Thursday, January 8. 2009
Your comments, questions, thoughts are welcome as we begin our fourth year.
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Excellent points are made yet again by Mark.
I must confess a great disappointment when I read about the upcoming commemorative book. Really. I get to pay to send greetings via an advertisement in some book. Are my prayers not enough? The speech given by Metropolitan Jonah at the evening banquet following his election was audacious in its scope and vision for our Church. It seemed that we were embarking on a great mission to be THE CHURCH not just pretending that we are bigger and more important than the Greeks.
Whoever thought that this commemorative book was a good idea has not been listening for the last several years.
#1 Christopher Eager on 2009-01-08 20:14
Go get um! We are right behind you, in the dark and still not signing our names. But your work is great, the Church is run by cowards and there are a few of us posting here too.
#2 Anonymous on 2009-01-08 20:23
Its just so difficult to watch people killing themselves trying to straighten out all of the mess and put things back together while Herman and his former entourage still strut around like peacocks obviously living high off the hog on whatever it was they accomplished for themselves at the expense of the Church. Maybe it is wrong of me, but I want to see them humbled. It just doesn't seem like anyone is ever going to do anything about it. What is the point in answering all of those unanswered questions if no action is ever going to be taken against those who were responsible? In the end it will just make things worse. Obviously people are scared of something.
#3 Anon. on 2009-01-08 23:24
You are absolutely correct. Thank God for this forum. Without it, quite possibly none of the changes which have occurred in the OCA would have taken place. This site must remain open and current. It's when we become complacent that things go horribly wrong!
#4 Anonymous on 2009-01-09 06:18
A timely admonition from our esteemed editor, which all should take to heart. I would only add that Orthodox unity and witness are still either lacking or non-existent, probably in large part because they are intertwined.
#5 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2009-01-09 06:34
Thank you for leading the "faithful and loyal opposition" for the last years. Without your fortitude and determination, we would still be in the tunnel without seeing the light at its end -- many would not even realize that we were in a tunnel.
You are correct in your assessment that we need to continue so that we can stand in the full light of the bright day.
I would like to warn that the seeds that were planted over the last 20 years are still growing in many of our parishes. Many of which are led by clergy who counted on the goodwill of Syosset to gain office or to advance their careers -- some were participants in the regime; some objected but were silenced; most took the cowardly route of "not rocking the boat." This same spirit infected the lay leadership of the parishes. I can attest that the Parish Council at my parish (of which I was a memeber) never dealt with the scandal in a substantive manner and avoided any public discussion of it. We also paricipated in and enabled a leadership that was marked by closed decision-making and extraordinary opaqueness (life in the tunnel). I deeply regret that I participated in the Council and took the coward's part of not hammering home the need for an open and frank discussion of the scandal at our parish (even though I was aware of the scandal and was a constant reader of OCANEWS). The only member of our parish "leadership" who openly and steadfastly warned about the dangers of the scandal to our Church's life was our dear Pastor Emeritus, Fr. Dmitry Grigorieff, may his memory be eternal! He suffered for this and we all stood by and did nothing.
We are so fortunate that Our Lord loves and forgives sinners!
I think that many parishes need self-examination to determine the extent of infection, and to take the steps needed to make the cure or, if that is not possible, to cut out the tumors. Otherwise, the metastasy of Syosset will continue to harm our church.
#6 Martin D. McGuigan, Parishioner at St. Nicholas Washington DC on 2009-01-09 06:52
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
God bless your endeavours for the OCA this coming year and always.
You are indeed a four star General, fighting with the word (truth) that is mightier than the sword!
#7 Ever and anon. on 2009-01-09 06:56
When the new Metropolitan stays home and addresses the scandal in a completely public way, then the scandal will be settled. However, I think cows will fly first.
#8 anonymous on 2009-01-09 07:58
How very, very true! Thank you for courageously sharing these observations.
#9 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2009-01-09 08:10
Yes, we should want to see them humbled, not as revenge but as the fruit of love. Can those filled with the Spirit go to these men and love them to repentance and restitution?
No one is ever beyond saving in the eyes of Christ and it should be so with His Church also. Will the new Metropolitan be such a Spirit-filled man?
Saying good riddance is the most mean-spirited thing and a product of the old system of moving on in denial and lies.
Can we pray for God to lead them to full repentance? Only if we truly love them with divine love. Is there divine love in the OCA that would see these men fully restored to fellowship with all?
