Wednesday, January 9. 2008
Your comments, thoughts and responses to the Archbishop's letter are welcome.
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Of course the allegations were true! Anyone knowing the character of Dn. Eric Wheeler and Paul Hunchuck know what they were trying to tell people was the truth. The problem is that RSK, + Herman and + Theodosius were hell-bent on hiding the truth - they still are! Even + Tikhon (retired) insisted Dn. Eric was the liar & thief - I wonder why? So, here we are and still no mia culpas or admissions of where the millions really went.....
#1 Anno-Moose on 2008-01-09 16:30
The point made by Vladyka Job back in 2005 that the character of the accusers or the accused was immaterial is equally applicable to the more recent situation that has disturbed the peace of the Church, and His Eminence appears to have paid a nasty price for his attempts to help the faithful being hurt. In case it isn't obvious, I am referring to the situation in Alaska.
It seems to me like there's a problem in figuring out the difference between uncanonical interference and legitimate intervention for the sake of the people. Surely this problem has come up sometime in history! Surely the canons, or the principles behind them, don't say that all other bishops must nose out and passively allow one bishop to bar people from communion on a whim, transfer clergy around when they've been convicted on DUI charges, or elevate registered sex offenders! Surely, that cannot be either the letter or the spirit of the law! Nevertheless, the same thing's happening as with Deacon Eric Wheeler: the person making the allegations, and those who support him, are being called "spiritually sick" or even "agents of Satan" while the accusations are ignored. Oh yeah, there was a show of an investigation, but the simple fact is that even the OCA's own policies have been circumvented, and now the accused have been empowered with a sense of being untouchable.
Even if Archbishop Job didn't do things "by the book" that doesn't change the fact that there are grave, escalating problems in Alaska that demand attention. Apparently, though, the faithful of Alaska don't stand a chance of getting any REAL help. Their ancestors had the intercessions of St Herman before the Tsar as well as before God, but from what we've seen happen, I can only figure that St Herman would have been punished too.
#2 Anonymous on 2008-01-09 19:13
I would assume that, since the accusations are true, someone in the OCA has the legal responsibility to file a lawsuit or take other action to recoup the money. Is that not true? If it is true, who would that be?
#3 Josephine on 2008-01-09 19:22
The real corruption start with the bishops and alot of back up from the small people. If the bishops knew then why did they stop it? All of the bishops and oca knew and nothing was done. All are guilty !!!! Not "one".
#4 Anonymous on 2008-01-09 20:50
A Qui Tam lawsuit is in order to prosecute the wrongdoers so we can put this ugly period behind us.
#5 Anon. on 2008-01-09 22:05
Tatiana Beretsoff’s Plea for Help
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thank you, Mark, for your continuing maintenance and editing of this site. It is a gift to all of us. Archbishop Job’s sermon is (sadly) the only possible pastoral response for this Christmas.
With the holiday break, however, I’m afraid that the urgent plea for help from Alaskan native, Tatiana Berestoff, posted on December 21, right before Christmas, will go unnoticed. This new revelation of abuse by Bishop Nikolai of Alaska in excommunicating a native Orthodox woman (whose family has presumably been Orthodox since the time of St. Herman) for being married in the chapel of a small Orthodox mission for troubled kids under the Bulgarian Archdiocese (and whose wedding was “pre-approved” –why on earth did it have to be?-- by the same bishop). .... Are we going to do something for her and for the others who have been, and continue to be, persecuted by him, or are we going to keep reading this site and shaking our heads?
Lighting transparent candles is a warm and appropriate symbol (and I do mean that – God bless those of you encouraging this for your sincerity), but Metropolitan Herman and Bishop Nikolai will not be moved by candles. How about some direct action? Why haven’t the priests and deacons reading this website formed their own clergy group to protest? Hundreds cannot be defrocked at once. Why can’t OCA members hold 24 hour vigils, with accompanying publicity, in front of these two hierarchs homes and churches until they step down? Or doing a large weekend march on Syosset or their homes? Perhaps one of you has a better idea? I am not a leader, but if anyone out there is, I will gladly follow and pay my own expenses.
