Voices from Russia

Sunday, 20 January 2008

The Ordination of a Registered Sexual Offender by Bishop Nikolai in Alaska is Unconscionable

This is an intra-Orthodox post, as it were. It concerns the inner life of one of the Orthodox dioceses in the US. To my Orthodox friends, it is time for all decent Orthodox Christians to speak out! To my non-Orthodox friends, I can assure you that most Orthodox people are against this action, and I apologise to you that one of our bishops did such a heinous act. The recent ordination of a registered sexual offender, who served a year in prison for videotaping himself having sex with underage girls, by Bishop Nikolai Soraich of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in Alsaska is unconscionable and we must condemn it in the harshest terms. Firstly, I must prove the veracity of my statement. Here are two URLs proving my assertion:

http://www.kansas.com/194/story/285534.html

http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/2008/01/10/molester_allowed_to_become_orthodox_reader/8732/

Since we’re not speaking of speculation, unpleasant rumour, or nasty stories, but rather attested fact, it’s time to speak the truth about the situation in the OCA. There are several groups amongst Orthodox Christians in the US, and the OCA is definitely the “sick kitten” of the lot. Since October 2005, it’s been embroiled in a deadlocked crisis that is supposedly over shenanigans with finances. The Diocese of the Midwest (the largest diocese in the OCA) has placed contributions to the central church in escrow until the Metropolitan (Herman Swaiko) and the Holy Synod come clean on the situation. What a grandiloquent title… the Orthodox Church in America! One would think it the largest amongst Orthodox groups here, and the most influential. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite overblown claims by many Orthodox bishops, there are a little less than one million Orthodox Christians (not counting Monophysite “Oriental” Orthodox bodies not in communion with “Eastern” Orthodox) in total in the US (according to estimates by Professor Aleksei Krindatch in Moscow, an authority on the subject).

Professor Krindatch estimates that there are 115,000 adherents in the OCA, some 12 percent of the total. The OCA itself has made claims of one million members (that is the usual figure given to the NCC Yearbook, one year they claimed two million members). In short, we are talking of a “Potemkin Village”, an “Orthodox Ruritania”, or “the Archdiocese of Grand Fenwick” (with apologies to Leonard Wibberley). This small group of some 40,000 households maintains offices in a pricey Long Island suburb, two continental US seminaries (one in a chi-chi part of Westchester near Scarsdale), and some nine ruling bishops. This is a recipe for disaster, and when one considers that the bishops (and their entourages) make numerous trips to Europe on the parishioners’ nickel, one wonders why the rotten edifice didn’t collapse sooner. That’s to say, the noisome action of Bishop Nikolai didn’t occur in a vacuum.

Well… why DO people put up with it? The OCA Holy Synod has shown a willingness to “punish” “wayward” parishes. In the 1980s, there was a dispute over which calendar the Church would use. Some were cajoled into using the papist usage for fixed feasts, but many people preferred the traditional Orthodox calendar. The OCA imposed the papist usage, but some parishes balked. In particular, St John the Baptist parish in Mayfield PA asked to become part of the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia). Herman Swaiko, the then-Bishop of Eastern Pennsylvania, the present metropolitan, was enraged. He engaged the parish in a multi-year lawsuit that ended in the parish keeping their property (bully for them!). Unfortunately, a parish in Sea Cliff NY lost its property in a similar court fight. This is why the OCA is still in “legal” existence today. Many people fear losing their parish churches, for Herman Swaiko proved his nastiness and brutality at Mayfield. (Is it a surprise that “Mayfield” is not a welcome word in OCA “true believer” circles? Mention it… you should hear the reaction!)

This is a group with no fear of the outside world, or even of decent moral standards, as the ordination of a registered sexual offender proves. There’s much more, but… the need for brevity constrains me. Only one bishop is left with any credibility… Archbishop Job Osacky of Chicago. Other bishops have slandered him, especially Bishop Nikolai (he who ordained the sex offender). Bishop Nikolai accused Bishop Job of interfering with his diocese, and tried to depose him, but it didn’t work (I guess we’re supposed to APPLAUD when sex offenders are ordained). Vladyki Job has high repute everywhere… except for the Holy Synod of the OCA! There may be one or two fence sitters, but this bishop is the only one who has shown any initiative or courage. The rest… declare yourselves…

To my fellow Orthodox Christians… especially those in the OCA… what more do you need? This Holy Synod approves of the ordination of sex offenders through their silence. The European churches do NOT support them. The OCA is beyond redemption, and it’s time to recognise this. It’s only 38 years old, and yet it’s a rusting relic of the Cold War (there’s a fascinating history of the establishment of the OCA involving Metropolitan Nikodim Rotov of Leningrad… alas, no space!). Stop dancing around a grinning and decomposing corpse. The so-called OCA is dead by its own hand. No outside force was involved. It is time for all “Russian” Orthodox on this continent to unite.

Pray for the good estate of the church, pray that God forgives us for sanctioning such a foul act by our silence and inaction, and pray that we come together in an attainable and God-pleasing unity. If we don’t do such, we’ll stand on the Last Day with more guilt than Bishop Nikolai. For, you see, doing “nothing” isn’t passive; it’s the active taking of a decision.

Deus videte et iudicare!

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Sunday 20 January 2008

Albany NY

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