Sunday, July 27. 2008
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Your Honor, we may be looking for a new Metropolitan soon. Are you actively seeking work?
#1 PDGeorge on 2008-07-27 22:09
I would have to agree!
Thank you, Your Honor, for all of your words of wisdom!
#1.1 Patty Schellbach on 2008-07-28 06:32
This was my first thought, as well. And before anyone scoffs at the notion, consider how St. Ambrose came to be bishop of Milan.
#1.2 Full disclosure is a two-way street on 2008-07-29 13:48
Here's a judge with more integrity, character, and common sense than many bishops in the OCA. Speaks volumes of how bad things have disintegrated in our Church.
Your honor, thank you for the great moral clarity and steadfast passion for truth and ethics your letter evidences.
I read your recent reflection and while most of what you wrote is certainly correct I believe that it is important for you and all who are concerned about the financial issues to understand that the reconstruction of prior years' records is extremely difficult and in some cases nearly impossible. We are hampered by several issues: (1) during the time that much of the money was taken there were considerably larger donations (some of them were given anonymously and some were given directly to certain individuals) (2) we do not have much of any funding to pay people to reconstruct the records. (3) a significant amount of money was placed in bank accounts that were controlled by certain individuals and were not part of the official records of the OCA.
Believe me, I would like nothing better than to say that we have been able to account for every penny. The very sad and tragic fact, however, is that we may never get a perfect handle on what was lost for the reasons I just mentioned. The records are just not there. Numerous bank accounts were opened with varying names and there were numerous credit cards. I'm sure that what I'm writing here is not pleasing to you or anyone else but it is the truth. Short of engaging a forensic accountant I'm not quite sure what else we can do.
Another very unpleasant truth which I'm sure you are well aware of is the cost of litigation. We are a small church with a relatively small budget. I like many others believe that the perpetrators of the embezzlement should pay restitution with whatever funds they have left. However, we are faced with the painful question of "how much can we/should we spend in seeking restitution? I can't speak for the legal committee of the OCA, the Metropolitan Council or the Holy Synod. In each of these groups there are varying opinions on this matter. However, it is my opinion that litigating this matter is going to be very expensive and it is something we must carefully consider.
I don't believe anyone at the chancery wants to simply forget the past and move on. We are just trying to put the pieces back together and to the best of our ability make sure that it never happens again. It is slow work, it is frustrating, it often seems impossible, and yet there is still hope that in some small measure what we are trying to do will be pleasing to our Lord and to our Church.
Respectfully in Christ,
Priest Michael Tassos, Treasurer
Orthodox Church in America
#2 Priest Michael Tassos on 2008-07-27 23:13
Re reconstruction of the records, what on earth was Proskauer Rose paid for???!
You say we don't have the money to pay for it ... but didn't the administration already shell out $400K to PR (who may or may not have been properly retinaed ... who were they working for, anyway?) to do just that ... and aren't they refusing to turn over their records?
Or if they had turned hem over ... then to whom? When? Who has them?
The PR records IN FULL must be made known publicly to all! What is the administration hiding? What are the bishops hiding? There is nothing that cannot be disclosed.
Take the light out from under your d***ed bushel, bishops. Before you bankrupt this tiny little speck of a church and consign it to the ash bin of history.
Brood of what?
#2.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 05:38
Please know that many of us are thankful to you, and also to Fr. Garklavs, Fr. Tosi, and Fr. Jarmus, for your efforts in renewing the operations the Chancery. We believe that you are all good people with good intentions.
Despite this, we are all continually perplexed that all of your best efforts seem to be systematically blocked by your boss, Metropolitan Herman.
I know you probably cannot speak candidly about whether or not this is the case. However, there are many who pray that if this is the case, that this unfortunate situation will soon come to an end.
St. Andrew's Church, Dix Hills, NY
Student at Syracuse University
#2.2 Reader Nilus Klingel on 2008-07-28 07:02
Glory be to God!
FINALLY, someone on the administration has called a spade a spade and called it EMBEZZLEMENT! There was mention of it in the summary report, but its good to hear our treasurer speak plainly and call it was it is!
Now, Father, why on earth, now that you tell us it was embezzlement, plainly, are not those responsible in jail? What is the reasoning behind it?
At LEAST file a 1099 on them so at least restitution is made to Uncle Sam!
#2.3 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 07:17
You say: ...we do not have much of any funding to pay people to reconstruct the records. (However, your predecessor and Metropolitan Herman managed to find enough money to contract a world class law firm and what have we to show for that expense????)
You say: a significant amount of money was placed in bank accounts that were controlled by certain individuals and were not part of the official records of the OCA. (Well, if it is a SIGNIFICANT amount of money, where are/were these accounts, and certainly you know who controlled them! There were only a certain amount of people within the management who were available to open accounts like this, two, three, or ten, twenty? You should name these people so that others are not accused of being a part of this embezzlement.)
You say: I would like nothing better than to say that we have been able to account for every penny. (Not necessary - given the magnitude of the embezzlement, no one in the OCA would expect you to account for every penny. The amounts in question were far greater!)
You say: Numerous bank accounts were opened with varying names and there were numerous credit cards. (OK what are the names of these bank accounts and on the credit cards? Certainly you can see what was charged on the credit cards and by whom and who ultimately paid the bills!)
You say: I like many others believe that the perpetrators of the embezzlement ...(Stop right here, the chief financial officer, generally the treasurer, should inform the administrators of the church who in turn should notify the civil authorities to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the embezzlement (as you called it). Recently an individual in my local paper was prosecuted for the embezzlement of $2000 from her employer. Although her employer realized that the $2000 was important to his business, however, MORE important was the fact that she had committed a crime against his company. I would imagine that a crime committed against our church involving several million dollars would be that important to our church as well.)
You say: ...best of our ability make sure that it never happens again. (This is hardly possible when individuals in control at some of the times of the “embezzlement” are still in control now. In fact, the chief financial officer, (your position) during a portion of the period in question is in control of the entire church (and situation) we are in now! And, by the way, how are the discretionary funds of the Metropolitan handled now?)
Someone said that if we knew the truth, it would destroy the church. What you said in your posting is enough to do the same unless it is resolved!
Sin is so egregious that Jesus tells us to pluck out our eye if it causes us to sin rather than be thrown into hell! (Matt 5:28-30)
Eve was tempted to sin by the “serpent” but we know that she was free to reject his suggestions. Her sin was by choice.
Everyone who knows anything at all that would bring light to this situation in our church but refuses to divulge it, is, pure and simple, sinning. Perhaps they would rather be wailing with the thirsty rich man then be where Lazarus ended up. It all comes back to choice, just like Eve!
#2.4 Anon on 2008-07-28 13:21
Father, do we have a fairly decent idea of the dollar amount that was embezzled and an idea of who the main embezzlers were? All we have heard with any concrete idea is $137,000 or so owed by Mr. Kondratick with another $1,000,000 in dispute. Is that $1,000,000 really in dispute? Do we have an idea of who the enablers were? Where the cash deposits part of a blatant action on the part of the embezzlers? If so, are all the people who actually took cash out of the bank as responsible as those that eventually took possession of the money, or are the people the same in both cases?
Was a statement last year by Fr. Kucynda about reclassifying past benefits part of the reconciliation of the embezzled money?
Did the embezzlement stop after Kondratick was fired, or did it just slow down?
What safeguards are in place now that will prevent this from happening again? Saying that the people have been replaced is not enough as this can surely happen again unless procedural safeguards and checks are in place so this cannot happen again.
How much of the vision and what we could have done was flushed away with the embezzlement?
Have audits been done on St. Tikhon's?
Lastly, who did PR REALLY work for?
Why have the authorities not been called? This is not only a criminal act in the theft of money, especially from the church, but its a criminal act in terms of tax evasion, etc. Do not those with fiduciary responsibility have a responsibility to report this crime? Maybe the Judge can answer if a failure to report at least the tax evasion is aiding a crime to take place and obstruction of justice? How can an admission of embezzlement be made here and no action taken other than the obvious, which wasn't obvious to the Synod and others, of removing one known embezzler from ranks of trust and honor within the Church.
Father, we thank you because your admission of embezzlement has done more to start a restoration of trust than all the proclamations by others in the administration and Synod that things are being done, that they were lied to, etc. Thank you. In all sincerity.
Mr. James Silver, now that it has been concretely termed, by those in the administration, and is seen as embezzlement we understand a lot about the silence of Mr. Kondratick. Its all very clear now and we understand why Mr. Kondratick has not done the right thing and gone to the authorities to reveal any alleged criminal acts by those that have committed them, as you have vehemently proclaimed, because if he does he'll implicate himself and be sentenced to the prison ministry for the remaining days of his earthly life. The bright side is he'll have a lot of time to sit and contemplate what he has done and a lot of private time to beg of forgiveness and give repentance for embezzling the church, taking from widows and orphans, defrauding the good, God loving people who gave money from their hearts for the good of the Church only to have it embezzled from one of the chief priests in that Church. How very low did he descend. A common criminal, a thief. However this thief did not use a gun, he used a smile, a handshake, dressed in clerical garb, in the grandeur of the Church, and the invocation of the name of the Holy Spirit to take the money from the innocent for purposes of vanity and selfishness, for purposes no way related to any good for the Church. The name of the Holy Spirit to commit a crime. Blasphemous!.
