1. The actual facts of the case.
In February 2022, Fr. Ioann published on the parish website a statement condemning the special military operation in Ukraine, signed together with Archpriest Georgy Edelstein. The statement in particular reads the following: “We Christians do not dare to stand aside when a brother kills a brother, a Christian kills a Christian. We cannot bashfully close our eyes and call black as white, evil as good, and say that Abel was probably wrong in provoking his older brother.
In April 2022, Fr. John Burdin decided to resigned from the staff ministry. On April 11, 2022, priest John Burdin explained in his Telegram channel the reasons for his departure from the priesthood as follows: “On Friday, April 8, I wrote a petition to be resigned from the staff ministry with the right to transfer to another diocese. Today I received the signed Decree. (…) Since I don’t know where I’m going to go, I wanted to decide first. There was no pressure on me either from the Metropolitan or from the parishioners. This is my choice, which I will definitely explain later. For now, I can briefly say in the words of Galich: «I choose the freedom just to be myself.» I didn’t die and I didn’t go to Mars. I continue to blog, you can find me by phone or WhatsApp. I did not leave priesthood, did not leave the Church, and I hope to return to serving God at the altar table, if He Himself considers it necessary”.
After that, there is no information about the activities of Fr. Ioann in the public space, he did no statements in the media, etc. He continues to post to his Telegram channel, the main part of the publications in which is devoted to answering questions from subscribers. Among publications, from time to time there are quite strong statements regarding the current state and activities of the Russian Orthodox Church and its hierarchy in particular, in which the author demonstrates, on the one hand, ecclesiological views that do not correspond to Orthodox teaching, on the other hand, these statements clearly discredit the activities of the highest church authorities (Patriarch and his like mind bishops) of the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby undermining the trust of believers (as of June 04, 2023, the channel has 2,295 subscribers) to the patriarch and bishops, thereby harming church unity, which in turn is at odds with church canons and cannot be compatible with the priesthood. He is banned from priestly service from March 19, 2023.
2. Statements in the telegram channel (from the beginning of 2023, the comments of the authors of the report are underlined):
Dec 31 «There were other losses, both small and large. Among them — disappointment in the Russian Church and the loss of confidence that of all Christian denominations it is Orthodoxy which is closest to the gospel ideal. This was replaced by the conviction that Christ lives in the human heart, regardless of any denominations, religious movements and structures … »
Jan 28 «Three or four years ago, the recognition of the OCU by the Patriarchate of Constantinople seemed acceptable to me. Even now, I see nothing wrong with the fact that an autocephalous local church operates on the territory of each state. Provided that she realizes that, together with all other local churches, she is an inseparable part of the one Church of Christ. And its bishop/metropolitan/patriarch is not “lord and father”, but an equal among all other Christians equal to him, having very limited administrative power, which is delegated to him by the church community.»
«Nevertheless, as Sergei Chapnin accurately noted, Bartholomew continues to insist on his obvious mistake: “Strange, if not manipulative arguments are used by Patriarch Bartholomew in his speeches. And the level of manipulation is practically the same as that of Patriarch Kirill”.»
«This is precisely the “conciliarity” of the Christian Church, which we confess in the creed: in addition to unity, this also means that any decision made by someone (be it a patriarch, a bishop, or even a council of bishops) must be approved by the fullness of the church. And we know a lot of examples in history when even the decisions of local councils have sunk into oblivion, because they were not accepted by the fullness of the “Body of Christ” (Arch. Nikolai Afanasiev writes about this in detail in his book “The Church of the Holy Spirit”).»
«Now it turns out that the OCU [Orthodox Church of Ukraine] plays the same role as the ROC [Russian Orthodox Church]. This is a church serving not Christ, but the state. It clearly positions itself as Ukrainian, and declares its competitors to be the “Russian Church”, but for some reason no one accuses it of ethnophyletism. It also sends chaplains to the war. In the first month of the war, I was struck by the theologically illiterate speech of the Metropolitan from the OCU, who stated that the murder of Russian soldiers does not require repentance. It slipped to UNIAN and they preferred not to notice it. But how is this, from the gospel point of view, fundamentally different from the statements of the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church? Is that much better than declaring a martyr for anyone who died in the war?»
Jan 31 «The emergence of national and state churches (Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, American) is an undoubted ecclesiological perversion. This becomes especially obvious when the church of any state begins to claim power over the Christians of other territories.»
«The Church of Christ is beyond borders, nationalities and peoples. We are not Russians, Bulgarians, Germans, Ukrainians, Americans. We are the people of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people taken as an inheritance to proclaim the excellences of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
These are, in general, common truths. However, neglect of them makes it possible, for example, that Christians in one country kill Christians in another.
Out of this perversion of the ecclesiological idea, other ecclesiastical problems arise—schisms, confusion, and vacillations.
Hence, for example, the idea of “granting autocephaly” appears, which is no less a perversion of ecclesiology than all of the above.
There cannot be a “bishop of Moscow” (or Constantinople) higher than the “bishop of Kostroma” (or Kiev), because the “church of Moscow” is an assembly of people living in this city, and they cannot, from a Christian point of view, at least in something then take precedence over all other Christians in other cities». — contradicts 34 ap. rule (comment by the report authors).
«If you take an unbiased look at church history, it becomes obvious that it was precisely the departure from the original idea of the unity of the Church as a assembly of equivalent Christian communities united by Eucharistic communion and the transition to larger state and national entities that became the basis of all church conflicts and wars».
