The Fires of Manton

[Editor’s Note: The story of Manton has now taken on additional dimensions with the outbreak of the recent wildfires. The following story however has nothing to do with the recent tragedy. Please keep the monastery and its brotherhood in your prayers as they struggle to contain the damage.]

Several weeks ago, a young Orthodox pilgrim sent me the following report of his recent stay in Manton and what he witnessed there. Please note that this is not an anonymous posting. I have contacted the correspondant and have asked him several questions over several weeks regarding what he witnessed. He sounded credible and I found no hint of prevarication in his responses. Because of his honesty, I have decided to post his “Open Letter to the OCA” regarding what he witnessed while spending several weeks there. In addition, the majority of his allegations have been corroborated by Fr Martin, one of the leaders of the group that left Manton because of similar concerns.

I contacted the Diocese of the West this morning to ask them for their side of the story. As is known, they conducted an investigation and Fr Meletios Webber put out a response. In any event, I decided to go ahead and publish this man’s first-hand account even as I await a resonse from the DOW. As soon as I get a reply, I will post it. (As for myself, let it be noted that I was one of Fr Meletios’ chief supporters for the South’s vacant episcopal seat. It is partially for this reason that I have withheld publishing this report even though it’s been in my possession for several weeks now.)

P.S. For what it’s worth, the picture of monastic corruption painted by this correspondent is far more troubling than what has been described at The Entrance of the Theotokos Monstery which was recently released by ROCOR.

An Open Letter to the Orthodox Church in America:

Monday, August 20, 2012

In light of recent evidence concerning Archbishop Benjamin’s apparent “cover-up” pertaining to allegations surrounding the actions committed by Father Meletios Webber, the current abbot and archimandrite of the Monastery of Saint John of San Francisco located in Manton, California, I fear that the serious and necessary action needed will not be undertaken. For this reason, I feel it is necessary to release this information to the general Orthodox public immediately; particularly to tithing members of the Orthodox Church in America.

I first arrived at the monastery on June 9, 2012, as a “summer novice” (meaning I took an active role of participating in the brotherhood during my stay) and departed on July 9, 2012. During my visit (and during counsel with Fr. Meletios), it became my intention to re-join the brotherhood of St. John on August 20, 2012 as a worker, then novice, and then monk. However, after confirming several accusations that have been made after an extensive personal investigation before my departure (I wanted to know whether or not to continue my monastic life there), I now believe that the former members of the brotherhood acted in the correct manner when they left. It is my intention to also make you aware of my personal experiences as well as other allegations that have been confirmed by multiple members of the brotherhood (some have departed and others are still left behind).

  1. During my stay, a total of 6 members of the brotherhood departed; three fathers and one worker on June 29th, then one father and one brother on July 7th. Before I left on July 9th, Others told me their intention to leave, but it is not clear at this time whether they have or not.
  2. The brotherhood and I were told spin stories by Fr. Meletios. I confronted one of the monks (known hereafter as Fr. X) that was involved in the story Fr. Mel was using as the “real reason” why the monks had left. Up until the time that I questioned Fr. X, I believed Fr. Meletios’ story one hundred percent.
  3. Essentially, Fr. Meletios said that the monks had left as a result of a confrontation between Fr. Martin and Fr. X that resulted in Fr. Martin’s removal as blagochinie. Then Fr. Meletios claimed that Fr. Martin had decided to take “as many monks with him as possible” in an act of revenge. However, when I questioned Fr. X about it, I was told flat-out that Fr. Meletios was spinning stories to cover up certain histories and there was much more to the story of what was happening than what was being revealed – mainly that Fr. Meletios was at fault for the cause of the confrontation and the reason the monks departed had nothing at all to do with the confrontation since Fr. X was also among those beginning to make plans for departure.
  4. This behavior of spinning the truth was personally confirmed to me when I saw stories turn from fact to fiction. At one point, Fr. Meletios was telling some of the brotherhood that he never gave his blessing to release any of the monks that left, and then he admitted to me privately that he had released Fr. Martin, and then he later said privately that he didn’t specify what he had released Fr. Martin from.
  5. During my daily sessions with Fr. Mel, he told me that Fr. Martin left because he was: “insane,” “Protestant,” “power-hungry,” “evil,” “anti-Semitic,” “vengeful,” and “intent on destroying the brotherhood.” None of these accusations ever struck me as being accurate in my interactions with Fr. Martin or ANY members of the brotherhood that departed or even stayed behind. But because Fr. Mel was bringing these accusations up along with his spun story at almost every opportunity. I only believed him at the time out of my own ignorance.
  6. On July 2, 2012, Fr. Martin’s email address attached to the monastery was deleted and emails that were intended for Fr. Martin were now being received by Fr. Meletios. Certain confidential information within those emails were disclosed to myself and other members of the brotherhood on the morning of July 7th by Fr. Meletios.
  7. During my visit, Fr. Meletios violated confidences given in confessions concerning several of the monks during the time that I received confession with him. He also alluded to personal sins, etc. regarding the monks that had left during private daily meetings for the last week and a half that I was staying at the monastery.
  8. During one of our early meetings before the monks’ departure and Fr. Meletios’ two-week trip to Greece, he told me that he does in fact use hypnotherapy when he deems it “beneficial.” Aside from the strangeness of an abbot hypnotizing his monks, I also found the way that he hypnotized to be extremely disturbing. According to the monks that I talked to when this disturbing information came out, they confirmed that he uses a form of hypnotherapy that attempts to create an entity within the person being hypnotized; an “inner child.” The subject then communicates with this entity like one would converse with another human being while the entity converses in return. These created entities were then telling the monks to do certain things or to partake in certain sexually perverse practices in which Fr. Meletios approved of and even gave these as obediences (or monastic duties) to the monks including masturbation and homosexual behaviors.
  9. With regard to hesychasm, Fr. Meletios told me that I should remain aware and mindful at all times. With the exception of the Jesus Prayer, there was hardly anything Christian in what was being taught. This was especially apparent when Fr. Meletios informed me that he often finds it difficult to pray during meditation and that rather than struggling to pray, he simply just remains mindful and meditative instead. He instructed me to do the same and not to struggle if saying the Jesus prayer during these meditations was too difficult.
  10. Fr. Meletios told me not to read anything by St. John Chrystosom because St. John was an anti-Semite. The context was in respect to Fr. Meletios’ guidance regarding hesychasm and that, as an Orthodox Christian, there was no problem continuing to practice Rabbinic Judaism.
  11. I was counseled by Fr. Meletios that I should quit reading prayer books and pre-communion prayers because, he said, “They are for the laymen and not for monastics.”
  12. Fr. Meletios has been accused for giving a blessing for at least one of the monks to partake in a homosexual relationship while he was residing at the monastery.
  13. Fr. Meletios received a novice into the monastery who was born a woman and underwent surgery to become a man. S/He was in love with Fr. Meletios, and Fr. Mel even tonsured him a rassaphore. While I am assured by most of the monks that the two were not involved in a romantic relationship, I was told by them (as well as Fr. Meletios) that this transgendered monk was spending an exclusive amount of time with Fr. Meletios which rendered him “incapable” of guiding other members in the brotherhood.
  14. Fr. Meletios’ spiritual father is Fr. Michael Rymer – a GOA defrocked priest despite an ample amount of leaders close by who could officiate confession. Fr. Michael Rymer was also elevated to the position of second-in-command (or blagochinie) in spite of the allegations that have been alleged in the public court documents and during a spiritual tribunal in 2006.
  15. Fr. Meletios and I, during our daily meetings, set a timeline for me after I would return to the monastery. Upon returning in August, I was told that I would be tonsured in approximately six months to a year and then he even told me that I would be able to accompany him on a trip to Valaam. I should note that I have only been a baptized Orthodox Christian for a little over a year now. Lord have mercy.
  16. Archbishop Benjamin gave his blessing for the Orthodox Church in America to receive at least one transgendered couple at the cathedral in San Francisco. They were refused communion at the monastery by the substitute blagochinie during Fr. Meletios’ and Fr. Nektarios’ trip to Greece because they were continuing to participate in an unrepentant transsexual delusion despite the position of Moscow Patriarchate’s 2005 Encyclical on receiving homosexuals and transgenders into the Orthodox Church
  17. Coming from an Antiochian background, I usually try to confess every 3-4 weeks, otherwise I will stop taking communion. After 3 weeks since my last confession, I stopped communing for fear of doing so unworthily and without proper preparation. This was my second week at the monastery. At this point, I was labeled as a “catechumen” by one of the other monks. When I corrected him that I was baptized Orthodox, the monk informed me that everyone is supposed to take communion and that worthiness was not supposed to be an issue unless I had done something catastrophic like killed someone, etc. I was led to believe that this was a practice taught by the Greek fathers. When I received confession from Fr. Meletios upon his return from Greece, I confessed sins that I felt would require additional repentance. This was when it was confirmed to me that communing was done as a community and was not an issue of individual worthiness or preparation. I participated in this practice for the remainder of my stay. Lord have mercy.
  18. Fr. Meletios instructed me to stay away from my parish priest because my priest was not my spiritual father and that getting his blessing to join the brotherhood in Manton or even discussing it with him would be dangerous.
  19. In further counsel about whether I should pursue the monastic life or not, he warned me about getting any kind of guidance or blessing from my own archbishop (Joseph) because his guidance would be an obstacle in submitting to the OCA and Fr. Mel.
  20. I also experienced some Antiochian bashing while I was there by one of the monks. While Fr. Meletios was calm in his criticisms, one monk was extremely aggressive and belligerent towards my parish priest. This was a result of my parish priest teaching me about miracles such as self-renewing icons and refusing birth control as part of the Orthodox belief system. At the time, I thought it was only an isolated incident. I was informed later that this was commonplace at the monastery.

In addition to these allegations, I also observed an obvious attempt to cover up what had occurred.

  1. I was told that Fr. Meletios did not know the reason why the monks had left. This was incorrect as he was told by each of them before they departed and when the last 2 monks departed, it was given to him in writing. In addition, several times during my visit, I was told “this counsel was why they left.” This left me confused since he told me previously that none of the monks had told him why they were leaving. (I will refer the reader again to points made in #2, #3, and #4.) At the time, I chose not to question him and simply ignored the statements since these were told to me when I was receiving confession from him and also a violation of confidence.
  2. Archbishop Benjamin told me on July 2, 2012, that he also had no idea why the monks had left and that they had never contacted him to tell him why. This grieves me and deeply troubles me because this was a direct lie. It was discussed with him in detail the Wednesday before the departure had occurred. It appears that he had lied directly to me in an effort to cover up what was happening.
  3. On the morning of July 2, 2012, I told Archbishop Benjamin before Divine Liturgy (it was the feast day of St. John) that I intended to become a monk. “There is no better place to do it than here,” he said. In spite of the concerns that Fr. Martin and others raised that had led to their departure, Archbishop Benjamin has either chosen to ignore or disbelieve the testimony of 6 former members of the brotherhood.
  4. Following my departure, I learned of Archbishop Benjamin’s attempt to cover up what had happened by taking an investigative committee of three priests to Manton, but refused to contact the other monks with this committee in order that any record may show the allegations surrounding Fr. Meletios’ non-Orthodox and non-Christian practices.

In conclusion, I humbly pray for the spiritual well-being for the Monastery of St. John of San Francisco and the Orthodox Church in America and that action, repentance, and forgiveness will come swiftly to all those who are involved and to those in the positions of leadership. Lord have mercy!

I also humbly ask your prayers and your forgiveness. Forgive me, the sinner.

In Christ,

Stepan Hatting
“Orthodox Novitiate” &
Former Summer Novice


  1. WOW! If Fr. Meletios broke the seal of confession this is a serious charge and needs immediate investigation and suspension! I mean to say that even without all of this other nonsense that has been going on, he should be removed from his position just for the confession breach.

    This is very disturbing to me. As one who is trying very hard, to establish an authentic monastic work, I find all of these allegations very, very disturbing! This falls along the same lines as the stories we hear about Elder Ephraim, but actually might be worse!

    I am in tears reading this and can only imagine how the Holy Saint must feel about this monastery that has his name attached to it. I will pray the Akathist to St. John this evening and ask that all of us who read this do the same. Very , very disturbing!

    • Sorry to reply to my own post but I cannot emphasize enough how disturbed I am by this! I feel that this is the Evil One at work and we all need to pray, and pray hard for this situation and for those who remain there.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        You are not alone in this distress, Father Peter. There are several of us—seven thousand at last count—whose knees have not bowed to Baal, nor lips kissed him.

      • Antiochian Friend says

        Father, bless.

        Mr. Bauman has mentioned on this blog that His Grace, Bishop BASIL, has a policy forbidding the faithful in his diocese from visiting a monastery for longer than a weekend retreat without a specific episcopal blessing. Perhaps this policy should be applied throughout the Archdiocese. Our lack of men’s monasteries may be putting Antiochian young men at particular risk of becoming affiliated with disordered institutions. Under “regular” canonical conditions, I assume that most novices enter monasteries under their own bishop’s omophorion. Under the current “irregular” conditions, it would seem imprudent to omit a prospective novice’s bishop from the discernment process.

        • Lola J. Lee Beno says

          So why aren’t there a good number of men’s monasteries in the Antiochian Archdiocese? Just asking a honest question, out of curiosity, since I don’t know much about what goes on there.

          • Because +Philip does not like them.

            • Lola J. Lee Beno says

              So, why doesn’t +Philip like them?

              • Antiochian Friend says


                I hope that I am not speaking out of turn or out of school here, but your sincere question deserves a straightforward response.

                My understanding is that Metropolitan Philip had a bad experience in a Lebanese monastery when he was a boy. That experience may have colored his view of monasticism. As I understand it, the problems with that monastery did not involve sexual deviancy, but did involve inadequate and rancid food, excessively harsh labors, laziness and arrogance on the part of the senior monks, and perhaps some beatings. This all took place well before the renaissance in Lebanese monasticism.

                To the extent that His Eminence was wary of monasticism, that wariness arguably has served the Archdiocese well. If His Eminence had established a monastery in, say, 1970, when the Archdiocese was small, divided, and ethnically homogeneous, the senior monks necessarily would have come from the old country, because no one here would have been qualified. The services and most communication at such a monastery would have been in Arabic. As the demographics of the Archdiocese changed, such a place would have become less spiritually helpful to the American-born, English-speaking faithful.

                The long arc of Metropolitan Philip’s primacy shows that he sympathizes, at least to some extent, with Fr, Peter’s assertion below that “the Church begins and ends with the local parish.” That’s why His Eminence places such emphasis on the annual Parish Life Conferences and the mandatory, biennial, continuing-education symposium for parish clergy. The Departments of Sacred Music and Liturgics and Translation are producing volumes of high-quality texts and music, almost entirely to enrich parish liturgical life. The Department of Missions and Evangelism has helped to found many dozens of new parishes. Most especially, he has sought to sustain the lives of the parishes by supporting the proper spiritual formation of the youth. Antiochian Village is universally beloved in the Archdiocese. It is meet and right that a women’s monastery has been founded there–building upon, rather than departing from, Metropolitan Philip’s prior achievements.

                I was ambivalent about sending this post, because I don’t want to incite a debate about Metropolitan Philip that would distract from an important point in Mr. Hatting’s testimony: the alleged attempted subversion of His Eminence Archbishop Joseph’s spiritual authority and that of Mr. Hatting’s parish priest (cf point 19, above). Surely that sort of conduct is intolerable. His Grace, Bishop Basil, has one method of attempting to thwart such derogations. Should he be emulated, or are there other methods that might also be considered?

                • Lola J. Lee Beno says

                  Thank you very much for the explanation. I understand now why, and it just goes to show what can happen when we let God do what is right on His timely terms.

            • Archpriest John W. Morris says

              His Eminence wants sound monasticism in the Antiochian Archdiocese. Unfortunately, men’s monasticism has often been a source of scandal in the U.S. Others have been a source of unsound spirituality and theology. Our Archdiocese has grown so much that priests are needed in parishes. There are plans to establish a men’s monastery. In time, God willing, we will have our own Antiochian men’s monastery.

              Archpriest John W. Morris

          • Michael Bauman says

            There are few monastaries in the Antiochian Archdiocese becasue Met. Philip has actively discouraged them. There is some movement to begin establishing monastaries, but it will not be rapid.

        • Monk James says

          This is very true in my own experience. I went to the monastery because my bishop (my spiritual father) sent me there.

          I asked him: ‘If I hate it, can I come back?’

          He said: ‘Of course. You can always come back.’

          Yet here I am still a monk 35 years later.

          He knew me better than I knew myself.

        • Lance Hogben says

          I seem to recall an incident of another Antiochian bishop forbidding laymen from visiting a monastery some years ago. That flap led to the laicization and excommunication of a fair number of Antiochian clergy. But do bishops have any canonical authority to forbid laypeople thus? Priests and deacons are directly under their own bishop’s authority. Uniquely, it seems, Antiochian bishops possess an authority to order laypeople about. It would seem to me that they overstep their authority, and that lay people can choose what church to attend, or monastery to visit and to switch jurisdictions as they please, without fear of reprisal of any sort. The authoritarianism of Antiochian bishops informs similar overstepping of boundaries by some of their priests, who I have learned, behave with the same assumption of authority over the lives of laypeople. I find it all highly irregular and it confirms my intuition to avoid Antioch like the plague.

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            Of course a Bishop has authority over lay people. They are part of his flock. It is his obligation to oversee their spiritual development. A pastor is only the representative of his Bishop, who is the real pastor of the parish. If a monastery is teaching unhealthy spirituality, the Bishop has an obligation to warn his clergy and laity to avoid falling under their influence. It is a fact that some monasteries do teach unhealthy and un-Orthodox spirituality. I know of no incident that led to the suspension of a “fair number” or our Antiochian clergy for visiting a monastery. Given the moral scandals involving clergy and Bishops of other jurisdictions, the Antiochian Archdiocese is more spiritually healthy than some other Orthodox jurisdictions in this country. There have been cases when some monastics have told clergy not to obey their Bishop. In that case, the Bishop must forbid his clergy from falling under their influence.

            • Archpriest John W. Morris:
              I beginning to think that a bishop has only “Sacramental authority” over his lay people. How far off am I on that, if at all?

              • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                A Bishop certainly has authority to warn his people against anything that could harm their spiritual health including visiting a monastery that teaches and practices an unhealthy spirituality. Unfortunately, just based on what is reported on this blog there are so called monasteries that have a toxic environment.

          • Michael Bauman says

            Lance….and do you also check your closet for boogeymen before you go to bed at night? Usually we Antiochians are criticized for being too worldly and too accomodating. Yours is a new and novel bit of disinformation.

            My Antiochian bishop is a deeply loving and pious man who exercises authority over his flock in a loving and pious manner in accord with the Tradition of the Church. Despite this there are some folk who call him authoritarian simply because he exercises authority. I have personally been subject to his discipline because of actions that I took. I found it to be quite healing (although I was not happy about it initially. especially since under many other bishoips, I would not have been disciplined). I suppose some would consider that ‘authoritarian’

            Years ago, early in his episcopate, he was making an episcopal visit to a parish that was in dispute with its priest. He served Divine Liturgy and when the priest and he came out to distribute the Body and Blood, none of the parish lined up to receive in front of their own priest. My bishop simply covered the chalice and announced that if none would receive from their priest, none would receive.

            I suppose some would consider that ‘authoritarian’

            He demands of the clergy under him adherence to high standards of conduct and knowledge. I suppose some would consider that authoritarian.

            He demands that celebate clergy in his diocease be tonsured as monks and be in obedience to a spiritual father, a practice he upholds by his own example. I suppose some would consider that authoritarian.

            Oh, BTW, his diocese is among the fastest growing in the country. HMMMMMM wonder if there is a connection between authority based on the tradtion of the Church and growth?

            The practice of finding a bishop who agrees with us, “or bishop shopping”, is wholly un-Orthodox and simply an indication of our own arrogance and unwillingness to be obedient.

    • Fr Jonathan Tobias says

      This is troubling to say the least. As someone with at least a little experience in psychotherapy and Orthodox pastoral counseling, I can at least say that I see no rationale, whatsoever, for the practice of hypnotherapy in the context of Orthodox counseling.

      Of course, compared to some of the other egregious violations of Orthodox pastoral practice as described by this letter, perhaps the practice of hypnotherapy pales by comparison.

