News From Around the OCA
POKROV NOTE: While the first section of this article contains allegations of sexual misconduct as it relates to the financial scandal in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), it was posted primarily for the update it contains on the abuse allegations against Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) of the OCA’s Diocese of Alaska, and his Chancellor, Archimandrite Isidore (Brittain). To view that information, scroll down to “Kodiak, Alaska.”
• Syosset, New York
With the statement of Diocesan Treasurer, Larry Tosi, at the Washington-New York diocesan assembly that revealing of facts of the scandal would “kill the OCA”, Orthodox internet sites have been full of new allegations and explanations this past week as the OCA scandal continues to widen.
Interestingly, many of the allegations and explanations were offered not by principals in the scandal, all of whom remain silent, but by various “spokespeople” for those most involved. Three examples:
1) Michael Geeza, who often speaks for Fr. Paul Kucynda, departing Acting Treasurer of the OCA, wrote alleging sexual misconduct lays behind many of the financial misdeeds. Geeza also hinted that despite Syosset’s reassurances to the contrary, all is not well with the immigration status of OCA Secretary Paul Bodnar. In fact, Bodnar’s photo has disappeared from the OCA website.
2) Monk James Silver, who often speaks for Robert Kondratick, wrote that the recent letter of Kondratick to the Synod of Bishops was not “threatening” in any way, but merely an attempt to “open lines of communication” with the hierarchs as they consider Kondratick’s appeal of deposition from the priesthood. Silver declined to make the letter public.
3) An “anonymous” poster, who often details events inside the chancery itself, posted earlier today that yet more staff has been let go from Syosset. The latest person dismissed was Lydia Luddeman, circulation director of the OCA news magazine.
Others, however, did speak for themselves.
It was revealed this week that Archbishop Nathaniel told the Metropolitan Council at its joint meeting with the Synod of Bishops that the “Summary of the Preliminary Report” which briefly appeared on the OCA website, only to be removed, had been prepared “weeks ago”.
And in response to a question directed to him online, a question occasioned by Tosi’s comments (about whether disclosure or non-disclosure was preferable at this time for the Church, given potential federal and state entanglements), Metropolitan Council member Gregg Nescott answered with one word: “Disclosure.”
• Bethesda MD
The online petition requesting Metropolitan Herman to resign picked up more than a hundred signatures from his own diocese following the recent Washington-NewYork assembly. The total is now closing in on 1200 signatures. You can read the names here.
• Kodiak, Alaska
An explosive letter written to Archbishop Job last July by Fr. John Dunlop, the Dean of Students at St. Herman’s Seminary, newly released on the Orthodox Forum, offers even more testimony of recent events in Alaska. Citing “fear” and “intimidation” which leads him to characterize the diocese as being “surrounded by an iron curtain of fear”, Dunlop’s letter reads:
July 4, 2007
Master bless! Here is an account of the events of Ascension day involving Archimandrite Isidore. On Wednesday, May 16th in the morning (7:00 AM) I served Divine Litrugy for the Leavetaking of Pascha with Fr. Isidore. The Liturgy began with a slight altercation between Fr. Isidore and the choir director about the starting time for the service. The Archimandrite started the service before the choir director Philip Majkzak arribved. Philip was late and the two exchanged heated words. I think the argument upset Fr. Isidore. At the end of the service Fr. Isidore mentioned that he had been made Rector of the Seminary. This was essentially his first pastoral visit to the seminary as Rector.
I was scheduled to accompany the Archimandrite to the village of Karluk later the same day for their patronal feast of Ascension. We could only fly if the weather was good. Following Liturgy, Fr. Isidore disappeared into the Bishop’s apartment. We were to meet about 11:00 a.m. and drive to the airport with Fr. Innocent and a student name Ishamel Andrew who was to help read for the services. When Fr. Isidore appeared he smelled strongly of alcohol. We drove to the airport. There was increasingly cloudiness and high winds and when we arrived the airline ( Servant Air) state that it would be a very bumpy flight but they could probably make it. Fr. Isidore decided to cancel the trip. Fr. Isidore then took myself, Fr. Innocent and Mr. Andrew out to lunch. At lunch the Archimandrite made several strange remarks and generally acted intoxicated.
