Monday, June 25. 2007
One rarely reads reports to Church bodies so eloquent or passionate. You comments on Fr. Vladimir's report are welcome.
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Now, let's all practice.. "Mr Swaiko".
#1 Publius on 2007-06-25 19:37
This confirms why there was an attempt to vandalize the savetheoca.org site. They hear you out there. They really hear you.
Dr. Woog, you listening?
#2 STO on 2007-06-25 19:44
I cannot understand why the Midwest Diocese still sends money to Syosset. The diocesan assembly passed a clear-cut resolution last year that should have (by now) cut off the flow of money to Syosset. Are the resolutions of the assembly meaningless?
#3 Samuel Osman on 2007-06-25 19:53
WOW!!! YES, YES YES!!! THIS IS SOMETHING TO SHOUT ABOUT!!! The insight to the meeting is invaluable. I could comment on every point you make, and certainly appreciate the stance that you and Dr. West are taking. There is one line on your first page that really stands out for me...
"We are or ought to be above politics and legalities. We are Christians."
Yes, and you point out that we have responsiblities as Christians, which are not just to sweep scandals under the rug!
MAGNIFICENT! THANK YOU FR Vladimir!
Please pray for me at our parish council meeting tomorrow. As Treasurer, I am refusing to sign the Diocesean assesment check until an acceptable, independently audited financial report is made available. I have been threatened that I must resign if I do not sign the check.
#4 Ken Kozak on 2007-06-25 20:43
Thank you Fr. Berzonsky. Powerful. Painful. Your heart-wrenching pastoral assessment is something to be built upon. Your words take us on a journey I had hoped the OCA was on. While the train has been hijacked, perhaps the deliberations tomorrow can seek and find the mind of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord did promise that He would guide us into all truth, and show us things to come. Godspeed tomorrow.
#5 Name withheld on 2007-06-25 20:44
Thanks be to God for your report, Fr. Vladimir! What a welcome answer to prayer it was having just returned from an evening gathering of our deanery clergy and faithful who came together to pray for the Church.
Although the news may not have yet reached +MH in his bunker, it is no secret that a the majority of our clergy in the Midwest would gladly walk the plank with Archbishop Job and you for your courage to call for and speak out in defense of the truth. Let the chips fall where they may tomorrow at the Diocesan Council meeting. His Eminence and the Council members know the sentiment among us: If this church will not stand for truth, it simply will not stand! The can be no blessing from the Lord upon falsehood.
Pray without ceasing, my brothers and sisters!
Thank you Fr. Vladimir for your honesty and willingness to face the problem as a God-fearing follower of Christ. Now if only others would be so moved - particularly those entrusted with caring for the flock! Yes, these are sad times indeed!
#7 Andrew Lukashonak on 2007-06-25 21:06
Thanks be to God that such courageous and passionate priests exist in the OCA and are walking the talk, taking up their crosses for the sake of Christ and the Truth. Fr. Vladimir is indeed seeing the awful reality of our situation in the OCA and is trying to help. May God strengthen and support him for the important work that he is doing for the "good of the church", for Christ, for Truth, and for all of us who struggle mightily with the awful situation in the OCA that has been getting worse for years on end.
I fully agree with Fr. Vladimir's discerning and truthful observations regarding the unethical, egotistical, darkened, and un-Christian ethos we continue to see from so many in the hierarchy and the administration of the OCA. I first encountered this darkness back in 2001 when I and many others in our parish dared to ask for help from our priest, our dean and our bishop. I and others innocently thought that our spiritual live and well-being, our pains and sorrows, and the proper pastoral leadership of our community were key sacramental issues the administration of the OCA and our bishop would care about and address and correct as quickly as possible. Tragically, the same cold and self-serving attitudes, condescending dismissals, and vicious personal attacks were the responses we all received for daring to ask for help, for love, and for more Christ-centered support and pastoral care. We asked for bread and received stones instead; many, many stones.
What was truly heart-breaking was that other priests (and some "fellow" parishioners), just like the ones in Fr. Vladimir's report, rather than understand our plight and need for spiritual and sacramental guidance and try to at least listen, if not console, comfort, protect, and nurture us, they simply jumped on the bandwagon and piled on alongside Bishop Tikhon (now retired of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the West) in criticizing us for our audacity to speak up and write letters, emails and petitions, viciously blaming us for causing the very problems we were trying to draw attention to and resolve, accusing us of trying to destroy the church (when we were only trying to save it) and strongly rebuking us for daring to contact the bishop and metropolitan with our petitions.
The same "viciously attack and blame all messengers" and "maintain the status quo" methods of operation we continue to see even today, almost 7 years later. Nothing of substance has really changed. What Fr. Vladimir is calling attention to is NOT just an isolated and unique event, but EXACTLY the ethos prevalent in many areas, the Syosset administration, some dioceses and parishes in the OCA. This indeed is the awful cancer that is destroying our Holy Orthodox Church, savaging our people, and scattering our flocks. This is the awful evil eating away at the heart of the OCA and unless and until this demonic ethos is eradicated, we cannot walk the narrow path of Orthodoxy and follow Christ. We're meandering in a spiritual desert and the demons rejoice as the very leader of the OCA is a principal actor in doing the persecuting and perpetuating this madness. Worse still, his "style" has been and is being emulated by others, thus insuring this cancer will grow and become even harder to deal with in the future.
Truly, little of substance has changed in the ethos of the OCA since this evil was first brought to light by Deacon Wheeler and fully exposed by Mark Stokoe and www.ocanews.org. We are seeing the chairs on the deck of the Titanic being rearranged but the OCA ship is still taking on water by distancing itself from truth, ethics, repentance, and accountability. The Metropolitan gives lip service to "Best Practices" and "conflict of interest" policies, but fails to live up to those standards in the very next breath. Had he even one ounce of decency, love, and respect for the truth, for Christ and the Orthodox Church, he would quickly realize that his involvement and first-hand knowledge in the financial activities of the OCA for so many years create a HUGE conflict of interest scenario and immediately step down. His own comment that he was "Treasurer in name only" is more than sufficient to indicate to anyone that this leader has repeatedly violated his God-entrusted sacramental and fiduciary duties and must temporarily step aside to help restore the integrity of the Church and the administration.
MY COMMENT IS IN RESPONSE TO THE APPARENT FISCAL SCANDAL IN THE MIDWEST.
I DON'T KNOW THE ENTIRE STORY BUT JUST LET ME SHARE THIS: JESUS HAD SIMILAR PROBLEMS. JUDAS BORE THE MONEY BAG, DIDN'T HE? TWAS EVER THUS! THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN. LOL [LAUGH OUT LOUD]
FIX IT IF YOU CAN. BE FIRM AND CALM. YOU CAN GET MORE MONEY.
MUCH LOVE, EILEEN
#9 Eileen Mountain on 2007-06-25 21:41
I believe Fr. Vladimir had a typo in his report....
I think it should have read, "The Church’s good dovetails with the pogrom of the Primate."
On more serious note:
What a report - one part John Wayne, two parts Serb, mix together, and watch the sparks fly! 100% courage. That's the kind of stuff that inspires obedience - raw, unadulterated truth - not the browbeating, threats, and lies now heard from the Death Star in New York.
#10 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2007-06-25 22:27
First of all, I wish to thank Fr. Vladimir for the dignified manner in which he has made known the position of the Midwest Diocese. It stands in stark contrast to the reaction that was engendered. I have usually found that truth is best expressed with some semblance of dispassion. A good rule of thumb is that in any debate, the truth of a statement has an inverse relation to the decibels at which it is being expressed.
I have tried my best to figure out the problem with his Beatitude's response to this website and other calls for the actual, real and unbowdlerized version of past events to be officially acknowledged. His Beatitude's reference to "righteous suffering" rang alarm bells in my head. Could it be that that phrase indicates a kind of martyr complex, in this situation arising from a belief that his Beatitude alone knows what is right for the OCA. In such a situation, would it not be logical that any kind of criticism would not engender a process of give and take, but rather something of a bunker mentality.
