The Abbot’s Sexual “Right” In Pre-Modern Romanian and Other European Culture (Andrei Oisteanu, 2016)

NOTE: The following article is excerpted from Studies in the History of Religions XIXXX:317-351.

CONTENTS:

  • “Do as the Priest Says, Not as the Priest Does!”
  • “I Worship the Icons | My Eyes on the Matrons”
  • Men vs Women: Isolation And Discrimination
  • “The Abbots’ Right Over Gypsy Women”
  • Homosexuality and Pedophilia in the Monasteries

“DO AS THE PREIST SAYS, NOT AS THE PRIEST DOES!”

At the beginning of the 18th century, Romanian Metropolitan Antim Ivireanul created, through his Didahii (Sermons), a genuine “theology of sin,” setting the stage for the immorality of erotic voluptuousness. To him, women were “reprobate and tempting to evil things.” All vices, but especially sexual ones (“the bitter sweetness of foul fornication”) were demonized by the Metropolitan (“He who sins is from the Devil”), Hell being “the consummate payment for sin”:

“Think […] that you have defiled your soul with fornications, adulteries, sodomies, soblazne-s [= pollutions], with debaucheries and food galore; your hands, with foul fondling [= masturbation], with perversions and rapes [= sexual violations], with killings and others.” Didachies (Sermons), 1709-1716.

The metropolitan was speaking not only to Christian laymen, but also to clerics, handing them genuine “textbooks of the confessor.” The confessor had to know “how he will question” the wretched sinner during “confession” and “how to bring him back to the righteous path” (Teachings for Confession, 1710).1

…Most of the sins confessed into the priest’s ear were surely those of an erotic nature. As Michel Foucault put it: “sex has been the privileged matter of confession.”2 Compared to the rigorism of the clerics, the peasants’ mentality was more flexible, more permissive…Quite often, however, the confessors needed confessors themselves, as they were not immune to the temptation of sin either…More than that, “due to uninterrupted idleness and abundant food,” some clerics “are naturally more exposed to the temptation of the body than other people.”3

The sinner’s confession took place in the intimate and dark space of the confessional or, with the Orthodox Christians, in a less “hygienic” space, under the priest’s apron (patrafir, Neo-Greek epitrahilion = “around the neck”).4 The confessor (who played the role of the psychiatrist in ancient times) had to know relevant details, but he also wanted to hear them. Listening to countless illicit sexual exploits, told by their parishioners with hundreds of licentious details, the confessors saw them with the mind’s eye, becoming inclined towards erotic fantasies. They were prone to sin first “in thought” and then “in deed.” As an old Romanian proverb goes, which was recorded in a manuscript dating back to the middle of the 18th century: “The appetite for fornication is much whetted by gazing” (Mss. BAR no. 273, 1759)5 . “Gazing,” but also “lending an ear” whets “the appetite for fornication.” That is what Antim Ivireanu also said explicitly, at the beginning of the 18th century:

“You have defiled your ears with dirty songs and words […] you have [defiled] your eyes with impious sights and signs of fornication” (Didahii [Sermons], 1709-1716).

“There are men who rape a woman with their eyes,” says a character from a novel by Octav Şuluţiu (Ambigen, 1935)6. The sensory system plays a paramount role. The rest is a matter of the imagination. The main sexual organ is not the penis or the vagina, but the brain.

One of the first Romanian poets who addressed the hypocrisy of the Christian Orthodox priests was Alecu Văcărescu, around 1795: “Should a priest walk your way | He acts in a hallowed way | But he’s masked his face away.”7 When Eminescu wrote in a poem (Egipetul, 1872) about the “debauched clergy,” he was surely not referring only to ancient Egyptian clergymen. Presumably, he also had in mind contemporary Romanian, Christian Orthodox clerics. There are many debauched priests and monks in Romanian literature…

A caricature on the cover of a Romanian magazine, 1896, representing a hetero- and homosexual orgy of members of the clergy.
A caricature on the cover of a Romanian magazine, 1896, representing a hetero- and homosexual orgy of members of the clergy.

Even when they were married, some Orthodox priests would not refrain from bedding one of their women parishioners or from raping a maid. The following is the real testimony, from a complaint dating back to 1791, submitted to the Metropolitan’s office and probably signed by a neighbour, who bears witness to the way in which a certain Father Toma had raped and deflowered his young maid, Pena:

“(One evening), as he came back home drunk, [Father Toma] beat up his wife and threw her out of the house and then he turned upon this girl [Pena] and spoiled [=deflowered] her. And to prevent her from shouting, he gagged her. And he repeated that exploit twice that night.”8

Following the girl’s complaint, the Metropolitan’s office launched an inquiry, opening a “case.” The confrontation was, however, asymmetrical and unjust. The priest’s sexual privileges, even if they are not provided for (and are even banned) by law, through custom and use, became tradition, into lex non scripta: “[b]ut the legal battle did not give [the maid] a winning hand”, Constanţa Vintilă-Ghiţulescu rightly comments, “for the priest had on his side his friends from the slum, his prestige and his power. To denounce such a master involved much greater risks than keeping the secret: losing the job, dishonour, the impossibility of finding another job.”9

In their turn, abbots and monks from Christian Orthodox monasteries were not guileless either. On seeing a beautiful maiden, they feared they would be tempted to sin:

The poor monk’s desire, See his soul burning on fire […] Where he sees a maiden fair His frock is blown in the air, For his soul is in despair, Afraid a great sin to bear!10

Obviously, some monks got over their “fear to sin” and raped girls. One of them, in a monastery in Moldova, in 1739, tried (without success) to avoid sanctions (“beating” and “gaol punishment”), confessing that it had been a freely consensual act, not a sexual violation: “with the girl’s approval he committed fornication, not forcefully.”11

The monk and priest Eufrosin Poteca (1785-1858), the future prior of the Gura Motrului monastery, also suffered from “the disease of loving maidens,” being always “consumed by love” and feeling “in the depths of his heart, the fire of love” for fair maidens. These are almost innocent vices, which, he claimed, he had to experiment in order to be able afterwards “to bring others to the right path as well”: “I wanted to learn better the passion of love so that I might learn by trial and error how I might lead others to the right path, too.”12

Small wonder that the reformist theologian was deeply resented by the senior clergy of the Romanian Orthodox Church. For the early decades of the 19th century, but not only, Eufrosin Poteca behaved at the limit of scandal and sacrilege. As to Prior Eufrosin Poteca, the Metropolitan was “full of rabid venom.”

Eufrosin Poteca promoted a sort of “erotic mysticism,” as George Călinescu dubbed it. In 1828, for instance, while in Pest, the Romanian monk and priest experienced a state of supreme spiritualization, of mystic de-materialization (“she seemed to have turned me all into spirit), making love to “a mystery maiden.” A very beautiful maiden, true, but who proved to be of light mores, “a harlot”:

“[The girl] was very pretty, indeed, like a fresh rose bud, like an angel, like a goddess […] We slept together in bed and we tasted a sweetness, a pleasure which to me, seemed a blessing from God […]. She seemed to have turned me all into spirit.”13

And all this, he confesses to the reader, not because he might have been a “virgin,” it was “as if he hadn’t known a woman before.” More than anything, the reformist priest-monk and Prior Eufrosin Poteca stood up against monastic asceticism. “He did not fast or bow down to the ground in church,” G. Călinescu wrote. He lamented his fate (and the fate of the monk in general) of leading a sad and unfulfilled life without a wife: “[t]his is a life against nature, against the consorting law, against God.”14

“I WORSHIP THE ICONS | MY EYES ON THE MATRONS”

A whole chapter in the index of folk motifs by ethnologist Stith Thompson (Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, 1932-1937; T330- T350) is devoted to the theme of folk tales and legends related to the sexual temptations of monks and hermits: T350. Anachorites under temptation.15

The monks in Buddhist monasteries were banned from all sexual activities: masturbation, sodomy, zoophilia, etc. As we have seen, it is precisely the bans of some practices that prove their existence. However, paradoxically, the greatest sin was the heterosexual sex act. A woman could not be penetrated by a monk in any of “the three impure orifices” (the vagina, the anus, the mouth). The erect penis was not allowed to penetrate inside “not even the length of a sesame seed,” according to the Buddhist texts.16

…For the Christian-Orthodox space, see Cânticul călugărului (The Monk’s Song), collected at the middle of the 19th century by Vasile Alecsandri17 and the song Călugăritul (Donning the Monk’s Frock), collected around 1868 from the repertory of the Bucharest Gypsy rhapsodists by G. Dem. Teodorescu18, a great admirer of Eufrosin Poteca19. The poor monk lived in a true state of schizophrenia, his eyes and his mind juggling “from icons to matrons”20 and “from (the pages of) the Bible,” to “fair maids”:

I was not good for the frock, For my heart is like a rock, Nor was I good for the cloth, But for love I am no sloth, ‘Cos I worship all the icons My eyes set on the fair matrons, As I read, the Bible fades When I watch the fairest maids, When a fair maid walks my track, My frock shivers on my back. The Monk’s Song, 1856. 21

Continuing the Orthodox tradition of hypocritical pietism, Fr. Luke Melackrinos was suspended for sending lewd selfies to a female parishioner.
Continuing the Orthodox tradition of hypocritical pietism, Fr. Luke Melackrinos was suspended for sending lewd selfies to a female parishioner.

 

Or, as one of those “matrons” sexually harassed around the nooks and corners of the church might say, the priest or the monk is “His mind all to the Kingdom come, his hands deep in my bosom.” That is a popular saying collected by the beginning of the 19th century “by Lord Governor (dvornic) Iordache Golescul” (Pilde i tâlcuirea lor (Parables And Their Meaning), c. 1832). 22 Sometimes, worshipping icons and reciting verses from the Holy Book could appease sexual impulses. In other cases, it did not work that way:

When to church I go to pray, My lover stands in my way, I try to worship the icons, My lover around me fawns, He beguiles me from my canons; I pray and I cross my heart, My lover thinks it is smart To think that hell won’t us part. Tulip leaves will entwine, Lord, it is no fault of mine: If my sins do make me blunt My lover should bear the brunt. La biserică (In Church), 1871. 23

The Christian icons (and the saintly women painted on them) are not always remedies that repress the erotic fantasies of the monks, secluded behind the walls of their monasteries. On the contrary, they even provoke fantasies, verging on blasphemy.  It is not by accident that Gustave Flaubert (The Temptation of St. Anthony, 1872) imagines the Christian theologian Tertullian (early 3rd century AD) urging “the smashing of icons” (that was a long time before the iconoclastic crisis), as a proponent of asceticism and of the cultivation of values:

“Smash the icons! Cover the virgins with veils! Pray, fast, cry, make penance!”24

Even if the religious motivation is replaced by the sociopolitical one, we are not too far from the romantic revolt of Eminescu’s proletarian, who claimed the smashing of “all that entices their sick heart”, of all that sparks “the voluptuousness of the ribald orgy”:

Smash down the antique bronze that Venus naked shows, Let pictures that do wickedly entice be brought to dust.Emperor and Proletarian, 1874. 25

…The monk Hans (Adeodatus, by his monastic name) – a character imagined by novelist Liviu Rebreanu (Adam şi Eva [Adam and Eve], 1925) – passionately falls in love with the icon of the Holy Virgin adorning his cell in the Abbey of Lorsch, near the town of Worms, in Germany: an icon which had accompanied all his trials as a young man, throughout his monastic life. Adoring the icon, he had started to notice the anatomical details of the painted body of the Holy Virgin, her “alluring and caressing” eyes, her “beguiling” smile, “(her) round bosom heaving under the silky gown,” etc. Eventually, due to his erotic fantasies, the monk’s love for the icon becomes carnal, bodily, sexual:

| “Adeodatus took the icon, with both hands, and kissed it rapturously, without realizing that his passion might be unholy. (…) The Virgin Mary seemed like any woman of flesh and blood, and he himself, without true faith in his soul. And they made love with a sinful love: they embraced each other passionately and bit their lips with such devilish pleasure that, waking up, he still felt for a few moments, in all his body, that damning voluptuousness. […] All day long, he flogged his body, but he dared not glance at the icon. And the following night, the dream repeated itself, even more wicked than before. (…) And the third night, the same.”26

…It might be that the apocalyptic state around him, the Sodom and Gomorrah atmosphere, is leading the monk towards such “Satanic” fantasies. It must be the millennium crisis situation, of a “world gone out of joint,” which motivated and pushed Rebreanu to insert that strange episode into his strange novel…

Obviously, not only the monks, but also the nuns – “the brides of Christ” – were (are) dominated by sexual impulses in the convent. “With a courtesan’s smile and a churchgoer’s eyes,” as Eminescu might say (Scrisoarea [Letter] V, 1881).27 Unbridled, these propensities can lead to the supreme sin, of replacing religious feelings with erotic ones. Even worse, to replacing their supreme “groom,” Jesus Christ, with a young, beautiful and very much alive layman, of flesh and blood:

