From nationalism to schism: the path of former UOC clergymen
How Metropolitans Simeon (Shostatsky) and Alexander (Drabinko), priests Andrei Dudchenko and Georgy Kovalenko came to schism.
Ukraine is suffering from a church schism. It is similar to poison, which, once in the body, causes severe pain. It looks like a tumor that drains vital juices from the body. It is like a dead unborn child that decays itself and destructs the mother's flesh. The schism is the main problem of Ukraine, giving rise to a further chain of disorder in the social and political order.
But the most dangerous effect of the schism is not even the destructive impact on the life of the state as a whole but the change in personality that inevitably follows their going to the false Church. But most horrible is what is happening in a schism with a man, with his soul.
There is no need to invent some kind of fables and horror stories. Examples are before us. We will talk about famous clergymen who moved from the UOC to the OCU. What they do, say, and write now leaves a depressing impression. And you involuntarily wonder: how right the Church is that it has always considered schism as the gravest sin and seen only one way to solve this problem: through repentance of schismatics.
Fugitive from the "Russian world"
Ex-Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky), a former metropolitan of the UOC, now a cleric of the OCU. He graduated from the Moscow seminary, was tonsured a monk at the Danilov Monastery. At the episcopal see in Vinnitsa showed himself as a good manager, was respected by the church people. Shortly before the “Unification Council” of the OCU, he tricked flock, promising not to participate in it but eventually appeared at the “Council”. From that moment, another story of the metropolitan began – the story of lies, betrayal, Jesuit cunning, the confusion of mind.
Simeon began his path to the OCU with the seizure of the Vinnitsa Cathedral. As the head of the community, the metropolitan introduced in advance to the legal ten, which determines the fate of the community, his people. On the day of the “Unification Council”, the temple was occupied by tough guys of a sporty built, who, together with SBU employees, put “guards” and took away the keys to the cathedral.
The transfer of the cathedral community to the OCU was “unanimous” – ten people plus Simeon voted to change the jurisdiction. And 300 parishioners, half the choir, the entire children's choir, almost all the priests were forced to leave.
Soon after leaving the canonical Church, Simeon declared that there was no love in the UOC and that he himself had been deceiving people for many years, preaching the ideas of the “Russian world”. The remark of the ex-metropolitan that the UOC clergy were offered money so that they would not go to the OCU (Simeon did not give any factual evidence) received wide publicity.
On December 28, 2018, Metropolitan Simeon filed a lawsuit in the Vinnitsa City Court with a request to cancel the decree of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine on December 17, which released him from the administration of the Vinnitsa Eparchy of the UOC and banned him from the priesthood. The court refused the claim.
Ex-Metropolitan Simeon’s remark that the UOC clergy were offered money so that they would not go to the OCU received wide publicity.
Frightened that the UOC believers were offering prayers near the seized Cathedral in Vinnitsa, Simeon said that they “want to take the cathedral from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine so that the Ukrainian language is not heard in the Transfiguration Cathedral, so that those of you who long for the Ukrainian Church are cursed up to the tenth generation ex-cathedra, so that in the cathedral the ideology of the so-called "Russian world" rather than the Christian faith is preached”.
Today, the former metropolitan remains in a schismatic structure, continuing to badmouth yesterday's brothers and associates. Obviously, he suffers from failure at the "Unification Council", where he was not elected to the leadership of the newly formed "Church". He is also tormented by the fact that the OCU project failed in Vinnitsa, and Simeon lost most of his parishes. At the same time, the defector hierarch cannot humble himself to repentance and return to the UOC.
In this regard, the words of Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye come to mind: “If we turn to the personal stories of the present OCU leaders, we immediately notice the unsightly fact that they are united by a specific sinful passion – unforgivingness. Rancour as a quality is a person’s tendency to manifest persistent, obsessive memories of resentment, insult, injustice, 'evil and harm'. Moreover, a malice-struck person has no sincere desire to forgive and often wants to take revenge."
