Recently, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church issued a decree in support of the Council recently held in Crete. It is clear from the plain text that Bucharest is in favor of the proceedings. Unfortunately, it is equally clear that the Romanian church will brook no opposition.
Ironically, it trots out Christ-like brotherly language and twists it in order to quell dissent. To my mind, this is at best indelicate. You can read the text for yourself here (courtesy, Byzantine, Texas): http://byztex.blogspot.com/2016/12/romanian-church-issues-declaration-on.html
Now, I’m not going to take it upon myself to critique only one or two of its points. I’m sure that its draftsmen were highly educated theologians. I am not. And I concur with their opinion that there should be unity within the Church, especially its doctrine.
But as St Augustine said: “In dubious things, diversity; in essential things, unity; in all things, charity.” What I feel is missing from this encyclical is charity; there is certainly no generosity in spirit. In fact, it’s rather heavy-handed.
I want to comment on that briefly before adding more specific critiques, and what I believe it portends for the future.
Bucharest, for whatever reason, has made its peace with the “primatial way of doing things at an Orthodox council” (for want of a better phrase). Rather than reverting to the time-honored way of “one bishop, one vote,” the Pre-conciliar commissions have saddled Orthodoxy with a clunky “one church, one vote” mechanism not dissimilar to the old Articles of Confederation. To my mind, this was one of the dangers of the Cretan council and one reason I have fought vociferously against its eventual ratification, either presently or by a future council.
Fortunately, Antioch, Bulgaria, Georgia and of course Russia chose to abstain, thereby depriving Crete of its “pan-Orthodox” pretensions. And anyway, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the hidden, modernist agendas burrowed deep in Crete’s recesses.
At this point, I ask that you permit me to offer a critical observation or two regarding some of the verbiage.
First of all, the idea that those who wish to dialogue with other Christian bodies are in favor of a “lucid ecumenism” whereas those who eschew ecumenical dialogue qua dialogue are somehow “retrograde” or “fundamentalist” is incorrect. To those who throw this criticism our way, I respectfully ask: why not engage in “lucid ecumenism” right now in the things that matter? There are more than enough avenues of inter-denominational cooperation pretty much everywhere. Think of the culture of death (which was first promulgated by Pope John Paul II), the destruction of the family, or societal suicide?
No one is stopping you. As an Orthodox Christian in perhaps the most conservative diocese of the OCA, I have witnessed the close cooperation between Christians of all stripes in the pro-life movement. One of the Venerable Dmitri’s (of thrice-blessed memory) last instructions to us as a parish before his retirement was that we should do everything within our power to partner up with other Christian denominations for this very purpose. March, pray, contribute to crisis-pregnancy centers –the list is endless.
I’m sure one could think of other examples in which Christians of all stripes can get together to make their corner of world a little better. I prefer to call this “the ecumenism of the trenches.” Perhaps a little too martial for some, but there you go.
Secondly (and this is the more subtle danger, deriving as it does from the first criticism), I have seen such soothing words used to bring the camel of heresy into the tent of the Church in several of the mainstream denominations on far too many occasions.
I’m old enough to vividly remember how in 1976 the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) first sought to ordain women. First as ordinands (readers, deacons, etc.) then as priestesses. It took another three decades but this same “tolerant” and “inclusive” language was trotted out to ordain open homosexuals. Then women, then homosexuals were elevated to the episcopate.
Now, I’m not foolish enough to believe that the ordination of priestesses and open homosexuals are in the cards as far as the Orthodox churches are concerned. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, it’s not our business model. That doesn’t mean that heterodoxy per se is off the table, or more specifically, Uniatism. I learned a long time ago that when I hear such smooth and soothing words, I usually reach for my wallet to make sure it’s still there. (Poor metaphor but you get the point.)
