Monday, August 13. 2007
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At last, confirmation that an investigation was started.
If Bp. Nikolai is indeed innocent, then he should have no trouble recusing himself from any participation in the oversight of the investigation. Hopefully, he will do so.
Hopefully, Fr. Innocent (who confirmed the allegations, if you accept heresay) will have the opportunity to confirm or deny the allegations.
The events and words may in fact be dismissed as coming from under the influence, however one assumes Fr. Innocent's confirmation of them would not be so quickly dismissed.
Now, the crux of the problem of the OCA: How can we establish an environment where people can speak the truth (even their perception of the truth) without fear of retaliation? I've never met Fr. Innocent, and hope he has the fortitude to speak the truth regardless of reprocussions, but he is under the authority of Bp. Nikolai. We need an environment where the truth can be expressed, and Fr. Innocent (and others like him) have no fear of reprisal.
Most Holy Theotokos, save us.
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#1 Marty Watt on 2007-08-13 08:45
How fortunate we are to have this "new" scandal to deal with! Since the Church as a whole, and the MC in particular, has truly failed to deal with the OCA's financial scandal and the greater scandal of the cover-up of the same (as my parish president told me this weekend, "It's over," well, I beg to differ! Here we have a case of the dueling accusations, retraction a la the "Mel Gibson Defense" of "anything I said while impaired I didn't really mean," and another OCA-related decision-making body left to sort it all out. I don't know any members of the SHS Board, but as a member of Ilassi and a contributor to the Diocese of Alaska, I try to keep up with my reading on "what's going on up there." And, it's a mixed picture. However, certain things do beg questions ...
(a) Since a written accusation has been made by a (presumably unimpaired) employee who was later terminated under questionable circumstances against officials of SHS -- in this case the Bishop and a Board member, and the Rector -- what will the SHS Board do? Rather than rely on the OCA "investigation," they need to gather themselves and take deliberate, corporate action, namely, (i) to suspend the official duties of the two accused, (ii) insist that Bishop Nikolai recuse himself from all deliberations and investigations in the matter, (iii) declare the termination of Rdr. Paul Sidebottom to be null and void and reinstate him, placing him perhaps on a paid administrative leave of absence, (iv) place the Rector on the same status until he is determined to be fit to resume his duties (which have or have not been defined?), and (v) launch an investigation into the allegations, an investigation which would be conducted under the authority and control of the SHS Board, as the legally constituted authority of the Seminary, and finally, (vi) notify the proper authorities of the State of Alaska, in accordance with whatever are the laws requiring employers in such circumstances. Failure to do these things will mark their abrogation of duty, and will set the stage for yet another OCA-led cover-up "for the good of the Church."
It is interesting to note Fr. Eugene Vansuch's comments, which reflect a "company man" attitude in full. I have met Fr. Eugene briefly, but I have not met any of the other people involved in this situation. However, in my just-received North Star magazine published by the Diocese of Alaska, fully half the issue is devoted to SHS, and there is a picture of Rdr. Paul Sidebottom in there with a student, and a recounting of his key (if behind-the-scenes) role in being a true spark-plug for the Seminary. It is difficult for me to understand why such an apparently motivated, inspired, apparently hard-working young man as he is presented as being, would suddenly turn on Bishop Nikolai, and depart the Seminary without a word, writing a letter such as he did, without good and sufficient reason -- a Seminary which he has by all accounts devoted the past many months of his life and work to. If these allegations made by him are false, then it is a truly record-setting exercise in Career Suicide on his part! As I said, I've never met the man, and I've never met Bishop Nikolai, nor Fr. Isidore, but I don't think that Rdr. Paul would have written a letter like he did, in order to "start a rumor," as is suggested by Fr. Eugene!!! Think about it! I'm all for an investigation, but done RIGHT this time, with the authorities, and under the authority of the SHS Board, and made public! We CAN get to the bottom of these things. I worked in the intelligence field for many years, and I NEVER saw anyone actually beat a lie-detector machine, which I was exposed to for security clearance purposes on many occasions. Do we need to resort to this to get to the bottom of the seemingly endless stream of accusations, lies, denials, counter-accusations, more lies, cover-ups lurking among the hierarchy of the OCA? I don't know, but all I can say is, there is no shame in being hooked to the machine -- there is only shame in continuing to tell lies while hooked to it! I'm not seriously suggesting that we go to such lengths here to get to the truth in this matter (although it's not a bad idea), BUT, I am suggesting that there is an opportunity here for an OCA-affiliated governing entity -- the Board of SHS -- to handle a potential scandal properly, and in the light of day for all to see! I will pray that the Lord will strengthen their resolve and give them guidance.
Meanwhile, I've already sent-in my annual contribution to SHS for 2007, thinking that at least I could support one institution within the OCA that looked like it was doing some good; was I wrong about that?
#2 Friend of St Hermans on 2007-08-13 08:51
I want to thank Mark Stokoe for keeping this web site going.
Paul Sidebottom needs to know that many of us see this for what it is. This is retaliation against him for doing what he was asked to do - write a letter that described his observations. No protection for Paul, but all kinds of protection for the people who perpetrated these deeds. I hope more people will write to this web site to support Paul Sidebottom and the others who have been retaliated against by the OCA.
