Patriarch Bartholomew and Filaret: a wonderful metamorphosis of relations

23 October 2018 02:50
Filaret and Patriarch Bartholomew Filaret and Patriarch Bartholomew

A lot of documents and statements by Patriarch Bartholomew indicate that since 1992 he has considered Filaret an anathematized dissenter. Why has everything changed?

Patriarch Bartholomew, almost from the very beginning of his overseeing the Throne, was perceived by the Orthodox people ambiguously. Many, and not unreasonably, suspected and still suspect him of excessive love for Rome and the Catholics. Judge for yourself: a former officer of the Turkish army, who later studied at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, then in Switzerland and the University of Munich; after graduation he became a lecturer at the Pontifical Gregorian University; defended his doctoral thesis at the Pontifical Oriental Institute (the thesis, by the way, is devoted to the topic of canon law). Then he returned to Istanbul and in 1969 was ordained a presbyter by Patriarch Athenagoras I, while in 1973 Patriarch Dimitry ordained him a bishop (note that Athenagoras and Dimitry are well-known philocatholics). Also, we have repeatedly witnessed meetings of Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope of Rome to cause scandals. There are some Orthodox Christians who have long considered him a heretic.

Of course, studying at the Pontifical Institute and a special love for Catholics do not make a person heretic, but they can teach him Catholic disingenuity and casuistry.

For example, in Catholic moral theology there has long been a principle, which is denoted by the term reservatio mentalis. This is a mental reservation, due to which a statement, promise or oath must lose its moral obligation. In other words, if a person promises something, but at the same time makes a mental reservation that he will not fulfill his promise, or he will not fulfill it in certain specific cases, then he cannot be accused of lying. This principle was developed by many Jesuits, but non-Jesuit Alphonsus Liguori was the most successful in this respect. Thus, in his 8-volume-book on moral theology, which is still considered classical for the Catholic Church, he gives several examples of "mental reservation."

Suppose, he says, a man of high society seduces a girl from a poor family. Does he commit a sin and is he obliged to marry her if the promise was made only falsely? Alphonsus replies: “No, since the big difference in position and wealth is a sufficient reason to question the reality of the promise; and if the girl, in spite of this, did not have any doubts about the promise to marry, she is guilty.” So, no less – the victim of deception is to blame, and the one who cheated is not to blame! By the way, Alphonsus Liguori is not only canonized saint in the Catholic Church, but is considered the patron saint of confessors and moralists.

It seems that in the case of solving the “Ukrainian problem,” Patriarch Bartholomew resorts to this well-known Latin trick – a mental reservation, because to explain how one and the same person first said one thing and now says an absolutely different thing is impossible otherwise.

In fact, a few days ago, the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate, chaired by Patriarch Bartholomew, decided to accept the Ukrainian schismatic Filaret Denisenko and to remove the anathema from him. It reinstated him, by the way, without any repentance of the latter.

However, not so long ago, the same Bartholomew did not object to either deprivation of dignity or anathema in relation to Filaret. Moreover, he always stressed that there is no “patriarch of Kiev”, there is no “Ukrainian church of the Kiev Patriarchate”, Filaret is not a bishop, and one cannot communicate and pray with him, while Bartholomew himself recognizes only one canonical Church in Ukraine – the UOC. We now turn to specific examples.

On 26 August 1992, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, in response to the letter of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Rus, wrote about the excommunication of Metropolitan of Kiev Filaret: “Our Holy Great Church of Christ, recognizing the fullness of the exclusive competence of the Russian Orthodox Church, adopts a synodal decision on this foregoing issue." Why then, back in 1992, Patriarch Bartholomew did not raise his voice against such a decision of the Synod of the Russian Church? Why did he keep silent? Didn’t he then understand that the excommunication of Filaret was dictated not by dogmatic reasons as he understands it now?

On 19 October 1993, on behalf of the President of Ukraine L.Kravchuk, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine M.Zhulinsky met with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his residence. The main reason for the visit, held on the eve of the “Council” scheduled for 21 October 1993, which was to elect for the post of the deceased Mstislav a new false patriarch of Kiev and All Ukraine, was a request to the Ecumenical Patriarch to bless Bishop Vsevolod (Maydanovich) of Skolopes for participation in the elections, who was in the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchy. Then Patriarch Bartholomew replied that in order for Vsevolod to come to Kiev, firstly, one needs the consent of the Moscow Patriarchate; secondly, total removal of Filaret, since no one recognizes him as a bishop; and thirdly, the election of Vsevolod is out of the question now, since the canonical UOC is headed by the canonically elected and recognized by the Universal Orthodoxy Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan).

