Friday, September 22. 2006
No receipts, no audit, a failing review, no word on the investigation after six months - and the OCA website asks for more donations to the Christmas Stocking project. We are officially behind the looking glass. Or perhaps I am overreacting? Your comments welcome.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Good thing the Altar boys in the Catholic church spoke up. Because comparatively, if it was our Church, unless they spoke up, it never happened.
Will this ever end? Will they ever resign? I think its time to start asking independant government agencies to get involved and to prosecute these folks.
You cannot have the prisoners as the guards of the jail too. I will just not work, unless of course, the prison is run by the OCA...
#1 Bob H. on 2006-09-22 14:50
With the combination of the perpetrator(s)' destruction of financial records and Syosset's defense attorneys conducting the audit, the odds of finding anything wrong were very slim.
As a best practice for next year, the Metropolitan Council itself should retain the auditors and have them answer directly to them. That's their job under the Statute and we've seen what happens when they abdicate their responsibility to the Church.
Mark, I wish to remain anonymous for this posting.
#2 Anonymous on 2006-09-22 15:17
I thought "moveon.org" was a political movement, but it certainly seems to be the byword in Syosset and in many dioceses. From Archbp. Dmitri - be silent and move on. From some posting to this site - move on. Now, thanks to his attorney and/or his bishop's (MH) inaction, Fr. Kondratick is also moving on -- to a new parish assignment. Other former-movers and shakers have also moved on, no questions asked (or answered). All of this without accountability, repentance, forgiveness.
The situation is so very, very sad. Things only seem to be moving from bad to worse.
Lord have mercy on us!
You know, in a rather cynical way you have to kind of admire the forward thinking of the person who "allegedly" made all of these documents disappear. Houdini coudn't have done it better. In fact, as "alleged" crimes go, this person actually beat out Martha Stewart, Arthur Anderson and Enron in terms of forward thinking by getting to their documents and "allegedly" destroying them before anyone around Syosset woke up and said, "Hey Bob (the name is just an example, it could refer to anyone) whatcha doin' over at the shredder?" "Oh nothing, just some old papers I need to get rid of."
Isn't amazing what people do in the name of religion? Where else and under what other circumstances can you imagine that someone would get away with this? Someone "allegedly" steals hundreds of thousands of dollars under the nose of the people around them, shreds all evidence under the nose of the people around him and no one says a word. Seriously though, if this wasn't the church, would anyone in his right mind act like this? You will get prosecuted for stealing a $1,000 computer in an office and in the Church you can steal hundreds of thousands and all is forgiven. How nice it would be if the Honesdale National Bank were so forgiving.
Reading this stuff is better than the funny pages. Actually it's a bit more like reading "Waiting for Godot." And like the play, Godot (or in this case "Justice") never arrives.
Lord Have Mercy!
#4 Fr. Michael on 2006-09-22 16:48
Is it not ironic that in a Church that has an Archives Department tasked with preserving Church records for posterity that we should have so much difficulty retaining current administrative and financial records? *T*radition, *t*radition, or ...
#5 Anonymous on 2006-09-22 17:50
As Alice said in A. Milne's ALICE IN WONDERLAND:
"The faster I run, the behinder I get."
A previoius post begged the question, "What next? Will this OCA crisis ever end?" I say we have long since reached our limit of tolerating excuses and responses from our Metropolitan and his accolytes.
We should make an attempt to forward our crisis to the attention of federal and state attornies general so that an investigation is pursued at their level and competence, as to what happened to some $1 million (or more) of discretionary funds, for some years now.
They will find it very interesting, that our OCA administration has no backup receipts, records of these expenditures and who authorized them, from many secret accounts. Who caused the paper trail to disappear?
Solicit and bring in the federal and state authorities, attempts by ANYONE, within our OCA, will be futile!
Trust has been violated, funds used from their intended purpose, malfeasance and abuse of funds for purposes unknown. The proof needed is found in the pudding: No documentation, no receipts, no purchase orders or authorization of same, etc., will be found ... EVER! Perfidy reigns in the OCA.
We are in the midst of a dilemma of monumental proportions, which is being stifled by a coverup! Our situation can be summed up as an MIASMA, one that may bode disaster for our OCA, before it ends!
Blessed Theotokos "She Who Is Quick To Hear" save us!
#6 Anonymous on 2006-09-22 17:53
The latest Lesser Synod statements sound like the beginning of a joke: "How many Orthodox bishops does it take to change a light bulb?" Unfortunately, there's no funny punchline. Just how long did it take our high-priced auditors to figure out that there was insufficient data? And the high-priced "ongoing investigation" is obviously ongoing NOWHERE! No documentation; for how many years and how many millions? We know who was minding the store. It's time for them -- not the faithful -- to open THEIR wallets, checkbooks, bank accounts and "discretionary" funds to pay it all back! If not, the MC should hire REAL lawyers... "for the good of the church."
NO LOAN, NO LOAN, NO LOAN. Amen!
#7 Utterly Disgusted on 2006-09-22 17:56
One: If Fr. Kondratick is refusing to cooperate with the church's financial investigation, why has he not been suspended? (I know, this is a question for his bishop...) But, doesn't it seem odd that, as one who reputedly holds the keys to all this sordid mess, his bishop -- being the Metropolitan no less! -- allows him to stay all lawyered up and maintain silence??
Two (a paraphrase) : “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.’ ” And the servants said their master, “Um, Sir, we cannot find the talent. He seems to have spent it. And he suggests you work out a loan with the bankers and pay it back yourself, at interest.”
