138: Church Scandals and the Canons

October 16, 2009 Length: 37:13

Fr. Alexander Rentel, Orthodox canonist and Assistant Professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological seminary, speaks with Illumined Heart host Kevin Allen about scandals in church history, the role the canons play, and what laity can do about their resolution.





Kevin: Welcome, to The Illumined Heart on Ancient Faith Radio. The topic on our program today is titled Scandals in the Church and the Canons. And in this program I hope to discuss with my guest how the Orthodox Church has addressed various scandals in her history and the role the canons of the Orthodox Church play in Church governance. And my guest on the program is Father Alexander Rentel. Father Alexander is an Orthodox Church canonist and Assistant Professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY. Our discussion today is not about any specific scandal or situation in the current and contemporary Orthodox Church, but we’re speaking in a general and historic manner. Father Alexander Rentel, welcome to The Illumined Heart on Ancient Faith Radio.

Fr. Rentel: Oh thank you. My pleasure to be speaking with you.

Kevin: My pleasure to have you. You’ve been highly recommended for this show, so I’m looking forward to it. Father, we hear a lot about the canons in the Orthodox Church. Whether this or that is canonical or not. I’d like to ask several questions about that, and maybe you could address each of them fairly briefly cause we don’t have a ton of time. We got a lot of ground to cover. But maybe we could begin with you giving us some background. First of all, what are the canons in the Orthodox Church? Let’s start with the basics.

Fr. Rentel: The canons of the Orthodox Church are a set of statutes, letters, all sorts of conciliary decisions—a whole body of literature that have come down to us from the date from roughly the 4th century to about the 9th century. There’s some pieces in there that maybe go back even further under the heading of the Apostolic Canons, that are said to of come from the Apostles themselves. They took their final form at the end of the 4th century, but more or less you’ve got a body of documents that come to us from the 4th to 9th century—conciliary decisions, works of patristic Fathers, things like that.

Kevin: Had they been codified in some way where one can actually go to them and read them?

Fr. Rentel: To a degree, yes. Unfortunately, there’s not one satisfactory edition of them in English, but in Greek, especially, there are any number of codifications, compilations of the canonical literature. Some existing in one volume, but some of the better editions even existing in volumes that run up to six volumes when you include the commentaries on specific canons and complementary acts. I should say, just the canons of the Church form one part of the canonical tradition. The other part of the tradition is the continued work and activity of synods, local synods, but also of jurists, canonists working down through the ages, the commentators on the canons, individual bishops who issue rulings and decisions. All of these things go into the broader canonical tradition of which the canons, specifically, make one part.

Kevin: I see, and that really does lead me to one of my other questions here along the line of “What are the canons?” and that is: “How and when are they added to this corpus?” I think you’ve spoken some to that and/or “How are they amended?”

Fr. Rentel: Well the corpus of the canons is pretty much a closed corpus at this point, but as I say the activity of the development of the canonical tradition has continued through the activity of the churches—through the life of the churches, being inspired by God and the Holy Spirit, through our faith in our Lord. The churches and churchmen around the world, throughout the Orthodox World, have continued the activity of canon law. It has to be said that the canons themselves speak; that they are guides and directives of normative Church life. So in every age, churches through synods, bishops, priests, deliberative activities have continued to work and define and describe norms for Church life and then set forth different directives and guides. All drawing on, inspiration, of course, from the corpus itself.

Kevin: But there is some question, is there not, Father Alexander Rentel, as to how some of them are interpreted and/or applied in various periods of history. I’m thinking of one in particular which has some relevance for today, Canon 28. I don’t want to go into a long discussion of it, but using it simply as an example about how different groups will understand the canon in very different ways.

Fr. Rentel: Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, to which you’re referring, we could spend the rest of our time talking about it.

Kevin: Right, and we can’t.

Fr. Rentel: But there are very different understandings of this canon. Under broad headings, the Russian Churches tend to have and have put forward one opinion and the Church in Constantinople has put forth another opinion. At some points, they’re reconcilable. At some points, maybe, it would be a little bit harder to reconcile these different visions. How are they amended? How are they corrected? It’s hard to speak about the canons in terms of amending them, because in many ways that kind of betrays a misapprehension about the canons. The canons are in essence a theological document or a theological expression, and what lies behind that, that theological expression, that they articulate in the specific canon. Well, that theological element, of course, is never changing. It’s the permanent aspect of the canon. The interpretation of the specific wording and how that’s worked out in history, that’s the continued life of the Church. But, it’s not necessarily a question of amending a specific canon. These things are there. They’re what we draw on. However, how it’s worked out, those things do change over time and through the activity of the Church.

