Monday, October 2. 2006
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Dear Fr. John Dresko, my former babysitter and one-time next-door neighbor,
You and I, I believe, have the same goal and desire in our hearts, which the the health of the Orthodox Church in America. In some details, you and I have vastly different opinions on how to acheive that health. In a few areas, we may actually agree. I hope we can see past our differences in approach and at least agree that we both desire the health of the Church.
I found some of what you wrote very edifying. However, I believe much of it is based on a fallacy that I happened to address in the Sept. 26 ("Rock Emails") Comments section last week. I will not repeat them here. We disagree; so be it.
What I must address here is an unfortunate error in your conclusion. In your reflection, you quote me as saying that I find our Church to be "pathetic." I challenge anyone to find one time I have ever said that our Church is pathetic. A while back, I once wrote that the idea of waiting for a federal prosecutor to determine the future of our church, as an idea, is pathetic. But I have never, and would never, say that the Church herself is pathetic.
Priest Christopher Wojcik
#1 Priest Christopher Wojcik on 2006-10-02 11:30
Thanks for making me feel so old. We do indeed desire the same thing, the health of our beloved Church.
I apologize for misreading your reflection and making the error about your comments.
For anyone with the eyes to see, my reflection is not, of course, a defense of anyone. I'm as disturbed as anyone else about "what" happened. But I still do not know "how" it happened, and none of us will until the investigation is complete. If the investigation proves to be a sham (and I hope it is not), I will join your voices.
The reflection is an appeal for an elevation of the discourse. It is an appeal that the foremost thought in all of our minds should be the recovery and health of the Church. The vitriol and venom seen as you scroll down this page is also a "reflection."
You're a fine man and a fine priest. I'm glad my babysitting led to something good.
#1.1 Fr John on 2006-10-03 03:42
Fr. Dresko's "reflection" exemplifies almost everything that is wrong with the current administration. His comments are a testament to the cancer that has clouded the reason and common sense of so many in Syosset. I'm glad the OCANews has posted it to remind everyone just how bad things really are and how many continue to blame the innocent for the evil and wrongdoing of their own.
Our Mother needs surgery. To remove the cancer that is eating her from within and to repair the damage done to the liver.
I think I share the opinion of most critics when I say we have offered and continue to offer to pay for treatment. But we will not pay to continue the habits that have caused the illness of our Beloved Mother Church. Nor will we pay for treatment that is, at best, ineffective.
Our Mother will not let Doctors, Nurses, and Technicians into the room. She is what we in the healthcare profession call a "non-compliant patient".
Are we to stand by while our Mother refuses treatment? Are we to be happy with the physician who tells us, "I'm sorry, but I cannot discuss your Mother's condition with you -- only her."
Wait a minute. Aren't I her?
I agree that Syosset has been painted with a broad brush. By no means did I understand that 277 presbyters and hierarchs worked in Syosset. Would those people not better serve the church in parishes rather than in Syosset?
I'm sorry -- that's disengenuous of me. I understand the presbyter to point out that most of the work of the Church is done by volunteers or part-time staff, none of which are based in Syosset as full-time work. I believe most of us realize that point.
Havign said that, what exactly is the point of the full-time staff based at the Chancery, on the payroll of the central church? If most of the work is already being done by staff "in the field", then the elimination of the remaining full-time staff in Syosset shouldn't be too much of a burden to bear.
The appeal is heavy on sentimentality, but not very good on analogy (or facts). The diagnosis hasn't changed. Surgery is called for, and without surgery, our Mother will indeed die.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#3 Marty Watt on 2006-10-02 12:13
Yep, Marty, you nailed it on this point--you're her--or, rather, you're part of her. I won't take time to read all the comments, but I'm glad to see someone saw this egregious flaw in the analogy. We're all in the Body of Christ. We are NOT outside of her. Does that not mean we pray and have compassion as Fr. John requests? Of course. And some of us have gotten carried away. With that said, we are in Her and as such, should be working to further the anti-body system. Ultimately, the anti-body system works through councils and bishops, but that does not means priests and laity have no role. Fr. John's call to compassion is heeded. If Fr. John is willing to recognize a more accurate rendering of the analogy, however, one in which we are IN the Church, in Her, then perhaps he would also come to see that most of the people on this site (and in discussions elsewhere) are not screaming and sending away the doctors. To the contrary, many of us are seeking to help rid the Body of a disease, however painful that procedure may be.
#3.1 Fr. Oliver Herbel on 2006-10-03 10:16
I grew up the grandson and godson of priests, and am now the son-in-law of a priest. For this reason --- and for others, especially including respect --- I am extremely hesitant to enter into a very public argument with clergy. But I'm going to make an exception for Fr. John Dresko, because he has now made this a very personal fight, managing to call me a coward, a quitter, and a liar, all in a single paragraph of his Reflection.
I will not add my voice here to criticism of Fr. Dresko's view of the OCA as a sick and ailing mother. That poor analogy has been effectively countered recently by Fr. Christopher Wojcik and others, who point out that the Church, our "mother" in this case, is ailing only because she has been the victim of abuse and assaults on her by former and present members of the central church administration. (One might also add that perhaps our sick mother is in intensive care because her critical medical records have disappeared or been shredded; because money given for her care has been diverted; or because her doctors won't seek a second opinion. But, as I say, that is not why I write here.)
No, what I must answer here is a single paragraph in Fr. Dresko's Reflection:
It is so easy to sit at a keyboard and solve the problems of the world and the Church. It is so much more difficult to actually govern and face the questions that those in administration face. Gregg Nescott has been very loquacious in his analysis of the current state of affairs. He has even misrepresented the development of the Fair Share program and slandered my name and intentions in the desire to build his case before the eyes of the internet crowd. He has become a hero for his "courageous" stand. But when push came to shove, he quit the Metropolitan Council rather than stay and do the heavy lifting of change. So much easier to comment from afar and behind a screen than to face people with their faults and failings, but also with their virtues and personalities. He is not the only one, nor is such a cowardly approach limited to laymen alone."*)
Although I suppose I should feel perversely honored that I was the sole layman to be criticized in Fr. Dresko's Reflection, I must admit that being called a coward, a quitter, and a liar by a priest of the Church is a bit much to swallow. So allow me to respond to these very serious charges.
1. COWARDICE Fr. Dresko first disparages me and others who have spoken out as "keyboard commentators", cowards hiding behind their computers. Well, I am a coward. I fear snakes, rats, and those who abuse their power and trust. But to name me, as Fr. Dresko does, as the poster boy for this "cowardly approach" is plainly ludicrous.
I am hardly an internet habituate. A Luddite of sorts, I rarely visited the internet before July 2005, when I heard about the Orthodox Forum website and the debate raging there on finances in the Church, with Fr. Dresko a frequent and caustic participant. I had never posted a response on any internet website until November 4, 2005, three days after the release of Protodeacon Wheeler's allegations, when I wrote on the Orthodox Forum. My postings, until this one, have been relatively sober in tone and few in number, appearing only on the Orthodox Forum or OCANews.
Although I strongly believe that the intimidation we have seen these past months entitles people to post anonymously, I sign my posts. Those who may disagree with me know where to find me.
Furthermore, as everyone --- including Fr. Dresko --- knows, I have never hesitated to stand up and speak openly on problems in the Church, while the internet was still in its infancy. Just ask anyone who has sat with me at parish meetings, diocesan assemblies, Metropolitan Council meetings back to the 1980s, and All-American Councils. (Fr. Dresko may recall the AAC in Chicago in 1995, when Syosset and the Holy Synod attempted to pass a motion that would make AACs less frequent, changing the periodicity from three to five years. I spoke against that motion on the floor, in a spirited debate that managed to invoke the name of O. J. Simpson. The motion was defeated, even though those who opposed it made no friends among the members of the Holy Synod, who all voted by raising high their "Yes" cards, in a failed effort.)
So, I am a coward? Like others, I have been punished over the past 11 months for simply seeking the truth. I have received threatening letters, have been denied the right to run for parish office, attempts have been made to silence me, and, most regrettably, two pastors I have long respected now barely speak to me, and several of our dearest friends are now distant. But I understand that is all part of the price to be paid. As another of those nettlesome keyboard cowboys likes to quote Dr. Martin Luther King: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Furthermore, I did not broadly and cowardly enter into internet commentary before first taking my concerns privately to the Church, as is required. I spoke with my diocesan bishop for hours last January, and sent a 17-page letter to Metropolitan Herman at the same time, outlining my concerns about the growing scandal. I wrote then, and later spoke with our Primate of the likelihood of national media coverage, resulting criminal investigations, and the loss of trust and support that was sure to follow, outlining to him the urgent need for forthrightly investigating and answering the allegations. (Indeed, in his answer to Question #2 of an interview posted on the OCA.org website on September 14, Metropolitan Herman acknowledged at least two individuals who privately approached him, before airing their concerns in public.)
Finally, as regards Fr. Dresko's contempt for cowardly internet commentators, he and others who continue to attack 'the evil internet' must understand that the world has changed and that the internet, for all its faults, can be an unmatched tool for communication. That applies even more so here, where concerns about financial improprieties would never have been published on the OCA website, controlled by Syosset. There, even so-called press releases of Metropolitan Council meetings continue to be "spun" to reflect the position of the administrators writing them, and not necessarily that of the Council. It is safe to say that without OCANews and the Orthodox Forum, the now-admitted misappropriation and loss of funds would never have been made public, but rather hidden, "for the good of the Church." And that would have benefitted absolutely no one but Fr. Dresko and his cohorts at Syosset.
Courage? Cowardice? It is Fr. Dresko who has sat on the sidelines since last November, even before he became a full-time Syosset employee, saying not a word about this scandal. An insider, he didn't even sign the letter of 70 senior clergy, which merely asked for a proper investigation. The silence coming from a man not known for his shyness or reticence was positively deafening. Only now does he speak out, after the Lesser Synod and the Metropolitan Council have been told that so many records have disappeared that proper audits cannot even be attempted. Only now Fr. Dresko steps forward, asking for fewer comments from "the villagers with pitchforks and torches", bearing the "mob mentality", by which I suppose he is contemptuously referring to the people of the Church. Only now does he pose as a voice of moderation, an opportunist desperately trying to distance himself from his sponsor in the central administration of the Church, Fr. Kondratick, and the cesspool that has become Syosset.
