Category Archives: The Tradition

Trends in the Russian Orthodox Church Today

Introduction

After the revolution of the last generation, the generation since the end of the Cold War, what is the situation of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church today, of the Russian Patriarchate and of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)? Once they were bitterly divided. And now?

A. The Russian Patriarchate of the Past

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

In the bad old days, a few prominent bishops of the Patriarchate were forced to sit in front of cameras and tell blatant lies, for example, that there was no persecution of the Church inside Russia. Why? Simply because if they did not, their priests and parishes would suffer. As hostages, they took the political sin of lieing onto themselves. Personally, such blatant lies never really bothered me. I knew why they were doing it. Frankly, I thought the sin was more with those who asked them such compromising questions. However, something else did bother me.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

What bothered me was hypocrisy. There were certain bishops and others of the paralysed Patriarchate who were utterly corrupt, whether sexually or financially. And that corruption rotted all of Church life. Those people were not Christians. As a victim of them at that time, I know what I am talking about.

B. ROCOR of the Past

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

In the bad old days, ROCOR in the USA sometimes took CIA money. That bothered me. At that time, quite a few in ROCOR worked for various anti-Soviet (in fact, anti-Russian) Western spy agencies. These people have today almost all left the Church or else died of old age. Today, for example, I know of people who have joined the Paris Exarchate because they are not allowed to join either part of the Russian Church as they work as spies at GCHQ or spy agencies in Paris. Loyalty to the Western Establishment comes first for them, Christ second. That is clearly wrong.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

Hypocrisy in the old ROCOR also bothered me. Some considered that as long as you were anti-Communist, you were fine, you could be as anti-missionary and racist as you wanted, as well as practise abortion. I could quote names. Fortunately, such outrageous phariseeism was the domain of a minority.

C. The Russian Patriarchate Today

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

Today, the Patriarchate is a Church of 150 million converts and various neophyte deformations can be found on the fringes. For example, we can find secularizing, pro-Soviet attitudes, the arrogance and racism of the old ‘Soviet tank’ mentality that simply wants to barge in and take over everything. This type of imperialism, with an undiscriminating admiration for the present State, pays no attention to pastoral matters and building up parish life, has little understanding of families and children. It is ritualistic, careerist and money-orientated, its representatives never having suffered.

However, we can also find pro-Western (ecumenist, liberal, ‘diplomatic’) attitudes among those from a bourgeois background. They vilify the Soviet past, dismissing its positive preservation of re-Revolutionary cultural values, detest President Putin and adore the Atlanticist Prime Minister Medvedev.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

We can also find a conservative, pietist movement. Piety is good, but pietism generally means ritualism, sentimentalism, zeal without understanding, words without meaning. How many churches have we visited where services are read and sung in such a way that not a single word can be understood. This is what drives away men, meaning that services are attended by 80%-90% women. This may have been normal in abnormal Soviet times, when men would lose their jobs for attending church, but today it is abnormal. A huge work of catechism is under way. There is far to go.

We can also find a pro-social movement. Many of its representatives are very liberal, but they are at least beginning to deal with the huge social problems of post-Soviet society: massive and endemic corruption, alcoholism, abortion, drug-taking, environmental degradation, the handicapped…

D. ROCOR Today

1. Attitudes to the Outer World

Today, there is a danger of ROCOR becoming an Americanized Church, which simply refuses to understand the unpaid clergy and the plight of the mass of poor people who have come to us out of Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe. It does not want to know our sufferings. Here too there is a certain arrogance and spirit of takeover. ‘We are right, you are wrong’. Just as in today’s Russia, there can sometimes be a spirit of show, a concentration on externals. There can also be a spirit of mafia, a concentration of power among the first and wealthy, so that others are excluded as second-class citizens.

This lack of love is also fostering a liberalism, unheard of before in ROCOR, which comes from outside the Church. If unchallenged, this American-style cultural infiltration of ecumenist, liberal and ‘diplomatic’ attitudes from a bourgeois background will hamper our uncompromised witness.

2. Attitudes to the Inner World

Exactly as in the Patriarchate, we can also find a conservative, pietist movement. Piety is good, but pietism generally means ritualism, sentimentalism, zeal without understanding, words without meaning. How many churches have we visited where services are read and sung in such a way that not a single word can be understood. This can be accompanied by a self-righteous denial of the ROCOR past. ‘Everything was perfect’. This nostalgia of course is totally unjustified. Many ROCOR parishes are real and model communities, examples for the Patriarchate, but not all.

Pastorally, many are positively moving parish life into the inevitable multinational and bilingual future and creating real communities. Here there is also a danger – that Church life becomes only social, emotional, all words, the ascetic foundation forgotten, as in the Exarchate and the OCA.

Conclusion

Thus, we can see remarkable parallels, indeed convergence, between the two parts of the Russian Church. Clearly, only the positive trends are needed, all that is negative is not needed. Above all, we need the central unity of the spiritual food to be found in the purity of our Tradition of Holy Rus.