Betrayal makes man ugly: theses from interview with ex-metropolitan Simeon

20 January 2021 23:18
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"Hierarch" of the OCU Simeon (Shostatsky) expresses theses with which it is difficult to agree. Photo: UOJ

Ex-Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky), following Alexander (Drabinko), expressed a number of non-trivial theses. Let's zoom in and analyze them.

On January 15, 2021, former Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky) of Vinnytsia and Bar gave an extended interview to the RISU news agency, in which he spoke frankly about many things. The former Metropolitan's answers to our correspondent's questions evoke a feeling of sincere regret. A person who once committed treason, who stepped on the wrong path, is forced to continue to twist, justify himself and utter falsehoods. The farther, the more – because there is no stopping along the way. There is only a way back. This way is called repentance.

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Simeon (Shostatsky) during an interview. Photo: RISU

To begin with, let us explain why the transition of former Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky) is an actual betrayal:

First, he left the Church in which he was ordained as a priest and a bishop, in which he was tonsured as a monk, in which he served as a hierarch. He left the Church, against the unanimous opinion of both the episcopate and the overwhelming majority of the clergy of his own diocese. He left the Church, which had stood in Faith and Truth, and which continues to do so. He left for the structure that from the very beginning, according to its founders, positioned itself not as the Church of Christ, but as a "pillar of Ukrainian statehood”.

Secondly, he left the Church at the very moment when a violent persecution was launched against it. The Verkhovna Rada passed anti-church laws, law enforcement agencies summoned priests and bishops for "conversations" and instituted criminal cases against them, nationalists took over temples, and the media poured tons of dirt on the Church.

Thirdly, he deceived everyone and, above all, the priests of his diocese. On November 20, 2018, he held a meeting of the Diocesan Council of the Vinnitsa Diocese, where it was decided that "the entire fullness of the Vinnitsa Diocese" would implement the decision of the Council of Bishops dated November 13, 2018, which contains the refusal of the UOC to participate in the so-called "Unification Council" on 15.12.2018, at which the OCU was created. According to the testimony of the clerics of the Vinnitsa diocese, he said bluntly he was not going to the "Council" on December 15.

One can read more about this betrayal story in the article "On Renegation of the Two Metropolitans”. As a matter of fact, in this interview, former Metropolitan Simeon owns up to the fact that he had decided to go to the "Unification Council" and made preparations for this in secret.

Correspondent: "Were you free to participate in this run-up process (for the "Unification Council" – editor's note)? Or did you do it in secret?"

Simeon (Shostatsky): "To tell the truth, it was done in secrecy.”

Now let's approach the main theses of former Metropolitan Simeon.

Thesis 1: Conscience … prevented me from turning to the path of betrayal 

Shostatsky said he had already promised the "exarchs" of the Constantinople Patriarchate to attend the "Unification Council" and had received the so-called "letter of protection" from Patriarch Bartholomew and could not let his new patrons down:

Simeon (Shostatsky): "Speaking of the point of reference, my conscience would not allow me to turn back. How so? I wrote to the patriarch, I constantly advocated autocephaly both in Moscow and in Kyiv ... Even on the last night, when we received these letters ("letters of protection" – Ed.), we could still refuse. But the Exarchs, who gave us the letters, hoped that we would go. And how would that have been? You are going until the last moment, and then just like that, you decide you are no longer going. <...> That's not nice. My conscience did not allow me to do this not to let down those who had my word.”

First, it turns out that former Metropolitan Simeon promised Patriarch Bartholomew, his "exarchs" and probably Poroshenko that he would come to the "Unification Council" and his conscience did not allow him to do otherwise.

But was it really his conscience? Let us recall that Theophanes the Recluse called conscience "the watchman who God gave his Truth."

And how could this God-given watchman allow Simeon to deceive both His Beatitude Onuphry and all of the UOC hierarchs, the clergy of his diocese, and his flock? After all, Shostatsky directly and indirectly stated that he would opt out of the "unification council". "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do" (James 1:8), the holy Apostle James wrote.

Secondly, what is the best thing to do for a man who has already promised to do wrong? Break the promise or meet the hopes of those whom he promised? Isn't this situation reminiscent of the Gospel story of the beheading of John the Baptist, when Herod promised to do whatever Herodias' daughter asked him to do and then didn't want to disappoint his drinking buddies? Blessed Theophylact of Bulgaria writes on this subject: "Let us learn from this that it is better to transgress an oath than to do anything ungodly by reason of the oath.