#2.5 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 16:29
Dear Father Tassos,
First, please accept by congratulations for the admirable work you have done in such a short time as the OCA Treasurer.
Dear Father, you listed the various reasons why a precise accounting is impossible. I have no reason to disagree with your professional judgment.
However, it is clear that you know the general outlines of the various misdeeds and the identity of the perps. I don't think that you need to hire forensic auditors to have sufficient information to take action inside the Church. You do not need to account for every penny that was misappropriated, misspent or simply diverted (stolen) to identify the acts and the actors. You simply need to answer +Job's basic questions.
#2.6 Carl on 2008-07-28 17:43
Why doesn't Arch. Job answer the "big " question? He was on the Synod, he got all the finacial reports. He knows who was involved as well. Thank you.
#2.6.1 Action jackson on 2008-07-29 06:07
Not so - in fact, this whole mess became public when Archbishop JOB asked to receive the financial reports from the then-Chancellor prior to the Toronto AAC and was told, in no uncertain terms, no. This occurred the summer prior to the release of Protodeacon Eric Wheeler's letter, and the subsequent formation of this website.
For the record, His Eminence Archbishop JOB has on more than one occasion apologized for his inaction and failure to pay attention to the workings in Syosset in the past.
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#126.96.36.199 Marty Watt on 2008-07-29 12:58
I would simply refer you too the two +Job letters that have been published on this site. I believe the first one said that the charges brought up by Deacon Wheeler were largely true. The second one supported Prof. Meyendorff's plan and/or +Herman's resignation. In public life you cannot get more real than that.
#188.8.131.52 Carl on 2008-07-29 14:10
The more I think of your item and the admission of embezzlement and the fact that you think it can't be reconstructed and that Kondratick and gang are not behind bars, the angrier I get. Not because of your admission, but because of lack of desire to do something constructive in an attempt to let us know what happened, who did it, and how we can recover their ill gotten gains. I'm going to give American Express a call in the morning and ask if its possible, as part of an investigation into malfeasance at a non profit organization for them to pull records dating back 7, 10, 15 years.
What do you think they're going to answer?
I'm going to also file a notice to the IRS that there has been embezzlement at a non profit, along with a print out of your statement and that they need to take a look giving them the figures of the summary report! I recommend all those that are fed up with this mess to do the same! Let's see how long it takes THEM to reconstruct the malfeasance.
#2.7 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 18:51
how do you know who paid those credit card bills? Think , all the tsese people you sopak of had credit cards with their names on them.Prove they didn't pay them.
#2.7.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-29 03:52
with the IRS, the onus is on the accused to prove he did, not on the IRS to prove that he didn't.
#184.108.40.206 Anonymous on 2008-07-30 05:52
As an addendum to my last comment, I located the following at:
"The IRS Whistleblower Office pays money to people who blow the whistle on persons who fail to pay the tax that they owe. If the IRS uses information provided by the whistleblower, it can award the whistleblower up to 30 percent of the additional tax, penalty and other amounts it collects."
Look at that, folks! The Church can get back up to 30% of what the embezzlers have to pay the IRS. Considering that the summary report talks about $1,000,000 and the penalties and all, that could be a substantial chunk of cash!
#2.8 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 19:11
I’ve been rereading your item over and over and each reading something else strikes my eye. Firstly you mention “that the perpetrators”. This is in the plural. To date we have been told its one person, Kondratick. Now you have told us there are more than one. Who else is it?
In another part you mention “I can’t speak for the legal committee of the OCA, the Metropolitan Council or the Holy Synod. In each of these groups there are varing opinions on this matter [seeking restitution].”
What you have said here is very important, because it now puts the report of the SIC in a very tenuous position. If they come back and say it was the fault of one person and that that person’s been disciplined, who do we believe? What you have said above or the report of the SIC? Who’s credibility is going to take the hit? You are seen as having a good deal of credibility, more than any one else in the administration. What can we make of the report of the SIC if they do not back or further what you have said above?
If the SIC fails to name at least one other person, we are left to believe that the SIC report is a sham.
#2.9 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 20:16
Silence. Which of the Syosset cats got Fr. Tassos' tongue?
We DO want to know, since you stated the plural and stated that the legal committee, the MC, and the Synod are discussing legal actions against these embezzlerS, who they are.
The SIC report is anti-climatic because, people, THEY KNOW THE FACTS ALREADY and probably knew it before the SIC II sham even began. The SIC was a delaying tactic hoping people would tire and this whole damn thing would die down and they go on being miscreants without the light on them as they have done for so many years. Is it any coindence that the deadline for motions at the AAC comes the day of or the day after the SIC report comes out? Hearty laugh on THAT one!
Come on, now. A voice of authority for the administration has told us that there is more than on EMBEZZLER, who is it? When he is going to be defrocked? Why isn't he being taken away in handcuffs?
You see, people, they say things have changed, but its cover up, lies, deceptions, etc. They say the right things, might even make motions to do the right things, but its all an act to get you to believe them and SEND THE MONEY IN! Nothing has changed, if anything, its become more solidified. But why are they worrying? People like Herman know he's going to be judged worthy of the Kingdom of God while the Church he proclaims to lead smolders in ashes.
#2.9.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-31 11:12
If the good judge has not yet converted, as he wrote, neither, too, have many of our bishops.
#3 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 04:51
Could the answer be that we are not dealing with the people of God, but we are dealing with the family business (and I don't mean God's family)?
Blood is thicker than water so they say (and I don't mean Christ's blood).
Christ said He who loves, mother, father, more than me is not worthy...
#4 Anon. on 2008-07-28 05:21
What Fr Michael Tassos writes is largely -- if unexplainedly -- true.
But if it is possible for forensic accountants to reconstruct the financial records which appear to be missing, then perhaps whatever funds are available should be directed to that effort instead of to the attorneys which Met. Herman insisted/insists on hiring to keep him behind the 'firewall' he first engaged Proskauer-Rose to construct for him.
Additionally, while FrMT seems to be confortable with the idea that there actually were instances of 'embezzlement' rather than the reallocations documented in 2002 (they were not so documented in the 1980s), I suspect that he doesn't appreciate the real significance of his words. I urge him and any other investigators to invoke the IRS and the FBI and the revenue departments of both New York and Pennsylvania to exhaustively track and examine the financial dealings and tax records of both Met. Theodosius and Met. Herman.
#5 Monk James on 2008-07-28 05:42
Damn it already!
Monk James, you give a lot of inuendo, you give a lot of teases, and you sit back while the Church wastes away to NOTHING.
If you give a damn about this Church and what you say is the truth, which we severely doubt, come forth and show yourself a man and reveal all you know!
We're sick and tired of your baseless prognostications which, based on your ACTIONS, are nothing more than to try and deflect what we DO know of your friend, Bob Kondratick!
#5.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 07:37
Dear Anonymous at posting #5.1,
I think you may be a bit too harsh on Monk James. It is true that he has been perhaps the preeminent supporter of former Priest Kondratick. Nevertheless, what he is recommending regarding the current and previous Metropolitans is the only logical thing to do. After all, they were in charge when the scandal occurred. As for additional preliminary evidence, you need to merely read The Chronology of Events on this site and just use your God-given reasoning abilities to put two and two together.
#5.1.1 Carl on 2008-07-28 14:38
When I was asked to appear before the Special Investigating Committee several months ago, I shared with them as much information as I had at the time in response to their questions.
There's more, of course, but we met for only half a day.
Since that meeting, I've sent additional material to Bp Benjamin and the members of the SIC.
#5.1.2 Monk James on 2008-07-28 17:14
You NEVER cease to amaze me monk James.
How you could "cleverly" exclude your friend Bob Kondratick's name from the very short list you provide is comical.
The legal and tax authorities should start with him.
While you're at it, perhaps you may want to enlighten US why certain pieces of "Church related mail" were sent to the Martin Drive property instead of the offical OCA mailing address at the Chancery?
(Editor's note: Two points of order. First, I have been informed by monastic sources that the "monk" James Silver should be addressed as Mr. Silver, or James, but that "monk James" is incorrect. According to them " Silver was a rasophore monk. This rank of monasticism, within Orthodox tradition, is little more than an extension of the novitiate during which the novice is blessed to wear an exorason -- there is a tonsure, but there are no promises or "vows" such as are required from one receiving either the small or the great schemas -- and from which state the person so tonsured may be released back into "the world". This indeed happens, though not terribly frequently. Thus, when Mr. Silver was released from "monastic obedience to the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, your attachment to St. Sergius Chapel in Syosset, and from the Orthodox Church in America.", he was essentially released from his monastic state back into "the world". Thus while he still calls himself "monk" James, he is, by virtue of this release, no longer so."
Secondly, Mr. Geeza, turn about is fair play. Since you ask a very reasonable question of Mr. Silver, we may ask one as well: how it is you come to know that piece of information - since you were not a resident of Martin Drive, nor an employee of the Church? Would you mind sharing what else your have learned from the Kondratick trial with the rest of us? )
#5.2 Michael Geeza on 2008-07-28 13:11
Hey, maybe they'll consider him a monk in Australia!
