Debunking the Acton-Jonah Conspiracy

Met. Jonah speaking at Acton University

Recently, HB Metropolitan +Jonah gave a major address at the Acton Institute. It was very well received. Like many speeches, the actual delivery differed from the prepared text. Good orators excel when they speak ex temporare and when +Jonah speaks on something that he feels deeply about, he is most definately a good speaker.

One attendee however, Fr Basil Biberdorf, took exception (here and here) with the variance between the actual speech and the prepared text. I really don’t know why that is. Looking at his website, a case could be made that he has a major axe to grind although I don’t know what it is.

In any case, Fr Basil doesn’t strike me as a theological liberal but the fact remains that by maintaining his antagonistic tone, he unwittingly furthers the agenda of the modernists who wish to make the OCA a pro-homosexualist church, an Eastern-Rite ECUSA so to speak. Politics certainly makes for strange bedfellows.

What follows is a rebuttal of his Fr. Biberdorf’s critique. It is written by John Couretas, who works at the Acton Institute and heard the speech.

+ + + + + + + + + +

By John Couretas


In light of the comments made here by Helga and George about Metropolitan Jonah’s talk at Acton University in Grand Rapids, Mich. (June 14-17), I’d like to offer some clarification. I wouldn’t have thought this necessary but Fr. Basil Biberdorf’s coy investigation into possible “deception” surrounding the publication of the text of the speech has made it an issue.

I am the communications director for the Acton Institute. On June 26, Fr. Basil emailed me and asked if the audio of Metropolitan Jonah’s talk would be made available. I told him that I was planning to publish the text of the speech and video highlights which could be shared easily. In my naiveté, I thought this a better option than publishing an hour-long audio file. Fr. Basil, who attended AU, the next day asked if he could get the “unreleased” recording because “folks would benefit from hearing the audio, as the text doesn’t really communicate it as well.”

I responded on June 30 this way: “ … no plans to produce the audio (and the Met’s talk isn’t the only one). I am hopeful of doing video highlights — once the logjam breaks.” It’s just not a good idea to circulate raw, unproduced audio (or video for that matter).

Apparently my words suspicioned a conspiracy, as evidenced by his blog posts here and here. Fr. Basil wrote that he was “not trying to make the proverbial mountain from a molehill” and then issued five detailed questions — in fine prosecutorial style.

Most of these questions are ridiculous, so I won’t bore Monomakhos readers with a point by point response. Suffice it to say that I posted the text of Metropolitan Jonah’s talk on the Acton blog here and referred to it as a text of his speech. Is it a shock that his actual delivered remarks deviated – in small ways or big ways – from his text? I covered innumerable speeches as a journalist and this was more often the case than not.

Fr. Basil claims that the metropolitan’s speech “barely touches on many of the practical interests of the Acton Institute, its faculty, and the attendees, pro or con. I don’t think the Talk of Record did either, but it was closer.” That’s just absurd. The title of the talk was “Asceticism and the Consumer Society.” It was perfect for the Acton audience.

For the record, there were 75 lectures delivered at AU 2011. We recorded maybe 50 of them. Fifteen have been put online for purchase, including Fr. Michael Butler’s excellent talk on Orthodoxy and Environmentalism. We’ve put one of the four evening plenaries on the digital store, Fr. Robert Sirico’s opening June 14 talk on Christian anthropology. I hope to add more lectures, but right now there are no plans to post the audio, text or transcript for the June 15 plenary featuring business leaders talking about entrepreneurship and business as vocation, or Fr. Robert’s wrap up talk on June 17. Fr. Basil can make whatever he wants of that. The fact of the matter is that we don’t have unlimited capacity to produce conference media, given the other things going on at Acton.

Fr. Basil asks, coyly: “Do I think there’s deception going on? I don’t know … it would be helpful to have what was really said, not the sweetened, condensed version.”

Why would we want to “sweeten” His Beatitude’s talk at Acton University? When he finished, more than 600 people from 70 countries rose as one – business people, Protestant pastors, Catholic priests and nuns, missionaries, students, seminarians – and gave him an extended ovation. How much “sweeter” can it get?

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the full talk and Q&A on the audio link below (you’ll hear some static on the first seven minutes or so, then it clears up):



  1. Thank you so much, Mr. Couretas!

    As for the divergence between Metropolitan Jonah’s reception at the Acton Institute versus how he is regarded by some in the OCA, I can only say, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country and in his own house.” (Matthew 13:57)

  2. Harry Coin says

    I spent an hour listening to this speech, and it was worth the time. Topics were familiar, I’ve heard all of them before in part here and there in various Orthodox parishes in sermons over many years. Delivery was sober and serene, points were clear, tone was reflective.

