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184. Aug. 26/Sept. 8, 1975. Martyrs Adrian and Natalia

Dear Doctor Kalomiros,

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We were very glad to receive your last letter, even with its bad news about the church situation in Greece. It is very important for us to maintain contact with you, because apart from you we have almost no real contact with the True Orthodox Christians of Greece. We have only our friend Fr. Theodoritos of St. Anne’s Skete, but our correspondence with him is brief owing to the language problem. He sent us a manuscript for publication, of 10 or 12 pages, two years ago, and the person to whom we gave it for translation still has not returned it. Our problem with Greeks also is complicated by the presence of Fr. Panteleimon of Boston in our Synod about which I will now speak to you very frankly

From many sources—from Fr. Theodoritos, from you, from people in this country (both Greeks and Americans, and also Russians), and from our own experience—we have how formed a rather complete picture of him, and this picture is a sad one. The man is very talented, very aware of contemporary Orthodox events, has the “right” view on most Orthodox matters, and has in general the correct “feeling” of Orthodoxy. From the beginning we have supported him, and our articles about him and his monastery in our Orthodox Word have undoubtedly helped him to grow and gain influence. It has therefore been with great sorrow that in the past two or three years we have begun to notice very dangerous characteristics in him. You wrote us in a letter two years ago that Fr. Panteleimon seems to want to have all Greek Orthodox in America under him; at about that same time we were noticing that he also wants to have all American Orthodox under him! He tried, for example, to ridicule and destroy our friend Alexey Young, whose small periodical Nikodemos is very helpful in inspiring Orthodox Americans and guiding them in the Faith—Fr. Panteleimon did not like it because it had one or two articles with which he disagreed. Fr. Neketas Palassis even threatened to attack Alexey publicly—a fellow Orthodox Christian and a sister periodical in the same Church!

Soon it became obvious why Fr. Panteleimon was doing this: he and his followers think that he alone is truly Orthodox in our Synod, that almost all the Russians are “backward,” theologically naive, and under “Western influence”—and only Fr. Panteleimon and his followers are true theologians, sophisticated, free of all un-Orthodox influences and able to lead everyone else in true Orthodoxy. He never attacked our Brotherhood directly, but after a while it became apparent that he was waging a campaign against us in private, and now we have the testimony of several people that he “warns” people against us, apparently because we are “Russians,” do not ask him for advice, and do not even have a telephone (so he can call us up and “correct” us whenever he feels like it!).

But with whom does Fr. P. have close contact in our Synod? I tell you this in confidence: from the beginning Fr. P. began playing “politics” with our bishops, and he chose for his patron precisely the one bishop we have who is not Russian in spirit, who does not have the simple piety and faith of most of our Russian bishops and priests, but who prides himself on being better and more “sophisticated” than they, who would like to “reform” the Synod to make it more in harmony with his philosophy, who himself plays “politics” and now is the most powerful figure in the Synod (and who ten years ago was the leader in the persecution of our own Archbishop John Maximovitch, whom he disdained for his lack of “sophistication” and “administrative ability”), and who was educated in a Jesuit seminary and is a Jesuit through and through in spirit, even though outwardly he is very “traditionalist.” This is Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal. We know him personally, and several venerable bishops have warned us about him. It was with some apprehension that we saw how Fr. P. tried to “use” Archbp. Vitaly to make himself important in the Synod, and in turn how Archbp. Vitaly tried to “use” Fr. P. claiming to the Russians that “great Greek theologians” (and not simple Russian priests) were his supporters and followers. By his attitude and actions Fr. P. revealed that he does not have the “feel” for true and simple Orthodox people, or if he once did have it, he has lost it by his indulging in “politics.” Together, Archbp. Vitaly and Fr. P. produced several issues of The True Vine, an “official” Synod periodical, which was a lamentable failure—which we already predicted, knowing the publications of Archbp. Vitaly in Russian. He does not know what is desperately needed today, but only prints what he thinks is “fashionable,” makes him look “sophisticated,” and will give him success with “university graduates,”—but the result is only ridiculous, because the Roman Catholics can do this so much better. Incidentally, Archbp. Vitaly from the very beginning, even though he himself has written many times that Orthodox literature in English is desperately needed, has never once mentioned our Orthodox Word in print, as if our labors did not exist or were not Orthodox. Lately, also, we notice that Fr. Neketas Palassis’ Witness has ceased to mention our publications, even the recent Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, which is mentioned even in Greek in Orthodox Typos\ Why? Have we ceased to be Orthodox? No, I believe the reason is simply that Fr Panteleimon wishes to be the only teacher of Orthodoxy in the Synod, and we are therefore a competition to him. Fr. P. even goes so far as to think that he can teach the Russians, and because he has two or three American monks who have studied Russian, he thinks that he is competent in Russian-language matters also. But in this he has already made several bad mistakes, showing that his followers have no knowledge either of theology or of Russian “psychology,” make themselves ridiculous when they try to write a pamphlet in Russian, and are simply not in contact with the authentic theological tradition of Russia. In-this he and his followers remind us very much of your chapter in Against False Union where you speak of the “converts” who immediately wish to “teach the Orthodox.” Fr. Panteleimon’s “convert translators” only make themselves ridiculous kindergarten children in their unawareness and incapacity in the face of a great and very refined theological tradition. But the fault is with Fr. P. himself, who encourages the idea that he and his followers alone are the real Orthodox and are competent to discuss theology.

