Voices from Russia

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Shall You Swallow a Kopeck’s Worth?

The first person says, “You do not agree with me. That means you are not with me. That means you don’t like me. That means you are against me. That means you’re out to get me. That means you are attacking me. That means I have to destroy you”.

The second person should reply, “No, it means I don’t agree with you. That’s all. Let’s have a cup of coffee and discuss it, and maybe you’ll convince me, or, at least, we might be able to reach some compromise”.

But, my friends, our reality has shown that the exchange would not take place. The second person would never have been given the opportunity to respond, and the attack by the first person, with the motive of character assassination would begin. And, my sisters and brothers, there would be no opportunity for discussion, for dialogue, or for compromise. This scenario was repeated again and again, and continues today, and has become the basis for promoting personal agendas and lusting after power and authority. Is this noble; is it righteous; is it Christian? Can it ever be justifiable as being “for the good of the Church?” God forbid! And may He help us all, because this is how we’ve been operating in the Holy Synod and Central Church Administration for years, and we are slow to adopt an alternative.

Archbishop Job Osacky

late Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest (OCA)



I received an interesting communication this morning. Truly, one could boil it down to a single sentence: “Shut up or I shall expose the ‘truth’ about you”. In a perverse sort of way, I have to thank this individual… it allows me to address some relevant themes. Firstly, some are upset that I’m not falling down in adoration before Jonas Paffhausen. I would observe that Mr Paffhausen holds a public office, and that he has made public statements in the course of his duties. As for me, I hold no office of trust, I have no access to any monies or property of the Church, and, in general, I am a private individual of no particular influence or position. That is, I think that if Mr Paffhausen has either made statements or executed actions in the course of his duties, they are newsworthy. Apparently, some of his supporters are offended that some of us are reporting what we see.

Fanaticism is never a pretty phenomenon. The old Metropolia was free of it… indeed, it was a body with a healthy sense of what it was and where it came from. Where did this partisan ugliness come from? Firstly, one must understand that the Metropolia did not have a “corporate identity”; it was a loose federation of local parishes. There were many reasons for this, such as the after-effects of the Russian Revolution and the lack of real institutions beyond the local level (save for St Tikhon’s, the exception that proves the rule). Then, where did this dotty extremism come from? To begin, I would argue that Dostoyevsky was correct, with his stress on the individual, not Tolstoy, with his obsession with impersonal movements. If such is so, was there a singular individual in the history of the OCA/Metropolia? Yes, of course…

Aleksandr Dmitrievich Schmemann.

I would posit that any future scholar of the failed project of the OCA would find that Mr Schmemann was the only figure of any significance in its patchy history. ADS created the public persona of this body, and he was successful because there was no organised opposition to his notional fancies. There was another reason… ADS allowed no difference of opinion. Well, he was nothing but a married priest… why didn’t the bishops shut him up? The OCA was not a grassroots movement; it was not an organic development. It came out of nowhere in the late 60s. As there are no real records available beyond self-serving hagiography, it is almost impossible to piece together the true beginnings of this enterprise. Nevertheless, I believe that it is safe to say that the bishops were cowed in the presence of this individual, for whatever reason. If anyone was the “Father of the OCA”, it was ADS.

ADS was an extreme example of a zapadnik, a Westerniser. That is to say, he taught nothing new or innovative, he was a tired example of a bankrupt intellectual movement. However, the converts, who were his fiercest defenders, did not know this. Indeed, their lack of facility in Russian meant that they were unaware that most of what he espoused was nothing but a tired repetition of the Living Church heresy and the discredited maunderings of Vvedensky. Yet, why didn’t the bishops rein him in, after all? That was due to the nature of Church governance during the time of the Soviet persecutions. The OCA, far from being actually autocephalous, has always been nothing but a minor dependency of Moscow. If it were not for the support of certain factions in the MP, there would be no OCA, full stop. During the Sov epoch, many of the bishops were questionable sorts, elevated because they were pliable individuals. That does explain Feodosy Lazor, no? Not only did he have kompromat, he had family in Galicia that could be held hostage (the Sovs did do such). Schmemann followed the Sov line in re the ROCOR (no stretch… for ADS was a Menshevik), therefore, the hierarchy supported him (otherwise, Moscow would have pulled the Tomos).

What does this have to do with us today? Since the death of Schmemann, there has been no direction to the OCA. It has been a headless chicken, dashing here and there. What about Jonas Paffhausen? Well, I had an enlightening conversation with Matushka Nina on the phone. She told me that, according to the consensus amongst most grounded laity and priests, the puppeteers behind JP are Benjamin Peterson, Joseph Fester, and Bobby Kondratick. If you haven’t noticed, JP is very dilatory in his actions. It takes a while for any reaction to a given situation to occur. I have observed that it takes at least a week for JP to react to anything. Hmm… it does take a while for a committee to come to a decision…

In addition, I believe that one of the keys to this state of affairs is JP’s past relationship with Gleb Podmoshensky. Whenever I mention that, I receive very personal and threatening comments in my comboxes. Ergo, perspiring minds want to know… what was the nature of the association between GP and JP?


Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why did James Paffhausen go to Russia under GP’s auspices?
  • Why did James Paffhausen keep contact with a man that he knew was a deposed clergyman?
  • Why did James Paffhausen maintain this association even after the majority of the Platina brotherhood left due to GP’s naughty doings?
  • Above all, why did James Paffhausen hold the decision of the ROCOR Holy Synod in contempt? After all, it has not rescinded its verdict in this matter… they deposed and defrocked GP for good and sufficient reasons.

I quoted Bishop Job for a reason. Let’s start with a statement: “I do not consider myself a martyr or heroine”. Many others suffered far worse at the hands of the autocephalist cabal. My interlocutors are offering me a proposition… “Be silent concerning our hero, or we shall expose your past in the worst possible light”. Well, I’m not the first! We shall only prevail if we take the attitude, “I must ‘take it’. It’s the price of speaking out. There ain’t no free lunch”. No one enjoys having their past held up to public ridicule. However, if that’s the price… so be it. Christ suffered on the Cross for us… what is a little mud-slinging compared to that (let’s keep a sense of proportion, after all)? If Christ paid the full bill, then, what these jerks offer is LESS than a kopeck’s worth. It’s a meaty reflection, no? I would say that it reflects poorly on us as a group that we have been cowed by such tactics. We can’t undo the past, but we can end it as of today.

Shall we, though?


Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Sunday 25 March 2010

Albany NY

Editor’s Postscript:

A dear friend sent me the following. It needs no commentary. Dear God, you guys are too much… I AM blessed.

If what was being threatened involved exposure of some serious misconduct related to the Church, rank hypocrisy or previous statements of yours that would contradict current ones, I might even encourage the person to come forward… truth must come out, after all.

We know, though, don’t we, that this is not the case here.  Such threats, rather, are calculated to keep you from telling the truth about what is or what you believe, by threatening to put out in public something about personal matters that they think would embarrass you or cause you distress  (We certainly are familiar with that kind of threat!).

As you say in your essay, the ONLY response that works is to say, “Take your best shot… my head will be bloody but unbowed!”  Nine times out of ten, the assailant (for this is an assault, even if made in private) backs down when called on his bluff.  Of course, the tenth time can be very tough, but if things should come to that, then one is privileged to be carrying a sliver of the cross… hoist it proudly “when men shall revile you and persecute you”.

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