    I’ve been to speeches by other archbishops in various ‘jurisdictions’ that made clergy and laity cringe and make apologies for weeks, speeches which led to press releases offering ‘clarifications’. This was just fine on its own and even great by comparison.

    Who is making exactly what fuss about this?

  3. Mark from the DOS says

    Respectfully to Fr. Basil, his questioning and inquisition is simply disingenuous. I speak regularly at conferences and always provide a prepared text. My oral presentation rarely mirrors the text other than in outline. Any speaker that simply reads a prepared text is rarely worth inviting. Fr. Basil is an educated man and he surely knows this and could undoubtedly recollect dozens of examples in his own life where he has experienced the same.

    Whatever issues he has with the Metropolitan, this little attack of his is not helpful to his cause. It is nothing but chum for the sharks. It is not substantive or serious in any way.

  4. Heracleides says

    On a slightly unrelated note… I dare anyone to tell me with a straight face that Mrs. Stokoe-Brown is not pushing a homosexual agenda. For the latest evidence, witness the “reflection” by Fr. Alexis Vinogradov that Mark posted a few days ago on OCAN (see: ). Thankfully, at least some of our clerics, Fr. Alexander F. C. Websterbeing being one shining example, appear to be aware of the ongoing efforts to further this agenda and have had the courage to speak out against it (see: ). My heartfelt Axios! to Archpriest Alexander and other such priests for their witness in upholding the True Faith.

    P.S. Harry – Fr. Basil “the Orthodox Leader” (yeah, right!) Biberdorf (see: )

    • Jane Rachel says

      I’m very glad the true agenda is coming out. Oh how I hated the fakery. At least we can see the tares in the midst of the wheat. It’s just like my garden. This time of year the weeds are finally growing tall enough and making themselves obvious enough to pull without damaging the good plants putting out flowers and tiny fruits.

  5. Of course he’s pushing the agenda; you’re just not supposed to notice.

    • Harry Coin says

      So, is it true that Mark Stokoe has a position not only on the OCA’s metropolitan council but also specifically on the governance committee? Prior to this I thought there was energy to extend and insure decent treatment to those who want to be in the church amid sexual struggles. I am all for that and didn’t think much of folk who claimed to be Christian but didn’t recognize the humanity in all. Now the articles over there have shifted away from calls to end financial shenanigans but instead to support the idea that it’s not reasonable to expect folk to keep it zipped up if not married to a person born of the opposite sex. We’ve already heard the first beats– from clergy– of the notion we ought to extend welcome to unrelated boys placed with them. Let’s see, unrelated boys placed with church and state approval with gay men. You know, for all the times that might end well, is it worth those where it obviously hasn’t? Didn’t we try that once already, in Blanco, TX? No wonder the icons there were crying, in retrospect.

      I didn’t think there was anything to this notion that upset with Met. Jonah had to do with no patience for those with church rank/title misdoing sexually in an ongoing way. Now with those ‘reflections’ and so forth coming from those who criticize Met. Jonah, well it’s all starting to smell bad again.

      • Heracleides says

        Harry, in answer to your question: YES – Stokoe is the chairman of the MC’s Governance Committee (see: ). Go figure.

        • Harry Coin says


          Well, on the one hand, there are improvements on paper anyhow regarding better handling of donated money.

          On the other hand, you know it doesn’t really inspire following the rules written on the paper for the rest of us when leaders give the appearance of ongoing impropriety.

      • Harry, I believe we are confronted with two poles in the OCA: on the one side we have +Jonah/traditional monasticism which wants to uphold normal views of sexuality (mono- for laymen, none for monastics) and pro-homosexualist agenda on the other side. I know this sounds harsh but there is no way that anybody can tell me that Arida’s and Vinogradov’s posturings are anything but pro-homosexual conduct. In the middle are honest critics of +Jonah like Frs John Reeves and Basil Biberdorf who (for whatever reason) are offended by +Jonah’s administrative style/lack of action/etc.

        The problem is that no matter how dilatory HB is at times in dealing with the whole mess of crap that is staring at him in his in-box, those critics in the middle (who are themselves traditionalist/conservative) are giving aid and comfort to those who preach immorality and heresy. if they don’t watch it, when this whole mess is sorted out, they will be consigned to the role of “useful idiots.” They would be no different than the honest liberals who were anti-Vietnam War for principled reasons but then when the South fell and the true scope of the humanitarian tragedy unfolded for all the world to see, were shocked to their senses and realized that American power may not have been such a bad thing after all.

