Wednesday, July 22. 2009
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Those who have read this wonderful article said it is a CLASSIC to be read and reread! Pray that Met. Jonah receives it, although careful, as politicallyt alienating Met. Phillip may end up with fewer seminarians to St. V & St. T. That's been done before!
Can you IMAGINE standing up for the OCA by a 60yr old entrenched Abbot in far off Lebanon. They claim he has the Patriarch's ear! I hope so. This article the only thing that uplifted me after attending the pathetic clergy meeting yesterday with Met. Philip.
God bless the courageous Bishops Basil & Mark. Fr. Oliver Herbel you are a "gem" and do not be discouraged by Bp Antoun who is a sad excuse for a Bishop, Lord forgive me!
I shall copy and mail Fr Touma's article to MANY especially to those who do not have computer access.
#1 Anonymous Archpriest on 2009-07-22 15:26
Just received a letter from SVS saying that CNN/FOX will soon carry coverage of SVS for exemplary "accountability" and "fiscal stewardship". Is this a joke? SVS's deafening silence during the decade run up to the exposure of the OCA scandal is a scandalous sub-plot of nts own. We must be done with such charades. SVS's silence in the face of over $5 million sloshing around at Syosset should be proof enough that their hands are unclean. The Syosset-SVS relationship was as tight as a drum during the scandal period.
(Editor's note: Agreed. But that was under another regime - so let's give credit where credit is due. We should not be ashamed if the current admin is seen by others as a model! At the same time, we must not forget what happened, nor assume it could not happen again.)
#2 Anon. on 2009-07-22 20:01
"SVS's silence in the face of over $5 million sloshing around at Syosset should be proof enough that their hands are unclean. The Syosset-SVS relationship was as tight as a drum during the scandal period."
Well, you couldn't be more out of touch! SVS had nothing to do with Syosset. If any organ. had a "drum tight" relationship with Syosset, it was St. Tikhon's. SVS has always remained independent of the politics and scandals within the OCA and elsewhere. The school is an institution of higher learning for Orthodox theology. It is not an organ. for investigating rumors nor making accusations. Your assessment is an imagination gone wild!
#2.1 Anonymous on 2009-07-23 06:15
Regarding these comments about SVS; aren't you aware that RSK was a product of STOTS and he was + Herman's "chosen boy" to be at Syosset? Considering the corruption at STOTS and Syosset, these two were the prime offenders.
How you can implicate SVS in any financial malfeasance is beyond anything any investigation has ever revealed. Axe to grind on your part?
#2.2 Anon-i-moose on 2009-07-23 10:57
It was my understanding that "back in the day", Robert Kondratick was allegedly trying his best to have the Chancery in Syosset gain control over the finances at St. Vlad's.
I wonder if perhaps such attempts were taking place as the ADM monies were no longer coming in???
Thank God for good people like David Drillock and other's at St. Vlad's who stood his/their ground with integrity, put the needs and best interests of the Seminary first and foremost, and outrightly refused such ridiculous and financially irresponsible requests!
#2.2.1 Michael Geeza on 2009-07-23 12:45
Dave Drillock did a wonderful job all the years at SVS. His integrity was beyond reproach. RSK did try to gain more control over SVS, but he really couldn't. The separate Board of Trustees prevented this. RSK did manage to take the mailing lists of SVS and the Foundation.
(editor's note: You are not the first person to confirm that to me.)
#184.108.40.206 Anonymous on 2009-07-23 14:17
This is for the anonymous poster of comment #2.0 as well as the editor's comment.
I'm sorry, but I think both of you are way out of line in criticizing SVS for their relative silence during the crisis. What do you think they could have possibly said or done that would have helped the situation? I can't think of anything that they could have said, that wouldn't have somehow complicated the situation, as well as made SVS a target for Met Herman's cronies.
Furthermore, if SVS had come out with guns blazing, any retaliation from Met Herman would have meant catastrophic consequences for the school. They don't have a huge endowment to cover themselves, and Met. Herman was their president as long as he was Metropolitan. Imagine if they had spoken out, and all of a sudden they find all of the Diocese of WaNY seminarians' ordination applications have been "misplaced", or denied altogether. That's just the tip of the iceberg.
