Saturday, August 05, 2006

May we be Transfigured by the Eucharist

In looking over the blogosphere, I found a wonderful quotation from Canon Vernon Staley, best known for his book The Catholic Religion, and his work on worship. The Patristic Anglican records that Canon Staley wrote in his 1904 Ceremonial of the English Church (p 113-115):
It is not well to regard the Eucharist as commemorative solely of the death and passion of our Lord, and to forget that it is also the memorial of His mightly resurrection and glorious ascension. In thus emphasizing His humiliation at the expense of His exhaltation some have been led to associate the crucifix with the altar rather than the cross of glory. In connection with this, it may be pointed out that our Lord in glory is a much more suitable subject...over the altar, than our Lord crucified.
I post his words here, because they reminded me of the eucharistic theology of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who so emphasized the eschatalogical presence of the Kingdom of God, the reality of the parousia, embodied in every Eucharist. "The remembrance of Christ which he He instituted (This do in remembrance of Me) is the affirmation of His 'Parousia,' of His presence; it is the actualization of His Kingdom," he wrote. In this context:
A sacrament is both cosmic and eschatological. It refers at the same time to God’s world as he first created it and to its fulfilment in the kingdom of God...It is, it manifests and it grants that to which it is directed: the presence among us of the approaching kingdom of God and its unfading light.
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky's critique of Fr. Schmemann is worth reading, as well. As I wrote in The Lion a few years ago, an appropriately balanced appreciation of Christ's sufferings and His glory is key to true devotion. I did not post this in order to re-open that issue, though. Nor did I post it to illustrate the similarities between certain schools of Anglican and Orthodox writers, evident as it is in some. (Fr. Pomazansky would be the first to disagree with me about this; Fr. Antony Bell, however, once wrote the two communions appealed to Scripture and Tradition the same way -- that the very best of Anglicanism is found in Orthodoxy.)

I merely pray on the eve of the Feast of Transfiguration that tomorrow when the priest exhorts, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him that taketh away the sins of the world," our beloved readers will see in the consecrated Sacrament the Lamb Who, upon His baptism, was acclaimed by the audible voice of the Father and the descent of the Holy Ghost as a consubstantial Person of the Blessed Trinity and Who, on this blessed feast, disclosed a glimpse of His pre-existent glory to His disciples "as they could perceive it." He was transfigured, and by His presence, He "shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed from glory to glory" (Phil. 3:21, the Chapter from Lauds for the Feast).
How happy he who feels Thy light,
Thou Sharer of the Father's might,
True Radiance of our native land,
Surpassing all we understand.

Thou Brightness of the Father's throne,
Goodness that never can be known,
The fulness of Thy love impart
By Thy true Presence in the heart.
-- Vespers Hymn for the Feast

May His true Presence transform us all, entering into our veins, our heart, consuming all our transgressions, burning away our impurities, and leaving behind His fleeting brilliance the sweet savor of a holy soul made pleasing through, by, and in Himself.



"Fr. John Corapi is the Roman Catholic Jesse Ventura."

Debate. :)


Friday, August 04, 2006

The Dominican Form of the Rosary

On the traditional Roman Catholic calendar, today is "The Feast of St. Dominic," the founder of the Dominican Order. In addition to getting to keep their own unique form of the Mass, the Dominicans also have a different form of the Rosary. (Some Western Rite Orthodox also pray the Rosary.)

Roman Catholics often cite St. Dominic as the first person to receive the Rosary, but St. Seraphim of Sarov had other ideas about the devotion's ancient past: he reportedly believed it had been revealed in the ancient Thebaid, and he regretted it had been lost in the East.

The following is presented online as "The Dominican Form of the Rosary."

In place of the typical introductory prayers, one begins:

V. Hail Mary, fully of grace, the Lord is with thee.
R. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

V. O Lord, Thou open my lips.
R. And my mouth will proclaim Thy praise.
V. O God, make speed to save me.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

Then immediately begin praying the mysteries in the traditional way. The rosary is concluded:

V. Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee we send up our sights, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

V. Let us Pray.
All. O God, whose only-begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

V. Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Pray for us.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
V. May the divine assistance remain always with us.
R. Amen.
V. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

I rather like this introduction, because it more strongly links the Rosary with the prayer of the Church. For centuries, the Rosary -- the Roman Catholic Church's most popular devotion -- was understood to be the layman's breviary; this makes the connection more concrete. I would rather the laity prayed as much as the Hours as possible, but this is an improvement to their favorite devotion -- and it doesn't require one to have a single book on hand.