      This whole narrative is heartbreaking, as American Orthodoxy needs a robust, traditional monasticism in the worst way.

      But perhaps we should pray for higher things. Perhaps the problem is not an insufficient monasticism: perhaps the effectuality of righteousness needs to be placed and expected, firmly, at the episcopacy.

      • Rod Dreher says

        I spoke to Stepan Hatting on the phone a few weeks ago, and encouraged him to go forward with what he saw, if it was truthful and he was prepared to stand by his words in public. I found him to be credible in conversation, but I had, and do have, no way of verifying his allegations. I know too that he checked his impressions with some of the monks who fled, to make sure he was telling the story accurately.

        I applaud Stepan for having the courage to speak out. I hope that once the fire crisis passes, that Abbot Meletios and/or Abp Benjamin will answer these very serious allegations.

        • So does that mean you will leave the Orthodox Church due to their sex scandals and coverups? This was the same reason for your leaving Catholicism.

          • Double Standards R Us says

            Dream on, James. To paraphrase an old song: “What a difference a beard makes.”

          • Patrick Henry Reardon says

            James asks Rod Dreher, “So does that mean you will leave the Orthodox Church due to their sex scandals and coverups? This was the same reason for your leaving Catholicism.”

            George—very respectfully—this is an unwarranted and entirely personal comment; it does not advance any conversation germane to this blog page.

          • He left Catholicism because he stopped believing in it. End of story.

    • phil r. upp says

      Fr. Preble:
      Originally, all confessions were done publicly in the church to everyone. Confessions, in the Orthodox context, were never meant to be secret. When a person confessed in public, everyone forgave them, the presbyter may give a penance and life went on. Secrecy in confessions is practical & pragmatic, but not of the real Orthodox tradition. At the end of the world (read Revelations) all of men’s secrets will be “shouted from the house tops” for all to hear. The Church on earth and the Church in heaven are already one. Especially in a monastic community, there are no real secrets.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        “Confessions, in the Orthodox context, were never meant to be secret.”


        Indeed, blessed is he who has seen, and yet refuses to believe.

      • Archpriest John W. Morris says

        Just about the worst thing that an Orthodox priest can do is reveal a confession. He cannot even bring up something said in confession to the person after the confession except, possibly, during another confession.

        Archpriest John W. Morris

        • Michael Bauman says

          Indeed, such disclosure can wreck the souls of both the penitent. It happened to one I dearly loved and she never recovered. The priest, well he soon left the Church, was Byzantine Catholic for awhile, stole the funds from a mission parish he was supposed to be pastoring and ran away to San Francisco, I believe without his wife and daughter.

          May our Lord have mercy on them all.

      • What you say about Orthodox Confessions were never meant to be heard in secret is news to me! I do know the history of confession of course but the point is, you confessed your sins not someone else confessing your sins for you. In the present practice in all Canonical Orthodox Churches confession is private is the priest is bound NEVER under any circumstances to repeat what he has heard in confession. I will not even speak to the person outside of confession about what they confessed unless we agree before hand to do it. This is a violation at the highest level of pastoral practice. As Fr. Tobias said earlier everything else he mentions pales in comparison to the violation of the confessional. It is reason like this, and many more of course, why the faithful do not go to confession! If this is true, then Father must be suspended whilst an investigation is being completed. Let me ask you this Phil, would you like your priest to stand before the congregation and tell your sins? I know I would not!

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          “In the present practice in all Canonical Orthodox Churches confession is private is the priest is bound NEVER under any circumstances to repeat what he has heard in confession. I will not even speak to the person outside of confession about what they confessed unless we agree before hand to do it. “

          I have always understood this to be the common discipline imposed on those whom Holy Church charges with this ministry. That is to say, there are NO exceptions to this sacramental secrecy.

          And I would not countenance the ordination of any man who disagreed on the point.

          The commission to forgive sins (in John 20) is explicitly rooted in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The violation of the confessional seal is certainly a sin against the Holy Spirit, concerning which, if memory serves, a particular danger is attached.

          • Disgusted With It says

            Yes, Fr. Patrick. But in the OCA the bishops make up their own rules as suit them best at the moment.

        • Very Reverend and Reverend (ordained) Orthodox Presbyters. FACT. The following is from the text in the standard Ordination Certificate (stavlennaya grammota) signed by the Bishop and presented to a Priest upon being ordained to the Priesthood for generation unto generation in the great Church of Moscow and All Russia:
          “……to bind and to loose with good judgment those confessing their consciences to him according to the canons of the Holy Apostles, and the teaching of the God-bearing Fathers, according to the norms of the Holy Orthodox Church, and according to our admonition and instruction; to bring and lay before us greater and more complex faults…”
          If you, Patrick Henry Reardon, now feel that the Russian Church is guilty of “a sin against he Holy Spirit,” , why do you remain in a Church which is in communion with Her?
          Surely, all of you, at some point in your preparation for ordination you studied the history of the Mystery of Penance? You learned that at first, according to the record, the Disciples believed that it was impossible to sin after Baptism, which was expected to be a VERY short period, since Christ was believed to be coming back almost immediately, if not sooner. Christ did NOT come back soon, and the problem arose of how to deal with those awful persons who sinned after Baptism. From that time until centuries later, under Emperor Constantine, any member of the Faithful who sinned was required to stand outside, in the porch, in the western part of the place of the Eucharist and bow down, confessing aloud his or her sin to EVERY person entering that place, and only after that could the Bishop pronounce forgiveness and admit the sinner(perhaps after a short or long epitimia) to communion in Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
          After Constantine not only recognized the Church but practically made attendance at its services obligatory for any self-respecting or ambitious Roman citizen, it was hardly appropriate any more, for the devout Christian to bow down before “every Tom, Dick, and Harry” who was expected, according to the rules of good citizenship, to enter the temples. So, the Church gradually altered the practice so that the sinners could confess their sins TO THE CHURCH, through the Bishop or Priest.
          if this is not enlightening or consistent with your church “polity”, I suggest you study the example of Saint John of Kronstadt. He revived Public Confession (or, as it is often misnamed, “general” confession. This meant that after the Faithful were assembled, Saint John would open his service book (euchologion, sluzhebnik) and begin to read aloud the entire service of Confession. However, at the point where the penitent is to enumerate his or her sins to the Bishop or Priest, Saint John commanded them to ALL say their sins OUT LOUD, i.e., in the hearing of everyone in Church. It was, according to eye-witness reports, a daunting spectacle: a church full of people repeating aloud, some shouting in order to be heard, of their adulteries, incests, lusts, onanisms, murderous words and actions, etc.
          Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, one of you even used the words “confessional seal”. That is not an Orthodox term. It originated in the Roman Church and its jurisprudence and legalism.
          I suggest you print this out and save it for future reference. You embarrassed us all by making your dogmatic pronouncements about Confession, not being able to producing one canonical, patristic, or Biblical basis for your false dogma!

          • George Michalopulos says

            Your Grace, I for one would not be averse to every one of us standing in the Narthex and bowing down before everybody else and confessing our sins. If this is the mind of the Church, so be it. But just like we didn’t have icon-screens back then, we do have them now. It seems to me that the mind of the Church has decided that utmost secrecy is what is called for.

          • Patrick Henry Reardon says

            When I hear the Confessions of Orthodox Christians, they have a right and expectation to absolute secrecy with respect to the content of those Confessions. As Holy Church expects, I extend that unbreakable pledge and guarantee.

            If I understand him correctly, Bishop Tikhon does not extend that guarantee.

            • I did not say anything and do not say anything about any guarantees except to teach what the Church has always taught. The Church has not always taught that a Priest must never reveal what is told him in the Mystery of Penance; in fact, it teaches that a Priest must reveal the gravest of sins to his Bishop.
              Moreover, i teach that there is no “Confessional Seal” or ‘Seal of the Confessional” in Orthodox doctrine. That’s Romish in ori\gin, like the style of referring to “Holy Church” instead of “Our Holy Church” or “The Holy Church” or ‘Christ’s Holy Church,’ etc. To use the two words alone “Holy Church” as if one were using a first and last name of an individual reigning over us, is the language of the Pope and the Curia.

              • Then what you teach contradicts the clergy guidelines of the OCA, to say nothing of Orthodox tradition and canons—

                6. The secrecy of the Mystery of Penance is considered an unquestionable rule in the entire Orthodox Church. Theologically, the need to maintain the secrecy of confession comes from thefact that the priest is only a witness before God. One could not expect a sincere and complete confession if the penitent has doubts regarding the practice of confidentiality. Betrayal of the secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.

                St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite exhorts the Spiritual Father to keep confessions confidential, even
                under strong constraining influence. The author of the Pedalion (the Rudder), states that a priest
                who betrays the secrecy of confession is to be deposed. The Metropolitan of Kos, Emanuel,
                mentions in his handbook (Exomologeteke) for confessors that the secrecy of confession is a
                principle without exception.

                (from here: )

                • Patrick Henry Reardon says

                  Samn! says, “St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite exhorts the Spiritual Father to keep confessions confidential, even under strong constraining influence. The author of the Pedalion (the Rudder), states that a priest who betrays the secrecy of confession is to be deposed. The Metropolitan of Kos, Emanuel, mentions in his handbook (Exomologeteke) for confessors that the secrecy of confession is a principle without exception.”

                  Thank you, Sam. I did not even bother to mention these sources to Bishop Tikhon.

                  In answering you, I suspect that he will remind us all that St. Nicodemus (who translated The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola into Greek) was too much influenced by Roman theology, and that the Pedalion was published in papal-dominated Venice, and heaven knows what else.

                  Bishop Tikhon has a sustained response to anything he happens not to like: It’s Romish, not really Orthodox.

                  When, yesterday, the bishop objected to my use of the expression “Holy Church” (another papal marker, he says), I went out to the garden, sat down by a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, and prayed the Rosary for him.

                • Don’t forget that St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain is NOT the author of the Pedalion.
                  Don’t forget that some of the evidence showing that the Ecumenical Patriarchate SOLD indulgences (forgiveness of the sins of the departed) is that St. Nicodemus purchased a couple for friends of his and the transaction was recorded in writing. The objection of the so-called Eastern Patriarchs to indulgences did not condemn RC indulgences; it condemned the Papacy for claiming it only, and not ALL the Patriarchs, could grant them.
                  Like it or not, friends, it’s the truth.

                  • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                    Your Grace:

                    I find it very difficult to believe that the only Orthodox objection to indulgences was that only the Pope had the authority to grant them. Orthodox do not believe in indulgences because we do not believe in the doctrine that underlies the idea of indulgences.
                    The whole doctrine of Indulgences is based on the belief that we must do works of satisfaction to earn forgiveness of our sins. If we do not do enough works of satisfaction to atone for our sins, we must suffer for them in Purgatory. An Indulgence is based on the belief that the the saints did more satisfaction or penance than was needed for them to earn forgiveness for their sins. According to Roman Catholic theology this extra satisfaction has created a treasury of merit controlled by the Pope. An indulgence is the grant of some of this treasury of merit to someone for themselves or for someone departed to help them get out of Purgatory.
                    The Orthodox Church rejects the Roman Catholic teaching that we must do works of satisfaction for our sins. We also reject the doctrine of Purgatory as well as the treasury of merit and with it the doctrine of indulgences.
                    Therefore, I find it very difficult to believe that any Orthodox Bishop would sell or give someone a free pass out of a place that we do not believe exists.

                    Archpriest John Morris

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      I think I read somewhere that C’pole used to issue documents absolving people from sins, not of course based on the doctrine of Purgatory.

                    • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                      One further thought if any Bishop or Patriarch sold certificates absolving someone of their sins, that would be the terrible sin of Simony.

                      Fr. John W. Morris

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Yes, agreed. However the selling of offices has happened and continues to happen unfortunately. It’s not systematic and it’s difficult to prove because there’s usually no paper trail, but it’s more common than we think.

                      Of course the reason is, is because there’s no systematic way of funding the Church in America. Until we get on the Tithing Train you can expect more of it.

                    • Archpriest John W. Morris “finds it very difficult to believe that the only Orthodox objection to indulgences was that only the Pope had the authority to grant them.”
                      The question of the use of indulgences in the Orthodox Church was re-examined by a scholar of the Church of Russia in the 90s and published on the website of the Church of Russia. The hieromonk who did the research definitely showed the sale of inculgences in the Eastern Patriarchates into the 20th century and that the acts of the “Council of the Eastern Patriarchs” convened at the behest of the Sultan to specifically condemn the Gregorian Calendar and other “Latin/Western” innovations has been cited by the Orthodox as having condemned indulgences as well. However, the actual text of he acts of that Council shows that, in fact (pay attention), the only thing about indulgences that was condemned by the Eastern Patriarchs was the Pope’s claim that ONLY HE could grant indulgences.The scholar also came across of copy of the actual indulgences BOUGHT and paid for by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (the Hagiorite) for acquaintances of his and signed by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
                      Maybe I’m naive, but I, unlike Archpriest John Morris, do NOT find it hard to believe at all, that indulgences were sold in the Orthodox Church (not in the Northern and European Local Churches, but in the “ancient Patriarchates), as research has clearly demonstrated.
                      By the way, no educated Orthodox Christian should confuse the sin of Simon, namely, the attempted purchase of the laying-on-of-hands by the Apostles, called Simony, with the sale of indulgences.
                      As a sideline, though, if anyone knows anything at all about election to the episcopacy in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, should know,, although the outright purchase of episcopal office is forbidden and not practiced, candidates for all episcopal offices in the Ecumenical Patriarchate show their respect for that Patriarchate and its primacy of honor, by always bringing along a check in their pocket to their laying on of hands to the Episcopate which is a free will donation to the Holy Church of Constantinople, the New Rome. Likewise, installation to an Eastern Patriarchate is also customarily accompanied by a FREE WILL donation, reported to be in the millions of dollars. At the time that ever-memorable Demetrios was elected (by the Synod) and approved (by the Turkish government and the Greek Foreign Office) a EP, Archbishop Iakovos of North America and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans who had been a leading candidate, was informed that the Patriarchate of Alexandria would be available and that the Greek and Egyptian and Turkish “honorariium” would only be six million dollars. But that’s all old stuff, history.

                    • Harry Coin says

                      “the only thing about indulgences that was condemned by the Eastern Patriarchs was the Pope’s claim that ONLY HE could grant indulgences” How disgusting is that?

                    • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                      In answer to Bishop Tikhon’s comments. I did not understand His Grace’s point but got the impression that he was claiming that the only Orthodox objection to the Roman Catholic practice of indulgences was that that Rome believed that the power to grant indulgences belonged solely to the Pope. I found the article to which he refers. The use of the word indulgences in the article by Sergei Govorun and translated by Bishop Tikhon refer to certificates of absolution and had no connection with the Roman Catholic doctrines of the treasury of merit or purgatory which lay the foundation for the Roman Catholic practice of granting of indulgences. Calling these certificates of absolution indulgences is an unfortunate term which can easily lead the reader to confuse them with indulgences in the Roman Catholic sense of the word. The author correctly recognizes that the sale of certificates of absolution was an abuse that entered into the Orthodox Church through Western influence.

                      Fr. John W. Morris

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Psykhohkartia is what I think they were called. “Soul-cards” literally.

                    • Unfortunately, it is not hot hard to believe, but…

                      Can we simply agree that these practices have no place in the Church of the Living God, history and perhaps even ‘tradition’ notwithstanding?

                    • On the Orthodox and indulgences, see:

                  • Setting the Record Straight says

                    Bishop Tikhon, if you do not believe in the Seal of the Confessional, then I daresay rather few penitents will have the courage to confess to you. If I were Orthodox, I certainly wouldn’t!

                    • “Setting the Record Straight!” Where did you EVER get the idea that I do not practice the absolute confidentiality of what is confessed to me in the Mystery of Penance?. I follow it strictly and always have.
                      What you refuse to recognize is that this “Seal of the Confessional” or “Confessional Seal” is not an Orthodox concept or teaching.
                      What you refuse to recognize is that the largest Orthodox Church has, for centuries, included in its “Stavlennaya Grammota” or Ordination Certificate, the COMMAND that the Priest will hear confessions and grant absolution and will report the gravest sins confessed to his Bishop. OF COURSE, there is no such provision in the ordination Certificates of the Greek Church, because not all Greek Priests after the Turkish conquest of Greece were authorized to hear Confessions by their Bishops. In fact, the sign that a Priest had the rare privilege of hearing Confession was his epigonation. Sometimes only one Priest in an entire diocese was considered educated and socially competent enough to hear confessions.
                      Nevertheless, in the Russian Church, Priests were canonically required by their oaths to keep their certificates of ordination available always, and to obey them This was required by every Russian Bishop as ordained and ordered by the Holy Governing Synod. I, whoever you may be (probably a not-so-courageous presbyter), heard lots and lots of Confessions before I retired and a few afterwords. When I was not yet a Bishop, but still Rector of the parish, hardly a Saturday night went by that I did not hear, in addition to the Confessions of parishioners, Confessions of GOA members and Antiochian Archdiocese members who did not feel comfortable (and sometimes not even welcome) confessing to their own parish clergy.
                      Every time i ordained a Priest, whoever you are, at the conclusion of the Liturgy that day I presented the newly ordained Priest with a copy of the Ordination Certificate (It’s a big document, a little larger than the average “Commendation Certificate.” Before handing the certificate to the newly ordained, I would have the Protodeacon read out the entire certificate, which contains the phrase I referred to. Presumably, “Setting the Record Straight”, going by your statement, you are rather unique: There was no diminution of the number of people confessing to me regularly and occasionally, despite this “revelation” which shocks those who had a sketchy education on the topic and now are SO defensive about that.
                      There is no Canon that requires Confessions be kept secret absolutely.
                      One: such was not the practice AT ALL of the pre-Constantinian Church.
                      Two: such became proper (but not mandatory) after the institution of ‘private’ confession. it became mandatory in the Roman Church and in all its dominions and in the Local Churches made subservient to the Roman Church.
                      Three: Confidentiality of the Confessional is a good and salutary practice, like fasting. Fasting, however, unlike secrecy of the confessional, IS required, and instituted and practiced by Christ, so that it may be considered on the level of a Mystery of the Church and one REQUIRED by the Canons. It’s ironic to me that many who are ready to go to jail or the stake to protect the privacy of confession, would no more do so in order to avoid feasting, wining and dining and dancing, and smoking big cigars on a Fast day than they’d disparage their own mothers!

              • Michael Bauman says

                It is one thing for the priest to speak with his bishop, who’s delegate the priest is. Quite another to spread the facts of a confession to others in a manipulative and self-serving way.

                I’m sure my priests forgets what I’ve said as soon as I leave the place of confession because my sins are so utterly common. That being said to have material that was revealed in confession or conseling to others without premission is extremely destructive to many people.

                My priest understands this. Once long ago we were talking on a regular basis and working confessionally about one particular difficulty I was having. One Sunday, he gave a sermon that was focused on that sin and mentioned as an example, a man he knew. During the course of the sermon it hit him that I might think he was talking about me. As soon as the Liturgy was over he rushed from the Altar, found me and apologized profusely, making sure I knew he was not talking about me, but about himself. It never once entered my mind and I was not offended, but my priest wanted to make sure that I was OK even before he finished the prayers and consuming of the gifts after communion. That is a trustworthy man and a fine priest.

                There may not be a canonical ‘seal of confession’ as in the RCC but it is simply part of living a Christian life that confidences especially given by vulnerable people are not revealed and passed on.

              • Patrick Henry Reardon says

                Bishop Tikhon asserts, “a Priest must reveal the gravest of sins to his Bishop.”

                May we see a show of hands, please. Who want to confess his sins to Bishop Tikhon?

                • None of you are Bishop Tikhon’s priest. I’m retired. And I didn’t compose the ordination certificate. Patrik Henry Reardon gets all illogical and personal when he’s stuck.

                • Setting the Record Straight says

                  LOL. Not I.

                • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                  If someone confessed a major sin like murder, I would ask the Bishop what to do without identifying the person unless the Bishop asked for his or her name. In a sense, Bishop Tikhon is right. The Bishop is the actual pastor of the parish and has a right to know everything that takes place in the parish. The Priest is only his representative. A Priest only hears confessions with the approval of his Bishop. Because we have parishes far apart from each other, it is common in America for every priest to hear confessions, but in a place like Greece only certain Priests are allowed to hear confessions. In the Antiochian tradition, a Priest is given the Epigonation as a symbol of his authority to hear confessions. However, discussing a pastoral problem with one’s Bishop does not mean that we can reveal confessions to others. We must still maintain the absolute secrecy of the Mystery of Confession.

