October 31, 2014

Essays on Canon 28

Met. Philip’s recently posted essay on Constantinople’s misuse of Canon 28 got me hunting for more analysis. I’ve posted what I found (including one by St. John Maximovitch written in 1938) on the main site.

Comments

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    What is somewhat distressing on this question is that, while certain persons criticize the Ecumenical Patriarchate for using Chalcedon 28 to justify expansion throughout the globe, the same critics’ churches do the same, but without laying claim to any canonical basis whatsoever.

    The Church of Russia which has so vociferously contested Constantinople’s jurisdiction in various places is itself engaged in expansion in every place throughout the globe, even occasionally in places previously agreed-upon as another church’s canonical territory (e.g., Finland, as well as at least an attempt in South Africa). (And, with all due respect to the late patriarch, it really is not the case that all Orthodox in America looked to Moscow prior to 1921. Only a handful of Greek parishes got antimensia from Russian bishops, and probably only thought of them as the nearest ecclesiastical supply shop! Even aside from the Greeks, most non-Russians had little if anything to do with the Russians. Most such priests just commemorated their bishop back in the old country.)

    The truth is that now most of the Orthodox churches are operating outside their traditional canonical boundaries, all violating the basic principle that one does not ordain bishops in order to annex lands, but rather to minister to lands already under one’s jurisdiction. How such activity can in any way lead to Church unity is quite beyond me.

    The problem ultimately lies in there being no common canonical vision for conducting missionary activity. There is no real provision for it at all in the canons. If it is a stretch for Constantinople to say that Chalcedon 28 gives it jurisdiction over the whole world outside traditional canonical boundaries, it is surely also something of a stretch to say that putting a handful of chaplain monks in Imperial Russian Alaska gives jurisdiction across an entire continent, whose territory at the time included not only the new American nation, but also the colonies of multiple European states.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr Andrew’s points certainly need to be addressed in due time. My concern w/ Metropolitan Philip’s essay is that he did not go far enough. Although he was correct in all his points, the historical origin of Canon 28 provides cold comfort to propagandists at the Phanar. In truth, the 4th Council authorized 27 canons which were sent to the Pope for ratification. Somewhat later, Canon 28 was surreptitiously put it but the Pope reacted vehemently against it and it was dropped like a hot potato. Only centuries later was it resurrected, when the Pope could do nothing about it.

    Therefore Canon 28 is a nullity.

    As to Fr Andrew’s points, they are well-taken. A GOAA priest a long time ago told me that a missionary Church is under the purview of the first Orthodox bishop to send missionaries there. This was the case in Russia for example. It was Byzantine missionaries which set up the metropolitia of Kiev and even though Bulgarian missionaries later contested for it, it remained under the omorphorion of the EP until it received its autocephaly. (Some of the Metropolitans of Kiev were Bulgarians however –e.g. Cyprian, one of the most famous.)

    As for America, most if not all parishes prior to 1920 did consider the Archbishop in New York to be their bishop. this has been documented. Only after the flood of immigration post-1920 AND the ending of subsidies from Moscow due to the Bolshevik Revolution did the various Orthodox ethnicities turn their back on the Metropolia.

    On another level, I think Fr Andrew’s critique of the original Sitka Mission is hurtful. After all, Cyril and Methodius’ mission was just two men. Patrick’s mission to Ireland was one man. And so on. It does no good to denigrate the original mission in Sitka as to somehow being unworthy of recognition for what it was: the planting of Orthodoxy in North America.

    Even so I can’t say that the universal jurisdictionism of every Old World patriarchate isn’t problematic: it is. However, the old convention applies: the first in has primacy and only until a missionary church becomes mature. This was done in the US with the Sitka Mission, the relocation to SF and then NY, and the granting of autocephaly to the OCA.

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    Just for clarification: In no sense is it my intention to denigrate the holy work done by the saints who came to Alaska. But their mission (at least initially) was not to plant a Russian ecclesiastical flag in the soil whose shadow fell all the way to Miami. It was simply to act as chaplains to Russians operating in Russian Alaska. My comments about the initial presence in Alaska were not a critique, but rather a statement of historical fact.

    In any event, there actually is nothing in the canons that supports the notion of flag-planting at all, i.e., that the first bishop to set foot in a place has jurisdiction over it (and how far, anyway?). In fact, the canons actually say that you can’t ordain bishops for areas not already under your jurisdiction. That’s why extra-territorial missionary work is, technically speaking, uncanonical. (Yes, that’s an obvious problem.)

    By the way, it really isn’t true that “most if not all parishes prior to 1920 did consider the Archbishop in New York to be their bishop.” The documentation for that assertion falls pretty handily under the rather large amount of evidence that most non-Russian parishes were probably largely unaware of the Russian presence, or, if they were aware, they didn’t consider it to have anything to do with them (the incident of St. Tikhon getting kicked out of a Greek parish in New York is an iconic example).

