Friday, September 26. 2008
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What an excellent, inspired reflection by Father Andrew! Just what we needed and just in the nick of time, too. Father Andrew cuts to the heart of what we must consider, as we
seek to deal with (or as some seek to not deal with) the scandal before us. And an excellent and timely reflection by David Barrett as well.
In my opinion, with no discipline for those five the SIC named as most involved, and nothing done or even said about +Seraphim's active and +Nathaniel's and +Nikon's passive assistance in cover up, it seems little has changed in terms of openness, honesty and accountability, particularly in light of the letter from +Seraphim which doesn't even
acknowledge the true reason for +Herman's retirement, and the Holy Synod's expression of “thanks for primatial service.” (Witness also various Deans’ continuing the intimidation and false front.) As one poster put it, “The disciples of +Herman are in place. If we're going to simply move on, then we have accomplished nothing.”
For their part, at the very least, +Herman and +Theodosius should be stripped of their titles and take up normal monastic residence at any one of the OCA monasteries. +Herman should certainly not be allowed to live at St Tikhon's, where he continues to exercise influence. David Barrett summarized it well: “The 'forgive and forget' approach...is one that is practiced with regularity in dysfunctional families, of which the OCA is just one example. This view is rooted in denial.”
For their part, priests involved should be stripped of their honorific titles ("arch"), disallowed to be in national or diocesan leadership, and allowed to simply serve their parishes as humble priests.
Those who refused to even speak with the Church should be excommunicated until they repent and come clean (cf. Lev 26:23 24; Ps 50:16 18; Mt 18:17). Those who the
evidence proves were involved but who refuse to admit wrongdoing should be excommunicated as well, until they repent. (That's what excommunication is for.) Serious consideration should be given to disallowing those who were on the MC during this time and who didn't at least speak up back on the MC or DCs (those who spoke up, like Stokoe, Bobosh, and a very few others being the exception).
As the SIC report recommends, discipline should include seeking recovery of funds from +Theodosius and Kondratick. This should include the requiring of both of them selling their houses and real estate as a first expression of sincere repentance and a penance
before being allowed holy Communion. It is important that our Holy Synod formally and officially recognize that Kondratick's use of OCA monies to wine and dine and give
expensive gifts to foreign dignitaries visiting the U.S. and to Russian dignitaries while Kondratick was in Russia were illegal and not legitimate, and subject to repayment by
Kondratick. This was not authorized, and in fact was not OCA business expenditures. The Holy Synod should also state that for the Church, the burden of proof is upon Kondratick
to show donations were given properly to those the money was raised for. For instance, the OCA reported for 1995 1997 that $614,000 was donated to the Russian Orthodox Church; that is a donation that can and should be verified, as well as many other donations.
The SIC report proved +Seraphim knew, covered up, and deceived; he was part of the scandal, and to leave him uncorrected only prolongs and extends the scandal. As Mark
Stokoe explained, “+Seraphim knew of the Bob's secret accounts in 1999 because I called him and told him everything as a member of the MC when John Kozey first spoke out. I begged him to help us. He did nothing. He did nothing when Fr. Zaccheus told him of Bob's attempted embezzlement in 2004. He did nothing when Eric Wheeler spoke out in 2005. Rather, in 2005, 2006 and 2007 he published letters from the Synod, and from himself
personally, dismissing, minimizing and denying the scandal.”
I'm not for vengeful deposition of anybody who admits their sin (although that would be the canonical thing to do). But this lack of discipline, and complete ignoring of the
SIC facts is just further scandal, denial and episcopal coverup.
Father Mark Hodges
St Stephen's, Lima Ohio
Both excellent reflections. Here's a poem by Emily Dickinson a propos of the Christian *way*, the way of blessed struggle, in fact the way of dying in Christ so that we might truly live, the way of the cross and the way of the wine and oil." I don't know if Emily Dickinson meant it this way, but that's the way I see it.
You're right - "the way is narrow"--
And "difficult the Gate" --
And "few there be" -- Correct again --
That "enter in -- thereat" --
'Tis costly -- So are purples!
'Tis just the price of Breath --
With but the "Discount" of the Grave --
Termed by the Brokers -- "Death"!
