Archpriest Michael Polsky (+1960) Articles Canon Law Fr. Jovan Marjanac Moscow Patriarchate Serbia 2021 Troitskii, Sergei V.

Canonical Assessment of the ROCOR in the Works of Prof. Sergei V. Troitskii

Troitskii's polemical treaty On the Untruth of the Karlovite Schism

This work was initially written as a B.Th. thesis for Holy Trinity Seminary. This is the first academic analysis of the two seminal works challenging the canonicity of the ROCOR (Troitskii) and Moscow Patriarchate (Fr. Michael Polsky).

Introduction

Sergei V. Troitskii in the professional sense is an academic, professor, teacher, advisor to synods and patriarchs, canon law expert, journalist, and some argue lawyer. In the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, for many, he was considered the enemy. In the Moscow Patriarchate he was the shining example of what was expected from Russian émigrés. Putting all the Church political angles aside, in plain life he was simply a Russian patriot immigrant to Serbia, who wanted to continue doing what he loved: analyse and elaborate canon law.

Certainly, there is much more to be said about this man. Troitskii could not be regarded as one of the leading canon law experts of pre-revolutionary Russia by having such simple credentials. His accomplishments in the field are widely known in several topics. It is not our wish to choose sides, to question the legitimacy of the ROCOR’s canonicity (as did Troitskii), nor to condemn the actions of the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate (as did Polskii). The facts speak for themselves that there exist differing opinions on this.

The predominant work elaborating Troitskii’s post WWII stance on the ROCOR (presumably his final stance as well) is examined in this presentation. It is cumbersome in some parts because this is a debate, or a dialogue, with Archpriest Mikhail Polskii. The reader is forced, for the sake of context, to specifically see why Troitskii argues against many of Polskii’s theses, thus displaying his canonical evaluation of the ROCOR. Polskii’s opinions will only be presented in as much as they directly relate to Troitskii.

In the interest of providing a more detailed overview of the magnitude of contributions to the field of canon law by this eminent theologian, we include a biography, which will merely be surveyed during the Conference.

Biography

Professor Sergei Viktorovich Troitskii’s [1] In Serbian his name is written as Sergej Viktorovic Trojicki. This work uses the Library of Congress transliteration equivalent. name is widely recognized in the field of Orthodox canon law. [2] A. Sergeev. Personal opinion. “Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarhii” 1954. no. 3. p. 64. He committed more than sixty years of his life to the study of this subject and is considered an expert on several topics, most notably the sacrament of marriage and the dynamic of various jurisdictional problems in the diaspora. Trotsky also wrote extensively about the sources of canon law. “He was a constant laborer-canonist who was very deeply committed to the Holy Orthodox Church; a defender of the faith and keeper of the holy canons”. [3]Written opinion of Prof. A. I. Georgievskii, as part of the Council for Approving Dissertations of the Moscow Theological Academy upon the granting of an honorary degree of Doctorate of Church Law to … Continue reading

This life summary has been written with the use of two biographical works. The first is a work by Archimandrite Irinei (Seredni) that was published in the Soviet Union. Seredni was a professor of canon law at the Leningrad Theological Academy from 1968 to 1971, at which point he was appointed to the Moscow Patriarchate Representation Church in Tokyo, Japan. [4]Bogoslovskie Trudi XII”, a Moscow Patriarchate periodical from 1974. pp. 217-248. The second such work is from the Serbian Patriarchate’s official newsletter, Glasnik, in which B. Gardashevich, a canon law professor at the Belgrade Theological Faculty, a student of S.V. Troitskii, writes about his former teacher by order of Serbian Patriarch German. [5]Pravoslavlje” 1968. no. 24. Prof. Dr. B. Gardashevich. However, both of these works bear the stamp of autobiographical writing, since they were both written using a summation of Troitskii’s own personal work, which he wrote for the Moscow Theological Academy. Furthermore, both of these works were later corrected by Troitskii in a letter to Prof. L.N. Pariiski, dated October 8, 1968. [6]“It is not mentioned that I served as professor of the Russian Theological Institute in Paris from 1929-1931 before they joined the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, at which point I … Continue reading

The following timeline of the life of S.V. Troitskii is a complete compilation of his accomplishments; it is written based on the “semi-autobiographical” work in the archives of the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy. It was first published in Russian by Archimandrite Irinei (Seredni); and this is the first complete biography of Troitskii in English. For the purpose of clarity, simply because the number of dates and accomplishments is so extensive, this has been organized into several headings which mirror typical curricula vitae.

Sergei Viktorovich Troitskii

Education

1878    Born in Tomsk on March 14 to Orthodox parents. His father, Victor Ilyich, was a teacher at Tomsk Theological Seminary. [7] See 4 above. Also “Svedenia o Zhizni S.V. Troitskago”. (“Witness to the life of S.V. Troitski”) Archives of the Moscow Theological Academy. Seventy handwritten autobiographical pages, 1965.

1891    Finished Orthodox Primary School. [8] The proper name in Russian is “Duhovnoe Uchilische”.

1897    Graduated from Tver Theological Seminary.

1900    Graduated from the Archaeological Institute in St. Petersburg and became a full member of the same faculty.

1901    Graduated from the St. Petersburg Theological Academy as candidate of theology and with the right to defend his master’s thesis without any further verbal examinations. [9] This is a degree equivalent to something between a Master’s and Doctorate degrees in the modern education system. A defended thesis would be a complete MTh degree today.

