Will Somebody Please Get the Story Straight?

Often I get asked why this blog criticizes the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Believe me, it’s not because I want to. It violates every fiber of my kum-ba-ya being.

You see, I’ve long thought that the Orthodox Church is the Church of Christ. Now mind you, I’m not antithetical to the other Christian confessions. It’s not for me to judge. But being a blogger now for almost a decade I get around.

I’m particularly fascinated by “Trad-Catholic” and Evangelical websites and YouTubers. It’s easy to pick up a lot of beneficial stuff there. Some of it finds its way onto this blog. (Same with certain esoteric Jewish and Islamic sites.) Getting back to the Catholic and Evangelical sites though, I can honestly say that there is so much wreckage out there that I’ve come to the realization that, for all our faults, the Orthodox Church is the remnant.

Hence the sadness I feel whenever I read something questionable coming out of Istanbul.

Sometimes the assertions that are promulgated are merely cloying, other times they sound like special pleading. Then there’s the really questionable (read: heretical) stuff that flunks the smell test. The whole “first-without-equals” doctrine would fall into this category.

This byzanto-papalist stuff mars the face of Orthodox evangelism, of this there can be no doubt. But what is especially cloying to me at least is the small stuff that the Phanar can’t get right.

Things like this:http://orthochristian.com/119616.html

This interview with Fr Alex Karloutsos was given just three short years ago on the island of Crete, during the so-called Great and Holy Council. Now we know that this turned out to be a flop. Having said that, there was no mention before, during or after this Council that there were different degrees of autocephaly. Nor was there any mention of Mother-Daughter relationships between the various Orthodox Churches. We were all “sisters” and the Phanar pulled out all the stops to make sure that every Church that attended would be reassured that this was indeed the case.

So what happened? Did Patriarch Bartholomew get a new insight or revelation? Did some monk in some remote monastery unearth a forgotten text which upended centuries of accepted Orthodox ecclesiology? Was there a previously unknown canon which stated that the Patriarch of Constantinople could unilaterally walk into another autocephalous church’s territory and rip up its charter?

Something tells me no.

It’s sad really to see things like this happen. It’s so unnecessary. Worse, it’s obvious; everybody knows what Bartholomew is trying to do and nobody is fooled. It’s just bad form. We wouldn’t allow it in our personal and business relationships so why are we allowing it to happen in our church?

It’s just not right. And it makes eminent functionaries like Fr Karloutsos look foolish. Really, they got to get their act together.

P.S. You, Gentle Reader will note that I uploaded this video from orthochristian.com, a very fine site if you ask me. I encourage everyone to visit that blogsite frequently, it’s that good. Say what you will about the Russians, they ain’t the Keystone Kops. (Remember Fancy Bear? Something tells me that the Russians have a whole lot more coming down the pike.)


  1. You’re right, the Church IS the Church.  The patriarchs make so many mistakes because of the nature of our bishops.  We pick only from men who are bachelors for every reason.  Most of those reasons are not good, ever.  When you take a guy in his 20’s and tell him he has a job for life and a fawning following for the asking if he just agrees to never marry and gets through school  you get what you deserve.  See the results.  That’s what we have built in to the system, abuse without end.  And the only ones who might change the results are the ones who perpetuate it, not likely.  They care about themselves and no one else.  Facebook pages of a Greek bishop? Lots of 60’s -70’s rock and selfies.  Faith?  No, too busy being hip and getting his hand kissed.  It will continue until the laity are actually, really sick of it.  Meantime I keep my eyes on the parish where life happens and try not to remember bishops exist.  Mostly they don’t. 

    • George Michalopulos says

      Lots of wisdom there, Bob.

      If I may add, I have no truck against the celibate episcopate per se, provided said candidate has proper spiritual formation, i.e. a true monastic. The difference between a true monastic who is completely empty to himself as opposed to a professional monastic who is really an academic time-server/bureaucrat is as night is to day. I have personally experienced this in action.