“Woe betide the poor nun, For her heart is on the run, Where she sees a handsome lad, Her white veil will billow glad, Where she sees a youth, Her step’s small in sooth, For she would follow, smooth; Where she sees a dapper man She bends down as much she can To pray, like to Jesus then.”28

Obviously, the sin is lurking around the nun all the more so as to bring the sinning layman closer to her. As the popular saying goes, which was reported by Governor Iordache Golescu around 1832: “I tell him that I’m a nun and he unties my pants (to tell the brassy ones).”29

In the first decades of the 19th century, the custom had it that some of the daughters of the boyars from Moldova should take the veil, especially at the Agapia and Văratec convents in northern Moldova. That is how two younger sisters of Gheorghe Sion took that path. Around 1840-1841, Gheorghe Sion (then aged 18-19) led them to the Agapia nunnery. He spent three to four days there, and he met many novice nuns, all coming from aristocratic families:

“Some (young nuns) were so fair,” Gheorghe Sion reminisced, “and even, God forbid, so flirtatious, that, had I not feared to sin and had I not been naïve and shy (as I was at that time), who knows how many sins I would have burdened my soul with! (…) Besides the jams, cups of coffee, breakfasts and lunches I was treated to (by these nuns), I felt bathed in their charming glances and rocked in dreams of voluptuousness.”30

Constanţa Vintilă-Ghiţulescu associates this story with the fact that, at the same time (1 st May 1844), upon the express request of the Metropolitan, reigning Prince Mihai Sturdza issued an order for young unmarried men to avoid visiting the Agapia and Văratec convents, where they would have gone only to commit “misdeeds.” “In other words,” – the scholar concludes – “to twist the minds of the young nuns. Knowing the story of Anton Pann or of Barbu Mumuleanu, we also know why the Prince was right to be worried…” 31

In a well known apocryphal text, The Apocalypse of the Holy Mother, which has some eighty versions in the Romanian language, attested to the 18th -19th centuries, the “Pregesta” (The Holy Mother of God) visits Hell and sees the sinners doomed to infernal ordeals. The wanton nuns have a special place in “The River of Fire.” At some point, “The Holy Mother of God saw another place of great toil, and only women labouring there”: “These are the nuns which have slipped into fornication (…) and are led by their carnal desires, and who do not seek to redeem their souls from sins.”32

In an article dating from 1922, Tudor Arghezi raised his voice against the common mentality that perceived the monk as a “hypocritical libidinous man.” The great poet and publicist considered that it was just a stereotype, a bias, a mental cliché:

“Whoever sees in monasticism the permanently present image of sex, and nothing else, is making a simplistic and vulgar judgment.”33 However, Arghezi realized that erotic drives are hard to rein in during a prolonged monastic seclusion. In a poem also written in the 1920s, he tried to describe the sexual fantasies of an ordinary deacon, Iakint (a kind of Eufrosin Poteca). It is about the phantasms experienced by a deacon during the period of spiritual and food fasting which the other monks from the monastery observed before the Easter holidays:

While all the hermits, Lord, it grieves, Are punishing themselves, like thieves, With bitter fasting and obedience, In Holy Week, doing their penance, In his small cell (the deacon’s), last night, A real girl made darkness bright With her firm breasts and narrow hips Of Florentine lute, an ellipse. Mâhniri [Sorrows], 1927.34

The materialization of the deacon’s erotic vision was so strong, so concrete and real, that even the almighty God, “who sees all,” caught a glimpse of the girl, as she sneaked out from monk Iakint’s cell, in the morning.

The love of beauty, specific to God, can mitigate the guilt of some sins committed “willingly and unwillingly,” “in deed,” but also “in thought.” As we have seen, for the rigorist Antim Ivireanul, the eyes are soiled “with unbecoming views and with signs of fornication” (Didahii [Sermons], 1709-1716). As Cantemir put it: “by day and night, he would punish and torment himself in his thought even worse and in a more terrible fashion than in his body” (Istoria ieroglifică [The Hieroglyphic History], 1705)…

MEN VS. WOMEN: ISOLATION AND DISCRIMINATION

In the sacred spaces of the temples, the meeting and the nearness of men and women were limited, if not altogether banned. The mere sight of a woman was considered to be apt to distract a man’s concentration from “the things holy.” An erection could even happen in the space of a church, as happens, according to the Romanian popular saying: “The poor man’s oxen won’t pull the cart, his bread falls in the mud and his cock gets a rise in church.” That is why special, isolated, places have been imagined and built for women in churches, synagogues and mosques. The idea is to isolate women, doubled by their discrimination. Not only did women sit completely separated from men in synagogues and in mosques (on a floor upstairs, behind a parting screen), but sometimes they also had separate entrances (like in the Choral Temple, built in Bucharest over 1864-1866). Sometimes, in the Jewish quarters of some mediaeval cities (for instance, in the judería from the city of Gerona, in Catalonia), there were so-called “women’s streets,” which they could use to get to the synagogue, without meeting men on their road.

The worshipping men used to sit (in the conservative regions they still do) separated from the women in the Christian Orthodox churches too, even if not on different floors. The men sat in front, in the naos, and the women at the back, in the pronaos.35 Or the men sat to the right side of the naos, while the women sat on the left. The gender considered “weaker” (the woman) was seated on the side which was considered “weaker” (the left)36. Exceptionally, following the Islamic (Turkish) model, even in some Christian Orthodox churches in Romania, the women sat on a different floor.37 As I have said, the separation of men from women goes hand in hand with the negative discrimination of the latter. In the synagogue, church or mosque, the place destined for women is always in a less favourable space, a “weaker” space from a symbolic and ritual point of view: behind a screen, on a higher floor (on a different floor than the altar and the officiating priest); in the pronaos or in the back (further away from the altar); in the naos, but on the left, etc.

Another way to limit the temptation of men (this time, of Christian monks) is the interdiction of women to enter the precincts of a monastery dressed in an “immodest” (“indecent”) way, or with their hair untied and uncovered. There are also other places where there are prohibitions for women, regarding “immodest clothes”: in the public space in some Islamic states, but also in the district of the ultra-orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, called Mea She’arim (“One Hundred Gates”).

In some monastic spaces, the presence of women is totally prohibited. The best known case is the monastic complex at Mt. Athos (20 monasteries and 12 hermitages), where the interdiction of women is total. “If women came here, – one monk from Mount Athos said, – two-thirds of us would follow them and would get married.”38 This is, of course, an exaggeration, but a significant one. From the so-called “ascetics of the wilderness” (3rd -4 th centuries A.D.) to the monks from Mt. Athos, the total repression of any sexual intercourse (happening “in thought or in deed”) was a steadfast rule: “Looking at a female, even at a chicken,” – as I. P. Culianu ironically said – “posed a great spiritual danger.”39

An old monastic parable – also reported by Culianu, – says much about the monk’s interdiction to look at (to admire) a girl, even accidentally. The hero of this story is Serbian Athonite monk St Sava (1175-1235), the founder of the Hilandar monastery on Mount Athos, who became the first archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church, and was later canonised. The parable attests to a test of monastic restrictions, of total erotic abstinence. Whoever failed the test was excluded:

“When the old Saba (= Sava) and a disciple walked on their way past a good-looking girl, Saba said that she had only one eye, and his disciple protested: he had seen that the girl had both eyes. That had been however, a trick of Saba’s, to see if his disciple had taken a good look at the girl. Then the disciple was driven away.”40

“THE ABBOTS’ RIGHT OVER GYPSY WOMEN” 

Besides the settlements of “princes’ gypsies” and of “boyars’ gypsies,” there were also gypsy slaves living around the monasteries in Wallachia and Moldova. They are the so-called “monastery gypsies”.41 In this case, the “abbot’s right” (that of the egumen, in Romanian: from the Neo-Greek igúmenos), worked just as the “boyar’s right” worked over “the boyar’s gypsies”.42 Speaking of the sexual privileges which the boyars arrogated over the young slaves, historian Radu Rosetti synthesized in a few lines the similarity of behavior with that of abbots in monasteries of the 18th century, and the first half of the 19th century:

“You should not believe that only the lay masters (the boyars) used royal rights over the gypsy women belonging to them: these slaves made up genuine harems for the abbots of the monasteries which the generosity of the pious donors had endowed with a great many gypsy souls. Especially the Greek abbots of the dedicated monasteries had a reputation of knowing how to build up seraglios of gypsy beauties, through exchanges (of slaves).”43

…It is not only the lord of the land that was entitled to ius primae noctis over the boyars’ slaves, but also the abbot, over the monastery slaves. Let us switch to the non-fiction area. Some documents attest to the existence of this situation until very late. In 1843 (and previously, in 1836), the slaves from the Râncăciov Monastery (Muscel county) sent a complaint to Wallachia’s ruling Prince Gheorghe Bibescu (and previously to ruling Prince Alexandru Ghica), exposing the “tyrannical” behaviour of the “famous abbot, Father David.” One of the complaints in the princely supplication went as follows:

“Our daughters who are of marrying age, if we want to marry them to a lad, the abbot hides them and he puts them under lock and key, with his armed guards, ordering us first to take the girls to his Holiness, to deflower them, and then only to be free to marry them”44

The supplicant slaves – who most probably were helped by a lawyer – note the fact that the abbot illegally applied this sexual “right” (“like a lawless man”), both from ecclesiastic and legal points of view: “a consequence totally alien to the church and political laws.” Moreover, as we saw how things happened with the boyars, the abbot’s erotic privileges did not stop only at the gypsy women slaves of the monastery, but extended over “the wives in the village with (whom) he has his pleasure.”

The sexual slippages of the priors and abbots were so usual that they could be invoked even when they did not happen. Blaming them was quite likely, even if the erotic abuses of the monks were not always real, but on occasion estaged. In the spring of 1785, for instance, a girl named Stana went to Prior Gavrilă (a confessor at the Radu-Vodă monastery in Bucharest) to pay the rent for the hovel on the monastery estate where she was living. The monk jokingly made some sexual innuendos to the girl, but nothing more. However, prodded by a neighbour, the young Stana sent a complaint to the Metropolitan, alleging that she was raped and deflowered, thinking that “she would get 300 thalers from the confessor”: “Then, at the moment of giving the money (for the rent), the said Prior (Gavrilă) allegedly took her in his cell and spoilt her virginity.”

Fr. George Passias inhaling Ethel Bouzalas' feet.
Fr. George Passias inhaling Ethel Bouzalas’ feet.

To stay in the spirit of the age, we are not too far from the stories told by Marquis de Sade, in his novel Justine (Justine ou Les Malheurs de la vertu, 1791). The accusation brought against prior Gavrilă was easy to believe. It was plausible because, at the time, in the monastic environment, that was a fairly common sin. In order to be even more persuasive, Stana cut a chicken’s crest and, with the blood dripping from it, smeared her blouse, as a proof of the deflowering. Although some witnesses (especially women neighbors), conniving with Stana, defended her version, the Metropolitan council ruled in favour of Prior Gavrilă, also taking into account that the poor man was old, sick and impotent: “And even more vigorously as we have ascertained (Confessor Gavrilă) is also a man tormented by rupture (hernia) and he is also past his prime.”45

For her false statements and perjury, Stana was banished to the convent of Viforâta, near the town of Târgovişte (Wallachia).

This true story reminds me of a hagiographic legend from the collection Vieţile sfinţilor (The Lives of The Saints).46 It is an etiological legend about the genesis of the Gypsy people, told by Costache Negruzzi in 1839. Negruzzi’s text is titled exactly like this: Pentru ce ţiganii nu sunt români (Why Gypsies Are Not Romanians).47 It says that several heretics, some “lost sheep,” complained to ecclesiastic authorities that Bishop Gregory (Grigorie) was a sexual profligate and that he had a mistress, “a young and beautiful girl.” A priestly synod was sent to the place to look into the facts. And indeed, in the bishop’s bedroom, they discovered “a young girl,” in a state of “scandalous lack of clothing.” The bishop was sentenced to death. But in order to convince the priests that “he doesn’t know what the sin of fornication” is, St. Gregory “lifted the hem of his frock.” And then, “the gathering was dumbstruck, for the holy father was…like Abeilard [sic]”. In other words, he was castrated, just as had happened to French theologian Pierre Abélard (1079-1142), as a punishment for having deflowered his beloved Héloїse. St. Gregory was exonerated, and the heretics who had “badmouthed the man of God” were cursed to be “black skinned,” “to live from thieving,” and “in eternal slavery from father to son,” with their owner “having the right to sell them as beasts,” “to call them Gypsies,” etc. “The Romanians immediately rushed in and took them as slaves.” This is how the Gypsy population allegedly appeared in the world…48

Sifting through and reading the supplications kept at the Department of National Archives, researcher Constanţa Vintilă- Ghiţulescu found many important social history documents. Some of them are related to the subject under discussion. Here, for instance, is a case dating from the end of the 18th century, which happened in a monastery in Wallachia. The Butoiu Monastery (village of Potoc, Dâmboviţa county) was rebuilt in 1648-1649, under ruling Prince Matei Basarab, who also endowed it with a settlement of Gypsy slaves. At the beginning of the year 1799, some Gypsies belonging to this monastery mustered their courage and complained to father Climent (probably a bishop) and then higher up, to his Holiness the Metropolitan, alleging that Abbot Ignat lived with a young slave woman, Gherghina, and also committed other abuses. In their complaint, they alleged that “due to one woman called Gherghina the gypsy, we cannot live.”