We returned to the Seminary. The Archimandrite went to the Bishop’s apartment and I went to work on papers. I next saw Fr. Isidore at the Vigil for the feast which began at 6:oo p.m. Fr. Isidore was again visibly intoxicated. During the service he stumbled while walking and swayed while standing in place. During the reading of the Gospel he heavily slurred his words. There was alcohol on this breath. Many smelled it during the anointing at the veneration of the icon.
Fr. Innocent, Reader Paul and others expressed their concerns. After the service Fr. Isidore left with two Russian reporters ( I did not know where they were going) and Fr. Innocent asked to have (me) hear his confession. After the confession, Fr. Innocent and I left the altar and were greeted by Reader Paul and Philip Majkzak the choir director. They were trying to decide what to do about the Archimandrite’s behavior. Fr. Innocent as Cathedral pastor later called the Bishop to tell him what had happened. I made myself available as a witness. Paul, Philip, several students and parishioners all emailed the Bishop with their concerns about the visibly intoxicated Archimandrite. Fr. Innocent and Paul left the Church to make calls and located Fr. Isidore. I returned home very concerned about the position of the Seminary and its new Rector.
The next day for the Liturgy of the Ascension the Archimandrite did not serve. He appeared about 9:00 a.m. During the service, he sat on the side and went into the sacristy several times. Later, I saw that the decanter of communions wine had been taken there and was being sipped from. Fr. Isidore left the liturgy early. After Liturgy I went to the Seminary office and at some point was invited by Fr. Isidore into the Bishop’s apartment where Fr. Innocent was seated. Fr. Isidore told me he was an alcoholic and this was an ongoing problem. I suggested that he enter a treatment program. We talked briefly and then I left without seeing him again. He left a little later on his flight to Minneapolis with Fr. Innocent where he was to enter treatement.
As an aside note several times when cleaning the Bishops’ apartment containers of vagisil lubricant were found in Fr. Isidore’s room. Fr. Chad, the seminary Dean, once showed me this on the Archimandrite’s bedside table.
In 2005 I witnessed Bishop Nikolai violently push Subdeacon Mark Harrison in the altar during Divine Liturgy. The Bishop pushed him aside nearly causing him to fall. After this incident Mark was forbidden to serve as a Subdeacon. Subdeacon Sergei Lekanof was also suspended from serving earlier this year becuse he somehow looked the wrong way at the Bishop. I have seen him verbally abuse other students and have been verbally abused myself and called ” Father Nobody” and other things. Hierarchical Liturgy itself becomes an excersize in not “making mistakes” and is filled with terror at recieving a rebuke. Making liturgical mistakes may also lead to compulsory prostrations.
Generally speaking, there is a climate of great fear and intimidation in the Diocese.
Why don’t people speak up? The clergy are afraid of being suspended or deposed or moved. Their family lives can be totally disrupted at the Bishop’s slightest whim. I have already been moved once. I myself have been threatened with suspension as have many others. Our crosses can be taken at any time for any reason because we “serve at the Bishop’s pleasure”.
During his last visit the Bishop said I would be made island Dean – but then said if I “messed up” I would be deposed. Disobedience, particularly disobedience to the Bishop, is the gravest sin. Obedience is constantly hammered in our heads.
Why haven’t we resorted to the wider Church? We feel cut off the from the wider Church and surrounded by an iron curtain of fear. Will we be protected and supported? I ask you to keep the contents of this letter confidential. If called upon I would testify to the veracity of its contents. I fear for my family and I hope to remain a priest because I feel deeply called to serve the Holy Church. I want to fulfill the vocation which I believe God has called me to fulfill. I have served this Seminary for over ten years and I don’t want to lose it all. At the same time I want the truth to be known and to defend our Holy Faith.
Everything I have written is true. I was blessed to spend the weekend of July 1 serving at Monk’s Lagoon.
May God, through the prayers of St. Herman have mercy on us all and protect our Holy Orthodox Church in Alaska.
I ask for your Archpastoral prayers, for myself, my family, and our wonderful seminarians.
Your Servant in Christ,
Priest John Dunlop
Instructor in Liturgics and Old Testament
Dean of Students
St. Herman Seminary”