by Vladimir Moss
On July 16/29, 1927, the deputy of the locum tenens of Russian patriarchal throne, Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), issued his infamous “Declaration”, in which he more or less unconditionally placed the Russian Church in submission to the God-hating atheists, declaring the joys of the Soviet state to be the Church’s joys and the State’s sorrows – the Church’s sorrows. This act was evaluated from several points of view by the confessors of the faith. Some defined it as apostasy in time of persecution (Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky); Hieromartyr Archbishop Victor of Glazov); others – as a canonical transgression or usurpation of the rights of the canonical first hierarch (Hieromartyr Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan); others – as schism (Hieromartyr Bishop Alexis of Voronezh); still others – as ecclesiological heresy (Hieromartyr Archbishops Demetrius of Gdov and Nicholas of Suzdal).
All of these definitions are correct, and lead in the end to a common judgement with regard to the status of that extra-ecclesiastical body known today as the “Moscow Patriarchate”. Nevertheless, since there are some who refuse to accept that the Moscow Patriarchate is outside the Church unless it can be shown to have committed precisely heresy, it may be useful to consider the question of the heretical nature of the patriarchate from two points of view: (A) the historical development of Sergianism, and (B) the definition of heresy, and how such a definition applies to the Sergianists of the Moscow Patriarchate.
A. The Historical Development of Sergianism. Sergianism is similar to its sister-heresy of Ecumenism in that it has undergone a certain evolution in time. Let us briefly examine the several phases it has passed through since 1927:-
1. From the “Declaration” to Sergius’ “Enthronement” as “Patriarch” (1927-43).
This first stage in the development of Sergianism is characterized by its less than complete character qua schism. For for the first ten years, both the True Orthodox and the Sergianists recognized the leadership of Metropolitan Peter, the patriarchal locum tenens, and remained formally in communion with him. The betrayal contained in the “Declaration” of 1927 was plain for everyone with eyes to see; but formally speaking Metropolitan Sergius remained the deputy of the leader of the Russian Church, and had neither been removed by Metropolitan Peter nor could be removed as long as Metropolitan Peter remained out of reach and in exile beyond the Arctic Circle.
Did the Sergianist hierarchs have any excuse in the period 1927-37? In a letter dated 1934, Metropolitan Cyril wrote that the Sergianists could have an excuse only if they were truly, unwittingly ignorant of the reality of Sergianism. He wrote that while the Sergianist priests administered valid sacraments, Christians who partook of them knowing of Sergius’ usurpation of power and the illegality of his Synod would receive them to their condemnation.
Now real ignorance is accepted as an excuse in the Gospel (Luke 23.24; John 9.41; I Timothy 1.13). However, it must be real, not wilful ignorance, not a lack of love for the truth or a deliberate attempt to hide the truth from oneself. Even real ignorance is not entirely without blame or punishment (Luke 12.48); for if wisdom is given liberally to all who ask (James 1.5), then a lack of wisdom denotes a certain imperfection as a Christian, if only a lack of fervency or faith in prayer.
It is obvious that an old woman in the provinces knowing little about Church affairs is in a quite different position from a hierarch in the capital who is in a position to know everything that is relevant. And it is quite plausible that the Lord may delay His judgement on the erring shepherds so as to give the sheep time to discern and act. From this perspective, the ten years from the “Declaration” of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927 to the death of Metropolitan Peter in 1937, ten years in which the Sergianist hierarchs could still claim a certain, albeit tenuous relationship with the canonical leader of the Russian Church, can be seen as the time given by the Lord to the Sergianist flock to discern the change in spirit of their supposed shepherds, as well as the appalling fruits of Sergius’ “wisdom”. This is the “space” of which the Lord says in Revelation: “I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not” (3.21). But at the end of that space there is only one path of salvation: “Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues..” (Revelation 18.4). Blind leaders are clearly more responsible than their blind followers; but they both, according to the Lord’s word, eventually fall into the pit (Matthew 15.14).
