The Orthodox Church
Q: Two questions:
1. The Orthodox world has been in crisis since Crete. A schism now separates the Russian Orthodox Church and others from the Greek Churches, which are one by one falling away. What do you think is the answer?
2. Constantinople has been canonizing a number of elders on Mt Athos. What should our attitude be when we know that Patriarch Bartholomew is schismatic?
A: Two answers:
1. As the Phanariot schism spreads from the Ukraine to the Diaspora, Greece, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Czech Republic and Latvia, recruiting the marginal semi-Orthodox liberals, modernists and homosexuals on the way, the quick answer is to say: ‘Stand firm!’, and to those who have fallen away: ‘Repent!’. But this repentance and standing firm also concerns parts of the Russian Church.
I think the Russian Church must show that it is not in any way compromised or practises double standards. It can do this by proving in theology and in practice that it wholeheartedly rejects the three heretical isms which have so troubled the peace of the Church for over a century: modernism and ecumenism (adopted from the Protestant world) and Eastern Papism (adopted from the Vatican). It cannot reject any of these without first renouncing its membership of the Protestant World Council of Churches and renouncing what some see as the hypocritical diplomatic compromises it has made with the Vatican – Western Papism.
In renouncing modernism, ecumenism and Eastern Papism, the Russian Church can consequently support the Orthodox calendar and offer its services in mediating between Local Churches which use the Papal (so-called ‘new’) calendar and those who wish to return to the Orthodox calendar, including old calendarist groups, so helping to heal needless schisms. In this way it can show that it is at the centre of healthy forces in the wider Orthodox Church, that it fights for the piety and purity of Holy Orthodoxy.
2. I fear that as long as only a schismatic, and now a heretic (as his publicly-expressed opinions about Catholicism which brought Athonite monks to tears are heretical), has canonized them, I do not think we can accept them as saints. Whatever our feelings of veneration for them, a schismatic, with whose views these elders would never have agreed, cannot canonize. A decision will be taken once he has gone and a canonical Patriarch has taken over.
Q: What do you think is the most important task for the Orthodox episcopate today?
A: The episcopate must learn to love, care for and show understanding of priests and deacons, avoiding causing injustices.
Q: What do you consider to be the most important question for any Orthodox in the Diaspora?
A: I believe that this question is: Does my Faith export? In other words, is my Faith accessible to those who are not of my national background? If the answer to this question is ‘No’, then you can be sure that your Faith will die out. This is because if it is not accessible to those who are not of your national background, then it will also be inaccessible to your Diaspora-born children and grandchildren.
Q: Why do Orthodox refuse to allow cremations?
A: The central belief of the Orthodox Church is in the Resurrection of Christ, as is expressed in the Church Year and in the words of the funeral service itself. So, for us, to deliberately burn up someone’s body is to deny the Resurrection. Therefore, for us, someone who wants their body to be cremated is saying that they have lapsed from the Church. They are no longer Orthodox.
Q: I have a problem with the so-called Mowgli question. If little children have grown up in total isolation or even were nursed by wild animals they can’t integrate human life at all, they behave like animals and can’t learn any human skills etc. What is with their souls then? Where is this ‘spark’ of God and the image of God in them?
A: Just as a baby’s body is primitive compared to an adult’s body, so is its soul, undeveloped, inexperienced, untrained. Thus, on the one hand, it has innocence and purity, on the other hand, no experience of reality and is totally unable to survive without interaction with adults, firstly, primarily, its mother.
This is why small children are so attracted to animals, especially young ones, kittens, puppies etc. They have no immortal souls, but they do have innocence and instincts.
Feral children, adopted by wolves and others, do not get this attention, and often remain with untrained souls, almost, we could say, feral souls. Like animals, they often have only instincts to guide them.
The soul has to be trained and educated. This is true also for adults. It is why we have spiritual fathers, monasteries etc.
Russia and the Russian Church
Q: Two questions: First: Why did Patriarch Kyrill call President Putin a miracle? After all, Putin called the fall of the Soviet Union a catastrophe, which it surely was not. Second: Are you an optimist or a pessimist regarding the future of the Russian Church?
