Monday, October 21, 2013

A Letter to N.

Dear to Christ N.,

Evlogeite! Greetings in the Lord!

I received your letter dated January 18, 2013. It is not clear if you received my letter to you dated December 12/25 yet and I know you have not yet received my letter dated January 6/19, 2012.

N., Fr. Isaac told me on August 20 in front of a witness (Fr. Barsanuphius) that if he had told me the truth about Fr. Panteleimon sexually harassing and abusing monks in 1986 when the first flush of accusations came out I would have left Holy Transfiguration Monastery. That is correct.

Fr. Isaac has admitted to all of the fathers of Holy Transfiguration Monastery assembled in a formal meeting on September 12 that he had covered-up and lied about Fr. Panteleimon’s transgressions. He has admitted this to the assembled clergy of New England also. I did not tell you Fr. Panteleimon abused me or harassed me, I told you that he touched me in ways I found disturbing and could make one suspicious, but at the time I rationalized it away …with Fr. Isaac’s help…who knew the full truth of what Fr. Panteleimon was capable of.

Your admonitions and speculations are irrelevant in the face of Fr. Isaac’s admissions in front of dozens and dozens of witnesses. Furthermore, several fathers made admissions to many of us after August 20 that the abuse and harassment was far worse than we had initially thought. I will spare you the unedifying details.

At this same meeting on August 20, in front of a witness, I told Fr. Isaac that I could no longer trust him and that I would from that point consider Bishop Demetrius my spiritual father, with whom I had already been sharing confidentialities with Fr. Isaac’s blessing for over a year. I told Fr. Isaac that for as long as he was abbot I would be obedient to him in day to day issues for the time being. Fr. Isaac said, with tears, that this was fine with him.

N., the issue of Name-worship has been a cause of debate in Holy Transfiguration since Bishop Gregory Lourie (an ardent apologist for Bulatovich and his beliefs) took Holy Communion in the altar at Holy Transfiguration Monastery.[1] That was in the fall of 2011. It became even more a concern when Metropolitan Ephraim, Fr. Panteleimon, Fr. Isaac, and bishop-elect Gregory tried to justify the incident and show open sympathy to the heresy at the monastery Corporate Meeting in November of 2011.

I wrote a letter to Metropolitan Ephraim in March of 2012 warning him that if he pushed the episcopal consecration of Hieromonk Gregory through it would fracture the diocese and monastery. Many of the fathers in the monastery and New England clergy did the same. Bishop Demetrius bitterly repents that he acquiesced to Hieromonk Gregory’s consecration after bishop-elect Gregory wrote him [Bishop Demetrius], at his specific request, a document that promised that he [bishop-elect Gregory] would drop the issue of vindicating the Name-Worshippers, which Bishop Gregory did not abide by. Likewise Metropolitan Ephraim also assured Bishop Demetrius that the issue of the Name-worshippers would be dropped.

Father Issac asked me to come to his office on numerous occasions to give me new proof of the validity of the Name-worshipper’s arguments. I would briefly counter him, first and foremost that the issue had been settled long ago by the Church and we had no business revisiting it. If Father Isaac wished to discuss it more I would then engage him theologically, after which he would just say that he did not understand the issues and we should just leave it alone…but obviously he did not. The issue was not and is not a “red herring.” And since you were not there, how would you know anyway?

In a formal meeting of the monastery on September 3, n.s., the entire community told Fr. Isaac that we wished to try to keep the community together. We wished him to tell the Metropolitan to confirm the synodical decisions of the entire Church on the Name-worshipping controversy and to drop the issue. He agreed, but then later reneged to our utter dismay. The Holy Fathers with one voice tell us to depart from Bishops and spiritual fathers that sympathize with condemned heretics and heresies.

I personally witnessed Bishop Demetrius pleading with Fr. Isaac many times to sympathize with the majority of his monks and keep the monastery brotherhood intact and not cave into the pressure being put on him by Metropolitan Ephraim, Bishop Gregory, and Fr. Panteleimon, which would divide the community.

Now, please allow me to address your assertions about our motives being “worldly and ambitious.”

We are living in very rustic, even primitive conditions. We do not know when and how God will provide for us to finish the church and monastery. It may be a few a years, or a few decades or not at all. The difference between 278 Warren Street and 521 Cold Brook Road as far as convenience, “creature comforts” and economic stability are radical. It is not a picnic. But we trust in God.

