Tuesday, October 3. 2006
The outpouring of comments regarding Fr. Dresko's reflection necessitates a second thread to continue the discussion. Please post your comments, pro or con, here.
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A Reflection upon Reflections
It seems to me that the analogy of the sick mother, our Church, just doesn't work as one of my former altar boys, Father John Dresko, recently reflected. Where do we find this sickness? The gospel is preached and the sacraments are celebrated. Where is the sickness? The sick mother imagery is inapposite. The Syosset Administration is the issue, and the Administration is not our Mother, and not our Church. Because the Administration had to go out and borrow $1.7 million to repay designated funds, most reasonable people will conclude that money was mismanaged and/or misspent. If we are going to use analogies how about this extended one (humor me folks, I’m getting old)....
Personally, I don’t know if there was a wolf in the sheep pasture, but it seems clear there was no shepherd, the sheep were on their own, no one cared for them and they wandered this way and that looking to be guided to a place where they would find nourishment. Suddenly, the shepherd shows up and instead of caring for the emaciated sheep he tells them to wait and tough it out before being fed. That is what is happening these days and it doesn’t produce a happy flock. The sheep are bleating loudly because they are starving.
The noises the sheep are producing trouble many people because we are not used to hearing calls for resignations of hierarchs nor even support staff as another of my former altar boys and “old family friend,” Father Chris Wojcik, reflected in the recent past. After all, the bishop is the image of Christ, canonically elected and consecrated by the hands of brother bishops since the time of the Apostles. The bishop is the icon of the Savior according to the Fathers of the Church, and one of the Fathers who may be the most quoted when it comes to the episcopate is St. Ignatius. Ignatius says the bishop is an icon of Jesus Christ, but then so are the deacons according to St. Ignatius. Another of the Fathers, St. Clement of Alexandria takes this a step further and teaches, “when you see your brother you see God.” We are all Christ figures and a part of that image may well entail driving the money changers out of the Temple.
I guess one of the things lost over the centuries is another Christ-like concept that the royal priesthood is to be the icon of a prophet calling out for truth and justice in the name of God. Since we are all Christ figures, this prophetic role is not just for the bishop it can be for all Christians, and certainly it sometimes falls on the presbyters. The prophet has no option but to bring up what he or she sees as the truth. If what they utter is not the truth then they are not prophets, and will find themselves on the garbage heap of history. Prophets have a unique persona; they are people who proclaim the truth and they are not necessarily nice people.
Somewhere on the timeline of life we pushed the prophetic calling to a back burner. Sure, from time to time someone would rise up and proclaim truths. During my life, Fr. Schmemann comes to mind as a prophetic voice, but he is one of only a few.
Time will tell wither the prophet is Father Chris or Father John or neither or both. What I do know is something else that St. Ignatius says, “it is fitting, then, not just to be called Christians but to be such.” And then Ignatius directly warns the bishops with this exhortation, “do not let the widows be neglected, after the Lord, you must be their guardian.”
Here is why so many people are loudly proclaiming their concerns. Moneys given to help widows, children, victims of terrorists, and more are missing. It is natural to cry to the Lord for help. The shepherd(s) do not seem to hear us, or assist us, and therefore we shout even more loudly trying to get the shepherd to respond. Again St. Ignatius says directly to the bishops, “speak to each individual after the example of God, and bear the sicknesses of all.”
Here is where both of my former altar boys seem to come together. They both see the inner circle of the current Syosset administration as being aloof, uncaring and unresponsive. I am not trying to synthesize the two arguments; they are too diverse. I am just pointing out that it is a big waste of time to blame others –that is what Adam and Eve did and you see where that got us. Personally, I think the Syosset crew is in way over their collective head and they need everyone’s help to clean up the sheep pasture. Remember that in the Middle East the shepherd walks in front, leading the sheep. Those who walk behind always have to watch their step.
Archpriest Thaddeus Wojcik
#1 Fr. Thaddeus Wojick on 2006-10-03 13:39
Yes, father, the imagery is precisely the problem. We are not "outside" the Church. Syosset is not "the Church," our Mother. We are IN the Church. We are to be for Her health. We are to further Her anti-body system. Fr. John's analogy fails and does so in a deceptive manner.
His call for compassion upon the Church is in order, of course, and we should listen to that, but if he considers laity peasants, he could well be falling short of the very standard he so desires for us all.
At any rate, if peasants we are, we are liberated peasants in this diocese and are members of our Mother the Church. However, I am sure his analogy fooled none (or at least only a few).
You are also correct that what alarms so many of us is that the $ came from the very people Christ told us to support. If it was a matter of taking money from the roofing fund to replace broken windows, I doubt many would care. What seems to have happened, though, goes well beyond that and given that, we should be alarmed, I agree. I also agree that ultimately, we should all be helping those who are in over there head on these matters. Good point.
#1.1 Fr. Oliver Herbel on 2006-10-03 14:42
GLORY TO JESUS CHRIST! GLORY FOREVER!
Dear Father Dresko,
You stated: “it demeans the dignity of the priesthood to air such a reckless and sweeping charge…ironic here, of course, is that such charges can be leveled against another presbyter in such a public manner when the canons are clear that a presbyter must be accused by 2 or 3 witnesses of good repute.” What charges? No charges were made! A question was asked and suggestions were offered!
As wife of the “senior respected priest” of the OCA I ask that you not misinterpret what Father Nehrebecki suggested out of love and concern for the Orthodox Church in America. “Yes, if the next All-American Council is to be an event signaling a new beginning for our Church there will have to be the recognition of the universal suspicion that every institution and department of the OCA has been violated by dishonesty and duplicity. In every institution and department of the OCA those entrusted to positions of authority, responsibility and accountability have fostered dishonesty and duplicity …. We have allowed moral weakness, love of power and open deception to become qualifications for assuming ministries to save lives and promote the Gospel.”
Duplicity – Deception by pretending to entertain one set of feelings and acting under the influence of another.
Dishonest – Characterized by fraud; knavish; fraudulent. (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary)
There were no charges. Father John was only seeking TRUTH. Why are you deviating? Where are the funds entrusted by the faithful of the Church of Christ to the seminaries, monasteries, missions, youth, the poor, education, 9/111, stocking fund, etc??? Why are you suggesting that the honorable and respected presbyter are being accused? – they are not – but, did they and their departments receive the funds necessary for the growth and prosperity of the Orthodox Church???
You state: “Have they been violated – what is the dignity of the priesthood – who has demeaned it?” The lack of truthfulness, forthrightness and accountability! From the beginning of this crisis in our beloved Church, the question still remains unanswered: “Are the allegations true or false?” It is written: if anyone has caused grief … he has caused it in some measure to all! Yes, all of our institutions have suffered as well as all our charities and outreach! But yes, we do have faithful – bishops, priests, and laos (people of God) in our midst. Christ is in our midst! He is and forever will be!
Father John, as president of the Saint Vladimir Seminary Alumni, have the funds collected by the faithful been properly disbursed for the needs of the Seminary – and on time?
Father John Nehrebecki, in his 54 years of priesthood has and will continue to support the Orthodox Church, its clergy and faithful and its institutions as he has in the past, with the help of God and for the Glory of God!
You also state: “I will not ask for an apology because I know one is not forthcoming.” APOLOGY FOR STATING THE TRUTH!?! Father John, bless us – forgive us – God forgives!
I call upon you and all the faithful of the Church to restore conciliarity. We must have integrity! We must have accountability. We must have love and understanding for each other. We must be honest – with no duplicity. We must be ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC CHURCH, which God has asked us to be! We must build up the Orthodox Church – and the Body of Christ – The Church. Our Mother intercede to God for us! “…for when one ‘part’ of the body is sick, the ‘whole’ body suffers.
“Behold, how good it is when brothers dwell in unity.”
Love in Christ to you, Father John, and all mankind.
Matushka Eugenia Nehrebecki
#2 Matushka Eugenia Nehrebecki on 2006-10-03 13:40
AMEN. AMEN. AMEN. WELL SPOKEN.
#2.1 Anonymous on 2006-10-03 16:17
Dear Father John,
Your intent to write a reflection to tug and pull at the heart strings, before the Diocese of the Midwest meets, is no more than ....a pity party. Our MOTHER THE CHURCH is here to love us unconditionally.
There are times when she shows her tears for her abused, battered and lied to children through her Holy Ikons and in other expressive ways, but she is always HOLY and PURE.
