The Broken Covenant

We received the attached from a group of anonymous priests in the OCA.  Monomakhos, too, has been hearing similar concerns coming from other jurisdictions.  
* * * 

In the Church, we have a contract.  The contract is between the bishop and the priests who serve the Holy people of God.

Every priest is obligated to perform certain duties and meet certain expectations.  He is also required to live within established parameters to ensure we are each performing in service to one another, so the necessary order of the Church can be maintained. 

The Holy Spirit instructs the Holy Church.   The protocols, the contract, and shared experiences are the Holy Spirit’s ongoing revelation of God’s desire to save mankind. 

This contract has come to us by way of the canons, ecumenical councils, and ecclesiastical jurisprudence.  It is confirmed through Liturgical worship and the prayers of the Church.  It is handed down by the witnesses of the Church, especially through the lives of the confessors and the martyrs.  This shared experience forms the norms of the Church, which have become our Holy Tradition. 

For us, Holy Tradition is unshakable and remarkably unprogressive.

The Church is to be a constant.  During wars and rumors of war… the Holy Church remains steadfast.  During famines, pandemics, and personal misfortune… the Holy Church remains unchanged.  The upheavals in daily life are of no concern to the Church.  The Church has operated like this for more than 2000 years.

However, all that changed in the year 2020.

In the year 2020, bishops across jurisdictions were ordered to close their parishes.  Priests were told they could no longer administer the Body and Blood of Christ in communion with its members, the Body of the Christ.   The Eucharist was not offered at the end of Liturgy after the reading of the Gospel.  It had to be scheduled for another time.  The belief was that it was better to die outside, than to risk exposure within.  The Body of Christ was paralyzed with fear and anxiety, as result of these changes.  Fear of death occupied every their every thought, as the media presented model after model of the anticipated number of deaths.  Hospital and firsthand responders buckled under the pressure.  Patients lined the halls of hospitals and emergency rooms.  Cancer treatments, surgeries, outpatient procedures, and doctor appointments were all put on hold to accommodate the needs of the sick and the dying.  Families were separated from loved ones.  Suicides and domestic abuse reached an all-time high.  Parents worked at home, while homeschooling their children.  Stores were emptied and restaurants closed.  If ever the Church was needed, it was now, but the same bishops who were wined and dined by the governors in their respective states, failed to convince them that the Church was essential to living through a pandemic.  Instead, liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries were to remain open to minister to our needs.       

Priests were instructed to not visit their parishioners because they might inadvertently spread disease.  Services were livestreamed on flat screen TVs.  “Come and see,” became “don’t come.”  The veneration of icons was strictly forbidden, and in some cases, icons had to be removed by order of the bishop.  Gone were Holy Weeks and Paschas of years past.  Baptisms, chrismations and weddings were put on hold.  Funerals could be performed only if the priest did not stay to comfort a grieving family.       

Without the sacramental rudders and moorings of the Church, the OCA bishops were cast adrift, as they tried to navigate the political landscape.  They seemingly closed their minds to reason, as they closed the doors of the Church and they wanted no input from the priests fearing it would undercut their point of view. 

So, in the OCA, we were ordered to be obedient and not to question the wisdom of our bishops.  The Traditions of the Church became secondary to protecting the health of its members.  Suspicion set in.  Bishops spent Monday mornings looking for violations on zoom feed and afternoon threatening the priests for their infractions.  Priests and their wives were terrified that these threats would come to fruition, adding to the enormous stress the priests were already under.  A priest, husband and father could lose his job for serving a Liturgy with too many people and yet more and more people were showing up at the door.  Some had lost family members to the virus.  Others were simply scared.  All wanted to be in Church to help manage their pain and quell their anxieties.  Priests struggled with how to meet the needs of these families without angering their bishops.   

The Church has suffered multiple outbreaks of various pathogens during her two millennia and never once closed her doors.  She is a panacea for healing, not a place for focusing on death and disease.  The eternal health and healing of the soul that has always been the objective of the Church was suddenly replaced by the fastidiousness of good hygiene. 

Priests have been taught from seminary that they are to be martyrs to their parish communities.  They are to witness the faith and be an icon of Christ, even if it means forfeiting their own lives.  However, now, in addition to dispensing the Holy Mysteries, they needed training in epidemiology.

The bishops, on the other hand, occupy their time critiquing their priests, while flipping back and forth between CNN and MSNBC to get the latest news.   They busy themselves with writing encyclicals to explain the unexplainable, like how it is possible to be an Orthodox Christian and vote for a platform that promotes abortion, knowing in two states full term babies are being murdered.   This has become their witness to God and the Church during the most difficult year in recent history. 

In one notable instance, an Archbishop, claiming to lead the Orthodox contingency in America, marched with throngs of people in a protest, forgetting he had recommended to other bishops that they were to lock down the Church to limit physical contact between people.

Isolated, the bishops seemingly care more about the optics than the reality.   

The other great influencer in 2020 was the advice of counsel.  Not Church counsel, but legal counsel.  And not just lawyers, insurance companies, too.  The OCA has been stung again and again and compelled by the courts to pay out large sums of money, because the OCA failed to follow procedures and the norms laid down by Holy Tradition.

The bishops, in many cases, ignored Holy Tradition, especially with regard to sexual misconduct on the part of priests and even the bishops, themselves.  They not only allowed it, they continue to allow it.  They threaten innocent victims.  They pay people to keep silent and to cover up the truth.  As a result, institutions like Fordham fail to understand or believe the Church has a well-formed Holy Tradition regarding human sexuality. 

The courts are right when it comes to the OCA.  They have consistently disagreed with the Synod and have ordered that our insurance companies pay up.  Their only recourse has been to set up a sexual abuse policy which transferred the matter completely out of the bishop’s hands.  Holy Tradition was just too much responsibility for them.  

Lastly, the great influencer of the Church’s new practices has been the government of the United States.  “Put not your trust in princes nor in the son of men,” they say.  Yet when the governors, the CDC, or a physician tells us to stop acting like the Church, we obey.  Isn’t that what the Church did when Caesar, the Turks, and Stalin wanted the Holy Church to cease and desist?  Did we not comply with disastrous results?  Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes?

The elevation of a virus to epic proportions, the threat of lawsuits, and the force of the government left the Church utterly depleted and redefined.  The bishops folded.  She stopped acting like the historical Church she was.  She had no strength to take a stand in what could have been the Church’s finest moment in American history, an opportunity to show the whole of America who the Church is and how vitally important she is during extraordinary times.  Sadly, she has become that dimly lit candle under a bushel.  The Church may never get another opportunity in this country to demonstrate that she is the only hope and stability for mankind.

Sadly, our bishops failed to contend in the public square that we were a vital service.  On this they were silent.

Here is the rub. The clergy in the OCA are sworn to be obedient to two things: Holy Tradition and to the bishop.   But what if a bishop orders a priest to do something outside of, or contrary to, Holy Tradition?   Does a bishop have greater authority than the teachings of the Church, Sacred Scripture, and Holy Tradition?

They did in 2020. 

  1. The clergy are strictly to observe the teachings of The Church regarding Christ, the Sacred Scriptures and Holy Traditions (Ephesus, c. 6, 7; Trullo, c. 1; Carthage, c. 2).
  2. The clergy are under the complete authority of the diocesan hierarch, without whose blessing they cannot function and to whom they must show proper respect (Laodicea, c. 57; Holy Apostles, c.31, 39, 55; Carthage, c. 10).

Canon law in the Church is used as a juris prudence.  Canon law clearly states that if a priest refuses to celebrate Holy Liturgy he is to be put out of the priesthood.  In 2020, however, priests were threatened again and again with suspension if they celebrated Holy Liturgy even during Holy Week. 

Canon law also puts both bishops and priests out of their offices for excommunicating their faithful for anything but a limited set of behaviors relating to the healing of the soul.  Last year, priests were ordered to excommunicate their faithful because they might get a virus and if they do, they might die. 

The bishops ordered that no one could come to Church. Some of the priests who kept their parishes open and gave the mysteries were called apostate.  They were actually called apostates!  Priests who kept the doors of the Church open and continued in the celebration of the Liturgy were told that they did not care about their people.  They were told that they were guilty of attempted murder!  These priests were told they would be tried, and the bishop guaranteed conviction in the Church courts on a murder charge if anyone in the parish died of COVID!   This is not only immoral; it’s insane!  These priests were guilty of disobedience to their bishop, who was disobedient to the canons and the history of the Church.

The priests were compelled to tell their people that icons could no longer be venerated.   Wait, what about the 7th Ecumenical council, Your Grace?  People died so that we could venerate these icons!  Shut up, don’t think, just obey.  Then the priest was given orders to enforce this new commandment.  The priests were expected to punish their people for venerating the icons and disobeying the new command.  If a priest did not disallow veneration of icons, he would be deposed.  If people would not obey and venerated them anyway, the priests were told to excommunicate them.  Did the bishop ever stop and wonder what they were doing to the permanent relationship of Synod to their priests and parishes?  Ask your bishop if he did this and get him on record.

The new wisdom of the bishops told the people to isolate at home; to be solitaries in prayer.  This was the very worst of the malpractice of the bishops in 2020.   Only the most severe monastics are given the blessing by a spiritual elder to be solitary and live away from the community of the monastery.  This is an obedience given to very few and for limited amounts of time. For good reason.  Most people are destroyed by the devil in isolation.  This advice was some of the worst that could be given and we are just beginning to see the effects.  The new knowledge manifests as ignorance of the soul.  This obedience ignored the experience and wisdom of the Church.   

Over time, people in solitary feel surrounded by demonic chaos and need the Church.  It wasn’t there.  The OCA did not manifest as the rock of Christ but drifting as secular sand.  The bishops should fall down before God and His people and repent.    They have harmed the relationship of their fellow priests and have divided parishes.  They seem hell bent on making war with Holy Tradition.  They will not repent.  The last bishop that repented was a brand-new bishop, not yet guilty of any of the crimes and coverups of the OCA.  They sent him out before the AAC to speak for the cowards behind the curtain.  We heard from that bishop what we longed to hear and what we all knew.  There was faithlessness and secularism within the Synod.  That new bishop became metropolitan because of his repentance.  That gets you thrown out of the Episcopacy in the OCA by those who do not repent.

To our faithful people, you should know that many of your priests objected to their bishop.  The priests did their best to care for your souls.  They were shut down and threatened in the cruelest ways.  Many priests secretly had Holy Week services and celebrated Liturgy, distributing the mysteries to all who came.   Many priests, with the support of their parish community, did not remove icons.  These priests did not scold when their people continued to kiss, icon, chalice, and each other.  They did not compel the people towards any iconoclastic behavior. Many of our priests went to the homes of COVID sufferers and anointed them.  We heard of a priest who was snuck into a nursing home by the nurses by a back entrance at night to take care of the sick.  Some of priests locked the doors of the Church and turned off the zoom feed in an effort to be faithful to the Holy Tradition of the Church.  These priests were frightened of COVID just like you.  They loved God and the people more than they feared their bishop and the disease. 

But this “sneaking around” of a priest was not to be allowed.  The bishops allowed it to go to a new level.  The new knowledge of the bishops insisted on absolute obedience.  If a priest and his people were not strictly enforcing these new obediences, the other priests were encouraged to turn in one another.  People began turning in their priests. 

As there was an attempt to open the Churches a little, a new problem began to manifest in the parishes.  Priests were trying to maintain the unity of the faith, as various factions began to arise.  These factions were based on temporal and fleeting political and health realities.  Parishes began to experience a single spoon faction and a multiple spoon faction.  One claims the historical position of the Church and the other claims science and the bishop’s new order.  The bishop says you can’t get sick from the chalice!  Yet, the bishop’s order to use clear and separate spoons is because he knows the science!  We now have the mask believers and the mask deniers.  The vaccine doubters and the vaccine believers.  Each group accusing the other of being unscientific or not trusting God.  What a well thought out plan!  It will be the priest that is left to clean up the bishop’s mess.  This will take years to resolve and some of our people will never return to the confusion that our new progressive Church offers them. Many have already gone to ROCOR.  Others to despair.

