Pathetic Power Plays: Part 3

I originally wrote this column earlier this month, when the news of Fr. Zacchaeus Wood’s removal first broke. These were my first impressions and I stand by them. See more at the end of the column.

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Monomakhos and sons have been out of the country for about two weeks. (That’s probably why you didn’t see a lot of personal commentary, I’ve been reading but not with the same attention to detail that I ordinarily use.) I will write more about our wonderful experiences soon enough as they gave me much cause to think about in the areas of culture, nationhood, and religion.

Anyway, getting out of the States allows one to have a fresh outlook and see things from a different perspective. I also suspected that the Sleepless in Syosset would remain entrenched in their Deep Institutional Mediocrity.

Boy was I right.

The news that Fr Zacchaeus Wood had been unceremoniously removed from the OCA’s representation parish in Moscow greeted me upon my arrival back home. I don’t know Fr Zacchaeus and have only a faint knowledge that he and the former Chancellor (Robert Kondratick) didn’t see eye-to-eye about some things. Beyond that I don’t know where he stands on the present issues engulfing the Church. Regardless, many things shocked me about this present affair.

First of all was the graceless way it was perpetrated. Talk about inept. Stalin at least had the courtesy to stage elaborate show-trials before his minions released their verdict. Second, the fact that he was replaced with some has-been is of no great merit. Lefty Leonid Kishkovsky is definitely Yesterday’s Man. Third was the unnecessary provocation to the the Russian Orthodox Church. Really, we’re talking three strikes here.

If it was done to shore up Kishkovsky’s resume or let him go out with a last hurrah before he retires, then it was incredibly inept, both in conception and execution. It also shows how out-of-touch the Syosset/MC axis really is. In almost all Orthodox circles that matter, he has long been viewed as a helmsman of the OCA’s decline. Is Syosset circling the wagons in anticipation of an impending Sioux attack? Hard to say at this point.

There’s more layers to this onion however. Had this succeeded, it still would have failed. By moving Kishkovsky out of the States, Syosset would lose one of their key players for no gain at all. How can I put this charitably? The Russian patriarchate has little —and I mean very little—regard for him. Had he gone there, the chances for a misstep on his part were too great simply based on the tension that would have ensued between him and Metropolitan +Hilarion, his opposite number in Moscow.

What worries me more is the ham-handed treatment of Fr Zacchaeus. Think of it: in corporate, secular America, people are treated more sympathetically. I’ve seen people clear out their desks and be escorted off the premises, yet when asked what happened, it’s always something like this: “Bob asked for a leave of absence to take care of personal matters,” or “we came to a mutual agreement that ACME Widgets had to consolidate several departments but we intend to work with Bob at some future date.” In the political arena, it’s always something like this: “Senator Cleghorn has decided not to seek re-election in order to spend more time with his family.” But no, the official website of the OCA gave Wood the screaming-headline News of the World treatment. (I was in the UK and got to see this up close and personal.)

Talk about incompetent. If nothing else, it proves to me that Syosset is definitely not ready for the prime time. It also is a complete morale-deflater. What priest in the OCA now feels secure in his position? More importantly, what candidate for the priesthood would now want to be in a Church that acted so egregiously?

No charges were filed, no evidence presented. Instead we were treated to a declaration of immediate suspension. In the secular courts, the authorities at least have the decency to level a charge and issue a warrant describing at least some prima facie evidence of wrongdoing. The accused has his day in court and if found guilty, he is punished. Otherwise he is released and the charges are dropped.

In the recent past I have found myself arguing with people about whether it is proper to sue those in ecclesiastical authority. I’ve invariably lost the argument because Scripture seems to proscribe such actions. But I wonder, aren’t we to assume that those in authority are acting in good faith? Aren’t we also to assume that the Church possesses independent and accountable tribunals for the adjudication of wrongs committed and not hastily-convened kangaroo courts presided over by morally compromised bishops who may have an axe to grind?

That is an argument for another day. For now, it would seem that the Wonder Boys made some needless enemies and continued to raise the laughing-stock status of the OCA.