In this connection the following, recently published letter of Metropolitan Cyril dated March, 1937 is particularly relevant: “With regard to your perplexities concerning Sergianism, I can say that the very same questions in almost the same form were addressed to me from Kazan ten years ago, and then I replied affirmatively to them, because I considered everything that Metropolitan Sergius had done as a mistake which he himself was conscious of and wished to correct. Moreover, among our ordinary flock there were many people who had not investigated what had happened, and it was impossible to demand from them a decisive and active condemnation of the events. Since then much water has flowed under the bridge. The expectations that Metropolitan Sergius would correct himself have not been justified, but there has been enough time for the formerly ignorant members of the Church, enough incentive and enough opportunity to investigate what has happened; and very many have both investigated and understood that Metropolitan Sergius is departing from that Orthodox Church which the Holy Patriarch Tikhon entrusted to us to guard, and consequently there can be no part or lot with him for the Orthodox. The recent events have finally made clear the renovationist nature of Sergianism. We cannot know whether those believers who remain in Sergianism will be saved, because the work of eternal Salvation is a work of the mercy and grace of God. But for those who see and feel the unrighteousness of Sergianism (those are your questions) it would be unforgiveable craftiness to close one’s eyes to this unrighteousness and seek there for the satisfaction of one’s spiritual needs when one’s conscience doubts in the possibility of receiving such satisfaction. Everything which is not of faith is sin”
This is an important document, for it shows that by 1937 Metropolitan Cyril considered that enough time had passed for the ordinary believer to come to a correct conclusion concerning the true, “renovationist” – that is, heretical – nature of Sergianism. So from 1937, in Metropolitan Cyril’s opinion, “the excuse of ignorance” was no longer valid
From 1937, therefore, the Sergianist Moscow Patriarchate entered a kind of limbo. Its last link with the True Church was severed with the martyrdom of Metropolitan Peter in October of that year. However, the last well-known leaders of the Church beside Metropolitan Peter, Metropolitans Cyril and Joseph, died very shortly after him, in November; so that the Russian Church now had no recognized leadership which could pronounce an authoritative judgement on the Sergianists…
Another important factor when considering the status of the Sergianists in this period is the degree of their acceptance of the Soviet regime. The question here is: Did they stay with Sergius for the sake, as they sincerely but mistakenly thought, of the unity of the Church, and not “out of fear of the Jews” or any other unworthy motive? Or did they remain with Sergius because they sincerely agreed with his general Church policy, and in particular with his policy of submission to the Soviets?
Confusion is sometimes created at this point by the fact that both the Sergianists and some Catacomb hierarchs claimed to be loyal to Soviet power. So the argument seems at times to be over nothing more important than church administration and the relative privileges of different bishops. But this is not so.
Since 1923, admittedly, almost all the hierarchs, of all orientations (with rare exceptions, such as the Hieromartyr Bishops Basil of Priluky and Amphilochius of Krasnoyarsk), had followed the patriarch in abandoning the attitude of outright condemnation of Soviet power characteristic of the Council of 1917-18. They all professed a certain “civic loyalty” to the régime. However, “loyalty” meant something different for the Sergianists and for the True Orthodox. For the Sergianists it was a positive concept, acceptance that the Soviet régime was not simply allowed by God, but established by Him. For the True Orthodox, on the other hand, “loyalty” did not have this positive connotation; it meant little more than an agreement not to bless armed revolt against the Soviets. Thus while the Sergianists were quite happy to commemorate the authorities at the Divine Liturgy, this was anathema to the True Orthodox hierarchs. Again, the Sergianists identified their own joys and sorrows with the joys and sorrows of the Soviet “Fatherland”, while the Catacomb hierarchs did not. In short, the Sergianists were committed to working actively for Soviet power, but the catacomb hierarchs would only refuse to work actively – that is, openly and politically – against it. For, as Hieromartyr Archbishop Barlaam of Perm put it: while the Church cannot conduct a physical war against communism, it must conduct a spiritual war against it.
