Well, it seems to me that the Apparat is caught between a rock and a hard place. They can’t (or dare not) depose Bishop Matthias Moriak but it’s clear that the Diocese of Chicago doesn’t want him back. The question is “why?”
Let us step back for a moment. We here at Monomakhos have viewed the episcopal career of Bishop Matthias in a largely positive light. He struck us as a liturgical reformer and very much a traditionalist. Plus, he stood up to Mark Stokoe and gave him a choice: either blog or administer. In other words, you can’t use your official position on the Metropolitan Council to fashion “news” to fit your modernist agenda. One or the other. This took courage and your’s truly commended His Grace for doing so.
Having said that, we’ve come to believe that since that he took that fateful decision, Matthias’ days were numbered. We don’t know the particulars of how His Grace got into personal trouble and it may be completely unrelated. It’s probably just a case of an older man smitten with a younger woman. I think he deserves a measure of forgiveness (would that the Synod extend the same courtesy to Metropolitan Jonah for not doing anything but that’s a separate matter.) Regardless, the standards expected of clergy are higher. And anyway, the people of the Diocese of Chicago feel differently. Your humble correspondent is not a member of the Diocese of Chicago so he has no say in this matter. If the people of that Diocese feel abused or wary, that is their prerogative.
The Sons of Job sent Monomakhos the following missive describing their most recent diocesan conference. In it they declare that the overwhelming majority of clergy and laity would rather that His Grace be given another assignment. The opposition to his reinsertion is not only wide but deep. Their arguments stand on their own merits and deserve to be taken seriously.
As to my earlier question –”why?” Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the OCA as a whole is foundering. How many active, territorial bishops are there now left in the OCA? Given the modernist parameters of the Apparat, the episcopal bench is decidedly meager. Don’t get me wrong, good candidates exist but the Apparat has made the decision that spiritual monastics need not apply. They can’t take the risk of another Jonah. And anyway, if they tried to depose Matthias, then the skeletons would come rattling out of the closet. That’s probably why they haven’t deposed Jonah, even though they’ve done everything but throw the kitchen sink at him.
Not a pretty picture. Unfortunately, this is the only one that can be drawn based on the dysfunction unleashed on the OCA by the Revered Protosbyterians and their modernist acolytes. If anybody has any other ideas, please bring them forward.
From the Sons of Job
Glory to Jesus Christ!
A report about what happened at the Diocesan Council meeting in Chicago. Please be in fervent prayer for our diocese and for the OCA!
Without telling the attendees, not only was +Alexander and +Melchisedek there, but Metropolitan Tikhon was there. The official account reads, “Metropolitan Tikhon and the other hierarchs were present to listen to the Council members’ concerns.”
One attendee reported: “The meeting began with Bishop Alexander saying that…Bishop Matthias is not a predator according to the place that did his evaluation. So, one of the issues we’re dealing with is mis-perception.”
Having founded the discussion with the premise that +Matthias is “mis-perceived,” +Alexander then clarified the Synod’s conclusion that +Matthias committed sexual misconduct. As a participant put it, Bishop Alexander instructed the council that “The words ‘Sexual Misconduct’ are misleading. What Bishop Matthias did was a the lowest end of sexual harassment.”
After thus setting the stage, +Alexander said a second issue was the fact that clergy are afraid to speak because of possible reprisals, so the Deans were allowed to speak their minds to the bishops present. Every one of the Deans said +Matthias should NOT be reinstated, with only one exception: a Dean who admitted that he didn’t ask his brother clergy what they thought.
One Dean had read a letter expressing his concerns and the concerns of his deanery clergy:
“The allegation of sexual misconduct of which you are accused is accurate and has been confirmed by both the investigation committee and by the holy Synod. This sad truth has deeply hurt, scandalized, disillusioned, broken the trust and irreparably compromised the integrity of your Episcopacy for the vast majority of folk in this Deanery…
“The People of God will overlook many transgressions on the part of their clergy, but some things are just too much. When they observe that the Church has lower standards of consequences for sexual misconduct, harassment, and ‘Zero Tolerance’ than the U.S. Military or Corporate America – it is too much. Your Grace, the people have forgiven you, but that doesn’t mean they can accept you as their Bishop…
“What is at stake is this: Does the official OCA policy of ‘Zero Tolerance for Sexual Misconduct’ apply to bishops? Does the OCA want to say: ‘Sexual harassment will be tolerated by the Orthodox Church in America?’ How will I explain your actions to my Catechumens? This is not the message we wish to give to the women, girls, men and boys of our Diocese…
“We are asking you to step down, not because we cannot forgive you your errors but because we…believe the growth of our parishes and the future of the Diocese are best served by your stepping down as diocesan bishop.”