As the priests, one by one, objected they were told that they were the only priest having the problem.  Some priests who objected were told they might need a psych exam.  After all, if someone doesn’t care if people die and are continuing in practices leading to death and are therefore guilty of murder, the priest must be crazy!  Lock him up for his own good!

We have been hearing about personal obedience to the bishop.  We priests and have always been servants of Christ and the Church.  Now we are servants to the bishops?  Priests have been told that they were not to think only to obey.  The implication is that the bishop will think for the priest. Every Liturgy we pray being endowed with the grace of the priesthood.  We ask God to cleanse our soul of an evil conscience.  The pure witness of our priestly conscience has been replaced with the bishop’s conscience alone.  Freewill is replaced with tyranny of a temporal magisterium that can change from day to day.   This is the definition of a cult and not the Holy Church.  We did not swear obedience to a bishop for anything outside the Holy Tradition.  The bishop has no authority in the parish or the life of a priest where he departs from it.  Priests are now on the advice of their own legal counsel recording, and documenting conversations between a priest, his dean, and bishop.   Threats to one’s status and employment are being documented.  Do the bishops have any idea what they are doing to the Body of Christ?   Your short sighted, temporal decisions have eroded all trust.

By statute, the bishop maintains a relationship with his priest that is “at once hierarchical and conciliar and is marked by obedience and collaboration”. The way this can easily be explained is that the priest must remember that the bishop is his head, but at the same time and with equal measure the bishop must remember that this is a brother priest and equal to him.  Problems always occur and division happens in the Church if the priest forgets that the bishop is his head, or the bishop ignores his equality with the priests.

2020 has seen no effort in collaboration and conciliarity. Without a doubt, the parish priest, also referred to as rector or priest-in-charge, by virtue of his ordination and canonical appointment, serves as the spiritual father and teacher of that portion of the flock of Christ entrusted to him, the first among the parish clergy, who presides over Liturgical worship in accordance with the Tradition and the norms of the Church.  The priest must provide for the administration of the sacraments and the celebration of all liturgical services. 

For priests who have faithfully served for years to suddenly be labeled unfaithful because they are presiding over Liturgical worship “in accordance with the Tradition and norms of the Church” is alarming.  Saving people from temporal death is not our job!  Everyone in the history of the world has thus far died.  The Church has one job and only one!  And that is to offer the antidote for death which was entrusted to the apostles.  The same is given to every priest, as well as to the Bishop.  The antidote is not a vaccine.  It is Christ.

The Church has one job.  The contract that binds the bishop, the priest, and the people together in the OCA is broken.  We have been forced to live in a cult of personal obedience to bishops who are themselves living outside of the norms of the Church.

The question now is what to do about it.


  1. Every time”OCA” is used, it could be replaced by GOA, Antiochian, Serbian, Romanian, ROCOR, MP, erc.

    Beautifully written and sums up the sentiments of every priest I know and many lay people

    • This has not been my experience in Serbian and ROCOR churches, but it may vary by diocese. The first two, for sure.

    • anonimus per Scorilo says

      It starts to look like in the joke with the guy driving on the highway, and hearing on radio “Attention, there is a guy driving on the wrong side of the highway” at which he exclaims “only one ? I see hundreds !”

      If most bishops in most jurisdiction decided to restrict services, maybe their decision was the correct one.

      Patriarch Kirill explains very well in a recent interview, that the decision to close churches, painful as it was, was in the tradition of the Church. His interview is translated in Greek at
      (open with Chrome for automatic translation)

      Here is a piece of the interview:
      When the plague broke out in Odessa in 1837, the governor, Count Vorontsov, and Bishop Gabriel, Archbishop of Kherson and Taurida, jointly adopted decisions which we are now trying to repeat.
      I can imagine what it was like for Bishop Gabriel – at a time when churches played a central role in people’s lives! – to issue an order for the temples to be closed.
      The temples were closed for two months and then access to the temples was restricted: there was a police group in each temple and it was not allowed to enter that number of people who were not far enough apart. And, besides, it was forbidden to venerate the cross and the icons.
      Therefore, the fact that we are now taking action against the epidemic, which is sometimes confusing, including among pious people, is not some kind of innovation. We follow the path of our ancestors.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        RE: “. . . the temples were closed for two months and then access to the temples was restricted. . .”

        There are too many differences between 1837 and now, to list. For them it was 2 months. For us, it’s been one year. Unlike in the 1800s, their leaders did not feel the need to protect people from other people who were not even sick. They did not let people frequent Walmart, pot dispensaries and liquor stores and keep them out of churches. If someone died by hanging, they did not attribute it to a disease. There were not tests that they could “amp up” to catch random pieces of dead RNA. If a man hung himself, they didn’t ascribe his death to the disease. Diseases like COVID probably went unnoticed.

      • . . . and if it were the plague rather than the flu, he might have a point . . .

      • We follow the path of our ancestors.

        I would not say so. Was there anything else that Patriarch Kirill can think about.
        We know how Russian Bishop who is Saint took part in the Litany against plague.
        Lot of scholars want to fool us how the way of Communion is not Dogma and something we can use to fight Covid.

        Some Russian bishops were not much better than the OCA and have made similar awkward decisions during this Covid crisis that steered a lot of controversy.
        Most of those decisions were not approved by the Synod, they were implemented by Bishops themselves, although metropolitan Hilarion misleadingly said it was Synod’s decision. He was even against swimming for Theophany as people are weak from Covid which is ridiculous. And then he said he want swim this year 🙂

      • Solitary Priest says

        I guess not all of your fellow Romanians got the memo. In at least one church, everything is as normal. Those who want to wear masks wear them, but no restrictions on communion, etc. I also observed more piety than in Serbian churches in general, and even in most ROCOR churches I’ve served in. Of course, I won’t name the church, location, or priest; because some tattler might want to close them. Especially those clergy who have lost people to this church.

        • anonimus per Scorilo says

          The Romanian synod was much more chicken than the Russian one.

          It was election year, and many of the more blackmailable bishops were doing the best to pump anti-government animus in order to get the socialists back to power. So they did nothing to prevent the coronavirus spread, and when the government closed all gatherings, including churches, they started to whine and complain about being persecuted.

          Now the government learnt their lesson, and decided to take a less patronizing and more Darwinian approach: priests are allowed to do whatever they want, and if those who are not careful get infected and die, it is their problem. And if they infect and kill some babushkas, it is their parishioners they are killing. If anything it will lower the pressure on the national pension fund…

      • Brian Fahling says

        It is error to suggest that the Russian Church’s response to the plague in Odessa was consonant with Holy Tradition. Indeed, the opposite is true, one only has to read, for example, the Paschal Encyclical of Dionysius (261 A.D.) to realize that Patriarch Kirill is quite mistaken in his claim, either that, or the Alexandrian Christians got it all wrong in their response to a true plague. It is impossible to reconcile the response of the Holy Church to the plague in 261 A.D. with that of the Church in Odessa, or that of the Church today. No doubt that Patriarch Kirill, and his successors, will also point to the decisions made today by our hierarchs as within the Holy Tradition, but they, too, will be wrong. The true Church will never bend the knee to death, She will forever be the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness. That is what the Church has believed, taught and confessed for more than two millennia-the consensual voice of the Church-not the aberrant decisions of Patriarchs and bishops cowed by fear.

        • “Paschal Encyclical of Dionysius (261 A.D.) to realize that Patriarch Kirill is quite mistaken in his claim”

          You are not saying that Dionysius was infallible? Is Kirill inferior to him?

          “The true Church will never bend the knee”

          Russian church is part of the true Church as well.
          Not only in Odessa, there are more examples, like Moscow in 1771 where plague lasted more than a year. (See my post at Don’t Want to Hear It) And others …

          • Brian Fahling says

            Martin, you miss the point-this is not about infallibility-Dionysius was describing how the Alexandrian Christians responded during a terrible plague. Their response was a model of Christian love, charity, and courage. At the end of the encyclical, he also describes the heathen response to the plague, sadly, it is a response that more closely resembles the one prescribed by our hierarchs today.

            Our grandchildren and those coming after them will not be hearing faith building stories of how charitable, loving, and brave the Orthodox were during the Covid period; instead, they will hear only about masks, fear, compliance, spying, 25% capacity, division, sterilized or multiple spoons, and that’s only if their church even remained open during this time. It is an unspeakable tragedy that the Orthodox Church of today will be remembered, not for Her love, charity and courage, but for behaving no different than the heathen during the Covid period.

            • Nicolas Jackson says

              All three responses of the Church in those different times and places are in concert with each other. In all three the purpose of the Church was, out of love, to minimize the suffering and dying of their brothers and sisters . In the example of Alexandria, this required Christians to risk their lives treating the sick because no one else was doing so. In the examples of Odessa and Russia today, they instead needed to minimize contact and let the doctors and medical staff do the treating.

              It is easy enough to see this by the fact that there was no condemnation by the rest of the Church for what was done in Odessa, just as there was none when the churches were closed in Moscow in 1771 or the time (I forget exactly when) even the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was closed to stop the spread of disease. The Fathers of the Church, then and since, have never condemned any such actions. But we do know that many laity and priests revolted against Archbishop Amvrosy’s actions in closing the churches in 1771, and it is those laity and priests that have been condemned by the Church.

              We must not act like Protestants, pretending it is up to each layman or priest to interpret the Scriptures and the Canons. I have heard some people saying that all of our bishops have apostatized, as if it were possible for all Orthodox bishops to be wrong at the same time. That could only happen if the Holy Spirit abandoned the Church, which Christ has promised us He will never do. As St. Ignatius advised the Church in Smyrna during a time very similar to our own,

              “Shun divisions, as the beginning of evils. Do ye all follow your bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and the presbytery as the Apostles; and to the deacons pay respect, as to God’s commandment. Let no man do aught of things pertaining to the Church apart from the bishop. Let that be held a valid Eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it. Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be; even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal Church. It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize or to hold a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve, this is well-pleasing also to God; that everything which ye do may be sure and valid.”

              Without a bishop, there is no Eucharist and there is no Church.

              • A Sinful and Unworthy Priest says

                Council of Florence 1453… All Orthodox Bishops of the East save one apostatized…. so to suggest that such is impossible is to be ignorant of history. God allowed this to happen as instruction, that we might learn to ‘test our overseers.’ All of them and collectively… Also see the ‘Robbers’ council, etc.

                • Nicolas Jackson says

                  Father, it simply isn’t true that all Orthodox Bishops of the East save St. Mark of Ephesus apostatized at the Council of Florence. Only 31 bishops attended Florence.

                  But regardless of the specifics of that historical case, as you correctly pointed out, the Holy Spirit raised up St. Mark of Ephesus, a bishop, to counter the apostasy of the Florentine bishops. It is impossible for *all* Orthodox bishops to be wrong at the same time. Robber councils never consist of all the bishops and are always opposed by some bishops. Take the recent robber council in Crete. More than half the world’s bishops belong to Local Churches who boycotted the council in Crete.

  2. “The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops” – St. Athanasius

    This is true now just as it was during the age of St. Athanasius.

    “The question now is what to do about it.”
    Indeed, what to do about it? Have a council to depose said bishops? Switch to a jurisdictions? I think the bigger question is WILL they actually do something about it. Short of the bishops falling down before God and asking for forgiveness and having a huge Mea Culpa, something will need to be done

    From the priests that I have talked to in this time, they have all been having a hard time as well, they wanted to keep the churches open but did what they thought was best and obeyed the bishops. This is not going to be sustainable because they soon will not even have a flock to minister to.

    This shows just how disconnected the bishop is from the priest and the parish.

