Book Review: “Returning The Lost Sheep, Ministry to the Alcoholic and Addict: An Orthodox Perspective; Author: Father Dimitrios Moraitis
Publisher: Father Dimitrios Moraitis;
Date of Publication: USA, 2013
By Catherine Tsounis
A unique, pioneer work, based on a doctoral project, presents the Orthodox perspective to addiction through the eyes of Father Dimitrios Moraitis. The foremost Greek Orthodox and Christian theologians, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, scholars, laypersons and family network of the twenty-first century of his aided him in this monumental work. His Eminence, Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, explains in the Forward that “the work with a substantial bibliography constitutes a compelling argument, as well as a timely opportunity, for the involvement of clergy and other religious workers in our ongoing efforts to seek integration or particularly for the addict, reintegration into the church community.”
The book is one hundred and seventy-nine pages. The study analyzes his thesis in the following sections: What is Alcoholism; The cause of Alcoholism and Addiction: A theological Perspective and Twelve things Every Priest Should Know to properly Minister to Alcoholics & Addicts. Father Moraitis believes “…Recovery from addiction is more of a spiritual exercise than anything else and people in recovery are generally on a wonderful spiritual journey that can be enhanced by the priest and the church community and the recovery person can also enhance the church community,” (Part 1, p.20).
The author addresses a major point in an alcoholic’s recovery. How does one administer Holy Communion to an alcoholic in complete abstinence of alcohol? On page 55, the theologian addresses this issue. Father Moraitis lists and describes twelve core competencies for clergy. They include: definition and societal stigma; knowledge, signs, withdrawal characteristics, effects on individual and family and characteristics of recovery stages; awareness of indicators of disease; spiritual and religious recovery; early intervention; pastoral interactions with addicted person and network; positive communication; utilize community resources; knowledge of twelve step programs; address values and attitudes of alcohol and drug dependence; cultivate positive support from community and prevention strategies that benefit community.
Father Moraitis book is easy to read. His candor and incisive statements keep the reader’s attention. “All things must come to an end,” said the author. The alcoholic/addict will either get sober, end up in a psychiatric institution or die…Finally there is a spiritual rock-bottom, which comes as a result of a person realizing that they are dying spiritually. This is the result of the alcoholics and addicts awareness that they have truly distorted the image and likeness of God in themselves,” (pp. 87-88).
Many persons say why me, blaming God for their problems and consequences. Father Moraitis believes one has free will to get sober or to remain addicted, explained on page 89. The author believes the priest must be active in the recovery process of the addicted Orthodox Christian, helping in the return to the sacramental life of the church on page 148.
Father Moraitis hopes his study will spark dialogue between clergy, alcoholics, addicts and other addictions. His research can be a universal guide in the unique aspects of recovery of destructive spiritual and biological behavior. Reading Father Moraitis book inspired me to think about “the Greek influence on life after death “article written by Rabbi Marc Gellman in Newsday, June 1, 2013. He says that a soul survives the death of our bodies from God via Aristotle. Rabbi Gellman states that “After the conquest of Israel by Alexander in 333 BCE, a period called Hellenism began which brought Greek philosophy into contact with biblical Judaism through the scholar/teachers called rabbis, who unlike the biblical priestly class were drawn to Greek philosophy as a new source of divine revelation….All this should remind us that the greatest advances in religious thinking happen only when religious people take seriously what the best representatives of the secular world are learning and teaching about the nature of human existence. Father Dimitrios Moraitis takes the best information and services of the secular community, creating a masterpiece of Orthodox ministry to the alcoholic and addict.
Photo: Father Dimitrios Moraitis