Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bp. Irenei of Richmond and W. Europe on Amman meeting

(Orthodox Europe) - Interview with Bishop Irenei About Today’s Meeting of Primates in Amman

— Your Grace, today in Amman the heads of several of the Orthodox Churches are meeting. What can you tell us about this gathering?

Several primates of the Local Orthodox Churches have accepted the generous invitation of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem, to meet in Amman in order to discus, in a fraternal and prayerful manner, some of the issues relating to the disunity that has arisen in parts of the Orthodox world. Their aim, as archpastors, is to seek the Orthodox path of cooperative resolution to difficult circumstances, constructively attempting to overcome worldly divisions through wise application of canonical principles and pastoral love.

— These issues of disunity, you are speaking of the situation regarding the Patriarchate of Constantinople?

It is well known that the most serious issues of disunity in the present moment are the result of the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which have brought their relationship with the rest of the Orthodox world into a tenuous state, and which relationships clearly cannot continue in a full manner without those behaviours and actions being addressed. So yes, such matters will be at the heart of the discussions in Amman; though there are also other issues that the primates and their representatives may discuss.

— Not all the Churches will have their primates in Amman. Does this hinder the meeting’s usefulness?

Of course it would be desirable for all the Local Churches to gather together to address such weighty matters together in a spirit of fraternity and love. However, so long as one of the patriarchs declares that only he alone has the right to convene a council of all the Churches, and refuses to do so, this is not a possibility. Such a position is of course neither canonical nor traditional, nor is it realistic, especially when that primate’s actions are themselves amongst the subjects such a council might be called to discuss.

In Amman, then, we see the convening of those primates and representatives of the Local Churches willing righteously and fearlessly to stand for the truth and follow the Orthodox path of addressing challenges in a conciliar way when they arise. Of course their work will not be definitive; it is but a beginning, but a necessary one, and one for which we can be thankful to God.

— You speak of “standing for the truth,” but we often hear on the internet that the disputes are mostly political, that they involve power struggles between Constantinople and Moscow but not matters of faith or dogma.

I hear these statements too, and it saddens me to realise how easily people are swayed by the politicisation of their perception. While it is true that, in its origins, the present situation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s relationship to the rest of the Orthodox world began in the territorial realms of jurisdictional incursion and a misuse of authority and power, it has since escalated directly into the realms of dogma — of the sacraments, of the nature of the Church. When individuals with no sacramental ordination in the Church are falsely claimed to be priests and hierarchs and set over the holy Mysteries, this is a fundamental denial of the nature of those sacraments, especially that of ordination. When those outside the Church are falsely claimed to be part of it, simply by fiat or pronouncement and not by repentance and sacramental baptism and chrismation, this is a fundamental denial of the nature of the Church itself, and of those sacramental realities. So these are the most grave of matters. Whatever may be the “political” issues surrounding the origins of the disputes, or whatever political factors may still figure into various behaviours on all sides, no one with their spiritual eyes open can deny that these are theological matters. They are matters of truth, and more importantly, of falsehood being promulgated under the guise of truth. It is for this reason that the hierarchs of the Churches, and above all their primates, must work together in earnest to ensure that such falsehood does not go uncorrected.

— Finally, Your Grace, do you see any significance in the fact that this meeting falls just before the beginning of Lent? Is there a message for us in this?

God’s hands are visible in all good things. Great Lent is a season of repentance, and it is only through repentance that sin is overcome and those in error are called back to the truth and life in Christ. This is true for each of us. We all sin, we all wander at times, wittingly or unwittingly, into error and must be called back through repentance to what is right and true. This is no less the case for clerics or hierarchs or those in the administration of Patriarchates. Error is error, truth is truth, and when the one appears, it must be cast out in favour of the other. This is the nature of our life in Christ.

Let us pray that the patriarchs and others gathered today in Amman will, by the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit, take positive and holy steps towards disclosing this path of repentance to all those currently sowing discord, so that real peace, not worldly peace but the peace that comes from unity in the truth who is God himself, may prevail always and everywhere.


  1. "...the present situation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s relationship to the rest of the Orthodox world began in the territorial realms of jurisdictional incursion and a misuse of authority and power, it has since escalated directly into the realms of dogma — of the sacraments, of the nature of the Church. When individuals with no sacramental ordination in the Church are falsely claimed to be priests and hierarchs and set over the holy Mysteries, this is a fundamental denial of the nature of those sacraments, especially that of ordination..."

    I was with him up until this point, which is just yet another restatement of Russia's legalistic, "we are all for ethno-national ecclesiology except of course when we are not such as with Ukraine" self serving position...

    1. Jake, while I appreciate your view that Bp. Irenei's statement is "yet another restatement of Russia's legalistic...self-serving position", I thinks it's worth pointing out that the bishop's argument here is not merely canonical, but, more importantly, it's theological. On top of that it seems rather sound.

      In fact, this is exactly the same theological objection that the other Orthodox Churches have offered for not recognizing the OCU (including Cyprus & Albania both of which are essentially Greek), and the exact same rational is articulated by objecting hierarchs (even Greek ones) within the few Orthodox Churches that have recognized the OCU, which is to say that their objections are theological & not based on ethnicity or nationalism or colorful interpretations of obscure and/or now-irrelevant canons.

      Given this reality your remarks would be much more useful if you provided a brief refutation of the theological statement Bp. Irenei made about how placing laymen without real ordination over the Holy Mysteries is acceptable rather than simply offering your personal opinion in conventional one-liner style.

    2. Timmy, Beyond St. Paul's explication of how Grace overcomes the Law, which can only lead to death, in sentences such as this one (a kind of "lawful" reductionism):

      "...When those outside the Church are falsely claimed to be part of it, simply by fiat or pronouncement and not by repentance and sacramental baptism and chrismation, this is a fundamental denial of the nature of the Church itself, and of those sacramental realities..."