      I’ll even go further: I care not what the man’s personal sins are. All I know is that a true monk is far more kenotic and available for spiritual counsel than an “official” monk is.

      • George as usual re bishops u get it 100% on the nails. 
        Having had a wonderful liturgy this morning, with fr Dobromir and family over from uk,  where yours truly chanted Our Father in Greek,  after it  in Korean,  and wonderful singing and feeling. People standing outside chapel, it’s important to hold that THIS is the Church. 
        George our guy here a bit of a rogue, lovable old rogue!!   but travels by bus and says it Straight and done a few good things for city.  Good liturgist. The rest as you say,  but when you see these smooth professional  Phanar archimandrites,  you know Church will not progress in any way TIL YOU  GET RID OF THEM FOR GOOD. 

    • Bob,
      This is a crappy argument, a category error. Celibacy doesn’t make for lameness in episcopal candidates. Personal lameness does. I don’t Facebook and I don’t follow any Greek bishops so I can’t speak to that. Some of them are lame and others impressive, all of it due to their character and none of it to celibacy. 
      I know some hierarchs personally, and have suffered neglect as well as enjoyed pastoral kindness at their hands. I don’t think there is much beyond personal spirituality and character that predicts the pastoral effectiveness or holiness of a bishop. I will admit that culture plays a powerful role in shaping spirituality and character. It may even be accurate to say the Greek Orthodox culture is warped and produces bad results very often. That would be an argument worth having. But let’s not beat the dead horse celibate hierarchy.

      • Bishops on facebook? ? KEEP THAT QUIET as will do in facebook more than any private scandal!!
        Yes of course the nature of individual but we cannot discount the secular, materialistic, competative american middle class Culture.
        I saw this spending time with group of USA professional peopke during my stint in Romania. Dinner was a ‘ one upmanship ‘ battle ground daily. A never ending battle.
        The canadian children’s nurses, sat at other end of table’ radiating ‘ and saying , ‘ we don’t like americans’!!! ?

        • Nick, where are you from, and how is your culture different from American? I am a convert to Orthodoxy here in the US and am enjoying learning from Orthodox people from very different countries. Can you paint me a positive picture?

          • Theo Hi.  Yes I will do all that for you but give me a bit of time to get my thoughts together.  
            I know USA quite well with connections so do have sone Insights. 
            I just want to say that while USA Culture is as it is now very against almost all we stand for,  i do believe this not entire story and the growing generation with no Christian background, given it would probably be full of negative stuff, well their ignorance, may be an opportunity for the Church if the Church is alive to it . 
            But before sign of, and will be back with a considered view,  it’s important that you remain american  and YOURSELF and bring to the Church all that good in that tradition from the outward of festival food etc to yr tradition of independence and getting things done  and acapella singing. 
            At the same time if u do worship within a greek or Slav etc church., to appreciate the spirituality and Culture that the particular tradition has expressed over centuries.  And its wrong path at times!!  It’s a balance. To extreme either side and its off balance.!! 
            Me personally,  i am greek born, Patras, Greece,  three quarters greek and quarter Welsh on my late  father’s side.  Early yrs in Greece and over the yrs after.
            Live and worked in NHS in Uk, London etc for some yrs . And now since 2016 living in Bulgaria. Facinating country   Slavonic  but with great greek influence, even if our histories were often one of conflict. Good people.   Will get back to you soon.  Once again thank you for yr mail. You could perhaps tell me about the community you have joined?   

  2. To George and Bob:
    There is some guidance and advice how to identify the perfect Bishops.
    Saint John Chrysostom said the following at the end of his life:
    But he went into the baptistery, and called Olympias, a lady who spent all her time in the church, and Pentadia, and Procle, the deaconesses, and Silvina, the widow of the blessed Nevridius, who adorned her widowhood by a beautiful life, and said to them, “Come here, my daughters, and listen to me. I see that the things concerning me have an end ; I have finished my course and perhaps you will see my face no more. What I want to ask you is this : let no one dissever you from the good-will you have always borne to the Church ; and whoever succeeds me, if he be brought forward for ordination not by his own wish, and without place-hunting, with the approval of all, bow your heads to him, as you have done to John. The Church cannot exist without a bishop. And so may you find mercy. Remember me in your prayers.”

