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spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood

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[Aug. 8th, 2009|01:22 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood


Holy Shit! I am very glad and shocked to find your community. I have searched the internet for years and have not been able to find anything from people who are talking specifically about the monastery or the "brotherhood". Anyway I lived at St. Herman's Monastery from 1996 to 1998. From there I moved to Alaska to the St. Innocents Academy until 2000. I lived for awhile in Eugene with the community there, but did not have a very good experience. I now live in Boise Idaho, totally seperated from "the church" or any part of Christianity for that matter. I often think about my experiences with Orthodoxy, because they had such an impact on my formative years. I had a great struggle in 2000 when I decided to seperate myself from Orthodoxy. I had a difficult time for a number of reasons, but mostly it had to do with the fact that while living in the monastery as a novice, Fr. Herman tried numerous times to make out with me and use my own sexual frustration for his benefit. I am not the only person this happened to and other people have left the church for the same reason. I was reticent about saying these things but I recently found him speaking on Youtube, spouting his propaganda. I was under the impression that he was sent to reclusion by his spiritual father, a Romanian priest that I cannot remember his name, but the monastery wrote a book about him because he spent some time in the Romanian gulag. People are under the impression that Fr. Herman is some type of Holy Father, but he is nothing more than a confused old gay man that has nothing left to hang on to other than his Orthodox beliefs. It makes more sence when whosesplittingtheatom was also talking about Fr. Seraphim's homosexuality, and frustrates me to think that two gay guys from San Francisco moved to the mountains and became heiromonks ended up brainwashing a huge multitude of people. I'm not saying these things from a homophobic bias either. I have no problem with homosexuality, it's only ironic that the Orthodox church looks heavily down on it. Please don't let these words discourage you from believing in Orthodoxy. I would just not have anything to do with those people. I would join another church like one that is associated with the Greek Monastery in Arizona. The whole uncanonical bullshit that happened with the Brotherhood and the rechrismation also took a toll on my beliefs. I was very confused and did not feel like I was getting any answers from God or from the fathers at the Greek Monastery in Arizona, that I spent a few days at. I was really depressed and a bit suicidal about my decision to leave the church, for I was sure I was going to go to hell. Though, I have now come through it. These ae my experiences that have probably driven me further from Orthodoxy, and I would not want to discourage other's beliefs. I just want to help people get the hell away from St. Herman's monastey and those associated with it. People should be able to be Orthodox Christians and still exist in the world, and not fell like they have to live a monastic lifesyle. I did not feel like I could do both, so I left. I would be very interested in hearing others' experiences, I hope they may be less depressing than mine. 

From: lamesuperhero
2009-08-31 04:40 pm (UTC)

Fr. Herman

Hello monksrock - funny you should keep that name after such an experience with Orthodoxy. I am sorry to hear about your disappointing encounter with Fr Herman. And yes, there were more people who got the raw end of the stick as a result a his mistakes.

From the point of view of hero worship, it is more than clear why people who experienced Fr. Herman's dark side felt they had no choice but to cut themselves off from him and the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. It is also sad that despite the positive aspects of the atmosphere at Platina and in the mission in Alaska, the seed of Orthodoxy didn't penetrate the souls of some - there are others who separated themselves from the abusive situation, but remained Orthodox.

The spiritual formation of modern people is such that, in our state of deformation and extreme spiritual need, people are attracted to Orthodoxy and other spiritual paths mainly via charismatic role models. Its not so much that seeking a guru is wrong or abnormal, but in our unbalanced spiritual state sometimes a hero figure is the only way we can recognize that in Orthodoxy which might otherwise appeal to us in a less dramatic way. In many ways, Orthodoxy is appealing by itself and a more grounded, naturally healthy seeker finds it in a book or in a church and makes some choices and decides to open his or her heart to God through the faith of the ancient fathers and the ancient church. Nowadays, we seem to need something more. It is as if we have to see a working example of Faith in action before we invest in pursuing it ourselves and becasue suffering in quiet labor is not very sexy, we need giants or anything larger than life to be able to see with our eyes and hear with our ears. Fr. Herman sure fits this description. While his approach, in hindsight, is being questioned by many who followed him, there is also the indisputable fact that he led hundreds, if not thousands of people to faith, to a healthy sense of right and wrong and a link to a life in Christ independent of himself and the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. I am one such person and could vouch for many more.