And in what did this spiritual war consist? On the one hand, in the strengthening of True Christianity among the people, and on the other, in praying for the overthrow of Soviet power, as St. Basil the Great prayed for the overthrow of Julian the Apostate. As Hieromartyr Bishop Mark (Novoselov) wrote: “I am an enemy of Soviet power – and what is more, by dint of my religious convictions, insofar as Soviet power is an atheist power and even anti-theist. I believe that as a true Christian I cannot strengthen this power by any means [There is] a petition which the Church has commanded to be used everyday in certain well-known conditions The purpose of this formula is to request the overthrow of the infidel power by God But this formula does not amount to a summons to believers to take active measures, but only calls them to pray for the overthrow of the power that has fallen away from God”
2. From the “enthronement” of “Patriarch” Sergius to the entry of the Moscow Patriarchate into the World Council of Churches (1943-1961).
The great majority, not only of the True Orthodox, but also of the Sergianist hierarchs, perished in the camps or prisons before the Second World War. In fact, by 1939 only four Orthodox bishops – by “Orthodox” here we mean “True Orthodox or sergianist” – remained in freedom throughout the Soviet Union. Thus when the time came to “refound” the patriarchate on a thoroughly Stalinist base, and Sergius was made “patriarch” (or “compatriarch”, “communist patriarch”, as the Germans called him) at Stalin’s invitation, he (or rather, the NKVD) had only hierarchs of the most dubious quality to call on in order to fill up the ranks of the depleted patriarchate.
And so new bishops had to be consecrated almost entirely from “penitent renovationists”, who, being presented for consecration by the atheist authorities, were received with a minimum of formalities, without regard to the rules of the Council of 1925 regarding the reception of renovationists. That the Moscow Patriarchate received renovationists into the church without even the repentance laid down by Patriarch Tikhon is witnessed even by patriarchal sources. This meant that even if “Patriarch” Sergius and his successor, “Patriarch” Alexis had been canonical bishops, the bishops they consecrated would have been of doubtful canonicity.
As the Catacomb Bishop “A.” wrote: “Very little time passed between September, 1943 and January, 1945. Therefore it is difficult to understand where 41 bishops came from instead of 19. In this respect our curiosity is satisfied by the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate for 1944. Looking through it, we see that the 19 bishops who existed in 1943, in 1944 rapidly gave birth to the rest, who became the members of the 1945 council.
“From the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate we learn that these hasty consecrations were carried out, in the overwhelming majority of cases, on renovationist protopriests.
“From September, 1943 to January, 1945, with a wave of a magic wand, all the renovationists suddenly repented before Metropolitan Sergius. The penitence was simplified, without the imposition of any demands on those who had done so much evil to the Holy Church. And in the shortest time the ‘penitent renovationists’ received a lofty dignity, places and ranks, in spite of the church canons and the decree about the reception of renovationists imposed [by Patriarch Tikhon] in 1925
“As the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate informs us, the ‘episcopal’ consecrations before the ‘council’ of 1945 took place thus: the protopriest who had been recommended (undoubtedly by the civil authorities), and who was almost always from the ‘reunited’ renovationists or gregorians, was immediately tonsured into monasticism with a change in name and then, two or three days later, made a ‘hierarch of the Russian Church’.”
All this did not, of course, trouble Sergius and Alexis, who were both themselves “penitent renovationists”. But it meant that the new, post-war generation of patriarchal bishops was quite different from the pre-war generation in that it had already proved its heretical, renovationist cast of mind, and now returned to the neo-renovationist patriarchate like a dog to his vomit (II Peter 2.22). These pseudo-hierarchs now formed the heretical core of the patriarchate who controlled all the lower ranks while being themselves completely controlled by the communists.
Thus while it was possible, before the war, to point to a number of sergianist bishops who probably did little more than their passive membership of Sergius’ synod to promote the Soviet cause, the post-war generation were almost to a man hand-picked Soviet lackeys. One of the possible exceptions, Bishop Manuel (Lemeshevsky), who had been one of the champions of the Tikhonite Church in the struggle against renovationism, is nevertheless known to have betrayed Hieromartyr Sergius Mechev to his death. Another possible exception, Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky), patriarchal exarch in the occuped Baltic territories, had formerly been a disciple of Hieromartyr Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk, but has now been shown by historical research to have been an NKGB agent since at least 1941.
