Yes, Investigate the Monasteries (Paul Cromidas)

Orthodox News – Volume 5 Number 50/April 27, 2003

In the Greek-American paper, The National Herald, English Edition of April 5-6, 2003, it was reported that the Eparchial Synod of America, recently discussed “…the monasteries established all over the U.S. by the former abbot from Mt. Athos, Fr. Efraim. It has been said that some sort of fundamentalist movement with a cult philosophy has been advocated by the followers of Efraim, and is having an impact among the clergy and theology students at Holy Cross School of Theology.”

The Herald deserves thanks for at least reporting something about this matter, brief though it may be. I hope they follow up on this important story.

Concerns about Efraim have been expressed for several years now. It is about time that there was an investigation. Because monasteries don’t have “parish councils” doesn’t mean that lay people should be kept in the dark about them, here in America or elsewhere. Some of the concerns about Efraim and his monasteries have to do with funding, with personality cults and with blind obedience and mind-control. There are families in the Archdiocese who feel devastated because they have “lost” a child to one of these monasteries. That aspect alone needs to be looked into thoroughly.

The bishops are supposed to oversee the monasteries in their territories. We can infer from the Herald article that they are very much concerned about Efraim and his administration. But, the Orthodox laity of this country also have a right to know what is going on in the monasteries. Any proper inquiry should include independent lay people, if it is to have credibility. We should not simply be told that the bishops will handle this and we shouldn’t worry our little heads about it.

At its annual meeing in the year 2000, the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL), heard a speaker on “Cult Mentality: A Threat to Individual Responsibility in the Church”. The speaker was Greta Larson, a co-founder of the web-site, “Protection of the Theotokos – A Site for Victims of Abuse in the Orthodox Church.” The site address is “pokrov. org”, and it contains other articles on cults. In her speech, Ms. Larson also referred to an article by Metropolitan Isaiah which warned about the dangers of blind obedience.

Because it is difficult to know what is going on in monasteries, the press and the hierarchs have a special obligation to keep the faithful informed. It is to be hoped that they will live up to this duty.

Geronda Ephraim in his younger years.
Geronda Ephraim in his younger years.

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