Saturday, March 11. 2006
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I had a phone conversation with Donald Segal who is assistant Attorney General for the State of NY in the Charity Division. He understands the role of Caesar in assisting the Church towards truth.
The Division receives 4-5 complaints a day, and factors which determine which are handled include number of complaints and press coverage.
All complaints regarding the OCA handling of 9/11 funds and other charitable monies should be sent to his assistant
120 Broadway 3rd Floor
NY, NY 10271
A Complaint form is found on:
Click on charity, go to bottom of page to find complaint form.
This form should be passed out at parishes and our people encouraged to fill out. We need many of these from all over the OCA
For those who want to call directly, the phone number for the Att. General's office - division of charities - is 518-486-9797.
#1 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-03-11 08:37
It is reasonable to assume that the Metropolitan and Syosset are acting on the advice of legal council. (Actually, I have learned that it is a fact that "no response" is the advice of current legal council of Syosset - just like corporate America in the midst of the corporate misconduct of recent past.)
It is also reasonable to assume that the tithes and offerings (or some other designated offering to God) by the OCA faithful are being used to pay for said "advice".
I am wondering out loud if anyone is helping Dn. Wheeler? Maybe this Web site could be instrumental in helping him if he will need legal council. We can set up an account at a local Bank and report how every dollar is used. This matter is headed in the direction of the courts and then he who bears the sword will act.
Sad, that our Metropolitan and Chancellor have both chosen to defend, rather than repent. Sad, that the Metropolitan uses offerings to God for the above-stated purpose.
(Name withheld by request)
#2 A Priest in the OCA on 2006-03-11 08:45
His Beatitude has assured us that "the buck stops" with him, yet he has been willing to allow an audit only for years 2004 and 2005. With the release of this memo, is it fair to wonder who was passing the bucks since '99, when he became Acting-Treasurer, through 2003? Did he see this memo? Did he refuse to distribute it further? Is this why there are still no audits of the missing years?
Either he was an unwitting patsy, or he is an accomplice.
Your Beatitude: Are the allegations true or are they false? You have to know more than you are letting on. So why waste the time and more of God's money? By not levelling with the OCA, the OCA is going to be levelled.
#3 Jack Miller on 2006-03-11 11:16
I agree with you, that we should set up a fund Dn Wheeler.
It is an embarrassment for the OCA, go thru this senseless situation because of the procrastination of our leaders. In the BIBLE, procrastination, is a sin, our leaders are using it as a virtue. There is no need to PROCRASTINATE any more.
Let us proceed with a full audit. This will make the OCA stronger and better accepted by our fellow ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS.
#4 Steve Babish on 2006-03-11 14:00
I have believed all along that both Syosset and the Holy Synod are stonewalling because this scandal likely touches more than a few members of both.
It is hard to believe that the perpetrators could have hidden millions sloshing in and out of the "discretionary account." Fraud always has accomplices.
#5 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-03-11 17:34
Does the Metropolitan and his gang realize that any money "misdirected" for personal use is taxable to them in the year they "used" the money? Failure to pay taxes on this money could cause one to be liable for income tax evasion. Would sure hate to see some of the boys in Syosset trade in their collars for prison jump suits!!!!
#6 Mike Polewan on 2006-03-11 17:41
As things continue to unfold, it seems apparent that metropolitan Herman is at the center of everything!
#7 Eric A. on 2006-03-12 12:06
I am writing this as one who has not been a member of the OCA since 1991, but who served 6 years as the elected (by the All-American Council) alternate member of the Audit Committee, actually signing the audits in 1981 and 1982 - something that may have been in violation of the literal requirements of the Statute of the OCA,but something of minor consequence given the issues confronting the OCA at this time. I will not go into the details of the issues raised by members of the Audit Committee in 1981 and 1982, but I have to say that I am not totally shocked that there are problems with discretionary funds. I am going to limit my remarks to only one aspect of this issue, and that is the conceit (and I use the word deliberately) that I read in the message of Fr. Karlgut that if the funds were given confidentially to the discretionary fund that they are not subject to outside examination.
