Wednesday, May 10. 2006
Yes, No; Right on or just plain wrong? Your comments welcome as we await the results of the investigation.
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Your editorial, as usual, is right on target! "Truth" is a necessary pre-condition and non-negotiable modus operendi for any religious institution professing to represent and serve God. The greatest damage historically to Christain witness has been a failure to live up to this mandate. No matter how painful and seemingly counterproductive, facing the Truth is required of all--even religious institutions. At least the Christian Church has the assurance, come what may, that the "gates of Hell" will never prevail.
Kenneth R. Tobin
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
#1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-05-10 11:06
The first resignations should come from the current treasurer (Fr. Paul Kucynda)who has been in and out of that position, as well as other postions for many years, as well as the current comptroller (Fr.Steven Strikis) who has been keeping the SLOPPY books for many years!!!
#2 George Peterson on 2006-05-10 12:09
Kudos to the editor!
I agree, the first to resign should be Metropolitan Herman. In the words of Bishop Nikolai, as reported by OCANEWS, "if the Metropolitan did not know what was going on, he should have", after all, according to the Metropolitan;s letter, he took full responsibility.
#3 James Tsudulis on 2006-05-10 12:48
Cleaning the ENTIRE lot of them is the way to go. This makes the most sense. There is NO way one man acted alone, everyone must go, we as members of the OCA need to start fresh! Let the healing begin.
#4 Natasha Trubitskow on 2006-05-10 12:52
I feel the pain, but have a little hope that truth will ever come out "for the sake of the church".
We are just a humble people who pays for everything, they have the power and ability to dress their decision in the right words, so we will believe.
There is an expression in russian "duraki ostalisj v durakah..."
(Fools remain fools)
It is not too hard to manipulate people. and people allow to do it with them. At the end we are responsible for what we get. I just hope that I am not right and we will see a huge change for better, honest change without compromise.
#5 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-05-10 13:23
As you said Mark, Metropolitan Herman has kept his diocese business secretive. It's time that St. Tikhon's Seminary, Montastery and religious center are audited and made public. Nothing less should be expected! There are many other institutions in the OCA that should be looked at as well. I'm not talking about looking back a couple of years either let's have full transparency and look back 20-30 years. Great Editorial!!!
#6 Steven Volkov on 2006-05-10 14:45
Ah, yes. Heads must roll. However, how can we be sure that the 'right' heads roll or that the 'heads' who replace them are going to be any better? Is it not much more sensible - not to mention 'Christian' - to find out what happened and how it happened and who was in a position of responsibility when it happened before the guillotine is rolled out and the cry for 'blood' raised?
I say this for several reasons. To begin with, much of what has happened must involved former Metropolitan Theodosius. I knew him as a younger man when he used to come from Syosset and enjoy Vespers in St. Andrew's and play frisbee with Fr. John Sochka's son, Michael. No one in the world could suggest that Theodosius was dishonest. However, he did suffer later on from prostate cancer (he was treated by my physician) and is now suffering, if reports are correct, from Alzheimers disease, a very sad fate indeed for such a good man. It could well be that he was suffering at least the beginnings of that malady when all of this matter started and that his behavior was misunderstood by those around him. If anyone thinks that such a thing can't happen, I remember Rita Hayworth appearing on a late night TV show and how strange she was. People thought she was drunk, but, in fact, she was in the beginning stages of Alzheimers.
It may be that the bishops and priests around Theodosius were trying to understand and/or protect him. Certainly, from what I have seen, one really cannot entertain the thought that someone in the National Church absconded with millions of dollars or was made rich by ongoing embezzlement! So it would seem, at least to me, that this matter was allowed to progress for a long time more because those involved did not know how to handle the matter without causing scandal rather than that they were either incompetent or uninterested in the well being of the Church. Does that relieve them of all fault? Certainly not. But it does ameliorate their failure. We know from Scripture and Tradition that God understands and accepts our intentions as well as our actions, even when those intentions lead to less than favorable actions.
Therefore, before there are blanket calls for retirement or dismissal or names and reputations are smeared beyond recall, let us await the findings of the investigation which is now underway. As Christians, it is infinitely better to err on the side of compassion and forgiveness than on the side of anger, yes, even righteous anger.
M. Valerie Protopapas
#7 Matushka Valerie Protopapas on 2006-05-10 15:53
I agree, Natasha, and with what Mark also said, that all of them should go. We need and deserve to start anew with the legal, wholesome, and sound principles that must attend any organization that is handling millions of other people's money.
Great editorial, Mark.
#8 Patty Schellbach on 2006-05-10 18:19
Come on Steven, your comment has to be a joke!!!
How about we audit all the Diocese offices, to ensure they're being honest?
And when they're done, we'll audit the local churches to make sure they're being faithful.
What about the churches, who when census time comes, they pay dues for 100 people when in reality they have 200 or more. Are they being truthful and honest?
Please tell me you're not being serious.
#9 Michael Livosky on 2006-05-10 20:08
To the editor,
Please? Let me understand…
If you don’t get the answers you’re expecting in the end, will it really be over? If not, when will that be? 2 years, 5 years, 10 years down the road? This church will be long gone if it has to sustain this for that period of time. The most unfortunate thing is; those of you in the forefront of this smear campaign feel you’re doing a good and decent thing for the church. Should this backfire in your face, will you ever be able to look into a mirror? Will you feel any guilt by destroying this church? Cause if it doesn’t work out the way you think it is, we’ll put you right next to Fr. Schmemann, he, as the one who gained autocephaly and you as the one who buried it.
You’ve talked to me about “The overcoming of sin and the renewal of trust, openness and love in the OCA is not my job, nor Gregg's (Nescott) job, nor the Metropolitan's job. It is the "job" of all of us, together.” And in a perfect world that’s how it would work. That quote, albeit quaint and thoughtful, will never work. You talk about the church having a higher standard. I’ve lived the last 19+ years of my life hearing about the Federal Government having a higher standard, and in my case specifically, the military having a higher standard. In reality though, these institutions as well as the church are run by human beings. And human beings make mistakes. Whether they’re honest or with criminal intent. Ultimately, here on earth and in the 21st century, there is going to be a group of people who are not going to accept what the final result is, you included. That’s their problem, right?