2. QUITTING On top of calling me a coward, Fr. Dresko says I'm a quitter for resigning my Metropolitan Council seat in July 2005, rather than staying on and doing "the heavy lifting of change." Yet I sat on Metropolitan Council at various times since 1977 (or 1980 - I can't recall), and fought for years to effect change. When I attempted to attend the Fall 1999 Metropolitan Council meeting, as the alternate to the Council elected by the AAC in Pittsburgh that same year, to discuss the allegations of financial misconduct raised by OCA Auditor John Kozey, I was barred from attending by the former Metropolitan.
I warned my diocesan assemblies for at least the past five years about how much power had been usurped by the Chancellor and the Administrative Committee, rendering the Metropolitan Council and even the Holy Synod ineffective bystanders in the governance of the Church.
When Fr. Kondratick had the temerity in June 2005 to reject out-of-hand the reasonable request of the Diocese of the Midwest and its Bishop to provide more detailed financial accounting at the upcoming AAC in Toronto, I honestly believed that all hope was lost. Syosset firmly ruled the Church, and if a senior Archbishop and his people couldn't change that culture, what could I possibly do? My July 10, 2005 letter of resignation from the Metropolitan Council sent to Archbishop Kyrill and Metropolitan Herman outlined my frustration over the lack of accountability, the emasculation of the Metropolitan Council, and the dangerous consolidation of power in the hands of a few.
Of course, I resigned from the Metropolitan Council four months before the allegations of Protodeacon Wheeler were published, and six months before OCANews was born. Hindsight being 20/20, had I dreamed that these events were to occur, and that much of the Church would be awakened from its 20-year slumber, I would not have resigned but stayed to fight a while longer.
Yes, in July 2005, I resigned my Council seat. After so many years of fighting, and considering the state of the church administration at that moment, I seriously doubt whether anyone other than Fr. Dresko would dare to call me a quitter.
3. LYING And that brings me to Fr. Dresko's last charge: that I "misrepresented " the development of his "Fair Share" program and "slandered" his name and intentions 'in building my case for the internet crowd.' So, I'm a liar? Well, let's look at the facts.
On August 9, OCANews published a Reflection I wrote entitled, "The Metropolitan Council: Why Didn't They Do Their Jobs?" In that piece I wrote how the Council had become emasculated, and I used as an example the rubber-stamp, near unanimous approval, with little debate, of Fr. Dresko's Fair Share plan by the Council in Spring 2002. That plan, as originally presented, would have handed a blank check to Syosset, in place of then-existing limits on assessments approved by each All-American Council. These are the "lies" to which Fr. Dresko refers.
Without repeating that entire discussion here, this is what happened.
By 1999, the millions in Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Andreas Foundation "discretionary" funds pouring into the OCA had dried up, following OCA Auditor John Kozey's exposure of the secret accounts. With that piggy bank broken, Syosset had to create a new source of funds to replace those lost to ADM, while continuing to fund the budgeted programs of the OCA. By 1999, Fr. Dresko was recruited to develop the Fair Share plan.
In the Spring of 2002, Fr. Dresko presented his Fair Share creation to the Metropolitan Council (MC) for preliminary approval, before its presentation to the AAC in Orlando later that year. The key point here is that the original Fair Share outlined by Fr. Dresko to the MC had absolutely no ceiling, no cap. Where the existing per capita assessment system permitted the AACs to set a dollar limit on the yearly assessment, Fair Share, once approved by an AAC, would contain no such limit. Once Fair Share passed, Syosset, through the Administrative Committee, would present a budget containing its wish list and, following the normal pro forma review by the MC and the Holy Synod, the annual per capita increases to support the budget would be proportionately passed on to the dioceses to collect from the parishes. There would be no more AAC votes to interfere with or limit the size of the yearly budget increases. The proposal offered, indeed, a blank check for Syosset.
It is a fact that when Fr. Dresko presented his plan to the Metropolitan Council in 2002, he could scarcely contain his glee when he told the Council 'the beauty of Fair Share is that, once it passes, we will never again have to seek approval from an All-American Council for funding of the national church.' With precious few questions from the MC members, Fair Share, including the blank check provision, was approved by all the members of the MC but one, for consideration by the Orlando AAC.
In the meantime, word of the blank check aspects of Fair Share began to circulate through the Church. By the time Fair Share arrived in Orlando, the AAC approved the plan, but only after first inserting an annual per capita limit --- a restriction that exists to this day --- essentially retaining the assessment system under the new Fair Share name, and depriving Syosset of a windfall to replace the ADM millions.
Fr. Dresko did not respond on OCANews to my Reflection concerning the roots of the Fair Share plan, but he did respond on the Orthodox Forum on August 3, after my comments were published there. His response to my account of the history of Fair Share:
(* While essentially correct, I believe that this is taken out of context and misquoted…Where Gregg is wrong, I believe, is in his recollection of my comment…My comment was that we would never again have to discuss the funding METHOD at an AAC if FS passed."*)
Method, shmethod! No matter how worthy Fr. Dresko's attempts to encourage tithing in the OCA and a new system to increase funding for national programs may have been --- and these were indeed desirable goals --- any plan that would have put Syosset in charge of determining how much each diocese should pay every year --- especially considering what we now know about Syosset's demonstrated casual attitude toward bookkeeping and receipts --- was a monumentally bad idea. Fr. Dresko's protestations that his intent was pure, and that he only wanted to spare the AACs from discussing the "method" for raising monies for Syosset is disingenuous: taking the AAC out of those discussions would leave the amount of the annual per capita increases ("Fair Share") firmly in the control of Syosset, since the AAC, of course, doesn't vote on budgets.
And was it a coincidence that the Fair Share plan concocted and proposed by Fr. Dresko and Syosset came on the heels of the embarrassing events of 1999: the alarm raised by John Kozey of financial chicanery; the resolution passed secretly by the Holy Synod at the AAC in Pittsburgh in 1999, retroactively deeming the millions in ADM funds received and spent as "discretionary" and non-auditable; and the abrupt shutting off of the ADM money spigot immediately thereafter? A blank check for Syosset from the original Fair Share proposal was just what the doctor ordered, developed by a man Syosset recruited.
In his own words on the Orthodox Forum this past August, Fr. Dresko exposed the original blank check aspects of Fair Share as a fraud. He wrote then that Fair Share worked in his diocese and his parishes abd should work for the OCA, adding, "Does it take good faith and good will on the part of the administration and the donors? Yes. Does it take careful monitoring and reporting? Yes. Does it take auditing and clear lines of spending authority? Yes."
In light of the revelations of the past 11 months, we can see clearly now why the blank check aspects of Fair Share were indeed a scam. Good faith and good will on the part of Syosset?? Careful monitoring and reporting?? Auditing and clean lines of spending authority?? You've got to be kidding! What we know today is that any proper, complete audits had stopped before 1999; that large expenses were undocumented and often in cash; and that crucial financial records have disappeared.
Whatever good intentions Fr. Dresko may have brought to his work in stewardship and toward better funding of the programs of the national church were compromised by the manner in which Fair Share was initially presented in 2002, and by recent disclosures, now admitted by the Church, that by 2002, the central administration was headlong into running a Ponzi scheme that secretly diverted special appeals to who knows what other purposes. The blank check aspect of Fair Share would have enabled Syosset to continue the Ponzi scheme for who knows how many years. Fr. Dresko was the architect of that plan.
Fr. Dresko was closely allied with the Kondratick administration long before he was named last January to a job as OCA Director of Development, taking him out of parish life and rewarding him with a full-time position at Syosset. I can't count how many times over the past years that both Fr. Kondratick and Fr. Dresko emphasized in their reports and comments the need for a full-time director of development at Syosset, a position that was reserved for Fr. Dresko. (There is, of course, the question of how, in good conscience, Syosset could have already been paying three full-time employees in 2005 whose expertise was fund-raising --- Fr. Vansuch (FOS), Fr. Fester (former FOS boss, then special assistant to the Chancellor), and David Lucs (whose duties included responsibility for special appeals) --- yet brazenly managed to hire Fr. Dresko as yet another full-time fund raiser, at a time when the OCA was already drowning in at least $1.7 million in debt. And this came at a time when there was no money for full-time employees for programs that really mattered: missions, education, clergy assistance, youth work.)
Our OCA today clings to life support, with trust and credibility in Syosset in tatters, including the credibility of those who hope to continue to represent the national church in fundraising and other endeavors. The Fair Share plan that Fr. Dresko presented to the Metropolitan Council in 2002 was indeed a Trojan Horse, a blank check that would have permitted Syosset to fill its wish list every year --- with the assistance of an Administrative Committee completely controlled by Syosset, the meek assent of a docile Metropolitan Council, and a nod from the Holy Synod --- with absolutely no input from the All-American Councils. It seems to me that trust in the central church administration can only be restored after a most thorough housecleaning.
As I stated at the outset of this too-long Comment, I regret having to publicly respond in this fashion to a priest of our Church. It grieves me to do so. But my wise father told me this years ago: "When you come to the end of your life, power, money, and prestige are meaningless. All you have of value is your good name."
Fr. Dresko has publicly called me a coward, a quitter, and a liar, willfully seeking to destroy my good name. I cannot let that go unanswered.
Gregg Nescott, Pittsburgh
#4 Gregg Nescott on 2006-10-02 12:15
My Mother-in-law passed away four years ago this month. She died of congetive heart failure five years to the day after a team of doctors at the Cleveland Clinic told her she had five years to live if she did not make radical changes to her lifestyle: quit smoking immediately, exercise, take physical therapy, change her diet drastically. Despite the begging and pleading of her husband and children, she would not even try to change: She said she liked smoking, it was her only pleasure. She said it hurt too much to move--it burned and tingled becuase her muscles were so weak from unuse. She said healthy food tasted horrible, and loaded her plate with salt and chunks of butter. My Mother-in-law is dead, because she chose to ignore the expert advice given to her, kept on a path she knew would lead to disaster, and brushed aside her family and friends' offers of support and help.
We miss her, and we love her.
But please DO NOT SAY THAT WE CAUSED HER DEATH!