The renovationist character of the post-war patriarchate is proved by its evil fruits. The first was the decision to enter into full, official communion, during the Moscow council of 1945, with the Greek and Romanian new-calendarist renovationists.
Now it must be admitted that, formally speaking, the Russian neo-renovationists did not accept most of the innovations made by the non-Russian renovationists during the 1920s – the new calendar, second marriages for priests, etc. The Moscow Patriarchate even condemned the heresy of ecumenism, in which the Greek new calendarists were already deeply involved, during the Moscow council of 1948 – albeit for purely political reasons. But that this was simply a tactical conservatism was proved by the patriarchate’s entry into the World Council of Churches only a few years later, in 1961 – again, for political reasons.
A second evil fruit was the campaign of violence and intimidation, combined with enticements, that was now directed against the Russian Church Abroad in various parts of the world – in China, in Jerusalem, in Western Europe, and in America.
A third, still more evil fruit was the church cult of Stalin, probably the greatest persecutor of the Church in the whole of Church history, who was portrayed as “the new Constantine”, the “wise, God-established”, “God-given Supreme Leader”. Thus on the occasion of his birthday in 1949, all the bishops of the patriarchate addressed him in words so lying and idolatrous that, in the opinion of a group of patriarchal clergy and laity, “Without the slightest hesitation, we can call this address the most shameful document ever composed in the name of the Church in the whole history of the existence of Christianity and still more in the thousand-year history of Christianity in Rus’.”
Even when Stalin died in March, 1953, the patriarchate could not restrain its devotion. Thus “Patriarch” Alexis called him “the great builder of the people’s happiness His death has been taken with deep grief by the whole of the Russian Orthodox Church, which will never forget his benevolent attitude towards the needs of the Church. His radiant memory will never be erased from our hearts. Our Church intones ‘eternal memory’ to him with a special feeling of unceasing love.”
Let us recall the words of the Apostle James: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whoseover therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (4.4).
It is highly unlikely that any leading figure in the patriarchate was able to escape throwing at least a few grains of spiritual incense on the altar of Stalin. Just possibly some priests and their flocks in very remote areas escaped. But the possibility of publicly confessing the truth, like the Lord “Who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession” (I Timothy 6.13), was greatly diminished in an era when everyone from a young age was pressured into confessing the abomination of Soviet ideology.
3. From the entrance of the Moscow Patriarchate into the World Council of Churches to the fall of the Soviet State (1961-1991).
The significance of the Moscow Patriarchate’s entrance into the WCC lies in its demonstration of the fact that even if Sergianism itself is not to be defined as a heresy, it opened the path to heresy, and even to “the heresy of heresies”, Ecumenism. For, as Fr. Andrew Kurayev writes: “Sergianism and Ecumenism intertwined. It was precisely on the instructions of the authorities that our hierarchy conducted its ecumenical activity, and it was precisely in the course of their work abroad that clergy who had been enrolled into the KGB were checked out for loyalty.”
In other words, the patriarchate’s Sergianism compelled it to accept Ecumenism. For apostates have no will of their own. Having surrendered their will into the hands of the Antichrist, they will say and do anything that is required of them, even the most abominable blasphemy.
Thus if even if we suppose that Sergianism is not heresy, but apostasy, we must nevertheless accept that it destroys the dogmas of the Church as surely as any heresy. In the inspired definition of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) of Jordanville, it is dogmatized apostasy: “The patriarchate has destroyed the essential dogma of the Church of Christ, and has rejected Her essential mission – to serve the regeneration of men, and has replaced it by the service of the godless aims of communism, which is unnatural for the Church. This falling away is more bitter than all the previous Arianisms, Nestorianism, Iconoclasms, etc. And this is not the personal sin of one or another hierarch, but the root sin of the Moscow Patriarchate, confirmed, proclaimed and bound by an oath in front of the world. It is, so to speak, dogmatized apostasy”
The thirty years that followed the patriarchate’s entry into the WCC proved the truth of these words beyond the shadow of a doubt. For, in the persons of the various heretics with whom the patriarchate entered into communion of prayer through the ecumenical movement, it embraced “all the previous Arianisms, Nestorianisms, Iconoclasms, etc.” And from the beginning of the 1990s it formally embraced Monophysitism, too, through its heretical agreement with the Monophysites at Chambésy.