At a previous time, perhaps when he took office as Metropolitan, had his Beatitude wiped the slate clean and said that there were problems in the past but that he was actively working with the appropriate people in the Church to have them solved, some degree of reticence could have been understood. There has now been too much water under the bridge to allow for anything other than the total truth to lance the boil that affects the OCA.
(P.S. to Fr. Vladimir: see with what large letters I sign my name!)
#11 Edmund Unneland on 2007-06-25 23:14
what a wonderfully written report. Explicit in detail and actions, with all of the eloquence that you would expect from Fr. Berzonsky. It is a shame that such prose would have to be written, but alas that is the state that +H has placed the OCA in today. Or more sympathetically stated, it is a state that he has not been able to get us out of.
It will be interesting to watch +HERMAN, +JOB and others this weekend. They will all be at the 75th anniversary celebration of SS Peter and Paul in Burr Ridge, IL this Saturday and Sunday.
#12 anon on 2007-06-26 00:44
BRAVO!!! Fr. Vladimir, my admiration and respect I offer to you for your forthrightness and honesty. Many years ago, along with my entire parish, I witnessed such a tirade by the then Bishop Herman of Eastern PA. Our priest was in Russia on pilgrimage -- MH came to serve the Divine Liturgy in our church. The word was out that our parish intended to leave the OCA -- rumor was we were leaving because of the calendar issue. It's true -- the calendar was part of the reason why we left -- many other factors were also involved. The tirade we witnessed that day by the future Metropolitan was unbelievable. Never has our parish had any doubt that it did the right thing in leaving the OCA. The behavior of that man was far from that of a "spiritual leader." When I think back to that period of time and visualize the happenings between our parish and this man it is a nightmare. My heart goes out to all members of the OCA who still tolerate this behavior. God help you all and give you strength!
#13 Anonymous on 2007-06-26 03:48
It was nice to hear the depth of Fr. Berzonsky's report. If the Diocese of the Midwest is serious about change in recognizing the power of escrowing their monthly payments to Syosset, I would suggest to them that they really ought to go all the way and simply give the money away to charity as a counterweight to the money that was stolen from the various charitable funds in the first place. Let Syosset know that there is in fact to "escrowed account", no wad of cash waiting for them once they tow the line. Give the money away as the purest example of Christian love and sacrifice.
#14 anonymous on 2007-06-26 04:20
How many petitions are needed to get rid of MH and his minion. These men have no idea whats going on unless it benefits there pockets. What a mess they've made of the church. All of this money for accusing "one" person of mismanagement. How about they all take lie detector tests and every question is answered.
#15 SAMUEL on 2007-06-26 04:23
"It will be interesting to watch +HERMAN, +JOB and others this weekend. They will all be at the 75th anniversary celebration of SS Peter and Paul in Burr Ridge, IL this Saturday and Sunday."
#16 Anonymous on 2007-06-26 04:42
Fr. Berzonsky's courageous and revealing report further underscores the depth of wrongdoing and corruption at the highest levels of our Church. Consider, if you will, the significance of such a respected and senior priest, and a member of the Metropolitan Council, making this kind of statement in such unvarnished prose. This is a seminal moment for Herman et. al.--their days are numbered.
#17 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-06-26 05:22
Father Berzonsky, thank you for your report. I am proud to be an Orthodox Church in America, member. Your report shows, there is hope for us.
I am not for prolonging the agony for another six months. +H knows how to placate and mislead people, knowing that he is lying.
STOP THE MONEY NOW!!
St. James--Brother of the Lord
Kansas City, MO
I have never met Fr. Brezonsky, but have read his column for years, and respect his forthrightness and insight. His report on the MC meeting is an amazing expression of his frustration and disgust... I have NEVER read anything like it. It is truly revealing.
I'm praying for the Diocese of the Midwest... may the Holy Spirit open its delegates' hearts and guide their actions "for the good of the Church"...
#19 Anonymous on 2007-06-26 05:30
It seems appropriate that Fr. Vladimir's report was published for all to see following the celebration of the birth of St. John the Baptist. Throughout the meeting of Midwest Diocesan Council, lets pray for those present that the Holy Spirit inspires more prophetic voices, more uncompromising witnesses to the truth and, as important, that the Holy Spirit opens eyes to see and ears to hear.
As the Midwest Diocesan Council meets, we might also remember in particular those present who may be reticent to act in a manner they think might be seen as bullying or who, because of some long-held or otherwise invested position that is mutually exclusive with what must be done to starve the beast, unnecessarily feel obligated to act other than in the spirit of St. John the Baptist.
And, let's pray especially for those whose flat anthem might actually be something akin to "I will not be bullied," that they would see the insane, self-defeating nature of such a position. We can remember such folks, in particular, going forward during the liturgical prayers "for those held captive and for their salvation," that they would remember, in this specific regard, at least, that "I must decrease, so that He may increase."
#20 Thaddeus Wojcik on 2007-06-26 05:59
Don't resign, Ken. If somone wants to remove you, make her or him take the steps set forth in your parish by-laws for the removal of officers. Do not be afraid!
#21 Anonymous on 2007-06-26 06:03
Does anyone know where Bishop Seraphim of Canada stands in all of this? I am not aware that he has had anything to say to his Diocese about this crisis but that may be ignorance and inattention on my part. I have heard indirectly from another parishioner that he has dismissed the financial scandals as a US problem that doesn’t directly effect the Canadian Diocese - can this possibly be true? Thanks.
#22 Anonymous Canuck on 2007-06-26 06:10
(I just looked at your parish's web site.) Please know that you are held in prayer. May God strengthen all who stand for His Truth! May they be like eagles!
God bless you at tonight's parish council meeting and always!
Thank you Father Vladimir for your courage and eloquence. And thanks to Archbishop Job for (among other things) making so much critical information available to the public via the Diocesan website. This is the kind of openness one would expect when people are committed to the Truth, not "ecclesial form". What a contrast to the OCA website...
#24 Inga Leonova on 2007-06-26 07:29
After reading Fr. Vladimir's report, I cannot understand why any person or parish in the OCA would give a dime to the national church under the present circumstances. Nothing has changed. Any money that goes to the national church will likely be squandered on legal fees to defend the status quo.
The Metropolitan has already squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees to Proskauer Rose -- and to what end? Has the Church seen any benefit? Can anyone make the argument that was money well spent? Did it advance the Church's mission? Did Proskauer Rose provide clear answers and clear guidance on how to recover any of the missing funds?
Absolutely not! It was money flushed down the toilet. The Church did not even receive a written report. The only person who benefitted from Proskauer Rose is the Metropolitan.
Any individual or parish that sends money to the national church can expect that pattern to continue as long as the Metropolitan controls the Church's legal affairs.
And if things continue on the present course, it seems only a matter of time before this moves to the civil courts.
#25 Robert Wachter on 2007-06-26 07:53
I would be interested in comments from someone with liturgical expertise. What are the options for an Orthodox Church in the commemoration of Bishops? Is it true that it is perfectly acceptable to begin the commemorations with one's own bishop at Great Entrance, Polychronia etc.?
#26 Symeon Jekel on 2007-06-26 07:57
As expected the quality of the arguments and the passion of these writings is inspirational.
+Herman must be made to understand that his position will not stand. Not in America and not with those who have either lived through or observed such blatant abuses of political power.
Many of our churches continue to struggle for an identity beyond ethnic and cultural roots. They have now recognized that culture and money is at the root of this controversy and are prepared to withhold funds from Syosett. Once that happens, and no change is forthcoming, the only meaningful, and perhaps inevitable, follow-up action will be a search for a new jusrisdiction. Escrowed funds could go a long way to forming, or joining, another Orthodox heirarchy.
Perhaps the dreams and hopes of the 60's for a united American Orthodox Church will occur after the dismantling of the OCA and as an indirect result of its formation and demise.
