Friday, August 27. 2010
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Look, I was chrismated into Orthodoxy though the OCA. But we must admit that, if we don't have Moscow's support, there is no OCA autocephaly. And appealing to Moscow's past actions is not going to matter if Moscow's present actions seem to be a retraction of the act.
What Moscow did in the past, she did for reasons important to her at the time. And, yes, the canonical reality of autocephaly granted at that time, decades before the new rules the Patriarchs have now promulgated, was solid.
But that canonical reality will not survive repudiation by the one who granted it.
Moscow could not have brought ROCOR back into communion as an autonomous province of the Russian Orthodox Church, based on OCA soil, if Moscow still held that autocephaly to be absolute and irrevocable.
Moscow would not have sent such a heavy hitter as +Justinian to assume administration of the Patriarchal Parishes (of which I am now a member in the interest of full disclosure), and allowed him to take a significant leadership role in the North American Episcopal Assembly, if Moscow still held that Autocephaly to be absolute and irrevocable.
So where are we at? +Jonah is a realist who has likely been told to his face how all this will play out. And as a true shepherd, he is preparing his people for a reality.
Look, again, I'm a Norwegian-American, a former Lutheran, who has nothing whatsoever invested in all these ethnic games.
But as a student of history, I stand by the principle that I am in allegiance with the canonical Church, whatever happens. We don't have to like the ugliness of this process, but American unity will be arrived at--eventually--but probably only after a series of Old World compromises.
Tomorrow, I will attend Liturgy, celebrating the Assumption of Our Lady (hey, I'm still a Western), on the Russian Calendar. I celebrated this Feast already, in Romania. It's such an awesome Feast. I enjoy celebrating it twice.
There is still a good God in Heaven who ultimately is in charge of all this. Let's praise and trust Him and rest in the confidence that he rules the Church.
You can bet your Food for Hungry People Money and The Order of St Ingatius DUES that generous donations were given to each Metropolitan of the unHoly Synod as Metropolitan Philip courted them prior to the Synod Meeting.
APPARENTLY HE SPREAD LIES THAT BISHOP MARK HATES ARABS AND FORBIDS THE USE OF ARABIC IN ALL HIS PARISHES.
If the Holy Synod had one ounce of integrity they would have made an attempt to verify these false accusations, also known as bold faced lies, before making a decision.
Perhaps once the deposit was received the CANONICAL PROCESS was deemed unnecessary?
As the saying goes, "The apple does not fall far from the tree." They are of the same fabric as MP.
Birds of a feather . . . .
#2 anonymous on 2010-08-27 21:10
Metropolitan Jonah seeks to legitimize the OCA by re-uniting with the Moscow Patriarchate. The people of the OCA should wonder, what "legitimacy" they might get by submitting to the authority of a self-condemned schismatic group. The article by S. V .Troitskii clearly lays out the canonical principles of church order - principles by which the Moscow Patriarchate is self-condemned as a schismatic body.
News reports of the August 2008 invasion of Georgia, described it as a short; but bloody war. In reality the Georgian people and the Georgian Orthodox Church have suffered a continuous assault by the military forces of the Russian Federation for over 20 years. This undeclared war has included three invasions by the Russian military forces and their allied Northern Caucasian Muslim militias. As a result of this war, nearly 50,000 innocent Orthodox Christian civilians have been killed in their own homes. Nearly 300,000 Georgian citizens have been driven from their ancestral villages, deprived of their homes, their livelihoods; and in too many cases, of their loved ones. Parallel to the Russian military seizure of Georgian territory, the Moscow Patriarchate has carried out an ecclesiastical invasion and occupation of territories of the Orthodox dioceses of Sokhumi – Abkazia and Nikazi-Tskhinvali, which are universally recognized constituents of the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate. By its own admitted actions, the Moscow Patriarchate has clearly violated the most ancient apostolic canons and it has broken the divine commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate have publicly “blessed” the very weapons used to destroy Orthodox churches and used to murder innocent Orthodox Christians in their very own homes. By its actions, the Moscow Patriarchate has been complicit in acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and it must share the guilt for those acts blessed by its bishops.
The Russian Synod has created and supported an uncanonical, schismatic "Autonomous Abkhaz Orthodox Eparchy" whose "leader" is the renegade, defrocked Archimandrite Vissarion Aplia. Vissarion Aplia was a priest of the legitimate diocese of Sokhumi, under obedience to Metropolitan Daniel. During the invasion of Abkhazia in 1992-1993, Vissarion Aplia deserted his monastic and ecclesiastical duty of obedience to Metropolitan Daniel. This same Vissarion Aplia participated in the anti- Georgian pogroms, and has since directed the ethnic cleansing of the last legitimate Orthodox clergy from the newly occupied Gali and Kodori districts in 2009. Details of Aplia's crimes can be read here:
(TEXT ATTACHED BELOW).
This renegade, illegitimate priest has unilaterally declared himself the "leader" of the schismatic "Abkhaz Eparchy", which he has established on the territory of, and in the very churches stolen from the legitimate Orthodox Diocese of Sokhumi and Abkhazia. Despite the clearly uncanonical status of this "Eparchy" and the clear illegitimacy of its leader, Russian bishops have not only concelebrated Divine Services with this schismatic priest; but Russian bishops have ordained clergy for his schismatic "Eparchy". The 2008 documentary "Orthodox Occupation" visibly demonstrates the Moscow Patriarchate’s ongoing relationship with the schismatic Abkhaz Eparchy and its renegade pseudo-bishop. In this video, Bishop Panteleimon of Adighe, not only congratulated Vissarion Aplia as a hero of Orthodoxy; but awarded Aplia with the Order of St Seraphim of Sarov on behalf of the Patriarch of Moscow and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Details of the Abkhaz schism, and the destruction of the 5th century Ghvrtaeba Cathdral by the Russian invaders may be viewed at:
Indeed, the Moscow Patriarchates’ own publications have freely admitted to the Russian Church's ecclesiastical incursion onto the universally recognized dioceses of the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate. See the article below from the Russian Patriarchate Monitor at:
and the article from the ROCOR web-site:
Moscow’s propagandists freely admit to the incursion into the dioceses of Sokhumi and Tskhinvali without permission of the legitimate diocesan bishops, although their excuses for those canonical crimes are clearly and demonstrably false. They claim that Metropolitan Daniel of Sokhumi "abandoned" his diocese. In fact, Metropolitan Daniel was driven into exile along with his people during the genocide of 1992-1993. The article printed in the Russian Patriarchal Monitor, clearly shows that the Russian church has embraced the heresy of phyletism, by demanding separate dioceses based on ethnic identity, not territorial integrity as required by the sacred canons. The Russians’ demands are doubly hypocritical since they know full well that the Apsni (the so-called Abkhazians) are religious Muslims, and that the Russian government used the Muslim Caucasus League as a proxy army to specifically attack the Georgian Orthodox Churches and the people of the diocese of Sokhumi at the behest of the Aspni warlord Ardzinba. It was this religious proxy war against the Georgian Orthodox faithful that resulted in the murder of 47,000 Orthodox Christians, and the ethnic cleansing of 246,000 refugees during the pogrom. What is more, the schismatic cleric Vissarion Aplia personally participated in the anti-Georgian pogrom, and later personally directed the ethnic cleansing of the last legitimate orthodox clergy from occupied Gali and Kodori (eastern Abkhazia) in April 2009. What is more, the clergy ordained for the schismatic "Abkahz Eparchy" are ethnic Russians, serving in Slavonic, not the Apsyni language. The Georgian Patriarchate has always had many ethnic Ossetian clergy. The Ossetian and Georgian people always lived in peace and concord until the Russian imperialists turned neighbor against neighbor as part of its "divide and conquer” strategy.
