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The Visible Religion

The Russian Orthodox Church and her Relations with State and Society in Post-Soviet Canon Law (1992–2015)

by Alexander Ponomariov (Author)
Thesis 362 Pages

Summary

«The Visible Religion» is an antithesis to Thomas Luckmann’s concept. The Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet canon law suggests a comprehensive cultural program of modernity. Researched through the paradigms of multiple modernities and post-secularity, the ROC appears to be quite modern: she reflects on herself and the secular environment, employs secular language, appeals to public reason, the human rights discourse, and achievements of modern science. The fact that the ROC rejects some liberal Western developments should not be understood in the way that the ROC rejects modernity in general. As a legitimate player in the public sphere, the ROC puts forward her own – Russian Orthodox – model of modernity, which combines transcendence and immanence, theological and social reasoning, an afterlife strategy and cooperation with secular actors, whereby eschatology and the human rights discourse become two sides of the same coin.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • Selected Abbreviations
  • Figures and Tables
  • Foreword
  • 1. Introduction
  • 1.1. Object
  • 1.2. Definitions and Terminology
  • 1.2.1. Canon Law
  • 1.2.2. The ROC and the Moscow Patriarchate
  • 1.2.3. The ROC and the ROCA
  • 1.2.4. The Orthodox Church
  • 1.2.5. Orthodox Christianity and Christian Orthodoxy
  • 1.3. Objectives
  • 1.4. Canon Law: A Tool of Theopolitics and Geotheology
  • 1.5. Orthodoxy and Religious Fundamentalism
  • 1.6. The Secularization Theory and the Russian Federation
  • 1.7. Multiple Modernities
  • 1.8. Multiple Modernities and Globalization
  • 1.9. Post-Secularity: from “Postsecular Crap” to the “Eternal Religious”
  • 1.10. A Nation Church
  • 1.11. The ROC and the Human Rights Discourse
  • 1.12. Orthodox Canon Law and the Sacralization of Person
  • 1.13. The Hypothesis: Russian Orthodox Modernity
  • 1.14. Methods
  • 1.14.1. Document Study
  • 1.14.2. The Translation Proviso
  • 1.14.3. Theology as a Method of Research
  • 1.14.4. Translingual Bible Criticism
  • 1.14.5. The “Trinitarian” Approach
  • 1.14.6. The Public Canon Discourse Analysis as a Method
  • 1.14.7. Languages, Scripts, Figures, Tables
  • 1.14.8. A Diachronic Approach to the ROC Documents
  • 1.15. The Sources
  • 1.16. The State of Research
  • 1.17. The Structure
  • 2. Orthodox Canon Law
  • 2.1. “Canon” and Types of Canon Law
  • 2.2. The Structure of Canon Law
  • 2.3. The Origin of Canon Law
  • 2.4. The Text, Tradition, and Post-Secularity
  • 2.5. The Text
  • 2.6. The Apostolic Canons and the Church Councils
  • 2.7. The Principles of Application of Canon Law
  • 2.8. The Legal Retroaction
  • 2.9. Subdivisions in ROC Canon Law
  • 2.10. An “Official Position” as Modern Canon Law
  • 3. External Aspects of the Orthodox Church
  • 3.1. The ROC in the Post-Soviet Era
  • 3.2. The Formal Unity
  • 3.3. The Ecclesiology of the Church Models
  • 3.4. “Catholic” and “Universal”
  • 3.5. The Theopolitics of the ROC
  • 3.6. State Forms in the ROC’s Doctrine
  • 3.7. Types of Church-State Relations
  • 3.8. Channels of Interaction and Religious Intelligence
  • 3.9. The ROC in Public Opinion
  • 3.9.1. Public Importance
  • 3.9.2. Secular Society and Religious Values
  • 4. The ROC-State Cooperation from 1917 until 1991
  • 4.1. The Church-State Relations in 1917–1918