One more thing: many of my critics have taken me to task as being to “right wing” or “homophobic.” In reality however, I’ve been consistent that regardless of the charges filed or the merits of the accusations, I have always believed in due process. I also believe in mercy and see nothing wrong with finding face-saving ways out for people caught in compromising positions. I don’t know what Wood is accused of doing (and I hope for his own salvation that he’s not guilty of anything), but let us assume that there is indeed some irregularity which he has perpetrated, at that point I still stand by my original contention: his removal violated not only due process but common decency.

I don’t see how anything good can come out of this.

Postscript: I originally wrote this column earlier this month, when the news of Wood’s removal first broke. These were my first impressions and I stand by them. Since then however, it appears that (if I may paraphrase Mark Twain) the professional death of Fr Zacchaeus was greatly exaggerated. Instead, +Jonah appears to have called the bluff of Syosset (good for him: he needs to do this more often). Wood refused to take this treatment lying down and remains at his post. In the meantime, Kishkovsky remains in the States; I guess it looks like his triumphal procession through the streets of Moscow will have to wait for another day. Curiously, which “broke” this story in such an ungracious manner has been strangely silent since then. OCANews on the other hand, continues to see mountainous regions where there are merely plateaus.

Life goes on.


  1. Pretty insightful. Thanks!

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  2. Maybe needs to find a way to break news like this without blaring it across the front page for any spiritual seeker to find and be troubled by. They could post an internal “clergy news” section that deals with ordinations, transfers, suspensions, and defrockings, that you’d only stumble across if you were looking for it. It makes more sense than just putting it in the magazine, which often announces these things several months after the fact.

    Also, do we know which way the “close, confessional” relationship goes? I thought at first it meant that Metropolitan Jonah confesses to Fr. Zacchaeus, but it occurred to me that it might mean Fr. Zacchaeus confesses to Met. Jonah. Met. Jonah is right in principle to recuse himself from the matter, but if Fr. Zacchaeus is truly being railroaded, it’s good that Met. Jonah was willing to step in despite the conflict of interest.

  3. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    The AAC resolutions were to have been released August 30th, which is yesterday. I haven’t seen any mention of these on the OCA or AAC websites. Does anyone know what’s going on?

    • Well, the hurricane has shut down the chancery temporarily, and Archbishop Dmitri’s death is probably occupying a lot of their attention. Once those issues are resolved, they will likely release the resolutions.

    • DC Indexman says

      George M. Speaking of Power Plays, what kind of plans is the Archbishop of Constantinople trying to develop to help the ancient Orthodox Churches in the Middle East?

      • Peter A. Papoutsis says

        “Archbishop?” I know people don’t want to call him Ecumenical but Archbishop? He is officially the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constandinople. You may not like the title, but at least show respect. I still want to call Constinople “Constandinople,” but its official name, whether I like it or not, is “Istanbul.”

        Also, why do they need help? What dires straits are the Middle Eastern Greek Orthodox Churches in? Please explain?


        • He is actually the “Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch”.

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            He is the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constandinople.


            That’s HIS official website.

            In any event, what does he have to do with the Middle East Greek Orthodox Christians? I believe they fall under the jurisdiction of the Partiarch of Jerusalem or is he Archbishop as well?


            • Looks like you’d better check HIS official website some more, Peter:


              Since becoming the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, he has engaged all Orthodox Christians and the world’s diverse religious communities, policy makers and cultural leaders, with his message of peace, reconciliation, restoration, and renewed hope.

              *cough* Anyway, I think this substantiates my point adequately.

              • AGREED
                his “official title” is Archibishop of Constantinople, New Rome, etc, etc. (but for him, Bartholomew is enough.)

              • DC Indexman says

                In any regard, this Bishop, who ranks as primes inter pares (first among equals) and has the authority to call meetings of the other bishops of the Orthodox Church has called for a Synaxis beginning today at the Phanar. He has invited the heads of the churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Cyprus.

                The focus of the meeting is on the state of the most holy Orthodox Churches in the Middle East at this time, as well as on Orthodox affairs in general, including the matter of the way toward the Holy and Great Synod of the most holy Orthodox Church. For the next two days they are going to discuss these topics and work on a strategy and plan.

