"Black humour" from schismatics: why arguments for SLC are untenable
Proponents of the creation of the so-called "single local church" enthusiastically count their chickens before they are hatched.
They talk about what place it will take in the diptych (necessarily above the ROC!), how they will elect a new "patriarch" by popular vote, etc. All this looks comical. It would be quite ridiculous, if not for the threat that the legalization of the schism bears. Therefore, the humour of the situation has a black shade. Despite the absurdity of the theses of the EOC supporters, they are still worth analyzing.
Thesis 1. Patriarch Bartholomew can act alone, because he did not sign a document limiting his right to proclaim autocephaly
Opponents of the UOC, in particular the ex-Orthodox theologian Yuri Chernomorets, say that Patriarch Bartholomew is not bound by any documentary obligations. They say as there is no signed document on granting autocephaly, he is not obliged anything to anyone. This argument reminds of stories about smart lawyers who found a loophole in the contract and gloat: "Ha-ha, we’ve found the opportunity to deceive you."
From their point of view, if Patriarch Bartholomew did not sign the document, then he can do whatever he wants. But our case is not only about canonical legal obligations, but also about moral ones. ALL without exception Local Churches spoke against the possibility of unilateral actions of Constantinople. It would be strange if Patriarch Bartholomew, constantly reminding of his role in the matter of Orthodox unity, would simply ignore the opinion of the other Churches.
In addition, a number of Orthodox primates have repeatedly spoken out against the Ukrainian schism and personally Filaret, and also supported the UOC and its head. Imagine, what situation Patriarch Bartholomew will put them in if he plays into the hands of those who they spoke against. On Patriarch Bartholomew’s part, this will be an obvious act of aggression towards the UOC and the rest of the Orthodox world.
Thesis 2. The abolition of the transfer of the Kiev Metropolitanate in 1686 will restore historical justice
First, if we compare the map of the eparchies of the Kiev Metropolitanate and the Ukrainian lands then and now, we will see great differences. For several centuries, there have appeared dozens of new eparchies in the Russian Orthodox Church, for which the ROC is actually the Mother Church. By what right does Constantinople claim for what it did not create?
Secondly, the legal successor of the Kiev Metropolitanate of the XVII century is exclusively the UOC. Trying to create the SLC on the basis of schismatics, Constantinople will in fact build a parallel hierarchy to the Church that once used to be under the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Church. It will be a non-canonical remake that has nothing in common with the historical Kiev Metropolitanate. Whether it has a "tomos" or not, it does not matter.
Without the UOC, without the consent and participation of its hierarchy and the Synod, any actions of Constantinople will be canonically insignificant. Moreover, they will create a precedent that can tear Orthodoxy apart. After all, if there is no responsibility for the schism, moreover, if it is encouraged, then everything is allowed! You can further break up as much as you like. Given that the Kiev Patriarchate has intensively supported the schisms in other countries, it will blow up Orthodox unity.
In any case, the absurd abolition of the transfer of the Kiev Metropolitanate has nothing to do with overcoming the schism. One does not automatically lead to another.
Thesis 3. "Single" "Local" "Independent" "Church"
In this phrase, there is not a single true word!
– This structure will not be single, because it will not unite all Ukrainian Orthodox! Moreover, the entire idea of the SLC is based precisely on the desire to divide, to tear off part of the believers from the UOC, to oppose one part of the Orthodox to another one. Strange is the argument of one of the bishops of the UOC, who spoke in favour of autocephaly: "Well, there will be another schism, so what?" (He means that not all will agree to the creation of the SLC – the author). That is, these people are not really interested in overcoming the schism. Their goal is to destroy the UOC.
– As a consequence, the SLC will not be local, because it will not represent all Orthodox countries. One can be sure that the majority of Ukrainians opposing the adventure of Poroshenko and Bartholomew will remain in the UOC. If some bishops try to fall into a new schism, they will simply be left without parishes.
– It will not be independent, because it will be turned into a pocket Church of the authorities with one task in view – to pursue the electorate. The Church will become an appendage of particular political forces.
– The SLC will not be canonical, even if it is recognized by Patriarch Bartholomew. The problem of canonicity will not disappear anywhere and will become even more acute if the majority (or even part) of the Local Orthodox Churches oppose the SLC.
– The SLC will not be a Church if they recognize the orders of schismatics. Considering the unthinkable infringements they were carried out with, the acceptance of schismatic bishops in existing dignity without real ordination would desecrate the idea of apostolic succession.
Thesis 4. Only the ROC is against the non-canonical creation of the SLC
Supporters of the schism all the time are trying to reduce the problem to the opposition of the "Ukrainian Church" and the ROC. They say only the Russian Church is hindering the bestowal of autocephaly.
