28 Readers Comments from the National Herald Article (June 21, 2012)

Interesting variation of comments between pro and anti monastery readers:

1. louis atsaves wrote on June 21, 2012 6:46 PM Missing is any expression of sorrow from Monk Paisios. I find that almost as shocking as Monk Nevins’ death! Didn’t the two of them spend nearly seven years together as brothers in the same monastery? His responses left me cold and seemed colder. Missing also are several key facts. Why did the “night watchman monk” drive his car out to where Nevins had parked after he drove away from the front gate? What was said at that front gate between those two? What was his background? Why was he chasing him? Was he also armed? Why did Paisios deny receiving funds from the Vatopedi scandal when in turn, Vatopedi issued a public statement indicating donating $2 million? The cult of Ephraim has infected the monastic movement in America. How many other broken young men and women have left his monasteries? What are they teaching them? Tollhouses that allow demons to judge the dead? A “Google” search of Nevins’ name reveals some statements he made on You Tube and Ephraimite type Orthodox sites about false teachings, a three month exorcism, and other claims. Other former monks who lived with Scott Nevins wrote and spoke highly of him, unlike Monk Paisios who is quoted in the article. Over 10 years ago, our Metropolitans wrote a scathing report about Archbishop Syridon, which included strong condemnations of the Ephraimite movement and the destruction it was causing our GOA. Since then the Metropolitans have been quiet and seem unwilling to investigate and correct these monasteries. How sad for the Nevins family. How sad for the Greek Orthodox Church which allowed this movement to fester and expand long after our Metropolitans highlighted it as a problem that needed quick remedial action. Words fail me. A full blown investigation must proceed immediately including cooperating with all public authorities and law enforcement officials, from locals to the FBI and IRS. In fact, we Greek Orthodox Christians must DEMAND action. NOW!
2. louis atsaves wrote on June 22, 2012 9:08 AM In my Chicagoland area, a number of families have divorced and separated thanks to the Ephraimite Monastery in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This happens when a spouse is instructed to live with their significant other as “brother and sister” and sleep in separate bedrooms, show now expression of love to each other and have sexual relations only to procreate. They dress their children so they show no bare skin and send them off to school where they are ridiculed by their fellow classmates. They attend one of a handful of parishes lead by Ephraimite Priests as instructed by the Ephraimite nun in Kenosha because the rest of the Greek Orthodox priests do not measure up and are not true priests and are in parishes that are not true parishes. Last I heard, marriage was a sacrament, yet it is denigrated by this cult. Those of us who are married cannot go to heaven or survive the multiple tollhouse booths manned by demons who judge whether we have the right to pass their tollhouses to get to heaven. So while the cult teaches us that marriage will not get us into heaven and we are judged differently than the creed we recite during each liturgy, our Metropolitans and bishops do nothing to shut down this cult. How many more broken lives before they take action? In Monk Nevins’ case, he was on the premises of St. Anthony’s for nearly seven years and was asked to leave with nothing? How cold and heartless this cult is! This isn’t Greek Orthodoxy. This is the Cult of Ephraim! To our Church “leadership” is can only demand that they DO SOMETHING NOW! Again, I DEMAND action. NOW! And so should the rest of us Greek Orthodox.
3. Niko Seretis wrote on June 22, 2012 9:26 AM Louis, I’ve visited Agia Skepe in PA. on many occasions with my wife and children and with friends. When we’re there we run into many Greeks from the tri-state area. Father Mark is an Orthodox convert who runs the Monastery. My good friend sent a paving company there after visiting and finding dirt roads and paved all the roads in the Monastery. It never felt like a cult to me but a group of nuns, most of them young who walked themselves out of college one day and into the Monastery. No one is forcing them to stay. The rules are strict as if you were living in a boarding school. The hundreds of visitors they get every week and the help and advice they give people is priceless. Father Ephraim has visited my parish of ST. Andrews and stayed at Father Tsigas house, our parish priest at the time. Father Tsigas I have known all my life and he will be visiting Ephraim this week to stay with him. My friends have gone and stayed at ST. Anthony’s and loved the experience. I think the strict codes at the monastery’s are too much for certain people and they are not cut out for this type of harsh discipline and some freak out eventually. It sounds like this happened to Nevin, who obviously was disturbed because of his actions. To leave with nothing could mean anything. It could mean the contents of the monastery and not his own belongings. To want to kill others and yourself over a retainer is a red flag. If you don’t agree with what goes on at these places, don’t go! No one is dragging anyone there. But unless theirs cases of sexual abuse, leave these sacred places alone!!
4. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 22, 2012 10:43 AM I have visited this monastery on a few occasions. One thing I’ve noticed is that there appears to be an epidemic of mental illness that exists among the residents of the monastery. I would like to know if the monks have access to mental health counseling including psychiatric evaluation and medications. My guess is that they don’t and are probably not encouraged to seek mental health counseling. I pray that this changes with this tragic death and our church leaders force Ephraim and Paisios to provide psychiatrists to the monks to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. May Scott’s memory be eternal.
5. louis atsaves wrote on June 22, 2012 12:15 PM Dear Niko Seretis: Your note is disturbing to me on many levels. For years, articles have been written and parents have complained that young children and college aged kids were being recruited and then whisked into Ephraimite monasteries. A Google search about Nevins reveals the same thing happened to him. The parents are always the last to know. How many young nuns were recruited to go there? And what were their ages? I’m glad to hear the roads to the Agia Sekpe are now paved. So are the roads to Disneyworld. Disneyworld is a perfect place, perfect environment with not a brick out of place and perfectly clean, . . . to visit. What may be shiny and appetizing on the outside may be rotten on the inside. You didn’t answer my questions as to what was being TAUGHT there? Village superstitions? Tollhouses? Only Monks reach heaven? Nevins was there for nearly SEVEN years! Then suddenly according to the article, the cold hearted Paisios tells him to leave and he leaves in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT at 3:00 AM? ON FOOT? No one called a cab? Nevins before his death posted a series of disturbing comments on You Tube and other Ephraimite sites, showing he was melting down. A three month exorcism? And then Nevins stopped eating because the victim of this exorcism (who had a few screws loose according to a few other former monks who posted about Nevins) told him the food was toxic? A TV newscast shows before and after photos of Nevins who lost a ton of weight. One of his former monk friends spoke of how he could barely walk at one point. WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING AT THOSE EPHRAIMITE MONASTERIES? And why has our Church turned a blind eye to it? Action must be taken! The Ephraimite Cult must be exposed. This is the same Ephraim who left the Greek Orthodox Church and jointed the Russian Orthodox Church, then returned after being threatened with excommunication. Following that he was booted off the Holy Mountain and he ends up in America, where the unsuspecting can be told he is a living saint from the Holy Mountain and our Church leadership, after bitterly complaining about him and his teachings, turns a blind eye? I’m not turning a blind eye. Did Nevins’ blood have to be spilled before we Greek Orthodox WAKE UP and DEMAND that action be taken? And I mean REAL action!
6. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 22, 2012 3:03 PM These Ephraiite Monasteries definitely exhibit signs of cult like behavior. Anyone who has stayed there can attest to that. They are demeaning to women. For example a married couple that stays at the monastery cannot even stay in the same room. I would only stay there to gather information for an article to inform others so that they don’t enter blindly.
7. Basil 312 Chicago wrote on June 22, 2012 6:57 PM 1
8. Basil 312 Chicago wrote on June 22, 2012 7:01 PM Mr. Atsaves is not 5%, 25% or 95% correct; he has hit the nail on the head and is 100% correct in his honest commentary about the Ephraimite problem. I can not tell you how badly I feel for his family. Unfortunately the leadership of the Ephraimite movement has developed a plan of action that has neutralized the authority of our Hierarchs and given them free reign. Clearly someone needs to understand why a movement that is damaging the Faith and the Faithful continues to draw causalities among the Laity without any Hierarch showing a willingness to intervene. My own Parish has seen a tremendous loss of legacy stewards who are unlikely to ever return. All this damage to our old Parish as a result of a Priest who is an adherent to the “theology” of the Ephraimites. I have read the report that Mr. Atsaves is referring to and I for one would be at a loss to explain to anyone how I could take a position that the Ephraimite issue is reason for the removal of Archbishop Spyridon and now, after their tremendous growth is no longer a problem. The Faithful suffer while zealots pollute the internet with fairy tails about miracles Florence Arizona that never happened. If they accepted this soul and kept him there for six or seven years, how can they now sell this as “he was a troubled young man”. The internet propaganda machine of the Ephraimites will work overtime to damage the memory of this young man. If he was sane enough to be admitted to their “Monastery” in 2003 what happened when he was there? HOW MANY MORE TRAGEDIES MUST THE FAITHFUL ENDURE?
9. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 22, 2012 7:05 PM The article quotes “Paisios said that the Monastery checks prospective monks’ past to determine whether they have ever taken antidepressant drugs, at which point it does not admit them.” But why don’t they check to see if the prospective monks have ever been diagnosed with depression. Many depressed people are never diagnosed nor have taken anti-depressants. This statement infers to me that Paisios doesn’t understand mental illness nor does he endorse the use of antidepressants even when they may be useful.
10. Niko Seretis wrote on June 23, 2012 12:21 AM Dear Louis, I respect your opinions and you make valid points. I seriously doubt though that those who are recruiting young college students to give up all their worldly possesions and enter these monasteries are as successfull as you think. Why would any young attractive college girl with no skills in Greek follow an old nun with a mustache to a place where all they do is pray, work in gardens, and bake breads all day? No one is putting a gun to anyones head. Some of these young people already have emotional or psychological problems and go there to seek help outside of medicine and doctors. But not all. There are many professionals, doctors, professors and lawyers who walk away from their careers and enter the monastic community. Father Ephraim is an extremist and he’s old now but he’s not a monster like you make him out to be. These Monks aren’t qualified to deal with people who have mental illness or issue drugs to them and this is where the real problem lies. I feel for the parents of Nevin and pray for his soul but again If he disliked the place he was in he shouldn’t have stayed 7 years, nor should he have returned with guns to cause harm to others. He didn’t learn that in the monastery.
11. louis atsaves wrote on June 23, 2012 1:19 AM Niko, in Chicago a few years ago a young lady packed her bags, emptied her bank accounts, and nuns helped her load up her possessions and she took them to an Ephraimite Monastery in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She was recruited like the rest of them. Instead of leaving her worldly possessions behind she took them along with her? Monk Paisios claims to background check these young novices, which is just one of many lies he stated to Kalmoukos in this article. And he is supposed to be a pious monk of our Church? Everyone I have spoken to who has either left a monastery or had a kid join a monastery has one behavioral pattern that is shocking and consistent to all of them. They are in FEAR! The former monks and nuns are FEARFUL. And so are their parents. WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING IN THOSE MONASTERIES? AND WHY ARE FORMER MONKS AND NUNS SO FEARFUL OF THIS CULT? Was Nevins that frightened for his life that he snuck out of the Monastery (and past the night watchman I guess) at 3:00 a.m. with nothing? Clearly he was! The e-mails this article cites speaks to how FEARFUL he was. Show me evidence that he was suicidal when he first entered the monastery unbeknownst to his parents seven some years ago. But after 7 years he sneaks out at 3:00 AM and later blows his brains out? WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON IN THOSE EPHRAIM CULT CENTERS? Isn’t the blood of Nevins’ shocking enough to you to also demand action? I thought true monasteries were hospitals for sick souls. The Ephraimite Cult monasteries are centers of cult behavior which have been leaving broken souls behind for years, while our own Church shamefully turns a blind eye. You agree that Fr. Ephraim is an extremist and the monks aren’t qualified to deal with people with mental illness, other than to have them munch down on St. John’s wort and prescribe it to others, the cure all drug for everything in an Ephraimite Monastery. Ever look up St. John’s wort? INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE THIS CULT NOW! There is no place in our Church for such wild extremism. NO PLACE! I DEMAND AGAIN THAT OUR METROPOLITANS LEAP INTO ACTION AND TAKE ACTION ONCE AND FOR ALL AGAINST THESE CULTISTS. THEY HAVE NO PLACE IN OUR CHURCH! Or will they wait for another tragedy? Or a series of tragedies? I AM ASHAMED TO BE IN THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH OF AMERICA RIGHT NOW!
12. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 24, 2012 12:03 AM The day I pulled into St. Anthony’s for a visit, I observed the parking lot. This is what I found, BMWs, Mercedes, Hummers, Cadillacs, Lexuses, Acuras and a Jaguar. I had to check myself, because I thought I was at a country club. Money flows into these places…. When it should be flowing into our financially strapped churches. (i.e. Miami, FL)
13. Basil 312 Chicago wrote on June 24, 2012 6:55 PM I fear that our Hierarchy lacks the “guts” to act. Personally I have often spoken to the families of those with loved ones in the Ephraimite Monasteries and everything Mr. Atsaves says is true. So why no action? The Ephraimite issue has caused two major waives of people leaving GOA Parishes across America. The first are the Ephraimites that convince their followers that only they have the path to salvation. Only true Orthodoxy can be found in their Monasteries and no where else. So they leave our Parishes. The second to leave our Parishes are the normal Orthodox Christians. They leave because of the Ephraimite Clergymen that drown on and on about Ariel Toll houses, how married couples should start living like brother and sister and may other heresies . In areas of the country like the Metropolis of Chicago it is hard to find a Priest that does not buy into at least one of their heresies or does not suffer from burnout from dealing with victims of the problem. The atmosphere for the Laity and Normal Clergy alike is toxic. My Friends in Florida have had an Ephraimite Clergyman at their Parish and those who are leaving are going to the United Methodist Parish down the block. This single issue will do more to destroy the ethnic Greek community in America and the GOA than anything we have ever seen. All because the Bishops refuse to be Bishops and lead. What do they fear? Never have I felt more ashamed of my Greek Orthodox Faith and our Church than I do now. Mr. Seretis have you ever spoken to the family of one of these Monks or Nuns? Start looking into this problem with a little more discernment. Please do not parrot back the words of the leadership of the Ephraimite movement. I doubt your defense of this problem would be so strong if you spent some time with the families of some Monks and Nuns that have had first hand experience with the problem. Mr. Atsaves has said nothing wrong or inaccurate about this mess.
14. Niko Seretis wrote on June 24, 2012 10:01 PM Basil I hear what you and Atsaves are saying. I understand their is a problem out there that isn’t being addressed. Living in the NY tri state area I do know a family first hand whose son is in one of these Monastaries but not the ones you guys have mentioned. He was the biggest trouble maker in our community and always in trouble with the law, selling drugs, guns and anything he can get his hands on. Did a little time but not enough to teach him a lesson. Then he drove his Greek parents to a monastery one day because they weren’t able to drive by themselves. He walked into the church, dropped to his knees and said “I’m home”. This was 7 years ago and you wouldn’t think this is the same guy. His parents are the two most gratefull, happiest people you’d want to know right now. The Monastery i’ve visited too I saw expensive cars in the lot but they weren’t Fr. Marks or the nuns. They belonged to the visitors. Fr. Mark encouraged us to support our church of ST. Andrews with all our hearts, never asked me for a penny. He drives a 30 year old pick up truck. He left his property back in Texas years ago, gave up everything to become a priest. Learned Greek and is one of the most humble men I’ve ever met. The nuns looked happy to me and were great with my kids and my Grandmother whom I bring with me. So Agia Skepe and Agios Nektarios in my area don’t have these problems that some of the other monasteries seem to be having. Unfortunately humans run these places so there will always be problems. As far as our Greek Orthodox churches going broke because of these monasteries, Its not happening in NJ. We have a new community that sprung up 5 years ago and 2 new megachurches all within an hour of each other and an hour from Agia Skepe. The metropolitans cannot clean up their own Metropolis or some of the horrible priests out their, hence the new Arch. Cathedral priest, how does anyone expect them to monitor the monasteries? I would NEVER EVER say I’m ashamed of my Greek Orthodox Faith or Church, EVER!!! I’m only ashamed of people!
15. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 25, 2012 9:04 PM I am glad the discussion continues, because I have lost my best friend to this monastery. He is under the impression that Paisios and gang will solve all his problems. I have tried and tried to talk some sense into this guy with no luck. It has resulted in a rift between us that may end a lifelong friendship. After reading the above posts it is clear to me that this situation has happened before and will continue to happen. I am very hurt by what I see as pure and simple brainwashing.
16. louis atsaves wrote on June 26, 2012 1:15 PM Niko, you tell us the metropolitans cannot clean up their own Metropolis’ or deal with some of the horrible priests, and how would anyone expect them to monitor the monasteries. Both true statements. It is the job of the Archbishop, Metropolitans and Bishops of our GOA to deal with these issues. They know these problems exist. They have reported them in the past to their superior, our Patriarch of Constantinople. Whether they like it or not, they need to take action, NOW! They wanted power from Constantinople. They now have it through a new Charter and new Regulations. It’s time they exercise it responsibly for the good of the Church. Their neglect concerning the Cult of Ephraim has been shameful.
17. Basil 312 Chicago wrote on June 26, 2012 2:40 PM Niko you seem like a good guy and you are not the issue here, let’s all be clear about that. The issue here is clear; there is a growing sect within our Church that is damaging everything in their collective path that they do not agree with. Our Hierarchs appear to be unwilling to engage themselves in fixing this problem. And yes, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence of heresy, bad practices, “Yia Yia” theology and flight from our Parishes in places like the Metropolis of Chicago due to the Ephraimites. I know personally countless families impacted by the Ephraimites and the picture I see is tainted with cult like behavior on the part of their followers and many of their leaders. People have lost respect for our Hierarchy that will never be gained back. Our Church which was a leader under Archbishop Iakovos of Blessed Memory is now driven by an agenda out of the fourth century and ask yourself Niko to what end? In Chicago we have a saying, “if the Ephraimites can not control it they will destroy it”. Who ever or what ever does not promote their agenda is targeted as “Nominal”. Years ago we had a Young Adults program that was healthy and vibrant, no longer. Our Parishes were full, no longer. There was pride about our Faith and the institution of the Church, Niko do you see that people like Lou Atsaves who were the heart and soul of our community here in Chicago are now disengaged from their Parishes and the Church in general? I know who Mr. Atsaves is and I doubt he realizes it, but I for one have a lot of respect for him. What I lack respect for is an institution that has the true Faith, and then let’s Zealots control the future agenda of the Church and Hierarchs that have made the normal Clergy into tax collectors in Parishes that are universally empty in this Metropolis on the average Sunday. There is a complete lack of transparency; this means no real accountability of those who should be leading the Faith. Our Church in America is in crises and a simple problem to fix, like the Ephraimite issue goes unaddressed. It is a painful situation to watch and the legacy Stewards of our Faith are leaving in large numbers. I am truly glad a new Parish was built in your Metropolis, but that is the exception, not the rule. In our Metropolis we have Parishes hanging on by a thread!
