Wednesday, September 3. 2008
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The SIC report is simply DEVASTATING! At least most of the truth is now out and the information we've been waiting for almost 3 years is revealed to all.
Thanks be to God that the second SIC did its job and did not shy away from the truth, abuses, fraud, unethical conduct, and the realities discovered.
May God bless the SIC members and our poor OCA. The report's findings, conclusions, and short-term and long-term recommendations are the heart transplant the OCA needed; no more band-aids for the patient that needed a quadruple bypass.
Maybe now we can begin to clean house and replace the OCA's foundation made of sand with rock.
There's hope at last!
Perhaps now folks can cut +BEN a little slack.
Obviously, he has been unable to make ANY public comment the last year since doing so would have prejudiced his chairing of the SIC.
Yes, he was among those who reaffirmed +HERMAN, and, I think, earlier criticized +JOB.
But he has clearly led in an honest effort that pulled no punches.
I'm proud to call him my bishop.
#1.1 Rdr. T. John on 2008-09-04 12:31
Thank God! The Church is alive. A service of thanksgiving should be offered in every church. This Sunday the sermons are free of any and all coercion.
Fr Joseph Woodill
#2 Fr Joseph Woodill on 2008-09-03 12:59
I hope everyone who criticized and slandered the SIC, in particular Bishop Benjamin, will admit they were wrong to prejudge the outcome of this group's work. It can't have been easy to do this report from a purely "amount of work" perspective or emotionally and spiritually. Thank you, Bishop Benjamin, for your service.
#3 Anonymous on 2008-09-03 13:13
Let me be the first to say that Bishop Benjamin has vindicated the trust most of us placed in him when he was appointed to the first SIC. My faith was shaken however, when he failed to resign with most of the other members, when the work of the first SIC was obstructed and frustrated. Some of his subsequent actions and comments were also cause for great concern, at least to me.
But the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and he, and the other members, have now delivered a confection of revealing facts and recommendations that just may save the OCA. I confess, that while Mark Stokoe didn't lose faith in Bishop Benjamin, I did, for which I now publicly apologize.
Of course, Mark has the advantage over me of personally knowing Bishop Benjamin and a great deal of additional water has gone over the dam since the second SIC was appointed, but thanks to one and all for a distasteful job well done.
#3.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-09-03 17:58
Wait, we need to hear the Kondratick response via James Silver. For three years we've heard there is no evidence, no facts, even though Kondratick admitted to $137,000 last year. Where is former bishop of the West, Tikhon. Remember his statements, which he reminded us over and over he had to repeat, that there was no missing money, no theft. Where is the big guy now? Silver, no money missing? Just misplaced? What do you ahve to say now and you talked to us for three years trying to make us believe your SPIN! DISGRACEFUL!
So, James Silver, are you going to tell us that this is all trumped up? The ledger entries are all made up? Is Helen Cavounis going to say that the hundreds of thousands she was sent to get from the bank are made up entries?
Yes, Audacity from start to end with Kondratick.
Raging mad? Yes, we are and with a perfect right to be.
If Kondratick doesn't end up in jail, this will all be for naught though. Kondratick needs to be read his rights and the next picture of him we see being his mug shot. And because he's an audacious criminal under the guise of a priest, hustling people by using the name of God and then squandering their hard earned money and good will, maybe the mugshot will be in his cassock as well. Dmitri should order that he does not wear that cassock as it is just another slap in face to the Church. If he can't give the Church some respect then he has to shown how to. And all these years he said his actions were guided "by the Holy Spirit". Just for that blasphemy as he robbed us blind he should be excommunicated, until a time when he's truly repentent and has returned his booty.
Archbishop Dmitri, we call upon you to ban Kondratick from teh cassock and from standing in the Altar during any services. Its the LEAST you can do. Its least that can be done to rid this criminal from besmirching the Church anymore!
And Kucynda and Oselinsky, disgraceful, just disgraceful. You have fooled people for many years and now the truth is out as to what you are really about. The next time I hear Kucynda is a good priest, I'm gonna gag!
#4 Anonymous on 2008-09-03 13:13
For those with a problem pulling up the attachments--up grade the Adobe. Mine works fine. Suggestion; jump right to the last set of addenda that lists pages and pages of Kondratick's expenditures. Just to put the rest of the report in context. No monetary outlay for any Martin Drive repairs? Maybe the Lobster Pot bills were lunch for the tradesmen, and copies of Newsday for them to read on breaks. Seems legit to me....
He definitely was up to someting, did he never think that he could spend hundreds of dollars for fashion eyeglasses and still get away with writing illegible entries? And what's with all those socks!? Must have been to validate expenses for the stocking project --if ever questioned.
#5 Jim Murray on 2008-09-03 13:19
Has nobody noticed that a considerable amount of cash was siphoned off to Patriarch Alexis II or at least used to pay for his US visit? With all the oil money the Patriarch's buddy Putin has,why couldn't HE foot the bill?Now the MP is allegedly getting ready to revoke the OCA's Autocephaly.If the OCA'S Autocephaly was founded upon a lie,i.e.,that the MP in 1970 was free of domination by the Communist Soviet State,can we really be surprised that so much evil has befallen the church since then?If Metropolitans Theodosius and Herman have been buddies with corrupt hierarchs such as MP bishops appointed by the Soviets, is it any wonder that they ended up corrupt themselves?Now the MP is free from the Soviet yoke,though it does appear that Putin did or does still exercise undue influence.Let's just recall Our Saviour words,"A bad tree cannot produce good fruit."
#6 Anonymous on 2008-09-03 13:25
About damn time!
Now what is going to be done about it?
Thats the real question here...
In regards to monies that were "obtained" for the Patriarchal visit a few years back...
My parish of Holy Resurrection here in Kodiak was told we had to raise the money to pay for the charter of an airliner, fund the hotel rooms, special bottled water etc... for the ultra short visit by His Holiness Alexei II and most of the Synod.
This all from a small parish that sometimes has difficulty to raise the money ($1.500) to pay our very small monthly bills and priests' pitiful salary.
And raise the money we did... ($50,000 + if I remember correctly)we even put a new floor and wool carpet in for that visit!
To hear that these so called clerics were squandering the money for this purpose from ADM and others and then demanding small parishes like ours to pay up is absolutely pathetic.