#5.2.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 16:38
Its really a pattern for people at the Wayne, NJ parish, which incidentally happens to be the parish of none other than Fr. Paul Kucynda. Michael, here, has been well informed and came out with a tidbit of information that very few could have known. From the same parish comes Larry Tosi, who is apparently so well informed that he says that if we knew the truth that it would destroy the Church!
What, may we ask, is said at that coffee hour!?
#5.2.2 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 16:42
For the record
1- Fr Kucynda* is an advisor to MH
2- His parishioner* is the son of Deacon Zarras (transition team)
3- His parishioner* is the secretary to Chancellor Joseph Lickwar,secretary for the diocesean treasurer (who you all know is his parishioner* Larry Tosi ) and parish secretary.
4- His former parishioner* is Fr Eric Tosi the new OCA secretary
5- His parishioner* Michael Geeza (I believe) is his mouthpiece. Father Paul Kucynda, please tell the whole truth! No more lies!
#220.127.116.11 Washington/NY Diocese observer on 2008-07-29 09:42
The more things change the more they stay the same. They have tried with all their might to say that there's new faces, new ways of doing things, and what do you see? The same old people other than Fr. Tassos, they may look different, but its the same clique, the same group, just one level below the names we all know and have come to appreciate. We never really thought, either, that Kucynda would keep his conniving fingers off of the situation, but we didn't think he was so conniving as to get a bunch of other people, in his parish, to do the actual leg work for him.
Enquiring minds want to know how much Kucynda is in it, considering his silence has rivaled that of Kondratick and Oselinsky. Was PR not only building a firewall around Herman, but also around Kucynda. Remember, Kucynda was the secretary when the shenanigans began. It was after he left the treasurer post that Wheeler went in and found the mess that Kucynda had left behind.
Interesting, so that's the secretary to Tosi who's making $10,000 a year working for the diocese? Nice work if you can get it! Anyone have a job description on that? Any one ever KNOW the job was available? Was anyone interviewed or was who ever got it just on the inside track because they help keep the Kucynda pastoral charade going? Was notification given all the diocesan parishes that there was need for a assistant/secretary? Of course no, because in the world of the OCA and money, and operators like Kucynda, your money goes to pay for favors and give thanks to those that help enable malfeasance on the level of Kondratick, Kucynda, and all the others continue. The more they say things change, the more set in stone they become! Thank you Fr. Kucynda.
#18.104.22.168.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-31 11:04
I wouldn't know. I don't go to the coffee hour!
#22.214.171.124 Michael Geeza on 2008-07-29 10:35
Just so you know:
Metropolitan Herman had no authority to 'release' me either from my obedience nor from the OCA. This has been recognized by legitimate authorities within and outside of the OCA. It is not possible to untonsure a monk, no matter his status.
Met. H invoked these imaginary canonical censures against me not because I was guilty of any offense against the commandments of God or the canonical tradition of the Church, or even because I had disobeyed him or any of my canonical superiors. I have never been disobedient.
But I HAVE challenged Met. H on his immorality and injustice. His 'releasing' me from the OCA is purely a matter of personal pique and is of no canonical significance.
Since my 'release' from the OCA and from my obedience to the Metropolitan are invalid, I remain as much a monk as I ever was, Mark Stokoe's 'monastic sources' notwithstanding.
#5.2.3 Monk James on 2008-07-28 17:10
Why doesn't your good buddy Kucynda speaks what he knows? ..... Who cares about mail to martin dr. KEEP fishing !!
#5.2.4 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 18:40
Fr. Paul Kucynda knows all. A spiritual court needs to ask him to speak the truth. He was there when the first $250,000 of ADM money was received. He knew the deal. He has followed that relationship from the beginning, through all $5 million. Syosset is not IBM, the halls are short and the walls talk.
#126.96.36.199 Anon. on 2008-07-28 20:18
Why should he speak to the likes of people like you who don't even have the guts to sign your name?
Why do you ask me?
All of you out there who condemn Fr. Kucynda, why don't you just call him directly and ask him your questions yourselves?
I'm not his spokesperson. Never was, never will be. I have a mind of my own and speak for myself.
Any one who knows me, knows that is the truth.
#188.8.131.52 Michael Geeza on 2008-08-01 09:00
The editor has poor advisors when it comes to monastic protocol. He and his followers constantly strain to find a way to discredit Monk James, and his latest attempt is simply a logical fallacy. You cannot undo the monastic tonsure without renouncing it yourself, which clearly Monk James has not done. You can't unbaptize someone - they must do it on their own by renouncing their faith.
It's interesting that they'll follow all of +Herman's bizzare rulings when it supports their cause (RSK's 'deposition,' Monk James's 'dismissal), but otherwise, they have no use for him. On those issues they say he get's it right, but on everything else, he gets it wrong. (Same for the entire synod, according to their understanding.) Now THAT's the definition of a 'useful idiot'.
(Editor's note: Don't forget we have been foolish enough to have the courage to sign our names to our thoughts and criticisms as well...)
#5.2.5 Anonymous on 2008-07-29 07:41
Between all of the legal bills, accountants, large salaries paid to OCA employees including Fr. Tassos and the money wasted on accounting programs that no one can operate, including Fr. Tassos, we could have had two forenzic audits. Cut the bull!
#5.3 MP on 2008-07-29 00:09
Dear Judge Bearse,
Thank you for your commentary. I think it is one of the most important ones to have appeared here, because it shows — rather than merely describes — the damage this scandal is causing to the mission of the Church. There is something you have said, though, that is not in accordance with Orthodox theology, and it's important enough to warrant a reply. Namely,
Those of us in the pews should follow our bishops on these serious matters. For example, if today the church fathers announced that Eastern Orthodoxy was reversing its position on the 'Filioque' issue and that they now agree with the Roman Church, I personally would disagree but would defer and adopt that belief.
Now, there are some who claim (erroneously, I believe) that the Filioque issue is one of mere semantics. From your description, though, I take it that this is not what you mean: rather, it's a matter of doctrine, and to adopt the Filioque would mean a "reversal" in favor of "now agreeing" with the Roman Catholics.
But Orthodox teach that the Church never alters her doctrine, never "reverses her position" on a creedal matter. Our language may develop, but the doctrine of the faith "which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3) does not.
If a bishop, even the whole Synod, decided to declare a change in the doctrine of the Church, then Orthodox faithful would have to reject them as false shepherds. That is just what happened at the Council of Florence — when a reversal of the Filioque (among other things) was declared. We honor as a saint the bishop (just one!) who refused to submit to this — St. Mark of Ephesus. Likewise, St. Maximus the Confessor, who was a lay monastic — not even a priest — refused to abandon the Orthodox position even under torture, and even when he had been told that every patriarch was against him!
On Athos, twenty-six monks were martyred by the Latins in 1275 for refusing to accept the false Union of Lyons. And one could go on and on. This is what St. John Chrysostom has to say on about rulers in the Church:
"What then," you say, "when he is wicked, should we obey?" Wicked? In what sense? If indeed in regard to Faith, flee and avoid him; not only if he be a man, but even if he be an angel come down from Heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious. (Hom 34)
(I only wish our knowledge of our superiors' wickedness came from being "over-curious"! Painfully, though, it seems their deeds have gone far beyond that.)
The Church fathers are not synonymous with the bishops. Bishops may be Church fathers, of course, but this is something confirmed by the Church only after their deaths. When Orthodox call someone a "Church father" (or "mother") we mean to say that he was a holy man (or woman) made worthy by God of experiencing and, afterwards, conveying theological truth.
These doctrines enable us to approach God in spirit and in truth. They are the mind of Christ and the teaching of His body, and the holy fathers have always been willing to die for them, not as ideologues, but out of love for Christ Who is Truth.
It's my custom to sign my posts as "A Fellow Orthodox Christian" — I hope that I will in fact call you this one day! Please, in any event, forgive us our many failings in living this faith, of which we are so deeply undeserving.
#6 A Fellow Orthodox Christian on 2008-07-28 06:52
Most of us can infer the truth at this point. Its a bit gray around the edges, but bright enough to well see.
It was a complete failure of responsibility that led to the realities the church now faces.
From the irresponsibility of the Synod to recognize a failed leader in fmr. Metropolitan Theo. to the failed responsibility of Bishop-Treasurer Herman, to the failed responsibility of the admin committee, to the failed responsibility of the Synod in making discretionary accounts unauditable, to the failed responsibility of the Metropolitan Council in understanding gross financial mismanagement was happening at least back in 2001, to a failed responsibility in managing investments.
We have had a complete failure of responsibility.
Remove those who failed.
