Russian Church releases draft catechism including section that “condemns” opponents of Ecumenism

Moscow, July 26, 2017

Photo: foma.ru Photo: foma.ru
    

With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission has published a draft version of the Catechesis of the Russian Orthodox Church for Church-wide discussion, reports patriarchia.ru. The final section on the Russian Church’s attitude towards the non-Orthodox has caused some consternation.

The idea of creating a modern catechism was first raised at the Bishops’ Council in 2008, and the Holy Synod instructed the Synodal Theological Commission to being preparing the project a year later. Prominent theologians of the Russian Church, as members of the Biblical-Theological Commission, as well as professors of various theological academies, and specialists in various theological fields have been involved in the project. The first version of the text was completed in January 2016.

The commission unanimously adopted the draft at a plenary session on January 29, 2016, after which it was submitted to the Council of Bishops session on February 2-3, 2016. The council decided to forward the draft to the permanent members of the Holy Synod, the primates of the patriarchate’s autonomous Churches, the first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the heads of Synodal institutions and theological schools, and diocesan bishops who expressed a desire to participate in reviewing the text.

The latest version of the text was crafted with the input of those who have been reviewing the text. The new text is now open for Church-wide discussion.

The catechism has the following structure:

Preface
I. Foundations of the Orthodox faith
II. The Foundations of Canonical Order and the Liturgical Life of the Orthodox Church
III. The Foundations of Orthodox Moral Teaching
IV. The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church
V. Basic Teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church on Dignity, Freedom, and Human Rights
VI. Basic Principles of Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Towards the Non-Orthodox

Guest reviews are being accepted for Parts I-III, while Parts IV-VI are non-negotiable, as texts already adopted by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Concerns have been raised about the final section, especially as it pertains to ecumenical organizations and meetings. The document “Basic Principles of Attitude to the Non-Orthodox” maintains that Russian representatives to bi- and multi-lateral discussions with other Christian confessions have always unerringly maintained the purity of the Orthodox faith (4.3), and moreover, quotes a Pan-Orthodox meeting in Thessaloniki in 1998:

During Orthodox participation of many decades in the ecumenical movement, Orthodoxy has never been betrayed by any representative of a Local Orthodox Church. On the contrary, these representatives have always been completely faithful and obedient to their respective Church authorities, and acted in complete agreement with the canonical rules, the Teaching of the Ecumenical Councils, the Church Fathers and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church (7.3)

Therefore the document states that, “The Church condemns those who, by using inauthentic information, deliberately distort the task of the Orthodox Church in her witness before the non-Orthodox world and consciously slander the Church authorities, accusing them of the ‘betrayal’ of Orthodoxy.” Such sowers of temptation, according to the document, ought to be subjected to canonical sanctions. The statement included from the Thessaloniki meeting refers not only to schismatics, but also to “certain extremist groups within the local Orthodox Churches,” who “[use] the theme of ecumenism” to criticize Church leadership, “thus attempting to create divisions and schisms within the Church,” seemingly accusing all who oppose Ecumenism as being among those who use “inauthentic information” in the fight against it.

Not all accept the view that Orthodox representatives have never, without exception, compromised any matter of Orthodoxy at ecumenical gatherings and dialogues. Many prominent voices within the Orthodox Church, including St. Justin Popovich, Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, St. Paisios the Athonite, St. Seraphim of Sobolev, Fr. Seraphim Rose, Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos), and many others have been very vocal about the dangers posed by the Ecumenical movement, and following last year’s council on Crete, entire Local Churches have raised the flag, including the Bulgarian and Georgian Churches.

The February 2016 joint declaration between Pat. Kirill and Pope Francis also garnered criticism. For instance, Fr. George Maximov wrote that the document contains expressions “which are by no means indisputable, and sometimes erroneous,” and Dcn. Vladimir Vasilik wrote, “The joint declaration signed by the Pope and the Patriarch leaves one with mixed feelings… there are a whole series of formulations in this document that evoke well-founded anxiety… this meeting was in many points unsatisfactory.” Fr. George also wrote a critical response to the September 2016 gifting of a particle of the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov to the Pope of Rome.

Most recently, Archpriest Artemy Skripkin of the Tikhvin Diocese has announced that he is invoking Canon 15 of the First-Second Council in order to cease commemoration of Pat. Kirill, as well as Metropolitan Barsanuphius of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, and his own hierarch, Bishop Mistislav of Tikhvin, after unsuccessful attempts to receive clarification on a recent statement from Pat. Kirill at a children’s hospital in which he said, “I know that there are Christians and Muslims here, each addressing one and the same Creator God, and in response to this we receive real help from God.”

