Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Arrogant Petulance Common among Clergy and Laity

FIRENZE-NUOVA ROMA 23 October 2022 (NRom)

H.H. Rutherford I, Papa-Catholicos of Rome-Ruthenia gave the following sermon earlier today regarding the behavior of clergy and laity causing so many to leave the church. 

Complete transcript of the sermon: 

     As Christians, we are called to try, despite the weakness of human frailty, to be as Christlike as possible. We are called to love our neighbours as ourselves. To facilitate this and more, Christ gave us the Church, which indeed does have the standards of the faith to maintain. However, there are those in the church, both clergy and laity, who choose to exhibit such arrogant petulance and such sanctimonious superiority and condescension that is absolutely no wonder that so many people over the years have either reduced their participation or left the church outright in disgust. There are, of course, various other reasons people leave - including the modernist influence inside various parts of the church and general secularism and antireligious sentiment in society at large. Yet, the church’s own people and even the church’s own leaders at times bear much of the responsibility.

     So often the leadership and laity of a particular division of Christ’s Holy Church are so puffed up with pride believing that they are the single ultimate world authority or the one true division of the church to which all others must bow. From the Vatican to the Eastern monasteries, to Canterbury Cathedral, and various autocephalous apostolic churches, both orthodox and catholic, from large to small, this arrogant attitude exists. Hypocrisy abounds.

     So often there is the belief that this group is legitimate and that group is not. Silly minutia becomes extrapolated into countless pages of meaningless drivel masquerading as academic writing. Do the authors of such nonsense realise that most clergy and certainly almost all laity could not care less about such things and may not even understand them at all? In their confusion, they wonder why people are focused on trivialities rather than important matters such as worship and prayer. The results are often that people either become disgusted with the stupidity and leave religion, or else they decide to follow along and become equally as hateful and harmful to others who are deemed by their leadership to be “outside of the group.” How sad. Christ surely must weep and Satan surely must rejoice as the people of God are split further and further apart by the pomposity of so many in the church. Pitting one Christian against another with a self-righteous attitude is indeed the work of the devil.

     There is but one church, though in the fallen, fractured state of mankind, it is no wonder that it is so divided and divisive today. In the early church, the church was divided among local churches – which were nothing more than parts of the whole, established under Apostolic authority for the better service of Christ’s people. There were disputes, of course, for that is, again, a typical byproduct of the fallen state of mankind. Yet, beginning especially with the Great Schism 1000 years ago, to the Protestant movement, to the secular, modernist movements of today, the church arguably has never been so divided. Why, then, do we seek to attack our brethren under the false label of charitable admonition? Why do we exclude when we should embrace? Why do we engage in vile calumny masquerading as righteousness?

     As the bishop’s so lead, being the shepherds in succession from the Apostles, the clergy follows their example. In turn, as the clergy lead, the laity follows their example. The bishops of the world must set a good example. They must extend their hand in Christian friendship to one and all and close the doors to none. This is not to say that any of us should adopt an “anything goes” policy. We each have the standards of the faith that we are to maintain, but those standards exist to help people get closer to God, not to push them away. The divisions of the church around the world will not be solved or healed overnight. We do not inherently have to compromise on our most sacred beliefs, but we should seek unity and cooperation rather than shutting the doors in someone’s face. I have seen this pathetic, cowardly behaviour among priests and laity alike – from countless jurisdictions. I have witnessed bishops attack each other, I have witnessed famous priests of the Vatican church openly sliming the reputation of others, and I witnessed seen people who claim to be Christians vilifying the faith of others… Why do they do it? For no other reason than it makes them feel good. It fills a void inside and makes them feel better about themselves through the putting down of someone else. Yet that void can never be filled by anything other than Christ, whom they themselves have excluded for whatever reason despite their outward pretenses of faith and religion. And so they continue trying to fill the endless chasm that is within them with more and more vilification of others.

     Indeed, such people may be deserving of condemnation, but much more than that they are in need of compassion and pity. What else can we do but pity someone who has such a low opinion of themselves that they seek to build self-esteem by tearing down others? If they had Christ, they would have no such need – and thus we can be filled with nothing but the greatest pity and compassion for them. Yet we cannot be blind to the great destruction to the church that they have done over the centuries and continue to do now, including being the root cause for many people leaving the church and even the faith altogether. That is a great and immense tragedy. None of us is omnipotent, and so we should each pray and find our own way to improve the situation through our own example.