Thursday, April 6. 2006
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This letter from the Metropolitan appears to be a summary of current events along with acceptance of responsibility and some spiritual advice. I'm not sure why the two hierarchs from the West and Alaska are criticizing it. There seems to be a bigger problem in the OCA than mismanagement of money.
#1 Jane on 2006-04-06 12:50
Ok, now it's just a pissing match between bishops.
The Metropolitan has taken responsibility and asked forgiveness. The actions of two other bishops and at least one priest is the action of unforgiveness.
While there is more that can be done with regard to the accountability issue, THIS particular "controversy" (and the "bring the Metropolitan down!" attitude of at least one hierarch in the OCA) truly IS disgusting and scandalous.
When one bows his head, admits "the buck stops here", and asks forgiveness, we should kick him into the gutter? And a hierarch, at that?
That is the TRUE "unorthodox" behavior here.
Shame on those who are offering disrespect for repentance!
#2 Kevin Nikolai Payne on 2006-04-06 13:34
I absolutely, whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Payne in this matter. His Beatitude has asked for the forgiveness of everyone that makes up our church. He asked everyone to put aside this entire matter…to lay aside all earthly cares…and to concentrate on what is most important during Great Lent.
I have been monitoring this entire situation while studying here in St. Petersburg, Russia and thus far, nothing has shocked me more than what I read this morning about the certain Hierarchs banning the letter from being read in their respective churches. As Mr. Payne said, to not accept a Man’s forgiveness (especially right before Holy Week) is the true sin here.
I will be traveling to Moscow in a couple weeks for Pascha and I know that when I arrive there, all of my earthly cares will be put aside and I will be able to pray with peace of mind. I will pray that the OCA finds its way through the mess, (which now almost seems like a Hierarchal power struggle rather than a money issue) and is able to experience the same kind of spiritually enlightening Pascha that I plan to have.
For those people who, (during the most holy day of the year) will be only thinking about who is to blame for this disaster rather than celebrating our Lord’s Resurrection: You have my sympathy. To everyone else, have a blessed Pascha.
#2.1 Gabriel on 2006-04-07 01:30
A pissing contest? Are you serious?
There are people who let their frustrations and disgust for this scenario out on a daily basis. Just because 2 Bishops choose not to let their dioceses' read that letter, it becomes a pissing contest. Hello? It's on the internet now, neither Bishop has any control over who CHOOSES to read the letter. That's why it was put there in the first place.
Kevin, dig in and get comfortable for the long haul. This is only going to get uglier and uglier as the days go by. Just because the +Metropolitan has taken responsibility for this mess, it's a contest? That's his job as THE leader of this church. If people don't agree with the letter, then so be it. There are many, many people who disagree with what's going on, whether they're for or against the way this is being handled.
This whole "scandal" was blown WAY out of proportion when this website was brought online. That's the price you're going to have to pay for "transparency." Sometimes, here in reality and the 21st century, you do get what you ask for. Except for one thing, that always isn't the best way to go. As you will find out in the weeks and months to come.
The one unfortunate thing for +Metropolitan Herman is that his decisions will be partially-based on the fact that the entire world now knows of "our" problem. And that is such a shame. He has to base his decisions on whether the people of the church "agree" with that decision or not. Once again, "transperancy" at it's finest. We're getting our cake and we'll be able to eat it too!!
#3 Michael Livosky on 2006-04-06 16:06
I have been refraining from commenting on your postings up until now, not wanting to get into a squabble, but I finally feel like responding to you directly.
For one thing, whether you like it or not (and there may be arguments either way), the Internet and the availability of real-time global exchange of information and opinions are a fact of our everyday life in the 21st century. I think that to label this phenomena as one of those "worldly follies" that the church people should shy away from, the way some overzealous conservatives do, is delusional. As any other tool, it is not good or bad by itself - it is what we make of it.
Secondly, I have already commented elsewhere on this site that I am greatly saddened by the fear of truth that appears to underline this scandal (no quotation marks, please). It is, in my opinion, unworthy and un-Christian to be afraid of bringing the shady things to light. You have used the recent Roman Catholic scandal as an example of what "horrible" things happen when the truth is exposed to public view. What really happened was that the decades-long cover-up of terrible sins and abuse was exposed, and the Roman Church was forced to deal with it - and it is my hope and prayer that it will emerge from this crisis cleansed, and a stronger Church than it has been before.