You, Father John Dresko, are WRONG to have called it a "FAIR" share when there have been no proper audits, receipts, and budgetary disclosures.
#3 Matushka Carol on 2006-10-03 14:24
Dear Fr. John,
I must vehemently disagree with your reflection. I have stated this phrase before and I will repeat it again, "Res Ipsa Loquitor." It is Latin for "the act speaks for itself."
The very fact that the OCA is borrowing $1.7 MILLION from the Honesdale National Bank is an act. This act is not because there were a few cash flow problems. It is factually connected to the gross mismanagement of money and the fact that money was diverted from its intended purposes.
Maybe I missed it but I did not see anywhere in your reflection where you made mention of this material fact.
Let's go back your now famous analogy. If the Church is the Mother, I would dare say that the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council are its caretakers. And to and a whole lot of other people, the caretakers were given the responsibility by their children to take care of their mother. And instead of taking care of their mother, they decided to take the money entrusted for the care and squander it.
This, my friend, is why so many people are mad, angry, hurt, and any other word you would like to put in. You see, what they did was commit gross malpractice on their mother and the sentimental, trite, cliche-ridden remarks don't help.
Yes, a $1.7 million bailout loan is an act that speaks for itself. No one is borrowing this kind of money for any other reason but to keep their butts out of jail. If no malfeasance occurred why the need for the loan? Forget about the accusations, why on earth would you borrow this kind of money unless you thought you needed to replace something that was missing?
Here is a suggestion, start not with the sweet sentimentality and start with the one and only true fact that everyone can agree on, the OCA is borrowing $1.7 million dollars. If you can start with this FACT then I think you can draw your own conclusions as to how well the caretakers did with their Mother.
Lord Have Mercy!
#4 Fr. Michael Tassos on 2006-10-03 16:20
Why do you insist that money is being borrowed to keep butts out of jail?
The sad fact is, the previous administration left the OCA on the proverbial edge of bankrupcy and unfortunately, there was no other choice to keep the Church afloat financially.
THERE WAS NO MONEY!!
Therefore, the money was borrowed so that the OCA could continue, replenish the shamefully depleted appeal funds and subsequently send the replenished funds to the appropriate organizations once they are identified. The process has already begun and some of the monies have already been sent to the appropriate places, with more to follow in a timely manner.
Please tell me another financial alternative that would have corrected the problem overnight.
Now we have an entire Diocese threatening to with hold their assessments.
There's an adult response!
What good is that going to do the Church? Yes, we are angry and we want answers, but is that really what God wants from us?
I will say this again. Isn't it ironic that once the former head administrator no longer had access to or control of the OCA money that all monies taken in since late fall of 2005 and through the month of September 2006 have been accounted for?
Come on Fr. Michael, no one in the current administration is trying to keep their butts out of jail, but rather, trying very hard to correct some horrible financial, ethical and moral problems created by others. It's a total mess. The Church didn't get into this mess overnight and they will not get out of it overnight, so please accept that already. They are at least trying. And we need to recognize that.
As for the others who no longer have anything to do with the current Church Administration, what they might be doing I do not know. That could be another story.
#4.1 Michael Geeza on 2006-10-04 07:24
How can you possibly say that all funds from Fall 2005 through September 2006 have been accounted for?
There aren't enough records to conduct an audit for 2005.
The Metropolitan Council nor anyone else has yet to see a financial statement for 2006.
Your implication that all is well since Fr Kodratick was fired is pure baloney!! Nothing has changed.
And nothing will change until we stop feeding the cancer!
Barry A. Sabol
St Nicholas Orthodox Church
#4.1.1 Barry A. Sabol on 2006-10-04 08:33
"Isn't it ironic that once the former head administrator no longer had access to or control of the OCA money that all monies taken in since late fall of 2005 and through the month of September 2006 have been accounted for?"
Really? How do you know that, since, to date, no financial statements for 2005 or 2006 have been presented to the MC, and no audits have been conducted?
"Now we have an entire Diocese threatening to with hold their assessments. There's an adult response!"
Sometimes, Michael, even a saint's patience wear a little thin.
#4.1.2 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-10-04 08:49
Dear Mr. Geeza:
Forgive me if I've missed something here. You said, "all monies taken in since late fall of 2005 and through the month of September 2006 have been accounted for."
How are we supposed to know that? Has anyone released cash flow statements on the OCA web site, or even to members of the Metropolitan Council?
Perhaps this information is indeed available, and I have missed it. Could you let me know where it is to be found?
#4.1.3 Leaella Shirley on 2006-10-04 10:10
Dearest to Christ Michael,
If, as you say the current administration is not the problem but only inherited a problem why then is the current administration the one that: refuses to reveal reports, audits and minutes of meetings just like the previous one? The current administration usurps the authority of the MC just like the previous administration. At every turn that which could have been done to cause the sheep to trust the shepherd was not. Anything that would allow greater accountability which leads to greater honesty and trust has been avoided. One could not in innocence act more guilty than what has taken place, this year, by this administration. There was no attempt at the last ACC to give us a a clear financial picture of the OCA (regarding deficit spending) even though this was under the watch of the current administration. Where were the staff cuts, a moratorium on overseas travel or public acknowledgment of our deficit situation? Staff was added, spending accelerated, and the Metropolitan and other staff well traveled even as widow, orphans and victims of terrorism went without. We were not told of a need to "borrow" from designated funds that continued under this administration. We were told an investigation had taken place and that Fr. Deacon Wheeler's reports were not to be believed and again by this administration. There has been no attempt to be more open about finances even though an entire diocese expressed their concern about it.
Michael, if this administration is not guilty they must now separate themselves from the past and stop wrapping themselves in the status quo. It is actually very easy for the sheep to know what to do. For by this fruit we will know them. No more secrecy, denial, cover up, stonewalling, or blaming of the laity. There must immediately be transparency no matter what the personal cost to individuals acting in Syosset. Metropolitan Herman must immediately begin to reveal all reports, audits, and minutes of meetings to those He wishes to reestablish trust with.
Finally, it is not a matter of will the Diocese of the Midwest withhold? The people already are! Their trust is greatly diminished in this administration. It doesn't take a prophet to predict that at next count there will be fewer people participating in fair share census than ever before. If need be the faithful will bypass Syosset, the Diocese, and the local parish and give their gifts to God directly to a need they personally identify. You can call that immature. Others might call it responsible. Both opinions will come to agree that it is a reality.
Fr Andrew Moore
#4.1.4 fr. Andrew on 2006-10-04 10:19
Dear Fr. Andrew,
I totally understand and share in the frustration of all the faithfull and clergy throughout the Church. I really do.
I'm frustrated, angry and want answers too!
However, what I don't understand is why so many people can't read into why things can't be said at this time.
Apparantly a very serious investigation is ongoing and when dealing with situations such as this, both sides are precluded from saying anything so as not to hinder the process, tip off the other side to any information or so that nothing comes back to haunt them down the road from what was previously said. Better to be quiet, than spout off. I know, this stinks and isn't fair to us!
Just ask yourself this question. If the investigation is truly still ongoing, and I truly believe that it is, don't you think the situation is much moe serious than we can even imagine?
Why can't people read into that?
I'm not an attorney. But I'd be willing to venture a guess that some of our attorney friends out there will agree, that when an investigation of wrong doing and possible financial improprieties is ongoing, nothing can be publically said until it is completed.
Father, I don't have the answer to solving any of this and I really do share in your pain and frustration. However, I have a very deep faith and believe that things are being corrected. Slowly, but surely. This is not an easy process.
Can any of us imagine the stress imposed on those who are to trying to fix the problem while all the while realizing that whatever we do, say or write will be subject to insessent ridicule, complaints, attacks, condemnation and questions?
Enduring all of that and also sharing in the frustration that they can't say a thing!
Have any of us thought of that? Do we honestly think the Metropolitan and Fr. Kucynda are deliberately not saying anything so that the faithful don't know what's going on?
They aren't saying anything because PR is staunchly precluding them from saying anything. And you know what?
They are doing the right thing.
With whatever monies have already been spent on this investigation, the time involved, the varying degrees of information that have been discovered, etc. etc., would any of us really want to see all of that effort wasted by someone opening their mouth and jeopardizing all of this work?
I have lost sleep over this whole mess as I'm sure many of my fellow brothers and sisters In Christ have also.
Father, all I ask is that we try to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are making a valiant attempt at correcting much wrong within the Church.
