The Continuing Crisis in Rue Daru

There is now great dissatisfaction in the Paris Exarchate (‘Rue Daru’) with its new archbishop. In blogs and comments, criticisms abound. Whatever the truth behind the sometimes serious accusations, one thing stands out. This is that Archbishop Job’s critics appear to have no concept of what a bishop (or a liturgist) is. Some of the behaviour criticized is that of almost any bishop of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and of other bishops in other Local Churches. We fail to be scandalized by this. A bishop who quotes the canons and is guided by them is a normal bishop. The impression of some of those who complain is of a group of people who have been living without the canons for a very long time. After all the liberals and modernists who are complaining are the very people who persecuted ordinary Orthodox for decades and chased them out of the Church. Now they are suffering in their turn and now they know what it feels like. There really is no-one as intolerant as a liberal.

The fact is that the Rue Daru jurisdiction always had weak bishops, who were appointed by exiled laypeople, at first by aristocrats, who had wanted the anti-Church Revolution and so power for themselves, and then by intellectuals. Whether it was Metr Eulogius, who was so indecisive that he kept changing jurisdictions, or the saintly but weak and openly mocked Metr Vladimir and Archbishop George (Tarasov), or the bishops born in Western Europe who followed them, the Paris Exarchate never had a bishop who stood up to its powerful laypeople, least of all Archbishop George (Wagner), who ordained several of those who are now in trouble. Now that the jurisdiction has an appointee of Patriarch Bartholomew, of course some in it are very dissatisfied. The problem is that when your Patriarch has appointed your bishop, who is a Phanariot loyalist, there is only one way you can avoid him and that is to leave his jurisdiction. Essentially, what is happening is that the jurisdiction is at last having to face reality after decades of fantasy.

After all, the Rue Daru jurisdiction has always been a ‘Protestant’ jurisdiction, both in the sense that its elite is composed of protestors (les ‘frondeurs’ et ‘soixante-huitards’, as Protopresbyter Alexis Knyazev used to call them) and also in the sense that it is composed of rationalists (like Protestants). This is clear from the code of camouflaged words, with which its elite defines itself. For example, they talk of their spirit of ‘renewal’ ( = in fact, pseudo-intellectual, renovationist modernism), their combination of ‘Orthodoxy with Western rationalism’ (= in fact, desacralization and spiritual decadence), their ‘creativity’ (= in fact, the condescending pride of those who imagine themselves to be the centre of the world, when it is in fact marginal French navel-gazing, ‘du nombrilisme hexagonal’) and of course ‘ecumenism’ (= in fact, apostasy from the Tradition). In many respects, it would make sense for the Roman Catholics to set up a Russian Uniat Exarchate in Paris which such individuals could join, as modern Catholic values differ little from rationalistic Protestant values.

It is said that Rue Daru is divided between those who want to remain ‘Russians’ and those who are ‘open’ and want to build a ‘Local Church’. What utter nonsense! All that was 30-40 years ago under Archbishop George (Wagner). This is now just self-justification for a gerontocratic ideology, which lives on notions removed from reality (sobornost, being, communion), and consistently avoids everything that is practically and concretely Orthodox. The daydream of ‘building a Local Church’, or rather, talking about building a Local Church, purely secular-liberal in its progressivism, is leading nowhere in Rue Daru. Elsewhere we are faithful to the Russian Tradition and also celebrate in the local languages and venerate the local saints. There is no either/or between faithfulness to the Russian Tradition and being a Local Church, it is both/and. The modernists play on the ambiguity of locality, appropriating arguments which require an Orthodox Church to be an Orthodox Church in a particular location. It then misuses those arguments to claim that therefore their own secularist foibles – which they have managed to enforce in that particular locality (Paris) – should be normative for the Orthodox Church there.

All of this illustrates the identity crisis of Rue Daru, a jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, supposedly of the Russian Tradition (though as someone said to me, the Russian Tradition never even stayed the night in most places in Rue Daru). Is it Greek or is it Russian? Before its former representative in England, Bp Basil (Osborne), was defrocked, he had the title of Bishops of ‘Amphipolis’. Various wags soon deformed this into Bishop of ‘Amphibious’ and Bishop of ‘Ambivalence’. Joking apart, there is here a serious question. Who do you think you are? The clergy that I knew and knew of in Rue Daru were all clergy who wanted Rue Daru to return to the Russian Orthodox Church as soon as the political obscenities in Russia were over. They have long been over. Archbishop George (Tarasov), Archbishop Sergiy (Konovalov), Bishop Alexander (Tian-Shansky), Bishop Methodius (Kulmann), Bishop Roman (Zolotov), Protopresbyter Alexis Knyazev, Archpriest Alexander Rehbinder, Archpriest Vsevolod Dunaev, Archpriest Igor Vernik, must all be turning in their graves at what is happening today. They would all long ago have returned to the Mother-Church, together with a mass of laypeople, who wanted none of this nonsense.

Apart from the hopelessly old-fashioned modernist ideology of its elite (an anachronism in a post-modernist world) Rue Daru has enormous financial problems. The Cathedral on Rue Daru needs two million euros, St Serge appears to be bankrupt and the pre-revolutionary church in Biarritz needs expensive repairs. It is difficult to see how such a group can maintain the pre-revolutionary churches in Florence and San Remo – also part of the Russian (not Greek) Orthodox heritage in Europe. Then there is the problem of finding priests to serve – more and more of them come from Eastern Europe and have no time for or understanding of the modernist ideology of the elite or its liturgical fantasies. Two people have said to me that one day Rue Daru will have more defrocked than frocked clergy. Here is the result of decades of easy ordinations of the untrained and uncanonical, showered with high awards – presumably for chasing out and persecuting faithful Orthodox. All this was carried out in order to build a jurisdictional empire. As a parting thought, perhaps if we do not get the bishop we need, then we get the bishop we deserve.