Are we evil, unloving children because we poked and nagged her to move, to get off the couch? Because we threw away her cigarettes and high-fat, salt-laden frozen dinners? Because we loaded her in the car, and instead of driving her to BINGO or the hair salon, took her to doctors' appointments she didn't want to attend and cried or swore the whole way through? Because we repeated every day what the doctors at Cleveland Clinic said... both on good days, and as she was being wheeled into emergency again? YOU ARE VERY SICK, AND YOU NEED TO CARE ABOUT GETTING WELL! WE LOVE YOU AND DON'T WANT TO LOSE YOU!
Father, your analogy struck very close to home because of its timing... I purchased an anniversary wreath for my Mother-in-law's grave today, and our family will place it tonight. If she had listened, if only she had LISTENED and ACTED, my children would not be visiting her in a cemetary.
The administration of the OCA has not listened either. They were alerted to their condition in 1999, correct? And they continued on, unhindered...
Please give the worried faithful of the OCA some credit for loving their Mother, even if She won't listen to advice that could save her life.
#5 A parishioner in the Midwest on 2006-10-02 12:19
It takes a tremendous amount of gall, for someone connected to the Syosset meltdown, and on its payroll, to upbraid the courageous lay and clerical leaders who have spoken the truth and done nothing but ask for the same in return!
The "mother" analogy is, quite truthfully, trite and puerile. The "critics," whatever their varying points of view, are of one mind in wanting to rehabilitate and resuscitate our floundering Church. If anyone is "pulling the plug" it is those resisting repentance and reform.
In a nut shell, Fr. Dresko's rant, and boy is it a rant, contributes nothing to calming the waters and responsibly reacting to the ever growing outrage throughtout the OCA to continued stonewalling and unaccoutability. In that respect, it perfectly reflects the point of view of those it seeks to defend.
#6 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-10-02 12:21
Father John, I'm not sure how many folks on here will appreciate your words. Personally, your reflection is probably the best reading I've done on this website for some time.
One comment that stuck out to me concerning our friends of the midwest (of which I'm one). They now have the freedom to speak and have not stopped since. I find one thing peculiar though, none of them bad-mouthed their Archbishop about what went on during the meeting of the Lesser Synod. Everyone else was fair-game as usual. The usual badgering of the Metropolitan and Fr Kondratick. I guess six months from now, +Archbishop Job will come online and give us his side of the story. So the midwesterners can again annoint him as the "HERO" of the OCA. Nonetheless, they met and came out of the meetings as one. We'll see what happens!!!
Now that I'm done ranting. Fr Dresko, I say AMEN to you. An absolutely fabulous post. Thank you!!
#7 Michael Livosky on 2006-10-02 12:24
Mr. Livosky should not be surprised that we Midwesterners are not inclined to bad-mouth our beloved Archbishop Job. On the eve of Holy Monday, with faithful from many parishes present at Holy Trinity Cathedral as is customary for the first Bridegroom Matins, he spoke candidly to his people about the church's situation, publicly repenting of his own complicity though silence in the meetings of the Holy Synod, and solemnly asking our forgiveness. As never before, I had a palpable sense of being the local Church united in love and respect around her bishop. If all those implicated in the "scandal" would follow his example, perhaps God would quickly grant us healing. You may read Abp. Job's very moving and profoundly Christian remarks elsewhere on this site. (I put "scandal" in quotation marks, since I believe this term tends to trivialize our situation. I prefer to call the OCA's predicament a "crisis", which means an occasion of judgment.)
#7.1 Anna Strelka on 2006-10-02 14:13
I hope I'm not the only one who saw the report over the weekend of the arrest warrants issued for two Roman Catholic priests who skimmed the collection plates (to the tune of $8 million).
Let it not be said the government will not prosecute clergy.
The article I read indicated the clergy had done "some good things" with the money, but also spent it on girlfriends, trips to Vegas, and multiple (expensive) homes and condos.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#8 Marty Watt on 2006-10-02 12:34
I would like to address two issues that Fr. Dresko has mentioned.
First of all, in his list of reputable clergy he includes Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) [of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the West]. Fr. Dresko states: "ALL of the presbyters and bishops mentioned (including me) chair a department, board or commission. Some head institutions. I will go on record, speaking for every single one of them, in saying before God and anyone reading this, that we are not dishonest and duplicitous. I demand two or three reputable witnesses to testify against me."
I will be that witness! I will stand before Fr. Dresko, the entire Holy Synod, the MC and the entire OCA membership to testify that Bishop Tikhon is NOT someone who is honest or ethical. Worse, he has acted and continues to conduct himself in many instances in direct contradiction to Christ and many of the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church. He seems to have forsaken many of his holy and sacramental duties and supported (through his inaction and refusal to repent) the persecution of the very Church and Orthodox Christians he has a sworn duty to protect and serve. I can also find at least a dozen others who can verify what I have said.
Second of all, I would also like to address Fr. Dresko comments that: "God is not purging our Church - He is testing it. And we have failed the test on both sides of the questions. He doesn’t want anyone “purged.” Purified, perhaps. But not 'purged.'"
Fr. Dresko, you may want to remind Bishop Tikhon (SF, LA, and the West) regarding the "purged" vs. "purified" distinction. He seemed very happy indeed to report that several Orthodox Christians and their families, were "flushed" (synonym to "purged") from the parish he personally helped destroy through his inaction and continuing refusal to see the truth.
"I am happy to report that Saint Innocent Church [Tarzana, California] is in good condition, after undergoing a "high colonic" whereby a couple giant egos moved out. They are even ahead of other parishes in meeting their financial obligations! The parish is an essentially healthy organism and it managed to fight off infections without any antibiotics being administered by the Diocese.
+Bishop Tikhon – email from 5/12/2002 @ 11:22PM"
"I believe no one, even former treasurers and editors of web sites, knows exactly what did or didn’t happen."
NO ONE knows? The money vanished supernaturally? What is true is that NO ONE is ADMITTING to what did or didn't happen; as a result our Mother the Church continues to suffer.
#10 NJ_OCA on 2006-10-02 12:56
Did the money vanish OR did the receipts vanish?
Let's begin there!!!!!
#10.1 Anonymous on 2006-10-02 15:20
OK, the money was spent / disbursed for who knows what, and the receipts vanished. The point is it's childishly dishonest to say no one knows. What no one is doing is confessing and repenting, which is why there has been no healing.
#10.1.1 NJ_OCA on 2006-10-02 18:58
The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is "the mother of us all," and "the Jerusalem above is free" (Gal 4:26). Fr. Dresko's extended metaphor appears to confuse the current/recent administration of the OCA with the true Church, which is and will always remain the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ and will be presened to Him without spot or wrinkle. It is this true Church which is our mother. If certain members who have been incorporated into the Body of Christ have been guilty of "hard living" which has given rise to cancer, the cancerous members may need to be surgically excised before the Body can return to health. Of course this should be done as charitably as possible, but it would be irresponsible to deny or delay treatment to our true Mother because of the pain it may cause to her diseased members. Surely such surgery, painful as it may be, would work for the salvation of the diseased members as well as for the good of the Church.
#11 Anna Strelka on 2006-10-02 13:16
Dear Father John: I have waited (somewhat) patiently for an audit report for 2001-2005. Now we have learned that there cannot be an audit, because of a lack of records. As a CPA with over 30 years of audit experience, I can tell you that an auditor knows very early on when there is a lack sufficient audit evidence. VERY early on. So either the auditors have been dodging telling the truth to Met. Herman, or we have been fed a line for the past six months.
Father John, we, the faithful members of the Holy American Orthodox Church, have been lied to for nigh 20 years. How much more are we to endure? Don't we deserve some honest answers to some honest questions?
#12 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-10-02 13:33
If you were sending money to support your Mother and found that she was using that money not for food, clothing, or other necessities; rather, she was using that support for cigarettes and booze and other destructive lifestyle choices, would you, Fr. John, keep sending her money so that she could finish killing herself?
This thinking of yours is as "sick" as your mother's "lifestyle" described in your article. It is a co-dependency leading to death for both parent and child.
No one wants his mother to die and neither do we want her to kill herself – but to stand by and keep enabling her destructive ways and describe this as normal and what we must do is the sickest of all. I will not help to kill my Mother by enabling her in her destructive ways.
Fr. Andrew Moore
#13 fr. Andrew on 2006-10-02 13:49
You have confused our Mother, the One Holy Catholic and Apostlic Church, with the nanny, the institution known as the Orthodox Church in America. Our Mother the Church existed long before her and will endure long after her days come to an end. The terminal hacking and weezing you may be hearing comes not from the altar, but from the vestry!
This crisis is about the servants of our Mother the Church, not a crisis of our Mother the Church in service to the One Who Is. Because those servants are accountable to God (as are we all) it makes the crisis all the more painful to endure since we look to those same servants for guidance and as examples to us in our discipleship of Christ. This is the very exhortation of the Apostle Peter when he writes in the Catholic Epistle: "Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock." (I Peter 5:2-3)
This example also extends to repentance and amendment of life. The coffers have been pilfered, a loan has been secured to make restitution--yet the restitution has not occurred! "It's all in the past," we are told, "The crises they were to address are over." Now the first wrong is compounded with a second, and still the coffers remain pilfered!
No, Fr. John, there will be no pulling the plug on Mom (there's no plug to pull); it's time to fire the nannys! They're not helping our Mother and they are a cause for scandal among her children looking for teachers, guides and examples with whom they might to grow up and mature to their full stature in Christ.
While I do not doubt your sincerity and love for the OCA, your analogy is deeply flawed and short-sighted. The Church on Earth and in America is much bigger than our little ecclesiastical "nursery." To presume otherwise is neither right or safe. The Apostolic ministry to which God has called us all has laid dormant too long because of this bufoonery and its time to look to the Holy Spirit--preferably at an immanent All-American Council--- for a fresh start.
#14 Fr. Robert K. McMeekin on 2006-10-02 14:24
I'll admit to being a 'keyboard commentator'. Do I enjoy this? H__L NO! I'd rather eat ice cream!
I have never said it would be easy for the church to correct her path and have always said its easier for all of us to comment that do the work required. I have in fact continued to offer objective perspectives and requests and even criticized many of the things Fr. Dresko criticizes. I believe the path in the right direction will be difficult and take a long time to get right.
I have said that under certain circumstances certain people really need to resign and I have asked for the resignation of returning MC members that were reelected in 2005 and with very sound basis. They aren't competant to help and have proven it.
They may be Fr. Dresko's friends, but using his analogy they have failed to keep the Mother from getting sick and failed to identify her illness timely and prevention/early detection is far better than chemotherapy.