Yesterday’s accuser of schism
Ex-Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko), a former metropolitan of the UOC, now a “metropolitan” of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary, then the Kiev Theological Academy. In 2002, he defended his dissertation “Orthodoxy in Post-Totalitarian Ukraine (Milestones of History)”, in which he exposed the UOC-KP, UAOC and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, whose actions in Estonia he directly called anti-canonical. The brochure by Alexander (Drabinko) “Why Schismatic Groups in Ukraine are called Non-Canonical” was reprinted three times. He was a screenwriter of the film “Anatomy of Schism” (2003), where an unequivocal position on the Ukrainian autocephalous schisms was voiced: schism is a sin that can only be healed by the repentance of those who fell into it and their subsequent return.
But as Drabinko entered into relationships at various levels with members of autocephalous groups, his views began to change. His life has also changed.
On February 21, 2012, the Synod of the UOC dismissed Drabinko from the post of chairman of the UOC Department for External Church Relations and the Editor-in-Chief of the official website of the UOC and withdrew him as a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the UOC. The reference to journal No. 23 of the Synod meeting says the following:
“His (Metropolitan Alexander’s – Ed.) destructive actions and misbehaviour, intrigue and lifestyle sow confusion and suspicion among the episcopate and clergy, cause great embarrassment among believers. <...> Using the post of Secretary of the UOC Primate, a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the head of the UOC DECR, he allows himself to openly criticize the decisions of the Supreme Church Authority on the air of secular national media, artificially opposing the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to Her Primate. <...> He allows himself to unambiguously defame his fellow archpastors, members of the Holy Synod of the UOC, organizes the publication in the anti-church media of strictly confidential church documents intended for familiarization exclusively to members of the Holy Synod.”
Commenting on this decision of the Synod, the then UOC Chancellor, Archbishop Mitrofan (Yurchuk), said that Archbishop Alexander gave out his thoughts for the opinion of Metropolitan Vladimir, Primate of the UOC.
“His (Metropolitan Alexander’s – Ed.) destructive actions and misbehaviour, intrigue and lifestyle sow confusion and suspicion among the episcopate and clergy, cause great embarrassment among believers.”
From the Resolution of the Holy Synod of the UOC
In June 2013, in numerous media publications and the blogosphere, the name of Archbishop Alexander turned out to be connected with the story of the abduction of two nuns – the abbess and one of the inhabitants of the Kiev Pokrovsky Monastery. The archbishop was involved in a criminal case as a witness.
On May 25, 2018, the Holy Synod of the UOC resolved: “To call upon His Grace Metropolitan Alexander of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky and Vishnevoye not to defame the miter he is wearing with his indecent behavior and life, and also refrain from any public speeches and statements that cause outrage among the episcopate, clergy and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and embarrass the hearts of believers. If this fraternal admonition is ignored, the Holy Synod will have to make another disciplinary-canonical decision.”
While still a canonical metropolitan, Drabinko did not hesitate to slander the Church, which is his spiritual mother and in which he received everything: monastic tonsure, priesthood, church office, education, etc.
“The UOC has become an island of Russian identity in Ukraine. <...> It is no coincidence that Russian political experts view the UOC as the largest "Russian party" in Ukraine. <...> The UOC is truly the largest "Russian island" in Ukrainian public "waters". <...> Over the past years, the UOC has been constantly losing ground, losing parishioners” (from an interview with the “Left Bank” website of January 7, 2017).
At the same time, the hierarch admitted that he is ... the main ideologist of the "Russian world": "Do you know that the theory of the" Russian world" basically belongs to me? So, if we have a single Slavic space, then there is no problem for the Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’ to be in Kiev” (from an interview with the “Segodnya” newspaper of July 16, 2010).
His Beatitude Onuphry felt sorry for Vladyka Alexander until his falling in schism. While the Kiev clergy were outraged by the actions and statements of the odious metropolitan, His Beatitude prayed for him and did not take any canonical actions.
Metropolitan Alexander repays His Beatitude for his indulgence and brotherly love very peculiarly. After the betrayal of his native Church and the transfer to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and then to the OCU, Drabinko sued Metropolitan Onuphry. The document had the following description: "on the protection of honour, dignity, business reputation and compensation for moral (non-property) damage."