A: President Putin is indeed a miracle, but only relatively, in comparison with the monsters who went before him since 1917. That is the context in which Patriarch Kyrill was talking. And in that context you cannot but agree. Clearly, however, President Putin has many failings. He has failed to root out corruption and to remove the many relics of evil Communism. He can therefore only be a transitory figure. His long reign has only come about because so far the country has not been worthy of finding anyone better. He will be followed either by better or by worse. I do not know which, but I hope for the best.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was indeed a geopolitical catastrophe – millions died as a result from becoming refugees from unjust borders, from the collapse of industry, the closure of factories and mass unemployment leading to starvation, the collapse of the medical system, from despair and suicide, often a slow suicide through alcoholism, as alcohol had become the only consolation for tens of millions after the Soviet system. All this went unreported in the West because the West was partly responsible for it.
Yes, of course this does not mean that we do not rejoice that the evil tyranny of the Soviet Union is over, but its collapse was still a geopolitical catastrophe because of the totally unjust way in which it collapsed, the absurd borders of various Republics, the civil wars that followed and are still going on nearly 30 years later and the massive organized theft of public assets by so-called ‘oligarchs’, which followed the collapse.
There was one incredibly grave error made by the Soviet Union, for whose Stalinist tyranny many older Russian people are actually nostalgic, such is their nationalism but also the unpleasantness of many present-day aspects of life in Russia. This grave error of the Soviet Union was that it thought, like Stalin (and like all imperialists throughout history), that a great empire is not spiritual, but geographical. (Stalin had no concept of the spiritual). And until the Church has been rebuilt inside Russia, there can be no spiritual empire of Russia. So, what can we say about the Russian Orthodox Church today?
First of all, the Russian Church is fully independent of the Russian State, despite the ridiculous propaganda claims of Western politicians and journalists. But that does not mean that the Church does not suffer from the human failings of members of the clergy who put their own careers and personalities above Christ, just as they did in the times of the Soviet Union. This hangover from the past, ‘a Soviet reflex’, is a great problem.
Firstly, what is desperately needed by the Russian Church is the restoration of parish life, which was wiped out by atheism after 1917 (and it was already often weak before the Revolution). This restoration must be led by real pastors, not money-money careerists. The parish is a family, if it is anything at all. Here the experience of the Russian emigration can be helpful. The financial affairs of parishes must be transparent – and they are not at all at present inside Russia.
Secondly, as for the monasteries and the episcopate, they require real monks, neither mere intellectuals and wishy-washy diplomats with meaningless doctorates, nor the feudal and the jealous, who persecute zealous and happily-married clergy. Only reforms here will put an end to Church bureaucracy, to ‘managers’ and ‘administrators’ in the place of loving pastor-bishops.
So I am neither a pessimist nor an optimist. Let us wait and see.
Q: Why should the Ukraine not have its own national Church? Russia, Romania, Greece and others do, even a little country like Albania does.
A: The short answer is because the vast majority of Ukrainian Orthodox do not want one!
On another level, there are two reasons why not, one is theological-ecclesiological, the other is political.
1. As we have said in a previous answer elsewhere, there are two alien trends in the Church – neither is Orthodox, but have been imposed from outside or by traitors from inside. The first is the centralist concept of one Universal Church, with its deified leader placed above all others, in fact replacing Christ. This is Papist Catholicism and among Orthodox this mentality has been absorbed and adopted from the fallen First Rome only by today’s Constantinople. The second centrifugal trend comes from Protestant nationalism, according to which every national ruler must have and control his own erastian national and nationalist Church (as in England, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark etc).
It is this very recent 19th and 20th century trend that has led to small minorities of Orthodox in Poland and Czechoslovakia, Albania, Greece, and also countries like Romania and Bulgaria, having their own national Churches, which is not necessarily normal. The trend is now being spread and propagandized by local xenophobes in Macedonia, Montenegro and the Ukraine, funded by the US State Department whose slogan is ‘Divide and Rule’, just like the old pagan Roman Empire, on which the US administration is closely modelled. This is a rejection of the Christian (= Orthodox) Theology of the Holy Trinity, which says ‘unity in diversity’ and is confederative in style.
