Testimony - Former Monk Mamas

Dear Vladyka Alypy,

The Rev. Fr. Hieromonk Gregory (George) of Denver has asked me to write you -- and, through you, to all the Bishops of the Holy Synod -- concerning the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, namely, concerning my experiences there and my knowledge of the irregularities practiced there. As you know, I lived at the Holy Transfiguration Monastery for about 15 years and have intimate knowledge of the Monastery's inner life and of Fr. Panteleimon, the abbot, and his methods of governing his monks. It would require many pages to write with exactness about these things, and therefore I think you would prefer that I set down only what directly relates to the Synod's inquiry into the affairs of the Monastery.

Having prolonged, first-hand experience, and having carefully observed Fr. Panteleimon over many years, from what I myself have undergone I can state the following with certainty: in order to satisfy his own desires and to gain full control over the minds and souls of his novices and monks Fr. Panteleimon employs means commonly called 'homosexual advances', using both his hands and his mouth upon the genitals of his monks and novices. I shall now endeavour to describe the course and purpose of his actions.

Fr. Panteleimon carefully cultivates among his novices and monks the concept of absolute obedience to the 'elder' (staretz), i.e. himself. He does this by his own interpretations of the Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers and by pointing to certain patristic statements found chiefly in the Ladder of Divine Ascent (e.g. 4:121, "It is better to sin against God than against our father"). Novices and monks are led to believe that total obedience is a monk's only pat into the Kingdom of Heaven and that a monk can gain access to God only through his 'elder';* they are led to believe that their belief in God and their belief in their 'elder' are one and the same; they are led to believe that if they disobey their 'elder' by any action or even thought, they have disobeyed and betrayed God and are therefore no better than atheists unless they repent, that is, obey.

Now when Fr. Panteleimon becomes convinced that a novice or monk believes this teaching of absolute obedience, he is able to do whatever he wishes. He makes sexual advances towards the unsuspecting, trusting, 'obedient' novice or monk, assuring the latter that by his actions he (Fr. Panteleimon) is manifesting true spiritual love and that he is also cleansing the novice or monk from carnal desire, thus making him spiritual.

In my own case, I remember that he presented these homosexual advances as a kind of sublime mystery, a secret teaching revealed only to a few great saints, which, apparently, include his starets Joseph on the Holy Mountain Athos, St. Symeon the New Theologian, and other 'mystics'. He offered St. John the Theologian, who leaned "on the breast" of Christ, as the perfect example of a novice's love for his 'elder' (it is apparent that he believes St. John to have had sexual contact with Jesus Christ, as being the "beloved disciple"-- of course what is called sexual contact here is, for Fr. Panteleimon, spiritual contact). Fr. Panteleimon thus expounded to me this bizarre doctrine of 'spiritual sexuality', portraying it as a secret and speedy way for a monk to draw near to Christ and to become pure. Then he proceeded to make sexual contact with me, assuring me that if I trusted him, I would be raised to a more spiritual state, being a 'true disciple', a true follower of Christ like St. John. In addition, he claimed that his sexual contact with me would purify me from any sexual contact I might have had with women while still being a layman in the world. The reasoning here was that what he was doing was a holy action, and that only a holy physical act could negate a sinful physical act. **Being presented with these arguments, and obliged to obey Fr. Panteleimon in everything, I did not physically resist Fr. Panteleimon when he began to make sexual contact with me; inwardly, however, I felt a great repulsion. Fr. Panteleimon, of course, being a clever person, perceived that I was repulsed and spent a great deal of time preaching to me that my repulsion was caused by my lack of spirituality, by my carnal state. I had to obey, but continued to be repulsed whenever he chose to have sexual contact with me over the course of quite a few years. It was precisely the inner turmoil created in me by his actions that Fr. Panteleimon used to gain psychological control over me; with many other monks he did the same.

A normal novice or monk cannot help feeling repulsion at Fr. Panteleimon's actions; but, on the other hand, to be obedient he must force himself to believe his 'elder's' teaching, namely that his repulsion is due to the fact that he is still carnal and passionate, and that, furthermore, by feeling repulsion, he is rejecting the true, 'spiritual' love that Fr. Panteleimon has for him. As a result of this, the novice or monk is crushed by and intense feeling of guilt. The importance of this guilt cannot be overstressed. This guilt creates a kind of inner tyranny through which Fr. Panteleimon, as the cause and source of the guilt, becomes master of the novice's or monk's soul. The mastery created by the novice's or monk's belief in absolute obedience is the result of a voluntary commitment: the novice or monk himself chooses to believe in it. The mastery of guilt, on the other hand, is an involuntary slavery, and therefore the novice or monk is held by the bonds of terror; terror, because he cannot control his feelings or repulsion, which is always detected by Fr. Panteleimon. The grip of this fear of Fr. Panteleimon cause the novice or monk to tremble at the shadow of his 'elder', always feeling guilty about anything he does 'independently', always being unsure of himself, always feeling that Fr. Panteleimon somehow knows every blameworthy thought he has, and always looking towards Fr. Panteleimon to receive approval for what he is doing in order to be freed of guilt. Needless to say, Fr. Panteleimon carefully withholds such approval, it is being like the proverbial carrot before the donkey, and so the novice or monk spends his entire monastic life reaching out helplessly towards the 'elder' Fr. Panteleimon. In this manner Fr. Panteleimon gains control over the novice's or monk's mind and soul. This is his chief goal, and he does everything possible to retain his position of power and control.