                  Fr. John W. Morris

              • Harry Coin says

                In the end, one either assesses and decides to trust that the clergyman is capable of doing the right thing with what he witnesses in confession, or that he isn’t.

                These florid and pretentious phrases ‘seal of the confessional’ and other Hollywood / Legalisms, please now.

                If the one hearing a confession does wrongly with what he hears I expect there will be due consequences. I have come to learn reading here that’s expecting a lot these days, unless the clergyman is married. Then the standards for conduct appear to be higher.

                Here I find myself agreeing with Bishop Tikhon, retired of the West. Can the sound of trumpets and the end of days be far off?? My dog and cat seemed to be getting along this morning as well. Very odd.

                • Yes, Harry. In fact we agree more often than either of us might care, at the moment , to admit.
                  I’d like to add, for Archpriest John Morris’s benefit, and for Fr. Hans Jacobse’s benefit,that there is no good reason for secrecy of Confessions. In fact, no follower of Jesus Christ should demand of anyone that his sins be concealed. No follower of Jesus Christ should object to his or her sins being revealed to the world, to those inside and outside the Church. Confess ye your sins one to another is a clear instruction by the Great Apostle against the secrecy of the confessional and any “Confessional Seal.”
                  I’ll take an attitude familiar to Harry, George, and many others: “I’m from Missouri: show me!”
                  Give me your “proof text!” Give me your Holy Canon or conciliar decree that threatens a Priest who repeats to the world sins confessed before him to God with any punishment! No member of the honorable Presbytery has done anything but repeat a ban on revealing what is told in the Confessional and FAIL to report one Scriptural, Patristic, or Conciliar support for such a (dare I say it: “Superstitious”) ban.

                  • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                    Your Grace:

                    How about this from the Guidelines for Clergy in the Orthodox Church in America?

                    The secrecy of the Mystery of Penance is considered an unquestionable rule in the entire Orthodox Church. Theologically, the need to maintain the secrecy of confession comes from the fact that the priest is only a witness before God. One could not expect a sincere and complete confession if the penitent has doubts regarding the practice of confidentiality. Betrayal of the secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.

                    I am sure that I could find a similar rule in the Guidelines for Clergy in the Antiochian Archdiocese, but my copy is in my office and I am at home. But since you are OCA, I suspect that this would suffice.

                    Archpriest John W. Morris

                    • Archpriest John Morris says

                      The Clergy Guide of the Antiochian Archdiocese states:
                      a. The confessor must keep everything he is told in the strictest confidence.
                      b. The confessor must evaluate the legal ramifications of what is told to him in confession.
                      c. The confessor must consider whether the law would require him to report what has been told to him in confession to the authorities. If he believes the law may require him to go to the authorities, he must seek the advice and counsel of his bishop..

                      Thus the rules of the church require a priest to keep confidential what he is told, with the one exception that I have already noted that in cases of serious sin that violate the law, he must seek the advice of his Bishop.

                      Archpriest John W. Morris

                    • Archpriest John W. Morris gave us a quote from the OCA Guidelines for Clergy which bears out everything I have said relative to the secrecy of Confessions. It uses the word “theologically,’, and then goes on to say something not theological at all. In fact, the word ‘theologically” should be replaced by the word “rationally”, for what follows it is pure rationalization and deduction: “comes from the fact that (!) the priest is only a witness before God.”
                      Further, the flawed document states: ” Betrayal of the secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.” Astounding! ;”Canonical punishment?” Based on just what Canon?
                      Very good!

            • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

              I think you do understand him correctly Fr. Patrick.

          • Bishop Tikhon,

            I’m glad you brought this up–“under Emperor Constantine, any member of the Faithful who sinned was required to stand outside, in the porch, in the western part of the place of the Eucharist and bow down, confessing allowed his or her sin to EVERY person entering that place, and only after that could the Bishop pronounce forgiveness and admit the sinner(perhaps after a short or long epitimia) to communion in Christ’s Holy Mysteries.”

            I know it would help here if I looked all this up . . .but . .. I have noticed in the design of early to Medieval churches that they mostly had a place where the penitent stood outside the church in the (porch-I think I used to know another name for this) for whatever period of time, listening to a deacon(?) read prayers. They moved forward into the exo-narthex as they worked out thier sins and then into the nave where they joined the faithful after they fulfilled their penance. I also remember learning of sins being said out loud, but It was my understanding that that only pertained to certain sins, ones we would find really bad-like the ones you mentioned. This is a faint memory, so Your Grace could you exspand or guide my memory on this?

            • Colette: that should be “until” Emperor Constantine” NOT “under Emperor Constantine.”

              • Yep, makes sense. What I’m interested in here is if you have knowledge of the design of the church and the practice of penence. I don’t see this correlation anymore, at least here.

            • phil r. upp says

              When a person publicly confessed, this wasn’t, “I lied about taking the donkey out for a ride,” Confession was about a serious breach between the person and God. Adultery, murder, robbery, etc. If you read the Canons, there are lists of what the penitent should do before re-admitted to the Church community and Holy Communion. Public confession was a way for an individual to cleanse themselves, obtain forgiveness from the entire Church and be re-united to the People of God. Eventually, confession became a private event with their priest because others were using their confessions against them in business, govt, etc. So, as I originally said, confession became private due to pragmatic reasons. When people abstain from Holy Communion, this is the abnormal situation for a baptized Christian. We should never abstain for minor infractions, but ask the person we offend for forgiveness.

          • I wish my parish had more in common with a 12 Step fellowship I also attend. Having confessed to a group of people all that I’ve done (and hearing the same many times over), it’s very liberating (I mean from my ego), and nothing scandalizes me.

            I can see why sacramental confession is the way it is. It’s too bad, really.

      • Fr Jonathan Tobias says

        This notion of “public confession” is peculiar. It is assumed that “public confession” means the publication of detailed sins in an assembly. I would challenge anyone to find a historic example of this sort of thing going on as the usual ecclesial practice, even in the apostolic context. “Confess your sins one to another” does not necessarily imply this sort of public recitation at all.

        This strikes me as a typical “charismatic/pentecostal” assumption, in which the practices of the early church are assumed by extrapolating quite modernistic (and even secular) experiences back onto the past. Even the rather exceptional phenomena presided over by St John of Kronstadt, of simultaneous public expressions, cannot be accepted as representing the apostolic norm.

        “Confession” requires an audible assertion, but by no means public. I doubt if the detailed narration of particular sins was ever the proper experience of the Church, or in the domain of “things done decently and in good order.”

        So I would have to disagree with the implicit notion underlying “Confessions, in the Orthodox context, were never meant to be secret.”

        Moreover, the thing that is to be “shouted from the housetops” is the revelation of the mystery of the Gospel, not the squalid details of peccadillos.

        • Patrick Henry Reardon says

          “It is assumed that “public confession” means the publication of detailed sins in an assembly. I would challenge anyone to find a historic example of this sort of thing going on as the usual ecclesial practice, even in the apostolic context.”

          Amen to that challenge!

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            Actually, in the ancient Church people did make public confessions. The Bishop would then give absolution and sometimes require a public penance as can be seen by the canons. We can thank the Irish for popularizing private confession by following the example of Eastern monasticism where people would go to a pious monk for confession and spiritual guidance. The Irish monks who evangelized Europe in the 7th century brought the practice of private confession to the rest of Europe. Despite the distance there was a strong Eastern influence on Celtic Christianity.

            Fr. John W. Morris

        • “Squalid details of peccadillos?” Really over the top. The point, o Presbyter, is that there is no Orthodox Church law against revealing the content of a confession to a Bishop by one of his Priests who heard the Confession in place, always in place, of the Bishop.

          • Heracleides says

            Ummm… is this how you received 90% of the dirt you dish?

            • Seraphim98 says

              Not funny. Forgive me, but it does not seem right to address a bishop in this way. We are instructed in Scripture to entreat them as fathers if there is any question of wrong doing concerning them, not to mock and disparage them. I guess I just don’t like seeing bishops or monastics treated in this way. Frankness in conversation is one thing…insult by insinuation is quite another. Again, forgive me for my presumption in offering correction…it’s just not right.

            • “Dirt you dish?” Why, that sounds a lot like the lingo on Voices from Russia! Has Heracleides been hanging out with Barb? Or did it just come out naturally? If I were a person who talked like that too, I think (correct me if I’m wrong Heracleides, for a change) I’d respond, ‘Get HER!”

            • Fr Jonathan Tobias says

              My apologies, Your Grace. My reference to “squalid details” was with regard to the “shouting from the housetops,” which has nothing to do with the confession of sins, but rather with the Gospel proclamation.

              The particular ways and means of confession do indeed need to be articulated by the Church in every age. Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky said, in his little book on confession and repentance, that the modern age is so rife with porneia and license that the old programme of penances could not be imposed.

              Perhaps the same is true of private confession. It is difficult to see how nowadays, the activities at Kronstadt would be amenable to the ideal set out in 1 Corinthians 14.26ff. The phenomenon of public confession may have gone the way of the giving of the peace in the nave, for perhaps the same reason.

              Besides, in the case of such public simultaneity, how would there be time for diligent questioning, and the giving of a penance that is “opposite to the transgression.” Simultaneity eventually turns into anonymity, and thus a failed confession.

              Certainly, the words “seal of confession” have a Romish root. But I wonder: in the language of the rite, we certainly do give the impression that it is the Lord Who receives the Confession, and that the priest is “only but a witness, that I may bear witness before Him …”

              It seems to me that while yes, there is no explicit prohibition of a priest divulging the content of a confession to his bishop, it may be even less likely that there is any positive permission for him to do so.

              • Not only permission but direction to do so in the ordination certificate.
                But others here, even Priests like you, seemed to be saying there is some explicit prohibition.!

                Please put down at least frive (5) thumbs-downs below this from “the usual suspects,” some of whom don’t read a post at all but grab at a chance to say they don’t like the writer.

                • I have just looked at my ordination certificate and it does not say anything like you suggest your grace.

                  • Patrick Henry Reardon says

                    If Bishop Tikhon is correct (about the priest’s obligation to reveal serious sins, heard in Confession, to his bishop), I had better check with my Metropolitan Archbishop right away.

                    I hear Confessions in Chicago, the murder capital of the nation.

                  • Fr, Hans Jacobse says

                    Mine doesn’t say any such thing either.

                    Your Grace:

                    If what you say is indeed true (and I do not believe that it is), then should the people making their confession be informed that the priests hearing them might be obligated to break confidentiality before the confession begins? If not, a lie would be promulgated given that they entered the confession presuming that confidentiality existed.

                    Second, should the people be told when a breaking of the confidentiality took place?

                • Chris Banescu says

                  I thought mostly impressionable teenagers and immature adults were excessively preoccupied with their image and always seeking approval from others. I guess I was wrong.

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            Your Grace:

            There is a difference between discussing a spiritual matter arising from a confession with one’s Bishop privately and revealing the contents of a confession to anyone else. The Priest hears confessions only with authorization from his Bishop who is the actual pastor of the parish. Thus, the principle that it is a terrible sin for a Priest to reveal a confession still stands.

            Fr. John W. Morris

            • Thank you for admitting that any “seal” is not absolute and universal in application. That was my main point. As for your last sentence, I disagree. For a Priest to reveal any contents of a confession is not necessarily (but it CAN be) a “terrible” sin. In fact, I dare to theorize that the revelation of a sin confessed might ***** possibly****** lead to the salvation of the person who confessed it.

              If it were a “terrible sin” always, then it would seem that the Church overlooked it for the entire period of Church history from the first Pentecost through the Seventh Ecumenical Council!

              • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                The Ecumenical Councils do not deal with the issue because private confession was not yet widespread when the last Council met in 787. However, it would seem that the principle of confidentiality would apply to anything told a priest in private even in his office when doing counseling. I believe that professional counselors would agree that it is a matter of professional ethics.

                Fr. John W. Morris

        • Fr. Jonathan Tobias. You wrote: “It is assumed that “public confession” means the publication of detailed sins IN an assembly.”
          “Assumed” by just whom? It’s easy to take refuge behind the passive voice. If you assume that public confession means the publication of detailed sins IN an assembly, that’s your problem.
          In our American English, Father, “public’ no longer refers to ANYTHING necessarily organized or assembled. One could, in theory, streak down a deserted suburban avenue and be arrested by the police for public indecency, even if only one sleepless old maid in an attic room looked out the window and spotted one streaking! Please, please, please do not give us the etymology of the word “public”!!
          What does “in public” mean to you? What does “publicity” mean to you?
          No, Father Jonathan, you are very wrong here. Public confession is not confined to telling anything to any assembly at all. In the early Church, for example, public confession was an individual confessing to each other individual BEFORE that individual passed through the Church doors to form an assembly.
          Public executions took place even if no one was present, let alone assembled,, to observe them.

      • Lance Hogben says

        Public confession would indeed make violation of confidentiality impossible. St. John of Kronstadt is a modern example of a prominent priest removing himself from one vector of vulnerability through its application. Maybe we should move toward this mode generally. Once we’ve succeeded in ruining the vocations of all our existing clergy through litigation, we can start over again, Eden-fresh.

    • What is a tithing member of the Orthodox Church? The Holy Order of Men gnostic ex druid New Age members of the Church and clergy have really put a heresy on an unfortunately large number of parishioners. Tithing is not a doctrinal part of the Orthodox Christian faith. Is the better Christian one who gives 20 percent of their 15,000 yearly income or 5 percent of their 2million dollar yearly income? Any grounded member of the faith will know the anwer.

      Please get your act together.

      • George Michalopulos says

        George, tithing is by far the best all-around method for funding your local church. Unless you believe it’s better to have your children dance like trained monkeys for the amusement of the non-Orthodox.

        • I am not with you on trained monkey comment. I will disagree on tithing being the best all around method of funding. In the parishes I have been involved in 20 percent provides 80 percent of the funding. It is what it is. Those that do not give are no less Christian than those that do.

          • George Michalopulos says

            George, tithing is the beginning of giving. All can tithe, even the poorest. It’s just a matter of how much God means to you.

            • haralambos says

              I’d like to add something if I may. When I was a poor college student, I was not able to contribute financially to my parish. I literally had no money. I confided this to a pious elderly Greek lady in the parish about my predicament. She said if you can’t give money, give your time. Fortunately, my parish at the time was adding a narthex. So I devoted my time by riding my bike to the church and helping with the construction. My guilt vanished. Praise be to God.

              • George Michalopulos says


                • Michael Bauman says

                  But, George, that’s soooooooooooooo Protestant and cultic and probably Romish too. Don’t you realize it is the the God given right of the Archons (or other ethnic equivalent) to rule the Church through their money or that the bishops have a right to anything they ask for?

          • Setting the Record Straight says

            George: I think the reference is to Food Festivals, which often feature dance performances. As a huge fan of our local AWESOME Greek Festival, I must take exception to the trained-monkeys thing. The kids put on a fantastic show, and yes, it’s a huge money-maker for the parish. The souvlaki is the best in town, too. And the sanctuary tour is simply beautiful. Take it from this Catholic interloper: The Greek Festival does more for local ecumenical relations than a thousand conferences and “dialogues.” Opa!

            • George Michalopulos says

              I agree with you. However in the final analysis, what we are doing is raising money by dancing for the benefit of non-believers. I don’t think that the Medieval Greek missionaries had this in mind when they went to Wallachia, Germania, Brittania, and Moldavia. We do not do our ancestors proud.

              Please note, I have no problem with ethnic festivals per se. I go to the local GermanFest, Scottish festival, Israeli festival, Juneteenth, etc. These however are put on by local ethnic organizations which are not-for-profit.

          • Lance Hogben says

            George, in ALL human organizations, the 20/80 breakdown is observable in all realms of activity and contribution. It is not the particular cryin’ shame of American Orthodox parishes where powerless clergy beg people to consider making a proportional freewill offering to keep the church out of hock. There is nothing cultishly abusive about any of it.

    • Fr. Peter said, “This falls along the same lines as the stories we hear about Elder Ephraim, but actually might be worse!”

      Father, this is a very unfortunate comment. I have known many people who have gone to confession with Elder Ephraim, and I have confessed at some of his monasteries. From my experience, and from those I know, there is nothing at all improper about the way in which Confession is handled at Elder Ephraim’s monasteries. Some clergy oppose the fact that epitemia’s are given (usually abstention from Communion for a period of time), but this is done only for serious sins and the length of abstention is extremely short compared to what is prescribed by the disciplinary canons of the Church from the Ecumenical Counsels and Church Fathers. Neither Elder Ephraim, nor his monasteries, can be fairly accused of the kind of spiritual abuse and disorder that is being alleged regarding this monastery.

      Met Jonah claimed to have established his monastery with the blessings of Elder Ephraim and his spiritual father from Russia. I can’t help but believe that many of these disorders would have been prevented had the monastery remained in spiritual obedience to Elder Ephraim.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Jason, let’s be careful here. Although HB started this monastery, he hasn’t been there guiding it for at least four years now. The responsibility for any irregularities that may exist lies firmly on the shoulders of the Abbott and his diocesan ordinary.

        • Lola J. Lee Beno says

          Even further, he has not been allowed to visit the monastery for at least the past 2 years.

          • Lil Ole Housewife says

            Dear Lola,

            Please tell us more about this if you know it. The monastery has done good work and its abbot was exemplary and is a good Metropolitan for us. The new abbot, Father Meltios Webber has written two books, one a twelve step program for Orthodox that I have personally given as a gift, and given many edifying Orthodox talks. He was with Metropolitan Kallistos Ware in England


            Now, from what I can make of the horrifying allegations and news put on this blog, many monks have left the monastery for a Serbian monastery over a hundred miles away. According to a young new convert,, the abbot has created a new heresy and broken the confessional, was the reason for driving the monks away, and has a perverted idea of Orthodoxy. The owner of this blog has sat on a letter from this young man with these horrifying confessions without making the Church aware of the same but has posted it here after three weeks. Another poster, Rod Dreyer, another relatively new convert, has spoken with the young man and given his opinion that there is some verity in his letter.

            The monastery has had some of its building burnt and all of its monks and abbots still with the monastery are scattered after spending some time in shelters after a quick hald hour evacuation because of wildfire.

            All of this horror could be rumor.

            While we pray for Jonah, let us add the monastery he created to our prayer lists.

            Last night, I downloaded all the music from the monastery in case the website should disappear.

            • Lola J. Lee Beno says

              There have been several comments in different posts here with that information. I can’t remember who said this, though.

            • L.O.H.,

              I understand that all these accusations can sound fantastical, especially if you have had good experiences with his books and videos.

              I have been to the Monastery, both before and after the arrival of Fr Meletios. I have gone to confession to him. He was not overt with me with any inappropriate teachings, but he seemed a minimalist to me. As in: minimizing my struggles/sins. That’s not the worst thing ever.

              But, I have stayed at the Monastery for 3-5 day stints before. To me, at the time, it was just a vibe. An uncomfortable vibe. This, again, should not convince anyone.

              However, I do know Fr Martin well. I have known him for 26 years (since college). I converted to Orthodoxy almost 19 years ago; Fr Martin converted about 12 years ago, or so. He is an honorable and trustworthy man.

              But, of course, you don’t have to trust me or the accusers. By all means, contact Fr Martin yourself. He’ll tell you. Or visit Platina. The other monks will tell you, also. Or contact Bp Maxim of the Serbian Church.

              Human nature is capable of the most heinous crimes and – with compartmentalization – in other venues acting proper.

              I hope this helps.

        • Thomas Mathes says

          How did Abbot Meletios become abbot? Was he elected by the monks who left? Was he imposed by Archbishop Benjamin? Who recommended him for this position?

          • The story is that Metropolitan Jonah was being tapped to become a bishop, but had to refuse initially because he didn’t think anyone in the brotherhood was ready to become an abbot. At that time Fr. Meletios approached Met. Jonah about merely joining the brotherhood. Met. Jonah thought he had a dream come true because here was an experienced monastic, and asked Fr. Meletios to consider becoming the abbot instead. Obviously, the brotherhood would have had to agree to this and Archbishop Benjamin’s permission would have had to be obtained.