Kevin: I should mention, and I’ll just mention briefly, that the canon we refer to, Canon 28 has to do with the primacy or jurisdiction outside of the bounds of the traditional Church world in the 5th century. Is that not correct?

Fr. Rentel: Right. Canon 28, again of the Council of Chalcedon, has to do with the position of the Archbishop of Constantinople, which then developed into the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Within the Council of Chalcedon, Canons 9, 17, and 28 all deal with the position of the Patriarchate in Constantinople, giving him a unique ministry in the body of churches.

Kevin: And again, that’s not for today’s discussion but using it as an example. Now Father, are all canons equally valid and applicable today or are there some that are contextual or even outdated or irrelevant? I’ve heard one prominent Church hierarch, for an example, call some of the canons, dead canons. I think he was referring to, for example, not going to a Jewish physician. And so my question is: “Are they and who decides?”

Fr. Rentel: Right. When people speak about canons that are outdated or dead, I have to admit I cringe somewhat because again I think they are misunderstanding the basic thrust of the canon. The canons are theological. Their orientation is exactly that of every other aspect of the Church. If canon law is to direct and guide Church life, normative Church life, then it has to be part of the Church, and if it is part of the Church then it draws on every other aspect of Church life. And it would be to say like, some part of the Bible is dead or some part of this, that, or the other thing of Church life is dead, which we can’t say, and we’re not going to say. When a canon like that, about a Jewish doctor, or maybe Gregory of Nyssa’s canons on grave-robbing, they might not necessarily be applicable in our situation. At the time, going to a Jewish doctor was the equivalent of going to a quasi-faith healer. It would be in many ways betraying your faith. So that draws out this point exactly, about the canons being theological in nature. That is to say, they are to lead you to one in the same goal as everything else—to Jesus Christ, to our salvation. If you go to a Jewish doctor, and as I say a quasi-faith healer, well in some ways your faith might be compromised by this. You might express belief in elemental spirits that are foreign to our faith. So its not necessarily a matter of going to such and such a doctor, say New York where it would be possible not to go to a Jewish doctor. It’s not that! It’s the canons as expressing the same sort of mindset, the goal towards salvation that the Bible, the spiritual liturgy, patristic heritage, all of these things speak of. This is in fact how the canons speak of themselves. They say that the Fathers who drafted the canons were enlightened by one in the same Spirit that spoke through the Prophets, that gave quick-feet to the Apostles, that appeared as a dove over our Lord. This is how the canons speak and how they view themselves. And this is not to say that we can then use the canons to beat people over the heads with, but the canons have to be oriented within the entire life of the Church. And I would say further, and my former students at the seminary will chuckle when you said valid, it’s not necessarily a question whether a canon is valid or not. It might be a question of whether it’s applicable in our age. It’s not a question of being alive or dead or valid or invalid.

Kevin: Yeah, I should have said that. That was a better way to say it. Well in what sense, Father Alexander Rentel, are our leaders and are laity, but I guess I am going to address this more to the clergy hierarchs and synods, to what extent and what sense are they bound and/or guided by them? And secondary to that, are they sort of automatic triggers or must everything be adjudicated when there are problems and scandals, which I want to get to shortly?

Fr. Rentel: Are everybody bound by the canons? Is that your question?

Kevin: Yes. Is everybody bound to them and to what extent are they?

Fr. Rentel: The canons consider themselves, as I’ve said, as norms and guides. They’re not intended as law in the sense that we’re used to law. A law says “You must do this” or “You can’t do that.” The canons are much different in their feel, in their shape, and how they speak. But nothing in them says that they’re not applicable to anybody. In fact, their expression is: “If any bishop, priest, or deacon does this, then he could be deposed.” Or those entrusted with pastoral authority must know all of these things, the canons. So in that sense priests, bishops, deacons, and the canons frequently will even extend this to readers and subdeacons—these injunctions. So yes, clearly, clergy are bound. But then given the sense of how many canons will then say: “And if this person be a layman.” Absolutely, these canon are meant for everyone in the Church. Just as any aspect of the Church has been for everybody, every aspects of the canons are meant for everybody in the Church. It’s not that somebody can live above the canons or around the canons.

