The Lavender Mafia: Just a Conspiracy Theory?

Fr Brantley John Cox recently wrote a piece castigating many of His Beatitude’s supporters as “conspiracy theorists.” It’s rather well written and the graphic of the Great Seal of the United States with the All-Seeing Eye at the top of the pyramid is a nice touch. This insinuates that Jonah’s supporters are obsessed with the Illuminati and the Elders of Zion.

Would that it were true.

I’ve already demolished some of Fr John’s assertions in a reply. A quick re-cap:

1. There are homophilic priests in the OCA (Frs. Robert Arida, Ted Bobosh, and John Jillions have contributed essays and/or Facebook postings about their thoughts on this subject.

2. There are closed cabals on social networking sites that openly question the Church’s teaching. Inga Leonova’s site “Breaking the Silence” (recently resuscitated as Faith and Sexuality: An Orthodox Christian Conversation) was the most notorious (and she’s a communicant at Fr. Arida’s church), and then there’s this open letter crying out for more “tolerance,” signed by Joseph Clark and his coterie.

3. These networks are primarily concentrated in the Northeast (see: Fr Caleb Abetti, St. Jacob of Alaksa Mission, Northfield Falls, Vermont, Thoughts on Love).

Note that apart from Joseph Clarke and Inga Lenova (“Listening Group” tactics discussed here: Discourse on Sexuality & Reframing the Discussion), none fit the “gay crusader” mold, at least in public. Nonetheless, the priests involved refuse to affirm that sodomy is sin, and some openly support the homosexual agenda.

How deep does the moral corruption go? Hard to say but it seems to be growing. Not too long ago “Archbishop” Lazar Puhalo took the time to answer a ‘concerned’ Orthodox Christian who wanted to find a parish where Church discipline was not upheld. From Inga Lenova’s defunct Facebook group:

Lazar Puhalo I realise that it is not an abstract question, Inga. I do not now of even one parish where a Gay person, let alone a couple, could receive communion (OK, I do know of three on the West Coast of America, but I am not about to open them to attack by naming them). Honestly, I do not know of any anywhere else. I cannot speak for any diocese or any parish, so really, I cannot give you an answer, unless the people in question have the courage to attend the parish anyway, even if the priest has told them not to. Monday at 1:06am via · Like · 1

To the OCA Synod: When are you going to rein in Puhalo? He is supposed to be “rightly dividing the word of truth,” remember?

To show you how accepted same-sex behavior is at the primatial cathedral in Washington DC, consider this public announcement of a lesbian wedding:

Our Wishing Well

You see, sometimes conspiracies do exist, not the “Who Killed Kennedy” kind, but the type that congeals around decadent ideas and is fueled by human passion. It slides through the Church like an oil slick suffocating life along the way.

The homosexual activists and their fellow travelers are dragging the culture wars in the Church. No one argues that homosexual pathology needs a proper pastoral response or that people struggling with the passion deserve anything less than any other sinner. (I struggle with my own sins and constantly seek pastoral guidance as well.) But the people listed above are calling for more than human kindness and moral instruction. They want moral legitimacy for homo-genital activity.

Moreover, it is naive to argue that their anger against Jonah was not due in part to his unequivocal defense of the moral tradition when they brought these questions to the surface and forced him to confront them. Do you think that any of the aging activists in Lenova’s group demand anything less than the sanctioning of sodomy?

Jonah’s removal has revealed a fault line. But they created the fault, not the traditionalists, who for the most part are cognizant of their own sins and are not in any way engaged in a stoning campaign against homosexuals. And unless the traditional teaching and praxis on human sexuality is made clear and those who would change it are not corrected and disciplined, then the OCA will go the way of the Episcopalian Church. Difficult times lie ahead.

Bishops, are you listening?


  1. George

    I believe the essay was written by Fr Brantley John Cox?

  2. I see that “Lazar Puhalo” is quoted in this lead article as saying “I do not now of even one parish where a Gay person, let alone a couple, could receive communion (OK, I do know of three on the West Coast of America, but I am not about to open them to attack by naming them).” How slimily typical! Either he knows or he doesn’t, for heaven’s sake! If he’s not going to open them to attack, why mention them? Actually “Lazar Puhalo” was incorporated into the episcopate of The Orthodox Church in America several years ago over my long objections. The ;process that allowed that to happen was the first slip onto the slope that led to today’s events. By the way, Puhalo is the latest of the man’s aliases: “Buehler” and “Haler” were his previous surnames. Now, I don’t know what parishes he refers to. And I’m not sure how he knows of three of them. He must have a way of keeping track. Perhaps he gets “progress reports’ from time to time? I DO know that one choir directress out here pays members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles to sing in her church choir. Also, for a time she persuaded the clueless and inept Rector to engage a man to run the parish web page who turned out to be a gay rabbi. Perhaps he, too, sings in the choir. Jewish…gay…this is tolerated. I believe the rabbi was let go from running the web page, but he may still be singing in the choir. The assistant rector justified that as missionary in nature because he knows of a Jewish woman who converted to Orthodoxy after singing for fifteen years in the choir of a parish where he used to serve as Rector.
    Allowing the Archdeaon in Miami to resume his cohabitation with the Bishop is like a trial step, like a toe, testing the waters. What they really may be aiming for is for one hierarch to further test the water by ‘coming out.’ Then others could do so, and “the problem will be solved.” Who will be the first one to “come out?” You first read it here!

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

      I DO know that one choir directress out here pays members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles to sing in her church choir.

      I don’t know why, after all that’s happened, but I’m shocked, shocked.

      • geo michalopulos says

        I wish I could say I was

        • Hamartolos says

          His Grace is correct, I’m afraid. The choir director in question is Julia Azrael, who directs the English choir at Holy Virgin Mary in Los Angeles. Her hiring of members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles to sing in the English choir, along with the decision of the current rector, Fr John Strickland, to allow one such singer, a man named Ed Salm, to act as Holy Virgin Mary webmaster, has been a source of scandal and division in the parish for more than two years now. This attempt to “mainstream” the homosexual agenda at Holy Virgin Mary is approved by a small renovationist clique in the parish but is a source of grief and scandal to the faithful majority. Sadly, it seems of a piece with larger trends in the Diocese of the West, as documented on this site by Fr Martin Gardner and others.

          • I realize many of us are upset with much of what has happened within the OCA, but with all due respect, I think commenters on this site go too far at times, and this is one case. I happen to know Fr. John Strickland well and he is hardly part of some larger movement to promote a “homosexual agenda” (whatever that might be). He inherited a situation (indeed, many situations) and is doing his best to work through these prayerfully. I think we would all be better served to be more circumspect in how we discuss one another or others on this (or any other) site. There are times when someone clearly chooses to ignore prudence and the Orthodox Tradition. In those moments, yes, we should question it, but I think some comments, including this one, go a bit far.

            • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

              Fr. Oliver, it’s hardly going too far to say that Fr. John Strickland is very wrong to allow singers from the Gay Men’s Chorus to be paid to sing in his church. If things are that bad there, and if he can’t stop this pernicious practice himself, he needs to bring in his bishop to stop it or close down the place.

              • My point is that we do not know what all the situations are in the parish and in what order Fr. John is trying to address those various situations. Also, I am trying to point out that to assume that he is trying to promote some larger agenda is to misread him. I think many commenters on here are too quick to judge and I definitely believe this to be the case in the case of my friend. My understanding is that he is addressing things a step at a time. I wouldn’t presume that means he is not addressing the situations. Indeed, he is addressing them pastorally and carefully.

                • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                  Well maybe a little national attention and righteous indignation will help him and his bishop speed things up.

                  Honestly, how long has this been going on? And what possible excuses could justify the delay, except, “Well, then they won’t pay my salary”?

                  • Hamartolos says

                    I’ve learned this evening that the comment I posted last night has created a false impression, which I don’t mean to create, and I need to clarify: I don’t claim that Father Strickland himself supports or is trying to mainstream the “gay” agenda. Father Strickland is a family man who is the father of five children, and I actually get the impression that his social and political views are on the conservative side. When I wrote “His Grace is correct I’m afraid,” I should been clear that His Grace is correct that openly gay singers were hired for the parish choir, but they were actually hired before Father Strickland became rector of the parish — it was sloppy of me to sound as if Father Strickland was rector when this happened, he wasn’t, and the division in the parish over it dates to before his arrival there. And while it definitely seems like a poor choice let one of those singers be the parish webmaster, again, to my knowledge Father Strickland himself did not at any time endorse the singers’ “gay” lifestyle. There do seem to be people in the O.C.A. who have already gone that far, or are trying to “test the waters” about doing it in the future, but I don’t have any evidence that Father Strickland is one of them. So please let me apologize for the false impression about that my post yesterday created, especially to Father Strickland himself.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Hamartolos, do you have any facts to correct or any facts to add? If not, you haven’t given the wrong impression. My impression is that this is an appalling situation that the priest has not corrected because he thinks correcting it will cause more grief than it’s worth. That’s just the problem. The priest apparently isn’t as appalled by the situation as he should be. He thinks correcting it is not worth the pain, but it is.

                      I heard the same excuse from the priests at St. Nicholas, including +Jonah himself. They confessed themselves to be of the right opinion, admitting that women married to other women shouldn’t commune, but they continued to commune them because they were more worried about other things and feared that cutting the women off would cause too much grief.

                    • I heard the same excuse from the priests at St. Nicholas, including +Jonah himself.

                      I was aware of Fr. Denis, but +Jonah condoned this himself? Pfft.

                    • Hamartolos is 100% on the mark here. The hiring of Jewish and openly homosexual singers by the choir director preceded the appointment of Reverend Strickland; however, it has not been kept a secret from him by any means: it was even discussed at parish council meetings recently. When Mrs. Azrael’s husband who was not a Christian, but Jewish, died, one of those men went to Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn to play the piano at the burial service in the cemetery’s chapel. Mrs. Azrael was known widely prior to her marriage to Jeremy Azrael as Julia Holm. At one time she was directing the choir at the Christ the Savior Church in Manhattan. Obviously, she must have got married outside the Church long ago. Recently, Father Strickland, rather than holding a parish meeting to do so, appointed her as a parish delegate to the All-American Council in Seattle, that is, he asked parishioners to “stop by the office to vote for Julia” and another woman he appointed to be voted for in the office. Since one may NOT be a delegate if one has been married outside the Church, she MUST have been married to an unbaptized person by some priest or other, no? ‘ve never ever blessed anything like that myself. It’s not clear how Mrs. Azrael made contact with members of the L.A. Gay Men’s Chorus, probably socially. Reverend Strickland has a PhD in history and teaches at Loyola Marymount University. He’s well-known for his lectures (see the student evaluations on line) and his sermons and writings in the parish bulletin. In an article “On Holy Russia” he, the PhD in history, wrote that Communism is an ideology that originated in Russia, and that Lenin concocted it! By the way, the once huge Crystal Cathedral built almost single-handedly through the congregation-building skills of Reverend Schuler, was recently purchased by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as having shrunk and declared bankruptcy. Reverend Strickland is going to be teaching full-time at the new St. Katherine’s College near San Diego, and he will be attached to the St. John of Damascus Church, Poway, V. Rev. Alexander Fedorov, Rector.
                      After the previous Rector, Archpriest Michael Senyo, who had been appointed to the parish by me, tried to address that matter and others relative to the choir director’s performance, Madame Azrael conferred with then Bishop Benjamin, an old friend and associate, about the deficiencies she and a couple others perceived in HIS ministry, whereupon Bishop Benjamin released Father Michael to serve in another diocese, at the Cathedral in Pittsburgh. Father Nicolas Boldireff, whom Mister Chris Banescu knows, was in charge, then, until the arrival of Reverend Strickland.
                      Reverend Strickland is known for his enthusiasm for Julia Azrael and her choir.
                      Just sayin’

                    • Vladyka,

                      Like you, Fr. Senyo left under his own steam and for his own reasons. It’s wrong to suggest otherwise.

                    • CQ! I never said that Father Michael Senyo did not leave under his own steam. I told the truth about some matters that preceded his departure from L.A. to Pittsburgh. Mme. Azrael and another L.A. parishioner DID confer with Bishop Benjamin, though, BEFORE Bishop Benjamin let Father Michael know that Bishop Benjamin would contact Bishop Melchizedek and see to it that he were offered a chance to VIE for the assignment in Pittsburgh. There were many reasons, good ones, to encourage Father Michael to leave his post in L.A. a parish which he loved. The crux of the matter was the health and aging of his Father and the welfare of Susanne’s folks as well. I have a right, however, CQ, to hold to my conviction that Father Michael might have toughed it out here in L.A. had not Mme. Azrael and those of similar mind (and piety) with her not shown their enmity so the Bishop so devastatingly!.

                    • Fr. Michael made it clear for a long time how strongly he wished to be back in PA.

                      His feelings were not a secret, and they had little to do with the various and sundry personalities that troubled his parish in Los Angeles.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Fr Oliver, I accept that life is difficult and that leaders have to make prudential decisions on how to best navigate through life’s many minefields. But you know, sometimes it’s best to just take the Metropolitan Philip approach on certain matters, esp regarding this issue: “We do not discuss abominations in our archdiocese.”

              Does that mean that he’ll lose some support? That’ he’ll piss people off? That he’ll have to hurt somebody’s feeling? Yeah. But the alternative is to accept the corrosive effects of this sin into the Church.

              • Having trouble following your point regarding Metropolitan Philip. I didn’t think he entered this conversation at all. Anyhow, as I noted to the good deacon, my point is that some commenters seem a little too quick to judge on here. I think we should all slow down a bit. I know Fr. John and I know he’s not your problem. He’s working with difficult situations as best he can.

                • Michael Bauman says

                  Fr. Oliver, its obvious isn’t it: Met. Philip has no truck with any softening of the moral tradition on homosexuality.

                  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it once more: As a communicant in the AOCA I have absolutely no impediments to practicing as full an Orthodox life as I can stomach and am constantly encouraged to go more deeply into my faith by my community, my priest and my bishop.

                  While I don’t particularly like Met. Philip or support everything he does, there are a lot of things I just do not have to deal with. We have some folks in our community who struggle with same sex attraction, but they struggle and are otherwise active in the parish in numerous ways. Its not a problem or disruptive in anyway. In fact, IMO, it is a strength.

                  When Met Philip decides to repose, we will have what I judge as a very strong coterie of bishops to carry on under (most likely) Archbishop Joseph’s leadership as Metropolitan.

                  I for one am truly greatful for Met. Philip despite his shortcomings. Something I never thought I would say.

                  The fact is that of all the current nihist garbage trying to infiltrate the mind of the Church, the normalization of homosexuality is one of the worst. There simply should be no compromise on it or any appearance of any compromise.

                  There should be no non-Orthodox singing in our choirs, especially not those who apparently have no regard for the faith at all.

                  • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                    Fr. Oliver,

                    Reading you defense of your friend, I can’t help but imagine the Corinthians protesting to St. Paul after reading chapter 5 of his first epistle: “Oh, but master, you shouldn’t be too quick to judge. The situation is more complex, and we’re addressing it step by step. We can’t just cast out the fornicator because he and his friends give a lot of money to the congregation, which won’t survive without them.”

                    And of course you know that Bishop Benjamin can fix things with just one word: “Stop.”

                  • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                    NOTE TO GEORGE: George, this is the scandal you should be focusing on, not Metropolitan Jonah. +Jonah is a sunken ship. Time to redirect your fire to where it will do more good.

                  • Geo Michalopuls says

                    Deacon, I am in no ways trying to revive the pastorate of His Beatitude. For his sake, I’m glad it’s over. All I care about is the truth getting out. And it looks to me that he was railroaded out. Why? Not only because of gay cabals, but because of a deep instituional mediocrity that has little comfort with engaging the culture.

                  • Pravoslavnie says

                    >>railroaded out…. because of a deep institutional mediocrity that has little comfort with engaging the culture.<<

                    I agree with George on this.

                  • Rev Deacon, I responded hastily (but correctly IMHO) earlier to your request that I should concentrate my fire on these gay cabals. Would you permit me to disagree? I am just a layman in the Church. It is the duty of the bishops to teach, preach, admonish, and discipline. Instead, I ask you to direct this request to them.

                    As for myself, I will continue to comment on those things which Monomakhos is famous for: religion, culture, and politics, offering reasoned analysis and opinion if necessary.

                    If the bishops are more interested in stabbing their primate in the back rather than engaging the culture, then we are truly lost. We will have to rely on the Roman Catholic hierarchy and any other Christian denominations which choose to remain stalwart and unafraid.

                    Shame on us.

                  • Patrick Henry Reardon says

                    Michael Bauman knows, “Met. Philip has no truck with any softening of the moral tradition on homosexuality.”

                    Nor with other sorts of sexual deviance.

                    Observe how quickly things HAPPENED in Fairfield, CA this summer:

                    Someone finds photographs indicative of child abuse and pornography on the part of the priest.

                    This person immediately reports discovery to the Los Angeles Antiochian diocese. The victims (currently between the ages of 20 and 24) are identified from the photographs.

                    The police are summoned by the diocese; the victims are questioned by the police.

                    That very night the priest is arrested.

                    The next morning the diocesan web page announces that the accused priest is removed from the priesthood, “effective immediately.”

                    Meanwhile, the diocese summons a highly qualified counselor to help the victims.

                    Metropolitan PHILIP has a pastor’s sense of the difference between sheep and wolves.

                    He doesn’t agonize over the difference, or remain uncertain what to do about it.

                    This is obviously true, as well, of Archbishop JOSEPH.

                    This kind of leadership filters down through the Archdiocese, and the rest of us bless God for it.

          • To add to this disgrace is that this same HVM choir director has been (dating) romantically involved with someone for several months, no doubt another Jewish person, outside of wedlock; yet she continues to conduct the choir in “holy singing.” So much for the high morals at the cathedral.

            If an Orthodox choir director is allowed to continue in such sinful behavior while conducting a church choir, what would prevent a gay non-Orthodox person from singing in the choir? The SIN is of equal value!!!


      • another one says

        Leaving aside the gay stuff, she pays people to sing in the choir???????

        • M. Stankovich says

          I always thought it was a little odd when I went to St. Nicholas Cathedral (ROC) E 97th St, NYC, back in the day. They would take a collection during the liturgy specifically for the choir. The baskets said “XOP.” Definitely wasn’t worth the “price of admission,” if you know what I mean. One time they even had Nicholai Gedda of the Metropolitan Opera up there (he made his rounds of the Russian churches and always seemed to have a solo). All you could hear was Nicholai Gedda. Although I still only heard change going into the basket.

          Wow, and now as I recall, in 1974 I walked with Bishop Makary (Svistun) (ROC) to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign (ROCOR) on 93rd St. for Forgiveness Vespers! Met. Philaret was most gracious to Bishop Makary, though Bp. Makary asked me if I heard the subdeacons whispering, “Communist.” I didn’t, but we had a good laugh. Imagine, dumbass me was the only seminarian of the ROC in the US for three years!

          I need to quit working at night.

          • M. Stankovich. That post of yours tells us a LOT about you and your ideological slants, posting here!
            Incidentally, it was rather common in really Russian parishes (none of them in the Exarchate/Diocese of Archbishop Makary) to have two or more collection baskets at Divine Liturgy. Customarily, after the Priest or Bishop, concludes the Anaphora with “…and the mercies of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, be with you all!” At the words, “be with you all”, the priest or bishop turns to the west and blesses the congregation, and usually the people appointed to receive the people’s offerings have come down front to receive that blessing before circulating withe baskets during the ensuing ekteniya. One basket might have no placard or else, simply, “Church”. Another might have “Choir”. Another might have ‘Sisterhood”. Another might have “Charity Sunday”, and so on. Was that your first venture into a really Russian-style setting, the only one in the MP parishes here?

            • M. Stankovich says

              Vladika Tikhon,

              Funny thing, now that you mention it. It did cross my mind as to the authenticity of the Russians at the 97th Street Cathedral when I saw the tags, “fabriqués en Russie.” Maybe they were what are referred to as them “Parisian Rooskies” that everybody complained about. Hey, I was nineteen years old, and a gullible nineteen at that! But let me be on the record regarding my ideology: I was not, nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party, Senator McCarthy!” And the real distinguishing characteristic that set me apart like the proverbial “sore thumb” was the vodka! Holy cow, they would start with the toasts, “To his holiness Alexei I…” “To his beatitude this, and his eminence that…” I mean, we weren’t even out of Moscow yet and I couldn’t stand up!

              Seriously, Vladyka Tikhon, why are you mocking some of my most precious memories? There isn’t enough hurt to go around?

              • Why am I mocking m. Stankovich’s most precious memories? Are those the collection plate and Nikolai Gedda’s singing to which M. Stankovich made mocking reference? I remember singing bass in the St.Nicholas Cathedral Choir of Washington DC at the Inauguration of the Kennedy Center concert we gave there. Nikolai Gedda was our soloist on a couple of our numbers on the concert program. He was a wonderful tenor and a good Orthodox Christian. Nikolai Vassilievich Borodulia was our conductor. All those singers in that choir were my good friends. Those were the days. Gone forever at St. Nicholas. I know, from experience, that they still have a complement of cranks on the inside track with the Metropolitan Soviet/SVS and so on. That will probably never change. ONE encouraging thing that I’ve learned is (I hope it’s true) that Valentina is the choir director there now? She’s the tops, and did an outstanding job when she directed out here in the Berkeley parish.

                • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                  Valentina or Veronica? Veronica, yes. Valentina, no.

                  • My mistake, Reverend Deacon. Thanks for the correction! My age is showing. I was speaking of a young woman whom I had a great deal of admiration for who directed the choir at St. John the Baptist Church in Berkeley. Her mother managed or had had something to do with managing the bookstore at Danilov monastery in Moscow. Some time ago, when I asked my good friend, Professor Olga Raevsky-Hughes about her, she said she was directing the choir in DC. Thanks, Reverend Deacon, for your polite correction. I wouldn’t want to give Herr Fall the idea that I had deliberately mauled her name for some unnamed, but, nevertheless, nefarious purpose(s)!!!!

    • Thank you, Vladyko, for the clarification on Ron Haler / Dcn Lev Puhalo. Wasn’t this man defrocked by ROCOR over 30 years as a Deacon for propagating the heresy of soul-sleep? Then, he went to various schismatic groups? And, he’s been crypto-pro-gay over the years.

      It’s too bad the Holy Synod didn’t listen to you back then. What a train wreck of a career … (his, not yours).

      • Toby Smith says

        I heard Puhalo once say in a public lecture that sometimes a man is born in a woman’s body, and vice-versa, and that perhaps medicine can resolve this. So much for HIS credibility.

      • Yes, Ron Haler, alias Ron Buehler, alias Lev Puhalo was ordained a Deacon in the ROCOR. There was at that time a well-known Priest in ROCOR, a convert, Father Seraphim Rose who is now WIDELY venerated as a Saint in various Local Orthodox Churches. Father Seraphim was traditionally pious and conventionally so, except in the degree of his piety which was limitless. In the course of his life and teaching he displayed the conventional prayerbook belief in the so-call Toll Houses. The Deacon Lev Puhalo, fastened on this as a weakness which might allow him to replace Father Seraphim as a leading light of the Church and he initiated a fierce and never ending battle against “belief in Toll Houses.” He branded such a belief “heresy.” “There began a struggle in letters and otherwise in print, and a division amongst believers hitherto unseen. The Synod of Hierarchs of ROCOR took an interest. Both Deacon Puhalo and Father Seraphim were directed to refrain from public disputation on the topic. The whole concept of Toll Houses was a matter of the Prayers of the Church, but such details of the Afterlife had not come down to us in the Holy Tradition and could not, therefor be affirmed or denied with authority. Deacon Puhalo, however, continued (as he still does today) to speak “with authority” and to deny authoritatively that the Toll Houses exist and “Belief In” them is a heresy. He did not exempt Jordanville’s Professor of Dogmatic Theology from his doctrinal condemnations of heresy. When he wouldn’t stop, he was directed by Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) to cease, to repent, and to enter the Holy Transfiguration Monastery (then still a monastery in good standing in ROCOR). Puhalo, obviously and patently could never submit to any higher ****spiritual***** authority than himself. He was deposed by the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR. He took refuge under the omophorion of the then schismatic Primate of the Free Serbs, Metropolitan Ireney. He told that Metropolitan that he had to leave ROCOR because Bishop Grabbe was trying to turn him into a homosexual by sending him to that monastery for that very purpose. (“To turn him into a homosexual…” it has a certain ring to it, no?) Then, according to Puhalo’s OWN narrative, submitted to the OCAs synod, ireney agreed that since ROCOR was a non-canonical and schismatic group it couldn’t depose Puhalo (but could ordain him????). so he received him and immediately ordained him to the (schismatic) priesthood.. Unfortunately Puhalo, however, the schismatics were received back into the Church of
        Serbia through Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory. Since the Serbian Church had always been in full communion with ROCOR, Puhalo had to find another place FAST. The only place available was the schismastic ‘Synod of Milan’ whose Primate was a certain Evloghios and who had two other hierarchical cohorts at that time. (Hearing the names of Euloghios and the others at an OCA Holy Synod session, Archbishop Peter burst out with: “But I know them! I know them all! They are all homosexuals. Euloghios was deposed himself as a Deacon! They are all the same!'” No one questioned Archbishop Peter’s assessment due to his long service and former life in Europe. Every member of the Holy Synod at that time heard Archbishop Peter: Metropolitan Theodosius, Archbishop Kirill, Archbishop Nathaniel, Bishop Dmitri, Bishop Gregory (Afonsky), Bishop JOB, Bishop SERAPHIM, Bishop Boris, Archbishop Herman. Every one of them. It was years after that, when Metropolitan Herman had become First Hierarch, that Archbishop Job, Bishop Seraphim again raised Puhalo’s banner in the Synod with the claim that “He’s a widely read Bishop, and he has a flourishing monastic community in western Canada, and it would be a great achievement in overcoming schisms if we would receive him into the OCA. He doesn’t want a diocese; he’s not interested in that. He just needs to be “brought home” (Seraphim) to the canonical Church!” By the way, by this time, Puhalo’s Milan Synod had made him an Archbishop in Canada, after having merged “canonically” (!!!) with “The Patrarchate of Kiev.” I rather forcefully opposed that, and I thought it had been put behind us. No action was taken whatsoever. However, the next Holy Synod meeting took place at St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary (from where Metropolitan Herman ruled the Diocese of New YOrk and WAHINGTON ). On my way to my car to drive myself (as I always did) to the airport, I had an attack of vertigo and fell down. I went back in the house and lay down for a while before calling the Chancery to ask them to let His Beatitude know I was indisposed and would not be attending that meeting of the Holy Synod (we didn’t have smart phones with Holy Synod Meeting apps then). I was literally horrified when I read that the Holy Synod had received the Puhalo as a ‘retired bishop.” I called Metropolitan Herman and asked him, begged him, to at least not concelebrate with that person until I had a chance to present all the evidence which showed such a reception to be wrong. I said I would not go into schism if, after my presentation, the Synod did not agree with me. He agreed. At the next scheduled meeting of the Synod at Syosset, I presented the case. There were about ten pages of documents, many of them authored by Puhalo, and evidence (including photos of him serving with non-canonical entities such as “Metropolitan Stephen of Cleveland and Mississaugua” who heads a gay-friendly pseudoChurch. (A married deacon, wanamaker, who with wife and children served at Father Gregory Safchuk’s parish, had announced he was gay and had left his wife for a man. He and Father Gregory came to me and asked what could be done (!!!!!!!!). Father Gregory finally said, “So, NOTHING can be done, Your Grace?” Later I was informed by that Wanamaker that there was nothing to worry about: he had been received by Metropolitan Stephen and “they have no problem with gays.”) After I had presented the case in full the hierarchs were excited and seemingly dismayed. So much head-shaking! So much “Well, we never knew about all that” and so on and so on. Then Archbishop Kirill, while Archbishop Peter nodded his head, said that the problem was that the announcement had been made. We could not reverse such a synodal decision without causing an uproar against the Synod and a scandal in the Church. Everybody looked at me. Metropolitan Herman said to me, “You said you would not go into schism if we did not reverse our decision, right?” I said “yes.” “Well, then,” says Herman, “That’s it.” I went around an picked up all the materials I had passed out. Perhaps they’ll go into an appendix to my memoirs-in-progress, I don’t know.
        Puhalo’s crusade against Toll Houses continues. By the way, I forgot to mention that Metropolitan Herman said he had asked someone from SVS to give us an opinion on Puhalo’s canonicity of lack of it. This turned out to be Father Alexander Rentel, a liturgical specialist and NOT, then, a canonist. When Metropolitan Herman turned to him for his opinon, he deigned to inform us that he had been over Puhalo’sentire record, and there was “nothing heretical in any of his teaching.” The others seemed to like that. I believe he had a child as Haler or Buehler, and the child may be buried at the monastery seminary
        He’s not a bishop. He’s a Deacon, deposed by the same Hierarchy that ordained him to the Diaconate.
        Ireney ordained him to the presbytery without ordaining him even to the schismatic diaconate, but accepting the ordination of ROCOR which he labelled schismatic and uncanonical.
        From that date until now, there have been no signs of God’s favor in the life of the OCA; in fact,in that connnection, one of the most vehement and persistent, forceful voices FOR receiving Puhalo was that of EVER-MEMORABLE Archbishop Job, second only to that of Bishop Seraphim (Storheim).