#7 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-07-28 06:52
Judge Bearse, I have worked for the judges in our system for 18 years so I understand and fully agree with your comments - from the legal, professional standpoint. However, in the Church, you are dealing with men who grew up with that old concept that bishops are second only to God. Who else goes around calling themselves living icons of Christ? It is inconceivable to them that anyone would take them to task over any topic. That's the first issue. The second is that in the bigger picture we are probably talking about more than just the mismanagement of large amounts of money. That money went somewhere. The question is where? Do you think possibly they are trying to keep hidden their "sins"? Do you think Nikolai knew all about it and that scared them? This has been going on for years. It would be hard to believe the current and past bishops have not and are not knowledgable about it and are doing everything they can to keep those sins well hidden. Unfortunately they probably could have gotten away with it in more ethnic oriented countries but this is America. We don't stand for it and we don't stop pressuring for answers. Why do you think the Roman Catholic scandal was so big in this country? It's not because the same thing wasn't going on in other countries. It's because the American people are a little more aggressive and less inclined to buy into the myth of protetion of clergy. The OCA is going to have to face the same reality. It if doesn't, the scandal will eventually break wide open and be far more devastating than if the matter was addressed now. That's what happened in the Roman Catholic Church. Just ask Boston and/or Cardinal Law, now hiding out in Rome. The OCA is still new and young. If something doesn't change within this current leadership, these dead-weight bishops are going to be the ruin of the OCA. That's pretty much what the Orthodox faithful are saying and that's pretty much what's being said at all these townhall meetings.
#8 sins of the fathers on 2008-07-28 07:15
If criminal acts were committed such as embezzlement and those involved refuse to submit to the mercy and displine of the Church (which would include full public repentance and restitution), then criminal charges should be filed. The criminal investigators would employee forensic accountantants under force of law to unearth the evidence and the parties who acutally committed or condoned the crimes.
The Gospel commands us to make peace with our bothers before getting to court. Obviously that is not being done. If criminal acts have been committed and one knows of such acts other than through the sacrament of confession, it is a further subversion of the law and a crime to conceal such acts. In some jursidictions, failure to report criminal acts is a crime.
If anyone really has evidence that crimes were committed, they are bound to take positive action to see that those responsible for such acts be held accountable before both God and man. Anything less is cowardice at best, willful conspiracy at worst.
#9 Michael Bauman on 2008-07-28 11:04
Stranger than fiction!!!
The chief financial officer of the organization finds that an embezzlement has taken place and informs the CEO of the embezzlement. However, the CEO is in a quandary since he has been officially informed and should now take action. Unfortunately, he needs to take action against himself since it would seem he has been involved with the embezzlement for years.
Wow! a first! Leave it to the OCA!! Maybe they can make a movie!
#10 Anon on 2008-07-28 13:37
Yes indeed, Herman has been treasurer and has had fiduciary responsibilities for many years. He cannot claim he did not know anything as he did in the past, because frankly he had to sign his name to many official documents including checks, contracting PR, etc. So guess what, the jig is up!
#10.1 MP on 2008-07-28 16:28
The big fallacy in the Judge's approach, and I think the problem for many is the idea that we actually choose to enter the Church or not in a rational way. We don't. We are either called by Jesus Christ to be in communion with Him through the Church or we are not. Neither theology as normally understood, nor ecclesiology mor soteriology are all that important. They are effects, not causes. What matters is union with Christ.
If we are not in the Orthdox Church because we want to be united with Christ through the mysteries, we are in the wrong place for the wrong reason. The outward apperance, the saintliness or sinfulness of particular bishops, priests, monastics or our friend (enemy?) next to us in the pew has nothing to do with it.
It is only because Christ first loved us that we are in the Church. He dragged me kicking and screaming. It took me twenty years to just make it in the door. Another 20 to just begin to appreciate a little bit what He has done for me. For some inexplicable reason, He wants me to be in union with Him and with each one of you, despite the fact that I reject and wound Him several times a day.
It is simply the illusion of Satan that we choose. It is an act of will on our part, but not of the rational mind alone. We either submit to His love or we do not. We either bear one another's burdens, or we do not-the Cross or the grave. That is an act not only of the will, but of our whole being. The rational expression of such a choice follows, not the other way around. If we are acting in submission to His love, we will be given the strength necessary to confront the evil. If we are acting out of any other motive He may bless our actions anyway, but evil will still dog us.
IMO dear judge, Christ has chosen you to be one with Him. Don't let the sins of us woeful ones keep you from responding to Him.
#11 Michael Bauman on 2008-07-28 16:31
Dear Judge and Father Michael:
Crimes have taken place at Syosset. If someone burgled my home and took my family's property, I would (hold on to your hats for this radical idea) I would CALL THE POLICE.
They would set out to find the thief(s), would detain them, investigate their behavior and make them available for prosecution. I would not have to pay for any of this. THE STATE would charge them, find evidence of their guilt and prosecute them for the good of the society.
Christian though I am, I would encourage this because I would know that I wasn't the burglar. Further, as the steward of my home, I would like my property to be returned--mostly because the bulk of it would not be mine, but that of other members of my household. More than this, I would support the prosecution, not for a pound of flesh, but so that order and justice could be preserved in my home town; so that others thinking of such a heist would think twice about following suit. In the bigger picture, it would be a helpful prosecution for the best of motives and the good of the innocent.
It is obvious that our Church has become so sickeningly sweet that She cannot protect Her own people or Her own resources, or even admit an inconvenient truth. What a bastion of integrity. This empty-vestment attitude took years to perfect.
A priest from the Diocese of Washington/New York once told me of a clergy meeting that was held at St. Tikhon's after the "retirement" of Archbishop Peter and the ascendance of His Beatitude to the helm of that diocese. Mind you, this diocesan clergy meeting took place while the trail of alleged misdeeds was still hot. His Beatitude was asked what efforts would be made to account for the financial extravagance of the past three years. His B replied (pacing up and down, grinning, and slapping his hand with this chotke like a riding crop): "There can be no accounting. There are no records." It would have probably taken about three phone calls and fifteen minutes to gather every record of every transaction that had been perpetrated in that crippled diocese, but "the boss" said "there were no records," and the loving clergy just sat there and swallowed it whole, most of them angry that the question was asked in the first place. The laity joined this silent chorus at subsequent meetings. I was told this story, and I believe it. I repeat it here as an example of the stepping stones that brought us to the ubber-skandal of today.
So Judge, I uphold you in everything you say, stipulating that you are dealing in reality and avoiding the sweetness of Kool Aid. However, your ruling may fail on appeal. You have overlooked the fact that there is a strong precedent in the OCA for tempting God with unrepentant bad behavior. It's become extablished law --no guilt attends to it if you have the right friends -- and only a revolution could free us from its tyrrany. But why revolt when we can just be revolting? We have chosen to confuse aloof detachment with holiness, a false peace with true peace, awaiting the expiration of Statutes of Limitations with God's time, perpetrators with investigators and the funding of fire walls with duty.
The unwritten constitution of the OCA has been amended to include the Separation of Church and Common Sense. The prosecution rests...and weeps!
#12 Anonymous on 2008-07-28 17:11
....the established law [is] : no guilt attends to it if you have the right friends AND
...aloof detachment = holiness [in the OCA]
No truer words were ever spoken.
The stink has become too much in the nostrils of God.
The in-group are friends to each other, but no friends of Christ.
#12.1 Anon. on 2008-07-29 05:37
People have to realize that the OCA promoted a culture of zero accountability for many years and that people, even some who have contributed to these pages need to come clean and speak up. Metropolitan Herman and his cronies are only able to rule due to the complicity of others.
#13 anon on 2008-07-28 17:24
Interesting comments in this current blog. It seems to me if I am reading between the lines correctly with Mr. Silver's comments, that the retire MT and MH are just about as neck deep into this financial corruption as was RSK. He seems to put forward circular arguments that impicates all three.
Also, it does seem that Fr. Michael Tassos is very powerless to actually lower the boom, that is fire or retire, MH. His writing and thoughts are of integrity but in a place (and some people) that have lacked integrity who won't take the hint to retire from a multitude of his caring clergy or faithful.
I would think the upcoming release of the SIC report should act as a great catalyst in helping the OCA know the truth and get to a higher level functioning of integrity.
At least I would hope so.
#14 Patty Schellbach on 2008-07-28 18:50
In my mind one aspect in regard to the corruption we are seeing hasn't been discussed. That is the stonewall at the top. A wall that has been unmoving, Why?
Based upon my observations of the past several decades, I feel the core of this abscess that has been affecting our church continues to remain our 'leader', whose obsession of being the biggest fish in our little pond remains. And nothing changes him! The course started early, when he first came to office in the early 1980s, and immediately turned his diocese into turmoil over use of the new calendar. But, he selection as bishop was late. Another, near his age, was already in the office of metropolitan. A person who could out live him. But, this did not stop him.
His diocesan secretary, treasurer, chancellor, etc., was an 'activist' who could change things. First, the 'activist' was placed in the metropolitan's office as his secretary. In a short time he was able to replace the chancellor, the head of the money making FOS, and others. To those who were loyal to him went the positions he wanted to control.
With a metropolitan, who liked the style of the office and not the work, (that was the reason for forming the Washington diocese with five or so parishes), and who when visiting the local councils or priests would never talked 'business', that is, how were the parishes doing. Yet, he did like Mrs Kamkin's parties and talked to all his friends! After our 'activist' gained full control of the 'curia' he just kept the metropolitan happy! The money flowed with 'no one' watching.
But, when the metropolitan was eased out and our new 'leader' took office, he found that he had lost control of his point man. Our leader, fixated on being 'lord' could not let an underling destroy his dream. So, he was eliminated! But, while many good people have come into the 'curia' to try to regain credibility they are not free of the leader's obsession. Nor can he himself understand that his obsession is a lost cause, for him but also our church.
