Tuesday, October 14. 2008
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These men ..... just don't get it! They continue to be clueless! The actions taken and/or lack thereof when made aware of the situation, resulting in the misuse of large amounts of money may well constitute criminal behavior. Stop trying to step around the issue. Stop trying to lay guilt trips on the laity in your thinly veiled attempts at derailing any legal actions taken against you. I want to see any appropriate legal actions taken agianst these men. I can't feel sorry for them when I am feeling sorry for the many good, faithful OCA members who gladly gave their money thinking it was going for a good and the many people who should have benefited from that money.
#1 no clue on 2008-10-14 15:19
We have heard all about +Nikon's and +Seraphim's public and not so public statements regarding the SIC report and they involvement in the scandal whether willingly or unwillingly, but we have not heard anything from +Nathaniel - not even a word, nor any letters to explain anything or any reaction! Just complete silence! WOW!
#2 An Orthodox Christian on 2008-10-14 15:41
Maybe it is that our Bishops have been along time between confessions. Maybe it is a long time since they with regularity heard confessions. Maybe a lawyer has tied their confession to the fear of a lawsuit or legal retribution.
I would kindly rebuke a member if during confession, if they made everyone else the problem, made themselves to be a victim like Christ, and defended their sin on the basis of inescapable personality traits. So this is offered that they might remember what needs to be said in our going forward and what real confession might sound like.
"I admit before Holy God and His Holy Church that I actively covered up truth, and that I had some knowledge of what was going on and yet said nothing because I was unwilling to pay the price for telling the truth.
I admit that this was cowardly and selfish on my part, and that I dishonored Christ and his church by my cowardice.
I admit that my actions and my failure to act have contributed to the tremendous spiritual and financial damage that has been done to the OCA in the past several years, and that I have thus been a stumbling block to many in their spiritual journeys. I have defended evil and have hurt those who were seeking truth. I have allowed for a culture to take root in the Church that is foreign to Holiness. I have allowed for criminals to go unpunished in my desire for self to be preserved.
For this I am heartily sorry, and I pledge to God and to all of the faithful of the OCA and to all those whom God intends for membership in His holy Church in the future, that I will take every step possible to make restitution to the OCA for my sins of omission and commission.
Going forward, I rededicate myself to living and acting with integrity before God and before the OCA at large. I will seek to defend the truth. To tear down the sub-structure of non-accountability that has lead to acceptable criminality in the Holy Body of Christ. God have mercy on me a sinner!! "
St Thomas Ė Springfield, MO
P.S. My wife, children, parish, and friends have helped me through the years to say what I really am and face it. Is there anyone willing to help the Bishops face what has really happened on their watch? Will they be able to hear and see and not imagine that we are their enemies? Are my wife, children, parish and friends my enemies? Of course not! They are especially not an enemy, when they tell me the truth. They are like the saints a mirror unto me. I do not always like what I see in the mirror, but refusing to look at oneself truthfully, is the greatest delusion of all. Knowing the fullness of my sin I hope to know the even greater mercy of God. Yes, I am a very great sinner but God is greater in forgiveness that I in sin. Thanks be to God!! I love the Bishops enough to say this latest offering like those before it is not confession!! It is just a way of saying I donít need Jesusí forgiveness very much for I have done very little wrong!! We are not enemies to the Bishops so I say again, "Come clean, speak like men, own up, say it like it is, stop making excuses, and God will heal you and His Holy Church!!"
#3 fr Andrew on 2008-10-14 15:58
AMEN Brother Stokoe! Please reserve a little of that "refiner's fire" for your first MC meeting.
I deeply regret that the many good people of the OCA, who helped to bring about most of the changes (however tenuous and inadequate) we now celebrate, are dividing into two camps. To admittedly oversimplify, one camp wants to declare victory and move on, willing to forgive, if not to forget. The other camp (including me) does not believe we have yet "exorcised the demons" that brought us to our past and continuing state of affairs and seeks therefore true confession and contrition evidenced in word and in deed.
This latest communique from the bishops is proof positive that the skeptics are right and it is in no way time to move on. I will not repeat Mark's devastating critique, but do implore those looking for silver linings to look again. Our bishops don't get it or don't want to get it--pure and simple.