If, however, the novice or monk is not normal and is given to latent or overt homosexual tendencies (as Fr. Panteleimon himself seems to be), then, in response to Fr. Panteleimon's homosexual advances, he is caught up in a confused state of homosexual love for Fr. Panteleimon. By giving and taking away his affections, Fr. Panteleimon likewise gains control over this sort of novice's or monk's soul, since the novice or monk is always reaching out towards him to receive a sign of affection.

In this manner, either through guilt or through confused homosexual love, Fr. Panteleimon strives to gain psychological control over his monks and novices. To preserve it he requires a daily "confession of thoughts" (something practiced, though for different reasons, at the Optina Hermitage and at various places on the Holy Mountain), watching carefully for any independent thoughts, feelings or actions in his enslaved monks. I lived many years under this tyranny. Countless times I have witnessed his violent rage when one of his monks showed any signs of independent thinking, because he knew that independent thinking, of any kind, would eventually break the spell of his domination. Needless to say, it is during the so-called "confession of thoughts" that Fr. Panteleimon makes his sexual advances.

Monks and novices whom Fr. Panteleimon has singled out for sexual contact are secretly given special privileges, gifts, and other gratifications so that they will cling the more to him and feel how much they benefit by obeying him. For example, I remember one special 'privilege' he tried to bestow on me: he called it the great gift of parrhsía". As you know, Vladyka, in Greek patristic texts this word has a very special meaning, namely, it is the state wherein a holy person is so close to God that he can "speak freely" with Him (e.g. Moses in the Old Testament). Well, Fr. Panteleimon told me that if I ever wanted anything from him at all, all I needed to do was to put my hand on his genitals and ask for it, and he would grant it. I thanked him for this "greatest of gifts", but never used the privilege.

To sum up what I have said, Fr. Panteleimon does not simply indulge himself in certain homosexual acts. Rather, what is more serious by far, he uses these homosexual advances to gain control over the minds and souls of his monks and novices and monks, those, I mean, whom he feels have sufficiently believed his teachings about absolute obedience. In this manner Fr. Pantelimon makes his monastery a cult, and he himself is the leader of the cult. His monks and novices are led to believe that the bond of fear they live under is the bond of sanctification and holiness (the "light and easy yoke" of Christ), that by obeying him in everything they are certain to be saved. No bishop, no Church, no Scriptures can come between him and his monks and novices because, in a very real sense, he has taken the place of God and the Church for them; such, indeed, is the definition of a 'cult'. I should also say that the cult extends outside the Monastery. He accomplishes this by setting himself and his monastery as the embodiment of the True Faith, and those who blindly follow him and his monks are led to believe that they are on the true and only path to God. Whatever kinds of sins they commit, all will be forgiven, if only they remain loyal to the cult, i.e. to the Monastery and its spiritual guide (which are identical to the Church).

Believe me, Vladyka, there is a great deal more I could write concerning Fr. Panteleimon and the inner life of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, but I think that this is, for the present, a sufficient response to Fr. Gregory's request. I should add, however, that although Fr. Panteleimon is very clever, his methods do not always work: a good number of monks have left his monastery, having been spiritually and psychologically destroyed by him, or else, because they came to their senses and understood what a life they were living. Further, I can testify that there are many among the monks who remain in the Holy Transfiguration Monastery who have lost all interest in, all desire for, the spiritual life for which monasticism was originally instituted in the Church.

It is clear that only those monks who have broken away from Fr. Panteleimon's grasp will speak; those inside the Monastery will never speak (for either they do not know what goes on or, if they do, they are bound by a kind of psychological terror only found among cults). Therefore, whenever any novice or monk leaves the Monastery, Fr. Panteleimon carefully explains to all the remaining brotherhood, whether publicly or in private, how the departed brother was spiritually deluded, immoral, proud, and so on, but how he (Fr. Panteleimon) nevertheless loved him with all his heart (like Christ, no doubt!). He also tells the same things to the chief members of the Monastery cult found in the parishes, that is, 'his' priests (especially the Greek ones); I myself have heard this process of 'disinformatzia' *** many, many times. Thus, if a novice or monk who leaves the Monastery should say anything about the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, he will not be believed; his words are proof of his spiritual delusion.

No one, Fr. Gregory included, who has left the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, has had such exact and prolonged knowledge of the affairs of the Monastery as have I. You can be certain, Vladyka, that every evil has been related about me. This does not concern me; I have no wish to defend myself against accusations, and I lay no claim to perfect virtue. Unless Fr. Gregory had asked me, I would not have written what I have now written, for in truth I bear no ill will towards the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, although I believe that much spiritual harm is done there.

I should say, however, on my own behalf, that I should have applied to the Holy Synod of Bishops before leaving the Monastery; but knowing Fr. Panteleimon's remarkable ability to distort the truth, and having seen what happened to other monks who attempted this means of escape, I felt that such an endeavor on my part would only have resulted in greater harm done to myself and others. I now take the opportunity to ask your forgiveness for this and, through you, the forgiveness of all the Bishops of the Holy Synod, many of whom I know personally. I should also say that I am ready at any time to give personal testimony concerning these things to the Holy Synod, if the Bishops so desire.

Asking your Archpastoral blessings

with love in Christ

The former Mamas, monk



*As a result, Fr. Panteleimon frequently derides the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville: the Russian monks do not have total obedience to an 'elder' and therefore are not true monks, dead to the world and to themselves.

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