    The laity are voting with their feet and soon some of these parishes will be defunct. This has been the case where I live.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Petros, I agree. Across jurisdictional lines, I’d say that it is the priests who are more afflicted by these restrictions (than the bishops).

      • True, George. That is one thing I have noticed through traveling over the past year. I usually go to GOARCH priests bc that’s what is the most numerous, but, having also been to OCA & Antiochian parishes, all of the priests have been suffering as well.
        I am lucky to have two parishes in my are that don’t require masks, so that has been very refreshing

    • Nicolas Jackson says

      ““The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops” – St. Athanasius

      This is true now just as it was during the age of St. Athanasius.

      “The question now is what to do about it.””

      And what did St. Athanasius tell people to do about it?

  3. Nice summary, George.

    The state and the culture is largely materialistic. Death for such is the greatest evil to be avoided at all cost. This has made them obsessive/compulsive about a virus whose mortality is practically indistinguishable from the common flu.

    It is amazing to behold, actually. And the question is when will the madness, the collective panic attack, pass? Now that Chief Crazy Horse is out of office, the reason for the panic-demic has largely passed but so many people have been trained to take it seriously that it will be months before they can unclench their sphincters. Until the madness passes, there’s nothing to do but roll with it. You can’t reason with crazy, terrified people. You just placate them.

    Really, it is cowardice. “Death, where is thy sting?” Think of the generations of Christians who stood boldly in the face of persecution. Now the Church seems cowered by a variant of the flu. Pathetic.

    The time to remedy this will be after the insanity passes. Then perhaps steps can be taken to prevent future panic attacks. In the midst of it, however, patience is a virtue. This too shall pass.

  4. Powerful

  5. Meanwhile, fools and blasphemers like these are ignored and enabled by the bishops:

    Inga Leonova: Criminal Stupidity for Bishops and Priests to Give Holy Communion and Spread the Virus

    Fr. Cyril Hovorun: Mistake to Believe Eucharist Cannot Transmit Virus

    Fr. Christopher Calin Endorses Pro-Abortion, Pro-LGBTQ, Anti-Christian Biden-Harris Candidacy

    Giacomo Sanfilippo’s Unholy Vendetta Against Faithful Orthodox Priests and Teachers

    Blasphemy and Open Rebellion by Nik Jovcic-Sas the “Orthodox Provocateur”

    • This is why I mentioned in a comment on a previous post that the likes of people you mentioned above will win in the short term precisely bc the bishops won’t do anything

  6. This, sadly, is not only true of the OCA.

    • I’ll second that…Brendan! (We’ve actually had some ROCOR people come to our parish because of what was happening at their parish. Too much finger pointing in the OCAs direction.) Literally all of our Orthodox bishops here in the U.S. and Canada are in the same boat!

  7. I agree with much of what was written as far as it relates to the Covid response as far as it affects me as a lay person. I especially agree with the part that says that priests get stuck with clean up and has to deal with many different interests— it’s a tough position to be in. I hope the authors will consider revealing their names as the message would have more power, but I understand there could be a risk involved. I would also feel at risk if I could lose my salary by speaking my conscience. I feel as if I’m taking a risk (although much lesser) by simply making a comment endorsing portions of a disfavored view, as a layperson. I hope we can have a church wide discussion on these issues. If we’re really a family then we have to be able to discuss things like this that bother our conscience.

  8. Pat Reardon says

    The promise of Christ our Lord is

    I will build my Church.”

    Thank God, because we’re certainly not doing it.

  9. I thank the OCA priests for speaking and sharing their perspectives.

    My only concern and question: I wonder at the absence of reference to the Holy Fathers specifically as perhaps quite significant and a factor in what is occurring which harms and hampers them and the OCA itself? If immersed in the Holy Fathers, would the statement on “contract” have been set forth as is, as a Roman Catholic sort of obedience or even a secular employee/employer relationship? Since the writings of the Holy Fathers and Church-speicified theologians are to be the guiding light and channels of the Holy Spirit to teach and train our physician assistant priests in the spiritual hospital (who are also patients with us) to transmit Christ’s spiritual medicine as Physician and pharmacist so to speak) , what happens when they are left out of the equation/discussion? Have certain seminaries especially recently fallen short in imparting them as the Pillars they are? Do we now value the opinion of folks we “like” who are not Saints to interpret how the Church is or thinks, when these are speculations or personal opinions on their parts? Do they incite in us that old intellectual temptation to “know more” than the Fathers or the Tradition? The Saints and contemporary Elders are humble, meek, but firm in their enlightened sayings in consensus. We don’t need and are perhaps sidetracked by brilliant minds such as Schmemann or Bloom when there is the wisdom of the Holy Fathers who ARE Saints. I’m hoping this was an oversight and not a true absence of content and understanding. Having lived outside of Orthodoxy for so many years, I pray that all will find her in fullness and truth, from the Holy Fathers who interpret and convey as our Pauls to the Corinthians. And he counseled in his letters not to identify especially with false teachers, so it matters whom we heed.

    • Such a comment could only be written by someone who reads Vlachos, Heers, and Romanides in place of the Fathers themselves. The EASTERN and western Fathers have no problem using legal terminology and metaphors. Duty, necessity, and debt can be found quite frequently in the “therapeutic” eastern Fathers. I welcome the demise of the unhealthy (pun intended), therapeutic captivity of modern Orthodoxy.

      As to the essay itself: good for them. It’s about time.

      • Thank you! You have exquisitely articulated what has been swirling around in my head for months now. I knew something was up, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

      • Pat Reardon says

        I welcome the demise of the unhealthy (pun intended), therapeutic captivity of modern Orthodoxy.

        Goodness, I wish I had written this!

        I do hope there’s no trademark. I think “therapeutic captivity” may become my new theme.

        I also appreciate the negative tone toward Romanides, whom I have always found unbearable. He seems to have read a total of 8 pages of Saint Augustine and declared himself an expert on Western theology.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Do we, Nicole?

      “Do we now value the opinion of folks we ‘like’ who are not Saints to interpret how the Church is or thinks, when these are speculations or personal opinions on their parts? Do they incite in us that old intellectual temptation to ‘know more’ than the Fathers or the Tradition?”

  10. Gail, is there any more news about the intentional Orthodox community in Oklahoma (at least I think Oklahoma). If you want to wait to give more info thats cool!

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I think I may have inadvertently confused you, Petros. There is a Georgian monastery in Piedmont that is doing well, praise be to God!

      There is another project we’re working on to help bring an intentional community to another state. They’re in the process of trying to get the seed money to start building on some of the land they have acquired. That’s all I know at present. We hope to interview them at some point soon. Stay tuned.

      • Ahh ok, my bad! I probably just assumed it was Oklahoma since that’s where y’all are lol

        Awesome, well keep us posted. It’s something I’m considering after I leave here in August

  11. George — it seems to me COVID is part of a larger agenda. Call it “the Great Reset,” “transhumanism,” the “New World Order” — whatever. Do you think the bishops consider the political dimensions of what is going on around them in the name of COVID? Or, do they dismiss these things as “conspiracy theories?” Is it time for a catacomb church to start taking form?

    • Some know what’s going on, and they’re trying to keep their ship as steady as possible before everything hits the fan, which could be very soon or very far. I think that the woke bishops don’t want to a) scare the hell out of most of their normie parishioners and risking having them leave a ‘conspiracy theorist church’ and b) call out the NWO too early and rattle the cages of them ‘up top’ before the time. There’s a time for silence and a time for ringing the warning bell, and I think (hope) that the good bishops are being prudent.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Very well said, Basil. Prudence is required before the panic button is pushed.

        • I went back and re-read sections from “Russia’s Catacomb Saints.” Back then, of course, there was no internet or means for spreading information. Nor was there any Twitter feed or bloggers, no “Orthileaks.” After Stolypin was assassinated and the liberals in the Duma became more vocal, a clear pattern began to emerge. Once Kerensky assumed power and the provisional government began making changes, things began to deteriorate on certain war fronts. Many in the Church saw what was coming. After the Bolsheviks assumed power, the Church’s situation changed very quickly. Reading documents from the Catacomb Saints book, it’s interesting to see how right-believing clergy struggled to maintain some semblance of regular order and communications among the faithful. If the SHTF, I’m guessing we’ll be in a similar situation– communication may go “dark.” But, I guess, no one is thinking about that inevitability or what to do if it comes —

          • Nobody’s ever ready when SHTF. If we trust in God, then all will be well. Saint Paisios said something to that extent in one of his talks. It will be tough, but God will provide for all the faithful.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              God can be trusted. Surprisingly, a cantankerous bishop told me that when I needed to hear it the most. They have their moments.

  12. Gail and George,

    Thank you so much for posting this. A few thoughts:

    1. I pray that these thoughts reflect an overwhelming majority of priests, not only a few.

    2. One of the things that kept me in Orthodoxy was its clear admonition that if we walk around fearing death, we are not living. We’re then merely existing. True life is life in Christ, who conquered death! Christ counsels us repeatedly in the Gospels to “have no fear.” The writings/talks of former OCA leaders Frs Alexander Schmemann and Thomas Hopko are all over this point all the time! That the true Christian should not fear death.

    I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s our goal. Our leaders must get us there.

    Along comes COVID, and, what do you know, but fear of death is *everywhere* in our churches and among the leadership. I expected it from American secular culture, but not from the Church.

    3. Not saying to be irresponsible, but there has to be a balance between being careful about disease spread and also living in Christ/living the sacramental life of the Church.

    4. Our Church’s overall response to COVID was embarrassing.

    Foremost, it became quite clear that despite having been in America for 225 years, our faith still cannot express to a post-Protestant/secular audience how sacramental Christianity is different, and why that matters. Orthodoxy doesn’t work over Zoom, even if a protestant audience may think that Zoom works for “lecture and concert” style protestant worship.

    We are different — and that difference is good and meaningful — and it is high time that we embrace it. Gone are the days when we must pretend we’re simply a different “denomination among many.”

    5. Our bishops seem very uncomfortable calling attention to the fact that our Orthodox faith is different from what most Americans are used to — and that that difference is *good.* I personally believe that our faith is what many Americans are looking for (even if they don’t know it). Yet so many of the Americanized episcopate seem so uncomfortable standing up publicly for the beauty of our faith and what makes it unique.

    6. It’s been almost 10 years since Metropolitan Jonah was summarily thrown out of the OCA Holy Synod, and much of the episcopate has not changed since then. I’ve since sadly left the OCA, as I could not stay after witnessing such immature behavior among hierarchs and other “leaders.” I pray that mass repentance among the Synod is still possible.

    7. Wonderful for him, Metropolitan Jonah in time had a healthy rebound, is in a jurisdiction that loves him, and is the abbot of a wonderful new monastery in northern Virginia.

    He continues his tireless work to bring Orthodoxy to an American audience, which is just what we need — leaders who can tell an American audience that death is conquered and, while precaution remains important, God does not want us to live in fear. How many millions of Americans need to hear that message??? Millions!!

    • Metropolitan Jonah did counsel on a podcast not to disobey Covid regulations (which at the time of airing had shut down churches completely) lest we go to jail.

      Make of that what you will.

  13. This seems to be a pan-jurisdictional problem; however, the OCA historically does not handle things well. I was in an OCA parish (still, technically am) but was fortunate to find another jurisdiction’s church that has made (essentially) zero compromise of the Holy Traditions. Thank God for this. It was so needed for me, and I’m sure the many who flock to attend.

