Greek Orthodox priest’s weird sex fetishes caught on video (Isabel Vincent, 2015)

The NY Post
The NY Post”s front page referring to a kinky sex tape Fr. George & Ethel made.

NOTE: This article is taken from the Australian newspaper, The Courier Mail, October 4, 2015. 

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has suspended Fr. George Passias after an extra-marital affair came to light with a woman from his parish. That affair, which has allegedly been going on for years, resulted in the pregnancy of the woman.

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It should be noted that Fr. George Passias is a long-time spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim of Arizona. When he was Chancellor of the Archdiocese (during Archbishop Spyridon’s reign), he helped Geronda Ephraim get blessings to build 8 new monasteries. He provided the monasteries with inside information on the bishops, priests, etc. who were opposed to the monasteries, the things they said about the monasteries, as well as confidential information from the Archdiocese. He was once nicknamed “Geronda’s eyes and ears inside the Archdiocese.”

In 1997, he aided Geronda Joseph Voutsas and his brotherhood so they could leave Canada undetected by Metropolitan Sotirios and reside at St. Anthony’s Monastery until they bought new property in the States.

Now, the article:

Unorthodox relationship: Fr. George Passias & Ethel Bouzalas.
Unorthodox relationship: Fr. George Passias & Ethel Bouzalas.

A HIGH-RANKING Greek Orthodox priest starred in kinky sex tapes with his much-younger parish-school principal and was forced to resign after the affair — which he’d denied for years — was confirmed by church elders.

Father George Passias, the married 67-year-old pastor of St. Spyridon Church in Manhattan, even impregnated his married lover, 45-year-old Ethel Bouzalas, according to sources.

Passias was once the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, in charge of all of the religion’s US priests, reports the New York Post.

An adherent to a fundamentalist faction of Greek Orthodoxy led by a controversial cleric in Arizona, he took the helm of St. Spyridon nine years ago — and immediately ordered female worshippers to cover their heads during confession.

But there was no such nod to modesty in their shocking sex videos. In one scene, the bearded cleric, wearing only a white T-shirt, watches his long-haired brunette lover plant her G-string clad bottom on a piece of banana bread wrapped in cling wrap.

Mrs Bouzalas, wearing stiletto heels, oddly wiggles on the loaf until it is flattened — a fetish known as “cake crush” or “cake sitting”.

Fr. George Passias watches as Ethel Bouzalas crushes cake as part of a fetish act.
Fr. George Passias watches as Ethel Bouzalas crushes cake as part of a fetish act.

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.

The videos and photos of the pair were provided anonymously to The Post last week with a letter saying they were downloaded off a computer in Passias’s church office. The sender wrote that a private investigator had been hired to tail the couple to their rendezvous in motels in New Jersey and upstate New York.

The scandal blew up in early September when Tom Bouzalas, Ethel Bouzalas’s husband, emailed Bishop Andonios Paropoulos, the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States, and disclosed the affair, the bishop told The Post.

The bishop said that both Fr Passias and Ethel Bouzalas then came to see him and that Fr Passias was suspended on September 16 “as per the sexual-misconduct policy of the archdiocese”.

Bishop Andonios said he had not seen the sex tapes but “learned of their existence during our meetings with both parties”.

 Another sex tape involves Ethel Bouzalas rubbing her feet on Father George Passias’s face.
Another sex tape involves Ethel Bouzalas rubbing her feet on Father George Passias’s face.

After a weeks-long absence from the pulpit, Fr Passias told his St. Spyridon flock in an email last week that he was leaving for “personal and health reasons”, and confessed to “multitudinous sins and shortcomings”.

“I will now fade out of this world for a considerable time according to God’s will,” he wrote. “He has chosen for me … that I should retire and follow the way of silence, prayer, fasting, and ­utter devotion to our Lord.

“Please do not ask where I am going and where I will be. Then it would not be possible for me to fulfil what is my lot.”

He asked his parishioners to pray for him and his wife. He has four grown children. Mrs Bouzalas has three kids.

