Afraid to Scandalize but Not to be Scandalous

Most of us are tired of hearing about scandal in the OCA, but apparently there is more to be said long after some have stopped listening.  Today, reports, that former Metropolitan Herman had taken out a $152,000 mortgage on St. Tikhon’s Monastery.  He did this 6 weeks after the Metropolitan Council requested an audit for the St. Tikhon’s church  enterprises.   And he did it without the knowledge of the Metropolitan Council and even without the knowledge of central church administration.  Another investigation is certainly warranted.  For years there have been rumors of financial secrets and scandal around St. Tikhon’s and during the ongoing OCA crisis the rumors about St. Tikhon’s persisted. This has been fed by what many claimed was the secrecy by which financial decisions were made at the Seminary/Monastery/Bookstore.  Now someone has blown a whistle.  This will be a first case test of the “new” Synod of the Bishops under the temporary administrator Archbishop Seraphim.  We will see what the synod has learned and whether truth and transparency are now a part of their normal way of dealing with things, or if they keep truth and transparency apart from the way they handle things.  The temptation to hide things so as not to scandalize the faithful will be great.  In the past the bishops have only been afraid to scandalize the faithful (read donors), they have not been so afraid to engage in scandalous behavior or to cover scandal up.  If the story turns out to represent further scandal or secret, the Synod may be forced to truly look at disciplining the former metropolitan.  In the central church scandal, they gave him a pass, letting him retire and thanking him for his service, but not offering any further discipline.  As all who follow the OCA should know by now, there is always more to the story than meets the eye.

In watching the OCA to see what lessons have been learned, it will also be interesting to see whether the Synod or Archbishop Seraphim as the temporary administrator is going to see that a full audit is done of the New York/New Jersey Diocese which had its own financial scandal during the former chancellor Kondratick and former metropolitan Herman’s term in office.  Some in the diocese may in fact argue that the audit is a waste of money at this point since the money is gone, unlikely to be recovered, and since we probably know who oversaw its disappearance.  And yet it is precisely that kind of the thinking which allowed former metropolitan Theodosius and Kondratick to lay aside the audits and financial controls so that they could divert OCA monies at their own will and whim.   The entire OCA should demand that an audit take place in the NY/NJ Diocese.  One needs only think about Archbishop Job’s own penitential admission that when the OCA’s financial scandal was revealed to him in 1999-2000 that he took the attitude, “that is the OCA’s problem, what has that to do with our diocese?”   If the OCA is truly to break free of its scandal driven past, it has got to strive for and pay for transparency and truth.  

Will someone be the temporary administrator or administraitor? 

In what I see as another bizarre story, the OCA announced that Archbishop Seraphim and the chancery staff would be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the acquisition of the Griswold estate in Oyster Bay Cove.  The “Syosset” headquarters which has become synonymous with scandal in the OCA is going to be the focus of an anniversary celebration.   It is one of the most surreal announcements the OCA has ever put out.  In the midst of the ongoing scandals and saga, the temporary administrator and staff want to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of what they must see as some kind of victory or triumph.   It is every bit as surreal as their turning the OCA’s current effort belatedly to donate to proper charities the money given by the faithful for the 9/11 disaster (but which was wrongfully redirected by the former chancellor to other purposes) into photo shoots.  The lack of sense of propriety by the chancery staff continues to amaze.  One wonders why if the goal was to do an outdoor liturgy or to invite the public, they didn’t focus on a liturgy connected to a saint or a feast day or even to the anniversary of autocephaly rather than to the bequeathing of a property to the OCA which has for years been associated with scandal, excessive and wasteful spending, and burdensome indebtedness, and of which many in the OCA would love to be out from under its weighty expense by simply selling it.

Leading by Repentance

16 September 1978  Kunjeru, Kenya –   From my journal:   “We did Vespers tonight, and I am very moved by Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;  for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”   

The Psalm makes me want to repent of my own sins, and I realize we need to lead the church in repentance so that God would be with us in power.  The church in Kenya is in a mess, corruption, divisions, animosity, power struggles.  It is repentance which is needed but how does one lead by repentance?  What would have to happen that people would notice that Christians lead by repentance and by being examples of repentance?  Usually we think of leaders leading by power – telling others what to believe or think, but the power of repentance and humility, the real power of Christianity, where does one see that?  We tend to think good leaders lead by example, but to be a model of repentance would require the leadership to admit they have done wrong and lead by the example of repentance – lead by their reaction to what they have done (the wrong they have done) rather than by the  example of what they did in the first place. 

I read tonight from Bernanois’ DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST.  The conversation of Fr. LeCure with Mme. La Comtesse was excellent, a good and inspiring Christian witness.  I very much enjoyed the priest’s part where Mme. Says she has rejected God, and he says to shake your fist at him, spit in his face, scourge him, it has already been done to him.   He asks her to completely submit herself, her sin, her pride, her everything to God, to resign herself.  He impresses on her the loving mercy of God to accept us as we are, and he wins her over!”