Former Bishop Irineu. Photo: Holy Ascension Monastery (Facebook)

Former Bishop Irineu. Photo: Holy Ascension Monastery (Facebook) – 4/7/17

Representatives of the Holy Ascension Monastery in Detroit, where former auxiliary bishop of the Romanian Episcopate of the Orthodox Church in America Monk Irineu (Duvlea) served as abbot, has returned its antimension to the diocesan offices and asked to be released from the jurisdiction of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.

As previously reported, Monk Irineu was deposed by a spiritual court held at St. Demetrius Orthodox Church in Jackson, MI, during the Holy Synod’s annual retreat, held this year June 19-23, and following a nearly two-year investigation by the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations. Primate of the OCA, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon (Mollard) addressed a letter to the Romanian Episcopate, published on the site of the Orthodox Church in America, explaining that former-Bishop Irineu was being returned to the rank of a simple monk.

Archbishop Nathaniel (Popp), ruling bishop of the Romanian Episcopate, released his own similar letter, dated June 29, explaining that “the accusations brought against Bishop Irineu were canonical infractions which required careful review, consideration, and discussion, based on canonical, disciplinary, hierarchical, moral and pastoral order,” and that all evidence was “verified by professionals competent in church and civil matters.”

The following day, Abp. Nathaniel released another letter, in which he informed the clergy of his diocese that the antimension of Holy Ascension Monastery had been returned by request of Monk Irineu on June 28 to the Chancery Office of the Episcopate.

An antimension is a piece of cloth consecrated and signed by a bishop, to be placed on an Orthodox altar upon which the Divine Liturgy is served. It is forbidden to serve the Divine Liturgy without a canonical antimension.

A letter was also given to the archbishop in which the monastic community asks to be released from the jurisdiction of the Romanian Episcopate. The archbishop’s letter does not indicate if they mentioned which jurisdiction they hope to join. The letter was signed by Monk Irineu and Archdeacon Sebastian (Dumitrascu), as well as Hieromonk Firmilian (Palosan) and Brother Florin (Cretu), who, according to the bishop, are neither members of the monastic community nor canonical clergy of the diocese, and Mrs. Stefana Romanov of the monastery’s Board of Trustees.

In addition to returning his monastery’s antimension and asking to leave the Romanian Episcopate, Monk Irineu has also taken to social media to proclaim his supposed innocence. In a message posted on the Holy Ascension Monastery’s Facebook page, the deposed bishop writes that he received the Holy Synod’s decision with “great bitterness and stupor.” He claims that the investigation of his case was “sad and unfair.”

Justifying himself and attacking the Synod’s decision, Monk Irineu writes,

As before Christ, today I want to confess to the entire Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America and to you all, when I say and affirm with full responsibility: the decision of the OCA Synod comes at the end of an unjust judgment with far too many irregularities and procedural vices assumed by those who have so wrongly decided on the obvious facts. I clearly understand the desire of those who for nearly two years have worked against me, priests and layman some of whom are even those who I have extended a hand and saved them from their situation here and from Romania to live a decent life in the American realm,

and further, “I AM INNOCENT!”

Stating that he cannot recognize the Holy Synod’s decision, the deposed bishop signs his letter as if he were still a bishop: “With Archpastoral Blessings, + Irineu, Bishop of the Orthodox Church,” again showing his rebellion against the Synod.

Further, a letter from Monk Irineu’s attorney Daniel P. Dalton has also been published on the monastery’s Facebook page, which argues that the case against the former bishop was a product of Abp. Nathaniel’s humiliation, frustration, and rage over former-Bishop Irineu’s popularity with the flock. “The hearing was clearly designed for you to fail,” the attorney writes, claiming that the Holy Synod ignored canon law. Furthermore, Dalton argues that three witnesses, former residents of the monastery, were unfit to testify as they themselves are sexual deviants.

Mr. Dalton’s letter concludes, “The OCA removal process was clearly a sham designed solely to remove you so that Nathanial [sic] can achieve his goal of having a diocese free of a Bishop more popular, honorable and holier than him,” and, misunderstanding that Monk Irineu was removed from the ranks of the episcopacy and not from the entire jurisdiction, he continues, “It was truly a miscarriage of justice to remove you from the OCA.”

Given Monk Irineu’s disobedience and unwillingness to accept the canonical decision of the Holy Synod, Abp. Nathaniel directs his clergy and faithful to refrain from visiting the monastery until the situation is resolved, and calls upon them to pray for himself, Monk Irineu, and for one another in this difficult time.