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On not being scandalised by scandals

He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.

The recent disclosures concerning embezzlement, theft, lies and other misdemeanours among certain senior OCA clergy remind us of the above Gospel saying from John 8, 7. The fact is that there are previously normal people who go quite mad when they have access to money or power or both. And the higher the position in the Church, the greater the temptations, for the devil is not overly interested in us little people. Therefore we should be careful in our judgements, for we have not had to face such temptations.

The Church, the New Testament Noah’s Ark, can indeed be likened to a ship, not just any sort of ship, but a hospital ship. Not only the passengers, but also the sailors and the doctors are sick. And there are passengers, sailors and doctors on board who are sick and know it and so seek - and find – the beginning of healing. However, there are also passengers, sailors and doctors on board who have forgotten their sickness and imagine that they are on a cruise liner. They think they have come along ‘for fun’, not realising that they are sick with sin, not realising that they still need healing.

Therefore, down in the engine-room of the hospital ship, it does not always smell good. Yet it is here that many of the ship’s crew are working very hard. Sometimes, the smell from the engine-room, which many of the more sensitive passengers, sailors and doctors have to put up with their intense dislike with day in day out, reaches the deck. Those there, passengers, sailors and doctors, who imagine that they are on a cruise and do not know that they too are sick, do not like this smell. They should realise that if it sometimes smells bad below decks, maybe it is because they are not contributing anything to the running of the ship and indeed may well be responsible for the smell.

There are some who have a clericalist view of the Church. They are scandalised when clerics are caught out committing misdemeanours. The essence of their problem is that they have an idolatrous attitude towards the Church. They have never been present at the beginning of the liturgy when we sing: ‘Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of man, in whom there is no help’ (Ps. 145, 3). Such idolaters have not yet understood that the Church is not about the clergy. The clergy are simply instruments, more, or less good channels for grace. The Church is everyone on the hospital ship, not merely the sailors and doctors.

The Church is about Christ, the Church is Christ’s. The Church belongs to Christ, not to men. The Church was founded by Christ, Who Alone is without sin, therefore She is infallible and immortal. On the other hand, human institutions are fallible and mortal. Thus, when protestantised people, who do not understand what the Church is, say that ‘the Church was wrong’ or ‘the Church has made a mistake’, they are confusing the clergy with the Church, of Which we are all a part. The sign of the Church is precisely Her infallibility and immortality. The sign of men and their all too human institutions is precisely their fallibility and mortality. Here today, gone tomorrow. But ‘Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, and to day, and for ever’ (Hebrews 13, 8).

People have told us that if they had gone through what we went through in the 1970s and 1980s with various bishops, they would have left the Church and never returned. But they do not understand what the Church is. The Church is Christ’s and we belong to Her unto eternity, despite what they may do to us. We may indeed be disgusted at the lies and simony, the corruption and vice among a few members of the clergy, but we do not care. We are not in the Church for them, they are an irrelevance. What we care about is the Church of Christ, Incarnate in the saints, whom we honour and revere as the true servants of Christ. And wherever you find such an attitude, there go and seek salvation for your soul. Anything other than that is condemned to disappear - and good riddance.

God does not punish anyone, people punish themselves. God does not take revenge and there is no need for men to take revenge on the enemies of the Church. The enemies of God’s will destroy themselves and they will lament their self-destruction unto all eternity, unless there is repentance. The fate of those who have attempted to destroy the Church creates pity within us. Before the face of sin exposed, we should all tremble, because none is without sin, except Him Who Alone is without sin, Christ our God, unto Whom be glory unto the ages of ages.

Fr Andrew

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