The Future of European Orthodoxy and the Paris Schism
Having won a prize for a work on Orthodoxy from the Alliance Française, I was first able to visit Russian Orthodox Paris exactly 37 years ago, in July 1974. Here I already knew that some important part of my destiny lay. Among many nostalgic memories, I remember speaking to a very elderly man in a long since closed Russian bookshop, where I had bought a copy of the Gospels in Church Slavonic and Kartashov’s ‘Vossozdanie Svyatoi Rusi’ (‘The Recreation of Holy Rus’). The elderly told me how the study of Church Slavonic had been obligatory in Russia when he had been a young man well before the 1917 Revolution and related other memories.
It is in his memory, in memory of the saintly Archbishop George (Tarasov), a former pilot of the Russian squadron on the Western Front (founded in 1912, the Russian Air Force possessed nearly one third of the world’s aeroplanes by 1914), and in memory of so many other Russian Orthodox patriots like them, whose rooms were always adorned with the portraits of the martyred Tsar Nicholas and the martyred Tsarina Alexandra and at some of whose funerals I served in Paris ten and twenty years later, that I write the following. It is my ardent hope that justice may be done to them, that their struggle to remain faithful to Holy Rus amid the temptations of Western Europe may not have been in vain. Eternal Memory to them all!
Introduction: Fractures in the Church of the Russian Orthodox Emigration
Following the 1917 Revolution and ensuing Civil War, 34 Russian bishops found themselves outside Communist Russia, together with many hundreds, if not thousands, of clergy and monastics, and between one and two million faithful. Seeing persecution mounting inside Russia, it the end of 1920 the holy Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow issued a decree, giving his blessing for the establishment of what soon came to be known as ‘The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia’ (ROCOR), under the leadership of the exiled Metropolitan Antony of Kiev. This was duly established worldwide, in China, Europe, the Holy Land, the Americas and elsewhere.
Independent of the brutally persecuted Patriarchal Church inside Russia, the Russian Church Outside Russia was designated to look after the spiritual needs of all Russian Orthodox outside Russia. Her full independence, according to Patriarch Tikhon’s decree, was to last until the Patriarchate had finally secured freedom. That came in 2007. Then the two parts of the Russian Church came together by mutual consent, the vast majority of ROCOR content with her new, self-governing status, the once enslaved Patriarchate having freely accepted all three conditions ROCOR had set. These conditions were: the canonisation of the New Martyrs and Confessors; the proclamation of the independence of the Church from the State (the rejection of ‘sergianism’); the rejection of religious syncretism (‘ecumenism’).
Sadly, however, in France in 1925 three bishops broke away from ROCOR under political pressure. After the Second World War four more bishops definitively broke away from ROCOR in the USA, also under political pressure. Two of the three bishops in France, changing their status, went on to seek canonicity under the tiny Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey. Their ‘jurisdiction’ came to be called the ‘Paris Archdiocese’ or ‘Paris Exarchate’, but is most commonly known as ‘Rue Daru’. Today, it is made up of about eighty small communities, mainly in France, has one active bishop and may be 5,000 strong. Parts of it express strong French cultural nationalism. The bishops in North America eventually ended up in a Cold War organisation, largely founded from Paris, canonically disputed but still in existence, which is at present called ‘The Orthodox Church in America’ (OCA). This latter, made up of only about 10% of the Orthodox in North America, certain parts of which are subject to American nationalism, is composed of about 600 communities and is between 80,000 and 100,000 strong.
In a recent interview, one of the senior ideologues of Rue Daru, the retired Professor Nikita Struve, has in no uncertain terms justified maintaining the Paris schism. He has identified his fraction of Rue Daru, rather confusedly, as ‘a Russian, French, Western Orthodox Church’. Certainly, it is Russian, inasmuch as it has Russian roots and at present still occupies the 19th century Russian Cathedral on Daru Street (‘Rue Daru’) in Paris, which is the origin of its common name. Certainly, it is also French, inasmuch as its dependent communities are mainly in France and French is used as the main liturgical language. However, these facts have also long been true of parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in France. What distinguishes the Rue Daru jurisdiction is that the fraction which does not wish to return to the Mother-Church is indeed ‘Western’ - not in a geographical sense, but in an ideological sense. The use by Rue Daru of the word ‘Western’ is not about theology, but about psychology, justified by a secular ideology.
