“The present laws are conducive to the moral degradation of the person… But I do not believe it is possible to make a man righteous by legal compulsion.”
Guest: Myroslav MARYNOVYCH, vice-rector for university mission of the Ukrainian Catholic University, president of the Institute of Religion and Society, and former member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group.
RISU’s Ukrainian-language site held this web conference on 25 September 2008.
The leading theme of the web-conference: moral and ethical aspects of present-day Ukrainian public life
1. Viktor Melnychuk, Rivne
— Mr. Marynovych! Maybe my question is not quite to you, but I would like to know: How does the UGCC (church intellectuals, theologians) appraise the answer of the Synod of the UOC[-MP] to the letter of Cardinal Husar concerning his idea of a " double unity" of Greek Catholics with Rome and Constantinople at the same time? Thank you.
- The first reaction of my colleagues and myself was sadness. For the sake of being doctrinally and ideologically correct, the authors of this letter had not felt that they were offending a person who had come to them with good will. But, as they say in Halychyna, “What can you do?” Probably we Greek Catholics do not notice also how we offend Orthodox believers by our words. We must all study not only what our ecclesiastical position requires from us, but also what the culture of the Gospel requires.
If we talk about the essence of the opinions expressed, three points come to mind:
First, the position of the letter is clear: first of all universal ecumenism, then our Ukrainian [part]. First let the Catholic and Orthodox churches find a common language, and then we will adapt it in Ukraine.But actually this position makes us the objects of world Christian processes, but not their subjects. The position of the UGCC suggests investigating another model which had been used by the whole Kyivan church, namely: What can we do for the unity of the Catholic and Orthodox churches in Ukraine?
Second, the model of double communion which is discussed in the UGCC is not “typically Uniate,” as is discussed in the letter, because it does not foresee a break with Orthodoxy. It is an attempt to go out of Uniate subordination and submission and become a “laboratory” of living together which will prompt both world centers to approach each other. In addition, doesn’t Orthodox consciousness notice that with the label “Uniate” it brands every model which foresees unity with the Pope? Is it possible that Orthodox believers lived for 1000 years in the sin of uniatism when they acknowledged the Pope?
Third, it is sad that in different ways both of our churches doubt that the other is a subject of rights and do not see in each other the enormous field of possibilities which could open. But it is comforting that both sides see a positive in participating in one council of the Ukrainian churches of Volodymyr’s Baptism. This is a good step in the right direction.
2. Nazar, [email protected]
— Is there any movement for bringing together the Greek Catholic Church with the Orthodox churches in Ukraine for their canonical unity?? Your church is united with the Pope of Rome, who for Orthodox believers is in schism and all questions, above all concerning spirituality, extremely differ from Orthodox, even some Eastern saints called of the Catholic mystics’ way of life “the wrong way” in comparison with Orthodox spirituality and the fathers of the church.
- Similar differences in traditions and world-view prospered magnificently in the first millennium; however, the church was one. Today it seems sometimes that returning to unity is possible only when all differences are liquidated and all church teachings are “shaved” under one, “correct” comb. But this is impossible, and in principle it is wrong! God created us different and, I am sure, he rejoices because of the varieties of our responses to his word. What we have not understood yet is that, by our awkward efforts to defend the truth, we destroy love (a symbol of which is the Eucharist); that is, we distort God’s greatest truth! Therefore I would reestablish the eucharistic unity of Christians as soon as possible, so allowing regenerated love to heal our souls and straighten our lives.
As for the Ukrainian churches of the Kyivan tradition, it seems to me that today interesting changes indeed are going on in their coexistence. The UGCC proposes such a form of unity, which will not deny the former historical connections of each church, – let’s say, of the UOC[-MP] with Moscow, the independent churches with Constantinople, and the UGCC with Rome. But such unity requires that we rise above our denominational prejudices, which are human acquisitions. You will never find in the Gospel a foundation for denominational divisions; on the contrary, let’s read the Apostle Paul attentively, and everything will stay in its place!
— Libyan President Gaddafi insisted on payment from France and Spain because Libya was without genocide and was only a colony of these countries for a few decades. Can you imagine how much money should be paid to ethnic Ukrainians for the centuries of colonization and the annihilation by famine for ethnic reasons?!