You don't wait until the pronouncement that your Mother is dying if you love her. You demand that she stops her bad behavior, in 1999, or 2000, or 2001, or 2002, or 2003, or 2004, or 2005. You tell the people that love her she is behaving badly and you support her to stop then.
Our MC representatives, Bishops, and administration, owed us this health report then, not in 2006 after Mark Stokoe puts up a website. Shame on everyone for it coming to this and putting us keyboard commentators in this place. I asked my very close friend the other day if I should bother with spending any of my precious time on this earth here on this da_n website, writing messages and deleting them out of sheer frustration.
Objectively, I determined that until the OCA stops making a mockery of my profession and becomes my charity of choice again, I will continue to post comments that I believe are beneficial. I will continue to ask our MC representatives to due their diligence to the parishes that elected them (not the administration/hierarchs that have blundered for 15 years) to the point of asking them to resign if otherwise.
Additionally, Fr. Dresko, an audit that fails due to lack of paper is worthy of firing an administrator or his accountant. Someone deserves getting canned for it and you know it or you deserve no voice on this forum. Forgiveness and hopefulness may be Christian virtues, but there is a point they both become dishonest. Overhoping for a multimillion dollar donation to get you out of the red for years is dishonest, and I think you will agree. Forgiving someone for destroying your status as a charity should be a grave discussion by you, not an instantaneous conclusion. I'm not being harsh.
Fr. Dresko, I'm sure that you are less than pleased with me for asking for our MC representative to resign. I stand by that demand because our MC representative has never represented any of us and never told us one thing about the health of the central administration or our sick Mother. Not one letter expressing concern, just nothing. Instead, fools like me sit out here in cyberspace and hope to make some small commitment to help. I've even supported my words with other actions, albeit small ones. Wouldn't it be better to hear about the problems from all of you than a wrongly terminated Deacon and whatever Mark Stokoe does for a living? That is sad and you must agree. Maybe there is a token of revenge in Mark's site, in the long run, I'm grateful someone has been so honest.
Contradictory to many of the naysayers here, I support the loan at this point. Its the chemotherapy.
Until I see a report from our MC representative back to the churches she represents, I will encourage and demand that this representative no longer serve the parishes she has failed to serve.
Fr. Dresko, if the doctors didn't tell you your mother was sick with cancer and cirrhosis for 7 or more years would you continue to retain them? If they misdiagnosed her as well 12 months ago as well, would you continue to retain them? Would you have the confidence in them that they would be the best physicians to treat her through her recovery? All rhetorical questions sure, but I encourage you to answer them. Almost noone would want to retain those doctors and you know that, too.
I am glad to see your counterpoint and agree that this is a long hard struggle ahead for the OCA, but the counterpoint misses some very important issues. First, keyboard commentating is less than desirable by most of us. Second, our Mother's physicians failed to tell us she was sick for the last 7 years at least. Third, what do we do with poor physicians we've had for so long when we know our Mother is nearly terminal now? Fourth, when our doctors fully fail (audit), what should happen to them? Fourth, what objective measure can we keyboard commentators adopt to stop the keyboard comments and eat more ice cream instead of worrying about our Mother's health.
I, for one, will stop when the OCA has regained my trust as my charity of choice and has discontinued mocking the accounting profession. When Las Vegas attorney emails disappear from my vision of what is church. That relationship alone should be enough to disturb any priest in our church. More objectively, full budget, forecast, and financial compilation reporting, successful audits, MC representatives turning to the parishes to report the health of the church, not pastoral letters reporting ill health 5 or 7 years later. Not failed audits. Budgets that are approved by the Synod and the MC or whatever the Statutes call for. Audits that are clean.
Just the normal stuff that most churches and charities consider requirements today, not as difficult a demand as you make it out to be... Openness, honesty, forthrightness, stuff we thought we learned in Sunday school.
I long for that day.
#15 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-10-02 15:10
Evidently, something those who work in Syosset have forgotten is that *we are the Church*.
They evidently also have forgotten that we are not peasants. We don't think like peasants, we don't act like peasants, and we are not going to be intimidated or shamed into obeisance like peasants.
Thank you, Fr. John Dresko, for your post. It has made our situation exceptionally clear. I believe it has clarified our course of action as well.
#16 Fr. John A. Peck on 2006-10-02 15:21
I would like to thank Fr. Dresko for having the courage to write this. He makes several good points. First, he speaks about, "The callous destruction of human beings." For me, the difficult part of this scandal has not been the financial aspect, but the human. Not only were funds diverted from those in need, but those accused of wrong-doing or even people vaguely associated with those accused are not shown any compassion, forgiveness, or love. Us Christians have removed their humanity.
Fr. Dresko says, "Those who know me well will, I believe, at least attest to my honesty, if not my wisdom and direction." I have known Father for my entire adult life, and will attest to his honesty, wisdom, and direction. He has sacrificed a great deal personally to work for the building up of Christ's Church whether it be on the local level in his former parish, or in his work at Syosset. I would never say that Father was "rewarded with a job at Syosset." Rather, he sacrificed a stable, well paid job at a local parish to work several hours away, doing seemingly impossible work, getting people to support the church in the midst of all that is going on. In my eyes, it was a courageous and admirable step. Thank you, Fr. Dresko.
-Andrew A. Boyd
#17 Andrew A. Boyd on 2006-10-02 15:31
You should rethink what you consider callous and recognize that people will leave Orthodoxy, others won't join, and others will just diminish their presence for the callousness of our leaders and the sacking of charity funds and the definite lack of stewardship here. This is the true storm that Metropolitan Herman refers to, it isn't our fury or hurtful things that might be said. The sooner everyone realizes this, the better off we'll all be..
It is hard enough for me to bring a friend to my church with its different customs and lack of 'contemporary appeal' and long services, let alone the fact we don't due our diligence and steal from LITTLE CHILDREN's stocking funds. Maybe I should get a Harley and work the bad boy angle
Our MC representatives, our Bishops, including Job, and the OCA administration are responsible and are finally getting told so. So far, Herman and Job have accepted responsibility that I know of, no others have. Herman has started to bring some things forward like the 2006 budget, but he hasn't done enough yet.
You support Fr. Dresko because some of us have called out those responsible, yet it is okay for him to attack those that speak? Nonsense. I agree with Fr. Dresko's comments that not everyone in the OCA is corrupt, but he is offbase on other things.
I urge you to reconsider what is callous. If I'm callous for asking for someone to resign that hasn't fulfilled the simplest stewardship duties to a small child, I'm callous.
#17.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-10-02 16:55
Fr John Dresko:
I wish to make only two observations re: your reflection.
1. It is very condescending to refer to the faithful masses as peasants with pitchforks.
2. I note that your article was posted with the blessing of Metropolitan Herman.
Taxes (assessments) on the peasants you deride pay your salary. Simply take a look at history when longsuffering peasants have been spat upon and taken for granted long enough. You should proffer your resignation, now. After all, it is your analogy.
Fr John Reeves
#18 Fr John M. Reeves on 2006-10-02 15:52
Fr John Reeves:
Two comments to you:
1. You need a little more exposure to popular culture. My image was a play on the scenes from Frankenstein movies when the peasants (not an insult, by the way) come out to greet the "monster" with torches and pitchforks. Perhaps "townsfolk" would be a better word, but it was an image meant to portray the current relationship between ordinary worker bees at the chancery and those outside. I have "spat" on no one, Father. OTOH, I have been spat upon.
2. His Beatitude did indeed bless me to compose my reflection and to send it, but he did not edit it nor even read it before I sent it. I not do know if he even agrees with it.
And I will not resign from anything, Father, as I have done nothing dishonest. I'm simply doing my job - preaching, teaching and serving. I'm a parish priest who was asked to work in development ten months ago. That's all. No more. No less. Disagreeing with you and/or others is not a crime.
Fr John Dresko
#18.1 Fr John on 2006-10-03 04:01
Look at that - I just went back to my own reflection and noticed that I didn't even use the word "peasants." I used the word "villagers."
#18.2 Fr John on 2006-10-03 04:06
Fr John Desko:
Of course you said "villagers", but the only people in villages with pitchforks are peasants. This is a distinction without a difference.
But to carry your analogy one step further, you have now just compared Syosset to Frankenstein's monster. And for that, the peasant villagers have more than a right to be concerned and to be sharpening their pitchforks.
Thank you, Father. You make my point.
#18.2.1 Fr John M. Reeves on 2006-10-03 06:54
My father is sick too!
Scenario: My father shot my younger brother. Both my mother and I love my father and as Christians forgive him. Yet its hard to deal with and the hurt is still there.
What do the 10 Commendments say? Canon Law?
Do my mother and I have a "vote" to the District Attorney to prosecute him or not? I don't think so!!!!!!
The above may sound radical. Yet it happens every day!
#19 Greg Purvis on 2006-10-02 16:00
Dear Father Dresko, I deeply regret the implication that we are responsible for the criminal activity of those who were entrusted wiith the operation of the OCA. We are responsible for allowing them to continue once it became obvious that money had been stolen. Our OCA was kidnapped and we were held up for ransom by the kidnappers - who assured us that all was well, nothing to worry about. I am such a fallen sinner myself that I would not dare to judge them, however it seems to me that it is an act of charity and compassion to help them end a career of deceit and thievery. Think of the solace to their souls when they no longer have to hide and lie. I feel sorry, no really grieved for anyone who calls themself a Christian and then robs a church. Why aren't you doing all you can to help them end this horrible situation? Alice Carter
#20 AliceCarter on 2006-10-02 16:28
Not surprisingly, Fr. Dresko has it all wrong. Our mother is sick not because of her lifestyle but because of the lifestyles of those entrusted to care for her. Indeed, dear mother has for years been under the sway of pseudo-physicians who have siphoned off her money while promising in return a healthy body. Duplicity and lies hid from mother her depleting legacy of integrity and missionary vision.
The time to replace the quacks, charlatans and snake oil peddlers has arrived. Our concern for mother is to find her the best doctors honesty, humility and love can buy.
#21 Fr. Robert M. Arida on 2006-10-02 17:10
"Our concern for mother is to find her the best doctors honesty, humility and love can buy."