How very sad this whole situation is! Lord, have mercy!
Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik
#8 Rev. Bartholomew Wojcik on 2006-09-22 18:50
“3. Regarding the request by the Bishops for 2004 and 2005 audits, an audit for the year 2004 was undertaken as well as a preliminary review of the financial records for 2005. However, it has been concluded that, due to the lack of documentation, no audits for those years can be completed. Therefore, the Bishops have determined not to spend any more of the Church’s resources on these audits.”
I pray to God that we have documentation for 2006!.......
How disgusting this is! We have thieves in black robes in among us. They have plundered us for years! They have stolen and mis-used the faithful's money donated in "faith & love"! All these many years.
Our trust is forever gone from these men and women who have managed the "OCA". Tears flow from our hearts.
This is the biggest financial scam in any organized religious church in the USA, I have ever heard of.
The Federal government needs to open a full scale investigation of the OCA, Fr. Robert Kondratick, former Chancellor of the OCA, Met. Theodosius and Met. Herman.
Prison cells would serve well for repentance from the fearful judge who is coming soon!
Plead for mercy and all you theives need to confess now! Ask for mercy, judgement is coming!
Tears from the heart.
#9 A sorrowful sinner with tears! on 2006-09-22 18:57
It sure looks like a lesser synod, all right...
There's a movie title for you: "Clergy of a Lesser Synod". In this movie, it's the bishops who are deaf.
#10 Wayne Matthew Syvinski on 2006-09-22 22:01
It's interesting that Bob and others are asking "when will they resign," while suggesting that the Metropolitan, the Treasurer and others resign. And that certainly seems to be necessary in light of this latest outrageous, unbelievable admission that most of the spending records, from as recent as 2004 and last year, have disappeared.
But I never hear anyone mention the Internal Auditors. Aren't they elected by the All American Councils? So do you mean to tell me that these auditors sat there for years and didn't say a word, as hundreds of thousands of dollars disappeared, with no receipts available for them to review?
This is a joke, right? Can anyone tell us who these men and women serving as elected auditors are, now and since 2001?
And can anyone explain how they can look themselves in the mirror every day, and continue to sit as auditors? If they had any decency, they should have resigned years ago. Maybe now they will do the honorable thing, and resign immediately?
The other group close to this that I never see mentioned is that Administrative committee, made up, I think, of members of the administration and the metropolitan council. Didn't they run the finances of the OCA day to day? Can anyone tell us who the members of the Administrative committee are? Why in heaven's name haven't they all resigned by now?
Have they no sense of decency?
#11 Name withheld by request on 2006-09-22 22:09
The latest comments from the "Lesser Synod" (it should be called the "Nothing Synod" since its work is useless and worse, it's helping to destroy trust in the Church and further the evil that caused this MORAL crisis) can be described with two words: PATHETIC and DISGUSTING.
No documentation for 2004 and 2005? This, after the Metropolitan and the "Holy Synod" kept talking about everything being ok, new procedures in place, "best practices", and reassuring everyone the books were reviewed and were ok? Who are they kidding? This is FRAUD and MALFEASANCE on a MASSIVE scale.
Even worse, it's no just 2004 and 2005, but 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005! That's FIVE (5) entire YEARS in which, according to their own words: "it has been concluded that there is no receipted documentation or verification for a large portion of those funds." This ABSOLUTELY vindicates Protodeacon Eric Wheeler and paints +Herman's response to the question: “Will apologies be made and a public show of repentance given to former whistleblowers, specifically Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, Gregg Nescott and John Kozey?”, Herman's response: “We regret that issues brought to light by these gentlemen were not addressed immediately. However, the best apology will be the results of the investigations as well as the implementation of practices to ensure that such financial problems as we have had never happen again.” in a horrible new light (or make that darkness.) There is something terribly wrong with this picture! He made that statement on 9/14/2006 (see: http://www.oca.org/QAfinance.asp?ID=252&SID=3 ) and just one week later we find out just how bad things really are and +Herman and the "Lesser Synod" basically confirm a HUGE part of the very allegations raised by Wheeler and others. Ladies and gentlemen this is beyond belief and downright pathological.
Regarding the "missing" receipts, I suspect, and it's already been mentioned several times (Petty Cash withdrawals of $9,900 -- just slightly under $10,000 so the IRS would not be alerted -- at a time over many years), that these were all
CASH transactions which have no receipts or notes to back them up and without anyone in admin willing to tell the TRUTH and act ETHICALLY, there is no trail of the hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted.
This sounds more and more like the Mafia, not the Holy Orthodox Church. I am sickened and disgusted. This is indeed the final straw. Dare I say that through their unethical conduct, constant whitewashing and stonewalling, continually hiding of the truth, stealing of funds intended for the poor, widows, orphans, the sick and dying, coddling of incompetent and maybe even criminal clergy and bishops, attacks and slandering of the courageous and ethical individuals who dared to speak the truth, took a stand for righteousness, and asked for accountability, attempting to stifle discussion and correction of the horrible mistakes, and their continuing unrepentant behavior and abuse of their positions they have spiritually left the Church. They are indeed bordering on heresy and many seem to have crossed it already. But what do I know, in the words of Bishop Tikhon (of SF, LA and the West): "And, we should always remember that a shepherd is a shepherd and a sheep is a sheep.", therefore what I see, observe, and say holds little value.
Who should resign? Just the Metropolitan, or anyone who might have had a hand in criminal activity? They should indeed resign, and they should be prosecuted for any criminal activity.