Canon 15 of the First-Second Council, held in 861 in Constantinople under the chairmanship of St. Photios the Great, states that if a bishop openly declares a heresy previously condemned, a priest may cease to commemorate him without ecclesiastical sanction. This “walling off” is not considered a schism, but the same canon states that if a priest ceases to commemorate a bishop over a heresy not previously condemned, then his action is considered one of schism.

Having received no explanations over the course of two months, Fr. Artemy writes that he is ceasing commemoration of and thereby breaking communion with the three bishops, and any others who agree with the patriarch’s words, and that the decrees and punishments of the mentioned bishops are accounted as nothing to him.

The full text of the draft catechesis can be found at theolcom.ru, and reviews are being accepted at catechism@theolcom.ru until November 1.

7/26/2017

Comments
Rdr Andreas Moran7/30/2017 11:09 am
To whom is the document at issue addressed? It is hard to understand why the section was included. It is not instruction in the faith and so has no place in a catechism, and anyway is so general in character that it is impossible to be sure what is meant. The typical catechumen has enough to learn without being troubled by controversies. The most a catechumen needs to know is that there always have been controversies in the Church and that he need not look into or be troubled by them. Only when a Christian has attained sufficient maturity might he then concern himself with controversies if that is his bent. But it is significant that the Longer Catechism of St Philaret has no such content.
Julia 7/29/2017 3:18 pm
We have an excellent catechism already, by a saint, Saint Philaret Drozdov (google catechism St Philaret Drozdov).
Misha Pennington7/28/2017 9:48 pm
It's unfortunate. I like to think the best of Pat. Kirill and that he really doesn't understand the issues in depth; i.e., that he may be devout but ignorant. But I doubt it. The best spin I can put on it is that they want insulation from criticism in the future, pending good behavior. I.e., that they think they've learned their lesson and no further correction will be needed. Well, I hope that that is the case. As Crete is a non-starter, there's room for hope.
Gregory7/28/2017 4:02 pm
The "catechism " of Christs Orthodox Church is the Holy Bible interpreted in the light of Holy Orthodoxy (its traditional interpretations and practices). If any other come preaching a "new" gospel, well then, we can clearly know where falsehood abides. That is why it is so important for us to not only learn the Holy scriptures but also the interpretation of them given by the Saintly Cloud of Witnesses. Then the Sheep will know the wolf from the Shepherd. He who endures will be saved.
A Fig for your Condemnation7/28/2017 3:42 pm
"Behold, I come quickly. Hold that fast, which thou hast" Revelation 3:11
A Fig for your Condemnation7/28/2017 3:22 pm
‘Hiding behind the 'high-minded' aim of 'removing inter-religious discord' and 'the reunion of believers in one fraternal family', the theorists of ecumenism forget to mention one thing. This is that in such a reunion, the greatest and most precious thing of all will be lost - that is the truth of the Law of God, buried underneath the burden of false human reasoning. Like all heresies, ecumenism lies when it offers the fraternal union of Truth with the lie, cunningly pretending that it does not understand the unnatural nature of such a union, hoping that people bewitched by high-minded slogans will not notice the dreadful forgery'. Metropolitan John of St Petersburg ( 1995) =============================================== 'Contemporary ecumenical practices come from a conscious false teaching concerning the nature of the Church, that is, they are examples of an ecclesiological heresy. In 1962 our Church was forced to join the WCC...this decision was taken under the direct and brutal pressure of the KGB and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union....Perhaps, with time, much has changed in the WCC? Yes, plenty of changes. And they all clearly and unambiguously witness to the satanic nature of this masonic organization'. The Clergy of the Diocese of Barnaul, in Orthodox Russia, No 4, 1997
Micke Stensson7/28/2017 6:04 am
“The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.” St John Chrysostom .
Herman7/28/2017 3:35 am
I refuse to believe that our ROCOR hierarchy accepts this. I pray to God that my bishops are protesting this and working to change this so-called "catechism" which is really just ecumenist propaganda, but I cannot imagine how they could possibly accept this as it stands now. What is clear is that the heresy of ecumenism is now being embraced by the hierarchies of nearly all of our local Churches, and is being implemented in a systematic, methodical, sneaky, and dishonest manner in order to destroy the Orthodox Church from within and must be dealt with immediately. But how? Patriarch Kirill and the ROC are simply being more patient about establishing this new age heresy than Bartholomew and the Phanar are, but they are obviously receiving their marching orders from the same source. May God forgive me for my criticism and if I have said anything incorrect here.
