EDITOR’S NOTE (Nick Stamatakis): Salomi Charalambous, trying to deal with the subpar journalistic standards of some Greek media reporting on the supposed infections of the faithful at a New Hampshire Greek Orthodox Church, answers deeper questions on faith, science, and secularism. How can we confuse God in Whom is the Truth with science which is always “SEEKING the TRUTH? But science is not the truth…
By Salomi Charalambous
A friend forwarded me an article which stipulated that a common spoon used during Holy
Communion was the cause of several people being infected with COVID-19 at St. Nicholas
church at Portsmouth, NH. Knowing the Orthodox Faith and the almost 2000 year history of the Orthodox Church, the article piqued my interest to learn the details of the claim because this refuted a most important Holy Tradition of Orthodoxy. Thus, I decided to put my research skills that I developed from 35+ years of engineering R&D and dived into searching for anything related to the story. I discovered and read several other references looking for the basis for conclusions stipulated in the article as listed here:
1. The Pappas post, starting from July 21, 2020: https://www.pappaspost.com/newhampshire-priest-leaves-parish-over-communion-squabble/; there are several Pappas posts you can find at this post, but I list here the last two: one from October 1, 2020 from the NH Attorney General: https://www.pappaspost.com/nh-attorney-general-warnsgreek-orthodox-church-to-stop-using-common-cup-spoon/ and the last one from
Metropolitan Methodios response on October 2, 2020 to the NH Attorney General:
2. The Greek newspaper, the National Herald, 9/30/2020:
3. The Greek newspaper, the Greek Reporter, Oct 2, 2020:
4. The WMUR, Oct 1, 2020: https://www.wmur.com/article/portsmouth-new-hampshirechurch-notified-of-covid-violations-amid-report-of-outbreak/34238474
Thanks primarily to the Pappas posts, including some not listed here, I was able to create a
timeline so that I could assess what may have transpired since it proved difficult to learn the truth otherwise. The article in the National Herald mentions that Metropolitan Methodios reassigned the priest to another parish and then stated that “because of Methodios’ handling of the issue the entire Church in America is in danger of being the target of blame and shame throughout the United States.” As reported in the Pappas post, the priest was reassigned prior to July 21, whereas the outbreak according to the Pappas post happened sometime in early September. But even ignoring this fact, I did not realize that following the Church canons and being faithful to the Holy Traditions is shameful!
The National Herald article appears to have been written by someone who knows and understands very little if anything about the Orthodox Church and Her obligation to follow God’s laws, not the laws of the governors acting as “Little Caesars” who declared their power this year! The article quotes from the September 25th letter of the Portsmouth’s Public Health Officer, Kim McNamara insisting on church “compliance with Emergency Order 52.” It quotes the ordinance by the state, but fails miserably to mention that all these emergency orders are in direct violation of the first amendment rights of each and every
citizen of the United States regardless of what state they live in. The writer clearly follows the accepted belief of secularism which believes that the world exists independent of God; that its meaning and use are defined by human beings. In Orthodoxy, on the other hand, we believe that all things live, and move, and have their being in God. God is the most essential aspect of our lives, so, God sustains the world and directs it providentially towards its end: union with Him.
I read the article wanting to learn the details of the so-called outbreak facts, but except of
allegations, there were no relevant facts to be found. The article also reported that father Robert Archon was reassigned to another parish to replace another priest who was apparently also reassigned, etc, etc., This had the appearance of gossip about the Metropolitan moving priests to different churches, issues totally unrelated to the primary focus of the article. This article demonstrates a lack of journalistic skills and integrity. Other than capturing the reader’s interest and imagination with a catchy headline, it provides no facts to substantiate the implication that the common spoon was the cause of the infection.
The Greek Reporter stated “After reopening this spring, Greek Orthodox worshipers have been receiving Communion as usual in their parish churches, hoping against hope that they would not be infected with the coronavirus by reception of the Mysteries. However, an outbreak did occur, at St. Nicholas’ Greek Orthodox Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in early September, and this has led to the state’s attorney general taking action to stop the practice.”
The real mystery in this article is how the writer does not realize that writing something which is not a proven fact (i.e. that the spoon is the source of the infection), is in fact a lie. Also stating “hoping against hope” suggests he knows the minds of the worshipers, but only demonstrates the writer’s total lack of faith. The letter sent by the state of NH as well as the other news media likewise stipulated that the common spoon could have been the source of the infection, but in the interest of conserving on the words, I will not repeat the details of their errors. None of them reported any facts, yet all of them failed to ask or provide answers to critical questions such as: 1) how many people shared the common spoon, 2) did all the reported cases receive communion sequentially (one after the other)? 3) Did any other people receive Holy Communion than those supposedly infected? The priest would be the last person to consume whatever communion is left after all the communicants because none of the Holy Communion can be discarded. 4) Did
the priest test positive? I concluded that he did not; had the priest been infected, he would have been the first person identified by all the sources. In conclusion, it is extremely difficult to assess from the information in any of the articles whether anyone was in fact infected from the single spoon. I challenge anyone to prove otherwise. Instead of this pandemic being a teaching moment to our Orthodox people that the common spoon is not a medium of infection (See Luke 8:43-48), the articles identified in these news media became perfect examples of disinformation.
