Simony, the acquisition and exercise of the holy order of the priesthood by and for monetary considerations, is a satanical device propagated to subvert the Church created by God, and to bring to frustration the redemptive work of Christ. The Son of God accomplishes the sanctification and salvation of man by means of the Mysteries of the Church and by the regular, canonical priesthood which celebrates the Mysteries in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.
Through simony, Satan opposes this plan and seeks the frustration of the work of Christ. The diabolical plot was initiated at the very onset of the life of the Church through the action of Simon Magus, a treacherous servant of Satan, who offered St. Peter monetary reward in return for the authority to place his hands upon men and pretend to endow them with the grace of the Holy Spirit. From the action of Magus, this despicable sin came to be termed simony.
The book of Acts records how the blessed disciple of Christ repudiated Simon and his wicked, sinful offer, and how St. Peter condemned the instigator with his tainted silver to everlasting damnation. “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts 8:20).
Ecclesiastical history indicates that from the period of the apostles until the fall of Constantinople to Mohammed II in 1453, simony was guarded against vigilantly. Where it appeared, its perpetrators were punished by deposition from office and excommunication, by all true shepherds and teachers of the Church. Never throughout this period was the subversive and shocking offence a match for the validity and authority of the apostolic canons and those of the councils, however rife it was because of the corruption of manners and the daily increase in vice.
But following the fall of Constantinople, the offence was countenanced by the anti-Christian authority of Mohammed, and was propagated to resist the authority and validity of the sacred canons. Thus the prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled which says, “And a sin-offering was given for the sacrifice, and righteousness was cast down to the ground; and it practiced, and prospered” (Daniel 8: 12; LXX). Let us examine the facts about the rise and development of the kind of clergy which committed simony, as found in the history of the East.
After Mohammed II terminated the Christian kingdom in Byzantium, he found that in order to keep the defeated Christians in subjection, he had to come to terms with the highest ecclesiastical authority, and to determine the relations between it and his own regime. It was to Mohammed’s advantage for a patriarch to be chosen who was hostile to union with the latin West.
Such a one was the already distinguished George Scholarius, who received the monastic name of Gennadios. This man was chosen and consecrated patriarch in the church of the Holy Apostles, just as was the practice under the Byzantine emperors. Mohammed emulated them when he invested the new patriarch with his mantle of office and placed into his hands the symbol of authority, the staff or golden sceptre ornamented with precious stones and pearls. Then he set him on one of his royal horses, splendidly caparisoned, and escorted him with a procession of high ranking officials of the court from the palace to the church of the Holy Apostles which was then the patriarchal church, instead of the desecrated church of Agia Sophia.
After the enthronement of the new patriarch, Mohammed issued a firman by which the patriarch was acknowledged to be the highest authority in the Church and the official Christian bodies, exempt from paying taxes, secure from deposition, and overlord of the churches and ecclesiastical property. In the near future, no churches belonging to the Christians would be allowed to be converted into mosques.
In summary, not only did the authority of the patriarch over ecclesiastical matters suffer no diminution because of the conquest, but also it even received a greater area of control which it had not had under the Byzantine emperors. Because of the patriarch and his privileges, the nation of Christians formed a milet, a state within a state. However, the two states of opposite natures and different missions could not live together peacefully or according to the conditions of the agreement as originally recognized. Unfortunately, violation of the conditions of the treaty was begun – to the harm of the body of the Church – by the very persons who should have striven to the bitter end for their observance.
Gennadios, the first patriarch after the conquest, who WM canonically consecrated, cared for the Church in holiness and piety for five years. Then of his own accord he resigned the patriarchate and retired to the holy monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Serrae, Macedonia, where he demised. The successor to Gennadios was Isidoros, the saintly confessor, a pious patriarch revered by all. He expired in office after leading the Church for six years and two months in a manner which was pleasing to God.
Meletios, the ecclesiastical historian, records that Sophronios Syropoulos succeeded Isidoros. He was removed from office after one year, however, and Joasaph Koas or Koccas was elevated to the patriarchate in 1466. By his deeds this godly patriarch demonstrated that he was one of the good shepherds who sacrifice their lives on behalf of the sheep, refusing to betray them to the jurisdiction of the wolves.
