Saturday, September 8, 2012

Was Peter the Aleut a Martyr?

Was Peter the Aleut a Martyr? · Do Not Trust "Saint" Theophan the Recluse on Hagiography

In 1815 a group of Aleut seal and otter hunters, including Peter, were captured by Spanish sailors, who took them to San Francisco for interrogation. With threats of torture, the Roman Catholic priests in California attempted to force the Aleuts to deny their Orthodox faith and to convert to Roman Catholicism.

When the Aleuts refused, the priest had a toe severed from each of Peter's feet. et c.[from Orthodox Wiki]

The following account seems very suspect of being plagiarised from the Martyrdom of St John the Persian. Martyred under Pagan Sassanids, not Christian priests of any confession at all.

Here is where the story is from:

Upon receiving the report of Peter's death from Simeon Yanovsky, St. Herman back on Kodiak Island was moved to cry out, "Holy new-martyr Peter, pray to God for us!" Peter the Aleut was formally recognized as a saint, as the "Martyr of San Francisco", in 1980. We have the account of St. Peter's martyrdom from Simeon Yanovsky as related him by St. Peter's cellmate who escaped torture. Simeon Yanovsky ended his life as the schemamonk Sergius in the St. Tikhon of Kaluga Monastery, and is the author of The Life of St. Herman of Alaska.

So though Simeon Yanovsky is our authority, he is no witness, and his source is "St. Peter's cellmate who escaped torture".

Is this at all credible? If not, why would the Aleut's cell-mate have lied?

Let us have a look at the situation of the Catholic Church in California back then:


The Spaniard Cortés passes a decree looking toward the secularization of the missions. From the beginning the idea had been that the mission system was only a temporary expedient for the civilization of the natives, and was supposed to last but ten years. This time was extended as it was seen to be too short. But there began to grow a feeling of dissatisfaction with the system as it was felt the Indians were not trained in independence and in the knowledge of citizenship. The government decided that the missions should be secularized, that is the Indians were to receive their lands to use individually - the missions had only ostensibly been keepers of the lands for the rightful owners, the Indians. The religious work was to be turned over to parish priests, and the missionaries were to seek new fields. The Indians were to be gathered into pueblos to learn the duties of self government and self-support. This plan was not carried out for twenty years, though it came up again and again in the intervening years. This scheme of secularizing the California missions amounted in effect to government confiscation.

So Roman Catholic priests, heavily persecuted by the Masonic Government, nevertheless have the zeal to persecute an Orthodox for refusing to communicate in azymes? And they carry out the death penalty themselves? And they are inventive about mortal tortures, like the old pagan persecutors?

None of this rings the least true.

For one thing, Schism ecclesiastically was not punishable by death, unlike heresy. A burning of Avvakum for dissent about the proper liturgy could not have occurred with one sharing the creed of Nicea, even without the filioque, though it has old roots in Spain, previous to any Germanic occupation.

For another thing, priests never did the actual burning themselves. Not even when they doubled the role of secular judges meting it out: the burning was left to secular servants.

And thirdly, if heresy was punished by death rather than penance or lifelong prison, the death penalty was uniformly fire. Disembowelling occurred among English, when they punished Catholics for treason, but not among Catholics when they punished heresy.

Look at another circumstance:

They were about to torture the next Aleut when orders were received to release them under escort to their monastery in Monterey.

Martyrdom is in San Francisco, but monastery is in Monterey?

Distance de San Francisco à Monterey
calcul itinéraire, carte routière, distance kilométrique, temps estimé,
118 miles

I have seen a shorter account, maybe another route:

What is the distance between San Francisco AND Monterey?
The distance between San Francisco and Monterey in a straight line is 87 miles or 139.98 Kilometers

Ah, indeed a shorter route: key words in a straight line (highlighted in text by me).

Can there have been interests in arranging for a lie to be told to St Herman of Alaska?

One can maybe rule out political interests. Even though such were there.


Nikolai Petrovich Rezanoff, representative of the Czar of Russia, visits the Russian colony in Alaska and, seeing the immediate necessity of providing the colony with food nearer than that sent from China, decides to visit California to open negotiations with the government for the purchase of breadstuffs, of which California had a surplus; and also with the ultimate end in view of founding within the limits of California a Russian colony.



Otto von Kotzebue, commanding a scientific expedition from Russia, visits California. In the party was Dr. Eschscholtz, for whom the California poppy was named Eschscholtzia California. The published account of this expedition forms a very valuable contribution to the scientific literature of the period and the place.

But maybe the cellmate of Peter the Aleut was neither himself into Russian Politics, nor bribed or threatened into lying by Freemasons involved in such politics (remember, as late as 1809 Czar Alexander was still a progressive, who agressed the Swedish king Gustav IV Adolf because the same swedish King refused to side with Napoleon whom he considered Antichrist). Even though intriguers have their ways of bribing or threatening simple, otherwise honest, people into lying and into lying catastrophically.

Maybe the reason was the cellmate wanted to spare Peter from the curse of bishop Herman, who had threatened eternal death and the excommunication of the Orthodox Church, thus also his own curse, if they communicated in azymes. For maybe Peter the Aleut was indeed once one of Herman's Alaskan fold and became for love of a Californian girl and by honesty of marriage, one of the sheep in some Latin Bishop's fold, in California. I read on an earlier version of the Orthodox wiki that the first miracle was recorded 50 years later. Might be he lived a holy married life as a Roman Catholic and indeed was a saint when much later than 1815 he died.

Peter the Aleut was as far as I can see no liar, only lied about. He might have been a saint. Herman of Alaska was, as far as I can see, only lied to, and thus no liar either. He might have been a saint.

But one Paul Balaster was also at least at one time certainly saying an untrue thing about St Robert Bellarmine's text (unless his "Why I left Roman Catholicism" is a complete forgery, but this has not been verified), which it is very improbable he could have picked up from where he said he found the quote.

Here is why I think St Robert Bellarmine was not Papalatrous, and why I think Paul Balaster was not, at least not when writing the text, a saint.

Pseudoquote identified. What De Romano Pontifice, book IV, chapter V really says (quote)

He credits the Pope with less infallibility about particulars than Modern Culture credit shrinks with:

Dicimus PRIMVM, non posse errare Pontificem in iis praeceptis, quae toti Ecclesiae praescribuntur; quia, vt suprà diximus, in praeceptis, & iudiciis particularibus, non est absurdum Pontificem errare.

Which I translated as:

FIRSTLY we say, that the Pontiff cannot err in precepts, which are prescribed for all the Church; since, as we said above, it is not absurd that a Pontiff err in precepts or judgements on particular matters.

But Modern Culture generally treats shrinks as in practise infallible about whomever they decide to call their patients and claim expertise about. Sadly enough. A man may be stamped as homosexual because a shrink thinks so, and nobady asks if the shrink is seing his neighbours hearts and reins. Such deadly infallibility was not what St Robert Bellarmine attributed to whoever has supreme authority in the Church, which on his view was the Pope. I may not be sure he was right, but I cannot say he must have been wrong.

This lie was what I was not wanting to be in Communion with in 2009, and which I still do not want to be in Communion with now. And if Herman of Alaska was honestly mistaken about Peter the Aleut, I would not be if I pretended to believe him martyred in the way his cellmate described to Symeon Yanovsky.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Mouffetard / Paris
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8 - IX - 2012


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