The Rue Daru Fracture
The first three Rue Daru leaders, Metropolitan Eulogius, Metropolitan Vladimir and Archbishop George (Tarasov), were quite clear about the direction that Rue Daru should go in, once the Patriarchate in Russia became free – it was to re-enter the Russian Orthodox Church. This was also the opinion of the late Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople. This was also the view of other distinguished and much respected Rue Daru Churchmen, like Bishop Methodios (Kulmann) (+ 1974), Bishop Roman (Zolotov), Protopresbyter Alexiy Kniazev, and Archpriest Igor Vernik, who all passed on at the end of the last century, and many others. The change came with the first convert bishop, Archbishop George (Wagner), who ruled Rue Daru for eleven years throughout the 1980s.
A tragic figure, Archbishop George was a German academic and liturgist, by background a Catholic. Born in Berlin in 1929, he had been forced to serve in the Hitler Youth as a teenager and then served as a celibate Russian Patriarchal priest in Berlin during the Cold War 50s. Showing his political integrity and refusing to act as a Soviet spy, he emigrated to France, joined Rue Daru, gained his doctorate, then was consecrated bishop and in 1981 archbishop. Sadly, Archbishop George, visionless and missionless, managed to alienate everyone. This he achieved by promising everything, but being too weak to do anything. Thus, he would not take sides, even refusing to live at his Cathedral. I have prayed for him at every liturgy which I have served in the last twenty years.
Poor Archbishop George often preached about ‘faithfulness’, yet never explained faithfulness to what. Faithfulness to the Russian Orthodox Tradition? Then why did he dress as a Greek Orthodox bishop and submit himself to every liberal and ecumenical whim of the Phanar, forbidding concelebration with either part of the Russian Orthodox Church? To Church Slavonic? Although he adored it, most of his flock had no understanding of it and he had little understanding of their real pastoral needs. To the liberals? Then why was he so against the use of French? To the conservatives? Then why did he allow anyone who wanted, to use the Catholic calendar and innovate freely? To missionary work in Western Europe? Then why did he refuse to serve in Western languages, refuse to venerate Western saints, fearing the reaction of the Phanar when a Catholic priest asked to be received into the Church, insisting that he had to be sent to North America to be received? And so the contradictions, the total lack of consistency, his haunting personal fears and complexes and tragic self-isolation from his ever-dwindling flock went on.
After the untimely death of his successor, Archbishop Serge, today Rue Daru is bitterly split into two fractions. On the one side, there is its present Archbishop with some 80% of its mainly convert clergy and perhaps 10%, 500, of its people. (These proportions are similar to those of the 2006 Amphipolis schism, when a large number of untrained convert clergy and 300 converts and others of the then heavily-clericalised, Paris-style, Sourozh Diocese in Great Britain broke away from the Russian Church and left for Rue Daru, providentially enabling the faithful remainder of the Sourozh Diocese to reconcile itself with the local ROCOR Diocese). Those on this side of Rue Daru do not wish to live according to the Russian Orthodox Tradition, but according to a diluted form of Orthodoxy, adapted to Western secular values. This is simply another form of cultural adaptionism, like the cultural adaptionism of sergianism in the Soviet Union. On the other side, there are the more spiritually sensitive and historically aware in Rue Daru, who wish to return to their roots, understanding that you cannot honestly and logically confess and live the Russian Orthodox Tradition, if you do not return to the Russian Orthodox Church, as was always their honourable intention and that of their noble forbears, once Russia was free. This would seem to be common sense.
The Origins of the Rue Daru Ideology
Over thirty years ago, I remember a parishioner at the Rue Daru Cathedral commenting on the latest liturgical fantasy in a nearby parish with the words: ‘Quel prince allemand a dit cela encore?’ ‘Which German prince said that again?’ The fact is that the Rue Daru ideology is the result of an emigration from St Petersburg, a foreign-named city which before the Revolution had always been unRussian, disincarnate from the rest of the country, disincarnate from Russian Orthodox life. Indeed, many of its elite could not even speak Russian, but only French, then the language of the international elite, and another Western language. The influence of German philosophy on the intellectual class, ‘intelligenty’, many of whom were of Non-Russian origin, was huge. This alien elite were known as ‘Westerners’, whereas the ordinary Russian people were Slavs and lived in the age-old Slav Orthodox way and by its values.
