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How to Care for Clergymen Who Have Sinned1

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

If you confess any clergymen who committed fornication or adultery or any other hidden sin which
subjects him to deposition from the priesthood, you must prohibit him, Spiritual Father, from ever
liturgizing again, and from performing baptisms and marriages, from giving spiritual guidance, from
conducting the service of the blessing of the water, and any other sacred rite, just as the more
distinguished Spiritual Fathers of the Holy Mountain prohibit such clergymen from performing all sacred
rites, in accordance with the Canons.2 If, however, they do not consent to forsake all sacred rites, you
should at least, little by little, prohibit them from celebrating the Divine Liturgy. If they do not even
consent to this, you cannot force them, nor can you publicize the matter, but you are to leave them to their
[This Canon explains how the clergymen who are pedophiles or sexual predators are protected by
and within the Orthodox Church. Sprirtual Fathers can only admonish and cannot force predator
clergymen to cease being priests, nor can they report them. Thus, a predator clergyman, who does
not wish to cease whatever actions his Church deems as sinful and worthy of defrockingfetishism,
fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pedophilia, etc.can continue them unhindered until his sins
become public knowledge and he is forced to stop being a priest, or he is officially deposed by the
1) Taken from Exomologetarion: A Manual of Confession, pp. 160-162
2) If Canons 26 and 27 of the 6th Ecumenical Council and Canon 27 of Basil the Great all agree and
declare that a priest who falls into an unlawful marriage out of ignorance must stop performing
the things of the priesthood and neither bless nor sanctify, how much more, then, should the priest
who knowingly fornicates or commits adultery, or any other transgression entailing deposition,

cease from performing these things? In addition, Canon 8 of Patriarch Nicholas declares that
those who have resigned from the priesthood on account of their bad conscience can say neither
Blessed is our God nor May Christ our true God.
Symeon of Thessaloniki says that: On account of ordination grace operates in unworthy priests
and hierarchs and all the Mysteries they celebrate are in very truth Mysteries. But woe and alas to
such men, who, whether they sinned before the ordination or after the ordination, are unworthy of
holy orders. And if they want to repent and to be saved, let them refrain altogether from the most
holy works of the priesthood (notice that he says works in the plural, and not only the Liturgy)
(Responsa as Gabrielem Pentapolitanum, Question 13, PG 155, 860C-861A). See also p. 34 of
Salvation of Sinners, where it is written that Abba Makarios of Alexandria did not treat an
unworthy priest until he ceased from practicing any work of the priesthood any longer (see
Palladius: The Lausiac History, ACW, New York, 1964, pp. 63-64).
Canon 10 of St. John the Faster demotes a priest to the order of reader who, knowing the harm of
masturbation, does this two or three times; it is evident, therefore, that such a one is prohibited
from practicing all of the works of the priesthood. That those who have sinned secretly and have
confessed are to resign from the priesthood and be disciplined is witnessed to by Canon 9 of the
First Ecumenical Council, Canons 9 and 10 of Neocaesaria, and Canon 70 of Basil.
Chrysostom says that those who commit a transgression entailing deposition from the priesthood
depose themselves from the priesthood: One ought to exercise so much caution in the matter
(that is, the priesthood), as to shun the office, and when one has entered upon it, not to wait for
the judgment of others should any fault be committed which warrants deposition, but to anticipate
it by ejecting oneself from the dignity; for thus one might probably win mercy for himself from
God: but to cling to it in defiance of propriety is to deprive oneself of all forgiveness, or rather to
kindle the wrath of God, by adding a second error more offensive than the first (On the
Priesthood, Book III, NPNF V1-09 p. 50).
Even though Agapios, in Salvation of Sinners (p. 222), says that the priest who has sinned
performs the blessing of the waters, Holy Unction, Confession, and the other works of the
priesthood, he says to according to todays practice and not according to the strictness of the
If someone brings up Canon 9 of Neocaesaria saying that the priest who confesses a carnal sin
which he committed before ordination is not to offer the Liturgy, but to remain in all other
respects, let him learn, I say, that this Canon included all of the other sacred works of the
priesthood together with the offering (that is, the celebration of the Liturgy), and to remain in all
other aspects does not imply to perform sacred works, but to remain seated and placed with
other priests, that is, keeping the outward honor, according to Balsamon (Explanation of Canon
26 of the 6th Ecumenical Council, PG 137, 600A-600C). Even though he may receive
Communion at the holy altar, according to Balsamon and Zonaras, the unambiguous Canon 8 of
Nicholas, and Symeon of Thessaloniki explicitly prohibit the distribution and reception of
Communion at the holy altar, as does Canon 70 of Basil the Great which prohibits this for those

deacons and priests who commit a sin which is greater than a passionate kiss. If such clergy are
clearly and canonically deposed on account of their crimes, not only are they deprived of every
sacred work, but they also lose the honor of their seat and place with the priests, and all of the
outward dress of the clergy, and are transferred to the place of the laity according to Canon 21 of
the 6th Ecumenical Council and Canon 3 of Basil.
This also must we make clear to you, Spiritual Father, that you must be very careful not to give
permissions to those clergy who fall into fornication or adultery to commune immediately, as
some have been misled to do, who do not know Canon 3 of Basil very well. But besides
prohibiting them from the priesthood, you also must first penance them for their sin; and after that
have completed their penance, to then excuse them to commune. Also see Canon 33 of the Faster.