The following article is taken from Orthodox Pro Life: Abortion Information Center. The essence of all these patristic teachings is, “There is no excuse whatsoever for an abortion.”
“. . . the willful abortion of children is an act of murder, and the sinful character of that act always remains, even when conception has taken place in the most tragic circumstances.” – Metropolitan Theodosius, Orthodox Church in America, 1980
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“The Church affirms that life begins at the moment of conception, and once this new life has begun in a woman, even in cases of rape or incest, she can no longer think solely of herself. Her life and the life of the baby are in the hands of the Lord. While rape and incest are grievous sins, the Church does not permit one sin to be resolved by allowing for an even greater sin to follow.” – Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia
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After the Turks entered Cyprus and the rapes which occurred, the Cypriot Church allowed abortions for these circumstances. So someone asked Elder Epiphanios (Theodoropoulos) if this was correct or not. And he answered:
“No! It is not correct. If the raped woman was worldly, then no question is posed – she will not ask the Church what to do, anyway. If, however, the girl is faithful, then she will keep the fruit of her rape and when she appears before God, she will tell Him: Because of the words of Your lips, I kept harsh ways (Psalm 16:4). That child was my disgrace, my martyrdom, my cross. I kept it and did not transgress Your will. Think with what boldness such a woman will stand before the throne of God!”
The questioner then said to the Elder: “What is higher though: life or honor? I think honor. So precisely so, that such a girl can avoid public mockery from the birth of an illegitimate child, it would be good for her to proceed to abortion.”
The Elder responded: “There is however, a big difference, which you are not taking into consideration: You do not have the right to keep your honor, taking away the life of someone else, as is the conceived embryo. Life and honor can consequently be compared but only when they coincide in the same person.”
Counsels for Life: From the Life and Teachings of Father Epiphanios Theodoropoulos
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Parents, who themselves have been violated by their child being violated in instances of rape or incest, often want the solution that seems to offer the quickest solution for the child and all involved. Choosing abortion, while it may seem to be the quickest of choices, in fact itself leaves many more scars for the person already victimized. The author is very mindful of the violation that has taken place, and offers the wisdom of the Church as a possible means to real healing. It is the belief of this author that the person violated by rape or incest, is again violated through abortion and that by carrying and bearing the child and offering the child up for adoption to a loving couple can very well be a source of healing and strength at this most difficult time. In any of the instances above, the choice to abort or not to abort has much to do with those surrounding the young person and what they counsel and support. Fr. John Kowalczk reminds all of us surrounding those dealing with a crisis pregnancy: Any involvement in an abortion; having one, performing one, condoning one, is an action against God. Abortion can be termed a hostile act of rebellion against God’s very work of creation. And do not the words “hostile rebellion against God” sum up the very essence of the work of Satan? (Moral and Ethical Issues Confronting Orthodox Youth Across North America by Archpriest Joseph F. Purpura)
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“If abortion were illegal, what about victims of rape and incest?”
By Valerie Protopapas, Executive Secretary and Educational Director of Orthodox Christians for Life
Cases of rape and incest very rarely lead to pregnancy for a variety of reasons. In cases where they do, we must remember that the child in the womb is not guilty of any crime but is also a victim. As we do not ask the death penalty for the actual criminal of rape or incest, why should we demand it for the second innocent victim?
Also, abortion leads to increased trauma as the victim will suffer the emotional and possibly physical damage which is common to all abortions. Between 50 and 80% of all women who have had abortions suffer mild to severe psychological trauma although it may take up to 8 or 10 years before manifesting itself. This is simply piling the trauma of abortion upon trauma of rape or incest. A woman who carried through such a pregnancy may indeed wind up far better off physically and psychologically than a woman who chooses to abort.
Finally, we must remember that, as Christians, we are obligated to offer God’s compassion to the woman, not “the compassion” that is of the world. The world says that the woman would be much better off killing her child. This so-called “compassion” is wicked and leads to spiritual, moral, and sometimes physical death. God’s compassion has more respect for the sufferer, offering the suffering of His Son as an example in our distress and the promise of His eternal love and constant support in times of trial.
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When man is in pain Christ visits him. Some say: “Geronda, is this not cruel? Why did God allow this? Does He not suffer seeing us in pain?” Geronda answered: “God is in pain, too, seeing men tormented by illness, demons, barbarians… but He has great joy knowing the heavenly reward that He has prepared for them.” (Geronda Paisios of Holy Mountain, On Pain and Suffering)
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There was a time in my life when I spoke to a great deal of troubled women, counseling them and trying to help them through their pain and difficulty. Battered women, abused women, rape victims, former child molestation victims, etc. One theme that came back to me from these women again and again was that carrying the baby through to pregnancy actually helped healing and brought good out of the darkness, shame, fear, and horror of rape or incest. Another theme [from those victims that did choose abortion] was shame and deep sorrow at having put their baby to death. But this is the side nobody will tell, [our society] doesn’t care to listen to what these women have to say, they don’t care even if they did listen. It contradicts the story line they want to tell, it conflicts with their politics, and so it doesn’t count. www.str.org
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It is necessary to provide women who are pregnant respect. They need our protection. This is also very true in the case of the single mother who has been abused and violently raped. This is what happened during the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1974. On one hand we have the tragedy of women being raped and on the other we have a life in the womb, a living man who is not in fault and who is part of the woman’s body. Who knows what that person will be become because in each case man is made with the hope that he can become like God. (Fr. George Metallinos, University of Athens, Professor of Theology)
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Men forget to find shelter in God because their faith is not strong. They forget that God promised to protect them and asked them not to despair… (Priest Dionysios Tatsis, Periodical Orthodox Typos, March 25 2011)
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A pregnancy after rape is very rare. Many believe that abortion is the only solution to a pregnancy after rape. This idea is used by many to support the efforts towards legalization of abortion.
1. The mother who has the abortion is temporarily relieved from the pain that rape caused her. But she is left with the tragic remembrance of the murder of her child. How can we justify the decision to kill an innocent living person?
2. The mother should have support from her immediate environment [family, Church, Society]. She may decide to give the child up for adoption. The woman who patiently endures the nine months will receive a peaceful conscience knowing that she courageously decided to accept the life which lives inside of her even though this life was conceived without her will and under tragic events.
(Fr. Savvas Michailidis, Greece)
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Shouldn’t Abortion be Legal in Cases of Rape or Incest?
There are two answers to this objection. First, a child conceived through rape or incest does not deserve the death penalty for his or her father’s crime. Second, research shows that the victim of either crime is likely to suffer more if she resorts to abortion.
One large-scale study of pregnant rape victims found that approximately 70 percent chose to give birth. Many sexual assault victims see giving birth as a selfless, loving act that helps bring healing from the horrific experience of the rape itself. Women who abort children conceived through rape often report that they didn’t feel that they had any other choice, since everyone around them assumed that they would not want to give birth to the rapist’s baby.
The case against abortion for pregnant victims of incest is even stronger. Incest victims hardly ever voluntarily consent to an abortion. Rather than viewing the pregnancy as unwanted, the victim of incest is more likely to see the pregnancy as a way to get out of the incestuous relationship because it exposes the abusive sexual activity that family members are either unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge. The pregnancy poses a threat to the perpetrator, who frequently attempts to coerce his incest victim to have an unwanted abortion.
The idea that the violent act of abortion is beneficial to victims of rape and incest is simply unfounded. On the contrary, evidence shows that abortion in such cases compounds the unspeakable pain that victims experience.
Moreover, given that one-third of one percent of abortions are performed under such circumstances, we might ask why this question is so frequently raised. Do these extremely rare cases justify tolerating the other 99.67% of abortions? Would those who raise this objection really be willing to ban abortion if exceptions were made for rape and incest?
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Pregnancy resulting from Incest
excerpts from ‘The Psychological Aspects of Abortion’
the following is taken from a secular text on the psychological affects of abortion on victims of incest:
Most pregnancies from incest have a very different dynamic than from rape and must be counseled in a very different manner. Even strongly pro-abortion people, if they approach an incest case professionally, must be absolutely convinced before advising abortion, for abortion is not only is an assault on the young mother, but it may completely fail to solve the original problem. It is also unusual for wisdom to dictate anything but adoptive placement of the baby.
In incest, is pregnancy common?
No. “Considering the prevalence of teenage pregnancies in general, incest treatment programs marvel at the low incidence of pregnancy from incest.” Several reports agree at 1% or less.
How does the incest victim feel about being pregnant?
For her, it is a way to stop the incest; a way to unite mother and daughter, a way to get out of the house. Most incestuous pregnancies, if not pressured, will not get abortions. “As socially inappropriate as incest and incestuous pregnancies are, their harmful effects depend largely upon reaction of others.”
Source: G. Maloof, “The Consequences of Incest,” The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, University Publications of America, 1979, p. 74, 100
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There is a case in America of a girl who was kidnapped at age 11 in 1991 and was held captive for 18 years. She was raped and sexually abused by her kidnapper who was out on parole for a previous rape conviction at the time of her kidnapping. While in captivity she became pregnant twice and carried both pregnancies to term. She gave birth to her first child, a daughter, at age 14. She gave birth to her second child, another daughter, three years later. She breast-fed them and raised them and taught them herself while in captivity. After her rescue in 2009, and after the conviction of her kidnapper/rapist (who received a conviction of 431 years in prison), she eventually began to speak about her experience. What she endured is utterly horrific, yet she has great love for her daughters in spite of how and by whom they were conceived. When asked how she survived those 18 years, she said, “I had my girls to give me strength.” When commenting on the birth of her first daughter she said, “My baby girl came into the world when I was fourteen years old and very, very scared. Recounting that day, I can’t believe it was me that went through this. How did I not go insane with worry? How do you get through things you don’t want to do? You just do. I would do it all again. The most precious thing in the world came out of it… my daughters.” (Jaycee Dugard, 2011)
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Rebecca Kiessling: Abortion Survivor Who was Conceived in Rape
Rebecca Kiessling is an example of someone who was conceived in rape and escaped an abortion death. Her story is included here because she offers a valuable testimony in defense of the unborn who are considered ‘the hard cases.’
About Rebecca Kiessling:
I was adopted nearly from birth. At 18, I learned that I was conceived out of a brutal rape at knife-point by a serial rapist. Like most people, I’d never considered that abortion applied to my life, but once I received this information, all of a sudden I realized that, not only does it apply to my life, but it has to do with my very existence. It was as if I could hear the echoes of all those people who, with the most sympathetic of tones, would say, “Well, except in cases of rape. . . ,” or who would rather fervently exclaim in disgust: “Especially in cases of rape!!!” All these people are out there who don‘t even know me, but are standing in judgment of my life, so quick to dismiss it just because of how I was conceived. I felt like I was now going to have to justify my own existence, that I would have to prove myself to the world that I shouldn’t have been aborted and that I was worthy of living. I also remember feeling like garbage because of people who would say that my life was like garbage — that I was disposable.
Please understand that whenever you identify yourself as being “pro-choice,” or whenever you make that exception for rape, what that really translates into is you being able to stand before me, look me in the eye, and say to me, “I think your mother should have been able to abort you.” That’s a pretty powerful statement. I would never say anything like that to someone. I would say never to someone, “If I had my way, you’d be dead right now.” But that is the reality with which I live. I challenge anyone to describe for me how it’s not. It’s not like people say, “Oh well, I‘m pro-choice except for that little window of opportunity in 1968/69, so that you, Rebecca, could have been born.” No — this is the ruthless reality of that position, and I can tell you that it hurts and it’s mean. But I know that most people don’t put a face to this issue. For them, it’s just a concept — a quick cliche, and they sweep it under the rug and forget about it. I do hope that, as a child of rape, I can help to put a face, a voice, and a story to this issue.
I’ve often experienced those who would confront me and try to dismiss me with quick quips like, “Oh well, you were lucky!” Be sure that my survival has nothing to do with luck. The fact that I’m alive today has to do with choices that were made by our society at large, people who fought to ensure abortion was illegal in Michigan at the time — even in cases of rape, people who argued to protect my life, and people who voted pro-life. I wasn’t lucky. I was protected. And would you really rationalize that our brothers and sisters who are being aborted every day are just somehow “unlucky”?!!
Although my birthmother was thrilled to meet me, she did tell me that she actually went to two back-alley abortionists and I was almost aborted. After the rape, the police referred her to a counselor who basically told her that abortion was the thing to do. She said there were no crisis pregnancy centers back then, but my birthmother assured me that if there had been, she would have gone if at least for a little more guidance. The rape counselor is the one who set her up with the back-alley abortionists. For the first, she said it was the typical back-alley conditions that you hear about as to why “she should have been able to safely and legally abort” me — blood and dirt all over the table and floor. Those back-alley conditions and the fact that it was illegal caused her to back out, as with most women.
