|The following article was published in The Orthodox Christian Witness on March 8, 1982. It was written in response to articles in The Orthodox Word which began to develop an increasingly ambiguous assessment of the Moscow Patriarchate, compared to the earlier positions taken by that periodical. This was in no small part due to the advent of Perestroika, Glasnost, and the statements of the Moscow Patriarchal priest, Fr. Dimitry Dudko. Given the current controversy over the Moscow Patriarchate within Russian ecclesiastical circles, the documentation presented herein should prove useful in this discussion. Thank You.|
The Apostasy and Fall of the Soviet Patriarchate
by Fr. Nikifor
O holy Tikhon our Patriarch! May thy voice be heard even now: O brethren, archpastors and pastors, summon your children to the defense of the Orthodox church! And may they that destroy the churches of God hearken to the fiery discourse: Even though ye may call yourselves Christians, we anathematize you by the authority given us by God! O dread and everlasting excommunication! Behold an anathema lifted by no one! Behold the boldness of the Patriarch!"
IN RECENT EDITORIALS, the periodical Orthodox Word has twice referred to the 1929 Epistles of St. Cyril, Metropolitan of Kazan, using them in order to form a position concerning the Soviet Patriarchate and one of its clergymen (D. Dudko, presently serving in a parish in a Moscow suburb). In the most recent issue, May-June of 1981 (no. 98), the editorial states: ‘Perhaps the best statement on this whole question [i.e. , whether the Soviet Church has fallen away and is without grace] comes from a leading Catacomb hierarch of the 1920s and ‘30s, now to be canonized as a New Martyr, Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan' (p. 126). Of course, the editors have every right to express their personal opinions concerning the schism of Sergius in 1927 and the present-day Soviet Church; but because they further imply that their opinion is that of the True Orthodox Church (i.e. , the Catacomb Church), both then and now, and likewise of our Russian Church Outside of Russia, let us consider various other epistles written by the same martyred hierarch. It will also be very helpful to mention briefly certain epistles of other of the New Hieromartyrs and Confessors as well, for we will thereby gain a broader and more balanced perspective of the situation arising from the Declaration of 1927 issued by Metropolitan Sergius. It will be seen, indeed, that Metropolitan Cyril held a unique theological position for the time and for the few years that followed, cutting himself off from communion with Sergius, yet not taking as bold and zealous a stand as St. Joseph of Petrograd and others. In considering these epistles and their implication for us today vis-à-vis the Soviet Church and its clergy, two fundamental points should be borne in mind. First, as St. Cyril himself said in his First Epistle (Orthodox Word, July-August, 1977), he was only speaking for himself personally; and second, the element of time must be considered, that is, the five years between the two epistles of 1929 and the fifth (and last) of 1934, and also the half-century between St. Cyril’s epistles concerning Sergius and his "Synod" and the present-day "Moscow Patriarchate." As St. Joseph of Petrograd wrote in 1928,"it turned out that ecclesiastical life does not stand at the freezing point" (Orthodox Word, January-February, 1971).
In reviewing the five epistles of St. Cyril which were printed in the Orthodox Word (July-August, 1977), one is able to trace the development of the holy Hierarch’s thought concerning what later evolved into the "Soviet Patriarchate" which confronts Orthodox believers today. When considering these epistles of St. Cyril, it is important to keep in mind certain facts, which reveal the scope of the Metropolitan’s understanding of Sergius and his organization.
