Addendum to letter of April 18:
Further discussion points
Your Beatitude wrote that I had stated that Your Beatitude risks being judged by an illegally composed synod of bishops unless Your Beatitude adopts this or that course of action (incorrectly rehearsed by Your Beatitude) . Your Beatitude, that is a false statement of fact, and interpretation of what I wrote.
Your Beatitude wrote me “of (my) libelous comments about leading clergy.” I made no libelous comments about anyone. Libel, as I’m sure Your Beatitude recognizes, contains intent to harm. I see no statement of mine that could be construed as libelous in my letter to Your Beatitude.
Your Beatitude referred to my letter as “this insubordinate letter.” This charge, one of being disobedient, is a serious one; nevertheless, Your Beatitude, I recognize that we all are disobedient one way or another, but Your Beatitude has not explained what command I have disobeyed nor SPECIFIED that action which is disobedient. As for bonds unraveling, the only bond truly uniting us is Christ’s love for us. That bond does not unravel and certainly is not so fragile as to unravel at the first sign of any purported disobedience to authority.
I admire Your Beatitude’s optimism in asking anyone at all to “refrain immediately from careless words!” Were there none in Your Beatitude’s letter? Are there none in Your Beatitude’s own converse and interlocutions? If I have a proclivity for careless words, I don’t believe I wrote that letter to Your Beatitude carelessly or wrote a careless word in it. I pray every day and even more fervently during the Fast, to not be granted the spirit of idle words. I promise to continue that, Your Beatitude.
With great respect, I find Your Beatitude’s reference to standing at Liturgy as a “sign of repentance” to be bizarre. Repentance is a condition of being a member of the Church, to be sure, but how standing at Liturgy could express it or be a specific sign of it in my particular case I am at a loss to understand. Keeping this statement respectfully in mind, then, Your Beatitude,
I will be careful to take our service of Divine Liturgy together as a sign of everyone’s repentance, as usual.
Your Beatitude asked me, if my last “suggestion”
(Your Beatitude’s word) was a threat on my part. Answer: no.
Your Beatitude wrote that Your Beatitude had a “need to inquire whether you were speaking on behalf of others.” Your Beatitude, I did not and do not speak
ON BEHALF of myself. In my eyes I am nothing and unworthy of such self-justification! To Your Beatitude’s question, then, my answer is a definite, emphatic, and unqualified YES. I was speaking on behalf of every member of our Church, especially of
Its Holy Synod, the Metropolitan Council, the parishes, institutions, clergy, monastics, Faithful and my own Diocese of the West. It is, in fact, based on nothing
but the behalf of the Church. (However, I always stand ready to speak IN behalf of Your Beatitude, should Your Beatitude designate me to do so.)
Your Beatitude asked me to call some of my words into nothingness. It’s impossible, no matter how hated or disagreeable or frightening any words might be, to do that. One may no more call back words into nothingness than one can avoid them by burning them up on a pile of torched books. Your Beatitude, in the same sentence Your Beatitude asked me to do just that, “retract” a suggestion, but went on to request of me in a most startling way something heretofore not under discussion, asking forgiveness for holding a conviction,---“as well as anyone who shares this conviction with you!” With deep respect I beg Your Beatitude to understand or try to understand that ‘convictions’ are not easily repented. Convictions, unlike opinions, are pretty well unshakeable. Convictions, unlike opinions, are what we confess (not just acknowledge) in the Creed. I hope, Your Beatitude, that we share our convictions.
I support all our Holy Canons, including any that speak forcefully against clerics taking a position that would undermine their bishop. I leave their mode of application to situations not specifically addressed to those versed in precedent, and look to advice coming from acceptable authorities on the interpretation of canons. I believe that anyone who thinks any position of mine proposed to undermine any person at all is mistaken, gravely mistaken. I consider that my positions (if one must use that word) are taken with the intent of undermining evil or improper action in the Church and stopping it. I think that is one of my duties, Your Beatitude. If Your Beatitude has a different conviction, that is, as Your Beatitude has pointed out, within Your Beatitude’s sphere of choice. I beg to point out, praying that no one in Your Beatitude’s well-meaning but bumbling entourage might see it as wicked, that it is only Your Beatitude who can undermine Your Beatitude.