#27 Alex Kreicbergs on 2007-06-26 09:08
With the publication of Fr. Vladimir's report, we have now seen the face of evil in this world. Shockingly, it is not the face of Saddam Hussein but rather it is the face of the Metropolitan of the OCA! George bush is a "bully" for freeing the Iraqi people, Paris Hilton is a hero for finally being out of jail, and an archpriest is a disgrace to his church for having the nerve to insist upon a full and true accounting of how Church funds were spent -- the world really, really has gone utterly insane.
With comments like those of Dr. Woog, now I can see why the MC has done so little in this entire debacle. And, allowing a Metropolitan who is so clearly embroiled right in the very center of this outrage to continue to chair the meeting -- ludircous!
All of this adds new meaning to the term "the Fallen World." Is there no way that the Church can remove the Metropolitan? To reign over such a fiasco as is described in Fr. Vladimir's report is intolerable! I don't know what course others may choose at the parish or diocese level, but as for me, I am with-holding my own funds from the OCA until there has been a wholesale ejection of those at the top.
If they want to do something "for the good of the church," then it's simple: Leave the room. Deposit your staff, hat, and symbols of office near the exit door so that they can be properly disposed of following your departure. At this point, it's okay if the door hits you in the behind as you leave -- we'll get a new door if necessary.
#28 C.C. on 2007-06-26 09:42
Talk's cheap, and even non-anonymous posting on the web is relatively painless. But standing your ground while a hierarch publicly berates you is hard.
Thank you, Fr. Berzonsky for your stalwart witness to truth in the face of denial.
The only question with respect to the Metropolitan left in my mind is whether he has sunk into a complete denial of reality or is in the last gasps of a desperate attempt to flee consequences of his own misdeeds. Not mutually exclusive possiblilities, but frankly either is a disqualification for him to continue in office.
This isn't about personal vendetta -- it's just observation of an objective reality: the OCA cannot move forward without a completely new direction and new leadership and Met. Herman has proved himself incapable of providing leadership in the current crisis. His actions bespeak instincts fundamentally at odds with what needs to happen.
Fr. Vladimir talks about the basic PR/crisis management axiom of telling all, telling it early and telling it yourself -- as odd as it is to compare this to Christian principles, is that really so much different that our faith's emphasis repentance?
The legal advice that the Metropolitan is following is sound legal advice -- but legal advice alone is not enough. We need someone with the maturity, vision, and integrity to put legal advice into a larger context and to make appropriate decisions. The overly sensitive, averse to criticism, intolerant of anything that contradicts his prefered version of the world personality on display in Fr. Berzonsky's account is the polar opposite of what we need in order to heal.
#29 Rebecca Matovic on 2007-06-26 09:47
Fr Vladimir's passionate, eloquent recounting of the Metropolitan Council meeting should make it obvious to even the most confrontation-averse among us that the current administration is rotten to the core, is in no way minded to repent, reform, or acknowledge any responsibility for the ongoing crisis/tragedy.
....And now, at the eleventh hour (11:45?), the Syosset Chancery deigns to release financial documents for 2006, in an obvious effort to placate the peasants of the Midwest and stave off the long-threatened (promised?) witholding of assessments...
Sorry--it is too little, too late. Time for sanctions to kick in.
Memo to the Midwest Diocesan Council, in the words of Lady Thatcher:
DON'T GO WOBBLY!
Sdn Henry Shirley--Orthodox Mission in West Bend, WI
#30 Sdn Henry Shirley on 2007-06-26 11:19
Not only too little, too late, but rather lame if you ask me.
Granted, a qualified audit is better than no audit, however, *only just*.
It's not hard to see how we got into this mess. We still haven't resolved, as a Church, the governance -- strong central Church, or decentralized dioceses?
The previous Metropolitan said he was independent of the central Church, just as the Dioceses are independent, therefore the assets donated to him were not subject to review. A similar position has been staked by the Bishop of Alaska.
If you don't want something audited, just declare it not an asset of the "Central Church" (which, by the way, doesn't legally exist!). Shouldn't the finanical statements of the OCA include the Diocesan finances as well?
Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP) require that organizations consolidate all entities which they directly or indirectly control. It seems to me that as the Holy Synod is the highest authority in our Church, all the "member dioceses" of the Holy Synod should be consolidated into the OCA financial statements in order that such financial statements are in accordance with GAAP.
How can financial statements of the OCA purport to be in conformity with GAAP when they do not include the assets of the whole Church? The expenses and revenues of the Church?
I would welcome my professional brothers and sisters comments ...
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#31 Marty Watt on 2007-06-26 13:49
ONLY the local bishop is commemorated at the Great Entrance, e.g., by the parish clergy. When local BISHOPS are serving, only they commemorate their primate.
In practical terms, this means that Met. Herman is mentioned by the parish clergy only in the DC-NY eparchy. Abp Dmitri is mentioned by the parish clergy only in the DOS, but when Abp Dmitri serves anywhere in the DOS, only he mentions Met. Herman.
This is the correct way to do this, other confused customs in place here and there notwithstanding, even if such errors occasionally get printed in books.
#32 Monk James on 2007-06-26 13:50
This makes sense, but we were taught to commemorate the Metropolitan at the Great Entrance. In fact, as I recall, there was an official Synod decision to not only commemorate the Metropolitan along with one's local bishop, but to commemorate him first.
The audited financial statement do, indeed, reveal a tremendous mess and no amount of word-smithing can change the financial facts.
In the press release comments, the relevance of the audit report is practically dismissed. Consider, however, that the monies that are missing or have not been accounted for present several further sticky issues. At what point will the OCA ever be able to get an audit report that is without exceptions? What is the ongoing legal exposure to the OCA for these missing funds? Clearly if some individuals gave say to an endowment fund and the OCA can't seem to find it now, doesn't the donor have a right to ask for it back?
I can understand why the CPAs lumped everything into one fund but in the interest of full disclosure, it sure would have been nice to see what is missing from each classification of funds. Their treatment in the financial report in my opinion is misleading. The unrestricted funds classification has to do with the general operating funds of an entity. If you lump other restricted funds into the same classification are you not shading the truth?
This is some progress but it is not the complete story. I wonder what Honesdale National Bank thinks of the financials as well? Some loan provisions actually specify that they require audited financial statements and an unqualified report. Hmm... just curious.
#34 anon on 2007-06-26 14:32
I have been reading your posts and they have made me stop and think throughly about this situation. I am praying for your organization to have the wisdom and the strength to achieve it's goals and do the right thing. Unfortunately it takes a leader to sometimes sacrifice themselves such as you are to make changes for the good of others. sic transit gloria mundi. " All the worldly glory is fleeting. This was said over and over as heros were carried through the streets to glorify them in the Roman days. No one will hold you over there shoulders. No one will be brave to stand up next to you and fight. No one will probably have the courage to simply say THANK YOU! Do what is right in your heart knowing that some of us have gratitude for your sacrifice and you are not alone. You will get your reward in Heaven.
#35 Mr. Schwan Akron, Oh on 2007-06-26 14:41
Well, I'm not a CPA, but I have one who works for me. And we run a subsidiary of a larger firm. Every year, we provide an (audited) financial statement to our shareholder (our parent company, who owns 100% of our "stock"), and they (the parent company consolidates this along with some 20 other subsidiaries into a combined, re-audited "Annual Report" for the larger corporation, complete with transparency into the day-to-day goings-on of each subsidiary. Yes, we "run the local company," but from a legal you can believe that we report to the Board of Directors, which are all appointed by our "owner," the parent company. Some of us subsidiary officers are even on that Board. Yes, we can sign contracts and so forth for the subsidiary, but guess what happens if our "local audit" fails. I get fired, by CFO/CPA gets fired. Guess what happens to my parent company president: he gets fired, too.
Guess what happens if the books are cooked at any level in the overall organization: the perpetrators get fired; immediately, not two years later! Guess what happens if a legal or financial investigation is conducted: The entire Board of Directors and all of the officers of the company get to read it, so they know why the fired were fired, and not repeat the crimes (sins) themselves. It's a learning experience. Guess how many times this has happened in our company. Once. Guess how many of the perpetrators still work at our company. None. Guess how many subsidiary officers are trying to hide their numbers from the auditors. Zero! Guess what we call it: A real organization, complete with accountability. What a concept! Guess how many people think we can do away with our parent company and forge ahead on our own as independent subsidiaries: No one thinks that!
