Friday, February 16. 2007
Your comments regarding the meeting, its decisions and the future are welcome.
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Just to make it clear, the Metropolitan Council Meeting is indeed scheduled for March 13th-14th 2007, while the Spring Session of the Holy Synod is scheduled for March 20th-22nd 2007. They do not overlap each other.
#1 Anonymous on 2007-02-16 13:17
Given the complexity and the sheer size of the material that these meetings covered, or ought to have covered, it would be good to have had a professional court stenographer take a transcript of the proceedings. We were blessed in our parish to have as secretary of the Parish Council a woman who did this. It is amazing how much easier it is to construct a good set of minutes from the transcript, and, of course, the full text of the proceedings is always available should any question arise. "Our" stenographer is retired from full-time court work, and takes occasional jobs recording public meetings held locally. Surely, someone similar could be found for the meetings of the Metropolitan Council, the Synod, and any other official meetings within the OCA. Cate
#2 Cate on 2007-02-16 19:32
This is so frustrating, re: The Alaska Lands. It clearly states in the Sale Agreement to the United States when they purchased us, that the church lands belonged to the Orthodox village people who resided in the villages.
An Orthodox Alaskan Native
#3 Native Alaskan on 2007-02-16 19:39
First, a question: has an siutation analogous to the Alaskan Lands dispute ever come up in any of the established patriarchates, on record? If so, how was it handled? Are there any other precedents?
Now, a comment: it strikes this reader that too many people, from AK to NY are still living with the delusion that canonical or hierarchical prerogatives are all that matter in this entire mess, or that Byzantine solutions (or intrigues) are the way out. Sorry, it won't fly. Yes, of course we must be faithful to our canonical tradition. That does not mean that we ignore the realities of life in the twenty-first-century in the United States. Part of that reality is that lay people with legal rights and obligations support the Church - more like underwrite the Church. The Church functions as a not-for-profit organisation under the tax laws of the United States government and must be as obedient to those laws as to Tradition (assuming those laws do not demand that the Church act contrary to the Law of God). As such, while hierarchs must continue exercise their legitimate canonical authority within their dioceses, they MUST also be realistic about the context in which they exercise that authority. To use an inocuous example, a soup kitchen for the indigent public must adhere to the health code. The bishop may require said soup kitchen to serve Lenten meals on fast days, but he may not require the workers to attend a function if it would mean that they would be running the risk of food not staying at proper temperature. As long as the a church body, at the parish, diocesan or national level needs a licence from the government, or funding, or a particular status, that church body must work out how functioning under the law and according to the canons, and hierarchical directives can be managed. If it comes to a conflict, there is always the possibility of losing the licence, funding or whatever.
The Metropolitan Council is composed of clergy and laity who are commissioned with the corporate oversight of the OCA. As such, they have obligations not only to the hierarchy and the canons, but also to the law of the land. If the hierarchs wish to be in asbolute control, the church must forfeit its tax-exempt status. They must also face the reality that few lay people would be likely to remain affiliated with them under such circumstances. The Metropolitan Council must be allowed to fulfill its obligations without hierarchical interference.
The refusal of the Syosset Administration and various bishops to accept these basic realities is causing this layman to lose his confidence. That has been happening for a year now. The difference is that now, when some people are trying to correct the situation, they are being blocked by people with unrealistic expectations.
The OCA's autocephaly was opposed by many from the outset. The most reasonable objection was that it was not realisitic - that it only incorporated a fraction of the Orthodox in North America. Perhaps what we are finding out is that no matter how correct the theory is - that Orthodoxy in America should not be considered a 'diaspora' but an indigenous Church - the reality has been that the foundation of the OCA itself was not solid ground, but shifting sand. That is what the behaviour of the powers-that-be suggest to this reader.
#4 Losing Confidence on 2007-02-16 19:58
I will comment only on the Alaska Land Accounts. The Treaty of 1867 gives the church property to the villagers themselves. Unless the villagers' descendants have lawfully deeded their lands to the diocese, they still own their property. This is not a question of whether Syosset or the diocese have a claim to the land. It is a question of basic justice for Alaska's indigenous population.
Hopefully, someone who is experienced in the field of indigenous land rights can come to the fore and advocate for Alaska's own.