 ‘She’s a goddaughter to me’

In 2013, The Post broke the story about the unorthodox relationship between Fr Passias and Mrs Bouzalas and alleged fiscal wrongdoing at the church, which has nearly 200 families and was established in 1931 when the neighbourhood was a Greek stronghold.

When Fr Passias took the helm of the Wadsworth Avenue church in 2006, Mrs Bouzalas came with him as his assistant. He called her his “spiritual goddaughter,” and they arrived and left together every day. A church handyman said he once saw her sitting on the priest’s lap.

Mrs Bouzalas told parishioners that she converted to the Greek Orthodox faith and that Fr Passias baptised her while she wore a bikini. The conversion apparently came before she was to marry her husband, a follower of the faith.

Greek Orthodoxy has 24 million followers worldwide. The seat of the Christian church is in Istanbul, Turkey, presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Priests can only be men but are allowed to marry.

With his flowing black robes and oversized cross around his neck, Fr Passias cut an imposing and authoritative figure. Mrs Bouzalas, meanwhile, favoured short skirts and high heels.

Mrs Bouzalas, who had no education credentials, was soon promoted to be the volunteer principal of the St. Spyridon Parochial School, which serves kindergarten to eighth grade and has a taxpayer-funded pre-kindergarten program. She also became church treasurer and a signatory on bank accounts.

In addition to imposing the conservative rules, Fr Passias ruffled longtime congregants who said he removed controls over church spending and questioned why money was being poured into repairs at the school.

Misconduct ... Fr. George Passias, who has now retired, is pictured here giving a sermon.
Misconduct … Fr. George Passias, who has now retired, is pictured here giving a sermon.

Management of four church-owned apartment buildings was given over to a company tied to Alma Bank, which also provided cash and mortgage refinancing. Renovations of the buildings was then done by two firms tied to principals at Alma Bank.

In 2013, Fr Passias told The Post the allegations were cooked up by a group of “evil-minded people” — parishioners who wanted him gone.

They have been saying I’m having a private affair with her,” he said. “She is a goddaughter to me. That’s it.”

Steve Papadatos, the Parish Council president, at the time called the allegations against Fr Passias “lies”, then blasted The Post for publishing a story that he said was “replete with slander” and innuendo. He called the church “eternally grateful” to the priest and Bouzalas, according to The National Herald, a newspaper that covers the Greek community.

Mr Papadatos last week said that he wouldn’t comment on the scandal, but that he stood by Fr Passias and Mrs Bouzalas and wanted people to pray for them.

The bishop said that the misconduct was brought before a “Spiritual Court of the First Degree” last week and that a council of church leaders — including the head of Greek Orthodoxy in the United States — will review the findings. Any punishment, including possible defrocking, will be decided in Istanbul.

St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, New York
St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, New York

Church to investigate

Asked why the church had ignored the longtime allegations of the affair, the bishop said, “Lacking any concrete evidence of an affair, there was no responsible way the church could take any further action.”

He said an audit a few years ago found no misuse of funds, but another investigation would take place “to assure that ­between that time and now, nothing has changed”.

Mrs Bouzalas packed up her school office last week. A moving van carted off a desk, filing cabinet, table and shopping bags with her belongings. A new principal has been assigned to the school.

Her husband refused to comment on the affair or the pregnancy but said the couple was still together. He confirmed he knew of the sex tapes.

Fr Passias, in his farewell note to parishioners, said he was following the direction of “my spiritual father Geronda Ephraim”. Ephraim presides over St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox monastery in Florence, Ariz. The family of a young man who lived there and committed suicide in 2012 contends the death was the result of “six years of physical and psychological abuse” at the monastery.

Fr. George Passias & E. Bouzalas leaving St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, NY.
Fr. George Passias & E. Bouzalas leaving St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, NY.

END NOTE:

When close spiritual children of Geronda Ephraim fall into scandal, especially if they hold any rank or prestige in the community, the monasteries usually give an Ephraim-centric explanation and justification. The Ephraim-centric explanation is always, “The devil is trying to hurt Geronda Ephraim through his spiritual children” (usually via betrayal, scandal, etc.). Thus, it’s never really about the struggle and hardships of the individual but rather their fall or shortcomings are weapons the devil uses to target Geronda Ephraim. 