    This assertion of a pre-1921 Russian hegemony originated with Abp. Aftimios Ofiesh’s crew (probably Fr. Boris Burden) as a way to prop up his claim of jurisdiction over all America once his Russian sponsors disowned him. (I did my M.Div. thesis on Aftimios.) Later, that assertion was picked up in the proto-OCA and has been perpetuated ever since. This is one of these big myths that gets repeated again and again, and most supporting citations are just citations of other secondary sources that repeat the myth. One can find this issue addressed somewhat in Fr. Thomas FitzGerald’s history of American Orthodoxy, The Orthodox Church (pp. 33-35), which is probably the most balanced work of its kind that actually cites the most primary sources.

    Interestingly, even OCA sources sometimes (accidentally?) acknowledge that the assertion is a myth, such as in the Orthodox America 1794-1976 commemorative/history book the OCA put out. On p. 305, in the article about the Romanian parishes, the author writes: “Prior to World War I, most of the Romanian parishes in the United States were affiliated with the Metropolitan of Transylvania and those of Canada with the Metropolitan of Moldava [sic].” And in the 1906, 1911 and 1918 lists of Russian-jurisdiction parishes published in this same book (pp. 337-350), the Greek parishes (quite numerous by the time) are not listed. FitzGerald also cites a period document from the Russians that notes that most of the Greek priests in America are under the omophorion of Athens.

    Anyway, I plan to put together an article sometime soon to give a survey of the small mountain of evidence that there was no such hegemony prior to 1921 (whether there OUGHT to have been one or not is another question). Even Russian sources from the period acknowledge many parishes in America outside of Russian jurisdiction.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    If I am following this discussion correctly it seems that there is no cannonical jurisdiction in the United States.

    I would surmise that the only way to overcome this deficit is to get together and elect our own bishops.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr,

    if what you say is true, that you can’t ordain bishops not under your jurisdiction, then all jurisdictions are non-canonical, with the exception of the Metropolia. After all, North America was an archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, that is a fact.

    Of course, you are right in many respects: most of the immigrant parishes were either ignorant of the Russian archbishop in NYC, or they were hostile to him (cf the abominable way St Tikhon was treated). However, eccelesiastical sources (the EP) recognized the claim of Moscow, as can be documented by a thankful letter written by the EP to Moscow for their kind treatment of Greek immigrants. Furthermore, a very good history of the Greek-Americans (by Theodore Saloutos) recounts several instances in which Russian bishops presided over Greek Independence Day parades.

    Having said this, the willful ignorance of the various immigrant groups towards the original bishops cannot be used as an excuse to buttress claims of every old world patriarchate exercising universal jurisdiction. That “flag-planting” is not the norm (and I’m glad it isn’t)doesn’t ignore the fact that the usual method of church growth was recognizing the missionary work in pagan lands of the first missionaries (forgive the tautology).

    After all, if this wasn’t the case, then why weren’t the Siberian, Baltic, Arctic, etc. missions established by Russian monks given to Constantinople once they became Christian? It’s not enough to say “well, these lands were part of the Russian Empire,” because they weren’t (unlike Alaska which was). The writ of the Tsars did not extend beyond the Ural mountains until decades after the missionary work of Orthodox monks. This was also the case before there was a unitary Russian state: Orthodox monks were Christianizing the Finns, Altaic peoples, and the Balts while Russia was still a patchwork of independent duchies and grand principalities. Indeed, the only official that commanded the respect of all Russian nobles and peoples was the Metropolitan of Kiev. Moscow did not unite Russia under its rule until the time of Ivan IV (the Terrible).

    Anyway, using the rules of “pan-universal jurisdiction-alism” (that is to say, the present chaos and anarchy), then any bishop representing an ethnic group could set establish parishes and monasteries in Orthodox lands provided he did so for members of his ethnic group.

    In the final analysis, I can see your point about the need to normalize evangelism to avoid turf battles, however, we cannot say that protocols haven’t existed (as mentioned above). And as for the Sitka mission, it was not only for the Russian emigrants and their families, but for the natives. These same natives were of the same Mongoloid stock that was the indigenous race of the Western Hemisphere. Even if for the sake of argument I conceded all your points, the fact remains that none of the other jurisdictions had any inkling of serving the natives. Based on that fact alone, the Russian-American archdiocese takes precedence as the native church with all its prerogatives. (We could also press the point and say that the entire issue is moot as the OCA is autocephalous and recognized as such by most all of the non-EP dominated churches.) And no, one can’t retort and say that it’s not universally recognized as autocephalous because several other churches are also not recognized (i.e. Estonia, Czech and Slovak lands). If universal recognition is mandatory, then the OCA should be declared uncanonical, and proclaimed as such, period. However, no Orthodox Church is willing to make this claim, because it isn’t true.

    Anyway, I beg your forbearance.

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    George, you write: if what you say is true, that you can’t ordain bishops not under your jurisdiction, then all jurisdictions are non-canonical, with the exception of the Metropolia. After all, North America was an archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, that is a fact.