- You are right, and transferring the logic of the supremacy of the law to our part of the world would have a surprising and healthy effect. However, it would have unexpected consequences, as well. Yes, first, it would show us, ethnic Ukrainians, that in history we were not only victims and that our national conscience must seriously weigh the injustice which we inflicted on other people. Even if we were forced to this by the rule “an eye for an eye,” then a Christian has no right not to know that this rule is double-edged and makes both sides guilty. Second, I am convinced that at some moment of those international accounts we would stop before the incomprehensibility of God’s Providence, which sets each nation on its own mission, and consequently its own fate, with a special balance, not subordinated to the human understanding of its happy achievements and painful sufferings.
4. Ruslan Kohanchuk, Kyiv, [email protected]
—Glory to Jesus Christ!
1. Mr. Marynovych, in your opinion, why are the positions of believing military workers protected so weakly by the UGCC? Every draft of church-state documents or legislative bills necessarily (in my opinion) mentions Christian ethics, while of a future military chaplaincy there is no word. How can the situation be changed?
— Glory forever, Father Deacon! After coming out from the underground, the church in one moment had to revive its ministry in all spheres of human life. This is not an easy task, which requires not only a plan of how to do it but also proper financial and human resources. Therefore, not all spheres receive the church’s attention to the same extent. Let’s say prison or even university chaplaincy requires reinterpretation, and a proper initiative as well. I personally set great hopes on seminaries, where vocations to one or another ministry will be formed.
2. If you had the chance to add something to your book “The Ukrainian idea and Christianity, or when the red horses of the Apocalypse prance,” then what would you like to add, taking into consideration the events of the years which have passed since its publication?
- In my book the subject is mostly the social aspects of modern Christianity and church ministry. However, the fate of Christianity also depends largely on the status of theology. Precisely its transformation into such a mediocre Christian ideology caused Patriarch Athenagoras to criticize theologians so sharply (in the “Conversations” of Olivier Clement). Therefore, lately I have worked much on the theological aspects of Christianity. The deep essential things of Christianity are manifested most distinctly in its attitude toward Judaism, so I was captivated by this theme.
5. Akym Mykhailovych Berliand, theologian
- Can you say why Catholics in Lviv speak so strongly about the “Ukrainization” of Christianity? Isn’t the church which has brought up such great thinkers as Benedict XIV and Walter Kasper able to realize the fallibility of Christian nationalism? Thank you in advance for an answer.
- Respected Akym Mykhailovych, I advise you to distinguish between Christian nationalism and a national form of enculturated Christianity. There is no clean, “distilled” Christianity in any country of the world. To become enculturated, Christianity must find each nation’s invisible spiritual code and respond to it. That’s why even in the Roman Catholic Church, which doesn’t have the concept, so to say, of a French Catholic Church, national differences are present which will not allow you to mix up, for example, France and Poland. By the way, even Baptists in the American city of Atlanta substantially differ from Baptists, let’s say, in the Ukrainian city of Rivne. Furthermore, there is no need to talk about the Eastern churches, whose “attachment” to the nation is considerably stronger.
In Ukraine the problem of Christian nationalism is often tied up with the UGCC coming out from the underground and the revival of a movement for Orthodox autocephaly. So to say, there was one universal Christianity, represented by the Moscow Patriarchate, and now nationalistic heresies resist it. However, what forced Andrii Bogolyubskyi or the Russian tsars to tear away the Moscow church from the universal Kyivan tradition? Wouldn’t you call it nationalism? The artificiality of the formula “universal Russian Christianity” can be felt at once as soon as you arrive in Moscow, where the Russian Orthodox Church is officially called “the church of the Russian people.” Even Russian Andrei Zubov noted once: “His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II more than once has emphasized the inseparable connection of the Russian people with Orthodoxy, but he never mentioned that he is patriarch not only of Russians but also Yakuts, Ukrainians, Chechens, Tatars, Mordovinians, Armenians, Germans, Jews, Kalmucks and other people of Russia,” in his whole spacious lecture “The foundations of an Orthodox education in Russia,” delivered on 29 December 1994 at the Russian Academy of Education. Therefore, behind the euphemistic formula “universalism versus nationalism” stands in fact the desire of one Eastern church, the church of Moscow, to maintain the status quo and make impossible the revival of another Eastern church, the church of Kyiv.
Then, maybe, Christian nationalism does not exist in general? Yes, it does; in particular it exists also in Ukraine. I would define it as an attempt to build (or to develop) the church on ethnic hostility. In this sense Ukrainian Christian nationalism doesn’t differ from Russian Christian chauvinism. The danger is that love for Christ, which grants freedom and embraces all natural differences, is substituted by ideologically explained hostility.