1913    Defended master’s thesis at the Kiev Theological Academy on May 27. His topic was “The Second Marriages of Clergy: A Historical and Canonical Analysis”. [10] See 4 and 7 above. This thesis defence was assigned number 1851 at the Kiev Theological Academy and remains there in the archives. It was later published in Serbia as a pamphlet/book.

1924    On April 2 his master’s thesis is elevated to the rank of a Doctorate of Law degree by the Pedagogical Council of the University of Belgrade, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

1961    The Moscow Theological Academy bestows an honorary Doctorate of Theology, (ThD), on Troitskii on December 29, for his accomplishments in the field of theological study.

1972    Died in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, on November 27 at the age of 95.

Professional Experience

1901    Dean of Students (a middle administrative position) of the St. Petersburg-Alexander Nevsky Orthodox School. [11] See 4 and 7 above. He remained here until 1915 in the capacity of Dean of Students, teacher of Russian, Church-Slavonic, and Latin.

1906    Employed by the Office of the Ober-Procurator [12] An office of high rank in the general administration of the Russian Orthodox Church during the Synodal period. as a member of the editorial board of the official monthly newsletter, “Tserkovnie Vedimosti”.

1909    Member of the Committee for Education’s department for foreign languages, directly under the Holy Ruling Synod of the ROC.

1910    Consultant to the Committee for the Organization of the Diaspora of the ROC, directly reporting to the Holy Ruling Synod on the Churches of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Mount Athos.

1912    Member of the Committee for Publishing of the Holy Ruling Synod. Sent to Germany to become familiarized with the organization of the Roman Catholic Church’s publishing body.

1913    Representative of the Holy Ruling Synod on Mount Athos in connection with the heresy of “imyabozhniki”. This was continued in February,1914, when he was asked to deliver a report on this topic to the Synod.

1913    Acting member of the Committee for Publishing within the office of the Ober-Procurator.

1915    Assigned to the special operations office of the Ober-Procurator. [13] The Office of the Ober-Procurator was abolished with the renewal of the Russian Patriarchate.

1917    Invited by the Holy Ruling Synod to participate in the operations of the Great Council of the ROC, which lasted through 1918. He co-chaired a special advisory body with colleague canonist, Prof. V.N. Beneshevich.

1917    Appointed assistant editor of “Tserkovie Vedimosti” by the Great Council of 1917-1918.

1918    Head of the codification body of the Bishop’s Council of the ROC in Kiev.

1919    Visiting Professor at the Novorossiysk University, teaching Church history. He taught here for three semesters, ending his tenure in January 1920.

1920    Emigrated to Belgrade on January 25.

1920    Appointed honorary professor of the Faculty of Law at Belgrade University on April 24.

1922    On December 30, promoted to extraordinary (visiting) professor of the same institution.

1925    Chosen as official expert and advisor to the Holy Bishops’ Council of the Serbian Patriarchate with questions pertaining to canon law.

1928    Professor at the St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris, France.

1929    Promoted Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Law at the University of Belgrade.

1929    Expert witness in US Federal Court of Justice relative to a property dispute, resulting from the usurpation of over 100 church properties by the schismatic bishop of the “Living Church”, Metropolitan John Kedrovsky.

1937    Pronounced Honorary Professor of Canon Law at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Belgrade. He remained in this position until 1943.

1937    The Ministry of Education of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia made Troitskii non-acting replacement member of the Commission for the Correction of Examinations, specifically the department granting the rank of professor.

1938    Member of the Conference of Representatives of Universities of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, representing the law faculties.

1941    The Minister of Justice assigns Troitskii to the Commission for the Composition of the Marital Laws of Mixed Marriages. [14]The Hitler-friendly government of General Dimitrije Ljotić was already ruling at this point. The Ministry of Justice was the successor to the Office of Defence of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The … Continue reading

1947    Professor of Canon Law at the Moscow Theological Academy. He taught here until the end of 1949. [15]Archimandrite Irineii notes that after WWII Troitskii never spent more than three months at a time outside the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on account of the strict travel sanctions … Continue reading

1947    Active member of the Office of External Affairs of the ROC. [16]This is the precursor to the “OVCS” or “Otdel Vneshnih Tserkovnih Svyazei” department which would later be headed by Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov), followed by the current Patriarch, Kirill … Continue reading

1948    Joined the Serbian Academy of Science as co-operating academic. [17]“Srpska Akademija Nauka” was a dwindling gathering of intellectuals who signed a petition supporting the socialist Tito regime. Tito expelled all anti-communist members; in the period between … Continue reading

1951    Full member of the Academy of Science of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. [18] Dr. N. Samardic. “Uticaj Komunistickog Rezima na Srpsku Intelegenciju” (“The Influence of the Communist Regime on Serbian Intelligentsia”). Smederevo. 1946. pp. 65-69. Head of the Commission for the Publication of St. Sava’s Rudder.