Then she got hooked up with a more expensive abortionist. This time she was to meet someone at night by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Someone would approach her, say her name, blindfold her, put her in the backseat of a car, take her and then abort me . . . , then blindfold her again and drop her back off. And do you know what I think is so pathetic? It’s that I know there are an awful lot of people out there who would hear me describe those conditions and their response would just be a pitiful shake of the head in disgust: “It’s just so awful that your birthmother should have had to have gone through that in order to have been able to abort you!” Like that’s compassionate?!! I fully realize that they think they are being compassionate, but that’s pretty cold-hearted from where I stand, don’t you think? That is my life that they are so callously talking about and there is nothing compassionate about that position. My birthmother is okay — her life went on and in fact, she’s doing great, but I would have been killed, my life would have been ended. I may not look the same as I did when I was four years old or four days old yet unborn in my mother’s womb, but that was still undeniably me and I would have been killed through a brutal abortion.
According to the research of Dr. David Reardon, director of the Elliot Institute, co-editor of the book Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting From Sexual Assault, and author of the article “Rape, Incest and Abortion: Searching Beyond the Myths,” most women who become pregnant out of sexual assault do not want an abortion and are in fact worse-off after an abortion. See http://www.afterabortion.org .
So most people’s position on abortion in cases of rape is based upon faulty premises: 1) the rape victim would want an abortion, 2) she’d be better off with an abortion, and 3) that child’s life just isn’t worth having to put her through the pregnancy. I hope that my story, and the other stories posted on my site [www.rebeccakiessling.com], will be able to help dispel that last myth.
I wish I could say that my birthmother was with the majority of victims and that she didn’t want to abort me, but she had been convinced otherwise. However, the nasty disposition and foul mouth of this second back-alley abortionist, along with a fear for her own safety, caused her to back out. When she told him by phone that she wasn’t interested in this risky arrangement, this abortion doctor insulted her and called her names. To her surprise, he called again the next day to try to talk her into aborting me once again, and again she declined and was hurled insults. So that was it — after that she just couldn’t go through with it. My birthmother was then heading into her second trimester — far more dangerous, far more expensive to have me aborted.
I’m so thankful my life was spared, but a lot of well-meaning Christians would say things to me like, ”Well you see, God really meant for you to be here!” Or others may say, “You were meant to be here.” But I know that God intends for every unborn child to be given the same opportunity to be born, and I can’t sit contentedly saying, “Well, at least my life was spared.” Or, “I deserved it. Look what I’ve done with my life.” And millions of others didn’t? I can’t do that. Can you? Can you just sit there and say, “At least I was wanted . . . at least I’m alive” or just, “Whatever!”? Is that really the kind of person who you want to be? Cold-hearted? A facade of compassion on the exterior, but stone-cold and vacated from within? Do you claim to care about women but couldn’t care less about me because I stand as a reminder of something you’d rather not face and that you’d hate for others to consider either? Do I not fit your agenda?
In law school, I’d also have classmates say things to me like, “Oh well! If you’d been aborted, you wouldn’t be here today, and you wouldn’t know the difference anyway, so what does it matter?” Believe it or not, some of the top pro-abortion philosophers use that same kind of argument: “The fetus never knows what hits him, so there’s no such fetus to miss his life.” So I guess as long as you stab someone in the back while he’s sleeping, then it’s okay, because he doesn’t know what hits him?! I’d explain to my classmates how their same logic would justify me killing you today, because you wouldn’t be here tomorrow, and you wouldn’t know the difference anyway, so what does it matter?” And they’d just stand there with their jaws dropped. It’s amazing what a little logic can do, when you really think this thing through — like we were supposed to be doing in law school — and consider what we’re really talking about: there are lives who are not here today because they were aborted. It’s like the old saying: “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?” Well, yeah! And if a baby is aborted, and no one else is around to know about it, does it matter? The answer is, YES! Their lives matter. My life matters. Your life matters and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
The world is a different place because it was illegal for my birthmother to abort me back then. Your life is different because she could not legally abort me because you are sitting here reading my words today! But you don’t have to have an impact on audiences for your life to matter. There is something we are all missing here today because of the generations now who have been aborted and it matters.
One of the greatest things I’ve learned is that the rapist is NOT my creator, as some people would have me believe. My value and identity are not established as a “product of rape,” but as a child of God. Psalm 68:5,6 declares: “A father to the fatherless . . . is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” And Psalm 27:10 tells us “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” I know that there is no stigma in being adopted. We are told in the New Testament that it is in the spirit of adoption that we are called to be God’s children through Christ our Lord. So He must have thought pretty highly of adoption to use that as a picture of His love for us!
Most importantly, I’ve learned, I’ll be able to teach my children, and I teach others that your value is not based on the circumstances of your conception, your parents, your siblings, your mate, your house, your clothes, your looks, your IQ, your grades, your scores, your money, your occupation, your successes or failures, or your abilities or disabilities — these are the lies that are perpetuated in our society. In fact, most motivational speakers tell their audiences that if they could just make something of themselves and meet this certain societal standard, then they too could “be somebody.” But the fact is that no one could ever meet all of these ridiculous standards, and many people will fall incredibly short and so, does that mean that they ‘re not “somebody” or that they’re “nobody?” The truth is that you don’t have to prove your worth to anyone, and if you really want to know what your value is, all you have to do is look to the Cross –because that’s the price that was paid for your life! That’s the infinite value that God placed on your life! He thinks you are pretty valuable, and so do I. Won’t you join me in affirming others’ value as well, in word and in action?
For those of you who would say, “Well, I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in the Bible, so I’m pro-choice,” please read my essay, “The Right of the Unborn Child Not to be Unjustly Killed — a philosophy of rights approach” which is linked on the menu. I assure you, it will be worth your time.
article source: http://www.rebeccakiessling.com/index.html
link to Rebecca Kiessling’s philosophical essay on abortion:
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Abortion, Politics, and the “Rape and Incest” Exception
by Frederica Mathewes-Green
Coming soon to a podium near you: local politician Bluster K. Fluster, running for re-election, asserting his deeply held personal belief that abortion is wrong. There’s an exception, of course: cases where the woman conceived due to rape or incest.
A lot of his audience is nodding in agreement. Their reaction is typical; across the nation, polls show that approval of anti-abortion laws rises dramatically when this exception is made. According to a 1999 Wirthlin poll, for example, 62% of Americans would endorse a law prohibiting abortion except in cases when the pregnancy would kill the woman, or when it was caused by rape or incest. Remove that last clause and agreement drops thirty points.
It seems like common sense. Sexual violence is a nightmare. Dragging it out for nine months of pregnancy seems an added cruelty. Then there’s the child, for whom the truth about his father could be devastating. Fluster’s audience is sure abortion is the most compassionate course for the victims of sexual violence.
But did anyone think to ask the victims themselves?
In the new book, “Victims and Victors” (Acorn Books, 2000), editors David Reardon, Amy Sobie, and Julie Makimaa draw on testimonies of 192 women who experienced pregnancy as a result of rape or incest, and 55 children who were conceived in sexual assault. It turns out that when victims of violence speak for themselves, their opinion of abortion is nearly unanimous — and the opposite of what the average person expects.
Nearly all the women who conceived due to rape or incest, then had abortions, said that they regretted it. Of those giving an opinion, over 90% said that they would discourage other victims of sexual violence from having an abortion.
On the other hand, of the women who conceived due to rape or incest and carried to term, not one expressed regret about her choice. Of those giving an opinion, 94% of rape victims and 100% of incest victims said abortion was not a good option for other women in their situation.
“I feel personally assaulted and insulted every time I hear that abortion should be legal because of rape and incest,” says Kathleen DeZeeuw, whose testimony is included in “Victors and Victims.” “I feel that we’re being used to further the abortion issue, even though we’ve not been asked to tell our side of the story.”
Her side of the story starts with skipping a church meeting to go with a girlfriend to a local coffeehouse. The sixth of eight children, Kathleen was raised in a Christian home with strict rules against associating with anyone outside their congregation. So perhaps Kathleen was naive when she agreed to go to a movie with a young man she met at the coffeehouse.
Soon after her head was being bashed against his car window until she was too weak to resist. Somehow she knew the rape that followed would make her pregnant. “I remember screaming this over and over again. This only served as a terrifying source of hideous laughter.” He threw her out of the car, with a warning that he’d hurt her worse if she told anyone. She made her way home feeling shattered and dirty.
Kathleen, only 16, kept the secret until it couldn’t be concealed. When the pregnancy became obvious, her parents were distressed and her siblings were disgusted. “Because I wouldn’t talk about it, many rumors started about me and everyone had his own interpretation of what must have ‘really’ happened.” She was sent to a maternity home a thousand miles away.
But something had begun to change in her heart. At first, she was repulsed at the thought of carrying “this man’s child,” yet as she felt the baby kick and move, her horror began to change to sympathy. “I began to realize that this little life inside me was struggling too…I was no longer thinking of the baby as the ‘rapist’s’… I now thought of this baby as ‘my baby.’ My baby was all I had. I felt abandoned by everyone. I had only this life inside me to talk to.”
Not that everything was easy. The first time Kathleen held her son she felt ‘revulsion,’ because he looked exactly like his father, a resemblance that remained as he grew. “The laughter of my little boy often reminded me of the hideous laughter of this guy as he had raped me.” But Patrick kept telling his mother she needed to forgive, as he himself had forgiven her sometimes pained reactions to him, as well as the actions of his unknown dad. In the end, forgiveness set Kathleen free.
Victims of sexual violence need counseling and care, Kathleen says, and plenty of time for healing. “To encourage a woman to have an abortion is to add even more violence to her life…Two wrongs will never make a right.”
Kathleen’s association of abortion with “even more violence” gives us a first clue to why victims of sexual violence would resist abortion. As Reardon points out, “Abortion is not some magical surgery which turns back the clock.”
What rape takes away from a woman, abortion cannot restore. Instead, though outsiders picture abortion as a quick and sanitary event behind closed doors, to the woman it is a second assault, one that disturbingly resembles the violence she has already endured.
“[M]any women report that their abortions felt like a degrading form of ‘medical rape,’” Reardon writes. “Abortion involves a painful intrusion into a woman’s sexual organs by a masked stranger…For many women this experiential association between abortion and sexual assault is very strong…[W]omen with a history of sexual assault are likely to experience greater distress during and after an abortion than are other women.”
Second, Reardon says, post-abortion women typically feel guilty, “dirty,” depressed, and resentful of men, the same feelings which are common after sexual assault. Rape and incest victims who abort get a double whammy of these difficult emotions. “Rather than easing the psychological burdens of the sexual assault victim, abortion adds to them.”
For victims of incest the case is even stronger (and, of course, incest is often just a particular form of rape). For these girls, pregnancy can represent their only hope to get out of the abusive situation. They may have been threatened and beaten; they may have been told, for example, “If you tell Mommy, I’ll kill her.” But the girl knows that if she gets pregnant someone will have to see her plight and rescue her. To such a girl, pregnancy is not the problem; incest is the problem, and pregnancy may be the solution. Reardon writes, “Unlike pregnancies resulting from rape, most incest pregnancies are actually desired, at least at a subconscious level, in order to expose the incest.”
Reardon found that in virtually every case of pregnancy following incest, the abortion was not the girl’s decision. “In several cases, the abortion was carried out over the objections of the girl who clearly told others that she wanted to give birth to her child.” Instead, the abortion was planned by adults in her life, and frequently — for obvious reasons — by the perpetrator himself. Abortion turns out to be a great way to destroy evidence. It’s the best friend a sexual abuser has. And you’d be surprised how many people don’t ask any questions.
One woman writing under the pseudonym “Mary Jean Doe” recounts that when she was 12 years old, after some months of molestation by her older brother and his friend, she was late for a period.
“I turned to my Sunday School teacher for help…She gave me a hug and said I should go to Planned Parenthood…She never asked who the male partner was or why I was sexually active at that age.
“So my older brother took me to Planned Parenthood…No one expressed any dismay, concern or even interest that a 12-year-old girl needed a pregnancy test. I heard a lot of talk about ‘being responsible’ and ‘taking control of my body.’ Someone gave me a handful of condoms on the way out and made a joke about it being an assortment — red, blue, and yellow.”
No one asked the brother any questions, and he understandably refrained from getting chatty. Two days later the clinic phoned to tell Mary Jean that the test was positive and gave a time for her to return for an unspecified procedure. “The caller never used the word ‘pregnant’ or ‘abortion.’”
That evening her period started, so Mary Jean never kept the appointment. Only years later in biology class did she learn what sexual intercourse is — and that she had not been doing it. The abuse inflicted on her was not of a type that could result in pregnancy. Mary Jean was horrified to learn that she had been scheduled for an abortion none the less.
She concludes, “Abortion on demand, no questions asked, makes it easier for incest and child abuse to continue. Abortion for incest victims sounds compassionate, but in practice it is simply another violent and deceptive tool in the hand of the abuser.”
In a similar case in Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Julio C. Novoa performed five abortions on three sisters who had been habitually raped by their father. The doctor didn’t suspect a thing. “When these patients came to my office, they came with a mother, and you, as a doctor, feel comfortable that the family knows,” he said. “They never, never made a mention or a hint” that anything was wrong. The girls were between the ages of 13 and 19, and their mother facilitated both the incest and the abortions. The situation ended only when the youngest girl scrawled at the bottom of a history test that she hated life and wanted to die. In the case of that young incest victim, speedy abortion with no questions asked did not set her free.