See, what this website has started and the avenue it chose to speak its views have done irreparable damage to the church as a whole and that can’t be denied. This church is so widely divided right now; I can’t believe it will ever get back to its once proud heritage and tradition.
The credibility of this church is out the door. HELLO, a good and decent man got fired for so many different reasons now that I’ve lost count. And it was published in who knows how many different newspapers around the world. But according to you, it’s the right thing to do. The WORLD is watching our church disintegrate right in front of us. To the point there is already talk about uniting and reuniting and whatever other terms people are using. Yep Mr Stokoe, this was absolutely the right thing to do!!!
In the end, whether this problem is fixed or not; people will forever question what goes on at the “Headquarters OCA.” That will never change.
#10 Michael Livosky on 2006-05-10 20:26
Excellent editorial. The painful reality is that the folks still in place in the Central Church, Holy Synod, Metropolitan Council, various Committees and Seminaries are most of the people who surrounded Fr. Bob, Metropolitan Herman and Metropolitan Theodosius during these scandalous years. How could anyone praise the bishops here? They should be the first to go. They presided over this debacle! These people, at best, turned a blind eye to the abuses, and, at worst, participated in abusing many people. This is a MORAL MORASS. It is now time to pay the piper. They must continue to find their salvation outside their current positions. I share the doubts expressed in these posts that an adjustment hear and a fix there will do any good at all. We need a clean slate to get moving. Otherwise, we will never know when the "old guard" that is allowed to stay in place will continue to ply its hidden agendas. Trust has been severely compromised and can only be restored by the truth, as this editorial asserts. Any less of a result may permanently compromise the confessional and make trust impossible to re-establish. At that point we can relegate the OCA to a historical footnote. Let's not let that happen. We have an opportunity for great achievement or failure, depending upon how we respond and what we do. Doing nothing (the default leadership behavior in the OCA) is not an option if we hope to succeed with God's help.
#11 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-05-10 20:52
I absolutely disagree with those calling for the termination of Herman(JS). You can all easily sit back and second guess his non-action in past years, but the bottom line is the OCA never had solid rules in place and now Metropolitan Herman is saying there will be rules; much to the dismay of some of his fellow Bishops. If the Metropolitan changed every four years, it is unlikely this would have gotten fixed any sooner or ever. Ponder change in an orthodox (unchanging) environment, and pardon my pun.
LOOK! at how difficult it was to terminate Fr. Kondratick. It required a special session, and keeping out the other Bishops. Do any of you grasp the depth of this event? Imagine a new Metropolitan coming in and doing that in the first year; unacceptable. The second year; unacceptable. Would it be okay third year? He was asked to resign this year for this action.
I'm sorry, but the nature of this beast is a governance problem. The church governance clearly doesn't work because Met. Herman couldn't even consult the other Bishops to terminate Fr. Kondratick. There are apparently few/no rules in place that govern the administrator.
If people think that bad accounting should result in everyone getting canned; your wrong, here's why. It means the Met. Council, the admin staff, and the Holy Synod should all be fired, and that all the past personnel of those bodies, and even the All American councils are equally accountable, including the editor here. It isn't that simple because the governance structures are absent. What is in place to stop the Metropolitan from taking money from the church? If he did take money, could he be fired by the Met Council?
It is a courageous and bold thing for a leader to say I've done wrong by non-action, it is bolder to say I will make things right. It is far easier to walk away. Metropolitan Herman is taking the tougher path and everyone should recognize that, even if he hasn't been fast at it.
People should be fired if they don't make the future bright for our church by learning from the mistakes of the past and putting things in place that minimize/reduce the likelihood.
For example, Metropolitan Herman calling for an annual third party audit that must be completed by June 1 of the following year, would be a good standard to set for the future administration. Failing to meet budgets or overspending should also be met with consequence, perhaps for the Metrpolitan himself. How does the church terminate a Metropolitan if he is embezzling money? Do we have the needed governance structures for this? I doubt it.
The only terminations that should happen are for willful wrongdoing and people that stand in the way of recognizing and fixing the governance problems.
#12 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-05-10 21:16
The OCA should institute a mandatory retirement age of 75 for all of its bishops. The catholic church has this age requirement and we should too. It's time we open the door and let some "fresh air" into the church! If this age requirement were implemented half of the current Holy Synod would be replaced.
#13 Richard Woods on 2006-05-11 05:24
Why oh why is it so hard for some of you to believe that one person could possibly have been the sole culprit?
Don't any of you realize how much control and power Fr. Kondratick had?
In a sense, he WAS both Metropolitan and Chancellor without the white klobuk in the previous administration!
Sadly, it appears that Syosset was perhaps a place of fear and intimidation. Don't buck the system or ask any questions.
You'll ALL be treated well. So well in fact, that you couldn't possibly believe any of the stories you'll hear if this mess ever leeks out and you'll fiercely defend me should you hear any rumors.
I for one, firmly believe that one person has acted alone in this whole mess, has gotten caught and now has faced the beginning consequences of his shameful actions.
It's time to wake up people. Nobody else has been blamed or accused of any wrongdoing. The previous Chancellor apparently HAD TOTAL CONTROL OVER EVERYTHING and excelled at doing whatever he wished. Now look at the mess he's left the church to clean up.
#14 Anonymous on 2006-05-11 06:35
I find it very odd that according to Fr. Paul Kucynda's biography he has no credentials whatsover to be the Treasurer of the OCA, not a CPA, no finance degree, no practical experience. What's even more troubling is that this is his SECCOND stint as treasurer. Who is hiring these people?
Excellent editorial Mark!
#15 Alex Lentini on 2006-05-11 10:38
Excellent editorial, Mark.
This paragraph says it all:
Sadly, more than a decade of half truths, lies,
deceptions and secrets have led us into a
morass of sin, scandal and demoralizing decline.
More half truths, lies, deceptions and secrets will
not lead us out.
Whatever else happens or is going on, whatever is in the minds of people directing the efforts to deal with this, they need to understand this point. The church has been hurt by the half-truths and deceptions far more than by the accusations. Silencing the debate without openly addressing the issues will destroy us -- maybe appearances could be preserved, but the reality of church life would rot.
#16 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-05-11 10:42
Steven, you're on target. Audit them all. I sense that you know of irregularities from which many of us have suffered.