When the individual is regarded as holy or as some esteem in the Greek community, the monastery’s simple answer is usually, “No one is infallible. Even saints on their deathbed have lost their souls due to lapsing into pride. Only Christ is infallible. Nothing is concrete until you’ve actually passed the toll-houses and are saved. Saints have even lost their souls on the last rung of the ladder.”

Of course, when Geronda Ephraim’s spiritual children have reputations and are “famous,” such asStylianos KementzetzidisElder Ephraim DikaiosFr. George Passias, etc.then the “deeper,” “spiritual” explanation of their fall becomes Ephraim-centric: “The demons used these people to hurt and sadden Geronda Ephraim.” 

In this case, because Fr. George helped Geronda Ephraim so much in the early years and was instrumental in the establishment of so many monasteries in America, sharing inside information so Geronda Ephraim would be aware of “what was going on behind the scenes in the Archdiocese,” etc., the devil became jealous and resented him. Thus, he wanted to make Fr. George fall for two reasons:

1) To hurt and sadden Geronda Ephraim.

2) To scandalize the Greek community and make people fall from the faith (since so many Greek Orthodox regarded Fr. George as pious and holy).

Fr. George & Family

After his suspension, Fr. George sent an email to his “spiritual children” announcing his retirement. The complete email that Fr. George Passias sent to numerous followers is below:

My Beloved Spiritual Children in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Today I share with you a very difficult and trying period in my priestly life.

The time has come for me to resign from the active ministry for personal and health reasons. Now I will  dedicate myself to the repentance that I have tried to preach and share on behalf of our Lord.  At the direction of my spiritual father Geronda Ephraim, I will now fade out of this world for a considerable time according to God’s will. He has chosen for me according to my multitudinous sins and shortcomings, that I should retire and follow the way of silence, prayer, fasting, and utter devotion to our Lord.  Please do not ask where I am going and where I will be.  Then it would not be possible for me to fulfill what is my lot.

It is immeasurably difficult for me to direct you to seek through prayer and vigilance, another spiritual father who will be able to address your needs with love, truth, and conviction for the betterment of your souls.  God will provide.  But you must also do the due diligence by seeking another Father, and then after prayer, choosing him as your spiritual guide and father. Think not that I will forget you!  Never! I have already entered your names to be commemorated every day in the Holy Liturgy forever!

I am very grateful to the Lord for granting me to be a spiritual father to you, and have tried to do the best that I could to do in that role making myself as available as time and health permitted.

I will always love you through prayer and in my heart together with your family.
Please pray for me and Presvytera Mary, and my family I implore you.

In His Abiding Love,

+Father George G. Passias

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Sex and the Orthodox Church in Medieval Russia (Howard Brent Rachel)

Howard Brent Rachel is a former soldier from Alabama who has, with his wife and childhood sweetheart, settled down in San Antonio where he currently works as a teacher.

