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March 24, 2023

The infamous alliance

It is to be noted that the latest Presidential elections have cast a spotlight on religious dispute. In other words, religious confession of the candidates became a determining factor. So far, it only mattered that they revealed their faith, at the most, compared to religious indifference: Emil Constantinescu had even mentioned a certain Monk Vasile, whose support he was counting on – a subtle way of hinting that he was in excellent relations with God, too – and to ruin some of the legitimacy of “atheist” Iliescu and his regime, denounced as a pack of descendants of religion-opposing Communism.

Iliescu’s successors, nonetheless, made their homework and attacked their enemies precisely in their weakest points: the religious faith. Adrian Nastase counted on certain options of his adversary Traian Basescu, who was promoting increased rights for the gay community, wanted to make brothels legal and opposed the plan of a new and immense Patriarchal cathedral. But the most unexpected excesses in this direction were made by Victor Ponta, who was publicly blessed by bishops, priests and monks by obvious electoral recommendation. He also had a pretext: his opponent was German and Lutheran.

The one thing that should surprise us was the approval given by Patriarch Daniel to this strategy of the Orthodox clergy. Nobody can say he was not aware of it or that he could not resist it. He knew and he took advantage of it. It is just now that we find out the dimensions of the promises made by the Prime Minister running for President. His successor is simply unable to honour tham all. This is why he stopped financing the building and restoration of churches, because the salaries of employees representing the Orthodox Church increased by more than half.

If the Prime Minister blocked at this point further wage increases, he acted differently in the cases of Church employees, who thus gained a significant privilege. Led by the Church, yet paid by the state, priests cannot do anything but preach with increasing intensity over the “Byzantine symphony”, which was so profitable to their profession, actually. In fact, the Orthodox Church seems to be the most profitable political investment. How many Mayors, Presidents of County Councils and Members of the Parliament gained their positions due to the support of the Church? More than we are inclined to believe. The issue is that the advice of the clergy is highly interested: it supports people willing on their turn to support the clergy. And there are way too many people giving credit to these recommendations, less concerned by the actual political qualities of the respective candidates. We might even say that the Church is the most efficient party. It has highly obedient members, always influential, of a stable social status.

No important politician has any interest to restrict the privileges of the Church. They are yet unable to count on the support of a wider part of the population. Instead, the Church owns the most efficient populist rhetoric. Opposing it is an inconvenient choice for consciences.

Many people are actually indifferent as far as religion is concerned, but they would not support firm measures against the Church as they view it mostly as a benign institution, fundamentally useful to the society. And thus, the Church prospers. In Madrid, Romanians are discontent for not being allowed to build an even more grandiose cathedral. As we see, the pattern of the Bucharest cathedral is working beyond the borders as well, a majestic building of high symbolic value for the rebirth of the Orthodox Church after the fall of Communism. Even the state supports this export of Orthodoxy, as it grants support to the Romanian Monastery at Mount Athos, too.

If they truly knew the anti-European speeches promoted in such location, perhaps they would think twice before granting them so much money.

It is only due to random incidents that people actually find out the amount of things the Church hates deeply. And unfortunately, the most twisted result of this ambiguous alliance between the Church and its political clientele is fuelling the damaging Conservativism of Orthodoxy, free of any pressure to give a responsible reconsideration to its bases.

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