1953    Member of the Committee for Publishing of Nineteenth Century Sources of Serbian Law.

1956    By request of the Serbian Academy of Science, sent to the Soviet Union to research handwritten copies of St. Sava’s Rudder. [19]Glasnik” (This was the official “Herald” of the Serbian Academy of Science) Book VIII. 2. pp. 233-240. Printed in 1957.

1958    Member of the editorial board of the “Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarhii”. [20] Russian language “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate”. Official newsletter of the ROC.

1961    Canon law advisor to the Office of External Affairs run by Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad and Novgorod.

Published Works

Troitskii knew French, German, English, Russian, and Serbian fluently. He also knew enough Greek and Latin to work with these languages professionally. This allowed him easily to overcome obstacles that arose in studying canon law. He never shied away from using commentaries, or secondary sources, but always stressed that the most efficient and useful research is always compiled from primary sources. His conclusions are always strong and well-arranged; they are always infused with the conciliar spirit of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. A complete list of Troitskii’s work would be extensive; compiling a full bibliography would be a thesis in itself. As it stands, over 750 titles are attributed to S.V. Troitskii. This is certainly not exhaustive, as his works have been translated into many languages, and they continue to be translated because of the relevancy of their content.

Troitskii also wrote over 150 entries for the Orthodox Church Encyclopedia of the Russian Orthodox Church. He contributed to the original edition at the beginning of the twentieth century and to subsequent revisions. [21] Pravoslavnaya Bogoslovskaya Entsiklopedia. Leningrad. 1968-1970. Fund 834. Detail 4. Work no. 466. He also contributed to the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics on the subject of the Greek Orthodox Church. [22] Volume VI. pp. 413-435. Several books were written on the subject of ecumenical gatherings throughout the world, particularly in his early days. [23] S.V. Troitskii. The World American Conference of Faith and Order. New York. 1913. He was commissioned to author forewords to many books on the subject of canon law. Troitskii wrote many editorial overviews of books, the first of which was his brief commentary on the works of Bishop Dr. Nikodim Milaš. Troitskii was published in German, [24] S.V. Troitskii. Askese und Heiligung. Christenthum Sexualitat. Berlin. 1941. French, English, Greek, [25] S.V. Troitskii. Ekklisia. 1966. no.16-17. pp. 412-417. Serbian, and Russian. His scope of themes is very wide, and, although he does not examine each topic in detail, there is enough material to interest every reader.

Jurisdictional Debates

On the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

Troitskii lived in Yugoslavia directly after the Bolshevik Revolution. It has never been made clear whether he left the former Russian Empire because of persecutions or for other reasons. Unlike thousands of his compatriots, he voluntarily returned to the Soviet Union after World War II on several occasions. Troitskii even returned to a very active role in the work of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is in contrast to those who organized parallel Church organizations outside of Russia. There is no evidence that Troitskii was part of the “White Army Immigration”. He certainly was not politically active, at least not openly. “The last of the Mohicans” is what he refers to himself as, pointing out the fact that he was the last Church law specialist who was active in Russia before the Revolution. [26] S.V. Troitskii. O Nepravde Karlovatskago Raskola. Paris, 1960. p. 6. As such he was very relevant, and, accordingly so, published during the many jurisdictional problems of the Russian émigrés. His advice was valued by all sides of the various disputes after the Revolution, and he never shied away from providing it. Troitskii knew his standing among the ecclesiastical circles was high, and this is visible in his works. He shows the utmost confidence and, arguably, a mild arrogance towards the end of his career.

In 1948, the brotherhood of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville published a book by Protopriest Mikhail Polskii, entitled The Canonical Standing of the Higher Ecclesiastical Authority in the USSR and Abroad. In the book Polskii questions the actions of Patriarch Sergii of Moscow, and refuses to recognise his authority as the Head of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Troitskii was visibly bothered by this book and wrote a rebuttal, which came in the form of a book called The Untruth of the Karlovtsi Schism. Troitskii opens the book with a preface in which he recognises the authoritative position of Polskii within Russian Church Abroad circles. He notes that Polskii was in a Bolshevik jail for four months; spent three years in a Soviet concentration camp; and eventually escaped to Jerusalem via Persia. In Jerusalem, Polskii was subordinate to Archbishop Anastasii, the later First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. He later moved to London and, finally, in 1948 Polskii relocated to America. [27] Interestingly enough, both Troitskii and Grabbe (in his rebuttal), write very flattering biographies of their opponents in the preface of their books.

Troitskii initially questions the capability of Polskii to give a full evaluation of the Church situation in the USSR because of his long absence. He writes: “the Church has lived for forty years now under the Soviet authority and Polskii’s twelve years in post-revolution Russia are not nearly enough to give him a complete overview of the situation. Even the period that he spent in the USSR was mostly, commendably and unfortunately, in captivity. The changes in Church life that came about after 1930 can only be available to Polskii through the limited literature that he cites in the back of his book. He is inclined to defend the old system because, as a missionary priest, he was trained to defend the imperialist regime at all costs. The catastrophic events of the first few years of the Revolution, and his being a member of the clergy of the Karlovtsi schism, have fortified his beliefs in the rightness of his actions.” [28] S.V. Troitskii. O Nepravde Karlovatskago Raskola. Paris, 1960. p. 5-6.