So, we have a man who has spent the last thirty or so years with an obsession. That obsession is what keeps him from understanding the dire situation he and the church are in. A person as obsessed as he is will never give up!
#14.1 William Kosar on 2008-07-29 17:54
Judge. Thank you for stating the obvious so eloquently. As one truth-teller who has suffered at the hands of these wrongdoers for decades, I will add a few observations, for what they are worth.
The wrongdoers get very sophisticated and obfuscatory by nature. They lean heavily on inherited Russian and Eastern European tendencies to bend the rules toward the elite. Elitism and Orthodoxy are hard to separate. Elitism if full of hubris. It is arrogant. It is bold. It punishes non-comformist. The OCA has been "led" by a form of elitism that causes the problems you observe. It is not Christian IMHO, but has a form thereof... and knows how to play the game well. As long as the person in the pew doesn't ask questions and keeps dropping money in the basket, they keep spending it.
They became quite skilled at using the good intentions of folks like you and me who would simply like to serve God. They will accomodate those priorities to a point, as long as we don't get too close or ask too many questions. Once that happens, the tar and feathers are pulled out and that person is discredited. As you know well Judge, bad guys can usually fabricate plausible doubt from even grains of truth. That has been these people's tactic for decades. Orthodoxy praxis can be presented as quite elitist and that penchant is played to the hilt. I pray that will end because I like you was attracted to the theology, even though the daily practice is, well, not very inspiring. I will leave it that.
#15 Anon. on 2008-07-28 20:12
An ugly, but rather elegant posting until the end.
How can you 'leave it at that'?
In order to destroy the culture of elitism, the laity need some real power in the structure of the church.
That power must come in the form of the Metropolitan Council and could be in many forms.
The Council could have firing privileges over the Chancellor and other administrative positions, for example. Or, the Council could have other means in place to have real power within the context of the church administration. Today, I see no reason for the Metropolitan Council to exist as it seems that is has no power whatsoever and an elitist Synod really needn't regard them a bit.
#15.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-07-30 06:28
For those of us who have been "crying in the wilderness" for decades, sometimes we just run out of spit. Sometimes we just need folks like you to pick up the sword when our arms get tired. Keep up the good fight.
#15.1.1 Anon. on 2008-07-30 17:03
Re: "In order to destroy the culture of elitism, the laity need some real power in the structure of the church."
Since this crisis has erupted in the OCA, I've seen the grassroots "real power" grab at the parish level.
My parish, a self-proclaimed "jewel of American Orthodoxy" that also claims to be a "leading" Orthodox parish has turned itself into the cubic zirconia of American Orthodoxy that is a bleeding, not leading parish, since certain elements of the laity have revealed themselves to be the true power behind and in front of the throne in the stead of our priest.
The laity have created a new enemy of the OCA who are not the hierarchs. In the words of the immortal Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
(editor's note: the writer is from New York City.)
#184.108.40.206 Anonymous on 2008-07-30 19:26
Dear Judge Bearse:
While I most certainly sympathise with Your Honor's disgust at all the apparent financial and moral failures in the Central Church Administration, please take note of two points.
Firstly, while the current mess is our own ox being gored, both the financial and moral failures are, historically speaking, relatively small potatoes. Beginning with Judas and his light fingers, and Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, the Church has been plagued by financial funny-business from the get-go. The history of the buying and selling of the office of Ecumenical Patriarch under the Turkokratia makes our lot look like rank amateurs. Consider also in Matthew 20 the political ambitions of some leading disciples. All this points to the fundamental reality that "the Church Militant here on earth" is not a hotel for plaster saints but a hospital for sinners; and everybody in it is a patient. At some periods in the Church's history, the human leadership provides a shining example of how to follow Christ. At other periods, the human leadership provides a dreary example of how to get to hell. And those being led are no different. In some times and places (and generally speaking) personal piety goes right to the bone marrow; in other times and places, personal piety is at best superficial and formalistic.
But (and here's the second point) the good or horrible example of the members of the Church, clergy or lay, does not invalidate the truth of Holy Ortyhodoxy. Let us be honest: coming as I do originally from the Chicago area, and being rather old, I know more than a little of how the judicial system there operated in the days of the Machine. To say that the administration of justice was brought into utter disrepute by bribery, rank racism, manufacturing of evidence, judicially winked-at perjury and other forms of corruption, would be gross understatement. But do those financial, legal and moral failures invalidate the concept of a judicial system and/or the just laws the courts are meant to enforce? Hardly! The democratic political system has been subject to stuffed ballot-boxes, somersaulting chads, bribery, blackmail, non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and W. Does that invalidate democracy? Nope.
The point is that everything fallen and sinful humans touch gets dirty and corrupted, including the earthly administration of the Church; and it has been so from the begining. But the gates of hell still cannot prevail, because the Church is still the Body of Christ, the Body of Him over Whom death no longer holds any dominion. The truth remains the truth, no matter how much it may be denied in this or that person's practice, just as the rightness of a law against theft remains right, no matter how many people break it.
Should there be greater openness on the part of the Holy Synod and the CCA? Yup. Is giving the OCA membership the mushroom treatment an effective approach in crisis-management? Nope. But short-sighted stupidity doesn't invalidate Holy Orthodoxy either. Again and again we need to pay attention to the words of the Psalmist as we hear them almost every Sunday in the Second Antiphon: "Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation." Orthodoxy is orthodxy because it is true, regardless of whether or not those who profess it choose actually to live it, because Christ Jesus remains the Way, the Truth, and the Life, whether we actually follow Him or not.
And quite inevitably, as an aside to our editor: concerning your comments on monasticism and rasophores, you were given bad information, canonically and theologically speaking. The notion that a rasophore can go back to the world comes, not from the fathers, but from the pre-Revolutionary Russian government, which wanted a way to make up shortfalls in military and government service personnel, or sometimes to arrange convenient political marriages. Note that the prayer before tonsuring in both the Kiev and alternate rites thank God for delivering "Your servant/handmaid N. OUT of the vain life of the world, and have summoned him/her to this honorable obligation. Count him/her worthy to live meetly IN THIS ANGELIC STATE..." (emphasis added, cf. The Great Book of Needs, vol. I, pp. 319ff). This tonsure can (one supposes) be renounced, to the peril of one's soul; but it can never be taken away by a third party, anymore than a third party can take away the tonsure received in Holy Baptism. That is why novitiate is prescribed as being three years: so that both the candidate and the monastic community are sure before the scissors do their work.
#16 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2008-07-29 04:44
I gather from your comments that you feel Holy Orthodoxy can operate within a moral vacuum. Are we not the Church? And the Church of God suffers irreparable harm when its "anointed" leaders practice indiscriminate sin, thus causing the sheep to scatter.
#16.1 Rich on 2008-07-29 07:58
"...you feel that Holy Orthodoxy can operate within a moral vacuum..."??? How in the world did you draw that rather absurd conclusion?
That there is sin in the lives of members of the Church, clergy and laity alike, is observable fact. But that fact does not invalidate the Truth, nor should it cause us all to suffer Chicken Little Syndrome. This is not the Great Apostasy; this is not (or probably not, anyway) the end of the world; this is simply the banality of evil rearing its ugly head in the Church for the umpty-zillionth time since that first Pentecost Sunday.
Of course we must always proclaim as applicable to each and to all of us God's demand for "that holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14; cf. also 1 Pet.1:15-16). And of course we must always point to Jesus Christ as the standard against which we measure ourselves, our thoughts, our words, our behaviours.
At the same time we must expect that because we are each still very much in the process of being saved, each and all of us will nonetheless sin. And kindly remember that the Lord Jesus Himself has precisely that expectation...which is why He made advance provision for that reality by calling us to continual repentance and by giving to His Church His own power to forgive sins (John 20:23)...and which is why the Church bids us pray ceaselessly "that we may complete the remaining time of our life in peace and repentance."
If you expect anyone else or everyone else in the Church to be without moral spot or wrinkle in this life, you're doomed to disappointment. I've made my own Confessions for the past 54 years, and I've heard the Confessions of others for the past 35 years. My conclusion? That the Psalmist was right on the money: "Indeed, in guilt was I born, a sinner since my mother conceived me" (Ps.51:5). Hierarchs sin; monastics sin; priests sin; deacons sin (but, apparently, not subdeacons, if they're to be believed); readers sin; parish council presidents sin; you sin; I sin; my great aunt Giuseppina sins; Mark Stokoe sins; everybody sins. As we're taught plainly in 1 Cor.12:26, our sin can do no other than impact all of us negatively. And as the Lord tells us in Matt.18:15ff, we are to hold each other accountable.
The trick is not to fall for one or the other of the traps the devil sets in such cases: the trap of following that bad example, or the trap of letting bad example cut one off from the rest of the Body by withdrawing from it, or the trap of despair, and/or the trap of becoming a Pharisee.
My father (God rest his tormented soul) was always reading far more (and far more negative meanings) into what other people said than what they clearly meant. It was a symptom of his mental and emotional illness, his madness. Your comment is redolent of his sickness. So let me make this plain: I meant what I said, and I said what I meant...and neither posited a moral vacuum. Clear?
