Thursday, August 2. 2007
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Interesting choice of word--"scrupulosity--that Professor Schneider employs to characterize financial and administrative affairs in the OCA during 1998-2003.
Wikipedia defines the term as "obsessive concern with one's personal sins, including "sinful" acts or thoughts usually considered minor or trivial within their religious tradition... In modern times, scrupulosity is often considered to be a religious expression of obsessive-compulsive disorder... The scrupulous person may refuse to acknowledge the verdict of otherwise accepted religious authorities that he or she is being excessively concerned with moot religious points..."
I will repeat the entire sentence so you can see the word in context again:
" For a number of years – especially from around 1998 –2003 – financial and administrative scrupulosity in the O.C.A. were both carelessly and selfishly handled, and responsible oversight (by all parties) was either lazy or over-trusting."
Well, I am confused. Is the good professor implying that those people responsible for carrying out the central office's financial and administrative functions were not scrupulous enough? I don't think that would be the case because the good professor's area of expertise should made him very aware that "scrupulous" means something entirely different than "scrupulosity." (Scrupulous means "having moral integrity: acting in strict regard for what is considered right or proper--Merriam&Webster).
So, is he saying that the scandal is about minor and trivial things? I guess that would be indeed the case when put against salvation. On the other hand, Father Philip has reminded us that the Holy Canons, which deal with practical--thus relatively minor or trivial matters, are of consequence to one's salvation.
I hope the good professor will enlighten us on exactly what he means.
#1 Carl on 2007-08-02 14:45
Yes more of the same "best practices" the new OCA slogan. Dr. Schneider do you understand that we are tired of hearing the same old story!!!!!! I think you and the management at the OCA just don't understand how much folks are hurting from this MORAL crisis. How do we make you understand this! How do we make +H understand? Whats it going to take to get all of you in charge to understand THE PEOPLE ARE HURTING, ITS THE MORAL ISSUE ! The laity have had their money stolen, been lied to, etc. And yet no repentance, resignation, from any of those involved in this scandal. I have had it already!
#2 DAVID RUDOVSKY on 2007-08-02 14:48
"Faulty practices...faulty practices...faulty practices..." This report seems see the problem of the OCA's past bad bookkeeping practices all too clearly.
But, if there had been no "misdirection" of funds, as the misuse of donated monies has been euphemistically described by some, it wouldn't matter if the bookkeeping were done with a crayon on a scratch pad by an arithmetically challenged ten year old.
Removing and resorting some of the administrative personnel, acquiring more effective technological support and establishing transparent methods of funds disbur
sement. all cited in the report are all achievements to be commended. But none of them address the underlying ethical questions.
Now we know that "the allegations are true". What we still don't know is who will answer for what they allege. Somebody did something. Some body knew something. Who will unequivocally admit exactly what specific wrong he did or knew about others doing?
For all the approval in this report of what has been addressed, corrected and improved in the financial management practices of the OCA, it is misguided to think that the issue of moral turpitude is now less immediate and pressing. Good as it is to learn that structures and methods are now in place to prevent recurrence of inadequate oversight of the OCA's donated funds in future, there remains the deeper injury of betrayal by trusted leaders: those who were looked to as models of all our aspirations to be good, true, decent, honest and upright.
This is no time for congratulations on what has been achieved. None of it merits them. All that has been belatedly accomplished is only what should have been done a long time ago by those who had the responsibility.
Neither is this the time for this report's "shoot the messenger" attack on the OCAnews. Was anyone else waiting for that to begin? I'm sure that there has been some of it going on less publically all along. But this report's broadside against the OCAnews is as unwarrented as it is unwelcome by those of us who are grateful to have this informative resource.
#3 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2007-08-02 16:16
Carl, you're being way too nice. Goobleygook, mumbo-jumbo and bushwah is how I would charecterize this pat-yourself-on-the back work of fiction. A triennium ago (that would make it August, 2004) the MC was still in a fog, and it was only a year ago that this website gave them the kick in the pants it so sorely needed. A triennium ago, professor, why weren't you demanding audits?
#4 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2007-08-02 18:37
This appears to be a very well written report. Dr. Schneider has pointed out many of the activities that have been undertaken to correct the financial scandal, and for those items I concur, but why does he indicate that the corrections were initiated 3 years ago? I don’t see it. Contrary to his slam against this website, I see the changes being timed with the start of the website. To check on Dr. S’ affirmation that the process started in 2004, lets take a look at the financial reports of 2004 and the 2005 budget http://www.oca.org/PDF/14thAAC/FinReport.pdf (I'm sure many of you dislike my continued numbers analysis, but folks, its the money that got us here.)
Look at the report’s page #5 (this is page 10 in Adobe). The loss from 2003 to 2004, when Dr. S indicates that changes began, increases significantly from $191,000 to $430,000. Incredibly, “External Affairs” expenses are increased from $605,000 in 2003 to $657,000 in 2004, while the Evangelization Expenses are reduced from $24k to $12k. Yes, there sure seem to be some dramatic changes going on, but we're headed in the wrong direction! Yet, there is more, you just lost nearly $2 million ($1,878,000) over the past 3 years, so what to do about the 2005 budget? Certainly, as with any going enterprise, the Treasurer would grab control and work to cut expenses. No, not in the OCA, the budget for 2005 Expenses is increased by over $500,000 (see page #8 of the report). Does that sound like prudent financial management at the start of the “Triennium period”. Finally, take a look at the first goal shown on Page 11 of the report “The Central Administration and Program Budgets have been insufficiently funded for years, almost never adequately funded. This has led to a tenuous existence, as we run yearly deficits due to lack of adequate income.” Yes, spend like drunken sailors, but make claim to the laity that they are not providing enough tithing. The paragraph continues speaking of “ … unavoidable debts . . . “. They weren’t conducting financial audits; oh, I forgot, the Financial Audits were "avoidable".
I don’t think financial reports are available for what actually occurred in 2005 and we’ve only seen a 2006 report that doesn’t have a true starting point, but let’s take it from there. Yes, the start of 2006, when this unrelenting “damn” website was initiated and people started to become informed. In 2006, Expenses were drastically cut. The $3.9 million in budgeted operating expenses for 2006 were actually reduced to $2.9 million! Yes, one million dollars of money was saved(prior to the $400k in attorney and auditor fees). (The link for the detailed presentation of the 2006 Financial Report from the OCA web site from August 31, 2006 is: http://www.oca.org/PDF/finances/2006budget.pdf compare to the Draft Auditors Report released by the OCA on June 25, 2007 http://www.oca.org/PDF/finances/draftoca2006v0625.pdf). The $420,000+ in travel expenses appears to have been reduced to $65,859. The administration that couldn’t come close to the budget for 2002-2004, suddenly woke up to a website of angry, but caring faithful and somehow managed to trim $1,000,000 in expenses! With an informed laity, it looks like it will happen again in 2007, Remarkable!
Dr. S also seems to indicate that the sale of the Martin Drive property was a large gain. Although this property was redundant, it was a prime real estate asset that netted the $540,000. There are probably other assets that could also be sold.