Troitskii considers the work of Polskii to be an apologetic defense of the Karlovtsi schism, which, if it had been right in their arguments, would have no need to make them in the first place. He throws weighty accusations at the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, particularly at Metropolitan Anastasii, accusing him of being a Nazi collaborator. Troitskii calls Polskii’s book nothing more than a symbol of the schism that has been developing since 1920. It is the banner of a Church that has formed itself more on the careers of failed officers than on the words of Christ and on the conciliar spirit of the Orthodox Church. Those who naively follow Polskii do so at their own risk, because he is leading them into an unending spiral of temptation and hatred towards their Mother Church. These are the thoughts expressed by Troitskii in the preface to his book. As the last of the old-school canonists, Troitskii sees it as his moral duty to reveal the truth and malice behind the motives of Polskii and his supporters. And so, the careful dissection of Polskii`s book was the start of what would be a years-long debate between the leading thinkers of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, with its headquarters in New York, and Troitskii in Yugoslavia.

An Angel of the Church or Stalin’s Angel?

Patriarch Sergii (Stragorodskii)

The core argument of Protopriest Polskii is that Metropolitan Sergii (Stragorodskii) had no authority to speak on behalf of the Church in support of the Soviet regime. He writes that Sergii acted against the will of the episcopate, clergy, and vast majority of the faithful by usurping the role of Church institutions and acting as he pleased. [29] M. Polskii. The Canonical Standing of the Higher Ecclesiastical Authority in the USSR and Abroad. Holy Trinity Monastery. NY. 1948. p. 76. Troitskii responds to this by saying that Polskii is disregarding the decisions of the Council that he holds in such high regard, the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918. That Council brought back the role of an administrative role in the person of one hierarch, however symbolic his power may be. Subsequently, the role of Metropolitan Peter, as locum tenens after the death of Patriarch Tikhon, was a continuation of the same one-person rule.

Troitskii deduces from this that Polskii is either against the renewal of the Patriarchate altogether because of his allegiance to the period of the Most Holy Ruling Synod, or that Polskii is conveniently trying to convince those with anti-Patriarchate sentiments to side with him. The problem lays not with the fact that Metropolitan Sergii became the First Hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate, but with the fact that the Karlovtsi schismatics refused to accept his authority. Otherwise, the argument can be extrapolated to not recognising Metropolitan Peter as locum tenens, and Tikhon as Patriarch. And so, Troitskii concludes, when Polskii does not agree with the various decisions of the person upholding the Patriarchate, it is a usurpation of the authority of the office. On the other hand, when the one in said position fits into the plans of the Russian Church Abroad, that person is a martyr, confessor etc.

Troitskii poses that Patriarch Sergii, having died before the Russian Church Council of 1945, was, until his death, in the capacity of Metropolitan and later Patriarch, the legal First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. Only at the next Local Council — being that of 1945 which chose Alexii as Patriarch — could the actions of Sergii have been nullified and condemned. But that never happened. Alexii was chosen as Patriarch of Moscow by the complete body of recognised bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church and in the presence of the representatives of seven autocephalous Churches.

Working With the Enemy? [30] Subdivisions in this section repeat the subdivisions in Polsky’s book.

Collaboration with the Soviet Government

Polskii writes that the Church in the USSR is guilty of collaborating with the godless atheists of the Soviet Union. Polskii discusses this in detail under his heading “Actions in Favor of the Enemies of the Church.” First, before he even addresses the argument made here, Troitskii attacks Polskii on a pastoral point. An enemy of the Church can only be certain worldly views, or philosophies, which are against the Church. In no way can a person, or group of persons, which can potentially be members of this community, be called the enemy of the Church. Furthermore, a teaching cannot be an enemy of the Church, because a teaching can only be false or in accord with the teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Troitskii, being provocative, hints that perhaps Polskii would prefer to take the stance of Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii) and “exterminate the world of communists like dogs with rabies”. He writes that the Patriarchate has to fight with atheists as well, not by considering them as enemies, but as unfortunate, confused children who have gone astray; they need to do everything in their power to bring them into the bosom of the Church. Polskii writes that these are not good shepherds, prepared to sacrifice their lives for their flock, entirely overlooking the fact that many of the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate had spent years in jail for their loyalty to the Faith.

Polskii neatly summarizes the mistakes of Patriarch Sergii under six headings. Accordingly, Troitskii replies:

The subordination of Church Rule to the Enemy

Troitskii writes that Polskii’s basic argument is that Metropolitan Sergii had the authority of locum tenens before he was imprisoned, and that it was given to him by his fellow bishops. When he was released from captivity, however, this authority was confirmed upon him by the Soviet government and not by his fellow hierarchs. Polskii accuses Metropolitan Sergii and the members of the Synod of accepting their authority from the Soviet regime.

If the right to nominate candidates for the episcopacy belongs only to bishops, then what is the canonical meaning of the suddenly ordained episcopacy that was nominated by the council of Soviet atheists? Polskii says this, citing the third canon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council and the thirtieth canon of the Apostolic Council. Troitskii replies that neither the thirtieth canon of the Apostles, nor the third canon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, says anything about nomination to the episcopacy. They explicitly say that choosing a bishop from the candidates belongs to the bishops. The method by which the candidates are chosen is absolutely irrelevant and the canons do not address it. This right was allowed to the laity at times as well. According to Troitskii, the nominations could very well have come from the Soviet atheists but the choice ultimately rests with the bishops themselves. He further mocks Polskii by saying that it is nearly incredible that the godless Soviets would care so much for the empty cathedra of the Moscow Patriarchate that they would nominate canonically worthy candidates for the ordination.

