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OCANews: In Aftermath of +Herman, Decisions Deferred....

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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
    http://www.ocanews.org/news/DecisionsDeferred9.7.08.html   9.7.08 IN AFTERMATH OF +HERMAN, DECISIONS DEFERRED • ELECTION UNLIKELY AT PITTSBURGH AAC •
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2008





      In the light of Metropolitan Herman’s sudden retirement, the
      decision as to whether to hold an election for a new Metropolitan at
      the 15th AAC has been deferred, leaving the final schedule for the
      Council still undecided 60 days before the gathering.
      The Bishops will conduct a telephone conference late next week to
      discuss their decision as to whether an election will be held in
      November, postponed for a year - or for possibly three years to allow
      the 16th AAC to decide the issue in 2011.

      Whatever the Synod’s decision regarding an election, the joint
      meeting of the OCA’s Synod of Bishops and Metropolitan Council was
      indeed historic. The three-day meeting, which ended Friday, September
      5th in the early afternoon:

      -heard, published and then adopted the long-awaited Report and
      recommendations of the Special Investigative Committee,

      -received and then denied a request for a six-month medical leave of
      absence for Metropolitan Herman, subsequently accepting his
      “voluntary” retirement,

      -gave the elderly senior hierarch of the OCA, Archbishop Dmitri, the
      honor of Locum tenens but assigned responsibility for administering
      the Church to Archbishop Seraphim of Canada,

      - apologized to the OCA for their failings during the scandal and
      promised to take actions to ensure the situation will never happened

      -elected a new vicar Bishop for the Diocese of the South, who was
      subsequently named Chancellor of the Diocese,

      - discussed at length the several and costly lawsuits the OCA is
      currently battling,

      - discussed options for a pared-down 2009 budget, which could lower
      “Fair Share” assessments by
      15-20% or more.


      The conclusion of the Executive Summary of the SIC Report stated,
      underlined and in bold, that “The responsible individuals must be
      held accountable”.
      In the decisions at this meeting, both individually and jointly, the
      Synod and Council began that process.
      Two retired and three currently-serving Bishops were named in the
      Report. Former Metropolitan Theodosius, who was identified as having
      participated in the diversion of funds, personally profiting from
      them and assisting in the cover-up, was forbidden by the Synod to
      serve liturgy anywhere but in his home parish. The Synod reportedly
      discussed ordering the former Metropolitan to a monastery, but
      declined this option given his health and that he is currently cared
      for by his niece. The Council, however, authorized the OCA’s legal
      counsel to investigate options towards garnishing the former
      Metropolitan’s pension and deferred compensation plan, in addition
      to pending legal action against the former Chancellor Robert
      Kondratick, in an effort to recover some of the $4.75 million they
      diverted. Actual garnishment, though, is seen as unlikely. As such,
      the announced penalty for the 75- year old former Metropolitan, who
      has been told by his doctor not to
      drive anymore, amounts to little more than a minor restriction.

      (In was also discussed that Kondratick is believed to still be
      participating in the OCA Pension Plan, and is thus, still an employee
      of the OCA in his role as “parish outreach coordinator” in the
      Venice, Florida parish. Kondratick, who had been Chancellor of the
      OCA from 1989-2006, was deposed from the priesthood in 2007, but
      still wears a cassock, is still referred to as “Fr. Bob” by
      parishioners and until June, was still listed as “the Very Reverend
      Robert Kondratick” on the church bulletin board. A startled
      Archbishop Dmitri replied that he was not aware that Kondratick was
      still an employee, but that he would make sure Kondratick is

      Metropolitan Herman, who was named in the Report, not for having
      personally diverted funds or profited by them, but for having allowed
      those so doing to continue, and for actively orchestrating and
      participating in the subsequent cover-up, was forced to retire
      following the denial of his request for a medical leave.
      The former Metropolitan refused to attend the joint meeting, leaving
      Syosset on Tuesday, September 4th, and returned to his home in South
      Canaan assuming his request for a six month Leave would be granted.
      However, having just heard the SIC Report, an angry Council
      unanimously requested Wednesday, September 3rd, that the Synod deny
      the leave, and as the SIC Report recommended, they retire or remove
      the Metropolitan, given that he had already reportedly refused to
      resign, despite requests by several Bishops and his own
      administrative officers prior to the meeting.

      And so on Thursday, September 4th, after the Synod met privately that
      morning, Archbishop Seraphim announced that the Synod had
      “.....received a letter from His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN. 
      In this letter, His Beatitude asks for Retirement, effective
      immediately, ‘in the best interests of The Orthodox Church in
      America, and taking into consideration the current condition of my
      health.’ (Read that announcement in fullhere).