Bishop Matthias joined the meeting, and shared the difficulties this scandal has put him through. According to one first-hand account, “What Bishop Matthias said was manipulative, to garner the most sympathy for what he has had to go through. It was to move people to share in his self-pity.”
Along with eliciting sympathy, +Matthias said his psychological evaluation determined that he is not a “sexual predator” and is not a danger to the church “in this regard.” He admitted to crossing “emotional boundaries,” He asked the forgiveness of all, and said he has agreed to additional counseling.
The conclusion that one participant made was that +Matthias “pulled the wool over most of the Diocesan Council’s eyes. 4/5ths want him reinstated. Four of the members of the council said they didn’t think he should.”
Another priest summarized +Matthias’ presentation, “Instead of an honest appraisal of the pastoral implications of +Matthias’ actions, we get a stream of reassurances that it wasn’t fornication or pederasty and therefore is not predatory and therefore not grounds for dismissal… We had an archpastor with an immeasurable power differential of age, gender and office, who —according to undisputed testimony— attempted to isolate a vulnerable sheep in his flock, and usher her into a frame of mind explicitly tainted by secrecy, emotional intimacy and domestic proximity. Why is anybody wasting time talking about the fine points of what constitutes predation? The word is irrelevant.”
+Matthias’ testimony was described as, “a self-pitying report revealing that he sees himself as hounded from the chancery by ‘people who report you’… Instead of getting from him a robust and orderly readiness to resume a life of good order, we get the servile assurance that, ‘When I come back I won’t visit any parishes where I am not wanted’ …This (dysfunctional, self-pitying behavior) alone is grounds for dismissal from episcopal ministry.”
One priest pointed out that the person our Synod should be concerned about is the woman whom our bishop harrassed: “Whose pastor does the Holy Synod think they are if they do not think they are, above all, the pastors to this sheep? Why are they quibbling about Matthias and the degree of his transgression, his intention, his emotional state, his loneliness or his sincerity? IT IS THIS SHEEP THAT COUNTS, and it is this sheep to whom the bishops owe their pastoral care. Are we to take this sheep, already wounded and demoralized, and impose on this sheep a bishop who embodies exactly this behavior? …This is what our obfuscating, sentimentalizing Synod still appears willing to consider, six months on.”
In our (concerned Midwest clergy wives’) opinion, the admitted “misperception” of +Matthias is reason alone that the Synod should not bring him back to govern the Midwest. Whether the negative perception of +Matthias is exaggerated or not, he is no longer scripturally “blameless” in the eyes of the world or in the eyes of many of his own flock —by his own admission and by the conclusions of both the sexual misconduct investigation committee and by the holy Synod— and therefore he simply cannot function properly as the shepherd of the Midwest.
We (concerned Midwest clergy wives) wonder: Why is +Alexander parsing words —admitting that Bishop Matthias committed “sexual harassment” but didn’t commit “sexual misconduct”? We don’t care how it’s defined, what he did disqualifies him to lead the Midwest —especially to pastor the very woman he harassed. The point isn’t +Matthias’ degree of guilt; the point is, his conduct has scandalized the entire diocese, divided us, and that alone is reason he should never be returned.
It is said that Saint Basil the Great once deposed a priest because he committed adultery. After many years of fasting and repentance, both St Basil and this priest was at a funeral. The deposed priest approached the casket and touched the dead man and the dead man rose! The deposed priest went to St Basil and said, “Do you need a greater sign than this of the holiness that I have acquired in order to send me back to my flock?”
Basil replied, “Your holiness is between you and God, but I cannot return you to your flock because you scandalized them. It is not right for you to go to them again.”