      St. Augustine gave us the outline of the authoritative rejection of Donatism. I can't recall the name of St. Augustine's favorite example, a bishop who claimed that the Church's sacraments were invalid, who then himself broke from the main Donatist communion and became part of a minor offshoot (he thus argued that the main body of Donatism was invalid), then years later was again accepted (without "rebabtism" or "reordination" of course) back in to the main Donatist communion. St. Augustine pointed out how the Donatists did not even follow their own legalistic ecclesiology.

      St. Augustine analogized that when someone owns or even wears a military uniform, and then later actually joins the military, he does not then need a new uniform.

      Disturbing stuff is not the Church's theology? On the one hand, we affirm the true Reality of the Sacraments in that they are not mere 'rituals', and on the other hand we don't reduce the Church to a strict legal procedural court of sacramental perfection (or anything else). The Spirit blows will He will, the canonical sabbath made for man and not the reverse, etc. etc.

      Thing is, men like Bishop Irenei & Met. Hilarion already know all this (Met. Hilarion has written explicitly about it in years past) but they put on their Russian company men hats and expound these half-truth arguments in their roles men. It's sad and comi-tragical from several angles, not the least of which is their judgement before Him...

    3. Timmy, you should try to engage with the "self serving position" part of Jake's post. It is not cynicism on his part, it is simply fact. The theology that many espouse is situational and opportunistic. They apply one standard to themselves and to their allies ("love" or "economia") while demanding that the letter of the law be applied to their enemies. This is not Christian. And if they honoured the sacred canons then they would not have trampled on them all these years.

    4. Jake, I just saw your reply. Unfortunately, I'm hitting the rack now & will be working 13+hour shifts tomorrow & Friday, but I'll carefully read your response over the weekend/early next week. Thanks for your thoughts!

    5. Using At. Augustine as a theological bulwark is always risky at best considering that he was wrong more often than not and in disagreement with the rest of the Fathers, West and East, much of the time. The Franks used his theology as their primary source and look where that went.

      Still your use of donatism is out of context. Dontatists were rejected primarily because they believed a sinful priest couldn’t have grace or perform valid sacraments.

      The rejection of Donatism didn’t include the rejection of the very real existence of the loss of grace when someone is legitimately excommunicated as Philaret and company were. We accept a priest and the sacraments he serves as valid up until he is officially deposed. At that point he does in fact lose grace. We don’t believe in the Catholic idea of indelible priesthood or Black Mass’s. It’s not magic that once you have it there’s no take backs, or spells that work regardless of God’s will or endorsement.

      Also St. Paul was referring to the Old Testament Law and rigid legalism in general but notice that while he admitted all things were lawful, he clarified not all things are helpful, and he also gave up eating meat even tho it was lawful, so as not to cause division. You make it sound like anything goes because the law doesn’t save. St. Silouan is a very helpful resource on clarifying the nature of freedom within Orthodoxy, it’s neither rigid legalism, nor is it a total abandonment of theology and canonical practice.

    6. St. Augustine is the man on Donatism, no way (i.e. historically, theologically, etc.) around that. To conflate his particular anthropology and its history in the west is to confuse the issues at best. Also, your right int hat Donatism was essentially a moral/theological judgement whereas who was ordained/when and where respective to the Ukraine is more 'economic'. When you take it to who and who has Grace on this economic level is when you turn towards the procedural/legal. MPatriarchate is explicit about this.

      Ironically, given both the letter and the spirit of the canon's and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the EP has the better court room position. The canon's explicitly give him the role of appelate judge. The MP made his determination. The Ukrainian people appealed. The EP made his judgement. It's all by the book - at least as much as can be expected given the existential changes (nation states, ad hoc and 'autocephaly', etc.) since the fall of the Empire.

      The more you argue along these lines Sojourner, the more you convince me that "the heart of the matter" for you is a product of your western religious situation and way of thinking/living. In other words, you have taken the fundamental anxiety of authority, church, boundaries, and dogma rooted in the western religious experience (i.e. RC vs. Protestant vs. secular culture, freedom, "rights", etc. etc.) and are seeing it playing out in this long Greek vs. Slav Orthodox drama.

      Orthodoxy's tension and working out of Unam Sanctam is a poor image to filter through this lens...

    7. Again you haven’t responded to my citations of Canon laws which explicitly point out how EPB doesn’t have a leg to stand on...Also the idea that an aversion to neo-papism is a purely Western angst is laughable. The list of Eastern saints who share that aversion, both ancient and modern is extensive, as I recently pointed out quoting St. Justin Popovich and St. John the Wonderworker.

      Again are you seriously claiming that if a priest is excommunicated by his ruling bishops in a universally recognized spiritual court, that we can’t make a judgment call on whether or not he still has the grace of the priesthood and the ability to perform valid sacraments? It honestly baffles me that you could make such statements in good faith.

      For being above Western influence you sound like a Protestant on a regular basis, that is when you dont sound like a scholastic Catholic relying on St. Augustine above all others. No rules, no canons, everything is relative, anything goes, being excommunicated means nothing, being in schism means nothing, the explicit teachings of the Fathers count for nothing, what exactly do you put stock in? What is your faith exactly?

      I ask this seriously because I have used the words of saints, ecumenical councils, canons, and historical references, and none of it seems to matter to you.

    8. Your baffled because your understanding of the Holy Canons and their historical application is thin and based on almost entirely upon the propagandist rhetoric and "neo-federationalist" argument of the MP. See post below.

      You could take an actual canon law class (I believe there are several online options) from one of the several seminaries here in NA...

    9. So deflect from any real answer and ad hominem , bravo you are a gentleman and a scholar, I bow to your inestimable wisdom.

  2. It's helpful to remember that Metropolitan Irinei's own synod was in communion with a variety of unordained schismatics over the years. One such group was led by a man who was defrocked twice; initially by the Church of Greece and later on by the old calendarists themselves. His consecration to the episcopate was done secretely by people whose ordinations are not recognized by the local Church.

