After five months of disturbing revelations of financial improprieties, petitions, emergency meetings, minutes, reports, firings, ongoing investigations, expanding audits and archpastoral letters, the OCA is slouching
toward an answer to the simple question that prompted this crisis: "Are the allegations true or false?"
Until that question is answered, the crisis cannot be defused, or trust restored, or the OCA begin to heal. In the simplest terms, the OCA needs to know the who, what, when, where and why of how Syosset came to be so badly mismanaged.
Lambrides, Lamos and Malthroup LLP, now in their fifth month of audits, and Proskauer Rose LLP, now in their seventh week of public investigation, respectively, should be able to tell us "who" took "what", "when" they took it and to the extent documentation allows, even "where" and "how" whoever spent it did so....
"Why" some were allowed to get away with it for so long is something we must have the courage to search within ourselves to answer.
It is reasonable that the Holy Synod be the first to review both Lambrides and Proskauer's findings at the end of this month; and reasonable that the Metropolitan Council, as representatives of the entire OCA, review those same findings at their next meeting in June. For it is the OCA, not the Synod, that is Proskauer Rose's client, as Metropolitan Herman himself stated when they were engaged. And it is the members of the OCA who are paying for these investigations, not Metropolitan Herman. It is also reasonable and essential to the restoration of trust that these same findings be made public immediately following the Metropolitan Council meeting; fully and openly on the Church's own website, rather than on this one.
Skeptics can suggest many reasons why this may not be so.
Some believe the major flaw in the current process is the man overseeing the investigation, that is, Metropolitan Herman himself. For 30+ years Metropolitan Herman has operated his respective Dioceses with a penchant for secrecy and an aversion to publicly dealing with problems. Beyond that, our Metropolitan is burdened with a serious personal conflict of interest in this investigation, in that he was both Acting Treasurer and Metropolitan during many of the years in question.
Others believe the major problem to be to Proskauer Rose LLP. As attorneys, they may recommend that any prosecutable crimes remain undisclosed by the OCA. They may point out that there should be limitations on public dissemination of the facts for fear of criminal or libel suits, or for privacy concerns and the like.
Others point to the Synod, some of whose members have openly questioned whether an investigation was ever even needed. Others point to the Administrative Committee, or the entire Metropolitan Council, each compromised by complicity, passivity, or at best, just plain ignorance, throughout the last decade.
As one comment on this website asked plaintively: "Can the truth really be expected from any of them?"
If this were the world, no.
But this is the Church, and the standard is higher. As members of the Church we should expect nothing more, and accept nothing less from those who lead the Church, than the truth. The whole truth.
Sadly, more than a decade of half truths, lies, deceptions and secrets have led us into a morass of sin, scandal and demoralizing decline. More half truths, lies, deceptions and secrets will not lead us out.
If the Synod alone is allowed to know the full truth,
other bodies involved in Church administration will only be able to interpret inconclusive information, thus leading to poor choices, to the disadvantage of the whole Body of Christ.
Likewise, if only the Synod and the Metropolitan Council are informed of the whole truth of the findings of the investigation, what will motivate the systemic changes that must be made throughout the Church if the OCA as a whole is not to be placed in such a vulnerable position again? As Fr. Thomas Hopko's letter pointed out, the financial scandal is only a piece of the puzzle; and that other issues, such as the disappearance of conciliarity in the Church, are matters of enormous importance that must be discussed as well.
There is one other alternative we are loathe to even consider: If the investigation shows that many vital records are missing, or have been destroyed, and it is impossible to determine where substantial cash withdrawals were actually spent, then it may be tempting to simply blame it on "poor" or "sloppy" bookkeeping. Should this be the conclusion, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an investigation, then everyone associated with the financial administration of the OCA in the past decade, should resign immediately. No reasonable person could ever again trust their donations, let alone further administration of the OCA, to any of those who have shown such manifest incompetence in the care of both.
Let us be absolutely clear: the truth, the whole truth, is the only way forward. No one can foresee the future, but it does not take prolepsis to see that if the whole truth is not revealed to the members of the Church, those who still believe that the truth is not negotiable will continue to use this website to make it known. Prolonging the agony, as more and more facts inevitably dribble out, into an indefinite future, is truly
a recipe for disaster.
Some believe that the present crisis began when the Statute of the OCA began to be ignored and undermined, and that a return to the "letter of the law" of the Statute is an absolute necessity. That may well be.
Others suggest an earlier All-American Council in the summer of 2007 is needed, rather than a delayed Council in 2010. Perhaps.
But of this we are sure: soon we will commemorate the holy feast of Pentecost. Let us now seek the truth above all else, that the Holy Spirit might come and abide in us. If we commit openly to the truth now, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, will surely guide us in the way in which we should go.
There may be no simple answer to the simple question: "Are the allegations true or false?". But the standard is simple: the truth. The Metropolitan, the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council will soon be forced to choose the standard by which they, and the OCA, will be forever judged.
Let us pray they act wisely, and choose the truth.