2. The second reason is that only a real country could have its own Church in any case. The Ukraine, like for example Belgium (invented by Great Britain after the Napoleonic Wars), is not a real country, having been thought up by the Hapsburgs at the end of the 19th century. Their fantasy was then implemented by four of the most monstrous and genocidal atheist dictators in history, Communist and Fascist: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Khrushchov.
If the Ukraine wants its own Church, it must first of all carry out referenda all over the Ukraine to determine whether the peoples who live there (only about 20% speak various dialects of ‘Ukrainian’ or rather Galician) actually want to belong to the Ukraine. Probably 50% + would vote to join Russia, which they belonged to until 1922 and others would join Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland. Then you could ask the remainder whether they wanted their own Church. Perhaps they would want a Uniat one anyway – though the centralist Vatican would never grant it independence because Roman Catholics, like the centralist Phanariots, do not do independence.
In general, the mere concept that each country must have its own national Church comes from petty nationalist provincialism and isolationist xenophobia. Nationalism is anyway simply an attachment to this world, worldliness. It merely provides ammunition for those who want to exploit in order to divide and rule, as today in the Ukraine, which is a puppet of the US State Department. The First Rome fell to Catholicism (Latin nationalism) and later to Protestantism (Germanic nationalism). The Second Rome fell to Greek nationalism, which had already helped cause Egypt and Syria to fall away from the Church into their national heresies. Will the Third Rome fall to Russian nationalism? We hope not, because a Fourth Rome there will not be.
As we have said elsewhere, our Orthodox ecclesiological model is the Holy Trinity, Unity in Diversity, the Family, the Multinational Confederation. I can see no reason why, rather as in the old Pentarchy of the first millennium (covering the three Continents of Asia, Africa and Europe), we should not have Continental or, in the case of Eurasia which is Multi-Civilizational, Regional Local Churches. For example, we could end up with thirteen Local Churches, presided over by Jerusalem. As we have said elsewhere, these could be:
For Eurasia: the Jerusalem, the Russian (including the present Polish and Czechoslovak Churches, which were artificially hived off from the then captive Russian Church by Constantinople in order to weaken it, as it is also doing in Estonia and the Ukraine today), the Antiochian (covering the territory of the Asian Muslim world), the South-East European or Constantinopolitan (including the Romanian, Serbian, Greek, Bulgarian, Cypriot, Albanian and Constantinopolitan), the Western European, the Chinese, the Indian, the South-East Asian and the Japanese. The Continental Churches would be: The African (the Alexandrian), the North American, the Latin American and the Oceanian.
Q: Why does Russia not return Moldova to Romania?
A: As we have already replied in an earlier such question, it cannot, because Moldova does not belong to Russia!
As you know, for most of the last 200 years Moldova (Bessarabia) has been part of the Russian Empire and then of the Soviet Union. It belonged to the Russian Empire because it was the Russian Empire, which freed it from the Turks before Romania ever existed. As you will also know ‘Romania’, even the very word, is an invention of a German Saxon. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova has been an independent country and has not wished to become part of Romania. Moldovans – and I have been to Moldova – tell me that there are three reasons for this.
Firstly, they say that their grandparents told them the horror stories of the interwar period when Moldova was a province of Romania, especially about the Romanian Fascist treatment of minorities. The experience was not good. Secondly, they tell me that although Moldova is corrupt, Romania is far more corrupt, as we can see from the recent mass demonstrations in Bucharest against corruption in the Romanian government. Thirdly, Church Moldovans are horrified by the simony, new calendar, ecumenism and general decadence which have penetrated parts of the Romanian Church.
This question is of course in any case one for Moldovans and has nothing to do with Russia. If Moldovans want to become part of Romania, they can. But I suspect that this will not happen until Romania has become democratic, prosperous and not corrupt. At present Romania is shrinking fast, as the young move abroad for work and choose to live in countries where corruption is not the norm. I think the ball is in Romania’s court. If it wants to attract Moldova, it must present a different and attractive face.