Guess how many people think that our president is crazy for making us all get the books past a legitimate audit every year: It's never even occurred to anyone to question that. Guess how long our president would last if he suggested to the Board that the books weren't going to pass audit this year: About two seconds! Otherwise, do we always agree with our president, who worked his way up the organization to wind-up in charge today: Not a chance! Guess what he would say if we suggested that we follow "Best Practices." "Aren't we doing that already? If not, why did you wait so long to bring it up!?"
#36 C.C. on 2007-06-26 14:44
hmmm....witholding other people's money to the church.....gosh now why does that scenario sound familiar?
#37 Anonymous on 2007-06-26 14:57
I am not one of your "professional" brothers, but the definition of the OCA (in New York's Religious Corporation Law) "refers to that group of churches, chapels, congregations, societies, parishes, committees and other religious organizations of the Eastern Confession" that were under the mission that began with the Russian Orthodox diocese of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
If the legal definition of the OCA encompasses all the parish entities, not to mention seminaries, monasteries, etc., then could it be that it is necessary for the annual OCA audit (to be GAAP-compliant) to include all these entities?
It would be a big task, though perhaps it could be accomplished by having each parish, monastery and seminary undertake an audit by a CPA, and for those audited financials to be adopted by the OCA for the purposes of its audit. (Those who know better than I should comment, though.)
#38 Edmund Unneland on 2007-06-26 14:57
Let me preface my remarks that I left the OCA more than a decade ago, and you may choose to view my remarks through that lens. My wife remains an active OCA member at ST. Mark in Bethesda, MD, where we were married in 1985. I twice served as a parish council president (St Herman of Alaska, then in Wallingford), was for 6 years the alternate member of the OCA Audit Committee as elected by the AAC (although in fact the statute provides for no such position) actually signing two audits (probably in violation of the statute), served as secretary of 4 Diocesan Assemblies in E Pennsylvania, including of the special one which elected Herman Diocesan bishop (and for which I was one of those who tallied the votes), chaired the diocesan department of stewardship and served on the National Department of Stewardship. In short, I was an active participant in the governance of the church at parish, diocesan, and national levels.
I have known Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky since the 1980 AAC in Detroit. While he and I did not always agree, I have known no one more dedicated to the success of an independent Orthodox church in N America - to put it bluntly, he has dedicated his life to that goal. For him to make the blunt remarks in his report shows how grievous the situation is.
I read the report from Fr. Kucynda, at whose house I have been an overnight guest during my period of church activity. While I am not a CPA, I was a certified data processor with extensive experience in accounting systems at the time I served on the audit committee. Some of the problems now exploding existed in incipient form even then, although I must acknowledge that the then Chancellor, Fr. Daniel Hubiak, was far more responsive to the audit committee than seems the pattern in more recent years.
I read the Kucynda report, and I am shocked. I see the real possibility of legal liability for the members of Metropolitan Council, who under the statute effectively function as the equivalent of the boad of directors of a non-profit entity under the laws of the state of NY. What do we read:
the acting treasurer cannot say whether funds were even deposited in chruch accounts, even if some of those funds were to be for designated purposes
there are not yet sufficietn funds in hand to pay for expenditures authorized in 2006
the issue of ownership of Alaskan property is still not settled.
I have many friends who are devout members of the OCA. I count priests and laity among our friends. I weep on their behalf.
I fear that you have not yet seen the worst. As the Quaker I now am, I will hold you all in the light - that is how we express our intent to offer prayer. Remember the words you hear every week: put not your faith in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation. Those words apply to princes of the church as well, for they are but men, and not God. Keep your faith where it belongs, and trust in the goodness of a God who will not abandon his faithful.
#39 Kenneth Bernstein on 2007-06-26 15:39
The bishops must not waiver! I pray that they act swiftly and without hesitation, Herman and Kucynda have had there hand in the cookie jar for too long. It must end NOW! The Synod must act in one voice and end this tyranny
#40 Lester Sokolov on 2007-06-26 15:50
Disclaimer: I'm not an accountant and don't even play one on TV
Since the finances have never been consolidated, it seems to be a bit of an arbitrary moving of the goal posts to count the lack of inclusion of dioceses and institutions as a deficiency of the present audit.
Is the current document too little, too late?
This is hard. On the one hand, clearly the accounting firm had a lot to straighten out and it's still taking time to sort through. This is a reflection of the depth of the problem, not of a lack of a sincere effort to address the problem in the present.
As for the issue of being a qualified audit --the two issues that lead to the qualification are very tough ones to resolve and waiting for them to be resolved in order to publish any audit might involve a delay of years. Again, these qualifications represent the problems we face rather than deficiency in the attempt to address the problems.
I would love to hear opinions from the accountants here on what an institution does with respect to the issue of restricted funds when the records are as inadequate as in our case. At a certain point, does the MC sit down with whatever indications exist of where money might have come from and make an allocation starting anew in the current year to serve as a basis for future years? Is this "start over" allocation something an accounting firm could legitimately be asked to assist with, or is it purely the discretion of the appropriate authorities within the institution, or is it completely inappropriate and we'll have to spend forever banging our heads against the problems of the past and always have a qualification?
On the Alaska lands, this is a complex and loaded issue involving a power struggle and divergent interpretations of our institutional structure -- I'm not holding my breath on this one being resolved and will consider it success if future audits have only this qualification.
So am I saying all is well?
This past Sunday we heard the gospel of the centurian. He addresses the Lord as one who understands what it means to be one in authority over others. I don't know how many of us are in authority over others in our professional lives, but there are things you learn and understand when you have responsibility (even if slight) for others. Here's one thing I've learned over the years -- the hardest, most tragic, most difficult personnel issue to solve is when you have to deal with someone who is genuinely trying to do a good job, who is listening to your input in reviews and trying to apply it, and yet who lacks certain basic skills and abilities that would make him able to really meet the expectations of the job. And it's even more difficult when the demands of the job have subtly shifted because of forces totally out of the control of the employee, so that he has sort of been left behind and can't catch up to changing demands.
And that's (in part) where we seem to be today ... I hope the new faces in Syosset will bring change, but some of the old faces simply aren't up to the task. Fr. Kucynda strikes me at a distance as someone who is really trying (I don't know him personally and don't pretend to have an informed judgment) -- but things have shifted and his very history as a witness to the issues over the years makes it impossible for him to be effective in cleaning up this mess now. The deck is inevitably stacked against him. It may or may not be fair, but it is a fact.
#41 Rebecca Matovic on 2007-06-26 16:02
One last comment and I'll disappear for a trip and shut up for a while ...
Actually it's an entreaty rather than a comment.
Metropolitan Herman --
You still have it within your grasp to become a healer in this, to go down in history as having done what is best for the Church and to have put aside personal ambition and pride for the good of all.
Announce your resignation effective the 2008 AAC.
Dedicate the remainder of administration soley to the rooting out of all the corruption and issues.
Release the report of the Special Commission.
Insist that the Special Commmission continue its work, with no restraints.
Publicly confess any error you yourself may have made, whether of comission or omission.
When the new chancellor takes office, recuse yourself from the chairmanship of the MC for those portions of the agenda which concern these matters and leave them to sort it through unconstrained.
Embrace those who have pressed these matters and recognize that they have acted for the good.
Set an example of humility and repentance.
This way lies greatness ... the only kind of greatness that a Christian can aspire to, the greatness of being "the least of these."
Consider it. It's not too late, even if the clock is at 11:45.
Asking your blessing and prayers,
St. Mary Magdalen Church
#42 Rebecca Matovic on 2007-06-26 16:13
From your post, it sounds as if you have made the decision to withhold these funds on your own. If this is the case, I feel that your doing so is no better than those who have already misused funds within the church. If this is not the case, then please accept my apologies.
