by Nicholas Karakas
Stop and think dear faithful. Allow me to open a discussion. It is secrecy that gives hierarchialism that majesty of invulnerability. The elimination of secrecy increases vulnerability and hence, vulnerability increases the placing of oneself in a position to be criticized, wounded and openly exposed for all to see and judge. But you know all this, so why do I bring this up now?
You and I are blessed to be living in the 21st century at a time when we are all benefiting from God inspired massive technology and automation in not only communications, but also in healthcare with new discoveries daily of medications and foods which help fight diseases, inventions, flights into outer space and other revelations too numerous to list. With all these diversions and glamour of instant gratification that our society is now attracted and addicted to, is it any wonder that our youth and adults have become disenfranchised with Orthodoxy and leave the faith of their parents? This is as has happened to me, a tragedy.
Please don’t get exasperated when you read the following. This is a world where politicians are voted in or out of office in accordance to the usual electoral process. Even judges appointed for life, should they go astray, can be removed. However, Orthodox Bishops and higher, even those who flaunt their sexual perversion in public, or those who are subsumed with the handling of their office, these and other do-nothing Bishops can remain in their positions of authority, pay and power till death. Our church does not believe in mandated retirement at 75 years, yet the Catholic faith does. In these cases, who suffers? First Orthodoxy as a whole, our faith, then our parishioners and finally those seeking to join the Orthodox religion and prayerfully stay.
Allow me to lay this on you. What if the Orthodox people voiced their demands to initiate a 5-year renewable term for all Bishops with the Faithful and the Clergy voting up or down? WOW!
Hey, wouldn’t that shake up the Bishops? They would now have to leave their cushy recliners and put together energizing programs, tighten up their personnel and hiring practices and be transparent public minded advocates of Orthodoxy.
This is the kind of message which will draw cries of shame and criticisms of arrogance. Welcome to the USA. We thrive in discussions. We can’t resist from allowing our beliefs to guide us in how we interpret the actions, pronouncements and misconceptions in social-economic matters of our Clergy and Hierarchy.
Would such a change come to pass, we will be marching alongside with our original Christian brethren, back when we were trying to keep up with those who strolled, stumbled and crawled with Christ, aching to hear every word He spoke, or we could be with those believers who in many instances would be insulted, beaten, imprisoned or killed for our faith, as many of our long suffering people are experiencing today.
Would that Orthodoxy go back to the earliest days when the Clergy and Bishops were just ordinary people like you and me.
What we have now are Bishops dressed in regalia, the ideas borrowed from royalty, the ornate robes, special hat and scepter when Christ wore the plain street clothes of the time.
Of my concerns, my main disquiet is that our AB Elpidophoros has accepted and adopted the current status of the previously failed two Archbishops, who allowed and perpetrated a period of 25 years of chaos and sommambulance in our church. None of the people who surrounded and advised the two prior AB’s have been fired, nor the 100 or so, on the payroll, hangers on at HCHC as well as those who are embracing the “leaking Oculus roof”, “over budget” and “floating completion time” Santiago Calatrava as he is notoriously known for, to complete the St. Nicholas Shrine at Ground Zero. I humbly ask, where is the promised “transparency” and “accountability” in these matters?
Yes, you say our AB has traveled thousands of miles to meet, greet our fellow brethren. In the process he has been able to secure significant contributions for the Archdiocese, although there is again, no transparency here in accounting either. For these “efforts” he deserves praise. He appears to be an affable, warm and open person, what is there not to like and admire? But as the highest US Orthodox prelate, he is reluctant still to fire, promote or transfer any of the old corps, especially his do-nothing, and enervated Bishops who privately are even critical of him.
Up until now, we have worshiped under a hierarchical culture depicted as a gold squash from those predisposed to its allurements.
Presently, we have no school for aspiring Bishops. It is presumed that those select priests who become Bishops think that osmosis works to make their appointments valid and are thus instantly infused with the knowledge necessary to perform the duties of their new office.
The good Father James Kerman writes, “what we are only beginning to see is that hierarchialism and its lack of accountability and ability to act with impunity”, their power, “will be harder to dismantle then clericalism, and in fact will guarantee the survival of clericalism, for the former is the father and promoter of the latter.”
What we are talking about here is the culture of vulnerability. As the gateway toward the “servant priesthood” and a “servant episcopacy”, there is an incongruity. During the last 25 years, it is precisely because of the lack of leadership, vulnerability of the laity, has increased dramatically.
As the gateway toward the “servant Priesthood” and “servant episcopacy”, the disconnect here is that the vulnerability of the faithful has increased because these serious concerns of the Orthodox faithful have been brushed aside by our Clergy and Hierarchy.
T.H. White writes that the human embryo is “the bearer of human vulnerability”. This is astounding! White continues, “far beyond this decision of vulnerability is the assumption that we are made in God’s image and that if we are vulnerable, so is God”.
Please don’t run off to have me committed or report me to the Patriarch for writing this, ok.
Ponder this! Theologian Enda Mc Donagh writes that God is revealed as “vulnerable by the birth of Jesus in Palestine, His life in Nazareth, and His death on Golgotha”. We should see this vulnerability not as a liability, but which is something that establishes us all, including the Clergy and Hierarchy as vulnerable human beings.
Keenan on this point explains, “Too many people think of vulnerability as a liability, an obstacle, a burden, a lack of capacity. They think that vulnerability means being wounded, exposed to another, it means not being protected”. The meaning here of “vulnerability” is allowing oneself to be at risk in response to others and should not be simply identified or confused with “precariousness”, danger or doubt.
Another Theologian Charles Sichuan, says that of all the measures of accountability that have been enacted, the elimination of secrecy are positive steps toward vulnerability. These steps in accountability performed in response to outside forces will make our church’s structure vulnerable to an unprecedented and…welcomed degree.
But what about the people involved? Will the Orthodox Church be able to alter, adopt and know what is meant by these changes in the leadership duties of our Bishops and Clergy? Prayerfully yes, and the changes would be accepted by the Faithful.
Keenan sees each offering, each proposal, each such critique if embraced by the Orthodox people, will result in the clerical guard coming tumbling down and thereby we, all the Faithful and Clergy, will become what we all really are, vulnerable people.
If you are still with me, thank you. The theme here is essentially the relationship of the Clergy and Hierarchy with the women and men in the pews. It is essential for the Hierarch and the Clergy to abandon the secrecy so prevalent in the church today. In the vernacular, sure they are nice guys, mild mannered and sociable, so what is this business of secrecy? It’s because of their invulnerability which they highly prize and use as a symbol of their authority.
Whenever some such progress and changes are made, they will go a long way toward reforming all our Orthodox institutions, the HCHC, our Diocese, our Archdioceses and yes, the Patriarchate. Orthodoxy will go a long way in eliminating the smoke and mirrors of the Hierarchical domination which we Faithful have long endured as the many by the few.
I say all of this, as I bow my head to our Panagia and ask her to pray for and on our behalf for an open, responsible and transparent church. Amen.
Nick Karakas, firstname.lastname@example.org