ADS (and his “ghost”) has been the Pied Piper of Yonkers for nearly 50 years… isn’t it time to end it all?
Yesterday, as I was reading some asinine juvenile criticisms of St Yevgeni Rodionov and of the evolving revision of Church Slavonic in the MP, it struck me how detached from ordinary real-world reality it all was. However, should that surprise us? We shouldn’t delude ourselves… not only has SVS ploughed its own furrow since the death of Leonty Turkevich in 1965, there are elements in the ROCOR that have “run free” since the death of Anastassy Gribanovsky, also in 1965. Comments such as those that I read yesterday are nothing but the repulsive blossoms of a noxious root that’s been in the ground for over two generations. We’re going have to “go back to the beginning” to make any sense of it all.
Indeed, Aleksandr Dmitrievich Schmemann (ADS) had a strong and domineering personality… on the one hand, he was an extremely brilliant and fascinating charismatic individual (as many evil people are, sadly enough)… on the other, he was wedded to idiosyncratic and crackbrained notions of Church “renewal” and theology planted by his mentor, Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov (SNB). Although Bulgakov was his main guiding light, as SNB was a leading figure at St Sergius in Paris when ADS was a student there, the heretical writings of Pavel Aleksandrovich Florensky (PAF) and Aleksandr Ivanovich Vvedensky (AIV) also influenced ADS, as well. Did SNB introduce ADS to the works of PAF and AIV? Considering ADS’ later energetic defence of the ideas of the two named heretics, it’s probably likely.
Now, ponder this… in 1955, ADS stabbed Georgi Vasilyevitch Florovsky (GVF) in the back in a rather vicious example of academic politics… in 1935, GVF signed a vehement condemnation of SNB’s squiffy theology, don’t you think that this had something to do with ADS’ later betrayal of him? In fact, if GVF had a visceral loathing for Sophiology (and most Renovationist ideas, in general), why would he have sponsored ADS to come to New York in 1951, if ADS was a loud protégé of SNB? ADS had NO academic reputation at the time, indeed, he didn’t have any until the late ‘50s or early ‘60s, at the earliest, getting his main “leg-up” from outside boosters in the PECUSA (later, TEC) and Roman Catholic theological circles.
Of course, there are those who say that ADS’s career didn’t take off until the arrival of Ivan Feofilovich von Meyendorff at SVS in 1959… ADS was always a prickly sort… Ivan Feofilovich, being of the old Baltic nobility, facilitated ADS’ path in many ways (in contemporary Russia, whilst von Meyendorff is considered a competent scholar, ADS isn’t so well regarded). It’s interesting, as an aside, to note that both ADS and von Meyendorff were atypical Russian Orthodox clergymen, especially in terms of social status (ADS being of the Old Tsarist upper-middle class and Ivan Feofilovich was a noble). This goes a long way to explain why this duo was able to bamboozle both the Metropolia hierarchy and their impressionable students. To say that these two were “smooth articles” is an understatement.
As for me, I believe that GVF brought ADS to New York as a favour for Dmitri Schmemann… if one looks at the lives of ADS and of his identical twin brother Andrei, it strikes one as how opposite in temperament they were. Up to this point, Andrei was the “ideal son” of a White Guard officer… cadet NCO at the Nikolai II Gymnazia, active in the Vityaz (Russian Knight) organisation, a blood-and-soil Russian patriot. Although there’s no documentary evidence for this, I believe that ADS was a rebel and the “black sheep” of the family. Firstly, he became a clergyman… ADS was from the “officer class”… as I pointed up earlier, that was NOT DONE. Priests were a lower order… they were nothing but high-powered peasants, they weren’t even on the Table of Ranks (unless they were hieromonks or bishops who were already of the noble estate). No matter what the source, it’s clear that ADS made himself unwelcome in Russian Paris. Considering his later outbursts, stoking of conflict, and nasty hectoring of those who opposed his notions, it’s all too probable. Personally, I believe that his bitter personal feud with Georgi Grabbe dates from his Parisian years, and it may even have been the reason for his “exile” to New York. Make no mistake on it… North America was a place where you sent failures, ne’er-do-well Sad Sacks, and impenitent troublemakers. In Orthodox terms, it was Ultima Thule, the Back of the Beyond.