Feb 11 «I believe this is no less serious liturgical distortion than the “Prayer for Holy Rus’” that is read in Russian churches.»
Feb 17 «Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew restored to the priesthood and received into the Patriarchate of Constantinople priests from the Lithuanian (Vilnius) diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, who were defrocked in the Moscow Patriarchate in June for their anti-war position.
As Ksenia Luchenko writes: “I don’t remember such precedents in recent history, that the banned priests of the ROC appealed to the PC [Patriarchate of Constantinople] as the highest authority and their request was fulfilled.” An interesting precedent has been set.»
25 Feb. «The Synod of the Bulgarian Church yesterday, February 24, decided to temporarily refrain from joint worship with the Moscow Metropolitan Leonid Gorbachev, the “exarch” of the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa.
Let me remind you that Leonid (Gorbachev) was defrocked by the decision of the Patriarchate of Alexandria for invading its canonical territory and trying to organize an alternative church in Africa subordinate to Moscow.
Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria sent out letters about the non-canonical actions of Patriarch Kirill and about the ecclesiastical punishment imposed on Gorbachev.
Also, the Patriarchate of Alexandria suspended the commemoration of the Moscow Patriarch.
The Bulgarian Synod decided to send the letter of the Patriarch of Alexandria to the Canon Law Commission in St. Louis, and not to concelebrate with the Metropolitan of Moscow until a final decision was made, essentially recognizing (albeit cautiously) the fact of his defrocking.
The hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church (namely, its high-ranking representatives, and not ordinary members of the church) is becoming more and more “toxic”.
On February 8, the defrocking of Leonid (Gorbachev) was unanimously recognized by the Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church.
On February 17, Patriarch Bartholomew restored Lithuanian clerics to their ranks, demonstratively «nullifying» the decision of the Lithuanian protege of Moscow, Metropolitan Innokenty.
On February 20, a sharp interview was published by the head of the Archdiocese of the Orthodox Churches of the Russian tradition in Western Europe, the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Jean:
“… Patriarch Kirill made a big strategic, political and ecclesiastical mistake, because in the end he ended up on the sidelines of the Christian church. (…) We see that the behavior of the patriarchal throne is politicized. The churches found themselves in a very difficult situation, because getting closer to Patriarch Kirill now means taking risks.”
He also stated that his Archdiocese maintains contact with the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, and not with a specific person: “there is hope that not all members of the Holy Synod share the one-sided view of the patriarch on the war.”
On February 24, the conference of bishops of the Lutheran Church of Norway released a statement that it was «watching with horror» the actions of the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and what the church was being used for. On the same day, the Moscow Patriarch was included in the sanctions list of Australia.
Thus, in just one day (February 24) in three completely different parts of the globe, the actions of the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church received a completely unambiguous negative assessment. And the total number of such “alarm calls” in February gives the feeling that the initial bewilderment among Christians of other local Orthodox churches and denominations is beginning to give way to indignation.”»
25 Feb. «I never tire of being amazed at the doublethink that is widespread in the Russian Orthodox environment. A typical situation. A person admires the experience of Orthodox ascetics, telling stories of how difficult it is to acquire the Holy Spirit and how easily grace retreats, one has only to allow a “thought” into one’s heart for a moment (…) And the same person, who just told how easily the holy ascetic loses God’s Gifts will vehemently deny the very possibility that grace can depart from a priest, and even more so a bishop or patriarch, who lie, betray, denounce, break vows, humiliate and morally destroy fellow men, preach hatred, call for violation of the commandments of God or by any other means they “are saving the church”, similarly like Metropolitan Sergius did. And they do not lose grace, and the Sacraments performed by them are valid, and demons cannot abide in them.»
Feb 27 (continuation of the topic: Does the grace of the priesthood depart for personal sins?):
«Well, and “a cherry on the cake ”- St. Gregory the Theologian VS. St. John Chrysostom: “Do not be afraid of either a lion or a noble leopard, even a terrible snake can be put to flight. Only one thing is scary, believe me — bad bishops. Do not tremble before the heights of dignity. For many are invested with dignity, but not all have grace…»
Mar 14 «Zernov adds that “the strength of the Russian Church was not in the hierarchy and not in the academic knowledge of the clergy, but in the deep attachment of the whole people to Orthodoxy, and in the moral strength of those spiritually experienced priests and monks whom the laity chose as their mentors and confessors.»
From this point of view, Patriarch Kirill’s reform of the «division of dioceses» begins to look quite different.
This is not only a decrease in the power of bishops, the disappearance of strong rivals and the strengthening of the sole power of the patriarch, but also the possibility of deep total control over the clergy and parishes as a whole.»
3 Apr. «ON THE DEGENERATION OF THE CHURCH. “Church life is gradually degenerated according to the type of any human establishment. The church becomes a department, compromised by state, sometimes pagan ideals. This poisoning of the church organism goes so far that even church hierarchs assert, for example, that the death penalty is justified from the point of view of Christianity… Belonging to the Church becomes obligatory from the state point of view. The Church is spreading widely, mechanically including in its composition all the employees belonging to a given state … Christ’s truth is replaced by countless rules, canons, traditions, external rites …« Mother Maria (Skobtsova)»
10 Apr. «IS CHRIST IN OUR MIDST? Is it possible to continue attending the current Russian church, given what it prays for and what it calls for — this question has been asked to me repeatedly over the past year. In several articles I wrote why I think it is still possible to attend. Both then and now, I believed that this was not so much a matter of ecclesiological purity as a lack of choice. Outside of the Church Sacraments and a certain liturgical circle, it is very difficult for most people to maintain a prayer life and not waver in faith. Therefore, it is better to go to at least some “Christian meeting” than not to go anywhere at all … »
Nov 9 2022 «WHICH CHURCH DOES CHRIST LIVE IN? The less preaching of the Good News about the resurrection of Christ becomes in churches and the more the preaching of the “gospel of war” sounds there, the more often people ask themselves: is it worth going to such a church at all? (…)» – slander against the Church.