18. Niko Seretis wrote on June 26, 2012 5:20 PM Basil, I really feel for all of you in Chicago area. I don’t know whats going on with your Metropolis but I’d be asking for a new bishop. Since the forced retirement of our late great leader Archbishop Iakovos, there has been no leadership in the US for our Great Church. Iakovos was ahead of his time and our current leaders are behind the times. We have a strong bishop in NJ but not well liked by everyone, but very effective for the parishes nonetheless. People leave communities over politics and in fighting but no one should every leave the Orthodox faith for any other faith. Our church was founded by the Apostles of Christ and they were also the first bishops of our church throughout the world at that time and our faith is a continuation of the first church, unchanged and not like the Catholic faith which changed the creed in 1054AD. Leaving for a Methodist or any other Church is a step backwards, but that doesn’t mean you won’t go to Heaven. The problem with our Church were the Monastaries have an advantage is the lack of effective, charismatic priests who speak very little Greek and are more interested in going through the motions than serving their flock. The Monastaries look and feel like something out of Greece and the Geronta or Gerontissa is full of charisma and caters to visitors and their every need, which draws people with who are troubled, lonely, very hurt, very tired, people who are fed up with everything in the world, and people with emotional, by-polar, and psychological issues. My friends visited their son at ST. Anthony’s and got back yesterday and filled me on the the troubled Nevin and his story, which is a sad one but too long to write, especially a 3rd hand account like mine. BTW their son is doing great out there and he was the one who was always in trouble and the parents seem very happy. The son is a Monk and can leave whenever he pleases but chooses to stay. The boy Nevin was never a Monk like the paper said, but lived their for 7 years with many problems. The Monks are very extreme in their beliefs but its their choice. We don’t have to live like that but some choose to. I wish all of you the best in Chicago and I can tell you this, if their was anyone in my area hurting our churches, whether it be from a Monastery or anyone else, I’d run’m over!!
19. louis atsaves wrote on June 26, 2012 6:31 PM The account of your friends contradicts Abbott Paisios’ account of Nevins’ life at St. Anthony’s. Your sources say he lived there 7 years with many problems. Abbott Paisios claimed in the article that the first few years there, Nevins did not show any peculiar behavior. Why then did he later flip out? WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE THEY TEACHING IN THOSE EPHRAIM CULT MONASTERIES?
20. Niko Seretis wrote on June 26, 2012 7:32 PM Louis, my mistake, I’m sorry. My friends son is there for 7 years. Not Nevin. This is why I won’t comment on what I heard, Unless I was there to witness it firsthand. I’m not saying you and Basil don’t have a point. You both make very good points. One day I plan on going there and staying a week just to see first hand what goes on for myself.
21. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 26, 2012 8:33 PM To Niko and anyone else seeking to visit the monastery, bring a friend who is a psychiatrist, ask to speak to the monks and make your opinion.
22. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 26, 2012 8:36 PM During my visit to St. Anthony’s I came across some very nice farmers from Iowa. They were impressed by the landscaping there, but when it was time for lunch, they were denied entrance to the “trapeza”. So much for small town hospitality.
23. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 26, 2012 9:15 PM I am curious as to whether or not this subject will come up at the upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress which oddly enough is convening in Arizona.
24. Niko Seretis wrote on June 26, 2012 10:13 PM Why were they denied entrance Chitown?
25. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 27, 2012 12:18 AM They were denied for not being Orthodox….
26. ChiTown Greek wrote on June 27, 2012 12:21 AM Anyone reading this article —- PLEASE TAKE A MINUTE AND FORWARD TO ANYONE AND EVERYONE YOU KNOW, POST IT ON FACEBOOK, LINKEDIN OR ON YOUR BLOG.
27. Niko Seretis wrote on June 27, 2012 4:06 PM ChiTown I agree with you everyone should read this article and these opinions. I have no problem with mature adults entering these monasteries when they feel they are ready for such a commitment. But after researching like crazy for the last few days since this article was written, and being a parent of 3 boys, I do have a problem with 18 year olds being lured into this monastic life and pretty much having their thoughts and movements controled by one person. Even if Ephraim was a Saint like many claim, I still have a problem with it! No one at 18 has lived life enough to have the real life experiences under their belt to be able to get any benefit at all from these monasteries. Extremism is bad in any religion and culture. Greek Orthodoxy is good when taught properly by caring, married priests with families who can give proper real world advice. Please protect your children from extremism. I feel horrible for the parents of these young boys and feel even worse for the boys. LEAVE!! Get out and live! And when you feel you’ve had enough of the world, you can always go back.
28. ChiTown Greek wrote on July 02, 2012 7:28 AM Scott Nevin’s Obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituari es/modestobee/obituary.aspx?pi d=158282497
Geronda Paisios Filotheitis, Abbot of St. Anthony's Monastery (Originally from Vancouver, Canada)
Geronda Paisios Filotheitis, Abbot of St. Anthony’s Monastery (Originally from Vancouver, Canada)
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