OCANews Editorial: "The Next 6 Months"
"The Next Six Months"
After 54 articles, 27 reflections, 4 editorials and 1 open letter; 67,000+ different visitors, with an average of 6,000 a night, and 1,400+ posted comments, OCANews now enters its seventh month.
In this process a number of things have become clearer:
Clearly, the first six months have been dominated by Archbishop Job's simple question of November 28, 2005: "Are the allegations true or false?". Audits have been completed, but Syosset has refused to answer this question. An investigation is ongoing, but from what has been recently suggested, we may never get an answer, even after the investigation is fully completed.
If this is indeed the case, the next six months clearly will be dominated by the Archbishop's second, and perhaps more haunting question from his letter of November 28th 2005: Given Syosset's refusal to break its silence, the Archbishop asks: "Do we really expect God to bless any of our endeavors?"
What we do in the next six months will determine the answer to this question. Therefore, it behooves us all to reflect for a moment on how we got here, and where we intend to go, so that the answer to that second question becomes clearer.
"Accusations, Allegations, Aggravations and Assumptions"
As the Metropolitan recently pointed out to the Metropolitan Council, it is now "no secret" that "accusations, allegations, aggravations and assumptions" concerning financial mismanagement, centered on the fifteen years between 1990-2005, have been made against Syosset. Specifically, six general accusations have been made, each involving a host of specific allegations of financial impropriety. These are:
The Existence and Misappropriation of Secret Accounts:
The Hiding and Misappropriation of Bequests:
The Misappropriation of Appeal Funds:
The Misappropriation of Donations:
The Misappropriation of Church Funds for Personal Expenses:
The Existence of A Cover-up to Hide The Above Improprieties.
Accusation #1: The Existence of and Misappropriation from Secret Accounts
In September 1999 OCA Auditor John Kozey accused Syosset of hiding secret accounts. In November 1999 it was revealed, and confirmed by Metropolitan Theodosius himself, that he and Fr. Robert Kondratick, Chancellor of the OCA, controlled at least two secret accounts.
The Archer Daniels Midland Foundation has subsequently confirmed that it alone donated $1.8+ million to the OCA between 1993-1999, while other publicly available documents reveal an additional $2.2+ million from the Andreas Foundation in the same time period. Yet, no record of these donations appear in Church records. Metropolitan Theodosius, first in 1999, then in 2000, and Metropolitan Herman in 2005, and again in early 2006 rejected any attempt to audit these accounts to determine if the monies in them had been misappropriated.
These are uncontested facts. The accusation of the existence of secret accounts has been fully substantiated; the allegation of misappropriation remains open. The truth of these allegations hinges largely on whether such funds were fully "discretionary", as supporters of Metropolitan Theodosius and Fr. Robert Kondratick contend, or they were funds donated to the Church which were diverted into a secret "discretionary" account, and thus misappropriated, (even apart from the question as to how these monies were actually spent), as critics charge.
Defenders of the former regime cite a personal letter from the former chairman of ADM, Dwayne Andreas, dated July 1999, to Metropolitan Theodosius, stating that the monies were to be "dispensed and disbursed at your sole personal discretion." End of story.
Critics charge it is no such thing. They say the Andreas letter was an ex-post-facto attempt to justify the diversion, created only after the secret accounts had been discovered. Such a letter, they argue, has no legal meaning as it is a personal, not a corporate letter; and its contents directly contradict the goals and policies of the donor foundations that do not allow grants for personal, discretionary accounts. Moreover, the letter directly contradicts the 1995 application grant of the OCA to those foundations, a grant proposal which specifically states that the money is not for the "private use" of the Metropolitan; but for a specific purpose, that is, the rebuilding of St. Catherine's church in Moscow and subsequent programming in the restored facility. It specifically states the funds will be audited on a yearly basis by a Big Six Accounting firm to ensure compliance with these goals. Moreover, this understanding is bolstered by the yearly reports submitted by the
OCA to the ADM Foundation explaining how the money is being used; and yearly requests for additional funding. Syosset even had a fake sign for a nonexistent conference center created to place on an office building to hoodwink Mr. Andreas in the unlikely event he ever came to Moscow and wanted to visit the center his donations were supposedly paying for...