And after that -- there's Heaven --
The Good Man's -- "Dividend" --
And Bad Men -- "go to Jail" --
I guess --
Dying in Christ so that we might also live in Him: for the good man, this reality becomes his heaven of blessedness in repentance; for the bad man, it becomes a self-made prison of fear and rejection of God's love.
Christ said Count the cost It is costly to surrender to Christ, but the alternative is costlier still.
#2 Ever and anon. on 2008-09-26 13:04
I find many things of value in Moore's reflection. I hope others will read and REFLECT on it, it requires that. What good priest and people we do have.
Have you all read the RESOLUTIONS for the AAC on oca.org? Another pittiful flacid and luke warn offering from the people that brought us Herman Swaiko and Co. These bishops couldn't deliver newspapers let alone souls to heaven....
#3 no name on 2008-09-26 14:05
What a nice back-handed way to continue your "Vote For Job" campaign by "dis'n" Seraphim so your boy can win! So what if Seraphim wins by vote of the Holy Synod? What will be your Christian response, Fr Mark?
#4 Anonymous on 2008-09-27 07:07
Typically, I shy away from promoting the words of political figures, in a society where they are more tolerated than the words of Jesus and the saints, however both of these postings brought to mind a quote that frequently holds me accountable to my responsibility, when I would rather slip away into the comfy, albeit stagnant corner of luke warm. My favourite interpretation of it is this - " We will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Unless someone has a persuasive counter response to this post, I find it compelling and remarkably straightforward. Ditto for the reflections.
We really are at the point when all of us must decide if we are going to continue to live in a Potemkin Village of denial and lies, or face and deal with the truth.
Decide, and may God have mercy on our souls!
#6 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-09-27 10:23
I am not positive I have it all right, but it seems to me that Fr. Mark is holding Abp. Seraphim to a very high standard indeed. Am I correct that the OCA has been run in a pretty autocratic way? Am I wrong that there was a lot of common belief in the OCA that Met. Theodosius was engaged in personal misconduct? Am I correct that Syosset was a very tightly controlled place with the web of Met. Theodosius/Fr. Kondratick control widely spun, skillfully maintained and most enmeshing? And that Abp. Seraphim's actual job was to be in charge of the Canadian churches, not Syosset and national operations? Or that the MC and the rest of the Synod, the GROUPS which had official responsibility (as opposed to the individuals like Abp Seraphim who did NOT have official responsibilty) seemed OK with things as they were, with seemingly competent people in charge? Or that the allegations were plausibly denied by those who were in a better position to know than Abp. Seraphim? Or that there has been a very determined, well mounted resistance to the uncovering of facts once there was a critical mass of evidence?
From my admittedly very limited vantage point far away it raises serious Monday morning quarterback concerns to say that because some allegations were made and could have been followed up by Abp. Seraphim that he ought to be punished now. Now if the evidence actually shows something more culpable that is a different story, but for a failure to discern the truth and take the lead to act on it at a time when nobody else in authority was either, I really wonder.
#7 Fr George Washburn on 2008-09-27 10:47
Thank goodness for priests like Fr. Andrew! He's keeping his focus on the truth and reality of the situation and reminding the sheep of the real dangers still ahead. He's a courageous, true, and faithful disciple of Christ.
May God grant him many years and the strength and encouragement to let his light shine forth and enlighten the Church.
Fr. George, releasing the full PR report could clarify many of not all of the issues you brought up. It may, once and for all, reveal what the bishops knew and what was going on with their tacit approval and blessing. As Fr. Andrew so eloquently stated: "We must continue to ask why the Proskauer-Rose findings have not been made public. +Herman is no longer the impediment - so what is holding it up? Is it because we can't handle the truth? Or because it would force the Synod to really deal with what it reveals?" He is absolutely right and correct in asking this and the entire Church should and MUST ask it until their "royal majesties" finally answer. Given the Synod's track record so far, my confidence is still at an all time low.
We always delight in having the Antiochian Fr. Washburn coming around to occasionally stir the pot. Why, I would have had a calm evening if you didn’t contribute!
Fr. George, you ask “Abp. Seraphim's actual job was to be in charge of the Canadian churches, not Syosset and national operations” and “as opposed to the individuals like Abp Seraphim who did NOT have official responsibility” and “better position to know than Abp. Seraphim”. Well, let’s look at what Seraphim has been doing, because he’s been doing a great deal of a national nature very much away from his diocese.
