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Автор:Kirill (Gundyaev), Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

Kirill (Gundyaev), patr. No freedom without moral responsibility (From a meeting with journalists from the “Literaturnaya Gazeta”, published in no. 45-46, November 2-8 2005)

NO FREEDOM WITHOUT MORAL
RESPONSIBILITY

From a meeting with journalists from the ‘Literaturnaya Gazeta’,
published in no. 45-46, November 2-8, 2005

 

The most important questions facing us today are, it seems to me, those concerning the meaning of life. There is nothing new about them, but they have become particularly acute in our today’s world. In this respect, CDP leader Angela Merkel, with whom I had a long talk during my visit to Germany in February 2005, put forward an engaging idea. She told me that the once incredibly popular slogan of ‘A Better Life’ is no longer meaningful for Germans. Which is why she is keen to address a different message to the nation, focusing on the spiritual aspects of human existence.

The same problems concern me too. Every reform and every revolution, as we all know all too well, has been undertaken for the sake of a ‘better’, that is, a full, well-provided-for and comfortable life. For seventy years, millions in our country lived for such a ‘bright future’, denying themselves everything, and many even dying for it. All this for an idea that has proved unattainable in real life. The socialist experiment failed not because ours was the ‘wrong’ socialism, nor because the mechanism of economic management was too cumbersome, nor because of a lack of competition, or for any such similar reason.

But why then did it fail? For me, as a believer, because there was no blessing of God, because Soviet ideology was not just atheistic, that is without God, but expressly anti-God.

 

 

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Today, the economic vector of government policy has changed, but look more closely and you will find that the direction people give to their lives is not fundamentally different: their goal is still to live better, meaning for most of them to be richer and more successful. And that’s all!

It is my profound conviction that, on the basis of Russia’s historical experience, we, as no one else, can address ourselves to the world with a unique message. This is that building a welfare state will never make humanity happy if this welfare is sought outside the context of man’s spiritual needs.

This is a complex and multi-dimensional topic, not easily reduced to a single conceptual level. But the first thing to which I would like to direct your attention and to reflect upon with you is the inter-dependence of human freedom and moral responsibility. Can human freedom exist without moral responsibility and does a person who has no freedom have any moral responsibility?

The age of the Enlightenment declared man to be the centre of the universe.This man was viewed also as sinless from birth. Rousseau, for instance, set forth a theory of education based on a natural development of the inclinations placed in man by nature, free from the influence of social institutions, and by definition without any concept of sinfulness. And if people are indeed born immaculate, it is only right and proper that they be given full freedom to realize their human potential. Hence the idea of the absolute value of human rights and liberties that has prevailed until now in Western liberal society. The French Revolution mainstreamed this political paradigm, from whence it determined the political thought of the European nations and in the twentieth century went on to form the basis of international organizations. Ask today’s European bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg how they see their task, and they will tell you that in the first place it is to protect human rights and freedoms because all existing troubles are caused by the failure of individual states to observe these rights.

I too am convinced of the need to protect human rights and freedoms. But I am also convinced that human beings are not born

 

 

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sinless. Even leaving aside the theological aspect and Christian anthropology with its teaching on the corruption of human nature as a consequence of the Fall, simple observation tells us that, regrettably, every child inherits not only the physical but also the moral vices of its parents. The latest genetic advances have only re-confirmed this depressing truth. This means that the ‘liberation’ of the individual, his free development without any correction by society, will lead also to the liberation of the dark ‘Dionysian’ principle, as the Greeks called it, present in every person. This is a dead-end, the way to destruction for our civilization. It is this that makes the liberal principle, which tells us that ‘my freedom should not restrict the freedom of another person’, so very dangerous, if it is the only restraining principle.

Many times our opponents tell us that ‘you Orthodox simply have a latent allergy to the very theme of rights and freedoms’. No, not at all. In the Soviet time our Church suffered like no one else from oppression by the authorities. Moreover, the very idea of rights and freedoms is based on the Christian understanding of the human being as the image of God, and thus the high dignity of the human person. But if we separate the task of observing and protecting human rights from the moral responsibility of the individual before God and his fellow men, then we condemn humanity to the unleashing of the passions, to an upsurge of instincts that can easily turn society into a pack of wolves.

Hence the question: are these two mindsets, Christian and liberal, mutually reconcilable? Yes, but it is a rather complicated task. Success can be achieved when rights and freedoms are combined with traditional ethical values as presented by religion and the national awareness of peoples. You certainly are aware of the debates going on today in the West concerning same-sex marriages. It is precisely this fundamental theme of inter-relationship between human ethics and freedom which is in play here. Today there is a demand that same-sex couples should enjoy the same rights as normal families. What can we oppose to this tendency? Only the absolute ethical norm as secured in the ethical teaching of the Church.

 

 

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But look at what is happening now Religion in the West has been ousted to the realm of private life almost as successfully as it was in our country under the Soviet power.You can be a believer only in church or at home.Your Christian convictions cannot motivate your actions in social life. Take for instance the refusal of the members of the European Parliament to confirm the appointment of Italian Rocco Buttiglione as European Commissioner only because he, being a good Catholic, called homosexual activity a sin. And now Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky is facing legal prosecution for banning a gay pride parade in the Holy City - that is, for banning open propaganda for sin.

At the same time the secular world believes it has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of churches. In some European countries the question is being raised of the need to require churches by law to ordain openly proclaimed homosexuals, and all this for the sake of observing the ‘human right’ to commit a sin that destroys human nature.

In our days the notion of truth has been ousted from the public consciousness, to be replaced by ‘pluralism of opinions’. In this system all ideas, ail views are considered to have equal rights and to be equally entitled to express themselves. Let me cite as an example the polemic that took place in the mass media surrounding the Second World War 60th victory anniversary celebrations. At that time, active attempts were made to put on an equal footing the feat of the people who stopped the Fascist onslaught and the betrayal of those who killed their own brothers with German weapons in their hands. This is only one example of where truth and falsehood are placed on an equal footing, where the hierarchy of values is replaced by a free market of ideas working according to the laws of supply and demand, demand in this case determined by the moral state of a ‘consumer’ - the lower the moral level, the more popular the most repulsive ideas.

But what enables us to distinguish here between truth and falsehood? Only the frame of reference established by Divine Revelation and safeguarded by the Tradition of the Church, absolute be-

 

 

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cause it has divine authority. A believer cherishes it in his heart, and no television, no newspaper can shake him. And here we have a paradox: it is precisely within the Christian Church, during the Reformation, that the struggle with this understanding of the criteria of truth was initiated. In 1517, precisely 400 years before the Russian Revolution, a revolution occurred in Christian awareness in the West. Its focal point was the rejection of the absolute authority of the Church in interpreting Holy Scriptures. From then on one could say: I have the Holy Spirit in me, and my understanding of the truth of the gospel is no way inferior to that of the Holy Fathers, the Councils and the Church. The inevitable consequence of this is first doctrinal and then moral relativism. Modern history is testimony to this. But this is, I repeat, a dead-end street, something that sensible leaders of the civilized world have begun to grasp.

Unless we recover the ability to distinguish between good and evil which we need to be able to do in order to maintain our bearings in the unlimited expanse of modern civilization, any hope of a different, more promising future is impossible.

Anatoly Salutskiy, writer: ‘In the perestroika years the so-called ‘common human values’ began to be actively imposed on us. (..But don’t you think these ‘common human values’ arc really Western values, and, however respectable in themselves, arc foreign to us? Is not their imposition on Russia basically a continuation of the centuries-old attempt, since the fall of Byzantium, to deprive us of our national identity, national moral qualities, etc.?’

When Mikhail C. Gorbachev first pronounced the words ‘common human values’, I understood that the dominion of Marxism, at least in Russia, had come to an end. Marxist ethics rejects any idea of common moral values. Moral is everything that serves the proletariat - this was its basic assumption. But the tasks faced by the proletariat vary in various ages. This means that moral categories also change with time. Moreover, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as its perpetual enemy could never arrive at any shared understanding of morality. And now, all of a sudden, the leader of the world’s largest communist party and the head of its most powerful communist state was speaking about values common to all people, regardless of

 

 

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their class and social and property status, that is, de facto recognizing the existence of a universal categorical moral imperative! This is tantamount to the recognition of the existence of God because it is only the Absolute - that is God - who can be the source of absolute morality. In this sense the use of the term ‘common human values’ is quite admissible if understood as values instilled in man by his Creator and therefore common to people in the USA, Russia and Papua-New Guinea.

But what is meant today by common human values are in fact the values of the Enlightenment. Formulated as the outcome of a specific socio-political development and its philosophical underpinning in Western Europe, they are rooted in the heathen idea of man as measure of all things, albeit incorporating some ideas of Protestantism and Jewish philosophy as taught in European universities after the dispersion of the Jews. The result is that neither Catholic ethical doctrine, nor the basic provisions of Orthodox axiology nor the ethics of traditional Islam or Judaism are duly reflected in this system, which is the intellectual product of a specific civilizational model.

We treat it with respect and are ready to enter into dialogue with its representatives, but only on equal footing. But today we are allowed to speak and preach whatever we wish only if we do not encroach on the fundamentals of this worldview. Its adepts have appropriated the right to assess all and sundry on the basis on their own scale of moral values and are eager to fit all the diversity of the world into the Procrustean bed of their own standards.

It is my profound conviction that Russia should advocate the idea of a multi-polar world. These poles should not be exclusively political, as diplomats would understand it. Reality demands that we recognize the indisputable fact that several cultures today co-exist in parallel. They are rooted in different religious experiences, including, paradoxically, even the rejection of religion, that is, atheism. Can we find some docking points in them? For me we can. If we all agree on the existence of a common ethical framework of reference, these docking points will appear on their own. Russia itself offers a

 

 

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unique example of such unity in diversity. Our history and the contemporary situation witness to the co-existence of East and West, Christianity and Islam, religiosity and secularism. And Russia can become a prototype of a new world order, based not on impersonal unity within standards imposed by force - which can lead only to civilizational catastrophe - but on a harmonious combination based on an externally diverse but essentially unified perception of absolute moral values.

Alexander Tsipko, political commentator of Literaturnaya Gazeta. Yes, I am fully aware that the idea of ecumenism in the form of unification of Christian confessions into a single whole, as advocated by Vladimir Solovyev, is a dangerous thing. The different Christian confessions are guardians of vital civilizational and cultural codes and patterns, and if these are destroyed in the search for Christian unity, the whole of human culture can break down. But even so I do not understand why Christian churches are unaware of the dangers you point to and do nothing to oppose this liberal anthropocentrism which is actually ousting Christianity from Europe. Why do Christian churches do nothing to develop a common policy for sa ving not just Christianity but the common human morality and culture? Is it possible to do something to solve this problem?’

Your humble servant was granted a private audience by Pope Benedict XVI the day after his enthronement. We spoke precisely about this. The Catholic and the Orthodox Churches in today’s world are natural - and, it seems, the only - allies in the tough struggle between representatives of secular liberalism infected with the bacillus of self-destruction, and bearers of the forward-looking idea of human salvation. We can join with Catholics in defending Christian values. We already have experience of working together here. During the preparation of the draft European Constitution we entered into intensive dialogue with the Catholic Church and reached mutual understanding on this problem.


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