It is interesting that if a boyar had been in the same situation as the abbot, the civil authorities (“the lay judge”) would not have intervened at all. The boyar would not have infringed any rule, be it legal or moral. The sexual “right” of the boyar over the Gypsy women slaves from the settlements on his estate was tacitly recognized by everybody, even if it was based only on an archaic custom, on a lex non scripta. An unwritten law which dates back to the Greek-Roman Antiquity. Artemidorus of Ephesus, for instance, defined as being “links in keeping with the norm” (kata nomon) the sexual relations between a master and his slave, be the latter “a man or a woman.” “Unfit for the norm” (para nomon) would have been only if the slave had been the one who “possessed” the master, not the other way round: “It is no good to let yourself to be possessed by the slave: through his touch, he would show contempt towards you.”49

In the case of Butoiu monastery, however, the monk was not violating the lay norms, but those of the church. Even more, the actions of the abbot ran counter to the rules of monastic asceticism. In keeping with their own regulations, the ecclesiastical authorities were compelled to intervene, be it only to appease public opinion. Indeed, in the summer of 1799, the Metropolitan’s office sent a group of priests, led by Father Nicodim, to investigate the case and to propose possible sanctions, This is what the situation in Bucharest looked like, at the beginning of the 19th century:

“Besides the jail, besides the police prison from the dungeons of the Old Princely Court, and the vaults of the military governor and of the Aga, the Metropolitan also had a jail for priests.50

Returning to the case of the Butoiu Monastery, before the authorities, even the ecclesiastical, all the slaves from the settlement (except for the signatories of the complaint) were afraid to confirm the situation which was known to all the Roma community. Especially as they were accused of sending over the complaint. The fear of the authorities was a typical behavioural attitude for the traditional Romanian society. That psycho-social illness has tenaciously survived to date. For the collective mind, nothing good could come from the authorities. Be they administrative or ecclesiastical, central or local, police or financial, the authorities in the Romanian space have been high-handed, corrupt, abusive and punitive over the centuries. The situation was even more dramatic with respect to “aliens” (Romas, Jews, etc.). As such, the Romas under investigation at the Butoiu Monastery in 1799 shrugged in fear, insisting they knew nothing: “(We) had no idea, nor did we prompt them to make a complaint.” Eventually, it seems that Abbot Ignat was not found guilty of fornication with the Gypsy woman slave Gherghina. The only culprits were the elderly Gypsies from the settlement. Headed by their chieftains, Nedelco and Stan, they wrote (probably under dictation) and signed a deed whereby they pledged to make the younger slaves “more submissive”: “In duty being bound, we, the elders, to advise all the other younger ones to do good and to be submissive.”51

HOMOSEXUALITY AND PEDOPHILIA IN THE MONASTERIES

Seraphim Storheim, former OCA Archbishop of Canada, was convicted of sexually assaulting a young altar boy at a Winnipeg church has been demoted to a monk.
Seraphim Storheim, former OCA Archbishop of Canada, was convicted of sexually assaulting a young altar boy at a Winnipeg church has been demoted to a monk.

Exactly ten years later, in February 1809, things repeated at the same Butunoiu Monastery. This time, another abbot was accused by another two slaves of the monastery of other “frightening deeds,” including homosexuality, pedophilia and rape:

“For abbot Constantin there have been many a complaint against him, that for a while now he has fallen into fornications (…); also that for a young gypsy boy that he started to rape him.”

This was a copycat scenario: the dean sent an investigating commission to look into the case, and the Gypsies were herded “in front of the church” and investigated “one by one.” For fear of reprisals, they disassociated themselves from the two “rattling” plaintiffs. Eventually, the latter were the only culprits and they were sentenced to have their soles flogged. Afterwards, they were forced to sign a writ, whereby “they recognized their guilt and that they would desist.”

Serial child molester, Archimandrite Stanley Adamakis, started abusing church members in the 70s. http://ocl.org/ex-clergyman-sexually-abused-at-17-by-his-priest-attempted-suicide/
Serial child molester, Archimandrite Stanley Adamakis, started abusing church members in the 70s. http://ocl.org/ex-clergyman-sexually-abused-at-17-by-his-priest-attempted-suicide/

Historian Constanţa Vintilă-Ghiţescu is right when she wonders whether things really went that way at the Butoiu Monastery, in 1799-1809 (which is very likely), or if the Gypsy slaves had other misunderstandings with the two abbots of the monastery, and tried to have them punished, knowing that the worst accusations in the eyes of the ecclesiastical authorities were fornication, sodomy, pedophilia, rape and the exertion of the lord’s right, etc.52

It is common knowledge that heterosexual and homosexual (including pedophilic) relations were quite usual in the Christian monastic milieu, be it Orthodox or Catholic. I need not go into too many details; only a few examples from Romanian and world culture…

In the middle of the 14th century, Giovanni Boccaccio (The Decameron, 1352) had the courage to raise the thorny issue of debauchery and carnal sins accomplished by “all” the Catholic cardinals, priests and monks. He wrote about sodomy, fornication, pedophilia, etc.:

“From the most senior to the most junior one, the (Catholic) priests were all sinning through carnal debauchery; and not only in those ordred by nature, but even in the debauchery of sodomy, without knowing the rein of repentance or shame, so much so that the most wicked women and the small children had the greatest appeal when it was about winning their favours” (The Decameron I.2).53

The homosexual relationships among monks are also present in Romanian literature, for instance, in Vasile Voiculescu’s prose. In one of his short stories (Chef la mânăstire [Revelry at the Monastery], 1952), which the writer presented as a “true story,” Father Iosafat, the abbot of a monastery in Moldova lives with a very young monk, Brother Minodor. The latter was “the abbot’s darling,” “a rosy-cheeked lad,” “a girlish boy,” “with long and sweet lashes,” who “was inclined more towards women’s sweet and liquor wines.” Everything happens under the complacent gaze of Father Dean Ilie, “the ecclesiastical head of the county,” who had come on an inspection at the respective monastery:

“The Abbot [Iosafat], heaving in his armchair, drew to him, holding him on a protruding knee, Brother [monk] Minodor, who, with his chubby cheeks, his languid blue eyes, and a semblance of black hairs on his upper lip, with rings of hair floating on his back and along his monastic frock, looked like an angel reclining on the chest of an old saint.”54

The defrocked monk Ion Creangă could speak volumes on this subject: “he had learned some of the secrets of life in a monastery.” He was always critical of the monks, the priests and other clergymen: “they burst out of their belts, pot-bellied as they are.”55 Creangă lived among priests and, as a teenager and as a young man, he lived in boarding houses of all kinds of “factories of priests,” such as the theological schools in Fălticeni and Socola. Small wonder that the only homosexual episode in his work has a priest as its hero, in his famous Poveste a poveştilor (The Story of All Stories): “And as he was whistling in surprise, the cock dashed with a smack! right in the priest’s ass! Then, the priest started to yell…”56

As an old popular saying goes, which was commented upon around 1832 by boyar Iordache Golescu: “Another one in the priest’s ass (used when something happens unawares, something irksome).” The same learned boyar wrote down another popular saying, which concerns a man who is in love with a priest: “One loves the priest, another the priest’s wife, and another the priest’s daughter (it shows the variety of pleasures).”57 Speaking openly about “the variety of (sexual) pleasures,” Golescu had a quite Liberal attitude for a boyar from Wallachia, in the first half of the 19th century. True, he was a boyar who had travelled across Europe.

Homosexuality and pedophilia are still big problems among priests and monks today, especially among the Catholic, problems that the Pope himself is at a loss to solve.58 The Vatican is being blamed for putting a lid on these forbidden sexual practices, for decades (centuries, actually).

Coming back to the illicit erotic relations between the Orthodox abbots and the slaves in the monasteries, we must say that homosexual, even pedophilic relations have been attested. Obviously, the latter did not go unpunished by the church authorities. Not only were the jails for priests – as we have seen above – special, but so were their punishments. It seems that for the crime of pedophilia, the clergymen got a special physical punishment, called “the iron child”:

“A device used to punish the priests, when they committed an immoral act, was the “iron child.” This “child” weighed 50-60 kg. The punished priest was forced to hold that weight in his arms for four to five hours.”59

At the end of the 18th century, it was proved that Abbot Teofil of the Căldăruşani Monastery (near Bucharest) “had committed sodomy with the Gypsies, but the Gypsies have committed sodomy with him.” On account of this “ill and wicked deed,” the abbot was demoted to the lowest rank, that of “simple monk.” Moreover, he was banished to the Tismana monastery, “to weep for his sins” there.60

Virtually, in the case of the abbot of the Căldăruşani Monastery, the law (glava (chapter) 333, titled “For Sodomy”), was applied in its letter and spirit:

“If it were that anybody from the church clergy is found to be a sodomite, he shall then be bereft of everything, as the law of the church writes, of all the good he will have had from the church and they shall take him and lock him in a faraway monastery; and they shall even more vigorously demoted him from his position…”

Exceptionally, in aggravated situations, the “sodomite” clergyman was handed over to “the lay judge,” who was supposed “to scold him with death, namely, to behead him.” (Pravila de la Târgovişte [The Codex from Târgoviște], 1652). As the folk saying goes: “Do as the priest says, not as the priest does!”

Perhaps all these illicit sexual practices – which sparked more or less public scandals – have hastened the moment of the liberation of Gypsies from slavery in the Romanian space, which happened around the mid-19th century. Or, at any rate, perhaps they did not push the liberation per se of the slaves from the monastic settlements (1844 in Moldova and 1847 in Wallachia) to happen around one decade before the liberation of the Gypsies owned by boyars (1855 in Moldova and 1856 in Wallachia). The big landowners (and implicitly owners of Gypsy settlements) blocked as much as they could the act of liberation of the boyars’ Gypsies. Although he was in an open conflict with the government of ruling Moldovan Prince, Mihail Sturdza, Kogălniceanu paid homage to the ruling prince for promulgating the law of the emancipation of the monastery Gypsies on 31st of January 1844:

“We, the youth from Moldova, – I speak only of those with whom I have worked – forgot that day our fierce fight against ruling Prince Mihail Sturdza for his abuses” (Dezrobirea ţiganilor, ştergerea privilegiilor boiereşti, emanciparea ţăranilor [The Liberation of the Gypsies, The Eradication of The Boyars’ Privileges, The Emancipation of The Peasants], 1891).

On 6 th of February 1844, a few days after the liberation of the Gypsy slaves from the monasteries, Mihail Kogălniceanu – who was fairly aware of the mechanism which had led to the decision to abolish slavery, “the most heinous social enormity,” – did not forget also to pay tribute to the Romanian Orthodox Church:

“Honour be to the Church, too, today, which has no slaves any longer; for it now shows itself as the true Church of Christ, who brought freedom on Earth, saying that before him there are no rich or poor men, no masters or slaves!” (Dezrobirea ţiganilor [The Emancipation of the Gypsies], 1844).61

Obviously, in the Catholic Middle Ages, too, the sacred space of the churches and monasteries could also become a place for the forbidden fantasies and love affairs, be they homo- or heterosexual. The nuns and abbesses from the Catholic convents were also subject to those types of sins. Boccaccio’s stories (The Decameron, 1352) abound in such erotic monastic prowess. 62

Adam Metropoulos, former priest at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bangor was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison with all but 6½ years suspended for sex crimes involving children.
Adam Metropoulos, former priest at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bangor was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison with all but 6½ years suspended for sex crimes involving children.

