Nescott's Remarks To the Metropolitan Council on Wednesday, March 14, 2007
(Editor's note: OCANews.org has obtained a transcript of the remarks given by Gregg Nescott, a member of the Metropolitan Council and the Special Commission, at the meeting of the Metropolitan Council last Wednesday, March 14th. What Mr. Nescott said to the Council applies equally to the Synod of Bishops, which meets this coming week in Syosset, March 20-22. We have verified the accuracy of this transcript with Mr. Nescott, who indicated that a few references to specific dollar amounts, and some other information that was disclosed only within the Special Commission’s report had been redacted from these comments, as the Synod of Bishops has not yet agreed to release such information.)
"Yesterday, the Metropolitan Council heard the preliminary report of the Special Commission and began debating whether or not the Commission should continue as a committee of the Metropolitan Council, and whether the report of the Commission should be released to the whole Church. A number of you argued that the Commission has completed its work and should not be extended, and that little or none of its report should be released.
We were all asked to pray on this overnight. I have prayed on this and I hope you all have as well.
I want to talk to you about three things: the Truth, conflicts of interest, and “for the good of the Church”.
First, as to the Truth. We all teach our children to “do the right thing”, and to tell the truth. When I call witnesses in federal court trials, sometimes these witnesses want to say things that they think will please the government or the prosecutor; but I tell them to just tell the truth.
Who above all others stands for the truth?
Who MUST stand for the truth?
What you decide today will truly shape the future of the OCA.
Fr. Gregory Safchuk was eloquent in telling you that his parish needs to know the truth. Last night, for the first time in a long time, you heard and saw the truth. You listened to, and asked many questions about, the report of the Commission. You heard in December and now again that our experts, Proskauer Rose and Lambrides, have “conclusively proven” that the OCA has been pillaged, lied to, and that millions of dollars have disappeared.
The Commission has asked you to take two steps to illuminate the truth: (1) allow the Commission to continue and complete the investigation, so that the whole truth may be told, and (2) release the 13-page preliminary report – tell the whole Church.
Until the joint meeting in December, I was starting to fear that the truth would never be told. After Deacon Wheeler’s allegations were released on November 1, 2005, I wrote a long letter to the Metropolitan and to the members of the Holy Synod, outlining the need for a proper and fair internal investigation. I warned then that wide media coverage and outside investigations were sure to follow, that trust had been shattered, that financial support for the Church would decline, and that the truth must be told. To his credit, Metropolitan Herman called me at home the morning after he received my letter and we discussed what I felt needed to be done. I recall that the Metropolitan told me at least four times that whatever must be done must be “for the good of the Church”. Subsequently, the “Letter of 70” was sent from the senior priests of our Church, asking for an investigation, but with no response.
The Lesser Synod and the Holy Synod chose to do little. They told the Church that there were no problems, that these matters were closed, and suggested that those responsible for the emerging scandal were people like Eric Wheeler and Mark Stokoe. By March, Fr. Kondratick had been fired and Proskauer Rose hired. And then we endured silence, absolute silence, until this past December. The oral report from Proskauer Rose at the joint meeting offered a few facts, but little else tangible.
And then came a miracle. The Metropolitan appointed the Special Commission, and we were all given one last chance to tell the truth to the Church, and to try to begin to heal the damage that had been done. The past few months have been difficult. The Commission has not received all the information it requested from Proskauer Rose and has not had all its questions answered. But through the grace of God, last night you heard the truth, in the report of the Commission. Again we ask you: let us complete our job and let the Church know the truth, both now and in a final report.
Then last night, something quite extraordinary happened. After the report was given, a few of you said, “We have heard the truth. Now let us hide it.” And, “Let’s move on.”
I would suggest that you are deluding yourselves if you think that actions like that will restore trust to the people of the Church, or that the people will accept this as an appropriate end.
Which brings me to conflicts of interest.
I couldn’t sleep last night after some of you suggested the investigation was at an end, and that little should be reported. I kept asking myself, “Why can’t we just tell the truth?” Who wrote this report and who is making these recommendations? You can look at the membership of the Commission and see who these people are. You know them. Don’t you trust them?
It occurred to me that there are interests involved here other than an interest in telling the truth. Some of you believe that hiding the truth is simply the best way to go, to “protect” the Church. Some of you are timid (“the people can’t take any more”.) Some of you just want it all to be over. I can understand that. But it would “be over” at the expense of the truth.
