2.18.08 From the Connecticut Post
(Editor's Note: Southwest Connecticut's largest newspaper, the Connecticut Post, ran the following story in its Saturday, February 16th, edition concerning the recent decision of the Ansonia parish to withhold its assessments from Syosset.
The story, in full, follows.)
"Parish in dispute with national church
KATE RAMUNNI firstname.lastname@example.org
ANSONIA — With reports of the misuse of millions of dollars in donations swirling, parishioners at Three Saints Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church recently voted to withhold its donations to the national church in the hopes the brewing financial scandal is resolved.
That action has prompted one of the church's bishops to pay a visit next weekend that, parishioners believe, will be more to chastise than to work out the problems. "The local church decided at their annual meeting in January to withhold money from the national church pending certain conditions," said church historian Robert Klancko, "one of which is that this crisis be resolved."
Allegations of misuse of funds date back to 1993, when an audit uncovered problems with the church's financial statements. Eventually it was revealed that millions of dollars in contributions were funneled into secret accounts "The issue in the national church regarding the misuse of large funds from the national chancellery has been known for three years," said Three Saints pastor Michael Roshak.
The connection with his parish is personal one, he said, because the treasurer Eric Wheeler is from Ansonia. "Protodeacon Eric Wheeler was born and raised as a son of this parish," he said. "He is rightfully loved and highly respected."
At the church's annual meeting Jan. 28, the parish voted to withhold its contribution to the national church, Roshak said.
"It was a rather amazing annual meeting in the rather historic and bold decisions it took which for me as pastor was an encouragement that my flock is beginning to be proactive and not as fearful to make necessary changes," he said. "The assembly appreciated the total freedom to express their views and especially to express their sadness over the current crisis."
The unanimous decision to withhold annual assessments to the national church was meant to press the bishops who have the responsibility and authority to complete the investigations and make public their findings, he said, and to press the bishops to act quickly and responsibility.
They felt that there only two ways that will have an impact, he said — their leaving the church or their withholding their funds. Leaving the church is an option no one wants to take, he said.
"As pastor I've called for the flock to be in prayer and fasting as we prepare to welcome our bishop who has called for this special assembly on Feb. 24 to 'revisit our decision,'" Roshak said.
Parishioners are hoping the action will result in action of the part of the national church to rectify the situation, he said.
"A new investigative committee is at work but there is a great deal of distrust among the faithful because the crisis and scandal has dragged on for far too long," he said. "This initiative hopes that the bishops will realize the severity of the delays in resolving the conflicts and realize the damage that it continues to do throughout the church."
In addition to Bishop Nikon, it has been reported that Deacon John Zarras (the former Transition Officer at Syosset and current lay Metropolitan Council member from the Diocese of New England; Fr. John Kreta, the Chancellor of the New England Diocese; and other unamed church officials will be attending the special assembly, this Sunday, February 24th.
- Mark Stokoe
Protodeacon Eric Wheeler's "Letter to Ansonia"