Wednesday, November 14. 2007
The firewall is breaking down. What does this mean for the new Special Investigative Committee, the OCA and Metropolitan Herman. Your comments are welcome.
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Why has Kucynda waited now to speak his peace ? He is preaching to the choir. We all know of the allegations. Name some names , we know about "one". this sounded like more talking around the truth.
#1 Anonymous on 2007-11-14 05:25
Nobody is doing the right thing. Not one so-called "leader" of the Church seems to care one whit about serving the Lord. Everybody is ducking and covering.
I could have stayed in the Charismatic church if I wanted corrupt preachers but I converted to Orthodoxy to find the real thing. All I got was another batch of rotten churchmen.
Is this all there is?
#2 George Kruse on 2007-11-14 05:41
It's time to move on! New faces, new people running the show, new controls and an old met? "New wine in old wine skins?" MH needs to step down immediately and let's get on with reestablishing the credibility of the OCA. Next, revise the OCA statutes clearly defining the role of bishops, checks & balances and how they can be relieved of service. Time to complete the whole process.
#3 Anonymouso on 2007-11-14 06:33
This seems like one lie after another. Is Fr.Paul the one to believe ? I don't believe anyone from the oca, Kucynda will always be an MH supporter. This firewall will always be strong with no hard evidence. Allegations are heresay , if anyone could prove anything someone would be in jail.
#4 Anonymous on 2007-11-14 07:34
Wasn't Mrs. Kondratick also an employee of the OCA? That would explain the plural 'employees.' Does not seem like much of a mystery to me, given that they are, well, married and all that.
#5 Fr. George A. on 2007-11-14 07:34
If one talks enough, the truth may just slip out... I think everyone has long believed that the contention that "it was all Kondratick" was not plausible. Now we know for sure that at least allegations have been made that "employees" received "excess".
Let's see, now. The Central Church sends out numerous appeals for donations for various causes. Employees embezzle a large part of these donations, converting them to personal use. Yep, that would be "excessive", to put it mildly.
These are, in fact, crimes. Embezzlement. Fraud. So, just how many "employees" were involved in these crimes? ....
#6 Name withheld on 2007-11-14 07:47
There is a revised schedule as of November 12 for the Long Island Railroad; for Syosset you have to change at Hicksville. Seems due to cutbacks the Gravy Train doesn't go direct to Syosset any more.
I agree that the implication of chancery chicanery and individuals with perk$ & extra'$ is reassuring to see in print ... but is anyone surprised?
Likewsie to read all of Fr. Tassos' report is reassuring - the money pinch is in print.
Maybe there is some Truth to be found on the only-only-one official OCA site after all... (about time)
#7 Jim Murray on 2007-11-14 08:34
How many church members: clergy, laity, seminary personnel did work for the Adminstration and were remunerated or rewarded *off the book*? How many were just rewarded for keeping silent or in denial about certain things? Did they pay taxes on these remunerations/rewards? Who were/are they?
It's time for the whole truth.
#8 Anon and anon on 2007-11-14 08:39
Mrs Kondratick was an employee of the OCA Pension Plan, a distinct and separate entity from the OCA.
#9 Anonymous on 2007-11-14 08:52
Dear Name witheld:
If it can be proved that Church funds were used for personal use, then every person who approved the diversion of those funds would be culpable. If the funds were not used for personal use, but rather were used for other Church business, then that is an internal matter to be judged on the checks and balances then in place to cover the use of restricted funds on a temporary basis.
The point is proof that it was embezzlement, proof that funds were collected so that they would be knowingly diverted. Proof that decisions were made and pre-determined that money would be used for purposes other than what they were collected for. If there is a paper trail showing that money was diverted, as a result of an internal decision, approved by the "powers that be" and with the action to replenish those funds after their temporary use, what is that called. Again, if funds are used for personal use, no question, its a very questionable action, if not criminal.
I say let the entire light shine on these transactions, in a dispassionate review, with all the facts and as much context as possible. Then we may have a chance at some measure of truth and not the "turf war" we have been subjected to for far too long.