And no, Met Herman did not buy their silence, either. Very little of SVS's funding comes from the OCA itself - it mostly comes from benefactors and working stiffs who send individual donations.
SVS wasn't silent out of cowardice or complacency with the corrupt administration. They were silent because there was nothing that they could say that could help the situation without hurting their students. You realize that seminarians, including those at SVS, are the future of Orthodoxy in America. Wounding them wounds the whole Church. The task of protecting the seminarians and guiding them towards fulfilling their callings despite the crisis fell to the SVS administration. It was not only because it is already SVS's responsibility to prepare them for service in the Church, but because they could not rely on Met. Herman and his cronies to leave the seminarians out of the debacle. So I not only understand, I respect their decision to stay out of the fight.
Public silence does not mean they ignored or condoned what was going on. Far from it. If you want proof of SVS's integrity, look at the clergy and lay leaders who have been formed there over the years. For every alumnus they might be somewhat less proud of, like those involved in recent crises, there are Fr. Oliver Herbels and Met. Jonahs all around the OCA and elsewhere.
And if that doesn't help, look at the several years' worth of financial reports available on the svots.edu website. Look at the report from the board of trustees meeting this past May, which was reacting to the financial crisis, which has had a severely adverse affect on the seminary's investments (i.e. the endowment) as well as donations. Notice that there are fewer faculty members now, due to lay-offs and retiring faculty that SVS cannot afford to replace. They will be taking on even heavier teaching loads in the fall, and doing it for substantially reduced salaries. Notice that they have not increased tuition or fees for the seminarians, not even to cover inflation.
Now, it's time to address the allegation of financial impropriety leveled at SVS. Anonymous person, I'm calling you out. You have made an allegation of financial impropriety against SVS. This is very serious because it undermines SVS's assertion of financial transparency, as well as its relationship with its donors (who, as I stated above, give most of the funds that keep the lights on and toilets working in Crestwood.) If you have proof of impropriety at SVS, produce it. If you have no such proof, please withdraw your allegation.
But please, keep scandal-mongering and innuendo to yourself. False allegations do serious damage to innocent people, and if you look at SVS's publicly-posted financial reports, you will know they can't afford to be slandered unfairly. I'm just really flabbergasted at the idea that someone would deliberately try to hurt SVS by leveling this kind of false allegation. They have enough to deal with!
Although I can't say that I support every little thing that SVS does or has ever done (their buddy-buddy relationship with an anti-Chalcedonian seminary, and certain opinionated faculty members, being a substantial chunk of this!), I will say that SVS has NEVER let me down or lost my trust. I think that any way that SVS can raise its profile, especially for good reasons like their honesty and financial accountability, is ultimately a good thing.
I do want to thank Mr. Stokoe for reserving judgment on the current administration. Disagreements aside, I think he will find that this administration is a substantial improvement over past administrations. Frs John Behr and Chad Hatfield are wonderful people, and I couldn't imagine better people to have in charge of SVS. May God bless them and keep them right where they are.
#2.3 Cordelia on 2009-07-23 11:28
Time will tell. "You shall know them by their fruits." I find it curious that people have to speak for the folks at SVS. Let them speak for themselves on the scandal. Until then, time will tell whether lessons have been learned and repentance is a reality. My experiences with the silences do not need to be dragged into the public arena further. Mark is right, this is a new regime. Time will tell if it is the recycled old school, or a fresh breeze. Consistent actions and words are what we need. So at least for me, I'm watching, and hopeful for true change and new beginnings. One cannot simply pronounce change; once must do it.
#2.3.1 Anon. on 2009-07-23 17:36
You can read St. Vladimir's Seminary's independently audited financial reports here: http://www.svots.edu/governance/financials.html/
And the news blurb detailing their budget cuts here: http://www.svots.edu/News/Recent/2009-0518-board-trustees-financial-situation/
Gasp! All this financial information! You'd almost think they were trying to be open and honest or something!
SVS doesn't need me or anybody else to speak for them. I'll admit my explanation for their silence is nothing more than a guess, but I think it contains valid, sensible reasons for what they did. It's at least as likely as anything else, and I thought it might help people give them the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming that SVS either didn't care or was complicit in the former OCA administration's wrongdoing. And I argued for their financial accountability on the basis of publicly-available information. But I'm not sure if the folks who run SVS read this website, at least not in a way where they could leave an official comment, so they may not even be aware of your concerns.