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Orthodox Notions of Sex in Medieval Russia
Strict interpretation of scripture, at least by the long lineage of church fathers, gave little religious significance to women. Womankind was viewed as the root of sin and women serpents to lead men from righteousness, just as Eve did to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Yet, Orthodoxy had to find some way to reconcile this attitude with God’s admonition to be fruitful and multiply. Unfortunately, this called for them to deal with the problem of sex.
Sex was the Church’s number one concern, in terms of sin, carrying heavier penances than even murder, theft, or child neglect. Women being little more than walking, talking sexual temptation, couldn’t get a break in Orthodoxy’s web of sexual philosophy. A woman’s period was, at the same time, both proof that she had failed to conceive -further defiling any sexual activities that might have occurred–, and a glaring reminder of how a man had to defile himself in order to obey God’s command to multiply. Further, a woman could not even enter a church while she was experiencing her period. The number of times a woman attended church on Sundays in a given month were noted, and coming four Sundays in a row was proof of transgression, and brought with it heavy penance. Such penance could be up to 3 years denial of the sacraments, especially if it were proved that she had taken communion. Contemporary accounts, surely trumped up to scare women into line, had God turning one poor woman into a horse for taking communion during her cycle, and another stuck by lightening for inadvertently walking over the grave of a saint while thus ‘unclean.’ Though nothing further is known of the horse, the latter woman later repented and was cured of her period.
Orthodox writings decried the physical union of man with woman as base and squalid, even in marriage. Sex was for the sole purpose of procreation, and that only because of Eve’s folly. St John Chrysostom, one of the most famous philosophers of Orthodoxy, explained that it was actually the Word of God that provided the divine magic of procreation, and that had Eve not led to mankind’s ejection from Eden, some other, less base, way of procreating would have been bestowed upon them by God. Thus, though procreation was a duty, the very act that allowed it was a defilement rooted in original sin. The Church urged a celibate life for the married, with the exception of procreation. They even went so far as to discourage marriage for the sake of love, encouraging rather the opposite, that a man should not care over much for his wife, and should spend as little time with her as possible, so as not to be tempted into sin. (This despite the fact that one of the main reasons the Church cited for a man to get married in the first place, was to help prevent his fornicating or committing adultery.) The Church, in an attempt to help men abstain, dictated times when he was forbidden to engage in sexual activity: Sunday (of course), Saturdays (to prepare for Sunday), during pregnancy of partner, within 60 days of wife’s delivery, during her period, and all holy and feast days. As a final deterrent the church celebrated as examples the lives of prominent celibate couples such as Grand Prince Dmitri Donskoi, who, it is said, abstained from physical contact with his wife with the sole exceptions of those coupling which produced his children.

ST. DMITRI DONSKOY GRAND PRINCE OF MOSCOW
ST. DMITRI DONSKOY
GRAND PRINCE OF MOSCOW

Sex within Marriage
Despite the Church’s cajoling, and surely to no one’s great surprise, married men and women still had sex. So, the church, not satisfied with it’s efforts merely to dissuade them, also placed restrictions on the very methodology of the act. As might be expected, the only church-accepted “mode” of sexual intercourse between a man and his wife was vaginal penetration in the missionary position, with the man ‘astride’ his wife (called “na konye”, or “astride a horse”). Everything else was considered to be illicit fornication, sodomy, or sacrificing the man’s seed to the Devil, all punishable by great penance as circumstance warranted. The dominant position of the man was of paramount religious importance. As man was made in God’s image, sex with the woman astride the man was placing the man in the more properly female, or submissive position. This was seen as shameful for the man, and thus defiled the image of God. As such, this position was considered a very grave sin, the penance for which was on par with that for adultery or incest.
Sex ‘from behind’ was punished according to the particulars of the circumstances, though fundamentally it was considered far too similar to the sexual activities of beasts of the field. Anal penetration from behind, having no procreative potential was considered sodomy and was more heavily punished than vaginal penetration from behind. In an interesting turn of circumstance, the woman was routinely assigned heavier penance for her role in activities involving anal penetration because they too closely mimicked the role the male homosexual. Vaginal penetration from behind, because it could result in procreation, was regarded as less serious. Penance would be made more or less severe according to the age of the participants, the frequency of engagement, and -for the woman- whether or not she engaged willingly or reluctantly at her husband’s urging. Penance ranged from multiple hundreds of prostrations and a lengthy fast to being denied the solace of the church for 10 or more years. It is notable that mutually agreed to anal intercourse is one of the few instances where penitence manuals mandate the same penance for both the man and the wife.
Other sexual activities within marriage seem to have been handled as lesser forms of sodomy, or in terms of wasting the reproductive effort and needlessly encouraging sexual excitement. Open-mouth kissing was never appropriate, even as foreplay and carried a mandatory two-week fast as a penance. Manual stimulation, the insertion of non-penis extremities into the vagina, and mutual masturbation were technically sodomy, but were usually punishable by a mere several weeks fasting. Oral sex, though mentioned seldom in extant penitence manuals, was considered a serious sodomy and was dealt with quite harshly, with fasts exceeding a year and possible restriction from communion. Attempting birth control or abortion was punished in a similarly strict manner, often with lengthy restriction from the Church.

