The Sons of Job are several news gatherers from all across the OCA who have offered a first time Guest Editorial to Monomakos
(The views expressed herein are the Sons of Job and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Monomakhos.)
A Time of Sadness
It is with great sadness and sense of failure that many of faithful are approaching the All American Council (AAC) in Parma, Ohio. The Orthodox Church of America (OCA) is languishing. Most movement is from one scandal to the next. We have no direction. No pastors are manifested among us. May God help, guide and bless us by His mercy.
What is the current state of affairs of the OCA Synod once known as “Holy”? Metropolitan Jonah was fired by the Synod. Jonah still claims that he has not resigned as the Archbishop of Washington. The Synod released an angry and mean spirited letter justifying the firing that is at best inaccurate and at worst a deliberate fabrication.
Metropolitan Jonah seemed inexperienced in the political ploys of the OCA bureaucracy on the one hand and lacked some necessary discernment in dealing with worldwide Orthodoxy on the other. These are forgivable mistakes given that it takes several years for any hierarch to learn the skills of the job.
At the same time, Met. Jonah exhibited some substantial gifts particularly stepping boldly into the public square with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No one in the OCA administration in the last thirty years has shown either the will or capability to engage in such dynamic evangelistic outreach. This threatened the old guard, enough so that they decided that removing him was the only way to return to the status-quo.
The conflict that resulted has left the Church divided into two broad camps: 1) one sees Met. Jonah as possessing the courage and capabilities to publicly proclaim the beliefs and moral precepts of the Orthodox faith in ways that the rest of the Synod lacks; and 2) the other sees Met. Jonah as a renegade, disrespectful to the established order, undisciplined, and a threat to the OCA vision as they understand it.
As the conflict ensued many secrets were laid bare. Syosset lost control of the information flow (inevitable in the age of the internet and expansion of the media) and it became clear that a big problem between Syosset and Met. Jonah was that Met. Jonah would not allow himself to be controlled in the way Mets. Theodosius and Herman were. This upset Syosset and Syosset sympathizers to no end.
To control a hierarch requires something to control him with. Met. Jonah had none. He had no grave moral failings that would compel submission to the bureaucratic functionaries. He has never been accused of fornication, homosexuality, stealing, or any other kind of moral turpitude. He never fired people unfairly (the one person he fired deserved it). He did not preach or teach in a heterodox manner. His only crimes was that he did not play ball according to the rules of Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky and other bureaucratic chieftains. They retaliated by making him look bad at almost every opportunity.
We, the Sons of Job, also believe that Fr. Robert Kondratick is still working behind the scenes alongside Fr. Kishkovsky to reestablish the old order, a goal that cannot be achieved until Met. Jonah is permanently discredited. We submit this is still the policy of about half of the Synod (indications are there is a split in the Synod) and all of the Syosset bureaucrats.
Opposition was so resolute that the only way Met. Jonah could have succeeded was by removing the entire Syosset circle. Syosset took control of the OCA after pushing out Fr. Alexander Schmemann and the reason we have had such poor metropolitans and bishops over the last thirty years is that their moral failings ensured Syosset would remain in charge. After the financial scandals were exposed under Met. Herman Syosset fell back for a season. The election of Met. Jonah gave them the opportunity to reassert themselves but only if the new metropolitan (the unknown Jonah at the time) was as weak as Mets. Theodosius or Herman. Obviously this was not to be.
It is important to understand how episcopal leaders are selected in the OCA. No candidate is vetted in any responsible way. Instead, the leadership is chosen only by one criteria: will they upset the control Syosset has over administration and finances. The Metropolitan Council (MC) ostensibly exists as a check on Syosset, but in fact MC functionaries are in league with Syosset and Fr. Kishkovsky.
The exposure of a conspiracy by MC members — Solodow, Stokoe, Reeves, Ringa, and others — along with the attempt by Fr. Kishkovsy, Bp. Benjamin and others to brand Met. Jonah as mentally unstable showed how this worked. Since no moral failings could be pinned on Met. Jonah, the only other course was to descredit him through charges of mental instability. This was the real reason they demanded that Met. Jonah submit to evaluations at St. Luke’s. In private Bp. Benjamin still insists on it even today.
A weak Synod ensures the system works smoothly. Frs. Kishkovsky and Kondratick are the kingmakers. They chose the bishops. A compromised Synod merely rubber stamps it.
The Makeup of the Synod
Let’s take a look at the kingmakers’ record by examining the moral character of the leadership they chose.
We now know that Mets. Theodosius and Herman were active homosexuals among other failings, yet they continue to wear the white hat (albeit retired) despite the threats and payoffs expended to keep their sins from public view. This sorry chapter remained hidden for almost four decades although whisperings followed the entire track of their tenure. After the financial mismanagement of Met. Herman was exposed more of the hidden history came into view, but we have yet to see any public admission of wrong-doing, repentance, or justice. Keep in mind that Syosset was a major player in these misdeeds, particularly the coverups so it is in their self-interest to keep their complicity in the dark.