#10 Anonymous on 2007-11-14 09:02
For some encouragement, consider the brave, humble, wise churchmen who have spoken here (Fr. Hopko, the Frs. Wojcik, Fr Bobosh, Fr Vinogradov, and many others ... not least, +Job; and also many non-clergy churchmen, incl., of course, Messrs. Stokoe, Nescott and Wachter (to name only a sampling); and, of course, lets not forget the humble courage of Dn Wheeler. These good people won't take this evil standing still, and have by their well articulated words, their courageous acts, and their relentlessness brought the scandal to light, have inspired others to act and to pray and reflect and reassess, and have disallowed the corrupt to cloud the issue with their double speak, disinformation, and red herrings.
George, we can go nowhere in the world, in any community where women and men gather and organize, and find an absence of malice and dishonesty. Here, it is worse than in other places, shamefully; but here, too, we know it is present and we know it is so bad precisely because the light is held and shone by so many who refuse to hide it under a bushel. Like rats in the basement, now that we know they are there, we can exterminate them.
God bless the holders of the light, and God bless the exterminators.
#11 Anonymous on 2007-11-14 09:22
Wrong Fr. George. Mrs. Kondratick worked for the Pension Office which is its own separate entity apart from the OCA. She was not an employee of the OCA.
#12 Anonymous on 2007-11-14 10:34
I very much applaud and welcome the comments made by Fr. Michael Tassos re Paul Bodnar and the excess benefits issues. It appears Fr. Michael is making an effort to be responsive and open and to begin the process of rebuilding trust. However, people who work in the area of Human Resources must wonder about privacy issues with respect to the details of Paul Bodnar’s impending employment; whether in private industry or in government, normally such details are none of our business and would not be revealed. Lest Fr. Michael think I am presenting a “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t” situation, I will quickly add that the situation is not “normal” and perhaps extraordinary measures are helpful. Walking a fine line is Fr. Michael’s task and I don’t envy him.
(editor's note: I, too, applaud Fr. Michael's initial attempt at reporting. It is a hopeful sign, and one we should all encourage. He does have a difficult task ahead of him - but he has made a good start by speaking the truth, painful as it is.)
#13 Terry C. Peet on 2007-11-14 10:58
One question among many that has recurred over and over again in my mind for the past 2 years is: Why are clergy appointed or elected to positions of fiduciary responsibility? Because, as a class of individuals, they are most qualified? Clearly not. Because it is a means of providing service to the Church for compensation when there are few other vacant positions? Because priests who have a background in business, finance, or accounting are able to use their knowledge and talents for the upbuilding of the Church? Perhaps so.
One thing that is immediately apparent, though, is the capacity for conflicts of interest inherent in a dual fiduciary/clerical role to yield devastating consequences if the individual(s) in that role succumb to whatever temptations cross their path, or even act above reproach but are compellingly accused.
How ought one to feel when those who serve and shepherd the Church are named or implicated as they have been? When a priest acts as a treasurer or a bishop is given access to unmitigated authority, their spiritual role is inextricably mixed up with their fiduciary one. I am not usually a proponent of facile sacred/secular dichotomies, but it seems prudent and wise to keep a clean break in place between these areas of responsibility. The laity of the OCA have talent in abundance (as evidenced by the comments on this site, in part) to handle the financial concerns of the Church without inviting the particular kind of disaster in which we find ourselves, partly as a result of the dual role assumed by so many of our clergy. Whatever happened to delegating table-waiting in favor of the straightforward, uncompounded vocation of "prayer and ministry of the Word"?
#14 Andrew Kassen on 2007-11-14 12:56
I recently came across a description of what Great Leaders are supposed to be and how they should act. Interestingly enough this was published in a "secular" business magazine, yet it provides the Orthodox Church with a standard they should emulate. Sadly, we do not have anything close to this in our own leadership, except for Archbishop Job. I am providing the excerpt below so everyone can see and compare with what we have now in the OCA.
