A Scandal in Greece
- A Scandal in Greece
'The gates of hell shall not prevail'.
Recently, a leading American Evangelical stated in a forum that
he, 'had lived for too long in Greece and Russia to be idealistic
about the Orthodox Church, let alone become Orthodox'. I answered
him thus: 'I too have lived for too long in Greece, and with
Russians, to be idealistic about the human side of the Orthodox
Church, but I have also lived with Orthodox for too long not to
be Orthodox'. Only an (extra-ecclesial) Protestant could have
misunderstood the nature of the (Orthodox) Church to have stated
such a thing about the Orthodox Faith.
Today, those who are idealistic about the human side of the
Church will have been disillusioned by scandalous affairs which
have come out into the open in Greece. Some representatives of
the Church of Greece stand accused of corruption in scandals, in
which judges appear to have covered up the corrupt dealings of a
number of senior Greek clergy. The scandal appears to concern
much of the Greek Establishment. Greek conspiracy theorists and
secular-minded journalists are having a field day.
Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens has quite rightly called for
honesty in this matter, for as the proverb says: 'Honesty is the
best policy'. In fact, this scandal concerns only a few senior
figures. It is an affair of the corruption of certain individuals
by certain individuals. The Church Herself is of course not
corrupt and never can be, for the Church is the Body of Christ,
transfigured by and filled with the Light of the Resurrection.
Those who can be corrupt are merely individual 'members', clergy
or laity, who nominally represent the Church - this is not at all
the same thing as the Church. That some individuals will have to
repent for their misdeeds, either in monasteries or else in
prisons, is good. Their corruption, and the repentance therefore
due from them, does not mean that the Church Herself is corrupt.
Unfortunately, the secular and anti-clerical Greek media,
supported by the foreign and anti-Church mentality of the
European Union and the United States, do not want to understand
this. They want to destroy the Orthodox Church, as they already
tried to do in Eastern Europe under Western-financed Communism,
and are now trying to do in Eastern Europe through
Western-financed Capitalism. Their most recent attack, in the
Ukraine, heavily funded by the EU and Washington, is now being
followed up by this attack in Greece.
It is ironic that the problem of clerical corruption in Greece
has come about through the penetration of the Western Capitalist
mentality among Greeks. This is part of the very same mentality
as that of those who are now attacking the Church of Greece in
the secular media. Had all Greeks, including members of the
clergy, remained faithful to the Tradition of the Orthodox
Church, no corruption would have occurred. Ever since the tragic
1920s and the Capitalist-enforced change of calendar and
liturgical modernism in Greece, then the triumph of Capitalism
after the Civil War of the 1940s and the opening of American
military bases, and finally the corrupting wash of Western
tourism and the entry of Greece into the then European Community,
Greece has been profoundly westernized.
The result of this Westernization is corruption, whether among
the secular elements in society outside the Church, or among the
secular elements who have penetrated into the human side of the
Church. The Church is not corrupt, for She is the Body of Christ.
But there are individuals who represent the human aspect of the
Church who are corrupt. And they have become corrupt, not because
of the Church, but despite the Church - because of the secular
Western spirit which now prevails in modern Greece.
There are those who think that preserving the Church of Greece as
a sort of conservative, nationalist rite is the same as living
for the Church. It is not. Christ did not preach Hellenism. The
Church is neither conservative nor liberal, both those attitudes
are purely secular. Conservatism and liberalism are the two sides
of the same secular coin. The Church is above secular attitudes,
which are all more or less conservative, or more or less liberal.
The Church is of the Tradition, that is to say, of the Holy
Spirit, as has been received by the Saints of the Church. The
Tradition is living, it is spiritually inspired, it is not mere
human customs and inventions, more or less conservative or more
or less liberal.
When individuals nominally belonging to the Church are corrupt,
it is precisely because they do not follow the Tradition of the
Church, but rather the things of men. As the Apostle Paul wrote:
'And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of
man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power;
that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the
power of God' (1 Cor 2, 4-5). If you wish to know what the Church
is about, do not pick up a nationalist leaflet, or read the
gutter press, but read the Lives of the Saints. In the same way,
if you wish to live in the Church, do not imitate crude
nationalists, or secular-minded journalists, but live as the
saints. For the Church exists for this one reason only - to make
saints. Any organization which does not do that, even though it
may call itself a Church, is not the Church. And any individuals
who do not have this as their aim, however weakly they may try to
achieve it, do not belong to the Church.
If individuals are corrupt, it is for us all the more to pray for
them, not to try to destroy the Church on account of them. When
the Anti-Church operates within the Church, as it always has done
and always will do, it does not mean that the Church Herself is
corrupt. When Judas operated among the Twelve, it is did not mean
that Christ and the Eleven were corrupt. Nor did it mean that
Judas had to commit suicide. Repentance was always open, as the
Apostles Peter and Paul both well understood.
The word 'scandal' is a Greek word: it means a stumbling block.
And as the Apostle of the Gentiles wrote a long, long time ago: '
We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, unto
the Greeks (Hellenes) foolishness; but unto them which are
called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the
wisdom of God' (I Cor 1, 23-24). If today certain senior clergy
of the Church of Greece have behaved foolishly - like the pagan
Greeks (Hellenes) of old, then the Westernized secular media of
Greece seem only to have created stumbling-blocks - like the Jews
Feast of the Three Hierarchs
30 January / 12 February 2005
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