Incidentally, Fr. Andrew Phillips of ROCOR writes that the name Dominic is a perfectly acceptable name for Orthodox children, as it is "equivalent to Kyriakos, Kyriaki in Greek." (Naturally, one's patron would be the Greek saint, not the founder of the Dominican order.)


The Importance of Argumentation

Daniel Mitsui has a post worth reading "In Praise of Argument." What he has in mind is not heated, passion-filled, angry verbal jousting: perhaps a better title would be, "In Praise of a Robust Witness of the Apostolic Tradition." In that sense, it applies to Orthodox -- particularly Western Rite Orthodox -- as well.

My conclusion was that the arguments that raged in the past have not been settled, nor made unimportant - in fact they were a necessary part of the creative impulse that produced such cultural treasure...

But we will not build a civilization by refusing to resume the postponed arguments of Catholic tradition. If we refuse to think critically about tradition, traditionalism will be merely an expression of prettiness, sentimentality, and anachronism; a pious soup with too many cooks. We need instead a robust and brainy traditionalism, argumentative and stubborn, able to impel the sort of world-changing creativity to build a Catholic civilization amid Modern perversity.

In other words, we must do our part to enculturate the paradosis of faith, worship, and holy living demanded of the Gospels and the Church. Let the witness begin.

(Hat tip: LeoXIII at York Forum.)

A Bit Late?

The Vatican is outraged with Madonna after she performed a mock crucifixion onstage:
Cardinal Ersilio Tonino, speaking with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI said: "This time the limits have really been pushed too far.

"This concert is a blashphemous challenge to the faith and a profanation of the cross. She should be excommunicated."
This would be the Madonna who has been practicing the Jewish Kabbalah religion since 1997? The Madonna who is thinking of buying a house in Israel so she can see the coming of "the Messiah" firsthand? (It seems St. John addressed the issue of Christians who apostasize in I John 2.) The Madonna who "made out" with "Jesus" in her "Like a Prayer" video 19 years ago and whose entire career has been mockery of the Mother of God? Ya think maybe it's time she should be excommunicated? (And despite the fact that a papal representative has spoken, one can rest assured if Madonna showed up for communion this Sunday in England, the priest would commune her.)

If only the papal legates had had such reticence to excommunicate in 1054....

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fr. Fenton on St. Maximos the Confessor's Soteriology

As usual, Fr. Fenton has produced a stunningly lucid paper on "How Christ Saves," an excerpt from his paper "Passions and Theosis in St. Maximos the Confessor." (Disclosure: one of my favorite saints.) He quotes St. Maximos:
By it [Christ’s Incarnation] He freed human nature which had been enslaved by corruption, betrayed through its own fault to death because of sin, tyrannically dominated by the devil. He redeemed all its debt as if He were liable even though He was not liable but sinless, and brought us back again to the original grace of His kingdom by giving Himself as a ransom for us. And in exchange for our destructive passions He gives us His life-giving Passion as a salutary cure which saves the whole world.
Read the full excerpt.


"The Immemorial Tridentine Mass" Online

Yes! The wonderful film narrated by a Father Fulton J. Sheen about the beauty of the Latin Mass is now available online! You can download it over on YouTube -- if you have a long time to download files.

Better yet, buy a DVD here.

(Hat tip: Huw Raphael)

Name the One Book

Pastor Weedon has tagged me for another meme about books. Your comments are solicited, especially if I've missed anything:

1. One book that changed your life:
The Orthodox Church (and The Orthodox Way) by Fr. Timothy/Bp. KALLISTOS Ware.

2. One book you've read more than once:
I'm such a bibliophile, it's rare for me to read all the books on my list, much less reread anything. However, I've read The Conferences by St. John Cassian a number of times. It's one of my favorite patristic writings, and indeed one of my favorite spiritual writings of any time.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:
How to Survive on a Desert Island.

Actually, didn't I already do this? If the Bible is not given to you, then the Bible (Douay-Rheims version). If so, The Monastic Diurnal.