During the August 2008 invasions, Bishop Panteleimon of Adige, and Bishop Theophan of Saratov accompanied the Russian invasion forces, and appeared with the rebel leaders at military parades, where these bishops publicly "blessed" the military armaments used to attack innocent Orthodox Christians and to destroy Orthodox churches. On August 8, 2008, the Russian military attacked the ancient Ghvrtaeba Cathedral, the shrine of St. Razhden the Protomartyr, and the residence of Metropolitan Esaia, the legitimate Orthodox bishop of Nikozi andTskhinvali. On the following day, Russian soldiers, and their allied Ossetian militias looted and then burned the house of God. They did not spare the holy icons, the sacred vessels, the Holy Altar or the Holy Relics; but attacked and desecrated everything. A video extract of the documentary "Orthoodx Occupation" may be seen at:
By their actions, these bishops have become participants in acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing. They have "blessed" the destruction of sacred temples and have driven out the last legitimate Orthodox clergy from the occupied territories. By these infernal "blessings", these bishops have grieved the love of God. These "blessings" are truly a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, since through these blessings they have associated the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, with acts do murder and destruction. (see Matthew 12:31-32). This is very great sin, and without profound repentance, it will not be forgiven, not in this world, nor in eternity. By these acts the Russian bishops have called down the righteous anger of the just God. They have marked themselves, their church and their nation with the Mark of Cain, who murdered his own brother. (See Genesis 4: 8-15)
The Russian Patriarchate’s aggression against the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate, its performance of ordinations in Abkhazia without the permission of the local bishop, its communion with the schismatic and illegitimate Abkhaz Eparchy, and its public embrace of the heresy of Phyletism, are undeniable proofs that the Russian Patriarchate has abandoned the pure expression of the Orthodox Christian faith, and that the Russian bishops have abandoned the communion of the true Church of Christ. These bishops have violated their solemn oath to uphold the Sacred Canons. They have blatantly and publicly transgressed the ancient Apostolic Canons, specifically Canon 11, Canon 12, Canon 13, Canon 14, Canon 15, Canon 16, Canon 30, Canon 31, and Canon 32. The Russian bishops have blessed acts of violence and genocide. They have replaced the Holy Cross with the Mark of Cain. The blood of innocent Christians cries out to God from the ground against them.
ABKHAZIA: "We'll kick out anyone"
By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
The internationally unrecognised entity of Abkhazia has defended its expulsion in early April of three Georgian Orthodox monks and four nuns. Defence Minister Merab Kishmaria told Forum 18 News Service that "I took the decision to expel them. We'll kick out anyone who prevents the population of Abkhazia from living calmly." Asked how the monks and nuns in the remote Upper Kodori Gorge had disturbed the population, he responded: "They don't recognise our independent state or our Orthodox leader Fr Vissarion." The monastery has functioned in the Upper Kodori Gorge from the early 1990s, when the area was under the control of Georgian authorities. After fighting in August 2008, the area came under the control of the Abkhaz authorities. The monks and nuns were expelled after they resisted pressure from Fr Vissarion Aplia - who heads the canonically unrecognised Abkhaz Orthodox Church - to leave the Georgian Orthodox Church and join the group he controls. Deputy Foreign Minister Maxim Gvinjia defended the expulsions, insisting to Forum 18 that the Abkhaz Orthodox Church can prevent any religious community it does not like from functioning. The local Georgian Orthodox community has thus been denied access to any clergy just before the major Orthodox feast of Easter.
The Defence Minister of the unrecognised entity of Abkhazia in the South Caucasus, Merab Kishmaria, has defended the expulsion of three Georgian Orthodox monks and four nuns in early April. "They should not be here in Abkhazia," he told Forum 18 News Service from the capital Sukhum (Sokhumi in Georgian) on 7 April. "I took the decision to expel them. We'll kick out anyone who prevents the population of Abkhazia from living calmly." Asked how the monks and nuns in the remote Upper Kodori Gorge had disturbed the population, he responded: "They don't recognise our independent state or our Orthodox leader Fr Vissarion."
Asked why Fr Vissarion Aplia – who heads the separate Abkhaz Orthodox Church – had any role in the life of another religious community, Kishmaria told Forum 18: "Because he recognises our independent state."
Kishmaria kept insisting that the monks and nuns had come specially from the Georgian capital Tbilisi to settle in Kodori. Told that they had already been there when the Upper Kodori Gorge was seized by Abkhaz forces from the Georgians in fighting in August 2008, the minister responded: "I don't care if they were already there." He pledged to continue the same policy.
The three monks – Fr Georgi (Gurchiani), Fr Zavulon (Gamkrelia) and Fr Bidzina (Kobalia) - had been living in St George's Monastery in the village of Ajara, which had been re-founded in the early 1990s when the Upper Kodori Gorge was under the control of the Georgian government. The four nuns were at St Nino's Convent nearby.
The sparsely-populated Upper Kodori Gorge is inhabited by some 150 Svans, a sub-group of the Georgian people and generally considered to be more devout Orthodox than other ethnic Georgians. However, the rugged terrain and often harsh weather made it difficult for many to attend services at the monastery regularly.
Within days of the capture of the region by Abkhaz forces, the monks and nuns were visited by an Abkhaz Orthodox delegation from Sukhum led by Fr Vissarion. He pressured them to renounce their affiliation to the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate and submit to the jurisdiction of his group, which is not recognised as canonical by any other Orthodox Church, though it gets some support from the Moscow Patriarchate.
State officials told Forum 18 in September 2008 that they would do nothing to defend the monks' and nuns' right to continue living in Ajara (see F18News 4 September 2008 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1183).
On 2 April, Abkhaz officials and Abkhaz Orthodox representatives arrived in Ajara to expel the monks and nuns. The three monks were taken to Sukhum, where they were questioned. "Vissarion took them in his car," Georgian Orthodox priest Fr Pimen Kardava, who knows the three expelled priests, told Forum 18 from Tbilisi on 6 April. He said they were filmed by Abkhaz television and also questioned by Defence Minister Kishmaria, though the minister declined to confirm or deny this to Forum 18. Fr Pimen said the nuns were expelled the following day.
Fr Pimen told Forum 18 that the monks are "in such a state of stress" and "very tired psychologically" that they do not want to talk about their expulsion.
In the wake of the expulsion, Sergei Jonua, the representative in the Kodori Gorge of the Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh, told the Abkhaz official news agency Apsnypress on 3 April that the monks had been expelled for refusing to recognise the "Abkhaz authorities and the Abkhaz Church".
Fr Vissarion told Apsnypress that his Church would send two of its priests to serve in the village.
Abkhaz presidential representative Jonua's telephone was either engaged or went unanswered each time Forum 18 rang on 7 April. Fr Vissarion's telephone also was engaged whenever Forum 18 called. However, told that Forum 18 wanted to discuss with him the expulsion of the Georgian Orthodox monks and nuns, the woman who answered the phone at his office in Sukhum told Forum 18 that there were "enemies" there.
Also resolutely defending the expulsion of the monks and nuns is Maxim Gvinjia, Abkhazia's Deputy Foreign Minister. "They refuse to recognise the Abkhaz Church even though they're working on its territory," he told Forum 18 from Sukhum on 7 April. "They think they're still in Georgia."
Gvinjia believes the Georgian Orthodox Church does not and should not exist in Abkhazia. "We don't have the Georgian Church in Abkhazia."
Asked why clergy of one religious community should submit to the authority of a different religious community, Gvinjia responded: "They don't have registration with the Abkhaz Church – all religious communities need to register with them."
He insisted the monks and nuns had broken the law. Asked to identify which law, Gvinjia declared: "Not the law, but the regulations of the Abkhaz Church. All communities – such as the Catholic congregation here in Sukhum – have a licence from them." Asked whether other faiths, such as the Muslim community, also need the permission of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church to operate, Deputy Foreign Minister Gvinjia confirmed that this was the case.
Gvinjia claimed that religion and the state are separate, insisting that the state does not impose anything on the Abkhaz Orthodox Church or give it any duties. However, he defends its power to veto the activity of other religious communities. Asked if this means that the Abkhaz Orthodox Church can prevent any religious community it does not like from functioning in Abkhazia, he replied: "Yes."
The Abkhaz authorities formally banned the Jehovah's Witnesses from functioning in 1995, however this ban is currently unenforced (see F18News 27 April 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=308).
Abkhazia has remained out of the control of the Tbilisi authorities since a bitter war in the early 1990s, which the Tbilisi authorities lost. Almost all ethnic Georgians fled Abkhazia in the wake of that war. The Republic of Abkhazia has been recognised only by Russia and Nicaragua, but is not recognised in international law.
An independent observer based in Abkhazia who asked not to be named told Forum 18 that the presence of the remaining 40,000 to 50,000 ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia is delicate. Whether spiritual support should be provided by the Georgian Orthodox Church or the Abkhaz Orthodox Church is "politically-loaded", the observer pointed out. "Abkhaz view any preaching that says people should be under the jurisdiction of the Georgian Patriarchate as explosive and a political provocation."
However, Fr Pimen, a native of Gali District in Abkhazia who worked for three years as a priest there until his expulsion in 2008, insisted to Forum 18 that he had never preached on political issues. "We [priests] don't have the right to speak on political issues – our Patriarch has not given us his blessing for us to do that. We only spoke about our faith, and that people should not take drugs nor commit murder. I told people in Gali that they belong to the Georgian Church, not to the Georgian state."
