Monday, October 27. 2008
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.... I didn't get to personally hear this message, but I have heard him speak a few times before on these subjects, and it is very clear to me that +Nikon feels so personally hurt and abused by what has gone on, that he has completely lost his ability to objectively evaluate people and situations. Yes, most of the members of the HSOB feel hurt and abused, as hurt and abused as we all feel. Remember, they trusted Kondratick, they probably regularly gave him communion when they met together to have liturgies at St. Sergius Chapel. They never went to bishop-training school, they didn't really ever learn how to be a bishop, Kondratick knew it, and took advantage of it. They thought he was simply doing them a favor, now they know he was taking them for a ride. They trusted +Herman too, they likely trusted that +Herman knew what Kondratick was doing, and that it was a-okay. If something smelled fishy in the kitchen, they told +Herman, and if +Herman said it was a-okay, then, by golly, it was a-okay. Period. +Nikon has always struck me as the most naive of the bunch (+Dimitri strikes me as also being rather naive, +Job became the least naive, +Tikhon simply twiddles in indecisiveness, the other two (...now counted among The Departed) used this dysfunction for their own intents). +Nikon now realizes that he has been incredibly naive, and therefore he is greatly embarrassed. Therefore, he tries to blame other things, other "situations" for his past mistakes, and castigates those things as causing his present hurt. The psychology of this isn't very complicated, but unless +Nikon breaks out of it, soon, I'm afraid he is going to lead NE into complete disarray because of it.
#1 Anonymous on 2008-10-27 19:44
Thank you for an insightful Editorial / Reflection today ("Truth and Order"), concerning the situation here in New England. You have articulated brilliantly what many of us have been saying for months...
I, too, was puzzled at +Bishop Nikon's Address to the Diocesan Assembly. With both the restoration of the funds for the national assessment, along with a promise by the Parish Council to "abide by decisions" made at future Diocesan Assemblies, I could not understand the bishop's need for one last verbal slap across the face to the Ansonia parish! And what really jolted me was his claim of approaching "the situation with love, care, and spiritual sensitivity." Really? When? His only two visits to the parish were a few weeks after the parish's annual meeting in late January (when they voted to withhold their national assessments) in the hopes of convincing them to reverse their decision, and at the Unction Service held on the fifth Sunday of Great Lent, where the bishop, immediately before the service began, told the pastor and the deacon that "many of your brother clergy do not want to be here, and I am not going to give 'the word" today."
Then, in addition to the Ansonia-bashing in the Diocesan Assembly Address, +Bishop Nikon engages in a "poor-me-I've-been-picked-on" rant concerning his rebuke by the SIC. Since you pointed out the holes in the sieve that won't hold any water concerning this, Mark, I won't belabor the point. However, I do want to point out the hypocrisy of the situation: Anyone who is so sensitive when he has been rebuked maybe ought to practice a little more spiritual compassion himself when it comes to dealing with other people!
With the restoration of the national assessment funds (returned to the Diocese from Ansonia, by the way, *with interest*) and this latest public rebuke for being such naughty children, I hope and pray that we can all leave this... behind us, and focus on the tasks at hand: electing a new Metropolitan, concluding the investigations and taking whatever justified steps are necessary, and moving on with the "one thing needful": proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those in our midst in the USA, and, God-willing, bringing a modicum of the Kingdom of God to them, for the salvation of the world!
#2 David Barrett on 2008-10-27 20:41
I am still sorry Bishop Nikon finds it so absurd that an innocent third party such as myself would disagree with something like stopping audits back in 1998. Or audits failing for years on end. Or the fact that one of his own brother Bishops on the Synod showed us compilation language from 2002 (dated 2003) that suggested the organization misused funds starting well back into 2001.
I'm even sorrier he has to credit the speed of the internet and the valid concerns and my waste of time and act as if this is a bad thing.
I'm still sorrier he canned Fr. Searfoorce for speaking tough to Met. Herman. You'd think firing the tough speaking clergy and laypeople would be the first thing to stop.
I applaud the well thought out resolution from New England. It addresses many of the things that I have been uncomfortable with in the other resolutions. They had the ability to see what others haven't done and have done a good job, no an excellent job. There is one bit of language I don't agree with in the resolution. I can't agree that decentralization is the perfect answer until the strategic planning suggests it. To suggest it is an eventuality and that the head tax should fall to below 90 bucks is not appropriate.
