Monday, September 16, 2013


Abbot Tryphon high-fiving a young non-Orthodox visitor to the monastery.
Bishops and Priests Must Serve
their People with Simplicity and Christ-like Love

Pope Francis told a gathering of apostolic nuncios, with the same disarming directness with which he paid his hotel bill after his election, that he wanted these key figures to seek out potential bishops who are "close to the people, fathers and brothers" as well as "gentle, patient, and merciful, animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord, and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life." In addition, potential bishops "should not have the psychology of princes." The Roman Pontiff went on to tell the nuncios they should avoid "ambitious prelates who want to be promoted from one diocese to a more prestigious one" and reminding them of "the ancient view that bishops 'are married to a Church' and should not be 'in constant search for another.' "

The Roman Catholic pope has aimed a blow at a whole hierarchy built on a system with the higher clergy in elevated positions, while "peasant" clergy, and the laity, remain at the very bottom. By looking for pastors who live closely with their people rather than clergy who feel they are entitled to live above them, this pope has taken aim at a hierarchical structure that has made clericalism and all its charms and privileges possible. This call for simplicity chills the very hearts of the purebred clerics who fear that a whole way of life in the Roman Catholic Church may be coming to an end.

Orthodoxy has traditionally avoided clericalism, yet in more recent times this very corruption of priestly service has enter the doors of the Orthodox Church. It has led some clergy to seek out, for personal gain, even the heavy burden of hierarchical service to Christ's Church. Motivated by their desire for princely honor, their sight is clouded so as to endanger not only their own souls, but the souls of the laity who are in need of humble, fatherly, pastoral care, and who will suffer under their "pastoral" guidance.

This quest for honor has led many clergy to participate in a culture of abuse, where they even turn on one another in their sad attempt at aligning themselves with "officialdom". The culture of abuse that is encouraged and fomented by refusing to live in adherence to the simplicity and humility of Christ's example, is not much different than that of the grade school pecking order where the bully builds alliances based on fear.

It is the same culture that chooses to ignore destructive behavior which undermines the message of the Church, and displaces the ministry of healing, replacing it with a worldly culture not unlike that of the fiefdoms of medieval Europe. It is a culture that can only be destroyed by implementing the same reforms that the Pope of Rome is calling for within the Roman Catholic Church.

As the Church founded by Christ, we Orthodox need to return to the basics. Our bishops need to put off all royal pretensions and princely ways, and give themselves over to being loving fathers to their priests and people. Our bishops need to lead their dioceses with biblical standards based on love of their people, and love of Christ, and not rule by fear and tyranny. Priests need to lead their people as loving fathers, and not as local governors appointed by Caesar.

We are living in dangerous times, and the people of God must be given the spiritual tools needed to thrive as society falters, and Christianity itself is under increased attack. The road ahead requires bishops and priests to be more than religious officials, they must be holy men who lead their people as loving, caring, and merciful pastors.

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

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