Dale Dickerson7/27/2017 10:49 pm
I wish there was an English translation for Russian Orthodox Christian who are very poor in use of Russian language. Such an important document should have review of the whole Church and not just the larger Russian speaking part.
Isidora7/27/2017 8:41 pm
So the MP thinks the Orthodox hierarhcy should condemn those who criticize their ecumenist behaviors falsely. Whatever happened to ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and speak falsely of you’ (Luke 6:27). Methinks if they are being criticized in truth, as is the actual case, then their appropriate response should be to repent of communing with heretics and of trying to make Orthodoxy just another denomination in a sea of heresy and paganism.
ChiRho7/27/2017 6:30 pm
1) Why do we need a "modern catechism?" Is the entire glue of Orthodoxy not to remain faithful to the Original Church passed to us from Christ to His Apostles, and from the Apostles on? 2) Why did the MP back away from the Crete Council to then seemingly adopt the same sorts of ideas a year later? 3) Why are certain sections of this new and improved catechism "non-negotiable" from the start? The Faith of the Early Church is non-negotiable, new ideas are negotiable (and often suspect). 4)I am deeply disturbed to hear of Patriarch Kirill's statements at the hospital. I understand that diplomacy is required in a terribly weighty and high-pressure position like his, and for that I give him leeway. But that statement is beyond sensitive communication and is inappropriate for any Orthodox Christian, let alone a shepard. Muslims do not simply misunderstand God, they have another god. This is clear from an examination of Islam, Muslims even know this, and the only people who make such foolish comparisons are modern day politicians who know nothing of Islam nor Christianity. 5) I am further disturbed by the actions of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk referred to above, but can state nothing better than Father Maximov and Jesse Dominick already have.
Castrese Tipaldi7/27/2017 2:29 pm
Prominent theologians of the Russian Church..... ============================== There have been only 3 theologians in the Church, and none of them partecipated to this work, as it is extremely clear by its content. It's sad that our hierarchies periodically pursue the greater condemnation, sowing confusion and divisions unto the Church. The only way to not betray Orthodoxy when dealing with those separated from the Church is to invite them to renounce their errors, repent of them and be joined to the Body of Christ. Surely there is no need to partake of the ecumenical carnival to do that. In all truth, when I hear hierarchs and shepherds of the Church speak about theological dialogue (with people, moreover, that are in some case open worshipers of the beast), I can’t help myself but think that their place should be in a mental asylum rather than to the guide of the flock of Christ. Of course, an element of politic is ineradicable, above all at the level of the highest hierarchies, as the Church operates in the world (the reason why I’d avoid to be shocked by documents like the one signed at the Havana), but the Patriarchate of Moscow (and every other local Orthodox Church) ought to pull back from the WCC already yesterday! https://houseofmaedhros.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/whos-my-neighbor/
Rassaphore-Monk Antony7/27/2017 6:07 am
There are so many false statements throughout these documents.... this is very worrisome. Namely: 1.15-17, 1.20 2 (throughout) 3.1 4.5, 4.8-10 5.2 (this conflicts with the MP's position in the WCC but they are ignoring that?) 5.5 ("common witness"? whereas the rest of the document before talks about how we must witness only the Orthodox Faith...?) 5.6 (why do we need to involve our youth with different faiths? its like holding a tiny lamb in front of a wolf's face...) 6.3 7.1, 7.3 And even the conclusion has many worrisome errors..... Lord, have mercy.
Mikail7/27/2017 4:53 am
I am confused and disturbed. Are they condemning all the saints who opposed ecumenism? Are they embracing the heresy of ecumenism? In an age where it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a jurisdiction who defends the holy Orthodox tradition according to the holy fathers....this is an unwelcome development. I find it especially hard to believe that the ROCOR is on board with this statement!
Maximus7/27/2017 4:19 am
Soooo... all the joint prayers, gifting Korans and lighting menorahs in synagogues is Orthodox? What sort of "catechism" is this? Hopefully, this bareheadedly false statement will get edited out. Lord grant it!
Anthony7/26/2017 7:17 pm
So now we have Church hierarchy who are publishing documents that are an affront and totally contradictory to canonised saints. And this from the Russian Church. Just when you think things can't get much worse...
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