NOTES

  1. Dan Horia MAZILU, Law and Sacrilege in the Old Romanian Society, Iaşi: Polirom, 2006, pp. 394-397.
  2. Michel FOUCAULT, Istoria sexualităţii [The History of Sexuality], Romanian translation by B. Stanciu and A. Onete, Vest Publishing House, Timisoara, 1995, p. 48.
  3. Andreas Capellanus, Despre iubire (About Love), bilingual edition, translation and notes by Eugenia CRISTEA, study, introductory note, notes and bibliography by Anca Crivat, Polirom Publishing House, Iasi, 2012, p.215.
  4. With Alexandru Macedonski: “Father Cioaca care on Christmas Eve to put his apron over our heads,” or in Dan Botta’s translation, with François Villon: “The Holy Apostles” are “Girdled with sacred aprons | To better seize the villains | who revel in their sins” (François VILLON, Balade şi alte poeme, translation by Dan Botta, presentation by Tudor Arghezi, the Publishing House of the Romanian Cultural Institute, Bucharest, 2006, p.47).
  5. Folclor vechi românesc (Old Romanian Folklore), edition, preface, notes and bibliography by C. Ciuchindel, Bucharest: Minerva, 1990, p. 246.
  6. Octav ȘULUȚIU, Ambigen [Ambigenous], novel illustrated with etchings by I. Anestin, Bucharest: Vremea, 1935, p. 26.
  7. Nicoleta ROMAN, „Deznădăjduită muiere n-au fost ca mine”. Femei, onoare şi păcat în Valahia secolului al XIX-lea, Bucharest: Humanitas, 2016, p. 37.
  8. Constanţa VINTILĂ-GHIŢULESCU, Focul amorului. Despre dragoste şi sexualitate în societatea românească (1750-1830) (The Fire of Love. About Love and Sexuality in Romanian Society (1750-1830), Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006, p. 55.
  9. Ibid.
  10. G.Dem. TEODORESCU, Poezii populare române [Romanian Folk Poems], critical edition, notes, glossary, bibliography and index by George Antofi, preface by Ovidiu Papadima, Bucharest: Minerva, 1982, p. 349.
  11. Dan Horia MAZILU, op. cit., 2006, p. 422.
  12. Constanţa VINTILĂ-GHIŢULESCU, Focul amorului. Despre dragoste şi sexualitate în societatea românească (1750-1830) (The Fire of Love. About Love and Sexuality in Romanian Society (1750-1830), Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006, p.221.
  13. George Calinescu, Istoria literaturii române de la origini până în prezent (The History of Romanian Literature From The Origins to The Present), second, revised and enlarged edition, overseen and with preface by Al. Piru, Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1986, p.121. Constanţa VINTILĂ- GHIŢULESCU, Focul amorului. Despre dragoste şi sexualitate în societatea românească (1750-1830) (The Fire of Love. About Love and Sexuality in Romanian Society (1750-1830), Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006, pp. 219-220.
  14. G. CĂLINESCU, Istoria literaturii române de la origini până în prezent (The History of Romanian Literature from the Origins to the Present), second, revised and enlarged edition, overseen and with preface by Al. Piru, Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1986, p. 121.
  15. Stith THOMPSON, Motif-Index of Folk-Literature: A classification of Narrative Elements in Folktales, Ballads, Myths, Fables, Mediaeval Romances, Exempla, Fabliaux, Jest-Books and Local Legends, revised and enlarged edition, vol. 5, Rosenkilde and Bagger, Copenhagen, 1958, pp. 379- 381.
  16. Bernard FAURE, Sexualités bouddhiques: Entre désirs et réalités, Paris, Flammarion, 2005, pp. 71 sq.
  17. Vasile Alecsandri, Poezii populare ale românilor (Folk Poems of The Romanians), preface and bibliography by Stancu Ilin, Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1982, p.228.
  18. G. Dem. TEODORESCU, Poezii populare române [Romanian Folk Poems], critical edition, notes, glossary, bibliography and index by George Antofi, preface by Ovidiu Papadima, Bucharest: Minerva, 1982, p. 349.
  19. G. Dem. TEODORESCU, Viaţa şi operile lui Eufrosin Poteca (cu câteva din scrierile’i inedite), Academy Press, Bucharest, 1883.
  20. A similar saying is also attested by Dinicu Golescu, in 1832: “One eye on the icon and another near the icon” (Iordache GOLESCU, Scrieri alese, [Selected Writings], edition by Mihai Moraru, Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 1990, p. 192).
  21. Vasile Alecsandri, Poezii populare ale românilor (Folk Poems of The Romanians), preface and bibliography by Stancu Ilin, Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1982, p.228.
  22. Iordache GOLESCU, Scrieri alese [Selected Writings], edition by Mihai Moraru, Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 1990, p. 193.
  23. G. Dem. TEODORESCU, Poezii populare române [Romanian Folk Poems], critical edition, notes, glossary, bibliography and index by George Antofi, preface by Ovidiu Papadima, Bucharest: Minerva, 1982, p. 393.
  24. Gustave FLAUBERT, Ispitirea Sfântului Anton [The Temptation of St. Anthony], Romanian translation by Mihai Murgu, preface by Irina Mavrodin, Bucharest: Univers, 1977, p. 68.
  25. Mihai EMINESCU, Poezii [Poems], text selected and established, critical fragments by Perpessicius, volume supervised and chronology by D. Vatamaniuc, Bucharest: Romanian Cultural Institute, 2004, p. 67. English translation by Corneliu M. Popescu, http://www.gabrielditu.com/eminescu/emperor_and_proletarian.asp.  
  26. Liviu REBREANU, Adam şi Eva, edition supervised by Niculae Gheran, preface by Ion Simut, Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1998, p. 173.
  27. Mihai EMINESCU, Poezii [Poems], text selected and established, critical fragments by Perpessicius, volume supervised and chronology by D. Vatamaniuc, Bucharest: Romanian Cultural Institute, 2004, p. 164 (our translation).
  28. G.Dem. TEODORESCU, Poezii populare române [Romanian Folk Poems], critical edition, notes, glossary, bibliography and index by George Antofi, preface by Ovidiu Papadima, Bucharest: Minerva, 1982, p. 349.
  29. Iordache GOLESCU, Scrieri alese [Selected Writings], edition by Mihai Moraru, Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 1990, p. 170.
  30. G. SION, Suvenire contimpurane [Contemporary Memories], complete edition, Iaşi: Polirom, 2014, p. 372.
  31. Constanţa VINTILĂ-GHIŢULESCU, Patimă şi desfătare. Despre lucrurile mărunte ale vieţii cotidiene în societatea românească, 1750-1860 [Passion and Delight. The Small Things of Everyday Life in Romanian Society, 1750-1860], Bucharest: Humanitas, 2015, p. 353.
  32. Timotei OPREA, Rai şi Iad în cultura populară românească. File de apocalips (sec. XVIII-XIX) [Heaven and Hell in Romanian Folk Culture. Pages from an Apocalypse (18th -19th c.)], Buzău: Alpha MDN, 2005, p. 167.
  33. Tudor ARGHEZI, Opere, vol. V: Publicistică (1919–iulie 1928) [Works, vol. V: Journalism (1919-July 1928)], edited by Mitzura Arghezi and Traian Radu, preface by Eugen Simion,), Bucharest, National Foundation for Sciences and Arts & Univers Enciclopedic, 2004, pp. 132-134.
  34. Tudor ARGHEZI, Cuvinte potrivite [Fitting Words], preface by Liviu Papadima, anthology by Mitzura Arghezi and Traian Radu, Bucharest: Minerva, 1990, p. 13 (our translation).
  35. Nicolae IORGA, Istoria românilor în chipuri şi icoane [The History of the Romanians in Faces and Icons], Foreword by Andrei Pippidi, Bucharest: Humanitas, 2012, p. 164.
  36. See the study by Andrei OIȘTEANU, „Stânga versus dreapta. Farmecul discret al dihotomiei” [“Left vs. Right. The Discreet Charm of Dichotomy”], in ID., Mythos & Logos. Studii şi eseuri de antropologie culturală [Mythos and Logos. Studies and Essays in Cultural Anthropology], second, revised and enlarged edition, Bucharest: Nemira, 1998, pp. 267-282.
  37. Under Turkish influence, ruling Prince Petru Cercel (1583-1585) built a balcony behind the naos of the Big princely Church in Târgovişte, above the entrance to the naos, where the Prince’s wife would sit during the mass, hidden behind a curtain. She got to that balcony in the church through a passageway built right from the Princely Palace.
  38. Robert DRAPER, “Chemarea muntelui sfânt” [The Call of the Sacred Mountain], National Geographic Romanian edition, December 2009, p. 104 (our translation).
  39. Ioan Petru CULIANU, Cult, magie, erezii. Articole din enciclopedii ale religiilor [Cult, Magic, Heresies. Articles from the Encyclopaedias of Religions), Romanian translation by Maria-Magdalena Anghelescu and Dan Petrescu, afterword by Eduard Iricinschi, Iași: Polirom, 2003, p. 120 (our translation).
  40. IBID., p. 188 (our translation).
  41. Neagu DJUVARA, Între Orient şi Occident. Ţările române la începutul epocii moderne (1800-1848) [Between East and West. The Romanian Principalities at The Beginning of The Modern Times], Romanian translation by Maria Carpov, Bucharest: Humanitas, 1995, p. 267 (our translation).
  42. See Chap. 27, “The Boyar’s ‘Right’ over Gypsy Women Slaves” in Andrei OIȘTEANU, Sexuality and Society. History, Religion and Literature, Iași: Polirom, 2016.
  43. Radu Rosetti, Amintiri. Ce-am auzit de la alţii, (Memories. What I Heard From Others). Edition and Preface by Mircea Anghelescu, Romanian Cultural Foundation Publishing House, Bucharest, 1996, p.155.
  44. Bogdan Mateescu, Căsătoria robilor. Între alegerea cuplului şi voinţa stăpânului, (The Marriage of The Slaves. Between The Couple’s Choice And The Master’s Will), Etnous Publishing House, Braşov, 2014; Bogdan Mateescu, „Căsătoriile robilor din Ţara Românească după 1830: reglementări ale Statului și ale Bisericii”, (“The Marriages of The Slaves in Wallachia after 1830: State and Church Regulations”), lecture delivered on April 14, 2014 at the New Europe College, as part of the project “Group of Reflection on Political and Social History (18th -19th centuries).” I thank researcher Bogdan Munteanu (a doctoral student at the Nicolae Iorga History Institute of the Romanian Academy) for signaling the presented documents.
  45. Constanţa VINTILĂ-GHIŢULESCU, Focul amorului. Despre dragoste şi sexualitate în societatea românească (1750-1830), (The Fire of Love. Of Love And Sexuality in Romanian Society (1750-1830), Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006, p.49.
  46. The legend of St. Gregory, bishop of Agrigento (7th c. AD), is old. On a Byzantine thread, it penetrated the collection of The Lives of the Saints, translated in Wallachia.
  47. Constantin NEGRUZZI, Păcatele tinereţilor [The Sins of Youth], Iaşi: Adolf Bermann, 1857, pp. 271-285.
  48. O mie de ani de singurătate. Rromii în proza românească, (One Thousand Years of Loneliness. The Romas in Romanian Prose), Selection, notes and afterword by Vasile Ionescu, “Aven Amentza” Publhsing House, Bucharest, 2000, pp.74-84 (our translation).
  49. Paul Veyne, “Homosexualitatea la Roma”, (Homosexuality in Rome) in the volume Georges Duby et alii, Amor şi sexualitate în Occident, (Love And Sexuality in The West), introduction by Georges Duby, Romanian translation by Laurenţiu Zoicaş, Artemis Publishing House, Bucharest, 1994, p. 53 (our translation).
  50. Gr.I. Dianu, Istoria închisorilor din România. Studiu comparativ. Legi şi obiceiuri, (The History of Jails in Romania. A Compared Study) Laws And Customs) The Royal House Publishing House, Bucharest, 1900, p. 44 (our translation).
  51. Constanţa VINTILĂ-GHIŢULESCU, Focul amorului. Despre dragoste şi sexualitate în societatea românească (1750-1830), (The Fire of Love. Of Love And Sexuality in Romanian Society (1750-1830), Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006, pp. 163-164 (our translation).
  52. Constanţa VINTILĂ-GHIŢULESCU, Focul amorului. Despre dragoste şi sexualitate în societatea românească (1750-1830), (The Fire of Love. Of Love And Sexuality in Romanian Society (1750-1830), Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006, pp.164-166.
  53. Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameronul, (The Decameron), Romanian translation by Eta Boeriu, with an introductory study by Alexandru Balaci, vol. I and II, State Publishing House for Literature and Art, Bucharest, 1957, I, p. 78 (our translation).
  54. Vasile Voiculescu, Capul de zimbru, Povestiri, (The Aurochs Head, Stories) vol. I, Edited bby Victor Iova, Cartea Românească Publishing House, Bucharest, 1982, p. 147.
  55. Maria Luisa Lombardo, Erotica magna. O istorie a literaturii române, dincolo de tabuurile ei, (Erotica Magna, A History of Romanian Literature, Beyond Its Taboos), Western University Publishing House, Timişoara, 2004, pp.80/81.
  56. Ion Creangă, Povestea lui Ionică cel Prost (poreclit şi Irimiea) şi Povestea poveştilor (povestea pulei), (The Story of Ionica the Dumb (also nicknamed Irimiea) And The Story of All Stories (The Story of the Cock)), introductory study by Paul Anghel, edited by Nedic Lemnaru, „Roza vânturilor” Publishing House, Bucharest, 1990, p. 31 (our translation).
  57. Iordache GOLESCU, Scrieri alese [Selected Writings], edition by Mihai Moraru, Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 1990, pp. 166, 176.
  58. This very day, as I am writing these lines (September 25, 2011), Pope Benedict XVI (meantime, the former Pope), while visiting Germany, said he was “moved and deeply troubled” after his meetings with persons / children and youths / who had been the victims of the sexual abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests.
  59. Marian Munteanu, Folclorul detenţiei. Formele privării de libertate în literatura poporană. Studiu, tipologie, antologie de texte şi glosar, (The Folklore of Detention. The Forms of Freedom Deprivation in Folk Literature. Study, Typology, Anthology of Texts and Glossary), Valahia Publishing House, Bucharest, 2008, p. 645.
  60. Constanţa VINTILĂ-GHIŢULESCU, Focul amorului. Despre dragoste şi sexualitate în societatea românească (1750-1830) (The Fire of Love. About Love and Sexuality in Romanian Society (1750-1830), Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006, pp. 162-163 (our translation).
  61. Mihail Kogălniceanu, Tainele inimei, (The Secrets of The Heart), selected writings, edited by Dan Simonescu, The Publishing House for Literature, Bucharest, 1964, pp. 205, 348 (our translation).
  62. Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameronul, (The Decameron), Romanian translation by Eta Boeriu, with an introductory study by Alexandru Balaci, vol. I and II, State Publishing House for Literature and Art, Bucharest, 1957, I, p.265; II, p.366, a.o.