The subsequent statements of Drabinko can be collected in a book of aphorisms. It is difficult to say what is more there – lies or fabrications, heresies or illiteracy, double standards or deliberate manipulation of facts.
For example, in a recent interview, he said: “We have the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which has taken its place in the diptych of the Orthodox Local Churches, and it will not go anywhere. Those who have no faith in this believe that Putin will come on tanks and we will not have Ukraine.”
“The UOC has become an island of Russian identity in Ukraine. <...> It is no coincidence that Russian political experts view the UOC as the largest "Russian party" in Ukraine.”
Ex-Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko)
The ex-metropolitan said about Vladyka Gideon (Kharon) that in the US Senate "he was snitching, complaining about some oppression, persecution, which the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has allegedly been experiencing recently from the current political power in Ukraine".
After the Cypriot Orthodox Church began collecting signatures in defence of the rights of UOC believers to file a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights, Drabinko called it a “provocation”.
Commenting on the return of priest Nikolai Brega along with the community from schism back to the canonical Church, the hierarch banned from the priesthood noted that Father Nikolai “repents like hens from Orwell’s ‘Farmyard’”, and called the repentance “falling to his knees in front of the khan in a white hat", "slave and Asian", and the manifestation of the "propaganda totalitarian machine of the Moscow type of Orthodoxy".
By the way, Drabinko immediately “dismissed” Fr. Nikolai Brega from the post of rector and ordered to seal his temple. Here is such a "European democracy".
Perhaps, only pray can help here. Falling in schism really confused the mind of the former hierarch. An unhealthy conscience causes an unhealthy mind. But he is an educated man and relatively young. As they say, once he used to have many good human qualities. Where did everything go? Truly, when God wants to punish a person, he takes away his mind.
Archpriest Andrei Dudchenko. A former cleric of the temple that I went to for eight years. A broad-minded person, a good publicist in the past until he got carried away with the ideas of autocephaly and entered into communication with schismatics. What he began to write and say later went beyond the limits of the most modern modernism. It is not surprising that in the very first days of the existence of the OCU, Dudchenko was already there.
“The Church of God in Christ is wider, deeper and larger than my own confessional narrowness ... The Church of God exists – and it consists of all who are faithful to God and His Christ. Wherever these people are, no matter in which of the scattered and divided earthly jurisdictions they may be.”
This is not written by a Protestant – it is written by an Orthodox priest (then a priest of the canonical Church). For him, the Church is generally all believers in Christ, without confessional differences. Believe as you like, pray with whoever you want and how you want ... There are no grounds for any division at all!
A quote from another article by Dudchenko: “Among all honed theological formulations, we repeat the confession of faith in the Church: ‘one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.’ But where is this one Сhurch? You can repeat the memorized Symbol of Faith and calm down, but it is enough to open your eyes and make sure that the Church is clearly not one with us. We are divided into the Orthodox and Catholics, Greek Catholics and various Orthodox jurisdictions that do not recognize each other. But is there any reason for this division?”
Indeed, is there any reason for the division into the Orthodox and Catholics, the Orthodox and Protestants, the Orthodox and Uniates? What difference does it make? For Dudchenko – no difference. Obviously, the question of the Church boundaries does not present any dogmatic difficulty for him. There aren’t any, and that's all. Believe as you wish.
“We are divided into the Orthodox and Catholics, Greek Catholics and various Orthodox jurisdictions that do not recognize each other. But is there any reason for this division?”
Archpriest Andrei Dudchenko
Surely, for the archpriest banned from the priesthood, the ancient canons of the Church are not authoritative. But since we started this conversation, it is worth recalling some of the canons that relate to schism.
- 10th Canon of the Holy Apostles: “If anyone prays in company with one who has been excommunicated, he shall be excommunicated himself.”
- 45th Canon of the Holy Apostles: “Let any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, that merely joins in prayer with heretics, be suspended, but if he has permitted them to perform any service as Clergymen, let him be deposed. (sc. from office)”
- 65th Canon of the Holy Apostles: “If any Clergyman, or Layman, enter a synagogue of Jews, or of heretics to pray, let him be both deposed and excommunicated.”
