And The OCA In Between
In an email sent from Syosset last week (August 24) to the Synod of Bishops, the Metropolitan Council, the OCA’s internal auditors, and Syosset’s Reorganization Task Force, Acting OCA Treasurer Fr. Paul Kucynda wrote:
“Please be informed that for the month of August, diocesan assessment income is approximately $50,000 less than required by our 2007 approved budget. The Metropolitan Council finance committee is reviewing the budget to determine how to address this issue.
I will keep you informed once I receive their response.”
This acknowledgement of the OCA’s latest financial difficulty did not come easy. A week earlier, on August 16th, Metropolitan Council member Dr. Faith Skordinski asked the following questions:
“Dear Father Paul:
As the OCA Treasurer, given the recent announcement by +Job that the Diocese of the Midwest will begin withholding assessments to the central administration, and pursuant to Article V, Section 4c and 4d of the Statute, please provide the MC with the following information:
1. What monthly dollar amount and percentage does the Diocese of the Midwest’s assessment contribute to the income of the central administration?
2. How long can the current central administration’s budget be sustained without the Diocese of the Midwest’s assessment using cash on hand (cash that is not designated for other purposes such as charities) before there is a deficit?
3. As the treasurer, are you working with the external auditors and the Syosset staff to present an action plan to the MC before the next MC meeting?
4. What news release(s) and financial information will be provided to the OCA at large concerning the financial impact of the Diocese of the Midwest‘s action?
The above-requested information must be provided to the MC immediately – certainly no later than within the next week – so that the MC can assess what needs to be done.
Thank you, Father Paul.
Dr. Skordinski’s four simple questions to the Acting OCA Treasurer were not answered. Instead Fr. Kucynda replied:
I will take your suggestions under advisement. Rather than assume that withholding of funds will actually take place and that we should be prepare immediately, an alternative is to address the two issues remaining from the “Palatine Resolution”. That would seem to be more productive in the long run.
I like to think in terms of what can be done to bring people together rather than the opposite. “Let us love one another, that with one mind and heart, we may confess” comes to mind when I wrestle with divisiveness. Father Alexander Schmemann said that “we are what we pray.” I accept this principle as normative and will continue to work to that end.
I respect Archbishop JOB and the others of you who have tried your best to be a part of the solution through your work on the investigation committee. You and Alex, probably more than the other members assigned to this task have struggled to do what is right in the sight of God and in harmony with His Will for us. On the one hand, that takes courage. On the other hand, our victories over evil and wrongdoing can only be realized if we humbly beseech His mercy and generosity so that we can glorify Him through our weaknesses which He is certainly capable of transfiguring before our very eyes.
If we deepen our trust through prayer and “lift up our spirit before Him”, then the Holy Spirit will be in our midst. We will be taught “the Way we should go” as the Psalmist writes. We will be brought to victory! The Spirit we be with us in battle, and He will deliver all of us from the bowels of this mess .I have full confidence that this can and will happen if our hearts are open and committed to unity and healing. To do otherwise will invite the Evil One to fill the void caused by our self-will.
Everyone involved in the work of the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council loves the Church. We must challenge ourselves to work for unity. I want to give that a chance. I do believe that such is God’s plan for us if we are ready to listen.
If necessary, an alternative will certainly have to be developed for discussion and implementation at our joint meeting in October as you suggest. I hope it will not be necessary.
Dr. Skordinski was not amused. She fired back:
“Dear Father Paul:
Thank you for your quick response. We clearly have a misunderstanding because my questions were not answered, nor were they intended as “suggestions,” as you stated. This is a request for financial information from the Treasurer of the OCA. These questions have nothing to do with working against unity as your response seems to imply. In addition, there is no assumption concerning the withholding of funds: +Job has notified the OCA that the Diocese of the Midwest is withholding! The resolution of the issues concerning withholding are between +Job and +Herman, not the MC.
Father Paul, I again am requesting pursuant to Article V, Section 4c and 4d of the Statute, that you as the Treasurer of the OCA, answer the following questions: “
Dr. Skordinksi repeats her questions. In conclusion, she writes:
“Again, the above-requested information must be e-mailed to the MC immediately – certainly no later than within the next week – so that the MC can assess what needs to be done. October is too late to be rushing around at the last minute trying to assemble figures that the MC will need to make intelligent decisions. Now is the time to be proactive, not inactive!
Thank you, Father Paul.
As this exchange was copied to the entire Metropolitan Council, Dr. Skordinski’s questions were echoed by several other MC members, all of whom wrote Fr. Kucynda demanding he answer the questions.
A week later Fr. Kucynda replies with the email printed above, a reply that answers only the first question; and then only in round figures. (The actual amount of the monthly assessment is $52,608.) What is so shocking about Fr. Kucynda’s failure to answer is that the information requested was no secret. It has been publicly available from the Midwest Diocesan quarterly financial statement, online for the past three weeks at MidwestDiocese.org.
Skordinski’s other questions still remain unanswered.
Despite a trumpeted reorganization at Syosset, and the introduction of several new faces in the administration, little seems to have really changed. Just as two years ago, Syosset remains in a financial crisis, which it tries not to admit until it is forced to do so; the same people remain in the two key offices of Metropolitan and Treasurer although they offer no plans for the future - and challenge any who try.
One thing has changed, though. Whereas a year ago Fr. Kucynda spoke of “moving on”, he now speaks of “Victory!”, even as our empirical situation goes from bad to worse.
