Wednesday, August 8. 2007
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The Bible says "against an elder recieve not an accusation except in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses"
Folks, be careful here. There may well be all kinds of wrongdoing and evil going on. Should we also add fuel to the fire every chance we get?
Remember the Lacrosse players who were suspended and had their reputations ruined over the suspician of rape... they were innocent.
Remember also, how is this priest ever going to show his face anywhere now that his alleged sins are all over the internet? This would take the humility of a saint to live down now.
Let us be careful how we speak, and whose character we assasinate.
Jesus said let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Words to live by.
#1 George Kruse on 2007-08-08 11:39
This sends chills down your spine.
And the Synod did nothing? In this case they don’t need to. This should be sent to the Anchorage authorities as soon as possible!!!
Another artifact of the corrupt Syosset administration. How was this sorry excuse of a man ever considered for the Episcopacy!
Nikolai likes to belittle his predecessor. Innocent would never have done this!
#2 Anonymous on 2007-08-08 12:03
I have such a horrible mix of emotions at this moment that words will not express. We reap what we sow. May God have mercy on us all.
We must take Christ's Church back from the scribes and pharasees. Some how, some way, it must happen. The Synod cannot duck responsibility for this, nor can the Metropolitan. I'd like to think I can give them 30 days to do the right thing, but the fact that nothing has been done for 11 *weeks*, 76 *days*, is unconscionable, and (although I am not a lawyer) I'd think criminal. To have knowledge of abuse, and then to fail to protect the victim of the abuse, is simply criminal. There is no justification whatsoever for the inaction that has placed the life of another human in jeopardy.
If this behavior by one of their members is left uncorrected, why do we even have a Synod? Enough is enough.
With profound sadness,
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#3 Marty Watt on 2007-08-08 12:10
Weak and cowardly hierarchs who care more about their salaries, positions, personal power, and maintaining the status quo (as corrupt and insane as it is), rather than Christ, Truth, and true love for their neighbor will indeed do nothing or little in the face of such outrageous circumstances and tragedies. What else can we expect from individuals without character, courage, and integrity? Madness is the ultimate consequence of embracing lies and severing one's connection with Christ and Ultimate Life and Truth.
C.S. Lewis was right when he said:
"And taking our lives as a whole with the all of our "innumerable choices" we make, we are slowly turning that central part of us into a "heavenly creature" that is "in harmony with God and the other creatures", full of joy, peace, and wisdom, or "into a hellish creature" that is "in a state of war and hatred with God", with "other creatures", and with itself. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other."
It is up to us to decide how we proceed and in which direction we are heading. It's very clear the direction many in the OCA hierarchy have chosen to follow. "You shall know them by their fruits." There are no neutral acts in God's universe.
One of my old friends is a clinical psychologist who often dealt with substance-abuse situations.......Though he is now retired, I remember him saying that alcohol and drug addictions are best treated using the disease concept........He had a fairly high success rate when the patient could be institutionalized (call it rehab) for a month or so.........He explained that the damage can be reversed with proper aftercare and even including spiritual help where practical........
#5 Luke on 2007-08-08 12:47
Years ago, while still in the Serbian Archdiocese, Bp. Nikolai was director of the Rapha (sp?) Drug and alcohol treatment program in Los Vegas. This was before he started working for the State of Nevada child support enforcement program. I recall at a diocesan assembly in Denver in 1988, I think, shortly aftter he had come into the OCA, that he spoke to some of us about it. So he had hands on experience in dealing with this sort of thing.
At the same time, I agree with previous posters that it does no good for anyone's soul, particularly Fr. Isidore's, to have this broadcasted worldwide. I hope Fr. Isidore gets the treatment he needs. Let's pray for him, and for Bp Nikolai and the whole church...(which seems to be behaving like the classic 'dysfunctional family' right now.
#6 anonymous on 2007-08-08 13:04
How is it that when we learn the details of what is rightly called madness that we post it all online with what appears to be little care for the lives and reputations of those involved? Was it necessary to quote the entire letter of Mr. Paul Sidebottom? Will this really help Fr. Isidore? Madness.
Mark, I understand that you are trying to help, but please use a little more discretion when you are going after those you consider to be wolves (Bp. Nikolai) otherwise you may lead the sheep who have already been so badly ravaged (Fr. Isidore) into throwing themselves off the cliff.
Editor's Note: This is always the problem when dealing with dark issues. In this case, Fr. Isidore is both the alleged abused, as well as an alleged abuser. It was not possible to distinguish that fact in reporting the story, without falsifying Mr. Sidebottom's letter, or distorting it beyond recognition. Thus, it was felt that it would be best to simply publish the letter as it was written.)
#7 Anonymous on 2007-08-08 13:09
Rock bottom.... one doesn't reach these depths merely by having 'one too many' at a social function. People who can use alcohol within appropriate limits don't bring their own vodka to hide. My favorite place was the dead space under a chest of drawers or up in ceiling tiles. I have read with interest various side discussions on this site of the concept of Anonymity. "Hi everyone, I'm Jim and I'm an alcoholic..." a member of AA for almost 20 years, one day at a time.
The individual's sneaking, secrets, chaos in our wake, lack of accountability --- promises to change, only to repeat more of the same is a microcosim of the dysfunction of the OCA. Whatever chain of events has brought this priest to a rehab can turn his life around and present a restored man to all those he will ever meet.
All it takes is honesty. A quality that is sorely lacking in the environment of the OCA higher-ups--to be fast tracked to these lofty positions in five years would accelerate and enable his underlying issues. "Do I really deserve to be here? Why am I being pushed along so rapidly?..." Possible feelings of inadequacy, combined with other 'demons' adds up to a potent mix that alcohol abuse will chase away till next time.
#8 Jim M on 2007-08-08 13:19
I also feel that the publication of Mr. Sidebottom’s letter was unnecessary. It is completely reasonable to ask why a priest who had a substance abuse problem made such a swift ascent to a position of so much authority and responsibility. But the incident during the Ascension was public, while the same cannot be said about the other revolting details of the letter. Was it really necessary to expose them, especially since Fr. Isidore chose not to make any formal complaints of abuse? If he was indeed a victim, shouldn’t his privacy be especially protected? Can you imagine what that man’s life will be like now?
#9 Karina Ross on 2007-08-08 13:50
I commend Mark for the courage to publish the letter in full. While it reveals ostensibly a problem with Fr. Isidore Brittain, it should highlight a problem with the bishop, who, by the way, was a Kondratick pick. Until early last year Bishop Nikolai was touted as the next successor to Metropolitan Herman.
This and other woes closely tied to a number of bishops over time further puts focus on the problem of electing well qualified men to be bishops. We are constrained by canon law to selection from a very small pool of candidates that are celibate, with seemingly little regard to other qualities such as pastoral and teaching abilities, leadership both administrative and spiritual, education and character.
Election of a married priest, of whom we have many wonderfully qualified examples in a much larger pool, would isolate the O.C.A. in world Orthodoxy, never mind that virtually every church and bishop selectively enforces or ignores rafts of canons (date of Pascha, exceptions for widowed priests to remarry, fasts, etc.). My only thought is when lacking a well qualified candidate for an episcopal seat, may the church appoint an administrator if that administrator is lacking only the celibacy requirement?
My prayers are with Fr. Isidore hoping his rehab is successful and that he can be welcomed in another diocese of the O.C.A.
#10 Terry C. Peet on 2007-08-08 13:58
I have used the abuse analogy myself when discussing the OCA's current agonies. Perhaps printing the letter in its entirety constitutes "too much information," but I understand it was not simply for the purpose of what Dr. Schneider called "tale-telling" but to make concrete what the OCA is up against.
It is not for nothing that another person has said here that this church is run by the adult children of alcoholics.
Is it possible that there is a hard knot of interconnected bits of embarrassing facts that one may have on another, which has served to stifle the normal give and take that one might have in a group of any sort. If so, perhaps Protodeacon Wheeler's letter is the start of unraveling the knot, and this is the continuation.
#11 Edmund Unneland on 2007-08-08 14:05
As a school psychologist, I am obligated, by the American Psychological Association (APA) (if not my conscience) to report to authorities, if not Child Protective Services (CPS) any incidences that have been told me by any student, no matter how confidential, that would indicate that he or she may "harm self" or "harm others."
As this is a professional code of ethics, if not just common sense, Fr. Isidore would have benefited from immediate medical intervention when it was known he took unidentified pills, and not just "to sleep it off."
#12 Patty Schellbach on 2007-08-08 14:22
The continued funding of the OCA's current administration is a sin at least as grave as any we've seen described to date. It is a sin against any unsuspecting human being who comes to the Church as a sheep, expecting to find shepherds who guide and heal, instead of wolves who lack even the pretense of being shepherds.
Many, many unsuspecting members of the OCA, lay and clergy, commit this sin of continued financial support, believing that they are fulfilling a statutory, moral, mutual agreement. But by its continuing misbehavior, the administration has shattered the statutes, severed any such mutuality and rendered any such agreement null and void.
In the name of Almighty God, and for the sake of the sick who might mistake this for a hospital, please, please, stop funding the OCA. It is a dangerous place to be!
#13 Anonymous on 2007-08-08 14:47
You mean Mark's posting of the letter is worse than showing up drunk at Liturgy, making passes at other priests, etc..? Are you kidding me? Your reaction and "head in the sand" to such a horrorible situation is one key reason why the evil and spiritual cancer in the OCA was allowed to spin out of control for so long and nobody bothered to say or do anything meaningful. Yes, there is a big pink elephant in the room and not only is he running around shattering the house but he's continually dropping manure bombs left and right. Those are not roses we're smelling but the powerful odors of corruption, decay, and sin left unchecked and unaddressed. Please, we're adults here and the kind of spiritual destruction and the lack of action by our gutless hierarchs needs to be exposed and dealt with. The cancer keeps spreading and folks still act like old ladies at a tea party offended that someone used the word "hell" instead of "heck."
It is a disgrace that Mr. Sidebottom's letter was made public, it is outrageous self-serving and mean spirited ... the OCA doesn't even resemble a Christian Church any more !!!!!!!!!!
#15 john morariu(anonymous) on 2007-08-08 15:19
This problem is much more easier to deal with than the other. The big difference is that we have writing and people who can attest to physical abuse. Nikolai should be hearing from Human Services people about his treatment of his housemate. The Synod can stick its head in the sand, but the authorities definitely have something to work with that is not being hidden by a prestigious law firm! Not to mention what the press will do with this! They're going to have a field day! Makes us wonder what happened in Vegas that stayed in Vegas!
I love how the timing coincides with the Pilgrimage. He must be going ballistic!
#16 Anonymous on 2007-08-08 15:37
This is so sad, so sad. Poor Father Isidore. God grant him healing and peace.
#17 anonymous on 2007-08-08 15:55
Chris, I don't really know how to respond to your accusation that I was suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand or that Mark's post was worse than what happened in Alaska. And this is mainly because I don't think that you as an educated person really believe that I was suggesting either of the two.
The news can be reported in a variety of ways. And this story can and should be told. Yet we mustn't forget that the manner in which we choose to tell a story effects peoples lives. I was just trying to draw attention to the fact that what is for the good of the Church does not have to be in opposition to what is for the good of the individual members of the Church. If we try hard enough, and have God's help, can't what is good, right, and just be done for both?
#18 Anonymous on 2007-08-08 16:23
1st I would like to thank Mark for posting the letter in full. We desperately need transparency. I hope that the rehab will bring Isidore to his senses and he can be at peace. I have read the letter twice and I have to point out that Isidore may need to be placed on a sexual offender list and probably should not be allowed to be around children. If he tried molesting and groping another priest several times in one nite what would he do to a defenseless child? My second point which noone has touched upon is the apparent homosexual liason between Isidore and Nicolai. Why was he promoted several times in just five years of graduating? Why was he made Chancellor does he have business experience that made him a suitable candidate or does he have a background in the field of education, being placed in charge of the Seminary? Why do they live together? Was the physical abuse a lover's quarrel? The OCA needs real help. MH and BN and Isidore need to be deposed imediately. The laity needs to choke off the $ or else they will never leave. Candidates for Ordination need extensive backgroud checks including determination of their sexual orientation. It is too soon perhaps for this to be proven however whenever the possibilty of impropriety exists there needs to be an immediate investigation. I hope I am wrong about these conclusions but with the sad state of affairs with the OCA and with the character of the Synod it seems highly probable.