You know what the problem is here, folks? Many of those in authority really believe they are royalty, princes, and not God's servants. They believe they can do whatever they want with no consequences while occasionally making absolute hell for their clergy and people. They only care about *themselves*. And they are empowered by amateur theologians, many of whom never spent a day in a seminary, who inaccurately and imprecisely present Orthodox ecclesiology as episcopally-centered.
Someone once told me that Fr. Schmemann was known to have made the following remark: "Orthodoxy is the right faith, but the wrong people!" (I am not claiming this as authentic). Our faith is the absolute truth. The way we express it as church is seriously flawed - so flawed, that there is no extant system to remove these people who have publicly stolen, and privately lorded over heir 'underlings.' We could joke that we need an emperor to act, since so much of our 'system' took shape in an imperial age. But in our system, the only power we have is financial.
Give generously to your parish, to the IOCC, the seminaries, and especially to local charities. As for the OCA administration - their virtual death must be financial. If the Metropolitan wants to visit your parish, make him pay for the visit. Let him and his hand-picked associates in Syosset pay from their own pockets the salaries, the utilities, their plane tickets for overseas parties, their hotel bills, and whatever else they have at some point stolen money designated to orphans to pay for.
We also must thank God for the good shepherds we still have - the countless presbyters who guide us faithfully to God and the Kingdom. God is watching, and he knows who has betrayed him, and who has been faithful. Anyone who does not com clean for these grievous sins will pay dearly for this later. Our job is to witness to the truth we know, and to proclaim a truly Orthodox ecclesiology, as opposed to remaining faithful to imperial and papal components that should have been removed long ago.
I am truly sorry for remaining anonymous. Being in a priest's family, I have been raked over the coals by heartless "hierarchs" and the few priests who shamelessly do anything to stay in the bishop's favor that I don't need any more of that in my life. It's simply too short to live it in misery.
Christ is in our midst!
The Sinful Philaret
#13 Name withheld on 2006-09-23 05:15
Under the circumstances, what other option do the members of the Lesser Synod have, than to say that, since there are no records, we may as well not spend any more time trying to determine, from our records, what went on? After all, this is exactly what our Bp. Tikhon of the West has been telling us for many months. There are no records, at least none where anyone interested in discovering their contents has been able to see them.
That lack of a "body" does not mean there is no "crime." Whether we can find its corpse or not, The Truth is stilll missing. I remember being devastated by the statement of the Lesser Synod last January, because at that time I had expected something from them. This time I expected just what we got. Cate
#14 Cate Shea on 2006-09-23 07:33
Is there anyway to find out how the individual bishops voted during the meeting of the Lesser Synod?
#15 Eugenie Osmun on 2006-09-23 09:47
I wasn't surprised at the decision though I had hoped for more. I was very offended by the arrogance and lack of love shown. they did not even acknowledge the pain and concern of the faithful. They also totally ignored the MC in canceling the audits.
I don't know what I am going to do. This time I ask you to pray for me.
I am in tears.
#16 Linda Weir on 2006-09-23 12:23
The Mafia? Precisely! And they should be dealt with as if they are the moral equivalent of same. This means you and other attorneys in the OCA need to do a little pro bono work, which, no doubt, has already crossed your mind. I can hardly wait!
By the way, the shepherd/sheep metaphor needs to be retired for a while, and really isn't as applicable as it once was if used in the sense of sheep being uneducate, illiterate, and in need of constant guidance. Perhaps the bishops have now become the sheep?
#17 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-09-23 13:10
The statement of the Lesser Synod left us all speechless! I love the analogy to Move on Dot Org. What an unbelievable scam! Here is the deal - go to seminary, get in with the right people, become a yes man and work your way up to the top. Then raid the treasury of the faithful. There is nothing to fear - there is no accountability, no records and best of all, you can hide behind spiritual authority. You can't beat it. You are beyond the law, beyond financial accountability and beyond the people who you are supposed to serve. There is no sorrow, no repentance and certainly no apologies. Its time to move on! There is only one problem - THE LORD JESUS CHRIST - He is sitting in full power and majesty on high and he will judge every man according to his works. Every bishop and priest who have been a part of this fiasco had better repent, otherwise, what they will face on the Day of Judgment with unimaginable. I tremble to thing of how I will be judged.
One last thought - having the government investigate the Church is a scary thought - have you ever heard of the 1st Amendment and the true purpose for the separation of church and state? This is the perfect example. Lets clean up and govern our own mess. Demand that our leaders admit the hoax is up, repent or resign and get the OCA in order. Otherwise, the OCA will be the laughing stock of the Orthodox world.
#18 Rich on 2006-09-23 13:11
John Kozey tried as chairman of the Audit Committee and failed for lack of support from the committee and from people like myself. I was given certain information about the Andreas/ADM matter in an attempt to get me to speak out --- I failed to put "two and two" together and succumbed to indolence. So blame me as well.
#19 Ed Unneland on 2006-09-23 15:51
The Lesser Synod Statement says that the Bishops fully support the Metropolitan, but just recently Archbishop Job expressed his reservations about the loan and the effectiveness of “Best Practices”. I cannot reconcile the contradiction. Does the statement truly express the positions of all participating Bishops or has it been issued without their endorsement? Mr. Stokoe, do you have any information to clarify this please?
#20 Karina on 2006-09-23 16:52
Our bishops have said that they cannot comment until investigations are completed, but investigations cannot be completed because documents are missing.
And since there are no records, there will be no more money spent on further investigations. But until the investigations are completed, our bishops cannot comment.
Without a document trail, it is difficult (but not impossible) to determine what happened to the funds.
