Posts tagged 1960
From the New York Times, November 25, 1952, page 31:
U.S. COURT VOIDS ACT ON RUSSIAN CHURCH
State Law to End Communist Sway in Orthodox Cathedral Here Is Upset by Ruling
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CITED
8-to-1 Decision Holds Action Violated 14th Amendment — Jackson Lone Dissenter
BY CLAYTON KNOWLES
WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 — The Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that a New York law, seeking to eliminate Communist influence in Russian Orthodox churches chartered in the state, fell into the realm of religious control barred by the Constitution of the United States.
Under the state law, the Rev. Benjamin Fedchenkoff, Archbishop of the church in North America by appointment of the Patriarch of Moscow, was removed from his pulpit at St. Nicholas Cathedral, 15 East Ninety-seventh Street, New York.
The Court of Appeals, highest tribunal of the state, upheld the validity of the state law under which the ouster was undertaken but the Supreme Court, reversing this finding in an eight-to-one decision, held that such a law violates the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion in this country.
The majority opinion, written by Associate Justice Stanley F. Reed, said a state Legislature “cannot validate action which the Constitution prohibits.”
Argument by Jackson
Registering his lone dissent, Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson held that the argument that the state law violated the Fourteenth Amendment safeguards of religious freedom was “so insubstantial that I would dismiss the appeal.”
“To me, whatever the canon law is found to be and whoever is the rightful head of the Moscow Patriarchate,” he wrote, “I do not think that New York law must yield to the authority of a foreign and unfriendly state masquerading as a spiritual institution.”
A bitter factional fight has raged at St. Nicholas Cathedral since 1917, when the Russian revolution brought changes in the central church. A faction, headed by the late Archbishop John S. Kedrovsky, got control of the cathedral in 1926 and kept it up to 1945, when a legal battle was begun over it.
Joined with Archbishop Fedchenkoff as an appellant in the present case has been the Rev. John Kedroff, a son of the late Archbishop. The basic fight has been between those supporting the mother church at Moscow and adherents of the Russian Church in America, recognized under New York law as having the authority over Russian Orthodox churches within the state. This latter group was set up in 1924.
It was on the basis of this law that officials of the cathedral sued to remove Archbishop Fedchenkoff, whose Moscow-bestowed title was Archbishop of the Archdiocese of North America and the Aleutian Islands.
The prevailing court opinion held that the New York law undertook to transfer control of the New York church from the central governing hierarchy and thereby “violates the Fourteenth Amendment by prohibiting in this country the free exercise of religion.”
Majority Opinion Stated
The Reed opinion took cognizance of the fact that the Court of Appeals felt that, since the Russian Government exercised control over the central church authorities, the state legislature had been reasonably justified “in enacting a law to free the American group from infiltration of such atheistic or subversive influences.”
“This legislation, in view of the Court of Appeals,” wrote Justice Reed, “gave the use of the church to the Russian church in America on the theory that this carry out the purposes of the religious trust. Thus, dangers of political use of church pulpits would be minimized.
“Legislative power to punish subversive action cannot be doubted. If such action should be actually attempted by a cleric neither his robe nor his pulpit would be a defense. But in this case, no probation of law arises. There is no action by any ecclesiastic. Here there is a transfer by statute of control over churches. This violates our rule of separation between church and state.”
In a concurring opinion, Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter stated that St. Nicholas Cathedral was “not just a piece of real estate . . . no more than is St. Patrick’s Cathedral or the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.” The cathedral, he maintained, was “an archiepiscopal see of one of the great religious organizations” in stating that the essence of the controversy was “the power to exercise religious authority.”
Finding Called “Sound”
Philip Adler, attorney for St. Nicholas Cathedral [actually, the attorney for the Moscow group], said last night that the position of the Supreme Court was “sound,” regardless of one’s attitude toward Soviet Russia. He emphasized that while he was uncompromisingly opposed to communism, “the church must be preserved.”
Ralph Montgomery Arkush, the opposing counsel [for the Metropolia group], said that he preferred not to comment until he had an opportunity to study the court’s opinion. He added, however, that there “still may be a remedy at common law.”
Editor’s note: That last line by Arkush, the Metropolia’s attorney, is important: that there “still may be a remedy at common law.” The Supreme Court struck down an act of the New York legislature, but the Metropolia didn’t give up. They went back to court, this time arguing that even if the legislature couldn’t decide the property dispute in the Metropolia’s favor, the New York courts could.
