Saturday, June 16, 2018

Questions and Answers 36 - 40

Clerical Homosexuality

Question 36: I have suspicions my priest is a practicing homosexual, though he is married to a wonderful woman. It makes me feel very uneasy. How should I deal with the situation?

Answer: [More details were revealed in the question, which I have left out to protect the identities of certain individuals.] Whether your suspicions are accurate or not, I obviously can't determine, but assuming you are correct, you should know that it is probably more common than you think for a married priest to be a homosexual, practicing or not. If it is something really bothering you, you can try confiding in another local priest or bishop, but this is unlikely to do anything to change the situation, unless your priest is participating in criminal behavior. Plus, as you yourself said, you have no proof, just a lingering suspicion. The Orthodox Church has had a major "problem" of homosexual clerics for many decades now, but it is something still very much "underground" and it is only really known about by those who "know the right people". And many of these homosexual clerics have high positions in the Church, which is why nothing is ever done about the issue unless there is criminal behavior involved. Therefore, if you can ignore it, do so, but if not, get thee to another parish. But I will say, there are some very good priests out there who it appears to me have homosexual tendencies, and unlikely practice it, and we do have saints in our Church that got ordained, unwillingly, who at one time were practicing homosexuals, so don't be too quick to judge. Canonically, however, an adulterous priest of any kind should be defrocked.

Contemporary Saints

Question 37: Have you ever met someone that you think one day will be a saint of the Church?

Answer: Well, I write about holy people, I study holy people, but I don't chase after holy people. If a living saint walked by me, I would probably leave them alone and allow them to walk by me in peace. At most, I would just get their blessing and leave. This is just my personality. I don't like people bothering me with nonsense, and I don't like bothering others with nonsense. And it's not just holy people that I'm like this with. I have been within an arms length of some people that I very much admire, and never said a word to them. I believe the saying is true, to never meet your heroes, because often times you either are disappointed by them or they are disappointed by you. Also, I feel like I have nothing to offer anyone, so why should I be selfish and seek something from them. Nonetheless, I have met and talked with people I do consider holy, though none of them are likely to be canonized by the Church, at least not in my lifetime.

Many think Elder Ephraim of Arizona may be canonized one day, and I have spoken at some length with him. At Meteora I once met an old monk who blessed me that filled me with a sense of his sanctity. In Patras I had an encounter with Metropolitan Nikodemos of Patras, and not knowing anything about him at the time, I had a sense that there was something special and holy about him; years later I found out he knew St. Nicholas Planas and he was responsible for getting him officially canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. My fifth grade Greek school teacher is a saint in my eyes; his name was John and a seminarian from Holy Cross School of Theology and unfortunately I lost touch with him when I was ten, but he was the one that truly converted me to embrace Christ. The one person who probably impressed me the most was my paternal grandmother Anastasia, who lived in Patras; I could write a book about her, and one day I might. Without her I would not be the Orthodox Christian I am today. The funny thing about sainthood is that you never know when you will encounter it or in whom, which is why we are called to look upon everyone as if they were Christ Himself. Then everyone we meet will be a saint.

Advice for a Future Seminarian

Question 38: My son is interested in serving the Church, most likely as a priest, and he will be attending Hellenic College/Holy Cross when he graduates from high school. What advice, as a former student of the seminary, can you give him?

Answer: I've actually received this question a lot, and I will tell your son what I tell everyone else. HCHC is known by some as the holy hill and by others as the devil's playground. As far as I'm concerned, it can be whatever you want it to be; the choice is yours. Like anywhere, it is a place of many positives and many negatives. My own personal conversion to Christ took place through a seminarian at Holy Cross when I was ten years old, and he changed my life forever. He was a good fruit of the seminary. But there are many rotten apples too. If you focus on yourself being a good fruit of the seminary, then you will be fine and have a rewarding experience.

I also like to tell aspiring students a personal story. When I was 17 years old I was getting ready to go to Hellenic College, but I had doubts that I wouldn't find what I was looking for there. Instead, I considered going to a local Protestant seminary, where at least I would be able to focus on learning Scripture, knowing also what the differences were between what I believed as an Orthodox and what they believed, and ignoring that aspect. I expressed my doubts to a seminarian that I looked up to at the time, and he told me something that removed all my doubts. He said to me: "John, the Protestant school may have more biblical courses, but HCHC is centered around the chapel and the daily cycle of the divine services. This is what makes it second to none." And he was right. My first year especially, the chapel became the focus of my daily life, and I would arrive there 30 minutes early for every service. Between the chapel and the library, the HCHC experience can be very profitable.

Father Panteleimon of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, MA

Question 39: I was reading of the close relationship between Father Panteleimon of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline with Fathers George Florovsky and John Romanides when they were professors at the seminary. Since you live in Boston and attended Holy Cross near Holy Transfiguration, and have an extensive knowledge of Fathers Florovsky and Romanides, I was wondering if you knew what happened to Father Panteleimon.

Answer: This is a big question that I will try to make short. Fr. Panteleimon at the time when Frs. Florovsky and Romanides were professors was a seminarian. At that time, Holy Cross did not attract monastic minded students, and for Frs. Florovsky and Romanides, it was refreshing to have a student that tried to live an authentic Orthodox lifestyle in secularized America. He expressed to Fr. Romanides his desire to establish a monastery near the seminary, and did so with his help. In fact, Fr. Romanides moved his mother into the monastery so she could live near him, and with her being monastically minded as well, it was the perfect arrangement. One of the reasons Fr. Florovsky was fired from Holy Cross was because he defended the fasting practices of Fr. Panteleimon, and in protest to his firing Fr. Romanides resigned and went to teach in Greece. Eventually the monastery of Fr. Panteleimon became embroiled in schismatic jurisdiction hopping because of their strong anti-ecumenical stance, and they never recovered. In fact, last I heard they were involved in the whole Name Worship controversy, which was condemned long ago at Mount Athos. As far as Fr. Panteleimon is concerned, last I heard he was ill and living in one of their dependencies in Maine. He has been embroiled in many controversies, including sexually manipulating many monks under him. When I was 21 I met with Fr. Panteleimon and interviewed him for about three hours. I was known at the monastery as the one who interviewed Fr. Panteleimon for three hours for many years. We had a very interesting conversation that perhaps one day I will record in further detail, but it was extremely disturbing at the same time. For example, every time I brought up a contemporary holy elder or well known ecclesiastical personality, he had a personal story to tell me about all of them, and it was pretty much always very negative against them. He also told me stories of how he acquired certain relics that was disturbing. But I will save the details for another day.

Orthodox Monastery in New England

Question 40: Do you have any information about the establishment of an Orthodox monastery in New England?

Answer: I wish I did, but I don't. As far as the Greek Metropolis of Boston is concerned, there was recently an attempt to establish a monastery under the Monastery of Simonopetra of Mount Athos, and there was even a property chosen, but something disturbed the Metropolitan and he called it off. He has been trying for a few decades now to work with Simonopetra to do something in New England, but it just never goes through. I know he refuses to have one of Elder Ephraim's monasteries in New England, as he considers them as causing too much trouble, at the very least. I have also heard about a convent maybe one day being established at the Metropolis camp, but no details about that yet. Basically, it is still all up in the air, as far as I know. Metropolitan Methodios wants to avoid troubles and scandals as much as possible, so he is being very cautious, some would say too cautious.

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