The Re-location of Bishops

Polskii accuses Metropolitan Sergii of acting outside the canons when he relocated several bishops from their dioceses. Troitskii notes that this is certainly not a canonically prescribed action. A bishop should be married to his diocese. However, this was already made somewhat of a local practice within the Russian Orthodox Church. Very few bishops in pre-revolutionary Russia could say that they spent their entire episcopal careers in one diocese. Troitskii goes on to point out that the initiator of the Karlovtsi schism, Antonii Khrapovitskii, had been relocated from the diocese of Ufim to Volyn, to Kharkov, and to Kiev.

Nonetheless, writes Troitskii, rules that are applicable during peaceful conditions are certainly allowed to be put on hold during extraordinary times. To support this, Troitskii cites the words of the First Ecumenical Council that state that, by necessity, much has transpired against the rules of the Church. As such, Troitskii concludes that the various movements of the bishops were necessary for the preservation of the Church, because more experienced bishops would be beneficial in certain areas that were more prone to problems. The Soviet government did not mix in the internal relations of the various bishops, but rather showed their disapproval of certain bishops by denying them entry into certain cities. This was almost exclusively tied to the fact that the said bishop had ties with people who were acting counter to the government. Metropolitan Sergii talks about this with Metropolitan Elevtherii:

“When we relocate a bishop from his cathedra to another, or command someone because of a certain goal, we ask the government if there will be problems with allowing him to enter these territories. If they do not agree to allow him to enter, we pick somebody else who will be allowed, but there is no persecution of the bishop we send. We are entirely free to perform internally as we please. That is, we can pick our own candidates for the various dioceses.”

Troitskii further states that the canonical capabilities and accreditation of the bishops do not interest the secular government. They care only whether the candidate is politically inclined to rebel and to cause problems for them. As such, the interests of the Church are not in conflict with the requirements of the political authorities. A similar occurrence has been noted in other countries where the government has the right to veto the promotion of certain bishops. Until 1904, the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had the right to veto a chosen Pope, as happened in 1903, when Cardinal Rampolla was denied becoming the Roman pontiff because he was against the Triple Alliance.

Slander Against the Confessors of the Faith

The third mistake of Metropolitan Sergii, according to Polskii, was that he explained repressions against the Church as the result of the anti-governmental actions that certain representatives of the Church had supported or participated in. Troitskii writes that this was a continuation of the external politics of Patriarch Tikhon. Tikhon wrote that we must condemn those who, abusing the authority they are privileged to have on account of their Church positions, forget their higher calling and give way to the lowly temptation of politics. As such, the Patriarch opened a committee that answered directly to him, in order to uncover those hierarchs and clergy who were politically active in causing discord for the government. This committee was to canonically sanction those who agitated against the Soviets.

Troitskii criticizes Polskii’s attachment to the fact that Metropolitan Sergii called the repression against bishops a deserved punishment for counter-revolutionary activities. In support of this, Polskii says that, in his declaration, Sergii says that peaceful cooperation with the Soviet government is being sabotaged by those who believe that the connection with the defunct monarchy cannot be separated from the connection with the Orthodox faith. Troitskii responds by citing the Russian Church Abroad’s Council of 1921 in Sremski Karlovtsi that stated exactly this.

Denial of Persecution of the Faith

Polskii cites an interview that Metropolitan Sergii gave to a foreign newspaper in which he said that in the Soviet Union there has never been, nor is there at the present time, any religious persecution. Troitskii says that this has to be put into context. That is, this interview was given to a correspondent for a foreign newspaper that was not sympathetic to the Soviet authorities. This journalist was not interested in the betterment of the Russian Orthodox Church, but was searching for another human rights violation to write about and get a front-page article. Troitskii says that, if Metropolitan Sergii had started to list the various problems that the Church faced, it would send a message of animosity towards the government and would reverse any progress that may have been made in the loosening of the strain on the Church’s activities.

Troitskii continues that, technically speaking, religious persecution did not happen in the USSR, since religious persecution can only happen in a country that has an official religion. That is to say, religious persecution occurs when the government persecutes someone who does not support the party religion. For example, this was the case in ancient Rome with the persecution of early Christians. This was also the case in Orthodox Byzantium where non-Christians were persecuted. This could not have been the case in the Soviet Union, because the government pronounced freedom of conscience and cults. Therefore, technically speaking, Metropolitan Sergii was not lying when he declared that there was no religious persecution.

However, technicalities aside, Metropolitan Sergii did not limit himself to this interview with the foreign press. Four days later, on February 19, 1930, he published an open letter to the head of the religious committee, Smidovitch. In this letter, he counts twenty-one difficulties with which the Church is faced in the USSR.

