Sex Scandal at Monastery in Brookline
BOSTON, MA – A sexual scandal of huge magnitude has shaken the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Brookline, MA. The Monastery’s founder and former abbot Archimandrite Panteleimon Metropoulos has been accused by his own monks of homosexual advances and activities in the monastery involving members of his monastic community.
Eight monks made their written and signed accusations to Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston at the end of August 2012. The Monastery does not belong to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, but it is rather an autonomous group. In the past, the Monastery was under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Russians Abroad. In 1986 it left and joined an Old Calendarist group in Greece under Archbishop Afxentios. Initially in early 1970, the Monastery had existed under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Also, the first group that established it including former Abbot Panteleimon as well as the current one Fr. Isaac are graduates of Holy Gross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The Monastery is within walking distance of the Theological School.
In the middle of last September, 17 monks and one Bishop, Demetrios, left the Monastery and they entered in the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Genuine Orthodox under the ecclesiastical leadership of Metropolitan Pavlos Stratigeas of Astoria. The 17 monks and Bishop Demetrios have already resettled at the Monastery of Ascension in Bearsville in Upstate New York. Demetrios was appointed as abbot and everything was made official last month with the visit of the Archbishop Kallinikos, who is the Archbishop of Old Calendar Group in Greece, to which the Metropolis of America under Pavlos Stratigeas belongs. There are more than seven different Old Calendar Groups in Greece, all of which proclaim themselves Genuine Orthodox.
At the Transfiguration Monastery there were about 35 monastics, today there about 12, while 75% of the clergy and faithful left and they joined Metropolitan Pavlos Stratigeas’ group. From the New England area as well as from other parts of the United States and Canada at least 7 parishes with their clergy and congregations left the Pantelemonite Group of the Transfiguration Monastery and entered the Orthodox Metropolis of genuine Orthodox of America under Pavlos Stratigeas. Among the parishes that left was the Cathedral of St. Mark of Ephesus in Roslindale, MA with its priest Christos Konstantinou, who is also a graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The parish is already in a legal dispute with the Metropolis of Boston under Metropolitan Ephraim, who sent them an eviction notice. The parish went to the court and won to stay in church until a final decision is made some tie in the near future. The deed of the church building belongs to the Metropolis but the parish was self-sustained financially by its congregation. Fr. Konstantinou who is also the president of the parish council refused to make any comment on the situation. Also the vice-president Paul Fitopoulos declined to comment saying that “there are families involved here.” Fitopoulos’ daughter is married to Abbot Isaac’s nephew.
Former Abbot Panteleimon has left the Monastery and now lives at the Ascension Skete in York, ME which also belongs to the Monastery. He revealed to TNH that he is seriously ill suffering from pancreas cancer and refuses to have surgery or to receive chemotherapy. Isaac is today the Abbot of the Transfiguration Monastery who is also a graduate of Holy Cross Theological School.
Metropolitan Ephraim and Abbot Isaac did not respond to TNH’s request for comment. Also Metropolitan Makarios (Katre) of Toronto Canada who knows the situations and has received copies of the depositions of monks against Fr. Panteleimon for his homosexual advances and activities did not respond. Makarios continues to be in close cooperation with Ephraim Isaac and Panteleimon. Metropolitan Makarios is the brother of Bishop Elias of Filomilion, former acting Abbot of the St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria and head of the Albanian Orthodox Diocese.
TNH had the following telephone interview with Fr. Panteleimon:
TNH: Is it possible to tell us why 17 monks, Bishop Demetrios as well as many parishes left?
P: All of them have written. I am here in absolute quietude and thus I have nothing to say. There are misunderstandings between the hierarchs and the congregants. I myself don’t know how to use the Internet.
TNH: You have been accused by monks that you attacked them with homosexual advances.
P: God will judge. We are human beings, I do not say that I am sinless; I can’t say that I am just. I have written a letter and I explain. I ask forgiveness from all and I grant forgiveness to all. I do not have resentfulness against anybody. Whatever I have to say I have written it in Greek and English.
TNH: Fr. Isaac admitted that what monks wrote against you, that you are a homosexual, is true.
P: Since you have read it draw your own conclusions. What I had to say, I have written it.
TNH: Are you sick?
Yes, but I am also old, I am not in young age.
TNH: Is your illness serious?
P: I have pancreatic cancer but I am not going to have surgery.
TNH: You mean you will die?
P: Yes. Fr. Arsenios, who was a professor, died a year ago. He also had cancer and he refused chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
TNH: How old are you?
P: I am 77.
Panteleimon addressed his letter “to all Christians and people that I Have known in my long lifetime both those present and absent, those who live and those who reposed.” He wrote among other things that “I, the sinful monk Panteleimon pilgrim, make a full prostration and ask forgiveness from each and every one individually and all collectively for all that I have sinned against you in any way I have offended you or scandalized you.” He also wrote: “Dear Christians I am neither an angel, nor a demon, neither a saint nor a sorcerer. Angels after the fall of Lucifer do not fall and demons do not rise. I am a sinful human being, “wearing flesh and living in the world” as the forgiveness prayer says subject to many passions and falls both great and small. But as a human being I can rise through repentance. I am a great sinner. But I am not an unbeliever. I do not despair. Despair is atheism. Only if God is absent can one despair. But is assuredly present everywhere and fills all things. I therefore hope in His great mercy. I bring to mind the parables of the Prodigal and the Publican and I am encouraged that there is repentance and forgiveness.”