Your Beatitude also touches on the crime of conspiracy. To use our ordinary language, Your Beatitude, that suggestion came in from “way out in left field!” Please, Your Beatitude, enlighten me by revealing any data, any facts whatsoever, in or not in my letter, which provide a rational basis for Your Beatitude’s bringing up of that crime in a “personal and confidential” letter to me. Your Beatitude railed against “baseless charges and insults” “hurled (sic) with abandon”. I consider and declare that what Your Beatitude labeled “baseless charges and insults” of mine are nothing of the sort; however, Your Beatitude, I hope no one (especially anyone who gets copies of Your Beatitude’s “personal” letter to me addressed to so many other instances, at least one of whom (possibly depending on “whose ox is being gored”) routinely and with impunity distributes such correspondence on an internet site in the Midwest Diocese or reads it to the Protodeacon or some other advisor) will take a cue from Your Beatitude’s words to blame Your Beatitude for such “baseless and charges and insults”! And should I (or anyone who theoretically might share my convictions) consider that I have now been put on notice that there is a conspiracy afoot against me? Have I been threatened with punitive action based on hypotheses?
Your Beatitude, what is egregious in my writing a letter to Your Beatitude with copies to all the persons named below? Answer: Nothing. The further dissemination of that letter, as well as the further dissemination of this one, is not my responsibility, Your Beatitude, but the responsibility of the persons who disseminate it, and,
of course, the responsibility of anyone who had the authority and responsibility to prevent those very persons from doing so. Today, for good reasons and bad, many Orthodox in America are focused on “transparency.” I don’t believe Your Beatitude’s expressed concerns in Your Beatitude’s letter support such qualities. In fact, with great respect, I consider that Your Beatitude’s actions, more or less justifiably, could be considered repressive, taken to avoid embarrassment which might have made mockery of the Holy Martyrs.
I express my conviction that asking questions and speaking the truth can never be a cause of scandal or dissension, but the patent suppression of questions usually is, especially when it is done under cover of “personal and confidential”, retractions, and recantings, and making public examples, and so on, in the manner of “the Gentiles.”
Your Beatitude, I deny categorically that I have gone beyond my diocese into Your Beatitude’s diocese, or that I have done anything “without the Metropolitan”
In fact, all my deeds are known and reported to Your Beatitude, even my private medical information. My letter is a prima facie piece of real evidence, physical evidence, of such interaction WITH Your Beatitude.
Your Beatitude stated “You have rashly accused me of acting against the wishes of the Holy Synod.” What an idea! I deny it. I’ve done nothing rashly. I have not accused Your Beatitude of acting against anyone’s wishes. What an idea! Only in the military do anyone’s (the superior officer’s) wishes have the weight of directive. I would be a fool to have accused Your Beatitude of going against anyone’s wishes. (I assume, with great respect, that Your Beatitude’s failure to refer to “consensus” or “will” was both deliberate and calculated.) I would be a fool to accuse Your Beatitude of anything. I know that there are small, mean, cynical minds, such as the minds of those associated with the Protodeacon and his campaign’s website, ocanews.org, who are, apparently so desperate to find something egregious in the conduct of anyone who properly estimates their ethics that they DO speak rashly, basely, and put the worse possible spin they can on the actions of others. Again, I deny categorically interfering in the life of any other diocese.
Your Beatitude inquired, “I ask you, Vladyka, which decision of the Holy Synod gave you the authority to compose (SIC) and disseminate your letter?” Does Your Beatitude continue to ask that question?
With great respect, Your Beatitude, I’d like to point out that it’s my conviction that if there were anything illegal, illicit or uncanonical in my writing of my letter, Your Grace would have learned it from anyone Your Beatitude might have consulted in composing Your Beatitude’s “personal and confidential” letter, and then communicated it to me in Your Beatitude’s letter. Failing to find the merest atom of a canonical irregularity, Your Beatitude has resorted to stating, in so many words, “No letters may be composed disseminated by anyone without stating a specific authorizing canon.” I believe that I need no authority whatsoever to compose anything at all. I believe that I need no specific canonical authority to send anything I compose to any of the addressees listed below. It is the probity, the integrity, and the honorable character of those to whom I sent it, which depends on the Holy Gospel, rather than on the authorization of any canon. (And canons that authorize any specific actions are rare, indeed, while it can’t be denied that limits to action, when deemed salvific, are stated in some canons).
Your Beatitude, I indeed fully concur with this so true, so wise statement: “…in response to canonical infractions (sic) whether real or (only?) perceived, we bishops must never tread on the canons in the hope of reaching a canonical solution.” I believe that qualifies (with only a minor tweaking) for being a classic example of “truism.” But I, of course, also pray that I will always stand on the canons, follow the way of the canons, and never transgress them.
Your Beatitude, with great respect I deny that my letter is in any way of “uncanonical nature” (Your Beatitude’s term).
Your Beatitude, with great respect, I suggest that Your Beatitude’s letter, especially in its judgment that my letter was written to embarrass anyone but any malefactor(s) caught disseminating it in a criminal way, was misguided and ill-advised. I most certainly had no intent to embarrass Your Beatitude. If Your Beatitude feels that I have done so, please, Your Beatitude, I declare (as the absolute expert on my own intentions which are absolutely inscrutable to others unless I specifically state them) that my letter was written out of CARE for Your Beatitude and Your Beatitude’s episcopacy. Surely, Your Beatitude could not resent that care. What an idea!
