I believe the cats… however… do you believe the OCA’s lawyers? Hmm…
The OCA’s lawyers have given us an interesting point to ponder. Look at the quote below…
Key documents in the Koumentakos case (read about that story here) were posted on the internet on Friday, September 18th, just a day after it was reported that Fr Raymond Velencia, one of the major figures in the case, was elected to the OCA’s Metropolitan Council as the clergy representative from the Diocese of Washington. The documents include the OCA’s motion for Summary Judgement, and three affidavits from the key players in the lawsuit: Metropolitan Herman (in his capacity as Diocesan Bishop), Fr Joseph Lickwar, Chancellor of the then-Diocese of Washington-New York (and current Chancellor of the Diocese of New York-New Jersey), and Fr Constantine White, then-Dean of the Washington Deanery (newly-appointed as Chancellor of the Diocese of Washington).
The motion for summary judgement by the OCA’s attorney, John McAuliffe, states that as the OCA, as a matter of law, “did not employ Fr Velencia, nor have authority to hire, fire, retain, supervise, or control Father Velencia’s daily work activities”, the OCA should be released from the Koumentakos lawsuit. The motion argues on the well-known basis of In Jones v. Wolf (1979) decision of the US Supreme Court that “the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits civil courts from resolving disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice”. Arguing that the “First Amendment further requires that civil courts defer to the resolution of issues of religious doctrine or polity by the highest court of a hierarchical church organization”. The lawyer argues that to the extent Koumentakos seeks to impose some type of religious or moral duty on the OCA to investigate these matters at issue, the Plaintiffs have wrongfully sought to “impose some type of religious or moral duty on the OCA”.
The judge agreed on the basis of this religious exception, and released the OCA from this case.
What has raised eyebrows, however, are some of the assertions in the motion. “As set forth above,” McAuliffe writes, “(the) OCA is a New York corporation created by New York statute. It does not operate in the State of Maryland. Various dioceses around the country choose to adhere to the moral and canonical doctrine adopted and propounded by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America. However, each diocese is a separate legal entity. (The) OCA has no more authority to regulate the diocese than it has to regulate Microsoft”.
The legal point may be accurate, but, where is the moral integrity behind such a statement? One can claim, perhaps accurately, that these are just the words of a non-Orthodox lawyer, not an ecclesiological statement, but, public words matter. Is the OCA really only a collection of autocephalous dioceses? By allowing such statements, the OCA may win a battle, but, we risk losing the war.
Equally disturbing are the affidavits of Metropolitan Herman, [and] Frs Lickwar and White. If the OCA could accurately claim from a legal standpoint it did not have responsibility over the pastoral actions of Fr Velencia, that such matters were the responsibility of the Diocese, one wonders how, in good conscience, Metropolitan Herman, the Diocesan Bishop, Fr Lickwar, the Chancellor, or Fr White, the Dean, could then make the same claim? Nevertheless, Daniel Shea, the lawyer for the Deanery and Diocese writes in his motions for summary judgement “….here as demonstrated by the supporting affidavits of record, these defendants have never expressly or impliedly consented to a relationship whereby either had a right to control the actions of Fr Velencia… in so far as defendant Velencia’s conduct in maintaining confidence as a counsellor or confessor”. What? Are there not 1,500 years of canons relating to the relationship of priest to bishop, to pastoral responsibilities, and to the relationship of penitent to pastor? Once again, where is the moral integrity?
The Diocese and the Deanery have all been released from the case, on precisely the same grounds as the OCA. The courts will not adjudicate matters of Church discipline. At present, only Fr Velencia and St Matthew’s House remain in litigation with Ms Koumentakos. The real question is will the Church even adjudicate these matters of Church discipline… or, is, as the affidavits would seem to suggest, no one is really responsible for anything.
All the documents of the Koumentakos case referred above may be found here.
