Our third struggle is against the demon of avarice, a demon clearly foreign to our nature, who only gains entry into a monk because he is lacking in faith. The other passions, such as anger and desire, seem to be occasioned by the body and in some sense implanted in us at birth. Hence they are conquered only after a long time. The sickness of avarice, on the contrary, can with diligence and attention be cut off more readily, because ft enters from outside. If neglected, however, it becomes even harder to get rid of and more destructive than the other passions, for according to the Apostle it is ‘the root of all evil’ (1 Tim. 6:10).
Let us look at it in this fashion. Movement occurs in the sexual organs not only of young children who cannot yet distinguish between good and evil, but also of the smallest infants still at their mother’s breast. The latter, although quite ignorant of sensual pleasure, nevertheless manifest such natural movements in the flesh. Similarly, the incensive power exists in infants, as we can see when they are roused against anyone hurting them. I say this not to accuse nature of being the cause of sin – heaven forbid! – but to show that the incensive power and desire, even if implanted in man by the Creator for a good purpose, appear to change through neglect from being natural in the body into something that is unnatural. Movement in the sexual organs was given to us by the Creator for procreation and the continuation of the species, not for unchastity; while incensive power was planted in us for our salvation, so that we could manifest it against wickedness, but not so that we could act like wild beasts towards our fellow men. Even if we make bad use of these passions, nature itself is not therefore sinful, nor should we blame the Creator. A man who gives someone a knife for some necessary and useful purpose is not to blame if that person uses it to commit murder.
This has been said to make it clear that avarice is a passion deriving, not from our nature, but solely from an evil and perverted use of our free will. When this sickness finds the soul lukewarm and lacking in faith at the start of the ascetic path, it suggests to us various apparently justifiable and sensible reasons for keeping back something of what we possess. It conjures up in a monk’s mind a picture of a lengthy old age and bodily illness; and it persuades him that the necessities of life provided by the monastery are insufficient to sustain a healthy man, much less an ill one; that in the monastery the sick, instead of receiving proper attention, are hardly cared for at all; and that unless he has some money tucked away, he will die a miserable death. Finally, it convinces him that he will not be able to remain long in the monastery because of the load of his work and the strictness of the abbot. When with thoughts like these it has seduced his mind with the idea of concealing any sum, however trifling, it persuades him to learn, unknown to the abbot, some handicraft through which he can increase his cherished hoardings. Then it deceives the wretched monk with secret expectations, making him imagine what he will earn from his handicraft, and the comfort and security which will result from it. Now completely given over to the thought of gain, he notices none of the evil passions which attack him: his raging fury when he happens to sustain a loss, his gloom and dejection when he falls short of the gain he hoped for. Just as for other people the belly is a god, so for him is money. That is why the Apostle, knowing this, calls avarice not only ‘the root of all evil’ but ‘idolatry’ as well (Col. 3:5).
How is it that this sickness can so pervert a man that he ends up as an idolater? It is because he now fixes his intellect on the love, not of God, but of the images of men stamped on gold. A monk darkened by such thoughts and launched on the downward path can no longer be obedient. He is irritable and resentful, and grumbles about every task. He answers back and, having lost his sense of respect, behaves like a stubborn, uncontrollable horse. He is not satisfied with the day’s ration of food and complains that he cannot put up with such conditions for ever. Neither God’s presence, he says, nor the possibility of his own salvation is confined to the monastery; and, he concludes, he will perish if he does not leave it. He is so excited and encouraged in these perverse thoughts by his secret hoardings that he even plans to quit the monastery. Then he replies proudly and harshly no matter what he is told to do, and pays no heed if he sees something in the monastery that needs to be set right, considering himself a stranger and outsider and finding fault with all that takes place. Then he seeks excuses for being angry or injured, so that he will not appear to be leaving the monastery frivolously and without cause. He does not even shrink from trying through gossip and idle talk to seduce someone else into leaving with him, wishing to have an accomplice in his sinful action.
Because the avaricious monk is so fired with desire for private wealth he will never be able to live at peace in a monastery or under a rule. When like a wolf the demon has snatched him from the fold and separated him from the Hock, he makes ready to devour him; he sets-him to work day and night in his cell on the very tasks which he complained of doing at fixed times in the monastery. But the demon does not allow him to keep the regular prayers or norms of fasting or orders of vigil. Having bound him fast in the madness of avarice, he persuades him to devote all his effort to his handicraft.
There are three forms of this sickness, all of which are equally condemned by the Holy Scriptures and the teaching of the Fathers. The first induces those who were poor to acquire and save the goods they lacked in the world. The second compels those who have renounced worldly goods by offering them to God, to have regrets and to seek after them again. A third infects a monk from the start with lack of faith and ardor, so preventing his complete detachment from worldly things, producing in him a fear of poverty and distrust in God’s providence and leading him to break the promises he made when he renounced the world.
Examples of these three forms of avarice are, as I have said, condemned in Holy Scripture. Gehazi wanted to acquire property which he did not previously possess, and therefore never received the prophetic grace which his teacher had wished to leave him in the place of an inheritance. Because of the prophet’s curse he inherited incurable leprosy instead of a blessing (cf. 2 Kgs. 5:27). And Judas, who wished to acquire money which he had previously abandoned on following Christ, not only lapsed so far as to betray the Master and lose his place in the circle of the apostles; he also put an end to his life in the flesh through a violent death (cf. Matt. 27:5). Thirdly, Ananias and Sapphira were condemned to death by the Apostle’s word when they kept back something of what they had acquired (cf. Acts 5:1-10). Again, in Deuteronomy Moses is indirectly exhorting those who promise to renounce the world, and who then retain their earthly possessions because of the fear that comes from lack of faith, when he says: ‘What man is there that is fearful and faint-hearted? He shall not go out to do battle; let him return to his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart’ (cf. Deut. 20:8). Could anything be clearer or more certain than this testimony? Should not we who have left the world learn from these examples to renounce it completely and in this state go forth to do battle? We should not turn others from the perfection taught in the Gospels and make them cowardly because of our own hesitant and feeble start.
Some, impelled by their own deceit and avarice, distort the meaning of the scriptural statement, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35). They do the same with the Lord’s words when He says, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me’ (Matt. 19:21). They judge that it is more blessed to have control over one’s personal wealth, and to give from this to those in need, than to possess nothing at all. They should know, however, that they have not yet renounced the world or achieved monastic perfection so long as they are ashamed to accept for Christ’s sake the poverty of the Apostle and to provide for themselves and the needy through the labor of their hands (cf. Acts 20:34); for only in this way will they fulfill the .monastic profession and be glorified with the Apostle. Having distributed their former wealth, let them fight the good fight with Paul ‘in hunger and thirst . . . in cold and nakedness’ (2 Cor. 11:27). Had the Apostle thought that the possession of one’s former wealth was more necessary for perfection, he would not have despised his official status as a Roman citizen (cf. Acts 22:25). Nor would those in Jerusalem have sold their houses and fields and given the money they got from them to the apostles (cf. Acts 4: 34-35), had they felt that the apostles considered it more blessed to live off one’s own possessions than from one’s labor and the offerings of the Gentiles.
The Apostle gives us a clear lesson in this matter when he writes to the Romans in the passage beginning, ‘But now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints’, and ending: ‘They were pleased to do it, and indeed they are in debt to them’ (Rom. 15:25-27). He himself was often in chains, in prison or on fatiguing travel, and so was usually prevented from providing for himself with his own hands. He tells us that he accepted the necessities of life from the brethren who came to him from Macedonia (cf. 2 Cor. 11:9); and writing to the Philippians he says: ‘Now you Philippians know also that . . . when I departed from Macedonia no church except you helped me with gifts of money. For even in Thessalonica you sent me help, not once but twice’ (Phil. 4:15-16). Are, then, the avaricious right and are these men more blessed than the Apostle himself, because they satisfied his wants from their own resources? Surely no one would be so foolish as to say this.
If we want to follow the gospel commandment and the practice of the whole Church as it was founded initially upon the apostles, we should not follow our own notions or give wrong meanings to things rightly said. We must discard faint-hearted, faithless opinion and recover the strictness of the Gospel; In this way we shall be able to follow also in the footsteps of the Fathers, adhering to the discipline of the cenobitic life and truly renouncing this world.
It is good here to recall the words of St Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. He is reported once to have said to a senator, who had renounced the world in a half-hearted manner and was keeping back some of his personal fortune: ‘You have lost the senator and failed to make a monk.’ We should therefore make every effort to cut out from our souls this root of all evils, avarice, in the certain knowledge that if the root remains the branches will sprout freely.
This uprooting is difficult to achieve unless we are living in a monastery, for in a monastery we cease to worry about even our most basic needs. With the fate of Ananias and Sapphira in mind, we should shudder at the thought of keeping to ourselves anything of our former possessions. Similarly, frightened by the example of Gehazi who was afflicted with incurable leprosy because of his avarice, let us guard against piling up money which we did not have while in the world. Finally, recalling Judas’ death by hanging, let us beware of acquiring again any of the things which we have already renounced. In all this we should remember how uncertain is the hour of our death, so that our Lord does not come unexpectedly and, finding our conscience soiled with avarice, say to us what God says to the rich man in the Gospel: ‘You fool, this night your soul will be required of you: who then will be the owner of what you have stored up?’ (Luke 12: 20).
NOTE: This article is taken from the Sunday Typos, June 10, 2001. It was written to refute Monk Michael’s accusations. Dr. Gregoriou is a Neurologist-Psychiatrist and director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital.1 In this article, Dr. Gregoriou validates Monk Michael’s claim that there are Hagiorite monks who have mental disorders, see psychiatrists, and take psychiatric drugs.
I was motivated to write this article when I read the Monk Michael Hatziantoniou’s interview with the journalist Peter Papavasileios (see the magazine “E” in the Sunday Eleftherotypia, April 22, 2001).
The reason I thought of myself to be a “substantive qualifier” is that I’ve practised psychiatry for 20 years. For the past 12 years, I’ve been the Director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital in whose jurisdiction Mount Athos falls in terms of health coverage.
With my position, I know very well the question under dispute (the use of psychiatric drugs on Mount Athos). Moreover, the fact that I have regularly visited Mount Athos since 1974 (I was then a graduate student at the Medical School of Athens University) permits me to know the people and things of the area quite well.
Firstly, why did the news use the pompous title with the exclamation that “They Take Psychiatric Drugs on Mount Athos?” For a prudent and impartial reader, it has the same “originality” as “They take antibiotics or antihypertensive or anti-rheumatic medications on Mount Athos.” Psychiatric drugs are also medications that relieve and help the people who need them. I don’t understand why particularly on Mount Athos the mentally ill should not take psychotropic drugs. Is it not a shame to be excluded from the therapeutic means of modern medical science?
Fr. Michael rents his garments: “I cannot bear this situation,” he says. He maintains that anyone can cure their mental symptoms with personal effort. Something that is heard daily amongst the ignorant: “Banish your anxiety, pull the sadness from your soul, throw it out,” etc. Similar views proceed either from ignorance or out of some unconscious fear against mental illness and psychotropic drugs. If such counsels were effective then the existence of our psychiatrists would probably have been unnecessary.
