Alaska’s Pebble Project: Stolen Emails and the Promise of Reward

Monomakhos just got a hold of this breaking story from the Alaska Dispatch. We’ve talked earlier about Bp. Benjamin’s involvement in this story (“Someone’s Got to Protect the Water“) but now we have more information.

The “Pebble Project” is a proposed gold mining operation in Alaska that pits the mine developers against the native Alaskan population. Bp. Benjamin took a public stand against it several months back which Monomakhos reported. What we learned subsequently is that the “protection” of the Alaskan’s “rural way of life” has an economic upside to Orthodox Church according to emails stolen from clergyman Fr. Michael Oleska.

The position of the anti-development coalition may be the morally right one, but it could well be the economically lucrative one as well. At the very least we now know who fronted the money for the initial media campaign, including paying for the travel expenses of Bp. Benjamin.

Here are some key paragraphs:

But a 2010 email sent by Oleksa to his bishop presents an especially nasty, seemingly damning twist in the fight. The email discusses the winter trip by Orthodox clergy to Southwest Alaska. It also discusses the Orthodox Church’s opposition to the proposed Pebble mine. The email exchange was leaked to the Alaska Dispatch on the condition that the leaker not be identified.

The bulk of the long email does show that Oleksa feels passionately about the potential devastation a Pebble mine could inflict on Alaska Native culture and the region’s rural lifestyle. But Oleksa also wrote about the potential benefit his church could enjoy by hooking up with Gillam in opposition to Pebble.

Gillam, he added, is “one of the richest men in the USA. A real Maddoff [sic]…”

Oleksa doesn’t deny sending the email but is outraged that someone would leak what he called private correspondence to his bishop. “How did someone get into our correspondence?: he asked when reached by phone this week. “Do you understand how offensive this is? That correspondence –between me and my bishop–should be between me and my bishop.”

Click to enlarge...

From the back cover of Alaska Magaine, June, 2011 (alaskamagazine.com). Click to enlarge.

Ironies certainly abound. Can you imagine the howls of outrage had a Conservative priest in the Diocese of the South gotten a low-interest loan from oh, say, the Koch brothers, to build a new temple with an adjacent soup kitchen and homeless shelter? Mark Stokoe would be uttering profanities from now until the cows came home. He’d be writing about this “chilling” news and +Jonah’s “inner circle” somehow acting against the “best interests” of the Holy Synod. He’d probably throw in a diatribe or two about his “unilateralism” and how this would somehow again “place the Church at risk.”

For myself though, the outrage of Fr Oleksa at having his “personal e-mails” between himself and “his bishop” is especially ironic, considering what happened to Fr Joe Fester and his friends. No doubt other ironies abound but this one is too delicious for words. Sauce, goose, gander anyone?

One more thing, if he’s really interested in finding out how to break into somebody’s personal e-mail account, he might try asking Mark Stokoe or Bishop Mark. They could at least tell him how they did it.

If we could just find the angle to take a hit at +Jonah (“Gold Mining Project in Alaska Proves +Jonah Unfit to Lead!”), we could get Stokoe to publish this too.

+ + + + + + + + + +

Source: Alaska Dispatch | Amanda Coyne | Sep 13, 2011

In January, three clergy members from the Orthodox Church of America traveled on a plane owned by one of Alaska’s wealthiest, most prominent citizens to various villages in Southwest Alaska. When they disembarked they headed to frozen waterways in each community. There they stood on the ice and dipped their hand into a hole — carved out of ice and in the shape of the Cross — and blessed the water, an annual ritual celebrating the sacredness of the natural world.

Among the group was Bishop Benjamin Peterson of San Francisco, interim leader of the Alaska diocese. Two Alaska-based priests joined him. One of them was Father Michael Oleksa, among the most well-known and beloved religious leaders in the Last Frontier.

Some of the trip was videotaped and is now being used in an anti-Pebble mine campaign. Oleksa, chancellor of the Alaska diocese, oversees 95 churches and of late has been the public face for a group urging Lake and Peninsula Borough residents to vote yes on an initiative that would hurt Pebble’s prospects for development.

The Pebble deposit sits several miles from a couple of rural villages. It’s the biggest undeveloped gold and copper deposit in the world, according to the geologists working to bring online a Pebble mine. It happens to be in the Bristol Bay watershed of Southwestern Alaska — one of the largest commercial fisheries in the world. Critics say that if built, the pristine area would be forever changed, its prized salmon fishery downstream from the deposit possibly decimated. Proponents say a future Pebble mine would bring economic development to an impoverished region; that the ore can be mined responsibly and without impacting Bristol Bay’s salmon or Pacific herring populations.

Read the rest of the story on the Alaska Dispatch website.

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Comments

  1. My-oh-my…. the entire newspaper article is well worth the read. Very interesting. I particularly found this quote of Bp. Benjamin revealing:

    “For this to work [the publicity ‘blessing of the waters’ stunt], we need to get some real press … and even press beyond AK. NY Times, LA Times, SF Chronicle,”

    Ahhhhh…. yeah. Question for Bp. Benjamin: did you run your public relations campaign ploy by the entire “Holy” Synod before acting on it??? Somehow I think not – which makes you what – a hypocrite?

    • “Bishop Benjamin Peterson said that he vaguely recalled the email, but also denied that the church has benefited at all from Gillam as a result of Oleksa’s involvement in the campaign — aside from the trip to the area.

      “Michael (Oleksa) has all sorts of interesting ideas,” the bishop said in an interview, and often sent the bishop long emails, the details of which were often lost on him. He did say, however, that “if money is exchanging hands in this arena, I don’t want my church involved in it.”

      Benjamin said that he had told Oleksa as much when he met with him. But in his short reply to Oleksa’s email, he did not indicate any misgivings about benefiting from a connection to Gillam.

      “I see no reason why this could not happen and support it,” he wrote. “If there is something I can do, let me know. January is not my favorite time for visiting villages, but I might be able to come for some or all of it. For this to work, we need to get some real press … and even press beyond AK. NY Times, LA Times, SF Chronicle,” the email back to Oleksa reads in full..”

      Here is a fact:

      Bishop Benjamin actually said to the reporter, “if money is exchanging hands in this arena, I don’t want my church involved in it.”

      And Bishop Benjamin actually wrote to Fr Michael Oleska: “I see no reason why this could not happen and support it,”

      There. Anybody else see what the facts show? It’s clear as the waters he blessed. He said one thing out of one side of his mouth, the public side, and he said another, opposite, thing out of the other side of his mouth, the private side.

      Bishop Benjamin… “vaguely recalled the email” and …”the details of which were often lost on him.”

      wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.

      Someone once said, “If enough people tell you you have a tail, maybe you had better turn around and look at it.”

      • M. Stankovich says

        I have been patiently looking & waiting, waiting & looking for some connection to Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, whose most recent evisceration as a “modernistic underminer” of the Church continues to sting (Oh, did anyone rely on his translation of the Festal Menaion today?). Surely he must have a hand in this disgracing and disgraceful meltdown of the OCA, made public by deceitful means and despicable people for their pitiful, ever-hungry consumers. Mr. Kraeff, come to play with the big boys, finds it necessary to re-wash dirty laundry in a new machine, imagining perhaps this time the “spot” will come out, but apparently unaware of Lady McBeth’s musing, “Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” Mr. Cone, another public purveyor of the OCA’s bitter victuals, albeit from the right (though it doesn’t seem to change that smell) dismisses the whole lack of ethics or integrity because of a fundamental lack of consequence (“hollerin'”); apparently unware of the consequence of repeatedly lowering the threshold, or as Dostoyevsky wrote, “Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!.” And Vladyka Tikhon, cum Kevin Mitnick, ascribes to the hacker ethic: “if you were too stupid to hide it, I’m entitled to it.”

        My thought: You don’t need any modernist influence to undermine your OCA. You are doing an admirable job on your own:

        λάκκον ώρυξε και ανέσκαψεν αυτόν και εμπεσείται εις βόθρον ον ιργάσατο επιστρέψει ο πόνος αυτού εις κεφαλήν αυτού kαι επί κορυφήν αυτού η αδικία αυτού καταβήσεται

        Please watch your step getting off the Titanic.

  2. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    If we chose to believe that Fr. Michael didn’t leak the email and didn’t share it with anyone else, that logic dictates that it could only have come from people who had access to the bishop’s email.

  3. Fr. Stephen Lourie says

    I am confused.
    Is your blog a gossip column?
    Not sure how the church in AK will benefit financially it the Pebble Mine is stopped.
    Not sure the substance of Fr. Michael’s email is a problem, nor any of our business.
    Why is the annual blessing of the water portrayed as a stunt?
    The newspaper article sounds like a typical job of stirring up the waters to make more of a story.
    The position of the anti-development coalition may be the morally right one, but it could well be the economically lucrative one as well. How? So what?
    But a 2010 email sent by Oleksa to his bishop presents an especially nasty, seemingly damning twist in the fight. How is this damning? Or nasty?
    Did Stokoe hack your site?
    Either I am missing something or I am just tired of this kind of “reporting”.

    • The point, Fr. Stephen, is the hypocrisy.

      For one thing, this comes down to church figures getting involved in politics. A lot of criticism has been leveled against Metropolitan Jonah for defending the rights of unborn children and defending real marriage in the public sphere. The criticism is supposedly based on the notion that the church shouldn’t get involved in these sorts of politics.

      However, since these same people have not jumped up to criticize Bishop Benjamin for his “political involvement”, it means that the criticism of Metropolitan Jonah is not likely to be based on his own political involvement, but his critics’ own disagreement with what the Church teaches.

      Metropolitan Jonah’s motivation is to stop child-murderers, and to preserve the dignity of real marriage in wider culture. Bishop Benjamin’s apparent motivation is to keep the ecosystem in this part of Alaska from being destroyed, and prevent the devastating impact it would have on the livelihoods of Native Alaskans. The trips taken around Alaska are of concern not because they blessed the waters, but because of how they were used certainly raises suspicion about Gillam’s motivation for donating the money and Bishop Benjamin’s in accepting it. If it turns out that Bishop Benjamin’s advocacy is being bought by a wealthy benefactor, that’s wrong.

      Also, Metropolitan Jonah is criticized for “unilaterally” signing the Manhattan Declaration, under the pretense that he should have had the blessing of the rest of the Synod to do so. One would think that if Metropolitan Jonah really needed to seek such permission, so would Bishop Benjamin. However, here is Bishop Benjamin engaging in political activism without having sought any such approval, and it appears no one has a problem with that. Subjecting Metropolitan Jonah to a condition not put on every other bishop places him as a less-than-equal bishop.

      Also, none of these people appeared to have a problem with personal emails being used against Fr. Joseph Fester. Fr. Fester lost his job as dean of the Washington cathedral because he said some scatological things about other people in private emails. Fr. Fester’s account was accessed without authorization by Bishop Mark of Baltimore, then working in Dallas as administrator of the diocese. The emails were then forwarded to Mark Stokoe of OCANews, and published, without permission from anyone.

      Now that this has happened to Fr. Michael Oleksa, he professes to feel violated and wronged by the experience. If his email account was indeed hacked or his login information was used inappropriately (rather than a leak from someone who received the email legitimately), he has every right to feel that way. But if he and Bishop Benjamin expect a lot of sympathy, they will have to admit that it was wrong to do this to Fr. Fester as well.

      • Helga says,

        Now that this has happened to Fr. Michael Oleksa, he professes to feel violated and wronged by the experience. If his email account was indeed hacked or his login information was used inappropriately (rather than a leak from someone who received the email legitimately), he has every right to feel that way. But if he and Bishop Benjamin expect a lot of sympathy, they will have to admit that it was wrong to do this to Fr. Fester as well.

        As one whose personal emails to my priest were read and possibly distributed, I certainly sympathize with both Fr. Michael and Bp. Benjamin here. The ugly, vicious, backstabbing behavior must stop in the OCA. Once trust — especially trust in one’s ability to communicate with one’s pastor — is destroyed, the entire Orthodox spiritual life is jeopardized. And it doesn’t have to be your emails or your priest.

        Fr. Michael, +Benjamin, everyone who has emailed these two men, and all Orthodox faithful are victims here by this breach — it is in no way something to cause happiness or gloating.

        George, I have no problem with you writing on this story — for the reasons Helga mentioned in her post above. Besides, this is getting press (though not the way +Benjamin originally hoped, I’m sure) since it is already reported in the Alaska Dispatch.

        • To All: I would never post hacked e-mails or hack anybody’s e-mails for that matter. Unlike several famous priests in the OCA, I am aware of moral distinctions. I have only printed those things which are in the public record.

          Since we’re on this line of thought, has anybody given any thought to how Fr Oleksa’s e-mail account was hacked? I imagine that it was somebody close to him. Things may be getting tense at Team Jokoe. It does look like Bp Benjamin rhetorically through Fr Oleksa under the bus.

          Just an observation.

          • That is a very good point, Jesse and George. I wonder why the newspaper published hacked emails without Father Oleska’s or Bishop Benjamin’s permission. Is that legal/ethical/okay? If it happened to me, I would be upset in the extreme. Okay, I take back my hacked +Benjamin quotes I posted earlier, which I picked up from the paper. And the ones I posted from the Mark Stokoe hacked emails from Father Joseph Fester, and all the others. I shouldn’t have read them, either. Nor talked about them. Nor thought about them. Nor let my opinions be influenced by them. Nor believed anything in them. Oops.

          • M. Stankovich says

            Mr. Michalopulos,

            And how is your knowingly publishing something that arrived in the “public record” by duplicitous means different from the behaviour of the “famous priests?” Your “moral distinctions” are your own business, but your “public record” is disingenuous, at best.

      • Dear Helga,

        How do the different items mentioned in your previous comment hang together? For instance, do you know Vladyka Benjamin’s attitude to the Manhattan Declaration? I know of no place where Vladyka’s opinion on the matter is written down. Please pass it along if you do. Mark Stokoe has described Vladyka as ‘appalled”. But the reason for his appalled state is left unsaid; Vladyka could be appalled by many things. There are many things to be appalled about. To me, it is illogical to connect these two “facts” and then use them to accuse Vladyka of hypocrisy.

        I find it amazing that such torrent of condemnation is rained down upon Vladyka Benjamin and Fr Oleksa on the strength of the Alaskan Dispatch article. To my mind it was short on facts and long on gossip and innuendo: the essence of manipulative propaganda piece. How can anyone have an informed opinion on this complex issue based on three (3!) short gossipy pages?!

        Fr Oleksa’s ideas regarding the usefulness of Mr Gillam may be construed as shocking, but, I submit, nothing that someone responsible for the well-being of a diocese should not think about. Or discuss, in private, with his bishop. In the absence of documented facts, I think we owe it to the clergy involved to look at the situation in the light most favorable to them. Even if we disagree with their positions.

