Collaborationism and the UOC: facts and conclusions

There are ten times fewer collaborators among priests than among officials and law enforcement officers. Photo: UOJ

The UOC is accused of collaborationism, although such facts are rare. At the same time, there are many cases of collaboration among officials unnoticed by the public.

On 30 May 2022, the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy held special hearings at which MPs discussed threats to national security posed by religious organizations "having governing centres on the territory of the aggressor state". The Rada’s website reported that "the event was attended by MPs of Ukraine, representatives of ministries and departments, members of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, representatives of regional state (military) administrations, regional, city, district, village and town councils, public and religious organizations, academic institutions, experts in the field of freedom of conscience, and the public”.

https://kompkd.rada.gov.ua/images/photo5237701236264910052.jpg
A meeting of the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy. Photo: kompkd.rada.gov.ua

In Ukraine, only the UOC is regularly accused of having governing centres in Russia, so there is no doubt that the participants were referring to it. At the same time, the Council of 27.05.2022 finally confirmed the status of the independence of the UOC, removing any legal clues to such accusations. However, the Committee pretended that they were unaware of that.

The participants adopted a number of decisions to "eliminate the threat to the national security of Ukraine associated with the activities of religious organizations whose governing centres are located on the territory of the aggressor state”.

Among them:

  • sanctions against representatives of the ROC,
  • condemning the position of Patriarch Kirill and the ROC to support aggression against Ukraine,
  • ensuring transparency of funding and information activities of organisations with a governing centre in the aggressor state,
  • creation of the Temporary Investigation Commission, whose objectives also include an investigation of the facts of collaborative activity of representatives of religious organizations (it must be understood that by such organizations the deputies mean primarily the UOC).

And now we would like to analyze the question of such a commission in more detail.

Accusations of the UOC of collaborationism

It is unclear what the commission of the Rada Committee is going to do because accusations of collaborationism are the exclusive domain of the law-enforcement agencies.

The report said: "As of today the National Police of Ukraine have registered five criminal proceedings against religious collaborators, of which only one case was sent to court – against a priest on the fact of public denial of military aggression against Ukraine, public calls to support decisions and actions of Russia under Part 1 Article 111-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ("High treason"). In fact, there are many times more such cases.”

And regarding the last phrase, there is an obvious manipulation. After all, if there were "many times more such cases", the text would contain the same figure "many times more".

In the media and from the UOC haters, we hear phrases about the collaborationism of priests all the time. But no one presents facts. Suffice it to recall that even the authors of bills to ban the Church cite fakes as evidence of such collaboration. In particular, MP Natalia Pipa cited two such false reports in the explanatory note to her bill #7213 – about "priest-saboteur" Mikhail Pavlushenko and "collaborator” Onufry.

A screenshot of the resource “Glavkom”

Some reports on the collaborative activities of priests turn out to be skillfully made fakes. For example, Father Viktor Talko of Borodianka, the rector of the Archangel Michael Church, was slandered in almost every media outlet, but it later turned out that far from being a collaborator, he helped the residents of Borodianka in many ways: he sheltered them in the church, fed them, helped them evacuate and held the last rites over fallen Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.

Reports on the collaborative activities of priests turn out to be skillfully made fakes.

https://www.otrok.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/photo16518409212_logo.jpeg
Father Viktor Talko and a correspondent of Otrok.ua. Photo: Maria Sokolova

After the liberation of Borodianka, the priest was taken to the SBU and released after 6 days of interrogation, which shows the complete absence of any grounds for the accusation of collaborationism.

However, on the basis of such fakes and groundless reports, enemies of the UOC try to create an impression that the entire Ukrainian Orthodox Church is allegedly guilty of collaborationism and therefore threatens the national security of Ukraine. And yet the UOC includes more than a hundred bishops, 255 monasteries, dozens of educational institutions, and more than 12 thousand communities throughout Ukraine. Finally, more than 12.5 thousand priests. An elementary calculation shows that 5 priests out of 12 500 is 0.04% of the total number. And if we consider that only one cleric of the UOC was brought to court, the percentage becomes negligible.

Collaborationism in state bodies and the Verkhovna Rada

Now let's take a look at how many collaborationism cases there are in other Ukrainian structures, such as state officials, security forces or MPs.

On 27 May 2022, the Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform quoted State Investigation Bureau spokeswoman Tetiana Sapyan as saying that there were 420 criminal cases against officials and law enforcers.

A screenshot of the ukrinform.ua website

On 31 May 2022, the first deputy head of the Interior Ministry, Yevhen Yenin, said in an interview with the RBK-Ukraine news agency: "Investigators of the National Police have launched a total of 500 criminal proceedings over collaboration activities". At the same time, "the number of collaborators in the police ranks barely reaches one per cent," the official added.