Thesis 2: The entire Orthodox world considered the schismatics as schismatics

Simeon (Shostatsky): "Regarding the fact that we used to call them (UOC-KP and UAOC – Ed.) schismatics, it sounded so not only from our side, but also from the whole Orthodox world <...> honestly, when I learned that the Exarchs would come, I thought there would be re-ordinations behind closed doors. But, guided by oikonomia, referring to past practices in the life of the Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch recognized the legitimacy of ordinations and admitted everyone to full dignity."

First, the former metropolitan confirms that all of the Local Churches considered the UOC-KP and UAOC to be grace-empty schismatics. Hence the question arises: on what grounds did they become "grace-filled", all the more retroactively? If the patriarch of Constantinople decided to violate the canons of the Church to pander to officials from the U.S. State Department, does this give rise to Grace? Especially when it was done in hindsight? As regards references to dubious cases that have ever occurred in the church practice, their groundlessness is analyzed in detail in the Commentary of the Secretariat of the Synodal Biblical Theological Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church "On the invalidity of ordinations of Ukrainian schismatics and the non-canonicality of the ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’.”

The former metropolitan confirms that all of the Local Churches considered the UOC-KP and the UAOC to be graceless schismatics. Hence the question arises: on what grounds did they become "gracefull", all the more retroactively?

Second, with a few exceptions, "the whole Orthodox world" still considers the schismatics to be schismatics. And even those who, perhaps, would like to please the patriarch of Constantinople, cannot get a coherent answer to the question: where does "grace" come from for the people once excommunicated from the Church? As for the allusions, mentioned by Simeon (Shostatsky), they have no effect on serious theologians.

Third, the former metropolitan himself frankly confessed that he sincerely believed that Phanariotes would not go so far as to lawlessly recognize men in cassocks as "bishops", but that they would first "re-ordain" them. So there is another question – if you were counting on your future "colleagues" to be "re-ordained" (and to put it bluntly – simply ordained, because one cannot take ordinations, performed by the excommunicated Filaret, seriously), then how could you enter with these people into one "Church" when it became clear there would be no ordination?!

How was it possible to enter the same "Church" with these people when it became clear that there would be no ordination?!

Fourth, the argument that the "hierarchs" of the UOC-KP and UAOC, having united in the OCU, suddenly ceased to be schismatic, is extremely naive and based on ... "infallibility" of Greeks: "I did not think that by participating in the council I’m falling into schism... It is not just me and Vladika Alexander, Vladika Filaret with his UOC-KP and representatives of the UAOC, who gathered and decided something. It was the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch. I was and remain convinced that everything happened according to the canonical order. No one knows canon law as well as the Greeks. The archives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople still have all the collections of canons and the originals and copies of decisions when they were made. And the new decisions of the Constantinople Patriarchate also have a historical and canonical basis."

It’s hard to believe that this is said by a recent bishop of the Church, and not a layman who thinks in the paradigm of "if they say it on TV, then it is true," as if there is not even any need to make judgements. It turns out that the Greeks are some kind of a superior race, whose knowledge of the church canons is encoded at the genetic level? And the archives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople guarantee the infallibility of absolutely any of its views and decisions?!

It turns out that the Greeks are some kind of superior race, whose knowledge of the church canons is encoded at the genetic level? And the archives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople guarantee the infallibility of absolutely any of its views and decisions?!

Thesis 3: The bishops of the UOC are graceful but not canonical bishops of the Constantinople Patriarchate

The very sounding of this thesis looks absurd, but nevertheless Simeon (Shostatsky) claims exactly this: "According to the documents it turns out that we are the Church to which Constantinople gave autocephaly, and they (UOC bishops – Ed.), in fact, are bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who did not listen to their Primate, and thus, according to the document of October 11, 2018, they are archbishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while we are the autocephalous Church. Now we can say that both they and we are 'graceful,' but we are canonical and they are not."