#19 GH on 2007-08-08 16:36
Stunning is the word that came to mind as I read the account. Sadly it is not the first instance of sexual abuse in the Alaskan diocese - will probably not be the last. It is a courageous effort to expose this for what it is - and only then can we begin to move past this. Burying it and pretending it didn't happen will only continue the harm that has already been done.
#20 A Former Alaskan on 2007-08-08 16:36
I disagree that this letter needed posted in it's entirety due to personal indiscretions. I have read several times from the Fathers of the Church, that we should cover our brothers sins, not expose them. The majority of the people do not need to know every detail; we get the idea. I've read that this is one of the reasons private confession was initiated, because as the christian community grew, it wasn't good to confess in front of everyone because it was scandalous to the folks who didn't personally know the person confessing.
#21 Jane Cap on 2007-08-08 17:50
as Patty said, those of us who are mental health professional would have been legally bound to report. In the case of physical or sexual abuse, we would be rewuired to report and would not ever go to the abuser to ask if we had permission. Doing so can add a harmful element for someone who is fearful of further abuse. The way this was handled sounds very irresponsible.
Amen. Financing these people, thereby encouraging them to continue their unchristian acts, is indeed a sin on our part. NO MORE $$$,
#23 Anon on 2007-08-08 17:54
On a recent thread there were a few comments expressing the hope that we wouldn't need to learn all the sordid details of the scandal. Your comments somewhat echo those, and I respect the reasons you give. My problem, which is only aggravated by this news, is that I don't trust this administration to recognize the true victims. What if the "blackmail" that has been suggested previously has really been pay-offs and settlements? How can we trust that those who may have been badly hurt are being helped? The church has a responsibility to know here that goes way beyond dirt digging.
I feel tremendous compassion for Fr. Isidore and his situation but I also don't think it should be forgotten that he was just appointed rector of the seminary and perhaps in this case more scandal and tragedy has been averted.
#24 Anonymous on 2007-08-08 18:25
As to depositions, perhaps not Fr. Isidore --- his cri de coeur "I used to love God" means there's still a real person there. But then again, my posts on Orthodox Forum regarding Kondratick indicate that I'm perhaps just an ol' softie at heart.
#25 Edmund Unneland on 2007-08-08 18:42
With all these accusations swirling around, depositions, etc. I think it's comical that you still found a way to blame RSK. "a Kondratick pick", "touted as the next succesor to Metropolitan Herman" please provide the documentation behind these comments. In what capacity have you served the OCA to come by this information? Your funny, like a clown, very amusing!
#26 Peter Pappas on 2007-08-08 18:44
I sit here, in Kodiak Alaska just minutes away from leaving for the Holy Resurrection Cathedral for an Akathist before the Relics of Saint Herman, this will be the first time in 2 years I have attended this service.
I have been asked by some, unworthy though I am, to pray for them and our Church before the Relics of him who brought Orthodoxy to this land and my hometown.
I quake at the thought of me, judgemental, arrogant, selfish, self-centered,
me who refused to attend church here in Kodiak because of the "stuff" posted on this site,
me who witnessed other stuff not yet posted on this site,
me who sought to cover my head in the sand by being "anonymous" when signing posts here and elsewhere,
me who feared possible retribution at the hands of others,
me who felt I made less sins by not being in the House of God seeing other sinners there...
Like that man previous, I too am addict in recovery for some years, I understand what misery and fear Fr Isidore is facing each hour of the day...
I too understand that principles like Honesty, Openmindedness and Willingness make changes possible in a spritual life... for spirtual healing and betterment.
When I let my guard down and let fears, selfishness, self-centeredness run my life I lose that spirtual connection...
Spirituality must be practiced, by actions - not words, ACTIONS
My refraining from attending church, or signing my name and not acting as I believe is wrong... dead wrong. It is not christian, not Orthodox, nor is it honest.
Tonight, as I go to church I will ask St Herman to pray that God will guide me and us, that he will intercede God's Help for us and our Church, that His Will will be made manifest to all of us
Tonight, we Glorify St Herman's life and great deeds, this will be my focus tonight, not the shortcomings and ills of mortal humanity.
A dear friend, once told me (about this situation)
Hospitals are for sick people, not heatlhy ones, churches are for lost souls seeking truth, not Saints, hence I go, I ask that all those who read this will pray for me and the many faithful in Alaska and Kodiak, and across the US, who like me choose not attend church anymore, or who hurt deeply at the issues we are facing as Orthodox Christians, in so doing we are like an abstaining vote - someone above said God is NOT NEUTRAL - I agree.
#27 Ted P on 2007-08-08 18:44
Well, this is a most unfortunate experience. Addiction is a sickness. Also a spirtual father(s) turning thier back on one of thier own is equally as sickening.
As predicted all along, the walls now begin to crumble expeditiously. Fr. Bob's verdict, now this. Two blatent situations that are bound to play out in the civil arena.
The OCA was this gentlemens employer. They had a fiduciary responsibility to act and get this person the help he needed (needs). Instead, an OCA party leaked this information to the general public thereby potentially violating his rights.
This is yet another reason that the house needs to be cleaned. MH needs to go, many of his bishops need to go too.
The church right now is flailing at best. The clergy has no one to turn to, the membership is stunned and hurt. Meanwhile, not action from the leadership.
I suggest we all pray for this soul. He needs healing and guidance, as does the OCA.
#28 Robert Holowach on 2007-08-08 19:44
I actually cried when I read this.
What happened in the 7 years since I met Fr. Isidore in Las Vegas??
Part of what is frustrating is I don't know what to expect my archbishop (JOB) to do about it. I don't know how to be a bishop, but I do know if this garbage was going on at my workplace, I'd see to it that HR and possibly the cops were all over the case like a cheap suit.
I find the accusation that Bp. Nikolai has beaten Fr. Isidore to be the most horrifying part, not to diminish all the other bad stuff.
Seriously, you can't write fiction this twisted.
De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine; Domine, exaudi vocem meam....
Rdr. Alexander Langley
P.S. Mark, did Mr. Sidebottom request that it be published? Did he give his permission that it be published in full? Would he be willing to tell us why?
(editor's note: Good questions, but you would have to ask Mr. Sidebottom these questions. OCANews.org does not reveal its sources. )
#29 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-08-08 19:54
After all this time folks, it should be obvious that Mark is a responsible journalist with regard to what he does and does not publish. He has reiterated many times that he double checks and verifies sources before posting. We have got to stop being squeamish about getting the full extent of this scandal out in the open. If you feel Mark is being irresponsible, that is your prerogative... then stop reading this site! On the other hand, if you believe, like I do, that Mark is an angel sent by God to help lead the OCA out of this horrible darkness, then stop being so flaccid, get a backbone, and lets get moving. This snail's pace only serves the wrongdoers. The cast of characters is known.
#30 Anon. on 2007-08-08 20:18
You have totally stepped over the line in publishing the materials related to allegations against Bishop Nikolai.
Let me remind you why you started this website:
Of This Website
• To inform members of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) of the origins, nature and scope of allegations concerning financial misconduct at the highest levels of the central church administration of the OCA by providing news and supporting documentation about the scandal;
• To enable Orthodox Christians to share information and thoughts on these allegations and the events surrounding them;
• To encourage Orthodox Christians to take action to resolve this scandal which threatens the financial and moral integrity of the OCA.
Those are your words. You are directly interfering in the life of another diocese. You are not a member of that diocese and you have no right to comment on what may or may not be going on. Just because you may have an opinion and have a forum to post your opinion does not mean you should.
You could get away with the financial scandal, etc. but this matter HAS NOTHING to do you or why there is this website. Who do you think you are? Who appointed you to be the "watch dog" for all things OCA? Stick to what you set out to do, financial matters concerning the Syosset scandal.
Get off it Stokoe you are wearing out your welcome.
(Editor's note: The website is entitled " Orthodox CHristians for Accountability" not "Financial Scandal Update". Thus, while the primary focus remains issues of transparency and accountability in regards to the financial scandal at Syosset, it is hard to imagine that we have financial accountability and transparency while even weightier matter of personal safety are deal with with no accountability, whatever level of transparency one thinks is appropriate. It is part and parcel of the same issue.
As for not being in the Diocese, I belong to the Orthodox Church in America, not the autocephalous diocese of the Midwest. There is, as yet, no autocephalous Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska. So, yes, as members of the OCA, the alleged abuse of seminary faculty and clergy is all our concern. Or should be. Feel free to disagree.
Finally,on a less serious note, I like "the Stokoe"; it reminds me of ESPN's "The Schwab". Bad visual, but the guy really knows his stuff.)
#31 Asking Who Does the Stokoe Think He Is? on 2007-08-08 20:33
Thank God things are coming out!
#32 Mark Harrison on 2007-08-08 21:14
Terry, I share in your prayers for Fr. Isidore. I've met him on several occasions and only know him to be a prayerful monk who truly loves the Lord. I hope he gets the help he needs and is not returned to a situation where he can be abused again. I also agree with other posters that said that all the contents of the letter need not have been reveled. Let us say with our soul and our whole mind, Lord have mercy!
#33 Subdeacon Robert Aaron on 2007-08-08 21:23
Please Jane, share with us who these Fathers are than advocate concealing sin. " I have read several times from the Fathers of the Church, that we should cover our brother’s sins, not expose them" The Scripture indicates that we are to expose the works of darkness. Our church is in chaos not because of revealing letters, but because of the blatant contempt of the sheep, arrogant exersize of dictitorial power, criminal wrongdoing and conspiracy to cover up past and present sins. There needs to be some immediate resignations and the people of God must demand righteous leadership.
#34 Rich on 2007-08-08 21:29
I agree. But on the other hand, Fr. Innocent Dresdow may have possibly believed (and with good reason) that he would be immediately fired if he reported anything to authorities.
#35 anon on 2007-08-08 21:46
I soon will be moving from a city where I have been blessed to be a part of a wonderful parish (not OCA) where my wife and I were received into the Orthodox Church just a few years ago. Soon we will be moving to another part of the country where the closest parishes are OCA. I will drive many miles rather than attend OCA until this mess is cleaned up. I met MH almost a year ago at St Tikhon's and I thought at the time he had a haunted look in his eyes. He needs to quickly find a way out of his office even if it means giving up his nice big house and his fancy Cadillac. As it stands now, I would not invite anyone I loved to a parish under his administration. This situation has gone from bizarre to macabre.
#36 anon on 2007-08-08 22:42
The publication of Paul Sidebottom's letter touches the heart of many of the issues which we have been discussing in the OCA on this web page and in other Internet Forums: namely the call for accountability among the leadership of the OCA. Many have wanted transparency and accountability from our bishops and church administration, and rightfully so, especially in the climate which exists in our nation with all corporations and institutions, and in the light of the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.
American Orthodoxy despite its love for the past has to face up to the realities of the 21st Century information/media age and recognize that transparency and accountability are expected of every organization in our nation and from all those in leadership. Should the Church be less transparent and accountable than totally secular and for profit organizations? Modern wisdom would scoff at such an idea and would rather successfully pin the label of hypocrisy and power abuse on the church.
In this particular case of what is transpiring in the Diocese of Alaska, we see what transparency and accountability means - it requires going public with problems in order to hold the leadership accountable for dealing with the problems. Our bishops did adopt policies and procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse. But if we don't make the allegations public how can there ever be accountability for those entrusted with dealing the problems? If we are going to say, “let's just sweep all problems silently under the orlets and hope that the bishops who don’t particularly like confrontation will somehow secretly deal with the problems,” then we are saying we don't want transparency or accountability. What is the point in having publicly declared policies for dealing with problems, if the bishops aren't willing to deal with the problems by enforcing the policies? In fact as some secular organizations have discovered, having publicly stated policies regarding abuse and victim protection which you don’t follow or enforce opens you up to expensive law suits and civil prosecution. And the very way we know whether our leaders and our church live up to our publicly declared policies and standards is we have public accountability of the leadership when a problem arises.
