Why Metropolitan Vitaly’s
Group is Uncanonical
Is the newly-formed ROCIE/ROCOR of Metropolitan Vitaly an option for those seeking union with the true Church of Christ? The answer is quite simply “no”, and the reasons for this are clear and simple. In the following brief article, we will show with the clearest proofs and even ultimately a confession from the mouths of the ROCIE/ROCOR-V bishops themselves that they fell away from the Church back in 1994 and have not yet returned to Her. Being, unhappily, outside the Church of Christ themselves, they cannot bring anyone into that Body from which they themselves are separated. Therefore, ROCIE/ROCOR-Vitaly is not an option for those seeking union with the true Church of Christ.
We are going to show this by looking at three key documents from the history of the ROCOR, one document from the Synod of “Metropolitan” Cyprian of Oropos and Fili, and a little bit of history in between them. From this it will be obvious to anyone that Metropolitan Vitaly’s new group is not a part of the Orthodox Church.
I. The first document we will see is the 1983 Anathema Against Ecumenism issued at Metropolitan Vitaly’s Transfiguration Skete, Montreal, by the Sobor of Bishops of the ROCOR under the presidency of St. Metropolitan Philaret.
In 1983, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia anathematized the heresy of Ecumenism in all its forms, in part or in whole, as well as all who have communion with it or defend it. Here is the text:
The 1983 Anathema Against Ecumenism
“TO THOSE who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ’s Church is divided into so-called “branches” which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all ‘branches’ or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their new heresy of ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, ANATHEMA.”
This text is so clear and so comprehensive as to need hardly any commentary. Or rather we will let the commentary on it that will appear in the 3rd ROCOR (Vitaly) document below stand in place of our own. For now, let the reader merely note that this anathema is placed on all those who teach that the Church is divided, not truly One, being found among groups that differ in doctrine or way of life, or who teach that the mysteries of heretics are efficacious or valid, and lastly on any who have communion with or defend those who teach thus. This is a clear and comprehensive condemnation of Ecumenism.
II. The next document we will examine is the 1984 “Ecclesiological Position Paper for the Orthodox Opposed to Ecumenism” written by ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian of Oropos and Fili.
In 1984, a man calling himself ‘Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili’, who had obtained an uncanonical and clandestine ordination by trickery in early February of 1979 and, upon being immediately deposed by his synod, had gone into schism, and who was recognized by no other Orthodox bishop on the planet, formulated what might be rightly termed “the Heresy of Ecumenism for Old-Calendarists”. That is to say that what he proclaimed was essentially no different from the heresy being preached from the ambon of the Patriarch of Constantinople and his brother heresiarchs; the only two, superficial differences were that his version was stated systematically and that his emphasis was on its application as regards modernist, ecumenist “World Orthodoxy”, whereas the Patriarchate’s emphasis is on the western heterodox and the eastern Monophysites. In either case it contravened and nullified the Symbol of the Faith, which confesses faith in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, as well as most of the decrees, writings, and canons of the Holy Apostles, Holy Fathers, and Holy Local and Ecumenical Synods. Here follows some pertinent passages from his 1984 “Ecclesiological Position Paper for the Orthodox Opposed to Ecumenism”, which is important for the history of Met. Vitaly, because he and his fellow ROCOR bishops will declare this document to be their confession of faith in 1994 and he will hold to that declaration until 2002. ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian declares:
“It is possible...for local Churches to fall in faith...for “divisions” to appear within the Church...It is possible for local Churches to fall into heresy, as occurred in the ancient Orthodox Church of the West, which fell into the heresies of Papism and Protestantism and finally into the pan-heresy of ecumenism...”
“He who preaches heresy and he who brings innovation into the Church divides Her and abrogates Her oneness or unity. [Then] Orthodox are divided into two parts: into those who are ailing in Faith and those who are healthy...”
“Until the judgment or expulsion of a heretic, schismatic, or sinner...by the Church... even if the resolution of a situation be prolonged until the Second Coming [!]... those who err in correctly understanding the Faith, yet who have not been sentenced by ecclesiastical action, are simply considered ailing members of the Church. The Mysteries of these unsentenced members are valid as such...for example, their ordination is from God...
“Today, the Church of Greece is, unfortunately, divided and ailing...with ecumenism, which aspires to the assimilation of Orthodox by heretics and the submission of Orthodoxy to the Papacy. It embodies the “overturning of all things, even to [the spirit of] Antichrist,” as St. Theodore writes...regarding the Moechian controversy, which, like the heresy of ecumenism, abolished the law of God.
“...the [Ecumenists] have not yet been specifically judged in a pan-Orthodox fashion, as provided for by the Orthodox Church [Editor’s note – the Greek word ‘pan’ or ‘pantos’ = all or entire; ‘pan-Orthodox’ means ‘of the entire Orthodox Church or World’]...the violator of established precepts is considered sentenced, insofar as he is judged by “the second entity (which is the [aforementioned ‘pan-orthodox’] synod).” Since 1924, the innovators have been awaiting judgment and shall be judged on the basis of the decisions of the holy Synods, both Œcumenical and local...That is to say, the innovators are still unsentenced. Consequently, their Mysteries are valid, the punishments perchance imposed by them against those in opposition are invalid and groundless, and their repentance and restoration to right belief are easy, should they wish this blessed return....”
As a pattern or example of this aforementioned repentance and ‘restoration to Orthodoxy’, ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian offers the following completely distorted history:
“St. Meletios of Antioch was Consecrated by heretics–the so-called “new heretics,” since they had not yet come to trial. Since, however, he supported Orthodoxy in his address at his enthronement, he was considered leader of the Orthodox of Antioch and later became the President of the Second Œcumenical Synod...”
