Tuesday, December 9. 2008
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I thank God that Fr Sidebottom is getting his situation settled, with some just financial compensation. However, it would behoove the OCA, if it really wishes to actly justly, to reinstate the Pension Plan of Protodeacon Eric Wheeler! He, like Fr Sidebottom, was fired for speaking the truth! Now, we have the one who committed misdeeds, +Herman, fully retired (in good standing, no less! how else are we to interpret the "thank you" to him from the other bishops?) with his pension fully intact, while Protodeacon Wheeler is denied continued enrollment in the Pension Plan for doing absolutely nothing wrong!!! Apologies, pietistic platitudes, and standing ovations will not pay the bills!! We need to remind ourselves of the words of St James in his Epistle, when he said that "faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead!" (Jm 2:17). We need to continue examining the situation of those who stood up, put our money where our mouth is, and, as they say in the 12 Step Programs, "do the next right thing!!"
#1 David Barrett on 2008-12-09 07:31
Paul Sidebottom is not a priest.
Deacon Wheeler can enter the OCA pension plan the moment he is a full-time employee of a Church in the OCA. You see, you have to work for the OCA to be in its Pension Plan.
If Dn. Wheeler believes he had a wrongful termination case, he could have pursued it.That would be the only way he could possibly make a case for a "lost" OCA pension, which I believe he was vested in, so he will get some OCA pension upon retirement age. Not much, to be sure.
However, Dn Wheeler chose to make his stand on another front, and was vindicated for blowing the whistle but not fully exonerated for his part in the scandal.
He continues to serve as a deacon of the Church in good standing, back at the altar from which he was fired when he was terminated by the OCA. I am sure it was a good day for him and his family, a very good day indeed, when he served with Met. Jonah at St Sergius Chapel a couple of weeks ago.
Dn. Wheeler upon losing his OCA job got another job, the same job, I believe he has to this day. His medical insurance was continued by the OCA for almost, if not the entire time until he got another job and his new job benefits began. He was given a severance package. Not nearly as big as what current OCA employees are entitled to if they get terminated.
As for pensions and clerics and actions taken against a cleric by the Church, the most severe action that can be taken by a Church against a cleric is deposition. There is no provision in the OCA Pension Plan to stop a man's pension if he is deposed. I don't know the legalities of this, but to make it retroactive to deny a vested person his pension if deposed would be a form of double jeopardy that is expressly prohibited by canon law. And, one can't stop a man's pension because he is retired or was retired, can they?
I don't think, I can could be wrong, that Dn. Eric was looking for anything more than to be vindicated and for the church to do a better job of taking care of its finances. I don't believe, and again, I could be wrong, that he ever asked for anything else. And if that is the case, then who are we to say otherwise?
If the man is at peace in his heart with the actions he took that brought us to this day in the life of the Church, then he has his reward for doing what he thought was the right thing.
#1.1 Anonymous on 2008-12-09 10:43
I see no mention of a financial settlement, to which he is certainly entitled to for the "pain and suffering" he endured and which none of us would want to have suffered.
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Barrett, that since we are in large measure choosing to let the guilty off the hook, that we should at least recompense the victims. It will be a true test of the new Metropolitan's good will to see that this happens.
#1.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-12-09 12:40
While Mr. Tobin is no doubt correct in the abstract as to what people are entitled to receive in a certain class of situations, I am fairly confident, given some brief contact with Mr. Sidebottom quite some time ago, that enriching himself or putting a financial (or any other kind) of "hit" on the OCA itself -or the exchequer of the Alaska diocese - was never a priority for him.
#1.2.1 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-12-10 07:26
Er,Mr.Barrett,I don't believe Paul Sidebottom is a priest or deacon,hence, he would not be titled "Fr.",unless he later recieved Holy Orders somewhere else.Not to criticise,just a point of accuracy!
#1.3 Anonymous on 2008-12-09 14:46
That was a very kind, charitable, and generous idea, to reinstate Dn. Eric Wheeler's pension. I hope the OCA administration does.
#1.4 Patty Schellbach on 2008-12-09 19:41
Paul announced as much on Facebook today, but gave no details, when he mentioned that he is relieved after two years of ordeal.
#2 Anonymous on 2008-12-09 09:10
Thanks to all for your posting responses.
My apologies for the confusion regarding Mr. Sidebottom. I erroneously thought he was ordained.
