The cynical say that ‘every man has his price’, that it is possible to corrupt anyone. Indeed, it is said that secret services and police forces use human weaknesses to corrupt any as they wish. Thus, one person’s weakness is money, another’s fame, a third’s alcohol and so on; thus all can be corrupted. Famously, when the powers of this world encountered St Basil the Great in the fourth century and met with his refusal to compromise, those powers said that no-one had ever spoken to them in that way before. To this St Basil replied, ‘Perhaps you have never yet had to deal with a bishop’.
Behind human cynicism and hatred for humanity there stands the devil; he always attacks by the weakest points. This technique is used by the devil not only against individuals, but also against nations and institutions. Thus, Roman Catholicism has been attacked by its weakest points, desire for power, attachment to Non-Christian culture, and recently homosexual and pedophile clergy, to which it exposes itself by its insistence on clerical celibacy. And Protestantism has been attacked by its weakest points, attachment to Non-Christian culture and secularism, to which it stands very close because it gave birth to it.
As for the Orthodox Church, it is also attacked by the attachment to this world, in the form of nationalism. Thus, nationalism has infected every ancient Orthodox Patriarchate, including the Georgian, and every Balkan Church, in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and especially in Serbia, which faces Communist-inspired schism in Macedonia and EU-inspired schism in Montenegro. Of all the Local Orthodox Churches only the Russian Orthodox Church remains in principle (though there are always bad examples here too) multinational and faithful, present by its missions in 62 nations, translating the services into a host of languages.
However, it is now the turn of Russian Orthodox to face US- and EU-inspired nationalism in the Ukraine, in an attempt to divide and rule there, just as Nazi Germany had tried before. But how can the Church resist nationalism? It is only by putting the Kingdom of Heaven above all national affairs, only by not becoming institutionalized, reduced to a mere national institution, by not becoming a mere religion – by remaining a Faith. For religions are for those who have only some vague belief in some unknown force, who do not know God, whereas Faith is for those who have real spiritual experience and know God.
The decline from Life to Death, Faith to Religion, from the Holy Spirit to Institutionalization, from seeing God (possible only for the pure in heart, according to the Gospels) to spiritual blindness, passes through two phases. The first is spiritual decay and the second is moral decay. Spiritual decay begins by the loss of Faith. This means the loss of spiritual life and so spiritual awareness. It is the loss of spiritual awareness that leads to spiritual decay and decadence. This in turn leads to any number of isms which, like all isms, reflect conformism to this world, that is, secularism.
Such secularism degenerates by historical phase into Catholicism (secularist because it wishes to have control over the world), Protestantism (secularist because it rejects the Incarnation and hands over public life to secular authorities), liberalism, modernism, syncretism, ecumenism (all secularist because they conform to the world, that is, they swim with the secular tide) and, in its final stage, atheism, the Religion of Godlessness, which is the ultimate form of lack of spiritual awareness, indeed spiritual blindness, since atheism denotes the refusal to know God, which is spiritual Death.
Since moral life is entirely dependent on spiritual life, spiritual decay leads directly to moral decay or decadence. In Church life moral decay firstly means simony. For centuries simony was common, almost the norm, in Local Churches under the Turkish Yoke. Today, in one Balkan Church, it is still particularly common, although cases can be found in every Local Church without exception. The other stage of moral decay is homosexualisation of the episcopate and indeed the two often go together (1). Homosexualisation comes about when bishops are no longer chosen for their monastic virtues, but for career reasons.
Sadly, such cases can even be identified by appearance. Unfortunately, such individuals tend to ordain homosexuals as priests or at least give those with that weakness positions of responsibility. This vice is often accompanied by a dislike for normal married clergy, who suffer much from such bishops, as also a dislike for women and children. We have known over a dozen examples of this in the Diaspora, where monastic life is weak or non-existent, in France, England and especially the USA, where the new calendar Churches suffer in particular. It is a form of corruption which rots Church life.
In such a frank essay, we would like to conclude by emphasizing that we must keep all this in proportion. Firstly, we are talking about a minority of exceptional cases overall (even though there can be pockets, where this does not seem to be the case, as in the USA). Secondly, there are solutions. The first solution is that there must be normal monasteries (not ‘sketes’), where numbers of monks live in coenobia, according to the Typicon. The second solution is that future bishops must be taken from those with experience of monastic life, including if they are widowed priests.
The time of career clergy, young, with degrees and doctorates from Protestant and more often Catholic educational institutions, is over. It is time to escape the decadence of the past fifty years especially and time to return to the healthy monastic traditions of the Church. Those who ignore monastic tradition, or worse still, despise it, as is so common in certain anti-traditional parts of the Russian Greek Diasporas, do so at their peril. Healthy life will be restored throughout the Church only when monastic life, which puts the Kingdom of Heaven first, is restored.
1. Cases of pedophilia, very common in Catholicism, are far rarer in the Local Churches; we have only known three such cases, one in Soviet Russia, one in the Ukraine and one in France, though we have heard of several other cases in old calendarist sects.