Kevin: And I may be bringing to this conversation, and I think you’re disabusing me of my mindset on this, and I appreciate that. I may be bringing a little too much of the Western and American legal approach to them so forgive me and correct me where I have done that and am doing that with my questioning. My next question may be suspect of this and that is: “Given that the Orthodox Church is essentially hierarchical and synodal, doesn’t this mean in a real sense that Church leaders are essentially, with the guidance of the canons, governing themselves with little or no accountability, if you want to be on the cynical side of things? Can and does this then, perhaps, tempt bad behavior?”

Fr. Rentel: Well the temptation for bad behavior exists everywhere and whether it’s in terms of relationship or following or fidelity to the canons or not. Bad behavior is simply bad behavior. We don’t need a canon to define that. The responsibility and the life of the Church at least as the canons envision is one of overlapping and mutual accountability and responsibility, not in the sense of, to use words that we would expect, democracy or checks and balances. But there is a similar notion in the canons that one cannot simply escape the canons. If there is a canon prohibiting a bishop from doing something, well one can make a reasonable inference that the canons also imagine some instrument to hold a bishop or priest or deacon or layman, anybody in the Church responsible for fidelity to that canon. The question of what that instrument might be really cuts to the heart of that, though.

Kevin: Well, what is the instrument? How is the Church then held accountable to them?

Fr. Rentel: Right. Well, at the most basic level the Church is a community of believers who profess faith in our Lord and our Lord, Jesus Christ, is the ultimate authority in the Church. And he has given, first by the apostolic preaching who then established this hierarchy throughout the world to continue the mission of Christ to bring all people to the knowledge of Him—baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So our faith in Christ is the beginning of any level of responsibility. Nothing can allow for any behavior contrary to that. Nothing in the canons can say that you can be an immoral, immodest, scandalous person. The scandal that we are to follow is the Tree of the Cross, not the scandals of this world. The community of believers is the first level of accountability, one to another. Within that community of believers, there are priests, deacons, people set apart for specific ministry, the specific ministry of leadership within the communities. Bishops oversee and hold the diverse gifts and talents and charismas within these communities together. And the bishops themselves meet one with another and show not any independence, but an interdependence one to another through that common faith in our Lord, and the consequent behavior is manifested by this faith. Another bishop then oversees that these bishops continue to get along, and the faith is preserved as long as the behavior that must emerge out of that faith continues to flourish, continues to grow so that holiness is the sign of the Church. Now at any level, or at any part of the Church, when behavior contrary to that faith breaks down, then there are these overlaying levels of responsibility. That is to say, if a layman steps out of this behavior, then the priest can gently guide the person back. If there is a problem between a layman and a priest, then the bishop can look into this matter and offer some sort of assistance. If there is an issue with the bishop, say somebody says “Well this bishop has done me wrong” or “did not adjudicate this issue satisfactorily,” then there are synods of bishops to oversee all of these things. According to the canons, you can continue appealing, even rulings of a local synod of bishops to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and to the Holy Synod there.

Kevin: So he is the final, Supreme Court, if you will?

Fr. Rentel: The final, Supreme Court is our Lord. And the books will be open and the deeds revealed on that last day. That is the last level of responsibility. I would say potentially if an issue emerged all the way to the Holy Synod and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, he does have one of the last possibilities of exercising ministry to solve an issue within the Church as churches are today.

Kevin: I’ve heard it said, Fr. Alexander Rentel and perhaps you have too, that the local bishop or the metropolitan “is the rudder, the canon himself, in his particular diocese.” Is this a correct way to look at it?

Fr. Rentel: Well, if the bishop means by that, that he can tell everybody what to do and what not to do, without the guidance of the canons, then it’s complete nonsense. And unfortunately when I hear people speak like that, I often think: “Wow. You know, I don’t think he fully grasps the canonical tradition of the Church.” Because the canons, as we’ve already spoken, speak of these ministries of responsibility that every part of the Church has to exercise. And a bishop cannot be the sum of the canonical tradition in his diocese. That’s the canonical tradition. The bishop does have a unique role within his diocese. When there is a problem of a particular pastoral nature, he is the one within his diocese who can show the concern to try and solve it, but the exercise of his pastoral ministry only goes so far. He cannot simply overrule a canon by himself or anything like that, and his decision on a matter can be reviewed by the synod to which he belongs.

