Thursday, October 14, 2021

Diverse Pandemics: Follow Up to the Pastoral Encyclical to Clergy Regarding Protective Measures Against the Coronavirus Pandemic (Part 1 of 2)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Dealing with intense pastoral and social issues is, in a way, risky. It is better not to touch on such issues and to deal simply with indifferent issues, but, in the end, this is also ineffective.

As a responsible ecclesiastical pastor I need to make decisions and articulate my thoughts on various critical issues in order to inform Christians. If one is an ascetic in the wilderness of Mount Athos, perhaps he would not need to intervene, but to say a word to those who ask him, according to "the Elder said". However, the pastoral ministry has obligations and duties towards the Christians who are pastored.

Thus, a while ago I wrote an Encyclical for the Clergy of my Sacred Metropolis, so that there would be no serious cases among the priests, and that this "evil" would not spread to the entire fullness of the Church, so that Christians attribute the spread of the disease to the Clergy. Those involved in social and ecclesiastical work must take action. It would be unreasonable for Doctors in Hospitals to perform surgeries or other treatments and not to take the necessary precautionary measures.

However, every argument also has its counter-argument, according to Saint Gregory Palamas: "To every argument there is counter-argument", since people have different views which they invest with theological, paratheological, scientific or unscientific arguments. Thus, various texts were written, some with respect and others with an inappropriately abusive manner and speech, in order to reveal the existence of the paranoid, together with the coronavirus.

I did not want to answer each of them individually, although it would not be difficult to do so, because in such a case I would not do any other work, but also because, most importantly, in the issues and questions they ask, the answers are within the same text they judge and did not want to see! This is also a problem of our time, where some people ask about issues that have already been answered in the text that is supposed to have been read and judged! It is a matter of spiritual illness and this constitutes the existence of diverse pandemics, even within the sacred institution of the Church.

In any case with this my text I give some explanations concerning the Encyclical for the way of dealing with the coronavirus and the disease caused by it, which is not just a "simple plague!"

1. As Metropolitan of the Church, I rely on the decisions of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, because I cannot distance myself from it, otherwise I would be a transgressor of the promises I made.

All Bishops before our ordination to be Bishops gave a promise that we would obey the Church and the Holy Synod "as a higher authority". And before we take over the administration of the Holy Metropolis, we gave the assurance that we will observe the laws of the State.

It is understood that if we consider that the Holy Synod exceeds its competence in a decision, we have the right and the obligation to address the Holy Synod and to set forth our opinions with theological and ecclesiastical arguments, an ecclesiastical ethos and phronema, and to wait for its response.

It is a moral and serious indecency, especially for us Clergy, to comment on and publicly criticize the decisions of the Holy Synod, because, among other things, we would become the cause of an ecclesiastical schism.

The argument of division, that is, that the Holy Synod divides the fullness of the Church with the decisions it makes, is superficial. It is considered that those who invoke the decisions of the Synodal Bodies, and of the World Health Organizations, and of other World Centers, divide the people, while those who oppose these decisions are struggling for the unity and communion of the Church!

It will be mentioned below, but the people are divided by those who do not accept in practice the sacred institution of the Church in the name of their supposed charisma. In fact, those who act in the form of "captains" in the Church must not forget that either slowly or quickly the invincible "spiritual law" works.

Let us remember the words of the Evangelist John: "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us" (3 John 9). Many lovers of preeminence and arrogant people have arisen in the Church. Unfortunately!

2. What about the arguments of some that the Synods also make mistakes, and refer to "Robber" Synods?

Of course, there are Synods that make mistakes, and this is due to the members who make them up. The Synod is a charismatic institution, as seen in the first Apostolic Synod in Jerusalem in 48 AD, which consisted of deified-charismatic Apostles, who participated in Pentecost. When there are Synods in which charismatics do not participate, and their members do not follow the deified, they may make mistakes.

The question, however, is who judges if a Synod made mistakes. Can anyone, who has not tasted of the energy of the Holy Spirit, who even thinks politically instead of theologically, show like a Pope that the Synod made a mistake and proclaim it heretical?

This is done synodically, as we see throughout ecclesiastical history. From the First Ecumenical Synod (325) to the Second Ecumenical Synod (381) 56 years passed with struggles, about 30 Synods were convened which formed various "Creeds" and finally the Second Ecumenical Synod determined the final form of the "Creed". The Third Ecumenical Synod (431) had to convene in order to enforce the decisions of the First and Second Ecumenical Synods.

Since there is usually talk of "Robber" Synods, it should be noted that on August 1, 449, a Synod convened in Ephesus to overturn the decisions of the Third Ecumenical Synod in 431 with the exoneration Eutyches and the condemnation of Patriarch Flavian. This Synod took place in an atmosphere of violence and terrorism and that is why it was called "Robber".

However, there was an outcry against this Synod and a general request was made for its decisions to be annulled by another Synod. Thus, a Synod was convened in Rome by Pope Leo in 449 who condemned the "Robber" Synod and in Constantinople by Patriarch Anatolios in 450 who condemned Eutyches and those who were like-minded. Finally, the Fourth Ecumenical Synod convened in 451 in Chalcedon, where it restored things and dogmatically ruled without error.

This means that erroneous Synodal decisions are overturned by other Synods. Of course there are reactions to wrong decisions, but the decisions are made synodically.

Those who are deified also know how to correct a wrong Synodal decision, even in dogmatic matters. This was shown to us by Saint Maximus the Confessor, who used the very structure of the Church to overthrow erroneous decisions on critical theological issues.

With the cooperation of the Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronios, a Synod was formed that condemned Monothelitism, and then with the assistance and alliance of Pope Martin of Rome, Monothelitism was condemned in the Lateran, as well as in North Africa. Then, at the Sixth Ecumenical Synod, which was based on the theology of Saint Maximus the Confessor and Patriarch Sophronios of Jerusalem, it dogmatized with divine inspiration the two wills in Christ and condemned Monothelitism.

Furthermore, we must know that the decisions of the Ferrara-Florence Synod in 1438/39 were judged by Saint Mark the Eugenikos and the people, but they also had to be condemned synodically, something that took place at the Synod of 1484. Therefore, no one should behave authoritarianly, autonomously, anti-ecclesiastically, in a papal way, when he invokes his individual conscience, disregarding the ecclesiastical conscience, as it is formulated in a synod.