We should note that “confessional exclusivism” is shared not only by the Orthodox Church, but also by the Catholic Church, claiming that Christ “established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity” and created it as “the visible assembly and the spiritual community”. “This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic. <...> This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.” (Constitution of the Second Vatican Council Lumen Gentium)
According to Dudchenko’s teaching, those who are in schism can easily remain in it, not at all doubting their choice. Searching for the truth and listening to the voice of the Church is not necessary at all.
Discussing the 2016 Crete Council, which never became pan-Orthodox because the four Churches did not appear at all, Dudchenko wrote: “The main novelty of the Council is the condemnation of fundamentalism, including Orthodox.” This is what the modernist is dreaming of – the complete destruction of the Orthodox tradition, including the theological one!
Dudchenko’s texts make one recall the words of the famous contemporary apologist, priest Georgy Maximov: “The general vagueness and uncertainty of ecclesiology in the minds of many Orthodox people leads to an insensibility to the whole gravity of the sin of schism, to a failure to understand that this is spiritual death and enmity toward God and that schismatics are no less alien to the Church than heretics."
Archpriest Georgy Kovalenko, a former cleric of the UOC, now a "priest" of the OCU. In the past, he held high posts in the Church. An educated interesting person in the past until he got carried away with nationalistic and autocephalous ideas. The fact that he began to write and speak from the beginning of the 2010s is generally difficult to classify and define. It seems that this is the very “Ukrainian theology” that Kovalenko is trying to create in his ecumenical institution, “The Open Orthodox University of Hagia Sophia-Wisdom”.
So, in 2013, on the eve of the LGBT pride parade, Kovalenko said that, in his opinion, homosexuality is "called" a perversion “as yet”.
The priest regularly appeared on the Maidan, spoke there and in his speeches and publications of that time actively supported the “revolution of dignity”.
In 2015, he published “The Ten Commandments of a Ukrainian” – a blasphemous distortion of the Decalogue. For example, in the second “commandment”, Kovalenko proposed the following thesis: “A Ukrainian believes in God and in God-given Ukraine. A Ukrainian remains Ukrainian even when he/she is outside Ukraine and thanks God for everything.” It turns out that one must believe not only in God but also in Ukraine ... It turns out that only a Ukrainian remains Ukrainian when he/she leaves Ukraine. This certainly does not apply to a Mexican or an Italian. What an amazing insight!
Kovalenko is known as a lobbyist for Catholic projects. For example, he is the author of a petition declaring Catholic Christmas a public holiday on December 25th. On March 7, 2016, on the RISU website and a few hours later the official site of the UGCC, the news “Orthodox Christians of the world” was published: “It is time to recognize the terrible truth about the Lvov pseudo-Council of 1946.” One of the signatories to the document was our odious archpriest. One of the phrases of the appeal reads: “We bow our heads before the martyrs of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church ...”
Recently, Kovalenko has called the UGCC and the OCU “native sisters, who have common roots in the Kiev Church of Vladimir, can understand each other and find many areas for cooperation”.
Together with representatives of the UOC-KP and the UGCC, he signed a statement stating that the position of the UOC does not correspond to the Gospel and historical truth. The authors of the statement “stated with regret” that “neither the Russian Orthodox Church nor the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has so far recognized their complicity in the tragic events of the 20th century in banning and attempting to liquidate the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, as well as in other crimes of the atheistic totalitarian Soviet regime against freedom of conscience and human dignity”.
“A Ukrainian believes in God and in God-given Ukraine. A Ukrainian remains Ukrainian even when he/she is outside Ukraine and thanks God for everything.”
Archpriest Georgy Kovalenko
Fr. Georgy opened his “Open Orthodox University of Hagia Sophia-Wisdom” with the help and participation of the Uniates.
