The misfortune that has befallen Russia is the direct result of grievous sins and her rebirth is only possible through cleansing from them. However, so far there has been no real repentance.
Bishop (now St) John of Shanghai
Death is the enemy of Life; and he has many friends among men, in all those authorities in whom a debased sense of Life is linked with temporary power.
Introduction: On the Misuse of the Words Heresy and Schism
The words heresy and schism have been much misused and even abused, for self-justifying nationalist and political reasons. For example, Metr Antony (Khrapovitsky) (+ 1936) was accused of ‘heresy’ (heresy is a Greek word meaning a wrong choice) for stating that not only Christ’s Crucifixion, but also His Agony in Gethsemane played a part in our Redemption. Those who unreasonably accused him of ‘stavroclasm’, that he had rejected the centrality of the Cross, either misunderstood his words or else deliberately distorted his words out of personal dislike or, more often, because of differences in political views. Or there is Patriarch Sergius of Moscow (+ 1944), who was accused of the ‘heresy’ of ‘Sergianism’, a ‘heresy’ named as such by a priest who was a CIA operative and freemason! Of course, that Patriarch sinned through cowardice, abject lies, subservience to militant atheism, careerism, bureaucratic centralism and ritualism. The same misuse and abuse have happened with the word ‘schism’. (A Greek word meaning a split). This word has been misused to describe parishioners who left a (corrupt) priest for a non-corrupt priest, or who left a schismatic bishop for a non-schismatic bishop. The only schism was that of the bishop they had left! The same is true of political ‘defrockings’ (See below).
For example, over the last century the Russian emigration and the Patriarchal Church inside Russia were at each other’s throats for generations and accused each other of being ‘heretics’, ‘schismatics’, ‘without grace’ and ‘defrocked’ one another’s clergy. However, when the time came for reconciliation a few years after the fall of the USSR, they suddenly both withdrew all charges, stating that they had all been politically motivated. In other words, both sides had been lying the whole time! No wonder that there are priests who have been ‘defrocked’ by the KGB or the CIA and are considered to be confessors and not defrocked at all. Such ‘defrockings’ are of course all reversible, unlike what is stated on a Kremlin-funded, English-language ‘Orthodox’ website, which carefully censors all disagreement with itself. There is nothing new here. St John Chrysostom (+ 407) was also ‘defrocked’ for political reasons, St Nectarios of Pentapolis (+ 1920) was suspended because of jealousy, slandered, exiled and later canonised. As for St John of Shanghai (+ 1966), in the early 1960s he was suspended by his own ROCOR Synod and put on trial as a common criminal by his fellow-bishops. Later they canonised him! Nothing has changed.
In the fourth century the Church became established, that is, it became closely linked to the State. There were many advantages to this, such as not being persecuted, being able to do missionary work freely, or receiving State financial aid to build churches. However, there were also many disadvantages, for example, officials were nominated as bishops by the State as part of an attempt at command and control, with centralisation, bureaucracy and protocols, clergy lined up in rigid ranks like soldiers, churches which were nationalist ghettos and not parish communities, and money charged for sacraments, all amid ritualism and superstition. St Basil the Great (+ 379) complained about bishops who had this mentality as not real bishops, they would side with anyone. Some of them did indeed know very little about Orthodox Christianity, some of them were probably atheists, or at least they behaved as the worst atheists. In any case, they compromised the Faith by their way of life, even though on paper they did not renounce the Creed, or Symbol of Faith, and so by inertia remained Orthodox Christians, but only nominally and formally, that is, only outwardly, and only for a time.