Please ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit at your Diocesan Assembly next week so that all of you may reach a unified decision with regard to financially supporting the Church.
We can all still ask questions and make proper provisons so that financial mismanagement never happens again.
God's work takes patience, love, time and some money to see to it that there is a future for the next generation of Orthodox Christians.
With respect to all who may disagree or have a different opinion.
#18.104.22.168 Michael Geeza on 2006-10-05 06:03
Thank you for your question and here is my response. The OCA clearly was spending more than it was taking in. I believe that this is a factual statement. The question then becomes, "how big was the deficit and at what rate were the expenses outstripping the revenues?" Like you, I do not have all of the documents at my disposal to really assess this. However, based upon the reports of missing 911 funds, Beslan orphan funds, and funds missing from many other accounts, I would argue that the rate at which the expenses outpaced revenues was exacerbated by individuals who knew what they were doing and did it anyway.
As I also pointed out in a message about a month or two ago that at the last AllAmerican Council a deficit budget was proposed (I don't know if it actually passed in its deficit form).
Again so I am clear, I fully agree with you that the OCA has been in a deficit position, the issue is the alarming rate of the deficit over the past few years. I also agree that the current OCA administration is taking some steps to correct this and that this is positive. I am, however, still critical of the current administration's lack of information. There are no current financials that show where the OCA is at in terms of cash flow or its financial position. Also, if the OCA was truly concerned with finding out exactly what happened to the money they should have hired a forensic accountant. As one other person posted earlier, when the outside CPA came in to audit the books and records, it would have been evident in a matter of a couple of days that the books and records necessary to support and audit were not available and the engagement should have been changed.
As to the withholding of funds from the OCA, I would echo your sentiments that this should truly be a last resort. It will most likely do more harm than good. To use the analogy of Fr. John again, if the Church is the Mother and the clergy and laity are her children, we will probably do irreparable harm to our Mother by starving her to death simply because we are mad at the doctors/caregivers who were taking care of her.
#4.1.5 Fr. Michael Tassos on 2006-10-04 11:15
Dear Father Michael,
Will cutting off a flow of money to Syosset (central administration of the OCA) really starve the Holy Church to death? Do you really believe that? With great respect I ask this and it is not the first time I have heard this from other pastors of our Church. This idea that we would be starving the Holy Church if we withheld assessments to Syosset I do not (again respectfully) agree with.
Her food is not money and her sustenance is not dependent on a balance sheet. That which is necessary for the salvation of ours and many other souls will survive the cessation of financial support. This is especially true for that which is not and has not acted according to the pattern of our Lord Jesus Christ. That which is fully and functionally manifesting the Holy Church (our parishes and many dioceses), will in my opinion be stronger and better in witness, acting like Christ, and making a distinction with that which refuses to act like Christ. I am certain that Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ will continue to sustain the Church even if Syosset ceases to be. This is our real food and real drink without which we would really starve to death.
Fr Andrew Moore
#22.214.171.124 fr. Andrew on 2006-10-05 06:28
Father John, You have asked the question: "So it is OK for us to circumvent the All-American Council, the Statute and the Metropolitan Council when it suits our purposes, but not for the purposes of the nefarious “others.” This builds up our Church? This heals our Mother?"
This is a very important question.
In this time of crisis, is everyone committed to the OCA Statute or not? I submitted a similar question to Deacon Peter on the OCA website (which still has not been answered on the OCA website). The question was whether the Metropolitan and the administration are committed to following the OCA Statute. Specifically, does the administration recognize that the Metropolitan Council (i) establishes the budget, (ii) determines the allocation of fees and assessments, (iii) determines the allocation of general Church funds, (iv) examines all financial reports, (v) maintains an inventory of all properties of the Church, (vi) initiates, prosecutes, and defends all legal matters affecting the interest of the Church, and (vii) receives reports from any department in areas within its competence (including, presumably, interim reports from Proskauer Rose)?
It seems to me that if the administration will commit to follow the OCA Statute, if it will allow and encourage the Metropolitan Council to do its job, if it will provide access to all the information the Metropolitan Council needs to do its job, if it will tolerate a robust exchange of ideas and opinions, then all of the issues can be properly addressed in due course.
#5 Robert Vasilios Wachter, Esq. on 2006-10-03 18:16
It seems to me that Fr. Dresko's reflection about the "Sick Mother" has done something significant for our Church-even if not in the way he intended.
"Sick Mother" has generated more "comments" than any other post on this site (at this time 62 and counting.) Almost everyone who comments does not buy SMS ("Sick Mother Syndrome.")
What is it that our priests and people are saying by these posts?
It reminds me of the 1976 movie, "Network", in which one of the characters, in utter frustration,goes to an open window high above the city and screams for the whole world to hear:
"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
Is not this what our people in the pews and our priests in the trenches are saying? Are we now at that point of utter frustration where we're "...not going to take it anymore...?"
We have been deceived. We have been maligned. We have been taken advantage of. We have been told this and that
"...for the good of the Church..." Some have been silenced and suffered character assasination. We have been talked down to and told it will all be made right.
Meanwhile our Church has been robbed blind. Call it what you want, "diverting" money intended for widows and orphans is plain old fashioned stealing! It cries to heaven for vengeance. Writing out checks for "cash" for just under $10,000 so as not to to alert the IRS and then having no receipts for the expenditures of thousands & thousands of dollars in cash is but another aspect of the scandal.
The list goes on and on. To this date not one individual has admitted: "Yes, I am guilty of thus and so..." No one has resigned. I heard one Syosset apparatchik say: "I just did what I was told." Is not this the "Nazi defense?" Didn't the Nuremburg Trial teach us this is not an acceptable defense? Will the "Nuremburg Defense" be accepted at that "...dread judgement seat of Christ...?"
And yet we are told WE have to forgive, WE have to repent. Meanwhile the "fox (or foxes) is/are guarding the hen house"
Calls have been coming forth for Metropolitan Herman and others to resign-even from brother bishops. It seems that this is not going to happen. Canonically it seems virtually impossible to have a new first hierarch given the division among our bishops. Our Church is thus being held hostage as surely as if we were "under the Pope.!"
In our frustration we hear talk of "jumping jurisdictions" aka
"the grass is always greener..." What we might find in "jumping" is that not only is the grass not greener...it may not even be grass. No! this is OUR CHURCH and we must "stand aright" we must "stand with fear." We must stand fast and stare "them" down if that's what it takes. Let not one of us sell out our Church to the "higest bidder!"
Now for the sticky part. Sad to say the only leverage we seem to have is to cut off "their" funding. Fr. Hopko is right we should "...stop giving money to the central church adminstration, except what we are obliged to give by statute..."
Instead of responding to a "Charity Appeal" we can send our donation directly to IOCC which has a proven track record. Or perhaps we may choose to help some needy individual. Someone like our own Fr. Michael Mihalik immediately comes to mind. I know of some some widowed or otherwise abandoned matushki who have been helped by the generosity of individuals. There is no end to our opportunities to support the works of mercy even within our Church.
We can respond DIRECTLY to our seminaries. I know of one individual within my immediate circle who on a monthly basis
DIRECTLY supports a seminarian and his family. He does this without any departmental intervention. He writes out the check and mails it off to the seminarian. I know of someone else who for several years has been sending a monthly check to one of our older and disabled priests who has no pension and is essentially penniless. There are many other such Good Samaritans out there who perform such works of charity and because it is done "in secret" and on a one on one basis it comes with no "tax write-off" benefit.
We can do our part for missions by responding directly to a mission parish with which we are familiar. In this way we know exactly WHO is getting the money and WHEN.
If the overwhelming response to Fr. Dresko's "Sick Mother" approach is indicative of the feelings of "our people" from the "Holy Land of Pennsylvania" to the "Heartland" of the midwest and from "sea to shining sea" we have a good yardstick of the level of frustration, anger and discontent out there.
This discontnet is not just out here in cyberspace. It's in our SS. Peter & Pauls, St. Nicholas' and Holy Trinities. It is unfortunately fermenting whenever two or more of us get together. Call it "gossip" or whatever it is. It is happening. It is bantered about from the piroghi ladies to clergy gatherings.
Meanwhile because the majority of our clergy and people are polite and well mannered we "carry on", not questioning our pastors and archpastors.Our bishops visit our parishes and no one dares to bring "it" up. Who wants to bring "it" up and be branded this or that. All the while the emperor STILL has no clothes. "It" is fodder for deanery meetings where "supporters" and "detractors" go at each other. There was such hostility about "it" on the OCA Clergy List that the long time founder and moderator, Fr. Thomas Soroka felt compelled to shut it down. This was an otherwise
wonderful and sorely missed resource for our clergy. What a shame!