Exactly, that "...according to the documents ..." but not in reality! The fact that the Phanariots "annulled" a 330-year-old decision to transfer the Metropolitanate of Kyiv to the jurisdiction of the Russian Church does not mean that the UOC plentitude suddenly became part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople against its will. It only means that Phanar not only fails to respect the canons of the Church, but also challenges elementary common sense.

The Kyiv Metropolitanate of 1686 occupied only a third of the current canonical territory of the UOC and extended to Belorussia and the Baltic States. In the 17th century, after the period of Ukrainian history that is called "Ruina," the Kyiv Metropolitanate was a lamentable spectacle. Constantinople couldn't care less about it. Moreover, it made no claims for more than three hundred years until it suddenly "saw the light" after talks with American diplomats and decided to take over the UOC in its current status “with all amenities”. And the fact that the episcopate of the UOC refused to participate in this Phanariote comedy is quite logical and correct.

Thesis 4: "I said to Onuphry – let's go to Poroshenko and you will become the Patriarch of all Ukrainians."

Simeon (Shostatsky) recalls an unfulfilled meeting between Poroshenko and the UOC bishops that was supposed to take place on November 13, 2018: "I told him then, ‘Your Beatitude, let’s all go to the meeting with the President, let’s all go to the Council – and you’ll become Patriarch of all Orthodox Ukrainians in a single united Church.’"

It has been said many times that if Metropolitan Onuphry thought in such categories as Shostatsky, Drabinko, Dumenko and others, he would have acted exactly in that way: he would have gathered all the bishops of the UOC, brought them to the "unification council" and would have been guaranteed to become the head of the new "Church”. In doing so, he would have earned "love and affection" of the Ukrainian authorities, the U.S. State Department, and the Church of Constantinople. But His Beatitude thinks differently. And Orthodox people see it, understand it and appreciate it. Here are a few comments on the UOJ relevant news feed.

Konstantin Zadorozhko: "Yet, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry chose to stay with God. Axios!!!"

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Commentary screenshot on UOJ

Dmitry: "To each their own: one has the kingdom of heaven and eternal glory, the other – patriarchy and friendship with Poroshenko. He has fallen into the pattern of Filaret Denisenko, who also wanted badly to become a patriarch."

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Commentary screenshot on UOJ

Alexander: "That's exactly why we respect His Beatitude Onuphry!!! All Orthodox people, I hope! After all, if Metropolitan Onuphry acted like you, former metropolitans, that is indiscreetly violating the canons and embracing the heresy of Constantinople, how could we respect him??? "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!" (Galatians 1:8).

Can we say it more accurately than these people? Hardly.

Thesis 5: The clergy of Vinnitsa diocese forsook Simeon as the disciples forsook Christ

When asked why the clergy of the Vinnitsa diocese did not follow Simeon down the path of betrayal, he compared himself ... to Christ.

Simeon (Shostatsky): "When Christ spoke of His future suffering – a lot of people who had followed and listened to Him before left Him. And so it was the same story here. There were people who would come and talk to me today but back away tomorrow.”

If a person identifies himself with Christ, what does that say? Even St. John the Baptist, of whom the Savior said, "Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11), responded to such words as follows, "After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie" (Mk 1:7).

Is the current "hierarch" of the OCU higher than the first among the prophets?

Again, Simeon (Shostatsky) testifies against himself. Christ was forsaken when He was going to Golgotha. And where was Simeon going? About betrayal – see above.

Christ was forsaken when He was going to Golgotha. Where was Simeon going?

Thesis 6: UOC priests do not join the OCU because they are hampered by parishioners, while parishioners do not join the OCU because they are hampered by priests

Yes, this is a kind of absurdity which former Metropolitan Simeon voiced without the slightest embarrassment.

In one place he says, "People are divided in their opinions, and the priests at the parishes saw that not everyone supports the transition to the new Church. Those who did not support it are primarily those who were constantly listening to the priest and his homilies. And who are these? The clergy <...> You know, if the kliros doesn't come, the priest himself won't sing the Liturgy."

Consequently, the priests, according to Shostatsky, allegedly want to move to the OCU, but the parishioners and especially the kliros prevent them to.

But in another place, Simeon asserts the opposite, "Today there are parishes that want to pass to the OCU, but they don't want to sue. The whole problem is that priests won't pass to the OCU. And if the priests are not coming, then the kliros is not coming either as well as those who have the founding documents of the parish. That is why we have such a problem."