As to the situation regarding Protodeacon Eric Wheeler: in answer to Anonymous (I don't know your real name, since you decided not to sign it!), it is still a sad day for the Church when we not only, as Mr. Tobin states, "let the guilty off the hook," but also retire them in good standing, in luxury (to wit, the comfy situation that +Herman now finds himself in), with no other restrictions or punishments (even +Theodosius was restricted to serving only in his home parish), while good, honest, forthright, and courageous people like Protodeacon Eric lose what had been built up, i.e., his OCA pension!! I further agree with Mr. Tobin that further "recompense for victims" needs to occur. Otherwise, despite all of our colorful vestments, services, processions, and platitudes, we find ourselves to be no more ethical than the horribly fallen and spiritually bankrupt CEO's of corporate America!!!
#3 David Barrett on 2008-12-10 07:39
If Mr. Sidebottom asked for no financial compensation in his settlement with the OCA, can we trust that money was not his motive? Can we trust that he may know better than you or me?
As for the Protodeacon's pension, take it up with the OCA pension board if you feel so strongly. Again, he never asked for any consideration for his pension, thus can we trust that that was not his motivation?
As for the "guilty" getting off the hook with their pensions, again, take it up with the OCA pension board and be careful in doing so for it would be best for you to know those laws that govern pension plans and what is possible and what is not possible.
We can opine here about many things, and certainly all things are possible with God, but just having an opinion about a matter does not make it true or right.
If justice is called to be blind, then so mercy even more.
#3.1 Anonymous on 2008-12-10 11:32
Dn. Eric has not lost what he and the OCA put into his pension while he was a full time employee of the church. He must be 65 to receive his pension.
#3.2 Retirerd Clergy on 2008-12-10 14:25
I enjoyed your further comments. I agree that kinder gestures could have been made, and could still be made, toward Dn. Eric Wheeler.
To me, there is still sooooooooo muuuuuuccccch inertia still within the OCA that it is scary.
I received no reply from Fr. Alexander Garclavs, Fr. Eric Tossi, or Fr. Michael Tassos, the three I sent my ideas to on RTI for the church, as recommended by Michael Strelka.
If any three of them forwarded these ideas to the MC's Strategic Planning Committee, I don't know about it. I was never informed!!!
This is how it has basically been for me, a matushka of 13 years now.
When my husband deployed to Iraq for a year back in 04-05, and then two nasty Greeks came after me, and then I resigned as the choir director two days later, NOOOOOOO BODDDY callled OR emailed me from the DOW.
I find this absolutely incompetent and amazing as an Orthodox Christian that a priest's wife, after deployment of her husband, and after resignation as a choir director, that NOOOOOOOO BODDDY from the OCA adminstration's DOW called or emailed me.
Thank God I was not an invalid or cripple. I don't think it would have mattered.
I have basically written off our leadership in the OCA; there is too much to be desired. It may improve now without a corrupt metropolitan, but I am not sure how fast or how effective.
We may have a new metropolitan, but when a church cannot take care of its widows and orphans, whether literally or figuratively, there is a lot to be desired in its leadership and vision as a Christian organization.
#3.3 Patty Schellbach on 2008-12-10 18:47
Ecclesiastes says there's nothing new under the sun
And as it is commonly decalared It's just BUSINESS AS USUAL*, even in the the Church, the seminaries, their pension plans, etc. How pitiful!
You cannot serve God and Mammon, the Bible says. Will we ever learn and REALLY move on???? Will we ever move away from competition, rewarding favorites while penalizing those out of favor, with unfair and unjust treatment? If we really would see Christ in each other, there would be no
injustice in the Church.
#3.4 Ever and anon. on 2008-12-11 07:12
Pertaining to all the wrong-doings of MT,MT and RK...."And it is a good thing that in the world also,justice prompts the use of punishment. For punishment causes the sinner to shudder and put an end to his sinful ways. It brings the sinner to contrition of heart,for it is he who brought punishment upon himself. And thus the sinner puts aside his iniquities,if only for a short while,and seeks forgiveness of his sins. Who will not Thee,O our Lord? For Thy justice is good and Thy punishment is a gift of Grace. With the staff of justice dost Thou humble the heads of sinners who sin with SHAMELESS ARROGANCE and cannot be converted without extraordinary inducement." Reflecyions on God:from the works of our Holy Father Epharem the Syrian.)