However, as usual, when you start living in a way that differs from the Creed, you fall into heresy. Now a heresy is a teaching that contradicts the Creed, which was drawn up at the two Universal Church Councils at Nicea in 325 and Constantinople in 381. Those who follow heresies are called heretics. The contents of the Creed, agreed on by all for all time, are dogmas of the Church. To apply the words ‘heresy’ and ‘dogma’ to anything outside the spiritually-revealed Creed is a misuse or abuse of the term. So a heresy is a separation from the Church for a dogmatic reason and leads to new dogmas and a new way of life, opposed to the Church. Many of the above nominal Orthodox Christians duly became heretics, called Gnostics, Arians, Nestorians, Sabellians, Donatists, Monophysites, Monothelites, Iconoclasts etc. Generally extremely proud and self-justifying, they all essentially denied that God is the Holy Trinity or that God had become man. All of these groups therefore denied some part of the Creed. Some of their naïve adherents, ‘heretics’, did return to the Church, but others, not naïve, did not.
The Roman Catholic Example
As an example of heresy, it was out of the situation of a State Church that in the eleventh century a new heresy (a heresy because it changed the Creed) called ‘Catholicism’ was born. This is a religion which is actually a State in itself. Its promoters who were greedy for power (unlkei its unconscious victims), wanted all the advantages of being a State Church, without the disadvantages. They did this by creating a ‘Church-State, that is, they put themselves above the State, making their institution into a Superstate. At the origin of this was their alteration to the text of the Creed, adding the word ‘filioque’, which implies that their Pope of Rome replaces Christ and the Holy Spirit. Thus, Orthodox Christians in Western Europe were forced to leave the Church by the invention of this new ‘Roman Catholic’ religion. Those who were conscious of this change were heretics, as they replaced Christ, present through the Holy Spirit, by mere men, with the title of Pope of Rome. The consequences were almost immediate.
At once bloodthirsty military campaigns were organised to obtain power, conquering lands and resources. The Popes of Rome promised the men who took part in them that whatever they did, murder, rape, theft, pillage, they would go to heaven because they were doing it in the name of the new Roman Catholic god. These expeditions were called ‘Crusades’ and started in what is now Italy, Spain and England (in 1066) and were then taken to Palestine, southern France and Eastern Europe (in the thirteenth century). These then developed into internal crusades with the bloodthirsty Inquisition and were spread in the sixteenth century to what is now Latin America. Certain Roman Catholics were still murdering and pillaging in Croatia and the western Ukraine only three generations ago and were still being promised a ticket to heaven by their Roman Catholic clergy for their Fascist deeds. This is what happens when you replace the Holy Spirit with some manmade teaching. In other words, false teaching always becomes a heresy and so leads to an evil and deformed way of life.
A schism is a permanent separation from the Church for a non-dogmatic reason. Often these reasons are nationalist and sectarian, though there is also the risk of schisms becoming heresies. For instance, from an Orthodox Christian viewpoint, Protestantism is a schism from Roman Catholicism. Although Protestantism confessed the same heresy as the Roman Catholicism through the same filioque deviation from the Creed, it did not agree with Roman Catholicism in other respects and so split away from it. Therefore, in the sixteenth century dissident Roman Catholics separated, calling themselves Protesters. Then, as is always the case with schismatics, they disagreed with each other and have since separated into a myriad of sects. For sectarianism, usually accompanied by personality cults, is the result of schisms. Of course, apart from this classic case, there have been a multitude of other schisms. And just as heresies lead to an evil and deformed life, so schisms also result in hatred, jealousy, lies and slander.
For instance, in Russia in the seventeenth century there took place the ‘Old Ritualist’ schism. This was about minor changes in ritual, but because the changes were imposed by the State, they led to a schism, which soon became violent and split into multiple schisms, just as in the Protestant model. A more recent example is in the last century when those in Greece who did not want to accept the dating of the Western calendar for the fixed feasts, as the Greek State was insisting under pressure from Western governments, operated schisms from the Orthodox Church. They called themselves ‘old calendarists’ and they in turn also split into a multitude of sectarian groups that hated one another. As the calendar is not a dogmatic issue (the Creed never mentions it), separation on this basis is a schism, not a heresy. And finally there is the case of the nationalist and Sovietised US-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russa (ROCOR), which instituted a schism from the multinational Archdiocese of Western Europe. Although they are both groups under one and the same Moscow Church, yet they are now not in communion with one another.