These claims are completely groundless and contrary to Church Canonical Tradition as we shall see a little further on. See (Footnote 1)
In this “Ecclesiological Position Paper...” and elsewhere he also brings similarly fabricated cases of the acceptance of heretical mysteries by the Holy Fathers of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th Ecumenical Councils and other saints, all of which are gross distortions of the deeds and words of the Saints, which will all be dealt with in detail in the section of this website devoted to exposing the falsity of the Cyprianite sect. They are worth mentioning here and now because this shows that Metropolitan Cyprian’s group and later Metropolitan Vitaly and the ROCOR asserted that the mysteries of the Arians, the Macedonians, Nestorians, Monophysites, Monothelites, Iconoclasts and other heretics and schismatics were all valid for the decades, or even whole centuries in the case of the Monothelites and Iconoclasts, before the convening of an Ecumenical Council to condemn the heresy. ‘Met.’ Cyprian asserts that Arius and his successors, while denying the Son of God as only a creature, remained united with Christ and members of His Body until they were each severally condemned decades later by a formal trial and Ecumenical conciliar sentence. Although they derided Christ as no better than an angel or mere man, yet the grace and favor of God were upon them, he says; yea rather, God was forced to bless them and give them His Body and Blood (to their condemnation?), which to them was not counted communion with God, but with a creature, all because the bishops had not gotten around to fulfilling the formal technicality of anathematizing each one of them specifically, and had they never gotten around to it, Arius and company and their successors would still all be authentic members of Christ and have valid mysteries, even up to the 2nd Coming of Christ! (This is no less a criminal blasphemy against the Holy Spirit than that uttered by the Pharisees! Whereas the Pharisees called the works of God, those of the devil, Cyprian has called the growth and propagation of soul-destroying heresy, a work supported and sanctioned by the Holy Spirit!) Upon the lack of such a small formality (I will not call it ‘legalism’, because that implies adherence to a law, but there is no law requiring this) has Cyprian founded his heresy.
III. The third document of which we must now take note is what might be called ‘the Act of Union’ between the ROCOR Synod (that issued the above 1983 Anathema Against Ecumenism) and the ‘Synod of Resistors’ headed by ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian of Oropos and Fili, (which issued the second document we just read in which Ecumenism is very openly and plainly taught).
In the summer of 1994, the ROCOR bishops met in council to consider the petition of ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian that they recognize him and establish communion with his synod. The ROCOR Synod of Bishops adopted the following resolution:
Extract From the Minutes of the Council of Bishops of
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
On 28 June/11 July, 1994, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia addressed the question of the possibility of entering into communion in prayer and the Eucharist with the group of Old Calendarist Greeks headed by Metropolitan Cyprian....
3) During deliberations, attention was also given to statements of those opposed to the union [e.g., the author of this article, the then-Hieromonk Gregory], in which questions were raised as to the canonicity of Metropolitan Cyprian’s group and their allegedly un-Orthodox teaching on grace. The remarks of private individuals were also heard concerning this question;
4) In addition, petitions from the Romanian Old Calendarists and the Bulgarian Bishop Photios, and from several private individuals, all urging the reception of the groups of Metropolitan Cyprian into communion of prayer, were heard;
5) During the deliberation of all the questions outlined above, it was established that:
a) The Synod of Metropolitan Cyprian adheres wholly to the exact same ecclesiological and dogmatic principals as our Russian Church Outside of Russia. This is set forth in detail in their pamphlet, “An Exposition of the Doctrine Concerning the Church, for Orthodox Opposed to the Heresy of Ecumenism.
b) In 1986, the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostomos II tried and deposed Metropolitan Cyprian in absentia for allegedly holding to heretical teaching and for refusing to unite himself to their synod. But as the history of the Old Calendar divisions shows, Metropolitan Cyprian had never entered the synod of Archbishop Chrysostomos II [this is a clever twisting of the facts – editor’s note]...Metropolitan Cyprian had never submitted to his authority; the latter therefore lacked the competence to discipline him. [Editor’s note: But, the Synod under Archbishop Auxentios of Athens, from which he attempted to steal an episcopal consecration, had deposed ‘Met.’ Cyprian already in February of 1979, and over this synod Archbishop Chrysostom became Archbishop in the mid-1980’s, and repeated the deposition, this time on charges of heresy as well.]...
In connection with this, the Council of Bishops has decided:
1) To establish communion in prayer and the Eucharist with the Greek Old Calendarist synod of Metropolitan Cyprian, as well as with His Grace, Bishop Photios of Triaditsa, who heads the Bulgarian Old Calendar diocese....
The Council of Bishops
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 44, No. 4 (July-August 1994), pp. 46-50.
In this resolution, the Synod of ROCOR, headed by Metropolitan Vitaly, makes explicit reference to the previously-quoted, heretical tract of ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian and declares that they are in complete agreement doctrinally with all that he says in it. As we saw, he explicitly recognized the validity of the mysteries of heretics and schismatics and taught that the Church was divided among the heretics, the schismatics, and the Orthodox, both of which beliefs are clearly anathematized in the ROCOR’s 1983 Anathema and condemned countless times as uncanonical and heretical by the Holy Fathers and Holy Canons. To such a blatant confession of heresy, the ROCOR explicitly gave the stamp of approval, defended its Orthodoxy and entered into communion with those that preached it, as witnessed by the above document, thus coming under the explicit condemnation and anathematization of its own holy Council and predecessors, as well as the whole Canonical and Patristic Tradition of the Church. Despite this, the ROCOR continued to reiterate the Anathema Against Ecumenism for a further four years, until 1998, when it was dropped for an altered, dumbed-down version that has since been used at the ROCOR Synod’s Sunday of Orthodoxy celebrations. Thus, the ROCOR not only “fell under its own anathema” in 1994, as was loudly and repeatedly pointed out by Bishop Gregory Grabbe and others, but it continued to loudly anathematize itself annually a further four years before suppressing the 1983 Anathema in 1998.
