By dogcatcher on February 25th, 2012
The Blog of Ruth Entry #5 – License to Lie  March 26, 2011


I am the way, the truth, and the life. [John 14:6]People should never permit falsehood of any kind to invade their conversation, their professional work, their meetings, or their writings. Either truth or falsehood: towards spiritual independence or towards spiritual servitude.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn To bend the truth is to bend the mind. To bend the mind is to damage the soul. Of all people on earth, perhaps no one is more responsible to live in truth than one who has given over his entire life to the Lord Jesus Christ, and above all, one who has taken into his own hands the formation and care of souls. To devalue truth in oneself, and to set that example before others, is a spiritual crime, and one that inexorably leads to death of the soul. One Monday as I worked with two sisters and a visiting pilgrim cleaning the monastery guest house, the sister in charge sent me upstairs to get a special broom for cleaning under the beds. I returned with a long, narrow broom. She said that that was the wrong broom. Someone else went up and returned with a long, narrow swivel mop. It was like the typical dust mop made with strings, only longer. I said to the sister, “Oh, I thought you wanted a broom. That’s a mop.” She replied, “That is not a mop, it’s a broom.” Something about this exchange troubled me exceedingly. Shortly, a second pilgrim who had been cleaning upstairs appeared and inquired whether she should take our mop outside to shake it out. A few days later, when I asked the abbess about this perplexing exchange, she commented, “Oh….it’s a monastic thing.” I was deeply agitated as I attempted to grasp the meaning of such a concept. Somehow, it seemed, a monastic had a special right to alter reality, or more to the point, a monastic in charge could “bend the truth” over an underling. A few weeks later, this abbess said to me: “If I tell one of the younger sisters that black is white, she will repeat it back to me, and she will believe it. If I tell you that black is white, you might repeat it back to me, but you won’t believe it. You have had too much experience in the world.” This shocking revelation, a concrete expression of what I had been sensing for several weeks, abruptly challenged my entire repertoire of monastic assumptions. From this point on, I could no longer brush aside the incongruence I had been noticing at every turn. This was no small indiscretion to be ignored or relegated to some remote corner of the mind. This was rather a fundamental modus operandi at the monastery, being not only an alarming foundational assumption, but a convenient and deceitful strategy for indoctrination and mind control. Now a host of questions flooded my mind. With the leadership’s blanket license to lie, and not just small, “inconsequential” lies, but lies diametrically opposed to the truth, how is one to ever discern truth on any level? How much of what one already has been told is false? To what extent is lying the norm? Does one start small and grow into the ability to lie without restraint? Is believing a lie rewarded? Is one punished for not believing a lie? Under what circumstances can one expect to be instructed falsely? I know the answer to only one of these questions. Yes, indeed, one is punished for not believing a lie. The consequence of being “so worldly” as to reject believing a lie is to be slowly and cruelly ostracized from the monastery and judged unfit for the monastic life…. a most blessed fate, in the final analysis. I submit that the license to lie practiced in these monasteries has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ, Who is Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Rather, it is a direct result of the activity of Satan, whom Scripture tells us is a liar and the father of lies. We pass over in silence the world’s tacit agreement that truth is no longer relevant. We know for certain that this applies to the media and to society as a whole. Now, we discover that for some, truth is as well no longer relevant in the spiritual life. In fact, deceit in these monasteries is a tool used arbitrarily to bend the mind and coerce the soul into blind obedience. “You shall know the truth and truth shall make you free.” It is fascinating, astounding. What does this mean? It means that the path to freedom lies not in the fact that the parliament made a law of greater freedom today, but [rather] that you have to go through the truth. And if you go through truth just a little, then you will no longer say things such as, ‘Well, if the people are good, truth doesn’t matter.’” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.” Psalm 15:1-2 Editor’s Comments Ruth’s account of her experience at the Monastery strikes at the core of what we know to be true and is so powerfully written that it needs neither introduction nor conclusion.   The Blog of Ruth – Entry #4 – Blind Obedience   March 7, 2011 Introduction In our continuing series on Ruth and her experience with some of the monasteries supported by the cult of Ephraim of Arizona, the editors introduce Joshua, Ruth’s husband, who was emboldened by his faith in God to write the following account of his experience upon leaving one of these Monasteries. We thank him for contributing to the mission of this website. As we reported earlier, as a result of Ruth’s blog, we are receiving reports from families whose lives have been significantly and negatively impacted by some of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries. Joshua’s altruistic goal is the same as Ruth’s, which is to warn others by educating them of the dangers that lie in the monastic world when blind obedience results in unintended consequences. Joshua eloquently conveys his experience and pain to all of us. The editors feel that the best answer to lies is to bring the truth fully out in the open and to allow those who have been most severely affected to tell their story without prior editorial constraints. Again, we are indebted to you, Joshua for writing this account in you own words. Dangers of Blind Obedience and Breaking the Bond of Marriage Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation. (Ps. 146:3) Traditionally, the monk submits to his elder as if he were submitting to Christ, and that is the model handed down through the ages. In this way, every decision, whether it seems right or not, is given over to the one in charge. This ideal striving, however, can be horribly abused as it was in my case. When a person is airtight convinced of someone’s benevolence, that person is entirely blind to anything to the contrary. When all of the externals appear above reproach, there is left no room for a trace of suspicion. In the monastery where I lived for nine months, the abbot repeatedly preached blind obedience. After a visit to the main monastery, he related that on at least half a dozen occasions, his Elder Ephraim had reiterated, “Blind obedience! Blind obedience is what is needed!” The following describes how I carried out blind obedience, how it affected my mental state, and where it led. After my wife Ruth was forced out of her monastery, I had no way of finding out what had led her to leave, since my only source of information was what the abbot told me, which was riddled with lies, as I will subsequently prove. By submitting myself and every aspect of my life to this abbot, I became totally isolated from my wife, as I was forbidden to have any communication with her. Originally, my wife and I had agreed with one mind and one spirit to live apart in separate monasteries, following in the path of certain other married couples who had historically made this decision. While we can never know how these couples fared in perhaps genuine monasteries under truly dispassionate elders, we can certainly state categorically how this dreadful decision impacted our own lives in modern times, with the hope of warning couples, or in fact anyone else who may have the inclination toward monasticism, of the following: 1.  