#5 Jack Miller on 2007-02-17 06:45
"Bishop Nikolai can continue to mortgage and sell lands as he has been doing these past five years without reference to the OCA"
Mark- I think a correction is in order here. As stated in the Statutes of the OCA, only the Diocesan Assembly has the power to buy or sell diocesan property. If Bishop Nicolai has done so without approval of his Diocesan Assembly, he has violated the Statutes.
#6 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2007-02-17 09:18
Cate, a court stenographer sounds like a wonderful idea. How could we get such a process implemented for these meetings?
#7 Patty Schellbach on 2007-02-17 09:48
Here is the actual text of the Alaska Purchase of 1867.
In the cession of territory and dominion made by the preceding article, are included the right of property in all public lots and squares, vacant lands, and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks, and other edifies which are not private individual property. It is, however, understood and agreed, that the churches which have been built in the ceded territory by the Russian Government, shall remain the property of such members of the Greek Oriental Church resident in the territory as may choose to worship therein. Any Government archives, papers, and documents relative to the territory and dominion aforesaid, which may now be existing there, will be left in the possession of the agent of the United States; but an authenticated copy of such of them as may be required, will be, at all times, given by the United States to the Russian Government, or to such Russian officers or subjects as they may apply for.
You can read the agreement in its entirety at:
#8 Sergei on 2007-02-17 10:46
Dear Losing Confidence,
Thank you for your post. I believe you hit the nail firmly on the head. This scandal has been quite enlightening both for what it has revealed and what it hasn't.
In my opinion it has revealed that the OCA is, indeed, still trying to make its way in the world with an unbelievably shaky foundation. The hierarchs have not completely stepped forward and acknowledged that anything is/was broken.
What hasn't been revealed is the actual plan out of this quagmire. We now have task forces, commissions, and special appointees. Yet on a pratical level there is still no Chancellor, Treasurer or Comptroller and there is still no financial transparency really to speak of. An example of this is one of the more idiotic things I read recently was the discussion of the OCA's budget. Somewhere on the OCA website I read that someone (I'm sorry I don't remember who said it), suggested that the budgets are not static and that changing the budgets was acceptable. Personally this is only true if you have a disaster like a space shuttle that needs to come down immediately. You scrap the plan and do everything in your power to develop a new plan.
Most companies make an annual budget and they compare their financial position to that budget, right or wrong. They don't go in and change the budget midstream just because the reality of the situation doesn't match the budget. In other words, you don't rewrite history because you don't like the ending.
To use an analogy of my own, I recently went skiing and accidentally found myself on a black diamond part of the mountain. As I am at best an intermediate skier, this presented quite a problem. As I saw it I could stay where I was and hope the ski patrol would come and help me out, I could try to climb up or down, or I could try to ski down.
Any ski instructor will tell you that at some point if you want to ski down a mountain your skis need to be pointing down the mountain. While it was incredibly scary to consider going down the mountain with my skis pointed in the downward direction, I finally got the nerve to do so and eventually got off the mountain.
It seems to me that the OCA has the same choices. The task at hand is to go in a direction that seems counterintuitive, full of risk, and down right scary. But it is the right thing to do.
I keep hoping and praying that they will find the right path.
#9 Priest Michael on 2007-02-17 11:41
“prior to the completion of a Federal Investigation?”
I see Federal Investigation referenced many times in the different comments.
Do we (really) know that there is one going on? Or is this just a convenient stalling technique?
There may have been some written confirmation of this, but I honestly missed it.
Or would it be confidential to tell us that one is going on? Or just more stalling?
(Editor's Note: There is indeed an FBI investigation underway into the financial affairs of the OCA for the last 15 years. Those who have been contacted have been asked to use their discretion in speaking about it, so little is being said. I too have chosen to respect this request for a general silence about their efforts.
That being said, it is well known to many that subpeonas have been issued. Naturally, I do not know all those who have been subpoened, nor what all the FBI was looking for. I think a careful reader of this site could make quite a few reasonable guesses for themselves.
I do believe that saying "wait for the FBI to speak" before one deciding act is a stalling technique. One does not need a diagnosis of cancer to know that one should stop smoking; and one does not need to know every "fact" about one's cancer to begin chemo or radiation. Those who would argue that nothing should be done or dicussed until all the "facts" are in, are just looking for excuses to avoid unpleasant but needed therapy. Like any cancer, the longer one waits to begin treatment, the less chance of full recovery. The FBI cannot heal us; only we can.