        • Thank you, your Grace, for making this institutional history known. Perhaps with the Holy Synod on a tear to retract the mistake they must feel they made in Pittsburgh, they’ll back up further and address a serious mistake such as this one? Perhaps they’ll address the Gregory Burke situation? Censure Bishop Nikon for receiving in his cathedral the Muslim Kosovar head of state without going through the Metropolitan’s office as the canons require and causing great strain in our relations with the Serbian Church?

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Actually, Ron Haler had two illegitimate children, one of whom is buried at the monastery.

        • Just for the record, I have not seen anything in writing about Lazar Puhalo being ordered to go to Holy Transfiguration Monastery, prior to his appeal to the OCA to be received. I doubt that it actually happened, I think it was concocted by Lazar Puhalo as a belated justification for his departure from ROCOR while under suspension. He was always very close with HTM while in ROCOR. He has most of the same pet peeves that they have. After he left ROCOR, and the charges against Fr. Panteleimon et al came out, he had a perfect opportunity to join the band wagon and state that this is why he left ROCOR, but instead he published in his own magazine that the charges were not true… and this was after he left, and so had no further fear of any repercussions for speaking out.

          • True, Father John, I only reported what Puhalo/Buehler/Haler WROTE to the Holy Synod in his sales package to be received by us. He WROTE that he told Metropolitan Ireney of the Serbinan Free Church prior to his reception by its Metropolitan Irenej, that Bishop Grabbe tried to MAKE him go to Holy Trsnsfiguration and be, therefore, FORCED to become a homosexual.
            I guess the Holy Synod should have asked HIM to write the recent letters attributed to them!

        • V.Rev.Andrei Alexiev says

          Your Grace,
          Master,Bless! One thing I don’t understand(not questioning Your Grace,since Your Grace is only reporting Puhalos tale).How could Metropolitan Ireney consider ROCOR “uncanonical”,when he himself was not only in schism from the Serbian Church,but had been made a bishop with the assistance of at least one uncanonical Ukrainian bishop acting as co-consecractor?(Later,his consecration was “regularised” by a Greek Old Calender group,and he did recocile with the Serbian Patriarchate throught the efforts of Patriarch Pavle of Blessed Memory).
          Even if ROCORS defrocking of Puhalo wasn’t taken into account,the Kyivan “Patriarchate” episcopacy is problematic.

          • The Lord bless you, Father Andrei!
            you’re quite right. There’s a further irony here. Puhalo lists his “apostolic succession” and, guess what? He ultimately traces that Succession to a long ago consecration by “Archbishop Anastassy of Kishinev.,” in other words, on ROCOR. Metropolitan Ireney, besides being an utter schismatic at the time he made that pronouncement (according to PUHALO’s report, remember), was not considered a mental giant.
            I mean to say that the Greek Old Calendar group that did the “recognizing” rested all the authority of its own Apostolic Succession on a hierarch who was consecrated by Archbishop Anastassy and some dubious types long ago. Most of those groups trace their ‘apostolic succession” to Archbishop Anastassy (Gribanovsky). Well, there are other reason enough for me to be condemned eternally, but one of them will NOT be that I concelebrated with a deposed deacon, thus deposing myself!!!!!

        • Alexander says

          Your Grace and Fr. Andrei,

          A couple of observations.

          I’m not an Archbishop Puhalo supporter and find much of what he says and writes disturbing. And none of this should be misconstrued as an apology in his favor. It rather is intended to give some factual background. In previewing this before I posted, it seems that you’ve prompted me to rise in the defense of Metropoltan Irinej.

          Reconciliation of the schism between the SOC and the New Gracanica Metropolitanate was reached “in principle” in April, 1991 between representatives of the SOC Synod, including Patriarch Pavle, and a delegation of clergy and laymen led by Metropolitan Irinej.

          By 1991, the Free Serbian Orthodox Diocese of the USA and Canada had changed its name to the Metropolitanate of New Gracanica — Diocese of the USA and Canada and was no longer known as “the Free Church” or “Free Diocese.”

          Eucharistic reconciliation was achieved on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord (Sretenje) on a chilly day in Belgrade, nearly a year later, in February, 1992.

          In working toward reconciliation, from roughly September 1988 to April 1991, a specially appointed committee of the Holy Synod of the SOC that included the current Metropolitan of Montenegro Amphilohicus and now-retired Bishop of Zahum, but then Archimandrite, Athanasius (Jevtich), fully investigated Metropolitan Irinej’s consecration and Apostolic succession. (Irinej was consecrated a bishop on the Feast of St. Catherine, December, 1963.) Amphilohicus, Athanasius, et al.’s findings — subsequently adopted by the SOC Synod and Holy Assembly — were that Irinej’s elevation to the episcopacy was performed by bishops in proper canonical standing at the time of the consecration. Their investigation took them to the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow, and I believe, the Moscow recognized Ukrainian Church in Kiev. Important links in the story were bishops of the Polish Church.

          The “validity” and canonicity of Irinej’s elevation was the reason why the SOC did not “re-consecrate” Irinej as a bishop as a condition precedent to reconciliation as had been demanded by some laymen and clerics of the Patriarchial side of the SOC.

          Furthermore, as part of the reconciliation, the Patriarchical Church found — for lack of a better descriptive word — “valid” all sacredotal acts, including confirmations, marriages, and ordinations performed by the clergy of Metropolitante and its three dioceses from May, 1963 when the schism started to February, 1992, when it ended. For the moment, I cannot find a copy of the document so as to quote precisely how it was understood and agreed, but the jist was that no-one needed to be “re”-confirmed, married, or ordained. Again, there were laymen and clerics on the Patriarchical side that demanded this to be done as a precondition to reconciliation.

          What’s unclear to me where on this time line Puhalo’s affiliation with the “Free Diocese” starts and ends and the circumstances of his “acceptance” and “release/separation.” I just don’t know or recall whether Bishop Dionisije had anything to do with Puhalo’s acceptance or whether he had already died or been incapacited by that time. This much is sure, unlike your brethren bishops of autocephalous OCA, the “Free Church” never considered Puhalo to be a suitable candidate for the episcopacy, leaving him to churn with little supervision, his mimeograph machine in, if I remember correctly, Chilliwick, British Columbia.

          As to Irinej himself, I believe that you sell him short. Academically, he was a graduate of Columbia University with honors and attended — if not graduated from — St. Vladimir’s seminary. He was shrewd and played down to the role of a wildly popular “people’s bishop.” He was contemptuous and uncomfortable with silly ecclesiastical pomp. And he was utterly disdained by his lifetime rival, an always “canonical,” never schismatic, but fully accomplished chain smoker and Mason, Metropolitan Christopher.

          In 1994, Irinej was happy to sign the ill-fated Ligionier Agreement. Irinej knew better than anyone how distant Patriarchates subject to tyrannical oppression of a foreign government stunted the spiritual lives of those of us living and praying in the dreaded diaspora.

          Like most of the rest of us, Irinej was imperfect and broken. Some would say he was really imperfect. He’ll never be confused as a saint. But, he’ll also never be confused to be among the company of perverted sodomites that appear to have latched onto reigns of power in never schismatic, recently declared, autocephalous churches.

          • Alexander, thanks for your posting about Metropolitan Irenej of blessed memory. I met him myself at the Ligonier meeting of Orthodox hierarchs. In fact, I SAT next to him and socialized with him there when almost NOONE else did, especially the Serbian Hierarchs associated with Metropolitan Christopher, whom you accurately characterized. I enjoyed his company. There were a couple other Serbian hierarchs there,but they stuck together: one of them wore either extreme elevator shoes or cowboy boots. I haven’t known many Serbian hierarchs, but I did meet ever-memorable Bishop Gregory (of the Western America) once, and I got to know and like Bishop Krisostom very much later on.
            Here, Alexander, i only reported what Puhalo/Haler/Buehler HIMSELF wrote about his reception into the “Free Serbian Church BY Metropolitan ireney, and his conversation with the same in which (Puhalo reports) Metropolitan Irinej AGREED that his deposition was of no effect because ROCOR was a “non-canonical church.” Again, I emphasize, I’m only quoting Haler/Buehler/Puhalo. I believe I’ve got his typed “vita” here somewhere in my papers, but at my age it will take me forever to find it. That he was ordained a Priest by Metropolitan Irinej is not in doubt. I knew of another “hierarch’ who was under Irinej for a while, a “Bishop Simon”, a former piano teacher, who ended up a layman. One day when Nicholas Geeza and I were having coffee in a restaurant, I spotted this character (who had always posed as “strict”, in a suit, talking with a couple other guys in suits. On my way out I spoke to him. His companions were Presbyterian psychologists, I think. i asked him why he why he was not in a Riassa (when I’d been a Deacon, and he in ROCOR, he had said to me, “Look at you, no one can tell WHAT you are in that clergy shirt!” He explained it was connected with his new occupation ‘on the side” as a therapist. The little blonde young man that used always to be with him was, like the Riassa, also absent. I asked him to what Church he was affiliated and he told me “The Serbian Free Church.” I asked, in friendly way, “What’s the “Free” mean?” He answered in an equally friendly way, of course, “Why, “free of politics”, of course!” We laughed and all went our separate ways.
            I’m sure that according to the time line Puhalo/Buehler/Haler gave us, his ordination took place before any substantial agreement between the Serbian and the Free group and certainly before there was any public knowledge of negotiations.And I’m sure that it was when the schism was healed by the only instance who really could achieve,Patriarch Pavle (the only hierarch in the Serbian Church at the time who found the Free Serbian episcopacy acceptable and thus MADE it so by fiat) that Puhalo left abruptly and joined up with the guys in the “Milan Synod.”

            • Alexander says

              Your Grace,

              Never anyone who went by the name of “Simon.” The bishops of the “Free Church”:

              1. Dionisije (Milivojevich)
              2. Dimitrije (Balach)
              3. Irinej (Kovachevich)
              4. Vasilije (Veinovich)
              5. Peter (Bankerovich)
              6. Damaskin

              Dimitrije and Peter died years before reconciliation. Vasilije was “transferred” to the postage stamp size Diocese of Milisevo in Serbia, where he also died within a few years. My belief — and its just that, a belief — is that Dionisije and Irinej secured “back channel” acquiescence from the Patriarchical church before Dimitrije, Peter and Vasilije were elevated.

              Damaskin — then a recently accepted and “unknown commodity” in the “Free Diocese” was another story entirely and a grand and epic mistake. Patriarchal back channels pleaded with Irinej not to make him a bishop. Despite great protests from clergy and prominent laity, he was elevated to the episcopacy in the 1989 – 1990 time frame.

              In fairly short order after the reconciliation, Damaskin was suspended and then defrocked. As a technical matter, he failed to respond to a summons from the proper church juridical bodies convened to address his “financial improprieties” committed while with the patriarchal church and before joining the “Free Diocese.”

              Very soon after reconciliation, the Patriarchal Holy Assembly elevated archimandrite Sava (Jurich) to the episcopacy. The American born son of a Croat father and Serbian mother, Sava was part of the “Free Diocese” for decades at the Monastery in Third Lake, Illinois. He’s been the bishop of Slavonia for what now has to be something approaching 20 years, and likely remains terribly disappointed that he was never able to be a bishop with a US flock.

              So, no “Free” bishop named Simon. And combing my memory banks, I’m hard pressed to think of any cleric associated with the “Free Diocese” by that name.

              Two other quick points as I complete this tangent in support of Metropolitan Irinej:

              First, Patriarch Pavle did nothing by “fiat” — regarding the “Free Church” bishops or any thing else. That decision finding the “Free Church” bishops “acceptable” was made by the SOC Syond and, then, the Holy Assembly. For a short period Pavle was the administrator of the post-reconciliation “Free Diocese” then known as the Metropolitanate of New Gracanica – Diocese of the USA and Canada after Irinej was incapacitated by a sudden and massive stroke. He flatly refused to act by “fiat,” though all things equal, he would have been well served to do so.

              Second, Patriarch Pavle — then a bishop in Kosovo — was the only SOC bishop to vote against the defrockment of Bishop Dionisije in 1963. He, like thousands of others, saw through the Titoist agenda executed by compromised SOC bishops to silence the politically outspoken Dionisije who was then the patriarchal bishop of the USA and Canada

              Which brings me to my last observation. The sad and tragic schism in the SOC had everything to do with “politics” and nothing whatsoever to do with Orthodox ecclesiology or theology. It was all about rejecting a completely and unabashedly compromised hierarchy resident in Yugoslavia. In North America, Western Europe, and Australia/New Zealand the issue was simple: stand by the throne of St. Sava in a great time of need and oppression or reject its utterly compromised authority exercised to wrongfully depose an outspoken bishop in the “diaspora.” So, its pitifully ironic to me that hardcore, disgruntled patriarchal clerics and laymen lamented that the Milosevic regime prodded and pushed the SOC Synod and Assembly to reconcile with the NGM because … Serbian “politics” demanded unity of the “Serbs.”

              Thanks for your patience.

              • Simon or Simeon was in the Free Serb Church as a Priest. I believe that he, like Puhalo, left when the possibility of elevation to the episcopate arose, in one of the calendarIST outfits.
                The man started out as a protestant minister and piano teacher in Long Beach, CA, who discovered the writings, first, of St. john Chrysostom. He said he had no idea that there was a REAL Orthodox Church today, so he went to the library and found a copy of a Liturgy of St. john Chrysostom, and begn using it in his mission. When he learned of the existence of Orhodox Churches, he approached Father Sergei Glagolev and Metropolitan Vladimir (Nagossky) and asked to be ordained an Orthodox Priest. They told him he would have to go to a seminary before getting ordained. He went away. Next I heard of him, he had been ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Filaret. He had approached then Father Alexander Mileat, then the Rector of the ROCOR parish on Argyle, who told him that in ROCOR he would not need to go to the seminary, but that he could be ordained a deacon and then taught and trained by Father Alexander. That happened. Next I heard, the man had left Father Mileant’s parish to join the nearby but then unfriendly parish of Bishop Anthony (Sinkiewicz) on Fountain. Next, Vladyka Anthony blessed him to found a monastery of the Twelve Apostles. Next, he left Vladyka Anthony to join the Free Serbian Church. Next he joined another calendarIST group and founded a theological Academy on Dillon Street and was made a Bishop. If I stated he was ever a bishop IN or OF the Free Serbian Church, I apologize, but I don’t think I wrote that, did I?
                I was once told by a Serbian Priest under Metropolitan Christopher’somophorion, that Christopher had had his wife murdered in a car accident so he could become a bishop, and that i could ask “Any Serbian Priest and he’ll tell you the same thing.!” Later on, I had occasion to mention that to Archbishop Peter (who enjoyed hearing it). At a subsequent meeting of the Holy Synod, Archbishop Peter looked across the table at me and said, “Vladyka Tikhon! What you said about Metropolitan Christopher is true: I asked Serbian priests and they all said so!” I have no idea whether the story is true: just sayin’.

                • Alexander says

                  I was responding to your statement that “I knew of another “hierarch’ who was under Irinej for a while, a “Bishop Simon”, a former piano teacher, who ended up a layman.” (Simon’s resume seems to read like a Rand-Macnally Road Map.)

                  As to Popadija Kovachevich’s repose decades ago, rumour and innuendo ran rampant. These days few people remember — or care to remember — what happened. Over time, here have been any number of stories, the truth of any of them appears to be known only to God. I have to say, however, that without a doubt the murder angle is a new one for me and is the most extreme.

                  The “conventional,” hush-hush, not uttered in polite company understanding was that she died at her own hands and a car accident was the “official” explanation. Although I never met her — and do not even remember her name — when the subject periodically comes up, I mourn for her for any number of reasons, one of which being how her end of life circumstances became such an emotionally detached very public, controversial, political football. I’m sure this is still very painful for their children.

                  She, I believe, lies somewhere in Ohio. He, ironically enough, put himself two plots west of the “schismatic” Bishop Dionisije and three of St. Nicholai on the south side of the church at St. Sava’s monastery in Libertyville, Illinois — disappointed that the Karadjordjevich dynasty and the Serbian government have not removed HM Peter II from his resting place in the chapel in time for him to be placed there. (BTW: Metropolitan Jonah served at his funeral and stunningly, at least to me, the Serbian hierarchs — Mitrophan, Longin, George, and Irinej of Australia — appeared completely non-plussed by it, probably relieved that they could melt into the background.)

                  One could view Christopher’s ascension and tenure through the lens of his exceedingly bitter rivalry with another Kovachevich, Metropolitan Irinej. Christopher “muscled out” other more competent widower priests in the USA then under consideration for the episcopacy. Irinej was spectacularly popular and loved by the “Free Church” adherents, a builder of many churches throughout the USA, Canada and Australia. At best, Christopher was tolerated by his flocks — at one time or another was variously the bishop and/or administrator of the Eastern, Midwestern, and Western dioceses; at worst, he was ridiculed and loathed by his clerics and laymen.

                  One last point in my uncharitable and less than Christian gossip and idle talk: After Irinej became a metropolitan (pre-reconciliation), Christopher threw a hissy fit until the SOC made him one too. In reconciliation, the SOC Synod threw Christopher a form over substance bone: though Irinej was consecrated a bishop before Christopher and held the honorific title metropolitan longer than Christopher, Christopher would always be listed ahead of Irinej in the official “batting order” of theh SOC hierarchs. Irinej could care less if he (Irinej) was listed after Assistant Dog Catcher and Apprentice Janitor.

              • Fr. Milan says

                Let’s be perfectly clear here the monk Dionisije (Milivojevich) was defrocked by Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church for disobiedence. He was never postumosly restored to the status of bishop when the unification occurred. All of the clergy of the ratsko church were reviewed by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church because there were those that were defrocked or had standing charges against them for good cononical reasons.

                Dionisije (Milivojevich) politicized the cononical charges that were brought against him. These were investigated by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church as a result of complaints from people here regarding moral and financial issues. When he as asked by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church to answer these charges he refused. This led to his being defrocked. His response to all of this was that the the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church was only doing the work of the communist government to discredit him. He politicized the issue in order to rallly the support of those that imegrated to the US after the Second World War and the subsequent civil war around him.

                It should also be noted that the US and the Allies put Tito Broz in power. It should also be stated that Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church was under a lot of pressure from the communists because they had no one to support them; Muslim had the Arab states and Roman Catholics had the Pope. Dionisije (Milivojevich) used that to his advantage to justify his misdeeds.

                The complaints about Dionisije (Milivojevich) orginated here in the the US not in the fromer Jugoslavia. The bishops were only responding to those complaints.

                The issue was about moral and financial issues never about politics. Politics was a tool to remain in power. As a point of reference ROCOR that was strongly anti-communist refused to accept Dionisije or his followers as Orthodox because they knew that the issue was not about politics.

                I personally lived through this battle. The answer to our prayers has been given to us we now have a united Serbian Church. We are putting these terrible events behind us and moving forward.

                Haler/Puhalo was nothing more than another oppertunist that had been defrocked that was given refuge and advancement by Dionisije (Milivojevich) and his cronies. I really do not believe he would have remained a priest after the unification because of the reviews that were done by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

                As for Metropolitan Christopher murdering his wife he did it just as much as the current Bishop Micheal of the OCA did. Let’s be serious why would anyone do something like that to be a bishop. I knew Metroplitan Christopher my whole life his wife’s death was a tragedy just like Bishop Micheal Duhlich’s wife’s death was. Enough said

                If you are not in the Serbian Church and you don’t know her history shut up and leave us alone. Don’t disparage us to make yourselves feel better for your own inadequacies. We are not perfect but we take care of our own issues. They are not open for your discussion or pleasure.

                • Alexander says


                  Dionisije was defrocked by the SOC — no one now disputes that. In fact, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to intervene and say anything to the contrary, despite findings and rulings by the Illinois trial, appellate and supreme court. Some people still don’t get it. 50 years later, disgruntled are suing Bishop Longinus in Illinois state court.

                  While I’m not sure what “posthumous restoration” is or could be in Orthodox ecclesiology, but I do note this: after reconciliation, for his own part SOC Patriarch Pavle on at least one occasion conducted a graveside memorial service (parastos) during which he no fewer than three times referred to Dionisije as “Bishop Dionisije.”

                  Two facts that should be unsurprising to someone who “personally lived through this battle”: First, ROCOR owed its very existence to the SOC and the SOC’s original hospitality/protection at Sremski Karlovtsi, in what was it, 1927? The ROCOR/SOC relationship always remained in good order. Of course ROCOR would not jeopardize its ties to the Belgrade Patriarchate and therefore by implication to “canonical Orthodoxy” by establishing relations with the “Free Diocese.”

                  Second, in the early/mid-1970’s Patriarchate of Alexandria “recognized” the “Free Diocese,” only to be compromised in very short order in this endeavour by the SOC hiearrchy.

                  History is a difficult thing. There always seem to be two sides to most stories, the SOC disaster just one good example. The intent of this tangential thread was to politely clarify what appeared to be Bishop Tikhon’s initial observations about Archbishop Lazar and some of subsequent his commentary. In hindsight, perhaps I chould have more forcefully rebuked the story repeated to him by another bishop.

                  As to the tenor of your comments, note that no one’s trying to feel better about himself. Thouogh its hard to dicern how you’ve put this “battle” behind you.

                  In the end, perhaps I should have simply stopped with Q.E.D.

                • Alexander says


                  I replied to “Fr. Milan”‘s posting that seems to have disappeared. Is it still “awaiting moderation”?

        • The following comes from,

          I recently saw a discussion on facebook in which Ab. Lazar Puhalo makes some incredibly disturbing accusations against a late hierarch of the Orthodox Church.

          Here is the link to the discussion:

          View the link at your own risk.

          The OCA’s Holy Synod need to take action to silence this cleric. If the OCA Synod doesn’t take action against this hierarch, a public action, then Archbishop Demetrios should demand a public retraction about this utterly false statement about one of his predecessors.

          • Jesse Cone says

            It seems that the retired bishop has been led down the garden path by a spectre he calls neuroscience.

            It’s not that I don’t value the input of neuroscience, cognitive science, or philosophy of mind — I’ve studied each of them at University. That study helped me embrace the Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church. and its profound teachings on the human person.

            The most disturbing and fundamental error popped up last year when he claimed on youtube that “you are your brain”. That’s not good science, philosophy, or theology.

    • And, [shudder], if you’re right, your Grace, about the ‘testing of the waters’, I hope the rest of the Orthodox patriarchates respond publicly and firmly to it.

    • Toby Smith says

      Let us not forget that it is Jonah who release the Archdeacon in Miami from his suspension, allowing him to serve again.

      • Toby,

        You bring up a good point and it is true. But it is also true that he tried to reinstate the suspension but was stopped by “his brothers” on the synod.

        It was a mistake on +Jonah’s part but so was it a mistake for Bp. Mark Forsberg and Fr. Philip Reese to ambush Archbishop Dmitri and ask that his just suspension be partially raised where the Archdeacon could not serve but was allowed to come back to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Miami.

        The pressure tactics inside the synod are longstanding and quite unpleasant and there is little doubt that the Archdeacon and Bp. Mark Forsberg are being protected by their friends and advocates on the synod.

        But, the bishops have a right to make such decisions and that is also true.

        • Toby Smith says

          You cannot reinstate a suspension that has been lifted unless a new indiscretion warrants it. That is double jeopardy. Once Jonah released the suspension, he can’t go back later and say, “Oops, but re-suspend him.” Unless the Locum Tenems, or future bishop of the DOS, finds new cause to suspend him, there’s nothing the Synod can or should do at this point.

          • Toby,

            You are mistaken because there was no spiritual court to begin with. The double jeopardy only kicks in if the findings of a spiritual court warrant a deposition. A suspension can be reinstated under these circumstances.

          • Where in the canons is there anything about double jeopardy? There is a restriction about punishing someone twice for the same offense, but that relates to deposing someone, and excommunicating them for the same offense. A suspension is only temporary, and so is not the kind of punishment in view. Obviously if you suspended a pedophile priest, but then lacked the proof to depose him, you would not be prevented from resuspending him if more evidence came to light.

        • james sode says

          Could not serve? Only Miami Cathedral? Where do you get this silliness?

          Here’s a video for you to watch

          its of Jonah’s consecration as bishop and was held in Dallas. Care to guess who the Archdeacon is?

          Dmitri lifted the suspension after much thought and reflection. It was his decision alone and the notion that he was ambushed by Archpriest Reese and Bishop Mark Forsberg is just part of the OCATruth fantasy that we’ve had to live with for the past year.

          If Jonah thought the Archdeacon shouldn’t serve, he had two years as locum tenens to do something about it. He didn’t. He didn’t need to go to a spiritual court, just not assign any duties to the Archdeacon.

