Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Is You Is or Is You Not My Baby?

Filed under: Christian,monasticism,Orthodox life,religious,Uniates,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00

New Skete Cambridge NY

New Skete, Cambridge NY… is you is or is you not my baby? That is, are you fish or are you fowl… Orthodox or heterodox? Stand and deliver!

Many of us know that New Skete (OCA) in Cambridge NY has a “unique” understanding of Orthodox monastic practise and liturgical ordo. Quite often, they defend it by claiming that they base their interpretations on the life and observances of Optina Pustyn Monastery in Russia. I have a modest proposal.


It’s put up or shut up time for this pack of Renovationists. What we should do is to take the ordo as found in New Skete and compare it to the ordo as performed by the contemporary Optina Pustyn brotherhood. In every instance where the practises differ, New Skete must agree to change its ordo to that of the Optina Pustyn. The first thing that they have to put on the table is the so-called “Orthodox Feast of ‘St’ Francis of Assisi”. If Optina celebrates such… fine. If not… they should acknowledge this as an aberration and halt its observance. I say that this method is eminently fair, scrupulously objective, and without bias of any kind whatsoever. Secondly, New Skete agrees to remove any icon in its chapel that portrays a “saint” not accepted by the Optina brotherhood. If Optina recognises that Dorothy Day, Edith Stein, and Alexander Schmemann are saints… well, I have no quibble either.

We should use the above method to test the entire New Skete ordo… it is only taking them at their own word, after all. Even though this “test” is fair and based on their utterances, I do not think that they shall ever carry it out. You see, when they claimed that Optina is the inspiration for their ordo, they did NOT mean it. It was only an empty set of “weasel words”. Laurence Mancuso (who wrote up the New Skete ordo) was nothing but a Vatican II RC fanatic who drew up his own fantasy ordo… he based it on nothing in the real world. In truth, it was nothing but his notional “reconstruction”, his fancied imagining of a “pristine” past.

Indeed, he did not follow his Uniate Catholic traditions. Whilst they were still Uniates, New Skete commemorated the RC Bishop of Albany in their liturgy (you can hear it on an old vinyl LP issued by them in the 70s)… that is a major faux pas liturgically. Uniates are only supposed to commemorate their own bishop… not the RC bishop… so, one can see that New Skete was a rebellious, wilful, and defiant lot even before they became Orthodox. To compound it all, New Skete took its property with them. New York State recognises the legal principle that the bishops of hierarchical churches own the property, not the parish or monastery. However, New Skete held on to its property after it bolted the Uniate Franciscans. At the time, rumours floated in Orthodox circles that the RC Diocese of Albany owned the property under the monastery. I fear that Mancuso screwed the Uniate bishop (Stephen Kocisko of Pittsburgh) out of his just and due rights in the real estate.

I don’t bloody care about their posh cheesecakes or their upmarket dogs. What matters to me is that these folks claim to represent Orthodoxy. I don’t think that I am the only person who notices that their practise and preaching are not the same as the rest of the Church. Would the Athonite Fathers accept this muddled hotchpotch as Orthodoxy? I think not! I’d like to see them try to convince the brotherhood at the Great Lavra to adopt their aberrations! They’d chase them off the Mountain with clubs… in very short order.

Again, I repeat my modest proposal:

Take the ordo as found in New Skete and compare it to the ordo as performed by the contemporary Optina Pustyn brotherhood.

It’s a wonderful and beautiful proposal… it shall never be implemented, for it would destroy the illusionary constructs of the Renovationists. I say the following to Jonas Paffhausen:

“If you claimed that this seditious monastic establishment was ‘mature’, you owe all of us an apology. Indeed, you owe all Orthodox in all Local Churches an apology. Is defending a little band of malcontents that important to you? If so… compare their ordo to that of the rest of the Church. I would argue that your words were untrue; they were disrespectful to the rest of the monastics of the Church, who are content to follow the traditional monastic path. Compare New Skete and Jordanville… which one follows the Orthodox Way?”

