Accuracy in Reporting?

“Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.” -Deuteronomy 5:33

Perhaps I missed it, but which of the big players – the hierarchs comprising the Holy Synod, the OCA’s officers, the members of the Metropolitan Council – in the current difficulty has suggested that anyone is crazy (or less than sane)? I don’t recall seeing anyone in a significant role doing that. Or is this like the same folks’ talk about deposition, when it was the Metropolitan himself who first mentioned deposition, with OCATruth repeating it further?

A request for a mental health evaluation carries no implication of madness, certainly not in the year 2011, when we now regard a huge spectrum of behaviors not as disqualifying handicaps but rather as conditions to be managed with a large variety of treatments: mental, physical, and spiritual. [UPDATE 5:13pm EDT: Further, the minutes from the Santa Fe meeting make no mention of anything other than concerns about physical and spiritual health. So, how is it that this is transformed into these other claims?]

Honest leadership (and I emphasize honest) requires that people understand the positions of those who agree and disagree with them and then recount them accurately in discussion and argument. Doing otherwise is a violation of the ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” That’s even in the Bible, in Exodus 20:16. One common set of questions for self-examination prior to confession (from the Antiochian Archdiocese’s pocket prayer book) reads as follows, italics mine:

Have I told lies, or added to or subtracted from the truth? Have I made careless statements or spoken evil of anyone? Have I told any secrets entrusted to me, or betrayed anyone? Have I gossiped about anyone or harmed their reputation? Have I concealed the truth, assisted in carrying out a lie, or pretended to commit a sin of which I was not guilty? Have I tried to see the good in others rather than their shortcomings?

It’s impossible to lead without the willingness to give sufficient attention to what is being said. Sometimes it even means reviewing what exactly was said, to ensure that our memories are correct. Otherwise, we end up tilting at windmills, and, worse,  bearing false witness against our neighbor by attributing to him things he did not say.

8 comments on this post.
  1. Elijah:

    Perhaps you missed Fr. Hopko’s letter in which he referred to His Beatitude as “Gravely Troubled”.

  2. Donna Farley:

    A good post, Father. I am glad you have picked up this blog again, though grieved at the situation that occasioned that.

    I have one additional observation about the way the discussion/debate/conflict is proceeding, and that is the tone that is popping up in various places. I appreciate that people on both ‘sides’ feel passionately that they have the right end of things, and naturally will express themselves pretty firmly.

    But often I get the impression that some writers are not just trying to make a point, but are getting too fond of the sound of their own voices. Satirical posts, a video that comes across as “The Straw Man and the Pharisee”, sarcastic titles and phrases. These are all snarky cheap shots and (to employ a cliche) they generate more heat than light.

    I hope those who sincerely want to get at the truth in all this will reconsider such tactics. Mockery and scorn are not behaviour commended anywhere in Scripture. Please let us remember that every human being, however wicked you may think they are, or even how wicked they really may be, is a living icon created in the image of God.

    To Elijah: I do not know why it is you equate “Gravely Troubled” with “Less than Sane” or “Crazy.” That is not what the words say, and you seem to have missed the whole point of Fr. Basil’s post as summed up in the wish that “people understand the positions of those who agree and disagree with them and then recount them accurately in discussion and argument.”

  3. Stan Shinn:

    Hi Elijah,

    For what it’s worth, I red Fr. Hopko’s “gravely troubled” statement to mean something like “has serious problems.” Some definitions put ‘troubled’ to mean “anxious, worried, careworn” or even “characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination” (cf. But to me it seems like a stretch to suggest Fr. Hopko was implying Metropolitan Jonah is “crazy.” :-)

  4. Elijah:

    Regarding “A request for a mental health evaluation carries no implication of madness, certainly not in the year 2011, when we now regard a huge spectrum of behaviors not as disqualifying handicaps but rather as conditions to be managed with a large variety of treatments”
    Why then after His Beatitude goes and see’s a well known doctor and gets a clean bill of mental health do the synod members (specific synod members) immediately discount the results and demand that he see a doctor of their choosing? Perhaps they were wanting a certain result?