Even ignoring the issue of whether the funds from ADM were given for this purpose, it seems to me that Father Alexey is mistaken in this assertion, unless the donor makes no attempt to claim those donations as a contribution to a charitable and hence tax-exempt organization.
Here I note that I am neither accountant nor lawyer. I have some training beyond that of a layman in both fields,and have served as an auditor for other non-profit organizations. Any donation claimed as a tax-deductible gift is subject to audit at both ends by the relevant tax authorities,the IRS for federal purposes and whatever the relevant state tax authorities may be.
I am unaware that the discretionary fund is established as a non-profit entity under either Federal or state auspices. Thus the only way a contribution to it could be considered as a deductible gift would be if were given to a duly authorized part of the OCA. If so, the Statute makes no exemption from oversight by the elected Audit Committee.
I will not address the issue of whether or not funds were misdirected. That is a separate issue. But it seems to me that if Syosset and its legal counsel are going to claim this right of confidentiality, several requirements would have to be met to avoid the issue of audit by tax authorities, including a clear statement by the office of the Metropolitan that in order to maintain such confidentiality contributions to this fund are not deductible for either state or federal tax purposes. To allow the donors to believe the gifts are deductible is unfair -even dishonest - in dealing with such donors.
Beyond that,since I am no longer a member, I will in sadness look on at a problem that could have been avoided more than 20 years ago,but which some in an apparent lack of both judgment and humility refused to recognize.
#8 Kenneth J. Bernstein on 2006-03-12 15:38
Your analysis is extremely helpful. Competent financial management, like any skill, is learned. Our clerics seem especially susceptible to a hubris that excuses them from learning how to properly manage Church funds. They scoff behind closed doors at the "secular" suggestions made year after year by competent laity (and some clergy). Why? What is so hard to understand? I believe the intransigence exposes a gut-level philosophical aversion to "management" and a belief that management is secular, Western, and dare I say it, not "Orthodox."
As a consequence, too many of our clerics have no financial management skills and have no interest in developing them.
Perhaps this scandal will finally, finally show our clerics and our naive, enabling laity that this attitude is wrong, irresponsible, negligent, bad stewardship; ill-advised, unspiritual, and yes, unOrthodox. The fruit of this tree is poison. What does that say about the tree?
The current OCA leadership may have bumbled and stumbled their way into oblivion. They have only their haughtiness to blame. Many of us have tried to contribute to constructive solutions that would have avoided this mess, as you say, up to 20 years ago. But alas, their ears and eyes and hearts are closed. Maybe their hearts will open suddenly in proportion to the penalties received.
#9 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-03-12 22:14
While Metropolitan HERMAN may have been interim treasurer and is now primate, we simply don't know what he (or others) inherited. If you are looking for the central theme, my instincts lean toward the Chancellor. While the "discretionary" funds are alleged to have been under the control of the Metropolitan Chancery, it is unclear at this point how much either His Eminence, Metropolitan THEODOSIOS or His Eminence, Metropolitan HERMAN have personally benefited from the funds.
It is, however, alleged that the Chancellor regularly received reimbursement for a personal American Express card, without documentation, to the tune of $5-12,000 per month (that's between $60,000 and $144,000 per year, tax free). Plus, it is alleged that construction was done on the Chancellor's residence -- I seem to recall the value of $250,000 in renovations, but that may be my faulty memory. I'm not sure if the Church owns the Chancellor's home or not.
We still need an answer from the Holy Synod/Syosset to the question:
Are the allegations true or false?
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#10 Marty Watt on 2006-03-13 15:20
You got it wrong, Eric. It would be nice to think that our bishops are and have been running the show. But, the truth is, it is Father Kondratick is at the center of things.
#11 Nina Tkachuk Dimas on 2006-03-13 18:08
The OCA has a serious governance problem. The spiritual leaders of the church should not be its financial managers. This was recommended by Taylor in 1999, but never followed up on.