Kevin: How specific are canons or do they simply lay out general guidelines for things like Church order, moral questions, and heresy? That is question number one. And then, tied to that is, you’ve also said synods have broad discretion and there are really no automatic triggers, so I’m wondering how that all works out?

Fr. Rentel: Well each canon is slightly different in its wording; some are very specific. And honestly as a practicing canonist, not as much now, I always love it when a canon seems to be very clear, and just says: “This is it.” Most canons though are evidence that the men who sat down to write these, to work through the language that produced that text, that they were great, wise, pastoral men. And allow for a certain amount of discretion for those applying the canons in which they can work. With the idea that perhaps that person, that bishop, or that priest, who is confronted with somebody who has fallen, who has sinned, or transgressed the canons or some other aspect of Church life that, that priest and that bishop might have a better knowledge. The canons are very good because they speak about the person entrusted with pastoral authority has to know the subtle and diverse nature of sin and know when to apply something very strictly and perhaps when to apply something a little more soothing—the actual language of the canon. The people applying the canons have some discretion on how to apply; there are not automatic triggers. And always within the Church and within the canons, there is the idea that if there is a compelling reason the canons might not be applied as strictly as the text might suggest they need to be.

Kevin: I see. So again it’s not a “three strikes” kind of deal that we have here in California where the judge, if you will, is mandated to do.

Fr. Rentel: No there’s a canon exactly, Trello 21, that speaks about the deposition of priests. It says: “If the person falls away from the grace that was given to them, if they lose that grace, the grace of the priesthood” and very much putting the responsibility for falling away and deposition on the person who has committed whatever transgression—they’ve stolen, sexual sin, fallen into heresy. The responsibility is placed on that person, but the canon, again written by eminently, wise pastors of the Church, speak about: “Well if the person has shown repentance, if they have truly come around, you can restore that person.”

Kevin: Interesting. Can a synod, for example, decide to allow a bishop or clergyman convicted of a criminal felony to continue to serve as a bishop?

Fr. Rentel: Well in response, I want to be very careful, and say: “Number One: Can a synod do it?” has to be distinguished from: “Number Two: Should a synod do it?” I don’t know. I don’t like to deal in hypotheticals without commenting on the concrete and knowing the issues the way that a Holy Synod would know it. We’re simply not privy to that information. Nevertheless, we can all think of examples where things have happened. “Should a synod have done this, that or the other thing?” I don’t know the answers to that one. Can a synod do it? Again an answer that has to be given with a certain nuance. Synods, as I’ve said, have some discretion when applying the canons and applying what might seem to be triggered by the canons. However, the canons are theological documents, and here I mean theology, not words about God, not study about God, but discerning Christ in our lives, seeing Christ made manifest. The results of a canonical procedure, being levied with a canonical sanction, a deposition, cannot be seen as punishment or some sort of punishment that fits a crime, but they’re given exactly in the sense. And the canons do use the word punishment, I should say, but it’s not a punishment like sending someone to jail or they can’t be redeemed, but they’re always spoken of as medicinal, as something to help remedy the sin. What concerns the canons, what concerns the Church, is repentance, and the words that are used in terms of deposition are exactly the words that are spoken for penitential discipline with the ultimate goal of bringing someone back to the Church. Having said that, I want to be careful to nuance further and say that just because you are offering forgiveness through the Church might not mean that you are going to reestablish that person into the ministry. But can a synod do that? I would say there is some discretion in some cases, even some cases like of criminal cases and whatnot, where a synod can maintain someone in ministry. Should they do it? That’s another issue.

Kevin: Well let me come at this another way. Are there examples, Father Alexander Rentel, that you know of in history—we’re not speaking of current situations—where a convicted felon has continued to serve as a bishop?

Fr. Rentel: I know that I can think of some instances where bishops have been allowed to maintain the dignity of the episcopacy without exercising it in the full capacity as a diocesan bishop or even a vicar bishop to some degree.

Kevin: So they’ve been retired?