I once again call for justice to be served upon all those who are guilty of any part in this whole sordid affair.
From Metropolitans to the check cashers... let them all serve their time appropriately
#6.1 Ted Panamarioff - Kodiak Alaska on 2008-09-03 23:12
The OCA's autocephaly can't be revoked by anyone! Autocephaly isn't some type of temporary state or measure. Autocephaly is the RECOGNITION that an indigenous, growing, independent Orthodox Church exists in a certain territory. That hasn't ceased to be the case. The ROC has no say-so and in reality, has no more business in having ANY churches under her in North America!
#6.2 Anon-y-moose on 2008-09-04 07:29
Check your facts. Autocephalies have been granted, revoked, recognized, and not recognized throughout Church history. Anyway, the ROC doesn't even have to formally revoke it. They can very slowly isolate (what's left of) the OCA into irrelevance. This is likely what will happen, and it's happening right before your eyes. The opening shots were the reconciliation with ROCOR, DEMETRIOS's (GOA) trip to Russia, and the recognition of the MP in SCOBA. Regarding the OCA's Tomos, think less "Declaration of Independence," and more "letter of agreement".
And by the way, no website or MC can stop this. The power trip that some are on right now is quite meaningless in other Orthodox circles.
#6.2.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 15:01
How interesting that the "Commentary" section of the SIC states on page 18 re: Metropolitan Theodosius:
"His tenure as Metropolitan saw a number of positive developments within the OCA, bringing it from an immigrant Church, the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America, to an increasingly American Church where English is the norm and many converts entered into the ranks."
Whoever wrote this portion of the report needs to check their facts, as well as check their motivations at the door. +MT did not become Metropolitan until 1977, 7 years after the Metropolia changed its name to the OCA. Why give him credit for what +Ireney and Archbishop Sylvester accomplished between 1970 and 1977, or is it because they were foreign-born and thus apparently incapable of having a vision for Orthodoxy in America? (See the wonderful book Orthodox America, published in 1976 and edited by Constance Tarasar, to find a nice little section on the "Foreign-Born Bishops," as if they were inferior to the rest of the HS)
How interesting this long-festering fear of foreign-born bishops and clergy will become when the OCA must look elsewhere to find enough monastic candidates for the episcopy in the coming years...
#7 Anonymous on 2008-09-03 13:43
There's satisfaction in seeing truth so clearly laid out, but more than anything there is sadness that this is the truth.
There's no joy in having what has long been suspected demonstrated to be true.
But we need the pain of this report if we are ever to move forward. So we take the time to absorb, to experience the pain. And we vow never to forget this and never, ever to let it happen again.
But we should also take a moment to thank the brave and relentless people who have brought us to this moment, as painful as it is ...
Thank you, Mark.
Thank you, Dcn. Eric.
Perhaps it's not the most pressing matter or the most significant, but Resolutions at the AAC formally expressing the thanks and gratitude the OCA owes each of you would be much in order.
#8 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-09-03 14:29
Glory to God!
#9 Anonymous on 2008-09-03 14:34
The true coat of the Archbishop Seraphim Storheim comes out. He laughs, giggles and hugs in public. However in private, he hammers upon others and threatens them whether they are lay or clergy. Honestly, upset where he was sat at a table. A blessing not asked for. WOW!
#10 Anonymous on 2008-09-03 14:53
What are you talking about? Were u at the meeting? Fly on the wall? Or are you hoping that you sound like someone there and are grinding some personal axe? Give us a break.
#10.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 09:58
Talk to his clergy and the laity in his diocese. I am there. I wasn't at Auschwitz either but I think that happened too. I wasn't there when Lenin and his henchmen destroyed our Church but I think that happened too. This fly on the wall crap is what Seraphim himself says all the time. Give us a break. Have you seen the letters he writes, the threats he makes? I doubt it. Maybe you were there and are still upset that someone didn't give you a better seat.
#10.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 22:47
I totally agree. Seraphim has been revealed for what he really. Is. For too long Seraphim has hidden behind this nice persona all the while writing nasty letters like the one attached to the SIC report. The apology from the HS does not go very far...It won't matter as Seraphim will not recover from this as people now see him for what he really is. I hope he receives serious dicipline for his involvment as he stood by and did not act. How do you participate in anothers sin? Through silence.
#10.2 Anonymous on 2008-09-06 13:42
My confidence in Bp. Benjamin's integrity is vindicated. Thank you, Your Grace. Now that we have the facts, I would like to be the first to invite All Caps Anonymous Guy, Action Jackson and the rest of their merry crew to man up and apologize to all of the "troublemakers" they have slandered over the past months, and most especially to our host, Mark Stokoe, whose tireless work on behalf of us all is, finally, bearing some fruit. Thanks, Mark, for keeping it going and hoping for the best.
So now we will see what the Holy Synod does. Bp. Benjamin did his job, hierarchs. Now you do yours.
#11 Scott Walker on 2008-09-03 15:14
Oh, no please don't invite the all caps guys back, he's busy packing up the Met and moving him too? Oh no, its not akron ohio is it? theres only so much room in that rolls royce you know.
On the other hand maybe the all caps is not such a bad "bling"a new comic script is much needed in the sunday paper along with charlie brown.
I must admit, I'm gonna miss all of those laughs.... back to David Letterman I go.
#11.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-03 21:48
Good to see, glory to God! It does explain the culture that was going on in the administration, makes it seem much more believable. A sad day. So much for Christians helping each the world more than themselves.
At least it seems like change is moving, may I be around when the change is finished. We may have a church focused on Christ and not on endless "genealogies" yet.
#12 Reader on 2008-09-03 15:18
all i got on the download were a bunch of blank pages. Anyone else having trouble reading this ???
#13 anonPriest on 2008-09-03 15:42
I'm having this problem, too. I have an APPLE/Mac, and as best I can sort out (after some folks gave me advice) is that I need a more up-to-date version of a PDF reader ("Preview" on my MAC). Wish someone at Syosset would put up versions of the documents that were accessible to all of us. (I normally can access PDFs w/o problem.)
