The gracious Archbihop Dmitri answers the contentious "pokrov" protesters:
Diocese of the South
Orthodox Church in America
P.O. Box 191109 Dallas, Texas 75219
To whom it may concern,
The following is a response to the letter of June 1, 2004 regarding Fr. Andrew of St. Michael's Skete in Ca+Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ones, NM. In that letter there are assumptions made which need some clarification and/or correction.
First, it should be noted that Fr. Andrew was never employed by the Diocese of the South. While in Miami, he may have volunteered his time at the Chancery office performing clerical duties, but he was never an employee.
Second, Fr. Andrew is not an ordained cleric, nor has he ever been a clergyman of the Orthodox Church in America. He is a layman who has heard the call and chosen the monastic way as best for him to 'work out (his) own salvation with fear and trembling' (Philippians 2:12). Professed lay monks in the Orthodox Church are traditionally referred to as "father." This simply is their title, consistent with their vocation, regardless of past sins. As an example, St. Mary of Egypt, once overcome by sexually related activities before her conversion, is known as our, "Holy Mother Mary." She is referred to as a mother of the Church because of her monastic way of life.
Third, I think it important that readers of the Pokrov website be informed of the conditions under which Fr. Andrew has addressed groups of people. To begin with, neither he nor the Skete has ever sponsored a youth retreat. Furthermore, during the past eleven years only four or five times have parishes initiated contact with the Skete asking if adults, or adults with children, could visit Ca+Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ones for retreats. I have been told that when these groups were welcomed it was never the case that Fr. Andrew was alone with children. They were always supervised by the clergy bringing the group and parents. I also understand that on only a couple of occasions was Fr. Andrew asked by clergymen to speak to gatherings at their parishes. These priests knew Fr. Andrew and of his past, and the talks always took place under the same supervised conditions as described above. These points need to be emphasized because some individuals may have the impression that Fr. Andrew makes a habit of regularly leading retreats, initiates opportunities to do so, and that he is left alone with children at such gatherings. These are simply not the facts. Also, since the opening of the Skete, at Fr. Andrew's instigation, it is a rule that no minors or women are allowed on the premises without parents and/or appropriate chaperones.
Fourth, I would like to stress two things that characterize life within the Church: repentance and forgiveness. I understand and believe strongly in the need to protect the innocent. The desire to safeguard our youth and others is in fact why the OCA adopted the Guidelines for Sexual Misconduct. But I am also concerned with Church members providing people who have gone astray with an opportunity to repent and be shown some measure of compassion. The Guidelines do not negate this Christian responsibility. Somehow we must always find and walk that narrow way that allows for both protection and reconciliation. We may not often see it within society at large, but it needs to be found within the Church amongst the faithful.
Finally, as a summary of what I have already stated: Fr. Andrew is a layman living for the most part, a secluded monastic life with the help of other men who have also heard the call to monasticism; he is not a member of a parish; he is rarely in the presence of children, and when he has been, there have always been adults and/or clergy present; he holds no office or position of authority within the Church; and again he is not an ordained cleric or employee of the Diocese. He lives a simple, repentant life in the desert of New Mexico looking for the consolation of Christ. In addition, it should be noted that all of the clergy in our diocese as well as Orthodox clergy in the surrounding area of Ca+Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ones, were notified of Fr. Andrew's past.
I observed on the Pokrov website a prayer which calls for God to "turn the hearts" of those who have sinned, and "pour forth (His) healing grace upon them, that they may be convicted in their hearts and turn from their evil ways." In Fr. Andrew's case that prayer has been answered. It was answered years ago. I would merely pray that Fr. Andrew be provided the chance, by his brothers and sisters in Christ, to live the new life bestowed upon him by our Lord.
I hope this response serves to clarify and assuage any doubts or fears that some may have with regard to Fr. Andrew. I would ask that although the Pokrov website states that the group's spiritual advisor must remain anonymous, it would be helpful if he could contact my office privately in the near future with any questions or concerns.
To end, I am reminded of a verse from Psalm 130 that we chant at every Vesper service, "If Thou, 0 Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee..."
Archbishop of Dallas and the South
God grant you many years, Vladyka.