Members of the OCA and its priests. Please ask the Holy Synod and Metropolitan to remove themselves from the role of financial managers of the church, to elect freely a finance committee with oversight in budget matters, and oversight of the Treasurer.
This would effectively remove the burdens of financial management and defalcation from our Bishops.
How is it fair that any of us would expect the priests of our church to decide when an audit is appropriate? It is a preposterous notion. Why then the Holy Synod? Why do our Bishops bicker amongst each other about money matters? Wasn't this part of Christ's message when he turned over the market in the church? Bishop Tikhon attacking Bishop Job, Bishop Job asking for financial audits, Metropolitan Herman making financial decisions... Its all the same ugly picture.
I don't blame the Bishops, they are misguided only through prior misguidance, but they and the Metropolitan need to relinquish this power to elected people that have managed budgets or at a minimum been involved in budget processes and financial audits. They also need to repeal the discretionary account language added in 1999.
It would be more than refreshing to see this change immediately. How many of us would have better feelings about these matters if Metropolitan Herman was no longer the person addressed by the auditors, but merely a cc on the bottom of the page? Today, I'm not sure I want to be in the same room with our Bishops. If they made this change and got out of the money business, tomorrow, I'd be gratious to receive their blessing.
#12 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-03-14 00:58
If someone could provide some of the information required to complete the form, such as who are the people involved and what is their address, as well as other info, that would would save the step of gathering tht data. Do we use Metropolitan Herman's original name? I would like to provide fully completed forms that can be distributed in my parish. All an individual would need to do is fill in their own information and sign.
#13 Name Withheld on 2006-03-14 08:24
The current crisis we face in the OCA is not just about money. Many have written about a spiritual crisis, and, sadly, I agree with them. My experience in the OCA has been one where either there has been no diocesan bishop or if there was, he was invisible - not tending his flock as a shepherd is charged to do. (There may be exceptions to this. If you have a hierarch who is a good shepherd of his flock – God bless you and your beloved bishop.) Additionally, over the past number of years I have seen that our chancellor rules by and large using intimidation, bullying, and denigration. I personally know of faithful, dedicated members of the OCA who have been very negatively affected by his behavior. The unchristian behavior of our chancellor, plus the many reports and allegations of his financial mismanagement and cavalier attitude about the (monetary) gifts that the faithful bring to Christ’s Church (let alone donations from corporate entities) make me believe that it is time to act.
After the meetings in November 2005 of the Metropolitan Council, January 2006 of the Lesser Synod, and March 2006 of the Holy Synod, I was waiting and hoping to hear of changes in personnel in Syosset; but nothing has changed. Silence reigns – with more than a dash of intimidation. I urge the Metropolitan Council to request the resignation of the chancellor and all administrative staff in Syosset found to be complicit in the misuse of funds, cover-up, and abuse of power. I urge like-minded readers to petition their diocesan bishop, asking for the resignation of the chancellor and all implicated staff. (Even if our chancellor should prove blameless of financial misdealing, I feel this change is needed – even long overdue.)
I plea for our Holy Synod to act, comfort, and protect their flocks. (1 Timothy 5:1, I entreat him as a father, and Titus 1:7, For a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless.)
Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. May God guide us and be with us in this difficult time.
#14 name witheld by request on 2006-03-14 11:31
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Christ is in our midst!
We all know that our Holy Autocephalus Orthodox Church in America is going through extremely hard times.
I would like to make a suggestiion to all of us: To obstain during Great and Holy Lent from any commentaries on this website and to keep the website silent until Holy Pascha. This is the time for all of us, no matter what is our opinion, to pray, to repent, to reflect, to put aside our emotions and to ask the Lord to give us wisdom and to return after Pascha to this matter with a loving heart and clear mind.
O LORD AND MASTER OF MY LIFE.....
With love in Christ,
Archpriest Oleg Kirilov
Rector of Christ The Saviour Russian Orthodox Cathedral, OCA
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Mary and Nina,
I was thinking the same thing since day one of this whole mess. Primates come and go; council members come and go. Yet, Fr. Kondratick has been there through various council members and 2 Primates.
