“By now it was clear: slavery was an infection, a toxin in the American bloodstream that poisoned all that it touched. The violence seen on the frontier spread back to Washington, where the floors of the US House and Senate began to resemble armed camps, as legislators exulted in their hatred of each other and demonized their political opponents.” –”A Less than Perfect Union”*
Back when I wrote Cui Bono?, I said that the priesthood was a “dumping ground.” It stirred up a quick reaction. Critics said it was an unfair and hurtful characterization, a point I conceded and completely agree with.
Let me repeat it. My assertion that the priesthood is a dumping ground is an unfair and hurtful characterization. Unfortunately, it was also the view held by many lay people during the first couple of generations after immigration. And this perception held because, as difficult as it might be to admit, it contained a measure of truth.
This should trouble us. Good priests can create lasting good. Bad priests can do lasting harm. Bad actors get Razzies, bad doctors bury their mistakes, but bad priests consign their misdeeds to hell for eternity.
But the damage does not end with the priest. It affects the whole Church. Like all buried waste, the dumping ground can seep out toxins well into the next generation. Bad priests justify wrongdoing while good priests are forced to countenance it. And the wrong doing is not merely procedural (such as where do we move the Chancery?) but –infinitely worse–can also victimize innocent people.
I am describing here a culture, a way of seeing, that I am only now perceiving with any measurable clarity. I’ve been trying to understand how and why the OCA got into its present mess and when it started. What caused the OCA to become as corrupt as it did, and why did it last as long as it did?
I asked myself, what was the nature of this corruption? Why wasn’t it challenged before? How did mediocrity become de rigeur in ecclesiastical circles? One explanation is that Orthodoxy is susceptible to clericalism. While that is true, I don’t think clericalism is a primary cause for the failures of leadership we have seen. Rather, I think clericalism is a symptom of a deeper pathology that shapes not only the clericalism, but many other dimensions of church life.
What is that pathology? It is homosexuality and the subculture it creates. And I believe the pathology explains some of the conflict we are undergoing in the OCA today.
Let me say at the outset that I do not despise homosexuals nor consider their sinfulness to be greater than my own. I believe that a healthy Church can help all sinners who are struggling with their afflictions. (Lord knows, I struggle with mine.) What the Church cannot do is help those who do not think that they are sinning. From the best evidence at hand (i.e. the public record) it does not appear that Mark Stokoe, as one of the central actors in this drama, considers himself to be in need of repentance.
Let’s straighten out another point. We are fooling ourselves if we think Stokoe is first a “journalist” or “reformer.” Stokoe has always been an insider. As the Youth Director of the OCA he was on the fast track in OCA leadership. But something happened in 1990 that caused then Chancellor Fr. Robert Kondratick to fire Stokoe and shunt him to the sidelines. (We don’t know why he was fired. An informed source indicates that his personnel file was purged in the late 1990s.)
I have stated before that I think OCANews performed a service to the Church by revealing the corruption that existed under +Herman. But it is important to remember that the corruption preceded +Herman by decades, well into the earlier tenure of +Theodosius. (The only exception was the Diocese of the South that essentially seceded from Syosset and went its own way under the leadership of +Dmitri.)
+Theodosius and +Herman were very poor choices for Metropolitan of the Church. Today it is clear that everyone in the administration knew of the internal corruption and +Theodosius’ own problems. There is no record that any of them ever attempted to clean house. Some even participated in hiding +Theodosius’ dysfunctions from the press and laity for fear it might cause a scandal in the Church. Membership in the ruling circle had it privileges, as long as you pretended everything was just fine.
Mark Stokoe was smack in the center of this ruling administration until he had the falling-out with Kondratick.
After the firing Stokoe has some dry years. But when Dn. Eric Wheeler blew the whistle on Robert Kondratick’s wheeling and dealing, Stokoe saw an opportunity. +Theodosios had retired. +Herman and Kondratick were in charge. It was pay-back time.
He showed shrewd timing. Stokoe had no loyalty to +Herman. Moreover, going after +Theodosius would mean that Stokoe would have to go after himself. As an inside player, any revelation of corruption under +Theodosius would also implicate him. More problematic was +Theodosius’ personal problems. It would not look good.
I’m not trying to unfairly target Mark Stokoe. But I think it is foolish to ignore the homosexual dimension of the institutional scandal. This scandal replicates the institutional chaos that results when homosexual pathology is in play. It’s not only about graft and corruption. It’s about the culture that made that graft and corruption not only possible, but in some ways even necessary.