George Amiroutzes of Trapezus or Trebizond, a favourite of the sultan, desired without valid reason to divorce his wife so that he might wed the beautiful widow of the duke of Athens. The sultan commanded the patriarch to satisfy the unlawful desire of his favourite – despite the privileges and immunity which he himself had sanctioned. Patriarch Joasaph chose to uphold the sacred canons of the Church and refused to bow to the sultan’s tyrannical command. Incensed by this refusal, the godless despot ordered not only the dethronement of Joasaph, but also commanded that his beard be removed in barbarous fashion as a sign of humiliation.
During the commission of this atavistic act, the devout shepherd cried, “Let them sever not only my beard, but also my hands, my feet, and my head. And still I shall never violate the laws for which I have been appointed guardian and champion.” Behold the good shepherd!
Tragically, the successors to Joasaph failed to emulate this holy paradigm. They entered the sheepfold not openly by the gate, but furtively over the wall through simony, as common thieves and robbers bent upon bloodshed and destruction.
Mark Xylocaraves, a Byzantine and wholesome leader, succeeded Joasaph. But contemporaneously there arose one priest-monk, Symeon or Simon of Trebizond, who possessed the same name and tactics as Simon Magus. This new Simon, with the assistance of courtiers from Trebizond and favourites who had become thoroughly Turkish, proffered one thousand gold pieces, or a year’s tax, to the sultan in order to purchase the office of patriarch. He further offered to forego the subsidy which until then the patriarchate received from the sultan.
Because of his hatred for Christ and love of money, the Turkish tyrant gladly accepted the proposition of this second Simon, and thus violated the very conditions which he himself promised and ratified by his firman. Hence it was that in 1467, fourteen years following the conquest, this accursed Simon – with the aid of money and the power of a tyrant of compulsion – ascended the throne of St. John Chrysostomos. From that time and that individual may be dated the rise of the regular practice of simony by the clergy, up to the present day.
Once the evil commenced, and the door to simony opened wide, there began to pass through it many deceivers and wolves in sheepskin, moved by the desire to sacrifice and destroy the flock of Christ. Tragically, entrance to the priesthood simultaneously was denied to godly and honest shepherds.
However, this first patriarch to commit simony suffered for his sin against the Church. Only two years transpired when Dionysius, the metropolitan of Philippopolis, together with the stepmother of the sultan, lady Maria, offered two thousand gold pieces to obtain the patriarchal throne. The offer was accepted; Simon was ousted and Dionysius seized his ignominious position.
A coarse man and drunkard, Raphael the Serb, through a Turkish magnate in 1479, proffered the sultan two thousand gold pieces as an annual tax, plus five hundred gold pieces as a special gift for purchase of the sultan’s robes. This profligate then became patriarch, deposing Simon who returned to the throne following the abdication of Dionysius who had ousted him. Twice, then, the wicked second Simon was punished for his sin; one immoral agent was overthrown by another through the power of Satan, as wielded by his son, Mohammed.
This is the fierce wild boar concerning which the prophet David spoke: “Wherefore hast thou broken down its hedge, while all that pass by the way pluck it? The boar out of the wood has laid it waste, and the wild beast has devoured it” (Psalms 79:12,1 3; LXX). The wild swine of the forest is the Roman or papal sect, and the fierce wild boar is the antichrist Mohammed II and his successors. The pope and Mohammed are two arms of Satan by which the holy Church of Christ has been pillaged and raped. But let us return to the immediate subject.
The simoniac tax was increased from two thousand to three thousand gold coins, and over and above this regular tribute, substantial bribes also were accepted by court officials of the sultan, the viziers, the eunuchs, the women of the harem, and the janissaries, for it was by their good will that patriarchs were appointed and upheld. All this fell upon the remainder of the clergy and in the end on the laity too, for they bore the costly burden of a worthless figurehead.
The patriarchs bought the throne for great sums of money and then auctioned the dioceses to the bishops who bid the highest. In their tum, the bishops so appointed sold the parishes and the Mystery of Ordination to priests. Thus simony completely superseded the apostolic rules and the decisions of the councils, and no mention of them could be made.
