Metropolitan Hilarion to visit Italy

Moscow clearly has taken the lead in world Orthodoxy.


Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, will visit Italy from May 14th to 20th, 2010, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. The programme of his stay will include a visit to Milan, Turin, Bologna, Ravenna, and Rome, celebration of divine services, meeting with the hierarchs of the Roman Catholic Church, lectures at the university, and meetings with compatriots.

On Sunday, May 16, Metropolitan Hilarion will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the Moscow Patriarchate parish in Milan.

The DECR chairman, together with hierarchs and clerics of the Moscow Patriarchate, will celebrate the Liturgy at the Shroud of Turin on May 18 at night, and will deliver a lecture at the University of Bologna that same day.

On May 19, the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations will visit Rome and meet with the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, and heads of other department of the Roman Curia. Metropolitan Hilarion will also take part in the symposium on the “Witness of the Orthodox and the Catholics in Contemporary Europe” due to be held at the Church of St. Catherine at the Abamelek villa in Rome.

On May 20, a concert of Orthodox music will take place at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. The Russian National Orchestra, the Moscow Synodal Choir, and the St. Petersburg Horn Capella will perform pieces by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergei Rachmaninov, Pyotr Iliych Tchaikovsky, Modest Musorgsky, and other Russian composers. Metropolitan Hilarion’s symphony “The Song of Ascents” for choir and orchestra will be performed at the end of the concert. Pope of Rome Benedict XVI is expected to attend.


  1. I’ve never appreciated how an announcement of yet another way cool-o trip to a way cool-o destination by some big group of big-hat church buddies and their retinue paid for by parishioners rises to the level of ‘news’, much less an indication of who has ‘taken the lead’ in ‘world Orthodoxy’. What’s the ‘lead in World Orthodoxy’ standard these days? Whoever visits the most unmarried clerics while travelling in the least time ‘wins’?

    • Michael Bauman :

      Harry, although rare, genuine celibates are an important part of Church life. We should be careful not paint with too wide a brush.

  2. Archpriest GeorgeMorelli :

    Archbishop Hilarion is not a big-hat church buddy. He witnesses and preaches the Orthodox teachings of Christ,that Christ Himself gave His apostles and their successors. I doubt if Our Lord teaching and preaching throughout the Holy Land or His apostle Paul on his missionary journeys would be termed a cool-trip to cool-o destinations.
    All the more reason for Archbishop Hilarion’s missionary journeys is a recent article on Patristics in a well known so called Orthodox journal.

    More egregious that the journal has the sponsorship, that from a secular perspective is prestigious academic (though surely not spiritual authority) of a well-known seminary. The article is a capitulation to secularist, post-modernist principles and values. In fact the author consistently makes broad statement about Orthodox Patristics from this secularist perspective, that he would say is a failure in modern Orthodox theology: (e.g. neglect of biblical studies (Bultmann); Orthodox failure to consider historical, social, cultural and scientific context (an unsupported accusation -the author goes on to call it a fad; concern with freeing itself from the West (political and liberation theology, the examples of the author) — is actually a major strength of the Orthodox Patristic Tradition; and polarization of East and West. (One Roman Catholic Scholar Fr. Aidan Nichols, O.P. Rome and the Eastern Churches 2nd ed would on the contrary argue that faithfulness to tradition is the very reason Roman Catholicism needs Orthodoxy the most. He writes: “In the face of her own numerous theological liberals and the innovationist tendencies of churchmen (and churchwoman) in various portions of her far-flung “Western” patriarchate … Catholicism’s grasp of the historic Christian tradition can only be strengthened by the accession of Orthodoxy to communion with Rome.”

    But the greatest reason we need Archbishop Hilarion is what the author thinks is a critique of the God-protected Archbishop, but actually is the greatest argument for his Christ-centered, Apostolic witness. The author cites Archbishop Hilarion’s statement that in the 21st Century we “have to see the patristic heritage more comprehensively.” The author then does an about face and say’s Archbishop Hilarion’s view is an “idealistic view of patristic thought and its relevance to modernity and current issues.” The author’s very citation of a statement on this issue written by Archbishop Hilarion is a total refutation of the authors own thesis, critique and argument. It is rather proof of the relevance of the Church Fathers to the modern world and to the future and thus the need for Archbishop Hilarion and other faithful bishops and priests to travel way beyond Italy, but worldwide:

    “…the confession of “patristic faith” not only implies the study of patristic writings and the attempt to bring the legacy of the fathers to life, but also the belief that our era is no less patristic than any other. The “golden age” inaugurated by Christ, the apostles and the early fathers endures in the works of the church fathers of our days.” Thank God for giving us such arch-pastors.

    My reflection working in the ministry of psycho-theology, is this and similar secularist and post-modernist articles produce (borrowing C.S. Lewis’ title)the effect of Abolition of the Church by their promulgation from the position of the authority of a prestigious Orthodox seminary and journal. Those institutions that call themselves Orthodox seminaries and journals should be supporting a God-graced modern father, like Archbishop Hilarion.

    In the service of the Risen Christ, Archpriest George Morelli, Ph.D., Chairman Dept. of Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.

  3. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Harry, I met Met. Hilarion two years ago. In fact, I was able to spend about half an hour with him alone (I drove him somewhere) and met a focused, mature, intelligent and stable man. He is not the type of “bachelor bishop” we see all too often here in the US with its attendant problems.

    The reason I posted the report was because it reaches into the vision first mentioned by Pope John Paul II and affirmed by Pope Benedict as well as some Orthodox culture watchers that the restoration of European culture would require that Europeans return to their Christian roots. This movement would emerge out of Russia, largely through the purification of the Russian Church through the suffering of Communism. That may be happening.

    Second, Moscow’s increasing prominence on the world stage renders irrelevant Constantinople’s claim to leadership; a claim based on a sublimation of the Gospel to ethnicity under the rubric of the universality of Hellenism. Moscow has challenged Constantinople’s assertions formally (see: A Letter To The Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning The Situation Of The Diaspora) but follows it up with action too. These people really mean what they say. The trip to Italy is one example.

    Fr. Morelli’s point (following yours) references an article in the new St. Vladimir’s Quarterly. I haven’t read it yet. Watch Met. Hilarion. We are seeing leaders emerge without the character problems that has afflicted the American Church.

    • Fr. Hans,

      Regarding the suggestion of Russia having more merit than the EP in a contest over ‘claims to leadership’. I suggest to you the proper attitude is to reject as an ‘Orthodox category mistake’ the entire notion that ‘the world’ needs this or that national church — or historical remnant thereof — to be some manner of king or vicar over the rest. The miracle of Orthodoxy seen so amazingly these last 200 years and so often overlooked is that with NO SUCH PERSON / NATIONAL GROUP nevertheless the worship has remained the same– no matter the language no matter the country. We see in the lesson of Rome/Vatican they cling to all-never-married administrative power, deny and enable horrific clergy misdoing while worhsip has become, well, let’s just call it ‘widely variable’. We see the usual variability in the Protestant forms.

      The Russian church appears to have its hands quite full with Russia, what with being tossed out en-block by its own people less than 100 years ago there is a limit to pretensions as to world-whatever, much as the EP has demonstrated its inability to warm the hearts of Turkish nationals.

      Regarding ‘actual hero bishops’– we need more of them. But never doubt that when it comes time to vote in synods they are either complicit or a minority benefiting from what amounts to an never-married kleptarchy instead of a hoped for Orthodox episcopacy otherwise we would not see what we see. Seriously, a news release having to do with what amounts to an all Italy ‘listening tour’? Italians interested in Orthodoxy in a form more than a one day ‘unity under the Pope’ press release are they?

