Orthodox America

  On the Deportment of Clergy

A subject discussed in one of the pastoral circles founded in Moscow before the Revolution, in memory of Saint John of Kronstadt (From the memoires of Bishop Arsenius Zhadanovsky +1937

     It is a great stumbling block for the faithful to see reprehensible behavior in the clergy: intoxication, smoking, card playing, laxity in fasting, slovenly attire, short cut hair, loose manners, etc. If the bad behavior of an ordinary person is disconcerting, a pastor who openly manifests his weaknesses can bring a thousand times more harm to someone not yet firmly planted in the Faith. One mustn't forget that many neophytes judge the Faith according to the behavior of the priest s, not distinguishing between the essence of the Faith and human individuality. This is understandable: he who serves in the altar should be the bearer and the executioner of the first principles of Christianity that be preached. When this is absent, the flock begins to entertain doubts concerning the perfection even of the Faith itself, and, as a result, the pastor who has thus tempted his spiritual children is made guilty before God's judgment.

     Resolved: The question of temptations caused by members of the clergy is very serious. By its unworthy behavior, the clergy has undoubtedly contributed a large measure to the spiritual cooling and the decline in faith and morality of contemporary Russian society. Measures must be taken, without delay to raise and develop a disposition towards holiness among pastors. Disciplinary measures here are not enough; there must be a critical selection of candidates for the priesthood who, apart from education and "outside references," i.e., the recommendation of parishioners, must also have moral training subject to examination by the archpastor in charge of assigning clergy to their posts. To raise the spiritual level of the clergy, it is desirable for each ecclesiastical district to have a devout, experienced spiritual lather-elder who, in conjunction with the general counsel of the brethren, would guide--not just formally but in deed--the life and activities of the priests. 

(Translated from Pravoslavni Put', Jordanville, N.Y., 1985)

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