Monastery Money Intrigue, Archdiocese Unresponsive

Author: A. P. Cromidas
Date Published: 12/14/2013
Publication: The National Herald

Ten years ago TNH reported that the Greek Orthodox Holy Synod of U.S. Bishops was saying that some sort of cult fundamentalism was being practiced in the U.S. by the monasteries controlled by the monk Elder Ephraim. But, apparently, no action to speak of was ever addressed.

Last year, at the fall Archdiocesan Council meeting, Michael Jaharis, the ranking layman chairing the session, made unprecedented comments about monastery problems in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA). He said that over the years, some of these monasteries have not respected their proper relationship to the GOA and that a committee was established to look into these matters, but had experienced a “lack of cooperation.” He even likened actions by the monasteries to a “disease” that must be guarded against.

At the most recent Council meeting this October, while there was no official discussion of monastery issues, Jaharis reportedly  said that there was continued “stonewalling” on them monasteries’ part and that there could be some “illegal” activity being conducted by them or on their behalf.

Does this “illegal” activity have to do with money transfers? Typically, monks have answered questions about monastery finances by responsing: “God provides.”

Whereas these council meetings have lacked sufficient detail, revealing connections have been reported on the Internet and in public records. The now-defunct website “greeknewsliberator.wordpress.com” linked its readers to Emmanuel Mamalakis, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who is a parish council member of the Annunciation Church (the one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) and controls or has controlled several foundations – non-profit and for-profit. These foundations are apparently moving money around and some of it is either ending up in monasteries or passing through them to other entities.

In an ironic twist, Mamalakis has also been in the news lately for accusing the former Milwaukee priest, Fr. James Dokos, of mishandling a trust. IRS Tax forms and other matters of public records are available.

In perhaps the most telling “connecting of the dots”, the person listed as being in charge of the “books and records” of the “International Non-Profit Assistance Foundation”, ( INPAF), is listed with a Florence, AZ address, which happens to be the location of St. Anthony’s Monastery, the world headquarters of Ephraim and his followers.

This same person is listed as keeper of the books for the World Assistance Foundation. Is this just coincidence? Mamalakis is listed as an officer of both foundations. The purpose of the INPAF is to “assist other 501 (C) (3) organizations and indigent individuals”, and that “approximately 90 organizations and individuals have St. Anthony’s Monastery of Arizona and St. John’s Monastery of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, are listed as recipients of INPAF funds, and both have claimed that as religious organizations they are exempt from filing the Form 990.

From 2007 to 2010, the INPAF shows income respectively of some $4.2 million; $2.9 million; $278 thousand and $825 thousand. For the year 2010 almost $4.5 million was given in “grants and other assistance” in the United States. The World Assistance Foundation showed a transaction of almost $3.5 million, with a notation that some of it was for “R.E”, presumably meaning Real Estate. There was “assistance to indigents” for 80 individuals totaling $337,950.

Word has it that at least some of these “indigent” individuals were associated in various positions within the Church itself. Who are these people that are caught up in the web of intrigue that is known as the Ephraim monasteries?

A breakdown was not given here, but it would appear that some “indigents” received some very nice assistance. Why are their names absent? Many questions are asked in the Form 990. For the INPAF, these two were both answered with a “Yes”. “Was the organization related to any tax-exempt or taxable entity?” And, “Is any related organization a controlled entity within the meaning of section 512(b)(13)?”

Here is the link to the INPAF 990 is at this web-site: https://bulk.resource.org/IRS.gov/eo/2011_12_EO/20-4295116_990_201012.pdf.

It is clear that complex money transactions involve, in significant part, the Ephraimite monasteries and people connected with them. Does this help explain the slowness of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in their investigation?

Under GOA rules, each of the metropolitans is supposed to oversee the monasteries in their territories. It would appear that this is not happening, and is unlikely to happen.

St. John’s and St. Anthony’s are the Chicago and San Francisco Metropolises, respectively. Shouldn’t the two responsible Metropolitans, Iakovos and Gerasimos, respectively, be taking a lead in looking into the matter? And if not them, shouldn’t the Archdiocesan Council finally take the lead? Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey is the chairman of the investigating committee. Where is his leadership on this? And where is the Council itself?

One might say, “What’s the big deal, anyway? Nonprofit Foundations are assisting monasteries and parishes in doing God’s work. Why all the fuss?” Other wealthy players around the country may also be engaged in similar activities.”

Well, the thing is, to put it plainly, these monies are supporting a subversive movement that is undermining the work and integrity of the GOA and its parishes. While authority has formally announced this fact, there has been enough evidence of this, and intimations of this by serious lay leaders of the Church. An unhealthy religious infiltration is taking place and the “disease” analogy is not just rhetoric, it is real and it poses an imminent danger to Orthodoxy in America, and not just the Greek Orthodox jurisdiction, as we have known it.

Two websites have been sounding the alarm about this matter in recent times. They are gotruthreform.org and weareorthodox.com. An older site, pokrov.org, also has links to and describes questionable activities of the Ephraimite monasteries.

Will some courage ever emerge from the GOA leadership to address this matter of great concern?

A. P. Cromidas is a retired social agency executive and former parish council president.