Others among you are very good friends of Fr. Kondratick. The suppression of this report - or its reduction to a one or two-page summary, as suggested by some of you last night - with an end now to the investigation would benefit one person above all others. And that person would be Fr. Bob. So I understand that you are trying to protect your friend, but it is at the expense of the truth.
Some here who have argued for an end to the investigation themselves have serious ethical conflicts of interest in this matter. Common sense tells you that you cannot investigate yourself. Yet two who spoke last night, wanting to end this now, are former treasurers of the OCA during periods of time covered by the investigation. Their responsibility in all of this? None, if the investigation ends now. They, therefore, have a conflict of interest in trying to limit this investigation.
Two others spoke last night, asking you to end this all now. Yet those two were members of the OCA’s Administrative Committee within the past 15 years, a period of time when the central church was being run by Fr. Kondratick and the Administrative Committee. It was this Administrative Committee that approved a $250,000 promissory note for Fr. Bob ten years after the repairs were allegedly done on his home. So what is their responsibility in all of this? None, if the investigation ends now. And they, therefore, have a conflict of interest.
Several here have taken trips paid for by the OCA, including multiple trips to the Islands. Their responsibility? None, if it ends here. They, too, have a conflict of interest.
I want to finally talk to you about the phrase “for the good of the Church.” Last night that phrase again was mentioned, as some of you asked that this be ended now, that we hide the truth, “for the good of the Church.”
Well, was it for the good of the Church that in 1999, John Kozey, our chief internal auditor, was replaced after he asked serious questions about how the OCA was handling its finances? We know that the internal auditors were closely “engaged” in discussing the ongoing problems with Lambrides until Kozey was dismissed. After that time, there was little communication between Lambrides and the new internal auditors.
In 1999, Lambrides told the Church that the discretionary funds were creating problems, and that proper audits could no longer be done. In return, Lambrides was fired and their unqualified audits were replaced by ridiculous compilation audits. All, I suppose, for the good of the Church.
In 1999, the Holy Synod was given a resolution prepared by Metropolitan Theodosius’ defense attorney which retroactively approved discretionary funds for the Metropolitan after much of the ADM millions, intended for the church in Russia, had already been spent. And this was for the good of the Church?
Priests have been silenced for speaking out against this scandal. For the good of the Church?
An entire diocese has been silenced by its bishop, who told them it was not healthy to discuss this scandal. For the good of the Church?
In a single diocese, two parishes have been silenced by their pastors. In one, the priest told the parish that it may never discuss the financial problems in any parish council or annual meeting. In another, the pastor told the parish that anyone raising these issues would be thrown out of the annual meeting, and he ordered that the scandal could not be discussed even at coffee hour. For the good of the Church?
Archbishop Job was threatened by two brother bishops with deposition or retirement, and he was brutally attacked on the internet by a bishop, all after he spoke out on these issues. And this was for the good of the Church?
We know now that church monies were used for personal expenditures. Shhhhhh. Hide it. For the good of the Church?
Reports now give specific examples of improper expenditures out of charity monies over a period of years. And are we now to hide this, for the good of the Church?
The Metropolitan Council now knows that the vast majority of the 9-11 funds were dispensed in cash. But the person who received the cash was questioned repeatedly and was unable to provide the name of one individual or one parish who allegedly got this money. And we are to hide this, for the good of the Church?
We now know about the misuse of Christmas stocking funds in two separate years. Hide this? For the good of the Church?
The Metropolitan Council is now aware of the contents of a videotape recorded in Russia several years ago, a tape which raises serious questions about the disbursement of the Beslan funds. And we are to hide this, for the good of the Church?
There have been years of cover-ups, but we are being asked to hide it all, just one more time. For the good of the Church?
And there have been no apologies, and no expressions of repentance. But we are to ignore this, for the good of the Church?
That’s about all I have to say.
Everyone here loves the Church. I was blessed to have been born into Orthodoxy, the grandson of an archpriest of the Metropolia, and now the son-in-law of an archpriest of the OCA. We here are all committed to the Orthodox Church in America.
But we have only one chance to try to heal this. This is your chance.
Look inside your hearts. Authorize the Commission to finish its work and authorize the release of its preliminary report. For the good of the Church.
Do this so that you can say, 'The Church stands for the truth --- and I stand for the truth.' "