But surely a young girl who was pregnant shouldn’t be encouraged to have a baby, should she? She probably has unrealistic ideas that the baby will provide her with the unconditional love she craves. She may have naive fantasies that the child will be like a doll she can dress up and play with.
“It is precisely the young girl’s attachment to her baby, whether realistic or unrealistic, which insures with 100 percent reliability that she will be traumatized by the abortion,” Reardon writes. “To the young girl, the abortion is not an act of free will by which she is regaining her future. It is the destruction of her baby, her ‘baby doll,’ even…Which would the young girl rather have? A baby or a traumatic surgery wherein she is forced to participate in the murder of her baby?”
While a young girl should be spared pressure to kill her child, the most loving thing she can do next is to place him for adoption. Reardon cites Dr. George Maloof, who strongly recommends that children conceived in incest be adopted, not only for the child’s sake but so that the original family can begin to heal. (Incidentally, children of incest are not doomed to be victims of deformity due to “inbreeding.” Such problems emerge following repeated patterns of incest over several generations.) Maloof writes, “Only after having the child adopted can there be some assurance that this new life will not simply become part of the incestuous family affair. The family can be consoled by the knowledge that they have broken their incestuous pattern.”
That pattern is shown in the testimony of Dixie Lee Gourley, who remained in contact with her birth family throughout childhood while “boarding” with several other families. When she was 11 her visiting dad began to molest her, a horror she kept secret. It wasn’t until she was forty years old that she learned she wasn’t the only one. Four decades before he had also molested and impregnated another girl, the woman she’d always called her “stepsister.” This sister was also her mother, and her father was also her grand-dad.
Some women who had children after rape, then raised them, feel that adoption would have been the better course. Kathleen DeZeeuw, who has raised her son Patrick, writes: “I personally believe that for her child’s sake, she should strongly consider adoption. That may sound strange coming from me, but I know the emotional problems that can result from being daily reminded of the assault. In many case it may be truly better for the child that he or she not be subjected to this added turmoil.”
Sharon Bailey, who also gave birth after rape then raised her child, saw conflict over her daughter become one of the stresses that undermined her marriage. She believes that her daughter “would have had a more normal life” if she had been adopted. Nancy Cole, however, who raised a child after being impregnated by her own father, is satisfied with her decision. “[M]y daughter is now 18, loves the Lord, and is happy and well-adjusted. I have raised her all my life and I know I made the right decision.”
But back to our friend Fluster, beaming and bowing to applause. Does he have a point, when we’re talking about the public square? Remember how a “rape and incest” exception makes laws protecting unborn life much more acceptable to voters. How, strategically, should we approach the laws we craft?
David Reardon believes that it was softening of laws for “hard case” rape and incest pregnancies that paved the way for abortion on demand. Indeed, the Doe v. Bolton decision, the companion case to Roe v. Wade, stipulated that if abortion was legal in those cases it could not be withheld for any reason concerning a woman’s health, including her emotional condition or her age. Legalization of the hard cases is the “camel’s nose” in the tent, Reardon says, yet “[M]ost pro-life activists will continue to squirm and equivocate when asked about abortion for rape or incest pregnancies.”
The course of pro-life political strategy over the last decade was more complex than that. No pro-life activist believes that abortion is acceptable in cases of rape or incest. While such a view has been popular with the public, pro-lifers believe that the child conceived in violence is obviously as worthy of protection as any other baby. She has done nothing deserving of death. Even someone who believed that every rapist should be condemned to death would balk at extending the sentence to the rapist’s child. The idea becomes even more appalling when we remember that it is, in reality, the rape victim’s child. Justice requires that innocent life be protected, and this unborn child is unquestionably an innocent bystander, if not a second victim, of the attack.
Yet, about ten years ago, some pro-life organizations began to encourage state legislatures to pass laws that allowed an exception for rape and incest. Their reasoning was simply pragmatic. The numbers of rape and incest abortions each year are relatively small, 1% or less of the total. Let’s write a law that the public will accept, the thinking went, and save 99% of the babies. That will give a platform to build on, and with further education, over coming years, we can come back for the rest. At debates, pro-choicers who brought up the 12-year-old incest victim would sometimes be stymied when their bluff was called: “Okay, if I agreed to let rape and incest abortions remain legal, would you agree to outlaw all the rest?”
Other pro-lifers objected vehemently to this strategy. You’re abdicating the very principle of the sacredness of human life, they charged; you’re creating a category of “second-class babies.” Visitors to the annual March for Life in Washington will no doubt recall that the theme almost every year reflected such a “No Compromises!” position. Advocates on this side would insist that such a concession dynamited the very foundation of the movement. They refused to be party to anything that would leave any baby behind. We can’t “come back” for the rape and incest babies later, they noted wryly. They won’t be there. They’ll be dead.
Those advocating what was called “the incremental approach” found this response unrealistic and frustrating. “Do you mean you’d let 99 children die in a burning building, just because you couldn’t get all 100 out?” was a frequent question. For several years this debate produced heated words almost any time pro-life leaders gathered, and led to no philosophical resolution.
Eventually, however, there was a practical resolution. Though a few states did pass versions of the “incremental” law, the Supreme Court soon made it clear that any such law was flatly unacceptable — exceptions or no exceptions. No prohibition of any abortion, under any circumstances, was allowed. The point was moot.
Thus in recent years there have been no pro-life attempts to outlaw abortion generally, either with or without exceptions. The attempt, in thirty states, to prohibit only one particularly gruesome method of late-term abortion, was recently ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The only other initiatives have been narrowly crafted to hold clinics to safety standards or to ensure women are fully informed, to give parents a say in a teen’s abortion or to require a waiting period for reflection. None of these laws prohibit any abortion; they regulate it, like state liquor laws regulate sale of alcohol, without prohibiting anyone who can read the sign outside the store from buying as much booze as he wants. As such, these laws could end up backfiring on the pro-lifers who worked so hard for them. They may give the public the impression that, like liquor sales, abortion is now safe and tidy and reasonably regulated. Since pro-lifers fought for these laws, citizens may feel they should now politely go away. Pro-lifers got some of the pie and the pro-choicers got some, they might conclude, so everyone should be happy.
There isn’t much political application to the discussion of rape and incest abortion, when all abortions are absolutely legal. Yet the emotional, spiritual, and philosophical discussion continues. While it looks at first glance as if rushing victims of violence to an abortion clinic is the greatest kindness, when we listen to them we learn that it is not at all what they want. What they want is surprising, but most of all it includes not inflicting violence on another person.
“The victim may sense, at least at a subconscious level, that if she can get through the pregnancy she will have conquered the rape,” Reardon writes. “By giving birth, she can reclaim some of her lost self-esteem. Giving birth, especially when conception was not desired, is a totally selfless act, a generous act, a display of courage, strength, and honor. It is proof that she is better than the rapist. When he was selfish, she can be generous. While he destroyed, he can nurture.”
Perhaps the most poignant passages in “Victims and Victors” are from the testimonies of women who did instead what most Americans assume they should, and aborted their abuse-conceived children. The next time you hear Fluster express his “compassionate” views, think of these words from Patricia Ryan:
“[Abortion] only compounds the trauma and pain of rape and incest. I was an innocent victim of a horrible crime. I was not to blame for what the rapist did to me. But in choosing to abort, to kill the innocent child growing within me, I lowered myself to the level of the rapist. I too committed a crime against a defenseless baby who had done nothing wrong, who was also a victim of the rapist. That child may have been fathered by a criminal, but I was the mother, and I killed a part of myself when I had the abortion. It only compounded my pain; it didn’t solve a thing.”
Published in Citizen Magazine October 2000.
NOTE: The following article is excerpted from Studies in the History of Religions XIXXX:317-351.
- “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…
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
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.”
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
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.”
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
- Dan Horia MAZILU, Law and Sacrilege in the Old Romanian Society, Iaşi: Polirom, 2006, pp. 394-397.
- Michel FOUCAULT, Istoria sexualităţii [The History of Sexuality], Romanian translation by B. Stanciu and A. Onete, Vest Publishing House, Timisoara, 1995, p. 48.
- 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.
- 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).
- Folclor vechi românesc (Old Romanian Folklore), edition, preface, notes and bibliography by C. Ciuchindel, Bucharest: Minerva, 1990, p. 246.
- Octav ȘULUȚIU, Ambigen [Ambigenous], novel illustrated with etchings by I. Anestin, Bucharest: Vremea, 1935, p. 26.
- Nicoleta ROMAN, „Deznădăjduită muiere n-au fost ca mine”. Femei, onoare şi păcat în Valahia secolului al XIX-lea, Bucharest: Humanitas, 2016, p. 37.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dan Horia MAZILU, op. cit., 2006, p. 422.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bernard FAURE, Sexualités bouddhiques: Entre désirs et réalités, Paris, Flammarion, 2005, pp. 71 sq.
- Vasile Alecsandri, Poezii populare ale românilor (Folk Poems of The Romanians), preface and bibliography by Stancu Ilin, Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1982, p.228.
- 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.
- G. Dem. TEODORESCU, Viaţa şi operile lui Eufrosin Poteca (cu câteva din scrierile’i inedite), Academy Press, Bucharest, 1883.
- 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).
- Vasile Alecsandri, Poezii populare ale românilor (Folk Poems of The Romanians), preface and bibliography by Stancu Ilin, Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1982, p.228.
- Iordache GOLESCU, Scrieri alese [Selected Writings], edition by Mihai Moraru, Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 1990, p. 193.
- 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.
- Gustave FLAUBERT, Ispitirea Sfântului Anton [The Temptation of St. Anthony], Romanian translation by Mihai Murgu, preface by Irina Mavrodin, Bucharest: Univers, 1977, p. 68.
- 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.
- Liviu REBREANU, Adam şi Eva, edition supervised by Niculae Gheran, preface by Ion Simut, Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1998, p. 173.
- 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).
- 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.
- Iordache GOLESCU, Scrieri alese [Selected Writings], edition by Mihai Moraru, Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 1990, p. 170.
- G. SION, Suvenire contimpurane [Contemporary Memories], complete edition, Iaşi: Polirom, 2014, p. 372.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tudor ARGHEZI, Cuvinte potrivite [Fitting Words], preface by Liviu Papadima, anthology by Mitzura Arghezi and Traian Radu, Bucharest: Minerva, 1990, p. 13 (our translation).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Robert DRAPER, “Chemarea muntelui sfânt” [The Call of the Sacred Mountain], National Geographic Romanian edition, December 2009, p. 104 (our translation).
- 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).
- IBID., p. 188 (our translation).
- 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).
- See Chap. 27, “The Boyar’s ‘Right’ over Gypsy Women Slaves” in Andrei OIȘTEANU, Sexuality and Society. History, Religion and Literature, Iași: Polirom, 2016.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Constantin NEGRUZZI, Păcatele tinereţilor [The Sins of Youth], Iaşi: Adolf Bermann, 1857, pp. 271-285.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- Vasile Voiculescu, Capul de zimbru, Povestiri, (The Aurochs Head, Stories) vol. I, Edited bby Victor Iova, Cartea Românească Publishing House, Bucharest, 1982, p. 147.
- 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.
- 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).
- Iordache GOLESCU, Scrieri alese [Selected Writings], edition by Mihai Moraru, Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 1990, pp. 166, 176.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
NOTE: This article is taken from the Sunday Typos, June 10, 2001. It was written to refute Monk Michael’s accusations. Dr. Gregoriou is a Neurologist-Psychiatrist and director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital.1 In this article, Dr. Gregoriou validates Monk Michael’s claim that there are Hagiorite monks who have mental disorders, see psychiatrists, and take psychiatric drugs.
I was motivated to write this article when I read the Monk Michael Hatziantoniou’s interview with the journalist Peter Papavasileios (see the magazine “E” in the Sunday Eleftherotypia, April 22, 2001).
The reason I thought of myself to be a “substantive qualifier” is that I’ve practised psychiatry for 20 years. For the past 12 years, I’ve been the Director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital in whose jurisdiction Mount Athos falls in terms of health coverage.
With my position, I know very well the question under dispute (the use of psychiatric drugs on Mount Athos). Moreover, the fact that I have regularly visited Mount Athos since 1974 (I was then a graduate student at the Medical School of Athens University) permits me to know the people and things of the area quite well.
Firstly, why did the news use the pompous title with the exclamation that “They Take Psychiatric Drugs on Mount Athos?” For a prudent and impartial reader, it has the same “originality” as “They take antibiotics or antihypertensive or anti-rheumatic medications on Mount Athos.” Psychiatric drugs are also medications that relieve and help the people who need them. I don’t understand why particularly on Mount Athos the mentally ill should not take psychotropic drugs. Is it not a shame to be excluded from the therapeutic means of modern medical science?
Fr. Michael rents his garments: “I cannot bear this situation,” he says. He maintains that anyone can cure their mental symptoms with personal effort. Something that is heard daily amongst the ignorant: “Banish your anxiety, pull the sadness from your soul, throw it out,” etc. Similar views proceed either from ignorance or out of some unconscious fear against mental illness and psychotropic drugs. If such counsels were effective then the existence of our psychiatrists would probably have been unnecessary.