Matushka Valerie's rational for the actions leading up to this investigation may be plausible, but to me it's only a lovely fairy tale. My story is different. Money was being diverted for many years with apparent escalation of the "takes." The greed spread. The circle of takers expanded and would have continued without the efforts of people with conscience like Eric, Mark, and the many contributors to this website.
Clearly, fault does not lie with a single person.
As christian people, we have an obligation to put an end to these unchristian practices.
#17 One of the Flock on 2006-05-11 13:21
Hard to believe??? Have you read the comments coming out of the OCA, everything points to a cover up! Five years of battling between the Metropolitan and the Chancellor, yet the Metropolitan re-appointed the Chancellor in JULY OF 2005. The Metropolitan is clearly in self preservation mode!!!
#18 Eric A. on 2006-05-11 14:31
The only answer I am "expecting" is the truth. I am hoping that the truth will be fully revealed in the next month; but if it is not, well then, if it takes another 2 years to achieve it, so be it.
If you, like a few others, think our autocephaly is threatened by this financial scandal, I believe you are overreacting. Nor is the tradition or heritage of our Church threatened by the possible misconduct of a few. Only our pride may be wounded, and that, perhaps is not such a bad thing.
The credibility of the former administration may soon be "out the door", but not the credibility of the Church. The latter remains to be seen. On the other hand, the credibility of the Gospel was never threatened by this; and so, the Church is safe. Administrations come and go, the Gospel endures.
I hope people always question what goes on at "headquarters OCA". I do not believe asking questions is a sin; nor necessarily a bad thing. I do not think naivete is a virtue. Naivete is the handmaiden of innocence, and the sister of stupidity. I have many sins, but naivete is not one. You say working together will not work; I say, it has already begun in the 700 OCA parishes, 10 dioceses, 1 Council and 1 Synod that makes up the OCA.
#19 Editor on 2006-05-11 14:45
Michael, why are you afraid of knowing the TRUTH?
Mark, this an excellent summary of this web-site!
Lets wait and see if the METROPOLITAN will reveal the total findings of this investigation, and not be secretive in any
information that is uncovered,right or wrong.
Many should read your comment Matushka and sit back and digest it.
Do not condemn without proof
#21 Tina Rhodes on 2006-05-11 17:18
I really enjoyed Fr. Robert Arida's 5-11 Reflection along with Mark's 5-10 Editorial. I also enjoyed Daniel Fall's wary eye on what is realistic for the future of our church.
What I believe this web site to be giving to the church is a great powerful surge of confidence and vision for change for the good, for its future and its hope.
Christ says, "Be ye perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." I believe Christ is speaking from am calmness and confidence as he says this, not from an ideal too high to reach. There is hope and life and vision in these words. As we acend closer to Pentecost, there is the Holy Spirit in these words. We have been called from baptism, to be filled with the Holy Spiirt. It is not some ideal "out there" but a reality that has been given to us as God's gift, that is attainable.
We just can't settle on the mediocre status quo for our OCA that has dug a huge black hole into today's situation with the potential desired loan of 2 million dollars.
There is such an opportunity next week for the boldness of the Holy Spirt to be present and for the truth to sought after and for so many wholesome actions to be taken.
If many people are let go of their jobs at Syosset, then they are let go of their jobs. They still are God's children, as we all are. They still have their priestly function and calling (for probably the majority of them). Was it Reagan who fired all those air traffic controllers who illegally went on strike? They still had their talents and skills and personhood for another day and another season.
The success of the 5-23 Spring session of the Holy Synod, which, to me, should be considered an extraordinary session, can be pulled off for the good of the church. But will this group really want to surrender to God? Will there be some in this group who can steer this meeting towards the vision of righteousness and perfection that is particularly called upon with those who lead? Will there be those good people and bishops who will surrender the pride, who will surrender the fascades, who willl surrender to humility, for the good of the church?
The OCA leadership must stop acting like the Keystone Cops, running all around the bollowing fire trying to put it out, when the committment to truth will have put it out a long time ago.
I know I will not stop hoping and praying for such an end. I believe this web site stands as a holy vigil for such an end.
#22 Patty Schelllbach on 2006-05-11 19:01
If you are so sure of everything you have written, why do you choose to remain anonymous? Certainly we deserve to know who we are dealing with.
#23 Tina Rhodes on 2006-05-11 20:49
My question is why the administrative spots are held by clergy. Is there a need to have absolute obedience in these jobs? Certainly that isn't a requirement in any other organization (save perhaps the military). Neither are the central administrative tasks a jobs program for parish-less clergy.
The Metropolitan Council should be hiring the administrative staff, starting with the Chancellor, and including the major officers. They can then hire their support staff, based on the budget approved by the Metropolitan Council.
The Bishops should not concern themselves with "waiting tables" (cf. Acts of the Apostles).
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#24 Marty Watt on 2006-05-12 07:52
Patty, I pray the bishops hear you, humble themselves, embrace the truth, be honest and open with the laity, and move forward for the good of the church. Amen
#25 Hopeful on 2006-05-12 08:38
I have been thankful that this website exists and felt it has a role because unfortunately, the issues under discussion have not been properly resolved by those who should have resolved them and the faithful have not been sufficiently informed of how the OCA operates as a legal entity.
However, this ''gadfly' role (common in free societies and their public discourse) can only be served entities who themselves play by the sorts of rules they seek to see perpetuated in their targets.
The editorial decision to allow anonymous comments is so fundamentally contrary to the ideals of honesty, integrity, transparency, and simplicity that I do not believe the site can credibly participate in this discussion. Until such time as comments are discontinued or integrity is enforced I consider myself an opponent of the site. Meaning, I strongly suspect it will do more harm than good in the long run.
We are given names for a reason. We are expected to do what we do for God in His name, under the name He has given through the Church. If God is calling you to tell the world something, He is calling you to put your name on it. If you can't put your name on it, you don't need to say it. I really think it is that simple.
If you have something that must be said and can't expose yourself contact someone who is willing to put their name on it and cite 'a credible source' if they can be convinced you are one.
Its a shame.
#26 Symeon on 2006-05-12 10:29
Fr. Kucynda has dilligently and faithfully served the church for many years in various capacities. I might add he has done so VOLUNTARILY AND WITHOUT COMPENSATION.