6. Ihor Sklenar
— Glory to Jesus Christ! In spite of your position at UCU, recently you wrote so bravely about the church’s problems and spirituality. Have you received because of this some critical remarks, for example concerning the publication in the “Lviv Gazette” about the conduct of UGCC priests? Thank you for an answer.
- Oh, no doubt, there were critical voices among priests, and not necessary only among those who felt it was directed at them. There was also a quite justifiable fear (which kept me back for a long time) that frank and public critics can provoke a wave of nihilistic objection to the church or the institution of the priesthood. I was even psychologically ready for that, in case of a storm to write a new article, standing up for priests this time. But, fortunately, readers have appeared wiser.
In addition, I can say more. I received many words with approving comments from priests who have felt the main idea, which was my call for a common and united cleaning up of the situation. We all are sinful, so let us help each other in our illnesses.
But above all I was reassured by the fact that four bishops of the UGCC, including the patriarch, have thanked me for the article. This caused me a whole wave of emotions; mostly the feeling of pride for the church whose son I am. Of course, after coming out from underground this church is experiencing identical challenges as the church experienced in the times of Constantine: the challenge of comfort, respectability, and complacency. However, we must believe in this church if bishops call cruel criticism from the laity (of course, united with prayer for those who are criticized) “love for the church.”
7. Mykhaylo Sheludko
1. Mr. Marynovych, did you dream about such a Ukraine when you were fighting for its independence in the time of the Soviet regime? Was it worth doing?
— At first glance it seems the answer is obvious. Indeed, I could not imagine in my worst nightmare that Ukrainian politicians would struggle for power again and attack from the rear, as their predecessors did before. Why has history taught us nothing? Today it is just painful to read Andrey Sheptytsky’s pastoral letters, because he warns of the same dangers that we have now, and of these splits and betrayals which flourish in our time. Therefore, as if I really dreamed about a wiser, more honest, more truthful and more sublime Ukraine…
However, a more calm analysis prompts me to say that the vast majority of my expectations were just rosy illusions which contradicted people’s real possibilities. But these 17 years of independence have become a great school for our nation, a school of independence and democracy. May impatient hearts throw doubts on the first and second, but, nevertheless, I see how Ukraine is slowly overstepping the limits of degrading anti-civilization and how it is learning to live in the conditions of freedom. Was it worth the efforts, and even the sacrifices? It was, without a doubt! I am happy that my nation is now getting on its feet, even if it still falls down and hurts itself.
Soon we will have to take an exam on how well we have learned the lessons of morality. We have attempted to avoid morals for almost 20 years, but it is high time to realize what public ruin this has caused us.
2. Today Christianity is the dominant religion in Ukraine. However, the face of our country in reality cannot be called Christian by any means, because of a prevalence of eroticism, violence and other evils, legislative permission of infanticide, and so on, in the mass media. It seems the country is ruled by the anti-Christian minority. Can you tell me how Christians can gain their power back in our country? How can we control the informational and public space?
— It seems to me that, in reality, all believing Christians together remain in the minority, while a secular, antireligious world view dominates in Ukraine. This is not militant atheism, as it was in Bolshevik times, but also this world view is not based on faith. People have developed for themselves their own moral code, which only partially coincides with the teaching of the church. But reading the Gospel our sight rushes by those places which seem to us unreal. Yet such a selective Christianity gravitates toward the degradation of Lukashenko’s formula: ‘I am an Orthodox atheist.” With such a Christianity we cannot win the minds and hearts of those who consciously or unconsciously are searching for God.
However, I was amazed by your phrase “to gain power back.” Do you think if we change the present sinful laws to righteous ones, if we establish a strong Christian “regime,” people will become righteous, as if from an assembly line? It’s a pity, but the devil in the person is more clever. You are right: the present laws are conducive to the moral degradation of the person, and I maintain the position that they should be more civilized. But I do not believe it is possible to make a man righteous by legal compulsion. All the history of the church of the post-Constantinian period witnesses that the state cannot erase all evil in man. Evil will certainly find a hole in the law.
What should be done? Luckily, we don’t have to invent anything. There was also the same problem in the Roman Empire in the times of raging Nero: to win the minds and hearts of their fellow citizens. The means for achieving this are the same: purity of faith, love of neighbor, readiness to sacrifice. We would like “to ride into” God’s Kingdom on a respectable copy of Christianity, and without paying a cent. This is not possible. We have to “rewrite” that law which is in our hearts so that we ourselves demonstrate a will there to live according to God’s law.