And without a document trail, it is difficult, as well, to prove that the funds were used in a manner required by law in order to maintain a 501C-3 status.
May God have mercy on our little OCA, indeed.
#21 Fr John M. Reeves on 2006-09-23 17:03
If the Central Administration wants to run the Church like the Sopranos instead of the Apostles, we should not be surprised if the Federal Authorities take notice.
#22 Fr. Robert K. McMeekin on 2006-09-23 17:06
Here is a suggesting, not original to me: Let's tell +Herman that we have no records of our membership or contributions; therefore we are canceling "assessments" or whatever we are calling giving money to the thieves these days.
Maybe we need Elijah (sp) to call down fire on Syossett? Or the odd plague wouldn't go unappreciated. What I am saying is that I wish God would act as I fear He is the only one who is going to be able to stop this farce.
#23 Linda Weir on 2006-09-23 19:00
We do need an All American Council in order to assemble together and deal forthrightly with the financial scandal and crisis in leadership in the OCA. Metropolitan Herman said in his interview on the OCA webpage, “We have had problems with past AACs. We have gone into debt with the last one being the worst.” But I have to ask, what evidence he can show us regarding his claim that the AACs have put us in debt. What financial reports can he or the OCA give us to prove this claim? According to the Synod of Bishops, the audits for 2004 and 2005 cannot be done because of a total lack of documentation. This means no financial records are available. So how can he even begin to tell us what AAC’s actually cost? I respectfully ask the Metropolitan or Treasurer or AAC manager to publish the financial documentation for the last two AACs. Show us how much money was taken in through the special AAC assessment and other venues (what is the total "income" an AAC generates?), and give us an exact and detailed accounting of where and how the money was spent. Let us take a hard look at who spent or overspent at the AACs and and on whom or what the money was actually spent. Otherwise, on what basis does the Metropolitan make this claim about the AACs and use it as a basis for forbidding the AAC to occur on time?
#24 Fr. Ted Bobosh on 2006-09-23 19:06
The separation of church and state had it's basis in thereligious wars of Europe, essentially intolerance for any faith other than the 'state' church. "Cuous regio, cuous religio" - refering to the Prince/Lord "whose region, his religion." This principle is what led to the end of the 30 Years War.
The separation ideas of John Locke influenced the Founders; and believe me, Locke would insist that the State look out for us now! The separation in this case also assures us, as American citizens, whose money has been mishandled, that the justice of the state is on our side .. regardless of creed.
#25 Anonymous on 2006-09-23 19:35
Personally, we should prepare ourselves for the long hard haul, a stalemate. MH & Fr. K have so much dirt on each other this tragedy will remain just that. Perhaps we who are asking for answers should remember the definition of insanity, doing the same thing expecting different results. No matter how many different ways we ask for the truth, this time expecting to hear it, the answer remains the same, zip.
Curiously, I wonder if mail fraud factors in this mess or do missing documents take care of that problem?
#26 Anonymous on 2006-09-23 20:04
In answer to your question, the names of the members of the Administrative Committee of the Metropolitan Council are listed on the OCA website. The Administrative Committee in recent years handled all of the financial business between the semi-annual meetings of the Metropolitan Council.
The members of the Administrative Committee include the Metropolitan, the Chancellor, Treasurer, Secretary, and four members of the Metropolitan Council chosen by the Metropolitan. The representatives from the Metropolitan Council, all chosen by the Metropolitan, currently sitting on that committee are:
Fr. Gregory Safchuk
Fr. John Onofrey
To my recollection, all of them have been serving on the Administrative Committee for quite a few years, with the exception of Fr. Onofrey, who I believe was named in 2005. Mrs. Woog has served on the Administrative Committee the longest, since 1995 or 1999, I just can't recall which.
The Internal Auditors are elected by All-American Councils. According to the AAC minutes on the OCA website, the present auditors are:
Fr. Paul Suda, Chairman
(member and Chairman since 1999) Fr. David Mahaffey
(elected an alternate in 1999, and to
a 6-year term as a member in 2002)
David Donlick (elected in 2005 as a member, after
serving as an alternate since 2002)
Frank Tkacz (elected as an alternate in 2005,
after being elected to a 3-year term
as a member in 1999)
The other elected auditor during this period of time was Archdeacon Vsevolod Borzakovsky, who was elected to a 3-year term as a member in 2002.
#27 Gregg Nescott on 2006-09-23 20:18
The OCA will become the laughing stock? I am sorry to say, but in its current state, the OCA is the laughing stock of the Orthodox world.
And I think its apparent that the crew is not going to go quietly, they are going to have to be pushed out.
#28 Bob H. on 2006-09-24 05:07
We already have firsthand testimony from former Church Secretary Paul Hunchak about the disappearance of the records - http://www.ocanews.org/news/Hunchak11906_interview.html
"I recall that Fr. Kondratick spent hours that summer shredding documents from his private filing cabinet that held,
among others things, the only records of bequests given to the OCA. It was a rather late Spring cleaning. The All American Council in Pittsburgh in August 1999 was so hard for me, because I knew the game was afoot. The team of Richard Rock and William Turbey (a co-worker dubbed them the "ecclesiastical tailors") were running around in the background, writing letters, arranging the cover-up, and a newly-hired Church employee (Fr. David Brum, now Secretary to the Metropolitan) was also writing, trying to change the Statute behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the Council was happily going on as if nothing was happening, because no one knew what was really going on..."
Without the records themselves, this testimony from a credible witness is damning.