Fr Herman's hard fall from grace is not in any way justified by his many good works. It's not that his works weren't good enough, but that just isn't how Christianity works. No one is justified by their works and all fall and have fallen short of the grace of God. The fact is, the taller the mountain, the more earth shaking the fall. It is not a surprise that many have abandoned him and that many, many people cannot forgive him. This is not fair, but in this earthly life, it is to be expected. Some say he deserves his fate. Whatever he deserves on earth, he shall surely be accountable before the Lord and I think it is premature for us to settle the score in our minds and hearts before the Final Judgment. Certainly for those still nursing their personal wounds and offenses it is tempting to see all he has ever done as one huge error and charade, but I for one do not condemn him or consign all his works to personal aggrandizement or the deluded psychological acting-out of a self denying homosexual.

For one, Fr Herman has never justified his behavior, never made excuses for his behavior on account of his own wounds and personal tragedies and has never asked for even the smallest measure of sympathy. I used to think this was a unique personal strong point, but I have noticed that it is a pretty common trait among Russians in general. They do not play the victim. Fr Herman has been disparaged and been the focus of such deep hatred for most of his adult life that few of us can comprehend. However much this must have hurt, he never let it get in the way of his mission, much less destroy him. He never put his burdens, and they have been many, on the shoulders of those that sought him out as a link to Orthodox spirituality. He had no shoulder to cry on, while everyone wanted to cry on his shoulder and he gave of himself in such a way that some achieved sobriety. Some did not. He never complained. He never looked back.

(continued in next post)

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From: lamesuperhero
2009-08-31 04:41 pm (UTC)

Fr. Herman, continued

I have been a missionary in the Netherlands and can testify that homosexuality is nothing new in the Church. Unlike you, I could probably be fairly described as homophobic. I am not afraid of homosexuality in others or in myself, but I view it with contempt. It is a sin and cannot be justified or smoothed over becasue times have changed and the Western world supports homosexual behavior. As the Church is full of thieves, prostitutes and blind, selfish and otherwise lost and damaged people, why should it surprise us that those caught in the spirit of demonic homosexual attraction also want to be saved? Christ died for their sins, too. The whole modern spin on homosexual sin is hype. It not a 'third gender' or any 'special condition in which those afflicted are not responsible for their behavior' but a widespread spiritual disease that needs treatment just like other spiritual diseases. I think the notion of homosexual sin as a 'special' category of sin is deplorable, both on the part of those who seek special exclusion of homosexual sinners from the Saving Grace of the Church and on the part of those who seek to excuse homosexual behavior by somehow finding its presence in society a normative thing. I have known many so-called gays who wanted God more than the satisfaction (or even justification) of their appetites. This in itself did not eliminate their sinful inclinations. In Orthodoxy, however, this is not the point. The point is struggling with your passions. We can now surely say that Fr Herman lost a number of specific battles with his passion, but this does not mean he is a hypocrite or a man deluded with self denial of his own homosexuality. I fell into numerous sins from my previous life after I was baptized and I confess and repent of these falls. No one had made the special case that I am a uniquely twisted sinner, a special hypocrite unworthy of confessing Christ as my God and Savior.

I am frustrated with the fall of my spiritual father, too. I had to really look at my own life and recalibrate. But Fr Herman taught me to put my hope in the Lord, not in Fr Herman.

I am encouraged that you were searching for something like this site and I hope I haven't further ticked you off with my views. We are ready to listen to your story if you need to tell it in any further details. I think your idea that you don't or can't believe but are glad that others have found faith has a glimmer of faith in it somewhere. If it were all so much rot and delusion, you couldn't sincerely wish us well in this way. That's something. Maybe even a slow sign of healing.

Hope to see you around


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From: lamesuperhero
2009-09-02 04:24 pm (UTC)

Re: spin off


Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Touche! I am accustomed to being wrong about everything concerning homosexuality because I have not acquiesced to prevailing relativism concerning homosexual issues. So kill me. I am up for a discussion, but I do not think this is the place.