    While his Grace can and certainly should express his views, it doesn't mean that they are consistent, correct or in line with the greater good of the Church.

    1. Are they still in communion with the Old Calendarists? Nope. Your criticism is misplaced.

    2. They never broke communion with the unordained schismatics, the schismatics broke communion with them. Today, Metropolitan Irinei's synod is comprised mostly of the same hierarchs who were in communion with the unordained schismatics. Considering its half century track record of communion with schismatics, this is not the synod that should be teaching the rest of the Church about the canons.

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  4. I think that overall this turned out well and in time it will lead to a council. Starting out slow and building consensus is a good way to solve problems like division. In time, those who assumed the meeting was a council may change their minds and join the fraternal gathering as well. Who knows, perhaps the EP will have a change of heart. I hope so.

  5. Wallace, the point is that ROCOR's own history of "canonicity" when it comes to ordinations and receptions is checkered, and yet the MP just grandfathered all of that in with the stroke of a pen. And that's OK. That is the point the EP is making when referring to ROCOR. The OCU could be acknowledged by the MP, because there is a precedent already. They just choose not to because its Ukraine.

    1. Or because the clergy in question are self made or excommunicated and have no semblance of pastoral concern for anything other than their own power and influence. Philaret wasn’t even content with his get out of jail free card because it didn’t grant enough glory and there’s already a fresh schism within the schismatics. Without humility or repentance no amount of rubber stamps can make a bad tree bear good fruit.

    2. Sojourner,

      That is a very broad brush you are painting with. There are millions of Ukrainians in the OCU. Are you telling me that this applies to all of them?

      Philaret no longer matters. He made his choice, and God will judge him. He has the sad distinction of being excommunicated by two Patriarchates, and the slow motion condemnation of his own Ukrainian Church. The "Philaret element" have left, and the rest of the OCU are moving forward. They could turn back, but that remains to be seen.

      If the OCU was a vagante group in Peru, the MP wouldn't have gone nuclear. This really is just about Ukraine. Geopolitics masquerading as canonical concern. Most of the people in Western Ukraine have a great deal of animosity towards Russia and the MP, for many sad historical reasons. It is not "pastoral" to try and force them to remain under the MP.

      If the MP was thinking "pastorally," they would understand this and let the OCU go in peace. The MP doesn't have to recognize the OCU's autocephaly. The EP doesn't recognize the OCA's.

      Want to call the OCU the UOC-EP? Fine. Whatever. All of the OCU Bishops were received en masse by the EP prior to the Tomos. So at the very least, they are EP bishops "uncanonically" squatting on the MP's territory. The reception of defrocked and excommunicated clergy is something that ROCOR had done many times in the past prior to the reunion (many of those receptions were "grandfathered in" when the Act was signed). The only difference here is scale.

      The recognition of the Ukrainians in North America and the ROCOR Reunion both provide the blue print for "fixing" this. The MP just has to be willing, which they are not. The OCU is not going to be "unrecognized." That will never happen. The MP is not interested in dialogue, because dialogue would require an openness to modify their position, which they are not.

      Nobody on this blog has ever answered my question: How can anyone expect the OCU to "return" to the MP? That is akin to asking an abused wife to return to their husband because the husband has "changed." Maybe so, but there is still all of the ugliness in the past to deal with. That can't just be ignored because of a self serving appeal to Akrevia.

    3. So Philaret no longer matters? What if he had millions of Ukrainians? What if Antioch granted him a Tomas against EPB’s express wishes? Why do numbers negate faith? Why is it that the majority of Ukrainians are still faithful to Metropolitan Onuphry? Why is he Ukrainian yet able to be faithful in spite of being with an “abusive” husband as you claim.

      You have your narrative and a good part of it includes ignoring the other side of the story. You could accuse me or others of the same I suppose, but I’m comfortable with siding with those who do not accept self made clergy or the idea that EPB is first without equal, Pope of the East, the only one allowed to call meetings, the one who must be obeyed but not questioned, who can invade any jurisdiction and do whatever he wants there without council or consensus against the advice of every Patriarchate.

      Let us not forget that everyone told him this was a bad idea and that we should talk about it, and he ignored everyone, and the consequences of his arrogance continue to spread.

    4. Sojourner, I said Western Ukraine. That distinction was deliberate, as the history of the region has been volatile and at times fratricidal. I am not ignoring the UOC-MP. There are many people in Ukraine who look at Moscow and see family, not an enemy. The history is complicated, and the MP should appreciate that.

      That is why the Estonia arrangement is the only way forward for now. Let each side go their own way and learn to co-exist for awhile. That is exactly what the EP wants, with the ultimate goal being reunion in an independent Ukrainian Church.

      Metropolitan Philaret had the chance to retire quietly and prayerfully. This was never about Philaret, as the EP has repeatedly said. This was about the OCU as a body, which has thousands of parishes and millions of members. Why is a group that large held in canonical limbo because of politics?

      This isn't a numbers game, as the EP pointed out in their latest letter to Jerusalem. This is about what is right for the OCU. If the OCU was a breakaway group in the diaspora, they wouldn't be acting like this. This really is just about Ukraine, and about the Russky Mir. The Russian Federation is in a Cold War with Ukraine, and the MP is seen as an arm of the Russian government. Unfortunately, the sad history of the MP shows that this sentiment is not without justification. I don't think the current MP is an "arm" of the Kremlin, but the MP is not above using the Russian government's power to further its own interests in the world (such as using the Russian Embassy to encroach on the EP's territory).

      This reality has created bad feelings in much of Ukraine (and in the EP). To ask the OCU to "return" to the MP is unrealistic, unpastoral, and untenable. Whatever you think of the EP, receiving the OCU was the right thing to do.