#10 Ever and anon. on 2009-01-09 10:09
Thank you Mark for returning.I'm glad that the forum is continuing. I agree completely with he who sai that MH and others are still strutting around like peacocks. Indeed they are.Is RK still getting a salary from Venice. Is he still wearing a cassock as a defrocked priest. Was he or the others even been given a penance? Why are they still allowed to serve. Why have their been no suspensions from all services until all is settled? Heard MH was ticked because someone turned his parking sign around at the monastery. Why was it still there?Hes out. Hes no longer Abbot! Yes,I agree. Theere are too many issues and questions left unanswered.When MT retired he bought his own house in Hamlin...away from the Monastery.Now MH lives ina house left to him??? Keep at it Mark.The people deserve restitution and satisfaction.
(Editor's note: I doubt there will ever be restitution, and I have no idea what
"satisfaction" may be. But the people, as well as the clergy, certainly deserve the truth. )
#11 Anon on 2009-01-09 13:56
To the editor's observation:
Jesus went to Zacchaeus' house and Zacchaeus' was so
overcome with gratefulness, he said he would restore what he had taken 4 fold!
It is possible.
And the other restoration, that of the spiritual restoration of an errant brother, should be done in a spirit of gentleness...Galatians 6:1
Will we replace the distrust of the leadership with bitterness for them? The truth
is the necessary first step in healing; reconciliation through
repentance ( which must includes restitution) is the necessary second step. For the good of the Church!
(Editor's note: I agree - I just have too little faith to believe it will happen without the courts being involved, since all of those accused of diverting funds still deny they even did so. Sigh.)
#12 Ever and anon. on 2009-01-09 14:39
Thank you again for a good editorial with the proper perspective. Yes, the "old guard" mentality still infects and affects our Church adversely. The old perspective of "more pomp means more Orthodoxy" still prevails. Hence, not only a commemorative book, but a panagia costing the people of New York, New Jersey, and the greater Capitol area in the neighborhood of $13,000!! I believe it is nice and appropriate to show love to the new Metropolitan by offering gifts reflecting that love! But, a new panagia costing $13 grand??? That's excessive, wasteful, and sinful!! Clearly, some of these people look upon the new Metropolitan in the same way they looked upon Herman: if their noses don't see daylight, they figure he will be impressed. However, *un*like Herman, the new Metropolitan is prayerful, believes in the Gospel, and is serious about the Scriptures!!! Therefore, like our Lord and His Apostles, +Metropolitan Jonah has the faculties to discern and see below the surface to the reality beneath it!! I pray that his continuing example of referencing all to Christ will rub off on more and more people in our Church, until we have a majority of our people, both clergy and lay, who are serious about "the one thing needful," the Gospel of Christ! May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us and convert more hearts without our OCA!!
#13 David Barrett on 2009-01-09 17:36
The canons take the attitude that clergy are suspended (prohibited from exercising their sacred duties for a time) or deposed (defrocked), while laity are excommunicated (put under penance). One or the other is applied as appropriate, but not both.
See, for example, Apostolic canon 25:
If a bishop, presbyter, or deacon be found guilty of fornication, perjury, or theft, let him be deposed, but let him not be excommunicated; for the Scripture says, “thou shall not punish a man twice for the same offence.” In like manner the other clergy shall be subject to the same proceeding.
#14 Fr Basil Biberdorf on 2009-01-09 18:20
Your observations and reaction match what many of us are seeing also. Not good! The ink is not even dry on the OCA's books and a new personality cult is being developed and supported. Are we soon going to start seeing collections for the "Metropolitan Jonah Library/Museum"? (see: http://www.stots.edu/news_050529_1.html)
Can't the OCA for once, just start walking the talk at all levels when it comes to humility, Christian servant-leadership, and Christ-focused (instead of "me-focused") ethos without wasting so much time, energy, and resources on pomp and circumstance?
Do we need to undermine Metropolitan's Jonah's chances of bringing about meaningful and real change by glorifying him ad nauseum before his ministry has borne any meaningful fruit?
Do we need to already reflect on his legacy and accomplishments before he's had a chance to bring about substantive changes to the OCA?
Do we have to keep walking down the same road over and over again?
Pokrov has yet to see any significant change in the way that allegations of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct are handled by the OCA. We will be watching to see if the new administration acts to remove sexual predators, as well as the sexually incontinent, from the priesthood.
Melanie Jula Sakoda
You are poison!
The Orthodox Church on Earth is for everyone...every single one of us sinners, not just the self-righteous like yourself!! I don't deny there are people who have hurt others in ways unthinkable...nonetheless, they should be given the opportunity to a least go to another church, monetary, or convent (obviously with full knowledge of the priest) and repent and worship God. How many examples of atrocities that have been committed and in the end these people become saints?? Be careful that your self-righteousness doesn’t condemn you.