Self-Deceptive Hypocrisies: The Complacent, the Self-Righteous, and the Cynical (Béla Szabados and Eldon Soifer, 2004)

NOTE: This article is the second of three on the aspects and roles of deception. It is taken from the 14th chapter of Hypocrisy: Ethical Investigations.

Hypocrisy - Ethical Investigations cover

“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

Introduction

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.

the emperor's new clothes

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.

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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

"So, Heep...have you any excuse for your appalling behaviour?"
“So, Heep…have you any excuse for your appalling behavior?”

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.

Russian Orthodox monk with pistol (left). Japanese Buddhist monk with sword (right).
Russian Orthodox monk with pistol (left). Japanese Buddhist monk with sword (right).

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

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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

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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.

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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.

Dudley street, seven dials: 1872

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.

hYPOCRITE

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.

HYPOCRISY QUOTE

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.

half truth and white lies

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.

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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!

Orthodox Priest in BDSM gear.
Orthodox Priest in BDSM gear.

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

Today, St. David's behavior would earn him the titles of "peeping Tom" & stalker.
Today, St. David’s behavior would earn him the titles of “peeping Tom” & stalker.

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

kings-david-and-solomon-by-the-hand-of-nicholas-papas

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

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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.

CONCLUSION

Elder Ephraim Arizonaa

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.

NOTES

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.

Passias Crust

Hypocrisy and Deception (Béla Szabados and Eldon Soifer, 2004)

NOTE: This article is the first of three on the aspects and roles of deception. It is taken from the 14th chapter of Hypocrisy: Ethical Investigations.

Hypocrisy - Ethical Investigations cover

“We often do good to be able to accomplish evil with greater immunity.” La Rochefoucald1

“When we and the hypocrite have learned how hypocrisy is exposed, we might have to cope with the second order hypocrite, the double-bluffer who has learned how not to act like a hypocrite.” Gilbert Ryle2

INTRODUCTION

That hypocrisy necessarily involves deception has struck some writers as so obvious that it has been put forward without argument as a shared basic intuition.3 Indeed, hypocrites are commonly characterized as falsely professing to be virtuously inclined; as assuming a false appearance of virtue or goodness while dissimulating their real character or inclinations; as feigning virtue that they do not have, or pretending to be more virtuous than they really are. So there is good reason to think that deception is essential to hypocrisy.4

Nevertheless, it is possible to have doubts about this conventional picture. Perhaps it is shaped and nourished by an overly narrow diet of examples, which are ultimately unrepresentative of the broad range of hypocrisies. Perhaps deception is characteristic of only a small, albeit striking, range of cases. It is in this spirit that some philosophers have lately denied the necessity of any sort of deception or insincerity for hypocrisy, arguing for example that persons who openly admit to not practising what they preach are still correctly called hypocrites.5 In this chapter we examine such arguments and claim that, even though they point to neglected  or unnoticed parts of the conceptual landscape, they sabotage their very goal by oversimplifying the nature of deception and the various roles it can play in hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy and Gluttony confront a wandering monk.
Hypocrisy and Gluttony confront a wandering monk.

HYPOCRISY AS INCONSISTENCY

Those who deny that deception is essential to hypocrisy generally offer an account of hypocrisy that centres on inconsistency—on a failure to live up to one’s own principles. The etymological history of this usage, as we have seen, goes at least as far back as the accusation of Jesus against the Pharisees that they are hypocrites because “they do not practice what they preach.”6

Several philosophers have followed this usage and, since inconsistency does not imply deception, these philosophers need not take deception to be essential to hypocrisy…

Pharisees

Dan Turner offers an account of hypocrisy that focuses on “disparity pairs,” such as words versus deeds, pretended beliefs versus genuine beliefs, or beliefs versus desires.7 Turner claims that this model of properly restricted disparity pairs captures shared basic intuitions about hypocrisy, without legislating away conflicting ones, and “is enough to generate most, if not all, of the central structure of the notion.”8 Turner sees it as a virtue of his account that it does not presuppose or entail any sort of deception or insincerity, nor that hypocrisy is always a bad thing.9

Although there are noteworthy differences in the details of these accounts of hypocrisy, our primary focus is the negative claim they have in common: that hypocrisy need not involve deception or insincerity of any sort. We will argue that this claim is mistaken. For one thing, we will argue10 that philosophers who focus on an account of hypocrisy as inconsistency have difficulty explaining how hypocrisy differs from what appear to be distinct forms of inconsistency, such as weakness of will, change of mind, or mere forgetfulness. It is instructive in this context to note how readily such accounts blend hypocrisy with weakness of will. Consider, for instance, what Thomas Hurka asserts in the following passage: “In a common form of hypocrisy, you believe the moral principles you state and wish you could live up to them. But you can’t—you’re weak willed.”11 First, however, let us consider some of the examples defenders of the inconsistency accounts of hypocrisy put forward in support of their conception. We will argue that, when cases are treated with sufficient depth, it emerges that only the cases that involve deception at some level are clear candidates for hypocrisy.

OUT-OF-THE-CLOSET HYPOCRITES & OTHER CASES THAT APPEAR NOT TO INVOLVE DECEPTION—BUT DO

Dan Turner offers an argument in the form logicians call modus tollens for the conclusion that hypocrisy need not involve deception. First, he states that “if hypocrisy is a form of deception, then there can be no ‘out-of-the-closet’ hypocrites.”12 He goes on to say that there are, however, “out-of-the-closet” hypocrites. Therefore, hypocrisy is not a form of deception. Clearly, the force of this argument depends on the claim that there are “out-of-the-closet” hypocrites. The expression is used by Turner to describe people who openly and “freely acknowledge that they do not always practice what they preach.”13 Such alleged hypocrites are intended to provide a contrast to hypocrites who conceal their failure to practise what they preach, who are still in-the-closet.

The expression “out-of-the-closet hypocrite” is provocative, for it resonates with the figure of speech now used to describe homosexuals who are open about their sexual orientation and publicly identify them as gay. Since they no longer conceal their sexual identity, they no longer pretend to be what they are not—hence, they no longer hide in-the-closet.

The analogy only needs to be explicit to see that it is misleading. A gay person, whether s/he is in- or out-of-the-closet, is still gay. It is far from clear, however, whether a person who openly and freely declares that s/he does not practise what s/he preaches is still a hypocrite. This is a crucial dissimilarity, and Turner owes us a much more compelling case for the existence of “out-of-the-closet hypocrites” before helping himself to this analogy.

Modus Tollens

Turner provides two examples which he thinks are appropriately described as “out-of-the-closet” hypocrisies, as hypocrisies without any sort of deception or insincerity. One of these, which concerns a vegetarian who sometimes eats meat, we will consider in a later section.14 For now, consider Turner’s case of a cigarette smoker, who says, “I admit I am a hypocrite because I smoke, but I also want to urge you not to smoke; it is a terrible thing that no one should do.”15

The first interpretation of this case that comes to mind might be that the person involved is a nicotine addict. As such, the case can be generalized to include addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or whatever. An addict who desperately needs a fix may say, in the middle of getting that fix, “Whatever you do, don’t get yourself into this mess by becoming addicted,” thereby apparently satisfying the requirement for “out-of-the-closet” hypocrisy.

rehablitation-addiction-recovery-

Yet we would argue such cases are not plausible as hypocrisy. There are relevant differences between addiction and hypocrisy. One is that calling someone a “hypocrite,” laden as that term is with moral overtones, suggests that the person could have behaved differently, and could have practised what s/he preaches. An addict, on the other hand, can preach but cannot practise. As Crisp and Cowton observe, “it may be that the smoker is addicted to nicotine to the point that she really cannot do anything about it. In this case, she would be misusing the term ‘hypocrisy’ … If the smoker is unable to give up, then she cannot be required to give up, then she cannot be required to give up, since ‘ought’ implies ‘can,’ to use Austin’s phrase.”16

If this is correct, then the defender of the inconsistency view needs a case where a person says, “I’m a hypocrite because I do what I’m telling you not to do,” but the reason for doing it is not that one is unable to do otherwise. But then what is the reason the person does what s/he advises others not to do?

One other sort of case worth considering here involves people who are not strictly addicted, and could do otherwise, but are in the habit of acting in a particular way. A useful example along these lines is that of “a teacher who tells his pupils not to put their hands in their pockets because it looks slovenly and ruins one’s clothes and yet always has his own hands in his pockets.”17

Presumably we would not say such a teacher is “addicted” to putting his hands in his pockets. But it is not obvious whether the teacher “could have done otherwise.” Bad habits are hard to break, although presumably not impossible. Perhaps this case is not different in essence from the case of the addict after all. If that is right, then the critics have again failed to provide a case in which a person could have lived up to his/her stated principles but does not. Of course, establishing the conditions under which people could have acted differently than they did would require us to address the issue of free will in a way that lies beyond the scope of this project, but if we are right that hypocrisy must involve the ability to have done otherwise, then we do not yet have here a compelling case of hypocrisy without deception.

Even if we ignore the “could have done otherwise” argument, there are other reasons for thinking that people who do not practise what they preach are not necessarily hypocrites. For one thing, hypocrites are typically after social approval, cultivating the appearance of being principled persons by their preaching. The admitted miserable condition of the addict or habit-bound person is, by contrast, an object lesson as to why people should not smoke (or perhaps more convincingly, should not do crack-cocaine).

ClassicalDrugUse1109WEB

Finally, the inconsistency between the addict’s statements and behaviour may be more apparent than real. If the statement “Don’t smoke” is taken to be an elliptical way of saying “Don’t start smoking” then the addict’s ongoing behaviour is not after all contrary to the universal prescription. The addict may believe that it is acceptable for those who are already addicted to cigarettes to continue to smoke, but not acceptable for those who are not to start. But if this is the general proposition, then the addict’s behaviour in continuing to smoke does not after all contradict his/her stated principles, (the addict is not, after all, starting to smoke), and thus there need be no inconsistency.18 Although such people might commonly be referred to as hypocrites, we argue that this description may be inaccurate even if we count mere inconsistency as sufficient for hypocrisy, let alone if, as we maintain, use of the term should be reserved for cases in which there is deception of some sort involved.

Of course, to say that hypocrisy and addiction are distinct is not to say that it is impossible to be both a hypocrite and an addict. We are not referring here to con artists who pretend to be addicts to embezzle funds, say, from the Addict’s Aid Society. Indeed, such a person is not really an addict at all, and may not be a hypocrite either.

The Smoking Monk (Mount Athos)

Rather, the hypocritical addict is a person who uses his/her public confessions of failure and apparent concern for others, to establish his/her reputation as a crusader against smoking or to deflect blame or criticism from his/her own conduct. The simple addict engages in self-disclosure when s/he openly admits to not practising what s/he preaches. The hypocritical addict uses such openness to conceal motives s/he thinks others would find unworthy of respect or unacceptable. Such people come out-of-the-closet only to hide in another, perhaps more difficult to detect, closet. This is indeed a compelling case of hypocrisy, but notice that it also involves some sort of deception or insincerity. While in standard cases of hypocrisy, the deception often consists of concealing the gap between the preaching and practice, the “out-of-the-closet” sort of hypocrite, we suggest, has learned how such standard hypocrisy is detected or exposed, and how not to act like a standard hypocrite. S/he openly acknowledges the gap, yet continues to deceive or be insincere about his or her motives or inner core. Hence, these addict/hypocrites, when properly described, direct attention to a neglected range of hypocrisy and help us to better understand the concept, but do not provide an example of hypocrites who are not deceivers.

