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034. April 3/16, 1970. St. Nikito

Dear Father David [Black],

Thank you for your letter, which we received at the same time as the Feb. Orthodox Church. You didn’t say what you thought of Fr. Meyendorff’s attack on the Synod. I will share with you a thought or two on the question of conscience and responsibility, especially as regards someone whose words are to be printed and widely distributed.

In our new Orthodox Word, which will be sent out in a few days (God willing!), in reporting some of the Metropolia’s response to the Synod’s protest against the Autocephaly, we had occasion to quote Archbp. John Shahovskoy and others. We were very careful to make our citations exact and in context, which we believe to be a matter of principle for journalists and editors. At first we planned to preface the Archbishop’s statements with the words “Archbp. John S., in a paid advertisement in Novoye Russkoye Slovo…“ Then we thought better. He did not submit it first to the newspaper as a paid advertisement, but wrote it as a letter to a laymen, and it was only subsequently printed. Thus, though our original statement was formally correct, it was not precise, and it might lead people to think that he had written the statement with publication in view. (Perhaps he did, after all — but we prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt!) Therefore we revised the statement to read “Archbp. John S., in a letter to a layman which was published as a paid advertisement in NRS…” A fine point? Perhaps — but this way our conscience is absolutely clear, and by giving every possible benefit of the doubt and by scrupulously avoiding any kind of personal attack, we keep the discussion on the level of principle, where it belongs. You will note that in our remarks on Metr. Platon in this issue we deliberately make no mention of such compromising facts as that his governance of the Diocese was so inept that St. Tikhons Monastery was going to be sold at auction, or that (after the faithful rescued it) he then took it as his private property and tried to will it to his daughter!) — because such facts, while they add fuel to a polemical argument, do not affect the basic question of principle. I think you will understand this. And I think this principle has been followed by the Synod in its present arguments against the autocephaly — I don’t recall a single personal attack; all is on the level of principle. (If you should ever find us descending from this level in the heat of argument, please tell us!)

What, then, must be our response when we read the attack of Fr. Meyendorff? One can perhaps understand his over-simplified view of Church history since 1917, when he quotes documents that favor his stand and ignores the others (however, one of his documents is an acknowledged forgery! — see the new OW); one becomes a little puzzled that he can so easily dismiss the canonicity of the Synod without seeing that his remarks must surely also apply to the Metropolia, from 1920-26 and 1936-46 (and he neglects to mention that no one recognized the Metropolia from 1926-36): one sighs at the lack of “consistency” he finds in the Synod’s recent history — for it is his own narrow view of “consistency,” based on a caricature of our stand, that is violated, not the Synods; one is, frankly quite disturbed that virtually all of the “facts” he cites are distorted, inaccurate, or simply imaginary.

But when he attacks personalities, one cannot be silent. In the first place, the argument is on the childish level — if we cooperate with the Communists, you did too, and you’re Fascists as well! Even if that were true, it would not affect the principle involved; but it is actually a slander based on half-truths and innuendo. Metr. Anastassy did not ever invoke any “blessing” on Hitler’s “state police”; he did, in 1938, thank the German government in a very proper note for money given for a church and for a law legalizing our Church. Later, when the German treatment of Jews, Russians, etc., became known, Metr. Anastassy was so outspoken that his office was subject to several crude searches by the SS. To imply that he was pro-Nazi, as Fr. Meyendorff does, is irresponsible (and to put the words “blessing” of “state police” in quotations is dishonest — he is quoting only his own imagination); to say that his attitude is equivalent Metr. Nikodim’s active service for Communism simply has no relation to facts and is a “defense mechanism” of the cheapest sort. And all this when there is a real Hitler supported in the Metropolia — Archbishop John Shahovskoy, who (having left the Synod 10 years earlier) in 1941, after Hitler had overrun Western Europe and his activities in Germany were better known than in 1938, published an astonishing hymn of praise of Hitler’s army on the occasion of the invasion of Russia: “The bloody operation of overthrowing the Third International is entrusted to the expert, experienced German physician…. This required the iron-precise hand of the German Army, a professional military experienced in the most responsible battles…. This army, having passed through the whole of Europe in its victories (over Western civilization!!!), is now powerful not only in the might of its arms and principles, but also in obedience to a higher call, to Providence…. Above everything human operates the sword of God….” (Novoye Slovo, June 29, 1941, Berlin.) Our bishops, who are supposed to be involved in “politics,” were careful to refrain from such partisan involvements even when it looked as though the Soviets might be overthrown. And yet Archbp. Shahovskoy has an honored place in the autocephaly arrangements and constantly accuses the Synod of “politics” (in fact, his harangues against the Synod in Cleveland were instrumental in causing the schism of 1946), while our Metropolitan, a man of staunch principle, is slandered! Frankly, I would rather not touch this side of Archbishop Shahovskoy — but if Fr. Meyendorff is convinced that pro-Naziism is a valid argument against a hierarch and a Church, he should know to whom he had better direct his criticism!

