Remarriage and Arsenokoetia: Shifty Byzantine Views of Sex (Stephen Morris)

NOTE: The following article is taken from Something Wicked this Way Comes: Essays on Evil and Human Wickedness, pp. 143-165

 Something Wicked this Way Comes

Abstract: Patristic canon law condemned remarriage, under any circumstances, in no uncertain terms. Penance for remarriage demanded repudiating the wicked sexual relationship and decades of excommunication. Penances for remarriage were gradually reduced and two Byzantine political/theological crises in the 8th and 10th centuries allowed these condemned sexual relationships to be eventually tolerated and even accepted. Same-sex behaviour was condemned as satanic and diabolic by many of these same patristic authorities, often in the same breath and with the same words as they condemned remarriage. Penances assigned were virtually identical. During the 6th century, however, these penances for sex between men (especially “anal sex”) were reduced to little more than a slap on the wrist. These reduced penances suggest that just as remarriage was eventually able to be accepted into polite Byzantine Christian society, same-sex relationships might also come to be accepted in Byzantine/Eastern Christian society.


“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” warned Laocoön in Virgil’s Aeneid and the medieval West took his warning to heart. Western mistrust of the Byzantines led to the negative stereotype of Byzantine bureaucracy, so much so that the modern epithet “Byzantine” describes any complex, difficult-to-navigate, apparently unstable body of rules – such as those at New York City’s City Hall. As a slur, “Byzantine” stands for both “shifty” and “shifting;” perhaps better, “shifty,” in both popular senses – shady as well as unstable – can stand as a synonym for ”Byzantine” in Western perceptions. The medieval West did not always understand how or why Byzantine Christian theology, liturgy, and practice could vary so markedly from Western norms.

One area of such difference involved marriage and sexuality. Western canonists and theologians were baffled by how Byzantine apprehension of evil or wicked sexual behaviour could differ so from theirs. The body of Byzantine canonical rulings was simply allowed to grow like topsy and was never systematically codified as was common in the West during the latter Middle Ages (resulting in what we know today as the Vatican’s Code of Canon Law.) The redundancies, repetitions, and conflicting answers simply hung together in the practice of the Eastern Church; the Eastern canonical tradition was “talmudic,” in that it maintained the practices and rulings of all the sages and conciliar bodies that preceded whatever the “current” situation might have been and then required a current sage to apply these rulings as appropriate. It is this Byzantine approach to divorce, remarriage, and “homosexual” behaviour that I wish to turn.


Individual fathers and early Christian thinkers began to grapple with questions concerning Christian sexual behaviour before the New Testament itself was completed.1 Some authorities were satisfied to stress the need to confine sexual expression to heterosexual marriage (Didache, Hippolytus2) while others (Athenagoras, Tertullian3) felt the need to confine the definition of “marriage” proper to the first such union a Christian experienced. According to these authors, the death of a spouse did not free the survivor to remarry; any further sexual relationship was considered inappropriate and an act of infidelity to the spouse who had died but whose death did not end the marriage. (It was the later Byzantine refusal to acknowledge that death of a spouse ended a marriage which constituted one of the differences the medieval West found difficult to comprehend.) If remarriage and further sexual relationship was improper for the survivor, how much more so if the other spouse was not even dead but merely separated or divorced – practice which was allowed by Roman law. The early apologists stressed that simply because an action was legal did not make it proper, especially for Christians who were held to a higher standard of behaviour.

The practice of public penance, which patristic sources take for granted, evolved as the mechanism for reintegrating members of the Christian community who had sundered their participation in the community’s life and who wished to be restored to full membership and participation – as evidenced primarily in the reception of Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy. The sins and transgressions, which served to sunder participation in the communal life of the Church, had to be renounced and – upon ceasing the behaviour – the penitent would begin the penance (epithemia) which had to be fulfilled before the penitent could be restored to participating in the Eucharist. The penance, or epithemia, was considered a therapeutic or medicinal tool. It was not a juridical sentence that “paid off” the debt a criminal owed society. Rather, it was a method – similar to surgery – that might prove painful in the short term but which aimed at restoring the (spiritual) health of the patient; it should be remembered that the Greek terms for “health” and “salvation” have the same root and the Gospel miracles of healing were considered paradigms of salvation by the same preachers who gave their “canonical opinions.”

