In 1993, a movie came out by the name of An Indecent Proposal. In it, a young couple who are struggling financially are propositioned by a very wealthy man who offers them $1,000,000 if they allow him to have one night with the wife. While the plot may seem pretty tame right now, at the time it garnered a lot of ‘buzz’ because of the scandalousness of it all. After all, the notion that every man has his price flies in the face of an absolute morality and that such a thing as a noble poverty can exist. Furthermore, it cements this notion, which is so prevalent in a non-Christian society, that the only thing that is important is power (which can be attained through wealth), only an idiot would not recognize this and play by those rules. In any case, I’ve never seen the movie.
However, there is an interesting situation which has happened at Annunciation Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin”. If the reports are to be believed, a donor offered the church there $92,000 if the parish council treasurer would resign. Again, if this was the case, the only moral thing that could have been done was reject the offer outright. As much as people may have their hangups about parish councils, their purpose is to assist in the day-to-day running of the Church. They are members of the parish, and usually sit on the body with the approval of the congregation. Offering an amount of money contingent on someone either being on or off the board is extortion, and should not be tolerated. To allow for this sort of thing sends the message that what the congregation wishes is not relevant; that as long as someone has enough money, they can mold the Church to their own whims.
Unfortunately, if the reports are to be believed, this is not what the priest at Annunciation Church did. Instead, as reported, he demanded that the treasurer resign, and when she refused, he ‘excommunicated’ her (much against Church protocol). In protest, more than half of the remaining members of the parish council also resigned. On one hand, it’s a tough spot for a priest to be in, especially since this parish is still really struggling in the aftermath of the scandal caused by their former priest, Fr. James Dokos, who stole over $100,000 from the parish. The number of families that are part of Annunciation has plummeted, as have contributions to the church. Although that amount may have been repaid, as required by Fr. Dokos’ plea deal, the damage to that parish continues on, particularly considering the actions of the diocese to help cover up the wrongdoing done.
Despite this, I would have expected a priest to refuse money on this type of condition, if for no other reason than it invites even more ‘hostage taking’ in regard to donations in years to come. This is why I tend to be suspicious that there is more to this ‘donation’ than meets the eye; that somehow this situation is connected to the Fr. Dokos scandal, in particular since he just had his felony conviction reduced to misdemeanor charges, and these legal proceedings coincide with this new situation almost perfectly. Also to be considered is how much the Chicago Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in America pressured and acted toward parish council members who wanted the truth about Fr. Dokos in the past. Maybe I’m wrong, and these are two distinct situations, but it certainly doesn’t look good on any count.
At the end of the day Annunciation Church may get its $92,000 donation, and that might do a fair bit in keeping a Frank Lloyd Wright National Register of Historic Places landmark open a while longer. One has to ask, though, at what cost does this come, and does the hierarchy even really care.