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From: lamesuperhero
2009-09-02 08:15 pm (UTC)



Are you upset that I am satisfied with convictions I know to be polarizing? What should I do? Embrace doubt as an act of humility before others offended at my acceptance of views they see as wrong?

I have a lot of homosexually oriented friends active in the Church, some open and some not. Do I betray my friendship with them by believing homosexual activity to be a sin? Do I betray my friendship with alcoholics by telling them their way of life is inconsistent with striving in the Church?

What do you want? To snub me and then hide behind your supposition that "an argument about it probably wouldn't edify anyone here?" implying (fairly obviously) that you think I can't listen to opposing views? Or maybe you feel a discussion with someone like me is futile becasue you yourself are 'quite accustomed to being right' and taking guerrilla pop shots at me is the only way you defend what you believe? Do you want to discuss this or is your superiority complex more superior (and righteous!) than mine?!?!

He he he. I'm not asking for a break, you know that. And I don't axiomatically assume the broader latitude with which you approach issues to be Satanic. Someone has to throw a stick in the gears . . . I think we can all agree that one of the most productive aspects of this site is the freedom to question and react, to think out loud and doubt.

What I meant by this not being the place was that maybe this is the place for monksrock to voice his experience and call for feedback. I was just tryin' to respect monksrock's space. If he wants to discuss homosexuality here (or to club me for bringing it up in an inappropriate way) then ok.

My response is part of my experience and my experience is closely tied with my convictions. Apologizing for that wouldn't be sincere. Perhaps silence is preferable? I can't believe you of all people would prefer it.


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[User Picture]From: monksrock
2009-09-03 06:18 am (UTC)

Re: Fr. Herman, continued

I use monksrock not because they rock, but because it is a rock off spruce island which I have fond memories of.
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From: telopiste
2009-11-02 05:00 am (UTC)

Re: Fr. Herman, continued

I'm new to this forum, but was around SHB and in Platina for years (1992-2003, several years too many as far as I'm concerned). Lamesuperhero, there is no way to put this gently. You are INCORRECT in saying that Fr. Herman never asked for sympathy. Check out his latest YouTube video where he starts off, "as one almost dead... a voice from the grave." He's been saying that for years. (Of course, one of these days he'll be right.) Fr. Herman has always played up his sickness, complaining of lumbago, peripheral neuropathy... you name it. Even Fr. Damascene used to joke about how Fr. Herman was "dying" ever since he knew him.

The sick thing about this behavior is that it was one of the main ways Fr. Herman lured young men into giving him attention and doing his bidding. He was a "dying" man. It seemed so reasonable to fulfill a last request for him. But the last request never really ended. There was one more. And another. And another.... (whether involved with checking him for ticks or staying up all night to publish a zine or founding a metochion, etc.) It's true that Fr. Herman never justified himself, but he also NEVER APOLOGIZED for his actions, except once he did say sorry to me and then acted as though this one statement should make up for the years of confusion and pain that he had caused. His whole retirement from the abbacy on Pascha 2000 was such a joke. He claimed he had always wanted to go into seclusion and now the fathers of the monastery were granting him his wish. I think it is more sick that the community never really acknowledged among themselves what was going on. There were hushed discussions between individual members (I know because I forced some of these discussions to take place), but the community as a whole (at least as long as I was there until 2003) never had an open discussion among all the members about what had happened, and how to deal with the fall-out.

It's very instructive to compare what happened at Platina with the Zen community in San Francisco which was led by Roshi Richard Baker. It was a very similar situation, except Baker was sleeping with some of the female students. The Zen community had a much more open discussion about what had gone on, what led to the fall of their spiritual leader, how as a community they had contributed to the fall, and how to move forward. This has not happened as far as I know at Platina. I got tired of hoping that there would be some discussion of it, and ultimately decided that I had to get out. It's like living in an alcoholic family where everyone denies what is going on with the father and by this denial enable him.

The communal denial of the (frequent) molestation that happened at the monastery is part of what led the nuns to split off and move to Arizona. So, lamesuperhero, your weird twist on Fr. Herman's fall is off-key. Maybe you need it in order to persevere in your faith, but the twists and turns you take are quite bizarre. The discussion is not about whether Fr. Herman is sick, but whether the system is sick. In my experience the system is sick. Fr. Herman is just dealing with consequences of his actions (to some extent--I think he avoids most of it) like all the rest of us have to deal with the consequences of our actions. There is no reason to glorify it. You seem to have a tendency to somehow make "noble" in Fr. Herman the fact that he has to deal with the consequences of his "ignoble" actions.