This makes me proud to be a priest in the Orthodox Church in America for 40 years. We are coming of age as the Orthodox Church in this land. I have been saddened to see the church drifting away from all the work and dreams of Fr. Schmemann. I have aways thought from the beginning of the scandal that this was necessary for our church to go through. Maybe we can be a shining light to the other Orthodox patriarcates around the world to clean up their act. I would like to give my congratulations to Bishop Benjamin and the entire committee. Your work will go down in history.
Through the prayers of all the Saints of America, O Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us. Amen
#14.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-03 20:22
This is a great historical day in the life of the OCA with the release of the SIC that appears to try to have upheld morality, ethics, and integrity. Congratulations to all of you!
Thank you all involved in the SIC investigation and the development of the report, which, as rightly voiced already, goes to also the original SC team who started the process and apparently did much ground work.
I agree, as others have already commented on, that none of this was necessarily easy or pain-free to do.
Another large thank you Dn. Eric Wheeler for being a whistleblower and to your own persistence and also a great thank you Mark Stokoe, for your great vehicle of this website to continue discussion and to continue the great effort of bringing about greater integrity, justice, and truth to the OCA. Congratulations to you both!
There should be a motion at the upcoming AAC to have both of these men receive Gramatas for their great efforts in assisting the church to reach this point of clarity and truth. Perhaps other Gramatas should be awarded too, but the great crown of martyrdom for the betterment of the church has already been won by many faithful servants in this ordeal.
Without the tremendous cross that many carried for the sake of integrity, ethics, and morality, we would not be where we are with this released report.
Much work still has to be done; but it appears we now have a plan and a strong, growing team of persons willing to help us get there!
#15 Patty Schellbach on 2008-09-03 17:58
So now we have the facts here. The entire HS should be sent down the road to start! They all knew what went on all these years. As for MH, MT, Kondratick, Kucynda, they now should be the subject of criminal charges in NY State. I also think that a condensed version of this report should be read by the priest in every OCA church. The folks without internet need to be made aware of this SIC report. And if the entire HS resigned or disposed themselves this just might be the time to ask +M Phillip to take in the OCA. Once a year on the Sunday of Orthodoxy we celebrate with our Orthodox brothers, and give some lip service to Orthodox unity in America. I wonder if now is the time. Thanks be to God for the work of the SIC and those who demanded accountability over the years.
Holy Trinity Charleroi Pa.
#16 David Rudovsky on 2008-09-03 18:00
The "other" jurisdiction you admire according to my relative who once served them, has no AUDIT of either arch'd or ANY parish church. Three people headed by their leader control all with NO check and balances. Best Practices unheard of. We at least NOW have a system that will work in place with the honest who now serve us in Syosset.
#16.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 22:13
Some of the highlights I found most interesting were the dates of certain interviews. For instance Fr Thomas Hopko was interviewed August 28th, 2008, just a few days before the release of the report. His suggestions published earlier were made a part of the conclusions and recommendations. It speaks well of the committee to take in purely spiritual counsel regarding their work.
It is also interesting that the OCA had 700 parishes with 2 million members. This lie seems to be partly to impress the Russian Orthodox Church as well as get bank loans, and create an air of BIG church in the nation.
One question not raised was examining all priests who have been defrocked by various means by many of those found to be lax in their duties. Exactly when is doing the "work of the Holy Spirit" not subject to criticism and logical thought process?
In the end it seems a very small handful of people attempted to use smoke and mirrors to evade and confuse us all. Some of who continue to this day. And who knows how many of us were effected by church monies used in bribes and blackmailing operations?
At least the truth will set us free and allow us all as a church community to do the work needing to be done. Glory to God!
#17 Steven Mathewson on 2008-09-03 18:09
There are only 2 things missing from the SIC report:
(1) A recognition and Thank You to Deacon Eric Wheeler for sounding the alarm bell, drawing attention to this problem, and risking quite a bit to help the OCA. Just because he didn't immediately report the fraud and abuses (as claimed) is not enough reason to be neutral regarding him and not recognize the contribution he made and attacks he faced.
(2) A BIG Thank You and Comendation for Mark Stokoe for all his hard work, dedication, and support in helping to expose this massive problem and doing so much to help the Church. Without his tireless efforts, time, energy, and focus, we would not be where we are today in exposing and dealing with the horrendous spiritual cancer destroying the OCA. A vast majority (if not everything) that Mark Stokoe researched, compiled, posted, editorialized, and documented turns out to have been true.
I would like to extend a personal THANK YOU to both of them for fighting the good fight and standing up to evil. May God bless you and your families always! Your work is a testament to the everlasting love of Christ and the continuous work of the Holy Spirit in our Church. You are in our hearts and prayers now and ever and unto ages of ages, amen!
I pray this will lead to a deposing of Herman, as should have been done with Nikolai.
I also pray that this medical leave of absence rings the death knell for Herman's tenure as Metropolitan. Hey, Herman, listen loud and clear: we DON'T want you back!!!
Finally, I pray that this is the beginning of healing for our dear OCA, healing that will continue at the AAC when we (hopefully) elect +Archbishop Job as our next Metropolitan!!
#19 David Barrett on 2008-09-03 20:24
Sorry to say. Even though there has been a mistake or a fault. We are encouraged to pray for the accuser and the acused. What can we do when we do this? We must repent. Think of what Christ said in the Gospel. What you have done to others you have done to me also. Please remember, we all have our hateful feelings, but we must think of what we do and who we hate. What Christ said too, is if we do not forgive anyone, we will not be forgiven. Please, even you have hateful feelings about the past, think of the present. We must all repent, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand.
Please pray for me too.
#19.1 Daniel on 2008-09-04 12:29
Thank you Mark, Deacon Eric, Bishop Benjamin and Bishop Job. Axios!
#20 Alice Carter on 2008-09-03 20:25
Some of us prior to Dcn. Eric were shouting that something was seriously wrong folks, back in those early days. Now that our concerns have been confirmed, PLEASE search within yourselves about what made you not listen, or turn a blind eye, or sit in denial, all the while buying their critical tripe against folks like me... while some of us got chewed up by this evil. What we are reading is not Christian in the remotest way. These people truly were going through the motions of faith but lacked the commitment thereof... and you chose to follow them. PLEASE learn this time. It will all be for naught if you don't. Its time for humility and repentance for the whole OCA that LET THIS EVIL FLOURISH FOR SO LONG. This includes the seminaries that remained silent; whatever the excuse, its no good. Stop making excuses and repent, before it is too late for you.