4. One book that made you laugh:
Since I was scolded the last time I mentioned him: Up From Liberalism by William F. Buckley Jr. ("I also like the humor; it's a very funny magazine." -- Tom Selleck.) Unfortunately, it's been too long since I've laughed while reading a book. :(

5. One book that made you cry:
Oh, Pastor Weedon may not own up to it, but OK...the only one I can remember is Where the Red Fern Grows. And I didn't even like dogs. Look, I was a child, OK??

6. One book that you wish had been written:
Why I Banned the Novus Ordo "Mass" and Returned my Sheep to the Fulness of the Orthodox Church by Pope John Paul II.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
(I'm tempted to tag Inquisitor just to see how he'll deal with this one.)

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Honorable mentions: Mein Kampf; Holy Blood, Holy Grail; The Passover Plot; The Late Great Planet Earth (How's that for a quartet?)

8. One book you’re currently reading:
I'm not currently reading; I'm currently typing.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
The Organic Development of the Liturgy: The Principles of Liturgical Reform and Their Relation to the 20th Century Liturgical Movement Prior to the Second Vatican Council – Dom Alcuin Reid.

10. Tag others.
I hate tagging people, because I don't want anyone to feel obligated in any way. I'd suggest these people might have interesting answers (in no particular order):

1. Huw Raphael
2. Ari Adams
3. Fr. Matthew Thurman
4. Inquisitor Generalis (rubbing hands in glee)

In fact, I think I'm going to go over to Ely Forum and "tag" Fr. Michael right now.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Derek "Fr. Aidan" Keller and Blanco's Pedophile "Monastery"

After the most recent charges of sexual molestation and fraud levied against Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco, Texas, last week, Derek "Fr. Aidan" Keller has presented himself as a fearless critic who suffered for speaking out against the monks. In fact, he encouraged pilgrimages to the Blanco monastery, visited a number of times himself, compared it to the monasteries founded by Sts. Pachomius and Antony, praised its products by name in his work and on his website, and announced events taking place there years after their history of pedophilia was well known.

Last week, Keller claimed on his Yahoo group Occidentalis that he and his former monastery were "vilified as Non-Orthodox," because they dared to tell people they disbelieved Blanco's weeping icon "while all the canonical jurisdictions in Texas sent their pilgrims there (often, by the busload)." He concludes his rehearsed righteous outrage with faux repentance designed to showcase his humility: "Pardon me if I get a little hot-headed when it comes to the exploitation of vulnerable persons--it gets me indignant and feeling a bit fierce. Lord, have mercy." The truth is another matter.

Although community figures report suspicions going back years -- and Blanco's founder reportedly confessed to molesting children since the 1970s -- authorities first pressed molesation charges against Samuel A. ("Fr. Benedict") Greene and Jonathan Irving ("Fr. Jeremiah") Hitt in January 1999. ROCOR, which had reportedly suspended the monks sometime the previous year, expelled the monastery that spring for refusing to comply with its directives. According to the Austin American-Statesman -- dated seven years ago today, August 2, 1999 -- the trial began that August, with the pair facing nine felony counts of molesting a 13-year-old novice who stayed at the monastery.

Three weeks later, Keller sent out a message to the OrthodoxWest Yahoo group inviting people to come to his Austin monastery -- and Blanco.

Please pray for our monastery, and what's more, come and visit some time. You will see the Western services the way they were done by the Orthodox Christians of England a thousand years ago. Also, the monasteries of Christ of the Hills and the Athonite Holy Archangels are nearby, here in the Texan Thebaid.

The Thebaid was home to monasteries founded by Sts. Pachomius and Antony the Great.

Keller did not mention while soliciting his pilgrims that two Blanco monks were being tried for sexual molestation -- even though the predators were still living at the monastery at the time.

We know at least one of the male visitors to Keller's monastery did, indeed, visit Blanco, as well.

A jury convicted Hitt of indecency with a minor on Oct. 27, 1999, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. In late February 2000, Greene confessed to molesting the boy in return for 10 years probation and a $10,000 fine. However, reports of molestation were so numerous and so credible that Sheriff Bill Elsbury says the original investigation he launched in early 1999 "never ceased."

