Monday, August 18. 2008
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Dear Peter Bouteneff,
Thank you for your inspiring thoughts! I agree with you that repentence is a key factor here. I believe we will know more how to repent with the release of the SIC to better know what was done wrong.
I think there has been a growing repentance all along with our new administrative persons in place: several new faces want what is good for the church.
But repentance, it appears to me in this case, will also have to take on more harsh, but also realistic and life-saving actions, such as a retirment or resignation of a current Metropolitan. Unfortunately, he does not seem to be having the epiphany that Ebeneezer Scrooge did, who then acted upon this epiphany and became a charitable and Christian-like citizen of his community.
After the SIC report is out +Herman may better get it, but to raise the church to a higher moral and integral functioning, with his years, and actions, of denial and cover up, I doubt that a total turn around is likely and I doubt it will come after the SIC report is out.
+Herman may even apologize, but the psyche of us faithful must trust their leader, and I don't think that the continuance of him as our leader will lead to a healthy healing or trust.
I believe that a clarion call has been put out for a retirement or resignation of +Herman and I think this will carry the day after the September meeting.
As Fr. Tom Hopko suggested, the OCA may need to study an organizational strategy for some years and then report at a 2011 AAC. This is probably very wise, for I don't think it is very realistic that we can solve so much in 2 1/2 days.
Bring on the bad news, SIC report! I don't think it will "kill the church." I think it will lead to that greater repentance that Peter Bouteneff was talking about.
Our repentance in the OCA will not be simplistic, but hopefully more involved and long-lasting. That is news to rejoice about!
#1 Patty Schellbach on 2008-08-18 18:38
I am moved literally to tears at the repentance and graciousness of our beloved Archpastor. A true shephard in love with the sheep, full of heartfelt remorse for an injury nearly a decade ago. In contrast with ... well, let's just leave it there.
This sheep agrees with Mark. Vladyka, you are most definitely part of the solution. Eis polla eti Despota!
#2 Marty Watt on 2008-08-18 21:19
For Archbishop Job,
Your public apology, repentance, and assumption of responsibility brought tears to my eyes. The first thing that came to my heart was: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!" "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied!"
Words cannot express the joy and peace that washed over my soul knowing that at least one bishop on our Synod is a true and faithful shepherd and a mirror of Christ in doing whatever is needed in protecting the sheep and walking the narrow path. My heart is comforted and spirit reassured that the Holy Spirit is indeed working and shining forth to the disheartened and scattered sheep that thirst for Christ and Truth.
We pray and beseech you, fight the good fight, shine the light of Christ and Truth, and walk the narrow path. Please, we beg you, do not retire in the next few years. Please continue to lead the Church and the flock, and be the True Shepherd we so all hunger for. We need your guidance, your love, your faith, your blessings, and your prayers. There is no greater task before us than to be reminded what a real bishop and real shepherd is supposed to be like. We will do everything we can to support, pray for, and defend you and the Holy Orthodox Church and Truths in this time of trial and tribulations. Fight the good fight and stay the course for now until the ages of ages.
Archbishop Job's letter and admission is a good reminder that forgiveness is not granted because it is deserved. Forgiveness and reconciliation are grace.
St. Paul reminds us of this truth in Romans 5:6-10 - "While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.... But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. ... For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."
We by our lives and deeds are/were weak, ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God. Christ died for us anyway. He didn't wait for our metanoia, change of heart, repentance. We are not forgiven by God because we deserve it. God's love toward us is His action toward us not His reaction to us.
Knowing we are forgiven, makes it natural for us to repent. The failure to repent, to confess one's sin and fault, to ask forgiveness, stems from a lack of faith in God's forgiveness and mercy, as well as from an unwillingness to humble ourselves and be disciples of the Savior. A failure to repent stems from a failure to accept God's forgiveness and a refusal to believe in efficacy of the Savior's crucifixion.
Archbishop Job's humbling repentance and seeking forgiveness shows him to be a disciple of the Crucified Lord, and worthy of the office of bishop, a rule of faith as we sing in the tropar for a holy bishop - a model for us to emulate.
Our forgiveness is offered to the repentant Archbishop, not because he deserves to receive it, but because He admits to being weak, a sinner, ungodly and an enemy of God, and seeks our forgiveness. And we who have experienced the free gift of salvation through Christ's death on the cross, know we are to love a repentant father and brother, because we were loved while we were yet sinners, and as our Lord has loved us (John 13:34, 15:12).
#4 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2008-08-18 21:27
Dear Archbishop Job,
Your words of remorse and repentance are truly accepted. I honestly feel for you and your fellow bishops. With sincerity, my personal faith in your (you and your fellow bishops) to lead the church has been shattered, as has my faith. The church is both theological and worldly, rendering to the government that which is of and for the government, and to God that which is to God. You and your fellow bishops, by allowing this scandal, have skirted the responsibility of abiding by the law; that is properly accounting for personal donations made for specific causes and paying taxes. This is a crime! Please read this weekend's NY Times. The former President of the non-profit organization ACORN was not only removed, but is facing imprisonment for almost the same exact charges for which you and your bishops "repent". I can understand the autonomy of the church and wanting to settle by its "own court". However, its most disturbing that after five years, there is no resolution or outcome. It's impossible to move forward while you and your bishops collect any income. Immediately when this scandal was recognized, you and the bishops should have acted as the monastics you profess to be and return the monies that you mismanaged / stole from your own pockets! With all sincerity, I can never give $1 to the church as long as you and your bishops are in the leadership. Not only have you failed to present a plan, but you have failed to educate priests and future priests in finance! I can site several priests (just like the late Archbishop Peter) who have "homes" in the Caribbean. Still, these same priests fail to balance their own churches income / evangelize. Honestly, you have lost me, and not only me, but all of my friends (approximately ten of us). With sincerity we wanted to serve the church, but how can we? My local Catholic Church in my town does more community service and raises more money to evangelize and help people then our whole national church does in one year, or for that matter, the last five! What am I to do? How long do I as a young person need to wait? And, how long the cover up? The real issue is not so much the stolen money, but also the very real allegations of sexual improprieties that occurred in that same time period in Syosset. Do you turn a blind eye to this as well? Its because of bishops like yourself and the Synod that stirred Martin Luther to break from the abuses and negligences of the Pope and Catholic Church! I see no difference. Repent as you like. Find peace as best you can. But, in reality, you have divided more than you have brought together! And, I would love to read your response. Repentance is not enough. Like the President of ACORN, trial and potential imprisonment are in order! Money is missing that potentially supported the same regime which invaded Georgia this past week (on video nonetheless)! I am so sad for you and for me. Help me not to leave the church that born and raised in. What hope is there if you and your fellow bishops do not step down? If you and your fellow bishops will not remove the Metropolitan? If you will not put a financial plan into action instead of only balancing the books? If you will not admit to the sexual misconduct so heavily rumored to have occurred in Syosset and elsewhere? Thank you.