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From: lamesuperhero
2009-11-02 02:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Fr. Herman, continued

Well then, I stand Incorrected.

I was never molested, I was never forced to do anything I didn't want to do, I never got any special attention and I thought Fr Herman's continual death rather funny. He often didn't remember who I was even after years of acquaintance and he never apologized for that, either.

He did give me Orthodoxy and this is what I really wanted.

It sounds like all you got was bitterness.

So, how is it possible for one person to walk away with the key to their happiness and another to be seemingly embalmed in the spirit of negativity? I am sure you wouldn't call your own view negative - perhaps you think of yourself as more vested in 'reality' which is just as likely. Perhaps you would say that I am really screwed up and just pretending to be a jolly fellow. I cannot prove otherwise. Or maybe we were looking for different things altogether? Maybe I got the pearl because I wasn't looking for an orderly institution with all the proper sense of culturally mature appropriateness.

Yes, the Church is sick, like an ill equipped hospital after an epidemic. Bodies in the hallway kinda stuff. Short on doctors, competency and all the good things any organization needs to be successful. There is plenty of medicine, though, for those that are willing to accept it. There is Confession, Communion. There is hope. If accepting this, in your mind, makes me twisted, proves my 'denial' of whatever, then so be it.

I don't judge you, though, because I don't know your experience. There is a good chance we know each other because the time frame of your connection to Platina seems to coincide with mine - I came to the monastery from Chico for the first time in 1989 and was present at many Valaam Academy / St. Paisius Missionary School events. My name is Thomas.

I am reminded of a good story from my own stint as a buddhist. Perhaps you know it or some other version of it?

A Zen master and his disciple are walking back to the monastery when they come to a steam. Also at the riverbank is a prostitute in full regalia. The prostitute asks the men if they can help her across and since it is the way they are going anyway, the master picks up the skimpily clad whore and carries her across. On the other side, the master puts the prostitute down and she offers one of her favors for the help, which the master kindly declines.

As the master and disciple approach the monastery, the disciple, troubled, asks his master reverently if it was really appropriate for the head of the Dojo to touch a person so unclean? The master replied, to the effect, that out of the spirit of compassion he had carried the woman across the river, but the disciple, out of the spirit of non-appropriateness had carried the prostitute all the way to the gates of the monastery.

You get what you settle for. We all got bumps in the road, thorns in the side and death waiting with open arms to engulf us. You sound invested in your cause. Good luck.

The ever deluded,


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From: telopiste
2009-11-02 05:58 am (UTC)

My experience was much more depressing! :)

Hey! Glad to reconnect. See my recent post. I'm glad you made it out. It was a really hard struggle for me as well. No answers on my part... but I think you are doing well working your way through everything. My motto is that it's better to be honest about where you are, than to pretend to be something that you're not--even if it is something "right".
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From: lamesuperhero
2009-11-02 03:46 pm (UTC)

Re: My experience was much more depressing! :)

Saw your recent post and my apologies for being a lousy sympathizer. My weak point. I have to sincerely maintain the positive aspects of my relationship to Fr Herman, even if it makes me in league with the worst of what the Church has to offer. So I am a sick bastard. What can I say? The building collapsed all around me and I was left standing. I don't feel bad or guilty about this. I have tried to help others and been hissed out of the way by the fact that 'I don't understand' or 'don't know what others are going through' so I stepped back. I have seen victims of worse shit both in an outside the Church. Maybe that perspective gives me an edge. Maybe it makes me a stone cold butt head. I am sure you would agree that the victim thing on goes so far before it starts to go in circles.

Wrong is wrong. The real question is, can faith take us beyond tragedy? Can we forgive and get on with our lives? Easier said than done, sure. But what else is there?


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From: (Anonymous)
2009-11-03 01:40 am (UTC)

Re: My experience was much more depressing! :)

Thanks for the apologies. I am not surprised that you don't understand. Sexual violation is a real mind-bender. I now see clearly why the church has so many rules around sexuality. As far as Fr. Herman, yes, there are still things about him that easily infuriate me if I dwell on it. At the same time, I am grateful for many of my experiences in the monastery, and I know that there are a lot of people who really benefited from him.