It has been and continues to be the practice in the Orthodox Church for almost 2000 years for the priest to consume the remainder of the Holy Communion at the end. The Church has nearly a 2000 year history of surviving through many epidemics and the priest being the last to consume whatever Holy Communion remains; there has never been even one instance where a priest was infected. If that were the case, there would be no priests left in the Orthodox Church. In fact, I know of a priest in Greece who as a missionary medical doctor and priest in Cameroon, Africa, testifies that he has communed thousands of faithful at a time and he had always consumed whatever was left after them. He did this with people with AIDS and during the most recent and worse outbreak of EBOLA in Africa, and he is quite healthy and strong. He is currently continuing the same tradition in Greece with COVID-19. Now, let’s look at the story reported here.
As an electrical engineer with over thirty five years of hands-on experience in real science
designing and developing electrical circuits and corresponding software (and holding more than one U.S. patent) in the Telecom Industry starting with NASA at Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, then working for AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs (currently owned by Nokia), I understand something about science. In engineering science we design systems using scientific laws and principles and then we test such systems from many different perspectives; so details matter. After hands-on design and development, I spent many years as a manager, overseeing the development, testing and delivery of complete systems worth millions of dollars for many telecom providers in the United States and to many providers in countries around the world. In my last role as quality director, we developed complete testing programs to verify our solutions and make sure we could easily identify problems if they should occur and quickly fix them. So, thoroughness and details matter, as I would think they should matter in journalism and traceability for COVID-19.
Unfortunately, today’s news media is satisfied with sensationalism. The articles cited provided absolutely no facts to support the stated conclusions. In reading through all the sources I listed above, it was difficult to determine how many people were in fact infected, when and how they were infected, etc. All of them, except the Pappas post were sure to mention that it was believed that the common spoon was the possible source. I call that intentional disinformation. Given what was reported, I could only conclude that those who tested positive may have been present in church on the same day, and that some may have communed; that’s all! It does make me question, however, what is the motivation of the different news media, other than sensationalism to print non-facts? Have these writers considered the consequence of the lie that the common spoon could infect the communicant and the impact of such a lie on the faith of the faithful, especially to those with less knowledge?
Since these articles implied that Holy Communion can infect a person, then, following this logic, every person who communed after the one who would be the carrier should have been infected; that is how real logic works, if this was real science. Was this the case? Can any of these writers follow up? Until all the facts are known, no conclusions can be drawn and the journalists should have waited instead of publishing inconclusive sensational information. For all we know it can be a complete coincidence and everyone who tested positive could have been infected from other places. I would bet my life that none of them were infected from the common spoon, but it would be a waste of time to explain why in a secular publication medium. Suffice it to say that I would personally be willing to receive Holy Communion immediately after someone who is infected with COVID-19 with no fear of infection.
As a scientist, I am frustrated with the ignorance of modern humanity whereby we confuse the roles of God and science. We blindly believe in science as knowing the truth, and we expect the faithful to prove the existence of God using scientific methods. Modern humanity confuses God in Whom is the Truth with science which is always “SEEKING the TRUTH,” but science is not the truth. If it were, then all the so-called experts would be in agreement. For every Anthony Fauci, there is a John Ioannides (look him up). In fact, in quantum mechanics, there’s even “the uncertainty principle,” because no real scientist would be so arrogant as to claim to know the whole truth or have all the answers. I wish that people would wake up to the fact that of all the science that we know today in the whole universe, our knowledge comprises a very small percentage of all that there is to know. It is believed, for example, that we know less than 5% of the whole universe. We discover each day new things that prove what we thought we knew and believed yesterday, or last year or 10 years ago, or 50 years ago was quite wrong. As imitators of our awesome Creator, humanity is always trying to create and strives to discover the world around us, as we should, and we have learned quite a lot.
Our current technological abilities are a testament that indeed we have made tremendous progress, but the small-minded people think themselves God and forget that with all that we discovered, we know less than 5% of the whole universe and we use less than 10% of our brain capacity. If we were to go beyond even 8% of our brain capacity, we probably would destroy this world and ourselves in seconds. What a better world it would be if we could acknowledge with humility how little indeed we know and instead we would cooperate with our Creator to find solutions which could indeed benefit humanity while recognizing that our most essential needs are spiritual. We have local governors who have behaved as “Little Caesars” and did away with our first amendment rights, and our Church Hierarch, AB Elpidophoros was the first to bow down to them. Instead, he suspended Metropolitan Methodios for following Church Holy Traditions.
I know very little about Metropolitan Methodios, but just from this one action, he has proven himself AXIOS! The Orthodox Church has survived almost 2000 years placing Her faith in the one True God and She will continue Her mission until the eschaton. With the 80th anniversary of Greece saying “OXI” (NO!) to Hitler and Mussolini when they invaded Greece, I stand up and I say OXI to reported lies and to the “Little Caesars” who want to do away with our first amendment rights and tell us how to worship. There are no exceptions! Our fate is in God’s hands, not in secular leaders, and definitely not in our hierarchs as we discovered. It is unfortunate that the current hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, AB Elpidophoros appears to be spineless and a faithless
shepherd of the Lord in matters of real faith to stand up to the “Little Caesars” for what the
Church believes. The task of the Church is to bear witness to the Truth in any place. I pray that unlike present appearance, that AB Elpidophoros is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The time has passed for lukewarm Church shepherds and Christians.
I congratulate Metropolitan Methodios for remaining AXIOS shepherd of the Lord. May God have mercy on the writers of such misleading articles! Perhaps they can follow up and report on the real facts, or at a minimum print this letter so the faithful can see that what was reported was a lie!