Many, but by no means all, of the ideological representatives of Rue Daru, though not necessarily princes, barons or counts, have had Non-Russian names (Schmemann, Meyendorff, Bloom and many, many more). Many of the ancestors of such representatives had already rejected Orthodoxy in pre-Revolutionary St Petersburg and become heavily involved in the occult, which went back to freemasonry (by 1914 there were 28 known lodges in Russia) and Swedenborg in the 18th century. Madame Blavatsky with her séances had been the foremost representative of this movement in the 19th century; the anthroposophists were post-Revolutionary representatives. The most infamous of all these was perhaps the alcoholic Soloviov, who understandably suffered from hallucinations, but which were taken seriously by those who had lost their Orthodox roots or had never had any. In any case, he helped set the tone for the Russian decadence at the start of the twentieth century, with the neo-pagan ‘Firebird’ of Stravinsky, the occultism of Skriabin and Bely, decadent aristocrats like Prince F. F. Yusupov, and a host of other disagreeable phenomena, described by cultural historians of the period.
Even before the Revolution some of the later émigrés had become atheists or Marxists, others had become Catholics, at least one had become a Hindu. Other ancestors were freemasons in the many lodges which flourished in St Petersburg. Little wonder that two of the Rue Daru churches were used, certainly until the early 1990s, for masonic initiations. Several St Petersburg ancestors of Rue Daru ideologues had hated and slandered the Royal Family, jealous of their power, and welcomed the Revolution, which they had hoped would lead to a transfer of power to themselves. However, they soon lost control of the Western-backed February 1917 Revolution and in October 1917 they were replaced by a small minority of Western-financed, mainly Non-Russian, bandits, who called themselves ‘Bolsheviks’, and their newly-imported ideologue from Switzerland. The rest, as they say, is history.
The essential origins of the Rue Daru ideology then are not in the Church, but in the Western, that is, Protestant, philosophy of rationalism and intellectualism (however half-baked). Hence, for example, that great conflict between the late Fr Alexander Schmemann and, on the Orthodox side, Fr George Florovsky and Fr John Romanidis. The latter could not stand the ignorance of the Church Fathers on the part of anti-Patristic, Parisian ‘Russian philosophers’. We cannot help sympathise with Fr John, despite his own Greek nationalistic tendencies. What has the rationalism of Kant, Hegel, Fichte, Schelling and Marx to do with the Church? No more than the fleshly philosophies and imaginations of Aristotle and Plato. There is no need to repeat endlessly that Dostoyevsky apparently said ‘Beauty will save the world’, when Christ has already saved the world, as every Christian knows.
The Consequences of the Rue Daru Ideology
Firstly, once we have understood the Protestant origins of the Rue Daru schism, all is clear, we understand its ideology. We understand its Gnosticism - ‘St Origen’, as one of the Rue Daru ideologues proudly proclaimed to me, in my amazement, 27 years ago. We understand its rationalism and French-style intellectualisation, its cult of intellectuals, Soloviov, Florensky and Bulgakov, the last of whom inclined to the Russian Athonite Name-Worshipper heresy, with its Hinduistic misuse of the so-called ‘Jesus Prayer’ – always a Parisian weakness and shared by others. It is this intellectualism which explains its ‘spiritualist’, anti-Incarnation ideology, and its so-called ‘apolitical’, disincarnate, Protestant-style adoration of a mythical ‘early Christianity’ and distaste for anything that has come in Church history after the fourth century (especially monasticism). All this distaste is camouflaged under the mask of a pseudo-mystical, fake ‘spirituality’, a ‘mysticosity’, the sentimental work of the self-exalted imagination. The proud self-flattery of ‘spiritual’ humanism is always a seductive trap to the naive and inexperienced, who have no roots in Orthodox sobriety.
Secondly, from this Protestantism comes the fundamental and profound dislike for authentic Russian Orthodoxy and its replacement by the Protestant ethos, on which this fraction of Rue Daru is built. (Protestant culture has always disliked Orthodoxy – which is why relations between Russia and the Protestant UK and the US have always been so fraught). Rue Daru’s Russophobia, at first understandably disguised under the mask of Sovietophobia, is now seen to be mere Russophobia. This explains the dislike by this fraction of Rue Daru of universal Orthodox Tradition, its support of the US-backed Patriarchate of Constantinople, its encouragement of the Catholic (‘new’) calendar, its ecumenism, and its strong dislike of recent Russian Orthodox saints like St Theophan the Recluse, St Ignatius of the Caucasus, St John of Kronstadt and the St Seraphim of Sarov who prophesied: ‘I shall glorify the Tsar who glorifies me’. This strong disaffection for the real Orthodox Tradition all stems from the liberal Protestant ethos.
