On Overcoming the Paris Captivity

On Friday 6 December, the Interfax News Agency reported that Fr Vsevolod Chaplin has called on certain Russians to overcome ‘the Paris Captivity’ of academic theology and to give priority instead to the legacy of the New Martyrs. Fr Vsevolod, the Social Affairs spokesman for the Church, is seen by many as the right-hand man of Patriarch Kyrill.

Fr Vsevolod called on certain Russian Orthodox to pay more attention to our own theological tradition instead of to that of the Paris Jurisdiction and its branches, which reject the millennial, monastic-based Russian Orthodox Tradition and prefer Protestant-based philosophies and speculations. He said that if ‘even Muslims and Protestants wonder what to do when there are contradictions between Russian and foreign traditions, and usually choose the Russian’, then it was for Russians themselves to opt for their ‘millennial tradition of Orthodox thought, learning and piety, for the Tradition’.

Like the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, he too inside Russia is convinced that it is time to overcome ‘the Paris Captivity’ of Russian theology and return to ‘the tradition of Orthodox countries in periods of freedom’ and do not have ‘to adapt to domineering Western surroundings, nor to totalitarian atheist regimes’. He recommended all to look at Russian Orthodoxy just before the Revolution (Metr Antony Khrapovitsky and his Patristically-minded followers) and Serbian Orthodoxy (Sts Nicholas of Zhicha and St Justin of Chelije), but above all to devote particular attention to the legacy of the New Martyrs, which ‘provides answers to many present-day issues’. He added that ‘by definition’ the Paris School was ‘marginal in the context of free Orthodox peoples’. (http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=53710)

Living outside Russia, we can confirm the truth of Fr Vsevolod’s words and the consequences of such Protestant and Catholic-based ‘theology’ on a practical day to day basis. Thus, one parish of the Paris Jurisdiction in England is losing its premises and so public mission for lack of parishioners, and yet in the same city, there are dozens of Russian Orthodox who regularly travel over a hundred miles at weekends so that they can get to the nearest Russian Orthodox liturgy. They are in fact boycotting an ex-Anglican group of four (with two priests!) who refuse to put up an iconostasis, to confess before communion and celebrate on the Orthodox calendar. They prefer to travel great distances to a busy priest so that they can receive pastoral care as Orthodox, and not as Protestants or Catholics.

Another Paris Jurisdiction parish in France is boycotted by local Russian Orthodox because it also refuses to celebrate on the Orthodox calendar and have an iconostasis, and there communion without confession is obligatory for all (those who do not commune every Sunday are humiliated and made to feel guilty) and little girls are forced into being acolytes. In a monastic group of the same Paris Jurisdiction in France, a woman with a grave sin on her conscience was refused confession last weekend and told: ‘As long as you have not killed anyone, you do not need confession’. This glaring lack of pastoral care and understanding of Orthodoxy in many – though not all – parishes of the Paris Jurisdiction has set it on a course of Uniatisation. This is why Russian Orthodox have been leaving it for decades.

Sadly, such ‘theology’, in fact merely a lack of faith that weakly swims with the heterodox tide, has also spread to convert parts of the Antiochian Jurisdiction in this country, where, in addition to the above practices, there are pleas to celebrate Easter on the Roman Catholic dating and intercommunion is openly practised. Such practices attract only a few unChurched and lapsed Orthodox, who do not know their own Tradition and already take communion in Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.