To blame the problem on antiquated computer software is just another scapegoat. Sorry Dr. S, it wasn’t the software, the hardware or the kitchen sink! It was simply theft, cover up, elimination of audits, cover up, denial, cover up, evasiveness, cover up …Did I say cover up?
More important than the Financial aspect, which only helped to expose the existence of deeper problems in the OCA, (Oh, what greed does to human beings), we are still looking for the moral truth. The “Reformation” through Best Practices, which Dr. S indicates started 2 years ago (I only recall them starting last year), is just the incorporation of what a Christian organization should be practicing from the start. It really should be an embarrassment that we have to instill “Best Practices” in the Orthodox Church. Where has our moral compass been pointed? Has it been focused on Truth? Are we practicing what we preach?
No, this report although well written and not as base, unfortunately reminds me of the reporting of Walter Duranty in 1933. Duranty, a NY Times reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize, hid the truth of the famine in the Ukraine during 1932-1933, where an estimated 4-8 million Ukrainian’s died of starvation. As many know, it was an organized famine, not a natural one. Stalin wanted to stomp out resistance and gain control of agriculture. He met severe resistance from the Ukrainian farmers (The Ukraine is the breadbasket of Eastern Europe, much like Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa to the US). While the Soviet Union was actually exporting grain, millions of resistant Ukrainians were dying of starvation as Soviet troops took control of the harvest. Duranty was in the Ukraine, but did not report on the human toll of the forced collectivization. I’m not saying that Dr. S is not being truthful, no, I don’t know him and have no reason to doubt him. He points out facts that have occurred. I’m just looking deeper at what was happening at the start of the triennium period and comparing it to what has occurred since the start of this website. The timing, actions and outcomes appear to be quite different.
With hope for the re-start of the Special Commission,
#5 Ken Kozak on 2007-08-02 19:13
It was pleasant to read Dr. Richard Schneider’s comments and consider his P.O.V. Yet, I wonder if the changes he spoke of would have occurred if this website never existed.
On this website, you do see comments that fail to foster healing. Comments that perhaps, better not made. I grant Dr, Schneider this point. Yet, I have read many thoughtful comments too. Here I have found news that helped me understand the scandal. Even Dr. Schneider's insightful P.O.V. reached me through this site.
#6 Samuel Osman on 2007-08-02 19:18
Dear Professor Schneider,
You comment in your speech: "Our efforts in regard to the past must never be carried on in a 'prosecutorial' spirit of seeking revenge, or even worse, of just 'digging up the dirt.' To do so would be un-Christian, un-Scriptural, and absolutely counter-productive."
Kantian ethics mandates that people are obligated to duty. We are obligated to the duty in finding out the truth. Utilitarian ethics mandates that we seek what is happy for the the "majority." But I think many of the faithful want the truth, not "dirt." That is a very dangerous and hurtful word to use for the truth.
I am a faithful Orthdox Christian that is not out seeking to "dig up the dirt." I am a faithful Orthodox Chrisitan that seeks to learn the truth, so that the OCA CAN learn from the truth.
Kantian ethics would not say that the truth is "un-Christian, un-Scriptual," or "absolutely counter-productive." Kant would say we have a moral and ethical obligation to know, to follow the truth, to support the truth, because morals are absolute.
However, what us faithful can do, and what I am willing to do, is to forgive, love, and find charity in my heart once I know the truth. But then the proper corrective action can be taken so the OCA's administration doesn't get here again.
These past few years have been a big disgrace for Kantian ethics and a hayday for utiltiarianism. It seems to be such 'utility' for the administration to keep us faithful in the dark.
Professor Schneider, I want the truth. I also want those that did wrong to know that I do forgive and show mercy.
But I don't know how we can get to the truth if the Holy Synod or Metropolitan Council are TOLERATING those who would still be in power from the past mess.
Even if +Herman and Fr. Kucynda did not do one blessed thing wrong, their current administrative positions hamper us from totally finding out the truth. If they were that naive in this whole mess, then this is reason enough for their 'leave-taking' so that they never again have to endure such manipulation from others.
I want to know the truth, not the 'dirt.' I then want sound correction, and then a responsible and informed forgiveness and charity from me towards them. I don't think this is possible without the full truth. I certainly think this is less possible while they are still in power. Ask Kant.
#7 Patty Schellbach on 2007-08-02 19:24
As for "scrupulosity", perhaps that word is common and properly understood among Canadians. Might it mean the same thing as what "scrutiny" means to Americans?
To Mr. Rudovsky, I disagree with you on one point. Our money (at least mine) has not been stolen. We gave it freely to entrusted stewards. We have been informed that the stewards of that money, which became God's money once we gave it away, have failed God and us and the Church through the misuse of it. Hence the allegations. They didn't take the money from our bank accounts or our pockets against our will. We gave it. Over and over again. In good faith.
In a way, this reminds me of Ananias and Sapphira.
More importantly to me, Jean Langley Sullivan (no relation) wrote:
Now we know that "the allegations are true". What we still don't know is who will answer for what they allege. Somebody did something. Some body knew something. Who will unequivocally admit exactly what specific wrong he did or knew about others doing?
In addition, someone's "yes" has not been "yes", and someone's "no" has not been "no". I fear this greatly, that I along with everyone will have to make an account for every careless word I have spoken (cf Matthew 12:36-37). I believe this extends to actions as well.
So with Jean Langley Sullivan, I also ask the same question.
Lord, have mercy!
Rdr. Alexander Langley
#8 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-08-02 19:32
if the paper records are in a mess and the computer solfware has proven to be both antiquated and idiosyncratic, and incapable of delivering the kind of records an auditor needs... it seems possible that human err is not the problem. there just might be a million member oca after all. get real.-----------------------please do not use my name-----------thank you---
#9 Anonymous on 2007-08-02 20:24
there remains the deeper injury of betrayal by trusted leaders: those who were looked to as models of all our aspirations to be good, true, decent, honest and upright.
This is precisely the issue that MH seems incapable of understanding, much less addressing. The people of the OCA have been betrayed by their leaders, both financially and spiritually. This betrayal cannot be healed by silence and pronouncements of "best practices". Until this deep wound has been dressed and the healing begins, I and many others will not voluntarily give another dime to any appeals from Syosset, no matter how glossy the letter.
Does he even care?
#10 Name withheld on 2007-08-02 20:30
Oh Lord Have Mercy on Us! Another Arrow is being directed to this site from the Administration. Shoot the messenger on the OCA news.
Nothing surprises me at this point! Nothing at all .Really what Sysosset is saying is that Dr. Berzonsky and Dr. West were drinking Margaretta's and that their story is all make believe! I really get it! These Secrets are So Deep. Too deep that Sysossets pride and arrogance is more important instead of the simple truth! Jobs are more important than the truth and the repentence. Shame for involving the Canadian MC. And Shame for sticking your neck out! Let Mt. Herman and the administration speak for themselves. Don't enable these people and the illness.. Simple Words that ring out:
We Are And Ought To Be Above Politics! We Are Christians! These words are from Fr. Berzonsky's letter to the MC June 2007. With love in Christ
#11 Anonymous on 2007-08-02 21:20
This is just another MoveOn.OCA puff piece. It shows no appreciation for the moral dimensions of the scandal and is nothing more than a hymn of praise to Process, Process, Process.