8. Serhii from Boryspil
— Christ is among us! Mr. Marynovych, is it possible to establish a school of higher education in Kyiv which would be similar to UCU in Lviv or the Institute of St. Sergius in Paris? Thank you! With best wishes, respectfully yours.
- Glory to Jesus Christ, Serhii! Both mentioned institutions live under conditions of theological liberty and openness to other Christian communities. I had the chance to become convinced of this when I visited the Institute of St. Sergius in Paris as a member of UCU’s delegation. Some special features of our traditions can be different, but the presence of a spirit of love and mutual consideration is the most important. Is Kyiv ready for those premises? Before the Orange Revolution I would definitely have said: “No, it is not ready.” However, the experience of being together at [Independence Square] and the common declarations to defend human dignity have changed the situation for the better. Recently UCU and the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy held a scholarly conference during which scholars and clergy of all four branches of the Kyivan church were speaking at a round table. Thus, step by step the spiritual atmosphere of mutual understanding is reviving in Kyiv and, no doubt, a new Kyivan theological school will appear there one day.
9. Vasyl Petrovych
- Dear Mr. Marynovych, it would be interesting to hear your opinion on the jubilee “celebrations” of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus and why it happened that the Ukrainian national churches were put in a secondary position by the president of Ukraine. And later they cynically received words of gratitude for their understanding position. Do you share the opinion that part of the so-called “Ukrainian political right,” hiding behind “state” politics, supports, in fact, the idea of the creation of an Orthodox model of the national church, according to which the church becomes only an instrument in the hands of the state or its leaders? Many thanks for an answer.
- First of all, about “being put second” and an “understanding position,” I am afraid I can’t agree with your appraisal. Excluding the Orthodox churches that have autocephalous status from the celebrations was not the result of mistakes of Ukrainian political authorities, but a consequence of Moscow’s repeated ultimatums. Thus, if the hierarchy of both mentioned churches had not really demonstrated humbleness, there would have been an international scandal instead of celebrations. Concerning the president and his counselors, they can be reproached for only one thing: an excessive hope for the immediate recognition of the independent Ukrainian churches by Patriarch Bartholomew. I believe this will happen sometime in the future, but events in the church field occur considerably slower and more inertly than on the political field. Patience is necessary.
As to your observation about the instrumentalization of the church, here your fears are generally just. In post-communist society it is always easier for an official to rule over one “pocket” church than over many which are not submissive. It was convenient for the hierarchy of these churches as well, which enjoy the status of “state” churches, to rely on defense from the state. Thus, it is very easy to fall down into the pit of such mutually advantageous dependency. To the present the only real guarantee that Ukraine would be able to keep religious freedom was the comparative parity of forces between different churches and religious organizations. The creation of one national church, which would see itself as the state church, could in the present circumstances really disturb the balance of freedom to a certain extent. However, it is impossible to keep the children of the Kyivan church in an endless split. Thus, it is necessary to search for such models of unity of the Kyivan church which would make impossible the worst traditions of caesaropapism.
- Mr. Marynovych, what is your opinion on the events in Ossetia and Georgia? Is it possible to go without armed aggression into the third millennium and, generally, can the territorial integrity of an independent state be justified by human casualties? And how do you evaluate the position of the two canonical Orthodox sister-churches of Russia and Georgia, which kept silent during the fratricidal conflict and showed the real face of imperial Orthodox civilization?
- In fact, the conflict around the disputed territories of Georgia put in front of the world quite a few difficult questions to which, I am afraid, there are no simple answers. I recognize Georgia’s right to territorial integrity. However, the ease with which President Saakashvili allowed Russia to provoke him to armed reaction disappoints me. I am more impressed by the restraint of Serbia, which didn’t use arms when Kosovo separated. I also can’t understand the heated discussion in the West on who started the war first, Russia or Georgia. But they do not have the same status in this conflict! According to international law Georgia is fighting for its own territory, which is recognized by other states, while Russia is attacking a sovereign state. But I have the biggest number of questions for Russia. If Russia presumes “non-admission of genocide” in the disputed South Ossetia, what would be its reaction, if, let us say, Turkey would have led its forces into Chechnya, trying to stop not a fictitious but a real and long genocide of Chechens? Unfortunately, there is much deceit in this conflict, which will painfully reflect on the fighters. If dubious actions of the West concerning Kosovo became an argument for Russia in Georgia, the day will come when the sly actions of Russia in Georgia will be an argument for, let us say, Tatarstan or Yakutiya.