Another “scandalous revelation” Fr. Michael makes—that Hagiorites are visiting psychiatrists—pertains to the same spirit! But are we psychiatrists such defiled beings that all sensible and virtuous people must avoid us “so as not to be defiled?” The fact that Hagiorites visit psychiatrists constitutes an occasion of praise, not reproach. If they didn’t visit psychiatrists then they should be accused of medievalism and criminal omission.2
I stress here that the attitude of some religious people—even spiritual fathers—who claim that anyone who lives in God should never resort to psychiatrists or psychotropic drugs is, in every respect, incorrect.3 They believe that psychiatrists wrongly assume responsibilities that belong exclusively to God and the spiritual father. The Hagiorite monks, following the vibrant spiritual tradition, avoid such absolutes. They recognize the difference between mental and spiritual problems. Like all other diseases, they consider mental illnesses result from defects and the corruption of post-Fall man. They do not identify mental illnesses with outside demonic influences. The respect of the Hagiorites towards the proper use of its results is an example of wisdom and ampleness of spirit.
If I understood correctly, Fr. Michael implies amongst his contradictions that the way of life imposed upon the monks (militarization) is what causes psychiatric problems. He also insinuates that some Hagiorites (I wonder what percentage?) who regretted becoming monks were trapped in the system and because they were prevented from leaving the monastery occasionally they killed themselves or set themselves on fire.4 Then the abbots, in order to deter their escape from Mount Athos, issue them psychotropic drugs to bend their will and make them thoughtless, subservient zombies! Yet, Fr. Michael doesn’t complain that he had such a treatment when he decided to abandon his monastery. Contrary to what one not acquainted with such things might imagine, the way of life on the Holy Mountain is not disease producing but rather psychotherapeutic.
The reference to famous boxes with mysterious contents is naive at the very least. The monasteries obtain their drugs from pharmacies, usually from Thessaloniki, because they don’t operate a pharmacy on Mount Athos. The medication orders for the needs of 80-100 people (with a large percentage of elderly) for a period of one or two months apparently have some volume and should be packed well in “boxes” to reach their destination safely. Usually, these boxes contain drugs of every kind and a portion of them are psychotropic drugs. Let he who doubts ask any pharmacy serving a population of 2,000 residents and let him learn what the current monthly consumption of psychotropic drugs is and a percentage of all drugs, but also an absolute number inserted in boxes and let him calculate their approximate volume. It should be taken into consideration that a significant portion of these drugs are consumed for the extraordinary needs of the numerous visitors as well as the hundreds of laymen who work on the Mountain.5
Mount Athos is also entitled to have its mentally ill. It would be very unnatural if they didn’t exist since the percentage of those in the adult population who exhibit mental disorders at any given time has been estimated at around 15% for residents in the Western hemisphere.
Besides, as we know, one does not require a bill of health to become a monk, nor is a monk expelled from his monastery when some serious illness appears.6 Mount Athos is not an unrealistic place, nor does it aspire to present an outward image of an “elite” community, like the “caste” of Eastern religions or Gnostics or whatever else. The Athonite State, Panagia’s Garden, is an open space, social and genuinely human; a struggling society journeying towards God. The sick have their place and even honour in such a community! Where else would the remaining healthy monks show their love, patience and ministry if not to those who are beside them even if they happen to be sick?
I cannot tolerate that Fr. Michael—the author of the article—professes the popular unscientific opinions: “Don’t go to the crazy doctor, he will make you completely crazy and you will be stigmatized for life!” Or, “Don’t take psychiatric medicine, they’re narcotics, you’ll become dependent and you’ll be rendered a vegetable!” Such positions need no response, this would be futile.7
As a doctor, my ascertainment is that the mentally ill on Mount Athos are treated more correctly, more scientifically and more effectively than whatever in the outside world.8 The monastic family surround the suffering brother with much care, love and tolerance and spare neither expense nor labor to ensure the best possible treatment and aid.9 He is provided a treatment rarely seen in today’s society, with respect to mental illness, the suffering monk’s soul and his dignity—a treatment that preserves the patient’s self-esteem.10 It should be made clear that in no way is an incompetent person involved in the treatment process. They follow the indication on the medication from the specialist physician, which is prescribed under the responsibility of the rural clinic in Karyes. Also, the administration of drugs and the assessment of the patient’s clinical progress are not made by upstart monks. Most of the monasteries have at least one or more doctor-monks with extensive experience who have impressed me with their scientific competence and awareness.11 The long existing journey of mentally ill Athonite monks is many times better than those who have mental illnesses in the world, where human dignity is trivialized with confinement in psychiatric asylums or the taunts of their fellow villagers.12
Fr. Michael’s inappropriate parallelism of Bedouin doped out on hashish and the Athonite monks is an unfortunate verbal exaggeration.13 It might have been worthwhile before the interview was published to have a psychiatrist (of a trusted newspaper) examine the text and question whether Fr. Michael’s allegations have any scientific standing. I am certain that he would have agreed with me that the anti-psychiatry opinions usually belong to uneducated people.14
Regarding Fr. Michael’s “showcase” allegation, Mount Athos does not claim to be a society of perfect men.15 Moreover, he stresses in the last paragraph of the interview (essentially negating everything previous): “The majority of monks are very nice guys! The love, they look at you with clean eyes. I speak for the majority because there are certainly a very small number of monks who have a pure heart…” If this is the case then what is with all the scandal-mongering throughout the rest of the interview? He did not clarify for us from the start of the interview that he was only speaking about a few exceptions! He allowed us to believe that this is the picture of Mount Athos in general. According to Fr. Michael, what is the real and representative showcase of Mount Athos? The 5-10 likeable mentally ill patients, 5-10 unruly monks and the one monk who set himself on fire? Do we not wrong the 2000 struggling monks who live imperceptibly with ascesis, a pure life and hard work, and are happy and normal?16
We were distressed in seeing the exceptions generalized. The error of one was aggrandized and expressed while the virtue of the many was hushed up. The Hagiorites know this and it is natural and imperative for them to take precautions. We accuse them of hypocrisy because they protect themselves? What family would voluntarily surrender the proclamation of their son or daughter’s deviation to public vilification and shaming? By protecting the reputation of the person who erred, as well as the family’s reputation, from the sneer of the voracious publicity, we hope to heal the wounds. Otherwise, “the last error becomes worse than the first.” Mount Athos is a community of true love where the erring sinners are neither ostracized nor pilloried or stoned.17 They are consoled and covered as suffering brothers and they are “economized” with sympathy and spiritual treatment so they are induced to “repentance and come to salvation.”
Fr. Michael’s interview saddened me. He light-heartedly accuses holy people—humble and obscure to the general public—but accomplished in the heart of whoever knew those who apparently “raised themselves as charismatic figures” to captivate souls! It is a shame for a monk to offer his brothers and fathers as victims to the Moloch of publicity in exchange for the silver pieces and the honorary title of “debunker” and “whistle-blower” who apparently tells everything out right. The monastic life starts out with promises of obedience, humility, and devotion to the brotherhood. Self-projection and self-complacency are not included in these promises. In searching for the deeper “why”, I would say that Fr. Michael’s position against the Holy Mountain, in a psychodynamic interpretation, serves as a personal apology.18
Finally, I want to reassure and cheer up those who were perhaps troubled by reading the publication of “E”. No! The Mountain is not a “concentration camp,” nor some “mental hospital” for dissidents.19 The Kassandres and those appearing as benevolent dirge singers have no place here!20 Mount Athos did not lose the “rota”, it is not sinking! The Holy Mountain continues to sail correctly as it has for centuries. For over a thousand years, the rowers stand vigilant night and day at their oar. The Captain—the Lady of the Mount—holds the steering wheel firmly and the compass firmly shows God’s Kingdom. It is not shipwrecked and it collects castaways!
- A google search of Dr. Grigoriou’s name in Greek only produces results in connection to this article. There is no photo, articles or a record of him anywhere in Greece other than in relation to this article. Other doctors with the same name do not have the same credentials as listed here. There is a Dr. Panagiotis Dimitrios Grigoriou in the UK, GMC # 7015533. His primary medical qualification is listed as Ptychio Iatrikes 2006 National Capodistrian University of Athens and he is obviously not the same person as the author of this article.
- According to the contemporary spiritual fathers of Greece, all neuroses stem from the guilt of unconfessed sins. The monastery is a hospital where the sick go to be healed. However, if daily confession and revelation of thoughts, combined with frequent Holy Communion and the Jesus Prayer isn’t helping the monk, will a psychiatrist be able to help the individual monk more than his own spiritual father? Hierotheos Vlachos writes, “Orthodoxy is mainly a therapeutic science and treatment. It differs clearly from other psychiatric methods, because it is not anthropocentric and because it does not do its work with human methods, but with the help and energy of divine grace, essentially through the synergy of divine and human volition… I know that the term `psychotherapy’ is almost modern and is used by many psychiatrists to indicate the method which they follow for curing neurotics. But since many psychiatrists do not know the Church’s teaching or do not wish to apply it, and since their anthropology is very different from the anthropology and soteriology of the Fathers, in using the term `psychotherapy’, I have not made use of their views. It would have been very easy at some points to set out their views, some of which agree with the teaching of the Fathers and others of which are in conflict with it, and to make the necessary comments, but I did not wish to do that. I thought that it would be better to follow the teaching of the Church through the Fathers without mingling them together. Therefore I have prefixed the word `Orthodox’ to the word `Psychotherapy’ (healing of the soul), to make the title “Orthodox Psychotherapy”. It could also have been formulated as “Orthodox Therapeutic Treatment”.(Orthodox Psychotherapy, Introduction)
- Most contemporary spiritual fathers are not against their spiritual children going to psychiatrists and, in certain cases, taking psychotropics. See http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/11/elder-epiphanios-theodoropoulos-on_11.html However, some spiritual fathers do not agree with monastics seeing psychiatrists or taking psychotropic drugs.
- It is amazing that Dr. Grigoriou, with all his experience, is unaware of the vast amount of research in his field on the subject of blind obedience, authoritarianism, cult-like mentalities, and the emotional and psychological abuse that exist in such oppressive atmospheres. Evidence shows that these things lead to neuroses, PTSD, and various other mental illnesses. Studies on the emotional and psychological effects of confinement and feeling trapped are also in abundance.
- Dr. Grigoriou does not clarify if these medications are administered to laymen by monastics that are licensed professionals, or if these professionals have up-to-date training.
- This statement is not true, at least for the monasteries under Geronda Ephraim. There are numerous stories in circulation about the numerous monastics Geronda Ephraim sent packing on Mount Athos. The reasons ranged from not doing obedience, causing to many scandals, becoming a danger to themselves or others, homosexual incidents, or just so deluded that something really bad could have happened if they were allowed to stay. Geronda Ephraim has also sent a number of novices home from Arizona for various issues. As for prerequisites, homosexuals are generally not allowed to become monks. Geronda Ephraim has said it’s like inviting the devil into your monastery, and without going into specifics, he has hinted at the damage such men have caused in monasteries on Mount Athos. Also, people with mental illnesses are gently discouraged from becoming monastics in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries and are usually told it would be better for them to remain and struggle in the world.
- Monk Michael did not say those things in his interview. Perhaps Dr. Grigoriou heard read them in some of his other writings?
- As a layman who visits the monasteries and witnesses the front stage behavior—without actually living in a monastery or being a monk and witnessing the back stage behavior—Dr. Grigoriou is not in a position to make such a catch all statement. Monastics who make statements like this usually have a PR agenda.
- Sick monks—either physically or mentally—have all had their own experiences of neglect from their brother monastics. One who has to stay in his cell may be forgotten and not have meals brought to him, or the person who tends to them may get caught up in another obedience and not show up to help, etc, in some cases remaining in a dirty diaper for a day or so before his monk-attendant comes to change his diaper and bathe him. A monastic suffering from some ailment may not be able to go to a doctor for a long period of time due to whatever circumstances, thus prolonging the suffering. At other times, the Geronda may say do patience and one has to endure. Again, one may have been given specific instructions for recovery and the Geronda will cut it short, saying it’s not necessary, you’re fine and you have to work, now go.
- Again, Dr. Grigoriou is trying to paint an unrealistic utopia experience for ailing monks. Fr. Makarios of St. Anthony’s Monastery, AZ is a perfect example of how this is not always true. After he received his head injury and remained in a somewhat vegetative state, it put a strain on the brotherhood. Some of the younger monks giggled and mocked some of his newly acquired idiosyncrasies, especially during the services when he would stand up abruptly and say insensible things or pass wind in church throughout the night. Initially, Geronda said, “What use is he now? He has the mind of a baby,” and wanted to send him home. However, he did not send him away because he felt obliged to keep him (Fr. Makarios’ father is a priest who helps out at Geronda Ephraim’s nunneries). Of course, there was economia given to him due to his mental incapacitation but not all his brother monks had patience and understanding towards him. The reality in a monastery is once you start losing your usefulness you are made to feel like a burden. Woe unto those who get old and have nothing to contribute to the monastery; even more so if they need to take other monastics from more useful jobs to help them in their daily routine.