"Great leaders are celebrated for their judgment. But what is good judgment and how do the best leaders sustain it? It's not a matter of intellect or of the ability to make the right decision in an instant, but of character. Character provides the moral compass--it tells you what you must do. Then there's courage. It produces results, ensuring that you follow through on the decision you've made.
No matter what processes you follow, no matter how hard you try, without character and courage, no one can clear the high bar that is judgment. You may luck into making some good decisions and sometimes obtain good results, but without character and courage, you will falter on the most difficult and most important questions."
It is the responsibility of the employer, under US immigration law, when hiring an alien to accomplish all due diligence to make sure that their status is legal. If an employer hires someone, knowing that their status is not legal, the employer is open to sanction under the law.
I think the botched hiring of Bodnar is sadly indicative of the "we know better then the masses" and we will start paying this man, even though we should not, under the law. Elitism is alive and well in Syosset. The money pinch in New York might solve the Bodnar situation because you can't "loan" money you don't have.
#16 Anonymous on 2007-11-14 13:20
Most employment / HR issues are confidential, however not for corporate officers. If you would like to know the salary and benefits for any officer of a 501c3 required to file a form 990 with the IRS (religious organizations are exempt), you can look at them in the public record - sites like guidestar.org make them available.
For example, my salary and benefits as CFO at Hospice of Dayton were public record, based on that filing.
Further, corporate officials have to disclose their compensation in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
I don't think discussion of Mr. Bodnor's employment is in any way out of line.
Martin D. Watt, CPA
Dayton, Ohio / Las Vegas, Nevada
#17 Marty Watt on 2007-11-14 14:04
My recollection is that one of the canons (I'm at work, so I don't have with me my copy of The Church of the Ancient Councils, so can't provide you with which canon or which council.) provides that the Bishop shall appoint a Treasurer from among the clergy. It is probably with that in mind that searches for these appointments look first among the clergy.
Fr. Michael's appointment is a hopeful sign for the future. He really seems to know what he is doing.
#18 Edmund Unneland on 2007-11-14 14:27
Fr. Paul, are you too blinded to read your own obfuscations and double-talk? You mix piety with obfuscation, then tell everyone it is just too bad if they read it the way it is. You are lost, my brother. Lost. You know a lot and have a lot of confessing and repenting to do. Please lead the way out of the pit you have been in for so long. Please turn around and go the other way, before it is too late for your soul. Come to the Jesus that you so readily invoke in your self-serving defenses.
#19 Anon. on 2007-11-14 16:53
I agree with Mr. Kassen. Priests and especially bishops (because they are supposed to be monks, and therefore not to be interested in 'filthy lucre') should not be in positions where handling money or financial records is required on a day-to-day basis. I think it an appropriate role for deacons (as long as the deacon in question has the requisite skillset), since the original role of deacons was the administration of the temporal goods of the church - in fact, deacons were appointed in order that the Apostles might not "neglect the Word of God to wait tables".
This isn't to say that the bishops should not oversee the financials, since they are to oversee everything in their respective dioceses. However, having laity generally in charge of the financials with bishops overseeing would help prevent the festering of deeds in darkness that too often occurs where clericalism, rather than servant-leadership, exists.
#20 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2007-11-14 19:06
Thank you Fr. Michael,
Your recent post gives us cause for hope! Keep up all the good work and don't quit yet!
#21 Patty Schellbach on 2007-11-14 19:35
"I simply want to get us back on course".........where have I heard these words before.........having just read the doleful missive of Joe Swaiko's new lackey, Mike Tassos, one wonders if this new play for time will get the gang to the statute of limitations.......
#22 Guileless on 2007-11-14 19:59
More priests stealing!
#23 Still Comparing Scandals on 2007-11-14 21:32
God bless us all who in the spirit of love seek only the truth. i recently have left the oca after converting from the r.c. church- another body i felt, personnally, was run by men who gave the impression they were above the flock in which they were "serving"- the way the "leaders" of this church go about "serving" is as close to ridiculous as humanly possible- the greed and lies, and appetite for power need to stop
#24 john on 2007-11-15 06:18
I'm no fan of the current administration [alhtough I am willing to give the new officers a fair shot at fixing what is in their power to fix], but the controversy over the immigration status is off base.