      The EP is not the Pope of the East. There is a huge space between Protestant Confederation (which is what the MP's position will ultimately lead to, ala the Anglicans) and the Vatican, which is the other extreme. Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpatkos has talked on this repeatedly, in that the EP's primacy is the "Golden Mean" between the two positions.

    5. Well you accuse Moscow of politics but you justify your side by politics, and personal opinion on top of that.

      We cannot measure the validity of political opinions, you have yours and I have mine, there is no way to determine who is right and stubbornly repeating political lines is a poor substitute for Orthodox theology.

      What remains at the heart of this issue is whether or not we have a First without Equals whose authority does not have boundaries, or if we have clear jurisdictions between equals. Rejecting EPB’s blatant power plays does not make us Protestant, it keeps us from becoming Papists. Moscow is not attempting to become First Among Equals, they’re trying to keep what they have which is autocephaly.

      If EPB can revoke jurisdiction and claim territory at will, even if his ostensible reason is to grant said territory “independence” which again the “OCU” is completely subject to EPB which is par for the course, he surrounds himself with subordinate yes men, not respected peers; then we have a very different Orthodoxy going forward.

      Zizioulas is currently promoting just this; he is formulating a new Trinitarian dogma that overemphasizes the Monarchy of the Father, and then claims that our hierarchy should reflect the Trinity as well, thus making EPB first without Equal.

      You can keep avoiding the fact that EPB has violated Orthodox tradition, canon laws, and spiritual principles, and claiming that it’s all in order to be pastoral, but even if that’s true, now we have a different church with a different ecclesiology; and personally I thank God that not everyone is willing to go along with such madness.

      Among the Greek hierarchy there are many who are openly opposing EPB for the exact reasons I have stated, but unfortunately EPB has a good chunk of the church of Greece under his thumb through the unusual situation of having his own bishops in another church.

    6. Sojourner,

      Are you a North American? Are you a convert or a 2nd (or 3rd, etc.) Orthodox?

      I ask because when you say:

      "...What remains at the heart of this issue is whether or not we have a First without Equals whose authority does not have boundaries, or if we have clear jurisdictions between equals. Rejecting EPB’s blatant power plays does not make us Protestant, it keeps us from becoming Papists..."

      This is not a description of "the heart" of Orthodoxy's particular history and 2000 year internal tension with primacy and Unam Sanctum. It *is* a description (of at least part of the heart) of the western, particularly American religious experience...

    7. Sojourner,

      I am not justifying politics at all. Unfortunately, there has always been "political interference" in Church matters, especially when it comes to the granting of autocephaly.

      Ukraine was the canonical territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It then was provisionally given to the MP to adminster, and then "transferred" to MP. The geopolitical circumstances of this "transfer" are dubious, considering the Russian Empire's designs in Eastern Europe, the contentions in the Ottoman Empire, et al. The argument could be made that the transfer itself was "uncanonical" given the politics behind it.

      Was the EP within his rights to revoke it? That is a question, isn't it? The EP's claim to Ukraine (which was a much bigger territory at the time) undergirds the Polish Tomos (which makes their opposition to the EP's authority in Ukraine mystifying) so we are looking at a territorial dispute here.

      The Trinity is the foundation of human community and love. As for the "First without Equals," MP partisans keep beating that drum, but I read Archbishop Elpidophoros' paper and he isn't saying what you all are implying. Of course I won't argue that, because you are convinced that HAH Bartholomew wants to be a Pope. That is not true, but it makes for a good talking point, doesn't it?

      I am avoiding nothing. The EP's position has been totally distorted. It is a mischaracterization that I reject.

      Yes, there are Greek Bishops who disagree with the EP's actions in Ukraine (which is OK, by the way). Why do you think the Greek Churches are so defensive? Because the MP partisans have gone beyond mere disagreement (which is what Serbia, Antioch and others have done) and are attacking the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself as an institution. That is crossing the line, even for those who otherwise sympathize with Moscow. They have been doing this for years before this crisis. Orthochristian would have a hit piece against the EP with regular frequency---the EP is addressed as the "Constantinople Patriarchate" and all scandalous inuendo and rumor is plastered out there as fact. This was going on before the OCU came into being.

      Not very edifying, but here we are.

    8. "...I won't argue that, because you are convinced that HAH Bartholomew wants to be a Pope. That is not true, but it makes for a good talking point, doesn't it?..."

      It is for him beyond a 'talking point', it is nothing less than "the heart of the matter" (his words). This is what has so many English speaking and western situated Orthodox flocking to the MP's rhetorical position. For us westerners, authority and primacy are core and very anxious issues.

      The MP and Slav's as a whole "get" this better than the Greeks, and so their propaganda machines are simply better at pushing these buttons.

    9. Again Jake, your opinions vs other peoples opinions. The battle of opinions is quite boring.

      I specified the heart of the matter was whether or not EPB has the right to revoke 330 years of jurisdiction, the canons of the church explicitly saying that after 30 years of uncontested jurisdiction even if someone feels they had a claim, they didn’t bother to make it. So 330 is far beyond the acceptable point of revoking territory.

      If EPB can revoke jurisdiction at will, he now has authority beyond any other bishop in Church history. Again I say this is the heart of the matter, not because of paranoia but because it is really what this comes down to.

      Claiming his actions are merely pastoral is willful blindness to the precedent of his actions. That’s an emotional opinion which doesn’t sway me because the facts remain that its a new ecclesiological power structure.

      I’ll admit, I don’t like EPB, the schisms he has caused, the arrogance of his words and actions, the new theology that his bishops are promoting, none of it is good in my eyes. Moscow has the potential to become just as bad if not worse under the right circumstances, but we can burn that bridge when we come to it, this is the situation at this moment.

