A Clarification Concerning Russian Orthodoxy

Russian Orthodoxy, the brilliant religious tradition of Russia which is now a prominent feature of diaspora Eastern Christianity, neither rises nor falls with the politics of the contemporary Russian state or its Patriarchal church. I am compelled to mention this because certain murmurers have implied — or outright stated — that I am anti-Russian, anti-Orthodox, anti-Russian Orthodox, etc. due to my support of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) and my low view of the recent meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Nothing could be further from the truth. My appreciation for Russian Orthodoxy runs deep, and I continue to venerate her great saints and martyrs just as I find myself nourished intellectually by many of her theologians, old and new. However, truth compels me to be honest about the present state of the Moscow Patriarchate and its illicit “Russian World” ideology. In time these problems will pass just as new ones arise, not just within the realm of the Russian Orthodox Church, but throughout all of Christendom. This is true of the UGCC as well, for it, too, is comprised of fallible, sinful men who have, at times, placed nationalist impulses and ethnic pride above Christian charity when it comes to their estranged Orthodox brethren.

I agree wholeheartedly with Fr. Robert Taft that it is pointless to bicker about which side in the Orthodox/Catholic divide has the cleanest (or dirtiest) hands. Historical injustices should be brought to light and repented of, just as ongoing wrongdoings must be confronted openly and honestly. Does that mean “choosing sides”? Sometimes, though I am hesitant to think of the sorrowful conflict between Catholics and Orthodox as a zero-sum game which must inevitably have a single clear winner. Victory will be achieved through unity, not one side vanquishing the other once and for all.

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2 comments

  1. The Russian Church, sadly like many other Eastern Churches, has historically been to closely linked to the Russian government. The history of the ROC since the death of the St. Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and the subsequent relationship with the Communist and now semi-totalitarian modern State of Russia is troubling. The ROC is on one hand a bulwark of Christian Orthodoxy against the modern secular culture and, on the other hand, a close collaborator with a brutal leader. I pray that the ROC can move towards closer relations with the Catholic Church and especially the UGCC. I won’t hold my breath on the later.

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