My hope and prayers for the OCA are the same, albeit greatly emphasized since it concerns MY church. Our position in America is unique for an Orthodox Church in that we have never been a state church here and therefore have been blessed by avoiding the temptations that come with that status. Moreover, our autocephaly affords us an opportunity to re-examine and re-define ourselves in ecclesiastical issues. The current crisis, exposing far more than (still) alleged financial misconduct, is an opportunity to untangle quite a few knots and to cleanse ourselves of misunderstanding and misuse of our "tradition". It is a blessing that there were means - and a heroic effort of people who undertook it - to expose this crisis to public view. It has engaged the multitudes of the American Orthodox in thinking about the meaning of things that we all too often take for granted. It is a wake-up call - and there is nothing worse for a Christian than "the slumber of the soul". To remind of another "wake-up call" of long ago - do you think Jesus was concerned with "public opinion" and exposing the church's sins to "the outsiders" (namely, the Romans and the Gentiles) when he threw the money-lenders out of the Temple? I would say that on the scale of the first century, it was perhaps a much greater act of public exposure than creating a website is in the 21st century... ;o)
Finally, I would rather you were not lashing out at people for not signing their names to their postings. I, for example, am very comfortable in my diocese and my parish, and even if I wasn't, my livelihood does not fully depend on the good graces of my ecclesiastical superiors. However, I can only imagine how the people under the omophoron of Bishops Tikhon and Nikolai may suffer if their identities become known to their bishops. Should that danger prevent them from participating in this exchange? What right does any of us "the fearless" have to cast a stone at them? I am not sure whether I would not have had second thought about signing my name if I were a matushka in the Diocese of the West...
#3.1 Inga Leonova on 2006-04-07 10:21
Well Inga, I won't let you drag me into a shouting match. If you would like to make this a more personal discussion, feel free to contact me. I will gladly share my opinion on the rest of your comment to me.
There are a lot of people on here who make statements far more delusional than I. I have my opinion about this “scandal” (as it has been so kindly named); if you don’t like it, don’t read it.
The majority of the comments on this website are based solely on speculation at this point. And keep in mind, this website controls what subjects are to be discussed. When all is said and done; IF I’m wrong in my opinion, I’m wrong. Won’t be the first time nor the last.
As for the “lashing” out at people? I didn’t make the rule, that would be the website administrator. And I will quote him “Please, take courage, and sign your names (From 30 Mar 06).” “They signed their names; we should do no less. No anonymous postings from now on (From 12 Feb 06).” I will continue to do so from this point on. As long as I see the question “Are the allegations true or false?”
#3.1.1 Michael Livosky on 2006-04-07 16:11
Michael, thank you for your words.
I was not referring to Met. Herman's letter, which certainly seems to be a letter of the heart, aware of sinfulness and tearfully seeking forgiveness as it finds the way to repentence and renewed wholeness of spirit.
I was referring primarily to the letters and "attitude" being spread from the western part of the U.S. and what appears to be a call for unforgiveness--and strangely enough because the writer thinks the Metropolitan shouldn't have "given in".
I understand there are canonical considerations, and it appears Met. Herman has side-stepped some of them in promulgating his letter and calling for it to be read in churches. But where was the humility of the protesting bishops who could have written that they desired things to be done in proper order and would read the letter when that had taken place?
I am truly surprised, because in years past I have had spiritually profitable conversation with Bishop Tikhon via the internet. It was Bishop Tikhon who said to me "if you find the orthodox discussion lists to be more of a hindrance than a help, you should leave them and apply yourself to better pastimes." Even today I hold him in some esteem. But I am surprised and saddened by his place in this aspect of our troubles.
#3.2 Anonymous on 2006-04-07 13:43
What becomes clearer each day is the predicament the Metropolitan is in and why he had to hire a legal team. The internal mechanism just isn't working well enough for him to lead the church.
What I find interesting is how this replicates the Great Schism on a smaller scale in a way. A bunch of Bishops couldn't agree and the whole thing fell apart. Now, of course, we in the Orthodox Church may have an attitude about the Schism, but if you look at it from a high level, it was a political discourse that caused the failure.
Let's pray that people, including the Bishop of Alaska, don't allow this to become that.
I don't know if the actions of Alaska mean much. That Bishop is trying to adhere to the rules, it sounds like. I'm far from an expert on canonical law, but canonical law seems like it hasn't worked entirely well either. The question is how far can we stray from it. I think Metropolitan Herman made it clear that he wasn't going to please everyone.