I and thousands of others in the OCA are still waiting for the HS and MC to act in regards to the proper punishment of all mentioned in the SIC report. Kondratick still wears a cassock?He's defrocked and cannot wear the cassock. He still gets a salary from the parish in Fla.??? For what? MH still walks around,serves,etc. like he's done nothing? No one is seeking vengenace....just justice!!
#4 Anon on 2008-12-10 11:36
I wear a cassock everyday , is that a crime ? I don't believe the whole sic report . I think most of it was a cover up and we'll see in the suite between the oca and rsk , who was lying.
(Editor's note: No crime. But unless you are a monk, or a priest, most would consider it an affectation. More importantly, if you think the SIC report was a cover-up, please offer us evidence of such allegations. As for the lawsuit between the OCA and RSK, we shall all have to wait for those cases to resolve - or not.)
#4.1 reader james on 2008-12-11 12:39
If one is not a monk or priest, wearing a cassock every day is an affectation.
Another affectation is the unnerving practice of minor clergy to insist on being called "Reader This" or "Subdeacon That"--which is, from my observation, much related to the pathological need of such to be seen in a cassock every day. Neither of these things is the custom of the holy Churches of God.
#4.1.1 ejv on 2008-12-15 22:01
It isn't the reader in most cases, but it is convert clergy priests who are addressing the male tonsured reader as Reader so and so. The bishops have decided that they will have deacons serve on the Metropolitan Council as laity. It seems as though our bishops and clergy use these terms at will. I was taught that clergy were deacons, priests, and bishops. That readers were on the first rung of the ladder to the priesthood (clergy). We are all tonsured when baptised. There are many laity who read in church and have more knowledge than those who were tonsured readers. Readers are those who assist in the services of the church whether they are tonsured by the bishop or not. Any one given the priviledge of reading in church is being blessed by the priest (in the absence of the bishop). I have been Orthodox since an infant and it is only in recent years that I have seen tonsured readers wearing cassocks in church. As I recall, the correct garment is a short shoulder lenth garment, and no one that I have seen wears this garment (only perhaps when tonsured). Also, it is not correct to wear only the black cassock if serving in the altar, but yet one sees that being done (by a reader being asked to serve). Servers robes in colors other than black are appropriate.
#22.214.171.124 anonymous on 2008-12-16 10:08
We are all priests of Jesus Christ, but we are not all clergy. The clergy are those of us who have been selected by the Church for a particular service. In church tradition, the ranks of major clergy are bishop, presbyter, and deacon; the ranks of minor clergy are subdeacon, reader, and chanter.
The office of reader is very ancient and derives from the office of cantor in the synagogue. Readers were expected to be able to both read and sing. Nowadays almost everyone can read, but not everyone can sing or chant. It still helps to have certain men dedicated to this task, responsible for learning to chant in an appropriate style and being in church and ready to serve when needed.
The tonsuring of readers impresses upon these men the seriousness of their responsibility they have accepted. The use of the title of reader serves as a reminder of their responsibility. It also honors them for their service. Such reminders and honors are best bestowed by persons of higher rank. Presbyters and deacons take a special pleasure in addressing readers and subdeacons by title. By doing so, they acknowledge readers and subdeacons as brothers in the service of Christ, they thank them for their service, and they encourage them to continue to see themselves as dedicated to that service. For similar reasons, the wives of presbyters and deacons are addressed as “Matyushka,” “Presvytera,” or some such term of endearment.
Readers should wear cassocks when serving as readers. The cassock spares us all the distraction of noticing the reader’s attire or physique while he’s standing there in the middle of the church commanding our attention. It also adds to the solemnity of the occasion. Custom allows readers the right to wear a cassock anytime in church, but it does not obligate them to do so.
All such honors and distinctions can be carried too far and become a source of pride and division, but we can hardly do without them entirely. The proper regard for each other is not jealous indistinction, but marvelous distinction, with fuller knowledge of the whole person and greater recognition, celebration, and encouragement of each person’s particular place in the Body, as Christ Himself so ordains.
Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell
#126.96.36.199.1 Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell on 2008-12-17 11:30
No, what a reader should wear when serving in that role (and what this service entails is, well, *reading*) is the stikharion with the small orarion girded after the manner of readers (as opposed to after the manner of subdeacons). If they are instead at the kliros carrying out the service of cantors (which, as you rightly note, they should be able to do), then they may wear the inner cassock. But if they're performing neither of these services, as you also note, they need not wear the inner cassock at all.