He needs to be looked at very carefully, if not resign.
#16 Nick on 2006-03-14 16:26
Ultimately, that's what needs to happen. A petition needs to be started after Lent requesting that the Chancellor step aside. He's been at the center of much grief and pain over the years. It's inexplicable that +HERMAN re-appointed him and continues to allow such a controversial figure control the finances of the Church. The Metropolitan Council must take control of the Church's accounting. I recommend that the OCANews put a petition up on the web site, to be signed by our clergy and lay members. It has to start somewhere. Let it be here, where we're all gathered and pleading for leadership from our hierarchs.
#17 Name withheld by request on 2006-03-14 17:18
This posting is total nonsense! Silence is exactly what the wrong headed leaders of the OCA require to help escape possible criminal prosecution.
Tax fraud, tax evasion, RICO violations, misappropriation of donated funds is serious enough, but financial mismanagement is not the only issue.
Why hasn't anyone called for criminal investigations of possible sexual predators in our midst? If "confidential payments" & "sexual blackmail" have been discovered, what was the extent of the sexual misconduct? Have there been, or are there still, sexual molesters of minor children in the OCA?
Even worse, if there were issues of sexual battery by clergy, are there criminals being hidden & protected by the OCA? By remaining free, is the OCA allowing continued criminal behavior by these perpetrators & risking more victims or children to suffer life sentences?
Time to take the logs out of our eyes. There may be far more to this 'scandal' than just financial mismanagement. If Cardinal Law style cover-up exists, then it behooves the laity to become actively involved, Lent or not. Regardless of the consequences of investigations, we will forgive them.
Please keep your comments coming. Keep demanding full audits & full disclosures of all issues, no matter how ugly it may get. Do not allow the hierarchs, the clergy, or the central church to gag us or demand blind obedience to their despotic authoritarianism.
The Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church were perfectly acceptable in Byzantium, but the criminal & civil laws of this great country must be recognized, even by leaders of religious organizations. The Vatican has finally realized this, & so must all other religious "leaders" who believe themselves above our laws.
#18 Danilo Kliszcz on 2006-03-14 17:37
March 14th page of "Holy Tid Bits" A Collection of Orthodox Thought compiled and published by Icons Plus, Youngstown, Ohio 44507
"I am told by family relatives that in the days of Turks in the Middle East, they always put Orthodox Christians in positions of great responsibility, especially if money was involved. They never put Latins (Roman Catholics) or any other non-Orthodox Christians in such positions. The reason? They could always trust the Orthodox. That is something for us to live up to."
#19 Name withheld by request on 2006-03-14 18:21
Dear Father Oleg,
He is and will be!
If you had a good, active parishioner in your parish around whom a rumor of scandal was circulating, would you, during Great and Holy Lent encourage him to be forthright and either admit no wrong doing or admit wrongdoing, repent, and receive forgiveness? Or would you follow the advice you have just offered and wait until after Great Lent was over? The longer a wound festers, the more difficult it is to treat. Personal letters to Metropolitan Herman and Syossett remain unanswered. This website offers us laity the chance to encourage our bishops to be forthright (since we know that they are reading the comments).
#20 Ben Kalemba on 2006-03-14 18:51
Metropolitan Herman's legacy will be one of two things. He cleaned out the mess in Syosset, or, the mess in Syosset cleaned him out.
The allegations, are they true or are they false?
#21 Jack Miller on 2006-03-14 21:22
Fr. Bob would not have the power he does today unless Metropolitans, members of Holy Synods, successive Syosset administrators, Administrative Committees, Metropolitan Councils, Dioceses, Deaneries, Parishes, Seminaries, Theologians and All-American Councils were complicit, naive, incompetent or simply turned blind eyes. Since the answer is probably all of the above, Houston, we have a problem. The first step in healing is to recognize the problem and our potential roles in enabling this situation over the years, clery and laity alike.
Ask yourself, if you know a clergyman is abusing his power and you remain silent... and the clergyman chronically does the same thing over and over again... and you continue in your silence, are you not, as some point, just as much to blame for the abuses as that clergyman was for his abuses?