His full time job encompassing 60 hours per week is spent as a full time parish priest with a fairly large parish. The other 25 hours he works weekly is spent trying to clean up the financial mess within the OCA.
I shudder to think where our Church would be today on May 12th without men like Fr. Paul Kucynda who donate their time and talent to the Church .
The finances have never before been better protected within the OCA since Fr. Kucynda was reappointed as Treasurer!
#27 Michael Geeza on 2006-05-12 12:06
I've posted with my name and annonymity bugs me ... but I do think it's necessary to allow people to protect their identities.
Some bishops have made it clear that they don't want anything said by their clergy. The administration has shown itself in the past to be vindictive and punishing to priests who don't tow the line.
As many people have pointed out, the questions under consideration and discussion here are urgent -- but they are also not matters of faith. I don't think we can fault concerned clergy and their families for 1) wanting to engage in the discussion and 2) not being willing to risk martyrdom for so doing.
Having said that, I really can't see a reason for any lay person to hide their identity. But saying that only clergy and clergy families could be anonymous would lessen the anonymity of those postings ... it's a really hard call and I think Mark is navigating a difficult issue.
But it would be very helpful if people carefully considered if they really need to be anonymous ... if you're not afraid of losing your home and your parish, what exactly are you afraid of? If it just feels uncomfortable to go on the record -- well, get a backbone.
The calls for openess gain credibility when average folks in the (figurative) pews, the people who their own parishes recognize and trust, make their feelings known on the issue.
#28 Rebecca Matovic on 2006-05-12 14:47
You are judging others with no idea about what some of us laypeople have been through with regard to this scandal, the way we may have been mistreated by some of the perpetrators of this scandal, or what our life circumstances might be right now that would prevent us from revealing our identities.
I applaud you for identifying yourself, but would respectfully request that you refrain from judging those who wish to participate but need to choose a different course than yours. One is not better than the other, they're just different. Let us stay on topic and not get diverted.
#29 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-05-12 16:06
Perhaps if our bishops did wait a few more tables we would start seeing more pastoral humility.
Our church is a mess. The pomposity and pretentiousness among Orthodox bishops throughout the world is an enormous obstacle to true witness. People are becoming less and less tolerant of the medieval regalia. It seems to serve only to puff up the human being standing underneath it.
#30 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-05-12 16:19
Why do you have such trouble with annonymity? Our clergy practice it daily in the confessional. We, each one of us, keep confidences in the course of our daily lives. What is so strange here? Life is not simple nor are our individual circumstances the same.
Also, why do you assume that Mark is posting annonymous articles without a knowledge of the sources? I have found him to be an extremely responsible journalist. If you want to know my name out of curiosity's sake, well that expression "Curiosity killed the cat" might apply.
If Mark changed the rules on annonymity, I would have to stop contributing. It is that simple. However, I do take my responsibility regarding what I say anonymously very seriously. We must work to build up in this circumstance, not tear down. Our beloved Church hangs in the balance.
Some of us have been hurt deeply by the OCA. I, for one, am gun shy frankly. I do not yet trust that the "powers that be" that have hurt so many people including me and my family are done with their agendas. If you do think it is over, great. We differ. I do not.
May I suggest that you may want to consider tempering your judgmentalism and let us just stick to the facts of this situation. In my case anonymity is a painful but realistic choice... for the time being. When it changes (and if I am allowed to continue contributing on this site) I'll let you know.
#31 Name Withheld by Request on 2006-05-12 16:39
Michael, I question Fr. Kucynda's qualifications as Treasurer. I could put 80 hours a week towards being an engineer, but if I am not a QUALIFIED engineer, what good is it. By the way, there is still an ongoing investigation in which Fr. Kucynda should be knee deep in, after all he was Treasurer during the time is which these supposed allegations took place!
#32 Alex Lentini on 2006-05-12 17:18
I thought what I was saying was that if you have good reason to be anonymous, then you should be able to post anonymously. But also that people should think about their reasons and identify themselves if able to do so. Not quite sure where the judgment is in that, but if I unintentionly conveyed judgment, I apologize.
#33 rebecca Matovic on 2006-05-12 17:24
I have never said I was afraid to hear the truth. I simply asked that if the answers that come out are not what the editor is expecting, then when will this end? Mr Stokoe answered that question.
Contrary to your question, I think the WHOLE truth will be a very relevant part of the final equation. But that’s easy for me to say, I have no involvement whatsoever in this, nor will it effect my life. I can only control what goes on day-by-day to Michael Livosky.
I, like many on this website, now have little to no faith in what comes out of Syosset. Just based on the last few posts by Mr Stokoe, it seems like there have been several knee-jerk decisions, more and more questions being raised about the Metropolitan for his decision-making or lack thereof and the fact that the information coming from Syosset could be true, false, fabricated or someone trying to cover their own rear end. I just don’t know any more.
What I am though is totally at odds with myself on if the WHOLE truth will ever come out.
Much to the dismay of many of the commenters on this website, I still don’t believe that one man could have done this by himself. Let us remember, we’ve only heard one side of the story and there are 3 sides to every story: the accuser, the accused and the real story. And the accusers side of the story has already “publicly convicted” one man. In fact, such to the point that I’m sure when/if he does decide to tell his side of story…many people will immediately deem him a liar and a crook like they already have. And that would be a really sad ending to the story.
Let’s be honest here. There are a lot of people, who in their own subtle way, have said they don’t care for Fr Bob and to each his own. They may deny that claim to your face, but inside, that’s how they feel. And I will go out on a limb and say that a lot of the division in this church right now is because of that one, single knee-jerk decision. And whether people agree or not with the decision, it has had a huge impact on what a lot of people are now viewing this situation to be.
#34 Michael Livosky on 2006-05-12 19:19
Being naive is no virtue. However, maintaining a drum-beat of accusation, speculation and recrimination is no virtue either. Read the Psalms and Proverbs. In them one sees that the tongue (or, in this instance, the hand) is the most dangerous member of the body for it is able to do damage to others that can never be undone.
