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Documents Challenge +Nikolai's Account, Actions

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    ... 3.3.08 Documents Challenge +Nikolai s Account, Actions Two documents obtained by OCANews.org challenge Bishop Nikolai s public account of his role in the
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2008
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      Documents Challenge +Nikolai's Account, Actions

      Two documents obtained by OCANews.org challenge Bishop Nikolai's public
      account of his role in the suspension of Terenty Dushkin and his more
      private attempt to bring canonical charges against Archbishop Job of
      Chicago one week later, at the last meeting of the Synod of Bishops, in
      December 2007.

      The Duskhin Affair

      Bishop Nikolai's tonsuring of Terenty Dushkin, a convicted sex offender
      who had been dismissed from St. Herman's Seminary, in the cathedral in
      Anchorage on December 9th, 2007, in clear violation of the OCA's
      Policies on Sexual Misconduct, inaugurated a series of events which is
      still unfolding this evening. These events have received growing
      coverage in the Alaskan papers, culminated in a front page story this
      weekend in the Anchorage Daily News in which the Bishop is cited as
      saying "...he (+Nikolai) suspended the man (Dushkin) after a news story
      revealed his role with the church."

      That news story, entitled Church Gives Sex Offender A Boost Toward The
      Priesthood, appeared in the Anchorage Daily News on January 10, 2008.
      Yet nine days later Dushkin, according to witnesses and photos posted on
      the diocesan website) was still in cassock, still serving as a Reader at
      Epiphany (OS) services at the Anchorage Cathedral.

      A new document confirms that, despite his claims, it was not Bishop
      Nikolai who suspended Dushkin but Metropolitan Herman, who did so. In a
      letter dated January 17, 2008, addressed to Bishop Nikolai, Metropolitan
      Herman wrote:

      "I write this letter to Your Grace in regard to your actions of December
      9, 2007, when you tonsured Terenty Dushkin a reader at St. Innocent
      Cathedral in Anchorage. I have previously written to Your Grace for an
      explanation about this tonsure and your response was one that you
      preferred not to put in writing. As you now know, this story has caused
      quite a stir in the media in a number of widely circulated newspapers.
      This incident has also scandalized many of our Orthodox faithful who
      have written to us with expressions of disbelief and anger. What is more
      important is that your actions, which must be considered deliberate,
      flagrantly contradict the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church as well as
      the policies and standards of the Orthodox Church in America. Thus my
      involvement becomes necessary as well as referral of this matter to the
      Holy Synod for consideration."

      The Metropolitan's brief two page letter then cites relevant canons and
      policies of the OCA indicating how the tonsuring violated both, even if
      Dushkin, as has been reported, had repented of his actions.

      The letter concludes:

      "In consideration of all of the above, and with the knowledge of the
      Holy Synod of Bishops, I must exercise the pastoral initiative that is
      granted to me by the canons (II Nicea 11) and the Statute of the
      Orthodox Church in America ( IV.2.i) and suspend Terenty Dushkin from
      any and all ministerial duties in any parish in the Orthodox Church in
      America. Further, based on the canons above, and section 10.06.b of the
      Policies, Standards and Procedures of the Orthodox Church in America on
      Sexual Misconduct, I am initiating the process of deposition of Terenty
      Dushkin from the rank of reader. The Holy Synod will act on this process
      at its next meeting. At the same time, the Synod of Bishops will review
      your responsibility in this matter and the probable violations of the
      canons of the Church and the Policies, Standard, and Procedures of the
      Orthodox Church in America on Sexual Misconduct...."

      Two weeks later, on February 5, 2008, the OCA reported on its website:

      "In accordance with the holy Canons and in concurrence with the ruling
      bishop of the Diocese of Alaska, Terenty Dushkin, who was tonsured a
      Reader at St. Innocent Cathedral in Anchorage, AK, on December 9, 2007,
      was suspended from any and all ministerial duties in any parish of the
      Orthodox Church in America, effective January 17, 2008."

      In short, Bishop Nikolai did not suspend Terenty Dushkin, neither after
      the Daily News story appeared, nor even for several days after the
      Metropolitan's suspension letter was written, as evidenced by Dushkin's
      continued service.

