Council of Bishops, 1933
Encyclical Letter of the Council of Russian Bishops Abroad to the Russian Orthodox Flock
Concerning the Epistle of Metropolitan Sergius of Nizhegorod, Deputy Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne
In August of 1927, Metropolitan Sergius, the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, ordered the Russian bishops abroad and the rest of the clergy to submit in writing a pledge "not to allow anything in their social and especially ecclesiastical activity which may be taken as an expression of disloyalty with regard to the Soviet authorities." In the event that this order is not carried out, he threatens to remove the persons indicated from their positions and exclude them from the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Now he has decided to renew his demand through a special letter, dated 23 March 1933, addressed especially to what he calls the "Karlovatsky group," to that part of the Russian Orthodox diaspora which is united canonically around the Synod of Bishops Abroad, which is located in Sremsky-Karlovtsy.
However, this letter is not addressed directly to the Synod, but to His Holiness, Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, in whom Metropolitan Sergius hopes to "find a well-intentioned and dispassionate intermediary between him and the bishops abroad, knowing his truly fraternal attitude toward the Russian Orthodox Church."
Since this new act of the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne has already been widely distributed through publication in the press and has caused great disturbance among the Russian Orthodox diaspora, the Council of Russian Bishops Abroad, assembled in Sremsky-Karlovtsy, does not find it possible to leave it unanswered.
The Council considers it its duty to provide the flock with essential clarifications, especially with regard to a whole series of questions of principle touched upon in the letter, and at the same time to free the clergy abroad of those unjust accusations lodged against it by the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne.
The principal reproach which Metropolitan Sergius lodges against the bishops and clergy abroad, repeating it constantly throughout his lengthy letter, is directed against their passion for political activity, which he alleges is "blatant" and has "swallowed up" everything in their activity and which, supposedly, even brought about the very organization of the present Ecclesiastical Administration Abroad. Desiring by his present appeal to purify the ministry of the clergymen abroad of "partisan adulteration" (i.e., politics), and thus to "elevate" it, the deputy locum tenens does not mention that in reality he is impelling them toward that purely political path which he himself took long ago. Of this ultimate objective the Letter speaks clearly, for it strives to reconcile the Russian emigration, and especially its pastors, to the Soviet regime in Russia in whatever way possible.
However, the author of the Letter tries to cloak the true intent of his demand with subtle language, employing more negative rather than positive formulations in defining the relationship he desires the emigre clergy to have with the regime that now exists in Russia . His call remains essentially exactly what it was in 1927, and may be expressed thus: He who is with the Soviet regime is with the Church of Russia ; he who is against the former cannot be with the latter. Thus, our bond with the Mother Church can exist in no other way than through accepting the atheistic regime which holds sway now in Russia .
Before extending the hand of fellowship to Metropolitan Sergius, we must first extend it to the Bolsheviks and receive from them testimony of our political good will, without which the deputy locum tenens cannot restore fraternal and canonical unity with us. Although he stipulates that he is not demanding from the emigres "feelings of allegiance to the Soviet government" and does not desire to "bind" them to the political program of the latter, he nevertheless, as previously, insistently demands that the clergy abroad make a pledge in writing to refrain in their social activity, and especially in their ministry as pastors of the Church, from any appearance of disloyalty, and even more from the appearance of hostility toward "our (as he repeatedly expresses it, meaning, the Soviet) government."
It is clear to anyone that to refrain from acts of disloyalty with regard to the Soviets means to be loyal to them, and not only as a matter of something done for tactical consideration, but in actual principle. This is not merely a restriction on the "outward loyalty" of the clergy, as Metropolitan Sergius tries to present it, but an encroachment upon their conscience, which would be forever bound by such a pledge.
Those who have refused to obey this demand of the deputy locum tenens and at the same time to enter the jurisdiction of some other Orthodox Church, are not only excluded from the ranks of the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate, but are at the same time deprived of their right and powers as bishops and pastors and even given over to ecclesiastical trial, being first suspended from the exercise of their ministry: in other words, they incur a heavy, purely canonical punishment.
This command of the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne is in direct contradiction to the decision of the Pan-Russia Council, dated 2/15 August 1918, on the strength of which no member of the Russian Orthodox Church can be brought to ecclesiastical trial and subjected to punishment for any political opinions, or activities which correspond to them.
Furthermore, it is not in agreement with statements made earlier by the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne himself in his address to the Orthodox archpastors, pastors and flock of the Moscow Patriarchate, dated 17/30 September 1926, in connection with the question of the registration of the Church Administration in Russia . "We cannot," he writes there, "take it upon ourselves to supervise the political opinions of our co-religionists to impose upon the clergy abroad for their lack of loyalty to the Soviet Union any ecclesiastical punishments would be incompatible with this, and would give cause for them to speak of our being compelled to do this by the Soviet authorities."
Since the present newly promulgated act of the Moscow Patriarchate is notable precisely for such an internal inconsistency, one finds it difficult here not to suspect "compulsion" by the Soviet regime.
The very concept of politics which Metropolitan Sergius prescribes is quite characteristic. It coincides totally with its usual definition in the Bolshevik lexicon. Politics is everything that is directed against the Soviet authority, especially by monarchists, of the strengthening of whose influence the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne is, apparently, particularly afraid. While considering it completely impermissible for the clergy to have contact with such a trend of political thought, he does not, however, see anything which for him would be reprehensible or prohibited in furthering the entrenchment of the Soviet regime in Russia, declaring its joys and failures to be identical to the joys and failures of the Church itself. Metropolitan Sergius himself unintentionally lets it slip in his Letter that he is especially against "those" politics which are "irreconcilable" with regard to the current regime in Russia . But this irreconcilability of the clergy abroad with regard to the Soviets is by no means grounded in this or that political opinion or premise, but in the very character of the Soviet regime on the one hand, and in the duties of the exalted pastoral ministry on the other.
Considering the existing "Karlovatsky Administration" from the canonical point of view, Metropolitan Sergius tries to present it as lacking any lawful basis for its existence, and holds it to be a "house built on sand."
None of us is, of course, ready to state that the order now operative abroad for the Russian Church Administration falls under the usual norms of Church law. Neither the holy canons, nor subsequent ecclesiastical legislation were, of course, able to foresee the Great War [World War I], which shook the entire world profoundly and everywhere brought chaos into the former political relations, and often to ecclesial relations as well. An even more grievous catastrophe was brought about in Russia by the Revolution, which destroyed almost the entire order of Church life. It will probably be a long time before the latter is able to regain a calm and stable course. Is it possible to justify fully, from the point of view of the canons and the decisions of the Pan-Russia Council of 1917-1918, the organization of ecclesiastical administration which now exists there, even of the Orthodox of the so-called Tikhonite Church ? Are not justifiable objections being made there to the legality of the present Synod selected by Metropolitan Sergius at his personal discretion (at least as regards its more influential members), and is not the canonical authority of the present deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne himself subject to doubt?
Adopting a purely formal point of view, Metropolitan Sergius tries to challenge several of the sacred canons under the protection of which the Russian Church Abroad usually places itself. He says that Canons 35 of the Holy Apostles, 18 of Antioch, and 37 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council apply to bishops which have not managed to occupy their sees "through no fault of their own," and not to those who have left their dioceses, and moreover without the aforementioned proviso. But, obviously intentionally, he is silent about Canon 17 of the Council of Sardica, where just such a case is envisioned, and whose interpreters say that it had in view to preserve the canonical rights of St. Athanasius the Great, who was repeatedly forced to leave his see as a result of persecution by the Arians.