Thank you, Father. Of the three fundamental Christian virtues, it feels like all are absent from the way our administration is handling this crisis. In fact, it appears that the best they can come up with is buying their way out of it with money, whereas it has been the money - not just mishandling of the money, but the sheer obsession with what money can do, for the organization as well as the few privileged individuals, - that got us into our present mess.
#21.1 Inga Leonova on 2006-10-03 11:37
I have managed not to add to the fray since I originally posted in March when I first began discovering the depth of this disaster. Mostly, to be honest, I have been speechless with horror at each new "revelation". But, this reflection is too much!
With no disrepect, Father, but your premise is totally off-base.
Out "Mother", the Holy Orthodox Church is NOT sick by Her OWN doing but rather, She has been mugged, beaten, robbed and abused by Her children LIVING at HOME.
And like in any family, those of us who don't live at home, want the abuse to STOP.
Can it be done? Maybe. Although the chances of that happening grow slimmer each day. But, before those of us who love Her allow our brethern who live at home to kill Her, like in any family, we will call the cops, the Feds and anyone else who has juristiction to STOP THE ABUSE.
No, this is not nearly as eloquent a post as others but I was angered beyond belief by the accusation that somehow the CHURCH is to blame!!!! And, finally, I am WELL-BEYOND being told, in essence to "pray, pay & obey"
My grandmother, of blessed memory, and her friends, worked like dogs to ensure that what is now the OCA prospered and thrived and to have come to this????? Is this how we thank our forebears for this gift? To squander it like this?????
Most Holy Theotokos, SAVE US!
#22 Alexander Ivsky on 2006-10-02 17:56
Wake up Priest!!... Get your head out of the sand. You by your own admission have been employed by Syosset only since January... Now you have joined the rest with head buried.
As a former priest in the OCA, honorable, devoted, and released with honor due to a situation beyond my control, I speak not as a stranger to this situation. I know all of the priests and clergy that have elected to express their opinions on this website which you seem to describe as 'off the wall' if you will. I was at the Montreal enthronment of Metropolitan Theodosius. I received his first blessing after enthronement. I served with him. I loved him as my leader. I socialized with him in Alaska. I was involved with many of the principals in this whole debacle. How do you think that I feel?? I am devastated.
But I am still a faithful Orthodox Christian. I know that there is only one true head of our church and that is The Lord Jesus Christ and every night I ask him what I can do to help this situation. I have not received an answer yet.
Will I forgive them all? Of course I will -but allow them to continue? No!!! Now priest, if you want to help, pull your head out of the sand and the Metropolitan's grasp and decide a path out of this.
Do you ask the Metopolitan? I don't think so. Do you ask the Holy Synod? I don't think so. Do you ask the MC? I don't think so.. Who do you ask? The Patriarch of Russia? I dont think so. Who is left to ask? Maybe ROCOR? I don't think so.
How about the Ecumenical Patriarch?? He might have the power to depose those who have so terribly ravaged our Holy Orthodox Church. May our Lord Jesus Christ guide you in any future endeavers that you might attempt in the salvation of our church
#23 Thomas Haulund on 2006-10-02 18:18
Your painfully contemptuous reference to Fr. Dresko as "Priest" is symptomatic of exactly the kind of venom and vitriol to which the Archpriest John refers. Thank you for confirming his analysis of part of what is wrong with all too many of the postings on this site. The holy desert fathers would read some of these postings and, I suspect, utterly despair over the rage, the bitterness, the name-calling, the blunt refusal to heed the word of the Apostle in Galatians 6:1 about restoring an erring brother or sister in a spirit of gentleness, and the soul-damning refusal to love. Abba Agatho said, "If an angry man were to raise the dead, yet because of his anger, he would not please God." Further, the Apostle is very clear in Ephesians 4:26-27 about how we are and are not to handle anger; and if we refuse to obey that injunction, we purchase damnation for our own souls.
And with respect to your call for the Ecumenical Patriarch to take this situation in hand, firstly, he lacks the canonical authority to do so; and we've had quite enough lawlessness, I should think. Secondly, these calls for outside powers to get involved and somehow make everything right are irresponsibly adolescent. Grown-ups find a responsible and constructive way to clean up their own messes. If we want the OCA to be healthy and vital, and to fulfill the promise of autocephaly, then we simply must find a constructive way of working this out together ourselves.
Igumen Philip (Speranza)
#23.1 Anonymous on 2006-10-03 05:57
Dear Igumen Philip,
In my time to call a brother priest "Priest" was a term of endearment.
As I have always said and I will say it again, you, Fr. Dresko and Metropolitan Herman take off your robes and cloths and stand side by side. You are all just human men with a divine mission, myself included. I thought that Igumens and priests and metropolitans, and bishops were to be humble?? What say you??
#23.2 Thomas Haulund on 2006-10-03 15:28
Dear Mr. Haulund,
In the 34 years since my ordination, I have heard bishops, presbyters, and deacons, refer to presbyters (and, in my day, to deacons) only as "Father." I have never once heard a fellow presbyter called "Priest" (in the vocative case) with affection or respect; the only time I heard it used thus, it was by someone expressing rage and contempt at a parish priest who had the temerity to challenge that individual's emotionally-destructive and physically-violent behaviour.
Humility involves a clear picture, not only of God's gifts to a person and of that person's faults and sins and failures, but also a clear picture of what that person's responsibilities are before God. Ezekiel 3:17ff and 2 Timothy 4:2 lay upon all bishops (and, by delegation, presbyters) a responsibility that cannot and must not be evaded, however distasteful one may find it.
As far as taking off my robes is concerned...well, nobody needs to see that much cellulite. 1 Timothy 4:8 warns us that "bodily exercise profiteth little," and I have (alas!) taken that far too literally.
Igumen Philip (Speranza)
#23.2.1 Anonymous on 2006-10-05 03:42
Dear Father Philip,
At least you have a sense of humor!! Rest assured that my address to Fr Dresko as "priest" was not in any way meant as derogatory and was as my note to you described. The contents of my note however was in criticism of his overall view of the situation as were the majority of the additional 99 responses to his statement. There have been a mirad of comments and suggestions made and I have yet to see anything constructive that I could put myself behind and say to the suggestor---That's It!!! Let's roll with that. I have followed this website since it began, not for pleasure, but because I refuse to bury my head in the sand seeking false security. Much of what I have viewed has been mundane and I felt presented only to put the writer in the public arena. I did not desire to enter it but I finally had to comment only to criticize since I do not have a solution at all at this time other than prayer and trust in Our Lord Jesus Christ and many of the submittals expressed the same feeling straight out with no added frills. I will at this time continue to pray that Our Lord will interceed directly or through someone that will have that perfect solution and we can all back him or her or them. Until then, I am signing off.
By the way, I'd watch that cellulite if I were you. When we face our maker, we may not be robed!!
#23.2.2 Thomas Haulund on 2006-10-05 10:39
Fr Dresko writes in his Mother reflection about only two choices the kids have. There are many more. How 'bout...
1) Tell mom the tests were wrong and everything's ok ("It's all in your mind; you're not really sick!")
2) Ask each sibling for their "fair-share" commitment before beginning treatment; specially that no good, low-life, distant brother who stole from her. Anyone not ponying up will be disowned, labeled a malcontent, taken out of the will and not invited to the funeral.
3) Apply to Honesdale Bank for a loan to help you care for Mom -- and payback those huge gambling debts you just discovered she had. (Though she previously gave you some "rainy day" money, you spent it all on vacation cruises!)
4) Tell Mom; "This won't happen again. We kids have gotten together and adopted Best Practices!" (That'll perk her right up!)
5) Hire a law firm to investigate the root causes of her declining health (then don't share the lawyer's findings with your siblings -- but get them to pay for the investigation!)
6) Surround yourself with doctors who'll tell you what you want to hear, erase certain questionable "smudges" from x-rays, and/or shred undesirable test results!
7) Call the WHOLE family together -- aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, in-laws and out-laws -- and vote on what to do with Mom. (Would that require 2/3's or a simple majority? We'll need to check the family statutes.)
Pray for a miracle!!! (Where's the faith!?)
There're just too many choices, Fr Dresko. Thanks for the laugh! But those personal, nasty comments...ouch! This, from one of Mom's favorite sons?!
#24 Laughing and Crying on 2006-10-02 19:23
Like many other commentators on Fr. Dresko's reflections, I too think his metaphoric imagery to be flawed. Rather than seeing the OCA as a victim of sickness and then of uncaring taunting children, the financial malignancy that struck the OCA was caused and exacerbated by the very people entrusted with her care. That situation is bad enough to cause me to call to mind a biblical metaphor which God uses of Israel: mother was a whoring. And now in this most recent reflection we are being told the problem is we did not give her enough financial support to keep her business going!
A few years ago columnist Andrew Vachss wrote an article in PARADE MAGAZINE, entitled "The Difference Between 'Sick' and 'Evil'". He noted that "Sickness is a condition" whereas "Evil is a behavior." He said evil is a choice whereas sickness usually imposes limiting choices. And he concluded "Sickness should be treated" but "Evil must be fought." He said the great problem in our society is that some confuse "sickness" with "sickening."
I think we need to apply Vachss' discernment to our situation. Is it that mother is sick with a condition, or is it that some were engaged in destructive behavior? Is the OCA suffering from a mysterious sickness or rather is what was being done by the central administration sickening? If the OCA is inflicted with an illness, this disease must be fought!
Fr. Dresko admitted that the church is very ill, and even that the illness is her own fault - the result of her own behavior. He is one of the first in the central administration to publicly acknowledge the seriousness of the problem, though he also seems to deny that anyone involved in administration was part of the problem. It is indeed a mysterious illness which inflicts mom. Except for him the issue always has been the failure of the membership to fund the church adequately. The administration was not mishandling the funds, they simply weren't being given enough to handle. Apparently if we had given them more, we all would be the happier now. But I at least am skeptical of this last point. Those who cannot be trusted with inadequate funds are unlikely to be trustworthy stewards of larger sums of money.
The Lesser Synod of Bishops just told us that due to the absence of records no audit can be done for 2004 or 2005. The central church administration seemingly couldn't even keep track of the insufficient funds that were entrusted to them. And he tells us that since August 2005, "every single donated penny, is where it is supposed to be." Unfortunately, this apparently cannot be proven from our records, which don't seem to exist. Or the central administration and the Synod of Bishops are not on the same page. And yet, he wonders why people want now to withhold the inadequate funding. Could it be that we still feel we cannot get the truth?