But, if this is the case, then you too do need to pray over your actions, because that is akin to stealing and misusing church funds.. Kozak,
#43 Anonymous on 2007-06-26 16:29
Many thanks to Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky, for shining a bright light on that Potemkin Village we call "The Metropolitan Council." What a farce.
I think of the old axiom, "All that is necessary for evil to prevail, is for good men to say nothing." Is it really possible that Fr. Vladimir, a venerable older priest who has earned his stripes, stood alone and suffered abuse in that assembly?
I'd like to think there are some good men and women in the other eparchies. Are we really so cowed by authority that no one else is courageous enough to say something in the Metropolitan Council?
If that is true, then Fr. Vladimir is also to be thanked for standing alone.
#44 Greg Denysenko on 2007-06-26 18:14
Then 'we' were taught incorrectly, and the Holy Synod acted in ignorance of the authentically orthodox catholic Christian Tradition.
This has happened a lot lately, and not just in liturgical proprieties, God help us!
#45 Monk James on 2007-06-26 18:40
I employ more CPAs (incl. former "Big Six" partners) and legal counsel (corporate, securities, tax, litigation) than anyone would wish to in multiple lifetimes. This "financial report" is utterly meaningless. Without an audited baseline, it is built on shifting sand. It is just so many words. It truly is an effort akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Our Lord's parable of a house build on sand is apropos. Shame on this administration for continuing to ply such an amateurish trade under the guise of "stewardship". They've been offered help many times, and each time they walked away foolishly quoting Scriptures and praising themselves for being above all these "secular" ideas. Poppycock. Folks, this financial "report" is an abortion. Not even a good start. The first two section discredit everything that follows. ...Oh, by the way Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?
#46 Anon. on 2007-06-26 18:54
I'm pretty sure not signing a check to pay the church's Diocesan dues, by *one*'s own decision is illegal, not to mention immoral. the parish should decide as a whole where their money goes. If one believes that money from the church (which EVERYONE from the church has contributed to) should not be spent a certain way, one should consult EVERYONE in the parish. Since one single person is NOT the only contributor, one single person can not make a decision like that alone.
#47 Anonymous on 2007-06-26 18:59
What, exactly, would this accomplish? It seems to me that it would have the opposite affect than what is desired - namely greatly muddying the waters, allowing far more room for hiding misappropriations, etc.
#48 Name withheld on 2007-06-26 19:07
In theory, the audit committee should be examining all of this - when I was on audit committee this point was raised, by one of the people who was a CPA, and who had read the OCA Statute. At a minimum, one could argue that all Stavropeghial institutions should be audited. But the audit committee was told not to go there, that it was not going to happen.
Let me give an example of the problem. In those days the national cathedral was, believe it or not, St. Innocent's on 2nd street in NYC. Because they were the "national catehdral" they were demanding that their maintenance expenses, such as roof repair, be paid by Syosset, but they were NOT prepared to let there be any meaningful oversight from Syosset.
Many informal structures had been developed over the years of the Metropolia, and many continued after autocephaly. For all of the personal revereance ahd holiness of some of the earlier bishops, they had little understanding of the way things worked legally and practically in the US. Remember, there had been a history of parishes jumping jurisdictions - think of all the parishes Toth pulled over to the Metropolia, for example.
I am neither lawyer nor CPA, and I was a member of OCA for about 14 years, first attending in August of 1976 and being received in March of the following year. I am certainly not the institutional memory of the church. But from what I saw from the inside, many of the kinds of problems now seen had been developing at least in part for decades. My signing of two audits is an example of some that informality - there was no provision in the statute for an alternate auditor, and the Metropolitan could replace an auditor unable to serve. Thus the election of an alternate, which in my case happened in 1980 in Detroit and 1983 in Philadelphia, could serve as advisory by the AAC so the Metropolitan would know to whom to turn in the case of the vacancy. But that should have been as a permanent replacement, for the rest of the term. That is just one example of how things were not done according to rule. And once you start down that path . . .
I cannot say more without violating confidence.
#49 Kenneth Bernstein on 2007-06-26 19:18
Through these months I've been following this site and the news herein, it is only those candles in the darkness like +Job, Fr Vladimir, and the other courageous clergy and people of the OCA who post here standing fast in faith, that give me any hope at all that all we have sought to do has not been in vain....
When I was a wee catachumen and new convert some years ago, I was in fine fettle and happy/able/willing to give whatever I could, to what I had faith in, was a church that would do as the gospels directed with it....just like my home parish, that place where I was blessed to find true Orthodoxy, did and does.
Time takes its toll on health and wealth and unexpected jagged twists of fate sometimes catch us unawares. I no longer have to give like I did. And all the while I was putting lobster on someones fasting plate instead of feeding the hungry? I was draping someone in gold-shot brocade rather than clothing the naked? I was enriching egos and not souls crying out for God?
I'd have no questions, no problems, no doubts, no lurking demon of anger - if I knew that what I put out went to Godly works.
I could turn away but still there are those lights shining the beacons of truth in the night. The only reason I stay, in hope of renewal. My small gentle strong truthful Godly parish where we are regalia poor but rich in spirit. But we MUST have more, a communion of ALL our parishes and for this the truth must be brought to light with the confessions of and judgement of our "uppers" who have so misused and divided us.
I've only seen a bishop once in these many years in the OCA. I count myself so very blessed that it was +Job when I attended Holy Liturgy at the Chicago cathedral whilst on a business trip back in my "fancy days".
#50 Olga on 2007-06-26 19:41
I wrote a letter to Abp. Job the other day and I asked for Abp. Job to lead by example. For an individual diocese to demand transparency and not provide it, to me, is absurd.
The resolution passed in 1999 by the Synod was the beginning of the churches full acceptance and 'to hell with audits' mindset. Our Bishop Job, I believe, signed it as well.
Before we criticize and condemn +Herman for falling into the Metropolitan Theodosius regime mindset, I'd suggest we look at his equals in an equal light. Bishop Job asked for prayer and I prayed and I realized that the standard isn't the same. Just because the central church had Metropolitan Theodosius and Fr. Kondratick and a follower in Metropolitan Herman until recently doesn't mean we should give Bishop Job a lot of slack either.
That standard. That standard we accountant's hold, that audits and transparency occur is not applied to firms because of fiduciary failings folks. The audit and transparency standard is to prevent the sacking of things like restricted funds. It is a standard that prevents future problems required by banks and public companies, etc. The standard is applied for prevention, not healing.
With the release of the audit draft, I do not support the Palatine Resolution unless someone can identify for me the Statutes violated, and unless the administration fails to provide quarterly reports within 60 days of end of period (this is a very loose requirement). I believe they are outside of prudence on this stipulation and a first quarter full set of financials would be needed for me to be satisfied. Of course, the 1999 Synod's resolution itself is reason enough for the Palatine Resolution, but given the fact Job voted for the resolution, how could he support Palatine absent a request the Synod repeal????? In fact, if we support Palatine, we should withhold from the Diocese of the Midwest for the 1999 Resolution which violates any prudent man standard.
#51 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-06-26 20:07
You make astute observations, but the blame is misplaced. It is the responsibility of management to produce the statements, not the CPAs. In fact, the external audit firm (CPAs) specifically agreed with you that they believed the treatment of restrictions was not a "fair" portrayal of the financial condition of the Church. The acting Treasurer admitted the same in his comments.
My questions, with answers:
Under whose custody were the books and records of the OCA for the years 2005-2006? The Acting Treasurer. Who must accept responsibility for those books and records? The Acting Treasurer.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#52 Marty Watt on 2007-06-26 20:20
To the matter of what to do when you don't know the balances of restricted funds.... You look at the last 5 years of financial statements and try to make the best assertion possible. In the case of the OCA, they[we] made assertions related to the Honesdale borrowings that should be held to, or disclosed to us.
#53 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-06-26 20:38
I'm not willing to give the Acting Treasurer as much benefit of the doubt as you. As a Treasurer, one has custody of the books and records. The positions of Secretary and Treasurer are not figurehead positions - they have responsibilities and competencies under NY law and by the OCA statute. I'm still unsure of the legal responsibilities of the Chancellor, and Metropolitan too for that matter.