    It is indeed a fact, but canonically, Russia had no business ordaining bishops for areas outside the Russian Empire (the canonical definition of its own boundaries as determined by the Golden Seal certificate which the patriarchs signed when the church was made a patriarchate). Alaska was Russian Imperial territory until 1867. San Francisco never was, nor was New York.

    So, yes, technically speaking, all the jurisdictions in the US are here uncanonically. As I said, there really is no canonical provision for doing extra-territorial missionary work. That’s a problem! You go on to argue that (and I agree with you), but I am not presenting or arguing for some particular solution. (My suspicion is that it was not so much of a problem in the old days, because the Empire was there to help regulate such things.)

    You also write: Anyway, using the rules of “pan-universal jurisdiction-alism” (that is to say, the present chaos and anarchy), then any bishop representing an ethnic group could set establish parishes and monasteries in Orthodox lands provided he did so for members of his ethnic group.

    Indeed, yes, and that disturbingly seems to be the approach being taken by the Moscow Patriarchate in our own day. The parishes it has in Finland(!) are justified by the presence of ethnic Russians.

    You also write: We could also press the point and say that the entire issue is moot as the OCA is autocephalous and recognized as such by most all of the non-EP dominated churches.

    One could just as easily describe those churches which accept it as “MP dominated.” In any event, if you follow ecclesiastical politics at all, I think you might find that the Churches of Greece and Antioch (for example) would be unhappy to be described as “EP dominated.”

    In any event, my comments’ purpose was not to “buttress” any claims but rather to point out a commonly repeated historical error, namely, that all Orthodox churches prior to the establishment of the GOA acknowledged the Russians as their masters. They did not. In fact, it’s quite possible that, especially when looking at the final years of the 19th century and the initial years of the 20th, that the majority did not.

    My secondary point (the one with which I began my first comment) is that while the EP is criticizable for its actions and interpretation of Canon 28 of Chalcedon, most of the other Orthodox churches are also worthy of the same criticism, though they baldly go about what they’re doing without even a questionable canonical interpretation! Even the MP’s letter to the EP published here makes the ethnophyletistic argument.

    Alas for us.

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    Andrew says:

    The Last Paragraph of St. John’s essay is especially revealing:

    . . .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.

    One wonders today what this great Saint of the Church would say when witnessing the spectacle of the Green Patriarch Cruising the Bosphorus is his yacht, coddling the brutal dictator Fidel Castro, honoring legislators who actively support gross human rights violations, and tossing the word omogenia around to stress ethnic affiliation before Orthodoxy. St. John was right to warn the world in his day and Orthodox Christians today have a distinct responsibility to question the failed leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America.

    Truth is not something the Patriarchate or the Archdiocese take very seriously if it all.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr Andrew,

    thank you for your reasoned responses to my responses. I did not mean to indicate that the MP was not guilty of the same ethnophyletism that the EP is, but that you acknowledge it is an important point that I don’t think other priests w/in the EP would.

    As for Antioch and the Church of Greece, point taken, but this again raises the distressing subservience of the “autocephalous” churches of Alexandria and Jerusalem.

    You are right that SF and NY were never part of the Russian Empire, whereas Sitka was. Nevertheless, the other patriarchates (EP included) did recognize North America as a Russian archdiocese even though this stretched the canonical norms (i.e. the US was never part of the Russian polity).

    Unfortunately, this brings up another unpleasant point: that Kiev was never part of the Byzantine polity nor was Moravia (the original mission site of Cyril/Methodius). Yet just as Kiev (which was an independent polity) was a major metropolitan throne of the EP and under its jurisdiction, the same case could be made for SF/NY (USA) vis a vis Moscow.

    BTW, I have no problem historically speaking w/ C’pole exercizing authority over Kiev and its attendant dioceses (Rostov, Novgorod, Vladimir-Suzdal, etc.). After all, it was Grand Prince Volodymyr of Kiev who requested Byzantine bishops and missionaries to come to his principality and Christianize it. Indeed, that seems to be the only criterion that makes sense: the request of the natives.

    Anyway, my criticisms regarding the present claims of the EP regarding the non-recognition of the OCA’s autocephaly stand: either the OCA is canonical or not. If it’s canonical, then its stand of autocephaly is canonical, otherwise, the chrism which the Metropolitan consecrates is null as are the rest of its sacraments.

    Andrew, your points are equally well-taken. The present decline of the EP can be traced to ecumenists such as Meletius IV Metaxakis.

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    Fr. Andrew says:

    George, you write: I did not mean to indicate that the MP was not guilty of the same ethnophyletism that the EP is, but that you acknowledge it is an important point that I don’t think other priests w/in the EP would.

    I’m not sure what precisely you meant by “other priests w/in the EP,” but just to be clear, I am not a priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Like Fr. Hans, I belong to Antioch.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr Andrew, please forgive me, it was my mistake.

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