We can not move on, we can not prosper, we can not witness to others, until this catastrophic failure of leadership ends.
#4 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-10-14 16:27
I read +Seraphim's letter and was incredulous. I read the letter from the bishops and was dismayed as they try again to minimize and move on. Thank you for taking aim and hitting home, Mark. I hope that you, and the many others who are able to articulate the issues better than I can, will keep exposing dissembling and deflection.
#5 Anonymous on 2008-10-14 18:41
To all the... people who somehow think that having Mark Stokoe on the Metropolitan Council will be a conflict of interest or a watering down of his speaking the truth: Take a look at his latest editorial, folks, and think again!! It is because of his truthfulness, frankness, and total honesty that I thank God that he is on the Metropolitan Council, and that we now have a chance and a voice that will not let go until all the facts are known!!!
(Editor's note: Please note that the Metropolitan Council recently voted unanimously - in almost every instance - to make the SIC Report and its contents known - as well as to adopt its recommendations. We would do a disservice to their service and the future of the OCA if did not celebrate their integrity and hard work as well. I am simply adding my voice to their existing chorus.)
#6 David Barrett on 2008-10-14 19:14
I take objection to your criticism of the line "I accept responsibility for the consequences of my actions or inaction." I think this can easily be generalized as a apology for actions. We always say, "accept consequences(responsibility) for your actions" to children, In his explanation of his personality, it seems that one could interpret it as him saying "I believed I was handling it the right way, I wasn't.".
That being said, I was hoping for a more specific, "I failed you and did wrong, forgive me" and was hoping for some sort of explanation of his letter to the Archimandrite. Though I realize that a explanation would look like an attempt at justification.
As a pastoral letter, this seems very heartfelt and sincere, which is a huge. Much better than many letters about this scandal 2 years ago. Also the letter did not minimize the scandal as much as the previous letter did. The synod's letter was also a deep improvement to years past, perhaps we should be thankful that the bishops are accepting some responsibility.
Hopefully this council meeting will see the implementation of more SIC recommendations, the former meeting was to short to implement everything.
#7 Reader Michael on 2008-10-14 22:15
Thank you, Father!
You articulated better than I ever could what really bothered me with all of these "epistles". Time and time (and time) again, we are told, "I did nothing wrong but, hey, if you think so, OK, I'm sorry" WHAT????? THAT'S CONFESSION?????
I realize the money's GONE (and the hope of ANY restitution is slim to none), the parties and galas are long since past so what REALLY bothers me is that the bishops (almost to a man) have absolutely no concept of our theology or even why a REAL confession is important for their own salvation if not for the health of the OCA.
Even more astounding to me was the blasphemy uttered AGAIN (same as Nikolai did several months ago) of actually having the AUDACITY to compare themselves to OUR LORD ON THE CROSS????? OH MY GOD!
That the shepherds of the Church, the successors to the Holy Apostles, could even write, might less sign such documents (I'm including +Seraphim and +Nikon's letters as well), makes me realize that we have a GREAT deal further to go before we even round the corner.
Even with all of the available, written evidence to the contrary, our bishops (with one notable exception) STILL believe they've done nothing wrong (except get caught, of course).
Holy Father Leonty, you were such an example of Godliness that even the neighborhood children knew, entreat the Lord our God to have mercy on the OCA and bring us all to Godliness and righteousness.
#8 Alexander Ivsky on 2008-10-15 06:40
Interesting to continue to see the following on the OCA website: a picture of Kucynda, with his traditional smile, on the Orthodox Christian Education Commission; pictures of Kondratick and Herman laughing outrageously in the Orthodox Christian Mission Center; Oselinsky on the Board of Pensions.
#9 Anonymous on 2008-10-15 06:43
Another piece of communication deserves some attention -- Fr. Eric Tossi's sermon at Education Day at St. Vladimir's two weeks ago.
His jumping off point was a quote from G.K. Chesterton. According to Wikipedia: When The Times invited several eminent authors to write essays on the theme "What's Wrong with the World?" responded:
G. K. Chesterton
[Fr. Eric's set up of the quote was a bit more elaborate]
Fr. Eric proceeded to hold this forth as the starting point from which we should all aproach answering the question of what is and has been wrong in the OCA. Once we've all understood and accepted our own responsibility and wrongness, we can move on to forgiving others, and then to love.
