PSYCHO-PENETENTIARY THEOLOGY AND ITS DEFENDERS OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
by Konstantin Tikhonravov
Radonezh, no. 14, September 1997
Articles in our "democratic" press devoted to the dramatic events in the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God in Pechatniki are amazingly broad and penetrating and strikingly impudent and wide ranging in dealing with the ramifications of a criminal act.
The esteemed writers have raised questions of liturgics and the Church Slavonic language, found two constituent parts of Orthodoxy, and discovered contradictions among the intelligentsia which is engaged in "approaching the church through culture" and renascent monasticism with its "doubtful practice of neo-eldership," while one of the researchers of Russian idealist philosophy, which he denounced during the years of stagnation, now has discovered Orthodox fundamentalism which is an "ideological imperative that threatens death to all that will not subject themselves to it." There have been references to Serafim of Sarov and John of Kronstadt, who, as some authors have dared to suggest, hardly would have approved the actions of Father Mikhail Dubovitsky. It's a pity that they did not explain how Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom would have viewed him.
However, although Saint Serafim of Sarov's prophecies contain no mention of Fr Mikhail Dubovitsky, they do say something about Father Georgy Kochetkov: "Woe to the one who dares to introduce any kind of changes into the divine liturgy and rules of that church which is the 'pillar and foundation of Truth.' Every desire to introduce improvements and changes in the canons and dogma of the holy church is a heresy and the desire to create one's own special church on the basis of the inventions of human wisdom is apostasy from the prescriptions of the Holy Spirit and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is forever unpardonable." And with this prophecy the opinion of one of the most famous spiritual fathers of our time agrees: Schema-archimandrite Ioann Krestiankin said with regard to the activity of contemporary neorenovationists: "If we do not destroy this horrible movement, they will destroy the church." The parachurch literary critic, of course, can easily assign these heroes of faith and their followers to the category of angry fundamentalists who are looking for enemies in every place. Thus they have managed to declare that the traditions of Serafim of Sarov and indeed of our entire Orthodox church have "resorted to violence," but in what way remains completely secret both for the readers and for the writers. In reality we see something completely different: "fortunately a videotape exists," which impartially recorded how Fr Kochetkov tore the Gospel out of the hands of Fr Mikhail, the "intellectual" altar-boys committed sacrilege, Fr Mikhail was swept into the ambulance, and the flock of Fr Kochetkov mockingly admonished the monastic priest of the monastery of the Presentation, Fr Nikander, "Father, you sure are drunk." And in defense of this outrage the students of Russian idealism produce strange arguments: "I have lived a long life which has taught me much and thus I have a responsibility to state by virtue of my understanding of the situation that which the entire experience of my life does not permit me to doubt." This "experience of life" assiduously teaches us not to believe our eyes. I suggest that in this situation it is better to take into account the experience of Saint Serafim of Sarov than some experience of former party literary bigwigs who are ready on orders to rise to the defense of neorenovationists.
The freedom of creativity for which the neorenovationists fight so strongly essentially turns into an arbitrary attitude toward the dogmas, rites, and canons of Orthodoxy. "The church is a community of people established by God who are united by the Orthodox faith, the law of God, the hierarchy, and the sacraments." Only a council is able to change anything in the church and not each "reformer" at the "whim of his own mind." The dogmas of the church represent an enormous field of theological activity and they must be its guiding Bethlehem star; otherwise it becomes a journey without a rudder and sail that could carry us into the labyrinth of such schisms and heresies compared to which Tolstoianism will seem a slight misunderstanding. In essence the neorenovationists have nothing to say and so they are trying to resurrect the union by means of empty discussions about ecumenism, toleration, freedom of conscience, and so forth. But any unprejudiced persons, whatever their acquaintance with church history, will see that Latin ears are treacherously sticking out from under the worn hood of neorenovationism. It is no secret to anyone that the propaganda is being conducted with financial support from the Vatican. Fr Georgy Chistiakov himself spoke about this in one of his radio broadcasts. It is quite possible that these activists also have other sponsors. The well-known Zbigniew Brezynski has declared frequently that the chief enemy of the West is Orthodoxy and thus all efforts must be expended upon its destruction. As regards tolerance and freedom of conscience, pay attention to how easily these "democrats" proclaim their opponents to be "red-browns," retrograde fundamentalists, black hundreds, and the like. They are not ashamed of epithets just like in the era of stagnation. They are unable to refrain from party methods of struggle. It seems that several students of idealism have suggested that we live in Eden but, alas, the real world is lying in evil and is inhabited by rather vile creatures, which are capable not only of beating priests and then hypocritically praying for their recovery (the situation is quite worthy of Kafka's pen), but also of lying under oath even though the whole country saw these pictures on television. I think that if the flock of Fr Georgy had been among the Jews who were persecuting the adultress in the Gospel, whom Jesus challenged with the words, "Whoever among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her," the poor sinner would have suffered greatly.