Tartuffe

A classic example along these lines arises in Moliere’s play Tartuffe (the alternate name of which is The Hypocrite). The title character is a man who pretends to extreme religious piety so as to work his way into the home of a man named Orgon, where he is not only fed and sheltered, but generally fawned upon and treated as an honoured guest. Tartuffe takes advantage of his host’s hospitality, and even goes so far as to make advances on Orgon’s wife, Elmire. Orgon’s son, Damis, reports this scandalous behaviour to his father, in Tartuffe’s presence. The key passage for our present purpose is Tartuffe’s reaction, speaking to Orgon, when thus accused:

Yes, brother, I am wicked, I am guilty, A miserable sinner, steeped in evil, The greatest criminal that ever lived Each moment of my life is stained with soilures; And all is but a mass of crime and filth; Heaven, for my punishment, I see it plainly, Would mortify me now. Whatever wrong They find to charge me with, I’ll not deny it But guard against the pride of self-defence. Believe their stories, arm your wrath against me And drive me like a villain from your house; I cannot have so great a share of shame But what I have deserved a greater still. Ah! Let him speak; you chide him wrongfully; You’d do far better to believe his tales. Why favour me so much in such a matter? How can you know of what I’m capable? And should you trust my outward semblance, brother, Or judge therefrom that I’m the better man? No, no; you let appearances deceive you; I’m anything but what I’m thought to be, Alas! And though all men believe me godly, The simple truth is, I’m a worthless creature.19

Is Tartuffe being hypocritical in this passage? If deception is crucial for hypocrisy, then it might seem the answer has to be no, since what he says is true. He tells Orgon that he is a scoundrel—which we know to be true—and further warns Orgon not to be taken in by appearances, because he is anything but the godly man he is thought to be. Now if all this is intended as a genuine confession, then it seems there cannot be any hypocrisy involved on Tartuffe’s part. However, there is reason to think this is not after all a genuine confession. First of all, the very fact that Tartuffe does seem to be a thoroughgoing scoundrel makes us suspicious of any sudden transformation, and his later behaviour in the play (e.g., by again trying to seduce Orgon’s wife) confirms these suspicions. Even more telling, however, is Orgon’s reaction to Tartuffe’s speech. Orgon takes this confession as yet one more indication of Tartuffe’s piety. He not only gets angry at Damis for accusing such a saintly man of wrongdoing, but tries to earn Tartuffe’s forgiveness for the slur of his character by offering him the deed to his home, and his daughter’s hand in marriage. Since Tartuffe’s entire success is based on playing upon the sensibilities of his gullible host, it seems most likely that Tartuffe intended his speech to bring about exactly the sort of reaction it did. In that case, he says things that are true, in the confidence that they will not be believed, and will be viewed instead as a poignant demonstration of the virtue of humility.20

tarttuffe-28-1024

If this reading is correct, does the resulting situation amount to hypocrisy? It certainly has the element of trying to obtain a better reputation than one deserves, and thus we are surely tempted to consider this speech hypocritical. But again, what Tartuffe says in this passage is true. Accordingly, this might seem like exactly the sort of test case we were looking for. This appears to be a case of hypocrisy without deception, unless one merely stipulates it away, claiming it is not hypocrisy solely because it does not have this feature taken to be essential.

On more careful consideration, however, it can be seen there is deception here after all. It is true that the words are literally true.21 Nevertheless, part of what is communicated through the speech is not true at all. Tartuffe is deliberately conveying the idea of someone who scrutinizes himself carefully for fault, and chastises himself soundly when he finds it, with genuine remorse. Yet he is none of this. He is indeed full of what the world considers fault, but even when he becomes aware of this, he has no interest in changing. He apparently believes that being a scoundrel is exactly the right way to be, especially if one can take advantage of others’ gullibility, to one’s own selfish advantage. Thus the appearance of remorse and humility that Tartuffe conveys in this speech is indeed deceptive, even though the words are literally true. And it is exactly this deception that provides an advantage for Tartuffe, gaining for him benefits that he could not obtain if people knew the truth. This does indeed seem to be a case of hypocrisy, then, but it is a case that turns out to support rather than undermine the account of hypocrisy as deception aimed at getting a better reputation than one deserves.22

Fr. George Passias
Fr. George Passias

So far, those who want to maintain that there can be hypocrisy without deception have failed to provide a compelling case. Some of the proposed cases, such as those involving addicts (or people with bad habits) who advise others to avoid the same predicament do not amount to hypocrisy. Other cases, such as that of Tartuffe, turn out to involve deception, though at a more subtle level than is immediately obvious. There are still other cases to consider, however.

Another group of people who do not practise what they preach consists of those who believe that rules that apply to most people do not apply to them. Although this seems to meet exactly the definition of hypocrisy as inconsistency, we will argue that such cases often cannot plausibly be considered hypocrisy at all. Consider, for example, a person who has special skills or abilities that make it unlikely that s/he will be hurt by actions that would be very risky for others. This is the point behind examples where people on TV say things such as “Don’t try this at home, kids,” or “Remember, I’m a trained professional.” But surely there is no reason to think such people are hypocrites. If the general rule is that “only individuals with characteristic x can or should do action a,” then a person who has characteristic x is not being hypocritical in saying to those who do not, “I am going to do this, but you should not.” Similarly, society may authorize some individuals to do some things that are prohibited to the general public. For example, emergency workers are entitled to drive through red lights when the rest of us cannot. If such emergency workers say as they drive by “I’m doing this, but you shouldn’t,” they are displaying the kind of inconsistency Turner and others identify, but surely nobody would think they were being hypocritical. Even if people are mistaken about their beliefs—even if they do not really have the skills that will shield them from injury, for example, or are simply deluded as to whether they are emergency workers, their failing to practise what they preach would not amount to hypocrisy. People who genuinely believe they are exempted from a rule in light of some specific characteristic are not being hypocritical if they act contrary to the rule while still recommending it to others.

What would make such an individual a plausible candidate for hypocrisy would be if that person’s reason for being exempted boiled down to nothing more than “I don’t have to do that, and you do, because I’m me and you’re not.”23 Besides failing any plausible version of a universalizability test of morality, a person taking such a stance is likely to be doing exactly what we are arguing is crucial for hypocrisy—engaging in deception. People who simply assert that they are special, and that ordinary moral rules do not apply to them, are not likely to have much credibility. Accordingly, people who think this way are not likely to make their views explicit. They will publicly endorse the rule, urging others to follow it as if they think it applies to everyone, and keep secret their belief that it does not apply to them. Such people are indeed strong candidates for hypocrisy, and their failure to practise what they preach is crucial for identifying them as such, but notice that they are also deceivers. They deceptively suggest that they think the rule applies to everyone including them, when they really think it applies to everyone except them.

Geronda Ephraim

We have argued that cases of “out-of-the-closet” hypocrites”24 are candidates for hypocrisy only if there is some sort of deception or insincerity also involved. Deception in hypocrisy often takes the form of concealing from others a breach between one’s preaching and practice. However deception may take other forms too. The modified versions of “out-of-the-closet” hypocrites we elaborated show that a person may acknowledge or confess a failure to practise what s/he preaches, and deceptively use this apparent “openness” to evade moral censure or blame. The deception here is about inner motive or intention and this suggests that people may be hypocrites, even though they practise what they preach—if they pretend to be motivated by certain considerations while in fact being motivated only by a desire to appear to be motivated by those considerations. Here again, however, it seems that situations can only properly be described as involving hypocrisy when there is deception present.

RIGGING ONE’S PRINCIPLES: “COUNTERFACTUAL HYPOCRISY”

There is another adaptive variation of hypocrisy that needs to be considered when searching for “hypocrisy of inconsistency” without deception. This variation involves people who make the actions of others a condition for practising, saying, “I’ll follow this principle only if others join in.” An example, provided by Saul Smilansky, is that of a person who says: “I am an egalitarian. If egalitarianism triumphs I would be willing to give up two-thirds of my salary in taxation. But until then, as long as the present social order persists, it is perfectly legitimate for me to pay only a quarter of my salary in taxes … I am all for changing the rules, but why should I now be the only one to pay?”25 Smilansky claims that, although such an individual readily admits she does not practise what she preaches, she “is no less a hypocrite than her more immediately recognizable partner”26 who conceals her actions so that the failure to practise what she preaches is not noticed. If Smilansky is right, perhaps we have here an example of a person who is hypocritical in light of inconsistency alone, without appeal to deception.

There are two reasons Smilansky cites to support his claim that this amounts to hypocrisy. The first is that “(with certain limited exceptions) one is obliged to practise what one preaches irrespective of the degree of acceptance of this preaching by others.27 This reason has a kind of Kantian resonance in that it suggests that principles are categorical imperatives, and anyone who qualifies them with “ifs and buts,” or compromises them by conditions, is already well on the way to the hypocrisy allegedly inherent in consequentialism. This reason, let us note, is only as sound as the Kantian theory it presupposes, and there are reasons for serious misgivings about the latter. Indeed, the difficulty of maintaining this approach is indicated by Smilansky’s need to qualify the assertion by allowing “certain limited exceptions.” He would, for example, allow deviating from the path one advocates when “doing one’s bit in the direction of one’s preaching, without the support or parallel action of others, would be more or less suicidal,”26 such as might be true of an advocate of gun control in “the Wild West or Beirut.”28 Similarly, he allows deviation from one’s preaching when “the achievement of the social aim depends on mass conformity, since one individual’s contribution, when it is quite certain that others will not join in, is insignificant or nonexistent.”29 After such qualifications, which we agree are necessary, the Kantian claim no longer seems as striking or powerful.

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The second, and more powerful, reason Smilansky gives for believing that the person who says “I’ll do so if others join in” is a hypocrite will not in fact help the persons looking for an example of hypocrisy without deception. Smilansky claims that, contrary to appearances, there is deceit going on in such cases: “The deceit follows from the fact that there is a pretence of principle being declared, together with the knowledge that it is highly unlikely that the principle will be put to the test. Making the actions of others a condition for one’s actions pretty much guarantees that.”30 In other words, the person is in a sense stating a conditional of the form, “If others do x, then I’ll do x, too.” If one knows the antecedent is false, however, then it seems the only reason to make such a statement is that one hopes to gain a reputation for being willing to do x, without the cost of actually having to do it. We agree that in such cases there is a plausible, even compelling, case of hypocrisy, of a sort that might be called “counterfactual hypocrisy.” Note that, if the antecedent condition were miraculously to be met, such people might or might not carry through on their commitment to x. Although the one who does not do x when others have x’d is the clearer hypocrite, having made a blatantly false counterfactual statement, arguably even one who does do x when the circumstances call for it—perhaps to avoid further damage to one’s reputation—may be considered a hypocrite. This might be true, for example, if the person would never have made the statement in the first place, if s/he had realized there was a chance of actually having to carry through on it.

So we agree with Smilansky that people who make insincere counterfactual claims about what they would do if others behaved as we know they won’t are engaged in a form of deception and thereby qualify as hypocrites. But Smilansky seems to have described the case too broadly. Although he has identified an important and neglected area in which hypocrisy might arise, we believe that not all cases fitting his basic mould are in fact hypocritical in this way.

Consider again the case of the egalitarian who does not conceal his or her present practice, acknowledging that s/he pays only as much tax as presently required by law.  Suppose that s/he formulates the egalitarian principle clearly, and preaches in a manner that explicitly spells out the conditions for practice, as well as giving, so Smilansky himself says, “a principled set of reasons for not practicing what s/he preaches.”31 Consider then the above egalitarian, plus the following relevant new information. S/he knows that it is very unlikely that the preaching will be put to the test of practice in his or her lifetime, and says so. However, s/he works hard toward the realization of those conditions, investing considerable time, effort and money in the process. The “principled reasons” for not practising what s/he preaches are fairly applied and s/he does not demonize others who disagree. This person’s arguments suggest a genuine interest in a better society; s/he is not privileging his or her own role, but sees him or herself as one in a group of like-minded people. This person satisfies all of Smilansky’s requirements for hypocrisy, yet s/he seems like a genuine and realistic social reformer. We believe that it is the total lack of pretension in this case that makes us reluctant to label the egalitarian in question a hypocrite.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew kneel to kiss the Stone of Unction, traditionally claimed as the stone where Jesus' body was prepared for burial, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem May 25, 2014.
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew kneel to kiss the Stone of Unction, traditionally claimed as the stone where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem May 25, 2014.

