The Greatest Totalitarian System in the World
“Everyone knows that any disobedience and opposition to the supreme authority will subject that person to prosecution by the Ecclesiastical Court with the potential penalty of expulsion from the ministry, defrocking, and excommunication from the Church! Such is written in the canons written of the Orthodox Canon, ‘the greatest totalitarian system of its kind in the world’, as experts describe it.”
The conclusion of the excerpt just cited is logical when one performs an impartial and objective study of the Orthodox Canon and those of the Church Fathers. These canons form ecclesiastical law that affects many aspects of the life of believers in the Eastern Church. This article from the newspaper in the Serbian town of Vranje refers to the expulsion of Deacon V.S. from the ministry and the Church by the Bishop of Vranje. The deacon had given support to children who accused Bishop Pakhomius of sexual harassment and violations. Not only did this priest suffer, but several other priests and nuns likewise had been under severe attack from Bishop Pakhomius who took revenge upon those who opposed him. According to the rules of the Serbian Orthodox Church (and other Orthodox churches), the bishop of a diocese has the ultimate authority in all religious matters in the territory under his charge. Not even the Patriarch himself could ever make an unannounced visit to a diocese or parish without the authorization of the bishop. Even though Bishop Pakhomius is under legal indictment for pedophilia and homosexual assault on teenage boys, no one has been able to expel the Bishop from his position.
Yet another example demonstrates that the Orthodox Canons are truly among the most undemocratic and totalitarian rules that exist in the world. This specific example relates to the vows of monks and novices who violate the rule of absolute obedience to their elders. Perhaps they “fell into sin” with a woman in violation of their vow to celibacy. This rule also applies to those who leave the monastery in order to start a family. They realized that they could no longer restrain themselves sexually and did not want to become either homosexuals or alcoholics (like others of their fellow monks in their environment). An earlier section of this chapter described the monastic vows to celibacy, obedience, and poverty. By submitting to these vows, the novice voluntarily says farewell to everything that binds him to this world. The introduction of the monastic order is confirmed and sealed by monastic vows (tonsure) and giving the novitiate a new name:
“Besides receiving a new name, the vows of the novice are confirmed with a haircut. They cut the hair in the shape of a cross. Although monastic vows are not counted among the Seven Sacraments, the Holy Fathers (such as Theodore of Studion) regarded the sacrament as closest to Holy Baptism. Just like Baptism, monastic vows are eternal.”
The canons state that once a person enters the monastery, he forfeits the right to return to civil society and secular life. He needs to live in quietude, fasting, and prayer, and cannot even participate in secular nor ecclesiastical affairs, except by special permission from the bishop. The Church Fathers invoked anathema (a curse) on any monk who decided to leave the monastery and devote himself to a different way of life:
“We have decreed in regard to those who have once been enrolled in the Clergy or who have become Monks shall not join the army nor obtain any secular position of dignity. Let those be anathematized who dare to do this and Jail to repent, so as to return to that which they had previously chosen on God’s account.”
According to the law of the Emperor Justinian (6th century), who with strict civil decrees supported and protected the Byzantine church, a monk who left the monastery to enter a secular trade would be immediately and under compulsion returned to the monastery, which meant that his secular life was over:
“In equal measure, the Church and State have issued decrees supported by the rulings expressed in the canons. Although today, in a time of separation of church and state, church laws are not binding, the Justinian Code will be enforced. It testifies to the truth of church canons, which state, ‘The monk who left his monastery and crosses over into secular life, even if by chance he earned some kind of civil or military honor, shall be deprived of it under the authority of the presiding bishop. The presiding bishop and the district judges shall return him immediately to the monastery. (Nov. CXXIII c. 42)”
As for those people who became monks and then realized the impossibility of such a lifestyle, they sought to start a family and return to living the pattern that God has created for human beings. They could never hope to find any sympathy from their superiors in the faith. In such situations, the Canons demand very severe measures, which not only threaten but in fact trample upon the dignity of man whom God created in His image. Such a person fleeing the monastery has a curse cast upon him and imprisoned under duress in the monastery to die with no chance of winning salvation and eternal life. Here is one rule to which the Church Fathers subscribed when the “covenant of celibacy” would be violated:
“’If the monk leaves the holy order in order to eat meat and take a wife, once he is found, such a monk should be subjected to anathema, and forced once again to don the friar’s robe and confined to a monastery.’ (Canon 35 of Nicephorus the Confessor) This rule applies to monks who abandon the holy monastic order and by eating meat and having relations with a woman, thus transgress against the rules of the monastic order. The sentence for such betrayal is anathema. Such a rule conforms to Canon 7 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which excommunicated monks who depart monastic life in order to live in the secular world. This canon on anathema requires that the accused monk who does not voluntarily return will be forcibly taken back, prosecuted (under the Justinian Code), and confined in a monastery. Why do they imprison this man if he is already excommunicated? The anathematized man is already excommunicated from the Church for all eternity, and as he is accursed, thus he is also an enemy of everyone (see John Chrysostom, Homily 16, in Epist. Ad Romanos). Such a person can no longer be a monk, but he is forced to don a monk’s robe in order to demonstrate that he has fallen under the reproach of anathema for violating the vows to which he swore.”