Fr. John Fleser who was serving at St. Anna’s Orthodox parish in Roslindale and with a group of parishioners abandoned Metropolitan Ephraim and joined Metropolitan Pavlos sent a letter to Ephraim on October 23 “Concerning the Immorality Charges Against Father Panteleimon.” Fleser wrote, that, “the issue is not Father Panteleimon, it is what you, Metropolitan Ephraim, and Father Isaac did after you learned of his transgressions. The clergy and laity who have known the fathers at the monastery for many years reacted when they heard there was truth in the accusations against Panteleimon. Their initial response, from the majority of them, was, “it is not true, this is a slander against Father Panteleimon, etc.” It is understandable as to why they responded as they did, yet, it turns out that in fact there was truth in the accusations.”
Fleser reminded Ephraim that “you stated in your letter to the faithful dated September 1, 2012 “the truth is that some fathers of the Monastery have requested that Fr. Panteleimon retire from the Monastery for reasons that are under investigation by the bishops.” This investigation never took place and as a result the faithful have heard mixed statements regarding this matter. Father Panteleimon, by his own actions, falls under the canons of the Church and he should be held accountable for what he has done.”
Fleser also wrote that “the monks’ depositions regarding Father Panteleimon were given to you, Metropolitan Ephraim, as you had requested (this fact that you had been given 8 depositions from the monks became known to the clergy only after the September 1 meeting).
“On August 23, a copy of one deposition was faxed to Metropolitan Makarios in Toronto at the St. Nicholas House. On August 25, a meeting was held at Holy Transfiguration monastery with you, Metropolitan Ephraim, Father Isaac, Father Barsanuphius and 10 clergy. At this meeting Father Isaac stated there was truth in the accusations against Father Panteleimon and he asked forgiveness for having covered up his transgressions. He wept as he asked forgiveness. You, Metropolitan Ephraim, said no monk had said anything to you or given you any statements; you then corrected yourself and said that Father Elias, Metropolitan Moses’ brother, did give you a letter on his return to the monastery (this was a number of years ago) but you did not investigate or make further inquiry into it. The clergy said this should be dealt with at the monastery and appropriate action should be taken, namely, Father Panteleimon should be deposed. The matter was to be discussed at a scheduled meeting of all the clergy in the area on Saturday, September 1, 2012.
“Saturday, September 1, 2012: Present were Metropolitan Ephraim, Bishops Demetrius and Gregory, Father Isaac and 18 clergy. Once again when the issue of Father Panteleimon was raised, Father Isaac, with great remorse, asked forgiveness from all present for having covered up Father Panteleimon’s transgressions. All the clergy were in agreement this matter should be handled discreetly and Father Panteleimon should be deposed and retire to the Skete in Maine. At the end of the meeting a draft letter was composed and given to the bishops to go over and send out. That same evening a letter to the faithful was sent out signed by all three bishops. The above quote regarding the investigation was in that letter; however, no investigation was ever conducted.
“September 11/August 29, 2012: Synodal Statement regarding Father Panteleimon said: ‘With regard to Father Panteleimon, the Holy Synod has resolved to accept his resignation from the priesthood and his retirement so that he would live out his last days in solitude and hesychia.’ This raises many questions, e.g., why would a priest resign from the priesthood when he retires? How does a priest resign from the priesthood? What canons give this privilege to a priest to resign from the priesthood?
The fact that you have refused to look into the accusations against Father Panteleimon has caused confusion and doubt among the clergy, but also among the faithful because you have deliberately covered up Father Panteleimon’s transgressions.”
Documents obtained by TNH show that similar accusation of homosexual behavior was done by a number of monks in 1986 against abbot Panteleimon and left the Monastery. The then-Russian Orthodox Synod investigated the accusations and called Panteleimon to explain. In order to prevent his defrockment he took the Monastery and the parishes and walked away from the Russian Jurisdiction and entered the Group of Archbishop Afxentios in Greece. Many of the depositions written by the monks at that time (1986) are quite explicit describing how the monks were sexually abused by Panteleimon. We do not publish them here out of respect to the Church and Greek-American community.
Lately at the Monastery, they discuss and argue extensively about the heresy of “name worshipping,” apparently trying to detour the attention from the sexual scandal elsewhere.
Panteleimon is a graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and he had monastic tendencies from his student years. He spent some time at the Russian Monastery of St. Panteleimon of Mt. Athos. He was ordained Deacon by the then Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis of Boston at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Boston. He was ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Vasileios of Caesarea of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem under strange circumstance sources said. Panteleimon has also established a Nunnery in Brookline as well.