  • 4.1.1. The February Revolution of 1917
  • 4.1.2. The Revolution of 1917–1918
  • 4.2. The Declaration of Metropolitan Sergii (1927)
  • 4.3. The Stalinist Revival of the ROC (1943–1948)
  • 4.3.1. The ROC’s Revival in 1943
  • 4.3.2. The Stalinist Climax of 1948
  • 4.4. The 1000 Years Jubilee of the ROC (1988)
  • 4.5. The Evaluation of the Declaration of 1927 in 1990: a Step to Reunion
  • 5. The Canon Law on Relations with State and Society
  • 5.1. An Outline of the Cultural Program of the ROC (1992)
  • 5.2. An External Religious Challenge and a Reciprocal Mission of the ROC (1994)
  • 5.3. The Principles of Cooperation with State and Society (1994)
  • 5.4. Religious Fundamentalism and Post-Religious Sanity (1998)
  • 5.5. Technology and “Digital Antichrist” (2000)
  • 5.6. The Canon Law of The Bases of the Social Concept (2000)
  • 5.6.1. Transfiguration as a General Task (2000)
  • 5.6.2. The “Civil Disobedience” Strategy (2000)
  • 5.6.3. Political Election Revisited (2000)
  • 5.6.4. The Inter-Christian Interaction (2000)
  • 5.6.5. The Inter-Christian Marriage (2000)
  • 5.6.6. Labor, Economy, and Reason (2000)
  • 5.6.7. Abortion and Contraception (2000)
  • 5.6.8. Modern Medical Technology (2000)
  • 5.6.9. Homo- and Transsexuality (2000)
  • 5.7. Demography and an Earthly Homeland (2004)
  • 5.8. AIDS: Immanent Challenge → Transcendent Solution (2005)
  • 5.9. The Concept of the ROC’s Missionary Activities (2007)
  • 5.10. Human Dignity, Freedom, and Nature (2008)
  • 5.11. Blasphemy in Public (2011)
  • 5.12. Public Orthodoxy and Elections (2011)
  • 5.13. Russian Orthodox “Colonialism” and Small Peoples (2011)
  • 5.14. Drugs in Russia: A Tragedy of “Apocalyptic” Scale (2012)
  • 5.15. Circular Letters as Canon Law (2012)
  • 5.16. The ROC’s Statute as Canon Law (2013)
  • 5.17. Renewed Concerns over Digital Security (2013)
  • 5.18. An “Effective Presence” in the Media (2013 et al)
  • 5.19. Ecology and Nature (2013)
  • 5.20. The Church-State Relations in 2013: An Interim Report
  • 5.21. Family and Juvenile Justice (2013)
  • 5.22. Crime and Punishment (2013)
  • 5.23. The External Public Mission (2013)
  • 5.24. Surrogacy: A Red Line (2013)
  • 5.25. The Inter-Christian Primacy (2013)
  • 5.26. Alcoholism: A Grave Threat to Society (2014)
  • 5.27. Migrants: Christian Mission → Social Harmony → Orthodox Leitkultur (2014)
  • 5.28. The Ecology Doctrine Revisited (2015)
  • 5.29. Summary
  • 6. Metareflection: Tradition, Modernity, Orthodoxy
  • 6.1. Theology of Church Power
  • 6.1.1. Symphony of Powers as a Metonymy
  • 6.1.2. “Universal”
  • 6.1.3. “Conciliar”
  • 6.1.4. “Catholic”
  • 6.2. Orthodox “Colonialism,” Church Power, and Oral Law
  • 6.3. A Modern Application of Canon Law
  • 6.4. Orthodox Tradition and Modernity
  • 6.4.1. History and the Canon Myth: Decrypting the “Christian Attitude” to State Power
  • 6.4.2. “God Hates Divorce” (Mal 2: 16): a Future Norm of Canon Law?
  • 6.4.3. The ROC’s Ecology Doctrine as a Metonymy
  • 6.4.4. Thoughts on Freedom, “Image,” and “Likeness”
  • 6.4.5. “Orthodox Patriotism” and Nation Church
  • 6.4.6. Early Russian Modernity
  • 7. Church, State, and Society in Post-Secular Settings
  • 7.1. State ↔ Religion
  • 7.2. State → the ROC: A Legislative Approximation
  • 7.3. The ROC in the International Relations
  • 7.3.1. Between Russia, China, and America
  • 7.3.2. The ROC in the European Union
  • 7.4. Nation State → Nation Church → “Orthodox Nation”
  • 7.5. “The Visible Religion”
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

