Thursday, April 30, 2009

Moldavian Miracle

[This unusual phenomenon is very similar to one that I observed in the Monastery of the Prophet Elias in Patras, Greece. There Elder Gervasios Paraskevopoulos planted three trees and when they were going to cut them down years later crucifixes also appeared within all three with a Byzantine-style to them. Miraculous healings have also been attributed to those Crosses. This one is particularly unusual for being red and having what looks like a candle on top of the Cross formation. It's hard to label something like this a miracle, especially when we should avoid seeing the supernatural in things that may be natural (like an image of Jesus on a piece of toast or of the Virgin Mary on a foggy window or a Cross in the clouds) lest we be ridiculed and give forth a false testimony without discernment. But there is power in the Cross and great blessing, so at the very least I would consider this a blessed tree and, like the Crosses of Elder Gervasios in Patras, are worthy of veneration. -J.S.]


Moldavian Villageners Saw Images of Cross and Burning Candle in a Tree Cut


Chisinau, April 28, Interfax – Resident of Moldavian village Kodryany cut down an old ash-tree and in the cut he saw a drawing very similar to images of a cross and a burning candle.

“It’s usually very easy to cut down a tree, and here I was facing a difficulty. And spilling wasn’t white as usual, but bright red. It was very difficult to cut it, but when I did, I looked at the cut and oh good heaven: there was a scarlet cross and a burning candle below it! I was shocked!” Pavel Boyko was quoted as saying by the Moldavian edition of the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.

Members of the Boyko family are believers and frequent churchgoers and like their ancestors, they chant in a church choir.

According to Pavel’s daughter Anzhela, when they called for Fr. Sergy, rector of St. Nicholas church located nearby, the priest stared at the drawing for a long time and then said, “It is the Epiphany.”

Fr. Sergy made a picture and then send it to his ruling bishop.

“I don’t know what to think about this phenomenon. I’ve seen this before, in Ukraine, in the Vinnitsa Region. I reported everything to the Dean, and they told me that I should keep this cut in the church. Perhaps, it’s a sign from God. We hope that it’s a good sign,” the priest says.

Meanwhile pilgrims started coming to the Boyko house. People are arriving from neighboring villages to see the alleged miracle.

Orthodox Christian Rock Band To Tour With Rammstein


[Bands featuring Orthodox priests and monks seem to be getting a bit popular these days. A few years ago a group from the monastery of Fr. Nektarios Moulatsiotis in Greece, called Free Monks or more commonly Paparokades (rocking priests) reached huge success, and more recently a band known as Exorcist is becoming quite popular in Russia lead by Hieromonk Vladimir Gusev. Even though I do have problems with monks and priests being performers in concerts, I must say their music is pretty good, in a weird way (in my opinion). They claim to do it for a greater good by giving Orthodoxy greater exposure to the youth, but the role of a monk and priest is very exclusive in Orthodox tradition and the performance aspect of these bands and their immense popularity can also be a cause of scandal and invite many temptations. I'm particularly impressed by the music of Exorcist however, as I am a big fan of Industrial Dance Heavy Metal. One of the most popular bands of the genre is the controversial band Rammstein. I first heard of Rammstein back in the late 1990's when the movie Lost Highway was released and I bought the soundtrack, and their music (sung mainly in German) was very impressive and I have been a fan since. Now they are touring together with Exorcist. Should be interesting. But as far as this new Orthodox rock music is concerned, I would say that it is better for the world to conform to the Church rather than the Church to the world. It seems Gusev is a bit controversial as well, having been brought to trial back in 1997 for his extreme antisemitism. Gusev said that "Judaism does not have any positive conception in the Christian sense" and he identified Hasidic and Ashkenazic Jews as members of totalitarian sects that "kill children, gather their blood, and use it to make matzah" - the infamous "blood libel" charge. He further warned, "The Jews should not celebrate Hannukah because it can insult the religious feelings of the Christians." -J.S.]



Listen to a sample song and see a track listing of their album here.

Gallery of photos can be seen here.

Videos of the lead singer, Hieromonk Vladimir Gusev, doing exorcisms are here.

MySpace page here.


Rammstein Producers Welcome Russian Rock Band Playing Heavy Rock With Orthodox Texts

Moscow, April 27, 2009 - Interfax – Producers of the Rammstein band invited musicians playing Orthodox prayers in the style of heavy metal to their festival.

“Our texts are directed against destruction and backed up by Orthodox prayers interlaced with industrial heavy rock. It affected Rammstein producers, Americans, and they invited us to participate in their festival. There was nothing like this before,” said famous actor Nikita Jigurda to Interfax-Religion as he has become a soloist of the Exorcist rock band.

According to Jigurda, the project in heavy metal style is made “to attract young generation and draw them back from the Satan rock where heavy rhythms are accompanied with destructive texts.”

“We want to cooperate with the entire Orthodox Church because only together we can get through to the youngsters looking for strength, but unfortunately find it in Satanic groups. We created an alternative to pull young souls back and with Cross in hands show them the way to Christ, to love, to the revival of Russia dreamt by the Orthodox Church, best musicians and people of Russia,” Jigurda said.

The actor and musician noted there were teenagers “who first heard Orthodox prayers at a heavy rock concert and were amazed.”

“We created a project to exorcise demons. We have heavy esthetics, we say we are youth- oriented not to let them march directly to hell and the devil,” the soloist believes.

Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism


Creating an Insult to Intelligence

By Melanie Phillips

Wednesday, 29th April 2009

The Spectator

Listening to the Today programme this morning, I was irritated once again by yet another misrepresentation of Intelligent Design as a form of Creationism. In an item on the growing popularity of Intelligent Design, John Humphrys interviewed Professor Ken Miller of Brown University in the US who spoke on the subject last evening at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge. Humphrys suggested that Intelligent Design might be considered a kind of middle ground between Darwinism and Creationism. Miller agreed but went further, saying that Intelligent Design was: "nothing more than an attempt to repackage good old-fashioned Creationism and make it more palatable."

But this is totally untrue. Miller referred to a landmark US court case in 2005, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which did indeed uphold the argument that Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism in its ruling that teaching Intelligent Design violated the constitutional ban against teaching religion in public schools. But the court was simply wrong, doubtless because it had heard muddled testimony from the likes of Prof Miller.

Whatever the ramifications of the specific school textbooks under scrutiny in the Kitzmiller/Dover case, the fact is that Intelligent Design not only does not come out of Creationism but stands against it. This is because Creationism comes out of religion while Intelligent Design comes out of science. Creationism, whose proponents are Bible literalists, is a specific doctrine which holds that the earth was literally created in six days. Intelligent Design, whose proponents are mainly scientists, holds that the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter, which could not have developed spontaneously from nothing.

The confusion arises partly out of ignorance, with people lazily confusing belief in a Creator with Creationism. But belief in a Creator is common to all people of monotheistic faith — with many scientists amongst them — the vast majority of whom would regard Creationism as totally ludicrous. In coming to the conclusion that a governing intelligence must have been responsible for the ultimate origin of matter, Intelligent Design proponents are essentially saying there must have been a creator. The difference between them and people of religious faith is that ID proponents do not necessarily believe in a personalised Creator, or God.

As a result, both Creationists and many others of religious faith disdain Intelligent Design, just as ID proponents think Creationism is totally off the wall. Yet the two continue to be conflated. And ignorance is only partly responsible for the confusion, since militant evangelical atheists deliberately conflate Intelligent Design with Creationism in order to smear and discredit ID and its adherents.

On Today, Humphrys perfectly reasonably pressed Miller further. If ID was merely a disguised form of Creationism, he asked, why were so many intelligent people prepared to accept ID but not Creationism? Miller replied: "Intelligent people can sometimes be wrong."

Indeed; and it is Prof Miller who is wrong. Creationism and Intelligent Design are two completely different ways of looking at the world; and you don’t have to subscribe to either to realise the untruth that is being propagated — and the wrong that is being done to people’s reputations — by the pretence that they are connected.

Does Intelligent Design Make Scientifically Fruitful Predictions?