It is certainly messy to have to admit publicly that allegations of abuse have been made. And there certainly is some legal requirement to protect the lives of the innocent and the victims. But transparency and accountability also mean we face allegations squarely and immediately and take such allegations seriously.
Accountability is not just a demand put on the leadership, it impacts all of us. It means we all must take an interest in and responsibility for life in the Church - including allegations of misbehavior. If we want the leadership to secretly deal with problems without letting anyone know that there are problems, we cannot have transparency and accountability. And we should then have all such stated policies removed from our policies. But if we think such publicly stated policies are good and right, then we must be willing to publicly enforce them. If we are going to be responsible adult members of the church, we have to know what is going on and how it is being dealt with. Read 1 Corinthians 5, and we see in our scriptures St. Paul publicly dealing with sexual scandal. He had a responsibility and a role in the Corinthians' community and he had to fulfill his role and the people had to be held accountable for their responsibility. St. Paul made no effort to hide the problem but openly confronted it by a letter to the community involved. In the information age of course, public disclosure is almost never going to be limited to the community involved, it will rapidly be put into the public domain.
In our recent case, many find it distasteful to have to go public with scandal in the church. Yet we expect our bishops to deal straightforwardly with problems of abuse, and the way we will know the problems are being dealt with is if the bishops are held publicly accountable for their dealings with these problems. We may have a serious learning curve to deal with here. We will learn from our mistakes and from the experiences of other organizations. But if we want transparency and accountability in our church, and I know I do, then we will have to face the difficulties posed to us by openly and publicly having to deal with abuse and scandal. We all need to know that in our Church members and leaders will be held publicly accountable - this is one of the best protections our loved ones and our little ones have against various forms of abuse.
#37 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2007-08-09 05:48
I am a convert to the Orthodox faith. I converted from Roman Catholicism in the wake of the clergy abuse scandle that hit the church during my first year of seminary training. I have seen first hand what this can do do the church and to the faithful.
An allegation has been made and the church should act to protect itself. Pray God that it is false but the policy of the church is that they offending clergy are suspended and an investigation is begun. For the church to have any credibility at all this should be done without waiting any longer.
I am not a member of the OCA but one who loves the church and her people. The church needs to act NOW!
#38 Fr. Peter on 2007-08-09 05:49
Perhaps it was not that it was scandalous to the persons who did not know the persons who were confessing, but instead that a public confession, with the whole truth, made known AND forgiven in the Assembly in the power of the Holy Spirit, would erase the false power of control that could be had over the guilty by power hungry individuals, seeking to help (???) the poor sinner...and would ensure the growth of the institution according the worldly ideas of proper decorum This secret confession idea for the sake of preventing a scandal and not for the sake of love is the same evil that has been fostering the growth of the present cancer in the OCA: the cancer that says discretion and secrecy, and most of all denial of dirty sin, is for the *good of the Church*. We are choosing not to follow Christ in this; we have lost our way in an institution built on power and control of guilty consciences through secrecy, lies and denial. Did Christ refuse to go to a scandalous cross, saying the sins of mankind must not be exposed in My Holy Body, did He say that the Truth cannot abide a scandal? Did He say to the Father, let's just cover it all up; afterall, what will the angels think if they see Our creation is capable of sin and ugliness? No He did not take the easy way out, but obeyed the Father's will. He showed that Love that exposes sin in Truth is the Love that overcomes sin in Mercy and Grace. Regard the One crucified for us!
#39 Karen Jermyn on 2007-08-09 06:09
August 9. Saint Herman of Alaska Day. What a good opportunity for Orthodox Christians to remember that if Saint Herman of Alaska were alive today, he might be reported and editorialized by many an "anonymous" and "pseudonym" on this website -- for during his lifetime, he was repeatedly accused of immorality and theft, to the point where some self-assuredly righteous do-gooders out to expose hypocrisy and demand "transparency" ransacked his monastic cell and chopped up the floor boards with an ax! Of course, today we all kiss his icon and sing his praise. The moral: Christians ought not to be too quick to believe and read into every bit of rumor and innuendo, especially when only one side of the story is told and all the facts aren't in; one might fall into slandering the innocent or persecuting a saint by jumping the gun to rash conclusions. "Do not entertain an accusation against a presbyter unless it is brought by two or three witnesses," the Bible says (1 Timothy 5:19).
#40 Gregory Orloff on 2007-08-09 06:20
I agree that Mark Stokoe did the right thing in publishing the letter in full and with all its appalling information.
This is what "transparency" means. It means hiding nothing that it is lawful to present.
God grant that eventually there will be nothing happening in the OCA that anyone would think it appropriate to hide from its members.
Perhaps this latest revelation will "put paid" to the often heard self-justifying defense :"Well, at least the OCA scandal is only about money unlike the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church".
#41 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2007-08-09 07:01
I found this OCANews post to be one of the most horrifyingly non-introspective acts yet associated with the OCA's problems.
Let's think this through: Archimandrite Isidore is portrayed as the victim of sexual assault and domestic violence. However, the details of his breakdown are suddenly broadcast to the world in a way which other victims would never, ever have to endure.
Is he a victim, or is he merely just another pawn in this sordid game?
Should any one of us write a confidential report, who becomes the arbiture as to whether it will remain private or not? Is there any degree of pastoral confidentiality left, or is anything 'fair game' if it suits our purposes?
I sorrow for Archimandrite Isidore, who has victimized no one, but rather been tossed into the fray between Bishop Nikolai and his opponents. Other than the questioning of his rapid promotion through the ranks of the clergy, there are no accusations against him other than the usual twittering that is
associated with all 'celibates:' if he is seen in the presence of men, he is a homosexual, but if he is seen in the presence of women, then he is a fornicator, yet if he isolates, then he is a misanthrope... who could win?
The sick envy of some has blinded them to the fact that they, 'defenders of the downtrodden,' now are victimizing others who have done them no harm.
Those of you who read this account of Fr. Isidore's unfortunate breakdown, please take note: if you take delight in the fact that Bishop Nikolai's 'scandal' has been made public, just remember that your own privacy is subject to the
same scrutiny. God help you if you find yourself in Fr. Isidore's position, because you likewise will find no mercy on either side.
My father taught me this when I was young: 'If they'll do it with you, they'll do it to you.' If you surround yourself with those who mercilessly pursue their goals, watch what happens when you get in their way.
Mark Stokoe, you wrote, 'According to Paul Sidebottom, Fr. Isidore, in his despair, lamented that "...he used to be a normal. He loved God. He loved his neighbor." Are we any different if we let these allegations pass in silence?'
Dear Mark, is broadcasting Fr. Isidore's despair and suffering how you show your love for him? Is Archimandrite Isidore no longer a human being with feelings, or is he just another 'example' to use for condemning Bishop Nikolai?
Or, are some 'neighbors' different from others?
This is a disgusting example of how far out of hand this whole mess has gotten.
#42 Fr. George A. on 2007-08-09 07:14
It is interesting that Mark brings up the Sexual Harrassment Policy. At the time this whole thing was promulgated to the parishes and we had all those meetings, etc., I wondered why it was that so much emphasis was placed on the parishes having riders on their insurance policies to cover the bishops and Central Administration.
Throughout this whole Scandal, I have had the uneasy feeling that there had to be a connection, here, with the allegations of sexual misconduct by a Metropolitan, payment of blackmail to cover it up, etc.
Considering that Bp. Nicholai was actually hand-picked by the retired Bishop of the West, who has his own problems as is well known, and the continuing reports of abuse of all sorts by Bp. N. that have been reported on this site in the last couple years (this present one is just the latest in quite a string of them), how can the OCA, the Holy Synod, NOT act?
It is becoming all too clear that the "Holy" Synod, itself, is not holy, that our bishops, including Metropolitans, are seemingly dysfunctional, not only as bishops, but as Christians.
As one who transferred to the OCA from another jurisdiction, I now regret ever doing that.
God, help us!
#43 Name withheld on 2007-08-09 07:26
Has anyone heard any other version of this story, other than that of Mr. Sidebottom's of course?
#44 Peter Pappas on 2007-08-09 08:28
Why do the other Bishops, who KNOW about such abuses and similar derelictions of sacramental duties by fellow bishops sit quietly buy letting the destruction and cancer spread. These are not real men, let alone the Lions for Christ and Truth they are supposed to represent.
These "hierarchs" are supposed to be vigorous Defenders of Innocence (faithful, seminarians, clergy, Samaritans, parishes, etc. etc.) who care about their fellow Orthodox (if not for anyone else), and proactively show their LOVE for Christ through ACTION. Instead they act like weasels and cowards, caring more about "appearances" and their own positions and benefits. They are anti-Samaritans, they always walk by on the other side.
Jay Holman was 100% correct when he stated in an OF post:
"When I see men in the church caught in the act of doing evil claim innocence, I see men who are spineless. These men who are too weak to confess, admit their wrongs and in the more serious cases resign are, in my mind at least, weaklings and cowards. Men who run from doing the right thing and protect themselves at the expense of others are gutless wonders."
Only gutless and unethical individuals sit by and do NOTHING when innocence suffers and is abused by other specimens who claim to hold sacramental offices and have the gall to call
themselves "Orthodox", "priests", and "bishops."
Christ specifically (in Matthew 7) warned us about some of the type of individuals we have now in the Holy Synod and also in other leadership positions across the OCA:
You Will Know Them by Their Fruits
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from
thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
I Never Knew You
"Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, `Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (Matthew 7:21-23)
Fits perfectly doesn't it!
There is much that needs to be examined in Alaska and indeed, in the whole OCA.
Bp. Nikolai is clearly authoritarian, Fr. Isidore is clearly an alcoholic.
But "GH" goes to great lengths to spew some pretty rotten assumptions and insinuations--and show the truth that we ALL need to spend some time in self-examination and show some self-restraint and control of passions if we are going to share, comment and read here.
>Isidore may need to be placed on a sexual offender list
Fr. Isidore should be on a sexual offender's list?! For what? Mr. Sidebottom reports that he felt the touches were inappropriate. That's his perogative. I presume Mr. Sidebottom hasn't dealt with a lot of distraught people in his time--they tend to clutch and grab at anyone they perceive as offering some comfort, and oftentimes completely unthinking, their hands end up in places they should not. Instead of assuming "sexual abuse" let us be Christian, shall we, and think the best until the worst is proven.
>probably should not be allowed to be around children.
NOTHING in Mr. Sidebottom's letter indicates ANY such leaning in Fr. Isidore and you who have uttered/written such calumny need to see your priest for confession as soon as possible! How vile and vicious and EVIL that assumption is.
>is the apparent homosexual liason between Isidore and
>Nicolai...Why do they live together...Was the physical abuse
>a lover's quarrel?
You have NO basis for these assumptions. For shame! If you MUST assume, assume that Bp. Nikolai beat Fr. Isidore as a misguided attempt at "tough love" to aid an alcoholic. The bishop may be authoritarian and rigid, and he (as we all are) is a sinner, but casting these aspersions is a serious sin on your part. Consider repentence.
And to smear with "why do they live together"...I shared an apartment with a friend for a year. We could not afford the place individually. We were both male. Does that make us homosexual? To jump to such a conclusion is at best shameful.
The situation is more than bad enough without you throwing the kerosene of demonic "assumptions" on the fire of sin.
May God have mercy on you and on us all.
#46 Shocked in Illinois on 2007-08-09 09:41
Mr. or Ms. Banescu opines "Only gutless and unethical individuals sit by and do NOTHING when innocence suffers..."
Spoken like lawyer! (I have been a member of the CA Bar since 1979, by the way.) This kind of thinking is inbred in American democracy (how else could the politicians get us to vote them and pay our taxes unless they were making inflated promises. And what is the weapon these false prophets tell us they will wield to such great and transformative effect? The law, the Law, the LAW!
The law and its minions are so, so good at picking situations apart, making pronouncements, slamming barn doors after the horse's departure, promulgating rules in the hope of preventing further wrongs and fixing blame for the past ones.
How much better off we would be if lawyers were to operate by the motto which sometimes dictates that doctors NOT operate:
"above all do no harm."
