Would that these recommendations were followed.... What a sigh of relief I would sigh, if I could be confident that leadership was acting responsibly, painful as it would certainly be for all....
As it is there is no soundness in our flesh, and "at this time there is no priest, or prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or insence, no place to make an offering before...[God] or to find mercy" -Daniel.
I think the use of the term "secret report" to describe this document is an example of subtle "spin doctoring" by the non-accountable advocate of "Orthodox accountability." In any organization leaders faced with a difficult problem will ask people they trust for advice. Sometimes they even choose the people to ask based on what they want (AND EXPECT) that particular advisor to tell them!
This document is, or seems to be, a piece of advice, not a report. No fact-finding went into it whatsoever, and a great deal of speculation. I therefore find it difficult to see how it can be labeled a "report" in the ordinary sense of the word.
And we do not know who wrote it, for whom it was written, or the scope of the request for advice. For all we know the bishop didn't like one or more of the dramatis personae and said "write me something very, very conservative about this situation which I can use to advocate for investigation" or words to that general effect. Or it could have been a very honest attempt by a concerned professional to grapple with a real mess. I don't know which, or whether it falls somewhere in between. I just acknowledge the possibilities, and the fact that we are ill-equipped to draw any of the conclusions that Mr. Stokoe might want us to draw when he feeds us a piece whose history and provenance we know all too little about.
And how about the term "secret," which in the context of current affairs is certainly intended to give us the subliminal impression that, "once again" (drumroll, please) ocanews has uncovered something the episcopacy is hiding that we (or at least the OCA faithful, are entitled to know. A much more honest and spin-free label for the document would be "confidential," "privileged" or "private." What is wrong with getting a private, professional take on a difficult situation from someone more expert than the bishop who asks for it is? And by what canons of reason is he under any obligation to immediately share it with the whole world? In dozens of contexts our society recognizes and endorses the need for confidential communications. Is it just plain common sense and civil rights that we do not have a live web camera in the offices, bathrooms or bedrooms of our leaders (or our website spin doctors either), or secret skulduggery?
I think a much more accurate label for the document therefore is "seemingly confidential and ostensibly objective advice letter." I have no trouble understanding why Mr. Stokoe's agenda led ocaspin.org to call it something else.
Fr. George Washburn
(Editor's reply: The answer is very simple. I called it a "secret report" because " "seemingly confidential and ostensibly objective advice letter" won't fit in a headline. Clearly if one does not like the news, the best thing to do is ignore it, and haggle about definations. Feel free. )
Mark - you're mighty quick to "(Editor's reply)" whenever someone points out the slick use of your editor's pen, but seem to go silent with the ranting of those who would reinstate the use of the guillotine for perceived wrong. (hyperbole added for emphasis.)
Is it fair, based on this use/non-use of your editor's pen, to assume that you agree with the rants and only reply to those with the more moderate postings to this site?
(Editor's note: I append a note when someone asks a questions, to explain a point I was not sufficiently clear about, or to further the conversation when somebody challenges something I have said. I do not usually respond to people's rants, nor their opinions, nor does my silence imply consent to anything anybody says. I prefer to voice my opinions in editorials, rather than in comments; but sometimes the situation demands a quicker response than an editorial would provide. I hope that clarifies....)
Actually, Mark, I am not ignoring the "Report." I am trying to question and discuss it rather than just salivate, like Pavlov's dogs, because you happened to ring the bell again.
Neither am I haggling about definitions. You have helped create a hue and cry atmosphere (aided admirably, one must admit, by those who made the mistakes in the first place and those who did not address them effectively when the financial claims began to surface). In a hue and cry atmosphere it is easy to get carried away with any number of false ideas in the belief that one is "reforming."
By raising the questions of terminology that I did, I was hoping to promote a more reflective consideration of that unsigned document, where it comes from, what the author's presuppositions are, what it really means, and just what is being done with it and other "spun" news in the name of "reform." In the document itself, in reference to a single evening of drunken conduct in which even the Associate Dean of the seminary who was reporting the incident did not claim that he or anyone else was hurt, the opinion is expressed "It cannot be overstated" that the allegations are "extraordinarily serious."
WHAT!? Of course it is serious, and must be dealt with both firmly AND GRACIOUSLY for the good of this young man and the Church. But "extraordinarily" and "cannot be overstated?" Hardly. In fact the seriousness can, and by all indications will, be overstated here on this list and elsewhere, and for tendentious reasons. (I refrain for now from commenting on other statements in the document.)
I guess that for the moment the thing that concerns me most is what seems to me to be two young men of fundamental integrity, good intentions and promise (Sidebottom and Brittain) whose lives and service to the Church could well be spoiled by the need to make them "political footballs" in the bigger game.
I would hope that allegations of sexual advances made by an intoxicated diocesan chancellor to the associate dean of the diocesan seminary would be seen by anyone as "extraordinarily serious." Surely these allegations would not be regarded by anyone as ordinary.
Fr. George's equating "Sidebottom and Brittain" as "two young men of fundamental integrity, good intentions and promise" seems to me to do a real injustice to Paul Sidebottom, a layman who lost his position after he reported the outrageous conduct of the chancellor. And Fr. George's claim that Mark Stokoe has "helped create a hue and cry atmosphere" does an injustice to Mark Stokoe, who has been coordinating an important effort at bringing much needed transparency to the OCA.
Whatever "bigger game" Fr. George is postulating, his attempt at framing an objective view of events in Alaska is to me unconvincing, and even troubling.
Actually, I wrote out of respect for Paul Sidebottom, as I would expect one to notice. I didn't even know that he was a reader; what was clear to me was that he was not in major orders. By the way, as a member of the Antiochian Archdiocese, I wonder to which bishop he owed "absolute obedience" while working in Alaska.
Cathryn - I agree with you. We have some incredible clergy who have chosen to serve God in our church. My point was that Fr. George is a wonderful man and should not be subject to these insinuations about his motives for his well-written postings.