      Regarding your assertion of ‘the purification of the Russian church through the suffering of Communism’. While there is no doubt as to the church and Russian people’s horrific suffering in the 1900s, there is reason to doubt whether the purification has occured as the leadership of the Russian church appears to be repeating its support and being a captive cheering section for the strong-man style in government, over against the people. In short the church leadership there appears to sound supportive echoes of the autocratic government practiced by the Tsar that led the Russian people to reject not only the Tsar but to identify the church as merely an extension of the Tsar and so reject the church also for so many years. As if, somehow, the leadership of the church seeks to exchange support for strong-men in exchange for protection from, well, who? Its own people? This instead of identifying with their own people and from that unity guiding the government’s decisions toward the internal growth and peace generally desired. Heirachy rewards only loyalty, while evangelism and growth requires meritocracy.

      Fr. George, I read your doubts about Christ and St. Paul travelleing the Holy Land could be termed a ‘way cool-o’ vacation junket-trip. I don’t notice any suggestion of that kind in the foregoing, unless somehow you equate a contemporary bishop visiting the Vatican and other Italian resort destinations to Christ and St. Paul’s missionary activity.

      To both of you and all, So many of us want to believe that this or that bishop or monk is ‘the real deal’ after a short meeting or watching them in a service. Because we all have such a need to know that it is possible and that it can be done. We have been so conditioned to be always on guard against speaking ill absent high confidence about the facts and maybe not even then. I recall so many surveys over the decades where people grade the US Congress or their own local legislature and too I think church leadership group poorly, but they think well of ‘their guy there’ who ‘fights against’ the problems. Who wants to think that the guy who buried Mom or baptised baby or married the daughter turned out to totally live other than services suggest, being excellent at what amounted to ‘performance art’ ‘acting as if’ episodes. — I argue we have to be every bit as vigilant with our endorsements as with our concerns. ‘Oh, I was in a service with him and he’s wonderful!! ‘ Then the photos with the gay massuer come out.

      If we want Orthodox to exist going forward all we need is to uphold the basics of local money staying local with local/regional bishops able and who in fact do police their own ranks, and only a ‘first among equals’ bishop tasked beyond synod membership with giving voice on the national stage to events of the day. Getting involved in the entire concept of ‘leading world Orthodoxy’ beyond actual collabortive synodal decisions is to me-too the Vatican. And as we see, the more we try to be like them the less people we see and the more our glowing press releases diverge from the number of cars in the parking lot.

      Seriously, a press release about an upcoming trip?

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Harry, the press release is just an indicator, not the proof of my assertion. And yes, while I agree Orthodoxy needs no Vicar of Christ or any other ecclesiological category that replicates medieval royalty, the ROC’s grappling with Church and culture in just the last decade is clearly head and shoulders above what any other Orthodox Patriachate has produced in the last 100 years.

    Now it’s true that Orthodoxy has some problems with substituting institutional loyalty with meritocracy. That problem (it lends itself to authoritarianism) seems particularly acute in America actually, moreso in some jurisdictions than others. And it is probably also true that the Russian Church may tend towards the authoritarian model much more than we Americans (rightfully I think) could ever countenance. We’ll have to wait and see.

    But I’m grateful that the ROC seems refreshingly free of politically correct biases that infect what otherwise should be clear proclamations with hesitancy and equivocation on our side of the globe. (I can’t see Pat. Kyrill ever exhorting the Christians of Europe to support global warming and other social fads for example.) There is some gutsiness there, some courage, that serves as a good example to us. Virtue is a good thing wherever you find it.

    But, like you, I agree that all politics is local. What the hometown priest does has great importance. That’s why good priests need to supported. I agree with your implicit assumption that centralizing authority leads to the corruption endemic to authoritarian structures, and fosters great instability among the priests that filters down into the local parish. Leaders then, must express leadership through the clarity of their teaching and not by their ability to summarily remove priests without cause or the other abuses of unaccountable authority we have seen. Bishops need to have areas small enough to reasonably manage and you should be able to expect that your call will be returned in a day or two.

    • Michael Bauman :

      Fr. Hans, perhaps the ROC’s version of political correctness just looks different from ours?

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        No I don’t think so although I think you might be saying that perhaps Moscow’s accommodation to culture might be different than ours, a point I don’t know the answer to either way. As for the secular shibboleths (abortion, homosexual marriage, women priests, etc.), Moscow has been clear as a bell.

        • Michael Bauman :

          I agree Father, however, there are more subtle tempations, perhaps, that we don’t face–certainly different ones. Perhaps their temptation is to go overboard in the authoritarian direction while ours is to see too much democracy?

          The question of cultural adaptation vs cultural surrender is difficult. The cultures to which the Church has adapted in the past were still hierachical and traditional. Our culture is neither. As Scott pointed out, the Church’s fundamental approach to self-government is at odds with the Enlightenment/secular ideal of wide participation and involvement.

          Since we have imbibed the ideal of ‘self-government’ to mean the freedom and necessity for the widest possible input from the governed, it is difficult to adapt to a genuine hierarchical organism,even more so if the hierarchy is obiviously deficient and/or too authoritarian. Don’t you think?

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

            Maybe, but I tend to view this question in more dynamic terms than you or Scott do. IOW, I don’t think a perfect “system” exists. It’s a lot like daily life, things take constant maintenance and a little cheating here and there usually means a ticket down the road and maybe even a car wreck eventually.

            Having said that, I’ll take democracy over an authoritarian system any day since I see freedom as one of God’s greatest gifts to us, although of course I see freedom in terms of the freedom to be faithful and not the freedom to be licentious. Granted, our culture is in a tailspin because of moral confusion, but so was Communist Russia where almost every dimension of life was controlled. Further, monarchies might have a patina of the ideal to them, but what happens when you get Ivan the Terrible?

            And I don’t buy the idea that democracy is incompatible with Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy has no historical experience with democracy. That chapter has yet to be written.

  5. Scott Pennington :


    “The miracle of Orthodoxy seen so amazingly these last 200 years and so often overlooked is that with NO SUCH PERSON / NATIONAL GROUP nevertheless the worship has remained the same– no matter the language no matter the country.”

    This is just simply false. Go into a Russian Orthodox Church and then go into an Old Calendar Greek Church. You will see largely the same worship. No go into a GOARCH parish. Culture shock. Worship has changed dramatically.

    “While there is no doubt as to the church and Russian people’s horrific suffering in the 1900s, there is reason to doubt whether the purification has occured as the leadership of the Russian church appears to be repeating its support and being a captive cheering section for the strong-man style in government, over against the people. In short the church leadership there appears to sound supportive echoes of the autocratic government practiced by the Tsar that led the Russian people to reject not only the Tsar but to identify the church as merely an extension of the Tsar and so reject the church also for so many years.”

    You misunderstand what’s happening in Russia because your vision is distorted by two things, the Soviet period and American political values. The NYT recently reported on anti-government demonstrations in several Russian cities, the largest being at Kaliningrad. Even this demonstration was only a few thousand people total (you will see some reports of 10,000, the demonstrators expected about 50,000, the most dispassionate reports say it was more like 3-4000). If the best that any opposition can do is a few thousand people in the Westernmost most Westernized city in Russia, they’re not all that impressive. Putin still has high approval ratings (depending on who you believe, the state says 73%, “independent” sources [i.e., the opposition] say 49%, which is still better than Obama and much better than Bush) and the ROC is one of the most trusted institutions in the country (admittedly, a country where very few institutions are trusted). This is largely thanks to Pat. Kirill.