Now I do not dispute that some of the people who sit by and do nothing are "gutless and unethical." My point is that the people who may deserve these unpleasant labels are not the only ones. Sometimes wise people, students of church history, minders of their own business, deep practitioners of prayer (one presumes that the Bansecu dictum does not relieve the gutless of their do-nothing labels if they "do" prayer) and the patient will do NOTHING for a time.
The mills of our God are known to grind slowly and fine. We have the example of literal lynch-mobs in the not too distant past of our society's race relations and the sectarian killings in Iraq on the front pages pf each day's newspaper to remind us that when the self-anointed "gutty" and "ethical" are moved to take swift action it is not necessarily the work of God. St. Peter was so sure that he was supposed to take up the sword in Christ's defense, but was he either gutty or ethical in so doing, not to mention his reply when challenged shortly after by the servant girl?
This is not to say that I know what any person, let alone people across the board, should do here. I don't. I believe that problems such as are being described here are almost always better dealt with quietly rather than on the front pages of any form of media, but the OCA does seem to be in the grip of purgative paroxysms that will necessarily wound it deeply. The question is whether or not that is what is needed, or in this form, and on that question my unofficial and unauthorized jury is still out.
Does God have the power to reform things? Does he use if quickly, drastically, publicly and often? And when He does reform things how often does He really and truly use the "law, accusation, investigation, trial and punishment paradigm" to work that reform? Not nearly as often as CBS, NBC, ABC, HBO, FX, FOX. Miramax, Warner Brothers, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party would have us believe., I suspect.
love and prayers that the grace (and as needed restraint) of God be shed on all victims, offenders, leaders, followers, kibitzers,
#47 Fr. George Washburn on 2007-08-09 09:45
While I'm genuinely grieved by the actions detailed in Mr. Sidebottom's letter, I have enough familiarity with the nature of abusive relationships to know that secrecy and the fear of disclosure empower to the abuser. Although the abused may feel shamed and embarrassed by the disclosure, that's necessary medicine for ending the abuse and beginning the healing process.
The healing process includes teaching the one who was abused about appropriate boundaries, teaching them that they have the right to set boundaries, teaching them how to enforce boundaries, and teaching them that they have the responsibility (not just for their own sake, but for the sake of the one abusing them) to enforce those boundaries. It's terribly difficult work.
But as long as they feel that they must protect their abuser from exposure, they can't do the work they need to do. Exposing the abuse to the light, no matter how painful, is absolutely necessary to healing.
For someone in a less public situation, a less public disclosure might be enough to provide the healing light. But enough people have to know that the abuser and the abused both know that the behavior cannot be hidden. I think the revelations on this website are probably essential for the safety and healing of all involved.
Lord, have mercy.
#48 Josephine on 2007-08-09 09:52
My information comes admittedly second-hand from a number of priests, a few very close to Syosset. Of course, I have no documentation (well some, but those were later released to the public). From what I have been told Kondratick picked most of the new bishops for a number of years or vetted them. Another in the works until the scandal sidetracked him was Fr. David Brum. It is not an accusation to say the chancellor vets or picks a potential candidate; this is often part of the job description. As soon as Nikolai was consacrated the word was out that he was destined to be the next primate after a relatively short rule by our current primate. This last item wasn't any secret; it was fairly well known. In fact I had posted last year that there was a gentleman's agreement with Nikolai that this was "the plan".
I truly wish there was something in all this mess that was even mildly amusing. I wouldn't be clowning around with my name on it. And I appreciate your forthright remarks with your name on them. God bless.
P.S. I will not divulge my sources nor their location. Thus far I have no reason to doubt their veracity.
#49 Terry C. Peet on 2007-08-09 09:54
I see both sides of the issue on reporting this information. It certainly is a horribly sad situation, and publishing names is very difficult decision, but we are not a private club and I think this information goes a long way in highlighting some of the deeper leadership problems in the OCA. In my final analysis, I asked what information is being disseminated on the OCA website? Go take a look - while we are in the middle of a moral crisis, we find plenty of music down loads, fine commentary from Fr. Berzonsky, nice photos here and there, but absolutely no depth in regard to the ongoing scandals (I have to use the plural; there is much more than one scandal going on here).
I actually found it remarkable when I went back and looked at the OCA site; there are multiple announcements of the critical two-day meeting of the Synod. Remarkably, the site goes into significant detail about how MH “wanted the special session”. Amazing!
Initially slated to be a one-day session, the meeting was extended to two days at the suggestion of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, in a letter to the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops dated July 12, 2007.
"Prior to receiving the request from His Eminence, Archbishop Job, it was my intention to convene a special session of the Holy Synod following the conclusion of the Church Court for Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick and after receiving the report from His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel, who served as President of the Church Court," the letter read. "The items I envisioned for the agenda included the results of the Church Court; the current status of our Orthodox Church in America, and the 15th All-American Council, scheduled for next year."
Stating that he had "no objection to adding other topics" to the agenda, Metropolitan Herman added that "in order to do so, we will need to meet for more than one day."
It’s amazing spin, but a week later and still no details of the critical 2-day meeting. As someone previously stated, we don’t even know what the charges were against Fr. Kondratic?
So my end analysis considers what information would be available if this site were not around? Exactly, . . .none! Keep the information coming Mark, these folks may act like the Soviet Communists in controlling information, but we live in the God Blessed USA!
#50 Ken Kozak on 2007-08-09 09:58
To the Editor: Most media have a vetting process for articles that go into the various electronic or print outlets. A reporter's article is published, it is reviewed by an editor, and many times reviewed by other staff for accuracy. The editing process normally "edits" objectionable material, fact checks, alias' names (John Doe) to protect victims, and accepts/rejects articles to protect itself from lawsuit. What is the criteria used here in making these decisions? Is there an editorial board to review what gets published? The Poynter Institute has a nice section on journalistic ethics where they outline both what they teach and employ in their journalism. Does this site employ similar values and make that same kind of values statement? I would love to hear the truth in the financial matters that you specificially mention was the purpose of this site but these new threads concerning the problems in Alaska seem to have opened up new and different problems for sure. Does that original purpose now change as circumstances change or new stories emerge? I understand that these discussions here are more freewheeling with many points of view. A healthy exchange for usre. But the news is difficult to assess and judge with a single person as editor and publisher. You are taking on yourself the burden of accuracy and fairness and whatever legal consequences that come from that?
#51 Anon on 2007-08-09 10:34
We talk about the "climate of command" and the "culture of fear." Paul Sidebottom had the courage and integrity to report this incident. He did this knowing that he would be terminated. He had recently seen the SHS librarian terminated by Bishop Nikolai merely for writing anonymously on this website.
Does no one else see the conflict of interest in the SHS "executive committee"? The two main players in this incident, Bishop Nikolai and Fr. isidore (who was in "treatment"), Mina Jacobs, the bishop's employee, and Cliff Argue, the "company man." Paul Sidebottom told; therefore, he had to go. As in any dysfunctional system, the one who tells is considered the troublemaker. I see no outpouring of sympathy from correspondents for Mr. Sidebottom, who not only lost his employment, but had to leave Alaska and the students he was devoted to.
Liability? The president of the seminary (Bishop Nikolai) an accused abuser, and the rector of the seminary (Fr. Isidore), accused of attempted sexual assault, and an alcoholic, remain in charge. And the SHS Board does nothing. And the Synod of Bishops does nothing. Furthermore, Bishop Nikolai remains in constant contact with Fr. Isidore while he is in treatment! Fr. Isidore continues to act as chancellor. Some treatment facility this must be!
#52 anonymous on 2007-08-09 10:39
Gregory, I think we have the two witnesses. Please don't tell me you are equating Bp N. RSK , et al to St. Herman !
#53 anon on 2007-08-09 10:39
Sir,Trust me, a married priest as Bishop wouldn't solve the problem.I speak as a priest of 30 years,now on leave of absence.It's hard enough for a married man to serve a parish,let alone a diocese,and it certainly wouldn't be fair to the man's wife and children.I recall suggesting in one of Fr. Kondratick's classes at St. Tikhon's over 30 years ago, that there should be some process for filtering out unsuitable candidates for the priesthood.Speaking from my experiance,I really think we should follow the Canons and allow NOBODY under 30 ordination to the priesthood.Let the younger candidates remain deacons and serve under the watchful eye of experianced priests.
#54 Anoymous Priest on 2007-08-09 11:17
That is the terror that the clergy and faithful in Alaska live under.
A man who instills feelings of fear and dread in his flock who live under a state of terror is not worthy to be called a man and definitely not "Vladyka".
If the letter was not published in its entirety it would have been spun tighter than a golf ball by those that have vested interests.
#55 Anonymous on 2007-08-09 11:32
Before beginning an inquisition of our own (asking for other sides of the story, corroboration, evidence, etc.) understand that this letter was written to Metropolitan Herman notifying him and the Synod that there was 'reasonable suspicion' of wrongdoing going on, and asking him to launch an investigation.
It is easy to imagine that after Metropolitan Herman and the Holy Synod did nothing with it, somebody decided to make this letter public. Why? To provoke outrage in the hopes that the outrage would spur the Synod into action.
It is the same as why Protodeacon Eric made his allegations public. To provoke outrage in the hopes that the outrage would spur the Synod into action.
If our hierarchs believe these matters are better handled privately, then why don't they handle them privately? (As opposed to NOT handling them at all, privately.) It seems that, while we all wish these matters could all be handled privately, the only way the OCA operates is for matters to be handled publicly. That's not a breakdown caused by damned laity, it's a breakdown caused by inept hierarchs.
I regret Fr. Isidore's reputation has been tarnished by this posting. But a reputation is a weak thing to care about, and perhaps this uncomfortable exposure might bring him some true help. I know that's an easy thing for me, or anyone else whose not in the spotlight, to say. We certainly have come a long way from the times of public confession in the early church.
As members of the community demanding reform, do we continue to call for Metropolitan Herman's deposition? Or do we temporarily set that aside to demand the deposition of Bishop Nikolai? Aside from being outraged, ashamed and saddened, I'm confused as to what we should do.
Mark, as one of our quasi-de facto leaders, do you have any suggestions?
(editor's note: It is no secret that I have, on many ocassions, called for Metropolitan Herman's retirement at the next AAC. It would be the responsible, reasonable, honorable thing to do. Nothing in the last two days has happened to make me change that opinion.
As for Bishop Nikolai: The policy of the OCA in situations like these does not envision a Bishop being accused of such things. If this were a priest, the Bishop would have the option to immediately suspend the priest pending a full, open investigation. By analogy, the Metropolitan has the option to do the same for a Bishop, by virtue of his wel-known ability, exercized last year, to intervene anywhere for the good of the whole church. It would seem reasonable, given the gravity and seriousness of Paul Sidebottom's allegations, that Bishop Nikolai would voluntarily take a leave of absence from the Diocese so that a full, open and free investigation could be done. Failing that, the Metropolitan would be prudent to involuntarily suspend him so that the same could occur. For does anyone think a investigation should not occur given these events? And can any credible investigation take place led by Bishop Nikolai himself? That is not an option. Can any credible investigation take place while he is still the active diocesan hierarch? In this case a reasonable person would say no, given the charges. It is the climate of command that is an issue here as well, and as long as the Bishop is the command, the climate cannot be reasonably investigated. It will be hard enough given native cultures that prize silence....
Is it unfair to Bishop Nikolai to recuse himself for an investigation, or failing that, to be forced to recuse himself so that one might be conducted? No. It is only prudent, for if these charges are proven false, he will return, vindicated. And if they are not false, well, it was better he left sooner rather than later. Three or four months in voluntary recusal as serious charges are investigated and revealed to be unsubstantiated is certainly better than condemnation to a lifetime of whispers. There is not a diocese in the world that cannot survive the withdrawal of its Bishop for 3-4 months. Consider it a sabbatical, if nothing else. And if the charges are substantiated, well, then the Synod must decide how to go further. That is their call, not ours.
In the end, the OCA has a policy on these matters which by reasonable extension applies to Bishops as well. Why not follow it?
#56 NSK on 2007-08-09 11:37
Remember that Fr. Kondratick was fired from his post as Chancellor before there was even an investigation. Why is this Nikolai being allowed to remain in Alaska endangering more souls? Fr. Kondratick never set hands on anyone nor denied any one needing help to find it. In fact, in all cases, he was compassionate and caring.