      The Accusations Against +Job

      More disturbing than the Bishop's public misrepresentations of events
      surrounding Dushkin, was the less public attempt to have the Synod
      remove Archbishop Job from office by accusing him of 'interfering'Ó
      in Alaskan diocesan affairs. This attempt was first reported by
      OCANews.org on December 21st and later confirmed by Archbishop Job
      himself in an Archpastoral letter to his diocese some three weeks later.
      As the Archbishop writes:

      "Near the end of the meeting, a stunned Holy Synod listened to canonical
      charges raised by the Alaskan bishop accusing me of interfering in his
      diocese - obviously a most serious accusation. When the reading of the
      charges concluded, which called for a spiritual court which would lead
      to my deposition from Holy Orders, Metropolitan HERMAN asked for my

      The Archbishop defended himself successfully; and the crisis was defused
      by the Archbishop who subsequently volunteered to apologize to the
      Bishop of Alaska for any offense that might have been taken. In recent
      days the Bishop of Alaska has indicated that he intends to fully pursue
      these charges again at the next Synod of Bishops meeting in May, 2008.

      The Anderson Letter

      At the heart of Bishop Nikolai's charge was that Archbishop Job
      initiated a 25 page "Secret Report" that raised allegations of
      misconduct against the Alaskan Bishop, and recommended +Nikolai and his
      Chancellor both be suspended pending an investigation. (Read that Report
      here). <http://ocanews.org/news/SecretReport8.14.07.html> The "Secret
      Report", which appeared first on the Orthodox Forum, was said to have
      been written for an 'unnamed hierarch'. A February 20th letter to
      Metropolitan Herman from the author of that "Secret Report", former OCA
      military chaplain Fr. John Anderson, now reveals that 'unnamed hierarch'
      to have been Bishop Nikolai, himself. Fr. Anderson explains:

      "The purpose of this letter is to clarify issues concerning the origin
      of my '25 Page Report' on the situation in Alaska, the same report
      acknowledged by you on 23rd July 2007. I am offering this clarification
      in response to the recent moves to impose canonical sanctions on
      Archbishop Job of Chicago, first in the Holy Synod meeting of December
      2007 and as announced for the May 2008 session. To be clear from the
      start, the catalyst of my report was none other than His Grace, Bishop
      Nikolai, as I will explain below.

      As you were made aware by Fr. Ted Boback, I was asked in Apri12007 to
      apply for the position of Dean of St HermanÕs Seminary. It was Cliff
      Argue (Dean Search Committee President) who urged me to consider this
      position even though the search had already been closed. Fr. Ted
      communicated your blessing to proceed with this process. My first
      interview was conducted by conference-call with Mr. Argue and the other
      members of the Search Committee. At some point in May 2007, I became the
      sole remaining candidate for the deanship. By mid-June, Mr. Argue
      directed me (by email) to contact His Grace, Bishop Nikolai, to arrange
      a conversation with him and to make plans to visit the seminary in

      Just after June 19th, I spoke with His Grace, Bishop Nikolai, via
      telephone. In this conversation, His Grace strongly encouraged me "to
      investigate" and check out the seminary by telephoning the staff and
      faculty until such time as I could arrange a personal visit and
      interview with His Grace. This arrangement to begin telephone
      introductions to Saint Herman's Seminary was due to my assignment as
      the Group (Supervisory) Chaplain for 1st Special Forces Group
      (Airborne), a brigade-size unit of the "Green Berets". Since I was the
      only chaplain in the group not deployed overseas in a war zone, travel
      outside the immediate area was not permitted. This restriction, which
      would remain in place through August that year, was
      to ensure that a chaplain be available to perform next-of-kin
      notification, etc., since my unit was suffering many casualties at that
      time. This explains why I was unable to finalize travel plans to Alaska

      It was during one of my first telephone calls "to investigate" the
      seminary as its perspective Dean that I called the then Assistant Dean
      for Academic Affairs, Mister Paul Sidebottom. After an initial greeting,
      Mr. Sidebottom's words to me were: "Father, you
      need to know about some things going on here before you take this job."
      Mr. Sidebottom then described the alleged sexual assault he had suffered
      at the hands of Archimandrite Isidore on the Eve of the Ascension, as
      well as other details connected with that incident. Naturally, to have
      ignored these allegations would have violated many Christian and legal
      principles. According to the OCA's "Policies, Procedures and Guidelines
      on Sexual Misconduct", I understood that I was obliged to report this

