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Chapter 33: Another Trip to Mount Athos and the Revelation that Led to HOCNA

After the completion of the main building in the early 80s, Fr. Gregory decided to visit Mount Athos again. It had been 14 years since he was there as a novice and he felt that he needed to visit the “Garden of the Virgin Mary” once more. No monk throughout that time, and even to the present time, visited the Holy Mountain from the monastery in Boston because in the late 60s, Fr. Panteleimon went back and was arrested for smuggling as he was trying to leave Greece. From then after, he was forbidden entry onto the Holy Mountain. If he could not visit, he did not permit anybody else from his monastery to visit either.

When Fr. Gregory arrived at the Holy Mountain, he had to go first to the capital, which is called Karyes, to receive his entry paper. This document stipulated how long he was permitted to remain on Mount Athos, and it allowed him to receive hospitality from any monastery he visited. As he was walking out of the capital, someone called out, “Fr. Gregory!” He was amazed hearing his name in English, for he thought no one knew him there. It turned out to be Fr. Theodore, who was once a monk at Holy Transfiguration Monastery. He invited him to stay that night at his kellia. He had a small skete with another monk and was living about a half hour walk from the capital. On the way to his kellia Fr. Gregory asked him why he left the Boston monastery.

Father Theodore looked at him and said “You don‘t know?”

Father Gregory said, “No.”

Father Theodore then frankly told him that he was sexually abused by Fr. Panteleimon, that he could not take it anymore, and so left.

To say that this was a shock to Fr. Gregory would be an understatement. He had to stop and sit down and hear it again, and try to understand how this piece of information fit into the whole puzzle of his experience with Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

According to the high moral standard of the Orthodox Church, as expressed explicitly in the holy canons, any Orthodox Christian who becomes aware of a serious canonical infraction must disclose that fact to his bishop. If the person chooses to conceal this fact, if he is clergyman, he will be subjected to the same punishment as the guilty party; if a layman, he will suffer excommunication. Conscious of this fact, Father Gregory discreetly approached the bishop of the diocese, Archbishop Alypy. These are the rules of the Orthodox Church as stipulated in the holy canons, including Canon LXXI of St. Basil, as well as Canon XXV of St. John the Faster, with which Father Gregory was very familiar. If he did not disclose this information to his bishop, the holy canons lay down that he will be subject to the same punishment as the person he is trying to conceal. As soon as Fr. Gregory returned to the United States he informed Bishop Alypy of what he had learned and told him of an indecent incident perpetrated by the abbot, that once happened to him when he was a novice. Bishop Alypy immediately wrote a report and submitted it to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in New York City. Metropolitan Philaret was shocked and dismayed.

An investigating committee was appointed and Fr. Gregory was asked if he could question others who had left the monastery to see if they experienced the same. Two other monks who left the monastery had the same experience. The investigating committee then submitted their report, in which they said that Fr. Panteleimon and a number of the fathers at the monastery should be brought to spiritual court to answer these accusations. At this time a new metropolitan was elected because of the repose of Metropolitan Philaret. The new metropolitan, Vitaly, was accused by the monastery of being a heretic, and so they conveniently fled from the Russian Church Abroad to avoid any possibility of going to trial. When this happened, all the accused who were priests were deposed from their rank, and any who followed them were also cut off from the Church by following deposed clergy. These people eventually started their own church, or parasynagogue, which they call HOCNA, the un"Holy Orthodox Church of North America"!

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Last Updated: July 12, 2011