A Way Forward
It is not as if the way forward is hard to perceive. Even the most recent member of the Metropolitan Council, Fr. Mark Sherman, sees it clearly, as he reported to the New England Diocesan Council last week. Fr. Sherman writes:
“Since our May 9, 2007, Diocesan Council meeting, I was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Fr. Michael Westerberg for NE Diocese clergy representative to the Metropolitan Council (MC). The MC met on June 12-13, 2007, in Syosset.
- The OCA Central Administration has been strengthened by strong steps taken by the Reorganization Task Force.
- The MC is beginning to function in a much stronger fashion which is a necessity for the OCA going forward.
- Fr. Kondratick has been deposed from the priesthood by a spiritual court.
- The summary report of the Special Commission led by Archbishop Job has not been released and as a result the Diocese of the Midwest is withholding assessments as of August 2007.
- The MC directed by a vote of 20 to 1 that the Special Commission resume its investigation to determine the issues regarding the financial crisis. However, the Special Commission has not resumed its investigation activities.
- Since the MC meeting in June, a new issue has arisen regarding allegations concerning Bishop Nikolai of Alaska and Archimandrite Isidore, Chancellor of the Diocese of Alaska.”
After reviewing the decisions made, Fr. Sherman summarizes:
“As also previously authorized and directed by the Metropolitan Council and the Holy Synod, the Special Commission is directed to continue, without delay, its investigation of financial malfeasance affecting the Church, without any hindrance or limit, and to reports its findings and recommendations no less often than monthly to the Metropolitan Council and Holy Synod. Such reports shall include, once available, the identification of what has happened, including possible IRS implications, and recommendations as to any possible means of the recovery of Church assets lost or misappropriated. All parties having relevant information, including any legal counsel representing the Church, are authorized and directed to cooperate fully with the Special Commission in such investigation.
- Requested that Metropolitan Herman release to the public the preliminary report of the Special Investigative Committee. However, the report has not yet been released. This fact has resulted in the Diocese of the Midwest withholding OCA Central Administration assessments beginning this month.
Through these activities (the establishment of MC Committees) , the MC is taking a more active role in oversight of the OCA Central Administration. Most significantly, the MC is beginning to interact with the central administration between meetings through email communications. This interaction, while beneficial to the good order of the OCA, is met with mixed reaction by the central administration. For example, the MC has requested information regarding contingency operating plans as a result of the Midwest Diocese withholding its assessment, but as of this date has received no answer.
The next scheduled meeting of the MC is October 16-17, 2007. (The October 17 meeting is a joint meeting with the Holy Synod.)"
Having pointed out Syosset’s failure to communicate information, Fr. Sherman turns to the reasons for the Diocese of the Midwest’s withholding of money and how it could be quickly resolved. He writes:
"A spiritual court led by His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate heard charges against former Chancellor, Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick. The verdict of the spiritual court was that Father Kondratick be permanently deposed from all sacred functions of the priesthood.
This action has led to spiritual confusion among the people of the OCA who do not understand the reasons for this action against Fr. Kondratick. Much of this confusion would be resolved by release of the Special Investigative Committee preliminary report.”
Fr. Sherman continues with a discussion of how the Special Commission could proceed:
"The MC has the responsibility for oversight and investigation of financial matters of the OCA (A fiduciary responsibility). It has directed the Special Investigative Committee to resume its work. It is unclear why the Special Investigative Committee has not followed this direction and resumed its work.
Continuing Issues regarding Financial Management from 1998 to 2004
It is clear for the publicly released audit reports for 2004 and 2005 that unanswered questions exist regarding financial management from 1998 to 2004. Some questions might be answered by the preliminary report of the Special Investigative Committee that seems to have been focused on the activities of former chancellor Fr. Kondratick. However, the following items need to be answered by the Special Investigative Committee:
- What happened? Starting from 1998, when our external audits began to fail, where did the money go?
- What was the root cause of the problem? What was missing, overlooked, or not in place that allowed these things to occur? Why did the actions of the MC in 1999-2000 not resolve the problem?
- What corrective actions are necessary to prevent these things from occurring again? Hopefully, many of the actions taken by MC and the Central Administration to date will address the corrective actions. But the Special Investigation Committee should approach corrective actions independently based on its root cause findings.
- It should identify any recommended actions regarding recovering funds, and if necessary, pertaining to individuals involved.”
The OCA In Between
The way forward is clear, as are the questions Fr. Sherman asks. They are the same questions asked by the Special Commission eight months ago. The way forward is clear. The problem is that the OCA as a whole apparently lacks the will to resolve the issue, given two men determined not to reveal what everyone else demands to know. Thus, as we end the old ecclesiastical year, the OCA is caught between withholdings:
• The Metropolitan and his Acting Treasurer insist on withholding all information about the former Chancellor’s misdeeds - sowing "spiritual confusion" among many in a case where everyone who has read the preliminary Report says no doubt exists.
• The Metropolitan and his Acting Treasurer insist on withholding authorization and financial support for the Special Commission to continue with its work - work that must be done if the OCA is to heal.
• In turn, the Midwest Diocese withholds only that which it can - money. It will no longer support the Metropolitan and his Acting Treasurer in their intransigence.
The way forward is clear to many Bishops, the Metropolitan Council, to the Special Commission, to most outside of Syosset - and to many inside Syosset as well. How much damage are the Metropolitan and his Acting Treasurer willing to inflict on the OCA before they release what needs be released? How long will the Metropolitan and his Acting Treasurer continue to make the whole OCA suffer?
- Mark Stokoe