For critics, the act speaks for itself. Proskauer Rose is now investigating.
Accusation #2: Misappropriation of Bequests
At the same time the ADM funds were being used, or misused, Protodeacon Wheeler accused the former administration of hiding bequests to the OCA; and further, that these monies were being misappropriated. No one knows how much money was bequeathed to the OCA from 1992-2005; Although left to the Church, these monies appeared in no financial statements; nor were there any controls on how they were spent. Clearly, the monies were hidden. The accusation has been substantiated. But are the allegations of misappropriation true?
That we cannot fully know for now. Former OCA Secretary Paul Hunchak describes how he witnessed Fr. Kondratick destroying the contents of a filing cabinet wherein these records were kept in that fateful month of July 1999. It has subsequently been confirmed to both the Synod of Bishops and to the Metropolitan Council that all these records are indeed missing.
For critics, the act speaks for itself. Proskauer Rose is now investigating.
Accusations #3 & #4: Misappropriation of Appeals and Donations
The OCA has been accused of diverting special and charitable appeal funds. It is alleged they were used for other purposes. In his report to the Metropolitan Council Acting Treasure Paul Kucynda confirmed the following amounts were diverted:
FOS Endowments - $42,880
Other Endowments - Smith Barney Main Acct.- $85,000
Chechen Relief - $30,000
Medical Assistance for Clergy - $13,000
Mission Appeal - $87,560
Seminary Appeal - $151,940
Charity Appeal - $41,750
Christmas Stocking Project - $16,600
9/11 Emergency Funds * - $90,590
Beslan Relief - $34,640
Florida Hurricane Relief - $13,920
IOCC Appeal - $3,300
Academic Fellowship Fund - $52,800
Seminary Internship Fund - $7,960
Military Chaplain Reserve - $270
Earmarked Funds: 4 Russian Orphanages - $25,000
(* The OCA reported more than $285,000 was raised in the 9/11 Appeal. Only $25,000 has been publicly disbursed. The OCA now confirms $90,000 was diverted. The question remains: when and where was the remaining $170,000 disbursed?)
This list makes clear that the accusation was fully substantiated. Indeed it does more: it confirms that no monies were exempt from being used as the former administration determined, rather than how the donors intended, no matter how restricted the account. Widows, Russian orphans, terrorist victims, hurricane victims, seminarians, sick priests, missions, FOS donors - everybody was fair game. The OCA has subsequently taken out a $1.7 million loan, in great part to repay these diverted monies - now that the diversions have been revealed. The Church has not, however, revealed how these diverted funds were spent.
Proskauer Rose is now investigating.
Accusation #5: Misappropriation of Funds for Personal Expenses
The accusation has been made that individuals at Syosset spent church monies on inappropriate personal expenditures. The source of these monies have already been listed: the secret accounts, the bequests, the appeal and donations monies. As in the case of the bequests, the relevant records appear to be are missing. At the present time only one receipt can be located: detailing $5,600 in expenses for a trip to Las Vegas by Fr. Kondratick's son.
Proskauer Rose is now investigating.
Accusation #6: The Cover-Up
Proskauer Rose is not investigating this accusation. Nevertheless, as reported last week:
In July 1999, the matter was declared closed by the Synod of Bishops, led by Metropolitan Theodosius.
In November 1999 and again in April 2000 that decision was reiterated to the Metropolitan Council.
In October 2005, the Bishops were given the allegations and did not launch an investigation.
In November 2005, Metropolitan Herman declared the matter 'closed' yet again.
In December 2005, the Metropolitan silenced those priests who began to speak out.
In January 2006, the matter was declared 'closed' by the Lesser Synod, reiterating the decisions of 1999 and 2000.
In March 2006, after dismissing Fr. Kondratick and finally launching an investigation, the Metropolitan called for silence yet again.
In April 2006, the Metropolitan, the Orthodox Church Newspaper, the OCA website all continued their calls for silence.
In May 2006, Fr. Kucynda demanded silence from MC members.
In June 2006 the audits are not released (although completed) nor is a status report from Proskauer Rose given to the Metropolitan Council.
For critics, these acts speaks for themselves. The question is, how long will this be allowed to continue?
