In my last article, I wrote:
‘Mission on most of five continents, in most of Europe, most of Asia, in Oceania and in North and South America, lies before us. And this mission can only be carried out by a Church, which is uncompromised and untainted by State interference, by racist nationalism, by secularist ecumenism and modernism’
One reader wrote to me and said that such a Church has not existed for some 1,700 years. I replied that we must distinguish between the Church and the hierarchy. Below is my fuller reply to him.
In forty-five years of Church life I have met between one and two hundred bishops of the present 900. I believe that at least two of them were saints. Many others were good. However, some were bad, indeed awful.
Bad bishops like the ones I have encountered traumatize their priests. The faithful quit them because nobody can trust them or some of the priests whom they ordain. Such bishops are at best celibates. (And some of them are not even celibates – see below). However, celibates can also be corrupt and incompetent and even atheists. Celibates can also be under-educated, incapable of writing anything, chronically ignorant. They can also be over-educated and nobody can understand their pompous and overblown philosophies. And celibates can prove to be incompetent simply because they are too old and ill to be competent, for instance falling asleep during Synod meetings. In their weak old age they then get manipulated by women, called in Russian ‘bishopesses’. However, most of the temptations that I have seen bishops falling into concern either morality or else power.
- Moral Temptations
There are three of these:
The first is money and the luxuries it provides. Who has not met a Greek bishop with a fancy villa in Athens? Or a Russian bishop with an expensive black cars. With all this goes pride, snobbery and elitism.
The second is sexual. Fortunately pedophilia is extremely rare (though I do know of two cases from the Soviet period). Sadly, homosexuality is relatively widespread among Diaspora bishops, with the episcopate of one group in the Diaspora known as ‘the gay mafia’. These like ordaining homosexual boyfriends to the priesthood, excluding married clergy and so perpetuating their vice. I have seen it. Then there are the heterosexuals, the most notorious one being the Soviet-period Metropolitan of Kiev, the notorious Filaret, whose wife had men ordained to the priesthood in return for expensive presents and flattery. One I knew here took Church funds and bought his mistress a house with the money. Another wanted to sleep with the wife of a candidate for a priesthood, He walked out of his old Diocese forever and was ordained elsewhere by a moral bishop. The senior priest (uncanonically ordained) in his old Diocese, who knew all about his bishop’s conquests, defended his bishop: ‘It’s his only fault’. After some years his Diocese came to be in a critical state. No surprises there.
Thirdly there is vanity. Vain bishops are easily manipulated. Their narcissistic vanity is used to deprive priests and their families of their parishes and income. Insults, humiliations, slanders and bullying follow them. The Diocese is ruled by flattering favourites, who support and ordain bad elements against the good. Injustice rules and awards are given to corrupt favourites. Pastoral life suffers, parishioners are not visited, the flock sees no example from above and quits the Church, as nobody cares and those who do care are punished. The sheer lack of love of the vain and narcissistic bishop who abandons the good, preferring the bad, wrecks whole dioceses. I have seen it twice in my life.
- Power Temptations
There are three of these:
The first is politics. Uncanonical dependancy on figures in the State leads to uncanonical actions. Thus, for centuries patriarchs of Constantinople have been appointed by Muslim sultans, British and French ambassadors and today US ambassadors. Russian bishops were appointed by lay ‘oberprocurators’, at least one of whom was an atheist. We of course know about the Soviet period. We have the example of today’s Ukraine where a Jewish-Uniat president has set up his own Church, exactly like Henry VIII in England. Power corrupts, and this is why so many recent patriarchs and bishops of Constantinople have been freemasons, trying to corrupt candidates for the priesthood, as I know.
The second is the heresy of phyletism, the Greek word for racism. We have seen so many churches draped in national flags, especially Greek, Romanian, Serbian and Georgian. In one Greek Cathedral forty years ago we saw the Greek metropolitan actually stop the Liturgy: The Greek ambassador and his family had just entered and had to be escorted by the deacon to their seats…Such is spiritual death.
The third is dictatorship. Power goes to the head of the bishop and he becomes a dry dictator, a ‘good administrator’, ‘an effective manager’. Never consulting local people whom he only has contempt for anyway, such a bishop is just a spiritually dead bureaucrat. His diocese dies.
Some may be scandalized by the above and even despair. I say: So what? There is nothing new in the above, for there is nothing new under the sun. Sin is intensely boring because it is just the same old thing over and over again. Given the list above, my reaction is that this proves that the Church is Divine. If the Church were a secular company, it would long ago have gone bankrupt. For the Church is not governed by bishops – and if any bishop thinks that, he is clearly insane. The Church is governed by the Holy Spirit. Man proposes, but God disposes. And that is why, they can throw and have thrown all sorts of the above bishops at us and we are still here. And they are not. Victory is always ours, for Christ stands behind us.