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193. Oct. 9/22, 1975. St. James, son of Alpheus

Dear Nina,

We were glad to get your letter. Thanks also for the letters which give the “Boston version” of recent events. We didn’t like the tone at all— “oily,” self-justifying, and rumor-mongering. To spread to California rumors about the personal life of Fr. Augustine Whitfield is not very noble, to say the least—and yet the constant accusation that it is everybody else who is spreading rumors. (Are they really unaware that it’s not proper to send out letters with such rumors in them? Do they really not see that they’re doing exactly what they accuse others—often falsely—of doing? If so, things are bad.) We also don’t like the “elitist” philosophy set forth— “only we and the bishops can discuss these things.” Bishops we have known have always been very straightforward in telling what they thought of church events, without flattering us that we are part of some inner sanctum of the organization. And yet the “elitist” explanation is obviously a cover-up, for Fr. Alexis says (p. la, para. 2) that the purpose of Fr. Panteleimon’s act was “IN ORDER TO DEMONSTRATE TO THE FAITHFUL UNDER SYNOD AND TO THE OLD CALENDARISTS IN GREECE some consistency, and the fact that we do not accept Bp. Peter….” Of course this is hidden now only because it backfired and gave much adverse publicity to Fr. P.

The attack on Alexey is also very low—of course they have been spreading rumors all the time about Alexey, just as much after as before the “friendship was sealed” with him. We have been astonished and grieved to hear these things—and we let the rumors stop with us, not telling you or Alexey or anyone else about them. Evidently, again, the “Greeks” do not consider that these are “rumors” or “slanders” that they are spreading—everyone else does that, but they are only “warning the faithful,” “telling the truth,” etc. Because they have a double standard, they cannot understand the opposition that is mounting against them. Out of self-importance, they do not see what they are doing, and so any warnings or advice to them will only be answered by another oily, self-justifying letter (or worse, an open letter).

We are frankly glad of the stink that was raised over the last episode. You cannot “explain” things to Fr. P., you cannot “persuade” him—he is a politician and listens only to a manifestation of power, even if it’s just a big noise in our “Russian tradition.”

It is our “Greeks” who have now introduced into our Church the spirit of party politics, false zealotry, and suspicion. If they can’t see this, it’s pointless to talk to them.

There is a certain down-to-earth basic honesty and straightforwardness that is lacking now in our Greeks, and that is what makes us despair for the future. They are blinding themselves. And this is not manifest just in their “controversial” acts and words. They sent us recently a copy of a letter to someone in Australia (obviously written with the idea of sending us a copy!), which includes these words: “It might be to your profit and edification to write to the Fathers at Platina…. We are sure that they would be rejoiced to have occasion to make confession of our true faith and instruct you so that you may come to a better understanding.” This is spiritual fakery. We want out of this phoney atmosphere of “know-it-all,” of “humble instruction” of the lower classes, of pretending to make a “confession” when all we are doing is giving our opinion. As Fr. Dimitry Dudko so well says (and for all his mistakes, he is more Orthodox than the Boston “Party”), this is the religion of the West: “Spirituality with comfort.” Alas, this is what America is offering to Orthodoxy! But how many can see through this subtle trap?

Well, were going to forget all this (if they’ll let us) and get on with our business; may God grant you all to do the same. Alexey will have to “forget the Greeks” completely if he’s going to stay sane; the more you can do the same, the better, so as to avoid worse temptations later. It’s futile for you to defend Alexey—or us, when the time comes—before Fr. Panteleimon; his views are not based on facts, but on political realities. You’ve been warned! No need to “take sides”—but be sober.

By the way, a sure sign that Fr. P., whatever his outward arguments, is spiritually wrong in this case: he terribly grieved one hierarch (Vladika Averky’s letter to us is one of despondency, and if Fr. P. will say in self-justification that Vlad. A. “misunderstood” him, then it is Fr. P.’s fault for not communicating to him in a decent and understandable way), and he terribly upset at least two others; and yet not one word that Fr. P. is “sorry” or in any way is anything but “right.” There is spiritual disaster ahead for this man; he has gone off the Orthodox track in so many ways of feeling and sensitivity that I once thought he understood.