I love and have the deepest respect for my archpastor, who is properly titled The Most Reverend JOB. As I recently wrote to him, I was appalled and livid when I heard of the bishop of Alaska speaking against him and seeking his deposition. In Archbishop JOB's concern for the good of the Church, he called a meeting to discuss very serious allegations (which are still being swept under what seems to be a very dirty rug). This is proper and right and good in God's sight. After all, we ARE our brother's keeper. (It was the first murderer who disavowed responsibility for his brother.) In humility, we are supposed to be accountable to each other. Archbishop JOB acted for the good of Alaska (including its bishop, if Bp NIKOLAI would only see it), and he was rewarded with yet another small martyrdom. May Vladika JOB's memory be eternal for what he has suffered at the hands of his own brothers, like Joseph! He has upheld the integrity of the Church for us all many times now.
With fear and trembling, I wish only to offer one counterpoint, which I think is both significant and necessary. I respectfully disagree with His Eminence's conclusion that his question, "Are the allegations true, or false?," has now been answered. His letter showed obvious pastoral concern and compassion, but such a conclusion --although well-intentioned--, is incomplete and premature.
Such a conclusion is premature because no investigative final Report has been released, and even the Preliminary Report (already edited for legal purposes) has still not been released, but only a generalized and completely unsatisfactorily brief "summary." "Summarized" by whom? This is not the report we were promised, by Metropolitan Council, by the Holy Synod, and by Metropolitan HERMAN.
Such a conclusion is incomplete in that the allegations were not just about Bob Kondratick's embezzlement. A year-and-a-half ago, on behalf of Metropolitan HERMAN, Protodeacon Peter Danilchik asked folks to list the questions we wanted answered, and assuring us that His Beatitude promised to provide complete and honest answers. In response, I started with the allegations of Protodeacon Eric Wheeler. Keep in mind, the questions below are not all the questions which demand an answer, but are just the initial allegations of October +2005. These are the allegations Archbishop JOB originally asked if true, and I believe none of them has been answered completely or honestly:
1) Who knew about funds which existed outside of the financial reports provided the administrative bodies of the church?
2) Upon trips to Russia and elsewhere, would large caches of liturgical items be offered for sale to OCA clergy and parishes at a high markup and the profits be unreported? Who knew this? Who did this?
3) Was the prevailing financial climate at the chancery was always one of concealment? Who knew this? Who did this?
4) Were there embarrassing credit card debts incurred by the Metropolitan? Who knew this? Who covered this up?
5) Were family members and/or relatives of Syosset and/or friends of Syosset given secret gifts or assistance? What was given? Who knew this? Who did this? Who received benefit?
6) Was blackmail ever paid by Church funds? What for? Who paid it? To whom was it paid? Who knew about it?
7) Were OCA funds used to squash scandal? Who knew this? Who did this?
What are the endowments which the OCA has received, and their total value? Where are the records?
9) Was cash ever given to visiting foreign dignitaries and "friends of Syosset"? By whom? Who knew about this?
10) Were numerous bequests not provided to the auditors for review? Who was responsible to provide them?
11) Were these "numerous bequests" never reported to any church administrative body? Who was responsible to report them? What was the monies used for? Who knew of this going on?
12) Were OCA funds deposited into accounts which either Metropolitan THEODOSIUS or Metropolitan HERMAN or Bob Kondratick personally controlled? Who knew this?
13) How much cash was taken out of the Mission, Seminary and Charity Appeals? When? By whom? Who knew? Where are the bank account records so as to verify amounts?
14) Were the funds given by the U.S. Department of Chaplains for bibles for Russia ($67,000.00) ever purchased and sent? Who was responsible to see that this was done?
15) Was $100,000.00 in donations for Russian assistance ever given to its designated recipients? Who was responsible for its diversion? Who knew?
16) How much did the ADM and AF donations total? Where did these millions go? Who took this money? Who knew about it?
17) Was our "External Affairs" line item in the budget misused for regular payments to cover Father Kondraticks personal Platinum AMEX card? By what treasurer? Who all knew of this deception and lying?
