Please Explain Things to Us In More Detail, Mr. Jaharis

Author: Paul Cromidas
Date Published: 01/03/2013
Publication: The National Herald

To the Editor:

Theodore Kalmoukos recently reported on the speech given to the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Church in America by its vice chairman, Michael Jaharis. The speech covered a number of topics, including the current status of monasteries in their relationship with the Church. He was referring to the monasteries run by the monk Ephraim.

While we don’t usually learn what is said at those Council meetings, it is encouraging to see that the Church’s top lay leader brought up that issue, although his comments raised some questions that need answers. On balance, however, the faithful should be thankful to Mr. Jaharis for speaking up. Concern about what has been called the “Ephraimite” situation is not new. It has been at least 10 years since questions about it began.

Mr. Jaharis said that a Council committee had been formed some time ago to examine the situation. But, then, he said that “suspicions of irregularities and of existing improprieties, and lack of cooperation, made it impossible for the committee to further act beyond initial observations.”

That sounds like “case closed.” Is that what Mr. Jaharis really means? Is he really telling us that there is nothing further to be done about investigating the monastery situation? Surely, that cannot be true. If it is, then pickets should start marching in front of the Archdiocese headquarters right away. It had been reported that the committee was being chaired by Metropolitan Evangelos. Should we understand that he has not been able to make any progress with his fellow Metropolitans? Where is the lack of cooperation? Should an independent layperson be placed in charge of the committee?

Mr. Jaharis also brought up the very unfortunate case of Scott Nevins, the former novice at St. Anthony Monastery in Arizona who had apparently taken his own life near the entrance to that facility in June. St. Anthony is the headquarters for monk Ephraim. Mr. Jaharis said that after further investigation, “we expect to take severe and appropriate action as required to remedy this existing issue.”

What are we to understand here? What is the “existing issue?” After saying that the Archdiocesan committee found it “impossible” to take further action, how can “severe” action be taken in this aspect of the Ephraim monastery matter?

Mr. Jaharis also spoke of the scandal at the non-Ephraimite monastery in Astoria, where it was revealed some time ago that sexual misconduct had taken place over a number of years. He pointed out, though, that this monastery is under the supervision of the Patriarchate, and so the Archdiocese does not have the “authority” or the “ability” to rectify matters there.

Many would contend that the Archdiocese has at least the moral authority to help rectify matters instead of silently standing by just a borough away (in Manhattan). It certainly didn’t hesitate to take credit when that formerly “old calendar” church and monastery was brought into the fold of mainstream Orthodoxy, albeit under the administration of the now-discredited Archbishop Spyridon. There apparently wasn’t much due diligence done at the time– or much supervision by the Patriarch since then and before the misconduct
revelations. One cannot help but wonder, also, whether the patriarch has information and concern about the over-all Ephraimite situation.

Mr. Jaharis is to be commended for speaking up about the monastery issue and other matters. It certainly hasn’t been the Metropolitans, who are supposed to be the guardians of the faith. Perhaps Mr. Jaharis’ strongest expression of concern about the monasteries was when he said that “as a faith we have to make certain to guard our garden from disease.” If this is a call to action, the Archdiocesan Council and the Metropolitans should be leading the way.

The faithful need more help in understanding the seriousness of this disease.

A.P. Cromidas
Dallas, TX