#10 Ande on 2007-02-17 17:47
IF ANYONE BELIEVES THAT THERE IS A FBI INVESTIGATION THEIR NUTS. MAYBE 10 YEARS AGO WHEN WHEELER WAS FIRED. PLEASE LETS GET OUR FACTS CORRECT. AUDITORS ARE DOING QUESTIONING, BUT ALL WITH THE SAME ANSWERS.ZERO !!!
Dear Jon. S: You are wrong - as much as you dislike the fact, there is indeed an FBI investigation. I have spoken to them myself.
As for the Auditors, are you speaking of the Church's external auditors , or the Church's internal auditors? The external auditors have all exposed problems and reported the same to the Metropolitan Council and the Synod. It is not their job to provide answers, but to confirm the problems did indeed exist - indeed, even from before the time Wheeler was fired. The Church's internal auditors, however, have failed to even perform their work for several years. More recently the Chairman of the Church's internal audit committee, appointed by Fr. Kondratick & Metropolitan Theodosius when the former chairman was dismissed for raising questions, was last seen visiting Fr. Kondratick in Florida while on vacation this very month. I doubt one can reasonably expect much from him, or his committee, in explicating the problems we face.)
#11 JON S. on 2007-02-18 10:10
Just a little 'note' about the autocephaly of the OCA: I married a Greek and converted to Orthodoxy from what was still at that time "Roman" Catholicism. I can testify with some pride that I received an OVATION from, among others, Fr. Alexander Schmemann when i attended a symposium on Orthodox concerns while the Church was still the old Metropolia. Fr. Schmemann opined about the state of Orthodoxy in the United States while a Greek priest was also there defended the uncanonical (and, indeed, heretical) jurisdictional 'crazy quilt' of Orthodox Churches in the country. During the 'Q&A' period, I pointed out my own experiences in the Orthodox Church wherein once it was determined I was not a 'Greek', I found myself an 'outsider'. I received my first (and only) ovation when I opined that it was time - and, indeed, PAST time - for an American Orthodox Church. I still believe that this is the case no matter how faulty the running and/or oversight of that Church has or may have been in the past.
What would those people who speak against the OCA have us do? Go under the Ecumenical Patriarch? I remember hearing at a banquet for the Carpatho-Russian jurisdiction a representative from that August Person make the statement that one could not BE an 'Orthodox Christian' unless one were under the E.P. That must have come as a shock to a whole lot of Orthodox both in and outside of the United States! Perhaps we should return to the Russian Church - but if so, please tell me WHY when so many persons in the OCA are, like myself NOT RUSSIANS?
The Orthodox Church - unlike the Western Church - has chosen a particular institutional arrangement of national churches. Good, bad or indifferent, we have no 'Central Authority', no 'Pope' (although the E.P. would very much like to take on that role, I believe). Ergo, when an Orthodox mission becomes established in a country, after a certain period of time, the natural course of events is for that 'new' body to return to the 'Mother Church' and be blessed with autocephaly. Why should it be different in the case of the United States? Are Americans less 'worthy' of an Orthodox Church of our own than, say, Greeks or Russians or Syrians or Bulgarians or Romanians etc. etc. etc.? Indeed, even now, there are people who want an 'North American Orthodox Church'. I will accept that when there is a national entity called 'North America' - but not until that tiime.
I am sick to death of people determining that what has happened is somehow linked to the fact that the OCA is an 'American' Church and that it has no legitimacy because all of the jurisdictions now present in the country did not 'vote' for it or accept it. If you are waiting for the Greeks, then you will wait until hell freezes over. And as for the other 'jurisdictions', well, the Orthodox never do ANYTHING very rapidly. Since the OCA has only existed since 1970, I don't think that it's a very legitimate complaint that everybody hasn't jumped on our 'bandwagon' in the intervening 27 years!
Remember, Orthodoxy only came to America as a Church in the 1800s and the jurisdictional hegemony of the 'Metropolia' which was recognized by all other Orthodox jurisdictions prior to the Russian Revolution was lost when the ties between the Church in America and the Mother Church in Russia were severed. From that event came the present heretical mess that we presently deal with in the United States and the rest of the 'New World'.
