As is now known, Archbishop Nikon of Boston, the locum tenens for the Diocese of the South, unilaterally cancelled the special assembly that was to nominate a bishop for the South. This was shockingly done at the last minute. It is not yet clear what precipitated this abrupt move other than some ambiguous words about both candidates being “controversial.”
There is some truth to this as one of the candidates, Bp. Mark Maymon, has been proven to be morally compromised. Unfortunately, he was not considered a serious candidate because of his deficits but his name was left on the slate as a consolation to his partisans in the Miami Deanery.
The other candidate Fr. Gerasim Eliul, was given overwhelming approval from the Deans of the diocese and the majority of the priests. When it became obvious that Mark was not viable, the DOS went into overdrive to present Fr. Gerasim to as wide a selection of people as possible. Even within this short period of time, he was overwhelmingly liked. Things were proceeding apace and it looked like the Diocesan Assembly would have their candidate and the Holy Synod would be able to vote on him up or down.
Unfortunately, our locum tenens Abp. Nikon, cancelled the Special Assembly (as noted) and removed Fr. Gerasim’s name from consideration. The only excuse given was that he was not “fully vetted.” This is a curious statement as Fr Gerasim has already been vetted not once, but twice: first when he entered St Vladimir’s Seminary (where he graduated summa cum laude), and then when he made a pilgrimage to Alaska, where he was being interviewed for the episcopal position there.
It is also possible that Nikon was overreacting to a screed put out by a malicious person on the internet who composed a pathography of Fr. Gerasim. Hopefully this is not what motivated His Eminence but the fact remains this entire affair has descended into farce.
Consider first of all the question of whether he has been “fully vetted.” According to the Statutes of the OCA, no man can be brought forward as a candidate unless he has been fully vetted. If indeed it is true that he was not “fully vetted” then the Holy Synod did not do their job. This would indicate a stunning ineptness on their part.
Let us however take the Holy Synod at their word. The presumption that Fr. Gerasim was vetted was accepted by all simply by the very fact that Abp. Nikon gave him his blessing to tour the South. He had earlier blessed his name when the Deans unanimously nominated Fr. Gerasim several months ago. Indeed, other names were brought forth, all presumably blessed: Frs. David Mahaffey, Peter Preble, Irenei Steenburg, Meletios Webber, and Alexis Trader. Regardless, by waiting at the last minute, all confidence has been broken, possibly irretrievably.
Now it’s certainly possible that the bare words of Abp. Nikon’s letter may be factual, that “new issues” have arisen in the interim that raise questions, and that he was not “fully” vetted in the first place. I could give some credence to the former clause but to do so for the second would cause us to question the intelligence and/or managerial skills of the Synod as a whole.
Be that as it may, the entire process stinks to high heaven. His Eminence should have not have cancelled the nomination. If Fr. Gerasim was unacceptable to the Synod, then they would have had the duty and the right to reject his nomination. We in the South would simply go back to square one and start the process over. That it was done at the last minute does not speak well for the good order of the Church.
Abp. Nikon deserves especial blame for getting us to this point. The policies and procedures for the nominating process are over 13 months old. They were posted on the DOS website in June of 2011. Unfortunately, because there was a last-ditch hope by some that Bp. Mark Maymon would still be the odds-on favorite (despite his disastrous tenure in Dallas), no attempts were made to interview serious contenders, either through Deanery visits (as had Fr. Gerasim) or through teleconferencing.
As our locum tenens, His Eminence dropped the ball and refused to give us the episcopal guidance necessary in this regard. He should have been cognizant of the hidden agendas of the pro-Maymon faction and overruled them. No effort was made to release monies to bring qualified men to Dallas or the rest of the South. In all these regards, he failed and we are left with the appearance that our locum tenens, the Holy Synod, and their advisers don’t know what they’re doing.
Forgotten in all this is the human cost. Fr. Gerasim Eliul, an otherwise fine priest and an excellent scholar who submitted himself to the dictates of the Holy Synod and has been forthcoming about his previous activities with certain schismatic groups, has been cast aside through no fault of his own.
This is unconscionable. Unfortunately, there are repercussions for the future that have not been clearly thought out.
- First, which serious man would want to put his name in contention under these circumstances? What guarantee would he have that another internet malcontent won’t similarly try to sabotage his nomination?
- Second, the atmosphere has been poisoned dramatically by these incidents. A perfectly fine priest may have no impediments and be well-liked, however given the divisions that have erupted (thanks to minimal episcopal oversight by the locum tenens), he would be inheriting a great deal of mistrust.
- Third, what guarantees that we in the South have that the antagonistic faction on the Holy Synod has our best intentions at heart? So far, precious little has been indicated in this regard. By keeping the South in a near-permanent basis of tenancy, there is no interruption of monies going to Syossett.
Fourth, the quality of candidates that the South has expressed interest in are in the mold of His Beatitude: true monks who would share his vision for the Church. Now that Bp. Maymon’s candidacy has been derailed, other “qualified” candidates who share his anti-Jonah animus are few and far between.
One candidate remains who fits this bill and is being bandied about as a “compromise” candidate. That would be Deacon Eric Wheeler, a man whose deficits and antagonisms are known to all; though laughable as a “compromise candidate,” it would fulfill the purposes of a corrupt system, one that is intent on making sure that the South remain under heel and that Jonah have as few allies as possible. (That is should he somehow be nominated and elected over the overwhelming disapproval of the South.)
Regardless, the entire process is now an abject failure. Failure has a pedigree and the buck stops with the bishop. Since we don’t have a bishop but a locum tenens, the blame unfortunately rests on Abp. Nikon’s shoulders. In order to regroup and go back to square one, we need a different locum tenens. One who has the time and enegy to shepherd the people of the South as we proceed to nominate a new bishop.
Lord have mercy.