        I am sadden by the way Vladyka Benjamin has been skewered by the commentators here. He is good and talented arch-pastor. I can’t help but feel that a narrative has been created about Vladyka that is unsupported by facts and is carried along by wrongheaded ill-will.

        As to Fr Fester, I understand that he is a talented priest loved by many people. But what is the canonical punishment for a priest interfering with the happenings in another diocese? It is plain from his published emails–illegally obtained, OK sure–that he was taking action outside of his diocese, no? From my understanding of canon law, such a priest is to be deposed. Please correct me if I am wrong here. Thus, I agree that in both cases the hacking into the email accounts is wrong, but the import of the contents of those emails to canon law is completely different.

        Regards,

        SAM

        • Sam says,

          It is plain from his published emails–illegally obtained, OK sure–that he was taking action outside of his diocese, no? From my understanding of canon law, such a priest is to be deposed

          Not to split hairs, but +Mark was technically in Fr. Fester’s diocese at the time (Washington D.C.) since he is Bishop of Baltimore.

          Emails showing correspondence between Fester and his former parishioners about his former parish do not “prove” he was interfering with another diocese. While I am not defending the tastelessness of Fr. Fester’s private correspondence — I still do not see the proverbial smoking gun. I have to admit however, I haven’t studied the Fester emails in some time so there might be something there I’m not remembering.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Jesse, just give Stokoe a call. Maybe he’ll give us all a refresher course. You know, in the interest of Accountability and Transparency.

          • Dear Jesse,

            I disagree, but affably. My reading of the situation is that Fr Fester was attempting to influence the happenings at the Dallas Cathedral. This fits easily into the “interfering in another diocese” rubric. So while an interesting point, I am not sure that the status of Bishop Mark is relevant here. I do think it deserves to be noted that, if I am correct, Fr Fester’s transfer out of the OCA was an very magnanimous act on the part of the Holy Synod. Technically, it could have been much worse for him.

            Wishing you all the best,

            SAM

            • Wasn’t the Synod! It was a benevolent act of his Bishop

            • My reading of the situation is that Fr Fester was attempting to influence the happenings at the Dallas Cathedral.

              But is there evidence of this? I’ve tried to think about how Fr. Fester may have crossed canon lines, and I can’t think of any instance I am aware of. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good move for HB to release him — he was obviously a big distraction to some of the other clergy and brought a lot of heat on HB — but it doesn’t seem nearly as open and shut a case as some might make it seem.

        • How do the different items mentioned in your previous comment hang together? For instance, do you know Vladyka Benjamin’s attitude to the Manhattan Declaration? I know of no place where Vladyka’s opinion on the matter is written down. Please pass it along if you do.

          The hypocrisy is in the reactions of other parties to the political involvement of Metropolitan Jonah versus the political involvement of Bishop Benjamin.

        • SAM wrote:

          I am sadden by the way Vladyka Benjamin has been skewered by the commentators here. He is good and talented arch-pastor. I can’t help but feel that a narrative has been created about Vladyka that is unsupported by facts and is carried along by wrongheaded ill-will.

          Yawn. I get so tired of this.

          • I rest my case.

            SAM

            • What case? You’ve made none. Bishop Benjamin Peterson is a confirmed alcoholic; known connoisseur of pornography; and most troubling – someone who has just this year managed to suppress a sexual misconduct investigation involving allegations of homosexual relations between himself and a now reposed seminarian. Bp. Benjamin may be your archetype of a praiseworthy “Vladyka” but he is certainly not mine.

              • Dear Heracleides,

                Are you named for Ponticus/Pompicus or the Persian historian?

                I refer to sedimentation of opinion amongst some contributors here. Sedimentation that appears–at least to me–be based on gossip and innuendo. I admit that I am late to the game, so forgive me if I am off-base here, but in the absence of more substantial evidence than your say-so, I remain skeptical of your claims. I think it a healthy position to take.

                Since it seems you have more information that I do, perhaps you can help me. How did Vladyka Benjamin stop and investigation in light of sexual misconduct policy section 8.01(b).

                SAM

                • My moniker is drawn from an individual named in the “Acts of Barnabas” written by St. Mark the Evangelist (“And having found Heracleides there again, we instructed him to proclaim the Gospel of God.”)

                  You are indeed very late to the game. The statements in my previous post are not simply based on my “say-so” – they are based on police records and the allegations contained in a letter from a retired OCA bishop listing the preceeding incidents, which prompted the opening of an investigation of Bp. Benjamin. As for how Bp. Benjamin managed to “stop an [open & ongoing] investigation in light of sexual misconduct policy section 8.01(b).” – that is indeed the question many of us would like answered. Since you give the impression of someone who is deeply acquainted with the bishop, perhaps you might ask him directly and then let us know his response.

                  Please don’t count it against me if I refrain from holding my breath on the later.

                • Fact: Bishop Benjamin watched pornography on the DOW’s computer for 117 hours in one month.

                  Bishop Nikolai to Bishop Benjamin:

                  “I wanted to download all files belonging to the Diocese of the West from the hard drive of that computer, and boy, were were surprised by that process! A report came back saying you watched pornography for 117 hours one month!”

                  There is your proof. What more do you want. There is more, much more, and it’s as bad as it can get, to the great sorrow of the entire Church. I didn’t do it. Bishop Benjamin Peterson did it. Fact: He is an addict. He is a weak man. He did it.

                  READ THAT LETTER. READ THAT LETTER. READ THAT LETTER.

                  Here is the link to the letter Bishop Nikolai wrote to Bishop Benjamin:

                  http://02varvara.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/nikolai-soraich-speaks-on-homosexual-clergy-serving-on-the-altar-and-the-further-adventures-of-benjamin-peterson/

                  • It’s rather sad, isn’t it Jane? I wonder when the other shoe is getting ready to drop? My guess is sooner rather than later.

                  • Whoa, Jane. Bishop Nikolai’s letter is scathing, but it is not proof in itself that Bishop Benjamin has done anything wrong with respect to his nephew or Mr. Solak. My grievance is that the investigation was shut down before it could be resolved properly, even though the allegations involved the possible neglect and sexual corruption of a minor child.

                    Also, I can’t abide Bishop Nikolai’s criticism of Bishop Benjamin’s weight. It’s a lot like Drezhlo’s own taunting of Metropolitan Jonah for his weight. That should be off limits!

                    • I don’t know anything about the allegations in the letter regarding a minor child. I don’t know for certain about what else was written by Bishop Nikolai to Bishop Benjamin. What I DO believe, and what I am even more convinced of now because I know for certain that Bishop Benjamin is an addict, is what I quoted from the letter:

                      “I wanted to download all files belonging to the Diocese of the West from the hard drive of that computer, and boy, were were surprised by that process! A report came back saying you watched pornography for 117 hours one month!”

                      I have no reason to doubt what Bishop Nikolai wrote, and I agree with the editor of “Voices from Russia.” I have no problem linking to that site, or to that letter. It’s not gossip, it is what it is.

                      What I DO have a problem with, is Bishop Benjamin. I can’t believe he is being allowed to remain a bishop. Absolutely nuts.

                      Given Bishop Benjamin’s proven history, what we do know should be enough to make the people rise up, to ask, are the allegations true? If so, then why is he still a bishop?

                      As for the rest of the allegations, it’s up to the powers that be to decide what to do about it. But it is time for them to act and for the people to speak out. It’s unconscionable. Where are all those righteous voices who spoke out so indignantlly when Fr. Robert Kondratick, Bishop Nikolai, Metropolitan Herman, Fr Isidore, and Father Joseph Fester, and Metropolitan Jonah were being lynched by priests, parishioners and all the rest, those sheep influenced by the voices of the false shepherds – wolves in sheep’s clothing, the likes of Mark Stokoe and his ilk?

                      Listen, I am sorry if people are offended when these things are brought to the light. But like I said, I didn’t do it, and my anger drives me forward, to speak out.

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      I believe that Bishop Nikolai’s personal letter to Bishop Benjamin is factual.
                      Helga, Bishop NIkolai did not mention Bishop Benjamin’s weight, let alone in the manner of some who used epithets against the latter and against the Metropolitan, such as “Bishop Crisco,” “A whale of a good Metropolitan,” “Fatso of SFO”, or “Puffed-up-bigger-than a House-an.”
                      Bishop Nikolai was offended by Bishop Benjamin’s incontinence, gluttony, and failure to control his appetites, so he followed the Gospel and took it up with his brother Bishop personally and directly. When he received no reply whatsoever, not orally, not in writing or email, he reported it to two or three others. Finally, SOMEONE, not Bishop Nikolai, “told it to the Church.”
                      Bishop Benjamin’s arrest for drunk driving is a matter of public record: moreover, upon his release from the drunk tank, he was directed by me to go a well-known Catholic rehab back East. I sent out a letter to all the clergy of the Diocese of the West at the time, informing them of these events, though not in detail. [When I began taking medication under the direction of a psychiatrist (not an analyst), I likewise published that in the diocese. I believe that there are people suffering from various pathologies all alone and fearing to seek help. I felt that my publication of my own problems (though they would surely stimulate some types to glee and invective) as well as our Vicar Bishop’s might possible make at least ONE person take courage and come forward to seek help.] I was criticized by some members of the Holy Synod, including Metropolitan Herman, at the time, for not addressing Bishop Benjamin’s conduct in a canonical or disciplinary way. To have done that would have had the opposite effect of publication of the events and their results, I felt.
                      Once, while still a Priest, I was rather desperately looking for a good choir director. I remembered that Gregory Solak had been the director of the SVS summer octet one year and that it was the first and only time when an SVS Octet stayed on pitch throughout the Liturgy and later concert. Everyone knows or did know of the musical settings for our services done by Fr. Nicholas Solak of blessed memory. I knew that Gregory, therefore, was not only a superb musician, but that he was thoroughly imbued with the common liturgical traditions as well as the music. However, I was told (it might even have been by Deacon Vincent Peterson) that Gregory was a recovering alcoholic and,, after some incidents, was not making himself available for choir director positions. You can imagine how appalled I was when I learned some years later that Father Benjamin had invited Gregory Solak to come to Alaska! That was like inviting a member of Gamblers Anonymous to go to Monte Carlo, Monaco, Havana, Atlantic City, or Las Vegas! Gregory was found dead in the Rectory of the Anchorage Cathedral.
                      I must confess to being perhaps naive and irresponsible, in that later on I proceeded to nominate Bishop Benjamin to be my Vicar *****in spite of**** my knowledge of (to use von Ranke’s phrase) “what really went on” in Alaska. In that, I probably, not for the first time, gave way to what I perceived as Bishop Nikolai’s superior kindness. He has never refused to take anyone who had “messed up” under his Omophorion, to get a 2nd chance: took Priests whom others had given up on, had thrown in the towel, as it were. He was, one might say, relentless in his expectations of everyone, including those “second-chancers”. For this he endures even now the vengeful actions of some who were required by him to do their best. CodeNameYvette, Bishop Nikolai is a reliable witness. He is much more impartial than most who are NOT of Serbian ethnic origin. Bishop Nikolai, CodenameYvette just asked me the other day how one could subscribe to the Indiana List. He isn’t subscribed on any lists, that I know of. Perhaps La or El Drezhlo got a copy of Bishop Nikolai’s letter from Pokrov.org. As far as I know, and I know as much about Bishop Nikolai as anyone else on earth today, his tonsuring of Terenty Dushkin (sp?) was his only canonical error. I do not consider it to be a moral error. I feel that his exercising of Economy in tonsuring someone with a record was done with the mistaken idea that Dushkin would never ever be a candidate for Diaconal or Priestly orders and that the tonsuring might afford a sense of self-worth as one of God’s children to prevent him from reverting to his original moral error. The
                      OCA, that is, the Holy Synod, has shown by their exceptionally swift punishment of that one error, that they disagree. I’m sure that the surviving members of that Synod are much relieved at not having to listen to the frank and prophetic voice of Bishop Nikolai in their councils.

                    • CodeNameYvette says

                      I thank His Grace Bishop Tikhon for filling in some of the blanks in the matter of Bishop Benjamin’s history.

                      He is rightly upset that “a Notorious Archdeacon is GIVEN A TOTAL PASS.” I am sure that we all wish the best to Father Isidore and pray for his continued healing, while still wondering why on earth a man with his problems was ever ordained.

                      I’m thinking of what Michael Bauman said about deserving our leaders. To the extent that we tolerate morally compromised bishops and priests, we are left comfortable maintaining our pet addictions, slovenly and sluttish dress and other bad church habits, birth control for convenience and worse.

                      It’s only if and when we ever decide to take Orthodoxy seriously, that the clerical rot becomes a problem. So the end result is that those for whom it is a problem depart for a more serious approach to the Faith. This leaves behind those for whom active homosexuals at and before the Altar are not an issue. Among other things.

                    • CodeNameYvette, the “notorious archdeacon “who received a “total pass” is Archdeacon Gregory Burke, not Fr. Isidore Brittain.

                      You put both men into the same sentence. They are two different people.

                      From what I can see, there is a whole world of difference between the two men.

                    • CodeNameYvette says

                      I apologize to Jane Rachel for the confusion (the Reply system is good only up to a point so this post can end up anywhere). I was trying to be brief and referred both to Bishop Tikhon’s defense of Father Isidore and condemnation of the cover-up afforded to the Archdeacon, another person entirely in another part of the country.

                    • Bp. Tikhon: you say Nikolai never turned anyone away.
                      Why is it I so vividly recall when one of our students at St. Herman Seminary was ordained to the priesthood after marrying a lovely, wonderful girl, assigned to a village for service. A few years pass, and they have their children. The Father was at the school playing basketball with students when an alarm went out his house was on fire. His wife and children were in it and could not be rescued. They all perished.
                      The Father went on leave, and in his grief, took to the bottle. When Nikolai came on the scene, he wouldn’t have anything to do with the grieving man, and told him to “get out!”. We here will never, ever forget that.

                  • Your Grace, while I have not always succeeded in this, I have tried to retain a sense of principled fairness through the present upheaval. I do not consider it an act of charity to tell someone who is overweight that his insurance company may wish to be reimbursed for his weight loss surgery. That is nothing but a gratuitously cruel remark.

                    Correction that is not offered in a spirit of brotherly love and affection is worse than offering none at all, because it can make the other party defensive or despairing. It doesn’t mean the correction can’t be harsh when necessary, but there must be an abiding love behind it.

              • CodeNameYvette says

                I requested not long ago a “cards on the table” discussion of this bishop, who wields so much influence in the OCA. It’s time for specifics.

                The alcoholism charge is a matter of public record. When did it occur, and did the bishop and his friends conceal this information before he was promoted? Was it concealed from the laity at the time and subsequently?

