Posts tagged Arseny Chagovtsov
March 10, 1866: The future Archbishop Arseny Chagovtsov was born in Kharkov, in what was then the Russian Empire and what is today Ukraine. A widowed priest, he became a monk and came to America in 1903 to serve in the Russian North American Mission. He was instrumental in the establishment of St. Tikhon’s Monastery in 1906, and in 1908 he was assigned to be the administrator of Russian churches in Canada. Arseny — at this point an archimandrite — returned to Russia in 1910, fled to Serbia after the Revolution, and, in 1926, was chosen to return to Canada as the Bishop of Winnipeg. In 1936, he was apparently shot (I don’t really know about the details of his incident). After this, he retired from the episcopate and ultimately moved to St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania, where he was involved in founding what became St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Archbishop Arseny died in 1945.
March 10, 1895: Fr. Sebastian Dabovich dedicated Holy Trinity Orthodox chapel in Portland, OR. The small Portland community included Greeks, Syrians, and Russians, among others. The man most responsible for its establishment was a layman named Lavrenty Chernov. An Alaskan Creole, Chernov was born in 1848 and eventually moved to Portland. The ramshackle chapel was used for perhaps a decade, but it eventually fell out of use. In the first decade of the 20th century, the Greeks of Portland began using it for their own church, which was also called Holy Trinity.
March 5-7, 1907: The Russian Archdiocese held its first “All-American Sobor” in Mayfield, PA. A few years ago, OCA archivist Alex Liberovsky gave a nice lecture on the Sobor, which you can read on the OCA website. The Sobor was held concurrently with the convention of the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society. And while it was called “All-American,” it was a purely “Russian” affair: the other ethnic groups affiliated with the Russian Archdiocese, such as the Syro-Arabs and the Serbs, were not included. That said, the Sobor was a major step for the Russian Mission in America.
March 7, 1915: The funeral for St. Raphael Hawaweeny was held in his Brooklyn cathedral. Something interesting, which I’d never noticed before: St. Raphael was apparently friends with an American named Gary Cronan, who got permission from the New York Heath Administration to have St. Raphael buried in a crypt in St. Nicholas Cathedral. Cronan reportedly built the crypt himself. (My source for this is the unpublished St. Vladimir’s Seminary M.Div. thesis by A. Issa.) St. Raphael actually didn’t rest in the crypt for very long — Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh acquired a new cathedral in 1920, and St. Raphael’s relics were transferred to Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1922. Today they rest at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA. Anyway, I’m really curious to learn more about Gary Cronan.
Back in December, we reprinted Isabel Hapgood’s very good New York Tribune article on Raphael’s death and funeral.
March 6, 1921: Fr. Kallinikos Kanellas, one of the first Greek Orthodox priests in America, died in Little Rock, AR. Kanellas came to America from India, where he had been the priest of the Greek Orthodox church in Calcutta. He initially came to America just for a visit, but he fell ill and was forced to stay for awhile. He became affiliated with the Russian cathedral in San Francisco, which had a very large Greek population. He made at least one major mission trip through the country, visiting Georgia, New York, and Chicago, among other places. He was one of the first Orthodox priests to visit Chicago. In 1892, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov took over the Russian Diocese, and he released Kanellas, who then traveled to the eastern part of the United States. He eventually spent eight years as rector of the Greek church in Birmingham, AL, which was under the Church of Greece. Later, he became the first priest in Little Rock, where he died in 1921. Toward the end of his life, the Greek-American Guide described Kanellas as “a very sympathetic and reverend old man.”
UPDATE: To listen to a podcast based on this article, click here.
On Frontier Orthodoxy, Fr. Oliver has continued his examination of Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, comparing allegations against Irvine to the now well-known allegations against Archbishop Arseny. Click here to read the article.
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]
(Editor’s note: Today, we are very pleased to introduce a new author here at OrthodoxHistory.org. Deacon Matthew Francis lives in Edmonton, Alberta, and is one of the leading historians of Orthodoxy in Canada. For some time now, he has been conducting independent research into the life of Archbishop Arseny Chagovtsov, among many other aspects of Canadian Orthodox history. The article that follows is helpful in understanding why so many people in Canada have such great affection for Abp Arseny, who, indeed, had a significant impact on Orthodoxy in both Canada and the United States.)