When reproached with the 1983 Anathema for their union with the anathematized Ecumenists, apologists for the ROCOR apostasy (the Cyprianite union) assert that the 1983 Anathema is an internal ROCOR document, an anathema that only applied to and bound its own members to follow it. Although this limitation is a rather artless piece of obfuscation and sophistry, with no logical basis, nonetheless, it represents a confession from their own mouths’ that they have fallen under their own anathema and that it was not lawful for them to enter into communion with any ecumenist, whether the refined pseudo-intellectual Cyprianite type, or of the more generic, coarse Patriarchate of Constantinople brand. If they only bound themselves under anathema not do so, even so they were bound under anathema not to have communion with any ecumenist or accept ecumenism in any way.
Nonetheless, despite the glaring error of it, Metropolitan Vitaly and the ROCOR persisted on this heretical course, even going further and entering officially into communion with the ecumenist Patriarchates of World Pseudo-Orthodoxy, one by one in succession (Jerusalem - 1997, Serbia - 1999, and, most recently, Constantinople, indirectly - 2003, etc.).
This state of affairs continued without being gainsaid by any remaining ROCOR hierarch until the last part of 2001. In the summer of 2001, Metropolitan Vitaly officially retired as Metropolitan and Archbishop Laurus was appointed to act in place of the Metropolitan and arrange an election for the upcoming sobor, when in fact, he himself was elected Metropolitan. At the Fall Sobor of the ROCOR, after congratulating the new Metropolitan Laurus, former-Metropolitan Vitaly was suddenly whisked away from the Synod by his secretary and other acquaintances to his Mansonville, Canada, Skete of the Holy Transfiguration. There he, together with Bishop Barnabas of Cannes (France), recently suspended by ROCOR for usurping the Archdiocese of Western Europe, formed a new synod, calling it “the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile”, and declared the ROCOR Synod under Metropolitan Laurus ‘apostate’, demanding that all faithful Russians follow this new Synod. They then ordained three archimandrites to the episcopate.
IV. Now we come to the fourth and final document of our study, the December Epistle of Metropolitan Vitaly’s new synod officially breaking communion with and condemning the Ecumenical heresy of Metropolitan Cyprian.
Several months later, a further amazing turn of events took place and a still more amazing epistle was issued. What is so astounding about this epistle is actually not that after eight years of communion with heresy, Metropolitan Vitaly finally broke off this communion, but rather that having done so and having explicitly recognized that heresy or communion with heresy alienated one from the Church and that Cyprian was a heretic, yet he did not admit that he himself had fallen away! (Consequently, he has denied with his actions what he confessed with his lips – if heresy separates everyone from the Church, he must admit he himself has fallen away; otherwise, he necessarily falls back into the Cyprianite heresy of maintaining that having been a heretic for 8 years, yet he still was part of the Church.) Now we will read the last document in our study, wherein Metropolitan Vitaly and company condemn Cyprianism as heresy while ignoring the evident consequences of their union with it.
15/01/M 16/29 December 2001
The Resolution of the Pastoral Conference of the Canadian and American Clergy Regarding the Issue of Terminating Eucharistic Communion with Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili.
Having studied and discussed Metropolitan Cyprian’s teaching concerning ailing and healthy members of the Church in “the realm of a correct understanding of the faith” by the General Committee, whose creation was approved by Archbishop Varnava and Bishop Varfolomey and, likewise, having attended to reports and theological analyses from several volumes of documents regarding this subject, we have come to the following conclusion:
The Conclusion Concerning the Ecclesiology of Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili.
On the basis of having studied the ecclesiological teachings of Metropolitan Cyprian, which are set forth in the book “Ecclesiological Thesis, or the Exposition of the Doctrine of the Church for the Orthodox, Resisting the Heresy of Ecumenism” (pub. Monastery of Sts. Cyprian and Justina, Fili, Attica, Greece, 1993) [Editor’s Note: This is the same text he studied and approved 8 years earlier!!!], Metropolitan Cyprian’s report at the 6th Orthodox Conference “The Heresy of Ecumenism and the Patristic Position of the Orthodox” (23 February 1998), and also a host of publications and declarations of other hierarchs of the Synod of the Resistors, we have arrived at the following conclusions:
1. Metropolitan Cyprian and his Synod, while recognizing ecumenist world Orthodoxy to be heretical, nevertheless, considers it to be a part of the Church of Christ, thus contradicting the teaching and tradition of the Church, which clearly bears witness in Conciliar decrees and the writings of the Holy Fathers to the effect that heretics are fallen away from the Church.
2. Metropolitan Cyprian replaces the concept of “heretics” with a description of those who are essentially in error in their judgments concerning the Orthodox. Thus, in regard to ecumenist-heretics, he writes: “Persons in error concerning the correct understanding of the faith -- and thereby sinning, but not yet judged by an ecclesiastical court -- are ailing members of the Church” (“Ecclesiological Theses,” ch. 1, 4; pp. 2, 7). Calling for a walling-off from these ailing members, Metropolitan Cyprian, nonetheless, considers them to be within the Church. However, to permit membership in the Church outside an Orthodox confession of faith is by no means possible; hence, “those ailing in the faith” cannot be members of the Church, which is also confirmed by the teachings of the Holy Fathers. “Without a doubt,” says the venerable John Cassian the Roman, “he who does not confess the faith of the Church is outside the Church.” The same is confirmed also by Patriarch Jeremias II of Constantinople: “Members of the Church of Christ are wholly devoted to the truth, and those not wholly devoted to the truth are not members of the Church of Christ.” And St. Cyprian of Carthage teaches: “Just as the devil is not Christ, although he deceives in His name, so also such a one cannot be accounted a Christian as does not abide in the truth of His Gospel and Faith.” In agreement with all the Fathers, the Great Hierarch Gregory the Theologian, in his Second Epistle Against Apollinarius, also teaches: “Avoid those holding to another doctrine and consider them alien to God and to the Universal Church.” The Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs Concerning the Orthodox Faith states: “We believe that all amongst us are members of the catholic Church, even the faithful themselves, i.e., those who unconditionally confess the pure faith of Christ the Saviour.” And St. Gregory Palamas also explains: “Those who are of the Church of Christ, the same are of the truth; and those who are not of the truth, the same are also not of the Church of Christ...”