                As to the accusations by Bishop Nikolai, we have to remember his own problems. He was involved in a scandal with his assistant, who sought treatment for alcoholism, and more or less forced to retire. Is the retired bishop a reliable witness? Is he impartial? How did this email become public, anyway, if it is supposed to be a private rebuke from a retired bishop to an active one? Am I correct in assuming that Bishop Nikolai chose to publish it on the Indiana list?

                What is this story about Bishop Benjamin and a reposed seminarian?

                Last questions: by what means might lay people insist on an investigation? To whom do they appeal?

                • Talk about “whoa.” We DO NOT KNOW that Bishop Nikolai “was involved in a scandal” with Fr. Isidore, as you have stated above. We only know that there was a scandal started by gossip mongers and that the rumors spread like wildfire. I have been the victim of false rumors. I know what that’s like. Don’t get me started. It does not mean that the persons are involved in any way in the accusations, except as victims, a kind of forced, involuntary hell they have to endure, never knowing if they will be vindicated or not. In fact, Bishop Nikolai states that he could easily have defended himself online but he chose not to.

                  We know that Father Isidore sought treatment for his alcoholism and he is a recovering alcoholic who has made a public statement about what happened, and moved on with his life. Good for him!!!

                  In any case, Bishop Nikolai stated to Bishop Benjamin in his letter:

                  “And then, ostensibly from a high moral viewpoint, you made horrid statements about Isidore and me. Was it in order to excuse yourself to yourself for such activities that you turned to concocting horrid, bizarre scenarios involving Isidore and me, and then bruiting them?

                  I don’t want to conjecture. Let the leaders act. Let them lead us. Just don’t tell us to shut up, whatever you do.

                  • CodeNameYvette says

                    I’m happy to back off of that remark about Bishop Nikolai, but the circumstances were peculiar insofar as I could tell from all the gossip flying around.

                    I do not have one clue about what happened in Alaska. However, what made a really bad impression on me was the fact, or so I understand, that Father Isidore himself made some accusations about abuse from his bishop which he later recanted.

                    Well, as they say in Court, once you ring the bell it stays rung.

                    Furthermore, people do not become alcoholics overnight. Is it true, or not, that Bishop Nikolai continued to promote and protect Father Isidore even when his conduct had become a public scandal?

                    All of this sorrowful mess could be left unstirred, except that some of us on this list are placing great weight in the accusations made against Bishop Benjamin by Bishop Nikolai. I’m trying to get at the reliability of the accuser.

                    • Bishop Nikolai can answer if he wants to. I have had no problem with him because what I read about how “bad” he is all seemed like it came from people who had an axe to grind or something they wanted to gain out of smearing his name around.

                      If you have been around a snot-slinging drunk or two a time or two, you will know that they slobber and grope and slur their words and will say things you can’t make sense out of at all. You will also realize that the people who really care about them can get their best advice on dealing with drunks from Al-Anon. We need to be careful not to decide. We weren’t walking in their shoes.

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      CodenameYvette refers to Father Isidore’s having made mention of abuse by Bishop Nikolai. As I recall, Father Isidore is alleged to have said, “Papa beats me.” I don’t wish to offend against Father Isidore’s privacy; however, I ask others to consider that Father Isidore may have been raised in a physically abusive environment and that his ethnic background is partially German—“Colorado German.” It’s very common for Germans to refer to their fathers (and German women to their husbands) as “Papa.’
                      i confess to feeling morally indignant that so many of the supporters of Mrs. Stteve Brown’s blog wax so righteous when they learn that Father Isidore is permitted to concelbrate in his home parish in Oregon–the same Father Isidore that obeyed every instruction ever given to him in the Church and who very publicly admitted himself to the Mayo Clinic to address alcoholism and has never uttered a hostile or defensive word, while a Notorious Archdeacon is GIVEN A TOTAL PASS by the same detractors of Father Isidore! The Archdeacon admitted to having run away from his life’s companion, Bishop Mark Forsberg, in order to enter into and consummate a marriage to another man, then got a legal divorce from the same man in order to return to Florida and Bishop Mark and to serve at Divine Liturgy at the parish in Miami–with no reproaches from ocanews.org or its disciples, who rank as high as Protopresbyter!

                • “What is this story about Bishop Benjamin and a reposed seminarian?”

                  The (limited) information on this particular scandal is also contained in Bp. Nikolai’s letter. If you do some online investigating, you can gain further information on the reposed seminarian – none of which has a happy ending. If even half of what is intimated is correct, then Bp. Benjamin has a lot to answer for in regards to this young man in the life to come.

                  As for Bp. Nikolai’s credibility – if even half of the negative things attributed to him are correct – can you think of any hierarch more likely to have the dirt on a fellow bishop? Something to think about.

                  • CodeNameYvette says

                    OK Herc, I’ll back up and go to the dread site of the Voice of Albany later and review this.

                    To answer your question, yes, one morally compromised bishop is likely to be very alert to similar failings in a brother bishop. Like calls to like. However, we are not privy to the rules of their particular in-fights. Maybe hyperbole plays a part in the drama.

                  • I am hoping that Bishop Nikolai will clear up the doubts.

                  • As I already stated to Bp. Tikhon, …as Starosta at Holy Resurrection Church and office mgr. at St. Herman’s Seminary, I had a front row seat. My head still swims to think this all happened here in front of St. Herman. The shame of it all, and that adult, educated men act so disgusting. The OCA needs a good housecleaning.

                    • Jane Rachel says

                      Hello, Rosabel, and Bishop Tikhon.

                      Rosabel, I’ve just read the statement you made a few years ago for an article in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, and have cut-and-pasted it below. Maybe if you will comment here, and others who choose to will respond, at least some truth can be told. Thanks.

                      In an interview from the Kodiak Daily News, Rosabel Baldwin wrote:

                      “Nikolai states he has never mentally or physically abused any of his
                      clergy. Why do they cringe when he is present? What of the Paul
                      Sidebottom story? I know both parties. We believe Paul. What do you
                      call throwing a senior citizen and well-respected anthropologist out
                      of her seminary apartment because she would not make beds for Nikolai
                      and his friends? This is not abuse? I have many other stories, as all
                      we Orthodox here in Kodiak can tell you, so ask away. We’ll be happy to share.”

                    • Jane Rachel says

                      I do respect you, Your Grace, and you, Rosabel, heaps, But I also know that Bishop Nikolai is innocent until proven guilty. Has he been proven guilty? Everything about his removal as bishop was done in an unruly and unorthodox way. There’s no disputing that fact.

                      With the conviction in mind that he is innocent, and with the knowledge of Team Stokoe’s intense and immediate efforts to get rid of Bishop Nikolai, I read back through the different accounts of the night Dr. Lydia Black was, according to various reports, told by Bishop Nikolai at 10 p.m. to leave her place of residence by 8 a.m. the next morning. Here. and Here.

                      She refused to get sheets for one of the guests, “claiming tiredness.” Why did she refuse to get sheets for the guest? How long would it have taken? For sure, I would make sure all the guests in a house where I was living had clean sheets, or, if I was too tired, I would tell a younger person to take care of the guest. Guests need clean sheets. It’s part of what we do when someone comes to stay. What else did she actually say when she “claimed tiredness”? So much of that story and the others, are written in a gossipy style. We don’t get a clear picture, nor both sides of the story. It’s the same with Paul Sidebottom’s account. But it’s not my call to know what happened, I wasn’t there. I’m not down on Dr. Black. On the other hand, in a story like this, she is bound to win the public’s favor. I am SURE there is more to the story. More to all these stories.

                      It is an understatement I am sure that Bishop Nikolai met with a lot of resistance during his time as Bishop in Alaska. But was it because Bishop Nikolai was all bad and all the people who resisted him were all good? I don’t think so. I think there was much more to the story than what we read online at the time. What about integrity? Who had it? Who has the good track record? Who has the not-so-good track record?

                      P.S. Another question. It’s painful to remember all of this but it doesn’t heal or go away. What happened? Your Grace, Bishop Nikolai, or anyone, what happened? Why did the Kuskokwim Clergy call on Bishop Nikolai to resign? Here is the link to that letter: http://www.ocanews.org/news/KuskoKwimResign2.28.08.html

                      I don’t want to see the OCA go away. I love the OCA.

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    Herc, I myself have been very troubled by what happened to the late Gregory Solak. From what I’ve heard, it’s tragic.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      Hi George and Jane Rachel:

                      So I read the allegations and I just want to know – Is there no rule or law in Holy Synod proceedings? No rules of evidence? How was this investigation done, and by who? I would seriously argue, and have in the past in other occassions, that staff church attorneys be used or appointed in these proceedings, just like they are in regular civil and criminal courts.

                      This is just ridiculous! I could have picked that letter apart. Also, where is Bishop Nikolai’s side of the story? Every one of those listed “incidents” could very well have good explanations to them. Where are they?

                      People the National Inquirer has better quality control than this. People actually bought this? Really? I can not be the only attorney that looked at this and shook his head in disbelief.

                      And yet, this is what happens in ALL of our churches. Very sad.

                      Peter

            • Sam, I can’t speak for anybody else. However, my problem with Bishop Benjamin is based on his own actions against Metropolitan Jonah, including preventing the investigation of allegations against himself.

              • Helga:

                Perhaps you can help me? I don’t understand how a bishop accused of sexual misconduct can stop an investigation. Sexual misconduct policy section 8.01(b) states clearly that, when the accused is part of a normal investigation, the report should be made to Office of Sexual Misconduct. If the sexual misconduct policy was followed–a big if–how did Vladyka Benjamin stop the investigation?

                Hercleides, please jump in here if you have any information.

                Regards,

                SAM

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Sam, I’ll jump in for the nonce. I don’t understand how a bishop can stop an investigation either but according to all concerned (including friendly sources) he did. Compare and contrast this with the sudden removal of Arb +Seramphim of Ottawa. Mind you, based on allegations over 25 years old.

                  If I may speculate, it may be because the bishop in question is tight with the Old Guard, Dn Wheeler, Mark Stokoe, Frs Garklavs and Tosi, etc. In other words, the Syosset Set closed ranks to protect one of their own. +Seraphim on the other hand was cut loose.

                  • I believe that it was the maturing police investigation that prompted the suspension of +Seraphim. Nobody could have “protected” him at that point.

                    • Read It And Weep says

                      Not really interested in what you have to say Carl.

                      If you were writing on Mrs. Stokoe-Brown’s site, he would simply not post your comment.

                      Bye, Carl.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Sam, I mean this is all sincerity: what is the canonical punishment for a bishop who intereferes in another bishop’s diocese? Or a layman who conspires against the Primate (Stokoe)? Or a priest for that matter (Garklavs)? Or a priest who preaches heresy (Arida, et al)?

          • Dear George,

            Just to be clear, I claim no authoritative knowledge here. These remarks reflect my personal opinions. My answer to your question is: I don’t think I can answer your question in full. Here is why.

            The goal–telos if you will– of Orthodox canon law is the salvation of human souls. That is, canon law exists to provide the good order necessary (but not sufficient) for the Church community to achieve salvation. Of course you can see that this goal emphasizes the pastoral more than legalistic.

            So, as I understand it, there is no one-to-one correspondence of crime to punishment. Nor is there a point system such as the one found in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines here in the US. (Although the concept of upward or downward departures does echo the pastoral approach, sort of. The difference being that the judge is not concerned with the salvation of the convicted person.)

            There are certain canonical punishments: excommunication, suspension, deposition etc. In meting them out, an Orthodox consistory court uses the canons, Holy Tradition, and the facts to arrive at a punishment appropriate for the salvation of the people involved. This is very fact sensitive, and it is conceivable that similar guilty acts might end in dissimilar punishment. Yet both punishments would be canonical. (The distinction in our law between actus reus and mens rea might be a point of departure in thinking about this but is in no way identical.)

            ANSWER: My understanding is that each of the acts you have listed are grounds for being deposed. But that does not mean that deposition is the appropriate canonical punishment in each case.

            Regards,

            SAM

            • M. Stankovich says

              “The Church, of course, has never admitted that spiritualistic individualism and “enthusiasm” to be erected as an ecclesiological system but has maintained its sacramental structure and canonical discipline. Conscious of the fact that in the Kingdom of God there are no laws other than those of the Spirit, it has also remembered that the Kingdom already accessible as a true and direct experience has not yet come in strength and remains hidden under the sacramental veils. In the present aion, structures, laws, canons, and institutions are unavoidable as means toward a fuller realization of the Kingdom.

              Viewed from a juridical point of view, the entire body of Byzantine canonical sources hardly constitutes a coherent whole. The attempts at codification are far from exhaustive and do not eliminate important contradictions. They were never intended to provide the Byzantine Church with a complete corpus juris. Many Western polemicists have pointed to this state of affairs as an essential weakness of Eastern Christianity, which has failed to provide itself with an independent and consistent canon law and thus has surrendered to the power of the state. These judgments however have generally taken for granted that the Church is a divine “institution” whose internal existence could be adequately defined in juridical terms, a presupposition, which Byzantine Christians did not consider. For them the Church was first of all a sacramental communion with God in Christ and the Spirit, whose membership — the entire Body of Christ — is not limited to the earthly oikoumene (“inhabited earth”) where law governs society but includes the host of angels and saints as well as the divine head. The management of the earthly Church was certainly recognized as a necessary task; and there, the use of juridical terms and concepts was unavoidable. But these concepts never exhausted the ultimate reality of the Church of God and could be determined occasionally by the councils or even left to the benevolent and, in principle, Christian care of the emperors.

              ​This attitude did not mean however that the Byzantines were either indifferent toward the canons or juridically incompetent, quite the contrary. They were generally aware that at least certain canons reflected the eternal and divine nature of the Church, and it was a Christian and absolute duty to obey them. But again, they always understood their role as subordinate to the more fundamental and divine nature of the Church expressed in a sacramental and doctrinal communion uniting heaven and earth. And they recognized that there was no canonical legislation in heaven (for if “justification comes by law, then Christ died in vain,” Ga 2:21), and that their task was a limited one.”

              J. Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology

        • Dallas Texas says

          Fr. Joseph Fester left Dallas shortly after Bishop Mark arrived, and then everything at St. Seraphim Cathedral quickly went to hell. In Washington, Fr. Joseph received plea after plea from distressed (and crying!) Dallas parishoners who recounted horror stories and begged him to urge the Metropolitan, at whose Washington cathedral he was the dean, to recall or reassign HIS OWN auxilliary bishop. And, yes, being the metropolitan’s chief aide during a time when HB was in real danger of being lynched by the Syosset apparat and the most morally compromised members of the synod, he rallied to the met’s defense fully aware of the risk. Reasonable people may disagree with his choice of words or methods. Fine. I’m sure Fr. Joseph would conduct some things differently now if he could. But what everyone needs to know is that Fr. Joseph acted out of profound compassion for his distressed former flock in Dallas, fully aware of the risk to his priesthood given the unchristian and brutal political environment in the OCA, and out of loyalty to his embattled metropolitan.