      After some reflection, I turned to Archbishop Job for advice. To be
      clear, I initiated contact with Archbishop Job about these issues. As my
      original diocesan hierarch, I have known him for many years and have
      relied on his pastoral judgment. Having spent
      almost 20 years on active military duty, I was not professionally
      familiar with any other hierarchs. I reached His Eminence by cell phone
      while he was on the road. It was during this conversation that His
      Eminence asked me to jot down a few notes covering the issues I was
      presenting. In preparing these notes, it became evident to me that a
      fuller treatment
      would be required, given the complexity and gravity of the issues of
      this case, to wit, the cycle of violence, alcoholic family systems,
      domestic violence, etc. What resulted was the '25 Page Report' which
      aimed to give the Holy Synod a thorough and professional
      view of the case at hand, with some understanding of the context and
      ramifications of Mr. Sidebottom's allegations, as stated in his letter
      of June 25th 2007, and my on-going conversations with him and other
      faculty and staff of St. Herman's Seminary.

      Immediately after my initial conversation with Archbishop Job, he
      directed me to contact
      His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim and His Grace, Bishop Nikon, to gain
      their advice on the matter as well. To be clear, I spoke by phone with
      each of these hierarchs and provided them copies of the '25 Page Report'
      by email (on or about July 9th 2007).
      At no time did any hierarch make any suggestions about the content and
      conclusions of this report; it was solely mine. Nor was I asked to
      perform any other kind of investigation. It was my professional opinion
      that Mr. Sidebottom's allegations were indeed credible, and the report
      was necessary, in its full form, to prevent any further harm to the
      souls of those involved, potential perpetrators and victims alike. (1)

      Their Eminences Job, Seraphim and His Grace, Nikon behaved with uncommon
      professionalism and
      pastoral sensitivity throughout this dialogue.

      As you asked in your letter of July 23rd2007, I have been obedient and
      silent about this case even though it has become part of a public
      information circus. I stand by the findings and conclusions in my
      report. But even before it went public, I have received threatening
      anonymous email and, of late as you may be aware, personal and unfounded
      attacks from local OCA clergy. I believe these attacks are related to my
      and its conclusions, as well as my intervention on behalf of Mr.
      Sidebottom. In short: Recrimination.

      However, my purpose here is not to defend myself but to clear the names
      of the hierarchs I consulted for advice. To be clear, the genesis of my
      report originated with the invitation of His Grace, Bishop Nikolai to
      investigate St. Herman's Seminary as my potential future place of
      ministry, and then the credible complaints of Mr. Paul Sidebottom which
      I encountered there. Thank you for the pastoral kindness which you have
      shown me.

      God grant you many years, Holy Master!

      In Christ,

      Fr. John"

      1 For reference some of my credentials are:

      PhD Candidate: Clinical Psychology (Psychology of
      Religion), Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. MS: Columbus State
      University, Columbus,
      GA. Concentration: Marriage and Family Therapy . Nationally Board
      Certified Counselor &
      Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

      Misrepresentations and Revenge

      The Bishop of Alaska clearly misrepresented his actions in the Dushkin
      suspension. He did so again as regards the attempt to depose Archbishop
      Job. As Fr. Anderson's letter makes clear, Archbishop Job did not
      initiate any actions in the Diocese of Alaska: it was Bishop Nikolai,
      who, as the expression goes, was "hoisted on his own petard". He invited
      Fr. Anderson, a trained professional, to investigate the Seminary; and
      Fr. Anderson, to his credit, did so, perhaps more thoroughly than the
      Bishop intended. True to his pastoral training when Fr. Anderson
      discovered the true situation in the diocese, he reported his findings
      to the Metropolitan. That Bishop Nikolai would then accuse Archbishop
      Job of 'interference' for a Report he himself initiated, only lends
      further credence to the voices from Alaska, both clergy and lay, who
      speak of the Bishop's capacity for misrepresentation, bullying and

      -Mark Stoko
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