Almost every other thing they said has me agreeing 100%, especially removing the head tax for a percentage of budget from each parish system with oversight by each Bishop and an allowance for the Bishops to adjust for certain things like mortgages, major renovations, etc.
It is not a time to punish those working today at the cca for the errors of the past. Nor is it a time for a major upheaval and withdrawal of financing. It is certainly fair that the Kondratick excesses be removed from the budget. I set those amounts at about 200k per year based on the reporting done by the church. Given that amount, it seems like $200k/25k members should result in an 8 dollar adjustment down by my read of what is right.
..my thoughts, thanks for providing a forum Mark
#3 Daniel E. Fall on 2008-10-27 22:03
Isn't this beating a dead horse , it's time for healing. Everytime I read this site , I feel unchristian in a way. I have prayed for the guilty and have moved on.
When will the oca move on ? Every man accused is gone and it's time to move on. One question Mark , why have you not interviewed Kondratick or zuchasses ? I heard that tape is very distorted. Are you beating a dead horse ?
(Editor's note: I have offered multiple times to interview Kondratick. He knows how to contact me. As for Fr. Zacchaeus, he has told all to the SIC, which I trust told all the relevant stuff to us. If you have heard the tape is distorted you have heard something that all those I have spoken to who have actually heard and seen the tape have not told me. Lucky you. The problem with the Moscow tape is not that it is distorted - but that it was all too clear what was going on. The only criticism I have heard about the tape itself is that there are some small gaps, which some explain on the basis of the recording system - while others hint of darker motives. Without actually possessing the original, which the FBI has, this is a question that perhaps may never be resolved.)
#4 Anonymous on 2008-10-28 02:46
How far we have come, and yet how far we have to go! Do we have one bishop in the OCA, excepting +Job, who can fully repent and accept responsibility for what they have done? Clearly, .... the answer is no.
In many ways, Mark's.....dissection of Bishop Nikon's address is far too kind. ....
I have desperately wanted to give Bishop Nikon, and many others, every benefit of the doubt concerning their actions, with regard to the scandal and its aftermath, in the hope that at some stage, however late, they would see the light and let go of the practices and justifications that have brought us to this point. .... At every juncture I have been bitterly disappointed and the point is rapidly arriving when this state of affairs, at least for me, can not continue.
I pray the AAC will find some way out of this morass of a failed and corrupt leadership, whose only way forward is to "control the internet" and the criticism and light it sheds on their shenanigans. No doubt, the Western Church felt the same way about Gutenberg's press....Ignorance can not forestall the truth forever--the day of reckoning will come!
#5 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2008-10-28 05:59
I suppose $90 makes sense if you think the Statue of the OCA provides for department work, all of which, with the exception of military chaplaincy and external affairs, can and should be done on the diocesan level. And I further suppose that $90 makes sense if you think the new OCA culture provides for an outrageous amount of money for legal expenses when settling all Kondratick suits can be accomplished for a fraction of what the legal expenses will be for 2009 and years after that. How about the MC authorizes a special appeal to pay these expenses since it is the MC legal committee that is calling the shots on counter suits. And I suppose $90 makes sense if you consider paying outrageous salaries which total over $150K with benefits for the Syosset positions. The Statue provides that these positions be occupied but it does not say they have to be full time.
Look at the Statute. See what Syosset is actually responsible to do and you will see that at least $750K can be cut for the current budget proposal.
Finally, Syosset has done an interesting slight of hand by giving us a $105 head tax budget and a $90 head tax budget. What about the $50 head tax budget passed by WPA? Don't they deserve the same treatment? Or is it really same old same old but now "our guys are in" so things are fine?
New wine in old wine skins.
Fr Hopko, you were right. Your proposal still makes the most sense.
#6 Anonymous on 2008-10-28 06:27
Everyone is too overly worried about what will happen next. At the AAC, the vote will come down to either + Job or + Seraphim. + Seraphim will win. He will inherit a greatly diminished central church organ with much over-sight. The OCA will recover and we'll see what can be accomplished in the next 4 years until the next AAC. If another election is due at that time, so be it.