          All this talk of Fr. Fester trying to “interfere” in Dallas for some kind of dark personal agenda is gravely mistaken. I don’t know what Fr. Joseph did in Syosset, but I know what he did in Dallas, and he didn’t deserve this.

          • Amen, amen, amen. I think some people who don’t want the truth to be known put loads of comments in with lot of words just to keep true statements like this one from having the effect they need to have on people. This is what I thought when I read what Father Joseph was doing. His job. A shepherd cares for his flock, and continues to care when he is moved to a different location. He did give his life for his sheep.

  4. Read It And Weep says

    I guess you are missing the irony, which was one aspect of the story. Do you get that part?

  5. I will say to Bishop Benjamin and Fr. Oleksa’s credit that I don’t think the Pebble Project sounds like a good idea, and I’m happy that Orthodox clergy are involved in standing up for the indigenous people of Alaska. The final comments from Greg Anelon are disingenuous because Bishop Benjamin and Fr. Oleksa aren’t against mining in general, they’re only against a mine that could potentially devastate subsistence fishing for this part of Alaska.

    However, I think that wealthy people supporting the Church should be treated with respect and care just like everyone else, like the Lord treated the woman who anointed His feet with the expensive jar of ointment. I would find it very offensive to be compared to Bernie Madoff, even if it was only in the sense of the scale of my wealth. The way Fr. Oleksa talked about Mr. Gillam seemed rather inappropriate.

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

      Helga, the morality of economic protection and cultural preservation is not obvious in most cases. Fishing is not more moral than mining. Living in villages is not more moral than living in cities. Poverty itself is not more moral than prosperity. Certainly development will change the way the locals live, but not only in bad ways, and there are the interests of others to consider, not just the poor villagers, many of whom would live elsewhere and in other ways if they could.

      • Deacon Patrick, a mining project with the potential to poison an ecosystem is a hell of a lot less moral than subsistence fishing. And who says the money that the mine makes will ever get to these Native Alaskans, when they have nothing to eat in the winter?

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          It’s just not that simple. There is no obvious sin to be opposed. There is only the weighing of costs and benefits for some people against the costs and benefits for other people, and many of the costs and benefits are neither measurable nor predictable.

          This is not to say that the villagers don’t have a case and that it’s wrong for anyone to stick up for them, but it does raise questions about how much the Church should commit itself to one side in a cultural and economic conflict of interests.

          • Michael Bauman says

            Aborginal populations are always at risk. It is difficult to defend them, their culture and traditional values against an aggressively dominant culture. As Bp Tikon and Dn Brian point out, it is not always the best thing to try to keep aborginal populations, aboriginal. Find a way to preseve what is good and holy while adapting to the dominant culture. Always a massive task.

            Then one has the whole issue of the environment which is so ideologically impacted as to become a Gordian Knot. If the environmental concer is coming from a standpoint of an anthropology that says that man and his activities is a cancer: that is wrong. Gaia worship is wrong. We must also take into account that all of our actions or inactions have consequences even if they are not directly sinful.

            Mining is not a sin. Materialism is. Subsistence fishing is not a sin, an attitude that man can and should do no more based on a similar type of materialism can be. Subsistence fishing is not intrinsically more blessed that any other form of economic activity.

            Unfortunately, environmental activism often comes down to a quest for power, control and money followed by governement regulations that impovrish and diminish necessary economic activity.

            Can the mine be operated without severely impacting the rest of the natural world in the immediate area? There should be controls on the operations to protect as much as feasible salmon and the waterways.

            We have a God given command to dress and keep the earth but that means, in part, we have a responsibility to use the resources available to us for the benefit of others while protecting the overall fecundity of the natural world to the extent we can.

            The morality involved is contingent. It does not involve the acts themselves, but the manner in which the acts are carried out.

            • Michael Bauman says: September 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm

              Find a way to preseve what is good and holy while adapting to the dominant culture. Always a massive task.

              Isn’t this the battle in Orthodoxy?

        • “the potential to poison an ecosystem” is one side of the argument! Lots of the current gold mines in Alaska have never poisoned anything, much less a whole ecosystem”

          And current definitions created by the EPA, include dust from farming operations as a “contaminant.”

        • You tell ’em Helga…..and we know nothing will be passed on to the Natives except the mess after wards..as usual. This seems to be a private concern therefore the natives will be left out, with maybe just a few for jobs, just for token.

      • CodeNameYvette says

        I’d be interested to know the extent to which the people in the area depend on public assistance as part of their subsistence lifestyle.

        If they are not presently self-supporting without public assistance, is this not a good reason to welcome a new industry to the area?

        I know that it is a very common thing for citizens of Alaska to hold regular jobs and to supplement their incomes with fishing and hunting, mostly for family needs. “Subsistence” implies that the people here are hunting and fishing to supply only their own needs, rather than developing small local industries to export the excess.

        Any anthropologist will tell you that there is a great deal of leisure in the subsistence lifestyle where the environment is generous — pre-Spanish California being a good example. If this lifestyle is currently costing the non-subsistence working people of Alaska money out of their own paychecks, is it fair to expect them to support it when an alternative means of support is available?

        On another point, I’m annoyed by the statement by Orthodox clergy that certain geological features are holy and sacred. Sounds like pantheism, also like pandering to vestiges of paganism.

        • Yvette, you raise a good point, allow me to stretch it out a bit. Subsistence farming/fishing/hunting can be “generous” and allow a lifestyle that is liesurely when the season/harvest is closed. During this liesure time pathologies can manifest themselves, especially alcoholism. Admittedly the “liesure” time can only be enjoyed one way or the other only if surpluses from the harvest/hunting/fishing season were plentiful.

      • Dn Patrick…you are wrong wrong wrong. Many nattive villagers are just where they want to be. You must bear in mind that not all standards are equal. Just because you live in a big house, have electricity, drive a big car, wear cloth clothes, you think that everyone else should emulate you and your ways. Not so. I lived in California for 26 years. I had to come home, I was born, raised in a village, and I just could not tolerate the lifestyle down there any longer. Competition, money, outdoing your neighbor, living in the big white house on the hill, driving the biggest car, this was too much. I had to come back to where life was more simple, friends and family were more sincere, and trying to be true to one’s own self. I don’t live the subsistence life style, but it does suppliment my retirement social security which I’ve been paying into and working since I was 15 years old, and I am now 80 and continuing ……

    • Helga, so much of what Oleksa said was offensive on so many levels, but you hit the nail right on the head: his slavish devotion to wealth, his inability to see what a vile and reprehensible man Bernie Madoff is, is perhaps the most offensive thing of all.

      Are our Orthodox clergy now so morally blind that they can’t see the moral quandaries posed by being Madoff-toadies? Is the Orthodox Church in America so enamored of wealth that we’ll do whatever it takes to get this, that, or the other thing? This is par for the course in the GOA with their Archon-worship and monthly pictures of the Archbishop shaking hands with the Undersecretary of State of Garbage-Collection of Lesotho, but come on? in the OCA as well?

      You know, I thought that the Stokovites wanted to turn the OCA into an Eastern-Rite ECUSA but it looks like I may be wrong. The Episcopalians, for all their faults, would never behave in such a tacky fashion. It’s a WASP thing.

  6. Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

    The last grafs are telling:

    Greg Anelon, for one, is uncomfortable with the church’s involvement in the Pebble fight. Anelon lives in Newhalen, a village near the Pebble deposit, and attended one of the rural services which brought the priests out to the villages. He is, in a way, on Pebble’s payroll. He works for Iliamna Development Corp., which services the mine. He’s also the chair of a group fighting the anti-Pebble initiative. And he’s also a long-time member of the Orthodox Church, as were his ancestors. … It doesn’t make sense to Anelon that the Orthodox priests serve the sacrament in gold goblets, and have “big gold crosses on their necks,” he said, and yet they’re against mining. “Where do they think that gold comes from?” he said.

    The Church should indeed take part in politics when the morality of an issue is plain and important, as with abortion and gay marriage. But in this case the issue seems to be gold or salmon — the interests of those who make their living from one vs. the interests of those who make their living from the other, both of whom are apparently Native Alaska Orthodox Christians.

    • But in this case the issue seems to be gold or salmon — the interests of those who make their living from one vs. the interests of those who make their living from the other, both of whom are apparently Native Alaska Orthodox Christians.

      Deacon Patrick, the issue here is mining for profit versus subsistence fishing. “Subsistence” fishing means they *don’t* make money off of it. It means they either fish or go hungry. And nobody eats gold.

      • CodeNameYvette says

        His Grace Bishop Tikhon makes an important point. Gold and copper are strategic necessities for our national security.

        Everyone in Alaska as far as I know — and I know several people from there — gets money every year, shared from oil profits.

        Nobody in Alaska is starving, and the subsistence fishermen won’t either. The question is, I repeat, are they truly self-supporting NOW, and if not, why should the taxpayers support the leisurely lifestyle of subsistence of hunting and fishing in a generous environment? Other people have to work year-round.

        So much of this reminds me of arguments to provide welfare for people living in certain northwest coastal regions. The big timber industries were shut down by environmentalists, so their livelihoods were destroyed. But instead of relocating they demand public support to remain in dying towns. A hundred years ago, you went where the jobs were, and left the ghost towns behind.

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          Yvette writes:

          So much of this reminds me of arguments to provide welfare for people living in certain northwest coastal regions. The big timber industries were shut down by environmentalists, so their livelihoods were destroyed. But instead of relocating they demand public support to remain in dying towns. A hundred years ago, you went where the jobs were, and left the ghost towns behind.

          This is sorta where I’m coming from. I was recently in Alaska to look at federally subsidized rural healthcare — really rural healthcare, for squalid little villages surrounded by either mud or ice all year. I couldn’t help but wonder whether we weren’t just perpetuating the villagers’ poverty by making it just barely bearable.

          • You were up in Alaska to ‘look’ at villages who received fed. subsidy? Did you live there in the villages a month, year. 2 years? Do you understand their subsistence lifestyles have been taken away from them? Don’t you realize they are ‘people of the land’? Why move them around just because you want them in jobs they aren’t trained for? It is said these people have been on this land for over 10,000 years, but I’m thinking it’s much longer. You who come up here don’t stay in your own place for half a lifetime. You shouldn’t impose your standards on a people who have their own standards. That’s what happened when Sheldon Jackson came up and made every effort to destroy the native culture, religiion, and families. Anyone care to can look up the History of Alaska.

      • Helga

        Each and every Alaskan received $1,281.00 in 2010 from the States permanent fund, money derived from oil revenues to the state. And Alaskans pay no state income tax.

      • Thank you Helga….subsistence living is not easy. I’d like to see some of the men from the Lower ’48 come and try it. Alaska enjoyed a peaceful and clean lifestyle until WWII, and the ‘outsiders’ came up with their corruption, and eveyone’s lifestyle changed. We can’t go back, but the people have made many concessions to keep up with the times. Those who come up, take one look, go back and give such authoratative ‘accounts’ are just trying to make themselves look superior. Met many of them up here, and on one occasion, met one at Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral in Los Angeles. He expounded on coming into the ‘only store in town’ (we acutally had 3), and ‘stood aside to listen to the natives speak in their glutteral language’. Little did he know I was from ‘that town’, and after the meeting I spoke with him awhile on his work (he wrote for a sports magazine), and we never saw him again. Someone told him who I was and where I was from, and he did not detected it because I didn’t ‘speak in that glutteral language’….and I look like a regualr human being to boot!

        • George Michalopulos says

          Rosabel, I appreciate your insights and contributions to this website. I must admit that I have some concerns with some of your assertions regarding native life. First, of course, I must admit that I have never been to Alaska so much of what follows must be taken with a grain of salt. My only comparison are the 2-3 Indian reservations I have been to, so the analogogies may be overdrawn.

          Having said that, I don’t think that mining and proper exploitation of resources are necessarily bad for the earth of the local inhabitants. While I’ve come to despise the uber-acquisitiveness of keeping up with the Joneses, it doesn’t follow that subsistence hunting/fishering/farming is morally superior. Again, given my own brief experiences with reservation life, I can say that alcoholism is rampant and severely debilitating.

          The problem is that between the hunter/gatherers on the one hand, and the agriculturalists on the other (Abel vs Cain), it’s Cain who won out. Civilization has always won out over the hunter/gatherer and unless the hunter’s descendants could adapt, the end-result has almost always been pathology of the worst sort. (Hopefully this is not the case with the Orthodox natives.)

          What is ironic about all this, is that several years ago I listened to a 12-part series of audiotapes put out by Fr Michael Oleksa cataloguing the history of Alaska and Orthodoxy. He described how in the 19th century, when the Federal gov’t tried to “evangelize” the natives, these same natives were not only Christian, but lived in ways indistinguishable from whites. Like I said, it was 10 years ago when I heard this seriers but one thing that struck me was Oleksa’s description of native houses that had photographs on the walls, pianos in the salon, and normal furniture. The only difference from whites was their physiognomy.

          What’s my point? Are we in danger of forcing a subsistence economy on natives who may otherwise not want it? Who would prefer a somewhat bourgeouis existence?

  7. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    Have we heard from the principals here on other topics affecting the environment and “10,000 year old” (SIC) Alaskan culture? I’m thinking oil exploration and drilling and transporting and their effects on subsistence fishing and hunting. The future of salmon fishing lies in farm salmon, it’s generally conceded. I hope those who show great concern about the native Alaskan fishermen on this particular river or rivers are equally concerned to provide skills and job training to provide for a future where the salmon are gone from their traditional habitats.

    And if such huge amounts of gold and copper are to be found where the newspaper reports them to be, does the local OCA feel it can withstand the pressure to mine these STRATEGICALLY and economically coveted minerals?

    When Alaska was bought by the U.S.A. from Russia, to whom were the rights for mining precious metals assigned?

    For example, would the native Alaskans or Alaskan communities who “own” land under which gold and copper deposits lie be compensated for mining or be given a share in the profits from such mining? Is the rich benefactor who provided for the video and for, e.g., the transport of the Cathedral choir out to the boondocks as well as the Bishop and the star Priest, a known philanthropist who has a record of supporting Orthodox, or native Alaskan or other charitable projects?

    Yes, “stealing ” emails is despicable. So is incontinence in expression of one’s thoughts. One cannot defend the content of one’s utterances by charging the person who reveals the content with criminality or sin.

    If you have a job and use a computer in connection with that job, when you quit, delete all your files. Anyone who will be accessing that computer will assume you have done so.