Having been married to an alcoholic, I know how they can be abusive, how they can lie, and how they deny they ever did anything wrong. Also, alcoholics have a difficult time recognizing they actually ARE alcoholics.
I am sure many of us laity who regard these going ons as improper are viewed as "supposedly-believing Orthodox". How derogatory a statement that really is towards many of us.
#3 Very Very Sad on 2007-08-13 09:50
The timeline of the investigation harkens back to the Watergate questions of 'what did they know and when did they know it?'
In any case such as this Mark Twain's adage comes to mind ... 'as long as you tell the truth you have nothing to remember'. Maybe, just maybe Alaska will be the tipping point -- could the OCA get any worse? Forget the money, how does OCA treat 'their own'?
If Fr. Isidore was so drunk that he would not be allowed on an airplane it's no surprise that he would not remember anything. Who are we to believe? Sober friends who are attempting to help him, help as in assist, not enable... or a drunk.
I make no apology for refering to a drunk; let's defer to the flight attendants who are trained to recognize passengers in that condition. Since he has been in rehab for three months I am concerned with two statements made by a person in early recovery..."finally rid myself of my affliction ; and; 'a very successful treatment..."
Father, you are never 'finally rid' of alcoholism ... and it's only successful at 12:01 AM when you can thank God for another single day of sobriety.
#4 Jim M on 2007-08-13 10:12
I said it before, I'll say it again; we don't know all the facts here, and to add insult to injury is certainly not the way of the Lord.
Let Fr Isadore deal with his own problems and let's not heap more upon him.
Accountability is good. Writing the Tabloid of the OCA is not.
#5 George Kruse on 2007-08-13 11:09
Unfortunately, a lot of people define "believing Orthodox" not in terms of believing the Orthodox Faith, or believing Christ, but in terms of believing whatever they are told, and in the case of Mr. Sidebottom, that would include believing in the face of his own experience to the contrary, and the supporting statements of Fr. Innocent.
As for the rest of us, well, we have been told a lot of lies in the last few years, so it is difficult to keep believing what we are told. Yes, we are called to forgive those who lie, but it does not follow that we immediately believe them or trust them.
#6 Anonymous on 2007-08-13 12:18
I beg anyone to re-read the letter for detail:
AS a person in recovery I have come to grips with all of my past deeds, misgivings and shortcomings (of which there are many!) I know today that any unfortunate statements and behaviors exhibited by me under the influence of anything is still my responsibility - dont let statements cloud the facts!
If I were drunk or "impaired" and decided to drive a car, and in fact ran over a little old lady crossing the street - who would be liable or responsible? Who should be?
Yes, I would wish that I did not have to be, maybe I would not remember - however it is still me that did the action and no matter what I am accountable.
For those of us in successful long term recovery we accept the full responsiblity for all of our actions no matter how shameful or mundane - all of our actions. This is the first step in recovery.
#7 Ted P on 2007-08-13 12:43
Foxes in the henhouse get on a roost and try to act like a chicken. Recuse, don't be silly, control is lost then.
#8 Yanni on 2007-08-13 14:46
Any of us who are asking the hard questions had better get used to having our Orthodoxy questioned and attacked...it's all they got.
#9 MOTHAETHIO on 2007-08-13 14:57
If this wasn't shown the light of day here you would never know it happened. A few years down the road you'll be wondering where another few million went after one of these two committed an act that we end up paying damages on.
Fr. Isidore's problems are our problems as long as he is in a position where he can come into contact with children and other fragile people. Remember, the Church deals with a lot of people who are in emotional states that they can be taken advantage of. Having a person, who drunk or not, makes sexual advances is better to know now then when its too late.
You may not feel these are our problems, but the law and money grabbing lawyers think otherwise.
The alcoholism is the very least of the problems in this mess. The letter that Isidore allegedly sent out makes that the central point. It's not in this case. It's an aggravating factor, but that letter was very carefully worded to move attention from the sexual proclivities of Isidore to his drinking problem.
Alcoholism can only get us into trouble if he's caught driving or kills someone on the road. The unwanted sexual advances can get us into real trouble. We can lose all the land we own in Alaska in one incident. It is our problem too.
#10 Anonymous on 2007-08-13 15:08
In all the discussion and speculation regarding Mr. Sidebottom’s letter concerning Fr. Isidore, I think one main point has been either overlooked or ignored. It is inexcusable that Mr. Sidebottom felt it necessary to describe an action that Fr. Isidore did, which hurt nobody, and was not an imposition on anybody’s person but his own. To do so was simply public humiliation on Mr. Sidebottom’s part, and it makes me question his motivation in even writing the letter and reporting the incident. Was it really necessary to add that as Fr. Isidore “passed out”, he was “fondling himself”? That particular action and its moral consequences are between Fr. Isidore and God, and do not deserve speculation. Had he omitted that detail, I would have found his letter very credible and a subject of great concern for the OCA and all Christians within it. Instead, I believe we can judge the tree, in this case, by its fruit, in that this letter is most likely written to denigrate a former employer upon whom this particular disgruntled ex-employee wished to have vengeance.
