A gay clergyman in Pelusium

Some problems are always with us. It is always hard to believe that someone is a deliberate villain, even when all the evidence points that way. Isidore of Pelusium was neither the first nor the last to encounter one; nor the last spiritual counsellor to discover that he was dealing with a rogue.

1228 (V.12) TO ZOSIMUS, PRIEST

Many people — perhaps it would be too harsh to say “all people” – scoff at you, and do so extremely violently and bitterly. I wish they were wrong! But when he who is your own brother, groaning and deploring on your account, has submitted to us the same report, indeed a report more overpowering, by begging us to drag you out, if possible, from this abyss of vice where you have grown old in your misfortune, often rejecting those who were exhorting you not to go with those to whom you have entrusted yourself, then I address this letter to you.

I do so that you may become master of yourself and that you may blush at the shame at your immodesty, at the old age towards which you are being drawn, at the sacred priesthood which you have acquired I do not know how, at the misdeeds and actual scandals, and that you cease to wallow in vice, acting the young man “on the threshold of old age”.

Indeed how will you exhort the young people to temperance, if you don’t even exhort yourself at the time of old age? How can you not tremble to behave thus and yet approach the altar? How do you dare to touch the immaculate mysteries?

I warn you — even if this pains you, the truth must be said in all frankness — stop acting like this, or at least keep away from the venerable altar; fear to attract one day the fire of heaven on your own head [1], to provide the weak with good reasons to use the sort of language which they like.

[1] An allusion to the fire which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. This indicates the sort of scandalous vices that Zosimus was practising. In other letters Isidore is equally frank: n° 671, 795, 1326 (5.77), 1508 (5.220), 1754 (5.389), 1729 (5.373), cf. Is. de P., p. 217, and n. 138.

1229 (V.13) TO THE SAME

I learn that a wise man, detached from riches and a defender of virtue [1], has met you, that he did all that was necessary to correct you, but saw himself dismissed without having achieved anything, without having been able to help you; your disease appeared stronger than his medical art. Whereas you should have, charmed by the beauty of his ideas, full of admiration for his intelligence and respect for the nobility of his feelings, put a limit to your vice, you dismissed him, not only as a failure, but even with an insult.

What must be done then? If nobody can be of any help to you, if even advice is merely treated as mistaken, if the laughter of people doesn’t matter, if the public scandal appears negligible to you, if you are inaccessible to the fear of God, if the threat of judgement makes you laugh, it seems that without knowing it we have been dealing with a heart of stone.

[1] Perhaps the sophist Harpocras or the cornes Herminos.

To the selfish, the church is merely an opportunity for self-advancement or plunder, not something with whose reputation they are in any way concerned.  Parallels with men of similar vices in our own days are not far to seek.

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