    BTW, It is interesting, he calls himself just “John”, and he asks for the prayers of these women! Does that remind you of “Most-All-Holy” Bartholomew? Just asking…

    In other words, look whether a Bishop works for his own glory, or the Glory of God, and “bow your head ” appropriately.

    There are really holy men out there (Archimandrites) who refuse to become bishops, just like Chrysostom. We similarly need to literally kidnap these too, and make them Bishops and Patriarchs by force! Now, how do we organize THAT?

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I agree, Ioannis. Many who would make good bishops see what we see and don’t want anything to do with it. However, at some point, they’re going step up simply because we need them so badly. God is grooming them as we speak. They’re out there.

  3. It’s good that you criticize EP for this “byzanto-papalist stuff “. I think you should criticize MP too for being too close with the Russia’s ruling government.


      Henk: “should criticize MP too for being too close with the Russia’s ruling government.”

      Please explain, Mr Henk. How exactly do you imagine distancing of Russian Orthodox Church from the Russian government? By boycotting official celebrations, by withdrawing clergy from schools, hospitals and army? By not accepting government support or permits in rebuilding churches? By banning politicians from participation in church services?

      • George Michalopulos says

        Seriously. At the American Service Academies there are magnificent Christian edifices. The Congress built the National Cathedral in DC –and handed it over to the Episcopalian Church. It’s so humongous that you can lay the Washington Monument which is 555′ in its nave. All of the military branches, police forces and legislative bodies have full-time chaplains.

        The so-called wall of separation is, was and always will be a joke. Jefferson himself wrote that to mollify the local Baptist congregation, all the while assuring them that they could –and should–interfere in the affairs of govt (I paraphrase). In any event, the Northwest Ordinance stated that all future American communities should allocate one stretch of land for “purposes of religion”.

        • Monk James Silver says

          Right. There goes most of the First Amendment.

          In case nobody noticed, ‘episcopalian’ values — flexible as they are in all areas, form the basis of modern America’s morality — flexible as that is.

          • Uh oh. Someone showed respect for Anglo-Saxon values, and now a man with the last name of Silver is getting nervous. 

            • Monk James Silver says

              I’d be grateful to ‘Vergil’ for an explanation of what he means by writing: ‘Someone showed respect for Anglo-Saxon values, and now a man with the last name of Silver is getting nervous.’

              I’m especially curious as to why my family’s beautiful name seems significant to him. It was borne my many of my Scots-Irish ancestors for generations without shame, and I fail to see whatever connection he finds here.

              BTW: I’m not ‘nervous’ at all — just curious.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Vergil, The Episcopalians have not represented Anglo-Saxon values for a long time. In this case Monk James is likely correct, the ceding of the National Cathedral to one pseudo-Christian sect (at least now) appears to violate the 1st Amendment of the Constitution as does U.S. Grant sending Protestant Missionaries to Alaska to “convert the native heathens” many of whom spoke multiple languages and were faithful Orthodox Christians.

              Both acts seem to run counter to the establishment of religion clause. Attorneys correct me if I am wrong.

            • Monk James Silver says

              Vergil (August 13, 2019 at 11:46 am) says:

              Uh oh. Someone showed respect for Anglo-Saxon values, and now a man with the last name of Silver is getting nervous.
              Someone pointed out to me that ‘Vergil’ might have written these words because he imagines that I am of Jewish ancestry and that I share some sort of antipathy on the part of Jews toward ‘Anglo-Saxon values’.

              While I am solidly pro-Israel and vigorously opposed to antisemitism (and to all bigotry and prejudice) in any form, I am not now nor have I ever been Jewish, not by faith and not by blood, nor have my ancestors. A DNA test proved that.