#21 Anon. on 2008-09-03 20:53
This raises very important points.
It is not enough to know the truth. It is not enough to hold key malefactors and enablers responsible. As an institution and as individuals, we must ask how this came about -- What did we ignore? Whom did we dismiss and why? What assumptions do we still walk around with that led us into this? Do we need to re-calibrate how we instinctively measure credibility?
Some of us bristle at language coming from the bishops that spreads the responsibility around to all of us. To the extent that calls for shared responsibility are efforts to avoid responsibility for those charged with oversight, the bristling is appropriate. But that doesn't absolve us from careful self-examination.
We were duped. And it was not just because some individuals set out to dupe us -- we were predisposed to be duped and they took advantage of our pre-disposition.
Fool me once ...
#21.1 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-09-04 03:23
Yes, duped by bad teaching I think and the duping was merely facilitated by a culture of secrecy and the culture of fear.
We were taught to be a joyful, self-assured church, a church of children playing while the parents did what they wanted. The parents who should have been teaching righteousness by example were instead keeping the children immature by the aforesaid culture of secrecy and fear, all the while expounding joy.
It is time to have teachers who teach not only joy but righteousness, then we will have peace. For the Kingdom of God is first righteousness, peace and then joy in the Holy Spirit.
#21.1.1 Ever and anon. on 2008-09-04 07:24
I had problems downloading at first, in that the process would get stuck. What I did in the end was to simply refresh the screen (use Ctrl + F5) and the download proceeded apace.
I have not read the report in its entirety yet, but it seems to me an admonition is in order directed against the two members of the OCA Audit Committee who overrode John Kozey's objections to fictional financial statements.
The proposal for a public rehabilitation of John Kozey is most excellent. Perhaps the next OCA Audit Committee should be composed of John Kozey, Protodeacon Eric Wheeler and one other meet person. The difficulty is that one needs to be a member of the All-American Council in order to be elected. (This last is from memory; the OCA webpage for the statute is down.)
Let us remember: vindication is not a vice, but vindictiveness is. We are not they, so let us not be tempted into acting with the same brutality that the malefactors in the OCA seemed to have conducted themselves.
#22 Edmund Unneland on 2008-09-03 21:03
Just a clarification: I've spoken with one of the auditors you suggest need admonishment. He was NOT in the meetings with Kosey and Kondratick, was NOT privy to ANY misdealings, had NO idea of the malfeasance that was going on, and simply did as he was instructed after Kosey quit the auditing post. You can certainly fault him for poor auditing, but he was in no way party to wrongdoing. You may want to fault him for sins of omission, but he did not know and had no way of knowing what Kondratick was doing.
(editor's note: In all fairness, Father, how could accept election to an office that is required by Statute to meet 2x a year, and then not meet for 2 full years, and not know suspect something was terribly wrong? And suspecting, not speak about it? And you excuse yourself by saying I was only following orders? That didn't work at Nuremburg, and has not gained credence in the ensuing 60 years. It is pathetic.
Sorry, the auditors totally failed the Church, and being unqualified or unpaid or whatever, is no excuse. Especially when people trust you and elect you to protect them from precisely this, which is what auditors are to do.
John Kozey stood up and paid for it. These people did not. They should be held accountable, not only because they failed me, and you, and their brothers and sisters in the Church, but themselves most of all. But once again, instead of confession and repentance, acknowledgement of mistakes, we see self-justification and excuses. Does no one in this Church have any sense of responsibility, integrity, decency and honor any more?
Your point is well taken, Mark. Our auditors failed us. Certainly, by doing what they were told and not thinking critically, they failed us. We entrusted them to audit, and they were then told not to and didn't. But their failure and inaction was in ignorance. They did not know of any embezzlement going on. Your Nuremburg analogy is not applicable at all, and it is that kind of unbridled condemnation against those two auditors that I was reacting against.
In the case of the Nuremburg trials, defendants committed heinous attrocities, including mass murder, rape, and genocide, and made the excuse that they were "just following orders." The auditors in question did not commit any attrocities, or any crimes, or any cover up whatsoever. The most they can be "admonished" for is for believing what they were told, and thereby failing their duties as auditors.
Having re-read Edmund Unneland's post, I will go so far as to say his recommendation that a word of admonition to those auditors is appropriate, and I was wrong to react against that. I was actually thinking of the many who have posted condemning those two auditors and assuming they were complicit in embezzlement, which Edmund's post did not do.
I would agree now that an admonition is in order for the unknowing auditors, because they did not fulfill their entrusted duties. But to assume they knew what was going on and were a part of the embezzlement is not true, and they should not be condemned with Kondratick, Herman, and Theodosius. They were sincerely duped. Instead of spending our time and energy condemning them, we should be looking closer into the roles of Fr Joe Fester and Fr David Brum (Bob's best friends and "inner circle," full-time Syosset employees all through the fraud perpetrated by Bob), and looking closer into the allegation of blackmail (who is Wayne Sova?). We should be calling for the discipline appropriate for those who refused to be interviewed (literally, in Jesus' words, they "refused to listen to the Church"; they won't even tell what they know to God's people and should be excommunicated until they repent), looking into what documents the SIC sought but because they did not have "subpoena power to compel the production of documents," looking into the public release of the Proskauer Rose investigation file (our file which we paid for and which our own OCA lawyer has been refused to even read!), disciplining +SERAPHIM, +NIKON and +NATHANIEL for learning of the embezzlement but doing nothing --instead chastising the whistleblower (Fr Zacchaeus) over protocol (really just a way to intimidate him into silence) and writing episcopal letters downplaying the scandal they had known about for years saying it was only "administrative" and "was only about money, and we never had much of that." We should be looking into Bob's Marriott Marquis parties, looking into "Twinkle Toes'" Washington D.C. senate aides' parties, and looking into the "blackmailable material of a sexual nature" which both Theodosius and Herman admitted Bob had on them, looking into a forensic audit which would answer many more questions and things the SIC report admitted it didn't answer, such as "the full extent of violations and transgressions," the "extent of this tragedy," those who "benefited in many ways and...remain in the shadows," and "the full truth," etc.
