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202. Dec. 1/14, 1975 St. Philaret the Almsgiver

Dear Father Hilarion [Igor Kapral],


We have heard with joy of your tonsure and ordination. May Christ our God preserve you for many years of fruitful service in His Church!

Many thanks for your letter on Fr. Panteleimon, etc. Do not be overly grieved at the troubles that go on about us. It is actually good that you suffer and grieve, because only in this way can you gain the testing which is so needful today above all, in order to save your own soul and to be of help to others. Without deep grief, suffering, persecution, we will not be prepared for the extremely difficult days ahead, when “head-knowledge” will be of little benefit.

About Fr. Panteleimon we believe it is extremely important to be objective—i.e., not to treat him with special favoritism, to apply a different standard to him as a “non-Russian” than to all our Russian clergy and faithful and the ordinary converts who are not under his wing. Perhaps a great part of the trouble that has arisen in recent years comes from this very favoritism—a treatment which is often given to converts in our Church, but which often leads to disaster if the convert is not gradually forced to have a more mature attitude and cease being a “spoiled child.’’ If Fr. Panteleimon and his followers do not change some attitudes in the days ahead, they will inevitably go the way of all “crazy converts”—more Orthodox in appearance than many that so far have gone off the track, but still “crazy”—by which I mean: trusting no one but themselves, “knowing better” than everyone else, losing contact with the whole Church and its universal tradition. It is much better for Fr. Panteleimon to have some shocks and jolts now, even over seemingly insignificant or exaggerated things, than to continue his way peacefully until a real big shock comes and finds him unprepared and untested, and totally unaware of how bishops and others actually regard him.

I hope you will not interpret my words as an expression of some kind of “rivalry.” We have our own faults and passions, but I sincerely believe that we are not “jealous” or have any feelings of “rivalry” for Fr. Panteleimon or any of our Greeks. We have had here as novices or laborers several exnovices of Fr. Panteleimon, and on the whole we could only confirm for them what they had already learned under Fr. Panteleimon, so close is his approach, in general, to ours. The very existence of Fr. Panteleimon has been a source of strength to us—in particular, his fresh approach to monasticism, spiritual life, the saints, as opposed to the deadness of “taking for granted” all these things that is so widespread today. This we regard as his strongest point, (not his theology), and it would be tragic for this to be lost to our Church; we ourselves would be the worse for it.

For an objective view of Fr. Panteleimon, we regard it as essential to be aware of two main points, knowledge of which, I think, will help us to keep our heads whenever the next “incident” flares up (which under present conditions is inevitable):

1. His attitude of mistrust and suspicion for those outside his circle of influence. This we have observed with increasing grief for five years, and leads him sometimes to ridiculous conclusions about “plots” against him. This encourages the party spirit in our Church—although he accuses others of this, I really doubt that anyone in our Church has promoted it as actively as he and his followers. He keeps “files” of private letters which have no relation to him or his monastery, solely in order to show who is associated with whom and is therefore “against” him. Several of these letters, we know quite certainly, are either forgeries or exist only in the mind of Fr. Panteleimon. This preoccupation with other people’s business is a sickness, and if it is not stopped it will not have any good result. A result of this pre-occupation is the spreading of stories and slanders about others. We saw two letters from his monks, defending him in the recent troubles. Both of them accused others of spreading rumors, and both of them contained most unkind stories about others in the Church, “passed on” by the monastery for no good purpose. This is surely spiritual blindness: to accuse others of doing precisely what you yourself do, and in the very same letter! Why? I am not saying this to bring accusation against the monastery, for I do not believe the monks are any more “evil” than we or anyone else. They do such things precisely because of a want of objectivity—because Fr. Panteleimon and his followers have become accustomed to live by a different standard from everyone else. They are supposed to be concerned about everyone’s business (monks?! in a hesychast monastery?!!), but no one else is supposed to be permitted this. We must be objective about this, and at least recognize it for what it is, even if we may be in no position to correct it.

Forgive me, Father, but I believe I detect in your letter one small sign of the “double standard” we have grown used to applying when Fr. Panteleimon is concerned. Why do you speak of “Bishop” Petros? Is it really only because he is out of communion with his own Synod? Or is it because Fr. Panteleimon’s feelings about him are so strong that you involuntarily reflect his feelings? Many of Fr. Panteleimon’s spiritual children had an absolute hatred for Bishop Petros even when he was still in quite good standing with our Synod. Perhaps we are hopelessly naive (and certainly we are “out of things” and don’t even hear most rumors)—but we know that Bishop Petros has a document from our Synod testifying to his valid ordination as bishop, and that he is out of communion with his own Synod solely (or at least chiefly) because he refused to state that the New Calendar Church no longer has grace—a statement which our own bishops refused to sign. Why this disdainful attitude toward Bishop Petros? By the way, our Archbishop John told us, when Fr. Panteleimon was about to join our church ten years ago, that he should probably be placed under the jurisdiction of Bishop Petros. As a special favor, he was not, but was allowed to form, in effect, a second jurisdiction of Old Calendar Greeks in America—obviously an occasion for scandal in future, which has since begun to occur. We strongly suspect “rivalry” plays at least some part in this whole situation, and until we are given very good cause we cannot but apply to Bishop Petros the same standard we must apply to Fr. Panteleimon and everyone else: we will not believe rumors about him. Of course, we must obey any directives of the Synod concerning him, but the directive itself is a conditional one: until his situation is rectified with his own Synod. Even if Bishop Petros is some kind of “monster” or “magician”—and several bishops of our Synod tell us he is not, in their opinion—our attitude toward him in any case should be objective, not based on feelings or on making him a special case for disfavoritism.

