Why hierarchs and priests of the UOC leave for the OCU

17 April 2021 17:40
Who betrays his Church and why? Photo: UOJ Who betrays his Church and why? Photo: UOJ

In mid-March, a monk of the Kyiv Lavra left for the OCU. What motives drove him, as well as those who had left earlier – Drabinko, Shostatsky and Kryzyna?

At the end of March 2021, it became known that the former assistant to the head of the information and public relations department of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, Hieromonk Innokenty (Pidtoptanyi), left for the OCU, or rather, the diocese of the former Metropolitan of the UOC Alexander (Drabinko).

This act did not go unnoticed by the Ukrainian media, and since the beginning of April several resources have published interviews with Hieromonk Innokenty, which are united by one fact – dislike (to put it mildly) towards the UOC. In these publications, the former monk of the Kyiv Lavra is called a "church publicist", "theologian" and "patriot". The reason for the laudatory praises addressed to Father Innocent is clear – it was not just a rank-and-file person who moved to the OCU, but an outstanding figure of the Church. Here is what they said about this in one of the plots on Channel 5: “Innokenty Pidtoptaniy in the Lavra was not a simple monk but an assistant to the head of the information department. He is a church publicist and theologian. He has church awards. The withdrawal of an educated monk from the Russian Church caused a stir in the ROC in Ukraine."

There are a few caveats here. Firstly, Hieromonk Innokenty has not lived in the Kyiv Lavra since November 2020. According to him, he took an "indefinite leave" in order to help his parents. What a “leave” means for a monk who “died to the world” is another matter. In addition, on the Internet you will not find so many theological works of Father Innokenty – just a few articles. Moreover, he did not receive the most important “church award” in the UOC – the bishop's panagia, to which he was striving so much. Besides, by and large, neither in the Russian Orthodox Church, nor in Ukraine, his defection hardly caused any vibrations. Rather, he once again confronted the believers with an issue of betrayal, to be more precise, its motives and driving force. 

Why do the UOC defectors betray the Church?

Father Innokenty claims that the reason for his transfer to the OCU was "patriotism", which did not find understanding among the Lavra brethren and the church hierarchy. At the same time, according to him, he hanged the Ukrainian flag in his cell, which did not cause much irritation or disagreement on the part of the monks. Moreover, he said that "the bulk of the brethren basically live a church monastic life and simply try not to interfere in political, geopolitical, religious and political affairs." In other words, no one in the Lavra stopped him from being a patriot. This means that the reasons for the betrayal were different. What are they?

"The bulk of the Lavra's brethren live basically a church monastic life and simply try not to interfere in political, geopolitical, religious and political affairs."

Hieromonk Innokenty (Pidtopanyi)

In the same interview, which we quoted above, Hieromonk Innokenty says he asked for a leave to go to the Mykolayiv diocese, and “if I were accepted there, I would still hesitate whether to join or not join (the OCU), but there was silence from the side of the metropolitan, and for three months I was alone, at home with my mother." Ultimately, at the beginning of Great Lent, Hieromonk Innokenty decided to leave for the OCU – not because he was motivated by some high feeling, but because “you have to be somewhere.”

Consequently, no “transition” would have occurred if Pitirim, Metropolitan of Mykolayiv and Ochakov, had admitted Hieromonk Innokenty (Pidtoptanyi) into his diocese. Howevder, for some reason, Vladyka didn’t. Although, considering that Father Innokenty is a “theologian” and “church publicist,” the reason must be very serious. What happened?

Metropolitan Paul, the abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, shed light on the situation. According to him, Hieromonk Innokenty (Pidtoptany)i is “a proud, arrogant and power-hungry person, a person who considers himself a great theologian. Therefore, he was offended that for three years he was not appreciated the way he would like to and was not elevated to the rank of archimandrite and bishop. He wanted to become a bishop in order to appease his pride, his passion to possess someone's souls. That is why he left the monastery to try to become a vicar bishop of Vladyka Pitirim, but he failed," since Archimandrite Varnava (Gladun) was elected Vicar Bishop of the Mykolayiv Diocese.

It turns out that Hieromonk Innokenty went on "vacation" to his native Mykolayiv diocese in order to secure episcopacy there, since he believed that he would not succeed in this in the Kyiv Caves Lavra. But Metropolitan Pitirim, just like Metropolitan Paul, discerned pride and lust for power in the young clergyman and did not fulfill his desire to become a bishop, which ultimately served as an impetus for the latter’s betrayal.