There's a lot more important fish to fry than the two ignorant auditors, though an admonition is appropriate for their failure to audit.
Why are we condemning them, knowing nothing at all, when +SERAPHIM knew all for years and participated in the intimidation and silence?
Father Mark Hodges
Amen to the previous plaudits. This feels like Pascha for the OCA - a resurrection from the dead, setting captive truth free, bestowing life to our church, and laying the foundation for reconciliation. I pray the promise of this feeling is fulfilled in the days ahead. God bless you, Bp. Benjamin and fellow investigative committee members for your good work, and please forgive my former doubts.
#23 Stephen Schumacher on 2008-09-03 21:08
The revelations in the reports of the SC and the SIC are shocking. But it is good to get everything out in the open once and for all. Now the healing and rebuilding can begin.
May the Lord have mercy on our Church and all those who labor for her, as well as those whose actions have brought us to this point.
O Most Holy Theotokos, save us!
#24 Michael L. Sensor, Esq. on 2008-09-03 21:11
Perhaps a good start towards healing would be for all the clergy who received gifts over the years and even just suspected things, if not really knowing, to return them them to the Church or give remuneration to the Church, anonymously, of course.
#24.1 Ever and anon. on 2008-09-04 05:22
What do you guys think of inviting Bishop Hilarion Alfeev of Vienna to fill the see of Washington and New York?
(editor's note:The multi-talented, multi-lingual Bishop (composer, theologian, diplomat) more likely has bigger fish to fry than the OCA. Why settle for Metropolitan of the OCA, when you are on track to be a future candidate for Patriarch of Russia? Besides, we have adequate candidates.)
#25 Anonymous on 2008-09-03 22:46
Most of the report was fairly obvious stuff for me.
I wonder why Alice Woog, Ph. D., who did something wrong bigtime in all of this re Martin Drive, who also refused to be interviewed has not been asked to resign for her failure to cooperate by the HS. I would say it is true that I am a bit bias against Mrs. Woog, but I didn't work to affirm that bias through my nonactions. She did. Any persons failing to cooperate with the SIC deserve removal. This should happen immediately.
Bishop Nikon gets another strike for his nonaction after he added on earlier removing Searforce..
Bishop Job still doesn't get very high marks for knowing about the RSK improprieties about 4 years ago.
Two other Bishops are also on the short list of contributers.
And no hats off to Dn Wheeler from me. The only reason he isn't getting a disciplinary recommendation is because he finally sang about his own misdeeds.
I will have more commentary at a later time.
#26 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-09-03 22:48
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first.
#26.1 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2008-09-04 06:42
As an accountant that has been fired for doing the right thing regarding SEC reporting in budgeting, I understand how difficult it can be under enormous financial and political and career pressures for both the boss and their subordinates. I was a subordinate and willingly told them I disagreed with their budget and gave them two different objective methods on how to arrive at the correct numbers and was termed for this million dollars in budgeting only. They didn't meet their budgets either, which proves their budgeting is aggressive, and they landed in court on these matters, too, by third parties that were not in contact with me.
My lines were far more gray than Deacon Wheeler's lines. I can also be forgiving, but I don't know that I'd be giving him any pat on the back. A Bible quote on repentance versus obedience is not a good analogy. To suggest the obedient son is worse than the repentant son suggests we should not follow one of the commandments to honor our parents, and I'd debate long into the night on the actual purpose of this story. This would also suggest RSK by sinning and repenting in Confession was a better son than an obedient Chancellor that did not steal. Not a good analogy at all.
Deacon Wheeler did the right thing, eventually. He deserves no high praise, just our gratitude, and forgiveness. That is all I meant by my comments.
What type of precedant would be set if we told everyone to do a bad job for the first four years and then work to correct it later? This is my only point.
#26.1.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-09-04 09:49
WOW! Just WOW! I'm flabbergasted! May God forgive us for what we have done to His Church!
Many thanks to those on the SIC for there tireless efforts to help rid us of this cancer. Sure, we have a few more rounds of chemo down the road before we can claim remission, but at least the tumor has been isolated so that swift eradication may commence. This report hurts and hurts badly. No pain, no gain, I guess.
I hate to be a headhunter, but I find some of these findings so disgusting, that criminal persecution for some involved may be needed. Somehow, a simple apology and a deposition does not seem to be enough. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope that I am.
The actions of the SC and SIC, as well as the "whistle-blowers'
who had the courage to bring this stinking pile of filth under the light of scrutiny, demonstrates that there is still much integrity and stewardship left in the OCA. Though saddened by this report, I am also encouraged and hopeful that the future holds good things for the OCA.
One thing that concerns me is that, although necessary, all of this may have brought too much democracy to our hierarchal church and that the canonical functions of our hierarchy may be at risk. Understandibly, we have brought this on ourselves, but it is a repercussion that needs to be considered. We certainly cannot put Pandora back in her box.
Along the same lines, there has been too much "outing" the sins of others and airing of personal grievances on the internet as unsubstantiated accusations and allegations abound. Whether some of it may be true or not is besides the point. Let us not forget the sin of 'deriding my brother for his sins whilst my own are countless.' Many discussions I have read in various Orthodox blogs and forums have been down-right unchristian...even coming from clergy and certain hierarchs.
To sum up the above point, I would say that my main concern is that the internet may damage the Sacrament of Confession in that there will be no more privacy between the confessor and the one hearing the confession; that if anything be leaked, even the smallest detail, it would soon be offered up as gossip fodder for eager internet viewers to distort and expound.
The SIC report contains factual and substantiated information backed up by documentation and multiple eye witnesses accounts, laid out in a conscientious and precise manner by a panel of capable, trusted persons for the good of the whole church. On the contrary, gossip is damaging hearsay spewed to damage the reputation of another for personal gain whether that gain be self-righteous ego-stroking, spreading your vile hatred of another TO others, monetary (blackmail) or using it to divert attention to your own misgivings, etc. Gossip is slanderous, unchristian and the work of the devil and should be squashed whenever it rears it's ugly head.
But I digress...this mess has brought out the best and worst of us all. May the Holy Lady Theotokos help us and save us.