As he wrote in Epistle Four, Metropolitan Cyril understood Sergianism "not as concerning the teaching, which She (i.e. , the Church) holds, but as concerning administration." To use the Saint’s epistles to form an apology either for the Soviet Patriarchate or individuals within it, is to ignore the entire later course of events and teachings of the Soviet Church. What began in 1927 as an administrative irregularity (in Metropolitan Cyril’s estimation), has evolved into what Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal has correctly called a "corrupt and uncanonical organism." St. Cyril makes it clear in the First Epistle that he is speaking "for me personally. . ." and further, in the same sentence, he calls his thoughts a "feeling out" of his "canonical foundation." Although he criticized Sergius’ use of the canons in a "dialectical-bookish" way, as a senior hierarch, which a sound Orthodox mind he knew full well that his and the other bishops’ actions must have canonical foundation. His concern, to use his own words (Epistle Three) was for actions that would be a "guarantee of our Orthodox way of life." His epistles deal at length with administrative matters and, in Epistle Five, he observed that Sergius was directing his efforts toward establish a Patriarchate (Metropolitan Cyril saw it as collegiate, which it remained for many years, until Stalin ordered the "election" of Sergius as patriarch). He does not himself presume to judge "this undertaking of Metropolitan Sergius. . . until a lawful council by its sentence shall utter the judgment of the Holy Spirit concerning him." The editorials in Orthodox Word likewise repeatedly appeal to such a council to judge sometime in the future, after the fall of communism in Russia. But if we consider the November-December issue of the Orthodox Word of 1971, we see there a report about "The Triennial Sobor (Council) of the entire Russian Church Outside of Russia which met in Montreal in September of 1971." Certainly every faithful son of our Church Abroad will confess that the Holy Spirit was there present among our Bishops. Now in the first, decision, "Concerning the election of a Patriarch" we read:
If, then, as our bishops decreed in 1971, the election of Pimen and his two predecessors "is acknowledged as unlawful and invalid and all his acts and decrees as having no authority whatever," by what authority (save that of the atheist government) does he perform rites and Mysteries? From whence, if his predecessors were likewise unlawful, did his ordination as bishop and priest derive its grace? Do we believe as do the *episcopi vagantes*, that grace flows magically through anyone who can prove "Apostolic Succession"? Regarding his very point, in his book *The Canonical and Legal Position of the Moscow Patriarchate*, Bishop Gregory of Washington and Florida (the Protopresbyter George Grabbe) describes the Soviet Patriarchate as being a "legal fiction." Further, he writes, "it can be clearly perceived that the Moscow Patriarchate and its Synod are nothing but a fiction and a vast bluff" (p. 54).
As we mentioned above, if one reads the epistles of Metropolitan Cyril in their historical sequence, one can trace the development of the Saint’s thought from 1929, when he saw his non-communion with Sergius as a personal matter and one of administrative order, to this statements in the 1934 Epistle where he describes Sergius’ administration as being "akin to Renovationism" and states further that he "cannot acknowledge" it as "coming by right of succession from His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon."
Even though, in what he admits is his own personal opinion, Metropolitan Cyril could speak of "correctly ordained" clergy within the Sergianist church and of the efficacy of their mysteries for those who approached them in simplicity and ignorance, and who did "not suspect that anything was incorrect in the Sergianist order of the Church" in his Fifth Epistle, the Saint goes on to say very unambiguously that the Sergianist mysteries nevertheless
Serve for judgment and condemnation for the very performers of them and for those who approach them well understanding the untruth that exists in Sergianism, and by their lack for opposition to it reveal a criminal indifference towards the mocking of the Church. This is why it is essential for an Orthodox bishop or priest to refrain from Communion with Sergianists in prayer. The same thing is essential for laymen who have a conscious attitude to all the details of church life.
In this epistle, the Holy Metropolitan says very much that is relevant for the statements made and the conclusions drawn in the editorial in the latest issue of the Orthodox Word. First of all, let us recall that nearly fifty years have passed from the time this epistle was written to the Decision of the bishops of our Church Abroad in 1971. As the Decision of our Church Abroad pointed out, because - in violation of the Holy Canons - the bishops of the Soviet Church are government appointees, if not outright agents, and the elections of their three patriarchs (since 1943) are declared invalid, how are we able today to consider the clergy of these latter-day Sergianist "correctly ordained"? Likewise, after sixty-five years, and considering the present state of the Soviet Church, can anyone—even the simplest of believers—in the Soviet Union "not suspect anything incorrect in the Sergianist order of the Church"? The countless protests, both to the Soviet Patriarchate itself and to those outside the Soviet Union bear abundant testimony that the members of that Patriarchate are fully aware of its gross subservience and Renovationism.