He writes that «it is hardly possible to reproach the modern Russian Orthodox Church» for distorting the Creed.»
«A new accusation of heresy was made against Patriarch Kirill after his speech preaching “Orthodox jihad” (holy war against the corrupt West) and “Orthodox martyrs” (declaring any Russian soldiers killed in this war as martyrs who automatically inherit the Kingdom of Heaven) .
But again, it cannot be said that this church rhetoric is completely alien to the Christian church. (…) The precedent closest to us (both in time and in meaning) was the movement of the “non-rememberers” at the beginning of the 20th century. However, again, there is a difference. The Soviet government openly set as its goal the destruction of the church. Now it is rather a “side effect”: the church is not destroyed physically, but is spiritually destroyed. “Non-rememberers” were led by the clergy: there were several metropolitans, bishops, and a mass of priesthood. Legitimacy was given to them by the order of Patriarch Tikhon on the appointment of specific locum tenens, against whom Sergius (Stragorodsky) opposed, with the support of Tuchkov and the GPU.
Now, if there are dissatisfied among the clergy, they behave very quietly.
And if earlier, albeit with difficulty, it was possible to find a completely legitimate catacomb church that preserved apostolic succession and unity with the Mother Church (Sergius Stragorodsky’s church, rather, could be considered schismatic), now leaving the ROC means going nowhere. In fact, voluntary «self-anathematization» (excommunicating oneself from the church).
Thus, in my opinion, we cannot rely on any ready-made solutions, documents or precedents.
What is a Christian to do, for whom what is now preached by the majority of the Russian priesthood is unacceptable? How to be in the temple, if the majority of those present seem to you alien to the Spirit of God? Is the Sacrament of the Eucharist (Thanksgiving) celebrated under such conditions?
Solution: “A Christian becomes one who seeks Christ in the Church, and not a pleasant society of like-minded people, a good priest or “traditional values”. And He lives there, despite all heresies, falls and betrayals, in the heart of each of us and among us, even the few who have remained faithful to Him. — doubtful! (comment by the author of the report). And the earthly Church (whether it be a separate local or Ecumenical as a whole) will exist exactly until the moment when in it remains at least one person, in whose heart Christ lives. I believe that this can be considered the last line beyond which the earthly church comes to the final death and decay. So, in the final analysis, the life or death of the Russian Church depends on each of us.»
21 Apr. «The heart of a Christian is tormented and tormented when he sees lawlessness and untruth: the image of Truth burns too brightly in his heart. It is unbearable for him when evil calls itself good and lies require respect. And there is nothing worse for the people when their leaders (both secular and church), forgetting that God created them from the dust of the earth, so that they take care of the welfare of people, instead begin to fill their pockets and stomachs, filled with malice and pride, flooding the earth with hatred and blood.»
29 Apr. «I thought about whether it is worth somehow commenting on the defrocking of Fr Andrei Kuraev. And I realized that William Barclay spoke best of any such incidents: “No one will pursue a powerless loser. The wolf does not attack the stuffed sheep. Only false, feigned Christianity risks nothing.” It can be considered that the Christian convictions of Father Andrei passed the test and received the highest rating. Defeat is a sign of quality!»
May 13.Regarding the defrocking of Andrei Kuraev and Ioann Koval: «I have a feeling that after the current patriarch, a scorched desert will remain from the Russian church…»
3. Evaluation of some statements:
The central place in the speech of the parish priest of the Kostroma diocese, Ioann Burdin, from the ambon in front of the flock, who had gathered in the church to participate in the Divine Liturgy — in a speech that caused embarrassment among the parishioners, resulting in the appeal of some of them to law enforcement agencies, accusing him of «discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation”, became the phrase “We, Christians, do not dare to stand aside when a brother kills a brother, a Christian kills a Christian. Let us not repeat the crimes of those who hailed Hitler’s actions on September 1, 1939.» In the context of current events, this meant that he drew an equal sign between the beginning of the «special operation» and the attack of Nazi Germany on Poland, which marked the beginning of World War II. Moreover, he also accused his flock, who did not agree with such a provocative statement, which is probably the majority in the parish, of the fact that their position contains corpus delicti: «Even in secular legislation, he said, there is a concept of complicity when a person stood, looked and did nothing. But even under the criminal law, he will still be guilty.»
According to a number of his statements, which he made in conversations with the journalists who interviewed him, it is clear that he is trying to appear as a consistent pacifist, alien to political engagement, while arguing that pacifism directly follows from the teachings of Christ. But he is cunning, in fact he is a pseudo-pacifist, if only because there is no information that earlier, when the Armed Forces of Ukraine committed crimes in the Donbass, shooting at its cities, killing civilians, who were branded in the mass media of Kyiv as human garbage, called names quilted jackets, called the Russians subhuman, creatures with unclean mixed blood, Fr. Ioann Burdin has ever spoken out publicly on this subject with denunciations similar to those he burst out when he witnessed the actions taken to protect the inhabitants of Donbass. It is also unknown about his reaction to the auto-da-fe organized in his hometown of Odessa — the mass burning of people who supported the preservation of the Russian world, which remained unpunished. So his pacifism is imaginary, one-sidedly oriented, behind him is clearly visible his anti-Russian political position, which is perceived in our country as unacceptable, and, it is important to emphasize, radically diverging from the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, which he undoubtedly knows.
But even the very pacifism with which Priest Burdin tries to hide behind accusations against him is not compatible with the actual teaching of the Orthodox Church, in particular, set forth in the Basis of the Social Concept. Pacifism in different eras of church history was present in heretical doctrines — among the Gnostics, Paulicians, Bogomils, Albigensians, Tolstoyans, revealing, like other utopian ideologies, a connection with ancient chiliasm. Throughout its history, the Orthodox Church has blessed soldiers to defend the Fatherland. An outlandish phrase of Fr I. Burdin, uttered by him in a conversation with one of the journalists and then published in order to create the impression of the church legitimizing pacifism, that, they say, in Byzantium, soldiers who killed in the war were excommunicated for 15 years, can hardly be a consequence of his ignorance: judging by his articles on the parish website, he has sufficient education to assimilate this practice to Byzantium by mistake. This is a lie aimed at discrediting the Russian Orthodox Church and historical Russia, in which there is no such practice and never was and could not be true, just as it could not exist in Byzantium. Here there is no need to enter into the interpretation of the 13th rule of Basil the Great, which, perhaps, gave rise to such an absurd invention.
Interviews and articles by Fr John Burdin contain numerous slanderous attacks against the Russian Orthodox Church, its past and present, and blasphemy against the saints. In this regard, we can cite a number of quotations from the article “Holy Warriors” and the new commandment “kill!” posted on the parish website: «The canonization of the Matrona of Moscow, which caused a lot of controversy, with her frankly pagan “life” and her willing mass veneration emphasizes the current weakening of the gospel principle, the blurring of ideas about the image of a Christian saint, theological helplessness”, “This rule of the “church conjuncture” fully applies to the current mass veneration of the “holy warriors”, of which only Alexander Nevsky has a long-standing church tradition, and all the rest are “church remakes”; “Alexander Nevsky entered our time like this: a hero of Soviet propaganda, a glorious builder of the Empire. (…) From there, from the Soviet history textbooks, other newly-glorified saints came into our church reality of the 21st century: Dmitry Donskoy, Oslyabya and Peresvet, Fedor Ushakov». About the Holy Prince Dmitry Donskoy, Fr. Ioann Burdin writes as follows: «His most famous act in the field of church life is a quarrel with three saints Sergius of Radonezh, Dionysius of Suzdal and Metropolitan Cyprian. And also an attempt to put in the place of the metropolitan his favorite priest Mityai”. We read about the blessing of St. Sergius to Prince Dimitry before the Battle of Kulikovo in his article: «From a Christian point of view, it turns out that St. Sergius blessed the monks to kill (what else could they do on the battlefield) … Thus, it turns out that St. Sergius blessed the people who trusted him to violate God’s commandment and thereby made their spiritual death very likely. Only a false shepherd and a false teacher could do this.» True, at the same time he claims that St. Sergius did not give such a blessing to the prince. And one more thing: «It is precisely known at what point the wide popularization of both the Battle of Kulikovo and these three heroes begins: the end of the 30s — the beginning of the 40s of the 20th century, when Joseph Stalin needed positive images to create a new empire. Where the church became not the Body of Christ, a prototype of Heavenly Jerusalem, but a faithful servant of the «communist emperor» and a department of the propaganda ministry».
And here are passages from his other article: «I do not remember in Russian history either periods of repentance or catharsis»; «the population of Russia, together with their rulers, has gone insane en masse… Perhaps it is precisely because of the unusual and even absurdity of the situation that the actions of the Russian church look no less paradoxical”; “a return to the pre-war world is possible only through repentance, and there have always been problems with this both in Russia and in the Russian church”; “The current new reality has become the product of precisely that illusory world that we have created for ourselves. The illusion that one can part with the past without repentance and bloodshed. The fact that grapes can grow on an apple tree, and the “Sergian” church can turn into the Church of Christ in an instant.»
It seems that without a public renunciation of his blasphemy against the Church and the saints, without repentance for provoking embarrassment and causing divisions in his parish and, obviously, also outside it, the author of the sayings cited here should not remain in the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church, in relation to which he, as can be seen from his words and deeds, is extremely negative. It is unlikely that he will express a willingness to repent. It is even less likely that in this case it will be sincere.
There are no canons that would directly describe such incidents. Canons were accepted as norms adopted to deal with difficult situations. That blasphemy against the Church and the saints is incompatible with the priesthood is a self-evident truth.
It is possible that his actions may be qualified as a criminal offense in the future. In imperial Russia, the bringing of a priest to court was preceded by defrocking or a ban on service, and the pronouncement of a guilty verdict was invariably followed by defrocking. It was an understandable, and obviously necessary, practice that stemmed from the union of church and state. In the Soviet era, such a “harmonization” of sanctions became impossible, due to well-known circumstances, when the confessional ministry of a pastor often became in itself the basis for criminal punishment.
Perhaps, regardless of the possible criminal perspective, a decision should have been made in the case of the priest Ioann Burdin, qualifying his statements and articles as speeches containing blasphemy against the Church and saints and as a preaching of pacifism, successively associated with chiliastic heresy, radically at odds with Orthodox teaching about war and peace, about the defense of the fatherland, as it is, in particular, set forth in the «Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church», because in reality his «Tolstovian» pacifism is only a mask and cover for a politically engaged person who is hostile to Russia and to the Russian Orthodox Church.
4. Theological analysis (optional):
The canonical offenses of Fr Ioann are based on the following theological and doctrinal themes:
a) Ecclesiological fallacy
In almost all statements in which Fr. Ioann touches on the contemporary historical Church (mostly the Russian Orthodox Church), the idea is traced that the current, that is, the real historical (Russian) Church is turning or has already turned into a secular institution that cares not about higher goals, but about earthly ones… Her patriarch preaches some kind of “Orthodox jihad”, his church activities are aimed at eliminating “strong rivals and strengthening the sole power”, at “the possibility of deep total control over the clergy and parishes in general”, the hierarchy and believers all support this… For Fr John it all looks like mass insanity. He even touches on the topic of losing the grace of the priesthood for personal sins, and the question of the possibility of going to such a church (“taking into account what it prays for and calls for”) for Fr. John becomes debatable. What does it all say?
About the loss of faith in holiness (“in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”) and the saving forces of the earthly historical Church. Here, as it were, a certain rupture of the invisible (holy) Church and the earthly one is being carried out, which means a violation of the unity of the Church. It is no coincidence that Fr Ioann is searching for some original holiness of the Church in antiquity, during the period of the early Christianity. Remarkable are the repeated references to the text of “Didache”, where the bishops are depicted as itinerant preachers, where the prophetic ministry is still strong, etc. In this, Fr. John sees holiness and, in fact, desires to see such things in the church today. However, those times are long gone, the Church has gone through many stages of historical existence, without ceasing to provide the world with the holiness and holy people. At the same time, it is necessary to take into account that this work was written for a specific community, moreover, for some dominant person in this community, that is, the very nature of this ancient monument suggests that the community has a hierarchy. No less ancient monument «The First Epistle to the Corinthians» by St. Clement of Rome directly writes that “preaching in various countries and cities, they (the apostles) ordained the first-born of the believers, according to a spiritual test, as bishops and deacons for future believers” (Ch. XLII). Thus, the hierarchicality, structurality of the Church has existed since the first times of Christianity and does not detract from Her holiness, on the contrary, it is a guarantor of the unity of the Church. Yes, St. Cyprian of Carthage writes: “This unity must be strongly supported and defended by us, especially by the bishops who preside in the Church, in order to show that the bishopric itself is one and indivisible. Let no one deceive the brotherhood with lies! Let no one undermine the truth of faith by perfidious betrayal! The bishopric is one, and each of the bishops participates integrally in it. Similarly, the Church is one, although, with an increase in fertility, expanding, it is divided into many ”(Book on the Unity of the Church).
It would be useful to make some comparison. Martin Luther begins his «reformation» activity by criticizing the contemporary Catholic Church as having lost grace, perverting the Gospel, etc. In the «Large Catechism» we read: “Can see, how this world is full with different sects and false teachings, which use the holy name to cover and justify their diabolical teachings, we should in justice constantly cry out and call against all of such, both those who preach and believe falsely, and those who dispute, persecute and stifle our gospel and pure doctrine, such as bishops, tyrants , spirits of charm, etc.” (Luther M. Large Catechism. Lahti, 2012. P. 102). Or another quote: “Such a prayer (“Our Father”) should now be our protection and defence, which would repel and destroy everything that the devil, the pope, bishops, tyrants and heretics are capable of doing against our Gospel. Let them all get angry together and try their best, to come into assembly and decide how they can suppress us and uproot us so that their will and plans come true; against this, one or two Christians with this one single prayer will be our wall, against which they will stumble and be smashed to smithereens ”(Ibid., p. 107).
This ecclesiology strongly echoes the position of Fr. Ioann Burdin, even up to the point of being convinced that the truth remains with that minority of people who, although they go to the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church, nevertheless remain faithful only to Christ (for Father Ioann, such loyalty means his “pseudo-pacifist” understanding of the Gospel) (publication: “WHAT CHURCH DOES CHRIST LIVE IN?” Nov. 9, 2022). For such people, in fact, it doesn’t matter what the hierarchy says, they have their own loyalty to Christ, their own “church” within the Church. However, St. Ignatius of Antioch writes: “Whatever he (the bishop) approves, God is also pleased that every deed be firm and undoubted (…) It is a wonderful thing to know God and the bishop. The one who honors the bishop is honored by God; whoever does something without the knowledge of the bishop serves the devil ”(Epistle to the Smyrna, 8-9). Completely opposite outlook. St. Irenaeus of Lyons writes that the Church itself is, in fact, transmitted through episcopal succession: “True knowledge (γνῶσις ἀληθής) is the teaching of the Apostles, and the original organization of the Church throughout the world, and the sign of the Body of Christ (character corporis Christi), consisting in the succession of bishops to whom the Apostles handed over the Church that is everywhere; and it has come down to us in its entirety with the faithfully preserved Holy Scriptures» (Quoted by: Justin (Popović), Holy Dogmatics of the Orthodox Church. Soteriology. Ecclesiology. Vol. 3.)
Thus, for the patristic understanding of the Church, the division into an earthly institution and an invisible (holy) Church is not characteristic, such a division is closer to Protestant ecclesiology, it gives more autonomy to individual members, does not oblige to obedience. There is no point in arguing in detail here the Orthodox position in the polemic with the Protestants — it is enough to read the relevant sections of the textbook on Comparative Theology. For an Orthodox, the Church is one, and on earth it is represented in a visible way, and one of the main attributes of this manifestation is the relationship between the episcopate (the priesthood established by Christ) and the rest of the flock. St. Ignatius of Antioch even likens this relationship to the obedience of Christ to His Father. “All follow the bishop as Jesus Christ followed the Father.” This is the ideal of church relations, which, in fact, is reflected in the canonical order and decrees of the Church. Therefore, the failure to understand this ideal or doubt about the holiness of the earthly Church, the accumulated disagreements of the believer with his bishop, expressed in doubt about the truth and salvation of his decisions — all this is a spiritual ecclesiological problem and the illness of a Christian, in essence, a schismatic tendency in its very inception. This is what we are seeing at the present moment in the statements of Fr Ioann and people who share his views.
b) «Pseudopacifism» as a true understanding of the gospel?
It has already been said above about the pseudo-pacifism of Fr. Ioann, about the one-sidedness and tendentiousness of his attitude to the current military «operation» of the Russian Federation.
Here are some statements by Fr Ioann, reflecting his attitude to the phenomenon of war as such.
Jan 13. Publication “Why Does God Come?”: «Christ could have made it so that the basis of Christendom was not four dubious Gospels and not a man nailed to a cross, betrayed by all. He could rule the world with an iron hand: give people bread and security, instantly reward virtue and punish evil. This principle was used by the Roman Caesars, who distributed free bread and created a system of law. This is what the Communists promised people. Bread and security were the basis of the current Russian government. (…)
God has chosen a slow and long path. He renounced both the power to induce faith by a miracle and the power to force people to do good. “God is not a Nazi,” Thomas Merton once remarked accurately and succinctly. Good cannot be imposed from the outside, it must grow from within and of good will.
It’s hard for us to come to terms with this. We tend to see it as weakness or even cruelty. But all the events of human history, every attempt to bring good to people at the tip of a machine gun or a sword, shows that there is no other way. Evil does not breed good. Force and coercion do not change the human soul.»
Jan 26 Publication «Gospel and War»: «It is said: love your enemies. But in war it is impossible to survive without hatred. It’s just a matter of survival. Because when they bomb you, they shoot at you, you are constantly in a stressful situation and get very tired emotionally from this. At some point, you start to want it to finally end. And you need a very powerful motivator (for example, such as hatred) to continue the fight. I thought about how to combine the absoluteness of the gospel commandments with the impossibility of their fulfillment. (…) The efforts of evil are aimed at inciting hatred, at concentrating it in the hearts of people. And war is the moment when their efforts bear fruit. And the Gospel speaks just about how to prevent this. How to live so that the war does not happen. But it is also about something else. About the need to know when to stop. Because the thirst for revenge makes the war mutually endless. Rejecting the gospel logic, we come to a war without end — revenge on revenge. Up to complete mutual destruction».
Somewhat strange are the arguments about hatred as a motivator. Not love for the Motherland, family, etc., but hatred! Be that as it may, according to this position, the Gospel does not exist in war, these are two incompatible things. To act according to the Gospel, a warrior must stop and not fight!
L. Tolstoy’s pacifism correlates very closely with this position. In the article “Rethink,” he writes: “You can still understand that a poor, unlearned, deceived Japanese who is cut off from his field, who is inspired that Buddhism does not consist in compassion for all living things, but in sacrifices to idols, and the same poor semi-literate fellow from Tula or Nizhny Novgorod, who is inspired that Christianity consists in the worship of Christ, the Mother of God, the saints and their icons — one can understand that these unfortunate people, brought by centuries of violence and deceit to the recognition of the greatest crime in the world — the murder of brothers — as a valiant deed, can to do these terrible deeds, not considering themselves guilty of them. But how can so-called enlightened people preach war, promote it, participate in it, and, what is most terrible of all, without being exposed to the dangers of war, incite to it, send their unfortunate, deceived brothers to it?»
If we talk about the relationship between the Gospel and the war, then first of all, it is necessary to decide how we understand and perceive it: churchly, from within church self-consciousness, or individually, like the same Protestant preachers or lone philosophers?
The Church’s point of view on this issue, Fr. Ioann knows very well.
This is the 1st rule of St. Athanasius the Great: «It is not permissible to kill: but to kill enemies in battle is both lawful and worthy of praise» And the 13th canon of St. Basil the Great: “Our fathers did not consider murder on the battlefield to be murder, excusing, as I think, the champions of chastity and piety. But perhaps it would be worth advising that they, as having unclean hands, only refrain for three years from communion of the Holy Mysteries.” According to Zonara’s commentary, the last rule in practice in the Byzantine Empire was performed without the addition of excommunication from communion.
From modern documents, a clear explanation of this issue is given by the “Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church”. Extract: «While recognising war as evil, the Church does not prohibit her children from participating in hostilities if at stake is the security of their neighbours and the restoration of trampled justice. Then war is considered to be necessary though undesirable but means. In all times, Orthodoxy has had profound respect for soldiers who gave their lives to protect the life and security of their neighbours. The Holy Church has canonised many soldiers, taking into account their Christian virtues and applying to them Christ’s world: ”Greater love hath no man but this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13)».
Also noteworthy is the reference to the dialogue of St. Cyril Equal-to-the-Apostles with a Muhamaddan, from which the evangelical attitude to the war and the internal motivation of a participant in hostilities are clearly revealed. «When St. Cyril Equal-to-the-Apostles was sent by the Patriarch of Constantinople to preach the gospel among the Saracens, in their capital city he had to enter into a dispute about faith with Muhamaddan scholars. Among others, they asked him: «Your God is Christ. He commanded you to pray for enemies, to do good to those who hate and persecute you and to offer the other cheek to those who hit you, but what do you actually do? If anyone offends you, you sharpen your sword and go into battle and kill. Why do you not obey your Christ?» Having heard this, St. Cyril asked his fellow-polemists: «If there are two commandments written in one law, who will be its best respecter — the one who obeys only one commandment or the one who obeys both?» When the Hagerenes said that the best respecter of law is the one who obeys both commandments, the holy preacher continued: “Christ is our God Who ordered us to pray for our offenders and to do good to them. He also said that no one of us can show greater love in life than he who gives his life for his friends (Jn. 15:3). That is why we generously endure offences caused us as private people. But in company we defend one another and give our lives in battle for our neighbours, so that you, having taken our fellows prisoners, could not imprison their souls together with their bodies by forcing them into renouncing their faith and into godless deeds. Our Christ-loving soldiers protect our Holy Church with arms in their hands. They safeguard the sovereign in whose sacred person they respect the image of the rule of the Heavenly King. They safeguard their land because with its fall the home authority will inevitably fall too and the evangelical faith will be shaken. These are precious pledges for which soldiers should fight to the last. And if they give their lives in battlefield, the Church will include them in the community of the holy martyrs and call them intercessors before God”.»
Thus, for the Church there is no question of the possibility of participating in a war (of course, defensive or for the sake of restoring justice), the main issue that the Church is concerned about and over which it is working is the internal gospel motivation of a warrior-defender, aimed at self-sacrifice in the name of love to the neighbors.
In other words, the Church, following the example of Christ (“she will not break a bruised reed, and she will not quench a smoking flax” (see Matt. 12:20)) does not interfere in the world order and does not seek to impose her own by crude mechanical means, but influences human souls as if from within. If war is an inevitable reality of a world lying in evil, then the Church does not struggle with the very fact of its existence, but brings even into this terrible state of people the correct evangelical attitude, which prevents evil from seizing power over a person’s soul, and moreover, gives all the strength to win. over evil. In other words, the Church does not preach the planting of good with arms in hand, as Fr. Ioann, but considers it necessary for a Christian to lay down his life for his loved ones and thereby stop the spread of evil. Inaction will be indifference and connivance to evil. With the last thought of. Ioann seems to agree, even devoting a separate publication to this issue (“Can a Christian Kill?” Jan 29, 2023).
Obviously, the whole problem lies in the fact that Fr. Ioann disagrees with the Russian Orthodox Church on the question of what to call evil? Father Ioann keeps saying that “Christians of one country (cannot) kill Christians of another,” but what about the fact that Christians suddenly begin to participate in the evil deeds of the nationalist regime, does the very name of a Christian make him sterile from evil?
Thus, Fr. Ioann’s misunderstanding (or unwillingness to understand) of the church’s attitude to the war and the main task that the Church implements and generates the conviction of Fr. Ioann in his own correctness of understanding the Gospel and, accordingly, the fallacy of the position of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and the entire Russian Orthodox Church.
5. Church-canonical rationale
From the above material, the following church offenses can be distinguished:
— Blasphemy against the saints, expressed in the rejection of the holiness of such saints as St. Matrona of Moscow (her life is called pagan), Sts. Dmitry Donskoy, Oslyabya and Peresvet, Fedor Ushakov (calls them «church remakes»).
St. Prince Dmitry Donskoy was canonized at the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1988. By the definition of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church on October 3-8, 2004, the saints of the Church were included: St. Matrona of Moscow, St. warrior Fedor Ushakov.
— Blasphemy against the Russian Orthodox Church
The Church of the Soviet period is called “Sergian”, “the faithful servant of the “communist emperor””, writes about the degeneration of the Church into a secular institution, that is, about the Church’s loss of the property of holiness (see the theological essay above). The Russian Orthodox Church is “a church serving not for Christ, but for the state.”
The attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church towards intentional public blasphemy and slander against the Church (Document adopted on February 4, 2011 by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church.) Extract: “One of the forms of blasphemy is slander against the Church as the Body of Christ, “the pillar and ground of the truth” ( 1 Timothy 3:15). At the same time, slander, as deliberately false accusations of uncommitted crimes or immoral acts, is a sin against the truth, destructive to the universal order established by God.”
These offenses are based on ecclesiological error and loss of faith in the holiness and saving power of the real historical Church. The form in which this disease is clothed, in fact, outright blasphemy and slander, cannot be acceptable to a clergyman. To understand this, church canons are not required.
2) Subject to canonical punishment are also numerous attacks by priest Ioann Burdin towards the Patriarch, which can be fully regarded as slander on the bishop and slander against him, as well as violation of the priestly oath and perjury.
a) Violation of the priestly oath and perjury.
- From the text of the Oath of the candidate to priesthood before ordination to the rank of priest: “I, the sinful deacon (name), now called to serve as a priest, promise and swear before Almighty God and His holy Cross and the Gospel that with the help of God I will do my best to fulfil my ministry in everything according to the word of God, the rules of the church and the instructions of the Hierarchy. (…) To maintain the teaching of faith and to teach others according to the guidance of the Holy Orthodox Church and the Holy Fathers; entrusted to the care of my soul to protect from all heresies and schisms, and admonish those who have gone astray and turn them to the path of truth and salvation. (…) One should not enter into prayerful and canonical communion with persons who do not belong to the Orthodox Church or who are in schism. Do not take part in any political parties, movements and actions. (…) In every work of my ministry, to have in my thoughts not my honor, interests or benefit, but in the glory of God, the good of the Holy Russian Orthodox Church and the salvation of my neighbors … «
- Canon 25 of the Holy Apostles: “A bishop, or a presbyter, or a deacon, in fornication, or perjury, or convicted of theft, let him be deposed from the sacred rank, but let him not be excommunicated from church communion. For Scripture says: do not avenge twice for one. Likewise, other ministers”.
b) Disobedience to the ruling bishop and conducting public activities without the blessing of his bishop.
- — Canon 39 of the Holy Apostles: “Let the presbyters and deacons do nothing without the will of the bishop. For the people of the Lord have been entrusted to him, and he will give an answer for their souls.”
- Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church. Extract: «XV.2. The educational, tutorial and social and peacemaking mission of the Church compels her to maintain co-operation with the secular mass media capable of bringing her message to various sections of society. St. Peter calls Christians: «Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear» (1 Pet. 3:15). Any clergyman or lay person is called be duly attentive to contacts with the secular mass media with the view of carrying out their pastoral and educational work and awakening the interest of secular society in various aspects of church life and Christian culture. In doing so, it is necessary to show wisdom, responsibility and prudence with regard to the stand of a particular mass medium on faith and the Church, its moral orientation and relationships with the church authorities. The Orthodox laity may be employed by the mass media and in their work they are called to be preachers and implementers of Christian moral ideals. Journalists who publish materials corrupting human souls should be subjected to canonical interdictions if they belong to the Orthodox Church.”
- Resolution of the Blessed Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church (The document was adopted by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, held on February 2-3, 2016.). Point 20: “…Today, a significant part of the flock uses social media. It is important that the clergy responsibly bear witness to Christ and His Gospel in this information space, including by supporting and explaining the position of the Church on socially significant issues, while avoiding statements that could embarrass the believers and influence the formation of an inadequate perception of this position by secular society. Public statements of clerics in the information space that do not correspond to facts and have not been proven, in the event of complaints, should be considered within the framework of existing ecclesiastical legal institutions and evaluated in accordance with the norms of canon law”.
c) Participation in the campaign to discredit the Church and its bishops, as well as fellow clergymen.
- Canon 55 of the Holy Apostles: “If anyone from the clergy offends the bishop, let him be deposed. “Because you shall not say evil to the prince of your people” (Acts 23:5).
- Canon 56 of the Holy Apostles: “If any of the clergy offends a presbyter or a deacon, let him be excommunicated from the communion with the Church”
- Rule 84 of the Holy Apostles: “If anyone annoys the king or prince, not in righteousness, let him be punished. And if such is from the clergy: let him be deposed from the sacred rank; if a layman: let him be excommunicated from the communion of the Church.”
«Punishment. For insulting a bishop, king or prince, the guilty one from the clergy is defrocked; for offending a presbyter or deacon, he is excommunicated; laymen guilty of the same crimes are punished with excommunication.” (Milovanov I. About church crimes and punishments according to the canons of the ancient Ecumenical Church // Christian Reading. 1887. No. 5-6. St. Petersburg. P. 422).
- Rule 34 of the Council of Trullo: “Because the sacred rule clearly proclaims this, that the crime of conspiracy or gathering together is completely prohibited by external laws; much more should be forbidden, but this does not happen in the Church of God: then we also try to observe, yes, if some clergy, or monks are seen entering into co-conspiracies, or assemblies, or building covens to bishops, or fellow clerics, they completely fall down with their degrees” (see also: IV Universe 18).
- Canon 15 of the Double Council: “What is determined about presbyters and bishops and metropolitans, the very thing, and most of all, befits the patriarchs …”
St. Gregory of Nyssa writes about pastoral ministry: “The good fruit of any teaching is the increase of those who are saved in the Church, and the disastrous and pernicious one is the rejection of those who are in it” (Refutation of the opinions of Apollinaris (antirrik)). How can one correlate with this position the repeatedly repeated words of Priest Ioann, given as the advice of a priest, that it is possible to go to the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church only because there is no other option. (“And if earlier, albeit with difficulty, it was possible to find a completely legitimate catacomb church that maintained apostolic succession and unity with the Mother Church (Sergius Stragorodsky’s church, rather, could be considered schismatic), now leaving the ROC means going nowhere … It is better to go to at least some kind of «Christian meeting» than not to go anywhere at all …«) The very question of the publication is strange («Is it possible to continue going to the current Russian church, given what she prays for and what she calls for ?»). Is it really so Fr Ioann cares about the good of the Russian Orthodox Church and the salvation of his neighbors (Oath), or he supports and explains the position of the Church (Bishops Council, 2016), and finally, does such a pessimistic position contribute to the growth of those who are being saved in the Church?
Social networks in which this kind of reasoning is posted, in their effect on the public, are the same word as a personal conversation with a person, while making it possible to spread some idea to a huge audience of people. In this case, the situation is aggravated by the fact that all these statements are heard at a difficult time both for the Russian Orthodox Church and for the Church in general. And every member of the Church, especially the presbyter, should make as much effort as possible so that, even if not to help the situation, then at least not to harm. As the bishops of the Fifth-Sixth Council of Trullo say: “let us not allow any criticism of the sacred title” (12th rule). What can such “own” opinions of priests lead to, discrediting the episcopate of the Church and bringing confusion into the minds of the children of the Church, one can only guess with fear… a schism, the guilt for which is not washed off by martyr’s blood (St. Cyprian of Carthage)?