"The Allegations Were True"
More than two years ago the Archbishop of Chicago asked a question that has remained at the center of the scandal. In a letter to Metropolitan Herman in November 2005, +Job wrote: "Are any of the allegations true or are they false?" In his Christmas 2007 message the Archbishop has now shared an answer with his Diocese. "Yes", the Archbishop writes, "the allegations were true."
As the scandal became public in November 2005, Archbishop Job sought to deal with the issue openly by imploring the Metropolitan to do the same. In a letter to the Metropolitan, the Archbishop wrote:
"During the fall session of the Holy Synod, when information made available to each hierarch was brought up for discussion, attacks regarding the character of the person who made the information known were launched, while the issues were essentially ignored. In my mind, whether the accuser or the accused are saints or sinners, reputable or disreputable, magnanimous or malicious---is immaterial. What truly matters is the nature of the allegations. What continues to perplex me is that the simple and most appropriate question was not asked---not by the Holy Synod, not by the Metropolitan Council, nor by others commenting on the situation: Are any of the allegations true, or are they false?"
The Archbishop continued:
"The allegations include: Church funds being used for private purposes; unreported bequests; misuse of restricted funds generated from the Mission, Seminary, and Charity Appeals; a sizable donation by the US Department of Chaplains for bibles for Russia; unsupported credit card expenditures; the Saint Sergius Chapel Account; the Andreas Conference and Communications Center, and others. Again I ask Are any of the allegations true, or are they false?"
The Archbishop then concluded with the following prescient warning:
"The answer to this question is of utmost importance.
If the allegations are false, financial records will prove them to be false. If they are true, then much work must be done -- not only regarding facts, figures, and finances, but the restoration of credibility, honesty, truth, righteousness, integrity, and honor."
(Read the full November 2005 letter here)
For more than two years the Metropolitan has refused to answer the Archbishop's simple question. He has continued to refuse to release the facts, figures or finances of the scandal. We still know nothing of "unreported bequests", "the St. Sergius Chapel Account" and other unreported "discretionary funds", the "Andreas Conference Center" or $4.75 million in ADM funds given to the OCA, but never reported on its books. We learned of the depth of the misdirection of the "Mission, Seminary and Charity Appeals", of the "Bibles for Russia" funds, not from the Metropolitan, but from the papers required for a $1.7 million loan needed to re-pay those funds. Only this last month did the Metropolitan finally allow the release of a general "Summary" of a "Preliminary Report" of the Special Commission that mentioned, but did not detail, the "unsupported credit card expenditures" and "misuse of restricted funds".
And what of the Commission that produced the Preliminary Report we still may not see? It was forbidden to release a statement, its membership and investigation interfered with; and when it sought to investigate if the allegations extended beyond one man (i.e. Robert Kondratick) it was suspended and ultimately disbanded. It was then replaced with a new, smaller Committee on an abbreviated timetable.
It is in this context that the Archbishop writes to his flock:
"I need not remind you that we are living in precarious times. Our society, our families, and our Church continue to face innumerable challenges. Economic uncertainty, increasing violence, secularization, the obsession with the material and the 'self,' and anxiety for the future surround us. In a word, sin continues to rear its ugly head, casting a net of temptation at life's every corner and turn. The very Incarnation of Our Savior and its importance for the world have come under attack, labeled 'politically incorrect' by those who, while perhaps sincerely seeking peace in a world gripped by fear, reject the very Peace, much less glory, we celebrate on this day. While we, as Orthodox Christians, might bemoan attempts to 'take Christ out of Christmas', even this ,misses the mark, of our true ministry as men and women of peace -- to reveal to the world, in our words and by our actions, that Christ is indeed in the world at all times and in all places, and not just on this Feast of His birth; that He makes it possible for the world to overcome sin and temptation and delight in His all-embracing peace; that He clearly calls one and all to the glory which He shared with His Father ,before the world began'; and that our attempt to 'be all things to all men, that by all means some might be saved', are surely not in vain."
Yes, The Allegations Were True
Nevertheless, the confirmation of some of the allegations, if not the details of them, in the "Summary" of the "Preliminary Report" allowed the Archbishop, the former Chairman of the Special Commission, to state the following in his Christmas message to his faithful:
"My friends, I would be remiss if, in light of what I have written above, I did not at least mention the present state of our beloved, yet suffering, Orthodox Church in America. At this time last year, I wrote to you with great hope in the recent joint meeting of the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council. Since then, it has been a rocky road. We have seen the establishment, frustration, and dissolution of a Special Investigative Commission, the deposition of the former chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, the inception of a new Special Investigative Committee, and the acquisition of a new administration in the Church's chancery offices. Recently, we have seen the Summary Report of the wrongdoings perpetrated against our Holy Church. And finally, after two years of waiting, we have an answer to my initial question. Yes, the allegations were true."
"But this, if we are serious about acquiring that Peace of which I wrote above and reflecting the 'glory of the Lord' in our lives and actions, cannot be the end, any more than the Incarnation is sufficient in the quest to Ôwork out our own salvation."
Without the truth there is no way forward, no progress or advance. There is only stagnation - at best. Thus the Archbishop writes:
"My greatest responsibility is to tend to the souls of those entrusted to my care. By His Incarnation, Our Merciful Savior calls one and all -- including myself -- to repentance and confession as a means of realizing the 'Peace that passes all understanding' and a first step to acquiring 'the glory of the Lord' of which we sing today. And I dare say that without true repentance and confession, there can be no mercy or forgiveness, no peace or understanding, and no glory. Without true repentance and confession, we may join our voices with the angelic hosts in worshipping the incarnate Savior, but our words are reduced to pious platitudes, devoid of the very Spirit in Whom our journey to the Kingdom is rooted."
Denying the truth through silence is not a way forward; even less are words used to deny, disguise or defer the truth. The Archbishop, therefore, ends with a prayer that the truth, personal and corporate, be told in a spirit of repentance and confession:
"My dear friends, as we celebrate this great and holy feast, let us pray for Our Savior's Peace -- but let our prayer begin with our own repentance and confession, and that of our entire beloved Church, that the 'Peace from above' that He makes possible by His Incarnation will cast aside all that is ungodly in our world, in our lives, and in our Church."
The full text of the Archbishop's letter has been posted on the diocesan website (www.Midwestdiocese.org).
- Mark Stokoe