Metropolitan Cyprian declares in his thesis that “the Orthodox have become divided into two parts: those who are ailing in the faith and those who are healthy...” (Ch. 3, p. 4), but then he immediately goes on to speak of “restoring to Orthodoxy” those ailing in the faith (Ch. 3, p. 5), whereby he clearly falls into a doctrinal contradiction, for how is it possible “to receive into Orthodoxy” those who already are Orthodox?!
3. Metropolitan Cyprian makes a statement concerning the division of the Church by reason of ecumenism, by drawing an analogy between the present state of the Church and Her state during the time of the iconoclastic heresy. In his ecclesiology, he attempts to compare the present-day new-calendarists and ecumenists with the iconoclasts, whom the Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council united to the Church through repentance and the renouncing of their heresy. Likewise, Metropolitan Cyprian refers to the 7th Ecumenical Council, the Acts of which employ the expressions “severance,” “divisions,” etc. He reaches a totally unfounded conclusion, that the iconoclasts, prior to their having been judged by the Council, were not yet heretics, as such; and that their mysteries were therefore recognized as being valid. However, concerning the iconoclasts who were joined to Orthodoxy, neither did the Ecumenical Council consider them as having belonged previously to the Church, nor did they themselves make any pretenses as to their comprising Her. Here are the testimonies of the joining iconoclasts themselves. Basil, Bp. of Ancyra: “To the extent of my ability, I investigated the question of icons, and with complete conviction turned to the Holy Catholic Church.” Theodore, Bp. of Myra in Lycia: “...I pray God and your holiness to join me, a sinner, to the Holy Catholic Church, as well.” John, the most-God-pleasing Locum Tenens of the Apostolic Throne in the East said: “Heresy separates every man from the Church.” The Holy Council stated: “that is obvious.”
But Metropolitan Cyprian, in his ecclesiology, changes the terminology: “they were received into Orthodoxy,” thereby inferring an unthinkable distinction between the Church and Orthodoxy, which is impossible.
The Church, as the Body of Christ, cannot be divided. Such a phenomenon is ontologically impossible, inasmuch as the Lord Jesus Christ cannot have several bodies. Those divisions mentioned at the Council, and in the writings of the Holy Fathers, relate exclusively to a temporary division between Christians, like those arising during times of troubles when heresies are being spread, and when, initially, it can be difficult to discern just who is who. St. Basil the Great compared an occasion like this to a night-battle when, in the darkness, it is not immediately possible to discern friend from foe.
In the Church there can be no division; there can only be a falling away from Her. The Catechism of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitski) states the same concerning this: “Question: Is it possible to grant that there once took place, or that there will take place, a division within the Church, or a separation of Churches? Answer: In no case: heretics and schismatics fell away from the one indivisible Church at various times and thereby ceased to be members of the Church, but the Church, as such, cannot lose her unity” (Experience of Christian Catechism. Pub. Australo-New Zealand Ep. 1989, p. 65). In its Epistle of 18 November/ 1 December 1962, the ROCOR Sobor of Bishops likewise confessed: “We cannot accept their (the ecumenists’) point of view, that the Church has become divided. We believe in One, Exclusive Church, the Head of Which is Christ. As there is one Head, so also is there one Body – the Church. If a house is divided within itself, then it cannot stand. Thus, also, the Church, having become divided, would cease to be the Church. There can only be a falling-away from the Church – a departure from Her of individuals -- or of entire groups who are not of like mind with Her.” In accordance with this confession, the 18/31 December, 1931, Declaration of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops states: “Preserving the Faith in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Synod of Bishops confesses that this Church has never been divided.”
4...[Here Metropolitan Vitaly and company discuss the new-calendar innovation, which discussion we omit for the sake of a little brevity and maintaining coherence of argument, since this detour paragraph adds nothing to our purpose. – Editor’s note]...
5. The unification Council that Metropolitan Cyprian is hoping for can unite only these “separated Orthodox.” But heretics do not belong to the Church and can return into the Bosom of the Church of Christ only through being united to Her. Metropolitan Cyprian sets forth a false theory of uniting those of unlike mind, at the same time making the very convening of said Council dependent upon this unnatural union.
In this fashion, Metropolitan Cyprian’s doctrine, being the fundamental position of the Synod of Resistors, contradicts the Patristic traditions of the Church. He declares that he is not in communion with heretical ecumenist churches. Meanwhile, however, he and his Synod fail to sever themselves from these churches spiritually, considering themselves to be the “healthy” part of the one Church at the same time as the heretical, ecumenist and new-calendarist churches are the “ailing” part. Thus, Metropolitan Cyprian’s Synod, despite the absence of communion in the mysteries [Editor’s note: Actually, ‘Met.’ Cyprian communes New Calendarists, as reported in Greek newspapers.], finds itself, de facto, in a total “healthy-ailing” union with heretical world “Orthodoxy.” This “Orthodox” crypto-ecumenism, so to speak, even as open ecumenism, falls under the 1983 anathema against the heresy of ecumenism, which was proclaimed by the ROCOR Synod of Bishops under presidency of the third First Hierarch of the Church Abroad, Metropolitan Philaret. (This anathema was subsequently confirmed by the ROCOR Sobor of Bishops in 1998):
“and to those who have communion with these heretics, or who aid and abet them, or who defend their new heresy of ecumenism, supposing that to be brotherly love and the uniting of separated Christians: Anathema!”