Just like St. Nicephorus the Confessor, St. Basil the Great prescribes a severe law for such transgression. Here is how the saint used the Scriptures in this case:
“Holy Scripture says: ‘If a man sins against God, who should pray for him?’ For he who devotes himself to God and then turns away to a totally different life has become a worldly person, for he himself stole and took away a sacrifice to God. It is only just no longer to open the gate of fraternity to such a traitor, even if he comes to take refuge under the roof in common travels.”
According to the teachings of the church fathers, if a former monk marries a wife, then the Orthodox Church does not recognize the relationship as an official marriage but rather as sexual immorality:
“Any monk who takes a woman is in adultery, even if the state grants them the status of civil marriage.”
“The monastic life in itself is already understood to conform to celibacy, whether
or not the man made a vow to celibacy (in ancient times, such a vow was not required). The attempt by the saint-monk to marry is considered a betrayal to his vow to the ascetic life. His relationship with a woman alone is not considered to be real marriage, but rather a bond of sexual immorality, which should be dissolved at any cost.”
Not even the most autocratic and destructive sects and cults have such rules as harsh and extreme as those that apply to monks, nuns, and even novices who have not yet entered the monastery after receiving tonsure. (Even if, for some reason, a person happened to adorn a monk’s habit, he would be forced to obey these rules until he made the official vows to monasticism.)
We see this in the examples of annual defections from pseudo “Christian” cults by their former members. Probably the most famous example in Serbia is the young man Vuk Andrejevic from Belgrade, a former member of the Unification Church of Sun Yung Moon. After dogged persuasion, his parents finally convinced him of the error of this organization. At first, it was not easy for Vuk’s parents to convince him that he made a mistake, and he resisted the idea to leave the cult. However, once he finally decided to leave the organization, Moon’s church simply did not have enough power to keep Vuk in in its membership. This young man returned with his parents returned to Serbia and completely severed ties with the Moonies. Thank God that there is no totalitarian cult in the countries of the civilized world that can invoke the power of the state to impose its harsh rules on its members. Thus, it is possible for members deceived by these cults to be rescued from the “claws” of these monstrous sects.
However, in the Middle Ages, a “synergy” between the church and civil government existed in which the laws of the church became the laws of the state. Many radical theologians and members of the Serbian Orthodox Church aspire for Serbia in the twenty-first century to re-establish this same relationship between the medieval church and state, that is, for the Justinian Code once again to become reality.
In any event, with or without the Justinian Code, the parents of sons and daughters now living in the monasteries of Serbia must realize that will never be able to depend upon their children to whom they gave birth and invested all their lives. Even if one of these young people in the monastery changed his or her mind, resigned from the monastery, and got married to the delight of his or her parents, he or she would face a worse fate than that of Vuk Andrejevic, as we saw from the canon of the holy fathers. This person would be anathematized and cursed forever with no hope of eternal salvation by the Orthodox Church. Furthermore, such a person would be arrested and confined in the monastery prison, where that person would curse the day he was born and according to the apostate doctrine which deceived him to ever enter the monastic order in the first place.
How Orthodoxy Justifies These Harsh Rules
“The will and vows of a man are sealed before the Church. In the Church of God, the holy sacrament of monastic vows is brought to light and sanctify him permanently as a monk in body and soul. This man is bound to the church forever. Indeed, many canons of the Church justify this according to the rule: ‘What God has joined together let not man separate.’ (Matthew 19:6)”
The passage above explains that a man who took monastic vows and then wishes to leave can be confined to the monastery against his will. This passage justifies such teaching on the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ from Matthew 19:6. Let us examine the whole context of this teaching in order to gain a more accurate understanding:
“The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’”
So we must pose the question right away: what does Christ’s teaching have to do with keeping a monk in the monastery against his will? In contrast to the rationalization used by Orthodoxy that monastic vows as “forever”, a perpetual bond to the monastery and its rules, Christ’s teaching actually refers to a topic having nothing to do with the monastic life of celibacy – the sanctity of marriage.
