Two new internet resources

Author: Cappy Larson, Greta Larson and Melanie Sakoda
Date Published: 09/30/2005
Publication: Pokrov

4/25/2008: The POEM website mentioned in the article below is no longer active.

This month two new internet resources have been introduced which address concerns regarding the monasteries founded by Fr. Ephraim.

The first new resource is a web site: “POEM — Concerned Parents of Ephraim Monastics.” We are pleased to be able to add to our list of recommended resources.

POEM primarily addresses the pain, shame, guilt, anger, abandonment and other issues of parents whose children have joined one of the monasteries founded by Fr. Ephraim. However it is also a good site for people who have been harmed by the monasteries in other ways.

We have read most of the POEM web site. There are so many excellent articles. It bespeaks a tremendous effort on the part of its founders. We applaud their willingness to reach out to help all people who may have been hurt, but don’t have any place to go and talk about what happened to them. We were especially impressed with the section that deals with shame. We encourage our readers to check it out thoroughly.

The second resource to appear this month is the report of David Smith (“Niphon Smith”) who has had the courage to write about his personal experiences at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, AZ. We commend him for putting a public face to the many reports Pokrov has received, and we look forward to others being inspired by his testimony, and coming forward themselves.

When Pokrov was founded in 1999, we immediately started receiving letters from concerned Orthodox who had family members or priests involved in the monasteries founded by Fr. Ephraim. We also heard from people who visited the monasteries on pilgrimages.

Often the testimonies included reports of inappropriate confessions (eg: probing into sexual detail and previously confessed sins). In many cases the penances given as a condition of absolution were unattainable.

Married people were allegedly told to abstain from marital relations — and any lapses were to be reported immediately. This usually resulted in long periods of exclusion from communion as well as marital strain.

Concerned parents have contacted us when their sons or daughters — as young as 18 — were recruited and tonsured secretly and without their parents’ blessing. These mothers and fathers have ranged from devout Greek Orthodox to totally non-Orthodox. Even those parents who raised their children with Orthodox values were disturbed at their children’s disappearance from their lives.

Some people have told us about children living at the monasteries, and of an inappropriate reverence for Fr. Ephraim that borders on worship.

Over the years, we have been criticized for our persistence in keeping these monasteries listed in our Controversial Groups section. We have taken requests to remove the monasteries from our site seriously. When the three of us met to update the site, this issue was frequently discussed. However, especially after these two new developments, we are confident that we made the right decision.

Furthermore, co-founder of Pokrov, Cappy Larson, has recently read “Counsels from the Holy Mountain” and will be giving us her review soon.