              I’m not sure just whose values were at work when the Jews were expelled from England in A.D. 1290, but they remember this — among their other misfortunes, including the destruction of both the first and second temples at Jerusalem — on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. A certain current of thought among British Jews even now, not to mention the Jews in the rest of western Europe, causes them to think that they night not be welcome there any longer, and might better prepare to immigrate to Israel.

              In any event, I did not write about ‘Anglo-Saxon values’, only about the protean standards of episcopalian morality, both in the UK and in the USA, starting with the very founder of their religion, Henry viii, and continuing to this day. It’s entirely possible now, for example, for an Episcopalian in good standing, even a few of their bishops in England and in the USA, to declare that they don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, or in His resurrection, and to express their support for same-sex marriage and abortion. A couple of their bishops in the USA are ‘married’ to same-sex partners, and their people accept this as normal.

              All of that history and experience notwithstanding, I was also reminded that ‘Vergil’ (the Latin poet’s name is spelled ‘Virgil’) didn’t tell us his own surname at the same time as he wrote in such a way as to suggest that my own surname was of Jewish origin and hence explained what he thought were my negative feelings about ‘Anglo-Saxon values’

              As I just mentioned, I didn’t address the subject of ‘Anglo-Saxon values’ at all, and I earlier explained that my family’s name is of Scots-Irish origin, as far as I know. Perhaps ‘Vergil’ never read ‘Treasure Island’, which prominently features a character known as ‘Long John Silver’. Stevenson used commonly known names for most of the ordinary people in his writings, and if he had meant to identify a Jew among them, he would have left no doubt in the reader’s mind. The author apparently felt that ‘Silver’ was enough of a recognizably English surname for his audience.

              Altogether, this little exchange reminds me of an incident in the life of the Irish-American showman, George M. Cohan, about a century ago.

              While traveling in upstate New York with his family, Cohan wired ahead to make reservations at a hotel. The hotelier wired back to say that his establishment didn’t accommodate guests of the Hebrew religion.

              Cohan relied immediately, saying ‘You thought I was a Jew. I thought you were a gentleman. We were both wrong.’

    • Henk,
      As far as I understand, EP is MAINLY criticized here for religious (Orthodox) reasons, like ecumenism etc, not for being too close to one government, most likely  the US.
      I trust you do want us here to criticize EP and MP depending on which government they are too close to. In other words distort things of God to things of politicians.
      Now, then, can you provide similar RELIGIOUS reasons for criticizing MP?

      • Henk, correction,
        I trust you do NOT want us here to criticize EP and MP depending on which government they are too close to.

  4. George,
    “Nor was there any mention of Mother-Daughter relationships between the various Orthodox Churches. We were all “sisters” and the Phanar pulled out all the stops to make sure that every Church that attended would be reassured that this was indeed the case.”

    Today’s epistle was 1 Corinthians i,10-17
    and St. Chrysostom’s homily III mentions:

    But some say that he glanced at something else, in saying, “Christ is divided:” as if he
    had said, “He hath distributed to men and parted the Church, and taken one share Himself,
    giving them the other.” Then in what follows, he labors to overthrow this absurdity, saying,
    Was Paul crucified for you, or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?” Observe his Christloving
    mind; how thenceforth he brings the whole matter to a point in his own name,
    shewing, and more than shewing, that this honor belongs to no one. And that no one might
    think it was envy which moved him to say these things, therefore he is constantly putting
    himself forward. Observe, too, his considerate way, in that he saith not, “Did Paul make the
    world? did Paul from nothing produce you into being?” But only those things which belonged
    as choice treasures to the faithful, and were regarded with great solicitude—those he specifies,
    the Cross, and Baptism, and the blessings following on these. For the loving-kindness of
    God towards men is shewn by the creation of the world also: in nothing, however, so much
    as by the (τῆς συγκαταβάσεως) condescension through the Cross. And he said not, “did
    Paul die for you?” but, “was Paul crucified?” setting down also the kind of death.
    “Or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?” Again, he saith not, “did Paul baptize
    you?” For he did baptize many: but this was not the question, by whom they had been baptized,
    but, into whose name they had been baptized! For since this also was a cause of
    schisms, their being called after the name of those who baptized them, he corrects this error
    likewise saying, “Were ye baptized into the name of Paul?” “Tell me not,” saith he, “who
    baptized, but into whose name. For not he that baptizeth, but he who is invoked in the
    Baptism, is the subject of enquiry. For this is He who forgives our sins.”
    [6.] Ver. 14. “I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius.” “Why
    are you elate at having baptized, when I for my part even give thanks that I have not done
    so!” Thus saying, by a kind of divine art (οἰκονομικῶς) he does away with their swelling
    pride upon this point; not with the efficacy of the baptism, (God forbid,) but with the folly
    of those who were puffed up at having been baptizers: first, by showing that the Gift is not
    theirs; and, secondly, by thanking God therefore.
    (highlight mine).