#5 Anonymous on 2008-08-18 21:34
Let me tell you about my friend, who shall remain nameless. He always thought it was pretty cool how Catholics could sin and then get forgiven. He really wanted to be a Catholic because then he could do anything he wanted and just go to Confession and make it all right the next morning.
A better reflection would be entitled, "When Repentance has No Meaning", or "Repentance: Just the Beginning".
All the repentance in the world won't mean a hill of beans to me. It won't change the future. Repentance is only like a first step.
I don't agree with the Professor's point about comprehensive reporting being unneccesary either. The reason we need the fullest and comprehensive report is because it is exactly the thing the church has been avoiding for the last 15 years. And a comprehensive report shows a willingness to change that culture.
For me, the church needs substantive cultural and real procedural changes.
The environment that fostered Archbishop Job's infamous shutting up of Mark must be destroyed. That environment is one in which a Bishop has all authority and all the power.
Mark argued with Bishop Job's point that his previous actions preclude him from being part of the solution.
If Bishop Job can't go back to that event and find a way to change the outcome of that day, then I'd say he's right.
If Bishop Job can go back to that event and find a way to change the outcome of that day, then I'll agree with Mark.
Bishops have to find some way to give the laity and clergy real power. That's it folks. Unless that happens, ain't nothing changed.
Hope for a good King.
#6 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-08-18 21:40
The communications of both Dr. Bouteneff and Archbishop Job struck a resonant chord with me as I look back at the nine years which I spent as a parish priest in New England, and at the 3 years which I spent as an interim priest in Eastern Pennsylvania while teaching at St. Tikhon’s. In those years, Great Lent regularly arose as a particular challenge as I tried myself, and tried to convince others to see and take seriously the injunction of our Lord that we will be forgiven only as we are forgiving, and to repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand – i.e. it is here right here in our midst – and we partake of it as we receive the body and blood of Christ, and as we come together as broken individuals to be transformed into persons who are, in the sense of St. Paul, the Body of Christ, each with his or her unique function. The reality, of course was that the struggle was not confined to Great Lent, but at that time it took on a particular significance as people would – many of them – come to do their ‘yearly duty’. Each year, at this time, one would be faced with the same faces with the same arguments and complaints with, many times, the same people, trying, sometimes successfully sometimes not, to effect reconciliation, while at the same time dealing with the internal struggle to see in each of these people, the Divine Image, to not have ‘favorites’ to be reconciled with those with whom I did not agree or had a problem with at any given time. In all of this, there was one person, a middle aged lady, who stood out, and who to this day, in my memory, stands out from this process. I will call her Stella (following in the steps of one Seminary professor who had an imaginary woman called Stella to whom he would ascribe various virtues and faults). Stella, depending on how you viewed her, was both the easiest and most difficult person to deal with as regards confession. Every year Stella would be one of the first to come to confession – usually before a Presanctified Liturgy – and she would say (more or less):”Father, I have sinned terribly this year, and I am really sorry for all my sins, and I beg God to forgive me all of my sins, because I am really very sorry.” I would then say, “OK, but what sins in particular really bother you or do you want to talk about more in detail that you need forgiveness for?” and she would say: “All of them.” Change the wording slightly, and you could ascribe this dialogue as the opening passage of the huge majority of those who came for their ‘yearly duty’. But, with Stella I was able to smile and say the prayer of absolution without a qualm because Stella’s real confession did not take place there in front of the oversized metal bound Slavonic Gospel, rather it took place over coffee a couple of weeks earlier in her kitchen when, after blessing her home, I would hear all about her relationships with her family, friends, neighbors, all of her regrets, all of her remorse at any offence taken or given, unstained by any slightest hint of self-justification or self-pity: the baring of a simple human heart laying itself open to the mercy of God. So, thank you your Eminence, thank you Peter for both the theoretical exposition of repentance and a needed example of its practical application. But thank you especially for reminding me of Stella who exemplified in her own simple way the words of one Elder who told me that every action we do every word we speak is either repentance or non-repentance, either confession or not confession for which we will be held accountable before the throne of God.
#7 Archimandrite Melchisedek on 2008-08-19 03:45
First, thank you to our editor for sharing the correspondence between yourself and Archbishop Job. These two wonderful letters speak for themselves and need no commentary from me.
One can only hope that the message contained in Fr. Bouteneff's reflection was delivered to the Synod long before this point in time. Its advice and admonitions presuppose an audience that is receptive to advice and repentance--a dubious proposition at best. But even at this late hour, if its message was heeded, a lot of the damage that has been down by Synodal inaction and stonewalling could be begin to be undone, albeit with consequences that would end more than one hierarchical reign.