What has happened to our Church is not a mere "sickness."
"Sickness" can often be a means of God's Saving Grace. What we are experiencing is: in your face evil.
When our Savior encountered the evil money changers in the temple He became so "enraged" He overturned their tables declaring:
"It is written: My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." Matt 21:12-13
Is it time to call in an exorcist?
Through the prayers of our Holy Father Leonty First Hierarch of our Church in America Have Mercy on us and Save Us!
Archpriest Thomas Edwards
of the 70
#6 Archpriest Thomas Edwards on 2006-10-03 21:17
Hip, Hip, Hooray!
#6.1 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-10-04 14:19
As a toxicologist, Ineed to comment on the analogy made here. What is missing is that when there is a cancer, the reason for it being manifested is sought so that the cause can be neutralized, otherwise the source will continue to pose risk.
What is not being discussed and should be is who did what? What created the necessity for these funds to be expended? Who did what and who is culpable because of it? Blackmail has been mentioned - if so, why was a situation allowed to be created to create an environment for the possibility of blackmail being a risk?.....
If a cleric has sinned or been complacent regarding the sin of a fellow cleric - how can that cleric, in true christianity , continue to function? If they have committed such greivous sin how can anything the do be perceived as holy? It appears to me that something is missing here -- embarrassing and confidential information is being sequestered according to the documents at hand. If all was on the up and up this would not be case.
If someone did something that created the need for this missmanagement of money - shouldn't that person repay the church -- sell their house, their belongings, vestments ( if appropriate) and then live in a humble cell at St.Tikhon's - in monastic isolation? It is evident that there is much not being told, and those who are sitting on this information are as culpable as the perpertrator and if so shouldn't they all be relieved of their positions of influence. by doing so, the cancer source and perpertuating environment will be excised and the church can proceed on a path of least risk to its health? I remember the PTL fiasco, and there appears to be some similiarity here and the perpetrators there went to jail -- is this a possibility here? If so, will the church need to recreate itself to survive? these are the bottomline issues needed to excise the cancer, not the smoke and mirrors that involve lost records.
#7 r j klancko on 2006-10-04 04:29
You are absolutely correct. However, you must realize that the "elephant in the living room" that no one wants to talk about is the role of Metropolitan Theodosius in all this.
#7.1 Priest of the Midwest on 2006-10-09 11:59
Father Dresko, thank you! Your reflection has certainly clarified the situation and contributed to moving things forward to a successful resolution--just NOT in the way you hoped it would. More importantly, the level of sophistication and articulation in the responses is heartening, as is the ratio of lay to clerical comment.
Hardly a public relations coup for Syosset!
#8 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-10-04 07:19
As a non member of the Orthodox Church, I would like to remind the administration, clergy, and parishoners to consider the infection of this "cancer" beyond the sphere of the Orthodox Church.
Personal suspicions have been brewing for several years. Relations to this matter are of an immediate kind. Perplexed observations of this "cancer" taking family members to lush restaraunts, buying exotic cars, taking exotic trips, building lavish estates, and the list goes on, must not go unspoken. This leads to question, how this is being afforded, while being employed by the adminstration, and or a monastary?
Would the prestigous Russian Orthodox Church of America relish the inclusion with groups like, Jim and Tammy Fae Baker of the PTL? The future may hold this.
In the meantime, as some of us raise a brow to this behavior, influence is being dealt to my family by YOUR "cancerous growth". It's causing personal irrepairable damage. Many of my family are not even Orhtodox, nor will ever be at this point. The Orthodox cancer has spread outside the walls of YOUR church. This is a result of complacancy when presented with delays and deception by the cancer and its hand picked investigative crew. A reminder, the cancers' investigative crew is on your dollar.
This creates the situation of the denial of missions programs. Possibly, or could it be said probably, this is due to the lack of financal means. Not only is this cancer killing this church, it is aborting the unborn churches yet to come.
I suggest a closer examination of, the HEAD of this cancer and the people immdeiately surrounding him, the records including property transactions, also imported (smuggled) goods for resale without paying the proper customs fees, and this is just to start.
I have never heard of cancer to cure itself, yet this is the remidy being put forth by the leadership.
#9 Christopher Martin on 2006-10-04 07:40
Please someone tell me where this Church is our Mother idea originates.
We often look to Mary as our mother for comfort, but the Theotokos is not the Church and she does not give birth to believers in her Son. That is the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer's heart in the setting of the Kingdom, which now is represented on earth by the Church, but has yet to be fulfilled at the Lord's Second Coming.
The Church is the Body of Christ and therefore she represents Christ on earth. She is the Bride of Christ and in the bridal union she again represents Christ on earth. She awaits His return for the fulfillment of the Kingdom, when all will be summed up in *Him*.
It is a great deceit to call the Church our Mother. Anything we do to the least of these Christ's brethern, we have done it unto *Christ Himself*, not unto our "Mother, the Church". The Church as an earthly institution because she is filled with sinners suffers on earth and awaits her Kingdom fulfillment in her Lover and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, the Church can suffer from our sins, and it is our job to stop the suffering by a return to living in truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God. Truth will free us to forgive and to love and truly represent Christ on earth, not our Mother the Church.
It is the Lord Jesus that has been wounded by sin, not the so-called "Mother Church."
We all know what happens when mothers take control of families and usurp the place of fathers: WATCH OUT!
for then there will most likely be lots of cover-up and lots of dysfunction in the area of truth. It is more important to women than men, I think, to keep up appearances, to present a pleasing picture of the family. That has its place too, but not always.
Jesus said to his own mother at one point Woman, what have I to do with you? Jesus had integrity and courage in saying so, and the Theotokos most likely admired him for it.
If I have said amiss, please correct me.
#10 Karen Jermyn on 2006-10-04 07:53
The idea of the Church as our Mother comes from the New Testament of the Bible and has always been present in Orthodox Christianity, whether or not we "modern folk" know enough about our faith to realize it.
In the Bible, Saints Paul the Apostle and John the Theologian wrote of Christ as a “bridegroom” and the Church as His “bride” or “wife” (see Ephesians 5:22-32 or Revelation 19:7, 21:9 and 22:17, for example), intimately bound to each other as in marriage.
Saint John even addressed a letter to the Church and her members under his supervision “to the chosen lady and her children” (2 John 1:1). What is a lady who has children? A mother!
The holy Fathers of the Church thought in the same way. Saint Cyprian of Carthage was so bold as to say: "No one can have God as his Father if he does not have the Church as his Mother," because the Church is the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), and nobody can come to God the Father except through Christ (John 14:6).
Furthermore, the Church is not merely an earthly institution.
She is “the Body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), the way in which He is present and active among us in the world until the end of time (Matthew 28:20).
She is the “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22), in which the Holy Spirit abides forever (John 14:16) to guide us into all truth (John 16:13).
She is “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), on which orthodoxy — true faith and right belief — is firmly grounded and supported.
She is “the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” (Hebrews 12:22) that includes not only us alive on earth, but also “tens of thousands of angels” and “the spirits of righteous people made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-23) — the saints in heaven.
As these words from the Bible bear witness, the Church is a living divine-human organism in which heaven and earth, the living and the dead, the human and the angelic are bound together by the God-Man Jesus Christ, in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17), through whom God has reconciled all things on earth and in heaven to Himself (Colossians 1:20).
Finally, John 2:4 has been badly mistranslated in English. Christ wasn't "dissing" His mother. In the original Greek, when she brings to His attention the dearth of wine at the wedding, He says to her: "Woman, what is that *to you and to Me*? My hour has not yet come." (Big difference!) Worth noting too is that He heeded her intercession and performed the miracle of turning water into wine after she told the waiters: "Do whatever He tells you."
None of this new: it's been Orthodox Christianity for the past 2,000 years. If we're not aware of it, that shows where the real crisis (ignorance of our faith and spirituality) lies, a fundamental crisis from which others cannot help but to spring.
#10.1 Gregory Orloff on 2006-10-04 09:15
"YOU CANNOT have God for your Father unless you have the Church for your Mother."
Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church
#10.2 Fr. Alexander Kuchta on 2006-10-04 10:49
The Church is not "an earthly institution".