In my humble opinion, none of the Bishops, including Tikhon, that don't want the letter read should be punished if they are trying to adhere to the canons, but they don't deserve praise either.
Herman should be elevated and was for clear reasons. He is strong enough to lead in a crisis. When people would stand in his way, he leads anyway.
Eis polla, eti despota!
#4 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-04-06 16:52
#4.1 Joseph on 2006-04-07 12:49
One begins to wonder about the stability of the writers of some of these missives. If this is the way the leadership of the church operates, then God help us!
The whole matter revolves around one simple question: What happened to the money?
Accusations and implications about other matters should be considered on their own, not as a part of this issue. But it seems that the best way to avoid answering the REAL question is to raise a few more.
It is sad that we have come to this. Not surprising, but sad.
#5 Michelle C. on 2006-04-06 20:26
The Eve of Lazarus Saturday, 2006
The scandal in your American church, the stench of which is now world-wide, continues unabated and unfettered. We have read the Metropolitan's Letter, even on this side of the ocean, and outside of the total and complete juxtaposition of English grammar "I order you to cease and desist", it smacks of a purely Richard Nixon-like attempt to relegate the scandal to some ecclesiatical functionary's desk. The scandal is indeed serious and I can assure you that from many and numerous conversations with the highly placed in the Great Church of Russia, which makes the OCA look like a suburban-drive-in popcorn stand, that all of the Orthodox are just stunned by this.
Today a new element was added with the posting of Schmemann's fils' letter encouraging all to return to their isbas. The old guard is surely lining up behind the old guard in an attempt to bury this scandal.
I also refer to the numerous posts on this site by one Olympiada Kane who ad hominums do nothing to enhance and further the stature of this murky affair. Indeed, there has been malfeasance, if not outright felonious fraud, on a very serious scale and it needs to be confronted and addressed. I would remind my American coreligionaries that Richard Nixon was forced to resign for involvement in a far lesser scandal than this.
As for the posturing of the two Western Bishops, like it or not, their ecclesiatical decisions are not without merit. Bishop Tikhon's call for a new Head of the Church may gather more strength than many might believe.
I would encourage all here on this site to focus on this issues, and not the personalities. This is a serious matter.
Xiao Ling Tong
The text does not read: I order you to cease and to desist." Instead, it reads: It is time for the turmoil .... to cease and to desist."
#6.1 Terry C. Peet on 2006-04-07 10:29
If you are an Orthodox Christian, then I urge you to pray for us above all else. Your insults do not edify the Body of Christ.
This matter of OCA finances is most definitely an issue of personalities: the personalities of sinners, tyrants and stubborn brothers who are unwilling to confess, repent and forgive. Furthermore, what injures the OCA injures the Entire Church, and to refer to "your American Church" and the "Great Church of Russia", as if they were different bodies, is wrong.
Some of us are willing to accept the fact that no one else but sinners are available to serve as Bishops, because we are all sinners.
Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!
One thing I learned from serving on a parish council is that things work much much better when everybody is committed to following appropriate procedures. I was very fortunate to be in a parish where everyone who served was passionate about the church, where everyone on the council understood that the role of the priest was to lead (meaning that they were deferential but not to the point of rubberstamping everything), and where the priest was committed to following the parish bylaws for the sake of good order.
I really believe that his commitment to do things the right way -- to follow appropriate procedures -- was one of the key reasons why the parish operated so smoothly and without any strife. Sure there were some misunderstandings and some hurt feelings from time to time, but in general, things were fantastic (especially compared to anecdotal stories I heard about other parishes).
I think as soon as you pitch the procedures in the trashbin, you are inviting calamnity.
I think that's what happened with administration of the finances, and I think that is what has happened as Metropolitan Herman has tried to take steps on his own to correct the problem.
I think that Metropolitan Herman has overstepped his authority, and, in doing so, I think he has perpetuates the same problem: The failure to follow the procedures we all know we should all be following to resolve this problem and prevent a similar problem from reoccurring.
I pray that our bishops will receive the wisdom, the courage, and the humility to lead us though this difficult time.
#7 Robert Vasilios Wachter on 2006-04-07 05:43
"Judge not least ye be judge yourself"Are the bishops of the West and Alaska saying ,on a daily basis , the prayer of St. Ephraim? Your don't forsake your bishop in his time of need. You show the Metropolitan love and compassion. You teach your flock to love the primate just as Christ loves him. You stop writing letters which hurt the church more then they help.
For shame. You are unworthy to be called Bishops.
#8 Lubov on 2006-04-07 05:56
Amen, Amen I say to you Lubov.
They are acting like spoiled children having a hissy fit.
I think some of our bishops are more concerned about their self-empossed Sovereign Dioceses than what is really good for the Church. It's time to grow up. If they don't like the OCA, then please do us all a favor and LEAVE or RETIRE! They surely won't be missed!
#8.1 Michael Geeza on 2006-04-07 07:39
Remarkable. People say "Judge not lest ye be judged" with one breath, then turn around and judge Bishop Nikolai, Bishop Tikhon, Metropolitan Herman, et alia with the other.
Maybe the Bishops of Alaska and the West have good reason for their actions that we don't know about. That's the problem with this whole controversy: a lot of people are running around making assertions without proof or real knowledge -- and pushing around some rather unorthodox ecclesiology that more resembles secular democracy in the process.
Better we should get down on our knees and pray for each and every one of our bishops rather than write anonymous and semi-anonymous posts excoriating them, as though our piety exceeds and trounces theirs, and we are so much holier than they.
#8.2 Gregory Orloff on 2006-04-08 07:56
I think there is wisdom in the "Reflections" by Serge Schmemann posted above, given the time of year. This is not to say that the issues should be avoided, or tabled indefinitely, but let us take a deep breath, reflect on the Passion of Our Lord and Savior, and pray for our own Resurrection from sin- as well as for that of the Church, and for those whom we might hold culpable in this difficult time.
Remember, nowhere during Holy Week did Christ utter the words, "It's unfair". His very Person was wronged and he accepted it quietly, and prayed for those who scourged Him, spat at Him, murdered Him, dishonored Him Who is their very Creator. Should we do any less for His Body, the Church? All involved in this controversy seek after the welfare of Christ's Body, the Church. In addition to whatever appropriate administrative or legal actions are called for, let us also defend the Body of Christ by remembering how Christ willed and allowed that His Body be crucified and murdered for our salvation. Let us not be overly rash in the manner St. Peter when he took up his sword and struck at Christ's persecutors:
'Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?' (Matthew 26: 50b-53)
Let us be careful that in our zealous defense of the Church we do not cross over into passion, using our 'correctness' as a club to beat our opponents. Let us not seek after our own way, but the Lord's- and let us seeks after this in humility and love, acknowledging our failings and asking forgiveness. Let us also take care not to publicly speak in an unbefitting, derogatory manner against any of the hierarchs of the Church. This is a time of spiritual warfare, and it is easy for even the well-intentioned and spiritually experienced to be misled.
#9 Anonymous on 2006-04-07 14:18
We're missing the ultimate question and the core of the situation.
The question up to now has been: "Are the allegations true, false, or mistaken as to fact?"
The answer we are now receiving is: "We don't really know, but we are doing everything possible, including retaining Proskauer Rose, to find out."
That is a fairly reasonable answer.
As to his Beatitude's letter, I would only say to him that: I have no difficulty with your Beatitude's service as Primate. Anything your Beatitude did incorrectly as Primate certainly has my forgiveness. Also, anything your Beatitude did incorrectly as acting Treasurer has my forgiveness; I would simply ask with deepest respect what it is I am being asked to forgive.
I believe the letter is a cri de coeur from his Beatitude; indicating perhaps a growing understanding of the situation and his Beatitude's place in it.
I deal with fairly significant amounts of money every day. My work since 1986 (first on Wall Street, then on what is called the "buy side" in the financial world) has brought home to me a post from a priest on this website: money can always be fixed. Peculation happens --- it still strikes me as peculiar, but I guess every person has his or her own vulnerabilities. (I guess money just doesn't happen to be one of my vulnerabilities, which accounts for my utter incredulousness about all of this. God knows, though, that I have my own vulnerabilities.)
What could not be fixed was the "naked brutality" of the silence. This silence was the fundamental problem. In an externally-imposed silence, the thoughts and feelings that arise often become twisted, calcified and all the more difficult to work through.
There are differing statements from two people I admire: Fr. Michael Plekon and Serge Schmemann.
Where they differ are in Fr. Michael's statement:
'Some may wish that it would all go away or be stopped or silenced by hierarchical fiat, some kind of "order" thereby being restored. But such would be the greatest dis-order, the most serious dis-placement of our ecclesial being, the most terrible dismissal of the people of God from their community."