Over the past several weeks, much has been written – both on OrthodoxHistory.org and elsewhere – about the 1909 libel trials involving Archbishop Arseny (Chagovtsov). Unfortunately, for many casual observers, this episode, while very important, may be all they know of this fascinating figure, who played a significant role in Orthodox history in North America.
In the interests of full disclosure, and by way of personal introduction, I acknowledge up front that I write as both a deacon of the Archdiocese of Canada and as a historical researcher. While I was not a member of the Archdiocesan Committee that researched and prepared the Vita, I have over the past few years conducted oral history relating to Vladyka Arseny’s legacy, interviewing elder clergy and faithful that knew him personally. In December of 2009, I was asked by His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim, to continue this research work, collaborating with Fr. John Hainsworth. I have been carrying out this task, and continue to do so. While there is much that we know about Archbishop Arseny’s life, there are also many elusive questions for which we still seek greater knowledge. So, as time permits, we endeavor to track down the various sources and pursue leads to understand more deeply the context and meaning of Archbishop Arseny’s work. It is hoped that all of these efforts, now spanning approximately twenty years within the Archdiocese of Canada, will be useful to the renewed Canonization Commission of the Orthodox Church in America as they carry out their investigative work with all prayerful diligence, faith, and prudence.
In this light, I am grateful for the work of OrthodoxHistory.org, and of both Matthew Namee and Fr. Oliver Herbel for bringing to light the sources around the 1909 criminal libel trial against the publication Svoboda. I do, however, differ from Fr. Oliver in my conclusions about the alleged 1906 rape of Mary Krinitsky. While acknowledging that it is probably impossible to establish his guilt or innocence with certainty, Fr. Oliver leans towards the possibility of Archbishop Arseny’s guilt. I believe that that there is a strong case to be made that he was, in fact, innocent. While I will articulate this claim in future posts, it should be clarified that Mary Krinitsky ultimately denied that any such assault ever happened in the first place.
The purpose of this post is not to re-state the basic introductions to Archbishop Arseny available elsewhere online, such as the Orthodox wiki article or the Vita prepared by the Canonization Committee of the O.C.A.’s Archdiocese of Canada. Rather, my purpose in writing is to briefly highlight some specific aspects of his life and career, indicating along the way some of the context behind why Archbishop Arseny has been considered for glorification as a saint. In future articles, I intend to introduce readers of this site to other aspects of Orthodox history in Canada. Along the way, I will address in detail important vignettes from the life of Archbishop Arseny, such as the occasion of his being shot in Canora, Saskatchewan while attending a clergy assembly in 1935.
Archbishop Arseny’s ministry is broad in scope, spanning continents and many different types of service over six tumultuous decades. In this post, I would like to highlight some of the historical roles that this intrepid man took on. I believe that sketching out these roles provides an appropriate balance and context to the ongoing, and essential, discussion of the serious accusations made against Archbishop Arseny. Sound discernment of whether he should be formally recognized as a God-bearing saint will emerge from this kind of balanced searching for truth, taking all things into account. While some may dismiss these themes as overtly hagiographic, they are apparent in the historical record, in letters and articles in the Vestnik, and must be given their due. St. Tikhon’s Monastery has a cache of highly relevant material easily accessible.
Archbishop Arseny transmitted Orthodox monastic life to North America
In early 1905, the young Hieromonk Arseny was serving in the North American Diocese as Rector of the Parish of St. John the Baptist in Mayfield Pennsylvania. He dreamed of developing a monastery that could serve as a spiritual heart for the mission in America. The story of the founding of what would become St. Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery has Archbishop Arseny as its protagonist. He traveled in a horse and buggy with St. Tikhon over the hills of Pennsylvania when the Archbishop chose the lands. He raised the money and created the plans. He fostered the Brotherhood and welcomed the first monks. He built the buildings and paid for the establishment and sustenance of the Orphanage out of his own funds. Most of all, however, Father Arseny established the first monastery in North America, rooted in the ascetic and spiritual traditions of the Orthodox faith. Working closely with Sts. Tikhon, Raphael, Alexis (Toth), and Alexander (Hotovitsky) in the years 1905-1908, Father Arseny, is described by them all with deep respect. In 1906, he was raised to the rank of Igumen by St. Tikhon, and in 1909 to Archimandrite by the Holy Synod.
