From holy hierarch to liar: Filaret’s image evolution as viewed by OCU
What lessons should be learnt from the actions of Orthodox leaders and zealots of the Ukrainian dissent.
There is an immutable biological law: if a branch is broken off from a tree, it will wither. This law concerns not only the flora, but also the spiritual world. Perhaps, that is why Christ called Himself the vine, and His disciples – the branches.
So, if to tear off branches from this Vine, they will die. In other words, going beyond the limits of the Church of Christ, a person dies spiritually. The process of dying can take place almost imperceptibly for onlookers – both because for some time the person is still supported by the living water he received in the sacraments of the Church and because the Lord is forbearing and all-merciful, waiting for the prodigal son to return.
But be that as it may, if a person, having fallen away from the Church, does not repent, spiritual degradation will sooner or later become obvious to everyone. This applies to absolutely everyone, both clerics and laity. Perhaps, that is why many saints tirelessly said that there is no salvation outside the Church.
The validity of this law is best illustrated by the current situation with the Ukrainian schismatics. For a very long time, ordinary Ukrainians, who do not understand ecclesiology-related issues, believed that the former representatives of the UOC KP and the UAOC, and now the newly-formed religious structure of the OCU, are spiritual people, believers, and worshipers. They have temples, beards, caskets, and cassocks too – why not the Church? Rank-and-file people did not want to listen to the fact that appearance of the schismatics is deceitful; that neither their “Church” nor they have grace; that under the mask of ostentatious piety lurk ambitions, pride and lust for power. Most non-practicing Ukrainians perceived all these words as "Moscow propaganda" and intrigues of the "Kremlin's hand", especially after the OCU received the Tomos.
However, the unprecedented euphoria of the breakaway organization, which was caused by the long-awaited recognition of at least one Church (Constantinople) very quickly changed to disappointment. Because it was the Tomos that exposed the dissenters to the problems the representatives of the canonical Churches constantly talked about – pride, lust for power, anger, envy, and so on.
The amount of mud, which they are now pouring on each other, speaks about one thing – the branch that once fell away from the Tree turned into a twig, which very soon will crumble into dust.
Tragedy or now comedy?
In this respect, one cannot but recall the words of Hegel, who once said that history always repeats itself twice: the first time as a tragedy, and the second as a farce. We will not describe in detail everything that happened and is happening between “honorary patriarch” Filaret Denisenko and head of the OCU Epiphany Dumenko – there is a lot of information about this on the UOJ website and on many other resources, both church and secular.
Let us pay attention to something else, namely, how drastically the attitude towards Filaret has changed on the part of all those who most recently extolled his “spiritual wisdom”, resilience and ideologicalism. Yesterday's adherents of his "holiness" are not mincing their words, sometimes reaching obscene language. Here, for example, is a recording of the well-known near-church figure and vociferous supporter of the Ukrainian autocephaly, Yuri Chernomorets: “I have only one question – why all this lie?”
The remark of Chernomorets caused a whole storm of comments on Facebook, among which we single out one from the famous Orthodox blogger Alexander Voznesensky: “What exactly did I miss, at what exact moment did kind, honest and decent Filaret become vile, deceitful and disgusting? After all, he had been almost holy until all of a sudden there was such a terrible moral decline that I wonder now: how could such a wonderful person fall almost overnight? After all, he had never craved for power, for tyranny, for manipulation and lies – but lived according to his conscience and commandments, and now – bang! He has turned out to be telling an open lie. It is bitter and hard to watch such a sudden fall of a highly moral person!”
“At what moment did good, honest and decent Filaret become vile, deceitful and disgusting? <...> It is bitter and hard to watch such a sudden fall of a highly moral person! ”
Blogger Alexander Voznesensky about Filaret Denisenko
Of course, these words are spoken with an ironical slant. But, as you know, in every joke there is a fair amount of truth. There is a lot of evidence that in the eyes of recent fans, Filaret, who yesterday was a “spiritual leader” of the Ukrainian people, has become a marginal who cannot be trusted.
“One must die on time”
The "priests" are not far behind the laity in their comments. For example, quite recently, one well-known clergyman from the OCU and the holder of the award cross from Patriarch Bartholomew, Alexander Dediukhin, wrote about Filaret in the following way: “He stresses once again that the gospel ideals are much more important to him than human offences.”
Further are his words, which he said a few days ago: “While he (Filaret – Ed.) was building the Ukrainian Church, the grace of the Holy Spirit rested on him. But as soon as his mission was accomplished and the ‘grandpa’ did not want to accept the new realities, the Spirit retreated and the human came out in all its ugliness.”
It turns out, while Filaret was at the helm, he put the gospel ideals above human grievances, but once he lost his status – he turned from the “patriarch” into a graceless “old geezer”.
Another well-known "priest" of the OCU, Sergei Chudinovich, commenting on the last statements of Filaret, peevishly remarks: "One must die on time". Chudinovich quite directly calls Filaret "deceitful". On top of that, Chudinovich, who at that moment was watching Filaret's interview on Channel 5, responded with lightning speed to the remark of his reader on Facebook that “the evil one is not sleeping”: “not only he is not sleeping, but also hopping around TV channels”.
Not only Filaret, but also the bishops of the OCU, who support him, and therefore, are not honored by the new leadership, get it in the neck from the above clerics who used to grovel before their hierarchs.
The same Chudinovich, whose entire Facebook feed, even a year ago, was filled with photos of his ruling "bishop" Clement Kusch with subservient comments, now calls his actions "bishop’s vagary".