            At least, that’s the story as of 2008. It’s possible, but we simply don’t know for sure, if there’s a “real story” behind all this that would have seen Fr. Meletios somehow forced into the situation, or key information about him withheld by others in order to facilitate his selection as abbot.

            If the accusations turn out to be true, then we could say Metropolitan Jonah was much mistaken in this man, but it doesn’t mean Metropolitan Jonah is automatically a bad person or a fool. Metropolitan Jonah loves his monastery and loves his monks. Would he have ever left his monastery in the hands of this man if he had any inkling whatsoever about this? Absolutely not.

            And as far as I know, there was never even a rumor of anything like this about Fr. Meletios before this year. If the accusations are true, it’s possible this is not a long-term pattern of behavior for Fr. Meletios, but something that developed later. Monasteries are under constant threat from demons, and we should all grieve to see such a bright jewel as was created through Metropolitan Jonah’s hands, crushed and ground to dust by human sinfulness.

            • Thomas Mathes says

              Helga, thank you.

            • Yes. As well, Fr Meletios has mentioned to the brothers and visitors (I was one of them.) that, tho he was tonsured a monk back in 1978 on Patmos, he never lived any sort of a monastic life till he arrived at Manton (whereupon he became Abbot). It’s likely his lack of monastic experience/formation has led to where we are today.

              It is also troubling that Fr Nektarios (the former Fr Michael Rymer) – with his struggles with homosexual practice and grooming – is now the blagochenie at the Monastery. He is a nice man, but I fear yet another soul not ready for responsibility has been advanced beyond his spiritual abilities. I certainly can’t judge his readiness. I only know him from my 3 visits there; he was always polite to me.

              But, there is a lack of monastic formation going on, it would seem. Leading to all sorts of bad things. Lord have mercy.

              • I believe Fr Michael Rymer was suspended from the priesthood by the GOA
                “Rymer was suspended from the priesthood by the GOA in December of 2003. In 2006 the spiritual court of the first instance recommended that Rymer be defrocked after he admitted the act of fornication with a layman. The spiritual court of the second instance returned Rymer to the status of a layman on December 11, 2006.”
                If this is true, and the site says it is public record, this is very troubling.
                Or is this another priest with the same name and same former GOA connection?

                • Its him…he abused a developmentally disabled adult

                  • A married priest took a developmentally disabled YOUTH on a Gay Nude Cruise and has been deposed. Please note that while Rymer has been excoriated endlessly by Cappy and Melanie, the case of the married priest has been totally ignored by them. Is it because Rymer (sp?) was a monastic and the OCA priest was not? I think so.
                    In monasteries, unordained “elders” and others sometimes hear confessions, as any layman can, but these laymen do not have the ability to administer the Mysteries or admit anyone to Them.
                    Further, Fathers Morris and Jacobse et al, there is not even in Roman Catholic law anything requiring such a layman to maintain any ‘Confessional Seal” (Roman Catholic term). However, an Ordained Abbot or Chaplain of a Monastery may decide to admit to Holy Communion as fully prepared, individuals who go to confession to such Elders or other appointed laymen.
                    Still further, of course any bishop may command his presbyters that hear Confessions that they may never ever reveal the content of the Confessions they may hear, without exception; however, there’s nothing intrinsicallly Orthodox about such a command. On the contrary, the practice is NOT fixed.. I myself, if not retired, would probably tell Priests that I expect them to contact me personally and relate to me any confession of sexual abuse of a minor. Of course, I would expect the Priest to tell the one confessing something LIKE this: “Messalina, I’m going to report this to the Bishop and he will decide the questions of forgiveness, epitimia, and publication.”

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Your Grace, I completely agree with you about the disparity in who the pokrov ladies go after. I didn’t call it “selective outrage” for nothing.

              • Fr. Meletios, shortly after he took up the reigns at St. John’s, welcomed a young man (and, at that time, recent convert) of my acquaintance to the Monastery for a two-week visit. This young man had been abused and neglected as a child, and struggled with homosexual inclinations, and had only in the year before realized his errors and the need to live a godly, Christian life of chastity and repentance. When he returned home, he told me all about how Fr. Meletios had told him that there was absolutely nothing wrong with being an active homosexual, and that he had his blessing to find a boyfriend. At the time, I found this absolutely unbelievable. Now, I am not so sure. Since then, this young man has apostatized and has had many boyfriends–and so the last state is worse than the first. And I am put in mind of millstones and the sea…

              • Lance Hogben says

                We all lack adequate formation. I don’t think anyone at the monastery is a wicked man; they make mistakes and do not know how to defend themselves from attack. Our whole community is struggling mightily against all the deceits of satan, and sometimes we slip up. Forgiveness and good counsel are needed, not vindictiveness. Also, clear-sighted ability to admit past mistakes helps us learn. Our beloved Metropolitan (and I do not write this out of spite but for honesty’s sake) was not an ideal abbot: many of the monks were so much happier once Fr. Meletios began leading them as hestays with them without the frequent excursions that punctuated Abbot Jonah’s schedule. Abbot Jonah needed to get out and about; that’s why Episcopacy suits him well (and I hope he finds a see sometime soon).
                Every monastery has its crises. I am not so sure that what is being alleged above is all that clear – it may be a matter of interpretation and opinion. And the harmony of the community had already been disturbed by other trivial lapses among the brethren, which spelled out trouble, of which we now see the precipitation. It’s all terribly sad that nothing seems to go right in the OCA these days, but a 7th-Day Adventist told me today that things are not hunky-dory there either. We are all under attack, and we all need to hang together. Our mutual forgiveness will be our onion in the pit.

          • Lil Ole Housewife says

            Abbot Meletios on himself at a ROCOR talk last winter:

            A typical bio:

            About Archimandrite Meletios (from ) The Right Reverend Meletios (Weber) has been the pastor of Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Cruz, California since 1994. He was received into the Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware in 1971. He was educated at Dulwich College and Oxford University in England, and has a doctorate in psychological counseling. He studied Theology at Oxford and also at the University in Thessalonica, Greece. He has been an high school teacher and a university professor. He was tonsured a monk at the Community of St John on the island of Patmos in 1978. Fr. Meletios has served the Orthodox Church in Greece, Great Britain, Montana, and California, and the Netherlands. In June 2008 Fr Meletios was named abbot of St. John of San Francisco Monastery (Manton, California).

            What I cannot find is how he changed from the Greek Church to the OCA, although his release is online:

            235 DELETE: V. Rev. Archimandrite Meletios P. Webber
            (Released to the OCA, July 7, 2008)


        • George, Met. Jonah was allowed back for visits in 2009 and 2011. In the latter case, it was only because a dear friend of his reposed and she was being buried there. Other than those two visits, it is true that Archbishop Benjamin did not allow him to come back. In fact, he explicitly forbade Met. Jonah from spending part of his retreat/leave at St. John’s during Lent 2011.

          Your basic point, though, is that Metropolitan Jonah had no control or ability to supervise what was going on there. That responsibility fell to Abbot Meletios and Archbishop Benjamin.

          • This is probably a complicated question to answer, but why would +Benjamin forbid the Metropolitan from visiting his old monastery? To the rest of us ignoramuses, it sounds like a cruel move on +Benjamin’s part or maybe there was some bad blood involving +HB somehow…

        • George said: “Jason, let’s be careful here. Although HB started this monastery, he hasn’t been there guiding it for at least four years now. The responsibility for any irregularities that may exist lies firmly on the shoulders of the Abbott and his diocesan ordinary.”

          Yes, but wasn’t it Metropolitan Jonah who appointed him as his replacement, a parish priest and psychologist who had never lived under monastic obedience?

          I would prefer to think the best of Met Jonah, but he did have a role to play in Met Meletios taking over as abbot. Met Jonah also did not have much experience under monastic obedience before becoming abbot himself. My point is that after receiving the blessing of Elder Ephraim to establish the monastery, it would have been profitable for Met Jonah and the other fathers to maintain a spiritual connection with Elder Ephraim, an Athonite abbot for many decades and experienced spiritual father whose monasteries in this land are thriving.

          Almost every monastery disaster in this country can be attributed to the fact that the monastery was founded and led by monastics and abbots with no extensive experience under traditional monastic obedience in a reputable Orthodox monastery. This is the cause of every problem. For this reason I thought very highly of Met Jonah’s plan to establish more monasteries here by bringing over experienced monastics from existing monasteries abroad. I thought at one time the plan was to bring monks from Valaam, which would certainly make sense on account of Met Jonah’s connection with this monastery and the OCA’s Russian heritage. Unfortunately, this plan did not proceed as hoped, and the one monastery he was able to establish since becoming metropolitan has caused a lot of controversy.

          • Jason you have posted twice that +Met Jonah obtained and was under some sort of blessing from Elder Ephrim. He was Never with the Greek church of the Elder. Where did you get such a distortion?
            I am really interested. He might have met him or known him. But that would have been the end of it.
            As to a responsibility that you seem to want to put on him for another’s sins. You might want to reconsider if you are responsible for what and who a person has become years after you left a job, even if you recommended him for it.
            In the Case of Fr. Melitious Webber, he was a priest monk – and had a history in the DOW. However other candidates were considered he still seemed the best at the time. Even Brilliant people can become delusional and slip away from reality over time.
            I would be interested why he left the DOW and went back to Holland? But even saying that, I wish he had remained well and not had the assistance of a Bishop who apparently shares some of his weaknesses. In the end only he is to take responsibility for who he has become. We can help his wellness with our prayers, not looking to blame +Met Jonah who dedicated everything he was to the monastery.

            • Fr Meletios Webber was also in the GOA; and knew Fr Michael Rymer as far back as 2000. I don’t know about the Holland transfer.

              A servant is not above his master. This is what seems to me to be the issue with Manton/Fr Meletios/Abp Benjamin. And, maybe HB Jonah, too.

              Without long monastic formation; without a long repentance; with deep passions unpurified (in our leaders) – what do we expect to happen?

            • Face-it said: “Jason you have posted twice that +Met Jonah obtained and was under some sort of blessing from Elder Ephrim. He was Never with the Greek church of the Elder. Where did you get such a distortion?”

              The claim that Met Jonah (while still a priestmonk) sought the blessing of Elder Ephraim to establish his monastery is something Met Jonah has always stated. It used to say this clearly on the monastery’s website, but you can still read this on the OCA’s main listing for the monastery:


              The Spiritual Foundation: The Blessing from Valaam and Elder Ephraim

              The Monastery was founded by Hieromonk Jonah (Paffhausen) as its spiritual father and confessor, in obedience to his spiritual father Abbot (now Bishop) Pankratiy of the Valaam Monastery of the Transfiguration, in Russia. This direction was given following a meeting between Abbot Pankratiy and Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, where they blessed Fr. Jonah with the obedience to establish a monastery in California. Fr. Jonah then requested the Diocese to establish a monastery. At this same time, Elder Ephraim was beginning the establishment of St Anthony Monastery in Arizona, and the many other communities under his guidance throughout the Greek Archdioceses of America and Canada. The first brother at Pt. Reyes was sent from Arizona, by Hieromonk Gregory who was then at St Anthony, to help Fr. Jonah…

              As I said above, the monastery would have benefitted greatly by remaining under the continued guidance of Elder Ephraim.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Jason, if it’s true that Elder Ephraim gave a blessing to Jonah to start the monastery, then that’s a credit to both men. The fact that Manton may be suffering from heresy and schism (possibly in the first case, definately in the second) cannot be laid on Jonah’s shoulders as he hasn’t been there in four years (and was forbidden from being there the past two).

      • Jason,

        As you have heard from many who have no opposition to this, I have heard from many who do. I stand by my comments.

    • Sean Richardson says

      While I agree 100% and despise those who violate the sanctity of the confessional, I am also well aware that in the late-1970s it was well-known amoung SVS seminarians that there were those priests one could confess to and it would remain inviolate (Frs. John & Cyril, for example) and those no one ever wanted to confess anything of significance to because it would cast shadows on their place at the seminary. This was protested against, but some faculty members defended the use of information revealed in confession as part of a public development of student profiles and stated that the idea of private confessions was really a Western concept anyway. In my mind, once the confessional is violated, then confession, in its most appropriate form, ends.

  2. It’s worse than we thought. Lord, have mercy.

    • Lord have mercy! isn’t it true that people including Metropolitan Jonah want Archmandrite Meletios to become a Bishop? This is all beyond sick and an independent investigation needs to be ordered. I also think Archbishop Benjamin needs to be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Maybe he should check into St Luke’s for “treatment”?

      • Priest Justin Frederick says

        Neither Metropolitan Jonah nor Archbishop Benjamin wants Fr. Meletios to be made a bishop, nor ddoes Fr. Meletios desire it.

        • Forgive me please since I realize that this is a small point in the grander scheme of things, but doesn’t the OCA clergy purchase their own vestments? Because when I visited the monastery earlier this year and saw a bishop’s staff standing outside Fr. Meletios’ cell with a collection of other walking sticks, does it mean he didn’t want to be bishop???

          • Subdeacon Julio Gurrea says


            *sigh* An abbot uses a paterissa/pósokh (“bishop’s staff”) same as a bishop does.

  3. ChristineFevronia says

    Six monks fled Manton a month ago, seeking refuge at St. Herman’s Monastery in Platina. Their story is compelling and shocking.

    On Saturday, lightning struck near the Manton Monastery of St. John. A fire grew rapidly. The remaining monks still living there with Abbot Meletios were evacuated Saturday at 4:00, and were given just half-hour to leave. They removed a few icons from the church, the relics of several saints, and a few personal belongings. They stayed for awhile in Manton at the emergency shelter and then dispersed. They are staying around the state with family members. They had to leave all their farm animals and their many cats behind, and took the two dogs to a vet in nearby Redding.

    At noon yesterday, Sunday, fire overtook the monastery property and the outbuildings were destroyed. Two fire crews were trying to hold the fire at the main building, and there are no additional reports since then. Rumors are going back and forth regarding whether any or all the buildings have been saved, but this is just hearsay as the fire is zero percent contained.

    And what does the OCA have to say about this? It is so absurdly par for the course. On the OCA website, there is a blurb dated yesterday that says: “A web team member’s call to the monastery went unanswered, indicating that the monks may have sought safety elsewhere… Anyone with additional information and/or updates is kindly requested to send them to”

    Are you kidding me? Doesn’t the “web team” talk with synod member Bishop Benjamin? Oh, and let’s browse the Diocese of the West’s webpage to see if there is any info there… Hmm. Nothing–and it’s been over TWO DAYS now since the fire broke out.

    I pray for the monks who fled Manton who have taken up residence at St. Herman’s in Platina (going from OCA to Serbian Orthodox overnight…) They left everything behind that was “home” for them. And now I pray for all the monks who chose to remain there with Abbot Mel under Bishop Benjamin with their “blessings” to masturbate and engage in homosexual practices…

    A lightning bolt straight from the sky, burning the monastery grounds… May God save us all from our sins and transgressions. And may God have mercy on all of us, most especially the monks who pray unceasingly for the salvation of our souls.

    Lord have mercy.

    • If I were an evangelical TV preacher I would loudly proclaim this to be God’s Judgement on the monastery and that everyone should repent and be saved (and donate to my “charity”)… But I’m not.
      So I just think to myself its damned coincidental to have that happen at this point… If +Benjamin wasn’t going to shut it down then God was going to do it for him?

    • Dorothy Allen says

      I do not presume to know anything about the activities at the Monastery. My reply concerns the “lack of information” disseminated about the fire.

      I have friends whose home is (or was!) near the Monastery. They too were evacuated at the same time as the monastics and are staying with friends in another part of the state. This fire is huge, and the area is spread out and very rural woodlands. Roads into the area have been sealed off except to fire fighters and law enforcement. Even the local television station has had difficulty getting pictures (using a helicopter) because the plume of smoke is so thick. Individual fire fighters cannot make statements to the press or even to home owners who might call them on cell phones to inquire about their homes. The only persons “on the ground” who so far have access to first hand viewing of damaged properties are the fire fighters, until such time that the area becomes safe enough for fire inspectors and other officials to enter.

      I and many persons who live there or who have friends and family there have been listening to a scanner that consists of fire-fighters’ verbal communications to one another since Saturday afternoon. That is the only way that anyone has gleaned any first hand information and has passed it along, person to person. Since that is the case, the only “news” has been unconfirmed reports from individuals, which are often second hand or third hand. Even the television news does not announce these, because they are not first hand reports. It would be irresponsible to put forth information that might be conjecture or inaccurate. For example, one person said that he spoke to a fire fighter who said that “the monastery was saved.” Another person called the fire command and was told that “we do not have that information yet.” While still another person said that “the outbuildings were destroyed but the main building is safe.”

      So, until the properties can be accessed and inspected, no one can know the exact extent of the damage/destruction at any of the home sites or at the Monastery. The only official announcement is that “7 structures have been lost.” I saw published photos of two of them where access was allowed; they were private dwellings. What structures the other five are, no announcement has been made because access is not yet permitted to them. The owners of most of the evacuated properties have not yet been informed of the status of their homes/structures. So, it is understandable that at this point the Diocese and the OCA do not have accurate information to pass along.

    • M.Vasiliou says

      The lightning bolt striking the Vatican during the First Vatican Council of 1870, which declared Papal Infallibility and Supremacy, was certainly not a coincident.

      Sometimes God does act through His heavenly powers especially when we humans commit such egregious sins in His Holy Name.

      • Jane Rachel says

        Then there’s the oddly coincidental Saturday afternoon Minnesota lightning bolt that struck the Wisconsin family as they scrambled off their sailboat to escape a sudden Lake Superior storm. This was a single lightning bolt that seriously injured seven and killed the nine-year old boy. The seven-year-old boy waded out to where his brother lay face down in the water, and turned him over. The paramedics found a pulse but they couldn’t revive him. I was in Duluth, by the water, watching the storm come in, and I saw that lighting bolt and wondered why there was only one. The single lightning bolt that killed this innocent child – was that God’s judgment, too? Or is it, this time, just the nature of lightning?

        • George Michalopulos says

          Hard to say, JR. I believe Martin Luther was struck twice by lightning. Some people have a magnetic field that attracts lightning. All in all though, most people tend to stand up and take notice when a church is struck by lightning.

          • It is simply our belief as Orthodox Christians that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens by chance. Everything happens with God allowing it to. The ways of God are inscrutable, and we don’t know why he chooses to allow many things to happen.

        • Lil Ole Housewife says

          Dear Jane Rachel,

          Bad things happen to good people with regularity. I was cleaning up my email of messages from people I don’t know and ran across this horror. A vandal burnt down a newly renovated Orthodox Church in Virginia:

          Their website f

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        “The lightning bolt striking the Vatican during the First Vatican Council of 1870, which declared Papal Infallibility and Supremacy, was certainly not a coincident.”

        Fair enough, in the sense that nothing is—in a theological sense—simply coincidental.

        Even coincidence does not mean insignificance.

        During the fierce storm that accompanied the voting on Papal Infallibility, very few thought that dramatic phenomenon a mere coincidence.

        Those who favored Papal Infallibility thought the thunder storm significant of divine approval.

        Those opposed to the vote thought the thunder storm an omen of something else.

        In any case the contemporary descriptions of the event portray a thing very dramatic. There was no electrical lighting, of course, and the massive Saint Peter’s lay in profound darkness. The candlelight did precious little to enlighten that great cavern. The bishops sat in deep shadows; the high ceiling was lost to view. Roll after roll of thunder accompanied the tally of the votes, one by one, all punctuated by the lightning bolts that broke through the darkness.

        No matter how one felt about Papal Infallibility, this was the best show on earth at the time.

        • Ronda Wintheiser says

          Then there was that lightning bolt in August of 2009 that struck the steeple of a Lutheran church in Minneapolis during the church-wide assembly where the ELCA voted to accept same-sex marriages.

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            Well, we also have TS Issac heading towards the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida. What does that tell ya?


            • Disgusted With It says

              I think it tells me that God heard the television networks were skipping coverage of Monday night when Ann Romney was scheduled to speak, and now because of the storm she has been moved to Tuesday when the networks will cover it. 😉

    • Lil Ole Housewife says

      Dear Christina,

      Thank you for the update. People are praying nationwide for the health and safety of all those who had to evacuate the wildfires in California, the people still in danger in Nevada and California, and for the monastery itself. Since i am not a Calvinist, I do not believe that anyone is part of a living blessed elect, and in this world, I know that bad things happen to good people.