"This dog won't hunt!"
#12 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-08-03 05:07
How soothing and reassuring! I feel better already, knowing how well things are going.
But wait a minute -- before we offer congratulations all around, let us look at repeating patterns, and the usual suspects who seem to perpetuate them. We are indeed fortunate to have a new Chancellor, for instance, a very good and capable person, Fr. Garklavs. But let us remain vigilant that Fr. Garklavs should receive the best possible support and input from those usual suspects.
The same goes for each of the new officers, as a new secretary and a new treasurer are added to Syosset staff. That the four new officers will work together, and with existing staff, in a collegial manner is a good thing, but let be aware that we are putting new wine into old bottles.
#13 Cate on 2007-08-03 05:38
I think we must rethink the imagery you use in saying we gave our money to God. The Church and Fathers are quite adamant that the money, in fact all of creation, belongs to God. We are stewards of the resources - and some of the Fathers would say we hold the resources in trust for the poor.
The significant difference between our perspectives is that your perspective would provide no accountability for the stewardship of the resource, at least not for you. In the model I contemplate, we must continue to be vigilant, not because God requires it but because the resources do not belong to us to begin with. They belong to the poor.
Blessed Theophylact said it better than I ever could: The storehouses of God are the stomachs of the poor.
When I give to the Church, I do so freely and with faith that God will provide for my needs therefore I do not need to horde or attach myself to the resource. To that extent I agree that it is not "my" (meaning my person) money that has been stolen.
But hasn't the money been stolen from the body of Christ? Am I a part of that body? (no snide comments, please!!) My point is that while individually, personally, we may not have been the victim of theft, collectively as the Body of Christ, we have failed in our role as stewards and are indeed the victims of theft, due primarily from our inattention. What we are attempting in this current exercise to undertake is the re-establishment of stewardship of the resources entrusted to us by God on behalf of the poor.
Sdn. John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#14 Marty Watt on 2007-08-03 05:48
Thank you for taking similar words right out of my mouth!
#15 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-08-03 06:32
Dear Dr. Schneider:
You speak of the inflammatory rhetoric of this website. May I remind you of the public inflammatory rhetoric of our Lord against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, those who piled burdens of guilt on men's backs while living free above the Law and refusing to offer even a finger to lift the people's burdens. The best practices of their Law were commendable, but their hearts were far from the Law's spirit. It was all outward show and manipulation, about control of people, emotionally and psychologically with religious talk that kept them in their place while the religious rulers in power did as they willed. This is the heretical evil that Christ addressed with his *inflammatory rhetoric*, a rhetoric that enlightened the common people and freed them from a psychological imprisonment. Yes, I say heretical evil, because cover-up and lying in order to have control over people is against Orthodox Christian belief/practice, which is all about transaprent servanthood, at all levels.. Until acknowledged and repented of, the root of this heretical evil will sprout anew even in the best of all practices and will become the jailer of both the new, unwitting administration and those governed and led by it.
It is rhetoric such as yours, carefully cloaked with Christian platitudes , that seeks to inflame with a smoldering fire of guilt in the souls of men, not this website which inflames with a desire for Christ and the spiritual healing as well as the commendable technological and administrative fixes of the OCA.
#16 Inflamed on 2007-08-03 07:00
This report reminds me of the line of "doublespeak" from 1984 by George Orwell:
"The war is within measurable distance of its conclusion."
I apologize for such a long and unwieldy post, but here goes:
"It can be said that, as an outcome of all this work, the present on-going running of the O.C.A. has been placed on a sound and reliable basis and that the “communal-responsibility” mentality of our uniquely conciliar church has been restored (at least among members of the Metropolitan Council, Holy Synod, and Syosset officers). The approach and style used at present by these three bodies for running the day-to-day central management can be trusted; if it is maintained and furthered in its present spirit, the future looks promising. "
I don't know how the style Dr. Schneider is referring to can possibly be reconciled with the style the V.Rev. Berzonsky depicts in his report. Fr. Berzonsky portrays a less-than-conciliar culture in which the Metropolitan and V.Rev. Kucyinda railroad anything that faintly resembles opposition.
I pity Dr. Schneider if he sees this as 'trustworthy' and 'promising' for the future health of our Church!
"Our efforts in regard to the past must never be carried on in a "prosecutorial" spirit of seeking revenge, or even worse, of just "digging up the dirt." To do so would be un-Christian, un-Scriptural, and absolutely counter-productive."
Sure. But those who "live in this wretched den of scum and devil-talk" (as I have heard this website characterized by others) are not seeking blood, or revenge.
We are calling for investigations, oversight, accountability and answers simply to find out what went wrong in the system (so that we can fix those systematic problems) and who was involved (so we can ensure they are never again in a position to engage in such abuse.)
I don't know how it is un-Christian to expect individuals -- who have wronged our Church and have accountability to us as their flock -- to come before us, confess their sins, ask for forgiveness, and respectfully step down from the position they have defiled.
Can anyone explain how that is an un-Christian expectation?
No one involved in this situation - not Met. Herman, not Met. Theodosius, not Protopresbyters Kucyinda nor Kondratick - has ever even come close to coming before us (the Church) and asking for forgiveness. The closest we came was a watery apology from Met. Herman, which was quickly followed by a command to 'sit down, shut up, and be a good flunkie.'
Following that command will never enact change or return integrity to the church. The fact is that:
Fr. Eric's public allegations and
this website's watchdog oversight
...there was massive corruption
and reluctance among hierarchs to fix things in private.
People heeded Fr. Eric's allegations and
this website has scrutinized the affairs of the Church
...there has been a massive drop in unnecessary expenses,
and some action has been taken against corrupt individuals
(however inadequate that action might be in its scope.)
I see Fr. Eric and this website, together, as the impetus for all the change that Dr. Schneider is praising in his report. If Fr. Eric had never spoken out to the public, or if this website had not come into service, Kondratick would still be Chancellor, Syosset would still be hemorrheging money... Theodosius might even still be Metropolitan!
Anything good that has happened to the church (best practices, new computer systems, etc.) is directly attributable to the public outcry that has been facilitated by this website.
If anyone is to laud these positive changes, then they cannot decry Fr. Eric, nor this website, as "inspired by the devil."
"OCANews has shifted tone throughout the process from earlier whistle-blowing fact-publishing to an unrelenting rhetoric of innuendo, attribution of motives, and universal suspicion."
This report (no matter how well-intentioned) is a lot of sycophantic hogwash. But if there was one part of it that I would agree with, it would be this one.
Over this website's history, I have seen it descend from a dispassionate explanation of the (incriminating) facts... to a repository for exclamation-mark-riddled editorials and snippy, non-constructive commentary in the forums.
When I first saw this website back when it opened, I had been wallowing in the scandal and its effects for a little longer than the rest of our country. I was so impressed by this site's level-headed, calm, credible recounting of the scandal, I thought that it would force major change within a few weeks.
