About a year ago I posted the following counsel of Elder Porphyrios on this blog, and under the current circumstances that face the Orthodox Church in America, it seems good to post them again. Based on what I have read on various well-meaning Orthodox blogs, we have utterly failed to learn this basic Christian lesson.
In order for us to preserve our unity we must be obedient to the Church, to her bishops. When we are obedient to the Church we are obedient to Christ Himself. Christ wishes for us to become one flock with one shepherd.
Let us feel love for the Church. Let us love her fervently. We should not accept to hear her representatives being criticized or accused. On the Holy Mountain, the spirit in which I was nurtured was Orthodox, profound, holy and silent – without conflicts, without disputes, and without censurings. We should not give credence to those who make accusations against the clergy. Even if with our own eyes we see a priest doing something we judge negatively, we should not believe it, nor think about it, nor talk about it to others. The same is true for the lay members of the Church, for every person. We are all the Church. Those who censure the Church for the errors of her representatives with the alleged aim of helping to correct her make a great mistake. They do not love the Church. Neither, needless to say, do they love Christ. We love the Church when we embrace with our prayer each of her members and do what Christ did – when we sacrifice ourselves, remain ever vigilant, and do everything in the manner of Him who when He was abused did not return abuse, and when He suffered did not threaten (1 Pet. 2:23).
We need to take care also to observe the formal aspects: to participate in the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Holy Communion. It is in these things that Orthodoxy is to be found. Christ offers Himself to the Church in the sacraments and above all in Holy Communion . . . .
- From Wounded by Love, Denise Harvey Publishers, Greece, 2005.
We should probably add that in the case of a clergyman sinning in a way that causes harm to an innocent, we must act to protect the victim and help the clergyman. But Elder Porphyrios' point remains very true - that endless criticism of the bishops and priests of the Church is inconsistent with love for Christ and His Church, and rather than doing good, only damages our souls and those of others. If we see our brother sinning, we do him no service by publicizing his sin.