From the eminent patriarch to the liar
The man who, just like Epiphany, owes Filaret absolutely everything, the man who appeared with Filaret more often than everyone else, and who really praised him to the skies, could not refrain from commenting either. This man is a many-year spokesman of the Kiev Patriarchate, "archbishop" of Chernigov Eustraty Zoria.
Commenting on the refusal of his former patron to recognize the liquidation of the UOC KP, Zoria writes: “You can't lie – everyone knows that, especially practicing believers”. Filaret’ s actions are "insulting and bitter" for the ex-spokesman. He is particularly outraged by the disavowal of the “honorary patriarch” of his signature on the relevant document: “The man personally puts his name under the documents to prove they are legally binding. That is, he binds his name with a testimony: ‘This is the truth, and I confirm it.’ But it turns out that such things can mean nothing to someone.”
Religious scholar Alexander Sagan proposes to reserve for Filaret "the right to wear the cockle (if it is vital for his organism) but without the right to control anything."
Curiously, Filaret’s back-out to leave the priesthood in the UOC, given in 1992 before the cross and the Gospel, is not considered a lie by Zoria, as is the case with the waiver of Filaret’s “penitential” letter to the Russian Orthodox Church in 2018.
Zoria finishes his publication on Filaret with pathetic words: “Where there is truth, THERE is God, and where there is God, THERE is victory”. However, in the interpretation of Zoria at the time of mid-2019, neither the truth nor the victory has any relation to Filaret. But a year ago, the truth, the victory and Filaret were inextricably linked when the former spokesman of the UOC KP updated his cover photo on Facebook in honor of Filaret’s birthday: “Truth is with us, God is with us, and victory is with us”.
Below are some more Zoria-typified panegyrics about Filaret:
• “If the entire history of the Ukrainian Church were written down briefly one one page, Patriarch Filaret would still have an outstanding place to mention on this page.”
• “That’s our Holy Hierarch. He is among us, but his gaze peers at eternity.”
• "Our teacher. Our Elder. Our Patriarch.”
• “Truly UKRAINIAN. Truly PATRIARCH.”
There can be cited a lot more enthusiastic past remarks made by the former spokesman of the UOC KP in relation to Filaret but these are enough to understand – Zoria has worked even more than others in this field. And the sudden transition from “holy” Filaret to Filaret the liar as it is interpreted by Zoria is most spectacular.
But let's think – is there an objective difference between the “holy” Filaret and Filaret the deceiver? Did the “honorary patriarch” say and do something fundamentally different, not the same as before? No! He had always sought power and all his actions were aimed at securing it.
Commenting on his refusal from Phanar’s proposal to grant the autocephalous status to the UOC KP in 2008, Filaret said: “It makes no difference – to be in the Moscow Patriarchate or in Constantinople. It means to lift up one yoke and get another one ... I was supposed to renounce the patriarchate. Our Church would no longer be called patriarchy, but simply metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. We would choose three candidates for the Kiev see and the patriarch would elect the primate ... They (Phanar – Ed.) set these conditions for us when they arrived.”
Now Filaret is saying the same words. So why did the perception of Filaret on the part of Zoria and others in the OCU change so suddenly?
It's simple. Supporting Filaret has become merely unprofitable – he is no longer at leads. Now we are facing the most common situation in politics, where recent supporters and admirers dash in herds from their president after he has lost elections.
You should run with the pack
One does not need to be surprised at the atmosphere of fibs, betrayal and cynicism, which now densely permeates the Ukrainian breakaway communities: all these processes are absolutely natural. The blogger Alexander Voznesensky told about them most precisely: “In fact, the situation in the OCU is only a clear demonstration of greed, desire for power and ingratitude that prevail among the schismatics.” All this is happening because “there is no divine grace in schisms, there is no peace of God in the souls of people, there is no humility, forgiveness and mutual understanding – instead there is a clear calculation, thirst for power, money, position in structure and society, vanity, envy, and so on. These components, mixed with the specific ambience, have led to what we are all facing – a pitiful picture of deep decline. Previously, they justified their behavior by patriotism: they say times are hard: we are fighting for the independence of the country and the Church. Now it has become clear to everyone that this is just a struggle for a place under the sun, dictated by wild, barbaric, wolfish rule of graceless life.”
When the patient is assured that he is healthy, the treatment impetus is completely gone. All that remains is to add that in the situation with the Tomos, the OCU and the current split among the leaders of this structure, the blame is to be placed not only with the representatives of the former UOC KP, but also with those who inspired them with the idea that it is no sweat to return to the Church of Christ – just by one signed sheet of paper, via certain "legalization".
“If the entire history of the Ukrainian Church were briefly written down on one page, Patriarch Filaret would still have an outstanding place to mention on this page.”
From the past statements of Eustraty Zoria` about Filaret Denisenko
Patriarch Bartholomew, just like Filaret in his time, did not want and does not want to listen to anyone, trying to get some dividends from the events in Ukraine to strengthen the position of his Church and his own. However, with the example of Filaret Denisenko and his followers, we can clearly see how it all ends up eventually.
Among believers, it is generally accepted that church hierarchs are more immune from sin than ordinary laymen. However, the examples of the former Metropolitan of Kiev, the current patriarch of Constantinople, and, moreover, breakaway groups of people who call themselves "priests" and bishops of the OCU, prove the opposite.
We are used to the fact that only the lives of ascetics, saints and venerables can be edificatory. However, sometimes a glance at opposite cases can bring no less benefit. The main thing is not to be sure that this cannot happen to us.