As I stood there listening, this sermon made me cry. But I also reflected on my emotional response and had to admit that there was nothing actually wrong with anything he was saying. In fact, at a certain level, what he was saying was profoundly true. I couldn't quite see the way at that moment to square my instinctive response to his words with my intellectual recognition of the validity of his points.
But with time to reflect, there are two fundamental flaws with that sermon.
First is the flaw of tone -- or rather tone deafness. The exhortatory style felt like a rebuke to those of us who care deeply about the OCA and have been motivated to speak on these issues, to advocate for the resolution of these issues, because of our caring. So we've come this far and instead of offering a hand of friendship and recognizing common cause with those who have been the critics, you stand there and give us lessons in what we should think and what we should feel?
But second, and more important, is the flaw of content -- the power of the Chesterton quote lies in the simple acknowledgement of personal responsibility. Starting with this quote, the only logical way forward would be for the sermonizer to continue in the first person and speak of his own failings, to lead us in reflection by example. But to shift the dialogue to the second person [even if veiled as a generalized first person plural] totally undermines the power of the quote.
Let's all admit we're all sinners. Let's all forgive. Let's all move on.
It's cheap Grace.
Of course, we're all sinners. Of course, we must forgive. Of course, we will move on -- time marches forward and we have no choice in the matter.
But if we really are to accept and to act on the profound sense of personal responsibility implied in the quote, then we must move forward conscious of what has happened, searching for the causes, and ever mindful to prevent similar abuse in the future.
We can't forgive and forget. We must remember and learn and forgive, fully understanding what we are forgiving. But such forgiveness cannot imply mitigation of consequences. We will all live with the consequences of what has happened, and the only way to live productively is to learn from what has happened, not forget it.
Another aspect of this sermon is that it reminds me of a pattern I've seen from time to time in different parishes where people's good will is abused. It goes something like this -- sincere parishioner has an issue or concern; priest wants to squash the concern; rather than address the substance of the concern, priest makes parishioner feel that the act of raising the concern [independent of the content] is disobedient, prideful or judgmental; if parishioner persists in expressing concern, priest labels parishioner a 'problem' to others, still avoiding the substance of the issue. I won't attribute conscious intention to Fr. Eric in this regard. It strikes me rather as an unfortunate, unintentional echo. But in the current environment, we need to be very careful to not invoke those echos. I may have seen this at the parish level, but it's clear from much testimony that this pattern was standard operating procedure for the former administration. It's not enough to not steal money, the new administration needs to demonstrate that they have a different approach.
But in the end, I return to the issue of tone -- would it have been so hard to give a sermon with a theme of mutual understanding? Would it have been so hard to stand there and say, "We recognize there is a lot of ill-feeling out there, we recognize there are a lot of questions, a lot of doubt, a lot of anger, but we also understand that the origin of all of these feelings is love for the Church, so let's find a way to work together to move forward?"
I'd be far more likely to attribute good will to leaders who showed some willingness to attribute good will to me and others like me.
#10 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-10-15 09:29
You may have me in mind as one of the folks in the "other" camp. But I certainly would not characterize my attitude as "declare victory and move on."
I'm not sure that there is victory to be had. "Success" at this point means that we move forward in the full awareness of what has happened and work together in a concerted way to change things. We have to move forward because time marches on -- it's less than a month to the AAC and that Council needs to be a real Council rather than a passive convention audience. As a delegate, my focus is on what we can do and must do to set the stage for improvement over the next three years.
I think any "move on, nothing more to see here" approach is doomed to failure. I don't think we've processed the impact of what has happened, I don't think we've started to reflect on what needs to change, I don't think we're ready to make decisions that set a course for the future.
I do think we can make decisions during the AAC that create the conditions for doing all those things over the next three years. Being in between the past and the future is uncomfortable, but we must seize the opportunity now to make the national Church structure an ongoing support for our parishes and dioceses. We don't know what that means yet -- we need time and reflection and people of good will working together to figure it out. And continuing to reflect and explore what has gone wrong is an essential component of that process.