        • They would be no different than the honest liberals who were anti-Vietnam War for principled reasons but then when the South fell and the true scope of the humanitarian tragedy unfolded for all the world to see, were shocked to their senses and realized that American power may not have been such a bad thing after all.

          George, I enjoy reading your comments except when you “reach” back in history to castigate anybody who doesn’t fit the neo-conservative, libertarian label. The US, in supporting colonialism and then a dictatorship built on colonial collaboration, kills 1 to 2 million Vietnamese. Who should be shocked?

          • George Michalopulos says

            Logan, I am not now, nor ever was a neo-con as it is presently understood. Only in the sense that I grew up in a traditional Truman-idolizing working-class family. I believe the term is “Reagan Democrats,” and like the Gipper, I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Alinskyites took it over. Presently quite Libertarian in that I believe in a minimalist government but heavily tempered by traditional Conservatism.

            As for misadventure in Vietnam, please read Mark Moyer’s excellent book Triumph Forsaken. The atrocities perpetrated by the North and their collaborators in the South far eclipsed anything done by the South. Having said that, I was struck at how much that entire misadventure was the brainchild of the Best and the Brightest, liberals in both parties. JFK who (reluctantly) ordered the assassination of the Diem brothers and Henry Cabot Lodge, the GOP ambassador to South Vietnam who egged Kennedy into taking this terrible action.

            As for “supporting” colonialism, I am quite the isolationist. Had I lived back then, I would have been against WWI.

  6. George

    The comments in this thread are spot on! If only we could know that bishops on the synod are having a similar conversation and willing to stand firm and take the heat in exposing and dealing with homosexual clergy in their respective dioceses and laity who are in positions of leadership. They know who they are and by permitting them to continue to serve is wrong. Additionally, clergy are not free to depart from Church teachings. They take an oath when ordained to teach what the Church teaches, not their own theology. Part of being a leader is to lead, take a stand, and if it happens, be willing to suffer. Bearing one’s cross takes many forms. Arida, Vinogradov, Bobosh should be reprimanded for supporting the communing of openly practicing gays. They should be directed to stop communing gays who do not accept the church’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin and who do not teach them that sex outside of heterosexual marriage is a sin. The fact that gays have permeated the ranks of the clergy – bishops, priests and deacons, makes this battle more difficult.

    Now Jonah’s words on the subject must match his deeds in dealing with this in his own diocese and Cathedral.

    • Dallas Texas says

      “Now Jonah’s words on the subject must match his deeds in dealing with this in his own diocese and Cathedral.”

      When and if that happens, I will have at least some hope that the OCA can be set aright, albeit with great struggle. At the moment, and considering the actual track record of HB in these matters, my hope is scant. It wasn’t the small pockets of radicals who brought down the mainline protestant denominations; it was the majority who didn’t want conflict or who just didn’t care. May God save us Orthodox Christians from such luke-warmness. If that salvation means the destruction of the OCA as we know it, then so be it.

  7. NicholasIV says

    With a heavy heart I say that I have lost faith in His Beatitude’s moral courage. If he won’t deal with this problem in his own cathedral, there is no hope that he will deal with it in the church in general. As “Dallas Texas” says, the problem is not just with the bad people, but with the good people who know better but who are missing a backbone.

    • Are you talking about the unnameable priest?

      Bear in mind that the Synod has Metropolitan Jonah on a pretty tight leash, even in internal cathedral matters. Remember Fr. Fester?

      I agree that Metropolitan Jonah needs to show he can walk the walk, but I would think homosexuality is difficult to prove. He can’t sack Fr. Voldemort based on rumors and innuendo.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Helga, excellent point. The sad thing about all this is that our culture has become so debauched that even when two people of the same sex live together and are completely asexual (or heterosexual), the automatic assumption is that they are gay. It’s impossible now for people of the same sex to even show affection for each other. These homosexualists have demolished the common courtesies that used to inform our culture and the relationships that people used to enjoy. The end result of this is that if our Church is to survive, we may very well have to tell roommates that the the appearance of scandal is too great and they must seek separate accomodations. That’s a sad turn of events isn’t it? Think of the economic hardship that would impose on two seniors who are merely living together because their combined Social Security checks are what is needed to pay the rent and purchase food.

        If I may riff a little: both of my sons played football in high school. One of the most poignant things about high school football is that as they marched out onto the field at the beginning of each game they would march two by two and hold each others’ hands. It was such a manly display of affection that no one would have thought anything of it in an earlier time but there were the inevitable snickers from some people.

