Friday, August 22. 2008
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Father Hodges's reflection is nothing less than brilliant and simultaneously terrifying. Brilliant in illuminating the the proper distinctions between forgiveness and reconciliation. Terrifying in the realization of how far most us fall short of the requirements of unconditional forgiveness.
I challenge our mostly silent seminaries and professors of moral theology to take issue with this reflection and the requirements that logically follow. Too bad they were unable to deliver this message three years ago when it was clearly necessary to "speak truth to power." Perhaps they should be added to the public confession list?
#1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-08-22 15:38
Dear Father Mark and others,
Thank you for the well thought out reflection! I agree with the others that it was brilliant and something all of us should re-read to thoroughly understand, and then put into practice (as always much easier said then done). It has certainly helped me understand the issue between forgiveness and reconciliation much better, and seems to have done the same for others. I pray that we can all forgive from the heart, and then be reconciled. Again, thanks for taking the time to write this reflection!
#1.1 David M. Capparuccini on 2008-08-23 23:09
Fr Mark Hodges' Reflection, as Kenneth R. Tobin stated above, is brilliant. It is also indicative of how clearly and understandably a priest can communicate to people when he has a full seminary education!!! Many of the SOB's (an appropriate abbreviation, to be sure!!) are lacking in this. Maybe this is why they can't even communicate among themselves to do the next right thing (like, they should have deposed Nikolai, like they still should depose Herman, etc.).
I am thankful for Fr Mark's wonderful distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. Too bad Herman and Company can't see the distinction. Or, rather, maybe they do see the distinction, but they hide their much-needed repentance-and-reconciliation to all of us in the Church behind a Potemkin-village-like call on the part of us for forgiveness!!! I also agree with Fr Mark's appropriate use of Scripture quotes. Hey, Herman, maybe you ought to open up your Bible and read it once in a while, hmmm??? You might just learn something!!
Thank you again, Fr Mark, for your inspiring words. If nothing else, this crisis has brought to light many wonderful reflections, meditations, and articles by wonderfully educated and prayerful people, yourself included. May God bless you in your continuing ministry!!! In Christ,
#2 David Barrett on 2008-08-22 17:56
Fr. Mark's reflection is absolutely spot on. Wisdom and clarity. This important distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation needs to be at the top of our minds as we approach the AAC, or we will never disentangle ourselves from the mess we are in.
Your point about the silences of St. Vladimir's is well taken. I have felt all along that the teachers at St. Vladimir's have either been complicit all these years, or morally flaccid in turning a blind eye; content to sit with their books and remain silent while Syosset and the Synod burned in their sins. I am not sure which circumstance bothers me more. If I were wagering right now, I would have to admit that I believe they knew... and remained silent; making sophisticated, high-minded, pompous excuses for their silence.
Add them to the list.
#4 Anon. on 2008-08-22 19:18
You're being unfair to SVS. Is not Fr. Thomas Hopko a dean emeritus? Did not the current faculty produce a statement? Is it possible one of them or some of them, especially those serving administratively knew of this? Possibly, but on the basis of no evidence, I wouldn't suggest it with such strong language.
On the other hand, I'd agree with you that publicly they often do remain too silent. Still, they produced a statement and Fr. Thomas Hopko and Dr. Bouteneff have offered helpful and inspiring reflections.
If anyone at SVS knew that money was being stolen, it will come out in due time. Otherwise, let's at least assume innocence since there presently is no indicting evidence (at least none of which I'm aware).
I think you may have a point regarding relative silence, and the OCA may well be imploding and committing ecclesiastical suicide, but let's not start blaming whatever disaster is befalling the OCA on people against whom we hold no condemning evidence.
#4.1 Fr. Oliver Herbel on 2008-08-22 20:00
St. Vladimir's Seminary holds a special place in my heart. So many of the clergy under whom I have served at the altar were or are SVS garduates; I count the three summer institutes and the Education Days I have attended as special blessings in my life.
Over the past two years I have followed the scandals, during which I have struggled to understand the silence of the current SVS faculty. Professor Meyendorff's proposal for the 15th AAC and Professor Bouteneff's reflection on repentance are the only individual contributions here of which I know. Then there is the letter from the faculty during the "Alaskan crisis." While I was heartened to see the letter of solidarity with the clergy of Alaska, it seems to me that it come rather late in that crisis.
For more than the past thirty years, the faculty of St. Vladimir's Seminary have held special places of honor in the OCA as the intellectual leaders of the Church. Their lack of leadership in addressing the recent scandals has tarnished their reputations and the reputation of the seminary.
#4.1.1 Mark C. PHinney on 2008-08-24 04:11
Well, you couldn't be more wrong! SVS is where the "Church" should turn for matters regarding "THEOLOGY" and "Orthodox Practice," not basic fraud & thievery. SVS leads when it is necessary. In the current OCA scandal, if would take a deaf, dumb and blind person not to recognize embezzlement on this level. Theologians aren't necessary; more cops are!
#184.108.40.206 Anonymous on 2008-08-24 19:58
Not all SVS professors are OCA members. And not all people are gifted for "speaking out." Spokepersons exist for a reason. We are not all gifted with the ability to say what we mean in a manner meet to the occasion and need. Remember Moses and Aaron?
I suggest that we don't start looking for more fault.
Of what use is that to us? I see none.
#220.127.116.11 Rdr. T. John on 2008-08-24 20:02
A clear governance problem in the OCA is the fact that the priests on the Metropolitan Council are not independent.
That is, those priests are subject to the wrath, or kindness of the Bishops on the Synod for their reporting, for the voting, for the commentary, etc.
The case would seem to be the same for the Seminaries, unless I'm missing something.
Its a very corporate like structure.
We keep rolling back around to the fact the Synod holds too much power over all these bodies of the church for any of them to speak it seems.
Concilarity and subordination are not exclusive in the OCA.
How can a subordinate speak freely and govern, or speak freely and teach?
You are all onto something here, but I expect everyone to fall short on action.