Allow me to offer an analogy. If one were to find one’s father passed out, naked, on the living room couch, which action would be morally defensible: a) covering up one’s father with a blanket, and later attempting to talk to him about his actions, and give him help, or b) calling in one’s friends to laugh at him in his nakedness?
The second option is the one Mr. Sidebottom chose. And now, because of his very detailed description, we have people speculating on whether Fr. Isidore is a child molester, which is nothing more than slander and character assassination. And it is sloppy logic, to boot. To jump from a drunken man reaching out and touching another inappropriately to the battle cry “Think of the children” is not going to help Fr. Isidore. Neither will it protect any children. We live in a sex-obsessed society, and this is proof. Instead of focusing on the tragedy of an alcoholic allowed to feed his addiction and make himself even sicker, and to jeopardize his vocation, people are focusing on possible crimes for which they have no conclusive proof!
As it stands, how is he to hold his head up in any parish now, even as a parishioner, let alone a priest, after Mr. Sidebottom decided to share what Isidore was doing while he passed out? How was this supposed to help the situation? Mr. Sidebottom did not write this letter out of love, or he would have not included that humiliating detail. Perhaps he included it to show just how “out of control” Fr. Isidore was; however, the mere fact that Isidore was attempting to preside over Liturgy while intoxicated, and later passed out, should have been enough! By including that detail, he showed a lack of respect for Fr Isidore, not as a priest, but as a human being, a person with dignity.
My family is new to the Orthodox faith, having converted from the Roman Catholic Church this Holy Saturday. We are well aware of the current climate surrounding clergy and sexual misconduct. In this case, however, I think we need to focus more on the lack of a support system in Alaska, and on why a man with an obvious illness was allowed to languish without the treatment he needed, than the effects that illness had on his conduct. I love the Orthodox Church and am saddened to see so many speculating and engaging in what amounts to gossip and mud-slinging. Is this the love, kindness, goodness and longsuffering which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit?
It is providential that the epistle for the Feast of St Herman of Alaska last week was from Galatians; for in Galatians 6:1 St. Paul instructs, “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.” In an atmosphere of gossip, slander, and character assassination, how can such a one as Fr. Isidore be expected to heal and repent?
I do not censure Mr. Stokoe for including the letter in its entirety. Had he edited out a sentence here or there, he would, no doubt, have been accused of “hiding the truth”. However, Mr. Sidebottom should take a good, hard look at his motivations for writing the letter, and for including that sordid detail, and ponder whether he—and all who speculate on the sordid details—are part of the solution, or part of the problem.
#11 Catherine Cain on 2007-08-13 15:44
How sad that the hopeful words of Fr Isidore, who is finally able to break through to see a possible alternative to his life beyond the bottle is met with such cynical contempt by us. No, it appears we would rather sacrifice him on the new altar of transparency and accountability defined by Mr. Stokoe then to find the good in his words and encourage him to "make the evil be good by Thy Goodness." (St Basil Liturgy)
Thanks again for helping cultivate such Christian expressions as:
"As for the rest of us, well, we have been told a lot of lies in the last few years, so it is difficult to keep believing what we are told. Yes, we are called to forgive those who lie, but it does not follow that we immediately believe them or trust them."
Bravo, Mr Stokoe, you must feel so proud. Who will be next after Alaska? Do you have a "enemies list" of people to bring down? Nixon didn't have anything on you. May God have mercy on your soul.
#12 Can't Wait Who Your Next Transparency Victim Will Be on 2007-08-13 16:20
If my guess is correct, Rdr. Sidebotttom believed himself to be facing a dilemna, probably that of continuing to send messages to Bp. Nikolai about Fr Isidore's condition, of whom the hierarch was most tolerant, having dealt with this condition in the past, or to write to a supposed higher authority......the real question is how badly had their relationship deteriorated, and was it enough to cause a letter to be written to the Metropolitan, considering that one of them is a non-alcoholic and perhaps had reached his personal limits of toleration of the other......hopefully there can and will be forgiveness all around........pray for them both
#13 a friend on 2007-08-13 17:01
Ummm ... Mark and Nixon? Dude, be kind. And if you dont want to be kind, don't be so senstionalist. Its as unbecoming as it is unconvincing.
What's up, y'all, with the Mark-is-a-villain hymn? (And, no, this isn't Mark, nor his Mom, nor his college roommate, nor anyone who's ever met the guy).
You are endowed with reason, people: use it, fer Pete's sake! Maybe you have a different conclusion than Mark or others, but don't therefore conclude that Mark is numbered among the transgressors scrapping on the surface of the River Styx!
Speaking of which: agree to disagree; note that reasonable minds (and even unreasonable, on occassion) can differ with charm and grace; but the sign-off melody of this "Can't Wait" posting, and some recent postions of others who disagree with Mark, is reminiscent of the city of Dis.
Unitl you're particular charimsa is infallibility, disagree, discern as best you can the nature of actions, but -- seriously, now -- leave out the whole "May-the-Lord-have-mercy-on-your-soul" judgment thing, turning a prayer, it seem readily apparent, into a condemnation.