This system of years of penance was predicated on the practice of an extended catechumenate of three years or more preceding the baptism of the candidate who wished to enter the Christian community in the first place. The division of the penitents into a variety of ranks, indicating their distance from or proximity to full Eucharistic participation, was indicated by their position in the church building (relative to the altar-table). As can be seen in Table I, the view that remarriage was virtually identical with adultery remained the canonical pastoral response; in order to be reconciled with the community, the couple would need to repudiate their subsequent marriage and live separately before the epithemia would commence.

Constantine VI (right to the cross) presiding over the Second Council of Nicaea. Miniature from early 11th century.
Constantine VI (right to the cross) presiding over the Second Council of Nicaea. Miniature from early 11th century.

Two revolutions occurred in the eighth and tenth centuries to change this approach. The first was the “Moechian Schism” of 795 A.D. in which the emperor Constantine VI divorced his wife and married again; he was eventually permitted to begin the epithemia for a second marriage without repudiating or separating from his second wife. The second was the “Tetragamy affair,” the dispute – probably the “most dangerous crisis between the Emperor and the Patriarch in the middle Byzantine period”4 – which rocked Byzantine society from 903 – 923 A.D. over Leo VI’s fourth marriage, resulting in an official truce between the Church and the remarried. Shifting allegiances, changes in civil law, early or unexpected deaths, clergy both willing and unwilling to comply with imperial designs, secret negotiations, pious public sentiment, loud-spoken monastics, differing interpretations of how to apply oikonomia5 – the principle of pastoral discretion in applying canonical penances more rigidly or more freely, in manner that seems appropriate – all contributed to the chaos. It was the Tome of Union, summarized in Table I, which resolved the issue and led to the use of a different wedding service for those embarking on a second/third marriage. (This was a considerable difference from the Western Christian practice, which used the same service for all weddings and refused to ever officially countenance “remarriage.”) Not only were second and third marriages regularized, but the various epithemia could all be undergone while the couple began their new life as husband and wife. Rather than serving as the means of reintegration with the larger Christian community, the epithemia became the “price” a couple paid to be able to live together in a sexually suspicious relationship which was disapproved of but tolerated.

A mosaic in Hagia Sophia showing Leo VI paying homage to Christ
A mosaic in Hagia Sophia showing Leo VI paying homage to Christ

During this same period, a variety of responses to same-sex behaviour developed. The oldest canons, those of Basil, stipulate that several sins were considered moral equivalents and subject to the same penance of 15 years: bestiality, murder, sorcery, adultery, idolatry, and arsenokoetia.6 (Arsenokoetia is derived from the root “male” and the verb – koitai, which “is a coarse word, generally denoting base or licentious sexual activities (see Romans 13:13), and in this and other compounds corresponds to the vulgar English word “fucker,” i.e. a person who, by insertion, takes the active role in intercourse.”7

(The modern Latinate “coitus” may well be derived from this as well.) In the canonical literature, therefore, it appears that arsenokoetia is the technical term for what we now refer to as “anal sex.”


Arsenokeotia, as a specific act, was not singled out as being necessarily worse than a wide variety of other activities.8 However, John Chrysostom’s Homily IV on Romans decries what we now call “homosexual behaviour” in no uncertain terms.

“All these affections then were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul suffers more and is more dishonoured in sins, than the body is when diseased.”9

Arsenokoetia is clearly inspired by the Devil.

“But when God has left one, then all things are turned upside down. Not only was their doctrine satanic, but their life was also diabolical.”10

Their beliefs and behaviour go hand-in-hand, one reflecting the other. Same-sex behaviour is also inherently violent.

“… [T]hey become enemies to themselves and to one another, bringing in a pernicious kind of strife, and one even more lawless than any civil war, rife in divisions, and of varied form…. It was appropriate that the two should be one; I mean the woman and the man. For “the two” it says, “shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) But this desire of intercourse affected, and united the sexes to one another. This desire the devil having taken away, and having turned the desire in another direction, he thus sundered the sexes from one another, and made the one to become two parts in opposition to the law of God. For it says, “the two shall be one flesh;” but he divided the one flesh into two: here then is one war.”

