Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and all-Africa succumbed to the arm-twisting of the Greek government. It was a collective punch to the gut to all of us who are startled by the scandalous actions perpetrated by Bartholomew in Ukraine. . . . his betrayal is most bitter.
The reference above comes from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It describes the regime of Isengard under Saruman the White, the greatest of the Five Wizards (Istari) who are the corporeal semi-divine beings sent to guide Middle-earth.
In the midst of Isengard was the great tower Orthanc, from which Saruman ruled. Originally, he was the steadying hand among the Istari and thus their leader. Neither as bellicose as Gandalf the Grey nor as childish as Radagast the Brown, Saruman was more prudent. He was the steady one. And yet, he fell into error and eventually betrayed his divine calling.
But Tolkien’s world isn’t our world. At least it wasn’t until last week when we heard unfortunate news: Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and all-Africa succumbed to the arm-twisting of the Greek government. It was a collective punch to the gut to all of us who are startled by the scandalous actions perpetrated by Bartholomew in Ukraine. Given his prophetic mien, his pastoral kindness and his pilgrimage to Ukraine where he met with the suffering Church last year, his betrayal is most bitter.
We have long expected this from Bartholomew, after all, he has telegraphed his ecumenism and heterodoxy for several decades now. I believe it was back in 1991 when he informed an American journalist that “generally speaking, the Orthodox Church is pro-life”. Words and phrases like “generally speaking” are alarming in and of themselves; rhetorically, they let the cat out of the bag, to borrow a cliché. With each year, with each passing proclamation, we saw the EP push the Overton Window further and further to the left. It was always alarming but in time, everybody saw the mask being peeled away.
Since his ascension to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Bartholomew has never failed to disappoint, as he kowtows to the Globalists who surround him. Many of us looked the other way (myself included). After all, he is a dhimmi who serves at the pleasure of the Kemalist government in Turkey and thus is no more the archbishop of a Christian city than the man in the moon. He not only rules over a dwindling flock, he must receive permission from the Turkish government to make repairs on the few existing churches that remain in his “patriarchate”. Still, all things being equal, he has played the cards that were dealt to him as best he could.
At the end of the day, what Bartholomew did was no big surprise: We knew that he was going to sell his See down the (Tiber) river. And thanks to the incumbent pontiff that now resides in the Vatican, he has found a kindred spirit.
But not Theodore. We expected more from him. If there is a martyric Church operating in the world today (besides Antioch), Africa is it.
As for the Church of Greece, again, no surprises. A significant percentage of the bishops in that Church are compromised men; the rest are used to receiving their salaries on the taxpayers’ dime. And then there’s the fact that the Church of Greece is a chimera of sorts, with the southern dioceses being the constituent parts of an autocephalous Church while the northern dioceses and some islands are headed by bishops who are appointed by Istanbul. It is neither fish nor fowl, and thus its claims to an authentic autocephaly bogus.
I could go on. Alexandria likewise receives monies from the Greek government (as does Constantinople) and Greece has proven itself to be a pliant satrap of the American State Department.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that the Greek government hobbled the Orthodox Church in its evangelistic mission. Several decades ago, when the leaders of the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) traveled to Istanbul to meet with Patriarch Demetrius, then-Metropolitan Bartholomew Archandonis of Philadelphia, made sure that the door was shut in their faces. This was on order of the Greek government which did not want an influx of non-Greek Americans flooding the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America.
Why you ask? Because the GOA then and now, is nothing more than an unregistered agent serving the needs of a foreign government. We expected more from the Church of Alexandria.
But there’s the rub. You see, the whole purpose of having a celibate episcopate is to ensure independence from secular powers. Married men, so we are told, are always cognizant of their families. This is true, after all, God Himself mandated this from the start of the human race. A man’s first ministry is to his spouse and then his children, he is naturally going to favor them over another man’s family.
And then there’s the fact that in order to fulfill this ministry, the married man must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. This is also God’s mandate. That means that his life is not going to be a cakewalk and even in the best of times he will be forced to make compromises along the way. He may even do things that are unethical and even criminal. Even so, these unfortunate actions are the exceptions that prove the rule; which is his duty is to his family.
And so we are told that that is why married men cannot become bishops. Because the propensity towards nepotism and compromise are too great. Most families are only a paycheck or two away from financial ruin. The wolf is always at the door of any householder even when things are going good.
Monks, however, are immune from these threats. Or at least they are supposed to be. Thus we are told, our episcopate should be drawn from their ranks. After all, it is easier for a celibate man to sacrifice himself and his well-being in order to push back against secular forces. He has nothing to lose. Or so that’s the idea.
Clearly, we must assume that the African Church is not being led by authentic monk-bishops. That doesn’t mean that Patriarch Theodore doesn’t have a conscience. You can see the pain in Theodore’s face as he commemorates Sergey Dumenko, the false Metropolitan of Kiev. You can also see the smug look of triumph in the Greek minister’s face whose job it was to twist Theodore’s arms. A real monk, one who lives day-by-day and who has faith in the Lord, would have told the Greek minister to “shove it” and for good measure would have gathered a few monks to throw him out the door.
Several centuries ago, St Basil the Great gave Emperor Theodosius the Great a serious talking-to. The Emperor was taken aback and he scolded Basil, telling him that he never heard a bishop speak to him in such a way. Basil replied nonchalantly : “That’s because you have never seen a real bishop”.
Alas, we could have used one such bishop today, at least in Alexandria. If memory serves, that was the See that was pastored by St Athanasius the Great, another hierarch who never read How to Win Friends and Influence People. And he was exiled no less than five times and for this he is known by the appendage Athanasius contra mundum (“Athanasius against the world”). I’m sure his life was tough and unpleasant. Yet today he stands in heaven as a saint. The time-servers and sycophants who led soft lives and never said a word, not so much.
Perhaps the time has come for the episcopate to be opened to married men. At least with them, you know what you are getting. We’re certainly not getting spiritual leadership from “monks” like Theodore and the Greek bishops of Africa who like their soft lives. – I don’t have to explain the graphic. 100% of you will get the picture. Betrayal at this level bites the big one.