Suffice it to say that the matter is in the open and being investigated. Silence should now be maintained until such time as we are given the results of the investigation. If no results are forthcoming, then it is time enough to raise questions again. No one is suggesting that the truth not be known. However, I have read a great deal of speculation in these posts and, as everyone knows, speculation is not 'truth' or 'fact'; it is conjecture and, as such, subject to individual prejudices (whom in the Chancery and/or National Church do/don't I like etc.) and just plain bad guessing. Yet, once the words are on paper or spoken, they cannot be recalled and the person smeared by them can in no way retrieve what has been lost of his reputation.
The Christian thing would be to stop all speculating and guessing and pontificating until such time as the facts are made known or there is an obvious attempt to prevent them from being known. At that time, hopefully, we will all be more knowledgeable and clear headed in our assessment of the situation.
M. Valerie Protopapas
#35 Matushka Valerie Protopapas on 2006-05-12 20:55
Christ is Risen!
Thank you for your wonderful editorial. Your editorial, along with the letter of Fr. Thomas Hopko eloquently articulate the state of affairs.
Having read through the numerous posts to the site over the past couple of months it strikes me as bizarre that so few people are looking above the trees and examining the forest as a whole. What I mean by this is if you look at some of the criticisms being leveled they ignore a number of basic fundamental points. For example, those that say that Fr. Bob Kondratick couldn't possibly have worked alone are naive. Or "why have people with no credentials such as a CPA been allowed to hold certain positions?" The answer is that the Orthodox Church, and in particular the Orthodox Church in America, is a very small church. It has deluded itself into thinking that it is much bigger than it really is. If not Fr. Bob, then who else were they going to get to take the job? How many Orthodox priest CPAs or MBAs do you know? And leaving aside the priest part of it, how many CPAs or professionals with MBAs would be willing to work for the salaries that the OCA could pay? And it is not just those in Syosset. The OCA has numerous tragic examples of clergy and people who would never have been ordained or given positions if it weren't for who they knew or the need to fill a position in a very short time. Who in his right mind, for example, would even suggest someone to the episcopacy with only one year of seminary education?
Just as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is meeting this week and coming to grips with a number of realities, such as the fact that most of the children of emigres that founded the churches in America no longer speak Russian and that the Russians coming from the former Soviet Union are markedly different than the Russians of a generation ago, so too does the OCA need to take a good hard look at itself.
The problems in Syosset were not caused by one rogue priest and they were probably not perpetrated by one person. As I have read in the documents on this web site it is clear that there was a lot of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul because no one wanted to fess up and say that the OCA had no money. It didn't have the money to go to Russia, it doesn't have the money to pay the current mounting debts and it sadly squandered the money given to it for a variety of noble causes.
It is so tragic because the answers are so blatantly obvious, one Orthodox Church in this land of America. We have absolutely no need for a Russian Church or an Arabic speaking church or a Greek speaking church. If you don't think so, then I encourage you to go to the ROCOR web site or the SOBOR2006.com website and read the beautiful lectures on Orthodox Youth. It spells it out very clearly, if you want to be an ethnic ghetto say good by to your children and your children's children, because they will most likely leave the Church.
We need the incredible talents in all of the jurisdictions in America and yet we stand passively by as the church erodes. As someone who was raised in ROCOR, attended an OCA seminary and now serves in the Antiochian Archdiocese, I can say unequivocally that there is genuine good in all of them.
#36 Fr. Michael Tassos on 2006-05-12 21:06
As to the issue of posting anonymously, I would suggest that had King David been sent an "anonymous" note regarding his sin against Uriah the Hittite, he may never have repented. In fact, it was the confrontation of the Prophet Nathan that allowed David to view his action and accept the painful consequence. In one form or another, at one time or another, we all need the courage of Nathan. The extension of anonymity to clergy and their families is illogical to me. If you are instructed by your bishop not to comment, then you must be obedient. But the Fathers are quite clear that if even a Partiarch is incorrect, in the words of Professor S. Verhovskoy, of blessed memory, "he may be corrected by the old woman." Likewise, it is the obligatory action to take. It seems to me that if the issue is fear of retaliation, then there is a fundamental lack of trust that one is vindicated only by Him who is the Vindicator.
Secondly, as an employee of the fifth most funded research medical school in the country, and as an instructor of evidence-based medicine, I respectfully suggest that introducing the unsubstantiated issue of Alzheimer's Disease to this chaos is, in fact, offensive to the sensible.
Finally, while there are as yet "unidentified" protagonists, I believe there is only one identified victim, and that is Deacon Eric Wheeler. Deacon Eric and I were classmates and roomates at St. Vladimir's Seminary over the course of seven years, and we are forever brothers. I know his heart. Shame on anyone, from Hierarch to layperson, who would question this man's integrity and intention. Deacon Wheeler is a servant of the Church in every sense of the word, and if there is a single, solitary dot of honesty left in the OCA, a jurisdiction from which I have absconded, this will be revealed. I am sorrowful over the impact upon him and his family, and I am humbled by his courage.
Finally, I thank God I know nothing nor have any source for the "details" of this scandal and its participants, other than what I have read here. This, in and of itself, is a misfortune.
#37 M. Stankovich on 2006-05-12 23:12
Excellent editorial and quite a good job in letting the general church population know WHAT is going on in Syosett. Without a website such as this, many people would be in the dark about what is happening with the guys in Syosett. Hopefully, this investigation will be completed timely and the results should be made public as soon as possible.
Its quite simple, those found guilty of any crimes should be tried by the respective authorities, and if found guilty, prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law, to include jail time AND restitution. Its not like they floated a check or two or needed some cash to pay an unexpected expense.
There appears to be a definite pattern of criminal intent with the cashing of checks under the $10,000 reporting limit. Someone should inform the perpetrator(s) that this is a criminal violation for suspicious currency transations. Also, if two or more are involved, they can all be charged with a Title 18 conspiracy violation. Charges like conspiracy, money laundering, and tax evasion could put some of these "holy men" in the slammer for a long time.
#38 Mike Polewan on 2006-05-13 07:16
Is identifying yourself only by your first name really identifying yourself? I could simply say that I'm "Joe" or even go so far as to say "Denny" or "Fr. Dennis." Am I then really identifying myself on this site? You may want to make sure you are doing what you are calling on others to do.
#39 Fr. Dennis Buck on 2006-05-13 09:30
Marty, I agree with you whole heartily. Really, we sould operate as a non profit business, that most churches are chartered in their states. The next thing the clergy will tell you that is why we are a hierarchical church, for control!