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Selected Abbreviations

Acts Book of Acts of the Apostles

Cor Epistle to the Corinthians

CIS Commonwealth of Independent States

Deut Book of Deuteronomy

DSS Dead Sea Scrolls

Eph Epistle to the Ephesians

Exodus Book of Exodus

FMS Federal Migration Service

Gal Epistle to the Galatians

Gen Book of Genesis

HRD Human Rights Discourse

Jn Gospel according to John

JOC Japanese Orthodox Church

Lev Book of Leviticus

Lk Gospel according to Luke

LOC Local Orthodox Church

Mal Book of Malachi

Mk Gospel according to Mark

Mt Gospel according to Matthew

MT Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible

Peter Epistle of Apostle Peter

Phil Epistle to the Philippians

RCC Roman Catholic Church

Rev Book of Revelation

ROC Russian Orthodox Church

ROCA Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

Rom Epistle to the Romans

Tim Epistle to Timothy

Tit Epistle to Titus

Thes Epistle to the Thessalonians

UOC Ukrainian Orthodox Church

| 15 →

Figures and Tables

Figure 1: Russian Orthodox bishops at the Bishops’ Council of 2013

Figure 2: Russian Orthodox bishops at the Bishops’ Council of 2004

Figure 3: A meeting of the Council on Interaction with Religions in December 2014

Figure 4: The Structure of the Armed Forces Department

Figure 5: Ratings of trust in public institutions in Russia

Figure 6: A circular letter of Metropolitan Varsonofii

Figure 7: The “gathered” Church in loco

Figure 8: A reply of the Kremlin Executive Office

Figure 9: Patriarch Kirill and Xi Jinping in Beijing

 

Table 1: The poll of general trust in Russia

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Foreword

As a country and culture, the Russian Federation acquired a fresh point of focus across the globe in early 2014, following the political crisis in Ukraine.1 The subsequent partnership with China, an active participation in solving the Iranian nuclear problem and lifting the Iran embargo in 2015, and a military operation in Syria significantly contributed to the need of reevaluating the Russian Federation as a phenomenon, searching for its internal drivers.

Among such drivers, it has been noted that the incumbent Russian president, Vladimir Putin, maintains close contacts with religious communities of the country and their leaders, including the largest religion in the Russian Federation, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which extends her influence far beyond both the actual religion and the state boundaries, representing one of the keys to understanding modern Russia.2 The interaction between the ROC and the state in post-Soviet Russia in the form of a close cooperation quickly became a norm, and the Kremlin actively appeals to religious images and figures of speech in its official rhetoric, shrugging off the erstwhile “pure” secularism and attaching more attention to post-secular models of coexistence. In this connection, the analysis of recent documents of the ROC on relations with state and society, apart from providing new insights for the academic discipline, is a timely initiative in the political sense as well.

For example, the primate of the ROC, Patriarch Kirill, on the background of a close cooperation between Moscow and Tehran, achieved in July 2015 a release from prison of an Iranian Protestant pastor who had been accused by the Iranian authorities of acts threatening the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Pastor 2015). The fact that the Orthodox Patriarch takes care of non-Orthodox Christians in countries in which Islam is the dominant religion and his achievement of practical success in his endeavor evidences global theopolitical ambitions and geotheological opportunities of the ROC leadership. Undoubtedly, this success is impossible without the help of the Russian government. ← 17 | 18 →

The Moscow Patriarchate, in turn, is capable of doing favors for the Kremlin, which is illustrated by an official visit of Patriarch Kirill to Beijing in May 2013, during which the Patriarch was able to travel on Air Force One and converse for two hours – not just about religion – with the President of China, Xi Jinping; as well as by the meeting of Metropolitan Ilarion with the Vice President of the United States of America, Mike Pence, in May 2017 (see section 7.3.1).

In June 2016, the first All-Orthodox Council since the 8th century C.E. took place in Greece and adopted a few documents for all the Orthodox (e.g., Missiia 2016; Encyclical 2016). Some of these documents were evidently influenced by the ROC canon law (cf. Agadjanian 2016), discussed herein. A fuller analysis, however, will be performed in another publication.


1 See Katchanovski 2016; Charap/Colton 2017; Dzhangirov 2017 on various aspects of the issue.

2 Cf.: “Despite the centrality of religion to Russia’s post-Soviet development, Western scholars habitually overlook the Orthodox Church’s influence” (Knox 2010: 8; cf. Papkova 2011: 5).

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1. Introduction

In July 2013, high representatives of all Local Orthodox Churches (LOCs) of the world came to Russia to celebrate 1025 years of its baptism. On July 25, Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, held a ceremonial meeting in the Kremlin with the hierarchs of the world’s Orthodoxy (Vstrecha 2013).3 Despite the fact that 1025 is not a milestone birthday, the ROC under Patriarch Kirill managed to arrange the fullness of Orthodox presence in the “Third Rome,” unexperienced by Russia before.4 The closest analogy to this event, though weaker in terms of representation, was the pan-Orthodox Meeting of 1948, held in Moscow, dedicated to 500 years of the ROC’s autocephaly (see section 4.3.2). The somewhat “overstretched” 1025 jubilee vividly emphasized the role of the ROC both in Orthodox Christianity and in Russian polity.

No other LOC can evidence this degree of “Byzantine” splendor. On the one hand, after the fall of the communist rule, when the ROC received independence from the state pressures and Communist Party ideology, there passed only two full decades, during which time the development of the Church in Russia has been deemed “unprecedented in scope”5 (Sovet 2013: 19),6 despite the Church’s growing public importance being not quite what sticklers of “pure” secularism might prefer.7 On the other hand, the new social and political constellation in the ← 19 | 20 → countries of the former USSR created a number of challenges for the ROC. For example, the Church had to go through uncharted waters of mundane “temptations,” when the Moscow Patriarchate was engaged in privileged tobacco and alcohol imports of the 1990s (Ilarion 2009; Knox 2010: 122–123), which became a blemish on its reputation.

After the collapse of the USSR, the ROC received an opportunity to perform her mission “freely, openly, and powerfully” (Kirill 2013e: 17).8 The canons adopted after 1991, for the first time in the history of the LOCs (Richters 2013: 19; Agadjanian 2014: 133), explicitly express the ROC’s attitude to a range of publicly relevant problems. The canonic activity of the ROC in the recent years by far exceeds that of the previous period (cf. Sovet 2013: 19). Under Patriarch Kirill, who was enthroned in early 2009, the list of canonic documents on topical public issues has been substantially enlarged, revealing “the pulse of the modern life of Orthodoxy” (Kirill 2013e: 18).9 This activity bears tangible signs of a comprehensive and well thought-over cultural program of the Moscow Patriarchate.

1.1. Object

The object of my research is the canon law of the ROC (the Moscow Patriarchate) on relations with state and society, which came into force after the collapse of the USSR in late December 1991. Modern Russian Orthodox canon law, unlike the canons of the pre-modern Church, exists in the form of mandatory corporate instructions, principles of attitude, official positions, public addresses, circular letters, and theoretical concepts. Occasionally, it contains strict prohibitive provisions that are linked consistently to ancient canons, whereas the new post-Soviet ones are substituted by politically correct formulas such as “should” (должны), “should not” (не должны), or “inadmissible” (недопустимо). This organization of ROC canon law reflects the influence of modernity upon the Church that lives and acts in a post-secular environment (see section 1.9). Furthermore, I focus not on all the aspects of canon law but only on the ROC’s codified relationship with state and society, that is, the external relations from the Church perspective.10 Many of these ← 20 | 21 → provisions were adopted during the presidency of Vladimir Putin under two Moscow Patriarchs, one of whom, Kirill, is the incumbent leader of the ROC. Some documents are quite conventional; others, on the contrary, are unprecedented.