18) What exactly was the salaries of Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Metropolitan HERMAN, Bob Kondratick, Frs. Joe Fester and David Brum, and the other chancery staff?
19) Was a plan put into place by Metropolitan THEODOSIUS to present the offices of the law firm renting property within St. Catherine’s complex as the Andreas Conference Center? Who planned this? Who knew about it?
20) Was Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, as the Treasurer of the OCA, forbidden to include in his reports to the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council any mention of the managerial comments made by the auditors from 1997-1999? By whom? Who knew about this command to deceive?
21) Was the "Discretionary Account" of Metropolitan THEODOSIUS and then later Metropolitan HERMAN created and sustained in order to cover up financial impropriety? Who knew of this?
22) Was the resolution signed by the Holy Synod during the All American Council in 1999 calling for Metropolitan THEODOSIUS to deny any type of audit of the “Discretionary Account” actually prepared by legal counsel for the Metropolitan?
23) Did Metropolitan THEODOSIUS falsely accuse Protodeacon Eric Wheeler in front of the Holy Synod of wanting control over the “so called” private accounts? What will be the discipline for this outright lie to the Holy Synod?
24) Did lawyer Richard Rock run a “coverup” and work with Bob Kondratick to construct a paper trail for the “so-called” discretionary account from 1996 to 1999? Who else knew of this bearing false witness in order to cover up embezzlement of charity?
25) Did the discretionary account foot the bill for the personal attorneys for Metropolitan THEODOSIUS and Bob Kondratick and the accounting fees for Heinz and Associates for their review of the paperwork created “after the fact” by Richard Rock?
26) Did Metropolitan THEODOSIUS tell the Holy Synod of Bishops at the 2000 Spring Session that an external audit is not a canonical requirement and is an expensive and unnecessary exercise which causes internal turmoil rather than good order? Why did the bishops of the Holy Synod let him get away which such obvious diversionary lies?
27) How much money in total was deposited into the St Sergius Chapel account? Where was the money spent?
28) Metropolitan HERMAN cited "legal and privacy concerns" for not answering questions, after promising to answer them. What legal concerns would require a lack of financial disclosure to the member contributors of a non-profit? What privacy concerns would require withholding financial information from the very bodies (Metropolitan Council, the Holy Synod, etc.) which are by Statute entrusted with all financial decision making?
Today we have many more questions needing to be answered, but these are just the ones which Archbishop JOB demanded an answer to, and which I maintain have not been answered.
The lie we were being stalled with then by Syossetites was, "We don't know if the allegations are true (so don't speak up)." Later, the lie we were handed was, "Okay, the allegations are probably true, but there's nothing we can do about it (so don't speak up)." Now, Syosset's lie is "We know that in the case of one person, some of the allegations were true (so let's leave it at that, forget anyone else was involved, ignore the myriad of other serious allegations, pretend all is well and above all, don't speak up)."
This is not the way forward. We cannot say His Eminence Archbishop JOB's question is answered, if so much of his question is left unanswered, covered up, and still His Beatitude continues to thwart investigation through suspending and disbanding the Special Commission (which, in my view, was the very last glimmer of hope in the possibility of restoring trust in this administration; I have no confidence in His Beatitude's reconstituted, hand-picked "committee").
Finally, our rightly-beloved Archbishop's answer is unmeet, because it was not his to answer. The question he raised was properly addressed to Metropolitan HERMAN, our primate. Our Metropolitan has not answered the question directly or specifically or completely, but rather actively derails any attempt to find answers beyond his fall guy, Bob Kondratick.
One conclusion His Eminence Archbishop JOB makes is clearly correct: this "cannot be the end." Even if our good Archbishop's answer is enough --which he himself admits it isn't--, then his own original letter gives us the next step: "If the allegations are true, then much work must be done -- not only regarding facts, figures, and finances, but the restoration of credibility, honesty, truth, righteousness, integrity, and honor." I submit that the first order of business to restore credibility, honesty, truth, righteousness, integrity and honor, be the resignation of Metropolitan HERMAN and the reestablishment of our Special Commission for a full and complete investigation of all allegations and all involved, not just one person in one area.