Obviously, that didn't happen. People have gotten frustrated, and now they are allowing that frustration to filter into their discourse on this website -- which was at one time devastatingly calm and analytical, and is now riled up, overstated and angry.
I would beseech you all that, in order to preserve this website's credibility and enable its ministry, that we preserve some kind of decorum. Instead of calling names and being disrespectful, or jumping to conclusions and insinuating guilt, let us simply restate the facts in such an objective way that anyone who reads them will have to acknowledge the truth of the situation.
I would point to two possible models to emulate. I remember being impressed back in Jan. 2006 by the sobriety and credibility of the part of this website called "Chronology of the Scandal." It provides a stark contrast to the bombastic editorializing not just by Mr. Stokoe (whom I nonetheless agree with) but by all of us posting on these forums.
At the risk of being called a left-wing provocateur by some, another example I would point to is the recent documentary "No End in Sight." It is an award-winning documentary that analyzes the war in Iraq. But its strength is its circumvention of typical partisan politics in favor of a level-headed, unobjective analysis. Critics, no matter what their political views on the war, have had to admit that it is a "devestatingly clear, temperate, sober and revelatory film." Others have said it "proves there's nothing more subversive than a somber, lucid recitation of facts."
While I don't think we should engage in subversion, the cause of returning integrity to the OCA would be bolstered not by screaming or editorializing, but by a "somber, lucid recitation of facts."
"Are the allegations true or false?" is no longer the question in my mind. They are true, obviously. Our hierarchs have pretty much admitted that fact, both directly and tacitly. While we want to know how true they are, specifically, I believe the question now is "What are our leaders going to do to re-inspire faith in our Church's integrity?"
In order to coax out their answer to this question, I believe we need to maintain decorum to maintain credibility. Our new chancellor, Fr. Garklavs, is a man I admire immensely. He has tremendous integrity and strength. And while I was troubled by the lack of apparent 'zeal for change' in his recent letter, I was more troubled when he began to discredit this website based on the 'gossip and argumentativeness' that takes place on its forums. I know he is only echoing a sentiment that I have heard elsewhere, including Dr. Schneider's report.
What a loss it would be for this website to lose all its credibility and facility to enact change, just because those who contribute to it have lost their cool. I beseech you all to help prevent this from becoming the reality.
#18 Rdr. Nilus on 2007-08-03 08:06
Jah, herr Dr. Schneider, und 'Arbeit macht Frei!'
I am very glad that the OCA Central Administration has some new software, and some new practices, like "Don't shred the receipts before the audit," and "Now, now, misdirection isn't acceptable." I'm glad that this required the dedicated effort over a two year period by an entire committee to stumble across two of the Ten Commandments: (1) Thou shalt not steal, and (2) Thou shalt not bear false witness ... .
The issue has gone from the theft (by perhaps one person?) to the Cover-Up "for the good of the Church." Frankly, +MH and others have admitted to covering-up, by saying that "it's for the good of the Church." But, the nature of a cover-up is, you're never sure how much has been covered-up! Were there in fact other thieves? Still in power? We just don't know, do we.
I don't know what is going to ultimately come of all of this, and at this point on the morning of the 3rd of August 2007, I don't know what the Holy Synod has or has not done, but I will say this: Metropolitan Herman and his entourage have fully and completely lost my confidence, and I for one will not continue to support them financially in any way, nor the OCA, while he and they are at the helm. Period. For him and the others to remain in power in the OCA is an exercise in sheer arrogance on their part, and I won't support it -- and that's "for the "good of the Church," my friends!
I have the comfort of knowing that, ultimately the truth in all of this is going to come out. Granted, it may be Judgement Day before it does, but it's going to come out. In the meantime, when I see and read about people like Fr. Brezonsky and the like being chastized for his concerns, and read the Orwellian message like the one put forward by Dr. Schneider here, then I know that this is an organization that does not need to have my support. So, I guess the Metropolitan can continue to claim that the OCA has 1,000,000 "members," but right now, it has only 999,999 "supporters" because I'm counting myself out of that group!
Someone should inform Honesdale Bank about the drop-off.
Surely OCA's "Best Practices" includes informing creditors as to declines in the contributors' rolls, right?
#19 C.C. on 2007-08-03 08:12
Dear Reader Alexander,
I don't know if you area aware that there is a canon that calls for the deposition of clergy guilty of theft but there is none that I know of that talks about the "misuse" of money. Therefore, it is very important that we know exactly what theft is.
I found the following definition: "In the criminal law, theft (also known as stealing) is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's freely-given consent. As a term, it is used as shorthand for all major crimes against property, encompassing offences such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, mugging, trespassing, shoplifting, intrusion, fraud (theft by deception) and sometimes criminal conversion." It seems to me that when there is a charity fund, say for 9/11 victims, and when the stewards of that fund use it for another purpose, they are guilty of theft. Element: It was not their money or their property. Element: Owners of the money were the 9/11 victims and they did not consent for the taking of their money. Element: the money was taken with premeditation. I hope an attorney is reading this and corrects me if I am wrong, but to me this is theft. In many states, this would be Grand Theft.
No my friend, this is not merely "misuse" of money. It is a crime both in criminal law and canon law.
BTW, I hope that the good Professor Schneider did mean to say "scrutiny" instead of "scrupulosity." If so, that would represent a major linguistic misstep for a person of his background and accomplishments. But then nobody is perfect.
#20 Carl on 2007-08-03 08:15
As Ken Kozak points out, "...it should be an embarrassment that we have to instill "Best Practices" in the Orthodox Church."
If there had never been ANY system of bookkeeping or ANY method of fiscally accountable management, the OCA STILL should not have suffered the "misdirection of funds" that has occurred.
If the incoming donations were just dumped into boxes and kept under a table, there STILL should not have been any misappropriation and misuse by lay employees let alone the ordained servants of God who had access to them.
Of course no one is advocating sloppy, inefficient accounting practices. Common sense would say the handling of any organization's funds implies appropriate accounting practices. However, "anti-theft security"mentality, predicated upon the assumption that those with access will steal, is appropriate to a Las Vegas Casino, not the Orthodox Church.
To suggest, as the report seems to, that the OCA has been remiss in not assuming that its leadership is in some part composed of dishonest persons who will take advantage of the absense of adequate accounting safeguards and that putting them in place will in any way address the full depth of the moral disaster is just bizarre.
As Ken Kozak asks, "Where is our moral compass pointing?" Judging from this report, it is still swinging wildly around the dial.
#21 Anonymous on 2007-08-03 08:27
"Does he even care?"
Based on his actions, my thought is no.
We no longer worship at an OCA church (as of mid-2005, based mostly on where we now live), but even if there were an OCA church nearby, how could we financially support the central administration? By his actions, MH behaves as if he deserves to be Metropolitan and that the people must support that, no matter what. Head so deep in the sand... if it were not so tragic it may actually be amusing. We deserve nothing but must plea to God for his mercy. It is extremely "un-Orthodox" to believe or behave as if "I deserve this, I deserve that..."