C.C. is exactly correct - incompetence will still land you (at a minimum) on the unemployment line, and possibly in jail. If you don't know what you are doing, you should have never accepted the post. When you accept the post, you accept the responsibilities that come with it.
So competency to perform the job has very little to do with the responsibility, which can be delegated, or the accountability, which can NEVER be delegated. Here we're really dealing exclusively with the latter.
The Acting Treasurer's comments, while perhaps accurate, are damning. He must accept accountability for the shortcomings of the records he outlined, because the books and records were in his custody during the audit period.
I believe we have enough information now to have properly classified the restricted appeals. Management must try its best to uncover any restrictions that exist, but ultimately if the documents aren't there, they will have to be produced by the donor in order to enforce the restriction.
My priest and I had a lengthy discussion this evening about the ownership of assets. (as you can tell, I have precious little social life) He explained to me the issue of Alaskan lands is the result of property being held by individual dioceses and parishes, to prevent the Russian government from claiming ownership of all Church property after the 1917 Revolution. His explanation of our current situation seems quite reasonable to me. So we have a bit of congregationalism in our Orthodoxy. Ultimately, though, the articles of incorporation will make the legal case of title and ownership, not Canon Law.
By producing a consolidated audit, with the financial statements of each diocese and Church-controlled asset consolidated, the issue would become moot. Chances are, the issue of the restrictions would become immaterial, and as a result the qualification of the audit opinion would be moot as well. (Immaterial is the accounting term for "an amount unlikely to affect the decision-making of the user of the financial statements"). Would that consolidation include individual parishes? My instinct tells me no, however there is a case to be made both ways here. I think we can limit it to entities under direct control of the Metropolitan, or the individual/collective members of the Holy Synod, in my view, should be included.
There are indeed ways out of the mess. They all begin with a commitment to openness and transparency, from the Holy Synod down to the parish.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#54 Marty Watt on 2007-06-26 20:41
Ken, you are in our prayers.
#55 Dn. Timothy Wilkinson on 2007-06-26 20:43
NOT WAIVER?????? This would imply that they have taken some sort of position, stand, opinion, thought, something, ANYTHING, not to waiver from! How could we wish them not waiver from this cowardly self-serving silence and inaction?
The above does not apply to Archbishop Job who is the only Bishop so far who is man enough to stand up for what is right .
#56 Disheartened and Disillusioned on 2007-06-26 20:51
It would be remiss of me not to mention Fr. Berzonsky was one of the seventy archpriests signing the initial letter (was it really February 21 of 2006?) calling for an independent investigation.
Many years, Reverend Father! Our prayers and encouragement are with you and the remainder of the Council during this most difficult time.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#57 Marty Watt on 2007-06-26 20:53
JOB would make a tremendous statement if he didn't serve, but was merely in attendance.
In all truthfulness, how can JOB serve with Herman? How can JOB look at Herman holding the body of our Lord in his hands and not cry?
#58 Stonewall on 2007-06-26 20:55
The easy answer is for people to resign or to fire them.
The hard answer is to effect change.
I'm grateful for the words of the good priest because he is working to effect change.
Months ago, I was bothered by the statements of the MC member he attacked in his letter. It is good that he is working to effect change. As I have stated earlier, no member of the MC, this may or may not include the good priest seated prior to July, 2005 deserves their seat.
On the other hand, I am very pleased to see the release of the audit report. Metropolitan Herman and Fr. Paul Kucynda really did a good thing releasing this report. Instead of all of us continually condemning them for their mistakes and behaviors certainly learned by Metropolitan Theodosius, I'd suggest we continue to make reasonable requests of them like releasing interim first quarter financials completely and not only an operating statement and putting together a plan to deal with the audit exceptions.
I only would support the Palatine Resolution if the Diocese of the Midwest meets an equivalent standard to release quarterly full financial statements. Audits may not be needed by a third party. Further, I expect the entire Synod to repeal the 1999 resolution allowing Bishops discretionary accounts. Further, I would expect the Palatine Resolution to only be effected under a 60 day plan to give the administration a fair opportunity to respond. Further, I expect the administration to release quarterly full financial statements.
Further, I pray all of you find it in your hearts to show balance and patience towards Metropolitan Herman and Fr. Paul Kucynda. I'm ashamed they didn't respond well to the good priest and I hope they take time to reflect on his intentions.
We all should share a common goal in this entire affair. The goal is the financial health of the OCA. For Fr. Paul and Met. Herman, the condemnation of the good priest did not meet that goal because they didn't take his concern seriously. For the good priest, his letter to the public was needed.
Let's pray that Fr. Paul and Met. Herman recognize the seriousness of the Palatine Resolution.
Pass the resolution with a 60 day suspension under the following conditions:
1. The Diocese of the Midwest must release an annual financial report and a first quarter full financial report.
2. The OCA must release a first quarter full financial report and be in compliance with the Statutes of the OCA within a prudent person's interpretation.
3. The Holy Synod must repeal the 1999 resolution allowing discretionary accounts not subject to audit.
Fail it otherwise.
Just my two cents...Dan...
#59 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-06-26 21:09
It would be better if people gathered in front of the Church with icons of Saints that gave their lives for the Church to contrast the little man inside who is giving the life of the Church to save himself.
It's no longer a financial matter. This is a grave spiritual matter concerning a Church trying to rid itself of a person running it into the ground who has lost his spirituality.
How can anyone commune from the same chalice as him? People need to really think about that.
#60 Anonymous on 2007-06-26 21:58
A parish's checking accounts generally have no less than three authorized signers. If Mr. Kozak feels he cannot in good conscience sign the check for his parish's fair share assessment (national dues), there are at least two other board officers in the parish who CAN draft and sign the check, if that is the will of the parish as a whole.
#61 Anonymous on 2007-06-27 06:05
Your posting sounds as if this is a decision which you have come to on your own. If your refusal to sign the checks is a choice that you are personally making, without it being a directive of your parish (by council or annual meeting) or your diocese, than your actions are akin to those that have already crippled the Church. It is a gross abuse of your position as treasurer, if this is the case; and, to misuse the funds entrusted to you would definitely be cause to ask to you step down from your position of stewardship within the parish.
#62 Anonymous on 2007-06-27 06:21
I am not certain whether a Treasurer should decide simply on his own not to pass along a parish contribution. The only basis on which I can see doing that is if a Treasurer is concerned about personal liability (or personal moral responsibility) for something that might be akin to an act of waste.
#63 Edmund Unneland on 2007-06-27 06:31
While you criticize and condemn the draft audit release, are you considering the fact no audit details have been released for years?
While you criticize these men, do you recognize and realize they are not businessmen?
I'd suggest you take a secular walk and read Dale Carnegie's Golden Book and read the first 30 points in it.
Moving forward after years of bad books is hard work. Rather than criticizing and condemning, set reasonable goals for the future for these guys.
Unmet future goals and I'll stand with you. Last year, or the year before, where were you? You were represented in the church by the Metropolitan Council. If you want to throw blame, get a full set of darts, otherwise, think about the future.
#64 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-06-27 06:32
Thank you for your fair critique, but I have not been using the money for entertainment or other activities. The money remains in active investments, which for the first 5 months of 2007 have appreciated at a rate of approximately 14.8%. (I'm not trying to boast or say that rate of return will continue, but just present the fact that the money is not being spent lavishly without control).
This matter was intended for and brought before our Parish Council for consideration and discussion. It had been delayed by my inability to attend the May meeting and the passing of Archbishop Kyrill, which postponed our meeting scheduled for 6/19. The Parish Coucil voted last night to withhold the portion of our Diocesean assessment that would historically be forwarded to the Chancery (25%). I pray that this will provide an opportunity for frank discussion at the Bulgarian Diocese conference this weekend, and that the new Spiritual Council will continue recognizing the wisdom of Archbishop Kyrill concerning this matter.
Praying for the Peace found in Matthew 25.
