No, Greek Orthodox Man, That’s Not Why You Were Denied Communion
Gregory Pappas, a Chicago PR man and Greek Orthodox, says he was denied communion in the Orthodox church because he’s gay. Excerpt:
Like many religions, there is a fundamentalist movement inside the Greek Orthodox Church that is stripping people away from its communities, breaking up families and shaking people’s faith. It’s a sort of Taliban-like effort to create pure and hyper-Christian theocracies free of people who don’t follow cookie-cutter descriptions of what they believe “good Orthodox Christians” to be. The number of priests who take this approach only seems to be growing in spite of—perhaps because of—the increasing tolerance of the world around them.
This is a dishonest column. To be sure, I can’t possibly know the nuances of this situation, but Pappas elides over some very important distinctions. In general, an Orthodox priest is not going to deny a communicant the sacrament because he or she is a homosexual. But if the priest knows that person is sexually active outside of marriage, then he not only has a right to withhold the sacrament, but also a responsibility to the would-be communicant to do so. In my parish, if I were unmarried and my priest knew I was having sex with my girlfriend, he would deny me communion. Pappas is right that Orthodox priests follow a pastoral practice called economia, which grants a pastor discretion in how strictly to apply rules in a given situation.
Pappas doesn’t even attempt to make a theological case for his position, or to lay out the Church’s teaching, and why he believes he can dissent from it in good conscience. Only this:
Because, while I may not be a biblical scholar, I believe I’m a good person…
And there you have it. The Bible has no authority over this guy, nor the Church, nor his priest, nor anything other than himself. Gregory Pappas has a good opinion of himself, so what’s the Church’s problem? I think I’m going to tell my priest that I’m not coming back to confession, because in my opinion, I’m a good person, and he’d better not deny me communion, or else I’m going to call him a “fundamentalist.”
The good news for me and my Church is that since this incident, which I wrote about here, I’ve heard from more than two dozen Greek Orthodox priests and even two bishops, inviting me to their parishes to receive Holy Communion.
However, I’ve also received hundreds of messages from people who have received similar treatment from like-minded moral authoritarians in the Church.
This will no doubt come as news to Gregory Pappas, but the Orthodox Church by definition holds moral authority over its members. Is it possible that certain priests behave tyrannically in wielding this moral authority? Absolutely, and that is to be regretted. Is it possible that Orthodox Christians like Pappas are too full of pride to submit to legitimate authority? Unquestionably.