#7 Anonymous on 2008-10-28 08:02
Dear Brother Anonymous,
First, let me tell you that I use to share your feelings exactly---but have come to understand that until all the puss is removed from the wound, no healing can even begin. It's a basic rule of medicine. Also, I've learned that, although the faith of the Church of Christ is perfect, some of the members of 'the hoursehold of faith' have problems and issues and even sins and illnesses that are serious enough to warrant either confinement or hospital...and that we should not be scandalized by this or feel badly (or dirty) for having to help some of our brothers and sisters see that they are ill or in need of help. The Church is many things, but it must not ever be a Pollyanna Land...because if it becomes that, it's just an opiate or a double fudge Sunday or something---but NOT the faith and Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! The Lord was many things, but a saccharine-prophet is NOT one of them! We have to all face sin and falleness in our own lives as well as the lives of our brothers and sisters in faith. That IS painful...it IS unpleasant...it IS a 'dirty feeling'---but it is also necessary if we are ever going to help each other to grow and become holy. The refusal to face reality condemns us to live in a 'make-believe' spiritual world of complete deception (prelest) where everything is 'rosy' and where there is no falleness and sin anywhere in the Church or in us her members. Facing much of this 'material' about metropolitans and bishops, priests and faithful IS untasty stuff and not for everyone's palate...but it IS necessary if we are ever to 'growth-up' and grow-holy.
May the Lord stay by us during the process!
In His Holy Name,
Fr. Pius, priestmonk
#8 Fr. Pius on 2008-10-28 08:42
I also agree that the legal fees should be raised by a special appeal. It seems only fair that those who are pressuring the church for legal remedies should pay for those remedies.
(Editor's note: By that logic, only those who use a Bishop's services should pay for him. The fact is that the Bishop serves us all even when we don't see him doing it; and legal defenses defend us all even when we don't realize we need it. In the end, you elected the representatives who make these decisions - and several more will be elected at the AAC. If you dislike the decisions they make, choose more wisely next time, and encourage the brethren to do the same.)
#9 Anonymous on 2008-10-28 09:14
The bishops have the ultimate decision making authority in the Church. Unfortunate as it may be, any member of the Church can find himself in a situation of disagreement or discord with someone of a higher authority. He should then be able to expect a fair and even-handed investigation of any such situation by his bishop.
+Nikon, +Seraphim and +Nathaniel knew the answer to Archbishop Job’s question “Are the allegations true or false?” from the very moment that question was asked. Not only did they choose not to support +Job or to answer his question, but they remained silent while those who kept asking it were castigated, vilified and punished.
It is then reasonable to conclude from the bishops’ behavior during this scandal that they will not break ranks in cases where the establishment of the truth may demand an independent and unpopular stance. For that reason I do not see this issue as the beating of a dead horse. It is relevant to our future.
I also do not believe that the ability to distinguish right from wrong stems from some kind of “bishop-training”. Usually basic human integrity and decency should be sufficient. So I have a hard time buying the naiveté argument also.
#10 Karina Ross on 2008-10-28 10:58
I think the constant fisking of anything that comes from one of the hierarchs makes them a bit shy about saying anything. I am also confused. A hierarch asks for forgiveness for what has happened. Doesn't that imply that he accepts responsibility for what happened? Isn't that being accountable for the actions of those under their watch and those they serve alongside? Does +Nikon's being silent mean it is because we weren't on the "inside" of the Synodal meetings to hear what he said? It sounds a lot like we just won't accept their requests for forgiveness and are questioning their sincerity. Are we that badly in need of "justice" to just not forgive already?
(editor's note: Live and learn: "fisking". The British newspaper The Observer defines fisking as "savaging an argument and scattering the tattered remnants to the four corners of the internet." In the old days we just called it analysing something....
And no, asking forgiveness does not imply one accepts responsibility for what has happened anymore than walking into the Church implies confession. And in this case, not to fisk, you will find that none of them have admitted any specific failures or poor decisions, rather "confusion", "trusting to much", or just my "personality traits". But I suppose you would call that fisking....
The issue before us is not justice or forgiveness. It is about integrity. And until the Bishops deal with that issue, the problem continues no matter how much they forgive themselves or others; and no matter how much, or little, justice is meted out. )
#11 Anon E. Mous on 2008-10-28 11:10
If someone 'just' simply asked forgiveness, perhaps then the offended could 'just' simply forgive them. But there is nothing simple about the way this story is playing out.
"Simply asking forgiveness" is a far cry from what the Holy Synod has actually done. Their "requests (some would call them demands) for forgiveness" have been tangled up in excuses, padded with self-justifications, accompanied by sermonizing and above all overshadowed by the continued placing of blame on others-- not just on Kondratick, but especially on all those who have called for any kind of accountability.
It reminds me of a bully who keeps knocking somebody down every time they try to get up, and all the while telling them how bad they are for not forgiving the bully while he is still in the very act of assault.
The real madness is the people who keep saying 'just get over it'.