#16.1.1 Igumen Philip on 2008-07-29 15:21
I rather think you missed Rich's point. Surely, no one is so stupid as to think that any us is without sin or failings. Nor should anyone with a modicum of education believe that there haven't been many other periods in the history of Christianity where corruption and evil were rampant.
That said, it nevertheless becomes intolerable when the leadership of the Church becomes so dysfunctional (to use a secular and more polite term) that the faith of many is challenged and the work of the Church frustrated and impeded. While no one should lose faith in Orthodoxy or mere Christianity (to use C.S. Lewis's term), I do think faith is the existing institutional structure of the Church is shaken, and rightly so, when the bishops become so detached from what is best for the Church, as opposed to protecting their own self-interests. Just as the many corruptions in the Medieval Papacy shattered the unity of Western Christianity and led to the Protestant Reformation, so can the corruptions in modern institutional Orthodoxy result in disastrous consequences.
Those of us seeking reform do so in the context of preserving and rescuing the real Traditions of the Church from those addicted to power and confusing traditions with Tradition (thank you Fr. John Hopko). You may well disagree that we are at such a critical time in the life of the Church, but I would submit that the last 20 years of OCA witness is troubling at best.
The existing faith of many is at stake, as is the ability of the Church to witness to the Truth for those seeking it, i.e. Judge Bearse.
#220.127.116.11 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-07-30 09:23
Dear Ken et al.,
You believe that there have been "other periods in Christian history when corruption and evil were rampant." OK; good! Now please take the next step.
If we look over the past 2000 years we see that far too many times "the existing institutional structure," whether it be in Constantinople, Moscow, Syosset, or any number of other places, has been dysfunctional to the nth degree. BUT in each case the Church (usually after undergoing the purification which comes only out of suffering) is renewed and goes on to new life. The Good News is that the risen Jesus refuses to abandon His Church, no matter how badly we screw it up.
So while I agree wholeheartedly that the OCA is at a critical juncture, I do not agree that any of us should be "thrown" by any individual failures or any institutional failures. It has all happened before and, sadly, will probably happen again sometime somewhere. But the Church (NOT necessarily the OCA, mark you, but the Church) will survive and revive, because the risen Jesus is with His Church "always, even to the end of the age" (Matt.28:20).
That does NOT try to sweep anything under the rug; nor is it meant to excuse anything or anyone. Even less does it say that everything was/is just tickety-boo in the administration of the Church at the Central and/or diocesan levels. Nor does it excuse the failure of ordinary parish members to take a keener and more probing interest in the administration of the Church and its patrimony. Nor does it justify any sense of entitlement and/or any abandonment of leadership as humble servanthood. Nor does it approve of the supplanting of Tradition with mindless and rigid imitation of others, contrary to Tradition Itself!
Rather, it says that no matter how badly or how far we've gotten off track, Christ and His Church are still bigger than even the worst of our failures; so while I may fear the pain involved in the process of purification, I do not fear the ultimate outcome.
What I mean is this: there are, I think, two basic lessons to learn from our history from the the moment of the Incarnation until now:
1.If, individually and collectively, we do not willingly humble and purify ourselves by repentance (which, remember, is a change of attutide leading to a change of behaviour), then the Head of the Church will humble and purify us.
And this applies, not just to the Holy Synod, but to all of us. I know I have to repent profoundly for (among a depressingly long list of things) spending far too much time armchair quarterbacking and far too little time in fervent prayer for those in positions of leadership. I'm nobody, I'm delighted to say. But still, what if, in the divine economy, it was my (or your) failure to pray that tipped the balance? What if what God needed to provide a needed "critical mass" of grace that would've changed things was my "yes" (or yours), but I withheld that "yes by criticising rather than interceding? The repentance and change the OCA needs begin as much with the face in the mirror as with the guy on the eagle rug.
2. If, individually and collectively, we accept that chastening, it will indeed yield "the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb.12:11). If we do not accept it and produce that fruit, the Lord will give the vineyard to others who will produce it (Matt. 21:33-43). Either way, in the long run God wins.
To satisfy Reader Nilus's curiousity, I am a member of the Monastic Community of St. Silouan the Athonite, and superior of one of its metochia, the Hermitage of the Protection of the Theotokos. If you're interested in trying your vocation, contact me privately. I'll email you the Typikon His Eminence has blessed for this house.
#18.104.22.168.1 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2008-07-30 14:38
Repentance is one thing, dominance to reduce fighting in groups is the next step that must happen.
That dominance must be the exertion of the laity on the clergy and hierarchy and it must result in real power for the laity when the Synod sins.
Unless the hierarchy give the laity real power in the church, the OCA gains nothing for the expense and the real measurable and accountable result will be the shrinking of the population of Christians, or at least practicing OCA members.
In this life; one must give. The hierarchs must give the laity something tangible to prevent future failures or when we pray for them in Liturgy, all of us will scoff until we pay our final debts.
An example would be giving the Metropolitan Council the ability to fire the Chancellor, Treasurer, and Secretary if the church audits are not completed within 9 months. Metropolitan Herman himself could bring this change into force if he were a true leader.
Another example would be a strategic plan. Metropolitan Herman years ago predicted his desire to be Metropolitan, but has given the laity or his brothers on the Synod any type of positive strategic plan for the OCA. From my perspective, the OCA has worked hard on image, and done nothing substantive like build churches.
The mirror ain't [sic] pretty.
The report can't lie.
CEOs author strategic plans. Bishops create investigative committees. Sad.
No Philip, the image, and the forgiveness surely ain't [sic] enough. We need substantive change.
A new and unlikely Metropolitan might be the only way.
#22.214.171.124.1.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-07-30 18:17
Thank you Ken - you aptly summarized my thoughts. Fr. Philip goes on at great length to make, I guess, his central point that "Christ and His Church" are bigger than all our failures. But, are WE not his Church? Do not WE have a collective responsibility as the royal priesthood to uphold and demand integrity and honesty as minimum requirements of our illustrious leaders? I think Anon puts it best - we shall know them by their fruits. I am not passing judgment on them as persons, by discerning their wrongufl behavior, nor I'm I saying that I am any better or worse than they are.
#126.96.36.199.2 Rich on 2008-07-31 09:17
Had discussion yesterday about the destruction of trust in the OCA. The Bible tells us Put not your trust in princes in sons of men in whom there is no salvation. How do we know these men in whom there is no salvation either had by them or to be had by us... BY THEIR FRUITS we know them.
Restoring trust can only be accomplished at this satge of the game by installing men of etablished good fruits, not men who promise to do better. These men must probably come from outside the OCA hierarchy and maybe clergy as well.
What about the Antiochians? Bishop Basil Essey?
#188.8.131.52.2.1 Anon on 2008-08-01 05:23
Dear Fr. Philip:
I guess what I dont understand is your point??
#184.108.40.206 Rich on 2008-07-30 12:44
Igumen, I am curious: which monastic community are you the igumen of?
#16.2 Reader Nilus Klingel on 2008-07-30 06:39
It was said some time ago in one of these posts on this site that if the full truth were to be known, then + Theodosius, RSK and + Herman would submit to lie detector analysis (Personally, I'd like to see sodium pentethol). Will we ever see this, probably not. "The secrets of men will all be revealed on the last day." One would think that they would voluntarily agree to this to clear their names for their families and posterity.
Right now, from what we do know, there is enough evidence to put + Theodosius & RSK on trial and dismiss + Herman for abetting in their crimes.
#17 Anonymous on 2008-07-29 05:51
Fr. Michael Tassos,
You recently wrote within the Speak the Truth blog:
"I like many others believe that the perpetrators of the embezzlement should pay restitution with whatever funds they have left."
As others have so adeptly noted, you mentioned "perpetrator(s)" in the plural (more than one person was involved)and "embezzlement" (a crime).
You are in the fortunate, or unfortunate, position of now being probably one of the few persons at Syosset who can reasonably connect the dots into the corruption that happend there. You may even know more than the recent SIC committee.
You perhaps have one of the singly most difficult decisions to make:
Start lining up a new CPA or parish job and go to the authorities with what you know. I believe you have Whistleblower protection.
A few choice corrupt individuals will not thank you if they end up without a position (or defrocked or in prison) but you will have been a key person who will have restored the OCA to its proper integrity.
Such a decision for you to be a Whistleblower has probably crossed your mind. But I imagine you will be able to know if the SIC report will be one of integrity. When it is released and you know of obvious lies or exaggerations, I hope your conscience will do the right thing: inform us and the authorities.
Short of being a Whistleblower, there is the forensic audit that could take place (we came out with a surplus budget this year? We can't be doing that bad not to afford it?)
Further action in the name of fiduciary responsibility, you are forever protected by the principles of honesty and integrity. In other words, you would be protected as a Fool for Christ.
#18 Patty Schellbach on 2008-07-29 07:12
Perhaps I am naive, but it seems to me that transparency begins at home. I've been looking at parish and diocesan Web sites, and I wish I could say they all post recent financials for public scrutiny. Obviously, they do not. The parish is the place where most of us can make our voices heard most directly. If we are going to insist on accountability at the top level, as we certainly have a right to do, it seems to me we ought to disclose publicly the records of our own parishes.