      No further disciplinary actions have been announced concerning the
      former Metropolitan, who retains all his ranks and privileges, and
      whom the Synod, inexplicably, “thanked for his primatial service”
      given that during his entire term as Metropolitan he was engaged in
      the coverup.
      St. Vladimir’s Seminary, quickly announcing the change (for the
      head of the OCA serves as President of the Seminary) was more
      nuanced. In their press release issued Saturday, September 6th, the
      Seminary stated:
      “ While acknowledging the difficult circumstances of the just-
      announced retirement of His Beatitude Metropolitan Herman, the
      Seminary notes with appreciation his service to St. Vladimir’s
      Seminary and his ministry of leading us in prayer over the last six
      years. ..”

      Three other Bishops were named by the SIC Report as well. Archbishop
      Nathaniel, Archbishop Seraphim and Bishop Nikon, like Metropolitan
      Herman, were all revealed to have been informed of Kondratick’s
      attempted embezzlement of the Beslan funds the day after the attempt,
      and yet took no action for 3 years. Indeed as late as 2006 and 2007,
      for example, all participated in signed statements of the full or
      Lesser Synod that sought to put an end to discussion of the scandal.
      (Read two examples here and here) The SIC Report actually contains,
      in Appendix F, a 2004 letter from Archbishop Seraphim fully admitting
      the disclosure, and then denying it was his responsibility to do
      anything about it.

      Archbishop Nathaniel declined to attend the joint Synod-Council
      meeting, citing prior engagements.
      Five days before the SIC Report was released, Archbishop Seraphim and
      Bishop Nikon took the lead in orchestrating an ill-received and
      widely ridiculed Archpastoral letter from the Synod that attempted to
      mitigate their responsibility. (You can read that letter here).
      In the end no actions were announced against the three.

      Three former Administration officials, besides the deposed
      Chancellor, Robert Kondratick, were named in the SIC Report as having
      failed in their duties, in some cases for more than a decade: former
      Treasurers Frs. Paul Kucynda and Dimitri Oselinsky, as well as former
      Comptroller, Fr. Stephen Strikis.
      The report revealed that Fr. Kucynda purposely let Fr. Kondratick
      remove boxes of documents from the Chancery the day he was
      terminated. The loss of documents meant much of the financial scandal
      could never be fully reconstructed, nor the losses ever fully known;
      and resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in additional legal and
      accounting bills in an effort to establish both. The SIC recommended
      all three be disciplined, a view which the Council had endorsed

      At the Friday session the Synod announced that the Chancellor would
      be instructed to write "letters of reprimand" to be placed in their
      clergy files. No further actions were announced. This lead to an open
      and candid discussion about whether such “punishment” were
      appropriate or sufficient given the misdeeds committed.

      Bishop Benjamin stated that the Council should “not expect
      punishment.” Our concern , the Bishop pointed out, is salvation -
      of these individuals, of the Church. It is difficult to depose a
      Bishop, the Bishop stated, as you need 12, and "we would need to rent
      some." “Their lives --- +Theodosius, +Herman, the priests,
      Kondratick -- will never be the same.” They will bear this
      humiliation forever. This is proportionate punishment against them
      for incredible failures at every level of the Church, he stated.

      Bishop Tikhon stated that the actions that were taken were taken for
      repentance and healing. It is a struggle to have to repent publicly.
      We trust that all, he said, that the named and unnamed, will repent
      publicly. The restoration of trust needs to continue.....
      Bishop Nikon added: “They lost their jobs; we don’t want them to
      lose their souls.”

      Earlier, the Council itself had adopted a resolution regarding the
      three officers. It read:

      “Whereas the SIC appointed by the Holy Synod and the MC of the OCA,
      upon consideration of evidence and testimony given in the course of
      their investigation did determine that Frs. Paul Kucynda, Dimitri
      Oselinsky and Stavros Strikis failed to exercise due fiduciary
      responsibility in the exercise of their service as officers and/or
      employees of the Central Administration of the OCA;

      And whereas Frs. Paul Kucynda, Dimitri Oselinsky and Stavros Strikis
      have been reprimanded by the Holy Synod of the OCA for these failures;

      And whereas the MC has the fiduciary responsibility to exercise due
      care in its oversight of the administration of the OCA by determining
      the qualifications of its officers, directors, employees and

      Be it therefore resolved that Frs. Paul Kucynda, Dimitri Oselinsky,
      and Stavros Strikis are hereby deemed permanently ineligible for
      election or appointment to any future position of trust or office in
      the administration or administrative bodies under the purview of the
      Central Administration of the OCA;
      And be it further resolved that we respectfully recommend similar
      actions be taken by their respective hierarchs and diocesan councils
      apart from their current parish or monastic assignments at the
      diocesan level.”