Absolutely. To cite just one example, the non-functionality of “junk DNA” was predicted by Susumu Ohno (1972), Richard Dawkins (1976), Crick and Orgel (1980), Pagel and Johnstone (1992), and Ken Miller (1994), based on evolutionary presuppositions. In contrast, on teleological grounds, Michael Denton (1986, 1998), Michael Behe (1996), John West (1998), William Dembski (1998), Richard Hirsch (2000), and Jonathan Wells (2004) predicted that “junk DNA” would be found to be functional.

The Intelligent Design predictions are being confirmed and the Darwinist predictions are being falsified. For instance, ENCODE’s June 2007 results show substantial functionality across the genome in such “junk DNA” regions, including pseudogenes.

Thus, it is a matter of simple fact that scientists working in the ID paradigm carry out and publish research, and they have made significant and successful ID-based predictions.

A more general and long term prediction of ID is that the complexity of living things will be shown to be much higher than currently thought. Darwin thought the cell was a relatively simple blob of gelatinous carbon. He was wrong. We now known the cell is a high-tech information processing system, with superbly functionally integrated machinery, error-correction-and-repair systems, and much more that surpasses the most sophisticated efforts of the best human mathematicians, mechanical, electrical, chemical, and software engineers. The prediction that living systems will turn out to be vastly more complicated than previously thought (and thus much less likely to have evolved through naturalistic means) will continue to be verified in the years to come.

Orthodoxy or Death?



[Something I thought was pretty funny, even though this came from a website determined to negate the influence of Orthodoxy in Greece and reinstate the status of paganism as it was in ancient Greece. I guess I find humor in this because it is a bit stereotypical, but there is a lesson to be learned as well - Christians must take care to not invite scandal in any form, otherwise you may become the subject of a very funny joke (or picture). Oh, and furthermore, if you hold a sign that says "Orthodoxy or Death", don't hold something in your hand that actually shows you are choosing DEATH. -J.S.]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saints Jason and Sosipater the Apostles

Sts. Jason and Sosipater the Apostles - Commemorated on April 29th (or in some places, April 28th); the two icons above are from their church in Kerkyra and are from the 1600's.


These Saints and Apostles of the first century, celebrated today, I found to be interesting because of the archaeology that supports their history as enlighteners of the island of Kerkyra (known also as Corfu).

They arrived on the island of Kerkyra about 40 AD and we are told they are responsible for Christianizing the island, one of the first cities in all of Greece to be Christianized.

We are told they built a church dedicated to Saint Stephen the Protomartyr. If true this means that even the apostles built churches and dedicated them to martyrs and saints. Possible evidence for this lies in the fact that many streets and locations in the area are named after Saint Stephen (Agios Stephanos).

Furthermore, the church currently named after Saints Jason and Sosipater is the only church from the Roman Empire (built around 1000 AD) on the island and it is built on top of an older church built centuries earlier, probably from the first century according to archaeologists, that bear inscriptions with the names of the two Apostles. On top of that, the church claims to even contain the relics of the Saints inside the church [the heads of the Apostles are in Hosios Loukas Monastery near Thebes]. The current church was the katholikon of a monastery in Roman times. Katherine, wife of Thomas Palaiologos (brother of the last Roman Emperor, Constantine XI), sought refuge in this monastery when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453.



The Life and Ministry of the Holy Apostles Jason and Sosipater and the Virgin-Martyr Kerkyra

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The first two were among the Seventy Apostles, and the last was the daughter of the king of the island of Corfu. The Apostle Paul mentions Jason and Sosipater (Rom. 16:21), and calls them his kinsmen.

Jason was born in Tarsus, as was the Apostle Paul himself, and Sosipater in Achaea. The first was nominated by the Apostles as Bishop of Tarsus and the second as Bishop of Iconium.

Travelling and preaching the Gospel, these two apostles came to the island of Corfu, where they succeeded in building a church dedicated to St Stephen the Protomartyr and in bringing some unbelievers to the Church.

The king of the island [Kerkylinus] threw them into prison, where there were seven robbers already imprisoned: Satorninus, Jakischolus, Faustian, Januarius, Marsalus, Euphrasius and Mamminus. The apostles brought all seven of them to the Christian faith, making wolves into lambs. The king commanded that these seven be put to death in boiling pitch, and they thus received the wreath of martyrdom.

When, after this, the king was in process of questioning the apostles, his daughter Kerkyra, looking through a window, saw the torture of these men of God and, discovering the reason for it, proclaimed herself a Christian and gave all her jewels away to the poor. The king was filled with wrath against his daughter and shut her up in a separate prison, then, failing to turn her from Christ, ordered that the prison be burned down. The prison burned to the ground, but the maiden remained alive. Seeing this wonder, many of the people were baptized. The furious king ordered that his daughter be bound to a tree and killed with arrows.

Those who had come to believe in Christ fled from the terrible king to a nearby island and hid themselves. The king set off in a boat to arrest them, but his boat overturned in the sea and thus the unrighteous perished, as Pharaoh aforetime.

The new king accepted the Christian faith and was baptized, receiving the name Sebastian. Jason and Sosipater freely preached the Gospel and strengthened the Church of God in Corfu to great old age [some say Sosipater was martyred before the death of Jason by being burned to death], and there finished their earthly course and went to the courts of the Lord.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostles, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
Being illuminated with the teachings of Paul, ye became luminaries unto the whole world, O thrice-blessed ones; for ye ever shine upon the world with miracles, O Jason, thou fountain of healings, and Sosipater, thou glory of the Martyrs of Christ. O God-bearing Apostles, ye protectors of them that be in need, entreat God that our souls be saved.


The Roman church of Saints Jason and Sosipater. The building dates roughly to the year 1000, but two recessed inscriptions on the two sides of the central entry tell us that it would have been constructed on the site of an older monument. The previous church may have possibly been destroyed during the Slavic invasions a few decades earlier.

The church of Sts. Jason and Sosipater on Kerkyra (supposedly the sole church of Roman architecture on the island). Here are preserved relics of Sts. Jason and Sosipater (their skulls are in the Monastery of Hosios Loukas in mainland Greece), and I believe also the tomb of the martyred prison guard, St. Anthony, honored as one of the first martyrs of the island.

Orthodox Church Vandalized in Dracut, MA




[Last week I posted a blog on the rise of Satanic and ritualistic crimes. Yesterday I went to go view an incident that occurred last weekend in Dracut, Massachusetts near Lowell at an Orthodox Church and have posted some pictures above. Someone came a spray painted a bunch of swastikas and expletives, as well as painted the face of the devil. Are these people Satanists? I don't know, but it can definately be categorized as a Satanic cime. The whole thing is sad because just a few years before, this same church was vandalized and the white paint that covered that is still visible in the front of the church. At least this time everything happened in the rear of the church. But what is worse is that this beautiful church was recently built after the previous church burned down in 1999. Unfortunately even if all this graffiti is covered up, the scars will always remain visible to remind people. -J.S.]

DRACUT CHURCH VANDALIZED: 'It destroys the spirit'

Graffiti latest case of harassment against parish

By David Perry,
dperry@lowellsun.com

Updated: 04/27/2009

DRACUT -- Nearly 10 years to the day after a fire destroyed Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell's Acre neighborhood, staff and parishioners arrived at services yesterday morning to find swastikas, obscenities and other messages of hate and intolerance spray-painted across the back of the Dracut church that rose from the ashes at 1160 Mammoth Road.

You" were scrawled in black paint, and swastikas and other markings were formed, apparently, to make the shape of a devil's head. Also scrawled in the mix were the letters "fsu."

Saying the church has been "constantly harassed" over the past few years, the Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Clapsis stood in the parking lot behind the church and pointed to the handiwork of hate.

The priest said he suspects the incident happened "most probably" on Saturday night.
Thanks to earlier vandalism, some of the parish's back windows are pocked with holes and shattered, the front entrance's coffee-colored stucco walls of the Byzantine structure are peppered with white filler, from holes made there.

They've had graffiti before, long since covered and repainted.