#65 Ken Kozak on 2007-06-27 06:58
You may well be right --- perhaps it's best to see my post as an ultimate end point to make things accord fully with GAAP.
It could be best to see this as a process (perhaps the work of a generation, rather than as a moment). The process would then be to:
first straighten out the situation at the offices on Northern Boulevard,
then the stavropegial institutions,
then the auxiliary organizations,
then the dioceses,
then the parishes.
I still think the process starts with the full truth about everything that went on. This is truly necessary for us to be able to put the distrust aside and create a healthy environment for our church life.
The other thing that is necessary is to combine both firmness and fairness in any tribunals that may need to be convened. The statute gives everyone in the OCA the right to due canonical process --- bending over backwards to do so, even if we are merely starting to do this in June, 2007, is not a bad thing. Beginning this generation-long effort to put ourselves on the right track regarding temporalities in the OCA cannot start with treating canonical defendants in any way other than the way I would wish to be treated in any adversarial hearing.
#66 Edmund Unneland on 2007-06-27 07:02
"I only would support the Palatine Resolution if the Diocese of the Midwest meets an equivalent standard to release quarterly full financial statements. "
You would willingly resist a major step toward resolution of the central administration's corruption unless the Midwest releases quarterly statement?? We can "go after" other wrongdoers if they exist, but to desire to halt the momentum that has gathered with respect to Syosset ... no way, man! Its fascinating. Bizarre, but fascinating.
This is nothing against the push for any NFP to be transparent (we're all for the Midwest and everyone else opening the books, Im sure, as well as doing away with discretionary accounts(yes!)), but to insist on permitting the continued cover-up attempts of one which we know to have been acting wrongly until another opens its books is as stupefying as your urge for continued patience for Herman and crew. At this point, such patience rises to the level of facilitation, wittingly or not, and even insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time).
I just don't get it.
#67 What?? on 2007-06-27 07:16
actually, many parishes have only two authorized signatures, and both must sign. I served two terms as president of a church in diocese of E Penna, and only I and the treasurer were authorized signatures, and both had to sign the check.
#68 Kenneth Bernstein on 2007-06-27 07:51
A reply from a humble CPA to Mr Anon, Sir: When a company is audited for the first time, an audited income statement is often not possible, unless you audit the prior year balance sheet as well. In this case, since so many records are missing, the best you can do is audit the balance sheet for the present year. Does that make the audit meaningless? IMHO, no. Is it what we would like? Of course not. The reality is, unless the missing records are found, we have to live with what we have, and move on (hopefully with new leadership).
btw, you might actually ask your Big Six CPA's opinion BEFORE you write. And just in case you did, I'd love to hear from them.
#69 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2007-06-27 08:12
Oh, the irony. Several anonymous posts urging Ken Kozak to keep his stand!!
#70 Terry C. Peet on 2007-06-27 08:54
With respect, MH has a 30+ year history of this behavior. Fr. Paul was the treasurer back in 1993 when the audit committee reinforced the recommendations of the external auditors in the Management Letter, via a memo addressed to him.
In the fall of 1999, Pdn. Wheeler, apparently due to insistence on completion of the special review of the discretionary accounts, is dismissed and placed under a "gag order" by the Metropolitan. +Herman is appointed acting Treasurer.
In the fall of 1999, John Kozey, the Chair of the audit committee writes to the Metropolitan Council about the problems, and is summarily dismissed as the Chair by Fr. RSK.
Orthodox News reported on the "discretionary" accounts in 1999, three years after the last audited financial statements were produced.
Archbishop JOB asked for details of the finances of the central church in the summer of 2005 and was told they would NOT be disclosed, at the order of MH. In the fall of 2005, MH tried unsuccessfully to silence the controversy surrounding the Wheeler letter, and steadfastly refused to answer Archbishop JOB's question: are the allegations true or false?
In late 2005, +MH orders everyone to stop talking about the "issue". Abp. JOB met with each deanery in the Diocese of the Midwest individually to offer his apology for his failures relating to the scandal.
In late 2005/early 2006 +MH "asked" Abp. JOB to remain silent in order for him to resolve the crisis for the meeting of the Lesser Synod.
This website began January 7, 2006, with the express intent of having an investigation and calling for more accountability and transparency.
February 2006 saw letters from the priests of the Diocese of the Midwest, and the letter from seventy Archpriests throughout the Church. Each diocese is represented.
Dan, with respect, how much more patience can we have with +MH and the acting Treasurer?
(Sorry to take up space with this summary of the chronology, but it seems necessary - I encourage everyone to read that chronology, paying strict attention to the time elapsing between events.)
Non-profits are not required to distribute their financial statements, but rather to make them available upon request. Have you asked the Treasurer of the Diocese of the Midwest, Rob Koncel, or the Chancellor of the Diocese, for the report delivered at the last Diocesan Council meeting?
Having discretionary accounts is not a particular problem - it is the utter lack of recordkeeping and accountability, not to mention limits, that creates a problem. Nearly every parish has a fund (limited in scope) which the priest can disburse on his own.
I commend you on having more patience that I. I have precious little patience left. I would have patience with a new administration - new Treasurer and new Metropolitan - but patience with the current bunch is misplaced, in my not-so-humble opinion.
The words of Our Savior are clear: "But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." (Matt. 18:17b)
It is past time to dismiss the heathens and tax collectors (isn't that term ironic?) from the offices they hold in the Church.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#71 Marty Watt on 2007-06-27 09:04
I think there is a difference here. As I understand, the money is not being used for other purposes or for anyone's personal use. Ken is taking the position that Kosey did. Will not sign to have the money used in a way that the parishioners did not intent. I don't know Ken but I assume that when all is done and the dust settles, all the money that needs to go to the Diocese will get there. There are other churches doing the same thing but not publicizing it!
#72 Anon on 2007-06-27 09:05
This is the same old stuff!
We need and should demand a certified audited report. Nothing less!
St. James--Brother of the Lord
Kansas City, MO
Wait! The Synod has NO right to say that accounts will not be audited. They have no say under the fiduciary responsibilities to say that money will be swept under the rug and the council is under NO obligation to follow what they say in this regard. In this case, and it's been pointed out time and again, in Mr. Wachter's piece, the council has to follow the law and if they heed to a directive by the Synod to ignore monies is in direct conflict with the laws of the state of New York. I would like to see the defense of the Council under questioning by Mr. Cuomo that they didn't fulfill their responsibilities because "The Synod told us not to audit those monies and act like there were never there". Mr Cuomo: "You mean the guys in this picture here with the beards to their bellies? And under what legal basis did they make that directive?"
Good luck trying THAT!
#74 Stonewall on 2007-06-27 09:22
The time is over for passing stuff with qualifiers like a 60 day suspension. We've had a 19 month suspension and whenever we give them one more chance the Hermanistas and their leader thumb their nose at us and continue doing what they did because they've been given another 6 months or 3 months or 60 days. Don't you people get tired of being taken advantage of? Don't you people REALIZE that being nice and giving them one MORE chance is NOT going to make a difference? We are dealing with people in Syosset without consciences who look to you to continually give them one more chance so they get more time pillage and plunder like they have for 18 years. Herman has made it quite clear that those that demand accountability are his ENEMIES. More time, more requests, etc., will be very welcome as they laugh at what fools we are and how they can play us like a fiddle to keep their shenanigans going on for more time. ENOUGH.
When Herman releases an un-redacted written report from PR and/or resigns the money will flow again. PERIOD. Put it in terms and small syllable words that he can understand! He's shown he will fight you tooth and nail and just when we get some brass he does a Clinton-like action like dropping a piece of garbage audit to influence the members of the Midwest that something is happening. What's going to happen tomorrow? He's going to announce that Kondratick has been convicted? Another piece of meat for us to eat up and think things are changing for the better? What then after THAT? The Rose Law firm billing records for Hillary on a table in the Chancery? Come on people! Act!