It is very dangerous to base a decision for monastic life on what is only visible on the surface. 2.  It is impossible to perceive important contradictions from the vantage point of merely observing a group from the outside. 3.  It is inexpressible: • how powerful is the bond of marriage; (they are no more two, but one flesh [Matt. 19:6]); • how right marriage is in God’s eyes (Eph 5:21-32); • how much God hates divorce, (Mal 2:16) whether it be a legal divorce or a breach in the marriage for other reasons; • and above all, that marriage is indisputably recognized by the Church  as one of the seven great sacraments, whereas a monastic vow is not and has never been. To continue, now that my wife was out of the monastery, I was prevented not only from learning what had happened to her, but from exercising my power in Christian freedom to choose the course we would take, now that our original plan no longer existed. The abbot assumed ownership of me to the extent that I no longer had the right to act on my own conscience or integrity, but rather was bound as a slave to the dictates of a person I had in fact only known for a short time. When I asked him if he thought I should go to be with her, his answer was that I shouldn’t even consider it. He told me that she was happy to leave the monastery, which proved she had no true calling to monastic life according to him. This, of course, was in direct contradiction to the repeated insistence of Fr. Paisios that she was indeed called and in fact, should make no other plans for her life. I, on the other hand and according to the abbot, loved being at the monastery, which authenticated my calling. Whereas I was assured that my wife was very happy out of the monastery, nothing could possibly express how far that was from the truth, as her life was completely shattered and she was in a state of total personal devastation. And whereas I was assured that I would be miserable if I left the monastery, in fact, the moment I left, I felt an incredible weight lifted from me, which came in successive waves of relief over a period of many days. Does this mean that I was not called to the monastic life? Certainly I can say without a doubt that I was not called to this form of so-called monastic life, and neither was my wife. I must confess that I initially dreaded the thought of leaving the monastery, since I completely trusted the abbot, and was convinced that being a monk was how I would find salvation and save my family. My wife and I had been told early on by Elder Paisios at St. Anthony’s, that the way to really help our children was to join the monastery. On the strength of that saying, we had sold or given away everything in order to clear the path into this new way of life. Like so many other men and women who have a heart for the monastic life, we wanted to give ourselves totally to Christ, and so we innocently took an enormous leap of faith which ultimately had huge, unforeseen ramifications on all levels. Shortly after my wife left, I learned in a phone call from my daughter that her husband had left her, and that my daughter, my wife, and my three small grandchildren, would likely soon have little means of support and no place to live. (Prior to that, my wife had made desperate attempts to have me informed of their plight, but I was never told.) I again asked if perhaps I should go to help them. The abbot’s initial response was that I wouldn’t be much help anyway, just another dependent person looking for work. In retrospect, this was a clear method of diminishing my worth as a person able to operate effectively outside the abbot’s domain, despite the fact that I had always been capable of supporting my family, having owned and operated my own business for many years. He also added that if I left, it would be very wrong, since I had desired monastic life for so many years. In other words, feeling a desire constitutes not only a calling, but God’s will for me, and to turn away from that life meant a turning away from God. In fact, the elite status of monastics was proved by frequently reiterating the notion that “only one in a thousand is called to monastic life, and of that, only one in a thousand respond.” The abbot predicted at that time that if I left, I would end my life, “crying in a corner” and that those tears would have “no redeeming value”. This, in effect, was damning me to hell if I left. He also said that if I were to even think about leaving, this thought should be understood as coming from the devil. Going against the abbot’s will was the unforgivable sin. In my state of mind, his answer thoroughly settled the question on two counts. First, it was unthinkable not to follow his counsel, as those who are recognized as elders are considered to have the gift of prophecy. Second, I was convinced his dreadful prediction would come true if I ever left. All of this despite the fact that I was under no vow whatsoever, and had only been clothed as a novice two weeks before, which coincidentally occurred immediately after my wife left her monastery. It is well understood, that the novitiate is only a trial period. The implication here is that every person who begins even as a novitiate is condemned to loss of salvation if he or she for any reason leaves without the elder’s blessing. In other words, the elder was laying a curse of damnation on me because I would be acting without his blessing. To this, I have this to say in the Name of Jesus: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29) The blessing of the elder is seen to constitute the will and word of God. However, there were many instances in my own experience in which the word of the elder overrode Scripture as well as my own conscience. The following verses are clear examples of how man’s pharisaic traditions were given more weight than God’s Word: “But if any provide not for his own, especially for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8) One Scripture that was quoted to me on more than one occasion and by more than one person was: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” (Lu 14:26) If we are to understand by this verse that my returning to my responsibilities to my family as stated in First Timothy constituted loving my family more than Christ, then the Bible contradicts itself, which we know is not possible since scripture cannot be broken. John 10:35. In fact, I committed spiritual adultery by listening to this false and unbiblical counsel and by remaining in the monastery when my wife was about to become destitute with no one to help, support, or protect her. The Priest there to whom I confided everything, repeatedly assured me that my place was in the monastery. He said that I should forget my wife and family, that I should place them in God’s hands and let Him take care of them. He and other fathers assured me that an angel had been assigned to take care of them in my place and that my family was in better hands that way. This is an example of a man-made tradition which has been written about in various books, but which