If you want to get their attention, maybe you can drop them a line and ask for the clarification you want: http://www.svots.edu/Staff/index.html/ You'd probably have to identify yourself and stop slandering them behind their backs, but surely that's a worthy price for the answers you seek, right?
#220.127.116.11 Cordelia on 2009-07-24 08:08
Slander Cordelia? Please. One cannot slander a public institution. The folks at SVS are learned, articulate individuals who can speak for themselves, in public, if they choose. They are public figures, accountable not only to themselves and to the students, but to the whole Church. This silence is sophistry. For that record, that is an opinion.
#18.104.22.168.1 Anon. on 2009-07-27 21:29
Has it occurred to you that they may not even be aware of your allegations? Not everybody in the OCA reads this website. That's why I gave you their contact information, so you could pose all the questions you like directly to them and be assured of a response.
But somehow, I get the feeling you prefer to hurl damaging, baseless allegations from behind your anonymity. And then you scurry back under the rock, while the lies do their damage against innocent people. That being the case, you have no right to lecture St. Vlad's on when to be silent and when to speak.
#22.214.171.124.1.1 Cordelia on 2009-07-29 18:35
OK Cordelia, you want specifics?
1. Where were the learned SVS faculty when Dn. Eric Wheeler took a stand and refused to sign the audit in the late 1990's? Dn. Eric lost his job and they kept theirs in their silence. How did such silence glorify God?
2. Where were the learned SVS faculty when mandate after mandate was passed, then ignored by Syosset, thus ignoring the Will of the Spirit in Council? The whole Church has suffered and they kept their jobs in their silence. How did such silence glorify God?
3. Where were the learned SVS faculty when $5 million in stolen funds was sloshing around in the greater New York area right under their noses; fueling extravagant behaviors of Church officials and their cronies? Unless these learned individuals had their heads in the sand, they at least saw these behaviors and kept their jobs in their silence. How did such silence glorify God?
4. Where were the learned SVS faculty when the Metropolitan Council's authority was being so clearly usurped by an out-of-control Administrative Committee and largely profligate Synod of Bishops? They labored under these abuses and kept their jobs in their silence. How did such silence glorify God?
5. If the whole Church cannot depend upon the ostensibly most theologically learned in our Church to speak up and speak out for moral and ethical abuses at the center of the Church, who can they depend upon? Instead, the learned at SVS kept their jobs in their silence. How did such silence glorify God?
I posit that the theologically learned in the Church have a solemn responsibility to use that knowledge to speak up and speak out when they see abuses in the Church that are founded on theological malpractice. If they do not, who will? Clearly very few. Before Dn. Eric were many, like me, who labored to speak up about these abuses, but were shouted down by the theologically silent. Make no mistake, SVS may be reforming now, but many who hung on to their jobs at all costs cannot escape culpability for the collective silence that settled over the OCA for decades like a wet blanket; failing at every opportunity to speak out against the abuses on behalf of the whole Church.
I posit that had the theologically learned amongst us spoken out against the abuses; and yes, some even losing their jobs for standing up for right; perhaps the Church could have been spared these decades of abuse. They had a duty to speak up. We pay them to speak up. Their jobs are to educate the whole Church, not just their students. Sometimes that calling must pay a price. Many, not all, refused to pay it. I do not intend to paint everyone at SVS with one brush. That would unfair, but as an institution it is my opinion that the accountability for this silence has not yet been addressed.
Knowing my identity does not change anything. The facts are the facts. Let's address the facts for a change. The list of pregnant silences from SVS is much longer than the items listed above. It is time for a moral restitution among our theologically learned.
#126.96.36.199.1.1.1 Anonymous on 2009-07-30 19:15
"Although we are all accountable to one another before God, the high vocation of oversight pertains in a unique way to you, the bishops. Our sincere hope is that you will not neglect the gift granted to you, the calling to preserve the body and lead the faithful, listening attentively to the needs and concerns of the whole people of God ó clergy and laity alike ó in the spirit of love and gentleness. We implore you to be diligent in these matters, since, as the Apostle teaches, you will thereby save both yourself and your flock." - excerpt from the Statement of the Faculty Council of St Vladimir's Seminary, March 2008
I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty tough to me, considering Met Herman was in the process of flushing St Tikhon's down the toilet (it's a monastery, a seminary, a breath mint, whatever.)
