The nearly two week long silence about the death of Archbishop Dmitri on OCANews confirms that editor Mark Stokoe has dropped the pretense that he reports the news in the OCA. Readers should accept what his critics have said for years: OCANews is Stokoe’s private blog and designed to interpret and drive events in accord with his peculiar vision of how the Church should be run.
Stokoe’s lapse is not without purpose, however. Instead of news about +Dmitri’s death, arguably one of the most significant events within the OCA this year, Stokoe focused in on a handful of articles published on an obscure Russian language website that serves his tiresome narrative that Metropolitan Jonah is unfit to serve. These articles, according to Stokoe, were written by “a little-known, recently-consecrated hierarch of the non-canonical ‘True Orthodox Church.’”
Stokoe’s usual strategy is to drop a bomb right before a meeting of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Council, or other major function. This week was no different. His latest screed arrived just in time for a meeting of the Lesser Synod.
Before we parse it, let’s take a look at the methods Stokoe uses to shape his narrative.
How Stokoe Shapes the ‘News’
Stokoe always draws from the same playbook:
- Plant rumors.
- Repeat the rumors over and over again.
- Refer to the rumor as fact by citing earlier reports of the rumor as evidence.
- Manipulate information to confirm the facts.
- Assemble the facts to shape a new narrative.
If readers gives Stokoe the benefit of the doubt, they usually don’t see the game plan. And often it works. For example, in Stokoe’s first (and particularly vicious) attack on +Jonah, OCANews labeled Fr. Joseph Fester as part of the “inner circle” and thus a villain over 240 times in his articles and forum. This was before Stokoe published Father Joseph’s emails that he stole along with Bp. Mark. Plant the rumors, treat them as facts, then manipulate information to serve as evidence of the facts.
Someone needs to read through all of Stokoe’s writings, count how often he slanders people by name, and then list them one by one. This will confirm that the core of Stokoe’s narrative is that +Jonah is unstable and unfit to serve. This theme was chosen to justify the attempted coup in Santa Fe last year. Look back at the ‘reporting’ to see how he tilled the ground when he and his co-conspirators thought the coup was a slam-dunk. He sticks to the playbook because it’s all he has got.
This brings us to Stokoe’s latest mythmaking: “Obscure Chronology Reveals Details of +Jonah’s Actions in Moscow Affair.” Here’s one example of his characteristic excess:
More importantly Moguntov’s chronology, if true, provides details of the actions of Metropolitan Jonah and offers a revealing glimpse into the problems Metropolitan Jonah occasions for the Synod (and the other governing bodies of the OCA, as well). The chronology shows the Metropolitan is both dismissive and unwilling to act according to the standards and policies of the OCA when faced with allegations he finds unpleasant. When he finally is forced to act, he attempts to circumvent any investigation by the Synod, committees and OCA legal counsel. Then, when told to recuse himself from the matter, +Jonah nevertheless continues to interfere, causing further legal, canonical and pastoral turmoil. Moguntov’s chronology reveals what has long been discussed in the higher circles of the OCA but never so clearly documented before – the governing bodies of the OCA attempting to work with the Metropolitan who seems only interested in working against them.
“…if true”? Is he serious? Then look at the connotations of the words he uses to substantiate his feverish conjectures: circumvent, interfere, turmoil, dismissive, unwilling to act and so forth. Does this sound like journalism or propaganda?
The most egregious claim is: “Never so clearly documented before – the governing bodies of the OCA attempting to work with the Metropolitan who seems only interested in working against them.” Who is lying to whom here? The documentation reveals precisely the opposite. Stokoe supporters should stop and ponder the dismissive contempt he displays toward his readers. How stupid does he think they are?
Another bit of Stokoe magic is embedded in the term “governing bodies.” Who are the governing bodies of the OCA? The Synod comes to mind, but since when did Syosset become a governing body? The lifelong bureaucrats see their access to power and information as their birthright. Woe to any unsuspecting Metropolitan who does not toe their line.
Anatomy of a Smear
Stokoe’s reporting of Fr. Zacchaeus Wood is also disgraceful. Look how maligning Fr. Zacchaeus in order to impugn +Jonah becomes a complicated weave:
+Jonah’s actions in the last two weeks of July as stated by the Moguntov chronology, reveal why the governing bodies of the OCA are increasingly thrown into aporia. How does one go forward with a Primate who, having interfered with an investigation by attempting to circumvent it, recuses himself, then publicly denies the allegations as “fabrications” even before the investigation is held? How does one go forward with a Metropolitan, who, having held repeated private conversations with opposing counsel against the advice of his own, reinserts himself in the process after recusing himself, and then orders things according to the wishes of the opposing counsel? Ultimately he restores the accused clergyman to sacramental ministry, with no regard for even a cursory investigation or concern for the alleged “victims”. In short, the Metropolitan of the OCA, instead of defending the policies, standards and best practices of the OCA, is opposing all those who would.”
In order to smear Met. Jonah with all these accusations, it is first necessary to provide the Internet public with a lot of information about another priest that is at best inappropriate, and at worst slanderous. The details of this complaint should have remained confidential or even under the seal of confession.
It appears that Syosset was privy to the information and leaked it like a sieve, even going so far as to place the announcement on the official OCA website in all its gory detail. By putting this out over +Jonah’s signature, any retraction or modification would have to be equally public, thereby increasing the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) factor, and providing red meat for the next
+Jonah beating Synod meeting.
The Central Administration’s handling of the complaint against Fr. Zacchaeus resulted in the maximum scandalous impact — before the facts are even in. Even if one attributes the highest of motives to the players, Fr. Zacchaeus’ reputation has been permanently damaged.
Looking back at most of the turmoil created in the OCA, the recurring problem is the torrent of information from either the Syosset Stooges or select Bishops. They leak private pastoral information for personal gain, often to Stokoe who yearns to share their bed. Imagine if a priest fell on difficult times and needed help. Do you think he would reach out to these “pastors” and risk the same kind of public crucifixion?
Of course, if you can’t get information on a person’s private struggles, you can always conspire to hack an email account or two and steal it from there. That act, more than any other, has come to define Stokoe’s character. He has yet to admit he even did it. The only redeeming element is that Stokoe’s new tagline “Aporia” shows us that his seminary education was not a complete waste.
Stokoe’s Malfeasance Affects the Church
With men like Stokoe or the Syosset Stooges defining what the Church should be, what young man would ever want to become a priest if it meant subordinating himself to their influence and control? Can you blame him? Moreover, if you encounter a man who wants to wear the White Hat under these circumstances, rest assured he is not the best man for the job.
These Machiavellian schemes and bureaucratic power plays have got to stop, and it is up to clear thinking laity to stop them. Bring this Church back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.