But nothing like this.

"Now it is not a matter of harassment anymore, but a hate crime," said the priest calmly, gazing at the wall. "And now it is not only us, but the public and community of Dracut that this affects. It destroys the spirit in the community."

"I think the community is going to have to take this very seriously," said Sen. Steve Panagiotakos, who arrived at the church yesterday to survey the damage. "This kind of incident is hateful, hurtful behavior, and it can't be tolerated."

"Things have been calm lately," said Nikitas Flaris, the parish president. "And then this."

Flaris said he learned of the crime yesterday at about 9 a.m.

Pointing to scraped handrails, Flaris said he has chased off skateboarding kids in the past. Signs prohibiting skateboarders have been posted on the property, and sometimes torn down, said Flaris.

"Someone is going to get killed here someday," he said, pointing to steep stairs in back "that they use to jump off."

But officials said no one was ready to blame skateboarding teens for the crime.

"This is something different," said Clapsis.

Flaris said Dracut police have said in the past they would patrol more often, and advised him to install security cameras. Police did not return several phone calls seeking information about the vandalism.

Though such security cameras are the "next step," said Flaris, the Rev. Clapsis was more concerned with the larger meaning of the crime.

"This is a parish that burned and then came out here to rebuild," said Panagiotakos. "To have this happen is very hurtful. It took a long time to raise the money to build the parish, and to see people do this is just disgusting."

The priest did not mention the incident during services yesterday.

"No, I did not," Clapsis said. "We are still celebrating Easter, and it is a message of hope today. I did not want to address it today." But as many of the church's 200 or so worshippers left services yesterday, "they mentioned they were worried about it."

In the early morning hours of April 25, 1999, a five-alarm fire destroyed the church, which had stood since 1964.

After construction began in 2001, the parish re-opened at its Dracut location on Palm Sunday (April 24) 2003.

Flaris said the total cost of the church is about $4.5 million.

Add the incalculable cost of hate, said Clapsis, who said he will bring the incident to the area's interfaith council.

"By using swastikas and the devil, it's a way of saying something is not going well in the community. This affects everyone. And if this happens now, what is next?"

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FINALLY, Boston Has Honored Edgar Allen Poe


[FINALLY, Boston has honored Edgar Allen Poe. Earlier this year I made a post on this weblog lamenting what seemed to be a hopeless situation in Boston honoring its greatest poet on his bicentenniel. I congratulate the city of Boston and thank Paul Lewis for his efforts. - J.S.]

Nameless, Here? Not Evermore
Boston honors prodigious and prodigal poet

By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff April 28, 2009

Like his famous raven that perched, never flitting, above the chamber door, Edgar Allan Poe claimed a permanent place of honor yesterday in Boston's literary lore, as city officials dedicated Poe Square near the writer's birthplace.

Born in Boston 200 years ago, Poe long had been overlooked as a native son because of his rancorous relationship with the city and its writers. But after an aggressive campaign by a devoted band of Poe enthusiasts, city officials agreed to pay tribute to the "master of the macabre" by renaming the corner of Boylston and Charles streets, across from Boston Common.

"Together again, at last," exclaimed Paul Lewis, a Poe scholar at Boston College who led the charge to honor the 19th-century author.

At the dedication ceremony, under sunny skies that seemed ill-suited for a tribute to the famously morbid writer, Lewis said the square would "celebrate the city's connection to Poe." He urged those who might harbor bitterness over Poe's hostility toward the city he derided as a provincial "Frogpondium" to let bygones be bygones.

"To these unforgiving folk I say: 'Wow, you really, really know how to hold a grudge,' " he quipped.

Despite his "literary war" against Massachusetts writers such as Thoreau and Longfellow, Poe expressed a desire near the end of his life to be buried in Boston, Lewis said. His grave in Baltimore, the city with which he is most closely identified, draws thousands of visitors each year, including a mystery man who leaves roses and a bottle of cognac to mark Poe's birthday.

The bicentennial of Poe's birth on Jan. 19, 1809, has sparked a resurgence of interest in his life and writings. Baltimore, in conjunction with the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, is commemorating with a yearlong festival dubbed "Nevermore 2009." The Poe Museum in Richmond, Va., is doing likewise, with "Poe Revealed."

Baltimore and Richmond lay competing claims to Poe's legacy - along with New York and Philadelphia, cities the itinerant poet also called home - with each convinced it is the rightful heir.

"Richmond is the city he claims," Chris Semtner, curator of the Poe Museum in Richmond, said decisively, before striking a more conciliatory tone. "But Poe didn't belong to one city. He really belonged to the world."

Poe entered the world on Carver Street in Boston, where the State Transportation Building now stands. But his parents, who were traveling actors, soon left town. They both died before he turned 3, and Poe went to live with a foster family in Richmond.

The young man returned to Boston after dropping out of the University of Virginia, and, after enlisting in the Army, was briefly stationed at Castle Island, an experience believed to be an inspiration for his story "The Cask of Amontillado." In 1827, his first published work, an anonymous collection of poems called "Tamerlane," was signed "By a Bostonian."

Though he soon left the city, Poe returned to Boston again in 1848, a year before his death, and tried to commit suicide by swallowing a large quantity of an opiate.

Despite the connections, Poe's Boston roots are little known, probably because of the quarrel he had with the city and its literary elite. He derided Transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau, calling their writing "obscurity for obscurity's sake," and once wrote that he was "heartily ashamed" of his Boston roots. He sometimes claimed Richmond or Baltimore as his hometown.

Before the square, nods to his local connection included plaques on Boylston Street, right beside the new square, and Fayette Street. Both are putative markers for his birthplace, but Poe specialists believe those are misplaced. Historic maps of Boston indicate the Poe Square named yesterday is not the first. A nearby intersection bore his name, according to one 1928 map, though the name in that incarnation was misspelled.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino, acknowledging that Poe and Boston had a "somewhat rocky relationship," said reconciliation was overdue.

"It's time to stake our claim to a major part of Poe's legacy," he said. "Time for the raven to join ducklings and swans on our list of favorite birds."

Poe was skilled, Menino allowed, at crafting "anti-Boston zingers" such as, "Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good."

"Tough stuff," he said.

The city's poet laureate, Sam Cornish, praised Poe's "broad, universal voice" before reading the Poe poem "Alone."

"And all I lov'd, I loved alone," he said in a deep, commanding voice.

Lewis, who will curate a Poe exhibit at the Boston Public Library later this year, said he hopes to decorate the newly christened square with a statue of Poe and other public art. Maybe even a "Tell-Tale Heart" under the bricks at the newly dubbed square, he suggested, only half in jest. "I'm just saying it's a possibility," he said.


2009 The New York Times Company

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Brief Reply to George Michalopulos' Reply to Fr. Oliver Herbel

Father Agapius Honcharenko, first Orthodox Missionary priest of the United States


Here is a link to a reply to Fr. Oliver Herbel by George Michalopulos. I will not touch upon every error I see in his reply, but I do want to point out a few errors he makes regarding the Greek presence in America and some questions he raises regarding the establishment of Greek parishes prior to 1922.

One point he raises is the lack of a Greek episcopal presence in America prior to 1922. Of course, Michalopulos has an agenda which implies that a lack of such a presence means an uncanonical presence of Greek parishes in America. As a historian of American Orthodoxy, however, he should know better.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia published in 1909 which records the statistics of 1908, there were 130,000 Greeks in the United States with 32 parishes in the United States and 2 parishes in Canada. The clergy consisted of 7 archimandrites, 3 celibates, and 25 married priests. Of the Greek clergy, 15 were subject to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and 20 to the autocephalous Church of Greece. We are also told why there was no Greek episcopal presence in America - because some Greeks had come from Asia Minor and some from Greece and there was no agreement as of yet as to who should have jurisdiction in America. It is also stated that neither the Ecumenical Patriarchate nor the Church of Greece recognized the authority of the Russian bishops over the Greek parishes in 1908.