#29 Anonymous on 2006-09-24 07:30
Chirs Banescu wrote ...'CASH transactions which have no receipts or notes to back them up and without anyone in admin willing to tell the TRUTH and act ETHICALLY, there is no trail of the hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted''
In my experience, it has always been the case that any check made out to 'cash' always had an authorizing signature upon it. Though the check doesn't say who got it, it is clear who instructed the bank to deliver the money. Therefore, It becomes the personal repsonsibility of whoever signed those checks for 'cash' to account for the use of that money. If they won't say what happened to it, the presumption is they kept it. If the do say what happened to it, then there is the name of someone else's financial statements to check to see how much of it they got.
The dates involved are not so old that the bank doesn't have a record of who authorized those cash payments, even if the archives of the church on the subject are shredded, missing, gone, lost, impressively mis-filed in the buried section bricked up behind the new wall in the archives, etc. etc.
#30 Harry Coin on 2006-09-24 10:37
This is just so incredibly sad. I expected better leadership and wisdom from our Holy Synod of Bishops. I have no answer to this problem. I wish I did. It makes me very depressed for the future of our church.
St. John of the Ladder Orthodox Church
#31 Anonymous on 2006-09-24 11:05
I make no claim to be expert in logic. Having said that, how's this for a syllogism?
Premise: Metropolitan Herman, on several occasions has stated that he takes full responsibility for actions taking during his tenure as Metropolitan, i.e. since September 2002 to the present.
Premise: The Lesser Synod of Bishops recently stated that ...."there is no receipted documentation or verification for a large portion of these funds", i.e. the 2001-2005 Annual and Special Appeals.
Conclusion: Since this egregious mismanagement of Church funds ocurred during the Metropolitan's tenure, and since he admits that he accepts responsibility for all actions taken during his tenure, the conclusion must be that.......
"The Metropolitan must accept responsibility for the missing records".
With this conclusion, there is only one possible action to be taken. The Metropolitan must step down immediately and let the total scandal be exposed.
#32 nicholas skovran on 2006-09-24 11:12
This looks like a job for the RICO statute!
#33 Colman on 2006-09-24 11:15
Former Church Secretary Paul Hunchak told the Editor everything that is need to figure out what was going on. Perhaps it was mafia-associated. Remember, post-Glasnost Russia is very mafia-like, if not directly mafia in its business - http://www.ocanews.org/news/Hunchak11906_interview.html
Stokoe: You are talking about a total disregard not only for the OCA Statute, but the law itself...
Hunchak: Well let's just say that during the latter part of my employment, my supervisor and his advisors would invoke the First Amendment, the same way others invoke the Fifth. That's the way the Metropolitan's "advisors" (or as the present Treasurer called them "the Metropolitan's counselors", Messr. Rock and Turbey), had the Chancellor set it up when too much was being revealed. If you claim "the money" was all put in discretionary accounts, which are ecclesiastically sequestered by a synodal resolution, it often stops the government from pursuing the matter. The government is reluctant to tell a Church how it can spend its money.... Just think about this scenario ...you could deposit checks written out to the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church into an account, spend it on yourself or your friends, since "you raised the money" and are entitled to determine its use and nobody is the wiser. The government won't determine if these funds are not being used for charitable purposes and therefore subject to income tax. And the Church won't know the existence of these funds since they are "discretionary" and therefore not subject to anyone's oversight."
This is an age old trick with American religious work to hide financial accountability: Ministry to Russia. Who can trace it? What was it for? Given the Rock-Turbey bedfellows described by Mr. Hunchak above (when did they get elected to their posts?), one can only wonder. Inquires to the Department of External Affairs at the Moscow Patriarchate might be revealing. Continuous withdrawals of less than $10,000 are designed to prevent automatic fraud triggers within the USA. (Maybe they do, maybe they don't.) Carrying the cash without declaring it at Russian customs is just plain old smuggling. Passing money around in Russia to buy favors is a way of life. T
he benefits of those favors? Priceless.
#34 Name withheld on 2006-09-24 11:51
Dear Chris, well said. and I suggest that the apologies need to stretch back at least a decade, if not more. The disingenousness among our "leaders" drove many away during the decade of the 1990's. This fact always amazed me - that people who call themselves "pastors" would let this happen. It showed the shallow nature of their commitment to their profession much less their calling. It is heartening to FINALLY see true pastors start to courageously step forward. They weren't there for a lot of us during the 1990's, unfortunately.
#35 Anonymous on 2006-09-24 12:06
Dear Anonymous - you have it wrong on the separation issue. Clearly, you are ignorant of the Founder's intent of including the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights and their fear of State control of the Church.
Also, you folks keep alluding to the Church being under 501C-3 regulations. Thats exactly what the US government and IRS would like to you think. The Church is not a non-profit organization - it is a religious entity and hence, off limits to the intrusion of the Federal government. Please, we don't need the Feds running the OCA.
However, that does not prevent the laws of the land applying to individual criminals occupying positions in the Church. They should be held accountable for their actions.
#36 Rich on 2006-09-24 14:05
There is one significant point that I would like to comment on, whether it was better or worse to stop the audits for prior years because the auditors didn't have sufficient information to complete their audits.
If the outside CPAs were truly engaged to perform audits, as oposed to a review, a compilation or an agreed upon services engagement, I believe that the auditors should have continued their work for two main reasons: (1) their field work would at this point has to be completed and at this point, if there are no other documents to audit, the CPA firm simply has to complete whatever they have and render an opnion, even if it is an adverse opinion, and (2) they would also provide management (in this case, whoever they are actually working for - at this point it appears to be a little fuzzy) a management letter that would spell out all of the deficiencies they noted.
