Archimandrite Arseny’s Civil Suit against the Ruthenian Publishing and Exchange Company
As noted already when discussing the criminal libel suit that then-Archimandrite Arseny (Chahovtsov) instigated against Kirczow and Curkowskyz, he had filed a civil suit as well. The civil suit made the newspapers in April and May of 1909 but nothing was mentioned about it in the New York Times again after that. An investigation into the Supreme Court archives of New York (http://www.nycourts.gov/supctmanh/county_clerk_records.htm) did reveal a file on the civil case.
On April 16th, 1912, the attorneys for both sides agreed that “the above entitled action be discontinued without costs to either party as against the other; and that an order to this effect may be entered by either party without notice.”
On April 18th, 1912, the Honorable Henry Bischoff ordered precisely that.
This certainly does not add support to those who would claim that Archbishop Arseny was innocent of having raped (or even just slept with) Mary Krinitsky. It is true, of course, that Svoboda could be innocent of libel at the same time that then-Archimandrite Arseny was innocent of accusations of rape (or even simply fathering Mary’s child). The reason the discontinuance does not help those wanting to canonize +Arseny, however, is that it shows he was unable to demonstrate that the Svoboda article was, without a doubt, a case of libel. Note, too, that this was during a time in which it was easier to prove libel than it is now.
There is always an inherent risk with a libel case–the person pressing it ends up exposing him/herself to scrutiny while the party charged with libel often walks away relatively unscathed. When this happens, it can make things look worse for the party filing the libel complaint. I think that happened here. Archimandrite Arseny was unable to prove that Svoboda committed libel, leaving those supporting his canonization without a slam dunk case exonerating him.
Make no mistake, the burden of proof lies with those who wish to canonize him. By failing to prove that the accusation was irrefutably false, Arseny left the question unanswered and we now are in the position of reviewing the evidence at hand to the best of our ability. We are also in a position, I believe, that demands we acknowledge canonization would be inopportune and imprudent.
There are a few other avenues that may be yet available for investigation but at this point, we have the criminal trial’s transcript (at least most of it) and the discontinuance of the civil case. It is quite possible we might not have anything else to find with respect to this case, but one never knows. Should I uncover additional relevant source material, I will post on that as well.
Fr. Oliver Herbel, Executive Director
[This was published on Frontier Orthodoxy: http://frontierorthodoxy.wordpress.com]
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