Daily Archives: July 17, 2023

When Will the Russian Orthodox Church Emerge from its Spiritual Ruins?


After the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church began to emerge from the physical ruins of 75 years of atheism. Tens of thousands of surviving churches lay half-destroyed, only a few monasteries survived, its senior clergy were accustomed to being minded by the KGB, its other clergy, often very poorly educated, were tiny in number, its potentially huge flock was unbaptised and uncatechised, prey to the ignorance of unbelievable superstition and magic ritualism. The situation was catastrophic.

However, physically and miraculously, the Church did gradually re-emerge, though still only half the size of what it had been in 1917. Tens of thousands of half-ruined churches were renovated after their return from a bankrupt State, others were built from scratch, nearly a thousand monasteries were opened, new clergy were taught the basics in dozens of reopened seminaries, a 100 million and more were baptised, though mainly without instruction, billions of church books were published and factories began issuing a billion icons and huge quantities of church furnishings and millions of sets of vestments.

However, a disease also appeared. As the money of oligarchs fed restoration, their disease fed into the Church. Bishops made for themselves luxurious palaces and began living like oligarchs themselves. Instead of monastic bishops, there appeared large numbers of young homosexuals in cassocks, called ‘bishops’, who hardly knew what a monastery looked like. Popularly people spoke of ‘priests in Mercedes’. Sadly it was true, as mere careerists became priests, often in return for ‘gifts’ of money to bishops. Very expensive black Western cars appeared in monasteries. Moreover, even more alarmingly, this same disease spread abroad all too quickly and infected clergy in the Russian Church outside Russia who copied very precisely the vices inside Russia.

The list of resulting clerical scandals and injustices with properties and money is too long to list. But it was clear that virtually overnight atheists had been made bishops and priests and they continued to live as atheists. Bishops, heterosexual or homosexual, who spent money on depravity and drugs, priests who beat their wives or cheated on them, other priests who had self-sacrificingly restored properties with their families and a handful of faithful saw them stolen by their bishops and themselves suspended or defrocked for ‘disobedience’, that is for having a conscience and denouncing criminal injustice.

This was not the Church that we had fought for during the era of Soviet persecution. The Persecuted Church, which we had sacrificed our lives for as confessors, had become a Persecuting Church. We had no place in it. We shook the dust from our feet and left it in disgust.

2022 – 

Then in February 2022 came the war in the Ukraine. This led to a wave of Russian nationalism, which meant that the vast majority of parishes outside the Russian Federation and Belarus left the Russian Orthodox Church altogether – about a third of the parishes in all. The Russian Orthodox Church had moved from being a broad, multinational Church to a narrow, nationalist Church. Why should Non-Russians belong to it? Especially affected were all the churches in the Ukraine, in the Baltics, especially in Latvia and Lithuania, in Moldova and elsewhere, from England to the Netherlands, from France to Spain. Many left the Russian Church, with large numbers leaving the nationalist Russian Church Outside Russia in Germany for the Ukrainian Church.

Politics had taken over and those who had always sought the spiritual were abandoned and persecuted. Divisions took place. However, the sad thing was not the divisions, but the corruption of the clergy, especially of the episcopate, which had made the divisions inevitable. The war in the Ukraine made a great and long overdue cleansing of the Church inevitable. The Russian Church, just like the Church of Constantinople before it, had to rid itself of those who had put politics and nationalism above Christ, and rid itself of atheists, careerists, mini-oligarchs, thieves, ecumenists, homosexuals, secret service agents and minders in cassocks, all whose only interest was money and not the salvation of souls.

I have always supported the Church and always will, putting it above the State, any State. Christ comes above politics. However, many members of the senior hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church are living in the oligarchic, money-money-money 1990s. And the State has a multinational vision, not the new nationalist Church. I have a very good friend in the Russian Ministry of the Economy who is deeply involved as a senior figure in building BRICS and who is close to President Putin. He has told me that for the Russian government the ‘Church’, that is its senior hierarchy, stuffed with the financially corrupt, homosexuals and FSB-minded, is a laughing-stock among them.

Once the conflict in the Ukraine is over, the Russian government will have to turn its attention to rebuilding the Church as a multinational and non-corrupt entity. The injustices will have to be reversed and many bishops defrocked. I have told my friend that it may be too late to reverse the damage done by the corrupt. I hope I am wrong. The fact is that the Russian Orthodox Church must now emerge from its spiritual ruins, just as thirty years ago it had to emerge from its physical ruins. Divine chastisement is a terrible thing, for God is not mocked.

As regards the situation in the Diaspora, we left the Russian Church after fifty years, and I left after nearly forty years service as an unpaid cleric. There has not been a day when we did not feel relief and gladness at our decision. The crazy right-wing converts and others whom we left thought they were special, better than others, like pharisees: such was their hubris. Now those embittered persecutors are in court on criminal charges. It is payback time for them. We, however, are not on trial, because we refused to compromise the Faith, for we do not belong to the Persecuting Church and never will. But they did and do.