Neither did Keller's association with Blanco. In March 2001, he announced a funeral of an abbot that was to take place at the "monastery." On June 26, 2001, Keller reported, "Yesterday Theophan (of OW List fame) and I travelled out to the monastery in Blanco, Texas, to do a pannykhida." He mentions a discussion with one of Blanco's residents. It would appear he had been to Blanco many times before, as he seems to know the exact drive time from his Pseudodox monastery to that in Blanco: "It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to reach the Blanco monastery from our monastery in Austin, Texas." (He noted he also celebrated an office from Orthodox Prayers of Old England at Blanco.) He has also shown familiarity with their leadership under convicted child molestor Demetrios G. "Bp. Pangratios" Vrionis, the man Al Green writes ordained the Milan Synod's Dennis "Bishop Kyrill" Esposito.

If it was not his first trip, neither was it his last. After announcing a different funeral at Blanco in 2000, he mentions returning for the annual memorial in November 2001 and 2002. In a message mentioning a trip to Blanco posted on January 22, 2003, Keller still makes no indication of any impropriety or fraud taking place at Christ of the Hills.

Meanwhile, Blanco had settled a civil lawsuit brought against it for molestation in February 2002 for $1 million.

Upon this further evidence of guilt, Keller praised the monastery in a publication and online. Keller's monastery quit using his "Old Sarum Rite Missal" in June 2001, so he whipped up two new books to establish himself as a "genuine liturgical expert" in Byzantium: Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: Hierarchical Edition and a similar volume for the Liturgy of St. Basil. Both appeared on his bookstore's website sometime between November 29, 2001, and June 5, 2002. You can see them on the "New Publication" webpage during this period. (You have to scroll down the page, below the ad for "Fragrant Anointing Oils" -- "Suitable for use in church or for the icon corner at home, for anointing oneself and one's family." Only $25 for the 30 oz. size, which "comes in a deluxe blue bottle.") Keller seems to have prefaced both books with the same introduction -- which hails two monasteries convicted or accused of child molestation:

This unique Hierarchical Liturgy book was assembled from books of the Slavic tradition, with textual changes to avoid copyright infringement. Extensive reference was made to "Hierarchical Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom," published by New Sarov Press at Christ of the Hills Monastery, Blanco, Texas, in 1995, as the most complete source available in English for rubrics of the Hierarchical Liturgy. Psalms are from the Psalter According to the Seventy, permission of Holy Transfiguration Monastery...Reference may be had to the New Sarov Press volume to fill in details.

According to ROCOR priest Fr. David Moser, "New Sarov Press was an arm of the 'Christ of the Hills' monastery in Blanco, TX." Holy Transfiguration Monastery is the flagship of the "Holy Orthodox Church of North America" (HOCNA), formed by HTM Archmandrite Panteleimon 20 years ago, as ROCOR began investigating credible allegations of sexual molestation.

Keller, for reasons known best to him, included this hierarchical Byzantine liturgy in his book Orthodox Prayers of Old England, which he is currently selling in the bookstore of his defunct church (though with or without the commendation of those two alleged pedophile "monasteries" I do not know).

Though no other book's introduction was posted online at this time, Keller took the opportunity to praise the works of both these"monasteries" in front of the entire world on his website -- years after the first allegations of molestation surfaced, after convictions and lawsuits demonstrated some of these men had indeed engaged in "exploitation of the vulnerable."

It seems unlikely Keller would not have heard of the troubles at his fellow Texas Orthodox (or, by then, Pseudodox) monastery, which he had visited numerous times, as they were reported extensively in the local Austin media. Had Keller been as worked up as he protests, he could have omitted the reference to Blanco monastery proper, expunged it, or, at a minimum, seen to it this was not posted on his website in front of the entire world. Instead, that commendation of Blanco and the Panteleimonites remained online from 2002 until he left his monastery under a cloud in September/October 2004.During this time (Jan. 2003-Nov. 2004), the monastery housed Gary M. Sabino, a man who had jumped bond in Florida and was later convicted of molesting three young girls over the course of two years. Samuel Greene also lived there, though contact with minors would have been a violation of his parole.

Try as one might, one cannot find this "feisty" man making a single reference to any of Blanco's history of molestation, no commentary on any of the events unfolding at the time, no caveat about the monastery he encouraged others to visit by word and example, no warning to stay away from Greene, no mention online of his belief the "weeping icon" was a fraud -- even when the subject came up -- in short, nothing but effusive praise that has never been retracted and a tourism pitch for the "Texan Thebaid."

Think what you will of his other poor behavior I've recorded in this blog -- and much more I have not -- the fact that he did not whisper a note of caution to anyone about a known site of child molestation should prove the well-being of his flock was not his first concern. That he, as a "hieromonk," was willing to laud and promote these pedophiles should put him forever beyond the pale.