Which do you want? Do you want “the Orthodox Feast of ‘St’ Francis of Assisi” or do you want the Orthodox Way, straight-up, just as faithful people still follow it all over the world? The choice IS yours.

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Albany NY

Editor’s Postscript:

I give many thanks to an e-mail correspondent who asked me questions about New Skete. God willing, the above gives you clear answers. I found that as I was writing a reply to you that others might find this informative as well. Be good.


“It’s All Over!”


Positive mental attitude is a psychological term that describes a mental phenomenon in which the central idea is that one can increase achievement through optimistic thought processes. PMA implies that one has a vision of good-natured change in one’s mind; it employs a state of mind that continues to seek, find, and execute ways to win, or find a desirable outcome, regardless of the circumstances. It rejects negativity, defeatism, and hopelessness. Part of the process of achieving PMA employs motivating “self-talk” and deliberate goal-directed thinking.


Affirmations in New Age and New Thought terminology refers primarily to the practise of positive thinking… fostering “a positive mental attitude supported by affirmations will achieve success in anything”. More specifically, an affirmation is a carefully-formatted statement that should be repeated to one’s self and written down frequently. For an affirmation to be effective, it needs to be present-tense, positive, personal, and specific.


Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The “ideas” or “cognitions” in question may include attitudes and beliefs, the awareness of one’s behaviour, and facts. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours, or by justifying or rationalising their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours.


The fact is that when the Church is persecuted, people can either support the persecuted or else support the persecutors. It is our Christian duty to forgive our persecutors, but, we cannot and, indeed, must not forget, so that this does not happen again.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips


JP and Co tell us continuously, “It’s all over! Everything has changed!” Of course, the Millennium is not upon us, the Second Coming has not occurred, the lion has not lain down with the lamb, and the Money Tree has not sprouted in the backyard. The very vehemence of this statement is a sign that the driving ideology behind JP is NOT Christian… it is emphatically an example of an “affirmation”, which is a form of “Positive Mental Attitude” (see the definitions above). Don’t confuse Positive Mental Attitude with the Positivism of Comte and Durkheim… they are NOT the same; the former is more a petit-bourgeois affectation (found especially in the affluent effluent in American suburbia), whilst the latter is a real intellectual thesis (although I, and others, would argue that it is deeply flawed).

One reason why people are rejecting this statement of JP is that the facts on the ground contradict his words, causing an acute case of cognitive dissonance (see definition above). For instance, immediately after his election, and directly after he declared the ancien régime dead and buried, everyone saw the news of the Sidebottom settlement on oca.org. THAT set off alarm bells in many minds, mine included. It was the same old lawyerly evasion that the old gang used… set in the same prissy and evasive prose… “We have done no wrong”. Then, why was there a “confidential settlement?” Everyone was waiting for an apology from JP to Mr Sidebottom… it didn’t occur. Doubt entered the door… it wasn’t cognitive dissonance yet… but, it put many of us on the alert.

Then, the Koumentakos case lingered in the courts, and the OCA backed Raymond Velencia to the hilt. JP went to Venice FL to pay his respects to Bobby K (who kept his sinecure as “Parish Outreach Coordinator”… an office lacking in most parishes due to lack of funds)… Igor Burdikoff stayed on as Dean of Upstate NY (after “losing” four years’ worth of diocesan financial records)… Lyonyo Kishkovsky retained the same office that he occupied since the days of Feodosy Lazor… and expenses not delineated in the published budget surfaced (LK going to Kazakhstan, JP and Co going to Moscow, and the legal expenses for the Koumentakos case, for instance). As “Moses” put it so well, “Well, the new boss looks just like the old boss”.

