Fr. Robert Kondratick, the former Chancellor of the OCA, spoke before the Synod of Bishops yesterday afternoon in Syosset. No details of the session have been released; but sources close to Syosset state that Fr. Kondratick offered no substantive answers to questions from the Bishops.
Fr. Kondratick’s presence at the Synod of Bishops raises serious questions.
Why was he there?
The OCA has mortgaged its homestead (literally) to pay Proskauer Rose LLP to conduct an investigation. On the basis of their report, the joint session of the Synod of Bishops and Metropolitan Council confirmed in December that massive fraud and embezzlement took place, and that this misconduct centered around “one person”. (Read that story here). The Metropolitan then created a Special Commission to further investigate, make recommendations and report back to the Council, Synod and Church-at-large, in that order. Although no details of the Special Commission’s report (presented to the Council last week, and the Synod yesterday) have been released to the Church-at-large, the substance of the Commission’s recommendations is known. Among them was the unanimous recommendation of the Council that the Synod suspend Fr. Kondratick, pending an ecclesiastical trial. They did not recommend that he appear before the Synod prior to his suspension, or prior to his appearance in a Church court.
Who invited him?
There are conflicting reports as to whether Fr. Kondratick asked to appear before the Synod, as some of his supporters suggest, or his appearance was at the request of his Diocesan hierarch, Archbishop Dmitri, as others maintain. In either case, is it customary for a priest of whom it has been recommended that he be suspended and tried to be called in for questioning before the Synod of Bishops? The answer is “No.” If restoring “good order” to the OCA is the Metropolitan’s goal, as he stated in his opening address to the Synod, it is hard to see how “order” is restored by changing the rules to accommodate only certain individuals. Wasn’t that one of the reasons the OCA got into this mess in the first place?
But unusual times may require unusual methods...
What was the purpose?
Apart from the appropriateness of the appearance, is the question of the content of the questions Fr. Kondratick was asked. Was Fr. Kondratick asked questions based on the findings of the Special Commission? If so, why? If not, why not? If he was asked to explain the charges against him, why would the Synod of Bishops disclose the work of Proskauer Rose and the Special Commission, so dearly paid for, and so closely held that even the Church cannot see it, only to the man they accuse? If Fr. Kondratick can learn of the evidence against him before trial, and speak against it before a trial, shouldn’t the Church be allowed to at least examine the evidence as well? It will be very hard for the Synod to not to release the full report now, since they have apparently released it to Fr. Kondratick, in word, if not in actual deed.
On the other hand, if they did not ask him questions based on the evidence collected by Proskauer Rose and the Special Commission, what were they asking him?
In the end, it is hard to see what Fr. Kondratick’s testimony before the Synod yesterday was meant to achieve that a trial would not do in a more fair manner to all concerned. Allowing, or requiring Fr. Kondratick to appear gives the impression the Synod of Bishops is attempting to make an end-run around the recommended trial. It is hardly indictative of “good order”.
“Good order” cannot be restored to the OCA until the scandal is fully disclosed; those involved held responsible; and changes made so that it cannot happen again. Once again, the Metropolitan’s performance is not equal to his words. The Metropolitan said: “While the special committee will continue its work in the days ahead, our response to their initial findings and the unanimous recommendations placed before us by the Metropolitan Council not only represents a first step in fulfilling our mandate, but will set the tone for the committee’s ongoing efforts, as well as our own.” The tone the Metropolitan is singing is not the one recommended by the Special Commission, nor the unanimous vote of the Church’s Metropolitan Council. In revealing the Commission’s work only to the alleged perpetrator, the Metropolitan is singing the same old tune he has been singing since the beginning of the scandal 18 months ago. It is one we have heard time and time again: ”Blame the messenger, ignore the facts, divert attention, call for quiet, and give those responsible the opportunity to slip away.” That melody is old, the words are tired, the harmonies ominous.
Let us pray the Synod is wise enough not to join in that song.
- Mark Stokoe