Fr. Kucynda promised that some financial reports for 2006 would be released to the Metropolitan Council, but that too as far as I know does not seem to have happened. We cannot verify Fr. Dresko's claim that every penny since August 2005 is where it is supposed to be. (But please do release the verification of this claim!) And this of course is part of the reason why there is no trust in our church administration. Rightly, Fr. John laments the "silence from above." Indeed, we all do. Especially in a church which seems to have some strange idea that the hierarchical principle means those 'ranked above' you at every level of the church are always "more infallible" than those below.
The way to health for us is to fight against the secrecy, the denial, the cover up, the stonewalling, the blaming of the laity, the lack of transparency, the tendency toward dishonesty. Revealing reports, audits and minutes of meetings allows greater accountability which leads to greater honesty and trust. These changes might help us deal with the abusiveness that has been inflicted on our church.
#25 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-10-02 21:07
Fr. Dresko's reflection is shocking! This posting about the OCA being a "mother" disquiets the pious Orthodox soul:
If the OCA is our “mother" then is it the "only" Orthodox mother in America? Are there “many mothers” in America? Are all the rest of "them Orthodox" -- all non-OCA'ers like the Greeks, the Serbs, etc. -- just playing make believe? From some impressions here and elsewhere, non-OCA Orthodox people are only OCA wanabees! I THINK NOT!
The analogy of the OCA being a "mother" does not unite but it actually divides! The previous post in question is nothing but hostility doing violence to formerly warm maternal imagery and, furthermore, it is an abuse of canonical Orthodox ecclesiology. Yep, this priest presented a false ecclesiology in the aforementioned post. I tell you, the Orthodox Church in America is yet to come! You will see. The OCA is simply a precursor to what is to come from the Holy Spirit. The OCA’s past venerable history and contributions will be good reading for our children’s Church history books. I would suggest shielding them, however, from the “facts” until they come of age to deal with this “stuff” which, in my estimation, may be about 4 or 5 years after they are married and on their own!
The OCA was started to bring unity to North America but now it has become a big part of the problem as seen in this priest's posting and in all-too-many events and attitudes since 1998. I came away with the "feeling" of having been whipped by arrogance after having read this priest’s post. Let’s also drop the OCA “cult mentality” clearly identifiable within his post as we engage in responsible Christian discourse here and elsewhere. Cults don’t like free discourse so I would suggest more responsible and respectful conversations and, furthermore, a moratorium on using the Holy Bible to bludgeon your brother or sister into cultic submission. Yep, again dear friends, we already know that “Christ died for him.”
This web site, be honest now, is the best and healthiest thing to happen to the OCA in a very long time. Breathe the liberty of the Sons and Daughters of God, dear Brethren, but speak clearly from the dignity of your Holy Baptism. Don’t sin anymore from behind your computer key boards! I hope various Bishops find edification while on the other side of their key boards also. I like the motto: “lead by example.”
When we move, my friends, from "jurisdictions" to being the canonical Orthodox Church in North America -- meaning no OCA, no Greek, no slave, no bondsman, no male, no female, no "I'm for Apollous" or "I'm for Paul" (please get my drift) -- then we will transition to the canonical Orthodox Church with grace and dignity. Just envision in your pious hearts, by the goodness and tenderness of a loving God, a unified canonical Orthodox Church in North America! He will give us a living and holy icon of authentic ecclesiology that only the subtlety of the Holy Spirit can bring. It is at that time, please God soon, when we will have a real Orthodox Mother Church here in North America worthy of the name! This will be by the All Holy Spirit and not by men willing it.
The subtle institutional arrogance, again, of the analogy from this priest’s posting is shocking! Even at this point of the OCA’s existence, there seems to be no humility. I tell you there will be no unified canonical Orthodox Church in North America until there is humility in the Orthodox Christians of North America. And if the seemingly almighty OCA has to "bite the dust" so that a unified and canonical Orthodox Church can come to North America from Christ like a phoenix from the ashes -- then so be it! And when the Lord starts the fire – throw all the jurisdictions like kindling into His Holy Flame! At that time the Lord will be done with “jurisdictions” and the pious Orthodox will blush to think that such a thing as “jurisdictions” ever existed in our God-protected and God-blessed sacred Homeland.
Save us, All Holy Spirit! Please be merciful and give us an Orthodox Mother Church in North America worthy of the name. Amen!
#26 Please do not print my name! on 2006-10-02 21:49
Father John's flourish is based on a false premise. Like most Syosset insiders who have written about the current crisis, he arrogantly confuses the central administration of our Church with the Church itself, and nothing could be more absurd.
The Church isn't sick, and to say so insults us and all of our work through the Lord with His Grace. The Church is "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic", and it is also well, and fit, and vibrant, and complete, and alive in all of us, our congregations, and our communities.
If you, Father John, and those around you don't know that fact today and every day in the depths of your souls, then the problems in our central administration are deeper than we suspected.
#27 Mark Warns, Poulsbo, Washington on 2006-10-02 22:41
This reflection isn't "Your mother".
This is more like "yo mama".
What an insult this reflection is.
#28 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2006-10-02 22:55
You are making it harder and harder for me to believe that the problem in Syossett is confined to 3 or 4 men who fell into temptation, which is what I truly want to believe.
I have never met you, so I might be totally wrong, but it seems to me that you have become a man perverted by proximity to evil. Not unlike that character in J.R.R. Tolkien's book "The Return of the King" who called himself the "Voice of Sauron", you speak the vile words of Metropolitan HERMAN.
Father, before it is not too late for you, please, leave that place. Go be a parish priest again. Don't be Metropolitan HERMAN's spokesman. Let him tell his own story to a jury.
Now I want to answer some of the points you made.
1. You said it is ironic that some who are upset about the Metropolitan ignoring the statute are themselves ignoring the state by withholding Fair Share. My diocese, I don't think, is doing that. Nevertheless, I think I understand the rationale for doing so. Many people, including myself, suspect Metropolitan HERMAN is complicit evil. We might be wrong. I don't know. But I have read enough to have suspicions. That alone is enough to withold Fair Share payments. One doesn't give money to a suspected thief.
2. You said "I will go on record, speaking for every single one of them, in saying before God and anyone reading this, that we are not dishonest and duplicitous." Does that include Fr. Kucynda, who lied to the Nassau County Court about us having 2,000,000 faithful?
3. You said, "I demand two or three reputable witnesses to testify against me." I think I agree with you here. If someone knows something about theft, press charges in a church court. If someone thinks they have been slandered, then press charges against the slanderer. Truth is always a defense against slander, so let those who believe they have been slandered prove the accusers to be liars, and let this whole affair begin to fade away.
4. I agree with you that the two women are heroes. They deserve official commendation.
5. You said, "The OCA has never been supported properly by its faithful and as a result good people trying to do good work get tempted to cut corners. Every one of your parishes does it, also." I don't know about the first part of what you said. Maybe it is true. I guess it depends on what "properly" means. But you are flat wrong when you assert that all of the parishes do what the money managers in Syossett have done. I can only talk about my parish, but we have detailed financial statements pinned to the bulletin board next to the kitchen. On top of that, we have monthly meetings where the treasuer reads the report of expenditures and answers questions. (And let me tell you sometimes those meetingsa are a drag.) The parish council meets more frequently. Everyone in the parish knows how much we spend on candles, salaries, toilet paper, and electricity. There are no secrets and every penny is accounted for. If we can do that with 10 or 11 volunteers I am hard pressed to understand how Syosset can not do it with its 277 volunteers.
6. You said we need more silence from below. I disagree. I think that if the pressure is not kept up, and even increased the we will continue on our present course. I do not beliee that Metropolitan Herman or the Holy Synod want to deal with this problem. If they had it would have been dealt with years ago. I think the only reason they are doing anything now is that the "peasant" are angry.
7. You mentioned the man who lost his job and has been called a crook. I assume you are talking about Fr. Robert. There is a remedy. When a military officer is the victim of rumor or slander (usually of cowardice in battle or deriliction of duty) he can request a trial by court-martial. Is there something preventing Fr. Robert from asking for a trial by church court? If what Metropolitan HERMAN said about him is true (I have no reason to believe it is or isn't.) he should have been laicized. If it wasn't true, let Fr. Robert bring charges against the Metropolitan.
8. You don't believe former treasuers know what happened. It was their job to know. If it is true that many large checks were written out to "cash" and that no receipts exist, I can tell you what happened. I know. So do you.
9. You said, "Since August 2005, every single donated penny, restricted and unrestricted, is where it is supposed to be." I think that is news to the Metropolitan Council, which was surprised at their last meeting to hear that the accounts had not been replinished with the money from the loan.
Thank you for your time and attention.
#29 Matt Karnes of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco on 2006-10-02 23:10
Peasants with pitchforks? Father Dresko ought to be ashamed by referring to the laity of the OCA in this manner! But it is very revealing that he did. It shows that the Palace of Syosset is upset. We "peasants" of the OCA have been getting a little uppity lately. We have dared to ask questions about why the Palace has lied to us, why it has stolen money from causes to which we contributed and placed it into discretionary accounts that the Palace can spend as it pleases. Talk about shooting the messenger when you don't like his message! And then daring to attack Bishop Job for asking, "Are these allegations true or false?" I think one reason many of us "peasants" have such disdain for Syosett is that whenever we try to hold the Palace to any accountability, people like Father Dresko vent their spleens on us. May God bestow upon Father Dresko, and the rest of the Palace, a renewed respect and love for the faithful.
St. John of the Ladder Orthodox Church
#30 Tikhon Griffin on 2006-10-03 03:16
To paraphrase the current political bumbersticker: somewhere in Connecticut a village is missing its idiot!
One would think that the Director of Stewardship would show a bit of humility when it comes to speaking on behalf of The Orthodox Church in America. Our mother is not sick with cancer – she is sick because she has been abused by the people entrusted with her stewardship –- and this means each and every one of us who profess membership in the Orthodox Church in America – over the years we have not been good caretakers of the pearl of autocephaly laid at our steps.
In light of all that has been revealed during this past year, to respond with such arrogance is truly beyond the pale.
This same arrogance is what led us to our current state of affairs as a church organization;
the same arrogance that showed total disregarded for any system of checks and balances when it came to finances;
the same arrogance that allowed for the sidestepping of the Statutes;
the same arrogance that created an us and them on almost every level of church administration;
the same arrogance that has bred the complete loss of trust in the leadership of the church.
