OPEN LETTER TO FR. GREGORY
(cc. to Fr. Panteleimon of
recent letters to Metropolitan Valentine, published in Vertograd (NN 539, 540), are
characteristically clever and cunning. "Mixing truth with unrighteousness"
(Romans 1.18), they elicit sympathy by their elements of truth, while pouring
the poison of unrighteousness into ears thus rendered sympathetic. My aim in
this letter is not to "convert" you from unrighteousness to the
fullness of truth (I doubt whether anybody can do that, let alone someone so
reviled by you as myself), but to elicit from you an honest and public
confession of your true aims, since the aims you publicly set yourself are
quite obviously unrealisable and therefore point to some hidden agenda that
needs to be elucidated.
write in your letter of 20 September to the metropolitan: "As you must
well remember from your own biography, nobody in True Orthodoxy is frightened
by an uncanonical defrocking [you are clearly referring to your own defrocking
by Metropolitan Valentine on September 5 of this year for the heresy of
name-worshipping, among many other things]. Therefore I in no way relate to you
as to a man who has an inflicted an irreparable blow upon me. Moreover, I am
sure that we will continue to work together.
must think together about the future of ROAC. As you said more than once
before, the question of this future is the question of the organisation of the
higher Church authority. I truly value your services in the matter of the
organisation of the True Orthodox Church of Russia. Now for all of us one more
action of yours is necessary. This action must by no means consist in the
correction of certain private decisions; I am not at all asking you to rescind
those decisions that were taken in relation to me. It must consist in something
must all together with you, dear Vladyko, think about how we are to elect the
next First Hierarch..."
have to say: your impudence, and calculated sang-froid is astounding! It
all sounds - and this is no doubt the impression you are intending to produce -
that you are not in the slightest bit upset by your defrocking, and don't even
want it reversed, uncanonical though you consider it to be, because you have no
ambition whatsoever with regard to an ecclesiastical career. All you are
interested in is having a nice, quiet chat on the future administration of the
Church with the man who defrocked you for heresy...
he or any of those who supported his decision want to have anything more to do
are you trying to imitate? Socrates? Or Oscar Wilde?
not the Holy Fathers, who, while free of the passion of ambition, were
passionately concerned to correct canonical injustice and dogmatic falsehood
(see the life of today's saint, St. John Chrysostom, who supported from exile
the "Johnnites" who contested his unjust defrocking). In a previous
letter you demonstrated at great length why your defrocking was uncanonical.
Why write such a long letter if you want the unjust decision to remain on the
statute books? And why are you so unconcerned that the metropolitan, after
several years of wavering, has finally come out against your heretical teaching
on the Name of God? (Your disciple, Nun Martha (Senina), shows much more zeal
than you for the theological issues in her letter published in the same issue
of Vertograd.) Can we really
believe that you care for none of these things?
me to speculate about the real reasons for this studied insouciance...
first let us dispel the impression you are trying to create that you venerate
the metropolitan and "bow down to his holy will". Right from the
beginning, even before you joined ROAC, you made clear in a letter to me that
you were joining ROAC, not in order to submit to, learn from and be saved by
it, but in order to reform it in your own image. Moreover, you had no respect
at all for the metropolitan; you called him "adogmatic" and "a
typical Soviet pope". Adogmatic and Soviet - perhaps, but useful
nonetheless. For, as you confided to me and others, he had promised to make you
bishop of St. Petersburg. And I think you would be that now if you had been
more careful and restrained yourself from introducing so many heresies into the
Church organism so early...
his defrocking of you is certainly a blow to your plans. Not
"irreparable" perhaps - for you hope and believe that the next
first-hierarch will reverse the "mistake" of his predecessor and
reinstate you with the added aureole of a confessor for the truth. Hence the
arrogant confidence of your words spoken to a man who has done the worst he can
do to you and may well now be on his deathbed.