What Fr. Bouteneff's reflection does not envisage is a Synod composed of individuals so mired in sin and corruption as to be incapable or unwilling to repent absent Divine Intervention. Ignorance, sloth, greed, lust, even a warped belief in unaccountable authority, are all failings that can be forgiven, if not forgotten, in terms of future leadership. But the ethics and modus operandi of the Mafia, which, by the way, includes creating obligated clients in a mockery of true charity, is hardly a "life style" the Church can continue to tolerate.
#8 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-08-19 06:14
I have to disagree with Prof.'s statements that not everything needs to be revealed to the internet public. He is wrong. If the central church administration and the Synod of Bishops want to have full confidence from its people, the people must have full disclosure and full transparency. This attitude is what has contributed to the decades of misappropriations of funds. The wrongdoers know what they have done. God, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit knows what was done and who (whom) has committed the wrongdoings. Years ago and maybe even today parishes, individuals were and are described as the "good" vs. the "bad". This concept needs to be eliminated so that the faithful, clergy, and bishops can work together in concilliarity. The first step is full disclosure of the scandal. Acknowledgement comes before repentance. The central church administration hasn't yet come to acknowledgement (full disclosure).
#9 cshinn on 2008-08-19 06:56
Daniel, if you think it is about 'power' you are making the same mistake as the Bishops. If the laity receives 'power' in any new structure of the OCA, the outcome will be even worse than now.
When I am deeply hurt by someone else, a single act of repentance is rarely enough to overcome the hurt, not because there is insufficient grace but because my heart is still hardened from the hurt. The only way I will heal is to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean a lack of conequences for the offender. It is simply what is required for me to heal even if the offender does not repent or suffer consequences.
The worse the hurt, the more work it takes to forgive usually, but the work involves getting rid of all the reasons and excuses why I can't or shouldn't forgive. We should never forget that our Lord's forgiveness comes to us from the Cross.
God is merciful. He gives us the kind of leaders we want because then we are inescapably faced with the consequences of our own desires.
That is not to say that the sins of those leaders are not theirs as they are always free, but it dose mean that we are not likely to get better leaders until we really want them and are willing to do what is necessary to be one if called.
I agree with one of your observations, a full accounting is needed. When Jesus say that 'all things shall be revealed' it was not idle talk or suggestive of just between Him and each of us privately. However, then we do have the power to forgive or condemn. With the knowledge of good and evil comes great temptation. If we have not yet forgiven, how are we likely to respond?
#10 Michael Bauman on 2008-08-19 07:38
Wonderful postings and great comments - a nice purge, however, we're still back to square one! + Theodosius is retired and should be in prison; RSK is living it up in Florida and should be in prison; + Herman is still Metropolitan and he should have been tar, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail long ago. Everyone thinks the AAC in Nov. will solve everything. HELLO.........? Doesn't anyone remember that + Herman hid the first report and destroyed evidence? Repentance? Forgiveness? These people laugh at this and they are hoping on the good natured OCA faithful to do just this. + Herman should never have been Met. Wake up people; you're all being scammed!
#11 Anonymous on 2008-08-19 09:16
I agree that the words from Job are truly a refreshing wind, however, reading what he says here and has said before we are looking at a man who is under a great deal of stress and pain and that can't bring himself, however truly pained he is to telling us what he knows of what went on. There can be no doubt that Job is pained and I feel for him, don't get me wrong, I truly do. I have a great deal of sympathy for him and a tremendous amount of respect for what he has done in the face of what are immeasurable pressures from his fellow bishops and the sycophants of the former chancellor. I could never, and I doubt there are any others, who could submit themselves to the inhuman indignity that he went through having to bow down at the feet of Nikolai and apologize for nothing in a deal brokered by the esteemed bishop of Eastern Pennsylvania, Tikhon. Just for that he has a great deal of respect in my book. And this is just the stuff we know about. There can be no doubt that what we do not see eclipses that public humiliation. He’s the more stronger for suffering through it.
Reading between the lines you see a man who can just go so far though and it truly conflicted by that fact. Job is a bishop who predates the Kondratick administration. He has been there longer than the start of this scandal. He was there before Kondratick renovated the Martin Drive house. He was there when Kondratick still had a pale complexion. He knows a lot, he’s seen a lot, he’s keeping in a lot. From reading what he writes, you can see a man who’s at pains to keep it in. He’s trying, every time he puts pen to paper, to say something, but can never bring himself to it. He sees what’s going on, but realizes that the impact of him revealing all is nuclear. Maybe he can’t totally sacrifice himself with any revelations, however those of us with him will surely forgive, knowing that this man has a conscience and realizes what has gone on is wrong. Maybe he just can’t say all he knows because of legal reasons, we don’t know, he doesn’t reveal that much into his soul. All we do know is a man who is at pains to keep in what he so desperately wants to let out. If it is legal, let us know. If its just that you know you’re going to open the flood gates by telling us what you know, then reach down the little more you need to gain that strength, our prayers are with you. Part of the solution is knowing what went on in the past, in that he can very much be part of the solution, one who starts the solution on its way.
#12 Anonymous on 2008-08-19 10:36
One thing, though, Father, is that we can forgive what we know has happened that requires forgiveness. There much that has not been revealed and needs to before forgiveness can be given. One must not only repent of the deeds, but work to rectify the impacts and work to remedy their effects.
Forgiveness also should not be seen as blanket amnesty for wrongs that have been done. We can forgive the sinner, but we must deal with the sin. I can forgive Kondratick for what he did he if told us what it was and came clean, but I will not waiver in my resolve that he needs to do hard time behind bars. Forgiveness without accountability and true repentance is an invitation for this all to happen again.
Job is in all likelihood speaking from the heart and truly feels the need for repentance, in that he is light years ahead of his fellow bishops and other clergy in this scandal in terms of knowing what the faith is all about. I can see them all scurrying right now to their dictionaries to look up what "repentance" means for Job has put into action what for them are merely buzzwords in sermons and in appeals for donations.