Remember, when the people in the NY/NJ got mad at that other pillar of Orthodoxy, Bishop Peter, what did Herman advise them to do? WITHHOLD the money. He has already given us his blessing that this a perfectly acceptable act to force change. All he has to do is "take it a like a man" - a bit hard for a person who's cowardice knows no bottom.
#75 Stonewall on 2007-06-27 09:36
One question Annon. since you do not sign your name.
What about our stewards in Syosset? Did they contact "The Church" to spend "our" money?
#76 HAl Pukita on 2007-06-27 10:04
Thank you for the reply. I suspect the comment was from a Parish Council member who knows darn well that our accounts have only had 2 signatures for at least the past 5 years, and I suspect much longer. I thought the discussion, motion and vote at the Parish Council meeting ended peacefully last night, but apparently not. I'll keep biting my tounge on a few more issues, but I'm not going to bleed.
Thank you Deacon Wilkinson for your prayers. Hope that the "Wild West" is much more peaceful for you and your family than the east.
Steve Babish: I fondly remember your brother George from Erie and met you once or twice. I initially thought your words were overboard. I'm not sure I can say that now. I'm not sure if you said that it would be better to be fired rather than to surrender. I couldn't agree more. If I could have been fired back in 2001 to save the 911 money, the charities, and the Beslan kids, my decision would be a no brainer. Now, I'm pushing the issue to withhold $375 from the 1st half of the 2007 calendar year and what a backlash. Compare the $375 to what has gone down the drain; it probably wouldn't have covered the drinks at a small gathering.
Thank you Mr. Schwan, whoever you are! (Akin to Good Night Mrs. Calabash).
#77 Ken Kozak on 2007-06-27 11:16
My experiences on parish council in two large parishes in Ohio were: the board president, the treasurer, and the financial secretary are all listed as authorized signers for all parish accounts, and one of the parishes also made the 1st VP and authorized signer. As you said, two signatures were required.
Mr. Kozak apparently misunderstood my comment; it was not a condemnation of his heartfelt decision. I would do the same thing in his position, to ensure that the issue was thoroughly discussed by the parish council/priest. I can't imagine that Fr. Freude has been silent on this issue.
#78 Anonymous on 2007-06-27 13:59
Yes, it was with deep and long thought concern that I spearheaded the stand to withhold the payment. As I posted elsewhere, I only wish that the 1999 Acting Treasurer of the OCA would have taken the same stand. That Treasurer was apparently aware of irregularities as well. I'm looking at $375, he could have saved $millions.
Restricting the work and ability of the Church's Special Commission that was charged with the investigation and then disbanding the group helped push me to the brink. As I noted before, it appears that so far, the church investigation is akin to President Clinton taking control and overall responsibility for investigating the scandal concerning his involvement with Monica Lewinsky.
But yes, as I wrote in a letter to our Vladyka Kyrill before his repose, "I believe that I have a both a Christian and fiduciary responsibility to withhold payments that would support an organization in disarray that has not provided full disclosure of both historic and current financial conditions".
While I won't receive a written response, I think our Vladyka agreed with not sending the Bulgarian Diocese contribution to the OCA Chancery.
No, I can't speak for other Parish Treasurer's, but I don't know how their hand can sign the check.
#79 Anonymous on 2007-06-27 16:03
I've agreed with you most of the way, but your comment "...their(MH & Kucynda) mistakes and behaviors certainly learned by Metropolitan Theodosius"???
I don't doubt that significant blame lies with MT, but did they not have a mind of their own? Did MT show them the way to cover things up? Tell them to chastise those who questioned authority? Teach them to fire Treasurer's who raised questions? Instruct them on how to eliminate audits? .....
Marty, thanks for presenting the Chronology again. It is startling at how long this has gone on, but as I've said, everyone should re-read.
#80 Ken Kozak on 2007-06-27 17:04
You write: How can anyone commune from the same chalice as him? People need to really think about that.
Perhaps we need to think about the truth that when we commune in/with Christ, we commune with all who commune, regardless of which particular chalice, in which particular church building they commune. That is the meaning of the word "communion" and it is the nature of our sacramental reality.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not communion in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
Fr. Bartholomew Wojcik
St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Mission Church
#81 Anonymous on 2007-06-27 19:39
If our bishops are to be equal, how can we hold the Metropolitan to a higher standard than his fellow bishop and demand his leave even after he meets the standard and beyond releasing a formal audit, though qualified?
I just don't get it.
What? don't you get?
As for the comment above responding to my blurb on discretionary funds, the truth is that the 1999 resolution was the first source of audit failure and the clergy and bishops should all stand together in shame absent its repeal. I just don't get it.
If asked to grade the Metropolitan, he got less than a C grade until yesterday's release of the audit [from me]. Its a first step in a good direction. The new Palatine resolution, absent calls for repeal of the 1999 Synod Resolution(a comedy), is a balanced approach at reasonableness and future goal setting.
Hard to believe anyone not wanting Herman's head posts here I know.... I want a financially healthy church, nothing more. Even the investigation isn't vital to me to that end, although I see the need for clarity and closure of the matters.
#82 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-06-27 20:10
No one here wants the man's head. (Oy!) We want his and his co-conspirators' resignations. You ain't gonna get your financially healthy chuch without that. If you choose to not understand, I don't know what anyone can say. Apparently, though, you've staked out your position and are well dug in. Hey, its your free will; no one can make you use it other than as you want. G'day, and good luck.
#83 What?? on 2007-06-28 07:40
Now I think I see where we're at odds. You desire a financially healthy church - commendable! A good portion of the rest of us want an honest church, a truthful church, a Christ-like church.
As I commented some time back, the financial administration of the Church is no longer the central issue - ecclesiastical administration is.
Our Metropolitan is behaving like a dictator, and from the testimony of others, has done so for a very, very long time. He is supposed to lead us to Christ. Are you being led to Christ? I certainly don't believe I am being led that direction. May God have mercy on us all.
If we fix the finances and allow the ecclesiology to continue, we will have failed. Failed the Church, failed Orthodoxy, and failed Christ. +MH is not the Supreme Pontiff of Syosset. He needs to quit behaving like one.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#84 Marty Watt on 2007-06-28 08:30
Publius, you have a sharp mind and a quick wit. What follows is part of your logical conclusion ("Mr. Swaiko"), and is an honest question:
"Innocent until proven guilty"---hmmm. Proven by whom? In civil law, by a judge or jury. In church law, by a church court? By the huge majority of writers on this website?
I'm only asking because if indeed +Herman is guilty (don't rage at me: I'm being very restrained in this posting), then:
At what point does automatic excommunication (for a time of penitence +/or discipline) happen?
At what point does he get stripped of his 'regal' robes (a.k.a 'despotic dress')?
At what point will he NOT be allowed to approach the altar and celebrate the Holy Liturgy?
If he were to come to our parish, I, sinner that I am, would feel obliged to stop him from approaching our altar.
So yes, I'm wondering what +Job will do. Refuse to serve with him--or refuse to let him serve???
What DO you do with a seemingly corrupt Head Honcho---oops---Primatial Primate? What do you allow him to do?
Who takes the stand and says "For the sake of suffering children, impoverished people, for all the faithful Orthodox of the Orthodox Church in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and for GOD I'm not letting you continue in your delusion. IT STOPS HERE!"
If we love him (and we must love him, and not his sins, just as God loves us), we must stop feeding into his delusion(s). We are enablers of his delusion if we allow him to persist in it. Enabling a delusion is to cause the victim of the delusion to fall deeper into it, thus separating him further from God. This is not love.
God give us all strength, courage, and love in all our actions!
#85 Larissa on 2007-06-28 15:51
Isn't it obviously they did not contact The Chuch? I'm sure none of us would be writing on this site if they had contacted us now would we? The post that asked that question was made the night before Kozak's council meeting (unfortunatly it was not posted until later the next day. The financial problems in the OCA have already happened and unless there is some technology I am unaware of, I'm positive we can't go back in time and fix it. The point of that post was to pursuade one to not make their own decision with other people's money so as to prevent this from happening again in the parish!
#86 Anonymous on 2007-06-28 18:42
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