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Elder Paisios: On Those Who Accuse the Clergy

We once asked Father Paisios:

“Father, you constantly tell us to have positive thinking. We would like you to give us some advice on how to deal with the following problem:

“Often people come to us to tell us that some priests charge a lot of money for performing the Holy Sacraments; they say that they smoke, or hang around coffee shops; they even say that some priests are involved in immoral acts, and in general, make strong accusations against them and present evidence to justify them. What answers can we give to people who accuse the clergy?”

The Elder started telling us:

“I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: “I don’t even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt.” There are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.

“The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: “I don’t know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil.” This is the second category of people who have a positive thinking and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface.

“When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people and puts me in a difficult situation, I tell him the above example. Then, I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with.”

Hat tip: Mystagogy. Originally from Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, Priestmonk Christodoulos (1998), pp. 43-44.


  1. I like very much your example of the two categories. It makes a lot of sense and I’m sure most people reading this probably “wants” to find themselves on the side of the positive thinkers. However I think it is over simplifying the humanness of man and what we were created for to say there are only two kinds of people. I believe there are two more categories that could be classified as subcategories of the first two.
    Category 1B then would be those who are primarily negative, ignoring and refusing the presence of good, but who deep down inside still have some glimmer of hope of filling the emptiness inside them with something that will satisfy. We were created in God’s image to have fellowship with Him. We all have a God shaped hole inside of us that causes us to seek and search for something to fill it. With the power of the Holy Spirit and the message of God’s unconditional love a heart can be changed.
    Category 2B then would be those who are absolutely positive thinking people, always looking for and expecting the good in people and in life with one difference. Rather than only knowing the good and ignoring the evil, and always trying to cover up evil “in order to protect their fellow man”, They ARE FULLY AWARE of the evil in the world and of sin, and the fact that humans make mistakes, and that sometimes that calls for us to shed the light of God’s love on the darkness and expose sin for what it is instead of pretending it does not exits. Again, with the power of the Holy Spirit, and in praying for wisdom, and only through love of God and from God should we find guidance on how to help our fellow man.
    Humbly submitted, Keith

  2. Keith, I think you read the fly vs. bee distinction too literally. If you allow me, I’d like to offer you another, more positive interpretation – think of the two categories not as judgement and profiling of current or prior behavior but rather as observation of what people, under the best of circumstances would choose to aspire to be. I see this essay as affirmation of our faith – Christ died so we don’t have to be slaves to our existing fly tendencies but to have the freedom to aspire to be the best bee that we can bee with what God has given us. The elder is not judging or categorizing anyone – he is just kindly pointing us to deification. Glory to Jesus Christ!

  3. There are people who draw attention to the sins of the clergy to excuse themselves from belief, but most of us who are participating in the life of the Church trust our clergy and expect good things from them. Even though we are looking for the good, sometimes there is bad. Should the laity close their eyes to the bad? I don’t think so. The essay mentions people accusing the clergy of sinning by going to coffee shops or smoking. These kinds of people should take Father Paisios’ advice. But the article also mentions the clergy being accused of immorality. The laity cannot ignore immorality in the clergy without abandoning its obligation to say, “Not worthy.” Churches that ignore immorality in the clergy share the guilt of the abuse they should be preventing. How many times do we hear about Catholic bishops covering up accusations against priests by sending them to treatment and then on to other parishes, where the abuse continues?
    The laity is supposed to submit to the clergy. This order in worship is Orthodox. But there are also standards that a man must meet in order to serve in the clergy. The standards are clear, and forgiveness does not require the Church to allow a man to go on serving in the clergy if he does not meet the standards. Even when there is a sin that does not preclude a man from being clergy, the sin should be confronted. St. Paul is very clear about this, and he practiced it. Sts. Peter and Barnabas were led astray for a short time by the heresy of the Judaizers. St. Paul accused Peter to his face in public. There are no “Popes” in the Orthodox Church. Submission does not require the people of the Church to ignore sin and only see flowers. When the laity is wimpy about dealing with sin in the clergy, then the sin persists underground and peaks out from time to time, giving justification to those who may use it to excuse themselves from belief. To be sure, there are wolves in the Church as Christ said we should expect. If we believe Christ, then we should expect to find and deal with wolves regularly. If we aren’t finding them, then maybe we’re ignoring “negative” things that should not be ignored.

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