in truth has no basis in Scripture, and which counsels cruelty and negligence. Now, to my shame and sorrow, I understand how much pain I inflicted on my wife. No one has the right to break up a marriage, which was what was happening as long as I went along with their distortion of the truth. The moment that by the grace of God I became aware of how my wife was treated at the women’s monastery, the lie became evident and I was set free. I knew all at once that all I really wanted was to get out of there and be with my wife. No spiritual authority can legitimately justify causing the abandoning of one’s spouse, but they took that on themselves, boldly inserting themselves between my wife and me, and I participated in the crime until the moment I penetrated, by the grace of God, that false mental state. By God’s grace there came a moment of truth at once encompassing the entire picture of what I had accepted as truth, but which was in reality a house of cards waiting to fall. This priest also said that in reality my wife was not really my wife, but that she belonged to God. In this way, not only was I being told that my marriage was invalid and not as pleasing to God as being a monk, it was a way of invalidating the sacrament of marriage itself, and spurning the teaching of our Lord that, “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9) My wife and I were consistently taught over a period of seven years that it was entirely appropriate to abandon our marriage in favor of living the monastic life, and we believed that we had the right to do this, even to the point of living for seven years as brother and sister. Our experience has proven to be entirely different, in that we both felt an overwhelming sense of being brutally torn in half, and we realized too late that “let no man put asunder” means not only by others, but by ourselves. We had no right to attempt to dissolve the bond of marriage which God Himself had formed thirty-one years ago. Neither do persons posing as spiritual leaders have the right to insert their man-made opinions into the bond of marriage, which happened at both monasteries. I also would like to state how the Jesus prayer was used improperly. My primary obedience was to attempt to pray the Jesus prayer either orally or mentally continuously. I was told that that was my number one obedience. I conscientiously attempted to do this. The result was that any critical thinking was interpreted by me as an interruption thrown at me by the devil. The effect was that my conscience was overridden so that what I needed to hear I was screening out. In fact, repetition of the Jesus Prayer under circumstances such as these rubs out your ability to think critically, to follow a logical train of thought, or to profoundly question things that under any other circumstances would be absurd. Even when I would have fears about my wife or children, I instructed myself that this was coming from the devil and that in reality they were doing fine. When I left the monastery, I walked away with nothing but the clothes on my back. When I later called to ask that my identifications be sent to me, I was told that both the abbot and abbess involved sent the message to me they were “very embittered” by my leaving, and the abbot predicted that I would end my life, “shedding black tears.” That means in a state of hopeless despair which would ultimately consign me to hell. This is the “blessing” that followed me. Can this be the word of a godly priest? More importantly, I would like to end by posing these questions: • To whom are these “elders” accountable? • How is it that strangers are allowed to exercise such spiritual atrocities on unsuspecting American citizens? • Why was there no response to my wife’s desperate appeal to Archbishop Demetrios for help? • Who is at the helm of the Greek Orthodox Church of America? Editors’ Note: Both Joshua and Ruth were conflicted about whether to end Joshua’s account with the above mentioned questions. They did not want to offend any of our Hierarchs. The Editors at believe it is imperative to pose these questions. Not once, through our due diligence, have we heard any of our Hierarchs consoling the victims who have experienced abuse, suffering or even financial loss in their encounters with Elder Ephraim’s Monasteries. In addition to receiving reports about couples whose marriages ended after turning to a monastery for counsel, we have also received reports from several parents whose children left their families to join the monasteries. These parents tell us that their children never had plans or spoke of a calling to join a monastery before they left. When asked whether they have reached out to their local Hierarchs for guidance or help, their responses have been shockingly similar. Instead of receiving guidance or insight, their parenting skills were called into question by their local Metropolitan. We have yet to hear any accounts of family members being consoled rather than criticized. Recently, Bishop Elias of Philomelion, Interim Abbot at the St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria, N.Y. was quoted by The National Herald, a weekly Greek American Publication as follows: “There are victims and when someone is a victim, he suffers, and on that pain we as clergy and spiritual fathers should show the necessary sensitivity.” Kalmoukos, Theodore. “Bishop Elias Met Alleged Sex Abuse Victim” The National Herald [New York] February 26-March 4, 2011, Vol.14, Issue 698, pp. 1+4. We ask our readers to please send us reports of our Hierarchs showing such sensitivity for a victim or a victim’s family as a result of any actions by Elder Ephraim’s monks or Priests who follow the Elder. Thank you again Joshua for your courage and forthright statement of what has occurred to your family and the pain that it caused.   The Blog of Ruth – Entry #3 February 20, 2011 Second Appeal to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Introduction The response received by the Gotruthreform website to Ruth’s story has been tremendous. Ruth’s bravery to openly reveal her harmful experience with the Ephraimite movement has given others from around the country the courage to contact our website and divulge their own negative experiences. It has not been easy for any of us to speak up on this issue. We have done so in order to educate the laity about a fringe movement operating within the confines of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese which is damaging and injuring not just some but many members of our faith. We have asked for a proclamation of the faith from our hierarchy against the heretical teachings emanating from the campground of Elder Ephraim. Just like Ruth, we too have been waiting. The Editors at have an obligation to our forefathers who made tremendous sacrifices to build our Greek Orthodox Churches in this country to help and protect our churches. It is because we love our faith that we must publish articles and personal accountings to prevent others from suffering similar abuse at the hands of some of the monks, nuns and priests who follow Elder Ephraim. We again applaud Ruth for her commitment to educate the laity in order to protect them from the suffering she endured. After waiting for several months for a response to her first letter, Ruth decided to write a second letter to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios appealing for help. Ruth’s Second Letter to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Dear Your Eminence, It is now almost Christmas and I have waited patiently for the