Thus, by appending our signatures hereunto, we ratify the 2nd Point of the Declaration of the Synod of Bishops of our Church, No. 7/01/M, on 26 October/8 November, 2001, wherein is announced:
“(In accordance with the decree of the 1974 ROCOR Sobor Of Bishops) The termination of the 1994 ROCOR Sobor’s rashly-established eucharistic communion with the Synod of the Resistors under the Presidency of Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili on account of his unorthodox teaching concerning the Church (regarding ailing and healthy members of the Church in the realm of “the correct understanding of the faith”) and the recognition of the Mysteries of the new-calendarists as being valid” (see Met. Cyprian “Ecclesiological Thesis,” pp. 2 and 5).
+ Metropolitan Vitaly
+ Archbishop Varnava (in agreement with the resolution)
+ Bishop Sergii
+ Bishop Vladimir
+ Bishop Varfolomei (in agreement with the resolution)
Protopresbyter Victor Melehov,
Archpriest Sergii Petrov,
Archpriest Joseph Sunderland,
Archpriest Spyridon Schneider,
Priest Anatolii Trepachko,
Priest Andrew Kencis,
Priest Nikita Orlov,
Hieromonk Damian (Hansen),
Priest Mikhail Marcinowski,
Priest Yevgenii Santalov,
Abbess Eugenia (agrees with the Resolution),
Deacon Mark Smith
Holy Transfiguration skete,
This is quite a wonderful letter, with the exception of one point – if heretics cannot be a part of the Church, if Metropolitan Cyprian’s group is heretical, if it falls under the Anathema Against Ecumenism, if heretical mysteries automatically lack grace and validity, if those who have fallen away from the Church through heresy cannot be restored to Her through any other way than through reunion with her, at the very least after the manner of the 7th Ecumenical Council’s reuniting the former Iconoclasts, i.e., repentance, petition for readmission to the Church, and anathematizing of errors,...if all this is true, then where does that leave Metropolitan Vitaly and those with him?
From all that they have admitted, and it is all true, how can they justify regarding themselves as part of the Church – they joined with ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian in his heresy and were just as much if not more so in spiritual and mysterial communion with heretical ‘World Orthodoxy’. Metropolitan Vitaly and everyone that stayed with ROCOR once this union was established were just as much if not more so under the Anathema Against Ecumenism, as communicants and propagators of its heretical theories. As Bishop Gregory Grabbe wrote at the time in his article “On the Dubious Orthodoxy of Metropolitan Cyprian’s Group” (“Church News”, no. 5, Sept. Oct. 1994, pp. 2-4): “Frightful as it may be to admit, our Sobor has fallen under our own anathema!” Therefore, although wonderful in all other points, the letter is insufficient and flawed, because they have remained carefully silent about pointing out what all their sudden revelations mean for themselves.
So there is no other possible conclusion – in 1994, having reviewed Cyprian’s Ecclesiological Position Paper, they endorsed it as identical with their belief, and began to put it into action by establishing communion with Ecumenist World Orthodoxy, continuing thus nearly 8 years, and then in the last days of 2001, they reviewed the same document and condemned it as manifest heresy and anathema and declared that those who held to it could not be in the Church or have grace – having themselves done just that for nearly 8 whole years. Therefore, Metropolitan Vitaly and company apostatized from the Church in 1994. If apostates must seek repentance and reunion with the Church’s faithful hierarchy to be part of Her again, and Metropolitan Vitaly and company have not done this, then, Metropolitan Vitaly and company are outside the Church and need to repent and be readmitted by bishops who have remained faithful to Her and the Faith. It is as simple as that. Thus, in a nutshell, you, dear reader, have the answer to ‘Why Metropolitan Vitaly’s Group Is Uncanonical’, and the beauty of it is that the confession and explanation of their uncanonicity comes straight from their own mouths.
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Church History, we are forced to digress a moment from our course and point out the truth about the ordination of St. Meletius. In reality, what happened was as follows:
After the 1st Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, 325 A.D.), some Arians pretended conversion to Orthodoxy to avoid the penalties decreed against Arianism by St. Constantine the Great and his successors Constans and Constantius. These crypto-arians struggled from within to gradually remove Orthodox bishops on false canonical pretexts and to move the Church to a more ambiguous formula of the Faith, instead of the clear confession of the Nicene Creed. These crypto-Arians pretended that the word homoousios caused confusion, since some interpreted it as Sabellian (i.e., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one Person), and therefore, all that was necessary to reconcile the remaining Arians to the Church was to find another way to say the same thing.
Emperor Constantius convoked two, simultaneous Councils (Arminium and Seleucia) of several hundred bishops in the West and in the East in the hope of resolving the quarrels over the term homoousios and the canonical accusations against various bishops. With the exception of a handful of crypto-Arians all these bishops were staunch up-holders of the Nicene Creed and refused to change it; however, the crypto-Arians tricked the Emperor into thinking that the homoousian was not necessary if the Creed already said Christ “was begotten not made”, “begotten of the Father before all ages”, “God of God”, “true God of true God”, and many other such assertions of Christ’s eternal divinity, and so he pushed the bishops to agree to dropping “homoousios” for the sake of reconciling the apostates. After many months, the bishops eventually gave in and signed a creed lacking the homoousian. It was this Council (Seleucia) that ordained St. Meletios to the see of Sebaste in Armenia. The Council was in no way Arian or Semi-Arian or heretical, but it did fail to uphold completely to the letter the Creed of Nicaea. Sozomen and Theodoret, the Church historians of this period, clearly demonstrate that this Council was Orthodox in faith, despite its forced failure in the matter of the homoousian. Thus, ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian has already falsified history on this point.