      The resolution passed unanimously.

      Everyone Else Gets A Complete Pass, Except Dr. Woog

      No further “discipline” was taken against any others mentioned in
      the SIC as have assisted the cover-up or failed in their
      responsibilities, including the Audit committee, the former
      Administrative Committee, former Syosset staffers and administration
      officials among others. There was one exception: Dr. Alice Woog.
      Dr. Woog, a former member of the Administrative Committee, refused to
      testify before the Special Investigative Committee despite the
      Council’s pledge to assist the investigation in every way. The
      Council adopted the following resolution:

      “Whereas the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council of the
      Orthodox Church in America established the Special Investigative
      committee to investigate allegations of gross financial mismanagement
      over the past two decades;

      And whereas members of the Metropolitan Council are bound to exercise
      due fiduciary care in the execution of their duties;

      And whereas Dr. Alice Woog was a member of the Metropolitan Council
      for the past 13 years and a member of the Administrative committee;

      And whereas Dr. Woog declined to be interviewed by the Special
      Investigative Committee;

      Therefore, be it resolved that Dr. Alice Woog is hereby removed from
      her membership on the Metropolitan Council immediately, pursuant to
      New York State law.”

      The rationale was that anyone refusing to appear and cooperate in a
      corporate or government agency internal investigation would be fired.
      In this case Dr. Woog held important historical information about the
      Council on which she had served 13 years, and the Administrative
      Committee for many of those. She was, therefore, bound to provide it.

      The resolution passed 24-1.

      Joint Apology

      On Friday the Synod of Bishops and Metropolitan Council unanimously
      adopted the following joint statement in a effort to begin bringing
      the financial scandal to a close:

      “The Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council, acknowledging the report
      of the Special Investigating Committee and the facts made clear
      therein, humbly apologize to the Church and all those who were harmed
      by these events.

      We recognize our failure to act upon information provided to us, and
      to demand accountability and openness from each other and from those
      in our employ.

      We commit ourselves to building a culture within the Church which
      fosters communication, transparency and personal responsibility.

      We also wish to offer our profound apology to Mr. John Kozey, former
      Chair of the OCA Audit Committee. We commend his tireless attempts to
      bring the facts of this matter to light. For his efforts, he was
      rebuffed, marginalized and mistreated. We are deeply sorry for this

      We know that trust must be re-built, and pray you will be encouraged
      by our actions from now as we move decisively to correct the mistakes
      of the past and ensure they do not take place again.”

      The inclusion of the personal and public apology to former Audit
      Committee Chairman John Kozey was one of the many recommendations of
      the Special Investigative Committee adopted by the two bodies on
      Wednesday and Friday. Both bodies thought thanks and an apology were
      also due Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, among others, for their pivotal
      roles in exposing the scandal. It was discussed that a longer, more
      thoughtful statement, that included such names, might be prepared for
      the 15th AAC.

      The Synod also announced that given the age of Archbishop Dmitri, the
      official Locum tenens, Archbishop Seraphim would assume the day to
      day responsibilities of administering the OCA. The Archbishop of
      Dallas also announced that he had already appointed his newly elected
      Vicar, Jonah (Paffhausen), the Bishop-elect of Ft. Worth, as
      Chancellor of the Diocese.

      Legal Matters

      Both the Synod and the Council acknowledged the OCA is involved in
      significant legal actions. The Kondratick’s suit to enforce the
      disputed “promissory note” (some $400,000 with interest) is
      ongoing in the Nassau County Supreme Court. According to court
      records, a judge recently denied their motion for Summary Judgment.
      Robert Kondratick then assigned his interest in the Note to Bette,
      so she is proceeding alone as sole claimant to the note. The matter
      is heading toward discovery and depositions eventually, with motions

      The OCA’s counterclaim suit against Kondratick and his family,
      authorized by the Council and approved by the Synod in May 2008 is
      continuing. Notice was filed in May, and Kondratick is expected to be
      served. Thereafter a complaint would normally be filed with
      specifics, with answers and motions to follow.

      The new General Counsel for the OCA, Thaddeus Wojcik III, then
      notified the Council that a new suit in Nassau County had been filed
      in late August against the OCA, Dr. Faith Skordinski and Fr. Andrew
      Jarmus, OCA Communications Director, by Robert Kondratick. Kondratick
      seeks $25 million on 6 claims for relief, including intentional
      infliction of emotional distress and defamation.

      Budget Matters

      The actual budget that will presented to the 15th AAC is still in
      process. All indications suggest that a much lower budget will be
      presented, based on a Fair Share Assessment of somewhere in the range
      of $85-90 per person, in addition to the option of a no-increase
      budget, based on the current $105 assessment. The reduction is in
      recognition of the widespread feeling that Dioceses, not the Central
      Church Administration, are better suited to deal with issues of
      outreach and service.

