Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Now, if all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put him together again once he has finished falling, how can little Varochka do anything about it?
A Wise Batiushka in the MP
Of course, we have all heard of Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment”. Some then add a codicil, “and Murphy was an optimist!” That is to say, in plain and unadorned language, “The shit will hit the fan when you least expect it and cover everyone with its pleasant ordure, including your sainted mother-in-law, who had nothing to do with it at all”.
There is a surreal website called “Orthodox History”… it’s history only in the most Stalinist sense of the word. Just like in Stalin’s day, some of the details are spot-on correct, but they are put together in a rather hotchpotch manner to support the ideological fancies of the autocephalist crowd. For instance, there is nothing on the Cleveland Sobor or on the Mayfield church dispute, both of which one has to understand in order to get a handle on the TRUE church history in this country. Indeed, there are so many lacunae in the material on this site that one is forced to conclude that its sole purpose is to provide an intellectual underpinning for a secession of the OCA from canonical Orthodoxy (its coverage of the history of the ROCOR is derisory). The worst offender is one Oliver Herbel. All the konvertsy are agog over him… what I see is someone who is completely ignorant of the Russian sources and one can easily see that his knowledge of Russian history, both secular and ecclesiastical is very tenuous, indeed.
Let’s clear away the most egregious thing first. One of the mantras of the OH.org crowd is “there was no united Orthodox Church in North America prior to 1921”. They trot out the fact that this or that parish was not in communion with the canonical hierarchy or that they refused its authority. How does that impair the unity of a canonical hierarchy? It doesn’t… for instance, in 1054, when the Latins rebelled against the Church, it did not impair the Church’s unity. Certainly, a schismatical group left the communion of the Body of Christ… but that does not break the unity of the remainder. Likewise, if this or that rebellious local parish refused to accept the authority of the legitimate and canonical bishop, it did not impair the unity of the accepted Church. This smells like Protestantism of the worst variety… yes, kiddies, it reeks of the Anglican sectarian “Branch Theory” dressed up in pseudo-Orthodox finery. True Orthodoxy is straightforward… it asks, “With whom are you in communion with?” We do not believe in a fanciful “invisible church”. The strangest accusation that Mr Herbel hurls is that he claims that one of the reasons that one cannot accept the Russian hierarchy as the sole Orthodox authority in this country is that “they didn’t go out and try to convert people”… I kid you not! I would remind Mr Herbel that the prime reason why one establishes a hierarchy is to shepherd an existing flock… full stop. Frankly, before the 1890s, there was no Orthodox population of any size to shepherd in this country. However, once a hierarchy was established, and the Holy Governing Synod did indeed plant such a body, then, Orthodox teaching is clear… all those who refused to accept its authority were rebels and schismatics outside of the Body of Christ.
Mr Herbel et al do not wish to accept that events outside of North America drove (and still drive) Church events here. The Orthodox Church in North America is a minor and insignificant body, both in terms of its domestic clout, and in terms of its influence on the mother churches in the Orthodox homelands. In short, if Orthodoxy in North America were to disappear, something that is NOT going to occur, incidentally, it would not be of great consequence. Indeed, the vast bulk of Orthodox in the homelands or the larger society of North America would not notice its disappearance at all. Many Orthodox bodies cannot even afford to compensate their clergy properly… that is no small beer.
Actually, I believe that websites such as OH.org are a sign of the intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy that afflicts us here. We seek out pseudo-intellectual arguments to defend the frankly un-Orthodox situation that arose after the Russian Revolution. There, I said it… the main cause of the disunity amongst Orthodox in North America was the fact that the Church in Russia was reeling under Bolshevik assaults and couldn’t oppose the uncanonical power-grab of Meletios Metaxakis. We have no way of knowing whether Mr Metaxakis would have tried pulling off such a stunt if the Russian Church was not under persecution and unable to respond (it speaks volumes about the character of Mr Metaxakis, though). Let’s not talk about rebel X or rebel parish Y in 1900… let’s ask the real question… why did the EP set up a hierarchy here when it knew that there was a canonical Orthodox hierarchy already in place? In Orthodox terms, that’s serious… it’s saying that the hierarchy on the scene is deficient in some way or another. Would this schismatical action have taken place if there were no Russian Revolution? In fact, I would put this to the OH.org crowd… the sole reason for the present disunity in Orthodoxy in North America is the after-effects of the Russian Revolution. It’s not minutiae about this or that local community, or such peripheral figures as Aftimios Ofiesh. If it had not been for the Revolution… but God did not give us that.
My MP priest-friend whom I quoted at the head of this post was referring to Jonas Paffhausen. The OCA as we know it is an odious flower, it sprang forth from the poisonous seed scattered at the time of the Revolution. When you add in the Cleveland Sobor, the Schmemannshchyna, and the disastrous reign of Feodosy Lazor, it seems like a Greek tragedy or a Norse Edda with a predetermined and wretched end. No amount of pseudo-intellectual academic prooftexting or pompous footnote writing can change it. I believe that Moscow has a role to play yet again on this continent. However, it can only happen after we acknowledge the fall of the OCA. I ask you this… how can you repose trust in a man who refuses to be open and above-board? I would say to Mark Stokoe and Oliver Herbel, “Jonas Paffhausen is more secretive than Herman Swaiko ever was… why are you silent? You were not when Herman did far less. JP met with the Episkies a week ago in Texas and oca.org still has no news of it. If Herman had done this, both of you would have raised holy hell. I believe that this tells the world that you are both posturing hypocrites. THIS is why the OCA has fallen and can’t get up. It’s why parishes are not giving to Syosset. Why are you silent?”
Indeed, why are they silent? I believe that the answer is unwelcome to many of us…
Thursday 15 April 2010