P.S.: I add here, because I don't know where else to put it: this March, a jury convicted the Blanco monastery's caretaker (for the second time) of stabbing his wife to death on the premises in 1997; the prosecution alleged the "monks" crafted an alibi to cover up his crime.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

So's Yer Mama

When vagante Pseudodox are caught pursuing their illegal or immoral ventures, as with the "monks" in Blanco, their defense mechanism is typically to point to a similar instance within canonical Orthodoxy. Blanco molested children for years? Well, "'canonical' Orthodoxy is not on a higher moral ground than 'uncanonical' Orthodoxy is, when it comes to operation of brothels, molestation of children, and such like."

This defense mechanism, whereby the accused instead engages in recrimination, is known in cultivated psychological circles by the technical term: "So's Yer Mama." It's an attempt to level the playing field, thereby erasing all differences between the two parties. "We have sinners in our movement? You do, too."

Even in the purely human administrative realm, canonical Orthodoxy is on infinitely "higher moral ground" than vagantes. To my knowledge, not a single canonical bishop presiding anywhere in North America is a convicted child molestor or criminal. Each vagante bishop is a law unto himself (or herself), with the only constraints on a felon's "ministry" being those imposed by the judiciary. At least the canonical Church has overseers who usually do the right thing when confronted with evil.

However, the intent of this blame-shifting sleight-of-hand is to place all the focus upon the Church's human nature and obscure Her divine nature. The Church, as the Body of Christ, is united with Her Head. The divine mysteries are imparted by men at various levels of rebellion and interior brokenness, so the Church in its human expression has never been without scandal and will never be. However, what sets the Church apart from such as the "monks" of Blanco is the divine pledge of the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence. St. Augustine of Hippo's triumph over Donatism affirmed that whatever the human failings of the Church's representatives, the sacraments still usher the Orthodox faithful into the life of the Trinity (energies). It is only in the holy condescension of Jesus Christ to the flesh, of the His Flesh imparted at the Last Supper, of the perpetual institution of the Eucharist in the Church, and of the sacerdotal ministry's commission until His "second and glorious advent" that the Orthodox Church may claim preeminence. Not coincidentally, all were gifts of divine grace. "What do you have that you did not receive?"

It is important that would-be converts understand this. Many, caught in the currents of denominational decline, believe they will find in Orthodoxy the earthly utopian "haven of rest," whence all personality conflicts and ecclesiastical intrigue have fled away. Alas, when they find it is not so, their faith itself is undermined. That's why, as I recently noted in the comments section, a wise seeker whom I know is exploring Orthodoxy tells his people of every human foible as it occurs. The Ochlophobist's posts are most instructive from the opposite side of the chrism. The question converts face is not whether they wish to join a church exempt from the possibility of sin, even grave sins. Unfortunately, that option is not open to us. For all we know, the fevered imaginations above (of "brothels," etc.) may be tomorrow's headlines. The question each Christian must ask is whether he wishes to remain with sinners in his own denomination -- who do not teach what he believes -- or join with fallen men in the true Church that affirms his beliefs, has a promise of divine protection, and dispenses the medicine of immortality in the sacraments.

Certainly one should take pains to avoid grave sin within Orthodoxy, particularly pedophilia, reporting it if necessary. Perhaps the only blessing to come from our sinful juridictional splintering in the West is that if one is confronted with a shady character in one Orthodox jurisdiction, he can find an honest hierarch elsewhere in the Church. Converts will want to keep both eyes wide open when studying the character and practice of various churches but fulfill their heart's desire to be united to the Church.

But apart from God's divine presence, church groups, however "smart" their leaders, are but human contrivances. Secular law enforcement acknowledged as much at Blanco. Texas media reported:

When authorities raided the monastery in 1999, they brought along a Russian Orthodox bishop from New York [Vl. GABRIEL? - BJ] in deference to the religious objects and purported sacredness of the site.

But because of findings in that case, no such accommodation was made at last week's raid.

"We didn't make any arrangements to preserve the sanctity of the church because, as far as we're concerned, it's not a church," [Blanco Co. Sherriff Bill] Elsbury said. "As far as I'm concerned, the whole place is a criminal enterprise subject to asset forfeiture."