Of course, it is very hard to believe someone who speaks mutually exclusive theses. For example, how can there be a situation where a priest in his desire to fall into schism is not supported by "those who constantly listen to his words"? Does it turn out that such priests, in the beginning, said one thing and then another? Furthermore, were their sermons against the schism so convincing that parishioners and the clergy would never want to listen to anything else?

Thesis 7: The UOC sends "titushkas"

Simeon (Shostatsky): "My opponents accuse me, in particular Bishop Varsonofy (the Metropolitan of Vinnytsia and Bar of the UOC – Ed.) ranting everywhere that it is me who organizes everything – sends people, sends priests, sends the so-called "titushkas," etc. Only he "forgets" that everything is organized from their side, not mine. We don't have that. We keep saying: let the parish itself, those who live in the village – not even those who live, but only the Orthodox, decide."

The point is that most Orthodox worshipers almost always decide to remain in the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Onuphry. Of the 12,500 parishes of the UOC, only 84 voluntarily left for the OCU. And the question of who organizes "titushkas" is solved simply: the UOC does not seize churches, while the OCU supporters do it on a regular basis, using violence and threats. And even Metropolitan Varsonofy was once personally attacked during a prayer service. There is not a single instance of UOC believers seizing someone else's property or threatening anyone. On the contrary, they forgive their abusers, give up their temple and church property, and go to private homes or other premises to pray.

Thesis 8: Millions of Ukrainians joined the "Church of Christ" because Simeon (Shostatsky) and Alexander (Drabinko) came to the "Unification Council"

Simeon (Shostatsky): "They say to me, 'You have chosen your own road to ruin,' and I say, 'It is you who think so from your side that this is my road to ruin. And why don't you think about the fact that because Bishop Alexander and I participated in the Council at which the Local Orthodox Church was formed, millions of Ukrainians who were outside the Church joined the Church of Christ."

Here is a new word in Orthodox ecclesiology and moral teaching. For 2,000 years, those who have apostatized from the Church reunited with Her through repentance. Schism is a sin that places one outside the Church. Until now, the Orthodox doctrine on how to reunite with the Church has suggested only one way – repentance. But all of a sudden it turns out that millions of Ukrainians "joined" the OCU because two former metropolitans came to the "unification council”. Ridiculous, of course, but to claim that one can join the Church by a decree of the Synod of Constantinople looks even more ridiculous.

Epilogue

The Church lives by the Commandments of Christ, and there is no other way of salvation than the one prescribed by the Lord. "From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’" (Matthew 4:17). Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was up to no good in Ukraine, but Simeon (Shostatsky), unfortunately, backed this evil deed. This being evil is reiterated in the Scripture: "...by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20). What are the fruits of Phanar's activities? Seizures of temples, violence, enmity, hatred, division... In the same way, there is discord and division in the Local Churches, which have recognized the OCU. To make matters worse, unification of Phanar with the Vatican is looming on the horizon, about which their heads speak more frequently and more confidently.

Ex-Metropolitan Simeon recalls that he is still considered a bishop in the UOC and takes offense when the press calls him Vladimir Ivanovich: "I was not defrocked, they did not lift my monasticism off me, and therefore I should be called by my monastic name. They only "banned me from priesthood" but they did not defrock me. Therefore, even from the point of view of the ROC, I am a bishop, only "banned from priesthood".

And although in his subsequent narration he keeps his face bold saying that he doesn’t care about any decisions of the UOC regarding his canonical status, one senses that in reality this is not the case.

Simeon recalls that at one time he consulted with Metropolitan Onuphry about banning some clerics of the Vinnytsia diocese and emphasizes that His Beatitude has always been against such decisions: "He said no. ‘Only ban from priesthood – and that's it. Don't defrock him.’ That was the case with Vladyka Alexander Drabinko. There were many who for a while persuaded His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry to defrock Vladyka Alexander, both before and after his transfer to the OCU. But he always nixed it."

And this is true. The core of all of Metropolitan Onuphry's words and decisions is fatherly love. This love also extends to those who have stumbled. Ex-Metropolitan Simeon is precisely the one who stumbled. Isn't it time for him to remember about repentance and return to his father's home from the slippery slope of unrighteousness?

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