                My question to George Michalopulas is == what does he think they will do?

                • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                  Why should George or you care what the “OLD” world churches do? I though people here only cared about America and the ever so competent HS of the OCA?

                  Sorry for the snied remarks in advance, but to call the EP “Archbishop”, given the history of disrespecting the EP’s person by the OCA I get defensive.

                  I have my disagreements with the EP, some very serious disagreements, but I at least call him by his official title out of respect.


                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    Peter, I very much care about the “Old World” patriarchates, what they do, etc., for the same reason that I care about ECUSA and it’s problems. All trinitarian Christians are my brothers to one extent or another. That’s also why I care about the Maronites, Melkites, Chaldeans, etc of the Middle East.

                    As for the “ever so competent HS of the OCA” I agree with you as well that they have not behaved as appropriate to their rank on occasion. Still, when all is said and done, they are the only bishops of the only territorial Church in North America. It is up to them, and nobody else, to rectify the problems that are attendent in America.

                    BTW, I extend this same spirit to the Old World churches as well. I have absolutely no right to interfere in the internal affairs of any of the other territorial churches.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      As for the OCA HS being the only territorial HS and Church That will change and change quickly with the EA. You and I know that George. America is too lucative to pass up and just leave it to just the OCA.


                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Peter I agree with you if you in essence and hope but am somewhat pessimistice about the EA process. It seems obvious taht it was nothing but a ploy to frustrate true unity and of course, autocephaly.

                      I very much hope that I’m wrong.

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                NO he is Archbishop of HIS diocese of Constandinople, but he is THE Ecumenical Patriarch of Constandinople. Couch right back at you thank you very much.

                • It is not an insult to refer to Metropolitan Jonah as the Archbishop of Washington, either, because he is actually the Archbishop of Washington. Patriarch Bartholomew is Ecumenical Patriarch because he is Archbishop of Constantinople, so it is by no means an insult to refer to him as such. Please just deal with it.

                  • I’m sending out a test here to see if I’m being stopped from posting here. I posted some comments for the first time in a discussion about Vladika Dmitri that I didn’t see as anything worth censoring (nothing inflammatory like many things posted here) but all the posts were deleted this morning. Do we need to pass some kind of test to participate here? Still waiting for answer from site owner.

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      Svezda: just click on your name on the top right-hand side of your message, and you can see three posts by you.
                      If you want to communicate directly with the site owner, go to the top of the page and click on “Contact.” It’s not rocket science.

                  • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                    I have dealt with it you have not and unfortunately cannot.
                    Have a good night.


            • Micahel Bauman says

              Peter, noticed the deteriorating politcal situation in the middle east? Whatever the outcome, it will most assuredly mean greater Islamist control and influence over Antioch, Alexandria and possibly Jerusalem as well (or an Israeli crack down). It could also increase persecution against Constantinople too.

              Given the decimation of the Chrisitan believers in Iraq, the result of greater Islamist influence does not bode well. Antioch and Alexandria face the greatest burdens IMO. Good to be on the same page I think.

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                Michael. I agree 100% with you. I was just trying to make the point that the “old world” churches are not irrelevant, nor are they irrelevent in helping the interest of the United States by being a check against the Islamists. I also agree with you that they can and must play a very important role in stemming the tide of Islamic revolution and frevor both culturally and politically.

                As for Iraqi Christians being decimated by the Muslim fundamentalists I must agree as well. Over 4,000 years have Assyrian been in Iraq, and 2,000 of those years as Christians. The richness of Iraqi culture became far less rich with the loss of these most ancient and Christian people. My heart and prayers truly go out to them, both Catholic and Church of the East Christians.


      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Personally, I think pride of place in calling for this meeting (of the Islamist-dominated patriarchates) should have belonged to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. And while we’re at it, isn’t Jerusalem the true Mother Church of Christendom?

  4. Yes. I do not like one part of the proposed second Statute amendment–they use the word “shall” serve. I would think that means they can not be removed! it should probably be changed

    “All elected members of the Metropolitan Council, whether representing the several Dioceses of the Church or those elected by the All-American Council, shall serve a term of three years from the time of their election by a Diocesan Assembly or All-American Council.”