courtesy of any kind of reply or response to my first letter. I do not know how I could have expressed any more urgently the situation with my husband’s entrapment at that monastery. Since I wrote to you, something unconscionable has occurred. My husband has written a letter to, not his daughter, but his 89-year-old mother, informing her that he never wants to hear again from our daughter by phone. If she wants to contact him she can send him a hand-written letter. By extension, if he does not want to hear from her by phone, he also does not want to ever see her again, for why would he want to see someone whom he has forbidden to speak to him? The people who know my husband cannot believe that he could possibly have done such a heartless thing. He obviously did this under direct obedience to the abbot, who controls everything with an iron hand. I am deeply shamed by his agreeing to do such a thing to our daughter, whom he has always loved dearly and been very close with. More than that, I feel that his personality change in such a short period of time is a very serious indicator that has become mentally unbalanced. It was only two weeks before that he was waiting anxiously for his daughter to call him at the agreed-upon time every Wednesday morning, and inquiring if she had called yet. Who do I have to turn to besides yourself? Our close friends among the clergy whom I have spoken with all with one accord say that my husband is imprisoned in a deadly cult. No one can understand why no action at all is being taken among the hierarchy in this matter. It is in your power and, as far as I know, your power alone, to extricate him so that he can come home and at the very least hear why I was forced to abandon our original plan. After thirty-one years of standing by him in marriage, and seven years of preparing the jots and tittles of his world for the monastery, he at least owes me the time of day. One of the most fundamental teachings of Our Lord in the Gospel is to leave your gift at the alter if you have offended your brother and be reconciled. Because of this situation, I can in no way receive communion in good conscience, and yet my husband receives communion regularly with full knowledge that we are not reconciled. The Gospel of Reconciliation is apparently irrelevant to the abbot of the monastery, who will not allow my husband to have any contact with me whatsoever. My husband and I never had any agreement that one of us would live in a monastery cut off from the entire family, and the other one would live in the world with no resources or prospects whatsoever. Our agreement was to live in oneness of spirit in separate monasteries, with the understanding that we each could talk to our children on the phone once a week and they were welcome to come and visit at any time. Both of these agreements have been broken through no fault of my own. Perhaps there is no way you can understand the anguish, the pain, the discouragement of being cruelly and unjustly cut off from your spouse of thirty-one years. My life has been a mental and emotional agony, a living hell for the past eight months. This betrayal has resulted in the darkest hours of my entire life, a seven-fold midnight. This is not the man I have known all of these years. He is clearly being deceived. He has no contact whatever with people who are truthful. This abbot is his only source of information. He has been told that I will be returning to the monastery, and has been advised to pray for that (which was conveyed in a letter to his sister shortly after I returned home.) Yes, he has even been assured that his prayer to the Mother of God with tears will be answered. The truth is, I will never under any circumstances set foot in one of those monasteries again. I deeply regret the day I ever heard of the Ephraim movement. Indeed, my buckets are filled with tears of weeping and wailing before the Mother of God that she will rescue him from this madness and return him to his rightful, lawful place with his wife. I am beseeching you once again to take action, remove my husband from the monastery, and instruct him to come and reconcile with his family. I believe it is a serious sin to scorn his prior commitment to Christ in the sacrament of marriage in order to follow a dream of becoming a monk. The vow of obedience, which he believes to be binding, will never be a sacrament. It is an option. I was told by the “elders” that it was fine to abandon your marriage. I had believed that, which is why I agreed to separate. It wasn’t long before I felt that God was not at all pleased with that decision and that it was not blessed by God at all. “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” I have lived to regret listening to these “elders” that tell you to live as brother and sister, which we did for seven long years waiting to enter the monastery, and to abandon your wedding vows. It was a mistake for which I have paid dearly. I cannot speak for the historical parting of married couples in the past, but it is eminently clear that in our day the hope of finding a dispassionate person with no personal agenda as a spiritual guide is futile. We should have listened to Fr. Seraphim Rose on that one. If you won’t listen to me as a prince of the church, I ask you to listen to me as one human being to another. Sincerely in Christ, Ruth   The Blog of Ruth – Entry #2 January 27, 2011 To Our Readers: We have received several comments to the first entry on Ruth’s Blog. Many have been moved by her experience. As promised, here is Part II of Ruth’s letter to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios. Part II of Ruth’s Letter to Archbishop Demetrios: When I arrived at my daughter’s house, I thought the worst surely must be over. I was completely numb, empty, hopeless, as though having no future, and I had absolutely nothing to call my own, nor any resources. But the worst was not by any means over. My daughter had an arrangement with her father (that is, a blessing from the abbot) to speak with him on the phone once a week. She also had a blessing to visit the monastery that following week-end. Before I left, I mentioned to the abbess that my daughter was going to go visit on Saturday. She said, “Oh, I doubt if they will let her come now that you are leaving. They will probably put him in isolation.” Immediately I got that his family had now become a threat. Sure enough, three days later, he called to say that she could not visit, probably until sometime next year, and that she could not call him for at least two months. His comment was, “It’s different than I thought.” She was devastated. Before the visit was cancelled, my daughter was given permission to visit her father for 15 minutes. She would be driving by herself, making a 20-hour round trip with her three young children, all under the age of three. That would mean that she would be turning around and going straight back home, because no hospitality was offered for her to stay overnight. She wanted to see her father so badly that she was going to do it anyway. It happened that I was the one that answered the phone when my husband called. He was clearly not expecting to hear my voice. He never as much as asked me what happened, how was I doing, what were my plans, was I disappointed that our 7-year plan had fallen apart for me, was I sad about having to go back to the world – i.e., none of the normal responses. It seemed to be of no interest to him that something awful must have happened to me or I would never have left. Instead, he kept repeating, “I’m not coming out!” I