I would like to end where I started out: recognizing His Eminence Archbishop JOB for his valor, and thanking him for the ever-needed reminder that our greatest responsibility is to repent ourselves. His courageous stand has brought him to the lowest points of his life. His suffering for the truth will not go unrewarded. He has emulated, in his small way, the Confessors of our Faith. But now, with so much of his question left unanswered, incomplete, and uninvestigated, is not the time to quit asking. His Eminence's heartfelt cry for all of us to enter into the "peace that passes understanding" includes asking for answers. (After all, our Prince of Peace Himself threw the moneychangers out of the Temple --and they hadn't even stolen anything, as our leaders have! Ananias and Sapphira simply underreported their own freewill donations, and received the death penalty for lying "not to men, but to God." Their discipline directly resulted in the blessed fear of the Lord throughout the whole church, the people holding their bishops in high honor, and "more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.") Peace and Truth are synonymous.
In the midst of this turmoil, while simultaneously calling for answers and resignations, His Eminence is quite right that we are only saved through our own repentance and confession. As essential as Metropolitan HERMAN's resignation is to the future of the OCA, and as essential as the cleaning up of Syosset is to the reestablishment of trust, it is all for naught if we ourselves are not seeking to aquire the Spirit of Peace.
Father Mark Hodges
Saint Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Mission
After reading this latest post, I am still amazed that nothing has been done to retrieve the missing funds. Monies were either stolen, misused or appropriated for personal gain and yet no legal action has been taken. Am I missing something here?
Monk James is saying that the real truth will be out shortly. What real truth? If someone takes money from me, I would immediately take legal action against that person. Should the OCA not be doing the same thing?
#8 Anonymous on 2008-01-10 06:56
Folks, Alaska is in turmoil! We have a bishop who is totally out of control and NO ONE is doing anything about it. What has to happen before any action takes place? ..... Please, we need help in Alaska!
#9 Who-Moose on 2008-01-10 07:19
I'm not a lawyer but, for what it is worth, I think that would depend on how the suit were defined. It seems to me the MC would be the proper body to file a suit against Robert Krondatick (or whomever) for any missing money. As pure hearsay I offer that someone speaking to someone on the Council heard that there was no chance of the money being recovered, 'it is just gone'. I don't know why that would be. Maybe people concerned with this question need to be in touch directly with their MC representatives (and let us all know what you learn!). Maybe there need to be resolutions made at the parish and diocese levels first. Maybe this could be a resolution at the upcoming AAC.
If the MC won't act (there may be interesting reasons) then people have wondered if there could be a class action lawsuit by the people of the OCA, but I think in that case it might have to be against the MC and the Holy Synod for not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities. That sounds like a path of endless and fruitless litigation, possibly involving insurance companies, etc.
I have wondered myself if the lawsuit against Kondratick hasn't been filed because the OCA would have to show that he was solely responsible.
#10 Rachel Andreyev on 2008-01-10 07:35
Thank you Fr. Mark for the courage to ask the questions which no-one else seems to have asked. In recent conversation with RSK one phrase kept cropping up - 'to protect the white hat'! RSK said that his prime concern as Chancellor was 'to peotect the whitw hat'! Does this not beg the qestion that the person to whom we should look for the truth is the present or former Metropolitan's? Is Theodosius now mentally competent to answer such questions?
Anyone who knows RSK is aware that he does not live on a grand scale and it would seem that for all the funds he is accused of moving little, if any, was moved in his direction! Where then were these funds moved to? Were they used as pay off's to cover up some scandal that involved the present or former 'white hat'?
When,and if, the questions asked by Fr. Mark are FULLY answered then,and then only, will we learn the whole truth of this sorry affair!
We should all give thanks to God for Archbishop Job and his deep commitment to finding out the truth(and he has only scratched the surface so far)for the good of the church.
We have first toconvine the present 'white hat' that he either stops the cover up or he goes! There can be no 'pussy-footing' on this - a stand must be made by ALL concerned,clergy and laity, to see that the covers are removed or else the Metropolitan is removed. For the good of the Church,the Gospel and for God this must not be allowwed to go on for another year without the truth being brought out into the light of day!