As has been pointed out at least a couple of times, when hiring for professional positions, it is far from unusual to make an informal offer, and have that informally accepted, with the understanding that immigration issues will be addressed later (usually at the expense of the employer). Some large employers in tech fields keep whole immigration law firms at work full time on these routine issues.
There is a difference between hiring somone who is in the country illegally for a position that would not qualify them for an employment-based visa, and finding someone to fulfill a position the taking of which would alter their immigration status and then going through the routine process of altering the status.
We don't do much of this, but even in a small company, we've had to do it several times with Canadians.
#25 Rebecca Matovic on 2007-11-15 11:18
LOL, Still Comparing Scandals. Well, at least those priests were brought to justice...sort of.
BTW, the story says they spent the money partly on girlfriends. An 80-year-old priest with a girlfriend? The mind boggles.
#26 anonymous observer on 2007-11-15 15:53
"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already, in the ages before us" (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10).
Here is what St. Basil the Great wrote in the 4th Century:
“The ambition of men who have no fear of God rushes into high posts, and exalted office is now publicly known as the prize of impiety. The result is that the worse a man blasphemes, the fitter the people think him to be a bishop. Clerical dignity is a thing of the past. There is a complete lack of men shepherding the Lord’s flock with knowledge. Ambitious men are constantly throwing away provision for the poor on their own enjoyment and the distribution of gifts. There is no precise knowledge of canons. There is compete immunity in sinning. For when men have been placed in office by the favor of men, they are obliged to return the favor by continually showing indulgence to offenders. Just judgment is a thing of the past, and everyone walks according to his heart’s desire.”
#27 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2007-11-15 16:14
Thank you Father Ted for the very wise and relevant remarks of Saint Basil the Great. As I was finishing reading his inspired words, the phrase "according to his heart's desire" stuck in my mind.
The key to this scandal may indeed be found in the "heart's desire" of the various players. Such desires may well have been sexual in nature or avarice, as insinuated and charged. I have the nagging fear that it may have been something much more scandalous. I hesitate to say it because I have absolutely no evidence for it except for some understanding of how things were done in the Soviet Union/Russia. I hope that it is not true, but what if the missing money went to bribe officials in the old country? What if the bishops on the Holy Synod were not in on this but found out about it later? This could explain their inability to take action. They understand and know human sin and frailty is the normal situation for all of us. I am saying that a scandal that touches only sexual or avaricious behaviors would not be something for which they might risk the Church. On the other hand, if the OCA's current status was partly obtained by bribes, then the integrity and honor of two churches would surely be called into question.
Anyway, I pray and hope that was not the case. Bottom line: I simply cannot understand the behavior of our bishops in this scandal unless the cause was something other than mundane sins. The only other alternative is that they are so different from normal human beings that they may as well be from Mars.
Please forgive my unfounded accusatory ruminations. I am at my wits end.
#28 Carl on 2007-11-15 20:16
Everyone should go to the OCA Alaska Diocese website and look at the speeches from the 2007 Diocesan Assembly this week:
The Bishop of Alaska and his Archimandrite have proclaimed that all of us who do not agree with thier tactics and behavior are followers of Satan and are ourselves, evil...the Bishop also claims that since God Himself has made him the Bishop of Alaska, no one should oppose him...
...And the room (in Anchorage) full of Priests, Deacons, Matushki, Starosta, and Laity all just sat there and said nothing...it has gotten beyond creepy here, why won't someone help us,
#29 Moses on 2007-11-15 23:39
You may remember the movie, "As Good as it Gets."
What if this is "as good as it gets" with the OCA? Is anyone considering this?
What if no one steps down, there is no official change in position that one person is responsible for all elements of the scandal? What if the non-financial parts of the scandal are never addressed, but remain only the subject of periodic rumors?