Here one should likewise cite the so-called Tomos of Union of 921, which is printed in The Rudder. It speaks directly of bishops deprived of their sees "because of barbarian invasion" or "the reign of another successor," and these it considers worthy of particular attention and honor within the Church.
Only with manifest violence to the truth can it be maintained, as does Metropolitan Sergius in his Letter, that the bishops abroad left their dioceses not "through no fault of their own," but of their own free will. No one voluntarily condemns himself to banishment, for bitter is the bread of exile; tribulations endured during flight are, in the words of Saint Athanasius, often more tormenting and horrific than death itself. Everyone is aware of the bestial cruelty which the Bolsheviks directed against bishops and priests who showed any sympathy toward their active opponents, and especially against those whose life, because of the very place of their ministry, was bound up with the fate of the Voluntary and other so-called White Armies. To find oneself in the hands of the Soviet executioners after the retreat of the latter and their departure from Russia would have meant to endure more than mere barbarian invasion. A martyr's crown might doubtless have awaited many of the bishops and clergy then, yet this would only have been the happy lot of them themselves, but not for their flock, whose sufferings they might only have intensified. For this reason, the majority of them preferred to avoid this danger by fleeing, which has never been forbidden by the Church in similar circumstances. On the contrary, it is sanctified by the example of David, the Prophet Elijah and, ultimately, by Christ Himself, the Chief Shepherd, Who even in infancy escaped to Egypt with His all-pure Mother and the elderly Joseph from the hands of Herod, to show, on the one hand, that He was true man clad in the flesh, as Chrysostom explains, and on the other hand, to teach us humility, lest we be put to shame when it is necessary in similar manner to save ourselves from the persecution of our enemies. Even on the eve of His sufferings, viz. immediately after resurrecting Lazarus from the dead, Christ the Savior escaped the malice of the Jews by going to the city of Ephraim . "Jesus flees, giving place to wrath," we read in the synaxari on for Lazarus Saturday. And He left His disciples the command when they are persecuted in one city to flee to another (Mt. 10: 23). The Apostle Paul, that great preacher of faith and instructor of pastors, quite often had to save himself by fleeing from the enemies of the Cross of Christ, persecuted by Jews and pagans. In later times, St. Polycarp of Smyrna , St. Clement of Rome , Origen, St. Gregory of Neocaesaria and many other great pastors and teachers of the Church hid from their persecutors. Particularly instructive is the example of St. Cyprian of Carthage , who, during the persecution of Decius, did not hesitate to leave his flock, and, concealing himself in a solitary place, governed it from thence. He did this so that, as he wrote to the priests and deacons of Rome , "by an untimely presence he not increase the general confusion."
"To withdraw from danger for a time," in his words, "does not constitute a sin; remaining in place to become a participant in apostasy is far worse." "Because," he writes in his Book on Struggles, "the Lord commanded to hide and to flee for a time from persecution; thus did He teach and thus did He do."The crown "is bestowed and God deems it worthy, and one cannot receive it until the hour of its reception arrives."
St. Athanasius of Alexandria , the great pillar of Orthodoxy, saved himself many time by fleeing from the persecution of the Arians, leaving his flock behind; however, when he returned to Alexandria , the people welcomed him as a triumphant victor. In reply to the accusations of his enemies, who reproached him for supposed cowardice, he wrote his famous Homily of Defense, in which he justifies his flight with so many wise and irrefutable arguments, that they have preserved their power ever after. "Flight," he says, "serves as a great denunciation not of the persecuted, but of the persecutors." Flight was a struggle for the saints. "Those who repose while in flight do not die ingloriously, but can boast of [undergoing] martyrdom."
The pastor "must not surrender himself into the hands of the enemy when Providence itself shows him the way to save himself, for this would mean showing himself to be ungrateful to the Lord, acting against His commandments and not agreeing with the examples of the saints."
Many of these premises in defense of those who flee during persecutions are later repeated in Canons 9 and 13 of St. Peter of Alexandria . Since all the canons of the latter were subsequently accepted and confirmed by Canon 2 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, one should perceive here the Church canons' acknowledgment of the legality of the avoidance of danger at a time when persecution is raised against the Church and its ministers.
It will therefore not be an exaggeration to say that, departing from their native land with a certain portion of their flock at a time of extreme peril, the bishops abroad and the rest of the clergy acted in accordance with the Gospels and the legacy of the Fathers, and that they are enduring the tribulations of involuntary exile, "defending the Truth and being innocent" (Canon 17 of Sardica), even though they were also subjected to "accusation" by the Bolshevik regime.
Among the hierarchs and the clergy abroad there are also those of whom one may say that "they endured vengeance and torment, bondage and imprisonment, for righteousness' sake" and who for this the aforementioned Tomos of Union orders shown expressions "of particular gratitude and honor."
Metropolitan Sergius writes that the case of the resettling in the province of the Hellespont of Archbishop John of Cyprus "together with his flock" is not a fitting analogy. All, or nearly all, of the Church of Cyprus was resettled in the Hellespont with their bishop.
But as in every historical analogy, what is important here is not the details of one or another fact, but its inner sense or very essence. It is most valuable to establish such a significant example in the history of the ancient Church, when within the boundaries of one ecclesiastical jurisdiction another appears, contrary to the usual canonical order, which preserved the oneness of ecclesiastical authority in a given territory. We see this as an example far from unique in the practice of the Church. Something similar is seen at Constantinople, in the position occupied by the other Eastern Patriarchs of Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch, who were compelled to live there temporarily, far from their sees and their flock, which was groaning under the Turkish Yoke; and in the rights of well-known ecclesiastical extraterritoriality enjoyed by Orthodox Missions within the boundaries of the jurisdiction of other Eastern Churches, et al .
Returning to Archbishop John of Cyprus, one should say that he not only realized his canonical rights to govern his own flock as head of an Autocephalous Church, but the entire Province of the Hellespont was made subject to him, temporarily separated from the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Russian Ecclesiastical Administration Abroad has not only never dared to meddle in the internal affairs of the other Orthodox Churches within whose boundaries the Russian flock has been scattered (which the holy canons try to prevent, forbidding the bishop of one province from remaining within the boundaries of another without need), but has also never laid claim in general to the fullness of the jurisdiction of the Autocephalous Churches by contrasting itself to the whole Church of Russia as something totally independent and self-governing, or placing itself on a level equal with other Local Churches.
Functioning on territory belonging to the jurisdiction of other Orthodox Churches, it has tried not to commit here a single important canonical act without the permission of the Heads of these Churches, and in general exercises here the principle of internal self-government only insofar as this has met with approval and support on the part of the local ecclesiastical authority.
As regards relations toward the Mother Church , the Russian ecclesial organization abroad has considered itself no more than a branch of the latter, bound organically to the whole body of the Church of Russia , even though temporarily deprived only of outward unity with the latter in ecclesiastical administration. The ever-unchanged commemoration at the divine services of the name, first of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, and later of his lawful deputy, Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, serves as witness to its unbroken spiritual unity with the whole Church of Russia. While relations with the late Patriarch Tikhon were still possible, the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration Abroad strove in every way to obtain from him, even if unofficially, confirmation and approval for its most important decisions, always acting in this with great caution. The cessation of such relations with the Head of the Church of Russia after His Holiness the Patriarch was deprived of freedom by the Bolsheviks was considered by the Ecclesiastical Administration Abroad as a great loss, and even a misfortune for itself. Hence, it is apparent that the organs of the Ecclesiastical Administration Abroad has in nowise striven to appropriate the rights of autocephaly for itself, as Metropolitan Sergius accuses us. To the present day the entire Church organization abroad has considered and still considers itself an extraordinary and temporary institution, which must be abolished without delay after the restoration of normal social and ecclesiastical life in Russia .