Would Isidore be in rehab now if it wasn't that he made a public spectacle of himself? How long would Nikolai have allowed this go on and compounded it with physically abusive behavior? Was he so damn callous and willing to let Isidore die by not suggesting medical care after the pills? It sends a chill down our spines. What was the motivation behind Isidore's incredible rise in rank and awards?
The Synod needs to have another emergency meeting and deal with this now . Once the press gets a hold of this if there is not real action it's going to be a mess that will make the money scandal look like small potatoes. This is serious beyond all measure. The Synod collapsed again.
The Alaskan authorities should also be notified immediately so we show we are serious when we deal with incidents of physical abuse. Who knows how many others are there that are terrified out of their wits to report it.
Nikolai has been known to have a boundless temper. Resorting to physical harm of another person should be grounds for immediate defrockment. A bishop beating someone for what reason? Into submission? Oh, God! What were the crimes that Innocent was defrocked for that Nikolai so righteously supported?
It appears as if the Best Practices didn't make it through its first big test. The software didn't help prevent this either.
Is this the reason Jim Perry bolted?
#57 Anonymous on 2007-08-09 11:58
Fr. George, I completely agree with you.
Mark - did Fr. Isidore give you his permission to print this letter? If he did not, are you prepared for the consequences to his life that making this public in this fashion will do to him?
(editor's note: No.Yes. )
#58 Paula Brkich on 2007-08-09 12:04
I think we have gone to far with this website and printing the entire letter and only excerpts should have been published. The website, I believe was intended to show and solve financial problems in Syosset but now what are we doing? It is my belief that the editor is trying to destroy the entire OCA with the Alaskan crisis and to have the entire Synod removed. Be careful what you ask for and would like to know why Mr. Stokoe feels so compelled to destroy the OCA.
Editor's note: Dear MT: Get a grip. If it was in this website's power to solve any financial problems in Syosset, it would have done so two years ago. All I can do is report the facts.
The facts of the financial scandal did not destroy the OCA, nor will the facts of the Alaskan scandal as they emerge. I would not have spent two years of my life doing this if I wanted to destroy the OCA. I could just have sat back and let it go bankrupt, which is where it was heading by Syosset's own admmission. Nor do I wish to destroy the Synod - indeed the claim was recently that several members of were working too closely with me! No, I do not think the entire Synod should be removed, I just think, as I answered earlier, its President should retire, and now, one of its members should take a leave of absence pending an investigation by that very same Synod. Nice try, MT, but your dog don't hunt.)
#59 MT from DOS on 2007-08-09 12:35
Mark, I certainly agree with your comments, but that is to imply that the Metropolitan would have done the same thing in the "financial crisis". A person with nothing to hide and no involvement, would have stepped aside from all of the financial issues, and allowed a full and complete investigation. If absolutely necessary, MH could have continued "shepparding the flock" from a priestly standpoint, while the independent financial investigation occurred.
But that's not how the OCA leadership operates, so I'd say the chances of Bishop Nikolai do anything different are rather slim. Let's see some leadership BN, step aside and let an independent investigation occur.
#60 Ken Kozak on 2007-08-09 12:50
Bravo, Mark. Don't let the naysayers deter you. There is only one way to expose the truth: Lift the rock.
#61 anonymous observer on 2007-08-09 13:21
Good grief, MT. Why on earth would Mark Stokoe want to "destroy" the OCA. What, is he satan? (The answer is no.) "Destroy the OCA." Think about that for a few moments. It might also help you if you stood in front of a mirror (or an icon) and said over and over (try 500 times, like writing on the chalk board in grade school) "I believe Mark Stokoe wants to destroy the OCA." See how many times it takes you before you feel as silly as that sounds (The answer is it sounds very silly.) For added value, when you say the word "destroy," clench both fists and snarl, even growl, maybe double over, writhing. Then, once you find yourself feeling chagrined (I'm certain you will, but its all good) for having come to that dubious conclusion, try this one: "I love Mark Stokoe as a brother, and while I may not agree with some of his actions, deep down I really don't think Mark has spent the last couple of years of his free time laboriously trying to destroy the OCA." I suspect you will only need to say that latter affirmation once before you will find it the more comfortable ... maybe even producing a cleansing smile!
#62 Anonymous on 2007-08-09 14:11
In words to McCarthy during the trials of that era: " Have you any decency?"
This is all so way beyond anything that is remotely Christian. And yes, I object to the treatment given Fr. Isidore not just because he is a clergyman, not just because he is a friend of mine, but because this is just not the way to treat another human being.
You say that "Yes" you are ready for the consequences on Fr. Isidore's life. Why on earth is that your call? But you do say that the final call is the Holy Synod's. And if the holy Synod decides in a way you don't like, what then?
Is anything our Hierarchs decide subject to a veto from ocanews and its followers? How does that help an already fraught situation?
You gave us the idea that the Metropolitans of The OCA were working under an illusive, quasi-papal "Brum Doctrine" and now you breezily suggest the forced leave of absence of a ruling hierarch by the Metropolitan alone, and suggest that the Metropolitan is remiss for not having done it already?
No, no, no. The position of a ruling bishop to the Metropolitan is not at all simply analogous to a presbyter-rector to the bishop. This is a very sensitive issue, both personally and canonically, and outing all of it with shrill demands etc. can not help.
It doesn't help Fr. Isidore. It won't help Vladyka Nikolai, Paul Sidebottom, the diocese of Alaska or St. Herman's Seminary. Nor will it help the Holy Synod to function in a more effective, brotherly way.
You are constantly adding fuel to the fires, but then casually dismiss the charge that you are out to destroy the OCA with "that dog won't hunt" at the same time those that appreciate your revelations express glee at the thought that this comes out on St. Herman's day and the press can get a hold of it and ruin Vladyka Nikolai's pilgrimage. Disgusting, and yes, Madness. Perhaps you don't want to "destroy" the OCA, but you will tear apart anyone or anything in your way.
For you and all who think that vigilante clamour will "save" the church, think of todays epistle reading for St. Herman. . . and just think if that is how we are operating now in the OCA:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Deacon Yousuf Rassam
(Editor's note: First of all, I find it amazing, in all these interesting and fascinating exchanges that so many speak of Fr. Isidore, but none of Paul Sidebottom. So many speak of the "damage" done to Fr. Isidore by my publishing the text of Paul's letter, but nothing about the "damage" done to Isidore by the one who alledgedly caused him to drink, and the alledgely beat him.
The publishing of this letter will supposedly "scar" him for life; that he was reduced to alcoholism and alledged abuse i the past five years that led to what could only be called a suicide attempt, of that, nothing. Fascinating.
Had the Synod made a decision in this matter, and done something, say launched an investigation, or well, anything, then I would have had to accept it. It would have been a fact.
That they did nothing for Paul Sidebottom, nothing for Isidore's cri de coeur,nothing to investigate Bp. Nikolai in the face of these allegations, is perhaps more shocking than anything I have printed. If the allegations are true people were at risk - serious risk - and the Bishops failure left them so. That the Church has a moral and legal obligation to publicly deal with that risk, I refer you to the OCA's own policy available at OCA.org.
Vigilantes arose because of lawlessness. When the sherriffs refused to investigate criminality by one of their own - as in the recent case of our former Chancellor - it took vigilantes 10 years to
force them to do it. And even then they refused to allow more than one man to be investigated.
With young men being reduced to alcoholism, allegedely abused by sherriffs who then fire the deputy that reports them, do you really think we have another 10 years to wait for them to launch that needed investigation? The former Chancellor is reported to have taken money - this is about someone's life.
OCANews.org did not shout "Fire" in a movie theatre to ruin someone's life. They did it because, whether you like it or not, Deacon, there's smoke coming from behind that screen and everyone else is pretending it isnt' there. As one priest wrote me today: "Ultimately it's still the game of hide and pretend nobody is noticing, or if they did, they won't find the courage to squeal. (They seek) only to weather the storm, and it's back to the same rituals, vestings, empty services, never noticing that this all stinks in the nostrils of the Lord, to quote scriptures."
Ultimately, this is not a canonical issue, not a personal issue, not a theological issue - although it touches all three - it is a warning that maybe, just maybe if people are forced to act, could save someone else's life from being ruined.)
#63 Anonymous on 2007-08-09 14:12
Information need not be false to be gossip. I find it shameful that such a lack of discretion was shown in sharing this information.
It also attempts to paint Arch. Isidore as both a man suffering from addiction and not in his right mind, as well a possible victim of physical abuse and then also, at the same time, as a perpetrator of sexual abuse. Given the story's admission that an attempt at inappropriate contact was made while Fr. Isidore was in the midst of a quite serious episode of depression and alchoholism - if all of the information is true - I don't think he should be classified with language from Dateline NBC. All especially since he was immediately whisked off for treatment once his trouble became painfully obvious.
Shouldn't we also offer understanding to those surrounding Fr. Isidore since organizations such as Al-Anon have shown how easy it is for addiction to skew normal, healthy relationships in families and communities? Even experienced alcohol counselors can be caught up unawares in this darkness. Perhaps we should pray for them, rather than use this painful situation as an example of corruption to be met with torches and pitchforks.
I respectfully suggest that Fr. Isidore's story be removed from the website. Discreet use of portions of Paul's letter could still be use dto make more targeted points.
So many friends, so few to intervene.
I'm shocked, saddend, and appalled. Not at the alleged situation, for as troubling as it is, but at the intent of why to post this article in a manner that is to shamefully and publically smear the names of the accused, the victims involved, and the diocese of Alaska, which in itself is a sin and until proven true, is legally slanderous!
I'm sure you feel you are "helping" the injustices occurring in the Church by posting senasationalist, painful stories, as a way of outing injustices as a way of "healing" in the Church. It does just the opposit and causes more harm than good. This publically posted article DOES NOT HELP the alleged abusers and their victims who need the help and adds more pain to their already tortured soul. When they clearly see hate, disdain, and just plain "meaness" from their own flock or among the people in the church that they orginally turned to as a way to get through their issues and problems, it gives them every excuse to continue these behaviors as their way to mask their pain. Irrational, but that is how addicts think. I know because I lived with and alcholic for years as a teen and young adult before understanding how they can put themselves through what they do. More importantly, those around the addict become enablers, without usally realizing it, because they are dependent on what they get out of the relationship they have with that person or feel they can't turn to anyone out of embarrassment or persecuation from their own people, such as what you did here. You just put more fear in those who wish to come forward to hesitate out of concern for their names to be posted for billions of eyes to read!!!! This could be one of many reasons why people did not come forward about the matter sooner that were aware of this situation, should it be true. It took me years before I had the courage to report to my family of the alchoholism and eventually get help for me as a co-dependent, and I was a 'nobody'.
I really hate to burst your "idyllic Orthodox World" bubble, but every person who is clergy and their wife are inperfect and all have their demons to overcome. Do you have any idea what it is like to live in a fishbowl? We are watched in scrutiny at everything we do: What we wear, what we say, what we read, what we eat, how we raise out kids, how our kids behave, where we go for vacation, if we are "friendly enough", how we decorate our home, being criticized every single Sunday about something that wasn't done right or said, usually socially isolated from friends and family, and to top it all off, being paid peanuts and with no health insurance! Why, I'd drink too! However, with the grace of God and my experience as a child, I have the awareness not to. Most aren't that lucky.
#66 A mad Matushka whipping around her babushka! on 2007-08-09 16:19
With respect, I must disagree. While this is more serious, Archbishop JOB's question - are the allegations true or false - applies here moreso than even concerning the financial scandals.
Have we not learned anything from the scandals of the Catholic priesthood? Are we willing to let unknown innocents suffer to save a reputation? Are we willing to wait for 15 or so years before we find out if any have been harmed? I say better to investigate this now, fully, and hopefully exhonorate Fr. Isadore, or at least help him return to the path of salvation.
Or are we better off simply trying to hush things up, move people around, etc.?
The word used to describe those who cover the disease of their loved ones is "enabler." They share in the responsibility of the damage caused by the alcoholic. Our bishops are apparently prepared to share in that responsibility. I (for myself) am not willing to share that responsibility.
From the dictionary: enabler: one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior
Forgiveness is not a shield. Repentance doesn't eliminate consequences. Alcoholics still go to jail for harming someone. Christ, and Christianity, is not an enabler.
I hope and pray that Fr. Isadore returns to health, and places his salvation above all. Lord, my desire is to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Help me.
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#67 Marty Watt on 2007-08-09 16:53
Christopher Orr: That would be fine if the allegations were being dealt with. But apparently they weren't (or aren't). That is why someone had to bring them to light. The parties involved are public figures, authority figures. What do you suggest: simply sweeping everything under the carpet?
I, too, feel for Father Isidore. But he and Bishop Nikolai hold positions of public trust. Under those circumstances, full disclosure is essential--for the protection of the faithful. And yes, for the protection of Father Isidore, too.
#68 anonymous on 2007-08-09 16:57
Years ago, while still in the Serbian Archdiocese, Bp. Nikolai was director of the Rapha (sp?) Drug and alcohol treatment program in Los Vegas. This was before he started working for the State of Nevada child support enforcement program. I recall at our OCA diocesan assembly in Denver in 1988, I think, that he spoke to some of us about it, shortly after coming into the OCA diocese of the west. So he had hands on experience in dealing with this sort of thing for a number of years.
PS I'm tired of being anonymous
#69 James Morgan on 2007-08-09 17:28
I would like to comment how the Antiochian Archdiocese handled the issue of a publicly drunk bishop, who was also accused (and caught on security tape) of fondling a woman.
In summer 2003, Bishop Demetri (Khoury) of Toledo, auxiliary for the Midwest Region (this was before the Antiochians had diocesan bishops as a result of self-rule status), was vacationing at a Traverse City, MI casino with a family from his cathedral parish. He was publicly drunk and fondled a woman at a slot machine. He was arrested and spent the night in jail.
This was not covered up at all by Metropolitian Philip or the Archdiocese. Bishop Demetri was immediately suspended from his pastoral duties and also entered a residential alcoholism treatment program. He was sentenced to and served 28 days in jail.
Within several days of the incident, a statement from Metropolitan Philip was posted on the Archdiocese's website, acknowledging that Bishop Demetri had a problem with alcohol.
Articles on this may be found at:
http://www.pokrov.org/search.asp (search for Khoury)
The incident was not covered up, announced months later nor was it ignored. In 2003, it was not too long after the Roman Catholic abuse scandals, and I'm sure it was fresh in the mind of Metropolitan Philip and others high in the Archdiocese.
The OCA would do well to use the Antiochian Archdiocese's handling of the Bishop Demetri incident as a model.
On a side note, the Bishop Demetri incident came only several weeks after I had become a catechumen. I read the Archdiocese's statement and then with the help of Google, very quickly found the details from Traverse City news sources. I was dismayed, but the situation was greatly helped by the Archdiocese's open and quick handling of the situation.
Michele (Theodora Elizabeth) Hagerman
All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church
#70 Michele Hagerman on 2007-08-09 17:34
You can wait, and wait for the answer like I have, until you tun blue, but you won't get one, I think.
#71 rdrjames on 2007-08-09 17:46
I failed to mention that Bishop Demetri has retired.
#72 Michele Hagerman on 2007-08-09 17:49
Given a choice between things being kept discreet and hidden under the carpet, or things being aired publicly, even if tawdry and shameful at times, I'll opt for the latter. Spiritual abuse is all too common in so many churches, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, as well as synagogues and mosques. Blaming the victim or the messenger seems to be the name of the game, whether it's about rape victims, government whisteblowers or friends who tell friends that their spouse is cheating on them. Covering a person's shame is one thing; covering up a person's sin, when it affects others, is another thing.
#73 been there, done that on 2007-08-09 18:47
Sadly, the OCA Holy Synod does not operate at all like the Antiochian Archdiocese. It is mostly dysfunctional. The bishops cannot agree on anything, and rarely act on anything, especially anything amongst their own number, unless forced to by such as this website.
Met. Philip is both a true leader and a true pastor. The OCA has neither.
#74 Name withheld on 2007-08-09 20:00
This is yet another example of the best the OCA has to offer!
Another scandal, another cover-up.
I cannot beleive people taking a shot at Mark for posting this. Are we supposed to expect out media outlets to sanitize the news they feed us?
Mark Stokoe has represented himself to be one of the people that will heal the OCA. Much of the progess that has happened, yet the little that has, is in large part due to Mark and his efforts.
Kudos Mark for your dedication to the cause of holding these people accountable to thier flocks.
#75 Robert Holowach on 2007-08-09 20:17
OK, is it just me or has everyone forgotten that Mr. Sidebottom was fired, apparently for writing this letter?
Rather than focusing on Fr. Isidore as the victim here, I found not nearly one poster on the board asking what will happen to Mr. Sidebottom. I guess firing people for candid and open letters is okay with all you anonymous posters.
Sidebottom was fired for honesty. Wake up, the letter isn't meant to focus on the priest and his problems. May God give him the strength and will to help him with them. To be quite honest, I drew very few inferences about the man, other than he was drunk. The letter was published and rightly so to focus on a person that was a victim of the Bishop of Alaska.
The real question/concern is whether or not our Synod will take any action regarding the termination of Mr. Sidebottom.
The good priest is a victim of at least his own alcoholism, but what about Sidebottom? How many times must I ask?
I just don't get you people. I just don't get the Synod. Sidebottom was well within his rights to copy this letter and well within his rights to ask for it to be posted publicly under the circumstances of getting fired.
And although this website's spoken charter was related to the financial scandal, maybe some of you have forgotten that the Alaskan lands question is an open audit issue without a planned resolution. So, now the Bishop of Alaska has fired someone for honesty and stands in the way of audits and leaves meetings of the Synod when he doesn't like the content? Stand behind him, but watch for the arrows when he ducks.
The cruel monarchy of hierarchs that fail to answer to Christ is crumbling and Mark Stokoe is only a small chisel.
If, and this is a serious conditional. If Bishop Nikolai fired Sidebottom for writing this letter and it reflects the best truth Sidebottom could offer, then the Synod must remove Nikolai immediately. The Synod owes Mr. Sidebottom an inquisition.
Another extraordinary meeting of the Synod with Sidebottom present is due.
End the madness of dishonesty. Stop villifying the victim, all of you. Ridiculous. Hard to believe Mark even posted half your comments.
Thanks Mark, for recognizing Sidebottom as the victim and thanks for posting the letter.
Too bad we don't have a letter on Twinkletoes.
#76 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-08-09 20:50
Destruction of St. Herman's Legacy
Thank God, Mark, that you had the integrity to publish Paul Sidebottom’s letter. This was a sadly needed wake-up call that there is not just money missing, but tragic human suffering occurring, because of many of us, (myself included) didn’t speak out when we knew that something was very wrong in Alaska. May God bless Fr. Isidore, reinstate Paul Sidebottom, who is suffering for his integrity, and have mercy on all of us, who by our complicit silence allowed a young cleric to end up in this position!
But in all the comments on the Alaskan issue, I have not yet seen a single indication that anyone is asking how the native Orthodox are, how THEY have been treated, and what THEY may have suffered in the last decades from the Alaskan hierarchy. My first visit Kodiak was 18 years ago when the Frs. Kreta (father and son) were in charge. At that time there were over 40 students at St. Herman’s Seminary, both men and women, and because I was caught in a late spring snow storm, I spent several days at the church and seminary. Every evening I gathered with the students, and one conversation I had with them has haunted me ever since. When I remarked on the way in which the Moscow Patriarchate Russian missionaries had converted the Aleuts, respecting their culture and language, one of the young native seminarians turned to me and said, “That was then. Now we are just a colony of the OCA… We are to study in English, chant in English, pray in English, and sing your American tunes (not tones). We even get in trouble if we speak our dialect. This is not our culture, it’s yours. This is not Alaskan Orthodoxy, but it doesn’t matter. We will get ordained and go back to our villages and pray in Slavonic and our own language as we always have. We know what Orthodoxy is.”
Ten years later, I went again, to find out that there were two students left, thanks to the heavy-handed and demeaning behavior ..... of the head of the seminary. Local native Orthodox told me that he had been unbelievably abusive,maliciously belittling and humiliating them until they left in despair.
Now we hear that there are six students, the only balanced teacher left has been fired, the bishop’s, native church land has been sold, and Lydia Black, an eminent historian’s personal research archives, as well as other relics taken by the Bishop!!! I know that other good priests were forced out earlier as well.
Is this how the OCA has honored the legacy of St. Herman and St. Innocent? Is this the way we have fulfilled the charge that was given to us when we made a “deal” to “take Alaska”. Is this how we have served a faithful native Orthodox people, who held onto their Orthodoxy through decades of Protestant onslaught, only to have it snuffed out by our unbelievably crass, mean-spirited, and immoral bishops?? Shame on us. IS ANYONE EVEN THINKING OF THE NATIVE ORHODOX?? I’m afraid to think what has happened to THEM, a people who never speak up for themselves. We obviously can’t handle this charge, spiritually, materially, or even on a basic moral level. Yes, we who have sneered for years at “ethnic Orthodoxy” and longed to rule Orthodoxy in America! Let’s give Alaska back to the Russians. At least they cared!
I know that there have been a long line of dedicated people who have TRIED to work for the seminary since it’s inception, beginning with Mother Victoria who helped found it (and was then pushed out by ambitious clergy!) Unfortunately, good teachers and clergy are removed as soon as they show Christian integrity, as did Paul Sidebottom. We should immediately appoint a responsible NATIVE ORTHODOX hierarch and governing board for Alaska, and look for a moral, faithful teaching staff who want to serve God and the Aleut peoples – particularly from outside the OCA, as we have abundantly proven that we cannot be trusted.
May God and the Alaskan saints have mercy on us all!
thank you fr.george,very well said,and let us not forget that there is no man who liveth and sinneth not.i feel so sorry for poor father isidor,it would be best for him to go to the holy mountain for spiritual recovery if vladyka Nikolai would give his blessing.it is difficult to be a monk,this kind of pilgrimmage would give him new strenghth.we must pray that peace and love reign in our church.
#78 Anonymous on 2007-08-09 22:37
Monk? How and when? What monastery?
#79 Yanni on 2007-08-09 22:57
The Fire of Abuse can continue and go on and on if the circle that has built the "firewall" around it is not opened and eyes can actually see through the walls. This is the nature of abuse to cut off what real help can be given. How it is handled differs from the dynamics of each locality.
I spoke with a woman one time in my former county who recalled how her husband, a sherriff, pushed her out of the car as it was moving at more than 25 miles an hour. The sherriff, husband's, story was she was jumping out of the car like a "crazy women". Power defines what story even reaches the law officials.
This must have been a very difficult call for Mark. I believe Mark must have enough insight to do what he did in publishing the Sidebottom letter. I read only the letter of Mr. Sidebottom and none of the comments until now. It was enough to pray about
the sufferings of Father Isadore and see the displacement and search for identity and new work of Mr. Sidebottom and his missionary calling.
I hope Father Isadore will be protected from harm and get the understanding he needs to to go from victim to survivior.
I hope Mark will continue to do the things that can bring about a positive change.
I pray for all of you.
#80 Matushka Carol on 2007-08-09 23:51
You seem concerned that I do not address the victimization of Paul Sidebottom. I was writing to you on the subject of what you have chosen to publish. I was not addressing his grace, Bp. Nikolai or Fr. Isidore concerning the allegations made. I do not have the competence to evaluate what really went on, nor is it my place or responsibility. It isn't yours either. I do not know all the facts there, and neither do you. I was writing *you*, because you publicly humiliated Fr. Isidore.
It should not be at all amazing that those who do not believe you should have publicized this in this way - those who do not believe that this is a public matter, also do not proceed to discuss the matter publicly! This does not at all mean that I am without sympathy for Paul Sidebottom. Far from it.
You address me as if I am standing on canonical niceties ignoring the personal issue involved. That is simply not true. I do not believe that this will help him or anyone else, especially not as people.
I do not trust that your judgement is unclouded by your obvious enmity towards Bp. Nikolai. I do not trust that you can put Fr. Isidore's interest first, or Paul Sidebottom's for that matter. Nor is it your right to determine just what those best interests are.
I have discerned a divisive pattern in your editorializing and comments which often doesn't see persons at all, when classifying or discrediting them as "supporters of Fr. Bob" or "Supporters of Syosset" etc. This leaves me with some doubt as to how much sympathy you would have for Paul Sidebottom or Fr. Isidore if they were known to you simply as clergy and or employees of the Diocese of Alaska and Bp. Nikolai.
I am deeply convinced that the answer to you for most of the questions you have posed in your text is none of your business. None of mine either, at least at this point.
You are right that vigilanteism arises in lawlessness But it also contributes to it, furthers it. Would one like to live in a neighborhood in Baghdad run by this or that Islamic Militia - accepting their sharia courts because of the general lawlessness and failure of the governemnt? Do those rival vigilantes help bring about further stability? Do you think the threat of outing on OCAnews helps the Synod to have calmer more productive discourse? Vigilantes are indeed a symptom of the break down of the rule of law. They are also corrosive to rule of law.
You tell me that whether I like it or not there is a problem. Surely my liking it is immaterial. Surely any Christian would not "like" it. Of course there seems to be a problem, but just what and whose I can not say. But even if I were to grant that the the Synod should have acted, I repeat that I fail to see how you are helping anyone: Paul, Fr. Isidore, Bp. Nikolai, the Synod. You seem to say that this failure to act justifies your action. Simple logic tells us that it does not follow: any number of bad actions can be committed to fill any failure to act.
Finally, I could hardly imagine how my thoughts could be incomprehensible (or "amazing") to the man, who, on obtaining the correspondence of a ruling hierarch with the Metropolitan carefully edited out the specifics of that hierarchs concern when posting that letter for the public on 4th April, 2006:
"A Note to Our Readers
OCANews has chosen to withhold publication of the full text of the Bishop's startling letter, just as we did not publish Protodeacon Eric Wheeler's October 2005 letter to the Metropolitan in full. In both instances general allegations of sexual misconduct are made against some clergy (other than the addressee), which would be inappropriate to repeat without corroborating evidence. As these allegations are scattered throughout the Bishop's letter, we have chosen, therefore, to quote the letter at length. "
One should rember that the issue of non-compliance with the Sexual Mis-conduct policy was a specific concern in that letter.
I wish you a good conclusion of the Theotokos fast, and greet you with the coming feast. Most Holy Theokos, save us!
Deacon Yousuf Rassam
(editor's note: Thanks for a thoughtful, interesting reply with both a helpful clarification, and a serious challenge. While we still disagree, it is important that these matters be discussed openly. In that regard your last citation, of my editing earlier letters with allegations of sexual misconduct, while accurate, were not comparable situations. In the first case, what was contained in Protodeacon Wheeler's letter concerned the past, about a retired hiearach, and what is contained in that letter left no one at risk or in danger. The Synod chose not to act on it that information about a retired hierarch. I accepted that decision. (So much for never accepting the Synod's decisions....)
The allegation contained in the Bishop Tikhon's letter was an off-hand remark a priest made to another priest when the person making it did not realize the Bishop could hear them. The situation being recounted involved no illegal behaviour, nor was any party at any risk, before or after. The Bishop, unbeknownest to the priest and to his chagrin, later quoted this priest in his letter to Syosset. In short, Paul's was a cry for help by a victim and witness that concerned present and future danger; Deacon Eric's a valuable piece of a puzzle, but information no longer relevant to the day's events. The Bishop's was little more than evesdropping, and not considered worthy of further action by even the priest who the Bishop was so eager to quote. I see a difference. Feel free to disagree.)
#81 Dcn. Yousuf Rassam on 2007-08-10 01:27
I am a teacher. If I SUSPECT physical or sexual abuse of a student I am required to report by state law or risk my certificate. If I encounter sexual harrassment of anyone I am by school board policy required to report or risk losing my job.
There are provisions for bypass if the person to whom the report is normally made (school counselor in the case of child abuse of any kind, a designated administrator if it is an adult in the building)) is believe to be or accused of being the source of the abuse .
In reading the Sidebottom letter, once Fr. Isidore made an accuasation against the Bishop, it seems odd that such an accusation was reported directly to the bishop, and not to Syosset.
#82 Kenneth Bernstein on 2007-08-10 02:41
I greatly respect fr. Ted Bobosh, starting from when I first encountered him years ago, when I was still in the OCA as a convert and was asked to participate in the survey which became the book "Come and See" about converts.
I see another scandal exposed n the Sidebottom affair, one that represents a possible violation of law as well as demonstrates a clear lack of pastoral - or even basci - human decency.
If the charter for the seminary defines the board, and Bishop Nikolai is acting with only small part of the trustees without the permission of the others (or apparently the official if nominal rector), those actions may not be legal, I am not a lawyer, nor do I know the nature of the charter. I was a member of the OCA audit committee (altnerate for 6 years, actuall singing - almost certainly illegally under OCA charter - two audits, in 1981 and 1982, and I have served as an auditor of another national non-profit organization, and the question of proper authority for the actions taken is always part of a proper audit.
On the pastoral level, and even that of human decency, it is horrific to believe that the only notice being given someone that s/he is beng discharged is an email. Certainly at a minimum one would be entitled to at least a phone call, and normally unless it is physically impossible proper supervision would include a face to face meeting.
The litany of horrors exposed in this incident should shock the conscious o the chart with whom my beloved wife is still trying to keep the faith and maintain her lyoyalty.
#83 Kenneth Bernstein on 2007-08-10 02:53
This site has slowly evolved into the OCA's version of 'page 6'. With the publication of the Sidebottom letter you have lost the high ground and in a big way, and you very convincingly illustrated that anyone in a position of athority is capable of grevious misjudgment. I believe that Mark S. needs to appoligize and remove that letter from this site. There is absolutly nothing Christian about the way that incident is being handled eithher by the OCA or this site and more fundamentally it obscures the huge problems that are centered in Syosette
#84 anonymous on 2007-08-10 04:39
Perhaps covering rather than revealing his nakedness (cf. Genesis 9) would be a better way to help Fr. Isidore. One should not use his obvious illness as a bat to beat a bishop you or anyone might find wrong on any number of issues. OCANews need not share such detail regarding an event that I am sure he is ashamed of now that he is sober to make the point that he needed help - knowing he was unexpectedly and unceremoniously packed off to rehab would have told us all as much.
Additionally, I am not sure the ravings of a man depressed and drunk are reliable enough to found public accusations against Bp. Nikolai on - though more investigation may be called for - and neither should Fr. Isidore somehow be labelled a sexual abuser as the article implies given his state of mind at the time and no hint of past transgression.
A higher degree of discretion should have been used in making the points desired. That is very different than a cover up; it is simply the measured care for all involved and the assumption of innocence we all expect from the police and the courts - would we expect less from those here that so love the Church?
Again, facts shared inappropriately need not be false to be defined as gossip, and therefore sin.
It's stunningly quiet on the pokrov.org site about this incident. No news. No action.
Why haven't they already contacted Alaskan authorities?
#86 Anonymous on 2007-08-10 07:13
Do our Best Practices have any sort of whistleblower protection in them?
If not, is there any process for amending them so that they do? Is there any way that ordinary parishioners can encourage that to happen?
#87 Josephine on 2007-08-10 07:19
There is a saying "Out of sight, out of mind" The Chinese translation is "Invisible, insane". It could also be translated "Closed eyes, mind disengaged"
#88 Eyes opened, mind engaged on 2007-08-10 07:20
This thread now demonstrates what a hopeless mess the OCA has become thanks to the failed leadership of its bishops. Even more disheartening is the outraged expressed by those who object to this latest sordid matter being brought to light and their preoccupation with the rights and sensibilities of the victimizers rather than the victims (the faithful of the Diocese of Alaska).
For the foreseeable future I intend to cease posting anymore to this site, which will, no doubt, bring joy to many. Since I am already effectively in exile from the OCA, I will become just another observer of events as they unfold. Miracles can always happen, but for many of us it is just time to move on.
#89 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2007-08-10 07:48
I'm so glad you have the courage of your convictions to sign your name.
#90 Michael Strelka on 2007-08-10 07:51
I agree with a great deal of Deacon Youssef's post. Canonically you can't hop on an allegation against a ruling bishop the way you can a lesser clergyman or a secular employee.
I think that the publication of the Sidebottom letter does raise the question of whether or not this site and its editor have gotten carried away. The original purpose as I understood it was to do what could be done to see the OCA financial scandal dealt with properly.
The administration dragged its feet to say the least, and even pushed against the efforts to seek resolution. Predictably those who were determined to see change pushed back. We have all lost count of the pushes and counter-pushes.
And we all ought to know what happens when folks push and shove one another. People feel threatened, tempers flare, blows are struck, and soon whatever feeling of brotherhood may have existed among the pushers and shovers to begin with has disappeared and been replaced by something very different. And in case Mr. Stokoe or anyone else on the "reform" bandwagon has forgotten it, there is a devil, backed by a host of assistants, all too ready to help things get out of hand in case we neglect to cover all the bases ourselves.
So the upshot is in my opinion that the original charter of self-appointment under which this site operates has been broadened considerably by its own fiat., and the Sidebottom letter is Exhibit A in support of this theory. Instead of just seeing the Syosset financial mess straightened out, it has progressed to reform of the entire OCA, including a diocesan bishop thousands of miles from the original epicenter. It reminds me of a certain website that originally claimed to be a ministry to child abuse victims, but has given itself jurisdiction over much, much more.
We live in a muckraking reformist society which believes in its right, calling and ability to change others. Take Iraq for example. Boy are we saving those people from the wanton killing and exploitation that was rife in the Saddam era! While the comparison is hardly direct and clear, ocanews in its great self-confidence that it is part of the solution ought to be very introspective as to whether it has become part of the problem. We claim to be Orthodox in our ideas, but it is so easy for the secular presuppositions on which the whole society around us operates to creep and seep into our thinking.
And who will tell Mr. Stokoe if it does? And to whom will he listen?
A great head of steam has been built up here, and steam will do only one thing until the fire has been turned off and the pressure relieved. It will vent, and seek to blow apart any vessel that proposes to contain it. I see publication of the Sidebottom letter as venting.
I am NO fan of Bishop Nikolai's leadership style as reported here and widely criticized elsewhere before these sad revelations were made. I am very glad I do not serve under him and ought to pray all the time for those who must and do.
But neither am I a fan of the leveller mentality that seems ready to "reform" Orthodox ecclesiology to include initiative, referendum, recall, term limits, annual re-election, campaign finance disclosure, town hall meeting by internet and perhaps other suspiciously democratic ideas by way of replacement. To the extent that we can say there is wisdom in the cliche "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" I think we should very carefully consider if this site and the publication of the Sidebottom letter does not threaten the church with a different kind of damage that is the equal and opposite of damage by authoritarianism.
Galatians 5:15 says "But if you bite and devour one another, take heed lest you be consumed by one another." Does the broadcasting of the Sidebottom letter constitute the biting of Fr. Isidore and Bishop Nikolai, and if so who or what can we expect to see devoured? It is fairly easy to see (and sometimes falsely imagine) the other guy's contribution to these ecclesiastical range wars, and far harder to imagine, let alone recognize and correct, one's own.
love and prayers,
(Editor's note: As an Antiochian priest, Father, surely you are not saying Metropolitan Phillip acted uncanonically by suspending Bp. Demetri when he was accused of impropiety? We are not trying to destroy the Church, only ask that the same prudent and reasonable actions taken by Metropolitan Phillip be taken here by Metropolitan Herman - such as launching an official investigation to determine if the allegations are true or false. Surely as a lawyer, you would not object to a fair, open, honest investigation by the responsible authorities - rather than Bp Nikolai investigating himself?)
#91 Fr. George Washburn on 2007-08-10 07:51
I truly hope that the muckraking going on here bears good fruit and is meant for sole purpose of shedding light on the truth. My worry is that there is absolutely no check or balance on the "reporting of fact." When selective editing is employed, what criteria is used to make that judgement call? If you're going to publish, you better be prepared for criticism if someone questions your methods. You can't open the kimono here and there and not expect some comment. I for one won't be shouted down. I want the truth told but I also want it to be done fairly and honestly.