Smilansky’s basic sketch of the egalitarian-as-hypocrite is that of someone who not only conditionalizes his or her practice on the cooperation of others, but rigs those conditions in such a way that they in fact sabotage the goals of the principle itself. Furthermore, suppose that s/he flaunts the ideals, yet makes invidious judgments about those who live conventional lives—like him/herself—but do not avow egalitarianism. It is natural to see such a person a hypocrite, since in this case there is no pretension to principle and deceit going on.

To sum up our point then: To preach, not practise, openly admitting the breach, and conditionalizing one’s practice on the cooperation of others, does not necessarily involve deception, and does not as such amount to hypocrisy. Whether such a scenario adds up to hypocrisy depends on what these conditions are and how they are specified. If the latter are deceptive, we have good reason to suspect hypocrisy. In any event, there are diverse cases, requiring different treatment. For example, the successful practice of chastity does not generally require the cooperation of others, while bringing about an egalitarian society does. Accordingly, it is almost certainly hypocritical to say “I would be chaste if other people were, but they’re not, so I won’t be either,” but the comparable case of the egalitarian we have described need not be hypocritical at all. In any event, we have argued the cases of the “I will only if others do” sort are hypocritical only when the principles are “rigged,” and there is thus deception involved.

This-Church-is-Not-Full-of-Hypocrites

We have argued that the defenders of the “hypocrisy as inconsistency” theory have not yet provided a compelling case of hypocrisy, in which one could have acted on one’s stated principles and did not, that does not involve deception of some sort. We have yet to provide a positive argument to the effect that deception is required to distinguish hypocrisy from other forms of inconsistency, such as weakness of will, forgetfulness, or changes of mind. Before proceeding to this positive argument, however, we need to consider one more range of cases of potential counter-examples to our claim that hypocrisy does require deception. We will argue that these cases also involve deception, but that the deception involved is of a particular sort. In the next chapter, we consider the relationship between hypocrisy and self-deception.

NOTES

1. La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1931.
2. Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind, 1949, p. 174.
3. See e.g., Eva Feder Kittay, “Hypocrisy,” 277-89.
4. On this view, all that remains to be done is to explain how hypocrisy is to be distinguished from other forms of deception.
5. People who argue in this fashion include: Judith Shklar, Ordinary Vices; Dan Turner, “Hypocrisy”; Roger Crisp and Christopher Cowton, “Hypocrisy and Moral Seriousness,” 343-49.
6. Matthew 23:3.
7. Turner, p. 265.
8. Ibid., 266.
9. Ibid., 266 and 286.
10. In Chapter 14 of this book.
11. Hurka 266.
12. Turner 265.
13. Ibid. 264.
14. See Chapter 14, Sections D and E of this book.
15. Turner 265.
16. Crisp and Cowton, 345.
17. Ibid.
18. We owe this insight to Leanne Kent, a former student.
19. Jean Baptiste Poquelin Moliere, Tartuffe; Or, The Hypocrite, Act III, Scene 6 (Harvard Classics, Vol. 26, Part 4, on-line edition).
20. This technique was first laid out by the Apostle Paul who reproaches himself as “the first among sinners.” Orthodox Christian texts have continued this tradition for the last 2000 years. Geronda Ephraim is a continuer of this tradition: he reproaches and accuses himself in every letter and homily he writes. His devoted disciples, who are under blind obedience to him, believe that these accusations he makes against himself are a testimony to his humility and saintliness.
21. It is interesting to compare this case with cases of irony. In standard cases of irony, the speaker says something that is false, expecting the listener to take it in the opposite way, understanding that what is meant is not what is literally said, but the reverse. In the present case, the speaker again expects the listener to take what is said in the opposite way, but in this case the words are literally true, and the expectation is that the reader will invert it and come to a false belief on that basis.
22. Monasteries have received countless large donations by utilizing such techniques of feigning humility and self-reproach. This technique leaves such a deep impression on gullible lay people that it reinforces their belief that the abbots or abbesses are holy (especially if they’ve already been prepped by other pilgrims with miracle stories about these individuals). A common phrase heard is, “S/he’s so holy and yet so humble, what a saint!”
23. In not so many words, this is a very common statement in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. “Because I’m the Geronda (or Gerondissa),” is often heard by monastic disciples who confess logismoi or are scandalized by the un-monastic behaviors they witness in the abbots/abbesses. It is common for new novices who have not yet been completely broken by the elder to get scandalized easily by various behaviours that occur in the monastery; especially of the superiors and older monastics. This is natural because the young novices are continually reading monastic texts which censure different behaviours as unmonastic and many times these behaviours are quite commonplace in the monasteries from the head down. After a strict indoctrination process of being continually humbled (either verbally or other methods), long work hours, sleep and food deprivation, etc., the novice is either completely subjugated to the superior, or after a series of mini breaks, realizes the monastic life is not for them.
24. We discuss Turner’s other case, that of the meat-eating vegetarian in Chapter 14 of this book.
25. Smilansky, “On Practicing What We Preach,” American Philosophical Quarterly, (1994) 75.
26. Ibid., 77.
27. Ibid.
28. Ibid., 75.
29. Ibid.
30. Ibid., 74-75.
31. Ibid.
32. Ibid.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppressive_Person
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppressive_Person

The Hypocrisy of the Old Testament

One of the names of the primary Judaic god is El Shaddai. According to Exodus 6:2, 3, Shaddai (שַׁדַּי) is the name of the god known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The name Shaddai is again used as the god’s name later in the Book of Job. The root word “shadad” (שדד) means “to overpower” or “to destroy”. This would give Shaddai the meaning of “destroyer”, representing one of the aspects of the god, and in this context it is essentially an epithet. Ēl is a Northwest Semitic word meaning “god” or “deity” and it is used as the name of major Ancient Near East deities, including the God of the Hebrew Bible. El is a generic word for god that could be used for any god, including Hadad, Moloch, or Yahweh. Thus El Shaddai means “God the Destroyer.” The Septuagint and other early translations usually translate “El Shaddai” as “God Almighty.” However in the Greek of the Septuagint translation of Psalm 91.1, “Shaddai” is translated as “the God of heaven.” “God Almighty” is the translation followed by most modern English translations of the Hebrew Scriptures. The following article looks at some examples of the “destroyer” attributes of the Christian Triune God that are found in the Old Testament. Orthodox Christian theology teaches that the accounts of God speaking in the Old Testament are the Logos of God, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, Who would later incarnate, namely Jesus Christ.

seven-Names
The Septuagint does not transliterate the names of God. They are usually rendered Kurios or Theos.
  1. HUMAN SACRIFICES: KILLING OF INNOCENTS, INCLUDING THE UNBORN, INFANTS, CHILDREN AND THE PURE

And now go, and thou shalt smite Amalec and Hierim and all that belongs to him, and thou shalt not save anything of him alive, but thou shalt utterly destroy him: and thou shalt devote him and all his to [destruction], and thou shalt spare nothing belonging to him; and thou shalt slay both man and woman, and infant and suckling, and calf and sheep, and camel and ass.” (1 Samuel 15:3)

“Samaria shall be utterly destroyed: for she has resisted her God; they shall fall by the sword, and their sucklings shall be dashed against the ground, and their women and child ripped up.” (Hosea 13:16)

“And he went up thence to Baethel: and as he was going up by the way there came up also little children from the city, and mocked him, and said to him, Go up, bald-head, go up. And he turned after them, and saw them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And, behold, there came out two bears out of the wood, and they tore forty and two children of them.” (2 Kings 2:23-24)

“Blessed [shall he be] who shall seize and dash thine infants against the rock.” (Ps. 137:9)

“Behold, I will stir up against you the Medes, who do not regard silver, neither have they need of gold. 18 They shall break the bows of the young men; and they shall have no mercy on your children; nor shall their eyes spare thy children.” (Isaiah 13:17-18)

“And if any man has a disobedient and contentious son, who hearkens not to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother, and they should correct him, and he should not hearken to them; then shall his father and his mother take hold of him, and bring him forth to the elders of his city, and to the gate of the place: and they shall say to the men of their city, This our son is disobedient and contentious, he hearkens not to our voice, he is a reveler and a drunkard. And the men of his city shall stone him with stones, and he shall die; and thou shalt remove the evil one from yourselves, and the rest shall hear and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

“And God told Abraham, Take thy son, the beloved one, whom thou hast loved– Isaac, and go into the high land, and offer him there for a whole-burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” (Genesis 22:2)

The Sacrifice of Isaac, from the pavement of the Beth Alpha synagogue (6th century)
The Sacrifice of Isaac, from the pavement of the Beth Alpha synagogue (6th century)
  1. VICTIMIZATION AND ABUSE OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN
  1. God permits the taking of little girls and women as “wife plunder”

“Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the *young* girls who have not known a man intimately.” (Numbers 31:17-18). The Hebrew word for “young” used here means “children.”

“But if they will not hearken to thee, but wage war against thee, thou shalt invest it; until the Lord thy God shall deliver it into thy hands, and thou shalt smite every male of it with the edge of the sword: except the women and the stuff: and all the cattle, and whatsoever shall be in the city, and all the plunder thou shalt take as spoil for thyself, and shalt eat all the plunder of thine enemies whom the Lord thy God gives thee.” (Deuteronomy 20:12-14)

“All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses.” (Genesis 34:29)

“And if when thou goest out to war against thine enemies, the Lord thy God should deliver them into thine hands, and thou shouldest take their spoil, and shouldest see among the spoil a woman beautiful in countenance, and shouldest desire her, and take her to thyself for a wife, and shouldest bring her within thine house: then shalt thou shave her head, and pare her nails; and shalt take away her garments of captivity from off her, and she shall abide in thine house, and shall bewail her father and mother the days of a month; and afterwards thou shalt go in to her and dwell with her, and she shall be thy wife.” (Deuteronomy 21:10-13)

Yahweh prefers killing the innocent children of sinners over the sinner.

“And I will kill her children with death” (Revelations 2:23)

“Who smote the first-born of Egypt, both of man and beast” (Psalm 135:8)

“Prepare thy children to be slain for the sins of their father; that they arise not, and inherit the earth, nor fill the earth with wars” (Isaiah 14:21)

“The Lord…bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and to the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7)

“For I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, recompensing the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation to them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5)

Drowned corpses during Noah's Flood (Basilica of San MArco, Venice)
Drowned corpses during Noah’s Flood (Basilica of San Marco, Venice)

Rape victims must marry their rapists

“And if anyone should find a young virgin who has not been betrothed, and should force [her] and lie with her, and be found, the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the damsel fifty silver didrachms, and she shall be his wife, because he has humble her; he shall never be able to put her away” (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

If the rape occurs in the city, the victim must be stoned to death

“And if there be a young damsel espoused to a man, and a man should have found her in the city and have lain with her; ye shall bring them both out to the gate of their city, and they shall be stoned with stones, and they shall die; the damsel, because she cried not in the city; and the man, because he humbled his neighbour’s spouse: so shalt thou remove the evil one from yourselves” (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

33-mosaic
Top: Jacob negotiates the purchase of the field in which he had pitched his tents. Bottom: Jacob told of the rape of his daughter Dinah.

Polygamy and sex slaves (concubines) okay for men, but females are said to be “defiled” if not found virgins on their wedding night

“And if any one sell his daughter as a domestic, she shall not depart as the maid-servants depart. If she be not pleasing to her master, after she has betrothed herself to him, he shall let her go free; but he is not at liberty to sell her to a foreign nation, because he has trifled with her. And if he should have betrothed her to his son, he shall do to her according to the right of daughters. And if he take another to himself, he shall not deprive her of necessaries and her apparel, and her companionship [with him]” (Exodus 21:7-10)

“And if anyone should take a wife, and dwell with her, and hate her, and attach to her reproachful words, and bring against her an evil name, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her I found not her tokens of virginity: then the father and the mother of the damsel shall take and bring out the damsel’s tokens of virginity to the elders of the city to the gate. And the father of the damsel shall say to the elders, I gave this my daughter to this man for a wife; and now he has hated her, and attaches reproachful words to her, saying, I have not found tokens of virginity with thy daughter; and these [are] the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall unfold the garment before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man, and shall chastise him, and shall fine him a hundred shekels, and shall give [them] to the father of the damsel, because he has brought forth an evil name against a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife: he shall never be able to put her away. But if this report be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel; then shall they bring out the damsel to the doors of her father’s house, and shall stone her with stones, and she shall die; because she has wrought folly among the children of Israel, to defile the house of her father by whoring: so thou shalt remove the evil one from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

“But a widow, or one that is put away, or profaned, or a harlot, these he shall not take; but he shall take for a wife a virgin of his own people.” (Leviticus 21:14)

“And if a man have two wives…”(Deuteronomy 21:15). Polygamy was originally permissible in the Bible. Jacob (who becomes God’s chosen people, Israel), has two wives (Rachel and Leah), who are both sisters (Genesis 30)

God commands Jacob to leave.  He announces his departure to his wives Leah and Rachel.
God commands Jacob to leave. He announces his departure to his wives Leah and Rachel.
  1. SLAVERY