One of the first heresies which the patriarchate embraced was Papism, when it accepted a secret Catholic bishop, Metropolitan Nicodemus of Leningrad, as its second-ranking hierarch, and then, largely through Nicodemus’ efforts, entered into communion with the Papists in 1969 (Nicodemus himself died in the arms of the Pope, having received the last rites from him, in 1978).
The Synod of the Russian Church Abroad condemned this act as “heretical”, and Archbishop Averky of Jordanville commented: “Now, even if some entertained some sort of doubts about how we should regard the contemporary Moscow Patriarchate, and whether we can consider it Orthodox after its intimate union with the enemies of God, the persecutors of the Faith and Christ’s Church, these doubts must now be completely dismissed: by the very fact that it has entered into liturgical communion with the Papists, it has fallen away from Orthodoxy [emphasis in the original] and can no longer be consider Orthodox.”
In fact, Sergianism bears a striking resemblance to Papism, and may be considered an Eastern variant of it.
Thus Hieromonk Nectarius (Yashunsky) writes: “Metropolitan Sergius’ understanding of the Church (and therefore, of salvation) was heretical. He sincerely, it seems to us, believed that the Church was first of all an organization, an apparatus which could not function without administrative unity. Hence the striving to preserve her administrative unity at all costs, even at the cost of harming the truth contained in her. And this can be seen not only in the church politics he conducted, but also in the theology [he evolved] corresponding to it. In this context two of his works are especially indicative: ‘Is There a Vicar of Christ in the Church?’ (The Spiritual Heritage of Patriarch Sergius, Moscow, 1948) and ‘The Relationship of the Church to the Communities that have Separated from Her’ (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate). In the first, although Metropolitan Sergius gives a negative answer to the question (first of all in relation to the Pope), this negative answer is not so much a matter of principle as of empiricism. The Pope is not the head of the Universal Church only because he is a heretic. But in principle Metropolitan Sergius considers it possible and even desirable for the whole of the Universal Church to be headed by one person. Moreover, in difficult times in the life of the Church this person can assume such privileges even if he does not have the corresponding canonical rights. And although the metropolitan declares that this universal leader is not the vicar of Christ, this declaration does not look sincere in the context both of his other theological opinions and of his actions in accordance with this theology.”
In the second cited article, Metropolitan Sergius explained the differences in the reception of heretics and schismatics, not on the basis of their objective confession of faith, but on the subjective (and therefore changeable) relationship of the Church’s first-hierarch to them. Thus “we receive the Latins into the Church through repentance, but those from the Karlovtsy schism through chrismation”. And so for Sergius, concludes Fr. Nectarius, “in order to be saved it is not the truth of Holy Orthodoxy but belonging to a legal church administration that is necessary”!
