His Eminence Metropolitan Vitaly
The Rt. Rev. Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Archbishop Antony of Geneva
The Rt. Rev. Archbishop Antony of San Francisco
The Rt. Rev. Archbishop Laurus Bishop
The Rt. Rev. Alypy Bishop
The Rt. Rev. Mark Bishop
The Rt. Rev. Hilarion
23/10 August, 1986
"But to commit the sins imputed to me by Fr. Mamas and Fr. Athanasius I have to be an atheist."
-- Fr. Panteleimon, from the letter of 26 April, 1986, to Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles, read to the Holy Transfiguration Monastery on 25 April, 1986, and excerpted from the tape recording of that meeting.
Dear Vladykas, Blagosloveite!
The words cited above ring ominously for Fr. Panteleimon. Is he an atheist? He has not only committed the sexual perversions imputed to him by Fr. Athanasius, Fr. Menas, Fr. Eugenius, Fr. Theodore, myself, and others, he has also (what is graver still) denied his actions before the Bishops of the Church. If to do such evil is a proof of atheism, what shall we say of to deny it before God? Furthermore, he has carefully slandered and defamed all those who are eye-witnesses to his immoral actions, as well as those who are investigating them. He thinks that his slanders will cast doubt upon the testimonies of the eye-witnesses; he does not see that his slanders are only a further proof of his wickedness: "The mouth of ungodly men answers charges with evil [words]"(Proverbs 15:28). "When temptation overcomes the iniquitous man", writes St Isaac the Syrian, "he has no confidence to call upon God, or to expect salvation from Him"(Homily 5); therefore, he abandons God and attempts to save himself by any means. I ask again, is Fr. Panteleimon an atheist?
My purpose in writing is not to charge Fr. Panteleimon now of being an atheist; these words are his, not mine. Rather, I am writing because of the misinformation, disinformation, and confusion that now prevail among many Orthodox Christians, both ones within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and ones without. It is now widely known, chiefly due to the efforts of Fr. Panteleimon and his supporters, that charges of extreme immorality have been brought against Fr. Panteleimon by a number of monks who formerly dwelt in the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. It is also known that the Synod of Bishops, being alarmed at these charges, instituted an investigation. Finally it is known by many, but certainly not by all, that Fr. Panteleimon's case was prosecuted further during a Sober held in May, 1986. Beyond these three facts there is nothing but hearsay (slukhi). The result of hearsay is confusion; some say one thing and some say another because neither the facts of the case nor the decision of the Bishops has been officially stated. As an example of the confusion I shall cite the following instance. Fr. Theodore Stavrou of Concord recently told Fr. Menas that he and other priests of the Boston area heard from Fr. Viktor Melenkov of Worcester that Vl. Hilarion had told him that the Sober has found Fr. Panteleimon guilty of charges of immorality. Fr. Theodore and seven other priests then traveled to New York and asked Metropolitan Vitaly directly about this, and the Metropolitan, according to Fr. Theodore, said that no official decision had been reached about Fr. Panteleimon. We are, then, led to believe that the Bishops themselves are contradicting each other! The fact that Fr. Panteleimon continues to serve the divine liturgy and to govern the Holy Transfiguration Monastery only supports the rumor that he has been found innocent.
The Holy Transfiguration Monastery and its supporters take advantage of this state of confusion to discredit the eye-witnesses by slandering their persons and their motives. Furthermore, they discredit the Bishops themselves by saying that, for instance, there is a faction of Bishops that wishes to overthrow Metropolitan Vitaly and then join the Moscow Patriarchate; this faction, it is said, knows that Fr. Panteleimon, the leader of the "Greeks", is the Metropolitan's only strong ally, and the charges of immorality are being used to remove him; any decision against Fr. Panteleimon will not reflect the truth but only church politics. The following quotation is from a tape recording made on the evening of May 16, 1986, by Fr. Eugenius just before he left the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. In the tape Fr. Panteleimon is relating to the monks what Metropolitan Vitaly told him when the Metropolitan visited the Monastery on Antipascha, May 11, 1986.