Totally without merit is the accusation Metropolitan Sergius makes against the bishops abroad, of love of honors and hunger for power, which, in his opinion, have prompted them to subject to their jurisdiction not only the entire flock abroad, but together with them the Russian ecclesiastical Missions and pre-Revolutionary buildings in other countries.
Everyone who knows the authentic history of the origins of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration in Southern Russia , from whence it was transferred abroad, can testify that it did not in any way arise under the influence of any political party, or to satisfy the power-hungry aspirations of bishops, but arose to meet purely ecclesiastical needs and requirements. It was entirely necessary for the structuring of Church life in southern Russia , when the Civil War separated it from Moscow , where, as is well known, the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration was concentrated. Even more urgent was the need of such an ecclesial organ abroad, when 2.5 million Russian Orthodox refugees poured in here. Having lost everything except their conscience and their Orthodox Faith, of which the Bolsheviks were unable to deprive them, these unfortunate Russian exiles seized upon the Church as their ultimate anchor of salvation. They addressed to the Russian archpastors who accompanied them the plea to gather, comfort and unite them around a single Church center, such as the Church had always been for them. Their natural desire was to preserve under alien circumstances their native liturgical language, the Old Calendar of the Church, and the whole structure of the churchly and religious way of life familiar to them. All of this they could not receive from the other Orthodox Churches, however fraternally the latter treated them, but only from their own pastors, whom they asked to organize Church life for them on principles of internal self-administration. The Russian bishops, mindful of their responsibility for the fate of these scattered and exhausted sheep, for whose blood they would be called to account, undertook this difficult task, which was, however, made easier by the fact that they already had prepared an organ of central ecclesiastical administration, which had relocated abroad with the mass of refugees from Russia and was quickly revived through the efforts of the Russian bishops abroad. Of course, none of the bishops here followed any personal aims at all. They wished only, by means of such an organization, to preserve spiritually that part of the Church organism so as later to return it whole and intact to the bosom of the Mother Church .
After the above-mentioned Church canons and analogous examples from the history of the Church, the principal canonical basis for the foundation of the organs of ecclesiastical administration abroad was the well-known Directive of His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon and the Holy Synod, dated 7/20 November 1920, according to which bishops cut off from the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration in Russia by the flow of political circumstances were obliged to organize such wherever they were, on principles of collegiality. If one takes into consideration that the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration arose first in the south of Russia, at a time when the Civil War had long separated it from Moscow, no one stopped to question that the setting up of this governing ecclesiastical organ was a primary, and moreover a fully legal, response to the Directive of 1920, in complete compliance therewith.
In May of 1922 there followed the directive of His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon concerning the closing down of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration Abroad, which comprised bishops, clergy and laity. Although the bases for this as provided in this instruction of the Patriarch were more political than ecclesiastical in character, the bishops abroad decided without hesitation to submit to the will of the Head of the Church of Russia .
However, the latter could not but be aware of the fact that Church life, deprived of hierarchal guidance, would become totally disordered, and for this reason he proposed in the same directive that a new plan for the administration of the Russian Orthodox churches abroad be drawn up and submitted to him for approval. This commission, which devolved most immediately upon Metropolitan Evlogy, was carried out with the participation of the latter at the Council of Bishops of 1922, which set up the so-called Synod of Bishops. At the same Council, in 1923, the final By-laws of the Council and the Synod, as the supreme organs of ecclesiastical administration abroad, were worked out. This was immediately dispatched to His Holiness, the Patriarch, for approval and implementation. But this time the latter did not make his will known, whether for or against; yet there are many reasons to suppose that he in fact took into consideration the reformed ecclesiastical administration abroad and did not in any way wish to interfere with it by insisting on the rights pertaining to him. From that time, both of these organs have been functioning without interruption, hitherto uniting under their authority not only the entire Russian Orthodox diaspora, but also the Russian church organizations and churches abroad and the properties belonging to them. They have everywhere enjoyed and continue to enjoy an authority which permits them freely to guide the whole spiritual life of the Russian emigration, by no means under any influence from monarchist or any other political parties. At that time this organization consisted of thirty-two bishops, among them Archbishop Sergius, Chief of the Japanese Mission, who voluntarily, without any compulsion on anyones part, submitted to the Synod of Bishops, and only later withdrew from it and entered into direct canonical relations with the Moscow Patriarchate. Afterward, Metropolitans Platon and Evlogy also left the Church organization abroad headed by the Council and the Synod; but this lamentable schism in nowise serves as proof of its weakness, as Metropolitan Sergius tries to prove, just as separation from the canonical Orthodox Church in Russia by the "Living Church" supporters, the Gregorians, and many other church organizations, is proof of the weakness of the latter. Here other, deeper reasons are operative, engendered by the present discord, which has not only shaken church discipline everywhere, but has also given rise to a whole series of new, negative conceptual trends, which have stratified the whole Russian people.
However, the separation between the Karlovatsky ecclesiastical administration and both of the aforementioned metropolitans is not so deep that no hope remains for a reconciliation between them. Not a single Council of Bishops has passed at which the latter question has not been raised. And now it is being raised with particular force in Western Europe and America by the flock themselves, who are trying to exert influence on their hierarchs to impel them to take more energetic and active measures to re-establish the peace of the diaspora which has been broken. And if Metropolitans Platon and Evlogy heed the voice of the flock and sincerely desire to submit themselves again to the Council and Synod of Bishops, from which they separated themselves several years ago, the hand of fellowship extended by them will, of course, not be spurned, but will be lovingly accepted by their brethren who have united around the aforementioned ecclesiastical organs.
The decisive protest expressed by Metropolitan Sergius against the existence of the Church center abroad is all the more unexpected in that he himself once found it possible and expedient in principle, in his letter of 30 August/12 September 1926. For us, this document has a particular value and authority because in it is expressed the genuine thought and free decision of Metropolitan Sergius, who had not yet been subjected to crude Bolshevik pressure. This is testified to first of all by the very tone of his letter, which is completely sincere and well meaning as regards his brethren abroad, lacking in threats and the wily argumentation with which, unfortunately, all the acts which have subsequently been issued by him are infected. In the present letter the following three main positions are deserving of attention:
1) The deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne acknowledges that he does not know the true situation of Church life abroad, and for this reason refuses to act as "judge" in the disagreements between the bishops abroad;
2) He does not find the Moscow Patriarchate competent in general to guide the "church life of the Orthodox emigres," with whom it does not in fact have relations;
3) In his opinion, "the good of the very work of the Church demands" that the bishops abroad "form for themselves, by common consent, a central organ of ecclesiastical administration of sufficient authority to resolve all misunderstandings and disagreements, and which has the power to put an end to every instance of disobedience without resorting to the Patriarchate for support."
Only in the event it is practically impossible to form "an organ commonly recognized by the entire emigration" does Metropolitan Sergius advise bowing to necessity and submitting, according to the usual canonical practice, to the other Orthodox Churches within the boundaries of whose jurisdiction [they find themselves], and in non-Orthodox countries to organize "independent communities or churches," including in them, when possible, Orthodox people of other nationalities living there. Thus, the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne in principle permits everything here against which he later, unfortunately, began to speak, i.e. the temporary independence from the Patriarchate of that portion of the Church of Russia which is outside Russia, in consequence of the impossibility of regular relations with the former, and the formation of an authoritative central organ of ecclesiastical administration abroad for the guidance of the Church life of the Russian refugees and for the resolution, without the help of the Patriarchate, of the misunderstandings and disagreements which can arise between bishops, and finally, the establishment of independent communities or churches, as he calls them, in non-Orthodox countries. Having earlier implemented the plan outlined by him for the ecclesiastical structure of the Russian diaspora, the bishops abroad have obviously not in any way overstepped the bounds of those guidelines provided by him in the aforementioned letter of the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne.