Publicly, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has chosen to ignore valid criticisms of Crete by looking the other way. Its spokesmen in the West continue to drone on arrogantly about how it is binding on all Orthodox churches, regardless of whether they were there or not. This of course is a sign of weakness. Kind of like going into a negotiation and proclaiming to all parties that you’re already king of the hill. It’s not good, it’s not Christ-like, it’s not practicable and anyway, nobody is going to believe you.
What to do then? Call up any reinforcements you might have. Enter therefore the Romanian Orthodox Church, and hope that that puts everybody back into line. Or at least hope that they can whip their dissenters into shape.
Unfortunately, this won’t work either. Unlike Patriarch Bartholomew’s startling letter to the Archbishop of Greece (which was supposed to be kept secret) the Patriarch of Romania decided to put all his cards on the table from the get-go. As you can see from the letter, he bold-faced certain very harsh passages.
As a negotiating tactic this fails on several fronts: First, it gives away the game in that you are openly telegraphing what is that is important to you. Second, it assumes that the Patriarch has all the cards. This can’t be true as there would be no reason to put out such an encyclical in the first place. (Besides the fact that it flies in the face of Orthodox synodality.) Third, it presumes that there is no validity to opposing points of view. Lastly, it betrays a stunning ignorance of the historical record, that is to say, the Charismatic dialectic that allows the people of God to arrive at the Truth via duly-constituted councils.
This is crucial: unless Bucharest has all its ducks lined up in a row, it risks a humiliating loss at the hands of its own clergy and people and a possible schism.
So why is it doing this? My feeling is that the heavy hand of the EU/NATO is behind this power-play. We saw inklings of this immediately before Crete convened when the Serbian Orthodox Church said that it was not going to attend. Supposedly cooler heads in the government prevailed upon the Serbian delegation and they showed up anyway but only after much foot-dragging. Word on the street was that the Serbian government was leaned upon heavily by NATO to “make it happen” and so the Serbian church went, albeit reluctantly.
Make no mistake: such recalcitrance on Serbia’s part gave the lie that Crete was going to be Bartholomew’s great kum-ba-ya moment. Unfortunately for the Phanar, Bucharest’s latest encyclical will not put the toothpaste back into the tube.
If you will permit me a secular digression: I’ve noticed that the closer we get to Inauguration Day, the more flailing about I see, both here and abroad.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s letter to Athens and Patriarch Daniel’s encyclical strike me as rather odd, all things being equal. There’s an urgency about them. One could almost say an unseemly urgency. I don’t know, maybe I’m reading too much into them but I’ve learned to listen to bells and whistles when they go off.
If anything, these broadsides may be another indication of the last gasps of dying New World Order. (Another one is the rebellion that Pope Francis is facing from four cardinals regarding his latest encyclical Laetitia Amoris.) For a secular example, think of all those stupid, pathetic PSA’s put out by has-beens and wannabes in America in anticipation of the dreaded Trump Order.
That doesn’t mean that the drums of war can’t be heard on the horizon. What is at stake here is larger than Crete. To put not too fine of a point on it, the Trotskyite wing of the American Oligarchy will do everything in its power to derail any possible peace attempts between Russia and these United States. Today, at this very minute no less, our politicized intelligence agencies are telling the Senators who finance their livelihoods fabulous stories about ten-foot-tall Russians and how they magically stole Wisconsin from Hillary. In my mind’s eye I can easily picture John McCain holding his blanket and sucking his thumb as Lindsey Graham soothes his forehead telling him that Trump’s election was just a nightmare from which he’ll wake up soon.
“There, there, America will always be ruled by a Bush-Clinton dynasty. Now go back to sleep, Sweet Johnny boy.”
But I digress. As Orthodox Christians we should be wise to the situation, both the nonsense of Capitol Hill and the very real threat of schism that the Cretan council portends if allowed to go to its logical conclusion. As always, it is the Orthodox churches will be caught in the cross-hairs in this great civilisational conflict.
I am afraid that that is what is at stake.