The Metropolitan, of course, did encourage people, outside ourselves, to write and, uh, in visiting the last visit says that he is not at all concerned or anxious or nervous about the situation, because he just, uh, thinks, uh, its nonsense. But, uh, he is conscious that there is a conspiracy, and it is not a personal situation as much as it is a whole mentality, etcetera. Uh, he explained to me certain things which I don't think it would be discreet right now to speak about. The good thing is that he is conscious of what is going on around him and in our Church.
By the words "the situation" Fr. Panteleimon means the charges of immorality made against him. The significant statement, "he is conscious that there is a conspiracy, and it is not a personal situation as much as it is a whole mentality" means the following: the conspiracy (zagovor) of certain bishops, priests, and laymen seeking to overthrow the Metropolitan is the real cause of the slanders against Fr. Panteleimon ( = "there is a conspiracy"). The conspirators are not personally against Fr. Panteleimon ( = "it is not a personal situation"), but against the mentality he (and the Metropolitan) champions, that is, strict Orthodoxy (= "it is a whole mentality").
Amid the confusion Fr. Panteleimon has been carefully instructing his followers that Metropolitan Vitaly recognizes the "conspiracy", knows that the charges of immorality are false and will rescue him. The Metropolitan, he would have them believe, tells Fr. Panteleimon all the secrets of the Synod.* He also claims that he himself asked for the investigation! A good example of the disinformation that Fr. Panteleimon is spreading everywhere is the following quotation from a tape recording made on Friday, April 25, the Eve of Lazarus Saturday, 1986, when Fr. Panteleimon was telling the monks of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery about a telephone conversation he had just had with Metropolitan Vitaly.
He [the Metropolitan] was quite encouraging. About our situation here, my situation in the Monastery, he said that, "You know, it is in my diocese, I am the ruling Bishop.'' I said, "Yes, we know that." "And also", he says, "I am the Metropolitan", meaning that even if it was not in his diocese, he is still Metropolitan. "So", he says, "if I wanted to I could take it out of the hands of everyone", he says. "But of course", I said to him, "then you would be accused of trying to cover up, and of not of, uh, just like our late Metropolitan was accused by some people within our own Synod, and, uh, Bishop Gregory." So, uh, he said that, ''Well that is for that reason I had them [i.e. Bishops Antony and Alypy intervening [vmeshat'sya], but it is not that things can be done independently of me." And, uh, I said to him, "I wish, dear Vladyka, if there's going to be any thing done, that there would be a canonical trial, based on the canons and not a committee situation, because then we're not dealing with canons and we're not dealing in church manner." And we expressed some of our griefs, and [thats] the way its been handled so far, and he is an alert person who understands well what is going on.
The words, "he...understands well what is going on" refer to the mythical conspiracy mentioned above.
If we are to believe Fr. Panteleimon (and there are many who do), he is an innocent victim of malice (zloba) on the part of some, church politics on the part of others. It is now common among his followers to liken him to the recent Greek saint Nektarios of Aegina! In view of the fact that neither the details of the case against him nor the decision of the Holy Synod has been made public, it is not surprising that those who were formerly devoted to him would now think that an injustice is being committed against him, and that they be very angry with both his accusers and his judges.
Unfortunately for everyone, Fr. Panteleimon is guilty of extremely grave offences, offences so grave that he could be taken to civil court and sent to prison for many years. That a man guilty of such crimes should continue to celebrate the divine liturgy and to be the abbot of a large monastery is a matter of deep concern for every Orthodox Christian. If any discredit will be cast upon the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia through this scandal, it will only be because She did not act more swiftly to eradicate so great an evil from Her fold. "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast if from thee"
With love in Christ I ask your Archpastoral blessings,
D.M., formerly Mamas Monk
cc: Fr. Gregory George
* On a tape recording made on 25 April, 1986, Fr. Panteleimon says the following to his monks: "He said to me quite a few things, some things very private, and uh, not to be discussed, or we're not going to discuss it. In time they will be made public by the Synod, by himself, etcetera, church matters, that is, and other things which in time maybe we can speak of and maybe not, it all depends, with discretion what should be said, etcetera."
It is interesting how, by speaking nothing but meaningless double talk, Fr. Panteleimon leads his monks to believe that he knows everything.
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