    Also, I see nothing in their actions that indicates that they want his “conditions to be managed” what we see from multiple sources is that people (possibly certain bishops, certainly certain metropolitan council members) want him GONE. Three leaked emails from three different people on the metropolitan council indicate this.

    So, yes, perhaps Fr. Hopko’s statement on its own could be interpreted differently. However, based on the actions of the Synod and statements by members of the metropolitan council I think that its more likely he is indicating a mental state.

    The easiest way to clear all this up would be for the Synod members to just publicly state their love for His Beatitude and that they think he is sane and that they just wanted him to rest. But what have you heard from the Synod?
    A letter to the Washington Post complaining about the article they did on His Beatitude.
    A resolution from the DOW (Bishop Benjamin, who rescinded his invitation for His Beatitude to visit the monastery in California after the Washington Post Artile was released.) To have a committee controlling +Jonah’s paycheck, another committee to control his travel, and another committee to control ALL his public communication and communication with other churchs.
    A refusal to meet with +Hilarion when he came back to visit. (they did yield and end up meeting).

    If they had no concern or no desire to cause concern about His Beatitude’s mental health why wouldn’t they speak up and just quiet the rumors and conspiracies?

  5. Matushka Jan:

    Thank you, Fr. Basil, for reminding us of the Ten Commandments, and particularly the ninth “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” which speaks especially to the distorted content published on The inflammatory headlines and articles published on that site seek just that – to inflame readers and fill them with darkness. None of this serves our Metropolitan Jonah, his brother hierarchs of the Holy Synod, or any of the faithful of the OCA during this time of troubles. I decry uncivil and disrespectful speech amongst us – wherever it may be. I pray for our Holy Synod, our Orthodox Church, and for peace, Christ’s peace.

  6. Donna Farley:

    Matushka Jan, you make me think we should start a “Matushkas for civility” movement! :-)

  7. Elijah:

    Tell me, what distorted content are you referring to at OCATruth? What false witness are they bearing against someone? Why point out OCATruth specifically? OCANews is no better. Mark Stokoe’s agenda and bias is totally clear. How is his content any less “distorted”? Father Patrick Reardon responding to Mark Stokoe’s posting said “What a spin! There is no obvious integrity in a muckraking electronic journalist serving in high office in the OCA. Mark Stokoe should make up his mind which it’s going to be. For the past several weeks, this web site has lacked every last shred of integrity.” That is a heavy charge coming from some one Like Fr. Reardon.

    It is totally clear from Mark Stokoe’s own mouth, the mouth of Faith Skordinski, and Deacon Robert Solodow from the DOW that there are people who are attempting to politically maneuver things such as to discredit and ultimately remove His Beatitude Jonah from office.
    This is the sickening thing here, even more disturbing is that their e-mails have implied members of the Holy Synod to be complicit is this.
    If our Holy Synod had no intention for things to appear like this why would they not speak up to calm the fears of the faithful?

  8. Fr. Yousuf Rassam:

    Dear Elijah,

    I think there are two big things happening, one is a conflict and attempted conflict resolution amongst the bishops.

    Another is a sort of blog war with OCAtruth and George M against Mark Stokoe.

    There is a rather common assumption going around – that the actions of those involved in the first, the bishops, are in response to actions in the second the bloggers.

    Thus any action real or rumored, of a bishop, is taken as being a response to the latest round of blog posts. I quite doubt that this is true.

    I see no reason to assume that Bp Benjamin exercising his right to not let the Metropolitan into his diocese is a response to the WaPo piece.

    I see no reason to assume that the nun- tonsuring or the giving of retreats in DC is central to the conflict.

    OTOH, the resolution of the DoW diocesan council, seems squarely to focus on issues related to the autocephaly of the OCA and the repeated Synodal consensus on the subject,

    as opposed to previous statements made by his Beatitude when speaking as Primate and broadcast as such (you may read or listen):