Bishop Demetrius went from being Bishop #3 in HOCNA to being Bishop #15 in the GOC. We have joined the Church in Greece that our Hierarchs recognized as Orthodox and canonical in 2010. Almost all the bishops (in particular Metropolitan Athanassios of Larissa who was Locum Tenens for a brief time after the repose of Archbishop Auxentios and Metropolitan Akakios of Diavlia who was the first bishop we went under when we left ROCOR on trumped-up charges in 1986 to avoid the matter of Fr. Panteleimon being investigated), clergy, monastics, and laity in Greece that were once with Archbishop Auxentios are now with Archbishop Kallinikos and the GOC. Have you read Metropolitan Moses’ excellent paper on this that he wrote in 2010?

I never told you that HOCNA was the last and only Orthodox Church. I told you that there are many True Orthodox Churches in Orthodox Homelands and that they are separated by minor issues of administration and practice and that for the most part the laity could receive Holy Communion in any of these churches. It was with great joy that I saw HOCNA fully recognize the GOC in 2010, even though they have not fully and completely eradicated the practice of certain clergy not being careful about giving Holy Communion to simple New Calendar laity (even though Archbishop Auxentios did this, i.e. commune simple New Calendarist laity, as well as four-fifths of the hierarchy, including St. John Maximovich, of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad during Holy Transfiguration Monastery’s entire time with them , and even some HOCNA clergymen have). To decry this as a major matter of faith as HOCNA now does is revisionist history and hypocrisy.[2]

I do not believe you have read my March 2012 letter to Metropolitan Ephraim, nor my August 6/19 letter to Fr. Isaac which was read to Fr. Isaac on August 20 in front of a witness and then discussed in a completely unsatisfactory way with Metropolitan Ephraim on August 21 with four witnesses present (Bishop Demetrius, Fr. Isaac, Fr. Haralampos, and Fr. Barsanuphius). I do not think you have seen my letter to Metropolitan Ephraim of August 21 in which I expressed the witnesses’ (with the exception of Fr. Isaac) and my complete dismay with his obfuscating.

We did not threaten a lawsuit, but we calmly discussed in an official corporate meeting on September 11 with the entire brotherhood of the monastery present what the fathers staying at 278 Warren Street would be willing to give us since Fr. Isaac wished us to depart. Fr. Hesychius said that they were giving us a “gift” and at that I point stood up and made it clear that we were giving HTM a gift also because we could, if we wished, take them to court on several issues which did not even involve the immorality of Fr. Panteleimon and that we had received assurance from both lawyers and some of our dads who were corporate executives that it would not go well for HTM at all. It remains to be seen if the fathers will honor their agreement since we did not insist on a notarized legal document.

For you to preach to me about monastic poverty and how wrong it is ask for anything from men who lied outrageously to me for most of my adult life would be like me telling you to just passively accept your fate in prison as God’s will and to just die there in repentance for your sins.

Considering the wealth of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, we have only received a pittance to help get us started. Since they are not legally bound we have simply taken them at their word. At this point it seems that that the property in Maine is going to be sold at almost half a million less than its market value. When Father Isaac offered the property in Maine to us at the official special meeting of the community on September 11 (I repeat we did not ask or demand anything) we thought it would be best if they simply gave us the deed and we would sell it since it would be in our best interest to get the best possible price. Many in the community saw nothing wrong with our request. Fr. Hesychius remonstrated with us that it seemed we did not trust them, and that it would be easier for them to sell the property since they were closer and they would try to get the best possible price for it.

 …. In a few cases one of the monks that left took liberties, and when this was pointed out to us we made it right immediately, returning to them whatever they asked returned… In the consequent months the fathers remaining in Boston have become more and more difficult to deal with. They seem to be angry that they are left with a more than half-empty monastery that is proving to be ever more difficult to sustain.

….I will be happy to send you any of the above documents, but I think it would be best to let it rest for a year. Let the dust settle and your emotions quiet down. You obviously want to return and stay in HOCNA. Well, stay and God bless, preserve, and enlighten you. At present it makes no sense for either us to waste any more time on this.

You remain in my prayers, unworthy though they be.

With love in Christ,

P.S. Today (January 28 N.S.) I received your letter postmarked January 22. There are no directions in it about where you want us to send your wooden baptismal cross and baptismal robe. I assume you still have not received my short letter about this yet.