Fr. Rentel: Retired or greatly reduced responsibilities, maybe administration, administrative tasks. In all ways, they’ve been quite a bit reduced. Now there are some instances, of course, that you can also think of through Church history where people have been deposed for heresy and whatnot and have never been restored. But to depose a bishop, it’s an extraordinary event and not taken lightly in the Church, and it’s done very rarely. I mean, number one you need twelve bishops to do that, to agree on this. The case itself, typically because of the position of a bishop in the Church life can potentially be very messy politically and those kind of things. And if you look back at Church history, there are some sort of gradations of punishment, especially for bishop—like casting somebody out of a throne, so that they are called a bishop, but it’s very irregular. They don’t have the status of having a diocese or even a title. To suspending a bishop, to retiring a bishop, to having a bishop on permanent suspension, there are some gradations if you know what I mean. But one thing I’ve learned as a canonist, until you actually review a file that someone has put forward for you, until you see evidence, until you amass a great bit of information, it’s very difficult to make a decision. And I’m hesitant in many ways just because I don’t know all the information about cases that are out there.

Kevin: I’d like to move to a discussion of management of finances if I can. I’d like to ask the question about decision-making. How much latitude do bishops and metropolitans to make financial decisions with Church funds without accountability? And part of that I’d like to ask is: “What checks and balances, if any, do the canons call for?”

Fr. Rentel: As I said, when you imagine the Church, the household of God, we dwell with our Lord. In that house, the chief slave is the bishop, the episcopos, the overseer of all the other slaves in the Church. And he has responsibility from the master of the house to oversee the funds of the house. But what’s always important to remember is of course—and the bishop does have a great deal of responsibility, almost all the oversight of the spending of the money—he cannot spend it foolly because he is not the master of the house. To take my analogy, the master is the Lord. The bishop can’t spend the money on something frivolous or sinful. You can imagine all sorts of things where money could be spent. But even more than that, the canons direct that a bishop keep very separate his own money from that of the Church’s money. And in fact, the canons further direct each bishop have an administrator; in the canons it’s referred to as an economos. Throughout the history of the Church, this person, this administrator, this economos, this steward of the house has been chancellor or treasurer or secretary or administrator. In the Byzantine tradition, there are a whole bunch of names for these figures as kind of the chancery that revolved around the Patriarchate in Constantinople; that was emulated in other places. But even more than that, a bishop does not exist by himself. He exists as part of the community of faithful, so where he spends money, he has of course pastoral discretion to spend things without getting approval and without talking to everybody, but still he operates within a system of the Church with the faithful, with priests and deacons, and even with the canons that speak. And this is one of the most curious things about the canons, that people don’t read them all the way through. But when canons speak about the authority of a bishop to have oversight of the money, they often speak about spending the money with the priests and the deacons. They also lay down this very, very, clear rule that a bishop has to have an administrator to assist him and make sure that the money is spent in a proper way. And the canons even go so far as to allow for the pastoral intervention of a metropolitan in the life of a diocese, if the diocesan bishop does not appoint a chancellor, a economos, whatever the person might be called nowadays. He can actually intervene in the life of a diocese, and it’s one of the very few places in the canons that a metropolitan is given a direct intervention in the life of a diocese. That is how strongly the canons feel about this issue.

Kevin: And yet, we’ve seen misappropriation of funds. I’m sure that this is not only a current possibility. I mean historically this must be true.

Fr. Rentel: Absolutely, the canons wouldn’t speak about something if it weren’t a perennial issue. There are numerous canons, dating back in the apostolic corpus. In the Antiochian Canons, there are numerous canons that speak about that, but there are also numerous canons of the Patristic Fathers. It is an issue that was raised again and again, obviously, at the time when the corpus of canons was being formed .

Kevin: But doesn’t that make an assumption that the governor of himself, in this case the bishop, who has this discretion of a holy person, what if you have a corrupt individual? What are the checks and balances?

Fr. Rentel: If you have a corrupt individual, a wolf in the sheepfold, well the wolf can do quite a bit of destruction. But the people of God, the people of the Church, we are all called to holiness, and our bishops have a very sacred, very, very, difficult task. I have the greatest sympathy for them and their jobs. But nevertheless, when they are elected for that office, when they are ordained for that office, within the Church, within this Holy Order, well then they are called to something greater, something higher. It’s not for anything that we say: “May this person live for many years,” that we kiss his hand, that we dress them up in our finest robes, that we give them the seat at the head of the table. They have an awesome task, and they are called to a great, holy task within that. But as you say and as I would argue too, it’s all predicated on their personal, spiritual life. Similarly, God will be the judge of them just as God will be the judge for us.