That's precisely it. Since Blanco has only a human element, the men in robes aren't monks -- they're perverts -- and the building that once housed their fraudulent "weeping icon" isn't a church -- it's an embezzlement society and NAMBLA chapter.

The difference between Orthodox and Pseudodox is not that only one groups sins. Orthodox priests are blessed with the charism of the Spirit, and it is only because they are "endued with the grace of the priesthood" that they are able "to stand before this Thy Holy Table, and perform the sacred Mystery of Thy holy and immaculate Body and precious Blood." God has empowered Orthodoxy to overcome all sin -- clerical and lay -- with His sacraments, His Spirit, and the pledge that He will ever preserve His Body from the ravages of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We know of no such promise to the "monks" of Blanco, Texas.


Blanco: Yes, They Are Vagantes

"I don't know whether any of these individuals is a legitimate clergyman or not," said [Blanco County, TX] District Attorney Sam Oatman. "We'll find out, but I don't believe they are."
He seems not to be the only one confused about the issue, as more questionable information comes in from our longtime detractor Derek "Fr. Aidan" Keller. He wrote: "The Blanco monastery has no Old Catholic history. They went from being Roman Catholic monks to the Pangratios group, and from there into ROCOR, then Kyiv [sic.], then back to Pangratios."

The fact remains Blanco was not legitimate Orthodox, and thus could be classified as vagante, for the better part of its foul existence -- and remains so today.

The history of Blanco, as with most such groups, is difficult to track with certainty. The fact that Samuel A. Greene was known as "Bishop Benedict" when Christ of the Hills came (briefly) under its only canonical jurisdiction, ROCOR, should be sufficient to settle this contention.

Apparently this group had a number of vagante experiences. It is reported to have had some germination as part of the Roman Catholic Church. Then in the 1970s, it went under its own banner, "Ecumenical Monks Inc.," a "non-denominational" outreach to anyone interested in monasticism, regardless of confession. This has all the marks of a vagante era, though it is not a well documented time.

Blanco gained its only period of legitimacy as part of ROCOR, 1991-99. After ROCOR expelled it in early 1999, it then joined an alleged "Ukrainian Orthodox" church -- not the Kievan patriarchate, but what seems to be another claimant of dubious canonicity.*

For the vast majority of its career -- before ROCOR and after this Kiev group -- COTH has been under an episcopoi vagante named "Pangratios" (Demetrios G. Vrionis) -- not to be confused with a priest of the same name arrested last Monday. This "Pangratios" was "bishop" for the "Archdiocese of Vasiloupolis" (Queens), which he founded personally after being deposed by the Greek Orthodox Church. He was later convicted of child molestation. Met. ISAIAH of Denver told the press: "None of our bishops consecrated him as a bishop...It's like a doctor operating without a license." Vrionis's own website refers to his group as "an independent Orthodox church," the definition of vagante. Whether his group was technically under an offshoot of the Union of Utrecht or not is semantics, of which Keller is a past master -- Vrionis is not a legitimate Orthodox bishop but part of the broader vagante movement, which appropriates the Orthodox name for its own purposes (in Blanco's case, pederasty and fraud).

One can see why Keller may wish to obscure Pangratios' legitimacy. According to Al Green, an Orthodox authority on Pseudodox groups, "A cohort of Pangratios is 'Vicar Bishop' Kyrill (Esposito), reputedly consecrated by Pangratios in 1999."** This would be the same man listed as "H. Ex., Rt. Rev. Bishop Kyrill (Esposito), Vicar Bishop of the Archdiocese" on the archdiocesan directory of the Milan Synod, Keller's longtime ecclesiastical home.

Blanco has dishonored the term "Orthodox" too long; good men would not aid them.

* - I've the Milan Synod claimed it had ordained him as a bishop and that he denied (or obscured) that ordination when applying to the OCA.

** - Incidentally, Dennis "Kyrill" Esposito is also listed as a professed lay member of the Roman Catholic "Third Order of Carmelites" (an "Isolate Member" of the "Most Pure Heart of Mary Province"), as well as Chaplain General for the Most Honourable Order of Christian Knights of the Rose. Here's a picture of his coat-of-arms. (I guess it really is all about SCA.)