From this attitude of Fr. Panteleimon’s, which is very foreign to what our instructors in the Faith have handed down to us, we have great apprehension for the future. It seems already clear what is going to happen: Fr. P. is going to seize upon some situation in which he came show himself to be “correct” in order to break communion with our Synod, then he will have himself made bishop by the Mathewites and will be the “only Orthodox bishop in America,” over Greeks and Americans and even over Russians. His position will not be entirely consistent, but many young Americans and Greek-Americans (and even some Russian-Americans) will follow him. Why? Because Fr. P. has a real “power” over a certain type of Orthodox Americans (not over real Greeks or Russians—I think you are right in this)—over those who are new or inexperienced or uncertain in the Faith, and need an “authority” to tell them what to do. We have long ago noticed that it is not possible to hold a “discussion” with Fr. Panteleimon—he is always “correct” no matter what he says or does, even though is actual fact we have found that he is quite innocent in some areas of knowledge of the Holy Fathers—ignorant not just of facts but of the very tradition of the handing down of the Patristic teaching. This is to be expected, since he went to a modernist Greek seminary and “taught himself the Holy Fathers—i.e., did not receive it in a continuous tradition from the past such as still exists in our Russian Church Abroad, even if our bishops and priests are not “sophisticated.” Fr. P. laughs at the seminary education of Jordan-ville—but even if it might be very simple, still this education continues to breathe spirit of Orthodoxy, which Fr. Panteleimon does not entirely possess.

In view of all this, our contact with you is very precious, for you have come to similar conclusions, like us, through suffering and trials. There are few other people to whom we can speak so openly, because they simply would not understand us. Like you, we do not trust in a “brilliant” and “sophisticated” Orthodoxy, and we see that it will only be in the end another form of the betrayal of Orthodoxy and the deception of souls.

It would be very good if you could write an article for our Orthodox Word on how to keep alive the true savor of Orthodoxy in view of the many temptations besetting us today—without, however, mentioning as yet any names. If the worst does happen, and Fr. Panteleimon goes to the Mathewites, then we will probably have to publish an attack, against the Mathewites as an error “on the right hand,” with True Orthodoxy standing between the modernists on the one hand and the legalist fanatics on the other hand. But if Fr. P. does leave the Synod, it will be very difficult for us zealots who remain, because as you know some of our bishops are trying to maintain communion with “ecumenical Orthodoxy,” which is a disastrous and fatal path. But we trust that God allows all these difficult and bitter trials to come upon us for our salvation and so that we can be of help to others.

We ask your prayers, and look forward to your next letter.

With love in Christ,
Seraphim, monk

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