#13 Anonymous on 2008-08-19 10:51
It is appropriate that these two postings, the Reflection from Professor Bouteneff and the asking for forgiveness on the part of the Archbishop, should come during the Post-Feast of the Dormition, where we sing, in the troparion, that the Theotokos was "translated from life to life". In other words, she was translated from the fallen life of "this world" to the divine life of the Kingdom of God. I see aspects of that divine life in these two postings.
I enjoyed Peter's Reflection on repentance, and, specifically, the need for repentance. I also applaud the specific details of the working-out of that repentance that is needed, especially as it applies to the upcoming AAC in Pittsburgh. However, I have to agree with the correcting opinion above of Daniel E. Fall: full disclosure is not only necessary, it is mandatory! As Peter's predecessor at seminary, Fr Thomas Hopko, taught us in Dogmatic Theology class: we don't confess our sins to the priest alone in the sense that people do in the West, that is, secretly and anonymously, behind closed doors. We confess our sins to the priest as though it were to everyone, openly, in the entire Church community!!! This is the way it was done in the early Church. The reason we confess now to the priest-as-though-to-everyone is because of the fallenness of everyone: most parish communities could not spiritually handle open confession. But, the spirit of confession and repentance is one of openness! It is NOT the spirit of the fallen world, in the Nixonian "need-to-know" aspect of hiding details from the people! Therefore, I agree that all the details should be completely revealed! I also agree with Peter that we will probably not know where most of the money went, and will definitely not recoup it! That still does not warrant hiding the facts from the Church community at large!
To His Eminence, +Archbishop Job, I would like to say the following: Your Eminence, the last thing you want to hear right now is that you are our last, best hope for becoming Metropolitan in November. *However*, with you being the only bishop in the Synod who is TOTALLY honest regarding his culpability, behavior, and accountability in this matter (not to mention that you are the only one who has not shown himself spiritually castrated throughout this crisis!), you are our ONLY hope for becoming a Metropolitan that is VITALLY needed for our Church to heal and move forward to proclaim the Gospel, here in America!!! There is NO ONE ELSE in the Synod who has shown the least bit of honesty, accountability, repentance, and courage to speak the truth except you!! That, plus the fact that you not only do not hunger for the position like a power-mad psychopath (like the one currently holding that office!!), but you flee from it like a plague, also shows that you are the person whom we need to lead our Church in the next few years as her head!!! As others have stated, it will take quite a while to resolve this mess, probably through two or three more AAC's!! Yet, we can only do that in a spirit of teamwork, cooperation, and *conciliarity*, and YOU are the ONLY bishop who functions in a spirit of conciliarity!!! The despotic/totalitarian/KGB-style episcopacies of those like +Peter, +Herman, +Tikon (of the West), and +Nikolai will KILL this Church as sure as the Earth rotates around the sun!! This evil quenches the work of the Holy Spirit!! He, the Holy Spirit, can only "blow where He wills" in an atmosphere of synergy, cooperation, and conciliarity!!! As you know, the office of any bishop, if taken seriously, is a CROSS (why do you think the first thing we sing as a candidate is led around the altar, "O Holy *Martyrs*"??)!!! I believe God is calling you to this particular cross, to led our Church to its much-needed resurrection!!! Please, Your Eminence, meditate on this fact, pray on it, and let the Holy Spirit guide you and the Church at the AAC in November!! God bless you and your ministry!!! Eis polla eti dhespota!!
#14 David Barrett on 2008-08-19 11:04
I really can't decide if Job is so stupid or he really thinks that we are. Stop pointing the fingers at one person! It's just a shame that no one will actually state the facts - just keep beating the dead horse in the ground.
Now that Herman is going to have back surgery, will not attend the FOCA convention and probably not attend the All American Council put on the boots - there is more of the same foul smelling garbage floating in the river.
#15 MP on 2008-08-19 11:18
Talk about beating someone when they're down! "Anonymous" has clearly already made his/her decision and is trying to hold it over the bishop like a carrot (and a stick!), as though any change from himself (or his "ten friends") was forthcoming...if only this or that promise is made.
His disillusionment is indeed sad, but we often set ourselves up for it when our faith is placed wrongly in the first place. "Anonymous" needs himself to repent of not placing his faith in Christ but in the bishops. His repentance is his only key, and church-hopping will only delay the inevitable: a final rupture with the Church and the Faith.
But this trying to lecture the archbishop and make His Eminence convince him to stay...what on earth is to be gained from that? "Anonymous" has already shown that he treats each bishop in the synod equally, without discimination, such that +JOB's rather sincere expression of remorse (what more is he to do?!) is of no avail. (So many on this list think thus!)
Nothing more, I fear, is to be done for "Anonymous" and his ten friends except to hope that they will step down off the high place they inhabit and join the rest of the human race and sinners in the Church. They must take responsibility for their own actions, and not expect to be wooed. The Church is not a Health Club for which rewards are offered for joining. If one isn't prepared to suffer, then there's nothing left. Repentance and love and humility and communion hurt.
Finally, the Lord said, "The standard with which you judge, you will be judged." This is not a mere "niceity" in the Gospel but a key precept. It's a short and dangerous step to Donatism when one is part of "the pure." "Anonymous"'s desire for purity and truth is commendable, but hardly unique or in short supply. Making his own membership in the Church some kind of reward to be won is, to me, quite sinful.
If he wants to be part of some large parish that spends on community service "more than our whole national church does in one year," then let him get on with it. If the Lord has placed that burden in his heart, he'd better follow the call and go join in that ministry.
But if he thinks that that will seperate him from sin and weakness and scandal, he is in for a rude awakening. And I fear his faith will soon crumble. The only "most pure" is the Lord and His Blessed Mother.
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (Jn. 16.32) This is why we "groan inwardly" until the salvation in Christ is fully made manifest and complete.