    Autocracy is the normal way of doing business in the Orthodox world throughout Orthodox history. Pat. Kirill is not a lapdog of the goverment. There is, however, a tradition of symphony between the church and government. Pat. Kirill and Met. Hilarion have been quite frank in calling Stalin a monster and setting out Orthodox principles of human rights. It’s just that anyone with a shred of honesty would be embarrased to make the claim that democracy is an Orthodox value. It is not.

    Unless you show me the great Orthodox tradition of democratic government then you ought to admit that autocracy is more in keeping with Orthodoxy than democracy. Heck, the councils assume there will be an emperor. It’s built into the structure of the church’s conception of its own workings. All attempts to rationalize this are just motivated by a love of “Enlightenment” political ideals which post-date Orthodoxy by many, many centuries. Democracy is, however, a value held by American conservatives. But that is irrelevant.

    One thing I do agree with you on though, Harry: If you see the Buddha walking down the road, kill him immediately. Hero worship is mostly just unwise adoration before a fall.

  6. Scott Pennington :


    Church in Russia can’t become a state institution – Metropolitan Hilarion

    Moscow, April 21, Interfax – Head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk doesn’t believe the Church in Russia will become governmental.

    “Such threat (of Church governmentalisation – IF) doesn’t exist today,” Metropolitan Hilarion said at his meeting with Orthodox youth of Caucasus in Moscow.

    He reminded that the Russian Church didn’t place priority on any political party or political power and stick to the principle of “equal distance”.

    “The Church can’t interfere in politics and back up any political party against other or identify itself with any political power,” the Metropolitan said.

    According to him, this principle is reflected in the Basis of the Social Concept adopted at the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000. Besides, non-participation of the Church in political activities should be accompanied with non-interference of the state in church affairs, the Moscow Patriarchate official believes.

    • Fr. Hans, I understand your perspective better now, there is no doubt the hard subjects in personal daily life are getting a great deal more fair and straightforward attention there. I hope you uinderstand this idea of announcing expensive trips as if they were accomplishments still chafes me.

      I can see why people like what Met. Hilarion has said. It would mean more coming from the Patriarch. Reminds me of the rousing cheers and donations and membership Met. Philip inspired until the talk became inconvienient. ‘Ma baddi’ I think was the phrase, then it was people resigning etc. and so on. We Orthodox appear to take betrayal rather better than perhaps we should if we want to grow beyond the ethnic ghetto.

      Therefore even when senior church officials say these things we have to wonder whether it is more ‘donor/support bait for the bubbas’ or in the polite language ‘in retrospect those remarks were aspirational in character’.

      Consider this Forbes article:

      …The installation of Kirill I as the new patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church last month will not end the subordination of the church to the Putin regime. On the contrary, the church is likely to emerge as an even stronger supporter of dictatorship and anti-Western ideology. …

      Anyhow, Fr. Hans, thanks for the clarifications.


      Regarding your remarks about how ‘different’ you find the services between whatever group of Orthodox parishes you mention. While naturally there are cultural differences and those ‘culture shock’ differences are not a bad thin as the point is conveying Orthodoxy using the local culture’s modes of understanding, the services are very nearly identical when the local cultural pressures are considered. For example compared to any other church’s manner of worship, the differences among any Orthodox experience vanishingly relatively small. Now there are people who blow a gasket because they can’t get over pussywillows instead of palms or can’t get over getting a bit of bread instead of a little wine after communion or how high up the back of the head the robe collars go or where this one stands when he reads that and so on, or whether this should be read today or 13 days closer to how the Pope does it. These can’t be compared to things like wholesale changes to the Creed, clowns performing during services, etc.

      I of course appreciate your various assessments as to the limited nature of my vision. Would that you continue this manner of thinking to recognize that any heirarchy is limited by the vision of its leadership and dragged down by destructive underlings it protects in authority in exchange for loyalty. Historical facts can be overlooked by those who do not fear that which followed, give that a thought when thinking about the realities of church choices leading up to the rejection of the church and the expulsion of the Tsar. Give thought to how much the church leadership sought protection and propped up the dictator and so was totally rejected by the populace and for so many years. Give thought to the fact that were it not for American Democracy Russia would be Soviet right now and there would be no comments of Met. Hilarion to go cheer on about. Decide you must whether it is the mission of the church to conform itself to the mode of government known in Cesear’s day and what Christ had to say about that— Is it going to be Synod/Sobornost or Ceasar?

      Notice those who find themselves in positions of great authority on the basis they never were attracted to women to begin with and can’t believe their luck have difficulty connecting with the other 98% of the world and so as the whole ‘evangelism’ thing goes as poorly as getting the rain to stay inside the clouds. They seek protection from heirarchy as they do have the ability to be loyal in exchange for personal security — and the church does not grow.

      You notice no great Orthodox Tradition in democratic government– that is because in the era of democratic government the present mode of Orthodox leadership can’t survive– the democratic government won’t pay them in exchange for their political support. So the leadership has to attract from among the people and you can see how well that’s worked out. The people see and read how the leadership conducts their lives and how they wish to lead because of the authority of their office and not because their office reflects the mode in which they live their lives. Are we a church that recognizes what is there by offices and titles — or do we think because of conferring offices and titles we create and insert capabilities?

      • Scott Pennington :


        I have no idea what you’re talking about.

        “Historical facts can be overlooked by those who do not fear that which followed, give that a thought when thinking about the realities of church choices leading up to the rejection of the church and the expulsion of the Tsar.”

        As to tsarism being responsible for the Revolution, why Nicholas II as opposed to all the other tsars? Why was there no revolution in Constantinople under the Byzantines? If autocracy naturally leads to communist revolution than your list of examples isn’t that long. Also, by the way, the tsar was not expelled, he was executed. And the church was not rejected, it was suppressed. And a considerable percentage of the population remained Orthodox as best they could. Considerably more than ever joined the communist party.

        “You notice no great Orthodox Tradition in democratic government– that is because in the era of democratic government the present mode of Orthodox leadership can’t survive . . .”

        The seem to be surviving and prospering in Russia. I don’t see the current leadership of GOARCH missing too many meals. Or the Antiochians.

        “Give thought to the fact that were it not for American Democracy Russia would be Soviet right now and there would be no comments of Met. Hilarion to go cheer on about.”

        American democracy did not bring down the Soviet Union. It was American militarism together with the decentralization scheme cooked up by Mikhail Gorbachev. It could rightly be said, however, that American capitalism had much to do with the demise of the Soviet Union. But I have said not a word against capitalism.

        As to your initial point about the differences in the services, if you walk into a ROCOR or Serbian or Old Calendar Greek parish, you see what Orthodoxy was like before the 20th century, like it was 100, 200 500 or 1000 years ago.

        “While naturally there are cultural differences and those ‘culture shock’ differences are not a bad thin as the point is conveying Orthodoxy using the local culture’s modes of understanding, the services are very nearly identical when the local cultural pressures are considered.”

        It’s not about local accomodations. That’s the lie that the hierarchs and priests have told the faithful regarding these things. They are simply bad habits learned from RC’s, Protestants and secular liberals. If you go into a GOARCH or AOCNA parish, you will see pews which inhibit or prevent true Orthodox worship, women dressed in a way that would embarrass prostitutes 50 years ago, abbreviated services, organs, etc. We need not argue about this. Anyone can see it with their own eyes if they choose to look. Perhaps you have never seen the difference but it is far from “nearly identical”. It is so different that the two ways of practicing create completely different auras in the sancutary.