You state over and over that the faculty "kept their jobs in their silence". Are you under some impression that St Vlad's is a particularly glamorous and luxurious place of employment? I think that would come as a surprise to the faculty. Sure, SVS is fairly well-regarded among people who have actually heard of it, and I'm not trying to cast aspersions upon their reputation at all. But, for the most part, I think it is a sacrifice to work there as opposed to working at a wealthier or more well-known institution.
I think you are right in the sense that working at an Orthodox seminary, versus a purely academic institution, is its own position of responsibility in the Church. But who says that everyone who works at SVS is supposed to police Syosset, even when they might be somewhat occupied already by running a seminary and keeping it solvent? Who are you to tell them what their responsibilities are? How can you tell them how to define that position? Who made you their judge?
And what is the deal with this five million dollars at Syosset? Do you think SVS has it? Do they have a treasure chest at the bottom of Crestwood Lake or something?
Where I was at the start of the OCA scandal, I didn't know who or what to believe. I just tried to stay out of it and I hoped that it would resolve itself. I may be biased but I don't think that was a dishonorable way of dealing with a crisis that I had nothing to do with and knew very little about. SVS's admittedly sparse commentary on the crisis bears some of the same sentiment. They are much more savvy than I am with regard to OCA internal politicking, but their above-quoted statement is a stern, if carefully-worded, rebuke of the complicit hierarchs, and certainly reaches further than the Alaska scandal at which it was overtly aimed.
I really don't understand how you can expect your accusations to be taken seriously when you bounce between accusing SVS of being part of the theft, and merely criticizing SVS as being morally deficient for not saying enough. If any accusation had any merit, I think you would have presented some sort of evidence by now instead of rehashing the same idle speculation, and throwing around moral judgments you are not qualified to make.
I'm tired of seeing unfounded allegations being thrown around. The OCA and Antiochians have enough to deal with without rumor-mongering. This goes for everybody!
#188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206 Cordelia on 2009-08-07 21:11
Progress? Maybe, but is it true that SVS no longer requires Theological degrees of all of its faculty? Can you imagine the illustrious deans of the past approving THAT?
#2.4 Anonymous on 2009-07-27 18:07
Glory to God!
Thank you so much Fr. Touma.
May God Bless You!
#3 Sub-Deacon George Saikali (St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral - Ottawa, Can on 2009-07-23 03:41
Amazing. Wonderful. Prophetic. Rain on a dry, thirsty, land.
Fr John Chagnon
St. Elias Orthodox Church
Actually, I am now persuaded it might be a good thing for our next Metropolitan to be from the Old Country, so long as it's Archimandrite Touma.
#5 Subdeacon David [Yetter] on 2009-07-23 06:18
It's worth linking back to the Arabic original, which can be found at http://www.holytrinityfamily.org/print/POL2009/juillet12.pdf .
Also, this translation was originally made at http://araborthodoxy.blogspot.com/2009/07/archimandrite-touma-bitar-on.html and has slowly been creeping across the internet unattributed. The translator originally asked for readers to point out any errors or improvements that could be made in the translation, and I think this request still bears out....
#6 Anonymous on 2009-07-23 07:49
Archimandrite Touma Speaks Again: "Pastoral Care and the Crisis of Power"
Another new and excellent essay by Fr. Touma to be found here:
Small excerpt: "Thus they [servants of Christ] claim service and they insist that they are servants of God, all the while wielding power through the spirit of the world. They call for Christian love but they do not love. They always have their excuses. They call for tending the flock of Christ but they only tend their own notions and their own passions. They call for mutual forgiveness but they hate and take revenge. They call for guarding the lost sheep but they drive away people. They call for the worship of God but in the depths of their souls they only seek veneration and honor and flattering words. With words, they show zeal for the Gospel but in their inner hearts they only have zeal for what is theirís. Their honor is above Christís honor! They go against the smallest ordinance of the Church for a tiny gain and they consider it pastoral care and economy! They hold services but they only worship themselves and what is theirís: their appearance and their voice and their clothes and their sermon. Their concern is for people to hold fast to them and not to God and for the people to speak well of them."
#7 Heracleides on 2009-07-23 20:47
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