What happened after 1908? Under an agreement made in 1908 between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Holy Synod of Athens, jurisdiction of the Greek churches in America was given to the Church of Greece under Archbishop Theoklitos I. However because there was still disorder the new Archbishop of Athens, Meletios Metaxakis, tried to bring healing and unity to America. He visited America in 1918 to survey the situation, and upon his return to Greece three months later appointed Bishop Alexander of Rodostolou as his resident American legate. Alexander was delegated the unenviable task of initiating canonical order among the independent Greek parishes throughout North America.

Due to political intrigues, Meletios was exiled from his position in the Church of Greece and came to America on February 21, 1921. On September 15, 1921 he incorporated the Greek Archdiocece of North and South America which was recognized by the state of New York in 1922. Two months later on November 27, 1921 he was elected Ecumenical Patriarch. One of his first decisions was to get the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to repeal the Tomos of 1908 and on March 1, 1922 transferred the jurisdiction of the Church of Greece in America back to Constantinople based on Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod.

Now what does this say concerning the points brought up by Mr. Michalopulos? First, there was a Greek episcopal presence in America in the representation of the priests who presided over the Greek churches in America. A priest is never a priest based on his own authority, but exists as a representative of his bishop. These priests either represented the Synod of the Church of Greece or the Ecumenical Patriarch himself. Second, a parish does not require the physical presence of a bishop for consecration, but this can be done through a priest with the proper antimension from his representative bishop. No doubt this was done and there is no evidence to suggest anything to the contrary.1

Michalopulos goes on to make some very foolish remarks regarding the Greek parishes of America, even going so far as to suggest the possibility that these parishes are uncanonical, the Holy Mysteries invalid, and the priests of dubious backgrounds. Again, as a historian of American Orthodoxy, he should know better. Each Greek parish established before 1922 has very good records of their history, and if he had looked to the right sources he could get this accessible history.

One example he brings up is Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in New Orleans. He writes as if he researched its history, but all he did was hear from a friend who talked to the secretery of the parish who probably had no idea of these historical matters. A Google search would have served him better which reveals that the church was consecrated by a Greek Orthodox priest, Father Agapius Honcharenko, the confessor of Leo Tolstoy, who was of a Ukrainian background and had immigrated to the USA via Athens, Greece in 1865 while under the Church of Greece. He came to America via Boston on January 2, 1865 to serve as a missionary to the Orthodox by establishing churches and feeding the faithful with Holy Communion. As far as the antimens is concerned, one should keep in mind that the original church was demolished with a new edifice constructed in its place in 1950 and consecrated as a Cathedral in 1960 by Bishop Silas. It could also be possible that the early antimensions belonged to the priests for the purpose of serving the Divine Liturgy and never actually belonged to some parishes.

The other great error of Michalopulos is his assertion that the Russian mission was the only canonical presence in America prior to 1922. From the information above alone his conclusion is clearly faulty. There is no excuse in making such an ignorant statement such as: "There were no non-Russian bishops in North America prior to 1922 nor were there any non-Russian exarchates, dioceses, eparchies, or jurisdictions on this continent before this time." I already gave two examples above and there are a few others, such as Metropolitan Germanos from the Patriarchate of Antioch who served the Antiochian community in New York after 1915 and presided at the funeral of St. Raphael of Brooklyn in 1915.

There are very few valuable points in Mr. Michalopulos' reply to Fr. Herbel. As far as I'm concerned, the two letters could have been reversed with Fr. Herbel's reflection being a response to Mr. Michalopulos. The former still refutes the latter.

1. We know from a Russian text written in 1868 that Fr. Agapius understood the importance of the antimension and it seems that the missionary priests carried them. See:

Jurisdictional Disunity and the Russian Mission

[Below is published an interesting and somewhat refreshing article from www.ocanews.org by Fr. Oliver Herbel. As a member of the OCA he presents a more honest history of Orthodoxy in America than most others do of the same jurisdiction whose historical interpretations of the past are often faulty. Though I would disagree with some points he makes, the history he presents is undeniable. -J.S.]


Jurisdictional Disunity and the Russian Mission

Orthodox Christians for Accountability

April 22, 2009

After thinking and praying about some of the discussion on OCANews about the history of Orthodoxy in America, I decided to present an overview of the history of the Russian Mission in order to show that we should be careful about the claims we make based on that history. Specifically, I wish to address the misconception that the presence of the Russian Mission on the North American continent precludes the canonical presence of any other jurisdiction in North America. Often this belief is paired with a belief in Orthodox unity prior to the Russian Revolution, a simplistic view unsustained by the actual history of the Russian Mission itself. Typically, this is argued in response to the manner in which the Ecumenical Patriarchate interprets Chalcedon canon twenty-eight, in order to argue for the right to oversee Orthodox Christians in the New World, but I will not argue for such a misapplication of the canon. I do not think we should place our hope in either error (that from history or that from the canon). I realize that some may be concerned about the upcoming meeting in Constantinople in June and where that will leave the OCA in relation to worldwide Orthodoxy, but I do not think it is healthy in the long-run to base our position on a faulty argument from history.

It is correct that Russia established a diocese on North American soil. In 1840, St. Innocent (1797-1879) became the bishop of Kamchatka and the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, the latter of which are on North American territory. A separate diocese for The Aleutian Islands and Alaska was later formed and moved to San Francisco (1870, officially by 1872) and later renamed and moved to New York (permission granted to do so in 1904), being known as the diocese of the Aleutian Islands and North America.

When discussing the history of this expanding diocese, however, we must distinguish between a vision promoted by a person or persons within this diocese and the actual context of such a visionary. A vision is something someone has because he or she is looking ahead. A vision is not something like the Encyclopedia Britannica, where we record current facts. I am not using such an analogy to offend the intelligence of the reader but only to show very bluntly and clearly that there is a big difference between current circumstances and someone’s vision. We need to keep this in mind, even when we speak of the vision of St. Tikhon (1865-1925), who oversaw the Russian Mission from 1898 to 1907. He was fully aware that there was not jurisdictional unity and yet he did not treat such people as uncanonical. He wished them the best. One easily attested example of this occurred in 1903 when Fr. Sebastian Dabovich (1863-1940) informed him of the Greeks in San Francisco having a priest and antimins from Greece. He wanted Russia to establish an autonomous diocese, perhaps with autocephalous-like powers, in order to bring order to the chaos he saw around him.

Furthermore, in the report to the Holy Synod of Russia, which was published in November 1905 and in which St. Tikhon proposed an autonomous diocese, he was simply making a proposal, hoping to address what he saw happening. Nowhere in that report to the Synod of Russia did he treat the Orthodox who were not part of the Russian Mission as schismatics, or uncanonical.

He did not complain about foreign bishops adversely affecting his own ecclesiastical prerogatives. He was aware of the relative independence of St. Raphael (1860-1915), who was the bishop of Brooklyn from 1904 until his death in 1915, and oversaw the Syro-Arab community. St. Tikhon also explicitly noted that the Greeks were asking for a bishop from Athens. Tikhon was optimistic and considered it possible that America could become an exarchate of national churches. He did not claim such was already the case. What Tikhon was attempting to do was create canonical order out of a non-canonical situation. For possibly the first time in the history of the Church, several different autocephalous Churches simultaneously viewed their immigrant flocks as missionary outposts in a new land.

As an aside, the issue of the use of English in Orthodoxy is sometimes raised as part of St. Tikhon’s vision for America. Even if one considers the translation work of Isabel Hapgood, however, we are left admitting that St. Tikhon’s vision was good but English was not the dominant liturgical language. That was something for future generations to achieve.

As important as St. Tikhon was and still is for Orthodoxy in America, we often treat him as though he were the only visionary or that all other visions are to be subsumed under his. Why is this? Is it because we fear that if we let St. Raphael step forward as a visionary, we would learn that he considered himself the head of a diocese that was somewhat beholden to both the Russian Mission and Antioch?