Not long afterward, the crypto-Arian bishop Eudoxius obtained the banishment of the strict homoousian Orthodox Archbishop Eustathius of Antioch and tried to obtain the see of Antioch for himself, but failed. Therefore, not wanting another strict homoousian to obtain it, his faction petitioned the Emperor to appoint St. Meletios of Sebaste to Antioch, thinking that a man consecrated by a Council that had dropped the homoousian, would be susceptible to Arian persuasion. However, the Orthodox also knew of Meletios’ Orthodoxy and therefore, seconded the Eudoxian petition. When St. Meletios arrived he and other crypto-Arian bishops were each asked to expound a Scripture used by Arianism to supposedly prove that Christ was a creature; the Arians came out of the closet with their blasphemies, but St. Meletios loudly upheld the homoousian openly. The parties split into three factions, the Arians who preached their impiety openly from now on, the Meletians who followed St. Meletios, and the Paulinians who followed a presbyter named Paulinus who found fault with the manner of St. Meletios’ appointment. Some saints held communion with Paulinus, some with St. Meletios, but eventually, the 2nd Ecumenical Council reconciled the two Orthodox factions in favor of St. Meletios, who then became its president, and which confirmed that the Nicene Creed must be kept forever inviolate.
This is the true history of St. Meletios, and anyone that wishes may read this in the works of the Church historians mentioned (Sozomen and Theodoret; Socrates is less accurate). Thus, ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian has falsified history and blasphemed a great saint of the Church attributing impiety and false ordination to him who never submitted to either. From this example, dear reader, understand that ‘Metropolitan’ Cyprian is neither a scholar, nor Orthodox, but a heretic attempting to corrupt the faith of the flock by falsehood and fantastic inventions of his own corrupt mind.
APPENDIX: Repenting to One’s Self is Not Enough:
A Patristic Example
Those who follow or recognize Metropolitan Vitaly consider it sufficient that he has left off communion with Cyprian and formally repudiated that man’s doctrine. However, as we have shown above, this is not sufficient to restore him to the Church, even according to Metropolitan Vitaly’s own words. But for the sake of delivering any who still have doubts from their error, we offer a further testimony to this fact from Church history.
The history of the Henoticon Schism and how it was healed provides us with a direct parallel to Metropolitan Vitaly’s situation, and, as we will see, the Church did not find the similar attempt at self-restoration by Patriarch Euthymios of Constantinople sufficient then either.
In 482 A.D., 31 years after the 4th Ecumenical Council definitively refuted and condemned Monophysitism, the Byzantine Emperor Zeno published the Henotikon or Instrument of Union between Orthodox and Monophysites – the forerunner and prototype of today’s Ecumenical ‘Agreed Statements’. This vaguely-worded confession of faith simply stated that Christ was strictly ‘one’ and that this ‘unity’ willed and worked both divine and human things, never once mentioning one or two natures, one or two natural wills and activities or energies, ignoring the 4th Ecumenical Council (at Chalcedon). It affirmed only three Ecumenical Councils (Nikaea, Constantinople I, and Ephesus) and it then anathematized ‘all those who thought differently (from the present confession), whether at Chalcedon or at any other synod.’
Zeno proposed the Henoticon to the Orthodox and Monophysite leaders and demanded they sign it and establish intercommunion. Patriarch Akakios of Constantinople and several Monophysite leaders, including the Monophysite Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria, Severos and Peter Mongos, signed the document and established intercommunion among themselves. The Monophysites rejoiced at having gotten the Orthodox to abandon Chalcedon and to subscribe to a confession that suppressed all its teaching and acts. They continued vigorously preaching monophysitism and monothelitism, which did not disrupt the newly-established union.
The other Orthodox Patriarchs hastened to condemn the Henoticon and its signers as apostate; in consequence, Patriarch Akakios struck their names from his diptychs (the commemoration lists of Orthodox bishops; this was a sign of de-recognition and excommunication of the Orthodox by Akakios). The Orthodox soon responded with a similar erasure of Akakios from their diptychs. Zeno then attempted to obtain the Orthodox bishops’ signatures by force or threat of exile, but failed.
Afterward, when Emperor Anastasius succeeded Zeno on the throne, he, Fravitas succeeded Akakios as Patriarch on the former’s death, and promptly abandoned communion with the Monophysites; however, he neither disowned the Henoticon nor repented of Constantinople’s apostasy. He simply demanded recognition from Rome and the other uncompromised sees; they refused to give it.
After Fravitas came Patriarch Euthymius whose actions can be compared with those of Metropolitan Vitaly. Euthymius condemned the whole Henoticon affair and false confession, but he refused to admit Constantinople’s apostasy, or stop commemorating his predecessors as true bishops in the diptychs, and so seek to be restored to the Church by other bishops who had remained faithful. It is the same now with Vitaly, who having condemned the whole Ecumenical Cyprian union, yet refuses to seek restoration from anyone, and simply demands everyone recognize and submit to him as “head of the Russian Church.” Just as Euthymius got nowhere with this stiff-necked bull-headedness, neither is it going to benefit or save Metropolitan Vitaly. The Church does not allow it or accept such incomplete repentance. Euthymius specifically asked for terms of reconciliation between himself and Rome from Pope St. Felix. St. Felix laid out the following terms for him: ‘Admit Constantinople is apostate; remove from the diptychs Akakios and Fravitas as heretics and graceless pseudo-bishops and anathematize them, the Henoticon, and all those who subscribed to it; and officially accept the Faith as it has been preserved here at Rome and among the other faithful hierarchs.’ This was too much for Euthymius’ proud temperament to bear, so he rejected these conditions, and he too died outside the Church.
