The Corruption of the Constantinople Episcopate
Q: What do you make of the appalling allegations against certain members of the episcopate of Constantinople, which are now making their rounds on the internet? Is this fake news? Or, if is true, is it time for us to have a married episcopate?
A: When I first saw the allegations, clearly not fake news, I wondered what the fuss was all about: these stories have been well-known for decades, though, true, they have never been issued on the internet. The corruption of Orthodox bishops in the Diaspora is well-known. There was the Russian bishop in Paris, sent to Siberia, when Moscow actually got to realize it was all true, the Serbian bishop who had to ‘retire’, the episcopate of a certain group in the USA known as ‘the gay mafia’, who therefore fell under the thumb of a certain priest who had the dirt on them, the Greek and Russian bishops in Europe with their boyfriends or multiple mistresses, the one they called ‘Johnny Walker’ (we know how he died) and the chain-smoking bishops from the Middle East and the alcoholic Slavs. All this has been well-known for decades and generations. However, the latest stories with Rolex watches worth 400,000 euros and all the sordid details worthy only of British gutter tabloids, do bring it down to a different level (or depth).
Of course, the Protestant-minded immediately call for married bishops. I am completely opposed to this. First of all, it would be completely unfair on their wives. It is difficult enough for the wife of a priest to have her husband. The wife of a bishop would never see him. Then, secondly, it would introduce nasty careerism among married clergy. It is bad enough among certain hieromonks and archimandrites, without polluting the married clergy.
There is only one solution: to stop electing bishops from among candidates who are candidates simply because they are not married. Otherwise you will simply end up, at worst, with pedophiles and homosexuals who only have contempt for married priests, women and children (as among the Catholics) or, at best (?), with narcissistic professional bachelors who have no love for anyone except themselves and their favourites and operate a mafia against real pastors. We have seen enough of both sorts and suffered enough from them during 40 years. They are the only enemies of the Church and always have been. They wreck dioceses and ruin lives. There is only one solution: monastic renewal. If you are not living a monastic life in a monastery and you have no pastoral experience and love for the people, you cannot become a bishop.
As for the sort of bishops described in Constantinople, they must all be defrocked asap. We have had enough of them. All they do is bring the Church into disrepute and upset and persecute the sincere parish priests and the pious faithful. And, above all, they can be corrupted by the US State Department which has all the dirt on them all and so can blackmail them – just like the KGB did in the days of the Soviet Union, just like the CIA does in the Ukraine today.
Q: What do you think of the appointment of Metr Elpidiphoros as the new Greek Archbishop of America?
A: His name means ‘bearer of hope’. However, he is the bearer of despair. Expect schisms in the Greek Church in the USA, Australia and Great Britain. Indeed, they have already begun, with priests and parishes leaving them for canonical Orthodoxy. It is the beginning of the end for the rule of Constantinople. Sad though it is, it is inevitable and, ultimately, this will be a positive event. God is not mocked. We have to live for the future, not for the corrupt past. All will be providential. And Providence is God’s Love in history.
Russian Orthodox Church Matters
Q: I recently visited Russia and saw and heard some strange things from some people. For example, someone told me he knew an Orthodox man who was sure that Stalin will one day be canonized. An Orthodox woman I met said that she thought the Russian Church should become like the Catholic Church. Are such views widespread?
A: Today’s Russian Church is 90% a Church of converts, so inevitably you do occasionally come across extremes and marginals, or to put it very frankly, ‘weirdos’, nationalists, ecumenists and what have you. On top of this, you can also encounter among some clergy the hangover from the Soviet period – centralization and bureaucracy (though this was to some extent also present before the Revolution). I should not worry about it. This will all pass, it is all a phase of growing up. And it all only affects some; most are solid. Remember to look at the wood, not at the trees.
Q: The Russian Orthodox Church has for several months now an Exarchate in Paris. You had written a lot about this before it happened. Why does the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (including yourself) not participate in it?
A: The Russian Exarchate is for the moment very much on paper only. It is centralized, bureaucratic, missing bishops on the ground in Italy and Scandinavia, which like Germany is not included in it. The Exarchate is so far not real, not local, not skilled, not pastoral. And I know this from concrete contacts at the very highest AND the very lowest level. It is not at all ready to operate like the best of the Church Outside Russia (where it exists) and does not even want us to take part in it! Our offers of help have been rebuffed, several times, as they prefer to take orders from Moscow, where they understand nothing of the situation on the ground. It is not ready – by far!
When the Russian Exarchate is ready to be pastoral and to become a real Exarchate of (and not merely in) Western Europe, then we shall see changes. For now it clearly lacks the necessary pastoral skills and local knowledge, being a disincarnate export from Moscow. It will need several years to grow up. The task, duty and mission of the local Church Outside Russia in Western Europe are precisely to prepare the terrain for this moment, filling the largely empty infrastructure created by Moscow, going before, like St John the Baptist.
Speaking as the only priest in the Russian Church who has ever been awarded a jewelled cross by Patriarch Kyrill (seven years ago) and a second such cross by Metropolitan Hilarion of New York (three years later), I believe that the Exarchate is not viable without ROCOR.
Q: What is the difference between low self-esteem and humility?
A: Low self-esteem comes from being humiliated, insulted and bullied. The victim of humiliation and bullying stops believing in themselves and doubts everyone and everything and can hate themselves and even self-mutilate. However, this is in contradiction with the last two words of the commandments, to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. We must love ourselves. Not because we are anything other than sinners, but because God loves us. Anyone who believes or has experienced that fact that God loves them, will not fall victim to low self-esteem, but will become humble. Low self-esteem is the result of believing in the opinions and actions of nasty narcissists and sadistic bullies, whatever rank they may hold, more than in God.
Q: Is it true that there are only two choices in the Church, marriage or monasticism?
A: Only as an ideal. I would say, and I think I have said this before, that in reality there are two and a quarter choices. The quarter choice is for all those who for some reason do not fit in to either of the main choices at present. In other words, we must always be prepared for exceptions and exceptional circumstances. For example, there are, though they are very rare, celibate priests, neither married, nor monastic.