7.10.07 The Metropolitan's Address Pt. 2:
Denial of Reality
In part one of our commentary on the Metropolitan's recent address to the Metropolitan Council we examined the Primate's stubborn denial of any personal responsibility for the scandal, a refusal which reveals a more serious denial of the reality of our situation. In part two this denial becomes even more clear...
The second half of the Metropolitan's address begins with the most basic, generic description of the Kondratick trial process imaginable. And even then, it is not fully honest. The Metropolitan writes:
"3. As a result of the findings of the investigators from Proskauer Rose LLP and of the independent audit work of the accountants from Lambrides, Lamos and Moulthrop LLP, it was deemed appropriate that our former chancellor, Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick, be summoned to a Church Court."
This is not fully true. No one, except the Metropolitan and his lawyers, has seen "the findings of the investigation from Proskauer Rose LLP". The Special Commission was allowed to see some; but not all of the findings. Many of their specific requests for Proskauer Rose's materials were denied. In turn, the Metropolitan Council was only allowed to read what the Special Commission wrote - and the Synod, which voted to summon the Church Court, the same. None of the three bodies, the Commission, the Council or the Synod have seen "the findings of the investigation from Proskauer Rose LLP", except for what the Metropolitan wanted them to see. "It was deemed" would be more honestly written: "I deemed". The distinction is important, as we shall see.
The Metropolitan continues:
"The first day of the Church Court was held yesterday, June 11, 2007. Essentially, the formal charges leveled against Father Kondratick were heard. Substantive documentation was reviewed. Witnesses were invited and questioned. Later this month, the second phase of the Church Court will take place. At that time, the panel will receive Father Kondratick's response and then determine if any further action is appropriate."
Events, and Fr. Kondratick, have conspired to make Metropolitan Herman's brief description of the second phase of the Church Court less than accurate as well. The second session, held July 6th, did not receive Fr. Kondratick's response - for Fr. Kondratick's strategy has been not to offer a defense, but to challenge the integrity and composition of the panel, as well as the validity, integrity and manner of the proceedings. Having failed in these attempts, in person at the first session and subsequently by proxy on the internet, neither Fr. Kondratick nor his counsel chose to be present at the second session. Apparently they will wait for a verdict, and then appeal to the Synod, if necessary before mounting their defense; or, simply accept the Church's findings and concentrate their efforts on the looming civil trial, where Fr. Kondratick risks losing more than titles.
In the absence of a defense by Fr. Kondratick, the Court heard multiple witnesses in an apparent attempt to understand the truth, not just the facts, of the diversion of funds that took place during the Kondratick regime. Among those testifying were former and current Treasurers (Frs. Oselinsky and Kucynda), retired Metropolitan Theodosius, and Archimandrite Zaccheus (Woods) of the OCA's St. Catherine's Representation Church in Moscow. Fr. Zaccheus testifed by telephone. One former OCA Treasurer (1999-2000) was conspicuously absent from the list of witnesses - Metropolitan Herman himself. But then, Metropolitan Herman has already publicly stated that he was only a "figurehead" Treasurer during this period. Interestingly, he has never stated who, though, was watching the books since he now claims he was not. According to emails to Fr. Kondratick in early 2000 the suggestion is made that it was a private accounting firm called Hein and Associates, These emails make clear this highly questionable "out-sourcing" of the Church's records was done with the knowledge of then-Archbishop Herman. (Read that story here.)
Brave New World?
The address however, moves into a recitation of the recent accomplishments of the Metropolitan's "new" Administration. No one disputes that a much-needed reorganization has begun. While the faces are new, the details are not - nor is the rhetoric about them. Read carefully the adjectives used to describe these actions:
"4. The $1,700,000.00 loan procured from The Honesdale National Bank was properly distributed in accordance with the specifics of the loan application and acceptance documents.
5. The Reorganization Task Force/Search Committee has done a splendid job in reviewing the organizational chart developed under the direction of our former chancellor in 1991.....
6. With my approval and under its direction, many personnel changes have been made and continue to be made regarding the chancery staff.
7. As I mentioned earlier, all the work on the Best Practices document has been completed and, pending your approval, will be implemented.
8. The evaluation of our information service needs, which includes equipment, software and training, has been completed. Implementation is now taking place. Within the next few months, we anticipate that all aspects of this project will be fully operational, and effectively used by the chancery staff to fulfill its assigned tasks."