Pseudodox Monastery Busted for Molestation...Again

Last Monday, heroic Texas law enforcement officers raided the Christ of the Hills "monastery" in Blanco, Texas, home of a fraudulent "weeping icon." After a reported confession by the Pseudodox group's founder, Samuel A. ("Fr. Benedict") Greene, the 35 officers charged several Blanco "monks" with sexual assault and organized crime. In addition to prior acknowledged child molestors Greene and Jonathan ("Fr. Jeremiah") Hitt:

charged Monday was the monastery's abbot, William E. Hughes, 55, aka Father Vasili; Walter P. Christley, 44, aka Father Pangratios; and Hugh Brian Fallon, 40, aka Father Tihkon; said [Blanco County Sherriff Bill] Elsbury.

"A1 [one of the boys - BJ] in his recorded statement described actual orgy situations," says the affidavit, referring to the complainant....

The boys in question were young novices staying at the monastery in the 1990s, one of them 14-years-old at the time. Elsbury says Greene confessed to a 30-year history of pederasty.

The organized crime charge stems from the fact that officers say Greene also admitted the monastery's "weeping icon" was a fraud, part of a marketing plan that netted the accused up to $750,000 a year:

Besides naming the two boys tracked down by investigators, Elsbury said Greene confirmed suspicions that the picture of the Virgin Mary that was said to weep tears of rose oil was a fake.

"The whole thing is going to be exposed as a sham," the sheriff said. "They just put the tear drops on there themselves and then got all these people making donations trying to get some kind of miracle cure."

Police say they also confiscated child pornography from the premises. See revolting mug shots of the accused here.

Allegations had flown since the group's founding -- in hindsight, with much merit -- but initial charges were filed against Greene and Hitt in 1999; Elsbury says the initial investigation has never closed, and he expects to find yet more Blanco victims. Despite all this, some faithful still stand beside them in disbelief. (As Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time....")

Although Greene is said to have admitted all this to his probation officer, he had the gall to plead not guilty at his arraignment yesterday, along with all his co-defendants. According to to this story, today is William "Fr. Pangratios" Christley's 45th birthday; I hope this year, he gets justice.

What are the lessons to be learned from this seven-year-long sordid tale, whether a conviction follows this instance or not? For one, never visit, recommend, or allow others to visit monasteries or clerics with a history of child molestation. Those who brought others to a monastery known to house convicted (or even accused) child molestors, or failed to warn others about it, have no place in any position of spiritual authority within the Orthodox Church. Second, although there are undoubtedly many good souls involved with it, the unregulated nature of the episcopoi vagante movement attracts predators (x2), fakirs, the mentally ill (x2), self-promoters (x2), and con men -- as Peter Anson pointed out decades ago. Finally, the monastery achieved such prominence because of its (fraudulent) "weeping icon," which illustrates the easily exploited human yearning for "spooky religion." We do well to divest ourselves of the search for "signs and wonders" -- which Christ condemned as signs of weak faith and selfishness feigning piety -- and cultivate a hearty love for the "mundane" worship of the local canonical Orthodox Church. It's far from foolproof, but the Church has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, something probably lacking at "Christ of the Hills" in Blanco.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

The KJV vs. Receptionism

Pastor William Weedon has, as always, written an insightful analysis of modern Bibles as seen through the lens of a single verse. Pastor Weedon notes the King James Version all-but-alone opposes the heresy of Receptionism (e.g., the Westminster Confession of Faith, 29:7):

The passage at issue is 1 Corinthians 11:20. The difficulty arises from the mistranslation of an infinitive. The KJV is quite accurate here: “For when ye come together therefore in one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” The point of the verse is to reveal the problem in the Corinthian Church: the people were gathering together, well enough; but they were gathering together for the wrong reason...

But most modern versions simply lose this entire nuance and instead foster a most pernicious doctrine. Take the ESV [English Standard Version-BJ] as a case in point: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat.” The NIV [Not Inspired Version New Intl. Version-BJ] is substantially the same...What the ESV and NIV put forward is that the Corinthians’ ill behavior has the power to destroy the Supper. What they are eating is then NOT the Lord’s Supper because they are abusing this meal. But this is utter nonsense. It quite misses the point that it was the Supper that was most certainly being celebrated, even to the point that their misuse was sickening and killing them (vs. 30). The Lord’s Body and Blood were there whether they behaved rudely and cruelly to one another or not.

Which two modern versions does Pastor Weedon say also get the meaning of this verse right? You'll have to read his article to find out.

(Hat tip: Orthophile)