Archbishop Job - how would a white hat sit on your head!
#11 Archpriest retired in Florida on 2008-01-10 08:58
"It seems to me like there's a problem in figuring out the difference between uncanonical interference and legitimate intervention for the sake of the people. Surely this problem has come up sometime in history! "
Yes, a year or so ago when the other Patriarchs removed the Patriarch of Jerusalem.
#12 Michael Strelka on 2008-01-10 09:45
I have a question which will appear to be naive in light of some of the lengthy and apparently informed comments and reflections of some on this website. I am a convert of 12 years plus, relatively new to the OCA, out of ROCOR.
I am curious re: the silence of the clergy in this matter. Who can help me understand the energy behind such solid silence? It suggests a number of things to me. Perhaps I'm missing the critical point.
Great start of fair and decent questions that the second and politically inferior 2nd Special Investigative Committee must answer.
Thanks for laying it out so well for them.
Another question would be what were our/their losses on Wall Street over the last 15 years.
#14 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-01-10 12:10
Having asked the same question myself over the years, I have concluded that there is no one answer to your question. There are different answers, all with the same unfortunate result: silence. For the bishops, I believe the silence is born of complicity. For Syosset non-bishops, the same. For our priests and deacons, in a few cases it is complicity, but by-in-large I'd say it is a resignation to this complicity and a resulting fear of losing one's means of support ($) if one speaks up (is this cowardice?). For the laity, it is largely an apathy probably born from years of assuming "father knows best" when he probably didn't... and when the laity instead should have been thinking critically, stepping up, asking hard questions, and demanding accountability. So folks, in the end, we laity have failed our Church just as much as the leaders we have empowered improperly and trusted to a fault.
#15 Anon. on 2008-01-10 18:09
Yvette and Anon.,
From the silence of the bishops I infer three causes, all very troubling: (1) complicity in the alleged acts; (2) ignorance of the true responsibilities of a hierarch; or (3) cowardice in executing those true responsibilities. The second implies that the bishops as a group see the Church, which they are called to protect and expand, as embodied in the Primates and themselves alone -- which is a heresy and cause for their depositions if they do not repent. The third cause implies that each of the silent bishops is morally unqualified to remain a bishop and should be deposed if each does not repent and become vocal in the defense of the Church.
From the silence of priests and deacons outside the Central Church Adminsitration I infer two possible causes: (1) fear of retribution from their hierarch; or (2) ignorance of their responsibilities to protect and expand the Church. While I sympathise with their fear of retribution, I believe that part of their cross of parish leadership is the call to protect the flock given into their care when they are ordained; avoidiing taking up the cross of the defense of their flocks and the Church opens each and every cowardly priest and deacon to severe discipline, including deposition and excommunication. If the cause is ignorance of their clerical responsibilities, that implies that they were not worthy of ordination and should be deposed, if they do not repent.
What does the silence on the part of the laity infer? Three words come to mind: cowardice, ignorance, or apathy. At chrismation, each Orthodox Christian vows to follow Christ and the bishop, and to protect and expand the Church. Failure to execute those vows excommunicates the person, if that person does not repent. Dealing with the ignorance requires that each Orthodox Christian (a) have an understanding of what the Church has identified over the centuries as the responsibilities of the individual believer, and (b) execute those responsibilities, repenting when the believer falls short. Apathy is the abdication of the responsibilities that each believer, knowingly or unknowingly, vowed to undertake at chrismation.
At each each level of membership in the Church, many have fallen short in executing their responsibilities: I am certainly an example of that failure through both ignorance and apathy. Each time I find myself falling short of what I am called to do, I must repent. That is what Christ and His Church expects of each of us, no matter our position. It is a true and continuing struggle to meet the responsibilities of the believer. That is in part why Jesus speaks of "many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt 22:14).
#16 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-01-11 05:03
So, It looks like your Church does not want to be out done by the Catholic Church. Great job you idiots. Why in the world would you knowingly put a sex offender in any position of hierarchy in your church. Its great you want to help this predator redeem himself, but not at the expense of your congregation. Do not place them at risk, or put any of your congregations children at risk by potentially being influenced by him!!