“These same two parts he provoked to war both against themselves and against one another. For even women abused women, and not men only. The men stood against one another, and against the female sex, as happens in a battle by night. You see a second and a third war, and a fourth and a fifth; there is also another, for beside what we have mentioned they also behaved lawlessly against nature itself. For when the Devil saw that this desire it is, principally, which draws the sexes together, he was bent on cutting through the tie, so as to destroy the race, not only by their not copulating lawfully, but also by their being stirred up to war, and in sedition against one another.”11

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Instigated by the devil, same-sex behaviour portends the end of the human race not only because normal reproductive processes cease but because men and women begin to fight one another. The men, fighting each other, would eventually come to blows while the arguments with women would be the cause of friction, anger, resentment – all the attitudes which conspire against a common household or urban life. Fighting against each other, each would also – in Chrysostom’s view – be fighting against each person’s own true, inherently heterosexual, desires. Not only would this aspect of the universal warfare unleashed by the devil be fought by each against himself but it would be a fight against nature: against the heterosexual nature of mankind and against the natural cycle of birth and reproduction. There would be as many wars let loose in the world as there were individuals engaged in same-sex behaviour.

St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen

As can be seen in Table II, the practice of arsenokoetia (anal sex) was the primary sexual act between men which prompted discussion. It was compared to adultery and was penanced accordingly: St. Basil gave an epithemia of 15 years to both adultery and arsenokoetia while his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa suggested an epithemia of 18 years to both behaviours. Both presumed that the behaviour would cease when the epithemia commenced. Although it is arsenokoetia (anal sex) which receives Basil and Gregory’s attention, they make no distinction in assigning penance to either the “active” or “passive” (“top” vs. “bottom”); the word itself implies the “top” role as the most blameworthy, however.

This condemnation of arsenokoetia apparently remains constant for approximately 300 years. Although it is not repeated by other canonical authors, neither is it repudiated or altered. St. John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople (582-595 A.D.), is credited with a new approach to penances. In general, he adds ascetic exercises as well as deprivation of Communion to the epithemias and significantly reduces the time a penitent would spend doing “penance.” He adds masturbation and intercural sex between men (“between the thighs,” the equivalent of the heterosexual “missionary position”) to the acts which concern him but he suggests the epithemias involved be reduced to little more than a “slap on the wrist.” The epithemias for masturbation and intercural sex vary from 7 to 80 days while the epithemia for arsenokoetia is reduced to three years, thanks to the introduction of a certain number of prostrations during the penitent’s daily prayers as well as fasting during the day with xerophagy (“dry eating,” i.e. no animal products and those vegetables or fruit that were eaten were not to be cooked) after 3 p.m. It should be noted that this “double masturbation” of intercural sex between men is a significantly less grave transgression than heterosexual fornication (to which he assigns a penance of two years with xerophagy and 250 daily prostrations. The wicked sexual acts between men that had previously cost 15 years estrangement from the community were suddenly reduced in severity to less than a third of the time involved. Not only is the epithemia for arsenokoetia reduced, that for adultery is also reduced from fifteen to three years but adultery is taken to be a more serious offence as 250 prostrations, as opposed to the 200 assigned to “perfect arsenokoetia,” is stipulated. A later manuscript, used by leading medieval canonical authorities, adds a series of subcategorizations of arsenokoetia: between brothers, with a brother-in-law, and with women. A leading 18th century Greek canonist comments that, in general, arsenokoetia between men was preferable to that between a man and a woman while anal sex with a “strange woman” was “less reprehensible …than [with a man’s own] wife.”12


 The behaviours of heterosexual divorce and remarriage constituted sexually suspicious relationships that were wicked, condemned, finally tolerated, and even gradually accepted. Although condemned by the canons, a service which acknowledged this paradox developed to bless these second and third marriages. Condemned in many of the same ways, same-sex behaviour – especially arsenokoetia – was deemed wicked but eventually tolerated as the reduced epithemias for the various grades of arsenokoetia indicate. The satanic sexual behaviour of men with men was always castigated in tandem with the diabolic behaviour of divorce and remarriage. As the one was finally admitted and integrated into polite Eastern Christian society, might this not show the way to eventually include the other as well?