We must have the courage to act. Silence and acquiesence are not always the spiritual response.
#22 Name Withheld By Request on 2006-03-14 21:55
Danilo - I find your "Total Nonsense" description of Fr. Oleg's comment unfair. The rest of St Ephraim's prayer, "Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother.." needs to be recited by all.
I am impressed that week after week, this website contains some incredible writing, some poignant posts, and a balance of fairness not found on any other Orthodox site I know. For one, I am inclined to follow Fr. Oleg's advice, tune out until April 24th, and then continue to pursue corrective action. Our faith has survived nearly two thousand years. Mine has survived something over 50 years. I suspect we all can make it a few more weeks, even in this internet age we live in.
#23 Marty Brown on 2006-03-14 22:45
I, too, am a former (and respectful) member of the OCA with extensive but non-professional experience in non-profit leadership and financial management. Mr. Bernstein is asking for nothing more than the type and level of accountability that we all live with in all other aspects of our lives. One ramification of the stonewallling by the hierarchy has not been articulated on this site, at least not that I've seen it, and it is something that we have all seen in other contexts: if they think they have money troubles now, they have seen nothing. In 2006 in the US, people simply will not contribute their hard-earned money to an organization that will not account for the funds' use. The merest whiff of dishonesty--and this mess is way beyond "a whiff"--and people will begin to give money to other recipients whose integrity is established. If a larage part of the Katrina Relief Fund has disappeared, what will the response be to the next special appeal? I think we all know the answer to that.
If you and I are accountable to our families and co-workers for the integrity of our personal and professional lives, why should the pastors of the church not be as well? And to put this off until after Pascha is to play Scarlett O'Hara: "Well, I'll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day."
As a respected attorney friend of mine once said in a crisis, "You have two choices: put your version on the wire or do damage control. 'A' is easier than 'B.'" Most unfortunately, the Holy Synod has chosen "B" and they're not even doing that well.
#24 Robert F. Allen on 2006-03-15 07:58
Putting Syosset on the back burner for a moment.....I've been told that St. Tikhon's Seminary has been audited ONCE in it's entire existence. I believe Metropolitan Herman has ALL the answers!!!!!!
#25 Eric A. on 2006-03-15 08:05
I would bet that amendments to the OCA Statutes that address your suggestions will be forthcoming at the next All-American Council, whenever that might take place.
#26 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-03-15 09:08
I perceive the nature of the posts differently here. What I see, perhaps not explicitly, is a willingness to forgive and move forward, and a show of support for the Synod if they need to take action.
The allegations are against (generally) three individuals. We ask, with Archbishop JOB, are the allegations true, or false. I can forgive, and have forgiven, all of the Church (both heirarchs and laity) for any offenses against me, and I hope they have forgiven me as well. Reconciliation is another matter.
I daresay the faithful will forgive, and in most cases, have forgiven. We do not sit in judgement. We simply request information to allow the administration of Christ's Church to be carried out in a biblical manner, befitting the Lord and Master of our Lives.
In the selection of Deacons, it speaks of selecting men of excellent character -- good reputation. That reputation of those reputable men has tarnished over the past two decades. Lent is the perfect time for us to ask our leaders about their character, since we depend on them for ours. Heirarchical and monarchial are two distinct things. Heirarchical does not imply authority, for we are all under the authority of Christ. It is the collegial, mutual reconciliation of the faithful and the episcopacy that is sought.
The question put forth is not difficult. It should have received an answer well before the Triodion began, even before Nativity. While we are asked to focus on our own sins during lent, day to day life also continues, as does our pursuit of charity and love for our fellow man. To me, this site and this discussion (regardless of how one-sided) is an attempt to express our love, concern, and hurt for the Bishops who shepard us.
Simply put, I would like to see the Synod, or the Chancery, state that the facts are not yet known, a full, transparent, and independent investigation will be made, those found to have commited discreditable acts will be disciplines, and we will work together to restore trust and seek reconciliation between and among the laity, clergy and episcopacy.