It sure would make life easier for the CLERGY to concentrate on their work.
Also, along those lines, the Bishop of the Midwest serves sixty plus parishes. This should not be allowed, because if something comes up he cannot deal with these problems in a timely fashion.
With good work, truthfulness and prayer we will survive as a NEW OCA.
I want to call attention to the Editor's observation regarding Proskauer Rose LLP: "As attorneys they may recommend that any prosecutable crimes remain undisclosed by the OCA..."
Indeed they may. An instructive example of just that kind of attorney advice was that given at one point in time to Roman Catholic Bishops with regard to credible reports of child molestation by priests.
Legal ethics make attorneys accountable while observing the requirements of pertinent statutory law to exclusively protect the interests of their clients. Who specifically are the Proskauer Rose's clients? The Metropolitan? The Bishops? The OCA's various administrative groupings of clerical and lay subordinates and employees? Or the persons whose donated monies are alleged to have been misappropriated?
The answer to this question will bear critically upon the degree of disclosure of the findings of Proskauer Rose's investigation to be expected.
Jean Langley Sullivan
#41 Jean Sullivan on 2006-05-14 11:41
Dear NWBR: Where do you propose we find us a dozen replacement bishops?
#42 Michael Strelka on 2006-05-14 17:50
Please explain the following contradiction in your post:
You write: "Those that say Fr Bob Kondratick couldn't possibly have worked alone are naive". Further on you say: "Problems in Syosset were not caused by one rogue priest and they were probably not perpetrated by one person".
A number of people were involved with the finances over the years. How is it possible that they were not aware of "irregularities"? It is my understanding that years of awareness together with years of silence could be construed as being of assistance in carrying out these irregularities.
#43 One of the Flock on 2006-05-14 18:34
Regarding anonymous postings.
#1: What kind of environment exists in OCA that priests have to post anonymously? My impression of OCA from the beginning is that it is very heavy-handed (to say the least).
#2: Since it seems to be the hobby of certain bishops to intimidate their priests, we, the laity, need to stand up and protect our good priests. Don't give me lectures about "obedience". Obedience stops where abuse begins, and the OCA bishops, individually and in the collective, have demonstrated themselves to be abusive.
#44 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2006-05-14 19:56
Rebecca, I agree with you wholeheartedly.
Two priests have commented to me personally that they have seen my posts of late. One of them commended me for having the courage to sign my name. I replied that there was no courage involved at all. The truth is, I have no skin in the game. I have no fear of excommunication for stating my opinion, as I have no fear that I am being heretical. Our priests on the other hand, those whose complete livelihood is their parish assignment (or future parish assignment); they have real skin in the game.
I have tremendous respect for those priests who have signed their names publicly. They have courage; I am a coward.
I hold no judgement against those who feel they cannot, for these are the ones with families and children (though in my cowardice I might feel justified in doing so, I do not and will not).
#45 John Czukkermann on 2006-05-15 05:45
I shall try again to respond to the accusation of my view being a 'fairy tale' since, obviously, my first attempt was for whatever reason, unsuccessful.
It is no fairy tale to demand that the leaders of the Church and the Faithful be true to Church doctrine, nor is it unreasonable to demand that there be an 'accounting' when priests and/or laity stray from such important matters as Orthodox doctrines and canons relative to the sanctity of innocent human life. However, if, in fact, Church leadership cannot be expected to demand fidelity to those doctrines from both clergy and laity, why should they be expected to demand fidelity from anyone in the Church regarding such lesser matters as the handling of money? And if, in fact, there can be no 'accountability' for the failure to obey Church doctrine in such a seminal area as morals -that is, any attempt to do so is a 'fairy tale' - then why on earth should anyone expect there to be 'accountability' in the area that is presently of so much interest to the laity?
The simple fact is this: if the Orthodox Church is no longer demanding - or can no longer realistically demand - faithfulness on matters of *morals*, then I for one am totally unconcerned about its faithfulness in matters of finance since it is no longer the 'Orthodox Church'!
M. Valerie Protopapas
#46 Matuska Valerie Protopapas on 2006-05-15 06:45
Wayne, I agree with you in your observation that Bishops can/are intimidating when they get BOXED in situations that they know nothing about. It is more so when the Bishop and Priest join in concert to get a lay person. This has happened to me, when both fabricated lies to achieve their outcome.
My answer to them is a smile, and say. you keep preaching that GOD will judge us, YOU THINK YOU ARE EXCLUDED.
KEEP SIGNING YOUR NAMES.
The law firm identified the Church as the client, so it will be in a position to protect the interests of the Church, ostensibly the tax-exempt status, and would most likely advise on how the Church can remediate any deficiencies in governance, hopefully to comply with both Orthodox tradition and the laws of the United States (most specifically, New York State where the OCA is chartered).
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#48 Marty Watt on 2006-05-15 14:05
'He who would be first among you, must be the *servant of all*.' Thus spoke Our Lord to his Apostles.
Bishops and priests - priests just being men who 'stand in' for the bishop who ostensibly should oversee all gatherings of the Church - are to be the servants of the lay people. They are to be the 'good shepherds' who are willing to lay down their lives for their flock. St. John Chrysostom understood this and considered himself doomed to damnation because he was not able to bring to salvation all of his flock. In the Golden Age of the Church, Chrysostom bewailed the fact that 'only one in ten' are being saved.
In his end-time prophecy, St. Nilus, the Myrr-gusher spoke about the fact that many 'leaders' of the Church would be men whose allegiance is more to worldly power than to Christ. Yet, at the same time, I certainly see (and know personally) many who are indeed faithful to Christ and labor tirelessly in His Vineyard, the Church.
But I would caution the laity not to spend too much time condemning the clergy! In this matter as in the other matter to which I alluded in my earlier posts, there is blame enough to go 'round. Had the faithful been as faithful as we are called to be, it may well be that our 'faithful' priests and bishops would have had the support that they needed to weed out those who were (and are) unworthy. A very excellent priest once told me that parishes get the priests they deserve. The same can be said in more overarching situations.
However, it is also true that God sends men (and women) of holiness and character when the Church is in need. Perhaps it is time for that response which we sing on Holy Saturday, that is ... Let all mortal flesh keep silent... until we see what actually has happened and just who God has sent to help His Church in this, Her hour of need. We must resist the temptation to bestow blanket condemnation lest we, like the First Century Jews, find that we are condemning the very person God has sent to deliver us.