  7. Geo Michalopulos :

    From a historical perspective, it was Peter the Great –who was enamored of the West–who reduced the ROC to a mere department of state. One of the ironies of the fall of Bolshevism is that the ROC isn’t simply content to revert to a status quo pre-1918, but the status quo pre Peter. This shows to me at least that they’re serious about what an authenitic Christian witness entails.

    Harry, regarding you point about the “never married kleptarchy,” you are correct. However, even here we see the ministry of +Hilarion in a new (and better) light in that he and +Kirill are willing to remain firm in their convictions that the autocratic model is not valid. Just the fact that they are willing to repudiate Stalin is proof that these men are not nationalists or toadies of the state. (Stalin remains popular to this day in Russia.)

    What this means, to my eye at least is that the ROC has taken a cold, hard look at the state of the Phanariote-dominated churches, and the uber-nationalists ones (e.g. Romania), and doesn’t like what it sees. We Greeks for example are clearly not operating in good faith because unlike the ROC, we still marinade ourselves in the glories of Byzantium and all its high-handedness.

    Basically, if there’s going to be a hope that Holy Synods will have to integrate the laity in some way, then it can only come about if we completely repudiate phanariotism and its autocratic, dhimmi-inspired models. Only the ROC has the clout at present to do this. But I agree, we need to repudiate it at least here in North America. I believe +Jonah has shown us the way in some of his writings. Sorry for the ramble.

    • George,

      We Greeks must not allow ourselves to be overcome by the dhimmi, we have what it takes. If Russia can intercede to allow us freedom from foreign kleptarchy what an amazing thing that would be. Looking at how the various Russian groups here in the states have done, apparently with leadership that routinely took bags of cash to Russia and I think the word used at is ‘raped’ the church here, I think we better look a lot harder at our own bootstraps than be like a bunch of old ladies waiting for someone to put a coat down so we can walk across the muddy puddle.

      — And never apologize to me about rambling. I’m so guilty the apology just makes me feel worse.

  8. Geo Michalopulos :

    Harry, if I may use your insights to go a little off-tangent: the trips of +Hilarion and +Kirill’s apparent “conquest” of Africa took me a little aback as well. At first I thought, “doesn’t this fly in the face of Chambesy?” Wasn’t Chambesy supposed to “freeze” things in place where they were in the so-called Diaspora? So what’s going on?

    It seems to me that patriarchal universalism is alive and well in all the old world patriarchates. So why do I find myself cheering on the ROC? Am I being a hypocrite? Because maybe the Russians really mean it? I mean, I know that it’s ridiculous on the face of it to set up Russian-speaking churches in Africa. But you know? I bet that when all is said and done that these same churches will be ministering to the natives in their own languages. That’s something that we Greeks and Lebanese have not done in Africa or South America.

    I wouldn’t be supprised if the ROC not only liturgizes in the native tongues, but educates native priests and even starts setting up medical clinics, etc. Anyway, that’s the vibe I’m picking up here. What do you think?

    sorry for the ramble.

  9. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I think it depends George under what Patriarch the Russian priests serve. I would have no trouble with Russian speaking parishes in American cities to serve an immigrant population as long as those Churches were under an American administration.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Fr, agreed. I’ve written incessantly about the need for territorial dioceses whose borders are sacrosanct. Within them, I see no reason why ethnic ministries catering to immigrant parishes can’t function. I’m still being somewhat hypocritical here in that I wish for such a paradigm to operate in North America but I’ll cut +Kirill slack in Africa.

      How to square this circle? Maybe because the Alexandrian patriarchate is almost as moribund as the Phanar? Nature abhors a vacuum and the ROC is filling it up. Plus, the ROC has a much better track record for evangelism than the Phanar-dominated ones. Even better than Antioch for that matter. The Evangelical Orthodox reception by Damascus was an outlier –the exception that proves the rule (I know, Antioch/Damascus is not Phanar-dominated–but they’re still heavily dhimmi-fied.

      What do you think?

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        Can’t say George. I don’t know enough about Alexandria to offer a reasonable opinion. If it’s anything like the Jerusalem Patriarchate however, where Constantinople has a stranglehold on who occupies the office, then, yes, I can’t imagine anything creative happening in Alexandria either. Is that the case in Alexandria?

  10. cynthia curran :

    Well, with autocratics the good and bad are magnified. Many in the west, are familar with Hitler, Stalin, and Mao in the last century and that is one reason for the dislike of autocratics. You can have christian autocratics or atheists or in the case of Hitler a strange religous belief or a eugenics belief in human progress. Personality, I think our current president tends more toward the autocratic side at least Putin is more honest about it. And take Byzantine emperors, many did things in the extreme whether good or bad. Justinian passed the Roman Law Code to both western and eastern europe and commission the building of the third Hagia Sophia which was a much better church than the previous two. But the Nika riot, led to the death of maybe 30,000 people.

  11. Scott Pennington :

    The reason I’m sympathetic to autocracies, apart from the fact that Orthodoxy and autocracy have gone hand in hand, is that, as cynthia pointed out above, there are good autocrats and bad autocrats.

    Now, show me a good democracy. Not measured in terms of economics or worldly power, but measured in terms of public morality as guarded by the legal regime in place.

    You won’t find one. They all – – I repeat all – – degenerate into an orgy of the passions. It’s intrinsic to the concept of democracy.

    So, in the end, the only real chance you have for a relatively moral society is with autocracy (and even that is hit or miss).

    • Given a broadly literate populace, and so many with even more education there can be no doubt that such a group would faire worse under any form of autocracy than forms where educated voices can make more decisions because in autocracy the success of the group is limited to the extent of the vision/understanding of the autocrat.

      When the only person in town that could read was the priest, the school teacher and the mayor, when half the women were dead before 21 and half the men at 26 and only 1/3 made it past 30… well, autocrats didn’t last too long either.

      • Scott Pennington :


        Well, perhaps you’re a prophet. Maybe the Phanar, GOARCH, OCA, etc. are about to collapse because of the educated masses. Wake me when this happens.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Scott, don’t be too sanguine about Orthodoxy’s future in America. If the people are excluded from the life of the Church (and that means administration as well), then I can easily predict more attrition. What happened to the great dioceses of Carthage, Hippo, Ephesus, etc? The legalization of Christianity was a great thing, but the subsidization of it by the Roman state was a curse. It took the ordinary people eventually out of the mix.

          If you will allow me to go a little off-tangent here and bloviate, it seems to me that if the people of God want a church, they should have to pay for it by tithing, not by food-festivals that place us at the mercy of heterodox and/or non-believers. Once we get that in our heads, then we will see churches being built everywhere and men who are serious about pursuing the spiritual life inundating the priesthood. Our bishops will likewise be more steadfast in the Faith and not allow themselves to be bullied by wealthy elites.

  12. Michael Bauman :

    John Adams once remarked that for the American form of govenment to suceed, the poeple would have to be truly self-governing, i.e, guarding their hearts against the temptations, and that Christianity was the only way in which that could be accomplished. Of course, he was talking about the particular brand of Protestantism that predominated in New England. That had a strong history of autocracy.

    Don’t quite know how we square the two. Maybe that all government is subject to passions. Autocracy gives us the chance to not be responsible and externalize the discipline required to maintain a life of virtue. Democracy seems to demand that we not be virtuous.