Euthymius was succeeded by the more humble Patriarch John. At the same time the pious and orthodox Justin and his nephew St. Justinian the Great took over the helm of the Empire, and they helped orchestrate the reconciliation between Rome and Constantinople. Patriarch John was prodded into seeking terms again from Rome, now led by Pope Hormisdas. The terms he laid out were the same as his predecessors, and this time they were accepted. Just before Pascha that year, the legates of the Pope arrived in Constantinople to reconcile them to the Church. Patriarch John and his bishops read out a libellus that exactly fulfilled the terms laid down by St. Pope Felix: they anathematized and condemned Akakios, Fravitas, and Euthymius as well as all who followed them in the Henoticon affair; they promised to strike the aforementioned patriarchs names from the diptychs; they repudiated the faith of the Henoticon and embraced the confession upheld by Rome and the other Orthodox; and they humbly sought reception back into the Church by Pope Hormisdas. In consequence of this, the Henoticon Schism was healed and the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate was restored to the Church.
Now, let us once again compare how the Church handled the case of the Henoticon Schism with the present case of Metropolitan Vitaly and his followers.
Akakios, ostensibly Orthodox entered into a false union with Monophysites. Likewise, Metropolitan Vitaly, who had been an outspoken enemy of Ecumenism earlier, accepted union with the Ecumenist Cyprian of Fili and accepted his heretical doctrine. In both instances, the Orthodox hierarchs, clergy and faithful denounced and broke communion with both Akakios and Vitaly.
Many years later, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Akakios’ successor Euthymius, finally completely repudiated the false union and false confession which he and his predecessors had accepted in uniting with the heretics, but he refused to recognize that either he or they had apostatized from the Church (and so to strike their names from the diptychs). He refused to seek readmission by repentance to the Church, i.e., repentance to those who had not fallen away through heresy or schism; he simply demanded everyone recognize him. We know that this was not accepted by St. Pope Felix and the rest of the Church, and that a generation later Euthymius was anathematized along with Akakios, Fravitas, and the rest of the heretics. Likewise, Metropolitan Vitaly, while admitting that Cyprian is a heretic and that he (Met. Vitaly) has had communion with heretics for 8 years, he nonetheless imitates the anathematized Euthymius, refusing to admit his apostasy or seek readmission to the Church. May God grant him enlightenment, or else he will ultimately suffer the same fate as Euthymius.
The correct path for Metropolitan Vitaly is that of Patriarch John of Constantinople who humbled himself to admit Constantinople’s apostasy and to seek readmission into the Church from Pope Hormisdas and the other Orthodox hierarchs. Let Metropolitan Vitaly humble himself and seek readmission by the hands of faithful hierarchs. But Metropolitan Vitaly is not a model hierarch. Even after admitting that he was in heresy for so many years, he still maintained that “I have always steered the ship of the Church rightly.” With this type of illogical pride, there is no hope for Metropolitan Vitaly, and those who follow him must abandon him to secure their salvation. No one should believe in a phyletistic way that ’since I am Russian, therefore, I will always be part of the Church’, or ‘since I am Greek, I will always be part of the Church’, and certainly no should ever believe that he may espouse a Protestant type of mentality and think that he can simply repent to himself and force God to accept his repentance, especially if it is a matter of heresy or schism.
Let no one balk at this requirement of the Holy Orthodox Church; Metropolitan Vitaly and his followers have themselves stated that: “the teaching and tradition of the Church...clearly bears witness in Conciliar decrees and the writings of the Holy Fathers to the effect that heretics are fallen away from the Church.... heretics do not belong to the Church and can return into the Bosom of the Church of Christ only through being united to Her”. The above documents from ROCOR and Cyprian themselves testify that they have fallen away from the Church into heresy and that heretics cannot ‘restore themselves’. Therefore, let no one doubt that Metropolitan Vitaly, by his own tacit admission, is outside the Church and not an option for those seeking a real, rather than phantom, union with the true Church.
At Dormition Skete, Dec. 26 /Jan. 8, 2006
+ Archbishop Gregory
More canonical violations of Metropolitan Vitaly since 1992
1992... Russian Church Abroad, (Met. Vitaly) goes into communion with the Romanian Synod of Resistors who are in communion with Metr. Cyprian. (What the outcome of this union would accomplish was uncertain at the time. Would it lead to the breaking of communion of the Romanians with Cyprian, or would it lead to the ROCOR’s union with Cyprian? As time showed, this was the first step towards union with Cyprian, although there was never an official statement on the part of ROCOR that the Romanian ecclesiology was identical to ROCOR’s.)
May 1993... Russian Church Abroad, (Met. Vitaly) meets in Lesna, France, and uncanonically ‘retires’ Bishop Valentine, who opposes union with the MP., then one year later requests he (Valentine) participate in the decisions of the 1994 Lesna Sobor as a ruling bishop.
July 1994... Russian Church Abroad, (Met. Vitaly) uncanonically unites with the heretic and deposed Ecumenist Met. Cyprian of Fili and his “Synod of Resisters”.
1996... Russian Church Abroad, (Met. Vitaly) uncanonically retires Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles. He vigorously opposed union with the MP.
July 31, 1997... Russian Church Abroad, (Met. Vitaly) makes an official statement saying that they are in eucharistic communion with the Jerusalem Patriarchate! [Implementing Cyprianite ecclesiology]
Apr 15/29 1999... Russian Church Abroad, (Met. Vitaly) make an official statement stating their prayerful unity with the Ecumenist Serbian Patriarchate.
Oct 13/26, 2000...At the October 2000 Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitan Vitaly seeks union with the Moscow Patriarchate, and asks Serbian Patriarch Pavel to help!
April 24, 2001... Metropolitan Vitaly and the ROCA Synod appropriately suspend and indict Bishop Barnabas of Cannes for numerous canonical violations, then on October 14/27, 2001...Met. Vitaly, on his own, uncanonically, restores him to help him ordain bishops for his new schism of ROCE, and then on November 6/19, 2004...Met. Vitaly deprives Archbishop Barnabas of his episcopal rank by deposing him without a trial.
