A Diaologue about Geronda Ephraim and Monasticism in America (Derek Copold vs. John Pantanizopoulos)

This dialogue occurred in 1999, and begins with Derek asking John:

Fr. Demetrios Carellas.
Fr. Demetrios Carellas.

John’s reply:
We have attempted to find out what if any guidelines the Church has on monasticism. Neither the Archdiocese nor any of the Bishops we corresponded with for the last three years could offer any policies in place. We cannot begin to offer any specifics. We have always felt that the Church (the Ecumenical Patriarch or the Synods) would be the proper authority to establish such guidelines.
We only know that our son was too young (16 when indoctrination began and turned 19 in the monastery) to make such a monumental decision on his future. He had NO theological education whatsoever. So, we strongly feel that one has to be mature enough, and theologically educated before making such a decision. What age defines maturity or what exactly theological education is required differs from one individual to another. However age 25 can be a beginning. Concerning the theological education, we have always felt that a graduate priest would be a good candidate for a monastic.
The question we have presently is: Why are there so many young people joining the Ephraim-led monasteries whereas the Holy Cross Seminary has so few applicants? This is something the Archdiocese would have to face.
What is your opinion, Derek?
John Pantanizopoulos
Derek’s reply:
John,
You keep mentioning “indoctrination” at 16. What do you mean by this? Exactly how did this work between the ages of 16 – 18 (or 19 as you put up before.) That’s some 2-3 years. It seems an awful long time for a child to be “indoctrinated” without his parents knowledge.
In general, I’m in agreement with your sentiment, but I’d like to know more of the specifics.
Best Regards,
Derek Copold
John’s reply:
Derek,

Over the past week, you have asked several questions. I will itemize
them as follows:

1. What do I mean by “indoctrination”? You also asked for more specifics.
2. Why is the seminary so vulnerable to the Fr. Ephraim-led monasteries?
3. What are the Greek Orthodox Church guidelines?

Answers:
1. By “indoctrination” I mean “brainwashing” and here is part of the story. When our son was 16, our oldest daughter was diagnosed with a serious illness. At that time, our whole family drew closer to the church. Our former parish priest offered support. Our son made friends
with the priest’s son and drove him to and from school. They were the same age and grade at the same school. Our parish priest kept mentioning to us and the entire congregation of his spiritual father, a monk Ephraim.
Our son increased his participation with the church activities (GOYA, liturgies, confession, etc.). The rest of our family went to church on Sundays. We thought nothing of his gradual change in behavior because it was connected to the church. We thought he might be considering the priesthood as a vocation.
Conversations at the dinner table began to center around religion and our son started reading books and booklets, given to him by our former priest, on monastics and especially Seraphim Rose, a Russian monk.
In 1995 our parish priest was removed from our church (for reasons never explained to the parishioners) and sent to a convent in Saxonburg PA which is also an Ephraim established convent. Our former priest is there and to our knowledge hasn’t been a parish priest since. In the
meantime, he had made quite a group of followers in our church who visited him occasionally in Saxonburg. Our son would sometimes go with them. We thought, naively, that he wanted to see his friend, the priest’s son. Never did we think that a man of God woudl betray us in this way by doing this in secrecy. Some lessons are learned the hard way! For more information on our family story, please go to the Protection of the Theotokos web site where we have placed our story, “Behind the Glass Wall”: http://www.angelfire.com/bc/orthodoxsurvivors/cultabuse.html
Click on Controversial Orthodox Groups, then on Monasteries of Fr. Ephraim.
2. On Oct 14 Vasos Panagiotopoulos gave you one version of the truth. Here is ours. Remember, we all have our agenda.
In Sept 1996 former Arch. of America Spyridon is enthroned. In the spring of 1997, homosexual molestation of an underclassman by a priest at the Hellenic College/Holy Cross (HC/HC) goes unpunished. Note that Arch. Spyridon is pro-monastic and a supporter of Fr. Ephraim. In July
1997, four priessts-professors at HC/HC are removed because they recommended punishment for the sexual molestation, thereby jeopardizing the HC/HC’s accreditation.
Voithia, an internet web site, and GOAL are created and together they monitor and publish all inproprieties of the Archdiocese. The five Metropolitans, several priests and the laity express their disenchantment with Archbishop Spyridon’s leadership or lack thereof.
In Aug 1999 Arch. Spyridon is forced to resign and the new Arch. Demetrios is enthroned in Sept. 1999.
This we feel is what caused the low registrtion of Hc/HC. Ask yourself, would you choose that college (during the church turmoil) for yourself or your son/daughter? You can read more about it in http://www.voithia.org where you can find the whole chronology of events as they occurred since the enthronement of Arch. Spyridon.
3. As you may have noticed by participating in this discussion group, no one, not even the participating priest, knows of any church guidelienss, simply because there aren’t any! People can express their thoughts, but the fact of the matter remains that there are no church guidelines on what healthy monasticism is or who may become a monk. You may read our thoughts also in “Behind the Glass Wall.”
Sincerely,
John & Jo Ann
Derek’s reply:
Actually, I didn’t ask this originally. You did rhetorically. However, I do appreciate this expansion. I’m sorry to hear this. I’ll remember her and you in my prayers.
I don’t believe you mention this in the article. What would your former priest say? Please, excuse my prying, if I’m pushing to far simply tell and I’ll drop it.
To be fair to Seraphim Rose, I don’t believe he advocated activity of the sort your alleging. I’m not saying that you are accusing, just trying to clarify his position. If I’m mistaken, please correct me.
The article does answer questions. I am sorry that this affair has been so hurtful to you both. Unfortunately, along with my prayer that’s the extent of assistance I can offer you.
In regards to Fr. Ephraim, I have your word on one side about the estrangement of your son and Fr. Gregory on the other. There is a monestary in Kendalia, TX under his direction, so if I’m in the Hill country, I may go and investigate.
To be fair, Vasos is rather open about what he believes, and usually when he says something (actually always from what I’ve read of his posts) it’s accurate.
So if HC is or was under the direction of one of his supporters at the time, why was Fr. Ephraim stating that it was “full of Satan?”
I’ve read the chronologies, editorials and articles from them and their opponents. Por favor! No mas! No mas!
Well, GOAL has been talking about taking the iniative and governing from the bottom up, now that they’ve won their victory, I guess this,would be as good a place to start as any. Somehow I don’t think the peace will be any easier to manage than the war.
Best Regards,
Derek Copold
John’s reply:
To really find out the truth you would also have to ask him (our former priest that is). There is only one priest at the Saxonburgh convent. Then you can form a more weighted decision for yourself.
We are stating this about Seraphim Rose to simply show you the direction given to him (our son) by our former priest. What we tried to convey was that if you read a lot about cooking recipes you may eventually start cooking!
Our son entered the monasrery of St. Anthony in Arizona in June 1996. Archbishop Spyridon was enthroned in September 1996. The words that HC/HC was “full of satan” our son mentioned to us in April 1996, that is, before Arch. Spyridon’s enthronement.
We stated that question only to have those in the proper authority to pay attention to what is going on!
I agree with you. We just have to wait and see.

Regards,
John