- In many of the monasteries, the doctor monastics do not keep up-to-date with their training. Thus, many times one finds a doctor with an outdated degree. Of course, the basics don’t change much but would you trust going to a doctor who graduated from university in say 1990, never had a practice, and has not kept up-to-date on his training or the new breakthroughs in science and medicine nor had his license renewed?
- Again, this is a far stretch of a statement. A perfect example would be the monasteries here in North America where fat-shaming is quite common among the monastics. The following information is not written to center anyone out or further fat shame individuals, but to point out that these things happen in the monasteries just as they do in the world. Furthermore, there is a complex link between obesity and mental illness and fat shaming is a method of stigmatizing. In the beginning, Fr. Germanos was constantly the brunt of jokes and taunts about his weight (both to his face and behind his back). In the mid-90’s, when Fr. Germanos was visiting Archangels Monastery in Texas, Geronda Dositheos walked up to him and said, “Do you know what we use to do to fat kids in school?” and he bumped his stomach into Fr. Germanos’ stomach. Also in the mid-late 90s, while Fr. Germanos was looking for property in New York, Geronda Ephraim gave many homilies to the Fathers in Arizona. In a couple of homilies, he’d joke about Fr. Germanos with his cheeks puffed, arms outstretched indicating fat, and wobble his body back and forth. All the Fathers would break out in laughter at this display. Though Fr. Germanos was not present for these homilies, he’d hear his brothers laughing and mocking him years later when these cassettes were digitalized and all the monasteries were given the DVDs. Another time, Fr. Germanos had forgot to erase his data from the treadmill they bought for the monastery. Fr. Kassianos, Fr. Michael and Fr. Kosmas had to move it from the living room up to the attic to make room for pilgrims and read the data which included his weight. These monks then joked about it and revealed to the other fathers, including Geronda, how much Fr. Germanos weighed. As time went on, stress-eating and high dessert diets increased in the other monasteries and the other superiors and second-in-commands also started to increase in weight and size; many hitting the 300lb + mark. As the other monastics’ weights increased, the teasing of Fr. Germanos decreased. Once, when the subject of how much weight all the abbots have been gaining came up, Fr. Germanos said jokingly, “It’s because you all judged me.” Taunts and shaming exist in the monasteries and neither the physically deformed, the handicapped or mentally ill are spared. Of course, those who become offended are given this explanation, “We do it out of love, not malice.” But in what universe can this be considered monastic, let alone Christian conduct? Sarcasm, contempt and mockery are not indications of brotherly love nor the presence of the Holy Spirit.
- It’s not a far stretch. For example, when Fr. Gergory was a hieromonk at St. Anthony’s Monastery, he drank skullcap, St. John’s Wort, and various other nerve relaxant teas around the clock. And he walked around like he was zoned out and doped up. Other monastics that have a blessing for sleeping pills or herbal remedies to help them sleep also have similar demeanors. The monastics who have a blessing to take Lorazepam for anxiety attacks, panic or stress also have similar doped out demeanors. However, the monastics who take antihistamines with pseudoephedrine are a little more alert and tweaked out (though in some monasteries the use of allergy medicine with pseudoephedrine is no longer blessed. This is because some monastics were abusing the medicine and taking it even when they had no allergy symptoms).
- Dr. Grigoriou opens his article with his credentials, familiarity with Mount Athos and the fact that there are Hagiorite monks on psychotropic drugs. These things, he states, make him a “substantive qualifier” to address Monk Michael’s interview. Now, Dr. Grigoriou suggests any psychiatrist is quite capable of analyzing the subject. Someone in Dr. Grigoriou’s position must be aware that many Greek psychiatrists are atheists and have biases and predispositions against Christianity, especially the monastic life.
- The deeper issue is when the showcase and external image of a monastery become more important than the individual monastics. How often does the showcase image lead to harm (either of a monastic or a laymen)? To what lengths will a monastery go—lying, perjury, gaslighting, cover-ups—what illegal activities will it commit, to ensure that its image remains spotless? And how do these methods damage individuals?
- This is a classic example of monastic minimization of serious issues. Not to mention, Dr. Grigoriou is actually stigmatizing the mentally ill by indirectly calling them “abnormal,” when he states that the other monks are “happy and normal.”
- Ostracizing does occur in monasteries. This usually happens when a monastic is not doing obedience or toeing the line. Many times, the superior may instruct the members of the brotherhood to ignore this individual, do not talk to him/her, walk away if this individual tries talking to you, etc. Ostracizing also occurs when one is punished in the Lity or given only rusks or one piece of fruit for a meal while everyone else has a full meal. Ostracizing erring monastics is suggested as an instructional technique by St. Basil the Great, St. John of the Ladder and many other Church Fathers.
- This resembles a spiritual father’s reproach to his spiritual child; the wording is attempted to instill guilt. The author is playing the Judas card; a classic amongst the Elders. A similar tactic was used in the HOCNA circles when former monastics started revealing the homosexual abuses perpetrated by their Geronda, Fr. Panteleimon Metropoulos. Ad hominen and straw man attacks and arguments were used against the former monastics that were sexually abused and raped. Gaslighting and dismissing them as deluded liars and Judas traitors was a common tactic used. In the last century, similar methods were used in other Orthodox scandal stories against the accusers/ whistle-blowers. In many of these situations, it eventually came to light that the accused were guilty and they ended up in prison or defrocked.
- The island of Amoulianni, off the northwest coast of Athos, was once said to be run like a sort of ‘concentration camp’ for naughty monks. (See Ralph H. Brewster, The 6,000 Beards of Athos, 1935, p. 26). Up to early 1900s, Ammouliani was a dependency of Vatopedi Monasteryof Mount Athos. In 1925, the island was given in the refugees’ families who had come from islands of Propontis (Marmaras Sea), after Asia Minor Disaster. The population of the island was developed quickly and today the island has over 500 residents. Nowadays Ammouliani is a touristic place with frequent transportation with the opposite coast.
- The Cassandra metaphor(variously labelled the Cassandra ‘syndrome’, ‘complex’, ‘phenomenon’, ‘predicament’, ‘dilemma’, or ‘curse’) occurs when valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved. The Cassandra metaphor is applied by some psychologists to individuals who experience physical and emotional suffering as a result of distressing personal perceptions, and who are disbelieved when they attempt to share the cause of their suffering with others. In 1963, psychologist Melanie Klein provided an interpretation of Cassandra as representing the human moral conscience whose main task is to issue warnings. Cassandra as moral conscience, “predicts ill to come and warns that punishment will follow and grief arise.” Cassandra’s need to point out moral infringements and subsequent social consequences is driven by what Klein calls “the destructive influences of the cruel super-ego,” which is represented in the Greek myth by the god Apollo, Cassandra’s overlord and persecutor. Klein’s use of the metaphor centers on the moral nature of certain predictions, which tends to evoke in others “a refusal to believe what at the same time they know to be true, and expresses the universal tendency toward denial, [with] denial being a potent defence against persecutory anxiety and guilt.” (See Klein, M., Envy and Gratitude- And Other Works 1946–1963)
Fr. George, a married priest, was given permission by the Church to have marital relations with his wife, Mary. The ecclesiastical canons are clear about forbidding marital relations on fast days, the night before partaking of Holy Communion, and during menstruation cycles. As a spiritual child of Elder Ephraim, Fr. George would’ve also abstained on feast days of the Theotokos, etc. Some priests also undergo a cleansing fast before performing certain functions; such as exorcisms, or when they are focused on praying for specific people, or for specific things. It stands to reason that they’d be abstinent for more significant periods of time then a lay person would. The limitations imposed on married couples allows less than 150 days a year in which they’re “allowed” to have approved sexual relations with their spouse. Ecclesiastic canons only permit married couples to have penile/vaginal relations, with the heavy promise of communion loss for the forbidden acts of oral, anal, or digital stimulation.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, clerical celibacy was never imposed on orthodox priests living in the world. Although Orthodoxy doesn’t have a rampant pedophilia problem with its clergymen throughout the world, there are numerous examples of extramarital affairs and/or fornication outside the blessing of marriage, both heterosexual and homosexual.
As a disciple of Geronda Ephraim, Fr. George would’ve been instructed to stop having marital relations with his Presvytera when they decided to not have any more children; i.e. sexual relations are only for procreation not for pleasure. Thus, Geronda Ephraim would’ve “suggested” (code word for do obedience because any other action will not be blessed by God) to Fr. George and his Presvytera not to remain chaste after their fourth child. Geronda Ephraim would have enjoined “suggested” that the two live as brother and sister so they could focus more on their spiritual life rather than carnal desires. Thus, in theory, Fr. George would’ve been celibate for many years before this affair was exposed. Only God and Geronda Ephraim know if this was Fr. George’s first round of extramarital experimentation.
If they were true believers who followed orders without question, Fr. George and Presvytera Mary would have lived an abstemious life from as early as the late 80’s.
Over the years, Fr. George became well known within the Greek Orthodox community (especially among Geronda Ephraim’s disciples) for being an especially pious, spiritually minded, humble priest with a traditional nature. He was spoken of with reverence, about his sanctity, and his holiness. The faithful of New York loved his fiery sermons. He seemed to stand out among the other local clergymen. He had a beard, long hair, wore the rassa in public, etc. This isn’t very common among other local priests who are clean shaven, wear a white collar like the Catholics, and only wear their rassas if performing a priestly function. Many New York priests are given a rassa to wear when visiting Elder Ephraim’s monasteries because it’s the dress code as well as adherence to the canons. One can usually spot the clergymen who are the Elder’s spiritual children by how traditional their outer appearance is.
Was that all just a facade? Was there substance to his piety, or was it all just a carefully constructed persona?
The devotees of Geronda Ephraim were indoctrinated with the piety and spirituality of Fr George, which brings into question whether people actually believed in the man, or because they had imposed upon them an ideal that Geronda Ephraim carefully constructed through his counsel?
In May, 1997, Fr George was appointed Chancellor of the GOA, and he became very valuable to Elder Ephraim in this position because he had a steady source of “insider information”. In the spring of ’97, Fr. George was able to facilitate the “great escape” of St. John the Theologian Greek Orthodox Monastery in Picton, ON from under Metropolitan Sotirios’ nose [this brotherhood is now St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY].
Also, during this time, he and Presvtera would have been “living as brother and sister.” It seems ironic, considering the content of the video proofs that have recently come to light, that it was Fr. George that pushed for the writing of the Orthodox Church’s new, stricter policies on sexual misconduct, when he was on staff at the Archdiocese).
This is by no means an uncommon human characteristic (particularly in religious figures/leaders), as those who speak out vehemently against homosexuality, often hide the fact that they themselves are homosexual from the world, those who condemn those who indulge in sexual perversion, to be closeted perverts themselves.
As Elder Ephraim says, “Where virtue is much spoke of, it is usually absent.”
Passias was Ethel’s spiritual father and had actually baptized her into the orthodox faith just before her wedding to Tom Bouzalas in the late 90’s (around the time he started pushing for those stricter sexual misconduct policies). The Passias and Ethel had been having an affair for years. According to an article in GQ:
“In one scene, the bearded cleric, wearing only a white T-shirt, watches his long-haired brunette lover plant her thong-clad bottom on a piece of banana bread wrapped in cellophane. Bouzalas, wearing stiletto heels, oddly wiggles on the loaf until it is flattened — apparently a fetish known as “cake crush” or “cake sitting…In another video clip, the pretty Peruvian rubs her feet on the priest’s face as they lie under a mirrored ceiling and she records his ecstasy at the encounter. In another tape, the priest performs oral sex on his lover while she is still clad in sheer pantyhose”.
Living a celibate life in the world, whilst hearing confessions about other people’s desires, carnal sins, and the kinks and fetishes they indulged in, must have fanned the flames of his own passions. Only Fr. George knows how his perversions progressed to the point that he felt he had to act on them, and while many theories could be put forth, only he knows how he set himself upon that path. The Science Behind Your Sex Fetish – Shape Magazine
Both pilgrims and monastics are taught in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries that the relationship between a spiritual Father and his spiritual Child is a deep, meaningful bond, both stronger and more important than the parent/child bond that exists in biological families.
Because Father George baptized Ethel, and took on this divine responsibility, the depravity of his acts should be viewed as the corrupt acts that they are. In essence, the sexual relationship that they shared together is the spiritual equivalent of a parent having incestuous relations with their child; this affair constituted spiritual and physical incest.
To read about the Orthodox Church’s teaching about spiritual fathers, as well as on the inappropriate types of relationships/marriages it prohibits, see: Spiritual Paternity and Prohibited Marriages in the Orthodox Church.
Did Fr. Ephraim know about the inappropriate relationship taking place with his Spiritual Child?
Possibly. The affair itself has been ongoing for years, and there are a couple of likely scenarios.
a) Fr. George may have been making sincere and honest confessions to his spiritual father, Geronda Ephraim, revealing in depth the ongoing adultery, fornication, and sexual deviancy he was indulging in.
b) Fr. George hasn’t had a clean and honest confession since the affair started or ever, and has been hiding both his thoughts and deeds from Geronda Ephraim.