    • Farmed salmon are no longer desired. It has been realized they develope, carry, and pass on diseases. We don’t patronize farmed salmon here in Alaska. It also takes away jobs and pay from the hard working fishermen who risk their lives going to sea and storms to bring the harvest in.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Rosabel, I would like to see the research that would back up your assertion that farmed salmon is inferior to wild salmon. That may be true but we’ve been burned lately by claims that organic farming produces healthier produce than non-organic. As we saw in Germany a couple of months ago, dozens of people who patronized only organic farms died of disease. I’m afraid that much of what we’ve heard has been overblown. Of course, if you can provide me or otherwise direct me to evidence to the contrary, I will publish it.

        All: please understand, I have no problem with living simpler, more ascetic lives. I’ve been profoundly influenced in this regard by Wendell Berry and the Southern Agrarians but I would be lying to you if I said that I want us all to live on a subsistence level. One of my beefs with the environtemalism that presently comes out of the Phanar (and was mercifully unreported when HH spoke at The Center for the American Progress in 2009) was that I didn’t believe that a lot of it was serious or at least seriously accepted by the mega-wealthy Leadership 100 types who were breathlessly panting on HH’s every word.

        As I wrote on the AOI back then, OK, you think fish are dying or being mutated by hormones in our sewage system? Good, so do I. You want to solve this problem? Ban all oral contraceptives. Stop all hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women. You see the point? If we lived according to the dictates of our Church (more fasting, more abstemiousness, less carnality, etc.) the world would definately be a better place. But those in the GOA who heard his words have yet to put any of this in action. Instead, they’ve tried their dead-level best to prevent monasticism from taking root here in America and ascetism from being preached in their churches.

  8. One cannot defend the content of one’s utterances by charging the person who reveals the content with criminality or sin.

    This is absolutely correct. How the emails were procured does not remove +Benjamin or Fr. Michael from the hot-seat. (Unless they were doctored and/or egregiously taken out of context.)

    I still want to point out that yet another round of leaked/stolen emails further injures the trust between parishioner and priest, and thereby poses a significant spiritual threat to the OCA.

    But, because there’s no lawyers, policies, or “billions” of reasons for us to bureaucratically care we haven’t heard too much hollerin’ about it.

  9. What is Bishop Benjamin doing being a bishop anyway, if what Bishop Nikolai wrote in his letter to Bishop Benjamin is true?????????? No, I will not stop bringing that up. I’m just too damn mad.

    • Innocent until proven guilty, Jane Rachel. I am *quite* concerned that the allegations are not being investigated, even after Met. Jonah tried to initiate an investigation. However, Bishop Benjamin remains a bishop in good standing.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        we see the hyprocrisy here, don’t we Helga? As far as the Stokovites are concerned, the BATF, FBI, MI6 and the CIA have to be unleashed on their enemies based on even the meagerest allegation. However, public records which reveal drunken and disorderly conduct, DWI, resisting arrest, these are nothing, just boys being boys.

        • George, we’ve been following this for close to seven months now, and I don’t know about you, but I am finding myself shocked over and over by the depth of the corruption and hypocrisy in this situation. Just when I think we’ve finally gotten a handle on it, some horrible new dimension is revealed.

          Poor Metropolitan Jonah. I can’t even imagine what things have been or continue to be like for him. But he, and anyone else of honesty and goodwill left in the OCA administration, have my meager prayers.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            And mine as well, Helga. I think I underestimated the Deep Institutional Mediocrity that afflicts the OCA. Perhaps we should come up with a new phrase, how about Deep Institutional Corruption? That might encompass both DIM and The Dumping Ground.

  10. I have a feeling that the good guys in this fight are the Alaskan Diocese, which opposed the project from the get go, Father Oleksa, and Bishop Benjamin. The bad guys are the greedy folks backing what promises to be the largest open-pit mine in the country. These folks have bought off folks like Greg Anelon (who is reported being “uncomfortable with the church’s involvement in the Pebble fight. Anelon lives in Newhalen, a village near the Pebble deposit, and attended one of the rural services which brought the priests out to the villages. He is, in a way, on Pebble’s payroll. He works for Iliamna Development Corp., which services the mine. He’s also the chair of a group fighting the anti-Pebble initiative. And he’s also a long-time member of the Orthodox Church, as were his ancestors.

    “To me it [the visit] was political,” Anelon said. “The church, being a faith-based organization, shouldn’t be part of the issue.”” What baloney!

    I just wish that George and others would simply quit making everything part of an epic struggle between their idol, +Jonah, and others. This is not LOTR folks.

    • Carl

      It is unlike you to go out on the limb based on feelings. The Pebble Development project is not a simple good guy/bad guy situation. There is a ton of information available concerning the entire project. There are varied interests involved from their perspectives, all have reasons for their involvement. Please spend a little time doing research on the project, the stated and implied implications, including who owns the property involved. You might be surprised, or not, as the story goes.

    • Kraeff,

      You haven’t given any evidence for your allegation yet:

      Regarding Father Fester, Father Fester’s letter to the DOS priests and his attempt to get Bishop Mark to lie on behalf of Metropolitan Jonah amply justify Father Hopko’s rightful condemnation of him.

      Where’s the proof?

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      I for one never thought it was a LOTR scenario. As stated by both me and the OCATs, there’s more than enough blame to go around. One thing that you CAN’T pin on +Jonah is deceit and such tawdry money-grubbiness.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Carl, you may very well be right. The “good guys” may be the Diocese of Alaska in this regard. However that’s debatable. Has anybody thought to ask the native “subsistence fishermen” who they feel about the Pebble Project?

      That being said, the obsequious attitude of Fr Oleksa towards his paymaster is too much even for Bp Benjamin, who seems to be throwing him under the bus for his fawning toadishness.

      On a related note, the walls may be closing in on the Stokovites. In talking with tech people, they assure me that the best and easiest way for Oleksa’s e-mail to be hacked is with somebody who has close proximity to his computer. That’s probably how Bp Maymon was able to pilfer Fester’s e-mails. It’s sad when a “church” degenerates to the point where people are watching their backs and have to wonder who’s on your side. Garklavs did this to +Jonah, Stokoe/Maymon did this to Fester, and somebody did this to Oleksa. Damn shame but what do we expect when we have a Strong Chancellor form of administration with flunkies in the central administration whose only concern is not having to relocated from Oyster Bay. After all, why would a priest with some cushy job want to have to go pastor some Bohunks in the Mon Valley or Rednecks in the South? Some people are too good for Flyover Country.

      • George, to clear up one point of misinformation: No, that’s not how Stokoe got the emails of Father Fester.

        The Dallas church gave Fr. Fester a cell phone, (for his personal and professional use) in which Father Fester put his private and personal code to receive his emails on that device, and when he left Dallas, relinquishing the use of that phone, Father Fester overlooked the task of removing that code from the phone – which allowed +Maymon, the new holder of the phone, to read all of Father Festers emails, personal, and professional, for months…until +Maymon found something he wanted to make public. At no point did +Maymon delete the code or emails, nor inform Fr. Fester of this situation FOR MONTHS!

        It is, it was, it remains, despicable, and unjustifiable. ANYONE who says differently, check your moral compass, look at your ethics, remember who you profess to be.

  11. Read It And Weep says

    Oh, Carl,

    Follow the money. Follow the money. Follow the money. The door has been cracked open by these emails. There is much more and your attempt at a pre-emptive sidetrack makes it even more clear.

    You just can’t bear to think that all you have emotionally invested in Mark Stokoe and his sidekicks, BIshop Benjamin and Fr Michael Oleksa is coming unraveled.

    Tip of a Titanic Iceberg- dead ahead, my friend.

    Be patient, there is much more to come.

    • I am mainly a process guy and I have not wished anyone ill, particularly Metropolitan Jonah. The slogan “follow the money” has been used repeatedly in the past and it is indeed a good sleuthing tool, an even better method than cherchez la femme I prefer to concentrate more on how things are done rather than on the personalities involved. I will admit though at times the evidential weight becomes too much not to arrive at some conclusions regarding certain individuals. In this vein, I have concluded who the “good actors” are and who are the sort of folks that we could have done without, for one reason or another (commission and/or omission).

      Posters here are right in saying that I may not have done a thorough research; I am indeed relying quite a bit on the good reputation of Father Oleksa on this and on the bad reputation of past open-pit mining. Nonetheless, I am open to be disillusioned yet again: “Do not put your truest on princes and sons of men” (and, of course , neither in priests, bishops and metropolitans, whose skulls line up the road to hell according to a saying commonly attributed St John Chrysostom). Nonetheless, I’ve got to believe that our priests, bishops and metropolitans are good people, given special charisma by God, and seeking to grow in the Lord. If I I’ve come across otherwise (and I admit I have gone overboard in Father Fester’s case), I do apologize. As I said before, I am a process guy and am trying to support the Church and the canonical, statutory and best-practice processes that protect Her and make Her better. Individuals come and go but the Church remains.

      • Kraeff,

        Lots of words (mostly about you) that drowns out the apology you owe Fr. Fester for smearing him.

        Two entire paragraphs are about Kraeff lamenting his failing because leaders disappoint him! It’s weak.

        Grow a pair and give Fr. Fester the clear apology he deserves for your smear.

        I don’t want to hear about you. I want readers to know that Fr. Fester did not try to get Bp. Mark to lie on behalf on Met. Jonah like you charged. Clean up your mess like a man with real character would.

        • You win: I will now respond like the despicable Stokovite that I am.

          I got this from OCAN but I believe it can also be found on OCAT.

          http://ocanews.org/news/JonahGoesRoguePt3.3.6.11.html

          In an email on the private OCA- clergy list, Fr. Fester, whom +Jonah just appointed Dean of St Nicholas Cathedral in DC, posted the following passionate appeal on the evening of March 2nd, asking OCA clergy to rise up “to defend” +Jonah, blaming the disturbance not on +Jonah’s deception, but on OCANews.org for first revealing it, and on the Synod for confirming it. Fr. Fester writes:

          “Dear Fr. John and Brothers:

          I write you tonight to warn you that Mark Stokoe is preparing to post another of his devilishly spun “stories” mixing half truths and inaccurate statements on the backdrop of a timeline of His Beatitude’s movements since the Synod ambushed him in Santa Fe. The ambush was lead by two members of the Synod.

          Stokoe is scared and he should be because His Beatitude has in his possession concrete proof of the efforts of people, including Stokoe to have His Beatitude removed from office. This is a carefully orchestrated plan involving members of the Metropolitan Council, five principles, members of the chancery staff in Syosset, including the former chancellor, Alexander Garklavs, working with Stokoe to discredit His Beatitude, sow seeds of doubt about his mental capacity and using the much familiar buzz words as “Whistle-blower” NY State Law, Best Practices, etc. all designed to scare the Church into a quick take down of His Beatitude.

          His Beatitude saw this coming when he realized that when the Bishops categorically rejected the term “rest or retreat” and insisted on “Leave of Absence” for his status, it was the first step in a movement to remove him.

          The proof of this will be made public soon and the intrigue behind the scenes to use a report of the MC Sexual Misconduct Committee to tar and feather Jonah and make him look incompetent. The report is not only inaccurate, its members were and are afraid that its contents could expose them to legal action. You won’t hear that from Stokoe.

          Mark Stokoe is a master manipulator and a liar. He has used this church and all of us too long and now he is trying to manipulate the removal of His Beatitude by ginning up the mob (can you hear Crucify Him, Crucify Him!) If we don’t stand up now and move out, and he is banking that we will be too scared to say anything, we will not only lose His Beatitude, but we will lose the OCA. This is not hyperbole.

          Alexander Garklavs was relieved of his duties with his resignation being accepted because His Beatitude gave a rebuttal of the Sexual Misconduct Report. You won’t hear that from Stokoe as he will begin to create the human cry that “we must DEMAND Garklavs return.” The MC will be ginned up to do this and the Synod will cave in. That is his goal.

          Alexander Garklavs will not only lose his job, but he may lose his priesthood because of the manipulation of that report. We have the evidence, and it will be produced, not to hurt Fr Alexander, who still has time to repent, but more importantly to stop this rush to judgment.

          Understand this, the history of the Leave of Absence in the OCA is a dark and sorrid manueaver. (sic) It was used to “encourage” Bishop Basil Rodizanko to rest, then to push him aside. It was used to keep Metropolitan Ireney on a leave for 4 years, it was used on other bishops in the OCA.

          The plan is simple in its execution, discredit Jonah, convince him, “for the good of the Church” and for his own welfare, to go on a Leave and then, never let him off.

          One bishop on the Synod revealed this to his aide, “we will put him on a leave, then we will keep extending it until after the AAC, then we will elect a new metropolitan at a special Council or wait until the next AAC.”

          That, my brothers is the plan and Stokoe and his website are two steps ahead of us. But what he will soon discover is that he left tracks and those tracks will be exposed. He is not, the great purveyor of truth and transparency. He is working against the good order of the Church. We all know in our gut that there is something wrong with his website and therefore there is something wrong with him. I am not saying that he is beyond repentance and redemption, but we have to help him and those who read his stuff, and warn them, that this is not good for the souls of our spiritual children.

          I beg you, and by writing this, I will be set upon, I beg you, to stand up against him. And how? By first writing here, each one of you who knows that this campaign against His Beatitude is wrong and it is unnecessary. We all have faults, we all can do better, but we all called to work together, as brothers, in unity, to help the one who is weak, to build him up.

          When will we stop this eating our own culture of the OCA end? When will be say, enough is enough. I know I am “made and hell, and I am not going to take it anymore.” What about you my brothers. We know that His Beatitude is a good and decent man. He is a man of prayer. He is a formed monastic. He has battled through the spiritual battles and he is a dispassionate person who loves this Church and desires with all his heart to continue in his role as Metropolitan, a position given to him by the Holy Spirit and confirmed upon him by all of us.

          The time is now to say, no to Mark Stokoe and yes to the Church and our Metropolitan. Post your support here, or send me an email letting me know that you support His Beatitude and will not be swayed by the innuendos, half-truths and outright lies that Stokoe will post shortly.

          When I left Syosset in 2006 and went to the DOS, I was a man tainted by being labeled part of the “Inner Circle.” I went to the DOS and set out to do the job I was asked to do. I had many detractors, and rightly so. I mean, they didn’t know me. They only knew me through a report and the Stokoe website. There was nothing I could do about that except, do my job. When I recently left the DOS and came to DC (I wonder how long I will be here now) I was humbled to tears when my brothers in the DOS sent me off with love and respect for the job I had done. I didn’t do anything great, I just did what I was asked to do. As I was leaving, one of the senior priests of the DOS came up to me and said, “Father, you will always be in our Inner Circle in the DOS.”