Sincerely, chief among sinners,
(editor's note: If a confession is leaked it can only come from two sources: the confesser - who has every right to discuss their own confession should they so choose, or the confessor, which would be a serious breach of pastoral practice. The OCA is currently in a lawsuit regarding just that.
As for gossip on the internet, please be more specific as to who, what, when and where. People say "Newspapers print garbage" , but there is a huge difference between the NY Times the National Enquirer and the World Wide News.
One is of record, one is sleazier but often correct, and one is just made up "entertainment". So too with websites, blogs, etc. As a point of fact the " factual and substantiated information backed up by documentation and multiple eye witnesses accounts, laid out in a conscientious and precise manner by a panel of capable, trusted persons for the good of the whole church" was only possible because the facts were first published on the internet - and derided by many as "gossip". Do not attribute evil purpose to them because of the medium - anymore than you pick up a book from someone you do not know and assume it is evil, or read a newspaper story from some reporter you do not know and assume it is true or untrue apriori. These internet sources, some identified, some anonymous, were also often "capable persons acting for the good of the whole church." It is unwise to smear a medium as a whole for the content of a few; or discount every website because some have lower standards. In the end, it is unfair and often unhelpful to you to do so.
The internet is just like business, or any media and the same rules apply. Caveat Emptor. )
#27 stephen butcher on 2008-09-03 23:22
Yes, there is a difference between the NY Times and the Enquirer. The NY Times is biased and sits on news that other more objective outfits, however tarnished by their tabloid status, go after. Remember, they all knew about John Edwards, but hid it in partisan manner while the Enquirer got to the bottom of it.
#27.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 07:00
Thank you, Bishop Benjamin and the members of the SIC (past and present), thank you!
One thing I noticed was that Dr. Alice Woog refused to be interviewed by the SIC. Doesn't she currently serve on the Metropolitan Council? Will a resignation be forthcoming from her? Is she attending the MC meeting right now? What's the deal?
(Editor's note: Dr. Woog is not attending the MC meeting.)
#28 Jodie Captein on 2008-09-03 23:24
Ms. Woog has a lot to answer for. She was one of the biggest recipients of perks from Kondratick that existed. She was hailed as the smartest woman in the OCA because of all she was seen doing for the Church. Now, we know the truth behind her. Her efforts to get the Martin Dr. house signed over and when that failed her John Hancock on the promissory. My guess is that she's going to be central figure in the promissory note trial and doesn't want to speak. Quite strange for a gal who was never at a loss for words when Kondratick was there promoting and depending on her.
Yes, Ms. Woog, has a lot to answer and her silence only underscores her deep involvement in this scandal ridden administration. Her silence only goes to show that her commitment and work for the Church only lasted as far as Kondratick or she'd have the commitment to help resolve what happened....
#28.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 07:04
I am very sad to read bad things about our priest Father Zacchaeus from people who do not know him. He has served with us at our parish for a long time and we love him like our father. He takes us on pilgrimages to holy places and introduces us to interesting people from all over the world who come to visit him. He works hard at the church every day from the morning time to the evening for us and has made our parish beautiful and spiritually strong. You can see his work with us that he does every day on our website to see that what people write bad about him is not true.
#29 A parishioner of St Catherine Church in Moscow - Natalia - on 2008-09-04 05:34
We're glad you like him. May he remain there forever!
#29.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 07:37
What is so different from the previous report besides MH will go? I think this is just the beginning of the fireworks and the oca better get their lawyers and checkbooks ready.
#30 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 06:10
Thanks be to God!
The poison-filled lesion has FINALLY been lanced. Now recovery can, at least, be dreamed of.
O Holy Saints of North America, never cease praying to God for us sinners!
#31 Alex Ivsky on 2008-09-04 06:25
I am very sad to read bad things about our priest Father Zacchaeus from people who do not know him. He has served with us at our parish for a long time and we love him like our father. He takes us on pilgrimages to holy places and introduces us to interesting people from all over the world who come to visit him. He works hard at the church every day from the morning time to the evening for us and has made our parish beautiful and spiritually strong. You can see his work with us that he does every day on our website to see that what people write bad about him is not true.
#32 A parishioner of St Catherine Church in Moscow on 2008-09-04 06:28
What should be the "discipline" of MH and MT? I don't care if they go to jail or not, I guess i would rather see them not in jail.
What they should do:
MT needs to sell his house in Canonsburg with all proceeds going to OCA Missions or some other worthy needy work of the Church.
MH, even if he stays Metropolitan, should move out of his 'blue house' and return any bequests he has received in the, I understand there was one big one which would at least help pay off the honensdale loan.
They should both take up normal monastic residence at any one of the OCA monasteries.
#33 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 06:43
This is the sort of unflinchingly honest, no holds barred report I did not expect. Reconciliation - with each other, and each of us with the God this Church stuff is all about - begins with honesty; forgiveness must be waiting, looking for a return in the same way that the father watched for the Prodigal and saw him while he was still a long way off. Please, let us not be the know better older brother of the Prodigal in all this because in reality we all let this happen. If we were each of us more holy then our prayers for the Church and our hierarchs and clergy would have stopped all this from ever happening in the first place - but we are weak Christians, poor in prayer, poor in holiness. Instead of gloating or allowing 5 named people bare all the blame, let us make sure to pray. Let us pray for them, whose lives will be dramatically changed, for the Synod, the MC, all our clergy and people, as well as ourselves; let us pray that we learn how to pray, learn how to fast, learn how to confess our own sins, our own planks in our own eyes, even as we do our unworthy best to pilot and crew the little ship of the OCA in the armada of the Orthodox Church on the rough seas where it is any wonder any of us saved and ever make the right decisions some of the time, much less all of the time.
One option to consider is the decentralization of power in the OCA. By this I don't mean yet more responsibility and doubling of work at each diocesan level (though this may be considered, too), but the INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF BISHOPS AND DIOCESES. This will allow bishops to be more like pastors and shepherds and less like distant, diocesan CEOs or despots. This will also remove the arguments requiring pay far in excess of that required by an unmarried monastic bishop (and thus freeing up funds for married priests with families to support; cf. pay scale under Met. Anthony Bloom) as well as that there are so few 'qualified' monastic candidates for the episcopacy. On this latter point, more bishops serving smaller dioceses (e.g., each current Deanery could become a diocese) require little more than pastoral experience and sense. In this way, Syosset could act as an arbiter of standards akin to the GAO of the federal government, as a shared services center used by the dioceses for back office functions such as accounting, HR, legal, resources development, etc. A greater number of ruling bishops would also allow for a dilution of power thus moving the OCA out of the control of small cliques of power - be they the old, familial cliques surrounding Schmemann, Meyendorff and Hopko or cliques from 'preferred' circles in Eastern PA, St. Vlad's, Syssoset, from the 'traditionalist' camp, etc. There is no need to preserve power to push the Church in a given ideological direction; allow God and our much vaunted conciliarity to work out the right direction for the Church to go, rather than politicking.
The SIC talks about an audit for the NY/NJ diocese but what about the Diocese of EPA where +MH had alot of say as well as a group of individuals that was very devoted to him and probably should be investigated too
#35 anonymous on 2008-09-04 09:57
There’s so much in this report, its hard to figure where to begin. While most of the information relates to the main players, MH, MT, and Mr. Kondratick,, there is fairly significantly disturbing information about Paul Kucynda. The report outlines how he was a central figure from the early 90’s to just last year, but there are three items that stand out in this writer’s eyes that are truly disturbing and should be given their due diligence.
The first is the Kozey incident. It states on page 27:
“Subsequently, Kozey was dismissed from the OCA Audit Committee. The SIC learned local clergy were instructed to deny Sacraments to Kozey and his family by Kondratick’s declaration that Kozey was ”out to destroy the Church.” Interviewees reported to the SIC that Kucynda actively pressured local clergy to follow Kondratick’s edict.” (Emphasis all mine)
Kondratick issued, what is best called a “fatwa” against John Kozey and his FAMILY for his perseverance at righting the financial wrongs of the Chancery, namely those of Mr. Rodion Kondratick. Kondratick., in his never ending hyperbole and vindictiveness (all the while proclaiming all he did was by the “Will of the Holy Spirit”) against those that dared to shed light on his illicit activities issued the fatwa to deny the sacraments to John and his family on the basis that he was trying to destroy the Church – a charge now we know to be indisputably wrong. This act goes to the heart of where Kondratick is/was spiritually and a sign of the extent to which he would go to keep the gig going. Gladly, he has been deposed, never to serve at the altar again.
But we know Kondratick used whatever he could to keep himself out of trouble and keep the money flowing in so that he could use it on such Church critical items as clothing from Brooks Brothers – afterall, have to keep up the image of an important Church leader and that means looking the part – and the Church needs to pay for that. Its no surprise at this time that he would use the sacraments as a weapon and a tool of punishment going against every priestly obligation and responsibility which he was endowed with and putting the grace of God at his disposal against those that didn’t go along with his immorality. No surprise as I said, but the surprise is the act of a priest, Paul Kucynda, from Wayne, New Jersey, who served as the enforcer, pressuring local clergy to keep firm in refusing the sacraments to John, who did nothing wrong, and everything right. For this, my friends, and this is enough, Paul Kucynda must be deposed. We cannot have trust and integrity in this Church while the caliber of priest of Paul Kucynda who would so blatantly use that which is most sacred in our Church as weapons of punishment against those that had the best interests of the Church in their hearts and who were right and the people inflicting this retribution KNEW HE WAS RIGHT! My friends, this is no joke, this is a serious offense which the Synod must deal with and deal with in a way that makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the sacraments of the Church are sacred gifts of grace from God and not instruments of retribution from characters who want to beat people spiritually into submission. The sanctity of the sacraments foremost need to be preserved and for that reason using them as tools of retribution must be dealt with in a manner which is relative to their importance and for this reason Kucynda must be deposed. There is no question, there is no defense.
Then, when Kondratick is fired, Kucynda doesn’t have the heart to check the boxes that Kondratick is taking out of the Chancery, no doubt information that would have shed more light on this muck in the investigation. Is no one else outraged? He doesn’t have the heart to check for valuable papers to shed light on financial malfeasance from a fired employee at the center of it, but he has the heart to pressure clergy to refuse the sacraments to a man who was doing his best for the Church? Remember, this is the SAME man (and we just use that in the biological sense) who was the interface with Proskauer Rose so he KNEW the potential import of the boxes that Kondratick was moving out. Does no one else see the complete lack of principle and love for the Church as demonstrated so openly by one who holds the Body and Blood of Christ in his hands at every liturgy? How do we restore the good will of the laity if this man is not dealt with and dealt with in measure to the crimes against the Church he committed!?
Kucynda must be deposed and deposed with haste. We will never be serious about cleaning this up, if the most flagrant of offenses against the sanctity of this Church are not dealt with in a way that shows we mean business and we take the most important asset of our Church, the graces of God, seriously. Retirement is not the answer, for this man does not take seriously that which was entrusted to him and to this day shows no sign of repentance. Not being able to take the sacraments as what they are means he holds no reverence for them and must not be allowed to handle them! Brothers and sisters, an eleventh hour repentance is always welcome, but should not stand in the way of almost 20 years of behavior that has done damage, promoted malfeasance, looked the other way, and then did his best to cover it up, culminating in his audacious letter to the Attorney General of New York stating a blatant lie, under penalty of perjury, of a membership number of 2 million. Why, if we had two million, we wouldn’t need a stinkin’ $1,700,000 loan because each member could pony up ONE DOLLAR and we’d be out of the hole. But we let the state authorities take care of that when they are notified of the willful deceit, under oath, of Paul Kucynda. If he doesn’t take his priestly oaths seriously, was there any real consideration he’d take a secular oath seriously? Eleventh hour repentance after you’ve been caught and figure there’s no way out but to plead repentance will be accepted, but accountability for his actions will be carried out as well! No death bed conversions on this one with respect to accountability.
Kucynda must be deposed for, in the words we’ve heard a lot from this bunch, the Good of the Church and for its protection. Anything less is just not a serious attempt at preventing this from occurring again. We must show that at least WE take the sacraments seriously!
#36 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 10:45
Wow, what a well composed and well thought out response. I agree 100%. Kudos to you for speaking out.
It is interesting to me that the philosophy of our hierarchs has been cover-up, deny, deny, lie, lie and when you get backed into a corner with no other place to hide once your misdeed can longer be denied then try...to retire or take a leave. Unreal and we thought this concept only worked for Bill Clinton.
My deepest respect to Kozey and Wheeler and their families who were ostracized by so many and made to feel that they could not comfortably participate in the Church community that they obviously loved and were commited so much to that they would risk all this pain and suffering to benefit the good of the Church and it's faithful.
Heartfelt thank yous to the SIC and Mark Stokoe for giving us the means to finally truth and decency prevail.
To RSK and +MT and +MT and Kucynda I say, I wish I could be a fly on the wall on the day of your judgement. I can only pray that God is just and that it is hot like a furnace at the place where you are going to have your final rest.
#36.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-05 09:24
Now wait a minute.
Did I read this right? You're wishing damnation to MH, MT, RSK & Fr. Kucynda ("hot like a furnace...final rest")? I sure hope I'm missing something here.
Responsibility for all their actions before courts both spiritual and civil? Sure! Accountability before God's own judgment seat? Unavoidable. And given what's been done, may God Who "desires not the death of a sinner but that he turn from his wickedness and live" extend His mercy upon them as I hope He will to you and me.
Meanwhile, let's you and I get to our prayers.
#36.1.1 Fr. Dennis Buck. on 2008-09-06 20:41
The full impact of the SIC report has only now sunk in. It's clear to me that not only were there sins committed, but most likely crimes as well. Those who have sinned will answer to God in due course. But those who violated the secular laws under which we all labor must be held to account as well. Well over a million dollars of money either belonging to OCA or donated to OCA for specific purposes was misappropriated. This is wrong. There's no other way to describe it.
I think of who that money was intended for - the many OCA priests who can barely support their families on their meager stipends while their parishes continue to be dunned for assessments - the Alaskan priests who risk life and limb as commercial fishermen while continuing to do God's work - the victims of terror on 9/11 and in Beslan - our Armenian brothers and sisters who suffered in the earthquake - and I become sick to my stomach.
Did anyone notice in the SC report, which is in the appendix to the SIC report, that the SC met with an FBI agent who is investigating OCA? While it is a relief that this terrible boil has finally been lanced, I fear the other shoe has yet to drop and we will learn of indictments sometime in the future.
O Saints of North America, who planted the seeds of the Orthodox Faith in this land, pray for the salvation of your Holy Orthodox Church!
#37 Michael L. Sensor, Esq. on 2008-09-04 11:26
My family and I came to Orthodoxy, in the form of the OCA, a few years ago from the United Methodist Church where I had been a local pastor. One thing I found greatly refreshing was the lack of controversy in the OCA, compared to the endless wars within United Methodism over gay marriage etc.
How saddened I was to learn this last year or so of these terrible financial abuses on the part of high ranking clergy, and the lack of any sort of effective accounting. These latest revelations add yet more unhappy news.
I greatly admire the efforts of the efforts of those who have presevered to address these abuses, and pray their efforts will be successful. How unfortunate that money that could have gone to the sharing of Orthodoxy in this country went instead into various pockets!
An essential part of progess from this point would certainly seem to be ensuring as much as possible that the guilty parties meet with appropriate consequences...
#38 Charlie Cowling on 2008-09-04 13:58
Oh for God's sake, call the police! Take in account everytime you see a childs face and widow's that has been hungry and forgotten to be cared for, With the anniversary of 911 just around the corner remember all of those victims and families are our very own brothers and sisters in christ.
Don't let the guilt of family and friends keep you from making the right choices.
God is with you and he will prevail the uprighteous!
Call the police! Let them handle it from now, a slap on the wrist! Thats pathetic. In Christ, Mrs. Jeanine M. Kozak
#39 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 14:27
I agree heartily. Our OCA can do great things in the future now that honesty and truth have prevailed. We know the other Church in America to have problems hidden and yet to be revealed that are shocking,too.
#39.1 Anonymous on 2008-09-04 22:26
Do we really want to merge with another jurisdiction and under another metropolitan? Every jurisdiction has had its scandals and probably will in the future. So far, we are the only jurisdiction that has had it all come out in the open and forced a ruling Metropolitan to "retire". All the others have covered it up and things have pretty much gone on as usual. If we unite with another jurisdiction, who is to say that there will not be another replay of what has happened here in the OCA, but with very different results? In other words, no admission of guilt, with the same Metropolitan in charge, and nothing changes? Now is the time to fix things so that this doesn't happen again and real changes can be made. Do you want to merge with another jurisisdiction that will just sweep scandals under the rug and go on as usual, as though nothing is wrong? We've learned too much and experienced too much to go back to that.
Thank you, +Bishop Benjamin for the work that you and the SIC did in your investigation of the situation, and I am very thankful to have you for my bishop.
I am just glad I hadn't taken a sip from my glass of soda when I pulled up the OCA News page tonight!
#40 Janice Chadwick on 2008-09-04 17:34
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever. Thank you to Mark Stokoe for the endless hours, days, months and years - and care - spent in keeping the need for truth in the forefront of our spiritual community's awareness. Thank you to PrDn. Eric Wheeler for the courage it took to risk every comfort in this life to step up - with your lone voice at first - to openly consent to publish the truth to the world. Thank you to the SC and the SIC for documenting data that makes me cry, and so perhaps has the same effect on you. "God forgives," to each and every one of us, perpetrators included, as far as our sins reach, and our repentance is real. It helps me to believe that all of us were once little children praying in church with precious innocence and not a hint of guile. We have paused here, and rightly so, but now let's move on - there is still much work to do. This time of upheaval is a bump in the road, because for the life of the world, nothing can prevail against His Holy Church. Lord, Have Mercy.
#41 Nancy Williams on 2008-09-06 12:18
The world will find life through the Church when the Church
is swept clean of every thing that is *of the world*.
Things such as hypocrisy and the culture of fear and lies, of human power and greed.
Life is found as overcoming death, completely dispelling it, not as mixing with death, for what has light to do with darkness? NOTHING.
Yes, let's move on WITH THE LORD, not in our deluded
ideas that liturgy and joy alone will bring life to the world.
#41.1 Ever and anon. on 2008-09-09 06:53
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