The corruption reaches deeper. There also are stories of of young men deeply scandalized by pastoral predation. Several classmates of ours have personally suffered from this kind of abuse and if they muster the necessary strength to fight back, predation might become the next round of OCA lawsuits.
Many in the OCA find this kind of talk embarrassing to outsiders but the fact is that sexual predation occurs in the OCA leadership as we will discuss below. Meanwhile, also notice that homosexuality is a recurring theme in these exposures.
Bp. Benjamin has undergone treatment for alcohol addiction and has a DUI on his record. There are lingering questions surrounding the death of a young gay man in Benjamin’s residence in Alaska. Why don’t we know the facts surrounding these scandals? We were assured that the Church under Fr. Kondratick’s leadership looked into it but what did we hear? Nothing.
It has also been reported that a large store of gay pornography was found on Bp. Benjamin’s computer, and that the priest sent to investigate the claim confirmed it and was subsequently discredited and punished. Does Bp. Benjamin deny it? Does anyone on the Synod or in Syosset deny it? And what happened to the priest’s report? What are the facts and what is being done about it? And if true (so far the defensive administrative response indicates it is), why is he still a bishop?
Bp. Benjamin also allowed for the marriage of a transgender couple in his diocese; a practice that is expressly condemned in the larger Church. He badly mishandled the failure of leadership of St John’s monastery in his diocese. He is the primary author of the slanderous letter written to justify the Synod’s dismissal (un-canonical firing) of Jonah. Insiders report that on the few occasion that Bp. Benjamin is asked about these kinds of decisions, he responds with rage at his interlocutors, leaves the room, slams doors and so on.
Bp. Alejo of Mexco is charged with homosexual predation in a public accusation brought by then seminary student Fr. Emmanuel Rodriguez. Both Fr. Emmanuel and his father confessor brought these charges to the attention of Fr. Kondratick but he shut down the investigation before it could begin. Bp. Job of blessed memory could not in good conscience attend the enthronement of Bp. Alejo because he found the evidence credible.
Archbishop Seraphim of Canada is facing charges of child molestation going back some thirty years. Syosset knew about the charges but never looked into them. Those who have seen the documents in the OCA files confirm that both the administration and several of the bishops knew of these charges but would not allow an investigation or help the reported victims. We will find out more about this once the trial begins..
The former Bp. Mark of Boston is reportedly living with a deacon of the OCA. This deacon recently “married” his same-sex partner in San Francisco, broke up with him, and ran into the waiting arms of Bp. Mark. The Synod then restored the man to the Deaconate. Is there any good judgment left on the Synod? Met. Jonah began the process of the Deacon’s removal but was blocked and later accused of supporting the arrangement.
Bp. Seraphim of Sendai had to be retired as soon as his sins became public.
Bp. Michael is held up as the late-great-Carpatho-Russian-hope for the position of OCA Metropolitan. But what is happening at St. Tikhon’s Seminary where he served for so many years? Several members of the Board of Trustees have independently expressed concern about some under the table maneuvering by Bp. Michael that may place them in legal trouble with the Federal Government.
As usual, facts are hard to come by but the reports are that Bp. Michael and Michael Herzak pushed through a last minute by-law change in order to nullify the contract under which Dean Alexander Atty was hired the year before. Dean Atty was in the hospital at the time undergoing cancer treatment. Bp. Michael and Michael Herzak acted because Fr. Atty challenged a sweet-heart insurance deal that netted Herzack some substantial cash over the years. Dean Atty has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations but confirmed that his contract has not been renewed for 2013.
The decision to remove Dean Atty may have been illegal and the Federal Government (EEOC) is investigating St. Tikhon’s. This may cost the OCA thousands of dollars. It may shut down the seminary. At the very least it attacks the man who has started a much needed turn-around of the institution. Students who we contacted on campus know that Dean Atty is not returning and one student told us that Atty’s leadership was all that St Tikon’s had going for it. Bp. Michael, the Synod and Syosset are trying to keep this hidden from the laity and hope to settle everything before Parma. Meanwhile St. Tikhon’s descends into chaos.
Bp. Matthias’ shameful dealings with a young female catechumen are now well known. Our sources in the Chancery of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church tell us that at no time were the personnel files of Bps. Michael or Matthias requested by the OCA Synod or Syosset. Our sources further confirm that had the files been examined, problems with moral turpitude should have prevented either man from becoming a bishop.
Bp. Melchisedek reportedly left Greece without a canonical release. Papers have already been released proving his accounts of his stay in Greece conflict with the official record. Again, no proper vetting took place.
More problems exist. OCA priest Fr. Vasilie Susan reported a married priest who was involved in homosexual affairs to his superior Bp. Nathaniel. Instead of investigating the priest, Bp. Nathaniel exiled Fr. Susan and allowed the offending priest to remain in service until his wife divorced him over his infidelities. Fr. Susan has appealed to the Synod numerous times for a hearing only to be rebuffed at every turn. Fr. Susan is still a priest (Bp. Nathaniel keeps him in ecclesiastical limbo) but has been reduced to supporting his family as a night watchman for the last eight years.