          Neither did Bishop Mark when he was the Administrator nor has Archbishop Nikon as locum tenens

          Now we have four bishops of the Church and they all seem to agree that the sins of the Archdeacon are in his past and we should move on. And yet you, who know nothing about the matter, still think you know better.

          Care to share your last confession with us?

          • Sorry. Wrong Archdeacon. This is not the one in question.

            The fact is Archdeacon Gregory deposed himself by his actions. That can’t be undone or overlooked.

            And your facts are at best uninformed, and at worst a deliberate attempt to rewrite history. Nice try. You owe us an apology and not more distraction unless you would like to say that it is ok for a cleric of the Church to marry another man, then divorce him. Is the something you are willing to say?

            • M. Stankovich says

              Nikos, мой друг,

              Far be it from me to split hairs over such trivial matters as distraction and deliberate attempts to rewrite history, but it was just yesterday that you sullied my good name – granted, an acknowledged trivial matter – and pitied my loss of scientific objectivity. “Wear the OCAN blinders,” applied by my long-term friends, I believe you said. I, in turn, feebly attempted to “salvage” my threadbare reputation by offering you examples of independent confirmation. But Nikos, you walked away “to marry another man, ” Mr. Sode, without as much as a friendly goodbye. Are you saying this is OK? Is this something you are willing to say?

              In a matter of less than a week, you have woven a a veritable Persian rug of hand-knotted melodrama. Who am I to say? And even if you’re only correct 50% of the time, it’s a batting average that will take you to the All-Star Game. But when you trash-talk, you’re more likely to find your shoes nailed to the floor.

          • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            The archdeacon in the video is then-Protodeacon Kirill Sokolov, formerly of St. Vlad’s, now at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco.

          • James Sode. You must RETRACT your claim that Archdeacon Gregory Burke is serving in that video, the link to which you gave us. The Deacon is Protodeacon Kyril Sokolov of the Diocese of the West, who is married to a woman, and who is the son of ever-memorable Archpriest Victor Sokolov and ever-memorable Barbara Sokolov. You owe him an apology as well as everyone else whom you misled with your untruth about Burke serving at Father Jonah’s consecration to the episcopate.

          • Fr. Justin Frederick says

            I have served in the DOS since 2000. Since that time I have attended nearly all of the pastoral conferences and diocesan assemblies, and ‘big’ occasions in Dallas. I do not believe I have ever met Dn Gregory Burke.

      • John Christopher says

        Toby: This is one of the actions alluded to in my post below. Public inconsistencies like this lend credence to the Synod’s complaint that the Metropolitan was incapable of leadership. If the Metropolitan would say one thing and do another in significant cases we know about, it’s not hard to believe he would do so in many other cases we don’t know about. When the Synod and the Metropolitan speak of his challenges with “administration,” I don’t think they’re talking about keeping his desk neat or filling out paperwork; it’s something much more fundamental, having to do with building consensus, making informed and sometimes very hard decisions, and doing what it takes to see those decisions through. Leadership and judgment, in other words. It’s very good to be a suffering servant, but not if you’re a bishop. That’s not your calling. As St Ignatius said, the *deacons* are as Christ, but the Bishop is as God the Father: a judge whose judgment is just, awesome, and (often) hurts.

    • Carl Kraeff says

      Your Grace–It bothers me that you talk this way about a fellow retired bishop. Isn’t there some written or unwritten hierarchical conduct rules that would cause you at least hesitate before putting forth such (I can’t bear to describe it).

      • Carl, you don’t seem to understand that it is my CONVICTION that Haler/Puhalo/ Buehler is not a hierarch at all, but only a deposed Deacon. Perhaps if the OCA’s Holy Synod descends into utter and complete disorder, turning to scribes and lawyers to speak for them, Hierarchs of another Holy Synod may address that.
        Since it is my CONVICTIONS that are involved here, Carl, I’m sure you’ll understand my actions consistent with them! That instance is NOT a “fellow retired bishop.” When I was contemplating retirement, an Archpriest very kindly disposed towards me said, ‘Vladyka, do you REALLY want to be included in that class; retired OCA Bishops? The other man, Puhalo’s familiar, may very well be a bishop. As far as I know HE was never deposed from the Diaconate. Puhalo’s deposition is a FACT. No matter whether he preaches for or against Toll Houses, that fact remains. It makes NULL and VOID any ordination to the Priesthood. Irenej ordained him to the Priesthood. Was there some magic, a special charisma, perhaps, that enabled Irenej to do that? Ordain a layman to the Priesthood without going through his being a reader, subdeacon and deacon? Did Ireney BAPTIZE Puhalo/Haler/Buehler? He might as well have!

  3. No George, they aren’t listening and they should be. I’m moving to Boston and was going to attend the OCA Cathedral there, but not now, not a chance. I have gone back and forth with Inga on Facebook many times about her pro-sodomite agenda, you hit the nail on the head with how you characterized what she and her ilk are really after. This whole situation is keeping me out of the OCA, I wonder if the Bishops realize just how many people they are turning away from the OCA, both current communicants and those of us who once considered it? Lord have mercy.

    • Ilya Zhitomirskiy says

      Do you know about Holy Epiphany Cathedral (ROCOR) in Roslindale? There is a Bulgarian church in Allston, an Antiochian church in Cambridge, and a few other Orthodox churches.

  4. John Christopher says

    Regarding Metropolitan Jonah’s “unequivocal defense of the moral tradition:” It seems closer to the truth to say the Metropolitan was forced out for *half-hearted* defense of traditional teaching. He talked the talk when giving a speech but didn’t walk the walk in several well known cases, including in his own cathedral — the worst possible strategy, as it attracts attention from all sides but shows you are unable to make the hard choices necessary to lead any of them.

    • George Michalopulos says

      John Christopher, while I share your concerns that HB was not as forceful as he should have been, he always erred on the side of mercy. Having said that, I am in the process of writing another rather longish essay about the extent of moral corruption within the OCA and how it’s going to be next-to-impossible to root it out. Basically, HB was stuck between a rock and a hard place. That’s all I can say for now.

    • Rod Dreher says

      With all due respect to my friend George, my sense of the matter is more in line with John Christopher’s. Jonah believes the right things, but was, and is, weak on the enforcement side. I see him as an “uncertain trumpet,” and that colors my reticence to go to the barricades, so to speak, to defend Jonah in his current situation.

      Without getting into too much detail, and absent more details on the specifics of the ongoing situation (which, should they become public, might change my mind about any of what follows), I believe the following:

      1. Met. Jonah was treated terribly by the Synod, which disgraces itself by the way it’s handling this matter.

      2. They’ve had it in for Jonah for a long time, and have conspired against him.

      3. Many of Jonah’s problems are of his own making. Many people — priests and laypeople — who have dealt with him personally testify to his genuine warmth, generosity of spirit, and spiritual insight. I myself have experienced these qualities in him, and they are marvelous. But they also testify to his terrible deficits as a leader — in particular, his inability to make and stick to decisions, and his habit of making decisions impulsively, which greatly complicate the lives of people. I myself have experienced this quality in him, and it’s discouraging.

      4. A certain style and approach that may be appropriate to a monk or even an abbot can be disaster in a bishop, much less a metropolitan. It is dangerous to stick your neck out for Metropolitan Jonah, because he will cave, and fall back on that Orthodox humility business, never mind the wreckage he leaves behind. You can ask forgiveness seventy times seven, but at a certain point, things have to get done, and people’s patience runs out.

      5. I strongly believe Jonah’s worst enemies within the OCA acted on low, base motives, but I do not believe all of them did, and I hold out for the possibility that bishops like Matthias might have concluded from Jonah’s administrative incompetence and inconstancy that he had to go. I cannot imagine what justifies handling this thing in the way they’ve done it, though.

      6. I believe in the existence of lavender mafias, because I have seen up close and personal, and in great detail, how they work in the Roman Catholic church. I don’t know enough about the OCA to say what the situation is in it, though I discern some parallels. My guess — only a guess — is that the crisis in the OCA is not primarily driven by any kind of lavender mafia, but by a clash between the old-guard Establishment and the newer, more evangelical wing, of whom Jonah was a representative. The lavenders, such as they are, are a subset of the old guard, and they benefit by its triumph. I don’t think it is necessary to believe that most, or any, of the OCA bishops support gay marriage or the normalization of homosexuality to believe that their triumph in this matter benefits the gay rights cause within the Church. All the bishops have to do is to carry on a policy of functional indifference to the issue, and currents within the broader culture, especially at the seminary level, will take care of the rest. If you don’t push back at the culture as hard as it’s pushing at you, you will be pushed over. That’s what happened to Jonah. That’s what’s going to happen to the OCA.

      7. I find it hard to imagine how the OCA comes through this whole thing intact. I could be wrong. One thing I know for sure is that blogs and comments threads (not Monomakhos, not the old OCATruth site, not the old Stokoe site, and definitely not Stan the Tran) are no sure guide to the sense of the laity. As in the Catholic sex abuse scandal of the last decade, most people in the pews don’t share the intensity of the kind of people on either side of the issue who go to blogs to analyze and to vent. Right now, I think most in the OCA are going to content themselves with just muddling through. I might change my mind after we see what the Miami meeting of the DOS brings about. If there is going to be any sort of resistance, it will have to come from the South. But what would that resistance entail? What would it even ask for? Not Jonah installed as DOS bishop, I hope; we do not need someone with his administrative deficits. A traditionalist bishop? Yes, I’d hope so — but who is that person? I don’t think the Synod would give him to us anyway, out of concern that he might become a rallying point for anti-Synod diehards. But all that is speculation.

      Anyway, I find it hard to see how the OCA comes through this for three reasons: a) the trust between many in the laity, especially in the DOS, and the Synod has been profoundly broken; b) unlike the Episcopalians, the OCA doesn’t have a cushion of money or people in the pews to fall back on to weather this crisis, and c) most of the evangelical energy in the OCA appears to have been concentrated in the South, which is the only diocese that has been growing significantly — or, if you discount the West and its modest growth, the only diocese that has been growing at all. Archbishop Dmitri is dead, and the disaster with Mark Maymon, who continues to receive a salary from the very diocese he abused, plus the brutal treatment of Jonah by the Synod, has depressed and alienated many in the South from the national church. Then again, I am only relying on my sense from talking to my circles. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that we aren’t seeing the wider picture.

      8. I would like to see Jonah retired respectfully. Give him a severance package that will enable him to care for his aging parents, and let him teach in a seminary or some place. He truly did not ask to be made Metropolitan, and arrived at a time of great crisis for the OCA, without any skills that would have helped him do the job well. His brother bishops found the disgusting behavior of the previous two metropolitans easy to tolerate, but Jonah’s comparatively minor problems — well, they turned on him from virtually the get-go, or so it seems to me. Jonah was not the man for the job. He might have been, had he had more support, but that didn’t come, and he himself made his job much more difficult than it ought to have been. All that is water under the bridge now. The man’s reputation and clerical career have been all but destroyed by his time as Metropolitan. I think he is owed something. Not a bishopric, but something.

      9. I want to add that just because I think it is possible that at least some on the Synod acted defensibly at a certain level, that does not mean I think that’s actually what happened. None of us really know at this point what happened, which is a big part of the problem. Based on past performance on the Jonah matter, the Synod does not give us reason to trust them, in my view. But again, until and unless the Synod actually gives the Church an explanation for why they did what they did, we can only speculate.

      • Ken Miller says

        Rod, a lot of good thoughts, but I take issue with part of your analysis. I believe that much of Jonah’s being “weak on the enforcement side” was precisely because he genuinely was trying to bend over backwards in order to heal the rift with the Holy Synod. it is like a political opponent pounding you for being too conservative and too inflexible in his views, and then when you adjust to the chagrin of your base to accommodate your opponent, your opponent then pounds you for being weak and indecisive. He honestly could not win no matter what he had done, and a core group of lavender bishops did have it in for him and there is nothing Jonah could have done to appease them except stop his defense of the ancient faith against modernism, which is the one thing he could not do. His official stances on the issues were right on target and never changed, but in the spirit of pastoral care, he allowed the priests under him to subvert his official stances. For example, Jonah did not create the problems at St Nicholas Cathedral, he simply exposed the lavender deviations from Orthodoxy that had existed for a long time but were kept right under the surface. In order to heal St Nicholas, he would have had to remove some disloyal lavender priests, some lavender parish council members, and deny communion to some unrepentant parishioners, but in keeping with his light-handed manner and in the spirit of not offending the other bishops, his speeches and official statements were clearer than his implementation. The lavenders would love to point to that and say, “see, Jonah was no different than we, and this is not about the moral issues.” To blur the lines between the traditionalists and the modernists would be a mistake. The modernists were working feverishly to undermine the traditionalism of Jonah, though they try to tone down their official statements so as to avoid full blown heresy charges. Jonah deeply believed in preserving the ancient faith against modernism, but he had to tone it down his implementation in the spirit of cooperation with the other bishops. On outward appearances, it looked like both sides were playing between the 40 yard lines (just like Democrats and Republicans do), so there wasn’t much difference. However, if you take away the push for traditionalism, the modernists will get their touchdown. The battle cannot be viewed as over, not a battle of Jonah as a personality, but the battle to restore Orthodoxy to its un-modernized ancient scriptural and patristic roots.

        The lavender mafia does exist, and whether or not the more moderate bishops made their decisions based on the lavender agenda or something else, the fact remains that it remains a cancer in the church and it will destroy the OCA just as it destroyed the Episcopal church.

        If the bishops truly had other reasons than the lavender mafia, then lets see them put forth strong traditionalist candidates to succeed Jonah. I don’t hold my breath – I think it will be a lavender.

        Whatever one thinks about Jonah’s leadership record, it is undeniable that he operated sincerely, with a pure heart, and he tried to restore the fullness of Orthodox spirituality by teaching and living such things as humility, repentance, overcoming passions and lusts, repetitive prayer, and communion and union with God. These are things that should be heard every Sunday in every parish across the world, but sadly, they are rarely taught, and if they are taught, it is in a Barlaamistic “intellectual” way rather than a living, breathing practice rooted in actual experience. Jonah deserves much better than he has gotten. I think he deserves to be given the Diocese of the South. Since he is of one mind spiritually, doctrinally, and practically with the South, the supposed leadership limitations would disappear. When surrounded by people who support and believe in you and share your spiritual vision, there is no need to play politics – the church simply acts as the spiritual body that it is supposed to be.

        I also take issue with calling Jonah more “evangelical”, if the term evangelical is meant to pejoratively associate him with protestant doctrine and practice. Doctrinally, the modernists LOVE the evangelical doctrine that God loves everyone, that God’s mercy and forgiveness are free and granted once and for all without the need for continual repentance. Jonah steadfastly held that our righteousness before God is not a judicial declaration of righteousness but an actual righteousness that comes from continual repentance and renunciation of sin. The modernist, like many protestants, believes that Orthodox Christians are children of God irrespective of their willingness to call sin “sin” and to repent of it, and this is heresy. Without repentance, there is no salvation. Some “evangelicals” do get some things right, such as an emphasis on missions, a zealous desire for other’s salvation, an emphasis on the spiritual life and purification from sin. When Jonah shows similar characteristics, it is not because he is “evangelical” but because he adheres to the practices of the ancient fathers, who had the same emphases (though obviously rooted in thoroughly Orthodox doctrine and not protestant.)

        • There is too much maligning of lavender here. It’s a beautiful color and a wonderful plant.

          Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly,
          Lavender’s green
          When you are King, dilly dilly,
          I shall be Queen

          • Ken Miller says

            Just which meaning of “Queen” are you intending 😉

            It’s a wonderful thing to be happy and gay (old english meaning)

      • Y’all ever ask yourselves just *why* +Jonah (“HB”) talked such a good talk about the homo mafia in the OCA yet was so very lax on the enforcement side?

        Yeah, ummmm … y’all might wanna look into that one … deeply.

        For all the c**** I’ve taken on this site for viewing +Jonah as an actual human being, rather than a quasi-deity dropped among us, let me make clear that I would be perfectly thrilled if the OCA did something real about the Lavender Mafia inside the church. Which we all know exists. And by all means let’s start with the bishops. I’d be thrilled to get Old School – nay Old Testament – on those vipers in klobuks.

        My issue with +Jonah was that he head-faked all of you – he said the right things and did precious little about the deep moral corruption in the heart of the OCA.

        Which he knew a lot about. A lot.

      • Priest Basil Biberdorf says


        In many ways, what is written above isn’t much more than a screed in support of what appear to be your own conflicted views about the reality of this situation, especially now that you’re on record as calling the bishops of the OCA’s Holy Synod “a pack of wild dogs.”

        I’m not even going to attempt to respond point by point, nor will I make any criticisms of Metropolitan Jonah. However, a few points of response are nonetheless in order.

        The notion that the Synod greatly mistreated Metropolitan Jonah just has no basis in reality. At every juncture, attempts to work with His Eminence privately failed, often with leaks of the attempt (likely leaked by His Eminence himself) circulated widely and, in the face of the Synod’s reluctance to discuss their attempts out of respect for His Eminence, deliberately interpreted—particularly by you—as being the result of ill motives. You still accuse them of “base motives” (see above). Worse, many, including you, libeled the bishops of the Synod as being pro-sodomite, pro-abortion, and anti-tradition, in the face of direct evidence and experience to the contrary, all in support of a propaganda operation.

        You hold out the oh-so-generous possibility that “bishops like Matthias” might be acting out of honest concern, but then “imagine what justifies handling this thing in the way they’ve done it.” Well, pray tell, how would you have done it, Your Armchair Grace? Sexual misconduct must be handled a specific way according to OCA policy. I have to acknowledge (with a signature) my understanding and acceptance of these procedures on an annual basis. Indeed, every parish clergyman and parish council member in the OCA is required to make such acknowledgement, even though this still isn’t happening throughout the Diocese of the South. These procedures are very specific, and they apply even to hierarchs. In a secular situation, repeated violations of corporate policy typically have “termination” as a course of action for non-compliance, particularly in the face of egregious violations. Further, rape and assault are criminal offenses, with penalties imposed by the state. Living right here in the middle of Sandusky-land, I can tell you that the consequences are bad for those who cover up accusations of sexual assault, and that is apparently what Metropolitan Jonah has done, according to the testimony of the entire Holy Synod. Had the most recent cover up and pastoral abuse (in communicating with one who was discouraging the reporting of the crime) been the only offenses, the Synod would be justified in their request for resignation.

        There are likely other transgressions committed elsewhere in the OCA, and they should be dealt with. However, failure to address those transgressions immediately hardly means that these transgressions shouldn’t be dealt with.

        As for retiring him respectfully, with an adequate severance package, I have but two points to make. One is that Metropolitan Jonah was a monk well before being a bishop, which leads one to inquire why he has financial dependents in the first place. Second, I have known and know more than a few priests who have served, long and faithfully, before the Holy Table until they simply were physically unable to do so any longer because there was no financial provision that would enable them to retire. The majority of clergy I know receive compensation far below what their parishioners earn (with an embarrassingly large number receiving public aid in some form), and most of that same majority are not provided health insurance by their flocks. They, too, have parents and siblings that require care in advanced age, to say nothing of their children. I would think that, as a true monk, His Eminence should be gratified to receive the same level of compensation these good and faithful men do.

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Fr Basil, demanding that the Metropolitan check himself into an insane asylum that deals with clerical pedophiles can in no rational way be viewed as bishops “trying to work with him.” This is sovietology, not conciliarity. Because you are unable to make this distinction, I have to question everything you have subsequently written.

          • Priest Basil Biberdorf says

            Perhaps you’re referring to the St Luke Institute in a parallel, evil universe, instead of the St Luke Institute in Silver Spring, MD. The latter specializes in evaluating and treating a wide variety of conditions among clergy, monks, and candidates for ordination. I don’t recall that His Eminence was committed involuntarily or subjected to mind-altering substances or physical abuse as part of the evaluation the Synod wanted.

            You can criticize SLI for dealing “with clerical pedophiles,” but the Institute deals with a broad spectrum of issues, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and far more serious problems. Perhaps you’d prefer that His Eminence would’ve gone to the Ss Cosmas and Damian Orthodox Institute for Clergy Care, but, sadly, that facility does not exist.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Fr Basil, I must be referring to an SLI in an alternate universe, one in which people who have alleged administrative deficiences get things squared away. It happens all the time in the corporate world.

              Silly me!

              • Priest Basil Biberdorf says

                It’s worth considering whether the concept of an “intervention” in response to perceived erratic behavior (“repeated pattern … of taking other unilateral actions .. contrary to the advice of the Holy Synod and/or the Church’s lawyers”) wasn’t in play. It would be a simpler explanation than a complex web of eight or so bishops working a convoluted conspiracy against their first hierarch.

                A review of Occam’s razor is likely in order.

        • Rod Dreher says

          Fr. Basil:

          On the things you bring up, I concede that you make reasonable points. I know there is a profound ideological hatred among some of the Synod, and among the Syosset apparat, for Jonah. That said, when I hear accusations that Jonah bungled this thing, or failed to do that thing, it rings true to me, because I know all too well how quick he is to act on impulse, and how inconstant he is in his own decision-making. I know very well, from several instances, how people will go out on a limb trying to help him, and he will ignore them or otherwise cut them off — not from malice, but from … well, I don’t know what, but it’s a very serious problem. As I said in an earlier post, the fact that he does have enemies, and the fact that they have acted in concert, and in scurrilous ways, does not obviate Jonah’s own incompetence, nor does it relieve the Synod, however compromised certain members may be, of the obligation to act to protect the Church.

          I get that. The trust many of us have for the Synod is slim to non-existent based on past performance, and, speaking only for myself, that makes it very easy to give Jonah the benefit of the doubt. In that, I may have been wrong — and if, after we have a full accounting of what happened, I see that I made mistakes in judgment, I will publicly apologize to those I wronged by my words. I find it very hard to believe what the Synod says, but on the other hand, based on what I know about Jonah, I find the accusations they’re making about him with regard to how he handled this case plausible. I’m not saying I believe them (though I may come to do so), but I find them plausible, based on what I know of Jonah’s decision-making record. I think that we who have been pro-Jonah partisans ought to consider, and consider seriously, the extent to which our own judgment has been spun by our affection for the man, and our belief in the things he stands for within the OCA. I think Jonah is a good man, a very good man, but it is impossible for me to deny that he was in way over his head in this role.

          It is possible that the Synod, from whatever motive or series of motives, did the only thing they reasonably could in forcing Jonah’s resignation. The Roman Catholic Church has lost over a billion dollars in payouts to victims of clerical sex abuse, to say nothing of the loss of spiritual authority among the faithful, for its mishandling of these cases. The OCA is much poorer, and from a purely financial standpoint, has no margin for error. The Msgr Lynn conviction in Philly shows that the state is able and willing to put senior clerics in jail for mishandling these things. If — if — what the Synod alleges Jonah did in the Symeon Kharon case is true, then it has to be taken with utmost seriousness by everyone in the Church. However, the narrative doesn’t make total sense, at least not at this point. If the Synod has strong evidence that Jonah did serious wrong here, then they need to make it public, except for the alleged rape victim’s name. It is not enough to say “trust us.” Based on abysmal past performance (I’m talking mostly about during the Herman days, but also the Santa Fe ambush of 2010, and the backroom politicking that went into that, as well as the attempt to get rid of the guy through the use of psychiatric facilities, etc.), the Synod as an institution does not have much credibility. If they would produce solid, irrefutable evidence, a lot of the blowback would subside.

          One reason — and it’s a big reason — people like me are deeply suspicious of this whole process is that there seems to be a double standard at work here. Jonah is held to the letter of the law on the sex abuse policy (as he should be!), but nobody at the Synodal level says boo about, um, irregularities among the other hierarchs. The SMPAC Report faults Jonah for allowing Fr. Isidore Brittain, the disgraced priest who harmed the reader in Alaska, to return to serve at the altar in the Diocese of the West. It ought to fault Jonah for that! No argument from me. But Jonah has said, and I believe this is true, that his reinstatement of Isidore came at the request of Bp Benjamin. Indeed, Drezhlo among others has published a photo of Benjamin and Jonah serving with Isidore at the altar. Why is Jonah faulted but Benjamin is not? Why was the case of Fr. Vasile Susan, who alleges he was punished by Abp Nathaniel for reporting sexual misconduct, and who has not had a parish for seven years, not mentioned in the SMPAC Report? (I’m not asking you to answer this, Fr. Basil; I’m bringing this up as an example of why many of us distrust the Synod’s motives).

          I can see the case for canning Jonah based on his poor record of handling sex abuse allegations. I would want to know more, to be sure these charged weren’t trumped up (and if you see the SMPAC Report, you can tell how willing the Syosset apparat was to spin these things to achieve a certain end) — anyway, I would want to know more before reaching that conclusion, but I am open to that conclusion. However, if we are going to have this house-cleaning of hierarchs who don’t take clerical sexual misconduct seriously, then let’s have a real house-cleaning, not just a selective defenestration of naive and bumbling hierarchs whose faults included a lack of guile at playing church politics.

        • Priest Basil Biberdorf says

          I will add to my earlier comment that, assuming what the Synod is saying about misleading the military chaplaincy concerning this one priest’s problems is true, that opens up a huge issue for the OCA. As Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan Jonah was the endorser for the OCA’s military chaplains. That means he’s identified as the head of a religious body recognized by the armed forces and authorized to sign off on that body’s approval for candidates for the chaplaincy. (A military chaplain can’t serve as a chaplain if he or she is not endorsed. One of the quickest ways for a chaplain to end military service is for his endorsement to be withdrawn. And, as chaplains approach higher ranks in the officer corps–somewhere around an O-4, an Army Major or Navy Lt. Commander–their endorser has to agree to not withdraw the endorsement.)

          So what happens when the endorser actively promotes a candidate who has a history of assault accusations and the like, and actively conceals the problems? (Note that chaplain candidates have to be able to get through a serious federal background check as part of obtaining their mandatory security clearance, so any unsophisticated deception would likely be discovered in short order.) I can’t believe that such a deception isn’t a criminal offense of some sort. Further, what is the outlook for OCA chaplains if their endorser has his endorsement authority revoked for cause by the armed forces? What would not being able to endorse chaplains do for the OCA’s already-weak standing in the Episcopal Assembly?

          • Rod Dreher says

            Agreed, mostly. You bringing this up reminds me that Jonah has defended his decision to refer Symeon to the military chaplaincy as his idea of providing Symeon the discipline he needed to get his priesthood in order. That is contemptible — the idea that the US military ought to be a reform school for troubled priests. I agree that the military would probably have discovered this and never let Symeon through the door. Still, that Jonah saw nothing particularly wrong with foisting a violent drunk of a priest off on the military, and onto soldiers who would be in his spiritual care, reveals something defective in his judgment as a religious leader.

            It is a prime example of episcopal clericalism: the idea that the supposed good of the individual priest matters more than the good of the laity he is put there to serve. Sadly and frustratingly, this is a habit that not only Jonah has.

            • Rod, no one forced you to get out ahead of the news on any of this. But I have seen tens of comments that indicate some chagrin and even admitting that you may need to apologize. All of these comments are out in public, what I don’t understand is the continued silence on your own blog. No word of the letter. And nothing to indicate any desire to interpret this new development. If nothing else it makes you a bit two-faced.