#16 Rdr. T. John on 2008-08-19 11:43
I agree with you, Mr. Shinn. Nothing less than full disclosure and full transparency--on the full gamut of alleged offenses of the erstwhile leadership in Syosset and the individual members of the Holy Synod of Bishops--will meet the requirements of justice, especially at this rather late hour. In particular, the OCA's internal investigative team and those currently in leadership positions must follow the "blackmail" trail that Deacon Eric Wheeler has mentioned. If that trail leads to additional shocking revelations and subsequent resignations, retirements, or legal prosecution, then so be it.
Mercy and forgiveness are certainly virtues, perhaps the highest, that every Orthodox Christian ought to cultivate with eagerness and determination. But justice is a worthy virtue, too, the pursuit of which will enable us in the OCA to put our own house in order and lay the foundation for a genuine renewal.
#17 Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster on 2008-08-19 12:40
When someone can point to something bad that someone else did in as concrete terms as the summary report maybe THEN we'll believe it wasn't all the work of one man (use that term lightly), until then... who stole from our church?! RSK, that's who! He's our man, if anyone can steal he can!
#18 Anonymous on 2008-08-19 13:02
I have to respectfully disagree with your disagreement regarding Dr. Bouteneff's remarks about complete disclosure. Complete disclosure could potentially lead to the complete demise of the OCA. Why? Because the painful fact is that the books and records of the OCA were a complete shambles. One simple request for documents from the IRS would result in massive inquiries because as I understand it the records are simply not available. To be completely open to the world unfortunately will make the OCA unbelievably vulnerable.
Do you have the books and records to support all of the missing ADM money? Just the IRS looking into this alone could cost the OCA millions -- millions that it doesn't have. Are you going to reimburse the OCA if the IRS were to ask for this money? You see, there is a fiduciary duty of reasonable care that I believe was completely lost in Syosset by the Holy Synod, members of the Metropolitan Council and the Central Administration. You can't just throw your hands up and say "oops" to the IRS. The IRS would be well within their rights to say that the OCA should lose its not-for-profit status because of everything that has transpired. This would mean that all of the churches under it are no longer tax exempt (any parishes out there with tax exempt status on their properties? Sorry, you lose). How about the OCA pension plan? The loss of the not-for-profit status could potentially result in disqualifying the plan (it is a church-sponsored plan you know). How about the clergy housing allowances? If the OCA is not recognized as a church, doesn't that potentially disqualify all of the ministers that are performing ministerial duties in them? The churches, of course, could go to another jurisdiction that does have a not-for-profit status.
While full disclosure sounds really good and is quite frankly the ideal, the Church also has the concept of diakresis - discernment. We need to discern what we can and can not accomplish. This may sound a bit like situational ethics and that is not my goal; we do however, need to seriously look before we leap.
(Editor's note: It does not sound a bit like situational ethics - it is. But here we have come to the essence of the current debate about how to move forward. So I thank you for your response.
Your premise, held by many in the current administration, is simply that one should confess one's sins as long as the consequences aren't too significant. If they are significant, it is best to keep one's mouth shut and papers hidden. Prudence is a virtue, to be sure, but where is the line between prudence and self-interest here, since those making the "prudent" decision, conveniently for them, happen to be the very ones for whom "prudence" is in their complete self-interest?
Sorry, in so many ways your moral compass has clearly gone askew - and we shall be condemned to wander in the spiritual desert another 20 years were we to follow this advice.
That being said, it is highly unlikely the IRS would pull our tax exemption were we to confess our sins. They have never done such a thing to an established national Church. Never. I doubt we would be the first - and that, in an election year. No votes in smashing little churches, especially one heavily concentrated in swing states.
Secondly, the only ones we might have to pay back would be the Andreas Foundation, should they ever ask for it back, which they wouldn't. They don't need $5 million in bad publicity.
So, in the end, both your fears and your morality are misplaced, which is not surprising, since the latter is guided by the former, not the truth.
A rather sad commentary on our Church, isn't it? Is this really the best we can do? I refuse to believe that. And shame on you if you do.)
#19 Anon. on 2008-08-19 18:10
I think you're reading a bit too much into Anon's post. I think their point was "look before you leap." Even in your response you made a leap of your own by assuming that the IRS wouldn't come after the OCA. You, too, are applying a kind of situational ethics. Frankly what if you are wrong as well? Personally I hope that everything comes out and if the OCA were to have to repay all of the ADM money or lose its not-for-profit status then I believe it is worth the price. The worst case scenario is that the OCA membership would dissolve and it would reappear in some other fashion. Honestly is this really so bad?
So to anon, thank's for the heads and I appreciate your analysis; however, I for one believe it is worth the risk.
(Editor's note: No, my ethical standard is not based on possible outcomes: that would be situational. I believe one tells the truth and accepts the consquences of one's actions. Yes, you are correct in asserting I am presuming the government will not act, even as anon. presumed they might. History and practice are on my side. In short, we agree - telling the truth is always worth the risk.)
#20 Anonymous on 2008-08-19 20:48
Dear Anon.11.1 (I don't know how else to address you),
First of all, thank you for your response and concern. In a Church that should be operating on conciliarity and full disclosure, open debate is a healthy thing and should be encouraged.
I understand your frustration and apprehension. However, as Mark or one of the other moderators wrote in the editor's parentheses, the chances for us losing our tax-exempt status seem nil. That does not mean it could not happen. Another thing to think about: the Kondratik-trying-to-bribe-Father-Zacchaeus-in-Russia video is already in the hands of the FBI. Therefore, don't you think Big Brother is already watching, monitoring, and investigating us? I wouldn't be surprised if they are keeping a watch not only on the official website of the OCA (www.oca.org), but this one, as well. And, I agree, I'm sure that, if we tried our best, we couldn't provide all the paperwork, paper trails, etc., since most of it has been burned, shredded, etc. Yet, trying our best to be as open, forthright, and upfront as possible, both with Uncle Sam and our people, is the best thing we could do for ourselves, in the long run.