Will anything substantial change in the OCA administration in the near future? No. I hope I'm wrong, but more than one Orthodox priest has mentioned that things change by generations since it takes that long for bishops to leave this life and for new ones to take their place. The work of this site is laudable, but can it (and the people) really effecuate change? The past 18 months suggest "not really." For lack of a better word, we (the laity) seem impotent. Sometimes this boggles my mind.
My thought is that we will fall into one of 2 groups:
1. Stay with the OCA no matter what. There are a substantial number of people who do not care about the problems with honesty and transparency, are blissfully ignorant of them (what? financial problems? not my concern!), or who maybe have gone to the same church for 30 years that it is too difficult to leave. In the future, the current leadership may well become the private chaplaincy of this group, even if it dwindles to a count of 5,000.
2. Overcome our weakness with our feet. There are very few places in America where the OCA is the only Orthodox church option. Not searching for a problem-free church, but one perhaps that is a bit more honest and transparent?
Sadly, it seems to me that MH would prefer to be the private chaplain to 5,000 Orthodox who "stick with him" rather than be honest and forthcoming about the matters at hand. I hope I'm wrong, but based on behavior over the past 18 months, I'm not optimistic for any meaningful change soon. Give them "one more chance?" How many chances do they need or get? Also, is it spiritually harmful to stay with such an organization when other reasonable options exist? I don't know the answer to this one. Any thoughts?
#22 GG on 2007-08-03 08:55
Marty and Alexander, excuse me Reader and Subdeacon. The two of you remind me why I shy away from this website, as you write your lofty assessments for a more perfect communication of "the truth." Surely everyone can think and say as they see fit. However, you guys are simply too much ..... Enough already! If you can't say anything meaningful, then don't say anything at all.
(Oh and by the way, hasn't anyone told you that since you are both of minor church orders and commune as such, persons of minor orders customarily do not go around signing their names with titles?)
#23 Anonymous on 2007-08-03 09:00
Professor Schneider you said:
The question of what went wrong in the past is still not entirely clear, and not all is known; the process of untangling the mess is laborious and slow,
Laborious and slow only because no one wants to tell the truth!!!!
...the OCA central governance has undergone a serious project of restoration of “due-diligence” control, of administrative restructuring and re-organization, of proper, open and appropriate financial management, and of a “high-ethical” culture through the adoption of a Best Practices Policy designed for not-for-profit organizations.
Is this more important than the Bible? The Bible hasn’t worked in the past! Is this the new “bible” for the OCA? How can the same people change this way? All those still involved with the church, that are listed on the list published by the OCA website, Listing of OCA chancellors, treasurers, and secretaries 1963-2007, should quietly and respectfully resign!!! Except for Archpriest Alexander Garklavs who should be given a chance to steward the church.
Hence, much of the detail which has been discovered in the investigation cannot now be made public, and some of it probably shouldn’t ever become fodder for public tale-telling;
Is this what you guys from Syosset are afraid of? Public tale-telling? Tell the truth and tale-telling will be done with! You should fear God, not us!
Job 28:28 And he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.'" RSV
The following is part of the explanation given for Job 28:28:
It may be added here, also, that he who aims to lead a holy life, who has a virtuous heart, and who seeks to do always what is right, will have a clearer view of the government and truth of God, than the most profound intellect can obtain without a heart of piety; and that without that, all the investigations of the most splendid talents will be practically in vain. (from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database)
#24 Sad Lizzie still giving to other charities on 2007-08-03 10:08
Muddy the waters and they will never know what lies below the surface. HOW CAN WE FORGIVE WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW????
#25 Anon on 2007-08-03 10:12
Furthermore, there are two kinds of giving to the Church.
1. The tithe, or assessments, which are given freely for the Church to use as it needs. If the administration wants to spend it all in Vegas, so be it.
2. Appeals, which are given for a specific purpose, i.e., widows, orphans, disasters, missions, etc. Appeals are NOT given for the administration to use for whatever purpose they may see fit. When they appeal for money to send to orphans, and then use the money to go on voyages, or whatever, that IS dishonest, it is fraudulent.
When we talk about giving, we need to keep these two things clear - they are NOT the same thing.
#26 Name withheld on 2007-08-03 10:22
According to Dr. Schneider after 2003 everything is just fine. Where does he get his information from?
My guess is that Dr. Schneider does not read the OCA's own web site. Just as a reminder I copied the below paragraph from their press release. The information below is a direct contradiction of his statements.
The old adage that ignorance is bliss seems to apply here.
"Early in 2006, the accounting firm, Lambrides, Lamos, Moulthrop, LLP ("Lambrides") was engaged to audit the 2004 and 2005 financial statements. The auditors determined that the Church financial statements and records could not be audited because the documentation to support many of the disbursements recorded in the general ledger was inadequate.
#27 Peter on 2007-08-03 11:20
I have been reluctant to interject my thoughts into this discussion because those thoughts, like many of yours, have been all over the place. The tone though becomes more extreme all the time and this frightens me. In my own parish we have people that look on all that has and is happening as a sporting event. They praise the “Good Guys” and damn those “Bad” ones. They want action! You know the devil has his hands in this when that kind of division has been made. When we separate ourselves from each other, especially in the church, we separate ourselves from God. My good friend, Fr. Michael Mihalick, once preached on how easy it is to loose sight of the forest because of the trees in reflecting on our attention to others transgressions and not on our own. Looked at over the landscape of time we as the OCA have made progress in rectifying the situation that created the possibility of these problems to exist. But man is a fallen creature and no matter what safeguards are put in place a person or people will find a way to circumvent them if that’s the path they choose.
My real reflection though is this, let’s not be distracted by the spec in our brothers eye when we have a log in our own. Which one of us does not have buried in the deep recesses of our being some transgression or evil that we have never shared with anyone, let alone our confessor? If we think not than we certainly are deluding ourselves. The sad state of affairs in our church at the national level do seem like a soap opera some times but is that because we in the stands make it so. I remember the old adage, if your not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem. God gives us our whole life to work out our salvation. It is time for all of us to continue working on that log in our own eye. (We can still keep the other eye on Syosset.) The cancer mentioned in a previous post exists in every one of us and so collectively in the church. Only “I” can repent. Only “I” can ask for forgiveness. But in doing so I can become the icon of Christ that we are all called to become. And become the seed for change for those that hopefully see and respond with their own repentant activity. If each one of us works on that which we can change, the closest to home, our selves, than the whole church will begin the slow healing that will truly bring us to eternal health.
Glory to Jesus Christ,
Deacon Gregory Uhrin
#28 Anonymous on 2007-08-03 11:34
Everyone is clamoring for the "truth." It reminds me of the famous line of Jack Nicholason...."you want the truth? you can't stand the truth."
This website will NOT print the truth of the underbelly of the OCA. The truth of the lives of its leaders. The truth about those who are calling for transparency in finances but when in comes to transparency in their personal lives and the moral choices they have made....that is off limits.
If you want the unfiltered truth, then we better be ready for all of it because those in the past who covered the sins of their brothers are free men now to tell it all.
