Intolerance & Cyberspace


Why, why, why is it not uncommon to read words like these, from members of the OCA? It is heartbreaking, and soul-sickening? And some hierarchs speak in almost similar terms!

Aren’t there some guidelines in place that have some binding authority?

Here’s what I’m speaking about:

“Dear Brother in Christ,
... And now he is posting on the Orthodox Newsgroup trying to deceive Orthodox Christians and cause them to fall from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is the Orthodox Church alone, into the same heretical denomination that he has fallen into and to worship at the feet of the Arch-Heretic of Rome and to beg for more scraps of heresy from his table of impiety. What the Croatians could not do during WW2 with brutality, [someone else] tries to do through trickery and lies and deceptions.”

Your unworthy servant in Christ,
[Parish of OCA]”

That is an outrage against Christian decency and human civility!

Please, can’t something be done?

P.S. I am a dear friend of several OCA priests and count one bishop as a dear brother and father in Christ.


Thank you for your email, although I must frankly admit that I am a bit unclear as to what exactly it is to which you wish me to respond.

If your concern is the strong rhetoric in the letter by this person, I can assure you that the tone and terminology the author has chosen to use is of his own choosing and is not that imposed on him or anyone else, for that matter, by the Orthodox Church in America or any of its hierarchs. What is expressed in the letter, intense and perhaps tasteless as it may be, should be recognized for precisely what it is: the personal opinion of an individual who happens to belong to the OCA.

Further, it strikes me as very odd that he would write of such things, especially during the Great Fast! I do not know the author at all, so I do not know what is driving this. At the same time, I cannot fully assess his letter, which is obviously a part of a greater dialogue of sorts, out of context. As a result, I surely cannot say why he chose to express himself in such a manner. I would suspect that the author should be asked “Why?”

I have been a priest of the OCA for nearly 25 years. I have rarely heard such rhetoric, although I know that there are those who do choose to use it and I have encountered similar rhetoric from individuals outside the OCA as well. [One can hardly say that such incidents are unique to the OCA alone.] When I encounter this, it is quite clear that the words represent the feelings of an individual, not necessary their jurisdiction.

While the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church—one can hardly be an Orthodox Christian while espousing the branch theory, the two-lung theory, ecclesiastical relativism, etc.—it would seem that such strong rhetoric may be rooted in personal experiences rather than being reflective of the official position of the Church to which the author belongs.

Personally, I have a greater problem with one who publishes such personal correspondence on a public list or site. This is one of the most negative and sinful aspects of cyberspace. Personal correspondence should remain personal, it seems to me. The temptation to make every private conversation public is indeed tremendous, one which I believe the faithful should avoid at all costs, for it implies that someone “out there” other than the one to whom the correspondence is intended actually needs to read the private thoughts and mail of another.

Our policy in this Q&A section is to publish selected letters and responses—somewhat akin to “letters to the editor”—unless explicitly asked to do otherwise, or unless the extreme sensitivity of the issue suggests otherwise. While publishing this particular question and answer may appear to violate a “rule” suggesting that correspondence like this be kept private, we have permission of the person who raised the question and the issue is more common than one would like to imagine.