though, you still fear that Valentine can upset your plans by telling his
disciples, in a kind of spiritual testament against Lourieism, not to reinstate
you under any circumstances. Hence your hint about discussing "how we are
to elect the next First Hierarch..." For not only does the right man have
to be elected as first-hierarch: he must be enthroned as soon as possible. Is
that the "one more action" you want him to do before he dies?
evidence about your true intentions comes in today's Vertograd (N 541), in which you begin to
cast off the mask of veneration for the metropolitan. First, you openly mock
him by asserting that "most of the [ROAC] parishes in far abroad (USA,
Bulgaria, England) were lost... because of the incompetence in personnel
politics of the metropolitan, who put too much hope on his personal relations
with people." (I can say that in relation to the parish in England this
statement is false.) Then in the next sentence: "Various disturbances have
also arisen among believers on the territory of the SNG, with which the
metropolitan has not been able to cope." But the coup de grace
comes in the next paragraph, where you assert that in recent days the question
has been raised "of the voluntary retirement of Metropolitan Valentine,
whose state of health evidently does not allow him to fulfil the duties of
first-hierarch". This question, of course, has been raised by you - because you want to fulfil the duties of first-hierarch - by
manipulating the next first-hierarch from behind the scenes. But wait a minute,
Fr. Gregory! The present first-hierarch is not yet dead, and may live longer
than you think! And even if he doesn't, your open intriguing over his
still-warm body is, frankly, obscene!
men are often over-confident. But you must realise that even if your preferred
candidate were elected as the next metropolitan, the Catacomb bishops would
never agree to your restoration to the priesthood. So even if you obtained some
support, it would be at the cost of a schism in the Church - a major schism,
involving several bishops and the whole of the Catacomb flock.
this may well be what you are aiming at; for the last five years in the history
of the ROAC have been, in essence, a struggle between the
"neo-renovationist" wing under your leadership and the
"traditional ROCOR-Catacomb" wing under the leadership of the
Catacomb hierarchs, with the metropolitan trying to hold the balance by
slapping down first one and then the other. You had the edge for some years,
and so could afford to live with your opponents (while working to expel the
most vocal of them, such as Anton Ter-Grigorian). But the pendulum has now
swung the other way; and after your defrocking you must realise that no
reconciliation or "cohabitation" between the two wings is possible
any longer. And so you are looking for a schism...
yet can reinstatement (and possible promotion to the episcopate) in a
"purged" ROAC be the height of your ambitions? I think not. You are
looking for a wider flock and a larger dominion, which is why you have taken
such an active interest in various Greek Old Calendarist jurisdictions. Thus
recently you announced that you were starting a joint missionary project
in Western Europe with one of these jurisdictions - but without the knowledge
or blessing either of your hierarchy or of the hierarchs of the Greek jurisdiction
think that was just a diversion. Much more serious, in my opinion, is your
relationship with HOCNA. It is
tempting to speculate that the recent visit of Fr. Panteleimon of Boston, the
"elder" of that jurisdiction, to Russia has something to do with
sympathies with HOCNA have been evident for some years. I wrote to you several
years ago warning of the moral problems in that jurisdiction. But you paid no
is a certain logic in a tie-up between a "purged" ROAC and HOCNA.
Both jurisdictions are, or will be, ruled by a priest directing the bishops
from behind the curtains. Both are linked to the criminal world: the one by his
passion for smuggling antiques; the other through his mafia connections. Both
have heretical views on sexuality, which views they have not been afraid to put
into practice, to the scandal of thousands. Both have sullied their
reputation in the Russian Church, and have dreams of restoring it in the Greek
your two groups have a similarly rationalist and reformist approach to theology
- you see yourself as cleansing the Russian Church of its anti-canonical
practices deriving from Peter the Great, and returning it to
"Byzantinism", while HOCNA wish to purge it of "scholasticism".
rejects as heretical Blessed Augustine of Hippo, St. Philaret of Moscow and Fr.