Mykhailo, your observations are quite right concerning the ambiguity of the churches’ reaction to the conflict. I have nothing with which to reproach the Georgian Orthodox Church – it was not silent. And when it was speaking, its language was distant from politics and close to human grief. But I personally expected from the Moscow Patriarchate as loud a protest against the destruction of the infrastructure of Orthodox Georgia by Russia as the world heard from it in the case of the NATO forces bombarding Orthodox Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, the pain for Orthodoxy on the part of Moscow turned out to be politically motivated. The fact of Ossetians forcing the Georgian monks who found themselves on the territories occupied by Russia to join the Moscow Patriarchate is also alarming. Isn’t proselytism which is based on bayonets the most terrible kind of proselytism?
- What is your attitude to globalization? There is a thought that the only church which holds global influences in Ukraine in check is the UOC-MP [Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate]. Do you agree with this statement?
- Globalization is inevitable, as in its own time the mechanization of handicraft labor was inevitable. A revolt against globalization becomes similar to the former British Luddites who broke “hateful” benches. Today some people would be happy to break computers and at the same time the hateful Internet. Such a blind revolt would be doomed to defeat, because youth now would not reject these marvelous means of communication which come together with globalization.
However, as with every factor of progress, globalization is a two-edged sword; it also painfully beats human souls. Therefore, we have to neutralize its negative influences rather than restrain globalization (which is impossible). We will help people more by doing that than by persuading them that we can hide from globalization or stop it.
In my opinion, the acceptance or non-acceptance of globalization has no direct connection with the church. Thus, for example, the Southern Baptists in the USA are considered one of the most conservative Christian communities in the world, although they are Protestants. A division between “orthodox” people and “liberals” exists in the Catholic Church, as well. Concerning the Moscow Patriarchate, it seems that such a “defensive” position is influenced rather by an internal tie to the formula of the Third Rome than by globalization itself. As is known, this is the formula of a primordial competition with the First Rome, as if from it all social wounds and disasters spring. And in so far as the vector of globalization is still directed from west to east, in the consciousness of many bearers of the logic of the Third Rome, the negatives of globalization are easily identified with “the corrupted West.”
12. Ihor, Ivano-Frankivsk
- Have you noticed that presently clergy very intensively, even too much, collaborate with the structures of authority (whose leaders are often former Communists) and some are involved in not completely honest business? A priest who comes to his parishioners in a very expensive and splendid car of a foreign brand, taking into account the common state of poverty of the majority of the population, in reality, nullifies his preaching. Is it possible in the name of justice and the salvation of the authority of the church to suggest to them to exchange their expensive cars for some a bit cheaper and to pass on that saved money for charitable aims, possibly even to found some charitable funds to support the poor, keeping in such a way the evangelical commandment?
- Yes, Ihor, I fully share the main point of your opinion that priests should be sensitive to how their actions are perceived by parishioners. A priest’s ministry is very special: this is service to people and not to our own weaknesses; this is spreading God’s word, according to which criteria people will judge him. As soon as a priest declares something and himself acts differently, his preaching essentially loses its persuasiveness. A person who thinks this is unfair should not be ordained to the priesthood.
However, it is much easier to formulate this instruction than to follow it. The principle of “evangelical poverty,” to which a spiritual person is called, was already a stumbling stone in the first centuries of Christianity. Only very few followed it completely, but only at times of an enthusiastic spiritual search. Therefore, I don’t expect from priests full self-renouncement, to which I can’t entirely commit myself. I understand that, interpreting God’s word, the priest as well stands before God subdued by his weaknesses.
But I flatly don’t want to blame priests blindly and proudly without trying to understand them. Many causes influence a priest’s level of material “interest”: his personal immunity to material temptation, his imagination about his social status, generally accepted ethics among priests, the needs of the priest’s family, and so on. There are cases when we must understand the priest from a human point of view: I know cases when priests’ wives led priests into serious troubles by their demands. Also many parishioners (and I, personally) would like to see their priest well dressed, clean and in good condition. All this demand a certain minimum of material maintenance. However, there are cases when it is difficult to understand the priest. So to say, shoes made of crocodile leather look on him provocative and certainly will excite envy and blame.
Thus, a priest has to understand that excessive luxury in his case is not less misplaced than a woman’s neckline when she stands in church.