The same goes for the dioceses. Only a few of them have current financials easily available on their Web sites (the one in which I live does not), and this lack makes it difficult to form an accurate picture of where we stand as a church. For example, is the $900,000 debt currently carried by the Diocese of Alaska a lot? Surely, the diocese must have some offsetting assets. How much debt do other dioceses carry by comparison? Having worked for many years in the world of not-for-profits, $900K doesn't seem excessive to me, given the size of the organization. But we can't tell one way or the other, because we've only been given that one figure, without a context.
As far as transparency at the top goes, I must respectfully disagree with his honor's assertion that unraveling past transactions ought to be easy and straightforward. Of course, records can be reconstructed, and perhaps we should consider retaining a forensic accountant for that purpose. These days, most accounting firms provide that expertise at relatively reasonable rates. But it can be fiendishly difficult to ferret out all the details of transactions even a few years in the past, let alone after a decade or more has gone by. Changes over the years in personnel, filing systems, software, or accounting methods all contribute to this. Unless some likelihood exists to recover the monies that were misused, we might want to weigh the cost against any supposed benefit.
Of course, "punishing the perps" may be reason enough to get to the bottom of things, and worth any expense. But I don't believe this, nor do I believe this is a widely held view. I believe most of us simply want to recover as much of the embezzled funds as possible (assuming the expense of recovery doesn't exceed the amount recovered), and for safeguards to be put in place to ensure we don't have to go through this again. Mostly, I believe most of us just want to concentrate on living Christ's Gospel as well as we unworthy disciples can and on carrying that Gospel to "all nations."
I apologize if my comments seem uninformed. I know others are much more up to speed and have a more detailed understanding of events than I; but I very much appreciate having this forum available to read the variety of views--and to add my two cents!
#19 Morton on 2008-07-29 07:51
Your comments, from top to bottom, are among the most sensible I've read here. Good analytical skills, coupled with a sense of practicality derived from extensive experience, ring throughout. I tend to doubt that you've been labeled as "naive" or "uninformed" very often.
#19.1 Milos Konjevich on 2008-07-29 18:06
"Breathe deep in the gathering gloom
Watchlights fade from every room
Bedsitter people look back and lament
Another day's useless energy's spent
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one
Lonely man cries for love and has none
New mother picks up and suckles her sun
Senior citizens wish they were young
Cold-hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colors from our sight
Red is grey and yellow white
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion? "
The MOODY BLUES (Nights in White Satin )
OCA News.Org is having a tremendous impact on world-wide Orthodoxy. How many times has Satan & CO hit this site?
How many times has God & CO hit this site? Which side holds all the power punches? Which side APPEARS to be winning? I wager that every bishop ( including Metropolitans and Patriarchs ) are reading this site daily. If they are not, then someone is ALERTING them when something of importance (or at least of interest )needs to be known. If not someone, then something, like a bump on the head or a fall, flat on their face ( is advising them ). My guess is, that by now, every single bishop knows the truth about our situation at hand. Having said this I would add further that every bishop on earth who is 'in communion ' with one another is able to be accountable to one another about this crisis. When one jurisdiction is in crisis, then every orthodox jurisdiction is in crisis. To believe otherwise would be false and unhealthy. These other bishops certainly are not laughing at the OCA Holy Synod. It would be a grave insult to GOD if they weren't supporting their fellow brothers IN CHRIST not just in an 'inner way', but much more now and even more importantly in the 'outer way' as well. That much goes without saying. If you really thought it through clearly, you would have to agree. In most situations people need more detailed facts to see clearly but this is not necessarily the case here, now is it??? You know dam well who you are. AND YES, THIS IS AN ESOTERIC STATEMENT. Don't miss your opportunity. OH my goodness, how could a peon such as this one print such a thing on the internet knowing the possible repercutions??? Hard as it is to beleive at this point !!! Is it possible for the devil to outwit a sizable portion of individuals in regards to the perceived opinions of their leaders. ( Either way - favorable or unfavorable) If you are not abel to agree, that's just the way it is in THIS life on this earth ...our ever so constant reminder is the Middle East Inferno. The last I heard, the OCA remains a member of SCOBA. However, for the OCA LAY Members , it really is understandable for many to still be suffering. For Clergy, whom much is given, much more is demanded by God in proportionate amounts and probably even then some...yes, they should all know the truth today. If there are any that don't by now ( KNOW THE TRUTH ), well, I'd suspect that they'd bitterly already have resigned on their own recognizance or will do so in the very near future. There's a buzz in the air and it's a stinging one. I know for a fact that there are lay people who understand this message. There are soooooo many people on this site, calling for Metropolitan Herman to resign, and then to a certain extent, for the entire synod to resign. I'm quite certain that every member of the entire HOLY OCA SYNOD (INCLUDING METROPOLITAN THEODOSIUS ) has made a public confession to every bishop who remains a standing bishop on this polluted earth. The OCA Orthodox HOLY synod ARE NOT the ones here who have lost the faith...quite the contrary. However, I also maintain the notion, that not one bishop NEED make a public confession to anyone of a lower rank demanding them to do so. I wish more theologians could start writing more books like that one Father Joseph Allan wrote ( the one I mentioned in my previous post ) especially because of what we are facing in this century. If you UNDERSTOOD the truth, you would realize that the TRUTH IS not ripping itself up. Yes, the money issue matters. And yes, everyone who wants to know the truth eventually will; however, it will be according to God's timetable...sadly, it might not be until one 'falls asleep' in the Lord. Not knowing the details matters only to the extent that it destroys one's own personal soul. It is heart-breaking to read so many distraught postings . I read them to learn. Perhaps TO TRY to learn how to help someone else. I'm posting today for that very reason. I hope no one reading this is reading it in a way that distresses them further...or misinterprets something that I am trying to convey. If something I say would or does make you angry, please, I'd hope you'd think the better of me and just chalk it up to 'SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY ' ! At some time or another just about everyone's heard the following saying or variations of it : doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting different results is just plain lunacy. You're not going to get the answer you want writing to your OCA bishops, that's a fact. You've tried it time and time again. Why not write to some of the bishops in other jurisdictions and ask them why they haven't 'disbarred ' the OCA Synod from SCOBA?
If they can't give you the answer you're seeking for that question, well, maybe more time spent with your own personal father confessors would at least comfort you some. Some is much better than NONE ! They all very well know that giving the wrong advice at any point in time could further sicken one who is already grieving too much as it is. Seeking advice from the correct Father Confessor is the only sure way to find a way to get us all out of this murk. If you're not happy with the verdict from one 'judge' go to the next level. Hey, if Constantiople ignores you, then who's the one in deep you know what??? There is no answer that can be dispensed on a silver spoon without the comfort given at the many private confessions that have greatly increased ( if you're one who attends vespers frequently, how could you not notice - well, I suppose there are those special appointment-type confessions that are being held just as frequently too). That in itself is pointing us in God's intended direction. God works His miracles in mysterious ways. It'd be pretty hard to debate that one !
Gazing at people, some hand in hand
Just what I'm going through they can't understand
Some try to tell me, THOUGHTS THEY CANNOT DEFEND
Just what you want to be, you will be in the end
And I love you, yes I love you
OH, how I love you, OH, how I love you
Nights in white satin, never reaching the end
Letters I've written, never meaning to send
BEAUTY I'D ALWAYS MISSED, wIth these eyes BEFORE
JUST WHAT THE TRUTH IS, I CANT'T SAY, anymore!!!!
'CAUSE I LOVE YOU, YES I LOVE YOU
OH, HOW I LOVE YOU, OH, HOW I LOVE YOU
Don't be surprised when you do learn ( whether in this life or in the afterlife) that your own OCA BISHOPS loved you ( and even more so now -if that's possible- than you ever new at the time...
and also, don't forget about Father Kondratick, he loves you still now, more than you'll ever know...
JUST BECAUSE YOU'VE BEEN TOLD A 'FISHY STORY' doesn't mean that in the end it wasn't the same type of 'fish' story that Christ Himself, wanted them ( all your superiors, including the one in Constantinople ) to tell at this point in our historic 'TIMETABLE'.
Before I sign my name ( as certain people seem to get highly upset about not doing)- don't forget :
'Naitivity' not ANGER !
Just "puttin' my faith in what I believe in "! If you don't, where else could it get you???
#20 Patty Kusnir on 2008-07-29 09:31
I tend to believe you have it wrong. The other bishops are scared that what's happening here in America is going to carry in other lands to reveal local corruption elsewhere. To think this is a purely American phenomenon is not realistic, especially when there was an edict from the Russian Church about discussing online. Yeah, they're watching, but they're scared. Its a good thing, its a good thing for Orthodoxy in America, its good for Orthodox elsewhere.
#20.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-30 12:12
Our Lord gave us an acid test for sincerity and motive. We don't have to guess or ponder too deeply the true motives of a person. Jesus kept it simple, and profound: "How shall we know them Lord? You shall know them by their fruit."
Embezzlement, theft, duplicity, pride, arrogance, lies, elitism... are not fruits of the Spirit.