The Church is not merely a community of those who believe in Christ and walk in His steps or in His commandments. She is a community of those who abide and dwell in Him, and in whom He Himself is abiding and dwelling by the Spirit.
Christ Himself belongs to this community, as its Head, not only as its Lord or Master. Christ is not above or outside of the Church.
The Church includes not only Christians on earth, but all the heavenly angels, all the saints in heaven. In the Church heaven and earth are united, even though the first is triumphant and the latter is still a struggling warrior.
Every liturgy is celebrated both here and in heaven.
We say that the Church is the Body of Christ, or the Bride of Christ. And all that is true, if you think in a spiritual way.
There is also a Russian saying, " For whom the Church is not Mother, for them God is not Father." I think one can understand it only when he or she loves the Church dearly.
Forgive me all, if I am wrong.
#10.3 Anastasia on 2006-10-04 11:21
St. Paul speaks about "the Jerusalem above, which is free, which is the mother of us all" as opposed to the bodage of the old covenant system. The Fathers use the term (St. Cyprian of Carthage, Blessed Augustine. inter alios) noting that without the Church as our Mother we cannot have God as our Father. Also, Christ's words to the Theotokos in John 2, given a strange twist in the KJV, literally reads "what is it to me and to you?" Further, the address of "woman" was common (Jesus used it in other instances), and does not have the pejorative sense we attach to it.
#10.4 Cyril on 2006-10-04 12:10
Thanks to those who responded to my post. I am still trying to fathom Kingdom vs. Church realities. Forgive me if I have offended anyone's belief system.
#10.5 Karen Jermyn on 2006-10-04 13:47
The comments on the metaphor of the Church as our mother illuminate an interesting point of this crisis. The first is the tendency to identify "the Church" with Syosset, the OCA administration, or the Metropolitan. The Church is much more than that, and cannot be reduced to nor limited by any one of these associations. It is horribly irresponsible to use any of these metaphors to justify any evil activity, whether that be deception, ecclesiastical abuse, stealing, or verbal abuse - not to mention mismanagement.
The degree to which this crisis has affected local communities - which enjoy the fullness of the Church's wholeness, or catholicity - is telling. Perhaps the best image which best describes our OCA is the one our Lord warned of - a quarreling family (cf. Matthew 10:16ff). At stake is something much more important than the way other Orthodox perceive us, our "legitimacy," and yes, even our autocephaly: our covenantal fidelity to God, remaining faithful to Him to the bitter end, whatever the consequences. Our task should really center on this, because this is the issue: are we, collectively, really the people we claim, both liturgically and in life? For us, fidelity to God might entail much bitterness here. The path to restoration demands that the entire Church participate in the process of sorting things out and healing. In our case, the assembled people have just as much at stake as those sacramentally ordained, because we all share the same baptism into the same Church. So any maneuver that deliberately excludes the active contribution of the assembly is just bad ecclesiology, and not Orthodox.
So let's be honest: for those who want to refer to the Church as mother metaphor, let us see that the illness of the Church as mother has afflicted the entire body, and that everyone has an equal responsibility to contribute to her restoration.
#10.5.1 Dn. Nicholas Denysenko on 2006-10-05 08:17
thanks for an excellent post
#10.5.1.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-10-05 21:48
We don’t know what happened to the money. We do know what did not happen to the money – widows, orphans, and victims of tragic circumstances never received it. It wasn’t my money that was taken – when I wrote the check and put it in the mail or collection plate it ceased belonging to me. It wasn’t OCA's money – they were simply the intermediary. The money was STOLEN from the widows, orphans, and victims of tragedy! I will gladly pick up my pitchfork and torch and stand with the other villagers at the town border – and defend those that we are called by Christ to defend and care for – against the devil that we let walk through the gate! If we do anything less we are as guilty as the thieves.
#11 Debbie Pound on 2006-10-04 08:26
I'm a member of the Greek Orthodox Church and one of my fellow church goers told me about the financial issues of the OCA and for this reason I took a look at this site.
Since I work for a government agency and specialize in this field of "missing money", I figured that I could contribute my two cents in lay person's view of an audit.
Back in the early to mid 80's we had very similar situations in the northeast Savings & Loan (S&L) banks. These S&L's were not just shut down because they made poor loans. These so-called loans were down right stealing by bank employees. Yes, even the S&L's claimed there were no receipts and most/all documentation was missing for funds allocated to someone's pocket (By no means am I accusing someone of theft in this case).
A typical action plan was to bring in government auditors from the FDIC and dig until answers were obtained. You must realize, the FDIC inssured each savings account for $100,000 and they were going to get to the bottom of where the missing money was. Otherwise they would have to pay our billions of dollars to customers.
This was done for two reasons. The first one I stated above. The second, each employee for an S&L was bonded by an insurance policy. If an insurance policy pays the government on a policy because an employee was stealing.... be sure that they were going to prosecute to obtain not criminal judgments, however Civil Judgments so that they could be recorded. Afterwards they could garnish future wages, file liens against homes and personal property, execute and garnish current and future savings of an individual.
We as the government agency would then come in and fact find, then prosecute criminally if there was cause.
The above was taken VERY seriously. There was no such thing that an auditor could not complete an audit because he/she did not have receipts to review. Everyone already knew what happened to those receipts.
The following actions were taken:
[its important to note, paid auditors are fact finders, IF INSTRUCTED they can and will do what they are paid to do]
1. Copies of all checks were obtained. Yes, some banks only keep copies for three years. However, now since everything is saved via electronic imaging 7-10 years is the norm. Even then they are archived with the Federal Clearing House, an institution where most banks clear their checks. For a fee they will restore archived images.
2. Bank Statements. Yes, the norm for banks to hold this information is three years. With three years of information you will be given a VERY GOOD indication who needs to be interviewed and "connect the dots" so to speak.
3. Receipts / Credit Card Statements. First, does the organization have its on credit cards (the churches tax payer ID number)? Again, for a fee, those statements can be obtained very quickly. If private credit cards were used, during an interview with that particular individual they would be asked to sign an authorized letter for the auditors to pay for copies of the statements in question. Grant it, if they don't sign such an authorization - another set of questions are given to them in order to determine wrong doing. This was documented specifically for lawyers to but together a claim for insurance purposes.
3. General Ledger Statements (GL). Grant it they may be missing. However with copies of checks, bank statements, interviews - a picture will be painted.
4. Usually during the interview process if specific questions are asked and can't be answered, within several days a resignation letter was received or the individual questioned would obtain legal counsel. That's another "red flag".
5. If "red flags" come up as mentioned. An experienced auditor will know to pursue it and take the necessary steps needed to get answers. YES, these answers may not be specific or point the finger of every penny in question. HOWEVER, you will have more than a basic notion. You will have a detailed fact finding report by an auditor, not "we have no receipts, an audit cannot be completed". That is NONSENSE.
There is a downfall to a full-blown audit. The truth may come out. For almost 30 years I've been paid to locate facts. I'll tell you, the truth does not make everyone happy.
#12 Todd Petratis on 2006-10-04 12:26
It would be a wonderful thing if you and the CPAs who post here could put together a set of information/questions for the auditing firm as a prep document for the MC members.
Part of the problem is that because our MC members don't have experience in these matters they're still at the mercy at the representations of the administration.
it would also be a great thing if the MC could arrange a vote by phone or email asking the Lamos/Lambrides people to be at the next meeting, in addition to PR, to answer questions and then if the MC members were well-prepped by CPAs on what to ask and how to know if the answers hold water or not.
If the MC is beginning to show signs of life, people who have the professional knowlege to make them more effective can help until we can get the people with the knowledge and experience actually elected to the MC.
#12.1 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-10-04 14:35
FYI, this was done several months ago. A group of CPAs (including myself) drafted such comments, and they were delivered to an outside attorney responsible for drafting the initial letter advising the MC members of their responsibilities and liability in the event of wrongdoing.
I can't say if our comments were ever incorporated into the letter.
There is a naive attitude both in the administration and metropolitan council regarding the work of outside experts, including accountants.
The word "audit", especially when combined with "Generally Accepted Auditing Standards" has a very specific technical meaning. There are only four report options available to the accountant performing such an audit of the financial statements:
1. Unqualified -- The statements present fairly the financial position and activity of the organization.
2. "Except for ..." and "Subject to ...", the statements present fairly.
3. Adverse -- the statements do not present fairly.
4. Disclaim -- unable to form an opinion as to the financial statements.
To my mind, what should have been requested is for what the accountants call "agreed upon procedures". This would entail a discussion about the procedures and the work product. In my mind, the procedures would be gathering available material from all sources and the work product would be a reconstructed financial statement.