This heretical transformation of the patriarchate into a western-style papacy has been described by Fr. Vyacheslav Polosin thus: “If Metropolitan Sergius was ruled, not by personal avarice, but by a mistaken understanding of what was for the benefit of the Church, then it was evident that the theological foundation of such an understanding was mistaken, and even constituted a heresy concerning the Church herself and her activity in the world. We may suppose that these ideas were very close to the idea of the Filioque: since the Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son, that means that the vicar of the Son.. can dispose of the Spirit, so that the Spirit acts through Him ex opere operato.. It follows necessarily that he who performs the sacraments of the Church, ‘the minister of the sacrament’, must automatically be ‘infallible’, for it is the infallible Spirit of God Who works through him and is inseparable from him However, this Latin schema of the Church is significantly inferior to the schema and structure created by Metropolitan Sergius. In his schema there is no Council, or it is replaced by a formal assembly for the confirmation of decisions that have already been taken – on the model of the congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
“The place of the Council in his structure of the Church is taken by something that is lacking in the Latins’ scheme – Soviet power, loyalty to which becomes something in the nature of a dogma This scheme became possible because it was prepared by Russian history. But if the Orthodox tsar and the Orthodox procurator to some extent constituted a ‘small Council’, which in its general direction did not contradict.. the mind-set of the majority of believers, with the change in the world-view of those came to the helm of Soviet power this scheme acquired a heretical character, since the decisions of the central ecclesiastical authorities, which were associated in the minds of the people with the will of the Spirit of God, came to be determined neither by a large nor by a small Council, but by the will of those who wanted to annihilate the very idea of God (the official aim of the second ‘godless’ five-year-plan was to make the people forget even the word ‘God’). Thus at the source of the Truth, instead of the revelation of the will of the Holy Spirit, a deadly poison was substituted The Moscow Patriarchate, in entrusting itself to the evil, God-fighting will of the Bolsheviks instead of the conciliar will of the Spirit, showed itself to be an image of the terrible deception of unbelief in the omnipotence and Divinity of Christ, Who alone can save and preserve the Church and Who gave the unlying promise that ‘the gates of hell will not overcome her’ The substitution of this faith by the vain hope in one’s own human powers, which can save the Church in that the Spirit works through them, is not in accord with the canons and Tradition of the Church, but ex opere operato proceeds from the ‘infallible’ top of the hierarchical structure.”
Given this close kinship between Sergianism and Papism, it is not surprising that they should have entered into communion with each other as the eastern and western variants respectively of one of the oldest heresies of all – man-worship, the heresy which the Maccabees in the Old Testament, and the martyrs of the Roman Catacombs in New Testament times, all fought against to the shedding of their blood. Ecumenism – itself a supreme expression of man-pleasing idolatry – was the forum and the excuse which enabled the Stalin-worshippers of the East and the Pope-worshippers of the West to meet and join forces in a combined assault on the True Church, giving their blessing to every form of man-worship except the true worship of the God-Man Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, while the Papists embraced all the Christian heresies, and later all the non-Christian religions, too, the Sergianists went even further than this in embracing Atheism.
Thus it is in vain that defenders of the patriarchate claim that its sins, serious though they may be, fall short of heresy. Is apostasy less serious than heresy? Is one who sacrifices to idols or Stalin any the less alien to Christ than one who rejects one or more of the Ecumenical Councils? Is one who enters into communion with all the heresies any less a heretic than one who “chastely” confines his spiritual adulteries to just one harlot? The Moscow Patriarchate has done all these things and more; for she is, in Boris Talantov’s phrase, “an agent of worldwide antichristianity”.
4. >From the Fall of Soviet Power to the Present (1991-).
It was the great hope of millions that when communism fell in Russia the patriarchate would repent. It has not happened – in spite of the fact that much of the terrible truth about the Church in the Soviet period is now public knowledge, and it is now possible to join the True Church without suffering death or imprisonment.
Here we see the power of the lie, which, at first uttered involuntarily, under pressure, later becomes natural to the liar. Having convinced himself that he has to lie to save his skin, the liar comes to believe his lie, even to love it. It becomes “the sacred lie”, more noble even than the truth, and elicited by the purest, most self-sacrificing of motives.
The apologists of the patriarchate habitually justify the patriarchate’s apostasy by reference to a higher aim which covered their sin. Thus Metropolitan Sergius told Hieromartyr Demetrius and his delegation that by his policies he was “saving the Church” – in other words, “the pillar and ground of the Truth” (I Timothy 3.15) needed to be saved by lies! Thus just as Ecumenism proclaims that all lies must be combined in order to find the one truth, so Sergianism, its sister-heresy, proclaims that the truth itself is founded on a lie!
The truth is, of course, that Sergius and his co-workers saved only themselves by their lies. But such salvation could only be for the fire of gehenna (I Corinthians 3.15), since, as the Lord said, “whosoever shall save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8.35). As Hieromartyr Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd said when he was in prison for the faith: “The reasoning of some, perhaps outstanding pastors is strange: ‘we have to preserve our living forces’, that is – give in to everyone for their sake! Then what is Christ for? It is not the Platonovs and the Chuprins and the Benjamins and those who like them who save the Church, but Christ. That point on which they are trying to stand is destruction for the Church – it is wrong to sacrifice the Church for oneself.”