      The testimony of this new convert who wants to become a monk is very horrifying on a number of levels. There are several things to consider. Here is one:

      If Father Herman had to be removed as abbot by the SOC, what is the nature of the monastery today to which many monks of the OCA has fled?

      Is anyone familiar with this monastery? Is Father Herman the great iconographer? Meanwhile, here is a useful link:

      • ChristineFevronia says

        Dear Helga, sister in Christ,

        St. Herman’s Monastery is an incredible place, full of the Light and Truth of Orthodoxy. Bishop Maxim of The Serbian Orthodox Church is a gifted soul. I trust that the Brethren of St. John’s who fled there for shelter are in good hands. Abbot Gerasim is trustworthy. By their fruits ye shall know them…

      • The monks of St. Herman’s were received into the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2000, after repenting of the error they made in separating from the Church several years prior. They had separated because their abbot at the time led them into schism in order to escape being brought to account for charges of a moral nature. The monks were led to believe their abbot was innocent and being persecuted. Once the monks found out that this was not the case, and that it was only his refusal to answer for this that kept them out of the Church, they demanded that he resign as abbot and retire to a hermitage, while the remaining brotherhood would reconcile with the Church.

        Monk Herman Podmoshensky is no longer affiliated with St. Herman’s. Having been defrocked, he is a lay monk. He reconciled with the Church several years after St. Herman’s Monastery did, and now lives a life of peace and repentance in a hermitage located near a women’s monastery.

      • I’m not sure whether or not this is off topic but this individual passed through the illustrious doors of St. Luke’s:

        I think the GOA should ask for their money back…they got ripped off.

  4. Lord, have mercy.

  5. macedonianreader says

    I too am Antiochian – and for what it’s worth, I have been advised not to be too quick in denying myself the Body and Blood of Christ, even if I have gone too long without confession.

    I must add, when he came to speak on the Jesus Prayer and Addictions at a local parish, he did not seem to take such a matter of fact approach to the Jesus Prayer. Also, there is a place in the book, “Mountain of Silence” where the Athonite Elder advises Markides not to force prayer when upset or unsettled. So I’m not sure Father Meletios was way off base here.

    Everything else stated has me concerned since this wouldn’t be the first time I have heard of such accusations on his use of hypnosis. It is a pity because Father Meletios’ book “Bread & Water, Wine, & Oil” is brilliant.

  6. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    All I can say is, Lord have mercy.

  7. I am speechless. This, if true, is very, very disturbing. A quIck question since I’m not in the OCA … is there really a widespread homosexual problem among monastics and clergy that has been mentioned? Transgendered monks? Blessed homosexual couples by a bishop? I expect this from the Episcopal Church, but this is frightening if true.

    • macedonianreader says

      I have always wondered if we can attribute these ‘events and attitudes’ to culture more than theology …

    • Archpriest John W. Morris says

      I am not OCA, but I cannot believe that these stories are true. If an Orthodox Bishop blessed a homosexual couple, he would be suspended immediately by his brother Bishops. There have been incidents, but every incident of which I know, a priest who is found to be an active homosexual is suspended in any canonical Orthodox jurisdiction. There have been some scandals, but every time the hierarchy moves to suspend those involved. Unfortunately in a few cases, the abbot accused held title to the property and simply declared his monastery independent or under a non-canonical Bishop, usually in a foreign country like Greece so that he is too far away to learn the truth about the situation.

      Archpriest John W. Morris

  8. Another skeptic says

    I’m distressed that Stepan is distressed. Fortunately he tells us straight-up how long he has been orthodox and I think I would have been just as distressed with what he relates when I was one year out as well. I’m a bit more calm (cynical) now:

    Point 6: emails. That’s kind of not surprising that Fr Mel would be taking responsibility for those emails. They kind of belong to the monastery. This tremendously violates our sense of “privacy” but I think this is not outrageous.

    Point 9: “With regard to hesychasm, Fr. Meletios told me that I should remain aware and mindful at all times. With the exception of the Jesus Prayer, there was hardly anything Christian in what was being taught.” I really don’t get this one — the first sentence sounds perfectly sound and the second seems to imply it’s messed up.

    #11: “They are for the laymen and not for monastics.” Odd but I’m not sure I would have said this was a red flag. Depends on context. Funny — some of the laity might say the prayers were for monastics and not themselves.

    #12 “Fr. Meletios has been accused…” I’m very uncomfortable with this being stated like this. Lots of people are accused of lots of things. Saints are accused of things. Was he “accused” or is it a rumor?

    #14 Yes, I’ve met Fr Michael Rymer and I’ve heard a bit — but I don’t get the accusation here. Isn’t the Church a place of repentance or is he supposed to be banished? As for being the confessor of Fr Mel, Fr Michael is mature and maybe he’s a gifted confessor. The innuendo gets in the way of legitimate concern. BTW, Fr Michael was already there when Fr Mel arrived.

    #17 I appreciate Stepan’s concern for adequate preparation for Holy Communion but in this point he kind of goes overboard. He writes that he voluntarily does not receive communion after his limit and he mentions, “I confessed sins that I felt would require additional repentance”. That is not for the penitent to determine — that is for the wiser confessor to decide. Period. As for voluntarily absenting oneself from communion, at least one priest has flatly stated that that is operating as one’s own spiritual father, pure and simple, and that’s not what monks or potential monks should be doing. If one’s parish priest gives that as instruction, fine, but then that instruction might be validly modified when living in a different community. “This was when it was confirmed to me that communing was done as a community and was not an issue of individual worthiness or preparation” — kinda makes it not so individualistic, doesn’t it? So one’s own so-called worthiness impacts the community. Different from what most of us are comfortable with, not so?
    One last thing: “worthiness”: we’re never worthy.

    I don’t mean to question all of what is written — much of what he writes is difficult to rationalize by looking at it from another perspective or needing more information. Were there other young men in this summer intern program? They don’t seem to have been as voluble. One red flag is that Fr Mel seemed to be rushing things with Stepan (#15). Or maybe that was the point — so that Stepan would seriously think about what he was getting himself into and not just rashly rush into a monastic life before he was ready.

  9. Are fires possibly God’s judgment? If so St. John the Theologian says that we should not pray for those who are committing sin that is unto death. Teaching others antinomianism as “obedience” before the Holy icons of Christ.

    • ChristineFevronia says

      So if the monastery is unscathed while the entire area around it burns, does that then mean that God has shown forth that He is pleased with the spiritually compromised behavior that has been happening there? I think not. Can we rightfully call this fire His judgment? Sure is tempting after reading Stepan’s brave account above, but I can’t make that leap as I am in awe that God has not yet sent forth a lightning bolt to strike down my own unworthy and sinful soul. I am grateful George posted this courageous soul’s account of his experience at the monastery, and I pray for the safety of Mr. Hatting. It is not easy to call into question the spiritual advice of a beloved abbot and author.

      If you take the time to read through the documentation and outlines provided by Abbess Aemiliane at the website:, you cannot but be astounded at the web of dishonesty of the hierarchs of the OCA. After reading through her two most recent postings, how can any of us trust any “investigation” by the OCA into the happenings of Manton?

      At what point will the beautiful people of the OCA stand up for Truth en masse? What is it going to take? How much more of this can we stand? Lord have mercy indeed.

      • Actually I read carefully through every piece of documentation that Abbess Aemiliane supplied on the website, and it looks like the passage to America of her nuns was done thoroughly and appropriately under (then) Metropolitan Jonah. It’s all there in black and white, every document.

        Inside the documentation, I discovered that she received a Phd in Developmental Psychology from Harvard in 2005. Too, there is the remarkable (miraculous) rescue and healing she received […] after a pedestrian overpass collapsed on her in Kansas in 1995.

        But this is where I wish to make a departure. With such spirituality and high degree of academic training, why all the vitriol expressed in her subjective commentaries; and why the hagiographic monolgues concerning herself and those she labels malevolent? If Shakespeare were standing beside me, he might interject, “Methinks thou dost protest too much.” The least this Harvard gal could do is write in plain English and level with her audience about the truth.

        Ah, but there’s the rub. Two sides to the exact same story. One of them probably happened, yes? I kinda think most of the parts of both sides happened, which means that the documentation was overlooked (or missed) by the OCA’s Special Investigating Committee, and the drunk and disorderly conduct didn’t even receive a mention in the nun’s dialogue. So the guy was never drunk and never part of the OCA? The plaintiffs just made that up, fiction for fiction’s sake? You’d think the OCA hierarchy just wakes up each morning, has its cup of coffee, and figures out who to ruin or destroy that day.

        That’s RIDICULOUS.

        And judging from recent comments on her website – after excoriating Bishop Melchisadek – and pointing quite a few fingers at others:

        (“Our Holy Monastery is lodging the relevant lawsuits and charges in the appropriate courts, for the protection of the Monastery and the honor of its members, against every culpable instigator and transmitter of slanders, railings, false reports and defamations, which aim at our personal injury and “the doom of the Monastery”, according to the words of him who removed the Antimens.”)

        – [REDACTED by editor for legal reasons]

        Which leads me to my final point. Is it against the law to get along? Even a little eensy teensy bit? I think the current problem with the nuns’ relocation lies not in a lack of documentation, but in an abundance of rancor and obtuseness on the part of their “holier than thou” leader. One would think that doing the right thing could be a little quieter and a lot less bellicose for a spiritually-attuned soul.

        [REDACTED by Editor]

        You’d think it’d be a time for them to humble down and pray, instead of lawyer up.

        • George Michalopulos says

          John, forgive me but i redacted the last paragraph as I’ve been told that their activities had nothing to do with the recent controversy.

        • John, you say you’ve gone through all the documentation that the nuns released on their website. Allow me to point out that there’s evidence in there that Fr. X was never received into the OCA.

          The nuns label a certain letter from Metropolitan Jonah as a “canonical release” for this man, but in fact the letter is no such thing. In fact, it is just a blessing for him to use his documentation from Greece to try to be received into another jurisdiction, since he had been released to a jurisdiction (the OCA) that could not accept him.

          When Abbess A. wrote to Metropolitan Hilarion on Fr. X’s behalf to ask for a blessing to return to his old monastery in Greece, Metropolitan Hilarion’s reply states unequivocally that Fr. X was never accepted into ROCOR, and is therefore still a clergyman of his old monastery in Greece and can return there! It does not say he has to get a release from the OCA, it says this hieromonk is still a clergyman of the church he came from originally.

          I am not saying the nuns are innocent angels in all of this. I don’t like the way they have handled this situation. My point is that these letters are clear evidence that part of the Synod’s accusation against Metropolitan Jonah is not true, thus undermining the Synod’s credibility in the matter. If Fr. X was never in the OCA, Met. Jonah cannot be blamed for not exercising responsibilities he simply did not have the authority to exert. Further, if Metropolitan Jonah’s accusers can make such a grave mistake, what other mistakes are we going to find?

    • Harry Coin says

      Well according to Bishop TIkhon, Archbishop Job (of “are the allegations true or are the false?’ fame, God rest him in peace) who died alone in his car after dealing with the day’s church problems was suffering in this manner of death God’s wrath for how he lived (see +BT’s posting on that subject on this forum). So, according to +BT logic, this fire eating up the monastery is more of the same. I’m not sure how having a kid born with a birth defect becomes the kid’s fault, or how mass murderers die of old age in jail with medical care, you’ll have to get those details from him.

      • Harry’s a little mixed up again. I did report these facts. Archbishop Job was discovered dead all alone in his car in a motel parking lot. Harry Coin added “after dealing with the day’s church problems.’ I’d never heard that, so i’d never have reported it. In fact, I’ve never been able to find out the simplest things about that discovery. One: At what time of the day was Archbishop Job discovered? Two: who discovered him? What time of the day: morning, afternoon, or evening, was he discovered? Was he sitting upright behind the wheel? Was he (fuly) clothed? In what condition was his car? How was the Archdiocese notified: by a motel employee; through an attempt to reach him on his cell phone? by an inquiry from someone who expected him to have arrived at this or that destination? If, as Harry Coin obviously opines, he was found at the end of a workday, who found him and why? Were paramedics called? What was the cause of death determined by the coroner or on a physician’s death certificate?
        If all these details, which NORMALLY would be known, have already been published, where may we find them and read them? You’d think with such a popular, beloved hierarch, there’d be no mysteries whatsoever in the details of his demise, right? But all we know is that he was discovered all alone in his car in a motel parking lot. We don’t even know if he had been a GUEST at that motel!
        It seems to me that it would be true to Archbishop Job’s memory to leave no stone unturned, no detail hidden in the investigation and reporting of his death.
        I’ve never myself TAUGHT that calamities are always the signs of God’s wrath upon the persons or places suffering the calamity. I have pointed out how popular it is among the DEVOUT to praise God when a beloved spiritual leader and priest or bishop falls asleep at Pascha, and how the DEVOUT dread sudden death and pray frequently that it not find them dying all alone, without recourse to the prayers of the CHURCH and the benefit of the Holy Mysteries.
        Neither am I a Freemason, Deist, or the like that thinks of God as just setting everything in motion, by, as it were, giving a crank on the engine in Paradise and then letting “nature take its course.”
        No one would claim that God had anything to do with Judas’s sad end, right? Or that of Ananias?
        I have to say, though, that if only Harry had waited a bit longer, he might have been able to see me write something like, ‘From the black-mold pan into the fire!” But that would be mean. Anyhow, if our beloved (!) monastics are all safe from the flames, we should rejoice and not blame any potential harm to structures on “God’s will,” right?
        There ARE people, though, Orthodox clergy (or former clergy), like the Priest once known as Elias Armstead, but now Ilya Evnukian of the Burning Bush One Man Monastic Brotherhood down South, who directly accused God of causing Hurricane Katrina in order to punish New Orleans for the perversions of its inhabitants! He’s one of those who has the dread Goldilocks Complex: he started out with the Antiochenes, then with the Metropolia, then with ROCOR, then with HOCNA, then with one of the Calendarist Miscellany, and now I think he’s dying in the arms of the brethren of what used to be HOCNA.
        While in ROCOR, he took part in ineir adventure into Alaska, along with Gleb (Herman) Podmoshchensky, and Lev (Lazxar) Puhalo/Buehler/Haler–the three musketeers. jovially speaking.

        • Harry Coin says

          The circumstances of Archbishop Job’s death are set forth here:

          For those who don’t live in the Midwest: Mentor to Maumee, OH: 2.5 hrs drive but right through Cleveland which you don’t want to do in the morning rush hour. It makes sense to get past Cleveland the evening before. Maumee to Chicago, IL: 4 hrs or so if traffic is good.

          According to the timeline and testimony, he was indeed as I wrote dealing with Church matters until 4pm that day, drove across Cleveland, spent a difficult night in a chair according to the testimony from Fr. John who spoke with him shortly before his repose, and he died before getting started on the second leg of his trip to Chicago.

          Why do you insinuate differently?

          • Thanks, Harry. This is the gist of what what was communicated by our Rector to our congregation as well the following Sunday.

          • Harry Coin! You wrote this: ” who died alone in his car after dealing with the day’s church problems.”
            Harry Coin! He was found dead at 1030 AM EST and declared dead at the hospital at 11:00 AM. There was no time for “the day’s church problems” to have been dealt with.

            Get it? I insinuated nothing at all, Harry, so why ask me why I did?

        • Seraphim98 says

          There is no more Burning Bush Monastery. When Fr. Ilya went to Boston for medical treatment those left in care of the property (it is confusing how this person, a neighbor, came to possess the deed). I was told by a local boy (who referred for Fr. Ilya as “that old wizard” (locals have no concept of cassocks), that the guy with the deed (who perhaps obtained it not entirely on the up an up…there are suspicions of duplicity or preying on an old man in a moment of distress/confusion). Anyway, he tried to make a few repairs to the place but gave up (and not without reason…the place was barely habitable on its best day…the whole kitchen floor was just rotten in many place) and then called the local volunteer fire dept. and torched the place. There were icons, relics and rare books in there. No one knows of what if anything was saved. There is nothing at all left of the former monastery but the greek cross shaped cinderblock fountain basin. The rest was burned and then bulldozed and deer stands erected on the margins of the property. When Fr. Ilya returned from Boston he had literally nothing left…not even his beater of a car which had been stolen as well. Some local families with Orthodox connections helped him get a small RV sized trailer home, and now the last report I’ve had on him is that he is living out his days in that tiny trailer in an RV park in Ellisville, MS. So far as I know he claims to be with HOCNA. He had and perhaps has his issues but there was a time when he was a very knowledgable monastic on liturgical history and had the reputation of being a maker of some very fine church incense.

          I know he has lived alone a lot, and few visited him or kept his company for long. He was lonely at times I know. He was partially disabled from having fallen off his roof trying to patch a leak….broke a foot or something. He also has a number of other medical problems…diabetes, blood pressure, etc…and the multiple medicines have at times taken their toll mentally and emotionally. Then a couple of years later in winter he came down with a bad flu and was mostly bedridden for 3 weeks unable even to close the windows (there were some hard to reach transom windows) in freezing and near freezing weather. He came close to death then.

          I don’t know what will become of him now. None of the Orthodox near him are of the persuasions he is friendly with…so except for a local health care worker I don’t know if he has any visitors at all any more…certainly no contact with clergy or with the the Holy Mysteries beyond what perhaps may be afforded by phone…at least that I or anyone I know is aware of. It’s sad. He really doesn’t like the OCA…and there are several OCA people in the area who would gladly try to be of some help and spiritual comfort to him if he were amenable. Anyway…Lord have mercy on Fr. Ilya.

          • Lola J. Lee Beno says

            This is just so sad. Yes, Lord have mercy on him.

          • Gailina Sheppard says

            I think I know of someone who is in a position to help and from whom he would accept help. Their paths crossed a long, long time ago. Please pray this man steps up to the plate. Father Ilya may be a curmudgeon (and yes, I know the whole story), but I hate to think of him living out the rest of his days, alone without any real assistance.

            • Seraphim98 says

              Dear Gallina,
              I sent George some contact information for Fr. Ilya for you if he is willing to play messenger. It contains some information that he would perhaps not want to be made public. One correction though I said the RV park where Fr. Elia/Ilya lived was in Ellisville, it is however instead in the larger neighboring city of Laurel.

              • When I first met him at St. Seraphim Church in Dallas he was married. as I recall.. I don’t recall if he had children. Later, when i was studying at SVS, he wrote me a letter from Baton Rouge where he had started a (Metropolia) mission under the blessing of St. James of Jerusalem.
                Does anyone know what might have happened to his spouse and if she’s alive or not? Perhaps contacting her might be helpful, after all these years?

                • Seraphim98 says

                  Not I, Your Grace. I had heard also that he had once been married and had been known by another name, but until you mentioned it, I had no idea of what it was.

                  All he ever told me of his past was that he once was conversant in a few languages, including some medieval form of Turkish which he used to translate old documents for the Church when he lived in the Holy Land. He said he had also spent some time at both Mt. Sinai and at Yar Saba, and also taught at a Palestinian Christian school. Of his life in the states all he said was that his father was in the military and that as a child they had moved around a good bit, but the one place they had stayed the longest was at a base in MS when he was about 14, which is why he came here to start his monastery since is was as close to a home state as he had ever really had. He also said his heritage was Armenian which is why he liked various Armenian cultural/religious items so much. I had assumed only his given name had changed with his monastic vocation not his last name. I don’t know for sure, but I got the impression it had been a very long time since he had any contact with any of his family. That could have changed later, or he simply may not have chosen to speak about such family as he had…I have one vague, perhaps erroneous memory of him once mentioning a having a sister who lived up north somewhere. That’s pretty much all I know. Someone who knew him better than myself, which was not that well, might know more.

        • Rdr. Benjamin says

          Master Bless.

          I have it on good authority of my parish priest who was one of the last one to speak to His Eminence, Archbishop Job (of Blessed Memory) before he departed from the Cleveland Deanery meeting for Chicago that he stopped at this motel because it was about halfway between Cleveland and Chicago and it is owned by a good Orthodox family. Apparently he often stayed here when he was tired or departed late. According to my priest, (who is a very honorable and devout man, not to mention a sincere and loving spiritual father) he stayed with His Eminence (may his memory be eternal) talking about the diocese, our parish and getting spiritual counsel before leaving as the last ones out. He said that His Eminence seemed tired, but did not show any signs of illness. I hope this helps.