Your Beatitude, may I dare to ask, with great respect, what in the world in my letter Your Beatitude’s perceptions termed “salacious?” The closest thing to “salacious” in all this chaos was the insertion by the Protodeacon in his sales pitch of references to “way of life” and “blackmail.” That is language meant to inspire salacious thoughts, “evil imaginations” in the reader. Such language (and not one word, one thought expressed in my letter) has been given free, unlimited authority by someone to “go out into all the world,” accompanying some kind of “anti-Apostle” in his outreach. That he and those with him still act with utter impunity and the aid of silent, perhaps episcopal, partners should embarrass us all, Your Beatitude.
Your Beatitude refers to my letter as “one more hastily written letter.” No, Your Beatitude, my letter was not written hastily at all. What an idea! Your Beatitude has no warrant whatsoever to make such a gratuitous statement of disapproval. I regret the shotgun character of the entire paragraph in which that falsehood was made, which would appear to many to be a sign of intemperance Your Beatitude, how could Your Beatitude state that my letters cause division and strife and suffering. Here I would almost tend to agree with the Protodeacon’s claque that forthrightness, openness, frankness, honesty, etc., etc., are greeted with all the powers of suppression available to a corrupt bureaucracy. My letters were truthful, forthright, frank, and intended to encourage the better elements in any person of responsibility, that is, those to whom they were addressed, who might read them.
Your Beatitude for, I believe, the second or third time, has indicated a need that I be more careful in my participation in the great new public forum, the internet. It is a continuing source of dismay and disappointment that I am, obviously, the only Bishop in our Church who risks getting the hem of his garment dirty by condescending to mix with the habitués of the internet. One member of the Holy Synod at least has characterized in a manner exceeding the excesses of a confirmed Luddite the internet as “evil.” One member at least of our Synod is very disturbed about the spread of Islam, but almost prides himself on not having a computer or knowing how to use it! I bet that the Supreme Soviet at the time of its collapse counted several of its members among those with similar sentiment. Your Beatitude, there are, indeed, insane people, those with utterly evil intent, liars, propagandists, sectarians, abortionists and anti-abortionists, apologists for Islam, apologists for Gnosticism, apologists for schism, many of them who spread out bait (in the same way as does Monsieur Stokoe with his “ocanews.org” site), traps, lures, to bring in the ignorant and simple and uneducated and seeking and needy to be subjected to their indoctrination. What? Forget them? Ignore them?
Your Beatitude, like so many who do not have any idea, or, at least, only an almost superstitious incomprehension of the Internet, gets to read largely only what those who have exhausted any attempt to appear reasonable in dialogue with me, have resorted to. Your Beatitude and most of the rest of the Synod, out at sea and only guessing at and resenting what is beyond their ken, accepts the complaints of the few as representing the majority, and their selections from my utterances as being typical and not extraordinary. None of you has read (with the possible exception of, say, Professor Erickson) any of my contributions which insert an element of sanity and truth into somewhat insane argument on the web. None of you has read thank-yous from those who made their first steps, perhaps long contemplated, perhaps not, into the Church occasioned by a contribution of mine. I never brag and I find it unbecoming to complain, but I do regret that Your Beatitude and others are so ready to agree with anyone hostile to my participation in that OUTREACH.
Your Beatitude. Your Beatitude appears to name yourself “The chief shepherd (sic) of the Church in America that stretches from New York to California, from Mexico to Canada, and from Texas to Alaska.”
I feel that to say, in so many words, “I am the chief shepherd” is not a phrase becoming to an Orthodox hierarch, but probably something inserted by some pathologically effusive sycophant, possibly without Your Beatitude’s having noticed it before signing.
Your Beatitude, I did indeed explain to Your Beatitude on two separate occasions that I felt that declining faculties made me consider that it would be irresponsible not to retire. I’ve never ever suggested retiring from responsibility or my responsibilities as Your Beatitude charged me. I’ve never ever considered asking anyone to retract anything, but I do feel I should correct Your Beatitude’s words, with the greatest respect. Your Beatitude further urged me “to consider doing so now”, i.e., retiring. It’s my conviction that to retire now would not be “for the good of the Church” nor of benefit to my own Diocese of the West—au contraire!
Your Beatitude, I do recognize Your Beatitude in the style and content of the last paragraph of Your Beatitude’s letter. “It’s SO Metropolitan Herman,” one might even say, affectionately, admiringly.
Your Beatitude, I do not consider for one moment that anyone is conspiring against me or plotting my “ruin.” As for wrong evaluations of my conduct or intention to harm me, I am always guided by the matchless advice of the Apostle Peter: “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, yet take it patiently, this is acceptable to God.