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Monday, April 9, 2012

A Drug Smuggling Priest? Expectations, Hypocrisy, and the Prison of Pride

Last week I wrote about the clergy and the temptations of porneia.  Little did I imagine something like this would come up:

Here's a rough translation (thanks to Google and a few adjustments to obvious word-choice errors):

The Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus would like first to express its deep sorrow for the world triggered by the horrendous acts and actions of the Greek priest Panagiotis Triantafyllou, who was arrested by the police, alleged drug server from outside. Also would like to inform that this priest was ordained in Greece and came to Cyprus a few years ago, asking to join the Church of Cyprus, where he was admitted. After a time there were brought ​​before the Archdiocese several complaints against him for various offenses, which, however, could not be substantiated.  Recently, there came into possession of the Diocesan Court of the Archbishopric of Cyprus new data on the actions and activities, which the Court thereby initially set an indefinite suspension from all rites; and then immediately began an inquiry, according to the procedure laid down in the Constitution of the Church of Cyprus. The matter of the past Wednesday, April 4, 2012, in anticipation of the Diocesan Court procedures, will be considered now now based on newly emerging information.
The shepherd Church wants to assure the pious crew that while diverted priests are a black stain on her body which cause sadness and turmoil, but that as the Body of Christ is always active therapeutic, and having regard for the proclamation of Jesus Christ: "Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter  into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire."  Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus, April 6, 2012.

The news story about the arrest is here:

The Church of Cyprus does not mess around.  Yet, while the Church prepares to sanction (99% chance he will be defrocked) this troubled priest, it still does so hoping for his salvation.

The reason I thought this was interesting enough to post for several reasons.  First is that it is an example of how the Orthodox Church deals with sin: the hope is that the natural results of such an action will result eventually in repentance and salvation.

But, the second reason is to demonstrate that clergy are not immune to temptations everyone else has, and Orthodox Church realizes this.  The canons suppose clergy and laity are held to the same standard, though clergy sin may result in a removal from orders, whereas a layperson is temporarily removed from the Sacraments and then restored.

The underlying passion of this priest is anyone's guess.  It may be greed, sloth, and/gluttony.  But, his actions make it impossible for him to act as a priest again, just as cutting off your own legs makes it impossible to run a marathon again (yes, there are super-prosthetics these days, but the legs don't grow back).

Anyone getting sucked up into the illegal drug trade is lamentable, but this fall is all the more painful when one considers the 'heights' from which he fell.  He was a respected man of his community, and, more so, someone seeking after God.  His actions say that he's clearly not seeking after God anymore... at least in a healthy way.  Our sins are about seeking relief from our passions, which can only truly be healed by God, yet most of us will settle for less.  This appears to be the case here.

So, can someone be considered a faithful follower of God and yet commit such a sin?  The answer we know to be true is 'no,' because if we accept God within ourselves, then these types of acts would seem repulsive to us.  Sin is something which becomes repulsive to the extent that we experience divine Love.  Of course, this is an incremental process for all of us, but we can rule out significant sins right in the beginning: there is no such thing as a 'holy murderer.'

In our own lives, it is important to ask ourselves: are my actions and my supposed intentions lining up?  If I say I want to get sober, yet I continue to sabotage my own sobriety, am I really willing to stop?  Or, am I lying to myself once again because I cannot stand the truth of my own passions and their desires?

All of us suffer with degrees of hypocrisy, which is evident.  In the previous post on clergy porneia, one of the greatest shames clergy deal with is knowing how far their actions are from their exterior intentions.  Some know full well that their secret lives have nullified their ability to truly be ministers in the Church, but they hide in fear of the shame.  Still others have sins that are not yet disqualifying, yet they also are ashamed and fear disappointing others and also undermining their credibility (a hard smack to the ego).

Yet, this fear only prevents healing through repentance, which means the clergyman suffers in secret.  Eventually everything comes out, and the long years of shame only act as a pressure cooker, turning what is inside into goop, then exploding and spraying it everywhere.

Those in recovery generally call that a 'bottom,' though you would be surprised at how many addicts can have their lives completely come apart like this and keep on using.  "No, I'm fine."

There is no telling when someone will decide to abandon hypocrisy and go through the pain of acknowledging his inner suffering and weakness.  Some people go on and on.  Others have relatively minor episodes that lead to an awakening.  A general principle is that the higher the expectations placed on a person (his status and rank), the more he will hold on to his secrets.  Ego is a painful prison.  No one wants to look 'less than' to others, and addicts feel this all the more profoundly, as it is often said that an addict is "an egomaniac with an inferiority complex."

Because society places unreasonable expectations on clergy (they must be 'sinless' in order to talk about 'purity'), and the Church itself seeks to protect people by disqualifying men who have bad track records, clergymen are often resistant to getting help for their early struggles and wait until things blow up.  No one of us, clergy or not, should allow our egos to keep us from being healed so that we can experience the joy and peace that comes from God alone.

We ought to not let our Pride prevent us from approaching God.  We must break through it and ask God to heal us from our deepest fears.  Otherwise, we are all just a bunch of drug-smuggling priests.

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