    The only jurisdiction I want to be in is God Almighty’s. Point me to His church, and I am a healing sinner. ☦

  14. This letter is reassuring. To these priests, thank you!

  15. I have been concerned for years about the skill sets of our bishops. Monastics who are book smart but not street smart concern me. Metropolitans platon, theophoilous, leonty, and ireney were widowers. They were good leaders and administrators because they were family men who lived in the real world and experienced life, real life. They understood their flocks,,,,,I once said that to be a bishop you must meet three modern criteria, one is to be a widower, second be american born, and third have a mba degree. Also be of impeccable moral character. We need strong leadership,,,. I do not see that with our present crop and wish that platon, theophil, leonty, and ireney could come back. Too much byzantine politics,, too many unworkable dictates,,,,the constant is their inconsistency,,,,and a lack of vision as to where we will be in fifty years,,,,,too much emphasis of many on the externalities of the faith ,,,,long beards, pony tails, etc and enough on the internalities. Look at those, as we like to call , dastardly protestants who led the way in manipulating the covid rules to hold their services while we allowed the rules to cripple us.

    • George Michalopulos says

      rj, much wisdom you impart here. However if I may, the idea that the monastic mindset (i.e. long beards, pony tails, etc.) is a wrong fit is belied by the fact that many of the more liberal hierarchs (esp in the GOA), are very un-monastic in their appearance.

      I’m not saying that there’s a necessary correlation between monastic appearance and traditionalism but that there’s not a necessary correlation between modernist appearance and traditionalism.

      Substitute if you want the word “traditionalism” to “pastoral sensitivity”. Met Soterius of Toronto calling people “Taliban” is an example. Arb Elpidophoros marching with BLM is another example. Both of these men cut an acceptable figure as far as modern America is concerned, i.e they look “presentable” as opposed to say some ROCOR bishop who has a beard to his waist and wears his hair long.

      Having said that, your requirements for a bishop are worth considering. Rather however than wait for the wife to die, perhaps married archpriestly couples can be asked if they’d like to both serve the Church. The canons allow for a spiritual separation if both agree to it. The husband can be eligible for the episcopate if the wife agrees to undertake monastic vows.

      I realize that this sounds shocking to modern American ears, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some aged couple agrees to this.

      • “Rather however than wait for the wife to die, perhaps married archpriestly couples can be asked if they’d like to both serve the Church. The canons allow for a spiritual separation if both agree to it. The husband can be eligible for the episcopate if the wife agrees to undertake monastic vows.”

        Such a thing should be organic and voluntary, not by coercion. Being called and being “asked” are two very separate things. Some “spiritual fathers” may be only too eager to do such asking if the priest would benefit his monastery, etc.

    • I think opposite that is true: the biggest problem is none of the OCA Bishop was a proper monk for twenty or so years. They might be book smart but they were not real monks. You cant have Church without monastic life of obedience, abstinence, fasting and praying.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        Interestingly, I think you are BOTH right!

        • Yes interesting. When we look at the lives of the saints, it is marvelous how God calls men to the Holy Orders in such a variety of different ways.

      • The OCA’s Bishop Alexis was a monk living in obedience in monasteries for at least 30 years before becoming a bishop.

  16. George,
    What you are asking, and expecting, is for the Church authorities to decide to take a stand and openly defy the civil authorities, and take on whatever consequences that might bring, including alienating a large percentage of the faithful who do not share your take on the subject. Do you want to create an Orthodox Church where only the true zealous believers are “in”? That’s only 10-15% of us. 75% barely show up or even know the background on these issues. How about the 50% that vote for Democrats? Should they be discouraged from coming? People in leadership positions need to consider the dire consequences of their actions. The Orthodox churches are very weak, most are barely holding on financially. The elderly are terrified of the virus, and not everyone was born with the courage to not fear death even if they are Orthodox.

    The reality is that the bulk of the faithful are simply not ready to go to war with the surrounding culture and the authorities – and what would that bring anyway at this point in history? I argue that the time WILL come for this, but that time is not now and the people are not ready to fight, Most of the people don’t even know where the fight is! So many Orthodox are hoping things are going to be better now that Biden is in office! Think about that one!

    • George Michalopulos says

      Gene, you are not incorrect in your assessment of the playing field. Not at all.

      What I and others *I believe) have said is that the alarm should have been sounded for Orthodox believers (at least) back in March, eleven months ago. The bishops of every jurisdiction could have come to an agreement that “yes, we’ll abide by some of these strictures BUT our services are NOT “essential” AND the Eucharist is not and has never been a vector for disease“.

      That’s where we should have started. Instead, we went on along with the other Christian denominations and religions because of fear.

      Now it’s too late. The fear has set in especially among the elderly and doubt has set in as to the efficacy of the Eucharist in everybody else.

      So we’re crying over spilled milk.

    • It is not the question of who vote for democrats or republicans, but that OCA Bishops defy and mocker Orthodox tradition and implement heresy in the Church, like turning away and covering Holy Water in the Church, having multiple spoons for Communion, priest Bishops and deacons wearing masks and serving Liturgy, serving over Zoom, painting dots for 2yards distance, measuring temperature, covering icons etc. They do not have to do this nobody asks them to do so but they kneel before authorities.
      And Orthodox Church is not weak at all it might be OCA Bishops make OCA weak in their unbelief.

      • Here’s the problem. Many states DO have restrictions on Churches, and in New Jersey, where we got hit hard with the virus early on (almost everyone knows someone who died in the first round) the restrictions made sense at the time. Plus, MANY other churches DID have Covid spreads through there services , and people died – even if they are not Orthodox, how are the authorities going to know the difference if our Eucharist is pure and others are not? We are still required to take temps and keep records because of Contact Tracing. Whether one thinks this makes sense or not, deciding not to comply is defiance to the authorities….and not all parishioners will be on board with that. Certainly our Bishops are not going to fight them so openly.

        I think this is much more complicated, and I think people should understand the stress everyone is under. Now there have always been Priests and Bishops in history that have thrown the Church under the bus…in Ottoman times and in Communist times and as we know today as well, bowing to secular authorities. That is another story. If you are going to serve under Zoom you have to accept the consequences of being judged by people to might watch and complain…so you have to be careful about that too. You can’t openly defy rules in public. So Mr. or Mrs. VSWR you can find a Church that does none of these things to suit your requirements while you judge all the rest. Have you ever been in a leadership position?

        Also, we have dozens of elderly and shut-ins that are thrilled to see the Sunday service for the first time on a regular basis in years…is there nothing positive about that?

        Lord have mercy on us all!

        • Gail Sheppard says

          No one has decided not to comply, as that option is not available. It would be nice, however, if they let people sit in restaurants, go to stores, liquor stores and pot dispensaries go to Church. It would also be nice to hear EVEN ONE bishop say Church is “essential.”

        • George Michalopulos says

          Gene, I appreciate the fact that you’ve given this some. However, I must take issue with your premise: how do you know that they contracted COVID from attending Church (any church for that matter –Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, etc.)?

          Also, you elided over my fundamental argument, which was only tangential to the possible lethality of the virus, and that was this: our bishops should have said from the jump “Yes, we are concerned about the health of all Americans, regardless of race, creed or color, and we want to do everything that is reasonable to mitigate this virus, we do not and cannot accept the premise that our services are ‘non-essential’. We will gladly come up with protocols to bring the Eucharist to those who are home-bound and work out social-distancing spaces for those who attend Liturgy but if you force us to do more than this, then we will gladly go to prison for our First Amendment rights”.

          I guarandangtee you had all Christian bishops, pastors, leaders, etc., of whatever confession, had done this back in March, that evil weasel Fauci would have been pushed back on his heels.

          Now however, it’s too late. The majority of our Orthodox laymen believe that the Eucharist is either a) deadly or b) non-essential. As for Orthodox phronema regarding attendance, live-streaming is acceptable. I can see it now: I’ll go to the golf course on Sunday and live-stream the liturgy on my Android.

          • George,
            I fully agree with you in that who wouldn’t want our Bishops to get out there and fight these battles? But is that their role?

            The reality is that we are all frogs in the hot water, all corrupted and made over comfortable from the luxury and success in which we live, no one is ready to sacrifice anything for their faith or beliefs – which is why I say it is too early. Look how easy the election was stolen, people are all ready to let it pass as long as the stock market holds up. They know no one was going to do anything but talk.

            So back to your argument: Roosh V stated we all are looking for a Strongman to fight the moral battles while we sit home and watch TV. We are all too comfortable to fight, and we want the bishops to do the work for us. That’s not how it works. If any of our Bishops would have made such a stand, how many of their faithful would have lined up, willing to go to prison with them? You can’t get most Orthodox faithful to even bring their kids to Church. How many of them are ready for a real sacrifice? I am not sure I am, I too am weak and corrupted, too comfortable and concerned with worldly things. I am not sure God will let us stay this way for long, and that a correction – dare I say it tribulation – is due.

            • “…who wouldn’t want our Bishops to get out there
              and fight these battles? But is that their role?”

              If the Bishops won’t bell this particular cat,
              who will?

              • If the bishops want to scold us about obedience and remind us constantly that THEY are in charge and WE are not, it’s absolutely fair to expect them to lead the charge on this.

    • Just one example … The Bishops, not the State, used their authority to demand clergy clean the lavida between each communicant. This alone has weakened the faith of those inside the Church to a point some refuse to commune with one spoon. It is probably the greatest scandal of our age that no one acknowledges.

      • Ella,

        I, for one, acknowledge it as the greatest scandal of our time.

        I think we would all do well also to acknowledge that our bishops were/are in a very difficult position (I am speaking here primarily of bishops in the United States). Quite frankly, even if they did what we all wished they would have done, there are plenty of essentially unbelieving evil snitches in our midst who would have made their (and our) lives even more miserable. In most cases I have my doubts that this was their primary motivation, but it is true nevertheless. There is a great deal about what they did and are still doing that I found/find to be unwise in the extreme, but I can at least understand it.

        But when their capitulation extended to the Eucharist…well… I can’t even form words to express my outrage, my extreme disappointment, the degree to which they have lost my respect and the respect of so many.

        Yes, I have heard the arguments…

        “We don’t believe that the Eucharist can infect anyone, but we want anyone who may be afraid to feel comfortable.”

        Never have the practices of the Church been “bent” to accommodate a person’s level of ‘comfort.’ Did this firmness and resolve indicate a lack of love? “The Church.” we were always told, “never bends on these things because to do so would be to compromise the truth by expressing something that is not true.”

        And yet they have chosen to bend, not on some minor matter, but on that which is at the very heart of our communion with God and with one another.

        My dear bishops, if you happen to read this, we have loved you (most of you). You and those in your charge have taught us the Faith, have taught us to believe. Many of you (and these are those among you who are most respected by the faithful) have heretofore wisely chosen never to bend to the whims and demands of this passing world. You held up to us the Saints as shining examples of those who did not bend no matter the cost…

        My dear bishops, we love you and are ready to forgive. We are willing to follow the voice that resonates with our One True Shepherd. But can’t you see? Can’t you understand that the voice we are hearing from you lately, almost without exception, is another voice altogether?

    • “What you are asking, and expecting, is for the Church authorities to decide to take a stand and openly defy the civil authorities…”

      Here in Texas, there are no rules for churches. There are some guidelines, but no requirements. And yet, we’re still limiting ourselves to 20ish people (in a church that can hold 150), still requiring ourselves to wear masks, still requiring ourselves to sign up before coming, etc. Our priest has even asked us to refrain from venerating icons, even though I think the bishop has now magnanimously permitted this across the diocese in general. We’re doing this to ourselves.

      • Im from Texas as well (though I don’t live there at the moment), what jurisdiction are you in?

      • “We’re doing this to ourselves.” So very true. Great point David. Thank you!

      • David, Yes and what message is it sending to the youth who know its the Churches not the state doing this?

        This mess will be reverberating for decades to come.

        On a side note down in Houston, the Greek parishes lead by Met. Isaiah are the most normal. We have visited almost all of the parishes having recently moved.It’s sad to say but I would rather have normal and Greek than a freak show in English.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          And how old is Met. Isaiah and our other esteemed bishop, Basil? We have two great bishops that will probably be retiring out of how many?