It is interesting how this crisis has revealed many of the struggles within the Synod, and how much conflict exists within the Synod. What is there to fear? All we ask is a simple question:
Are the allegations true, or false?
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#27 Marty Watt on 2006-03-15 12:30
You are correct in all you say. We always feel that it will get better.
However it is appalling to me, when we ask for change, we get this response, your request is inappropriate.
Also, checking other sites, I come up with approximatly 40,000 members in the OCA, yet on this site I see 400,000 members. Can someone explain my math?
Lets clean this mess up, even if we need to clean out the house!
To all My Brothers and Sisters in Christ;
I have always felt there are three sides to every story. His side,thier side ,and the truth. And until we can establish the truth let us remember what the Holy Scriptures say. "Judge not lest Ye be judged." How has it come that we that claim to be "ORTHODOX" (true faith) have such little faith in our spiritual leaders and fall so easily to idol gossip. I implore all of my fellow orthodox faith followers, let us not cast stones, for we are truly not without sin. And all those of us who do then have made a mockery of CHRIST'S sacrifices for us all. I pray for all of you who have such hatred in your hearts. The truth will be found, but until then, let us not cry out BARABAS!!! until we know what truth is. May GOD forgive us all.
Grandson of Father Segei Seminin ( St Tikon's Seminary and Orphanage)
#29 Andrew Alexandrovich on 2006-03-16 17:51
Thank you for putting up this website. We'd heard some rumors a few years ago, but only today did we find out about the full magnitude of this scandal after someone pointed us to an article in our local newspaper. These are serious allegations that deserve serious answers. In our ecclesiology the laity, and not just the hierarchy, are responsible for the well-being of the Church and have the freedom to act to meet that responsibility. We're glad to see that the laity are assuming their responsibility.
Walter Ray, SVS '92, and Angie Siomos-Ray, SVS '94
#30 Walter Ray, SVS '92, and Angie Siomos-Ray, SVS '94 on 2006-03-16 19:48
As an Orthodox and a member of the OCA I'm shocked at what is going on in Syosset. However, what is more distressing to me is the lack of voice from the New York and New Jersey Deanery. Has the Metropolitan gagged the clergy so they are to frightened to speak the truth?
This Deanery has known for years that there have been financial problems in the OCA. At Diocese meetings held in Yonkers a number of clergy stood up and demanded a full and independent audit. At the time Bishop Peter ordered the dissenting clergy to sit down. A full and independent audit was promised. To my knowledge one was never conducted. An audit of some sort was done and a short fall of $65,000 was found. The discussion then centered on how to cover the short fall. One solution offered was that Bishop Peter would advance the money with interest. The clergy balked at this idea. It was the Bishop who had created the short fall. How this matter was resolved is not know. This amounts to a wide spread cover up of misappropriated funds.
The point raised is, if the Deanery in N.Y. and N,J. covered up a short fall, are other Bishops also involved in cover-ups ? Could this be the reason for silence?
#31 Name withheld by request on 2006-03-16 19:49
As I have read the comments posted on this site there is one thing that I find unacceptable and that is the frequency of "Name withheld by request" comments.
I understand (I assume) why individuals perceive this to be necessary, I understand the vulnerability people are in when they have criticisms of those to whom they are beholden but this is simply not part of the Christian process of conflict resolution and getting to the truth of things.
God gives us a name in baptism and we must always do what we do standing behind our names.
There are resolutions for people who can't come publicly to get their stories out. They can be interviewed by reporters who verify the veracity and put their name behind it for instance.
This is simply not "the high road" and I hope it will be discontinued.
#32 Symeon Jekel on 2006-03-17 07:11
Yes, repentance first, then forgiveness, then redemption. That's the way salvation works. Silence is not golden.