Our hierarchs are so badly in need of simplicity. Of unadorned repentance. Without it, how can we ever root out the cause of this crisis?
#12 another anonymous OCA member on 2008-10-28 14:42
Mark, I think you missed two important points from the assembly. Given the intransigence of some in the church in the past, I think they are significant.
1. After vespers at the assembly, His Grace publicly prostrated himself in front of us and simply asked for forgiveness. He then kissed my hand (and I think everyone's although I didnt look so I dont know) as I asked his blessing at the end of vespers like everyone else did.
2. At the beginning of the assembly he read a letter to him from the president of the parish council in Ansonia. The letter asked that they be allowed to be represented at the Assembly and the AAC. By statute, they should not be allowed to attend (assessments must be paid up as of July 1st of the year of the AAC or something like that). I was happy to see them ask, and even happier to see that His Grace allowed them to come, and to go to the AAC.
(Editor's note: My report was not about the assembly as such, as I was not there. It was about the published statements from it. That being said, I really appreciate your further news. It would have been absurd for the Bishop to have punished those who took a stand against iniquity when they should be his greatest allies. One has to applaud the common sense shown by all, for which New England is justly famous. )
#13 Andrew A. Boyd on 2008-10-28 20:09
"Deacon John Zarras, the former Reorganization and Transition Chair, was re-elected to a second three year term as the lay Metropolitan Council delegate." Could someone explain why a member of the clergy is a lay delegate?
Secondly, am I to assume that the Ansonia parish has released its assessments?
(editor's note: Deacons, in this context, are not considered clergy. It is confusing, I know.
And yes, Ansonia released its assessments - with interest. )
#14 Michael Strelka on 2008-10-29 07:40
It goes further than merely prostrating oneself before the assembly. Actions speak louder than words. Our decision in withhold assessments from Syosett in January was a well considered, deliberate and unified action of the entire parish, except for a few power brokers. We did not need enforcers dispatched from Bishop Nikon to maintain order. What a joke! It was made very clear to us by the Chancellor that they were looking for an apology for our actions and an admission that we were wrong. Of course, there was no such thought on their part for conceding any wrong doing, since from the beginning +Nikon and the most of the clergy enablers in New England have never considered being wrong in supporting the status quo and concealing the truth. They have always walked in unison and stood by Met Herman, even in the worst of times. What a disaster this is. Meanwhile, Fr. Roshak who was merely allowing for the parish to make a free decision on the matter and in fact recommended releasing the assessments after the SIC report was made public. What is the result - he is marginalized by his fellow clergy and treated like an outsider. Well, we may have a church council president feigning all over the bishop while betraying Fr. Roshak, but it doesnt change the fact that the majority of parishioners know exactly what is going on and stand behind our righteous and Godly priest one hundred percent. Bishop Nikon could have let this matter rest and merely accepted our decision to release the funds, but no he had to open the wounds even more. This is not a hierarch who wishes for healing and restoration by the love of Christ, only reconciliation under his own terms and conditions. It isnt going to happen.
#15 Member of Three Saints on 2008-10-29 07:46
Just to clarify, Mark is correct. According to the Statue of the OCA, deacons are not considered clergy for the AAC. I was a "lay" delegate to the 1983 AAC as a deacon although I was serving as the administrator of a mission. For the Diocesan Assembly which I attended later on that year, I was a clergy member.
The world "clergy" in OCA speak usually refers to a priest. This has nothing to do with the Holy Tradition of the Church which clearly defines clergy as all who serve the Church in the major and minor orders.
Archpriest Mark Koczak
#16 Anonymous on 2008-10-29 12:38
Your deed to the Brooklyn Bridge has been Fedex'ed... should be there shortly!
#17 Anonymous on 2008-10-30 10:42
No one would contribute to a special appeal for legal fees. Its the idea that they were shrewd enough to get into this mess, they can be shrewd enough to get out of it. I don't think that any right minded person would give their hard earned money for the defense of people who have admitted to doing nothing wrong, just naive. I cannot see giving any money to legal expenses while there has not been a complete accounting of all that has happened. Can ANYONE justify giving a PENNY for legal expenses when not only has Ray Velencia not been punished, but was given an award? Heck no!
#18 Anonymous on 2008-10-30 10:47
What use is the Brooklyn Bridge? It's not hard to figure out that +Nikon feels personally hurt. He feels that this whole "situation" has hurt him as much as all of us. In fact, he might be even more hurt. Also, he has admitted that these things happened because he didn't know what to do about the "situation" when it happened. He said these things himself at the Cleveland meeting. And he is still saying them. In fact, I think he even feels personally hurt by Three Saints.