M. Valerie Protopapas
#49 Matuska Valerie Protopapas on 2006-05-15 15:31
Do you think the attorneys at Proskauer Rose will advise their client "the Church" to fully and publically disclose to the membership of the Church information about "prosecutable crimes" if any are uncovered in the course of their investigations?
#50 jean Langley Sullivan on 2006-05-15 19:08
Before condemning anyone for posting anonymously, people might want to consider the following. A large number of concerned members of the OCA, both clergy and laity, are dependent on their employment in church institutions and parishes for their day-to-day income, health benefits, and pensions. Others serve in volunteer positions, fulfilling their baptismal vocations in teaching church school, serving on parish or diocesan councils, or any number of other ministries.
We have heard reports of people being fired or their elections deliberately not confirmed, because of their outspokenness on these issues. Caution in the face of such a possibility cannot be condemned, especially when being able to provide for one's family is at stake.
I would suggest two things:
1) that those who post anonymously are under a greater responsibility than those who sign their names. Without benefit of reputation or infamy, their comments must stand or fall on the value of their words alone.
2) that those who insist that everyone sign their posts be willing to provide lost income and benefits to anyone who loses their job as a result.
In an ideal world, we could all express our opinions and views without fear or favor of any man. In the real world, however, people can lose their jobs and even be blackballed from getting another. Anonymous posting gives these people a voice.
#51 Anonymous in North America on 2006-05-15 20:09
The battle over 'anonymity' rages on here. I must say, I am less impressed by those who decide to remain anonymous than those who willingly and openly expose themselves to criticism by signing their names to their posts. On the other hand, I will not judge those who feel - for whatever reason - that they cannot reveal a name.
On the other hand, it would be prudent for those remaining anonymous to post with a certain amount of restraint and more than a little compassion even for the guilty as well as a spirit of forgiveness for *al*l concerned. It ill befits a person who will not sign his name to what he is saying to rail against people who are in no position to defend themselves from his onslaught. If one is being 'militant', than the least one can do is openly identify oneself! That, after all, is only just and fair.
M. Valerie Protopapas
#52 Matuska Valerie Protopapas on 2006-05-15 21:49
I had resisted the urge to post again, but cannot. This point goes to whether clergy should be in all administrative positions. I have a great respect for priests, so please don't twist this out of shape.
Would you ask an electrician to come and fix your sink? Would you ask a chimney sweep to roof your house?
Would you ask an accountant to guide you spiritually?
Would you ask a priest or deacon who had no credible accounting experience to do accounting and expect him to listen when you asked him to do sloppy accounting because you had authority over him? Would you assume he was disobedient and fire him when he was right and you were wrong if you were that administrator? If you were the administrator and you yourself didn't understand the seriousness of the rules, or discounted them, how would things work?
At what cost and what risk would you accept the option above?
If my math is right, the OCA has some 27,000 members paying about 100 dollars a year dues (~OCA portion), or roughly a budget of 2.7 million dollars. Most accounting firms that provide compilation or write up and bookkeeping in this area would charge about 500 to 1,500 a month for this type of accounting, with audit fees of about 3,000 - 4,000 if they did the books. Let's say New York is more expensive and double everything. This would be 42,000 per year for the accounting outsourcing. Most accounting costs run somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-3% of revenue.
Costs can be reduced by having staff doing some of the work. For example, reconciling and posting credit card billings, bank statements, etc. More complicated things are usually done by third parties. Preparing financials, annual adjustments, etc.
I'm not criticizing prior decision making entirely. It just seems very unfair to ask any priest or deacon to do the books unless a CPA firm is involved in some oversight role and in a way that the administrator can't make all the decisions unilaterallly. Look at the governance failure in firing Dn. Wheeler. If an outside firm was asked to do a lot of shoddy stuff and had to do the audit, they'd get really funny about any sloppy accounting and would have fired the church, not the other way around.
The only way clergy should be involved in church financial reporting is if they have governance to protect them from termination if they suspect improper accounting. In my position, for example, if I'm asked to do something improper, I can report it to the Board of Directors. It better be important, because if I have to go that far, someone is getting canned.
What happened in the OCA when Dn. Wheeler wouldn't sign the financial report? Did anyone get canned? Did the Met. Council know about it? Were they able to hold anyone accountable?
Clergy can work in an accounting role, with support from a third party, given governance exists first. In the absence of proper governance (today's OCA), third parties should be doing the books.
#53 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-05-15 22:29
Dear Matuska Valerie: I totally agree with you!
#54 Jane on 2006-05-16 06:40
Good in theory, but again I ask, where are you going to get new bishops. We have a real problem in America because we have no vibrant and widespread monastic communities from which to draw new bishops.
#55 Michael Strelka on 2006-05-16 07:17
Dear Wayne and Steve
As someone from a priest's family, you do not understand.
What kind of environment exists in the OCA that priests have to post anonymously, you ask? The same environment
that you would have at your job if you wrote or spoke against
your boss or company. Priests have to support their families
just like you do.
A concerned PK
#56 A concerned PK on 2006-05-16 17:35
I don't know you well, but what I know of you leads me to believe you and your dear husband who is in the deaconate are truly Confessors of the Faith; given especially the manifold crosses that the two of you bear. Please take the below not as a criticism of you personally, but perhaps as simply a perspective from a different angle.
To my mind, people who take responsibility for the fact of being a member of the body of Christ, who realize the implications of that membership right down to the core of their being (unlike myself --- though, perhaps, at least I know I don't), and who love, desperately, the deposit of faith, are asking legitimate questions about money. They are not asking to vote on homoousios as opposed to homoiousios (the famous "one iota"). They are not asking to vote on whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father alone or from the Father and the Son (the famous "filioque"). When they are true to themselves and leave their emotions at the door, if you will, the people commenting here just want to know what happened and what can be done in the future to prevent a recurrence. (One priest, I think, said "money can always be fixed.")
I believe there is not so much a crisis of faith as much as a crisis of imagination. I cannot believe that there is no way to accommodate the legitimate questions of those who believe themselves to be betrayed, and at the same time acccommodate the needs of the hierarchs and the clergy for "room" to do the work of God. (Literally, the "leiturgia Dei.") To me, the fundamental difficulty may well be that we have not arrived at the right language that will work with everyone's legitimate needs.