Other texts in Scripture, such as 1 Corinthians 7, clearly teach this principle. Any marriage between a man and a woman that conforms to the laws of contemporary society (even if not confirmed by a religious organization) is valid before God and should not be separated by third parties.
It is also clear from our previous studies that the relationship of monks to the monastery is based on manmade rules (with notable demonic influence). Not only does God have no respect for monasticism (because He never established it), but He also finds monasticism opposed to His will as recorded in the Scriptures. In fact, God considers it a sin to force the termination of a marriage between a man and a woman. The apostle Paul taught that “if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Clearly, the verse of Matthew 19:6 is torn out of context and its true meaning by Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy has no basis in proving what cannot be proved based on the Scriptures, namely that God imposes some eternal bond on monks to the monastery. On the contrary, the patristic law that “marriage should be dissolved at any cost” is one that is completely opposed to God’s Word and His will.
The end of this chapter will discuss one of the numerous examples of the negative impact of monastic philosophy on members of Serbian and other Eastern Orthodox peoples. This example might make readers in such environments think twice before pining for some future utopia constructed on monastic orders and saving them from such crazy ideas.
As we saw earlier, monastic vows include not only the renunciation of marriage and wealth, but also literally abandoning their families and relatives as well as any loyalty to the country where they lived. Of course, the biggest problem is the fact that the Orthodox Church believes that such extreme and negative behavior of monks is praiseworthy. Worse still, the majority of the Serbian people is ignorant of the nature of monasticism and what it implies. Furthermore, most Serbs support without thinking what the Orthodox Church teaches, no matter how it conflicts with fundamental moral norms that apply in a civilized human society. Yet, at the same time, while fighting Satanists and other destructive cults that perform physical and psychological alienation of individuals from their families through brainwashing, the identical situation occurs within the Eastern Orthodox Churches. I ask each of you, dear reader, to carefully read the description of the following events:
“And so, in this story, like fresh coffee and a lean lunch, there are many things strange and unusual to hear. Many monks of Athos have parents who are still living. One time, a monk’s father came to visit his son. He went to visit him in the Daphne district near the lake. His father had not seen his son in twenty five years. This means that the man who is a monk today had not been home since he was a boy, when he had a girlfriend with a blue shirt and the village had flourished.
Just as any normal father would, his father traveled to see his son. And instead of a boy, he met a monk with an overgrown graying beard and eyes. His son’s eyes were familiar, yet they were duller and they looked different than what his father remembered.
The father turned white when his son the monk spoke to him:
‘Are you my son?!’
‘Yes, I am your son!’
The old man lost it. He became sick and started to vomit.
The monk stepped away, waited, and then returned. Again his father asked him:
‘Is it really you, my son?’
When the monk once again said he was really his son, the old man’s countenance darkened as if he had just been struck by lightning. And all the way as he was riding on his mule up the mountain, the old man shouted many incoherent and incomprehensible statements.
He stayed a month with his son in the monastery. At night, they discussed the hopes his father had for his son’s life. His father hoped for his son in his youth to shine among the stars.
However, the aged monk told him that he considered himself now to be a dead man. His son aspired to wind up in the mausoleum where they inter the skulls of dead monks. (Monks’ corpses are buried underground and then transferred to the mausoleum after three years.)
When his father left his son at the monastery, he constantly yelled:
‘I am afraid! I am afraid! I am afraid!’
His son answered back repeatedly:
‘Consider me as a dead man! Do not write to me anymore!’”
The wounds received by the old man were so horrible that they could never heal!”
This text is particularly striking in that every monk who adheres to the austerity of monastic vows probably has the same relationship toward his family as the monk on Mount Athos. The true story just cited, about which the Orthodox take great pride, describes a poor father who is stricken with mental pain when he saw his son the monk. Descriptions of his state include “the old man lost it”, “he became sick”, “he began to vomit”, and “as if he had been struck by lightning”. What else could these descriptions mean other than the deep mental agony that he experienced? Like any parent, he believed that his son in his time would have his own happy marriage, and grandchildren would have been sitting in the lap of their grandfather. Instead, contrary to the will of the parents, this immature young man disobeyed his parents by going to the monastery.