Let’s look at his travel schedule, after a cursory search of press releases:
Sep 2004 – Egypt
Feb 2006 – Slovakia
July 2007 – Virginia
Apr 2005 – The Vatican
Oct 2004 – Syosset for visitors from Egypt
Dec 2001 – Finland
Jan 2007 – Las Vegas
Oct 2002 – Chicago
Dec 2004 – Russia (The INFAMOUS trip)
Now, this was a 5 minute search and if we look more exhaustively we’ll see he spends a lot of time down in the Syosset area and probably a lot more of the travel above. We know of numerous visitations to St. Vladimir’s. This reeks of a person who was very much concerned in what was going on at the national level and doing a lot more than his “actual job … to be in charge of the Canadian churches”
Father, it is truly appropriate to ask the person who was so deeply ingrained in the Syosset operation (is there another bishop other than Herman so visible there) what he saw and when he heard of allegations, being in such frequent contact with the operations at Syosset, why he did not act upon them. Surely he knows a lot more than what he’s letting on and we’re not going to give him a benefit of a doubt given his being the face of the OCA abroad. He knows a lot more and has been involved in the cover up as we have evidence of with the letter in the SIC report. Fr. Hodges is right on. We applaud him for discussing this as it is very possible that this man could be the next Metropolitan and its best we know what we can of him so we can make an informed choice in Pittsburgh.
Father, thank you for giving me the motivation to take a closer look at Seraphim, maybe others will examine this more closely as a result too.
#10 Anonymous on 2008-09-27 17:45
Abh Seraphim is on the Holy Synod of Bishops is he not?
As well as secretary to the Met these last 20 years?
If so he is either very naive/incompetent or in fact was aware and did nothing visible to report/stop this mess!
If Seraphim becomes the new Met so be it.
None of the current Bishops are without stain.
James-worst of sinners.
#11 CANADA James on 2008-09-27 19:52
I think Fr. Mark has this right. I am deeply disturbed that there is a possibility that Seraphim could be made Metropolitan. My hope is not that he woud be elevated, but that he would repent and step aside. The OCA, to survive, needs to move past this current Synod of Bishops, and elect new leaders.
#12 Another Canadian on 2008-09-28 18:39
If Christ talked like Fr. Hodges or David Barrett, there would be no Christianity.
The howling for blood and revenge, the spirit of spite, hatred and blood lust expressed in these postings are worse than the disease they propose to heal.
If the spirit expressed in these postings prevail , then our church is slipping into a dark period, indeed - darker than the pit it is in now.
A point to ponder: "It is a fact not to be denied that the wickedness of others becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our own hearts." Carl Jung.
(Editor's note: Slinging mud, as you attempt to do, is far worse than anything they have done. If you think the reasoned statements or the assertions of both Fr. Hodges and Mr. Barrett backed by evidence , are examples of " hatred, lust and revenge" I suggest you have never really experienced any of them. I suggest you re-read St. Paul, who knew something of Christianity, to see that hard topics sometimes require hard words; and that the seeking the truth goes beyond singing "kumbayah" ocassionally. If you want to join in the discussion, please do so - but stop throwing mud by making baseless assertions against grown-ups trying to talk, even if you disagree with them.)
#13 Anonymous on 2008-09-29 08:37
Sorry about the reaction to my words spoiling your evening. I thought I was being nice, not stirring any pot. I think I am again for that matter.
My point was meant to be a simple and non-controversial one: people ought not to be judged in a Monday morning quarterbacking sort of way.
Where there is true evidence of wrong (as opposed to suspicion), mercy, justice or some combination of the two should be dispensed by those wiser and more in touch with the facts than I. It just seemed to me that Fr. Mark, whose contributions I usually find most valuable, was perhaps using an awfully strict, 20/20 hindsight standard on Abp. Seraphim. But maybe not
#14 Fr. George Washburn on 2008-09-29 09:19
And Archbishop Job was not an Archbishop and member of the Synod? Come on, folk!
#15 Anonymous on 2008-09-29 19:05
He is also seen alot in Eastern Pa Diocese with the priest from St. Michael's of Jermyn, Pa. and a frequent visitor to St. Tikhonis. Herman's residence.Very good training.
#16 annonymous on 2008-09-29 19:59
The truth of this whole matter, from the very beginning until the final resignation takes place, is that many, many people had full knowledge of what had been going on in Syosset. And the fact is that this whole mess goes back many, many years to Father Schmemman and his orchestration of the "election" of Metropolitan Theodosius.
