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Author Topic: Priests and Personal Space  (Read 978 times) Average Rating: 0
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Rowan
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« on: December 10, 2008, 02:20:50 PM »

It seems as if in societies where clergy are, more or less, socially and economically equal with the laity, the more likely the clergy and laity are on good terms. I'm comparing what I experience in my everyday life in the US to a study I'm reading about in the book Culture of Devotion. In the book, the clergy (who are more well-to-do) are viewed as out-of-touch by the poorer laity. It's because of this that they ask the priests to bless things and say masses for loved ones, but they may or may not take his spiritual advice (in their case, advice about devotion to folk saints).

This all got me to thinking about personal limits between priests (or even a spiritual father) and the parishioners. Should they be able to outline your entire Orthodox Christian life for you, down to what images you may or may not display, forms of prayer ropes you may or may not use, forms of entertainment you may or may not take part in (books, movies, whatever)?

Is there a definite cross-over into 'guru' territory or is it more nuanced than that?
« Last Edit: December 10, 2008, 02:22:17 PM by Rowan » Logged

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. ~Philippians 4:8; St Paul
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2008, 02:45:43 PM »

depends on the priest

Personally, I do see it possible for a priest to be so controlling, so into micromanaging every detail of your life, that you have no freedom to initiate anything in interacting with the world.  You need to be able to see the needs of others and your own needs and respond to them without someone else telling you how to respond.  You need to be able to think for yourself.  Your pastor or spiritual father can offer guidance and advice, but you ultimately need to be free to act according to the dictates of your conscience and your perception of the world around you.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2008, 02:54:07 PM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2008, 02:59:24 PM »

In addition to what Peter mentioned, it seems to me it would be very difficult for a spiritual father to be effective when he's micromanaging everyone in the parish.  If the parishioners can't discern good from evil in the smaller things, how much more in the big decisions in life?
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2008, 09:22:58 PM »

It seems as if in societies where clergy are, more or less, socially and economically equal with the laity, the more likely the clergy and laity are on good terms. I'm comparing what I experience in my everyday life in the US to a study I'm reading about in the book Culture of Devotion. In the book, the clergy (who are more well-to-do) are viewed as out-of-touch by the poorer laity. It's because of this that they ask the priests to bless things and say masses for loved ones, but they may or may not take his spiritual advice (in their case, advice about devotion to folk saints).

This all got me to thinking about personal limits between priests (or even a spiritual father) and the parishioners. Should they be able to outline your entire Orthodox Christian life for you, down to what images you may or may not display, forms of prayer ropes you may or may not use, forms of entertainment you may or may not take part in (books, movies, whatever)?

Is there a definite cross-over into 'guru' territory or is it more nuanced than that?

It also kind of depends on your mentality for following the spiritual father.  Some have the mindset that you have to be blindly obedient, others like to think through decisions, but follow the directive of the spiritual father in good faith of their love for you and good will/intentions. 

I think this issue is part of the discussion.  A spiritual father can say anything to you, it all depends on what YOU think the spiritual father is. 

Of course there are guru-isms that enter into it, but those are many and varied.  I can look up some stuff for you if interested...let me know - I have resources on both questions. 
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2008, 09:35:18 PM »


This all got me to thinking about personal limits between priests (or even a spiritual father) and the parishioners. Should they be able to outline your entire Orthodox Christian life for you, down to what images you may or may not display, forms of prayer ropes you may or may not use, forms of entertainment you may or may not take part in (books, movies, whatever)?

Is there a definite cross-over into 'guru' territory or is it more nuanced than that?

There is certainly the potential for that and for a whole lot to go wrong.

"Should they be able to outline your entire Orthodox Christian life" - re-quoting a portion of the above quote:
My response:
I had a friend who was a part of a very authoritarian charismatic group in which the "elders" made all those decisions for the members. Seemed pretty cult-like to me. Fortunately he stayed on the fringes of that group.

The potential for control and abuse in such relationships I think far outweigh the benefits.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2008, 09:38:35 PM by BrotherAidan » Logged
Justin Kissel
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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2008, 10:40:11 PM »

One of my wife's priests was a micro-manager spiritual father. I think he may have been this way because my wife was very docile/receptive to instruction, and thinking about becoming a nun, so he saw someone he could mold in righteousness. In the end it didn't work out so well, though, and he became frustrated that she wasn't going to him with every important decision in her life. I think at times that this can indeed cross the line into the (false) guru area.
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Rowan
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« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2008, 12:49:04 AM »

Of course there are guru-isms that enter into it, but those are many and varied.  I can look up some stuff for you if interested...let me know - I have resources on both questions. 

Ok, you've got me curious. I'm interested, thank you.

I've got some thoughts on this, but I'll post them later, when they aren't all mixed up with my schoolwork. Thanks for the responses, and many more contributions are welcome.
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Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. ~Philippians 4:8; St Paul
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