That may take my focus off the past to some degree, but I firmly believe that any real way forward must involve an honest and full accounting of the past.
I completely reject what appears to be the emerging "company line" -- we're all guilty, let's forgive, let's move on.
#11 Rebecca Matovic on 2008-10-15 09:43
In your commentary you stated that a former treasurer stood before the Bethlehem parish and stated I did nothing wrong, I just signed checks. I was present and he said a lot more and at the end he asked for Gods forgiveness and forgiveness from everyone present. I don't think it is right to take one sentence from a whole statement. He actually said I am guilty of pre signing checks but I never wrote checks as that was handled by the comptroller who handled the day to day operations as I was there one day a week.
#12 Bethlehem Parishioner on 2008-10-15 09:53
Thank you for posting your comments, which put the "pastoral letters" in context. I believe that your analysis is, unfortunately, on the money. The self-delusion of the Synod is clear. So is their apparent desire to shift the battleground away from the objective and into the subjective realm of moral relativism.
Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ did not traffic in such moral relativism. Thus, neither should His vicars, especially in the context of "pastoral letters."
Let those of us gathering for the Sobor have the will to stand firm against this tactic and demand that the true "good of the Church" finally be served. Forgiveness must be tendered but only after the Church at large knows who is to be forgiven and what for.
Further, to your point, it would have been comforting to see those who dared to unjustly deploy the sacred and precious Sacrament of Holy Communion as a weapon of retribution punished a bit more severely.
#13 David Maliniak on 2008-10-15 10:19
I am very curious and what will all of this prove? Will it bring more people to Christ and His Holy Church?
It's time to think about how many generations will continue to be impacted by this. If the elders of the church do not begin to move forward in the Light of Christ, the OCA will continue to be the little mission on the wrong side of town. Orthodox leaders from all over the world have come together - where are we? We have not even been called to come. If we had a credibility problem before - the future seems bleak.
(editor's note: To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln - it does not matter if the leaders of all the world have come together, and we have not been called; it only matters if, having received the call, we come together with Christ.)
#14 MP on 2008-10-15 10:27
I agree! My comments were not meant to be a slight against the MC, but to lay to rest the silly notion that, somehow, you being the editor of this website would constitute a conflict of interest or that you might somehow "compromise" your position and forthrightness as a member of the MC! As you have stated, their work, especially recently, has been stellar, and your additional to the team will help move us forward even more!
#15 David Barrett on 2008-10-15 17:11
Unfortunately, I read the letter embedded in the editorial first, so I was influenced a bit at the beginning.
I'm not sure what part of the spirit is not intellect and what part of intellect is not spirit, which was my own thought as I read the embedded article. This has never been defined for me that I recall. I think they perhaps misworded the letter.
There is a difference between faith and hope and the prologue of history, which they may consider to be intellect. It is certainly conjecture on my part, but they started it.
I understand the letter and perhaps even its intent, but it was a bit confusing and I think the Bishops need to understand that actions are the only thing that matters right now. Speech and words have been twisted and bent for three years and fifteen. The Synod ought to have explained why the 2007 audit is not completed. Did I miss it?
As Mark pointed out, the Synod ought to be determining a fair and proper resolution for all parties to the scandal.
It is really easy to call on the spirit to pray, but much, much more difficult to take actions and make sure things are in the proper order. I believe St. Paul is quoted often on this matter of putting things in order.
Mark's editorial could be considered reading the tea leaves, but I think this again is where the lofty archpastoral letters leave us wondering what's next in the final resolution of the scandal. Certainly it will take years to resolve it all. The Synod needs a full on action plan on how they intend to put it behind the church. As long as Honesdale remains, so the scandal remains. As long as those involved have not been treated equitably (or close), so the scandal remains..
If the Synod thinks I'm being too intellectual, I'd have to say they haven't thought about things enough.
In determining what is fair, we are destined to disagree. I don't understand well enough the details as to why Dn. Wheeler is ineligible for an OCA pension to comment. I also don't know well enough that a pseudo criminal coverup of the Chancellor's personal bonus plan ought to result in stripping someone of their pension, but its close.