1.2. Definitions and Terminology

1.2.1. Canon Law

Russian Church scholars use two definitions of church-related law, “canon law” or jus canonicum (каноническое право) and “Church law” or jus ecclesiasticum (церковное право). Some of them distinguish these definitions as pertaining to different areas in terms of both origin and time. Under this approach, “canon law” implies law adopted during the era of the Ecumenical Councils by the Church authority, whereas “Church law” means later legislation irrespective of the lawmaker, including state laws concerning the Church (Tsypin 2012: 84; Suvorov 1889: 13). Others use the two definitions interchangeably (Tsypin 2012: 86). Given that the law of the ROC in the post-Soviet period originates directly from the Church as its utmost and only authority, and because this law is based on and formally may not contradict the inherited ancient canons, I call it here canon law.

1.2.2. The ROC and the Moscow Patriarchate

The applicable Statute of the ROC employs as interchangeable two official names for the Russian Church, The Russian Orthodox Church and The Moscow Patriarchate (Ustav 2013: I.2). However, the Statute makes a terminological distinction between The Moscow Patriarchate (Московский Патриархат), as a LOC, and The Moscow Patriarchy (Московская Патриархия), as a number of departments that are subordinated directly to and managed by the Patriarch himself (Ustav 2013: VIII.1).

1.2.3. The ROC and the ROCA

Московский Патриархат includes the so-called Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (Русская Православная Церковь Заграницей) as a canonic subdivision, which must be distinguished from the ROC per se. The ROCA is a self-governed structure within the Moscow Patriarchate since 2007 (Akt 2007; Polozhenie 2008).11 Before that, the ROCA existed as an autonomous émigré community of ← 21 | 22 → the Russian Orthodox dioceses in the Western countries based on the order of Patriarch Tikhon, issued in 1920. As such, the ROCA has always been royalist and anti-Bolshevik, representing the “White” parties of the Civil War constellation (1918–1922), who fled from Russia and organized a parallel jurisdiction. As I attempt to show here, the ROC center in Moscow in the early post-Soviet period had to consider in its canon law the anti-Communist positions of the ROCA, reflected, for instance, in the canonization of the last Romanovs and the famous reservation on civil disobedience (see section 5.6.2). The ROCA administrative center is currently in New York, USA. As a separate unit, the ROCA is not subject in full to ROC canon law (cf. Polozhenie 2008),12 tackled herein, and has to be excluded from the present study (cf. Polozhenie 2008).13 This ambiguity ← 22 | 23 → of the status results, inter alia, in overlapping dioceses of the ROC and the ROCA in Europe (cf. section 6.2): for example, in Germany, the ROCA is represented by the Deutsche Diözese der Russischen Orthodoxen Kirche im Ausland, whereas the ROC has a parallel structure called the Berliner Diözese der Russischen Orthodoxen Kirche. For an Orthodox parishioner, it implies a possibility of choice between the two Russian communities that make up the same Moscow Patriarchate. Московский Патриархат, therefore, would be the most adequate name to describe the “dual” Russian Church. Nevertheless, the ROC’s administrative center is in Moscow, and so, the ROC is identified with it across the board. In this connection, in my study henceforth, unless specifically noted, I utilize both terms (i.e., “the ROC” and “the Moscow Patriarchate”) interchangeably.

1.2.4. The Orthodox Church

The ROC defines herself as the “true Church of Christ.”14 This postulate is representative of Orthodox parlance, and it is shared by other LOCs.15 Orthodoxy ← 23 | 24 → is said to be not an “ethnographic” feature peculiar to the Byzantine tradition; Orthodoxy is an inner quality of the Church, independent of the external form. This quality implies one doctrine of faith, shared by all, liturgical and hierarchical structure, and certain principles of spiritual life (Inoslavie 2008: 1.19). In the modern Christian world, doctrinal divergences between various Christian traditions are evident, although sometimes they are portrayed as insignificant. For example, this pertains to The Assyrian Church of the East, which is also “known as ‘Nestorian’” (Hämmerli/Mayer 2014b: 2),16 and her approach to the notions of hypostasis, person, and nature in Christ.17 However, some contemporary scholars categorize all the Eastern Christian communities under the title “Orthodox” (Potz/Synek 2014: 27–28).18 The quoted authors subdivide the “Orthodox churches” into Byzantine Orthodoxy, Oriental or pre-Chalcedonian Orthodoxy, and the (Assyrian) Church of the East (cf. Hämmerli/Mayer 2014b: 2). Out of them, only the first group counts as Orthodoxy with the ROC, because they recognize the seven Ecumenical Councils and share the Byzantine rite (cf. Potz/Synek 2014: 31–32). Therefore, it would be a misappellation to designate the pre-Chalcedonian communities and the Assyrian Church of the East as “Orthodox.” For the ROC, they are Ancient Oriental non-Orthodox churches (Inoslavie 2008: addendum).

It is more productive to single out “Chalcedonian churches” on the map of Eastern Christianity, as do some other authors (see Leustean 2014b: 5–10). The proposed approach, however, has its flaws, too: it distinguishes between the four ancient Orthodox Patriarchates and autocephalous communities recognized by each other (such as the ROC); yet, it considers together a number of other ← 24 | 25 → Chalcedonian “churches not in communion with the above” (Leustean 2014b: 7). The latter include, for example, The Belorussian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The ROC and the other in-communion LOCs do not recognize the two organizations as lawful, wherefore the classification should further consider the status of being in communion with each other. Respectively, “Orthodoxy” and “the Orthodox Church” imply here only those Christian communities that stay in Eucharistic communion with the ROC and are recognized by her (cf. Encyclical 2016: I.5).

1.2.5. Orthodox Christianity and Christian Orthodoxy

Victor Roudometof proposes a helpful distinction between “Orthodox Christianity” and “Christian Orthodoxy.” In particular, he identifies the latter with the rise of the Eastern Roman Empire, whereas the former gradually comes to the fore in the face of the crusade challenges, especially after the seizure of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 C.E. (Roudometof 2014b: 39, 57, 170). Within this terminological frame, the modern ROC and the other LOCs fall into the “Orthodox Christianity” category. Although the LOCs like to repeat that they are the “true” and “only” Church, the suggested classification puts them somewhere in the realm of “ethnography.” The existing LOCs do have ethnographic features; however, they also share features pertaining to “Christian Orthodoxy,” particularly in terms of their dogmas.19 That notwithstanding, the classification is useful, presenting the existing LOCs as Orthodox Christianity that grew out of the erstwhile Christian Orthodoxy.

1.3. Objectives

It is rightly argued that, until recently, “influential Western philosophers and social theorists have failed to engage significantly with Eastern Christianity” (Hahn 2011: 14); and Orthodoxy in particular “has never been a central topic of scholarly interest in Western social theory” (Makrides 2011: 3). Moreover, “it was considered to be a parochial, archaic religious tradition, prone to irrationalism, nationalism and violence, while its potential for development, modernization and democratization was seriously doubted” (Makrides 2011: 3). Paradoxically, “it proved easier for Western theorists […] to acknowledge a ← 25 | 26 → distinctively Confucian or Hindi ‘alternative’ modernity than to examine what sort of modernity might be possible for fellow Christians on their doorstep” (Hahn 2011: 15). I intend to supply the wanting engagement through my investigation of the recent social models of the largest LOC, the Moscow Patriarchate, taken from the angle of its post-Soviet canon law. I am interested in internal foundations and motivations of the Russian Orthodox models and their potential compatibility with the external secular order of things that can be expressed as interaction, cooperation, and distribution of responsibilities. Furthermore, I seek to understand how the ROC as a post-religious entity (see section 1.11) can influence post-secular actors in the countries of her canonic territory.

Biographical notes

Alexander Ponomariov (Author)

Alexander Ponomariov researches religion (Orthodox Christianity) and politics in Russia and Eastern Europe. He studied Orthodox theology in Moscow and earned his Ph.D. degree at the University of Passau in Germany. His academic interests also include translingual Bible criticism and Semitic languages.

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Title: The Visible Religion