In late August 2005, Ashley and Diane were approached by Reverend Andrew Barakos, who is the priest at a Greek Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. Barakos told the couple that he was preparing a report for Metropolitan Gerasimos on the practices at the Ephraimite monasteries. Barakos interviewed the Nevins, as well as other concerned individuals and parents, by phone. When Ashley asked the priest what he thought was going on, Barakos replied, ‘”‘I believe we are dealing with a cult here.”
In subsequent emails between Ashley and Barakos, the priest wondered “how this will unfold as the report goes to the Bishop,” and “how bishop Gerasimos is going to exercise his authority.” Barakos was “hopeful because of a conversation I had with him earlier this year, he shared concerns about this particular style of monasticism and its possible dangers.”
In early September, 2005, Barakos warned that if “things blow up in the media before the Metropolitan can do something concerning your son, he could be sent off the Mount Athos without you ever knowing it..” “Please give working through the Bishop a chance it is your only hope, please give this some time.” Ashley asked Barakos whether Archimandrite Ephraim was truly accountable to anyone within the church hierarchy. Not long after Scott died Ashley called Barakos and requested a copy of his report. The priest denied that there was a report, could not explain what it was, contrary to what Ashley and the others inte rviewed were told at the time.
In October 2005, five months after they first requested a meeting, Ashley and Diane finally met with Metropolitan Gerasimos and his chancellor, Father Paul Schroeder, in San Francisco. Schroeder has since been laicized (Complete removal of ordained status).
During this meeting:
• Ashley began by telling how their son became involved with St. Anthony’s. This was a recap of what the couple had told the Metropolitan in their letter.
• The Nevins emphasized to both the metropolitan and his chancellor the troubling changes in Scott’s behavior which occurred after he became involved with the monastery. That is, their son isolated himself, said contradictory things, answered questions dishonestly, and hid things from them. The couple also made it very clear that they were deeply concerned over the physical safety and emotional well-being of their son. Although Metropolitan Gerasimos and Schroeder did not want to accept it, the Nevins gave them information on identifying groups which engage in thought reform and on the dangers of such groups.
• For the first time, the couple also relayed their concerns about Michael Fowler to the metropolitan. The chancellor responded that he knew who Fowler was, and that he found the man “emotionally immature.”
• The Metropolitan and Schroeder both stressed that every religion had those who strayed from generally accepted practices. Metropolitan Gerasimos told the Nevins, “You really can’t do much about them.” The couple did not accept this statement, and instead challenged the Metropolitan, “What are you going to do about this group?” Contradicting his previous statement, the Metropolitan then announced that they were working on a policy.
• The discussion moved on to the Nevins’ concerns that there were no guidelines for screening teenagers and new converts before they entered the monastery. They wondered why the Modesto priest and the hierarchy did not know that Scott had become a novice until long after he did. The Metropolitan and Chancellor simply replied that they were developing policies that would address this issue. The couple then asked how this would help their son.
• The Nevins also brought up the fact that their son had been rebaptized on Mt. Athos, contrary to church policy, without any instruction in Orthodoxy and without any time as a catechumen in an Orthodox parish. However, neither the Metropolitan nor Chancellor seemed particularly concerned about those omissions.
• As the Nevins disagreed with and challenged the Metropolitan and Chancellor, the meeting became more and more tense. Metropolitan Gerasimos became particularly frustrated with Diane, and bellowed at her, “Madam!” He did not like that fact that Diane did not “keep her place,” and he told the couple that.
• The meeting then took a bizarre turn as the Chancellor asked the Nevins if they believed Scott was a homosexual , and if this is why he wanted to become a monastic. The couple was taken aback, since to the best of their knowledge their son was heterosexual. Schroeder continued with this line of questioning until Diane asked what his point was. However, both the chancellor and the Metropolitan declined to elaborate.
• As the Nevins pointed to Archimandrite Ephraim’s books to show that some of the monastery’s teachings, such as the ” Protocols of Zion,” did not conform to the tenets of the Greek faith, Metropolitan Gerasimos stated that he had not read either of the Archimandrite’s books, so he could not comment on whether this outlandish conspiracy theory was a harmful teachings or not. The couple was shocked. As the Nevins tried to elaborate, the Metropolitan refused to look at the books and told the couple to put them away. As had by now become apparent to the Nevins, whenever the Metropolitan did not want to deal with something he would become irritated and then would shut down that topic.