Another “scandalous revelation” Fr. Michael makes—that Hagiorites are visiting psychiatrists—pertains to the same spirit! But are we psychiatrists such defiled beings that all sensible and virtuous people must avoid us “so as not to be defiled?” The fact that Hagiorites visit psychiatrists constitutes an occasion of praise, not reproach. If they didn’t visit psychiatrists then they should be accused of medievalism and criminal omission.2
I stress here that the attitude of some religious people—even spiritual fathers—who claim that anyone who lives in God should never resort to psychiatrists or psychotropic drugs is, in every respect, incorrect.3 They believe that psychiatrists wrongly assume responsibilities that belong exclusively to God and the spiritual father. The Hagiorite monks, following the vibrant spiritual tradition, avoid such absolutes. They recognize the difference between mental and spiritual problems. Like all other diseases, they consider mental illnesses result from defects and the corruption of post-Fall man. They do not identify mental illnesses with outside demonic influences. The respect of the Hagiorites towards the proper use of its results is an example of wisdom and ampleness of spirit.
If I understood correctly, Fr. Michael implies amongst his contradictions that the way of life imposed upon the monks (militarization) is what causes psychiatric problems. He also insinuates that some Hagiorites (I wonder what percentage?) who regretted becoming monks were trapped in the system and because they were prevented from leaving the monastery occasionally they killed themselves or set themselves on fire.4 Then the abbots, in order to deter their escape from Mount Athos, issue them psychotropic drugs to bend their will and make them thoughtless, subservient zombies! Yet, Fr. Michael doesn’t complain that he had such a treatment when he decided to abandon his monastery. Contrary to what one not acquainted with such things might imagine, the way of life on the Holy Mountain is not disease producing but rather psychotherapeutic.
The reference to famous boxes with mysterious contents is naive at the very least. The monasteries obtain their drugs from pharmacies, usually from Thessaloniki, because they don’t operate a pharmacy on Mount Athos. The medication orders for the needs of 80-100 people (with a large percentage of elderly) for a period of one or two months apparently have some volume and should be packed well in “boxes” to reach their destination safely. Usually, these boxes contain drugs of every kind and a portion of them are psychotropic drugs. Let he who doubts ask any pharmacy serving a population of 2,000 residents and let him learn what the current monthly consumption of psychotropic drugs is and a percentage of all drugs, but also an absolute number inserted in boxes and let him calculate their approximate volume. It should be taken into consideration that a significant portion of these drugs are consumed for the extraordinary needs of the numerous visitors as well as the hundreds of laymen who work on the Mountain.5
Mount Athos is also entitled to have its mentally ill. It would be very unnatural if they didn’t exist since the percentage of those in the adult population who exhibit mental disorders at any given time has been estimated at around 15% for residents in the Western hemisphere.
Besides, as we know, one does not require a bill of health to become a monk, nor is a monk expelled from his monastery when some serious illness appears.6 Mount Athos is not an unrealistic place, nor does it aspire to present an outward image of an “elite” community, like the “caste” of Eastern religions or Gnostics or whatever else. The Athonite State, Panagia’s Garden, is an open space, social and genuinely human; a struggling society journeying towards God. The sick have their place and even honour in such a community! Where else would the remaining healthy monks show their love, patience and ministry if not to those who are beside them even if they happen to be sick?
I cannot tolerate that Fr. Michael—the author of the article—professes the popular unscientific opinions: “Don’t go to the crazy doctor, he will make you completely crazy and you will be stigmatized for life!” Or, “Don’t take psychiatric medicine, they’re narcotics, you’ll become dependent and you’ll be rendered a vegetable!” Such positions need no response, this would be futile.7
As a doctor, my ascertainment is that the mentally ill on Mount Athos are treated more correctly, more scientifically and more effectively than whatever in the outside world.8 The monastic family surround the suffering brother with much care, love and tolerance and spare neither expense nor labor to ensure the best possible treatment and aid.9 He is provided a treatment rarely seen in today’s society, with respect to mental illness, the suffering monk’s soul and his dignity—a treatment that preserves the patient’s self-esteem.10 It should be made clear that in no way is an incompetent person involved in the treatment process. They follow the indication on the medication from the specialist physician, which is prescribed under the responsibility of the rural clinic in Karyes. Also, the administration of drugs and the assessment of the patient’s clinical progress are not made by upstart monks. Most of the monasteries have at least one or more doctor-monks with extensive experience who have impressed me with their scientific competence and awareness.11 The long existing journey of mentally ill Athonite monks is many times better than those who have mental illnesses in the world, where human dignity is trivialized with confinement in psychiatric asylums or the taunts of their fellow villagers.12
Fr. Michael’s inappropriate parallelism of Bedouin doped out on hashish and the Athonite monks is an unfortunate verbal exaggeration.13 It might have been worthwhile before the interview was published to have a psychiatrist (of a trusted newspaper) examine the text and question whether Fr. Michael’s allegations have any scientific standing. I am certain that he would have agreed with me that the anti-psychiatry opinions usually belong to uneducated people.14
Regarding Fr. Michael’s “showcase” allegation, Mount Athos does not claim to be a society of perfect men.15 Moreover, he stresses in the last paragraph of the interview (essentially negating everything previous): “The majority of monks are very nice guys! The love, they look at you with clean eyes. I speak for the majority because there are certainly a very small number of monks who have a pure heart…” If this is the case then what is with all the scandal-mongering throughout the rest of the interview? He did not clarify for us from the start of the interview that he was only speaking about a few exceptions! He allowed us to believe that this is the picture of Mount Athos in general. According to Fr. Michael, what is the real and representative showcase of Mount Athos? The 5-10 likeable mentally ill patients, 5-10 unruly monks and the one monk who set himself on fire? Do we not wrong the 2000 struggling monks who live imperceptibly with ascesis, a pure life and hard work, and are happy and normal?16
We were distressed in seeing the exceptions generalized. The error of one was aggrandized and expressed while the virtue of the many was hushed up. The Hagiorites know this and it is natural and imperative for them to take precautions. We accuse them of hypocrisy because they protect themselves? What family would voluntarily surrender the proclamation of their son or daughter’s deviation to public vilification and shaming? By protecting the reputation of the person who erred, as well as the family’s reputation, from the sneer of the voracious publicity, we hope to heal the wounds. Otherwise, “the last error becomes worse than the first.” Mount Athos is a community of true love where the erring sinners are neither ostracized nor pilloried or stoned.17 They are consoled and covered as suffering brothers and they are “economized” with sympathy and spiritual treatment so they are induced to “repentance and come to salvation.”
Fr. Michael’s interview saddened me. He light-heartedly accuses holy people—humble and obscure to the general public—but accomplished in the heart of whoever knew those who apparently “raised themselves as charismatic figures” to captivate souls! It is a shame for a monk to offer his brothers and fathers as victims to the Moloch of publicity in exchange for the silver pieces and the honorary title of “debunker” and “whistle-blower” who apparently tells everything out right. The monastic life starts out with promises of obedience, humility, and devotion to the brotherhood. Self-projection and self-complacency are not included in these promises. In searching for the deeper “why”, I would say that Fr. Michael’s position against the Holy Mountain, in a psychodynamic interpretation, serves as a personal apology.18
Finally, I want to reassure and cheer up those who were perhaps troubled by reading the publication of “E”. No! The Mountain is not a “concentration camp,” nor some “mental hospital” for dissidents.19 The Kassandres and those appearing as benevolent dirge singers have no place here!20 Mount Athos did not lose the “rota”, it is not sinking! The Holy Mountain continues to sail correctly as it has for centuries. For over a thousand years, the rowers stand vigilant night and day at their oar. The Captain—the Lady of the Mount—holds the steering wheel firmly and the compass firmly shows God’s Kingdom. It is not shipwrecked and it collects castaways!
A google search of Dr. Grigoriou’s name in Greek only produces results in connection to this article. There is no photo, articles or a record of him anywhere in Greece other than in relation to this article. Other doctors with the same name do not have the same credentials as listed here. There is a Dr. Panagiotis Dimitrios Grigoriou in the UK, GMC # 7015533. His primary medical qualification is listed as Ptychio Iatrikes 2006 National Capodistrian University of Athens and he is obviously not the same person as the author of this article.
According to the contemporary spiritual fathers of Greece, all neuroses stem from the guilt of unconfessed sins. The monastery is a hospital where the sick go to be healed. However, if daily confession and revelation of thoughts, combined with frequent Holy Communion and the Jesus Prayer isn’t helping the monk, will a psychiatrist be able to help the individual monk more than his own spiritual father? Hierotheos Vlachos writes, “Orthodoxy is mainly a therapeutic science and treatment. It differs clearly from other psychiatric methods, because it is not anthropocentric and because it does not do its work with human methods, but with the help and energy of divine grace, essentially through the synergy of divine and human volition… I know that the term `psychotherapy’ is almost modern and is used by many psychiatrists to indicate the method which they follow for curing neurotics. But since many psychiatrists do not know the Church’s teaching or do not wish to apply it, and since their anthropology is very different from the anthropology and soteriology of the Fathers, in using the term `psychotherapy’, I have not made use of their views. It would have been very easy at some points to set out their views, some of which agree with the teaching of the Fathers and others of which are in conflict with it, and to make the necessary comments, but I did not wish to do that. I thought that it would be better to follow the teaching of the Church through the Fathers without mingling them together. Therefore I have prefixed the word `Orthodox’ to the word `Psychotherapy’ (healing of the soul), to make the title “Orthodox Psychotherapy”. It could also have been formulated as “Orthodox Therapeutic Treatment”.(Orthodox Psychotherapy, Introduction)
It is amazing that Dr. Grigoriou, with all his experience, is unaware of the vast amount of research in his field on the subject of blind obedience, authoritarianism, cult-like mentalities, and the emotional and psychological abuse that exist in such oppressive atmospheres. Evidence shows that these things lead to neuroses, PTSD, and various other mental illnesses. Studies on the emotional and psychological effects of confinement and feeling trapped are also in abundance.
Dr. Grigoriou does not clarify if these medications are administered to laymen by monastics that are licensed professionals, or if these professionals have up-to-date training.
This statement is not true, at least for the monasteries under Geronda Ephraim. There are numerous stories in circulation about the numerous monastics Geronda Ephraim sent packing on Mount Athos. The reasons ranged from not doing obedience, causing to many scandals, becoming a danger to themselves or others, homosexual incidents, or just so deluded that something really bad could have happened if they were allowed to stay. Geronda Ephraim has also sent a number of novices home from Arizona for various issues. As for prerequisites, homosexuals are generally not allowed to become monks. Geronda Ephraim has said it’s like inviting the devil into your monastery, and without going into specifics, he has hinted at the damage such men have caused in monasteries on Mount Athos. Also, people with mental illnesses are gently discouraged from becoming monastics in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries and are usually told it would be better for them to remain and struggle in the world.
Monk Michael did not say those things in his interview. Perhaps Dr. Grigoriou heard read them in some of his other writings?
As a layman who visits the monasteries and witnesses the front stage behavior—without actually living in a monastery or being a monk and witnessing the back stage behavior—Dr. Grigoriou is not in a position to make such a catch all statement. Monastics who make statements like this usually have a PR agenda.
Sick monks—either physically or mentally—have all had their own experiences of neglect from their brother monastics. One who has to stay in his cell may be forgotten and not have meals brought to him, or the person who tends to them may get caught up in another obedience and not show up to help, etc, in some cases remaining in a dirty diaper for a day or so before his monk-attendant comes to change his diaper and bathe him. A monastic suffering from some ailment may not be able to go to a doctor for a long period of time due to whatever circumstances, thus prolonging the suffering. At other times, the Geronda may say do patience and one has to endure. Again, one may have been given specific instructions for recovery and the Geronda will cut it short, saying it’s not necessary, you’re fine and you have to work, now go.