Seems like the Synod has more work to do before we can dismiss our intellect.
#16 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-10-15 20:51
I had no particular individual in mind for either camp (myself excepted), and as your post makes abundantly clear you are not in favor of "just moving on." Furthermore, your other prescient comments on this thread concerning Fr. Tossi underscore your unwillingness to buy "the line" now being floated and promoted by the Synod and its spokesmen, which, of course, I strongly condemn as well.
Our challenge, as you so rightly suggest, is how to move forward while at the same time dealing with a largely intransigent and unrepentant Synod. Clearly the MC and the AAC must take the lead, and I rejoice that persons like yourself will be there to represent me and the many concerned members of the OCA. Just stick to your guns (a poor metaphor perhaps ) and let your conscience and reason be your guide.
I find it breathtaking, that even at this point in time, much of the Synod fails to grasp the basic concepts and precepts of Christian leadership. The old "pater familias" model of command and control is dead or unworkable in the modern world, as well it should be. A servant model that embraces conciliarity is, of course, what is needed in our future leaders of all stripes. This does not mean timid or "wishy washy" leadership, but leadership that leads by example and therefore enjoys respect freely given and earned.
As a result, selecting monks as bishops is probably a bad idea considering the environment from which most of them come. Let's return to the Apostolic practice of selecting our bishops from among men who live in the real world and have relevant life experiences necessary to the job.
#17 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-10-16 07:19
And knowing full well the evil that men do, Chesterton also penned these profound words:
"From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men;
From sale and profanation of honor and the sword;
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!"
From "O God of Earth and Altar" by G. K. Chesterton
So our to hierarchs, you'll have to forgive some of us folks out here in "fly-over" country: You can hold all the services of mutual repentance and forgiveness you want; but you'll still have to work very hard every day--from here on out--to earn back our trust again. That's just the way it is.
Plain and simple...All the Bishops failed miserably in living up to wwhat took place at their consecrations.The faithful of the OCA are responsible for only giving and sending money into Syosset.Monies that were stolen,embezzeled,whatever.The OCA faithful have no need to ask for forgiveness....When are those who are guilty:MT,MH,RK,and others going to be receive their due? Forgiveness comes only after their repentance,fulfillment of whatever penance,etc. MH should in no way be living at or near the Monastery.No one is looking for vengenance...only justice.
#19 Anon on 2008-10-16 08:39
Your dissection of this latest Pastoral letter could not be more spot on.
I wish that our hierarchs in their duties as shepherds of the OCA, had taken care of their responsibilities, their flock and their Church as painstakingly and diligently as they have here, taking great effort to parse every word and orchestrate every phrase in this 26-paragraph flowery letter that shows, they still donít get it.
So, letís all hold hands and sing Kum Ba Yah Ė everything will be ok. :) :)
#20 Anne Marie on 2008-10-16 13:28
Personally I think one sign of how sincere the bishopsí own repentance is will be their response to continued criticism. If their repentance is sincere, the bishopís will see the criticism directed against them as justified and understand that they deservedly must take their lumps. However, if they are only trying to justify themselves, they will critically respond against those who berate them. Like the adulterer in a marriage who gets angry that his spouse canít get over the affair and forgive him and then acts as if he is the victim, so too our bishops will show their hand and reveal their hearts.
I find for example it strange that the bishops want each parish to have a rite of mutual forgiveness, as if the parishioners are somehow responsible for the grief through which the scandal has put the entire OCA. It is a act of mass forgiveness in a church which has rejected general confession as a normative practice of repentance. It would make more sense if the bishops and the former chancery workers would issue personal apologies to the church and then ask forgiveness. Instead the bishopsí Letter blames the passion of anger in the hearts of the membership for the continuing morass. The reality is the people had reason to be angry - the leadership had betrayed them! Christís anger at the money changers in the temple comes to mind. Maybe Jesus should have tried a rite of mutual forgiveness instead of driving the thieves from the temple turned den.
Would that the bishops would weep for their sins as they are the cause of the passionate anger in the hearts of the membership. Instead of faulting the members for the passion of anger, they should confess and admit that they are the cause of this grievous sin in the hearts of the faithful!