Here we must emphasize what Metropolitan Cyril himself constantly stressed in his own letters: In regard to the efficacy of the mysteries of the Sergianists he was only speaking what he himself constantly stressed in his own letters: In regard to the efficacy of the mysteries of the Sergianists he was only speaking what he himself felt personally, and by this be admitted that, though as a pastor he was trying to cope with the problem, his own personal approach was not the approach of the Church, or of the consensus of the other confessing hierarchs to this particular question; and indeed, he was the first to admit his "slowness" and "excessive caution" in this matter. Furthermore, he saw that things were swiftly changing for the worse all the time. And finally, when he became convinced that the Sergianists were no longer the true Church of Christ, he severed all ties with them and actively threw his support tot he Catacomb Church. Thus, in his last epistle the Saint wrote that the Sergianist mysteries serve as judgement and condemnation for the clergy of the Soviet Church and those who, though knowing its "incorrectness", nevertheless do not separate themselves from it. If this was true fifty years ago, it is far more true today when the betrayal of Sergianism has become more and more manifest, and the Soviet Church has added its apostasy with every passing year. From a canonical point of view, of course, one is not justified in cutting off communion with his hierarch or his priest just because they are guilty of some personal sin. Only the heretical Donatists held the view that one’s personal sins impede the efficacy of the holy mysteries. The holy canons, on the other hand, permit one to sever communion with one’s bishop only if it be demonstrated that the bishop is guilty of heresy. This is the Church’s understanding of this whole issue; it is the understanding of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers.
And in fact, it is precisely this patristic understanding, and not just a personal opinion, that prompted the confessing hierarch to take their stand in opposition to the heresy and blasphemy of Sergianism, and it was for this stand that they suffered martyrdom.
The editorial in the latest issue of the Orthodox Word wishes
use merely one part of St. Cyril’s earliest epistle as a "statement
on this whole question." Yet by doing so, the editorial willingly
what the Saint wrote later in Epistle Five, concerning his "slowness"
and "excessive caution" (to use his own words) regarding the
of Sergius and the embryonic Soviet Patriarchate. It ignores as well
obvious change of attitude, eloquently expressed in the above-quoted
This does a grave injustice to the memory of the Holy Confessor, who is
made to appear merely as a mild critic only of Sergius and of the
who were of one mind with Sergius. In the same Epistle Five of February
1934, St. Cyril confesses his uncertainty about future
As the editor of the Epistle writes in the July-August issue of Orthodox
Word of 1977 (p. 185), during the period when Metropolitan Cyril
briefly released from prison, he
At this point, let us now briefly consider the epistles of certain of
other New Hieromartyrs and Confessors of the time so that we might
gain a better and broader understanding of the events of 1927 and the
that followed. We see in Epistle Five (1928) of St. Joseph of Petrograd
(Orthodox Word, January-February, 1971) that he too, at first,
from Sergius because of the latter’s "arbitrariness"; but later,
"it remained for me henceforth to wonder. . . at my own calmness and
patience. . ." and he resolutely vowed:
What could be clearer or stronger than this statement? Here we have not a personal opinion, but the Church’s understanding of this whole question. What St. Joseph of Petrograd has written above is firmly based upon the holy canons and the practice of the Church. What he expresses here is precisely what the 15th canon of the First-Second Council of Constantinople expressed.
Furthermore, in the same epistle of Metropolitan Joseph, whom the
Church Abroad has recently glorified, he declares in most unambiguous
"Metropolitan Sergius has shown himself to be such a schismatic."
Here let us once again recall the factor of time: this epistle was written fifty-four years ago-long before the Soviet Patriarchate had entered into the Ecumenical Movement, daily praying with heretics of every type; before it had synodically decreed that the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches "hold the same teaching concerning the Holy Mysteries and mutually recognize the validity of the Mysteries performed in each" (*Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate*, No. 5, 1970, Russian ed. )
And permitted the mutual reception of sacraments; before a Soviet metropolitan (Nikodim of infamous memory) served in a Uniate church in Rome and later in St. Peter’s itself, and administered communion to papal clerics; before it had become known (as a recently revealed document smuggled out of the Soviet Union has demonstrated) that every bishop of the Soviet Church is first selected and then appointed by the God-fighting regime, while their church goes through a mock election. These are indisputable heretical actions, officially practiced by the Soviet Church by conviction, which cause true Orthodox Christians to shudder at the enormity of the impiety.