        I could go on. Take the time to watch Casablanca. There is genuine affection between Rick and Captain Reneau. Nobody would have accused the actors (Bogart and Rains) of being homosexual. It was simply unthinkable. You simply couldn’t make that movie with two manly actors (think Tom Selleck and George Clooney) playing those roles in the same way today.

      • NIcholasIV says

        Yes I am talking about that priest, who by the way was attached to the cathedral for a long time before Met. Jonah showed up on the scene. (By the way, I don’t care if he is gay as long as he is living chastely and upholds the Church’s teaching in his words and deeds, but on this point I have severe doubts). I am also talking about the “married” lesbians who are admitted to communion (here is one of those couples — I am not “outing” them because they are already out to the parish, and publicly celebrate their “marriage” with that webpage). Vladyka has been told again and again that this is a scandal, but he won’t deal with it. To be fair, all of this pre-dates his arrival on the scene, but we all know that unlike those who came before him, this Metropolitan is a good man. What good does the quality of his character do if he can’t or won’t act on it to deal with blatant gay situations in his own cathedral? It is demoralizing. The recent events in the OCA, which have caused many of us to wake up to the effect of the gay agenda being quietly pushed in our church at the top levels, have awakened many lay Orthodox to the danger of letting this junk go unaddressed for pastoral reasons or whatever they want to call it.

        I agree with you Helga that the Synod has Jonah on a short leash, but think about it, if he would act but can’t because the Synod won’t let him take care of business in his own cathedral if it ended up with him acting against gays, that tells you a lot about the reality of the situation we’re in.

    • NicholasIV,

      I’m not sure how you would have met. J. handle things, but he has written a clear letter to his Priests and deacons about this matter that is spot on. He has very slowly started addressing the parish on these matters. It would be unwise to be harsh, I’m sure he doesn’t want the Church to rip, but rather I would think he wants to teach the Church.

      As I see it, many people-whether convert or raised Orthodox do not know what the Orthodox have taught or they know the Theology so superficially that they are still operating in the World’s understanding. If we are to be a hospital to people, we don’t scare away the sick, we help them with their illness through the teaching and unbending faith.

      As for the priest “unmentionable “, we’ve been told he has a partner, but do we know that? True his sermon has made me wonder, but I don’t know for sure, so we can’t assume he should be removed.

  8. The OCA is already on that slippery slope. When you turn a blind eye to morality everyone will pay a price sooner or later. There is NO room for homosexuals in the clerical ranks. ZERO TOLERANCE. This needs to be preached to every potential candidate for the seminary. The seminaries need to do their own due diligence with every potential seminarian. The moment we say, “well, he is a nice guy, a good guy, we can let him get ordained… wink, wink” is the moment we begin to slide and the OCA is well down that muddy hill.

    I have little faith that any bishop on the Synod is man enough to stand up to this issue. It is the most important cultural issue that faces the Church. Bishop Michael makes a nice statement about marriage, but ignores gay clergy in his own diocese. Who will stand up and say, “this is what the Church teaches and it is not up for debate or revision.” No thanks Arida and Vinogradov. If you don’t like it, become members of TEC. You both should be suspended and if you really believe what you say, you should leave the Orthodox Church officially because what you write already separated you from the Church.

    The “unnamed” priest in DC, is the test case for His Beatitude. The Synod can step up by remembering that another priest now nominated by a diocese for bishop was never to be considered for nomination and even a former OCA primate once stated that he would approve his election “over his (the Primate’s) dead body.”

    To coin a phrase of a Protopresbyter, “The OCA is gravely troubled.”

  9. cynthia curran says

    Well, actually it more like 500,000 people killed in Vietnam by the US. That’s still too many people. But when the US pull out, thousands of people were put into labor camps by the new government in Vietnam. And many Vietnamese came to the US, particulary Southern California to escape that but many were boat people prior to that since they were in boats and no one wanted to take them. Many Vietnamese didn’t want to stay in their country and put up with the boat people staged.

  10. I know Fr. Basil Biberdorf, and have known him for several years now, and he is a good and sincere man, and so I do not agree with any suggestion that would question his integrity.

    • Thanks for that, Fr. John. Can you offer any insight you might have into why Fr. Basil would say what he wrote about Metropolitan Jonah’s speech?

      • He said that he was there, and perhaps he was surprised at the extent of the differences between the posted text and what he heard, but why he thought it was significant enough to transcribe the actual talk, I can’t say. However, I would not assume he was trying to be dishonest in any way.

        • Thank you for clearing that up Fr. I believe that I speak for many on this blog that our suspicions (which I hope are groundless) are because Fr Basil has been quite vocal in his opposition to HB, almost to an unseemly degree if you ask me, a common layman.