What we truly need at this time is a little less arrogance and bullying, and a little bit more contrition on the part of those in positions of leadership within our church. Only then, can the healing of our dear mother begin.
Father John, I think it is time for you to go back to your village.
Deacon Eric A. Wheeler
#31 Dn Eric A Wheeler on 2006-10-03 04:33
Truly it is pride that breeds the arrogance that has ENABLED our dysfunction. The perpetrators are only instruments, men pitifully succumbing to temptation and enabled early on by a controlling spirit of false honor. It is only Truth and a complete confession by not only the perpetrators, but by those who knew and enabled that will lead to healing. May all who knew and did nothing and even those who suspected yet went into DENIAL (myself included) acknowledge their own complicity. With God all things are possible: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow Heal us Lord, and we shall be healed. This is my prayer.
#31.1 KAren Jermyn on 2006-10-03 07:33
I agree with your call for less arrogance and bullying. What a strange reflection Fr. John wrote! It has only caused harm.
Thank you, Dn. Eric, for all you have done for us!
May we stand together as those who want to heal the patient, the OCA. Arrogance and bullying will not heal her, but only cause her more pain.
Lord have mercy!
Fr. Dresko, you have railed against thousands of us who are deeply concerned about the well-being of our Church. Instead of giving us concrete information you gave us sentimental dribble. Many, many laypeople and clergy have written eloquently on this horrible crisis. Spiritual, ethical and legal precepts have been presented by them in an attempt to end these unacceptable administrative practices in Syosset but to no avail. Simply put...we know enough to be outraged!
We know that millions of dollars are unaccounted for and we know there are no records. The truth is that at least a handful of Syosset Administrators DO know all the facts. We know that we are paying their lawyers to keep the facts from us. We know that the Holy Synod said the audits would not continue because there were no records. We know we are being given conflicting information about the investigation. That is enough to know to deam this administration unworthy of receiving more money from us! Metropolitan Herman's fight to hide the truth from the laity and remain in power is what is sickening. The fact that those involved in the financial scandal still function in positions in the Church yet will not talk, confess and repent is what is sickening. Fr. Dresko, please let me ask two questions? Have those involved in the finances of the OCA over the past 10 years been called together for questioning by the Metropolitan Council and if not, why not? If they are still functioning in the Church as priests/bishops then they shouldn't be allowed to hide behind their lawyers. The cover-up is what is sickening and costing the Church a great deal of money, but of course we don't know how much! Fr. Dresko, you want the laity to continue to fund and enable this type of behavior. You used a sentimental analogy about our sick mother to confuse the issue. Those who are stonewalling and withholding the truth are the ones who are damaging the Church further. We know enough to be outraged and insulted by your remarks.
#32 Ellen Barber on 2006-10-03 06:22
I was prepared to answer Fr. Dresko's reflection point by point but before I got to it, I read the comments and found that most of them already covered what I had to say ---only much better than I could have done. My biggest point was the false premise on which the entire reflection is based. Fr.Dresko incorrectly calls the Syosset regime our..."mother". My late mother ----and every other reader's mother reading this---is/was subject to sin etc. which all mortals are. The CHURCH is no such thing. The CHURCH does not sin, does not lie, does not cheat, does not steal. Humans who are entrusted to manage the affairs of the CHURCH do these things. But, as I said above , the false premise of what is the CHURCH was covered by other commentators above. I especially liked Father Bobosh's comment.
My comment here mirrors what Fr.Deacon Eric said above. Father Dresko, Father Vansuch, and Fr. Kucynda all were good parish priests. They became involved in corruption --which was not of their making ---by joing the administration in Syosset. Please do yourselves ---and us---and the CHURCH--- a favor and go back to being parish priests. There is absolutely no way that the OCA will get back on its feet until the present Metropolitan and those who have aided and abetted the financial and moral misgivings at Syosset are removed. And the sooner, the better.
#33 nicholas skovran on 2006-10-03 06:40
Fr. Robert Arida and Alexander Ivsky have, each in slightly different ways, expressed my own reaction to the content of this reflection.
The tone of the reflection seems to have been intended to be emotionally compelling but is easily read as being rebuking and dismissive. I think it's important to be measured in response and not let this whole issue decend into passionate, divisive argumentation. If they want to argue with us, that's their business. We should simply advocate for honesty, repentance and change without, in as much as is possible, decending to personal attacks. I'm not saying people shouldn't defend themselves, nor am I saying that criticism should be witheld. All I'm saying is that when labelled a rabble, we want to scrupulously avoid acting like one.
#34 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-10-03 07:06
Fr. Dresko, you asked your brethren, "Would you want anyone who made mistakes in the administration of your parish to be held up to public scorn and commentary?"
I'm not a priest, but if this were to happen in my parish, I would expect those who make mistakes to ask forgiveness and step aside. No commentary would be necessary.
But that's just me.
#35 N. Bilyeu on 2006-10-03 07:09
As others have pointed out, it is not “our mother” who is sick—it is Father Dresko’s analogy that is sick. I find his line of reasoning not only disturbingly arrogant, but profoundly manipulative. After all this time of struggle and difficulty in our national church, THIS is the message that our Metropolitan sends down to us through his messenger—that we peasants/bad children are to blame? This is simply over the top.
And to add insult to injury, if we peasants dare to consider withholding “fair share” funds from Syosset while we insist that another AAC be called ASAP to get to the bottom of these issues—we will be hypocrites because we will be acting in contradiction to the decision made concerning the fair share funds at a previous AAC. If we won’t submit ourselves to the decisions of previous AAC’s, why should the OCA bother to call another one? What a convenient argument. Of course, it totally overlooks the fact that most of us were completely ignorant of these matters when the last AAC’s were held, and that those gatherings of the faithful might have gone quite differently had we had any inkling of these issues.
I certainly hope that Fr. Dresko and others at Syosset are reading the responses to his reflection and getting some sense of how off the mark and offensive most of us find it to be.
#36 Cathy Tatusko on 2006-10-03 07:59
Let's correct something you said. Metropolitan Herman had nothing to do with Fr. Dresko's reflection. He didn't write it, consult with or advise him in any way. This reflection was purely at the hand and mind of Fr. Dresko.
Shame on you for implying otherwise.
Fr. Dresko happens to be one of the remaining Kondratick loyalists.
#36.1 Michael Geeza on 2006-10-03 10:06
Perhaps you did not read Fr. Dresko’s reflection in its entirety. The posting included an editor’s note, which I copy here for your convenience.
(Editor's note: According to the author [Fr.Dresko], the above was written and sent with the blessing of Metropolitan Herman.)
#36.1.1 Cathy Tatusko on 2006-10-03 11:52
No Michael, in your mind, the Met had nothing to do with Fr. Dresko's reflection, but sadly enough, the MET HIRED HIM!
#36.1.2 John Lickwar on 2006-10-03 17:13
As I stated in another posting, there are only two courses of action which can be taken to save the OCA as an institution:
One - the preferred course - is that Met. Herman and ALL of the bishops resign, confess, and seek some kind of forgiveness followed by retirement or re-election / reappointment per the duly constituted Statutes of the OCA, AFTER all of the facts are disclosed (again, preferrably coming from their own lips by way of a public confession); or
Two, that a duly constituted body authorized to depose the Metropolitan and the Bishops do so, and appoint an entirely new slate of deserving candidates - truly "Axios!"
One of the things that I liked about Orthodoxy, and a significant factor in my conversion, was the "councilar" approach to governance with respect to the institution; i.e., hold the ancient Apostolic Truth tightly (the Doctrine), while allowing the governance of the institution (the OCA) in accordance with "modern" principals of democracy mediated by Parish Councils, etc, up to the MC. What I have discovered in fact, however, is beating of the laity and Priesthood about the head and shoulders by the Metropolitan and the central administration when the going gets tough - that is to say, when a crisis seemingly brought on by a few individuals causes the central administration to "circle the wagons" and issue edicts and instructions to the "lower ranks" for, "Silence!"
Wow!! I must say that my rose-colored glasses have been well and truly shattered at this point! The OCA is just another institution with all the attendant human follies and weaknesses, after all!
And yet, we are supposed to keep on giving to support the institution, while asking no questions?! I hate to break this to you, but we are indeed not peasants, and we will not be fooled.
I have a confession to make: I am a sucker; I just can't say, "No," when someone asks me for help. I give a lot of money to causes, and as someone else here has said, it has been my intention to make the OCA my "charity of choice." Two little stories:
i. I was once in Baltimore one evening, and walking from a very bad parking place to the Inner Harbor to have dinner with my sister who was there on business. As I walked by, a young man appeared out of nowhere, very well dressed, very articulate, and solicited a donation from me "to support religious instruction." I gave him a $5 bill; he gave me a smile that bespoke no kind thanks, but looked rather like "The Joker" from Batman. I learned later that the area in question was a "known" fund-raising area for the Nation of Islam, and that their operatives derived tremendous pleasure from raising money for their purposes from white tourists who didn't know any better. I felt like a dupe.
ii. Some years later, a not-so-young man approached me in a grocery store parking lot, on the civilian economy but near a military base. Since I was in uniform, he said, "Sir, I'm from the base, and I've lost my wallet with all my money in it. Could you spare a couple of dollars so I can buy some milk for my kids?" As I fished in my pocket for a couple of dollars I asked him, "What unit are you with." He fumbled, and flustered his way through a rambling list of Army units worthy of a John Wayne filmography (we were near an Air Force base), and as I handed him the money, I knew that he was a con-man - and the smile on his face confirmed it. I had been duped again.
Still, I gave them the money. Now, as I write a check for my Parish, and I know that a portion of that is going to Syosset, why am I getting that "I've been duped" feeling again? It's because the central church administration of the OCA is so CLEARLY obfuscating and dissembling, and circling the wagons, rather than owning-up, confessing, and putting out to pasture the known (and they know who they are) perpetrators (or should that be perp-a-traitors) from running this organization. I'm getting really tired of feeling like a dupe in my CHURCH of all places!
