Gay Russian priest who fled to Holland after coming out claims clergy have sex to get promotions

Lily Wakefield March 6, 2021
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Metropolitan Mercurius of Rostov and Novocherkassk

Metropolitan Mercurius of Rostov and Novocherkassk denies that he knew the former priest was gay. (Getty/ Valery MatytsinTASS)

A gay, Russian former priest who fled to Holland after coming out has claimed that homophobic clergy sleep with their superiors for promotions.

Alexander Usatov was a Russian orthodox priest in the Rostov and Novocherkassk diocese until he quit his position around a year ago.

At the time he wrote an opinion piece for Snob, explaining that he had lost his faith, and that the “belief in an anthropomorphic heavenly being, who is angry and takes revenge on people” had become “alien and unpleasant” to him.

But he has now revealed that he was forced to leave the church, and even fled the country, because he is gay and was being harassed and bullied by colleagues and superiors.

This week he wrote another piece published by Snob, in which he said that he fled to the Netherlands with the help of LGBT+ activists in the EU.

The former priest wrote: “I am gay and have never felt safe in the Russian orthodox church, and in recent years I have become the object of persecution by the Metropolitan and his entourage, who knew about my orientation.”

He said he had come out to Metropolitan Mercurius, whose secular name is Igor Ivanov, the head of the Rostov and Novocherkassk diocese, which he soon came to “regret”.

Usatov claimed that it was common for priests in the Russian orthodox church to sleep with higher-ranking church leaders for promotion.

He wrote: “Gays in the Russian orthodox church are in a dual situation.

“On the one hand, everyone knows about the existence of the gay lobby and the opportunity to make an easy career after going through the bishop’s bed.

“On the other hand, the most active parishioners of the church are ardent homophobes, and by relying on them, the church is building out of itself a stronghold of traditional sexual morality.”

Usatov said that another priest, who he claims was sleeping with other men, because aware of his sexuality after he came out and wrote a “denunciation” of him.

He said: “He didn’t like the fact that I was talking with the guys he had an eye on, and out of jealousy, he began to spread false rumours about me, scare the Metropolitan, and even write denunciations… I think he was intimidated by the possibility of his own exposure.”

Usatov was accused of “support for [political opposition leader] Navalny, propaganda of opposition ideas and LGBT+ campaigning among young people”. 

He was fired, and eventually the former priest became so fearful of the repercussions that he fled the country.

A spokesperson for Metropolitan Mercurius has denied that the leader ever knew that Usatov was gay, insisting that if it had, he would have lost his job “long ago”.

He added: “A homosexual priest would have long been asked to remove the cross if he was unable to put on his pants.”

Despite all he has been through, the gay former priest is settling into life in the Netherlands, and said he is enjoying being able to be his true self, “which I was deprived of for all 30 years of being in the church”.

Usatov added: “People who tried to harm me, on the contrary, helped me to free myself and find a new, more fulfilling life.

“I do not hold grudges against them, now my thoughts are occupied with tulips, mills and scientific ideas.”

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