I don't know about others, but I suspect that a lot of people think the problem lies not in individuals who were corrupt or failed in their duties, but that we weren't under the Greek or some other Archbishop or Patriarch. Well, one 'Greek' Orthodox told my husband that the OCA was at least attempting to address possible corruption and fairly rapidly while the Greek Archdiocese let a far WORSE scandal go for decades without any attempt to address much less correct the problem.
The problem is not the national identity of the Church and therefore it certainly cannot be 'cured' by revoking our perfectly legitimate autocephaly and attempting to find 'better people' in some other jurisdiction to run things. I suggest that if present members of the OCA believe that ROCAR or the Greeks or any other national jurisdiction represents the repository of all goodness and purity that those members immediately 'go forth and join themselves' to that jurisdiction. However, please leave me and others like me to our OWN National Church, thank you!
#12 Valerie Protopapas on 2007-02-18 11:05
1. in forgiveness
2. criminals should be punished
3. that there is or was an FBI investigation
4. there has been plenty of time for everyone to have completed their investigations
5. reporting findings “NOW” will not jeopardize anything
6. “NOT reporting findings “NOW” WILL jeopardize the OCA
7. “I” believe that others have a right to believe what “THEY” believe
What are we waiting for?
#13 Ande on 2007-02-19 05:51
The Alaska Purchase agreement was also written in French. Legally, I don't know if one version takes precedence over the other.
Perhaps there is someone out there who can translate the French to see if the phrase, "members of the Greek Oriental Church resident in the territory as may choose to worship therein" really should be "Bishop and/or Metropolitan."
#14 Sergei on 2007-02-19 15:44
YOU believe. You believe, but you don't KNOW.
You say that 'enough time has passed' but I know of no investigation that is marked 'closed' simply because a certain period of time has passed. It may be that enough time has NOT passed, especially if you are considering possible criminal acts. There are certain standards that must be met in the prosecution of any crime and 'time' - unless there is a statute of limitations - is not one of them. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, however, IS.
You say that 'reporting now' will not harm anything. Again, how do you know? Perhaps the present reports made public might not be complete; they may implicate innocent people or fail to implicate the guilty. Either way, you can ruin people's lives or fail to bring wrongdoers to justice. The courts THROW OUT 'leaked' information when it is determined that it's release 'prejudiced' the defendant. I work for lawyers and I have seen that happen. Better by far to get the facts straight before 'reporting' anything. It took a long time for this mess to develop and it will take AT LEAST as long to bring the matter out in the open properly and justly.
You say that delay can 'jeopardize' the OCA. How? Do you believe that autocephaly will be reversed as a result? And just who will, canonically, do that? Or perhaps you believe that people will leave the OCA? And go where, may I ask? To the Greeks with their own scandals or ROCAR with its history of Phariseism and prelest? At least a thief (if any such are involved here) doesn't pass judgment on the worthiness of others something that I believe constitutes the greater sin!
Perhaps you might think abit about the prayer that doubtless you say at least three times every day - 'THY will be done..' not yours or even mine, but God's. That is a most useful and practical prayer and should sustain you if you are forced to have to wait. 'What are we waiting for?' Perhaps we are waiting for God to work in HIS appointed time.
#15 Matushka Valerie Protopapas on 2007-02-20 16:36
MANY MANY Comments by a Deacon’s Wife
Friday, May 26. 2006 The Spring Session
May be worth rereading???
“Now, frankly, there is not only nothing wrong with this morally (although the expediture might have been 'frivolous' at the time given the state of Church finances) but, in fact, the Kondratick's did the Church a favor ……”
#16 Ande on 2007-02-22 10:07
Dear Matushka Valerie:
I very much agree with you in principle about the need for an indigenous Orthodox Church here in America. I also agree with you that the failures of leadership do not change that need. I'd further agree that going back under a foreign patriarchate is not anything to look forward too, and that the revocation of the autocephaly would have dubious canonical foundations. (Having examined the question academically, I also fully support the Russian interpretation of the canons and of the concept of autocephaly.)
