Many Russian Orthodox, both inside and outside Russia, are puzzled by the fact that there still exist a very small number of ecumenists, mainly clergy, belonging to the Church inside Russia. (There are none in the Church Outside Russia). How can we explain this curious phenomenon, that there are still people who actually believe in something as old-fashioned as ecumenism? Their most senior representative has today declared that Catholicism is not a heresy!!! We can perhaps give four reasons, two more excusable than the others, which are definitely not excusable:
1. Eastern European Pseudo-Catholicism
First of all, we have to recognise that in Eastern European countries like Belarus or Lithuania, ‘Catholics’ are almost all Orthodox in most respects. With the neighbouring influence of real Orthodoxy, they, unlike Catholics in the rest of the world, are faithful to Christian morality, would not dream of not having confession before communion, fast from midnight before their mass, venerate icons and relics, and their clergy, many of whom are married, dress as clergy. For Orthodox who have only ever met such Catholics (many of whom have Orthodox ancestors) and know nothing of the semi-Protestant liberal Catholicism in the rest of the world, such Catholics are of course not heretics. It is important that Orthodox who live in the West and do not know Eastern European Catholicism understand this.
2. Naivety, Inexperience
There are younger people in Russia who are fascinated by the West and find everything there of interest, including the Catholic/Protestant world. It is sad that they do not listen to us Russian Orthodox who live here, know the heterodox world far better than they ever will and long ago saw through all the illusions that they still suffer from through their naivety and inexperience.
3. Politics, Careerism
There was a time when in the old Soviet Union any ecclesiastic who wished for a career had to show ecumenist tendencies to his masters in the KGB. There is an older generation who still have such reflexes and still swim with the tide. After all, Catholicism especially has lots of money and its Gregorian University in Rome has degrees to give out to anyone whom obeys them, as certain people in the Patriarchate of Constantinople know.
Sadly, we must also mention the homosexual aspect of this question. Under Communism Patriarchal bishops and parish clergy outside Russia were often homosexual and the scandals and names, especially in Western Europe and North America, are so well known that we will not unedifyingly repeat them here. Sadly, this continues today, and we know it, which is one of the reasons why so many people of integrity have over the decades fled to the far better disciplined Church Outside Russia. Whatever our faults, we do not tolerate such vice. Sadly, on the Catholic side there are also homosexual ecumenists. Birds of a feather flock together…
Whatever the motive, we must admit that ecumenists in the Russian Orthodox Church are very, very few in number and they are opposed by the whole Church Outside Russia and 99.999% of the clergy and people inside Russia. We should therefore keep our calm whenever someone in Russia makes an absurd utterance.