Moreover, it is deserving of attention that there is in the letter under consideration not even an indirect reproach aimed against any of them for engaging in political activity, just as the accusation is absent that the refugee bishops had voluntarily quit their dioceses. On the contrary, he relates to them with obvious sympathy and expresses the desire that the Lord help them "to bear the cross of exile." A certain addendum to this letter is Metropolitan Sergius' draft of an address to the Russian archpastors and the flock of the Moscow Patriarchate, dated 28 May/10 June 1926, in connection with his intention to petition the Soviet regime to register or legalize the Ecclesiastical Administration in Russia, which reached us in due time. Expressing the opinion in this act, as we have already seen earlier, that the Patriarchate cannot permit itself "to impose ecclesiastical sanctions on the clergy abroad for their disloyalty to the Soviet Union," he finds it better to exclude them from membership in the Moscow Patriarchate, that they may come under the jurisdiction of local Orthodox Churches outside of Russia, yet views this measure not as a punishment imposed upon them, but only as "a means to secure the Moscow Patriarchate against responsibility before the Soviet regime for activities hostile to the Soviet Union, such as clergymen abroad sometimes permit themselves." At the same time, he allows for the possibility of the existence of a Holy Synod abroad and, finally, in nowise considers the Church organization abroad to be in any way an autocephaly or Local Church, to which he likens it in his recent letter, but only a "filial branch of the Church of Russia," which is what it in fact is.
Only one year passed after this, and Metropolitan Sergius totally reversed his previous point of view. He now accuses the clergy abroad of all he had considered permissible and had himself even recommended before; mainly the existence of the Ecclesiastical Administration Abroad they had founded, around which all Russian Orthodox people had spiritually united in their dispersion. Over this period of time, as is well-known, no substantial changes had taken place, either in the order of the relations of the clergy abroad toward the Moscow Patriarchate, from which it was, as before, separated by an impassable barrier, nor in the character of the Soviet Union , which remained faithful to its primordial aggression and crudely material essence. The only change was evidently in the attitude of the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne toward the Soviet regime, an indication of which was his infamous Declaration of 16/29 July 1927. The covenant with the Bolsheviks contained therein demanded sacrifices, one of which was the submission to the Soviets of the Russian clergy abroad, who with the rest of the Russian diaspora had hated the Bolshevik regime from the beginning. This covenant, at the root of which lies a view of the Soviet regime which is different from ours, and the Church's positive attitude toward it, has become the main stumbling-block between the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne and the clergy abroad and their flock. It is noteworthy that on this point the entire Russian emigration shows complete unanimity, regardless of the other differences of opinion which exist in its midst.
We are taking fully into account the extraordinary difficulties of the position of Metropolitan Sergius, who is now the de facto head of the Church of Russia, and are aware of the heavy burden of responsibility for the fate of the latter, which lies upon him. No one, therefore, has the audacity to accuse him for the mere attempt to enter into dialogue with the Soviet regime so as to obtain legal standing for the Church of Russia . Not without foundation does the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne say in his aforementioned Declaration that only "armchair dreamers can think that such a vast community as our Orthodox Church, with all its organization, can exist peacefully in a country while walling itself off from the authorities." While the Church exists on earth, it remains closely bound up with the fates of human society and cannot be imagined outside time and space. It is impossible for it to refrain from all contact with a powerful societal organization such as the government; otherwise it would have to leave the world. The attempt to delineate spheres of influence between the Church and the State (the soul of man belongs to the former, his body to the latter) will in principle never, of course, achieve its objective, because it is only possible to divide man into two separate parts in the abstract; in reality, they comprise a single, indivisible whole, and only death dissolves the tie that binds them together. Therefore, the principle of separating the Church from the State will also never be fully realized in real life. In practice, this only means that the State frees itself from the spiritual influence of the Church and from all moral and juridical obligations in relation to the latter. Having dissociated itself from it, the governmental authority in nowise renounces its sovereignty in regard to the Church organism and almost never gives it full freedom; on the contrary, from that moment there usually begins on its part either a direct or oblique persecution of the Church, despite any formal freedom of conscience proclaimed by the State. We see a similar example now in Russia , after the Bolshevik regime promulgated there its decree on the separation of the Church from the State.
Acting toward the Church according to the system of Julian the Apostate, the Soviet regime has not openly proclaimed a persecution of the Faith, but having deprived the Church not only of all juridical rights within the State, but also of almost every possibility of carrying out its exalted mission in the midst of human society, laying hands on her holy things and imposing a whole series of inhibiting limitations on her clergy, the Soviets have in fact placed her in the position of being persecuted.
Under such circumstances, the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne not only had the right, but was even obligated to act as a sympathizer for the Church before the Soviet regime, to extricate her from her difficult position of being deprived of all rights. Yet in this he did not maintain the necessary dignity of the Church; he bound it to the godless State with such a bond as has deprived it of internal freedom, and at the same time deviated from the righteousness whose upholder the First Hierarch of the Church of Russia has to be. In his Declaration, Metropolitan Sergius on the one hand justified the Soviet regime for its many crimes against the Church and religion in general, and on the other hand, contrary to obvious truth, he accused many of the worthy Russian hierarchs and pastors who had become confessors of the truth of Orthodoxy of counter-revolutionary tendencies, and tarnished the halo of martyrdom of the whole Church of Russia, which is recognized by the entire Christian world. With these words alone he has hobbled the conscience of the Russian people, and has to a considerable degree taken from them the power of internal spiritual opposition to the all-corrupting principle of Bolshevism, with which the Soviet regime is permeated through and through. But in his Declaration Metropolitan Sergius went much farther. He declared this regime to be God-given, on the same level as every other lawful authority, and demanded submission to the Soviets from every clergyman, no matter his rank, not only "out of fear, but in conscience," i.e. out of inner, Christian conviction. It is well known that it is the Bolsheviks who demand just such total submission. They are not satisfied with the mere external and formal fulfillment of the civic obligations imposed by a state upon its subjects; they seek from everyone the inner conviction of an acceptance of the Revolution, a spiritual merging with it. Metropolitan Sergius has even welcomed this desire of the Soviets, attempting to apply force to man's holy of holies, his conscience, and to make it subject to his control. And he did not hesitate to extend his unlawful demand further, to the bishops and clergy and other Russian people abroad and not bound in subjection to the Soviet regime. Knowing that the majority of Russian Orthodox people are unable internally to reconcile themselves to the fact of the Soviet regime's existence, since it is totally atheistic and profoundly immoral, and also to its practical methods of government, he has striven to bring the influence of an unquestionable authority, the Word of God, to bear upon them. He has repeatedly pointed out the fact that in the life of human society nothing is by chance, nothing takes place independently of the will of God; and he has cited especially the Apostle's command to submit to the governmental authorities, as to something established by God, for "there is no power but of God" (Rom. 13:1). In view of this, we consider it our duty to restore the true sense of these words, in order to remove every occasion for confusion among the Orthodox people when this decisive testimony of the Apostle is pointed out as justification of the supposed legality of the Soviet regime.