  1. Didache 2, 3.3; English translation in Cyril Richardson, Early Christian Fathers. (New York: Macmillan.) 1970, 1975. See also Athenagoras Plea, 33; English translation in Cyril Richardson, Early Christian Fathers. (New York: Macmillan.) 1970, 1975 and Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, ii.23; cited in Pat Harell, Divorce and Remarriage in the Early Church: A History of Divorce and Remarriage in the Ante-Nicene Church. (Austin: R.B. Sweet Co.) 1967. p. 177.
  2. Apostolic Tradition 15; English translation in Geoffrey Cuming, Hippolytus: A Text for Students. (Bramcote Notts: Grove Books.) 1976.
  3. Tertullian, Exhortation to Chastity, 5; English translation in Ante-Nicene Fathers (ed. A. Roberts and J. Donaldson.) (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson ) 1885, 1995. Vol. 4, p. 53.
  4. Steven Runciman, The Byzantine Theocracy. (London: Cambridge University Press.) 1977. p. 102.
  5. Patricia Karlin-Hayter, “Further Notes on Byzantine Marriage: Raptus – αρπαγή or μνηστείαι?” in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 46 (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection) 1992. pp. 133-134.
  6. Basil the Great, Canon 7.
  7. John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press.) 1980. p. 342. See also Steven Greenberg, Wrestling With God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.) 2004. p. 84.
  8. See Origen, Homily 11 on Leviticus (11.3-4). English translation available in Gary W. Barkley, Origen: Homilies on Leviticus, 1-16. (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press.) 1990. pp. 212-213; also John Chrysostom, Homily XVI on I Corinthians (16.8). NPNF, vol. 12, p. 93 and his Homily II on I Timothy (2.1). NPNF, vol. 13, p. 414.
  9. John Chrysostom, Homily IV on Romans (4.1). NPNF, vol. 11, p. 355-256.
  10. John Chrysostom, IV Homily on Romans (4.1). NPNF, p. 356.
  11. John Chrysostom, IV Homily on Romans (4.1). NPNF, p. 356-357.
  12. John the Faster, The 35 Canons. English translation in D. Cummings, The Rudder (Pedalion). (Chicago: Orthodox Christian Educational Society.) 1957, 1983. pp. 942-943.

Stephen Morris is an independent scholar living in New York City.


Miscarriage = Involuntary Murder in Eastern Orthodox Canons and Prayers

It is true that many people who confess at the monasteries for the first time are unaware of the Canons and penances that the Church imposes on the penitents for various sins. In the case of miscarriages, not many women know that the Orthodox Canons view this as an involuntary murder and the mother is penanced as such. The father confessors mainly use the Exomologetarion by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite as a guide when giving out Canons and counsel for various sins.

St. John the Faster, 33rd  Patriarch of Constantinople (582 – 595) and first to assume the  the title Ecumenical Patriarch.
St. John the Faster, 33rd Patriarch of Constantinople (582 – 595) and first to assume the the title Ecumenical Patriarch.

The 22nd Canon of St. John the Faster states: “A woman who has involuntarily miscarried a baby, receives a penance for one year.”

St. Nikodemos’ interpretation of this Canon is: “The woman who miscarried the baby which she had in her womb, without wanting to, but on account of some involuntary circumstance, is penanced one year not to receive Communion.”

In a footnote to this Canon, St. Nikodemos also writes: “For this reason pregnant women must take great care not to lift anything heavy (especially when they are seven or eight months pregnant), and to keep themselves from what troubles them. while men, after their wives conceive, must not sleep in the same bed with them, nor have intercourse with them any longer, nor strike them, or cause them any other trouble or sorrow, for because of these things their wives miscarry the babies, and the poor husbands become murderers of their children. wherefore, if married priests, or those who plan to become priests do any of these things and their wives miscarry their babies, those who are priests are to be deposed, and those who were going to become priests in the future are barred from the priesthood, on account of the murder they committed.”

(See Exomologetarion: A Manual for Confession, pp. 245-246 and The Rudder, p. 945, 949.)



In the Eastern Orthodox Church, even a miscarriage is considered an abortion and the fault of miscarrying is placed on the woman for not taking enough care of her body during the pregnancy or because she was punished by God for her sins.

In Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700, Eve Levin reports that at least certain Orthodox in the past have blamed miscarriages on the Mother. For example:

“Another possible result of the parents’ immorality was the loss of a child, whom the parents had shown themselves unworthy to have. A miscarriage had to have been the result of the woman’s sinfulness. She was required to confess her sins and do penance. Service books included an extensive set of prayers for purification: ‘Lord our God, who was born of the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and who lay as a baby in a cradle: Today, out of your great clemency, have mercy on this your servant N., who has fallen into sin and willful murder, and aborted that which was conceived within her. Forgive her her willful and unwilling sins, and preserve her from all Satan’s deceptions. Purify her of obscenity and heal her sickness… for we are born in sin and lawlessness, and we are all defiled before you.'” (p. 67)

“Even a spontaneous miscarriage was sinful, and carried a penance of a year’s exclusion from communion.” (p. 176)

Miscarriage Icon.
Miscarriage Icon.

Some people think that because of the content of the prayer, today it would not be appropriate to be read for women who have involuntarily miscarried. However, whether a miscarriage or an abortion, in both cases the woman should, after the 40 days of purification, go to confession and receive absolution.