N., we need to look at the Russian in the quotes of St. John of Kronstadt very carefully. The meanings Bulatovich and the Name-worshippers wish to ascribe St. John’s words are not Orthodox. One must always be careful to take everything written by the saints in context. St. John the Solitary says, “God is silence.” So are we to adore silence? Are we to consider silence to be the Energy of God? Certainly God’s Energies can be found in silence and silence is very conducive to experiencing God’s Energies…but silence is not “God!” Nothing created, not even our Lord’s human nature, or His Name can be ontologically God’s energies. 

You will note that St. John says that in that Name you have the Lord’s whole being…I agree…but the Name is not His very Being. The name holds His grace, It does not become His grace.

The quote that St. John looked on the Name of the Trinity as the very substance of God is very suspect; because that is saying that in seeing the Name St. John sees the essence of God. That is either a bad translation or a mistake of the moment in St. John’s diary.

 Regardless, individual Saints can make mistakes, even grave ones. St. John reposed in 1908, so he was not around in 1913 to explain what he exactly meant or to repent if he had made a mistake in the moment. Frankly, jotted down thoughts in what was at the time a personal diary hardly constitutes the basis for formal dogmatic statements of such magnitude.  St. Justin Martyr believed in the millennium, St. Gregory of Nyssa appears to have believed in Universal Salvation, as well as St. Isaac the Syrian, but these great and holy Fathers of Fathers mistakes are not taken over the collective voice of the Church.

I will repeat—not only the cream of the Russian Orthodox Church condemned Bulatovich and his followers, but the entire Orthodox Church. Not one bishop and not one Local Church openly went into dissent over these decisions for a century. It was a historical footnote.

This became an issue in some parishes composed of Russians and converts that were in the GOC and the GOC confirmed the decisions made by the entire Church a century ago. Thus matter was quickly put rest in the GOC several years before it came to blow up HOCNA. We may venerate and worship the name of God but not adore it.

We do the same with all the Holy things of the Church. We adore the consecrated Eucharist because in a unique way God is totally present in an unconfused union with the Bread and Wine in the Liturgy and in a reserved Communion Service. However, we must take note that the Church does not worship the Eucharist outside the Liturgy like the Roman Catholics. His Essence is present everywhere, but unknowable to creatures, His Energies are present everywhere, but communicated only by His Mercy to those whom He alone knows are worthy.

Finally, Fr. Panteleimon is not “gone” but is still very active unfortunately. It is fairly obvious that he is on the phone giving directives. He has been at the monastery in Boston, even overnight several nights in a row, eating in the dining room at the head of the table, standing in the altar, chanting in the services, etc. Fr. Panteleimon served a memorial service and then proceeded to try to serve the funeral, but Bishop Gregory told him not to.

Metropolitan Ephraim and Fr. Isaac are subject to same canonical penalties as Fr. Panteleimon, but since they recognize no other Orthodox bishops in the whole world (even though they did in recent memory) they are accountable to no one except Metropolitan Makarios and Bishop Gregory, who cannot even judge their case for reasons I have told you elsewhere.

N., as painful as it was for me, I had to admit to myself that the grace and blessings I received those 27 years were by God’s mercy in spite of HOCNA’s being in schism from their lawful hierarchs since we separated very prematurely from ROCOR. We see many times in Church history when there are faithful who have been misled and God’s grace does not immediately abandon them.

Fr. Panteleimon and Fr. Isaac were canonically suspended in 1986 and deposed in 1987 by Orthodox bishops from whom they fled because they did not want to face up to Fr. Panteleimon’s problems. Would you like to see copies of the documents?

Metropolitan Ephraim was ordained by two bishops who had been canonically deposed by their synod of 20 bishops (15 for deposing Archbishop Auxentios for refusing to appear before a spiritual court of his peers and 5 against), so his ordinations are highly irregular and need to be regularized by a canonical synod of Orthodox bishops. We who do not speak Greek or have access to all the periodicals and documents were lied to about this too by men we trusted. Not only have I come to this conclusion, but three bishops, 37 clergy, and thousands of faithful have also.

The time finally came by a series of events God permitted in His mercy to allow us to open our eyes and to repent. By acknowledging and returning to the GOC we have healed a schism, not created one (just as the vast majority of bishops, clergy, and faithful have in Greece). If those still in HOCNA want to accuse us of schism that is their prerogative. You must know that none of the canonical Traditional Orthodox Synods in the world takes HOCNA’s claims seriously. You really must read Metropolitan Moses’s official presentation on this.