    • Scott Pennington :

      No doubt all government is subject to the passions. But an autocracy, or oligarchy, etc. can be somewhat circumspect with regard to society at large and exercise their passions in their private lives. In a democracy, the feet get a vote as to whether to hike, the hands get a vote as to whether to work, the eyes get a vote as to whether to read, etc. All judging from their own limited perspectives and none concerned particularly with the good of the whole (as defined by what? many different codes) until it’s too late.

      I think it really is analogous to the body. A body must be controlled by a mind and spirit. If the mind and spirit are healthy, they will be thoughtful as to the situation of the various members. If they are not, they will abuse the body. But if the mind and spirit are not in control, if it is only a consensus or majoritarian poll of the body parts, then the person/state has a degenerative nervous disorder like MD or Parkinson’s.

      If it were possible to fundamentally chain a representative government to Christian morality, it might work. But that would be a difficult Constitution to draft.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        Scott, if the eyes want to look at bad stuff, they are going to look at bad stuff no matter who is in charge. You are arguing I think that in a democratic/capitalist (in general terms) culture, it’s just a whole lot easier to find the bad stuff. That’s true but I doubt controlling it from the top will make people virtuous in any meaningful way although it might slow the rate of cultural decline. (Not arguing for, or defending, the moral abuses in American culture here, BTW.)

        Virtue begins within. Culture merely reflects what is within us. Of course, when interior visions collide, you have a culture war. But monarchies and autocracies have collapsed too for the very same reasons.

        • Scott Pennington :

          Fr. Johannes,

          “You are arguing I think that in a democratic/capitalist (in general terms) culture, it’s just a whole lot easier to find the bad stuff.”

          Not exactly. First of all, I never use democratic/capitalist. I have a high opinion of the latter and a low opinion of the former. It is quite possible to have a market oriented (private property holding) non-democratic society.

          What I am saying is that human vice is a relative constant. You find it throughout empires, democracies and socialist republics. The advantage to more autocratic forms of government is that, if they have a Christian base, they will legislate morality and form public cultural mores that reinforce Christian cultural values among the admittedly very flawed and fallible public.

          But in a democracy, the voice of the people is the voice of God. They will legislate their own sense of morality, redefining it to suit whatever the aggregate of their passions dictate, and thus actively wage war on Christianity. What I am also saying is that this is a defining characteristic of democracy, not a controllable side effect.

          Or, to put it more bluntly, democracy is by definition intrinsically evil. The morality of an autocracy/oligarchy depends on the structure of the government and the will of the autocrat/oligarchs.

          ” . . . I doubt controlling it from the top will make people virtuous in any meaningful way although it might slow the rate of cultural decline.”

          I disagree. People do not make objective choices regarding morality. They live in an environment that shapes their internal sense of the range of right and wrong. In a society where people are educated/indoctrinated that Christian virtue is virtue, they will be much more likely to hold that belief through life. Especially if that sense of virtue is reinforced at every turn by the government and the culture (which would not be allowed to sink into
          depravity). Much more can be done from the top than you might imagine.

          One other thing. It was not a happy conclusion for me to come to. The idea that “the people” cannot govern themselves with any modicum of decency is a deeply sobering thought. It just happens to be true and the longer we deny it the more decadent the culture will get and the more carnage (of the unborn) and general suffering (due to the generally anti-pious nature of the culture) will result.

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

            Moral corruption will doom any society. The problem I have with your prescription is that there is no real golden age of autocracy either. Democracy, especially American Democracy, has probably been one the greatest agents for good in the world despite its flaws. It’s one reason why all the great refugee movements in the last century all headed toward America for example.

            But, like Adams said, democracy can only stand if its people are virtuous. This is why those who hate democracy (and the freedom it allows) seek to silence the voice of Christianity within it. Of course, the new autocracy won’t be the autocracy of old. It can’t be. It will probably be subjugation to Islam given that no one can bear the cross of secularism for any appreciable length of time.

            But don’t be so certain in your pessimism. The hardships that are coming might bring many of the wayward back to God.

          • Scott Pennington :

            “The problem I have with your prescription is that there is no real golden age of autocracy either.”

            I never suggested that there ever was a golden age of autocracy. I simply stated that modern democracies all redefine morality to mean something other than what Christianity holds. It’s not about perfection or about a golden age. It’s about the light going out in the govenment and the manifest consequences of that.

            “Democracy, especially American Democracy, has probably been one the greatest agents for good in the world despite its flaws. It’s one reason why all the great refugee movements in the last century all headed toward America for example.”

            If you’re talking about universal sufferage, you’re wrong. There were many restrictions on who could and who could not vote up until the end of Jim Crow. Poll taxes, literacy tests, etc. Originally, you had to own a certain amount of land to vote.

            Now, America has been commercially, economically great. No argument here. But it is because of capitalism, not democracy. People will flock to any country or imperial capital where they think they can make a better living than their old home. “Gee, I’ll go to America because I get to drop a ballot in a box so that my voice is 1/100,000,000 of the decision to elect X.” Not too inspiring? How about, “Gee, I’ll take my family and go to America because they say money is growing on trees it’s so easy to make a living.” Sounds better?

            Morally, the more democratic the government has gotten, the less moral the society has become.

            This is one major disconnect that Christians who believe in the American way should really be forced to face. In places like Iraq and Afghanistan – – really anyplace where American ideas of representative government are being spread – – we should all consider the results if this spread of “the disease of democracy” is successful: Women will be raised to equality of authority within the family, will increasingly work outside the home and, consequently, there will be a dramatic increase in the divorce rate. Moreover, in educating women about “reproductive rights” the rate of abortion will increase dramatically. Traditional ideas of modesty will wither away and there will be an increase in promiscuity, birth control and the sexualization of the youth. It will happen because it happened here. That is the gospel of democracy which the United States preaches throughout the world, and it is a false Gospel.

            “But don’t be so certain in your pessimism.”

            I am fairly certain, but I’m not pessimistic at all. God will deal with all things in His good time. In the meantime, if you manage to get born and you’re not too concerned with the stability of marriage, America’s not a bad place to live and make a living. Little storms come and go. I began posting on this thread because someone was taking Russia to task for not being democratic enough. I just thought I’d point out that democracy is quite problematic in itself.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Michael, one reason that we are probably no longer a republic is that as John Adams and others said, republics can only be sustained by a moral and religious people. We are no longer that people because we don’t suffer economically for our sins anymore. Think of Welfare, AFDC, Medicaid, Ryan White monies for AIDS sufferers, etc.

      Wo what will we become? An autocracy, because only an autocrat can restrain the rampant evil that is attendant in a licentious population. This should give those of us who praise autocracy as somehow more Orthodox pause for concern.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        You are on to something here George. I am beginning to think that one catalyst to our decline was the accumulation of massive public debt. It erodes the relationship between value and work, and that too erodes the social boundaries that used to contain private passions. Infuse capital into an economy that is not related in any real way to a real increase in productivity, and the increased standard of living that infusion allows is actually an illusion as the real value of working gets distorted. It is, in some way I am only beginning to understand, profoundly dehumanizing.

        I am not sure where I am going with this (I’m no economist) but this has been occupying my mind for the last several months, especially as I see our debt rise into the trillions of dollars. Maybe someone else who understands this better than I do can expand on it.

        The correspondence between decisions and the costs of those decisions has been terribly distorted ISTM. The financial cost is one cost, but an important one. (Economic principles are like physics ISTM — you can cheat it but in the end it wins.) We’ve (our culture) has lost any reasonable sense of the real costs/consequences of our decisions.

  13. Scott Pennington :


    “This should give those of us who praise autocracy as somehow more Orthodox pause for concern.”