      Jake your go to method is to put people you don’t agree with into a box that you label as ignorant and misinformed so that you don’t have to take them seriously. It’s a very effective method of ignoring other people’s views regardless of their content. You dont seem to care about Orthodox tradition, canons, or spiritual principles, even when they are stated clearly and precisely by saints. You’ve taken St. Paul’s epistle, which had a very specific meaning for a specific context, as well as way of being applied in general, and you’ve decided rules don’t exist due to your interpretation of the fact that the Old Testament Law cannot grant salvation.

      In any case, again, this continuously gets reduced to “My opinion, which cannot be backed up with primary sources or quotes, or historical precedence in Church history, is better than your opinion”.

    10. "...the canons of the church explicitly saying that after 30 years of uncontested jurisdiction even if someone feels they had a claim, they didn’t bother to make it..."

      Factually, which canon are you referring here to?

    11. If I take the time to drag it up again, will it actually change your mind about anything? You don’t seem to put any stock in canons

    12. No really, drag it up - I can't think of what you are referencing here to.

    13. “Thus, Canon 129 (133) of the Council of Carthage reads, ‘If anyone… brought some place to catholic unity and had it in his jurisdiction for three years, and nobody demanded it from him, then it shall not be claimed from him, if also there was a bishop during these three years who should have claimed it but kept silent’. And Canon 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council establishes the thirty years’ term for a possible conciliar consideration of disputes over the belonging of even particular church parishes: ‘Parishes in each diocese… shall be invariably under the power of bishops who manage them, especially if for thirty years they undoubtedly were under his jurisdiction and governance’.”

    14. This isn’t even to begin to speak of how many canons expressly forbid the accepting or communing with any clergy who have been officially excommunicated, and that such things cannot be revoked arbitrarily.

      Again while canons are to be used with discernment and have their limits, if we’re to look at them for guidance, its overwhelmingly obvious that EPB does not have canon law on his side. If anything he is currently communing with schismatics which places him in equal standing with them, i.e schismatic. But that isn’t helpful for restoring peace, even if its something worth taking seriously and why I will not be communing with the schismatics or those who serve with them.

    15. Sojourner,

      So if the Russian Army squats in a place for so many years, and uses political pressure and maneuvering with the Ottoman Sultan to wrest control of a territory from said Patriarchate, does that Canon apply? Any Ecumenical Patriarch who dared upset the political apple cart by standing up to Imperial Russia faced financial blackmail (the Czar's money had geopolitical strings attached, as is the case today) or deposition by the Sultan with but a word from the Russian Minister. Or, the Russian mission could simply buy an EP that was amenable to their position.

      How do the Canons apply then?

      As for Excommunication, excommunicated by whom? The OCU was received officially by the EP and this reception was sealed with concelebration. Catholics are also "schismatics" and yet they are received in the Russian Church by vesting. So too was the OCU "vested." So at the very least, they are EP clergy.

    16. Excommunicated by their ruling bishops, recognized as legitimately excommunicated by EPB in writing, before the US State Department paid him a visit and his tune suddenly changed, and in the case of a Roman Catholic priest renouncing Catholicism they can be received into the true Church at the discretion of the bishop they are brought in under, that is a historically documented practice.

      Once again you cannot defend your position from an Orthodox theological standpoint so you resort to throwing mud on our Russian Orthodox brethren by reducing their entire existence to one of military pawn to big bad Putin.

      Never mind that Constantinople was literally taken over by America when the CIA deposed the legitimate Patriarch in favor of one who was pro AmeriKa. If anyone is politically compromised it is the Patriarchate of Constantinople which doesn’t have a leg to stand on, pressured by the Turkish government who they have to pay on a regular basis to survive, which leads to financial scandals on a regular basis, and pressured by the CIA and US State Department to take a strong anti-Russian stance both during the Cold War at its most blatant, and now.

      So again if you’re going to throw mud, get ready for a mess.

      I don’t bother resorting to such argumentation though in regular discourse because it’s not necessary, Orthodox tradition, canon law, historical precedence, spiritual principles, the words of the Saints, plenty to work with and non of it favorable to EPB’s new ecclesiology.

    17. And again, to Jake or anyone else who would say my dislike of Constantinople’s ambitions is just the result of being influenced by Moscow’s supposed propaganda, long before this most recent schism I found myself in agreement with the saints who spoke on the decline of Constantinople, such as St. John the Wonderworker and St. Justin Popovich

      “Let us be frank: the conduct of the representatives of Constantinople in the last decades has been characterized by the same unhealthy restlessness, by the same spiritually ill condition as that which brought the Church to the betrayal and disgrace of Florence in the 15th Century. (Nor was the conduct of the same Church under the Turkish yoke an example of all times. Both the Florentine and the Turkish yokes were dangerous for Orthodoxy.) With the difference that today the situation is even more ominous: formerly Constantinople was a living organism with millions of faithful - she was able to overcome without delay the crisis brought about by external courses as well as the temptation to sacrifice the faith and the Kingdom of God for the goods of this world. Today, however, she has only metropolitans without faithful, bishops who have no one to lead (i.e. without dioceses), who nonetheless wish to control the destinies of the entire Church.” St. Justin Popovich 1977

      “In sum, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in theory embracing almost the whole universe and in fact extending its authority only over several dioceses, and in other places having only a higher superficial supervision and receiving certain revenues for this, persecuted by the government at home and not supported by any governmental authority abroad: having lost its significance as a pillar of truth and having itself become a source of division, and at the same time being possessed by an exorbitant love of power—represents a pitiful spectacle which recalls the worst periods in the history of the See of Constantinople.” St. John (letter republished In the Orthodox Word 1972)

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    19. There are many historically documented practices for receiving clergy outside of the fold. The EP did just that when they received the OCU.

      You assert the State Department pressured the EP but you do so with no evidence, much like the "23 million" slander that HAH confronted Metropolitan Hilarion about when they met in person. You then go on to talk about the CIA and all the usual orthochristian talking points. Who's throwing mud now?