          I know that you have had different experiences with Archbishop Job than I did, but I ask, please pray for his soul. If what you say is true (and I truly believe that only God knows the hearts of men) then he needs our prayers more than ever. May he see the mansions of the righteous and dwell in the bosom of Abraham. May his memory be eternal!

  10. Be very careful about proclaiming this as God’s judgment on the monastery, especially if it turns out some parts of the monastery were “miraculously” spared.

    I read above that some of the remaining monks wanted to leave but had not been able to. Maybe that’s why God allowed this fire to happen, to give those monks a chance to leave and perhaps speak out about what’s going on.

    • If sacred things are spoiled, they have to be burned.
      It’s an ordinary custom of the Orthodox church.
      If God burned our monastery, it tells us, that there was no other way to purify this holy place.
      Father Meletius Webber and Archbishop Benjamin should take responsibility for its desecration.

  11. Gailina Sheppard says

    This may have nothing to do with anything, but last September, George started a thread about the canonical release (or lack there of) of Bishop Melchisedek. George said: “It is unknown where things stand between the GOA and +Melchizedek at present but these same sources inform me that the situation is so desperate that many options are being considered, all of them redounding to the benefit of the Phanar. Rumors abound that in return for his normalization, Syosset is willing to “re-imagine” the autocephaly of the OCA. Some hope that under this new scenario, +Jonah will be replaced and the autocephaly of the OCA will be viewed as a dead letter.”

    Is it a concern that the activity of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops seems to have markedly picked up?

    • That is a MOST interesting point for conjecture, Gail! How our destinies work out! I remember when the then Father Pleska, in New England someplace was looking unsuccessfully for a spiritual home and respite from his cares and decided to give up on parish life and enter a monastery in far-off Greece and get the benefit of a relatively controlled environment. Who could have guessed that he’d one day come back to “all this?”
      Oh, and that reminds me! If anyone wants a copy of the photo, email me at
      I was just looking at my photo collection, and found a nice photo of Bishop Job (then still in New England), Father Pleska (Bishop Melchizedek), Father Zacchaeus (a subdeacon then) and his companion-Deacon George Bekharis (sp?). How fate has affected all four of them! The Deacon left the OCA and the Diocese of the South, eventually and went into ROCOR and was ordained a Priest by then Archbishop Hilarion who appointed him Rector of a parish in Ohio, from which he later absconded, as described in the media and news services, with all the parish’s funds…to Lebanon. (He regaled us at the Orlando All American Council with his “inside information” on the “Real Story” behind Metropolitan Philip and Bishop Antoon, whom he improbably characterized as having been fugitives from justice in their youth in Lebanon and, after fleeing Lebanon, becoming fugitives from justice in England and finally finding asylum in America! What a story-teller! I wonder if Fr.Zaccheus is still in touch with him or if he’s even alive? Anybody?

      • Correction: The runaway thief-Priest’s name was Behazi, not Bekharis.

      • Archpriest John W. Morris says

        Your Grace:

        It is Bishop Antoun. Forgive my anger, but you should not repeat such vicious gossip about my Metropolitan and Bishop. Even if you do not imply that these stories are true, repeating these accusations can do great harm to the reputation of two men who have given their lives to the service of Christ and His Church. You are completely wrong to write such things about your brothers in the episcopate. This kind of thing can also do great harm to OCA Antiochian relations.

        Archpriest John W. Morris

        • I apologize if I’ve hurt Archpriest John W. Morris’s feelings, as I apparently have! Didn’t I make it clear that this was a former member, the Lebanese-American George Behazi, a son of the Antiochian Archdiocese? And a friend of both Father Zacchaeus Wood and of Archbishop Job? Does anything I’ve ever written here indicate that i would consider Behazi’s tales more than vicious Antiochian gossip? Surely, there can be no one here that would not find Behazi’s allegations even faintly plausible. You, however, feel that Metropollitan Philip and Bishop Antoon (or Antoune, or Antune, or however you feel is the most accurate transcription of the second syllable of his name in Latin letters from the original Arabic. I don’t know if he writes a waw or vav between the ta and the nun, or a diphthong of some kind. Perhaps ‘ou” is as the ‘ou’ in round and sound and abound? I don’t know) have been harmed by my characterization of George Behazi? HE, not Metropolitan Philip or Bishop A., was the topic of my message. Why, Archpriest John, do you opine that my note ‘can do *****great harm**** to the reputation of two men….?” I’ve never found either of them so fragile of persona as to be greatly harmed by the gossip of a known embezzler of the Church. Do you imagine that Behazi’s tales, told to me on our very first and last meeting, were never bruited elsewhere and dismissed? As for OCA-Antiochian relations…get serious. I think that you want to make as much out of this as possible, rather than being discreet about it. Perhaps you can complain to others and feel quite all right about imparting these old stories, “for the good of OCA-Antiochian relations?”
          Many thought that Metropolitan Jonah harmed OCA-EP relations. Such people demonstrate a low opinion of the character of Patriarch Bartholmew, rather than that of Metropolitan Jonah
          !. I neither gave nor attributed any credit to the gossip of George Behazi.
          2. Metropolitan Philip is not a man of fragile character or repute.
          3. Bishop A. is not a man of fragile character or repute
          4. Your “defense” of the reputations of Metropolitan Philip and of Bishop A. does them no favors.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Thank you, Your Grace for clearing that up. For what it’s worth, I thought that you were talking about the priest and not the bishops.

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            Your Grace;

            Nevertheless repeating slanderous gossip about another Bishop whether or not you imply that it is true is not the kind of thing that a Bishop should be doing. Your comments could easily be taken out of context and be reported as fact.
            As far as your not to thinly veiled accusation that I have any desire to do anything to harm Antiochian OCA relations, you are being unfair to me and owe me an apology. I want to see all Orthodox get along and work together so that we can grow together and eventually be one here in America. I assure you that I am firmly committed to the cause of Orthodox unity in North America.

            Fr. John W. Morris

    • George Michalopulos, you sir are apparently a prophet.

    • Lil Ole Housewife says
      • Lil Ol,

        I looked at this web site and listened to the introductions to the interviews with the Antiochian bishops. I was struck by the fact that the word “Auxiliary” appears nowhere in their titles, nor were they introduced as such. The word is mentioned once in passing during one of the introductions (“Bishop Joseph was sent as an auxiliary to Met. Phillip… and…enthroned as diocesan bishop of….”), but aside from this brief reference to the past there was no mention of their auxiliary status. All are introduced without contradiction as full diocesan bishops in the traditional, canonical sense of the word, and they conduct their respective interviews without reference to the Metropolitan.

        The IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SYNODAL RESOLUTION OF AUGUST 19, 2010 specifically states:

        All Auxiliary bishops shall always identify themselves, either on their respective letterhead or in any other manner, as ‘Auxiliary Bishop’ and in no other manner.

        Let us hope this omission is indicative of a return – however subtle, gradual, and as yet unofficial – to the more normative ecclesiology that many believe was intended by the Holy Synod of Antioch when self-rule was granted.

    • Lola J. Lee Beno says

      That could explain why the nuns released documents about Bp. Mel along with the docs from the ROCOR investigation. See KB’s reply to me:

      • Gailina Sheppard says

        They are in the process of re-shuffling the deck and I don’t see a card for the OCA. Surprised there isn’t some noise about this. Look at the charter of the committees. Look at whose on them.

  12. As more and more “OCA things” come to light, and all will come to the light, the upper echelons of the OCA make our jurisdiction appear to be some kind of joke (a very impious joke.) The monastery established by Met. Jonah is crumbling. Surely the Lord is using all these travesties in the OCA for good…somehow. At least we are being given concrete examples of what not to do, and how not to be. I was encouraged to go to Manton a little while back. And I am so relieved that I listened to my gut and didn’t. Red flags. This is indicative of the dysfunction of one member of the Synod. Makes me wonder if the sort of mindset that would allow for these decisions and this sort of thinking, of Fr. Mel and Abp. Benjamin, was the crux of Met. Jonah’s forced resignation. Is this sort of thing to become business as usual in the OCA, thanks to relevantism? Would Met. Jonah not stand for it? Is this not iconic of the difference of “vision” for Orthodoxy in America that exists between Met. Jonah and the larger Synod (along with the senior Syosset clergy?) I think it is this “expression” of Orthodoxy that Met. Jonah was working to change and for which he met with the most severe blow back for contradicting. God have mercy on a church where the only grievous sin is disagreement with one’s bishop(s).

    • George Michalopulos says

      The problem LS is that when the Lord calls us to repentance, some of us dig in our heels. Much like Pharaoh in the OT when Moses gave him chance after chance to let his people go. Like Pharaoh, there is a obstinacy that is so bone-crushingly stupid in the Apparat that it can’t or won’t see that it made a mistake.

      The slavish obedience to shibboleths (in this case the supremacy of the Synod at all costs and the “exceptionalism” of American Orthodoxy) salve the conscience of those who engage in malfeasance. It’s the very same reason why Gay, Inc. wants to take over the Christian churches. Rather than just enjoy themselves in a pagan merriment, they have to torture Scripture, science, and everything in between, to make things internally right.

  13. When I became Orthodox I went to a church that had recently had a fire. I was touched by the priest’s claims that God allowed this to happen because of our sins. When I heard on the fire in the monastery, I recalled this very well. Lord Have mercy!

  14. I’m not certain that we can call this fire God’s judgment or His miraculous preservation of the monastery or monks. Time will tell on that.

    It may be that the scattering of the monks at the present time may be for the benefit of some. One? All of them? Who can know?

    Whatever the case is, there is a real, Orthodox monastery whose patron – St John of San Francisco – knows more than we all know about what is happening with Abbot Meletios and the monks there. I know that I trust Fr Martin’s account; I know him well. This account of Stepan’s rings true, unfortunately.

    What I do know is what I read recently:

    There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

    Let’s repent. Let’s pray for our brothers at the Holy Monastery. Let’s pray for true Church discipline.

    • Michael C.,

      Thank you so much for pointing us back to Christ’s response to speculations about another’s relative guilt or innocence based on calamities that befall some people, and calling for the only proper response to such circumstances.

      • Dorothy Allen says

        I remember, back in the late 1950s, lightening struck the cross at the top of the main dome of the Orthodox church that my family attended. The older parishioners, all immigrants from Russia and Galicia, were terrified that it might have been the judgement of God. I was a child of about 10 at the time, sitting in the kitchen while all the “old people” discussed what it could have been that they had done wrong. They discussed it back and forth, just as people are doing here. There was no final conclusion made, but I imagine that each person was prompted to examine his or her conscience, Even as a child, I wondered if somehow my sins had contributed to it. The following Sunday, the priest gave a wonderful sermon (twice, in two languages) saying, essentially, that if the event caused people to repent of their sins, it was a good thing, but that we are Christians and must know that Christ does not judge people this way.

        By the way, the lightening strikes near Manton did not strike the Monastery property. A bolt of lightening ignited dry brush in a canyon about a mile away to the southwest of the Monastery and winds caused the fire to spread.

        On August 20, the Redding area newspaper, The Record Searchlight, published a quote from a resident who lives adjacent to the Monastery. This newspaper is also online at The newspaper published her report that her property and the Monastery are intact. The newspaper reported this quote which appears approximately 1/4 down the page. — “Cynthia Folsom, a Ponderosa Way resident whose neighborhood was mostly spared, said the fire pushed through behind nearby St. John’s Monastery, destroying some her neighbor’s outbuildings but leaving homes and the monastery intact. “We did evacuate on Saturday and came back on Sunday,” she said. “Cal Fire had stopped the fire just before it got to our place…“The monastery is still fine. They were able to stop it before it got to the monastery.”

  15. I maybe way off base here but all of this “God caused the fire” stuff sounds a lot like Pat Robertson’s assertion that God caused the Hurricane that hit New Orleans years ago. I’m sorry but my Orthodox theology does not teach any of this. Yes God is calling his children to repentance, He has been doing that since Christ was Crucified. Jesus paid the ultimate price for all of us and it shows us just how much God loves each and everyone of us.

    If you follow that logic through, and someone has pointed this out already, and the monastery is spared then you have no other conclusion then to say that God approves of everything going on there because he spared the monastery. Sometimes things just happen! Is it random, yes. Is God calling us to repentance, yes. All we can do is monitor our own sins and take care of that. Get your life right with God.

    If these allegations are true then they need to be brought to light and I thank the man who had the courage to write the email and I thank George or publishing it. These are the types of things that the faithful need to know about.

    This is also an example of why we need a faithful hierarchy and true and authentic monasticism! But we cannot have either if we do not have true and faithful parishes. The Church begins and ends with the local parish. If the local parish is not healthy the Church will not be healthy. If the priest is preaching heresy then the Church will be filled with heretics. We need to get back to the basics of our Orthodox faith. We need to call everyone to true repentance. When is the last time your priest preached about confession? How many priests hold regular confession times or is it by appointment! PLEASE!

    Confession is a fundamental aspect of our spiritual life, meeting with a spiritual father on a regular basis is a fundamental aspect of our spiritual life, not festivals and dancing ad language classes, that is all nonsense! We are where we are because we have allowed it to get there. We allow bishops to send to the old country for priests, why because we do not promote vocations in our Churches. We do not pay our priests a living wage and so they are forced to take on other occupations just to survive, and we treat them like crap!

    We all, and I include myself in this as well, need to take a long hard look at ourselves and our interior life. When was the last time we have been to confession, really gone to confession and not some quicky before Liturgy on Sunday morning? I will confess it has been a little more time than I like and that is my issue. But we need to call all of us back to repentance and reconciliation. We need to pray for our Bishops, priests, deacons, monks, and nuns everyday! We need to pray for each other! We need to ask for the intercession of St. John of Shanghai for the American Church. We need to stop all of this jurisdictional nonsense and get to what the Church is really about, loving God and loving our neighbor that is what is important. We involve ourselves in way too many earthly cares and we should, like we pray at the Liturgy, lay aside all the earthly cares of life.

    Sorry to ramble and vent but this has disturbed me. We are trying to found an authentic monastic work here in New England and we struggle each day to try and make this happen. Each time another thing like this comes to light it damages the Church and monasticism. Please pray for me and for our work here in New England. Hey, we are looking for a few good men! 😉

    God bless all of you, and may St. John of Shanghai pray for us!

    • Father, bless! Yes, this put me in mind of the Pat Robertson nonsense after Hurricaine Katrina as well. I love David Bentley Hart’s little book “The Doors of the Sea,” which to me is one of the most satisfying and insightful critiques I have seen of sub-Christian attitudes to the problem of suffering and evil and one of the most truly moving apologetics for a fully Orthodox and biblical attitude toward the same I have ever read.

  16. Heracleides says

    Fire update as of 6 hours ago: “Cynthia Folsom, a Ponderosa Way resident whose neighborhood was mostly spared, said the fire pushed through behind nearby St. John’s Monastery, destroying some of her neighbor’s outbuildings but leaving homes and the monastery intact.” and “The monastery is still fine. They were able to stop it before it got to the monastery.”

    Source: The Record Searchlight

    • Yes, Last night I received an update via Facebook- That quoted one of the monks as saying the monastery was still standing and in fact fire crews are using it for an operations base. This is not surprising because it backs the old Cal fire station and is the only wide open area in the middle of that forested track of land. Also, the monastery has huge water tanks and area to park large fire engines. Also a helicopter is able to land there on the flat.

      When the monks return, I am sure it will be very hard for them between a blackened forest and compromised utilities and land. The monks that remained after the others left for Platina are mostly, physically unable to do the kind of work it is going to take to bring things back. I believe this is the reason, most of the others did not leave with Fr. Martin at that time or later. Platina is quite rugged and never has used electricity and there is a limited source of water. So the monks must be hardy. That is fine with them, as they get, after several years of what I term the miss use of his position as Abbot, finally to go back to Orthodox Christian prayer and life.
      Their present Bishop a man of solid Christian behavior, kept pushing for +BB to send an investigative team to talk to the monks who had left. He, and Abbot Hilarion, had to push hard, and of course +BB sent his practiced the same old”roll over team”.
      It is my assumption/opinion, that +BB surmised if ever there was a problem arising out of this all, he would have liked to claim ignorance.
      Bishop Maxim did the right thing. George can check the rest of the story with the monks themselves. The investigative team would not allow there be any witnesses to the individual testimonies of the monks. So who knows if anything will come of it . Probably not. Given +BB outright ability to lie.
      Also I heard that an old friend of the monastery was visiting Manton with her MP priest and Fr. Mel quite openly said that Fr. Martin had been “ASKED” to leave the monastery.
      This is a lie.
      AS for the often called for “investigations” they just don’t happen in the OCA. I am sure the monks at Platina, would like to just get back to a quiet life of prayer, but are extremely concerned for the welfare of new novices that might come under the care of +BB and Fr. Mel’s brand of Orthodoxy.

      • George Michalopulos says

        As much as I have admired Fr Meletios, this story is yet another indication of the immaturity of the OCA and the deep corruption that prevents honest inquiry and investigation.

        • Harry Coin says

          Doesn’t the OCA have, for example, a whole bunch of folks in a whole bunch of parishes where last week, and the week before that, and the week before that, and for months and years before that, it’s all going just fine thanks?

          This notion that it all needs to go away on the basis of misdoing at a monastery the fellow recently asked to resign was part of needs a sanity check.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Harry, have you been in an OCA church the last six weeks? The trauma inflicted upon us by the ouster of His Beatitude has still not abated. Even Jillions admitted as much in his own “Chancellor’s Diary.”

            Truth be told, the GOA still hasn’t recovered from the ouster of Iakovos and then the ouster of Spyridon. I’m going by numbers here Harry. How many new GOA communities have been formed since then? What is the true number of adherents?

            • Harry Coin says

              George, I think for every person you can find who is disturbed to the extent you identify, there are three in attendance who wouldn’t know him unless we was dressed for a service and his name appeared in the newsletter prior.

              There are bishops who couldn’t pick out who in a crowd are ‘their own’ priest’s families.

              You guys in this little ‘beatitude bubble’ have to get a bit more perspective as parish life has its own energy. Now, suck big cash out with nothing to show for it, such as lawsuit proceeds or the need to pay off overseas problems not as per-instance charity, or start imposing changes from overseas, or make us look like a ‘Mee Too!!’ Vaticanesque operation and you’ll do real damage.

              • George Michalopulos says

                And thank God for that Harry. I’m glad that there are “three people for every one” who remains unconcerned. You gotta be careful about that assertion however. We Republicans used that same argument during Watergate. “The vast majority of the country didn’t care about a third-rate burglary,” and “we were grateful that Nixon pulled us out of Vietnam,” and “he saved Israel’s hide during the Yom Kippur War,” and “he went to China and encircled Russia,” etc.

                The criminality which the synod undertook to oust Jonah –and yes, there was a conspiracy–is not mollified by the apparent apathy/religiosity/piety/unconcern of the congregations, many of whom are dwindling.

      • I am not OCA so I’m not very familiar with who Archbishop Benjamin is. So, I just did a quick Google search & found this. :-O

        “One source tells me Bishop Benjamin has been seen by several eyewitnesses patronising homosexual bars, clubs, and entertainment venues in the North Beach district of San Francisco. A priest with whom my contact spoke also confirms he heard a similar rumour. Another source says that Bishop Nikolai Soraich is supposedly in possession of evidence contained on a computer hard-drive of alleged Internet “chat room” conversations which Bishop Benjamin engaged in with teenagers who were possibly under the age of eighteen. I checked this with people who know the scene better than I do. They told me that it was consistent with what they knew.”


        Does this seem to be a common phenomena with OCA Bishops? If so, it’s disturbing, to say the least, but not completely surprising that something like this would happen under +Benjamin’s watch and then to be covered up. As the saying goes, the fish rots from the head…

        • George Michalopulos says

          Fergie, you gotta be careful about the “source” for this. As much as I’m not a fan of the bishop in question, “Barbara-Stan” is one very tainted, hormonally imbalanced dudette who pretends to know more than s/he knows and makes up a lot of the rest. To quote Tony Stark/Iron Man in The Avengers, “you can smell crazy on that guy.”