We must emphasize here that blasphemy and heresy are what they are
or not a council condemns them. It is not, after all, the decision of a
council that makes blasphemy and heresy worthy of condemnation. Rather,
following in the footsteps of the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers, the
councils openly proclaimed the true Orthodox doctrine, while at the
time demonstrating in what points a blasphemous teaching had deviated
that doctrine. Nevertheless, scores of holy canons from antiquity have
already decreed exactly what our bishops have decreed regarding the
Patriarchate and its blasphemy and heresy in recent years. Our Russian
Synod Abroad has synodically passed judgment on the Soviet
both for its Sergianism and for its adherence to the heresy of
and inter-communion with Roman Catholicism. In the November-December
of the Orthodox Word of 1971, we read the following Decree of
If the 45th Canon of the Holy Apostles excommunicates from the Church an Orthodox bishop or cleric who has ‘only prayed together with heretics, ’ and the 10th Apostolic Canon forbids even prayer together with those who are excommunicated, what can we say about a bishop who dares to offer the Holy Mysteries to them?
However, let us here read further what St. Joseph of Petrograd writes:
But beyond this, the canons themselves could not foresee many things. And can one dispute that *it is even worse and more harmful than any heresy* when one plunges a knife into the Church’s very heart - Her freedom and dignity.
We cannot lightly overlook this testimony of this New Hieromartyr of Christ. St. Joseph was, with Sergius, one of the Substitutes of the *Locum Tenens* and, therefore, spoke with authority. St. Cyril on the other had—as he himself said—spoke only personally at the beginning, although his later actions demonstrate his oneness of mind with St. Joseph.
St. Joseph was not alone in seeing schism and heresy in Sergius’ synod,
which has evolved into the present Soviet Patriarchate. St. Dimitry of
Gdov wrote to the priests of his diocese in 1928:
With love I accept you into communion in prayer with myself and under my archpastoral leadership. . . until such time as Metropolitan Sergius will come to himself and repent of his sins not only against the canonical order of the Church, but also dogmatically against Her person. . . against Her conciliarity. . . against Her apostolicity. . .
And this their fall is not a small one, nor hidden, but very great and evident to all who have the mind (of Christ) (I Cor. 2:16); and it was revealed in the well-known "Declaration" of July 16/29 and in the brazen destruction of the Orthodox Church which has followed upon it.
He calls the members of the organization of Sergius, which would later
become the Soviet Patriarchate, "apostates". At first, St. Victor, like
St. Cyril, saw Sergius’ "Declaration" as a new "principal of
and wrote of this to Sergius himself on 16 December 1927. He continues,
though, to unmask Sergius’ sin, for in the same Epistle (to Sergius) he
This sin, as the Word of God testifies, is not less than any heresy or schism, but is rather incomparably greater, for it plunges a man immediately into the abyss of destruction, according to the Undying Word: Whatsoever shall deny Me before men. . . [Matt. 10:33]
In a letter of 1927 to friends, St. Victor calls Sergianism
a new deceit, through which our enemy the devil wishes to entice away the souls of Christians onto the path of perdition, depriving us of the grace of eternal salvation. And this deceit—woe to us sinners—is much more bitter than the first three: those of the Living Church, the Renovationists and the Gregorians. . . But let everyone know that the latest Declaration of July 16/29 of this year of Metropolitan Sergius is a clear betrayal of the Truth ( John 14:6).
In the same letter he goes on to say: "if it be not so [i.e. , that the Sergianist repent] then let us guard ourselves from communion with them, knowing that communion with those who have fallen away is our own renunciation of Christ the Lord."
So, we see that communion does indeed exist in the Soviet Church. But it is, in the words of the New Hieromartyrs, a communion that is unto condemnation. It is (to use the words of the angel who spoke to St. Martin of Tours) an evil communion.