- Dear Professor, at the beginning of September UCU addressed the Ukrainian academic community on the occasion of the political crisis in Ukraine. [Editor’s note: The link at the BOTTOM of this article leads to the text of the appeal.]Could you answer the following questions:
1. What made UCU do this?
2. What is a fate of this address? Did some political forces criticize or condemn it?
- [What made UCU do this?] A sense of despair that the political forces in Ukraine are being blindly drawn into the vortex of a conflict from which, properly speaking, there is no way out. We suddenly sensed that we can and must say our word, not only as citizens of Ukraine but also as an academic community. Is it easy for us to watch as Ukrainian students are disappointed again and live their own lives almost cursing politics? How can we educate students that, according to church teaching, God blesses our authorities, who serve the nation? When drivers of the city public transport strike, the whole city is paralyzed. What can you do when in fact politicians are on strike, neglecting their direct duties before people and paralyzing the whole country? Our response to this – Don’t be silent.
The address was backed up by the National University Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Ivan Franko National University in Lviv came out with its own address. Moreover, we received numerous responses in approval from our friends and partners. As far as we know, no political forces condemned us publicly. I am afraid this might signify that all the political forces perceived the address as not directed to them but to their rivals…
14. Edward Goldman, [email protected]
— I would like to ask you, Mr. Marinovich how come you and your friend suddenly became vice-rector and rector Ukrainian Catholic University? There no intelligent people in the Ukraine anymore that two hustlers like two of you run this institution. Go back to your America or whatever place two of you came from and let our young people to built the Ukraine. [original English version]
- It is quite a funny question, after 10 years of “hospitality” in the Soviet gulag I came back to where I came from, namely, to Ukraine. And that is not all. I was born in Halychyna [far western Ukraine] and now I, together with my colleagues, am building up the Ukrainian Catholic University. Thus, an arrow of malevolence, which presence is obvious in this question, has flown past me…
15. Andrii, Greek Catholic from Zhovkva
- Mr. Marynovych, if a bishop has a new Lexus, what should parishioners think about him? And where do they get the money for this, if an eparchy looks modest enough?
- Look at the answer to question 12
- Mr. Marynovych! Recently I have been worried by the overflow of crudeness and dirtiness in regional publications, which were quite safe and innocent not long ago. I am disturbed by the direction of this tendency and its prospects. Please, share your opinion on this topic. Thank you.
- You are completely right, Anna: this crudeness takes forms of unpunished bacchanalia. It seems that the mass media’s pursuit for the lowest instincts of readers and spectators has started. It is difficult for me to say what law could regulate it. I know that the processes of degradation of the spirit are exothermic (go on spontaneously with a release of energy), while the processes of the growth of the spirit are endothermic (go on only with the involvement of additional energy). People say in a simple way: evil will find a hole by itself; for good you must make some efforts. Thus, the state can’t leave these processes alonewithout paying attention to them. However, I am also not an adherent of stupid prohibitions. It is necessary to support what is positive, what bears good fruits. And no money should be spared for this.
17. Svitlana Yaroshenko, Kyiv
- Good afternoon, Mr. Marynovych! Regarding the theme of the present web-conference , could you say how religion today in Ukraine can raise the moral and ethical consciousness of our society? How can this happen practically? What can UCU offer for this?
- Good afternoon, Ms. Yaroshenko! The main mistake of Ukrainians in recent decades consists in the assurance that all talk about spirituality, morality and God’s law are idle words for naïve people. So to speak, selfish interests rule over the world. Thus, away with idealistic tales; we want to be judicious and practical people. Today it is evident for 55 % of Ukrainians that the problem of our country consists in breaking moral norms. So, our praised judiciousness and practicality are illusions, fata morgana. It turns out that to limit the egoism of one’s own interests in accordance with moral norms is a very practical investment of capital. The church helps in understanding just this.
UCU tries to answer this challenge, combining academic knowledge with a certain spiritual education. Recently in cooperation with our colleagues outside UCU we founded the Lviv Business School of UCU in order to search together for what contemporary Ukrainian business based on moral values should look like. There are many obstacles in our way. So, wish us success!
18. Anatolii Babynskii
- Mr. Marynovych, you often visit other countries. Could you compare the moral and ethical demands which stand before world society and Ukraine? What do we have in common, what can we expect, and what can we avoid thanks to the virtues of our mentality? Thank you.
- Even during my first trips to Europe it was evident to me that empty churches don’t mean a lack of spirituality. Interpersonal relations are so friendly there that it is striking, and this is a direct result of “love your neighbor”! I asked myself: Isn’t Christianity enculturated in secular Europe, so to say, in the sociological sphere? In our post-totalitarian culture we can earnestly pray in church and afterwards pour out a stream of aggression on our neighbor on public transport. Thus, I am very careful with the formula “there is spiritual degradation in the West and spiritual treasures here.”