It is not doubt "aggravating" to Syosset that four of these accusations have been fully substantiated: there were secret accounts, charitable funds and donations were diverted, and funds were used for inappropriate personal expenses. The fifth, misuse of bequests, awaits a verdict from Proskauer Rose. The veracity of the sixth accusation, the continuing cover-up, people can judge for themselves.
These accusations and aggravations have, in the past two months, caused Syosset to change its tune. Instead of not answering the Archbishop's first question, and not giving information, Syosset is gradually releasing more and more information - while still refusing to answer the Archbishop's question. Syosset gives many reasons for this including:
an ongoing investigation
the 'good of the Church'
lack of records & receipts
lack of office or storage space
lack of security
lack of cooperation
lack of conclusive deliberations
lack of confidentiality
lack of a final report, etc.
Clearly, excuses are not lacking. What is lacking is the will to be open and honest about the problem. In the simplest possible terms, one would expect that in the Church of God there would be a higher standard of behavior than simply trying to avoid public embarrassment or possible indictment.
The Second Question
Given the above, the next six months will be dominated by the Archbishop's second question. It was of equal importance to the first, if less well-remembered. The Archbishop asked:
"Vladyka, these things that disturb the Church matter ---we cannot afford to be silent. Otherwise, we will be confronted with the ultimate question: Do we really expect God to bless any of our endeavors?"
Sadly, Syosset has made every effort to remain silent - and to enforce silence on others in the last three months. They have asked for silence, so that the Church "can move on"; demanded silence as a form of obedience, so that the Church "can move forward"; and most recently, counseled silence under the heading of patience, so that the Church "can move ahead". And while, at first hearing, this may sound pious, it does not reflect piety at all. In the simplest possible terms, the church teaches confession, not silence when it comes to admitting sin.
After six years of silence, it has taken six months for the headquarters of the Orthodox Church in America to even begin addressing the Archbishop's first question. On the other hand, the faithful of the OCA have already answered it. It is no doubt "aggravating" to the Metropolitan that donations have ceased flowing into Syosset, and that the OCA's finances, in his own words "at this time are primarily limited to income from diocesan fair share contributions". It will take better answers from Syosset than they have given to date to restart those donations.
The answer to the Archbishop's second question, however, is much easier. It will not take six seconds for any Orthodox Christian to answer that one. A Church unwilling to acknowledge and repent of its own misdeeds cannot simply 'move forward'. God will surely not bless any of our endeavors that are not based on the truth, predicated on a confession of sins by those who committed them, and evidenced by a repentance that manifests itself in a repudiation of those very sins.
To be healed means where there was fear, we must now have courage to do the right; where deceit, honesty; where concealment, disclosure; where secrecy, transparency; where whim, accountability; where authoritarianism, conciliarity.
Syosset's answer is that it will be transparent - from now on. It will now be accountable, as long as one doesn't ask about the past. The Acting Treasurer suggests that the questions may never be answered, problems never addressed, but both can be adequately dealt with by new software or new 'Practices'. What he chooses to overlook is that it is always the people behind the systems and software who determine to what uses they will be put. He promises Syosset will be more open, honest and inclusive, as long as those who have deceived and participated in the deception, are allowed to stay in authority. And Syosset even promises conciliarity - at a time and place of its own choosing.
The Next Six Months
Given such a half-solution, one can only ask again:
"Do we really expect God to bless any of our endeavors?" '
It is not given to us to avoid trouble and scandal - but it is our choice whether we participate in it by denial, passive inaction or a complicit acceptance of half-truths. If we are truly to move forward the answer must be: "No".
Given that, OCANews will continue to seek ever more complete answers to Archbishop Job's two questions. We will continue to post stories about the allegations, continue to expose assumptions, continue to post reflections and comments about the way forward until the truth, the whole truth, is revealed to those who deserve to know it: the bishops, clergy and faithful of the OCA who have built the OCA, supported the OCA and love the OCA. And if some find that aggravating, so be it.
And in six months, if the Proskauer Rose report is not revealed, if the audits are not released, if nothing changes beyond more and better excuses, we shall continue for another six months, and another six months after that. There is only one way to end this crisis: and Syosset already knows it, for they are as plain as any words in Scripture can be:
"You will know the truth; and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32).
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