In 2017, the programme “Secrets of the Code of Faith: Christians or Heathens” was broadcast on the “1 + 1” TV channel with Fr. Georgy Kovalenko as the host. The archpriest in front of the cameras ostentatiously took off the priestly vestments and left the church, commenting on his symbolic deed by the fact that he had not found the truth in the Church and was leaving to look for it in the world. The priest continued the search for truth in conversations with magicians, homosexuals, sectarians, and suggested searching for it even in paganism.
On TSN broadcast on July 26, 2018, Kovalenko stated that there is no love and respect for each other in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church today.
In 2018, he encouraged believers to celebrate Halloween and call the Day of All NON-Saints. In July 2019, he said that the Holy Saints Peter and Fevronia of Murom could not be considered the patrons of the family, and the Ukrainians should not honour them as such.
The theological and philosophical ideas of Fr. George led him to the OCU. Well, this result is logical because nationalism inevitably narrows thinking to a small-town level and leads an ecclesiastic thinker into “his” national “Church”. This path is inevitably connected with the aberration of moral feeling – after all, the national idea absorbs everything living and humanly normal.
Homosexuals are good for Kovalenko; the UGCC is a sister; the canons of the Church are cancelled; Halloween is a good holiday; seizures of UOC temples are ignored; there is no examples of love in the entire UOC ... What can I say? Kovalenko ended up where he had been going all his life – next to Filaret Denisenko, Epiphany Dumenko, Eustratiy Zoria, etc. He exemplifies a person moving into a schism through the fascination with nationalistic and ecumenist ideas.
* * *
“Avoid the wicked advice of people who are evil and have fallen from the Church, for truly such people are snakes. Being enemies and wolves, under the guise of friends and in sheep's clothing, these howling wolves look for food and, when they find a defenseless sheep, grab it and tear it up. This is how these crafty people and false teachers act, pretending to be pious and outwardly clothed in the image of poverty, darkened in their thoughts inside, who are pleasure lovers, chrysophilists, conceited, proud, loving skirmishes and fame, vindictive and completely insane.”
These words of the great fighter against schisms, an ascetic of the XIII-XIV centuries, St. Theolipt, Metropolitan of Philadelphia, are recalled now, in a conversation about our renegades. Once they listened to those whom they shouldn’t have listened to. Now they themselves poison those who listen to them with their intoxicating ideas. And you need to understand where such public figures as Drabinko, Dudchenko, Kovalenko and others of their ilk lead.
What should be done to prevent the same from happening to us as it happened to the former clergy of the UOC? There is only one answer – to trust the Church. To believe that the wisdom of the Church has been tested by time, and it is not of this world. Hold fast to the Church, remembering that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16, 18). Trust the head of the UOC, His Beatitude Onuphry, who today has become a figure that has united the canonical Orthodox around him. Remember: God will not leave his people. We must only be those what we should be.
We will think about schism as St. Theolipt taught: “The Scripture says that those who crucified tore apart the robes of Christ and lots were thrown about His clothes. A schismatic, however, not only divides the right thinking of the faithful, preserving the unity and consensus of the Church but also divides the various assemblies, splitting and severing the united Church; he replaces the name of Christ with human names.”
Regarding the schismatics themselves, our attitude does not change. We regret their breaking away and look forward to their return. And we hope for a miracle because we believe in God who works miracles. Everything is possible for God.
I would like to end with the words of the same St. Theolipt, who put his whole life in the struggle against church schisms. This is an appeal to contemporary schismatics. Words sound up-to-date and are quite suitable for our current situation. Vladyka Simeon, Vladyka Alexander, Father Andrei, Father Georgy! I am writing “Vladyka” and “Father” because the Church has not deposed you yet. Hear us! And feel our sincere participation in your fate and in the fate of those who follow you. We are waiting for you. And we pray to God for your return.
“As your brothers, we mourn your separation from the Church ... We desire your return before the deadly gangrene spreads in you. The choice between life and death is given to you. Now there are no circumstances independent of you that impede your will to health ... As long as the scales of change are in your hands, reveal your disposition to the reviving Church. Do not stay, son, in disagreement with your Mother, scolding her and snatching her children through destructive verbs so that the last day would not find you in the defamation of the shrine and in the breaking of church unity.”