              • Rod Dreher says

                I’m not going to comment further on my own blog until we have more complete information.

                If nothing else it makes you a bit two-faced.

                Yeah, well, I know exactly who you are, sweetie, and if we ever see each other again in Dallas, do me the courtesy of not pretending to be nice.

            • Rod Dreher says

              You mean +Nathaniel, not +Matthias.

              I agree that bishops sometimes make bad decisions from decent motives — but the decisions are bad all the same. Take the case of Boston’s ex-Cardinal Bernard Law. In the case of Fr. John Geoghan, the chronic pedophile whom Law, like his predecessor, kept reassigning, the record shows that Law only cared about Geoghan and his interests. I don’t believe that Law was consciously indifferent to the people he sent Geoghan to serve; he simply did not see them. They weren’t real to him. So he set that wolf loose on the sheep, and the wolf devoured a number of little boys.

              I don’t really care about the motive of the bishop; if the decision is harmful, it’s harmful. The fact that Bishop A. acts out of the best motives doesn’t do jack for the laity who suffer from his bad decision.

              • Harry Coin says

                Rod, a common problem, even systemic problem, in evidence appears to be that one is only a real ‘person’ and not a ‘sheep’ or ‘resource’ to these church decision makers only if there is enough shared or similar history.

                The people affected, but not in the room, aren’t ‘actual people’ to these officials in the same way as ‘the supplicant in the room kind of like me’. They act as they’ve learned, it creates the culture of loyalty to persons. Only gets to be a problem if the sheep supply runs low.

            • quote: “Still, that Jonah saw nothing particularly wrong with foisting a violent drunk of a priest off on the military, and onto soldiers who would be in his spiritual care, reveals something defective in his judgment as a religious leader.”

              Now do you begin to understand why the Synod might want to send him off for some in-depth counseling??? This is one instance. What if this is chronic?

              quote: “I don’t believe that Law was consciously indifferent to the people he sent Geoghan to serve; he simply did not see them. They weren’t real to him. So he set that wolf loose on the sheep, and the wolf devoured a number of little boys.” As for not seeing “the flock” because they are a nameless, faceless horde of people: we all do that to one extent or another. By labeling people (“Stokoeites”?) and vilifying them, we marginalize their human-ness. We reduce them to that which makes them unpalatable to the crowd; in this case, the Monomakhos crowd. Then when “the enemy” does it back, marginalizes you, labeling you, and vilifying you, it’s oh vey! such a horrible sin!

              You, Rod, love Bp Jonah. You’ve enjoyed his company at dinner; talked with him; gotten to know him. Not so most of the rest of the Church. So by vilifying those actions which have hurt your friend, even though you may have acted presumptuously because you’ve been lacking in some key information (now coming to light) you have cause much hurt in other quarters where real people, with real lives, real feelings, and real reputations have been damaged. There are those who have real relationships with some of the people that are just names to you…as Bp Jonah is just a name to me and many others, regardless of his former position.

              At some point, what will straighten out the OCA is remembering that we are people, and treating each other as people in the way we want to be treated: with love, honour, and respect. Kinda like Jesus (remember Him?) talked about.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Timing is everthing here folks. The military regularly takes in marginal men who have no place else to go. You all are assuming that Jonah bent over backwards for this guy. Based on what I know, that’s nowhere in evidence.

              • Priest Basil Biberdorf says

                Not in the case of chaplains, even for the harder-to-find ones like Orthodox priests. I know. I went through the process. (And, yes, I was accepted, even though I decided not to continue.)

                • Geo Michalopulos says

                  Fr Basil, I stand corrected. Please read Greg Gerassimon’s reply below. I believe this will expose the vacuousness of this specific charge against His Beatitude.

            • Jesse Cone says

              Rod says,

              That is contemptible — the idea that the US military ought to be a reform school for troubled priests.

              This allegedly happened shortly after Fr Simeon’s arrival, when +Jonah didn’t know the full extent of his problems. It makes sense to see a monk, who is young and you suspect drinks, and think “I travel all the time, this is not the right fit for him.”

              I wonder what +Jonah would have done if he had certain facts in hand like: the man had been arrested for DUI, soiled himself, and taken a swing at the police. (An example that, by the way, does not come from the case of Fr. Simeon.)

              • Rod Dreher says

                I wonder what +Jonah would have done if he had certain facts in hand like: the man had been arrested for DUI, soiled himself, and taken a swing at the police. (An example that, by the way, does not come from the case of Fr. Simeon.)

                Oh, snap! I can well imagine that he would have ordered an investigation of that monk, and that that monk, if he were powerful enough — a bishop, say — would have had it stopped. In fact…

                This kind of thing is a big part of the reason many of us have little confidence in the good faith of the Holy Synod.

                • No, no, Rod. That man was arrested and spent the night in the drunk tank. He did soil himself and the patrol car when the arresting officer paid no attention to his protestations, like ‘Do you know who I AM? I’m a BISHOP!” Then he was sent BY ME to an institution where alcholics go to dry out and receive training in combattting their vice. No investigation of THAT event was stopped. The friends of that man seem to have fogotten how I and Bishop Nikolai went “the extra mile” to preserve the man’s episcopal career, when even Metropolitan Herman wanted him “busted” from it. “Lend a dollar: lose a friend?” Yes, indeed, IN SPADES!” He MORE than repaid Bishop Nikolai!! The man got his second chance. What did he do with it?

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    Ouch! I take it all back. We need a Sex Czar poste-haste! Just make sure he’s allowed to go after bishops!

              • Rod Dreher says

                Yet Jesse, I believe that if Jonah sensed that there was something wrong with this priest — a priest he didn’t really know — then he had no business recommending this priest for service in the military, or anywhere else. That’s just spiritually irresponsible, at the very least.

                • Jesse Cone says

                  Perhaps he did recommend him for service, but I believe all that has been claimed was that he “counseled” him towards service as a chaplain. I also believe he put him in touch with a recruiter, but that’s hardly a recommendation.

                  One can see how this can be misconstrued in any number of ways; say by Fr. Simeon himself who may have name-dropped in an effort to open doors for himself.

                  • We can’t take the letter at its word about that without corroborating evidence.

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    Jesse, the more this drags on, the more it begins to unravel. You, Mr Gerassimon, and others have proved to me that I chose the right title for this blog entry. One of the essential mistakes of this misbegotten letter is that there is so much opacity there that a careful analysis can unravel it.

          • Gregg Gerasimon says

            Hi Father Basil,

            I’m not clear on this issue of Met. Jonah potentially trying to “mislead” the military chaplaincy on a potentially dangerous priest — it doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve been in the Army now for quite a long time, and I have met and spoken with many Orthodox military chaplains, both here and in theater. Fortunately, in my experience, they have all been without question excellent chaplains and excellent priests. And their ministry extends beyond merely serving Orthodox servicemembers. (As an aside, and for something truly spiritually edifying, I highly recommend the podcast series on AFR “In the Valley of the Shadow of Death” by Fr David Alexander, chronicling his experience as an Orthodox chaplain in Afghanistan. It’s fantastic.)

            Does the military takes chaplains simply based on “referrals” from church hierarchs? I thought that it works the other way around — the priest/minister/rabbi/imam/wicca leader/whomever expresses to the military a desire to serve, often when he is in seminary or theological school, and then it is up to him to get an endorsement from a recognized faith group. There’s a long chaplain candidate school, too. That’s why I don’t understand this criticism of Met. Jonah in the letter posted by the Synod of Bishops — it doesn’t seem to make sense. I don’t know how a bishop can “actively promote” a chaplain candidate — maybe it can happen, but I thought that the chaplain candidate himself first expresses interest in joining the military, and then he would go to his faith body for endorsement.

            Also, chaplains who are O-4 and higher can certainly lose their endorsements — it makes no sense for an endorser to agree to not withdraw the endorsement. For example, a Catholic or Orthodox chaplain who then decides to leave the faith or something, or does something that requires him to no longer be a priest — the church cannot continue their endorsement in that case, even if he is a Major or Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel.

            Additionally, and certainly I could be wrong, but I don’t think that the OCA chaplains’ endorsement authority rests with Met. Jonah himself — rather, I thought that it rests with the office of the Metropolitan/Archbp of Washington DC, regardless of who holds that office. As we well know, in the OCA, Metropolitans can change, so chaplains who were once endorsed by Met. Theodosius then get endorsed by Met. Herman and then Met. Jonah and now Archbp Nathaniel I guess? Man, this is confusing. But anyway, I don’t think there’s any risk to OCA chaplains being de-legitimized by the military simply because Met. Jonah is no longer the Met. or the Archbp of DC.

            But yes, that part of the Synod’s letter made not much sense to me because of the above. Indeed, Met. Jonah may not have been right for the office of Metropolitan (the Synod should never have elected him, but that’s another story…..).

            But to suggest that Met. Jonah was trying to hide or rehabilitate a potential sex offender in the US military as a chaplain makes zero sense and honestly is offensive to our Church, to Orthodox military servicemembers, and to the Armed Forces as a whole. This strikes me as a really “below-the-belt” hit on Met. Jonah in the letter. The Synod (or whoever drafted that letter for them) should not have written that part. Yes, the military needs good people these days, but we certainly won’t simply take anyone. Those days of “rehabilitating” criminals in the military ended probably more than 30 years ago.

            Furthermore, it continues to bother me that the Synodal letter is essentially a hit job on Met. Jonah, while accepting no responsibility themselves. After all, they did elect him as Metropolitan back in 2008, and they knew then that he had no track record as a bishop at that time. At this time, some humility on their part stating that they are sorry they made a bad choice for Metropolitan would go a long way.

            My 2 cents.

            In Christ,

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Mr Gerassimon, thank you for pointing out yet more glaring inconsistencies in this “hit-job” of a letter.

              It looks like the house of cards continues to crumble.

            • Priest Basil Biberdorf says

              There’s too much here to respond to every single point. However, I’ll try to hit some highlights.

              1. Chaplain recruitment is built on several factors. In general, it is my understanding that liturgical Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox clergy plus Jewish rabbis are usually understaffed and are therefore more sought after as recruits by the services themselves. For clergy in these groups, it’s often easier to get waivers for certain deficiencies (like being too old or lacking the minimum three years of congregational ministry experience). The recruiters will work with the person to initiate the process on the military end, but the candidate must likewise pursue things on his end. For an OCA candidate, this will usually involve talking to the dean of chaplains and initiating pursuit of the necessary endorsement.

              However, we’re Orthodox, so if the endorser (the Metropolitan in the case of the OCA) wants specific people to become chaplains he can certainly push candidates in that direction and, for those under his omophor, even give them military chaplaincy as an assignment, assuming the military will accept them. (The bishop always has the right of assignment of his clergy.) This could certainly happen if there were a general shortage of active Orthodox chaplains.

              Many chaplains start out as chaplain candidates while in seminary, going to chaplain school and officer candidate school in summer terms, possibly getting a reserve appointment until they get their parish time in.

              2. You’re right that the endorsing authority rests with the office of the Metropolitan, but I’m sure that changes in the officeholder require the filing of paperwork with the armed services to note the change. Further, it seems entirely likely that the military has the option to revoke the endorsing authority of a given religious body if it appears that the body or its representative acts fraudulently.

              The primary purpose of the chaplain corps is to ensure that soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines can fully exercise their First Amendment rights while on active duty, particularly in theater. In the case of the Orthodox, if they revoked the endorsing authority of the OCA, there would still be other Orthodox endorsers (such as Met. Isaiah, the endorser for the Greek Archdiocese). However, such a revocation (were it persued) would likely require the OCA chaplains to change jurisdictions, quickly, or face release from the service. Again, this is hypothetical, but there are TONS of rather fringe religious groups that do all kinds of monkeying around, and the military really has no patience for it.

              3. The Metropolitan can certainly promote people as candidates to the recruiters, and the recruiters can see to it that favored candidates have the rails greased. (For example, in having their interview with a senior chaplain be with one who is an ‘easy grader’, or to get the candidate through MEPS processing with a less discriminating doctor. Alternately, they can time the presentation of the paperwork to an accession board such that the candidate presents well relative to the peers; only so many are accepted from each pile at a given accession board meeting.) I’m sure a recruiter who recruits someone who can’t get through the background check, though, would not take such deception lightly, considering the effort and expense.

              4. I know for a fact that chaplains approaching the senior officer ranks have a requirement that their endorser agree to leave the endorsement in place. That’s not to say it could NEVER be withdrawn, but for senior officers, the military wouldn’t WANT it withdrawn prior to the chaplain’s reaching retirement. I know this because I am good friends with a chaplain who is, at this point, a fairly senior officer. Around the time he became eligible for advancement to Lt Col, he had to get the “no withdrawal” paperwork put together.

              As to the offensiveness of the idea that Metropolitan Jonah would put forth chaplaincy placement as a solution to problem clergy, I can only say that the Synod has released their perspective on events.

              • Gregg Gerasimon says

                Hi Father Basil,

                Thanks for the information on this. I didn’t know that bishops had “ins” which could make the military entrance process easier for certain chaplain candidates. Nevertheless, if even half the things being said in the Synod’s letter are true, then this priest would not have made it past step 1 in terms of trying to get in the military.

                In my opinion, it’s sad that this letter seems to pin 100% of the problems on Metropolitan Jonah, while the Synod takes no responsibility themselves. (I’m no longer focusing on the alleged military aspects of this case.) The Synod did elect Met. Jonah back in 2008. He has many qualities that so many of us admire — speaking out for Orthodox evangelism in America, a bishop who is vocal in reaching the unchurched and the non-Orthodox, for Orthodox unity in America, opposing open homosexuality in the military, speaking to the conference of the Anglican Church in North America to evangelize Orthodoxy to them — these and many other reasons are why Met. Jonah continues to have so many Orthodox faithful who love him.

                Yet the Synod asks him to resign, apparently threatens his financial stability and “future episcopal vocation,” and spits out a letter that essentially scapegoats Met. Jonah as volatile, unpredictable, the cause of all of our Church’s problems, and a hands-down horrible First Hierarch.

                Parts of this may be true — I’ve never met him, but it seems that he was not the ideal choice for the job, even given his positive qualities — but there has been no admission from the Synod that they made a poor choice in 2008 when they elected a man Metropolitan who had been an ordained bishop for only 10 or 11 days. They Holy Synod has not admitted that they contributed to this horrible situation by putting an essential neophyte in a position that he should not have been in. Many of us who lived in the South that time would have been happy if he had remained Bishop of Fort Worth for more than 10 days and stayed as the hopeful successor to Archbp Dmitri.

                I also find it hard to believe that he was not a good Metropolitan because of “poor administrative skills.” We don’t want Metropolitans because they are the ones who can make an office run efficiently. Receptionists and administrative staff and chancellors should be able to do that. Metropolitan Leonty and St. John Maximovitch of San Francisco were two *fantastic* 20th century American bishops in the full Orthodox sense of the word — and why these saintly men are known — and how they made and continue to make indelible impressions on people’s lives — is not because of their shrewd administrative skill.

                The Holy Synod’s “we had nothing to do with it — it’s all Met. Jonah’s fault” letter is hard to stomach, and I’m not really buying the whole scapegoating thing this time.

                Again, 2 more of my cents, for what it’s worth. Thanks for your input on this, and thanks for not being anonymous.

                Why do we continue to have so many anonymous or pseudonymous posters here?

                In Christ,

                • Geo Michalopuls says

                  Gregg (may I call you Gregg?) thank you for pointing out what’s really at stake here: the heaping of institutional sins on the scapegoat. This is not the way of true repentance.

                  You bring up St John of SF, excellent choice. I also bring up St Nektarios of Aegina. He heard calumnies against him to his dying breath. Yet he stands before the Lord interceding for us. The crime against him was profound. However the Church of Alexandria has still not recorvered from it.

                  I think this is a profound lesson for the OCA. As my former band instructor in Jr High told us (he was also a Baptist preacher): “be sure your sins will find you out.”

                  • Priest Basil Biberdorf says

                    Which “institutional sins” are you talking about? The Synod’s statement calls out specific actions and inactions: refusal to act with prudence and in concert with the Synod; refusal to abide by OCA policies on clergy sexual misconduct; refusal to accept legal advice from paid OCA counsel; damaging the OCA’s legal standing by communicating confidential information to adversarial parties; and, in the end, actively concealing actions of a priest accused of alcohol abuse, violence, rape, and assault by not pursuing any investigations and by not sharing this information with the Synod. The Synod’s letter avoids assuming the priest is guilty, but simply notes that earlier allegations against this priest were handled by Metropolitan Jonah “in a manner at a complete variance with the required standards of our Church.”

                    None of this, though, seems to be a matter of “institutional scapegoating,” for the letter does not enumerate institutional failures but rather specific actions and inaction performed by a specific person. Further, it makes no mention of any administrative failures, other than to note that “a challenged administrative skill set” are not the reasons for the Synod’s request. Thus, to attack the letter by saying it says the opposite of what it says is a strawman.

                    As I noted in a previous post, these enumerated actions does not exonerate similar actions, if they are proven to exist, from other bishops. However, failure to pursue similar things by other bishops hardly means the rules are faulty or that the rules in this case should not be enforced. (Were that so, I’d like to talk about my speeding violations. I think the fact that others exceeded the speed limit without getting caught means I should go free.)

                    I agree that the Synod will ultimately have to prove the contents of this statement, but the proof will be offered to civil authorities in the course of the latter’s investigation of the criminal accusations contained in the letter.

                    And, finally, I must state, once again, that I’m not attacking Metropolitan Jonah. I am however, attacking those accusing the Synod of being a “pack of wild dogs” or liars or whatever else simply for providing the list of reasons for their request as the internet peanut gallery repeatedly demanded they do.

                • Priest Basil Biberdorf says

                  …t there has been no admission from the Synod that they made a poor choice in 2008 when they elected a man Metropolitan who had been an ordained bishop for only 10 or 11 days. They Holy Synod has not admitted that they contributed to this horrible situation by putting an essential neophyte in a position that he should not have been in…

                  Well, a good half of the current Synod (four bishops: Melchisedek, Matthias, Michael, Alexander) were not even bishops when Metropolitan Jonah became first hierarch. Of the other five, only one of them, Archbishop Nathaniel, has been around for more than a decade. It’s a young Synod in terms of length of episcopal service, and has changed dramatically since the Synod that elected Jonah as Metropolitan. Of course that Synod was responding to the AAC’s nomination of Jonah, especially in view of the Synod’s reported difficulties with Job. (Jonah received 233 votes, to Job’s 212 on the first ballot. Jonah received 473, Job 364 on the second ballot, sending both names to the Synod for consideration.) In many ways, the delegates to the AAC got the one they wanted.

                  As to administrative skills, without making any particular judgment in this case, I’ll simply note that it’s one thing to have administrators and advisors, and something else entirely to allow the same to administer on one’s behalf or to provide advice that one takes into account. An effective leader will trust his administrators and, in the case of his advisors, take their advice most of the time. This is particularly true of a young, inexperienced leader. A good secretary and the willingness to delegate nearly all administrative tasks to that person can make or break a business executive, and many clergy find their ministries struggling because they fail to hand-off tasks in order to focus on the office entrusted to them.

                  • and it should be noted that Archbishop Job would repose just a few months later. Jonah may have been a bad choice but the choice was made based on the information available at the time. I’m sure looking back on things people may question the decision but that’s not very helpful

            • M. Stankovich says

              Mr Gerassimon (as you mentioned no rank, I mean no disrespect by referring to you as “Mr.”!),

              I worked in the Dept. of Child/Adolescent Psychiatry as an intern at a large military facility (probably the single most enjoyable experience of my career), and this issue of the sexual abuse of children with a chaplain (not an Orthodox chaplain) arose only once. I’ll never forget the investigator telling me, “I promise you, this man is being brought to my office as we speak.”) Holy cow!

              If you are aware, what is the Orthodox Chaplaincy policy should an “endorsed” priest be accused of sexual misconduct? Is the Metropolitan informed of such an accusation and he then initiates a church investigation? Is the chaplain suspended pending investigation? What is the role of the military in such an investigation and are conclusions of investigations shared between the government and the church? Would an investigation affect his endorsement?

        • What are the alleged entries in Father Symeon Kharon’s “criminal record?” With what has he been charged and convicted? To what extent has one diocesan bishop’s continuing resentment of nuns imported from Greece who say bad things about his own record there, been seized upon as fuel for the attack on Metropolitan Jonah? If a Holy Synod is now going to busy themselves with a rape investigation, how will their expertise exceed that of men trained in investigations and criminal justice. They expect to succeed after the cops and D.A. failed? Does the Holy Synod now operate, especially in the area of sex-related sins according to a rule: :”Guilty until and UNLESS PROVED INNOCENT BY US?” Will this be the exceptionalist American gift to historical Orthodoxy? It looks almost as if they are dying to prove something, anything against Metropolitan Jonah to justify their reversing their malfeasance in electing Metropolitan Jonah?
          Why, perhaps those who thought the bishops need more management and leadership training, would place a higher priority on their all being given a course in Criminal Justice 101?
          Most of the senior OCA and ROCOR clergy in the Bay Area know Igumen Gedeon (Kharon), his brother, Alexander Kharon, and Alexander’s son, now Fr. Symeon. The whole family lived for a time in the Russian Women’s Home of Mercy, when Father Gedeon was the chaplain. there. Seems to me Father Gedeon might have served out at Russian River as well. Probably Metropolitan Jonah remembers the family from when he was a monk out here at St. Eugene’s/St John of Shangai Monastery. By the way, someone here wrongfully and unintelligently opined that Metropolitan Jonah had not bee a monk very long before becoming an abbot. What an idea! Jonah was a monk for YEARS there. Rather than appoint him abbot, I appointed Father Nicholas Soraich, the Chancellor, to be “dean of the monasteries.” And he spent quite a while, with his unique management style and knowledge of Serbian monasticism in trying to effect and maintain a standard order in that monastery. It was, actually, like trying to herd cats. They all had cell phones and laptops, Father Jonah had a car and travelled a lot, advertising monasticism. In fact, that’s how most people ever heard of Jonah, his peripatetic life extolling monastic life. He did go to Valaam for a while. He once told us about how strict the diet was there and how awful the fish soup. I asked him if he actually followed the monastic regimen. He chuckled in his way and answered, “Your Grace! You must be kidding! I couldn’t have survived on what they eat!” ‘
          Remember, the Synod now beginning a rape investigation, apparently did NOT investigate an episcopal candidate enough to know ANYTHING about his qualifications to be First among them, the Primate!!!
          They admit to being astonished and bewildered!!!! WHY did they elect him? If I had to make a charge against them in a church court it would be something like “They acted, contrary to their episcopal vows, “in fear of the people.”

          • Fr. Yousuf Rassam says

            Yes, I remembered a Kharon being in San Francisco. After reading this I did a google search to see where Fr. Gedeon is now. Fr Gedeon is rebuilding the Tithe Church in Kiev, for which may God be thanked. Nice interview on one of the links. I was surprised that the third link was to this, from our esteemed host:


            where George Michalopulos writes:

            “Theses pictures were sent to me by a friend of mine who’s uncle, Fr Gideon Kharon is a priest in Kiev.”

  5. Why Bp Jonah needed to resign:

    • Thanks to Bp. Matthias, we now know more and we should be grateful for his candor. It seems to me after reading his letter, that Syosset and synod were most concerned with potential legal exposure in the matter of this Fr. Simeon. But it is also true that there is a credible response to what is being portrayed as the Metropolitan’s mistakes in the matter. One would hope that the other side of the story will also be investigated for the sake of all involved. I do not in any way condone this Fr. Simeon. He is a sick and broken person.

      I also do not believe that the synod had the benefit of the other facts. If so, I believe they would not have taken the course they chose. But it is too late for that, now their path is to further make their case at the expense of the Metropolitan to justify their actions. Of course this is understandable, but it is too bad that they asked the Metropolitan to voluntarily place himself in a mental institution. I am not aware that any of them are professionally competent to make such an evaluation of the man.

      Lord, have mercy.

      • Are you kidding me? “Most concerned about legal exposure”? I should say so. Perhaps you need to read the legal documentation that has emanated from the Monsignor Lynn case; it changes the landscape of what you know, when you know it, and what you do with it for anyone who has knowledge of any sort of sexual misconduct and is in a position of authority.

        Have you heard a confession from a parishioner who engages in child porn? What do you do with this information? Walk away, praying for this person? or do you now turn them into the authorities? Has a child come to you complaining their adopted parent is abusing them? What do you do? Call DFS? Or pray with the child and hope for the best? Clergy, teachers, medical personnel are now part of the network of “first reporters” in abuse cases. We had best have methodologies in place to deal with these things…in addition to having viable recording keeping in place (with serious background checks) in our parishes for anyone and everyone who has any sort of contact with our children. This is real and this is serious.

        Read Louis Freeh’s report re: the Penn State investigation. It’s quite the eye opener for any institution that has, within it’s prevue, people in authority that have access of any sort of vulnerable group: children, abused, chronically ill (Fr Michael Rymer comes to mind…), divorced, widow, orphan, so on and so forth. Any of us, all of us at one point or another in our lives. Again, what you know, when you know it, and how you manage that information becomes chillingly important when a legal case is brought against you as the authority of an institution. Ask the Roman Catholic Church; ask Penn State. Does the OCA desire to be another in a list such as this?

        Or do we still think that as The Church we are above these things; we have some “divine right” that excludes us from the State interfering with our “personal” problems with human sin and it’s consequences?

        • Not at all. I have never heard a confession of the type you offer, not being a priest, but if I did or heard of such a case I would call the police. Period. No question. The Church is not above the civil law, especially in such cases as the Lyn case, nor was Penn State justified either.

          If the facts prove that +Jonah wantonly covered up for this Fr. Simeon, then he should be sanctioned. Maybe it would have been better for him to be placed on a Leave while all the facts were properly investigated in a climate of reasonable calm and objectivity. But given the backdrop of current events, that may have proved impossible.

          • I want to know why the Synod didn’t use the Lent 2011 period to investigate this. They couldn’t have botched this worse if they had tried.

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Because they didn’t know what they were doing. This was a by-the-seat-of-their-pants operation conducted in secret with people who believe each other’s press clippings. They though Jonah would be gone after Santa Fe and with each of his strategic retreats, they got more desperate to come up with things. Now with the release of Matthias’ letter, they really screwed the pooch.

              • Rod Dreher says

                The Sante Fe coup was supposed to knock out +Jonah. That’s what the leaked email of the Stokoe conspiracy revealed. (Conspirators we know of were: Mark Stokoe, Robert Solodow, John M Reeves, Faith Skordinski.)

                They failed at Sante Fe and when the emails were leaked, their plotting was revealed.

                This is exactly why I am willing to believe that Jonah was an administrative disaster (loose cannon, etc.), but also deeply suspicious of the way they got rid of him. I wish the OCA had some outside person who could come in, do an investigation, and let the chips fall where they may.