#33 Maria Dering on 2006-03-17 13:09
Without question, I am a traditional Russian Orthodox man. Being Provoslavny is the basis of my identity, and I am so grateful to my family for raising me in this tradition. I believe in absolute deference to the Episcopacy. I am a great believer in the Imperium and Sacerdotium of the Byzantine Church. I do not mind at all when a Bishop has a driver, or he eats a good dinner, or he entertains a guest from abroad in a dignified state dinner. I think parishes should brag about taking care of their parish priest, and providing his family with a good life. But the main mission of the church is to fulfill the words of Grand Prince Vladimir Monomachos in his last will and testament to his sons, "Above all things forget not the poor, and support them to the extent of your means, give to the orphan, protect the widow, and permit the mighty to destroy no man."
I do not agree with all of the statements on the OCA News Website. I will bow down in obedience to a Bishop because of his holy vocation, even if I have doubts about his integrity. After all I, myself, am a sinner. I tell my wife that I am not the best man and to forgive me, and that I will try to be a better man. I tell my employees that I am not the best director, to forgive me, and that I will try to be a better director. In all of our vocations, whether as laity, deacons, priests, monastics, or Bishops, we have the same cycle of striving for the perfection of Christ. So it really must say something when I, an obedient Orthodox man say, ‘enough.’ The Holy Synod cannot say that this is a matter being prolonged by a few malcontents. I do not believe that the Holy Synod, nor the Primate, is accountable to me. He and they are only accountable to God. But I have a real concern now if, in fact, my donations are going mostly to the orphan and widow, as well as taking care of our Bishops and priests, providing them with lives worthy of servants of Christ, or that my donations are no longer being used for Christian purposes. I am called by God to donate generously and support generously as He has blessed me. My wife and I are growing uncomfortable. Not because we expect the Holy Synod to answer to us, but because this is heading down a road where we will be punished by the IRS, and by the State of New York.
These allegations seem to be coming from a lot of people, with a lot of evidence. Can there be any doubt that there have been administrative mistakes? I do not want the Holy Synod to be punished. I want them to provide clear concise leadership. But from the Holy Synod we get only vague noncommittal direction. It is obvious to me as a director who spends hours a day with lawyers in America and on the phone in Russia, that the top leaders of our Holy Synod have been advised not to comment publicly to protect themselves by legal counsel. Thus, I see a battle brewing between brother and brother and sister and sister. Honest honorable people, Real Pravoslavnye people are fighting over what course of action to take. I do not want the Holy Synod to be accountable to me. I want them to decide what is good for the strategy (finance) of our church but now we have a problem where it is obvious that sin has occurred. There has been no act of repentance - no one has asked for forgiveness. If this were not America, it might not matter, but the IRS has rules, and we have clearly broken them. Probably we will be all right because no one wants to be the bureaucrat that takes away the tax exempt status of a national church.
I am responding to the call from quite a few individuals to cease dialogue on this subject during the Great Fast. I humbly disagree. The Great Fast is the time for confessing our sins, not for pretending they are not there. I am curious if the Holy Patriarch who gave correction and criticism to the Tsaritsa of Constantinople for erecting a gaudy and arrogant statue of herself in the square in front of Hagia Sophia, if he felt that the he should not give her instruction and correction publicly during the time of the Great Fast, or if he instead felt that the preparation for the great Pascha was indeed the time for correction and reconciliation? Our church is bleeding, senior clerics know it, and some Bishops know it. For me this is not a financial scandal; it is instead proof that we are not ready for autocephalous status. This could have been solved easily, quickly, swiftly and instead, now it is being decided in the newspapers, on the internet, and in the government offices. The Holy Synod and our Holy Primate cannot pretend there is not a problem. For me the allegations do not matter. The civil war that is brewing because no one wants to take responsibility and correct this situation is the problem. I am not tolerant of people trying to pretend there is not a problem, and that it is only malcontents that are complaining. This is not some attempt to make our church Protestant, as some have suggested. This is a question of maturity. Are we mature enough to be autocephalous? That is the question. By not responding now, asking for forgiveness, and correcting the course of our American Church, the Holy Synod is destroying the Episcopal authority. Because the longer they wait, the more likely it is that donors will demand that the Metropolitan Council, and the Diocesan Councils have the final say on finance. By procrastinating and delaying, and not being willing to honestly face the situation, the episcopacy is being degraded and damaged forever. I would not deny a request of my priest or my Bishop if it were in my ability to give to them. Whether it be for their families, themselves, or for the charity work of the church. When I donate to a school in Russia I always know that a certain portion of the money will go to the director of that school. It never upsets me because I know how hard she works, and how she needs that money to keep doing her job. But I get mad when she takes too much and does not allow that money to build new bathrooms and libraries for the children.