New York’s highest court agreed. It found, as a factual matter, that the Patriarch of Moscow was dominated by the secular authority of the USSR, and because of this, his appointed Archbishop could not, under New York common law, take possession of the Cathedral. It was a blatantly anti-Communist rationale, and the case made it all the way back to the Supreme Court in 1960, under the title Kreshik v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral. In an opinion far shorter than the 1952 case, the Supreme Court struck down the New York ruling, reasoning that it doesn’t matter whether the state violates religious freedom through the legislature or the judiciary — either way, you’ve got the state violating religious freedom, and that’s unconstitutional. “[O]ur ruling in Kedroff is controlling here,” reads the opinion, and once again Moscow won.
St. Nicholas Cathedral remains the property of the Moscow Patriarchate to this day. Any future dispute over the ownership of the Cathedral was put to rest by Moscow’s 1970 Tomos of Autocephaly, granted to the OCA, which stipulated that the Cathedral (among other properties) is “excluded from autocephaly on the territory of North America.” Today, the Cathedral is the official representation church of the Moscow Patriarchate in America.
Recently, I happened to look at Fr. Serafim Surrency’s 1973 book The Quest for Orthodox Unity in America, an invaluable study of American Orthodoxy from 1794 to 1973. This book is one of the best sources for information on, among other things, Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh’s “American Orthodox Catholic Church,” as well as the proto-SCOBA 1940s Federation. It’s also a great source for information on the very early years of SCOBA. Fr. Serafim himself was closely involved with SCOBA, and he provides all sorts of details not available elsewhere.
I thought our readers might be interested in Fr. Serafim’s list of the original member jurisdictions of SCOBA when it was founded in 1960. Here is the list, with Fr. Serafim’s notes:
- Albanian Diocese (under Constantinople)
- Carpatho-Russian Diocese (under Constantinople)
- Bulgarian Diocese (not in canonical relationship with the Mother Church of Sofia)
- Greek Archdiocese (under Constantinople)
- Romanian Archdiocese (under Bucharest)
- Russian Metropolia (not in canonical relationship with the Mother Church of Moscow)
- Russian Exarchate (under Moscow)
- Ukrainian Diocese (under Constantinople)
- Ukrainian Autocephalic Diocese (not in canonical relationship with the Mother Church)
- Syrian Archdiocese of N.Y. (under Antioch)
Of the eleven founding member jurisdictions, ten are what we would today consider “mainstream.” The odd one out is the Ukrainian Autocephalic Diocese, also sometimes known as the Ukrainian Church in Exile. In addition to those eleven jurisdictions, Surrency listed several more jurisdictions which, for one reason or another, didn’t participate in the founding of SCOBA:
- Albanian Archdiocese (in communion with the Church in Albania)
- Syrian Archdiocese of Toledo (under Antioch)
- Independent Romanian Diocese (not in canonical relationship with Bucharest)
- Russian Church in Exile (not in canonical relationship with the Church of Moscow)
- Ukrainian Metropolia (not in canonical relationship with the Mother Church)
Oddly, the Serbs are not mentioned at all.
Fifty years later, at the end of its existence, SCOBA also included eleven jurisdictions:
- Greek Archdiocese of America
- Antiochian Archdiocese of North America
- Serbian Church in North and South America
- Carpatho-Russian Diocese in the USA (under Constantinople)
- Romanian Archdiocese in the Americas (under Bucharest)
- Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church (under Sofia)
- Orthodox Church in America
- Ukrainian Church of the USA (under Constantinople)
- Moscow Patriarchal Parishes (under Moscow)
- Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (under Moscow)
- Albanian Diocese of America (under Constantinople)
There have been various mergers, name changes, and so forth, but the biggest difference between the 1960 list and the 2010 list is the absence of the Ukrainian Autocephalic Church. This body was led by Archbishop Palladios Rudenko. Here is what Surrency had to say about them (p. 114):
In the United States there are two other Ukrainian jurisdictions with less than a dozen parishes between them: one is called the “Holy Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church in Exile” headed by Archbishop Palladios who has been hospitalized and unable to function for the last four or five years-his jurisdiction seems to enjoy a quasi-canonical relationship with the Greek Archdiocese-and the second group is known as the “Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church in Exile” (Sobornopravna) which is headed by Archbishop Gregory.
