Happy New Year, Christmas, and Theophany. We are all of us mostly about to head back into regular work and school routines. I wish you all blessings in 2013.
I’ve been poking around in the backstage area of the blog, not sure what to post about here next. The most recent search term gave me a bit of a shock. A bit, not that much, unfortunately….
Of course the ones at the top of the list are the obvious ones– presbytera, Orthodox, priest’s wife, matushka, ‘role of clergy wife’, and variations of these terms.
Some name searches for well-known Orthodox ‘personalities’, both clergy and their wives.
Not surprisingly, not too far down the list, there are also some searches for things along the lines of “Do Orthodox priests get paid”, “Conflict in church”, and “priest’s wives burnout”
A couple made me laugh– ‘how to be a popular presbytera’ and ‘handsome Orthodox priest’ (!)
Further down the list though, we have such disturbing things as ‘help for the abused clergy wife’, “I dont want to be a presbytera’, ‘orthdox canonon clergy hitting spouse’ , ‘how can we complain about a priest who is lying’ .
The recent search term that raised my eyebrows was ‘priest f— woman confessor’. You know the f word was spelled out. Browsing through other recent searches I also found ‘priest priest hear the words of hate’. Um.
I make no assumptions about the people who come to this blog or whether they found what they were looking for. The blog is meant primarily for Orthodox clergy wives, though it has been demonstrated that other people, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, are certainly reading it at times anyway. I wish the blog had more to offer clergy wives than it does. There is a little information here, and the confirmation that we are not the only ones who sometimes struggle with our unique vocation as ‘The Shadow of a Priest”.
Reading these search terms, it is clear there is hate and pain out there. Rare is the priest or clergy wife who haven’t encountered those indirectly or sometimes even directly. When it is an ongoing situation in parish or wider church affecting the priest and his wife, they cling to one another for support if, as is often the case, there is no-one else standing by them.
But when a presbytera herself is victimized by her husband, and especially if her children are in danger, I think the time for silent suffering is done. Please, if you feel afraid of your priest husband, go to your hierarch for help. If he has attacked you, skip your bishop and church administration and go straight to the police. The same is necessary if you are a layperson who has been victimized by a priest.
Some will tell you such things should be worked out within the church and never brought to civil authorities. Sadly, this has far too often proved to be useless, or worse than useless, as the victim is not believed or the embarrassed church authorities try to avoid trouble and sweep things under the rug. If it can’t be kept quiet, the victim will often be made the scapegoat.
I will add here that clergy themselves can be and have been attacked with false allegations, which is why they must never let down their guard. Remember the search term for ‘Handsome Orthodox Priest?” It looked funny on the screen, but there are personality disordered characters popularly known as ‘cassock chasers’ who are obsessed with the mystique of the priest and seek to sexually entrap clergymen. Don’t be caught off guard in the clerical devotion to dutiful caring for all kinds of people. There are also envious wolves in sheep’s clothing, and vengeful and self-deluded people with ‘daddy issues’ who will project all their own faults onto the father-figure of the priest.
I wish I had more answers for these troubling issues. My only answer is, Be wise, put not your trust in princes and sons of men, and pray for God’s mercy. The Psalms are especially helpful. I love listening to them as a Reader chants them in church. This one I always hear in my head in the version we do in the Presanctified liturgies in Lent:
King James Version (KJV)
120 In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.
2 Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
3 What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?
4 Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.
5 Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!
6 My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.
7 I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.