Chris Vlahonasios is a law graduate from Victoria University and Orthodox media writer for TRANSFIGURE Media.
Meet Abbot Tryphon – you may know him from his popular blog, ‘The Morning Offering’, or perhaps you’ve read one of his many books or follow him and his Monastery’s Facebook page? However, do you know the ‘real’ Abbot Tryphon? According to the world’s largest social media platform, Facebook, Abbot Tryphon can no longer be an ‘Abbot’ and must use his ‘real name’…does anyone know by what other name or names he goes by because I sure don’t!
On Holy Monday, Day 2 of Holy Week, Abbot Tryphon was shut-out of his Facebook account because he still used his spiritual title. This is truly abhorrent. As the Abbot wrote on his blog, this could not come at a worse time: Holy Week and the great Feast of Feasts. Not only is this a great injustice towards Abbot Tryphon, but it shows a great lack of sensitivity to all Orthodox priest, monastics, deacons, bishops, as well as Christians from other dominations.
Earlier this year, Facebook announced it would take steps to enforce its ‘real/legal name’ policy, which has been part of the company’s terms and conditions for many years. This policy extends to not just religious people but professionals and those using pseudonyms. According to Facebook, it’s to ensure users “always know who [they’re] connecting with.” But how can you find someone or identify them if the name they’re required to use on Facebook doesn’t match the one they’re known by in the real world? But more importantly, there’s a reason why their names are different from those of most people. When someone becomes a priest/monk/nun/bishop, they effectively ‘die’ to their old self and are given a new name. This is highly symbolic and an ancient tradition of our Church.
It’s important to point out how this policy affects several important values granted to all members of society. It affects clergy’s:
- Freedom of association – it prevents clergy from being easily identified so as to connect and interact online.
- Right to communication – as in the case of Abbot Tryphon, our spiritual leaders may be unable to publish information if they don’t agree to the policy.
- Freedom of religion – restricting the use of spiritual titles oppresses the individual from freely exercising their Faith in an open environment.
- Reducing one’s identity – every person is supposedly free to express their personality and perception of self. Re-categorizing priests and bishops to be named like the rest of us greatly reduces diversity and uniqueness, qualities supposedly valued in Western societies.
Due to this experience, an online petition has been set up where you can show your support and ask Facebook to allow our clergy and monastics the right to use their spiritual titles. Please be sure to share this with your friends and spread the word.
Watch Abbot Tryphon in the award-winning short documentary, Men In Black (Byzanfest 2015, Audience Favourite), which explores why monastics and priest dress differently from the rest of us – another example of how we express our unique identity.
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+