Signed...a mother of young children in the OCA
#17 Anonymous on 2009-01-10 18:03
Part of the problem with the "Old Guard" mentality of the Chancery senior staff and the leadership of the Diocese of Washington and New York is reflected in the handling of the gift of the panagia.
1. The "panagia" is actually a set of two panagia and a pectoral cross, not a single panagia. The set was to be the gift of the Dioceses of Alaska, the West, and Washington and New York.
2. The agreed price for the set, valued at $30,000, was $9,000 -- split equally between the three dioceses.
3. Fr. Joseph Lickwar either did not know the above details, which were known to at one of the other diocesan chancellors involved at the time Fr. Joseph sent the "request" for funds, or Fr. Joseph chose not to include those details in his request for funds. A third alternative is that Fr. Joseph is unable to formulate or solve the following type of math "word problem":
Diocese A has 60 parishes. The diocese has a bill for $3,000 not covered by the current budget, and the diocesan treasury apparently does not have enough money to cover the unplanned expense. Each parish is expected to provide an equal amount towards payment of the bill, but one-third of the parishes will not provide any funds -- no matter the amount requested. How much must the diocesan chancellor ask from the parishes to completely cover the expense? Answer: $75.
So how much does Fr. Joseph ask from each parish? $200, which equates to 15 of the 60 parishes providing the funds necessary to pay the unexpected expense. Assuming that more than 15 of the 60 parishes do in fact send the requested $200, what will happen with the excess funds? Fr. Joseph says in an email message sent two weeks after the original "request" for funds that any excess will be returned to the parishes.
I hope the following questions are asked of Fr. Joseph at the next Diocesan Assembly:
1. Does Fr. Joseph really think that no more than 15 of the parishes in diocese would provide the requested money?
2. Wouldn't more parishes be able to and acutally provide the funds if the amount requested was $50 instead of $200?
3. Why ask for 4 times as much money as needed?
4. Why didn't the diocesan treasury have at least $3,000 available for unexpected expenses? Is part of the reason for the lack of available funds that $56,000 was transferred from the diocesan treasury to the Central Church Administration in mid- to late Spring 2008 to cover the shortfall of income when the Diocese of the Midwest was withholding assessments?
#18 Mark C. phinney on 2009-01-10 19:58
I must agree with Chris. All of this--the commemorative book, etc.—it is disheartening at best. Why are we putting new wine into old wineskins? It is, as they say, madness to repeat the same behaviors and expect a different outcome. Let's hope and pray that after the trips to Romania and Russia, we can all (our new Metropolitan included) settle down to a deep, renewing Lenten journey—and a Pascha full of hope and joy! Please God, may Met. Jonah "rule" out of the wisdom of silence practiced in his monastic life. We must all give him time in which to be silent—daily!
#19 Cathryn M. Tatusko on 2009-01-11 17:16
Thank you, Chris,
I enjoyed your comments. I believe you brought good insight into your comments. I believe each and every one of us, with our collective efforts in following God's will, is that salt Christ talks about that each and every one of us must strive for.
I have great respect for the office of Metropolitan and all that he potentially can bring to his new office. I would like to fully believe that he is such a person that will not go down a corrupt road as his two predecessors. I do believe our little OCA will become stronger and better under +Jonah's leadership and I do believe he needs our support and prayers!
I guess, however, since Old Testament times, the people have clamored for a "King." But this was seen as a weakness by God but He listened to their plea. However, we Orthodox sing every Sunday in the 2nd Antiphon, "Do not put your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to his earth, on that very day his plans perish."
And thank you, too, Mark,
I believe you are doing a great service (and carrying your own cross) by continuing your website here. You are in our prayers as we hope and pray that your own efforts help to bring about a stronger and healthier Church that clings to Christ (rather than any human being).
#20 Patty Schellbach on 2009-01-11 18:35
Melanie didn't say to remove abusers from the church - I cannot speak for her, but being familiar with her work I believe that she would be open to abusers having access to the Church if they have confessed, are repenting, are segregated from innocent potential victims and are properly supervised, with the full knowledge of the parish at large, not just the priest. Where have you been? Don't you know that many clergy abusers have been shielded in the church by fellow priests and hierarchs?
What she did say was that abusers should be removed from the priesthood. Certainly you must agree with that, especially as a mother of young children.
"You are poison"? I think you owe her an apology; your attack on her was undeserved.
