Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church (Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, etc.) would be surprised to know that there exists a spiritual, emotional, and psychological abuse perpetrated by their very own Church, on a select group of its own members, namely, widowed priests! If this sounds unthinkable, please listen to my personal story.
I served my Greek Orthodox Church as a priest, faithfully and devotedly, for 48 years. Shortly before my retirement, my beloved wife, (“Presvytera”) succumbed to cancer, leaving me in a state of utter loneliness and desperation. To ameliorate my predicament and live the rest of my life in an honorable and dignified way, I decided to contract a new marriage and share my remaining days in love and compassion and help with another woman, as has been ordained by our Creator.
And then came my Mother Church to deprive me of my sacred priesthood, by returning me to the “status of layman,” by invoking a so-called “Apostolic Canon” which prohibits second marriage to a widowed priest. The decision was made in Istanbul by the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, without any hearing, or advocacy.
I protested and fervently asked that the decision be revoked for the following reasons:
First and foremost, the “canon” called Apostolic is a heretical, misanthropic, myopic and fake jumble of the 4th century, a real forgery composed by people who infiltrated the true Orthodox Faith with their false ideas and teachings and hijacked our Church into very un-Christian and inhumane territories. Ever since, our Orthodox Church (along with other religious groups) has not been able to arrive at a true understanding of Religion and Sexuality.
Second, we believe priesthood to be an indelible sacrament and the idea of “returning” a priest to the status of layman is a novel one, contrary to the doctrinal teachings of the Church.
Last and most importantly, the deep psychological impact this problematic decision has had on me! My former parishioners, knowing me as Fr. Basil for 48 years, are being instructed by the bishop, through local priests, to not call me “Father” any more or to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. Is this the Church I so lovingly served all my life, committing such a criminal act on me? Is there anybody who could help? My repeated pleas to the patriarch and his synod to rescind this wrongful decision and let me finish my earthly journey as a faithful priest, that I have been, have fallen on deaf ears!
Fr. Basil Papanikolaou