Finally, there are divisions. These are neither heresies, as Church teachings are not involved, nor schisms, as they are not permanent. These are temporary separations from the corrupted administration of a Church, usually for nationalist or political reasons. In other words, a division is due to differences of opinion between bishops or groups of bishops. Divisions have existed and exist within the Roman Catholic and Protestant worlds. For instance, Liberal Methodists separated from Tory Anglicans and so far only some have returned, and various groups of Traditionalists have separated from liberal Roman Catholics and, again, so far only some have returned. The danger here, as with all divisions, is the risk of them developing to schisms, that is, they become permanent, and so full of nastiness, hatred, jealousy, lies and slander.
In the Orthodox Church there have also been several divisions for nationalist or political reasons, especially over the last two centuries. For example, the Bulgarians separated from the Constantinople Greeks, the Macedonians from the Serbs, three different groups of Russian emigres separated from the Church inside the USSR and Serbian emigres separated from the Church inside Yugoslavia. Most of these issues were resolved, divisions overcome, even if it took decades and generations, almost a century in some cases. Despite these generally positive resolutions, today there is a new cause and outbreak of such divisions and they risk turning into schisms, that is, becoming permanent. These divisions are all centred around one single subject: the highly centralised and profoundly corrupt ex-Soviet (and not very ex-Soviet) multinational Republic of the Ukraine
The first new and serious division here (there had been old divisions) took place in 2018 between the most powerful Local Orthodox Churches, the Greek (7% of the baptised, or four Local Churches) and the Russian (70% of the baptised and one Local Church). This left the vast majority of the Local Orthodox Churches (23% of baptised and ten Local Churches) in shock. When in 2018 the Greeks set up a new Church on Ukrainian territory, which has been under the Moscow Church for nearly 350 years – shocking enough – the Russians replied by refusing to concelebrate or co-operate with the Greeks – just as shocking. Then the Russians in turn set up a Church on the territory of Africa which, apart from Egypt and Libya, had been Greek Church territory for nearly 100 years – more shocking. Thus, a separation in the Ukraine had spread to Africa, a territory which the US and China with Russia are directly battling for political influence in. The consequences of this division are now escalating even further.
It seems that power does indeed corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. For of course, behind this division lies power politics, the desire for control of territory and so for money. The small Greek Churches are heavily financed and even controlled by the US, and the much larger Moscow Church is heavily financed and even controlled by the Russian State. Yet another new escalation took place one year ago in February 2022, as a result of the war that had begun between the US-controlled Ukraine and the Russian Federation in 2014. This had followed the violent US-organised coup which overthrew the democratically-elected Ukrainian government. The result was the present highly centralised, puppet regime in Kiev, financed and armed by the West, and threatening to complete its genocide of those of Russian language and culture in the east of the Ukraine. In response, in 2022 Russia sent in troops to protect those of Russian language and culture in the east of the Ukraine. A war had begun.
The Tragedy of the War
After Russia’s vastly superior forces had defeated the Kiev forces within a few weeks, the Kiev regime was about to conclude a peace agreement, but it was forced by the US to break off negotiations. Thus, in a second escalation, the US made its vassals send old, mainly Soviet, military equipment to re-equip the Kiev forces. By summer 2022 Russia had destroyed that equipment too. Then, in a third escalation, the US-led West began sending huge sums of money ($150 billion in twelve months so far), huge amounts of its own military equipment, training Kiev troops and also paying tens of thousands of mercenaries to fight on behalf of the beleaguered Kiev regime. Russia will destroy that too, but of course it will take even longer and even more will die. The proxy-war is being fought until the last Ukrainian and the last mercenary who wants to fight is dead. It is a giant war crime.