In addition, Patriarch Bartholomew then said that there is one canonical way to the unity of the Ukrainian Church – through repentance of those who backslid into schism. There can be no talk of on par unification, since "today there is no such institution as the Kiev Patriarchate".

Moreover, as is known, on 11 March 1995, the Patriarchate of Constantinople accepted into its jurisdiction the Ukrainian schismatics who lived in the United States and the diaspora (by the way, the exarchs sent by Patriarch Bartholomew to Ukraine today belong to these schismatics). Prior to this decision, which caused a storm of indignations in the World Orthodoxy due to its uncanonical character, the Episcopate of the UAOC in the USA supported the UAOC in Ukraine and stayed with the schismatics in Eucharistic communion. Therefore, the recognition of American autocephalists encouraged the UOC KP synod to express absolute satisfaction with this decision, since, in their opinion, “this will strengthen the position of the Kiev throne ... and will further its stabilization and recognition by the Universal Orthodoxy.”

However, the joy of the Ukrainian schismatics was premature because after entering into Eucharistic unity with the Patriarch of Constantinople, the hierarchy of the UOC in the diaspora refused to prayerfully communicate with the UOC KP.

Later, namely on 7 April 1997, in response to Patriarch Alexy II to the letter of anathematization of Filaret Denisenko, Patriarch Bartholomew said: "Having received the notification of the said decision, we informed about it the hierarchy of our Ecumenical Throne and asked them not to have any communion with the above-mentioned persons in the future."

During his stay in Odessa on 24 September 1997, Patriarch Bartholomew, responding to the greeting of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine, in the presence of correspondents of domestic and foreign media, said: “We fervently pray to the Lord Jesus Christ that He send the church unity to the Orthodox people of Ukraine. We recognize here the sole jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and wish to contribute to the early restoration of church unity in the name of the Lord.” Filaret’s response to these words turned out to be quite predictable, since he called Patriarch Bartholomew Herod, who sold Ukraine to Moscow for the second time.

Therefore, it is not surprising that during Filaret’s stay in the United States from October 23 to November 15, 1998, none of the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople met with him. Even Bishop Vsevolod, a Ukrainian by birth, about whom Filaret once asked Patriarch Bartholomew to send as a possible candidate for the head of “Ukrainian church”, refused to meet with Filaret. Moreover, he also forbade the clergy subordinate to him to do it.

A similar story happened just recently. For example, on 19 April 2012, a letter was sent to the clergy and parish councils of the Eastern eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada forbidding to accept or even approach Filaret (moreover, the name of the head of the UOC KP was written in quotation marks). The author of the directive is Metropolitan Yuri, who addressed his subordinates with the blessing of Patriarch Bartholomew I. Here are the quotes from that document: “Pursuant to the decree and with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I, one cannot demonstrate courtesy to “patriarch Filaret”, arrange feasts in his honor in the parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada, or on the territory belonging to them ... Not a single pastor or member of the Consistorial Council can be located near “patriarch Filaret” to avoid photographs and reports being interpreted as a manifestation or support from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada.”

Such examples of the attitude of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the Ukrainian schismatics could be cited by several dozen more. One thing is clear – until recently, in its attitude to Filaret and the UOC KP, Phanar was quite consistent, stuck to canonical positions, and did not talk about any possible legalization of the schism. However, did he give a though to that? Well, if you recall the principle of mental reservation (reservatio mentalis) and the subsequent actions of Patriarch Bartholomew, then most likely, yes, he did. At least, Ukraine and the Ukrainian schism has never fallen out of the Phanar’s orbit, with Phanariots themselves waiting only for a chance to intervene in the affairs of the UOC, “regain” Kiev and spit on the words they have been saying for many years.

But despite the canonization of Alphonsus Liguori in the Catholic Church, as well as despite the widespread principle of "mental reservation" in the moral theology of the Latins, the Orthodox Church holds very different views on what a person should say. In the Gospel it is said that “from your words you will be justified and from your words you will be condemned”. In another place, the Lord says that “let your word be “yes, yes” and “no, no” and what is beyond this is from the evil one”. In other words, an Orthodox person cannot say one thing and think another, cannot lie or distort the truth, because all this is from the evil one. In fact, it looks like Jesuist casuistry appeals to Patriarch Bartholomew more than gospel theology. That’s a pity.

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