                • There’d be no reason for a special prosecutor to look at Metropolitan Theodosius: he’s been neither charged nor convicted of anything. He retired for obvious reasons: a series of multiple mini-strokes that left him partially disabled, particularly in speech and quick thinking. No one asked him to retire or hinted that he should retire. No, Not one Bishop.No Mark Stokoe or Protodeacon Eros Wheeler. It was only after Metropolitan Herman was elected that Wheeler Stokoe or Archbishop Job or anybody else even HINTED at any criminality or sin having transpired in Metropolitan Theodosius’s time. Archbishop Job in particular would not have made a peep.. Perhaps it was the very election of Herman, rather than the (then) popular Seraphim, that got them all going. A Saint Tikhon’s man BEAT an SVS man? “We’ve got to do something; this is getting out of hand!’

              • Don’t you guys ever tire of this constant whine? News flash, Stokoe had nothing to do with Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation. He was asked to do so by the entire Holy Synod. Why? Not because he was defending Orthodoxy against some imagined Lavender Mafia but because he never seemed to grasp the concilar nature of our church.

                The Church survived the Iconoclasts and the Communists without Metropolitan Jonah and it will survive this little scandal as well. Not because of Jonah but because of the Holy Spirit that has protected the Church for 2000 years.

        • Sub-Deacon David says

          I’m curious, from all I’ve read the Confessional is still sacrosanct and Priests cannot be force to, nor are they allowed to, reveal what is said to them in confession, so could you expound on what you meant by “Clergy… are now part of the network of “first reporters” in abuse case”? Do you mean to imply that legally a Priest is bound to report instances of abuse learned about in confession? If so, please cite the law or any judicial decisions to that effect.

          • John Christopher says

            Sub-Deacon David: That is a matter of state law and varies state by state. There are several states where clergy have been mandatory reporters for a very long time.

          • Each state has different remedies for this. In Massachusetts, the Supreme Court upheld confidentiality based on two things: 1) the degree to which the violation undermine the principles underlying the governing rule of law and 2) the extent to which exclusion will tend to deter such violations from being repeated in the future.

            I am not saying this HAS happened; I am merely begging the question: what IF…? We live in a litigious society. In a country where predatory sexual deviants are found in every walk of life (church, school, state, sport, home) will confessional privilege continue to stand in light of the abuses that have happened within the Roman church? And if so, for how much longer? And if these abuses now raise their head in other places, will the state overreact to stop it? In Ireland, legislation is happening to discard confessional confidentiality in order to stop clergy abuse ( Will that happen here?

          • This is a very difficult situation and I pray God I am never put in this position. On the one had we have what the church teaches about the confessional and my not being able, actually prohibited, from ever releasing any information that I hear in the confessional. On the other hand the protection of those that have been or could be harmed. It brings me to tears just to write this and think about what I would do in this case. I love our Holy Church and I love the sacrament of confession and I struggle with this one. I would truly have to seek guidance on what to do. I pray to God that I am never faced with this but if I am I pray that I am given the strength to deal with the consequences of whatever action I take.

            Lord Have Mercy!

            • The Church cannot give up the seal of confession! Doing so would inherently undermine the purpose of confession. The State continues to insinuate its bureaucratic powers into all aspects of life, and this slide toward totalitarianism will not stop until people forcefully reject the statist project on principle. Some will cry: “What about the children?” “The weak?” “Liability?” Perhaps, the general will that increases state power in these matters has good intentions, but the result is the same as if the most cunning Communist apparatchiks had planned the slow but inevitable disappearance of liberty among formerly free men. The automatic CYA reflex is simply a submission to the managerial masters who get their way one way or the other — politics, criminal codes, tort threats . . . The devil has quite an arsenal, and we won’t even begin to muster an army.

        • Anna Rowe says

          Thumbs up. …and we the laity have the responsibility to be vigilant, report, and protect.

    • Rod Dreher says

      Yes, if what Bishop Matthias reports is true, then the Metropolitan ought to have been kicked out. If Jonah’s removal empowers some of the worst figures in the OCA, then that is a tragedy, but it’s one that — if Matthias’s account is true — Jonah brought upon the OCA himself. I am grateful to Bp Matthias for his openness. Now that we have something to go on, we are in a better position to evaluate what happened.

      What I can’t figure out is why the Synod acted against Jonah on this issue right now. All this was in the SMPAC Report — except the part about rape charges being filed. Perhaps the Pennsylvania ruling against Msgr Lynn sparked this move. I don’t know.

      • Sub-Deacon David says

        Without some response from Met. Jonah, or those knowledgeable vis. his side of the “story”, it is difficult to make the judgement that he “ought to have been kicked out”. While I, for one, am very much appreciative that Bishop Matthias, at least, does not continue to treat the “rank and file” of the laity as children undeserving of the facts around these issues. Not being fully versed on the politics of the synod, it is impossible for me to make any other observation at this point. I look forward to reading the reaction of others.

        • Pravoslavnie says

          Bp Matthias’s letter dovetails with what I was hearing from a trustworthy source at St. Mark yesterday that “they threatened him” and forced Jonah to resign. I believe that Matthias has stated the official reasons they asked him to go, but it doesn’t mean that the party line is the truth, the whole truth, or even the full story. Certain elements in the OCA have been out to get Met. Jonah almost since the beginning, and there was little evidence that anyone seriously tried to work with him during his rule. The whole “medical evaluation” thing still reeks of Soviet tactics to me. I think the timing of this action was opportunistic and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I am in agreement that a statement from Met. Jonah is necessary to sort out the facts.

          • I agree, Pravoslavnie, but he probably can’t say anything until the legal situation works itself out.

        • Rod Dreher says

          Well, the truth is that we may never get Jonah’s side of the story, because I guarantee you whatever severance package he’s negotiating now will hinge on his willingness to sign a non-disclosure agreement. They’ve got all that over his head.

      • Rebecca M. says

        Mr. Dreher,

        I’m glad to see you talking sense. You’ve always struck me as an intelligent man, who has had the misfortune to fall under the very compelling influence of a couple of people who’ve fed you some rather distorted viewpoints (carefully tailored to fit with your pre-existing political assumptions).

        As you have with time and greater exposure come to appreciate +Jonah’s weaknesses as well as his talents, I hope that with time and greater exposure you will likewise come to appreciate the strengths of some of the people within the OCA Holy Synod and administration whom you have been prone to write off. Our fate as humans is to be flawed, but without exception I have found our current leadership to be composed of dedicated priests and laity who are really trying to live by the Gospel. They’re not perfect, but the agendas and motives imputed to them by many are not there (at least as far as I can tell).

        • Oh yeah, like Rod’s going to write off Archbishop Nikon’s personal membership in your sodomite Facebook group, or Archbishop Benjamin’s allowing the chrismation of unrepentant self-mutilators. Get a life, Rebecca.

          • Carl Kraeff says

            I am sick and tired of reading the vitriol by you and others against folks who are serving the Church. The Holy Synod members are there by and large because they were nominated by their respective Diocesan Special Councils and elected by the Holy Synod. The officers of the Church were nominated by the MC or the AAC and confirmed by the Holy Synod. The members of the MC, ditto. If you indict them, you indict a whole boatload of folks. What gives you the right to abuse them so shamelessly? Are you trying to emulate Saint Paul before his conversion? Or, do you fancy yourself to be a modern version of Saint Mark of Ephesus?

          • Rebecca M. says

            I have a life — a very busy one. I do sometimes wonder about those who seem to post on these blogs all day long, every day.

            • Lola J. Lee Beno says

              You also have time to post on email lists and on Facebook. Has it occurred to you that some of us may have web browser windows open while performing daily tasks? Or have a smartphone or tablet sitting on the desk? Heck, some of us just may be speed readers.

            • Mark from the DOS says

              Self reflection is a good thing Rebecca.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Rod, you’re wrong. If what Bp Matthias reports is true, then he has the duty to summon an ecclesiastical court to try the charges. Then, only after HB is adjudged guilty, can he be “kicked out.”

        • Rod Dreher says

          George, is it uncanonical to fail to follow the sexual abuse guidelines of the OCA? I mean, if Jonah were guilty of this, would it be a violation of the canons? I’m asking genuinely. If it isn’t, strictly speaking, a violation of the canons, it is nevertheless a huge potential legal liability for the OCA, one that could easily threaten the existence of the OCA (I mean, the OCA could have its ass sued off). If the canons aren’t clear-cut on this procedural matter, then it would be very risky to put Jonah on trial, even though there is a clear danger to the OCA to have a Metropolitan (or any hierarch) who is careless about these matters.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Good question, Rod. The trouble, nobody follows the canons, only when they want to. There are credible allegations (including an arrest record) for a bishop on the synod. Where were the canons then?

      • Well, if you were to read the Holy Synod’s account the reasons are rather obvious. They have been dealing with Metropolitan Jonah’s mishandling of these matters for years culminating in the leave of Absence he was asked to take in Santa Fe.

        Unfortunately, despite the repeated efforts of the Holy Synod to deal with the Metropolitan’s behavior, he never changed. The rape case was simply the final straw in a long series of questionable actions by Jonah which necessitated his removal.

        Its all rather simple and if you would let go of your conspiracy theories, it would be obvious to you as well

    • Finally some substantive information is provided. Wow, just wow! Puts things in a whole new perspective.

      The Holy Synod acted justly and rightly. Now why didn’t they provide this information BEFORE?

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Chris, I can’t believe that as a lawyer, you couldn’t see through the holes in this hatchet job. Sorry, meant no offense but this letter was a desperation measure.

    • Too bad this wasn’t put out with the announcement of +Jonah’s resigning. Not good order.

    • Abercius says

      Finally a statement. One question: did this priest ever formally transfer to the OCA? Was the paperwork ever done? I don’t remember seeing his name in the clergy assignment section of TOC.

      • Abercius, I also didn’t think the priest was ever in the OCA. I think Dn. Patrick told us Met. Jonah might have accepted him only to take control of him to get him defrocked.

        • He never was a priest in the OCA nor of any standing in the OCA. He was never accepted into the OCA. He was invited by +Jonah with the DC nuns to come to the USA.

          Fr Simeon, to the best of my recollection, was cut off from the nuns and sent packing when the SMPAC report came to light, a report that was blessed by +Jonah.

          Fr Simeon then went off and got himself ordained, I believe by a priest in the Serbian Diocese. This was not blessed by +Jonah, again, to the best of my recollection. Anyway, how could +Jonah given that +Jonah cut his ties with him after the SMPAC report.

          However if +Jonah subsequent to these actions gave any type of cover for this man, that is an offense that he must answer. At this point, the burden of proof lies with the Holy Synod. I hope they will be forthcoming and tell the whole story.

          • Amos, Fr. Simeon would have had to be ordained by a bishop, not a priest. 🙂

          • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            Fr. Simeon was only a guest in the OCA and is officially under the omophor of the Archbishop of Athens. Had he been under +Jonah’s omophor, the Synod could have defrocked him a long time ago.

            • Good catch, Dn. Patrick.

              I also noticed that Met. Jonah was allegedly “communicating” with one of the people who allegedly discouraged the victim from making a report. That’s a rather wooly and evasive statement on the part of Bishop Matthias. For all we know, Met. Jonah could have been asking that person for a recipe for biscuits.

              I have “communicated” with Met. Jonah, does that mean I am now a link in this chain of wrongdoing?

              Seems every time I click “Post comment” here, it makes me realize something. Dn. Patrick, if Fr. Simeon was never under Met. Jonah’s omophor, that means the accusation that Met. Jonah released Fr. Simeon to another jurisdiction, without revealing a canonical impediment, cannot possibly be true.

              • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                Fr. Simeon was long gone before Santa Fe, even before +Jonah put the word out that he was not to be allowed to serve in the Archdiocese of Washington. He didn’t show up again until the nuns were given the boot by the OCA and received by ROCOR, but ROCOR did not receive Fr. Simeon and only granted him permission to serve with the nuns.

                • Deacon Patrick, your knowledge of the facts of the situation may be very important in the event Met. Jonah is taken to court (criminal, civil, or ecclesiastical).

                  The number of variances between what you know, and what Bishop Matthias (and now the entire Holy Synod posting on has claimed, is truly unsettling.

                  • Jesse Cone says

                    I don’t believe any charges have been filed. Or according to one version, the crime was reported and later withdrawn.

                    • Rod Dreher says

                      This is something that should be a matter of public record, and therefore checkable in Washington DC or the surrounding area.

                • Carl Kraeff says

                  I am confused. Why would ROCOR permit Fr. Symeon to serve with the accepted nuns if Fr Symeon was not accepted?

                  • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                    That is something you should probably ask Met. Hilarion about. Have you?

                  • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                    Remember, the SMPAC report was TOP SECRET, so only a handful of people in the OCA knew all the dirt on Fr. Simeon, and the nuns were in denial and still wanted him around.

    • I too am thankful for Bishop Matthias’s candor. However, I would like to know the Metropolitan’s version of events in due time.

      Also, I think his “disclosure” of information to opposing counsel actually turned out to be an accident.

      This doesn’t change the absurd and ridiculous behavior of the Synod over the past year and a half. If things were so serious in February 2011, they should have used the Metropolitan’s leave in order to investigate. If his presence in St. Nicholas was enough to preclude this, they should have suspended him or sent him elsewhere.

      All they would have had to do was say “The Metropolitan is involved in a clergy misconduct case, we regretfully had to withdraw him from public ministry for his own protection, we are sorry for how this hurts anyone, please pray for him and for us, we will tell you more when we are able”.

      Their pussyfooting was not fair to anyone, least of all the victim of the crime. ANAXIOS.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        Bishop Matthias says that Metropolitan Jonah has in fact given his version. Read the first paragraph of his letter (I am bolding the most relevant part):

        “We, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, have hesitated to release further details surrounding the resignation of Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of our Church, this in a desire to preserve his dignity and to prevent further harm to an innocent party. We did this knowing there would be appeals for additional information regarding our decision. We also harbored some hope that Metropolitan Jonah would show a willingness to accept responsibility for his actions and failures to act. However, things said and written by Metropolitan Jonah since his resignation have demonstrated that he is not accepting that responsibility.”

        I wonder what pseudonym +Jonah used if he was a poster on this forum?

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Carl, what exactly has His Beatitude said since the resignation. Just one word Carl. One.

      • Just Guessing says

        Bp Mathias’s candor was nothing more than a calculated release of potentially damning information to quash any attempt to elect Met Jonah as the ruling bishop of the Diocese of the South, that by some weird coincidence, happens to start TODAY. Weird, huh?

        • He couldn’t have been elected at this assembly because the “special assembly” has been cancelled.

          With any luck, by the time that special assembly is allowed to go forward, Met. Jonah’s situation will be resolved.

          • Just Guessing says

            Poisoning the well, then… This is how terrorists operate. They wait until everyone’s in the same place. Then – BOOM!

            Whatever the reason, it was a hit job. Disgusting.

        • Please, if the Holy Synod found Jonah to be an incompetent Metropolitan why would they elect him Bishop of the South? Remember, the Diocese nominates, the Holy Synod elects. Nothing needed to be said. They simply don’t vet him, don’t vote him case closed.

          Its good that we have such a fine Locum Tenens as Archbishop Nikon who has done a splendid job of watching over us and, while moving the process along, not rushing us into a bad decision.

          • Yeah, go Archbishop Nikon, who’s so extremely competent that he “realizes” three weeks before the special assembly that a candidate who’s been vetted for three years hasn’t really been vetted, and tells a bald-faced lie about not having met him.

    • Forgive me, but this rings true. After all, he did accept Fr Michael Rymer (now Fr Nektarios) into the Monastery of St John (Manton). The lone-ranger accusations and lack of concern over legal liability all ring true, after being aware of previous behavior.

      Is Metr Jonah a devout, traditionally Orthodox person? Of course.

      Oftentimes, a great evangelist makes a poor pastor.

      (This doesn’t change the fact, as Rod D and others have pointed out, that some of the other OCA bishops have also made poor decisions vis-a-vis compromised clergy in their dioceses.)

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        For the record, just where are disgraced priests supposed to go? They’re supposed to go to monasteries.

        • Monasteries should not be used to reform wayward clergy or bishops. Monasteries are places were men and women go who are truly called to live the monastic life. Perhaps this is the way of the “old country” but this is not the way it should work here in the US of A. We need stable authentic monasteries here in America. If that happens, perhaps then they could be places for this type of rehabilitation.

          • Monasteries are places of repentance.

            • Yes, monasteries are places of repentance but they are not penal colonies and should not be used for that purpose, and only and that is a big only, there are monks there who have the skills necessary to handle such situations.

              • “Penal colonies” what an idea from a Christian!
                It is clear Father, from all your posts that you have had very little in the way of monastery life.
                That’s OK but why keep reframing it, so that you can have a hollywood ideal where YOU are clearly the monk in charge.
                What if you go to anyone of our monasteries under anyone of the spectacular monks or nuns who lead them, for say a year, and then report how your experience was as one of the novices?
                Maybe then you would learn what a monastery is for beside your vision of a social service group all dressed in black.
                Please, stop with this nonsense about the new world and how YOU can improve it with your new vision of monasticism.
                I know you mean well but, WOW, what an ego distortion.

                • Anonymous DOW Reader says

                  I normally keep silent on these pages but I will not have anyone attacking the true and inspiring repentance of Fr. Nektarios (Rymer). The man lived as a single priest, alone, and suffered for it; he suffered from his choice to follow the path he had set out upon while a Roman Catholic, to live as a celibate parish priest without the love and support of a monastery or family/marriage. Such a situation would drive anyone to sin when burdened with the cares of a whole parish community; this is why we such problems amongst the Roman Catholic priests. The man has sinned, but he went to the monastery to repent of his own free will and has been a beacon of hope to those who would repent of their own sins. Metropolitan Jonah accepted Fr. Nektarios into his monastery for the salvation of the soul of the suffering servant of God, the monk Nektarios. How is one who desires to turn towards Christ not “truly called to the monastic life”; rather, how CAN one who desires to repent and live in dedication to our Lord not be “truly called to the monastic life”?

                  Met. Jonah gave Fr. Nektarios a chance to repent and this has borne much fruit in his life and the life of the monastery. It has saddened me to see Fr. Meletios destroy that wonderful place over the last two years, a place I know and love, but it was by the efforts of Fr. Nektarios and Fr. Martin – both of whom had much to repent of and found St. John’s to be a place of deep and sincere repentance – that the monastery was able to function at all and be of benefit to its pilgrims and workers.

                  Instead of criticizing a penitent man, let us pray for him as he continues to try and help his old friend, Fr. Meletios, repent, something he has loyally been trying to do since the monastery received their new abbot and became troubled by his presence. Let us pray that he have to strength to do as God wills, whether that be leaving a once-holy-but-rotting monastery or staying there in the hopes of giving a sick man – Fr. Meletios – the chance and love to repent.

                  Lord, have mercy!

                  • Anonymous DOW Reader, if I could give you fifty like points, I would! God bless you!

                  • Dear Anonymous DOW Reader,

                    I really appreciate your comments, and loving approach. I, too, know Father Nektarios, and know him to be a man of love and repentance. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner too.

      • Monk James says

        We enter the monastic life as a way of repentance, working out our salvation. It would be very wrong of people to deny this to Rymer or to anyone else. It’s none of their business.

  6. Toby Smith says

    I have four words for all of you: I told you so.

    • Toby, we didn’t need you to tell us so. The accidentally cc’d email from Stokoe a year or so ago about how this was the best “hook” to use against Jonah told us so. This is all exactly what I expected, according to script, including taking a brief step to remove Stokoe from the limelight before implementing the plan. But it is good to finally have something on record, so things can move forward.

      I do think it would be reasonable to link or republish that email as part of figuring out how to rebuild trust. Those named in the email still need to resign or at least adequately respond to the charge of conspiring. I don’t know how you rebuild trust without that.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        In light of the possibility that +Jonah may have posted on this blog, let me speculate a bit.

        Can it be Nikos? No, Nikos writes like an uber-Archpriest used to wheeling and dealing and church politics. So, Nikos could be former Chancellor Mr. Bob Kondratick or Father Joseph Fester.

        Can it be the descendant of St. Vladimir, the hyper-Orthodox all caps guy? Nah.

        Can it be Um? A possibility.

        Any other suggestions?

        • Defend The Faith says

          Why would Fr. Fester do anything to help Metropolitan Jonah after he was dismissed from DC? That doesn’t add up.

          • Carl Kraeff says

            Because +Jonah transferred him to ACROD, thus precluding a Spiritual Court that would have probably resulted in Father Fester’s defrocking.

            • Defrocking? For posting a less-than-complimentary comment on Monomakhos? They’re gonna send me to the chair then.

              • What I don’t understand is how in the USA ANY organization can require you to take a “leave of absence for treatment” Is that illegal incarceration? Treatment of What?
                Saving his dignity was really a high priority wasn’t it?

                • Faceit, yeah, it sounds like his dignity was and remains the last thing on their minds. We remember the stories of his supposed co-workers mocking him behind his back just because he has a weight problem.

                • Of course they can’t force him to go to a mental institution, only a court can do that. They can tell him to take a leave of absence and get medical treatment if he wants to keep his job. But the decision to actually go has to be his alone.

              • Make that a bench, Helga. I may need to join you.

                Considering that the last three OCA Metropolitans were forced to resign in disgrace, perhaps the Synod should stop electing Metropolitans, and just rent them by the hour. After all, why pay full price for a man if all you want to do is screw him.

        • Jesse Cone says


          Are you still on that? I would have thought you’d be claiming that “AG” was the dismissed Fr. Alexander Garklavs, who now works in the DOMW.

          But that wouldn’t make a difference in how we’re to read what he says, right?

    • Jesse Cone says


      You did tell us!

      However all the accusations in Bp Matthias’ letter were levied months before he became a bishop. It’s not me disputing the facts; they were disputed last year, and the Synod was unable/ unwilling to take action at that time. So why are the same disputed, incomplete facts being wielded effectively now?

      My guess, and I’ve heard some things to suggest this, is that Fr Simeon resurfaced and did something else. But, if you can’t link his behavior to a cover up of +Jonah’s, it’s as germane as talking to a nun about biscuits.

      Not mentioned in Bp Matthias’ letter is that +Jonah tried to get Fr. Simeon help, banned him from the DC property, and would not let him serve in the Archdiocese of Washington. Oh, and the military chaplaincy? My understanding is that that took place early in Fr. Simeon’s stay in DC and for the express reason that Met. Jonah thought he needed more discipline and supervision than he could offer as Metropolitan.

      A further guess on my part is that the Garklavs emails (which HB has still NOT leaked, despite the continued accusations that he’s out for himself and leaking info!) show Fr. Garklavs was informed and consulted on the Fr. Simeon case.

      So, Toby, while I appreciate +Matthias’ letter, suspicions and questions still remain unaddressed.

  7. Rod Dreher says

    Two things to keep in mind:

    1. We don’t have the Metropolitan’s side of the story. I know for a fact that he contested, in writing and in detail, the SMPAC report’s version of his dealings with Fr. Symeon.

    2. Assuming for the sake of argument that the case put forth by Bp Matthias is true and accurate, then yes, Jonah ought to have been put out to pasture. But if we’re going to clean house, then let’s clean house. Let’s have an investigation into Bishop Benjamin’s treatment of sexually dodgy priests, for example. The SMPAC Report faults Jonah for reinstating and serving with Fr. Isidore Brittain, who was found to have committed an act of sexual abuse against Reader Sidebottom in Alaska. In my view, Jonah is a squish on these matters, and I have been party to a personal dressing-down of him on his wishy-washiness. However, Jonah has said that he reinstated Fr. Brittain to parish life at the express request of Bp Benjamin. That is not in the SMPAC Report, but Jonah has stated this in writing. Is it true? If it’s true, why is there no outcry against the danger Bp Benjamin is putting the OCA in through his tolerance of priests known to be a sexual risk? The photo of Met Jonah and Bp Benjamin serving liturgy with this creep is easy to find on the Internet. Why is Jonah held to account but Benjamin is not?

    Also, what about Abp Nathaniel and the Fr. Vasile Susan case? If we’re going to get to the bottom of allegations of hierarchs protecting sexual misconduct among the clergy, then let’s get to the bottom of it.

    If a trustworthy investigation found Met. Jonah to be guilty of wrongdoing, then I say, with sadness, he needs to go. But let’s turn the spotlight onto the whole episcopal gang.

    • Rod, thank you for your fair assessment of the situation.

    • Carl Kraeff says

      Rod–Are you one of those people that received the following report from +Jonah?

      “He gave to unauthorized persons a highly sensitive, painstakingly detailed internal Synodal report concerning numerous investigations into sexual misconduct, risking leaks of names of alleged victims and alleged perpetrators. While those who now possess the report are wrongfully in possession of OCA property, they have not yet returned their copies of these highly confidential and sensitive documents, further exposing our Church to potential legal liabilities.” From Bishop Matthias’ letter.

      • That’s another problem with Bishop Matthias’s letter. He’s up in arms about Met. Jonah allegedly leaking the report to a few private people who nevertheless never divulged its contents publicly, but no one on the Synod has ever said a damn thing about MARK STOKOE ACTUALLY LEAKING THE NAMES OF PEOPLE IN THE REPORT ON HIS WEBSITE FOR ANYONE TO SEE.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          I am sorry Helga but you need to prove this allegation. I did not see the names of perpetrators or targets of investigation leaked at OCAN.

          • Here, Carl:


            This multi-page report, signed by all the Committee members (including Fr. Garklavs and Tosi)was emailed to the Synod on February 10, 2011. Among the topics covered were issues relating to the allegations against Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa; issues surrounding Fr. Symeon Kharon, a monastic who, together with and a group of nuns from Greece, was brought by the Metropolitan to start a monastery in the DC area; issues surrounding Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain); the Committee’s concern with the Metropolitan’s unilateral appointment of an investigator for clergy sexual misconduct they felt was unqualified; and other, related concerns. The highly critical report suggested no specific action by the Synod, but warned the OCA was courting pastoral, legal and professional troubles if the Metropolitan’s actions – and inaction – were allowed to continue unchecked.

            • Carl Kraeff says

              You are right. However, there were no details provided regarding the specific allegations against Archbishop Seraphim, Archimandrite Isidore and Ft Symeon. I assume that the full report contained the gory details, to include the names of the alleged victims, thus making the possession of that degree of knowledge a fiduciary problem for all officials-bishops on down. Thus, there is world of difference between the two “leaks.”

              • Nice try, Carl. But it is pretty hypocritical to go after Met. Jonah for supposedly leaking the report when it is obvious someone else was leaking it, too. (And don’t say Met. Jonah might have leaked it to Stokoe. That would be like Harry Potter shilling for Voldemort.)

                • Carl Kraeff says

                  Surely there is a difference between leaking the names of alleged perpetrators and of victims. Stokoe was in an official position to know the names of the perpetrators; I don’t believe that Rod Dreher or Father Deacon Brian Mitchell had any reason to have seen it, let alone possess copies of it. In summary,

              • Disgusted With It says


                Believe blindly in the institution if you want, but I can tell you myself that certain members of the SMPAC have big mouths.

                • Carl Kraeff says

                  And, that is because you are very close to a member of that committee? Who are you exactly?

