Tag Archives: Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy on Bullfighting, a Possible Future Revolution in Russia, Religious Statues and Homosexuality: Four Questions from Recent Correspondence

Why does bullfighting not exist in Orthodox countries?

J. S., Catalonia

Bullfighting only exists in certain once Catholic countries, Spain, Portugal, southern France and ex-colonies in Latin America. On the other hand, bullfighting is unknown in Ireland, Austria and other Catholic countries. It is also unknown in once Protestant and once Orthodox countries. However, it seems that in pagan Minoan Crete, as in the myth of Hercules who ‘took the bull by the horns’, it did exist. This suggests that bullfighting is a pre-Christian, pagan custom, once prevalent in many parts of the Mediterranean, but which survives only in the Catholic west Mediterranean, not in the Greek Orthodox east Mediterranean, nor in the ex-Greek Orthodox central Mediterranean. Why?

The fact is that Catholicism has a cult of blood and death, what we may call ‘crucifixionism’, which very clearly and suddenly began with its birth in the late eleventh century with images of ‘Jesus’ as a suffering, dying or dead human-being. (See for confirmation any of the studies of the Catholic Middle Ages by the Oxford scholar Sir Richard Southern). This developed into the bloody portrayal of the lives of the martyrs in, for example, the medieval anthology ‘The Golden Legend’ and also into the constipated sentimentalism of Catholic pietism.

This cult of blood, dead bodies and death can be seen in the pietistic Catholic veneration of human organs (bleeding hearts) and wounds, in the tortures of the Spanish (and French) Inquisition, and in Catholic art (Bosch and Goya, for example). However, it also exists in other Catholic countries, where bullfighting does not exist, for example in catacomb mummies, strange funeral customs throughout the Catholic world and customs of flagellation and self-mutilation in southern Italy and the once Spanish Philippines, especially on Great and Holy Friday.

This cult of blood is part of the Catholic cult of suffering and self-flagellation – beloved still today by Mother Teresa’s followers and Opus Dei. Morbid ‘crucifixionism’, as can be seen in Italian films on the Crucifixion or the Gibson film ‘The Passion of Christ’, the portrayal of the bleeding human-being Christ (‘Jesus’) on the Cross, is indeed partly why Protestantism rejects the Cross, seeing it as a symbol of death, instead of what it is, the symbol of Life and victory over death. It may be that the Arian-Protestant sect, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, also rejects blood transfusions as a result of the rejection of what it associates with Catholicism.

Bullfighting is unknown in once Protestant countries (although here bearbaiting, cockfighting and until recently fox-hunting were once very popular). Today, in these countries all such blood-sports are frowned on and even detested because of the prevalence of secularist values with political correctness and animal rights. Since, for secularists, human-beings are merely intelligent animals, we should not treat animals any differently from Western human beings. (Non-Western human-beings may be massacred freely, however, as in Rwanda, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and the Ukraine).

Why then do we Orthodox not cultivate bullfighting? Because in Orthodoxy, although and because we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion, we have no cult of blood, no ‘crucifixionism’. As Orthodox, we consider that we suffer enough simply by being faithful Orthodox Christians – not least through persecution by Catholicism and Protestantism, and we do not artificially seek or create suffering or entertain morbid images of torture of the human body.

We do not tolerate self-flagellation or a morbid cult of death, blood and human remains – the wax dummies that dead Catholic saints are turned into (which is quite different from the veneration of holy relics). This is because we do not imitate Christ outwardly, but imitate Him inwardly. Thus, we live in the Risen Christ, through the Holy Spirit, by Whom the Church, Whose Head is Christ and Which is the Risen Body of Christ, lives. Our cult is not of death, but of Life, of the Spirit, of the Victorious Resurrection, of Christ triumphant on the Cross.

You have yourself written that the restoration of Church life in Russia is very slow and very fragile. What would happen to the Church Outside Russia if there were another anti-Church Revolution inside Russia and the Patriarchate were enslaved again?

R.T., Seattle

I think this very unlikely, but, true, anything is possible in today’s Russia, where there are still statues of Lenin, and his mummy is in Red Square, and public places are named after other sadists and terrorists.

In such a case we would simply return to our situation nearly 100 years ago when Patriarch Tikhon founded the Church Outside Russia, precisely because he foresaw that the Church there was facing enslavement and we would so become the free voice of the Church. And I think that this time, we would be a lot stronger.

Firstly, those who are under the Patriarchate outside Russia, much more numerous than two and more decades ago, would surely quite naturally join us, if the administration inside Russia were enslaved again.

Secondly, I do not think that this time there would be any harmful and unnecessary political schisms in Paris and North America, as there were in the 1920s; this time the emigration is united in its Orthodoxy and would not let anti-Russian renovationist and masonic political interference from Constantinople or elsewhere disturb Church life.

Is it true that Orthodox do not worship statues like Catholics because statues are three-dimensional, whereas icons are two-dimensional? And why does that make a difference?

P. A., Manchester

I think that the truth can be expressed more clearly than this. It is not so much a question of two or three dimensions as a question of our concept of realism.

First of all, Orthodox do not worship anyone or anything except the Holy Trinity. However, we do honour, revere and venerate holy things, such as icons, the cross and holy relics. We do not have statues in churches (but they may exist as memorials outside churches), because they are an attempt to create realistic representations of God or human beings. For the same reason we do not paint or make realistic, two-dimensional, images of Christ, angels and saints. An icon is precisely not an attempt to create a realistic image (like a statue or a Catholic religious picture), but is a spiritual portrait.

Realism portrays only fallen nature, which we precisely wish to restore. This is why an icon does not have perspective or represent the body anatomically. It is the opposite of a realistic portrait – or a statue. This is why, although there are many Orthodox saints of whom we have photographs, we do not venerate their photographs. We venerate only icons – attempts to produce spiritual photographs, representations of the spiritual essence or soul of the saint in question, restored to their primal beauty as they would have been before the Fall. That is our realism.

Can a homosexual be ordained?

A.T., Norfolk

We condemn the sin, not the sinner.

Many, but not all, homosexuals appear to be of two sorts, though with a multiplicity of variations: he who by repression has become narcissistic (narcissism always come from a personality complex), nasty, aggressive, jealous, backbiting, slanderous and vengeful. On the other hand, there is he who is camp, obviously homosexual, can be kind, charming, boylike and is very popular with females, because, unrepressed, he has no aggression at all and so presents no threat to them.

The question of ordination is for a bishop, though I suspect that any bishop of any jurisdiction, canonical and non-canonical (there are homosexual clergy in all jurisdictions) would either answer a definite ‘No’, or else would ask: ‘Which homosexual’? After all, the custom of classifying people according to a category, ‘French’, ‘homosexual’, ‘English’, ‘Catholic’, ‘Russian’, ‘married’ depersonalizes them: I think we should see people as individuals first of all. As we all know, some homosexuals are ordained.

Thus, the second sort of obvious homosexual would not be ordained (though I have met exceptions among those who have been ordained by homosexual bishops). However, the first nasty narcissistic sort, if ordained – as, sadly, they are, are catastrophes, especially when they become bishops, as many sadly have.

However, there are exceptions. Although there are two main sorts of homosexual, there are also those who have control both over their illness (and the illness of homosexuality is a heavy cross to bear) and over their aggressiveness. With such people bishops would make exceptions.