What if there are fixes to assure greater accountability in the handling of funds, and the MC takes a more vigorous role in actually running the OCA?
What if the date for the AAC rolls around and the Midwest, along with whoever else is withholding at that time, hands over the all the money that has accrued during the withholding, rather than risk not being seated? What if the AAC is contentious, but there is an ultimate lack of consensus and everything goes along as before?
How much uncertainty and irresolution are we willing to accept in the end? How little real trust are willing to live out the rest of our lives with?
What will it take before we are happy to once again to donate generously when called upon to do so?
When we look at our children and imagine their future -- the temptations to loss of faith, their physical and moral safety within the OCA -- can we entrust them body and soul to the OCA clergy? Do we believe our pastors take moral danger seriously, and are prepared to deal with predators swiftly and decisively with no thought to cover-up? Has their track record justified that confidence?
In short, what if this scandal ends not with a bang, but a whimper?
The answers will be different for each of us. Maybe it is time to think about what we really want, what we will settle for, and what we will find intolerable at some point. If Metropolitan Herman stepped down tomorrow, would that be enough? Or would we require a substantial change of the Holy Synod, since they have shown a lack of leadership throughout? How about the Statute? Does it need to be revised to reflect the lessons of the past few years?
These are not rhetorical questions, although they may be read as such. I am asking for answers. Do we have any theologians who are willing to teach us, who can explain to everyone if there is really something more than "pray, pay and obey?" Do we have someone to step into this leadership vacuum in a consistent manner, and who is willing to follow the truth wherever it leads, and do what is necessary, however frightening and unpleasant?
Speaking for myself, I am double-minded about the church. I love my little parish with as much of my heart as my response to grace allows me to pry away from sin. But I don't have a lot of trust in the church beyond that. The scandal is, frankly, a spiritual distraction. I would love to be able to forget about this site, but I can't. There are too many unanswered questions. There is too much at stake.
Let me share something. The most precioius photos I have are of my twins receiving their Orthodox Scouting medals from Archbishop Job. The look in their eyes as at that moment is one any parent would treasure. There is awe, and trust, and love. They were 17 years old at the time.
Several weeks ago, one of them asked me in a quiet voice: "Is Archbishop Job a crook?"
I was flabbergasted, heartsick. I explained how nothing could be further from the truth, how this man has suffered, and the courage he has shown, and how proud we could be to have him as our pastor.
But I was also angry. I was angry that the trust captured in those photographs was now gone. I was angry that there had been no forthright discussion and action over a scandal that had trickled down to one of the smallest and most forgotten outposts of Orthodoxy in the Bible Belt. What millstones are waiting for so many necks! And what risk we all run that our sinful natures will allow us to get ourselves tangled in the ropes as our little ones are caused to stumble.
How can I tell my children, "No, Archbishop Job isn't a crook, and Father isn't, but I just don't know about the rest?"
There is a real possibility this will be as good as it gets, the most I can say to a sincere and puzzled young man who will soon be making up his own mind about whether he will go to church, remain Orthodox, pass this most precious legacy on to his own family.
Does anyone care?
#30 Timothy Capps, Esq. on 2007-11-16 08:51
Is back on track acceptable? "Back on track" to the OCA means lets get back to pilfering the checkbooks for our personal gains.
Lets take advantage of the laity once again and lets not tell anyone until we almost kill the OCA.
I think Back on track is bad news. The OCS needs a new track, new leaders up and down the ranks. Anyone in any position of power must go and be repalced by new clean blood.
Joe must go.
#31 Robert Holowach on 2007-11-16 12:03
"He had said, “ye are light.” Now the light reproves by exposing the things which take place in the darkness. So that if ye, says he, are virtuous, and conspicuous, the wicked will be unable to lie hidden. For just as when a candle is set, all are brought to light, and the thief cannot enter; so if your light shine, the wicked being discovered shall be caught. So then it is our duty to expose them.