The result is that today Kiev dead number between 160,000 and 300,000 (including several thousand foreign mercenaries). Russian dead number 19,000. And this does not include the hundreds of thousands of physically wounded and psychologically wounded (traumatised). This does not include the damage to the infrastructure of what was already one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in Europe, which is still the battlefield for this proxy war between Washington and Moscow. This European war is unspeakable in its horror. Nor have we mentioned the millions of refugees who have fled to Russia and to various countries in Western Europe. Millions of lives have been disrupted and there are hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans. How could anyone possible approve of this tragedy? And yet…..
The Tragedy of the Moscow Church
The tragedy here is that the Orthodox faithful both in Russia and in the Ukraine used to belong to one united Church. The Church, centred in Moscow, used to be multinational, with faithful not only in the Russian Federation and the Ukraine, but also in Belarus, Moldova and Kazakhstan, and with millions of others in over sixty other countries around the world, especially in the Western world, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, the countries of Western Europe, Northern America and Australia. However, almost the whole episcopate of the Moscow Church inside Russia has failed to condemn what is now a nine-year long civil war, in which nominal Orthodox are killing nominal Orthodox. The result is that the once multinational Moscow Church is rapidly becoming a national, not to say, nationalist, Russians-only, Church. Why would Non-Russians want to belong to a Russian-controlled Church, where they cannot even express their own opinions? Most don’t, not to mention many Russians themselves, for whom the Church should have nothing to do with war. The Russians will surely win the war in the Ukraine, but the far, far greater challenge was to win the peace. Sadly, that seems to have been lost already and inevitably an independent but canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be born there.
Thus, left-wing liberals in the USA and the Roman Catholic politician Cardinal Koch have accused the Russian Patriarch of ‘heresy’ for saying that ‘the Russian World’ (wherever there are concentrations of ethnic Russians) must be united and that the Russian soldiers who die to unite Orthodox will go to heaven. (The accusation by Cardinal Koch is particularly hypocritical, since for its whole existence Roman Catholicism has claimed that those who murder others to make them Roman Catholic will go to heaven). Although clearly not heretical but just nationalistic, the Russian Patriarch’s words do invite profound disagreement, and not only among fringe liberals. Few, if any, agree with the Patriarch. These words are his personal opinion. They are especially strange, given that the leader of what used to be a multinational Church is seen to be promoting militant nationalism, just as his Greek Orthodox enemies do through their nationalist racism, which they call phyletism. Where is the difference between Greek and Russian leaders? Six of one and half a dozen of the other?
The Break-Up of the Moscow Church
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of both sides in the war and of its final outcome, the result is that everywhere, outside the tightly-controlled Russian Federation and Belarus, the faithful have been leaving the once multinational Russian Church. Either they have left for other Local Orthodox Churches or else they have declared themselves ‘fully independent’, as in the Ukraine and Latvia. Most recently there has been the case of five Orthodox priests in Lithuania, four of whom are ethnic Lithuanians. Not surprisingly, as Non-Russians, they find that they cannot agree with the Russian Patriarch and do not want to belong to the same Church as him. The result of this is that they were ‘defrocked’ (forbidden the priesthood) by the Moscow Church, even though they are not in Russia or Russians. However, they have now been allowed the priesthood by the Church of Constantinople, which had jurisdiction in Lithuania some 350 years ago. (Ironically, Constantinople, today called Istanbul, is now the largest city in Europe and with a population of Russians probably fifty times greater than its Greeks).
Apparently, these priests are not allowed the right to freedom and self-determination, they must obey what has become a foreign, since no longer multinational, Church. This situation is unthinkable in a Western country which has a culture of freedom. And of course, you cannot be defrocked for a difference of opinion about nationalism or politics! Real defrocking happens only when a priest behaves immorally, for example, he steals money or he is involved in sexual impropriety. Clearly, ‘defrockings’ like those in Lithuania are not canonical, they are purely political, and are not recognised by anyone except the present Moscow authorities. The irony is that those who defrock in such cases, though not in this one, are often guilty of real causes for defrocking! For instance, over the last fifty years in North America and Europe, only very recently in the Antioch jurisdiction, we have seen priests ‘defrocked’ for being whistleblowers because:
Their bishop was a pedophile.