But now the affair is not a theological or canonical problem or a matter of the foreign patrons of the neorenovationists who are trying to split the church. That is the subject for a separate conversation. The issue is the criminal act of beating and putting a healthy man into a psychiatric hospital, where all the methods of punitive psychiatry were applied as in the days of stagnation. So Fr Georgy and his altar-boys in the near future should be thinking about their answers not for the Judgment Seat of Christ but for the people's court which, we hope, will investigate this criminal affair in accordance with articles 213, hooliganism and crude violation of public order, accompanied by use of force against citizens, 128, illegally placing a person in a psychiatric facility, and 129, slander and dissemination of deliberately false information. At the same time note how similar this is to the activity of the renovationists of the beginning of the century and how faithful to tradition. Those "reformers" also tried to settle all theological and canonical questions with the help of the Cheka.
Many loud words have been spoken in connection with this affair, but the essence for the unbiased reader is quite clear: Fr Mikhail was beaten and taken forcibly to the psychiatric hospital. And the videotape, to which the neorenovationist "experience of life" appeals, impartially certified this, as did the police report that Senior Lieutenant Rimsky composed: "having arrived at the site, the emergency squad discovered a fight in the sanctuary between priests, one of whom, as later investigation revealed named Mikhail Dubovitsky, had marks of being beaten and torn clothing." Regarding this beating the Kochetkovites have advanced a multitude of versions that completely eclipse the fantasies of the Brothers Strugatsky. And as regards the videotape, the police report, and the conclusion of the commission of psychiatrists, who did not "find any signs of psychiatric illness in Fr Dubovitsky," these apparently are the efforts of dark forces planted in the monastery of the Presentation and Chisty Lane; "believe me, I have lived in the world," one idealist said. All of this is very interesting but just imagine what kind of actions Fr Kochetkov and his "intellectual" community could take if they had more power and, consequently, opportunities. The incessant, maniacal thirst to instruct everyone, all the way up to the patriarch, the total intolerance and suspicion of any different kind of thought, the overt sanctimony and hypocrisy, joined with readiness to beat, beat, and beat--in a word, the fearsome heritage of the past which has blossomed like a bright flower in this open and missionary parish. And the most fearsome thing is not that they lie shamelessly but that they find defenders of their blatant lawlessness. "We do what we want," is their only commandment. However the Kochetkovites are observing well one tradition, of which Chaadaev was the first victim and which was continued in the soviet era by Professor Snezhnevsky. It is pertinent to note that one of the altar-boys of the church of the Dormition in Pechatniki is a psychiatrist with more than forty years experience. What does vital experience say about this? Thus the bell to which our literary critic appeals has already been ringing for the neorenovationists for a long time, but they have not heeded its voice.
In conclusion I want to make one critical note regarding the interview of Hegumen Tikhon Shevkunov, "This Carthaginian lie must be destroyed," which was devoted to the activity of Fr Georgy Kochetkov. The concept of "Carthaginian" unintentionally gives to the neorenovationists a significance they do not at all diserve. "This school of infamy should be shut down" would better correspond to the reality of the open Kochetkovite community. As regards the esteemed idealists outside of the church, defenders who so fervently support Fr Georgy and his community, they should not forget the old Russian proverb: the obliging bear is more dangerous than a bee, since he has such great life experience.
Link to Russian text.