I apologize for being so harsh at the outset, but think for a minute about what it must have been like for me to be under obedience for years, to listen to people talking about Fr. Herman as "a new Moses" and then have all this weirdness going on behind the scenes. It's enough to make one crazy. When I was invited to this forum, I had the impression that it was a place where I could share my experience of what had happened and find a little understanding. When I read your praises of Fr. Herman, it made me want to shout, "Not here too! STOP IT!"

It was also a common reaction to respond as you did (more or less), "Well it wasn't that bad. There's worse. This was just a little transgression." I had a friend respond that way along the lines of, "If you want to see real sexual abuse, you should read about..." Yes, there's worse. But this is also one of the other ways that Fr. Herman justified his actions. It was the end-times, orthodoxy was falling apart, the world was coming to an end, he was haunted by demons... He just slipped up a little bit. His spin on it was that I was being "martyred" by his passions. I was supposed to perpetually accept his sexual short-comings and through this "forgiveness" I would be guaranteed a place in heaven. Yes, he did say exactly that to me.

So how much slack should he be given? What is the nature of forgiveness when there is no obvious repentance? I heard the "seventy times seven" teaching quite a bit. I "forgave" quite a lot, and in the end it really hurt me. It's only been in recent years that I've started to get a sense of what real forgiveness is all about.

Sooner or later, you'll figure out who I am, but I prefer to remain anonymous on this board. It is the internet, after all, and I have a career, and I don't wish to have my name blasted about. I even consider it somewhat of a mistake to say as much as I did, because I was doubted and rebuffed and misunderstood for all the years leading up to my departure. Perhaps it's a delusion on my part, but I feel safer when my name isn't used so please respect my need for privacy.

For the most part I am wary about telling people about my past. It's simply not worth it. I usually paint a rosy picture of the monastery. I chalk up the negative parts to experience, and blame myself for not being more careful, for trusting too easily. But I hope you don't take this and run with it. Please don't underestimate the effects of deprivation of both food and sleep. They can really put one into state where it is extremely hard to make decisions and see clearly. I was in that kind of state most of the time. Why? because that was what I thought I needed to do to. That was the ascetic model that was held out to me everyday in the readings at trapeza, in the hymnody of the church.... I voluntarily brainwashed myself and opened up my heart in a very vulnerable way. Fr. Herman took advantage of this to spread a gospel that in some devious ways served him although at the same time many people were inspired and arguably helped, such as yourself.

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From: (Anonymous)
2009-11-03 01:42 am (UTC)

Re: My experience was much more depressing! :)

Whether my decision to leave the monastic life is justified before God, I don't know. I do know that it will take God to sort everything out including the issue of Fr. Herman. It's complex. Every time I look back on the decisions I made, I see them as being God's providence. I was not expecting to leave the monastery and hung on longer than most. In the end, it was almost as though God himself spit me out of monastic life. Was this because I became abhorrent to God? Does Christ no longer approve of me? Fundamentally, I don't think so, but I have no idea whether I will ultimately be saved. I don't know how this will unfold, but neither do you. There are many stories of self-exiled monks who left the official church. If I still pray in an orthodox fashion, but don't attend church, is that ex-communication and condemnation? Or is it a long and terrible penance that I have ironically imposed on myself? Who's to decide?

I don't mean to be harsh, but I'm not interested in a knee-jerk "orthodox" response to these questions. If you wish to share about your own experience, I am glad to hear it, but please lay off quoting spiritual teachings to me. I have read just as many, and could equally quote others back to you, however I do not do this out of respect for your intelligence and ability to read. I hope you will do the same.

Good luck with your life. I know the lonely feeling of trying to stand in thsola e ruins.
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From: lamesuperhero
2009-11-03 08:58 am (UTC)

Re: My experience was much more depressing! :)

Fortunately, I am pretty much the only real insensitive (knee) jerk on the forum.

Everybody's got their pain and you're right, we can't compare. There is a 'knee jerk' tendency in our society and within the Church to say "my experience was worse than yours, therefore yours doesn't count / isn't real / is bullshit."