And in Serge Schmemann's:
'So let us pause. Let the Web sites and exchanges fall silent for a while. If we are approached by reporters, let's tell them there's an investigation under way, and we have nothing more to say for now. Let's resist angry thoughts and recriminations and think instead about how best we can heal ourselves and our Church. Our Metropolitan has taken a resolute and fateful step. Let's pray for him and for our entire Church, that we may all emerge from this ordeal stronger and purer.'
I am weighted toward speaking one's mind. Serge Schmemann is correct about angry thoughts, and his concern is one I have exhorted to others and tried to put into practice. I would suggest that these are most likely the product of people having supressed their thoughts and having been "displaced from their ecclesial being." Peggy Schellbach has noted that this website has provided in many ways a more meaningful exchange than occurred at All American Councils.
It is said that the opposite of love is not hatred, but rather indifference. If people were indifferent to the health and wellbeing of holy Orthodoxy, the problems of the Church would attract little attention or comment. The commentary (some of it more vehement than I like) is more a function of people's love than any sort of opposition to the sacred and imperishable telos of the Church.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I am an alumnus of Baruch College, and consider myself privileged to have attended Fr. Michael's course "Introduction to Christianity.")
#10 Ed Unneland on 2006-04-07 19:01
"Apostles' Canon 34":
"It behooves the Bishops of every nation to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognize him as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval; but, instead, each of them should do only whatever is necessitated by his own parish and by the territories under him. But let not even such a one do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all. For thus will there be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
"Canon 9 of the Regional Council heald in Antioch in 341 AD":
"The presiding Bishop in a metropolis must be recognized by the Bishops belonging to each province and undertake the cure of the entire province, because of the fact that all who have any kind of business to attend to are wont to come from all quarters to the metropolis. Hence it has seemed best to let him have precedence in respect of honor, and to let the rest of the Bishops do nothing extraordinary without him, in accordance with the ancient Canon of the Fathers which has been prevailing, or only those things which are imposed upon the parish of each one of them and upon the territories under it. For each Bishop shall have authority over his own parish, to govern in accordance with the reverence imposed upon each, and to make provision regarding all the territory belonging to his city, as also to ordain Presbyters and Deacons, and to dispose of details with judgement, but to attempt nothing further without the concurrence of the Bishop of the Metropolis; nor shall he himself, without the consent and approval of the rest."
#11 Sorry--parishioner in Diocese of West on 2006-04-07 20:43
In regard the the letter, I'll tell you one thing. Bp. Tikon writes inflated prose like some Victorian old lady who never got beyond finishing school. His use of English is appalling for someone who claims to represent the church in a public manner. I would think that it is high time that Orthodox bishops such as Tikon drop the florid and contrived antique language.
The reasoning of the letter in question and a number of the other ballistic missals that have issued from San Francisco have been framed in such bizarre language as to be almost inaccessible to the average educated reader.
Is this what is meant by the Byzantine church?
I should think that any educated member of the OCA would be acutely embarrassed by such writing. When I first began reading Tikon's stuff I thought the man must be badly educated or delusional. I now opt for delusional.
Whatever has gone wrong has gone wrong in the national church has gone wrong under the administration of Kondratick. He's got to go, and he's got to stay gone. Talk of miters for him from Tikon is just about the most insane thing I've yet heard. Wake up OCA! Whoever has or has not had his or her hand in the cookie jar is just the tip of the iceberg for the church.
While no system of church government is perfect or foolproof, steps can be taken to move toward the end of hierarchical despotism that that has basically brought about this corrupt situation. Americans expect accountability together with a system of government that includes checks and balances. That goes for any form of church government from the Protestants to the Roman Catholics, and the Orthodox should be no exception.
Pious, spiritualized claims to the contrary, there is no 'special status' when it comes to church government in Orthodoxy. There is only an inheritance from a monarchical past that must be adapted to the realities of life in Western democracies. We are all part of the whole church with our own callings, each as valid and holy as the other from the patriarch or metropolitan on down to the newest member of the church. Frankly, I am completely shamed by the rhetoric of Bp. Tikon and others like him who seem to come from another era of church history that is long past. Our hope lies in the future.