I would like to see disclosure begin with the release of the engagement letter with the accounting firm and the law firm, so that we might understand the scope of the investigations.
I would also like to see accountants with expertise in forensic accounting hired to reconstruct the records from available information. That was apparently done in Florida with the Roman Catholic priests now accused of skimming the collection plate (to the tune of $8 million!).
Note that I asked for reconstruction of the financial statements, not an audit. An audit means something entirely different, just as the "compilations" performed several years ago mean something specific.
For those desiring to be educated on such matters, look at www.aicpa.org for information about using financial statements and the functions of accountants.
In Christ's service,
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#12.1.1 Marty Watt on 2006-10-04 16:14
So Todd, based upon your information, should a reasonable person conclude either that the OCA's accountants are incompetent (not highly likely) or that the OCA is hiding the truth once again from its people?
I'm shocked. I'm amazed.
#12.2 Fr John M. Reeves on 2006-10-04 14:45
Fr John & others: It is hard to give an answer to your question without seeing the engagment letter with Lambrides, et al. If they were engaged to do an audit in accordance with our profession's audit standards, then they should have been able to determine very early on in the process whether there was sufficient records for them to do the audit. Clearly, they should not wait until meeting with the MC to tell them that, sorry, no records exist. The MC should have been told immediately. If Lambrides told Met Herman, he shouldn't have waited until now to tell the MC.
Second, "It would be a wonderful thing if you and the CPAs who post here could put together a set of information/questions for the auditing firm as a prep document for the MC members."
It is my understanding that the terms of both our clergy and lay delegate to the MC expire this year, so we will be electing new representatives at the Midwest Diocese assembly next week. I will talk to both people who are elected and will offer my help in any way I can.
Third, just because an audit cannot be accomplished, there is absolutely no reason that microfilm records shouldn't be ordered to reconstruct the accounting records. As time is of the essence, bank and credit card records should be requested immediately. Unfortunately, Syosset seems to indicate that they have no intention of doing so. At least one of the resolutions proposed requires that an accounting be done for the past 10 years. The more time that goes by however, the chances that it can be done become ever more remote.
#12.2.1 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-10-05 12:05
I humbly ask for your blessing.
I again want to underline that I was in no way pointing fingers at anyone in this case. My above email was based on a mismanaged/theft case I worked on in the 80's. I don't have "facts" to this situation.
However, NO you cannot conclude that the CPA firm doing this audit is incompetent. I am not a CPA, I perform criminal investigations for white collared crime. That is my specialty. Yet, I do work with CPA's on a daily basis.
I think Mr. Martin Watt, CPA (from the post above) would agree with me when I say a CPA firm will only do the work they are paid for. IF a CPA firm comes to a conclusion that they have exhuasted there efforts and cannot continue with an audit without proper documentation - that's what they will state in their report.
HOWEVER, with the importance and sensitivity of this audit they should have recommended (they may have verbally suggested & not put it in the report) to "Reconstruct" as Mr. Watt & I both suggested.
As written above, "reconstructing records" can be done with those who spealize in that area. It is costly. You would not need to reconstruct 100% of the records. Once the work begins a picture begins to be painted and that leads you to a much better report than the one already presented.
Someone has mentioned that the investigation is ongoing and imformation cannot be made public. That is a very accurate statement!!!!!! I will also say that we used the media as much as anyone else. Why? IF there is anyone guilty (theft, misappropriation of funds etc...), media tends to make them do stupid things and get caught.
Father, IS THE OCA HIDING THE TRUTH? With everything that has been posted. Everything that I have read. Objectively speaking, right now the question can't be answered.
If you go back to my posting. I mentioned "red flags". Again, this is only from information that has been posted here and the Offical OCA Website. Debra responded to my posting by suggesting that someone should come up with legit questions to be asked.
PLEASE REMEMBER NOT ALL "RED FLAGS" MEAN SOMEONE IS TRYING TO PULL THE WOOL OVER YOUR EYES OR THAT SOMEONE IS AT FAULT!!! It DOES mean that one should look for more answers to "get to the bottom of the issue"
RED FLAG when someone says that an audit can't be completed because no docs/receipts exsist.
Response question to CPA firm: What necessary steps do we need to take to get a better picture of what happened to the money in question? Asking about Reconstruction of Records. Are you capable of doing so? Do you have experience with this? What are the costs involved? Can you reach a professional opinion with any of the information you do have?
RED FLAG - "you cannot meet with the atty's" (for whatever reason)
Response: Why? The cost is too much? It will cost a lot more if we do not have working information for the future. Also remember, atty's do not like answering questions (nothing personal). It is ALWAYS appropriate to ask what their 'professional' opinion is on a situation? How they suggest to proceed? Again you are paying them.
RED FLAG - CPA firm is not availble for questions or is not attending regular meetings.
Response: Let's face it. Its 2006 & the paying customer is always right. The CPA firm should always be availble to the highest governing body of the church. They should be there to answer questions. If they are not available, well, payment for services are not available. We need a new firm.
Fr. John, I know that the above may sound vague or that I just rattled on. A concrete answer is hard to give when you don't know all the information.
Here is where I'm going to get the backlash. This website provides very good & I believe to be genuine concern. However, being involved in just these type of situations every day. I know that media, websites, attorney's, CPA firms, investigations, audits bring on an incredible hipe. AND HIPE SELLS - so to speak. People love top hop on read and talk about what someone said or what "they" feel is the truth. Because there are emotions involved, people tend to embelish and write crazy things. As a criminal investigator I can't let that govern my job. I'm to find facts and solve problems.
I will again repeat myself from my previous post. Not everyone wants to hear the trurth & the truth does not and will not make everyone happy.
Please take my postings for face value & not read into anything I said.
IF ANYONE has any "Professional Questions" you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org However, I will not get into debates or dirt slinging with anyone. Nor will I tell you what you want to hear - just a way that my professional experiance has taught me (and I'm not always right!!!!).
I hoped not to offend anyone. If I have please forgive me. It was not my intent.
Yours in Christ,
#12.2.2 Todd Petratis on 2006-10-06 11:17
Fundamentally your right. 100% right. The only issue I see is that if the mother decides to refuse treatment, you need to let her fall alseep into the arms of the lord with the dignity that she deserves.
The OCA Administration not heeding the many calls for accountability and forthcomingness are the treatment. How we collectively are the angry children that OUR mother has chosen to depart from us and lie in the bosom of Abraham.
You must at some point let her go and cherish the good memories of her that you have had over the years.
She can decide at any time to seek that treatment and cure herself, but the decision is hers, not the childrens. We're all hoping and praying for that light to be shown upon her, but at the moment it appears that she has chosen to depart this world with dignity.
Let her go, if you love her enough, you will let her make her own decisions and be able to understand them after she is gone.
#13 Bob H. on 2006-10-04 14:48
How did the sick mother get into the hospital in the first place? It sounds as if we had a healthy mother who got sick by toxic family members (who were more dysfunctional than she) and is now in the hospital getting treated by incompetent doctors and nurses.
The doctors and nurses seem to have been slowly poisoning the mother to render her paralyzed. It sounds as if the doctors and nurses aren't even properly credentialed and know very little about their profession (such as the OCA knowing very little about proper financial management).
In this day and age, I believe that would be fraud and become a lawsuit. Perhaps the OCA faithful need to file a class action lawsuit to effect the tremendous change that has to take place in the OCA for its moral, ethical, and spiritual healing and growth.
I have not really advocated for a class action lawsuit. I really want to see things set correctly within the OCA from the talent we have within it that can turn this around. A special AAC will be a good and continual way forward.
#14 Patty Schellbach on 2006-10-04 16:05
Dear Fr. Dresko:
Speaking for us poor peasants, I must inform you, Fr. Dresko that we are properly to be referred to now as prols. After all, the Czar, may he live forever, did set us wretched serfs free, and so since we have moved from one class to the other, please be respectful of how you address us. As I still cut my own fire wood and patch my own roof (I guess I shall always be a peasant), and as I still spend about 10 hours a week educating my daughter, along with my day job out in the fields, I have had little time of late to look at this website until two days ago. Fortunately, I remembered how to turn my computer on, and even how to find the keyboard and the screen (quite a hard a task for us uneducated prols). Having heard you speak at St. Nicholas parish, Bethlehem, I believed you to be a reasonable and logical man, and thus I looked forward to your statements, especially having heard you say, at said visit, that had you known the state of things last January (or whenever it was) when you were approached about working in Syosset you don’t think you would have taken the job. You gave a thoughtful presentation, one that all should take to heart about stewardship. And thus I was anticipating something which showed that someone at Syosset empathized with the suffering of we poor prols, who understood our frustrations, and who could address the question of vast wrongs, and begin the process of making things right.