Lastly their letter calls for the faithful to again support the work of the national church. It is a euphemism for asking us to get the money flowing back into the temple again. But in my opinion, before that happens there needs to be a clear commitment on the part of the bishops to some vision of what the OCA is or should be. Just resuming what has been disrupted is not the desired result of resolving the scandal. What is needed is a true change of heart and mind (metanoia, repentance), new leadership, new vision, goals to move us in the right direction, not to return us to what was interrupted. It is not only a re-evaluation of the statutes which is required, or an episcopacy which will try to learn from its mistakes, we could use bishops who weep for their failures and then who humbly present themselves to the faithful as the servants of Christ who know it is time to lay aside their imperial demeanor and to wash the wounded feet of Christís brothers and sisters. For this scandal was not one of the faithful betraying the Church, but the appointed leaders scandalizing the faithful and crucifying Christ.
#21 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2008-10-16 16:15
At the end of liturgy in our parish, both the letter of the Holy Synod and the letter of Archbishop Seraphim were read. I think both were absolutely disgraceful, and shows, once again, the complete refusal of the synod to accept responsibility for their actions, and their utter ignorance of what the role of bishop truly calls for.
I'll be surprised if our priest proposes a service of mutual forgiveness. Should it happen, I will refuse to participate! While I'm indeed a sinner, probably worse than any of these bishops, it's ludicrous to think that this would address the problems caused by specific sins commited by others. I have much for which to repent, but stealing money, or remaining silent about it, using the Eucharist as a tool for blackmail and harrassing those who disagree with me are not among them! Bishops: .... act like responsible adults, and own up to your actions! We will never recover from this mess otherwise.
#22 An anonymous Canadian on 2008-10-17 14:44
I honestly fell sorry for a lot of authors on this webpage. I don't see a lot of love and desire for healing. I do see people that have a lot of anger right or wrong towards the Holy Synod. I see people that want the Metropolitan Council to rule over the Holy Synod which is non-canonical. I see others that want the OCA destroyed. What has happened to humility? What has happened to forgiveness? Do we look at each other and see Christ and respect one another as Christ? Do we remember that the Church is the bride of Christ?
St Nikolai of Zicha in his homily on the adulteress woman noted that Christ wrote all the secret sins of all the men who condemned her in the sand. Each one of them having also been responsible for committing offenses as bad if not worse and all worthy of stoning also. They all trembled because if their secret sins were made known, they knew they would suffer the same punishment they sought the Merciful Master to condemn her to receive. As each turned and left when he saw what was written, none were left standing around to condemn her.
While the Holy Synod may have sinned, we need to pray that God correct them and help them to guide us in the Truth of His Word. We should be praying that God grant us the same mercy He bestowed upon her and seek to sin no more. Orthodoxy survives and flourishes by the Grace of God. May God have mercy on all of us and guide us by His Grace.
-- A Sinner.
(editor's note: If you are going to make claims like " I see people who want the MC to rule over the Synod.." you have better have evidence of the same, or you are contributing to your sins by adding lying to them. You will find no such evidence of that on this site. We have a Statute which governs both the Synod and the MC, and we are all, Synod and MC, trying to perform our respective duties according to its terms. If you don't like the Statute - change it. But since no one has proposed any changes to the MC or Synod sections of it, outside of a manner for electing a new Metropolitan this triennium, we shall have to live with for at least three more years. Yes, there are people who are angry at Synod members, for good cause which they they themselves have admitted. And Yes, there are people who want the OCA destroyed. There are far, far, far, more here who have spoken out in defence of the OCA here. I would suggest we have less to fear from those who speak out and hate the OCA, than those who just undermine it from within through criminality, misdeeds and cheap grace. )
#23 Gregory Davis on 2008-10-17 17:08
#24 Anonymous on 2008-10-17 22:22
Nice try, anonymous Bethlehem parishioner. I was not there... but I know at least three people who were there who did not hear what you describe.
But let's just suppose, for a moment, that what you describe is what the former treasurer did say. I would be more impressed by it if I had not heard with my own ears untruths from his lips on more than one occasion. .... He regularly constructs his own self-serving version of reality as he goes along. There are many besides me who can attest to that. Cate
#25 cate on 2008-10-19 20:25
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