#12 Robert Zacher on 2006-04-08 01:50
Wow. I'm a linguist (PhD Georgetown) and you've hit the nail on the head with the language comments. The language of the letter appears to be symptomatic of a mind-set that is more 19th century Novgorod than 21st century North America - excruciatingly polite and acidic at the same time. Not quite what I expect in Christian theology or ecclesiastical discourse. And especially at this particular time of the liturgical year - the last weeks of the Great Lent! To be honest, I can see this type of thing happening among "ministries" or other self-anointed 'church-like organizations', but in the communities of the ancient Patriarchates, shouldn't we know better? Let's let a group of baptized Christians independently investigate and make a QUIET report to the Church. Christ's Church doesn't need to make PRNewsWire announcements to the general public. They think that Orthodox, Catholics, Oriental Orthodox, etc. are weirdos anyway; let's not give them ammunition.
#12.1 John A. Bonnage on 2006-04-09 22:39
I feel like it took the Bible (with a gold plated, fake jewel encrusted,
metal cover) and hit me over the head with it for asking "Are the
allegations true or false?" question.
+HERMAN takes responsibility for the time he was Primate; what about the time he was the Treasurer?
+HERMAN does not understand that he has lost the trust of me and many others. Hitting me with a Bible will not restore that trust.
Theinvestigation was a positive move but this letter raises more concerns.
I just think they (+HERMAN and +TIKHON) can both dry up and blow away in the wind.
#13 Michael Polovino on 2006-04-09 16:30
If there was financial scandal, and the Metropolitan had knowledge and did nothing to stop it....he MUST resign. He is nothing that more than a unrespected figurehead after that. By him taking the "I take responsbility" line on this, I surmise he had his hands in the cookie jar too indirectly. If he's dirty, he must resign or be removed. If there is no fiscal reponsibility at the top it can be argued that if this were the Catholic church just because the Altar boy was 16 and knew what he was an active participant it was ok. Scandal is scandal. By +Herman taking the lead in assuming responsibility in the scandal, this is his first step out the door. Give this time...and prepare for your next Metropolitan...its coming folks.
They should take them out in handcuffs for what they did to the church.
#14 bob H on 2006-04-09 18:40
In regards to +Herman and people losing respect for him, I'd ask everyone to keep a couple things in mind:
First of all, he is not an accountant.
Second of all, accounting problems generally don't appear as an embezzlement or misappropriation immediately. These things develop over time, and when they don't progress, little problems become worse.
Third, if +Herman was sort of tricked into believing Dn. Wheeler was the problem when he started, how could you judge him?
Also, loose accounting happens everyday in America. Take a look at Worldcom. Their only crime was to capitalize things that weren't appropriate to capitalize, overstating period results. This ended up making them look better than they were, inflating their perceived value to the shareholder and ultimately their stock value.
Every day accountants are asked to do things that they might consider sketchy practices. A very typical problem, for example, is posting an entire credit card bill to office supplies. It might have been spent on travel, but it might not matter for a small business owner who really doesn't care For a non-profit, if you aren't accountable to a budget, it wouldn't matter either. The next question is should someone be accountable to budget, or should be go the other way and give them a discretionary fund.
Let's judge +Herman after we see the results of the investigators reports and after steps are taken in the right direction. And considering the response from other Bishops to +Herman's actions; this is a hostile environment.
I, too, have been skeptical of +Herman, because he did take over as Treasurer, so he does seem culpable for some of these problems or perceived problems, but I will not pass judgement until the final reports are determined.
I will also base my judgements on the comprehensiveness of the reports, which may be more difficult for our leader to meet.
Someone suggested priests should still be doing the books, but again, I have to respond by saying that most of this work should be outsourced. The costs are not so great for a 2.5M firm to outsource. This can be done for $500-1k or less/month here in the metro.
As far as the audit report goes. One problem auditors may have encountered is valid beginning balances. In the absence of accepted beginning balances, audits are very difficult. Also, when auditors determine risk in an audit, they will take longer. Risk might be the termination of someone who was not helping the audit along, prior audit failures, etc. If you were going to attest to the books being right, and one of the chief people had to be let go for not assisting you, you might reevaluate audit risk and embark on extensive testing. If the financial records weren't good enough, this would take even longer. Give it time.
And one more thing. If +Herman takes reponsibility, it doesn't imply wrongdoing.
And another thing. Another Metropolitan may not have helped a bit, so consider, albeit slow, +Herman has taken responsibility and embarked on the path of greater resistance, so you can change him out, but will it really help in the end? The new + would come in and have thought everything was fine and you'd be in the same place for several years again. Accept some change is slow.