      I have no illusions about what can happen in the halls of power. The EP was an office of the Imperial court in Byzantine and Ottoman times, as was the MP in Czarist times. There were saintly Czars and saintly Byzantine Emperors, and there are canonized Ecumenical Patriarchs and Moscow Patriarchs, but that doesn't change the history of either Patriarchate. We exist where we are. The Bishops work with what they have and when they can. I said before that I don't believe the MP is a pawn of the Russian government, but that they use the Russian government to further their own ends. Sometimes that is for the good, when the Russian flag can protect an Orthodox Church in a hostile land. Sometimes it is for ill, such as the MP's incursions on EP territory. Maybe, just maybe, the EP does the same with the American government.

      I have no rose colored glasses about our hierarchs. They play the political game sometimes as much as anyone else (sometimes better). This can be to the benefit of the body of Christ, or to its detriment. It is the most awesome responsibility that can be had, and they will have much to answer for at the Judgement Seat, depending.

      My "position" is that there is no "one" position. The "Who's First" argument in the Church is very very old. I cited Metropolitan Hierotheos before---he eloquently states the EP's position in the Church and what their vision of the Primacy is. Not without precedent and Orthodox, but countered by those who believe that the Church needs to "get over Byzantium" and return to the pre-Nicea way of doing things. Again, an old position and not without its merits.

      I don't have a nice and neat view of Church history or the Canons. The Canons are guidelines and are for our Bishops to govern the Church with Christ. It is the Bishops who have the power to bind and loose. That is why Economia exists, because the Bishops set the boundaries. They are not ironclad rules that laypeople can use to engage in petty legalisms or throw grenades at their bishops. I happen to agree with Metropolitan Hierotheos and the EP in the need for a stronger primacy, but not a Papist one. That doesn't mean I question the Orthodoxy of those who adhere to the MP's position. It is Church politics, not a matter of Faith.

      I love the Russian Church, as a matter of fact. It's heritage, saints and contributions to the Body of Christ have been immeasurable. Unfortunately, that love is unrequited, to hear the folks on orthochristian talk.

      As I said before, the Church is not a street gang. I mention the history of Imperial Russia because it is just as flawed as the Byzantine Empire was. The Holy Spirit works despite our weaknesses. Acknowledging the ugly history behind this stuff isn't "throwing mud." The EP didn't want to let go of Greece, Bulgaria, et al, either. They broke Communion, excommunicated and got angry. But in the end, it all settled down and things worked out. Messily, and slowly, but it did. It will be the same thing here. Maybe HAH Bartholomew and Patriarch Kyrill won't have the conversation, but their successors will. The laity will tire of it, and as new generations of "properly consecrated" bishops rise, the reasons for keeping the OCU out will diminish.

      For now, the OCU will have to accept the "partial" canonicity that ROCOR had in the 20th Century. But like that situation, it will be worked out. What will the fireeaters do then, I wonder.

    20. The smugness of stating no takes backs there’s nothing we can do now and this will all just magically work out whether we like it or not? Not a good look.

      The longer this goes on without a serious council, whether ecumenical or merely between the relevant parties, the more likely this is to become a permanent and expanding schism.

      Church history has shown that even minor schisms started over misunderstandings or rash unilateral actions, when left untreated, more often than not end up unresolved. This isn’t minor, and if dialogue doesn’t begin now, I doubt if we’ll see unity restored.

      You will probably respond saying it just needs 100 years to fester, but that is completely cynical given the harm that will take place, the divisions that will continue to spread and the souls that will be lost.

      The very fact that hierarchs among every single Church, with the possible exception of Constantinople, have spoken out against union with schismatics in this fashion, is proof that this isn’t simply Russians being legalistic or territorial or political. If MP was just looking out for its own power, you wouldn’t have well known Greek theologians and hierarchs condemning EPB left and right, including signed petitions from over 100 theologians monastics and clergy in the Church of Greece and Mt. Athos.

      EPB isn’t interested in a council because he knows he would be outnumbered and it will shine a spotlight on the fact that he isn’t the be all end all in Orthodoxy. Contrary to his scathing letter to his fellow hierarchs that his decisions are to be ratified, not questioned, the majority of Orthodoxy still prefers the conciliar method, which he has thrown to the wind.

      I really don’t want to see Constantinople fall away, but it seems like all but a foregone conclusion. Nothing happens quickly in Orthodoxy, and the hierarchs have, with the exception of some notable saints, turned a blind eye to the antics of Constantinople for decades out of a desire to keep up the appearance of unity, but now that illusion has been shattered, so lines are being drawn. Sadly it will not be pretty, Constantinople will not go quietly or alone, but the writing is on the wall.

    21. There is no smugness there. It is the reality. The Tomos is signed, three Churches have the OCU in their Diptychs now. There is no going back to the wilderness for the OCU. That doesn't necessarily mean their Tomos will be recognized by everyone, but they are a part of the Church now, even if it is under the EP.

      I never said that there would be no dialogue and things would just "magically" work out. A 100 years of nothing? That has never been the case. The operative word there is "work." There will be work to do. All of the previous blowups over autocephaly were resolved by a council/meeting of some sort. This will be no different. How many meetings did the MP and ROCOR have before reunion ultimately happened?

      As I said in the other article about Amman, the only meeting that will bear any fruit is one between the parties involved. That's it. EP, MP, OCU and UOC-MP. Nobody else should be in the conversation yet. Dialogue can't happen right now, because the time isn't right. The MP has to be willing to recognize the OCU in some form, and the EP has to be willing to understand the MP's misgivings. The MP's breaking of Communion and subsequent actions have hardened the EP towards them and made dialogue at the moment impossible. The MP has to be willing to meet the EP directly, and not speak indirectly through the media and its proxies or by "dialogues" that are not dialogues at all, but "Let's talk about why the EP is wrong" sessions. That is no recipe for reconciliation.

      I have said it a few times here, that both the MP and EP have hurt each other over the last century. This relationship was strained long before this crisis. Ukraine was merely the last straw. If it wasn't Ukraine, it would have been something else.

