Sunday 18 September 2022
To my friend and mentor who preceded us there, Costi Bendali
As expected, the accusations by a woman of the Archbishop of North America in the Orthodox Church that he had an affair with her for 17 years that destroyed her marriage, in addition to his relations with other women, ended (currently) with the resignation of the Archbishop. The resignation is a clear indication to the validity of these accusations and to the patriarch’s endeavor to find a silent way out, without noise. The metropolitan is dismissed, and a new metropolitan is appointed (affiliated with whom?), and the case is closed.
But there are questions that the "wise" men did not ask themselves: Does the bishop behaviour during his tenure - which has not officially ended yet - amount to a misuse of a position of authority? Did the bishop use his religious authority to emotionally and sexually abuse that woman and other women? The bishop is accused of buying two houses with two different women. Is there a financial abuse related to abuse of power? What can the Church do in order to avoid similar situations that exist today or may occur in the future?
Religious leaders of all faiths wield very great power; Children and adults are often taught to respect religious figures, automatically consider them trustworthy and that they truly represent their role as spiritual and moral leaders. Of course, such education is catastrophic, and all that it teaches is nonsense; the reality is completely different and contradicts this beautiful image of those with religious authority. But this nonsense is an ongoing education and reality; most people trust clergy and view them, as they view every person of authority, with a mixture of respect and awe. For this reason, it is the responsibility of the Synod to consider the questions that we have raised above, as well as other questions.
What is the position of sex in monastic life and in the life of unmarried clergy? We have heard more than once about a bishop who spoils the life of a theology student by tempting him to leave his girlfriend to become a monk, be promoted in the church hierarchy and become a bishop (a submissive one) later on. Therefore, it was a great day, not only for me, but for the "angels in heaven" as well, to hear about a metropolitan who left his service and joined his beloved and married her. This person was lost and became found, and he was dead and came alive, and this is a reason for the joy of the angels in heaven, according to Jesus, because that man repented of the sin of forsaking love for the sake of power. As for the one who becomes celibate in greed for power, he is still in death if he continues on this path.
Celibacy can only be authentic if the celibate looks at sex positively, and is reconciled with his sexual energy. Sex is an inner desire that cannot be escaped. It does not disappear just because a person decides to become celibate. Since there is no escape from something that exists in the body and soul, the person who remains incapable of taking a position vis-à-vis his sexual energy, and turns a blind eye to it instead of living it or consciously monitor and control it, causes himself what is called repression in psychology. With suppression, the sexual energy remains present in all its might, beyond the reach of human consciousness. Such repressed person may become celibate, but he is never chaste. His sexual energy remains a wild energy, far from the center of the personality, unpolished; it becomes as a foreign body with its own independence. But the repressed does not disappear, rather it returns, and it returns in many forms, as we will discuss in the following.
Sex is an energy that pushes us to meet an other, and for this reason the refusal to integrate sex with one's personality disrupts our energy for encounter, for love in the broad sense of the term. The result is what we often observe in introversion, sadness, emotional dryness, and even cruelty, in some celibate clergy.
The repressed sexual inclination may focus on the self, so the celibate is occupied with oneself, even if he preaches humility and love all day long. This self-occupation is revealed in his pride, and a spirit of stifling spirit of domination over those around him. The pervasive spirit of authoritarianism in the Church must be analyzed from the point of view of sexual repression, that is, from an educational-psychological angle, and therefore, in our opinion, confronting it must be based on psychological data.
In addition to domination, repressed sexual desire may return through greed, the craving for money and its accumulation, or through extreme miserliness. Also, the return of the repressed may be manifested in excessive interest in sex. This explains, for example, what young women and men recounted about their spiritual fathers who suddenly ask them about their sexual lives, and whether they had sexual relations or if they watched pornography. The interest of those "spiritual" fathers in sex (without any mention of it by those young women and men) indicates an excessive interest that has gone out of its way and reached the limits of verbal harassment (which in some cases led to physical harassment).
Repressed sexual desire may also manifest itself in the opposite, by being alarmed by any mention of sex in writing or speech. Some might think that this behaviour indicates a "delicate" chastity, but in fact it is a false chastity because it is the inversed expression of an excessive interest in sex that floats on the surface of consciousness at the slightest reference to the subject, which causes fear and anxiety. Finally, the repressed may explode suddenly and return in an unruly and destructive manner, in a way that the sexual instinct is acted in a primitive manner, indifferent to an other and their feeling, and a sexual aggression may occur.
In light of that psychology reveals about the effect of sexual repression, which we have tried to summarize what we know about above, one can understand the deviations that we observe at the level of monks and nuns, and at the level of bishops [authoritarianism, emotional dryness, cruelty], and the deviations in the way some use to attract young people to celibac; a method that represents grave psychological sabotage to young people's life. And if repression is an explanation, it does notconstitute a justifcation of the abuse of authority, monastic or episcopal, of to sexual assault on young women and men, or their exploitation, or to the rule of the spirit of domination, and to the worship of money in the Church. These are deviations that have grave consequences, and represent an abuse of power that requires complaint and must be confronted.
Does not wisdom - dear to the heart of the Patriarch - require that the Synod makes a serious review of ecclesiastical education and the processes used to accept people into monasticism and the episcopate? But we do not count on leadership's wisdom, we count on the young women and men of the Church to carry out this review and push for it.