A Return to Godlessness

Troitskii once again descends to the level of rhetoric, asking Polskii what the Patriarchate should have done to prevent the right of atheists to attack the faith. He asks whether they should have taken a stance like the Byzantine caesaropapists, who mandated that the citizens were to be Orthodox; or perhaps, like Imperial Russia, where everyone had to belong to a religion. Religion was forced upon people. Troitskii asks how the Church can expect to be free when it does not allow freedom for others. A characteristically cheap shot is taken by Troitskii when he says that Polskii is probably used to this mindset because it is a well-known fact that order was maintained before the Revolution, particularly in the work of a missionary priest like Polskii, by enforcement of the police.

Praying for the Atheist Soviet Government

The final error of the Moscow Patriarchate, according to Polskii, was the decree of Metropolitan Sergii of October 21, 1927, which mandated the commemoration of the Soviet authorities during divine services.

Troitskii writes that this is an argument full of holes, because the obligation to pray for the authorities does not stem from their moral worthiness, but rather from the fact that they should fulfil their God-given duty to preserve order. He continues that Patriarch Tikhon also commemorated the Soviet authorities (truer to say the Bolsheviks) because he was obliged to do so by the canons, even though the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918 accepted an anathema of the Bolsheviks. Polskii claims that this was done by the insistence of the Soviets in order to see which parishes would accept the modification, thus making the identification of those opposed to the Revolution easy. It is in a sense a statement that hides within it the fact that the Church was in some way provoking its faithful to act upon the commemoration of the government and to cause them harm; meanwhile scoring points with the revolutionary forces. It is hardly plausible that Patriarch Tikhon would have agreed to something like this.

Is the ROCOR Legitimate?

The Canonical Position of the ROCOR

Polskii writes that a part of the Church that lost contact with the central Church authority in Russia organized its own conciliar administration in Sremski Karlovtsi. Troitskii dismisses this by saying that it is highly unlikely that some part of the Church would have been in isolation for such a long time. This is simply impossible because of modern means of communication. Even if this were true, Troitskii argues, it does not help solve the canonical transgressions of the Karlovtsi group. Troitskii writes that the problem is not whether such isolation was possible theoretically, but rather whether it really happened in the case of the ROCOR bishops. He continues that there was no isolation from the Moscow Patriarchate. The bishops in Yugoslavia had contact with the Patriarchate in Moscow, since they received several official acts from the Church authorities there, regarding the administration of the Church. Troitskii goes on to list these orders: blessing temporary local administration outside of Russia; the subjugation of all bishops to Archbishop Evlogii in Paris; the elevation of Archbishop Evlogii to the rank of Metropolitan; and the act of termination of the Higher Church Authority in Sremski Karlovtsi. Troitskii reaches the conclusion that, if the Karlovtsi group refused to be obedient to the decisions which were coming from Moscow, and even openly defied them eventually, then it is obvious that the bishops doing this in Yugoslavia were functioning illegally and certainly did not lose contact with the Mother Church.

Troitskii continues that the bishops in Karlovtsi lost their canonicity the moment they decided not to commemorate their First Hierarch, Metropolitan Sergii. By doing so, they not only lost their connection with their Mother Church, the Moscow Patriarchate, but also with the world-wide Orthodox Church, because it is mandatory for bishops to commemorate the first among them. Anybody who does not commemorate the Patriarch of their Church, and cuts off connection with him, is in schism from the Orthodox Church, according to the First and Second Constantinople Council’s rule 15.

The ROCOR bishops have no grounds for dismissing the validity of Metropolitan Sergii as Patriarch, because the canons speak nothing about the method in which the first bishop of an autocephalous church is to be chosen. The only canonical prerequisite to such an act is that it expresses the will of the majority of the bishops, which Troitskii claims happened in the elections of Patriarchs Sergii and Alexii I.

Polskii claims that the ROCOR bishops have decided to maintain unity with the Russian Orthodox Church through spiritual contact with the Russian Church, disregarding the Moscow Patriarchate. Troitskii says that this is the first basis for a schism, because the Karlovtsi bishops refuse to accept the representative of the Russian Church that the whole world recognizes as the head of the Russian Church, regardless of what circumstances the Church in the USSR finds itself in. The idea of spiritual contact is absent from canon law terms; the only contact necessary for liturgical union is the commemoration of the relevant first bishop at all liturgical services.

Troitskii then changes gear to examine the relations between the ROCOR and the other Russian Orthodox jurisdictions in existence at that time. The American Metropolia (the present-day Orthodox Church in America) is criticized by Polskii because it recognised the possibility of being spiritually led by the Moscow Patriarchate. The Constantinople Exarchate, the jurisdiction in Paris, is also guilty of announcing its willingness for brotherly cooperation with the Moscow Patriarchate. Troitskii calls this a preposterous attack on anyone who decides to take a step back to their Mother Church and that it is nothing less than blasphemy against the Holy Church. He claims that Polskii goes on to demand that these two jurisdictions submit to the authority of the Karlovtsi Council, based on the fact that the men who have led the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitans Antonii and Anastasii, had held high ranking positions within the pre-revolutionary Church and that Anastasii is the last living member of the Holy Ruling Synod. Troitskii says that the authority of the pre-Revolutionary Church is only for the history books, because the All-Russian Council of 1917-1918 annulled such an administration. Furthermore, circumstances and difficult times have changed the make-up of the Russian Church forever and it is impossible to require anything except for prayer under those early years.