Again, note that GVF brought ADS to New York in 1951. Byzantine manoeuvring with the Metropolia bishops in 1955 brought down GVF… ADS was the main beneficiary of his fall. We have satisfied the question of “Cui Bono”… ADS benefited from GVF’s dismissal, for there’s no doubt, ADS wouldn’t have climbed as rapidly had GVF remained at the helm of SVS. Don’t forget, GVF was acidly critical of ADS’ mentor, SNB. I should also mention that, in 1935, both the ROCOR and the MP condemned SNB’s ideas as heretical (but declined to anathematise SNB personally, which is actually a typical move in Orthodoxy). Here are translations of the two documents:
Decree of the Moscow Patriarchate
By our decision of 24 August 1935, No 93, it was determined:
- The teaching of Professor and Archpriest S N Bulgakov… which, by its peculiar and arbitrary (Sophian) interpretation, often distorts the dogmas of the Orthodox faith, which in some of its points directly repeats false teachings already condemned by conciliar decisions of the Church, and the possible deductions resulting from which could even prove dangerous to spiritual life… this teaching is to be recognised as alien to the Holy Orthodox Church of Christ, and all its faithful servants and children are to be cautioned against an acceptance of this teaching.
- Those Orthodox Reverend Archpastors, clergy, and laity who have indiscreetly embraced Bulgakov’s teaching and who have promoted it in their preaching and works, either written or printed, are to be called upon to correct the errors committed and to be steadfastly faithful to “sound teaching”.
Decree of the ROCOR
Decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad of the 17/30 October 1935 concerning the new teaching of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov on Sophia, the Wisdom of God:
- To recognise the teaching of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov on Sophia the Wisdom of God as heretical.
- To inform Metropolitan Evlogy of this Decision of the Council and to request that he admonish Archpriest Bulgakov with the intention of prompting him to publicly renounce his heretical teaching concerning Sophia and to make a report about the consequences of such admonition to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
- In the event that Archpriest Bulgakov does not repent, the present Decision of the Council, which condemns the heresy of Sophianism, is to be made known to all Autocephalous Churches.
ADS NEVER repudiated SNB… NEVER. He passed on his tainted ideas to an entire generation of students at SVS. If you look at many of the upper-level clergy in the OCA today, they’re men contaminated to the bone by contact with this hesiarch (it’s not true of many (if not most) “lower-ranking” clergy… adherence to ADS’ peculiar ideals have been a criterion for advancement in the OCA for years). ADS not only passed on Bulgakov’s open heresy, he passed on to his students an erroneous impression that the Church approved of AIV’s Renovationism and the loopy theology of PAF (do see Reardon’s open celebration of this heretic as “St Pavel Florensky”… God do help us!). Much of what you see emanating from SVS today is a result of ADS planting the seeds of heresy in the 60s and the 70s. Trust me, it takes a LONG time for such deleterious seed to bear its virulent fruit in all its fullness and ripeness. We’re seeing it today in the dysfunctional culture regnant in the OCA. Today, we have no one in a higher position that was in office during the healthier atmosphere that ruled in the time of Metropolitan Leonty.
Openly homosexual clergy and hierarchs… clergy who unblushingly divulge confidences from confession and counselling… clergy who openly solicit the blessing of Uniate hierarchs in public venues… THAT’S ADS’ legacy. It’s ugly, isn’t it? That’s why SVS has to go, and the sooner we put it down, the better. Otherwise, ADS’ rebellion will continue on, with unforeseen and incalculable consequence. God do have mercy on us…
Sunday 26 June 2011