Or, let’s take another visionary, one not as well known: Nicholas Bjerring (1831-1900). I’ll mention Bjerring later for other reasons, but I raise him now because he published English translations of liturgical texts. He had converted in 1870 and established an Orthodox chapel in New York later that year (after spending a short amount of time in St. Petersburg earning a doctorate and getting ordained). He was the first convert-priest for the Orthodox Church in the New World and published many English translations of liturgical services. In this way, he envisioned an English-speaking Orthodoxy that could relate to the American setting. Ironically, his translations were hardly used (if ever at all) beyond his own chapel. I have not yet found anyone later in American Orthodox Church history who credits him and his translations (though I’d be greatly obliged if someone were to correct me with an exception or two).

Or, let’s take Fr. Nathaniel (Ingram Nathaniel Washington) Irvine (1849-1921), a Protestant Episcopal convert in 1905. Upon ordination, he headed an English department at St. Nicholas Cathedral and in 1909, petitioned to have an English language chapel. He was finally granted that in 1920. Both Bjerring and Irvine were visionaries with respect to the use of the English language in worship but the reality of their times was not what their vision entailed.

We might even think of St. Alexis Toth (1853-1909), and remember that he was a Russophile and helped establish Russian language schools for parishes. The Eastern Catholics were the main focus of evangelism for the Russian Mission early on, not the surrounding Americans who were already established in the New World. In fact, Fr. Benedict Turkevich (1873-1928), brother to Fr. Leonid Turkevich (1876-1965), the future Metropolitan LEONTY, thought the converted Eastern Catholics should leave America and help settle Siberia, the settlement of which Russia was actively promoting at the time. The Russian Mission had not yet fully expanded her view of the evangelical potential in America.

Visions are one thing. Certainly, the visions of St. Tikhon, Fr. Nathaniel Irvine, and Nicholas Bjerring on the issues of an autonomous diocese and the use of the English language are ones we would still promote to this day. As forward looking as these visions may have been, they were not the only visions and were responding to the surrounding reality, not reflecting it. So, we need to remember that visions are responses to one’s context, not a direct reflection of what one’s context actually is.

As important as it is to distinguish between the vision and the actual context of the visionary, history allows us to go further and state that the establishment of a diocese on North American soil did not necessarily create sacramental and administrative unity for any and all Orthodox people living in North America. Under proper, canonical procedures, one would hope that would be the case, but the American context did not present that.

Even the territory claimed in the name of the Russian missionary diocese expanded and changed over time. We need to remember that initially, the territorial denotation of the diocesan name was Irkutsk and the Kurile and Aleutian Islands. That was in 1840. Alaska was still part of Russia at this time. Alaska was sold to America in 1867 and there was no doubt that the Russian Orthodox Church was the Orthodox Church in Alaska. The treaty made that clear as did the continuation of the diocese. The diocese did move to San Francisco, a move completed and approved by 1872. It had already been renamed in 1870, when the diocese became called the diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow by this time, did envision this as an opportunity to spread Orthodoxy throughout the rest of America, but that was his vision, not what was actually yet happening and not a claim denoted by the diocese’s name.

At this juncture, it is worth asking: how many parishes in what are now called the lower forty-eight states were in the Russian Mission prior to St. Alexis Toth and John Mlinar, one of Toth’s parishioners, seeking out Bishop Vladimir beginning in December, 1890? One. Ft. Ross, which had never been anything more than an outpost chapel, had been abandoned in 1841. By the time John Mlinar visited Bishop Vladimir (bishop from 1888 to 1891), the Russian Mission had had Bishop John (1870-1876) and Bishop Nestor (1879-1882). Bishop Nestor spent most of his time in Alaska even though the diocesan seat was in San Francisco. Bishop Vladimir set liturgical compositions to English and Fr. Sebastian Dabovich preached homilies in English, but the Russian Mission’s presence outside of Alaska before St. Alexis Toth’s conversion was really no more than the cathedral in San Francisco.

What had happened to Nicholas Bjerring’s chapel in New York? Well, in 1883, the chapel was closed and Bjerring was offered a teaching position at St. Petersburg Academy. He declined, though, became a Presbyterian, and then died a Roman Catholic layman, which is what he had been prior to becoming Orthodox. The Russian Mission had established a chapel to New York but it was closed only thirteen years later. For a diocese that only designated the territory of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, this might not seem like a big deal, but it is a small fact we should keep in mind when considering the ecclesiastical prerogatives of the Russian Mission at the time. It must also be noted that the purpose of Bjerring’s mission was not to evangelize fellow Americans. Bjerring actually publicly discouraged visitors through newspapers at the time and noted that the chapel’s main purposes were to serve the Russian Orthodox in New York and foster good relations with the Protestant Episcopal Church in order to assist in uniting the Episcopal and Orthodox Churches.

There was a Greek Orthodox parish in New Orleans from the 1860s and in the early 1890s, before the Russian Mission returned to New York, Greek parishes were established in New York. For this reason, we need to be very careful with both the “who was in America first” argument and the argument that might claim “there was a diocese on the continent dedicated to evangelizing the whole continent and, therefore, all Orthodox anywhere on the continent were to be subject to that diocese.”

Also, we would do well not to mischaracterize the Greek Orthodox presence. Early on, the Greeks were willing to be open to those who were non-Greek. In one case, Robert Josias Morgan (ca. 1869-1916), a Jamaican from Philadelphia, was ordained in Constantinople in 1907 and later in 1911 tonsured in Athens as Fr. Raphael. He was commissioned to evangelize fellow African Americans. He does not seem to have been successful, but one should not think that only people in the Russian Mission were capable of envisioning the spread of Orthodoxy.

The case of the Serbs and Montenegrins also does not entirely support the idea of early jurisdictional unity despite Fr. Sebastian Dabovich’s efforts on behalf of the Russian Mission. In 1897, Bishop Nicholas and Fr. Sebastian asked the Serbian Orthodox Church to oversee the Serbs in America. The request was refused not because of concerns for Russian diocesan authority over North America, but because the Serbian Orthodox Church could not sustain the infrastructure at that time. Despite this, Serbian parishes would seek Serbian clergy from Serbia under the supervision of Serbian bishops and in 1913, they pursued the logical conclusion of such autonomy and appealed again to the Serbian Orthodox Church for a bishop.

In addition, the continuity between the Russian Mission and the Metropolia did not remain so neat and tidy in the aftermath of the revolution. In 1924, the former Russian Mission declared itself self-governing, thus becoming known as the Metropolia. Moscow, however, cut off communion, and in 1933 re-established the diocese of the Aleutians and North America under Bishop Benjamin.

It is unfair to discount the perceptions others would have had about the status of the Metropolia based on Moscow’s own actions in 1933. Even for those who accepted the idea of pre-Revolutionary unity under the Russian Mission, the recreation of the diocese in 1933 could affect perceptions. The notion that all Orthodox were united under the Russian Mission before the Russian Revolution was first publicly expressed in writing in 1927 by Fr. Boris Burden (1898-1973), an Episcopal convert. At that time, Burden was part of an attempt to create a single jurisdiction, known as the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of North America, under Archbishop Aftimios, St. Raphael’s successor. In the jurisdiction’s journal, Orthodox Catholic Review, Burden argued that all jurisdictions were under the Russian Orthodox Church prior to the Russian Revolution. Therefore, in keeping with the rift at the time, he considered the Russian Church Abroad, aka Karlovtsy Synod, schismatic. By 1933, however, the attempt at creating a unified jurisdiction had failed miserably and Fr. Boris Burden joined the recreated diocese of the Aleutian Islands and North America in 1933 under Bishop Benjamin. At this time, Burden, the first to claim publicly in writing that there had been pre-Revolutionary unity, considered the Metropolia schismatic.

Based on all of this, there are a few things the historical evidence does not allow us to claim. We cannot reasonably uphold a simplistic view of unity, whereby we claim that everyone (or nearly everyone) was under the jurisdiction of the Russian Mission. By the time the Russian Mission did return to New York and claimed (at least in name) to be a diocese of all of North America, the immigration floodgates had opened. By about 1906 and certainly by the time of revolution itself, approximately half of the Orthodox population did not fall under the auspices of the Russian Mission. Further, we cannot claim that the Russian missionary diocese saw itself as the normative diocese for all Orthodox Christians before the 1904-5 move to New York under St. Tikhon. Even then, St. Tikhon himself realized he was trying to make the best of an exceptional situation. The Serbs maintained ecclesiastical ties to the Serbian Orthodox Church and early on, Bishop Nicholas supported their attempt to create an official Serbian presence separate from the oversight of the Russian Mission.