Their bishop was heretical or schismatic.
Their bishop was homosexual.
Their bishop was committing fornication.
Their bishop wanted to sleep with the priest’s wife.
Their bishop was jealous of a priest’s church and tried to steal it from him.
Their bishop wanted a priest to spy for a secret service.
Their bishop was an atheist and ordained atheists.
Their bishop was a careerist and ready to commit any crime in furtherance of his career.
In each case the priest left his bishop and was duly ‘defrocked’! Of course, the ‘defrocking’ was completely ignored and the priest continued to serve, transferring to a normal bishop. As a result, the persecuted priest gained respect and his ‘defrocking’ bishop lost all respect, together with much of his flock – and also his career.
Conclusion: The Dogmatisation of Personal Opinions
As we can see, these new divisions are not at all theological, but nationalist and political. Here we are in the world of personal (political) opinions, the world of intolerance. Differences in personal opinions have nothing to do with heresies and schisms. Personal opinions are here being treated as dogmas. The Faith is the same. When Church authorities intolerantly impose nationalist and political opinions, they automatically divide their flock, as we see today in the Ukraine. Thus, the Moscow Church has lost moral authority in most of the Ukraine, not to mention in most of the rest of the world outside the Russian Federation and, one day, in Belarus too. The Moscow Church is rapidly ceasing to be the multinational Russian Orthodox Church and becoming a mononational Church. You cannot be a multinational Church and be a national (and nationalist) Church at the same time. You must decentralise yourself, as the USSR was decentralised (but astonishingly the Church was not decentralised), and grant other nationalities freedom and independence.
Only two bishops of the present Moscow Church have remained traditional, that is, multinational Russian Orthodox, by diverging in their opinions from the authorities. One of them, Metr Hilarion (Alfeev), was disgraced and exiled to a church in Budapest, the other, Metr Jean Renneteau, a French national, has courageously expressed his total disagreement (1). As far as they are concerned, through unequivocal support for the war in the Ukraine the Moscow authorities have confused the Church with politics, thus discrediting the Church which they represent, as well as themselves. These divisions are only about nationalism and politics. A dispute about territories and whether they belong to or do not belong to a Local Church has nothing to do with the creed and heresy and schism. Through their centralisation the Church authorities have dismissed the right to freedom and self-determination. And sadly, despite constant warnings, the centralisation of these Church authorities is not a case of Resovietisation, as there never was any Desovietisation.
Reading the above there are those who will fall into despair. They are mistaken to do so, for they have forgotten Church history. Now is the Gethsemane of the Church, that is, the moment not of Her defeat, but of Her victory has begun. Christ is deserted by His disciples, who have fallen asleep, but as time and time again in Church history, when cast aside and deserted, this is the moment when Christ has overcome the world. The arrogance, narcissism and sense of impunity of the crazies who, even in complete freedom, sell their souls for a mess of Soviet pottage, accepting brainwashed ‘obedience’ for the sake of their careers, more Soviet than the Soviets, are cast down. Throughout the Russian Church, exactly as St Seraphim of Sarov prophesied, there will be a great cleansing from corruption, a generational change among the episcopate. From that will follow the repentance and restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church (which, it seems, now no longer exists) and the resurrection of the Russian Lands. But first they must go through this Great Tragedy, the Crucifixion of the Ukraine, the war that has happened on account of the apostasy of those who denied the Church of God. They reduced it to the sins of cowardice, abject lies, subservience to militant atheism, careerism, bureaucratic centralism and ritualism. Did they really think they could get away with it? We follow another way, the way of the New Martyrs and New Confessors. For the King is coming and we must be ready to meet Him.
- See: https://www.svoboda.org/a/mitropolit-dubninskiy-ioann-my-idem-po-krovi-nashih-muchenikov-/32276466.html