              • Rod Dreher says

                Be careful what you assume, Carl. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

                • Mike Myers says

                  Mr. Dreher, you speak with such authority here. Do you by any chance have the full SMPAC report? If so, would you care to disclose where you got it . . .?
                  If you don’t, then I’m here wondering about your grounds and rationale for castigating Carl’s assumptions.

                  I’d avise much more caution about what you write henceforth, buddy.

                  • The SMPAC report is just nine pages long. It contains no footnotes and lists no appendices. Instead, up front, it states:

                    In order to generate a readable document in a timely manner, citations and footnotes are not included: however, all of the facts and observations contained herein are based on documentary evidence available in the OCA Chancery and/or on verifiable, trustworthy statements.

                    Draw your own conclusions about what that means.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      Are you speaking for yourself? If so, how did you get a copy? If not, for whom are you fronting?

                  • Geo Michalopulos says

                    So I guess you’re the authority. BTW, I was wondering when you were going to start pontificating on this blog again.

                    • Mike Myers says

                      George, after you get around to enrolling in and, God willing, passing those adult-ed reading comprehension classes I recently suggested you might want to look into (prob. available even in OK — check it out), consider remedial ed. in logic, rhetorical fallacies and critical thinking skills, too. KK?

                • Carl Kraeff says

                  You are right; I do not know, I am just making educated guesses and drawing conclusions from the evidence that I see. I have no inside track, no special knowledge. It would help if you tell us the unvarnished truth, like you had been urging the Holy Synod to do.

        • Rdr. Benjamin says

          That’s because +MATTHIAS dealt with Stokoe when he did leak those names. That is probably why, along with a lawsuit in federal court that you can look up online on the US Courts website vs him and Dreher et al., he was removed from the Metropolitan council and later shut down his website. Did he have anything to do with the political maneuvers since by Syosett? Perhaps. To think that he ceased communication with his old pals altogether seems out of character for him.

          But in the case of +MATTHIAS, that bishop has almost always acted above the law. I appreciate his candor and I hope that if there was another side of the story that he didn’t hear from ++JONAH that he would also come out with another letter detailing those details and how we can more fully understand this situation.

          • I think you mean Drezlo not Dreher.

            • Rod Dreher says

              Must be. Dreher hasn’t been made party to any suit. In the copy of the SMPAC Report that I have, there isn’t a great deal more specific information than Stokoe made public from the copy leaked to him. Certainly there’s nothing actionable there, at least not to my untrained eye. The only name of a victim is Reader Sidebottom, whose case was already in the public realm. The idea that the SMPAC Report is a smoking gun of any sort is ludicrous.

              • Carl Kraeff says

                Yet, your own track record does not make you believable in this instance. Are you saying that:

                a. Stokoe’s copy was acquired in any other way but through his role as a member of the MC?

                b. Stokoe’s publication of the three alleged perps was somehow prejudicial to the OCA? If so, in what manner, since the allegations were already public knowledge in the case of at least two of them?

                c. If Stokoe had legitimate access to the Report, you consider your possession of a copy to be equally legitimate?

              • I believe Stokoe maintained that he never had access to the report, despite many attempts to get someone to give him a copy.

                Seeing how much the OCA officially frowns on “unauthorized” access to the report, it’s not surprising that he would claim not to have access, whether or not he actually did.

          • Rdr. Benjamin says

            I meant Velencia v. Drezhlo et al. My apologies Rod. I got last names mixed up.

            The Source:

      • Rod Dreher says

        Let me simply say that I deliberately avoided any contact with Jonah, physical or via phone or e-mail, while we were writing OCA Truth, to protect him from just this kind of thing. The only contact I had with him at all during this was to say hello to him in passing on a visit down to St. Nicholas Cathedral. Aside from that brief exchange, the last time I talked to Jonah was in Dallas in early 2011, before the fateful Synod meeting in Santa Fe. I have no idea whether or not Jonah gave the SMPAC Report to anybody, but he didn’t give it to me.

        I’ll return the SMPAC Report when the Synod directs Mark Maymon to return all the e-mails of mine and others that he stole from Father Fester’s account. I’m not holding my breath.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          Come on now. Nobody thinks that you or +Jonah are stupid to have this document change hands directly between you two. From Bishop Matthias’ letter, I suspect that the Holy Synod did investigate whose copy was leaked and they concluded that it was +Jonah’s copy. It would have been quite easy for him to have passed it on to, say Father Fester, for further distribution.

          • Sub-Deacon David says

            Just how do you suppose they determined it was +HB Jonah’s “copy” that was leaked. Were these hard copy leaks? How is it known? Just how do you go about determining the origin of a copy you don’t have access to?

          • Jesse Cone says

            Carl, they’re just now announcing they’re investigating a RAPE that they had all assumed happened last year. I doubt they launched an investigation that conclusively proved +Jonah purposefully leaked anything (because they’ve claimed the same erroneously before) but that’s a questions we can ask.

            • Monk James says

              The problem here is that rape is a crime in addition to being a sin.

              At no point in christian history have we, as The Church, ever investigated a crime against civil law. That’s the responsibility of the police.

              In spite of all that SMPAC blather, our OCA is in no position to investigate a rape. All we can do is react to the civil process with appropriate ecclesial responses.

              Our OCA has neither the personnel nor the expertise to investigate offenses under civil law. We are left with situations in which civil law has not been broken, but morality has been challenged by the behavior of our clergy and employees.

              That sort of thing is a matter internal to The Church, but we must let civil law does what it must do regarding civil crimes..

              • Carl Kraeff says

                Surely, we must cooperate with the police conducting the investigation? It is clear to me, at least, that +Jonah was very wrong to interfere in this case. The letter from the Holy Synod is clear:

                “At some point after his enthronement as our Primate, Metropolitan Jonah unilaterally accepted into the OCA a priest known to him and to others to be actively and severely abusing alcohol, which more than once was coupled with episodes of violence and threats toward women. One of these episodes involved the brandishing of a knife, and the other the discharge of a firearm, the former resulting in the man’s arrest. The man was also incarcerated for three days in yet another incident, shortly after he was accepted into the OCA by Metropolitan Jonah. While under Metropolitan Jonah’s omophorion, this priest is alleged to have committed a rape against a woman in 2010.

                Metropolitan Jonah was later told of this allegation in February 2012, yet he neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops, nor notified the Church’s lawyers, nor reported the matter to the police, nor in any other way followed the mandatory, non-discretionary PSPs of the OCA. The alleged victim, however, did report the rape to the police. We know, too, that the alleged victim and a relative were encouraged by certain others not to mention the incident, and were told by them that their salvation depended on their silence. As recently as last week Metropolitan Jonah was regularly communicating with one of those who tried to discourage the reporting of this crime by the alleged victim and her relative. In addition, the Metropolitan counseled the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy, without informing the military recruiter of any of the priest’s problems. Finally, the Metropolitan attempted to transfer the priest to other Orthodox jurisdictions, and ultimately did permit him to transfer to another jurisdiction, in each case telling those jurisdictions there were no canonical impediments to a transfer..

                I see here interference with the police, besides gross malfeasance as a bishop, particularly one who did not follow his own policy that he promulgated as Metropolitan. This, more than any thing else proves that he is not fit to be a bishop. Frankly, he is fortunate that he was not put on trial (probably because we do not have the required number of bishops).

                • CARL! You don’t get it! Father Symeon Kharon has NEVER EVER been under the omophorion of Metropolitan Jonah. He is and was under the omophorion of the Archbishop of Athens, Primate of the Local Church of Greece. Now, you’ll have realized (and the Philadelphia Enquier et al should have realized) that that letter contains patent and evident falsehoods and should not be used to demonstrate or prove anything about anybody except the composer(s) of the letter.

              • The church doesn’t investigate the rape as a crime, that is for the civil authorities. What the church must investigate is how this reflects upon the Priest’s ability to fulfill his duties as well as any potential liability on the part of the church for this alleged behavior.

                The state must prove it beyond a reasonable doubt while the Church needs only its own standard to act.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Turn the spotlight as you will, Mr. Dreher, but you can only confirm my contention that the Metropolitan was offered a noble, courageous, and unprecedented opportunity to to resolve this “systemic failure” by the offer of assistance in the hope of avoiding this tragic outcome. And be clear: each and every issue that precipitated the decision of the Holy Synod predated this offer of help. Met. Jonah made a commitment to the church assembled at the AAC to do whatever was necessary to resolve this crisis, and for reasons known only to himself, ignored this public commitment.

      Shame on you, Toby Smith and anyone who thinks like you, for claiming a justice that is not yours, and for feeling a sense of “vindication” in Bp. Matthias’ letter. This is a revelation that brings tears to the eyes of the Theotokos. And if there is any “good,” it would be that no one who offers assistance and guidance in such a fashion would needlessly have hesitation to do so in the future.

    • Disgusted With It says

      Mr Dreher,

      I agree with you 100%. The “Fr. Symeon” case has been carefully crafted. Let’s not kid ourselves. I am confident that Bishop Matthias is responding in good faith to a report crafted and given to him in bad faith. Why do I say this? Because, like you, I’m tired of one bishop or metropolitan being used as a scapegoat while the others behind the curtain are doing God-knows-what behind that curtain. How long have they been sitting on this? If these things were truly so bad, then the synod should have notified the authorities immediately. If they waited or hesitated at all as soon as they learned something, then they are guilty, as well as the SMPAC members. IF this is such a horrible case, the court is not going to accept the explanation of “we left people in harm’s way because we wanted more time to build a stronger case against our metropolitan”. The synod, MC, SMPAC and everyone else who knew about this and sat on it would be liable too! In my eyes, they have NO moral high ground in this.

      • Lola J. Lee Beno says

        Everything has to be clean and above-the-board so that the fourth metropolitan doesn’t have any baggage that would cause him to be thrown out like the previous three metropolitans were, for whatever reasons.

        • They may as well use Diogenes’ idea for term limits at this point.

          • Monk James says

            But a man consecrated as a bishop remains a bishop unless and until he’s deposed. What would we do with all those good bishops whose terms expired?!

      • quote: ” The synod, MC, SMPAC and everyone else who knew about this and sat on it would be liable too!” Mr Dreher has a copy of SMPAC’s report. Would he be liable as well?

        • Rod Dreher says

          No, I wouldn’t. I don’t have decision-making capacity in the OCA. From a moral (as distinct from legal) point of view, you can be sure from my own past history with this sort of thing in the Roman church that if I knew from the report that anybody, even Jonah, were concealing criminal activity, I would have gone to the police straightaway. I don’t play around with this garbage.

          The SMPAC Report, in my judgment, revealed a weakness of Jonah with regard to taking sexual misconduct seriously, but it was also a highly politicized document that cherry-picked facts and incidents to put Jonah in the worst possible light. Having said that, I don’t believe now and didn’t believe then that Jonah was a complete innocent in all this, only that the complex and messy cases that it focused on were by no means as clear-cut as the SMPAC Report made them out to be.

          Again, if the account provided by Bp Matthias is true, then the Synod was right to get rid of Jonah. But I am not convinced that it is the whole truth. I could be wrong about this. If I had the chance to speak to Bp Matthias, I would ask him where he’s getting his information. Does he take the SMPAC Report as conclusive? And I would ask him what has changed from the time the SMPAC Report was prepared to now, that required the Synod to act so swiftly?

          There may be good answers to these questions.

          • M. Stankovich says

            It seems to me, Mr. Dreher, that between your OCA Truth and your other “professional” musing, ramblings, and promotions, if there are, in fact, “questions” remaining, the “good answers” will certainly not be coming from you. If there is a statement more succinct, more specific, more direct, and more assertive in demonstrating that what you have purported as “truth” has been nothing more than disruptive grasps at “influence” and notoriety than the one issued by Bp. Matthias today, I would like to see it.

            And now, rather than “man up” and accept some responsibility for your overt and covert “leadership” in this fiasco, you determine it wise to begin afresh by “discrediting” the “cherry-picked facts” contained in a confidential report you are not entitled to possess! You, Mr. Dreher, are a piece of work; a credibility antithetical piece of work. Your new bishop – God help him – should order you to St. Tikhon’s Monastery for three months to serve as altar boy at the daily liturgy, to learn something about prudence, history, and blessed silence.

            • Amen. It truly amazes me how the OCATers seem to ignore their own reprehensible behavior. I see Rod’s back to his old trick at the American Conservative and turned off the comment section.

              Seriously Rod, your attachment to Jonah borders on Idoltary.

              • Rod Dreher says

                It’s spelled “idolatry.” You’re welcome.

                That you can read that long piece I put up today and accuse me of idolizing Jonah, anonymous interlocutor, suggests that your reading comprehension skills are about as sharp as your spelling. I said in that piece that the Synod’s accusations are detailed and substantive, and can’t be ignored. I said they are plausible, based on what I and others know about Jonah’s habits. But they have not been fully substantiated, and I called on the Synod to release more information (including letting Jonah defend himself from the charges, and I called on Jonah defenders to allow for the possibility that Jonah is guilty of what they accuse him of (in which case he was right to resign). And I also called on the Synod to apply the same standards to themselves that they apply to Jonah — as they have not.

                I haven’t spoken to Jonah in well over a year, for what that’s worth. And I turned off the comments section on that post because the nastiest comments are always about either homosexuality or intra-church bitching, and I didn’t want to put up with it. Lucky for you, the ever-patient, ever-generous George is here to host your whining and childish orthography.

                • M. Stankovich says

                  Mr. Dreher,

                  I would suggest that you are ignoring that the majority of “accusations” were identified by the former Metropolitan himself at the AAC. He took full responsibility and made a commitment to do “whatever necessary” to address the “accusations.” While the sexual misconduct issues are obviously of importance, the Holy Synod has described them as the “culmination.”

                  I would also suggest that all “accusations” were fully substantiated by an objective third-party, that being St. Luke’s. They spent five full days with him as a team. Mr. Dreher, after five full days with him, if they were unable to draw succinct, concrete. specific, and detailed conclusions as to what might be necessary for the Metropolitan and the Holy Synod to begin to address their systemic failures, than who could? St. Luke’s is not an “insane asylum” or a soviet-style “brainwashing” factory. It is a professional, respected, credible, and licensed facility that specializes in leadership skills for the clergy – and you have consistently confused this issue with “administrative skills.” I am presuming the former Metropolitan was not elected because he kept a neat house or balanced his checkbook. He was elected to be a leader.

                  I would finally suggest to you the words of Sir Thomas More – as he has been on my mind – who could have saved his very life by signing a pointless, empty decree of the king, but chose honor, all the while knowing that his continued refusal meant his possessions were being sold to feed his family:

                  “Oh, confound all this… Damn it, Thomas, look at those names [of those who signed]… You know those men! Can’t you do what I did, and come with us, for fellowship?” And More replied, “And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

                  And somehow you believe the former Metropolitan is going to speak out and give “his side of the story?”

                  Not so, Master Secretary, the maxim is qui tacet consentire. The maxim of the law is “Silence gives consent.” If, therefore, you wish to construe what my silence “betokened,” you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.

                  He will not speak, Mr. Dreher, because he has spoken, without coercion or undo influence apart from the weight of the truth. Pack up your machine. It’s over.

          • What I don’t understand. if +met Jonah refused both options— I guess that mean they would have brought him up on canonical charges to dispose him.
            i am assuming, those charges and the “act” of that would, during the deliberation of that accusation cut him off from financial support.
            What I am wondering here is— with all the lawyer like advise, why isn’t someone here offering their services free to a fellow Christian who clearly needs it.?

            The whole synod looks to be in collusion ? No?

          • Rod writes, “And I would ask him [+MATHIAS] what has changed from the time the SMPAC Report was prepared to now, that required the Synod to act so swiftly?”

            In the interest of reporting the explanation precisely as it was offered, the answer may well be found in these words:

            “As recently as last week Metropolitan Jonah was regularly communicating with one of those who tried to discourage the reporting of this crime by the alleged victim and her relative. “

            Although the exact nature of this communication is not specified, it remains possible that the synod only recently became aware that these communications (assuming they were related to the incident in question) were ongoing.

        • Disgusted With It says

          That depends, is Mr Dreher in a position of leadership in the OCA? If he is, then yes. Everyone within a chain of command who does not act is liable. That was made quite clear in the Penn State case (a case the synod statement itself references).

          I say call in the authorities to investigate all of them and throw out everyone in OCA leadership who knew these things for all this time, if it is in fact such a grave situation as the synod wants us to believe.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        Disgusted–Once again, +Jonah is the victim because all the other bad apples that are out there. Shame on you for continuing to scandalize the faithful with gossip.

        • Disgusted With It says


          I did not say Jonah is “the victim”. My main point was this — if this situation is such a high priority criminal matter that they must expel Jonah immediately, then why did they (the synod, administration, etc.) wait so many months, or possibly years, before doing it? That makes ALL of them liable for keeping it hush-hush.

          As for gossip, I can assure you what I say is not mere gossip. They are very credible concerns.

          Take off the rose-colored glasses.

      • Your laundry list of disgust has some pretty scurrilous rumor at its core. Your innuendo against perfectly decent men on the Synod is just that – unreliable, harmful, irresponsible. I am ashamed to find myself reading such trash talk.

        • Disgusted With It says

          Fr John,

          You are correct that we should act better. Regardless of how poorly we may believe the synod has acted, it is best to just pray for them. I will ask George to edit my original comment.

          Please forgive me.

    • Ken Miller says

      Rod, you are right on! If Jonah contested the report, and if the report was all that bishops like Matthias and Michael had to go on, then it is still possible that Matthias and Michael unwittingly railroaded Jonah unjustly. it is possible that Matthias believes what he wrote, but that the actual situation was not as black and white as he believes it is.

      • Jane Rachel says

        I read Bishop Matthias’ letter with a wow! and then thought, “Who in their right mind would repeatedly, as if nothing was wrong at all, do those things Metropolitan Jonah has been accused of doing?” He did this and that, and the jaw drops, and it IS astonishing!! But guess what? Why would he become such a bad person, to the point of breaking the law to cover up a rapist, all of a sudden? Well, anything is possible.People do strange things. I do not know.

        I feel that way about what was said about Bishop Nikolai as well. How could he go from being one person his entire life to being another, and the things that were said about him! Who in their right mind would be that horrible? It doesn’t make sense to me. Like, another bishop was and is still being accused of being the worst kind of human being, a horrible man, and yet, the words I read from that bishop don’t line up with the accusations. Then I read that he didn’t visit a parish while a bad priest was there. The parish suffered. Why didn’t the parish figure it out? Is it better now? Was the bishop really so bad that he can be slammed at every opportunity by whoever doesn’t like what he says? In contrast, Archbishop Job was ADORED!!! Now, which bishop did the right thing? What was the real story behind Archbishop Job’s closeness to Do you think we only listen to gossip? Not so.

        People are making monsters out of humans and I find that hard to swallow because I know some monstrous people and these don’t fit the bill. Clergy can do really bad things and hurt people and everything, even clergy with great and sterling reputations. Other people who were hurt by them do not go around slamming them for years and years, to anyone who will listen just to stay mad or get even or scream and holler out of one side and then act all righteous out of the other. I’m saying… not that anybody reads it. Disgusted is right.

        • Mark from the DOS says

          I read the letter, and was shocked. Then I read comments here suggesting the priest was never in the OCA and that the rape allegation had been recanted. So I went back and re-read the letter. Then for fun, I read the PSPs. I have more questions than answers, and I post them here Text of Letter with My questions in bold:

          We, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, have hesitated to release further details surrounding the resignation of Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of our Church, this in a desire to preserve his dignity and to prevent further harm to an innocent party. We did this knowing there would be appeals for additional information regarding our decision. We also harbored some hope that Metropolitan Jonah would show a willingness to accept responsibility for his actions and failures to act. However, things said and written by Metropolitan Jonah since his resignation have demonstrated that he is not accepting that responsibility.

          If this letter is appropriate now, it was appropriate in the beginning. As you point out, you knew there would be appeals for additional information. Indeed, initial website postings seemed specifically designed to blunt appeals for more information. What has Met. Jonah written? I am unable to locate one single public utterance from Jonah that would appear to require this response.

          Why did we ask Metropolitan Jonah to resign?

          In slightly less than four years as our leader, Metropolitan Jonah has repeatedly refused to act with prudence, in concert with his fellow bishops, in accordance with the Holy Synod’s Policies, Standards and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct (PSPs), and in compliance with advice of the Church’s lawyers and professionals in expertise in dealing with cases of sexual misconduct.

          The most disturbing and serious matter, indeed the final matter that caused us to ask the Metropolitan to resign or take a leave of absence and enter a treatment program, involves the Metropolitan’s poor judgment in critical matters of Church governance, lack of adherence to the PSPs, and the risk of serious harm to at least one other person. While the names, dates and other details must be held in confidence to minimize the risk of further harm, we can say the following.

          So the final matter was in Feb. 2011, before the Santa Fe meeting? If this is the case, as a Synod, you are all responsible for allowing the Church to be guided for 14 months by someone you now deem dangerous and unreliable. Will you be submitted your resignations for subjecting the OCA to such grave risks for well over a year?

          At some point after his enthronement as our Primate, Metropolitan Jonah unilaterally accepted into the OCA a priest known to him and to others to be actively and severely abusing alcohol, which more than once was coupled with episodes of violence and threats toward women. One of these episodes involved the brandishing of a knife, and the other the discharge of a firearm, the former resulting in the man’s arrest. The man was also incarcerated for three days in yet another incident, shortly after he was accepted into the OCA by Metropolitan Jonah. While under Metropolitan Jonah’s omophorion, this priest is alleged to have committed a rape against a woman in 2010.
          Who is this priest? Is this Fr. Simeon of the DC nuns? If so, it appears that there are statements that Fr. Simeon was not accepted into the OCA, nor was he under Met. Jonah’s omophorion, but that he was simply a guest, and under the Omophorion of a Greek bishop. Now, guest/accepted, why do I make a distinction. First, it is very possible that there make be a difference in legal liability to the OCA by virtue of the priest’s status. If so, that would undercut the rationale. Second, accepting a priest with that background into your jursidiction would seem to show very poor judgment. Now, +Mathias is a learned man and clearly knows the difference between incardinating a priest into your jurisdiction and permitting someone to serve in your Diocese. If +Mathias overstates the actions taken by Jonah make him look worse, that casts doubt not only on what is being written in the letter, but on the very motives underlying this letter. Is it to inform, or is it to smear?

          Metropolitan Jonah was later told of this allegation in February 2012, yet he neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops, nor notified the Church’s lawyers, nor reported the matter to the police, nor in any other way followed the mandatory, non-discretionary PSPs of the OCA.

          What of this? The PSP’s seem to make involving central authority discretionary (7.01). Now if you make this discretionary, you can’t very well hammer the guy for not using them. There does seem to be a duty to report, BUT you also have to consider this: the PSP also defines clergy as OCA clergy and other clergy received for service in the church. Is it possible that Fr. Simeon’s status was such that the PSPs did not even apply to his situation. Finally, the PSP’s clearly state: “8.05. Written Complaint: (a) Any review, investigation, assessment, and disposition of allegations of sexual misconduct shall be based upon a written complaint signed by the alleged victim, or by a parent or guardian if the alleged victim is a minor.”
          The letter merely suggests that someone told Jonah of this allegation. Was there even a written complaint that would permit an investigation under the PSP. If not, how can +Jonah be pilloried for
          failing to investigate something there lacks the precise basis your PSP’s require? Now, we may certainly argue whether this 8.05 should even exist. If the victim refuses to sign a complaint, under the PSPs there is NO BASIS TO INVESTIGATE. I didn’t write that, Syossett did. And it strikes me as irresponsible. But it is the rule, and you want to argue rules compliance, please tell us, Bishop Mathias, if there was a written complaint that is required for an investigation? Finally, read 8.04 – “(a) Unless the Bishop is able to easily determine that a report received under paragraph 8.01 is entirely without any foundation whatsoever, the Bishop shall designate a Response Team of one or more individuals to conduct an investigation and assessment of the report.” Did this rape report come to +Jonah after a recantation, such that he could have determined it to be without foundation?

          The alleged victim, however, did report the rape to the police. We know, too, that the alleged victim and a relative were encouraged by certain others not to mention the incident, and were told by them that their salvation depended on their silence.

          But not by Jonah, we assume or this would be mentioned?

          As recently as last week Metropolitan Jonah was regularly communicating with one of those who tried to discourage the reporting of this crime by the alleged victim and her relative.

          No detail here to assume or imply any wrongdoing. Written as a smear or meant to be left deliberately vague?

          In addition, the Metropolitan counseled the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy, without informing the military recruiter of any of the priest’s problems.

          Before or after the rape allegation was communicated?

          Finally, the Metropolitan attempted to transfer the priest to other Orthodox jurisdictions, and ultimately did permit him to transfer to another jurisdiction, in each case telling those jurisdictions there were no canonical impediments to a transfer.

          How do you transfer someone who is not in your jurisdiction? How do you stop a transfer of someone not in your jurisdiction?

          We have started an investigation into the rape allegation, and cannot assume whether the allegation is true or not. We only know that earlier allegations of misconduct by this priest were handled by Metropolitan Jonah in a manner at a complete variance with the required standards of our Church.

          A citation to the applicable standard would help. Should we eagerly await the report?

          • Carl Kraeff says

            Yet another anonymous writer who knows better and can out-think members of the Holy Synod. Have you any shame? Or, are you the Pope of the Church of Mark of DOS?

            • Mark from the DOS says

              Carl, my friend, I do not know better. In fact, the point is, I don’t know. But I can read. And when I read that letter, the comments of the good Deacon on this thread, and the actual language of the PSPs for Sexual Misconduct, the three do not hang together, at least to my understanding of the way the Church works and the English language. I also know a little bit about writing, rhetoric and argumentation, and there is a lot on that letter that strikes me as being constructed to deliver specific impressions rather than convey a clear and concise message. Because I do not know, I ask questions. Because I do not know, I question vague and non-specific statements which appear to have been made solely to leave a bad impression.

              There seems to be a timeline at work here. An incident alleged to have occurred in 2010, a 2011 SMPAC report/Synod meeting and a 2012 report of the incident to Metropolitan Jonah. Also, possibly somewhere in that timeline is a report to police by the alleged victim and a recantation. The letter, to my reading craftily shifts between the differing time periods and does not mention a recantation or its timing. It makes it very difficult to answer the questions of who knew what and when. Is that deliberate producing a document well crafted to serve a specific purpose or simply the product of poor writing that coincidentally leaves a bad impression, I don’t know. But I do know that the letter raises more questions than it answers.

              We now have the case laid forth in the words of the Synod. The next question to me, is whether it is a reasonable case or is it contrived. That I don’t know based on what we have been told.

              • Sub-Deacon David says

                Excellent points, all, Mark, all of which lead me to ponder that the reason this statement wasn’t released when +HB’s resignation was announced is that it wasn’t crafted until the hub bub started and is intended precisely to convey deep and weighty reasons without providing enough facts that the average reader will see through. While it gives the impression on the Diocesan website that it is the work of Bishop Matthias, a pdf of essentially an identical statement is posted on the OCA website as a statement from the Synod. My guess is that it was ghosted by the Chancellor or some other staff member, went through several iterations, with the final form being presented to the public. If even half of the “timeline” presented in various comments here is true, then it is an exercise in mis-direction and placation.