      There is no "writing on the wall." That is what the blowhards at orthochristian and other partisan mouthpieces want you to think. The Divine Liturgy is our life, and it is what unites us in Christ. The Same Liturgy, the Same Faith, the Same Baptism. The Moscow Patriarchate is not an arm of the Russian State. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is not a ghost Patriarchate CIA front, and they actually have a flock in Asia Minor (not very big, but again the Faith is not a numbers game). How about we start talking to each other in a Christian way?

      The meeting between Archbishop Elpidophoros and Metropolitan Hilarion was a start. The fact that either men agreed to meet at all says to me that there is something there to build on. It will take humility and some real effort. This meeting in Amman is not it. One on one, as brothers.

    22. One bishop made a document declaring excommunicated and self made clergy valid. This does not make it so.

      Considering the wide array of people from all jurisdictions and clerical/monastic levels who are adamantly opposed to this, its going to take a lot more than stubbornness to put a positive spin on this travesty.

      There’s just no getting around the unorthodox manner in which this was done. The rehabilitation of schismatics is possible, and a hoped for outcome in any situation. But this has gone beyond that, its now about whether or not one Bishop can revoke jurisdictional sovereignty and overturn the judgments of spiritual courts that he previously agreed to. Never mind that Constantinople’s previous documented argument was that Autocephaly can only be granted with Pan-Orthodox consensus, and that’s why they refuse to acknowledge the OCA, ostensibly.

      In any case, Lent is almost here and I’m realizing this has probably been a temptation that I haven’t handled well. I’ve made most of the points I want to make, presented quotes from saints, canon laws, logical consequences etc etc if we still disagree at this point that’s never going to change, it is what it is.

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    24. Sojourner,

      Thanks for digging up that 30 years reference. As you cite it within canon 17 of Chalcedon but I notice you leave off the "and", the very next sentence:

      "...and if any one be wronged by his metropolitan, let the matter be decided by the exarch of the diocese or by the throne of Constantinople, as aforesaid. And if any city has been, or shall hereafter be newly erected by imperial authority, let the order of the ecclesiastical parishes follow the political and municipal example.

      So, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in his role explicitly stated in the Holy Canons (e.g. canons 9,17, and of course 28 of Chalcedon) heard the appeal of the Urkaine and granted autocephaly, this is somehow "uncanonical" and or in the words of Bp. Irenei somehw against the very nature of the sacrements and the Church?!?

      Why don't you back that up and cite the canons that explicitly support the "neo-federationalism" (or is it "neo-democratic"?) that appears to be presupposed by you and Bp. Irenei? While your at it, please explain how such neo-federationalism is the Orthodox (theological and historical) and a/the answer (or is it simply the opposite of) what you call "neo-papalism" to which you allege EP Bartholomew subscribes.

      (tangent: interesting is it not, how the EP and MP have reversed their positions/roles in a fundamental way in just 50 years {i.e., from OCA's autocephaly & now Ukraine's}...sort of reveals the level all this struggle is at - what John Erickson calls "miserable ecclesiastical nominalism")

      OORRRRR, instead of playing the amateur canonist, you could read something of the actual history of Unam Sanctam, primacy, ecclesiology, and autocephaly in the Orthodox Church of the East. You could start with Erickson's essay "The Autocephalous Church" in his book "The Challenge of Our Past".

      I should warn you however that what you will find is that the history will not support your "heart of the matter", this anxious proxy war with "Papalism" that you believe is at the heart of Orthodox ecclesiology and the current territorial dispute between the MP and the EP in the Ukraine in particular and the wider ecclesiology of autocephaly in general…

    25. “Wronged by his metropolitan” so you’re claiming Philaret, the guy who just got dismissed by EPB for being crazy, was wronged by MP when he was excommunicated, for being crazy. A spiritual court was held and by the way recognized by EPB as being valid.

      Also how would that apply to revoking an entire jurisdiction?

      Would it shock you to know Jake that people smarter than you don’t hold your opinions? It might be hard to imagine, I’m probably not one of them as an ignorant person, but you are supremely confident in your self evaluation of your own understanding. It’s a wonder you aren’t being called in as an 2 on all this.

      Again your entire argument boils down to “I have secret knowledge that makes me infinitely wiser than you, and unless you share my opinion you have been brainwashed and are ignorant” what a brilliant way to convince yourself and alienate others.

  6. For the record, I do believe that the MP and UOC-MP have moved beyond the Soviet past and would defend them from such ugly insinuations. Unfortunately for many in Eastern Europe, some wounds are too deep, and an amicable separation is the only solution. Is the Russky Mir more important than the pastoral care of millions of Orthodox? This situation will not be resolved until both the Russian Federation AND the MP let Ukraine go. Let the UOC-MP and the OCU (or UOC-EP if you like) co-exist as canonical Churches for awhile. Let the healing begin.

    1. "...For the record, I do believe that the MP and UOC-MP have moved beyond the Soviet past...."

      Brother, this is clear in you objections to the MP but it is an incorrect assumption. The OCU continues to occupy churches in the Ukraine and terrorize believers from the canonical Church. I encourage you to reach out and get to know some of them and you will see that the OCU is a huge mistake.

    2. Wallace, those Churches are "owned" by the village communities themselves, not the every Sunday parishioners. If the Christmas and Pascha parishioners are the majority and they vote to transfer to the OCU, that is not a "seizure." These "seizures" are feuds between neighbors and villages. Civil Wars and fratricide is the ugliest and most bitter of conflicts. I don't minimize that at all. In the Old World, Church affiliation and politics go hand in hand. This craziness happened in America too in the 20th Century, although it wasn't on this scale. Fighting over Churches is not new, and there are two sides to every story.

