In the Shadow of the Monk’s Suicide: The Clergy Laity Congress in Arizona
Under the shadow of the alleged suicide of Scott (Ioannis) Nevins at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ, the 41st Clergy Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America convened in nearby Phoenix.
Things are becoming increasingly vague and awkward because more than three weeks after the unfortunate incident, there is virtual silence about it. Neither the police report or autopsy report has been released. The Archdiocese has not said a word yet, except for the letter of Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco informing the faithful of the incident and assuring everyone that he is praying for the repose of the late monk’s soul. The only one who has spoken publicly, through TNH, is Monastery Abbot Archimandrite Paisios.
On the other hand, there is a barrage of electronic messages, comments, and opinions being exchanged, which can be classified more as gossip than legitimate information.
In addition to the investigations underway by law enforcement authorities, the Archdiocese itself should begin an in-depth probe not only about the suicide incident, but also about the monasteries in general. Quite literally, the Archdiocese now has to deal with blood on its hands, and blood does not easily go away.
Moreover, the Archdiocese should investigate the finances of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries from the day he put his foot on Canadian soil to the day he came to the United States, in order to discover where in the world all that money that was used to erect 21 monasteries came from.
The Archbishop and hierarchs alike should be held accountable for Ephraim’s and the monasteries’ activities. Essentially, they have become a ”parallel church” with a strange fundamentalist mentality that smells a lot like a cult: a movement that can be called ”Ephraimism,” that has instilled in many clergy and laity a kind of fundamentalist pseudo-piety. The cultivation of the ”elderism” (from elder) in America today has assumed the form of an Orthodox ”guruism” (from guru) with everything that it entails.
The elders have become a religio-social phenomenon in America. They acquire total control on the mind and soul of people, especially of those who are afraid to come of age. The elders assume responsibility for everything — even for family, spousal, and personal matters.
The Christ of the Church has been replaced by the ”elders,” who supposedly speak wisely; they appear to be omniscient, prophesizing with authority on imminent wars and economic catastrophes.
We have come to the point today in America where there are priests in the Archdiocese who call their elders — not only Ephraim here in the United States but also in various monasteries in Greece, for example on Mount Athos, in Chalkidiki, in Peloponnesus, and elsewhere — in order to ask them how to go about things that concern them when they create rifts and divisions in their parishes or about ecclesial and community matters in general. There are tragi-comedic situations.
The Archdiocese should depart from Archbishop Demetrios’ ostrich head-in-the-sand tactics of covering up predator clergy, such as in cases of pederasty, and most recently the sexual misconduct at the School of Theology involving a grown up married student and a teenage girl on campus.
The recent revelations about the new Dean of Demetrios Archdiocesan Cathedral of New York, Anastasios Gounaris, should have alarmed His Eminence to make the right decision. Instead, the archbishop and the hierarchs remain speechless, and the attempts of beatification of everything — even the most ”dark” situations — cannot continue any longer because they will destroy the Church. The faithful, including the youth, understand that quite well.
Finally, the archbishop and the Archdiocesan Council should stop Methodios Tournas, the Bishop ofston, from establishing a monastery at the camp in Contoocook, NH, close to small and innocent children. If Methodios wants to repent for his actions against entire parishes in New England, he should go to one of Ephraim’s monasteries or to the Monastery of Simonopetra on Mt. Athos, and leave alone the small children of the Greek-American Community of New England free from any influence of monasteries and monks. New England needs more schools, not more monasteries.