• Subsequently, Metropolitan Gerasimos tried to tell the Nevins that he had only heard about problems with the Ephraimite monasteries during the past year and a half. The Nevins countered with older information, both public and private. The Metropolitan responded, “Oh, well, but the problems were sporadic at the time.” The couple pressed the point, telling the bishop that they were facing the same issues others had faced, so these problems were clearly not sporadic. Again, the Metropolitan was not pleased to be contradicted.
• Metropolitan Gerasimos and Schroeder then recommended that the Nevins read a book called The Desert Fathers, in which parents who were upset with their child becoming a monastic eventually came to realize that it was a good decision. The couple responded that they wanted the Metropolitan to provide a concrete solution to the very real problem of their son’s physical and mental deterioration. As they saw it, the problem was the destructive practices employed by the monastery leadership. Reading a book about a monastery that may not have employed such harmful methodology did not address this issue.
• In the same vein the Metropolitan then told the Nevins a story of young two sisters who lived in his village in Greece who entered the local monastery. When the family learned of the girls ‘ decision, their cries woke the whole neighborhood. Metropolitan Gerasimos told the couple that it all worked out later because the family forgave the girls, and this is what the Nevins should do too. The couple was appalled. Obviously, the Metropolitan had no intention of working with them to find a solution to their problem. He wanted the Nevins to forgive, forget, and go away.
• Metropolitan Gerasimos and Schroeder then stated that there were three things they planned to do to address issues at the Ephraimite monasteries:
1. The preliminary investigation by Barakos would be expanded and guidelines developed, but any resulting policy would not be retroactive and so would not apply to Scott’s case. Diane responded pointedly, ‘Then you can’t help us;”
2. 17 Articles of Monastery Regulation had been developed by the Archdiocese. The Articles outlined the requirements for accepting a person into the monastery, but again these requirements were not retroactive. The Metropolitan, over his Chancellor’s objections, gave the Nevins a copy of the Articles.
3. Novices would no longer be allowed to enter the monastery without Metropolitan Gerasimos’ express permission. Moreover, he would meet personally with each candidate to determine if this decision represented the candidate’s free will.
• The Metropolitan then said he planned to meet with Scott in the future to determine if he had entered the monastery freely. The Nevins objected, saying that Scott had been subjected to the unethical practices of the monastery for a year, and would tell him whatever he needed to hear. Metropolitan Gerasimos did not believe the Nevins when they laid out their concerns for the physical safety and emotional health of their son. He would not agree to remove Scott from the monastery. Despite the fact that the Metropolitan appeared to realize what happened to Scott should not have happened, he would not lift a finger to help the Nevins.
• The Metropolitan then absolutely stunned the Nevins. He asked them in a sarcastic and condescending tone, “Whom am I to believe that Scott had been coerced into the monastery, the parents?”
• The meeting ended after one hour and fifteen minutes. Nothing had been resolved. The Metropolitan and Chancellor appeared to be angry at the Nevins for not meekly accepting what they were offered.
Immediately after this meeting the Nevins went to the home of Cappy Larson to discuss the meeting with her. Cappy, along with Melanie Sadoka, is a co-founder of Pokrov.org. After Scott’s death, Cappy wrote an open letter to Metropolitan Gerasiamos. In it she discusses what Ashley and Diane Nevins told her about this meeting, the questions she raised with the Metropolitan, what her own treatment by the diocese has been, and how the followers of the Archimandrite Ephraim address people who disagree with them.
In June, 2005 Scott began to sign his letters either Scott, Skot, or John (his rebaptized name), and informed his parents not to send him any letter, document, etc. to him unless he asked for it as, “it has to be blessed first” by one of his superiors.
In August 2005 Scott wrote a response letter to his grandmother (now deceased) in response to a letter she had written him where he mentioned that she had forgotten to include all the pages in the letter she had mailed him. She wrote back and informed him that she had included all the pages. This was not the last time pages from a letter sent to Scott went missing.
In 2006 KVOA Channel 5 News in Tucson, Arizona, aired a two-part report on St. Anthony’s Monastery. Metropolitan Gerasimos refused to be interviewed by the television station. He did send a written statement to KOV A. In his statement, Metropolitan Gerasimos denied most of what the report had brought to light.
Archimandrites Ephraim and Paisios also declined to speak to the reporter. Father Anthony Moschonas, a retired priest from Tucson, Arizona, represented the monastery on camera in the KYOA report. Among the many things discussed, he explained his viewpoint on the financial transparency of the monastery. (Moschonas was later sued for sexual abuse by a 19 year old woman. The suit resulted in a settlement.)