Look, we all know Kondratick "made things happen." Things got paid (seemingly), important people were met with nice pictures put in important news outlets, trips were organized and delegates were sent. +Nikon, as he himself has said, couldn't "do" these things, so he (and the other bishops) were dependent upon Kondratick to do them, and Kondratick took advantage of that, not only to hoodwink them, but to make them feel that he was absolutely indispensable, no matter what. The bishops now realize that the trust they put in him was stupid, which is embarrassing (because they really should have figured that out sooner, they know that), so they are blame-shifting.
I don't think any of the current bishops were personally involved in the shenanigans, but they all know that they benefited from it. Most of them have a piece of liturgical paraphernalia which likely came through Kondratick's hands as a part of his trips to Russia. So yes, they were there, they benefited, and they realize now that they weren't sharp enough to stop and think "wait, this is actually wrong." No, honestly they learned how to be a bishop by watching the other bishops, and if the other bishops were doing something, and the chancellor was telling them to do something, then that was what they should do, right? That's what +Nikon thought at least. I don't think +Nikon is a bad man, he simply lacked the ability to critically evaluate the things that people around him were saying and doing. That is, by definition, being naive. Being naive is not the same as being simply gullible, I don't think any of them would have bought the Brooklyn Bridge. But if Kondratick had told them that he had a plan for how the OCA could buy it, well, they probably would have given him the green light.
#19 Anonymous on 2008-10-30 18:24
Anyone who is caught like a deer in the headlights is going to say he’s personally hurt, its called damage control. He’s not going to say, “Well, ya caught me!”, but that’s what happened, he got caught and now he’s trying to do the best he can to save face and get out of it as best he can, unfortunately its not going to work. As this entire mess has unfolded and the bad apples who we KNEW were bad apples like Kondratick, Herman, Nikolai, showed their natures, Nikon started to show us his nature which no one had expected of him, and now he’s in it to his eyeballs and thinking that, like Dmitri said, it was all innocence and neglect and he had really didn’t know what he wasn’t doing. That’s bunk! The real story is that HE GOT CAUGHT and THAT’S why he’s upset. HE GOT CAUGHT! He was shown what kind of a man he really is and as he stonewalls and covers up more, more of that man is coming to light. No wonder he’s upset and trying to make himself look like the victim. Unfortunately, its not going to work.
We do not believe him, we do not believe in him, we consider him another bishop caught in the spiritual headlights that’s trying to claw his way out of a hole dug of his own doing. “I feel pained personally” are just words of a desparate man trying now to save whatever support and trust of the people remain. Continual cover up rather than honesty, something he preaches. Continual beating down people who demand the truth, the truth he preaches about, the truth he gladly proclaims at Pascha. Does he believe what he preaches? Or is that only for other people? Is this a man who’s example you think your kids should emulate? Think seriously about this and then ponder these thoughts when you next see him, maybe at the AAC. There’s a man there with a shallow view of what being a bishop is.
What is basically comes down to is what Mark said in his editorial, integrity, and none of the bishops have shown any integrity, save Job. Why do we come to this conclusion? We come to this conclusion after three years of every effort to underplay, ignore, and do as little as they could in this scandal, sweeping it under the rug hoping that minimal actions at various points would satisfy the faithful and they’d go back to paying, praying, and obeying. At no point, other than Job, did any of these guys show any integrity to do an honest job to clean up the filth. When his own faithful had had enough, they had to withhold money, he showed his true nature. He basically disowned a parish that was having a moral dilemma. Its all documented. He, disingenuously places the blame on the parish for their being outside of the diocesan family....
I get sick and tired of these guys trying to play to our hearts with their cries of being personally hurt or the myriad of excuses from Herman, the innocence and neglect from Dmitri. So many ways to try to pull the wool over our eyes again and again so as not to act like men and be accountable for what they did. They’re weak alright. If they really want to show us how pained they are, they should resign and admit their failings and their incompetence to be bishops, but that would require submitting themselves to humility and would require integrity....
We have no sympathy for Nikon, he dug his hole and now that the support structure that he depended upon has withered away he’s thrashing about trying to keep his part of it going.
In the end, he may be able to fool people into believing he’s a pious, conscientious, deeply hurt man, but he’s not going to be able to fool God, and that’s the only opinion that really matters.
#20 Anonymous on 2008-10-31 11:56
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