If you think about it, it is a kind of tyranny not dissimilar to the reactions of unbelief you met when you blew the whistle. Still, you had to do it. Nobody is saying you shouldn't have.

I guess the heart and soul of what I am saying is will a Nuremberg style trial for screwed up unrepentant Fr Herman really help you or anybody?

I think you assume I am judging you. Fr Herman and the SHB aside, I think you assume that nothing so bad has ever happened to me in my life.

I hope it doesn't sound too trite, but I sincerely believe Orthodoxy can survive in trampled hearts outside normal, tidy Church environments. One of my favorite dramas is the unfolding of events in the early church where the fate of those who had betrayed Christ during Roman persecution hung in the balance with the Church. This was a defining moment for our understanding of forgiveness and the real mercy of God. It was a complex situation, but ultimately there was no precedent. No rules to follow. Just sinners and God. Sure, the result was institutionalized and now comprises rules and protocols for repentance and blah blah blah, but there remains the legacy of that simplicity. Outside the realm of abusive situations where it might be used as a tool for justification, such grace still presents itself to the sinner in the turbulence of mind bending no win situations.

I have been to this place and that is why I am on this forum.

What I really want to hear is the survival story. This is what could be useful to others.

your lame friend

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From: telopiste
2009-11-11 04:39 am (UTC)

Re: My experience was much more depressing! :)

Thanks for the reply. I'm not getting updates on the thread so I didn't come across this till tonight.

I think it's wonderful that you have remained Orthodox. I chose a different path. In my present location there are still too many people who know me as a monk. Some have insisted on still addressing me by my monastic name. It's much too awkward.

There are many things about the Orthodox Church that I miss, but life has worked out differently for me. I anticipate moving within the year, and might reconnect with orthodoxy, but I'm not holding my breath about that.

I think now that any community really has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. When I said that the "whole system" was flawed, I meant specifically Platina, not necessarily orthodoxy per se... though my encounters with bishops and elders definitely left something to be desired.

I've come to have less interest in systems than in people. I suppose that makes me a humanist, but I still believe in God and I can't do without Jesus. But I'm not Protestant. Go figure...
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-12-21 12:57 pm (UTC)

Re: My experience was much more depressing! :)

All of these stories are survival stories.
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-12-21 02:28 pm (UTC)

Re: My experience was much more depressing! :)

I'm new to posting on message boards. I intended to reply to "lamesuperhero" saying "What I really want to hear is the survival story. This is what could be useful to others." I'm sure you are a very nice person, but I just had to say that all of these stories are "survival" stories and very useful to others. Sexual abuse is devastating to the soul. Kudos to you all for getting on here and reconnecting with others and having the courage to detail your experiences. Survival from sexual abuse is a process. I was never abused by Fr. Herman (I'm a woman), but I was raped so I have an idea of the pain. I think one of the things that needs to be pointed out here is that not only did Fr. Herman sexually abuse people, he did it using their desire for something good and Godly. He took that innocent and pure desire we all had to be close to God, be a part of something good, find salvation, etc. and made it into something horrible, ugly, and so, so hurtful. Whatever his secret intentions or personal struggles were, it doesn't matter. Not only are people experiencing the pain of sexual abuse, but the pain of spiritual violation as well. I'm not really sure there is worse. Obviously, there is no excuse. There is also no cause to use language that minimizes this. Of course people are bitter. Someone very close to me was hurt in this way. The sweetest, most gentle, kindest person I know. If Fr. Herman was in front of me, I'd punch him in the face. That sounds crass and probably silly, I know, but I really would. If he's been persecuted all his life, there is probably a reason. If we are going to have a church on earth, it would seem to me that we would all be responsible, at least in part, for standing up for what is wrong. Hurting people in that way is wrong. It doesn't matter why he did it or if he's even sorry because God will deal with that.

The kindest thing I can say for Fr. Herman is that for his sake I hope God is merciful. He'll find no pity from me. As a mother of sons and a wife I find what he did completely repulsive.

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From: amenelso
2010-01-06 07:18 pm (UTC)

Father George Calceau+

This is the Romanian priest you are referring to. I had the great pleasure of traveling with him and Mother Nina in Romania (1998. He is now buried at Petru Voda Monastery in Modavia.

Thanks for sharing.
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