Seraphim Rose - and by implication all the Holy Fathers of the Church, who
shared the so-called "juridical theory" of redemption which
HOCNA condemns. In their zeal for purging the Church of Latinism and
scholasticism, the HOCNA theologians threaten to become "Protestants of
the Eastern rite", throwing out all traditions (toll-houses is another)
that do not accord with their neo-Protestant outlook. You, on the other hand,
reject Patriarch Tikhon, St. Barsanuphius of Optina and a number of Russian New
Hieromartyrs as "fighters of the Name" because they rejected the
name-worshipping heresy of Fr. Anthony Bulatovich, which you accept as Orthodox.
In your zeal for purging the Church of Petrine "Sergianism", you have
already called the Most Holy Synod of the pre-revolutionary Russian Church
"chimerical", and in your letter written in 2000 and published
just recently to Metropolitan Valentine you write that "all the
[pre-revolutionary] Synodal decrees are equally lawless - even when they
are just in essence. In the best case, they have the juridical status of just
sentences delivered by a band of robbers - something in the nature of the
[Mohammedan] sharia courts in Chechnya"!
combine these two positions, we obtain an explosive new brew which makes the
renovationists of the 1920s look like amateurs!
yet I don't think that spreading a new brand of renovationist theology in
conjunction with HOCNA is your main aim. Like the HOCNA theologians you may talk theology and the canons, etc., but
your real aim is quite different. It is power.
Not power in a crude political sense. But power over the hearts and minds and
wills of men - the same power that Satan himself desires.
power-hungry ecclesiastical politicians like you and Fr. Panteleimon (and
you're not the only ones: Gregory of Colorado is another in the news just
recently), theology is a means, not an end. Like any cult leader, you first
have to attract people by a doctrine, a doctrine of salvation. Then you have to
demonstrate that salvation is in your doctrine, and no other, because the
others who pretend to be Orthodox, and may even have big reputations in
Orthodoxy, are in fact, according to you and Fr. Panteleimon, heretics. Of
course, you cannot go too far in that direction. Orthodoxy is based on
tradition and authority, so you have to have some authorities: "The Holy
Fathers", "Byzantinism", etc. But on the basis, supposedly, of
this ancient authority, you then strive to undermine other, more recent, and
therefore more "attackable" authorities. This course also has its
dangers, but if carried out with skill can reap great rewards for the cult
leader. For fallen men have something rebellious and ambitious in them;
"the seed of corruption is in me still", as the prayer says. And it
tickles their vanity and ambition to think that they are joining a movement
that is "reforming the Church", "returning to the Holy Fathers"
from the "Babylonian captivity of nineteenth-century Russian
having joined this movement, they are enslaved to it. Because it goes without
saying that the leader of this movement, if he is truly "reforming the
Orthodox Church", must be a saint and endowed with the most wonderful
spiritual gifts. So to leave him, or stop obeying him absolutely, would be
spiritual suicide and the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit! And he, of course,
would be completely justified in punishing his former disciple for his
apostasy by condemning him to the outer darkness of rejection by the cult. For
having once joined the campaign "to save the Church", he cannot leave
it without finding himself, according to cult logic, outside the Church itself.
course, in reply to this you will say: where's the proof? I have no proof, I
admit. I am only speculating that you and Fr. Panteleimon will join up, and
thereby create perhaps the greatest danger to True Orthodoxy that has yet
arisen in modern times. But I do have
proof about you, and I do have proof about HOCNA. And as surely as 2x2=4, a union
between your proven heresies will produce a multiple catastrophe for the Holy
yet, as I said at the beginning of this letter, I am not so stupid as to think
that I can "convert" you. The most I can hope to achieve is an honest
statement by you of your true ecclesiastical aims, of your grand strategic
design. Then at least "he that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he
that is filthy, let him be filthy still" (Revelation 22.11); while he that
is righteous, being warned of your filthiness, let him flee to the mountains
like a sparrow, where God will receive him in safety...