As I have said elsewhere, there is the IOCC, the Seminaries themselves to give money to - and the Antioch or Greek church organizations which hold the Doctrinal Truth of Orthodoxy. I hate to leave the OCA, but the leadership is making that choice for me by their continuing dishonesty. By the way, I contribute money only by check or credit card now, and never give cash directly to individuals on the street anymore - no matter how pitiful they appear. I'm not going to be duped that way again. Now I'm feeling like the OCA is making me into a dupe every time I write a check to my own church. NOT ACCEPTABLE, reverend fathers, not even close to being acceptable! The hierarcy - and the Hierarchs - need to wake up to the fact that we are walking out the door!
It is not a vicious, craven laity which is going to bring-down the OCA. It is an arrogant administration of high-and-mighty bishops and their operatives which is going to cause the OCA to collapse over the heads of a tearful laity, as we write our charity and tithing checks to other organizations! And may the Lord bless the hard-working parish priests who will be the unfortunate victims of this loss of confidence; may they find new vineyards in which to labor for Christ!
#36.2 Convoluted Convert on 2006-10-05 11:16
The gist of Fr. Dresko's commentary has been more than adequately rejoined by others. What I take particular offense at is the misrepresentation of comments by Fr. John Nehrebecki. Fr. Dresko implies that Fr. John has called for withholding of donations. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Nowhere in his Reflections has Fr. John stated that anyone should withhold Fair Share assessments or donations to other charitable entities within the OCA. I am a parishioner of Fr. David Vernak's at the Orthodox Christian Church of Christ the Saviour in Paramus NJ, where Fr. John Nehrebecki is our beloved Pastor Emeritus. Neither Fr. David nor Fr. John has ever, to my knowledge, advocated withholding of donations. To the contrary, both of these fine priests continue to exhort the faithful to be generous in our charitable endeavors.
The notion that Fr. Dresko would lash out in this way at someone like Fr. John Nehrebecki, who has nothing but the upbuilding of the Church at heart at all times, who has been personally responsible for the planting of numerous OCA parishes throughout the state of New Jersey, tells me that something is extremely rotten in Syosset.
#37 Anonymous on 2006-10-03 08:00
Father Nehrebecki's reflection was well intended. My interpretation was that it was an effort to calm the waters by calling for patience. Patience to see and evaluate the promised audits and findings. Now we know that those promised audits were fictional. The accountants have nothing to audit! There is no paper trail unless they get permission to scour the banks for checks, deposits and withdrawls.
Don't blame Father Nehrebecki for something he did not advocate. He only acknowledged the terrible mess in Syosset. Father Dresko erroneously interpreted this acknowledgement as a call to aggressive action.
Wake up people! We're getting caught up in mud slinging. How Christian is that?
#37.1 Crushed on 2006-10-03 13:23
This is heartbreaking beyond words - I cry as I write this.
Metropolitan Herman, Fr. Kondratick and others involved,
If someone told you a year ago what would transpire in the coming year, I'm sure you would have never believed it. I don't think any of us could have imagined this. But we know that God allows certain things to enter our lives so that we can be tested and refined. Then, when He calls us to join him in His kingdom, our journey will be easier.
We have all been tested this past year in one way or another. You, however, have been at the heart of the matter, so your experience is truly unique. The prospect of stepping away from your life's work must be mind boggling; it cannot be something that you had considered prior to this past year. I can understand why you have resisted.
However, at this juncture, with everything that has transpired, the noble thing to do would be to step away. I would forgive you for whatever role you played in what has transpired; I would ask you to forgive me for my offenses. And I would think well of you for taking this right action - I have no doubt that others would think as I do.
I think that removing yourselves from this situation will give you great peace. And I think that a peaceful quiet will envelope the Orthodox Church in America, at least for a little time. Then, we will have to get about the business of righting our Church.
Metropolitan Herman, Fr. Kondratick and others involved, please listen to the will of the people. By taking the right action you will improve your esteem in our eyes. We will be forever grateful for the sacrifices on your part. And I truly believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will smile upon all of us.
#38 Terry Filippini on 2006-10-03 08:25
You came and spoke at my parish a few years ago about stewardship and even called us to task for not giving enough based upon a false assumption that we lived in the neighborhood of the church.
And all the while you had to know where our money was "not going" for lack of a better term. I didn't like your ill advised comments then and I don't like them now.
I also concur with most of the other comments to your Relection. Since I could not improve on them I won't waste "keyboard commentary".
#39 Linda Weir on 2006-10-03 09:48
Yup, our mother is sick - Any of these symptoms familiar?
1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3. believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
4. requires excessive admiration
5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
If you recognize at least 5 of these,then a diagnosis o Narcissistic Personality Disorder could very well be appropriate. Suggested Treatment? Intense therapy. Sometimes meds, but can a church be put on meds?
What about the family members who have to deal with this diagnosed entity? We have to set clear boundaries. We're trying. It's hard, and will probably take as much time to "fix" as it did to develop. And, at times, it will seem like we- the family members - are less than charitable when we distance ourselves from the sick entity. but that can be necessary to maintain our own health.
Just a thought or two to add to the fray. May God have mercy on us all.
#40 Wendy C. on 2006-10-03 10:21
Bravo! In spite of my indignation, Fr. John, I cannot help admire your eloquence and masterful use of metaphor. A skillful preacher has written this reflection.
However, I am afraid I have bad news for you: as is evident by most of the comments in response to your opus, your tear-jerking imagery has fooled almost no one. Thanks to all those who had posted before me, especially both Frs. Robert, the misrepresentation has been exposed for what it is. I am certainly glad, for one thing, that fine people of the OCA are attuned to what is fair and what is fake.
Since most of your statements and allegations have been already addressed in one form or another by other members of this forum, I will refrain from going into detail, save on one of your earliest paragraphs:
"Such a catchy little phrase is “Are the allegations true or false?” Such a clever question. It has become an effective rallying cry. But when asked again and again even though an investigation is ongoing, it becomes truly explosive and destructive, with no true good at its heart. Why? Because there is no definitive answer, at least at this time. This builds up our Church? This heals our Mother?"
Yes, Father, striving for the truth builds up our Church. Our Church is built up by our desire for God who is Truth, in love and humility. The beauty of what you dismiss as "catchy little phrase" is that it is as simple as a question must be - is what has been insinuated the truth or the lie? Just how complicated would you like Archbishop Job to make this fundamental question? And I am sure that you would not profess ignorance of the fact that this "catchy little phrase", so simple and straightforward, has provoked an attack on the Archbishop by his "brother" bishops (excuse the quotation marks, but I am sick of our pious Orthodox vocabulary) that is, as far as I know, unprecedented in our small church's history in its vitriol and viciousness. You are, evidently, adding your own stone to those that His Eminence has been showered with, and I cannot let that pass. I assure you that our Church and its faithful cannot thank God enough for Archbishop Job and his "clever questions"!
In conclusion, I must admit that, like Gregg, I grew up in respect for the cloth, and it pains me to respond to a priest in such manner. However, I cannot allow my respect for the cloth to overcome my respect for the truth. God forgive me if I have overstepped my boundaries.
#41 Inga Leonova on 2006-10-03 11:24
Perhaps some of you, like I, didn't catch this from the meeting of the Lesser Synod a couple of weeks ago:
“2. The review of the 2001-2005 Annual and Special Appeals is ongoing. However, from the initial findings, it has been concluded that there is no receipted documentation or verification for a large portion of those funds. No further information can be made available until that review is complete."
OK, does this mean that they don't know how much was collected, or they don't know how much was disbursed to the charities? Or both? And what constitutes "a large portion."?
Listen, folks, more than $700,000 was just borrowed to pay back diverted appeals money. So how did Syosset come up with dollar amounts for the loan application if "there is no receipted documentation or verification for a large portion of those funds"? Could this be the reason Fr Kucynda is in no hurry to repay the money? Because they have no idea just how much to repay?
I am just dying to hear from our MC reps next week.
#42 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-10-03 13:22
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).
Fr. Dresko is representative of a toxic mindset in the OCA that is dangerous to the formation of a legitimate canonical Orthodox Church in our land. There is too much vested interest in maintaining the status quo. There is no room for vulnerability to the Holy Spirit!
Point 1: Some people I work with and witness to concerning the Holy Orthodox Faith just the other day mentioned and introduced me as being from "one of those many Orthodox denominations in this country." It is impossible to describe the pain I experienced when I heard this! However, it is true. We are only "Orthodox denominations" (OCA denomination, Russian denomination, Antiochian denomination, etc.) here in this country, after all. We are definitely not the true and unified Church Jesus Christ intended. And as long as "Orthodox denominations" exist all will know that Jesus Christ's HOLY WILL FOR A UNIFIED ORTHODOX CHURCH in this land is disregarded by "us." We are the problem, not the Lord! This "crisis" is about sinfulness and about losing the way that Christ intended. Simple!
Point 2: The "crisis" in the OCA is symptomatic of division in the Body of Christ. If there was One Church in this land then the witness of unity (as opposed to divisiveness and competition and ego-centric vice) would call down from Heaven grace unto holiness and saintliness! The Lord is cleansing His Church of denominations as can be seen in this "crisis." I tend to see this "crisis" as punishment from the Lord for such blatant arrogance towards men and the CLEAR will of God.
I, furthermore, don't hear the OCA presenting itself as the "God-given" vehicle of Orthodox unity anymore. Now, it is status quo as normal and the OCA renounces, by its silence and collusion with institutional sin, the original goal of one canonical Orthodox Church residing in America. This "pipe dream" of Orthodox unity was just, apparently, a fruit of its naive infancy. Too much self-serving vested interest is at stake now and unity is no longer of any interest by those in "control." The OCA has become comfortable. Again, the OCA is not an end in and of itself -- the OCA is on pilgrimage to the unity of the One True Church in this land. I thought that this was what much of the "early" literature put out by the OCA was about? This "crisis" is about sinfulness and about losing the way intended by Christ. Simple!
Point 3: The OCA has lost its first love! Where is the humility? I see copious arrogance but where is the humility before God and man for such an eternal and glorious "treasure placed in earthen vessles?" How many big photo shoots with this grand persona and that important so-and-so were taken with pumped-up chests and lot of flash! How many flashy dinners were given for this foreign somebody at a representational church and such with cash totaling $9,999.99 being stuck in an envelope and put into a "brothers" cassock pocket for such and such a favor?
Nothing seems simple, clear and holy anymore. "Where your treasure is there your heart is also." This "crisis" is about sinfulness and about losing the way intended by Christ. Simple!
#43 Please do not publish my name! on 2006-10-04 12:55
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