    As Odysseus said in the movie Troy, “It is no insult to say that a dead man is dead.”

    Autocracy has been the usual form of government in Orthodox countries. We needn’t argue about that.

    Another form has been tried since the “Enlightenment” based on representation of the people. It has failed each and every place it has been tried to even maintain a legal system which judges actions by Christian standards. It may well descend into chaos and autocracy as a result.

    In light of all of the above, “It is no insult to say that ‘the people’ aren’t capable of governing themselves when ‘the people’, in fact, are not capable of governing themselves.” It’s just a dispassionate observation.

  14. Michael Bauman :

    There a thousands of reasons we are no longer a repbulic, but one of the clearest ones is the expansion of the sufferage to allow those with no economic statke in the governing of the country, state, county or muncipality to vote.

    I wonder with the NT emphasis on the individual worth of each person, Jesus elevation of women to the status of full person, etc, etc. how well autocracy actually fits with Christianity. Perhaps we’ve adopted it because it is easier and fit with the all of the govenments in which the faith originally flourished. A conciliarity is not autocracy, at least not in my understanding.

  15. George Michalopulos :

    Scott, the reason Orthodoxy is in such a decrepit state at present is precisely because the people of God abrogated their rights to citizenship in both the political as well as religious sphere. Autocracy filled the vacuum that laymen all too happily surrendered to the worldly potentates who took it upon themselves to subsidize the Church and its ministries. What’s particular depressing is that a GOA priest recently took me to task for emphasizing tithing. I really don’t want to go into any more details but the resulting exchange wasn’t pleasant. Basically, he represents a view that says that “whatever people will give, we’ll take,” and “hey, what’s wrong with food festivals?”

    It’s not all doom and gloom however. One reason I’m somewhat elated about the ROC hierarchs boldly going forward on the world stage is because they are brave enough to call a spade a spade: They are not toadies of the Russian government nor tsarist nostalgists (or apologists for Stalin). To my shame as an Hellene, the prophetic witness is simply lost in the Greek-speaking churches which still –to this day–act in a servile manner in the presence of secular potentates.

    There’s no need for this. The Church needs to inculcate virtue in its people. Tithing is part of a person’s penitential giving. Among its many benefits is that it makes a person a better steward of his resources. Such a people are more than capable of republican self-rule.

  16. Scott Pennington :

    “. . . the reason Orthodoxy is in such a decrepit state at present is precisely because the people of God abrogated their rights to citizenship in both the political as well as religious sphere.”

    Again, this is simply not true. You have a wildly exagerated sense of “the people’s” appreciation of piety and morality. In the end, they will be led by some vanguard because most people are not leaders. That’s why they are described as analagous to “sheep” and their leaders “shepherds”. OCL is not “the people”. It is a small clique who presume to speak for the people or some cross-section thereof.

    But if you show me language about, “rights to citizenship” in the Fathers or in the New Testament, perhaps we can debate the point.

    I know I’m not going to convince you all of the obvious. Americanism has had too great an effect on your perception of right and wrong. You seek to read modern democratic notions into Scripture or Tradition where they really aren’t present.

    Failing to be good participating citizens in the Republic of Christ is not what has caused the moral decline in modern society. Far from it. A failure of the leadership to draw a bright line between the Church and the values of the culture, together with a failure to enforce these differences through eucharistic discipline, that is what has caused the Church’s morality to decline with the society’s – – and that has nothing to do with anything other than the abject failure of the bishops to act as bishops.

    “The Church needs to inculcate virtue in its people.”

    Agreed. But laity have no authority over one another and a priest’s authority is only as good as the backing of his bishop and that bishop’s synod and metropolitan. Discipline is a thing to be enforced, not suggested. The problem is that in a democratic society, this sounds draconian and “undemocratic”. It is. And it’s the only thing that works. And if you don’t believe me, take a look around you and then look at the New Testament provisions as to how to handle Christians who stray from the faith and morality of the Church. You give a few warnings and if they don’t repent they are excommunicated and relegated to the status of persona non grata until they repent.

    That . . . is . . . Christianity.

    Kumbaya . . . is . . . not.

    “I wonder with the NT emphasis on the individual worth of each person, Jesus elevation of women to the status of full person, etc, etc. how well autocracy actually fits with Christianity.”

    The fact that each individual has worth as a person has nothing to do with whether a collection of such individuals is capable of self government. I have no idea what ” . . . the elevation of women to the status of full person” means. It sounds like a concept and categories that arose in the 20th century. If you really believe that Christ or Christianity liberated women to be equals in authority to men, you should google, “Church Fathers Women” and see what they have to say. Or are we the Church of the Fathers?

    Christ is a King. “Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and the Son . . . “. “Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth . . .”, etc. He called 12 Apostles and gave them the authority to bind and loose. Sounds pretty authoritarian and not too democratic to me. The democratic idea just wasn’t there.

    Don’t wonder. Autocracy, or authoritarianism, is the assumed form of government in heaven and on earth. To suggest otherwise is really no more plausible than the Protestant idea the Christianity was somehow lost in the age of Ignatius or Constantine and miraculously rediscovered in the 16th century.

    • Scott,

      12 apostles with the authority to bind and loose sounds like a synod, not an autocracy. If he gave Peter that authority and all the others got it through him, that would be ‘auto’ i.e. ‘oneself’ rule/cracy.

      • Scott Pennington :


        Tell me, did the 12 spend all their time together in synod, moving around like a flock?

        My point was that it is not a democracy. Apostles, and their successors the bishops, have the power to bind and loose, not each layman. Whether the government is an autocracy or some other authoritarian entity, my point is that democracy doesn’t work. Michael was suggesting that autocracy might not fit with Christianity. Setting aside for a moment the facts of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Russian Empire, etc., I was pointing out that even the Church government was far from democratic. And, in fact, within his own diocese, a bishop is a type of autocrat. He has a divine right to rule within his diocese. He answers to his brother bishops in synod, to be sure. However, the basic model of the Church is the bishop, surrounded by his flock (i.e., the sheep), celebrating the Eucharist.

        By the way, Harry, please forgive my abruptness in the way I express myself. I’m an attorney and I tend to speak or write in a way that is a bit more direct than normal pleasant conversation when I’m trying to make a point. Unfortunately there is no way to convey the tone of what I’m saying in writing and so, depending on your sensibilities, it may come across as much less friendly than it is meant to be. I don’t mean to belittle anyone, it’s just that in my line of work rhetorical points go a long way and it’s a force of habit.

        • Scott, I think it’s time you gave up on the notion of autocracy since there was no ‘autocrat’ among the apostles, neither among the bishops nor the priests nor indeed any with the authority to bind-and-loose. That they do not deliberate over every decision is not to say they don’t deliberate since they do get together and only are supposed to make decisions they vote for. There neither is nor was one of them able to ‘make decisions of himself, for the church’.

          Of key relevance dooming the autocratic notion is that the bishops can cause any among them to no longer have that rank. If one of them were an ‘autocrat’ that wouldn’t be possible if he didn’t want to be fired.

          As you mention your profession you might enjoy considering whether the concept of ‘promise’ or ‘rules’ have meaning in a heirarchical setting when offered to those of inferior position in the heirarchy. If a person in a more senior position chooses to ignore, walk-back, deny, change, redefine or otherwise waffle on a promise there is no remedy in a heirarchy. Note that the church has many rules that apply to the most senior bishops in a synod and as such no ‘autocrat’ exists as the synod may remove any member for violations noted in a rather thick canonical rulebook.

