict that can be a danger for some.
But, commendable as your faith in and loyalty to Fr. Garvey and to Igumen Phillip is, it is unjustified to suggest that the points so clearly made in Cathy's post are to be diminished in signifacance by the suggestion that they arise from meanspirited and unworthy motives.
I don't see that at all, Mark. Can you show me in her post where I missed it?
#27.1 Jean Langely Sullivan on 2007-06-08 19:30
Dear Jean et al:
I am sorry if what I said came off as suggesting ANYTHING about Cathy's motives or anything of the sort. I started by saying that I disagree with her take on what either Fr Philip or Fr John had written, and then proceeded to make my case for what I believe they were trying to point out. None of the rest of my post was addressing Cathy's post, which is why it is not nested (indented).
It happens that I agree with Cathy on a very key issue - that while we must forgive, we must not allow the abuses to continue. If stopping the abuse requires that 'heads roll' (that people are brought to justice and removed from their positions of trust), then let it be done. I hope the two good fathers were not suggesting otherwise.
#27.1.1 Mark Harrison on 2007-06-09 02:13
I am sorry if it was unclear, but I never intendd to suggest that Cathy had spoken of vengeance. I began by stating that I disagreed with her about what she read in the reflections of Frs Philip and John. AFter that, I was merely addressing what I believed their intent to be and speaking to it myself.
If I was unclear, my apologies also (should be first) to Cathy.
For the record, by the way, I fully agree that the time for forgetting is well past. There must be concrete action. I am delighted that Archbishop JOB has called for a special session of the HS. There can be concrete action without it being taken in the spirit of vengeance. Like I said, my own patience has long since worn thin. I am definitely want to see something DONE. I only hope that for me, at least, that desire is not a desire for vengeance, or even for worldy justice; but for "the good estate of the holy churches of God."
#27.1.2 Mark on 2007-06-09 09:48
Thanks for your clarification. I am grateful to you for your thoughful posts which I read with much benefit.
As they say "It's never a lick amiss" to warn us all to look with close attention to the "spirit" in which we reflect upon potentially contentious issues.
I hope we can be equally alert to detect any effort from any quarter to suppress expression of fact-based and legitimate criticism by suggesting it is necessarily a manifestation of a "spirit of vengance".
"Manipulation" is manipulation only if it is undetected as such. When brought out into the light of scrutiny, it becomes impotent. Perhaps the saddest aspect of manipulation is it is so often done without deliberate intent or even awareness by the manipulator, who would ascribe to him/herself only the best of motives.
It would seem to me that we would all of us do well to focus on the incontrovertable facts of the crisis the OCA faces and leave examination of each others' motivations to God who sees all hearts and our confessors to whom we bring our attempts to reveal them.
One of the things that most wearys me in my own experience both as a Roman Catholic and now as a member of the Orthodox Church is the admonishing content and tone of so much of our communication. Perhaps that is in some part a reason for the huge turn outs to hear contemporary megachurch preachers who focus their messages on encouragement, celebration of the joy of God's provident care and trust in his plan for each person's future.
Anyway, thanks Mark for responding to my post. One of the few good things that I believe can come from this present crisis is that, through the OCAnews.org website, we have the opportunity to exchange thoughts with so many Orthodox Christians outside of our own parishes. I value yours.
#22.214.171.124 jean Langley Sullivan on 2007-06-09 12:46
You're welcome, and thank you also. I agree with you 100% that if nothing else, this crisis has been a cause for a lot of good communication that would otherwise never have taken place.
Furthermore, your cautions, as well as mine, are both needed. Orthodoxy has always been about balance - a balance between extremes. I think I've quoted before something that Professor Sergius Verhovskoy is known to have said: "Orthodoxy is the absence of one-sidedness." We need to all voice our one-sidedness so that the balance can be found.
#126.96.36.199.1 Mark Harrison on 2007-06-09 19:59
To those who have responded to my earlier post by citing Church Fathers and Christ himself on the need to forgive, I ask you to re-read my post. In it you will find something that evidently escaped you on the first read—namely, that I agree with you on our obligation to forgive. Yes, we are absolutely obligated to forgive if we wish to be forgiven. Frankly, I see this as one of the central tasks/challenges of the Christian life—one we can only accomplish by the grace of God. But it is folly—and I will reiterate, manipulative—to suggest that that is where things stop with this scandal (or with any pattern of sin, for that matter). Yes, we need to forgive, but we are not obligated to allow ourselves to be victimized again and again (and for clarity’s sake let me say that when you have been lied to, stolen from, and placated with empty words—you have been victimized). I dare say that most of the OCA faithful see the need to be forgiving, but that does not in any way mean that we are obligated to keep the same people at the helm of our church and allow these patterns to continue. I certainly hope that the members of the MC and the HS are capable of making these distinctions, as much depends on their ability to do so.
#28 Cathryn Tatusko on 2007-06-08 13:58
Thank you for provoking such a stimulating and instructive debate over the nature of "forgiveness" and personal responsibility!
Fundamentally, I am with you in rejecting what I call "cheap forgiveness" somewhat akin to "cheap grace." I have always struggled with the concept of unconditional forgiveness, especially in the face of conscious and deliberate evil absent any repentance or contrition. Yet we are called to forgive, even in this case, perhaps as much for own spiritual health as for the sake of the one being forgiven.
But to forgive is not to forget or to relieve someone from accepting the just consequences of their actions. Rather it is to continue to love the person in question and hope, pray, and work for their eventual repentance and salvation. This is not quick and easy forgiveness with a "get out of jail free" card attached, but hard and unending work, on everyone's part to arrive at a state of grace for all concerned. Of course, most of us usually fall far short, but we must at least try.
I do not think you and the fathers are so far apart on all this and if there is some unconscious special pleading for Fr. Kondratick (or others) involved--so be it. He needs a few "real" friends.
As for the strong rhetoric often used on this site which has generated such concern, I say it is the inevitable, and in many cases justifiable, result of false piety and religious gobbledygook emanating from those wanting to ignore the scandal. Many times it is used ironically, sarcastically, etc. and sometimes it is just plain crude and inappropriate. But at least it has the virtue of being "real"--not fake. After all, our Lord used very strong language at times especially when dealing with religious hypocrisy and cant.
Finally, a word to the wise for our clerical brethren. That this scandal has fanned the flames of anti-clericalism in parts of the laity can hardly come as any surprise. Hence the heightened sensitivity to clerical admonitions to the laity. The clericalism that has generated it needs to be exorcised where it has taken root, and a new respect for the "priesthood of all believers" set in its place. Some of our bishops need to remember that their model must be the "Suffering Servant" and not the "Prince of Lies" lording it over the "uneducated" masses.
That the OCA is blessed with many fine clerics and lay people is obvious for those following this website. May they become the nucleus of a new leadership that will rehabilitate our ailing Church.
#28.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-06-10 12:09
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