The editorial in the latest Orthodox Word correctly stated that "the situation of the Church in Russia is without precedent." And truly, it is precisely because of this "unprecedented situation" (which, in the words of St. Joseph of Petrograd, could not be foreseen even by the holy canons) that we are obliged to turn for guidance and understanding in these matters to the holy hierarch and new martyrs of Russia who lived an experienced these unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances. And what is the judgment of the consensus of the holy Hieromartyrs concerning the "unprecedented situation" brought about by Sergianism? It is, in the words of St. Joseph of Petrograd, "worse and more harmful than any heresy."
At the same time that these things were being written and said by the confessing Russian hierarchs within the borders of that martyric country, the hierarchy of the Russian Church Abroad was not silent either. Let us cast a brief glance at what our hierarchs were saying during those same years. Here below we have appended excerpts from three important documents translated from *Zhiznopisaniye Blazhenneishago Mitropolita Antoniya* (Vol. 7):
AN OPEN EPISTLE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE ORTHODOX RUSSIAN SYNOD ABROAD, ANTONY, METROPOLITAN OF KIEV
Nowadays in newspapers everywhere there are printed, and in many churches (which until recently were Orthodox, i.e. abiding by ecclesiastical rules) there are read two epistles of my (alas!) former, beloved students who once held the same opinions as myself. These are Metropolitans Sergius and Evlogius, who have now fallen away from the saving unity of the Church and have bond themselves to the enemies of Christ and of the holy Church: to the abominable, blasphemous Bolsheviks, who have completely submitted themselves to the proponents of the Jewish doctrine that is known by the name of "Communism" or "Materialism." This doctrine preaches implacable hatred for Christ’s Faith and His Church, justifies the cruel murder of all who do not adhere to it, demolishes God’s churches, hurls into prisons and exile God’s hierarchs, priests, monks, nuns, and pious laymen, and it forbids the people under its domain to learn catechism [God’s law], and the printing of the holy Gospel and other Orthodox books. The adherents of this doctrine overthrew and murdered the Orthodox Russian Tsar with his family. . . But let these new deceivers not justify themselves by declaring that they are not the friends of the Bolsheviks and the Jews who stand at the head of the Bolsheviks’ kingdom! In their souls they may not be their friends, but nevertheless they—be it unwillingly—have submitted themselves to these enemies of Christ and they strive to spread the latter’s power not only over the citizens of unfortunate holy Russia, but over all Russian people everywhere. . .
Now if one adds to this consideration [i.e. the passage immediately preceding] the completely definitive declaration of our Synod of Bishops that the Moscow Synod has deprived itself of all authority, since it has entered into agreement with the Atheists, and without offering any resistance it has tolerated the closing and destruction of the holy churches, and the other innumerable crimes of the Soviet government— which has openly renounced all religion and systematically carries on persecution against it—if, I say, this is also taken into consideration, then one must acknowledge that illegally formed organization which has entered into union with God’s enemies, which Metropolitan Sergius calls an Orthodox Synod—but which the best Russian hierarchs, clergy, and laymen have refused to recognize—this organization must not be recognized by our Orthodox Churches, nor by our Synod of Bishops with its flock here abroad. Furthermore, the organizers of the Moscow Synod must be recognized to be exactly the same sort of apostates from the Faith as the ancient *libellatici*, that is, Christians who although they refused to blaspheme openly against Christ and offer sacrifice tot he idols, nevertheless still received from the priests of the idols false documents verifying that they were in complete accord with the adherents of pagan religion. These documents of verification delivered them from the persecution of the government, but they also made them subject to total excommunication from the church. Those among them who repented of this and renounced idolatry were received again only after a number of years, that is, fifteen.