Interestingly, when talking about why he chose the Pereyaslav-Vishneve diocese and ministry with ex-Metropolitan of the UOC Alexander (Drabinko), rather than St. Michael or Theodosius monasteries of the OCU, as befits a monk, Father Innokenty stressed that he did it because that "rumors would be spread that I came to make a church career, because I came to the very center." That is, the former Lavra hieromonk understands very well that even among the OCU, his “transition” is viewed solely as a desire to make a “career” – to receive the panagia of the “bishop”. Moreover, these "rumors" have every reason, because those who had left the UOC for the OCU earlier did it for the sake of their careers.

For example, Vladyka Paul said that Pidtoptanyi “always treated Drabinko, Simeon (Shostatsky) and even Patriarch Bartholomew with contempt. I know this for sure, since he worked under my leadership, worked on the church calendar, website, edited materials. He had no pro-OCU views. Moreover, in communication he showed explicitly pro-Russian sentiments. Therefore, I personally do not understand where Fr. Innokenty's views s took a U-turn. However, this applies to all of them,” added Metropolitan Paul, speaking of those who left the UOC.

Indeed, it is difficult to disagree with Vladyka's words. For example, Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky) left for the OCU because the former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko relied on him as the head of the future religious structure. Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko) planned to receive a real diocese in the OCU, and, in addition, counted on a special position in the structure, since, in his own words, he has "impeccable canonical dignity" and the "unification council" would not have taken place without him, which means there would be no OCU either. Archimandrite Gabriel (Kryzyna) left for the UAOC only to receive a panagia just like Victor Bed'.

All these people were motivated not by the desire to become closer to Christ, not by the desire to freely express their “patriotic” views (which the UOC had never denied them in), not by their special love for Ukraine, but only by ambition and opportunism. To be convinced of this, it is enough to analyze the views and statements of these people before passing to the OCU and after.

When do traitors tell the truth?

The defectors’ rhetoric is a fickle quantity, because in the aftermath of their betrayal, they nearly always begin to throw mud at the Church, from which they left, and to think up the past that they never had.

Here is what the same Hieromonk Innokenty (Pidtoptanyi) wrote when he was still in the UOC: “It is very easy to be a believer when there is relative calm in relation to the Church. It is much more difficult to stand up in faith when the Church is slandered, when monks are reviled, and priests and bishops are accused of what they are not guilty of. But walking along the Lavra, in which prayers are offered twenty-four hours a day, the heart itself feels the truth, feels this prayer and understands that it is where it should be, it is where the Lord and the Most Holy Theotokos fill the soul with grace."

Here's another example. Hieromonk Innokenty interviews Vladyka Paul, who says, “The fact that our part of the population under the aegis of nationalism is out of unity with the Orthodox Church due to personal ambitions, ignorance and mental confusion is a problem. But there is only one solution to it: the repentance of those who deviated into schism ... The newly created OCU is not in unity with the Orthodox Church ...” This is February 2019, the time when, as Pidtoptanyi assures now, he sympathized with the new structure with all his might and main. Did he object to Metropolitan Paul or at least try to soften his rather harsh words in some way? Not. Immediately after the comment voiced by the Metropolitan, Father Innokenty replied, "Thank you, Your Eminence, for a detailed conversation!" Moreover, throughout the interview, he calls the OCU, the “unification council,” the UOC-KP and the UAOC “so-called,” and invariably quotes the word “bishop” when applied to schismatics.

The defectors’ rhetoric is a fickle quantity, because in the aftermath of their betrayal, they nearly always begin to throw mud at the Church, from which they left, and to think up the past that they never had.

Here is the question voiced by the same Father Innokenty 4 months later – in June 2019: “In the light of the latest events of religious life in Ukraine, the most painful behavior for many Orthodox Christians is the behavior of the Athonite monasteries given that some of them allowed con-celebration with ‘priests’ and ‘bishops’ of the so-called ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’. How should we now relate to the Holy Mountain? Can I go there? Don’t these trips lurk a risk for the spiritual life of believers, since Athos entered into direct communion with those who, in fact, do not have a legal ordination?"

It’s evident from his words that at that time he did not believe that the “hierarchy” of the OCU had a legal ordination and complains that Athos entered into direct communion with them. But it takes only a year for Fr. Innokenty to say something radically opposite – “grace” appears in the OCU, and “the most conservative clergy and laity of the UOC-MP” must understand “that we all need to unite and go further along the path of establishing both the Ukrainian Church and the Ukrainian state." Well, are there new facts about the legality of "ordinations" of the OCU? No, Father Innokenty himself appeared in the OCU, and, moreover, he appeared where there is an "undoubted canonical reputation" – with Drabinko. So when was Father Innocent honest – when he was under the Metropolitan Paul and spoke with contempt of ex-Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko) or when he joined the latter, because “he had known him for 14 years”?