If the metropolitan, the Synod of bishops, the MC, and those other "professionals" assigned to the special task forces were truly on the up and up, they would go through and complete this process.
It doesn't take a CPA or a rocket scientist to figure out that by stopping the engagements at this point, they will undoubtedly not get a report from the CPA. If you force the CPA firm to complete the engagement, by all professional standards they must issue a report. The report will say that they are rendering a qualified, i.e. a report with qualifications such as they were not able to opine on various parts of the books and records, and it will state in black and white the reasons why.
The current stopping in mid stream is akin to taking a course and dropping out before you get the grade. Okay, so they know the outcome, let's get it in print. Come on Protodeacon Peter, help us out. You, of all people, know this.
How much can it cost in dollars to complete an audit engagement that the CPA firm at this point knows it can't complete? I would be willing to put my money where my mouth is. If it is a matter of cost, I would be personally willing to pay for the completion, provided that the people that made the documents disappear be prosecuted in criminal and civil court (they should be accountable in an ecclesiastical court and defrocked as well).
The largest CPA in the world, Arthur Anderson, was forced out of business because people were shredding documents. Why is it so hard to comprehend that whoever made these documents disappear be brought to justice? Since when is membership in the church a get out of jail free card? Is this so hard to understand? I wouldn't trust Syossett at this point to run a lemonade stand. Their financial intelligence is below that of a five year old. They are completely rewriting the whole parable of the talents. In their case when they are asked what happened to the talents their answers are: (a) what talents? Are you sure you gave some talents, (b) oh yeah, those things. We'll I'm not really sure but I got a really good loan to get them back, and (c) well you see, I trusted these folks and they lost them and anyway I had a lot of other bills.
And when the master comes to ask for an investigation the Syosset answer is: "Well, we were going to do this audit, but then the documents got lost and well, you know it really costs too much to actually figure that question out so we just dropped the whole thing."
Lord have mercy!
#37 Fr. Michael Tassos on 2006-09-24 14:06
If the OCA is the laughing stock of the Orthodox Church, then that says more about those laughing than those in the OCA. What a pity that same achieve nothing more than a giggle regarding this sad situation. It should inspire people to pray and repent as appropriate.
So, if you have a scientific, statistically valid survey to prove that people are laughing at the OCA, please burn it. The devil and the demons may be laughing, but hopefully true Orthodox Christians know better than to fall into Satan's trap of pride.
#38 Rdr Alexander Langley on 2006-09-24 16:22
No records? Does this mean the OCA could lose its IRS Tax Exempt status?
I would think the IRS will conduct a much more thorough investigation somewhere in the near future.
That will, and should, include the personal records of MH and other church hiearchs that had access to the various accounts involved (including their own personal accounts.
#39 Anonymous on 2006-09-24 21:15
Speaking as a recent convert, I must say that, what an interesting organization the OCA is! I read the official and unofficial proclamations and postings about the OCA and from the OCA with an increasing level of disbelief! First, it seemed to me that the former Metropolitan -- with the help of Fr Kondratick, had his or their hand(s) in the cookie jar; bad enough, and finally the current Metropolitan dismissed Fr Kondratick from his financial position. So far, so good. Then, it seems that the current Metropolitan had a financial position under the previous Administration during the time period in question -- curious. Then the, "I can't talk now, there's an investigation," which means more time drags on. Then I find out that the dismissed Fr Kondratick's wife is STILL the administrative head of the OCA Pension Fund -- not even close to being acceptable! Then we learn that the said Fr Kondratick is given a new Parish in Venice, Florida. (You may not have heard of Venice, Florida, but it's not peopled with The Poor, I'll tell you that! Must be a well-heeled Parish, I'm sure.)
I look for the Synod to make sense of all this -- they issue directives and appeals for "silence." I look for the Metropolitan Council to intervene, as per it's rightful role pursuant to the OCA Statute -- it's not happening.
When I "discovered" the Orthodox faith, I was so happy!! When I found the OCA, I was thrilled that there was a real American institution holding the candle of the Faith.
But I do have one question: Do you people take me for a fool? If you have a senior priest in a financial role (not a good idea in any case) who is in need of dismissal, then you DO NOT keep his wife on-board as the Pension Fund head! And you DO NOT fire said priest, only to move him weeks later to a fully-paid "active/retirement" position in a wealthy parish in Florida!! And if you are the leadership of a tax exempt, not-for-profit organization in the USA, you DO NOT cook the books, use contributed funds for the benefit of the leadership, and divert the money that I and others give you to be used for other purposes, especially personal purposes. I have often wondered why no one I know of has ever heard of the OCA -- not to mention Orthodoxy in general, but the OCA in particular. Now I know why -- the leadership is lining their pockets with the money of the organization, so there is precious little left-over for evangelization and publicity.
There is only one solution which will leave the organization intact -- the leadership must resign in toto, and I mean all of the bishops and most especially the Metropolitan. No one in my position -- a member of the laity -- much less a priest who's livelihood rests with the hierarchy, can adequately and properly challenge the bishops -- not when the Metropolitan Council won't fullfil its secular, not-for-profit organizational responsibility as a "board of directors." We can only vote with our feet and with our financial contributions.