          Of particular interest is that historicaly the united voice of the people trumped even what purported to be an ecumenical council’s decision, rejecting I think the phrase was ‘the pope’s tiara’. Clearly not a democracy in the 50% + 1 sense but not ‘autocracy’ or really any other ‘cracy’ category practiced historically.

          • Scott Pennington :


            I don’t think you’ve really bothered to read what I’ve written on this. Autocracy or authoritarian rule is the type of rule I’ve suggested has been historically identified with Orthodox societies. That’s not a controversial statement at all. I have never once suggested that there was an autocrat among the Apostles. That is a Roman Catholic notion. If by bringing up conciliarity in the Church you are somehow trying to disprove the notion that authoritarian state rule is somehow at odds with Orthodox teaching, I think you’re mistaken. The canons assume an emperor.

            What I have said is that bishops, in their dioceses, are very much like autocrats. Even rulers normally identified as autocrats like the Russian tsars did not have truly absolute power.

            As far as an putatively ecumenical council not surviving the test of reception, it is true that this has happened. But it is also true that the only way we know that the council is not ecumenical is if the bishops convene a subsequent council to declare so.

            As far as my profession and rules, contracts, etc. made or kept with those of different social castes in an authoritarian society: Those are the same problems that Orthodox societies have had from the very beginning and they managed to produce several great empires. It is often quite difficult to get contracts enforced or compensation made in our society too. You may not know this, but unless the government passes a statute that says you’re allowed to sue it, or agrees to let you do so, you can’t.

            No, Harry, I don’t think I’ll give up on the notion of authoritarian rule just yet. Given the low and declining moral state of democracies, I think it’s imperative to find a better way.

            In any case, if I have come across as too blunt, snarky or abrasive with anyone in this conversation (which I have enjoyed) I apologize. And I will try to let that be my last word on it.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Harry, I completely agree with you. The dioceses of an American Orthodox Church should be as compact and as respectful of political/municipal boundaries as possible. And yeah, 45-50 is a good age for a bishop, especially if they’re empty nesters.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Harry, I don’t disagree with you at all. But replacing unmarried “celibate” bishops with career-driven married men is not the answer. The first thing that has to happen is the severing of administrative ties with foreign overlords. Then and only then will we be a local church with a real holy synod that looks at the local situation and applies the canons to the situation at hand. I’ll say it again: I’ve got no problem with married bishops it’s just that I’m not naive to believe that this is a panacea. I look at the Episcopal Church with its myriad married bishops and I see even worse problems (at least doctrinally).

          • George, Panacea? I said somewhere ordaining empty-nester (meaning actual fathers) as bishops was going to be a panacea? Anyhow the counter example you mention does not limit the episcopacy to proven empty nester clergy. That’s important because much of what could go wrong would have by that time. Seriously I’d even put an age requirement of 50 on it to avoid ‘childless’ being confused with ’empty nester’.

            After all we have all heard of infamous cases of gay clergy married to women ‘in name only’ then off they go having relations of various sorts.

            Anyhow if you look at our entire church from a management standpoint it’s smaller than any of our large corporations, and somehow the people who manage those get the job done without being never married. If the bishops were local/regional they could plenty well do the job once the kids were in college. I’m talking about ‘The Diocese of Dallas’ ‘The diocese of Evanston and Northewestern Illinois’ ‘The diocese of Indianapolis and Southern Indiana’ ‘The Metropolis of Los Angeles’. ‘The Diocese of Southern California’, etc.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Scott, perhaps I overstated the case regarding the peoples’ appreciation of piety and morality. I’m not naive about people, the majority anyway. Nor am I against proper leadership by moral, pious, and holy men. I honestly believe though that had we had those kind of men leading us then our churches would be full of people responding to this right kind of servant-leadership. No, they wouldn’t be the majority of the people, after all, wide is the path to destruction. But Orthodoxy would be more than the measly 1% that it is in America at present.

      Think of it, if we were 5% of the population and that 5% regularly attended church and gave sacrificially, the US would be full of Orthodox hospitals, orphanages, and schools.

      • George, we _do_ give sacrificially. As we are called not just to be stewards but good stewards, the project becomes to give where the giving is seen to do more than support the lifestyles of distant narthex nesting glory hounds who, though never married, pay themselves more than ‘their’ married priests who have families to support. They also go on very nice trips to visit one another.

        So the great many highly successfull Orthodox give to those organizations that are proud to report how much good they have done with every dollar they get.

        Look at all the CEO’s and other high executives in the Fortune 500– many are Orthodox. Until the church leadership is ready to demonstrate productivity with donated funds, the big money is donated elsewhere.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Harry, I couldn’t agree with you more. The reason most people do not tithe is because they don’t think that we have “real” bishops. Your characterization of them is a stereortype but it’s one that’s inculcated in ethnic Orthodox by generations of observation.

          My critique is that until it becomes obvious that we are all Americans and that we have an American patriarch and that we have dozens, scores, or even hundreds of dioceses, with bishops immediate to the people, then we’ll just plod along as before.

          What’s bothersome is that it’s not just the peeople who don’t see this (in the main) but the episcopate as well. As I witnessed when one of their best and brightest thought I was a “fundamentalist” who believed in the Old Testament because I brought up tithing.

          Why is tithing important? Because then the Church won’t be dependent upon the the super-rich.

          • George, one of the bigger puzzles from a Christian standpoint is why is it the church expects the people to donate the 10% to IT, and not as the people might deem wise? Now that the state taxes and provides human services (in democracies and not the autocracies some on this board appear to prefer) I think more than 10% of our earning already goes to providing the sort of support envisioned in the gospel. Food stamps, unemployment, doctors and medicines at any ER no matter rich or poor, and so on and on.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Harry, that’s kind of my point. The state has absolutely no business providing charity to the people. Education, charity, welfare, hospitalization, etc. are the province of the Church. The state’s job is to provide security, sound money, justice, and treat with foreign governments. That’s it.

            This idea of course is pie-in-the-sky at present. Since we live in societies that already do these things, then it makes no sense for us to tithe from the top (our gross income). However, we should tithe from the remainder. Let’s say that Bob makes $50,000 a year. His tax bite (state, federal, FICA) is $17,000. That means his take-home pay is 50K-17K= $33K. Instead of him tithing 10% of his gross ($5K) his tithe will be 10% of $3.3K ($3,300). That’s still significant. It’s much better than the $100 “dues” that he pays to St Joe of Kokomo Ruritanian Orthodox Church. (The same dues that Dr Igor Czozs who makes $150K pays.)

            Let’s stay with this analogy, St Joe’s has 100 members, all of whom pay $100 each. this raises $10,000 annually. It costs $130K to operate that parish. The Ruritanian food-festival raises another $90K. Various funding drives make up the other $30K. If everybody “tithed” (gross less take-home) and the median income in Kokomo is $53,000, then we can extrapolate that the median take-home is $35,000. This means that the 100 members would be each tithing $3,500. $3,500 x 100 = $350,000. Ergo, no food-festival. Ergo, ministries like a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, etc.

            The reason that this is pie-in-the-sky at present is because we simply don’t trust our bishops to do the right thing at the national level. This is endemic in the ethnic jurisdictions, where the average parishioner feels like a colonist trying to lay low from the gaze of the foreign satrap. Even in the OCA, which is a local church unbeholden to Ruritania, Bulbania, and Slobovia, the previous two metropolitans made a total hash of things. However, things seem to be looking up.

            Anyway, what do you think?

          • George, the biggest obstacle I see is that the leadership of the Orthodox and Vatican church appears to be legally incapable of making a promise that can be depended upon by those in the church.