I believe an honest look at the history should cause those of us in the OCA to be humbler in how we state our claims. To call the other jurisdictions uncanonical is unfair in light of the complicated history of the Russian Mission. Such an argument risks being heard and read as nothing short of inflammatory and should that happen, we are likely to hinder the kind of dialogue many of us would wish to see in order to obtain a united American Orthodox Church.

The reality is that America was a place in which Orthodox Christians of different communities formed their Churches and have had to begin working toward unity. That work has been ongoing. It was attempted with the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of North America in 1927 and later with the Federated Orthodox Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions in America in 1943. More recently, SCOBA established itself and pan-Orthodox services and ministries have increased. It may not be as romantic to think of ourselves as a group of separate clusters working toward the goal of full administrative unity, but I think it is more truthful with respect to the history of the Churches in North America and less divisive in spirit. Perhaps such a reconception of American Orthodoxy could help us break the gridlock between a misinterpretation of Chalcedon twenty-eight and a misguided perspective on the history of the Russian Mission in North America.

May the Lord grant us the spirit of humility so that someday we all may be able to cry aloud together as a single, fully united American Orthodox Church:

Christ is risen!

Fr. Oliver Herbel

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, Mount Athos and America

I think it is important to understand that the model the Ecumenical Patriarchate proposes for America has a firm foundation in the tradition of the Church. For those with a more traditional bent, I like to bring up the example of Mount Athos. Mount Athos is self-governed (autonomous) and part of the Hellenic Republic, but it is also under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. This is basically the same model that is being proposed for America.

Ignorance and fear have created a lot of misunderstanding however. One fear is that the jurisdictions in America will lose their identity (whether it be jurisdictional or ethnic) and be swallowed up into the culture of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This is a rhetorical lie being pushed by people who have other agendas opposed to the tradition of the Church. Again, when one looks to Mount Athos it is observed that there is not only Greek-speaking monasteries, but there is also Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian and Romanian speaking monasteries that follow their own traditions as well even though they all fall under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. No identity is lost, no languages lost, and there is no authoritarian rule that all the monasteries must do as directed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has gone so far to accomadate the style and traditions of Mount Athos, that it even allows them to use the Old Calendar even though in Constantinople the New Calendar is used. It is this similar open-minded model that is proposed for America and will be discussed in the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Synod.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Feast of the Synaxis of the Holy Kollyvades Fathers

Icon of the Synaxis of the Holy Kollyvades Fathers


On the Saturday of Bright Week, a service has been written to commemorate all of the Saintly Holy Fathers of the so-called "Kollyvades" movement. These were monastics primarily from Mount Athos who taught adherence to Holy Orthodox dogma and tradition amid waves of westernization and secularism during the years of the Turkish occupation of Greece. The ranks of such Holy Fathers include some of the Church's most beloved Saints: St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, St. Makarios (Notaras) of Corinth, St. Nektarios of Pentapolis, St. Kosmas Aitolos, St. Savvas of Kalymnos, St. Athanasios of Paros, St. Paisius Velichovsky, St. Nicholas Planas, and so many more. The following quote (from mountathos.gr) discusses the Holy Mountain and the Kollyvades by Monk Moses:

"In the mid 18th century a grave theological debate developed all over the Holy Mountain in connection with the issues of the holding of memorial services for the departed, frequency of Holy Communion, and other matters relating to the exact observance of Orthodox tradition. The starting-point for this prolonged controversy was the building of the kyriakon at the Skete of St Anne (1754). The question arose as to whether the commemoration of the founders and benefactors should be held on Saturday or Sunday, and with what frequency the monks should receive Holy Communion. The debate divided the monks, and those who insisted that the memorial services should be held on Saturdays were mockingly dubbed 'kollyvades'. It seems, however, that, behind their apparent obstinacy, they had a profound knowledge of church tradition and fought hard for its authenticity and for its purification from adulteration. Thus the name of 'kollyvas' became a title of honour and the movement was responsible for a profitable and beneficial regeneration and renewal. Indeed, this devout movement was led by three saints: Makarios Notaras, Nicodemus the Athonite, and Athanasios of Paros, and they numbered among their supporters and sympathisers distinguished scholars such as Neophytos Kafsokalyvitis, Christophoros Artinos, Agapios of Cyprus, Iakovos the Peloponnesian, Pavlos the hermit, Theodoritos of Esphigmenou, and a number of others. Some of them chose voluntary exile and took refuge in mainland Greece or the islands, where they founded scores of monasteries, of which a fair number survive today. Thus we see Makarios Notaras on Chios, Niphon on Skiathos, Dionysios of Skiathos on Skyros, Ierotheos on Hydra, with numerous disciples and friends of that Athonite tradition which has nourished monks and saints. The monasteries which they founded were noted for their vigour and service. The Ecumenical Patriarchate by decisions of the Holy Synod finally put an end to the 'kollyvades' issue, by ruling that memorial services could be held as circumstances demanded and that Holy Communion, with the proper preparation, could be received frequently, and that the life of the substance, and not the aridity of the form, was to be adhered to."
(taken from:
http://www.mountathos.gr/active.aspx?mode=en%7B00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000004%7DView)

Apolytikion (in Greek) of the Holy Kollyvades Fathers

Apolytikion of the Holy Kollyvades Fathers - 1st Tone

Let us honor the choir of Kollyvades Fathers, ministers of the Holy Spirit, stewards of grace, they taught to us the Gospel of Christ in evil times, and as very bright stars, they delivered souls from the darkness of error. Rejoice o Godly band, rejoice boast of the nation, rejoice torches of truth and expounders of the faith.


For the full service text (in Greek) of the Synaxis of the Holy Kollyvades Fathers:
http://www.pigizois.net/latreia/paraklitikoi_kanones/pdf/esperinos_kolivadon_pateron.pdf http://www.pigizois.net/latreia/paraklitikoi_kanones/pdf/orthros_kolivadon_pateron.pdf

Writings of Saint Neophytos Presented At Conference

Monastery of Saint Neophytos in Cyprus

Ancient Works by Paphos Saint Presented at Conference


Bejay Browne
23 April 2009
Cyprus Mail

Six volumes of work by Saint Neophytos, which took scholars 15 years to collate, were presented to the public yesterday, at Ayios Neophytos monastery’s first international conference at the Coral Beach hotel in Paphos.

Saint Neophytos was born in 1134 in Lefkara and came from a large, poor, rural family. Since he was a small boy, he was drawn to religious teachings and monastic life. As a hermit, he wrote on the subjects of history, theology and civilisation, and these are included in the first of his completed written works, which premiered at the conference, and are being analysed by learned professors during the five-day event.

Among those invited to the opening ceremony were President Christofias, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Education Minister Andreas Demetriou, the Dean of Neapolis University in Paphos and representatives of Athens Academy. There was also a brief address by Eleni Glykatzi Arveler, the Dean of the University of Sorbonne.

Neophytos founded the monastery in 1159 and he wrote a large number of theological works, including his Ritual Ordinance for Monastic Life and his view of the history of Cyprus, Concerning the Misfortunes of the Land of Cyprus. Neophytos was also a vocal critic of the Byzantine tax collectors.

The monastery is steeped in history and the building as well as the man himself have been of interest to scholars and the public for many years.

The Egkleistra is a cave that Neophytos carved out of the mountainside and made his home for 45 years. Inside are a number of fine Byzantine frescoes dating from the 12th to 15th centuries. It’s now open for public viewing. He spent the remaining five years of his life in a cave higher up the mountain.

The monastery in Paphos is still home to monks today and contains a collection of icons and the remains of some 16th century frescoes. The views from the monastery are spectacular as the site is 412m above sea level and looks out across Paphos.