May God, then, deliver you all, O Orthodox Christians, from imitating the ancient *libellatici*, on whom the Church looked as upon real apostates from the Faith of Christ! Let us hold fast to our holy Orthodox Church and not enter into communion in prayer with those who are so poorly grounded in Her, that they express sentiments of loyal submission to Her enemies. And let us pray God and all His Saints that the grace of the Lord would enlighten their minds and their consciences, and that it would inspire both them and all of us with fearless confession of our Orthodox Christian Faith and of the Church; and further that by repentance it would soften the hearts of the unbelieving apostates themselves and the persecutors of Christ’s people, and would cause their souls to burn with faith, so that once again the grace of the holy Church might shine in our land, that which from aforetime enlightened pagans, Jews, and heretics, so that being cleansed by repentance and faith the Russian people might cry out with the ancient prophets, "I shall teach transgressors Thy ways, and the ungodly shall turn back unto Thee."
28 July O. S. 1928. No. 892 +METROPOLITAN ANTONY
THE DECISION OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS CONCERNING METROPOLITAN SERGIUS’ SECOND UKASE
AND THE EPISTLE OF METROPOLITAN EVLOGIUS
5. From Metropolitan Sergius’ present ukase—and even more so from his second epistle of admonition addressed to the flock of the Russian Church, and his epistles to the diocese of Petrograd (17/30 Jan. No. 189) which does not recognize him, and from the letters of the most reverend hierarchs of Russia addressed to Metropolitan Sergius—it is evident that the majority of the episcopate, and the loyal Russian flock of the Orthodox church, does not follow Metropolitan Sergius. For they accuse him of offering the interior freedom of the Church as a sacrifice to political maneuverings and to the Soviet authority, and of repainting himself with Soviet colors. And noting "dissatisfaction and condemnation on the part of many representatives of the Orthodox episcopate, consternation, condemnation, and murmuring among the clergy and in wide circles among the laymen," the bishops demand that the Metropolitan step down from power, and many of the bishops even accuse Metropolitan Sergius of being "outside the enclosure of the Orthodox Church." [Ibid. p. 225]
No one can be a judge of his own case, but we dare to think that by separating ourselves from unity with Metropolitan Sergius—who has given support to the power of the Bolsheviks, despite the fact that they strive to annihilate the Church—we, by this very act, unite ourselves even more closely to our Mother Church, protecting Her God-given freedom and independence, and strengthening the interior unity of Her spirit, which of course, is much more important than the exterior unity of Her organization. No one, especially a bishop, should consider it his moral and canonical duty to follow an ecclesiastical authority that is directed not toward the building up, but toward the destruction of the House of God. . . .
. . . Seeing that almost from the very beginning of his activity as the replacement of the *Locum Tenens* of the patriarchal throne, Metropolitan Sergius set out on the wrong path, it is obvious that he cannot stop now, nor even more so, can he go backwards. And if he will in the future continue to take advantage of the oppressed and demolished state of the Russian hierarchy so as to rule the Church arbitrarily and trample upon its canonical order, striving in everything—even in the Church’s inner affairs to act in full accord with the atheistic Soviet power, then it should not be surprising if the Church’s authority will fall lower and lower, and the Bolsheviks, not seeing any resistance on the part of the hierarchs and the flock, will become so audacious as to demolish even such a great shrine as the Uspenskiy Cathedral in Moscow. . . August 1934
Signed by: Metropolitan Antony, Archbishops Anastassy, Theodore of Kursk, Melety of Harbin, Nestor of Kamchatsk, Tikhon of Western America, Vitaly of North America, Joasaph of Montreal, John of Shanghai, and many others. [Ibid. pp. 363-365]
We have already mentioned our hierarchy’s 1971 Decree condemning the Soviet Patriarchate of heresy for its decision to enter into communion with the Papacy. Again, in a Synodal Decision of 1981, our hierarchs unanimously adopted the following decision:
3. Guarding the purity of Orthodoxy, we can have no communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, which finds itself completely subservient to the atheistic government, even if certain of its ministers think it possible to serve, simultaneously, not only Belial, but Christ as well, the Apostle Paul to the contrary notwithstanding. . .
