CONCERNING THAT CHURCH CLOSURE IN THE UKRAINE…
Many of you spotted and shared this story, so many in fact, that I have to comment about it, which was, I suppose, the motivation behind so many of you passing it along to me. And I suspect that what caught the attention of many of you was what caught my attention. So, my thanks to all of you for bringing it to my attention, and with that, into the story we go:
Now, the story is clear enough: the Mayor of Kiev has ordered the closure of parishes that are part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, that jurisdiction which maintains its jurisdictional and sacramental ties to the Patriarchate of Moscow, and therefore, with the Russian Orthodox Church. The move, as the article notes, follows a similar seizure earlier of the famous Monastery of the Caves, a monastery closely and historically linked to the founding of Orthodoxy in all the Russian lands, and therefore of symbolic importance to Ukrainian, Byelo-Russian, and Russian Orthodox alike, and indeed, to the wider world of Eastern Orthodoxy:
Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko on Friday ordered the closure of 74 churches belonging to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), citing its alleged “direct ties” to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Klitschko’s decree is similar to that used to seize the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, or Monastery of the Caves, which Ukrainian police stormed last month. The world-famous holy site, which is nearly 1,000 years old, was handed over to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, a rival organization set up by the government in 2018.
The Lavra is technically state property but the church administered it under a 2013 agreement, which Kiev declared null and void earlier this year, claiming that the UOC violated it by having ties to “enemy nation” Russia. Ukrainian courts rejected the UOC’s appeals.
Now on the surface, this may seem a very minor thing in a church that is not centrally organized like the Roman Catholic Church along the lines of the papacy. Within Eastern Orthodoxy it has always been the standard that a regional church has its own hierarchical and jurisdictional autonomy. Even in the days of the Roman Empire, and particularly in the Eastern portion of the Empire, the ancient bishoprics or Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Byzantium/Constantinople, were all jurisdictionally separate from each other: what Antioch said regarding matters within its jurisdiction had no force in churches subject to Jerusalem, and vice versa. What united these churches was not authority and jurisdiction but rather the content and practice of faith. It was union and communion in substance and not merely formal obedience to a particular hierarch (though that enters the picture too). So under such conceptions, it would seem that the transference of Churches from one jurisdiction (Moscow) to another (Kiev) that are still all but identical in faith and practice should be a very small thing.
This is where it gets complicated. The article hints at the underlying nature of a far-reaching problem when it points out that the reasons for the Ukraine's moves in this respect are the jurisdictional ties of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to Moscow. The implicit and unstated assumption is that the Ukrainian church, because of this tie, can presumably act as a source of intelligence to Moscow, and of internal dissention to Kiev. Such political machinations have dogged the churches - East and West - throughout their existence. But in this case there is meat on the bones, because of a little-known incident within Church history known as the "Sergian Compromise," and about which I've written and blogged before: in the mid-1930s, with the threat from Nazi Germany growing and with it, the very real possibility of another World War that would inevitably involve Soviet Russia, Stalin, in order to secure his regime and solidify the nation, had to strike a deal with the otherwise Communist-hated-and-despised Russian Orthodox Church, which, up to that point, it had been trying (unsuccessfully) to stamp out. As such, he struck a "deal" with the locum tenens of the Patriarchate of Moscow (i.e., with the bishop charged with administration of the affairs of the church until a new Patriarch of Moscow could be elected), one Metropolitan Sergius. (For those unfamiliar with the term Metropolitan, this is an ancient term for the bishop of a major metropolitan city - hence the term - who would be more or less analogous to a Roman Catholic or Anglican Archbishop or Cardinal Archbishop). In return for the Church's pledge not to criticize the regime, Stalin would allow the church to reopen a limited number of seminaries to train clergy, provided the Church also allow said clergy to be recruited into the state security services, and spy on and report any subversive activities among other clergy or the laity. In this arrangement, Stalin basically returned the Russian church to a similar arrangement that occurred under Tsar Peter the Great and the so-called synodal system. The only concrete and major difference being that Stalin would allow the Church to elect a new Patriarch of Moscow, which it did. Effectively, this meant that all Patriarchs of Moscow from Sergius' time forward to now, have some association or link with the state's security services. This became particularly clear during the Soviet collapse, when the current Patriarch, Kiril III, then a Metropolitan, personally initiated the Church's post-Soviet phase of close relationship to Russia's nuclear forces and arsenal. In some respects, it may even be said that were it not for the Church's intervention during that perilous period, the state's control and maintenance of those forces might have dangerously deteriorated. That Russia remains a major thermonuclear power with a very advanced arsenal has as much to do with Kirill as it has to do with Msrs. Putin, Shoigu, Medvedev, or Lavrov.
So the Ukraine does have, at least from purely political bases, for its moves, howsoever repellant those moves may be at a deeper level, and they certainly are repellant when the logic is examined: if one wants to close churches (or for that matter, synagogues or mosques or Hindu or Buddhist temples) because of their ties to foreign cultures and states, then pretty much no one is safe from such closures and seizures, ever. Nor are such moves ever really undertaken from positions of strength. More often than not, they create the very conditions they're designed to inhibit or destroy, in this case, church undergrounds acting to preserve faith and institutions and - most importantly - contacts and networks, free of state interference. That too, is a very old story, one going back to the very earliest days of Christianity. It will be no more successful for the modern Neros of the Ukrainian government now than it was for the Neros of ancient times.
But beyond this, there is yet another deep story that must not be forgotten, and it is suggested by the very next paragraph in the article:
The newly sequestered sites may be handed over to the OCU or the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is in communion with Rome, or could even be demolished as “illegal objects” given the government’s annulment of lease and use contracts. (Emphasis added)
The OCU is that Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdiction which I blogged about and even talked about some time ago, which was granted "autocephaly" by the Patriarchate of Constantinople - over the strong objections of the Patriarchate of Moscow - a couple of years ago. It is worth noting that in recent decades the Patriarchate of Constantinople has promulgated claims for itself that can only be qualified as "neo-papal", and additionally, it should also be noted that its current occupant, Bartholomeios, was educated in Rome at Roman Catholic institutions, and that not only does the Patriarchate of Constantinople receive funding from the Vatican, there have also been strong rumors going back decades that it also gets funding from the British and American intelligence services (in the case of the British, this being in the form of donations from various Anglican jurisdictions).
So the bottom line here is that neither Constantinople, nor its sponsored Ukrainian Church, nor the Ukrainian government, are independent actors either. And as far as Rome's involvement go, the Orthodox - both Ukrainian and Russian - know that story well: just bow the knee, kiss the red slippers and the Pope's ring, and all will be forgiven... It is, again, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, once again another chapter in the endless war against the Eastern churches, and the refusal of the West to see that it, and not the East, is the problem. This war, in short, is Charlemagne's version of imperial orthodoxy, and the attempted shotgun wedding with the Empress Irene, all over again... The Russian article hints at this by suggesting that the Ukrainian move may be presaging an attempt to place all Ukrainian churches under the unia, i.e., in communion - forced or otherwise - with the Papacy. That may or may not be true, it may or may not be Russian propaganda, or an actual "move quietly afoot."
But either way, all that's needed now is another Pope Leo III to mess things up... and the West doesn't even understand him with anything even approximately close to accuracy... And if you are wondering what that is all about, I would urge the reader to get my "tome" from Lulu called God, History, and Dialectic, and to read and thoroughly understand the second volume in particular, because otherwise, you, like Victoria Nuland and the idiots in the Swamp, will not have a clue about what is going on, and why every western effort in the Ukraine is met with failure.... because for the Orthodox, this is existential.
See you on the flip side...
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