Nevertheless, the problem remains. Western experiments with spirituality still have certain defects. The principle of the secularity of the state fixed in the American Constitution foresees that the state treats all systems of religious convictions neutrally. This principle was introduced “for all religions to flourish.” Today in some European countries religion is eliminated from the public sphere and this seems to be the only possible position of a secular state. But this is not true. Secularism is also a system of antireligious convictions. It has no religious symbols, according to its definition. Therefore, if for example in France the law demands removing religious symbols from a public place, only the antireligious system of convictions receives preferences. By that the principle of the neutrality of the state is broken.
In other words, the Christian East as well as the Christian West made their own mistakes. We should not fall into erroneous denominational or regional patriotism, but take a lesson from these mistakes and always orient ourselves to the main note of the spiritual “tuning fork,” which is truth and, at the same time, love.
19. Yuliia Zavadska
- Mr. Marynovych, what should be done, in your opinion, in order to avoid so-called “aggressive tolerance” by our country on its way to democracy, when minorities (national, sexual, religious) rule over the country?
- Attention to minorities is not the trick of a sick intellect or a mistake of democracy. Humanity paid a heavy price, including many tragedies, before it came to the conviction that the voice of the majority can’t muffle minority voices. However, it is very easy to rush by “the golden mean,” and then comes the other extreme that you are talking about. Do you remember how energetic the demonstrations of women-feminists in previous centuries were? One image of George Sand is enough. But afterwards, when women gained for themselves a certain position, the system entered relative peace. Thus, extremes of “aggressive tolerance,” without doubt, should be healed, but - God protect us – neither in the way that can be heard on our public transportation: “Away with democracy!” nor by going back to the past with the majority’s blind arrogance, but on the contrary – in new manners of calming emotions and harmonizing relations. It is like during the swing of the pendulum: it is necessary to “damp” the oscillation to reduce the amplitude, if the system is to be drawn closer to balance.
- Tell us, please, is it worthwhile to separate the church from the national question? Especially in the case of the UGCC [Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church,] it often happens that its parishes in the east and south become centers of Ukrainian culture in its western Ukrainian version, which frightens Russophiles, conscious patriots of other nations, and also bearers of other ideologies.
- I have already said much about this, answering question # 5. Now I propose that you think about your question in order to see certain weaknesses in it. Once during a visit to the Vinnytsia Region I entered a Roman Catholic Church. It was a typical “diaspora” church, where Polish religious songs were heard and the Polish Christian tradition kept. Nobody in this town was traumatized by that fact. In the USA Ukrainian churches live easily in harmony with churches of other nations and neighboring inhabitants don’t raise a question about the “denationalization” of the church. I was in an Orthodox church in the south of France, which absorbed organically elements of Greek, Russian, and other cultures. And the French people did not rebel. Thus, maybe, it is not a problem of the “pollution” of Christianity, but the problem consists in an ill-disposed and preconceived attitude to Ukrainian culture (all the more in its western Ukrainian version) nestled in the souls of those you have mentioned? Maybe it is necessary at first to cure this hostility, and then the feeling that Christianity is suffering will disappear?
- Dear Mr. Marynovych, very often at Sunday liturgies we hear very primitive sermons. The impression is made that present-day priests underestimate the education of their flock. I think this is a defect of the current approach to training new clergy. What do you think regarding this? How is it possible to improve this situation? Thanks for an answer.
- Once I “overheard” a conversation of seminarians that they try to find “the golden mean” between the intelligibility of a sermon and its intellectualism. I am convinced today in our church this mean has shifted, though, to an excessive primitiveness; therefore there is room for improvement. However, it should be remembered there are people for whom anti-intellectualism is even a virtue. So to speak, were the fishermen of the Tiberias Sea such intellectuals? Thus, I would suggest bringing in harmony these two positions by the wish that the word said by a preacher be wise. Nevertheless, we have been convinced more than once that a wise phrase from which a breath of inspiration is caught is simple and full of deep intellectualism at the same time.
22. Andrii Nesterenko, Kyiv
- Dear Mr. Marynovych, what can the Ukrainian Catholic University offer our society in the context of the leading theme of your web-conference?
- First of all, to recall that we, educational institutions, also bear a certain moral responsibility for the education of our students. We are just obliged to open before them the meanings of those two concepts, “law and grace,” about which our Old-Rus thinkers were already talking. Of course, we don’t demand that other educational institutions graduate saintly students, as we ourselves can’t achieve this. But spiritual education in truth and morals must not be separated from academic education!
