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188. Sept. 29/Oct. 12, 1975. St. Cyriacus

Dear Father Igor [Kapral],

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Forgive me, but we have another request for you, this one a more important one. Could you possibly go to Fr. Michael Pomazansky and obtain for us replies to the questions on the enclosed sheet? We’ve tried for a long time to get a brief biography of him, but to no avail—he’s just too humble! Could you help us? It’s not for his glory, but only to help us poor strugglers to keep contact with our Orthodox theological tradition.

Concerning books—could you tell us if the Vologda Patericon is in the library?

Now, something at last that is not a request, but an expression of our deep concern over our present-day Orthodox mission. Fr. Neketas Palassis in his latest Witness again makes a self-assured and quite unfounded attack on Blessed Augustine. Everyone knows of the erroneous doctrine of Blessed Augustine on grace—but why this “fundamentalist” attempt to destroy entirely someone who has never in Orthodox tradition been denied a place among the Fathers of the Church? Fr. Theodoritos, doubtless speaking for other zealots in Greece and on the Holy Mountain, writes us that of course he accepts Augustine as a Saint, because St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain does. Our Vladika John had a service written to him and had great devotion for him. St. Nikodemos put him in our Eastern Calendar (much as Vladika John put St. Patrick there), and our Russian 19th-century Fathers followed him. The Fifth Ecumenical Council ranks Augustine as a theological authority on the same level as Sts. Basil, Gregory and John Chrysostom, with no qualification. The contemporaries of Augustine who disagreed with him (St. Vincent of Lerins, St. John Cassian) corrected his teaching without mentioning his name out of respect, far less calling him a “heretic.” His other contemporaries, including great Fathers, always addressed him with the utmost respect. The universal Orthodox tradition accepts him as an undoubted Holy Father, although with a flaw in this teaching—rather like St. Gregory of Nyssa in the East. Whence, then, this strangely “Protestant” campaign to declare Blessed Augustine a heretic, and to utterly condemn anyone who disagrees with this? This greatly dis-turbs us, not so much for the sake of Blessed Augustine (who, after all, is a Father of less weight than many others), but because it reveals a very unhealthy “party” spirit which threatens the whole English- speaking Orthodox mission. Fr. Neketas as much as says: If you do not believe exactly as Fr. Panteleimon believes, you are not Orthodox! If you recommend a 19th-century catechism (as Vladika John always did to converts) you are a Larin; if you read Unseen Warfare you are under Latin influence; if you refuse to believe in evolution (!), you are under Western influence!!!

We share our concern with you, because we are really being discouraged by this unhealthy attitude, which is really pobocto pelo pazzny. [?] We and others have tried gently to communicate with Fr. Neketas and Fr. Panteleimon about such things, but the impression is that no communication is possible; on every subject they are “right,” they are the “experts,” and no other opinion is possible. You know how from the beginning we have supported the “Greeks” in our Synod, and it is really out of despair for the future that we tell you of our concern.

We are in correspondence with Dr. Alexander Kalomiros in Greece, who himself writes us despairing letters concerning the actions of Fr. Panteleimon in Greece (without the blessing or knowledge of his own bishop) in favor of the Mathewite schism, which Dr. Kalomiros calls real “fanaticism and legalism.” Fr. Panteleimon has offended and made enemies of Archimandrite Cyprian and other zealots in Greece, and has entirely cut off Dr. Kalomiros who recently wrote us that we are the only ones in America who will even write to him. Dr. Kalomiros believes Fr. Panteleimon and those with him have fallen into “group pride,” and he thinks the recent burning of their church in Boston is God’s mercy to them, sent in order to wake them up for the sake of their good deeds for Orthodoxy in the past. He believes Fr. Panteleimon is very gifted and remarkable, although he does not have a Greek soul, but an American soul, which is why he is not able to have rapport with true Greeks, as opposed to Greek Americans. (I don’t know for sure about all that, but that is what Dr. Kalomiros says, and he is quite sensitive about such things.)

We ourselves know at first hand how several years ago, Fr. Panteleimon and Fr. Neketas put very cruel pressure on Alexey Young, evidently trying to stop him altogether from printing Nikodemos, merely because of articles against evolution and for the Shroud of Turin, and also because Alexey resisted their pressures to force him to go through their censorship. Has our Orthodoxy in America become so narrow that we must be under the dictation of a “pope-expert” and we must accept a “party-line” on every conceivable subject? This is against everything Vladika John taught and did in missionary labors.

Already the rumor was spread through the Greek Archdiocese that Fr. Panteleimon is about to “go to some strange Old Calendar jurisdiction,” and it does seem that the false zeal which Fr. Neketas sometimes reveals is already pointing in that direction. Fr. Panteleimon’s recent act regarding Vladika Averky and Bishop Petros has already cost him some supporters of long standing, and we only pray that the stern but loving letter of our own Archbishop Anthony to him has cause him to stop and think where his path is leading. (Vladika Anthony forbade him to come to the San Francisco Archdiocese until he begs forgiveness of Archbishop Averky—not over the question of Bishop Petros, but over the crudeness and untraditional way of “breaking off communion.”)

Please forgive us for burdening you with all this. We would very much like to know your thoughts with regard to any of this. Is there any way that our “Greeks” can be persuaded to be less reckless? There seems to be no one from the “Russians” for whom they have any respect,—everyone is under “Western influence.” (This is Schmemannism!) How can they be made to see, before it is too late, that we should all be humble and not think much of our own “theology,” that we are all perhaps under “Western influences” of various sorts (this is very evident in the case of Fr. Neketas himself), but that this should not exclude us from Orthodoxy, as long as we are struggling to understand the truth.

We ask your prayers for us.

With love in Christ,

P.s. A final request: Is it possible to obtain a copy of part of the Russian manuscript of the book by Butakov on the Shroud of Turin—the one from which the Russian and English booklets were made? We have in mind not the scientific parts, but only the parts containing historical and iconographical evidence, which according to the introduction was much abridged or omitted in the printed version. We are very much interested in a sober and objective investigation of the Shroud according to Orthodox sources—until such a thing is done, we hesitate to give full acceptance to it, despite the impressive scientific argument. The argument of Fr. Neketas that it is “unknown” in Orthodox tradition seems not to be backed up by any investigation at all of even the traditional evidence that has been offered so far. The Shroud, if it is genuine, could have a very powerful influence on faith in the USSR—-precisely because the religious level there is so primitive and in need of some kind of “scientific evidence” to combat the influence of decades of “scientific atheism.” See, for example, the new book [letter ends]


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