Troitskii closes his book with a call to repentance of the whole ROCOR, asking Polskii to stop defending those who have caused the Church so much pain due to their political allegiances. This book would later result in yet another answer from the ROCOR, by Protopresbyter Georgii Grabbe, also printed at Jordanville’s Holy Trinity Monastery in 1961. The book is a highlight in the back and forth between the Moscow Patriarchate and those who had separated from it.

It is very difficult to judge who is correct in questions of a jurisdictional nature in the Orthodox Church, especially when there is so much grey area. Certainly, Troitskii has grounds for writing some of what he did in rebuttal of Polskii. Many of his arguments are supported by the canons and they make sense. Any damage done to the Church administration at the top will eventually have repercussions for those members of the Church at the bottom. Academic disputes about who is canonically correct only do damage to the faithful, who often go to the church that is closest to their place of residence, or where their family and friends attend services. In summation, it is unfortunate that this chapter in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church had to be so difficult, but God does not leave those who truly believe in Him. This is the case with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate, which, after almost a century of separation, reunited canonically in 2007. Both sides proved to be right and wrong at the same time. They remained Orthodox and that is the most important part. The books full of accusations are left to sit on a shelf somewhere, their relevance in the work of the Russian Orthodox Church being merely historical.

Conclusion

Sergei Viktorovich Troitskii is irrefutably a renowned name in the study of canon law. Indubitably anyone who writes several hundred works on topics which are related to canon law is a person immersed in this field. Among current canonists, there are varying opinions on the contribution of Troitskii to ecclesiastical scholarship. Deacon Andrei Psarev, instructor of canon law at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, New York, uses Troitskii in his course when referring to jurisdictional questions, marital matters, and questions of diocesan administration. Protopriest Dimso Peric, the deceased professor emeritus of canon law at the Belgrade Theological Faculty, worked intensively on compiling the works of Troitskii in Serbian, being deterred only by his untimely death. Another well-known professor in the study of canon law, Fr. A. Rentell, said recently that Troitskii is not a canonist, but a lawyer. The array of opinion is widespread; his contribution is undeniable.

One characteristic of Troitskii is that he had no real alliances in the Church except anyone who asked for his opinion. He did not carry the banner of any particular jurisdiction, rather — often at the request of the synod of a local Orthodox Church; he provided his advice based on his knowledge of Church regulations and standards. This brings up another aspect, which is unavoidable but quite possibly circumstantial. In almost every instance, if one looks at the publishing body of the work, Troitskii defends the ecclesiastic-political arguments of that body. For example, all literature against the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was published in the YMCA Press of the Russian Exarchate of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Articles that glorify Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii) were published by the official newsletter of the Supreme Church Authority in Sremski Karlovtsi. In his early career, Troitskii took a very hardline attitude towards second marriages of clergymen. But when he was commissioned by the Serbian Patriarchate to examine the same problem, Troitskii took a more lenient stance.

This could lead one to jump to conclude that Troitskii was a journalist who was hired to defend certain positions in Church conflicts. This may be true. However, this does not mean that he would defend just any position. There is no specific evidence to demonstrate that Troitskii was a “canon law hitman” who could author a book in support of any given opinion. To one who understands the very fluid nature of interpreting Orthodox canons, this is something perfectly normal. The fact that a given canon is being argued about by entire jurisdictions is proof that there are good points on both sides of any given topic. Furthermore, in the history of the various local Churches, historical circumstances have always played a major role in how a canon is interpreted.

Those who accuse Troitskii of being compliant to anyone who was willing to pay him to author a book, can no more prove that he was doing it simply for money, than this work can prove that it was done with the utmost academic integrity, if that term can be applied at all to the study of canon law. The Church is a living organism. Jesus Christ is its Head. Her life is regulated by the definitive canons that have been confirmed by the Holy Fathers at various councils throughout the history of the Church. However, the fact that the canons are defined does not mean that they cannot be bent or even broken. In analysing any given canon, it is important to look at the political, social, economic, and ecclesiastical circumstances under which the canon was written. This helps to reveal the intent of the Holy Fathers when they wrote it. Once this is established, the correct application of the canon can only be fulfilled when the current political, social, economic, and ecclesiastical circumstances are analysed and put into context.

Canons serve as ideals, but under no circumstances can they be mandated. Strictly, this is why the interpretations of any given canon are relative and fluid. The Church can live with these dissimilarities because of the fluid nature of the Orthodox Church. So long as Jesus Christ is the Head of the Orthodox Church, and the jurisdiction in question is in communion with the teachings of the Saviour, it will remain in communion with the universal Orthodox Church. Some argue that Troitskii’s opinion on certain questions of canon law, especially jurisdictional matters, changed too often. This is very difficult to justify when one takes into consideration that at no point can Troitskii’s loyalty and fidelity to the Orthodox faith be brought into question. Regardless of what stance he was defending, and at what point in his life, he was always associated with a legitimate Orthodox jurisdiction, even if it sometimes seemed to contradict his previous allegiances. During his disputes with Polskii and Grabbe, Troitskii remained in contact with ROCOR ideologists such as Majewski. His letters are very cordial and even touch on professional matters.