#17 Sam Albanese on 2008-01-11 10:27
"From the silence of priests and deacons outside the Central Church Adminsitration I infer two possible causes: (1) fear of retribution from their hierarch; or (2) ignorance of their responsibilities to protect and expand the Church. While I sympathise with their fear of retribution, I believe that part of their cross of parish leadership is the call to protect the flock given into their care when they are ordained; avoidiing taking up the cross of the defense of their flocks and the Church opens each and every cowardly priest and deacon to severe discipline, including deposition and excommunication."
Not to disagree with your call for all to stand up and be counted, which is mostly very well put; however, in some cases there is a third possible reason: a priest fearing not so much personal retribution but retribution upon that very flock which is his particular charge in the local parish. When the only way to actually protect that flock is in fact to bide their time and not provoke the retribution of the hierarchy. In such a circumstance, the priest is indeed already bearing a cross.
And when those who hold the power to depose threaten deposition NOT for
-failure- to take up the cross, but rather precisely FOR taking up the cross and risking speaking up as Abp. Job has done....what then are these faithful shepherds to do? Who will guard the flocks when the over-shepherds strike the parish shepherds?
There may be more wisdom and patience than cowardice in those who do not yet speak up. (Though I don't say we should necessarily be patient very much longer.) I point this out not only to say, let's give the silent clergy the benefit of the doubt a bit longer at least, but also to say I think there is still hope.
#18 Valentine on 2008-01-11 15:14
How does it happen the Archbishop announces the allegations are true, then at the same time the OCA puts out a press release saying the same Archbishop Job is sending money in to them? Shouldn't there be an effort to recover the bamboozled money before trusting the same leadership with more?
I get confused. On the other hand, the Orthodox Church deems it wise to laicize divorced priests who seek to remarry while giving higher rank than they end up with to registered sex offenders in Alaska.
A new and deep understanding is revealed in the phrase:
Wondrous are the ways of bishops.
(Editor's Note: The Archbishop has just posted a letter explaining his reasons for do so. )
#19 Harry Coin on 2008-01-11 15:24
Thank you for offering another plausible reason for the deafening silence of the priests and deacons of the OCA. I wonder if the fear of retribution upon the parish is more likely a rationalization of fear for themselves. At what point must the parish leadership, whether clergy or laity, put the welfare of the Church ahead of the welfare of the parish? I know that it is a difficult question to consider, let alone answer: it has been a personal struggle over the past year-and-a-half; and I have seen up close the struggle of my parish leadership -- our priest, our deacons, and current and former members of the Parish Council -- trying to find an acceptable answer. But, at some some point, the priests, deacons, and the laity must take a stand for the Truth and the welfare of the Church, of whom they are vital members. I am convinced that the current scandals facing the OCA are well beyond that point where all must speak out in the defense of the Truth and the welfare of the Church.
#20 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-01-12 05:12
"I wonder if the fear of retribution upon the parish is more likely a rationalization of fear for themselves."
We may wonder. I doubt if one answer fits every case. Please forgive me that I cannot give specifics I know of in one diocese. I do hope that people can keep it in the back of their minds that local situations do differ and add a further wrinkle to the crisis.
I don't think you're wrong to keep asking the question and putting the pressure on, and I agree the time is at least coming soon, by the time of the AAC, when we need to see some leadership from our clergy. I have just read on the AAC Planning Yahoogroup that a group of clergy are working on an alternative agenda. So there is hope!
#21 Valentine on 2008-01-12 14:25
Thank you again for the reminder to continue to consider new possibilities regarding the situations possible in each parish and diocese.
The Yahoo Group "2008 All-American Council Planning" is intended as a forum where laity and clergy can prepare themselves to exert more influence over the running of the Council in Pittsburgh than they seem to have had in Montreal or Orlando. The initial focus of the group is on (a) promoting the study of parliamentary procedure, and (b) drawing up an alternative agenda and resolutions for presentation from the floor of the Council.
#22 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-01-13 05:04
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