Fr Pimen was expelled in April 2008 in the wake of a "special decree" from the Abkhaz Orthodox Church, of which Forum 18 has seen a copy. The Abkhaz State Security Service (SSS) denied to Forum 18 that it had been involved in the expulsion, despite information from independent sources that it had been (see F18News 23 April 2008 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1118).
Fr Pimen laments that no Georgian Orthodox priests are left in the whole of Abkhazia with his expulsion and the expulsion of the monks and nuns from Ajara. He told Forum 18 that he did not know if the expulsion of the monks and nuns was deliberately timed two weeks before the Georgian Orthodox Church celebrates Easter. "This is the most important feast for the Church – and, I believe, for the world."
The Georgian Patriarch, Ilya II, announced on 6 April that he regretted the expulsion of the monks and nuns from Upper Kodori, but insisted this would be "temporary". He said he would visit Abkhazia and the Kodori Gorge "probably in May". He did not explain how this would be arranged.
However, his proposed visit was rejected by Fr Vissarion and by deputy Foreign Minister Gvinjia. "It is not likely he will visit," Gvinjia told Forum 18. "This was just a political statement." (END)
More coverage of freedom of religion or belief in Abkhazia is at http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?query=&religion=all&country=25.
#3 Francis Frost on 2010-08-27 21:41
are you a psychologist, mark? a freudian slip? dont you think they knew what they were putting there? do you actually believe that they "slipped" by putting that statement. seriously....come on.
#4 Anonymous on 2010-08-28 06:42
Two things, briefly:
1) With all this talk and scuttlebutt of revoking our autocephaly, the question that naturally arises is: Has the autocephaly of any Orthodox Church ever taken place and, if so, why and under what circumstances??
2) Regarding the great article by S. V. Troitskii from 1922, so contemporary even today, there is ample canonical validation for the prohibiting of the transfer of bishops from one diocese to another!! Too bad this was not applied to our beloved Diocese of New England, where we went through that uncanonical process twice in the last 40 years: +Bishop Dimitri was our bishop into the 1970's until he was transferred to the Diocese of the South, and +Bishop Job was transferred in 1993 to the Diocese of the Midwest!!! It seems the canons are conveniently ignored when they don't suit the ways of "this world" within the Church!!
#5 David Barrett on 2010-08-28 09:39
Metropolitan Jonah is on the right path in regard to the OCA's autocephaly. Everyone must get over their pride and their stubborn insistence that Russia was right , the Patriarch of Constantinople was wrong or vice versa ect...or we will never be one church in America. I am a member of an OCA church and a convert. The OCA is still a great idea...that's what we hope to eventually become! But if anyone thinks that a unified church in America is going to be the current OCA structure with everyone else ( the Greeks, Antiochians, Carpatho russians and so on) jumping aboard....I have a bridge to sell ya in the Mohave desert.
And I believe that this is the perfect example of humility and sacrifice on Met Jonah's part. No one, including the Metropolitan himself, I'm quite sure, believes that when this all comes together HE will be the head of an American church as it is first formed. He could be looking out for himself or future metropolitans and stand up saying...everyone must come under the OCAs unmbrella. But he's not.
The people with the nostalgia for OCA autocephaly (and I believe it was rightfully granted as well) need to come to grips with reality. We are maybe 1/3 of all the Orthodox in this country.
We will NEVER HAVE A SINGLE UNITED CHURCH HERE UNLESS EVERYONE GIVES UP SOMETHING (That includes an autocephaly, though rightfully granted, is not truly valid or recognized even here in our own country! (Setting aside even the foriegn recognition)
The OCA autocephaly hangers-on should become American Orthodox Church visionaries and not cut off thier nose to spite their face. We MIGHT have an undivided church here in the future. Isn't that the ULTIMATE goal???
(Editor's note: Scott, a bird in the hand ( autocephaly) is worth two in the bush ( a future promise of autocephaly when Constantinople agrees. ) The OCA has made it clear that they will be the first to join the united autocephalous Orthodox Church in North America the very second it is proclaimed. But not a minute before. Why? Because in all this talk of unity, you have never seen any of the Old World churches speak of autocephaly of their American dioceses, ever. Heck, the Antiochians, who were furthest down the track, just got pulled back to the starting line.... There is a difference between being a fool for Christ's sake, and for Christ's sake, a fool. No, the OCA is going to continue to go forward and welcomes everybody along for the walk. Sadly, most of the Churches have no intention of walking the walk, just talking talk. )
#6 Scott Yonkin on 2010-08-28 17:30
Mark Stokoe wrote, "Archimandrite Gerasim is the former abbott of the Platina monastery in California. Originally under ROCOR, then an uncanonical old calendar jurisdiction, Platina has most recently been in the Serbian Church."
Archimandrite Gerasim Eliel followed Herman Podmoshensky into the Archdiocese of Vasiloupolis. Podmoshensky was suspended by ROCOR in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct. When he refused to abide by his suspension, he was defrocked for disobedience, without any decision on the underlying charges. Instead, Podmoshensky went to Vasiloupolis, led by a defrocked Greek Orthodox priest, Pangratios Vrionis, who has been convicted twice of sexual misconduct with minor boys. Personally, I won't trust Eliel to lead me out of a paper bag....
Kieth: You are SO WRONG! The OCA does not need Russia nor Constantinople. We are a canonical, autocephalous church and if + Jonah thinks we are giving that up, then he can be replaced! This is not a joke and bishops cannot arbitrarily make decisions without the approval of the laos. If + Jonah thinks he can ride rough-shod over the people of the OCA, he'd better move back to Russia!
#8 Anonymous on 2010-08-28 19:50
Well, Keith, if autocephaly is "revocable" at the whims of overseas bishops from one generation to another, better watch out -- Constantinople just might "revoke" a whole bunch of autocephalies! That's one slippery slope of an argument, and Moscow sure didn't appreciate it being used in Estonia a decade or so ago.
#9 Gregory on 2010-08-28 23:08
Who authorized Jonah to negotiate away autocephaly? Autocephaly was granted to the Church, to the people of the OCA, not some, some..... MONK from the left coast.
In many cases autocephaly was TAKEN, not granted, and those bishops had the male fortitude to see it through. Here, autocephaly did not have to be siezed, it was given, a gift. Only ill behaved, and people with no manners give back gifts.
Jonah is a mistake, his brother bishops have known that for some time now, and now the rest of us know it. Not just unworthy, UNFIT I say. UNFIT!
#10 no name on 2010-08-29 05:37
I never thought I would see the day when "allegiance with a Canonical Church" could be construed as idolatrous, but in your case that line has been crossed. Is that what is so important to you and others--Canonical sanction and regularity? When in the history of Christianity has there been been universal Canonical regularity? The answer of course is never! The Russian Church itself was for generations Canonically irregular.
The proper standard for all Christians is conforming with the Gospel and the will of our Lord. If anyone sees the Gospel or the workings of the Holy Spirit in any of this, please let me know.
#11 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2010-08-29 06:35
The Metropolitan is a spokesperson for the OCA, he is not a POPE who can just "give up our autocephaly". This would be just a great way to create a division/schism. The autocephaly is real, whether the old world patriarchs want to accept realiity. Game playing is for the old world and Metropolitan Philip. The OCA needs bishops, we should be asking for Bishop Mark of the Antiochian Archdiocese, to come into the OCA and fill one of our vacant dioceses. At least we know where bishop Mark stands. And Metropolitan Philip doesn't want a "true bishop, just an auxiliary bishop".
#12 anonymous on 2010-08-30 05:00
Keith, you write a very interesting and thoughtful piece. I agree. What the Church in Russia (USSR at the time) did was one thing, but today it might be entirely different.
I feel that while autocephaly is critical to the OCA, the church I was likewise chrismated into, it is an odd existence where the one autocephalous church exists and is surrounded by larger, wealthier, even perhaps, it could be argued, more ancient churches and more dynamic churches.
The OCA is clinging to a decades old historical reality that is not what it was before; The Greeks are clinging to a centuries old reality while their Patriarch leads an immediate local flock in the few thousands; The Antiochians are clinging to ... I'm not sure what.
What I desparately seek is an Orthodox Church that is clinging to both traditional Orthodoxy and also a vision of the future, of growth and dynamism, not a church that is clinging to the past or wandering about in a spiritual and physical desert. And honestly, I am not finding it beyond a local church that is content to just 'make do'.
#13 Sean O'Clare on 2010-08-30 09:42
Some of what you say above makes my head spin. Once a servant or child is manumitted or emancipated by his master or his parents how, rightfully, can the master or parent unilaterally repudiate the manumission or emancipation and claim that the servant or child is again under his mageristerial authority? Is it to be claimed that the grant was conditional? or given "with fingers crossed behind one's back"?
