When moral clarity diminishes, institutions ossify. Challenges that ought to foster the creativity necessary for the vitality and growth of the institution are instead seen as a threat to it, and those that bring them forward are often shut down — shunned as it were and exiled to isolation and scorn.
The ossification will inevitably lead to the collapse of the institution. Ossification is paralysis. The institution lurches from one crisis to the next often of its own making.
Why does this happen? We believe it is because the moral compass no longer points north. Sometimes some things are kept out of the public eye for prudential reasons. Everyone understands and accepts this. But when trust erodes, when it becomes clear that decisions have been made to defer moral responsibility and evade moral accountability, we begin to suspect that at the root is some kind of moral defect.
When circumstances impose moral decision making on an institution as invariably happens and often in unpleasant ways, a moribund institution will lash out and attack the carrier of the bad news rather than deal with the problem he reports. It becomes a wrecking ball and the aftermath is all sorts of irreparable damage. We saw this when the Syosset Apparat forced the Synod to get rid of Jonah.
This scandalous episode has brought the OCA to its knees. Given the almost weekly scandals that have plagued the OCA since his illegal and forced ouster, we see that we have not even begun to recover as a Church. Short of repentance, we never will.
This is not to say that the leaders are stupid men. Far from it. But clearly they are not exceptional men. Having said that, they seem to have some awareness of their faults. How would they have fostered a culture of avoiding mutual embarrassment otherwise?
But sweeping the scandals under the rug works only for so long. Eventually a threat arises that challenges the status quo to such a degree that they are forced to act and they act in the only way they know: by drawing deep from the well of the institutional mediocrity they dug themselves and essentially doing more of the same. (Of course, there is always repentance but that never seems to be discussed.)
Unfortunately we are witnessing another such scandal brewing today. These last few years Fr. Vasile Susan has been petitioning the Synod for a fair hearing to no avail. Susan, as you may remember, is in the Romanian Episcopate of the OCA. Seeing signs of moral turpitude in a fellow priest in his diocese he did exactly what the canons of the Church require him to do: He went privately to his Bishop to report the problem.
Archbishop Nathaniel Popp however (Susan’s bishop), turned around and punished Susan instead. He exiled Susan. And, in true form to the moribund institutional paradigm, he refuses to either hear or defrock Susan and thereby keeps Susan in permanent institutional limbo.
Susan however, refuses to budge. For over eight years he has appealed for justice. He is entitled to a spiritual court according to both Scripture and the canons and has asked for one repeatedly knowing full well the judgment could work against him.
Popp and the rest of the Synod refuses to give him one. Why? What justification is there for denying Susan his day in Court when even the plain text of the OCA Statutes clearly require it?
To us there is only one possible answer: Susan’s allegations were credible and even provable. Here the OCA follows form. When a favored bishop or priest is accused of moral turpitude, standard operating procedure is to cover up for the offending cleric. What other explanation is there? If there is one, why haven’t we heard it?
Instead, we hear anodyne refrains along the lines of “well, you don’t known the full story.” Guess what? Short of Judgment Day we’ll never know the full story about anything, and then it won’t matter. Instead, why don’t you tell us in the Peanut Gallery why you are letting a good man twist in the wind? After all, we do pay the bills, we are owed something. Aren’t you our servants when all is said and done?
Susan will not go quietly into the good night and his perseverance has not doubt given the Synod a good share of headaches. But Susan has a family, and the mistreatment by Popp and the Synod has reduced him to near poverty for doing nothing more than the duty of his office required.
Below is the fourth letter Susan has written to the Synod. Please read it and pray that justice will be done.