As we can see, against the background of the number of criminal cases of collaborationism instituted against public servants and law enforcement officers, 5 criminal cases against priests look like a drop in the ocean. By simple calculations, we can deduce that the percentage of collaborators in the UOC is approximately 25 times less than in the National Police.

The percentage of collaborators in the UOC is about 25 times less than in the National Police.

If we follow the logic of the UOC's enemies, who are trying to ban the Church on the basis of a small number of accusations of priests’ collaborationism, then the National Police should be banned altogether. The absurdity of such inferences is obvious. Social network users are increasingly drawing attention to this. For example, here is Sergey Motuz's post on Facebook. The author writes: "Today on Radio NV, I heard very unpleasant words that the UOC clerics are agents, collaborators, etc. And "conclusions" – since there are collaborators among them, it means that the whole Church is hostile, and it is necessary to get rid of it. The same day on their radio this is the news – the number of collaborators among the police ... but where is the similar conclusion – to declare the whole police as a hostile organisation?!!!"

Finally, Motuz asks a question with which one cannot but agree: "Why are single cases of collaboration of priests a sentence for the fullness of the UOC, while numerous cases from other churches and state institutions do not lead to such consequences?"

An even more convincing example can be cited from the life of the Verkhovna Rada itself. On 10 May, the Office of the Prosecutor General announced that MP Ilya Kiva was charged with treason. On 26 May, the SBU announced the suspicion of MP Yevhen Balitsky, who had become "governor of Zaporizhzhia region" for the occupiers. On 8 June, the SBU initiated proceedings against MP Alexei Kovalev for collaborationism. Three MPs out of 450 is 0.7%. That is, the percentage of collaborators in the UOC is 17.5 times less than in the Verkhovna Rada. Why don't the Rada Committee then create a "Temporary Investigation Commission" to investigate the facts of collaborationism among their colleagues? Following their logic, can the Verkhovna Rada threaten national security? Does it turn out that way? After all, the UOC threatens it, doesn’t it?

The percentage of collaborators in the UOC is 17.5 times less than in the Verkhovna Rada. Why don't the Rada Committee then create a "Temporary Investigation Commission" to investigate the facts of collaborationism among their colleagues?

All this situation, all the absurdity with the initiation of the prohibition of the UOC based on single accusations of collaborationism show that in fact some politicians and state officials simply have a desire to destroy the UOC as such, and they use the facts of collaborationism as a pretext. The number of such facts does not matter. Nor does it matter whether such information is confirmed by law enforcement agencies and that there are ten times more collaborators in other structures. The main thing is to defame the UOC and form a negative public opinion.

An indicative criterion for collaborationism was voiced by former UOC priest Leonid Bachinsky, who defected to the OCU. In his opinion, collaborators are all those who consider the OCU to be schismatics having no grace.

A screenshot of the glavcom.ua website

But OCU representatives are considered schismatic not only by the multi-million flock of the UOC but also by the Antiochian, Jerusalem, Serbian, Georgian and other Local Orthodox Churches. Should all of them be considered collaborators?

Therefore, from the foregoing we can draw the following conclusion: the UOC Council held in Feofaniya removed direct possibilities for the authorities to ban the UOC but did not discourage its enemies from seeking its destruction. What is the Church to do? 

To do what is called apologetics in the broad sense of the word. In the first centuries of Christianity, when there were many Christians in the Roman Empire, but the state and society were hostile to the Church, there were many defenders of Christianity who got the name of apologists. They tried to explain to both the society and the authorities the true aims of the Church and the principles by which it was governed. They tried to refute the false conceptions of Christians as enemies of society and the state and to dispel the myths that had formed around the Church.

For example, at the time there was a myth that Christians at their meetings drank the blood of babies previously sacrificed. In reality, Christians partook of Christ's Body and Blood in the Divine Liturgy. A similar myth today is the notion that the UOC is the Kremlin's fifth column. For example, a quote from a publication on the “Investigative Info” website: "All the priests are Russian – they have at least the rank of lieutenant colonel." This is about the priests of the UOC and the FSB of Russia. Such myths must be debunked. Patiently, clearly and reasonably. Even if it seems that the stupidity of such accusations is obvious to everyone. It is not.

There are many people in Ukraine who have a negative attitude toward the UOC only "due to" anti-church propaganda. We must correct this, tell people the truth, and point out the obvious absurdity of accusations. And most importantly – we must live by the commandments of Christ to present to others an example of a truly Christian life. This is the only way to change the opinion of others about the Church, as the history of the Church in the first centuries proves.

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