What is a state? It is a higher form of commonwealth than humanity had hitherto achieved. Judging from the fact that governmental structure has existed from time immemorial among all the nations known to history, one ought to conclude that the concept of government is deeply ingrained in the very nature of human society, and that the state, by its very essence, is of divine establishment. The appointment of a governmental authority lies in the bringing about, by persuasion or coercion, of the restraining of the beast in man and the organization of a social order that guarantees freedom and justice, both for each person individually, and for all of society.
Authority is essential for fallen man as a counterbalance to sin. Without it, life would turn into chaos, almost even into hell, as we see happening during periods of anarchy. In this sense, governmental authority is "what withholdeth," as the Apostle calls it (II Thess. 2: 6). The principal founders of Christian social life, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, start from these general observations on the origin and purpose of governmental authority in their teaching on the essence of authority from on high and the executive organs subject to it. Authority, as they make clear, is the tool of the divine universal government on earth.
It is established from on high so as to encourage what is good (i.e., to uphold it and aid in the spreading thereof) and to cut down evil using the sword granted it for the cowing and chastisement of malefactors. In such a sense the leader is called God's servant on earth, terrifying to all the evil, but well intentioned toward the virtuous. In accordance with its high purpose, it should be obeyed not only out of fear (in Slavonic za gnev , and Greek orge , i.e., out of fear of incurring its displeasure), but "out of conscience," i.e. freely and consciously, "for the sake of the Lord," as says the holy Apostle Peter (I Pet. 2:13), i.e. because such is pleasing to God's will. From this flows Christians' obligation to pray for the authorities, to pay their taxes, to carry out the other duties which they have established for their subjects. Governmental order is beneficial to the prosperity of Christian society itself, "that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all piety and purity" (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; II Tim. 2:1-3). Although what the holy Apostles had most immediately in mind here was the Roman government headed by the emperor ("whether it be to the king, as supreme" [I Pet. 2:13]) which at that time had spread over practically the entire civilized world, yet the Church has always held that these apostolic ordinances have an eternal, intransient significance which applies to all times and peoples.
Thus, according to the clear and most definite doctrine of the holy Apostles, based with certainty upon the command of Christ the Savior Himself (Render not only "what is God's unto God" but also "what is Caesar's unto Caesar" [cf. Mt. 22:21]), the Christian is unconditionally obliged to submit to the governmental authority in general. However, is in fact such an authority possible if the Christian heart is not reconciled to submission to it? Can one submit to it in conscience? (And in this, of course, lies the moral essence of Christian submission to the government out of fear or dread, i.e., purely physically; for it is also possible, of course, to submit to any brigand or violator.) Here one usually finds the words of the Apostle Paul: "There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God," used to demonstrate that it is obligatory to submit to every government, whatever the source of its origin, whatever its moral outlook. In actual fact one cannot make such a deduction from them, for what is being spoken of here is the very principle of authority (in the Greek text the word here is exousia, which signifies a general, abstract understanding of authority). That the mind of the Church has always simply understood this passage from the Epistle to the Romans in a purely general sense is eloquently elucidated in the explanations of the Apostle's words made by St. John Chrysostom and Theodoretus.
"What say you?" the former asks, as though in direct response to an alarming question posed to the Christian conscience above; "Is every ruler then elected by God? This I do not say," he replies; "Nor am I now speaking about individual rulers, but about the thing in itself. But that there should be rulers, and some rule and others be ruled, and that all things should not just be carried on in one confusion, the people swaying like waves in this direction and that; this, I say, is the work of God's wisdom. Hence, he [the Apostle] does not say, 'For there is no ruler but of God;' but it is the thing he speaks of, and says, 'there is no power but of God. And the powers that be are ordained of God'" [Hom. 23 on Romans]. Power, as of divine establishment, is in its essence good, yet also as every other of God's creations governed by free will, it can stray from the purpose intended for it and turn into its own opposite, i.e., into evil. Simple common sense suggests to us that one cannot with the same feeling of respect relate to a lawful ruler who is conscious of his moral responsibility before God and man, and to a tyrant who has violently seized the helm of state and is guided in his activity by his personal passions. There are such leaders of nations from whom the Lord manifestly turns away. Thus, when Saul, the anointed of God and first king of Israel , ceased to obey the will of God, he became, as the word of God expresses it, the "enemy of God" (I Kings 28:11).
The Lord wrathfully says to Israel through His prophet: "They have made kings for themselves, but not by Me" (Hos. 8:4). These words do not, of course, contradict such pronouncements of revelation as "By Me kings reign, and princes decree justice" (Prov. 8:15), or "The Most High is Lord of the kingdom of men" (Dan. 4:22). In His providence God, of course, embraces everything in the history of the world, but His will is revealed here in a twofold manner. He can direct a man's life if the latter itself is given over to the guidance of Providence; or, in the case of the stubborn opposition of a man's will, He can allow it to follow its own path, even if it lead to the abyss, into which the devil, the enemy of all good, will drag it down.
Evidently, this latter case is what St. Gregory the Theologian had in mind when, in his denunciatory speech against Julian the Apostate, he recalled the Emperor Constantius, who during his lifetime had invested his unworthy nephew with the title of Caesar, and exclaimed: "Tell us, what demon instilled this thought in you? If every authority were acknowledged as sacred by the very fact of its existence, Christ the Savior would not have called Herod 'that fox'. The Church would not hitherto have denounced ungodly rulers who defended heresies and persecuted Orthodoxy. Of course, if one judges an authority on the basis of its outward power, and not on its inner, moral worthiness, one may easily bow down to the beast, i.e., the Antichrist, 'whose coming will be with all power and signs and lying wonders' [cf. II Thess. 2:9], to whom power was given over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb'" [Rev. 13:7-8].
It would seem that enough has been said to show that the Russian people can in no way be obligated in conscience to submit to the so-called Soviet regime, which has corrupted the very concept of government and is thoroughly permeated with the spirit of opposition to God.
As has been repeatedly demonstrated already, in the present case no historical parallels and analogies are applicable to the Soviet regime. It would be inappropriate to compare it with the Roman authority, submission to which the Apostles Peter and Paul demanded of the Christians of their time, even though it too later persecuted the followers of Christ. The Romans by nature were distinguished by their moral valor, for which, according to the words of Augustine in his book On the City of God, the Lord magnified and glorified them. To the genius of the Romans humanity owes the working out of a more perfect law, which was the foundation of its famous governmental structure, by which it subjected the world to itself to an even greater degree than by its renowned sword. Under the shadow of the Roman eagle many tribes and nations prospered, enjoying peace and free internal self-government. Respect and tolerance for all religion were so great in Rome that they were at first also extended to recently engendered Christianity. It is sufficient to remember that the Roman procurator Pilate tried to defend Christ the Savior from the malice of the Jews, pointing out His innocence and finding nothing blameworthy in the doctrine He preached. During his many evangelical travels, which brought him into contact with the inhabitants of foreign lands, the Apostle Paul, as a Roman citizen, appealed for the protection of Roman law for defense against both the Jews and the pagans. And, of course, he asked that his case be judged by Caesar, who, according to tradition, found him to be innocent of what he was accused of; only later, after his return to Rome from Spain , did he undergo martyrdom there.
The persecution of Christians never permeated the Roman system, and was a matter of the personal initiative of individual emperors, who saw in the wide dissemination of the new Faith a danger for the state religion, and also for the order of the State, until one of them, St. Constantine, finally understood that they really did not know what they were doing, and laid his sword and scepter at the footstool of the Cross of Christ.
