Reader Demands More Reporting about Church

Author: A.P. Cromidas
Date Published: 03/03/2012

To the Editor:

Almost nine years ago in the April 5, 2003 edition of TNH, the newspaper reported that the Eparchial Synod of America had discussed “the monasteries established all over the U.S. by the former abbot from Mt. Athos, Fr. Ephraim. It has been said that some sort of fundamentalist movement with a cult philosophy has been advocated by the followers of Ephraim, and is having an impact among the clergy and theology students at Holy Cross School of Theology.”

Sadly, TNH has not done much follow-up on this important story in all the years since then, though your reporter, Theodore Kalmoukos, had even written about Ephraim some years before 2003. In late 2003, I also wrote an article on this matter, titled The Ephraim Question.

Is there some sort of coverup going on by TNH?

A significant development, for instance, in recent years, has been the formation of a group of laypeople in Chicago, IL called the Greek Orthodox Christians for Truth and Reform, which says in its mission statement “that our current Hierarchs of the Metropolis of Chicago are complicit in allowing a cancerous cult to permeate the theology of our church.” Now, that’s a serious charge. Why hasn’t there been any reporting about this body by TNH? This group’s website is www.gotruthreform.org., where one can find poignant first-person accounts. But, there are clergy and laity in the Chicago area who are afraid to raise any questions about the Ephraim influence.

More recently, in your Dec.31, 2011 issue, we learned from Mr. Kalmoukos that a senior monk by the same name of Ephraim had been arrested and jailed in Greece for his alleged role a few years ago in the scandalous land-swap dealings between the Vatopedi Monastery of Mt. Athos and the Greek government.

Previous news reports had indicated that the monastery netted millions from these transactions at the expense of the Greek government. This Ephraim apparently out-ranks the American Ephraim, whose base is the St. Anthony monastery in Arizona. In an “analysis” column in that issue, Mr. Kalmoukos also observed that the Ephraim in the Greek jail had claimed that his monastery had supported financially “monasteries and institutions in America,” but that the American Archdiocese had said it was not aware of such support.

This matter of finances is one of the crucial concerns about the monasteries in the U.S. Shouldn’t TNH be delving into this?

Can one really believe that the 18 or so Ephraim monasteries in North America, including Canada, came into being and are sustained without the possibility of illegal or tainted money from the land swaps in Greece? (There are parishes in the Archdiocese that have trouble supporting a priest, yet virtually overnight those monasteries have sprung up in the U.S. and do not appear to have trouble financially. “God provides,” one monk told a questioner.)

Mr. Kalmoukos also revealed that the Archdiocese has a “commission” that is looking into the Ephraim monasteries here and has found among other things that “Ephraim’s teachings should be scrutinized, as they combine a dangerous mix of fundamentalism and theocracy.” But he tells us nothing more about that.

So, now we have come full-circle, in a way. Almost nine years ago the Synod said there was a troubling fundamentalist movement on the part of the Ephraimites and now the Archdiocese commission is reportedly saying the same thing. But the faithful remain largely in the dark about this matter.

Recently, it was also posted on the website www.pokrov.org that a study of the Ephraim controversy is being conducted by anthropologist Frances Kostarelos of Chicago. Shouldn’t TNH be writing about that, too?

Even more recently, a new group based in Atlanta has come on the scene, with a website: www.weareOrthodox.com. They, too, are expressing concerns about the Ephraim situation.

As though telling readers that they don’t have the “inside scoop” in another column in that issue, Mr. Kalmoukos engages in a version of Christmas “gossip columnist” when he tells us what Santa brought, “…to the big and small men of the cloth…” Several monastic mentions are made. He writes that one gift is “To Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, a booklet of confession from Ephraim of Arizona.”

Instead of such teaser, insider gossip bits, it’s high time for TNH and Mr. Kalmoukos to take a leadership role in reporting in depth about the Ephraim situation in America.

A.P. Cromidas
Dallas, Texas