said, “I’m not asking you to come out.” With some agitation he kept saying, “Well, if you’re not asking me to come out, then what do you want?” At this point in the narrative, it goes beyond the scope of language to describe the stabbing pain in my heart, the totally helpless feeling of talking with my best friend who was now a stranger treating me like an enemy. His personality was so altered, he seemed so heartless, all I could think to say was, “Why are you being so cold? Are they listening in? Are they telling you what to say? Why the long pauses? I feel that you have cut me out of your heart.” After another long pause, I said, “They own you.” He said nothing. For thirty-one years we were arm-in-arm on the spiritual path. I am not exaggerating this. I was always fully convinced that he would gladly jump in front of a train rather than see me hurt in any way. Now, all the sweetness, the integrity, the caring, the things I identified as my husband, were absent. In the time since I have been home, aside from the single accidental phone conversation, it has just been understood that my husband and I have absolutely no contact with each other for any reason. As far as the monastery is concerned, I simply don’t exist. As soon as I returned home, he was immediately clothed, becoming an instant monk, and was placed in complete seclusion. This was part and parcel of a long series of flatteries he had received not only from the abbess but from the abbot and from Fr. Ephraim himself, who had given him a glowing blessing to enter the monastery. Following that devastating phone conversation, I spoke with a priest. After hearing briefly of the situation, he said, “she wanted to get rid of you”. He shook his head sadly and said, “This is a very heavy cross for you, a very heavy cross.” On several occasions he read long prayers of deliverance over me. He again would shake his head, speaking of “heavy crosses.” I wish I could say that it stops here, but it doesn’t. Shortly thereafter, my daughter’s husband walked out leaving her with the three very small children. Unbeknownst to me, things had been deteriorating in their marriage. Soon, her husband was going to withdraw most of his paycheck. This threw me into a complete panic because it pretty much put us either on the street or in a shelter. Having no other resource, I called the abbess on the phone and attempted to appeal to her heart to let my husband know we were about to be destitute. She first said, “Well, then it’s about time for your daughter to go out and get a job.” (It happens that she has applied for numerous jobs but there are no jobs to be found around here.) She then assured me she would be sure he knew about it, and that she would call me back. Nothing came of it. I wrote her a desperate letter. No response. I found out later that my husband was never told anything about this. I am praying with all my heart to Our Lady Who is Quick to Hear that my husband will somehow realize what he is involved in. It will take a miracle, as he has a wonderful inbred Catholic inclination toward pure obedience, coupled with a naïve inability to stare down the complete absurdity of his required obedience relative to his family, compounded again by sufficient self-deception to blank out any recognition of the cloak-and-dagger, non-traditional, Moonie-type approach to obedience being demanded of him (such as whisking an “at-risk” monk away to a secret monastery, not answering my daughter’s phone calls for weeks on end, and upon finally picking up the phone, reporting that my husband is not there). While I saw things every day that convinced me something was terribly wrong, he is drunk on flattery, treated kindly, given privileges, not overworked, and he never sees anything but the surface perfection of monasticism at its glorious best, right here on American soil. He doesn’t even have to go to Mt Athos. He believes he is there saving 13 generations of our family (seven generations each way, according to Fr. Paisios); he is the hero he always wanted to be but was not able, being too strapped supporting a family, taking care of a parish, going to court with his son, taking care of a pregnant daughter, making hard decisions. Now he can let someone else safely (he believes) make all the decisions for him. He is no longer responsible for his soul. Others will vouch for him at the judgment (he thinks) and protect him at the “toll houses” (a concept that we were assured is a fully-accepted and traditional Orthodox teaching.) All he has to do is be obedient, believe everything he is told, and trust that others more powerful than he will pray for everything he left behind. He rests assured that the “Gerondas” are God’s very doorway into the kingdom, saviors, if you will. Finally, he can take a deep, well-deserved breath, and be a puppet dangling on a string for the rest of his life. He can leave behind all the disillusionment of the world, all the pressures of life, all the demands of his family, and be free without impunity to walk on water, never mind if his family is drowning, and never mind if he is believing that a vow of obedience overrides his sacramental marriage vow and prior commitment to Christ to care for his wife. (Again, it is one thing if we, albeit mistakenly, agreed to serve God as monastics, and quite another for him to knowingly abandon me to a life with no assets and no resources.) Your Eminence, this situation has turned out to be nothing like the agreement my husband and I had before we went our separate ways into what we believed would be a true and blessed Orthodox monastic experience. One might say that my husband is living at the monastery by an act of his own free will and is living under perfect obedience, as a monk should. Does he not deserve to know that the situation he is living in is radically different from what we both believed it to be? He has no way of finding out that he is living there under false pretenses in that, first, the monastery is teaching subtle doctrines that are directly contrary to Scripture and are considered heretical by the Orthodox in general, (which, being converts, we did not comprehend) (These doctrines, seemingly small or insignificant, are nonetheless powerful enough to ruin lives and wreck marriages.) Second, because the practices of mind control used there have nothing to do with traditional obedience; and third, because he has been deliberately and systematically turned against his family, leaving no means of reconciliation between us. This prevents me from ever receiving communion with a free and clear conscience. I am appealing to you, as the primary shepherd of the Greek Orthodox flock of North America, to have him released from the monastery and returned to his family. I have no one else to turn to. By no means can he be reached by any of his friends or extended family. If he makes a free-will decision to return to the monastery, knowing all the facts, and having reconciled with his family, then that is up to him. All of this has destroyed our marriage, our family, and in the case of our daughter, her faith. She will not set foot in an Orthodox Church, nor allow her children to go, because her beloved father has been turned into someone she no longer recognizes, at the hands of “Orthodox” monks. My husband and I prepared for the monastic life prayerfully for years; we took a huge leap of faith, and it has turned into the worst emotional and spiritual tragedy imaginable for our family. PLEASE help us!! Respectfully yours in Christ, Ruth   The Blog of Ruth – Entry #1 January 17, 2011 Introduction The following is the first entry of a blog written by Ruth. Her name has been changed in order to protect her identity. The policy of anonymity maintained by the Editors of this website is imperative in order to prevent abusive verbal attacks toward her which we have witnessed against others who have spoken out against Ephraimite monasteries. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios is aware of her identity. The Blog of Ruth is written by a woman who contacted the editors at the gotruthreform website desperately seeking help to reunite with her husband who was living at an Ephraimite monastery. She has documented her and her family’s ordeal in a series of letters and journal entries. This is a recorded history of her and husband’s journey in joining an Ephraimite monastery. This entry and subsequent entries on Ruth’s Blog will describe how the nuns at an Ephraimite Monastery came between the sacramental union of a husband and wife. We will focus on the facts of how an innocent, trusting and pious couple became victims of the blind obedience demanded by these monasteries. She wrote the following letter to Archbishop Demetrios. This letter was hand delivered to the Archbishop personally. It is divided into two parts. Part II will appear next week. The author’s altruistic intent in making these postings, which include some very painful personal information, is to educate others to prevent them from experiencing the intense pain and suffering she has endured. We applaud her courage and will protect her anonymity while shining the full light on her and her husband’s experience with Ephraimite monasteries. Part I of Ruth’s Letter to the Archbishop: September 22, 20__ To His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios Dear Your Eminence, Even though the following letter is by necessity lengthy, I ask you to read it attentively as I am appealing to you for help in a very serious matter which concerns not only my husband and myself personally, but a cancer which is spreading wildly and causing terrible division in the Greek Orthodox Church in North America, as evidenced by a plethora of complaints I understand from credible sources are posted at various sites on the Internet. Before describing the immediate problem, I need to lay a little groundwork. My husband and I have been interested in the monastic life for around 45 years, but having found no trusted spiritual father or no real trusted monastic connection, we married and raised a family. Seven years ago, a friend, who was actually living on the premises of the monastery at the time, introduced us to St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, AZ. We became convinced that the leader of the monastery, Fr. Ephraim, was an elder of the caliber that one only reads about out of the distant past. We believed him to be inspired, a miracle worker, a prophet, based on hearsay from the many pilgrims that stream in and out of St. Anthony’s. My first trip to St. Anthony’s, it happened I was immediately ushered to the waiting area to see Fr. Ephraim, who in turn ushered me to the room where Fr. Paisios, the abbot, counsels with non-Greek-speaking pilgrims. I spent on that visit a total of ten minutes with Fr. Paisios. The purpose of my visit was to get advice concerning our son. He informed me that my husband and I were called to the monastic life, I have no idea why. I strenuously objected on the grounds that our children needed us. He told me that we could do our children more good praying for them in the monastery than we could helping them in the world, and that God would take care of everything we left behind. This, I was informed, would be the sure means of their salvation. The first time I received communion from Fr. Ephraim at the St Panteleimon Church where he at that time would often serve only women pilgrims, as I was receiving communion, he said out loud, slowly and distinctly, Ger-ron-dis-sa. I figured out what that word meant and was filled with confusion and misapprehension. Fr. Ephraim’s secretary, also named Ephraim (Papa Ephraim as he is called), whom I later discovered is barely visible at the monastery except at trapeza, would greet me most every time I visited St. Anthony’s, which was a total of perhaps ten times. He would ask me to edit his writings about Byzantine chant, or to wrap a huge icon as a gift for someone, or write a testimony to publish on one of his Internet sites. Once he said to me, “One day, people like you and I will write Geronda’s biography.” I also once received a letter from Fr. Paisios, who is well known to never write letters to anyone. He sent it from Mt. Athos. He told me, “You are called to be a monastic. Don’t make any other plans with your life.” In retrospect I can see all of the above as obvious appeals to vanity and pride, of which I most certainly possess my fair share. Along with feeling as though in some way that I could not fathom, I must have an unusual calling, I was perplexed and fearful of some enormous and mysterious responsibility for which I was undoubtedly unprepared. Most of all, I wanted to follow the Gospel. I knew I did not know or love God as I wanted to, but I wanted with all my heart to let God know that I wanted Him to be first in my life. “Whoever loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” and other similar exhortations were ever in my mind. I wanted to lay down my whole life for Jesus Christ, and to have Him in my heart. I had been led to believe that it was spiritually correct for spouses not only to live celibately, but to live in separate monasteries. At no time did I believe that there would ever be a breach in our caring for one another or in our mutual commitment to the very same thing, namely, to do this for the sake of saving our wayward children. We were to be absolutely one in our purpose, as we had always been, but carrying out our tasks in separate places. I was later to understand that marriage, being a Sacrament created and blessed by God, should not unlawfully be torn asunder, which we unfortunately agreed to using our own misguided light of understanding. By the time I realized this, it was too late. In 2007, after four years of preparation, I left for a women’s monastery. My husband stayed behind to finish up business, sell the house and help take care of our daughter and her child. My husband’s sister had moved in and was filling in for me. It seemed like all the bases were covered. At the monastery, the abbess seemed cordial. We had many good talks. She was the seemingly compassionate person that most people know. After I had been there for ten weeks, my daughter was so unhappy she was hinting at suicide. Fr. Ephraim quickly sent me home. I had the distinct impression at the time that it was not that they cared about my daughter, but rather that they didn’t want a suicide associated with the monastery. I wept for days because I did not want to leave the monastery. Three years later, after we had sold our home and property, distributed everything we owned to our children, setting them each up with households of their own, and also after we had given our business over to our son, and provided other resources for our daughter, we left for the women’s monastery, as an interim step toward our final goal. By now, our daughter was married with three young children, and her new mother-in-law seemed tremendously supportive. God, it seemed, was at last answering all our prayers! We moved close to the women’s monastery, to a beautiful setting, a lovely house, and we were lavished with everything