I must say, I love my parish church. I see the recent FOS mailing, and I want to support it, and support the Seminaries as well. But I cannot. With one or two possible exceptions, I have come to the very sad conclusion that our bishops are either incompetent or part of the conspiracy, and lack the will to lead, ditto for the Metropolitan Council. As a result, the leadership should know that I, for one, am looking around for a new Mother Church -- perhaps Antioch or the Greek organizations. I cannot continue to financially support the OCA under these conditions, and I believe in tithing. I've got to find an Earthly organization that reflects the Heavenly Truth that Orthodoxy represents. I regret to say that the OCA does not measure up to that standard -- and it is getting much worse by the week, not better. The Lord willing, I will find such a place. And may the Lord have mercy on the once noble OCA and its faithful! I hope that all of you who feel as I do find a true spiritual home in the near future. How it pains me that this must be so.
#40 Convoluted Convert on 2006-09-25 11:50
Here's my suggestion on record keeping...
Every bank in the world keeps thier paper transactions on microfiche. Have all activity on the OCA account in each facility pulled and printed. That gives you copies of the checks (front and back) and the deposits (less cash).
From there...pull out the ones made out to people, and ask those folks for thier copies of thier expense reports. We're not talking 50-100 expenses...we're talking over 500. You know they kept copies in case they were lost.
And I agree...Herman assumed responsilbity. He let Kondratick shred like Ken Lay...Herman should be replaced immediately. Remember, you don't need him to resign, you can remove him.
#41 Bob H on 2006-09-25 14:01
I have maintained since January that the tax exempt status of the OCA is not in serious jeopardy. The government could make a claim that the OCA is not a church, which will not go very far. More likely would be the claim that "unrelated business income" was not disclosed or properly taxed.
More likely is that individuals will be subject to the provisions of the excise tax on private inurements (which equals 100% of such inurement). The IRS will have the authority to examine the personal financial records involved.
Syosset may not have records -- but the banks do (as someone else pointed out). Lack of receipts for disbursed funds would be considered personal income to the authorizing individual.
At the risk of writing a manifesto, I believe there is only one path out:
Each hierarch will resign their diocesean posts. SCOBA would appoint locum tenens to oversee each diocese.
SCOBA would form an ecclesiastical court, and each hierarch would be judged for fitness to continue in ministry.
Those bishops (hopefully the vast majority) exhonorated would be re-appointed to their diocesean see. Those determined unfit would be allowed to retire to a monestary of their choosing, with any retirement funds being contributed to that monestary and placed at the discretion of the abbot.
The exhonorated bishops would form a new synod, with the most senior hierarch of that synod serving as locum tenens Metropolitan and first hierarch. This synod would determine any open sees, and seek candidates for the episcopacy as needed. This synod would further plan for an All-American Council, to be held in the spring of 2007, in an inconspicuous central location, such as St. Tikhon's or Antiochian Village.
The agenda for the all-american council will be straightforward -- election of a Metropolitan, and election of Bishops, per the statutes of the OCA. In addition, the All-American Council would undertake a revision of the OCA Statutes.
This revision should, in my opinion, eliminate the need for a central church administration. The synod, with the Metropolitan as chair, can maintain oversight of shared functions like liturgics, communications, retirement and insurance plans, and education. No staff would be necessary, as most of these functions (such as retirement and insurance) can be outsourced. Each seminary has a board which can report to the Synod. Communications, liturgics, and other functions can be performed by volunteers from the diocese level, with decision-making authorization by the Synod.
Most of the functions should be returned to the diocese, and to the diocesean Bishop with his Diocesean Council.
Devolution is still (I believe) the only alternative. My prayer is that the OCA should emerge from this leadership crisis even stronger and wiser than before, better able to empower the manifestation of Christ's love on a local level. If we do not manifest Christ locally, He will not be manifest at all. Our mission is not external church relations, but rather caring for the poor, the orphans and widows, the sick and the imprisoned. There are plenty of needs in each of our community, without need to centralize and redistribute.
How would something like 9/11 relief be done? Each diocese can raise money and forward to the affected diocese for disbursement. Need is best determined close to home anyway. The disbursing diocese can acknowledge the receipts and demonstrate the disbursements.
I am unconcerned for the future of the Orthodox Church -- the gates of hell will not prevail against the true Church. I'm encouraged that the OCA might emerge from this in a stronger position, better able to witness in the local environment.
To my fellow parishoner who inspires me to press on -- enjoy your wee dram tonight, and perhaps sleep a little easier. The gates of hell will not prevail. Nor with the theives within.
St. John of Kronstadt, pray for us!
St. Martin of Tours, pray for us!
St. Innocent of Alaska, St. Herman of Alaska, and all the saints of North America, pray for us!
Most Holy Theotokos, save us!
Lord, have mercy.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#42 Marty Watt on 2006-09-25 14:53
I may have asked this already, but are we certain that the current text of the OCA Statute on the website is the one passed and amended by All-American Councils and approved by the Holy Synod? The emails from Richard Rock make unfortunate references to a Holy Synod resolution of 30 July effecting an amendment.
#43 Ed Unneland on 2006-09-25 16:25
Judgement is coming ,we should pray for these people who have done this wrong. I hope they are not receiving the Body and Blood of our lord God and saviour Jesus Christ; this would be a much greater sin than being a common thief. what do we profit if we gain the whole world and lose our soul. I pray these people will turn from their errors and become humble, stop the bowing and scraping and remember the Son of God washed the disciples Feet. repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand
#44 Fr. Michael on 2006-09-25 19:24
Actually, we can't remove him. Only the Holy Synod can remove him. (Article XI, Section 7)
No less than 12 bishops must agree to the deposition or defrocking.
The Statutes specifically allow for bishops from "neighboring ecclesiastical provinces" to be numbered in the 12, thus my suggestion that we'll need the full attention of SCOBA in order to garner an impartial quorum.
