DID SYOSSET MISS THE MEMO?
You know a bureaucracy is in decline when it becomes tone deaf. The deafness descends when the leadership becomes divorced from the original mission of the institution and cultivates an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
Take the Ancien Regime for example. Louis XV famously declared “apre moi l’deluge” (after me the flood), a tacit declaration of the chaos to come but hobbled nonetheless by a corruption so advanced he could do nothing stop it. Reform came after a fashion but soon after so did the Terror. In the meantime Louis doubled down on what he knew best, outlandish parties, a bevy of mistresses, and other expressions of wanton excess.
I want to believe that our Church’s central administraton is not as short-sighted or small-minded as the French aristocracy, but I can’t.
Nope, like Louis they too doubled down. Welcome the latest itteration of wretched overreach: The Syosset Sex Czar.
Here’s the plan: Syosset wants to allocate over $100,000 per year to appoint a man who ostensibly will investigate and perhaps adjudicate all claims of clergy sexual misconduct. According to the job description, the Sex Czar arrogates unto himself all charges of sexual malfeasance, will develop programs about sexual abuse, and reports to “central administration” (Syosset) and the bishops.
It doesn’t stop there. Syosset also wants to hire investigators on a case by case basis. No mention is made of the cost outlays for this position. (My guess? Most employees in Syosset make over $100,000 per year and their appointees will as well. So figure at least $200,000 for salaries and expenses minimum.)
Syosset did not hear the delegates at the last AAC who unequivocally voiced their displeasure at Syosset’s overreach in years past. They don’t understand that the elimination of the despised “head tax” (and its feathering of the Syosset nest) was a repudiation of Syosset’s over-centralized leadership and their ham-fisted domination of Church affairs. The don’t know that their ambitions for even greater centralization are incompatible with an autocephalous Church.
Or is Syosset really at war with the Bishops by usurping an authority that rightfully belongs to the Bishops alone?
Unfortunately, some regimes are beyond the capacity for introspection and self-renewal. It’s all about the paycheck. Bureaucrats usually double-down on what they know best — how to keep the offices open and facts and future be damned. In the case of the OCA, the central administration has decided to create two new offices at a time in which many businesses and philanthropic organizations are tightening their belts and letting people go.
The official titles for self-perpetuating officialdom are never called “Sex Czar” or “Inquisitor-General” of course. Instead, they are called a “facilitator” and “investigator” — titles vague enough to elicit wonder and awe in the unitiated — Mom, apple pie, and all that. It’s all part of the allure. But there are no reasons offered if a facilitator and investigator are even necessary, or even if there were why Syosset should be put in charge of it all.
Nothing is more inflammatory or potentially damaging than a charge of sexual misconduct by a priest. Sexual malfeasance does indeed occur and must be handled with extreme care for the victim and the accused.
Futhermore, there is nothing in the Metropolitan Council Minutes approving the establishment of the two positions, and even if there were, The MC does not have the authority to create Syosset positions apart from the approval of the AAC.
The reality is that as Christian denominations go, the overwhelming majority of the men in the OCA priesthood are pretty decent fellows. I try to keep my ear close to the ground and I’ve heard precious little about predation, adultery, homosexuality, and other vices. To my knowledge there are only five active investigations going on right now, and one of them involved actions which allegedly took place over thirty years ago. The other four do not deal with minors at all.
Make no mistake: one act of predation against a child is one too many and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Consensual sex between a priest and another adult is certainly to be avoided but it is not a criminal act and should be dealt with by ecclesiastical remedies imposed by the priest’s bishop It does not necessitate an all-expenses paid visit from functionaries based in Syosset. If the bishop evinces a continuing pattern of ignorance or apathy, then maybe they need a new bishop. Even the dullest bishop tends to wake up if necessary. But is Syosset really the cure?
IS SYOSSET EVEN AWARE OF WHAT A SEX CZAR ENTAILS?
Clearly the powers that be have not given much thought to this project but that need not stop us. Let’s think about what a Sex Czar entails:
- First, in a church like the OCA which has a shrinking financial base, where would the money for this office come from?