Now, let's look at a couple of facts about the OCA and it's autocephaly: First, the OCA has been left in the dust by the Antiochians when it comes to mission and evangelisation. Second, the OCA consistently has acted timidly and not commanded the respect of her sister churches. Third and most important, the autocephaly of the OCA has been consistently ignored by most of the rest of the Orthodox world since the tomos was granted - and I include here the Patriarchate of Moscow. Since the time that the EP got over it's hissy fit and decided to recognise the OCA as canonical but still a part of the Russian Church based on its warped reading of Canon 28 of Chalcedon, they have made a point of ignoring the autocephaly. They see no reason to pull their bishops out of North America. All of those jurisdictions who still have their own bishops (and/or parishes) here are tacitly saying that the OCA's autocephaly means nothing in practical terms. Even the MP, whose cathedral is technically a representation church, has not gradually pulled its clergy out. Liturgically the MP gives lip service to the autocephaly at St Nicholas Cathedral in NYC by commemorating the OCA's metropolitan in second place, and always, whereas their administrator is commemorated in third place and only if he is present. That's nice. It is a proper gesture. It doesn't change the fact that the MP in every day life is ignoring the very tomos they granted by continuing to supply clergy and support parish growth.
I recently read the opinions of the various Greek-speaking Orthodox Churches about the OCA's autocephaly. Of them, that of the Jerusalem Patriarchate made the most sense: it was based as much on canonical points as on reality. The JP pointed out that the MP had granted autocephaly to only a portion of the Orthodox in North America, not even consulting the rest. In the eys of the JP, therefore, the autocephaly was empty of any real meaning from the beginning. I do not recall to what degree, if at all, they supported the EP's interpretation of the canons, but this central argument could still hold true if the JP fully agreed with the MP on the canonical issue. In other words, they could say, "The MP has the canonical right to grant autocepahly to its daughter church, but this exercise of that right is meaningless because it does not reflect the reality of the situation in North America."
The other Greeks pretty much sided with Constantinople and/or Jerusalem to varying degrees.
The point is that nobody will have to 'rescind' the autocephaly, nor will they try. They will simply ignore it as they always have and when the OCA falls apart from within, then (probably that means Moscow) will clean up the mess.
This is why I suggest in reply on a more recent thread that electing Bishop BASIL might be good. The vision of an indigenous church in North America should not die. It seems to me that it's best hope for survival in the immediate future comes from canonical (administrative) unity with the Antiochians, which has supposedly been a hope for decades. The election of Bishop BASIL could at least be a major step in the right direction, even though it might mean a temporary step back to the status of autonomy. That one step back might be what is need to launch us into real life autocephaly since Antioch is a much more significant ecclesiastical entity.
Personally, I lean more toward ROCOR in many ways, but I don't think ROCOR is ready to work toward an autocephalous church. That is no slant on them. The reconciliation with Moscow is a miracle in the making. Right now, however, their focus is, and needs to be, on healing the wounds within the Russian Church. They probably won't be ready to be involved in much else for 10 years. If the OCA and the Antiochians are united by then in a credible, viable autonomous church, then the united Russian Church might be ready to join up. A lot more 'old country' people will have made their way to their rewards by then too.
You are right in principle, I believe, Matushka, but I think the reality is that the OCA's autocephaly has always been little more than a piece of paper, and it is time to face that fact and look at everything more realistically. The current crisis is not making the OCA more of a key player, and no mistake about that.
In the end, God will show us what is right and true.
#17 Sine Nomine on 2007-02-23 00:27
As it was reported at the time, Matushka Kondratick loaned the OCA money she received in a legacy at little or no interest. If that was not the case, then the information which I used in my response was faulty - but that 'fault' was not mine. If, however, it was the case, then I stand by my statement that loaning that much money for little interest when the Church had a need constitutes a 'favor'.
But let us look at the matter more closely. If, as noted, the information was incorrect, then what happened is obvious: information was released that was not correct and people made judgments based thereon. That is the great danger of 'releasing everything' without sufficient oversight to be sure of accuracy. If I understood your post correctly, you are in a hurry to have information released and the above is clearly indicative of what happenes when caution is replaced by 'the need to know' even if what becomes 'known' is fallacious.
So, in effect, if my response was in error based upon faulty information, then you are making my point; that is, the rush to 'know everything' usually results in 'knowing' a great many 'facts' that simply isn't so!