          • Roboacolyte says

            There are no gay bars or ‘places of entertainment’,that cater to gays in North Beach,San Francisco.Trust me I know.These are fallacious remarks.

            • True that.

              North Beach attracts gourmets and heterosexual sailors on shore leave, albeit to different attractions. 😉

            • Antonio Arganda says

              As of today, Google has 35 gay night spots listed for North Beach and the surrounding area.

        • Oh Fergie… You’ve found “Stan the Tran’s” website… I’m truly sorry. The fellow who runs that site used to be a fully functioning male but has had operations to remove his manhood and has taken on the life of a “female”. So, that being said, he is a bit nuts. Take whatever you read there with the same amount of seriousness as you take the national inquirer.
          But also, I’ve heard the same rumors from sources other than him/her’s website. Who knows.

          • Rod Dreher says

            Barbara Drezhlo Stan the Tran The Overcircumcised Troll could tell me the sky is blue and the earth is round, and I’d doubt it until I heard it from someone with two functioning, er, brain cells to rub together. Seriously, that is one deeply disturbed person, someone who repeatedly says things that I know for a fact aren’t true. He is obsessed with the conviction that Frederica Mathewes-Green and I are “disciples” of one Gleb Podmoshensky, and once published a statement that one of his informants had seen us speeding away from GP’s monastery together in a car. In fact, neither one of us had any idea who Gleb Podmoshensky was until someone sent me a link to the Overcircumcised Troll’s website where the claim was made. I had to look it up.

            This may be 100 percent true, the claim about Benjamin, but I wouldn’t believe it on the Tran’s say-so. If it’s not true, I hope Benjamin, whom I consider to be an odious person, sues the maxi-pad off him for libel.

            One thing I do like about Stan-Barbara-OT: he/she is an original. There aren’t many transsexual neo-Bolshevik religious hysteric bag ladies with blogs in this world.

            • Rod, the things Stan writes are frequently hideously offensive. He is also most likely suffering from mental illness and/or a personality disorder. You, on the other hand, could have made your point in a much less offensive way. You don’t have to stoop to the same level. Stan needs prayer, not insult returned for insult–even when what he says must be challenged or others must be alerted to the falsehood at his site. Forgive me–also a sinner.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Karen, we should pray for him/her but I can’t help believe that prayer and sympathy are lost on the likes of him/her. Once a person goes that far down the road to hatred, he’s under God’s mercy. Kinda like watching a murderer go to the gallows. It’s sad, pray for him, but there is no other way out. By all means, pray that you don’t become like him and thank God for your station in life so far.

                • I’m with Karen on this, George. I think she’s got it exactly right.

                • George Anderson says

                  “By all means, pray that you don’t become like him and thank God for your station in life so far.”

                  “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

              • I agree with you Karen..

              • I am having a hard time understanding why Barbara is any worse than Rod. Christ’s Church would benefit greatly if all involved sought peace and stillness.

                • George Michalopulos says

                  You’re kidding, right?

                  • Absolutely not: Rod seems to be psychologically unstable at best, downright malevolent at worst. I really don’t see the much difference between her blog and this one as it relates to prelest and unChristian behavior generally.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Again: surely you jest. Rod may be a little acerbic at times but have you ever gone to that website? I used to do rounds in the psych ward and heard more coherent ramblings than there.

                    • Well, there’s one big CHRISTIAN difference, “Anon”, if you know anything about Christian behavior, you’d recognize that you’d never ever be able to post this nasty, malicious bit of moralizing about this blog with impunity on Voices from Russia. People say incredibly rude things to George and about the main tenets of his political philosophy and ecclesiastical viewpoint: Try to do anything of the sort on the Voices from Russia! I pity eunuchs, such as those who were involuntarily castrated when they were infants. The man who does it voluntarily, and NOT for the Kingdom of heaven’s sake, but to be able to dress up and act like a female, needs to be taught all the things that Christ told His Apostles. Despite what the deposed deacon Haler/Buehler/Puhalo preaches on YouTube as “neuroscience”, Drezhlo still has his skull and pelvic bones, those of a male. Of course, “anon,” you may still be trapped in that old behavioralism and think that the way ;a brain functions determines a person’s gender,, or something equally nonsensical.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Thank you Your Grace. BTW, the concept of “neuroscience” is rather bogus. Sam Harris, who got a doctorate in it is regularly pilloried in debates with theists because his thinking is very fuzzy. That follows necessarily given the basis of his “scientific discipline.”

                    • Rod Dreher says

                      Oh, it’s terrible with me. I cuss, I drink, and sometimes I even leave the toilet seat up. But I have not bobbed my todger and put on a frock, nor do I post crazypants things I know to be untrue. So there’s that.

                    • Brian McDonald says

                      To echo George, surely you’re kidding, Anon!? On several occasions I’ve posted a complaint about rudeness and “overkill” here, but it’s absolutely absurd to suggest that this blog and Voices from Russia are cut out of the same cloth. For one thing, George is rational, if sometimes over-the-top in his articles and comments. He endeavors to find out the truth and call it as he sees it. He may be biased, but he is honest and would not knowingly tell an untruth. He and other posters (for the most part) may be angry, but not venomous, and certainly some very upsetting things seem to be going on in the OCA (and other jurisdictions).

                      He also holds himself accountable by allowing all comers to post their views, whether or not in agreement or opposition with his own, and has in fact been roundly taken to task for this or that by a number of posters here. He lays a very light moderating hand on the posts of others–though he has made an effort of late to weed out personal attacks and keep the focus on disputable “issues.” That quality of fairness is why more than one person whom he ticks off have expressed their appreciation for the fact he doesn’t censor their objections to his views. .

                      Finally, if you come here often enough you’ll occasionally see George as well as other people apologize to each other when they think they’ve gone too far.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Brian, you’re too kind. Thank you.

                    • Well, Rod, I cuss and I drink (not to excess) at times, too. I’m far from perfect, but I do try not to sharpen my razor wit in public (or otherwise) at the expense of someone who is quite obviously very broken/wounded. I may be more sensitive than the average person about this because I have a sister who was diagnosed with chronic mental illness in her twenties and she and my parents (God bless them–still married more than 55 years despite this family tragedy) have all been “to hell and back” many times over the decades. My parents, consequently, have also been very active in NAMI (Nat’l Alliance for the Mentally Ill) for many years and still, at 80 and 81 years old, counsel families who live with this deep tragedy and loss every day. Having reached my 50s and long ago left aside the overly simplistic idealism and resulting sense of entitlement to judge everyone else of my 20s, I am now rather partial to the philosophy quoted on Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog site: “Be kind: everyone is fighting a great battle.” It seems to me kindness tends to be an underrated virtue on blogs and especially sometimes in comments threads.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Karen, speaking for myself, I try to live by this philosophy. However the VfR troll continues to spew a type of hateful vitriol that makes anything put out by The Aryan Brotherhood seem sentimental. Basically, s/he brings it on himself. Still, I should try.

                    • George, admittedly, I find it far easier to be kind sometimes from a distance. I haven’t visited Voices for a very long time, and likely won’t ever to do so again. As you have noted, it is spiritually toxic.

            • it’s a Byzantine or Persian or Chinese or Ottoman Imperial Eunuch all dressed up with no place to go The pathologies that such suffer are the same in every age.

            • OccidentalGuido says

              See how they love one another.

          • Jane Rachel says

            I hope he is not doing the bar thing. However, since we know His Grace Bishop Nikolai wrote the letter to Bishop Benjamin, and if we assume, as is the most logical thing to do, that Bishop Nikolai is telling the truth, then we have cause to believe, and grieve over, the things Bishop Nikolai wrote about Bishop Benjamin. We also have cause to ask publicly that these allegations be investigated and if true, that Bishop Benjamin be removed for his own sake and for the sake of the Church. (!!!!!)

            • Do you think the Sex Czar will look into the allegations of sexual misconduct made against incumbent members of the Holy Synod and file a report? Some complain that the Synod should have been more pro-active in the case of Archbishop Seraphim. in what way has that lack of “pro-activity” been addressed?

              • George Michalopulos says

                Your Grace, it’s my instinctual feeling that the Sex Czar is nothing but a ruse to get some crony a nice cushy job. Of course the bishops will lose power in this scheme but that may be part of the price they’re willing to pay. In other words there’s a tacit agreement that priests are fair game but the bishops will be left alone. A “gentleman’s agreement” if you will.

  17. Ivan Vasiliev says

    Truly, truly, truly….I am becoming ever more convinced that the Orthodox Church in this country is just plain full of nuts!

    When will we wake up to the fact that we need the guidance of a mature and tested Patriarchate? Its no secret that I tend toward Moscow (size, “tested-ness”, freedom from the predations of anti-Christian governments and historical connections to this continent). I just can’t believe that the sort of nonsense that has been going on in the OCA and GOA (add the others where you will) isn’t indicative of a deeper spiritual, emotional, and intellectual sickness.

    Monasticism on this continent varies greatly, but it really needs to be under the omophor of a tried and true Orthodox Church. Those that refuse to submit themselves would then be even more self-evident as nests of charlatans and evil doers with no business advertising themselves as “Orthodox”.

    I’m not surprised by all this nonsense. It is the natural outcome of immature, shallow-rooted, and unsupervised men and women (often with little time in the Church to begin with) passing themselves off as the leaders of “monasteries” and “convents” and awarding themselves all sorts of titles. Under the guidance of a mature Patriarchate they’d be given the boot and not only Orthodox believers, but the public in general would be be given notice that they in no way represent Orthodox beliefs and practices.

    There was a tragic time when ALL the overseas Patriarchates were either under the thrall of the Communists or Muslims. Its not true anymore and its time to rectify the situation here by returning to their protection. Moscow has my vote for reasons I’ve already given.

    • Harry Coin says

      Ivan, the excellent plan you set forth suffers from the nagging bit that if adopted the flight from the parishes will be impressive in both degree and speed. Noticed the news much about how the mature folk in Russia are handling minor matters?

      • Disgusted With It says


        I have to believe you mean well, but you live in an OCL dream-world of a very small minority. People are not fleeing en masse from parishes tied to any of the Patriarchates. Please wake up, if for no other reason than to stop looking like you still live in 1980.

        • Harry Coin says

          Folk here flocking to join the Turkish/Greek or Russian/Moscow or Syrian/Antiochian church in your town in the USA are they?

          • George Michalopulos says

            Harry, why don’t you join the nearest OCA parish? And tell them that you agree with the local bishop’s gag order on his priests while you’re at it.

            And if there’s no OCA parish nearby, call the Evangelism Dep’t and see if you can get a mission-planting grant. The terms are very easy.

            • Lil Ole Housewife says

              Dear George,

              What gag order is that? And who is the local bishop?

              • George Michalopulos says

                All I’ll say at this point is that it’s an OCA bishop and he’s not located on any of the coasts. I’ll comment more when the time is right. For now I’ll just say that there are lots of good priests out there who are excellent preachers of the Word and they are forbidden from using electronic media.

                In this respect, I must congratulate GOA Metropolitan Savvas Zambellas of Pittsburgh because he heavily encouraged (all but ordered actually) his clergy to use the blogosphere and social media to stay connected with their flocks and engage the culture.

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            Please do not call us Syrian. We are simply Antiochian. We have Lebanese, Palestinians, Syrians and many converts. I have Russians who attend my parish. The Syrian Orthodox are the Jacobite Church one of the Oriental Orthodox who reject the Council of Chalcedon.

            Fr. John W. Morris

            • Harry Coin says

              Fr. John: Point taken. If similar occasion arises I’ll use ‘Damascus/Antiochian’, so as not to lose sight of what Charles Ajalat noticed.

              • Charles Ajalat. Now THAT was an Orthodox Chancellor, though not ordained. Thanks for reminding us of him Harry. if you ever speak to him privately, you might ask him how he evaluates the depostion of Protopresbyter Rodion S. Kondratick and what he thinks of him in general.

            • Monk James says

              Archpriest John W. Morris says (August 21, 2012 at 10:27 pm):

              ‘Please do not call us Syrian. We are simply Antiochian. We have Lebanese, Palestinians, Syrians and many converts. I have Russians who attend my parish. The Syrian Orthodox are the Jacobite Church one of the Oriental Orthodox who reject the Council of Chalcedon.’

              As I recall, the cornerstone of St Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn (St Raphael Hawaweeny’s church) describes the building as ‘Syrian Orthodox’.

              The Patriarchate of Moscow is obviously named for the throne of its primate, but the Russian Orthodox Church includes several countries and many nationalities, both at home and abroad. There’s probably no reason why Damascus/Syria can’t function in the same way.

              The church of Rus moved its center from Kiev to Moscow centuries ago, and relinquished the title of Kiev which now has its own bishop who is not the patriarch.

              On that model, wouldn’t it make practical sense for the Patriarchate of Antioch to be called the Patriarchate of Damascus?

              ALSO: I’ve noticed lately that the nonchalcedonian (‘Jacobite’) church describes itself as ‘Syriac’ rather than “Syrian’. Perhaps this is a reference to their liturgical language, which is a form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus, still spoken by the people of just two villages.

              • Good one, James. All around.
                Actually over the centuries, has not the Synodof the Church of Antioch TWICE abandoned Orthodoxy for unia or schism and has not, therefore, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch been started over from scratch twice in its history? Isn’t that the reason the entire Synod of today’s Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was made up of Greeks until around the time of St. Raphael? Isn’t the greatest part of the”original” Syro-Arabic Patriarchate in the “Melkite” Patriarchate? Isn’t even in today’s chauvinistic environment, our Orthodox Patriarchate the least Arabo-Syrian of the three or four other Antiochian Patriarchates in its typika and style, i.e., more “Byzantine?”

                • George Michalopulos says

                  Good questions, Your Grace. An excellent topic for discussion.

                • Your grace seems to be quite misinformed about the history of the Patriarchate of Antioch. There was indeed a schism in 1724, with a proportion of the Patriarchate and its bishops passing into unia. This did indeed lead to a succession of ethnically Greek patriarchs from Sylvester of Cyprus (who had been the designated successor of the previous patriarch Athanasios III Debbas) in 1724 until the election of Meletius II Doumani in 1899. But the Holy Synod of Antioch during this period continued to be primarily made up of Arab bishops, for one famous example, there’s St. Raphael’s spiritual father, Metropolitan Athanasius Atallah of Homs…. While it is also true that probably the wealthiest members of the Patriarchate of Antioch did join the Unia, currently the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch is very much the largest single church in Syria-Lebanon– according to the book “Melkites: Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem” by the Greek Catholic Archimandrite Ignatius Dick, Orthodox outnumber Greek Catholics by about five to one in these two countries.

                  The question of ‘Byzantinization’ of the liturgy in the Patriarchate of Antioch is a complicated one. For one thing, many elements that are misidentified as ‘Byzantinizations’ are really Jerusalemizations that happened in the 8th-11th centuries, when Palestinian liturgical influence was especially strong both on Constantinople and Antioch. The two biggest examples of this are the introduction of canons as a liturgical art-form (invented by St. John of Damascus) and the spread of the Typikon of Mar Saba. The most significant change, however, the replacement of the traditional Synaxarion of the Church of Antioch with that of Constantinople owes itself to the spread of printed books more than anything, and was spearheaded at the beginning of the 17th century by Meletius Karme, first metropolitan of Aleppo from 1612, then briefly patriarch of Antioch under the name Euthymius for seven months in 1634. He undertook new translations of liturgical texts into Arabic on the basis of the printed Greek texts that were available at the time, and these came to be the standard texts thereafter. That said, a lot of research still needs to be done about the history of the liturgy in the Church of Antioch….

                  If you want to read up on the history of the Church of Antioch in the time around the schism, I would start with the following:

                  Robert M. Haddad, “Conversion of Eastern Orthodox Christians to the Unia in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in Conversion and Continuity: Indigenous Christian Communities in Islamic Lands, Eighth to Eighteenth Centuries, ed. Michael Gervers and Ramzi Bekhazi (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1990), 449–59;

                  idem, Syrian Christians in Muslim Society: An Interpretation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970)

                  idem, “Constantinople over Antioch, 1516–1724: Patriarchal Politics in the Ottoman Era,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 41.2 (1990): 217–38

                  Bruce Masters, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World: The Roots of Sectarianism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

                  Charles A. Frazee, Catholics and Sultans: The Church and the Ottoman Empire, 1453–1923 (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 190–213

                  The only book-length study of the history of liturgy in the Patriarchate of Antioch deals only with the history of the Synaxarion, which is probably the best way for gauging ‘Byzantinization’, in any case:

                  Sauget, Joseph-Marie, Premières recherches sur l’origine et les chractéristiques des
                  synaxaires melkites (XIe–XVIIe siècles) (Subsidia Hagiographica 45; Brussels:
                  Société des Bollandistes, 1969)

                  • Come to think of it, the Russian liturgy was ‘Byzantinized’ not through Constantinople, but largely through the intervention of the Arab Patriarch of Antioch Makarius ibn al-Za’im at the synod convoked by the Patriarch Nikon in 1666. Russians can thank Patriarch Macarius for the use of antimensia on the altar, being able to kiss icons more than a couple times a year, and being able to receive prosphora, among other things….

                    For a full account of Macarius’ role in the Nikonian reforms see

                    Belfour, Francis Cunningham, tr. The Travels of Macarius, Patriarch of Antioch, written
                    by his Attendant Archdeacon, Paul of Aleppo, in Arabic, 2 vols. (London: Oriental
                    Translation Fund, 1829–36), vol. 2, 85-86

                    • Samn! Did you not ever take Church History from ever-memorable Father George Florovsky, when he was a Professor at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary? He used to tell his classes (until Archbishop Iakovos got wind of it from some “patriotic” seminarians); “You see,then, that the Russian Church received EVERYTHING from the Greek Church. It’s just too bad that the Greeks didn’t keep more of it!”
                      I certainlly agree that the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch was responsble fo updating the Russian Church in such matters as antimensia, how often to kiss icons, and SOME of the practices relating to antidoron.
                      The Russians themselves have never forgotten that visit: it’s in almost every Russian Orthodox seminary text and church history. The quote Deacon Paul so often, it’s almost trite! He AND the Patriarch, he wrote, were relieved to depart Muscovy, where the services were long and the people stood throughout them He advised other travellers NEVER to visit Russia during the Great Fast, because, he wrote, the Russians have feet of iron! Apparently Patriarch Macarius did not find benches and sitting on one’s behind as important as modern-day Antiochians and Greeks do!!!!

                  • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                    It is completely incorrect to argue that the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch abandoned Orthodoxy for the Unia at any time. In 1724, some members of the Holy Synod not the whole Synod betrayed Orthodoxy for the Unia, which used great financial support from the Papacy to entice Orthodox to defect to Rome. The pro-Roman party also attracted followers by its less strict fasting practices. Finally at that time, defecting to the Unia party gave Orthodox the opportunity to escape punishments given by Orthodox Bishops as a part of their role in the Turkish Millet system. It is important to remember that in the Middle East as elsewhere, Rome used subversion to gain a following by sending pro-Roman and Western educated agents into the East to enter the Orthodox Clergy with the object of spreading pro-Roman propaganda and secretly working to bring Orthodox under Roman influence.
                    As far as the Antiochian Typikon being Byzantine in style, if you read the translation of the Arabic Typikon available at you will find that it is a translation of the Greek Typikon prepared by George Violakis in 1888. However, it is also filled with notes giving information about the more ancient usage of the Sabbas Typikon and differences between Antiohcian and Greek practice.
                    It is also important to recognize that the Byzantine Liturgy is one of the Liturgies from the family Liturgies stemming from the West Syrian Liturgy of the Church of Antioch. Finally, Byzantine Chant had its origins in Antioch.

                    Fr. John W. Morris

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Interesting points. As for the present Chryosostom liturgy, I understand from reading Papadakis (The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy) that it is not original to Chrysostom but a synthesis of his earlier (simpler?) liturgy together with the monastic typikon that came out of Palestine and which was championed by St Savvas. Hence he refers to it as “the Sabaitic synthesis.”

                      If true (and I see no reason to doubt it), does anybody have any idea what the original pre-Sabaitic liturgy looked like?

                    • There’s a lot of research, of varying quality, about the evolution of the liturgy. The short answer is that the further you go back in time, the more variation there is…..