They were, in 1973, one of the smallest jurisdictions in America, with just one bishop and five parishes. I’m still trying to get a handle on their history, but eventually, I’ll try to get an article done. Surely there’s a story to be uncovered.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
On today’s episode of the American Orthodox History podcast, I interviewed SOCHA executive director Fr. Oliver Herbel on the subject of the “Federated Orthodox Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions,” a 1943 attempt to create a national, pan-Orthodox organization.
The Federation is to SCOBA what the League of Nations was to the United Nations. Both the Federation and the League of Nations were missing a crucial player: the Federation lacked the involvement of the Russian Metropolia (today’s OCA), while the League of Nations didn’t include the United States. Both SCOBA and the UN were essentially trying to do the same things as their predecessor organizations, but they were obviously more successful and long-lasting.
Metropolitan Antony Bashir was the head of the Antiochian Archdiocese of New York, and he was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Federation. Even after it was basically defunct in 1944, Bashir tried to keep it going, at least on paper. In the 1955 and 1956 Yearbooks of American Churches, for instance, Bashir is listed as the President of the Federation, even though it has been non-functioning for more than a decade. In a 1961 publication commemorating Bashir’s 25th anniversary as Metropolitan, we find this sentence: “In March of 1960, he spearheaded the reorganization of the Federation into the much stronger Conference of Orthodox Bishops of the Americas, which he now serves as Vice-President.”
In a way, then, the Federation was SCOBA.
UPDATE (12/3/09): Fr. James Early sent an email asking if I could identify the people in the above photo; in particular, he asked whether the “right-most suit-wearing hierarch” was Metropolitan Antony Bashir. Here is my reply:
Metropolitan Antony is indeed the right-most suit-wearing hierarch, standing near the center of the picture. However, I don’t know who most of the other men are. Certainly, the bishop in the white hat is Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich, and I assume the bishop in between Antony and Leonty is Archbishop Michael Konstantinides of the Greek Archdiocese. Abp Michael died on July 13, 1958, so if he’s in the photo, we can be sure it was taken before that date. His successor, Abp Iakovos, is not in the photo, which further suggests a date of 1958 or earlier.
I doubt that all of the individuals in the photo are bishops. In fact, it may be that Bashir is the left-most bishop in the photo, as all the men to the left of him look like priests.
UPDATE (12/23/09): According to Fr. Alexander Lebedeff in the comments (below), the second man from the left is Fr. George Grabbe, Chancellor of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. Fr. Alexander writes, “The ROCOR had been very involved in the precursor of SCOBA, and participated in the organizational meetings of SCOBA, as well. The ROCOR withdrew when informed that the Bishop in charge of the Moscow Patriarchal parishes in America would be invited to join SCOBA. That did not occur, but the ROCOR never returned to the table.”
UPDATE: (2/23/10): I have just received an email from Fr. Demetrius T. Dogias, in which he identifies several other individuals in this photo. According to Fr. Demetrius, the man standing at the far left is Bishop (later Metropolitan) Germanos Polyzoides. The fifth man from the left (that is, the man standing to the left of Met Antony Bashir) is Bp Demetrios of Olympus, who, at the time, was Chancellor of the Greek Archdiocese. The fourth man from the right (that is, the man with his head down, next to Met Leonty Turkevich) is Bp Bohdan, of the Ukrainian Archdiocese associated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Fr. Demetrius also offered this background information on the Greek Archbishop Michael, who is in the center of the photo (in between Bashir and Turkevich):
It may interest you to know that Archbishop Michael, also in the Dec. 2 picture, had studied in Kiev and that one of his teachers was the later Metropolitan Anastassy of the Russian Chuch Outside Russia. Michael went to London as the priest at the St. Sophia Cathedral, and was granted the extremely rare title of Great (or “Grand”) Archimandrite. He then was elected Metropolitan of Corinth in Greece, from which position he was elected Archbishop of North and South America.
Many thanks to Fr. Demetrius for providing all this information. We can now identify quite a few of the individuals in the photo. Here it is again, with numbers to make the identification easier:
Click on the photo to see a larger image. Here are the people we’ve identified so far:
1. Bp Germanos Polyzoides of Nyssa, Greek Archdiocese
2. Fr. George Grabbe, ROCOR Chancellor
5. Bp Demetrios of Olympus, Greek Archdiocese Chancellor
6. Met Antony Bashir, Antiochian Archdiocese
7. Abp Michael Konstantinides, Greek Archdiocese
8. Met Leonty Turkevich, Russian Metropolia
9. Bp Bohdan, Ukrainian Archdiocese
As more identifications come in, I’ll continue to update this article. And once again, thanks to all those who have sent in identifications so far.