"Splendid", "new", "properly", "accountable", "competent", "qualified", "effective". O wonder! "Completed", "implemented", "assigned", "fully operational". "O brave new world! ...O Happy those who inhabit it!"
Or are they? Fr. Vladimir Brezonsky is not - as he recently wrote to the Midwest Diocesean Council:
"On the one hand, that of +Herman's right hand, is the insistence that we have turned a new page. All the problems are behind us. The trial of the former chancellor is underway. The problems of the past have been resolved, and we are aimed now towards the future. According to that point of view, the former chancellor was responsible for most if not all of the financial scandal that the Church has been struggling to put behind itself - the disappearance of donated funds and other church revenues such as the ADM grant, the designated gifts that did not find their way to their targets, the reason for the $1.7m loan to cover unpaid debts, all that is now over. This is the story which +Herman insists on and demands is the whole truth, and which those who agree with him are eager to maintain."
Despite the rhetoric, and his insistence, does anyone outside of Syosset's pay believe the Metropolitan that Fr. Kondratick's alleged misdeeds constitute the whole truth? One wonders if even the Metropolitan himself believes it. He continues:
"For some people, the investigation, the work of the accountants, and other aspects of this tedious process did not move fast enough. That there was a restriction on information that could be made public while the investigation was in process tempted other individuals to become impatient, overly critical and judgmental. This complex spiritual trauma is something that I deeply regret has occurred, but over which I do not have control."
As this paragraph demonstrates, the Metropolitan is very good at assigning blame if not accepting responsbility. If "the process did not move fast enough for some", it is the fault of the "accountants", the "investigators", and others - not the Metropolitan who oversaw the process. The fact that Proskauer Rose's investigation was completed in July 2006 - fully a year ago - and that we are only now dealing with their findings - is overlooked, or ignored. The fact the accountants were finished six months ago, and their findings are only now being made public - is overlooked, or ignored. The fact that the vehicle chosen by the Metropolitan Council and Synod for dealing with the scandal, the Special Investigative Commission, was not created by the Metropolitan for a full year after it was proposed, and subsequently has been suspended by the Metropolitan for going on three months - is overlooked, or ignored. But then to point these facts, or any facts, is to be "impatient", "overly-critical" and "judgemental". Why? Because of the "restriction of information that could be made public while the investigation was underway". The fact that the Metropolitan alone restricted the information is overlooked - or ignored.
Overlooked or ignored? Is the Metropolitan just overlooking the facts, or is he choosing to ignore them for his own purposes? When does accountability intersect with prudence? At the point of self-interest?
In this case the Metropolitan's answer is set forth in the final sentence of the paragraph: he has no self-interest in this, because he was not in charge. He writes: "This complex spiritual trauma is something that I deeply regret has occurred, but over which I do not have control."
Fewer sentences have said so much by intending to say something else. Clearly the Metropolitan intended this to be a form of apology. Once again, it is not much of one, for to "deeply regret" and then claim it was something "over which I do not have control" is hardly a confession, let alone repentence. It does tell us something else though, something profound.
Either the Metropolitan is telling the Council, and through them the Church over which he presides a bold-face lie, or worse, it is a very public admission that the Orthodox Church in America is no longer run by its Primate. Either way, he has publicly abdicated whatever leadership he would still claim.
It would be reasonable to assume that as head of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, presiding hierarch of the Synod of Bishops, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, etc., etc., etc., Metropolitan Herman was "in charge" of how this scandal was handled. He alone has been given the facts (although we all paid for them). He alone has decided what, when, how, if and to whom they are to be shared. Tradition, reason and the facts would support the contention that the Metropolitan is indeed in charge of resolving the scandal. The Metropolitan now denies this.
Let us assume the best: that the Metropolitan is not telling us a lie - he really is not in charge of all this. If the Metropolitan does not have control of this "complex spiritual trauma", who does? It is not Metropolitan Council, nor the Synod of Bishops, both of which have been kept in the dark. It is not the Special Commission, which is suspended, nor the former or new figures in the central administration in Syosset. The former were terminated, the latter have just "come on board". That leaves only one group in this trauma unaccounted for- the lawyers. So who is in charge? The lawyers.