The Patron Saints of Marriage, Love, Family and Fidelity. Celebrated in Russia up to 1917. Saints Peter and Fevronia.
The Patron Saints of Marriage, Love, Family and Fidelity. Celebrated in Russia up to 1917. Saints Peter and Fevronia.

Sex Outside of Marriage
Willfully engaged in, potentially-procreative sexual contact outside of marriage was termed either adultery or illicit fornication, the marital status of the woman being the defining factor. Because this behavior was willfully committed outside of wedlock, the penance was higher for both involved parties. Sodomy, a subset of illicit fornication, committed outside of wedlock carried far stricter penance due to its lack of procreative potential.
Homosexuality and beastiality were the most common forms of willful sodomy. Though not always willfully engaged in, incest brought on severe penalties, especially if through duress. These penalties, despite the duress, however, were sometimes applied to both parties. In all the above activities, penance was much higher for men who took on the submissive, or woman’s role. Beyond that, circumstances of age, frequency of engagement, and social standing could serve to increase or decrease such penance.
Adultery was defined as sexual intercourse between a woman and a man who is not her husband. Everything else was illicit fornication, regardless of the man’s marital status. As one might expect, adultery was considered far more serious, for both parties, than illicit fornication. Adultery, in some penitence manuals, carried a recommended minimum 15-year exclusion from the sacraments. There are, however, ample recorded instances of lesser penance from 2 years exclusion, accompanied with fasting and prostrations. The penalties were always more harsh for the woman, since for her there could be no mitigating circumstance, and she would inevitably be branded the instigator who tempted the otherwise pious man. If the husband knew of, and thus condoned, his wife’s adultery, he was held to be more severely guilty in the matter than the unknowing cuckold. Regardless of circumstance, anyone who died in the act of adultery was forbidden Christian burial.
Illicit fornication was virtually any other type of sex not already defined as adultery. The most common type of illicit fornication was premarital sex. Betrothed couples were discouraged from engaging in any private contact, and responsibility for this was laid upon the parents. Thus, the penance levied on the betrothed for engaging in any sexual activity before marriage was shared by those parents. This penance was not too severe, as long as it was potentially procreative, which fact tended to lend a sense of ‘naturalness’ to it. Of course sodomy was more severely punished, with the usual multipliers associated with position.
More severe was the penance for bachelors and maidens engaging in sex before marriage, with the penance often being twice as great for the maiden than the bachelor. The degree of penance for the bachelor was determined by the scandalousness of his partner. However, a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude did come into play when assigning penance to a young lad who was seen as ‘simply sewing his wild oats.’ Not so for the maiden or her partner, for deflowering a maiden, even if she was willing, was seen as rape. Further the maiden ran the risk of pregnancy, and the Orthodox Church offered her no opportunity to be ‘saved by marriage.’ Such a fallen maiden faced penance as great as 9 years cut off from the Church.., that is, if she was not immediately dispatched to a convent. Widows, as sexual partners, were treated as maidens in terms of the penance, with one notable exception: you could certainly never be accused of ‘deflowering’ a widow. In any case, the Church tended to be a bit more forgiving in cases involving widows, making them very attractive sex partners for young unattached men. Divorcees were considered to still be married, thus fornication with them was automatically considered adultery.
Sex with prostitutes and slaves carried the lightest penance, with certain exceptions. Potentially-procreative sex with a prostitute was not any more serious that simple illicit fornication with a willing partner. The fact of payment for services never seems to enter into the equation. It seemed a generally held, if little expressed, opinion that if a man was going to have sex, doing so with a prostitute was far less serious to the community’s well-being than with some other man’s wife. (This feeling, however, in no way excused sodomy.) Sex with a female slave carried the lightest penalties of all, seldom denying sacraments to either party, unless the man was married and keeping the slave right in his home. The Church recognized the difficulty a slave might have spurning the advances of her master and adjusted the penance according to whether or not her participation was willing. Women, not technically being allowed to have slaves, did not routinely face similar situations. As always, the position, the age, the frequency, and the social status of the participants often affected the penance.

Whore of Babylon: Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth.
Whore of Babylon: Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth.

Sodomy
Sodomy, as has been previously discussed, is a term encompassing any sexual activity that is un-natural, counter to the ‘proper order of things,’ and could never result in procreation. Sodomy included beastiality, homosexuality, heterosexual anal sex, oral sex, woman on top (in some cases), vaginal penetration from the rear (in some cases) and mutual or individual masturbation. Because this covers such a wide range, from the seemingly harmless to what was then viewed as heinous, gradations of sodomy eventually emerged.
Though still considered quite serious, masturbation was perhaps the least significant. Masturbation by men and women was treated the same for men and women in term of penance, usually calling for a week or less of fasting, according to the frequency. It was seen as inciting sexual excitement within yourself, which was evil, and usually resulted in a waste of seed. Nocturnal erections and wet dreams were viewed as instigated by the Devil, and fasting was always called for. Mutual masturbation was only a bit more serious. It could not result in childbirth, but neither was it quite actually ‘sex.’ As long as incest was not involved the penance was only a bit more severe than for regular masturbation.
Beastiality was more common in the smaller agricultural communities. Cows, pigs, and dogs were the most common ‘partners,’ though birds and reptiles were not unheard of. Because the mechanics of the matter were easier for men, it was therefore more commonly associated with them. The penance, however, was the same for men and women, with 15 years restriction from the sacraments or several years fasting being quite common. Frequency, as always was a deciding factor, with some documented cases of greater penance being assigned for sexual intercourse with mammals than was assigned for sex with yard fowl.
Canon law regarding homosexuality was the confusing product of two rival traditions. On one hand Old Testament precedent ranked male homosexual activity among the most serious of crimes. This feeling was reinforced to maintain discipline within the monastic communities of the Church. Yet the bulk of early Byzantine philosophical tradition came from the ancient Greeks who did not blanketly condemn all homosexual contact. Thus, medieval Russian Orthodoxy came to view male homosexuality as wrong not because it was evil or unnatural, but because it confused the narrowly defined gender roles inherent in Orthodox belief. As a result, the otherwise unflinchingly strict Orthodox penitential views on sex, actually made distinctions between types of male homosexual contact.
Anal intercourse between males was regarded as seriously as heterosexual adultery, carrying a similar 15-year restriction from communion. Age was the mitigating factor –young men sowing their wild seeds again- as long as it could be seen as a mere youthful experiment. Bachelors were cut a bit of slack, as well. Regardless, repercussions were even greater for the male in the submissive role, especially if the act was habitual, and much more so if he altered his appearance in any way to become more feminine. A male who thus shaved his beard would be anathematized, cut off from the church forever! In instances where an adult used a boy below the age of five, the abuser bore all the sin. If the child was greater than five, but still less than the age of majority, the parents of the child bore most of the sin for not teaching him any better.
Because mutual masturbation required neither man to assume the female role, it was viewed with more tolerance than anal intercourse, and the penance was accordingly less. Interestingly, intercrural homosexual intercourse, whereby the dominant male inserts his penis between the thighs of his partner for sex, was viewed as merely an extreme form of masturbation, despite the presence of a clearly submissive partner. The penance for this activity was typically only fifty percent greater than for simple masturbation. This is a striking departure from the norm –which commonly held the submissive as more guilty– and evidence of the strong impact of early Greek thought on Slavic Orthodoxy’s view of homosexuality. Similarly, lesbian activity was also viewed as mutual masturbation, though with slightly greater penalty than that of males. It seems from records that much lesbian experimentation and play among young women was tolerated because there was less chance to break the hymen and thus call her maidenhood into question, and it prepared them for married life without risking pregnancy.

Sodom & Gomorrah Today.
Sodom & Gomorrah Today.

Incest
Incest, at least according to existing records, seemed to be less a problem for the Orthodox Slavs than for their western counterparts. Though less than for adultery and anal intercourse, the penance for incest was certainly great especially if coercion was involved. Several years’ restriction from the sacraments was the price of violating medieval Russia’s laws on consanguinity. According to Orthodox canon there were four types of consanguinity: by blood, by marriage, by spiritual bond, and by adoption. Consanguinity by blood was determined by how many levels of births, called degrees, separated the two. For example: A father and his daughter were separated by one degree, the birth of that daughter. First cousins in modern reckoning were of the third degree in medieval Russia. Marriage was forbidden within the eighth degree. God-parents were considered to be spiritually related to god-children to the same degree as actual parents, unless already of another degree, or complicated by a couple being god-parents to more than one child within varying degrees of a family. For both blood-relatives and spiritual relatives, sexual activity within the eighth degree was considered incest. Relatives by marriage, or in-laws, were governed by the same definitions of consanguinity as if they were actually related, thus a man’s sister-in-law was considered of the same degree of consanguinity as the man. Restrictions against marrying relatives by marriage extended only to the sixth or seventh degree. Ignorance of pedigree was not considered a mitigating circumstance. An adoptive sibling was not within any degree of consanguinity, but the concept of adoption was considered pagan in origin, so the Church maintained its seriousness as incest despite the lack of true relation.
Sexual activity between mother and son, father and daughter, or between siblings was second in severity only after adultery. Relation between a parent and a child were often seen as the product of possession by the devil, the very idea of it being so repulsive to the medieval Russian. Penance for such incest ranged from five years fasting to 30 years without communion. Sexual activity between cousins was dealt with a bit less severely, especially as the degrees of consanguinity grew greater. As in the west, dispensation could be secured for the Princely caste.

King David's son Ammon, guilty of incest and the rape of his half sister, is killed by Absalom (2 Samuel 13:14)
King David’s son Ammon, guilty of incest and the rape of his half sister, is killed by Absalom (2 Samuel 13:14)

To Keep in Mind
Having covered this dizzying array of penance for sexual activity, it is extremely important to keep certain realities in mind. Despite these Church preachings and admonitions not to marry for love, and to keep your wife at a distance, most marriages were actually made for the political or financial gain of the families involved. With our vantage point of another thousand years of history beyond that of the Orthodox medieval Russians, we can see than no church –or government, for that matter-has ever managed to check the sexual drive of it’s constituents. Indeed, despite the seeming strictness of penance called for in the cases above, it must be realized that not all of these restrictions were imposed to the same degree everywhere. The Church then, as now, was peopled with the both the free-thinking and the narrow-minded; with the understanding and with the sadistic. Medieval Russia herself was peopled, as was any place, with all manner of folk just trying to eke out a living and live a happy life by placing their faith in God and their fellow man.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Coniaris, Anthony M. Introducing the Orthodox Church – Its Faith and Life. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Light and Life Publishing, 1982.
  • Gilbert, Martin. Atlas of Russian History. New York: Dorset Press, 1985.
  • Kollman, Nancy Shields. By Honor Bound – State and Society in Early Modern Russia. Ithaca, New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1999.
  • Levin, Eve. Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700. Ithaca, New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1995.
  • Martin, Janet. Medieval Russia 980-1584. Cambridge: Canbridge University Press, 1995.
  • Pouncy, Carolyn Johnston (ed and trans). The Domostroi – Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible. Ithaca, New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1994.
  • Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. A History of Russia (Third Edition). New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
  • Resources for Ecumenical Encounter, No. 2: Toward a Protestant Understanding of Orthodoxy. New York: Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations, The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., n.d.
  • Volkoff, Vladimir. Vladimir the Russian Viking. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, 1985.
  • Wallace, Robert. Rise of Russia (Great Ages of Man Series). New York: Time-Life Books, 1967.
  • Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, Ltd, 1980.

