The Arizona Monastery Depitcs a Larger Problem: the Perpetuation of Cultish Mentalities
The revelations made by David Smith in his interview in last week’s edition of TNH about his ordeal at the Monastery of Anthony in Arizona were really chilling. It was proven once again that a perversely distorted religiosity has been introduced into the ecclesial life of our Greek-American community. Actually, it is an extreme fundamentalism that has nothing to do with the true and authentic Monasticism that should be the joyful sadness of the Church.
Besides the publicized suicide of novice Scott Ioannis Nevins, another tragedy was about to happen with Smith which, thank God, was avoided the very last minute. Let us recall Smith’s chilling account: “I had a 9 millimeter and I was tempted to pull the trigger, and when I told my wife about it she broke down and we took the gun and turned it in. I had to overcome the thought that God wanted me dead.” He also said that “[Abbot] Paisios told me to make a whip out of an electrical cord and whip myself with it and do it in an inconspicuous place so people wouldn’t notice. He recommended on chest or my back or on the shoulders. I chose the upper part of my body. That was part of the daily routine. He even showed me how thick the whip should be. I went to Walmart and I was describing it to the salesperson, who asked me for what purpose would I use it, and I couldn’t come up with an answer.”
Here is another symptom of extreme Nicolaitism: “Paisios was saying to us repeatedly that in Orthodox spirituality there is no difference between a monk and a married person with the exception that the married person has a spouse. A monk doesn’t have sex, a married person doesn’t have sex. A monk stays up all night in prayer, a married person stays up all night in prayer. Your career doesn’t matter. Your marriage doesn’t matter. You kids don’t matter. You have a spouse and you live in the same space with her as a monk would if there was a nun staying with him.”
For God’s sake, this is not Orthodox spiritually, it is sick Talibanism. Who in his right mind even with limited knowledge about Orthodox spirituality doesn’t realize that what Smith was taught was a twisted cultish teaching?
I had written many years ago that at some point Ephraim and his monasteries would become a liability to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Greek-American community, and I think that the vicissitude has already begun.
Here are some questions: Where did Ephraim find the money to build 21 monasteries using St. Anthony’s in Arizona, described as “holy resort,” as his headquarters? With whose canonical permission has he brought over from Greece and Canada monks and nuns? Where or to whom do the real estate properties of the monasteries belong? To whom are the monasteries financially accountable? Why they have not adopted all these years the regulations established by the Archdiocese and ratified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate since 2005? Who is going to pay the damages from all of the pending lawsuits? Who is going to assume the responsibility for those parishes that have been indoctrinated by certain clergy and laity into Ephraimistic cultish mentality, as revealed in Smith’s astonishing interview?
If the Archbishop and the hierarchs were more involved in these types of concerns, the problem of Ephraim and his monasteries would have been resolved years ago.
I have the sense that our Church in America will suffer and be confronted with schisms because it is very conspicuous that an “anti-church” has been created.
Here is a proposal: Since our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is essentially headless, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew must intervene dynamically now. He should summon Ephraim to the Patriarchate and order him to return back to Mt. Athos, taking all his monks and his nuns with him, and to leave the Greek-American Church and community alone. The properties of those monasteries belonging to the Archdiocese should be sold and the funds to be used for the advancement of the Hellenic Paideia. We need paideia, schools, education, not monasteries with Dark Ages obscurantism and self-flagellations, because those practices have nothing to do with Orthodox spirituality. They are ridiculous and truly, truly sick.