3.30.06 Latest News
The Drama Widens:
West Withholds Assessments
as +Tikhon Protests Kondratick’s Dismissal
At the urging of Bishop Tikhon, the Diocesan Council of the OCA’s Diocese of the West voted last week to withhold all payments to the OCA until the next meeting of the Holy Synod. The surprising decision was taken, according to a March 24th letter of Bishop Tikhon addressed to Metropolitan Herman, in protest to the Metropolitan’s recent administrative decisions. “Your Beatitude’s actions,” writes Bishop Tikhon, “provided the rationale for the March 21 resolution ... The members of the council were unanimous in depending on the Holy Synod to announce that the financial and administrative chaos running rampant in full view of all, has been properly addressed and restored to a condition of probity and Christianity. Otherwise, they believed they were doing the administration a favor in not risking funds vital for proper administration, until not rumored, but patent malfeasance, is addressed.” The letter was widely distributed, with copies sent to the Synod of Bishops, OCA auxiliary bishops, the deans of the three OCA seminaries, as well as to members of +Tikhon’s diocesan council. Officials in Syosset confirmed the Metropolitan had received the letter, but declined comment on it.
Metropolitan Herman Attacked
“Chaos”, “patent malfeasance”, and lack of “probity and Christianity” are not the usual terms in which one Orthodox Bishop describes another Bishop’s actions; and if so, rarely in public. The blistering attack on the Metropolitan by +Tikhon centered on the Metropolitan’s dismissal of long time OCA Chancellor, Fr. Robert Kondratick for “disobedience” and “lack of cooperation” with the ongoing 2004-2005 audit. Tikhon not only rejected the decision to dismiss Kondratick, but the reasons for it, the manner in which it is was done, and the legitimacy of the decision itself. Tikhon writes:
“Your Beatitude! I learned from a member of the Metropolitan Council, Mrs. Alice Woog, who was ostensibly summoned to a meeting of the Administrative Committee on March 16th, that upon arriving she learned that the Committee was improperly constituted, since the Chancellor was not in attendance, and since only an “acting Treasurer” was in attendance, and non-Church members, probably non-Christians as well, were in attendance. Further, nothing was offered for consideration by this ad hoc committee: it had been summoned obviously only so that the decisions of Your Beatitude (in particular Your Beatitude’s arbitrary and summary and peremptory dismissal of the Chancellor) might be told them. Further, to the dismay of those belonging to the Metropolitan Council, not only were they being subjected to the indignity of having an address given to them ‘from the throne’ as it were, but they were additionally insulted by being only informed that Your Beatitude had (even in the face of dramatic budget shortfalls and accusations of criminal malfeasance in the expenditure of church funds without authorization and secretly) engaged a very expensive law firm to do what is essentially detective work and to cooperate with accountants engaged to make audits in years which were patently and almost defiantly outside the limits established by the Holy Synod of which Your Beatitude is above all a member, and by sufferance, the president.”
The Bishop’s Criticisms Examined
To many Syosset-watchers, the Bishop’s criticisms seemed strained. The OCA Statute says nothing about who may attend, or must attend, an Administrative Committee meeting. In fact it has been the practice, they point out, for more than a decade to have eight members on the Administrative Committee rather than the six mandated by the Statute; and for much of the same period it has been the practice to have Committee members selected by the Metropolitan, rather than elected by the Council, as mandated by the Statute. A case for a strict construction of the Statute or the perogatives of the Metropolitan Council might be awkward for the Bishop, however, since he is a outspoken critic of both. Earlier this month he wrote to his diocesan clergy that: “The Metropolitan Council is a canonical atrocity because it it is a leftover from the days when our local Church was but a diocese, and is, in fact, the remnant of a diocesan council which has come to bear the aura of some kind of counterweight to those commissioned by God the Holy Spirit with oversight, the Episkopoi. And so on.” Indeed, +Tikhon opined in this same letter that: “ The Statute MUST be substantially altered lest the anti-canonical character of so much it continue to poison our church life and the preaching of the Gospel as we have received it.”
The Bishop is unclear why being addressed by the Metropolitan is an “indignity”; or that it should be an “insult” to be informed that a law firm has been engaged to investigate accusations of what the Bishop himself labels “criminal” malfeasance at the Chancery. The heart of the Bishop’s challenge seems to be that the Metropolitan, on the advice of counsel rather than the Synod of Bishops, has determined that the financial investigation should now go back to 2001 in the case of the charitable contributions, and that such an investigation is too costly for the OCA. Others have argued that since the recent Mission Appeal is reported to have raised no more than $30,000, rather than the $120,000 targeted, it would be even more costly not to do so.
While his public attack on the Metropolitan is unprecedented, Tikhon’s spirited defense of Kondratick is not new: the Bishop of San Francisco and Los Angeles has long been a staunch and vocal supporter of the former Chancellor. As recently as a month ago, while the clergy of the Midwest, and later 70 Senior OCA clergy from across the continent were calling for an investigation into Kondratick’s administration, Tikhon posted lengthy and fulsome letters of praise of Kondratick suggesting he not be investigated, but honored: “In the normal way of things,” Tikhon wrote on February 11th, “Father Bob should have been awarded the Priestly Mitre long ago. If Father Alexander Schmemman was awarded a Mitra and even had one placed on his head by Archbishop Iakovos ... if we have photos of Father Thomas Hopko serving in a beautiful blue one, if Father Kreta in Alaska wears one ....I feel it would be even more appropriate for Father Bob to wear one...”
The Drama Deepens
At the same time he was praising Fr. Kondratick, +Tikhon was charging Archbishop Job of Chicago with “rebellious principle” and recommending his deposition or forced retirement because of it. +Job’s “rebellion” consisted in no more than asking a question; and, to +Tikhon’s chagrin, allowing others to do so as well. (Read the OCANews story here). Ironically, it is now +Tikhon himself who may be seen to be fomenting “rebellion”, by both withholding his “fair share”, and his public attacks on the Primate’s attempts to address the scandal.