Nonetheless, it now seems that the situation you were referring to, the one that would have given you pause, was not in Syosset, but here among us poor and pitiable unwashed peasants, er, proletariat: we who know not how happy we should be that the unaccounted millions of our Church’s money, whether given by us, or by the munificence associated with multi-billion dollar corporations, has now disappeared for good, and that there shall be no reckoning for it. We who teach and pray and give and work should be happy that members of our hierarchy can run off to Moscow and spend thousands a night, and thus fritter away the treasure we prols thought we were storing up in heaven. Ah, but the passages I seem never to have understood aright, being a peasant, for instead of it being laid up in heaven, it was only being wasted on prodigal living. Having now been better taught I guess I should count myself happy.
Where did the money go? Who made these cash withdraws? Why do we have individuals of questionable character giving advice to our chancellor and metropolitan? Are there no monks left in the OCA? Or are they nothing more than peasants as well, with peasant minds and peasant morality? Despite what my spiritual father says, I am ready to jump jurisdictions. It is not that I think the Greeks or the Syrians somehow shall enter heaven first, but at least I can go there and pray and not be distracted by all of this, awaiting someone to come down from the empyrium to inform me that giving to the unaccountable is what’s best for my soul.
I apologize for the tone, but it seems no one listens to simple requests anymore, and I shall take my cue from our father in the Faith, St. Paul: Am I your enemy because I tell you the truth? What has now become of our ministries of mercy and stewardship, the vineyard you ostensibly were called to, which are now barren and desolate, unfortunately devoid of fruit? Your first duty as a priest is the salvation of souls: are you looking after those of us peasants and prols? Maybe I shall go to Rome, at least there they still claim that they are the servants of the servants of God, and not the other way round.
Now if you will excuse me, I must go find the other lumpenproletariat in my area, as this new revolution from this new Comintern is not for us, and sadly we have little use for the party members, as they seem to have so little use for us. While it is day, and there seems so much around, we must confederate together to collect some manure to keep our families warm tonight. There seems to be a lot of it around here!! Brother Nescott, is there any left on your side of the state?
M.A, M.Div., Ph.D., post-doc studies Oxford.
Van Gorden Professor of History
Eastern University, St Davids, PA
#15 Cyril on 2006-10-04 16:59
We've been trying to get the stables shoveled out for months now, but every time it seems we may be making some headway, some fresh manure appears! Ah, the life of a peasant, er, villager.
On a far more serious note, your thought about jumping jurisdictions concerns me greatly. For one thing, our Greek and Antiochian friends have serious problems of their own, in certain areas.
But more importantly, the eternal optimist--- and pragmatist --- in me suggests this: with the help of God, the OCA will survive this car wreck, and I sincerely believe our Church may come roaring back far stronger, cleansed and with a fresh vitality, a new spirit.
The great damage that has been done in the past year alone, with the truth being treated like a card in Three-Card Monte --- just when you're sure you've spotted it, it vanishes --- could have been entirely avoided if only the Holy Synod had chosen to attack the problems, rather than hide them. They could and should have done this in 1999, or last October, or at any time earlier this year.
However, in a perverse way, hiding the truth "for the good of the Church" may turn out to be a blessing in the long run, for it has shown us that this revolting financial scandal is just one manifestation of other serious problems that have crept into our Church.
Some people proclaimed, after the launch of OCANews and the firing of Fr. Kondratick, that it would take 25 years for the OCA to recover from the wounds caused by those who exposed this scandal.
(It seems that the revelations of the past months have now quieted most of those who insisted for so long on blaming the messengers.)
I happen to believe that the trust shattered by those who betrayed the OCA can indeed be restored much quicker, perhaps in a matter of months, if the whole truth is told. This can happen only if the right decisions are taken to heal us. And, obviously, if the truth takes even months more to be revealed, or continues to be cloaked in darkness, our recovery will be that much more difficult.
Stick with us, Cyril. It's still worth fighting for the OCA. Some day soon, I hope, we'll get all the manure cleaned out, and the clergy and laity of this Church can together
work toward a far brighter future.
Gregg Nescott, Pittsburgh
#15.1 Gregg Nescott on 2006-10-04 21:48
My cyberspace friend Greg said......."if only the Holy Synod had chosen to attack the problem". How true. What was downright puzzling and infuriating to me was the reaction of some of our hierarchs when they were presented with very damaging evidence in the form of a video tape made in Moscow allegedly showing the chancellor threatening the OCA priest who would not return a large part of the monies collected for distribution to the Beslau victims. Now, if I were in the Synod of Bishops and this evidence was brought forth, I'm certain that I would have insisted on seeing the tape and questionning all of the participants in order to get to the bottom of the problem. How did our hierarch react? Well, one saw the tape and never reacted one way or another.
Two others became aware of the tape and their first reaction was to determine whether the tape was illegally made and admissible in US courts. Is this a reasonable question for two hierarchs to ask when confronted with a serious moral and legal question affecting the legitimacy of the central administration? I say that they are pitiful reactions not worthy of a hierarchs. Still another hierarch refused to even discuss any of the problems in his diocesan assembly nine months after the scandal was made public on the Internet.
Finding out whether the allegations are true or false will NOT solve all the problems in the OCA that have become evident in the past year.
#15.1.1 nicholas skovran on 2006-10-05 06:43
"On a far more serious note, your thought about jumping jurisdictions concerns me greatly. For one thing, our Greek and Antiochian friends have serious problems of their own, in certain areas."
What are the problem "areas?" What "serious problems?" It sounds to me that the OCA “jurisdictional mentality” is very, very strong and this mentality is the very root of the problem! The OCA has no right to exclusivity! And neither does anyone else in a North American “jurisdiction!” Don't shift dirt off of this despicable problem onto any one else -- there is more than enough dirt to go around. In fact, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The OCA is not a divine institution and can easily bite the dust – God is not bound by a Russian tome of autocephaly! The Holy Orthodox Church is a divine institution, however, and the “gates of hell will not triumph over it!” In this faith you and the rest of us North Americans should rest.
The recent “crisis” should drive us into the Holy Orthodox Church and not cause us to regress back into divisive jurisdictionalism. Jurisdictionalism is a punishment for our sin and it is the logical consequence of our sin – read your history of the Orthodox Church in North America! God would never send jurisdictions to His children. God loves us and that is why He sent His only begotten Son and not a jurisdiction. So, forget jurisdictions and pilgrim to the Holy Orthodox Church – pilgrim to the Body of Christ!
I simply do not understand how so many people have been snowed by pseudo-ecclesiology. The OCA is not invincible whereas the Holy Orthodox Church is!
IC XC NIKA!
#15.1.2 Please do not use my name! on 2006-10-05 10:22
Dear Please do not use my name,
Gee, people usually ask for anonymity here because they justly fear reprisals from within the OCA, or are otherwise legitimately intimidated. But you do not identify yourself, while merely taking cheap shots at the OCA's autocephaly, suggesting it somehow to be a root cause of the evil of jurisdictionalism in the Church in the United States.
I will be willing to further engage you on the points you've raised --- even though your comments could steer this into a weeks-long debate that might be better aired on another Orthodox forum --- but if you are unwilling to identify yourself, you should at least tell us which jurisdiction you represent in attacking the OCA. Are you Greek? ROCOR? Some other?
You know who I am. Now please tell me who you are if you want to seize on a single phrase in my Comment and spin it into a never-ending argument over jurisdictions.
I, too, dream of there some day being one Church in North America, but I remember all too well the bright hope of Ligonier --- of a unified Orthodox Church --- being crushed by a foreign Patriarchate.
One other thing. You say, "Forget jurisdictions and pilgrim to the Holy Orthodox Church." A fine sentiment. Now would you tell us exactly how and where we find it?
#126.96.36.199 Gregg Nescott on 2006-10-05 12:03
"What are the problem "areas?" What "serious problems?"
here's an example of a $10 million problem area: http://www.pokrov.org/news/050516nationalherald.html
but I think you missed the point. Just because the OCA has some problems doesn't mean we should all hurry to run to another jurisdiction.