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
(Editor's note: We have heard this same threat for almost 18 months, every time some step is taken against Fr. Kondratick, most often from "supporters" of Fr. Kondratick. "Put up, or shut up", as my grandfather of blessed memory used to say. If you have something to say, and can prove your words, have courage and come forward to tell the truth; if not, such remarks are at best, attempts to smear people, at worse blackmail and you should be ashamed. This is the last time I will post such remarks.)
#29 Anonymous on 2007-08-03 12:00
It has become quite funny as of late to hear everyone's squabilling. I am willing to bet that a majority of the people on this website wake up every morning and rush to their computer to see if their whining comments made the oca news. Although i don't agree with everything gossip man says, the word he uses is becoming more and more true....Gossip. This website is not about news anymore...if it was, then there would be no share your comments section...and Mark would have his website hits cut in half. I myself am guilty of coming on here, although sparingly, and reading all of these comments, saying gosh that person is an idiot or gosh that person has a point...but its all starting to hit me that whining on a comments portion of what was supposed to be an informative website is childish, dumb, and will not get anything done. Mark, take this comments section off before more people get sucked into this addiction.
Pray for our leaders to make the right choices, keep us informed, and if there is action that needs to be taken, do it on your own accord without publisizing yourself as saint and savior of the church.
(editor's note: I have never, to my knowledge, publicized myself as either a saint or saviour. If I remember last Sunday's epistle correctly, I think St. Paul said we already had one. As for "whining" on the comments section, rather than " doing" something, I think having the courage to express an opinion, even anonymously, in a culture of fear, silence and denial, is "doing" something. Indeed, in many ways it is the first thing that has to be done. I do not agree with all, much, or even most of what is posted - but I will continue to post them because I firmly believe every Christian has the duty to speak up and proclaim their faith, in word and deed. And if all they can "do" is that, that is enough. On the other hand, I have been blessed by many of the remarks, insights, stories and reflections posted. I sincerely hope, and believe, that others have too. As for news, I will continue to print as much as I can, as quickly as I can, since the OCA still refuses to do either. )
#30 Gabriel T Bilas on 2007-08-03 12:24
Oh come on--do you really think comments on this site have to pass some arbitrary standard established by you to be valid? Or are you talking about Mark Stokoe's commentary?
I don't like all the comments either, especially the ones I disagree with in part or in total. But to contend that this site is discredited by comments you find offensive or over the top or just plain stupid is stupid. Now if you don't like humor, sarcasm, irony, etc. and prefer dry, analytical, dispassionate commentary that's certainly your right. But don't impose your stylistic preferences on others or suggest that they have to meet your definition of "decorum."
#31 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-08-03 14:12
Unfortunately, Dr. Schneider's comments include the words 'un-Christian', un-Scriptural and absolutely counter-productive...........let us hope he was not referring to the book in which may be found the following: "And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?.......And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself........And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Has thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou should not eat?.......And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.......And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.......And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shall thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life"........................Perhaps Dr. Schneider's inopportune comment "digging up the dirt" is a providential reference to where the Truth may be found..........
#32 Luke on 2007-08-03 14:48
Dear Father Deacon Gregory,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Your post was right on the money. Thank you for posting it. We must relentlessly pursue this scandal to its full, public resolution, but, we must remember it is only "I" who can repent, and the greater concern must be within ourselves. I must be more concerned with the log in my eye, no matter what degree of evil this crisis uncovers.
I just had one problem with your post, in the lines:
"Which one of us does not have buried in the deep recesses of our being some transgression or evil that we have never shared with anyone, let alone our confessor? If we think not than we certainly are deluding ourselves."
Father Deacon, I hesitate to say anything, because I am unquestionably the worst of sinners, but with all respect and love, no Orthodox Christian, genuinely seeking to walk the spiritual path, withholds anything from their confessor. No thought, no dream, no recurring temptation, no sin, nothing. If they do withhold anything from their confessor, then they are the ones who are self-deluded. If we are not at this point, and I realize many aren't, what we need is to be exhorted to it (first of all by the examples of clergy). There is no authentic Christian life without confessing sin --in full and as completely as we are aware. As St. Theophan the Recluse write, “There is no other way: Either do not sin, or repent. Judging by the number of those who have fallen away from Baptism, one could even say that repentance has become for us the only source of true Christian life." What repentance is there without even acknowledging our sins before our confessor?
Again, thank you for your excellent post. Let's all, with all our ability, be fully open and revealing in confession, that we may be healed. "We must not leave the healing of sins to themselves. God has given us the remedy of confession, according to the discipline of the Church. This is the treatment of sins that God had entrusted to the priests of the Church” (Theodore of Mopsuestia).
Whenever I feel condemned (which is often!), I am always encouraged by St. Ephrem the Syrian (+372): “Do not lose heart, O soul; pronounce not over yourself a final judgment for the multitude of your sins; do not commit yourself to fire; do not say: `The Lord has cast me from His face.' Such words are not pleasing to God. Do you not hear how kind the Father is to a prodigal? Do not be ashamed to turn back and say boldly: `I will arise and go to my Father.' Arise and go! He will accept you and not reproach you, but rather rejoice at your return. He awaits you; just do not be ashamed and do not hide from the face of God.”
I returned from honeymoon yesterday and logged on to catch up on anything I missed. I was most blessed that my wife agreed to marry me in the Orthodox church. It was a very special day at St. Mary's Cathedral in Minneapolis. I'd especially like to thank any readers of this post for their contributions in getting air conditioning and other remodeling done there over the past couple of years and other thanks to Earl, Mary, Mark, Steve, Paul, Al, Jim (hope I didn't miss anyone).
Onto my remarks about the letter from Schneider.
I didn't find the letter particularily friendly toward the administration or the council. Being lazy or overtrusting is nothing to be glad about, whether you are Council member or Metropolitan.
The letter is obsfucation. Not the obsfucation of intent to bewilder, but the obsfucation of misunderstanding.
I felt Schneider misunderstands that this website was the kick in the pants needed by the Synod, Council, and administration. Gratitude is absent I think because most of the time the editor is clearly bias against the administration and Council and Synod's decision making and intellect, but many times he has been right. Some times he has gone beyond what I consider correct. But thank God for a new perspective of doubt versus overtrust and recognizing incompetance and laziness versus accepting stupidity and shirking.
I felt Schneider misunderstand that the 1999 resolution passed by the Synod (nearly mirroring his timetable of problems 1998 to date) was the first step in allowing and even blessing audit failures. This resolution is still in force today and all the Synod should be ashamed of it and forgive me for feeling the need to mention it publicly.
I felt Schneider glossed over or misunderstands the fact that 4.5M is mostly unaccounted for by the OCA and this is a serious charge that must be addressed or all parties responsible must leave including council members and Bishops seated before July, 2005.
On the positive side, I believe most of the balance of his remarks were correct.
Just my two cents worth....
#34 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-08-03 20:37
Ah GOSSIP MAN thank you for finally placing your name. Funny how you skirt it though, almost as if you have learned the strategy from MH. Hopefully, BP (or does he prefer WP), will also find the courage to begin posting his name. His spelling and grammar are atrocious, so please show him how to use spell check. Nonetheless, we do appreciate comments from "all of you", gosh, many of which are why we keep coming back to the site - they are indeed quite humorous. Tell everyone hello.