          • Mark,

            Thank you. The letter struck me also as an oddly worded string of ambiguous statements. Too many statement of “fact” seem to have no fact in them upon closer investigation. The vording is vague. It almost seems to be written to confuse more than to clarify, to be refutable more than revealing.

    • Rod,

      Even is ALL of the Synod’s accusations were true, and their version of history were correct, one things would remain painfully evident: These episcoclowns can’t elect a functional Metropolitan. Though with different members, they have tried and failed three times! How’s that for evidence of terminal incompetence?

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Sasha, that’s not the issue at all. The issue is that they did not follow proper protocols and put out this quite possibly defamatory letter against any sane legal advice.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Rod, some people certainly want to get to the “bottom” of things.

    • Rod raised some valid and important points. What about the other questionable individuals with serious prior problems and other incidents of priests being persecuted for taking a moral stand and doing the right thing? The same ethical and procedural standards must apply universally to everyone in the OCA.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Chris, that’s what the Sex Czar was going to be for. To go after Traditionalist and Conservative priests who spoke out against decadence. I know it’s counter-intuitive but that’s how it was done in the other confessions.

        • Sub-Deacon David says

          Can you provide additional explanation on this counter-intuitive proposal? I’d like to try to understand exactly how that would work. (This is a completely serious request, no facetiousness should be inferred as none is implied as I consider myself a “traditionalist”.) Thanks!

  8. macedonianreader says

    Could it be that our Church is so weak in North America because our monasteries have become so compromised?

    Generally speaking of course.

  9. macedonianreader says

    For what it’s worth. Why is there a need to draw a ‘parallel’ with the situation at Penn State? I don’t get it.

    This is not to say what was written in, now, the official statement by the O.C.A., but it seems to me that the Orthodox Church has employed too many spin doctors with a knack of swaying public opinion.

    I don’t like any of this. Perhaps if a benefactor would come out to ensure that Met. Jonah’s family will be taken care of outside the OCA, then he can come out with his side of this story?

    • Simple: from the Justice Department’s investigation into Penn State it was found that:

      The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity Is the most significant, but not the only, cause for the failure to protect child victims and report to authorities. A striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims by the most senior leaders of the University. A failure by the Board to exercise its oversight functions in 1998 and 2001 by not having regular reporting procedures or committee structures in place to ensure disclosure to the Board of major risks to the University. A failure by the Board to make reasonable inquiry in 2011 by not demanding details from Spanier and the General Counsel about the nature and direction of the grand jury investigation and the University’s response to the investigation. A President who discouraged discussion and dissent. A lack of awareness of child abuse issues, the Clery Act, and whistleblower policies and protections. A decision by Spanier, Schultz, Paterno, and Curley to allow Sandusky to retire in 1999, not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State legacy.
      [ … ]
      A football program that did not fully participate in, or opted out of some University programs, including Clery Act compliance. …the football program had not been trained in their Clery Act responsibilities. A culture of reverence for their football program that is ingrained in all levels of the campus community.

      In other words, the Football Program at Penn State believed itself to be outside of and above the Law.

      • macedonianreader says

        Great! I understand the seriousness of what happened at Penn St. I get it.

        What I don’t get why we would have to form a mental image or reminder of Jerry Sandusky when we talk about Met. Jonah or the OCA. This is highly manipulative.

        • Don’t think “Sandusky”. Think “JoPa” or “University President”. Sandusky is a perpetrator. Not so, the Metropolitan or the OCA (which is a “corporate entity”). A possible enabler? Perhaps. But not a perpetrator.

          • macedonianreader says

            Honestly – the piece without Penn State can do that. Yet, no one ever mentions the social workers that allowed a perpetrator to adopt kids. They much rather talk about JoPa

            Today, you mention Penn State, Sandusky c9omes to mind. This is either very poor writing, or intentional writing.

            Either way, irresponsible.

            • I don’t claim to be a very good writer. Please, forgive my ineptness.

              You mention social workers that facilitate adoptions. How well do social workers in PA vet future adoptions, especially overseas adoptions? And how deep should the layers of responsibility go if an overseas adoption goes wrong?

              • Jesse Cone says

                It’s been over a year since Fr. Simeon’s misdoings blew up, and I don’t know of a shred of evidence that shows he was ever “adopted”. If a foster child acts up, and you feel threatens the safety of those you’re responsible for, don’t you end your foster care? That’s what +Jonah seemed to do well over a year ago.

                My priest yesterday preached about how being “scandalized” can reveal sin within ourselves — something I’ve been taking seriously — and I wonder if that’s not something we ALL need to consider.

                It would help me if the Synod would tell me what should have been done when in this case.

                I can’t shake the feeling I’m supposed to associate my disgust with Fr Simeon (and Sandusky) with my feelings of Met. Jonah. But ultimately, disgust doesn’t show a way forward.

                • Let’s be fair to Fr. Simeon: So far as we can tell, he and Sandusky are not on the same level.

                • quote: “It’s been over a year since Fr. Simeon’s misdoings blew up, and I don’t know of a shred of evidence that shows he was ever “adopted”. If a foster child acts up, and you feel threatens the safety of those you’re responsible for, don’t you end your foster care? That’s what +Jonah seemed to do well over a year ago.”

                  What does that have to do with anything? I am asking about adoption, and so on, for reasons unrelated to Jonah since “macedonianreader” brought it up (quote: “Yet, no one ever mentions the social workers that allowed a perpetrator to adopt kids. They much rather talk about JoPa”). I assumed since he brought it up, he knew something about the subject. Perhaps not.

                  Personally, I am not scandalized by any of this. People have been sinning for a very long time. Lord, have mercy on us sinners.

                • Sub-Deacon David says

                  Did your priest provide an example, particularly one from the fathers or the lives of monastics, or did he simply make the statement that being “scandalized” can point to some sin in ourselves? I wonder if any of these priests read the Epistle for yesterday, July 16? 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:11

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            That is slanderous. Jonah was not the perpetrator, Sandusky was.

  10. I am confused. Could someone please help. I have been under the understanding that the bishop was sort of king in his own diocese and others be they a bishop or the Metropolitan do not have the right to meddle in things unless stuff is way out of hand.

    Therefore, if a bishop has a problem priest, it would seem to me to be the responsibility of said bishop to deal with said problem priest, not the Metropolitan.

    Why are problem priests all of a sudden the responsibility of the Met?

    • From the NYT:

      quote: “The revelations of sexual abuse and seeming official indifference have tormented an archdiocese that was long known for imperious leaders and an insular camaraderie among its priests. It has also been costly: the financially ailing archdiocese said recently that legal fees and internal investigations spurred by the abuse cases had cost $11.6 million since early 2011.

      Cardinal Bevilacqua and his aides, the prosecutors argued, sought to avoid scandal and costly lawsuits at almost any price, putting the reputation of the archdiocese ahead of protecting vulnerable children.The archdiocese issued a conciliatory statement on Friday, saying that “the lessons of the last year have made our church a more vigilant guardian of our people’s safety,” and offering a “heartfelt apology to all victims of clerical abuse.”

      Monsignor Lynn served as secretary for clergy for the 1.5 million-member archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, recommending priest assignments and investigating abuse complaints. Prosecutors presented a flood of evidence that Monsignor Lynn had not acted strongly to keep suspected molesters away from children, let alone to report them to law enforcement.

      [ … ]

      Victims advocates said that they hoped the conviction would embolden prosecutors in other states to investigate senior church officials, and predicted that it would lead to more victim lawsuits.

      “The guilty verdict sends a strong and clear message that shielding and enabling predator priests is a heinous crime that threatens families, communities and children, and must be punished as such,” said Barbara Dorris, of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

      [ … ]

      Monsignor Lynn’s defense hinged on his claim that he had tried to curb abuses, but that only the cardinal had the authority to remove priests. One crucial piece of evidence was a list drawn up in 1994 by Monsignor Lynn of some three dozen active priests who had been credibly accused of sex abuses. Before the trial began, a lawyer for the archdiocese turned over to the court a frayed folder including a copy of the list, saying it had been found in a locked safe.

      Prosecutors called it a smoking gun. One of those named in 1994 as “guilty of sexual misconduct with minors” was the former Rev. Edward V. Avery, whose continued tenure in ministry was at the heart of Monsignor Lynn’s trial. Mr. Avery, now 69, spent six months in a church psychiatric center in 1993 after an abuse episode, and doctors said he should be kept away from children. But Monsignor Lynn allowed him to live in a parish rectory.

      In 1999, Mr. Avery undressed with a 10-year-old altar boy, told him that God loved him and had him engage in oral sex. Mr. Avery pleaded guilty to the assault just before the trial began and was sentenced to prison.

      In 2002, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a national “zero-tolerance” policy, pledging to remove any priest facing credible accusations. But serious lapses have occurred, including in Philadelphia, where a grand jury in 2011 asserted that as many as 37 priests with past accusations remained active in ministry.

      Last summer Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, then the head of the Denver Archdiocese, took over in Philadelphia, and in May he announced the removal of five priests named in the grand jury report. Three others were cleared and investigations continue into other cases.

      The bishop of the diocese in Kansas City, Mo., Robert W. Finn, is awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of violating the state’s mandatory reporting requirement by allegedly waiting six months to tell the police that a priest had taken lewd photographs of girls.

      Could this be us? How many stories have I read here of priests/monks/deacons having illicit relations with this person, that person, another person only to be shipped off to another diocese, another monastery, another jurisdiction? Again…Fr Michael Rymer comes to mind. Others come to mind: what do you know, when did you know it, and what have you done with that information? If the courts are prosecuting Catholic Bishops, who have control over assignments, how much more the Metropolitan, who, likewise, judging from what I have read here, does and undoes those things advised to him by his Bishops?

      • Rod Dreher says

        A fair point. What about Bishop Benjamin, for example? Do you know what role he may have had in restoring Fr. Isidore Brittain the the priesthood? You have seen the photo, have you not, of Met. Jonah and Bp Benjamin concelebrating the Divine Liturgy with Brittain after restoring his faculties? It’s all over the web. If Jonah is guilty of carelessness in the Brittain case — which is one of the cases in the SMPAC Report — then so is Benjamin.

        • Exactly so. And what about Manton? Bp Matthias is not telling us more than he is, something I tend to view as protective of his flock. Specifically, “[Bp Jonah] withheld information from his brother bishops and from the Church’s lawyers concerning litigation matters, and matters which might have resulted, and still might result, in litigation.”

          We are living in difficult times. If we were perceived as being as large and as wealthy as the Romans, we’d be toast at this point, especially is a tenth of what has been written here is true. Our Church is in a delicate position. We need to pray. Most Holy Theotokos, protect us!

        • StephenD says

          So Rod…you do have a copy of the report…who gave it to you?

  11. Rod Dreher says

    I want to add one more thing, based on re-reading the statement from the OCA Synod today. This part:

    Metropolitan Jonah was later told of this allegation in February 2012, yet he neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops, nor notified the Church’s lawyers, nor reported the matter to the police, nor in any other way followed the mandatory, non-discretionary PSPs of the OCA. The alleged victim, however, did report the rape to the police. We know, too, that the alleged victim and a relative were encouraged by certain others not to mention the incident, and were told by them that their salvation depended on their silence. As recently as last week Metropolitan Jonah was regularly communicating with one of those who tried to discourage the reporting of this crime by the alleged victim and her relative. In addition, the Metropolitan counseled the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy, without informing the military recruiter of any of the priest’s problems. Finally, the Metropolitan attempted to transfer the priest to other Orthodox jurisdictions, and ultimately did permit him to transfer to another jurisdiction, in each case telling those jurisdictions there were no canonical impediments to a transfer.

    We have started an investigation into the rape allegation, and cannot assume whether the allegation is true or not. We only know that earlier allegations of misconduct by this priest were handled by Metropolitan Jonah in a manner at a complete variance with the required standards of our Church.

    This is news to me. If Jonah knew about a formal rape charge, and hid it, and participated in an attempt to intimidate or coerce the alleged rape victim into silence, then this is absolutely unacceptable, and in my view grounds for the Synod to demand his resignation. And if — if — it is true, then I owe the Synod and apology, and will publicly make it. Based on past performance of the OCA establishment (including some members of the Synod) with regard to handling Jonah, I am not willing to believe this Synodal statement on its face.

    But I think we who have staunchly defended Jonah through this whole conflict need to be prepared to admit, if the facts ultimately warrant, that he may have put the Synod in an impossible position, and left it no recourse. That we believe certain bishops and church bureaucrats and activists to have acted in the past against Jonah out of discreditable motives, and to have behaved in unjust ways, does not automatically exculpate Jonah. Nor does the fact that many of us very much admire certain qualities of his. Nor does the fact that this “Saturday Night Massacre” style of deposing the Metropolitan looks terrible, and could not have done other than inspire suspicion and contempt among many in the laity and among the clergy, given recent history and given the absence of explanatory information.

    The Synod has put its cards on the table now, and we ought to be grateful for that. But this troubles me too, from their statement:

    We also harbored some hope that Metropolitan Jonah would show a willingness to accept responsibility for his actions and failures to act. However, things said and written by Metropolitan Jonah since his resignation have demonstrated that he is not accepting that responsibility.

    What has Jonah said and written since his resignation? I haven’t seen a thing. Have you? The release of today’s statement seems to me to be a negotiating ploy in trying to compel him to sign a severance package. I have no inside knowledge of this, but how is it exactly that Jonah is not accepting responsibility? His resignation letter seemed to be clear in accepting responsibility for his errors, and saying he was not up to the job of Metropolitan. Something more is going on here. I hope he has lawyered up. We know that he is responsible for the care of his aged parents and disabled sister, and that the Synod has him over a barrel on that account. I would very much like to hear his side of this story, and his response to this provocative release by the Synod, but I don’t know if we ever will.

    Clearly this situation is quite fluid. We would all do well, I think, to be careful about our final judgments on this matter.

    • Rod, as usual, I appreciate your thoughts and rationale. I agree completely–if Metropolitan Jonah did in fact act in a way that hid a priest for actions that harmed the flock–he should be duly dealt with and put to pasture. However, I also agree with your assessment of the facts–we don’t know everything, and should save any final judgments until we do. Mostly, I think prayers for the Metropolitan, our Synod, and Church should be doubled. At least the Synod came out officially with more of the facts. It would have been better had they released this at the time, don’t you think?

      • Rod Dreher says

        It would have been better had they released this at the time, don’t you think?

        Yes, I don’t for one second believe that they withheld facts to protect Jonah’s dignity. I think they’re using this as a negotiating tactic. But we’ll see. I am not interested in what’s best for Jonah Paffhausen in this matter; I’m interested in the truth — even if it hurts.

    • Good questions, Rod. Let’s take this bit by bit:

      Metropolitan Jonah was later told of this allegation in February 2012, yet he neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops, nor notified the Church’s lawyers, nor reported the matter to the police, nor in any other way followed the mandatory, non-discretionary PSPs of the OCA.

      Is this the alleged rape from 2010? Is it possible Met. Jonah did not realize even an old allegation would need to be reported? Or if it had been dropped but came back up, didn’t realize it needed to be reported again? This is why his side of the story is important.

      As recently as last week Metropolitan Jonah was regularly communicating with one of those who tried to discourage the reporting of this crime by the alleged victim and her relative.

      This is a woolly statement as I mentioned before. “Communicating” is a weasel word here that could mean anything from trading recipes to plotting a jewel heist. Using it shows bad faith.

      In addition, the Metropolitan counseled the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy, without informing the military recruiter of any of the priest’s problems.

      The priest’s “problems” (alcoholism and accused of rape) would also be in his medical and criminal records, which I’m pretty sure the military checks when they are recruiting someone!

      Finally, the Metropolitan attempted to transfer the priest to other Orthodox jurisdictions, and ultimately did permit him to transfer to another jurisdiction, in each case telling those jurisdictions there were no canonical impediments to a transfer.

      If Deacon Patrick’s statement that this priest was never in the OCA is true, this is impossible.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        What’s sad here is that the blowback from their botched execution is so severe that they have to do something absolutely dunderheaded like put this one-sided letter out. don’t these bozos realize the legal implications?

        Oh well, they just signed the death certificate for the OCA.

        • macedonianreader says

          There is room in the Antiochian Church.

          I’m seeing a silver lining. I think the infusion of the OCA into to the AOCA is going to result in what we all want. The American Orthodox Church. All other Jurisdiction are welcomed as long as they want to be American for the Gospel’s sake.

          • Michael Bauman says

            That would entail a potentially protracted pastoral problem for the AOCA priests and bishops ’cause I guarantee you that what is happening in the OCA is not just about the bishops. Its about everybody who wants to blame someone else for all the dysfunction. Ask me, Fr. Schemann et. al. started it with his ‘protection’ against bad bishops, the MC, and it has continued to balloon.

            When bishops actually act like bishops, they get hammered, when they don’t act like bishops, they get hammered and always, no matter what, it is ALWAYS, someone else’s fault.

            It kind of reminds me of Tom Leher’s National Brotherhood Week. “To hate all but the right folks is an old established rule,but during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week, step up and shake that hand of someone you can’t stand. You can tolerate him if you try”

            If Christians are known for their love of one another, where is it?

      • Rod Dreher says

        Yes, and I’m telling you, everything they allege in this case involving Symeon was in the SMPAC Report, which they had in hand a year ago — everything except the February 2012 stuff. Could that be what prompted this move on Jonah? Symeon was already cut loose from the OCA by Feb 2012, so I can understand why Jonah might not have felt obliged to report new information he learned, though I don’t have in front of me a copy of the OCA’s policies, so I must admit he might have violated procedures.

        My theory (and it’s only that) at the moment is that some on the Synod and among the OCA apparat have been out to get him for a long time, and Jonah finally gave them the rope they needed to string him up. As a Jonah-sympathetic friend postulates, it could be that even the good guys couldn’t deal with him anymore. That’s just a guess. My fear right now is that Jonah will sign some statement to get a severance package to protect his parents, a statement that will compel his silence. I think that’s what they did with Kondratick. If that’s the case, we will never know Jonah’s side of the story.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Rod, even though I agree with you in the main, and even though there are holes in the official story (thanks for pointing some of them out), the ends don’t justify the means. The Synod had a duty and an obligation to bring Jonah up on formal charges and convene a formal ecclesiastical court. They did not do this. Instead, they went on a fishing expedition until they found something that could plausibly stick.

      These are not honorable actions. And the letter itself is a horrible attempt to CYA. The blowback against them must have been worse than even I feared. This was a stupid move and makes them civilly liable for damages. At the very least it’s defamatory.

  12. I am NOT a supporter of Jonah’s ouster, which I find quite regrettable, but I also do not buy into this gay conspiracy theory stuff. And yes, it this were 1912 instead the fear would be over the malign and covert influence of Jews and Masons. For certain people some dark and malefic conspiracy must always be at work (and not just the conspiracy of Satan which we all accept is real).
    Occam’s Razor works best here. The OCA bishops, God have mercy on them, are a bunch of well-heeled, entitled, and complacent time-servers. Hermann’s scandals (which were financial in nature) threatened that easy living status quo so they installed Jonah in the hopes that he would be a useful tool: a virtuous face untainted by hands in the cookie jar, but so young and inept that he would be a puppet. Well, instead he rocked the boat and started threatening to upset the apple carts so he had to go. That very human and and sorry and ancient story, not scheming gays, is perfectly adequate to comprehend what has happened here. and the real question is what we the Faithful can do about (beyond pray, which we ought be doing already)

    • David Smith says

      The Holy Synod’s conduct should remind us of St. John Chrysostom’s wise words: The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.

  13. Toby Smith says

    To say that Jonah was “communicating” with the victim is a farce. The Synod has a recording of this conversation in which Jonah tried to pass the buck, and him refusing to take any initiative. Never in the conversation does he mention the OCA process of Sexual Misconduct, or refer the victim to to this process. Jonah’s actions were not only inept, but criminal.

    I am happy to see that some of these blog-posters have now wised up. But for some of you, the fog does not seem to clear. Instead of accepting reality, you continue to say, “I can’t wait to see Jonah’s side of the story.” You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Innocent people have been hurt by his negligence. The Synod was gaining evidence little by little, and finally the most recent information was the nail in Jonah’s coffin.

    I have met this Fr Symeon, and he is worse than Rasputin. Jonah brought him here, and Jonah is responsible for this man’s transgressions.

    The real conspiracy here never was the Synod, which is comprised of good man. The real conspiracy was comprised of Jonah, Monk Gregory (James), Fr Joseph Fester, Nikolai Sorevich and Robert Kondratick. Their inter-communication and scheming knows no ends (as Nikos well knows).

    It is now time to leave these fallen men behind, and to move on with our lives; time to rebuild the reputation of the OCA. I have never been a defender of the existence of Syosset (we can stand to downsize the central admin). I also agree that we should root out any anomalies in morality, and discipline priests who commune persons in actively gay relationships, or unrepentant transgender persons, but not only that, but also heterosexual unmarried cohabitating couples. The dichotomy that Jonah, Fester and company created is a wrong: to believe Jonah is wrong and the Synod is right does has nothing to do with our views on traditional morality. We can support our Synod, and simultaneously call on them to enforce order in the parishes.

    • To say that Jonah was “communicating” with the victim is a farce. The Synod has a recording of this conversation in which Jonah tried to pass the buck, and him refusing to take any initiative. Never in the conversation does he mention the OCA process of Sexual Misconduct, or refer the victim to to this process. Jonah’s actions were not only inept, but criminal.

      I am happy to see that some of these blog-posters have now wised up. But for some of you, the fog does not seem to clear. Instead of accepting reality, you continue to say, “I can’t wait to see Jonah’s side of the story.” You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Innocent people have been hurt by his negligence. The Synod was gaining evidence little by little, and finally the most recent information was the nail in Jonah’s coffin.

      Wait a minute — how do you know this? If you are right, then the Synod has to say so. I’m sick and tired of the laity being treated like children. That’s how it’s always been in the OCA. If the Synod has acted rightly, then God bless them … but let them tell us as much as they can without revealing this woman’s name. The days of trusting them at their word are over (I feel the same way about Jonah by the way).

      I can’t agree with you that people are wrong to want to hear Jonah’s side of the story. Why do we have to fear that?

    • Jesse Cone says

      Toby says,

      The Synod has a recording of this conversation in which Jonah tried to pass the buck, and him refusing to take any initiative. Never in the conversation does he mention the OCA process of Sexual Misconduct, or refer the victim to to this process. Jonah’s actions were not only inept, but criminal.

      I am happy to see that some of these blog-posters have now wised up. But for some of you, the fog does not seem to clear. Instead of accepting reality, you continue to say, “I can’t wait to see Jonah’s side of the story.” You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Innocent people have been hurt by his negligence. The Synod was gaining evidence little by little, and finally the most recent information was the nail in Jonah’s coffin.

      I have met this Fr Symeon, and he is worse than Rasputin. Jonah brought him here, and Jonah is responsible for this man’s transgressions.

      Well than that clears it up. ?

      Doesn’t mention the policies in this recorded conversation? Passes the buck on a priest who wasn’t OCA?

      Toby, care to tell me who initiated and sanctioned this investigation? Or does the Synod just spend its spare time digging into what HB might have done wrong with a priest that he “presumably” brought into the OCA?

  14. So now Rod & Co are preaching caution … better late than never, I suppose. Though that is pretty rich, after all they’ve done.

    It really is time to calm down, pray, and see what happens.

    I’ve gotten a lot of grief here from Roddy-boy and his minions (yes, even from George) for hinting at dark things in +Jonah’s past.

    I have no idea what +Jonah did or did not do in this case. Things are surely complex. If +Jonah did what it appears that he did, the Synod had no choice. But I have no idea what exactly is true here – though, prima facie, the story we’ve read today seems on-point and, to this cynical reader, it has a ring of truth about it. We’ll have to see what shakes out.

    What I am absolutely certain of, however, is that certain conduct in +Jonah’s past made it difficult, if not impossible, to act as he needed to as a shepherd of his flock in this case. Way to much kompromat on him, going way back. This stuff ain’t exactly a secret in certain circles. This, too, is certain to come out eventually.

    Be prepared for some epic mea culpas, Rod.

  15. David Smith says

    The Holy Synod asked Metropolitan Jonah to resign for several reasons in their letter of explanation. Let’s review one of those reasons: failure to comply with the advice of the Church’s lawyers.

    1) What specific advice did the lawyer(s) provide to +Jonah and the Holy Synod?

    2) When was this advice provided to +Jonah and the Holy Synod?

    3) How was the advice (ie….written or oral) given to +Jonah and the Holy Synod?

    4) Was there follow-up by the lawyer(s) when +Jonah failed to abide with advice of counsel?

    5) If there was a failure by +Jonah to comply with advice of the lawyer(s), did the lawyer(s) document it in writing?

    We hope the Holy Synod or the lawyer(s) will respond to these simple questions.

    • I suppose another question would be, was this advice good advice? Look at the legal system, see what the lawyers have done with their own house. Are they really the ones you want guiding the Church? How concerned are they with what is true and just? With honesty?

      Another question: to what degree is the Metropolitan obliged to follow the advice of his fellow bishops? To what degree is he or the Holy Synod expected to follow the advice of lawyers? Do we want to be governed by lawyers?

      • Mark from the DOS says

        By all means, let’s remember that lawyers work for their clients and not vice versa. The client is never obliged to take his lawyers advice, and frequently choose not to.

  16. So to sum all this up, our Metropolitan was forced to resign because he did not follow sexual misconduct guidelines in a case where there was no basis to investigate, for a priest who was not under his omophor, over an alleged rape without a legal basis to say it happened.

    Makes perfect sense. Good night!

  17. The Synod’s statement is both disheartening and devastating. George, you have once again backed the wrong horse, and as a longtime reader of your site, I am sorry to say that I have at times given your speculations more credence than they deserve.

    Your impassioned defenses of Met. Jonah, your theory of a culture war within the Synod pitting Bps. Michael and Matthias against the others, your working premise that anti-gay rhetoric from a bishop corresponds in any way, shape, or form to toughness and responsibility in dealing with potential cases of sexual predation – all of it, it seems, was misguided.

    I am not happy about the way Jonah was forced out, but I now wonder if the whole situation could have been resolved much sooner and more smoothly had websites like yours simply not existed.

    Rather than continuing to carp from the sidelines (every other post from you now seems to welcome the demise of the OCA) why don’t you focus on how you can contribute as the Church picks up the pieces of the current mess and moves forward?

    • Z: Amen to all that ….

    • Z: Respectfully, I disagree. I think many of us have been misguided and misinformed. However, that has come about precisely because the Synod has not been forthright, open and honest about what is going on. They have consistently handled things poorly and tried to shuffle the blame on others. What websites like this offer is a platform for us to ask tough questions to our leaders. If the Synod could have gotten away with it, I think they would have never said a single word about this whole sacking of the Metropolitan. However, because of the outcry on the internet, they have at least given us a formal statement. Is it accurate? I have no idea. Does it skew the facts? I cannot judge, as I do not know any of these details. But at least they have responded with something, albeit something which leaves us with as many questions as answers. Thank you George for maintaining a site that has the chutzpah to ask hard questions.