The living God of love is and true, nor is He "a man that He should lie;" no less so are we who are created in His image and called to live in His likeness, and are members of His Body, of His flesh and blood, called to be faithful and true. Let us avoid the duplicity and retractions so characteristic of what claims to be diplomacy, political or eccelsial and be not conformed to the world but transformed by the renewal of the mind.
#14 lexcaritas on 2010-08-30 11:12
Regarding the hearsay report of what Metropolitan Jonah may have said, I would think that his article in the latest issue of the Orthodox Church should be considered definitive. I would urge all to read this article before they go off the deep end.
#15 Carl Kraeff on 2010-08-30 15:40
Calling me an idolator is a pretty startling judgment that I hope, upon further reflection, you would reconsider. I will stand by the assertion that clinging to the order of the canonical Church is a value. It was established by worthies far smarter than me.
St. Cyprian (extra Ecclesia nulla salus/Outside the Church there is no salvation).
Blessed Augustine (bonos non esse qui se dividunt ab orbe terrarum/they are not good who separate themselves from the rest of the world).
Greetings whoever you are,
First of all, if you reread my statement, you will find that I assert that the OCA's autocephaly was validly received. But, that said, +Jonah has the sacred responsibility to shepherd his people through the current reality. I am certain he loves all those under his charge and aims to obtain for them security within the canonical American Orthodox Church that is coming.
Pray for him. Don't just impugn him.
As some others have suggested, perhaps Metropolitan Jonah was not necessarily the best choice for Metropolitan. Despite his charm and affability, he is not the best leader as evidenced by his continual oratorical missteps. Unfortunately, he seems to be pretty adept at making statements and then retracting them a short time later. I wonder if a "clarification" will be coming shortly out of Syosset regarding his most recent remarks.
And not that I have anything against Metropolitan Hilarion (Mospat) but why should it even be necessary for him to come and meet at the OCA chancery to talk about the OCA's involvement in the ecumenical assembly process? I don't see Fr. Kishkovsky showing up at the Danilov monastery to chat up the Patriarch about how Moscow is running their affairs? Isn't this the whole point of autocephaly? You're supposed to be able to manage your own affairs. On second thought, maybe we could ask Fr. Kishkovsky to get on a plane and show up at a meeting of Holy Synod in Moscow and give them some pointers on how they should run their affairs. It's all pretty absurd.
If the autocephaly is worth something to the OCA, then they should keep on doing what they have been doing since 1970, run their own affairs, tend to their own flock, and stop backpeddling when someone from Moscow or Istanbul decides to pop into the neighborhood and offer some advice. Just be gracious, offer them a cup of tea, and wish them well on their return to their mother country. If it means that no one in the OCA is going to Istanbul in the near distant future or there won't be any concelebrations in Greek, well it's a small price to pay.
#18 Anon. on 2010-08-30 16:27
Guilt by association, eh?
#19 antionymous on 2010-08-30 16:34
Hey Francis, Georgian Guy!...
... we have enough problems to solve here. Dude, be part of the solution, not part of the problem hey?!
#20 no name on 2010-08-30 16:45
The Good News is that the local Church, just trying to "make do", has been the ordinary place where Christians have lived out their faith for two thousand years.
And from time to time, someone of vision has always drawn that Church out of Her malaise into the glory of a Second Spring.
And that person was never universally loved or appreciated for it.
But no schismatic has never been counted in those ranks.
No matter how bleak things look, we do have the advantage of knowing how this story will turn out. The Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18) and the Holy Spirit is leading us into all Truth (John 16:13).
God bless you, Sean, and your service to His Church.
For the record, I nowhere asserted that autocephaly ought to be revocable by whomever granted it; I only asserted that Moscow's actions seem to be more in line with not recognizing it as absolute anymore.
In fact, then, it is your claim, that Constantinople may begin to revoke them wholesale, which is the slippery slope argument.
Moscow's displeasure over Estonia (et allis) is precisely why Moscow participated with Constantinople in drafting new rules for autocephaly--rules which now put Estonia on as thin ice as the OCA. You see, both parties won.
I'll say it again. We don't have to like how messy a place the Church can be. It's a lot like that apocryphal Bismark quote. But it's still the Church. Fight all that is happening with all your breath. Please. But I will never be outside her canonical boundaries. And that guiding principle does, for me, inform how I approach the current situation.
Given the widespread problems across nearly every jurisdiction in America, perhaps the mother churches are right to think that we're not ready for autocephaly.
(Editor's note: Dear Cabbage - that observation might be accurate if it were not for the fact that most, if not all, the current turmoil was created by them. As regarding past turmoil in the OCA specifically, I think our turmoil disproves your point. We had problems, we corrected them, and are still correcting them. Just like a real adult would, and does. We did not need to run to either mommy or daddy to fix things. Rather, we used the talents and graces given to us by God, taught to us by them, and so can take our place in this world to witness the Gospel in this place and in this time as best we are able, as their co-workers, not dependents. And that, Cabbage, is the real meaning of autocephaly.)
#23 Cabbage on 2010-08-30 18:08
Keith: I have news! If you or anyone else here thinks that this sham of the "Episcopal Assemblies" is about giving autocephaly & unity to the American Orthodox, you are walking around with a bag over your head. + Bart is ONLY interested in putting all of N. Am. under himself. The Russians are trying to reclaim all lost churches & territory. IT ALL STINKS! And where is the big heresy that we need a Universal Council in 2013? Everyone knows Islam is the Big Heresy - nothing new here. The OCA IS NOT giving up it's autocephaly and neither + Jonah nor all the Synod can do this without the APPROVAL of the people. If we're going to go down this road, then + Jonah should step down now! This is what happens when converts are in positions way beyond themselves. They have no clue regarding previous Orthodox church history in America from 1900.
#24 Anonymous on 2010-08-30 18:31
Finally, a voice of reason! To %$@#^ with Moscow & Istanbul. The OCA is an autocephalous church and going it alone is what we should be doing. To &%#$@^ with the "Episcopal Assembly," it's only a power grab by foreign bishops. Will people WAKE UP!
#25 Anonymous on 2010-08-30 18:41
OK I said I was outta here but let's just say I'm getting the rest of my things. Question I'd like to add to this:
If Bishop Mark hates arabs and forbids arabic, why did he allow St. George parish in West St. Paul, MN to fly in an Arabic speaking priest every month (neither the previous nor current pastor speak a word of it) to have an Arabic Divine Liturgy on a Saturday (even though one hears Arabic EVERY SUNDAY and even though less than half of the parish attends the Arabic DL -some vehemently boycotting it) and after Bishop Antoun said to the petitioners "You wanna hear Arabic? GO HOME!"? Why would a "divisive, arab-hating" bishop do that whereas the Metropolitan and another bishop, both arabs from "da ol' country" said "No"?
#26 Kevin Klein on 2010-08-30 18:49
What is all this talk of Metropolitan Jonah "giving up" the OCA's autocephaly? Come on, I'm all in favor of the Episcopal Assembly and of administrative unity in America, but be realistic. That ain't going to happen for at least 50 or 100 more years, and the good Metropolitan Jonah will likely be retired or passed on to the next life by that time. As soon as the EA proclaims a united "autocephalous" church in America, the OCA can and should be the first to join, but I doubt that it will ever happen in any of our lifetimes.
I agree that the OCA must continue to humbly walk the same path it has been walking for 40 years, that is, being a light of autocephaly in America, proclaiming that yes, indeed, there are thousands of us who are both Orthodox and American and, while we share the same faith, we don't look to the leadership of old-world patriarchates to guide our church in America. If much of the Orthodox world does not recognize our autocephaly, who cares? As we all know, the Russian church autocephaly was not universally recognized for hundreds of years. The OCA is not a church without problems, but if one is looking for a utopia in this life, he or she will be sorely disappointed.
As for the Antiochian bishops demotion, it is sad. It is as if Metropolitan Philip is a mini-pope with his own small "college of Cardinals" among the now auxiliary Antiochian bishops. If they are not interested in episcopal collegiality or "first among equals" but prefer church administration via dictates from above, why not simply become Roman Catholic?
Finally, what's with all the anonymous posts? It's ridiculous.
#27 Gregg Gerasimon on 2010-08-30 19:23
Agree on all fronts, except for the tea. It should be a Coke.