Unfortunately, his father sees his son in the condition of a loved one on his deathbed. And, what big words did the “spiritual monk” of Athos say when he met his father? Did he utter any words of regret because of the evident pain and disappointment that he had seen on the face of his father? Not at all! What words could this “saint” concoct after not having seen his father for 25 years, even in spite of seeing his father’s love and broken heart? “Consider me dead, and write me no more!” The father’s frantic
yelling made the situation worse as he left the monastery.
The son’s alienation from his family is yet another proof of the extremes that monastic rules that are unbiblical and inhumane can drive a person. Indeed, monastic rules contradict the clear teaching of Scripture regarding the relationship of Christians to their parents. Specifically, God’s fifth commandment in the Ten Commandments states:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
The Apostle Paul in the New Testament affirms that true Christians must respect, love, and take care of parents always, especially in their old age:
“But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.”
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
However, it is obvious that our nameless monk of Mount Athos considered his duty to dig up corpses from their graves and write on dead skulls of much greater importance than family and caring for his father. After all, this “holy duty” calls him to explain to his father the importance of working in the mausoleum by collecting the skulls of monks and printing their names. Such activity has no foundation on any teaching of the Bible. This practice is something the monks could only have adopted from a pagan cult. (Indeed, this practice did originate from pagan religion.)
Professor Dr. Veselin Ilich in his book Religion and Culture explains the fact that the cult of the skull was preserved from ancient times, when people believed that the preservation of a skull of a dead person preserves the very presence of the dead person’s soul to live in society:
“Mount Athos is stuffed with centuries full of the skulls of monks. It is certain that one of the ‘hidden’ and forgotten reasons for this practices lies in the meta-religious layers of social consciousness in which the cult of the skull first formed and later succeeded by the cult of the ancestors.”
I am sure that every rational, civilized person will agree with me that the example mentioned earlier is insane.
When the young Dimitri Obradovic, later renamed Dositej, went to the monastery for the first time, he was accompanied by a fellow named Niko. Several days after their arrival, at the gates of the monastery gates appeared Niko’s mother, all crimson and very angry. As her son joined the monks without her consent, she was determined to use all means necessary to return her son home. Here is how Dositej later described this somewhat comical, but actually very serious and righteous behavior by the boy’s mother:
“Before I start to recount our lives at Hopovo, let me tell the story about Niko.
He was very hard-working in cleaning the church, candles, and everything else in the church. His elder was pleased with his conduct. But one month later, there came his mother along with my older brother Ilya. As they entered the courtyard of the monastery, they defied and cursed the monks. She cried aloud that if they do not give her the child, she would burn down everything: the monastery, the church, with all the monks. If monks wanted to have children, let them get some women pregnant, even to raise them. Then one Dionysius, a Croat from Garevice, an eloquent man and rather calm, came down to see who was making all the noise. He found himself in a shouting match where even he could not get in but a peep. Such was the Amazonian woman who contended with Dionysius. When she raised her voice so loud, she woke up the entire monastery and even those living on the surrounding mountains. ‘Give back my child now!’ shouted a thunderous voice at Dionysius, ‘for if you keep him, I will yank out your beard and dig out your eyes! I’ll make sure you will never be able to make a woman pregnant!’ He did not know how to answer. Quickly, he returned her son to her and dressed him up in civilian garb without any dark spots.”
Because she knew the implications of life in the Serbian monasteries, and at the same time being aware that her son would lose all hope if he were to have remained in the monastery, this mother acted appropriately. Every other parent in a similar situation ought to do the same thing if their Serbian child (even an adult) who decides to break the parental love in favor of monasticism and who makes vows that require him to be “dead” to his loved ones” (and giving his life to deal with the practices of the monastery, including digging up graves, etc.). Biblically speaking, as the monastic way of life has always meant a pure waste of time for the man who became a monk as well as a disaster for the family from whom the monk departed, the wise Bishop George Popovic recommended a very good medicine against repeating such a mistake:
“By Christ the Saviour, and shame on the whole Serbian people! Repentance and shame on the Serbian name! At least let him deny this fair name, let him call himself something else and not bring shame to his race.”
“What can we do? Here it is: Worldly priests in monasteries cannot be forced out, so by no means should we allow any young people to become monks. Few who have been in the monastery for less than twenty years realize what is required of a monk.”
My sincere hope is for every reader of this chapter to consider all the facts and arguments I have given and make a proper evaluation of monasticism in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
My personal conclusion is that the philosophy of monastic living utterly contradicts the Bible, as do many other doctrines taught by Eastern Orthodoxy. These doctrines include those we have already studied and which we will further analyze later in this book.