however I will keep donations given by individuals in my pockets for buying ‘soap and comb’”. (“soap and comb” is a slang phrase in his native tongue to mean ‘incidental expenses’).
Think about the most frustrating situation when a bishop is severely criticized for his excessive attachment to money before making decisions related to his pastoral work.
We hear that a bishop attempts to force his visits in all the parishes of his diocese, without being invited, during the Lenten Season under the pretext of conducting retreats, and he is heavily questioned by his priests and laity because of his simply pecuniary motive. In the past none of his predecessors forced such a Lenten program unless the parish council had offered an invitation. Hence the people would be really concerned about this newly fabricated spiritual activity, especially in view of his reported utilitarian agendum. It is said that a bishop receives honorarium from every parish he visits. WE wonder if any of this money is utilized for the glory of God, for the poor, for educating the poor children, running orphanages or treating the sick or for paying off the debts of his diocese! Some even wonder how a priest or bishop, who is always running around during the entire week, could even observe the fasting season with the right spirit! It is also interesting to note that some parishes have clearly expressed their unhappiness about it, because they are not financially strong to support an episcopal visit, which involves the bishop’s air travel, stay, accommodation and a decent honorarium (which is generally unaccounted in the books of the diocese, and could be possibly unreported to the IRS). Corruption, indeed!
Some years ago we heard about a hierarch who was richly rewarded with a sumptuous sum of money by a parish so that their parish could be honored in future with the title “Cathedral“ instead of Church. It is said that the bishop like any other bishops became an easy target of corruption (who would refuse money!?) and without scruple accepted it. Later the request for cathedralship came from the same parish, and the bishop could not deny their request (the power of money was so strong), with the full knowledge that there could be only ONE cathedral in a metropolitanate or diocese. He himself conducted the service of naming that parish church a “cathedral”. We are reminded quite often of similar cases in many places. Thus the canons of the Church are strangulated! Again corruption!
There was report about a young newly ordained bishop, who engraved his own image on a metal sheet ornamentally framed, mostly resembling the look of a saint, with his miter on his head and his crosier in his left hand and a blessing cross in his right hand, and sent to every home in his jurisdiction, with individual salutation! Some estimate $40,000 for this extravagance. Whose money was it? God’s money? If it is donated money, would the Lord justify its use for such a wasteful and meaningless enterprise? Look at the episcopal crave for worldly adoration and fame! Whose idea was it? It is clearly understood that the bishop himself must have approved this act which would even numb the mind of atheist. If the bishop sent an engraved icon of the Lord or the Theotokos, with a spiritual message and greetings, it would definitely have been more appreciated. Look at the mess in the Holy Orthodox Church! Yes this act was nothing but sinful. Think if the word “corruption” would apply to this ungodly episode.
We point this out not to collect and expose the filth in the Church, but to show how worldly we are, how hedonistic we are, and how sinful we are. It is not sinful to work for one’s subsistence; however, when a monk, who is supported by his Church, shows unhealthy attachment to the treasures of this world, the World becomes his enemy, an enemy of the Kingdom of God. If a priest’s life is such a messy one, how much can we expect from a layperson? This writer believes that he has a prophetic role (in additional to his priestly and teaching functions), the role played by the Prophets Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah and others of the first covenant, to preach against this grave sin that spiritually destroys not only the one who sins, but also Church that envelopes him. St. Jerome, one of the fathers of the undivided Church, instructed that we should run away from the priest who accumulated more wealth than what he had at the time of his ordination, just as the way we run away from persons with contagious diseases!
Priests of the Holy Church, whether you are of presbyteral order, or of monastic order, or of chorepiscopal order, or of episcopal order, your spiritual calling is the same; you are all called to separate yourself from this world and its attractions. Otherwise this World will subjugate you. Your attachment to wealth, gold, expensive cloths, expensive houses or palaces, or luxurious living, will detach you from the grace of God; do not forget you are the imparters of divine grace to the people of God, you are “dividers of the word of truth”. God will punish you unless you repent and come back to a simple Christian life for which you are called in order to become worthy ministers of the mysteries of God.
People of God, you are also reminded by our Lord that you do not belong to this World although you live in this World. You may enjoy the resources of this world, and it is for you to enjoy. But be aware that gluttony in any area is one of the deadly sins; overindulgence is indeed not a virtue. Yes, you can enjoy this world modestly and moderately. Anything in excess is a vice. Virtue stays in the middle, like Aristotle taught. Everything applicable to the priesthood, mentioned above, is also applicable to you, because we are all called for the same perfection, the perfection of the Father, which was demanded by our Lord Jesus Christ.