The main part of the monastery was built in 1500 and the monastery also has a church and an ecclesiastical museum. Saint Neophytos’ bones are kept in a box in the church close to the iconostasis.

Satanic or Ritualistic Crime and Murder


[What I like about the article below is that it brings up the very real facts about Satanic crimes and murders. These details are often ignored in todays media. Often we pick up our newspapers or watch the news and hear about a missing child or a grizly murder but they never mention that many of these (though rare) are the result of a dark occultic ritual. This is something I have had first hand knowledge of and it needs to be exposed. For example, here in Massachusetts there is a place I like to visit called the Bridgewater Triangle where there is a very big forest and swamp. It is a very dangerous place at night in the forest and I know people who have witnessed ritualistic murders and crimes there and been chased themselves. Even local police know about this but newspapers don't want to create a hysteria. If you follow these things in the news it is no surprise that Satanic rituals involving crime and murder are rampant and growing not only in America but throughout the world. -J.S.]


Satanic or Ritualistic Crime and Murder

(Examiner, April 14, 2009)

San Luis Obispo, USA - Fifteen year old Elyse Marie Pahler was "sacrificed to Satan" by three San Luis Obispo, CA teen-agers in one of the most grisly murders on record.

The suspects Roger Casey, Jacob Delashmutt and Joseph Fiorella -- all teenagers -- took Elyse to a hidden location about a quarter-mile from her home, fed her drugs, raped her, tied a belt around her neck "to make it easier to stab her", and offered her up as the "ultimate sin against God".

Elyse knew her killers from the school bus. Delashmutt, Fiorella and Elyse attended Arroyo Grande High School in San Luis Obispo, 195 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Delashmutt was expelled from the school in September of 1995; Fiorella left in February 1996 to be home-schooled. Casey attended a nearby school. The three stabbed the girl to death at at an alleged "Satanic altar". The boys "selected and stalked" Elyse believing that a virgin sacrifice would earn them a "ticket to Hell".

Elyse disappeared July 22, 1995 and had been reported missing until Casey came forward and led authorities to her body on March 14, 1996. The girl left her house voluntarily the night she died, although it wasn't clear where she was headed or at what point she encountered her killers. If the teenagers are tried as adults and the jury finds special circumstances, they face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. If tried as juveniles, they face up to about 7 years in juvenile detention.

Some experts believe the Pahler murder proves their allegations that Satanic and ritualistic crimes are a very real problem in US society.

In spite of mankind's advances in the arts and sciences, there remains a number of people who have not been able to -- or refuse to -- shake-off the practices of pagan rituals, some of which date back thousands of years. Included within the broad spectrum of paganism are so-called Satanic cults which are suspect in a number of bizarre crimes throughout the United States.

According to investigative journalist and author Maury Terry, there exists a network of Satan-worshiping cults with members crisscrossing our nation. Terry, whose research takes him to just about every state of the union, participated in a special regional police conference in Ohio, co-sponsored by the American Federation of Police and the National Association of Chiefs of Police.

His expertise on the subject of ritualistic violence is a tremendous resource for the news media and law enforcement. This writer attended the conference as a result of violent incidents occurring in northern Manhattan -- my jurisdiction at the time; incidents involving animal sacrifices including the killing and mutilation of cats, dogs, chickens, and even a lamb stolen from a petting zoo.

The world of the Satanic cultist is filled with ritualistic violence, perverse sexual activity and abuse, Heavy Metal music and the use of illegal drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines (crank, speed, meth, crystal), psylocybin (an hallucinogenic drug similar to LSD), heroin and other others. This is a world which, even in the beginning of the 21st Century, continues to attract a large number of young people who follow the precepts of Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible, a volume that has millions of copies in print today.

SATANIC CULTS

It must be made clear to anyone investigating ritualistic crimes: what constitutes a Satanic cult? And what are the differences between these cults and Religious Satanists?

Religious Satanists are members of a group which are well organized and structured with a hierarchy. A perfect example is Chicago's Temple of Set: a church that is recognized as a religion by the US and Illinois governments. They enjoy the same tax-exempt status as mainstream religious institutions. Surprisingly, the High Priest of the Temple of Set, Michael Aquino, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the in the US Army Reserves even while practicing his religion.

He is outspoken about his beliefs and has appeared on nationwide television (The Oprah Winfrey Show, for instance) to explain his faith and his church's practices. As far as police agencies are concerned, members of the Temple of Set have never violated the law when practicing their worship and liturgical rites including the Black Mass.

On the other hand, Satanic cults are self-styled Satanists who are sometimes involved in activity that strongly resembles college-fraternity hazing; and, as with college campus hazing, these practitioners may become extremely cruel and vicious, temporarily losing control. Their behavior mirrors the emotionally-charged, mindless behavior exhibited by angry mobs and rioters, with little or no thought to the consequences of their acts.

When substance abuse is added to the mix of these improvised rituals -- accentuated by loud, pulsating music coupled with the euphoric excitement of primal lust -- these frenzied pseudo-Satanists may indulge in behavior closely resembling the activities of a Jeffrey Dahmer or a Richard Ramirez (California's Hillside Strangler), two frightening serial-killers who openly displayed an unhealthy obsession with the occult. In several cases where the practitioners completely lost control, hapless victims fell prey to their bloodthirsty rituals and would suffer the pain of a helpless sacrificial lamb.

Although rare, reports from police departments across the country reveal that the Satanic cults may begin their worship service with the understanding that an animal or even a human being will be killed and used as a sacrifice to whomever these cult members worship. Murder is rare, but it is a possibility, especially when drugs such as crack, PCP and LSD are part of these dramatic events that are created by leaders and worshipers alike. Crack and the other substances are known to make some users extremely violent, fearless and/or dangerously paranoid and psychotic. Again, murders committed by groups of Satan worshipers are rare, but police officers and detectives investigating a crime scene or missing persons report should consider this avenue of investigation if evidence of the person's involvement with cults comes to light.

According to Ed Briggs, crime reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch , Satanic cults seduce teenagers and young adults with sex and drugs and the promise of power over others. Also, involvement in this religion is the ultimate in rebellion against parental control, especially if the parents are religious Christians, Jews, Muslims, or part of any mainstream religious organization including Religious Satanism which is recognized by the federal government as a legitimate religion deserving of all privileges enjoyed by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. churches and temples.

As with their rebellion against parents and parental control, Satanic cult members thrive on their rebellious behavior against society in general. The cultist's perfidy is a source of pleasure for him or her, especially the teenager who may have been forced to attend mainline church services each week.

Then, according to Briggs, an award-winning newsman, there are times when ritualistic abuse is used to break down a young person's resistance. The unwilling recruit may be repeatedly raped or sodomized or worse -- acts of bestiality are performed.

RELIGIOUS FANATICS

How many Satanic practitioners are there in the US?

"The adherents of this violent [quasi-]religion number over 300,000, " claims Lieutenant Larry Jones of the Boise, ID Police Department.

"The kids become involved in sacrificial rituals, violent song lyrics, Satanic symbolism, suicide notes or recordings, all enhanced with illegal, mind-altering drugs, which play a major role [in the drama of a Black Mass]. And the added secrecy of the cult members makes estimating their numbers impossible." says Detective Jerry Simandl, a veteran of the Chicago Police Department and assigned to the Gang Crime Task Force.

Are there any estimates based on other information or police intelligence? The San Francisco Police Department's Sandi Gallant can only estimate that " ... at most 1% of Heavy-Metal music fans become seriously involved in the occult."

It should be pointed out that when Det. Gallant talks about Heavy-Metal music, she isn't referring to bands such as Guns & Roses, Metallica and other popular musicians, but to the sub-category of HM music known as Black Metal, played by bands that are truly underground with a limited audience. However, even the tamer, well-known Metal bands such as Blue Oyster Cult occasionally enter the domain of the Black Arts (witchcraft). Several years ago, two Long Island, NY teenagers committed suicide listening to the Blue Oyster Cult hit song Don't Fear the Reaper.

