Narcissistic Clericalism

“Clericalism shouldn’t have anything to do with Christianity”


For those who know me, they would not be surprised to hear that I am anti-clerical. I am sickened when I witness clergy who expect special treatment, or who gush before their bishops, like court officials in some kingdom of bygone days. I was thus delighted to read a news report, some time ago, that Pope Francis has vowed to change the mindset of the Roman Catholic church, declaring that the institution “must return to being a community of the people of God” and rethink the relationship between its leaders and the laity.

The Pope went on to say, “Leaders of the Church have often been Narcissus, flattered and sickeningly excited by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy. Sometimes when I meet a cleric, I suddenly become anti-clerical,” the pontiff said. “Clericalism shouldn’t have anything to do with Christianity.”

I like this pope, and I pray we Orthodox clergy, be we lowly monks like myself, or patriarchs, archbishops, archimandrites, or mitered archpriests, pay attention to the prophetic witness of this man of God. I pray we will not simply dismiss the Roman pope’s words, and his humble example, as those of the leader of a church in schism from Orthodoxy, but hear his words as coming from a man who loves Christ, and who wishes to reverse the terrible turning away from God.

This world cannot well afford the remnant of Christianity to continue living the bad example of privilege, power and wealth, while witnessing the slaughter of innocent Christians in the Middle East, the mass turning away from Christ in the West, and the masses of people lost in poverty and hopelessness.

It would do us well, as priests and bishops, to remember that the kissing of our hand by the laity is not about us. It is given as a way of honoring Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the priest is a servant of Christ and steward of the Mysteries. When someone kisses his right hand, it is about Christ, and Christ only.

“And for their sake I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:19). To sanctify means to consecrate. Christ consecrated Himself for the ministry and our redemption. All the ranks of the priesthood are consecrated for ministry, according to the example of Christ, the High Priest, and if we truly follow the example of Christ, we will serve His people as simple servants. And for we Orthodox, we need only look to the examples of the humble Orthodox Clerics and true priests and ministers, Patriarch Pavle of Blessed Memory of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and Archbishop (now saint) John of San Francisco.

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Tuesday April 19, 2016 / April 6, 2016
Sixth Week of the Great Lent. Tone five.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Food without Oil

St. Eutychius, patriarch of Constantinople (582).
New Hieromartyr John priest (1934).
New Hieromartyr James priest (1943).
St. Sebastian, Elder of Optina and Karaganda (1966).
St. Methodius, Equal-to-the-Apostles, enlightener of the Slavs (885).
Venerable Platonida (Platonis) of Nisibis (308).
120 Martyrs of Persia (345).
Martyrs Jeremiah and Archilias the Presbyter.
Venerable Gregory of St. Athanasius monastery on Mt. Athos, instructor of St. Gregory Palamas (1308).
Venerable Gregory the Sinaite (1346).
2 Martyrs from Ascalon.
New Martyr Nicholas of Lesbos (1463).
New Monk-martyr Gennadius of Dionysiou, Mt. Athos, who suffered at Constantinople (1818).
New Martyrs Manuel, Theodore, George, Michael, and another George, of Samothrace (1835).

Scripture Readings

Isaiah 49:6-10

6 Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

7 Thus says the Lord,
The Redeemer of Israel, their Holy One,
To Him whom man despises,
To Him whom the nation abhors,
To the Servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and arise,
Princes also shall worship,
Because of the Lord who is faithful,
The Holy One of Israel;
And He has chosen You.”

8 Thus says the Lord:

“In an acceptable time I have heard You,
And in the day of salvation I have helped You;
I will preserve You and give You
As a covenant to the people,
To restore the earth,
To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;
9 That You may say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth,’
To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’

“They shall feed along the roads,
And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights.
10 They shall neither hunger nor thirst,
Neither heat nor sun shall strike them;
For He who has mercy on them will lead them,
Even by the springs of water He will guide them.

Genesis 31:3-16

3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.”

4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, 5 and said to them, “I see your father’s countenance, that it isnot favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me. 6 And you know that with all my might I have served your father. 7 Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. 8 If he said thus: ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked. 9 So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me.

10 “And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted. 11 Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’”

14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money. 16 For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children’s; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it.”

Proverbs 21:3-21

3 To do righteousness and justice
Is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

4 A haughty look, a proud heart,
And the plowing of the wicked are sin.

5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,
But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

6 Getting treasures by a lying tongue
Is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.

7 The violence of the wicked will destroy them,
Because they refuse to do justice.

8 The way of a guilty man is perverse;
But as for the pure, his work is right.

9 Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop,
Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

10 The soul of the wicked desires evil;
His neighbor finds no favor in his eyes.

11 When the scoffer is punished, the simple is made wise;
But when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.

12 The righteous God wisely considers the house of the wicked,
Overthrowing the wicked for their wickedness.

13 Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor
Will also cry himself and not be heard.

14 A gift in secret pacifies anger,
And a bribe behind the back, strong wrath.

15 It is a joy for the just to do justice,
But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.

16 A man who wanders from the way of understanding
Will rest in the assembly of the dead.

17 He who loves pleasure will be a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.

18 The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous,
And the unfaithful for the upright.

19 Better to dwell in the wilderness,
Than with a contentious and angry woman.

20 There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it.

21 He who follows righteousness and mercy
Finds life, righteousness, and honor.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.


  1. Abbot Tryphon, thanks again for another thought provoking article. Like you I believe Pope Francis is one who needs and deserves our prayers and respect as he seeks to lead by example. His recent encyclical on the Family has a strong undercurrent of “economia” which is a good thing.
    As to heroes, please don’t forget Archbishop Dmtri of Dallas of blessed memory.
    Remembering you and your community in my prayers.
    Pray for me a sinner

  2. Dear Abbot Tryphon,

    The recognition of Pope Francis’ servant’s heart is something that will reverse so many negatives associated with being a Christian. His love of the Orthodox is a treasure too!


  3. Thank you very much for this. As a Lay Catholic I am alarmed at the sub-servient mentality of our Lay People. If we are to stay on mission for the sake of the Lord, we must take ownership of the Body of Christ..

  4. This was a nice short podcast. Holiness knows no bounds. But listening to Fr. Tryphon say he likes this Pope, particularly his stand against narsistic clericalism, reminded me of Fr. Schmemann’s book, The Eucharist. This Orthodox theologian gives a clear assessment of the negative consequences of clericalism within the church. He also writes on how to overcome clericalism through the sound Eucharistic theology of liturgy. Fr. Tryphon’s disgust for clericalism and praise for the pope’s leaves something to be desired. Schmemann’s writings are not fantasy as a small contingency would think. I have nothing against the Pope expressing what’s right. But clearly, before applauding the Pope with a lesson for us, maybe we should reconsider Fr. Schmemann’s critic and put his recommendations to work. How about we talk on that in a podcast?

  5. I have a dream this morning someone told me That I must look at Tryphon it was so clear , I was Told to use it . I have never heard the word Tryphon . I just google it and found out it’s a Saint . Can you explain to me what it means , from now on I will think of him in my prayers . Can you email me back on
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  6. I dreamed about the word Tryphon , someone told me I need to take it and read it . I never heard the word Tryphon and I googled it , to my surprise it’s a saint wow wow , I like the reading if Abbot Tryphon I wish to meet you .I live in Australia, I have been badly judged in the Catholic church , because I am divorced and remarried . I need God in my life and I take communion , I have lots of miracle in my life .

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