We would like to reiterate our points from our original letter of concern: This is not about forgiveness (we “forgive all by the Resurrection,” but that does not mean reinstatement to holy orders). This is not about rehabilitation, or “second chances” (the integrity of the episcopacy of the Orthodox Church in America has been harmed). This is not about “mercy” (as if the episcopacy was a concession given out of pity). This is not about repentance (the Scriptures say a bishop must be above reproach, and have a good reputation in the sight of all; this does not mean he is perfect, but it does mean he cannot have ever preyed upon his spiritual child). This is not a matter of +Matthias never committing the same sin again (he has lost the moral authority to lead, not just by his inexcusable misconduct toward his spiritual child, but by his non-apologies, and his demonstrated greater concern for retaining his position than concern for his spiritual child).
If in the past year any Midwest priest was caught driving four hours to a college girl’s private apartment, taking her out to dinner alone, the two of them in his private apartment for hours until after midnight, telling her that she is his “favorite” and that he has a “crush” on her, telling her to keep their relationship secret, denigrating her confessor/priest, suggesting a boating date, telling her his attraction to her is stronger than her boyfriend’s, agreeing to spend the night with her, and manipulating her under the guise of “trust” and his lack of friends, Bishop Matthias would not have hesitated to call a spiritual court and depose that priest.
In other words, WE ARE SCANDALIZED, and the Synod’s reaction to this sexual misconduct only scandalizes us further. As one person put it, “I was embarrassed by the Bishop’s actions. I was ashamed of what he did. He brought shame on himself, my parish, deanery, and the diocese. We’ve had so much shame over the past decade – it is really demoralizing. I am ashamed to speak of him.”
Meanwhile, in other related news, one of the largest ecclesial insurers, a Church Mutual agent has responded to inquiries from concerned parish officers. His advice, based on documents and various accounts, is that Midwest churches which are insured by them follow this policy:
- Bishop Matthias should not be allowed to have personal contact with parishioners;
- His activities in any setting with lay people should be monitored;
- Should any claim against him of sexual harassment or misconduct come from parishioners of these parishes, Church Mutual would not provide any coverage for punitive damages, which constitute the most costly part of claims. This is due to the fact that clergy and officers of these parishes have had cause to protect their parishes from such recurrent actions.
- There is a possibility of personal liability for church officials who place Bishop Matthias in a position of authority, should there be a recurrence of sexual misconduct.
On the bright side, Metropolitan Tikhon assured the council that a decision has not yet been made. The Lesser Synod meets next week, the entire Holy Synod before Great Lent. To us (concerned wives), this means there is more time for prayer and writing letters of our own!
It’s time to pray, and act. Please write the Synod:
The Most Reverend Nathaniel
Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate
PO Box 309
Grass Lake, MI 49240-0309
The Most Reverend Nikon
Archbishop of Boston, New England and the Albanian Archdiocese
Locum tenens of the Diocese of the South
PO Box 149
Southbridge, MA 01550
The Most Reverend Benjamin
Archbishop of San Francisco and the West
Locum tenens of the Diocese of Alaska
1520 Green St
San Francisco, CA 94123
Office: (415) 567-WEST (9378)
The Most Reverend Alejo
Archbishop of Mexico City and Mexico
Av Rio Consulado E Iruapato #53
Col Penon De Los Banos
Mexico, DF 15520
Office / Fax: 5784-5198
The Right Reverend Melchisedek
Bishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
Locum Tenens of the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania
PO Box 1769
Cranberry Township, PA 16066-1769
Office / Fax: 724-776-5555
The Right Reverend Michael
Bishop of New York and New York and New Jersey
33 Hewitt Ave
Bronxville, NY 10708
The Right Reverend Matthias
Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest
927-933 N. LaSalle St.
Chicago, IL 60610
The Right Reverend Alexander
Bishop of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese
519 Brynhaven Dr.
Toledo, OH 43616
The Right Reverend Irineu
Bishop of Dearborn Heights
2535 Grey Tower Rd.
Jackson, MI 49201
The Right Reverend Mark
Bishop of Baltimore
Administrator of the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania
Synodal Liaison for Departments and Commissions of the Orthodox Church in America
144 St Tikhon’s Road
Waymart, PA 18472
The Right Reverend Irénée
Bishop of Québec City
Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada
15 LeBreton St. N.
Ottawa, ON K1R 7H1