under the sun that anyone could ever want or need. We were constantly being given gifts, gourmet meals, clothes, pastries, a continuous stream of presents. We spent most of our time working at the main monastery or attending services. We drove back and forth in the middle of the night for liturgies. We kept vigil. We had freedom to travel and to see our grandchildren. I noticed the abbess would frequently turn on excessive charm toward my husband– not unnoticed by the sisters who would ask me if I were jealous. In their innocence, they would make comments like, “They love each other so much.” She often flattered him by indications that he was a holy person, a wonderful person, so valuable to the monastery, how the sisters loved him, etc. He had private conversations with her which he never told me about, but I could see that his mind was often somewhere else. A “holy and dispassionate” courtship was unfolding right in front of my eyes, but I was too trusting to perceive it. I saw that he was being irresistibly drawn to her – her charisma and charm are the hallmarks of her personality. He said to me, “You just don’t know how I feel when I am around her.” Finally, when he told her he wanted more to remain at her monastery than to go to St. Anthony’s, she arranged for him to go to a nearby men’s monastery instead, and told him that she would ask a blessing for him to return to her monastery and serve as the priest there. He would be at a closer brother monastery; we would all be in the family. They could see each other on occasion. She had told him, “You’re in our club.” I was pretty stoic about all this. I was fully convinced that she loved us somehow equally. She seemed to have such a wonderful way of making miracles happen. The day my husband left for the men’s monastery, one of the sisters euphemistically informed me that he and the Gerondissa had tears in their eyes as they parted, a revelation which suddenly stabbed deeply into my heart. After he left, I went directly to the abbess and asked her what I should do next. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Do whatever you want to do.” I had thought she would welcome me to move into my keli in the monastery, but she just walked off. Later, I asked her the same question, and she gave me the same answer, very coldly. So I moved in, but everything felt inexplicably strange and unwelcoming. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong or what was going on. Then, unlike the first time I was living there, she never brought me into the front area in church where the nuns stand for services, but instead for several weeks left me out in the church with the pilgrims. Neither did she give me a key to the building, so that every time I needed to get in, I had to tag along with someone, wait for someone to come, or pound on the kitchen window. I felt like an outcast, a stranger, an unwelcome guest. In no way was I made to feel welcome, or drawn into the cenobium. The abbess remained perfectly cold and distant throughout my entire time there. We had none of the warm conversations characteristic of the other time I lived at the monastery. Her exchanges with me were laced with disapproval, and yes, what felt to me like hatred. She at times would humiliate me in front of the others, which I reasoned was standard monastic practice. I didn’t expect to be treated with kid gloves. Neither, however, did I expect that my experience this time would be the complete opposite of what it had been the first time I went there to live. Clearly, I was being treated differently from the other novices. One day out of the blue she accused me of being a bad wife, of being a manipulator and a controller, while my husband, she said, was such a “mild” man. The particulars she mentioned were completely erroneous. For example, she said in the way of an accusation, that I made all the decisions in our marriage. I explained to her that nothing could be further from the truth. We had an agreement that I would manage the house and the bookkeeping, he would manage our business, the yard, the vehicles, and the parish, we both would in agreement handle the children, etc. It became clear to me that she was guessing so that she could enjoy talking about him and learn more about him. In any case, bringing up our marriage was completely out of context and dissociated from the reasons I had asked to speak with her. Then after one month, [knowing full well that I had spent seven long years diligently digging my husband and myself out of the world, helping our children to stabilize (I thought), and preparing for this new life with my whole heart] she informed me without warning that I was too willful and would probably not make it there. At that, she walked out of the room with no further explanation, left the monastery for ten days, and drove to Arizona. I was completely devastated. My whole world collapsed. I was in a state of utter crisis with no one to talk to and no one to help me. The abbess would call the monastery to talk with the sisters each day, but she would not speak to me when I requested to talk with her. One of the sisters asked her to call me but she never called. When she returned, she ignored me completely, and then accused me of not speaking to her for “three whole days”. One reads stories of incredibly wayward monks or nuns that spend years learning obedience, but after one month, with no provocation whatever, she had announced that I was unfit for the task. One Saturday, a doctor came to give the sisters B12 shots. He wanted to examine me because of pain I had in my right side. A sister went to request this, but the sister returned to say that the abbess said no. Later, just after the doctor left, she sent word that I could be examined. When I found her to say that the doctor had left, she said that she had never told anyone I couldn’t be examined. These are the kinds of convoluted exchanges at which she was a master. Frequently she would twist something I would tell her into something else entirely, or she would ascribe to me motives that were completely inexplicable to me. In this letter I am only giving a few examples of the kinds of things that went on. At the monastery, absolutely everything is to be known by her and controlled by her. Where you are, what you are doing, how you are doing it, who you are talking to, what you are saying, how you are feeling, how much and what you eat, nothing escaped her notice and her control. Censorship was so absolute that even reading a label was forbidden. Part of obedience was full disclosure, which included tattling on everyone around you. The idea of covering your brother’s sin, or even your brother’s idle comment, was never mentioned. It slowly dawned on me that I was deliberately, imperceptibly, secretly being forced to leave the monastery of my own accord, although there was never an instance when I was in any way disobedient or willful or unwilling to do what I was told. Whereas when I was living at the monastery the first time, I was given a job that was within the range of my strength, this time, I was placed where I could barely make it, with a lot of standing and heavy lifting. I could and did do the work well, but with the anxiety and fear I was experiencing, and the icy coldness and disdain of the abbess, I felt anything but protected. Whereas I had believed I would be warmly sheltered in the heart of a wonderful new mother, my angel in the flesh, I found myself constantly bracing for a capriciousness I had never before experienced in another person. It was like living in a