Sin usurped the throne of God’s justice and the prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled which says, “And a sin-offering was given for the sacrifice, and righteousness was cast down to the ground … “ (Daniel 8:12; LXX). The clergy, though their hands were stained with the sin of simony, continued to offer up the bloodless sacrifice, and the authority of the sacred laws and canons was violated by the Satan-inspired authority of the Turks.
This unhappy and deplorable situation still exists today (1880 AD) not only where the iniquitous power of the Turks prevails, but also in our free Greece, which fifty years ago was liberated from the rule of the Turks. Simony continues in free Greece, just as it continues among those Orthodox Christians who remain under the Turkish yoke.
Political freedom has not brought about the freedom of the Church from simony, that leprous infection introduced by Simon of Trebizond and his successors, for the positions of the vizier and pasha have been occupied by men such as Koumoundouros, Avgerinos, Valasopoulos, and Nikolopoulos.* In the name of constitutional freedom and the authority of the canons, they ignominiously but successfully pursue an identical course of sin, tyranny, and absolutism as the Turks.
When the history of the false clergy who have committed simony is considered relative to the rise and development of simony, it becomes manifest that those clergy are the fruits and creatures of the power of the conqueror Mohammed and of his hostility toward Christ. The simoniacs have a mission to hold the people in slavery and sin, and to uphold the authority of the Turks, for by that authority they are fed and nourished and wax fat; from it they receive honour – though it is the honour of disgrace, arrogance, betrayal, and sin. As the natural consequence of this historical account, the following question arises.
Because Hellas and Christian Hellenes have risen in revolt against Turkish tyranny, in the name of the faith of Christ and for the freedom of the fatherland, and because Turkish domination has ceased for the most part in present day Greece, should the clergy of the Turkish regime, who perpetrated simony, continue in their offices – or should they be replaced by a canonical and irreproachable clergy who will lead our holy Church in a just and godly manner? Is it correct that sin, even at this very moment, should sit enthroned upon the atoning sacrifice? Should the justice of God be frustrated by simony? Or has the moment arrived for the justice of God to return for judgment, and for all the upright in heart to lay hold upon it?
Those who labour with the Logos and the Kerygma** sincerely believe that the time of collapse has passed, and that now is the beginning of the resurrection and glory of the persecuted Church. Where simony has been proved, as in the persons of Averkios Lampires, Stephen Argyriades, and Spyridon Kompothekras,*** it should be extirpated through the sacred canons, and the entire body of the clergy should be regenerated by repentance and canonical ordination, as also the laity. Both the clergy and laity should bear fruit which befits repentance in order to appease divine justice and avoid the wrath which is to come – which is directed against every act of ungodliness and corruption by men who suppress truth by their wickedness.
Prokopios, the metropolitan of Athens, and his party, believe that they should remain with the Turkish regime and should die in their sins. They believe that by virtue of the Turkish government they are justified in exiling canonical priests, those who demand the enforcement of divine justice and preach to the people repentance and remission of sins, dependent on bearing fruit worthy of their change of heart.
The previous government of Koumoundouros and Avgerinos rendered assistance and of support to the Turkish regime, and conducted affairs according to its policy, even though they played the duplicitous role of law abiding churchmen and lovers of freedom. Hence the present government is summoned to settle the question according to the desires of illegitimate, simoniac, and sinful clergy.
The entire nation, as it heeds the problem and comes to comprehend it, is called upon to declare itself either for the Turkish establishment, or for the restoration and true freedom of the fatherland. We possess the solemn conviction that the and holy and pantokrator God will destroy the wicked, and exalt and glorify those who glorfy Him.
Thus He spake to the prophet Samuel: “For I will only honour them that honour me, and he that sets me at nought shall be despised” (I Kings 2:30b; LXX) .
* Prime minister, minister of ecclesiastics, and other governmental officials.
** Periodicals published and edited by Apostolos Makrakis.
*** These three bishops, ordained by the synod, were tried and convicted of simony, because of the protests of Apostolos Makrakis. Because they were required simply to return the money with which they purchased their ordination, and merely were fined rather than defrocked, as the holy canons demand, Makrakis continued his preachments against the guilty prelates and attacked both the synod and civil tribunals.