Permanency of pride: did Filaret change after “legalisation”?
On ZIK, Makariy, the leader of UAOC, a schism that Phanar has “taken into communion” recently, complained bitterly about Filaret, the leader of another schism – UOC KP.
Makariy, in his words, faced extreme intransigence, even “malice”, when he tried to discuss with Filaret the organisation of the “unification council”, which should bring birth to the structure to which the Constantinople Patriarchate will grant a long-awaited “tomos”.
Filaret said that the “council” would have to be held only according to his rules and only under the flag of its structure, to which the UAOC can join only on his terms.
We do not know how events will develop – attempts to unite schisms have failed before — it is not entirely clear whether they can hold the “unification council” this time. Although, of course, now the pressure of secular (both Ukrainian and American) authorities will be much higher.
Another thing matters. Although the schism itself was caused by purely political reasons, the anathema Filaret fell under was not a political act. It was a reaction to destructive behaviour for the Church. And Constantinople’s statements about "lifting" this anathema and "taking in communion" did not change anything in reality – and, as reality shows, did not change anything in Filaret himself.
Removing the anathema from Filaret was unlawful in many respects, in particular, because no one had considered the validity of the charges on which it was imposed. However, this is understandable. The supposed process of Filaret rehabilitation would draw additional attention to the illegality of the actions of the Constantinople Patriarchate itself and force it to act – at least in part – in that canonical field in which the Phanar’s aims would be unattainable.
The process, regardless of its results, would have drawn attention to Filaret's record – and this the organizers of autocephaly do not need. For now, anyway.
Therefore, the removal of the anathema occurred as a purely voluntarist act, according to a well-known principle: “and we are free to execute our slaves, and we are free to favour”. But such voluntarist acts are inevitably destructive from the point of view of managing any community and, especially, the Church.
Even in a secular corporation, if you reinstate a person who was dismissed some time ago with great scandal and conflict, without delving into the reasons for the dismissal, you are very much at risk. You almost inevitably get an unmanaged brawler in a high position.
In the world, a reasonable employer generally avoids hiring a person who left a previous job with a scandal and is now furiously scolding his former bosses and employees – there is a reason to expect that he will show himself as a man of conflict in a new place.
But it is in the world, it’s pretty easy to get fired. In the Church, to fall under anathema, you have to try very hard. Anathema is a rare, extreme measure that is used when all other measures are completely and hopelessly exhausted. When they tried to influence a person, to somehow soften, they brought various arguments, quoted the canons and the Scripture, asked and begged – but everything turned out to be in vain. This is a sign of a man who has shown really extreme stubbornness and bitterness.
And of course, anathema is not a curse or a death penalty, as secular mass media often try to present. This is the last attempt to return a person to the path of salvation. The anathematized can still repent, admit that he/she is wrong, humble himself before the Church, experience a deep inner transformation – and then he will be gladly accepted back.
But when, alas, nothing like this happened to a person: neither repentance nor correction, no improvement at all – declaring the anathema lifted means is like declaring healthy a person who is seriously ill.
Among the crimes that once caused the anathema to Filaret Denisenko, it was mentioned the following: “Arrogant attitude towards the subordinate clergy, dictatorship and blackmail” (Titus 1, 7-8, Apostolic Rule 27).
The years of being in a schism did not soften Filaret’s character, and it would be strange to expect a kind of spiritual growth and correction in such a state. Even after “lifting the anathema” and “taking into communion” with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, he continued to insistently proclaim himself “Patriarch”, although from the point of view of Constantinople he is not a patriarch and cannot be one — two Patriarchs in one Patriarchate is a little too absurd even for the Phanara.
Now his fellows in misfortune-schismatics have to face his “arrogant attitude towards the subordinate clergy, dictatorship and blackmail”. So does Constantinople, who outwitted itself by accepting into communion a person who does not even think to repent of his previous disgraces.
But this poses another question. Did the return to the Church, both in the case of Filaret and his followers, happen? All these years, 1992-2018, since the emergence of the so-called “Kiev Patriarchate” and until very recently, Constantinople has considered them to be a schism and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – the only Orthodox Church in the country, headed by Metropolitan Onufry.
Now, Phanar’s views have changed to exactly the opposite – he does not recognize the canonical rights of Metropolitan Onufry but recognizes Filaret and his supporters as a “Church”. Does this mean that Metropolitan Onufry lost the grace of God and Filaret (and his structure), respectively, acquired it?
Representatives of the UOC KP and their associates are now actively promoting such a point of view. But how could this happen? How could Metropolitan Onufry lose grace and canonicity? He did not commit any sins and iniquities, no one ever accuses him of this – how did he cease, in the Phanar’s eyes, to be the legitimate Primate of the Ukrainian Church?
A person falls away from grace through sin – what sins has Metropolitan Onufry committed since recently when Patriarch Bartholomew recognized him as the legitimate Primate?
On the other hand, a person returns from falling away through repentance – what repentance did Filaret and his associates do to return to the Church? How can such a radical change in a person's state, like the transition from schism to the Church, happen without any repentance on his part?
So far, none of the Local Churches has recognized the sudden "legalisation" of the leaders of the Ukrainian schism, and it is unclear whether this will ever happen. But now it's not even about that.
When a person, having already reached the age that we are used to associating with wisdom, fights for earthly primacy with such bitterness, violently pushing away all those who may threaten him with at least some derogation of power – this makes us think about where such a pastor will lead his flock.
Christ shows us a completely different pattern: “you know that those who are considered princes of nations dominate them, and their nobles rule them. But between you, let it not be like this: but whoever wants to be great between you, let us be your servant; and whoever wants to be first between you, be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his soul for the redemption of many” (Mark 10: 42-45).
And the formal removal of the anathema by the Phanar does not change anything here – Filaret, unfortunately, remains the same and leads his followers in the same direction. And they should think whether this person really leads you to follow Christ.