Pastor's Corner 090912

posted Sep 5, 2012, 2:10 PM by Music Director

               A few weeks ago there was an uproar among free speech advocates and members of the musical arts community when 3 members of the Russian alternative (“punk”) rock collective Pussy Riot were convicted of “hooliganism” and sentenced to 3 years in prison for performing an impromptu song and dance routine inside the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.  Being an American of Russian descent and a pop music fan as well as a clergyman, I was very interested in this case and its outcome as I followed it in the press from the arrest of the three young ladies, their trial and its outcome.

               The song and dance routine were a protest against the alleged cozy relationship between the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church, particularly the country’s President, Vladimir Putin, and the Church’s supreme leader, Patriarch Kirill (Cyril) I.   With their faces covered in neon masks, the group performed before an altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary, asking her to “please drive Putin away." Many in Russia feel that Mr. Putin rigged the election that brought him back to the presidency, and believe he is trying to erode the civil rights of citizens in an attempt to bring back the authoritarianism that existed when Russia was part of the communist Soviet Union.

               Like most if not all Americans, I am a firm believer in freedom of speech.  However, there are limits to the freedoms we enjoy.  The classic example in this case is that I am not free to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theatre for the risk of catastrophe it presents.  Whether or not these accusations are true, what civil libertarians seem to be missing is that the group chose to protest their case not in a public space like a park or town square, but in a house of worship.  (Whether or not any services were being conducted at the time is unclear.) 

               We have experienced similar situations in this country.  Several years ago, members of the AIDS Advocacy group “Act Up” staged a noisy protest inside St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City while Mass was being celebrated.  Some members even took Holy Communion and stomped on the sacred host!  These young ladies claim they never intended any disrespect to the Church or its sacred space, but isn’t that exactly what they did?  How would any one of us feel if they came into our church, or homes, and did this?  There is a time and a place for everything; the young ladies chose the right time, but they did not choose the right place.

That being said, a 3-year prison sentence is rather extreme.  In our country, they probably would’ve gotten community service, or maybe at most 30 days in a municipal jail.  And I do sympathize with their cause.  I am not a fan of Mr. Putin or the Russian government at this time (see Syria and Russian support for “Bashar the Butcher.”)  And who can fault these young ladies for their courage and perhaps even faith, as they implored the Mother of God, revered as much by the Eastern Orthodox as Roman Catholics, for her assistance in bringing about a more just society?

It is said, “Cooler heads will prevail.”  Perhaps that’s what’s needed most of all right now in the realm of politics everywhere: a little more thoughtful persuasion and respectful discourse, and a lot less vitriol.  (Democrats and Republicans, are you listening?)  And now that the season is upon us:



And Phillies, too!


In His Love,

Fr. Mike