#35 Here's Jonny! on 2007-08-03 21:07
AMEN,AMEN,AMEN! (To the editor's note that is! )
#36 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-08-04 06:56
KRT, haha, it has nothing to do with style. I think many of the people here are eloquent and thoughtful, and I agree with what they say most frequently. Moreover, there's a larger difference between "humor, sarcasm, irony" and "dry, analytical, dispassionate" - a difference greater than just aesthetics. (Namely, that you wouldn't see "humor, sarcasm, irony" on the front page of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.) This is a serious problem... don't you think that it therefore merits serious discussion?
Would you disagree that there's some validity to my point?
Any time I discuss this website with parishioners at churches were I live (Long Island, NY), or where I go to school (Syracuse, NY), or even abroad (Hong Kong), they get a disgusted look on their face and talk about the gossip and fighting and negativity that gets posted here. When you try and engage them in a conversation about the facts Mark has posted, they've discredited the whole website because of the emotional posts they've read on it. Mission failed? Granted, I've only spoken to around 50 people about this, but I see an overwhelming pattern.
This site has a higher calling than letting people vent their frustrations. I would have thought that it would be to calmly compile the facts for people to read and decide for themselves (Isn't that what journalism's goal is?)
Perhaps the "share your comments/vent your frustrations" section has become so entrenched in this site's fabric that one cannot exist without the other. If that's so, that's too bad, because the humor, sarcasm, and irony that's showcased here is going to bring the factual side of the site down with it. And I'm sincerely sad if you all can't see that tide rising. Sad because I think we've lost the potential of this site, to people who want to chat and have fun.
Can't you go do that on the OCA Forum listserve?
(Editor's Note: I appreciate very much this discussion, and the back-hand comparison to the NYTimes and Wall Street Journal. However, the solution to the problem the good Reader laments is very simple. Don't read the comments section. It is what it is - a place for public discussion. If it disturbs anybody to hear what others are saying, just read the front page articles. If you don't want to hear what the editors have to say, avoid the clearly-marked editorials. If you think the articles themselves are less dispassionate over the past 18 months; well, I will confess to being human and not a machine. If I didn't care I wouldn't do this. I'll try to do better.
Please know they stories will never make the NY Times - we are far too small a church to give up that valuable space for failings that should have been corrected years ago, and would have been in the secular world. That being said, it has been my experience over the past two years that people who don't want to deal with these problems will find any excuse - personalities, past grievances, a flip remark, piety, even prayer - to avoid this or any unpleasantness in the Church. As a result they have been robbed, swindled, misused and abused - and many still really don't care. I refuse,as do most who read this site, (and FYI our readership has steadily grown these past 18 months to some 16,000+ readers a night on the average, so some people are still reading....) to sink to that level. We have higher a calling as Orthodox Christians than to just get long, go along and move along. Feel free to disagree. That's what a comment site is for. Your choice.)
#37 Rdr. Nilus on 2007-08-04 07:57
There are clearly different customs on the matter. I'm sure that in some places, the minor clergy don't identify themselves. I know in some countries, they don't even wear cassocks in the church.
Your preachiness seems misplaced, however, if you are the author of what's below. There is no way the church can freely spend our tithes in Vegas. It would be unacceptable in so many ways.
Furthermore, this is the sort of venomous exchange that is doing no service to the mission of this website.
#38 Rdr. Nilus on 2007-08-04 08:14
There is no way the church can freely spend our tithes in Vegas. It would be unacceptable in so many ways.
Yes, it "would be unacceptable in so many ways", but it would not be illegal, which is the distinction I was trying to make, in response to those who think that all giving to the Church is available to be used by the administration in any way they may see fit. It is not. Misappropriating appeals money is a crime.
#39 Name withheld on 2007-08-04 09:58
Yours is a bewildering note, Mark. First, know that I am not your enemy, and I'm not trying to dispense back-hand jabs or discredit this operation. I think it's the only chance we (the Church) have at enacting change and reconstruction in the church.
That is why it's so alarming for me to be engaging in this conversation in the first place. I see an increasing similarity between the CCA and the OCAN crew. That is, a reluctance to see the situation from other people's perspectives, truly consider the effects of those perspectives, or make changes to accommodate those perspectives. In short: stubbornness to change.
Telling people to just "not look at those pages" is something I could imagine Syosset saying. So is the "I am right, you are wrong, go away if you disagree" defense. Can't we take what might be valid concerns under consideration, instead of just dismissing them right off the bat because they don't fit into our vision?
I know that the posts (or reflections, or news items, etc.) on this website will never make the NYTimes. However, in the interests of maintaining the widest credibility to the most people possible shouldn't we strive to operate using the highest level of journalistic principles - ones which might even be worthy of the Times?
Sure, people will find any excuse to dismiss this scandal. But why provide them with one more reason to do so? Shouldn't we be working to invalidate their excuses?
"We have higher a calling as Orthodox Christians than to just get along, go along and move along. Feel free to disagree."
I don't disagree! Otherwise I'd be one of those damnation-spewing anonymous posters telling you, Mark, that yours was a sinful enterprise.
"That's what a comment site is for. Your choice."
(I must confess I don't know what my choice is that you're referring to.) However, while a comment site might serve a purpose as providing a forum to enable meaningful and constructive dialogue, I don't think its being used efficiently in this context here on OCANews... especially since its alienating so many people from heeding the reporting you do on the front page.
Perhaps there's a need for a forum to enable such dialogue. I never thought there was. Given the quality of dialogue I've seen on listservs and this forum, I thought we could benefit from an end to the idle chatter. But you've convinced me, Mark, that there is a need for a place on the internet where Orthodox can discuss problems in the OCA.
But why does it have to be on this website? I really fear that it is muddling the message of your journalism, Mark. And this is based on my discussions with other Orthodox, and from the ability of Metropolitan Herman, Fr. Garklavs, or Dr. Schneider to single-handedly dismiss the website because of its potential for gossip in their recent letters.
Would it be so difficult to have a separate, un-affiliated site devoted specifically to forums, where people could dialogue? That would allow people to dialogue (or vent, or gossip, if they wish) without bringing discredit to OCANews and its presentation of fact.
I would gladly start up a site that would simply and objectively present the facts at the highest journalistic standards with no editorializing or gossip. But I don't have the connections you have, Mark... where would I get those facts from?
I would (somewhat grudgingly) start up a site that would provide the forum for people to voice their opinion. But I don't have the financial means or technical expertise you have, Mark.
I really appreciate what you've done here already, Mark, but I'm very fearful of where it's going. I'm convinced there's a 10-80-10 split in the OCA, and that you are appealing to only small percentage of that group, and alienating the others.
10% are on this side no matter what. They realize there's been malfeasance and no matter what is said on this website, their minds won't be changed otherwise. Many of them are the regular posters on this website.
10% are the Syosset supporters who can never second-guess anything our central administration does. Even if they admit something underhanded happened, they feel that it should never be publically confessed or forgiven. It is secret.
80% are ambivalent, have weak opinions either way, and need some more convincing. Or they don't even know there's a scandal.
Your audience can't remain at the first 10%. Please reach out to that 80%, Mark. If you're in a position to win the minds of the 80%, maybe you'll win over some of your critics, too. And if that means cutting the "express your opinion" features of this website out, or moving them elsewhere, shouldn't you consider that option as well?
(Editor’s Reply: I am sorry you are bewildered. I hardly think you are my "enemy"! What I do think is this really a good discussion, and the best evidence I can offer for the existence of the Comments board. Where else could this take place? The answer is: nowhere else.
One of the great problems of the OCA has been a complete absence of anywhere to talk and to hear other's opinions. God knows our church publications don’t allow it. Diocesan Assemblies hardly foster it. We have, like the society around us , become self-selecting in our news, letting the news conform to our pre-judgements, rather than informing our judgements by all the news, even that which we don’t want to hear. And that is the sadness of our current situation - far too few people, hierarchs, clergy and laity - want to really listen. This comment board is for those who do. Consider it our national coffee hour after the “work” of reading the articles.
For offering that option, a place where anybody is welcome, anybody can speak, I will not apologize or compromise, even to win a mythical wider approval. For what then will we have struggled for? To be able to ignore people as did the past administration? The culture of denial, of fear and of oppression has overwhelmed the OCA in the past 20 years. This comment board is part of the effort to reverse that evil trend. The Comment Board is the voice of our people: as crazy, fractious, tough, hard, unique, clever, insightful, smart, stupid, narrow-minded, intelligent, difficult and wonderful as any parish in the OCA.
The choice I was referring to in my earlier comment is simply this: if you, or anyone else thinks people expressing their opinions is largely gossip, then don’t read the comments board. Skip the coffee hour. Just read the articles and leave. The articles speak for themselves.
But if you ask me, the healthiest parishes are the ones where everybody wants to join in the coffee hour at least some of the time. )
#40 Rdr. Nilus on 2007-08-04 10:57
Hrm... that's an interesting (albeit troubling) point. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
#41 Rdr. Nilus on 2007-08-04 11:57
Thank you Daniel Fall for your balanced assessment. I agree with it. Because of some form of fatigue from reading so many negative and heated posts, I was tempted, but unable to formulate a post of my own. There has been progress in Syosset, perhaps more than we realize or are willing to admit. Yet, at the same time the steady drum beat of this website is critical for its constant scrutiny (did I use the correctly word here?) in order to ensure that more progress and reform ensue.
With reference to another post in this section, I am baffled by the strong response – sorry Mark – from our battle-scared editor. At one level I agree we should avoid vilifying people and eschew any form of blackmail, but on the other hand, some of the squandered monies may lead to hush payments of inappropriate behavior by individuals. In uncovering the truth, how does one disentangle the hush payments from the acts that brought them about? And how much detail must be revealed? I personally don’t want to know the details; I have my own sins to deal with. Would the faithful be content with a report that indicates x number of dollars was paid for blackmail without specifying to whom and for what reason? I would hope so if blackmail is found.
#42 Terry C. Peet on 2007-08-04 12:40
Mark, you miss understood, that last message was not projected towards you in any means....i meant to say "yourself" as everyone who reads and leaves certain comments. Sorry for the confusion.
#43 Gabriel Bilas on 2007-08-04 20:47
In my previous post I misspelt "battle-scarred" with only one "r" as in our fearless editor has the scars to prove it. My spell check will be severely reprimanded.
#44 Terry C. Peet on 2007-08-05 03:11
I find it extremely hard to feel comfortable with anyone's assessment, such as Dr. Schneider's, of how to assess our progress within the OCA, as long as I do not know the whole truth.
How would anyone feel comfortable with any assessment until we know the entire truth?
I find it hard to believe, with all the documentation that has been posted on this website, that one man, Fr. Bob Kondratick, should be the only person held responsible for the financial mess of the church. Perhaps the level of culpability may vary from person to person, but just from knowing the existing documentation that has been released, I certainly advocate for a total changing of the guard at Syosset headquarters.
Why does this solution seem so hard to accept from some people? It IS a simple, straightforward solution. It is a merciful solution.
I do find it much easier to believe that we live in a fallen world and that power and control can be found in any person and any organization. I find this easy to believe having experience living in a fallen world, both within the church and in the secular realm.
Delay after delay after delay of releasing any reports.
Fr. Bob, if you are found guilty from the recent spiritual court findings, I would hope you could offer your version of what truthfully happened with the entire crew at Syosset.
Is not our sacrament of confession an offering of ourselves of us telling the truth, before God, and then receiving Christ's forgiveness, love, and mercy? Would not the telling of the truth from the OCA's administration about our finances lead to the same forgiveness, love, and mercy? (This may be different on a legal basis, but not on a spiritual basis). Or do we serve a different God when it comes to the faithful versus the OCA administration telling the truth?
Is this whole mess centering around the legalities of it all?
This is why I feel that a simple total changing of the guard, to avoid flat out embarrassment would be most beneficial to the healing of our church and the restoration of my faith in a central administration that has chosen integrity over cover-up.
I donated to the OCA over the years in good faith. Changes are being implemented. But I still do not know the truth.
#45 Patty Schellbach on 2007-08-05 13:15
I see little value in categorizing individuals in a 10/80/10 split.
It is simply not true.
Splitting a complex issue and its resolution into 3 categories of thinking is gross oversimplification. In fact, if the OCA has one attribute, it very well may be oversimplifying things. Like, oversimplifying terminating Met. Herman, or oversimplifying placing all financial trust in one person.
To say following the Gospel is the answer is also oversimplification. The Gospel telling us men, even priests sin validates this point. Our own belief that the Pope is not imfallible would also follow that same logic.
Sorry if I'm being a nit, but I didn't start the 80/10/10 idea.
#46 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-08-05 23:10
I for one want all the facts. Not for any prurient interest, but because I no longer trust (a) Metropolitan +HERMAN, my bishop; (b) any of the members of the Holy Synod, who were called to lead and administer the OCA through their personal examples; or (c) the members of the Metropolitan Council, including two members I see every Sunday. The behaviors of all of these people over the past ten or more years give me no reason to trust any of them regarding the administration of the OCA.
I want all the facts because I, like everyone, must provide "a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ". A defense of my many sins, sins of commission and omission, including the stewardship of what a generous God has placed in my control. Proper stewardship cannot take place without full and open disclosure of what has taken place or alleged to have take place as part of "the financial scandal." That is why I want all of the facts, without the censorship of those, who by their behavior or position, have shown that they have not earned any trust.
#47 Mark C. Phinney on 2007-08-06 05:05
I can't be the only one waiting to hear the outcome of the recent special session of the Holy Synod of Bishops. Any idea of what transpired?
Barry A. Sabol
#48 Barry A. Sabol on 2007-08-06 06:59
"1. The tithe, or assessments, which are given freely for the Church to use as it needs. If the administration wants to spend it all in Vegas, so be it."
Um, I'm afraid not. Unless there is a line item in the budget, which was established by the MC, titled "Gambling".
#49 Michaerl Strelka, CPA on 2007-08-06 09:23
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