4. If whereas they inform us that the Faith is awakening again in various strata of the Russian population, then, offering up prayers for the enlightenment and strengthening of those who are joining therein, we nevertheless do not have sufficient facts to form an opinion concerning those who are participating in this process. Nevertheless, we invoked the blessing of God upon those who, undaunted by the persecutions, withdraw from any compromise with the politics of atheism incarnate in the Moscow Patriarchate, which, with all of its acts, we hold to be uncanonical and null and void.
Our bishops of the Russian Church Abroad have repeatedly expressed their oneness of mind and spiritual communion with the New Hieromartyrs whom we have quoted and with the Catacomb Church since the days of the presidency of Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) of blessed memory. They have, by solemnly glorifying these new confessors of the Faith, set them forth as examples and be Heavenly intercessors that the Church on earth glorifies Her members who have gone before and who have been glorified by Our Savior. Our Church Abroad has expressed Her unity with these Saints; She instructs us to turn to them, to learn from them, to emulate them in their zeal and love for God. In so doing, we are able to see clearly that Sergius did in fact fall away from the Church by his notorious Declaration of 16 July 1927 and his later actions. His successors have certainly worsened the schism and compounded the heresy. Only those who are blind, or do not wish to see, cannot look with horror at the lie which is the Soviet Patriarchate. As Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal, one of our senior hierarchs movingly wrote in an encyclical letter to the Clergy and Faithful of his diocese last year: "Remember, beloved brothers and sisters, that the blood of the martyrs who we are about to glorify lies between us and the Moscow Patriarchate." That sea of blood is untraversable for any true Orthodox Christian. We can well understand then why Fr. Michael Azkoul says that, for the Orthodox Christians, the Moscow Patriarchate has ceased to exist, and we can wholeheartedly agree with Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal that that former Patriarchate has become "a corrupt and uncanonical organism", "a fiction and a vast bluff" as Bishop Gregory of Washington calls it.
The recent editorial in the Orthodox Word finds fault with
"who would like the church situation to be. . . 'black or white' ".
In matters of faith and doctrine, however, that is how matters stand:
or white. The church’s confessors and holy hierarchs, from ancient
even to the holy new martyrs of the Soviet yoke, do not speak of a
(or perhaps, in the Soviet context, pink) area of doctrine and truth.
Savior said, "Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay." He did
say, "Let your maybe be maybe." Let us see what St. Mark of Ephesus
to those who seek "a middle ground" between light and darkness,
between black and white, between Christ and Belial:
But if," they say, "we had devised some middle ground (compromise) between dogmas, then thanks to this we would have united with them and accomplished our business superbly, without at all having been forced to say anything except what corresponds to custom and has been handed down (by the Fathers)." This is precisely the means by which many, from of old, have been deceived and persuaded to follow those who have led them off to the steep precipice of impiety; believing that there is some middle ground between two teachings that can reconcile obvious contradictions, they have been exposed to peril. . . .
We cannot presume to have more love or compassion than the holy confessors and martyrs of Our Savior. We understand, however, that when these holy hierarchs spoke out so unequivocally and condemned the lie and blasphemy of Sergianism in no uncertain terms, they were moved by a love that was obviously not merely human, or sentimental or man-pleasing, but rather by one that was divinely-inspired and true, a love that reproved and censured so that those who were in error might be corrected and attain eternal salvation. When these holy confessors under the Soviet yoke warn us that Sergianism is "worse and more harmful than any heresy," we must not dishonor their godly zeal and spiritual achievement by disparaging this Orthodox profession of the truth as though it were a "Western passion for over-logicalness" or "super-correctness."
The editorial of the latest Orthodox Word, seeking to find justification for its ecclesiology in the earliest of St. Cyril’s epistles, would have us believe that it represents the "best statement" on the schism and on the question of grace in the Soviet Patriarchate. But we see in the later actions and writings of this Saint a unity of mind with the other Holy Hieromartyrs and Confessors, which makes quite a different "statement" on this issue. The passage of time has shown the correctness of this statement. We offer the above teachings of these New Saints of the Universal Church to the faithful"lest" in the words of the Third Ecumenical Council, "imperceptibly and little by little, we lose the freedom which Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Liberator of all men, has give us as a free gift by His Own Blood."