35. Father Dimitry Dudko

Russia's Catacomb Saints


Father Dimitry Dudko
Fr. Dimitry Dudko’s activity in the past several years has been very much in the spirit of the Catacomb Church in its early years. We could cite his “suffering Orthodoxy,” his apocalyptic awareness, and his veneration of the Tsar-martyr Nicholas II; further, his bold accusations against the betrayal of Orthodoxy by his own bishops have not been heard in Russia since the days of Metropolitan Joseph and other founders of the Catacomb Church in the late 1920’s; and the fervor of his heartfelt Orthodoxy is so far from the dreary legalism of the Moscow Patriarchate that it can only be compared with that of the early martyrs of the Catacomb Church in Russia.
Let us see now what Fr. Dimitry himself has said about the Catacomb Church in Russia, about his own attitude to the “Sergianism” of the Moscow Patriarchate, and about his view of the church situation in general in Russia.
“We all recognize Patriarch Tikhon, and we look on Patriarch Sergius as a betrayal of the Church’s interests to please the authorities. The following (Patri archs)—Alexy and the present Pimen—only go on the road already opened. We have no other hierarchy. The Catacomb Church would be good—but where is it? The True Orthodox Church—these are good people, morally steadfast; but they have almost no priesthood and you simply can’t find them, while there are many who are thirsting. And one has to be ministered to by the hierarchy we do have. Immediately the question arises: are they ministering to us? Basically, they are the puppets of the atheists. And another question: at least, are they believers? Who will answer this question? I fear to answer...
“One should say a few words about the so-called Tikhonites, the True Orthodox Christians. I have met them, rejoiced at their moral steadfastness, rejoiced even at their conservatism, rejoiced at their courage and asceticism; but I’ve taken a look at them, and they have no unanimity. And the chief thing about them: they have almost no priesthood, the leadership has been taken over by women dressed in black like nuns, who consider everyone to be heretics and only themselves infallible.
They should be put in a museum—and I speak without irony—in a museum where people could look at them and even learn something; but after all, life is not a museum. Some of the “Tikhonites” have begun to preach celibacy for everyone, but can everyone take this?
“Many of them suffer for years without communion. One such person came to me; I spoke with him, and he received communion. And you should have seen how he instantly came to life!
“And so, whether we wish or not, we must take into consideration the hierarchy which we have. What should we do?
“I think that, being together with everyone, we should strive to revive church life. But how? This question is like a nail driven into our brains. 0 Lord, have You really abandoned us?
“It is easy to observe from outside, but how difficult it is to do something—it is unbearable, impossible. But one must do something.
“The question stands thus: either live or perish.
“To perish is not the same thing as deciding the question abstractly. And you who try to draw a conclusion from the whole matter—do not take just one tendency for an example. I think that everyone now wants to find a way out; we’re sick and tired of atheism, it has become repugnant even to the atheists.
“If possible, carefully support us—here I appeal to the West. Try not to remake us to somehow fit your own situation. The Russians have their own path. You can lure them into another one, but you will see that you will get no good from it.
“Each one goes on his own path. We are going on the path of Golgotha, a difficult one; such is God’s will. If you support our cross—thank you. We need nothing more than this; we must find th way out ourselves. If we do this, perhaps we will have something new to say to you also” (Possev, July, 1979, pp. 37-38).
No open-minded Orthodox Christian in the West can read such a statement—which comes from a deeply suffering Orthodox heart—without feeling great sympathy for Fr. Dimitry and all like him who are trying to find their way Out of the literally unparalleled and impossible situation in which they find themselves within the Moscow Patriarchate and in an atheist society.
The situation of Fr. Dimitry in many respects is identical with that of those new-calendarist Greek priests who are aware of the false path of their own bishops but are unable to “join the old calendarists” because of the confusion and extremism to be found in their ranks (not, of course, among all old calendarists, but in enough of them to make the situation very confusing and difficult). Fr. Dimitry does not have the third alternative of “joining the Synod”—although it is quite clear from his own statements that this is precisely what he would do if the choice were his (that is, if he were to be exiled to the West). Here, for example, are some of his words about the Russian Church Outside of Russia in one of his last tape-recorded talks before his arrest (Grebnovo, November, 1979):
“They have to preserve Tradition in the West. This is better and more convenient for them. Let it be that it is the ‘old women’ there, but they also can do much. We know who is pained over Russia, for whom Russia is dear, even if there may be among them some extreme views.