    Mother of all churches is Sion, Jerusalem as we sing, as written by St. John of Damascus.
    And the Patriarch of Jerusalem does not try to intimidate or chastise any other Church. Why then can the subsequent (younger) Constantinople do that or similar things?

    Who baptised the Russians is not important. The fact of the baptism is important. Chrysostom says, this honor belongs to no one

    and he adds,

    “Why are you elate at having baptized, when I for my part even give thanks that I have not done so!” Thus saying, by a kind of divine art (οἰκονομικῶς) he does away with their swellingpride upon this point; not with the efficacy of the baptism, (God forbid,) but with the follyof those who were puffed up at having been baptizers

    • Ioannis,
      Yes, yes, yes! 
      I am ever in awe of how God teaches us through Scripture and the Holy Fathers. The burden of our convoluted, extravagent, prideful thoughts and reasonings, that send us into a tailspin of anguish and confusion, is melted away by the light of Truth.
      Thank you for your wonderful post 

      • God bless, Tanya, beloved sister in Christ!

        • George Michalopulos says

          Ioanni, God bless you and Tanya both.  Your recitation of Sunday’s Epistle reading was most apropos.   Unlike the Church of Cpole which constantly “puffs itself up”, St Paul’s words sting as a necessary corrective.

  5. On the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, there were more than 80,000 parish churches in Russia-120,000 counting chapels. There were hundreds of monasteries, and scores of seminaries. At the height of the communist persecution in the late 1930’s, there were about 5500 parish churches functioning, a couple of monasteries and perhaps one seminary. Since the fall of communism 3 new parish churches have been completed every day(sounds incredible,but do the math). There are hundreds of monasteries and scores of seminaries functioning now. This astonishing achievement, rather miracle, could not have happened so easily  without Vladimir Putin endorsing it. Properties and buildings had been seized by the Bolsheviks. Just think of all the litigation and legal  entanglements that might have resulted were it not for Mr. Putin who made religion acceptable, making the restitution smoother. He is a practicing Orthodox Christian and he paved the way for the Orthodox Church to rebuild. . I might add that not only the Orthodox but the other official religions, like the Moslem and Buddhist similarly recovered from the damage done by the communists.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Peter, what you write I have seen with my own eyes. Is Putin perfect? No one is. But here in the US we are closing hundreds of churches every year (of every denomination).

      I first noticed something was “wrong” when during my travels for work here in the Bible Belt, I saw many older churches being boarded up. Sometimes there was a “for sale” sign out in front, sometimes not. I didn’t put too much thought into it (except for the idea of opening up Orthodox missions in rural Oklahoma) but as I was not a millionaire it was more of a “what if” thought experiment.

      Seriously, they’re there for the taking.

      Anyway, it’s hard to take America seriously anymore as a “Christian” country. And please everybody, don’t give me any grief about America never really being “Christian in the first place”. We all know better.

