Orthodox Monasticism and Homosexuality (Various Sources)

NOTE: Though Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries have not yet had the kind of homosexual/pedophile scandals that some of the other monasteries on American soil have experienced—something which the monasteries pride themselves on and attribute to the virtue of blind obedience and Geronda Ephraim’s saintliness—this does not mean they are immune, nor does it mean that certain of his monks and nuns do not struggle with these passions. One of Geronda Ephraim’s monks, who suffers from these passions and was/is potentially dangerous, was allowed to remain in the monastery due to his father being a priest for one of Geronda Ephraim’s nunneries. The Abbot gave certain monks an obedience to immediately report to him if they saw this monk talking to young boys, especially a particular boy who was a spiritual child of this monk’s father. This monk was banned from cleaning the male guest quarters (he had a problem with stealing deodorant, articles of clothing, watches, alarm clocks with am/fm radio and other contraband, as well as a sniffing fetish). There were other minor precautions also taken. However, the fact of the matter remains that there was a potentially dangerous predator allowed to mingle amongst the pilgrims, at times freely and unchecked. Usually, a monastic with these problems—whether male or female—would be sent home by Geronda Ephraim (as was his protocol in Greece). In this case, this monastic had a free pass due to his father being one of Geronda Ephraim’s lay priests at a female monastery. Below is a compilation extracted from various articles dealing with homosexuality and orthodox monasticism:

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In a previous article, the subject of children and Orthodox monasticism in the Gerontikon has already been examined: https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/children-and-orthodox-monasticism-gerontikon/

In Orthodoxy, though technically homosexuality should not be an obstacle to entering the monastic life, usually those who suffer and are defeated by such tendencies do not receive a blessing to enter into one of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. Time and experience has revealed that this passion can greatly disrupt a monastery—either female or male. Some men who’ve had practised homosexuality, then repented and started having a desire for the monastic life, were denied and advised that it would be better for them to get married and struggled in the world because they would have to difficult a time in the monastery due to their passions. Another young man tried out as a sub-novice but could not overcome his homosexual thoughts and inclinations and was sent home.

demon

Advice for struggling against homosexuality is not uncommon in the patristic collections such as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, and the Questions and Answers of SS. Barsanuphius and John. Back then, whether the carnal inclinations were heterosexual or homosexual didn’t really matter – monastics struggled to remain chaste, regardless of their inclinations. It should be noted that having homosexual thoughts does not make one a homosexual; this is considered something quite different than having an actual sexual attraction and inclination towards the same sex. It is taught that often the demons will present images and fantasies of things that the individual normally would never dream of, in order to trip them up. This happens mostly in the novitiate when the individual is not too “experienced in the art of warfare.” However, by the time a person is a rassaphore, they are expected to be able to struggle, fight and overcome these kind of temptations and not give into them.

Fr. Seraphim Rose is a perfect example. In 1956, Rose came out as a homosexual to a close friend from college after his mother had discovered letters between him and Walter Pomeroy, Rose’s friend from high school. He ceased his homosexual activities after accepting Orthodoxy, eventually ending a relationship with Jon Gregerson, a Californian of Finnish ancestry whom Rose had met in 1955 while attending Watts’ academy, and who had become his partner.

https://web.archive.org/web/20150323203541/http://www.pomona.edu/Magazine/PCMSP01/saint.shtml

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Some of the Athonite monks that Geronda Ephraim brought here have hinted during talks that there was homosexual activity going on at St. Herman’s Monastery while Fr. Seraphim Rose was alive. Though they would not divulge in specific details, they would only say that certain monk(s) from Filotheou had visited there [as laymen before they went to Mount Athos] and witnessed things with their own eyes. These were the kind of stories told to some of the monastics who esteemed Fr. Seraphim Rose “too much” and needed to understand that “Fr. Seraphim Rose wasn’t even worth one of Elder Ephraim’s pinky fingers” let alone holy or a saint.