Finally, my call for full disclosure was based on Prof. Bouteneff's suggestion to not do so, which (unless I'm quite mistaken) was not so much a call to refuse to dig deeper into the specifics of which dollar went where (this is the task for the IRS to do, which you referred to) as it was to withhold information already gathered by our Church (SIC investigation details, etc.) from the Church-at-large, and just let a few "appropriate" people know. This is the full disclosure that I am calling for. The government, with its much-vaster resources and money to investigate, can unearth the minute specifics of the financial improprieties, in order to prosecute individuals in our Church leadership who were guilty (be it Kondratik, +MT, +MH, etc.). What our investigations uncover, regarding the details of who was involved, should go to the MC, the Synod, and to all of us in the OCA. I believe this distinction of the two types of investigation should clarify your questions and resolve your apprehensions. Again, thanks for bringing the situation to the attention of all of us. In Christ,
#21 David Barrett on 2008-08-20 00:49
People are blind and don't realize that all the bishops have gone to the well. RSK is the true goat for these bishops. I know he'll have the last laugh. See you in court !!!
#22 Anonymous on 2008-08-20 03:41
Just to set the record straight, your friend clearly did not understand the RC teaching (and Orthodox teaching, I might add) on the nature of Confession. The confession of specific sins was and is only part of the process. The other parts are repentance, a firm purpose of amendment, and a firm resolve to avoid the near occasions of sin.
And let us be clear: repentance is not the same as sorrow for sin and/or feeling guilty and/or feeling shame and/or feeling anything. Repentance is a change of mind and attitude and viewpoint and value which recognizes a given action or attitude as sinful and evil, and which then determines that one wants this evil out of one's life, no matter what and/or how long it takes.
A firm purpose of amendment builds on that repentance by determining what specific steps need to be taken in order to effect that healing (which is where humble acceptance of and faithful performance of the epitimion comes into play), and by determining what specific steps need to be taken to repair the damage one has caused by one's sin (e.g., restoring money one has stolen; working overtime without pay to make up for time stolen from one's employer; making a retraction of gossip to each person to whom one has spread it; etc).
A firm resolve to avoid the near occasions of sin is just having the honesty, humility, and common sense to steer clear of those situations (and, perhaps, persons [cf. Rom.12:18]) which serve as "triggers" to one's weaknesses---again, no matter what it takes. Judas would've been well-advised, for example, to resign as treasurer of the apostolic band, since keeping the bag was a near occasion of sin to him (Jn.12:6).
Without repentance, a firm purpose of amendment, and a firm resolve to avoid the near occasions of sin on the part of the penitent, the words of absolution pronounced by the priest are fruitless and leave the last state of the penitent worse than the first.
That does not necessarily mean, however, that falling again into a sin of which one has previously repented renders the first Confesion meaningless. The enemy of our souls knows our weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and "triggers" far better than we do; and he's a sneaky, clever and highly intelligent enemy. So sometimes despite our best intentions, our life is that described by the monastic when asked what he and his brethren did all day in the monastery: "We fall and we get up; we fall and we get up; we fall and we get up." But the determination to get up and head back into battle is what's crucial.
How all this may apply to the bigger picture of the OCA and its troubles, I leave to the mind and heart of the reader. I do, however, add one caution, given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew 7:2, "With what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with what measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Whatever we may expect or demand of the hierarchs (or anybody else, for that matter) in respect of their sins and failings, God will most certainly and inescapably demand of us in respect of our sins and failings.
I don't know about you, but that one makes me sweat.
#23 Igumen Philip (Speranza) on 2008-08-20 05:25
Bravo to Mark for his editorial comment.
Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; that sounds like a command of the Lord to me! He gave us commands not to restrict us but to make us grow.
If we have to give Caesar his due, the reward for us will be spiritual growth. The Lord,our greatest treasure, said I will NEVER leave you or forsake you; it is we who leave him when we turn to mammon.
#24 Ever and anon. on 2008-08-20 05:46
It will cost the Church nothing to have the IRS investigate the missing money. The IRS does not do investigations on request, they do it when there is evidence of possible evasion of tax laws and people not paying what they rightfully owe.
In the end, and this is an important point, when someone cheats on their taxes, whether it be the local Joe a few houses away, a company that tries to expense the tanning of their secretary, or a Chancellor of an Orthodox Church evading taxes and skirting tax law, then we ALL pay. The atheist next door, the pious person next to you at Church, every one pays. It is because of people like those that the IRS is likely investigating in this case that we all have to pay more in the end. Evading taxes is not a victimless crime, it’s a crime against all the law abiding people in this country who do not have the gall or think of doing what the people we entrusted our Church to have allegedly done. The Church just benefits because we get to find out where these people misused our money and we have the government carry out punishment which we are so inept and unable to carry out ourselves. All the Church needs to do is not obstruct, which we can never be sure about with this group. Larry Tosi may feel we can’t handle the truth and therefore won’t give it to us, thankfully the disinterested people in the IRS give us more credit.
#25 Anonymous on 2008-08-20 06:39
I for one, appreciate your strong belief in + Job. For the past so many years, + Job has made it clear that he cannot wait to retire. On the other hand, + Seraphim did win the popular vote at the last AAC and he isn't chicken liver. There is no guile or culpability in him and he is younger. He is the logical choice.
#26 Anonymous on 2008-08-20 07:05
You are surely kidding (or are trying to obfuscate). When someone knowingly receives dirty money; funds intentionally provided to purchase loyalty and silence; one does not keep receipts. Are you one of the recipients who knows no records were kept? Keep it up. Sooner or later somebody among your ranks will revive his conscience.