There are so many bishops that have remained silent about abuse, immorality, and stealing that none of them should remain - if they had any conscience whatsoever.
And the list of clergy who have passed through Syosset, who have worked there heard the rumors and ignored them, and that makes them guilty as well. Anyone who had a foot in that door or walked the halls, you all heard the rumors and did NOTHING! to those clergy enlisted to raise funds - the Fellowship of Orthodox Scum. You are ALL GUILTY ! You knew what was going on and did NOTHING !
You criss-crossed the countryside for more money -- all of you are guilty by participation ! You took that money and used it to live your immoral lifestyles whatever they were.
All these noble and lofty words, pages and pages of words, empty and without weight. God help us ! God help Orthodoxy !
#17 sick and tired of it all on 2008-09-30 06:19
Two apt quotes:
"The easy path of accomodating evil a little here, a little there, always leads downhill to the edge of a cliff above a bloody abbatoir."
"The idea that you can have the moderate bits without the nasty bits coming along at a later time is naieve."
#18 Ever and anon. on 2008-09-30 08:15
On Page 29 of my little red Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians is a list we should all review before attending the AAC in Pittsburgh:
NINE WAYS OF PARTICIPATING IN ANOTHER'S SIN
1. By counsel
2. By command
3. By consent
4. By provocation
5. By praise or flattery
6. By concealment
7. By partaking
8. By silence
9. By defense of the sin committed
We all need to think of where we ourselves have fallen short and find ourselves on this list. So many, (clergy included) ,are proud to now say they knew all about the scandal in the early 90s and yet said nothing. I've heard it said myself so I know it to be true.
If the Bishops who concealed information do not speak up at the beginning of the AAC, there is no point in continuing with the charade that the AAC will become.
I am not a theologian. I am not a kahuna in the administration.
I will be in Pittsburgh without a vote and would like to hear what our heirarchy have to say but am not sure that the $250.00 to hear it is money well spent. This is not an AAC that should be charging those in the pews $250.00 to hear some semblance of truth. Are there any others who feel the same way? I want to hear FIRST HAND what our administration has to say. I don't want a watered down version in a church bulletin or not hearing anything at all at the parish level.
And when will the report from PR be available?
Anonymous for now
#19 Anonymous on 2008-09-30 10:40
But why come down on us? I mean, Seraphim could EASILY defuse all this by just being open and honest like the council of his Cathedral says he is. Why don't you send him an email and ask his side of this story and report back to us and in fact, post his response? I won't hold my breathe in the meantime. But he, like all the rest, don't utter a word at all unless its to chastise us or ask for money and, lately, forgiveness, although they've done nothing wrong but guilty of "innocence and neglect", which isn't much to forgive since its not a willful act. Maybe we should ask Seraphim why Herman silenced the bishops? I'm sorry, but poor ole Seraphim has put himself into this spot and thinks that a nice wink or pat on the head of a child is going to make people think he's a good, open, honest guy.
#20 Anonymous on 2008-10-01 10:25
Since when is "speaking the truth in love", which I reinterated in my Reflection, synonymous with "the howling for blood and revenge, the spirit of spite, hatred and blood lust"??? Also, as I have posted in my previous Reflection, "A Balanced Approach", "The second [perspective] can be called the “tar-and-feather” approach. This perspective says, “Okay! So, Metropolitan Herman resigned. Now, let’s string up him, Metropolitan Theodosius, Bob Kondratick, Frs Kucynda, Oselinsky, and Strikis, and anyone else even remotely involved in the wrongdoings to our Church!” As usual, both perspectives are extreme and are mutations of what we are called to, according to the Scriptures." What you are really saying, then, is, "Any call for accountability and truth is evil, and the calling for blood lust and revenge!"
I agree with our editor here, Mark Stokoe: you really need to read St Paul, in all of his Epistles, especially Galatians, where he calls for accountability in the most severe terms, in order to stay faithful to the Gospel! You remind me of children I knew in my youth, who couldn't face people directly, but stood two blocks away, yelling at them anonymously, as you do by not signing your name! Our Lord called us to become childlike, not childish!....
#21 David Barrett on 2008-10-01 11:44
You ask why I "came down upon" you. I don't think I did.