2. Father Panteleimon’s theology. This would require derailed discussion to go into thoroughly, but let it suffice to apply the standard of objectivity to it also: It has strong points, and it has weak points. From what we have seen (in a number of open letters) I would say the weak points outweigh the strong points, and the “theological” reputation of Fr. Panteleimon is largely a creation of “public opinion,” based on a few of the stronger points, but based even more on the tone of self-assurance with which all the theological opinions of Fr. Panteleimon and Fr. Neketas are expressed. The “Open Letters” we have seen have far too much self-esteem, too much a “know-better” attitude, too much “expertness” and elitism—all of which are totally out of place in theological writing, but are especially unjustified when one considers the weakness or outright falseness of some of their positions. Differences of theological opinion are one thing—one can live with this in the church, as long as both sides are humble enough. But something else entirely is the offering of opinions as certain truth—which is where their “arrogance” and “harshness” which you mention are especially offensive. Whether it be “awful catechisms” (in the diocese of a bishop who would be horrified if he were informed of this expression) or “Augustine the heretic” (when Fr. Neketas knows, because we told him, that Archbishop John revered him as a saint), or the doctrinaire opinions on the Holy Shroud or Weeping Icons (opinions which seem to change now and then, because Fr. Panteleimon several years ago told us personally that he now accepts them, while his spiritual children even now are fanatically against them)—their very attitude makes objective discussion of such matters (which is quite necessary in the Church) an impossibility. This especially makes us grieve, because we see no “escape-valve” for differences—if one disagrees with them, one is “attacking” them and will be regarded either as an enemy or a dunce who needs to be enlightened with an “Open Letter” (few of which actually attack the question that prompted them!). How can there be oneness of mind in the Church with such an immature attitude?

We will he very happy if Fr. Panteleimon has learned from the recent troubles and is prepared at least to present a meeker appearance, show more tolerance for the opinions of others on disputed questions, cease his disdainful attitude toward the Jordanville seminary (which he called to me personally “pitiful”) and to members of the clergy (Vladika Laurus in particular, whom his spiritual children say “can’t be trusted”), and withdraw his persecution of those who do not follow his “party-line.” Here in California we have two meek laborers for Christ: Alexey Young and Nikodemos, and Vladimir Anderson and “Eastern Orthodox Books.” If you only knew what real slaves of God they are, how they literally work out their salvation with trembling and make immense sacrifices for the cause of Orthodox missionary labors. Perhaps Alexey has made some mistakes (one rather big one, but a question of taste rather then dogma, and certainly nothing worse than the mistakes Fr. Neketas has made in print)—but have you noticed what a splendid little publication Nikodemos has become? The articles on Kireyevsky are priceless—he has really absorbed the message and spirit of Kireyevsky, which most Russians missed then and now, a message which is extremely important for our Orthodoxy and our theology today—and he, who has suffered so much from the cruel behavior and slanders of Fr. Neketas (to which we can bear witness) and the coldness of Fr. Panteleimon and all the tales which have been spread from Seattle and Boston, and yet does not attack back and is most kind and meek toward them—is regarded as an “enemy,” and his valuable publications are not even mentioned. And such treasures Vladimir Anderson has published at great cost and sacrifice—and Fr. Neketas wont even mention that the Homilies of St. Macarius are again in print, in an excellent translation, after 50 years (not to mention other valuable publications)! Where is the sense of common missionary oneness of mind, forgiveness of others, distrust of one’s own opinions?

Over all this we grieve and suffer—no less than you have suffered in these last months, I make bold to say. I write this all to you as an “exchange of opinions” which will perhaps help and protect both you and us in the days ahead. Please inform me if I haven’t been as objective as I tried to be. In the days ahead—the last days left to us before what seems impending disaster for America—we intend to proceed in the same spirit as in the past, not joining any “party” or taking any “sides,” but continuing our effort to give the truths of Orthodoxy for contemporary use. Perhaps the “static” of “interference” we now feel as coming from certain quarters has even helped us, in that it forces us to be more precise in what we say, knowing how some statements will be interpreted. We ask your prayers, and we beg you to be open with us in future when disagreements or disputes might arise.

With love in Christ,

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