If Fr. George was sincere in his confessions, how was it possible that Geronda Ephraim allowed him to continue as a priest, since the Canons strictly forbid a priest behaving in this way? Strategically, was it beneficial to leave the “general” at his post. Or was it a “better image” for the clergy and laymen not to have Fr. George report to his bishop and step down from the priesthood? There was a lot at stake and it would look really bad on Geronda Ephraim since, “A tree is known by the fruit it bears.”
A bit of divergence is necessary to give some background.
To protect his name, and his monasteries from possible scandal and public humiliation, Geronda Ephraim “overrides” the Canons when it suits his purpose. The devotion to Geronda Ephraim overshadows the Canons and God’s Commandments, and allows his disciples to readily accept the contradictory holy missives that he shares with them. How could one question a holy vision received during prayer?
Geronda Ephraim’s disciples believe that there is no sin in blind obedience, other then disobeying a command-even if it breaks the Canons, they fervently believe that they will not be judged or punished for doing blind obedience.
To further his missionary work, Geronda Ephraim has broken the Canons before, and in turn, the abbots and abbesses of his monasteries also follow his idiorrhythmic example.
In 1989, Rev. Fr. Eustathios Kontoravdis (d. 2009) was the driver in a car crash that killed his wife, Presvytera Kyriaki. After this tragic event, Geronda Ephraim told him that according to the Canons, he should no longer serve as a priest.
In 1984, Ioannis Voutsas (now Geronda Joseph, abbot of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY) was the driver in a car crash that killed Geronda Ephraim Koutsibo, then Abbot of Xeropotamou Monastery. Despite this seemingly canonical impediment to the priesthood, Geronda Ephraim had Ioannis Voutsas ordained to the priesthood at Philotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos.
Geronda Ephraim gave Geronda Joseph an obedience to tell people he doesn’t remember much from the accident thus enabling him to avoid conversing about it. Though Geronda Joseph is reluctant to talk about the details of this accident, over the years he has given information to various spiritual children. These details, combined with the information shared by Metropolitan Athansios of Lemesou (his best friend since his days at the University of Thessalonica who also hid Joseph from the authorities in his Athonite cell after he left the military) can be found here: Conspiracy of Silence? and Μελέτη των Δέκα Εντολών (1995-1996) and Ομιλίες Με Θέμα: Μελέτη των Μακαρισμών (1995-1996)
In the past, when things have occurred in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries which canonically requires a bishop to be informed or to absolve, Geronda Ephraim has given his own penances and “absolved” it through his koboschoini.
If Fr. George Passias did not have clean confession with Geronda Ephraim, then many more questions need to be raised.
Fr. George has been a spiritual child of Geronda Ephraim for over 30 years, and they were quite close.
“I know when you’re lying,” is a common phrase of Gerondas/Gerondissas towards their disciples. “A parent doesn’t know when their own child is lying to them?”
So, as a spiritual Father, did Geronda Ephraim know Fr. George was lying to him and hiding thoughts?
In the monasteries, the monastics are taught that Geronda Ephraim is a “knower of hearts;” he knows everything about a person from just one glance, he knows what is hidden in people’s hearts, and he can see the demons and passions that dominate an individual. In some cases, especially with carnal sins, it is said he can smell the stench of sin emitting from the individual. It is also said that when he does koboschoini for his spiritual children, he can see them, what they’re doing, feeling, thinking, etc. Geronda Ephraim’s monastics teach these things to the pilgrims who visit their monasteries.
In cases where Geronda Ephraim is surprised by events he did not foresee—i.e. monastics returning to the world unannounced, serious sins and betrayals by his monastics or long-time spiritual children, etc.—people sometimes ask, “If Geronda Ephraim is such a big prophet, how did he not know this would happen?” His disciples will quickly justify Geronda Ephraim’s ignorance with examples from the Gerontikon explaining that God does not always reveal things to His saints.
If Fr. George had been hiding his sins in confession, while the affair has been ongoing for 2+ years, that would mean every time Geronda Ephraim prayed for Fr. George (either koboschoini or proskomide), or whenever the Elder saw or spoke to Fr. George outside the exomologetarion, he must not have received any information from God about the state of Fr. George’s soul.
Alternatively, if Geronda Ephraim did receive information, he ignored the ecclesiastical canons and, in essence, blessed Fr. George to continue serving as a priest, to the detriment of both their souls.
Pilgrims are told by Geronda Ephraim’s disciples that, “Geronda Ephraim knows, however, he can’t force people to make clean confessions.” Of course, this contradicts all the stories of Geronda Ephraim revealing peoples’ hidden sins to them during confession.
There is also the possibility that Geronda Ephraim has known about Fr. George’s sexual misconduct for the last few years and has been giving him obediences to stop serving as a priest and was ignored.
We will never know, as the mystery of confession is confidential. Geronda Ephraim does share the confessions of individuals with the abbot or abbess of the monastery that these individuals visit, especially if there are serious things that the heads need to know.
In the Orthodox Church, clergymen have stricter judgments and restrictions than lay people. More is expected of them due to the grace of ordination, and when they fall, the punishments tend to be stricter than those of laypeople. Carnal sins usually lead to defrocking.
In one scene, Fr. George, wearing just a white t shirt, watches Ethel plant her thong-clad bottom on a piece of banana bread wrapped in cellophane, and then crush it with her stilettos. In the Orthodox teachings about spiritual warfare, Fr. George watching Ethel in this act would be considered sinful as he consented in his heart.
In another video clip, Ethel rubs her feet on the priest’s face as they lie under a mirrored ceiling, as she records his ecstasy at the encounter. Ethel then smothers the cake with her feet and bottom. In the kink community, there is a direct relationship between people who have foot fetishes, and those who have Pygophillia-(buttocks fetish)-it’s a safe assumption that Fr. George probably also indulged in face-sitting.
Foot smothering and ass worship are often linked, as these forms of humiliation and degradation have a lot in common, both with the physical attributes of the senses (smell, taste, touch, sight) and the psychological predispositions that drive people to these fetishes.
There’s a reason that the monasteries have male and female pilgrims wear socks and cover their feet: foot fetishes and the accompanying lust warfare that can be caused by looking at feet. Pilgrims to Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries have been told in confession that though foot fetishes and foot worship are not technically carnal sins that receive penances, they are dirty passions that should be avoided because they can open the door to even filthier passions which do carry heavy penances. Seeing that indulging in foot fetishism is pointless sexual gratification, it’s forbidden.
In another tape, Fr. George performs oral sex on Ethel while she is still clad in sheer pantyhose.
In the Orthodox Church, all forms of oral sex—fellatio, cunnilingus, and analingus—are forbidden and punished with penances starting at 2 years of no Holy Communion.
Here is a basic list of how carnal sins are punished by the Father Confessors in obedience to Geronda Ephraim (of course, this can vary from confessor to confessor depending on time, place and circumstance of the individual confessing. Also, individuals will be ordered to do extra rounds on their prayer rope to Christ and Panagia):
- Masturbation/Hand Jobs: 40 days no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
- Vaginal Intercourse Outside of Marriage: 1 year no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
- Oral Sex:2 years no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
- Anal Sex: 5-10 years no Communion, 50+ extra prostrations daily.
NOTE: The above list contains the basic penances for lay people. Monastic penances for similar sins can vary (either being less out of economia, or more because of their rank and stature). Also, this list is for heterosexual sins. These sins committed in same-sex relationships receive harsher and severe penances (i.e. lesbian cunnilingus can earn a penance of no communion for up to 10 years). For a more in depth look at ecclesiastical canons and carnal sins see There Is No Sex In The Church.
Fr. George is now 67. The evidence reveals that he has committed adultery, spiritual incest, fornication, and possibly sodomitic sins. These “multitudinous sins and shortcomings” combined with the heavy sin of continuing to serve as a priest and perform the Liturgy, will rack up a very large penance for him. Undoubtedly, Geronda Ephraim has banned him from Communion until his deathbed.
3 Years Later…
Steve Hantzarides writes, “Here’s great story of faith and inspiration. When the former priest, George Passias, left St. Spyridon in disgrace – and debt – a lot of the faithful wondered what was next for one of the most historic parishes in this country. Today, the church is restored to its original Byzantine glory, a testament to the immigrants who built it and the Greek-Americans who are still there from all across NYC. Palm Sunday saw a full house. We are excited about the future of a parish that has seen more than its fair share of difficulties. Would be great to send you pix of our beautifully restored masterpiece. ‘Behold, I make all things new again’.”
Howard Brent Rachel is a former soldier from Alabama who has, with his wife and childhood sweetheart, settled down in San Antonio where he currently works as a teacher.
Orthodox Notions of Sex in Medieval Russia
Strict interpretation of scripture, at least by the long lineage of church fathers, gave little religious significance to women. Womankind was viewed as the root of sin and women serpents to lead men from righteousness, just as Eve did to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Yet, Orthodoxy had to find some way to reconcile this attitude with God’s admonition to be fruitful and multiply. Unfortunately, this called for them to deal with the problem of sex.
Sex was the Church’s number one concern, in terms of sin, carrying heavier penances than even murder, theft, or child neglect. Women being little more than walking, talking sexual temptation, couldn’t get a break in Orthodoxy’s web of sexual philosophy. A woman’s period was, at the same time, both proof that she had failed to conceive -further defiling any sexual activities that might have occurred–, and a glaring reminder of how a man had to defile himself in order to obey God’s command to multiply. Further, a woman could not even enter a church while she was experiencing her period. The number of times a woman attended church on Sundays in a given month were noted, and coming four Sundays in a row was proof of transgression, and brought with it heavy penance. Such penance could be up to 3 years denial of the sacraments, especially if it were proved that she had taken communion. Contemporary accounts, surely trumped up to scare women into line, had God turning one poor woman into a horse for taking communion during her cycle, and another stuck by lightening for inadvertently walking over the grave of a saint while thus ‘unclean.’ Though nothing further is known of the horse, the latter woman later repented and was cured of her period.
Orthodox writings decried the physical union of man with woman as base and squalid, even in marriage. Sex was for the sole purpose of procreation, and that only because of Eve’s folly. St John Chrysostom, one of the most famous philosophers of Orthodoxy, explained that it was actually the Word of God that provided the divine magic of procreation, and that had Eve not led to mankind’s ejection from Eden, some other, less base, way of procreating would have been bestowed upon them by God. Thus, though procreation was a duty, the very act that allowed it was a defilement rooted in original sin. The Church urged a celibate life for the married, with the exception of procreation. They even went so far as to discourage marriage for the sake of love, encouraging rather the opposite, that a man should not care over much for his wife, and should spend as little time with her as possible, so as not to be tempted into sin. (This despite the fact that one of the main reasons the Church cited for a man to get married in the first place, was to help prevent his fornicating or committing adultery.) The Church, in an attempt to help men abstain, dictated times when he was forbidden to engage in sexual activity: Sunday (of course), Saturdays (to prepare for Sunday), during pregnancy of partner, within 60 days of wife’s delivery, during her period, and all holy and feast days. As a final deterrent the church celebrated as examples the lives of prominent celibate couples such as Grand Prince Dmitri Donskoi, who, it is said, abstained from physical contact with his wife with the sole exceptions of those coupling which produced his children.
Sex within Marriage
Despite the Church’s cajoling, and surely to no one’s great surprise, married men and women still had sex. So, the church, not satisfied with it’s efforts merely to dissuade them, also placed restrictions on the very methodology of the act. As might be expected, the only church-accepted “mode” of sexual intercourse between a man and his wife was vaginal penetration in the missionary position, with the man ‘astride’ his wife (called “na konye”, or “astride a horse”). Everything else was considered to be illicit fornication, sodomy, or sacrificing the man’s seed to the Devil, all punishable by great penance as circumstance warranted. The dominant position of the man was of paramount religious importance. As man was made in God’s image, sex with the woman astride the man was placing the man in the more properly female, or submissive position. This was seen as shameful for the man, and thus defiled the image of God. As such, this position was considered a very grave sin, the penance for which was on par with that for adultery or incest.
Sex ‘from behind’ was punished according to the particulars of the circumstances, though fundamentally it was considered far too similar to the sexual activities of beasts of the field. Anal penetration from behind, having no procreative potential was considered sodomy and was more heavily punished than vaginal penetration from behind. In an interesting turn of circumstance, the woman was routinely assigned heavier penance for her role in activities involving anal penetration because they too closely mimicked the role the male homosexual. Vaginal penetration from behind, because it could result in procreation, was regarded as less serious. Penance would be made more or less severe according to the age of the participants, the frequency of engagement, and -for the woman- whether or not she engaged willingly or reluctantly at her husband’s urging. Penance ranged from multiple hundreds of prostrations and a lengthy fast to being denied the solace of the church for 10 or more years. It is notable that mutually agreed to anal intercourse is one of the few instances where penitence manuals mandate the same penance for both the man and the wife.