How Does the Corruption Affect the Church?
Only two bishops have affirmed that these problems do indeed exist: the late Bp. Job and Met. Jonah. Bp. Job had some weaknesses but in the end he stood up against the pressure to whitewash the corruption. He knew that only repentance could heal our sick house but when he prostrated himself before his brother bishops to ask for their forgiveness they refused to follow his lead. When he asked “are the allegations true or false” concerning the financial scandals, he knew they were true but his brothers refused to listen. Now the sickness has grown worse.
So who should come out at the end of the meeting in Parma wearing the white hat? To whom do we sing “the grace of the Holy Spirit…” and shout AXIOS! We say no one.
Which of these men look like Christ? Which one would you trust with your son or daughter? Would you want them as your personal confident or spiritual father?
Which of these men would die to themselves to help you find God? Some of these bishops and the administration behind them don’t die to themselves but instead abuse the spiritual children entrusted to them. Yes, these are strong words but look at their decisions and histories and make your own judgment. We’ve made ours.
Why don’t more priests and deacons speak out? Because reprisals are real and sometimes brutal. Here is how it works. There is never any defrocking or lodging of formal charges. Instead, a priest is removed from a parish and left hanging in limbo with no possibility of reassignment (like Fr. Vasilie Susan). Priests always labor under the real threat of financial ruin if they express any independent creativity. This in turn places enormous stress on the priest’s family and sometimes drives a wedge between the priest and his wife since the only certainty about the future is that it will remain uncertain.
This policy fosters a peculiar inversion in church polity over the long term. Real certainty about the future comes into being only when the priest has a serious moral transgression of some kind. If the transgression is sexual in nature, that’s good. If it is homosexual, even better. Priests hiding transgressions become compliant because they rely on the good favor of their bishops who are either hiding sins of their own or their brother bishops.
Failings guarantee submission, and submission ensures the bigger secrets will remain hidden. The sickness of the Synod-Syosset mechanism filters down into the parishes that way. That’s one reason why you see some prominent archpriests who should be leading the moral renewal of the OCA working instead to undermine the moral tradition, and why you see some of the best pastoral talent languishing in small and unappreciative parishes or in some cases kicked to the curb altogether.
We submit on the basis of what we have written above that the governing structures of the OCA have failed. The legacy of the Kishkovskys, Kondraticks and the weak men they have gathered around them shows us the ways of the world. We want to rediscover the fullness of Christ in our Church.
The only solution is a complete house cleaning at the AAC in accord with the canons of the Holy Church. OCA insiders are working to manage this crisis and promote their man for the white hat. They see their loss of control as the crisis. To us the crisis is the loss of Christ in the Episcopacy and His diminishing presence in the Church.
If you do not believe what we have written above, then ignore what is to follow. We are recommending a way forward.
A Way Forward
Please offer prayers to our Savior, His Mother and the Saints and then consider Metropolitan Hilarion of ROCOR as the next metropolitan of the OCA at the AAC in Parma. We who have met and known him over the years believe that He will guide the OCA and guard its autocephaly better than any bishop in the OCA.
Metropolitan Hilarion will be able to discern authentic obedience to Christ and sort out what is true and what is a lie in Syosset and the Synod. He will not be intimidated or confused by the Syosset handlers. He also has bishops that could serve the vacant dioceses of the OCA or perhaps combine OCA and ROCOR dioceses together. He will gently but with a firm hand restore a renewed sense of holiness to our Church and not allow our bishops to invent novel practices that do not conform to the moral tradition, and have no tolerance for the Kishkovsky-Syosset-Synod doctrine of church polity.
These are desperate times and we need the help of men proven in the ways of God.
When the AAC at Parma begins, insiders will attempt to assume control. You will here that this plan is an impossibility, it has too many problems, and so on. They will try to shut down your microphone. Some will call you unfaithful to Christ and His Church. They will ridicule you and brand you as a know-nothing.
The truth is that they fear you. If it were any other way, armed guards would not have been hired. It’s not a riot they worry about but the expression of clear ideas spoken in truth, especially if they dare challenge the failures of this Ancien Régime. If we elect Met. Hilarion, the rest of the details can be worked out.
We are free men and women of the OCA! We were told by one of the bishops that phrase uttered by Archbishop Job makes them very angry. No matter. We believe it because it is true, and we will say it again and again.
In our opinion electing Met. Hilarion is the only way to stop the corruption that is insidiously spreading through our Church and threatens it with death. A vote of no confidence at the AAC will be thrown out. A vote for Jonah will be ignored by the synod. A vote for Metropolitan Hilarion will send in unequivocal terms the message that we faithful are done with the corruption and mediocrity of the past thirty years and the failed episcopacy that it spawned.
The Sons of Job