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The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the jurisdiction of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, teaches: “The position of the Orthodox Church toward homosexual acts has been expressed by synodicals, canons and patristic pronouncements from the very first centuries of Orthodox ecclesiastical life. In them, the Orthodox Church condemns unreservedly all expressions of personal sexual experience which prove contrary to the definite and unalterable function ascribed to sex by God’s ordinance and expressed in man’s experience as a law of nature. The Orthodox Church believes that homosexual behavior is a sin.  In full confidentiality the Orthodox Church cares and provides pastorally for homosexuals in the belief that no sinner who has failed himself and God should be allowed to deteriorate morally and spiritually.” http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/controversialissues

The Exomologetarion contains many penances for the various carnal sins.
The Exomologetarion contains many penances for the various carnal sins.

In the monasteries, lay people who have participated in same sex sins, depending on the act, can receive up to a ten year or more penance of no Holy Communion. In some cases, when a lay person is an “active homosexual with no desire to change”, an Abbot will warn his monastics about the individual and tell them to be careful around him because “it could be dangerous.”

exomologesis

Temptation

The Church Fathers are clear on the dangers of exposing oneself to the object of one’s passionate desire. Some well meaning, but misguided clinical and pastoral approaches to adjusting to a homosexual orientation are to establish same-sex friendships. This flies in the face of the wisdom of the Church Fathers and scientific research psychology. Returning to the heterosexual example, St. John Cassian stated that:

The way to keep guard over our heart is immediately to expel from the mind every demon-inspired recollection of woman — even of mother or sister or any other devout woman — lest by dwelling on it for too long the mind is thrown headlong by the deceiver into debased and pernicious thoughts. The commandments given by God to the first man, Adam, told him to keep watch over the head of the serpent (cf. Genesis 3:15), that is, over the first inkling of the pernicious thoughts by means of which the serpent tries to creep into our souls. If we do not admit the serpent’s head, which is the provocation of the thought, we will not admit the rest of its body, that is, the assent to the sensual pleasure which the thought suggests-and so debase the mind towards the illicit act itself” (Philokalia I).

Mortal Sin
Mortal Sin

The monastic rule of St. Joseph Volotsky warned against homosexual temptation as well as outlined in the ordinances that guided the governing of monasteries. For example, one rule stated: “…it is not proper for beardless boys to live in the monastery and concerning other necessary causes,” clearly a recognition that some monks struggled with same-sex desire, and by prohibiting young boys from monastic life, tempation would be easier to manage. Other counsels include: “In wanting to be saved, therefore, let us move far away from them as from a flame. Let us not turn towards them in a house or in a place where no one sees us. Let us sit far away from them on benches … lest in some way looking in their faces, we get the seed of lust from the Adversary … Let us not believe the deceitful thought, which suggests to us that this is not tempting” St. Ephraim wrote: “It is a great calamity for boys to be in a coenobium. Even if we converse with them about chastity, we are stabbed in the heart” (Volotsky, Ninth Discourse).

St. Joseph Volotsky
St. Joseph Volotsky

In the 1950’s, behavioral psychologists formulated the “Approach Curve” which measured the strength of attraction within arousal. This techniques replicates the knowledge of earlier Church Fathers discussed above. This basic formulation posits that the closer a person is to a desired stimulus, the stronger his level of attraction. Furthermore, drive (the intensity of the arousal) levels increase the strength of attraction (Dollard and Miller, 1950). Not only do sexual cues elicit arousal, but also the arousal level increases the subsequent attraction of the cues. This becomes a pernicious vicious cycle.

Taken from: Understanding Homosexuality: An Orthodox Christian Perspective By Fr. George Morelli http://www.antiochian.org/node/17905

Interestingly, the LGBT community has made a Calendar of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Saints. Though it incorporates saints commemorated in various jurisdictions, they do have few orthodox saints whom they have listed as “transvestite” saints, with the following explanation:

St. Apollinaria (Dorotheus)

I have treated these saints as a group as their stories are often similar. These are the large number of saints who were famous for their holy cross-dressing. All of these were women, and the stories, largely but not exclusively fictional, generally have them escaping marriage or some other dreaded end by dressing as monks. This is no short term ploy, however. The women then live their lives as men (in direct contradiction to the Levitical Law which calls cross-dressing an “abomination”), some of them becoming abbots of monasteries. In such positions it is hard to imagine that they would not perform roles such as confessor. Their biological sex is only discovered after they die. It is sometimes argued that these transvestite saints did not cross-dress because they wanted to but because they had to, and so calling them “transvestites” is wrong. It is true that we know nothing of the psychology of these women, but when they dressed as man for 20 years and became abbots of monasteries, it is hard to know in what way they were being “forced” to cross-dress. These women chose to live their Christian lives as members of the opposite biological sex – it is fair to see them as “transgendered”. There are no male saints, it seems, who dressed as women (with the possible exception of Sergius and Bacchus, who were forcibly paraded through the streets in women’s clothes). At work here is an old notion that women are saved in so far as they have “male souls”, a repeated term of praise in lives of female saints. These women’s lives do show that the Levitical Law was not determinative in Christian estimations of holiness, and that modern rigid gender categories had much less role in earlier epochs of Christianity than nowadays. These saints found a place in both Orthodox and Roman calendars.

*St. Anastasia the Patrician (or “of Constantinople”) March 10th ORC/ORTH
*St. Anna/Euphemianos of Constantinople Oct 29 ORTH
*St. Apollinaria/Dorotheos Jan 5, 6 ORTH
*St. Athanasia of Antioch Oct 9 ORTH
*St. Eugenia/Eugenios of Alexandria Dec 24th ORTH
*St. Euphrosyne/Smaragdus Feb 11th ORC (Sept 25 ORTH)
*St. Marina of Sicily July 20th ORTH
*St. Marina/Marinos of Antioch July 17th ORTH (July 20th ORC – as St. Margaret)
*St. Mary/Marinos of Alexandria Feb 12th ORTH
*St. Matrona/Babylas of Perge Nov 9 ORTH
*St. Pelagia/Pelagios June 9 ORC (Oct 8 ORTH)
*St. Theodora/Theodorus of Alexandria Sept 11 ORTH
*St. Thekla of Iconium Sept 23 ORC (Sept 24 ORTH)

http://web.archive.org/web/20001205163500/www.bway.net/~halsall/lgbh/lgbh-gaysts.html#tv

Hermitess Photini

Interestingly, one of the last books translated by St. Anthony’s Monastery, Hermitess Photini, is about a young woman who dresses up as a man and struggles ascetically and becomes sanctified. Geronda Ephraim really loves this story which is why he instructed to have it translated.

For the orthodox teaching, as well as the monasteries’ fronima on homosexuality, see:

Controversial Book ‘Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church’ offers a brief overview of the experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans Christians in the life of the Orthodox Church, including personal testimony and a Bible study.
Controversial Book ‘Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church’ offers a brief overview of the experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans Christians in the life of the Orthodox Church, including personal testimony and a Bible study.

Elder Ephraim: How do they call those who are marrying illegally here?

Interlocutor: Do you mean homosexuals?

Elder Ephraim: Yes them. The Old Testament says: “My spirit will not remain with man because they are flesh.” This applies today. Sodom burned just like a nuclear bomb. Christ does not tolerate such sins. Everywhere the sins of the flesh are worshipped. There is no repentance. The Venerable Mary of Egypt repented. All homosexuals will be eliminated. Everything will become dirt, nuclear, all dirt. The war will begin because of our sins.

This has been translated from Greek into English here (the closing remarks): http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2014/08/a-conversation-with-elder-ephraim-of.html

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