Posts Tagged “orthodox church”

The Sretensky Monastery the oldest Orthodox monastery in the center of Moscow Photo: ALAMY, via TelegraphFor a country which once had — ostensibly — been fiercely atheistic, Russia has veered back toward a kind of puritanical religionism … not unlike what we’re experiencing right here in the good old US of A. Earlier this year, for example, the Russian criminal-justice system came down hard on the punk band Pussy Riot, because they’d dared hold a political protest in front of a cathedral in Moscow. Three members of the band were convicted of “hooliganism,” aka blasphemy, for having insulted the Russian Orthodox Church. Well, as the (UK) Telegraph reports, that Church appears not to be anywhere near as morally-pure as it claims to be (WebCite cached article):

Two women were arrested on suspicion of prostitution after seven rooms were found in a building close to Sretensky Monastery where sexual services were offered from 1,750 roubles (£35) per hour.

Father Tikhon, the abbot of the monastery, is said to be a religious counsellor to Mr Putin, who is a confirmed Russian Orthodox believer.

There were conflicting reports over the ownership of the brothel, found in one of a chain of mini-hotels called Podushkin.

Life News, a popular muckraking website with close ties to the police and security services, said the building where the brothel was located on Rozhdestvensky Boulevard had been rented out by the monastery.

Naturally the monks of this monastery deny that they had anything to do with this brothel. As if I’m stupid enough to believe that … !

This is not the only problem the R.O. Church has faced recently. The Telegraph points out:

Critics of the church say its moral posturing is eroded by the behaviour of senior clerics. [Head of the Church] Patriarch Kirill was pilloried in April for wearing a £20,000 Breguet watch and a priest in Moscow came under scrutiny in August after crashing a BMW Z4 roadster with Maltese license plates [cached].

This is ironic, considering Kirill acted as cheerleader for the prosecution of the Pussy Riot. Can you say “hypocrite”? Moreover, the idea that Vlad Putin — once a KGB agent and head of its post-Soviet successor agency — could have a “spiritual advisor” is astonishing, to say the least. What, exactly, does the “spiritual advisor” to a KGB agent and virtual dictator do? Lead him through prayer and meditation after he orders an assassination?

Photo credit: ALAMY, via Telegraph.

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His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim (Mentzelopoulos) of PiraeusI blogged several times on the Catholic bishop Richard Williamson, who was readmitted to the Roman Catholic world some time ago without anyone in the Vatican realizing that he was an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Or perhaps they knew, but just didn’t care, because they were eager to get all of the formerly-schismatic Society of St Pius X back. At any rate, anti-Semitism among Christians is hardly just a Catholic problem. Recently a Greek Orthodox bishop made his anti-Semitism public, during a television interview. The New York Times Lede blog reports on his remarks (WebCite cached article):

Leaders of Greece’s small Jewish community objected on Wednesday to televised remarks by a Greek Orthodox bishop who blamed the country’s financial problems on a conspiracy of Jewish bankers and claimed that the Holocaust was orchestrated by Zionists.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece complained to church authorities about the anti-Semitic remarks made by the Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus during an interview on Greek television on Monday, according to a statement (in Greek) on the group’s Web site.*

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported [cached] that the bishop “said that there is a conspiracy to enslave Greece and Christian Orthodoxy. He also accused international Zionism of trying to destroy the family unit by promoting one-parent families and same-sex marriages.”

According to the news agency, when the bishop was then asked, “Why do you disagree with Hitler’s policies? If they are doing all this, wasn’t he right in burning them?” he replied: “Adolf Hitler was an instrument of world Zionism and was financed from the renowned Rothschild family with the sole purpose of convincing the Jews to leave the shores of Europe and go to Israel to establish the new Empire.” He added that Jewish bankers like “Rockefeller, Rothschild and Soros control the international banking system that controls globalization.”

Video of the Metropolitan’s interview is available (in Greek) from the Mega TV Web site.

The idea that Hitler was himself a Jew, is not really unique to the Metropolitan Seraphim. Others have said something close to it, before … and I assume they will again. I’m not sure how much sense it makes, though; if one is contriving to grant a boon to a group of people, massacring them by the million is hardly the way to accomplish that.

Of course, the Metropolitan Seraphim has since “apologized” for his comments, and tried to “clarify” them, as the Lede blog subsequently reported (cached):

A Greek Orthodox bishop who was criticized by Jewish groups, the Greek government and some coreligionists for blaming Greece’s financial problems on a conspiracy of Jewish bankers and claiming that the Holocaust was orchestrated by Zionists issued a statement on Thursday in which he denied that he was anti-Semitic but also equated Zionism to “Satanism.”

