Saturday, February 02, 2008

Rod Dreher on L' Affair OCA

Rod Dreher of The Crunchy Con blog (a recent convert to Orthodoxy) has posted an interesting piece on the current troubles in the OCA.
I've not made this scandal an issue on this blog because I learned the hard way how easy it is for me to get caught up in this kind of controversy, to my own great spiritual detriment. It's not that I'm holding the OCA to a different standard than the Roman Catholic Church, my former communion, which I devoted an immense amount of time and energy criticizing for its corruption regarding the sex abuse scandal. It's rather that I know that I have to exercise spiritual self-discipline, knowing my own weaknesses. I must say, though, how impressed I am with the laity and some of the clergy of the OCA, who are in open revolt against the hierarchy. Read, for example, this recent thread on OCANews. People aren't willing to sit silently and let the bishops destroy the Church by their dithering, their weakness and inaction (to say nothing of the kind of corruption that led the Diocese of Alaska recently to ordain to minor clerical orders a convicted child molester; did these people learn nothing from the public agony of the Catholic Church in recent years?!). It is interesting, and heartening to me, to see that people aren't demanding changes in church doctrine, or anything like that. They only want the bishops to act like sober Christian men, and reform the church's government.
Read the entire post here. (Hat tip to the Young Fogey)

I am not sure I agree with everything he wrote but it's a pretty reasonable essay and striking for its lack of polemics. The scandal has been the occasional topic of discussion here at A/O but I have deliberately avoided making it a major feature. There are a couple of reasons. First I totally agree with Rod that it is easy to allow this sort of thing to become a distraction. I have enough issues on my spiritual plate that I don't feel a need to add any more thank you very much. The second reason is that while I concur that the laity should not ignore impropriety among our hierarchs that we need to temper our response according to the circumstances.

The current scandal involves money and not something really serious like what the Roman Catholics or the Episcopalians have had to deal with. The latter being rampant heresy and in some cases just plain apostasy and the former being a massive cover up and facilitation of child molesters. (I still think there are some fairly senior Roman Catholic bishops who are fortunate they are not in prison. But thats a topic for another day.) And while I don't dismiss embezzlement or misappropriation of money as unimportant, it is not a crime which rises to quite the same level as the other issues just mentioned.

We all need to remember our proper place in things. When the Faith is threatened, no one including laymen may remain silent. Similarly if a crime is being committed, even by a bishop, that is likely to cause serious harm to other people then silence and inaction are not a morally permissible response. But outside of these things I believe it is dangerous spiritually to try and become the policeman of the Church. That is not my place. The responsibility for judging others is a very heavy one that I rather doubt a spiritually mature person seeks out.

Yes, I think it is simply impossible not to conclude that some of our bishops in the OCA have let us down rather badly. But I am not on any commissions and I am not myself a bishop. The responsibility for judging most of the persons involved in this matter does not lie with me (for which I thank God). While I am not going to ignore this matter, neither am I going to allow myself to be consumed by something which does not affect my faith.

Striking a reasonable balance between apathy and becoming the self appointed police of the OCA is I think what we should be striving for. The Church is no stranger to scandal. There is an old saying I have heard from more than one cynical cradle Orthodox to the effect that Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops. We need to focus on the really important things in our lives and not get distracted (at least excessively) by those things for which we are not responsible and over which our influence is at best limited.

That said I am looking forward to the All American Council in Pittsburgh where I suspect the bishops are going to get an earful from the faithful who are quite justifiably unhappy with their stewardship.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I think "open revolt" was too strong of a phrase to use. I love my bishop and have written private admonisments to urging him to do what is right. But I have not, and I don't know anyone who has called for him to be deposed. I can't speak about bishops in other dioceses.