Until Mark Stokoe was bold enough to stand up, noone recognized the need, and noone with a vested interest in the success of the OCA, especially its priests, would have been able to speak on the subject without potential retribution.
Even today, there has only been one priest who has spoken loudly and correctly enough on the matter in my opinion, and even he does not present solutions that fix the core problem.
It is my firm belief that Mark Stokoe would have been silenced long ago if he were a priest.
These are inherent and endemic issues for the OCA.
Somehow, I doubt the clergy and Bishops will think this needs changing, but the fact the OCA has operated for so long, and so poorly cannot be overlooked by any of you, them, us.
The Metropolitan Council is not independent.
The seminaries are not independent enough either.
The Bishops are like Kings and it seems this is desired by everyone.
...my observations, without solutions...
#18.104.22.168 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-08-25 06:55
I appreciate your affection for SVS and I am glad to learn that the seminary has been of help to you in the past. However, I would take issue with you on the question of leadership. I accept, as I noted, that they have been somewhat silent. However, that does not mean a) that they have not shown leadership or b) that they are even the ones responsible for leading the OCA. Concerning the second point, please remember that the statutes of the OCA give responsibility to the Metropolitan Council and the Bishops. They are the ones who have directly failed, as have any who knew of this and did not strive to rectify the situation. Also, SVS is not an OCA only seminary, though the president is the OCA's metropolitan. Concerning leadership, the last I knew, SVS had not received, for several years, what they were to have received from Syosset. I think suffering through this without a martyrdom complex could be called leading by example. I may be wrong on this, but I was once told this by someone who ought to know. Also, they lead the students on a daily basis and it is not easy. They also are expected to do a LOT. Each faculty member wears more hats than I'd care to have if I were working in a seminary. They are overworked, underpaid, and, in light of some attitudes that exist, under-appreciated. They show leadership in the classroom, by their behavior, and by not reacting rashly. They demonstrated patience and perseverance before finally developing a statement. Would I have liked them to be more prophetic? Sure, but I think for "anon" to accuse them of being involved in stealing money (when they probably haven't been getting what they're supposed to be getting) or for you to suggest they lack in leadership is expecting SVS to fill a role that's not necessarily slated for them. I think it's not a question of leadership, but leadership in what way? They are leading the seminary and have spoken out, even if not to the extent that some (including myself) wish they had. Look, I would have liked to have seen more, too, but goodness, I am not going to start throwing false accusations of embezzlement their way, as did "anon," nor claim they "lack" leadership when, in fact, they are a seminary, not the metropolitan council, not the synod of bishops, and not a (church) political action group. They could have done more but if we think that even by doing more, they could have rallied the OCA out of this mess, then we are setting unreasonable expectations. Should they have been more prophetic? I think so. Are they therefore guilty for lacking leadership? No. We shouldn't fault them for failing to be the knight in shining armor that would save the OCA. No such knight will be forthcoming. The OCA either cooperates with the Holy Spirit or it doesn't and if only part of the OCA does, who knows what even that shall mean? We all should've done more and yes, some more than others, but let's not start placing an undo burden on one particular seminary of the OCA. Our energy should be directed primarily at affecting the things within our immediate sphere of effect and toward the ultimate sources of leadership and delinquency.
#22.214.171.124 Fr. Oliver Herbel on 2008-08-25 15:15
Hours and hours of time I waste writing and rewriting commentary. Disgusting, but I am missing my point. I did work on a material layout for donation boxes for one of the Missions, but I could have built boxes for every Mission with the time wasted here.
The reason Communism fails is because noone believes much of anything is within their 'sphere of effect'.
The Synod better wake up.
Empowering individuals to do things like build churches happens when Synods start believing in people and listening to people and never ruling people out of order.
I'd like to know how many times Metropolitan Herman or other Bishops have ruled people out of order or otherwise used their power to silence people in matters related to the finances.
You know what should happen Fr. Oliver, when a Bishop silences people for genuine, honest concern about the financial health of the church? They should be deposed if that is the only way to remove them.
We have several Bishops that deserve deposition.
Who would have that one within their 'sphere of effect'?
#126.96.36.199.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-08-27 18:42
Well, deposing a bishop is performed by twelve other bishops. So, in terms of direct engagement, it takes twelve bishops and since the OCA is such a small autocephalous Church, this does become an issue. Concerning the charges, themselves, however, if you witnessed an event that clearly and definitely calls for deposition, then I think one should feel free to raise this with his priest first and foremost and take it from there, going on to the bishop with your priest if the event truly necessitates deposition. Deposition is a big step, however, and is not intended just for personality clashes or even necessarily for a bishop telling a priest he's out of line. It would depend on the reason for silencing the priest. If the reason(s) and context warrants considering the silencing (and perhaps silencing method) worthy of deposition, then it should be pursued. The final ruling would come from the court of the twelve bishops.
This, at least, is my understanding of how our canon law functions on this question. Those who know better or understand otherwise are welcome to comment and/or correct me.
#188.8.131.52.1.1 Fr. Oliver Herbel on 2008-08-28 09:04
Don't single out SVS - what about the other seminaries?
The problems is the preachers say one thing yet live their lives totally void of what they preach. Even Job, he and his diocese worked hard on the benchmarks, but what happened in the end, he wrote the check. Larry Tosi once said the truth would kill the church, I think that it is probably on a respirator. Herman and Kucynda spent hundreds of thousands to provide a shelter for themselves and in the end, they lost the church. Who would believe a word that they would say?
#4.2 MP on 2008-08-24 06:02
Larry Tosi misspoke, he really meant that it will destroy those that have tried to destroy the Church - a situation which keeps him up at night. Larry Tosi doesn't understand that the malfeasance of Kondratick, the Metropolitans, Kucynda, and Oselinsky will NOT kill the Church. Its done very well, thank you, through all of the centuries when others have tried to destroy it and its lived through that truth, it will live very well after we've learned the truth about those named above.
