This Is Not Confession

By dogcatcher on February 27th, 2012
  This is Not Confession: Do Not Be Fooled We have received many reports from victims of spiritual abuse promulgated through the tool of confession. The following article illustrates a number of examples of the typical testimonies we have documented regarding the misuse of the power of confession. Many people find their way to the Ephraimite Monasteries for different reasons. Whether seeking solace and guidance for a failed relationship, facing the challenges of parenting, especially a special needs child, finding one’s footing in life, or just seeking what is said to be a more spiritual place to worship, many find themselves seeking a retreat (often on the advice of an acquaintance or a certain member of the clergy). There is also a segment of the Orthodox population, the wealthy families, who are courted or gathered for retreats at these monasteries, though this is not how most people make a visit to the monastery. Those who make reservations for a brief retreat at St. Anthony’s in the desert are surprised at what they find. It is not a humble facility that would suit the image of a monastery. It is a palatial resort. The grounds and buildings would match those of the finest resorts in the world. The visitor enjoys this environment, as well as a room with maid service, three meals a day, snacks, and a great deal of attention. Naps are encouraged purportedly to allow the visitor to be awake for the services that occur in the middle of the night, but in fact they are a classic cult technique. Disrupting the normal sleep patterns of both the guests and those who live at the monastery make individuals more malleable to suggestions. The cult-like reputation of Elder Ephraim draws people from around the world – some to see if he really does levitate, or if he really does have the scent of a rose, or to hear about heaven through the mouth of an alleged regular visitor. They may join those who throw themselves at his feet when he passes, or touch his robe as believers who were drawn to Jesus in the parables often did. The alleged miracles of Elder Ephraim have traveled around the world. Frequently, the traveler is drawn to this palatial compound to give confession. All are given the opportunity to confess, some to the charismatic Elder Ephraim – if they speak Greek or if they are deemed worthy to have a translator – or to an Elder such as Paisios. We have received reports of families who are on waiting lists to visit with Elder Ephraim and who drop everything on a moment’s notice and often incur debt in order to visit with Ephraim. In confession, visitors bare their souls and sins to a gentle, almost grandfatherly holy man. His comments and guidance seem rational and reassuring on the first impression. In some form or another, the penitent is at first comforted in a calm and reassuring manner. The penitent may hear the equivalent of “if you had only come to us sooner, perhaps the situation could have been prevented or made less difficult.” Now the process begins wherein the tables are turned and the confession becomes more of a cross-examination. Imagine the penitent who has been made vulnerable by confessing to God through this monk, seeking guidance from this holy man. In particular, for the female confessor, the Elder now asks specific questions regarding their sexual activities (most of which cannot be repeated in print, though there are two-page copies of the questions floating about). The questions continue until an affirmative response to an uncomfortable question is received resulting in the confessor’s feeling some sort of guilt (or outrage). The confessor has now been hooked (or leaves the monastery in disgust thinking about how wrong the process of confession is at the monastery). Ultimately, penance is meted out resulting in, at the very least, the confessor’s required abstinence from taking communion for a period of time and being directed to continue to offer confession to a “chosen” priest in their own community. But, the confessor is no longer thinking clearly because they are being emotionally controlled. At this point, there should be alarms going off warning that something is not right. Confession makes one vulnerable; they are well aware of this at the monasteries. Of course they know that at the monasteries. Some take advantage of that vulnerability. They even manipulate the penitent through the sensory overload of their surroundings, the disrupted sleep patterns, and their exposure to the frenzied devotion of those all around them in believing that the Elder is a living saint. Logic, rationality, and likely, a sense of time and perspective are swept away making it difficult to comprehend what is happening. This is not Orthodox confession. Confession does not require answering a laundry list of questions regarding transgressions of a sexual nature asked by the Elder or monk. Do not passively accept this perversion of confessing one’s sins to God through the Elder or an approved “spiritual father”. The manipulation of this perverse confession, more like a cross examination, is deliberately manipulative. Do not be fooled. Consider the concept that the Elder directs the penitent to an approved “spiritual” father for future guidance and confessions. There should be more alarms going off again. The Orthodox Church does not select certain “spiritual” Fathers to properly guide the spiritual life of the faithful. The local Greek Orthodox Bishop (Metropolitan) confers authority for confession to a priest after he has been blessed to do so. [ Priests of other Orthodox jurisdictions are not required to receive a special blessing, but are conferred with this authority upon being ordained.] A priest with this blessing wears an epigonation with his vestments. Once conferred with this blessing, ALL PRIESTS ARE EQUAL IN THEIR ABILITY TO HEAR CONFESSSIONS. In the past, in one of the Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States, a parishioner required permission from the parish priest to be allowed to give confession to a monastic. The reasoning behind this requirement was that the standards by which the monastic lives is not equivalent to living in society. In addition, this is based on the notion that it is the parish priest who admitted his parishioners to the Lord’s Table at the Eucharist accordingly must have a sense of their spiritual well-being. The guided path set out by the monastics and their followers is moving further and further away from our Orthodox Faith. The parishes of these “spiritual” fathers, who describe themselves as traditionalists, resemble the dress and conduct of a monastery. They are churches in disguise recruiting new followers to these so-called monasteries. Strict standards of dress and behavior are encouraged. There is no partial buy in. Listen closely to the words of these “spiritual” priests. They speak of dark days ahead, of Satan – not of Christ, of churches that should all resemble these dark places without love, without joy, without faith. They speak with delight of chasing out the “country-clubbers” that funded and founded these churches. Where in the Bible does it indicate that those who do not comply with these ideas should be chased out of the church? Or are they deliberately building their own church? There is a disproportionate focus on appearance here. It is seen in the garb of the “spiritual “ clergy – a long, unkempt beard, a ponytail, and a rassas. It is seen in the clothing of the women in the parish, skirts to the floor, sleeves to the wrist, no pants – all that is missing is a burqua. This is fanaticism of appearance, not faith. There should be more alarms going off. This self-selected group believes that they are the “chosen”. They freely pass judgment on those who do not wear the right clothing, do not fast to letter of the doctrine, and send their children to their cult-like day schools. Let me repeat that concept: they pass judgment on those who do not meet their criteria. They are Orthodox Christians issuing judgment on other Christians. This does not sound like the Orthodox Faith. The children at these schools, (as young as four-year olds), are taught to pray that they are sinners and taught to do their “allocation” of prayers and metanyes or their parents will not go to heaven. It all starts with their form of confession. The programming and manipulation at these centers (both the monasteries and the indoctrinated churches) aim to consume more and more of the independence of the parishioners. The parishioner will be drawn closer and closer to their ”spiritual “ father for guidance until all actions that are outside of their controlled cabal are forbidden. God-given free will is stripped away. Our churches were never intended to be single-mindedly controlling of every thought and action of the laity. This is not our Orthodox Faith. Do not be fooled.