Whether he is lying or telling the truth, the Metropolitan has, by his own admission abdicated his position, morally and spiritually, if not juridicially, to which he was elected. Under his primacy the OCA is ever less able to claim it is ruled by Christ and his commandments, for the truth is, Proskauer Rose and its restrictions rule. The Metropolitan calls this a "complex spiritual trauma". The Church's history has much more colorful names: Egypt, Babylonian Captivity, the Wisdom of this World. This is not something to be "regretted", but something from which we are to flee....
In short, the Metropolitan's own words convict him. Either he is in charge, and continues to "mis"lead us by claiming he is not in charge - or, he is not in charge, his lawyers are. The question then arises, in the case a divergence occurs between what is acceptable, allowable, moral, and salvific. To which do we as a Church give ultimate allegiance - the judgement of this world, or of the one to come? Which is it? Sadly, our own Metropolitan tells us it is the wisdom of the world that is now leading Christ's Church.
If the Metropolitan be taken at his word, only one question remains: how long will the Synod of Bishops allow this captivity to continue?
Little About the Church: Much About Himself
The remainder of the Metropolitan's address tells us little about the Church or our real situation. But it does tell us a great deal about our Metropolitan. He continues:
"Conjectures by some who have limited access to facts have used the Internet as their medium of choice in their 'quest for the truth.' What began as their attempt to share factual information has degenerated over time into a forum for more conjecture, theorizing, hypothesizing, vicious personal attacks, half-truths, exaggerations, distortions, and even totally false information as 'the truth.' At this point, I question the motives and methods of such individuals."
No sooner has the Metropolitan spoken about his brave new Syosset, than his words showed how short is the distance we have truly travelled. This is no new Syosset - this is the old regime in all is works and in all its ways: disparage, deny, deflect, condemn. The Metropolitan's words are petty and mean-spirited, unworthy of a chief hierarch. Just as he was so ready to dismiss Protodeacon Wheeler in 1999, to dismiss concerns of the Metropolitan Council about the burgeoning ADM scandal in 2000, to dismiss the diversion of charitable and special collection funds in 2002-2006, to dismiss the Moscow Tape in 2005, to dismiss the growing debts of the OCA from All American Councils in 2002 and 2005, and then again to dismiss Protodeacon Wheeler's public revelations in late 2005, the Metropolitan is in charge enough to dismiss, disparage and condemn those who did none of the preceding. Shame.
Suffice it to say that those who oppose the reduction of Church to clientage have stated their motives from the very beginning. In the case of OCANews.org they appear now, as they have from day one of the website, on the home page. It is not their stories or purposes or motives which have changed with events. That would be Syosset, as the Metropolitan and his minions vainly struggled to first deny the scandal, delay the scandal, divert the scandal, then contain the scandal, and now move-on from the scandal, all the time withholding the facts of the scandal, as much as possible, under the rubric "for the good of the church". If the Metropolitan knows of half-truths let him state them; if there has been "false information" let him publicly correct it. But he will not, for he cannot. He is no better than Fr. Kondratick, reduced to bleating how unfair the process is because he dare not admit or face the facts.
So the Metropolitan can only continue:
"The criticism of the Metropolitan Council, of the Holy Synod, and particularly of me as the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America has been relentless. While this is painful and hurtful for all of us, it also has been an opportunity for deep reflection, righteous suffering and spiritual growth."
It is true that the criticism of the Metropolitan has been relentless as this scandal continues to unfold. Since he refuses to admit the reality of the situation, others must do it for him. Like Fr. Kondratick and his proxies on the internet, the Metropolitan refuses to see himself as responsible for any of this: the scandal, the changing stories, the dismissal of Gregg Nescott ( "a misunderstanding" he now claims), the suspension of the Commission, etc., etc., etc. Refusing to see reality, it seems he, like Fr. Kondratick, now begins to identify himself as the 'victim' in this process; and indeed a "righteous" victim. Fr. Kondratick claims he is the victim of the machinations of Metropolitans Theodosius and Herman; Metropolitan Herman sees himself as the victim of Fr. Kondratick and the machinations of the internet.
Gentlemen, the only victim here is the faith, good-will and trust of those whom you have deceived and continue to deceive - the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America.
Go! Leave! Leave us alone to rebuild that which you have brought to the ground, through your words and deeds, in knowledge or in ignorance. Go - go now! For your words can no longer be believed, your own actions have revealed and betrayed you, and your continuing self-indulgent protestations of innocence are wearisome. Go - go now! For God's sake, gentlemen, leave, and let those you have deceived begin the arduous task of rebuilding the OCA in peace.