Again, Dr. Grigoriou is trying to paint an unrealistic utopia experience for ailing monks. Fr. Makarios of St. Anthony’s Monastery, AZ is a perfect example of how this is not always true. After he received his head injury and remained in a somewhat vegetative state, it put a strain on the brotherhood. Some of the younger monks giggled and mocked some of his newly acquired idiosyncrasies, especially during the services when he would stand up abruptly and say insensible things or pass wind in church throughout the night. Initially, Geronda said, “What use is he now? He has the mind of a baby,” and wanted to send him home. However, he did not send him away because he felt obliged to keep him (Fr. Makarios’ father is a priest who helps out at Geronda Ephraim’s nunneries). Of course, there was economia given to him due to his mental incapacitation but not all his brother monks had patience and understanding towards him. The reality in a monastery is once you start losing your usefulness you are made to feel like a burden. Woe unto those who get old and have nothing to contribute to the monastery; even more so if they need to take other monastics from more useful jobs to help them in their daily routine.
In many of the monasteries, the doctor monastics do not keep up-to-date with their training. Thus, many times one finds a doctor with an outdated degree. Of course, the basics don’t change much but would you trust going to a doctor who graduated from university in say 1990, never had a practice, and has not kept up-to-date on his training or the new breakthroughs in science and medicine nor had his license renewed?
Again, this is a far stretch of a statement. A perfect example would be the monasteries here in North America where fat-shaming is quite common among the monastics. The following information is not written to center anyone out or further fat shame individuals, but to point out that these things happen in the monasteries just as they do in the world. Furthermore, there is a complex link between obesity and mental illness and fat shaming is a method of stigmatizing. In the beginning, Fr. Germanos was constantly the brunt of jokes and taunts about his weight (both to his face and behind his back). In the mid-90’s, when Fr. Germanos was visiting Archangels Monastery in Texas, Geronda Dositheos walked up to him and said, “Do you know what we use to do to fat kids in school?” and he bumped his stomach into Fr. Germanos’ stomach. Also in the mid-late 90s, while Fr. Germanos was looking for property in New York, Geronda Ephraim gave many homilies to the Fathers in Arizona. In a couple of homilies, he’d joke about Fr. Germanos with his cheeks puffed, arms outstretched indicating fat, and wobble his body back and forth. All the Fathers would break out in laughter at this display. Though Fr. Germanos was not present for these homilies, he’d hear his brothers laughing and mocking him years later when these cassettes were digitalized and all the monasteries were given the DVDs. Another time, Fr. Germanos had forgot to erase his data from the treadmill they bought for the monastery. Fr. Kassianos, Fr. Michael and Fr. Kosmas had to move it from the living room up to the attic to make room for pilgrims and read the data which included his weight. These monks then joked about it and revealed to the other fathers, including Geronda, how much Fr. Germanos weighed. As time went on, stress-eating and high dessert diets increased in the other monasteries and the other superiors and second-in-commands also started to increase in weight and size; many hitting the 300lb + mark. As the other monastics’ weights increased, the teasing of Fr. Germanos decreased. Once, when the subject of how much weight all the abbots have been gaining came up, Fr. Germanos said jokingly, “It’s because you all judged me.” Taunts and shaming exist in the monasteries and neither the physically deformed, the handicapped or mentally ill are spared. Of course, those who become offended are given this explanation, “We do it out of love, not malice.” But in what universe can this be considered monastic, let alone Christian conduct? Sarcasm, contempt and mockery are not indications of brotherly love nor the presence of the Holy Spirit.
It’s not a far stretch. For example, when Fr. Gergory was a hieromonk at St. Anthony’s Monastery, he drank skullcap, St. John’s Wort, and various other nerve relaxant teas around the clock. And he walked around like he was zoned out and doped up. Other monastics that have a blessing for sleeping pills or herbal remedies to help them sleep also have similar demeanors. The monastics who have a blessing to take Lorazepam for anxiety attacks, panic or stress also have similar doped out demeanors. However, the monastics who take antihistamines with pseudoephedrine are a little more alert and tweaked out (though in some monasteries the use of allergy medicine with pseudoephedrine is no longer blessed. This is because some monastics were abusing the medicine and taking it even when they had no allergy symptoms).
Dr. Grigoriou opens his article with his credentials, familiarity with Mount Athos and the fact that there are Hagiorite monks on psychotropic drugs. These things, he states, make him a “substantive qualifier” to address Monk Michael’s interview. Now, Dr. Grigoriou suggests any psychiatrist is quite capable of analyzing the subject. Someone in Dr. Grigoriou’s position must be aware that many Greek psychiatrists are atheists and have biases and predispositions against Christianity, especially the monastic life.
The deeper issue is when the showcase and external image of a monastery become more important than the individual monastics. How often does the showcase image lead to harm (either of a monastic or a laymen)? To what lengths will a monastery go—lying, perjury, gaslighting, cover-ups—what illegal activities will it commit, to ensure that its image remains spotless? And how do these methods damage individuals?
This is a classic example of monastic minimization of serious issues. Not to mention, Dr. Grigoriou is actually stigmatizing the mentally ill by indirectly calling them “abnormal,” when he states that the other monks are “happy and normal.”
Ostracizing does occur in monasteries. This usually happens when a monastic is not doing obedience or toeing the line. Many times, the superior may instruct the members of the brotherhood to ignore this individual, do not talk to him/her, walk away if this individual tries talking to you, etc. Ostracizing also occurs when one is punished in the Lity or given only rusks or one piece of fruit for a meal while everyone else has a full meal. Ostracizing erring monastics is suggested as an instructional technique by St. Basil the Great, St. John of the Ladder and many other Church Fathers.
This resembles a spiritual father’s reproach to his spiritual child; the wording is attempted to instill guilt. The author is playing the Judas card; a classic amongst the Elders. A similar tactic was used in the HOCNA circles when former monastics started revealing the homosexual abuses perpetrated by their Geronda, Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos. Ad hominen and straw man attacks and arguments were used against the former monastics that were sexually abused and raped. Gaslighting and dismissing them as deluded liars and Judas traitors was a common tactic used. In the last century, similar methods were used in other Orthodox scandal stories against the accusers/ whistle-blowers. In many of these situations, it eventually came to light that the accused were guilty and they ended up in prison or defrocked.
The island of Amoulianni, off the northwest coast of Athos, was once said to be run like a sort of ‘concentration camp’ for naughty monks. (See Ralph H. Brewster, The 6,000 Beards of Athos, 1935, p. 26). Up to early 1900s, Ammouliani was a dependency of Vatopedi Monasteryof Mount Athos. In 1925, the island was given in the refugees’ families who had come from islands of Propontis (Marmaras Sea), after Asia Minor Disaster. The population of the island was developed quickly and today the island has over 500 residents. Nowadays Ammouliani is a touristic place with frequent transportation with the opposite coast.
The Cassandra metaphor(variously labelled the Cassandra ‘syndrome’, ‘complex’, ‘phenomenon’, ‘predicament’, ‘dilemma’, or ‘curse’) occurs when valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved. The Cassandra metaphor is applied by some psychologists to individuals who experience physical and emotional suffering as a result of distressing personal perceptions, and who are disbelieved when they attempt to share the cause of their suffering with others. In 1963, psychologistMelanie Klein provided an interpretation of Cassandra as representing the human moral conscience whose main task is to issue warnings. Cassandra as moral conscience, “predicts ill to come and warns that punishment will follow and grief arise.” Cassandra’s need to point out moral infringements and subsequent social consequences is driven by what Klein calls “the destructive influences of the cruel super-ego,” which is represented in the Greek myth by the god Apollo, Cassandra’s overlord and persecutor. Klein’s use of the metaphor centers on the moral nature of certain predictions, which tends to evoke in others “a refusal to believe what at the same time they know to be true, and expresses the universal tendency toward denial, [with] denial being a potent defence against persecutory anxiety and guilt.” (See Klein, M., Envy and Gratitude- And Other Works 1946–1963)
“The hypocrite will suppose himself to be the one who is acting genuinely and cannot but utterly reject the reproach of hypocrisy.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer1
“One puts oneself into mauvaise foi as one goes to sleep and one is in mauvaise foi as one dreams.” Jean-Paul Sartre2
One argument for the claim that no deception or insincerity is necessary for hypocrisy has its source in the observation that some hypocrites are the last persons to know that they are hypocrites. Such people seem surprised, even astonished, when reasonably accused of hypocrisy, and not all of them feign such surprise. Now the argument goes that deception is a matter of having certain intentions, and we do have knowledge of our own intentions. Therefore, people who are engaged in deception must know that they are. Thus if hypocrisy always involved deception, then hypocrites would always know that they were engaging hypocrisy. Since they do not, there must be some hypocrisy that does not require deception.
This picture is misleading in that it assumes an overly narrow conception of deception. We should not accept the claim that deception is necessarily a self-conscious matter, requiring certain intentions. First of all, people can deceive by mistake, simply because they do not know how others will interpret their words or actions. Thus we clearly need the distinction between deceiving in fact and attempting to deceive.3 Suppose though, as may well be the case, that we can adequately distinguish accidental cases from deliberate ones, and maintain that the agent must know when s/he is deliberately deceiving others. It would still be premature to say that unselfconscious hypocrisy cannot be a form of deception. It is possible that such hypocrisy involves, not deception of others, but rather self-deception, which may not similarly involve knowledge that one is engaged in deception.4 Perhaps a culpable failure of self-knowledge could explain cases in which one is genuinely surprised to hear reasonable accusations of hypocrisy. If one is allowed to include the possibility of self-deception, then one can acknowledge the existence of cases in which people are genuinely surprised to learn they have been hypocritical, without thereby conceding that there can be cases of hypocrisy that do not involve deception.
But should one be allowed to include self-deception as a sort of deception giving rise to hypocrisy? Some writers seem to reject the possibility outright. For example, in his discussion of hypocrisy, Saul Smilansky writes, “We might of course have a case of self-deception, but such matters are not our concern here.”5 But surely one is entitled to a principled reason for excluding self-deception. Judith Shklar is one writer who attempts to provide such a reason. Shklar argues that allowing self-deception to count would result in a regrettable proliferation of accusations of hypocrisy. She incisively asks, “Is every self-deception, insincerity and inauthenticity hypocritical, even when these are states of mind and not acts to deceive others? … Could anyone escape being a hypocrite if we see hypocrisy through such eyes?”6 Part of the point here is that such a conceptual conflation between self-deception and hypocrisy results in seeing it everywhere, in an inflation of hypocritical anti-hypocrisy, in a victimization of people by targeting them for constant moral critique. Such a view unsettles the delicate balance between individuals and society by licensing constant suspicion of others and relentless social critique of individual blemishes. Furthermore, the term becomes useless as a tool of moral criticism if it can be applied to everyone. To prevent these undesirable developments, Shklar thinks we need to distinguish hypocrisy from self-deception and other forms of insincerity by stipulating “acts designed to deceive others” as a necessary feature of hypocrisy. Unless we do this, “hypocrisy” is severed from its moorings and becomes available as ad hoc ideological insult. Hence it can no longer be part of the language of responsible moral criticism.
There is much that is true in what Shklar claims, but she is not careful enough in drawing her conclusions. When looked at carefully, they do not after all provide a compelling reason for thinking that the basis of hypocrisy can never lie in self-deception.
First of all, Shklar’s remarks seem to have been intended against a background view that all self-deception involves hypocrisy. Some writers do indeed seem to have endorsed this view,7 on the basis that people engage in self-deception so as to be able to pretend to themselves that they are morally better than they really are, which smacks of hypocrisy. We do not accept this view, however. For one thing, there are obvious counter-examples. If one deceives oneself about the chances of one’s winning the lottery, for example, that is hardly a compelling case of hypocrisy. So even leaving aside Shklar’s concerns about the moral implications of accepting such a conflation of self-deception with hypocrisy, there are compelling reasons to reject it. This does not affect our claim, however. Our claim that some cases of hypocrisy are also cases of self-deception in no way logically entails the claim that all cases of self-deception are cases of hypocrisy.