      • George, Peter, re Russia, yes a miracle.  I just recall the feeling on first entering Christ Saviour Cathedral.  Cannot describe the spiritual Joy. And attending Christmas vigil in a Moscow suburban church ( Ismailovo)  newly reopened after 70 yrs as a factory, (1929-99, and derilict to 2003.)  
        One has to experience that to understand. 
        Peter thank you for yr data.  Sobering but during Heights of 1930s persecution it’s more likely functional  churches with priest doing services was well under the 5000 Mark, some say in hundreds. I think that 5K Figure might be  from 1939/40  when the 3000 odd Orthodox churches of western Ukraine, newly  gained via pact with germans to carve up Poland, and Baltic states, were included. But Thank you for stating situation. Food for thought for us all.  Here in Bulgaria, some  churches were actually closed, as the Church of St Boris, here in town,(now renovated and opened again)  as it is very close to university faculty and for communists that was not acceptable, and some destroyed, but mainly they just forbad people to go near them,  if they wanted to have a job or career or go to university.  

        • Fr. Justin Frederick says

          The research I did on that question years ago revealed that just before the German National Socialist invasion of Poland, there were only 100 open parish churches left in the whole USSR. That number increased significantly by Stalin’s incorporation of the Baltic States and eastern Poland. The Pechory Monastery (Pskov–Everyday Saints), which until 1939 was outside of the USSR, was then brought in. It was the only monastery in Soviet territory that remained continuously open throughout the whole period of Communist rule.

          • Monk James Silver says

            Not Pyukhtitsi, Zagorsk, Pochaev, Danilov, and others?

            I know people who grew up near these places during the Sovyet era, and they thought that the monasteries — while severely limited — were still functioning.

        • Monk James there were no official monasteries open in that pre war period but many monks, nuns etc continued to live near these famous sites and to function some how as cooperatives or as individuals.  And away from the centre of power on the quiet matters could be different but Zagorsk as was called in this period, was definitely clossed ’til 1948 I think or yr or two earlier. 
          Moscow had about 20 churches open, the Cathedral of Epithany being most famous as church of Reserrection,  but this was to provide camaflage of freedom of religion to diplomats etc but the after 2002 restored St Dimitrios of Thessaloniki in Ismailovo restored after 70 odd yrs as factory with toilet on Altar site, being common situation. 
          As my bulgarian language teacher said, who was sacked for attending Church at Easter,  “if u went to church on a Sunday,  expect no job on the Monday”. 

          • Pochaev till  autumn of 1939 was in Poland. 

            • Ren Pertik says

              Yeah, if the current Ukrainian regime is so smart, tehy should return all the Uniate lands to Poland and live in peace

              • Johann Sebastian says

                Everthing Uniate was stolen from Rus’ by the Poles and Magyars.
                Everything Uniate was once Orthodox (and I don’t mean in the sense that everything pre-schism was Orthodox). They are apostates and, sadly, that apostasy was accomplished by deception and coercion.
                Let the Uniates shed Papism and return to Orthodoxy. 
                Then we can have peace.

          • Monk James Silver says

            My point was that the monasteries were still functioning, but under severe restrictions. The monastics largely stayed where they were, and the laity knew who they were. The ‘official’ closure of monasteries was merely a political formality, and most of their churches and other buildings remained intact.

            And regardless of shifting national boundaries, Pochaev was in Sovyet-dominated territory, which was Fr Justin Frederick’s point.

            I wanted only to emphasize that monastic life went on all through the communist persecutions. It was always particularly moving to me that Patriarch Alexiy ii continued to protect the Pyukhtitsi monastery, which he had cone to love and support while he was archbishop of Tallinn.

            • Agreed we saying same thing in way but the monastic buildings where not  totally destroyed as were at Sarov where were bulldozed into the ground, could not be used by the monks.True in 1920s some survived by converting number of monasteries to farming or sowing commune, but non!’above ground  ‘,  survived by the 1930s.  
              Yes of those monks,nuns,  not killed or put in camps, people knew who they were and many as staretz had great influence. 
              I am pretty sure Pochaev was in Polish territory until 1939  events and Pyukhtitsi monastery in one of the baltic republics til 1940.