23. Questions from the editors of RISU
1. Mr. Marynovych, what are the biggest social challenges standing before the church in Ukraine today?
- Oh, I am afraid there will not be enough room on your server to enumerate all of them…?
But, to be serious, an institution which takes care of people indeed can’t remain indifferent to the whole variety of human anxieties. And among that variety I would distinguish a few, in my opinion, the most urgent social tasks of the church:
A. As always, the church is called to support every person: listen to their pains, keep up their hope, not allow them to be broken down by circumstances that are complicated and often not easy to understand, and lead the person to God even over the ruins of their illusions.
B. In the present post-totalitarian and post-atheistic society the church is called to find itself – its place and mission. It must find its special voice, which should not be as loud as the one that resounds at political squares, but, nevertheless, expressive enough to be heard by those who are harmed and by their offenders.
C. The church not only has to proclaim God’s truth, but also to watch how this truth is perceived by people, whether it reaches their hearts. Human reluctance to follow God’s word is by no means always the result of the person’s spiritual deafness. Thus, it is important to form the clergy and laity constantly and untiringly, making them an example for others and really the “salt of the earth.”
2. How do you appraise the Orange Revolution and its consequences after four years?
- I am not tired to repeat that it was a beautiful revolution of the spirit, the meaning of which will be revealed for us completely only in years to come. However, for me it is already a historical event which is placed on the same footing with the non-violent movement of protest led by Gandhi. Of course, we can’t object that its achievements were destroyed to a great extent by the Ukrainian political environment, which couldn’t stand on the level of its demands. Nevertheless, the spiritual impulse of the Orange derangement didn’t disappear – it had to die (that is, to be consumed) in order to bear fruits like the seed in the Gospel. Not everybody today sees this fruit, but I am convinced that, after some period of time, we will all be convinced of the importance and reality of the fruits of our glorious revolution.
3. How do you assess the “presence” of the churches and religious organizations in the mass media? Have church figures learned how to use media resources qualitatively in order to influence public life in Ukraine?
- The situation in this sphere is not consoling. The Eastern church follows tradition, and thus has special devotion to those means of communication which were developed in the past. The icon, sermon, aesthetics of singing and of architectural forms, pastoral letters – of course, all these means reach the human heart and they are powerful, tested and recognized ways of spreading the Gospel. Searching for innovations in church life sometimes gives a doubtful effect in our culture. (For me, personally, it would be difficult to accept strumming a guitar in church). Therefore, I don’t expect the church to pursue fashionable TV programs, which appear and disappear like one-day butterflies. Such programs can’t contain all that belongs to eternity. However, it is also obvious the church doesn’t realize enough that it exists in a world of digital culture and information technologies. Certainly, this culture sometimes endangers the vulnerable human world. But we should also accept it as a God’s gift that opens new possibilities for us.
4. How do you assess this year’s experience of independent testing for holders of school certificates? What are its consequences for schools of higher education, in particular, for the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU)? Did it reduce corruption in Ukrainian education?
- I am sorry that I haven’t studied this question deeper. I hail independent testing as an attempt to fight corruption. Ukraine can’t sit without acting, folding its arms! It can be easily assumed that in the conditions of Ukrainian misrule some components of this program were distorted, therefore, I was not surprised by the protests. Moreover, it is difficult for me to imagine that an education official who had been profiting from corruption started to block with enthusiasm all its possibilities. Consequently, I expect Ukraine will not reject this way, but on the contrary, will start a solid analysis of all mistakes and will start correcting them.
5. Does the UCU community plan some continuation of the matter connected with an appeal to the academic community on the occasion of the political situation in Ukraine?[Editor’s note: The link at the BOTTOM of this article leads to an English-language translation of the text of this appeal.]
- I think so. The academic community is an important component of civil society and it can’t silently observe abuse of power. On the other hand, it is important to find the right tone for our voice. The passions of the street do not fit a university. Therefore, we attentively keep up with the development of events and will try to be helpful to all who love Ukraine and strive for its good.
Dear Mr. Marynovych, thank you very much for your participation in our web-conference. We hope it was interesting for you and our readers. We wish for you inspiration and numerous blessings of God in your scholarly and journalistic work!
- Thank you very much for such an opportunity to exceed the limits of university discussions. May God help you as well to remain faithful to the honest and true word! God’s graces for you and your families!