#28 Daniel E. Fall on 2010-08-30 21:32
Istanbul has set the date of 2013 to hold this new "Universal Council." All the Episcopal Assemblies are supposed to have their "PAPERS" submitted for approval (by foreign bishops). Then, at this so-called "Ecumenical Council," the predominant Greek bishops will decide who can and who can't be autocephalous. They will decide other "important" issues like which Greek bishops should rule where. Folks, this entire unity thing is a SHAM! It is a power-grab by foreign bishops whose dioceses are shrinking to nothing. N.Am. is their big target with money and Moscow wants it's share. IT ALL STINKS!
#29 Anonymous on 2010-08-31 06:12
I think the question is whether a given party had the right and authority to unilaterally emancipate their charge. If someone lacks standing or authority to do so, the emancipation was to no effect. For example, two twelve year olds may not marry without their parents' consent, those children have no standing. Neither can a parent simply declare their twelve year old emancipated, the parent has nor standing to do so. Marriages, too, cannot be entered into under duress or false pretenses and both parties must be free and clear to marry.
As much as it pains many of us, we do have to acknowledge that a consensus is developing within worldwide Orthodox regarding the granting of both autocephaly and autonomy. The traditional Russian position that a local church can unilaterally grant such to parts of its own jurisdiction is being called into question - even by Russia, it seems, in its recent agreement to the draft suggestions related to such declarations. And, this consensus is not contrary to canons, it is simply contrary to preferences and opinions on how autocephaly and autonomy are granted, and these are based on the fact that modern autocephaly has never been clearly defined in the Church with different parts of the Church understanding it differently, in practical terms.
The example of Russia gaining its autonomy is also not apt. First, it was the entire Church in Russia that broke communion with the EP and those with him. Second, communion was broken over a betrayal of the Faith at Florence, which was then exacerbated and extended due to the fall of Constantinople and the tricky politics of dhimmi Orthodoxy relative to a rival to the Turks and its Church. Neither situation fits the situation in North America.
Most Orthodox in America do not wish to cut ties with the Mother Churches; in fact, most wish to stay directly under the authority of their Mother Churches. There is diversity on this score even within the OCA.
In addition, I don't think anyone is willing to condemn any of the Mother Churches for the kind of heresy and kowtowing that took place at Florence. The stakes are not such that a break in communion is required. One might make the case that the ecclesiology of the Mother Churches is lacking given the overlapping jurisdictions, but the Chambesy/EA process shows at least a good faith effort to address them meaning we have no grounds to simply break from them. Besides, one can make a case that the overlapping ethnic and geographical dioceses of the OCA itself are equally 'deficient' canonically and offer much the same as would 'separate but equal' status under the EP.
#30 orrologion on 2010-08-31 07:31
Well he could do it just fine if you would let him, Melanie
#31 Fr. George Washburn on 2010-08-31 07:40
If you were a true Christian you would understand that the suffering of the Orthodox Christians in Georgia IS our problem! As St Silouan of the Holy Mountain said: "My brother is my life". If we abandon the sufferers of Georgia, those Our Lord called "these the least of my brethren" then He will undoubtedly and deservedly desert us!
If the MP can deliberately violate the Sacred Canons with impunity for the benefit of a psychopathic dictator, then the Orthodox faith is corrupted.
The silence of our leaders about the scandal in Abkhazia is both shameful and damning.
God will judge, indeed has judged already. The writing is in the wall.
Two years ago, the Russian military with the blessing of Russian bishops burned the Ghvertabea Cathedral, This summer all of Russia burned. The smoke in Moscow was described as "hellish".
Eighteen years ago, the Russians hired Muslim mercenaries to massacre the Georgian Christians of Abkhazia in order to "liberate" the Muslim Apsu (so-called Abkhazians). Since that time, those same Muslim militias have carried out an endless war and terror campaign, which neither Putin nor his military have been able to suppress. In April of this year suicide bombers exploded themselves on he Moscow subway, one in the very basement of the KGB / FSB headquarters. Last month a hydroelectric plant was blown up outside Nazran barely 100 miles from Sochi, proposed site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Two years ago the Russian government was sitting on 700 Billion in cash. It is now broke and planning to auction 297 Billion in state assets to cover expenses.
The population of Russia is identified as Orthodox; but support for the MP is waning. Why else does Kirill have to drive around in a million dollar armored car?
The Russian government and it's acolytes in the Donskoi will inevitably fall, and fall hard. Khodorkovski recently said: "Change will come to Russia; but as it alway does, it will come from the bottom up, and it will be bloody.
Metropolitan Jonah is leaning on a broken wall. God help him while there is still time. The question for the OCA is: Do you want to submit to the rule of a corrupt, lawless and schismatic, foreign, anti-American institution. If not speak up while there is still time
(Editor's note: The Russian Church is not schismatic. Not even the Georgian Church claims that, even given their difficult situation. Nor is the Russian Church demanding the OCA "submit" to anything. There is much discussion about the way forward, however. At any rate, Francis, you raise an interesting point. Rather than focus on America, which is separate, but at peace, one wonders why any future "Council" will not deal with the terrible situation in Georgia, where the Church is rent in two? You can bet the EP won't let that topic arise!)
#32 Francis Frost on 2010-08-31 11:12
I appreciate the polite response, though I must continue to disagree. The american church (lowercase) is like a young novice that went into the desert before he was ready. Acknowledging our immaturity is not a sign of laziness, but of humility. Returning to the abbot and asking for guidance is the proper course, not doggedly insisting that we alone hold the only necessary tools and perspective to fix things.
(Editor's note: You see return as a sign of humility, which is a virtue. I see it as foolishness, which is not. I suspect the reason for our difference is that you see the Old World Patriarchates, in this instance, as offering solutions. I, on the other hand, in this instance, see them as offering more and greater problems. The Abbuna is supposed to help one find one's path; not deny one's path exists.)
#33 Cabbage on 2010-08-31 11:41
I'm not definitive on autocephaly and I think the OCA's independence allowed all sorts of idiosyncrasies to sneak in over the years due to a lack of conciliarity with others, not its expression. However, I think a clear-eyed view of the Mother Churches themselves show much that is called 'immaturity' when applied to us - not to mention outright corruption, government interference, illegality and even immorality in some cases. American and 'Western' Orthodox don't have a lock on such nonsense; recent and ancient Church history provides a number examples of the same. One can plausibly argue that such improprieties are more visible in our American and Western jurisdictions simply because there are less entrenched interests willing to sweep such problems under the rug, together with more of a culture of transparency and legal due process, as well as lay involvement. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of immaturity, too, but I don't think the Mother Churches can so easily be granted the mantle of wise abbot to our novitiate.
#34 orrologion on 2010-08-31 13:16
Father George Washburn wrote, "Well he could do it just fine if you would let him, Melanie."
ROFLOL. I hardly think my disapproval is a deal-breaker. Even if it was, I would continue to call it as I see it. There is nothing unOrthodox about expressing an opinion. In fact, I think it is an important aspect of Orthodoxy that is often overlooked by those who simply want someone to tell them what to do, or think, rather than to use their own discernment. Of course, it is also popular with those who like to tell people what to do, or think.
Melanie Jula Sakoda
"antionymous" wrote, "Guilt by association, eh?"
As my mother often told me, "If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."
Melanie Jula Sakoda
Dear Mr. Stokoe:
While an official schism is not proclaimed, an unofficial schism already exists, created by Moscow's schismatic churches on Georgian territory.
When a new Primate is elected, his election is validated by his reception by the other Primates of the autocephalous churches. According to tradition, these visits are made in the order of the diptychs.
In the fall of 2009, Patriarch Kirill announced his own invitation to Tbilisi, after a brief meeting with Patriach Ilya in Baku. The Georgian Patriarchate immediately refuted this self invitation, citing the above mentioned tradition. Shortly thereafter, Kirill visited Istanbul, Damascus, Alexandria, and visited Jerusalem shortly after Pascha. In Jerusalem, Kirill again invited himself to Tbilisi. The Georgian Patriarchate again noted that no such visit was planned. Kirill's valedictory cruise ended right there, make of it what you will.
I'm always surprised by the cavalier attitude of supposed Christians to thee suffering of others. What you call "a difficult circumstance" is in reality a 20 year nightmare: the murder of nearly 50,00 innocent unarmed civilians in their own homes, the ethnic cleansing of 300,000 Orthodox Christians from their ancestral homelands, and the deliberate destruction of ancient churches and shrines in order to erase the memory of our ancestors. Your "difficult circumstance" is nothing less than a protracted campaign of genocide. Indeed on August 15th 2008, Sergei Lavrov bragged, that if the Georgians did not submit to Moscow, "Georgia will be annihilated". May his curse fall on his own head!