How then does our Lord say, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”? (Matt. vii. 1, 3.) Paul did not say “judge,” he said “reprove,” that is, correct. And the words, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” He spoke with reference to very small errors… But what Paul is saying is of this sort. As a wound, so long as it is imbedded and concealed outwardly, and runs beneath the surface, receives no attention, so also sin, as long as it is concealed, being as it were in darkness, is daringly committed in full security; but as soon as “it is made manifest,” becomes “light”; not indeed the sin itself, (for how could that be?) but the sinner. For when he has been brought out to light, when he has been admonished, when he has repented, when he has obtained pardon, hast thou not cleared away all his darkness? Hast thou not then healed his wound? Hast thou not called his unfruitfulness into fruit? Either this is his meaning, or else what I said above, that your life “being manifest, is light.” For no one hides an irreproachable life; whereas things which are hidden, are hidden by darkness covering them."
St John Chrysostom. Homily on Ephesians 5 (this week’s epistle lesson)
The Church continues to speak to us. Will "they"ever listen?
#32 fledgling priest on 2007-11-16 14:26
Take heart George when you converted to the Orthodox Church you did find the One True Church. The Truth of our Faith isnt based upon the doings of man no matter how corrupt or how good those men and women may be. The Truth is based upon Christ and His body and Blood. Take courage and remember keep your eyes on Christ when the storm around you rages on. Christ is our sure foundation.
#33 Ambrose Stapleton on 2007-11-16 17:10
The issue of Paul's INS problems are common knowledge to most of us. When he was working for the GOA Metropolia of San Francisco, the paperwork wasn't taken care of and he is faced with that problem now. The excess benefits problems concerns former employees. It is too bad that Paul is having this problem withg the INS and hopefully, all will be straightened out soon.
#34 Yanni on 2007-11-17 16:57
In general, I have not supported the priest as Treasurer. I consider myself to be far more objective than the Canons on this matter, though I'm sure that will astound any Bishop reading. My reasons are simply that a priest should be a specialist in priestly matters, and the Treasurer a specialist in accounting.
I believe Fr. Michael a sound addition, but not unworthy of oversight since he is a priest. (twist of words there huh?)
#35 Daniel E. Fall on 2007-11-17 22:56
Amen, Counselor, Amen!
#36 Sdn Henry Shirley--St Herman of Alaska Chapel, West Bend, WI on 2007-11-18 08:17
The report by Fr. Michael Tassos gives me some hope. It seems like straight talk to me, and I think he deserves our prayers and gratitude for stepping up to this slippery plate.
Rdr. Alexander Langley
#37 Rdr. Alexander Langley on 2007-11-19 05:59
Yes, Tim the laity care and the outspoken clergy of the OCA care. But, at this time it seems that the only ones who have the power and authority to actually do something is the snyod of bishops. Archbishop Job has been outspoken. Each diocese's assembly have spoken. This website is producing results ever so slowly. Metropolitan Leonty, if I have the correct metropolitan, cleaned up some financial scandal and many have said we need another Metropolitan who can do this. This is a time for parish councils to start getting their amendments and proposals written for the All-American Council to take action in November, 2008. The laity have a voice, whether the synod of bishops like it or not. We are not the Roman Catholic Church with no laity representation. Connie
#38 cshinn on 2007-11-19 07:52
Tim, as a fellow Orthodox lawyer I share in your grief and assessment of the horrible situation in the OCA. Your post expresses some of the same serious issues and concerns me and my family have been dealing with.
I have never been so heartbroken and disappointed in the almost complete lack of ethical, courageous, and God-fearing leadership we are supposed to have in the Holy Orthodox Church. Since 2001 when many families in our parish saw with their own eyes how an entire Orthodox Christian community (St. Innocent's, Tarzana, CA) was literally sacrificed in order to assure the retirement of one priest (good friend of the retired Bishop Tihkon of the West) I have learned that something is terribly wrong in the highest levels of the OCA. Seven years have passed since then and the situation has deteriorated beyond despair both in our incredibly shrinking parish and in the OCA at large.
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