          I am putting myself on the line now. I may be moved, suspended, who knows what, but if I let this moment pass without standing up for a man who has done nothing deserving the slime job that Stokoe will now unleash upon him, I could not live with myself.

          Brothers, it is now or never. Don’t abide Stokoe one inch. He will take it and spin it into a web that will entrap all of us. I beg you, not for me but for His Beatitude, who we know and love.

          Please forgive me and pray for me.

          We are at a tipping point and if we don’t stand now, we will all mark this day as one in which we will regret.”

          With the exception of his vicious attacks on Stokoe, I have bolded those parts where he is slandering priests, bishops, indeed the Holy Synod. His actions are contrary to the Holy Scriptures and worthy of an agitator rather than a man of the cloth.

          Now, this letter alone is sufficient to justify Father Hopko’s letter on the first day of Great Lent, 2011: “And, while respecting his right to speak and act as he sees fit, I also ask you not to trust, honor or support Fr. Joseph Fester’s opinions and views since his record hardly demonstrates worthiness of serious consideration.”

          But, let’s continue with Father Fester’s exchange with Bishop Mark.

          Source: http://spartiongeometrias.blogspot.com/2011_05_01_archive.html

          “Following the failure of his plan in Santa Fe, Fester, undeterred, is indulging in “revisionist history”. Just as he got Archbishop Dmitri Royster to “take it back” right after the Spring Synod meeting in 2007, so he seeks to “adjust” the meaning of the Leave of Absence. We all watched as Stokoe reported the Leave of Absence; some really irresponsible folk reported deposition or resignation; the initial OCA press release did not use the word Leave of Absence; and then Paffhausen denied the Leave of Absence in a recorded statement from the amvon of St. Nicholas cathedral in DC. Behind the scene, Fester was hectoring Bishop Mark Maymon about letting the cat out of the bag, in an exchange that bears full quotation:

          Fester: I was told that your announced in NC [North Carolina] that Jonah was on a Leave of Absence.

          Maymon: Are you the grand inquisitor? People asked specific question to which I did not lie, nr speak outside of class.

          Fester: But Vladyka, His Beatitude is not on a LOA [Leave of Absence] Its just confusing when they hear one thing and they His Beatitude makes it clear that he is not on a leave.

          Maymon: That was the specific terminology used at the synod meeting. They categorically rejected the word retreat. My meeting was on Saturday, His Beatitutde’s statements were on Sunday.

          Fester: well, as you know, the press release on oca does not state he is on leave. What Saturday meeting? the one in which his Beatitude was not included?

          Maymon: the one with the pc [parish council] in NC.

          Fester: ah, yes. well, you are right. Timing is everything, but I am sure that it will all be cleared up. It just important that folks in the ODS and the Cathedral know you support His Beatitude as we know, he is much loved. but that is a given, you know that, Thank God.

          Maymon: WE all love him and want him to succeed.

          Fester: yes, You should know that the information that has been gathered from Fr. Alexander’s email account, which is the property of the OCA, which was handed over when he resigned is painting a very different picture of Fr. Garklavs and some of the members of the MC and sadly some members of the MC. I am sharing this with you because I don’t want you to be used or hurt. That is all I can say, but it will be made clear soon.

          Maymon: His Beatitude agreed to a LOA. I heard it with my own ears.

          Fester: Vladyka, please. nothing was signed. He is not on a leave. Don’t get sucked into something by Benjamin and Melchesedek. It was all set up ahead of time. It was a trap. The information is there.”

          Can it be clearer than this; it’s so much like the serpent whispering to Eve. Disgusting!

          • “Don’t get sucked into something by Benjamin and Melchesedek. It was all set up ahead of time. It was a trap.”

            Carl asks: “Can it be clearer than this…”

            Nope. Seems pretty clear to me Carl. Glad you’ve finely seen the light…

            • Is that you Father Fester?

              I do not think so, based on nothing more than George’s high opinion of you as a clever fellow. So, if your comment was meant as a joke, I suppose I should appreciate your talent in taking things out of context to make a biting comment. If, however, you are serious, it would only mean that you cannot comprehend plain English, or, if your comprehension is fine, you somehow lack the ability to process the input your optic nerves have sent to your brain. I am not bringing up another possibility–that you are a horse’s behind–simply because I cannot believe that someone who has earned George’s applause can be one.

          • For the record: Father Fester did not slander Priests, Bishops, Chancellors or any others – he stated provable facts. That Metropolitan +J did not make this information public is his business, nevertheless the facts are facts, of which Fr. Fester was privy through the Metropolitan! These emails of Father Fester were not intended to be published, but to encourage assistance in a grave situation. I have also seen the evidence. Those who don’t know should withhold conjecture. There are times when nothing is the best thing you can say, unless you just crave seeing your self written and self proclaimed ‘profound wisdom’ in print.

            • Isn’t calling a Bishop a “worm” a bit much? I mean seriously..

              • Perhaps on par with St. John Chrysostom stating that the skulls of bishops light the road leading to hell? Or perhaps Christ rebuking Peter the Apostle, referring to him as Satan? I think not. I mean, seriously… worm seems mild by comparison.

                • In light (and remember, this with actual written proof) of what the two Bishops have done, and the Chancellor, and members of the Metropolitan Council too, calling any of them a ‘worm’ seems to be light stuff!!! Knowing Father Fester and his wonderful sense of humor, I am amused. I am personally not allowed to call names, nor to judge, but I can see facts and report them. Keep after them George, they need to be exposed constantly to The Light and The Truth.

                  • Amen. Though I wasn’t there, wherever “there” is, I’ve read enough to know for certain what you say about Father Joseph is true, so I thank you for confirming it yet again.

                • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                  Yes, O Heracleides, St. John Chrysostom was irresponsibly vicious when he named the Empress as “Jezebel.” No Hierarch, Priest, or Deacon should ever call names at another human being from the ambo (or at any other time). To point to one identified person (including a person who is a Bishop) and call him or her “a worm,” is a far, far different thing from speaking harshly of bishops or any other class of people in general. There is no comparison with calling a known, identified individual bishop a worm, on the one hand, and saying the road to hell is paved with bishops’ skulls on the other. The latter laments the sins of a class of people. The former strikes out viciously at one known individual, one neighbor.

                  • Ok… so by your reasoning, Fr. Fester would have been better off by simply stating that many/most bishops are worms rather than naming one in particular… To be honest, I can live with that.

                    In any event, I have a hard time in seeing how your calling the words of a sainted patriarch “irresponsibly vicious” as being much different from a presbyter calling a certain bishop a worm. But maybe that’s just me – perhaps in the OCA bishops are beyond criticism from the presbyterate, deaconate, or laity. In my world, a spade is a spade, no matter the headgear. Hats off to Fr. Fester. (Yes, pun intended.)

                    • Going down another road, I am considering the act of what it is to be a “worm.” Does he mean like a kind of person who spies, who reports things secretly behind other people’s back for his own gain? Like a person who betrays trust? I am thinking that Father Joseph does not like Bishop Melchizidek. Huh, I say to myself. I’m also thinking that, in a private email never intended to be read by anyone but the original recipient, Father Joseph was calling Bishop Melchizidek a “worm” as in “to worm one’s way into a situation” in a way that is unprofessional, wiggly, and just plain unattractive. Maybe lacking integrity. As in the following definitions of the verb:

                      Insinuate one’s way into

                      – the educated dealers may later worm their way into stockbroking

                      Move (something) into a confined space by wriggling it

                      – I wormed my right hand between my body and the earth

                      Obtain information from (someone) by cunning persistence

                      – I did manage to worm a few details out of him

                      Like that. What I came to realize from reading what Father Fester wrote, is that there is most likely a bishop, Bishop Melchizidek, whom I’ve never heard anything about before, who has been acting like a worm on the Holy Synod to achieve a self-serving goal. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. Enough has been said in other places for me to believe it. I say, Bleah.

                      P.S. I thought about deleting my comment, but will leave it intact except to add that calling another human being an insulting name is not a good thing, that I have done it in the past, and that I will try to keep my mouth shut from now on when I am tempted to do so, whether in my head or privately to another person, or out loud, or anywhere. It does ring true and I do feel my conscious poking me in the stomach. It insults the holiness inherent in every human, because we are created in the image of God. I believe this is what Vladyka Tikhon is saying. Thanks for making me see that more clearly, Your Grace.

                    • Wish I could delete the first part of that comment but my time ran out. I apologize to Bishop Melchizidek.

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      I apologize if I appeared to Heracleides as someone who elevates bishops or the episcopate beyond all reason. I feel bad if he thinks I am representative of the OCA episcopate in general. I try not to exclude the episcopate, the presbytery, or the diaconate from the laos. I feel every baptized Christian including the grand and most highly honored Archbishop of vanished New Rome is a (ordained) member of the Laity. I also hate it when I sin by making normal men get all huffy and puffy.
                      Now that that’s clear, I’d like to confess that, while standing by everything I’ve said on the subject of name-calling (for example, I would harshly condemn anyone who would call Heracleides a worm) I wrote in ignorance, thinking someone here on Monomakhos had referred to a Bishop as a worm. Now, I realize that the topic of all this moralizing is an excerpt from a private letter of the excellent Protopriest, Joseph Fester, and that he must have characterized Bishop Melchizedek as a worm ? Puerile name-calling, Heracleides, is, of course, permitted to any child of Adam as are adultery, pulling the wings off flies, poisoning unleashed dogs, exposing new born girl children on the mountainside (as has been recorded in Hellas even in the 20th century). We are all free to be as puerile as we want to be.
                      As far as I know, no one has ever claimed that St. John Chrysostom or any other Saint in the Orthodox menologia of the Local Churches was sinless and uttered nothing but salvific truths. Who would wish to emulate St. Constantine or his mother St. Helen in every way? It’s not because I’m a poor bishop (which I am), Heracleides, that I say that St. John Chrysostom’s act of callling the Empress “Jezebel” was vicious and unbecoming a hierarch of his stature. I don’t call St. John anything but St. John, or “Our Father among the Saints, John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople..” It’s wrong to call any human being a worm. Of course, “we are all free men”, and we are free to call any human being a worm.
                      And if someone wants to be seen as a most beloved and daring curmudgeon character displaying dazzling intellectual acuity, there is nothing evil in that—it’s just dangerous in the matter of salvation.

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      That’s not a pun,Heracleides. In the “Chinovnik” or Service Book for Hierarchical Services, whenever a rubric refers to the donning or doffing of a Bishop’s headgear, the word used in Church Slavonic is “shapka.” This means hat in English. The bishop’s mitra, crown, miter, or whatever is his hat. For example, before the reading of the Gospel by the Deacon, the rubrics say that the Archimandrites and Archpriests must remove their hats, but the hierarch must maintain his on his head. This shocks all Orthodox of all nationalities here in America who have imbibed the idea even with their mother’s milk that Everyone must take off his hat during the Gospel reading. That’s because the idea is in the very air of this Protestant land. Now, as Lyndon Johnson used to say, I’m going to “hunker down like a rabbit in a hailstorm.”

            • I also believe you in the statement you are making. That Father Joseph stated provable facts. Now, if people will read what he stated, now that it has been made public, knowing he stated provable facts, they will either have to weep or not believe what they are reading. This is why I get so upset. I am sure that Father Fester stated provable facts.

              I am sure that what has been stated is provable, and pretty sure that the evidence has deliberately not been made public. Therefore, “innocent until proven guilty” is not a good enough reason to continue to laud, trust, accept, state positive things about, follow, or even like them. Stop believing them. Take great caution. A lot of damage has been done already, and attacking the wrong people does no good at all.

              If A, the statements have been made, and if B they are provable, and C, they are believable, and D, there is no reason to believe those who made them are lying, then E, the reader should not dismiss them as false, but take care to realize they are probably true. Do not continue to put your trust in these princes and sons of men. There is NO salvation in them. Shame on them.

  12. Nope. So the lie is where?

    • My guess is that the “lie” is where Fr. Fester said in his letter:

      “His Beatitude saw this coming when he realized that when the Bishops categorically rejected the term ‘rest or retreat’ and insisted on “Leave of Absence” for his status, it was the first step in a movement to remove him.”

      But in his Gmail chat with Bishop Mark, he said,

      “But Vladyka, His Beatitude is not on a LOA [Leave of Absence] Its just confusing when they hear one thing and they His Beatitude makes it clear that he is not on a leave.”

      Bishop Mark answered,

      [Leave of Absence] was the specific terminology used at the synod meeting. They categorically rejected the word retreat. My meeting was on Saturday, His Beatitutde’s statements were on Sunday.”

      In one place Fr. Fester is saying that “rest and retreat” were categorically rejected at the Synod meeting, and in the other he’s saying “Metropolitan Jonah is not on a leave of absence”. This might appear to be a contradiction, but I think Fr. Fester is saying that while the Synod wanted a leave of absence, the leave of absence didn’t actually happen.

      Bishop Mark appears to be of the opinion that the Synod did get a leave of absence out of Met. Jonah, but his and other bishops’ letters to their dioceses use “leave of absence” and “rest” interchangeably with respect to the Metropolitan’s break. Bishop Mark and Bishop Nikon were obviously using the same boilerplate, as the relevant passages of their letters were nearly identical. Fr. Fester was trying to talk Bishop Mark into his interpretation of events. Bishop Mark appears to prefer going with the members of the Synod who take a hard line on wanting the “Leave of Absence”, and does not appear to be aware of the difference between what those bishops wanted and what actually happened.

      Also, Fr. Fester rightly points out later in the Gmail chat that Met. Jonah did not sign any agreement for a leave of absence. It’s my understanding that employment laws (not to mention basic common sense) would require a written, signed agreement pertaining to a leave of absence for such a thing to be official or legally binding. Otherwise, as we have all found out, you wind up with all sorts of confusion about how to handle salary, communications availability, and other issues.

      Bear in mind that when I say “Synod” above, I do not think this necessarily represents the unanimous will of all the other members of the Synod except for Met. Jonah, only a simple majority of them.

      If I have misrepresented Fr. Fester’s intention in any of these writings of his, I apologize to him and invite him to provide a correction.

      • The only official document that we have (as opposed to leaked/purloined private correspondence) proves Bishop Mark right and Father Fester a meddler in another diocese, and of course a dissembler. I am referring to the Minutes of the Holy Synod. Enough said. Regarding the “I did not sign a document” argument, are you suggesting that the Metropolitan of the OCA, the President of the Holy Synod, is a mere employee? Just whose employee is he anyway? And, why can he not keep true to his word, forgetting for a moment Canons and the Statute? As for Father Fester, the man is lucky that Metropolitan Jonah shipped him off to the Carpatho-Russians before the Synod had the chance to try him in Spiritual Court. I will tell you another thing, to more I go over the various accounts, arguments and counterarguments, the more I think that Bishop Mark and Mark Stokoe have done us all a big service in exposing the alliance between Father Fester, Bishop Tikhon, Bishop Nicolai and Bob Kondratick and Father Fester’s insufferable meddling in the affairs of other dioceses.