In 2008, Patriarch Bartholomew promised to address the Abkhaz schism at the Patriarchal Synod in Cyprus. However, after the outlines of the Chambesy agreement were made, the prosecution of the Abkhaz schism was dropped with the excuse that "there wasn't time" to address it. The Georgian church has indeed been abandoned by the Orthodox world; just as Our Lord was abandoned by his disciples before His crucifixion. Yet, Georgia, the sacred inheritance of the Mother of God has not been abandoned by the Almighty God. God will judge, and those who have destroyed the unity of the faith, will themselves be destroyed. The leaders of the OCA must choose whether they want to stand with Putin and his minions, who will inevitably be swallowed up by hell like Korah, Jannes and Jambres the ancient renegades.
The tragedy of our church is that Orthodox Christians, and our bishops in particular, are not only incapable of telling the truth, they are no longer capable of even recognizing the truth ! This is the root cause of all our troubles, and no amount of ecclesiastical politicking will solve it. The current plans to divide up the body of christ into "zones of influence" will untimately and utterly fail; because the basic root agreement is a Devil's bargain, made for the worst of reasons: money and power.
Without repentance, no other initiative will succeed. Without a sincere confession of the truth, repentance is not possible. God is not a fool. God is not blind, God will not be mocked. Judgement is at the gates! It is long time past due for the Orthodox to wake up.
(Editor's note: Mr. Frost's statement and opinions speak for themselves - eloquently. However, it is lately the custom in many Orthodox posters, such as the above, to speak of their brothers with curses, hell, judgment, etc. and then end with "Best Wishes" or even more ominously, "Christ is in our midst". I find it sad.)
#37 Francis Frost on 2010-08-31 16:58
Answering your first question; autocephaly has been "taken" away a number of times during the past 1500 years. The latest sad event was the take over of Georgia by the Russian Empire in 1803. The Russian Holy Synod "relegated" the autocephalous Georgian Church (autocephalous since the 560s) into a diocese within the Russian Church. Other events during the past thousand years, the Bulgarians and Serbs both had their autocephaly "taken away" by the Church of Constantinople only due to political reasons relating to the relative strength of the Byzantine Empire. In none of these cases was a Synod called or proper canonical procedure applied.
Archpriest Mark Koczak
(Editor's note: The only comfort in these sad tales is that the Georgian, Bulgarian and Serbian Churches yet live as autocephalous bodies, while the Patriarch, if you saw CNN, is forced to deny that he "will be the last Ecumenical Patriarch". Let that be a cautionary tale to Constantinople that friends are better than subjects.)
#38 Archpriest Mark Koczak on 2010-08-31 17:02
Well I've updated myself on the lastest postings. I see some valid points on the other side with regard to a Constantinople and Moscow power grab. But essentially... I think all the bishops on this continent should say that the Orthodox here in America will settle for nothing less than a united Autocephalus church. ) or maybe 3, Canada, US, South America) They should continue with the process and direct it toward that one option. A united American church. All other directions are not an option. I think that people are misunderstanding what I meant by the OCA giving up its autocephaly. I don't mean that we would give that up for a time period to be determined by a foreign synod. What I actually meant is that the OCA's autocephaly has not turned into what was envisioned originally. So if it could be merged into another new autocephalus church under a different name possibly...everyone could "save face about the historical happenings" and move on to the main goal. EVERYBODY IN. Thats all.
But on another point...the guy who said something demeaning about converts coming in and knowing nothing about church history before 1900.... How old is that cradle Orthodox guy? Like 110-115? LOL. The church in America IS a convert church. Many cradles either are non-church going or go to evangelical churches. This is a phenomenon that us converts can't even fathom. Most of us ended up here never even hearing about the Orthodox church until adulthood...and just because we weren't baptized in the church as infants doesn't mean we aren't as well read or knowledgable about the Church and its history or traditions as a cradle. And if a church in America is to survive and thrive it WILL HAVE to be a convert church. Isnt' that the point afterall?????
#39 Scott Yonkin on 2010-08-31 19:59
The it to which I was actually referring was leading Melanie out of that paper bag, not the Archimandrite leading the diocese as a bishop someday.
#40 Fr. George Washburn on 2010-08-31 21:19
Gregg, anonymity is not ideal but it is for the protection of others after thuggery made it patently necessary. If you were at recent American Antiochian events and witnessed a priest push a man down on the ground in an attempt to prevent him from handing out papers on fiscal transparency, you would perceive the tip of the iceberg. But bullies are cowards and prefer to operate out of public view. So that others we care about are not blamed for our words
#41 monologistos on 2010-08-31 21:44
He's right - I was there and witnessed both clergy and laity pushing and shoving people, yanking those reports from their hands, and the meetings in Palm Desert had not even begun on that Thursday morning. Later clergy told me they left their briefcases on the tables during a break and witnessed people going to their tables, finding more of the reports, both in and out of their cases, and confiscating them. One priest told me the report was yanked from his hand 2-3 times before he made it clear that it now belonged to him, that he better not try to take it again, and that he was taking it home to read it.
WHAT WERE THEY HIDING THEN, AND WHAT ARE THEY HIDING NOW? ...
Any updates on the so-called audit lead by none other than Bishop Antoun?
Father George Washburn wrote, "The it to which I was actually referring was leading Melanie out of that paper bag, not the Archimandrite leading the diocese as a bishop someday."
Regardless, I prefer to use the discernment that God gave me. A man who spent 12 years under the authority of Pangratios Vrionis, and more than that under the authority of Herman Podmoshensky, is not someone I could in good conscience follow.
Melanie Jula Sakoda
(Editor's note: Melanie has a reasonable question, Father. If one continunally and voluntarily submits to the spiritual authority of pedophiles - convicted and alledged - even out of "obedience", it raises questions of judgement and discernment. Both are desired traits in Bishops.
Fr. Gerasim has, to his credit, apologized for attempting to seize native land in an ill-conceived attempt to establish a Platina skete on Spruce Island in the '90's. What is needed, here is an explanation as to how a thirty year career in the Church always seemed to end up with dubious characters. He may be entering an "arranged" marriage, but these are questions worthy of explanation before the contract is signed. Due diligence, and all that.)
I wonder if the same logic can or should be used regarding recent Metropolitans whose less than fully Orthodox personal lives have come to light since their retirement? Is ignorance an excuse? Is it possible to defend someone based on what was then known and not be forever tainted with your superior's hidden sins? Is youth an excuse? monastic obedience? Would the fruits of repentance once these factors came to light be recompense enough? What about a decade of highly stable monastic life balance the scales?
By all accounts, Frs. Damascene and Gerasim were very young when then Abbot Herman was defrocked. It is unclear how much they (or most) knew about Fr. Herman's sexual transgressions then or later. They were also relatively new to Orthodoxy and had little understanding of canonical vs. uncanonical (ROCOR at the time was widely considered 'uncanonical' so the argument for going independent was ready at hand).
What is definitely clear is that Frs. Gerasim and Damascene were the ones driving both the monastery, Fr. Herman and the CSB toward acceptance into the canonical Church. From what I understand, this acceptance required an extended period of excommunication, penitence and investigation by three different canonical jurisdictions (Serbia, Bulgaria, OCA). Frs. Gerasim and Damascene should be lauded for normalizing their group's canonical status from its past mix of highly traditional and suspect practices. When the monastery and CSB were accepted into the Church, they were much closer to 'real' Orthodoxy than was the much-vaunted Evangelical Orthodox Church accepted by Antioch (in fact, at one point the EOC and the Holy Order of MANS were searching together for a way into Orthodoxy!)
It is, of course, valid and necessary to ask questions concerning what has come to light over the years about then Abbot Herman and then Abp. Pangratios Vrionis: how much Frs. Gerasim and Damascene and others knew, what they did about what they knew, if anything, etc.
However, I think it inappropriate (and un-Christian) to condemn them based on association; we do not condemn victims of abuse or the unaware. By definition sexual predators hide their activities and seek to control those around them, and secrecy and control would have been that much easier in a monastic context in the woods of northern CA. It would be a shame to mistakenly condemn Frs. Gerasim and Damascene for ignorance, their trust in and love for a spiritual father (and father figure), and for any sexual and spiritual abuse they, too, may have suffered - thus blaming and condemning the victim - in an otherwise laudable effort to protect the Church and the faithful.
That said, this is an issue that should be addressed more forthrightly given the questions, guilt by association, rumors, fears, etc. surround Platina and the CSB.