nightmare in which anything at all might happen without notice. I worked under a sister who showed every indication of being what we used to call manic-depressive. This sister has had numerous episodes, (sometimes several in one day, as she herself told me,) wherein she has completely broken down and been unable to function, one of which she had while I was working under her. At these times, the sisters knew to give her a wide berth. She had a very sharp tongue and I have seen her argue with the abbess openly. At times she was on a happy high; other times, she was in dark and morose places. The abbess told me to ignore her when she was like that. Here is someone I witnessed openly challenging the abbess, and yet she was entirely suitable to be a nun. She was quite vocal around me and expressed anger when she was required to do something she didn’t want to do. All in all, I liked this warm-hearted sister anyway and admired her tenacity. I ask you to forgive the tedium of relating these painful experiences which I had all but put behind me, but I believe that only with specific instances can the kind of mental and emotional abuse this abbess delivered be unveiled. One red-flag day, the abbess said to me that I would never give up my will. She said, “If I tell one of the younger sisters that black is white, she will repeat it back to me, and she will believe it. If I tell you that black is white, you might repeat it back to me, but you won’t believe it. You have had too much experience in the world.” I was astounded at this revelation that I was supposed to unquestioningly believe a blatant lie, and an absurd one at that. From that point on, I could not help observing more and more manipulative devices used to control the minds of everyone around me. Even so, these realizations occurred to me in vague, disconnected doses, and I was only slowly to connect the dots and process them several weeks after I returned home. During the four months that these and numerous other things were taking place, I began feeling intense dread, and later gripping fear, of getting up in the morning. Each day I would step out into the bright sunlight on that beautiful monastery campus, and would double over panting from anxiety. (At that time I did not know that I was having anxiety attacks as I had never experienced anything resembling that before). I never knew when the next bomb would be dropped, or what direction it might come from. The abbess said to me, “You are so…..delicate,” an allegation that under other circumstances would have been entirely amusing. One day, one of the senior sisters whom I had known from the beginning (that is about 6 years) and whom I knew loved me and always enjoyed my company, came up and told me that she didn’t want to interpret the noon reading in trapeza for me anymore, it was just too much. Always before, she had looked for opportunities to talk to me, to the point of trumping up questions about the orchard, or chit-chatting about Byzantine chant, just to share time together. I saw by the shame all over her face and how she dropped her head and eyes and shoulders that she was ordered to do that. After that she couldn’t look me in the eye again. Near the end, the abbess told me to go home and live a life of seclusion like a nun, keeping the prayer rule at home. She said that near the end of my life (?) I could return and be tonsured into the Great Schema. (“You need me to sponsor you,” she said in a warning tone.) She said that was often the way Fr. Ephraim handled older women, and that older women almost always went home because of their children, while older men would stay in the monasteries. (I would like to point out here that I in no way returned home because of my children or grandchildren. I returned home because, first, I was treated with a bizarre and abnormal kind of cruelty which produced an anxiety I had never known in my life. Second, I began seeing too many discrepancies between life at this monastery, my experience at other non-Ephraim monasteries {which included a 20-year close friendship with a different abbess}, and my voluminous readings about monastic life including many Athonite recountings. More importantly, trust had been broken, and once that happens with a looming authority figure, it’s all over, no matter what you may have had your heart set on. So despite my sincere willingness to embrace the monastic life, I finally, in the end, had to admit to myself that it grated against everything I had ever thought of as Christian to give my life over to a person who had given herself the right to manipulate her spiritual children with lies.) I asked who would advise me to keep me from falling into delusion. She snapped back, “You know the prayer rule, just do it.” I asked her if it was somehow God’s will that I leave. She said, and these are her exact words, “Why bring God into this? You came here, you tried it, you couldn’t do it, and now you’re leaving.” The evening before I left, I told her within fifteen minutes of my phone call with my daughter that I would be leaving the next day. Later she railed at me saying, “And I had to learn that you were leaving from the fathers at the men’s Monastery. You didn’t even tell me!” This was an out and out lie, but was by no means the only time she just simply fabricated things out of the blue. On the actual day that I left, she stuck by me like glue. She made sure no sister approached me or even understood that I was leaving. She interrogated me on who exactly I had told that I was leaving, saying I had no blessing to do that. She then threw her arms around me and holding my hand tightly promised to pray for me. She said that God had a much better plan for me. I was weeping uncontrollably, wailing out, “I’m grieving, I’m grieving!!! I will try to take my husband out of my heart!!” This was because I was going through all the stages of grief as though my husband had died. The abbess showed no signs of caring that I was distraught, but rather said to me, “You are still fighting. Are you going to reject God’s humbling you?” I replied, “I thought you said this was not God’s will.” Then she began to stammer and mumble unintelligibly. Her parting shots were, “Go home and find your peace,” and “Don’t be bitter. It will disrupt your prayer life.” And so ended nearly four months of torment, inner pain beyond anything I have ever known, a living hell. To top it all off, during the entire time, it was as though God, the Theotokos, all the saints, the angels, everyone who had always always been there for me, had entirely abandoned me. My prayers of desperation seemed to simply disperse into an empty universe. I now attribute part of this to the fact that at the monastery there was time to work, eat, work, go to church, work, do your prayer rule, work, sleep, and work, but no time and certainly no encouragement to “be still and know that I am God.” As we drove away, I had the overwhelming sense that God was at last speaking to me: “You will not find Me here!” To me, this did not at all mean that God is not there, or that He cannot be experienced there, (otherwise, why would any pilgrims ever bother to go there, unless they just liked the looks of a gorgeous, opulent monastery?). It meant that within the confines and directives of the life that I was living, I would never possess the sense of loving enclosure I needed to truly enter that silent, deep-heart prayer which had formerly been the delight and most essential ingredient of my life. Editor’s Note: Part II of Ruth’s letter to His Eminence will be posted next week.