          • At what point have I been “quite vocal in [my] opposition to HB?” I have been quite vocal in my opposition to those spreading unsubstantiated accusations against members of the MC and hierarchs on the Holy Synod when they have stood against some aspects of Metropolitan Jonah’s program. I have been quite vocal in my opposition to lies and manipulation in general. In no way have I have been “quite vocal” in opposition to the Metropolitan.

            As for why I bothered transcribing that talk, it was mainly to provide the content of the actual address for those who might not want to listen to the whole thing. Considering the degree to which the Talk of Record was cited as what he actually said, I thought it important to correct the record (and, as a side effect, making a well-received talk available for others to hear). I have made sparse mention of my opinions concerning the talk, but I don’t plan to expand upon them unless some other need compels it. At the present time, I plan to say no more than this. If you think I’ve been “quite vocal” about the Metropolitan, perhaps you can reflect on my reticence.

            • I don’t know, Fr. Basil. How do you expect people to interpret your insistence on referring to the prepared text and the speech as delivered as if they were two different speeches? Additionally, your insistence on referring to the delivered version of the speech as the “real” speech carries the connotation that the speech’s prepared text is somehow “false”. It also implies that the Acton Institute is somehow acting in a questionable way by publishing the speech’s prepared text instead of the “real” speech, that is, a transcript and audio of the speech as delivered.

              As for why Fr. Gregory Jensen would refer to something in the prepared text, it’s possible Fr. Gregory read the prepared text after hearing the delivered speech, and either assumed it was in the speech and that he’d forgotten about it, or felt it reflected a theme in the delivered speech, or something like that. I suggest you ask him.

              Speaking off-the-cuff is one of the traits Metropolitan Jonah is most well known for, so to me it’s kind of strange that you would find this so remarkable that you would write three blog postings questioning it. However, I have a great esteem for Fr. John Whiteford for his ability to separate wheat from chaff, and I don’t take his endorsement of you lightly.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Fr Basil, permit me to protest. Your bias towards the Metropolitan Council is quite apparant. What “unsubstantiated rumors” could you possibly be referring to? That one of the members reports on events that he is privy to? Do the people on the MC not understand the concept of conflict of interest? That this same “reporter” admitted that he defied +Jonah two years ago warning him about the knowledge he has? Do the people on the MC not understand the concept of extortion? That the MC wouldn’t allow HB to defend himself against the allegations made in the SMPAC report? That the MC relied on stolen e-mails to railroad a priest consigning him to penury?

              Can you tell me what “lies and manipulation” against HB you have worked to correct? The anger displayed towards HB when he ordained a dying woman to the monastic life? Perhaps you spoke out and gently reproved your brother priests (Hopko and Oleksa) when they said that HB was “gravely troubled.” Please point to me that letter or sermon in which you spoke words to this effect, so that I can correct the record.

              • So silence on an issue now means “quite vocal”? What kind of Orwellian universe is this? Up next: war is peace.

                I have made mention of Mark Stokoe in exactly two of my own articles, in one of them saying “I am not interested in waving Mark Stokoe’s banner, one way or the other.” That is still true. My site is about leadership issues. What I write about there concerns my own personal take on issues, news, and people of interest in the area of leadership in the Orthodox Church, with a sober attitude toward my ordination promises and pastoral responsibilities. A decision not to comment says nothing about my interest.

                • Unforturtunately Fr, Stokoe is very much a leader in the OCA, as is very much everybody else who sits on the MC and gives marching orders to the Primate. The conflict of interest that Stokoe embodies as both an executive making church policy and a ‘journalist” reporting of same is glaring –a blind man can see it.

                  I will leave aside for the moment the strange quiet that surrounded Fr Hopko’s slander of +Jonah and instead concentrate on Mr Stokoe’s moral compass which is shattered perhaps beyond all repair. Not only did he hack into the private e-mail account of a priest in order to destroy that priest and hopefully +Jonah, he published confidential discussions within the Holy Synod on at least two occasions.

                  The fact that you and the others on the MC who have it in for +Jonah can’t see the moral (and possibly criminal) qualities inherent in these actions leads me to believe that the OCA is in a lot worse shape than it is.

                  Of course you have it within you to come out and criticize both Fr Hopko for his gratuitous swipe and file a complaint to the MC regarding the self-serving career of Mr Stokoe and how he infiltrates confidential discussions, destroys careers, and indeed has cost the OCA tens of thousands of dollars in lawsuits.

                  • Heracleides says

                    As the publisher of “the Orthodox Leader” I am sure Fr. Basil will get right on that….