#18 Matushka Valerie Protopapas on 2007-02-23 05:52
It is appropriate that today is the commemoration of St. Polycarp and that that saint wrote to the Philippians of a priest, Valentine, who had fallen into the sin of avarice and had embezzled some of the church’s funds. After condemning the sins of the priest and his wife, Polycarp finished his missal to the Philippians with the following holy advice:
“May God grand them true repentance. But be ye wise in this, and ‘count them not as enemies’ (II Thess. 3:15), *but endeavor to correct them as suffering and prodigal members, that your whole body may be healthy*. Treating them thus, *you will yourselves be further built up*.”
In his comment upon St. Polycarp’s message, Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic (Prologues from Ochrid) states, “Thus the saints dealt with sinners: *cautiously and beneficently*. Cautiously, that others might be preserved from like sin; beneficently, *that the sinner might be corrected and saved*.”
As well, since as a Church, we are reading Proverbs during the course of the fast, perhaps that Book's counsel regarding our relationship to the virtue of 'Wisdom' might be also considered in light of the current situation.
#19 Matushka Valerie Protopapas on 2007-02-23 09:42
If what you say is true, then it is the end of the Orthodox Church in this country except among ethnic enclaves which will eventually disappear.
The Greeks are a dead-end street; at one point they tried to address the possibility of an American Church only to be 'shut down' by a Patriarch who has less 'legitimacy' than the OCA. If the OCA is nothing but a 'piece of paper', what on earth is the Ecumenical Patriarch who is the 'head' of a Church that, for all practical purposes, doesn't exist!
ROCAR? What is that but people who fled martyrdom and spent the next 70 years criticizing those who were left behind to try to keep some semblance of an Orthodox presence in Russia. It's easy to 'talk the talk' when you aren't going to have to '*walk* the talk'.
The Greeks? Please! Having had to deal with Greeks prelates, priests and 'faithful' who staunchly advanced the cause of pro-abortion politicians because they were ethnic 'Greeks' (Michael Dukakas, Olymia Snowe etc.), I find absolutely no legitimacy in anything that they have to say about our autocephaly. When they get their own house in order and stop putting the 'Greek' before the 'Orthodoxy', I'll be ready to give a listen, but not until then.
As well, the ability of the Antiochians to 'evangelize' has nothing whatever to do with the fact. I might also remind the poster that some of the 'problems' between the OCA and the Antiochian Archdiocese had to do with a particular Antiochian priest whose behavior was such that St. Vladimir's Seminary had no choice but to request his resignation - a request that didn't sit very well with Metropolitan Philip even though, canonically and ethically, the Seminary had no possible choice in the matter. If we're going to speak about the canons and the Church's moral doctrine, I'm afraid that the OCA wins that one too!
Consider the men who worked for our independence as a Church: Archpriest Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory; Archpriest John Meyendorff of blessed memory and so many others of spiritual and intellectual renown. Given a choice between those giants and the midgets who have been running around criticizing their efforts since the 1970s, I'll stick with the OCA, thanks.
Of course, the 'creation' if you will, of the OCA is unusual to say the least. It didn't fall into the customary way that things are done. If there had been no Russian Revolution, it is probable that there would not be the current jurisdictional mess nor would there be any question about the legitimacy of our autocephaly. But there is nothing that could have been done and I believe that those who moved to bring about what was needed - an American Church, did the best they could under difficult circumstances. To attempt to 'de-legitimize' their efforts because they couldn't get everybody to agree - and let me know, please, when you can get all Orthodox to 'agree' in such matters as miracles are wondrous to see - is specious and, frankly, more than a little mendacious. Trying to 'undo' the result by theological 'backfill' won't wash, at least with me and I'm sure a good many other American converts.
#20 Matushka Valerie Protopapas on 2007-02-23 10:05
In item 2.1 (above), Patty Schellbach asked how the services of a professional stenographer can be obtained.
I am told there are agencies that can furnish names of licensed stenographers, but that the bulk of the work outside the courthouse or the magistrates chambers, where the stenographers are on salary, at least in this area, is by word of mouth. Some people work freelance, and others are retired, but will take a job here and there if asked.
There are lawyers involved in the OCAs business, either directly or indirectly, almost all of whom could locate someone to do this job, if the Metropolitan Council or the Synod wanted it done. Cate
#21 Cate on 2007-02-23 14:32
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