Analysis by Archpriest Andrei Nikolaidi on the topic of non-canonical ordinations of “clergy” of the OCU.
One of the most important questions that arose about the emergence of the so-called “OCU” in Ukraine is the question of the validity and canonicity of their so-called ordinations of “hierarchs” who became part of this newly formed religious structure. Of course, this question is not the only one, but for many it is a cornerstone, significant, pivotal one. Leaving outside the brackets other questions that also require an answer, I will attempt to consider just this problem.
So, in the process of considering the reality and effectiveness of ordinations, two factors need to be considered – 1) their canonical consistency and 2) the presence of apostolic succession.
Canonicity can be called the conformity of the conditions of ordination and the person himself who is ordained to the canons of the Orthodox Church. By the apostolic succession we should understand such a factor of the God-established method of transferring the hierarchical authority in the Church, as the indissolubility of the connection of each case of ordination with the apostles through a preserved chain. That is, a bishop’s presence of apostolic succession can be recognized only if the bishops who ordained him had such succession themselves. It is important to separate them, since legality and canonicity are not limited only to the presence of apostolic succession. An example of this is the story of Maximus the Cynic. He was ordained by the legitimate Egyptian bishops, but the fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council refused to recognize his consecration, stating that “Here Maximus was or is a bishop, here those who were placed by him to any degree of clergy; and what was done for him and what he has done are all insignificant” (Canon 4 of the Second Ecumenical Council).
Nowadays the representatives of the OCU declare that they are genuine, grace-filled and canonical hierarchs. However, even the Patriarch of Constantinople, who accepted them, believes that their adoption was accomplished only by “economy”, by condescension, since until 2018 both Filaret Denisenko and Makariy Maletich were in schism, and, consequently, episcopal ordinations were performed illegally and were uncanonical… The non-canonical nature of these ordinations is associated with two factors – ecclesiastical and personal. The ecclesiastical factor explains the illegality of ordinations by the fact that they were committed by persons who are in schism and do not have the power to perform these actions, as well as the fact that such bishops were appointed to cathedrae where there is already a legitimate and canonical bishop. The personal factor is associated with the presence of such hierarchs of moral crimes and misdeeds incompatible with episcopal ministry, that is, the discrepancy between their personality and the height of the heritage of the apostles. There are many facts of this discrepancy, but here, for brevity, it is worth mentioning only the personality of the so-called “bishop” Kirill (Myikhailyuk), who was banned in the “Kyivan Patriarchate”, was successfully accepted into the UAOC and joined as a bishop in the OCU. It is important to note that his “prohibition” in the Kyivan Patriarchate has not been cancelled and now it is not clear whether he is prohibited or not prohibited for the “metropolitan” Epiphany. But everything was covered by a comprehensive “economy”, which it is very convenient to hide all the canonical crimes behind it.
Now the “hierarchs” of the OCU like to say that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople recognized their episcopal dignity. Yes, indeed, in the Orthodox Church there are many facts of recognition of ordinations when schismatics return to the bosom of the Church. But here it is worth highlighting two points. First, there was no comeback in 2018. The canonical and legitimate Church of the Ukrainian people was not taken into account, the voice of its hierarchy and people was simply ignored. And there was a deep substitution of concepts. The schism was not healed (the current history is evidence of this – the wound of the schism on the political basis of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy is bleeding profusely). An attempt was made to legalize the schism.
Secondly, something that never existed cannot be recognized at all. And here we touch on the issue of the apostolic succession in the hierarchy of the OCU. If everything is more or less clear with the bishops ordained in the Kyivan Patriarchate: they are illegal, but, nevertheless, have apostolic succession through the former metropolitan Filaret Denisenko, then with the hierarchy of the former UAOC everything is not simple at all.
The beginning of the hierarchical structure of the UAOC was laid by the former Bishop of Zhytomyr Ioann (Bodnarchuk). He, being in a state of canonical bans from his hierarchy (he was defrocked), announced the restoration of the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Church”. But the Church must have an episcopate. According to the apostolic canons, the ordination of a bishop requires the participation of at least two hierarchs. And Ioann Bodnarchuk invites the rogue Vikentiy Chekalin, who calls himself the bishop of the “catacomb” Church, to perform with him the consecration of his own brother Vasily.
But the reason is that Vikentiy was not bishop, and his episcopal rank was not recognized in any Church. Moreover, after some time he betrayed Orthodoxy and fled to another continent. I would not like to delve into dirty linen and retell all the details of the life of this unfortunate man. One thing is clear – since he would not be a bishop, then the consecration of Vasily Bodnarchuk is not legal, since it was committed with the gross violation of the apostolic decrees by one outcast hierarch, and it does not have apostolic succession. Later the entire chain of illegal and unfavorable ordinations in the UAOC received the name of the “Chekalin`s” branch in the historical literature. It is also important to note that the bishops ordained by Ioann Bodnarchuk eventually “expelled” him from their “church”.
Modern leaders of the UAOC love to build their apostolic succession to the Polish Church through the consecration of Mstyslav Skrypnyk. But, firstly, the First Hierarch of the Polish Church Dionysius (Valedinsky) later recognized the non-canonical nature of his actions, and, secondly, the schism activists admit that from the ordinations of Mstyslav Skrypnyk and Anthony Shcherba in the ordinations of the current bishops of the former UAOC, only one chain can be traced – through Polycarp (Pakhalyuk). Leaving out of the discussion the further fate of this character (who is interested, can look for yourself), we can state only one thing – even if we admit that he had apostolic succession, one hierarch is not enough to recognize the correctness of episcopal consecration, if all the other participants do not have apostolic succession, they are impostors in fact.
And that`s not all. In the “clergy” of the UAOC, there are “hierarchs” who are deprived of even this ephemeral thread. For some cases, ordinations go back to the immediate Chekalin`s branch. For example, “metropolitan” Andrey Abramchuk, who was ordained by Ioann (Bodnarchuk) together with his brother Vasily and the notorious Vikentiy Chekalin. And in 2019 the “Ecumenical” Patriarch concelebrated with such pseudo-hierarchs, recognizing them as bishops. Although before that, even Filaret, who was in schism, did not recognize the episcopal dignity of the episcopate of the UAOC, performing their “re-ordination”.
Some OCU leaders, to justify the lawless nature of the above ordinations, like to refer to the idea that the canonical archbishop Varlaam (Ilyushchenko) took part in the ordination of Vasily (Bodnarchuk), along with Chekalin and Ioann (Bodnarchuk). However, as Ioann Bodnarchuk’s own handwritten confessions prove, lord Varlaam`s signature is a forgery (for those who want to investigate this fact, there are screenshots of the letter of the former bishop Ioann in the Internet).
All this is the evidence only to one thing. According to the 1st rule of the holy apostles, the 8th rule of the First Ecumenical Council, the 4th rule of the Second Ecumenical Council, the 4th rule of the Council of Antioch, the 16th rule of the Double Council, we cannot recognize either the presence of the apostolic succession, or the legality and canonicity of episcopal ordinations in the so-called OCU.