NEW YORK – The New York Post on Friday, March 20 published a blistering article whereby it is alleged that former Bay Ridge-based priest, Father Gerasimos Makris, sexually harassed two nuns of the Greek Orthodox Church: Nun Elizabeth Brandenburg (who assumed the name Mother Foteini) and Maria Kallis (Sister Theonymphi).
The nuns, according to the Post, are suing for retaliation, defamation, and sexual harassment amongst other claims with the requested damages unknown at this time.
It is reminded here that The National Herald revealed the story of Archimandrite Gerasimos Makris on January 18, 2018 who at the time suddenly disappeared from the prominent Brooklyn parish.
In the New York Post article it is reported that “Elizabeth Brandenburg, a Greek Orthodox nun who went by Mother Foteini, says that when she was at a religious college in Massachusetts Father Gerasimos Makris forced her to marry a man, who sexually abused her and who had preyed on at least one other student, to ‘sanctify’ the attack in 2004, according to a lawsuit from Wednesday. Brandenburg says her husband regularly threatened her including by once holding a knife to her neck and another time threatening to ‘kill [her] and dump [her] body,’ the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit alleges.”
Makris, Brandenburg’s ‘spiritual father’, only eventually sanctioned her divorce from the man because he wanted her to become a nun at a monastery he would found called All Saints Monastery in Calverton, NY, the court papers say.”
It is also recorded in the Posts’ article that “Brandenburg and Maria Kallis, who was known as Sister Theonymphi, for a decade allegedly faced a constant barrage of flirtation and inappropriate touching by Makris. And when they complained they became outcasts in their church and were forced to move out of state, the court documents say.”
The also article stated that “they (the nuns) claim Makris found ways to brush his penis against their bodies through clothes, subjected them to unwanted hugs and kisses and regularly flirted with them making Kallis say ‘I love you’ to him like she means it, the court filings allege.”
It is also reported that “Bradenburg, 38, and Kallis, 37, now live in Missouri, running a company that employs survivors of sex trafficking. Their company, White Field Farms, sells soaps and candles.
“It was confusing that someone who pledged celibacy would be so touchy,” Bradenburg told The Post.
Kallis – who allegedly bore the brunt of Makris’ sexual misconduct – said he grew angry when she rebuffed his advances.
“Over time he would…show extreme anger at me because I pushed him away or tried to voice that I wasn’t comfortable,” Kallis told The Post.
Kallis said the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of New York – which is named in the suit – needs “to be brought to the mat and be shown you can’t do that when you’re an institution – an institution that claims to be standing for goodness. You should be the first to care for somebody who said ‘I got hurt.’”
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese stated it “does not tolerate sexual harassment or workplace harassment. We are confident that justice will be served.”
Partial view of the All Saints Monastery in Calverton New York
Makris did not immediately return a request for comment but in 2018, Makris told The Post, “I never bothered them…I’m saying [the women are] exaggerating things.”
In the meantime, The National Herald has learned that the two nuns were called to a Spiritual Court last November of 2019 but no decision has been issued as yet.
The nuns had notified in detail verbally and in writing the Archdiocese that their spiritual father Archimandrite Gerasimos Makris has sexually harassed them as TNH reported on December 13, 2018.
Abbess Foteini wrote in her letter to the former Archbishop Demetrios of America: “Your Eminence, I am once again following up with you regarding the abuse suffered by Sister Theonymphi at the hands of Fr. Gerasimos Makris, our spiritual father. As you know, this has been a very traumatic situation for Sr. Theonymphi and myself as well. We first brought this misconduct situation forward, in the appropriate manner, to His Grace Bishop Andonios, Chancellor of the Archdiocese in October 2017.”
She also wrote that “we are hurt, disappointed and emotionally distressed that instead of being treated with love and respect and in accordance with the Archdiocese Sexual Misconduct Policy, we have instead been berated, threatened, and treated like accusers instead of victims of abuse. His Grace Bishop Andonios and his assistant the Very Rev. Chrysostomos Panos have threatened both myself and Sr. Theonymphi with transfer and exile to Greece to “learn how to be good monastics.” This is completely unacceptable treatment from clergymen as it contributes additional spiritual and emotional pain and confusion to Sr. Theonymphi instead of the compassionate love and healing the Church can offer.”
On February 24, 2018 TNH revealed the letter dated February 2, 2018 of the former chancellor of the Archdiocese Bishop Andonios of Phasiane to the Holy Cross parish, which had written, among other things, the following: “Dearly Beloved, It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that Fr. Gerasimos Makris will not be returning to his assignment at your beloved parish of Holy Cross. Regrettably in a meeting here at the Archdiocese on January 18th, Father confirmed that over the years he had engaged at separate times in inappropriate relations with two women, one in Massachusetts and one in Brooklyn. As per the Sexual Misconduct Policy of the Archdiocese, Father Makris was immediately suspended and an investigation is on-going.”
On October 24, 2018 it was reported that “TNH has now learned that the Archdiocese ignored the decision of its Spiritual Court, which recommended that Fr. Makris not be defrocked but not be reappointed, either. TNH has learned that the Court convened on September 5 at Archdiocese headquarters, and was comprised of the following three priests: Archimandrite Eugene Pappas, Presiding Priest of Three Hierarchs in Brooklyn; Rev. John Lardas, Presiding Priest of the Archangel parish in Port Washington, NY and President of the Clergy Association of the Direct Archdiocesan District; and Rev. Nikiforos Fakinos, Presiding Priest of St. Demetrios in Merrick, NY. All three declined to comment to TNH, citing the policy of confidentiality on Court matters.”
On October 19, 2018, TNH wrote that “the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has reinstated Archimandrite Gerasimos Makris as Presiding Priest of the Holy Cross Church in Brooklyn.”
It is noted here that the Archdiocese had sent Archimandrite Makris to the St. Luke’s Institute in Maryland for therapy.
In the same article TNH had written that “in 2017, Archimandrite Makris completed ten years of pastorship at Holy Cross, where he is largely considered to be of impeccable character and ethos, and that he lives an ascetic life to the extent that he doesn’t sleep on a bed but on the floor, and he is always accompanied by his mother everywhere he goes.
TNH’s sister publication, National Herald-Ethnikos Kyrix, had once dedicated an issue of its weekly magazine Periodiko to Holy Cross’ philanthropic outreach and to Makris.
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