Thursday, November 18, 2010

Russian Orthodox Church "can not" lift excommunication of Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy’s excommunication from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1901 can’t be overturned because the writer never publicly renounced his “tragic spiritual aberrations” a church official said.

“The decision of the Most Holy Governing Synod merely stated an accomplished fact,” said Archimandrate Tikhon Shevkunov, executive secretary of Patriarch Kirill’s council on culture. “Count Tolstoy excommunicated himself from the church, he broke with it entirely. He not only didn’t deny this, but emphasized it vigorously at every opportunity.”

Shevkunov was responding to an open letter to the patriarch from Sergei Stepashin, a former prime minister, on the occasion of the centenary of Tolstoy’s death on Nov. 20. Stepashin, as head of the Russian Book Union, asked the patriarch to explain the church’s position on Tolstoy and to make a “public display of compassion in some form.”

Shevkunov’s and Stepashin’s letters were published today by Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the government’s newspaper of record.

Tolstoy was Russian literature’s most “tragic personality,” whose attacks on the church were “horrifying for the Orthodox consciousness.”

In the last decades of his life, Tolstoy’s activities were “truly destructive for Russia, which he loved,” Shevkunov said. “They brought misfortune upon the people whom he so wanted to serve.”


The Archer of the Forest said...

How can you lift excommunication on a person after he'd dead? I don't believe that's even possible.

gdelassu said...

Surely it must be possible to rehabilitate an excommunicate even after his death. After all, it is possible to anathematize someone after death, and surely the Church has at least as much powered to forgive as She has to condemn.

I think that the problem here is that there is no new information on which to base a change of opinion. If some new trove of Tolstoy's private papers were to be uncovered, suggesting a repentance late in life or some such, I would be surprised if the Russian Orthodox Church would claim that it was powerless to lift the censure. I cannot see why the ROC ought to do so in this case, however (not that the ROC really cares what I, a Catholic, think).

Anonymous said...

There is a certain blogger who likes to say that only bad, ignorant konvertsy and liberals believe in "excommunicating oneself". I guess Archimandrite Tikhon -- who that blogger likes to praise -- must now be a bad ex-Anglican konvertsy as well. Teehee.