- Second, how much money would be allocated (above and beyond the salaries in question) for travel and accommodations? To be sure, it’s only a day’s drive from Syosset to Connecticut, but what about Alaska or Hawaii? Should we really assume that the Sex Czar or his private investigator would hop on the next plane to Anchorage and then take the necessary kayak trip up the Kuskokwim River to some remote parish? Or would they coordinate the investigation via the internet while they shuffle papers on their desks?
- Third, why do the people in Syosset even assume that a bishop would even allow one of these men to come to his diocese? If the bishop is looking into an allegation of abuse of sexual malfeasance, why would he welcome interference from Syosset given Syosset’s inability to maintain confidences and its record of interference in episcopal affairs?
These are not trivial considerations. Bishops are rightly protective of their diocesan privileges and responsibilities and the Sex Czar would necessarily blur diocesan distinctions and episcopal responsibilities. Are the bishops even on board with this? I doubt it.
- Fourth, who will decide the credentials of these officials? Let’s be honest, the previous Metropolitan Council did not cover itself with glory. They can’t even police their own. When credible allegations of moral turpitude and conflict of interest were brought forth against a sitting lay member they chose to do nothing. When this same individual was publishing stories on his website gleaned from confidential Metropolitan Council proceedings, no action was taken. When he published stolen emails from a priest in order to do maximum damager to the Metropolitan, the Council did nothing. And when he published a speech given by the Metropolitan to the Holy Synod, nothing was done.
As for the Metropolitan Council itself, when it was found out that certain of its members were involved in an active conspiracy against the Metropolitan, no action was taken. Even a lengthy ethics complaint from a respected archpriest against the perpetrator was ignored. In the end, it took a bishop to unilaterally put a stop to the conflicts of interests perpratored by the Council member in question.
Moreover, the activities of some in the administration bears further scrutiny. As mentioned earlier, the veracity of the SMPAC report was suspect from the start because it highlighted only those cases which made the Metropolitan look as inept as possible. Credible allegations against other individuals who were not under the omorphor of the Metropolitan were studiously ignored. Given these facts, why should we believe that the same people perpetrating the fraud are at all qualified to examine the fitness of others?
- Fifth, who would this man report to? Let’s be frank, the present administrative hierarchy of the OCA is a muddled mess. Besides the Holy Synod, there’s a Lesser Synod, a Metropolitan Council, and the central administration in Syosset. If anybody could draw me a coherent flow chart, I’d be most grateful.
- Sixth, what if credible allegations of sexual misconduct are brought against priests in the central administration? Men whose offices are right down the hallway from the Sex Czar, men who control the purse strings? Would “prosecutorial discretion” kick in at that point?
- Finally, there is always the problem of personal vendettas. Do we really trust Syosset to handle these claims responsibly? Remember, this is the same crew who doctored a report (the Sexual Misconduct or SMPAC report) just a few short years ago to smear our sitting First Hierarch. They don’t exactly inspire confidence. Will Syosset use accusations to drag the Church into internal warfare like the Stokovites did?
To be brutally honest, this looks like another example of bureaucratic featherbedding. It is also a way to to turn back the reproach and funding restrictions that blindsided Syosset functionaries at the last AAC in Seattle. Think of it in military terms: Syosset is regrouping their forces and they think that appeals to protecting children will convince the gullible to go along with it.
Make no mistake: The decisions in Seattle were a stinging repudiation of the status quo. The delegates wanted a different future for the OCA with distinct diocesan boundaries and all that that entails. This was fueled not only by Syosset’s complicity in the attack against our First Hierarch, but also by the exposure of off-budget line items that served other closeted elites. One such item involved a hidden salary totaling over $140,000. It was a humiliating revelation but everyone saw that Syosset sure knows how to take of its own.
What makes us think that we can trust Syosset with our dollars when they choose not one but two new bureaucrats for offices they created and for which they write the job descriptions? Do they think we are stupid? Apparently so.
Syosset should not forget that in a free society, people vote with their feet — and their wallets.
Next Up — The Effect of the Sex Czar on the Priesthood