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          Carl Kraeff states, “Bishop Mark and Mark Stokoe have done us all a big service in exposing the alliance between Father Fester, Bishop Tikhon, Bishop Nikolai and Bob Kondratick…”
          I suppose that’s right, in the sense that I appreciate very much the Christian love and brotherly affection I enjoy with all the named men. I believe I met Father Joseph Fester before the others. I knew his parents: his father and mother were well-known in southern California, particularly in the Encino and Long Beach missions. I remember reading in an old FROC Journal how, at a church picnic in Encino, “little Joey Fester” fell into a pond and had to be rescued. Ask Fr. Sergei Glagolev about the Festers and about Fr. Joseph: perhaps Carl, you could add him (and many other Orthodox in Calfornia) to your “alliance.” Bishop Nikolai was a Priest I met shortly after becoming a Bishop. He always supported himself and the missions/parishes where he served, rather than the other way around. When I met him he was in charge of a clinic owned, I believe, by the Presbyterians, and serving teen-agers suffering from substance dependency/abuse. At the time he was elected Bishop by the Holy Synod, he was in charge of a very large department of the District Attorney of Clark County (Las Vegas) which he initiated for the District Attorney and which was charged with recovering money from “dead-beat dads”, i.e., making fathers who failed to pay child support cough up what the court(s) had mandated. He recovered only three (3) million dollars the first year, but exceeded that almost trigonometrically in ensuing years. He had the entire floor of a large office building under his supervision from a corner office with icons on the walls, and supervised over a hundred employees. When he (reluctantly, I can assure you) agreed to become a Bishop (my Vicar, as a matter of fact), he had to drop the “secular” employment. The governor of Nevada declared a “Nicholas Soraich Day” to mark his day of departure from his job. He was (and is) widely known in law enforcement circles in the Las Vegas area and was able to assist behind the scenes in the Bishop Benjamin case.
          The Serbian St. Simeon Church and the OCA St. Paul Church were both founded and erected their first temples during his pastorates. His incumbency in the Alaskan Diocese was immensely and historically beneficial to that diocese. Anyone who has the remotest acquaintance with the previous administrations (or, some might say, exploitations) of that Diocese cannot compare Bishop Nikolai’s administration with them without giving “Bishop Nikolai the laurel, the blue ribbon. (Protopresbyter) Rodion S. Kondratick and his wife, Bette, are two of the most devout, honest, loving Orthodox Christians I’ve met since 1960, when I was commissioned in the USAF and became Orthodox at the Lackland AFB Chapel. Further, and there is no virtue in this, though there is great value, (Protopresbyter) Rodion, or “Father Bob” as he is better known, is one of the most skillful administrators/ bureaucrats in all the Local Orthodox Churches, and wide4ly known as such. What caused his “downfall” (the verdict on whether it was really a downfall is unknown–the jury is still out on that one) was his refusal to adopt the tactics of those who set out to get him.
          Yes, Carl, I would be pleased to have engraved on my tombstone “A friend, brother, and ALLY of Father Joseph Fester, Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) and Protopresbyter Rodion S. Kondratick.”
          Many thanks.
          PS A Bishop (or a Priest or a Deacon) has two income tax options. If he chooses (as I always did), he may state that he is an employee of his parish or diocese, which, in the U.S. are incorporated and have tax employer id numbers. I used to get W2s every year and I filed as an employee of the Diocese of the West.
          Metropolitan Jonah, Carl, is an employee of Diocese of Washington and of The Orthodox Church in America, which is a New York not-for-profit corporation, whose Board of Trustees is the Metropolitan Council.
          You ask why the Metropolitan cannot forget the Canons and the Statute. That’s called RRR, “Really Reaching Rhetoric.”

          • You weren’t here in Alaska to witness what went on and what we went through. It’s good and loyal to state what it looks like from the other side of the fence for a friend, but it would be helpful to tell the truth too…I was Starosta of Holy Resurrection Church and office mgr. at St. Herman’s seminary, so I had a front row seat all those black years.

      • So the lie is where? You missed it the first time so let me repeat it:

        So the lie is where?

        If I have misrepresented Fr. Fester’s intention in any of these writings of his, I apologize to him and invite him to provide a correction.

        You called him a liar Kraeff, and every time you are called to prove it, your dissembling takes another twenty reams to try and wriggle out of it.

        You called him a liar Kraeff, and when you’re caught, you call it a misrepresentation and tell him to “provide a correction.”

        That’s called dissembling, and equivocation.

        You can’t really prove it. Yet, you won’t apologize either. That’s called arrogance.

        • Ian, you appear to be talking to Carl, but responding to my post and quoting it. Just to make things clear, I don’t think Fr. Fester is a liar. I was trying to explain that what Kraeff thinks is a lie is really not a lie, just a tricky distinction between what some bishops wanted and what was actually accomplished.

          Fr. Fester *was* actually wrong in the letter to say the term “rest” was categorically rejected, since not just Metropolitan Jonah but several of the other bishops used that word to describe the period as well. But I hardly think that rises to the level of a lie, since it gave Fr. Fester no conceivable advantage and appears to just be an honest mistake.

        • The only official document that we have (as opposed to leaked/purloined private correspondence) proves Bishop Mark right and Father Fester a meddler in another diocese, and of course a dissembler.

          So he’s not a liar after all?

          • Sorry; I forgot to add “and a liar,” even though “dissembler” implies it. Again, I am sorry that I was not more explicit.

            • You don’t provide any proof though, do you. You smear the man, and then expect everyone to sit by and watch you do it.

              • This has gotten completely out of hand. I did say that Father Fester had tried to get Bishop Mark to lie on behalf of the Metropolitan and I offered direct evidence that this was indeed the case. However, you somehow concluded that I had accused Father Fester of lying and badgered me to prove that. It seems that I conflated the two and said that Father Fester had indeed lied. To prove that anyone has lied, I would have to prove premeditation and knowledge of truth. I cannot do so in Father Fester’s case and therefore apologize.

                • You directly accused Fr. Fester of lying. You showed no evidence. You smeared the man.

                  And you apology is a weasel apology:

                  To prove that anyone has lied, I would have to prove premeditation and knowledge of truth. I cannot do so in Father Fester’s case and therefore apologize.

                  You want to leave air tainted with the rank odor you injected into it.

                  A real apology sounds like this:

                  I accused Fr. Fester of lying. I was wrong. I ask his forgiveness and I apologize to the readers.

                  Sorry Kraeff, I am not going to let a good man get smeared, just because you don’t like him.

                  • Mr James–It may be useful to lay out what has been said in chronological order. Please correct the record if I have omitted something.

                    In “Pathetic Power Plays –Part II”
                    August 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm
                    Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says: “…Protopresbyter Hopko, who bore false witness against a brother priest, Fr. Joseph Fester…”
                    September 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm
                    Carl Kraeff says: “Regarding Father Fester, Father Fester’s letter to the DOS priests and his attempt to get Bishop Mark to lie on behalf of Metropolitan Jonah amply justify Father Hopko’s rightful condemnation of him. There was no false witness there at all on the part of Father Hopko.”
                    September 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm
                    Ian James says: “ (Quoting Kraeff) ‘Regarding Father Fester, Father Fester’s letter to the DOS priests and his attempt to get Bishop Mark to lie on behalf of Metropolitan Jonah amply justify Father Hopko’s rightful condemnation of him.’ Kraeff, this is a serious charge. Evidence?”
                    September 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm
                    Carl Kraeff says: “You are kidding me, right? Are you insinuating that you have not read neither of those leaked communications? I am just flabbergasted. Aren’t you the person who posted the following in June of this year, a posting that shows you actively following the events as they were covered by both OCAN and OCAT?”
                    September 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm
                    Ian James says: “I asked for evidence. Where is it?”

                    In “Alaska’s Pebble Project”
                    September 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm
                    Ian James says: “Kraeff, You haven’t given any evidence for your allegation yet: ‘Regarding Father Fester, Father Fester’s letter to the DOS priests and his attempt to get Bishop Mark to lie on behalf of Metropolitan Jonah amply justify Father Hopko’s rightful condemnation of him.’ Where’s the proof?”
                    September 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm
                    Ian James says: “Kraeff, Lots of words (mostly about you) that drowns out the apology you owe Fr. Fester for smearing him. Two entire paragraphs are about Kraeff lamenting his failing because leaders disappoint him! It’s weak. Grow a pair and give Fr. Fester the clear apology he deserves for your smear. I don’t want to hear about you. I want readers to know that Fr. Fester did not try to get Bp. Mark to lie on behalf on Met. Jonah like you charged. Clean up your mess like a man with real character would.”
                    September 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm
                    Carl Kraeff says: “You win: I will now respond like the despicable Stokovite that I am. I got this from OCAN but I believe it can also be found on OCAT. (Cites and quotes Letter from Father Fester to DOS Clergy) and cites and quotes the exchange between father Fester and Bishop Mark; source Spartan Geometrias)…Can it be clearer than this?”
                    September 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm
                    Ian James says: “Nope. So the lie is where?
                    September 15, 2011 at 10:11 pm
                    Helga says: “My guess is that the “lie” is where Fr. Fester said in his letter: ‘“His Beatitude saw this coming when he realized that when the Bishops categorically rejected the term ‘rest or retreat’ and insisted on “Leave of Absence” for his status, it was the first step in a movement to remove him.’ But in his Gmail chat with Bishop Mark, he said, ‘“But Vladyka, His Beatitude is not on a LOA [Leave of Absence] Its just confusing when they hear one thing and they His Beatitude makes it clear that he is not on a leave.’ Bishop Mark answered, ‘[Leave of Absence] was the specific terminology used at the synod meeting. They categorically rejected the word retreat. My meeting was on Saturday, His Beatitude’s statements were on Sunday.’
                    September 15, 2011 at 10:53 pm
                    Carl Kraeff says: “The only official document that we have (as opposed to leaked/purloined private correspondence) proves Bishop Mark right and Father Fester a meddler in another diocese, and of course a dissembler. I am referring to the Minutes of the Holy Synod.”
                    September 16, 2011 at 1:05 am
                    Ian James says: “So the lie is where? You missed it the first time so let me repeat it:
                    (quotes Helga) ‘So the lie is where? …If I have misrepresented Fr. Fester’s intention in any of these writings of his, I apologize to him and invite him to provide a correction.’ You called him a liar Kraeff, and every time you are called to prove it, your dissembling takes another twenty reams to try and wriggle out of it. You called him a liar Kraeff, and when you’re caught, you call it a misrepresentation and tell him to “provide a correction.” That’s called dissembling, and equivocation. You can’t really prove it. Yet, you won’t apologize either. That’s called arrogance.”
                    September 16, 2011 at 1:42 am
                    Helga says: “Ian, you appear to be talking to Carl, but responding to my post and quoting it. Just to make things clear, I don’t think Fr. Fester is a liar. I was trying to explain that what Kraeff thinks is a lie is really not a lie, just a tricky distinction between what some bishops wanted and what was actually accomplished.”
                    September 16, 2011 at 6:53 am
                    Ian James says: (Quotes Kraeff) “ ‘The only official document that we have (as opposed to leaked/purloined private correspondence) proves Bishop Mark right and Father Fester a meddler in another diocese, and of course a dissembler.’ So he’s not a liar after all?”
                    September 16, 2011 at 7:24 am
                    Carl Kraeff says: “Sorry; I forgot to add “and a liar,” even though “dissembler” implies it. Again, I am sorry that I was not more explicit.”
                    September 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm
                    Ian James says: “You don’t provide any proof though, do you. You smear the man, and then expect everyone to sit by and watch you do it.”
                    September 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm
                    Carl Kraeff says: “This has gotten completely out of hand. I did say that Father Fester had tried to get Bishop Mark to lie on behalf of the Metropolitan and I offered direct evidence that this was indeed the case. However, you somehow concluded that I had accused Father Fester of lying and badgered me to prove that. It seems that I conflated the two and said that Father Fester had indeed lied. To prove that anyone has lied, I would have to prove premeditation and knowledge of truth. I cannot do so in Father Fester’s case and therefore apologize.”

                    • M. Stankovich says

                      Factually, Mr. Kraeff, your chronology should begin a great deal closer to the beginning of the thread:

                      Mr. Kraeff, come to play with the big boys, finds it necessary to re-wash dirty laundry in a new machine, imagining perhaps this time the “spot” will come out, but apparently unaware of Lady McBeth’s musing, “Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”

                      Prof. Christopher Lasch had a NY Times best-seller in 1978 entitled The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. In it, he devotes an entire chapter to “The Degradation of Sport”; the theory of gamesmanship, if you will. $2.85 for a used copy, and in my estimation, worth its weight in gold.

                      I bring this to your attention because I suspect you’re a fisherman, an angler, no? And the fish appear to be biting.

                • Carl

                  As a lawyer. and based on your representation of the facts as you understand them, probably a very good counselor. In the role of opposing counsel, and after rereading Fr. Festers letter, I would suggest the exchange between Fr. Fester and Mark, is a discussion of facts as the two parties perceived the facts.

                  Fr. Fester in his role as “Chief of Staff” for +Jonah was attempting clarify the facts from the Team Jonah perspective, and the way they were acting on the decision.

                  Exerting that Fr. Fester wanted him to “lie” I think is a stretch. Again differing points from opposing counsel*.

                  * I am not an Attorney nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn express last night!

                  • Motivation is the factor that constrained me from called Father Fester a liar. In spite of the discrepancy between the Letter to DOS Clergy and the chat conversation, I could not be certain that Fr. Fester was lying–after all, he could have been repeating Team Jonah’s talking point. My problems are that (a) Fr. Fester persisted in the face of eye witness testimony to the contrary and (b) his aim was clearly for Bishop Mark to change his statement that the Metropolitan was indeed put on an Absence of Leave.

                    • You have a habit of arguing secondary evidence in order to promote a premise that suits you but is not confirmed by any evidence. People sense this, thus the questions about your motivations despite your words. It is something you bring on yourself, just as you argue above that you don’t really call Fr. Fester a liar yet leave clear the implication that he is:

                      Regarding Father Fester, Father Fester’s letter to the DOS priests and his attempt to get Bishop Mark to lie on behalf of Metropolitan Jonah amply justify Father Hopko’s rightful condemnation of him.

                      So you don’t come right out and say Fr. Fester is a liar — yet there is no room for doubt, at least in your mind if we take you at your word, that a liar is exactly what he is. (That’s also why you invoked Fr Hopko.) There really is no difference between compelling a person to lie on your behalf and lying yourself, but it’s a distinction you draw not to excuse Fr. Fester, but to excuse yourself.