Shklar has a somewhat different reason for rejecting the claim that all self-deception is hypocritical, however, and this reason deserves consideration. She argues that, while hypocrisy is prima facie bad, self-deception, like deception, is neither always bad nor always blameworthy. It is for this reason that calling all self-deception “hypocrisy” would lead to a regrettable expansion of moral criticism to cases which are not in fact blameworthy. Yet Shklar is again being too hasty to suggest from this that hypocrisy must involve “acts designed to deceive others” rather than self-deception. There may be another way to restrict the accusations of hypocrisy. Indeed, we believe that self-deception is sometimes culpable and sometimes not, and that it is only culpable forms of self-deception that can give rise to hypocrisy. By restricting the concept in this way, we can accommodate cases that appear to us compelling instances of hypocrisy grounded in self-deception, while still avoiding the problematic proliferation of accusations of hypocrisy Shklar is worried about, since not everyone who engages in self-deception would qualify as a hypocrite.
In the following sections, we examine a number of cases ranging from Victorian England back through David Hume to the biblical King David. In discussing these cases, we identify separate forms of self-deception that carry with them distinctive types of hypocrisy. Indeed, we argue that what distinguishes cases of hypocrisy from cases where there is no hypocrisy is distinguishes cases of hypocrisy from cases where there is no hypocrisy is often the feature of self-deception. This lends support to our claim that all hypocrisy does indeed involve deception—so long as we allow self-deception to count as a form of deception. Finally, we discuss the bearing self-deception has on the important question of moral culpability in cases of self-deceptive hypocrisy.
Before embarking on these discussions, however, we want to consider a distinction that may be useful to better appreciate how self-deception may aid and abet complacent, self-righteous or cynical attitudes. This is a distinction between pan- and local hypocrites.
PAN- VERSUS LOCAL HYPOCRITES
Classic literary hypocrites such as Moliere’s Tartuffe or Dicken’s Uriah Heep have a whiff of Platonism about them in that their hypocrisy and deception, like that of Plato’s “perfectly unjust man,” extends to their entire character. Let us call these characters pan-hypocrites. On the other hand, the reach of local hypocritical pretence, unlike that of their exotic pan-cousins, does not extend to a person’s whole life or character, but is confined to some special area or segment of it, say, sex, religion, or political correctness. Such local hypocrites may in general be as moral or altruistic as others, yet when it comes to certain areas or aspects of their lives, they are perhaps more inclined to deny or disavow hypocrisy precisely because they are right to believe that they are generally decent people. Therefore, casting aspersions on their entire character—i.e., accusing them of pan-hypocrisy—deflects them from further self-examination and provides them with material for complacent or self-righteous assessment of themselves. They cannot recognize themselves in such a wholesale condemnation, and dismiss it, perhaps saying, “I am basically a decent person and this vitriolic moralistic critic has no idea what sort of person I am.” Hence, the charge of pan-hypocrisy, where what is at issue is local hypocrisy, may engender complacency about one’s moral standing. Alternatively, such wholesale accusations may in turn fuel cynicism about other people’s motives, as well as lead to further attempts to deceive others to protect oneself from unfair criticism, possible embarrassment or shame.
Before turning to a detailed examination of the role self-deception may play in fostering complacent and self-righteous attitudes, let us look at a case of local hypocrisy involving the deception of others. Consider, for example, the case of a generally moral, and erotically overcharged teacher in a small town. Suppose she believes that if part of her inner core—consisting of her intense, unconventional sexual desires and behaviour—is detected or exposed, then this would make important others think she is unworthy of respect. Motivated by her desire to keep their respect, she sets out to deliberately mislead people about her inner core—by pretending to conventional sexual attitudes and behaviour—when it appears to her that the people whose respect she wants to gain or retain would judge it as out of line. In thus deceitfully seeking their respect, such a self-conscious hypocrite may in general be moral, even altruistic, since she need not do others down by getting that respect—just getting that respect in such and such ways, and wanting to get it through deceit, is enough to make her a plausible candidate for hypocrisy.
Observe, however, that her hypocrisy does not invade her entire life or character, but is confined to the domain of her sexuality where she feels especially vulnerable in light of the conventional sexual mores of the small community she happens to inhabit. If the teacher is now charged with being a pan-hypocrite, she will be rightly indignant and it would be natural for her to deflect the particular criticism, whatever its merit, by indignantly justifying herself in terms of her good character in general and/or probing the character flaws of the accuser. Now if the self-aware local hypocrite is prone to such indignation, then the self-deceived local hypocrite is liable to be even more so, since s/he is not (fully) aware of his or her hypocrisy. The likely result is a further entrenchment of the disposition to complacency or self-righteousness.
The distinction between pan- and local hypocrites and its importance in moral criticism is implicit in Joseph Butler’s discussion of self-deceit and hypocrisy. The relevant passage is worth quoting in full, since it is psychologically perceptive in its observations, offering insights as to how self-deception may play a role in complacent and self-righteous attitudes, as well as giving good advice for the practice of moral criticism:
“In some there is to be observed a general ignorance of themselves, and wrong way of thinking and judging in everything relating to themselves; their fortune, reputation, everything in which self can come in: and this perhaps attended with the rightest judgment in all other matters. In others this partiality is not so general, has not taken hold of the whole man, but is confined to some particular favourite passion, interest or pursuit; suppose ambition, covetousness or any other. And these persons may probably judge and determine what is perfectly just and proper, even in things in which they themselves are concerned, if these things have no relation to their particular favourite passion or pursuit. Hence arises that amazing incongruity, and seeming inconsistency of character, from whence slight observers take it for granted, that the whole is hypocritical and false; not being able otherwise to reconcile the several parts: whereas in truth there is real honesty, so far as it goes. There is such a thing as men’s being honest to such a degree, and in such respects, but no further. And this, as it is true, so it is absolutely necessary to be taken notice of, and allowed them; such general and undistinguishing censure of their whole character, as designing and false, being one main thing which confirms them in their self-deceit. They know the whole censure is not true; and so take it for granted that no part of it is.”8
Note then that the moral critic who mistakes local hypocrisy for pan- hypocrisy is not only a shallow observer of human nature, but is guilty of the logical fallacy of composition: s/he infers, perhaps carelessly or maliciously, from what is true of an aspect of an individual’s character to the entire character. On the other hand, if the local hypocrite thus accused complacency infers from the fact that basically s/he is a good person to the claim that there is nothing amiss with the particular aspect of his or her character or conduct in question, s/he is guilty of the fallacy of division.
Keeping these observations in mind, we are now perhaps better prepared to turn to our discussion of cases of complacent, self-righteous, and cynical hypocrisy, and how they may relate to self-deception.
COMPLACENT HYPOCRISIES: PAST AND PRESENT VICTORIANS
The morality and attitudes of Victorian England are often condemned as intrinsically hypocritical. While we have serious reservations9 about the attribution of a collective mindset to an epoch or passing wholesale moral judgment on it, there may nevertheless be several distinct reasons for thinking “the Victorians” to be hypocritical. At least one reason has to do with their failures to live up to their stated ideals of chastity, charity, hard work, and so on. In some cases, no doubt, the Victorians put forward these ideals without sincerely believing them, or while making exceptions of themselves, in a straightforwardly hypocritical manner. We will argue, however, that are least sometimes Victorian hypocrisy is based on pervasive self-deception of a sort we will refer to as “complacent hypocrisy.”10
Judith Shklar, ever suspicious of accusations of hypocrisy, questions whether the Victorian middle classes really were hypocritical at all. She defends them thus: “They wished to be what they proclaimed everyone ought to be. To fail in one’s own aspirations is not hypocrisy. In fact the Victorians really believed in chastity, monogamy, thrift, charity and work. If many did not achieve these, many others did at considerable psychic cost. Self-repression and emotional silence, however, are self-inflicted wounds, not social crimes or hypocrisy.”11 Shklar goes on to observe that “only their refusal to admit that the endless slums of Mayhews London existed—that is, only their complacency—was hypocritical.”12 The suggestion is that the Victorians were hypocritical in that they chose to ignore, or pretended in public not to know of, the existence of suffering and evil right in front of their eyes—well, a bit further. This is supposed to be very different from their attitude to chastity, monogamy, thrift, work, since these ideals they believed in and worked towards even if they failed to achieve them. With regard to these ideals, the Victorians made no attempt to deceive others. Hence, even if there is self-repression, there is no hypocrisy, no social crime.
If, however, we look more closely at the instance of the Victorian attitude toward the Mayhew slums, which Shklar acknowledges as hypocritical, we may see more parallels than she recognizes between it and the cases where she denies hypocrisy exists. It was in the interests of the Victorians to ignore, been an obstacle to their belief in progress and social redemption through work and thrift. The slum-dwellers and their children worked long hours a day, yet their conditions and prospects were desperate. Acknowledging this fact would have unsettled their cheerful and easy optimism. This hypocritical complacency consisted in the pretence that things were socially better than in fact they were—in the teeth of the existence of the vast slums of Mayhew. They allowed them to think better of themselves than they deserved, for example by thinking that they were helping to maintain a just society, and that they must be entitled to whatever material advantages they had because material advantages accrued justly to whomever earned them through hard work. Thus their complacency involved an element of self-deception, which served the self-interested purpose of allowing them to maintain a positive outlook about themselves and their society.
But now consider the Victorian attitudes concerning chastity and monogamy. It is possible to trace these attitudes to a belief concerning the relationship between the body and the mind or soul. Victorians appear to have thought that the body, with all its urges and emotions, simply got in the way of the purity and rationality of the mind/soul. Women were thought to be particularly tied up with their bodies in the form of emotions, and thus unable to reason as clearly as men. Men, on the other hand, were prone to sexual desires, but fortunately these could be mastered, to the point where the ideal was not to feel such unpleasant urges at all. In short, Victorians wanted to identify themselves only with the pristine purity of mind and soul, and become almost entirely separate from their bodies. Indeed, physical bodies were considered so shameful by some that even the “legs” of pianos had to be covered up in some “respectable” homes.
In order to convince themselves that they really were these pure rational or spiritual beings, Victorians had to ignore a large amount of evidence to the contrary. They had to refuse to acknowledge things such as their own sexual desires, and the fact that both men and women perspire (and do not merely glisten), and they had to turn a blind eye to transgressions such as their frequent secret peccadilloes.
There is a parallel then between Victorian social complacency in pretending that the Mayhew slums did not even exist, and their spiritual state: the “Mayhew slums” may be seen as analogous to the sexual slums of the Victorian soul. In both cases, acknowledging the evidence would have required them to give up their cherished self-conceptions. It may be argued that if the attitudes toward the Mayhew slums count as hypocritical complacency, so does their apparently sincere pretence to chastity, monogamy, etc., in spite of flourishing of subterranean prostitution and brothels, which they conveniently managed to ignore or be oblivious to. In both cases, self-deception is involved in a culpable way, being used to allow one to maintain a more flattering view of oneself than one deserves. If the objects of self-deception, that is to say, what we deceive ourselves about, connect up with our self-conceptions, then it is not difficult to see that, to protect our self-conception, we would ignore, neglect or suppress evidence that suggests that all is not well with our smug, self-satisfied self-image. Hence a complacent hypocrite is likely to deceive him/herself that “God is in his heaven and all is well with the world and my moral character,” ignoring or not taking sufficiently seriously the demands that moral principles press on us. Such culpable self-deceptions usually have as a collaborative companion the suspension of one’s self-critical faculties.
It is worth noting that, in the cases described here, deliberate deception of others may play no role in the hypocrisy, although of course they may be deceived indirectly if a person projects his/her false but genuinely believed self-image. The techniques/mechanisms of wilful ignorance, biased interpretation, selective focusing, or rationalization, together with a natural inclination to an easy conformism, may be the resources out of which social hypocrisy is generated. If this is so, then to speak of self-deception as isolated from one’s behaviour, as a mere state of mind, while seeing hypocrisy as connected to one’s actions, is misleading. As we have seen, Victorians’ actions and behaviours are revelatory of their self-deceptive hypocrisies and of their complacent self-image—the former serving as a device for protecting such a comforting moral self-image. Their culpable epistemic negligence, their not looking, or refusal to look and acknowledge matters/evidence that had the potential to disconfirm or invalidate their smug moral self-conception, was productive of an attitude of pervasive complacent hypocrisy. Such middle-class Victorian complacency is iconic of their age as well as ours—since our Mayhew slums are the urban and Third World poor, the native reserves next door.
What we have argued so far is that there can indeed be forms of hypocrisy that do not involve direct acts of deceiving others, and thus that the attempt to draw a sharp separating line between hypocrisy and self-deception does not work. We also suggested that the attitude of complacency is one fertile ground for self-deceptive hypocrisy. Thirdly, we struck the chord that resonates throughout our piece, and which we develop as we go along, that concepts such as self-deception are not homogenous but have diverse forms which need careful discussion and illustration. We suggested that in complacent hypocrisy, self-deception takes the form of epistemic negligence in seeking out, facing up to, or appreciating, evidence that would undercut or conflict with our comfortable moral self-image.
SELF-RIGHTEOUS HYPOCRISY: HUME’S GRIEVING FRIEND
If self-deception is heterogeneous, and if certain distinctive attitudes are fertile soil for self-deceptive hypocrisy, does self-deception take more active forms when motivated and sustained by more aggressive attitudes? An affirmative answer to these questions can be discerned in cases where a hypocrite supposes him/herself to be the one who is acting genuinely, and cannot but utterly reject the accusation and reproach of hypocrisy. In such cases, hypocrites not only suppose that all is well with their own moral state, but manufacture and believe their own propaganda when confronted with reasonable accusations of hypocrisy.
To unboggle the mind then, consider a Humean case. “A man that has lost a friend and a patron, may flatter himself, that all his grief arises from generous sentiments.”13 Suppose now that he proceeds to denounce Smith, to whom the dead man was also a benefactor, saying that Smith’s grief is hypocritical: “It is the loss of money, not the loss of a friend, that really makes you grieve.” We believe that such a morally self-righteous man is a good candidate for a hypocrite who thinks himself to be sincere, and we will call this sort of hypocrisy “self-righteous hypocrisy.”
However, before we can confidently say “Hypocrite,” such a man has to be marked off from someone who is merely thoughtless. To rule this out, let us add the following: His wife wondered aloud how it is that when an even better friend, but poor and thus no patron, had died years earlier, her husband grieved but his grief was not paraded so much as for his patron. He overhears this and the observation disturbs him. There is a dim recognition of its truth. Yet he refuses to entertain the idea. He dismisses thoughts about really makes him parade his grief so much. When doubts recur, he persuades himself that money does not really enter into it, that he is not that sort of person, and so on. And then he goes to the funeral where he denounces someone else, perhaps rightly, as a hypocrite. Such a self-righteous hypocrite feels morally inferior to others, and thus tries to compensate for this by making invidious comparisons between the quality of his own grief and that of others. Hence the hypocrite and the self-righteous anti-hypocrite may have much in common.
These additional features also rule out the idea that our man is merely ambivalent or conflicted about what really explains grief. At one stage, he is not sure whether it is the loss of a friend that entirely explains his feelings. At the next stage come deliberate, perhaps wilful, shift of attention away from a disturbing thought or interpretation unfavourable to oneself, then more or less clever efforts to explain away doubts, to persuade oneself to believe in the construal favourable to one’s moral self-image. All these attempts at moral cosmetics and spin-doctoring are natural enough, for no one who is morally concerned the least bit likes to think of him/herself as the sort of person whose grief at the death of a friend is merely regret at the loss of an income, that is to say, grief for oneself.
So, to depict a comprehensive picture of the roles that self-deception can play in instances of hypocrisy, we must recover for attention the frequent complexity and dissonance of inner experience and its manifestations. Our man’s state of mind is a complex one. The fact that he thinks himself to be sincere, that he is grieved by the loss of his friend, is to be taken into account when describing his state of mind. On the other hand, the fact that he has intermittent doubts whether that alone accounts for the extreme show of his grief or whether patronage figures in it as well, must also be brought out in an accurate description of his state of mind. His attempts to persuade himself that patronage had nothing to do with his parading his grief, while in the case of the other fellow in the same situation, patronage had everything to do with the show of grief, are two features of self-righteous, self-deceptive hypocrisy: invidious comparisons of oneself with others, and accusations of others, accompanied by self-justification. These facts are reasons for saying he is insincere. So, he is not entirely insincere, or if you will, his sincerity is insincere. He tries to appear better than he really is by scapegoating the other!
While an argument has been made for self-deception, it may not yet be clear how hypocrisy comes into it. Just as all cases of hypocrisy are not also cases of self-deception, so not all cases of self-deception are cases of hypocrisy. This point calls for bringing out features that help us mark off the mere self-deceiver from the self-deceptive hypocrite. To begin with, note our grieving man’s self-righteous denunciation of Smith, a man like himself in relevant ways. Recall his accusations of Smith as a hypocrite: “It is the loss of money and not the loss of a friend that makes you grieve so much.” Here we witness our man setting himself up as a paragon of purity of heart, when in fact he is also a blatant offender in this particular instance. The use of double standards, a frequent symptom of hypocrisy,14 suggests that he is culpable for his failure to reflect on his own motivation, and for pretending to himself, and indirectly to others in his audience, that he is a genuine griever for a friend, to be differentiated from those others who merely grieve for themselves. This is a variation on one large theme of hypocrisy: to advocate the acceptance of a moral standard or rule publicly and hold others to it, yet more or less unwittingly break it when it is to one’s own advantage. When the use of double standards is pointed out to such a hypocrite, s/he engages in special pleading and self-justification, pretending to him/herself and to others that the standard does not apply to him/her since his/her case is different. One who is merely self-deceived about one’s motives for grief does not have this public dimension as a feature—such a person does not morally denigrate the other, to lift him/herself up.
DAVID’S THOUGHTLESS COMPLACENCY
The self-deception involved in hypocrisy need not be active i the sense of self-justification and rationalization. Consider the biblical case of King David, who committed adultery with Bathsheba and sent off her husband to battle to be killed.15 Nathan brings this offence to light, and in effect charges David with having done wrong by his own principles. Is the offence here hypocrisy?
The parable told makes it evident that David’s conduct involves the use of a double standard, yet he is unaware of it due to a culpable failure at self-reflection and self-examination. Nathan says to him,
There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up; and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveler unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was to come to him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come unto him.16
The biblical account continues:
And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had not pity. And Nathan answered Thou art the man.17
This example shows how even generally good people can be self-deceptive hypocrites. King David committed an injustice without even taking notice of it, without condemning himself, yet he was morally outraged that someone else had done a similar thing. There is a clear-cut use of a double standard involved in the case. There is both a rigorous moral standard for judging and punishing the other, and a convenient forgetting to apply such a standard to one’s own case. Self-deception of this sort often works in the service of self-regard, of complacency. The assumption of the complacent is that all is well in one’s own moral house, in one’s own spiritual state. This sort of smug moral self-satisfaction deters and deflects the crucial tasks of self-examination and self-criticism, and proceeds to the examination and criticism of others. In the latter task such people display an assiduity to collect all the relevant evidence and bring moral principles to bear upon the case with insight and perspicuity—their grasp of moral standards is thereby evident. What we have here is a culpable failure of self-knowledge. The lack of the relevant self-awareness is motivated by an anxious desire to seem good or better than others. One is too lazy or reluctant to look, anxious that one’s own moral identifications are at risk.
CYNICAL HYPOCRISY AND SELF-DECEPTION
Thus far we have argued that, in several types of cases where there is no deliberate deception of others, hypocrisy hinges crucially on culpable self-deception, and thus that the claim that hypocrisy always involves deception of some sort is more defensible than has often been thought. In this section, we put forward the additional suggestion that even in some clear case of hypocrisy involving deception of others, self-deception may also play a role.
One pervasive image of the hypocrite is that of what has been called the “cynical hypocrite.” Such people are supposed to plan the inconsistency between preached ideals of conduct or motivation and actual conduct or motivation, and to be fully self-conscious of their aim to gain an undeserved moral reputation. Literature is generously salted with such hypocrites, from Moliere’s Tartuffe, through Shakespeare’s Iago, to Dickens’ Uriah Heep. Such hypocrites present themselves to others as they are not, seeming to work toward benefiting others, while making it explicit to themselves that they are really aiming only to expand their own authority. The lucidity and self-awareness of such people is the very opposite of self-deception,18 since their very success depends on their not ignoring or distorting the evidence about themselves which they observe in other people’s reactions.
However, contrary to such literary depictions of the hypocrite as a larger than life, extremely knowledgeable villain, such “cynical” hypocrites are liable to end up self-deceived, even if they do not in the first instance deceive themselves. Since this is surprising and often missed in discussions of the topic, let us note how it is likely to happen.
Having a reasonable degree of self-knowledge requires that we take the reactions and observations of others about ourselves into account. Self-knowledge in this sense is not tantamount to introspection, but grows out of material also provided by people we interact with. Now if the self-aware hypocrite, fully conscious of what s/he is doing, is reasonably successful, then the evidence potentially provided by the reactions of others will be relevant and bear upon the persona or role s/he presents to them, rather than to his/her genuine commitments and evaluations. Hence the evidential resources for self-knowledge that might be provided by others are not available to such a hypocrite. By isolating themselves thus, these so-called cynical hypocrites are likely to slip unwittingly into self-deception—they are vulnerable in precisely the area where they have been thought strongest.
But why have such hypocrites been called “cynical”? Where is the “cynical” in this description of hypocrisy? It seems to be missing altogether, since there is no reference to central features of a cynical attitude, namely, the distrust or denial of the apparent goodness of human motives, especially those of others, and the display of this attitude by sneers, sarcasm, and the appraisal of others’ actions in the worst possible light. Such an attitude again is fertile ground for self-deceptive hypocrisy, since it leads to a one-sided, narrow view of human motivation that results in blind spots and a refusal to appreciate the rich complexity of human action and motivation. The cynical hypocrite may be reading his/her own suspicions about his/her own motives into those of others, covering up his/her own particular faults by spreading those faults to human beings at large. Such hypocrites are, of course, as likely to be mistaken about their own motivation by taking this pervasively negative view, as they are about others’. This form of hypocrisy is best distinguished from the lucid, self-aware hypocrite, since a cynical attitude is not something that we are necessarily aware of.
MORAL CULPABILITY AND SELF-DECEPTIVE HYPOCRISY
The idea of self-deceptive hypocrisy, while intrinsically interesting, raises important questions concerning the assignment of blame and responsibility. In general, we seem to be confronted with a moral quandary. If hypocrisy involves self-deception, then to some extent hypocrites do not really know what they are doing. It might be thought that, to the extent that they are ignorant of what they are doing, they are not really culpable, since we tend to assign culpability on the basis of the agent’s degree of knowledge of what s/he is doing. On the other hand, it might be thought that the self-deceived hypocrite, far from being a candidate for exculpation, is even more deeply inculpated. Since s/he is a hypocrite and self-deceived about it, s/he is committing multiple wrongs, and therefore twice condemned, once for each vice.
