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The story of an exorcism in Romania, performed by a young priest and leading to the death of a nun with a history of schizophrenia, has been widely reported. Nowhere more than in Romania itself, where it has especially gripped the media.

The first fact which attracted my attention, as an Orthodox priest, was that the priest had been ordained uncanonically – he was still under the age of thirty.

The second thing to wonder at is the abysmal lack of practical, pastoral training or advice which the priest should have received in seminary. Is this something lacking at the seminary at which this man was prepared for the priesthood? Why did the young priest not know the elementary fact that not all mental illness is to do with demonic obsession or possession? Why had he not received experience in a larger church as a deacon, and then as a second or third priest? Why was an older and more experienced priest not involved? Why had the diocesan bishop not been informed of this exorcism? Had the nun herself first asked to be exorcised? So many unanswered questions...

Finally, one wonders at the young priest’s ineptitude in gagging and binding the nun he was exorcising. As a result of his spiritual delusion (1), this underage priest is now being charged with manslaughter.

In the space of a few months, three negative stories from the Orthodox world have been reported in the mass media. Firstly, there was the corruption among the episcopate of the Church of Greece, then the deposition of the monk Irenaios, the former Patriarch of Jerusalem, and finally this tragic story of the Romanian nun. We would not at all wish to deny that these things happened. There are far more scandalous stories from the Orthodox world in London from the last thirty years, but these were not reported. There are far more scandalous stories from the Non-Orthodox world in London, but these are not reported. There are far more scandalous stories from all over the world, but these are not reported either. And we will not report them, because we are not interested in scandals; they are as boring as the consequences of any sin. What is not boring is to be able to rise to the challenge of overcoming sin.

The reports of these three scandals in the Western media make us wonder. Could it be that there are those who, seeing the revival of the Orthodox world after the fall of Communism, are now concerned to attack it in other, more subtle and more divisive ways? Could it be that there are those in Greece who wish to grow rich from confiscating Church property and land, using corruption among the episcopate as an excuse? Could it be that there are those who wish to seize the holy places in Jerusalem from the Orthodox Church, using a corrupt Patriarch as an excuse? Could it be that there are those who wish to prepare Romania for entry into the European Union by destroying popular faith, using a foolish and criminal young priest as an excuse?

In recent decades we have seen how dark forces have eaten away at the fringes of Orthodoxy. It started as long ago as 1917, with the Western-orchestrated collapse of the Russian Empire and the most violent persecution of Christ’s followers the world has ever seen. Then the fringes of the Orthodox world fell to separatist groups and invaders. First, the Patriarchate of Constantinople fell into the hands of freemasons under the lamentable Patriarch Melitos Metaksakis. Modernist meddling in the Orthodox diaspora in the Western world, especially in France and the USA, but also in Finland, the Baltic States, Poland and Czechoslovakia, began. The Churches of Greece, Cyprus, Romania and the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch adopted the Roman Catholic calendar. The Second World War followed, which brought in its wake massive Fascist and then Communist persecution of the faithful, especially in the Balkans.

Then began the age of open heresy and apostasy on the part of several individual Orthodox bishops, including certain Patriarchs. Also in the 1960s the Bulgarian Church imposed the Latin calendar. In the 1970s, northern Cyprus was occupied by Muslim invaders. Churches and monasteries were destroyed. In the last decade, hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Serbs have been expelled from their ancestral homes and more churches destroyed. Church schisms have been fomented by dollars from abroad, especially in the Ukraine and Macedonia, but elsewhere too. Within the last few years American Protestant organizations have flooded Georgia and then the Ukraine, where Roman Catholic missionaries were already at work. Here dollars and euros have now set up governments unfavourable to Orthodoxy.

It is as though all these attacks to discredit Orthodoxy are being carried out according to a plan. However, if conspiracy theorists are right and this is the unfolding of a plan, we Orthodox will gain no credit by denying the scandals among the human-beings, who nominally belong to the Church. Nor will we gain credit by pointing the finger at others, even though they do indeed connive with dark forces to destroy our Church. Orthodox will only gain credit when we point the finger at ourselves and repent.

The problems of the Orthodox world are in no way due to an excess of Orthodoxy, if that were possible, but to a lack of Orthodoxy - profound spiritual decadence. Apostasy in Orthodox countries will cease only when we see corruption-free government, instead of crony-capitalism and rigged democracy, when we see the moral, canonical and spiritual values of the Orthodox Faith practised among senior clergy, politicians and businesspeople, when the elites reconnect with the Orthodox faithful, with us who bear the spiritual identities of our lands, when we see All Saints Sunday feasted with fervour by all Orthodox everywhere.

Fr Andrew

All Saints Sunday, 2005


1). By spiritual delusion, we mean that spiritual disease which Greek-speaking monks call ‘plani’, Latin-speaking Orthodox monks used to call ‘illusio’ and Slav monks call ‘prelest’

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