But what do you expect, Larry Tosi is just parroting the Kucynda line who has turned himself into a pretzel trying to keep this hidden and the miscreants protected, again, with YOUR money. When this gets resolved listen for Mr. Tosi to say that he was all in favor of disclosure back when it was occurring!
Oh, by the way, Mr. Tosi, its been, like, 3 months since we spoke of the financial statements of the diocese being put on the diocesan website. Three months and no action, what's taking the time? There's time to put up pictures of the council meeting, pictures which mean absolutely nothing to us, but its too difficult to put up the financial statements, INCLUDING the balance sheet so we can see where the shortfall of assessment income is being made up so the full assessment expenditures are made. All of the talk of transparency, and in comparison of the dioceses that have websites, the Metropolitan's own is an example of the non change towards transparency which we knew to be the truth. Its not the truth that's destroying the Church, its the inability of those in roles of responsibility to make sure that the truth is the product of integrity and character and that follows in the path of Jesus.
#4.2.1 Anonymous on 2008-08-24 15:40
WHERE ARE YOUR FACTS? YOU PREACH THE SAME OLD "GOSSIP" DAY IN AND DAY OUT! CAN YOU SHOW ME ONE CHECK OR MONEY THAT ANY BISHOP TOOK AND DIDN'T EARN? SHOW ME HOW YOU CONNECT WHAT FRK DID WITH ANY BISHOP? AND I DONT MEAN 'GOSSIP'? AND PLEASE DONT TELL ME YOU HEARD IT ON STOKOE'S WEBSITE! THIS WEBSITE IS A JOKE! BISHOP JOB GIVES STOKOE ALL THE INFORMATION! NOW BISHOP JOB CLAIMS HE IS THE "PROBLEM" AND NOT THE "SOLUTION"! FOR A BISHOP TO RESPOND ON A "EVIL WEBSITE" MAKES ME FEEL SICK! ONE MAY ASKED! SHOULDN'T HE BE IN CHURCH? SOME THINGS JUST DONT SEEM RIGHT!
(Editor's note: Yes, I can. Metropolitan Theodosius and RSK alone controlled secret bank accounts (not included in Church auditing or accounting procedures) into which ADM funds, (applied for by the Church in a grant for stated purposes) were deposited. There is no evidence they were used for those stated purposes. Yet the monies are gone. So there is one example of a Bishop who received monies he was not entitled to. Secondly, another Bishop, the current Metropolitan, helped in the cover-up of this diversion of funds by assisting in the firing of the whistleblower who revealed this diversion, and took his office. Whereupon the whole thing was covered up. He then, upon becoming Metropolitan, reappointed RSK to be in control of OCA funds, although he knew what he had done, and was doing. So there is evidence connecting RSK's misdeeds with another Bishop. Shall I go on? No, let's wait for the SIC report next week.
No, none of that information came from Archbishop Job. It came from the OCA. Get your facts straight. )
#4.2.2 Anonymous on 2008-08-26 09:16
But has the irony not struck anyone that the person accusing me and my colleagues of high-minded pomposity and complicity, and other scandalous things, is unwilling or unable to sign his/her own name?
Now why could that be? Is he/she is perhaps concerned about repercussions? Perhaps there are complexities in his/her situation that make it unadvisable to speak in a way that he/she could be identified. Who would I be to assume that these complexities are owing to complicity?
Would I not be more Christian in assuming that this author is engaged in a consistent, prayerful internal debate about how to react to the OCA scandal, considering carefully what might be the necessary "word" to utter, and ultimately find him/herself unable to do so, except under a pseudonym or anonymously? That's what I'll work on assuming, anyway.
#4.3 Peter Bouteneff on 2008-08-24 20:24
Assume your last paragraph. Some people's reasons for not identifying themselves may have nothing to do with the OCA. Life's circumstances may dictate otherwise for reasons that have nothing to do with this scandal. But concerned and prayerful, I am.
I have been unidentified since the beginning of this scandal for personal reasons. I find it curious how the desire to see the anons identified goes in waves. Suggest the message, not the messenger, be focused upon. My identity is irrelevant. Finding truth is the priority. The OCA has been expert at character assassination for decades. The penchant to shoot the messenger is strong in this church. If the truth about SVS hurts, don't shoot the messenger. I did not attack any individual. Lets address the problem. One cannot separate "theology" from "praxis"... at least not in the Orthodoxy that I think we believe.
#4.3.1 Anon. on 2008-08-25 19:57
I didn't mean to shoot the messenger. And the overall discussion, as to how or whether SVS should/should have spoken out publicly is a worthy one. As is the discussion on full disclosure -- and Fr Mark's reflection is extremely useful in that discussion.
But the irony of your approach remains -- in fact you've added to it. You ask me to presume your good intentions for anonymity, while you've presumed the absolute worst possible intentions on SVS's part, especially in your initial posting on this thread. That isn't fair.
The original irony, though, is that you accuse SVS for not taking the risk of being prophetic in its own name, while yourself dodging that risk completely. It's actually somewhat hypocritical. Your accusations come at absolutely no risk and no cost to yourself and your name. Really, if you feel the need to be anonymous, then surely you understand well the liabilities of speaking out on an internet forum (as if thatís the only way one can be prophetic in the first place).
But I will return to my initial point: I think it's totally appropriate to ask how or whether SVS should have said more in public. We need to think long and hard about it, in a spirit of genuine soul-searching. Don't think that conversation hasn't been going on already. By pointing out the glaring problems of your approach to it, I don't mean to avoid the disucssion itself.
#184.108.40.206 Peter Bouteneff on 2008-08-26 07:59
Discussion is good and gossip even becomes good when it stimulates discussion. Spreading unsubstantiated malicious rumours of course is never good.
Only discussion can bring forth the evidence that will exonerate or condemn. In our culture you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The discussion must be deep, going into the history of the OCA in oder to bring forth the evidence.
Anonymous must be given the benefit of the doubt: he/she stands alone against a whole Seminary culture - any judge (or discerner) worth his salt would acknowledge that.