The same thing is true of Metro. Philaret and Archbp. John Maximovitch in China — it is formally true that for a few days in 1945, when falsely informed that Metr. Anastassy was dead, the Synod dissolved, the Church situation entirely changed in Russia as a result of the War, and the Patriarch validly elected, did commemorate Patr. Alexy — but when contact was soon resumed with Metr. Anastassy and the truth became known, they both became so staunchly anti-Moscow that Archbp. John is remembered to this day by Moscow (see One Church, for example) as the leader of the “schism” in China, and Metr. Philaret’s very life was constantly in danger from his anti-Soviet and anti-Patriarchate statements and sermons. It is complicated — and frankly boring — to tell you this in a letter, but I know you will listen to facts — but Fr. Meyendorff has built a few misleading half-truths into a monstrous innuendo against three of our leading hierarchs with the intent to discredit our whole Church, and thousands will believe his few simple words and will never be informed of the facts. It remains to be seen whether he will print our answer (if no one else writes first) — not in the interests of presenting the “other side,” but simply to correct inaccuracies, falsehood, and defamation of character.

Do you see what I mean by conscience and responsibility? Of course, I don’t mean to blame the Alaskan Church for such irresponsible (at best!) remarks of one Metropolia editor. But now we hear that the Metropolia bishops have signed the autocephaly. Will Alaska follow in conscience*. No matter how Orthodox you may be, you are now committed to this act — I say it openly — or unprincipledness. Do you think it is a coincidence that now, after so many years of ignoring us, the Metropolia begins to come out with irresponsible attacks against us? Of course Nikodim did not tell Fr. Meyendorff to do it, but don’t you think he knew the Metropolia psychology well enough to know that such attacks would now be made against the one body Moscow hates the most? The Synod has long accused the Metropolia of lack of canonical foundation; but now, it would seem, the shoe is on the other foot — thanks to Moscow!

But no, it is not on the other foot. Principle is principle, truth is truth, and if God is truth that which is untrue and unprincipled can have no part in the Church of Christ, no matter how many canons one may quote.

Well, you will read our arguments in the Orthodox Word. For us, nothing has changed, just as our Synod has kept — by God’s grace, I am convinced — the one straight, unquestionably Orthodox and principled line from 1920 to the present, while everyone else around us has changed. But 1970 is nonetheless perhaps the year of decision for American Orthodoxy. I fear that those who don’t act now will find later that it is too late, that they are already “committed” to another path. May this not be so of the Alaskan Church.

Let us pray all the harder to God and to Fr. Herman that we may all be enlightened and saved.

Trusting in your prayers, with love in Christ our Saviour,

P.s. We have just received Hieromonk Seraphim Bobich’s Open Letter to Fr. Neketas — wow! We wouldn’t have dared say these things outright, because we would be dismissed as anti-Metropolia fanatics — but a priest of the Metropolia has the right, and he speaks the truth, and it can and will be demonstrated.

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