That is why the present “Patriarch” Alexis (i.e. KGB Agent “Drozdov”) has been so ambiguous about the Soviet past of his church. Contrary to what Archbishop Mark of Berlin writes , Alexis has by no means repented of the sins of the past; he refuses to condemn Sergius’ declaration, but simply says that it “has departed into the past”. He continues to serve the interests of the powers that be, of whatever colour they may be. Thus he first became a communist with the communists, and even on the anniversary of the Tsar’s martyrdom, July 4/17, 1990, he prayed publicly for the preservation of the communist party! But then, when the party fell, he became a democrat with the democrats, transferring his allegiance to the democrat Yeltsin. And now he is becoming a criminal with the criminals, importing alcohol and tobacco duty-free. Thus he has become “all things to all men” – but, alas, not in the way St. Paul meant those words!
This, then, is the way Alexis “preserves his living forces” – and destroys the Church of the living God. This is how he “saves the Church” – by handing it over to Satan. This, then, is the heresy of Sergianism in action, its moral commandment: be ye conformed to the world, that ye may be not only in the world, but of the world, worldly through and through
B. A Definition of Heresy in general and the Sergianist Heresy in particular.
In the sixth canon of the Second Ecumenical Council we read: “We call heretics both those who were long ago declared to be foreign to the Church, and those who were later anathematized; and those who, although they pretend that they confess our faith in a healthy manner, have separated themselves, and gather assemblies against our correctly established bishops.”
This definition is composed of three parts.
First, “those who were long ago declared to be foreign to the Church”, such as the Arians, the Monophysites, the Iconoclasts and the Roman Catholics. Although the Moscow Patriarchate does not officially espouse these heresies, she has entered into communion with them through the ecumenical movement and has recognized them to be members of the Church, even going so far as to lift the anathemas on their leaders (for example, the Monophysite Dioscuros in the Chambésy agreement of 1990). And if it be objected that the patriarchate has never entered into communion with Arians or Iconoclasts as such, then it should be pointed out that the Anglicans and Protestants with whom the patriarchate has such close relations are mostly both Arians and Iconoclasts.
Secondly, “those who were later anathematized”. To this category belong those who were anathematized by his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon in 1918 and 1923 – that is, the Bolsheviks and their co-workers, and the renovationists. There can be no doubt that the Moscow Patriarchate falls under both anathemas – the first, because of its close cooperation and support of the Bolsheviks, and the second because it was refounded in 1943-45 by renovationists who were received out of renovationism, as we have seen, with only the minimum of formalities, by order of the Bolsheviks.
It is sometimes claimed that the patriarch did not anathematize the Bolshevik government but only individual law-breakers. However, in his epistle of June 18 / July 1, 1923, the Patriarch specifically mentioned his “anathematization of Soviet power”. And the Local Council of 1918 confirmed the patriarch’s anathema in still stronger language, urging the people to have nothing whatsoever to do with those “outcasts of the human race” and even calling on Orthodox women to leave their husbands if they were Bolsheviks.
We must also not forget the anathema hurled against Ecumenism by the Russian Church Abroad in 1983, which was recently reaffirmed by the Synod of the ROCA. There can be no doubt that the Moscow Patriarchate, as a full, “organic” member of the WCC, falls directly under this anathema. For there can be no heresy without heretics; and if, as Metropolitan Vitaly has justly said, Ecumenism is “the heresy of heresies”, then the Moscow Patriarchate must be agreed to be ecumenist heretics who fall under the anathema against the ecumenist heresy.