#220.127.116.11.1 Ever and anon. on 2008-08-26 10:12
In our culture we are NOT presumed innocent until proven guilty unless in a criminal trial (because there the stakes -- freedom -- are so high). In civil trial, the burden is usually on the one suing (not always, though). But elsewhere in life, we are free to do what common sense tells us to do, which in some cases allows us to presume guilt. The only place we need to leave our common sense at the door in in criminal court, and sometimes civil court.
#18.104.22.168.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-08-29 00:07
In the end, though, SVS, like many other institutions and individual clergy and laity are all at fault for when there is a situation which requires firm moral standing there was silence. Its not just SVS, its many clergy, its sister jurisdictions. Look, weíre not faced with a case that presents any gray areas here. We have a situation of bad stuff happening over a very long period of time. Stuff including theft, moral depravity, moral blindness, all causing a tremendous loss of ground of Orthodoxy in America and the leaving our jurisdiction teetering on the brink of extinction. Why have we not heard any indignation from the other members of SCOBA, prayers for the Christian resolution to these problems? Surely they have heard, surely they have an opinion. Surely they do not want to speak either because of that glass house thing or because its too much trouble or because, ďhey, we can pick up the people that leave.Ē Truly Orthodox thinking. People may argue over the appropriateness of speaking out and all kinds of excuses that abound, but when you get down to it, a failure to speak out, such as the lack of participation on savetheoca.org and just about 1300 people on the petition, the lack of voices crying out against this ghastly behavior is deafening and a source of strength to those that are trying to make this go away and continue like they did.
Its also a sign of the stranglehold that those at the core of this has over all those in this organization and the complicity of those outside. Maybe itís a gamble on who will prevail and the expected payoff of that win. Christian behavior determined by the expected payoff of a gamble on where one decides they may best situate themself. Get mad at it, flame at me, storm out the room, but in the end, all these factors play into how one determines their actions in the face of this Ė however clearly the lines are drawn and the Church comes down on this class of behavior. One thing with anonymity is that we canít get a payoff because no one knows who we are!
The problem people have with SVSís silence is rooted in good intentions and a perception of that institution, which has slowly eroded in the minds of many people. People are looking, desparately for a leader, a clean leader, a leader with a voice of authority that is still untainted from all that has occurred. Who better than the crown jewel of the OCA, St. Vladimirís Seminary. Of course people are looking to there because thatís where we train our clergy, where they are taught the intricacies of the faith, where men are prepared and sent forth to minister to the laity and be the face of the Church, and where people still feel there is a lot of good going on and a lot of good to come from. And, truth be told, its an institution of this decrepit organization that people still respect. Its an opportunity of endless returns for SVS, but, other than the Alaska incident, people have become greatly disappointed looking towards the great minds at SVS to pronounce that all these bad things that have happened, are, well, bad and guide us through the muck! We do not speak of their silence in maliciousness, we speak of it in terms of disappointment and respect that is slowly deteriorating.
Maybe the people at SVS have not looked at this beyond the confines of the seminary. Look at what we have here. We have our spiritual head body, the Synod, so caught up and complicit in these bad things that they are no longer looked upon with any respect or moral authority. Why, the very head, the Metropolitan, his own faith is questioned with more regularity than the setting and rising of the sun. They are taken to be fakers whoís pronouncements are now taken with a grain of salt and joked about. The MC, the half laity, half clergy administrative body is just as useless. A few speak from their hearts and want this resolved, the others are worried about getting the good china instead of the plastic dinnerware. In the end, symbolic changes are made hopefully turning the laity back to the status quo while the tough decisions and acts are nowhere to be seen. We have no faith in the MC. The diocesan councils are puppets of the bishops, whom we donít trust.
What are we left with? Weíre left with the website of a member of the laity, whoís had enough, to give us information and the repository of those that wish to give us guidance through their comments and reflections. The only global connection the various areas of the OCA have are through ocanews.org. While we are greatly thankful for all Mark has done, its sad that we cannot look to any of the institutions that play a role in the direction and growth of this Church to play any part that brings around a Godly resolution to this mess. Weíre left with the clean up of the mess after everyone else has left the party.
Its not been all that bad Ė every cloud has a silver lining and in this case a lot of that silver has been pure gold. We have been treated to new faces that have come to the fore that people didnít know about before. We have Mark, we have the tremendous example of Gregg Nescott. We have the priceless writings of Fr. Bobosh, Fr. Reeves, and Fr. Berzonksy, and numerous others that cannot all be named here. These people, are the faces that we now look to for guidance and wisdom. These are the people that, as with every revolution or scandal, come to the fore and take their place where others were, others that fall as a result of a failure to act in the face of scandal or fail to lead a revolution. But, that was that was their choice. We all make our choices, we can sit back and watch with amazement or disgust or both. We can leave it to others to take the lead. Or we can give that which God gave us and use it in a practical way when His Church is in need. Itís the choice of each one of us and we should not be surprised by the results of our choices. In the end donít expect it both ways, silence now will inevitably lead to silence when the need goes the other way.
#22.214.171.124.2 Anonymous on 2008-08-26 11:24
"Suggest the message, not the messenger, be focused upon. My identity is irrelevant. Finding truth is the priority."
At some point, say the AAC, some people will have to stand up and be counted. Anonymity seems to me to rather disingenuous at that point. Either you speak up or remain silent.
#126.96.36.199 Michael Strelka on 2008-08-26 12:08
Can you, who CLEARLY find it expedient not to comment under your real name, even now that there is a rather substantial consensus about the wrongs done and the preferred remedies, explain how you can presume to criticize the St. Vlad's professors publicly and rather harshly for not saying enough under their real names even though their jobs might have been at stake? I beg your pardon if there are facts not known to me or the rest of the public which require them to put their jobs at risk, but justify you in pronouncing harsh judgments on them from the safety of concealment under an assumed name. For all I can tell by your nom de convenience and the thoughts you express thereunder, you may or may not even be a Christian. If you are don't forget that Christianity's founder said you will be measured with the same measure you use on the faculty.
#4.4 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-08-24 22:47
Dear Fr. George,
Why is my identity important? Why do you feel the need to defend the entire seminary? Are they perfect? Do they have room to grow? Are they not able to take criticism without first knowing the author in order to determine whether they are going to listen to it or not? That is pretty elitist don't you think? Those that serve the whole church need to be accountable to the whole church. My identity is irrelevant. Let's stay focused on accountability and improvement. Theology and praxis should not be separated, yet their seems a strong temptation to excuse the silence as something not in their job description. If this point of view is truly believed and not just an excuse, then this needs to become a serious dialogue because it seems to me those that teach moral theology need to speak up when they see it not being practiced in our leaders. To defend SVS's long silence during the development of this scandal is unconsionable.
#4.4.1 Anon. on 2008-08-25 20:06
It's pretty clear you just want to find fault and speak out of your hat. SVS leads when it is necessary; in this situation, the civil courts and police are necessary, not theologians.
#188.8.131.52 Anonymous on 2008-08-26 06:46
Well Fr. George,
Pretty harsh yourself. As to my Christianity. God will be the judge. But, here's the point. My identity should be irrelevant. Either the professors at St. Vlads were doing their jobs and we expect them to be silent even with a knowledge of wrongdoing and scandal (which I personally know at least some of them had... not all, so chill), or they weren't doing their jobs and they should not have been silent. I for one think the later, but reasonable minds can disagree. You seem to be taking all this curiously personally. I did not name a person at St. Vlads, I referenced the institution and its role in our church life.
Our teachers must be held to a higher standard of accountability. You talk about their jobs at stake. They should be at stake. How many victims of this scandal have had their lives turned upside down by these purveyors of scandal? Perhaps if some of our SVS (and St. Tikhons) professors had coveted the truth more than their jobs, we may have been spared this suffering.
#4.4.2 Anonymous on 2008-08-25 20:26
Good grief, Anonymous, are you reading what you're posting? You call on seminary faculty to potentially risk their livelihoods when you, yourself, cannot summon up the fortitude to use your own name on an internet post? As the great Arlo Guthrie once said, "It takes a lotta damn gall." If I was you, I'd just shut up now. Anything else you post anonymously only makes it worse. "No virtue may endure where courage is not" Blessed Augustine
#184.108.40.206 Scott Walker on 2008-08-26 10:49
You are not paying careful attention. Re-read my post. Count how many statements in defense of the faculty as individuals or as a whole.
Yes, the answer is zero
Now count how muchof my message suggested it is sort of screwy, and an obvious example of special pleading, for you to criticize others for lacking the wisdom and moral courage to step up and take a perhaps risky public stand for what they are SUPPOSED to have known was right at a time when the facts were far less clear and now today, when facts are clear and the hue and cry is all around in support of your position, you do not have the courage to state your name.
And now you want us to buy a pig in a poke (anonymous guy claims special knowledge that some unnamed faculty member had real proof of something illegal or immoral that his faculty position automatically required him to trumpet to the world even though the Holy Synod was manifestly ignoring, downplaying and avoiding the evidence backed statements of Deacon Eric Wheeler)? Dude, what are you smoking? What do you think we are smoking? I am willing to bet that if your bluff were called and you had to turn over your cards, we would see that all you hold in the way of "special knowledge" was the widely believed (but completely undocumented) allegation that one or more bishops paid hush money to former partners in immoral activities. And you want to condemn a whole class of seminary profs (none of whom presumably possessed ANY documentary or other proof) for not acting on unsupported and widely believed rumors?
Man, if that is the standard by which your anonymity recommends that we all judge the profs, you may just be in for some tough sledding when the One who knows your name actually calls it.
#220.127.116.11.1 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-08-26 23:35
Dear Fr. George,
The profs. at our seminaries are smart, articulate people. They do not need you defending their actions, or inactions. Let them speak for themselves. The role of the faculty at our seminaries with regard to this scandal simply must be part of the dialogue before we can heal. You assume way too much about their innocence and ignorance. I am not newly fallen off the pumpkin wagon, and if I was not a credible source, Mark would not allow this post I am certain. I have paid my dues and have reasons other than your many fanciful and sometimes nasty speculations for my anonymity. It is curious to me that you, a priest sworn to secrets, should suddenly have a problem with it. That said, I have not named a single person by name, I am talking about an institution that cannot possibly have avoided being tainted by this scandal. And yes, in some ways, probably enabled it. You have spent your time sarcastically abusing me for my anonymity and carefully avoiding the issue I am raising: the role of the seminaries in this OCA culture of silence and fear. We, the faithful, have looked to them for guidance. I fear we got scant little of it when one looks at the fruit of their silence.
#18.104.22.168.1.1 Anon. on 2008-08-28 20:38
I don't know about you but I am getting tired of this exchange. But maybe it will be worth a little something to take a brief look at your most recent offering.
1. Up 'til now I haven't so much been defending the profs as calling into question your anonymity and methodology. But maybe I will do a little defending this time.
2. When you say the sem profs are smart enough to defend themselves I think what you really mean to say is that you object to me effectively pointing out a few of the huge holes in the cloth of suspicion you seek to weave and the way you anonymously weave it.
3. I take issue with you on a couple of fronts, and you need to be smacked politely but firmly in the face with how it looks to someone who is used to dealin in logic and evidence. Character assassination is bad enough in one who identifies himself with his true name, but is doubly beastly under the cloak of anonymity, triply so when group aspersions are cast, and quadrupled in your case by the lack of by the lack of evidence.
4. You claim that we should conclude form the fact that this site uses your material as sort of stamp of approval from the editor. I invite Mr. Stokoe to tell us if a credibility determination is to be inferred from publication of anybody's comments here.
5. You claim that I assume too much about the profs' innocence. Maybe I do. I think Christianity teaches us to assume the best about people, and even secular society sees the wisdom of presuming innocence.
6. You seem to underline the fact that you have not made allegations about any specific prof here as if that establishes your innocence fo something. To me it establishes your guilt of group slander. Instead of hewing careful to what you have evidence to show against some one, you fire a charge of langrage (and language) at the entire faculty ... without evidence!!
7. And let's face it. The profs are VERY unlikely to have had actual evidence of wrong worthy of using to take a public stand. Strong suspicions by some: no doubt. Circumstantial evidence, perhaps. Reason to believe that the amount of smoke must probably come from a fire, sure. But no evidence on which to cause a firestorm of negativity at an institution where the potential for damage would have been high.
I don't mind saying that among the ways in which the entire church could have done a better job of preventing or detecting the defalcations, greater vigilance or boldness by some profs who might have possessed sufficient reliable info to act on, but until you show that one did, it is all really just a big, bogus hypothetical and you can't persuasively argue the whole faculty or each individual had a duty to act publicly on it. The profs' job was to study and teach and I have no problem with the idea that Christian integrity and wisdom (except in some speculative, hypothetical case of actual knowledge and duty we do not know about) didn't require the profs to lay aside their actual duties and mount some vigilante investigation that would have been stonewalled as effectively as the administration throttled other question asking.
No, anonymous, your position does not withstand scrutiny. Sorry if I seem harsh, but when you sell us tripe you shouldn't blame me for pointing out it smells bad. Perhaps I could or should have been nicer. Would it have helped you look more carefully at what you're peddling? I doubt it. (that last question was rhetorical)
#22.214.171.124.1.1.1 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-08-29 22:01
I have often been troubled by forgiveness because it seems like there need to be 20 words for the various stages or modes of it, if you will.
Fr. Hodges really clarifies it well by separating forgiveness and reconciliation.
I expect basic core truths to be discussed, but I also expect tangible results and the promotion of changes from the 2nd and politically inferior SIC. Anything less will be less than reconciling for me.
#5 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-08-22 20:28
Thank you Fr. Hodges for an excellent commentary.
#6 cshinn on 2008-08-23 07:30
Fr. Mark has provided a very useful theological reflection worthy of study. Two of his points are ones that I keep thinking about.
1. "If secular executives caught in embezzlement are held to full account publicly by the world's standards, what does it say about the standards of Christ's holy Church when our own Christian leaders are not? The silence of all those who have information only underscores the fact that we continue to hold the values of the world and not the Kingdom of God."
Yes, but "values" exhibited by much of the leadership doesn't even pass muster in terms of the world. The actions of the Metropolitian and others are more akin to those of Enron, the Nixon White House, or the mafia, rather than Christ's Holy Church.
2. "We need specific, "come clean" repentance, not general platitudes."
Indeed, the general platitudes, cloaked in the language of religion, have been a major weapon used to manipultate the natural desire of the people in the church to forgive and be reconciled.
I hope that the people going to the All American Council are setting aside time to really pray about what they are going to do.
#7 Deacon Timothy Wilkinson, Billings Montana on 2008-08-23 08:19
Some excellent reflections and commentaries are coming our way before the September joint meeting between the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council.
I feel confident that more excellent reflections and commentaries will be coming our way as well in the near future.
I am very encouraged by the very much needed courage and wisdom of both Fr. Vladimir and Fr. Mark in their recent posts.
In effect, we need to really know how to respond spiritually, and professionally, to be able to receive one of the darkest reports that will probably ever be published by the OCA: the impending SIC report.
We will have to know how to respond in a mature way: how to respond in a spiritual and professional way that will allow the OCA to return to the level it was always meant to be on: that of holy ethical and moral integrity.
I earlier commented in one of the threads to "Bring it on" with the SIC report. This is a clarion call, too! Our OCA must know how to do the spiritual and professional "surgery" that such a report GIVES US THE OPPORTUNITY to do so!
The SIC report will finally GIVE US THE OPPORTUNITY for the OCA to grow up: spriitually and professionally.
I hope we do not blow it!
#8 Patty Schellbach on 2008-08-23 08:43
I'd humbly suggest EMBEZZLEMENT ERA instead of 'years'. Catchy phrase, no? Ties together better.
Also to speak of an era infers many years and a deep blending of factors. Such as The Roaring 20's , The Cold War Era, The Regan Era, Embezzlement Era is all encompassing.
I used to contribute this site; had fun writing Slyosset, and then $lyo$$et for awhile. Stopped caring about the crooks after attending Met H's Bethesda sit-down two years ago. Clearly they had gotten away with it even then.
If people catch on to EMBEZZLEMENT ERA it could be the all encompassing phrase - up to and beyond Pittsburgh -- and y'all will be sorely disappointed when the Embezzlement Era continues Post-Pittsburgh. My prediction is that the established order will simply run out the clock by proceedural rulings and tabling motions.
#9 Jim Murray on 2008-08-23 09:30
I also much appreciate Fr. Mark's words. They also reveal how far away we are from a resolution.
For reconciliation to take place, some would have to admit that they did wrong and broke with the fellowship of the Church. They would have to decide that they wanted to restore that fellowship and that their first step would be to admit the wrongs they did and how those wrongs have hurt the Church. Then they would need to seek reconciliation and offer to do what it takes to make that happen.
So far, we see only lawyers advising our leadership, an investigative committee trying to drag out of people comments about what happened, leaders who refuse to talk about the scandal, and leaders who want to move on without having to deal with the scandal any more. So how do any of their actions facilitate reconciliation?
Of course should the SIC actually make a fair and full report, the groundwork for reconciliation might be set. Those who did wrong would then have the opportunity to admit to their wrong doing and seek reconciliation with the membership of the OCA if that is what they want. There would be opportunity for the bishops to also acknowledge how their actions contributed to the scandal which would facilitate restoring dignity and integrity to the episcopal office.