The monasteries still follow proper ecclesiastical tradition by reading this prayer over the woman in both cases.

The following prayer is found in the Euchologion (Μικρόν Εὐχολόγιον), and it is to be read over the woman who confesses her sin of having a miscarriage:




Then the Apolytikion of the day and the Kontakion and then the following prayer:

Let us pray unto the Lord.

O Master, Lord our God, who wast born of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, and as an infant, wast laid in a manger: Do thou, upon this thy servant (…..),who in sins has today fallen to the sin of murder, witting or unwitting and has aborted that which was conceived in her, have mercy according to thy great mercy: and forgive her transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary: and preserve her from every diabolical operation: and cleanse the impurity, heal the sufferings, and grant her, O Lover of Mankind,  health and strength of her body and soul: and with a bright Angel, do thou guard her from every assault of invisible demons. Yea, O Lord, from sickness and disease, and cleanse her from her bodily defilement and her various oncoming internal problems, and through thy abundant compassion, lead her to the recovery of her humble body, and raise her from the bed upon which she lies. For in sins were we conceived and in iniquities were we shapen and in defilement are we all before thee, and in fear we cry and say: Look down from heaven and behold the weakness of us who are condemned, and forgive this thy servant who has fallen to the sin of murder, witting or unwitting, and has aborted that which was conceived in her, and according to thy great mercy, have mercy and forgive all that surround her and have touched her, for thou art a good God and lovest mankind, and thou alone hast the power to forgive sins, By the prayers of the holy Mother of God and of all the saints.

For unto Thee belong all glory, honour and worship, together with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever: world without end. Amen.

Glory be to Thee, O Christ our God and our hope, glory be to Thee.

May Christ our true God, by the prayers of His most holy Mother; by the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; by the protection of the heavenly bodiless hosts; through the supplications of the glorious Prophet and Forerunner, John the Baptist; of the holy and all-glorious Apostles; of the holy, glorious and triumphant martyrs; of our holy God-bearing fathers; of the holy and righteous progenitors of God, Joachim and Anna; and of all the saints, have mercy upon us, and save our souls: For He is good and loving-kind.

By the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.


St. Nikodemos’ Exomologetarion: The Guide for Geronda Ephraim and His Hieromonks

The Exomologetarion in Greek.
The Exomologetarion in Greek.

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite’s Exomolgetarion: A Manual of Confession, which is a compilation drawn from various works and Exomologetaria from the libraries throughout the Holy Mountain, combined with the Saint’s own inspired spiritual counsels, was published in 1794. The book is composed of three distinct sections: the first being the qualifications of a true confessor, the second being the 38 canons and 17 penances of St. John the Faster together with commentaries and interpretations, and the third being St. Nikodemos’ own fatherly counsels and a homily concerning the Mystery of Confession.

This book is the mandatory study guide for all of Geronda Ephraim’s hieromonks. This is the guideline they use, except in the cases where Geronda Ephraim has implemented his own fronima. Every confessional at the monasteries has a copy of this book, along with the New Testament. At times, during confession, one may witness a hieromonk peruse this book when deciding a penance to give to the penitent.

Confession room at St. Anthony's Monastery.
Confession room at St. Anthony’s Monastery.

St. John the Faster’s canons cover a lot of the carnal sins, and St. Nikodemos’ footnotes compare a lot of the other canons in existence for the same sins. Below are some excerpts of the book, including the Canons of the Faster:

St. John the Faster
St. John the Faster
Geronda Ephraim in the confession room, St. Anthony's Monastery.
Geronda Ephraim in the confession room, St. Anthony’s Monastery.
St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

That the Spiritual Father Is Not to Reveal Sins (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)1

Nothing else remains after confession, Spiritual Father, except to keep the sins you hear a secret, and to never reveal them, either by word, or by letter, or by a bodily gesture, or by any other sign, even if you are in danger of death, for that which the wise Sirach says applies to you: “Have you heard a word? Let it die with you” (Sir. 19:10); and again: “With friend or foe do not report it” (Sir. 19:8); meaning, if you heard a secret word, let the word also die along with you, and do not tell it to either a friend of yours or an enemy of yours, for as long as you live. And further still, that which the Prophet Micah says: “Trust not in friends…beware of thy wife, so as not to commit anything to her” (Mic. 7:5).