With respect to my last point, I have this feeling that this website is being used. Even if everything is accurate, the deliberate leak of information, fact or fiction, can be used as a weapon. That really worries me. Is disinformation being leaked out? Is information deliberately leaked for the purpose to cause harm? If action that was meant to be confidential and was in progress, was its leak meant to strengthen or weaken a pending legal case? Now that you are a conduit of information, you're a player now. Documents in posession of others can be used and the mere threat of disclosure to you puts you in the middle of the game.
My point, use information to expose the truth, great. Use information as a weapon, bad news. I'm not comfortable with that balance.
#92 Anon on 2007-08-10 08:35
If RSK hand picked all of them, your words not mine, why did all but 2 vote that he be deposed?
(editor's note: Because the evidence said he was guilty?)
#93 Peter Pappas on 2007-08-10 08:50
Nowhere, anon, did my post equate Bishop Nikolai, Protopresbyter Rodion Kondratick or anyone else to Saint Herman. It simply pointed out, on the basis of an episode from that saint's life, that things aren't always as they seem or we don't have the eyes (or all the information) to see them. There are two (or more) sides to every story, and here we've only heard one, through a third party -- and look at the stampede to judgment, lurid assumptions, sordid insinuations, unfounded speculations and unsubstantiated conclusions some have set forth here on the basis of one uncorroborated report. Ponomarkhov had a choice: he could have asked Saint Herman for his side of the story when accusations of theft and immorality arose against the monk, weighed the evidence and corroborated it. But instead, he took them at face-value and took it upon himself to wield an ax and chop up the monk's home. Let's not be Ponomarkhov. Charges this serious need to be approached with common sense, common deceny and a level of documentation that would stand up in court.
(editor's note: And the best, most open, most accountable, more fair, and honest way to do this is through an investigation, no?)
#94 Gregory Orloff on 2007-08-10 08:58
I agree with much of what you say, especially the part about the potential for the allegations to be the ramblings of an intoxicated individual.
Frankly, I see Fr. Isadore as a total victim. His actions, as outlined, do not constitute abuse, although they were obviously inappropriate. We do need to know, however, if there is any potential for abuse of minors. We don't yet know, but we need to learn. We need processes in place to ensure individuals, in accordance with the sexual abuse policy, are not left alone with minors.
It is interesting to me that the scriptures are full of tales much more sorted than this. Even the story you mention about covering their Father's nakedness - the story reports his nakedness. The right thing to happen would have been for Fr. Innocent and Mr. Sidebottom to have resolved the situation quietly, which they did, and ensure Fr. Isadore was put into treatment, which they did, and to notify Metropolitan Herman, which they did.
The failure of the Bishops to act is the key reason the story needed to be told. Had the synod done the right thing and suspended Nikolai, announced that allegations had been made and they were investigating, then announced the results of the investigation, the publication of the incident would have not been necessary.
But the Synod didn't do the right thing.
I don't know this, but I suspect our editor had the letter for a while, and was waiting until after the Synod meeting to see if the synod would act. When they didn't, he published. Or perhaps our editor's source waited and when the synod didn't act, (s)he leaked the letter. Either way, the Synod had the opportunity to do the right thing, and they didn't do it, and Fr. Isadore, Mr. Sidebottom, and an unnamed priest are still victims awaiting some sort of resolution.
Let's not forget, also, that Mr. Sidebottom was sent to Alaska by the OCMC, not the OCA. I'm unsure how that process worked, but hope he copied his report to the leadership at OCMC as well. If the conditions in the diocese of Alaska are such, we need to ensure the safety of mission teams sent to that area.
Yes, the letter is sorid. The final act in this drama isn't yet written. The church is full of known sinners who repented and formed the backbone of the body of Christ. St. Mary of Egypt comes to mind, and many of the monastics who turned to the desert in repentance for their sins.
Why is it necessary for Fr. Isadore, Paul Sidebottom, and others yet unnamed to suffer so? I don't know, except to reveal God's glory and goodness and mercy toward all of us.
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#95 Marty Watt on 2007-08-10 09:18
As Mark has asked, why was not +Nikolai and Fr. Isidore not suspended at the end of May pending investigation? Are the allegations true or false? (Was it not pulling teeth to get somewhere with this question with the finances?)
No, instead we have a whistlblower, Paul Sidebottom, who was asked to leave in July. How many months will go by in trying to get to the full truth in this new matter?
It is not unreasonable, nor uncharitable, nor unkind, norpremature, that there be a total change in current OCA administration. I don't see how we can establish a new foundation of trust without this.
#96 Patty Schellbach on 2007-08-10 09:39
Can someone refresh our minds with why Nikolai's predecessor, Bishop Innocent, was suspended and defrocked? What were his alleged violations of the trust that caused such a punishment to be given? There was a lot said about how he had destroyed St. Herman's seminary by his successor. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
Remember how self righteous both Nikolai and Isidore were over Innocent. There was one point that Isidore, in a diocesan publication, said that they were literally scared of what Innocent might do in those early days. Was this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? That was just last year. He was scared alright. He was scared of a bishop alright. He just had the name wrong.
Maybe removing Innocent was just a way to make room for another problem to come up here?
For all those that feel that this letter should not have been published, do you also feel that Herman is right in not releasing the report from PR? Why are so many people more disturbed over the publishing of the letter than the content of the letter? Maybe that line from "A Few Good Men" is appropriate here. "You can't handle the truth!"
#97 Nathan R. Jessup on 2007-08-10 09:50
I agree. They continue to destroy instead of try to heal and rebuild. I challenge someone to begin a movement to go back under a man of God. Someone who lives and loves rather than this reign of terror. DO NOT CONTRIBUTE - IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO GET ATTENTION and stop the lawyers, accountants and lavish lifestyles in South Canaan. The poor people get the crumbs!
#98 Anonymous on 2007-08-10 10:16
Do not assume that all of us Alaska Native Orthodox are brow-beaten silent sufferers! Alot of the silence you observe is the sad legacy of our enduring over two centuries of colonial thuggery-remeber our quaint, colorful ORAL traditions? We do not need any more colonial overseers, even if they happen to be wearing a mitre! The OCA needs to stop sending Cowboys from the lower 48 to keep all of us Indians in line! It is time for a Native Bishop, we ignorant "children of nature" can handle our own affairs. Another reminder: we also have a long, strong, sacred warrior tradition!
#99 Yashkanda.ets' on 2007-08-10 10:30
see page 17
#100 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2007-08-10 11:01
Here's the deal;
The Bible says we should be very careful about what we accuse our leaders of.
I have seen MANY church splits in my years as a charismatic christian before I became Orthodox
I see many of the hallmarks of a Protestant church split developing right here on this website, and I think we should be careful.
If we keep going down this path, eventually we will accept anything bad said about any bishop as total truth without reservation, because we are conditioning ourselves to believe that they are all bad. Even if this was true, it is a non-Biblical way to be. It does not please God.
So, while I agree with telling the truth, (who wouldn't?) I cannot agree with character assasinations and I think it is wise to edit stories and take out the parts that just add bad images to the story (I'm thinking of, "he went to sleep fondling himself. Nobody needed to know that).
Love covers a multitude of sin, says the Word of God. That is still our mandate as Christians.
#101 George Kruse on 2007-08-10 11:04
Daniel: Just because we have adopted Best Practices doesn't mean that anybody actually signed it.
#102 Michael Strelka on 2007-08-10 11:11
Even the conscience of those who were handpicked couldn't go that low!
#103 Anonymous on 2007-08-10 11:48
Why shouldn't Nikolai investigate himself, Herman was allowed to investigate himself, oh, I'm sorry, PR was hired on behalf of the OCA to leave no stone unturned!!!! Don't we see a pattern here????
#104 Peter Pappas on 2007-08-10 12:19
Everyone should starting doubling your contributions, I feel some litigations coming to the OCA!
#105 Anonymous on 2007-08-10 13:24
My words are "most of the new bishops"; your words are your words.
#106 Terry C. Peet on 2007-08-10 13:44
There is a difference between the situation with Bp. Demetri of the Antiochians and Bp. Nikolai. Bp. Demetri was a vicar bishop, an assistant to Met. Philip. He did not have a real diocese: officially he was the bishop \"of Jableh,\" in Syria (a place that presumably no longer exists in any significant sense), and thus he served entirely at the Metropolitan\'s pleasure and exclusively by his permission.
The use of \"vicar bishops\" is one of the irregularities that the Antiochians sought to correct during their reorganization as a \"Self-Ruled\" Church. Bp. Nikolai of the OCA, as is more proper, is the Bishop \"of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska\" — that is to say, he is the ruling bishop of the diocese in which he actually operates, in the same sense according to which St. James was the Bishop of Jerusalem.
The bishop is sovereign in his diocese. This is is well-attested as one of the earliest traditions of Church governance. No bishop may interfere in the diocese of another. Metropolitan Herman has no more authority to suspend Bp. Nikolai than he has to suspend the Patriarch of Constantinople.
So what to do in the case of episcopal malfeasance?
That is what synods are for. Met. Herman cannot simply snap his fingers and suspend Bp. Nikolai, but he can call together the other members of the Holy Synod — as he is the president of the Synod, it would seem especially appropriate for him to do it — and together they could demand that Bp. Nikolai step aside. This is similar to what happened some years ago in the Jerusalem Patriarchate, in which it wasn\'t just any bishop, but the Patriarch himself who was removed at the behest of his brother hierarchs.
This is an example of the conciliar principle at work.
A bishop under such a judgement may disregard it, but then it can be implemented in a de facto way: the synod can depose the recalcitrant bishop, appoint another in his place and inform the local clergy of this, and request that all the other bishops in America honor the decision by refusing to serve with the former bishop or recognize his authority. (This too is an example of the conciliar principle: here, the \"council\" is the larger group of \"bishops in America,\" honoring the consensus of the OCA synod.)
These may sound like hair-splitting canonical niceties, and it is bitter to acknowledge the authority of the bishop in his diocese when one despises the way he exercises it. But one of the particular accomplishments of the OCA was the division of its jurisdiction into real dioceses with real bishops of real cities — which is the way the Church is intended to operate, and has been for 2,000 years.
#107 a fellow Orthodox Christian on 2007-08-10 16:46
Alcoholic beverage has severely impacted Alaskan culture. This is the white man's doing. I don't say this because of Bishop Nikolai and Fr. Isidore and their business. But there must be an Alaskan native priest of good moral character, sound doctrine, and real love for God and the people who could be bishop of Alaska. Tell me this is not true after 200 years. I can understand how the Alaskan native would be sick of the white man's garbage. Just watch "Into the West"; it's the same story.
#108 Anonynous on 2007-08-10 17:22
AMEN! There's a reason various aspects of society have been arranged according to age. We know now from scientific study that the brains of humans aren't even fully formed until they are about 25 yrs. old. I think there is inherent wisdom in waiting 'til after a man is 30 yrs. old to consider ordaining him to the priesthood. And I certainly agree that older, more experienced priests need to be mentoring the newly ordained.
#109 DSJohnson on 2007-08-11 00:58
How could you write what you wrote? After reading your little comment, I'm very saddened to be called "Alaskan Native Orthodox". Please remember that in God's eyes, everyone is the same, no cowboys and indians. We will all be judged equally, no matter who or what we were in life. I don't think we need a Native Bishop! I think we need to stop being proud natives and start being christians...CHILDREN OF GOD!!! Who was it that helped build Orthodoxy in Alaska, starting in Kodiak? Who was it that helped "native orphans" from the Kodiak area? Did St. Herman do all this because we are "natives"? He did all this because he has a great Love for God!! We should be doing the same thing!!! Trying to live like the Saints. "Love your neighbor, as I have Loved you" That is what Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ said to His disciples. Also, please, FORGIVE AND FORGET...spend your precious time on earth loving, not writing hateful things about people just because they don't make you happy.
#110 Be a Child of God :-D on 2007-08-11 05:13
The answer is easy! You have a lot of valuable land that the central church wants to keep its hands on. As long as you have that land you will never get a bishop of your own!
Always think money.
#111 Anonymous on 2007-08-11 07:32
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