Reconciliation does not mean that we put everything back to where it was. It means that we restore broken relationships but build new relationships based upon the changes that are made to overcome the scandal. Reconciliation means wrongdoers admit their wrongs and accept a new and different role in the Body - one which is based in humility and love, not in power and control. Reconciliation is not the restoration of a dysfunctional status quo, but to use the words of St. Paul: "Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Cor 5:17).
We can pray that the SIC report will help bring about this new creation which the Church is supposed to be.
#10 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2008-08-23 10:10
If indeed the following is true:
'The great Entrance at St. Tikhon's Monastery now says:
"For His Beatitude Herman, OUR LORD, metropolitan of ..."'
I am out in the western part of this country, a convert of some nearly thirty years, have not seen this sign, but if this is what is written, I am willing to go to this location, and paraphrase another American from out West and say: "Take down this sign."
Will I be alone?
#10.1 Elizabeth Bezzerides on 2008-08-24 19:18
Gosh, all we say here is "For our Metropolitan Herman, our Archbishop Seraphim......" Perhaps because the only "Lords" we have here are the Worshipful Mayors of a city with a royal charter, such as New Westminister, where there is a "Lord Mayor, His worship...." which everyone of them is too embarrassed to actually use. Actually, we can be grateful that the full titles are not translated into English. I would be embarrassed if someone commemorated me by translating "visokopreosvecheni" (or its Russian equivalent) into English. It is amazing, though, that we are called "His Grace," "Eminenent", "Most Blessed" and "Holiness" when almost none of us ever live up to such titles. Hyperbolic exornation (for those with a dictionary). High time to do away with all that, but please don't call a spade a spade or all of us hierarchs will be blushing.
While we're on the subject, another usage that is silly is putting bishops' names in ALL CAPS. It seems to me like we're straining for more hyperbole where there is already enough. I have never seen the Roman Catholics use it in English, and neither have I seen the Anglicans use it. The Anglicans may not have the best church but they do have the best usage of English.
#10.1.1.1 Peter McElvein on 2008-08-29 05:35
The great Entrance at St. Tikhon's Monastery now says:
"For His Beatitude Herman, OUR LORD, metropolitan of ..."
So we are no longer the church of "one Lord, one faith and one baptism" but of two Lords.
Is this petition becoming more widespread?
I need the church to know who its Lord really is.
#11 Anonymous on 2008-08-23 14:44
The "Lord" phrase appears in the Liturgy book used in the diocese of the South and also that of the West. Apparently it has now caught on elswhere.
#11.1 Anonymous on 2008-08-24 11:31
Many thanks to Fr Mark Hodges for drawing the necessary distinctions between forgiveness and reconciliation.
To his points, I'd emphasize (at the risk of belaboring the obvious) that forgiveness is ultimately a choice we make within ourselves; the people we forgive might never know that we have done so, although it's undeniable that finding an opportunity to tell them that we've forgiven them establishes grounds for reconciliation from our angle.
But reconciliation is NOT something which can occur within ourselves. Much to the contrary, reconciliation is an interpersonal event, no matter how few or how many people are involved.
Before we reach that middle ground where reconciliation takes place, the people we've forgiven must -- one way or another -- come to a realization within themselves that they have failed and erred and sinned in ways so serious as to 'break communion', to destroy relationships between human beings, excluding each other and, in the process, excluding Christ.
Once forgiven people (we must all find ourselves in this category once in a while) understand that some sin on their part has caused this alienation, they must next repent within themselves. This involves deep reflection and humble prayer.
Next, forgiven people (or people hoping to be forgiven, if they're not so sure that they have been) must apologize to those they've injured, and attempt to make them whole again.
It's only in that context that reconciliation can take place.
It's my prayer that Met. Herman and all of our bishops will hear the Church expressing its pain over their abuse of it, and that they 'will be saved and come to an understanding of The Truth'.
For their own salvation and for the health of our OCA, I expect that this will result in the resignation of them all from the episcopate.
The OCA, by God's love, will get along just fine without bishops for a while, until suitable men emerge as better candidates for that high and holy office, better men than the crew we've suffered under these last few decades. We can then ask one of the older churches to ordain newly elected candidates as our bishops.
#12 Monk James on 2008-08-23 16:37
We take it, based on everything that you've said, that Kondratick requires no forgiveness from us. After all, he did nothing wrong...
#12.1 Anonymous on 2008-08-24 15:22
Let me ask, how do you know how someone feels in their heart? You people think that because you sit in front of a grey box with a screen in a open therapy session, the entire world does the same. I don't think so. There are hungry to feed, grief strickened to be counselled, the blind need assistance and so on. I suggest that you use your energy wisely. You think that everyone reads all of this? Think again!
(editor's note: One cannot know fully what is in another's heart; one can only judge them by their fruits, as Scripture teaches. That being said, I have always felt that this endeavor qualifies as assisting the blind, and dealing with the grieving, and feeding those hungry for the truth. I am sure not everyone is reading this, but 7,000 on the average night suffices in a Church whose official membership is less than 28,000. Since I doubt many
(several hundreds, but surely not thousands) readers are not members of the OCA, I think we can safely assume that some 25% of the OCA membership reads it on a regular basis, and I know for a fact several parishes carry stories in their bulletins, while others pass it more like "samizdat " for those without internet in parishes where the priest does not allow discussion of it. So, back at you. Think again. Do not infer disinterest from silence.)
#12.1.1 MP on 2008-08-28 12:56
Where do you draw us talking about what is in his heart?
We're just talking about what we've heard and since he's done nothing wrong there's nothing to forgive. Guilty conscience there, my friend?
#126.96.36.199 Anonymous on 2008-08-28 15:03
Dear Fr. Mark,
Thank you for your thorough and very clear presentation regarding forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation. Not only is it is it excellent and needful in terms of the OCA conflict, but it is remarkably timely for me regarding some personal issues that I was actively dealing with as I pulled it up on my screen. I anticipate referring to it often. Perhaps the real blessing will come when I learn to apply the knowledge and live it.
Again, thank you.