#21 a fellow mother on 2009-01-11 18:47
PS - and if the abusing priest committed a crime --- let the Church minister to him in a jail cell.
#22 a fellow mother on 2009-01-11 18:51
These people (at Pokrov) saved my life. Not Syosset, not St. Tikhon's, not the OCA, not my priest, not my bishop not not not not not...........
#23 Anonymous on 2009-01-11 20:29
Melanie is not poison.
She and her colleagues are much needed voices for the protection of our children.
She is concerned that the OCA follow its own policies on sexual misconduct and that investigations of allegations be handled with love and care for the victims, not as exercises in protecting the institution from liabilities.
The issue is guilt being covered up and people being left in positions of authority -- not not allowing the repentant the support of the church.
Sometimes people who speak publicly about unpleasant things are treated as if they themselves are the source of unpleasantness -- we'd all rather not think about it, so the person who raises the issue becomes the goat. If you have young children, then you should be thankful to Pokrov for raising awareness of these issues and ceaselessly advocating that we do right and stop covering up wrong.
[not to be construed as an unconditional endorsement of everything Pokrov and/or its leaders do or say in all circumstances]
#24 Rebecca Matovic on 2009-01-11 20:44
Wow. Calling Melanie Sakoda "poison" is akin to slapping your mother as she serves you dinner. Do you have any idea the suffering Melanie and others have endured on our behalf for more than a decade? They have acted on the courage of their convictions and shined a bright light on horrible demons lurking in the shadows. What she and others are doing must be encouraged and supported, not condemned. We are doomed to repeat the offenses of the past were it not for courageous women like Melanie.
(Editor's note: Ditto.)
#25 Anon. on 2009-01-11 21:30
WARNING: SARCASM ZONE
Surely you didn't expect the Metropolitan, the rest of the Synod, or the Central Church Administration to waste their valuable time with such an irrelevant concern as justice for the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy or monastics under their jurisdiction? There was and is so much more important and transcendent work to be done ... the proper pomp and circumstance for the enthronement of the primate of an autocephalous church and the assembly and publishing of a puff piece history are such vital aspects of the Great Commission. Wasn't it the calls to form over substance and self-congratulation that moved the delegates and observers at the recent All-American Council?
O Blessed Fr, Herman of Alaska, pray for spiritual children!
#26 Mark C. Phinney on 2009-01-12 02:51
The Church, like her Lord, must be about the Father's business.
What is the business of the Father? Reconciliation in Christ Jesus of all, starting with those within the Body.
Though the Father has every right say Good Riddance to us all, He never stops reconciling the world to Himself through
He tried the flood thing once and determined never to do it again. He MOVES ON the hard way, by restoring, not by forgetting.
To me, it looks as if we are still just trying to sweep it all under the rug. No full repenatnce that includes reconciliaiton,
and we are just a club, not the Church, no matter how many be the feasts, the liturgies, the pomp, and so on.
#27 Ever and anon. on 2009-01-12 08:10
WOW-amazing! And had the guts to sign your own name too
All of the women of Pokrov DESERVE our thanks NOT some spineless rant! Why?? Because they've EARNED it. Enduring more abuse than you can even imagine while you cower behind your anonymous posting.
Maybe, just maybe YOUR child/ren will be safer in Church because of them. Think on it!
#28 Alexander Ivsky on 2009-01-12 10:14
From reading the above coments regarding the "gift(s) to Metropolitan Jonah", the sexual abuse(s) and the OCA policy, etc; it appears that the OCA administratively is the same as it was under the two previous Metropolitans. It is time for the Metropolitan to stay home and clean house. Refuse expensive "gifts" and ask that the monies being given to worthy charitable works. Nothing has really change. It appears that the OCA administration, dioceses and parishes (those who have the power to change things) is still doing the same-oh-same-oh. disgusted!
#29 anonymous on 2009-01-12 10:28
AMEN! Melanie Sakoda and those she works with have done a great deal to protect innocence and force the Church's leadership to remove demon-predators (that's the only way to describe an adult who sexually abuses a child) from the midst of the sheep.
Ahem... or harumph.
I was a longtime participant on the Indiana list. I quit it for several reasons, one of the chief of which was the ability of Bishop Tikhon, formerly of OCA West and Melanie, et. al. from pokrov to hijack virtually any discussion of any issue and turn it into a forum on 1) abuse as defined by pokrov and 2) the personal animosity between the two sides. A lack of editorial vigor, not to call it sheer torpor, was a major contributing factor in my opinion.
