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Nov. 22, 2008 ROEA Council

Author: Observer
January 2, 2009
(The Episcopate Council meeting was also open to ROEA observers. One of the dozen or so observers prepared this report.)

The Agenda items were handled in typical fashion and some emphasis was placed on this year’s more difficult financial situation.  Issues of greater interest to the Unity debate are highlighted below.

1.    The OCA’s 15th All-American Council was discussed,  noting that 8 parishes were represented with a total representation of about 12 people from the ROEA.  Archbishop Nathaniel discussed the various OCA litigation issues, presented his response to the various OCA questions of possible ROEA/ROAA unity (his OCA address was played during lunch), and mentioned the election of  His Grace, Bishop Jonah of Fort Worth as Archbishop of Washington and New York, and OCA Metropolitan of All America and Canada. Some attendees expressed approval of Metropolitan Jonah’s election and inquired as to whether this would move the  two JDCs into a new discussion of unity with  the OCA rather than with Bucharest. No definitive answer was received. Members were informed that a future issue of Solia would contain information on Jonah.

2.    A Council member mentioned the fact that the ROEA has been canonically linked to the OCA predecessor Church since 1960 and is a founding member of the OCA, which means that our Episcopate should begin organizing festivities for the 50th anniversary of being part of the OCA in 2010.  Archbishop Nathaniel remarked that it would be appropriate to commemorate this in the 2010 Solia Calendar.  The Council member who brought up the issue suggested that several religious festivities throughout the year might be more in order and thus should be planned for in advance.

3.    A Council member suggested having the Solia being used for presenting both sides of the Unity debate; this was taken under advisement.

4.    As well, a Council member suggested that a freeze be placed on all changes in status from mission to parish until unity talks are over so as not to allow for any artificial augmentation in votes either for or against ROEA/ROAA Unity under Bucharest.  In addition, as in the recent past, it was suggested that only parish priests and their lay delegates, Episcopate Council members, as well as heads of ROEA monasteries and our Chancellor should be accorded the right to vote at the Congress so as to maintain the 1/3 clergy/laity balance laid out in our Constitution.

5.    The issue of requesting Securitate files on all ROEA Hierarchs and clergy from a couple Congresses ago was repeated again.  The Archbishop said he would look into the matter.

6.    The Archbishop distributed a letter he had received from a member of the Council, which discussed two issues. Those two issues were (1) the selection of am American Bishop prior to any vote on “unity” and (2) a canonical issue concerning whether a cleric who assisted, by any means, the communist governments of Romania could remain as clerics and whether, prior to any vote on unity, the Holy Synod in Romania, in order to be canonically correct and for the Church to be without error, was required to remove such clerics. As to the first issue, since the voting down of Fr Joseph Morris, the Archbishop said that he would give his answer to what he wants to do at the next Council meeting.  The Council member had stated in his letter that an American Bishop would more likely uphold the standards of protection which are needed in order to insure our independence from Bucharest. It was the opinion that a Romanian national would be subject to greater pressures from Romania. The Archbishop took this under advisement.

7.    As to the second issue, as to whether a cleric who assisted/participated or worked directly with the Communist government be permitted to remain as a cleric, examples were given from other Balkan countries under communist control where clerics who assisted/participated were removed from office.  Further, it was pointed out that the teachings of the Church, including the Canons of the Church beginning with the Council of Nicaea, have required this action against such clerics.  It was pointed out that many in the hierarchy of the Romanian Orthodox Church are those who assisted/participated with the Communist government. The question was asked why these clerics, no matter how high in the hierarchy of the Church, have been allowed to continue in their saintly duties?  Another question was asked about the validity of the actions of those clerics. The council member who brought up the issue was to do more research on the subject and present it to the Council.

8.    There was also the issue of a letter from St Mary (Elmhurst NY) which accused the Episcopate of not following through on the Unity decided at the Congress.  Council asked Archbishop Nathaniel to respond to the signatories advising them that the Congress’ decisions are being implemented, the execution and satisfactory completion of the “Due Diligence process” being the critical prerequisite to any further talks on ROEA/ROAA Unity.

9.    Attorney Michael Khoury, Chairman of the Due Diligence Committees and head of the Legal Committee said that all diligence should be completed before any further activity on the Unity issue takes place. Currently, the Legal Committee has forwarded approximately 20 questions (one page) to the ROAA for their response.  As of the date of the meeting, no response had been received. The Legal Committee has already prepared another group of questions to send them. The questions to be sent take approx. 10 + pages.  Additional questions may be necessary, depending on the ROAA’s response to the initial set of 20 questions. Attorney Khoury stated that all information must be delivered to the Council in order for the Council to exercise its duty of due care. The big question is what if the arrangement turned out to be different from how some in the Episcopate are describing it?  Then, the Episcopate as a whole, and each Council member could personally be sued for breach of its duty of due care. The Council was advised to do more due diligence then what is required as a means of protecting the Parishes, the Episcopate and each one of themselves.

10.    As to what Attorney Khoury said above, several members of the Council reiterated their concern that our JDC has not turned over to the Council its minutes of meetings between the two JDC groups, including a six page report recently prepared by the JDC and delivered only to the Archbishop. This report should also be delivered to the Council.  Given the reticence to release documents to the Council, Attorney Khoury emphasized that there has to be transparency and the Episcopate Council, in which each member is personally financially liable, for failing to carry out  the duty of due care required under the law, must be fully informed before making decisions.  As to this duty of due care, a council member who has a conflict of interest is prohibited from participating in unity discussions and decisions. The conflict of interest does not have to be a financial one, but may be one of loyalty. As well as a duty of care, is a duty of loyalty.  (It can be inferred from Attorney Khoury’s comments that if JDC members do not fully and correctly inform the Council on their unity activities, particularly when requested to do so, they also can be individually sued.)

