Source: Orthodox Christian Laity
The Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) Board of Directors announces the adoption of the following Resolutions at its recently concluded Board Meeting, February 10-12, 2017:
“OCL respectfully calls upon the Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to enforce its own Regulations relating to the Monasteries operating under its auspices in the United States; that each Metropolitan who has monasteries within his Metropolis require full compliance by those monasteries with the letter and spirit of those Regulations; and, that all information concerning the operations of those monasteries, including but not limited to financial disclosures, be made public.
“OCL respectfully calls upon the Assembly of Bishops to request that all jurisdictions that have not yet done so adopt regulations regarding monasteries in the United States requiring transparency and accountability in financial reporting and Hierarchical oversight of theological teachings; that the Assembly encourage full compliance by those monasteries with the letter and spirit of those Regulations; and, that information relating to the well-being of the Church be made public.”
The Resolutions were adopted after the Board reviewed the provisions of the “General Regulations for the Establishment and Operation of Holy Monasteries in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America” [Protocol #95] issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on February 16, 2005. The Regulations are set forth in the Official Documents of the Archdiocese on the website of the Archdiocese (goarch.org).
Article 4 of the Regulations sets forth the “Rights and Duties of the Metropolitan” which include: “…the highest oversight” and “The auditing of the financial records of the Monastery.”
Article 14 requires the permission of the local Metropolitan for the construction of buildings.
Article 15 (b) requires Monasteries to “contribute financial assistance to the local Metropolis and the Archdiocese for the benefit of the Church and the community.” (c) requires every monastery to submit to the Metropolis a financial report for the previous year and a budget for the coming year.’ (e) requires each Monastery to judiciously maintain financial records “detailing the exact daily income and expenditures, as well as documents pertaining to their entities.”
Article 16 (d) states: “The Monastery Sanctuary is not a parish church. As such, the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage is fully prohibited in Monasteries of the Archdiocese…. In special cases, the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation may be conducted in the Monasteries, provided there is a compelling reason that is deemed acceptable by the local Metropolitan, who grants the requisite episcopal permission for the celebration of the Sacrament and issues the proper certificate. In any case, the registration of such Baptism and/or Chrismation shall be done in the official books of the parish to which the one baptized or chrismated (anointed) belongs.”
The OCL is a pan-Orthodox educational and advocacy ministry formed in 1987 whose purposes are:
“To advocate the restoration and strengthening of the historic role of the laity in the conciliar governance of the Orthodox Christian Church in the United States; to support the spiritual renewal and regeneration of the Orthodox Christian Church in the United States in its Apostolic Mission; to advocate and promote transparency and accountability in the governance of the Orthodox Christian Church in the United States; and to advocate and champion the establishment of an administratively and canonically unified self-governing autocephalous Orthodox Christian Church in the United States.”
OCL will hold its 30th Annual Conference in Chicago, October 27-29, 2017. For more information contact, George E. Matsoukas, Executive Director at (561) 585-0245 or [email protected].
Are there “regulations” in other countries regarding the operation of the monasteries? Is there a problem with our monasteries?
Prior to the “Latinization” of the Celtic church many lay communities formed around the monasteries. The monastery was the parish. Celtic spirituality of that time mirrored the East.
Unlike the early Celtic church, the communities near and around these monasteries are not “lay” communities, they are “church” communities. The laity attend these church communities and uses their facilities and clergy to baptize their children, to marry, and to bury their loved ones.
It’s been reported that some monastic communities are usurping the role and responsibility of the local parish church and luring the laity for such sacraments as baptism and marriage. And in some instances the monks and nuns of these institution have a cult-like stranglehold on some of the more vulnerable faithful. Generally, this has been unprecedented in this country.
Brothers & Sisters of the OCL,
I wrote in another area (Tradition Without Fundamentalism) concerning the deleterious effects that the “Ephraimite” style of Monasteries are having upon the cross-jurisdictional parish communities in the United States. Here I would like to speak to one item in particular, the Aerial Toll House heresy, that the Ephraimite Monasteries are actively promoting. They even just published a 1000 page book teaching this heresy.
In a nutshell, the false teaching alleges that upon death, the soul undergoes a journey through a number of “Toll Houses” where the demons of Hell examine particular sins of the person at each toll house. If the person can successfully give an account , then he/she can pass through and go to the next Toll House. If a person can pass through each Toll House, THEN they can proceed to Paradise. Ephraimites teach that “Blind obedience” to your priest, abbot, spiritual father, will give you a free pass through these Toll-houses. One can easily imagine how that could be exploited by self-aggrandizing ilks of base character.
This falsehood, indeed this heresy, this lie, completely insults Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for us. This falsehood, this heresy, this lie, puts the demons as our judge, and not the Lord. This falsehood, this heresy, this lie, dismisses the incredible phenomenon known as “grace”. Each liturgy we pray for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ – not the demons. Christ is our judge. And when we all face Him (indeed an intense event) our only defense, our only hope, is being released on a technicality – for what excuse can we give for sinning? Adam tried blaming Eve as his excuse. Didn’t work for him. It won’t work for us. Our only hope then is the technicality known as Divine Grace, through which (as scripture clearly states) we are saved. Indeed, as Orthodox Christians, this should not be news to us. There is no teaching of Aerial Toll Houses in Scripture, in Canons, in the Funeral Service, etcetera.
The proponents of this heresy clearly show their ego by:
1. Distorting Scripture to suggest that this teaching is there.
2. Using vague and ambiguous statements from certain saints to suggest “the Fathers and Saints teach this”
In some sense, they use this as a type of secret knowledge of what awaits us. This is a modern-day form of the Gnostic heresy.
I could go on. But let me only highlight on last item. The Monastery in Florence, AZ just published a book that is over 1000 pages long, alleging that Aerial Toll Houses are true and part of Orthodox beliefs. I don’t think doctoral dissertations are that long. To make matters worse, there are Orthodox Hierarchs that have foolishly given their endorsement of the book – as printed therein. This does not represent the dogma of the Orthodox Christian Church.
Let me predict something: The Protestant Church leadership (or some other Christian denomination) will get a hold of that book, and there will begin a campaign alleging that Orthodox Christians believe salvation is in the hands of demons. If you think people have left our Church now – “you aint seen nuthin’ yet!” There will be a profound exodus of people that is beyond what is already happening. Even those who think that this is merely a metaphor, or “theologoumenon” should re-evaluate and not give such credit to this profound insult and distortion. This heresy should not be given a foolish “de facto” endorsement either.
Here is a scholarly document refuting this teaching: https://www.doaks.org/resources/publications/dumbarton-oaks-papers/dop55/dp55ch06.pdf
The Dumbarton Oaks Papers are held in very high esteem amongst scholarly circles. While profane people like me point to simple and obvious truths, this scholarly approach by Dr. Nicholas Constas (now known as the Priest-Monk Maximos from Mount Athos) examines every minutia of detail and presents his conclusion that this is a false teaching.
I honor and respect the Parish Community as a place and source of holiness. I also honor and respect the same in unadulterated and healthy Monasticism (as is the case with the deeply respected Priest-Monk Maximos, and others). That is why I will speak out on anything that is of concern. I believe it is my responsibility as a human to speak the truth. Otherwise I would feel guilty of passively allowing a falsehood to continue. Please join me in addressing this. Do not be afraid to speak the Truth, even when it is uncomfortable. I read somewhere that: “Truth plus one person equals the majority”. That may take time, but that is the side I choose to be on. Ultimately the masses will discover that. The Lord knows. May He send us the Grace we need to overcome this evil challenge as we have historically overcome other ones. I believe the Lord does that through people like you and me.