#27 Anon. on 2008-08-20 17:27
I'm serious. To this point its all hearsay. We have Mr. James Silver and MP tell us there's smoke somewhere, but there's no fire. They think there's smoke, but they can't even point to where it is – its merely let the IRS know there’s something going on with such and such, but we’re not going to tell you what it is or when it happened or any specifics. That’s hilarious! No one has told us any facts, pointed to any evidence, or even situations in which they saw something happen. No documents, no witnesses, a crime hasn't occurred that we can point to. Out of all the people that should have knowledge if what you insinuate is true no one has come forth. There would have to be at least one person if the insinuations were true that would step forth, but again, no evidence, no witnesses, no crime.
MP and Silver have hinted that Herman is a thief, but at this point its more fantasy than fact. All the facts we have point to one man, who's been defrocked, and that's all folks. ...
You will get your day in court on Friday, isn't that when the fraud called that suit for the promissory note has its next appearance before the judge? I'm willing to bet that Kondratick drops the suit rather than let this one get to a point where evidence will be made public. Another game of chicken that the OCA will win against Kondratick. Need we say more?
#28 Anonymous on 2008-08-20 19:07
Please notice Mark didn't say the IRS wouldn't come after the Church, he said the IRS wouldn't revoke the tax-exempt status of the Church. I have publicly stated, as a practicing CPA, that in order to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Church, you'd have to prove the case that the OCA is not a Church - difficult to prove, especially with at least 27,000 members (or more) as communicants.
Now, there is an issue with what are called "private enurements", where an individual benefits from the tax-exempt status of an organization to enrich themselves. In that case, the Church may be subject to a special "tax" equal to 100% of the benefit received by the individual. Also, as the "income" would not be for religious-related activities, there would be FICA taxes due. In addition the individual would, most likely, be liable for personal income tax penalties on such amount as well. The OCA may be at risk for several million dollars under such a scenario.
At that point the Church would (most likely) be forced to file civil charges and ask for criminal charges to be filed, because theft (embezzlement) is not a private enurement, and no taxes would be due at all on that amount.
Fr. Michael Tassos (the Treasurer) is also a CPA and understands the law in this case, I'm sure. He knows it is a fine line, but in the end, the Church's interests are best served by cooperating with any authorities that decide to investigate.
The other major issue involves the missing records. Guess what - last one holding the money gets accused. If individuals withdrew cash and failed to obtain receipts accounting for the cash, they are then personally liable for tax as income to them. If this goes back years, as we all believe it does, then the IRS will basically bankrupt that person on the back taxes, penalties, and interest.
Martin D. Watt, CPA
#29 Marty Watt on 2008-08-20 20:48
Glory to IC XC!
Dear Anonymous 11.2,
You said that "there is no guile or culpability in" +Seraphim. I have met His Eminence, and he has always been kind, courteous, and a pleasure to be around. However, according to the Indianapolis Town Hall report, +Seraphim said something dreadfully wrong, that is unacceptable for a Christian leader to say. Abp. Job quotes him as saying, "phyletism is too strong to fight." If this is an accurate quote (and we are lacking context) then such a statement may be a full dis-qualifier (again, depending on context). But, as a general rule, a Christian -- let alone an Archbishop -- cannot say that any heresy is too strong to fight. No heresy is too strong for the Lord. God/Truth always wins and we should never fret or doubt that.
So, let's all fight the good fight together, regardless of how gloomy the outcome may seem. We all need to take courage and remember that God, being the Lord and Judge, always has the final say.
Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik
St. Nicholas Orthodox Mission Church
#30 Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik on 2008-08-20 20:59
These are precisely the same issues re: the ADM/Andreas donations which I questioned in public on the OCA Clergy list in the Autumn of 2000.
In January 2001, I was summoned to Syosset for a confrontation with Met. Theodosius, who would not be convinced of the legal and tax liabilities to which he was exposing himself and the OCA, no matter how many ways I tried to explain it to him.
His only excuse for not running these millions through the usual accounting structures -- per Pdn Eric Wheeler's advice -- was that he didn't want the donor to be identified in public.
But Met. Theodosius was lying, and unwilling to deprive himself of the funds to indulge his lavish and scandalous lifestyle. And NOW look what we have to deal with.
This OCA tragedy's last act can't be played until it's staged in a court of law and Met. Theodosius and Met. Herman are successfully prosecuted by the civil authorities.
#31 Monk James on 2008-08-21 06:10
I was at the Indy Townhall, and what His Eminence was talking about was his (Archbishop JOB's) reaction to the Romanians leaving the OCA to form a new, ethnic jurisdiction in America. His Eminence said, in a Holy Synod meeting, that such a move sounds like phyletism. In response, Archbishop SERAPHIM said that Phyletism is too strong a word, in other words, too strong an accusation for His Eminence to make. Archbishop SERAPHIM did NOT say that phyletism is too strong to fight.
Just a clarification. If I myself have misunderstood or not heard it right, please, someone at the Indy Townhall (or His Eminence himself) please correct me.
Father Peter's reflection is excellent and very helpful. I'm glad to see another faculty member speak out, as a few brave scholars have since the Alaskan affair came to light earlier this year. The silence of our seminaries and monasteries for two years was deafening (not to mention how many years before that of some knowing what was going on), and it is good to see that at least some consider it safe enough now to speak. I would again encourage our seminary theologians to theologize for us publicly, in our hour of need.
Again, Father Peter's reflection is a wonderful call to repentance and I thank him for it, but I must disagree in the strongest terms with the idea that we can continue to hide our sins and restore trust at the same time. Thank you, Mark, for discerning the falsehood behind the idea that we don't need full disclosure for reconciliation and the restoration of trust.
Father Mark Hodges
St Stephen the First Martyr Orthodox Mission
A well known seminary doctor/professor now deceased would often pose the unanswerable qusetion: what came first - God's justice or God's mercy? In other words was God being merciful when He gave us redemption through the cross/death of His Son or was He demanding justice first in the cross/sacrifice of His Son to restore redemption? There is no "right" answer.