I told Fr. Isaac on August 21 in front of a witness that I feared we were on the brink of schism, heresy, and sectarianism. As things developed further I saw that we were not on the brink, but had fallen into the abyss. There are many bishops, even those formerly from HOCNA and from HTM and/or American converts (Metropolitan Moses is both from HTM and a convert from Roman Catholicism and Bishop Sergios is an American convert from Protestantism who was a priest for decades in the “OCA” who sat at the feet of some of the most noteworthy theologians in the New Calendar churches i.e. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. John Meyendorff, and Fr. Georges Florovsky) who extended their arms to pull us out. Some of us have humbly and gratefully grasped their hands, and some have not. God forces no one. But I warn you, it takes much prayer, much pain, and much God-given humility. Without God’s grace we will only seek to justify ourselves.

Again, let us let this rest a year or so my friend. Until then you remain in my prayers, unworthy though I be.

P.P.S. N., I have received your letter dated 1/28/13. I will send your cross and robe to Fr. A.

 I would like you to read the papers I have enclosed, which include primary documents, very carefully. I think you should read the extended lives of St. Sabbas the Sanctified (December 5), St. Theodosius the Cenobiarch (January 11), St. Euthymius the Great (January 20), St. Maximus the Confessor (January 25, August 13, September 20) and St. Theodore the Studite (November 11, January 26) because your understanding of monastic obedience is not correct.

The complete lives of the first three written are by Cyril of Scythopolis (The Lives of the Monks of Palestine, Cistercian Press isbn 0879079142). The others are in the Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints that you have there. These would be more to your profit to read and quote than religious novels (the two volumes of “Fr. Arsenie”) fabricated by the deeply corrupt Sergianist and ultra-Ecumenist Moscow Patriarchate….

You qualified that a monk can only be disobedient in the face of “blatant heresy” and you continue to shut your eyes to the fact that this heresy and its propagator Bulatovich have been condemned by the whole Church and furthermore our very own fathers from whom the True Orthodox Church in Greece (and HOCNA for many years was an organic part of the Church of Greece—see Metropolitan Moses’s excellent paper on this indisputable fact) has received its Apostolic succession, most of whom are glorified or un-glorified saints in the Church.

You also seem to be unaware that a monk may, furthermore, leave his place of obedience if there is sexual immorality in the monastery lest he become corrupted either by being victimized, tempted, or become an accomplice.

These are the reasons why I am living in a barn in the mountains now and not in a rather nice suite of rooms on an estate in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country (I am not exaggerating, because it was my obedience to know what the assets of the monastery in Brookline were.) That is why I left a monastery where I was, despite my sins, a respected senior father who was almost unconditionally trusted and had many privileges with everything and anything I wanted or needed within reason and have come to a monastery where I have placed myself in obedience to men young enough to be my children.

Another one of the most senior fathers of HTM, and one of the most respected clergymen in HOCNA, Priestmonk Haralampos, has been asked to leave HTM. He does not want to stay there anymore anyway and has not even received antidoron and holy water from HOCNA, let alone Holy Communion since October 2012. They gave him a deadline to get out and he is moving to Holy Ascension Monastery. At least Fr. Isaac did not give a deadline us this fall; he just wanted to leave as soon as possible.

My dear friend, brother, and spiritual son, your assertions of us having “worldly and ambitious motives” could be laughable in the face of these facts. However, they are not laughable because of the tragedy of the shipwreck of so many souls. This is because of the stubborn pride of men I still try to love and pray for but can no longer trust, respect, or be in obedience to, because they refuse to answer to the Church and be healed of the festering spiritual wounds and sicknesses that have been revealed to our horrified eyes.

Please try to understand that if HOCNA’s bishops recognized the GOC as being Orthodox and blessed its flock to receive the Holy Mysteries from them, they are accountable to them. HOCNA relinquished all ecclesiastical claims in Greece and told the few parishes and monastic communities that still commemorated the bishops in North America to go under their local bishops since there was no impediment.

Metropolitan Ephraim’s novel theory of recognizing another Local Church and yet reserving the right to arbitrarily determine one’s accountability to that Church, especially when it comes to matters of faith or deep corruption of many years standing just does not stand up to the historical record on how the Orthodox Church operates. To suddenly find them heretical (when they are not) or to find practices that make them no longer truly Orthodox (the Holy Communion issue) when it is no longer convenient is disingenuous.