One can also recall ex-Metropolitan Alexander’s evolution of perspectives. For example, before backsliding into schism, he said that "our alleged complete subordination to the Moscow Patriarchate is a myth fabricated to discredit our Church." Here are the words of the same man, spoken after the betrayal: “Unfortunately, the UOC has never been autonomous and is not autonomous today ... The UOC is an aggregate of dioceses of the Russian Church in the territory of the State of Ukraine.” Well, when did he tell the truth – when he asserted the complete independence of the UOC or when he said it had never been independent?

The ex-Metropolitan of the UOC, Simeon (Shostatsky), is on the same wavelength with ex-Metropolitan Alexander. For example, recently he said that he had always been fascinated by the idea of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church and while still a member of the UOC, he repeatedly spoke about this everywhere, including at Councils in Moscow. “I wrote to the Patriarch, I constantly spoke about autocephaly both in Moscow and Kyiv,” Shostatsky said. “I went (to the "Unification Council" – Ed.) out of ideological conviction, although I was also reproached that before I did not speak and did not agitate for autocephaly. My answer is there are verbatim reports the Councils (especially at the Moscow Councils, where all speeches are recorded), so listen to them and it will become clear that I spoke about it there too.”

Well, we did listen to them. At the request of the UOJ to confirm the words of the ex-metropolitan of the UOC, the Moscow Patriarchate reported that they had checked all available archives, but they could not find any statements by Shostatsky on the topic of autocephaly. “According to the available protocols, Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky) spoke at the Council of Bishops in 2013 ‘On the position of the Church in light of the development of technologies for recording and processing personal data’; he was absent from the Council in 2016; and at the Council in 2017 he spoke several times on topics related to marriage law."

The behavior of ex-archimandrite of the UOC Gabriel (Kryzyna) was no exception. For example, a few months before his departure to the UAOC, commenting on the arrest of "activists" who tried to set fire to the UOC monastery, he says they "are at war with God." He called the Lviv "patriots" who demanded to demolish the temple of the UOC in Lviv "followers of Lenin, who rejoices in hell." Archimandrite Gabriel considered the schismatic journalist Ilya Bey a "spiritual prostitute" because he "was a member of the UOC, then he passed to the UOC-KP, and then returned again to the UOC."

However, as soon as Archimandrite Gabriel followed Bey's path and moved from the UOC to the UAOC and then joined the OCU, his rhetoric changed. Thus, he calls the anathema of Epiphany Dumenko proclaimed in Zaporizhia as a “dumb action", he posts with pleasure a message from the OCU press service about the alleged legitimacy of the "transitions" of communities from the UOC to the OCU and calls the UOC as the "Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine".

Loyalty, infidelity and betrayal

Loyalty was considered one of the most valuable qualities always and everywhere, at all times and among all peoples. History knows a lot of cases when conquerors released and even rewarded soldiers and servants for their loyalty to a defeated ruler. At the same time, betrayal for the sake of "selfish" interests has always evoked contempt and disgust.

Christ puts the word "unfaithful" on a par with the word "depraved": "Oh faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?" (Matthew 17:17). Elsewhere He says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10). The OCU is not “another canonical confession in Ukraine”, as liberal religious scholars like to represent it, it is a structure that takes away churches from the UOC, humiliates, insults and persecutes its believers. A person who leave the Church for the sake of self-interest towards Her persecutors cannot but evoke an analogy with a person who left Christ to join His persecutors.

When exactly did Judas betray Christ? Was it when he stole money from the donation box, or when he kissed his Master in the Garden of Gethsemane? Betrayal begins long before the very last "kiss of Judas". It is a final step, a kind of full stop. Moreover, the reasons for betrayal are almost always the same – pride, amenities and power. In fact, these three sins are the weapons the Satan’s hands. Someone can withstand them, someone fail.

Betrayal begins long before the very last "kiss of Judas". It is a final step, a kind of full stop. Moreover, the reasons for betrayal are almost always the same – pride, amenities and power.

Christ showed that only a person who is completely and entirely devoted to God can resist temptations, a person who does not seek his own but seeks only the will of God and relies not on his own strength, but on God. Unfortunately, the protagonists of our story were not able or willing to do it – the desire to turn stones into bread, jump from the top of the temple and take over the world turned out to be stronger. True though, in the end, instead of all this, they received a few kopecks from the box that belonged to Christ and his disciples and 30 pieces of silver from the hands of His enemy.

As long as a person is alive, he has the opportunity to correct everything and transfigure himself. Those mentioned in the publication are certainly aware of it. The question is – will they be able to?

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