Your final statement is entirely accurate ... it is time.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#45 Marty Watt on 2006-09-25 19:25
To decentralize, like you propose, takes a lot more competencies at the dicocesan level organizationally than exist now. Centralized functions are necessary in any body that is geographically disperse. Suggest we not "throw the baby out with the bath water." What we need are noraml checks and balances and people willing to enforce them and hold people accountable. Christians who know the difference between accountability and forgiveness. "Who am I to judge, I am just a humble sinner" may be sincere in some, but in others who should have acted it appears to have been false piety and an exuse for turning a blind eye... or aiding and abetting.
#46 Name withheld on 2006-09-26 01:40
I agree with your concerns about government involvement in the affairs of any church, but there are circumstances where it is justified if a religious organization can not police itself. The First Amendment is not a prohibition against any regulation, especially, as you point out, where individual criminal acts are concerned.
The goverance of the OCA is broken and had better be fixed or Caeser will intervene. As many others have said, and I strongly agree, the bishops are NOT absolute monarchs, unaccountable to no one but God! The divine right of kings has not become the divine right of bishops, and if it has in practice, then something needs to be done NOW!
Instead of hiding in the shadows, it would be nice if the theologians of the OCA would lend support to this proposition!
#47 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-09-26 05:03
The statement by Richard Rock in an e-mail (#4 in the series) to Fr. Kondratick regarding the effect of the July 30, 1999 resolution passed by the Holy Synod --- a resolution that retroactively approved the discretionary account(s), years after ADM millions began pouring in and were spent --- shows why a Chancellor shouldn't be accepting legal advice from a vestment maker.
Rock's opinion that the July 30 resolution "is actually a formal amendment" to the OCA Statute is dead wrong. The Holy Synod has many powers, but amending the Statute is not one of them. It is only an All-American Council that is vested with that privilege and power.
So, no, you shouldn't expect to find that "amendment" in the Statute available online: it doesn't exist.
As to your question regarding the accuracy of the online Statute, i.e., whether or not it is current, my cursory examination of it shows that it is. But I honestly haven't examined it side-by-side with earlier versions, while comparing it to the minutes of recent AACs where amendments may have passed.
Gregg Nescott, Pittsburgh
#48 Gregg Nescott on 2006-09-26 07:11
You may be correct, which is why certain functions (education and liturgics come to mind) need to continue under the oversight of the Holy Synod.
I'm curious as to the other competencies that don't exist within the dioceses. The question would then be raised in my mind if those functions are needed at all.
It seems to me that most of the full-time staff in Syosset relate primarily to communications and finance. There is some in retirement and pensions, but those functions are easily outsourced. It seems to me that the only charity and missions we need to concern ourselves with centrally are those of an international nature, and OCMC and IOCC are well equipped to perform these functions.
Decentralization is, in my mind, restoring the diocesean bishops to their appointed role, and eliminating the power and control of the Metropolitan. The Metropolitan is not a monarch, but the first among equals. How can an equal have near absolute control over the central church administration?
The Synod retains control over the activities of the diocesean bishops, of which the Metropolitan is one. The statutes grant specific rights to the metropolitan, not one of which involves money.
Even in the age of worldwide communication and travel, the Church is still local, and the fullness of the Church exists in the office of the Bishop, and that fullness is local.
Subdeacon John Martin
Martin D. Watt, CPA (Inactive)
#49 Marty Watt on 2006-09-26 08:01
You're analysis is right on! It's time for the Metropolitan to resign immediately or for the other bishops to remove him. Enough is enough!
"we will be worthy of that trust because we have earned it. "
Sometimes you get it back..and sometimes you don't...Forgiving doesn't mean trusting again...
#51 george cingolani on 2006-09-26 13:11
I am tired of hearing about hierarchs flying to exotic places, using another hierarch's birthday or the return of an icon as an excuse to feast and be feted on the dime of hard-working lay people. These lay people were deceived into thinking that their money was spent on victims of terror and hurricanes.
A fool and his money are soon parted -- and anyone who puts so much as a plug nickel on the plate to pay back this scandalous $1.7 million dollar loan is a fool. The last time I could afford a cruise was six years ago, so if someone on the Lesser Synod wants one, he can pay for it with his own money.
#52 Greg Denysenko on 2006-09-26 13:35
Finally a gameplan with some thought.
For those who are attorneys here, would parishes/dioceses have any legal recourse to assets of the prepetrators (assuming there are any)? Can one of these entities legally engage, through proper government channels, a criminal investigation? My major concern is that we have these culprits walking away scott free.
#53 Alex K on 2006-09-26 14:00
Subdeacon John Martin:
You plan is well conceived and thought out. I agree with you concerning the exposure of "individuals" to the laws of the land for their criminal actions. Again, the Church is not a non-profit organization - there is a big, big difference. We do not want the Federal government, especially the IRS, running the Church. We need to clean up our own house. We can and we must do it. Everyone's suggestions for a complete change at the top reflect the feeling of 90% of us. We need some brave bishops, who were not involved in this fiasco, to initiate some drastic changes. Everyone in Syosett involved in defrauding the widow and orphan, needs to go!
#54 Rich on 2006-09-26 21:23
But wouldn't you want some type of ability to obtain restitution (or at least investigate it's possibilty)? It won't happen without federal or state officials. And I don't think we'd lose out on tax exempt status since we're talking a very minute percentage of the membership.
#55 Alex K on 2006-09-27 14:03
The author does not allow comments to this entry