      I appreciate that, but I also know that it can't go on this way. If the majority of the village votes to join the OCU, than it can't be characterized as a "seizure." Those who don't like the vote can build their own Church, as the dissenters did in America. This is terrible, but it is certainly better than people getting in fist fights (that happened in America too).

  7. That would be fine and dandy...if it were true. But here is the reality. Hoards of people who don't even attend Church and are not part of the village (atheists and nationalists) are stacking the deck and taking Churches away from devout and God fearing people of the canonical Church. Otherwise, they just cut the locks and beat the people and clergy. There's no way to sugarcoat these criminal acts.

  8. Mikail,

    A village "worked it out" among themselves but then things got messy.

    An article by a former priest of the UOC-MP who moved to the OCU.

    Things are not always so black and white. What I said before stands. These are ugly conflicts between neighbors and villages. You may counter that these sources are "propaganda." I could just as easily say the same about UOJ and orthochristian (not without justification).

    It is like a nasty divorce. Who is right and wrong? How about we look at the deeper issues here.

  9. For every one situation that "perhaps" went the way that you say....I can show 100 that went the way I explained it to you. Of course it is very convenient for you to scream "propaganda" because it allows you to justify the massive persecution happening against the UOC.

  10. Sojourner,

    The Ecumenical Patriarchate is within its Canonical Rights, on paper. The MP partisans know this, which is why the denigration and attacks against the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself as an institution are a key part of the rhetoric. This is also why the anti-EP group have introduced this notion of "Dead Canons" into the conversation which in itself is "uncanonical."

    The main issue is whether those Canons should still apply in the 21st Century. The MP side argues that they should not, since the Byzantine Empire is dead and there is no Ecumene any longer. That argument can be made, but what they are advocating is a changing and "reform" of the Canonical order and the Diptychs.

    The EP is the one that is defending the status quo and the Canonical order. The MP partisans argue that that order is obsolete, outdated and needs to be changed. THAT is the heart of this argument. The MP has taken it upon themselves to push for this "reform" and in so doing tear down the Ecumenical Patriarchate as an outdated and retrograde institution. That is what they really are doing, their protestations of "respecting the Primacy of the Constantinople Patriarchate" aside (note the refusal to address the EP as the EP).

    The EP (rightly) sees the MP's moves as an existential threat to the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself as an institution and an assault on the Canonical Order.

    The real question is whether that Canonical Order is worth defending. These are political questions, not matters of Faith. The fireeaters make it about faith to justify their position. But there can be and is disagreement on this issue.

    1. Do you have any idea how insanely delusional that sounds?

      EPB seizes and an entire territory from MP and somehow he is the one being attacked?

      Show me a single source where any Moscow Patriarchate representative has stated that the canons no longer apply, that EPB is not first among equals, or that we need a new canonical order.

      You love to say what Moscow thinks or is saying, but you have never provided a single quote to back it up. Whereas EPB and his bishops/theologians can be quoted extensively and promote themselves quite publicly how they would like to change the canonical order in his favor.

      Again, with every comment I see how dialogue here is fruitless because our conceptions of reality seem to be vastly divergent. EPB is on the war path making power plays and you actually expect people to believe he is the victim? Moscow didn’t go to Constantinople and revoke their sovereignty while installing excommunicated Old Calendarists as an autocephalous Church on their doorstep and calling it peace. Until then playing the victim card is pathetic, but it fits perfectly with a Pro Western political agenda that would vilify anything Russian.

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    3. Sojourner,

      My whole point is that this is how the EP views the MP's attacks. This is Politics. Their refusal to address the EP as the EP, and the articles over on (which is not just some crank website, but is connected with Sretensky Monastery, which is connected with Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov, one of the preeminent voices in the Russian Church---not a fringe website by any stretch). They do realize that someone in the Phanar is reading their stuff (and UOJ too), right? This didn't just come out of nowhere. Your multiple citations of a "CIA conspiracy" also prove my point. What other conclusions can the EP come to, other than the MP seeks to diminish it? Where can all of this possibly lead?

      That is what I was getting at. You view the EP in a negative light, and you believe what they are saying on that "other website." What I am trying to say is that disagreement on this issue doesn't make a person a heretic, a monster or an evil person.

      This is all politics. Don't be fooled.

      Why doesn't the MP address the EP as the EP? How can the EP interpret being addressed as the "Constantinople Patriarchate" as anything other than contempt? This is what I am getting at. The MP does not respect the EP, because they see them as a CIA Ghost Patriarchate, and not as a brother hierarch at all. Your use of "Moscow Patriarchate Representative" is telling, because of course you won't find this garbage on Interfax or their official website. That is what orthochristian and UOJ are for.

      All of this is beyond any of us, really. What it has done, is created a toxic atmosphere on the Orthodox internet sphere. If the EP is so bad, what does that say about those of us who remain with it? Given the shrill and harsh abuse heaped upon it, its organizations and its decisions, what is that saying, in the end, about us? There comes a point where one can't help but bristle a little. Particularly when it comes from people who claim to be our brothers and sisters.

      There is a lot of division, because people have different opinions on the question. It isn't anti-Russian to defend the EP against attacks against it, nor is it anti-Greek to assert the preeminence of the UOC-MP in Ukraine.

      As I said, the Church is not a street gang.

      At any rate, the Fast is upon us. I have already said too much, and will be trying to avoid this lunacy for the duration of the Fast.

      Forgive me if I offended you. Truly. Reasonable people can disagree. I concede the point that the EP may have overstepped his bounds and that the way it was done was wrong, but I firmly believe that normalizing the OCU (at least in some way) was the right thing to do. One can pray for Metropolitan Onuphry and Epiphany. That is not a contradiction. That is the Christian thing to do. May Our Lord and Panagia protect us all and save us.

  11. Here are the real questions: Does the EP now think of himself as having a primacy of power? Does he feel he can give and revoke autocephaly by the wave of his hand? Does he believe (as Elpifophoros has written) that he is first without equals? The answer to all these questions is: YES.