However, the majority of the Local Orthodox Churches oppose the schism. In their statements, they have repeatedly criticized hard the schism and personally Filaret. Recently, the Serbian, Polish and Jerusalem Churches have opposed the initiative of the Ukrainian President. One can be sure that the rest of the Churches will not back the adventure with the SLC, especially if we recall the insulting insinuations of the Kiev Patriarchate’s spokesperson Eustratiy Zoria directed at their representatives. He actually called the Patriarch of Alexandria corrupt, and the representative of the Antiochian Church – "sovok". The proposal to recognize the schismatics looks really "black humour" in this context.
They may object saying that the Church of Greece supported Phanar’s idea. The same Zoria and a number of social media hastened to state this, referring to the Greek online edition "Romfea". Probably, they failed to find good translators from Greek, so they distorted the content of the publication. In fact, the head of the GOC, Archbishop Jerome, did not respond favourably to the delegation of Phanar and handed off the consideration of the issue to the Synod of the GOC, which is to be held in October! The fact that one of the Churches closest to Constantinople is in no hurry to back the initiative of the Ukrainian authorities testifies that they understand its insanity.
The fact is that the Greek Church is now suffering from the hands of "Eurointegrators", who literally trample on it. They expel the Church from the education system, openly call its hierarchs obscurantist, etc. In this context, the support by the Greeks of Ukrainian schismatics and authorities would be another outstanding example of "black humour".
Returning to the "hand of Moscow," we recall that in response to Filaret’s letter to the members of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, a special commission was set up for the dialogue with the Kiev Patriarchate. But the outstretched hand hung in the air. So who does not really want the union? This once again emphasizes the fact that the aim of the schismatics is not the unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. On the contrary, they want a war and a radical confrontation with the UOC.
Thesis 5. Ukrainian Orthodoxy is ripe for autocephaly
Proponents of the SLC argue that Ukrainian Orthodoxy has reached maturity, and therefore has the right to claim full independence. However, the first sign of maturity should be formed Orthodox self-awareness, the understanding of the value of the sovereignty of the Orthodox Church, a clear answer to the question – what will this or that act give Orthodoxy and the cause of saving people?! But what maturity in this plan can we talk about if one of the main ideologists of the autocephaly, the theologian Yuri Chernomorets, has become ... a Uniate?! This indicates how amorphous the ideological basis of the planned "Orthodox" Church will be.
Let us be frank, the next thesis of the SLC proponents will be breaking relations with the world Orthodoxy. It's no secret that in Western Ukraine, where the positions of the UGCC are especially strong, even the supporters of the "ultrapatriotic" Kiev Patriarchate are often called "Moskals". Ukrainians are consistently are taught the idea that a true patriot cannot be Orthodox, that Orthodoxy is an inherent attribute of the "Russian world". Political strategists are likely to remember Bohdan Khmelnitsky, who motivated the union with the Moscow state precisely with the common faith of the two peoples. They will say that while Ukrainians are Orthodox, it will always keep them in Russia's orbit, etc.
The head of the Uniates clearly stated that he considers the SLC only as the first step to the union, that is, the transfer of the Orthodox to Catholicism. One can also recall the initiative of deputies on moving Christmas to December 25, all these hateful comments in social networks that "Orthodoxy is the religion of savages", that "no Orthodox country is economically successful," etc. Do you think this is a joke? Far from it. What now seems unthinkable can easily become a reality with the necessary brainwashing of Ukrainians.
The recent presidential statement further reinforces the belief that the SLC project is just a prelude to the union. Poroshenko said that the four (!) Churches split the country! Why four, not three (UOC, UOC-KP and UAOC)? It turns out that he meant the Greek Catholic Church. So he hinted that the Orthodox should unite with the Uniates. But for the Orthodox this is unacceptable.
The ideological foundation built on hatred of Russia cannot be incorporated into the basis of autocephaly. This has nothing to do with religious motivation. The only argument in favour of autocephaly should be the benefits for Orthodoxy, its self-consolidation and dissemination in Ukraine and the world. If the SLC helped convince the Uniates to return to Orthodoxy, then it would make sense.
Thesis 6. The hierarchs of the UOC supported the idea of autocephaly in 1991, and now for some reason they deny
It means the Local Council of the UOC held in November 1991, at which it was really decided to apply for autocephaly.
But, firstly, such a decision was made in the context of an appeal to the ROC, and not to Constantinople!
Secondly, the Council was convened by Filaret after his failure at the election of the head of the ROC and was motivated by the resentment and authoritarian nature of the then Metropolitan of the UOC. In fact, Filaret forced the bishops to sign the appeal to the Russian Church.
When the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church was held in 1992, the Ukrainian episcopate, by an absolute majority, rejected the idea of immediately granting autocephaly to the UOC and condemned the behaviour of Filaret.
It should be noted that the episcopate of the UOC does not reject autocephaly as such, but adheres to the view that it should be received in a canonical way and at the time when it will not threaten with a new schism.
And to avoid a new schism, the authorities should have consulted with representatives of the UOC before appealing to Patriarch Bartholomew. It could have made sense.