Those who follow my analyses may recall that I have written in the past on the topic of Archimandritism and Episcopism. The reason that I revisit the issue today is that in this edition we have published the “List of Clergy Candidates for Election to the Episcopacy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.” The number is so low, just 16 of them – it is really astonishing, and since I happen to know persons and situations I should confess that I am very worried about the future, since the future hierarchy of the Archdiocese of America will come from this list of 16 celibate priests known as Archimandrites.
Fortunately, and thank God, priests in our Orthodox Church are permitted to marry, in contrast to the forced celibacy of Roman Catholicism which has proven to be not only unnatural but catastrophic. But there is also in our Orthodox Church a separate caste where Archimandritism and Episcopism reign and celibacy is imposed. Priests who aspire to become bishops cannot marry. This is our own drama of forced celibacy.
Let me explain that the Archimandrite is basically a priest-monk, in other words, he is a monk who has been ordained a priest, but who lives and acts in the world and not in a monastery, where he actually belongs.
The phenomenon of celibate priests serving in parishes is not contemporary. What surprises today is the fact that a new order of clergy has been created, the order of Archimandritism, which is the stepping stone towards the Episcopacy.
I have often wondered why the Archimandrites have acquired the privileges of the married clergy to preside with priority over the Divine Liturgy and the Sacred Services in our parishes, as their only ‘asset’ is their celibacy.
It is sad to see married priests, well educated, well-respected, excellent family men who have contributed so much to the life of the Church, being pushed aside during the Liturgy and the Sacred Services so that young and mostly mediocre Archimandrites can officiate in the name of ‘tradition’. What tradition?
It is shameful to see some of those Archimandrites showing off their vestments and their epanokalimafchon – their peculiar head gear – hugging their jeweled crosses without self-realization of who they are and what they represent.
The Archimandrites usually strive to attach themselves to powerful hierarchs having one and only aim: to become bishops one day. Their only honor most of the time is their celibacy, whatever quality of celibate life they may have.
Some sick phenomena that often appear here and elsewhere involving celibate priests should concern the Church, I mean the Body of the Laity, the People of God, who with their contributions, donations, collection trays, and candles pay for their salaries and their lavish lifestyles.
The scandals caused by some clergy are known to the People of God. Pederasty and homosexuality are not exclusive to celibate clergy, because there are also the sick cases of Nicholas Katinas and Adamantios Metropoulos and others, which prove that some married priests are also disturbed, but the truth of the matter is that the percentages are lower than among the celibate.
Of course there are some celibate priests who are real pearls, “men full of grace and truth,” but they can be counted of the fingers of one hand.
Personally, I respect and honor the true, authentic, and healthy monasticism because it is the ‘joyful sadness’ of the Church. But when I see career celibates who live in the world lavishly, two things come to mind: either they are saints, or they are sick – I don’t believe there is a middle ground.
I think this sickening situation with the forced celibacy of the Archimandrites cannot continue any longer. It is time to return to the original Tradition of the Church of married bishops, because it is one thing to select a Bishop from a pool of 16 celibate candidates and another to select from a pool of 750.
After all, many of the twelve disciples of Christ were married, including St. Peter. But please also remember that until at least the 9th century if not later, we had married bishops,
I strongly believe that starting here in the United States, since we experience the nightmarish lack of charismatic numbers of celibate priests, the bishops should be selected mainly from among married priests, well educated, with the mind of Christ, a spirit of pastoral sacrifice, and spiritual sensitivity, healthy, psychologically well and sexually normal. Indubitably, there are also married priests who are problematic and limited in many ways, but less so than the celibates. Also, there are celibates who are real gems: men with ethos who are physiologically balanced and healthy.
Let the Archimandrites and the celibates go where they belong, to the monasteries.