For if you reveal them, firstly, you will be suspended or daresay deposed completely by the Ecclesiastical Canons, and according to political laws you will be thrown in jail for the rest of your life and have your tongue cut out.2 Secondly, you become a reason for more Christians not to confess, being afraid that you will reveal their sins, just as it happened during the time of Nektarios of Constantinople when the Christians did not want to confess on account of a Spiritual Father who revealed the sin of a woman.3 The divine Chrysostom both witnessed these things and suffered because of them on account of his trying to convince the people to confess. It is impossible for me to describe in words how much punishment this brings upon you, who are the cause of these things.

[NOTE: An Elder can use his discretion to reveal the sins of other monks to the brotherhood in order to humble the disobedient monk, or, in the case of the sinful monk’s absence, to warn and caution the brotherhood. As well, the Elder can use his discretion to reveal certain things from laypeople’s confessions as cautionary tales or for the spiritual edification of the fathers or other laypeople, usually without naming the individual].


1. St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, Exomologetarion, pp. 189-90.

2. Patriarch Luke of Constantinople disciplined the abbot of the Monastery of Xerotrophos with a penance of suspension because he revealed the sin of one of his spiritual children, as Balsamon reports (Explanation of Canon 141 of Carthage, PG 138, 424D)…Let Spiritual Fathers be reminded of this by God Himself, Who never publicly revealed the confession of any person, as John of the Ladder says: “At no time do we find God revealing the sins which have been confessed to Him, lest by making these public knowledge, He should impede those who would confess and so make them incurably sick” (To the Shepherd, The Ladder, p. 243).

3. See Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica 5, 19 PG 67, 613A-620A. And Sozomen says that the Spiritual Father was chosen on account of his being secretive and discrete (Historia Ecclesiastica 7, 16 PG 67, 1460A).

The brotherhood of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY with visiting abbots monks from other monasteries.
The brotherhood of St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, NY with visiting abbots monks from other monasteries.

The following account is a perfect example of when the Abbot or Elder can reveal the sins of other monks to the brotherhood. In 2000, Fr. R was sent from Holy Trinity Monastery in Michigan to St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe. While this monk was in Michigan, he stole the Abbot’s cell phone and made numerous calls to a number known as Manline. He refused to wear any monastic garments in his cell. He took all the files from the office filing cabinet and discarded them in the forest (a layperson from Toronto found them on a walk and alerted the Abbot). He would go into the other monks’ cells without permission, sometimes taking things. And he tried to scandalize the lay people. It had gotten so out of hand that the Abbot would call this monk’s father to come visit, and essentially babysit, whenever the Abbot had to leave the monastery for more than a day.

This monk had been very problematic in Arizona and Michigan and St. Nektarios was sort of a last hope for him.

Although Elder Ephraim usually sends such problematic monks home (or, as in the case with Fr. S. in Arizona, prays to the Panagia to drive them out so he doesn’t bear the burden and responsibility of their leaving), the Elder made a large dispensation for Fr. R because his father is a priest for one of the female monasteries. So, the night before Fr. R came to St. Nektarios, the Abbot called the brotherhood for a homily about this monk’s situation. He informed the fathers that Fr. R had the demon of homosexuality and kleptomania amongst other things and that such demons have destroyed brotherhoods in the past. The monks were instructed to be careful around him, certain monks were instructed to watch and follow him, and all the monks were ordered to inform the Abbot immediately if they witnessed Fr. R do anything that was inappropriate (i.e. talking to laypeople, especially young males; being in areas of the monastery he shouldn’t, disappearing to his cell; using the phone, etc.).

Furthermore, in cases where monks have specific passions or repeatedly commit certain sins or disobediences (masturbation, secret eating, idle talking and joking with laypeople when not allowed, pulling worldy magazines out of the garbage to look at pictures of female or male models, etc.) they may be asked to go on their knees and admit their transgression to the brotherhood. In cases where an individual monk cannot handle this shame, the Abbot may use his discretion to call the brotherhood secretly, minus this one monk, and tell them in his absence what is going on, what to watch for and to report any inappropriate behavior they may witness. In extreme cases, when a monk is challenging the abbot through his ego and disobedience, the Abbot may advise the brotherhood to cold shoulder this monk and act as if he doesn’t exist (i.e. none of the monks will talk to him, no food will be placed at his setting, etc.) until he breaks, humbles himself, and repents. as well, most monks and nuns know that when one is in the Lity, prostrate, saying, “Forgive me, brothers and Fathers, I am filthy in both body and soul,” then the monastic is being punished for a carnal sin. The most common carnal sin for a monastic is masturbation, though sometimes interactions between two monastics, or a monastic and a lay person occurs (the latter is very rare).