#44 orrologion on 2010-09-01 14:38
The editor discerns in Ms. Sakoda's original post, or perhaps her follow-ups, a question that, for the life of me, I cannot find there, not even between the lines. If there was a question, such as the missing one Mr. Stokoe so helpfully supplies, I don't think I would have commented
But - and I admit I am only reading the words that appear on my screen in the light of her years of public commentary - I see a flat, negative judgment that is phrased somewhat impolitely compared to normal standards, and based, so far as we can tell, on no incident of wrongdoing by the Archimandrite himself. It seems to rest simply and completely on his former, presumably well-intentioned, association with discredited people from whom he ultimately disconnected himself.
Should we judge this site by the fact that for many years Mr. Stokoe was seemingly a cooperating member of the OCA under one or more hierarchs who misconducted themselves? No. Or in reverse, does the fact that I sometimes went to certain monasteries make me holy by osmosis? Hardly.
I think the question of the candidate's past association with those two men truly is a valid one to ask, and any answers given would be legitimate pieces of the puzzle in the overall evaluation of the candidate. Discernment is indeed something one seeks in a bishop, and one's past associations are probative. Instead of any sincere question I thought I saw in Melanie's post a kind of categorical, single-issue, guilt-by-association rejection of the candidate, as if the past connection were not merely a piece, but rather ipso facto the whole puzzle. To me that kind or lack of reasoning so resembled a self-imposed (and very well preserved and defended!) paper bag that in light of her chosen metaphor I thought a chuckle might help make the point. But maybe not.
#45 Fr. George Washburn on 2010-09-01 15:26
I fear that despite the polemical tone of your message, you are correct. Moscow and Istanbul have a lot at stake in America. For that matter, so does Antioch. The reality is that America is not just a diaspora with a few immigrants scattered here and there. Hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Christians have made their way to America and it is the goose with the golden egg. Sadly the OCA represents the poorest and probably the smallest group of immigrants at this point. Come on, if either the patriarchs of Moscow or Istanbul thought that the OCA churches had any money they would be falling all over Met. Jonah. Instead the OCA is seen more as a pesky fly than a player in world Orthodoxy. Follow the money and you will see who is important in the eyes of the mother churches. In the Kondratick era the dialogue between Moscow and the OCA was constant. Now most of the dialogue is between ROCOR and Moscow. I wish I had some answers about all of this but I can't think of any. ROCOR is enamored with the attention from Moscow and seems to be willing to go along with pretty much anything in order to stay on good terms. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
Tragically, many in ROCOR fail to see that ROCOR has more in common with the OCA than Moscow. Another truth is that the OCA is simply further along in its development of an American Orthodox church than ROCOR. It is simply a matter of time before there will no longer be enough clergy who have a complete grasp of Russian or Church Slavonic to serve all of the parishes. Second, it is simply a matter of time before almost all ROCOR parishes will begin to adopt some amount of English in their services. You see, whether many in ROCOR want to admit it or not, they are no longer the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (at least in America) . In America, they are primarily Orthodox communities whose ancestral roots are in Russia. They follow the customs and traditions of Russian Orthodoxy from their ancestors but realistically, most of the membership is comprised of ( I know this may come as a shock so hold on), Americans. Sorry guys, you are not Russians, your ancestors were Russians. Yes, there are recent immigrants who are Russians, but the truth is that most of the original founders of the ROCOR parishes have passed on and the second and third generations no longer speak Russian fluently if at all. In fact, many have never stepped foot on Russian soil in over a generation. They were born and raised in America.
I can only hope and pray that these obvious realities have not escaped Metropolitan Hilarion and Metropolitan Jonah in their recent meetings and if they are smart and realistic, they will realize that ROCOR and the OCA belong together. It would seem that a simple and obvious conclusion to the Istanbul power grab would be for ROCOR and the OCA to join forces. Of course, in Orthodoxy nothing is ever so simple and direct.
(editor's note: EEEEK! Next you'll be telling me that ROCOR has, gasp, convert bishops, just like the OCA! Oops, already happened....)
#46 Anon. on 2010-09-01 21:34
It is, of course, valid and necessary to ask questions concerning what has come to light over the years about then Abbot Herman and then Abp. Pangratios Vrionis: how much Frs. Gerasim and Damascene and others knew, what they did about what they knew, if anything, etc.
The problem is that it was known at the time that "metropolitan" Pangratios had been defrocked by the Greek Church for child molestation. As the former CSB/HOOM communities approached joining in with Pangratios questions were raised by many (including myself) about the wisdom of joining a self appointed "metropolitan" who had been defrocked. These questions were in wide circulation so it is inconceivable that they knew nothing about it. Those of us who questioned this arrangement were all eventually run off and the rest drank the kool-aid. Many years later POKROV finally unearthed the actual legal documents that ended the suppression of the truth about Pangratios. One of the questions that he needs to answer is why did he participate in the coverup by "Abbot" Herman and the CSB/HOOM of the truth about Pangratios. Children were later molested at Blanco and by Pangratios himself. All those who participated in this coverup of the truth bear responsibility and must be called to accountability for their actions.
#47 Ex Cult Member on 2010-09-02 06:26
I think your post makes the point Fr. George and I made: while rumors and accusations may have been floating about, who actually knew any of it to be true? You wrote that is was only "*many years later* [that] POKROV finally unearthed the actual legal documents that ended the suppression of the truth about Pangratios." That, of course raises the question: who, if anyone, was suppressing the truth about Pangratios apart from Pangratios himself? Did then Abbot Herman know, rather than suspect? Did Frs. Gerasim and Damascene know, rather than suspect? Isn't it possible they felt betrayed and duped for believing a guilty man to be innocent, for thinking the best of their spiritual father and abbot when it turned out otherwise? We have to be careful not to judge with hindsight - especially since so many Orthodox saints were wrongly accused of similar sins out of spite, envy, etc., which is likely how all of the rumors about Fr. Herman and Pangratios were positioned given the Traditionalist vs. Modernist fight they were all caught up in. The duplicity of sexual abusers must also not be discounted - if sexual abuse and incest in a home can be hidden, how much more easily could it be hidden in a monastery of monks under obedience in the middle of the woods with various out buildings?
Let's ask the questions, but let us not convict based on association and our assumptions. Let us also be willing to believe in and accept repentance and the fruits thereof.
(editor's note: Oh, did you just open Pandora's box!)
#48 orrologion on 2010-09-02 12:38
Melanie - what kind dogs were referring to? Normal, typical family pets, or the DOGS that are forever indebted to MP? As the parent of one of those DOGS, I find it horrendous that MP referred to our past, present and future seminarians in that tone, such a degrading experience for all of them in the room, and those heading off to seminary in the future.
The only one they should be forever indebted to is GOD. Other than that, you're right - regular dogs bring fleas, but they also have more common sense and are much more sensitive to things that are happening around them then many human beings. Dogs should be treated properly, not made fun of at the General Assembly Meeting of a Church. This was not a political arena, but it sure looked like one, and you only had to look around the room to see the DOGS who were supporting MP, and the clergy who were horrified to be compared with MP's DOGS.
Does MP think he can manage the entire Archdiocese by himself? Let's remember many years ago, I think until 1983 or so, he was the only bishop here. But he was younger, healthier and we had fewer parishes. Now he's older, very sick, and we have grown by leaps and bounds. The need for Diocesan Bishops was very urgent in order for each area to be governed and lead by one person, someone who got to know his clergy and laity, and was able to deal with immediate issues, and not have to fly all the way across the country to do so. Many of our clergy have never even met MP, so how can he know who is ready for ordination, for being assigned as head pastors, who has issues that must be dealt with, who is not doing their jobs right, etc.
Our Diocesan Bishops have worked very hard in their assigned areas to deal with all the stuff that comes down on a daily basis. They have joys and sorrows, good times and bad times. They ordain, suspend, bless new churches, welcome more converts, marry, bury and perform other very necessary tasks. Even in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, which has over 60 parishes and missions, stretching from Alaska and Western Canada all the way down the west coast to Arizona, Bishop JOSEPH is swamped with work to do. He's younger, healthier, and it is a big job, very overwhelming for him. It would be for anyone.
Let's see MP try to handle all of this on his own. Instead of rejoicing and giving gratitude to his Brother Bishops for all they do, and being a supportive Metropolitan, as he should be, MP attacks them when they aren't looking and keeps needling until he gets what he wants, with our money as bait, money that should stay here to help our struggling missions and give some financial relief to clergy who have to work a secular job to feed their families.
Our Diocesan Bishops should stay as they are, and we should consecrate some new, Auxiliary Bishops, to train under them and learn. Someday the current ones will be ready for retirement, and we will need more good men who truly love God and follow HIM. I'm sure many people agree that this is our main complaint right now, and yes, we dare to question MP, because his actions continue to divide and destroy the Archdiocese. How dare he do that to the people who have stood by him, tolerated him and covered up for him?