For instance, David-Constantine Wright's "three houses" language perhaps doesn't work. Alright, then, he's now been corrected by the Church. What other language can then be used? I seem to remember that the idea of calling together representatives from the boroughs and the counties came in an age when Kings were consecrated with holy Chrism and considered vicars of God. Perhaps an element of pastoral sense in the exercise of the undoubted hierarchical jurisdiction might lead to a desire to consider ideas coming from people who, in the end, have to pay the bills.
I have tried some possibilities, but they still leave me somewhat unsatisfied. Perhaps that dissatisfaction is itself the lesson --- just as the Prophet David, the Ancestor of God, danced clad only in a linen ephod when the Ark entered Jerusalem, in the end it is terribly difficult for us humans to deal well with the things of the Almighty and Everliving. Perhaps the real miracle is how well we do considering the distance between ourselves and the Almighty. (The difficulty with this language is that it tempts me to languish in my own laziness.)
#57 Ed Unneland on 2006-05-16 20:16
You obviously do not know Fr. Strikis. A better person cannot be found interms of integrity and honesty. I would be very careful with my words if I were you.
#58 Tina Rhodes on 2006-05-16 20:52
I am very grateful that you posted again despite your hesitation to do so. Everything you have written in this post is informative, logical and clarifying. Thank you.
#59 Jean Langley Sullivan on 2006-05-17 09:06
Personally, I don't know what the law firm will do. I do know that if they have knowledge of prosecutable crimes, they have an obligation to disclose that information to the court, since they are officers of that court.
What I actually believe will occur is that they will disclose the misdeeds, perhaps not identifying individuals, along with a plan to prevent such behavior in the future, including means to monitor the plan through public disclosure or independent oversight.
After doing corporate governance for the past few years, what I describe is how things typically work. In some cases, the government will take interest in a particular figure and they will be tried, but thus far those have to involve a significant breach of public trust (i.e., millions of stockholders) rather than malfeasance within a defined (and arguably small) group.
Hope this helps!
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#60 Marty Watt on 2006-05-17 13:31
You are the voice of reason here. For too long local parishes have been reporting well below their numbers and it has not been a secret. Unfortunately, the Church's hands have been tied as to how to reveal "this cover-up". Perhaps if honesty on all levels prevailed, i.e, truth in reporting membership etc., had been the norm, our finances would not have gotten to the point where it did.
Keep on writing Michael I for one seek out your comments and read them with interest and thanks.
#61 Tina Rhodes on 2006-05-20 12:05
No one says that the questions are not legitimate nor are we discussing deep theological doctrines - remember, salvation is based not on our understanding of the nature of God or all of the questions regarding the Divine that are, quite frankly, too deep for any mortal man to understand, but on how we treat each other. Only in the treatment of our fellow man do we exhibit to God our understanding of what He expects of us, His children and are thereby obedient to His will.
The simple fact is, in the present situation the questions have been asked and now it is time to wait - in silence - for an answer. Only at a time at which that answer should not be forthcoming is there a reason to ask again. But, let's face it, what is happening on this website - and elsewhere, I'm sure - is not only a reiteration of the questions already asked, but conjecture, speculation and outright 'guessing' regarding tha answers to those questions - and what is the sense of that? Speculation without facts is a study in futility. Worse, in the present situation, it is a matter of gossip and the dessimination of 'information' that may cause a brother to form an incorrect and unjust opinion of another brother. This is not only useless, it is *wicked*.
No one is decrying the demand by the Faithful - clergy and lay - for an accounting in this situation. However, there comes a time when we must be willing to wait on God and on those whose task it has become to answer those questions. All the wrangling and wrestling regarding who is - or is not - to blame and who should have done what and when, only muddies the waters that so many of us want to be made clear.
As with the ancient Councils, time must be permitted to work its will. Enlightenment is not instantaneous, nor, in most instances, can it be hurried along by useless speculation and recimination.
M. V. Protopapas
#62 Matuska Valerie Protopapas on 2006-05-21 02:33
It is interesting to me how failure to follow scriptural standards leads to a snowball effect of error. The OCA has always resisted preaching a standard of tithing. "We don't want to be legalistic" of course.
But we've never adopted any other standard either. We've still got people who think they owe dues to the Church, instead of owing everything to God.
Same on the diocesan and national level. If we had a mil system that approximated the tithe and reinforced the importance of sacrificial proportional giving it would properly align all the incentives that are now screwed up.
1. Preach the proper image of the truth. We owe God everything and a portion is our sacramental method of participating in that truth.
2. The amount of money would be substantially more at the local and national level.
3. There would be no incentive to lie about the census or play games with it.
4. We could worry about the souls of newcomers instead of whether they would 'count against our census.'
5. It would create an incentive for the OCA to put in its statute that everything must be run formally through the books and be auditable!
#63 Symeon Jekel on 2006-05-22 10:21
What you say about money is true for all Church doctrine.
Indeed, I suspect that the issue of money is relatively ignored for the same reason that the Church's moral doctrines are downplayed - it might affect the numbers - driving away present members and discouraging new ones. And so, we seek to encourage membership in other ways: beautiful services, ancient theological teachings, a rich history, visual beauty etc. while anything that might discourage membership such as preaching about what we owe to God in obedience - which, in and of itself is not a very popular concept especially in our culture of individual 'liberty' - is singularly absent at least from any 'high profile' outreach. This, as noted, is not just in matters of money!
It will do us no good to institute various 'programs' and 'safeguards' and hire outside accountants and CPAs to protect the financial health of the Church if there is no blanket understanding regarding what does and what does not constitute acceptable behavior from the faithful, clergy and lay alike. If such a standard of behavior is in place, it wouldn't matter if the Church's money was kept in some retired bishop's sock drawer. It would be as safe there as in Fort Knox because no one in the Church would ever consider misappropriating it.
If, on the other hand, that standard is not in place, all the 'safeguards' and 'programs' in the world won't protect it nor yet all the accountants and CPAs extant keep it from being misappropriated.
M. Valerie Protopapas
#64 Matuska Valerie Protopapas on 2006-05-22 11:41
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