A young friend castigated me about Nicholas Smiško. Well, it was one of those “imperfect choices”… it was him or Michael Dahulich. I think that ACROD made the right choice (and the OCA the wrong one). Here’s something from someone far better suited than I am to speak to the matter, mostly on Bishop John Martin, Nicholas’ predecessor:
Bishop John Raymond Martin (1931-84) grew up in a very strong pro-Catholic environment, attending the Roman Catholic seminary in Lisle IL, about 1951 (maybe, the Uniates didn’t have theirs up yet?) He served as chancellor of some Catholic diocese in California and was starting to attend graduate school, claiming he was only “one thesis away from a doctorate in theology”, which of course means that he was nowhere near, since a thesis is what you do for a doctorate!
He jumped ship in 1966 to the ACROD when (to his own everlasting regret) Vicar General Peter Molchany of the ACROD, who I think may have baptised JRM in 1931 when Molchany was still Greek Catholic, talked JRM into coming over to be a bishop. There was a string of carpetbaggers starting in 1963, when Bishop Orestes Chornock (1883-1977) turned 80 and the powerbroker priests (Yurcisin, Molchany, Zeleniak) wanted to phase him out and get someone else in. Ironically, Bishop Orestes lived to 94! Maybe, he was stubborn. The attempt to do so caused much turmoil among those who were loyal to Bishop Orestes. In 1963, the first assistant bishop was an elderly retired OCA priest, Fr Peter Shymansky, who passed away 6 months later after consecration. Then, in 1964, they talked Orthodox Bishop Methodius Kancuha from Czechoslovakia into abandoning his diocese and coming here, but this caused major problems and he went back in disgrace after 6 months. The thinking in 1966 was that maybe a young educated American-born person would avoid those two sets of problems and last longer than 6 months. JRM fit the bill, or so they thought!
He was extremely arrogant and vain, thinking he was the smartest thing on two legs. He treated people badly if he didn’t like them, for no good reason, and was very controlling. One thing people heard him say was that he couldn’t stand “DPs” (“displaced persons” immigrants) and wanted nothing to do with them. He never could stand people who were proud of their national origin, especially Russians, and I always thought it odd that he disdained the very ones who had lost their homes and lived in the camps after World War II, but were proud of their Russian heritage. Amazingly, he let this overt prejudice poison his attitude to anyone who had ANY connection to Eastern Europe of any sort. He refused to accept into the ACROD several priests from Czechoslovakia who were able to get permission to leave, and who would have been nice additions to the Diocese. They went to the OCA instead. For an even more bizarre example, he disdained diocesan priests educated in pre-war Czechoslovakia, which had absolutely nothing to do with post-war camps. One priest he disdained was a long-time priest in Pittsburgh who was American-born, but went there for seminary in the 1930s. Another one was born in America, but grew up in Czechoslovakia , but returned to the USA. Again, before the post-war camps. Many priests left the Diocese and not deal with him (1966-84).
Years later, Fr Molchany repented of his unwise manoeuvring to get John Martin in as bishop, and even tried in the early 1980s to get a council of priests together to do something, but (rumour goes) by then most priests feared the idea of taking on Bishop John, who was known to call up and verbally abuse those whom he wished. No one would dare face him one on one or risk being seen as disloyal. It’s the strong belief among some (but this is all secret) that his premature death from a heart attack at a parish dinner in 1984 saved the Diocese (he had a history of heart attacks, including a massive one back in 1973, which was actually kept secret). I heard that it was a certainty that in 1985, when Fr Michael Dahulich would have turned 35, the traditional earliest age for consecration, Bishop John would’ve consecrated him as assistant for the ACROD, to be a younger version of himself. Had that happened, who knows what would’ve happened. The poor faithful Carpatho-Russians deserved better, and wouldn’t you know it? All worked out by the mysterious workings of Providence.
Of course, that’s why we have a Greek bishop, even though the ACROD contacted multiple qualified people, both in America and in Europe, and no one seemed interested due to its smallness (although in some cases there other reasons as well, but I have minimal information since the process was kept secret, going so far as to forbid priests to talk with laymen about it). In that same regard, this new one also believes he is smarter than everyone else is, having been a research scientist before his new path. Like I always say, if I didn’t believe Orthodoxy is the absolute ultimate truth, one might despair!
My reply was:
It does explain why Dahulich was so insistent on trying for the white hat at the last OCA Sobor. If he’s 65 now, the chances of his having another shot are next to nil. Yet… it explains much about him. Dahulich didn’t want to be a bishop in the ACROD… it was too small a compass for him (he was like Hopko from Endicott… jumping to the OCA for ambition’s sake). Dahulich is lying low on the marriage issue… I hear that he’s marshalling his troops, though. They’ll be trouble, no doubt, before it’s over. However, he’s no Reardon… he’s NOT going to do anything stupid. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Somebody was insistent that I post a gushing encomium of Martin. I always ask around… once burnt, twice cautious, ya know…
So, Nicholas Smiško wasn’t the “best choice”… but he was “better than the available alternative”… that’s often why so many seeming drones get in. Drones are better than over-ambitious power-hungry people with agendas. Do note this… two groups turned down Dahulich for the white hat… both the OCA and the ACROD. I find that significant. He’s someone whom you should never your back upon. I’ve met him… his personal aura is that of a “cold fish” with no real interest in anyone not of his faction. Remember, he was an EP man and has a papist PhD… I doubt that he has any real Russian Orthodox creds whatsoever (note how he counsels his young smitten and besotted disciples to wear Greek, not Russian, vestments).