            We have seen the high leadership of the church forcing a great deal of money from the parishes, for years, an in exchange providing no new faces, no materials, only opportunities for further giving. Also they return scandal. We see leadership arranging bags of cash on airplaines overseas, dumping entire constitutions when it comes time to investigate dubious favored parish financial activities, ‘bishops’ putting ‘priests’ in charge of seminary who later get dumped when the photos with the gay massuer ‘come out’, who cover up and enable teen-boy sexual misdoing. Even such high lay leadership as we do have deem it wise to protect their church related charitable giving by putting it into a separate fund they manage– and history has proven them correct so to do.

            I’m sure that all those who gave generously when they thought their church was ‘self governing’ are wondering whether their donations will be refunded now that such PR turned out to be inconvenient.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Harry, I do give your point. You paint a vivid picture of corruption, non-accountability, finger-pointing and buck-passing. It’s a true enough picture and under conditions such as these, there is no way that more money (let alone growth) is going to be raised for the work of the Church.

          My point is how can this situation be rectified? Is there another paradigm? I believe there is and it includes the complete severing of administrative ties to the Old World (among other things). This may be naive, but there’s no way that I see colonial eparchies growing, save for massive immigration to these shores. And even then, it’s just a stop-gap for further attrition.

          • George, I suggest the ‘other paradigm’ you mention can be found in the Gospel — you’d think a church with ‘Orthodox’ in the title ought not be averse to it. Bishops ‘husband of but one wife’ ‘chosen from among you’. It doesn’t say ‘choose from only those among you who never were caught as groom in a marraige ceremony’.

            The only way forward is to have local and at most half-day-drive regional leadership that can police its own ranks and is accountable with money. Once people really care about local growth are in place they’ll do the right thing other areas.

            When money’s tight people are going to start really looking at where it goes and if the answer isn’t really really good it won’t be coming in any more.

  17. Michael Bauman :

    Scott, I think the trouble I’m having is with the word autocracy which, as Harry points out, means rule by oneself. That is not the same thing as is found in the Church. I agree that democracy is not compatible with the Church. The Church is a body, but when the body is in health the head is always listening to the rest of the body always taking into consideration the input from all over.

    In fact, the authority of the bishops seems to be conditional on their alignment with the Holy Spirit, but perhaps I’m wrong.

    • Scott Pennington :

      I’m not married to the idea of autocracy narrowly defined. I just don’t believe democracy works. In other places I’ve mentioned oligarchy, monarchy or authoritarian, etc. An autocrat is a type of absolute ruler, like the tsar was in Russia. To generalize, “Christian-Authoritarian” might be a better term to describe a government led by one or more persons (but not “the people” or their elected representatives) which is tied to the Church in some way. I’m not too picky about what kind of Christian-Authoritarianism might be the most preferable.

      No doubt the authority of bishops depends on their “alignment” with the Holy Spirit. Last time you talked to the Holy Spirit, what did He tell you? I don’t mean to be snarky but there has to be some intelligible expression of the Holy Spirit in order for accountability to the Spirit to have any discernable meaning or effect. This intelligible expression would be the synod.

      The authority of the Tsar-Batyushka (Emperor-Father) in the Russian Empire was considered imperial and God-given but he was not considered to be able to change Orthodox doctrine.

      A bishop, in his diocese, seems to me to be very much like an autocrat. He can be deposed from without, but not really from within. His authority is God given. The clergy or people under him can rebel, but unless this rebellion is affirmed by a synod, it is illicit.

      A creative person could come up with a number of ideas of how to organize a government based on something other than the ephemeral desires of a selfish population. It may be time for Christians to start thinking along these lines. Especially given the fact that Western style democracies seem, one and all, at varying degrees of velocity, to be self destructing – – morally, for certain, but also economically. And, go figure, the economic decay can be traced to the moral decay.

  18. Michael Bauman :

    The self-destructiveness and licentiousness of western democracies and the impotence of Christianity to effect change is one of the compelling attractions (to many) of Islam. Historically it was one of the initial attractions of National Socialism (Mussolini really did make the trains run on time).

    The Holy Spirit is expressed in terms of Holy Tradition, which is usually interpreted by synods, but there have been times when it was necessary for the laity to let the folks know they need to wake up.

    The recent situation in Alaska is a case in point as well as the OCA as a whole perhaps. Folks in the Antiochian archdiocese are not exactly happy yet, but we seem to be back to the status quo (wait until Met. Philip dies) which has been in vogue since before I became Orthodox 23 years ago.

    I’d be interested in how to approach the rather common situation in which a monied, worldly oligarchy of lay donors is the acutal power?

    There is a difference between authorty and power; direction and control.
    As anyone who has every participated in a sport or art of any kind knows, much of the physical displine and training is designed to get the body to act and react without much conscious control or thought. The more the mind has to consciously instruct the body what to do, the less well it is done.

    • Michael, regarding how ‘the present visible moral decay’ troubles you: I wonder what you think of the view of the church’s policy of permitting three marriages?

      Now consider three marriages when less than 1 in 3 lived to be older than 30 years old when those rules were made.

      Three marriages and before 30! Oh Tempora! O Mores!

      • Michael Bauman :

        From Fr. Patrick Viscuso’s book: Sexuality, Marrige and Celibacy in Byzantine Law: The Alphabetical collection of Matthew Blastares

        Gregory the Great, who is surnamed the Theologian stated, ‘The first marriage is legal, the second is a concession, the third is a transgression of laws and one beyond this, the life of a swine which does not even have many examples of evil’

  19. Michael Bauman :

    Harry, for personal reasons, I’ve been investigating the limitation on the number of marriages. It really has little to do with life expectancy, although I’d be interested to know from where you get your figures as they seem short to me.

    St. Gregory of Nanziansus was of the opinion that any more than one marriage was a major problem. The three actually comes from Roman civil law that pre-dated the Church’s official cannon. The 4th marriage dispute with the Emperor Leo was a dispute because it was one more spat between east and west. The Patriarch of Constantiople was again’ it in part because the Pope was for it. Although the limit had been common practice for centuries. The statement that officially settled the matter making no more than 3 the canonical standard was publish as the Tome of Union in A.D. 920. Indicating the split that had occured between east and west was healed (sort of).

    Within the Church I have no problem with the limitation as marriage is an ontological reality reflecting the hypostatic union of our Lord with His people. Each marriage takes its toll and leaves scar tissue that is not easily healed even if divorce is not a part of it.

    The problem with the limit in today’s culture is when the standard is applied to those married outside the Church especially in civil marriages. Civil marriages are nothing more that property contracts. When the cannons are applied to those outside the Church, they punish those who marry, but not well to a greater extent than those who sleep around all over the place, but then repent. Strange I think, 3 failures in ‘marriage’ becomes the unforgiveable sin.

    The cannonical requirement for a marriage to be complete is: 1. The freely given intent by a man and a woman to marry; 2) a contrct or bethrothal; 3) the sacredotal blessing of the Church–the word to seal the union and bring the marriage into the community.

    Marriages outside the Church often don’t have the three and, as with baptism, even when they do may suffer from insufficiency.

    Personally I’d like it to be the agreed position that no marriages outside the Church count. So when someone is received into the Church and given proper instruction and there is repentance, they would start new in Christ. There are other options, but none of them make a lot of sense to me.

    Of course the Chruch needs to do a far better job of teaching the reality of marriage and forming us to live it.

    Ultimately, I have to ask, “What is your problem with celibacy?”

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