I will not give less to the OCA, even though I am only a guest of the OCA as I am in a city without a Patriarchal Parish, because I am called by God to be generous as He has been generous to me. But I am afraid that our Church is not using our treasury in a way consistent with the laws of God and of Man. I question now whether we are truly giving to the orphan, widow, and missionary parishes as we should. Saint John the Almsgiver once had a wealthy patron present him with a splendid bed covering, worthy of a prince. Saint John accepted it, slept on it for one night, enjoyed and loved it, and then the next morning sold it and gave the proceeds to beggars. I am obedient to the Holy Synod, and I am waiting for them to give me direction on this real issue that is happening and will not go away. I have gotten more direction from the Washington Post than the Holy Synod. I am beginning to wonder if Our Holy Synod is able to make the decision to sell their bed covering for the benefit of beggars.
To be honest, I think there are many holy and good priests, and Bishops in the OCA. I am not disturbed that a scandal has occurred. I am disturbed that the Holy Synod would rather stay quiet and hide, than boldly ending the scandal and moving forward. When will His Beatitude Herman issue an Archpastoral message to his children bringing an end to this bloody and degrading mess? I am an obedient servant waiting for his master to admit that the house is on fire. I apologize for this long letter, I have just been so disturbed by what I have read, heard, and seen in the past months. At this moment I would support wholeheartedly a move by the Holy Synod to be absorbed into another Jurisdiction, because obviously we do not have the monasteries we need to supply us with a number of well qualified and holy bishops. Our Eparchies stay vacant for far too long, and our Holy Synod does not wish to act at all. Saying that you will have a two year audit that is required for a new bank loan, without addressing any of the numerous allegations, without saying that there is even a problem, is puzzling and mysterious. How easy would it be to just say, ‘they have the facts wrong?’ Not even respond to all of the allegations point by point, but just say, ‘they have the facts wrong.’ That is all the Holy Synod would have to say to end this matter. I do not expect them to be accountable to me, only to God, but at least they could say that Otyets Deacon Wheeller is wrong, in an official statement. Instead they are carefully segregating themselves from any public pronouncements or statements on the advice of legal counsel. I for one will not bow down obediently to a lawyer, only to my bishop will I bow down. But when will my Bishop say that we must put this fire out?
Forgive me for this uneducated and arrogant posting and letter. I know my words are long and inelegant, but I am a simple Russian peasant fearful that our Holy Synod will be burned alive in this fire that they deny the existence of because they trust more in the advice of legal counsel, than the warm love and forgiveness of their flocks. I have not placed my full name as I do not wish my father confessor to suffer for my arrogant words, and he requested of me not to use my full name, because it is clear that priests are being disciplined for speaking too openly on this matter.
Humbly in Christ,
#34 Name Witheld by Request on 2006-03-17 17:43
Steve - membership in the OCA depends on how you count. Souls? or adult, assessable members? What about all the "Easter" Orthodox? We can't be all that sure, except to look at the assesments collected by Syosset. However, 1 million is certainly too high, 400,000 is probably too high, and 100,000 total souls might be closer to the real truth.
#35 Michael Strelka on 2006-03-18 11:40
BRAVO. For a "simple Russian peasant" your words were quite elegant. Have faith that the hierarchs will come to their senses. I too (as the son of a priest) have a great respect for the clergy and especially hierarchs. Ours is not to judge - that is left to the Lord. As He said "Let you who is without sin, cast the first sin."
#36 Richard C. Grabowski on 2006-04-02 12:43
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