#188.8.131.52 Michael Strelka on 2006-10-06 07:44
Whoa! Have we not come a long way from those early comments that pointed out some problems that some saw in the record-keeping of the Church, and questions about spending.
We now have without any concrete evidence of which I know anyway--and I have no inside knowledge--progressed to name calling, to calling persons theives or liars or whatever.
And reminders of Christ's admonition to love, to forgive, to care for, are frequently dismissed as some desire to cover up, or white wash. Well I do not think we can ever read Christ's words in that fashion.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, we are His followers; what have we failed to learn from Him, from the Church Fathers, from the saints, from our Church life...
We need not call each other names. We need to lower our voices.
I am sure that many who write comments are sincere--let us all then ask ourselves what do we want now for the good of our beloved Orthodox Church in America to function now and in the future? Heads rolling are not going to accomplish anything.
Can we be positive and move forward in such a fashion that we truly all can come together and work together for the good of our Church?
Each one of us should ask ourselves what concrete and positive steps would we advocate to restore the Church to where we would like to see her. Put away revenge, or getting back at someone, or whatever other motivations may enter our thinking that sometimes can even cloud the best of intentions and the most sincere desires.
St. John Chrysostom said:
Anger is a strong fire, consuming all things in its path;
it wastes the body and corrupts the soul, and renders a man base and odious to look upon.
And if it were possible for the angry man to see himself at the time of his anger, he would not need any other admonition, for there is nothing less pleasing than an angry countenance.
Anger is an intoxicant and more wretched than a demon.
Will we heed these words?
How good it would be if we would. How profitable it would be to have a video tape made of us each day and play it at the end of the day. We could then review our mistakes, our sins, our anger, and whatever else we displayed that day--hopefully some of it positive.
I have read Fr. Dresko's remarks and am surprised by some of the reactions. Unless I missed it, I did not see him calling people peasants. I also think his opinion was focused on what will heal and help the Church.
And in the end that is what is important for each of us as Orthodox Chrisitans.
When commentaries first began I remember saying positive things about many who were mentioned--loyal workers at our Church headquarters who labor hard for the good of the Church.
I spoke positively of Fr. Kondratick, who has helped many, many priests, parishioners, parishes, in many ways, myself included. I spoke of having positive memories of Fr. Deacon Eric when he visited parishes I was at or when I saw him at St. Tikhon's with our former Metropolitan THEODOSIUS. And as I renew my positive feelings about others, I surely will include our Metropolitan HERMAN. He was there for me when my wife died, with caring, compassion and prayer. He warmly welcomed the wives and children of seminarians when we wereat St. Tikhon's. And he always showed a devotion to the Church, and a prayerful attitude.
Let us not villify all in emotional moments.
Let us do better.
Let us work together.
Let us love one another...
I love all of you as my sisters and brothers in Christ and as unique children of our Almighty God.
Forgive me if I have caused anyone anger or discomfort.
#16 Archpriest William DuBovik on 2006-10-04 18:18
Record keeping and spending have never been at the heart at what upsets most of us! Nor have individuals, in most cases, been attacked or critizised expect for their specific actions and commentary. I am tempted to suggest, especially for "leaders" and internet posters, that those "who can not stand the heat should get out of the kitchen." Perhaps I am exhibiting a deplorable lack of charity? So be it.
Pious remonstrances to "love," "work together," lowering our voices," etc. are fine in a context of reciprocity and respect. They ring hollow, however, when they are just talk, devoid of concrete actions. I hasten to add I am not accusing Fr. DuBovik of same.
It is instructive, I think, that Our Lord reserved His most scathing denunciations for those practicing false piety and engaging in religious chicanery. May those claiming to lead and instruct us not be guilty of this cardinal sin.
#16.1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-10-05 14:25
You said, "Each one of us should ask ourselves what concrete and positive steps would we advocate to restore the Church to where we would like to see her."
In response, I say, the first step must be the truth from those responsible for diverting funds from special appeals and bequests. Along with the truth, if these people ask for forgiveness they will receive it. Then and only then can we move forward. Until this occurs, going forward is not a reality because there is something rotten in Syosset.
#16.2 Withheld upon request on 2006-10-05 17:55
This analogy makes me sick. Especially where those faithful OCAers are being accused of poking and prodding rather than standing and helping!
My Mother has lung cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, blood clots, etc. She has just returned home from 10 days in the hospital; her second or third trip (I've lost count) since her diagnosis in January.
While visiting her during this last trip she said to me in a quiet voice, "I abused my body for 30 years. Now I am paying the price for it. It is only fair for my mistreatment of it."
She has admitted her failure and sin. She has repented of it. She has accepted the consequences. God has forgiven her. How do I know? By the peace that exudes from her heart and soul. She is more in love with God now than ever before. She says, with great calm in her voice, "I am ready when God is ready for me." And what does she do all day since her body allows her very little energy? She prays; for God's forgiveness and mercy on herself and for those she knows and loves.
And what is our response as her children? Not one of poking and prodding! Not one of condemnation! Why, you ask? Because it is not needed due to her own poking and prodding of herself. She needs no help from us. She needs us to love her and help her heal as much as her failing body will allow. And we are more than willing to do so because of that.
Fr. Dresko, if you want an analogy, use this one. Not the one in your reflection. Where, in Syosset and amongst the hierarchs, is the evident acknowledgement of sin and failure? Where is the evident repentance? Where is the acceptance of the natural consequence for wrong behavior and mistreatment?
I've no doubt that those faithful persons in the OCA jurisdiction would be running as fast as they can to help restore things to where they should be if there was acknowledgement of wrong behavior and evidence of repentance. Instead we are seeing more of the same.
Forgive me if I offend any here, especially you Fr. Dresko. I guess this has touched a nerve since it is clear my Mother's earthly life is closer to the end than I prefer and should be, given her young age.
Repent and ye shall be saved! If the OCA wants to be saved, there needs to be some repenting.
#17 Athanasia on 2006-10-05 16:52
A short story changed to make a point.
A man walked by a stone wall that was holding back thousands of gallons of water from the village. He noticed that water was oozing from a hole in the stone wall and he stepped back to look at the water streaming from the hole.
We may have a problem with this hole, but let's not panic, he thought.
He climbed to the top of the stone wall and observed the water level of the reservoir. but he was not able to see a change in the water level of the reservoir.
There is no problem, he thought. I'm glad that I did not panic.
#18 michael c herrick on 2006-10-09 16:06
After the first time I read Fr. Dresko's commentary, I paused for a little reflection and figured, "well, he really has a good point. We shouldn't rush to judgement." Something didn't seem quite right, though, so I read through the piece a second time.
I still think that we shouldn't be quick to rush to judgment. Improprieties have been committed, and someone is guilty to be sure, but we do not yet know who the guilty ones are. We have to go through due process of law to figure that out.
After the second reading, I figured out what didn't seem right with Fr. Dresko's reflection. I accept that the Church is our Mother. Only if that's the case, then it certainly isn't Mom lying there in the hospital bed.
No, Mom isn't doing particularly well these days, but not because she is sick. Father Thaddeus Wojcik put it best -- the gospel is still being preached in our churches, the work of the local parish continues amidst the storm.
No, Mom isn't doing well because she is worried sick about Uncle Ray. Uncle Ray is lying in a hospital bed, far away in Montana (really its New York, but New York is as remote as Montana for most folks, so what the heck). It was, indeed, hard living that gave Uncle Ray his cirhossis of the liver, and he's in big trouble. The doctors say that if he does any more boozin', he's through.
Mom recently got a letter from Uncle Ray. It seems that he can't pay his medical bills, and he needs money to pay off a $1.7 million loan from the Honesdale State Bank. Would Mom please be good enough to float him the cash for now?
This is what's so tough for Mom. She really loves Uncle Ray, but she knows him too well. Sending him money so he can spend it on Jack Daniels and chasing skirts just doesn't seem like a good idea. Uncle Ray would probably die, or even worse; he might get liquored up, get behind the wheel, and take out a family of six whose minivan had the misfortune of being in the oncoming traffic lane. She decided to send the first payment straight to the hospital -- with instructions to keep Uncle Ray locked up in a padded cell for awhile, for his own good. This way, the doctors get their money, and Uncle Ray can't hurt himself anymore -- or ANYONE ELSE.
#19 Greg Denysenko on 2006-10-11 15:22
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