“I will say that I am very thankful to the Synodal Church Outside of Russia because it is most of all people from there that, when they come here, I feel they are ‘mine’; it is so pleasant to speak with them. . .Perhaps not everyone in the Church Outside of Russia understands me, but for the most part they do understand. And I’m not offended! When people from the autocephalous American Church came, there were good talks; but I feel that they have a somewhat Western outlook.
“They tell me that I am of.a Slavophile tendency. I acknowledge, of course, that I am really a Russian, a priest, and that I have a Russian attitude, without being separate from the Fullness of the Church. Both a ‘Russian priest’ and the ‘Russian Church’ are partial phenomena which must enter into the whole. But before me always and first of all is the Church. It is to the Church that I strive to bring people” ( Vestnik of the Western European Diocese of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, 1980, No. 16, p. 17).
In the Soviet Union, as nowhere else in the world, it is impossible to apply strict “jurisdictional” labels. In the Moscow Patriarchate there have been betrayer bishops, and the very principle of “Sergianism” is a betrayal of Orthodoxy, as Fr. Dimitry has said; this is why the free Russian Church Outside of Russia can have no communion with this jurisdiction. But in the same Moscow Patriarchate there is an increasing number of priests like Fr. Dimitry Dudko who do not participate in this betrayal, but speak in the spirit of the Catacomb Church and the free Russian Church Outside of Russia. We even know of at least one Catacomb priest (and pro bably there are others) who deliberately entered the Moscow Patriarchate in order to bring the grace of God to more people than is possible in the small cells of the Catacomb Church.
People cut off from the Catacomb Church also receive communion from priests of the Moscow Patriarchate whom they can trust (Fr. Dimitry has described one such incident), and we cannot condemn them for this. The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, in view of all this, has decreed for all dioceses the commemoration at the Proskomedia of Fr. Dimitry and other imprisoned priests and laymen of the Moscow Patriarchate (Ukas No. 17 of January 16129, 1980; see The Orthodox Word, 1980, No. 90, p. 2); and as zealous a hierarch as Archbishop Andrew of Novo-Diveyevo commemorated publicly at the Great Entrance of the Liturgy the newly-reposed hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archbishop Getmogen, who ended his life in disgrace with the church authorities because he would not accept the dictation of the atheists.
None of this changes in the least our basic attitude towards Sergianism as a betrayal of the Church, nor does it allow us who are free to enter into communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. But it does persuade us that, far from viewing Fr. Dimitry and others like him (such as Boris Talantov ten years ago) as jurisdictional “enemies” because they do not “join the Catacomb Church,” we should try to understand better their extremely difficult situation and rejoice that such a genuine Orthodox Christian phenomenon is coming even from the midst of the compromised Moscow Patriarchate—a proof that church life is not dead even there and a promise that, once the political situation in Russia that produced “Sergianism” will have changed, a full unity in the faith will be possible with such courageous strug glers as Fr. Dimitry.
We do know that a Catacomb bishop showed his concern, from the other world, that Fr. Dimitry be ordained to the priesthood, even in the Moscow Pattiarchate. This was Bishop Parthenius, a vicar of the Odessa diocese, who died in a concentration camp in the 1930’s without recognizing Metropolitan Sergius. Once, in the difficult days of 1960 when Dimitry Dudko was despairing of ever being ordained (two years had passed since his graduation from the theological academy, and he was still regarded with suspicion by the church authorities as an ex-prisoner), the mother of his friend Gleb Yakunin had a dream: “Bishop Parthenius was standing fully vested at the table of preparation and told her: ‘1 am taking out a small piece of prosphora for your Mitya (Dimitry)—on November 7(20) he will be a deacon—and a large piece—on November 8(21) he will be a priest.” It happened as Bishop Parthenius had foretold, and from that time Fr. Dimitry has always commemorated this Catacomb bishop at the Liturgy as one of his own fathers in the faith. (A Levitin Krasnov, in Russian Life, Jan. 22, 1975.)