Archbishop Arseny Post 3: Clarifications and the Defense Begins its Case

Before I continue, I want to add a couple of words of clarification from the last post:

First, I suggested that relative to the documents the canonization committee claims it has, Arseny perjured himself.  Here is how I came to that conclusion.  The documents the canonization committee says it has from Kharkov would show that a son was born to the Chagovtsov family, after the first year of marriage, apparently.  Fr. Andrew Morbey, in a comment on Frontier Orthodoxy, has stated that Archbisop Arseny’s wife died in childbirth, which may well be true, but it seems it would have been with their second child, who would have also died in the process unless we simply have no records of a second son/child.  I base this on the online sources that say his wife died in the 1890s.  Now, if that is true, then the following testimony seems very odd:

Smitkin: Were you a married man in Russia?

A: Yes.

S: Had children, didn’t you?

A: No.

[. . . other testimony, which, by the way, is fairly hard-hitting–including questioning about a lady who lived with him in New York; the judge upheld Garvan’s objection, noting that Archimandrite Arseny’s character was not on trial . . .]

S:  How long had you lived in Kharkov?

A: Not in Kharkov, near Kharkov.

S: Well, near that place, how long had you lived there?

A: About thirteen years.

S: Didn’t your wife give birth to a son to you?

A: No.

[This may be found on pp. 45-46.]

Now, I am accepting the canonization committee’s evidence and the sources that give her death as the 1890s (though really, she could have died earlier and we’d have the same likelihood of perjury).  If I am wrong in accepting the committee’s claim to documentation, then perhaps there is no perjury.  Perhaps Dionysius is not really +Arseny’s son (i.e., his wife had an affair and answering “no” to a question that includes the phrase “to you” avoids perjury).  Or, perhaps Dionysius is a son to +Arseny through other means (an affair with another woman or adoption, though the adoption option would seem to make the first denial of any children an example of perjury).   I realize some might want to claim something was lost in translation or that Arseny misunderstood the question, but I find that misguided and, frankly, incorrect.  Fr. Arseny comprehended the Russian translator well enough to clarify details and respond in a way that suggests good communication.  The question is whether the documentation from the canonization committee is as solid as it claims.  If it is, then relative to that documentation, I think there is perjury.  If that documentation is wrong or has been misunderstood, then any of the other scenarios I mentioned could be correct, but none of them would be entirely exonerating of Archbishop Arseny either.

Second, when I mentioned Mary Krinitsky appearing nervous or confused, that is a judgment call I am making on the basis of the readings and exchanges and one I am making despite the clear translation difficulties.  Her native Carpatho-Rusyn caused difficulty for the Russian translator and juror nine, the Pole, gave it his best shot in order to help.

Third, I wish to apologize to all the lawyers out there who want a sense for the momentum and flow of the trial, a better sense for what’s being objected to and how objections are handled, what kinds of questions are asked, etc.  That is not the kind of analysis I am providing here.  The trial transcript will be up on Monday, so any and all legally trained experts will be able to read the transcript for themselves at that time.  In the meantime, know that my analysis is one that is simply looking for consistencies and inconsistencies within the narratives given and arguments made.

Now, I turn to the defense’s case.  Due to its length, I’m going to divide it into two, maybe three parts.  I ask that the readers forgive me for stringing this out.  My intent is not to keep everyone hanging, but rather to keep the posts both an easily typable and readable length.  The defense opened its case on page 175.  Smitkin asked that the charges be dropped due to the state’s inability to make a strong enough case, but the court overruled and he continued on.

The first witness the defense called was Harry Needle, the notary public who validated the first affidavit that Mary Krinitsky had signed, naming Archimandrite Arseny as the biological father.  Needle claimed Mary Krinitsky had been informed of the contents of the affidavit she signed (181) and that he knew nothing of the alleged offer of marriage and/or money to Mary Krinitsky in return for signing the affidavit (182).  Furthermore, the affidavit stated that Archimandrite Arseny and Yatsko Adamiak threatened her and Mr. Needle, who testified to being able to speak both Russian and Carpatho-Rusyn, said Mary Krinitsky had stated the contents of the affidavit to him and she was fully aware of what it said (191-95).  We also learned during this time that Hrycko Chaly was instrumental in getting Mary Krinitsky to sign an affidavit.

Mitrofan Biluszenko was called next.  Biluszenko testified that Mary Krinitsky had approached his wife, hoping they might adopt the boy (211).  This contradicted Krinitsky’s own testimony, for she had said that although she knew Biluszenko, she had not spoken to him.  Biluszenko describes the incident of the rape and Krinitsky’s subsequent stay at the monastery until she began to show (215).  He claimed that Krinitsky told this to him.  He also claimed that Krinitsky told him she had been “paid off” and told to leave (215, 220).  In cross examination, Garvan tied to show that Biluszenko had not obtained a painting job/contract for the monastery and was upset at Arseny and only testifying out of revenge, but Biluszenko denied such an accusation (denying both the attempt to obtain the job and that he was out for revenge).  A week or two before the Svoboda article came out, Biluszenko came home to find Hrycko Chaly and Mary Krinitsky at his house along with Biluszenko’s wife and Eugene Wasylenko.

Bishop Soter Ortinsky was called as a character witness for the defendants.  Ortinksy frustrated Garvan because Garvan asked whether any decent Christian man would write such an article as appeared in Svoboda.  Ortinksy (240) informed Garvan that if the accusation was false, no, but if true, then it would depend on the laws of the country and what was allowable.  Garvan was upset, likely seeing this as an evasive answer.  Ortinksy also noted, in response to questioning by Smitkin, that he ignores the bad press he receives (244-45) rather than pursuing libel suits.

Fr. Nicholas Pidmorecki and Fr. Demetrius Dobrotwor, Greek Catholic priests were also called as character witnesses.  During cross examination, Garvan asked Dobrotwor whether it was appropriate to publish an article sent into a paper with only an unsigned letter.  Smitkin then objected and held up the very letter, noting it was signed.  Thedosius Labowky was then called as an expert witness to verify the letter’s contents (as it was in “the Ruthenian language”).

Following that, Eugene Wasylenko, who had been at Biluszenko’s house, was called to the stand.  Wasylenko gives the same recounting of Mary Krinitsky’s tale that Biluszenko had given, noting the buggy was the “first time” (261).  He further claimed there had been no one in Mayfield by the name of “Andrew Pretash” (265) and that Mary Krinitsky had said she felt “threatened” by Arseny (270).  Like Biluszenko, Wasylenko denied to Garvan that he had ever attempted to obtain work at the monastery.

The next witness to take the stand is Hrycko Chaly and it is with him that I shall pick up in post four.  At this point, the defense as started to muster a case against the prosecution’s.  Some headway has been made, as there is a notary public (Harry Needle) who testified to the affidavit that lies behind the Svoboda article and Biluszenko and Wasylenko now give the jury a testimony that contradicts Mary Krinitsky and offers a reason she may have changed her mind and lied (she had been threatened).  This is becoming a he said/she said affair with an affidavit to back up the allegedly libelous article.  The defense is not done yet, however.

Fr. Oliver Herbel, Executive Director

[This post is cross posted at]

2 Replies to “Archbishop Arseny Post 3: Clarifications and the Defense Begins its Case”

  1. Just to clarify for our readers, since we haven’t discussed him before — Bishop Soter Ortinsky was a Greek Catholic (Uniate) bishop, sent from Rome to the US in the early 20th century in an effort to stop the defections of Uniates to the Russian Orthodox Church.

  2. Thank you, Matthew. I need to do better at remembering that people some of us have heard of or know about are not people we have all necessarily heard of or know about.

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