  18. since when? says

    I’m not sure what to make of the whole fiasco, but something is definitely NOT adding up here.

    I agree with the evaluation of other posters that +Mathias letter is indeed ambigious to say the least, meant to miguide and create a distraction and to create impressions.

    What I find interesting and I wonder why nobody else has thought to ask this or mention this to date, is what does +Mel have to do with this whole fiasco?

    Weren’t he and Fr. Simeon part of the same monastic brotherhood back in Greece? Weren’t they under obedience to the same spiritual Elder, as were the DC-Nuns? People have made the connection of Fr. Simeon with the DC-Nuns, why aren’t they pulling +Mel into the picture and asking what, if anything, he has to do with this entire situation? Maybe, just maybe he is involved. The question is, how and in what capacity.

    The timing of the entire situation stinks. This is in no way a justification for Fr. Simeon, if he is indeed guilty and sick as the charges imply. It is a call for accountability and truthfullness and responsibility by all parties involved, for them to stop scandalizing the faithful and stop playing with God’s Holy Church.

    May God forgive and have mercy on me the worst of all sinners.

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

      His Grace Melchisedek was rightly concerned about the influence of the nuns’ and Fr. Simeon’s spiritual father, a certain Dionysios in Greece. This is one point on which the Synod was right and the Metropolitan was wrong. +Melchisedek knew more about this Dionysios than +Jonah did, and the trouble caused by Fr. Simeon vindicated his concern.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        As I understand it, Fr Dioynisios was Bp Melchisedek’s spiritual father and never received a blessing from him to leave. Am I wrong about this? I have several ecclesiastical documents in Greek attesting to this fact.

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          From what I have learned from several sources about Dionysios’s and the nuns, I can only now believe that +Melchisedek was right to break with him.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Quite possibly, you’re right Deacon. Still, it appears normal ecclesiastical procedures were not followed in his “break” with them. The appearance of schism is there.

        • Reg. No. 67

          13 December 2008

          ASSEMBLY VI

          Minutes Section II

          Today, Saturday 13 December 2008, at 09.00, after the Divine Liturgy in our Holy Monastery of Petra of the Sacred Diocese of Thessaliotis and Phanariophersala of the Most Holy Church of Greece, the Elders’ Council of our Monastic Brotherhood convened in the Council Chamber, with our Abbot and Spiritual Father, the Elder Archimandrite Dionysios, presiding. The matter set forth was the venerable Letter of His Beatitude His Beatitude Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and New York, Metropolitan of all American and Canada (sic) of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), on 8 December 2008, requesting from us release papers of fathers and brethren for the needs and prospects of his Church, and in particular that of our Elder’s spiritual son since 1982, whom he tonsured a great-schema monk, the very reverend archimandrite Fr Melchizedek, secular name Thomas Pleska, son of Alexander and Joanna-Eugenia, holding American Passport No. 140930591. He holds register no. 13 in the Monastic Roll of our Sacred Monastery, a man tested upon our Rock like Peter, undergoing hardship with us for a whole decade, ministering to the Lord like the God-receiver in the Temple night and day for the fathers and sisters, with the Lord’s word in his mouth and silence of the desert, also demonstrating most recently through his letters, that his heart was never distanced from his spiritual father, our Elder. Thus, persisting in prayer, with one mind surrendering to the Holy Spirit, we herewith send the canonical release paper of the aforementioned brother, ratified through the good will of our Eminent Metropolitan, Kyrill of Thessaliotis and Phanariophersala, to His Beatitude, the aforementioned Archbishop, who is applying like that man of Macedonia; likewise we make known his Letter, referenced above, to the Monastic Communities of “Karaiskake” and “Red Church”, as well as that in Thebes, of which our very reverend Elder is the Builder and Father, making peace in pain.

          The Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Petra, Chairman

          Archimandrite Dionysios
          The Elders’ Council

          •Treasurer, Monk Agapion
          •Oeconomos, Hieromonk Porphyrios
          •Secretary, Hieromonk Symeon
          Exact copy from the Book of Minutes maintained in the Sacred Monastery

          For The Sacred Monastery of Petra, the Secretary

          Hieromonk Symeon

    • The timing of the entire situation stinks.

      It’s the nature of bad news that there is no good time for it.

  19. If possible, would someone please give me some sort of notion as to what is going on at the Monastery in Manton, if anything. You can reply to me individually if you would prefer. Thanks.

    • Rebecca could get “some sort of notion as to what is going on at the Monastery in Manton” by just looking around on this site, probably in the Lavendar Mob thread, but also elsewhere for as many details as she might care to learn. It’s much too extensive an affair to do justice to it in one post. A Fr. Martin, I believe, posted the original report that had some details.

  20. I see Father Ruark was officially deposed today according to the Antiochene Los Angeles diocese web page
    This is the same month in which Father Ruark was charged by local police of photographing naked teenagers at his parish.

  21. Michael Bauman says

    A definition of scapegoating from wikepedia: A medical definition of scapegoating is:[2]

    “Process in which the mechanisms of projection or displacement are utilised in focusing feelings of aggression, hostility, frustration, etc., upon another individual or group; the amount of blame being unwarranted.”
    Scapegoating is a tactic often employed to characterize an entire group of individuals according to the unethical or immoral conduct of a small number of individuals belonging to that group, also known as guilt by association. (Stereotyping)

    Scapegoated groups throughout history have included almost every imaginable group of people: genders, religions, people of different races or nations, people with different political beliefs, or people differing in behaviour from the majority. However, scapegoating may also be applied to organizations, such as governments, corporations, or various political groups.

    Projection: Unwanted thoughts and feelings can be unconsciously projected onto another who becomes a scapegoat for one’s own problems. This concept can be extended to projection by groups. In this case the chosen individual, or group, becomes the scapegoat for the group’s problems. “Political agitation in all countries is full of such projections, just as much as the backyard gossip of little groups and individuals.”[3] Jung considered indeed that “there must be some people who behave in the wrong way; they act as scapegoats and objects of interest for the normal ones”.[4]

    In psychopathology, projection is an especially commonly used defense mechanism in people with the following personality disorders:[citation needed]

    antisocial personality disorder
    borderline personality disorder
    narcissistic personality disorder
    paranoid personality disorder

    In a community that has taken on the scapegoating mind people (as described in several posts) forget that others in their community are actually people, they loose the capacity to feel empathy and seek ways to maximize their own safety. As Fr. Hans put it, it is a subsitute for repentance.

  22. M. Stankovich says

    Mr. Bauman,

    You are missing an essential element of ego-protective mechanisms of defense: they are unconscious. Further, in the moment that an ego-protective mechanism enters conscious thought, it stops being a defense – i.e. it necessarily “stops” preventing the ego from experiencing “affront.” To say it is “used” or “utilized” obviously means it is a conscious choice and is therefore no longer projection. Likewise, to say it is a “tactic” is to say it cannot be projection because a tactic is a conscious consideration.

    I would argue that, rather than “feelings of aggression, hostility, frustration,” projection is much more likely an unconscious “protection” against fear, shame, and embarrassment. If, for example, I post a comment saying, “Mr. Bauman, you are an idiot,” I could imagine you might be embarrassed and/or hurt; consciously, you could choose to dismiss my comment as inaccurate, but a defense against your embarrassment would be to “project” your feeling outward, “Oh yeah, well you’re a bigger idiot, here’s what you said…” The difference is that in the first example – the healthy example – you are able to consciously acknowledge your feeling, and in the second you cannot, which only will lead to more defensiveness. Most importantly, these mechanisms are weighted hierarchically, with projection being a very developmentally immature defense.

    It would seem fairly clear that in those moments when ego-protective mechanisms of defense are “operative,” we are the most blind: denial, rationalization, projective anger & blaming. Take for example the confrontation between the Prophet Nathan & King David (2 Sam 12:7), and Jesus and the rich man (Lk. 19:18): David the King wanted another man’s wife and manipulated his death, and the rich man believed he did everything necessary according to law to be saved. You could conclude the “confrontation” was heavy-handed and perhaps disrespectful – “You are that man!” and “Then sell all that you have and come follow me” – it was the correct amount of intervention necessary to open their eyes. And that takes wisdom.

    Projection is not a substitute for repentance, Mr. Bauman, it is an inability to see the need for repentance.

    And thank you for choosing Wikipedia for all your psychiatry needs!

  23. Michael Bauman says

    As usual Mr. Stankovich, you miss the forest for the pine needles. If you have never been through the destruction of a community, friendships and marriages because of scapegoating as I have, I guess that’s understandable. The hurt is still with me. That is perhaps why my terms are not precise enough for you.

    The definition, however, coincided quiet well with what I witnessed, experienced and, God forgive me participated in. The changes that come over otherwise loving, intelligent and faithful people because of the fear they refuse to acknowledge is pretty horrible. It breaks my heart when I see it happening on a much larger scale.

    Forgive me for I must have hurt you. That was not intended at all. I’m sure you could have added more insight had you chosen to with your own experience and expertise. To me it is another tradgedy of the situation that you did not.

    And yes, I am an idiot, perhaps even a babbling fool, but I have no shame about that. I’m enough of an idiot to bang on the window of the house next door when my brothers and sisters are fighting and ripping each other to shreds and yell–Stop, in the name of God, stop!

    As long as there is the insane insistance on being ‘right’ particularly over stuff that really is not important at all, nothing will change. For instance is there any real substantial difference between projecting because one does not want to repent (substituting one act for another) and refusing to see the need for it?

    I assume all Christians have at least some knowledge of the need for repentance. However, in the throws of the functional madness of the scapegoating mind, it is the other person who needs to repent. The other person who needs to change, the other person who has all the defects. What is substituted is the aggression of the hunt for the life of repentance to which the Church calls us to.

    I would suggest that the differences in the way you and I think about things and the conclusions we tend to draw from our differing methods are bound up with the inability of many of the bishops on the Synod to understand and work fruitfully with Met. Jonah and probably why I am biased toward Met. Jonah and you do not appear to be.

    • M. Stankovich says

      Mr. Bauman,

      You give me too, too much credit for deviousness. I am continually impressed with the real masters of deception – the energy and sheer intellect from which they draw upon – and I conclude I am a rank transparent amateur, as you so capably detect.

      In my defense, Mr. Bauman, I have little, if any, interest in being “right” for the sake of – you tell me – “notoriety,” power, character-building, or “thumbs-up.” If I did not truly believe there is “any real substantial difference” between the concept as you presented it, I would not have addressed it. Period. I said you were missing an essential element because it is, in fact, essential.

      King David did not refuse to see the need to repent. He did not believe he had any reason to repent – he could not see he was wrong. That is the entire point of the encounter with the Prophet Nathan, sent specifically by God to show him – and thus, Nathan chose an “insane insistence,” detailed and precise, of describing David’s sin. But still David was blinded, becoming enraged at the actions of the man Nathan described. But upon his confrontation, “You are that man!” David’s eyes were immediately opened, and he immediately repented. Without the confrontation of Nathan, I can only assume that David would have been consumed by the unacknowledged guilt and shame of his sin. This is not to say that David was not free to reject Nathan – and he could have killed Nathan outright – but it allowed him “vision,” and in that vision was his salvation.

      To say that I have bias regarding Met. Jonah is absolutely incorrect, and as late as last week I have expressed my personal opinion as to his sobriety, piety, missionary ability, and affability. Likewise, I maintained that the offer of outside assistance through St. Luke’s was a noble, courageous, unprecedented attempt at intervention in a “systemic failure” of the entire Holy Synod. For whatever reason, he chose not to honor his commitment to doing “whatever necessary” out of love for the church. He could not move on without them, nor they move on without him. The Holy Synod acted decisively to break this impasse. While I obviously have no means by which to assess the ultimate outcome, I can only say, that in the case of King David, the intervention was successful.

      • Michael Bauman says

        Mr. S., it is not about anything of which you write. It is about scapegoating, whatever the psychological mechanisms that describe it. I’m am positive you know them by name far better than I.

        Since I’m not in the OCA, there is little I can do directly to put a stop to the process. I can call attention to it, however.

        Whatever I may have said in the past, I do not think you are a devious person (forgive) but one who takes far more joy and appreciates far more deeply the fine details of many things so that your posts seem to me as one meader after another even though I know they do not to you. You seem to play on the sub-atomic level. I prefer legos.

        It is a matter of quite different modes of thought. It is quite difficult to harmonize our prefered styles on the internet.

        From where is the intervetion going to come for the Synod? For the OCA? Any ideas?

  24. Commenting on this quote from George M:
    ” If the bishops are more interested in stabbing their primate in the back rather than engaging the culture, then we are truly lost. We will have to rely on the Roman Catholic hierarchy and any other Christian denominations which choose to remain stalwart and unafraid.”

    George, can you elaborate a bit more on the “stalwart and unafraid” comment in connection with the RC hierarchy? I was a thoughtful, participative post-Vatican II RC for 1/4 of a century and can’t tell if your phraseology is tongue-and-cheek, or merely preposterous. Also, can you specify what is meant by your phrase “engaging the culture”? When I read, for example, about an Orthodox historian’s address to an Orthodox Seminary with the title having in it “… the 21st Century Church”, or see phrases dropped like “engaging the culture”, I have to wonder at one’s understanding of the clear scriptural delineation between the “world” (fallen culture, inspired and animated by the Evil One), and The Kingdom of God (The One, True and Present Culture). It is not a matter of “dialogue or compromise, but of “translation” (Colossians 1:13), is it not? Or put another way, failing to discern the impassable demarkation between the temporal and the eternal, The Church being Divine and therefore eternal in Her founding and Her being and therefore not subject to temporal category or definition… not subject to a misguided arrogation of the ability to be “a respecter of persons” (in this case, American culture), when Scripture clearly affirms in The Acts of the Apostles that God Himself is “not a respecter of persons”. The “culture” is “engaged” one sinner at a time, in much (I expect) the same way that the Great Schism is healed one RCC or protestant convert to Orthodoxy at a time, as in my case and countless others. And yet again, it is The Lord who adds unto HIS Church (Acts Chap. 2) Also, “some sow, some water, but it is God Who gives the increase”. (Paul’s letter to the Corinthians).

    If one means by “engagement” the preaching of the Gospel and living out the Life of The Kingdom, then I understand your phrase. If one thinks that the Church, although organic and properly adaptive, is expected to be somehow different because another century has passed (as though She is a captive of the constant change and deterioration that some call “culture” or “life”), well then… I walk away in silence!

    Though some might say, “what do these remarks have to do with this thread”… I think they are germane in the larger context of the genesis and self-understanding of the OCA now that it has some history behind it. I was recently told a little about the disagreement between the late Fr. Schmemann and the late A. Solzhenitsyn regarding the Russian Orthodox Church and its mission and praxis in America. Just from what little I learned of that dispute, I would solidly align myself with brother Solzhenitsyn.

    I am by no means erudite or overly-schooled and always in need of correction. With that in mind, I appreciate any and all reponses and clarifications.

    PS> Let me briefly say that as an inquirer into Orthodoxy, Lazar Puhalo was among the first of paths that I crossed, and I was being seduced with some success into his orbit by a well-intended Presbytera. I was given sufficient disturbance interiorly to leave that path quickly. BUT, even if only one person seeking The Church (such as myself) can be in that kind of immediate danger right out of the gate, shouldn’t that serve as a lesson to those within the OCA hierarchy whose responsibility it is to rein him in, to DO SO quickly?

    Kind regards,


    • George Michalopulos says

      By “engaging the culture” I do not mean the Social Gospel, kum-ba-ya, or even pro-life marches for that matter. What I do mean is bishops, priests, and laymen standing up and speaking truth in an unafraid manner. Maybe that’s not as eloquent as it should be.

      What I don’t mean is the typical, self-serving nonsense we get from functionaries using Orthospeak: “well, we believe in working behind the scenes…” Anything to make sure that their dance card isn’t cancelled at the Ritz-Carlton the next time the Undersecretary of State is in NYC.

  25. Christopher says

    I’m not Orthodox. I’m not OCA.
    I have been attending a Greek Orthodox church since December, learning everything from the very beginning.

    I read maybe half this page. This is insanity. ‘Homosexual agendas’, defrocked deacon/archbishops, schismatic groups right and left. It’s chaos. If I had read this page a half-year ago, I’d assume that the Orthodox are out of their minds, and never would have ever walked inside an Orthodox church.

    This, all of this, needs to be dealt with. Thoroughly, completely, and quickly. Or you will, as one poster noted, be as doomed as the Episcopalians. The fact that the system can devolve this way at all is not an encouraging sign, either. A church where every twelve people is another schism is not ‘of God’.

    You can ignore my post, after all, I don’t know these people’ and I’m not Orthodox. —But if anyone of you can appreciate the words of an outsider, a professional, someone who wishes for the success of Orthodoxy, this whole thing is wildly out of control.

    Perhaps you all should try prayer; for calmness, for insight, for strength, for determination. And then do what you need to do.

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

      It’s the American part of the Church, Christopher, which in many ways is too American. The other parts have their own problems, and indeed the Church throughout her history has had problems — things to fight for and against. But there is within the tradition — that is to say, within the life of the Church — great riches for those who persevere. Please do, and don’t let us sinners hinder you.

      • Christopher says

        Well, we’re all sinners, sure. From me up to the Apostles.

        But, I’ve started reading some of the basic works, (Kallistos Ware, and that kind of thing), and I’ve at least started asking myself ‘what’s the Christian thing to do in this situation’ and tried to do it. This reads like the last season of Jersey Shore, or Twin Peaks.

        The Orthodox Church is not such a true, beautiful, and long-lasting thing that it cannot be destroyed.

        • Rod Dreher says

          I assure you, Christopher, that the place I came from, the Roman Catholic Church, is just as chaotic, in its own way. There is no way to escape the problems of our times — not in the Orthodox Church, not in the Roman Catholic Church, not in one of the Protestant churches. Of course it’s better in some places than in others. If I only went to my parish, and never read blogs or kept up with news in the national church, I would think the Orthodox Church is a place of calm, beauty, and holiness. Which it is. Wheat, tares; sheep, goats.

          Don’t be discouraged — but also, don’t put your trust in princes, or bishops, or abbots, or anybody but Christ.

          • We are all being fooled about a lot of things. Unrelated? Same ethos.

            • ProPravoslavie says

              Permit me to show the other side of the Church in Russia.

              FIRST, two links, one from the official Patriarchal website, the other from the website of the Diocese of Nizhny Novgorod:



              SECOND, here are very interesting passages from this links:

              From the first article (from the Patriarchate, about the Moscow Theological Academy) comes this (via Google translate — sorry, no time to clean up the translation):

              Commenting on the speech the rector of MDA, Patriarch Kirill has criticized the system of personnel management and allocation of financial resources at the Academy, including those coming through the MDA Board of Trustees.

              His Holiness ordered an audit of staffing of the Moscow Theological Schools and submit it to the new project schedule.

              It was suggested that increasing the current low wage “of teachers and those administrative and business workers who actually has great significance for the Academy.”

              Full financial transparency is, in the words of His Holiness, a prerequisite for philanthropists to raise funds to provide many-sided development of the Academy.

              “We must raise the level of pay and the professors and teachers, students and the quality of food, but it should be absolutely transparent. We need to know exactly where and how the money goes, including income from the church, “- said His Holiness.”

              From the second article (from Nizhny Novgorod) comes this (via Google translate — sorry, no time to clean up the translation):

              “At a meeting with the Deans dealt with the pressing issues related to church life of the Diocese of Nizhny Novgorod. This, in particular, the construction of new churches, repair and restoration work in existing churches, the imposition of daily services in urban parishes, parish outreach, interaction with the parishes of educational and social institutions, the shortage of clergy, the problem of enrollment in the Nizhny Novgorod seminary problems impoverishment of the community spirit in the parishes, the loss of the idea of spiritual ministry and division between clergy and laity.”

              Do you see something? Problems are openly and bluntly acknowledged — and this, on official websites of the Russian Orthodox Church! The first passage is especially striking, as you have no less than the Patriarch admitting, on the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate, that there are problems with financial transparency regarding the Moscow Theological Academy. This, despite the lack of any media circus over the matter.


              As for the photoshopped watch, there are three things to keep in mind:

              1) The Moscow Patriarchate owned up to, and apologized for, the incident

              2) There is no evidence that the Patriarch himself ordered the photoshopping incident.

              3) There is no evidence that the Patriarch bought the watch with Church funds. More likely it was one of the many gifts that rich people are wont to shower on Church dignitaries whether Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant.

              Quite frankly, the fact that some Americans can’t find anything else to throw at the Moscow Patriarchate (aside from this and the unproven allegations of “Kirill the Cigarette Billionaire” and “everyone in the Russian Orthodox Church is an FSB agent”) is encouraging. It shows just how thin is the ice on which these anti-Patriarchal fanatics are standing on.

  26. Ken Miller says

    If you don’t believe Lavenders exist, or maybe you are not even sure if you are Lavender, I have put together a little self test to help…

    1. If you can read or listen to Lazar Puhalo for more than 5 minutes without vomiting, you are probably a Lavender.
    2. If you think people are born gay so that they are deprived of free will, even with the aid of grace, to live chastely, you are probably a Lavender.
    3. If you think contemporary writers are more insightful than the ancient Fathers, you are probably a Lavender.
    4. If you think the ancient fathers were well intentioned but misguided because they did not have the benefit of modern science and enlightened 21st century values, you are probably a Lavender.
    5. If the word “homophobe” is in your vocabulary, you are probably a Lavender.
    6. If you think telling people that God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness are theirs irrespective of repentance and amendment of life, you are probably a Lavender.
    7. If you think that the Fathers were insensitive for requiring repentance for sexual sin and change of life prior to being admitted to communion, you are probably a Lavender.
    8. If you think the homilies of St John Chrysostom are “difficult” passages that have to be dealt with rather than Orthodox doctrine to be eagerly embraced, you are probably a Lavender.
    9. If you think homosexuals who are partnered and are politically active promoting the gay lifestyle are actually repenting each week of their homosexual sin before they take communion, despite no change in behavior year after year, you are probably a lavender.
    10. If you think the church should not confront the sexual revolution with the ancient Orthodox doctrines about sexual sin, preferring instead to avoid “the culture wars”, you are probably a Lavender.
    11. If you believe that the multi-year hateful, backstabbing conspiracy involving Stokoe, some members of the Holy Synod, and others to undermine and remove Jonah as primate was actually only about technical violations of “policies”, you are probably a lavender (or pathologically naïve).

    If you scored zero, congratulations! You are probably an Orthodox and a Traditionalist!

    • Alexander says

      Well,this weekend my family and I attended the local ROCOR Church for the first time for Saturday Vigil and Sunday Liturgy. And we were not the only OCA’ers there. I counted at least 6 families that I know are, or were once OCA. I don’t know what I expected to find, but I was pleasantly surprised. It reminded me of the old OCA back in Pa. I half expected Metropolitan Leonty or Archbishop Kiprian (Borisevich) to come out of the Royal Doors. The Services were mostly in English with a scattering of Slavonic. What I found alarming was how much we in the OCA have let slip away without noticing. I experienced things that I haven’t seen since I was a kid back in coal country. A real Vigil Service. Curtains opening and closing. Everybody was there early, no one walking in at the Gospel. It was nice. I kind of half expected to see Russian aristocracy, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Russians, Greeks, Carpatho Russians, Serbs, Syrians, and mostly just regular Americans. The parishioners were very nice, greeting us at the door and inviting us to coffee social. The lack of pews threw me for a minute, but once again, it reminded me of going to Church with my grandparents, waiting to be “big enough” to stand with my Grandfather with the men on the right side.
      The parishioners, for the most part, seemed unaware of the situation in the OCA. I didn’t hear any “Church Politics” discussed at the coffee social. Father came over and talked to us for a bit and invited us back. When I explained our situation, he said that he was praying for Met. +Jonah and all the OCA. He said “God sees all”, and “God’s will will not be circumvented”.
      I noticed a lot of people used an “Old Rite” Prayer book. I thumbed through it and I was impressed. The ROCOR Old Believer Church up in Erie Pa prints it.
      It was strange to hear Patriarch +Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion commemorated. I asked one the men how they felt about being reunited with Moscow and he said that it really didn’t effect them too much at the parish level. I did notice that everybody seemed to think the world about Metropolitan Hilarion. I guess their bishops have never given them reason to question their intentions.
      One other thing I almost forgot. After Liturgy, everybody went to the hall for a little coffee social. Nobody ate or drank anything until Father came over and led the congregation in prayer and blessed the coffee and snacks. It all felt very right.
      I think my 15 year old Grandaughter put it best. On the way home, she blurted out “Well, you sure knew you were in Church!” I then realized that I haven’t felt that way in a long time.
      We talked about it all afternoon. I think we have found a home. A spiritual home, free of the “politics”. I loved what the OCA once was. But I no longer have confidence in it and it’s hierarchs, and the spiritual welfare of my family must come first. We will all meet with Father Wednesday Evening and we hope to go to confession Saturday night and receive the Sacrament Sunday morning. While the OCA won’t even notice our departure, I wonder how many must do what he have decided to do before the bishops act to repair the damage of the past 40+ years.

      • Rod Dreher says

        You have just described Orthodoxy as practiced in St. Seraphim’s Cathedral under the reign of Archbishop Dmitri, of blessed memory.

        And people wonder why the folks in the Diocese of the South are so grieved by all this…

      • Joseph A. says


        The parish follows the old rite? I didn’t know of any parishes besides Erie that followed the Old Believer way. I have visited the Erie parish, but not for a liturgy. Was the service easy to follow?

        “The lack of pews threw me for a minute.”

        I HATE pews. They’re so constrictive. From what I have heard, even in the OCA, new temples are built without them, and they are slowly being removed in existing parishes. Good riddance! I have never personally seen pews in a ROCOR parish, but I know that there is at least one Synod parish in Pittsburgh with pews. Maybe, it used to belong to the OCA. I suspect that the use of pews was due to the late 19th century immigrants’ trying to fit in with the Jones. The Russians who fled the Bolsheviks were not all that interested in picking up Western habits, which is probably why later ROCOR parishes follow a more traditional style and praxis.

  27. Here is a YouTube link to a video where you can watch and listen to “Archbishop Lazar Puhalo” aka, Ron Haler/Buehler, expound what he sees as Orthodox teaching about “transgender” people. He believes that some babies with bodies of one sex have brains that are “wired” (SIC!) for the opposite sex.
    There has been no comment by the Holy Synod of the OCA on his teaching.

  28. Taking a look forward to peer you. 246653

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  30. Ironically, Frank Schaeffer (remember him?) used to say that he left Protestant Evangelicalism because there was no “there” there (i.e., no final authority). I left Evangelicalism and became Orthodox for over 10 years for the same reason. I am now reunited wit the See of Peter. Problems? A bucketful!! But at least there’s a “there” there!