His non-apology apology is basically a protest that he loves the Jewish people, it’s just Zionism specifically that he objects to. This too is a variant on an old dodge that anti-Semites frequently use. In the Metropolitan’s case, though, it fails … because many of his initial complaints were about “Jews,” and “Jewish bankers,” not about “Zionists.” His claim that Zionism is Satanism is, likewise, his own variation on a common theme among Christian anti-Semites; they consider it a profane and anti-Christian movement, an attempt to control or subvert Christianity. (It was the aforementioned Bishop Williamson who revealed the reason why so many Christians are anti-Semitic, as I blogged some time ago.)

The only thing missing from Seraphim’s otherwise-typical non-apology apology is the claim that some of his best friends are Jewish. (If that had been included, I would not for one moment believe it to be true.)

At any rate, the idea that Jews are somehow the tools of Satan, working with him against Christians and God’s righteous Church, is a complaint that goes back almost to the very beginning of Christianity. That it persists even now, in light of the horrors of World War II and the Third Reich — not to mention their willing accomplices in territories they occupied — shows how very hard it will be for Christianity to purge itself of the poison of anti-Semitism that runs in its metaphorical veins. Some Christians have disavowed the Metropolitan and his anti-Semitic comments, to be sure, but I’ll be interested in what his defenders may say, and how they say it. My guess is that they will adopt the same sort of tactic he did … i.e. to say that he was misunderstood, or “taken out of context,” or that it’s just Zionism he dislikes and not Jews as a whole, etc.

Photo credit: Orthodoxwiki.

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His Eminence Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) is the Archbishop of Ottawa and the spiritual head of the Archdiocese of Canada, Orthodox Church in America.Note: There’s been an update on this case; see below.

Child abuse at the hands of clergy does not occur solely within the Roman Catholic Church. Protestant evangelical “bishop” Eddie Long was recently accused of having abused teens, as I blogged, and it cropped up also among Hasidic Jews in New York City (WebCite cached article). It seems to happen all too often, and in just about every religion.

The Globe and Mail of Canada chimes in with latest example of this phenomenon, within the Orthodox Church of the Great White North (cached article):

One of Canada’s highest-ranking orthodox officials is being investigated by police and his own church for allegations of sexual misconduct more than two decades ago.

Victims advocates say the allegations against Archbishop Seraphim Storheim relate to his time as rector of a Winnipeg church and concern two young boys.

The 64-year-old archbishop, who leads the Archdiocese of Canada in the Orthodox Church in America, took a three-month leave of absence from his duties, effective Oct. 1.

This is a new report, but of old allegations. One wonders why the Orthodox Church in America hadn’t dealt with it long ago. But then, denials and cover-ups spanning decades have been a feature of this scandal within the Catholic Church, so one can hardly expect anything else here.

Officials imply this had been known for a while, even if they didn’t say so explicitly:

Reached by The Globe and Mail Tuesday evening, the church’s Chancellor, Father Alexander Garklavs, declined to give any further details of the exact allegations against the archbishop, but confirmed the church was conducting its own investigation alongside the one being carried out by Canadian police.

He declined to say exactly when the church became aware of the allegations, but suggested it had known about them before police became involved.

“There were some reports,” he said. “But I can’t say much more than that.”

It’s sad that Storheim was left in a position of such prominence in spite of long-known child-abuse allegations.

Photo credit: OCA Archdiocese of Canada (cached).

Update: The Winnipeg Free Press reports that Storheim has been convicted of abusing one boy (cached).

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For the last several years, Roman Catholic bishops in the US have pretty much taken marching orders from the Religious Right, which ironically is mostly Protestant evangelical and fundamentalist in nature. At least, that’s what I’ve been saying. And people have occasionally called me a fool for doing so. “The Protestants and Catholics hate each other!” I’ve been told. “The Protestants tried to derail John F. Kennedy’s campaign, claiming his election would put the Pope in the White House!”

It is true that Protestants and Catholics have been at odds since the Reformation, and even fought each other in Ireland through much of the 20th century. That the Catholic Church and the various Protestant sects are rivals, is incontrovertible.

Nevertheless, I have never doubted that the mostly-Protestant Religious Right and the Catholic bishops have been allied at least since the late 1990s — and finally some proof of this alliance has emerged. The New York Times reports on this now-overt alliance:

Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues

Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.

“We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” it says.

The manifesto, to be released on Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America. …

The document says, “We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other antilife act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent.”

Of course, they’re tilting at windmills, because no one is currently talking about forcing any church or sect to marry gays if they don’t believe in allowing it. (In my home state of Connecticut, where gay marriage is allowed, the state Supreme Court stated clearly that this was not Constitutionally permissible.) There are also no efforts underway, and none even on the horizon, which would force (say) Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. There is also no plan to force euthanasia on anyone — anywhere — whether it be in a religious hospital or any other setting.

This document, then, and the alliance it enshrines, is based on a delusion.

That’s right, a delusion. Pure and simple.

At any rate, I’m not happy to report that my presumed alliance between the Catholic bishops and the Protestants of the Religious Right — along with the Orthodox Church, to boot — has finally been confirmed … but it is.

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