By the way, the fact that we refuse to enter into the campaign of distrust of Vlad. Laurus or of any of those accused of “Western influence” (and those who use this accusation are clearly under Schmemann’s influence), does not mean that we agree entirely with them on any given issue. We suspect, for example, that the most sober position with regard to the Old Calendarists lies somewhere between Vlad. Laurus’ position and that of Dr. Kalomiros. But we continue on the best of relations with both, because we all realize that we are human and do not have all the answers, unlike Fr. P., who (like all “party men”) sees plots against him everywhere.

With Fr. Panteleimon we would like to remain on the best of terms also, but I doubt that he will allow this. Dr. Kalomiros says that he “cuts off” anyone who disagrees with him, and we have already seen what this means in the case of Alexey, a fellow struggler in his own Church and for the same Orthodox zealot cause. Also, Fr. P., playing “Synod politics” for so long, has himself become part of the boring, stifling “organization mentality,” covered with a sticky layer of unctions “love” for everyone which is not borne out by his actions. In the end this will submerge his many qualities, in which we don’t doubt, which could have been such an asset to our Church if he hadn’t come to think himself so important.

There are, by the way, many undercurrent factors in Fr. P’s whole position in the Church which I don’t think he understands at all; these make any defense or attack of him of little value, if it is based only on what seems superficially to be involved. If I get the chance and time, I will try to sort these out some day and write about them to Dr. Kalomiros, who seems to be the most level-headed Greek we know. I don’t think any Greek, for example, is aware of how the whole Old-Calendarist situation seems to Russians—their demands to “take sides” just don’t make any sense to Russians. No one, least of all Fr. P. himself, has ever thought that our Synod is obliged to follow whatever the Synod of Auxentios decrees, particularly when the decree is based on a position which our Synod refuses to accept (declaring lack of grace of the New-Cal. Church). Therefore, it would have been absurd for Vlad. Averky to break off communion with Bp. Peter—it would have been simply a bowing to a political demand of some brazen young clergyman. Now that our Synod has done so, of course, the situation is at least superficially clearer—but the problems actually remain.

Again, Fr. P. doesn’t seem to understand that his position in our Synod is a special one, something granted as a great favor to him. Vlad. John told us in the beginning that the logical place for the “Greeks” when they came over was under Bp. Peter. The decision to bring them under our Russian jurisdiction, thus creating two groups of Greek Old Calendarists in this country, was a risky one and was owing to the love and kindness and naivete of our bishops. But Fr. P. seems to think that this special favor is his right, and he thereby involves our Church directly in Greek disputes, which he thinks is normal, but our bishops certainly don’t. I’m afraid the logical conclusion of all this, which will probably now be more and more impressed on our bishops, is that Fr. P. belongs in some Greek jurisdiction where he can do what he thinks is right without dragging Russians into it. If he doesn’t want this, Fr. P. had better start being more quiet and meek, just like the rest of us.

Enough of all this. Symeon replied to you? We haven’t heard from him since we warned him (and Fr. Alexander) about going too fast. He’s not ready yet to be a deacon, as far as we can see, but probably he’s already been ordained.

Glory be to God for all things! Alexey will just have to learn more about rejoicing in sorrows. All this will be good for him, if he survives—by God’s grace and Vladika John’s prayers, he will. May God preserve us all. Be prepared for really difficult trials ahead when you will have to defend the Faith. But don’t think you can do it by “being right”—that’s Fr. P’s fata! mistake. You must be in the spirit and tradition of the Church, and then you will survive even if you might be “wrong” about something or other (even “ecclesiology”—we have so many “ecclesiological experts” nowadays!). This message has not yet sunk into Fr. P, even though he talks about it.

Seraphim, monk


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