Likewise, there is little to be said in favor of the Bolsheviks' attempt to compare their government with the dominion of the Tartars, before whom all Russia at that time showed fealty, the Primates of the Church of Russia even traveling to the Horde to make obeisance. When we remember that dark page of our history, we recall the devastating invasions of the Mongols, who rushed over the face of the land of Russia like a terrible hurricane, annihilating whole cities and provinces, setting fire to churches and monasteries, plundering the Church's treasures, slaying bishops and priests, etc. But this was only the elemental upsurge of the savage Horde, for whom there was no restraint in their conduct of war with their neighbors. It is by no means characteristic of the real, genuine relations of the Khans to the Christian religion. An attentive study of the historical sources will convince us that in the normal, peaceful course of life the Tartars not only did not persecute the Christians, but soon became inclined to protect this religion. A broad tolerance was one of the main principles of their policies. Even Ghenghis Khan (a pagan) introduced it into the basic governmental statute, known as the Yasa, and it was respected by the Mongols like the Koran of their people. Ministers of all religions were not only freed by it from all taxes and tribute, but also had their own representatives at the court of the Khan, by whom the former were supported. There, the Nestorian priests had precedence; on feastdays they went to the Khan arrayed in their vestments, and after praying blessed his cup with wine. The Mongols' conversion to Islam had little affect on their attitude toward Christianity.
How expansive was the protection provided by the Tartar Khans to the Russian Orthodox Church is eloquently indicated by the decrees issued to the Russian hierarchs by them. In the decree which was first chronologically, and was issued by Tamerlane Khan to Metropolitan Cyril in 1267, or which more probably dates from 1269, we read, among other things, the following: "Any of all our officers who blasphemes or reviles the Faith of the Russians will in nowise be excused and will die an evil death. Let that which in their law they use to pray to God�icons, books or anything else�not be taken away, or torn apart, or ruined" ( History of the Church of Russia , Prof. E. Golubinsky, Vol. II, Pt. 1, p. 33). It is also well known that in the Khans' capital city of Sarai there was established the see of a Russian bishop, who while the Mongols remained pagans was not hindered from preaching the Christian Faith, even in their very midst (ibid., p. 41).
The journey of the holy Metropolitan Alexis to the Horde at the invitation of the Khan, for the healing of the ailing Taidula, "where he was received with great honor," also shows how profoundly the Tartars honored the Church of Russia and its ministers.
O if the Soviet regime would only display such respect for the Church and its clergy as the Tartars consistently showed them, they would be forgiven many of the sins that press upon their conscience! However, the Russian nation, which was brought low for a time before this infidel power, which God permitted as punishment for its sins, did not cease to strive to cast off the Tartar Yoke, and our Church, in the person of Saint Sergius, blessed Great Prince Dmitri Donskoy to engage in the decisive battle with Mamai, as is well known.
And so, neither in the Word of God, nor in the past history of the Church, are we able to find any basis for treating the Soviet regime as legal and for submitting to it "in conscience." Failing to feel beneath him the solid ground of principle in this question, Metropolitan Sergius at times tries to justify his present policy with regard to the Soviets at least by the fact that it, as it were, has accepted his succession from His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon. Although from the external point of view the matter presents itself in such a form, yet there is an essential difference in the manner of both hierarchs' actions which is conditioned by the circumstance under which His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon had to live and govern the Church. Having himself received the first blows of the Revolution, broken by toils and perils and concerns for the Church which were beyond endurance, His Holiness the Patriarch did indeed make several concessions to the Bolshevik regime at a time when he was cut off from his flock, kept under house arrest, and considered his flock already carried off by the Living Church clergy. On the one hand, this act was the fruit of his being ill-informed about the true state of the Church, and on the other hand, of natural human weakness; both the one and the other give us the right to say that the ink with which his declaration recognizing the Soviet regime did not stain his soul. Having assumed such responsibility, and repenting, doubtless, in his soul for his forced concession to the Bolsheviks, he alone bore this heavy cross and did not try to shift it to the shoulders of others, as the present deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne often tries to do, persecuting hierarchs who do not share his view of the Soviet regime. In view of this, the subsequent judgment of history will forgive, we hope, His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon such temporary weakening of spirit, as it has forgiven the great defender of Orthodoxy, the elder Hosius of Cordoba, for his momentary display of cowardice, for the sake of his zeal for the Church, for which he laid down his life.
Under other, far more grievous circumstances, Metropolitan Sergius later entered into open union with the Soviets and made this step quite consciously, making it his goal to forcibly yoke the whole Church to the godless regime. And he does not want to relinquish the direction of ecclesiastical policy he has accepted, even now when the latter has been openly condemned not only by the voice of many worthy hierarchs of the Church of Russia, who bear witness by this own confession of the Truth, but who at the same time reveal the futility of his trust in the support of the Soviet regime. The state of affairs is, of course, in nowise altered by the fact that Metropolitan Sergius has thus far not wished to acknowledge his mistake. He sees his victory in the fact that the loyalty to the Soviet regime proclaimed by him has made it possible for him to restore the organization of ecclesial authority, in the center and in other places, which had previously been all but destroyed, and thus to guarantee the Church the freedom to develop its inner life and activity. Yet what fruits do we see of this supposed freedom? The blasphemous destruction of the Iveron Chapel; the audacious demolition of the Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow; the constant closing and defilement of countless other churches and monasteries in Russia; the deprivation of the rights of the clergy, who are considered disenfranchised and are being driven from the large cities; the imprisonment of many of the most worthy hierarchs of the Church of Russia; the fact that in attending church the faithful try artfully to hide their faces from the secret police; or, finally, the deliberate promulgation of an atheist five-year plan for the utter eradication of religion in Russia.
Regardless of all of this, several of Metropolitan Sergius' defenders go to such extremes that they are prepared to fashion for him a martyr's crown because he supposedly sacrificed the purity of his name for the salvation of the Church (?). To speak thus means first of all to misuse the word "martyr." A martyr always struggles for righteousness and moves toward it on pure and straight paths; as soon as he resorts to words of evil, the shining crown on his head immediately dims. The Church has no need of such victims that, as it were, do not correspond to its dignity. It is adorned only with the virtues of its own hierarchs. On the contrary, their every fall, their every sin, and even the manifestation of simple cowardice, cast their shadow upon it. Redemption is nowhere obtained at the price of sin. The whole sense of this struggle lies in the fact that the innocent offers himself as a purifying sacrifice for the guilty. Pastors, especially archpastors, the leaders of the Church, must everywhere and in all things stand on an unattainable height, following the model of the heavenly Chief Shepherd, "Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26), and Who said of Himself: "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the Truth" (Jn. 18:37). If this concept required confirmation in divine revelation and the teaching of the fathers, we have no lack of such testimonies. "Thou oughtest not to do the things that He hateth" (Eccles. 15:11). The Apostle Paul, the great preacher of the Faith and founder of many Churches, who tried to be all things to all men, "that some may be saved," nevertheless did not want in the least to be called "lawless" before Christ, i.e., to depart to even the least degree from His commandments (cf. I Cor. 9:21). He even said that not every soldier who struggles is crowned, but only the one who struggles lawfully (i.e., in accordance with the established rules (cf. II Tim. 2:5). In accordance with this, he always struggled "by the word of Truth," "by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" (II Cor. 6:7).
In his time St. Cyprian asked: "Why call unrighteousness a good work? Why give ungodliness the appearance of piety?"
Julius Africanus writes: "Let there never prevail in the Church of Christ the rule that falsehood can serve for His praise and glory."
St. John Chrysostom teaches: "A priest must be many-sided; many-sided, I say, but not evil, not a liar, not a hypocrite" (On the Priesthood, Hom. 6).
Such are the ordinances of the apostles and the fathers, which must always shine like a beacon upon pastors, especially in the times of the trouble which sometimes cast into shadow the "pure sense" of the servants of Christ themselves.
But if one were to say that we are living in an exceptionally difficult time, such as perhaps has never been seen in the history of the Church, to such a one we point out the example of a holy hierarch contemporary to us, whom the Church now blesses as a valiant passion-bearer for the Truth. This is Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd, who has reposed in God. When he languished in the torments which preceded his death, certain of the priests who were more devoted to him, desiring to preserve him for themselves and their flock, began to entreat him to spare himself for the Church and propitiate the Soviet regime by fulfilling their demands--i.e., they approached him with the very temptation into the snare of which the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne has now fallen--he replied to them with the following immortal and truly golden words: "Strange are the reasonings of certain perhaps even believing pastors (I have Platon in mind), that one should maintain one's life force, i.e. for its sake give up everything. But then what is left for Christ? It is not the Platons and Benjamins and the like who save the Church, but Christ. The point on which they try to stand is destruction for the Church.
One should not spare oneself for the Church, and not sacrifice the Church for one's own sake." This is a reply worthy of a true pastor, who is an adornment of the Church of Russia henceforth and forevermore. We must regret that Metropolitan Sergius has not carried on the legacy of this hieromartyr, "who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth" (Rev. 2:13). For every Christian, just as for every pastor, there is only the one straight path which is outlined for all in the Gospel. If this path is welcomed and, so to speak, in accordance with the will of God is cut off from the other path, which originates with the primordial slayer of man and father of lies, it itself forms a cross which calls the pastor to suffering. And no one has the right then to turn aside from his lot of passion- bearing toward a supposed, self-devised martyrdom. Let the panegyrists of Metropolitan Sergius remember the ancient martyrs and apologists. The latter were able to defend Christianity without needlessly embittering the pagan authorities, and at the same time not sacrificing for this either the freedom of the Church or the truth of the Gospel. Let them also not forget that externally the Church never appeared less organized than when it hid in the catacombs. Yet it was from there that it subjugated the entire world.
On the other hand, having first, thanks to the protection of the Soviets, received all the necessary means and resources for its organization, the " Living Church " turned out to be a stillborn plant, because it lacked the living root of grace and Truth.
But if Metropolitan Sergius so cherished the correct organization of ecclesiastical administration in Russia , why is he trying to destroy it outside of Russia ? When one reads his Epistle attentively, one cannot doubt that his main efforts are directed at the destruction of the ecclesiastical center abroad, i.e. the Council and Synod which govern the Orthodox diaspora. Let us assume that in one way or another he might achieve his goal and abolish the "Karlovatsky Administration." What benefit would derive from this for the Orthodox flock abroad, and for the Church of Russia in general? It is doubtful that the majority of the flock abroad would follow him and the new archpastors assigned to nurture it, as we have already seen in the example of Metropolitan Eleutherius and Archbishop Benjamin, who have managed to gather around them, despite all the support of the Moscow Patriarchate, only a meager community of "law-abiding" Russian emigres, as they call themselves. And if so, what fate would await the flock abroad in the future? Cut off from their archpastors and pastors, they would remind us of sheep lost in the mountains, who easily fall prey to ravening wolves. Russian refugees who live within the boundaries of other Orthodox Churches might still act under the care of the latter, but who would care for those who are scattered throughout non-Orthodox, and especially heathen and Islamic countries, even to the ends of the earth? They would gradually lose simultaneously both their Faith and their language, and would be forever lost to the Russian Church and Russia itself. Who would be responsible for the destruction of these Orthodox souls forsaken by all, if not the present deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, who truly does not know what he is doing? Does it make sense in general to destroy the entire structure of Russian Church life abroad, which has long since been formed and stood the test of time, if one is not going to replace it with something better? Let the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne himself ask the flock abroad whether it desires the break-up of the present organization of ecclesiastical administration. We have no doubt that their reply would be in the negative. The number of Russian Orthodox people who now live in dispersion is so great, the conditions of their life are so distinct from those in which the Church now lives in Russia, relations with the local populace and government authorities are so complex and varied, that for their unification into a single organism here abroad there must without fail exist one, authoritative Church organ whose authority would extend over the entire Orthodox diaspora. Under such conditions, the closure of the existing organs of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration Abroad would lead only to a new disorganization of Church life, to discord and schism, and through this the dignity of the Russian Orthodox Church would be impugned in the eyes of its Eastern Sister Churches and other Christians.
Furthermore, after this our Mother Church would be deprived of a living link binding it to the other Local Churches and heterodox confessions, before whom the Synod of Bishops often served as mediator for the suffering Church of Russia during the most grievous days of its trials, thereby providing her with relief and support.
In his insistent rush to bring the hierarchs abroad into submission, the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne has not confined himself in his epistle only to fraternal admonition, but on his part resorts exclusively to threats, and says that "if the Karlovatsky Group fails to implement the1927 resolution by May 9th," the Patriarchate will "carry out a special judgment for each disobedient hierarch, suspending him from serving the divine services until trial." But what meaning do threats and punishments have in questions of pastoral conscience? Is there any power on earth that can force a bishop or priest to act against what he himself considers the Truth? Let Metropolitan Sergius recall the examples of Maximus the Confessor and Theodore the Studite, who were undaunted by the threats of both the civil authorities and the heretical ecclesiastical authorities. If they struggled for the purity of the Faith, we are doing battle for the purity and sanctity of the Church, which can have nothing in common with militantly atheistic Communism. Close alliance with the latter is for it tantamount to spiritual suicide. Moreover, whatever threats the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne might hurl at us in his enthusiasm for waging war upon us, the blows he aims at us we parry in advance with the very sword which the sacred canons and simple common sense places in our hands.
1) The bishops abroad, not only on their own initiative but, as we have seen above, with the consent and approval of the present deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne himself, have become temporarily independent (in the administrative sense) of the Moscow Patriarchate; and if they are not under his administration, they obviously also cannot submit to be tried by it. How important Metropolitan Sergius himself considers this condition of the voluntary submission or non-submission of the hierarchs abroad to his authority is evident from the case of Metropolitan Evlogy. In the directive in which he sets forth the latter's suspension from serving for separation from the Moscow Patriarchate and transferring to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, he considers as an aggravating circumstance the fact that Metropolitan Evlogy, and the hierarchs dependent upon him, had by their own free decision declared themselves to be members of the clergy canonically subject to the Moscow Patriarchate, recognizing the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne and the Temporary Holy Synod as the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority of All Russia and their "direct canonical leadership."
2) Under the present circumstances of Russian life as a whole a lawful juridical investigation for the bishops abroad, as it is established in the canons of the Church, would be impossible even from a purely procedural point of view. On the strength of the canons, an accused bishop must be personally hailed to trial by the other bishops through a thrice-repeated summons transmitted by two bishops sent to him by the Council; and only should he stubbornly refuse to appear for the investigation of his case "let the Council decide the matter against him [in absentia], in whatever way it deems best, so that it may not seem that he is getting the benefit by evading a trial" (Canon 74 of the Holy Apostles). If Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod would now like to condemn the bishops abroad, they must obviously maintain this necessary guarantee of canonical jurisprudence. But here the prescribed summons to trial of the accused bishops, much less the actual presence of them at the juridical examination of their case, is almost equally unrealizable. We are certain that the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne himself would not insist that they now present themselves in Russia, where in addition to a church trial the vengeance of the Bolsheviks also awaits them; and if he does not, then he and the Synod have no basis for handing down in absentia any decision concerning them or imposing upon them any canonical penalty prior to their trial, especially one so heavy as suspension from serving. The canons of the Councils recognize a similar measure of warning in view of "deprivation of communion," but it is not lawfully imposed until the accused bishop, over the course of two months, intentionally ignores two summonses to appear before the court of the first instance; but after this he retains for himself the right to appeal to "the great, general Council" to justify himself. If he also does not avail himself of this latter possibility to justify himself, "let him be judged to have pronounced sentence upon himself" (Canon 37 of Carthage). To impose upon the bishops abroad suspension from serving under the circumstances indicated above is even more incongruous, and even cruel, since the Council to which they might appeal for the defense of their case cannot convene for many years, and for them this heavy punishment might drag on for an indefinite number of years, which is of course permissible neither from the juridical, nor even more from the canonical point of view.