In spite of your comments regarding the honor and diginity of the service rendered by readers and subdeacons (one remembers from the life of St John Chrysostom that he purposed never to utter a foul word after his tonsure, given that it was now his duty to read the Scriptures in Church), the fact remains that using the styles "Reader This" or "Subdeacon That" as forms of address is an oddity of certain sectors of American Orthodoxy. We don't call out to a presbyter by saying "Hey, Priest" (or Archpriest, or Archimandrite, or whatever), but we rather say "Father" (and the same is true, it should be noted, of deacons such as yourself, and of tonsured monastics). There are no equivalent forms of address for readers and subdeacons simply because such are not used. The insistence upon them, especially when it comes from the minor clerics themselves, is simply bizarre.
#188.8.131.52.1.1 ejv on 2008-12-23 22:43
We seem to have had very different experiences within the Church. I can only speak for mine.
First, the only readers I have seen or heard of wearing orars are those blessed by their bishops to wear orars because they function regularly as subdeacons (and would be made subdeacons if there were already married or not facing some impediment). These readers cross their orars as subdeacons do. I have never seen or heard of any special way for readers to wear an orar, but I have seen and heard it plainly stated that readers do not wear orars.
Second, I have never seen or heard of any requirement for readers to wear a sticharion when reading in the midst of the church, except when they are also serving in the altar. In many if not most parishes, readers do not serve in the altar but instead sing regularly with the choir or the people, entering the altar only to receive a blessing before going out to read. Since sticharia are reserved for altar service and not worn by the choir or the people, readers not serving in the altar are generally allowed to read in cassocks or street clothes, which seems only reasonable.
Third, I have never heard any subdeacon or reader insist on being addressed by rank. That would indeed be odd and inappropriate. It is appropriate, however, for readers and subdeacons to identify themselves as such when communicating with major clergy in letters and emails, when introducing themselves to major clergy for the first time, and at communion. Before the Great Entrance in a hierarchical service, everyone in the altar files by the presiding bishops in ranking order, saying his rank and name before kissing the bishop’s omophorion. Priests say, “the Priest So-in-so” or “the Archpriest So-in-so,” not “Father So-in-so.” Major clergy also commune as “the Priest This” and “Deacon That.” It is therefore only natural for them to commune subdeacons and readers in the same way.
This is what I have been taught and have learned. If you are aware of other customs, I would like to hear more.
#184.108.40.206.1.1.1 Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell on 2009-01-12 13:20
I hope this website is in rsk complaint? maybe stokoe website will be shown "the door" and by the way the sic report can be molded or fabricated in anyway it so desires! its no different then this GOSSIP website! but in the eyes of God none have any value! have a good day!
#4.1.2 Anonymous on 2008-12-18 08:30
While the Holy Synod was "embracing its Christian Duties", do we know if that included reinstating him to his position with back pay?
Editor's note: No, it does not.
#5 Anonymous on 2008-12-10 20:30
Another "glorious" statement from our Synod, obviously written by lawyers, that sounds like a bunch of corporate hacks attempting to distance themselves from acts that should also be laid at their doorstep!
Disgusting, disgraceful, and lacking every Christian grace and virtue. So much for the new era!
#6 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-12-11 10:04
I am one of the attorneys who is part of Paul Sidebottom’s legal team. Mr. Sidebottom has asked me to assure you and the other readers of OCAnews.org that he received no financial settlement when his harassment complaint was resolved. Throughout this lengthy process, Mr. Sidebottom’s overriding concern has been that the best interests of the Church be served, and he believes that the settlement with the OCA accomplishes that goal.
This will be Mr. Sidebottom’s only statement regarding the settlement.
James C. Spencer
Hinkle Elkouri Law Firm L.L.C.
#7 James C. Spencer on 2008-12-11 10:14
Thanks Jim for putting the record straight. Paul has shown himself to be a humble, committed, and thoughtful member of the Church.
For those who continue to cast aspersions on the leadership of the OCA under the cloak of anonymity, shame on you!
I sincerely believe that Metropolitan Johah, along with so many who have already committed to work for positive change in the OCA, can get the job done if we pray and support their efforts.
#7.1 Marc Trolinger on 2008-12-11 15:22
...and we still have several of the former Bishop's (associates) still holding positions in the Church here in Alaska...
(Editor's note: Reader's interested in the what is happening in the Serbian monastery in Australia, where "+Nikolai seems more than happy to mortgage Orthodox assets in Australia as he did in Alaska" may wish to visit the following website which contains an account of their recent actions:
#8 Moses on 2008-12-11 13:12
A couple of thoughts come to mind. First of all, heads rolling for a prior association with a heavy handed Bishop is certainly a far cry from our Christian calling to forgive.
Second, I think its fair that Nikolai and Isidore find some way to put bread into their mouths and I doubt they would simply give up and go wash dishes or go into a homeless shelter. I have been fired from accounting jobs and was darn glad about it when I was pinked, but I didn't stop trying to work in accounting, although I'm thinking about it now.. I don't know whether the Sidebottom matter was even enough to remove Isidore from the priesthood forever, but the issue goes far beyond Isidore and well into the nature of the structures of Orthodoxy itself. Any attack on these fellows is an attack on the structure and certainly a failure of us to forgive and forget. Now, if Isidore was up to drinking and making sexual advances or gestures somewhere else, I'd say that'd be worth some noisemaking. However, and for the most part, our job as Christians must be one thing only and that is to forgive them. There is plenty of information about them on the internet.
Pray for both of them and their prior associates.
(Editor's note: Forgive, yes. But Forget? Does God "forget" our sins? How do you square "forgive and forget" with the oft-repeated truism that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."?)
#8.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-12-11 16:22
How sad, that a seminary graduate does not know that God does not remember our sins when we are forgiven. What other reason would there be to forgive? To not forget reduces forgiveness to a technicality. To perfectly forgive is to forgive and forget, the tortured exegesis of so many things not withstanding (like forgiveness and confession) that makes this site infamous. We forgive and forget the sins of others because God Himself forgives and forgets our sins.
God does not remember our sins:
I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. (Is 43:25)
God removes them infinitely away from us:
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Ps 103:12)
(Editor's note: While I never claimed to be brightest or best student in my class, I might suggest you brush up on your Hebrew a bit regarding the meanings of the words "to forget" and "to remember" in Scripture for a clearer understanding of what the Orthodox Church actually teaches in this regard, especially as it relates to God. Quoting a few proof texts from the Old Testament out of context just doesn't cut it. )
#8.1.1 Anonymous on 2008-12-12 10:40
I know Mohandas Gandhi was not a Christian, but I always found this saying of his to be quite good, and consistent with Orthodoxy:
“To forgive is not to forget. The merit lies in loving in spite of the vivid knowledge that the one that must be loved is not a friend. There is no merit in loving an enemy when you forget him for a friend.”
#220.127.116.11 Anonymous (sorry) on 2008-12-14 15:00
Not in reply to Moses - no surprise that the old guard are entrenched in Alaska, and elsewhere. The suggestion to follow the link to the goings-on in Australia was worthwhie; but at the same time same-old/ same old but now 'down under'.
Bishop Irinej seems to have his own style of disenfranchising and marginalzing his flock. As Louis, the police chief, says at the end of "Casablanca" "..round up the usual suspects..'.
Posting rules on the website are not as diplomatic as Mark here at OCA News. A heads-up letter to Australian Immigration about Isidore makes some slanderous comments; and yet the author remains annonymous. I don't know what to make of the whole OCA and it's fellow travelers; and have thought this for a long time.
#8.2 Jim Murray on 2008-12-11 20:41
Paul Sidebottom is a good man and was a kind classmate while he was at St. Vladimir's. The bottom article in the website given by our editor may also be found here for those who are interested:
I believe this was the original source of the English translation. At least, this is the one I had first seen. We should continue to pray for the OCA. Forcibly retiring someone seems not to be enough, whatever the truth and extent of the behaviors mentioned in this article.
Yet, ultimately, the real problem is with us here in America and how we will proceed.
#8.3 Fr. Oliver Herbel on 2008-12-11 23:20
Here in Australia the fallout from "retired" Bishop Nikolai and company is just beginning. he lists himself as a "bishop/psychiatrist"!!!! on his visa application which has initially been rejected....the gang of 3 plus Bishop Irinej seem bent on imposing their personal agenda on the church. People here are praying that the new metropolitan of OCA will DISCIPLINE the rebel clergy Isidore and Panteleimon and will put a permanent suspension on "retired" Bishop Nikolai their master. The "retired" bishop continues to serve with the suspended Isidore and Panteleimon OCA must act now to formally protest to the Patriarchate on belgrade concerning this situation. We can only hope that the Australian government rids us of these men and that thye find the repentance they need.....
#9 jake on 2008-12-29 15:45
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