The Case Against Agapius Honcharenko

Editor’s note: Over the past several weeks, we have been publishing some historical documents which Nicholas Chapman recently discovered in London. Here are the relevant links:

Today, we’re publishing the final document in this series — a report detailing the case against Honcharenko. We don’t know who wrote this report, but it provides previously unknown details on Honcharenko’s life prior to his arrival in America. This document was translated from Russian by Matushka Marie Meyendorff.

From 1857 to 1860 at the church of our mission in Athens there served the Hierodeacon Agafy. He was the son of a priest. Agafy had completed a course of studies at the Seminary in Kiev in 1853.

He entered the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra. In 1856 he was ordained to the hiero-deaconate. In 1857, according to the testimony of the deceased Metropolitan of Kiev, Philaret, Agafy was sent by the Holy Synod to the post which had opened of Hierodeacon at our church in Athens.

From the beginning of his arrival in Athens, Agafy (as was reported in 1860 by the previous rector of the Church in Athens, Archimandrite Antonin) showed a tendency against the fulfilment of the rules of the life of a monk. He lacked friendliness towards the persons who formed his parish and had an especially negative attitude towards the rector. In January 1860 a boy of around 16 declared to Archimandrite Antonin that Agafy, for a long time, had hounded him with impolite words and at last made an improper proposition. When confronted with the accuser, Agafy agreed and said that he did it with the aim to learn if the rector himself did not have a similar relationship with the named person. After that it was declared to Agafy that he should find another place of work, This is why he was given a position that removed him from the church in Athens. Soon after that was found, glued to the wall of the tower adjacent to the church of the embassy a slander against Archimandrite Antonin. When it was found that a similar slander was written also in the bell; Agafy was sent to Russia. He left on February 2, 1860.

In that same year, 1860, the former ambassador to Greece wrote in a secret letter [?], to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, that the basic idea directing Agafy’s life was that all in the world is a convention and that everything can be understood whatever way one wants to. As a result of this, Agafy had a secret opposition to everything legal and generally accepted. He rejected all order and was repulsed by every constraint. This attitude brought him to the deepest and dirtiest amorality. He showed a noticeable pleasure in the degrading of the motherland, of spiritual knowledge, and of everything in general which is respected. He showed a sympathy to the …….; he presented ideas for the independence of “Little Russia” [Left bank Ukraine]; he expressed a clear dissatisfaction with Orthodoxy; and he rejected the need for confession. In the last period,[xx?] he displayed an unorthodox conviction toward a rapprochement with the American proselytiser of Lutherism in Greece, Ioan Kinlom. With his help, Agafy was supplied at his arrival from Athens with many letters of recommendation.

On his trip to Russia from Constantinople, he xx Malta and from there he removed his diaconal clothing and left for London. In August 1861 the Holy Synod took into consideration this above described action of the former hierodeacon Agafy (the fact that from February 1860 he was in a self decided absence) and decided to consider the designated hierodeacon Agafy as being defrocked and excluded from the clergy.

About the information received in 1864 that Agafy having returned to Athens in the Spring of 1863 continued, by anonymous letters, to bring shame on Archimandrite Antonin, there was a contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting Agafy be sent from Athens to Russia. The decision was transmitted to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in April 28, 1861 No. 4899.

The ministry responded that they do not have the possibility to forcibly return Agafy to Russia. It asked our Ambassador in Athens to look for ways to remove Agafy from Greece.

In Athens our representative informed us that Agafy (who was living then in Athens in the Greek monastery of Tendely) forcefully denies the anonymous letters about which Fr Antonin complained.

3 Replies to “The Case Against Agapius Honcharenko”

  1. After the initial nausea experienced after reading Mr. Chapman’s reprinting of the vicious Moscow slander against the Ukrainian American patriot, Fr. Agapius Honcharenko, I realized that here was one of the earliest examples of Moscow’s dezinformatsia leveled against a defender of freedom. Insulted also was Mrs. Honcharenko, the sister of an Italian freedom fighter. I thank the Lord I was initially crismated into the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, where there is no conflict between American patriotism and Orthodoxy (and no illusions about the Muscovites.)

    1. Well, I have no horse in this race, but I’ve done a fair amount of research on Honcharenko. Honestly, it is very difficult to distinguish between truth and fiction when dealing with him. He made many claims which are either grossly exaggerated or entirely untrue. At the same time, some of the “Moscow slander” (as you call it) has not yet been corroborated. However, I don’t think anyone can dispute the fact that Honcharenko, an ordained clergyman, married after his ordination in violation of the canons and ancient practice of the Church. He did this in a non-Orthodox ceremony, and married a non-Orthodox woman. When he moved to California, he attempted to set up his own Protestant church. None of these facts come from “Moscow” (or Russian sources in general), but rather from secular sources or from Honcharenko himself. Whatever his virtues, by the late 1860s Honcharenko had strayed considerably from Orthodoxy.

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