The OCA doesn't have a monopoly on scandal, of course. There is currently a scandal among the charismatics, regarding a revivalist named Todd Bentley. And one of the charismatic leaders just published a statement of repentance:
May God grant that any one of our bishops could offer the like.
#14 josephine on 2008-08-24 14:07
So, what do we know now?
The report will be released on time. The info is damning and incriminating and + Herman will have to step down.
+ Herman is having back surgery and will be out of commission (or so he says) and everyone should look for his letter of resignation - due to health issues, of course.
The AAC's first act of business will be to choose a locum tenens for Met. and that will fall on + Seraphim.
The AAC will be called a real breath of fresh air, reconciliation and hope for the future of the OCA.
#15 A-non-o-mouse on 2008-08-25 06:51
This quote is I think worth while and possibly explains allot about what went wrong with the OCA .
"People crave a freedomless Christianity; they particularly incline towards slavery." "You are called to freedom," the apostle says. "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." But in fact people all too often try to turn the Church into "an easy chair, a refuge, a tranquil harbor," even "a security blanket" "We want the Church to be a mother. The infantile mind says: someone will shepherd us, someone will lead - as one learned man said to me, people even want very much to be deceived." Or they adopt a sectarian mentality, regarding everything outside their own self-made prison - e.g., other Christian traditions, other world religions - as the realm of hostile powers - a mentality, which is quite contrary to that of the church fathers, who "were always open to the world."
#16 Anon on 2008-08-25 07:41
Monk James, I feel that the only way out of this mess is for an organized movement for parishes to be governed by other churches. Be it Moscow, Antioch, Romanian, Ecumenical Patriarch, we need to go and go now while some restorative work can be done. Herman and Kucynda have taken the Church down a dark alley on the wrong side of town. The current administration continues to cruise that part of town, the only way out is protection and governance by another church.
(Editor's note: Feel free to leave. The rest of us will focus on the restorative work.)
#17 MP on 2008-08-25 09:01
All you want to do is continue to beat the horse buried in the ground. Get Real!
#17.1 MP on 2008-08-25 14:32
You and Mr. Silver are more than welcome, you're invited to leave. After that selective hacket job on Archbishop Job on the Orthodox Forum, however, it appears as if that SIC report is really going to stick it to Kondratick! Makes it seem like that video is the star attraction of that report. The hits have to be pre-emptive because once the reports out no one is going to pay attention to the jabs against those that brought it to light.
#17.2 Anonymous on 2008-08-25 16:36
My gratitude to "Anonymous" for pointing out the recent "hatchet job" on me by the humble and pious monk on another website. Having obtained his and related posting, I was shocked and mortified. Various people have since offered advice ranging from "consider the source," to "you must respond," to "Sue the ______!"
It is painful and humiliating to be defamed and maligned in this way, especially by someone that I scarcely know, but my main concern is that it could be a source of temptation to others who know me, or of me, those who perhaps respect me or who maybe even like me.
What is most offensive is the blatant lack of respect for one who has departed this life and can no longer speak in his own defense. That is unconscionable.
I will not dignify the holy monk's allegations with a response. Those who know me can vouch for my character. But I will put forth a few questions for him:
Who are the persons involved; who are the "victims?" What are their names? Why haven't they stepped forward with their own accusations?
I am by no means an intellectual giant, but if indeed I have so many skeletons in my closet it would be most foolish of me to stick my neck out during these years of crisis and make myself an easy target. Would it not have been more prudent to maintain a low profile?
#17.2.1 +JOB on 2008-08-27 09:07
Dear MP #17,
As a youngster growing up in the former Russian Orthodox Church (in America), the skies were not all sunny and happy. I remember the transition and growing pains into the OCA, not a bed of roses either. Now as an adult after many years both in the Greek and Antiochian archdioceses because of moving (now back in the OCA) be careful what you wish for. The pasture is not always greener where you think it is, it may only be in your wishful thinking.
#17.3 Anne Marie on 2008-08-28 09:24
Fr Mark has written eloquently. What our Holy Synod proposes, to begin the AAC with the Liturgy, is simply wrong. We are not reconciled as the OCA. Until we are, communion is simply impossible. We must discern the Body of Christ not only on the Altar Table but as the Church herself. We must not dissimulate. We must not commit sacrilege. The Liturgy must not be used so cheaply, so as to cover sins rather than to heal sinners. Only if and when reconciliation has taken place will it be appropriate to celebrate the Liturgy at the AAC, or to receive communion together should the Synod persist.
#18 Fr John Reeves on 2008-08-25 09:18
And who will be the reconciliation "decider" in this?
Will it be you, the Metropolitan, the Holy Synod, the Metropolitan Council, better yet the Ethics Committee of said MC?
Will it be up to each of us to decide? But what if a vocal minority, maybe even with a website says we are not reconciled enough to each other then what.
You are using the Lord's Table just as much as those you are accusing.
Where is any sense of deference to the other in all of this?
#18.1 Anonymous on 2008-08-25 14:06
There is simply no excuse for having anything less than full disclosure. Anything else can only be seen as a cover up for parties not yet named. It will continue to undermine the unit and trust necessary for the Orthodox Church in NORTH America to move forward. The ministry of the Gospel and the Orthodox Faith is far too important to allow such matters to become stumbling blocks. If there is nothing to hide, then there is no excuse for not giving us full disclosure. If there IS something to hide, there is still no excuse for not providing full disclosure. Over two million dollars (and nearly a million in Alaska) is not something that can be hid under someones eagle rug and forgotten. We can only pray (and keep up the pressure) that there will be full disclosure, and soon. Personally, I do want to appeal to all that no matter how strongly the insistence is for full disclosure, we all behave in a civilised and dignified manner in Pittsburg. The focus is really on the grand larceny that took place, and the gross mismanagment of substantial amounts of money. The fact that it happened is certainly a moral issue, and it is also a legal issue. Let us hope that due process will be carried out in both realms. If anyone has that much to hide, I suggest that they hasten to retire to a monastery in some distant part of Russia before it comes to the surface.
In Christ, Vladiko Lazar.
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