#20.2 Anon. on 2008-07-30 17:11
A number of prominent people some of whom would be considered "insiders" have suggested that if the truth got out it would destroy the Church. Certanly the OCA'a leadership ( or lack ther of) suggests this is indeed true! My question is this; who would want to belong to an orginization like this? The only answer I can give is that the complicity that has been part and parcel of OCA culture for decades has become such an aspect of participation in the Church that it has ceased to be an viable witness for Orthodxy in America. In other words it is already destroyed.
#21 anon on 2008-07-30 07:20
L. Montgomery wrote on Blog #12:
"His Beatitude was asked what efforts would be made to account for the financial extravagance of the past three years. His B replied (pacing up and down, grinning, and slapping his hand with this chotke like a riding crop): "There can be no accounting. There are no records."
It doesn't really sound as if he was really interested in finding the records. I believe this is what forensic auditing does. Why would his B "grin" at the lack of records?
Folks, that SIC report better not be delayed past the annoucnced time in September. I believe his B will get a whole new perspective on what "grinning" means. New perspectives are not a bad thing! They can even be refreshing.
#22 Patty Schellbach on 2008-07-30 08:35
Not to worry Patty. A copy of that report will be on this website before its presentation to the HS and MC is finished. There will be no private PR like report this time.
(Editor's note: Since the author of this comment is raising the hopes of many, I am going to hold him to his word.)
#22.1 Anonymous on 2008-07-30 13:04
Thank you Fr. Phillip for your comments to the Judge. I don't know how many people read or write to this website, since many do not sign their names. The Orthodox faith and the body of Christ can withstand the "sins of this world." The Synod of Bishops are accountable to God, whether in this world or the next. And that is true for other Orthodox Bishops regardless of what jurisdiction. The laity, too are to give answers to Christ. That is why this website exists, so that the faithful have a geniune way to express their thoughts and concerns. Thank you, Mark for all the work you do on this website.
#23 cbshinn on 2008-07-30 08:46
Dear OCA brothers and sisters in christ,
I just thought that I would send along some information about a pastor who stole from funds for the needy who must repay the loss from an article that appeared in my sisters newspaper.
Oregon news... Gambling and strippers Members of Rex Loy's former church talk of shock waves of grief...Loys, congregants described him as a talented public speaker with a warm personality, who lead the 129 year old church for seven years.
Loy's theft was uncovered by an audit that disclovered at least 30,000 had been taken in 2006. Many people believed that the funds were going for food, rent and medical bills to help the needy. The article discribes What Rex did was commit financial violation of the entire congregation, also one of the congregation members stated that she struggled to explain to her 9 year old daughter what he's done, how he stole from their donations without ever saying he was sorry.
He simply looked people straight into their eyes and told her and them, that he was spending the money on those who truely needed it, but that he couldn't produce the documentation because he was trying to protect the confidentiality of the needy.
Interesting enough the only difference to my knowledge is that this congregation has turned this man into the authorities and he will deal with the consequences of his own failures and sin. They had the courage to do so... And the guidance from God... Ps. This Website has enough information to help those to make the right choices and to do the right....
Not for ourselves but for those who can not speak, the needy, the children, the widows, orphans and children, those who have been robbed of this devastating scandal who can not speak whom will never know how warm their bed may of been or how their food would of been comforting when they were hungry and in need.
Turn these theives in out of pure love, and we will lift them up in prayer and offer thanksgiving for this.... We will survive and rebuild this church, but intil then the ship continues to sink with out the captain guiding the vessel.....
#24 Pastor who stole from funds for the needy must repay loss on 2008-07-30 12:47
The judge values truth and expects it to be spoken and upheld, the more the higher the church office. I admire that sort of thing in bishops and judges. Greg Nescott wouldn't have been shocked at his poor treatment if he only stopped to read the sign out front of the leadership office he visited recently:
Curmudgeons Hospice of Queens
Where self deception is a group effort.
Note: speaking the truth is just rude
Please Give Generously
P.S. There are quite a few signs of this sort across Orthodox jursidictions. The grass is not greener elsewhere. Life is in the parishes and the people, the leadership is definetely in a bit of a bad patch. Starting around 1940, clergy wives stopped dying before the priest retired. Time to make some changes or accept being a hospice for sinners, not a hospital.
#25 Harry Coin on 2008-07-30 15:14
Why can't the leaders of the OCA see the need for ascertainment and declaration of truth in regard to God's money?
Why can't they speak the truth emphatically?
-Honarable Edward Bearse
Judge Bease, thank you for speaking so clearly. I have felt from the beginning that the Church should have involved law enforcement officials in the investigation given the enormity of the embezzlements and the pattern of cover ups from the Metropolitan down. There was also the very practical reason that clergy are not well suited (nor should they be) for criminal investigations. While it may have been uncomfortable, truth would at least have been served. Instead we have had three years of obfuscation and delays orchestrated by our Metropolitan supported by a supine Synod of Bishops. And we wonder why our Church is declining in membership.
The Patriarch of Jerusalem was deposed several years ago for questionable real estate transactions. Our financial scandal given the size of our Church is probably of greater magnitude and yet those responsible, except for the ex-Chancellor, continue to serve, and even he while deposed is allowed to function as a parish administrator in the Diocese of the South.
Ever increasing levels of cynicism seem to be the legacy of our Metropolitan, and all the town meetings in the world won't help if just and appropriate action is not taken at the AAC.
#26 david paynter on 2008-07-30 20:00
I believe that as informative and balanced as the reporting on this site has been; for the most part, no matter how well intentioned it has become yet another tool for the OCA's culture of complicity and non-accountability. The funny thing about the net is it offeres us the illusion of freedom and this fits right in w/ the status quo of the OCA. The lack of any leadership or viable commitment to action betrays a cynicismn and cowardice that is truly frightening, and it has become obvious that people are afraid, afraid of what it reveals about them as Orthodox Christians. So lets stop fooling ourselves.
#27 anon on 2008-07-31 05:01
To Judge Bearse:
Your comments about truth telling are timely and to the point. Thank you.
Your attraction to Holy Orthodoxy is welcome.
Your hesitance in ‘joining up’ given the current confused situation is understandable.
To the last of these items let me tell you a couple of stories which I hope will speak to your situation. The first happened about 30 years ago. A young man – a college student and son of an Episcopal priest – was vacationing in the Mediterranean and – given his then current interest in Buddhism and other exotic eastern religions – made a ‘mad’ decision to visit Mt. Athos. For various reasons he arrived late, and at the point of exhaustion, at the monastery of Simonos Petras. He was immediately taken under the wing of a yet young monk who was even then known as an ‘elder’ whose first words were. “I’ve been waiting for you.” He then sat the young man down and, in the course of the conversation, laid his life out in front of him. The young man then went to bed and after waking up the next morning, decided that the experience of the previous evening was too much for him. It was “too thick”, “too real”, and he wanted out now. However, he didn’t want to offend the monks who had treated him so kindly. Then he remembered that he forgot, at Karyes, a bag of books he had been carrying with him, so he quickly formulated a plan whereby he would tell the good monks that he had to go back to Karyes to fetch his books, and after getting them he simply leave the Mountain and go to the beach for the remainder of his vacation. With his plans perfectly laid, he opened his door to put them into effect. Having stepped out into the hallway he met the young elder who was carrying the bag of books and wearing a big smile. The elder gave him the books, and smiling said: “Why do you let fear govern your life?”…and the fear left. He’s Orthodox now; married with children.
The second story took place about 10 years later when the same elder was on the island of Naxos hearing confessions at a women’s monastery. After he was finished one afternoon he stepped out of the room and, in front of him, met two young women who were art students in Naxos studying on scholarship. With hardly more than a hello, he asked them: “Would you like to build the Church of Jesus Christ in your hearts?” One was too stunned to say anything. The other answered : “Yes….but, wouldn’t that be difficult?” He answered, “Yes, difficult, but sweet.” And talked away.
And that, your Honor, is the only thing we can dare offer you here. To refuse to let fear, even the fear of dishonesty and deception, govern your relationship with God, and to build the Church of Jesus Christ in your heart – which we promise you is difficult … very difficult, but sweet. God bless you in your journey.
p.s. both women are Orthodox nuns now, and one is an Abbess.
#28 Archimandrite Melchisedek on 2008-07-31 12:50
Thank you for that wonderful and instructive post.
#28.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-08-01 06:25
Agree wholeheartedly with the Judges remarks.Also,why isnt the FBI and/or the IRS involved in all this? A crime and sin has been committed.Those involved must be punished and restitution made.The IRS has no problem confiscating houses,cars,property,etc. Forgiveness? ONLY after repentance,atonement and restitution.Yes,and when is St.Tikhons
Seminary and Bookstroe going to be audited and investigated?
#29 Anon on 2008-07-31 13:01
Despite its claims to being Christ's church (something that is not all that clear or certain if one studies church history and the development of doctrine in depth, breadth and detail), the Orthodox Church, and the OCA especially, is not exempt from the threat Jesus made to His churches in Revelation. OCA's candlestick could be removed if it doesn't repent and get its act together.
Come to think of it, the candlestick may already have been removed and the members just don't know it yet.
#30 A Voice of One Crying on 2008-07-31 21:30
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