The Synod of Antioch only listens to MP. They are no better than he is. They quietly accept our money, given by God to all of us to donate to the church, they don't find out the true facts, and they just act in their own best interests. That leaves us with nothing, orphans without parents who truly care for us and want the best for us. What do they know from 10,000 miles away what is truly going on? They don't, but they also don't care, because they get our money, and they get their way.
Enough - time for MP, Patriarch Ignatius and all the unholy synod members to retire and be replaced by holy men who love God and who will hlep us work hard to put our Archdiocese back on the right track.
Dear Mr. Stokoe:
No doubt you would be saddened by the prophets and the Forerunner who eloquently denounced crimes and injustice.
How sad that you find no sorrow for the murdered, the dispossessed and the bereaved. You might read (London Telegraph, August 2009) the story of little Dito, the 9 year old boy, whose parents and unborn brother were blown to bits before his eyes, or the story of Mariko the 5 year old girl, whose hands were blown off by cluster bombs, or the entire Georgian population of Gagra, who were herded into the soccer stadium, and slaughtered with machine gun fire in 1992, or the victims of rape, or the countless other victims. No, they are to be forgotten - left in the mass graves of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.
I'm always amazed at how our religious intellectuals have so much sympathy for the perpetrators of genocide; but not a fleeting thought for the victims of it.
Perhaps you have forgotten that there are "false brethren" as St Paul told us. What kind of brother kills this brethren and then brags about it? Even Cain did not go that far!
But "now is the hour of darkness"; because our people have chosen lies and darkness over truth and light, they have chosen to serve an earthly ruler rather than the King of Heaven.
Never fear, Putin and his thugs will not lack for fans; until the very end. Who but a true brother would warn them of the consequences of their crimes ?
But why bother? In the end God will judge. What will happen will happen.
All these discussions are futile, because no-one recognizes any standard of truth, pious pleasantries are all that matters. All the discussions of Orthodox unity are a waste, all of this will come to naught, because none of it is from God. As St Andrew said. The Gospel is futile, the prophets' preaching in vain, still unheeded. That is our one and only problem; but no one sees it. That is the ultimate tragedy.
#51 Francis Frost on 2010-09-03 18:56
Responding to #7.3.1: DOGS???....
Uh, I was talking about MP at all. I was talking about Archimandrite Gerasim Eliel....
Melanie Jula Sakoda
Father George Washburn wrote, "The editor discerns in Ms. Sakoda's original post, or perhaps her follow-ups, a question that, for the life of me, I cannot find there, not even between the lines."
Sorry, but Mark is spot on. People should be considering what Archimandrite Gerasim Eliel's history says about his discernment and about his fitness for the episcopacy. Someone had to be the first to observe that the emperor had no clothes....
Melanie Jula Sakoda
"Orrologion" wrote, "I think your post makes the point Fr. George and I made: while rumors and accusations may have been floating about, who actually knew any of it to be true?"
"Ex cult member" clearly wrote "The problem is that it was known at the time that "metropolitan" Pangratios had been defrocked by the Greek Church for child molestation." To reach **your conclusion** you have to ignore his testimony. FWIW, I find this testimony very credible, since Pokrov.org learned from a former member of HOOM that Pangratios Vrionis had been convicted, which led to our searching for the supporting documentation.
Melanie Jula Sakoda
I want to share an appeal made to Patriarch Kirrill of the Russian Orthodox Church on 9/3/10 that illustrates, in part, the difficulties faced by the Georgian Orthodox Church, their Patriarch, His Holiness Ilia II, and His faithful flock. The text and the url follow.
With prayers for the suffering flock of the Georgian Orthodox Church and for Orthodoxy in America!
The Vice-Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Appeals to Patriarch Kirill
(On September 3, 2010) the Vice-Speaker of the Georgian Parliament appealed to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia (His Holiness) Kirill, asking Him to take steps to halt the so-called “restoration” of Georgian churches in occupied Abkhazia. Here is his appeal:
“With this appeal, allow me to direct Your attention to events taking place on the territory of occupied Abkhazia, the matter in hand being the so-called process of restoration of Georgian religious-historical heritage sites of the Orthodox Church of Georgia. The fact that the restoration is not directed at preserving the original state of the monuments, together with the overall condition of Orthodox Christian churches in Abkhazia couldn’t leave us unmoved by what is happening. Unfortunately these actions carry with them a very deep and depressing thought, and the result of such course will not be long coming. Future generations will be deprived of the continuity of Orthodoxy, which has a decisive meaning for our peoples. The interest and attraction of Russian businessmen to this restoration work has aroused me to appeal to You, inasmuch as such actions contradict the position expressed by the Patriarchate of Russia, concerning the borders of the Georgian Orthodox Church, as well as the question of the unshakeable legacy of Orthodoxy as a whole.
With all of this in mind, I beseech You to take all necessary steps in order to stop this process, which is destructive for all of us.
Vice-Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia
Representative of the Political Party “We Ourselves”
The many years later was the unearthing of the legal documents that confirmed what many people in the Greek Church knew to be the truth about Pangratios. I was there when these questions were put to the HOOM/CSB so there is no hindsight in the comments that I have made. One of our community members grew up in the Greek Church and could confirm the truth about Pangratios. During thie same time Paul Brown (a former HOOM priest) sent out to the larger CSB/HOOM community a packet of other information that made clear that Pangratios was a phony. The HOOM/CSB entourage was a mind control cult and the leadership fought to supress the facts about the child molester that they had made their deal with the devil with. The fact is that the HOOM/CSB would not surrender their independence and their precious money or go to seminary in order to join the OCA or Antiochians. To keep those two items they found a self annointed 'metropolitan' who was a confessed child molester who only cared about enlarging his accumulation of followers. There is no way that Abbot Herman and his followers didn't know the truth about Pangratios; they simply made the same deal the the HOOM/CSB did. They have all fought very diligently to keep this all covered up and have a diligent set of puppets who enable their ability to continue to fool people almost twenty years later. We were all betrayed by Pangratios but many were willingly duped because the information and the questions were there and they chose to follow their leadership instead of asking the hard questions. It is a very reasonable set of questions that should be answered by those who were in leadership positions. Pandora's box indeed!
#56 Ex Cult Member on 2010-09-07 04:44
It would be very good to put together a time line of such revelations, who they were made to and by whom. Details, chronology and the credibility of sources (personal is different than documentary) will be crucial in determining what exactly happened and who knew what, when.
However, I think it is also important to note that the more CSB is characterized as a cult that controlled its members, the more it is possible that Frs Gerasim and Damascene were victims, too, of that same 'mind control' (or worse). That is, while they may have been vocal defenders of then Abbot Herman and leaders of a kind, they were not simply members, they were under monastic obedience to one with a vested interest in hiding or rationalizing away his own sins and the sins of his episcopal beard. It's easy to understand how young, inexperienced monks under the sway of a charismatic monastic starets could be made to believe that any allegations against Pangratios (and until the actual documents were made public by Pokrov, that's all they were) were simply set-ups by powerful, vested interests seeking to undermine 'traditional Orthodoxy'. (I'm not saying this is true, just that it's easy to see how such a yarn could be spun within an isolated, obedient community during the Cold War, at the height of Modernist v Traditionalist rhetoric and conflict, with 'canonical, World Orthodoxy' seen to have fallen into heterodoxy, etc.) It would have been even easier to dismiss allegations against then Fr. Herman himself given the power he held over his community - especially the monks and especially if those monks were also victims themselves.
It's also my understanding that it was Frs Gerasim and Damascene that forcefully moved against their own ordination by Pangratios. They were subsequently ordained by a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate.
#57 orrologion on 2010-09-07 07:14
You wrote: "Let us also be willing to believe in and accept repentance and the fruits thereof."
Even though I write anonymously the perpetrators of this fraud know very well all of us who questioned an alliance with a child molester. I know that one of the chief perpetrators knows very well where I am and that we have lived in the same city for more than 20 years and I have have never heard one word of sorrow for the way my family was trashed by him and his cohorts for raising these questions. I know that several of the other families who were ran off for raising these concerns ( a couple of whom are now ordained priests in ROCOR & OCA) have never heard one word either. Then there is the family who sent their child to Blanco on the recommendation of this same person and their son was molested there. Not a word to them either. I am sure that they are sorry for what they have wrought. Unfortunately they have not taken personal responsibility for their actions and the fruits of their repentance are not visible to any of us. Those of us who were present during this inquisition do not wish for there to be any more people betrayed and duped by those who still will not accept ownership for their actions.
#58 Ex Cult Member on 2010-09-07 08:30
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