Which Professions Are Incompatible With The Priesthood?

All dioceses of the Russian Church will soon be receiving the document “Professions compatible and incompatible with the priesthood,” intended for broad discussion, writes the Church’s official site.

The draft document was created by order of an inter-council commission dated January 28, 2015. To discuss and comment on the document is possible on the official site of the Inter-Council presence, Bogoslov.ru, and the Inter-Council’s official blog.

The draft document notes that “conditions of modern life sometimes raise the question of reconciling the priesthood and secular professions,” reports the online journal Foma. The following professions are suggested as incompatible:

  • Military service and “generally any service, even in private corporations, involving the carrying and use of weapons”;
  • Civil service in executive or judicial bodies;
  • Medical activities connected with the shedding of human blood, especially of surgeons (the example of St. Luke of Crimea being an exception “connected with the circumstances of the time” according to the document) and other medical positions.
    Here it is noted that “the ruling bishop may sanction the medical or paramedical activity of a cleric if it is able to bear good fruits”;
  • Personal businesses, especially in banking, credit, and insurance;
  • Work in establishments of dubious reputation, such as gambling houses, casinos, etc.;
  • Professional sports;
  • Acting, dancing, stage singing.

Would you add any to this? Do you agree with this list? What changes would you make to it?




Which Professions Are Incompatible With The Priesthood?


  1. Priest Raphael Johnston says:

    I teach high school full-time in an Outreach setting, and while on the surface there is no comparability issue between teaching and the priesthood, more and more the seculat and increasingly godless authorities will insist that teachers in public schools “toe the line” when it comes to gender issues and the like.

    The time may very well come when my priesthood requires retirement from my teaching position.

  2. Seems ridiculous to exclude physicians.

  3. Dn Christopher Grant says:

    I would assume that Military Chaplains would not be covered by a prohibition on military service. I’m a little confused as to why a personal business would be incompatible, though. I have heard of Priests who were builders, sold church furnishings and vestments, web designers, etc. They are self employed, running their own businesses, and aside from the time commitment, I don’t see why this would be incompatible. Perhaps I am misunderstanding what is meant by Personal businesses?

    • In reply to my esteemed colleague Deacon Christopher, the OCA helped the Russian military to set up a revised chaplaincy program based somewhat on what we do in this country. I remember a conversation with Metropolitan THEODOSIUS in which he said that we insisted that chaplains be officers, not enlisted. The key here, I think, is the carrying of weapons. Chaplains and medics are not allowed to carry weapons.

      I know one priest who is a builder, a deacon who owns his own construction business, and a former priest who had his own practice, psychology. The last one was in the MP.

      I also know a priest who is a civil servant in the American understanding of the term. He works for a local government, in their executive branch.

      i wonder how much of this is lost in translation and how much is cultural differences. Years ago when my MP parish asked the bishop if hunting would be allowed on our 65-acre property, he asked, “Are they that desperate for food?”

  4. As a community chaplain for the Police Department, I might also be faced with this gender issue. I am also working on becoming a hospital chaplain and the issue might be there also.

    I know at least one priest and one deacon who are medical doctors. Thus I was surprised to see this profession on the list.

    I also know police officers who are pastors and I have had a problem with this. I’m happy to see that the Church apparently agrees with me. There has been a discussion recently on whether or not deacons [not Orthodox] can carry weapons and this was extremely strange to me.

    I do not see how civil service would be an issue unless one is in a high ranking political position. An engineer for the U.S. Department of Transportation would fall under this prohibition, but he would in essence be no different than an engineer working for a major construction company. I used to be a computer programmer for the U.S. Department of Labor and there was absolutely no conflict between my work as a programmer and the possibility of being a priest. Plus, as a community chaplain for the Police Department, I would be under the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the City of Baltimore. Do we really want to have only Baptist and Pentecostal chaplains in the system? They cannot adequately minister to the spiritual needs of Orthodox and Catholics.

  5. is there anything you can’t put in one or more of these categories? granted the church should in theory support its clergy. (the pay for play approach of charging for baptisms, house blessings and other services strikes me as inappropriate and seems to track back to the days when the Turks would demand money to approave an EP who then demanded money from everyone downline of him everywhere and they raisedit any way they could).

  6. Pany Anastasiou says:

    What about selling pizzas in my own business?

  7. Michael F says:

    As a former police officer, it hurts me that law enforcement is implied as incompatible. You must forget all the good we do. I can tell you hundreds of stories where I was able to reach out and help so many people….shame…

    • Fr. John A. Peck says:

      This is a list for discussion, Michael. Do not get hurt by the suggestion that a profession requiring the bearing of sidearms might be excluding from offering the bloodless sacrifice. And there is no reason to equate ‘doing good’ with ‘being a priest’ – please keep doing everything you can!

    • Fr. John Peck already responded, but let me second what he wrote: just because a profession is incompatible with the priesthood does not mean it is immoral or bad, just that it doesn’t match the role. Orthodox strongly value first responders and the military (we have strong theology of the state).

      Roles are important. As a side note, I am guessing that your distress is (alas) similar to that felt by women who feel their service is being devalued. It would be a very strange theology that does not value the role of women in the world … but that doesn’t mean that being a woman is compatible with being a priest. Ditto for marriage and monasticism or service as a bishop. It’s a sensitive subject, but there is also the frequently debated (and oft misunderstood) factor of ritual purity, as well (as was noted for doctors and EMTs).

      God bless the service you did as a police officer (and all of our first responders)!

  8. I’ve personally seen the priesthood destroyed by the man being simultaneously a lawyer and another by being a financial investor (who lost parishioners’ money). I concur with the other comments that certain formerly compatible vocations (i.e. public school teacher) are becoming less compatible due to state requirements.

  9. Deacon Nicholas says:

    Before being ordained as a deacon, I was careful to ask my bishop whether my career as an intelligence officer was an impediment. It wasn’t. Even though I was an analyst and historian, I still felt better about the diaconate when I retired.

  10. Peter Von Berg says:

    That list is incomplete. Here are some more:
    1. Ice cream man
    2. Snake handler
    3. Employee of NY Transit Authority
    4.Movie usher
    5. Gift wrapper at Macy’s
    6. Mailman
    7. Baggage handler
    9. Dog walker
    10. Swimming pool maintenance.

  11. Edward Kernow says:

    Why would occupation as a Civil Servant (departmental) or Public Servant (executive agency) not be compatible with the priesthood?

    • Fr. John A. Peck says:

      I think it has to do with the patronage involved with working for the government/state. No man can serve two masters, and the State is the most murderous master in history.

      • My priest is a civil servant, at least as I understand the term. He works for a city agency. Technically when I put on my community chaplain uniform, I am an unpaid civil servant. When I am at the prison in my prison ministry role, I am also an unpaid civil servant. When Fr. Michael was a chaplain at the VA Medical Servant, he was a civil servant. When Fr. Thomas was a social worker back in the 1970s, he was probably a civil servant. Back then a social worker was allowed to have moral values. That is not true today.

        I wonder if the term “civil servant” has a different connotation in Russia than it does in the United States. We are called to bring the lost sheep back to the fold.

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