Other sexual activities within marriage seem to have been handled as lesser forms of sodomy, or in terms of wasting the reproductive effort and needlessly encouraging sexual excitement. Open-mouth kissing was never appropriate, even as foreplay and carried a mandatory two-week fast as a penance. Manual stimulation, the insertion of non-penis extremities into the vagina, and mutual masturbation were technically sodomy, but were usually punishable by a mere several weeks fasting. Oral sex, though mentioned seldom in extant penitence manuals, was considered a serious sodomy and was dealt with quite harshly, with fasts exceeding a year and possible restriction from communion. Attempting birth control or abortion was punished in a similarly strict manner, often with lengthy restriction from the Church.
Sex Outside of Marriage
Willfully engaged in, potentially-procreative sexual contact outside of marriage was termed either adultery or illicit fornication, the marital status of the woman being the defining factor. Because this behavior was willfully committed outside of wedlock, the penance was higher for both involved parties. Sodomy, a subset of illicit fornication, committed outside of wedlock carried far stricter penance due to its lack of procreative potential.
Homosexuality and beastiality were the most common forms of willful sodomy. Though not always willfully engaged in, incest brought on severe penalties, especially if through duress. These penalties, despite the duress, however, were sometimes applied to both parties. In all the above activities, penance was much higher for men who took on the submissive, or woman’s role. Beyond that, circumstances of age, frequency of engagement, and social standing could serve to increase or decrease such penance.
Adultery was defined as sexual intercourse between a woman and a man who is not her husband. Everything else was illicit fornication, regardless of the man’s marital status. As one might expect, adultery was considered far more serious, for both parties, than illicit fornication. Adultery, in some penitence manuals, carried a recommended minimum 15-year exclusion from the sacraments. There are, however, ample recorded instances of lesser penance from 2 years exclusion, accompanied with fasting and prostrations. The penalties were always more harsh for the woman, since for her there could be no mitigating circumstance, and she would inevitably be branded the instigator who tempted the otherwise pious man. If the husband knew of, and thus condoned, his wife’s adultery, he was held to be more severely guilty in the matter than the unknowing cuckold. Regardless of circumstance, anyone who died in the act of adultery was forbidden Christian burial.
Illicit fornication was virtually any other type of sex not already defined as adultery. The most common type of illicit fornication was premarital sex. Betrothed couples were discouraged from engaging in any private contact, and responsibility for this was laid upon the parents. Thus, the penance levied on the betrothed for engaging in any sexual activity before marriage was shared by those parents. This penance was not too severe, as long as it was potentially procreative, which fact tended to lend a sense of ‘naturalness’ to it. Of course sodomy was more severely punished, with the usual multipliers associated with position.
More severe was the penance for bachelors and maidens engaging in sex before marriage, with the penance often being twice as great for the maiden than the bachelor. The degree of penance for the bachelor was determined by the scandalousness of his partner. However, a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude did come into play when assigning penance to a young lad who was seen as ‘simply sewing his wild oats.’ Not so for the maiden or her partner, for deflowering a maiden, even if she was willing, was seen as rape. Further the maiden ran the risk of pregnancy, and the Orthodox Church offered her no opportunity to be ‘saved by marriage.’ Such a fallen maiden faced penance as great as 9 years cut off from the Church.., that is, if she was not immediately dispatched to a convent. Widows, as sexual partners, were treated as maidens in terms of the penance, with one notable exception: you could certainly never be accused of ‘deflowering’ a widow. In any case, the Church tended to be a bit more forgiving in cases involving widows, making them very attractive sex partners for young unattached men. Divorcees were considered to still be married, thus fornication with them was automatically considered adultery.
Sex with prostitutes and slaves carried the lightest penance, with certain exceptions. Potentially-procreative sex with a prostitute was not any more serious that simple illicit fornication with a willing partner. The fact of payment for services never seems to enter into the equation. It seemed a generally held, if little expressed, opinion that if a man was going to have sex, doing so with a prostitute was far less serious to the community’s well-being than with some other man’s wife. (This feeling, however, in no way excused sodomy.) Sex with a female slave carried the lightest penalties of all, seldom denying sacraments to either party, unless the man was married and keeping the slave right in his home. The Church recognized the difficulty a slave might have spurning the advances of her master and adjusted the penance according to whether or not her participation was willing. Women, not technically being allowed to have slaves, did not routinely face similar situations. As always, the position, the age, the frequency, and the social status of the participants often affected the penance.
Sodomy, as has been previously discussed, is a term encompassing any sexual activity that is un-natural, counter to the ‘proper order of things,’ and could never result in procreation. Sodomy included beastiality, homosexuality, heterosexual anal sex, oral sex, woman on top (in some cases), vaginal penetration from the rear (in some cases) and mutual or individual masturbation. Because this covers such a wide range, from the seemingly harmless to what was then viewed as heinous, gradations of sodomy eventually emerged.
Though still considered quite serious, masturbation was perhaps the least significant. Masturbation by men and women was treated the same for men and women in term of penance, usually calling for a week or less of fasting, according to the frequency. It was seen as inciting sexual excitement within yourself, which was evil, and usually resulted in a waste of seed. Nocturnal erections and wet dreams were viewed as instigated by the Devil, and fasting was always called for. Mutual masturbation was only a bit more serious. It could not result in childbirth, but neither was it quite actually ‘sex.’ As long as incest was not involved the penance was only a bit more severe than for regular masturbation.
Beastiality was more common in the smaller agricultural communities. Cows, pigs, and dogs were the most common ‘partners,’ though birds and reptiles were not unheard of. Because the mechanics of the matter were easier for men, it was therefore more commonly associated with them. The penance, however, was the same for men and women, with 15 years restriction from the sacraments or several years fasting being quite common. Frequency, as always was a deciding factor, with some documented cases of greater penance being assigned for sexual intercourse with mammals than was assigned for sex with yard fowl.
Canon law regarding homosexuality was the confusing product of two rival traditions. On one hand Old Testament precedent ranked male homosexual activity among the most serious of crimes. This feeling was reinforced to maintain discipline within the monastic communities of the Church. Yet the bulk of early Byzantine philosophical tradition came from the ancient Greeks who did not blanketly condemn all homosexual contact. Thus, medieval Russian Orthodoxy came to view male homosexuality as wrong not because it was evil or unnatural, but because it confused the narrowly defined gender roles inherent in Orthodox belief. As a result, the otherwise unflinchingly strict Orthodox penitential views on sex, actually made distinctions between types of male homosexual contact.
Anal intercourse between males was regarded as seriously as heterosexual adultery, carrying a similar 15-year restriction from communion. Age was the mitigating factor –young men sowing their wild seeds again- as long as it could be seen as a mere youthful experiment. Bachelors were cut a bit of slack, as well. Regardless, repercussions were even greater for the male in the submissive role, especially if the act was habitual, and much more so if he altered his appearance in any way to become more feminine. A male who thus shaved his beard would be anathematized, cut off from the church forever! In instances where an adult used a boy below the age of five, the abuser bore all the sin. If the child was greater than five, but still less than the age of majority, the parents of the child bore most of the sin for not teaching him any better.
Because mutual masturbation required neither man to assume the female role, it was viewed with more tolerance than anal intercourse, and the penance was accordingly less. Interestingly, intercrural homosexual intercourse, whereby the dominant male inserts his penis between the thighs of his partner for sex, was viewed as merely an extreme form of masturbation, despite the presence of a clearly submissive partner. The penance for this activity was typically only fifty percent greater than for simple masturbation. This is a striking departure from the norm –which commonly held the submissive as more guilty– and evidence of the strong impact of early Greek thought on Slavic Orthodoxy’s view of homosexuality. Similarly, lesbian activity was also viewed as mutual masturbation, though with slightly greater penalty than that of males. It seems from records that much lesbian experimentation and play among young women was tolerated because there was less chance to break the hymen and thus call her maidenhood into question, and it prepared them for married life without risking pregnancy.
Incest, at least according to existing records, seemed to be less a problem for the Orthodox Slavs than for their western counterparts. Though less than for adultery and anal intercourse, the penance for incest was certainly great especially if coercion was involved. Several years’ restriction from the sacraments was the price of violating medieval Russia’s laws on consanguinity. According to Orthodox canon there were four types of consanguinity: by blood, by marriage, by spiritual bond, and by adoption. Consanguinity by blood was determined by how many levels of births, called degrees, separated the two. For example: A father and his daughter were separated by one degree, the birth of that daughter. First cousins in modern reckoning were of the third degree in medieval Russia. Marriage was forbidden within the eighth degree. God-parents were considered to be spiritually related to god-children to the same degree as actual parents, unless already of another degree, or complicated by a couple being god-parents to more than one child within varying degrees of a family. For both blood-relatives and spiritual relatives, sexual activity within the eighth degree was considered incest. Relatives by marriage, or in-laws, were governed by the same definitions of consanguinity as if they were actually related, thus a man’s sister-in-law was considered of the same degree of consanguinity as the man. Restrictions against marrying relatives by marriage extended only to the sixth or seventh degree. Ignorance of pedigree was not considered a mitigating circumstance. An adoptive sibling was not within any degree of consanguinity, but the concept of adoption was considered pagan in origin, so the Church maintained its seriousness as incest despite the lack of true relation.
Sexual activity between mother and son, father and daughter, or between siblings was second in severity only after adultery. Relation between a parent and a child were often seen as the product of possession by the devil, the very idea of it being so repulsive to the medieval Russian. Penance for such incest ranged from five years fasting to 30 years without communion. Sexual activity between cousins was dealt with a bit less severely, especially as the degrees of consanguinity grew greater. As in the west, dispensation could be secured for the Princely caste.
To Keep in Mind
Having covered this dizzying array of penance for sexual activity, it is extremely important to keep certain realities in mind. Despite these Church preachings and admonitions not to marry for love, and to keep your wife at a distance, most marriages were actually made for the political or financial gain of the families involved. With our vantage point of another thousand years of history beyond that of the Orthodox medieval Russians, we can see than no church –or government, for that matter-has ever managed to check the sexual drive of it’s constituents. Indeed, despite the seeming strictness of penance called for in the cases above, it must be realized that not all of these restrictions were imposed to the same degree everywhere. The Church then, as now, was peopled with the both the free-thinking and the narrow-minded; with the understanding and with the sadistic. Medieval Russia herself was peopled, as was any place, with all manner of folk just trying to eke out a living and live a happy life by placing their faith in God and their fellow man.
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- Gilbert, Martin. Atlas of Russian History. New York: Dorset Press, 1985.
- Kollman, Nancy Shields. By Honor Bound – State and Society in Early Modern Russia. Ithaca, New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1999.
- Levin, Eve. Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700. Ithaca, New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1995.
- Martin, Janet. Medieval Russia 980-1584. Cambridge: Canbridge University Press, 1995.
- Pouncy, Carolyn Johnston (ed and trans). The Domostroi – Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible. Ithaca, New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1994.
- Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. A History of Russia (Third Edition). New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
- Resources for Ecumenical Encounter, No. 2: Toward a Protestant Understanding of Orthodoxy. New York: Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations, The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., n.d.
- Volkoff, Vladimir. Vladimir the Russian Viking. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, 1985.
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NOTE: The following article is the 6th and 7th chapters of Liber Gomorrhians (Book of Gomorrah), an 11th-Century Treatise Against Clerical Homosexual Practices:
O unheard of crime! O outrage to be mourned with a whole fountain of tears! If those who consent to the ones doing these things are to be punished with death, what torment could be thought fitting for those who commit these great evils with their spiritual children—evils to be punished with damnation? What fruitfulness can still be found in the flocks when the shepherd is so deeply sunk in the belly of the devil? Who would still remain under the rule of one who, he knew, was separated from God as an enemy? Whoever makes a mistress out of a penitent whom he had spiritually borne as a child for God subjects the servant to the iron rule of diabolical tyranny through the impurity of his flesh. If someone violates a woman whom he raised from the sacred font, is it not determined that he be deprived of communion without delay, and ordered to pass through public penance by censure of the sacred canons? For it is written: spiritual generation is greater than carnal.
Likewise it follows that the same sentence is justly inflicted both on one who has ruined a natural daughter and on one who has corrupted a spiritual daughter through a sacrilegious union, unless perhaps in this matter the quality of each crime is distinguished, since, although sinning incestuously, nevertheless, they each sinned naturally because they sinned with a woman. However, anyone who commits a sacrilege with his son is guilty of the crime of incest with a male and breaks the laws of nature. And it seems to me to be more tolerable to fall into shameful lust with an animal than a male.1 That is, one who perishes alone is judged much more lightly than one who also draws another along with himself to disastrous ruin. In fact, it is a sad situation where the ruin of one person depends in this way n the ruin of another so that while one is destroyed the other necessarily follows to death close behind.