The time during which Troitskii lived was very tumultuous for the Russian Orthodox Church. Many things changed abruptly. In retrospect, it is very difficult to judge anybody who defended any given side during this time. Paramount in the life of Sergei Viktorovich Troitskii is that he remained loyal to the Orthodox Church and actively contributed to Her life, particularly in the field of canon law. All his works cite canons; nobody has criticized him for manipulating the teaching of the Holy Fathers. Politically speaking, there is much to be desired. However, this can be said for every single lay person or clergyman who decides to play political games. The Church is always supposed to remain above political activity. In the period following the Bolshevik Revolution it was very difficult for anyone involved to do so. Therefore, this has to be put aside.

In the end, the Church of God always triumphs. All the feuding Russian Orthodox jurisdictions with which Troitskii had contact are now in full communion. All of the past disagreements are left to history. What remains is a massive contribution to the study of canon law. Troitskii’s place among canon law scholars in the Orthodox Church is cemented for the future.

References

References
1 In Serbian his name is written as Sergej Viktorovic Trojicki. This work uses the Library of Congress transliteration equivalent.
2 A. Sergeev. Personal opinion. “Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarhii” 1954. no. 3. p. 64.
3 Written opinion of Prof. A. I. Georgievskii, as part of the Council for Approving Dissertations of the Moscow Theological Academy upon the granting of an honorary degree of Doctorate of Church Law to S.V. Troitskii. Archives of the Moscow Theological Academy. Personal work of Troitskii. p. 28.
4 Bogoslovskie Trudi XII”, a Moscow Patriarchate periodical from 1974. pp. 217-248.
5 Pravoslavlje” 1968. no. 24. Prof. Dr. B. Gardashevich.
6 “It is not mentioned that I served as professor of the Russian Theological Institute in Paris from 1929-1931 before they joined the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, at which point I resigned. Also, Gardashevich makes the mistake of saying the Great Council of 1917-1918 was in the Caucasus, when it was really in Moscow. I did work there in an official function, but I was certainly not the secretary of the Council as he says.”
7 See 4 above. Also “Svedenia o Zhizni S.V. Troitskago”. (“Witness to the life of S.V. Troitski”) Archives of the Moscow Theological Academy. Seventy handwritten autobiographical pages, 1965.
8 The proper name in Russian is “Duhovnoe Uchilische”.
9 This is a degree equivalent to something between a Master’s and Doctorate degrees in the modern education system. A defended thesis would be a complete MTh degree today.
10 See 4 and 7 above. This thesis defence was assigned number 1851 at the Kiev Theological Academy and remains there in the archives. It was later published in Serbia as a pamphlet/book.
11 See 4 and 7 above. He remained here until 1915 in the capacity of Dean of Students, teacher of Russian, Church-Slavonic, and Latin.
12 An office of high rank in the general administration of the Russian Orthodox Church during the Synodal period.
13 The Office of the Ober-Procurator was abolished with the renewal of the Russian Patriarchate.
14 The Hitler-friendly government of General Dimitrije Ljotić was already ruling at this point. The Ministry of Justice was the successor to the Office of Defence of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The “mixed marriage” question was raised in accord with the Aryan “clean race” policy of the Nazi occupiers.
15 Archimandrite Irineii notes that after WWII Troitskii never spent more than three months at a time outside the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on account of the strict travel sanctions placed upon the country. This was the only time he exceeded this limit because of his professional capacity there.
16 This is the precursor to the “OVCS” or “Otdel Vneshnih Tserkovnih Svyazei” department which would later be headed by Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov), followed by the current Patriarch, Kirill (Gundyayev), and currently by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev).
17 Srpska Akademija Nauka” was a dwindling gathering of intellectuals who signed a petition supporting the socialist Tito regime. Tito expelled all anti-communist members; in the period between 1945-1952 the organisation recruited anybody who was willing to work within the framework set by the regime.
18 Dr. N. Samardic. “Uticaj Komunistickog Rezima na Srpsku Intelegenciju” (“The Influence of the Communist Regime on Serbian Intelligentsia”). Smederevo. 1946. pp. 65-69.
19 Glasnik” (This was the official “Herald” of the Serbian Academy of Science) Book VIII. 2. pp. 233-240. Printed in 1957.
20 Russian language “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate”. Official newsletter of the ROC.
21 Pravoslavnaya Bogoslovskaya Entsiklopedia. Leningrad. 1968-1970. Fund 834. Detail 4. Work no. 466.
22 Volume VI. pp. 413-435.
23 S.V. Troitskii. The World American Conference of Faith and Order. New York. 1913.
24 S.V. Troitskii. Askese und Heiligung. Christenthum Sexualitat. Berlin. 1941.
25 S.V. Troitskii. Ekklisia. 1966. no.16-17. pp. 412-417.
26 S.V. Troitskii. O Nepravde Karlovatskago Raskola. Paris, 1960. p. 6.
27 Interestingly enough, both Troitskii and Grabbe (in his rebuttal), write very flattering biographies of their opponents in the preface of their books.
28 S.V. Troitskii. O Nepravde Karlovatskago Raskola. Paris, 1960. p. 5-6.
29 M. Polskii. The Canonical Standing of the Higher Ecclesiastical Authority in the USSR and Abroad. Holy Trinity Monastery. NY. 1948. p. 76.
30 Subdivisions in this section repeat the subdivisions in Polsky’s book.

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