I thought I was criticizing what seemed might be an awfully tough standard that was being applied to Abp. Seraphim retrospectively. Things are so polarized here that asking a polite question about the wisdom, kindness or fairness of anything said or done against a bishop is misinterpreted as a wholesale vindication of whatever the hierarch might have said or done.
in my case at least that is not true. All i was doing was saying was that we ought to be careful about being fair to them, all of them.
#22 Fr, George Washburn on 2008-10-03 17:36
Consider Bishop Basil
#23 Anonymous on 2008-10-04 09:13
Agree. Also, Fr. Mark Hodges has "paid the price" for his pastoral privileges. He stood up against Met. Philip when the rest of the Antiochian Archdiocese caved; even after the word on the street was that over 50% of the clergy were against the Metropolitan's decision to ordain a divorced man.
Misdirection is such a worn out tactic.
#24 Name withheld on 2008-10-04 09:45
I too struggled with paying the $250 Observer registration fee, yet I paid in the end and submitted my registration because I want to see if there will be any sense of remorse and repentance on the part of any OCA hierarch.
I remain very concerned that (a) for each day I attend the 15th All American Council my pro-rated registration fee could have underwritten 1 month of living expenses for a missionary priest or deacon through OCMC, and (b) the registration fee is on top of the $8 per capita special assessment levied on each and every parish to fund the AAC.
Because of my concern over the expense of this AAC and how that expense is paid, I wonder at the propriety of a "formal dinner". An opportunity to meet and socialize with other delegates and observers is laudable, but anything else is a waste of precious time, energy, and money.
#25 Mark C. Phinney on 2008-10-04 15:24
The Antiochean "cave in" had to do with a widowed Priest in NJ marrying his former council member's wife who had divorced him.Many paid the "price" for that. A good lesson for those who want an OCA-Antiochean joint Archdiocese !!
#26 anonymous on 2008-10-04 16:49
With all due respect to the personal integrity and passion for the Church which Fr. Andrew has demonstrated throughout this crisis, I must respectfully disagree. Bishop Hilarion would do for the Orthodox Church in America exactly what he did for the Orthodox Church in England, and that is to destroy the dream of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom who sought to make the Church in England a truly "English" church and cementing it once again under the Moscow Patriarchate.
However admirable Bishop Hilarion's accomplishments might be, the end could only be to once again come under the yoke of Moscow--effectively destroying the vision of men Like Fr. Alexander Schmemann and Fr. John Meyendorf for a truly American Orthodox Church.
I for one am not ready to throw the towel in on this Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, and I believe it is God's will for us as well. In the end, it will be our ability to transcend this crisis and rebuild which will prove the resilience of our autocephaly. On the other hand, if we fail, what foreign jurisdiction could succeed, save to only make us into another exotic and foreign religious group dismissed as "irrelevant" by the predominant Protestant culture?
No thank you. I would rather have us work within the pool of faithful and gifted men God has given us right here: men like Bishop Seraphim (Sigrist), Fr. Alexander Golitzin, Fr. Ted Bobosh, Fr. David Mahaffey and Fr. Michael Dahulich, to name a but a few. I'm sure there are others from within our dioceses' that have also in the past had the confidence of the faithful but have been "black-balled" by the Holy Synod.
O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance!
Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Fr. Robert. I agree with you that there are many gifted candidates for Metropolitan here in America. You mentioned several who are wonderful men, and as you also mentioned, many other priests, who have inspired the faithful, may come to mind. Here is one whom a fellow parishioner suggested, in that context, at coffee hour several weeks ago: Father Michael Roshak. He is a man whose faith has been tested many times, both by life's circumstances and by the OCA authorities. He is an inspiration of faithfulness, caring and optimism for me. Glad to have this opportunity to bring his name forward. Mary M.
#28 Mary Mytryshyn on 2008-10-05 20:01
How does one go about finding information on the possible "candidates" for Metropolitan? If one is active within their own deanery and diocese, one may have the opportunity to observe the diocesan bishop and priests in action. But the question remains, how can we possibly make an informed decision about men we really know nothing about, especially those outside of our own geographic region with whom we have little or no contact? Your list of names above is quite helpful as a starting place, but where can we find information about those men and others who may be on the top of the list for Metropolitan?
#29 anon on 2008-10-06 20:45
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