                      You need to face up to fact that you smeared Fr. Fester. No amount of the ever increasing words you supply can erase this. The error is yours. You entered in territory you know nothing about and pontificated as if you did. When people do this someone usually gets hurt. The intention was to smear Fr. Fester, but it has come back to bite you.

                    • One other point. Motivation is not a constraining emotion. But, since you used the term, the logical question becomes: motivated to do what? Looking at the energy you put into your increasingly obscure explanations, it looks like your motivation to smear Fr. Fester is as hard as concrete.

                      Why don’t you come out and admit what everyone already knows: the reading of the two bits of ‘evidence’ you supplied has been manipulated to paint Fr. Fester in the worst possible light — something you hold forward as fact.

                      By the way, I don’t even know Fr. Fester. I just don’t like seeing people get smeared.

                  • If Carl is an attorney, perhaps his courtroom technique before a jury is to drop incriminating photos of the rape victim, and when the proscecutor objects, and the judge sustains the objection, he just smiles and insures that the jury gets a good look at the photos that have nothing to do with the case. His objective is to introduce doubt and smear the victim, knowing that instructions to the jury to ignore said photos will sear them more deeply in the jury’s mind.

                    Rather then look at the facts head on, it seems that Mr. Kraeff advocates the Stokoe theory of the retreat conversation without dicernment or analysis. He now comes to this comments section to advocate (dare I say shill?) for the Stokoe assertion. All this is done without any on-the-ground data, but rather information from his Syosset and Stokoe contacts. Is it any wonder that he argues and slanders in this way? If you yell the big lie loud enough, and often enough, those who are not paying close attention will take away your assertion as fact.

                    But the commenters here seem to be paying attention.

                    Carl’s prey, however, are the lurkers who read/skim but do not comment.

                    Meanwhile, back in Dallas, it became clear that Bishop Mark, after putting his finger into the political winds, decided to throw in with Team Stokoe. He ignored the bishop under whom he served as auxiliary, that is Met. Jonah, but spent a lot of time positioning with the ‘appalled four.’ All this time he was reading emails that did not belong to him and sent an undetermined number of them on to Mr. Stokoe. But then, he developed a working relationship with Mark Stokoe in his last jurisdiction, while Bishop Phillip was receiving the Stokoe smear treatment.

                    Bishop Mark had no vote on the Synod. If he had been prudent, he would have stayed out of this skirmish totally. If he had done that, he would probably be the Bishop of the DOS today. Thank God he showed his colors before that occurred.

  13. Carl Kraeff has said often that he is a “process guy.”
    I’m wondering what he means and implies by saying that,
    and why he thinks that makes him more enlightened than other posters here?

    • Because I am not a cultist like a many others here.

      • equivocate |iˈkwivəˌkāt|
        verb [ intrans. ]
        use ambiguous language so as to conceal the truth or avoid committing oneself

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Carl, that’s a cheap shot. Not one of us is a cultist. You though very much appear to be a hater. The fact that you can’t cut +Jonah one measely little break settles it for me. And what did Fester ever do to you?

      • Read It And Weep says

        Carl,

        What did Fr Fester ever do to you to be the focus of so much emotionalism on your part. That short-lived blog you pointed us to yesterday goes to great pains to stress how emotionalism is wrong, yet you persist in demonizing someone, who, and correct me if I am wrong, you have never met. A priest who, apparently you have come to know through the pages of OCAN and the biased filter of Mark Stokoe and the anonymous author of the above mentioned blog.

        You seem to go back and forth between apologizing for going too far in your assertions about Fester, and then you call him a liar. Maybe you need to take a step back and calm down for your own spiritual welfare. Fester is neither saint nor serpent, as you called him, or at least parroted from that website. You can keep up your campaign against him but unless you know Fester’s heart of hearts, you tread on shaky spiritual ground.

        • You are right that I am not unemotional. I think I may be experiencing the feelings of a disappointed admirer of the Metropolitan. I do have contacts in the DOS and I have heard from numerous trusted sources that the biggest problem that the Metropolitan had was listening to the wrong person. It has been made clear that +Jonah’s swengali was Father Fester. Another possibility is that I am projecting my disappointment with +Jonah unto Fr Fester.

          • Two assertions: +Jonah listened to the wrong person (singular) and Fr. Fester was +Jonah’s Swengali leading to the conclusion once again that Kraeff blames Fr. Fester. After all, “It’s been made clear…” Really?

            All this is contextualized in the emotion of disappointment, as if these unsubstantiated assertions carry authority because they engendered some negative feelings in the author. Yet even here, who is to blame for the negative feelings? Why +Jonah of course. And if +Jonah, then Fr. Fester too!

            Do you expect us to sympathize? Anyone with a clear mind can see the point here is not to express your disappointment, but to take another hit at +Jonah and Fr. Fester. Your disappointment is merely the rhetorical container that carries it. Yet, just to ensure that no one can come back and accuse you of working against Fr. Fester you come up with this:

            Another possibility is that I am projecting my disappointment with +Jonah unto Fr Fester.

            Leave the self-analysis at home, especially if you are tempted to use it to besmirch other people.

            • Mr Ian James–This will be my last reply to you. If you insist that my statement was the equivalent of saying that Father Fester lied, so be it. I can see how you can arrive at that interpretation. Nonetheless, my conscious is clear; I have done nothing but throw light on Father Fester’s own words and actions. He has convicted himself all by himself. And, he gets no apology from me.

              • Read It And Weep says

                So now you don’t apologize. Carl, why don’t you just make this your LAST statement here. Period. You really should get some help. Your passions have gotten the better of you. I will pray for you.

                • Read It And Weep says:
                  September 17, 2011 at 12:19 pm

                  So now you don’t apologize. Carl, why don’t you just make this your LAST statement here. Period.

                  Give Mr. Kraeff a break–he’s entitled to his opinions, conjectures, and interpretations. Speaking of which, I’ve read plenty from other posters here, including some pretty harsh rhetoric.

  14. Geo Michalopulos says

    All, I think we are missing another point in this whole fracas. I should have seen it myself. Namely, that as bad as this all is, does anybody really think that Mr Gillam, this benefactor, likes being compared to the villain Bernie Madoff? I mean, what a slap in the face!

    Prediction? Gillam is probably so pissed right now that the OCA just probably made him an enemy. Completely unnecessarily in my opinion. But what could we expect when the moral formation of some of our priestly luminaries is so defective that –as is the case with Fester’s e-mails–they accept the immoral principle of The End Justifying the Means.

    And before anybody thinks that I’m making a judgment, I ask this simple question: Did you hear any of our priestly luminaries condemn Bp Mark/Stokoe for what he did to Fr Joe? To the contrary, they praised Stokoe to the high heavens as the font of all wisdom and journalistic integrity.

    • Dear George,

      I am not sure which priestly luminaries you are referring to in your previous post. Anyone who did praise Mark Stokoe as the font of all wisdom and journalistic integrity is someone whose opinion is not worth bothering about anyway. But whoever they are, these luminaries, on what hard evidence are they to condemn Bishop Mark or Mark Stokoe for theft. Your website has produced a narrative of what happened. I have yet to see Bishop Mark’s version of events set down in writing for all to see. Doesn’t common fairness demand at least that much before our “priestly luminaries” start the condemning?

      It seems to me that there are so many accusations being flung around our OCA now. And so few are backed up by solid evidence. Whisper, whisper, whisper go the rumor mills, and everyone creates his own meta-narrative into which he fits each “gotcha” disclosure. It really is sad.

      Regards,

      SAM

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Sam, two of the luminaries who actually bowed down before St Stokoe were Frs Hopko and (drum roll please)…Oleksa.

        As for Bp Mark, I offer the offices of this blog to publish his side of the story without any comment from me.

        • Dear George,

          I don’t look at your blog all that often (apologies!), so perhaps I missed Bishop Mark’s explanation. Is it archived here?

          SAM

    • Some moose are like that says

      Geo Michalopulos says: Gillam is probably so pissed right now that the OCA just probably made him an enemy.
      Does this mean Bp Benjamin and Fr Oleksa aren’t getting the donation for the $1M bishops mansion then?

      The bishops and priests of the Holy Orthodox Church shouldnt be involved with this issue taking sides and dividing people against people. If you think the Orthodox Church should be involved then don’t be hypocrites about it – go after the concrete cities, oil business, chemical farming – all these go about killing the earth and the life in it in some way or another and it’s already happened everywhere. Pebble is not even a mine yet but I guess some people can predict the future.

    • Just did some checking with sources in Alaska. Feeling is Pebble will ultimately win this battle based on the players in backing the development process. Pebble will have to through a grueling permitting process ( best guess is 7-10 years) and will be monitored extensively.

      Second, comment was the statistics used to discuss “contamination are very, very old. There have been no contamination violations based on company error in quite a long time (10 years or more). The most recent event was due to sabotage from an “environmental group” at Fort Knox.

      It could be considered illegal for Mr. Gillam out of his generosity were to provide any support to the church, that might be considered “payback” for the churches involvement in this “noble” battle.

      So I guess the good Father maybe wishing and hoping for more than will ever appear. Mr Gillam is a very prominent fish in a rather small fish bowl, so he will be watched and donations tracked.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Remnant, I still can’t wrap my head around why anybody in his right mind would glowingly call somebody a “Madoff.” That’s about as praiseworthy as calling somebody you like “Caligula.” Sometimes I feel like I’ve gone through some vortex and I’m living in the alternate universe where Mr Spock wears a goatee.

        • Lola J. Lee Beno says

          I know someone who is related by marriage to someone who is related to Madoff and that person was forced to move to a place that is despised by said friend because Madoff relative wanted to get away from the stigma. I agree, it’s not a honor to be called a “Madoff”. And no, friend did NOT benefit in any way from Madoff’s antics.

        • George

          With out researching the time line, the reference may have happened before the fall of Mr. Madoff. At that point in time Madoff was considered one of the most effective and inventive fund managers on Wall Street. And his representation of his wealth was legendary. So if the comment was made prior to the fall of his Fund and his unmasking as a ponzi king, would have been a flattering comment.

          • Madoff was exposed as a fraud almost three years ago. Would this have been that long ago?

            • Helga

              Yup, it could have been! I first heard of the Pebble Project in 2005 or 06.

              • May be the following entry from Wikipedia can help. It doesn’t look like an ordinary person would have known that Madoff was a crook until 2008.

                “Concerns about Madoff’s business surfaced as early as 1999, when financial analyst Harry Markopolos informed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that he believed it was legally and mathematically impossible to achieve the gains Madoff claimed to deliver. According to Markopolos, he knew within five minutes that Madoff’s numbers didn’t add up, and it took four hours of failed attempts to replicate them to conclude Madoff was a fraud. He was ignored by the Boston SEC in 2000 and 2001, as well as by Meaghan Cheung at the New York SEC in 2005 and 2007 when he presented further evidence. He has since published a book, No One Would Listen, about the frustrating efforts he and his team made over a ten-year period to alert the government, the industry, and the press about the Madoff fraud.

                Although Madoff’s wealth management business ultimately grew into a multi-billion-dollar operation, none of the major derivatives firms traded with him because they didn’t think his numbers were real. None of the major Wall Street firms invested with him either, and several high-ranking executives at those firms suspected he wasn’t legitimate.

                Others also contended it was inconceivable that the growing volume of Madoff accounts could be competently and legitimately serviced by his documented accounting/auditing firm, a three-person firm with only one active accountant.

                The Federal Bureau of Investigation complaint says that during the first week of December 2008, Madoff confided to a senior employee, identified by Bloomberg News as one of his sons, that he said he was struggling to meet $7 billion in redemptions. According to the sons, Madoff told Mark Madoff on December 9 that he planned to pay out $173 million in bonuses two months early. Madoff said that “he had recently made profits through business operations, and that now was a good time to distribute it.” Mark told Andrew Madoff, and the next morning they went to their father’s apartment and asked him how he could pay bonuses to his staff if he was having trouble paying clients. With Ruth Madoff nearby, Madoff told them he was “finished,” that he had “absolutely nothing” left, that his investment fund was “just one big lie” and “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme.” According to their attorney, Madoff’s sons then reported their father to federal authorities. On December 11, 2008, he was arrested and charged with securities fraud.

  15. Alternative perspective on the Pebble Mine Project:

    “The state-of-the-art Pebble Mine Project has spent three years and $120 million performing exhaustive environmental reviews, the most in U.S. history, to ensure the project will have a minimal impact on the environment while extracting the precious resources we depend on in our society.”

  16. cynthia curran says

    Well, the Byzantines also could not be considered being great on water pollution after the Plague of the 6th century the old Roman Sewage System usually couldn’t as a whole be repaired-lack of wealth as we head into the 7th century and beyond. A lot of people particulary poorer ones just dumped their bad sewage in the streets or in the sea or rivers and so forth. So, why do the native Americans have to be force to be purer in this respect.

  17. Hello,

    I think everyone needs to mind their own business. Period. The mine will be awful for Bristol Bay, short term financial gain is no concern. So what if Bishop Benjamin rode on a rich mans plane. Really, seems the activist element in the OCA likes to call anyone they detest an “activist”. This milieu of distrust and paranoia and , frankly, insubordination—respect your masters—-is abhorrent. It really is none of your business what they do, this isnt some church born in 1920, Kansas, one that you can inspect and treat as if its a democratic western instittution. stop, or leave.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Herman said: “…this isnt some church born in 1920, Kansas, one that you can inspect and treat as if its a democratic western instittution. stop, or leave.”

      That may be, but neither is it a clerical dictatorship in which the laity have no say. It is a hierarchal community based on the communion with each other through the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We all bear oneanother’s burdens and we are all responsible for the maintenace of the health of the body. The higher up one is in the hierarchy, the more responsibility is born and the greater the burden, but it is not solely theirs.

      They are not our “masters” they are our servants. Prayerful gratitude and obedience should be the order of the day, but when abuse, malfesance and corruption exists, we are not required to acquiese to it and ignore it.

  18. Geo Michalopulos says

    For what it’s worth, one of my sources in Alaska sent me an e-mail about three days ago. It appears that the Pebble Mine Project was “overwhelmingly” upheld by the Superior Court of Alaska. “The key decision is a 154 page 10Mb file.”

    Some of the highpoints:

    “The plaintiffs failed to prove taht there was a long-term or harmful environmental impacts from Pebble’s drilling operations,

    “There is no persuasive evidence that drilling activites have caused impacts to fish or fish habitat,

    “The plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient to show that drilling activities have caused impacts to wildlife or wildlife habitat,

    “Pebble’s exploration activity has not excluded hunting guides, etc.”

    So, I guess this means that Pebble won and those who worked against it, lost.