      A report was presented on selling the estate in Syosset, as well as
      other options regarding the property. Because prop values are down
      and the estate might be worth only $5 - $6 million and not $10
      million as previously thought, it was decided to do nothing at this
      time. The question of the estate property, as well as the location of
      Central Church headquarters is to be included as part of a Strategic
      Plan that the Administration wishes to be done over the next three

      Half Full or Half Empty?

      Speaking of the meeting, several Council members indicated agreement
      with one member’s characterization that “what occurred during the
      historic three day meeting was a process” during which “in an
      entire Orthodox world based on a synodal system, the smallest
      autocephalous church was somehow able, with its conciliar system, to
      stumble through to a solution, however imperfect it may be as yet,
      without blood flowing.” The writer continued: “ Am I
      disappointed: You bet! There are loose ends everywhere”. But a
      general attitude of relief, regret for past mistakes, present
      collegiality, and strong commitment to doing better in the future
      clearly dominated the meeting according to all who were interviewed.
      As one wrote: “The Synod treated the Council like brothers and
      sisters and not servants. They didn’t refuse to answer any
      questions. They spoke about conciliarity, and what needs to be said
      before this is over. They acknowledged that we
      haven’t seen repentance from anyone, and that trust is still not
      restored, and it won’t be for a long time.”
      Others present described the event as exhausting, exhilarating, and
      dramatically different from all previous meetings in a positive way.
      There is no doubt that much, much more will be written about these
      three days in September.

      The 15th AAC

      At the top of the list of “loose ends”, though, is the 15th AAC.
      Will there be an election of a new Metropolitan? Among the reasons
      suggested by the Synod to the Council for a delay were cautious
      prudence - given the current turmoil in the Church - and that
      postponing would perhaps allow new episcopal candidates to emerge(!)
      (For example, the Diocesan Council in Western Pennsylvania is to
      nominate candidates on September 20th for its upcoming Special
      Diocesan Assembly, to select a candidate for that see. The Alaskan
      and Bulgarian dioceses are also vacant.)
      Postponing an election, however, might lead many parishes to decide
      to forgo expensive participation in the 14th Council, especially if
      there was going to be another next year. This could lead to serious
      potential financial losses to the Church if the Council is
      underbooked; and a meaningless Council if it is held with minimal
      participation. It is unclear to many what the purpose of 15th All-
      American Council is - given the current turmoil in the Church. One of
      the major themes to emerge from the 15 Town Halls was the need for
      confession and repentance as a basis for reconciliation. Has this
      occurred - or just begun?

      According to Bishop Nikon, Chairman of the Pre-Conciliar Commission
      (PCC), much has yet to be decided. Saying it will be an AAC like no
      other, the Bishop admitted to the Council that the agenda is still in
      flux. The Bishop stated that this needs to 'be a Council to bring us
      back together,' which may 'have the feel of a retreat', speak about
      the vision of the OCA, while 'still completing the business of the
      Church that must be done'. But as of now, nothing radical is planned.
      The Bishop lamented: “The PCC is like all the king’s men, trying
      to put Humpty Dumpty together again.” (The PCC meets this coming in
      week in Syosset - hence decisions regarding the ACC cannot be
      deferred too long.)


      One priest, writing to OCANews.org described his reaction to the
      events of the week as “I am very pleased, but not satisfied.”
      Another wrote, ominously, that the culture of denial and repression,
      while taking a blow, was still afoot: “Last night the dean of the
      NJ Deanery, Fr Kedala, as well as the Chancellor of the Diocese of
      Washington and New York, Fr. Lickwar, ordered that +Seraphim’s
      letter of information to clergy on the retirement of Metropolitan
      Herman (that tells how to commemorate +Dmitri properly) be read from
      the ambo tomorrow in parishes of the Diocese. The letter in question
      describes the voluntary retirement of +Herman as completely due to
      medical reasons. There is no mention of the SIC Report at all, nor of
      the Council’s unanimous resolution that his Leave be denied and he
      be removed. When a senior priest, together with others, objected that
      to read this alone would be misleading. they were accused of
      “disobedience” and
      given a tongue lashing . Just one real, local example of how
      pervasive the culture of denial, avoidance, deception and coverup

      Clearly, old habits die hard.
      Much depends on the Bishop’s teleconference this week, in their new
      spirit of openness and cooperation without the prevaricating presence
      of Metropolitan Herman. On their decisions hang the answer as to
      whether the OCA has broken its crisis like a fever, or simply entered
      a deeper phase of it, one of that presages a chronic and disabling

      -Mark Stokoe

      --- End forwarded message ---
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