Thirdly, “those who, although they pretend that they confess our faith in a healthy manner, have separated themselves, and gather assemblies against our correctly established bishops”. In 1927 the Sergianists separated themselves from those “correctly established bishops” who rejected the “Declaration” of Metropolitan Sergius. The only thread joining the two camps together was their common commemoration of Metropolitan Peter. However, in 1936 Metropolitan Sergius falsely announced that Metropolitan Peter was dead and uncanonically arrogated to himself Peter’s title of “Most Blessed Metropolitan of Krutitsa”. So from that time, or from the actual death of Metropolitan Peter in 1937, a formal schism existed between the Sergianists and the True Orthodox – a schism which, in the definition of this canon, could also be called a heresy.
It remains only to gather together the threads of the preceding discussion and attempt a very tentative definition of Sergianism, the fundamental heresy of the Moscow Patriarchate.
We have seen that the essence of Sergianism consists in a distorted understanding of the relationship between the Church and the world, whereby the Church is understood to serve the world, not as its conscience and rebuker, by being the salt which preserves it from final corruption and destruction, but by conforming herself to it, by pandering to its fallen desires and antichristian world-views. As such, Sergianism is closely akin to Ecumenism, so that the way in which Sergianism has evolved into Ecumenism in the present-day Moscow Patriarchate should come as no surprise. Both propose a wholesale surrender of the Church’s freedom and dignity to the dominant forces in the contemporary world – political forces in the case of Sergianism, religious forces in the case of Ecumenism (although both kinds of forces are in fact directed towards a single goal: the complete secularization of the human race). Both heresies are movements of apostasy, and both attempt to justify this apostasy, “dogmatize” it, as it were – in the case of Sergianism, by claiming that only such apostasy can “save the Church”, and in the case of Ecumenism by claiming that only such apostasy can “recreate the Church”. Essentially, therefore, they are two aspects of a single ecclesiological heresy, a single assault on the existence and the dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Perhaps the first to see this clearly was the foremost theologian of the Josephite Catacomb Church, Hieromartyr Theodore Andreyev. He summed up his criticism of Metropolitan Sergius in a letter handed to him in December, 1927 as follows: “And so the Unity of the Church, which, in the words of Hieromartyr Ignatius the Godbearer, has its external expression in the bishop, and so for the Russian Church as a whole – in the Patriarch, has already been shaken – as a whole, by your union with a synod that has exceeded its rights.., and in individual dioceses – by unlawful transfer of local bishops and their substitution by others. The Holiness of the Church, which shines in martyrdom and confession, has been condemned by your epistle. Her Catholicity has been desecrated. Her Apostolicity, as her link with the Lord and as an embassy to the world (John 17.18), has been destroyed by the break in hierarchical succession (the removal of Metropolitan Peter) and the movement of the world itself into her.”
Hieromartyr Theodore’s analysis was confirmed by Hieromartyr Archbishop Demetrius of Gdov, who on January 4/17, 1928 wrote to the priests of his diocese that Metropolitan Sergius had sinned “not only against the canonical order of the Church, but also dogmatically against her person (blaspheming against the sanctity of the exploit of the confessors by casting doubt on the purity of their Christian convictions, as if they were mixed up in politics), against her conciliarity [sobornost’] (by his and his Synod’s acts of coercion), against her apostolicity (by subjecting the Church to worldly rules and by his inner break – while preserving a false unity – with Metropolitan Peter, who did not give Metropolitan Sergius authorization for his latest acts, beginning with the epistle (Declaration) of July 16/29, 1927). ‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions’ (II Thessalonians 2.15).”
Finally, then, let us see how this dogmatic understanding of the heresy of Sergianism was incorporated in the following anathema attached to the Order of the Triumph of Orthodoxy in the Josephite parishes of Leningrad:
“To those who maintain the mindless renovationist heresy of Sergianism; to those who teach that the earthly existence of the Church of God can be established by denying the truth of Christ; and to those who affirm that serving the God-fighting authorities and fulfilling their godless commands, which trample on the sacred canons, the patristic traditions and the Divine dogmas, and destroy the whole of Christianity, saves the Church of Christ; and to those who venerate the Antichrist and his servants and forerunners, and all his minions, as a lawful power established by God; and to all those who blaspheme against the new confessors and martyrs – Anathema.”
February 17 / March 2, 1999.
Hieromartyr Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow.