George Weigel writes another revealing piece about Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church, corresponding to the essential thesis of our recently published book “Catholicism, Communism & Criminal Reformation”, that though Russian Communism as the government of Russia may be technically over, the methods, the reality, of governing are not.
An excerpt from Weigel’s article.
In a conversation about Russian Orthodoxy some dozen years ago, that famous source who can only be quoted off-the-record, the Senior Vatican Official, said to me, “They only know how to be chaplain to the czar—whoever he is.”
Such asperity reflected deep frustration over the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow’s continued rudeness (some would say, cruelty) to John Paul II and its nasty habit of throwing sand into the gears of the international Orthodox-Catholic dialogue. And my interlocutor surely knew that there were exceptions to his rule: men like the late Father Alexander Men, axe-murdered in 1990, almost certainly because politicians and senior Russian Orthodox churchmen feared that this son of a Jewish family might, in a free, post-Soviet Russia, help craft a new relationship between religious and political authority; men like Father Gleb Yakunin, a founder of the Christian Committee for the Defense of Believers’ Rights who did hard time in the Gulag as a result; men like the country pastors who, since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, have been rebuilding Russian Orthodoxy in the countryside, one wounded soul at a time.
Yet there were also hard truths in that Senior Vatican Official’s comment. The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has been in thrall to political power for centuries, and its 20th-century history was a particularly unhappy one. The Bolsheviks hated pious priests, so Lenin and his successors ruthlessly crushed authentic Russian Orthodox religious life—the expression of a great spiritual and theological tradition—wherever they could; the list of ROC martyrs to communism is a long and noble one. After Stalin rehabilitated the ROC in his campaign to ramp up Russian nationalism after the German invasion of June 1941, the leadership of Russian Orthodoxy, the Patriarchate of Moscow, became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Soviet regime, and specifically of its secret police, the KGB. Patriarchs of Moscow were senior KGB officers; the present Patriarch, Kirill, began his career as an ROC representative at the World Council of Churches in 1971 when he was 25 years old, a sure sign of KGB affiliation.
In recent years, Kirill and his “foreign minister,” Metropolitan Hilarion, have been mouthpieces for Russian president Vladimir Putin’s efforts to reconstitute something like the old Soviet Union in the name of a “historic Russian space,” an exercise in Great Russian irredentism that has taken a particularly grave turn in Ukraine; concurrently, they’ve conducted a campaign of seduction in the Vatican and among American evangelical Protestants, putatively in service to a united front against western decadence and secularism. But in the ironies of history (or the strange ways of divine providence) the Ukraine crisis, in which Kirill has been duplicitous and Hilarion mendacious, just might initiate a break in this historic pattern of Orthodoxy playing lap dog to authoritarian power among the eastern Slavs.
Retrieved March 19, 2014 from http://denvercatholicregister.org/opinion/orthodoxy-state-society/#.UynIPqJOWM9
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