Thirdly, there is protestantisation on the level of canonical discipline, such as the typically Protestant anti-monastic ethos (the result of which is Rue Daru’s lack of candidates for the episcopate and so its renovationist support for a married episcopate), the relaxation of fasting, the existence of divorced and remarried priests, the frequent abandonment of preparation for communion, communion for all (whether Orthodox or not) without confession, as can be seen in several (but not in the still Orthodox) Rue Daru communities.
Finally, there is protestantisation on a liturgical level. Interesting is the virtual rejection by Rue Daru ideologues of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia – with the exception of those whom we may kindly call ‘eccentrics’, killed by the Communists or the Nazis, like Fr Paul Florensky and Mother Maria (Skobtsova). Then there are untrained clergy, the abandonment – and even banning - of the iconostasis, the virtual disappearance of vigil services, the proskomidia carried out in the middle of the church (as one of their Protestant-minded clergy recently said on this subject, ‘how good it is that we never see a bishop – it means that we can do whatever we like’), the use of female acolytes, the alteration of liturgical texts for Holy Week in favour of the Jews (though not in favour of historical facts), as can be seen in several (but not in the still Orthodox) Rue Daru communities.
The Alternatives to Return to the Mother-Church
Following the firm rejection by its ideologues of any return to the canonical and liturgical traditions and disciplines of Russian Orthodoxy, what alternatives are there for that fraction of Rue Daru which does not want to re-integrate the Mother-Church? Here we should examine the only realistic alternatives, however shocking. The shock of the real might at last wake some up. The first alternative would be, as with the tiny Rue Daru communities in Great Britain, for the anti-Tradition fraction of Rue Daru to fully assimilate (instead of half-assimilate) into the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople. This would solve the problem of Rue Daru’s lack of bishops – its communities would simply be placed under the local Greek bishop. This would also mean an end to the uncanonical situation whereby two bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, albeit titulars of two different Turkish villages, both live in Paris. To us in the Russian Church, this is the only canonical alternative. However, this would mean Rue Daru losing any sense of separate identity whatsoever, ‘becoming Greeks’ and becoming subject to some sort of Church discipline, and many there do not want this. However, there are even more radical alternatives, which are not without their logic and realism, however extreme, uncanonical and spiritually disastrous they are.
The second alternative is to become an uncanonical community (as Rue Daru was for three years in the late 1960s after the politically-weak Patriarchate of Constantinople abandoned it), separated from the rest of the Orthodox Church and her practices. The semi-Protestant, autocephalist fraction of Rue Daru, which has little sense of the role of the episcopate in the Orthodox Church, would be delighted to declare itself ‘The Autocephalous Western Orthodox Church’. The problem is that this fraction would thus make itself into an organisation of vagantes, deserted by the serious. Although this would in some ways be more honest, this option is unlikely, because it would mean that Rue Daru would lose any last tenuous claims to legitimacy.
The third alternative, even more unlikely, would be for this fraction of Rue Daru to become Uniat. In some ways, this would be more honest, but only a few former Catholic clergy and converts from Catholicism might prefer this. In any case, it is unlikely that today’s serious-minded Rome would accept such an ill-disciplined (married, divorced and remarried clergy, liberal theology, Gnostic tendencies), protestantised group of individuals into its bosom. In any case, if Rome were to do this, it would further damage relations between itself and the Russian Orthodox Church, relations which have already been much weakened by the aggressive banditry of Uniats in the far western Ukraine.
The final and most extreme, but also perhaps most logical and honest, alternative would be for this fraction of Rue Daru to become Protestant. In this way, it would return to its true philosophical and ideological roots and so be completely free to do as it wished. It could be as liberal as it wished, use any language, including, as in at least one parish at present, colloquial Russian, or rite it wished, continue to develop its experimental ‘Orthodoxy’ and secularist liturgical practices, give communion to whomever it wished, have homosexual or female clergy (as some want) and further develop its Protestant-style democratic elections of clergy. However, no matter how logical, few would actually want this. The difficulty with all such radical alternatives would be that the fraction involved would have to give up any property rights to pre-Revolutionary buildings, to its churches in Rue Daru and Biarritz, for example, and also give up calling itself ‘Orthodox’ in any meaningful sense of the word.