Brothels, Baths and Babes: Prostitution in the Byzantine Holy Land (Claudine Dauphin, 1995)

NOTE: This research piece by Claudine Dauphin, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris explores both the formal and informal arrangements that developed, typically centring around the triad of the wife, the concubine and the courtesan. The article is taken from Classics Ireland, Volume 3 (1996):

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mary-of-egypt-3

For Baths in illuminated manuscripts, see Theologizing or Indulging Desire: Bathers in the Sacra Parallela (Paris, BnF, gr. 923):

The Sacra Parallela is a theological and ascetic florilegium of biblical (OT and NT) and patristic citations related to a now-lost model entitled Hiera, composed in Palestine by John of Damascus (ca. 675 – ca. 749). The only known copy is a ninth-century manuscript (Paris, BnF, gr. 923) thought to have been produced in a Greek monastery in Italy, possibly in Rome.1 The text contains three treatises— one on God and the Trinity, another on man, and a third on vices and virtues. The scriptural and exegetical citations are arranged in alphabetical order by στοιχεῖα (alphabetical letters) and τίτλοι (titles). The manuscript, lavishly decorated with miniatures executed in a schematized style, represents a defined group of scenes depicting male and female bathers, which, modeled after Graeco-Roman formulae, have never been discussed in light of their value for gender studies.

Tales of Monks and Nuns Who Fell (John Moschos, 7th Century)

NOTE: This article is excerpted from “Leimon” (Spiritual Meadow):

Spiritual Meadow

223. One of the fathers said that in Thessa10nica there was a monastery of virgins. One of them was coerced by the operation of the evil one into going out of the monastery. She went out and fell into lechery by the <machinations> of the demon who scoffed at her until she left <the monastery>. Once she had fallen, she remained some time in sin then finally, undergoing a change of heart by the cooperation of God the good, she came to repentance. <Re>entering her community in order to repent, she fell before the gateway of the monastery-and died. Her death was revealed to one of the holy bishops. He saw holy angels coming to receive her soul and demons in attendance; he witnessed a dialogue taking place between them. The angels were saying: ‘She came in repentance’, but the demons said: ‘She has served us so long a time that she is ours’. Their altercation lasted some time and then the demons, those who obstruct the good, said: ‘She did not get as far as entering the monastery; how can you say she repented?’ In answer <to this> the holy angels said: ‘Insofar as God saw her intention tending in that direction, he accepted her repentance. And she was mistress of repentance by virtue of the goal she set before herself: the Lord of life and the Master of all’. Put to shame by these <words>, the demons withdrew. The holy bishop who witnessed this revelation told it to some people from whom we heard it-and told it to you. In knowledge of this, brethren, let us secure ourselves against giving in to any kind of sinful thoughts. Let us rather resist and fight, especially against <the temptation> to go out of one’s monastery, lest we unwittingly fall well and truly into the snares and nooses of our enemy.

St. John Moschos

242. Abba Peter, the disciple of Abba Isaiah told us:

Once when I was at Abba Macarios’ with my father, Abba Isaiah, some people came from the eighteenth mile-stone out of Alexandria. With them they had a consecrated virgin/widow fearfully possessed by a devil. They begged the elder to have pity and cure her, for the nun was violently devouring her own flesh. When the elder saw her so terribly afflicted and pulling her own flesh to pieces, he made the sign of the cross and reproached the demon. The demon replied to the elder: ‘I will not come out of her; for it was unwillingly and against my own wishes that I went into her. It was your colleague and ally, Daniel, who interceded with God and sent me into her’. The elder said: ‘By what means did you enter into her”! He said: ‘She was my instrument. I taught her to go often to the baths, shamelessly and unblushingly adorned. I shot and wounded many with her <looks>-and her with theirs, ensnaring not only worldlings, but clerics too, and I titillated them, <inciting them> to shameful intercourse with her. By <their> assent to shameful thoughts and by what they saw with their eyes at night (for I made it all visible to them) I trapped them into ejaculation. Now it so happened that the hoary old glutton, Daniel, met her as she was washing at the bath and going back to her cell. He heaved a sigh to God and prayed for her to be sent a correction-for her own salvation, and for the other nuns who lived soberly, that they might be completely enclosed. It was on account of this that I dwelt in her. When the elder heard this, he said: ‘He who handed over can redeem’, and the elder sent them to Abba Daniel.