But these general considerations fly too high over the moral landscape. Perhaps the only general relevant moral consideration here is that if the self-deception is culpable, and it may not be, then the moral blameworthiness is greater. But assigning blame is a case-by-case affair, requiring looking at and seeing the particular details of each moral situation. If, for example, the complacent Victorian, aware of the plight of the hardworking poor, refuses to discuss or implement urban renewal, s/he is culpable when s/he hypocritically preaches social progress through sheer work and thrift. Such a person knows better, yet pretends to the contrary. Concerning the self-righteous we might say that they are culpable for the motivated deflection of evidence that counts against their rosy self-appraisal and their hurting of others through accusations. And the more evidence the cynical hypocrite has for the damage his/her perspective causes to his/her personal relationships, the more s/he is culpable for causing it.
In this chapter, we have been exploring the complex relation between hypocrisy and self-deception. We identified three attitudes that constitute fertile soil for self-deceptive hypocrisy. After briefly discussing the conceptual problem inherent in the idea of self-deception hypocrisy, we argued that such hypocrisy is not only possible, but also a common fact of life that makes the moral life even more difficult. We claimed that the idea of self-deceptive hypocrisy is not the idea of some one thing, but is heterogeneous and takes diverse forms. Then we proceeded after making a distinction between pan- and local hypocrites, by way of description and example, to discuss the roles that self-deception plays in complacent, self-righteous and cynical hypocrisy. These roles range from culpable ignorance or thoughtlessness, through wilful ignorance and biased interpretation, to rationalization. We pointed out the risk of ending up self-deceived, even in the cases of self-aware, deceitful hypocrisy. Finally, we argued that self-deception can be culpable and it is only cases of culpable deception that contribute to and enhance the blameworthiness of self-deceptive hypocrisy.
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, translated by N.H. Smith, 1955, p. 164. 2. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, translated by Hazel Barnes, 1956, p. 68. 3. Note that the intention to deceive may not result in any actual deception. People might “see through” the attempted deception, and it may be that nobody is actually fooled. 4. For some work on the problem of self-deception, see Herbet Fingarette’s Self-Deception; Bela Szabados, “Self-Deception,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy (1974); the essays in Mike Martin, ed., Self-Deception and Self-Understanding, 1985; Annette Barnes, Seeing through Self-Deception, 1997; and Alfred Mele, Self-Deception Unmasked, 2001. 5. Smilansky, “On Practicing What We Preach?” p. 78, footnote 2. 6. Judith Shklar, Ordinary Vices, p. 47. 7. Joseph Butler, J.J. Rousseau and I. Kant seem to subscribe to such a view. See Butler’s Sermon, “Upon Self-Deceit,” from Fifteen Sermons Upon Human Nature; see Rousseau’s Letter to D’Alembert; also see I. Kant, The Doctrine of Virtue, pp. 94-95. 8. Butler, pp. 153-4. 9. For a refreshing recent view of “the Victorian” as post-modernists whose “hypocrisy” is really nothing but the ability to cope and live with often incompatible social and moral demands, see A.N. Wilson, The Victorians, 2002. 10. This terminology follows Crisp and Cowton. See “Hypocrisy and Moral Seriousness,” p. 345. 11. Shklar, pp. 54-55. 12. Ibid. 13. David Hume, “Of Self-Love,” Appendix 2 to An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, in Philosophical Works, Vol. 4, ed. T.H. Green and T.H. Grose, 1882, pp. 269-70. 14. We discussed the relationship between double standards and hypocrisy in more detail in Chapter 11 of this book. 15. We discussed this case in Chapter 1 of this book. 16. Nathan’s parable to David. Samuel 2:11-12. 17. Ibid. 18. Herbert Fingarette seems to draw a rather sharp distinction between hypocrisy and self-deception. He exclusively disjoins the two claiming that the former has explicit spelling out or full consciousness as a feature, while there is no spelling out or full consciousness at all in the latter. See Fingarette, pp. 56-57 for a sketch of what he takes to be cynical hypocrisy.
Fr. George, a married priest, was given permission by the Church to have marital relations with his wife, Mary. The ecclesiastical canons are clear about forbidding marital relations on fast days, the night before partaking of Holy Communion, and during menstruation cycles. As a spiritual child of Elder Ephraim, Fr. George would’ve also abstained on feast days of the Theotokos, etc. Some priests also undergo a cleansing fast before performing certain functions; such as exorcisms, or when they are focused on praying for specific people, or for specific things. It stands to reason that they’d be abstinent for more significant periods of time then a lay person would. The limitations imposed on married couples allows less than 150 days a year in which they’re “allowed” to have approved sexual relations with their spouse. Ecclesiastic canons only permit married couples to have penile/vaginal relations, with the heavy promise of communion loss for the forbidden acts of oral, anal, or digital stimulation.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, clerical celibacy was never imposed on orthodox priests living in the world. Although Orthodoxy doesn’t have a rampant pedophilia problem with its clergymen throughout the world, there are numerous examples of extramarital affairs and/or fornication outside the blessing of marriage, both heterosexual and homosexual.
As a disciple of Geronda Ephraim, Fr. George would’ve been instructed to stop having marital relations with his Presvytera when they decided to not have any more children; i.e. sexual relations are only for procreation not for pleasure. Thus, Geronda Ephraim would’ve “suggested” (code word for do obedience because any other action will not be blessed by God) to Fr. George and his Presvytera not to remain chaste after their fourth child. Geronda Ephraim would have enjoined “suggested” that the two live as brother and sister so they could focus more on their spiritual life rather than carnal desires. Thus, in theory, Fr. George would’ve been celibate for many years before this affair was exposed. Only God and Geronda Ephraim know if this was Fr. George’s first round of extramarital experimentation.
If they were true believers who followed orders without question, Fr. George and Presvytera Mary would have lived an abstemious life from as early as the late 80’s.
Over the years, Fr. George became well known within the Greek Orthodox community (especially among Geronda Ephraim’s disciples) for being an especially pious, spiritually minded, humble priest with a traditional nature. He was spoken of with reverence, about his sanctity, and his holiness. The faithful of New York loved his fiery sermons. He seemed to stand out among the other local clergymen. He had a beard, long hair, wore the rassa in public, etc. This isn’t very common among other local priests who are clean shaven, wear a white collar like the Catholics, and only wear their rassas if performing a priestly function. Many New York priests are given a rassa to wear when visiting Elder Ephraim’s monasteries because it’s the dress code as well as adherence to the canons. One can usually spot the clergymen who are the Elder’s spiritual children by how traditional their outer appearance is.
Was that all just a facade? Was there substance to his piety, or was it all just a carefully constructed persona?
The devotees of Geronda Ephraim were indoctrinated with the piety and spirituality of Fr George, which brings into question whether people actually believed in the man, or because they had imposed upon them an ideal that Geronda Ephraim carefully constructed through his counsel?
In May, 1997, Fr George was appointed Chancellor of the GOA, and he became very valuable to Elder Ephraim in this position because he had a steady source of “insider information”. In the spring of ’97, Fr. George was able to facilitate the “great escape” of St. John the Theologian Greek Orthodox Monastery in Picton, ON from under Metropolitan Sotirios’ nose [this brotherhood is now St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY].
Also, during this time, he and Presvtera would have been “living as brother and sister.” It seems ironic, considering the content of the video proofs that have recently come to light, that it was Fr. George that pushed for the writing of the Orthodox Church’s new, stricter policies on sexual misconduct, when he was on staff at the Archdiocese).
This is by no means an uncommon human characteristic (particularly in religious figures/leaders), as those who speak out vehemently against homosexuality, often hide the fact that they themselves are homosexual from the world, those who condemn those who indulge in sexual perversion, to be closeted perverts themselves.
Passias was Ethel’s spiritual father and had actually baptized her into the orthodox faith just before her wedding to Tom Bouzalas in the late 90’s (around the time he started pushing for those stricter sexual misconduct policies). The Passias and Ethel had been having an affair for years. According to an article in GQ:
“In one scene, the bearded cleric, wearing only a white T-shirt, watches his long-haired brunette lover plant her thong-clad bottom on a piece of banana bread wrapped in cellophane. Bouzalas, wearing stiletto heels, oddly wiggles on the loaf until it is flattened — apparently a fetish known as “cake crush” or “cake sitting…In another video clip, the pretty Peruvian rubs her feet on the priest’s face as they lie under a mirrored ceiling and she records his ecstasy at the encounter. In another tape, the priest performs oral sex on his lover while she is still clad in sheer pantyhose”.
Living a celibate life in the world, whilst hearing confessions about other people’s desires, carnal sins, and the kinks and fetishes they indulged in, must have fanned the flames of his own passions. Only Fr. George knows how his perversions progressed to the point that he felt he had to act on them, and while many theories could be put forth, only he knows how he set himself upon that path. The Science Behind Your Sex Fetish – Shape Magazine
Both pilgrims and monastics are taught in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries that the relationship between a spiritual Father and his spiritual Child is a deep, meaningful bond, both stronger and more important than the parent/child bond that exists in biological families.
Because Father George baptized Ethel, and took on this divine responsibility, the depravity of his acts should be viewed as the corrupt acts that they are. In essence, the sexual relationship that they shared together is the spiritual equivalent of a parent having incestuous relations with their child; this affair constituted spiritual and physical incest.
Did Fr. Ephraim know about the inappropriate relationship taking place with his Spiritual Child?
Possibly. The affair itself has been ongoing for years, and there are a couple of likely scenarios.
a) Fr. George may have been making sincere and honest confessions to his spiritual father, Geronda Ephraim, revealing in depth the ongoing adultery, fornication, and sexual deviancy he was indulging in.
b) Fr. George hasn’t had a clean and honest confession since the affair started or ever, and has been hiding both his thoughts and deeds from Geronda Ephraim.
If Fr. George was sincere in his confessions, how was it possible that Geronda Ephraim allowed him to continue as a priest, since the Canons strictly forbid a priest behaving in this way? Strategically, was it beneficial to leave the “general” at his post. Or was it a “better image” for the clergy and laymen not to have Fr. George report to his bishop and step down from the priesthood? There was a lot at stake and it would look really bad on Geronda Ephraim since, “A tree is known by the fruit it bears.”
A bit of divergence is necessary to give some background.
To protect his name, and his monasteries from possible scandal and public humiliation, Geronda Ephraim “overrides” the Canons when it suits his purpose. The devotion to Geronda Ephraim overshadows the Canons and God’s Commandments, and allows his disciples to readily accept the contradictory holy missives that he shares with them. How could one question a holy vision received during prayer?
Geronda Ephraim’s disciples believe that there is no sin in blind obedience, other then disobeying a command-even if it breaks the Canons, they fervently believe that they will not be judged or punished for doing blind obedience.
To further his missionary work, Geronda Ephraim has broken the Canons before, and in turn, the abbots and abbesses of his monasteries also follow his idiorrhythmic example.
In 1989, Rev. Fr. Eustathios Kontoravdis (d. 2009) was the driver in a car crash that killed his wife, Presvytera Kyriaki. After this tragic event, Geronda Ephraim told him that according to the Canons, he should no longer serve as a priest.
In 1984, Ioannis Voutsas (now Geronda Joseph, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY) was the driver in a car crash that killed Geronda Ephraim Koutsibo, then Abbot of Xeropotamou Monastery. Despite this seemingly canonical impediment to the priesthood, Geronda Ephraim had Ioannis Voutsas ordained to the priesthood at Philotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos.
Geronda Ephraim gave Geronda Joseph an obedience to tell people he doesn’t remember much from the accident thus enabling him to avoid conversing about it. Though Geronda Joseph is reluctant to talk about the details of this accident, over the years he has given information to various spiritual children. These details, combined with the information shared by Metropolitan Athansios of Lemesou (his best friend since his days at the University of Thessalonica who also hid Joseph from the authorities in his Athonite cell after he left the military) can be found here: Conspiracy of Silence? and Μελέτη των Δέκα Εντολών (1995-1996)and Ομιλίες Με Θέμα: Μελέτη των Μακαρισμών (1995-1996)
In the past, when things have occurred in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries which canonically requires a bishop to be informed or to absolve, Geronda Ephraim has given his own penances and “absolved” it through his koboschoini.
If Fr. George Passias did not have clean confession with Geronda Ephraim, then many more questions need to be raised.
Fr. George has been a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim for over 30 years, and they were quite close.
“I know when you’re lying,” is a common phrase of Gerondas/Gerondissas towards their disciples. “A parent doesn’t know when their own child is lying to them?”
So, as a spiritual Father, did Geronda Ephraim know Fr. George was lying to him and hiding thoughts?
In the monasteries, the monastics are taught that Geronda Ephraim is a “knower of hearts;” he knows everything about a person from just one glance, he knows what is hidden in people’s hearts, and he can see the demons and passions that dominate an individual. In some cases, especially with carnal sins, it is said he can smell the stench of sin emitting from the individual. It is also said that when he does koboschoini for his spiritual children, he can see them, what they’re doing, feeling, thinking, etc. Geronda Ephraim’s monastics teach these things to the pilgrims who visit their monasteries.
In cases where Geronda Ephraim is surprised by events he did not foresee—i.e. monastics returning to the world unannounced, serious sins and betrayals by his monastics or long-time spiritual children, etc.—people sometimes ask, “If Geronda Ephraim is such a big prophet, how did he not know this would happen?” His disciples will quickly justify Geronda Ephraim’s ignorance with examples from the Gerontikon explaining that God does not always reveal things to His saints.
If Fr. George had been hiding his sins in confession, while the affair has been ongoing for 2+ years, that would mean every time Geronda Ephraim prayed for Fr. George (either koboschoini or proskomide), or whenever the Elder saw or spoke to Fr. George outside the exomologetarion, he must not have received any information from God about the state of Fr. George’s soul.
Alternatively, if Geronda Ephraim did receive information, he ignored the ecclesiastical canons and, in essence, blessed Fr. George to continue serving as a priest, to the detriment of both their souls.
Pilgrims are told by Geronda Ephraim’s disciples that, “Geronda Ephraim knows, however, he can’t force people to make clean confessions.” Of course, this contradicts all the stories of Geronda Ephraim revealing peoples’ hidden sins to them during confession.
There is also the possibility that Geronda Ephraim has known about Fr. George’s sexual misconduct for the last few years and has been giving him obediences to stop serving as a priest and was ignored.
We will never know, as the mystery of confession is confidential. Geronda Ephraim does share the confessions of individuals with the abbot or abbess of the monastery that these individuals visit, especially if there are serious things that the heads need to know. In the Orthodox Church, clergymen have stricter judgments and restrictions than lay people. More is expected of them due to the grace of ordination, and when they fall, the punishments tend to be stricter than those of laypeople. Carnal sins usually lead to defrocking.
In one scene, Fr. George, wearing just a white t shirt, watches Ethel plant her thong-clad bottom on a piece of banana bread wrapped in cellophane, and then crush it with her stilettos. In the Orthodox teachings about spiritual warfare, Fr. George watching Ethel in this act would be considered sinful as he consented in his heart.
In another video clip, Ethel rubs her feet on the priest’s faceas they lie under a mirrored ceiling, as she records his ecstasy at the encounter. Ethel then smothers the cake with her feet and bottom. In the kink community, there is a direct relationship between people who have foot fetishes, and those who have Pygophillia-(buttocks fetish)-it’s a safe assumption that Fr. George probably also indulged in face-sitting.
Foot smotheringand ass worship are often linked, as these forms of humiliation and degradation have a lot in common, both with the physical attributes of the senses (smell, taste, touch, sight) and the psychological predispositions that drive people to these fetishes.
There’s a reason that the monasteries have male and female pilgrims wear socks and cover their feet: foot fetishes and the accompanying lust warfare that can be caused by looking at feet. Pilgrims to Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries have been told in confession that though foot fetishes and foot worship are not technically carnal sins that receive penances, they are dirty passions that should be avoided because they can open the door to even filthier passions which do carry heavy penances. Seeing that indulging in foot fetishism is pointless sexual gratification, it’s forbidden.
Buttock worshipand face-sitting would be one of those dirtier passions which, depending on the acts involved, carry penances from 2-10 years of no Holy Communion.
In another tape, Fr. George performs oral sex on Ethel while she is still clad in sheer pantyhose.
In the Orthodox Church, all forms of oral sex—fellatio, cunnilingus, and analingus—are forbidden and punished with penances starting at 2 years of no Holy Communion.
Here is a basic list of how carnal sins are punished by the Father Confessors in obedience to Geronda Ephraim (of course, this can vary from confessor to confessor depending on time, place and circumstance of the individual confessing. Also, individuals will be ordered to do extra rounds on their prayer rope to Christ and Panagia):
Masturbation/Hand Jobs: 40 days no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
Vaginal Intercourse Outside of Marriage: 1 year no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
Oral Sex:2 years no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
Anal Sex: 5-10 years no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
NOTE: The above list contains the basic penances for lay people. Monastic penances for similar sins can vary (either being less out of economia, or more because of their rank and stature). Also, this list is for heterosexual sins. These sins committed in same-sex relationships receive harsher and severe penances (i.e. lesbian cunnilingus can earn a penance of no communion for up to 10 years). For a more in depth look at ecclesiastical canons and carnal sins seeThere Is No Sex In The Church.
Fr. George is now 67. The evidence reveals that he has committed adultery, spiritual incest, fornication, and possibly sodomitic sins. These “multitudinous sins and shortcomings” combined with the heavy sin of continuing to serve as a priest and perform the Liturgy, will rack up a very large penance for him. Undoubtedly, Geronda Ephraim has banned him from Communion until his deathbed.
3 Years Later…
Steve Hantzarides writes, “Here’s great story of faith and inspiration. When the former priest, George Passias, left St. Spyridon in disgrace – and debt – a lot of the faithful wondered what was next for one of the most historic parishes in this country. Today, the church is restored to its original Byzantine glory, a testament to the immigrants who built it and the Greek-Americans who are still there from all across NYC. Palm Sunday saw a full house. We are excited about the future of a parish that has seen more than its fair share of difficulties. Would be great to send you pix of our beautifully restored masterpiece. ‘Behold, I make all things new again’.”
NOTE: Metropolitans Paisios and Vikentios and their monastery, St. Irene Chrysovalantou, were not part of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. However, after they were received into the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America—it is rumored that they paid the Patriarch a large sum of money for the privilege—the two started to visit St. Anthony’s Monastery periodically. When they visited St. Anthony’s Monastery, they would also give sermons in the main Katholikon after a service (even Vespers). The speeches were always the same: Zionists, Freemasons, New World Order, Jewish conspiracies of world domination and destroying Greece and the Orthodox Church. The same rhetoric they used in their newsletters. Interestingly, shortly after their re-ordinations in 1998, the two Metropolitans apologized to the Jewish community for their anti-Semitic publications (see below). Yet, throughout the 2000s, they preached the very things they apologized for in the main church at St. Anthony’s Monastery.
AJC Welcomes Statement By Greek Orthodox Old Calendarist Church Repudiating Anti-Semitism
The American Jewish Committee welcomes the recent statement by leaders of the Greek Orthodox Stavropegial Church and Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou which expresses regret for the use of anti-Semitic remarks and stereotypes in its Church body newspaper, The Voice of Orthodoxy.
The May 21st statement of Metropolitan Paisios, whose group is based in Astoria, New York, noted that in 1993 and 1994 “our publications did indeed reflect an unenlightened attitude toward Jews, perpetuating some anti-Semitic myths whose origins extend back to medieval times. We categorically deny these lies, and genuinely seek forgiveness for having communicated such un-Christian sentiments. We categorically reject all forms of anti-Semitism.”
Bishop Vikentios, another leader of the group also known as the Old Calendarist Church because it follows the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar, echoed the Metropolitan’s views. “We are saddened and deeply ashamed by these past statements regarding Jews. We not only repent these statements,” the Bishop said, “but understand the true nature of our relationship to Jews and to people of other faiths.” He further acknowledged that his Church body has expressed views about Jews and Judaism “which we now know to be false.”
Commenting on these statements, Rabbi A. James Rudin, National Interreligious Affairs Director of the American Jewish Committee, said: “The expressions of regret on the part of Metropolitan Paisios and Bishop Vikentios represent a necessary first step in purging their group of the ugly pathology of religious anti-Semitism.
“What is needed now, after public repentance, is to translate the message of these statements into the daily spiritual life of the Old Calendarist Church and all its members. This is especially true in areas of preaching and teaching on the local level. Such statements issued by church leaders, welcome as they are, must always be followed by concrete actions and full implementation in all aspects of church life.”
Rabbi Rudin added: “The American Jewish Committee recalls with deep appreciation the powerful words spoken last October at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, by the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, when he repudiated anti-Semitism and called the Holocaust an ‘icon of evil.’”
An AJC Leadership Delegation met with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul last February.
Rabbi Rudin concluded: “The AJC also appreciates the vital efforts of Archbishop Spyridon, the Primate and spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, to build mutual respect and understanding between our two faith communities. For its part, the AJC looks forward to continued cooperation with the Greek Orthodox Church in the future.”
In a 2006 interview with Geronda Dositheos, journalist Michael J. Parker mentions the Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco, TX:
“Founded in 1996, Holy Archangels is less known these days than the 25-year-old Christ of the Hills monastery 5 miles southwest of Blanco.
Christ of the Hills has courted frequent publicity, with a “weeping” icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary that attracted thousands of visitors for years and with recent charges of sexual assault against several of its monks.
The Blanco monks’ only affiliation with any recognized ecclesiastical jurisdiction — the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia — lasted from 1991 to 1999. A church spokesman said its recognition was revoked because the Blanco monks refused to abide by church discipline.
“People have always confused us with them, but we have no connection,” said Father Dositheos, 38, the Canadian-born abbot of Holy Archangels. The two groups of monks wear similar black robes and have long beards.”
[Note: In 1991, with the blessing of Bishop Hilarion (ROCOR), the Christ of the Hills Monastery/New Sarov Press published the English translation of Geronda Ephraim’s “A Call from the Holy Mountain”. In 1991, Geronda Ephraim joined ROCOR for almost a year and then went back to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Both actions were said to be done out of obedience to divine visions/voices.].
For quite awhile after this scandal broke out, Geronda Dositheos’ brotherhood in St. Antonios, TX was mistakenly assumed to be connected with Christ of the Hills Monastery. It is said that this scandal did a great disservice to Orthodox Monasticism in America: • A confession received describes sex, drugs and deception at a former monastery in the Hill Country. • Five monks were charged in molestation and fraud at the Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco County. • Monk Hugh Fallon admitted on the day of the raid to smoking marijuana and having sex with other monks. • Fallon also said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake. • Fallon wrote, “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”
NOTE: This scandal was used as a cautionary tale for monastics on why it is so important to go through obedience before taking on the role of a spiritual father, and why it is a huge blessing from God to have such a holy spiritual father [i.e. Geronda Ephraim]. The Abbot at Blanco literally walked off the street and appointed himself a leader without having the necessary spiritual experience. For lay people, it was used as a cautionary tale of why they shouldn’t assume that anyone with a long beard and rassa is holy or virtuous.
