Василина Орлова




Radical "ultra-Orthodox" sites have published the decision of the diocesan meeting of Anadyr and Chukotka diocese supporting the appeal of Bishop Diomid. We recall that the appeal appeared not long before 17 May, the day of the reunification of the Russian Orthodox church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. The document evoked an echo in society, not only within the church but also far beyond its walls. Meanwhile the contents of the calls to the church are generally standard fare: calls for struggle with the Individual Identification Number and vaccination, discussion about "neosergianism," and demands to condemn democracy. Vadim Vladimirovich Balytnikov, a specialist in the area of church canons, deputy director of the Department of Social and Political Analysis of VTsIOM [public opinion organization], kandidat of juridical science, explains some misunderstandings for Moscow News.


MN: Bishop of Anadyr and Chukotka Diomid and his associates demand the public excommunication of persons who are guilty of corrupting the nation through news media, an intensification of the struggle with vice, and a condemnation of "neosergianism" and democracy. In your view, how well founded are these demands?


Balytnikov: Well, let's begin with the demand for public excommunication. It sounds good, but actually it is pure demagogy. If the authors of the documents under discussion use the expression "in accordance with church canons," then they should know what these canons say about excommunication. They say that for excommunication of specific Orthodox Christians (and non-Orthodox are not even subject to the church) the accusers must present concrete proofs of their guilt for specific sins. Naturally it is much easier to throw around slogans "about the necessity of public excommunication" of some abstract, unknown persons. The reader immediately feels "the concern for the moral health of society."


MN: But after all the church really must be concerned about morality. Doesn't the demand for "more decisive condemnation of the defects and shortcomings of modern state, political, and public life" seem really logical?


Balytnikov: The demand is fully logical and correct. What is illogical and incorrect is the list of the defects. To set side by side gay parades and vaccination is at least stupid. I think that not so long ago everybody watching the news clips saw how representatives of the church protested against attempts to conduct a gay parade in Moscow. But it is completely unclear why they should struggle against the protection of their own health. Neither in the Bible nor in sacred tradition of the Orthodox church is there any prohibition on vaccination. In our church there is a prominent saint, one of the greatest physicians of the twentieth century, Medical Doctor Saint Archbishop Luke Voino-Yasenetsky. He found nothing un-Orthodox in vaccination and he did not include it among "defects and shortcomings," in contrast with the "zealots." It is another matter that it is necessary to carefully control the quality of vaccine and to precisely clarify the indicators and counterindicators for its use. Why not call for this instead of making vaccination equivalent to sodomy and drug addiction?


As regards the Individual Identification Number, our church has already defined its position. There are real problems regarding the permissible forms and limits of state regulation of the life of citizens. And there has come to us from the West modern fears of the number 666, nurtured in the West by protestants. And the authors of the documents under discussion really do not deign to quote the Bible, but use bold face letters for this number, although the Bible itself says that its use as the number for the name of Antichrist will occur only at the time when he already rules the whole earth. Perhaps now we can declare the 666th page of the Bible the "seal of Antichrist," and its discovery as the means for receiving one?


MN: Among the accusations frequently made against the Orthodox church is such a phenomenon of church life as "neosergianism," which raises the question of relations between the church and authorities.


Balytnikov: The question regarding relations between the church and authorities is clearly and unambiguously answered in the Bible. The well known words are axiomatic: "there is no authority that is not from God and the powers that be are established by God." At the same time, as the saints taught, all authority is from God and not from man С the use of authority and even more the misuse of it. And such misuse has always been condemned by the church. We recall how St. Nicholas the Wonderworker fearlessly upbraided the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (who even became a saint). We recall how St. Metropolitan Filipp criticized Ivan the Terrible, for which he was killed upon his orders. We recall, finally, the position of Patriarch Alexis II and the Holy Synod at the time of the tragic events of September-October 1993. At the same time we will not forget that even at the time of the pagan Roman empire Christian martyrs prayed for the ruler by whose will they were sent to martyrdom.


What kind of "neosergianism" are these "zealots" speaking about? Where in Russia are the closed churches, massive suppression of clergy, and demands for the signing of a regular declaration regarding recognition by Orthodox persons of the atheist authorities as "our authority", as it was in 1927? There is nothing of the kind; it is now 2007, and the average rate of the return of church buildings to the church in the past sixteen years has been about two or three a day, the number of priests is growing no less intensively, and an Orthodox president stands at the head of the country.


Of course, Bishop Diomid, who actually declared in his appeal that at the G-8 meetings the head of the Russian state, along with leaders of foreign countries, is preparing the advent of Antichrist, isn't even able to notice the difference. Whoever doesn't want to see, will not see.


MN: And what can one say about the demands, for example, to condemn democracy as a system in contradiction with church teaching and about calls to restore monarchy?


Balytnikov: As the church testifies through the lips of its saints (Photius, patriarch of Constantinople , Tikhon, patriarch of all-Russia, Nikolai of Serbia, and others), the type of state structure is not foreordained by God; it is established by people in accordance with their own experience. The church does not tie itself with any specific form of government because that has only relative, historical significance. Monarchy is not the only divinely established and God-pleasing form of administration, as the Bible clearly testifies. Incidentally, the alternative between monarchy and democracy is incorrect in principle. There exist completely democratic monarchies, such as Great Britain . Actually monarchy is the alternative to a republic (incidentally, regarding one of them, Rome , the Bible speaks in extremely positive ways). At the same time, as St. Patriarch Tikhon said, the establishment of one or another form of administration is not the affair of the church but the affair of the nation itself.


MN: But if the basic approaches of Bishop Diomid are so absurd, why do they evoke such a stormy reaction in society? Apparently they still express the expectations of a certain part of the church public. After all, we have no basis for considering this "grassroots Orthodoxy" to be less authentic than "elite Orthodoxy"?


Balytnikov: Yes, we do. Christ said: "You are from below. I am from above." Here is the answer to the question which kind of Orthodox is more authentic, "lower" or "higher."


And the reasons that such approaches evoke such a stormy reaction are very simple. Try crying loudly in a crowded theatre, and with other voices joining: "Fire, Run!" There will be such a stormy reaction as is seldom seen. True, one must note that there is an established punishment for false alarms of this kind. And there also is for false statements in the name of the church. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 June 2007)



Moskovskie novosti, 22 June 2007


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