Friday, November 16, 2012

Address of Fr. Matthew Moriak to the 2012 Midwestern Diocesan Assembly

Below are the comments made by Fr. Matthew Moriak, rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa's Church in Columbus, Ohio, and son of Bishop Matthias (Moriak) of Chicago, at the recent Midwestern Diocesan Assembly. The text was prepared by Fr. Matthew prior to the Assembly and formed the core of what he said at the Assembly, although he may have made minor additions or changes to the text as he was speaking. The text is as I received it, with one minor clarification in brackets.


Your Eminence [Archbishop Nikon], my brother clergy, brothers and sisters in Christ. Christ is Amongst Us! I had no idea coming into this assembly whether I would, could, or even should speak. But, I prepared a statement in advance, because I felt if I were to say something, it would be entirely too emotional of an effort without something written in front of me. Whatever feelings of ill will people have towards His Grace, the fact is that I know him better and have known him longer than anyone in this room, so I do feel I speak with some authority. First, I wish to express my continued prayers for the complainant. She is remembered by me during Proskomeida each and every Sunday. I feel a strong sense of sadness that she felt uncomfortable because of the things His Grace said to her. My defense of His Grace, if that’s what you choose to call it, is not meant to somehow place any blame on her, or to diminish her feelings. Some have come to definitive conclusions about this matter based on what they have seen and what they know. On the surface, I do not fault anyone for reaching those conclusions. Below the surface, there is more to it than that. His Grace’s statement has been made out to be his way of justifying his actions.  I can tell you with great certainty that this is not the case. His Grace does take responsibility for the things he knows he did wrong. That does not include owning up to an attempt to seduce the complainant or to have had any impure intention towards her. To confess to such things would be dishonest. I am sorry if this is offensive to some, but it is the truth.

We have procedures, policies and guidelines in the OCA that we follow in cases like this. Part of that would include the confidentiality of the testimonies, accusations and responses made during the course of the investigation. The majority of the people, clergy and faithful alike, should not have even seen these accusations. If we wish to be fair, and if we wish to make a judgment based on the totality of the investigation than we should all have a desire and a responsibility to demand, now that the investigation is complete, to see and/or hear His Grace’s response to the allegations. I would feel justified standing before you today in sharing portions of that response given the amount of information that has been leaked and given the verbal evisceration His Grace has been exposed to for the past two months, and I could do it in a way that would protect the identity of the complainant, but I won’t do that, because I have not been given a blessing to do so. I will simply say that upon hearing His Grace’s response, those who initially interviewed him informed him that accusation, according to the standards and procedures of the OCA, was the lowest level of accusation that could be made and still fall under the category of “sexual misconduct.”

These aren’t His Grace’s words, but what he was told because it boiled down to how one interprets what was said. Even the complainant herself said she couldn’t say whether His Grace’s intentions were pure or evil. There is nearly 18 months of background that led to the text conversations in question, and 90% of the texts in question have simple, logical, explanations that would render them completely innocuous. Those that do not have simple explanations, are, at worst, completely stupid statements—this is the word I used myself when I spoke with His Grace shortly after the complaint had been made. You haven’t seen His Grace’s response to the allegations. Perhaps in seeing it, your feelings and judgments would be the same as they are today, but at least you would have heard the entirety of the investigation.

To render definitive judgments without that information is reckless and irresponsible. It would be akin to sitting on a jury, hearing the prosecution’s argument and than telling the defense “you have no need to speak, we’ve made up our minds.”  This wouldn’t fly in the court of law, and I’m quite certain it is not the way the Church is supposed to work. I pray that none of us, in this life or the next, has to face that sort of judgment. This is not to say that His Grace has no need of repentance. It is not to say that I have no level of disappointment in His Grace for putting himself in this position. It is to say that I am certain that His Grace was not attempting to seduce this woman; it is to say that I am certain that His Grace is not some sort of sexual predator, or that he was “grooming” her as has been suggested on the internet and today. This is something I know him to be not capable of.

I was the first person he called upon learning of the allegation, and we talked for along time. I can assure you, if I thought even for one second, that my father was capable of the things he has been accused of, I would have been the first person to ask him to resign. I could share with you any number of stories about His Grace that speak to who I know him to be; stories of his great generosity and willingness to go out of his way for people in ways that, in our cynical world, would no doubt be viewed by some in this room as “suspicious” There’s one of my sister’s best friends, who while in college remembered repressed memories of abuse she suffered at the hands of her father when she was a child. This was compounded by the realization that her mother knew about the abuse and did nothing to protect her. My parents opened the doors of our home to her whenever she needed a place to stay. She stayed with us often, both before and after my mother’s passing, because she felt safe there. My father counseled her through the horror of dealing with these memories.

There is a family in one of His Grace’s former parishes. His Grace baptized their youngest daughter and watched her struggle in her youth with a learning disability. The family became very close to my father because of his support for them. The girl’s mother became the choir director after my mother passed away. In a parish that existed for over 100 years without a woman ever reading the Epistle, His Grace trained this young girl to read it when she was 13, to help her with her confidence and her growth in her faith. If it had been up to His Grace, she would’ve read the Epistle at his consecration. To this day, the family is still close with my father. The mother reached out to him recently, reminding him of his friendship with her family, of the impact he has had on their lives, and on how her daughter still considers him to be her “2nd father.”

But perhaps the best way I can shed some light onto His Grace would be to say this: His Grace, as you know, has been visiting the orphanage and monastery in Guatemala for 12 years. The nuns there, due to their unique ministry, are quite adept at identifying those people who come to the orphanage who may not have the best interest of the children in mind. His Grace has been told and has seen these people removed from the orphanage over the years. The nuns have had a standing invite to His Grace for him to come to be at the monastery and orphanage permanently, if it were his desire to do. His Grace has been in contact with the Mother Inez throughout this process. She knows the nature of the accusations made against him. That invitation still stands. During those 12 years, His Grace has seen the horrors of the abuses the majority of those orphans have suffered through—sexually, as well as emotionally and physically—more often than not at the hands of their own parents.  He has also seen how genuine love and the Light of Christ in their hearts and souls has brought them peace and healing. He has brought that love to them, counseled them, and seen how their faces light up each and every time he arrives and how they shed tears each and every time he leaves.

I am sorry this doesn’t sync up with what some of you think about my father, but it is the truth.

His Grace continues to be obedient to what he has been asked to do, as he has been obedient at every turn during this investigation. Perhaps he will resign, if it is God’s will. As his son, part of me hopes he does, not for the reasons some wish him to resign, but because I know it would be better for his physical, emotional, and perhaps in some ways, his spiritual life. Should he be restored, I am confident that he will have the ability to continue to work for the well being of this Diocese. If you ask my father, he will readily tell you that he is not a scholar or an academic. He is a pastor, and a good one at that. It is his ability to be a pastor that will allow him to shepherd this Diocese. Regardless of what happens, and regardless of whether he remains the Bishop of this Diocese, those of us who know him best, those of us who have been touched by his ministry will continue to love and support him, knowing who he is, and what is in his heart. And no matter what happens, he will find a way to serve the Church, whether it is in Guatemala or somewhere else, because that is all he has done and known for over 40 years. Thank you for listening.

2 comments:

  1. I'm curious, did Fr. Matthew give you his remarks to publish on the blog? I'm just wondering where you got them.

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  2. Fr. Matthew's comments were forwarded onto me by a mutual friend with his permission to have them posted.

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