        • George Michalopulos says

          With the full realization that what I am about to write will probably be the kiss of death for His Eminence, I will heartily concur with your assessment of his leadership. I will even raise you one: he is in my humble (but nevertheless knowledgeable) opinion, the most stalwart bishop in the GOA today.

          At his age, he deserves a placid retirement (and I’ve seen the quarters they have ready for him at Holy Archangels) but he is needed where he is in order to prevent the Phanar from replacing him with a man who is more pliant to their agenda.

          • I’m sure his time is numbered, they will need everyone to go along with their plan. I’m curious about Met. Gerasimos of San Francisco. A good friend of mine sees him frequently at St. Anthony’s in Arizona, that at least he to be a good sign?

            I was also surprised that Abp. Makarios was put to oversee the Greek Archdiocese of Australia. I’ve been to Aus., and am familiar with the Archdiocese, they are decidedly more stalwart in their Orthodoxy than their American counterpart

    • “Do you want to create an Orthodox Church where only the true zealous believers are ‘in’? That’s only 10-15% of us. 75% barely show up or even know the background on these issues.”

      Pareto principle, the law of the vital few. It is that core 20% that no church, business, country, whatever, can afford to alienate, because they do 80% of the activity.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Gene, let me reiterate: I am one of “the elderly” as is my wife and neither of us is terrified of the virus. My wife’s 75 year old cousin got Covid. She had some uncomfortable symptoms for 4 days, tested positive, drank a couple of gallons of 100% Elderberry juice and was fine.

      The terror is manufactured. Thinking that all “elderly” folks are 1. The same and 2. Scared, is insulting and wrong.

      If Orthodox Christians are voting for abortion, black racism and tyranny then they have not been well catechised. If they are afraid of death the same applies. John 16:33 I mention again.

      “These things I have spoken to you that in me, you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

      God’s mercy endures forever.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        Michael, Gene was not talking about you and your wife when he referred to “the elderly.” He was speaking generally.

        Nor did he suggest that “elderly folks” (as in ALL elderly) are the same or scared. He wasn’t trying to insult anyone. He was making a generalization that is largely true of many elderly.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Gail, not directly for sure but that os the problem with demographic generalities. They are always wrong. In my community, it is the younger folk who show the most fear.

          Address the state of fear and it does not matter the ages. Properly catechise folks so that we have the spiritual tools to address our culture from a Christian perspective and not be thrown hither and yon on the winds stirred up by the evil one. God forbid!
          It is easy to loose the fundamental reality that Jesus Christ is our ever present Lord God and Savior who has overcome the world.

          The “elderly” whomever they are not real as people and therefore irrelevant. Just as every other demographic category that idiotlogs of all stripes use to promote anti-human policy.

          Round up the”elderly” as “they” have to be “protected”.

          Yea, I am sure Gene does not yet mean it that way but it is a critical component of “group think”.

          In any case one of Jesus fundamental commands is Fear Not!

  17. EcuManiacal Patriarch says

    It has been rightly pointed out that parish closures are a cross-jurisdictional issue. Let’s demystify the problem: Hierarchs are being instructed by lawyers and/or their lodge. Real estate portfolios are at risk and, in the near future, their very 501(c)(3) status shall be at risk too if they don’t sign on to globohomo and the new medical tyranny.

    The letter that is the subject matter of this thread was written by priests who shut down their parishes and who are now feeling “buyer’s remorse” for buying what they were sold. What prodded them so late in the game? Did these priests “got woke” too late?

    We should ask the following: Where was the collective pastoral outrage when their Boston OCA priest wrote his famous defense of homosexuals, or the OCA deacon defending the “pussy riot” vandalism of the Church in Moscow, or when Holy Communion is given to monophysite heretics because their bishops claim to be smarter than the Saints at the Fourth Ecumenical Council who condemned them, or when evolution is being taught as acceptable in catechism class, etc, etc, etc? Unfortunately ecumenism, Paris school theology, AFR podcast level scholarship at the seminaries, the neo-Pelagianism taught by Myendorff and defects of Schememannism all have infected much of what passes for Ameridoxy these days.

    The INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH ™️ is getting a corporate make over and when the music stops your best bet is to already be seated in a chair where the parish never closed and the Sacraments never stopped being given to the faithful. These parishes are precious few but they exist! Read the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Don’t get caught in the market place because the time is fast upon us when the oil will not be shared by those who have it.

  18. Michael Bauman says

    On March 6, 2005 my wife of 24 years, Pamela Anne, died. It was as if half my soul were torn out. Roughly 40 days later–Pascha. During that celebration I experienced her being Ressurrected with our Lord, by our Lord.

    I have not really feared death since. During this time my remembrance of His Grace is a great comfort.

    When we sing “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by dead and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! ” We mean it. It is true.
    Let not your hearts be troubled.

    “It’s Friday now and our Lord is hanging on the Cross, but SUNDAY’S COMING!**

    **credit to evangelical preacher Tony Campola

  19. This is the future of Orthodoxy in America. This one is ROCOR but any parish that stayed open is seeing similar results I’m sure.

  20. John Nimmer says

    I 100% agree. History, the conscience of the Church, will prove us right. “Gates of hell shall not prevail.”

  21. Thanks for the great article!

    I am a former Baptist pastor, now a catechumen since May 1st. I have no idea how 50 odd Bishops in North America can be so utterly blind to what is obviously not a pandemic on the one hand (obvious since late March-early April, or so- I have a professional background in health), and to the requirements of Scripture and Holy Tradition (such as I understand it) on the other. Would someone please explain this to me.

    Are there no men among the Bishops?

    • George Michalopulos says

      Eventually, Jeff, yes, there will be many men among our bishops.

      Eventually. Probably right before the end.

  22. Here is my personal challenge,,,,in my 75 years the majority of the monastics I have met, under the guise of being holy or spiritual,
    have recognizable personality flaws that indicate escape from reality and an inability to cope,,,,also by the actions hints of sexual identity issues, as a matter of fact based an observations and many clergy confirmations one of our major jurisdictions has leaders in many parts of the world with such proclivities. I truly favor the proposition posed a few comments before about a husband wife team enabling an episcopate,,,,this is what rocor bishop james of manhattan did in the fifties,,,to bad he formed a non canonical diocese that persists to today. I am just very skeptical,,,,and rumors and track records abound.

    • George Michalopulos says

      rj, you are creating a straw-man argument. While I don’t disagree with you in the main, I can assure you that there are “recognized personality flaws” among many of these married clergy as well.

      And many other professionals –pharmacists included–as well.

      As for the married clergy, the common experience is to hastily ordain some under-thirty whippersnapper as a priest and then throw him to the wolves (i.e. parish councils) at the earliest possible date. This is because the parish probably hasn’t had a priest for several months (i.e. no $$$ going to the chancery).

      Instead of properly forming the young man as a deacon for 2-3 years (and paying him a living wage so he can support his wife and family), he is immediately ordained a priest. West of the Mississippi, the typical parish priest is often the only Orthodox priest in his town and he essentially does the work that a bishop would do in the old country. He’s simply not prepared to be a liturgist, catechist, evangelist, public relations figure, CEO of a corporation, poorly-paid therapist, etc., AND take care of his wife as a husband and a father to his children.

      It would be miraculous if he didn’t have personality quirks.

      • Solitary Priest says

        Bingo, George, you hit one out of the park again. I’ve often said that I should never have been made a priest at age twenty-four. I was just learning how to be a husband and father. Someone under thirty should stay a deacon and do internship in a large parish under the eye of an experienced priest. Many good priests I know, OCA, ROCOR, Serbian, Antiochian , and others , have been deacons for two, three, seven, even ten or twenty years, before becoming priests. All of them served under watchful experienced priests. One of them served under Fr. Roman Braga. Father Roman was a modern day confessor and quite possibly a saint. We see all the bad clergy(I may be one of the worst), but God still raises up good priests for His Church.

  23. Wanted to share this message I sent to the Assembly of Bishops. I think it’s important to let them know how we feel about what has transpired over the past year:

    Greetings in Christ, Your Eminences (if you are to read this),

    This is out of character for me, but, I find it necessary to reach out.

    Over the past year, you (the bishops) have locked us out of our churches, in our greatest time of need you shut us out from the very thing that would have given us life, the Eucharist. Some even forbade the veneration of the holy icons.

    All while doing this Archbishop Elpidophoros chose to march arm-in-arm with Black Lives Matter, an organization that openly advocates for beliefs that are wholly incompatible and at odd with our Orthodox faith. This same hierarch who praised the Biden administration, the most pro-abortion administration in our nations history.

    You led us to believe that our churches are indeed not a sanctuary, but worse, they are more dangerous than the secular world and are deemed non-essential as even liquor store, post dispensaries and strip clubs remained open as “essential.”

    This has caused possible irreparable harm to the flock and has cause large swaths of us to view the Assembly of Bishops as having lost all credibility. Rather than hold to the Church and our tradition, you put all faith in secular leaders and medical “professionals” whose opinions constantly changed and who care nothing about the Church.

    I ask you with all humility, and as chief among sinners myself, to beg God for forgiveness for the scandals you have caused and to open up the churches immediately. The Greek Archdiocese (and I’m sure other jurisdictions) were already in decline prior to COVID, how will it look now, how many of the people who have left will ever darken the door again now that we are to believe the world is “safer” than our holy churches?

    In Christ,
    Concerned Faithful

    • Gail Sheppard says

      It’s going to take exactly this to wake them up.

    • GOA Priest says


      If you think they care one whit what you think (or anyone else, for that matter), then I have a bridge to sell you…

      • On the contrary, I am unfortunately aware that they do not seem to care much about me, the flock and the clergy.

  24. Thomas Greco says

    The response of ALL of Canonical Orthodoxy in America was nothing short of pathetic. I’m embarrassed and ashamed. In my opinion these bishops are not weak. Not at all. They’re members of the fraternal secret society of Freemasonry and just following orders. Until people wake up to the rampant presence of masonic hierarchs and priests whose true loyalty is to the Lodge we will continue to be amazed at what we see all around us. If this crisis has done any good is was to reveal them. Masonry needs to be purged from the Orthodox Church or get ready for much worse things to come in 2021 – 2030.

    • Thomas,

      Based on their actions I am open to this possibility. Can anyone provide any evidence of this? If so, this evidence needs to see the light of day. It is up to the laity to defend the Church. The Bishops are not doing it and the Priests are between a rock and a hard place. Only the laity have the freedom and the leverage to act. All with much prayer and fidelity to Christ and the Fathers of course. There is much blame and guilt at all junctures. What matters now is what each of us does about all of this moving forward.

      • Thomas Greco says

        The history of Masonry in the churches is no secret. The problem is systemic. This is one of the reasons for a major Calendar split in the early 20th century as well as the Ecumenism heresy. The problem is that most modern Orthodox faithful do not perceive a problem with Masons in their church. They’re ignorant. They think Masonry is about charities, circuses and spaghetti dinners when the truth is they have been orchestrating wars and revolutions all along. It’s a fraternal society who remain very loyal to their brothers, even before the church and even before Christ. Unlike the Roman Church which repeatedly warned the whole church about this threat over the course of centuries, the Orthodox Church has remained largely silent. I’ll say it again: Orthodoxy must purge itself of Masonry at once. And it isn’t going to be easy because they are so numerous and because they are in positions of authority. In fact, if you discover that some of your fellow Orthodox faithful are Masons and report it to your bishop do you know what the bishop will say to you? Nothing. That is unless you attempt to make it into an issue at which point you will be looking for a new church because they will run you out of there on a rail. These COVID supporting bishops are connected in the Lodge, do not doubt it. By their fruits we can know them. Everyone with a brain knows this whole thing is a scam but the shepherds will continue to support this nonsense and punish you for speaking out because they have been instructed to support the globalist agenda. Time to wake up folks. Orthodox faithful have been sold out. If what you say is true Mike, then the faithful need to start outing the Masons parish by parish and only supporting bishops who understand that one cannot be a mason and an Orthodox Christian and who are willing to enforce it.

