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Published 5 November 2012.

Why I Disbelieve What the OCA Bishops Said about Metropolitan Jonah


Joel Kalvesmaki

On 16 July 2012 the bishops released a highly publicized statement, explaining why they requested the resignation of Metropolitan Jonah. The secular press used the statement to persuade the public (Christian and non-Christian) that +Jonah had been harboring a rapist priest and orchestrated a cover-up. Discussion about the merits of the bishops' statement flourished in public venues, particularly those read by Orthodox Christians.

An op ed piece lends itself to clear, succinct arguments aimed at busy readers who cannot or will not engage long, complex arguments. So when I published my op ed—Did the OCA Bishops Lie about Metropolitan Jonah?—I did not give my own reasons for disbelieving the bishops' statement. It seemed to me the best use of a fresh reader's attention was not a repetition of other critiques but an argument for their legitimacy. I also wanted to facilitate a frank but respectable public conversation that would bring scrutiny to the official statement.

After Orthodox Christian Laity published the piece, I was contacted by a friend who said he had talked with one of the bishops of the OCA. My friend asked if I would write a letter of apology to the synod, because he seemed to think that is what they wanted from me. I told my friend that of course I would write such an apology, but I needed to know where I had strayed so I could be specific and explain why I was wrong. If I was mistaken, and if I could understand why, then I wanted to convince others as well.

Aside from a letter disallowing me to attend the 17th All-American Council as the duly elected representative of my parish, I never heard from any leaders of the OCA on this matter—not a bishop, not a priest. In the cavernous silence I began to challenge myself to explain why I disbelieved the official statement. The more I thought, the more I realized that putting down my rationale would be a constructive contribution to the public discussion already underway.

In this series of essays I explain why I disbelieve the bishops' statement. I hope my arguments will be persuasive. But where they are justifiably not, I ask other to correct me with their own public statements, so that anyone who cares might know the truth. I too want to know the truth. I want to repent of my errors, and of any pride that led to them.

A few of my readers, overly sensitive to recent polemics, will want out of hand to categorize my trilogy as a partisan defense of +Jonah. Those readers should make that summary dismissal only after reading my conclusion. For now, I will say only that I neither blame nor exonerate any one. I desire for us all the best, particularly mercy and truth.

Next...Part One: Many Allegations, Few Arguments

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