VII. THOSE WHO CONFESS THEIR CRIMES TO THE VERY ONES WITH WHOM THEY FELL
However, that the arguments of diabolical fraud might not be hidden, I will bring into the light what was fashioned secretly in the workshop of ancient wickedness. I do not accept that this hidden thing should go on, namely, that certain ones who are filled with the poison of this crime, as if taking heart, should confess to one another to keep the knowledge of their guilt from becoming known to others. While they shame the face of men, the authors of this guilt themselves become the judges. The indiscreet indulgence which each desires to be applied to himself, he rejoices to bestow on the other through a delegated change of roles. So it happens that although they ought to be penitents for their great crimes, nonetheless their faces do not pale with fasting, nor do their bodies waste away with thinness. While the belly is in no way restrained from the immoderate reception of food, the spirit is shamefully inflamed to the ardour of habitual lust,2 with the result that the one who had shed no tears for what was committed continues to commit more seriously what should be mourned.
But is a precept of the Law that when a person is covered with leprosy he be shown to the priests (Lev. 14:2). Now, however, he is shown to the leprous rather than to the priests since the impure confess to the impure the wickedness they committed together.3 But since confession is also a manifestation, what, I ask, does he manifest who tells the listener what is known; in what way is it to be called a confession where nothing is revealed by the one making the confession except what the listener already knows? Besides, by what law, by what right can he who is bound by the social bond of the evil deed bind or loose the other? Vainly does he strive to loose another while he himself is ensnared in chains. If anyone wishes to be a guide for a blind person, it is necessary that he himself see lest he cause the one following to fall, as the voice of Truth says, “If one blind man guide another, both fall into a pit” (Luke 6:39). And again, “You see the speck in your brother’s eye, and yet miss the plank in your own. Hypocrite, remove the plank from your own eye first; then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41-42).
It is evident from these Gospel witnesses that those shrouded in the darkness of the same guilt strive in vain to recall each other to the light of penance.4 And while he is not afraid of perishing by leading another astray beyond his own powers, the one who follows does not escape the pit of present ruin along with him.
1. Perhaps an explicit contradiction of the “Second Diocesan Statute” of Theodulf of Orléans which reads, “For just as it is more abominable to mix with a mule than a male, so it is a more irrational crime to mix with a male than with a female.”
2. Elsewhere, Damian provides a detailed account of the relationship between eating and sexual arousal; see Letter 1.15 (PL 144, 230B-32A).
3.The Migne edition (PL 145, 190B-D) adds a comment to this passage, which also applies to what immediately follows, suggesting that Peter Damian is not claiming that the confessions performed by such priests are invalid. The scholion applies particularly to the statement a few sentences later, “Vainly does he strive to loose another while he himself is ensnared in chains.” The scholion is probably correct, particularly when we recall the string defense Damian made of the validity of the ministrations by simoniacal priests in his Opusc. 6.
4. Literally, “whoever is shrouded in the darkness of the same guilt strives in vain to recall another to the light of penance.”
NOTE: The following testimony contains many similarities and patterns as those experienced by novices and rassaphores under Geronta Panteleimon of Boston. Although Serbia and Massachusetts are separated by over 4,300 miles, the predation of abbots on their monastics, as well as older fathers with younger monastics, share the same trademarks. It should also be noted that stories like these [i.e. scandals, homosexual predator abbots, etc.] are utilized in some of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries as examples of why the monastics should be grateful to have Geronda Ephraim as their spiritual Father and that God called them to his monasteries; i.e. they could’ve ended up in a “problematic monastery.” These stories are usually utilized when many of the monastics are having logismoi about the monastery, administration, actions of the elder, or the heavy workload, etc. Though the stories are meant for inspiration and to help increase zeal and gratefulness, these tactics tend to be manipulative in nature.
“When it comes to homosexuality, we, who are gay, know from medical research and also from the Bible, that our orientation is not our own choice, but it is something that God has given us from the day we were born (see Matthew 19/11, 12). There are eunuchs from birth (likewise, there are those who have themselves been eunuched or eunuched by others). Unfortunately, the Church (let’s call her that way) has been trying for centuries to put into her doctrine a new homophobic god who doesn’t resemble the evangelical Jesus at all, the Son of God who loved us while we were sinners (unbelievers).
I was unfortunately one of many who were taught by the local “church” that the Lord is homophobic, and that, therefore it takes a long, hard work, pain, fasting, faith, prayers and tears to make the Lord have mercy and correct his own mistake by making us straight. The proof that God is infallible in his creation is that there are thousands and thousands of LGBT people in the world. We are not evidence of imperfection of God’s creation, but a blessing, and I realized that after I passed very difficult, painful and, I can say bloody path of self-discipline, or perhaps it is better to say, the pious self-destruction.
This is actually a small part of what I have went through in my painful Christian way, but if I wrote in more details it would be a huge book. If anyone thinks that sexuality is changeable and does not believe my testimony, let them try themself to change it and God will certainly show them it is not, I am sure. And even in the Bible itself it is not written anywhere that God has ever changed anyone’s sexual orientation, which He created, by the way.
My parents have baptized me in the Orthodox church of St. George in 1993 when I was six. However, I became a Christian ten years later, when I was 16, when for the first time I heard the gospel of Christ, whom I had believed as personal savior. The same year I began my Bible correspondence course and a daily Bible studying. I understood that salvation results from faith, but I became confused because of the Orthodox environment in which the Gospel of Christ is not preached, so I put myself in a religious, ceremonial system of my own environment. It was very upsetting to know that because I was gay I didn’t have any equal right to be a member of the church if I didn’t change my orientation, but the same church had promised me the help from God in which I really never doubted because I knew He was almighty.
When I was seventeen years old I began to fast regularly, to confess and partake in my local church. In my town, in the temple of Holy Mother of Jesus I came across a group of people who have turned me away from studying the Bible and told me to read Bishop’s Nikolai books and start studying the lessons of Holy fathers. Momentarily I dismissed my individual Bible studies as heretical, and started learning of the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. What I found in this doctrine was crystal clear, it was the teaching that salvation is possible either through straight marriage or through monasticism.
Oh, how I was suffering and wept in despair, wondering is it really possible that there was no salvation to me, even though the Bible teaches the opposite (John 3/16, 5/24, 20/31, Rome. 10/9, the first John 5 / 13, Efes. 2/8, 9). I decided to fight. To give my best, to the end. In next few years I have been working diligently studying the lessons of Bishop Nikolai, the various Orthodox books of practical, spiritual, moral, and so on.
Already at the age of eighteen, under the influence of books of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnitsa I got a sincere desire to spend the rest of my life serving Christ as an Orthodox monk and a firm resolve to endure in this way, believing that I will eventually change myself with God’s help.
Then I started going regularly to explore the surrounding monasteries, both in Serbia and abroad. I kept praying, asking from God to clear my misdirected sexuality as they taught me it was, but also to clear myself from all of my sinful thoughts, words and deeds. I visited some of monasteries in Greece as well as the famous Meteora. I was collecting various relics, praying and making hundreds bows to the ground every day, praying sincerely and with tears doing very hard daily prayers which my spiritual father gave me to pray. Oh, I tried so hard. I was going to spiritual conversations with various elders, very known monks from all parts of Serbia.
At the same time I was always obedient to my spiritual father, listening to all of his advices. I learnt and tried to do my best to change myself. I met many monks, nuns and absorbed all their spiritual teachings. So, I came in contact with my future abbot from the Monastery of Holy Healers. He guided me spiritually, slowly preparing me for life in monastery and I had to study some of monastic books like The Ladder, various editions of Svetigora (Holy Month); Otacnik, Philokalia according to this I was living sincerely with all my heart and faith as a monk even before I went to monastery.
In all of my confessions I was saying every single sin of mine in great details, because the monks told me so and I was even making the list of my sins every day. But nothing helped, although my spiritual father was praying for me a lot, regularly mentioning me in prayers on the (Liturgy) prothesis, spraying me with holy water, covering me with holy oils, even reading exorcisms above myself. Nothing was better off. I was still me.
With my twenty-one years, I began to sing regularly at the Divine Liturgy in the church of St. Athanasius in my place. Every day I went twice to church for morning service and evening. I didn’t miss any vigil, nor petohlebnica (bread sanctifying), akathists, all of that in order to make me better spiritually armed. I prayed to hundreds of various saints, angels, archangels, Mary, but I just kept staying with all my sinful nature which I deliberately suppressed improvising God’s action. Thousands of times, I was in despair, I threw myself to the ground in prayer, hating myself because I could not be what I was taught that the Orthodox Church want me to be. It was a horrible experience. Hell alive.
That same year I went on pilgrimage trip to Romania. Worshiping the relics of St. Parascheva in Iasi, bowing in monastery Sihastria in elder Cleopas grave, in great hope visited monasteries Chetatsuia, Neamt and Golia with bitter tears, and love spending hours in prayer to the Holy Spirit to change my nature. And immediately after returning, I went to Mount Athos in Chilandar.
Then I moved to another town. Immediately, I received the blessing of my abbot, to start serving in the civilian military service in Gerontology Center. I was spending my days, visiting the old and sick, spending time with them, reading them the Bible and the Prologue of Ohrid (Saint’s biography) and teaching them to keep everything what is prescribed by the Orthodox Church. Along with my civilian military service I was daily going to morning and evening services at Holy Trinity Church, where I also sang in the kliros on services.
Then, I became a member of the choir of the church of St. Nicholas and was often hired to work on cleaning the candle burner in the temple of the Holy Emperor Constantine and Helen, and also I started working as an assistant of priest and chanter of one of the priests from the same temple. And people, they admired me, watching me as the new St. Sava and admired my life, which made me even more sad so I just often cried. I visited various local Churches and monasteries of the local diocese, visiting the monasteries of the old ras (place in South Serbia) and the famous monastery Ostrog, crying to God to change me. On the internet I connected with various orthodox monasteries around the world in Australia, America, Asia and other countries of Europe and sent them all packets and some gifts requesting them to pray for me.
After all of the mighty effort, fasting, sackcloth, mad abstinence, with a heavy bucket of tears spilled suffering, mighty prayer, I never forgot alms. Almost all of my clothes I donated to the poor and with less personal things, upon completion of the civilian army, with my 23 years, strengthened by the blessing of the Serbian Patriarch, and the blessing of my dad I went to the monastery of Holy Healers and became a novice. In the monastery I humbly performed many of obedience such as, singing in the church, cleaning and maintenance of the dormitory, cultivation of bees, working in the garden, making incense and bottling of wine and brandy, doing missionary and caring of the guests. With the blessing of my abbot I learnt icon painting, translated from English akathist to Holy Chinese martyrs as well as various Internet sites about Orthodoxy in China and wrote missionary tracts.
During I was novice, I occasionally visited the monasteries of the diocese of Zica (Jeetsa). I also went to Croatia to the monastery of Lepavina to miraculous icon, and then went on a tour of Mount Athos monasteries Chilandar and Esphigmen, and visiting on way back the monastery of elder Paisious St. John the Theologian in Suroti.
In the meantime, I experienced many shocks. I realised that the Holy Spirit does not really change people by default, and that it’s terrible to try to improvise its actions. I learned that about 70 percent of Orthodox monks in monasteries are actually gay or bi. Many of them have secret relationships, they all used to hope that this could be changed but no, it’s impossible. Likewise, my old spiritual father himself (who was 62 years old by the way) had a gay relationship with the other monks, and another brother who was with me in the same monastery was in love with me and for that I forced myself to change the monastery.
After nine months of being a novice with the blessing of my abbot, I went to another monastery dedicated to the Nativity of Virgin, and there I spent a month and a half. There I found the same situation, at first the abbot himself felt in love with me and insisted that I sexually satisfy him which I refused, and then another brother started flirting with me and I had my first gay relationship with him. After that, some young monks who knew I was gay almost gave me marriage proposals, inviting me to go and live with them in their monasteries. There was an abbot who was so in love with me and insisting that I cross in his monastery, so then my local abbot even gave me blessing for a gay relationship with a brother within the monastery I belonged to, so that I would not leave the monastery nor tear down the integrity of the brothers. That was already too much for my soul. I could not do it anymore. It was not that I was abused for I was born as gay too, I was actually shocked by this knowledge, and also felt sorry for them, because these people have to hide that they need to be loved. The things have been crystal clear, especially when I found out of some gay bishops’ certain activities. No, that will never change.
I left the monastery. Illumined by the Gospel, knowing exactly in the monastery that salvation does not really results from acts, but results from the faith, and reading the Bible, after nearly a year, only a few months before my own official turning to a monk was planned, I left the monastery and returned to my parents’ house. For the next six months I was working as an assistant priest in the temple of the Holy Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena, where I assisted in the kliros and altar. It is important to mention that at last I even began to pray for help and some Catholic saints, but they also did not help me to change and become something who I am actually not. You cannot change it.
Finally, I found my way back to apostolic Christianity since I came into contact with a pastor from the Evangelical Church in which I was baptized and became an active member. Now, I’m an evangelical missionary withim my local church by referring others to the Gospel of Jesus and the fact that Jesus loves everyone no matter who we are. I’m glad that today, with my life partner, with the blessing of our church I can live my life as a rescued child by the grace of God and constantly rejoicing and celebrating in the joy of the gospel of the One whose love we will never be apart of (Rom 8/35, 39). To Him be glory forever and ever. Hallelujah!”
~ An ex-Monk, Serbia