3) One ought not to forget that behind the activities of the current organs of central ecclesiastical administration in Russia one may always suspect the hidden hand of the Soviets, and even the so-called Cheka, which is trying in every way to annihilate, or at least neutralize, its enemies abroad, and under such conditions a trial of the bishops abroad would be not only unjust, but blatantly criminal, inasmuch as it can serve as a weapon in the hands of the enemies of the Church for its disintegration and weakening.
4) On all of these bases, and also because the bishops abroad are administering their flock abroad on conciliar principles, forming of themselves a little council as a supreme organ of ecclesiastical administration abroad, they can be subject only to judgment by a canonical Pan-Russia Church Council, to which they are also prepared to give an account of their activities side by side with Metropolitan Sergius, the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, who is likewise subject to the judgment of that Council.
Being himself unsure that the illegal measures of suspension he proposes will turn out to be valid for the clergy abroad, Metropolitan Sergius foresees in them at least the advantage that they will form for the Russian bishops and clergymen abroad inescapable complications with the other Orthodox Churches, on whose territory they are living. He is also indirectly sending threats to these Churches, saying that if the Karlovatsky organization remains "in its present position," it will be a source of misunderstandings between sister Local Churches. Here it is first of all permissible to ask how worthy it is for the chief hierarch of the Church of Russia, such as Metropolitan Sergius considers himself to be, to elicit fresh confusion in the mutual relations between the Church of Russia and its Eastern Sisters, if even without this he does not want to intensify the great turmoil that reigns now in the Orthodox world? But we hope that his calculations regarding the arising of inter-Church complications will not be justified. The Eastern Orthodox Churches, with good will on their part, are able correctly to analyze our complicated, current internal Church relations and reach the conclusion that the grievous division which is now observed within the Church of Russia is not a chance phenomenon. It is an extension of the Revolution, which always sets before the conscience of the people a whole series of questions of principle, and thus is thrust like a sword into the national organism, cutting it into parts. Inasmuch as the life of the Church is bound up with that of society, this severing also penetrates the bosom of the Church, in which the words of Christ the Savior are then fulfilled: "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Lk. 12:51-53). We are certain that the wisdom of the primates of the Eastern Churches will enable them to understand the difficulty of the situation in which this new epistle of Metropolitan Sergius places us. We are not refusing to respond to his call to reestablish canonical relations with him out of a lack of love of peace or ecclesiastical obedience, but on ecclesial bases which are profoundly principled, non-political, and purely moral. We doubt that among the Eastern hierarchs there will be found those who, with Metropolitan Sergius, would like to see, since the destruction of the Orthodox monarchy in--Russia (which powerfully supported Orthodoxy in the East), the militantly atheistic Soviet regime established there, whose corrupting influence is a threat to the whole world.
If it was possible at the very inception of Bolshevism, which promised to say something new to mankind, to err regarding its true character, now, when it has finally revealed its inner essence and unmasked its naked face, which mocks everything holy in the world, and when it has shown a total inability to change for the better, but becomes worse and worse, filling itself to overflowing with its own iniquities; now no one who has maintained a healthy reason and an uninfected conscience will have the audacity to defend either the very doctrine or the active methods of the Communists; and one would, of course, much less expect this from the pastors of the Church. One should truly regret the blindness of Metropolitan Sergius, who is apparently so certain of the unshakability of the Soviet regime, and thus would like everyone to cast incense on the altar of Bolshevism. Yet what has this regime given to the Russian people? Does he really not hear the groans and cries of despair of the millions of Russian people turned by the Soviet government into pitiful slaves bereft of rights, to whom only a single freedom remains: the freedom to die? Does he really not see that well nigh half of Russia has been transformed by them into a desert through the annihilation of a whole series of disobedient towns and villages by summary executions, the exile of the best people to Siberia and to the Solovki Islands, and especially by the cruel famine which has reduced thousands of people to the state of wild beasts and has prompted them sometimes to murder and devour one another? It is well known to all that this famine was artificially engineered by the cruelty and insanity of the regime itself, which is wresting from the village populace the last crumb of bread so as to sell it at a loss on the agrarian market: a phenomenon unparalleled in history; for a government usually feeds the starving, and does not increase their number itself, later leaving them in a hopeless state. Can he really close his eyes to the fact that, along with bodily starvation the Russian people are also experiencing a horrifying spiritual starvation, for among them there remain practically no churches or priests, and the whole series of upcoming generations will be reared in an atmosphere of utter immorality and total lack of faith, and thus will turn out to be more like wild beasts than men? Does the deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, who has always been well known for his farsightedness, really not notice the "signs of the times," does he not perceive that the Soviet regime is indubitably living out its final days, being doomed to inevitable destruction; does he want the peoples' anger, which will then be turned against the regime's partisans and defenders, to fall with its heavy weight upon the Church because it, the supreme bearer of the Truth, the preserver of the Faith and preacher of love, found itself allied with the Bolsheviks while they were shedding a sea of innocent Russian blood and staining themselves with indelible crimes in the face of God and the people?
We cannot, of course, prevent him from walking the path he has chosen, but we ourselves will not follow him. We know one Truth only, the eternal Truth of Christ; if they now want to replace it with some other, human truth, we are ready to cry out with Isaac the Syrian: "Let such a truth perish!" "Only be silent," Metropolitan Sergius tells us, "and do not denounce the Soviet regime, for this is a political act."
"Be silent! One thing alone do I say to thee: Be silent!" Tsar Ivan the Terrible once said angrily to Saint Philip, considering his justifiable words of rebuke an interference in his sovereign affairs; yet this did not stop the boldness of the great hierarch, who continued to condemn his cruelty and to defend the truth he was trampling underfoot. Just so, we, the bishops abroad, cannot follow the call of Metropolitan Sergius. In those days when Christ, Who has honored us with the episcopal dignity and called us to be His faithful and true witness, will do battle with the Antichrist, we not only cannot be on the side of His enemy, but cannot even simply remain neutral in this conflict, for "by silence is God betrayed," in the words of St. Gregory the Theologian. If we are silent in the face of the Bolsheviks, the very stones will truly cry out. We have been and remain, therefore, irreconcilable with regard to the servants of the devil, and will not lay down the weapon wielded against them, which alone is pleasing to us, until Russia is rescued from the "throne of Satan" and is resurrected to a new life. We are not afraid to speak out about this to the whole world, taking upon ourselves full responsibility for our words. We have not the slightest doubt that the Soviet regime will be dashed to pieces against that impregnable fortress at which it is now directing its principal blows. We believe and confess that the Church of Christ is invincible, for the promise of its divine Founder is unbreakable: will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18). Amen.
President of the Council
Members of the Council:
8/21 July 1933