When this scandal was first breaking the news, many lay people had the question: “How is something like this even possible in a monastery? How can someone who has left the world and dedicated themselves to God capable of such impiety?” In the state of Texas where these horrendous crimes occurred, Geronda Dositheos and his brotherhood were constantly assumed to be associated with this monastery when they went out to do errands.
In the monasteries, when lay people asked about this scandal, they heard such responses as, “These types of things are unheard of in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. Geronda Ephraim did 12 years blind obedience to St. Joseph, became illumined and sanctified, and was given a blessing to take on spiritual children and monasteries. In turn, all of Geronda Ephraim’s abbots and abbesses have gone through a regime of blind obedience, became illumined, and were given the obedience to take on their leadership role. Abbot Alexander Greene never went through obedience or even lived in a monastery. He just walked off the street, threw on a rassa, and made a monastery.”
The homily would usually turn to the poor spiritual state of monasticism in America before Geronda Ephraim came, and how Geronda Ephraim brought an authentic monastic tradition here as opposed to the less authentic and less spiritual practices [i.e. no blind obedience, no Jesus Prayer, etc.] of the other monasteries here. “Before Geronda Ephraim came to America, the state of monasticism in this country was a sad state of affairs and somewhat spiritually sterile (other than Jordanville, of course). Two of the more ‘famous’ monasteries —St. Herman of Alaska and Holy Transfiguration — had abbots that fell into delusion, schism, and sexual improprieties. The list can go on and on. Since Geronda Ephraim started building monasteries here in 1989, the increase in spirituality among the orthodox faithful and the resuscitation of the spiritual pulse of the orthodox church has been witnessed. No longer is the Greek Orthodox Church in America a spiritually barren desert…”
And then the homily would shift to how Geronda Ephraim is one of the greatest apostles and missionaries in the history of the church, following in the footsteps of St. Kosmas Aitolos. It would be explained that this is God’s will and Geronda Ephraim is doing God’s work and nothing can stop it. It was explained as if it was like a rushing river—the bishops, priests, Masons, Jews, etc. can try to put dams up to stop the flow, but Geronda’s work will just move around these dams and continue on its course—because it is God’s will.
[Note: Last month, Bishop Constantine (Essensky) (1907-96) who lived at the Blanco monastery from 1991 until his repose in 1996, was found incorrupt and reburied in Jordanville. Bishop Constantine was one of the bishops involved in conveying the correctional consecration (“Cherothesia”) to the two Matthewite Bishops in the early 1970s at Holy Transfiguration Monastery at Boston. http://eadiocese.org/News/2014/dec/bpconstantine.en.htm
Fr. Benedict Greene
Samuel A. Greene Jr. (63) founder of a monastery that closed amid scandal over the alleged sexual abuse of novice monks and a fraudulent weeping Virgin Mary painting. Greene, who founded the monastery in 1981, pleaded guilty in 2000 to indecency and was sentenced to 10 years’ probation. He was due in court Sept. 14, where prosecutors planned to seek to have his probation revoked. His death was being investigated as a suicide. His body was found in his home on the grounds of Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco, Texas on September 17, 2007.
On June 9, 2012, Scott left Oregon and drove approximately 20 hours to the monastery in Arizona. He arrived at St. Anthony’s late on the evening of June 10, 2012. Scott drove up to the gate. Clint Allen “Damian” Berrier, who lived at the monastery, was working security. Scott drove up to the monastery entrance, but when Father Philaret (Berrier) approached his car, he turned around quickly and sped away. Berrier followed Scott in another vehicle. According to his witness statement to the police, Berrier stopped before he reached Scott’s car. Only after hearing a gunshot did he approach Scott’s car. The Nevins’ only son was bleeding, but still moving. Berrier called 911. When the police arrived Berrier was still outside of Scott’s car. Soon after Berrier completed his statement, Archimandrite Paisios drove to the scene. Only then did the abbot give the detectives documentation of threats Scott had made against the monastery and those in it. Scott died two hours after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head. He was pronounced dead at 0214 hours on June II, 2012.
A Modesto police officer came to the Nevins’ home that same clay and told Ashley about Scott’s death. The two of them then went to Diane’s work place to let her know the terrible news. Later that day Ashley contacted the San Francisco Metropolis to inform Metropolitan Gerasimos of Scott’s death. The Nevins never heard a word from the monastery or from the Metropolitan. Ashley tried on three separate occasions during the week following Scott’s death to talk directly with Metropolitan Gerasimos. He never succeeded in reaching the bishop. His first call to the Diocese informed them of Scott’s death and where it had taken place, the first they had heard of it. Metropolitan Gerasimos saying that he was praying for Scott’s salvation. He did not invite the Nevins to call him back to discuss Scott’s death. However, the diocesan attorney did attempt to contact the Nevins. The family did not try to make contact with Metropolitan Gerasimos again, nor did they return the lawyer’s call.
On three occasions during the month of June 2012, someone in the Greek Church called the police, falsely accusing Ashley of threatening physical harm. The first contact was by the Pinal County Sheriff s Department, the second contact was a day later by two Modesto City Police officers, the third contact was a phone call a couple of days later by another Modesto City Police officer.
In contrast to the Church’s reaction to Scott’s death, all of the lawmen who responded to the false accusations against Ashley told the grieving father that he was living in a nightmare, and apologized for the intrusion. The Phoenix office of the ATF also called Ashley after they learned of Scott’s death to offer any assistance they could provide.
Ashley visited the Clergy Laity Congress on its last day, Thursday July 5, 20 12. Most of the delegates were in the front lobby and the loading zone, getting ready to leave the hotel and the conference center. Many of the attendees saw Ashley, but he did not say one word to any church member there as he handed out obituaries of his son in silence, and he left peacefully after about 15 minutes. A hotel security man approached him and asked if he was staying at the hotel. Ashley told him he was not and asked him if he would like him to leave, the hotel security man said yes, and Ashley immediately left. As Ashley was driving out the hotel driveway two Phoenix City Police cars came racing into the lobby loading zone area. Scott’s father drove from the conference to the sheriffs’ office in Florence to pick up the personal effects of his dead son. From there he went straight to the Phoenix airport to catch his flight back to Sacramento. He and his wife later donated the car his son died in to the Pinal County Sheriffs’ Department.
Since Scott’s death he has been portrayed by many monastery supporters as having had emotional problems prior to entering the monastery. The Nevins dispute this, for many reasons; Metropolitan Gerasimos who is a PhD Clinical Psychologist told the Nevins he was going to interview Scott to see if he had entered the monastery of his own free will. One follower of Archimandrite Ephraim, and a good example of the kind of person the Nevins have had to deal with during this long ordeal, claimed Scott’s death was the result of the government trying to control people by placing probes in their heads. He has developed an internet YouTube outlining his conspiracy theory as to what happened to Scott. The YouTube is entitled, Scott Nevins: Suicide At St. Anthony’s Monastery.
Archimandrite Paisios, the abbot at St. Anthony’s Monastery, also made statements to an investigative reporter for the The National Herald concerning Scott’s psychological state while he was at St. Anthony’s. “He did not show any signs [of peculiar behavior]. A year before he left he was in contact with some people who were acquaintances and friends and he had some concerns. I remember one time he had said to me that the white flowers in the oleanders in the Monastery’s garden is the symbol of Satanists”. He did not do anything about what he observed; he did not address those issues with either the parents or the Metropolitan. Scott stayed there growing ever worse in this condition and no one did anything to address this issue. Scott’s parents during this entire time kept speaking to the church about the concerns they had with the Archimandrite’s leadership, teaching and practices. They observed in Scott what Archimandrite Piasios had admitted and spoken to them about.
Mr. Michael Jaharis, the Co-Chairman of the Greek Orthodox Church of America Clergy -Laity Congress, made a speech in October 201 2 in reference to many issues in the church, among them the monasteries of Archimandrite Ephraim. He spoke about the monastery issues calling them a ‘disease’, spoke about the death of Scott Nevins, that the monasteries refused to fully cooperate in an internal church investigation of them by the Congress, and he said “we expect to take severe and appropriate action to remedy this existing issue, since not doing so could have long term grave consequences.” He also spoke about another monastery with a sex abuse problem in Astoria, New York not affiliated with Archimandrite Ephraim. He expressed his concerns about how the Ecumenical Patriarch has handled that situation since that particular monastery is under his direct authority, the same as the Greek Orthodox Church and Archimandrite Ephraim monasteries here in America are to.
A practicing Chicago Attorney and laity Congress member, Mr. William Stotis, was assigned the responsibility by the Congress to investigate the monasteries under the leadership of Archimandrite Ephraim. A report was developed. The report has not been made public to the church; the hierarchy will not allow it with their reasons not made public to the church. This is the same investigation that Mr. Jaharis made reference to the monastery not being fully cooperative with their investigation. This investigation began prior to the death of Scott Nevins.
It was not until after the death of Scott Nevins that Metropolitan Gerasiamos then formed an internal committee to address issues with the monasteries led by Archimandrite Ephraim. The Metropolitan and the committee have yet to report any lack of cooperation of the Archimandrite Ephraim or other monastic’s with their efforts to address the issues there.
A practicing Chicago attorney and former Clergy-Laity Congress member, Mr. Louis Atsaves, has developed a website called, Greek Orthodox Christians for Truth and Reform http://www.gotruthreform.org . The website challenges the attitudes, teachings and practices of the Archimandrite Ephraim, the hierarchy that supports him, and the followers of the monastery. Mr. Atsaves, with other like minded associates, have met with members of the hierarchy to express their concerns about the monasteries, Archimandrite Paisios and Archimandrite Ephraim. A second website addressing these issues called, We Are The Orthodox, has been developed by a Greek Orthodox Church lay person, Yanni Pappas (www.wearetheorthodox.com).
A second KVOA Tucson Channel 5 News report with the same previous lead reporter has been developed on St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, Arizona and will air shortly after Archimandrite Ephraim, the church Metropolitan hierarchy and the Ecumenical Patriarch have received this letter. That report will then be put on the internet.
Other forms of media reporting of the issues around the monasteries, the archimandrite leadership practices, the hierarchy relationship with the archimandrite leadership, the role and responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarch in all of this, are coming forthwith. All such reporting will be done in the context of the death of Scott Nevins at St. Anthony’s Monastery.
The list of unresolved problems from both monasteries and church alike, how they came about, and what is not being done by the hierarchy to address them is very long. Michael Jaharis addressed some of these issues of monastery and hierarchy behavior in his October 20 12 speech to the Congress. The Nevins will address this pattern of church and monastery leadership behavior and its horrible impact on their son and family both in the media and if necessary in court. The Greek Orthodox laity is now finding out that there is an undeniable and growing division taking place in the Greek Orthodox Church of America regarding Archimandrite Ephraim and the monasteries. Much greater church wide knowledge of hierarchy treatment of the monastery issues being raised by the Nevins, the media and concerned Greek Orthodox is now becoming known.
The Nevins started addressing these issues with the church, monastery and hierarchy in 2004 or 8 years ago.
This overview of the facts does not include every factual detail the Nevins have and what other concerned parties have given them pertaining to the involvement of Scott Nevins in St. Anthony’s Monastery and the Greek Orthodox Church of America, his time spent at the monastery, the resulting traumas Scott Nevins experienced while involved, admissions, and other information about how the church hierarchy and Archimandrites Ephraim and Paisios has treated these issues.