Clarifying May 2008 Determination concerning fragments

• gathering the scattered flock
• clarifying our relationship to the fragments

Excerpt in English from Fr. Victor Dobrov's 2008 article 
wherein he responds to concerns raised 
by our ROCA Archdeacon German 
during a discussion of the ROCA-PSCA Determination of May 2008:

Foreword: Protodeacon German Ivanov-Trinadzaty of the Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC) posted an article several weeks ago discussing the ROCA PSEA Determination of May 2008. The Secretary of the North American Administrative District, Fr. Victor Dobroff, recently offered a refutation of his claims. The following excerpts are the most relevant and provide the historical background for the main points made by Fr. Victor. Eds. 

Fr. German: The recent Resolution of the PSEA claims the actions taken by all the "fragment" churches have no legitimacy.

Fr. Victor: Fr. German is incorrect. The Resolution clearly states the following:
    • Regarding ROCOR (V) - they are deemed a self-proclaimed church group and the ordinations performed by them are considered incomplete. 
    • Regarding those who split off from ROCA earlier, and in light of their unwillingness to be a part of ROCA and their establishment of new church structures, relationships with them should be governed by collegial and synodal decisions approved previously. 
    • Regarding ROAC - the Resolution of the ROCOR Bishops' Sobor of 1996 to deny Bishop Valentin clerical standing remains in force and his future actions as a cleric will not be recognized. 
    • Regarding RTOC - the Decision of the ROCA Holy Synod on May 3/16, 2003, to forbid Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Venyamin from serving remains in force. Therefore, all of their later actions as clerics may not be considered valid. 
In line with the ROCA PSEA Determination, nothing is said about the sacraments of ROCOR (V). The church decisions of ROAC and RTOC are considered not legitimate. And how is this wrong? 

As we know, on May 25, 2002, the ROCOR Synod forbade Abp. Lazarus and B. Benjamin to serve for joining the so-called "Mansonville schism." As they did not admit that the Church they joined was not legitimate (since the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile and its Sobor and Synod were formed in 2001 as a self-proclaimed new church group, which did not exist before and which lost its continuity from the Russian Local Curch) Abp. Lazarus and B. Benjamin continued making official church decisions. This led them to be in violation of the Canons, and instead of bishops, they became ordinary monks. It follows then that all the subsequent church decisions of these former bishops, including the ordination of the RTOC head, Hieromonk Tikhon Pasechnik are also completely invalid. 

Fr. German: Bishops Lazarus and Benjamin NEVER, not for one day, recognized the authority of the Lavr Synod. From November 2001, they, as did we, remained loyal to Metropolitan Vitaliy. How can they be considered beholden to a decision made two years later by a Synod they did not recognize and one in which they were never members? 

Fr. Victor: This once again, is not so. Bishop Lavr became the Locum Tenens and Ruling Metropolitan of ROCOR and was commemorated as such in all ROCOR parishes beginning in July, 2001. Therefore, Abp. Lazarus and B. Benjamin deferred to his authority, commemorated him, and considered Archbishop Lavr to be the Ruling Metropolitan for three months, until the Sobor of Bishops in October, 2001. During that time, Abp. Lazarus and B. Benjamin "bombarded" Bishop Vitaliy with phone calls and letters asking him to remove his signature from his request to go into retirement, something all of us in the Church Abroad prayed for, but alas did not happen. Whether we liked it or not, as it was difficult to accept with a clear conscience, Abp Lavr was chosen Metropolitan at the Sobor in October, 2001. Metropolitan Vitaliy himself voted for him and congratulated him upon his election. In what circumstances and with whom were Lazarus and Benjamin? Subordinate to Lavr's Synod, that's where. In October and November, having found themselves answering to Met. Lavr, Lazarus and Benjamin developed a plan to immediately create a separate jurisdiction for themselves in Russia and considered ways to justify their schism by the canons. In this effort they tried to enlist the help of Met. Vitaliy, who was losing control of the situation by then. After the ROCOR Synod was officially notified that Abp. Lazarus and B. Benjamin had joined the schismatic ROCOR in Exile, they were censured by the canonical authority they still answered to - the ROCOR Synod. Some time later, especially after the "bishop's ordination" of Hieromonk Tikhon Pasechnik and others, and the formation of a RTOC "synod," the canonical authority which they had chosen for themselves and recognized as binding "in good conscience" - Met. Vitaliy - himself declared Abp. Lazarus and B. Benjamin to be outside of the salvific body of the Church Abroad, and the bishops' ordinations performed by them to be invalid. 

Fr. German: It should be noted that B. Agafangel, who always says the only canonical path was to recognize the Lavr Synod until May 17, was himself censured by THIS VERY SYNOD! But this censure he does not accept!

Fr. Victor: B. Agafangel was never censured by the ROCOR Synod. In April, 2007, in order to deny the loyal opposition to ROCOR the ability of retaining its succession from the ROCOR hierarchy, the ROCOR Synod, which was still canonical but bordering on unlawful, developed a Machiavellian, and one could even say, an underhanded plan. They prepared two Ukases. The first Ukase named B. Agafangel to the South American cathedra. The second Ukase meant to censure him if he did not accept the assignment. Both Ukazes were signed by members of the Synod and made official with the Synod stamp! To carry out this despicable plan, Bishop Mikhail (Donskoff), who was up to the task, was sent to Odessa with the Ukazes. At a diocesan meeting, he was to read publicly the first Ukaze and as soon as B. Agafangel refused, he would read the second Ukaze. This was arranged "behind the scenes" in the few days remaining before May 17 th! Luckily, one of the ROCOR Synod members, who did want this sin of Judas on his conscience, told B. Agafangel of the nefarious plan before B. Mikhail arrived in Odessa. When B. Mikhail read the first Ukaze, B. Agafangel obediently agreed to the assignment. This brought a thorough and final end to the second Ukaze, which could only be enacted if the first one was rejected. 

Fr. German: On what basis does he not recognize his censure? It seems on the same basis that we drove from our memory all the ukazes and censures of Lavr seven years ago! 

Fr. Victor: The ROCOR Synod was a lawful canonical authority until May 17, 2007, and all its censures, whether we like them or not, are canonical and valid. On May 17, 2007, with the signing of the Act of Eucharistic Communion between ROCOR and the MP, the canonical status and authority of those involved with the Act changed. Everyone agrees with that, even Fr. German and the RTOC. On May 17, 2007, the Synod of Met. Lavr was no longer the Synod of ROCOR and was transformed into a branch of the Moscow Patriarchate. The ROCA clergy and laity could no longer fall under any canonical Ukazes, Determinations or censures issued by the ROCOR (MP) Synod after May 17 th. All the canonical authority of the Church Abroad after May 17, 2007, was transferred to B. Agafangel and the loyal faithful of the ROCA.

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