Give +Herman a break, none of this is simple. ...even harder for a nonaccountant... The first step is someone taking responsibility and he has, but no others have.
#15 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-04-10 16:52
Much of what is said here is correct. I believe that there are several points to be considered.
The first is whether we are dealng with wrongdoing or simple malfeasance. Frankly, the Orthodox Church is not all that 'organized'. Both my husband and I have joked for years that we don't belong to an 'organized religion' - we're Orthodox. At one time I told Archbishop Peter of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey that by the time the devil found out who was in charge in the Orthodox Church (all jurisdictions!), the Second Coming would be upon us.
Also, I have known the Chancery for many years and the people working in it. They try very hard, but are badly overworked, underpaid and attempting to do what four times their number couldn't do with all that much better.
Then there is the problem of 'money'. More Orthodox parishes, diocese and National Churches - as well as hierarchs, clergy and laity - have come to grief over money than anything else. Arius and Nestor would have been out of luck in the modern Church as no one would much have cared what they thought about the Personhood of Christ - as long as it didn't cost anything!
Someone told us years ago about a parish on Long Island whose annual meetings resulted in annual riots. It got so bad that the police forced the parish to have their annual meetings in the police station! Needless to say, most if not all of the bloodletting was over money.
It is no secret that most parishes manipulate their numbers to avoid paying assessments. When assessments go up, many parishes have miraculous losses of numbers leading to them paying the same amount in assessments as they did in earlier years when the assessment rate is lower! In other words, the handling of money in the Church is not all that 'simon pure' at just about every level, so many of those shouting the loudest should consider Christ's dictum about beams and specks and, at the very least, await the result of the investigation into the matter before crying 'foul'.
Finally, what does it matter if we find that this or that person or persons were careless, foolish or even criminal if in the process of making that determination we sow deep and abiding division in the Church? A rabbi once told a congregant that it was far better to eat 'treif' (non-kosher food) at the home of one's host than to offend the host in a public attempt at 'religious purity'. In the same way, it would be better to resolve to be more careful in the future and leave the past to God rather than to continue to clamor loudly for 'justice' and 'accountablility' when it is obvious that what is actually being obtained is strife and discord.
Furthermore, the larger this grows, the more people are being dragged into it and tainted despite there being absolutely nothing to connect them with the matter. (Bishop Tikhon's attack on Fr. Hopko is a sterling example of a person not involved being pilloried simply because of who he is!) How many people have to be hurt in the name of 'finding out what happened'? Who will give these people back their reputations once they have been tarnished? Again, I will go to a story disseminated amongst the Jews: a rabbi was slandered by a congregant but the man, learning he had been wrong, went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness. The rabbi said he would be willing to give it if the man did something for him. "Anything!" declared the penitent.
"Take pillow filled with goose down tomorrow morning and cut it open in the market square - and then come back to me to learn what to do next." The man went and did as he was told, watching the thousands and thousands of tiny, delicate feathers being carried away on the wind. That evening he returned to the rabbi to tell him that he had done as he had been bidden and inquire as what to do next.
"Good!" the rabbi said. "Now, I want you to go tomorrow *and gather up all the feathers from the pillow!*"
"Oh, I can't do that!" said the man. "They're all over by now!"
"Ah," said the rabbi. "And neither can I get back my reputation which you defiled!"
Brothers and sisters in Christ, no man can get back his reputation once it has been sullied. There will always be questions about him no matter how innocent he may be. I beg us all to consider this very carefully in this period of fasting, prayer and repentence. We will be judged by the standards by which we judge others! If nothing else, this should make us more than willing to err on the side of mercy and love - and, who knows? In so doing, we might even serve the ends of justice as well.
M. Valerie Protopapas
#15.1 Matuska Valerie Protopapas on 2006-04-12 15:28
I don't want you to drink the Kool-Aid quite yet. We're not talking about overpayments of the light bills. We're talking about money being paid to people for things not related to the OCA, or worse yet, out and out embezzlement.
All accounts, including discretionary accounts must be looked at. Any account where one person can sign for money that it not his personally, tempts one.
Let the chips fall. If he was invloved in a single transaction that is in any way tied to this scandal, he must go. He would be nothing more than spiritually bankrupt as would be his ministry.
Lets see how it plays out.
#16 Bob H. on 2006-04-12 15:17
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