A REPONSE TO FR. MORRIS
I would like to respond to Archpriest John Morris’s reflection on the crisis in the Antiochian Archdiocese. I will try my best to respond to some of his main points. Before doing so, I would like to express my points of agreement with Fr John.
I agree that Metropolitan PHILIP has been a good leader. I am thankful that Metropolitan PHILIP has opened the doors to converts and has provided an education for hundreds of seminarians. My disagreement with Metropolitan PHILIP is a matter of principle rather than personality or legacy. One would hope that the support of this decision would be based upon the same. Unfortunately, I have seen little, if any, support for this decision based upon principle. The support for this decision has been primarily based on a support of Metropolitan PHILIP’s legacy and personality (and Fr John is essentially no different in his defense).
While agreeing that Metropolitan PHILIP has been a good leader, I would like to turn to my disagreements with Fr John's letter.
Fr John began his letter by stating that many “rumors and accusations of abuse have flown through cyber space.” Perhaps Fr John could name the rumors and accusations he has in mind. Since he made a broad and sweeping "accusation" himself, it is impossible to discuss the veracity of the so-called rumors and accusations he disdains. I would ask that Fr John please name the rumors and accusations he has in mind so we may either agree that they are inappropriate or provide support to substantiate them.
Fr John continued: “We should be praying, fasting and repenting and should let God take care of His Church.” If this is the case, why did Fr John take time out of his prayer and fasting to write in defense of Metropolitan PHILIP? Cannot God take care of His Church without Fr John’s defense? Why is it that only those who support this decision ask others to be quiet and observe the season of Lent? Has anyone asked a supporter of this decision to be quiet? Why, then, do supporters feel the need to quiet those who respectfully dissent?
Fr John “thought that the Metropolitan had the authority to over ride the decision of any bishop under his omophorion regardless of their title. Canon XXXIV of the Holy Apostles decrees, that a Bishop must ‘do nothing of consequence’ without the consent of his Metropolitan.” This is true, but Fr John neglects to mention that Canon 34 continues to say: “But neither let him (who is the first [i.e. the Metropolitan]) do anything without the consent of all (i.e. the Synod).” Further, I would point out that, to my knowledge, no bishop is “under the omophorion” of Metropolitan PHILIP. The other bishops are his “brothers.” At least prior to this decision, it was only a priest or someone of lower ecclesiastical rank who was “under” Metropolitan PHILIP.
Fr John pointed out: “[Metropolitan PHILIP] has ordered his clergy to cease moving feast days to the nearest Sunday.” It is true that Metropolitan PHILIP has ordered this. Strangely, it seems the only parishes that do not follow this edict are located in Metropolitan PHILIP’s diocese. This strange practice was actually pointed out to me by someone who once visited that diocese during a feast. Not believing the person who told me of this practice, I checked the bulletin of Metropolitan PHILIP’s very own cathedral on-line and found that this practice not only happened in Metropolitan PHILIP’s diocese, but in his very own cathedral. And, it was on-line for everyone to see!!!
Fr John said: “[Metropolitan PHILIP] instructs his priest to only allow Orthodox to receive the Eucharist.” Again, this is true, at least on the official level. However, I have been informed by multiple participants (from many different jurisdictions) in the Antiochian House of Studies program that they were instructed at the House of Studies by Fr George Shalhoub (one of the four priests to sign the Detroit letter and an approved teacher at the House of Studies) to allow certain Muslims to commune. Apparently, these seminarians and other participants in the House of Studies were told (and obviously scandalized!!!) that Muslim women who marry Orthodox men should be given communion without being catechized, baptized or chrismated. If Metropolitan PHILIP’s stance is that only the Orthodox should be communed, why has an Archdiocesan-approved teacher of all Antiochian seminarians and St Stephen’s program participants been allowed to openly and publicly teach to the contrary?
Fr John ironically ends his letter by stating: “We should govern our own affairs and be captive to no foreign authority.” This statement is quite strange given that the entire context of Fr John’s letter was an exhortation to submit to a decision of a foreign synod. Even more ironic is that this foreign synod had previously agreed to allow us to be self-ruled (i.e. “govern our own affairs”), except in matters of doctrine.. Now this foreign synod has stepped in to our business—contrary even to the Constitution they approved for us in 2004—and Fr John has called for us to submit to their decision. I would argue against this submission using Fr John’s own words: “we should govern our own affairs and be captive to no foreign authority.”
Thank you, Fr John, you took the words right out of my mouth!!!
An Anonymous Antiochian Priest