In March 2011, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, visited Moscow. There, he met Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. The visit was heralded in the media as a breakthrough in Russian Orthodox-Roman Catholic relations, but it remains to be seen, as to whether we will witness a new ecumenical era soon. With Pope biographer George Weigel, for example, one can ask if this really was a defining moment. Recently, Weigel harshly criticised the Russian Orthodox Church, and, to be honest, rightly so. It is obvious that the “the Russian Orthodox leadership is functioning as an arm of Russian state power” (Weigel) and, as a matter of fact, quite willingly (see a December 2010 Wikileak with Metropolitan Hilarion).
This post, however, does not aim at the Russian Orthodox Church as such. It rather wants to look at what might lay behind this desire for cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church on various moral and ethical issues, which was proposed by Metropolitan Hilarion, last March.
An editor of a Dutch review asked me to write an account of the meetings of Cardinal Koch with Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion, so I did some research. I came across a picture of the latter, on the internet. It shows the Metropolitan speaking at an Interconfessional Conference on Family Problems on 11 january 2011 in Kaunas (Lithuania). He stands with his back to a powerpoint slide with a text in Lithuanian. Allegedly, it reads “…pornographic films, sexual abuse and sexual perversions such as homosexuality, sadism and paedophilia, the entire distribution is not something from medieval times, which is nowadays completely incorporated into a modern market infrastructure. On the contrary, the so-called businessmen, who manage this type of system, have adopted marketing and advertising methods from contemporary management…”
That photograph reminded me of an article I wrote almost ten years ago: “The Principal Victim: Catholic Antisemitism and the Holocaust in Central Europe” (2004). Back then I was struck by the similarities between the way in which Jews were blamed in the past, and how, for example, homosexuals are being talked about today. They pose a threat to the very fabric of society; they endanger traditional (family) values and ethics; the dissemination thereof is cultural rather than biological or genetic; hence a strong desire to prevent “moral contamination” from spreading further to the healthy parts of the social body. It made me wonder, back then, as it does now…
…do Churches need bully-boy tactics to make themselves heard today? (Frans Hoppenbrouwers)