We have now heard that HOCNA wishes to approach the Synod under Archbishop Makarios of Greece. They are desperate to be in communion with someone or anyone who will recognize their claims. This Synod, like the GOC, does have parishes that have the “Trinity” icon. They have some clergymen who give Holy Communion to simple New Calendar laity. They have some clergymen that will not give Holy Communion to the Faithful on Sundays (because you cannot fast from oil on Saturdays). These are some of Metropolitan Ephraim’s favorite “straw men” he sets up to cast mud at the GOC, even though he was well aware that all of these practices existed in the GOC since time immemorial…and all except the no Communion on Sundays because of the fasting rules [also existed] in ROCOR as well.

The Synod of Archbishop Makarios was started by two bishops, one of them (Euthymius of Thessalonica) had fled from the GOC because he was going to be investigated on charges of immorality involving minors. Ah…and they do, however, have a bishop who has written a book very sympathetic to Bulatovich and his errors. They are known to have toleration for immorality in the clergy and subsequently have attracted men who have a history of scandal. They hardly represent the consensus of the Traditional Orthodox Christians of Greece.

You wrote in your letter postmarked January 7, and I quote, “Please do not visit with us any longer here at SCI Dallas.” I have heard you say countless times that P. is “nominal” and I do not know what right you have to speak for M., Q., R., or S. I am not sure why, at this point, we would have much to say to one another. If I have understood your letters of late you consider me a liar and a conspirator, a person consumed by greed and ambitious, and an ungrateful pseudo-monk. Well, God bless you, for the holy fathers have taught me to accept whatever anyone one wants to say about me save two, and that is I am not a heretic or a schismatic. I will not justify a heresy condemned by the Church; I will not consider the Name of Jesus Christ or the Holy Trinity to be Divine Energies. I have gone to bishops that the HOCNA bishops fully recognized as Orthodox and a jurisdiction that HOCNA faithful were given permission to commune in. We gave their faithful Communion as well. Then it became “sour grapes.”

Please tell me exactly what the GOC does officially that I once fought vehemently against? Is it the Holy Communion issue? Well, I cover that issue above. Yes, I can recall going over and over with you the problems with the New Calendar Churches, but we rarely spoke about the other True Orthodox Churches and I never taught you that HOCNA is the ONLY bastion of True Orthodoxy and I was never, ever taught that in all the years I was in HOCNA and I can bring forth dozens of witnesses to confirm this.

N., Fr. Y. and I think you are in way over your head. I cannot blame you for being a victim of misinformation. You simply do not have the knowledge of recent Church history, of what our legacy from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is, of the lives of the saints who lived in times of dogmatic and moral crisis, and of some very basic dogma. The mere fact that you would quote St. John of Kronstadt saying he sees “the substance of God” in a note in his diary is a case in point. Not only does that contradict the hapless Metropolitan Ephraim and Bishop Gregory (for they claim the Name of God is the energy and not the substance (essence) of God), it contradicts one of the most basic theological truths of Orthodoxy.

Finally, you may wonder and ask how it was that I could be so mistaken about the leaders of HOCNA and their motives all those years. Allow me to defer to the humble thoughts of St. Nikolai Velimirovic found in his Reflection on page 90 in Volume One of The Prologue of Ochrid. You have it in your library. If some of the greatest luminaries of the Church could be fooled, why should I be surprised at my unwitting mistaken judgment?

You may keep me on your visitor’s list if you wish, but I really think we should let this rest for a year as I have written above. In the mean time I do not see why P., Q., M., or R. should be deprived of the consolation of quarterly visits.

Time reveals all things. Let us beseech God to respond with humility and truthfulness to what is revealed.


1. March 2012 Letter from Fr. Sergius to Metropolitan Ephraim

2. August 29, 2012 Letter from Fr. Nicholas to Bishop Gregory of Concord (now Bishop Gregory of Brookline)

3. September 3, 2012 Letter from Fr. Nicholas to the New England Monks and Clergy

4. The History of the Local Eparchal (Regional) Synod of H.O.C.N.A. in the Light of the 34th Apostolic Canon

5. Holy Tradition, the Canonical Order of the Church, and the Good Witness of the Orthodox Christian Faith—A Position Paper by Metropolitan Moses of Portland

6. Addendum to the Position Paper

7. September 13 E-mail from Metropolitan Moses to Fr. Basil

8. September 13 E-mail from Fr. Parthenius to Fr. Basil

9. A Plea Presented to the Hierarchs of HOCNA by a HOCNA clergyman (who is now with the GOC) at the October 2012 Clergy Synaxis

10. Letter to Anastasia

11. An Excurses on the HOCNA Statements of October 8 and 10