If there has been substantive change… where is it? There is one change… and it was not for the better. Matushka Nina Stroyen pointed up to me, “Herman was a megalomaniac, but, he was Orthodox to the bone”. That is true… Herman Swaiko was a bastard, to be sure… but, he WAS “one of us”. I could NEVER imagine Herman allowing SVS to sign a pact with a TEC seminary. Herman would not have done so… he would have sent a drooling “absent-minded professor” academic priest to that spurious Anglican conference, and that would be that. Certainly, he would sign no “covenant” with the TEC, thank you very much. JP and Hatfield did so. This was a MAJOR break with the past. It was also a MAJOR break with the policy of the MP as regards the TEC (Moscow has broken off “dialogue”)… but, that’s another story, isn’t it? (I think that it’s unwise in the extreme for JP to disregard Moscow in this… after all, they are his only “canonical lifeline”. He doesn’t seem to care… interesting, nicht wahr?)

What is interesting for us in this present case is that JP and Co are not “defending” their actions (at least, not in accessible public venues)… it is as if they believe that if they ignore it long enough, it shall “go away”. That brings us back to “affirmations” and “Positive Mental Attitude”. These are major portions of what I call “Godless Suburban Positive Therapeutese”. Its high priests are “therapists”, “facilitators”, and “counsellors”, that is, the “shrinkie-dinkie” has taken the place of the clergyman. Indeed, in the OCA (and, I believe, the AOCANA) no man can enter seminary unless a shrink vets him (shades of Timothy Blumentritt, eh?). True, they are just aping what they see in the heterodox confessions… God forbid that we should follow our own path… they may not invite us to their parties!

Note well that oca.org acts as though everything is “normal”, everything is “fine”, and the situation is “stable”. I have seen this on a smaller scale in my parish. During the years of crisis under Herman, one heard not a peep about it (I am NOT lying… no one said a word). One only saw that this one or that one “disappeared”. No one said anything… and if one asked about it, one received either evasions or a smile from the Iggster (he has the broadest insincere “sincere smile” that I have ever seen… I have seen the face of evil… it is not “ugly”, it is bland and smiling). Everything was “normal” and “fine”, and everything was “stable”. Note well that Iggy is one of those around JP and Co (they don’t mind that he “lost” church records… they do keep him in office, after all!)… he is also deeply up to his neck with the New Skete crowd (do recall JP’s fulsome praise of that lot). Therefore, I have had direct observation of one of the most notorious and hated modernists in the Church… I can see how JP and Co are going to act… they are going to act with the same smiling evasive blandness that Iggy employs. If it is evil in the case of Igor Burdikoff, it is evil in the case of JP. There is no way around it.

We’ve been “had”, people. We all believed in a will o’ the wisp because our hatred of the actions of Herman Swaiko blinded us as to the true nature of JP. Now, there is an unholy trinity of former Episkies (JP, BP, and Hatfield) running the OCA. They intend to take the OCA into an Anglican direction, as  the Nashotah House pact indicates. All that shall linger, I fear, is an Orthodox shell, a mere “Eastern” liturgical veneer over a noxious mixture of Anglican comprehensiveness and convert hubris. We did want Herman out “at all costs”, didn’t we? Well… I’ll admit freely that my dislike of Herman’s overbearing highhandedness blinded me… I think that I am NOT alone. “At all costs”… the bill is now due for payment, and we don’t like it. However, there is a fly in the ointment, folks. The Lord gave us EXACTLY what we asked for.

“It’s all over!” Yes, it is… but, not in the sense that JP means. Furthermore, we must, first, REMEMBER. As Fr Andrew points up, “We cannot and, indeed, must not forget, so that this does not happen again”. Think on that when someone like JP or BP tells you to “move on”… ask yourself, “WHY?” Otherwise, we shall chain ourselves to a carousel of folly. Our fate shall be self-inflicted and fatal… our children shall show more sense than we have… they shall pick up and leave (as too many have done over the past 40 years due to mischief by clerics and the gossips they allow free rein).

I believe that there is still time to turn back to sanity… shall you join me?

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Albany NY

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