Archbishop Arseny’s Canonization, Part 1: Introducing His Alleged Rape of Mary Krinitsky and the Subsequent Criminal Libel Case

Dear Readers,

This is the first of a three part series looking into a court case that relates to Archbishop Arseny (1866-1945), who is being considered for canonizatiion as an Orthodox saint by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

Those wanting a bit of a biography may check out the OrthodoxWiki entry for him.

Basically, in a nutshell, +Arseny had served as a married priest in Russia until his wife died.  In 1902, he came to America and served under St. Tikhon.  He was instrumental in founding St. Tikhon’s monastery and the accompanying orphanage.  Late in 1908, he was sent to Canada to administer the parishes there.  In 1910, he returned to Russia and in 1920, was in a Serbian monastery when some Canadians asked that he return to serve them.  In 1926, he was consecrated as the Bishop to Canada.  He died in 1945 and is buried at St. Tikhon’s monastery.

At the time of the court case I am about to discuss, Arseny was an Archimandrite in charge of the newly formed St. Tikhon’s Monastery.  In June of 1908, Svoboda, a Greek Catholic (Uniate) paper published an article in which the author claimed Archbishop Arseny sexually forced himself upon one Mary Krinitsky on a buggy ride in the middle of the night.  She had gone to a dedication of a cemetery near Simpson, PA, but missed her train back home.  He offered her a ride and allegedly forced himself upon her after treating her nicely.  Allegedly, this was the first occurrence, because after nearly a year later, she gave birth to a son.  On the basis of an affidavit signed by Mary Krinitsky herself, Svoboda claimed Archbishop Arseny (whose last name is rendered as Chagovtsov, Chagovets, and/or Chahovtsov in the documents) fathered the child. Archimandrite Arseny filed two libel suits against the paper–one in civil court and the other in criminal court.

These cases and their larger context deserve further exploration.  The OCA has a canonization committee established for looking into the life of Archbishop Arseny.

Fr. John Hainsworth has written a life of Archbishop Arseny on behalf of the canonization committee.  In an early online version, he provided this intriguing reference:

“Little is known of his first assignments when he arrived except that by his own recollection he worked in parishes in Troy, Mayfield, and Simpson in the Eastern United States. Curiously, his work with the returning Uniats is not mentioned in any of the memorial articles and accounts of his life, even though it was substantial enough to incur a case of libel against him by Uniats frustrated by his success.”

That version is no longer online.  His current version omits this.

The Orthodox Wiki page (which borrows directly from Fr. John’s piece) also omits this.  I was unable to find any other online or published discussion of this anywhere else.  I had originally asked a member of the committee several times over for a copy of any court transcripts and emailed another member about the case as well, but after waiting about a year, I took it upon myself to track down the criminal case.  Independently, I obtained a microfilm of the criminal court case that began in January of 1909.  I intend to digitize this transcript and place it on SOCHA’s website so that it is readily available to all without delay.

I assure forthright discussion on my end.  Although I won’t be sharing news each step of the way as I continue my research, I do want to share with you what I have gleaned from this first transcript.  I also want to inform you that I will make this court transcript available on SOCHA’s website in the near future because the interest in this case has been a collective one between those of us on the executive board of SOCHA.  You will see nothing but transparency from me, not to mention SOCHA, in this matter.  Even if you disagree with my interpretation, I hope you will at least be thankful that you had an opportunity to examine the sources and so disagree!

In the next post, I will provide a general interpretation of what I have in the transcript.  In the third post, I’ll simply provide a few mildly amusing quotes from the transcript, to lighten the mood a bit.  If I deem it appropriate, I may post a fourth piece, as an addendum, clarifying or correcting as is necessary.

Fr. Oliver Herbel, Executive Director

[This post is cross-posted on http://frontierorthodoxy.wordpress.com]

4 thoughts on “Archbishop Arseny’s Canonization, Part 1: Introducing His Alleged Rape of Mary Krinitsky and the Subsequent Criminal Libel Case

  1. Is there a way to get a list of people the committee is currently considering for canonization?

    • Good question. I have not looked into who all might be before the committee, but I suppose one could contact the committee directly and ask.

  2. The original version compiled by the canonization committee of The Life of Archbishop Arseny is to be found in the Archives (Text Archives) pages of the All Saints of Alaska parish website, of which Fr. John Hainsworth is priest. http://www.allsaintsofalaska.ca
    Also in that article, Abp. Arseny’s birth name is given: Andrij Lvovich Chavstov

  3. VallaE,

    The version of Abp Arseny’s life which appears on the allsaintsofalaska.ca website is actually a later version. I have a copy of the earlier version, dated March 2004. It differs in significant ways from the later version, no doubt in part because of new material uncovered since it was written. However, while the March 2004 version does include a reference to this 1909 court case, the current version does not. I have no idea why Fr. John Hainsworth would have removed all references to such an important incident in Abp Arseny’s life.

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