  25. Pat Reardon says

    Over the past 2000 years, George, the bishops of the Church have held HUNDREDS of meetings.

    Now, of all those meetings, there were exactly seven of which we are certain they “got it right.”

    I pray for our bishops very seriously each day, most especially during this crisis. I know a number of these men, and I believe they are trying their hearts out.

    • GOA Priest says


      What a strange reductionist comment.

      1. Ecumenical synods were not only meetings of bishops, nor were they the only ones to contribute to the oral argumentation at the synods.

      2. There were not only seven ecumenical synods.

      3. Regional councils are also included in the constitutions of the holy Canons.

      Finally, on what basis do you “believe they are trying their hearts out” ? I’m not saying you are wrong, but I would seriously like to know the evidence for your assertion. If the bishops were “trying their hearts out,” they would have done much more than issuing occasional “epistles” telling everyone to follow the rules — perhaps they would have actually stood for something other than “safety” and an offering more worthy of the Gospel than joining the fear culture that surrounds us.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        I think he says he knows a number of them and based on his personal knowledge, he knows that many of them are “trying their hearts out.”

        • GOA Priest says


          I get it, but I’m calling his hand. Episcopal inner angst is now a virtue? If they are trying their hearts out, then we are in more trouble than I had imagined.

  26. All my life I gave looked up to bishops with great respect. And now I cannot even bear to look at most of them. I am getting weary of being scandalized over and over again. I pray that Christ will directly intervene soon.

  27. David Nektarios says

    I’d have more respect for these guys if they signed their names. As it is, they’re just sowing discord and getting people emotionally stirred up, without showing us any actual leadership. I don’t doubt that everything they’re saying is true, either. But if they *really* want to stand up for Holy Tradition, for the Gospel, for the Body of Christ, they ought to sign their actual names, and come what may, or just be silent. I seem to recall reading on this blog about how Met. Anthony Khrapovitsky (I think) who would look to see if a letter was signed, and throw it away, unread, if it wasn’t. Well, that rule should apply even to things we agree with.

    • George Michalopulos says

      David, I’m not unsympathetic to your request. Indeed, things can spin out of control due to anonymous messages. All true. But we must also understand that the men in question are priests with families and they serve the liturgies of the Church often under a tyrannical bishop. (See for example the recently posted directive from Arb Benjamin.)

      While I do hope that in due time priests in such dire straights would rise up and identify themselves and take whatever consequences may come their way, we cannot wait for that day. Especially if the Church is under attack right this minute from within.

      Permit me a little latitude here for a history lesson. When I started this blog several years ago, I was uncomfortable allowing anonymity. I too, believed then that the spoken or written word given by a person who declared it openly was more powerful than those words uttered in anonymity. I still do.

      That does not mean however that an anonymous message is untrue. Having said that and going back to my history lesson, I was told by more than one priest that if it weren’t for blogs like this, some of the bishops in America would act without mercy for the priests in their dioceses. Psychological torture is how some maintain control of their priests. One (former) GOA priest told me that his bishop “had a number”. Said number was the amount of money that was needed from angry bigwigs in a particular parish for him to reassign a priest.

      Another priest several years ago wrote a fabulous essay about the corruption in the GOA. When asked if he would recommend the priesthood for any of his sons, he said something along these lines: “If they felt that they had a true calling for the priesthood, yes. However, I could not recommend them –or any man–placing himself under the capricious authority of an alcoholic or a homosexual.”

      Now please understand, I’m not bishop-bashing. It is what it is. When the Church was planted on this continent it was done in the most haphazard fashion possible. Cognizant of our own sins, we must be thankful to God that there is even an Orthodox Church in this land. The bishops, priests, and laymen who made it possible must be remembered in our prayers regardless of their personal foibles.

      Having said that, the current culture of fear is not ideal. Neither is priestly anonymity. Neither however will change unless public repentance by the episcopate happens –and we get more stalwart men in said episcopate. To this end (and forgive my naivete), I believe that monastic formation is not only vital but necessary. I also have no problem whatsoever with semi-retired middle-aged family men being ordained to the priesthood and even the episcopate.

      Now, forgive me because I’m on a roll but this must be said as well: it is up to the laity to step up to the plate and accept spiritual formation. They must be humble but resolute and it is vital that they partake of Confession and Communion. The men must be men and the women must accept the concept of headship. And if Orthodox families are serious about their mission or church, they must give freely. If they won’t do so and/or view the priest as “someone who only works two hours a week” then it’s a recipe for failure.

      Forgive my verbosity.

      • Pat Reardon says

        I do hope that in due time priests in such dire straights would rise up and identify themselves and take whatever consequences may come their way

        Thank you, George. I hope they will, too, or stop accusing the bishops of cowardice.

        And thank you as well, George,, for publishing that incredibly tasteless decree from Bishop Benjamin. I would comment further on the character of any bishop who bullies his priests through intimidation, but I would have to resurrect vocabulary I have not used in years.

        And as for those priests who comment anonymously online, I don’t hold you responsible for their displays of childish irresponsibility. One of them, for instance, habitually refers to the Hierarchy as “Lowerarchy.” This is as bold as we can expect, I suppose, from Father Chicken Cacciatore.

      • Love your verbosity.
        Do recognize difference between ‘straights’ and ‘straits ‘, the word you really meant.

  28. Just a thought that makes me chuckle

    In the Great Litany we pray for our Metropolitan, our Bishop or Archbishop , for the honorable priesthood….

    I have often wondered why there is no adjective before the other ranks, though the deaconate is singled out. with ‘in Christ.’

  29. Here is Isaiah writing how many years ago

    Israel’s Irresponsible Leaders

    9 All you beasts of the field, come to devour,
    All you beasts in the forest.
    10 His watchmen are blind,
    They are all ignorant;
    They are all dumb dogs,
    They cannot bark;
    [b]Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
    11 Yes, they are greedy[c] dogs
    Which never[d] have enough.
    And they are shepherds
    Who cannot understand;
    They all look to their own way,
    Every one for his own gain,
    From his own territory.
    12 “Come,” one says, “I will bring wine,
    And we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink;
    Tomorrow will be as today,
    And much more abundant.”

  30. Laywoman, definitely not supposed to think for herself says

    Despite being overwhelmingly blessed with pastoral support this past year, I felt positively orphaned until I read this. The pressure of thinking these things but not hearing anyone but one or two people say them was almost too much to bear at times.

    Thank you.

  31. Nicolas Jackson says

    “1. The clergy are strictly to observe the teachings of The Church regarding Christ, the Sacred Scriptures and Holy Traditions (Ephesus, c. 6, 7; Trullo, c. 1; Carthage, c. 2).

    2. The clergy are under the complete authority of the diocesan hierarch, without whose blessing they cannot function and to whom they must show proper respect (Laodicea, c. 57; Holy Apostles, c.31, 39, 55; Carthage, c. 10).

    Canon law in the Church is used as a juris prudence. Canon law clearly states that if a priest refuses to celebrate Holy Liturgy he is to be put out of the priesthood. In 2020, however, priests were threatened again and again with suspension if they celebrated Holy Liturgy even during Holy Week. ”

    There is no contradiction here. If a priest refuses to celebrate the Holy Liturgy when his bishop tells him to, he is in disobedience to his bishop and has therefore violated the canons which unambiguously state, “The clergy are under the complete authority of the diocesan hierarch, without whose blessing they cannot function”.

    If a priest refuses to not celebrate the Holy Liturgy when his bishop tells him not to, he is equally in disobedience to his bishop and equally violated the very same canons. In fact, despite this disobedience, the priest who has refused the bishop’s authority and served anyways has not celebrated the the Holy Liturgy because without the bishop’s blessing he has no authority or power to do so. We are not Roman Catholics.

  32. I wasn’t able to read all the comments and I can only speak for my small corner of the globe. I go to an Antiochian parish. There are also Russian and Greek parishes here as well. We’ve all been open through this thing but with various restrictive measures. Communion is largely done normal but we aren’t supposed to kiss…well anything. In an effort to allow as many people in as possible, they are using other rooms within the building where people can watch on monitors until Communion time. They were alternating mask mandatory/optional Sundays but after cases went up in the area they stopped it and now masks must be worn. To me and my wife all of this is bull. For weeks we just haven’t gone. We feel masks and gloves have no place within the Sacred Space. We also don’t want to sit in the basement watching a service going on right above us. Our priest insists he isn’t afraid but rather is trying to be “loving” by protecting the parishioners. Our deacon has insisted he’s trying to be obedient and places it all on the bishop, even if he personally disagrees with some of it. I could go on and on. This whole thing is just sad to me. Where is the Church I’ve been learning about for the past 13 years? Where is the Church of the martyrs and confessors who gave up all rather than deny Christ? The last thing I will say is I keep thinking about some of the archpastors we had a generation ago. If this was going on back in the early 60s, do any of you think that Archbishop John, Bishop Nektary, Metropolitan Philaret, or Archbishop Averky would be doing things the way our churches are doing them? Would St. John require his parishioners to “mask up” or stay home or watch the service on TV or avoid kissing the icons? I have a very hard time believing that.

  33. Dean Arnold says

    How does Monomakhos know this is from OCA priests and not from an imposter?

    • Gail Sheppard says

      We don’t publish things that are blindly submitted to us. We know and trust our sources or we wouldn’t have published this. We also tell the truth. Again, it was not just one priest. It is a group of priests.

      • Dean Arnold says

        I believe you tell the truth. I just wanted to confirm that you had a way of knowing this was actually from OCA priests, even though for us it is anonymous.

  34. Nicolas Jackson says

    55th Apostolic Canon: “If any of the clergy insult the bishop, let him be deposed: for you shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.”

    It is worth noting that St. Paul believed this applied even to the corrupt and impious high priest who was seeking to murder him. If St. Paul, an Apostle and bishop himself, did not think it appropriate to violate this divine law, what business do we laity have? We are not as great as St. Paul and none of our bishops are as bad as Ananias.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Nicholas, you bring up a great point. Allow me to expand if you will.

      St Paul, in accepting the headship of the Jewish High Priest, proves to us that the Church at that time was a Judaic sect. That’s the implication anyway. I merely throw this out here for historiographical purposes.

      Having said that, what would St Paul have done or said if that High Priest forced him to abjure Jesus as Israel’s Messiah? Or to stop bringing in gentiles into the Church unless they became Judaizers (that is, accepting and adhering to the Law of Moses)?

      My guess is that “obedience” goes only so far.

      • anonimus per Scorilo says

        There are very clear canons that indicate when a priest can disobey and stop commemorating his bishop. Usually they involve heresy (as established by the synod, not by facebook forums). Furthermore, this only be done with the blessing of the structure above the bishop (the metropolitan or the synod).

        Last time when I checked, abjuring Jesus as Israel’s Messiah was indeed a valid ground for disobedience. Asking people to wear a mask during the services was not.

        • George Michalopulos says

          So at least we can agree that obedience is conditional?

          Abjuring Jesus is (as you say) apostasy. Questioning the validity of masks does not rise to that level, I’ll grant you. However the minor incursions that arise that lead to uncomfortable questions can and do rise to the level of heresy. For example: can the contents of the Holy Chalice act as a vector for disease? That’s a very simple yes-or-no question.

          I think you can see which way this can go.

          • For example: can the contents of the Holy Chalice act as a vector for disease? That’s a very simple yes-or-no question.

            There are a number of priests (priests!) who have answered this question in the affirmative. Yet the bishops (or at least most of them) have said NO (though their words say one thing while their actions say another). How many priests who answer in the affirmative have been suspended as a result?

            If this had happened in the past (during, for example, a particularly bad flu season or the beginning of the AIDS outbreak when no one knew precisely how it was spread) and a priest had taken it upon himself to use multiple and/or disinfected spoons “to protect and/or appease the fears of the people” I can only imagine what most of these same bishops would have done to him and the arguments they would have made for why it is unacceptable. I very much doubt that “love” would have proven to be an acceptable justification.