Nov. 3, 2001...In violation of the Canonical Epistle of the Third Ecumenical Council decreed that a retired bishop can no longer govern the Church or ordain bishops, the retired Metropolitan Vitaly, “restored to himself the rights of the Head of the Church”, and together with the suspended Bishop Barnabas, “consecrate” Archimandrite Sergius (Kindiakov) as Bishop of Mansonville.
December 29, 2001...The new ROCE under Metropolitan Vitaly breaks communion with the deposed heretic and Ecumenist Cyprian of Fili; however, it does not renounce communion with the other Cyprianite ‘Resister’ Synods of Bulgaria and Romania, who are in communion with Cyprian. Nor do they renounce Met. Vitaly’s statements that he is in communion with the other Ecumenist Patriarchates, thus he accomplishes two uncanonical acts at the same time –1) he repents to himself in a Protestant fashion, and –2) repents of only half of his wicked and sinful acts against the Church.
2003...Metropolitan Vitaly accepts into his schismatic church Bishops Lazarus and Benjamin with their dioceses in Russia, and through the continuous intrusive meddling of Ludmila or other officiousness, miscommunication ensues. Because of this, the two bishops “ordain” four more bishops in Russia and Vitaly retaliates by breaking communion with them, thus creating another schism.
24 June/7 July 2004...Metropolitan Vitaly announces to the rest of his synod that two years before, unbeknownst to them, Fr. Nikita Orlov, a married priest, was secretly elevated to the episcopacy by Met. Vitaly in the Metropolitan’s cell. He then bids them greet and accept their ‘fellow-hierarch.’ Thus Metropolitan Vitaly manages to accomplish ten uncanonical acts at the same time.
1) sinned against a priest’s wife by taking away her husband without her prior consent or just cause, as if there ever could be a cause, --
2) does not ordain him on an altar or antimensia with holy relics, --
3) elects a bishop by himself without the consent of the other bishops, --
4) ordains a bishop by himself without the prior consent of other bishops, --
5) ordained a bishop without any witnesses, --
6) ordained a clergyman of another bishop (Bp. Vladimir of Sacramento) without the latter’s consent or knowledge --
7) ordained a bishop without the knowledge and consent of his future flock, --
8) divided and redistributed the diocese of another bishop without his or the synod’s knowledge or consent, --
9) had a bishop living with a wife for two years after ordination, and --
10) authorized a bishop to operate in other bishops’ dioceses without their knowledge or consent (Fr. Nikita/Bp. Anthony visited ‘his’ parishes across the country and overseas for two years, before Met. Vitaly announced his existence as a bishop to the other hierarchs). It might be relevant here to recall Met. Vitaly’s statement (so typical of his later years) made some years previous to this when hearing a report on the canonical course of action for the ROCOR synod: “You are always talking about the canons! Forget the canons! Now is the time for action!” Only a man with more regard for his own opinion than the Church’s rules could perform such an anti-canonical act as this consecration.
2005...Metropolitan Vitaly continues to maintain his disrespect to the Holy Canons by ordaining twice married men into all ranks up to the priesthood!
The bishops of ROCE to the present time;
Metropolitan Vitaly; a “ruling bishop”, who cannot think properly, who has no fear of disobeying the Church canons, who does not serve and will not retire!
A new “synod” of eight bishops fashioned by Metropolitan Vitaly, and again epitomizing the essential characteristics his former synod from New York City, namely having a complete disrespect for canonical order and refusing to oppose Metropolitan Vitaly’s disobedient leadership!
Bishops Sergei and Vladimir; ordained as ruling bishops, and according to the ROCE Bishops’ Conference of April 7/20, 2002, are not permitted to ordain!
Bishop Vladimir; ordained as bishop of Sacramento and Western America, thrown out of his cathedral and diocese on the west coast and now lives on the east coast!
Bishop Vladimir; not allowed to serve in his diocese, but Bishop Anthony allowed to serve in every diocese!
Metropolitan Vitaly, over the course of his tenure as head of the Russian Church Abroad, has developed and adopted a mentality that he is somehow superior to canonical order as we have seen above.
This erroneous and invalid practice of canonical violations stems from his blind pride and he has thereby accomplished many abhorrent acts, such as:
suspending and unsuspending bishops on his own authority,
retiring bishops who disagree with him by his own will,
uniting with and communing with heretics and schismatics,
administrating the church according to his own laws and not the canons,
and all this while still maintaining that he is purely Orthodox, a valid and canonical bishop. This episcopal folly, of course, produces nothing but schism, heresy and confusion.
Metropolitan Vitaly believes in the authority of his person, that the Church revolves around him, as if he were some pope. “Trust only my living voice”, are the words of his 2001 Nativity Epistle! Because of this, many have suffered at his hands and most affirm that he is responsible, single-handedly, for the destruction of the Russian Church Abroad.
Some say it is because his mental capacity has diminished badly, and bring forth as proof the fact that, one day in New York he votes for Metropolitan Laurus to replace him and congratulates him, and the next day in Montreal, he calls Metropolitan Laurus an apostate. The Church has suffered much at the hands of Metropolitan Vitaly, and yet he has the audacity to say, after he himself became an apostate and harmed so many souls, that he has always governed the Church rightly. An apostate cannot build the Church of Christ and an apostate cannot build a synod on an uncanonical foundation.
The crux of the matter is that Metropolitan Vitaly has not repented of his Cyprianism. He has renounced the person of Cyprian only, but in reality, since he acknowledges that he was in communion with a heretic and is still part of the Church, therefore, he stubbornly holds very dear the teaching of Cyprian that says that an erring bishop or synod is still part of the Church.
May Christ enlighten to repentance both the clergy and laity of ROCE!
Jan. 4/17, 2006
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