C'mon ... is that what your parents and Sunday schoool teachers and the old babas in your childhood parishes taught?
If I weren't convined that the Church is the Church regardless of all this cr*p; regardless of all the scandal, and the resultant dissent, division, discord; if I weren't convinved that the Eucharist is what we say it is ... I'd up and leave this dysfuntional "institution" but fast. But I do believe the Church's claims (as objective realities regardless of my and your mook-ness), so I stay ... but all this garbage of judgment don't make it easy, necessarily (or maybe thats what some want???). So, before anyone goes "editorially Postal" on Mark or anyone else, remember that not everyone is yet all that convinced of the Church's claims (who can blame them?) and thus may be persuaded(!) to get the heck away from us -- as far and as fast as possible! Judge acts, call a spade a spade (or what you think is a spade, given that whole fallability thing), disagree, but lighten up with the whole condeming-the-soul bit.
#14 Anonymous on 2007-08-13 19:30
#1: I also suspect Rdr. Paul Sidebottom felt he was in a no-win situation. Reporting the truth to those who seem to have no regard for the truth (especially when they portray themselves as the guardians of truth) is always a no-win situation.
#2: For those who think that revealing another's sins makes one a "supposedly-believing Orthodox", it depends on the situation. If someone is doing something that may cause grave harm to another, it is wrong to keep it a secret, and if the proper authority refuses to deal with it, one may have to reveal it to someone else. This is particularly true of authority figures who, by virtue of their position, can easily multiply the harm they do. I am willing to stand before the Dread Judgment Seat of Christ with this belief. Are the hierarchs and clergy of the OCA (viz., those misbehaving) willing to stand before that same Judgment Seat with their attitude that their positions, privilege, reputation, and wealth are more important than the truth, the welfare of others, and the Gospel?
BTW, for those who think Mark posts any comment submitted, please note that he has nuked three of mine. Twice he was right to do so.
#15 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2007-08-13 19:32
If you believe that Isidore wrote that letter himself you had better get ready to take the deed of a bridge in Brooklyn.
There is a list of sexual predators kept because they are the most likely of people to repeat their crime. What Mark has done is served as a protection and warning for those that might have become victims in the future if this was swept under the carpet as has been the modus operandi of the OCA.
It is tragic that the one beating the drum the most the past few years about this kind of thing, pokrov.org, has been one of the silent voices that is letting others do the heavy lifting. While being the most vocal about what needs to be done and giving their voice to the bandwagon after all has been said and done. So much for leadership ladies! You've got a big fish here and your silence is deafening.
(Editor's note: The ladies of Pokrov.org have done years of heavy lifting, at the cost of their time, efforts, reputations, and monies, to make the Church more aware of these kind of problems. They receive little thanks for this, except from victims, since most of us cannot wait to move on from these problems. To criticize them for not being in the "lead", whatever that means, in this particular case, is just plain not right. )
#16 Get real on 2007-08-13 19:58
As I understand it, Paul Sidebottom wrote to Metropolitan Herman, the president of the seminary. As to how the letter became public, it is not known whether it was Mr. Sidebottom who did so.
#17 Edmund Unneland on 2007-08-13 20:00
Yours has got to be one of the most absurd postings I've ever read, nearly only as absurd as the next posting by "Can't Wait Who Your Next Transparency Victim Will Be" crediting transparency as a villain.
Let me explain your logic:
transparency = honesty = villain
secrecy = deceit = victim
Somehow that just doesn't pass the smells right test.
If you can't run an honest and transparent church, why run one?
If you need to be deceitful to follow Christ, why follow Him?
You are justifying the termination of Sidebottom because he spoke the truth and expressed concern.
#18 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-08-13 20:14
Quote: "To do so was simply public humiliation on Mr. Sidebottom’s part.... I believe we can judge the tree, in this case, by its fruit, in that this letter is most likely written to denigrate a former employer upon whom this particular disgruntled ex-employee wished to have vengeance."
Dear Ms Cain,
You appear not to have read the articles posted here. It is 100% certain that Mr. Sidebottom was fired after he wrote the letter. We know this because the decision was taken at a conference call, the date of which is not in dispute, that took place after Mr. Sidebottom wrote the letter. Then it was communicated to him by email.
(In case you are somehow unconvinced by these publicly available, undisputed facts, please note that the conference call included Fr. Isidore, *who participated from his treatment center.*)
As for your other accusation against Mr. Sidebottom, that he wrote the letter out of mean-spiritedness -- what planet do you live on? How dare you assign to him, or anyone, the worst possible motives for his actions?
As proof of your accusation you offer exactly one piece of evidence: his inclusion of "that sordid detail." First of all, allow me to remind you that the letter was written to, and only to, the Metropolitan. Mr. Sidebottom wrote it at the Metropolitan's direction, and there is zero evidence that he ever intended another human being to see it. Further, there is no evidence that Mr. Sidebottom had anything to do with the letter's leak.