THE VIOLENCE OF SATANIC CULTS

Readers should be warned that not all practitioners of Satanism are violent savages whose thirst for blood is insatiable. Those living the lifestyle of Satan-worshipers rarely commit murder and rape during their religious rituals. In fact. sadly, more people have been murdered in the name of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. than in the name of Satan.

However, there have been cases in which Satanism, the occult or involvement in the once popular game of Dungeons & Dragons proved fatal for the unsuspecting victim. One example of the total revolt against authority and parental control, and embracement of evil is a case in Bergen County, New Jersey: Thomas Sullivan, a 14 year-old Boy Scout repeatedly and methodically stabbed his mother to death before turning the weapon on himself, taking his own life. Investigation revealed an unhealthy obsession with Satan, Black Metal music, drugs and a morbid fascination with death. In this case, the actor was a loner whose Satanism was a personal and private matter, based almost entirely on what he saw on television or motion pictures.

SATANIC RITUALS

During the course of these so-called religious rituals, drug use is usually rampant and heightens the frenzy and blood-lust of the cultists. According to Pat Pulling, a criminologist Who lectures police departments on the occult and Satanism, rituals may include:

- Victim is placed in a coffin or make-shift coffin.

- Paraphernalia and symbols such are pentagrams, 666 symbols, inverted crosses, etc.

- Heavy feeding of drugs, especially hallucinogens.

- Kidnapping victims.

- Sexual abuse aimed at confusing a recruit and destroying his/her moral foundation.

- Incestuous sex acts (family is involved in the cult).

- Animal or (rarely) human sacrifice.

- Cannibalism.

- Cremation (destruction of victim along with evidence).

There is considerable ritual abuse during Satanic ceremonies. Indoctrination of the young is the purpose of much of this abuse. Ritual abuse is defined as repeated physical, emotional, mental and spiritual assaults combined with a systematic use of symbols, ceremonies and images designed to turn a person against himself and society. Drugs, again, are utilized during this process of systematic degradation.

A dramatic and arguably frightening part of Satanic religious practices is the so-called Black Mass. It is a rite dating back to the 14th Century Europe and a large part of the Satanic revival of 19th Century France. The ceremony, as practiced by self-styled, makeshift Satanic groups -- as opposed to, say, the Temple of Set, a legitimate religious organization -- is derived from the Roman Catholic or Episcopal mass with Satan the object of worship and praise. There are reports that in some cult-masses, the altar is the nude body of a young woman and the gold chalice may contain a bizarre and nauseating mixture of blood, urine and turnips. There are groups who add an hallucinogenic drug such as psylosybin or methamphetamines.

During the Black Mass, at least as it's performed by self-styled Satanic groups, animal sacrifices are commonplace and sexual experimentation follows large doses of illegal drugs. Although there have been reports of human sacrifices, especially infanticide, these incidents are extremely rare. Those claiming they are not rare but routine say that the infants used in the monstrous ceremony is one that has been conceived and raised just for the purpose of ritual murder. These police officers -- Sandi Gallant among them -- say that birth records of these babies do not exist since the children are born using midwife who's a member of the group or even a physician-member. Children born into a cult are called Generationals.

PROFILE OF THE SATANIST

Who is drawn to this religion? Who gets involved in demonic activity? Well, a profile was developed by Pat Pulling, the leading expert in this area of psychology. The profile is similar in structure to those developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Behavioral Science Unit. In fact, the creator of the Criminal Profiling System, Special Agent Robert Ressler, during his interviews with over 100 serial-killers and unusually violent criminals, found elements of the occult in the psyche of a few of these killers. Most notable is the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, although his involvement in the occult was all but totally ignored. (I interviewed the man who coined the term serial killer, Robert Ressler, in the book Crime Talk still available at Amazon.com.)

The yet to be captured psychopathic murderer known as the Zodiac Killer is another example of a dabbler in the occult creating his own makeshift quasi-religion. However, these two men were loners and not part of any group, although Maury Terry claims there is a connection between Son of Sam and a few groups in this nation's heartland. Pat Pulling, one expert who believes -- as does Maury Terry -- in a transcontinental network, created a Ressler-styled profile for men and women likely to become involved in Satanic cults or a profile for people who are, because of their psychological makeup, susceptible to cult recruiting tactics:

- Adolescents from white, middle-class and upper-middle class homes.

- Above average intelligence but easily bored with schoolwork.

- Over- or under-achievers.

- Creative and curious.

- Some have a history of family abuse or sexual abuse.

- Rebellious teens or those with low self-esteem seeking power over others.

How do young people become involved? (Take Note: the following are opinions of so-called experts.)

- Through so-called Black-Metal music, most successful being Venom. Some of the more popular bands such as Ozzy Osbourne (of Black Sabbath fame) may touch on Satan and evil, but they are entertainers, not cult recruiters).

- Fantasy role-playing in games such as Dungeons & Dragons. A surprisingly large number of homicides and suicides have been linked to D & D such as the Joseph Vite case in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the Juan Kimbrough case in Oakland, California. Both were murdered as part of a game of D& D.

- An unhealthy obsession with movies, books and videos about Satanism and the Black Arts (witchcraft).

- Involvement with Satanists at a rock concert or party (college campuses are ripe for recruiters). The promise of sex and drugs is an attractive incentive.

- Involvement with classmates heavily into occult, Satanism or serious fantasy role-playing.

INVESTIGATION OF RITUALISTIC CRIMES AND VIOLENCE

Investigation and prosecution are very difficult since Satanic crimes are cloaked in secrecy. It is estimated that on a small percentage of these criminal acts are ever exposed and even when the murder case uncovers perps, there is no indication of the crime being religion-inspired.

In addition, the profile of Satanic cult members indicates that they are quite intelligent and therefore adept at hiding pertinent evidence. They may even go as far as manipulating the crime scene in order to throw off investigating detectives. Because illegal drugs are very often part of their modus operandi , these cultists are doubly careful in avoiding the attention of police agencies.

Testimony given by victims are insufficient to bring cases to trial and prosecutors and district attorneys are hard to convince. According to Lieutenant Lawrence Haike of the Richmond, VA Police Department's detective bureau, "Short of commission of a crime, ritualistic [perps] are protected under the US Constitution's protection of freedom of religion...and in Satanism freedom of religion is just one step across the line from murder."

According to Detective Sandi Gallant of the San Francisco PD, there are many problems with investigation and prosecution of ritualistic crime cases. In her police training program -- offered to police agencies across the country and with a waiting list of over a year -- Detective Gallant offers the following list of case difficulties and legal roadblocks:

- Investigators disregard original statements regarding rituals and Satanism; therefore detectives and officers only document the outward appearances of the crime such as sexual abuse.

- No physical evidence is found to substantiate statements given by victims or former cult members.

- Crime scenes are never found.

- Crime scenes are found, but do not fit the descriptions given.

- Crime victims are interviewed together in the presence of parents or legal guardians. They may be ashamed to discuss their victimization in front of them or they are terrified to discuss the case because their parents or guardians are part of the cult.

- The suspects and the news media become aware of the case prematurely.

- Because of the illegal drugs involved, it may be difficult for investigators to believe the statements made by victims or former cultists, especially when drugs such as LSD and psylosybin are involved.

- There is an inability to establish a corpus delecti ("body of the crime"):

- Although murders are reported, no bodies are found (Satanists believe in cremation).

- Even though children claim they saw other children who were kidnapped, no record can be found with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or with the FBI.

- The prosecutor wishes to downplay the Satanic or occult nature of the crime in order to avoid problems with witness credibility, etc.

- The statements of victims and witnesses may appear outlandish and the reputation of the accused may appear impeccable.

Investigators arriving at the crime scene of a homicide or suicide should remain open-minded with regard to possible ritualism or Satanic connections to the crime. The crime scene should be searched for any evidence linking the crime to occult activity. If such activity is suspected, chances are drugs may be involved.

According to Satanic Cult expert, Maury Terry, "Satanism in some cases is merely a by-product -- the real motivation of cult leaders is drugs and drug distribution."

Please Visit Our Sponsors

BannerFans.com