                      Although you should take every word he speaks with a huge grain of salt, Robert Taft’s “Through Their Own Eyes: Liturgy as the Byzantines Saw It” and “The Byzantine Rite: A Short History” are very accessible (and affordable!) introductions to the history of Orthodox liturgy. Also accessible is Hugh Wybrew’s “The Orthodox Liturgy: The Development of the Eucharistic Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite”, published by SVS Press.

                    • John Christopher says

                      George: Yes, there are ways to reconstruct the liturgy before the Sabaitic and neo-Sabaitic synthesis. Chiefly from a 10th century manuscript that contains the actual Typikon of the Great Church of Christ (edited and published by J Mateos). Keep in mind, though, that “liturgy” refers to the entire liturgical cycle, not just the Eucharistic liturgy. Basically, the various Sabaitic/Stoudite/Evergetian monastic reforms created entirely new things called “canons” and decided to use the canons a lot, along with multiple troparia, kontakia, etc. The monastic model of liturgy (which we still employ, after some further syntheses) uses text to create a scene, so to speak, whereas earlier liturgy allowed the place itself to be the scene. In Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, for example, the liturgy was “stational,” i.e. moved from station to station, site to site, with lots of processions. If the feast was for St X, everyone processed as a group to St X’s tomb, or to a church named after St X. Various hymns were chanted along the way, typically an antiphonal setting of the psalms. Today’s antiphons are a weak echo/attempt to recreate this. On certain feasts, the procession would stop in a public place along the way, e.g. the forum or hippodrome, and make some prayers there (think of processing and stopping at Pascha). It was in this way that the Church brought the liturgy to the public square, and St John Chrysostom could admonish those people who were attending the races instead of joining in the divine festivities. Once everyone got to the destination, the liturgy started with a literal entrance: Walk in and start reading the Scripture. The physical layout of each church was also different, to create specific spaces for different kinds of liturgical acts/sections of the liturgy. Needless to say, the liturgy was therefore different in each city and also, to some degree, in each church within each city, where specific rituals developed to match the place, the building, and the feast. You can read descriptions of the elaborate rituals in Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos’ De Ceremoniis. Parts of this earlier tradition stayed alive in Constantinople until the Fourth Crusade and lasted until the early 1400s in Thessaloniki. Anyway, the biggest differences are not actually in the Eucharistic liturgy, but in Vespers, Orthros, Vigil, the hours, etc. In the 8th-15th centuries, monasteries were places of tremendous innovation and reform — or at least certain famous ones in Palestine, Constantinople, Mt Athos, and Serbia were.

                  • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                    The Melkites have always been quite small compared to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. Their strength came more from the support of the French and other Roman Catholic powers who provided money and influenced the Ottoman authorities than the number of followers.
                    The Holy Synod of Antioch was made up of Arab Bishops in 1899. That is how they were able to get an Arab Patriarch. When they ousted Patriarch Spyridon the Holy Synod of Antioch demanded that the same rules used by the Holy Synod of Constantinople be used to elect the new Patriarch of Antioch. One of the rules was that to be eligible a Bishop must have already be a Bishop within the Patriarchate. Since all the Bishops were Arabs, the Holy Synod of Antioch was able to elect Patriarch Meletius II, the first Arab Patriarch of Antioch since 1724. Constantinople refused to recognize his election, but finally in 1909 recognized Gregory IV who assumed the Patriarchal throne in 1906.

                    Fr. John W. Morris

                    • Please don’t make such claims without quoting figures. Otherwise it sounds like propaganda. In Egypt, the French did NOT favor the Melkites, who had shared, as lesser partners, the leading ;positions in finance, medicine and government bureaucracy until the French, in particular General Menou whom Napoleon left behind and who converted to Islam, began to restrict the Copts and the Melkites in Egypt, in favor of the Muslims, little Greek Patriarchate and the Jews. what saved today’s Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch is the cash coming from the emigration and its incorporation of converts.

                    • For somewhat recent statistics (estimates, of course), I’d refer to the book by Dick that I referenced above. The last census in Lebanon was in 1932. Then there were 77,312 Orthodox and 46,706 Greek Catholics. The proportion of Orthodox outnumbering Greek Catholics in Lebanon by slightly less than 2-1 has probably stayed stable over that time. That census also included a separate tally of emigrants (in order to boost Christian numbers). Among the emigrants from Lebanon counted in the census, there were proportionately even more Orthodox (57,031) to Greek Catholics (29,627). ( In the 1995 statistics for Syria (probably estimates), there were 503,000 Orthodox and 111,800 Greek Catholics. By those estimates, there are more Orthodox in Syria than the various denominations of Oriental Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants combined. ( While the actual size of the Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem slightly might now be slightly larger than the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, this is because its territory includes all three of the aforementioned Orthodox patriarchates, and within the territory of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the proportions of Orthodox to Greek Catholic are closer to being even.

                      Napoleon in Egypt has about nothing to do with France’s involvement in the creation of the Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, which happened under the rule of Louis XV and primarily in Syria, not Egypt (where there was only ever a smallish Orthodox population, only some of whom were Arabs). So referencing Napoleon in Egpyt here is about like discussing Soviet policy in South Yemen to understand Czarist policy in Palestine. Non sequitur. If you want to read up on the international politics surrounding the creation of the various Eastern Catholic churches in the Middle East, refer to the bibliography I gave above, especially “Catholics and Sultans” and “Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World”. Haddad’s works focus more on the Orthodox community itself and the reasons for conversion of some of them to Catholicism (the ability to marry one’s cousin canonically was apparently a big draw…)

                      During the 17th and 18th centuries, spreading Catholicism in the Levant was a major French foreign policy goal, to which they dedicated a significant amount of human and financial resources. In 1604, the Ottoman Empire granted the French protection over Catholic pilgrims and clergy in Jerusalem, opening the door for the official introduction of Catholic missionaries into the region. In 1673, more or less total freedom of movement and activity was granted to French clergy by the Ottomans, which would last until 1723. Moreover, further capitulations by the Ottomans granted French citizenship (and thus a break on tariffs) to local dragomans working in French trade consulates. This led to a proliferation of ‘honorary dragomans’ who, at the price of conversion to Catholicism and perhaps a bit of money, gained all the advantages of being French. This class of ambitious merchants formed the core of the Greek Catholic movement in the Levant among the laity….

                    • Samn! is right to deny that Napoleon in Egypt had anything to do with France’s involvement in the creation of the GreekCatholic Patriarchate of Antioch. I mentioned Napoleon because when he LEFT Egypt, two of his generals remained behind, and one of them converted to Islam as Abdallah Menou, and he became a very powerful. influential person in Egypt who more or less campaigned for the Melkites, while persecuting every other non-Muslim group.

              • Archpriest John W. Morris says

                I believe that it was in 1970 that the Antiochian Archdiocese dropped the word Syrian from its name. Originally the immigrants from what became Lebanon called themselves Syrians because Lebanon was part of what was then considered Greater Syria. Lebanon did no become an independent nation until 1943. Antiochian is not an ethnic identification, but is instead a reference to the founding of our Church by Sts. Peter and Paul, and being the Church where Christians were first called Christians. In a literal translation from the Arabic the Syrian Orthodox are the non-Chalcedonian Jacobite Church. Do a Google search on Syrian Orthodox and you will not be led to the Antiochians, but to sites of various branches of the Jacobite Church. In Arabic we are Rum Orthodox because we were the Church of the Roman Empire, which lasted in the East until 1453. Then the Patriarchate of Antioch was part of the Rum Milet or Roman Nations under the Turks. The official stationary of the Patriarchate of Antioch uses the title The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.

          • Disgusted With It says


            Yes, they are the larger and growing parishes in our area. In fact, the local OCA parishes are either declining in membership or barely holding steady, with at least one OCA parish ready to close its doors due to lack of people.

            I suggest you learn about the whole situation out there before pontificating on here.

            • Harry Coin says

              Your area? Where might that be?

              Anyway, give it time. If it turns out the others wise up to being controlled from afar it will all change.

              • Disgusted With It says

                Right. When everyone else gets as smart as “Harry Coin” THEN I’ll see how it really is. Get real.

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says


                I see more control and heavy-handed agendas coming from Parish councils than I have ever seen from Moscow, Constantinople and Antioch put together. So, please give it a rest. Say good night Harry.


                • George Michalopulos says

                  Unfortunately Peter, I must agree with you. The OCA synod has acted in ways that make any heavy-handed PC look orthopractic by comparison.

    • Yes, that’s exactly what we need. A Russian Patriarch who answers to Vladimir Putin to run our churches and monasteries over here. You are completely insane Ivan

      • George Michalopulos says

        Tom, the Russian patriarch does not answer to Putin. Just because he loves his country doesn’t mean that he has to abide by the same principles as those who don’t.

        • Mike Myers says

          If he loves his country so much, I’m wondering why he nevertheless dared to rake in untold millions hawking tobacco and liquor to his people — while in holy orders, exploiting the tax-exempt status of the ROC as a charitable organization to undercut his competition, thereby joining the ranks of Russia’s oligarchy. This is rather puzzling, ethically and spiritually speaking, under the circumstances of his Throne, and all.

          You yourself brought up the matter of “principle.” Could this be what you were alluding to: “. . . Just because he loves his country doesn’t mean that he has to abide by the same principles as those who don’t.” Perhaps you can explain your thinking in more detail here, George. I’m a bit baffled on this topic. Everyone else I’ve asked studiously abstains from answering related questions — those who hold up the MP and the ROC as the Beacon of Orthodoxy, I mean. It reminds me very much of the old days, back in the U.S.S.R., when foreign reporters and so on couldn’t get a word out of the natives re: their motherland. Same family of “principles” at work?

    • Thanks, Ivan. I’m tending to agree with you, but of course, based on your mention of the GOA, I doubt you would contend that even a monastery under one of the old “mature” Patriarchiates, is necessarily safe. I’m a convert, so I wonder what would be your definition of a “tried and true Orthodox Church?” Certainly at one time the GOA would have fit this description, no? Yet, it seems, they are now among the worst offenders. There is the sad case of a certain GOA monastery on the East Coast (I believe), where for decades the Abbot engaged in the most unbelievable immorality against young novices and visitors alike. Truly tragic. On the other hand, I also have in my possession the periodical of an OCA women’s monastery in New York which I believe to be quite solid, in which the Abbess brought this problem of the frequency with which abuse of spiritual power in the Church (especially sexual abuse) seems to be occurring in our age and culture (I assume she ministers to women–and families–from all jurisdictions) and tackled it head-on in a truthful manner. That issue also included a wonderful essay on the true nature of “spiritual fatherhood” by our former Metropolitan Jonah himself. I think the most important thing for the health of a monastery is the purity of heart and intent of those actually in charge–not always whose Omophor they are under.

      • Archpriest John W. Morris says

        I suspect that the monastery to which you refer was only under the Greek Archdiocese for a short time. The monastery then was under ROCOR until the ROCOR bisops began hearing stories of abuses and began an investigation. At that point, the Abbot suddenly discovered that he owned the title to the property. He then received a revelation that the ROCOR bishops were modernists and ecumenists. As a result, he put himself and his monastery under an uncanonical Old Calendar bishop in Greece, who is far enough away not to exercise any direct supervision over the monastery.

        Fr. John W. Morris

    • phil r. upp says


      One thing the Orthodox Church in North America does not need is to be under any foreign bishop. Every church around the world has it’s own set of issues. Damascus is in ruins; Istanbul is ready to throw + Bart out and Moscow is filled with church corruption. The OCA works the way a church should operate. It cleansed itself of issues and every person in the OCA should rejoice. Instead of saying, “The OCA is in dire straights,” which isn’t true, the OCA WORKS. This is exactly the kind of church we all want to be members of. Not a church that hides thievery, homosexuality and all forms of evil, but a church that examines itself and cleanses itself.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Phil, be a little humble, please. The “American” church just beclowned itself in a gaudy, specatcular way.

      • phil r. upp, You’re right: the OCA is not in dire straights. It is, however, in dire straits.

        And no church in history has EVER “cleared itself of issues.” What an idea!!!

        The OCA needs more American Bishops; Russian American Bishops, such as those in ROCOR’s Holy Synod! I think they function better than the Romanian AmericanOrthodox Archbishop Nathaniel or the Albanian American Orthodox Archbishop Nikon, or the Carpatho-Russian American Bishops Michael, Matthias, and Melchizedek. Anyone!!! What in blazes does phil r. upp mean when he says, “Istanbul is ready to throw +Bart out?” Sounds like first-year seminary gossip, no?

      • phil r. upp says:
        August 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm

        The OCA works the way a church should operate. It cleansed itself of issues and every person in the OCA should rejoice. Instead of saying, “The OCA is in dire straights,” which isn’t true, the OCA WORKS. This is exactly the kind of church we all want to be members of.

        p.r.u., how you deduce that from the present ongoings of the “leadership” of the OCA is beyond me.
        Pure pollyanna.
        I expect that the next thing you will be trying to convince us of is a good deal to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

  18. Lil Ole Housewife says

    The following event is taking place soon at the monastery to which St. John Maximovich monks fled. This is an important event for all Orthodox worldwide so I am hoping that someone will put it on the YouTube and also make a mp3 file of the service for all to hear.

    The Thirtieth Anniversary of Fr. Seraphim’s Repose


    Celebrations and memorial services will be held in honor of Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) at the St. Herman of Alaska Monastery, Platina, California, on September 1–2, 2012. The schedule of events is as follows:

    Saturday, September 1 (new style)

    4:00 pm Pannikhida for Hieromonk Seraphim

    4:30 pm Small Vespers, Compline

    6:00 pm Dinner

    7:30 pm Vigil

    Sunday, September 2

    9:00 am Midnight Service, Hours

    10:00 am Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, followed by a brief memorial service (Litya) for Hieromonk Seraphim with the blessing of koliva.

    12:30 pm Meal

    2:00 pm Reminiscences about Fr. Seraphim by people who knew him, including Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia; Mary Mansur, editor of Orthodox America and Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society; Solomonia Nelson; and others.

    Accommodations are limited. Spaces are available for overnight camping. If you plan to spend the night, please bring a flashlight, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and (optional) a tent. If you plan to stay in a hotel, please reserve a room in Red Bluff or Redding, both of which are about an hour from the monastery.

    NOTE: Due to seasonal fire danger, campfires and smoking are prohibited on the mountain on which the monastery is located.

    Directions: Take Highway 36 West from Red Bluff for 46 miles. Turn left on Beegum Gorge Road (about ¼ mile before the town of Platina). Go up Beegum Gorge Road for 1¾ miles. The monastery is on the left.

    Please let us know if you plan to attend: St. Herman of Alaska Monastery, P. O. Box 70, Platina, CA 96076. Email:

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      I wish I could be there. I so love this monastery, and I very much love Father Seraphim.

      I recommend the hotel in Redding.

  19. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. ~ Malachi 3:2-4.

  20. Fr Jonathan Tobias says

    Not to be too self-promoting, but permit me to throw in a link to a short essay on the subject of Confession (including some paragraphs on confidentiality and individuality):

    With that, I will separate myself from this particular thread. It has been more than a little distressing. I am dismayed by the evidence of bad practices like hypnotherapy, grievous diversions from Christian behavior, the acceptance of old aberrations like simultaneous public confession and the discussion of private confessions with hierarchs.

    Perhaps the essay will not meet with wide approval, but I do have my responsibilities toward my students and parishioners. They deserve my best attempts at clarity and honor.

    • Fr. Jonathan, I just want to tell you I really enjoy and appreciate your contributions here.

  21. Harry Coin says

    If you look on the pokrov website, there you will see reprinted a legal document and some analysis regarding then Abbott Jonah, and one Michel Rymer — allegedly there reported to be an HIV positive person defrocked for sexual misconduct offenses, later referred to as Fr. Nectarios in Manton.

    There we see reference made to a letter sent on monastery stationary during the time +Jonah was in charge.

    What I want to know is: Did then Abbott Jonah, later Met. Jonah, sign a letter writing to the Greek Archdiocese seeing to re-instate Michael Rymer to the priesthood? Is there any way that didn’t happen?

  22. Stepan Hatting says

    Greetings in Christ,

    Thank you all for your prayers and support and I would also like to publicly thank George for publishing my statement.

    I wanted to let you all know that Fr. Meletios has officially stepped down as abbot and has taken an extended leave of absence. I don’t know many details now, but I thought it would be best to inform everyone of these events. Please pray for him as he takes this time of self-reflection.

    I would also recommend that we all take the time to pray the Akathist of St. John of San Francisco and pray for the remaining brotherhood at the monastery as they decide what they should do next.

    God’s will be done. Lord have mercy.

    In XC,

    • Thank you for updating us, Stepan. I also heard that via Fr Martin. Lord have mercy.

      In Christ,

    • Excellent to hear !

      Thank you for your boldness in telling the truth, which has
      no doubt had the desired effect, we see by this event.

      Thank God.

  23. Interested Bystander says

    Thank God the fires have abated, and that all were safe. May God in His great mercy guide all who live there in His Holy way. My prayers go out to the monks and occupants (there now and recently relocataed) who have lived through this terrible maelström. Lord, have mercy.

  24. In his # 16 of 24 points, what does Stepan Hatting, the long winded “summer novice” mean by
    “unrepentant transsexual delusion” ?

    The couple in question are celibate elderly women, and they were chrismated only
    after a very long catchumenate after having been lifelong Roman Catholics.
    This statement by the summer novice seems the result of ignorance.
    The diagnosis of transsexualism is not a delusion,
    it is an established medical fact, and
    it is hard to see why a medical condition requires repentence.
    It seems to me that Fr. Meletios and Archbishop Benjamin have been given a very harsh judgement, along
    with these two unfortunate paritioners.

    • fr. ambrose says

      To Xenia: If transsexualism “is not a delusion”, what, pray tell, is the actual “science” behind your statement? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe there is no actual science here, but only mental illness and likely severe spiritual delusion. Can you point us to Holy Fathers, old or recent, that support your claim? –Fr. Ambrose

    • Michael Bauman says

      Xenia, by the same ‘science’ your namesake would have likely been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness and put on mind altering and soul destroying drugs.

      The path of sanctity is not the path of the mental health professional. While there can be some limited complementarity, anyone who places modern mental health practices and beliefs above the teaching of the Church is wrong.

    • Xenia, you know these were not two elderly women, but rather, a man living as a woman married to an actual woman. The delusion being suffered is that God erred in His creation. Whatever experiences or things done to harm this person in life, Christ is offering healing. The first step is repentance, turning around, acknowledging that our Savior does not make mistakes in His creation, and accepting that. Much prayer and fasting to heal the mind and soul is necessary. Dying to oneself on the cross is step one. He is right, I am wrong, Lord have mercy and heal me, a sinner. I will remember you in my prayers.

  25. Personally, I don’t see why I should believe Mr. Hatting. And I dont see why all of this should be on the internet. Even if it is true, what good will it do? Not one thing. It will just turn ppl away from Orthodoxy. I can’t judge and say “yes, Mr Hatting is right, all of this did happen”. If I was a novice and all of this happened to me, I would confess it all to a wise spiritual father and ask him to look into it. And it would end there. I’ve heard so many stories like the above that in the end proved to be lies or whatever else. This all could be true, yes and if it is, prayers are needed. People are leaving Orthodoxy already so this will just make it worse because its all over the internet. I cannot judge an abbot or a monastery for that matter. Was I there? No. Simple as that really. People have said so many things about Elder Efraim from Arizona, I’ve even heard stories about Elder Porphyrios. Its ridiculous. Saint Nektarios was accused of sexual misconduct with his nuns. Not many ppl will like my comment and thats totally fine. Everyone has a right to say how they feel. I say ppl should give this whole matter time.. and a lot of it. Its way to early to give a conclusion on this matter and there might not ever be one.

    “It seems to me that Fr. Meletios and Archbishop Benjamin have been given a very harsh judgement, along
    with these two unfortunate paritioners.” Xenia

    I have to agree with her words there.

    May God enlighten us ALL and grant repentance to each and every one of us.


  26. Jonathin Touab says

    It`s interesting how the Bishop`s councel of the OCA put out a lot of insinuating stuff about then Metropolitan
    Jonah, like saying he was suffering from mental illness, which was repeated by people like Hopko, but they worded it really unspecifically so that it could mean anything. Certainly this was a breach of confidence.