That age old dilemna/querstion came to mind when I read the words calling for "repentance and forgiveness". It's easy for men like Job to say they are sorry and to ask for forgiveness. However, the fact may still remain that there was/are some criminal activities involved that still cry for resolution. Christians tend to be long-suffering, forgiving people and it's real easy to give in to the "soft" words of one who apologizes and asks for forgiveness. However, those "soft" words cannot cloud the issue - especially if laws have been broken. Otherwise, we are doing no more than contributing to and perpetuating the coverup. That only opens the door to allow similar situations to arise in the future. Forgiveness may be expressed in a lighter "punishment" even in the legal system, but it can never be used and should never be used to allow the person completely "off the hook". No lesson is learned that way when the person has that sense of "beating" the system by talking his way out of it and history really does then repeat itself down the road.
#34 justice or mercy on 2008-08-21 09:46
If a CPA knowingly works to avoid or cover up or otherwise work around IRS laws that were broken, is that an ethical violation on the part of the CPA? In other words, if Fr. Tassos's tries to rewrite history in terms of what would affect the IRS is that an ethical violation? I ask because remember when he first came on he and Kucynda were talking about reclassifying prior benefits? Is that an attempt to avoid the taxes that you spoke of?
#35 Anonymous on 2008-08-21 10:42
Smoke - well then why has Herman not provided any evidence - to anyone? He and Kucynda have planned their own demise. The inmates are running the prison and they gave them the keys. Just remember who were ther treasurers!
#36 MP on 2008-08-21 16:52
There has been evidence! There is a summary report! Kondratick stole like there was no tomorrow!
The only demise we've seen and will likely see is Kondratick down in Florida. Now if we can only get him in jail the book can close.
#37 Anonymous on 2008-08-22 06:42
Thank you, Peter, for you excellent reflection. I am reminded first of St Paul's words about willing to do the good while the evil lies so close at hand, continuously cropping up in him. He had the wisdom and insight (gifts of the Holy Spirit) to recognise this. I am also reminded of a conversation I once had with a priest about the same problem in myself, though I certainly can't say that my own recognition has led to anything close to sanctity. It is truly amazing how we humans can will so much to do the right - and often perform truly noble works - while the evil in us is lurking right there, even poisoning our good deeds with ulterior motives. Should we then refrain from doing the right because we know that we're just doing it to puff ourselves up? What a tempting thought! No, we have to do the right and struggle with the ulterior motives, asking God to deliver us from them - "and lead us not into temptation…"
So yes, we should recognise that right next to all of the hideousness that has poured out of Syosset like infection from an open wound, there has also been grace, like myrrh flowing flowing from an Ikon or the Relics of the Saints. Yes, I do mean that. Does it sound like a sick contradiction, like I'm demeaning the grace of God? Perhaps. But the fact is that there has been good next to the evil. In spite of the evil, there is the grace of God, and we must not forget that.
I do not favour the election of His Eminence Archbishop JOB to the primacy, even though I agree that he is our best hope among hierarchs within the OCA. I have said this to him directly. I believe he is very burdened by the whole matter, and that his primacy, while it might be reassure us all of a direction, would have in the background the pain of this entire fiasco. As has been pointed out, Vladyka JOB knows far more than he wishes to know, not just more than he tells. I have little doubt that his own discretion in what he does not say is true, wise discretion, but that doesn't mean there isn't the kind of guilt he has publicly expressed. How would all of this fit were he elected primate? None of us can know, not even Vladyka himself. It remains my conviction that for the OCA to REALLY move forward, we need a primate from out side the OCA, at least a man who has been completely uninvolved.
I have heard much talk about resolving episcopal scandals by returning to married bishops. I certainly would not rule out having married bishops, but I am not certain that is THE solution. I think people often forget that the canons do NOT require that a man be in the ranks of the clergy to be elected bishop. St Ambrose of Milan, as I recall, was a catechumen when he was elected. How many single, laymen are there in the Church (the OCA) who are competent leaders and administrators, and would make excellent pastors and archpastors? Do any of know layman of whom we might say, "He'd make a great bishop"? I've known plenty. If we're looking to increase our pool, perhaps unmarried laymen is a group we should consider.
Having said this, I wish to emphasize that I hold Vladyka JOB in the very highest esteem. He has shown his quality, and it is the finest, to borrow from Tolkien. If His Eminence is elected to the primacy, he will have my full support and sympathy, and above all, my regular prayers.
#38 Mark Harrison on 2008-08-23 21:40
No, not a report prepared by the OCA, where Herman and Kucynda have controlled all outcomes - something unbiased. What ever happened to the former OCA CPAs?
I think you have the wrong persons cooking the books!
#39 MP on 2008-08-24 05:12
FLASH NEWS! PLEASE SHOW ME SOME FACTS! OR ARE WE BACK TO THE SAME OLD "GOSSIP" THIS MESS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR SEVERAL YEARS! YET NO ONE WANTS TO MOVE FORWARD! NO ONE WANTS TO FORGIVE! AND FOR GET! WHY IS THAT? MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! I'M SICK OF IT! WHAT ABOUT YOU?
(Editor's note: Because no one has confessed, repented, and accepted responsibility for their actions. Here are some facts: $1.7 million in charitable donations were diverted by RSK with the permission of Metropolitan Herman to pay for operating expenses - like travel, etc. - thereby "defrauding" the OCA. Source? The OCA. Fact: We are now $1.7 million in debt to pay those monies back. Source: The OCA. Not "Gossip". And I anticipate the SIC Report will provide us with many more such facts. And the source of that? The OCA. In your case, Gossip Man, the expression is, I believe, you have been hoisted on your own petard. )
#40 Anonymous on 2008-08-25 07:53
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