22 September 2009
Orthodox Christians for Accountability
There one has it… “….here as demonstrated by the supporting affidavits of record, these defendants have never expressly or impliedly consented to a relationship whereby either had a right to control the actions of Fr Velencia… in so far as defendant Velencia’s conduct in maintaining confidence as a counsellor or confessor”.
Perhaps, I am an idiot… a drooling and incoherent babbling idiot… I had the baroque notion that priests were responsible to their bishops, that priests were creatures of the bishop and dependent upon him. It IS correct that the Chancellor and Dean (not real canonical offices, in any case) were not responsible for Raymond Velencia. Of course not! They, like Mr Velencia, were nothing but ordinary priests… they were not and are not bishops (who DO have responsibility for their priests).
Chukcha is really shaking his head over this one… “However… I thought that the bishop of the diocese ran things and that all the priests reported to him?” “Well, Chuk, that is what all the rest of us think!” “However… if that bishop is not responsible… which one is?”
This seems to say that priests in the OCA are independent contractors, responsible to no bishop for their actions; therefore, no bishop is responsible for their actions. Great, huh? The OCA is only a corporation in the State of New York; it doesn’t exist in the rest of the country! Wanna bet that if a parish said that it was not sending an assessment to a body with no legal standing in their state or province, they would receive a rocket by UPS Overnight Delivery the very next day? “Send the money now, you bastards! We got bills here in Syosset! You know it’s a high-cost area and we need the dough! Legalism be damned”.
Good question… it not only stumps Chukcha… it stumps me… it stumps all of us. Now, you see it… now, you don’t. We’re a legal body when it comes to taking money; we’re not a legal body when it comes to taking responsibility. The RCs were rooked by their lawyers… they should have hired the OCA legal eagles… However… if the RCs had used such a defence, they would have been CRUCIFIED. Could you have seen Cardinal Law using such logic? OUCH! They would have thrown him to the wolves.
Let’s call out Kojack to find out the truth! WHO is responsible? Perspiring minds want to know!
Now imagine that the late Telly Savalas (as the inimitable Kojack) is standing in front of the OCA Synod of Bishops. “Who luvs ya, baby? If Herman isn’t responsible, who is? Is it Jonas Paffhausen? He replaced Herman. Is it Dmitri Royster? He’s the oldest bishop. If all the bishops are independent, why did you adopt the Brum Doctrine saying that the Metropolitan is the top banana? What gives?”
If no one is responsible… then, there are no real bishops… if there are no real bishops… well, there is no real Church, either.
Congratulations, OCA… your lawyers have admitted in open court that you are a bunch of Protestants… rather nasty (and unrepresentative) Prodies at that. The bishops do not have the right to control the actions of priests as counsellors and confessors. That is breath-taking! Lutheran bishops have this right. Catholic bishops have this right. Anglican bishops have this right. Silly old me! I thought that Orthodox bishops had this right, as well. The OCA told me, didn’t they? OCA bishops (I wonder what the other bishops in this country think!) don’t have the right to control their priests, at least in the case of confessions and counselling. Their lawyers said so.
WELCOME TO PROTESTANTISM, OCA!
(I hasten to add that most decent Protestant people and clergy are just as aghast as I am concerning this. If I have offended you, I sincerely apologise. However… Chukcha would tell you that Orthodoxy is not Protestantism, and that Orthodox should act like Orthodox, not (badly-behaving) Protestants. Why doesn’t the OCA just bite the bullet the way the Episcopalians did? If there is corrupt clergy or staff… put ‘em in prison orange!)
This is disgusting. It strikes at the very core of what it means to be “Church”. If the bishop is not responsible… well, it means that there is no real bishop. If there is no real bishop… there is no Church.
P.U.! I smell something rotten in the room!
I BEG YOUR PARDON!
I stand for the Church… pure and simple. You can’t have it both ways. Either stand up and take responsibility for your minion’s actions, Jonas Paffhausen, or, stand exposed to the entire world as a fancily-dressed Prodie (I’ll take a real Prodie, any road… they’re bona fide and decent, at least!).
FOR SHAME, OCA!
Wednesday 23 September 2009