The title from this essay comes from the Prophet Jeremiah. There is much wisdom in his Spirit-filled words. There was no need for secrecy among the people of God, either under the Old Covenant or under the New. I’ve tried to apply these words to this blog.
When we started this blog some three years ago, it was to be an enterprise devoted to cultural and political polemics, Christian apologetics, and more or less whatever else suited our fancy. We certainly didn’t envision that it would become a blog that would ferret out corruption, espcially in the Church.
It has –by hook and by crook–become precisely that.
We have been told by several sources that this blog is watched all over the Orthodox world, especially in the various chanceries. IP addresses confirm this. And of course several clerical and edministrative functionaries in said chanceries contact me every now and then. Sometimes it’s to let me know when I’ve made a mistake, other times it’s to give me additional information. I always try to verify what comes to me but I’m not naive: I’m sure Monomakhos has been used to settle old scores but that’s pretty much the name of the game. If I didn’t think that we weren’t doing any good, or that the good didn’t outweigh the bad, I’d hang it up tomorrow (it’s not like I’m getting paid for this after all).
So where am I going with this? Some of our correspondents have taken me to task over the years because I allow people to post comments anonymously or pseudonymously. Men and women I respect have asked me to reconsider allowing the cloak of anonymity. The words of the various commentators would carry more weight if they were signed I am told. These critics have a point. All things being equal, a signed letter packs more power, especially if it’s critical and it points to possible malfeasance by another party. If nothing else, it makes the critic liable for his words. I don’t disagree with any of this. Truth be told, I’ve often considered the idea myself. Would that we had the resources to have a program like 60 Minutes, or stage open, televised debates like the old Firing Line debates hosted by the late William F Buckley, Jr. The idea of secrecy within the Church doesn’t do the Church any good. In a better world, everybody who had a beef would sign their name.
But we don’t live in an ideal world. Let me be blunt, the climate of fear that pervades much of the institutional Church here in America is very real. Priests who come to me with information choose the cloak of anonymity because of the very real fear they have of other priests, their bishops, or well-connected laymen who could destroy their ministries. Likewise laymen who give me information do so in like manner because they fear excommunication or the ruptures that could ensue in their extended families and communities. It’s sad to say but discipline is enforced by retaliation, not mediation or adjudication.
It’s sad that these people who come to Yours Truly have to lurk in the shadows. Though it is true that various jurisdictions have tribunals which can adjudicate disturbances and accusations of malfeasance, the reality is quite the opposite. Where they do exist, these are invariably little more than hastily thrown-together star chambers often outfitted with men who themselves are guilty of transgressions. (Plug into the archive the names Fr Vasile Susan, Metropolitan Jonah, Bp Basil Radzianko, and you will see what I mean.)
Let’s look at this from another angle: if Monomakhos had had a strict policy of mandatory signature, would the general public have known about the various controversies and scandals that have come to the fore recently? Would the people of God have known about bishops who text unmarried females, hack the computers of priests, or resist arrest when pulled over for drunken driving? Would they have known about priests writing checks to bishops out of trust funds? What about the deep and long-standing coup orchestrated against Metropolitan Jonah by well-connected laymen who were aided and abetted by bishops and priests? What about the fact that two bishops involved in a child-trafficking scandal were spirited out of the country in order to escape justice? And so on.
I think not.
Therefore upon much reflection (some of it prayerful), we will continue to operate this site on the same principles as before. After all, if I demanded names, what guarantee could I give that they were real names and not pseudonyms? None. That would be impossible and I don’t have the time or the resources to investigate the IP addresses every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Moreover, the mischief would multiply: someone who has a beef against Bob Smith could very well write the most inflammatory post and sign it “Bob Smith.” If anonymity was good enough for Pseudo-Dionysius and Publius, it’s good enough for Monomakhos.
That being said, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit take control of His Church and that the scandals are behind us. Normalcy is salutary for the salvation of weak people (such as myself). Scandal drives good people from the Ark of Salvation. But if our leaders choose to ignore the path of repentance and continue as before, then –Good Lord willin’ and the crik don’t rise–Monomakhos will continue to do its job.
Happy New Year!