Whenever an institution accepts homosexuality into the ranks, whenever it is willing to overlook that homosexuality is a sin that must be dealt with as any other sin (greed, graft, adultery, and so forth), the institution ends up becoming homosexualized. That’s the corrosive nature of sin. It affects thinking, self-image, goals, operations, and so forth. It subverts the internal operations of an institution just as it subverts the internal life of the individual.
We see it in the Catholic Church. It is reeling from the damage caused by active homosexuals in its clerical ranks that will take more than a generation to heal. In the next few years we will see the problem emerge in the GOA as well. Like the Catholics, the GOA is reeling from the Katinas affair ($250,000/month in settlement payouts alone), and the latest scandal in Astoria will cost millions more. Clearly the OCA is not the only church suffering this institutional affliction. About the only major jurisdiction not affected is the AOAC because Met. Philip has zero tolerance for active homosexuals. (ROCOR and the MP parishes likewise exhibit zero tolerance in this matter.)
Moreover, when homosexuality exists in high places (Metropolitans and Bishops), then sexual sins (of all types) in the priestly ranks are largely overlooked. Immorality is not seen as a bar to ordination, but a condition to be tolerated as long as the malefactor is never caught. Once caught, the priest is out. With Bishops it works differently. If caught, the crime is covered over. The toxin seeps to all levels of the institution but affects those closest to the source the most.
Closer to home, homosexuality is a threat to Orthodox young men, and not only because the chances of molestation increase (homosexuals make up 4% of the population but 36% of molestation cases involve man on boy contact). It also offers poor role models to young boys for whom sexual self-identity is just forming. Effeminate priests and bishops send the wrong signal to young boys, especially in our Orthodox faith that, properly understood, is virile and patriarchal. Do we really want men with sexual-identity conflicts mentoring our boys? Do we want heterosexually challenged leaders modeling truncated manhood? As the father of two boys (and the godfather of many others) my answer is an unequivocal no.
So let me be crystal clear. The way that I see it the rot that besets the OCA at present is predicated on the existence of Lavendar Mafias. There’s no escaping this fact. All of the cases that have been identified in the SMPAC report by OCANews (illegally I might add), involve charges of homosexual behavior, either between consenting adults or involving young boys. Real crusaders, real reformers — like Fr. Vasile Susan — are hung out to dry. This is how these gay cabals work, baseless charges of “homophobia” and “bigotry” notwithstanding.
I believe that the effort to unseat +Jonah is nothing more than an attempt to reestablish the institutional dysfunctions of a homosexualized subculture that +Jonah threatens to overthrow. The only way that this entrenched culture can be eradicated if it is reformed from the outside — and +Jonah is a man from the outside. There is no man on the inside who can do it, not because he is guilty himself of any wrong-doing, but because the internal workings have been so corrupted that internal reform is impossible. The recent attack on +Jonah by OCANews is evidence of the vitriol, manipulation of facts, and secret dealings (such as the emails) that awaits the reformer.
I believe Mark Stokoe is a part of that culture, and his effort to remove Jonah is nothing more than his attempt to restore his seat at the table. The Russians know this too. That is why they warned the Synod that if any Bishop dares join forces with the corrupt cabal (which unfortunately includes good men who don’t see the big picture) that is seeking to unseat +Jonah, they would face de-recognition by the other Orthodox bishops around the world. The Russians, we have learned, are dealing with the problem head on. We need to do the same thing.
And lest anyone think that I accuse clericalism of fostering these pathologies –you better think again: it is the laity who are ultimately responsible for the well-being of the Church. It is the laity which tolerated clericalism in the first place. It was the laity which viewed the priesthood as a dumping ground for their effeminate sons. And it is the responsibility of the laity –even if it’s just one man–to stand and shout “ANAXIOS!” whenever a man of questionable integrity is ordained to the priesthood. The OCA, among all the jurisdictions in American Orthodoxy has the least excuse for allowing this. Unlike the other jurisdictions which send priests and bishops from oversees and plunk them down on their eparchies in much the same way that imperial powers appoint foreign satraps for their colonial subjects, we in the OCA have chosen our own bishops. The fault is ours.
*From Time: The Civil War, 1861-1862: An Illustrated History, (2011) p 18.