So, why would he include such a crude detail? Well -- why would he be asked to submit the report at all? Presumably so that Fr. Isidore's situation could be handled on the basis of the best information available. You see, once Fr. Isidore accused Bp. Nikolai of beating him -- an accusation that Mr. Sidebottom stated was seconded by a senior clergyman, whom he named -- Fr. Isidore's pastoral care became the responsibility of the Metropolitan and the rest of the Synod until the charges were proven false.
Pastors need to know a person's exact condition, and "that sordid detail" is a part of that condition, illustrating as it does the depths of the state he had been reduced to. (Let me remind you here that the report was written under orders and to the Metropolitan only.)
It also goes to show that his attempts at physical contact with Mr. Sidebottom, which took place immediately prior, were indeed sexual in nature, that this was not a misinterpretation on Mr. Sidebottom's part -- as one of the posters here has suggested it was.
Now -- for argument's sake -- let us now suppose that he did tell the Metropolitan about it out of spite. That would be wrong, of course, but what, really, would it say about Mr. Sidebottom? Let me ask you how you think someone might be affected by having to fight off sexual advances from a man who is a priest, who as chancellor is the most powerful man in the diocese next to the bishop, and who -- if that is not enough! -- is also the rector of the seminary where he works? Do you suppose that, a few days after the incident, he might have just a little resentment to work, and that this might seep out here and there?
(I'm sure you wouldn't be upset at all, of course.)
But such an interpretation of events is not only uncharitable, but also flies in the face of the facts. Mr. Sidebottom spent hours, day and night, and again the next day, tending to an out-of-control, drunken man who had gone so far as to make passes at him. If Mr. Sidebottom had simply wanted to slam Fr. Isidore, he had all the proof he needed from their trip to the airport. Does your accusation comport with that? Does it comport with everything else that is attested -- including in the official publication of the diocese! -- regarding Mr. Sidebottom's character and his years of service to the Church?
Of course, you are absolutely right to note what care we are commanded to take with regard to anyone who has fallen in whatever way -- especially a man who is our father and brother in Christ.
And whether Mr. Stokoe ought to have printed the letter, or just characterized it, or excerpted it, or said nothing, is a different matter -- I can well see why some might disagree with what he did.
But you have no right to accuse Mr. Sidebottom of anything.
#19 contra argumentum ad hominem on 2007-08-14 03:26
Quote: such Christian expressions as: "As for the rest of us, well, we have been told a lot of lies in the last few years, so it is difficult to keep believing what we are told. Yes, we are called to forgive those who lie, but it does not follow that we immediately believe them or trust them."
What is un-Christian about that statement? It doesn't say, even after we forgive them, we can never repose trust in those who have previously betrayed it. It just says that it's not always prudent to do that right away.
After all, we're also supposed to forgive those who are totally unrepentant, supposed to forgive those whose sins against us are in progress! Christian faith is above reason, not against it.
The fathers of the Church distinguish between forgiveness of a sin (which God grants immediately) and extirpation of the passion that led to the sin (which usually takes time). That's what penance is about.
There's a difference between free grace and cheap grace. Cheap grace, please note, is no grace at all.
#20 contra argumentum ad hominem on 2007-08-14 04:18
The letter wasn't written as a public document, but rather in response to a request from the primate. There's no indication that the detail you find so offensive was meant to serve as an occasion for folks gathering around to laugh, but was simply something included in a private letter to indicate how serious a pastoral problem was occurring.
There is little doubt in my mind that the inclusion of this detail points to something extremely disturbing going on at the upper levels of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska.
#21 Anon on 2007-08-14 06:12
Let us all use common sense. You don't have to quote scripture, or be politically correct. What the priest did was wrong, drunk or sober. This was brought to light early in his life.
If I found my father naked and drunk on the couch, I surely would not want him around my children, even if he could read scripture.
This is the kind of behavior that got the Roman Catholic Church in serious TROUBLE.
We now have priest attacking Mr. Sidebottom, as if priests' are have the real authority on these matters. These same priests' are the ones' that let the Metropolitans and Bishops put our Church in our present situation.
Herman must be happy that the focus is now on Alaska. Before its' over the bishop from Alaska and Herman will be the best of friends?!
St. James--Brother of the Lord
Kansas City, MO
It would seem that most of us understand exactly what is going on here. Of course we don't want to put on rose colored glasses, we need to see the truth. But we do not need to know every little dirty detail about people and their problems.
Thanks to all who bring out the truth
Please, edit the stories a little and get rid of the sordid little comments that can only damage people. Without the edits, this website will become something that can easily be swept aside by anyone wishing to discredit it. Why lose what you have gained?
(Editor's Note: I cannot falsify documents, nor will I allow myself to be accused of such by providing only an "edited" version of a document that is not available in full. Today is a good example: my story discusses a report now available in full, on the Orthodox Forum. I chose to delete a few sentences that could be accused of "speculation", albeit informed speculation, on the part of the writer because they are not relevant to the story. If people want the full text, it is there on the Forum, and they can decide if I have warped the meaning or context in any way. Given the highly charged nature of Mr. Sidebottom's letter though, to edit it, to sanitize it for a family audience, would diminish what he wanted to tell the Metropolitan. What he alleges was bad enough - one would not want to encourage even more wild speculation as to what "Mark" left out, would one? In the end the issue is not "mark", but the allegations, and the question: are they true or false? We have a system for discerning that. We need to use it. That's the story, not the lurid details of his letter.)
#23 George Kruse on 2007-08-14 07:30
A host of comments on a number of recent posts as well as the whole ocanews.com phenomenon.
1. Mr. Watt says the OCA needs to construct a system in which whistleblowers have no fear of reprisal by bishops. There are several possibilities:
a. take away episcopal authority altogether
b. only let them exercise power after receiving internet OK
c. as soon as any serious accusation is made against an hierarch, deprive him of the powers of his office until he can prove his innocence beyond an unreasonable doubt - or maybe even a reasonable one!
2. Now that there is word that OCA HQ is looking into the mess, one of the comment writers here demands that the SHS board immediately initiate its own parallel investigation. Think of the possibilities:
a. paralysis of the new seminary year (to the extent that has not been accomplished already)
b. the possibility of a messy turf war that will provide more grist for the mill of the OCA watchdogs
c. the potential for differing conclusions of the tow inquiries
d. the double expense and administrative paralysis than can be induced by interviewing all witnesses at least twice.
3. Most of the comments on this site assume that either Mr. Sidebottom is a) telling lies or b) telling the truth. Ditto for Fr. Isidore. For the layperson this seems like a logical position. There are other possibilities which occur to an attorney experienced in trying cases and examining witnesses: inaccurate perception and/or faulty recollection. Especially where events occur under circumstances of distress or distortion (alcohol, pills) or involve the potential for subjective interpretation (some of the statements attributed to Fr. I) we should hesitate LONG indeed - or abstain altogether - before attempting to judge from such a distance over the net.
4. Mr. Sidebottom is excoriated by one commentator for going public with his accusations against the two clergymen that included humiliating details. I read the situation far differently: he wrote a private letter to the chief bishop which only was leaked by someone months later, and he was only reporting in a complete way to the proper authority what he believed he had seen and heard. If the head bishop is the one who must decide what do to and how to go about it then the person making the report to him MUST be compete in all respects from the get-go. Imagine the flurry of doubt and recrimination that would flow from coming up with such details as a seeming afterthought! Or imagine being an hierarch thousands of miles away trying to judge the seriousness of a case from which the reporting party for whatever reason has omitted potentially significant facts.
5. And those of you who publicly jump to conclusions about the motives of the various participants - seemingly based on which side you already are inclined to back - please stop. You pour gas on the fire. You bring condemnation on yourselves (at least according to that guy in the Bible who said that it will be measured out to you with the same measure you use on others). But who cares what he said anyway? We are on the trail of righting past wrongs, preventing future ones, punishing the wrongdoers (but of course not settling scores with those we dislike). When there is blood in the water, or at least the blood of one's opponents, or even just the potential for it, doesn't that "be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, slow to judge" stuff just get in the way.
6. Which brings me to my concluding point. This site seems to exist by a charter that was originally self-granted and focused on a single issue: the $ problems in Syosset. Now by the same authority it seems to have broadened its jurisdiction to the judging of all allegations about OCA leaders, and if Mr. Stokoe's comments last week were any indication, perhaps the episcopacy of other Orthodox churches will be next! This is heady stuff indeed, a vast breadth of authority to confer upon one's self when you think about it. Especially when you wrap yourself in the flag of accountability.
Just as in Animal Farm "all animals are equal" was amended with the addition "some animals are more equal than others," so this site says it is for accountability, but some animals need to be more accountable than others. In this case it seems to me that ocanews.org is not accountable to anyone.
I am NO fan of Bishop Nikolai's style and methods as reported on the net, but he IS a part of the Body of Christ and a darn important one. It is not us and them when we speak of him. It is US and US. Yes, he may wound us with what he does and says. Doesn't mean we should wound back, for we indeed wound ourselves. In Galatians St. Paul makes this point by saying that if you bite and devour one another, take heed lest you be devoured by one another. There must be a middle ground between a) foolish and passive complicity in anything a bishop says and does and b) bite-and-devour cannibalism by internet. Let's try to find it!
(Editor's note: And people say there is nothing new in the world: this is the first time I have ever been accused of "cannibalism". Fr. Georges points are serious, though, and worthy of more discussion than is possible here. Why not get your nearby Pat. Athenagoras Insitute to discuss "Orthodoxy in the internet age", and gather some of us, from Churches & seminaries; pastors, teachers and webmasters, to explore these questions and related ones? They will, I suspect, only increase. It would be a worthy effort, and I suspect our differences are not so great, this instance notwithstanding.)
#24 Fr. George Washburn on 2007-08-14 09:05
paul sidebottom wrote the letter BEFORE he was fired, as has been mentioned repeatedly here, and is clear from the orginal posting of the letter. What is so hard to understand about that. Also, his letter was written at Met. Herman's request, and was meant to be a written record of a phone conversation between PS and MH. Sidebottom did not expose AI to the public. Again. ... what part of this don't you understand? Your ignorance of these facts makes your whole posting moot (and i wonder why the editor bothers to publish such postings).
#25 anon on 2007-08-14 09:52
Why did not MH recuse himsef from the "special investigation". This administration is so corrupt it is not even funny. Why should Bishop Nikolai step aside? Why do we have two sets of standards? MH had oversight of everything. This should still be in everyone's recent memory. Bishop Nikolai is conducting an investigation in HIS diocese. This is a diocesan matter. The good people of God just pay for the errors of MH over and over and over again.
#26 Elena on 2007-08-14 10:49
While the scandal in the central administration is festering and the crisis in the Diocese of Alaska is worsening, from what I have been hearing, the central administration and the Holy Synod have been taking and continue to take aggressive, expeditious and competent steps to deal with the problem in Alaska. This I believe will be evident in press releases and other reports and actions in the near future.
My hope is that the central administration will keep the faithful apprised in an appropriate manner in order to reduce (“avoid” would be asking too much) the speculation that most assuredly will accompany the allegations. If the HS and the central administration do that, that in itself will mark a major change in the way both entities work and constitute an essential improvement in the administrative culture of the OCA. The mess in Alaska, it appears, will not be swept under the carpet.
#27 Terry C. Peet on 2007-08-14 11:05
What is this "Orthodox Forum" we keep on hearing about? Could someone post a link to it?
#28 MOTHAETHIO on 2007-08-14 11:40
Surely those are not the only options.
How about a functioning Synod, for one, who will chastise, reprimand, even depose their brother if necessary.
Or are you of the opinion that hierarchs are sacrosanct and the hierarchs infallible?
My proposal has remained unchanged since the beginning. The book of Acts tells us that the Apostles set themselves apart for prayer and preaching, and left the "administration" to the deacons.
We have the same issues now ... someone has issues with the way the Church's resources are administered. The answer is right there in scripture, for all to see.
I would submit that Episcopal authority might not necessarily be extended to the administration of the Church.
In the private sector, whistleblowers are protected. Why is it, in the Church, they are terminated?
Dcn. Wheeler was terminated, Mark Harrison was terminated, Paul Sidebottom was terminated, Paul Kozey was dismissed, several members of the Metropolitan Council were forced to resign.
No wonder they have trouble filling the treasurer position.
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#29 Marty Watt on 2007-08-14 12:16
Elena you are correct. MH should have recused himself from the investigation, in my view. Bp. Nikolai should also recuse himself ... no double standard here.
As for this being a "diocesan matter", I beg to differ. Paul Sidebottom was an OCMC missionary from Kansas. His home parish is Antiochian, not OCA.
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#30 Marty Watt on 2007-08-14 12:25
It doesn't matter when Paul Sidebottom wrote this letter.
Telling Metropolitan Herman that Fr. Isidore fondled himself while drunk and passing out is IRRELEVANT. Saying simply that he was drunk during liturgy and he made unwanted physical contact should have been enough. I believe Paul was well within his rights to report those details.
You don't stop evil by committing evil acts. If you want to be one of the good guys you have to conduct your business with impunity. You loose the battle when you start humiliating people unnecessarily. Fr. Isidore is humiliated enough by doing the things he did that harmed others and he willl pay for what he has done. Telling people about how he touched himself while drunk is just gratuatous and irrelevant. If it is relevant to you then you are a sicko.
#32 jack oneill on 2007-08-14 20:41
I understand and appreciate your argument. There is no question that the entire episode was sordid, not just the final incident that so offended you.
Instead of attacking your viewpoint, I will ask you to consider the possibility that Sidebottom reported the facts as he saw them, without an attempt on his part to skew the facts in order to protect sensibilities. Afterall, Sidebottom put together his report at the request of the Metropolitan, who is also the head of the Seminary, Sidebottom's employer.
I happen to think that the entire episode makes more sense, is more logical, and thus more truthful because that final incident was included. It is helpful in determining Fr. Isidore's state of mind, thus to put into context the whole series of inappriate touchings. Sidebottom was perhaps too delicate to say how he was being touched inappropriately. The inference from that last, distasteful detail is that the inappropriate touching may have been sexual in nature.
It is highly probable that Fr. Isidore was so drunk that he did not know what he was doing. It does not seem that this drunkenness was an isolated incident. He is clearly suffering from the disease of alcoholism, which is a terminal disease. I am glad that he is in treatment and I hope that it is for the appropriate reasons.
However, the treatment and then the day-to-day recovery cannot be successful if Fr. Isidore and the people around him do not face up to the facts, no matter how distasteful they may be. Sidebottom's report can only help Fr. Isidore's recovery, even though it relates such sordid behavior.
We should pray for all concerned, particularly for Fr. Isidore, who seems to be a tragic figure in this. However, we can and should also be able to separate Isidore the individual, who is no worse a sinner than any one of us, from Isidore, a leader of the Church, who should not perhaps remain in a leadership position, both for his own good and for the Church as a whole. Isidore the leaders' status will be determined by the ongoing investigation and in accordance with relevant policies. Isidore the man can be helped by our prayers, Lets do it.
#33 Carl on 2007-08-14 21:58
Thanks to Mark for his reply. I tend to agree that in theory we might not be that far apart, and maybe not in practice either much of the time.
But I think we see grace and decency and ethics and duty in very different hues in this particular situation. If Mark had an editorial standard that said "no editing nothing, never" then I might not be as displeased with the failure to show hat I will call "editorial decency" in deciding how much of the Sidebottom letter to post. But he has shown plenty of willingness to edit in the past for reasons of space, spin or propriety.
Why not this time? He got carried away with a golden opportunity without thinking? He felt the potential benefit of causing harm to Bishop Nikolai outweighed the risk of damage to Fr. Isidore, Mr. Sidebottom and others? He is in league with people whose names are not on the masthead who OK'd it? I dunno. Maybe none of the above, maybe some or all.
If Mark looks back carefully at my previous post, I think he will see that while I was mentioning the danger of cannibalism, I did not accuse anyone specific of practicing it, including him. The voice he heard making that accusation must have been the Holy Spirit, or maybe his own conscience.
Mr. Stokoe wants us to believe that everyone on the other side is corrupt, deceitful, incompetent, in need of close scrutiny at the minimum, and he is the watchdog to see to it. I do not detect any appreciation whatsoever of the fact that a watchdog can catch rabies just as easily as any other old mutt. To whom is Mark accountable. What is the dividing line between hard-nosed question-asking and spiritual McCarthyism, where one co-opts the power of the press to creates a hue and cry that has its intended and devastating effect regardless of the ultimate merits? Who gets to define those boundaries, and who gets to call fouls on Mark and award penalties or foul shots or whatever? Nobody except Mark himself, which is exactly what he deplores when practiced by metropolitans and bishops.
To Mr. Watt, with whom I seem to disagree far more often than I would like. Making a dichotomy between the sacred and secular, "spiritual" and "material" as you propose is out of keeping with the most fundamental ideas of Orthodoxy. Not to mention its ecclesiology. I think you misinterpret the Bible passages too by assuming, without evidence for your idea, that the deacons were given independence in matters of practical aid in Acts. The text suggests otherwise, for example in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, who did not bring their monetary offerings to the deacons. And tradition teaches us that while apostles, bishops and elders delegated stewardship to worthy servants, they did not abrogate their overall responsibility. I have lost track of the number of Orthodox parishes where I have seen just such a system as Mr. Watt proposes polarize people on a local level, and a priest v. parish council dynamic is set in motion. No the messy truth is that bishops have to be in charge across the board in all church matters or the system breaks down and is no longer Orthodox.
(Editor's Note: If I was as meglomaniacal as Fr. George worries, I might take his comment about the holy spirit speaking to me, and run with it... But fear not. As for my conscience, it is clear, thank you, which may in the end mean that many think my is deficient or lacking. There is always enought truth in a charge like that to make it stick....
I agree with Fr. George we are probably not so much in disagreement. The question is finding the balance, in the context of conciliarity. I agree the Bishop directs the symphony if the orchestra is to play well; what happens though when the Bishop loses the beat, as may be the case in Alaska? Does the orchestra just keep playing pretending all is well? Perhaps for a concert, but for a season? Pretty soon the orchestra as a whole will be out jobs - the institution ruined. It is a difficult issue, and one worth speaking about. I thank Fr. George for doing so.)
#34 Fr. George Washburn on 2007-08-14 23:30
Dear Fr. George,
Father, I appreciate your concerns about how the information about the ongoing crisis in the OCA is being make available to the faithful. However, the reality of the situation is that the official conduit of information from the OCA has not been reliable for those of us who are interested in the truth.
As a brother who came to Orthodox Christianity in the fifth decade of my life, the "truth" is what is most important to me. This website and it's webmaster have done more than anyone else that I am aware of to seek out and share the truth of our ongoing crisis.
Having come to our faith and been Baptised and Chrismated in an OCA parish, and then finding out that I could grow more effectively in an Antiochian parish due to some of the issues related to this crisis, perhaps my love of both jurisdictions gives me some perspective. As a priest in the Antiochian Jurisdiction, you may not have a full appreciation of what our brothers and sister in the OCA are coping with.
Although your concerns are sincere, please weight them in the context of the big picture. The OCA and the Antiochians continue to lead the Orthodox Church in fulfilling our Lord directive to share the Gospel by bringing the Faith to the seekers of truth in North America. We must strive to put our collective house in order, and offer an effective witness to those who seek the truth.
With love in Christ,
#35 Marc Trolinger on 2007-08-15 16:04
To an investigator, that is to Metropolitan Herman, all those facts are relevant. Unfortunately, our mindset is that the OCA will fail to act unless matters are made public. But there is another way this story was reported by secular media that was far worse.
If you read the story in the Anchorage paper, you'll see they say he is being investigated for sexual misconduct. That my friend is far more serious sounding and a lot more bull.... than saying he fondled himself and invited someone to sit with him while drunk, which was the down and dirty truth.
According to you, you'd rather have the public think an Orthodox priest raped someone than fondled himself to keep it clean? Rape is sexual misconduct as well. So, how many letters did you write to the Anchorage papers?
Yours is flawed logic and really only serves vanity.
Thanks Mark for publishing the facts and not distorting them like the Alaskan paper did with catchy headlines and one liners that read "Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct".
#36 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-08-18 22:19
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