11.    A member of the Council mentioned that at least 5 of the 20 proposed points are subject to interpretation and pointed out one example concerning the ability of the Romanian governmentt to subsidize the Church in North America. No satisfactory answer was given by JDC members as to this issue of interpretation of the various sections. It was pointed out to our JDC that a comprehensive written explanation of their interpretation of what the proposed 20 Unity points actually mean was in order, particularly given the unclear language used in the Unity proposal.  It was emphasized that our JDC is responsible for explaining the proposed 20 Unity points to Council since they participated in drafting them and have recommended their adoption by Council and indeed our Congress.  The Council member who brought this matter to the Council’s attention was to put his analysis and objections in writing.

12.    Attorney Khoury stated that in such situations, any final agreement generally contains an opt-out provision, meaning a Parish that does not accept the terms of the agreement may vote to leave, or, in this, case stay with the OCA. It was pointed out by a member of the Council, that as of now no such opt-out provision is contained in the 20 point proposal.

13.    A Council member asked a question about writing safeguards into the agreement. Attorney Khoury’s response was that no safeguards existed and none could legally be written into the agreement. Once we vote to subject ourselves to the authority of Bucharest, we must rely on their goodwill and good intentions. The agreement may be changed by any future Council, with the consent of Bucharest. One member commented that since the two parties would have to agree to changes, the only changes that would be permitted would be changes favorable to Bucharest.

14.    Dean Calvert (head of the Financial Due Diligence Committee) said that he has nothing to report until some response is received from ROAA.  Because he is in Chicago each week for his own business, he expects to be able to physically examine their books at the ROAA Chancery.  He remarked that either you do due diligence (all the way) or you don’t do it at all.  It is an educational process which helps you really know another organization.  If the organization is defensive and reticent to allow examination, he said that such an attitude is very revealing.  Both he and Attorney Khoury emphasized that they have no emotional stake in this or even any knowledge of the history, so they plan to do their work in a professional manner, like they would for any client.  He said that although this work is pro bono by his firm, it doesn’t mean that they take it less seriously.  It is a case like any of their cases.

15.    He also commented that it seems that the two groups really don’t know each other - he seemed to wonder why there was such a push toward unity.  To the suggestion that the ROEA and ROAA Episcopate Councils meet he was not opposed, but NOT to discuss due diligence matters.  He emphasized that due diligence must be done by each side independently and the results analyzed.  He pared down the initial questions, but will continue to send more when he gets responses to those already sent.  He said that he and Attorney Khoury are prepared to provide answers from the ROEA’s side when and if the ROAA begins to respond.

In the end, this Episcopate Council meeting did not resolve anything but to again question the validity of the Unity exercise.  A series of ROEA Due diligence questions has been sent to the ROAA but no response to these questions has been received as of the date of the meeting.  Council members were however stunned to learn that each one of them could be sued individually if due diligence was not completed satisfactorily. They were also taken aback when Attorney Khoury reconfirmed that a new Episcopate Council, with the consent of the Romanian Patriarchate, could come in and change any of the previously “agreed upon” 20 points.  This drew audible sighs from the Council members as they realized that the Episcopate Council’s decisions would be non-binding, even after passage by the ROEA Congress.  Unity with a very fluid “maximal autonomy” that can be changed at any time (and only in Bucharest’s favour) and with no possible guarantees to set it in stone, seems to be what is on the table, quite the opposite of what the JDC had promised this Episcopate Council and indeed the last Episcopate Congress.


4 Comments to “Nov. 22, 2008 ROEA Council”

  1. Administrator Says:

    This Episcopate Council was one that decided little, but one that revealed the dangers in progressing the Unity file. The Archdiocese, the ROAA, does not cooperate in fulfilling our Episcopate’s Due Dilligence requirements. If Due Dilligence is not completed in a satisfactory manner, the Episcopate can be sued, and Episcopate Council members can be sued individually. It also seems that even our JDC members can be sued if they have not fully cooperated with the Episcopate Council in truthfully and completely detailing their Unity discussions with the other side, and if they haven’t correctly communicated proceedings at the Congresses.

    As well, our lawyers have stated what authors on this website have repeated many times, and that is that any unity agreement signed can be overturned by any future Episcopate Council even if the agreement is adopted by Congress. Thus, maximal autonomy is a useless concept in that it only exists at the pleasure of the Romanian Patriarchate. Any or all 20 unity points can be changed at any time, and therefore why are we still talking about this unity? Why do JDC members continue to push for a unity which they know means complete subservience to the Romanian Patriarchate?

  2. Matt Says:

    If the “Proposed Unity Agreement” can be changed at any time in the future why continue talking with the other side. What happened to the guarantees promised by the JDC at our last Congress, that the agreement negotiated with the Romanian Church would be binding? Does our JDC know what they are doing?

  3. Un Prieten Says:

    De ce Arhiepiscopul nostru nu cere dosarele de Securitate Ierarhilor si Preotilor din ROEA? CNSAS-ul va asteapta!

  4. Johnny Says:

    Are there official minutes to these meetings Episcopate Council meetings. If yes, where are they published. Why are they not summarized at least on the website? If they are available elsewhere please put them on this site. If not, carry on with your observer/ participant versions.

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