Kevin: What is a bishop supposed to own versus what is supposed to belong to the Church? As an example, I’ve heard bishops say: “I own nothing. Everything belongs to the Church.” And then I read somewhere that they’ve donated half a million dollars or a million dollars of their own money to the this or that charity. First of all, how do bishops and metropolitans amass this sort of wealth? That’s question number one. And question number two tied to it is: “I know that private gifts by wealthy donors are often given for the private use of hierarchs, but what responsibility then does the hierarch, per the canons if there is such a thing, have to disclose that and to whom do these assets belong and so on?”

Fr. Rentel: Well if a bishop is given money personally, it’s his personal money. There’s nothing in the canons. I can’t even imagine that a bishop can’t have personal means. There’s nothing opposed to that. What the canons are very concerned about, in fact, is the blending of personal and Church’s money. If a bishop gets a thousand dollars, or somebody gives him a present, or gift, or he gets a stipend from a parish when he makes a visit, well then that’s his money. If the money is donated to the diocese or the Church, then he has to be sure, and this is what we were speaking about earlier, through his administrator, through the priests and the deacons, in the context of Church life that he is spending that money that is designated for the Church on Church things. Crimes are crimes. If somebody gives you money for such and such and you spend it on so and so, then that’s not a Church matter, that’s a criminal matter. If I give you this money, and I’m expecting that you’re going to spend it on this, and I actually write it down and we enter into some sort of obligation, then you don’t need to worry about the canons in that instance. The canons are perfectly clear that any sort of decisions that are induced by finances, somebody holding the allure, being seduced by money, well you’re obviously going to face canonical sanctions also. The third rails in the canonical traditional, of course, goes all the way back to the Book of Acts and simony. That’s deposition and being excommunicated from the Church which is rare to have both things done to you, to be deposed and excommunicated. However, simony is a very serious issue. And what people in the Church need to remember is whatever the sins and transgressions of priests, bishops, and even other laity, we’re not always going to be able to catch something and we’re not always going to be able do something. But on that last day when the Lord comes in glory, these things will be sought out; these things will be laid bare. And what people need to remember, it’s not what a canonist, a church tribunal is going to levy, you’ve got eternity to worry about.

Kevin: Most certainly and I think that is a good way to start to descend on our conversation. I would like to ask one final thing though, Father Alexander Rentel, as we’re starting to descend and that is this, a two-part question that has to do with laity. What happens if a decision by a synod, say to allow a certain thing to continue, meets with strong laity or clerical disagreement, or dissent on moral grounds? My first question is: “What recourse do laity and clergy really have?” And that really raises the second question of: “What is the role of laity in terms of obedience to Church governance historically?” And we only have a few minutes left so I’ll ask you to wrap up on that.

Fr. Rentel: It would depend on what level of a synod we are talking about. If it’s an eparchial synod, then of course you have the higher synod, the local synod. If it’s a local synod of a church, of one of the Patriarchates, what recourse is left? It’s very difficult to know. Conceivably, you could go on to Constantinople, but whether they would accept that appeal, whether that appeal could go forward, it’s very difficult to know. Typically, when a local synod makes a decision, that’s it. What it comes down to what recourse people have, there might not be much at that point. Issues don’t die though. If anything the Church history can teach us is that something that is wrong or not right, we can continue to consider. And I don’t want to use the words like protest or bring up again, but we can consider it and ask that something be revisited or reconsidered. When someone declares the end of the issue, usually you’re only midway through it. It can continue to go on. You take something like iconoclasm in the Church. Numerous times did a body that appeared to be the local synod in Constantinople say that iconoclasm was over in favor of iconoclasm. Only to give way to the restoration of icons. And when iconoclasm was finally over, after 130 years, it was not by a Church Council or anything like that but pretty much with the election of a new Patriarch, Patriarch Methodius, who himself was a supporter and defender of icons. The issue was more or less over without anything by way that we would maybe expect or had happened previously.

Kevin: Well with that, we’ll have to bring our very fascinating conversation to an end. My guest today has been Father Alexander Rentel. Father Alexander, again, is Assistant Professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. And Father, I appreciate your candor and thank you so much for being my guest today.

Fr. Rentel: Absolutely! My pleasure.