“And whatever number of men-servants and maid-servants thou shalt have, thou shalt purchase male and female servants from the nations that are round about thee. And of the sons of the sojourners that are among you, of these ye shall buy and of their relations, all that shall be in your lands; let them be to you for a possession. And ye shall distribute them to your children after you, and they shall be to you permanent possessions for ever: but of your brethren the children of Israel, one shall not oppress his brother in labours” (Leviticus 25:44-46)

“And if a man site his man-servant or his maid-servant, with a rod, and [the party] die under his hands, he shall be surely punished. But if [the servant] continue to live a day or two, let not [the master] be punished; for he is his money” (Exodus 21:20-21)

“Because these are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; such an one shall not be sold as a [common] servant” (Leviticus 25:42)

Young Joseph sold by his brothers into captivity in Egypt. Byzantine mosaic, 14th c.
Young Joseph sold by his brothers into captivity in Egypt. Byzantine mosaic, 14th c.
  1. GENOCIDE AND RACISM

“For the wrath of the Lord is upon all nations, and [his] anger upon the number of them, to destroy them, and give them up to slaughter” (Isaiah 34:2)

“…and I will overthrow the thrones of kings, and I will destroy the power of the kings of the nations [Gentile, non-Hebrew]; and I will overthrow chariots and riders; and the horses and their riders shall come down, everyone by the sword striving against his brother” (Hag. 2:22)

“Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen [for] thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth [for] thy possession. Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces as a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:8-9)

“For thou art a holy people to the Lord thy God; and the Lord thy God chose thee to be to him a peculiar people beyond all nations that [are] upon the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6)

Daniel in the lions' den, Roman mosaic from Bordj El Loudi, Tunisia, 5th Century AD.
Daniel in the lions’ den, Roman mosaic from Bordj El Loudi, Tunisia, 5th Century AD.
  1. THIEVERY
  1. Killing people to confiscate their land (covetousness):

“And the Lord said to me, Behold, I have begun to deliver before thee Seon the king of Esebon the Amorite, and his land, and do thou begin to inherit his land. ” (Deuteronomy 2:31)

“And he brought us into the land of the Amorites that dwelt beyond Jordan, and the Lord delivered them into our hands; and ye inherited their land, and utterly destroyed them from before you.” (Joshua 24:8)

“Thus shalt thou do to all the cities that are very far off from thee, not [being] of the cities of these nations which the Lord thy God gives thee to inherit their land. 16 [Of these] ye shall not take any thing alive; 17 but ye shall surely curse them. ” (Deuteronomy 20:15-16)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace of Nebuchadnezzer. Byzantine Mosaic, 11th CE.3
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the 3 Youths in the Fiery Furnace of Nebuchadnezzer. Byzantine Mosaic, 11th CE.
  1. Gold, silver and other goods

“But [every] woman shall ask of her neighbour and fellow lodger, articles of gold and silver, and apparel; and ye shall put them upon your sons and upon your daughters,– and spoil ye the Egyptians.” (Exodus 3:22) The lord reiterated this in Exodus 11:2.

“…We left no living prey. Only we took the cattle captive, and took the spoil of the cities. ” (Deuteronomy 2:34-35)

“And ye shall divide the spoils between the warriors that went out to battle, and the whole congregation.” (Numbers 21:27)

“And they took captive all the persons of them, and all their store, and their wives, and plundered both whatever things there were in the city, and whatever things there were in the houses.” (Genesis 34:29)

“All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them… The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:8, 10)

The Conquest of Jericho. Early Christian Mosaic.
The Conquest of Jericho. Early Christian Mosaic.
  1. CRUELTY: GOD TAKES PLEASURE IN HUMAN SUFFERING AND COMMANDS HIS FOLLOWERS TO DESTORY THE EARTH HE MADE

“And it shall come to pass that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you; and ye shall be quickly removed from the land, into which ye go to inherit it.” (Deuteronomy 28:63)

“For behold! the day of the Lord is coming which cannot be escaped, [a day] of wrath and anger, to make the world desolate, and to destroy sinners out of it.” (Isaiah 13:9)

“And ye shall smite every strong city, and ye shall cut down every good tree, and ye shall stop all wells of water, and spoil every good piece [of land] with stones.” (2 Kings 3:19)

“Now consider these things, ye that forget God, lest he rend you [literally, ‘tear into pieces’], and there is no deliverer.” (Psalm 50:22)

ART50610
The Return of the Explorers; Rebellion of the Israelites against Moses. Early Christian mosaic. 5th CE
  1. RAGES: GOD CURSES, SWEARS, KILLS AND DESTROYS EVERYTHING WHEN HE IS ANGRY

“So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.” (Psalm 95:11)

“I will slay in my anger and my fury” (Jeremiah 33:5)

“Therefore thus saith the Lord; I will even cause to burst forth a sweeping blast with fury, and there shall be a flooding rain in my wrath; and in [my] fury I will bring on great stones for complete destruction.” (Ezekiel 13:13)

“And my wrath and mine anger shall be accomplished upon them: and thou shalt know that I the Lord have spoken in my jealousy, when I have accomplished mine anger upon them.” (Ezekiel 5:13)

“I saw, and, behold, Carmel was desert, and all the cities were burnt with fire at the presence of the Lord, and at the presence of his fierce anger they were utterly destroyed.” (Jeremiah 4:26)

“For the heaven shall be enraged, and the earth shall be shaken from her foundation, because of the fierce anger of the Lord of hosts, in the day in which his wrath shall come on.” (Isaiah 13:13)

“And I trampled them in mine anger, and brought down their blood to the earth.” (Isaiah 63:6)

Drunkenness of Noah (narthex, entrance bay vault). 1220-85. Byzantine mosaic.
Drunkenness of Noah (narthex, entrance bay vault). 1220-85. Byzantine mosaic.
  1. GOD HARDENSHEARTS, BLINDS AND DEAFENS TO GAIN A LICENSE TO CAUSE CHAOS

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Go in to Pharao: for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that these signs may come upon them.” (Exodus 10:1)

“Ye shall hear indeed, but ye shall not understand; and ye shall see indeed, but ye shall not perceive. For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. And I said, How long, O Lord? And he said, Until cities be deserted by reason of their not being inhabited, and the houses by reason of there being no men, and the land shall be left desolate. And after this God shall remove the men far off, and they that are left upon the land shall be multiplied.” (Isaiah 6:9-12)

“And Seon king of Esebon would not that we should pass by him, because the Lord our God hardened his spirit, and made his heart stubborn, that he might be delivered into thy hands, as on this day.” (Deuteronomy 2:30)

NOTE: Abba Dorotheos of Gaza writes in his 5th Instruction, That We Should Not Trust Our Own Understanding, “But if one does not sincerely wish to do the will of God, then though go to a prophet, God might place in the heart of that prophet an answer corresponding to the man’s corrupt heart, as the Scripture says, And if a prophet should cause to err and should speak, I the Lord have caused that prophet to err (Ezekiel 14:9).”

Pendentif with the Joseph's dream about the seven fat and the seven lean cows. Detail from the dome with the story of Joseph of Egypt. Byzantine mosaic.
Pendentif with the Joseph’s dream about the seven fat and the seven lean cows. Detail from the dome with the story of Joseph of Egypt. Byzantine mosaic.
  1. CANNABALISM

“And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.” (Leviticus 26:29)

“Therefore the fathers shall eat [their] children in the midst of thee, and children shall eat [their] fathers; and I will execute judgements in thee, and I will scatter all that are left of thee to every wind.” (Ezekiel 5:10)

“I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons, and the flesh of their daughters; and they shall eat every one the flesh of his neighbour in the blockade, and in the siege wherewith their enemies shall besiege them.” (Jeremiah 19:9)

“And thou, son of man, say, Thus saith the Lord; Say to every winged bird, and to all the wild beasts of the field, Gather yourselves, and come; gather yourselves from all [places] round about to my sacrifice, which I have made for you, [even] a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, and ye shall eat flesh, and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of mighty men, and ye shall drink the blood of princes of the earth, rams, and calves and goats, and they are all fatted calves. And ye shall eat fat till ye are full, and shall drink wine till ye are drunken, of my sacrifice which I have prepared for you. And ye shall be filled at my table, [eating] horse, and rider, and mighty man, and every warrior, saith the Lord.” (Ezekiel 39:17-20)

“And they that afflicted thee shall eat their own flesh; and they shall drink their own blood as new wine, and shall be drunken: and all flesh shall perceive that I am the Lord that delivers thee, and that upholds the strength of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:26)

“And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.” (Revelations 19:17-19)

Mosaic of ancient women dressed for sports - Roman villa near Piazza Armerina - Sicily
Mosaic of ancient women dressed for sports – Roman villa near Piazza Armerina – Sicily
  1. LYING

“Thou saidst, I will give them flesh to eat, and they shall eat a whole month… The flesh was yet between their teeth, before it failed, when the Lord was wroth with the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.” (Numbers 11:21, 33)

“Fury is not in Me.” (Isaiah 27:4)

“I will not act according to the fury of y wrath, I will not abandon Ephraim to be utterly destroyed: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One within thee: and I will not enter into the city. (Hosea 11:9)

Moses and the daughters of the Pharaoh. Early Christian mosaic, 5th CE.
Moses and the daughters of the Pharaoh. Early Christian mosaic, 5th CE.
  1. Lying is condoned if it accomplishes God’s goals

God instructs Moses to lie to the Pharaoh: “And thou shalt say to him, The God of the Hebrews has called us; we will go then a journey of three days into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to our God.” (Exodus 3:18)

God instructs Samuel to lie: “And Samuel said, How can I go? whereas Saul will hear of it, and slay me: and the Lord said, Take a heifer in thine hand and thou shall say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 16:2)

“But [every] woman shall ask of her neighbour and fellow lodger, articles of gold and silver, and apparel; and ye shall put them upon your sons and upon your daughters,– and spoil ye the Egyptians.” (Exodus 3:22)

“They have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into my mind.” (Jeremiah 19:5) Now compare with Genesis 22:2 “Then He said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar, disguises herself as a prostitute in order to become pregnant by her dead husband’s brother, after his failure to marry her, and is justified by Judah in the narrative. Tamar is rewarded for her subterfuge by the birth of the twins Perez and Zerah, through whom the tribe of Judah is established (Genesis 38:27–30).

Jehu lies to the worshippers of Baal, aimed at killing all the prophets of Baal. (2 kings 10:18-28)

Joseph accused by Potiphar. Byzantine mosaic, 13th c.
Joseph accused by Potiphar. Byzantine mosaic, 13th c.

NOTE: In Orthodox Christianity, there are also times where it is permitted to lie if it will benefit the salvation of someone, such as in case of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos, who lied to protect his brother’s murderer from being lynched by an angry mob of Christians. In monasticism, if the Abbot or Abbess instructs their disciples to lie about something, it is not considered a lie, but rather a virtue, namely “blind obedience.” Lying is permitted in all cases to protect the reputation of the Church, or its representatives. This is called “guarding your brother’s conscience.” Thus, pedophilia and other scandals are kept silent, and criminals go unpunished, for the “benefit of the lay people.”

  1. BLOODY VENGEANCE

“Vengeance is Mine” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

“The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Psalm 58:10)

“Therefore the Lord says…”Ah, I will rid myself of My adversaries, and take vengeance on my enemies.” (Isaiah 1:24)

“It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel…a people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; It shall not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain.” (Numbers 23:23-24)

“O LORD our God, you were to them God-Who-Forgives, though you took vengeance on their deeds.” (Psalm 99:8)

“I will feed those who oppress you (Israel) with their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine.” (Isaiah 49:26)

Joseph's Bloodstained Coat. Mosaic.
Jacob lamenting over Joseph’s bloodstained coat mosaic.
  1. GOD CAUSES EVIL, DECEIVES AND COMMANDS EVIL SPIRITS

“I am he that prepared light, and formed darkness; who make peace, and create evil; I am the Lord God, that does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

“And the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (1 Samuel 16:14)

“And now, behold, the Lord has put a false spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord has spoken evil against thee.” (1 Kings 22:23)

“And now, behold, the Lord has put a false spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord has spoken evil against thee.” (II Chronicles, 18:22)

“And if a prophet should cause to err and should speak, I the Lord have caused that prophet to err, and will stretch out my hand upon him, and will utterly destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.” (Ezekiel 14:9)

“Shall the trumpet sound in the city, and the people not be alarmed? shall there be evil in a city which the Lord has not wrought?” (amos 3:6)

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth.” (II Thessalonians 2:11-12)

The Construction of the Tower of Babel. Mosaic
The Construction of the Tower of Babel. Mosaic

Also see Fr. Antonios Alevizopoulos, The Orthodox Church: Its faith, Worship and Life:

http://www.oodegr.co/english/biblia/orthodox1/orthodox1.htm