There is some merit to having one-issue lobbies around in many walks of life, the Church included, but we must not forget that there are downsides as well as upsides - hijacking being one of them.
Another is the reductionist tendency, the measurement of all and sundry in light of perceived responsiveness on the lobby's issue. As long as such folks show some meaure of maturity and perspective it is hard to begrudge them focus on a single issue, but for goodness sake let's not buy into the idea that some quickly-trumpeted or easily-observed change or focus on this issue is how Met. Jonah's era should be judged in these early months by the rest of us.
#31 Fr. George Washburn on 2009-01-12 14:05
Thank you Mark Phinney!
Right between the eyes!
Melanie's concerns with her and Cappy's efforts through Pokrov.org are well taken and they do need our support and prayer!
I would like to remain anonymous in this post, but I dare speak because no one should make fun of anyone's suffering, especially those who have suffered in any number of ways at the hands of clergy.
But I have contacted Pokrov.org myself about a certain clergy member. And while this clergy member is well respected, this person has never been properly credentialed to be a private counselor offering therapy. This is the case with most of our priests anyway; they are not properly credentialed so that they may become proper professional private counselors.
Pokrov.org is a very serious organization that exists to make sure that persons are not violated in the most serious ways. Violation of body, mind, and soul seem to exist in the OCA and when Melanie's question is properly taken care of through the removal of those perpetrators, we may finally be turning a new page in the OCA.
Personally, I have received a small amount of vindication, I was not the first person who called about this clergy person. Other complaints have come in over the years about him too.
Now I know what SNAP is (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests).
One may wonder, if anyone has paid attention to my blogs, how I even manage to remain Orthodox. Because of the 2nd Antiphon, "Do not put your trust in sons in princes of men." It was a lessen my very pius Orthodox dad taught me years and years ago in how to reflect on the problems of the church.
There is much good in the church. But his advice will always remain with me. Now that is wisdom!!!
#32 Patty Schellbach on 2009-01-12 18:34
Many thanks to all of you who responded to the anonymous poster in Comment #12.1. I am overwhelmed, and exceedingly grateful.
Thank you again,
Melanie Jula Sakoda
The world is not so dark as you paint it. For many years Vladyko Dimitri has labored in the South, honestly, truthfully, ernestly, and without regard to himself. When most people his age are leathering their skin in Florida, he goes on working in the Lord's vinyard, not as a task master, but as a loving father and co-laborer. Maybe he doesn't labor in style, travel in the newest cars, and communicate with the latest gadgets, but he labors nonetheless. He has been a model of non-acquisitiveness, of meekness and of truth for me. Not once have I seen him agitated, or even raise his voice, even when people, his own people have disrespected him to his face. Maybe his timidity and distaste for confrontation is a flaw, even a major one. Nevertheless, it is outshined by all his work and virtues.
Despite his age, he still blazes new trails for Orthodoxy in America, being at the helm of a diocese that funds itself in a way no other Orthodox diocese in the world does: parishes tithing to the diocese, the diocese to the national church, and the diocese puting the revenue from tithes back into the parishes and missionary work. So simple, yet so revolutionary.
The usual suspects can decry his inaction with respect to the scandal, but none can accuse him of actively taking part in stealing money or in anyway profiting himself. My theory is that he never really saw the real relevance of the central church administration, since he believed all the moving and shaking really takes place at the diocesan level. As some one put it: We send all this money to syosset and all we get is a cheesy magazine. There's not denying he should have been more alert of what was going on. He will be judged by that, and also by all his hard, selfless work in ministering to his flock.
Mark, I doubt this post will see the light of cyberspace, but I needed to "share my thoughts" at least only to remind myself that the Lord has not left us completely bereft of loving pastors. You may disagree. so be it.
#34 Anonymous on 2009-01-13 15:16
Christopher Eager said in part: "I get to pay to send greetings via an advertisement in some book. Are my prayers not enough?"
Well, Metr. Jonah's email was listed, so I sent him my greetings and prayers the day after he was elected. And he send me an email back thanking me!
I suppose the 'commemoration book' has some 'history' or 'tradition' behind it, and many parishes publish such books on significant anniversaries, but the whole thing seems a little silly to me, except to sometimes look at the historic photos.
#35 James Morgan on 2009-01-13 15:37
Thank you for your letter and also for speaking out during the last annual meeting. As members of St. Nicholas also, we want you to know you have allies in this matter. Let us know if we can help at St. Nicholas.
Peter and Helen Evans
#36 Peter and Helen Evans on 2009-02-02 05:21
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