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The Last Temptation in the Kingdom of the Chaste

Anastasios D. Kalantzis, Surgeon Urologist-Andrologist


“Moral values are the base for the good faith and the successful social contact”, Naguib Mahfuz – “Naguib Mahfuz at Cidy Gaber”.


In Italy, only the announcement of the title of Carmelo Abbate’s book “Sex and the Vatican, the Secret Journey in the Kingdom of the Chaste” raised turmoil and commotion. It is a book based on real testimonies of people and deals with the homosexual relationships between clergymen or between clergymen and laymen, romantic relationships between priests and women and the existence of illegitimate children as a result of these relationships, illegal abortions etc


The Bible includes homosexuality in the “sin” category, identifying it as an “abomination”. Also, the official name of the term masturbation in the Orthodox Church is “the solitary sin”.


The term “sexual harassment” is an elegant description of the widespread, in the circle of priest, pederasty, a phenomenon observed mostly in the Catholic Church. Many are the clergymen who have been accused of and stood trial for juvenile rape.


Such stories rattle the US Archdiocese to its foundations, as they are trying to reduce the negative impact to the Orthodox Church and, in 1997, were called to pay compensations amounting to $8.3 million for old stories and pederasty scandals that were publicly revealed.


Pope Benedict XVI himself said that the terrifying truth, that the greatest threat comes from the bosom of the church, must be recognized.


We shouldn’t go far, however. Let’s listen to what is happening in our parishes. As noted by law specialists who have been dealing for a long time with cases of sexual harassment and abuse of minors by clergymen, the cases that become publically known and are taken to court are too few in contrast to what is really happening, especially in rural areas, where, unfortunately the rule of silence and the fear of social stigma prevail and usually result to a “rude, immoral and extortionary compromise”.


The filth will expand and will burn us all, said Seraphim regarding the sexual scandals swarming in the bosom of the church.


In 1953, when Kazantzakis had returned to Greece from Antibes, the Orthodox Church was launching his persecution. He was accused of sacrilege, based on abstracts from his book “Captain Michalis” and the content of his latest book “The Last Temptation”, which had not yet been published in Greece. In 1954, with a formal letter to the Greek Government, the Holy Synod asked that the books of Kazantzakis be banned. Finally, the Greek Church did not dare to proceed with excommunicating him, as the ecumenical patriarch Athinagoras was against such an action, but he was anathematized and cursed by the Hierarchy of the Greek Church, and his name is still baring this ecclesiastical stigma. Furthermore, his “Last Temptation” was included by the Roman Catholic Church in the (now abolished) Prohibited Books Index (Index Librorum Prohibitorum).


35 years later, in October 1988, the movie “The Last Temptation”, directed by Martin Scorsese, made its premiere in the Greek movie theaters.


The Last Temptation was the Last even for Scorsese. He faced the first at the age of 16 when, enclosed in a catholic school and ready to enter the theological seminary in order to become a priest, he failed to cope with the temptation of… masturbation, as he says, only to realize in adolescence that the road to heaven passes through hell.


In order to avoid misunderstandings regarding his intentions, the director made sure to declare that his movie was not based on the gospels, but rather on Kazantzakis’ book and also quotes the first paragraph of the introduction that Kazantzakis wrote for his book: “The dual substance of Christ—the yearning, so human, so superhuman, of man to attain to God or, more exactly, to return to God and identify himself with him—has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me. This nostalgia for God, at once so mysterious and so real, has opened in me large wounds and also large flowing springs. My principal anguish and the source of all my joys and sorrows from my youth onward has been the incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh”. It is,, in other words, a literary rather than a theological myth; it is a philosophical interpretation of some theological facts.


The result?


A priest, a theologian and eight Christian unions applied for injunctions claiming that:


“With this movie, scenes of which are described herein, the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ is publically and maliciously vilified, the religious feeling and the belief of the applicants, and consequently their personality are insulted, within the meaning of article 57CC, the Constitution and moral practices are violated, by misuse of the right of the defendant, whose practice is obviously exceeding the limits imposed by morality as well as its social and economic purpose, offending, according to common sense, the public decency, because of the aforementioned obscene scenes, while its screening causes severe protests, demonstrations and heckling that threaten the order and peace of society”.


For these reasons they asked to prohibit the import, release, sale and projection/screening of the movie, order its confiscation and, the most outrageous, order the publication of the decision in two daily Athens newspapers, at the expense of the defendant.


Finally, upon decision of the First Instance Court of Athens, the screening of the movie was prohibited. Melina Merkouri, acting as a Ministry of Culture at that time, expressed her sorrow and disappointment for this judicial decision.


What really matters is not the difference between the faithful and the unfaithful, but between those who have concerns, soul and morality and those that have nothing.


Kazantzakis, answering to the threats regarding his excommunication, wrote in a letter to the church: "You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I".