I suppose such ‘external’ recognition has its place. I found it compelling, however, that in my conversations in the Summer of 2009 with a few esteemed archpriests of the O.C.A., who, as young seminarians knew the Archbishop in his last years, the word they used to describe his attitude was “repentance.” It is repentance that is at the heart of the monastic life. I hope, in due time, with their permission, to publish the transcripts of these interviews. They convey something of Archbishop Arseny’s own life and attitude – one of quietness and love, that should not be disregarded.
Archbishop Arseny proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ
During his early ministry in Canada, then Archimandrite Arseny distinguished himself and served his flock by his Gospel preaching. A few allusive quotations shed light on this aspect of +Arseny’s ministry. It was during this time, 1908-1910,
that he gained the affectionate title, “The Canadian Chrysostom” for his extraordinary preaching talents. He became famous for his sermons, which being published in an Orthodox journal of the day, The Canadian Field, eventually were read in Russia by Czar Nicolas II. The Russian Emperor was so taken with his sermons that “in order to thank him for this ‘food for the soul’ (as he referred to the articles written by Archimandrite Arseny) – bestowed on him a gold pectoral cross sent directly to him by His Majesty’s offices.” (Historical Chronology, p. 17)
We hear, for instance, in July 1909, Andrij Herbut, who was Starosta (Board Chairman) of St. Barbara’s Church in Edmonton, Alberta, about one of Arseny’s visits where many came from all over: “But when they heard the famous preacher the hearts of lost sinners were softened and many of them shed tears.” (The Life of Archbishop Arseny, p.10)
Archbishop Arseny exercised oversight of the Church
In all phases of his ministry, +Arseny intentionally looked to many dimensions of the Church’s work, both in its personal and ‘institutional’ dimensions. This is apparent in his development and initiation of many endeavours. Wherever he served for any length of time, he began to establish not only monastic life, but also pastoral schools for training potential clergy. This is evident not only at St. Tikhon’s, where he founded the school that eventually became St. Tikhon’s Seminary, but also in Canada, at Sifton, and in Winnipeg. He gave attention to such practical elements of the Church as stewardship and fundraising, personally eliciting generosity and fostering a pioneering spirit in the work of sustaining “the Mission” in North America.
These three themes are but a few of the historical threads running through the missionary career of Archbishop Arseny, whose legacy is still felt throughout the Orthodox Church in North America. This post merely sketches some of these elements, and they will be drawn together in more detail later. For now, we must let the historical task of S.O.C.H.A. and others continue to examine the life and work of Archbishop Arseny.
By way of exhortation, I hope that we will use this experience of this hierarch’s potential glorification as an opportunity for growth and maturation in the Orthodox faith. As many have said, “God knows if Archbishop Arseny is a saint, or not!” Our task is to attend to what the Lord reveals to us, and to receive from Him what is given. Let us calm our passions and endeavor to sustain wholesome relationships in the midst of this conversation. That is to say, let us all heed the good word of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. Let none of us say, “I am for Arseny,” or “I am against Arseny.” I have a feeling the Archbishop himself would be aghast at such an attitude. Rather, as we pour through the historical sources, let us all, as Orthodox Christians, seek to be for Jesus Christ, to draw near to Him – Who Is the Truth – in faith and love, and to discern with all reverence and diligence, those bearers of His love to us.
[This article was written by Deacon Matthew Francis.]
On his Frontier Orthodoxy website last week, Fr. Oliver Herbel posted an essay outlining his position on Archbishop Arseny’s canonization.
In a follow-up post, Fr. Oliver responded to the charge that he was employing a “hermeneutic of suspicion.”
Finally, on his own blog, Gabriel Sanchez used Fr. Oliver’s comments a springboard to reflect upon the nature of historical inquiry in the Orthodox Church.
For anyone interested in the Abp Arseny story, or in historiography more generally, these articles (and the thoughtful comments that follow them) make for fascinating reading. At the very least, I would strongly encourage you to read Fr. Oliver’s first article, on his position vis-à-vis the Abp Arseny canonization.
Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more new material, from a new contributor to OrthodoxHistory.org.