            Personally, I’m uncomfortable with masks, not kissing icons, etc., but at least they are not an outright direct denial of the the truth. The Eucharist is another story altogether. It really and truly bothers my conscience to be forced to endure what in any other time would rightly be labeled heresy in order to commune in My Lord. And although I’m not quite as offended by masks, not being able to kiss icons, the cross, etc., the fact that these seem to gone hand in hand with what I honestly believe to be blasphemy of Christ in the Eucharist (whether intended as such or not) causes me to wonder increasingly about them as well.

            But hey, I’m just a nut who is foolish enough to believe what the Church and these bishops taught me, not to mention the words we pray in the Liturgy itself…

            “Look down from heaven, O Master, upon those who have bowed their heads to You, the awesome God. Distribute Yourself, O Master, these gifts here offered, to all of us for good,
            according to the individual need of each; sail with those who sail, travel with those who travel by land and air; heal the sick, O You who are the physician of our souls and bodies.

            “May the communion of Your holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body.”

            • Gail Sheppard says

              And even I, who doesn’t pretend to know the right answers to any of these questions because I never bothered to ask, have completely committed myself to accept the Church and her Traditions even if I DO get sick. That’s what you sign up for when you become Orthodox.

              • George Michalopulos says


                While there is only heresy, it can transpire overtly or surreptitiously. With COVID, we are seeing the latter.

                If an Orthodox cleric/bishop/theologian cannot answer this question which I posed in the negative, we have to infer that he believes that the Eucharist can serve as a vector for transmission.

                What else is there to be said?

                • anonimus per Scorilo says

                  I think the moment we start “interpreting” and “inferring” what the bishop meant by this or that rule, we fall into suspiciousness, which can be a serious spiritual disease.

                  The Russian Patriarchate’s instructions for wiping or dipping the spoon in alcohol, which were followed by most of the OCA bishops, are in perfect congruence with the Tradition of the Church. They are exactly what Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain describes in the Rudder for times of plague.

                  Now if you want to argue that Patriarch Kirill is a heretic because he instructed his clergy to wipe the communion spoon with alcohol, while Black Bart, who insisted on the “traditional” way of giving communion (with North-American exceptions) is a shining example of orthopraxis, you are more than welcome. But do not expect the argument to hold much water.

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    APS,if you can describe to me in the Rudder or Canons where the services of the Church were “non-essential”, I’ll concede your entire argument.

                    We forget that the Canons are written in a context. That’s why one can go to the theater today and not in early Byzantine times (in which “theater” comprised of live sex shows; that’s how Justinian met Theodora btw).

                    The context of the times in which St Nicodemus flourished were so different from what obtains today. There is no Orthodox phronema in America today. Heck, there’s not even a Protestant phronema any more. Evangelical churches are embracing transsexualism and some Protestant thinkers are so scandalized by Evangelical support for the Bad Orange Man that they are leaving (or thinking of leaving) Christianity altogether.

                    We are not ready for the arena, are we?

                    • anonimus per Scorilo says

                      It is the bishop’s job to “rightly divide” the Word of God’s truth, and to decide how to apply the canons and the examples in the lives of the saints to the contemporary situation.

                      Patriarch Kirill explained very nicely in his January 7 interview that, painful as it was, the decision to close churches in pandemic times was perfectly normal within the tradition of the Church:

                      (original at
                      transcription in Greek at

                      opening with chrome provides a reasonable English translation )

                      What is happening in America with the general loss of Orthodox phronema is indeed a problem (though not worse than what is happening in other countries). But throwing away obedience to, and trust in the bishops, is only worsening this problem, not providing a solution.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      No where does anyone advocate throwing away obedience to our bishops. So let’s get that straightened out right now.

                      I’ll admit it is concerning to hear so many people saying their bishops are saying one thing publicly to appease their “brother hierarchs” while allowing a parish here and there do something else entirely.

                      With regard to trust, that has to be earned and frankly some of the bishops don’t help themselves in this regard, especially when they write letters threatening their priests.

                      Bishops are men. They are not saints and we (the entire Church) are in this together.

                      This isn’t the first time a bishop has brought himself under scrutiny for bad behavior and it won’t be the last.

                    • anonimus per Scorilo says

                      Trust is earned in the secular world. Among Christians it should be automatic. Especially towards the successors of the Apostles.

                      Unlike the surrounding protestant beliefs, the Orthodox believe the Holy Spirit is in the Church (we do not have any feast of the Ascension of the Holy Spirit) .

                      All the talk about how evil our bishops are for taking pandemics measures in perfect coherence with the tradition of the Church risks running contrary to this belief.

                      Same goes for encouraging jurisdiction hopping because the bishop does not agree with one’s latest ideological fad (anti-mask, anti-opression, anti-vax, anti-racist, anti-big pharma, or whatever else becomes viral tomorrow).

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      I wish it were true that among Christians, trust is automatic, because Christians are trustworthy. Christians are human beings and have the same pathologies as everyone else.

                      The bishops are not evil, but they’re capable of doing evil things.

                      Our bishops are not all gifted leaders and they’re not particularly bright when it comes to communication. They say they’re all coming from the same place on COVID, but we have seen right here, in front of our faces, that though they say they’re walking in “lock step,” it isn’t true.

                      We have the testimony of two people, both under the same bishop, saying that though he talks a big game with regard to how those who practice “risky” behavior with regard to the COVID mandates are guilty of violating the 6th commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”, he doesn’t believe it. He doesn’t believe it, because he has never closed down their parishes, presumably during the official, governmental lockdowns.

                      This does not inspire confidence.

                      How can we trust our bishops, however well-meaning, when they don’t do what they say? How can we trust them when we see evidence of their proclivities, i.e. threatening our priests, in a formal letter with his signature?

                      Yes, they do need to earn our trust by saying what they mean and doing what they say.

            • Michael Bauman says

              If we eat and drink unworthily and/or careless reception is cause of sickness. 1 Cor 11:30. If you go to the Cup with condemnation of the Bishop/priest what life have you?

              A story from early in Bishop Basil’s tenure. He was making a parish visit to a parish that was at odds with their priest. When the time came to partake, everyone lined up to receive from His Grace. No one to receive from their priest. Bp Basil covered his Chalice and would serve no one. I have thought of that as a rebuke in the past and it may have been but it was also an act of tremendous mercy so the people would not drink condemnation rather than life.

              It also works the other way. If I go to the Chalice asking and expecting Jesus without rancor, I will receive Him and the Saints and angels will celebrate too, whether I kiss their icons or not.
              Most of them are out of reach in any case.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Beautiful, Michael. I can envision in my mind His Grace doing that. And for the reason you cited.

                He’s one of the stalwarts.

                • Michael Bauman says

                  Of course Bishop Basil always provides a path of mercy. I experienced this first hand when he refused to marry Merry and me in the Church because I am her fourth husband (the first two were abusive). All three were not Orthodox. I was not amused at first. But, Bishop Basil gave a way forward after we married anyway. I was excommunicated while Merry was doing her catechesis and I went through it with her. When she completed it and was going to be Chrismated, I reminded him I was still not allowed to commune and she was going to be receiving. He simply said, “We can’t have that now, can we. You can receive again with her.” It was like coming into the Church for the first time.

                  A blessing that came only through our obedience to our Bishop even though we hated his order and disagreed with it.

                  He now affirms that our marriage is blessed by God.
                  Poor Father Paul. He took the heat from me. He too was obedient to his Bishop.

              • Michael,

                For what it’s worth, I have no desire to condemn anyone, and I partake with fear in spite of it – perhaps more fear than ever because I do not take the criticism of bishops lightly. It troubles me very much; that’s all. It is one thong to be obedient. It is another to participate in a lie (intended or not). Once I was asked by someone (not the priest) to assist with the spoon disinfection and wiping (like being being asked to hold the communion cloth which I am always happy to do). I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I politely refused. I love our parish priest. I love the people. I blame none of them. If anything, I blame myself for participating in it at all. I tell myself that if I lived in an Orthodox country I wouldn’t have a choice, and so I stay. Make of that what you will.

                My spiritual father is in a different jurisdiction than my home parish – a jurisdiction you apparently know well, though it is not Antiochian. He was once my parish priest but now lives quite a distance from me. He tells me that he is very grateful to have been instructed not to alter communion in any way. Yes, he had to close the doors for a time, mask, etc., but not this. He told me, moreover, that if this was demanded of him, he would graciously and humbly (he is an extremely humble man) offer to step down, be defrocked, or accept whatever consequences may come. He is about as obedient a man as you could imagine. He always does precisely what his bishop tells him to do. But his conscience as a priest simply wouldn’t allow it And I know he he serious. He is not one for idle talk.

                He has not advised me to depart; but he, like me, is deeply troubled by all this, sensing that it is a sign of far worse compromises to come.

                • Michael Bauman says

                  Brian, I was not speaking to you specifically. I know no jurisdiction well. I know my own parish, sort of. It is home and family. Our priest has been here since 1993.

        • not kissing icons, etc., but at least they are not an outright direct denial of the the truth.

          this gives enough ground for disobedience.
          Then adding multiple communion spoons or dipping in some disinfection solution or dipped wafers etc .
          Also when Bishop claims that virus is not food born in regards to Holy Communion.
          Then when Bishop claims RC and protestant spouses can take communion.
          If those heresies come from my Bishop I would not attend his services.

          • Gail Sheppard says

            Voting with your feet is discernment, not disobedience. The laity is not supposed to be some passive body in the Church. They can’t even hold a liturgy without us being present.

      • Nicolas Jackson says

        ““Nicholas, you bring up a great point. Allow me to expand if you will.

        St Paul, in accepting the headship of the Jewish High Priest, proves to us that the Church at that time was a Judaic sect. That’s the implication anyway. I merely throw this out here for historiographical purposes.

        Having said that, what would St Paul have done or said if that High Priest forced him to abjure Jesus as Israel’s Messiah? Or to stop bringing in gentiles into the Church unless they became Judaizers (that is, accepting and adhering to the Law of Moses)?”

        George, you say I made a good point, yet you delete my response to you. If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if I have not spoken evil, why do you delete this comment?

        St. Paul recognized the High Priest’s authority over the Jewish nation, of which he was a part. He did not cede to him on any religious matters. The relevance of St. Paul’s example is not in helping us discern theological correctness but in showing us that theological correctness is irrelevant when considering whether we should be respectful to our bishops. St. Paul’s behavior is in sharp contrast to the priests and laity here in this thread and elsewhere who are insulting their bishops, libeling them, and gossiping about them.

        In the Orthodox Church it is other bishops, in the form of councils, who depose or correct bishops that have fallen astray, and it is only bishops who have the authority to interpret and apply the canons of the Church. Neither is the prerogative of priests or laity. Our history and lives of saints are replete with examples of priests and laity who have endangered their souls because they did so, even when their bishop was eventually corrected or deposed by a council of bishops. Some repented and managed to remain in the Ark of Salvation. There’s an example in one of the Optina elders, I wish I could remember which, where the elder’s warning prevents a man from publicly condemning a bishop for a very real error the bishop had made. Soon afterwards, the man sees that the Holy Spirit took care of correcting the bishop.

        Many, many did not repent in time. In the Russian Church, the example of this that looms largest in our memory is the terrible tragedy of the Nikonian reforms. Patriarch Nikon was deposed by the Great Moscow Synod of 1666, but that did nothing to free the anti-Nikonians from the grip of apostasy, because by taking matters into their own hands they had rebelled against the Holy Spirit. This led to millions of Russian people for centuries living their whole lives outside the Church without any sacraments. Rarely has the Adversary of mankind won such a victory. A sober warning for us indeed!”

    • “5th Apostolic Canon: “If any of the clergy insult the bishop, let him be deposed: for you shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.”