Conclusion: Towards A European Orthodox Church
The rejection by the ideologues of Rue Daru of any return to the Mother-Church means that we in the Russian Orthodox Church no longer have to wait for the whole of Rue Daru to join us. Now that its ideological leaders have clearly rejected any return of their fraction of Rue Daru to the Russian Orthodox Tradition and Church, uncompromised by secularism, the way is open for those who wish to join us to do so. They will be welcomed back and surely have much to contribute to our future together. With their help, we will be able to go on together with our great project, vision and mission, building up authentic European Orthodoxy within a Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, headquartered in the new Cathedral and seminary in central Paris.
In order to demonstrate to Rue Daru and others that today’s Russian Orthodox Church is not the Soviet Church of the past, which it fears, the new Cathedral should, we believe, be dedicated to the martyred Tsar Nicholas and all the Royal Martyrs. It was after all Tsar Nicholas, the Peace-Maker, who did so much at the Hague from 1898 on to avert a future European War and who from his own funds built seventeen magnificent Russian Orthodox Churches in capitals and main cities of Europe, including in Nice. It is after all by the blood of the New Martyrs and by the tears and sweat of the New Confessors that today’s Russia has been rebaptised and her Church is being rebuilt. Acceptance of this dedication would be the final act of repentance of part of the emigration towards Tsar Nicholas, who wrote at his forced abdication on 2 March 1917: ‘All around treachery and cowardice, and deceit’.
Also, in order to demonstrate to Rue Daru and others that today’s Russian Orthodox Church is not the Soviet nationalist Church of the past, which it fears, but the restored international Russian Orthodox Church of Tsar Nicholas, one of the chapels at the Cathedral, surely dedicated to St Genevieve, should have daily services in French or other European languages. Tsar Nicholas was himself fluent in Russian, English, French, German and Danish and always spoke and wrote in English to the Tsarina. Translations of all the service books and liturgical music should be available there, in all the main European languages: German, French, English, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. All seminarians should be bilingual.
Our combined witness, of both the Russian Orthodox Church inside and outside Russia, would mean that all those in Rue Daru (a majority of the people, even if only a minority of the clergy) could return to the Russian Mother-Church, either directly under the administration of the Moscow Patriarchate, or indirectly under that of the self-governing Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. However, even more importantly in Western Europe, where Roman Catholicism is rapidly dying out, most dramatically and disturbingly of all in France itself, it is time for our multinational and multilingual Russian Orthodoxy to prove itself by witnessing to Christ in the integrity of the unbroken, bimillennial Orthodox Tradition.
The Russian Orthodox infrastructure which is taking shape in Europe is the foundation and promise of a future European Orthodox Church. It is the long-awaited expression of love towards all those who live in Western Europe, of whatever nation, tongue and origin, who have long wished to live according to the fullness of the Orthodox Tradition, uncompromised by Western secularism. Let it be recorded here that we, the native peoples of Orthodox Europe, wish to be part of the life of this future, of mainline Orthodoxy, and not to be shunted against our will into the narrow sidings taken by elitist, secular-minded, Russian émigré intellectuals in the past.
This uncompromised European Orthodoxy is the only true European Union. On the third Sunday after Pentecost each year, a great feast of All the Saints of Western Europe could take place in Paris. The Apostles Peter, Paul and James could be praised, together with the first martyrs of the West, Laurence, Sebastian, Tatiana, Agnes, Lucy of Syracuse and so many others, together with the Fathers, St Irenaeus of Lyon, St Hilary of Poitiers, St Ambrose of Milan, St John Cassian, St Vincent of Lerins, with the holy Popes Leo and Gregory of Rome, St Eulalia of Barcelona, St Martin of France, St Patrick of Ireland, St David of Wales, St Benedict of Italy, St Leander of Seville, St Columba of Iona, St Augustine of England, St Gall of Switzerland, the Saints of Portuguese Braga, St Gertrude of Belgium, St Willibrord of the Netherlands, St Boniface of the German Lands, the Saints of Austrian Salzburg, St Anschar of Denmark, St Olaf of Sweden, St Olaf of Norway and many others. Then the peoples of Orthodox Europe will make glad in the faith restored, the faith of the European Saints.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips,