Originally Posted at Monomakhos.com by Fr Andrew Moore Under the Title "About Bloggers" with Photos Included by the Orthodox Traditionalist
There has been a growing amount of attention on the part of some of the Holy Synods directed toward bloggers. The concern is there are people on the Internet who are talking and presenting Orthodox topics and articles that the bishops don’t like. Recently, the OCA updated its clergy guidelines to include the following: “A clergyman may not begin a blog or podcast without the prior blessing of his diocesan bishop. A clergyman cannot separate his priestly ministry and his personal or online communications.“ To be fair, similar language was in previous guidelines due to the inherent risk in blogging in general. Now, however, the guidelines focus not so much on blogging as on the bloggers.
Specifically, Fr Peter Heers, Fr Zachariah Lynch, Father Deacon Ananias Sorem, Fr John Peck, Fr John Whiteford, Fr Josiah Trenham, St Anthony’s Monastery, Monomakhos, Patristic Faith, and Orthodox Reflections, among others. By way of example of this overreaching concern, the OCA Synod recently tasked a newly ordained priest to alert their fellow clergy about the dangers of these blogs. I’m not a blogger, as I have more than enough to do to keep up with the needs of my parish and my family, but I wanted to understand the nature of the problem, so I made some inquiries. The following are some of the responses I received:
“We don’t like the things they talk about. “
“We don’t like their approach.”
“They are edgy.”
“They are unlikable personalities.”
“They are trying to be an Internet Church.“
“They are untrustworthy.”
“They are rigorists.”
“They are traditionalists.”
“We don’t like their tone.”
“They are haters.”
“They are attracting undesirable right-wing types.”
“They are dividing the Church.”
“They are too controversial.”
“They are radicals and insurrectionists.”
When I asked for specific examples, they were not forthcoming, leaving me to wonder if these issues were true or perceived. That they were perceived is absolutely the case; that they have happened to any great degree is harder to determine. The accused priests have no canonical charges or accusations against them and Monomakhos has been around for over a decade. I understand they have had the support of many priests, bishops, and even a metropolitan or two, both here and abroad.
It’s interesting to note there was no mention made of Public Orthodoxy (Fordham University), Orthodoxy in Dialogue, or Theoria. Maybe they’re not mentioned because fewer people visit them or maybe they’re not called out because they more closely mirror today’s culture, which frankly to some, is deemed untouchable. Although I’m not a blogger, I’ve either known of or had the occasion to talk to a few of the people on this list and I’ve personally never found anything about them to be particularly worrisome. They seemingly have one thing in common: They love the Church. Now, of course, I am not defending every word that is said by a blogger on the Internet, but neither can I defend every word I’ve said or the way I’ve said it in my 35 years of ministry.
I would guess every bishop, priest, and deacon feels this way. In our very public and constant teaching roles, we cannot help but to have wished, at one time or another, we had phrased something differently. We have all used the wrong words at the wrong time or have articulated a point with the wrong balance or emphasis. The art of communication in teaching, preaching or even expressing an idea is difficult at best. In this culture, restraint is often put on plain language by those feigning offense to the point where there are occasions when communication becomes nearly impossible. It is, therefore, imperative that in dealing with any problem of communication, that we confine ourselves to the actual words uttered and their intended meaning within the context in which they were delivered.
And wrestle with this, we must. If we are to remain a conciliar Church, we cannot shut down dialog. The priests, deacons and the laity must be free to share their thoughts that compare or contrast with their bishops for we are all accountable to one another. Unless one’s thoughts are disordered or disconnected to the heart where Christ dwells, we have little room to object. If the bishops do not encourage feedback from their priests in discussions involving the people, it shouldn’t be a surprised that the end result will be a disconnect between the bishop and the laity. This was especially true during the pandemic. The top-down approach where the bishops assumed the full authority and control over the Church was not well received on the part of the priests or the people. People were hungry for spiritual guidance during perhaps one of the most stressful times in modern history, but the bishops specifically instructed their priests to take a hands-off approach. Strict rules were enacted which prevented the priests from caring for the people entrusted to them. It is during this time that the blogs grew the fastest. Is there a connection?
People turned to bloggers for information because in some cases they knew more about the science of COVID than the bishops. It was frustrating to them that instead of seeking the wisdom of the greater Church, the bishops relied on insurance agents and attorneys to advise them. People turned to one another on the blogs for affirmation that they still belonged to the Church and not to the secular authorities. Complicating matters, the bishops were often holed up in their apartments not making pastoral visits. Whole months would go by without their presence. The zoom services with just a priest seemed off-putting to those who needed community, especially those without extended family who relied on the Church to serve that purpose.
We all know there is no hope in isolation; the New Theologian tells us it is the very definition of hell. This isolation was far more destructive to our people than the virus ever was. This probably applies to the bishops, as well. The blogs not only provided information and a much-needed relief from isolation, but allowed people to express their frustrations and fears during a time when the threat of death was eminent. That historical evidence proved the Church acted differently in past pandemics exacerbated the situation. Pressured to obey the decisions of the synods, many priests were treated as hirelings and discouraged from attending to the needs of their parishes. Priests who had concerns about pastoral care were ignored. The people who expected a priest would be at their bedside at the time of death were disappointed. As the blogosphere grew, people who were already fearful were told by their bishops they had to make appointments to come to liturgy and there would constraints or conditions put on receiving the “life giving mysteries of Christ” all in the name of public health. This made the synods appear weak in their inability to stave off health officials who threatened our parishes with closures.
The blogs addressed the needs of the people that the priests were no longer able to do, due to fear and retribution from their bishops. Several of the blogs exploded with readers and listeners. Now, two years later, the priests that were ignored in their pastoral concerns are being tasked with warning our people away from the bloggers who literally kept it together when the Church would not.
St Mark of Ephesus would not have gotten a blessing for posting his views either. No doubt he was also told to sit down and shut up while the Church was in peril and falling away. But what he was saying could not be silenced, as it came from God, and I suspect more than a few of the bloggers were getting their instructions from God, as well, as they were meeting the needs of the people that we should have been meeting in our parishes. Is it any mystery why the people are still turning to them?
When bishops try to shut down and control ideas, it does nothing to ensure they will be heard. Why don’t our bishops start a blog? Why don’t they take the issues that divide us into the public square? They could invite other bloggers to openly air their concerns. It might be a step forward, as the blogs are not going away. Until our bishops regain the voice of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit [in great love], focusing on the needs of the people, many will continue to turn to the blogs. The blogs are not going away because the truth is not going away. We continue to have great problems in the Church which have resulted in:
Moral outrage regarding the Patriarch of Constantinople’s role in undermining the canonical Church in Ukraine. The attack on the monks in the Larva Caves is particularly hard to take.
Contempt over Archbishop Elpidophoros’ association with political and socialist groups that have temporal agendas, which undermine the eternal message given to the Holy Church.
Bewilderment regarding public statements made by Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew regarding their union in 2025.
Concerns about gender mutilation, same sexed marriages, and other issues dealing with human sexuality that are in stark contrast to the Church’s teaching regarding sin, death, repentance, and untimely salvation.
Unanswered pastoral questions regarding Holy Baptism and entrance into the Holy Church.
Confusion over mRNA vaccines that have proven to be neither safe or effective, that we are now learning can cause severe disability, cancer, and even death in some cases, months or years after the fact.
In contrast to wrestling with these weighty matters on-line, the bishops are overheard in private weighing in on their own matters which frankly most people would find outrageous:
I’m a Bernie Bro…
I hate Trump and all he stands for…
I don’t have any problem with the origins of stem cell lines, and neither should you…
There have never been weapons allowed in the Orthodox Church and I forbid guns in the Church. (Even though there is the real threat of violence and the OCA arranged for guns to be brought into the Church during the election of Metropolitan Tikhon.)
Orthodox people can vote without any guilt for a pro-abortion candidate even if that candidate advocates for full term abortion.
We recommend and encourage the mRNA vaccines because they are safe and effective.
We are thankful to Fordham for asking questions that have never been asked before, though the Church is unprepared to answer them.
There is nothing as important as the obedience to one’s bishop. (Are we to be obedient to a bishop if he changes Orthodox doctrine and praxis?)
The Patriarch of Moscow blessed his troops to rape, murder and commit war crimes.
It was the bloggers who took exception. Did the bishops acknowledge they must be more careful about what they say? No. Instead, they concluded that there is a problem with those who are reporting what they say. So, if there is a problem with what bloggers are reporting, is the answer to bring an end blogging, which effectively can’t be enforced as users can sign-in anonymously? Or is the solution to tighten up on what one sees and hears from the bishops so there will be no fodder for discussion? Talking with the people about what they want to discuss rather than autocratically shutting down communication might also be helpful.
The blogs fill a void. To shut down opposing views rather than shape them with sound teaching, argument, and dialogue will ensure the bishops continue to lose what little connection they have left with their people. Priests in the trenches deal with a variety of very uncomfortable, personal situations every day. If the bishops remain unwilling to do the same, they will find that the culture, and the people in the Church, will ignore them in equal measure. The people of God given to these bishops are confused and hungry for their attention. They want the necessary tools to ward off the many cultural wolves they contend with every day. They would love to hear the voice of Christ from their bishops but condemnation and criticism of the only venue that remained open to them during an extremely difficult and trying time is not the voice of a shepherd.
The bishops have nothing to fear from the blogs. They can bring unity to our Church by clearly articulating Orthodox theology and defending that theology to the Church and the radicalized culture. In the absence of that effort, the blogger, I think, will keep doing the heavy lifting for them. [Maybe I should start a blog! No…never mind.] .
Fr Andrew Moore
St Mark the Evangelist
Great Falls, MT
. "About Bloggers by Fr Andrew Moore," Monomakhos.com, accessed March 18th, 2023, https://www.monomakhos.com/about-bloggers/