      “It is worth noting that St. Paul believed this applied even to the corrupt and impious high priest who was seeking to murder him.”

      St. Paul didn’t apply that canon to the Apostles, and St. James the Brother of the Lord, the first bishop of Jerusalem, which isn’t surprising, since it didn’t exist at the time. I think St. Paul would’ve quoted the same verse, in the same scenario, if he mouthed off thinking he was struck by an underling, when it was really Caesar himself; because St. Paul clearly had plans to get around to Rome and to attempt convert the emperor himself, knowing this would radically change everything, since nobody had much a concept of the separation of church and state.

      • Nicolas Jackson says


        “For you shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people”, is from Exodus 22:28. St. Paul quotes the Exodus passage (not the Apostolic Canon) in Acts 23:5 when he accidentally insults the Jewish High Priest and repents of it.

        The Apostolic Canon applies the divine law, given to Moses and obeyed by St. Paul, to our Orthodox bishops, because in their historical context (and clearly today as well) that needed to be spelled out. Some priests and laity in every generation have felt justified in insulting their bishops and it has always, regardless of circumstances, been wrong to do so. Very, very wrong. Wrong enough that the canon says such a priest or deacon is to be defrocked just for that.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          RE: “For you shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people. . .”

          Speaking the TRUTH is not evil, my friend. – “If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:17

          • Nicolas Jackson says

            “Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” Acts 23:3-5

            “If any of the clergy insult the bishop, let him be deposed: for you shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.” 5th Apostolic Canon

            It did not matter that St. Paul was speaking the TRUTH. It is always wrong to insult your bishop, wrong enough that the canon demands any priest or deacon who does so be defrocked.

          • Nicolas Jackson says

            What evil was it that St. Paul spoke about the high priest? It was the TRUTH, but he repented of it because it was wrong of him to insult the high priest, just as the holy canon says it is wrong to insult bishops even if they have done wrong.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              I never said St. Paul spoke evil about anything so saying he was “wrong” makes no sense. From the point of his conversion, the only high priest St. Paul recognized was Christ.

              No one is speaking evil or being “insulting” (disrespectful or scornfully abusive). We’ve spoken the truth just like St. Paul did in the chapters of Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First Thessalonians, and Second Thessalonians.

              Nicolas, this blog is not for arguing about scripture or the canons. So we’re going to close this thread.

              • Nicolas Jackson says

                Gail, this isn’t a matter of arguing about scripture or the canons, it is a matter of understanding the Orthodox relationship between a priest and his bishop, which is exactly what this blog post, “The Broken Covenant”, is about.

                What did St. Paul apologize for? We can’t just declare that he spoke nothing evil when St. Paul himself is the one that calls what he said evil.

                It makes sense that someone who doesn’t think St. Paul did anything wrong also thinks nothing being said in all these comments is insulting of their bishop.

                • Gail Sheppard says

                  What are your qualifications with respect to understanding the relationship between a priest and his bishop, apart from what you think you understand about scripture and the canons? And what do you know about these priests?

                  St. Paul was on trial. He was speaking to a Sadducee. He was making the point that the Sadducees had no authority over him because he was a Pharisee.

                  Context, Nicolas. Context is everything.

                  With regard to this situation, forget St. Paul. Listen to CHRIST: “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:32

                  Christ was talking to the apostles. Like the apostles, bishops are to be servants and not lord their authority over their priests. The Church is unworkable any other way.

              • Nicolas, this blog is not for arguing about scripture or the canons. So we’re going to close this thread.

                Really? Going back 6-7 years, discussing scripture and canons has been the bread and butter of this forum. Countless threads were dedicated to fleshing out scriptural truth, especially back in the days when Bishop Tikhon, M. Stankovich and Monk James Silver would still care to drop by. Can’t help myself, but feel that Nicholas is getting some selective treatment, based on him bringing some unwelcome news.

          • Nicolas Jackson says

            Gail, you quoted Matthew 18:17. What do you think it means, “tell it to the Church”?

        • MatthewPanchisin says

          Dear Nicolas Jackson,

          The Church canons do not work that way, your canons are not loaded, you are firing duds. Nobody with any Orthodox Christian common sense cares when they are applied in the way you apply them, it can’t impact our hearts and minds for corrective purposes, the sadness and prayers remain the same. That’s a solidified part of the Orthodox tradition in the face of things like apostacia. Suffice it to say iconoclasts etc., apostates are not our rulers.

          Vladyka blessed me to say this, this is a puny obedience that I can handle. There’s an old saying as a matter of discipline; Children should be seen and not heard but I don’t know how you do that on the internet.

        • …regardless of circumstances“?

          It is precisely this interpretation that allowed the sexual cancer
          infecting the Roman Catholic Church (and now the SSPX) to metastasise
          with disastrous consequences for the faithful.

          Gail is right.

        • Nicolas Jackson says

          Matthew and Brendan,

          It is only bishops who can apply canons and judge apostasy. Where is today’s St. Mark of Ephesus? Since the Holy Spirit has not raised up any such bishop as he did with St. Mark, we can state conclusively that no apostasy is happening.

          We’ve seen throughout history what happens when priests and laity, separate from any canonical bishop, embark on judging apostacy themselves. They end up outside the Church.

          • Gail Sheppard says

            Again, you really need to stop.

            1) RE: “It is only bishops who can apply canons and judge apostasy.” If this is true, why are YOU doing it, Nicholas?

            2) RE: “It is only bishops who can apply canons and judge apostasy. Where is today’s St. Mark of Ephesus? Since the Holy Spirit has not raised up any such bishop as he did with St. Mark, we can state conclusively that no apostasy is happening.” Fallacy called Proving Non-Existence. (You cannot prove that X exists, so you prove that it doesn’t.)

            3) RE: “We’ve seen throughout history what happens when priests and laity, separate from any canonical bishop, embark on judging apostacy themselves. They end up outside the Church.” Existential Fallacy & Fallacy of 4 Terms (In ALL of history, if ALL priests and laity ALL separate from any canonical bishop, and ALL embark on judging apostasy, they ALL end up outside the Church.)

            • Nicolas Jackson says

              Gail, I appreciate your concern that I may be trying to apply the canons and judge apostasy by myself. I have made reference to historical groups that the Church’s bishop’s have judged to be apostates. I have not declared them apostates myself. Neither have I said so-and-so priest should be defrocked because the canons say so. I have, instead, shown the text of some of the canons, and the scripture one of those canons quotes, that are referenced in George’s blog post to show how severely the Orthodox Church views insulting bishops. Whether a bishop is going to defrock a priest who insults him is up to the bishop.

              • Gail Sheppard says

                RE: “Neither have I said so-and-so priest should be defrocked because the canons say so.”

                But you kinda did. You said, “Some priests and laity in every generation have felt justified in insulting their bishops and it has always, regardless of circumstances, been wrong to do so.” You went on to say, it is “Very, very wrong. Wrong enough that the canon says such a priest or deacon is to be defrocked just for that. (Apostate is the wrong word, Nicolas. No one has said they’re walking away from the Church.)

                You also said, “We can’t just declare that he spoke nothing evil when St. Paul himself is the one that calls what he said evil.” I don’t think you really understand scripture which is why I do not want to debate it on the blog.

                I also don’t think you understand the Orthodox Church. In the Orthodox Church, canons are guidelines, not hard and fast rules, and the objective is to reunite the sinner with God. If a priest lost his tongue, he would probably be given a penance.

                But that’s not what happened here. No one lost their tongue or said anything insulting. These priests were bringing to “the Church” the problems they have been unable to resolve with their bishops.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Nicholas, you assume that there isn’t a Mark Eugenicus among us already. Historically speaking, the validity of councils, the preachment of saints, and the condemnation of heretics happens after the fact. They are recognized in a posterior fashion.

            Having said that, we have a rich tradition of history, ecclesiology, and decisions which allow us to see heresies happening in situ. In other words, we don’t need to convene a council to judge the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses: we know that those are Arianism straight-up.

          • “Since the Holy Spirit has not [informed me that he has] raised up any such bishop as he did with St. Mark, [I] can state conclusively that no apostasy is happening.”

            There. Fixed it for you.

            • Nicolas Jackson says

              A bishop cannot oppose heresy secretly. They are the leaders of the Church, and they can only lead the faithful if they do so openly. We are not Muslims. We do not believe in occulted leaders.

              • Gail Sheppard says

                Nicholas, we are not censoring you. It may take awhile to see some or all of your posts.

                • Nicolas Jackson says

                  Gail, I appreciate your clarifying that, and I am completely sympathetic to how idiosyncratic computer systems can be. My posts have been popping up in different orders after seemingly random time delays, which had me confused because it seems unrelated to that little one hour timer that displays and counts down when a post is submitted.

                  However, a couple of my posts do seem to have been eaten entirely by the system. One was a response to some questions George asked me above. The other was a response to your question in 1) RE:. Both were made days ago (on different days), although posts I made before, after, and even around the same time as them are now all displaying.

              • I see no point in continuing with this.
                So I won’t.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Nicolas, a lot of what our bishops do that is within the scope of their ministry is not known.

  35. Zoria explains why OCU is unwilling to repent to Filaret

    ‘ The head of the UOC-KP has no right to demand that the “bishops” of the OCU fulfill their oath of allegiance, said Eustratiy Zoria.

    “Patriarch” Filaret cannot accuse the “hierarchs” of the OCU of violating their oath, as he is an oath-breaker himself, said the spokesman of the OCU Ivan (Eustratiy) Zoria on his Facebook page.’


  36. I am completely for obedience to bishops. However, there’s no way that obedience to bishops can be a 100% absolute 100% of the time. There has to be contingencies right? Didn’t the Catacomb Church in Russia refuse to obey “Patriarch” Sergius? I think the question has become for many of us whether or not what many of our bishops are doing falls into the category of something where strict obedience is no longer called for. And there just doesn’t seem to be a consensus on that.

    • Seraphim, you make a good point. When bishops are compromised by secular and even atheistic government directives, are the laity obligated to be obedient?

      Case in point: In 1948, the Moscow Patriarchate annulled the autocephaly of Poland which had been granted by Constantinople in 1924. In it’s place, the Russian church instead granted their own particular tomos of autocephaly for Poland, diminishing it’s jurisdiction and reflecting the significant territories gained by Russia after WWII, and thereby also forcibly instituting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the former territories of Eastern Poland.

      For many Orthodox bishops, priests, and laity in these former territories of Eastern Poland (who were of the autocephalous Church of Poland), suddenly they were under the “jurisdiction” of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. The rug was pulled out from under them. As such, it is no wonder that there is a strong movement for Ukrainian autocephaly in Western Ukraine (formerly the jurisdiction of the autocephalous Church of Poland.)

      This was an historical wrong created by the secular and atheistic agenda of the Soviet Empire which sought to destroy churches, and the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate were complicit. Do the laity have a canonical right to disobey such directives? The result was a “catacomb” church in Western Ukraine and movement towards Ukrainian autocephaly.

  37. Michael Bauman says

    I was led this morning to contemplate Romans 8. Especially verses 35-39.

    The Holy Sacraments are avenues if Grace, Mercy and healing without doubt but Our Lord’s love is not restricted to them.

  38. Maybe someone can explain what canon allows a bishop to force the faithful to self-suffocate in church? What canon allows a bishop to demand that non-medical personnel check temperatures at the front doors or sign-in for contact tracing purposes? What canon allows bishops to refuse entrance for refusing to obey the above demands? What canon allows bishops to support medical tyranny in the church? What canon allows bishops to dictate how you behave towards fellow members of the faith community including hugging, hand holding, kissing, touching one another and sitting or standing close to another human being? What canon allows bishops and priests to practice medicine?

    As far as I am concerned these priests and bishops attempting these practices should be sued for 1. discrimination and 2. illegal practice of medicine. That’s how you deal with secularized clergy.