Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Patriarch Kirill Makes Priest who Abused His Wife a Bishop, Touching Off a New Scandal

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 21 – One of the most powerfully affecting portrayals of church life under the Soviets was Vladimir Volkoff’s 1973 novel, Le trêtre (translated into English as The Traitor (New York, 1973), in which the KGB recruits a priest, murder his wife so that he can become a bishop and leave him at the end uncertain as to whether he is serving God or state or himself.

            Something similar is happening in Russia today, although the priest who has become a bishop apparently has no qualms about what is happening, his former wife was not murdered but has gone public with stories of abuse by launching an online petition against him, and the Moscow Patriarchate has swung to his defense.

            Four days ago, Patriarch Kirill elevated Archmandite Ignaty (Golinchenko) to the rank of bishop and assigned him to the Yenesei see. Two days later, his former wife  -- they were married in 2011 and divorced four years later -- said on social media he had abused her regularly ( and

            Like most victims of abuse, she said, she did not tell anyone at the time out of fear that her husband, who refused to allow her to take a job in order to keep her dependent, would take revenge on her or out of shame.  Once she threatened to go public, she says, and he beat her. She did not try again.

            But Kseniya Golinchenko now says she believes Russian believers need to know what kind of a man the patriarchate is making a bishop and has launched a petition calling on Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Panteleimon of Krasnoyarsk and Achinsk to reverse course (патриархия-русской-православной-церкви-священника-тирана-повысили-в-звание-епископа).

            Given welcome changes in public attitudes toward abuse, this story has attracted attention far beyond the normal outlets covering religion (, and

            But instead of taking these charges seriously, the church and its supporters have swung into action and launched a campaign to undermine the credibility of the victim. They have said she is lying and that no abuse occurred and now are accusing her of allowing racy pictures of herself to appear online (

                Kseniya Golinchenko does not deny that she has worked as a model – she had few other opportunities to make money, she suggests – but she does insist that the pictures of her that have appeared are tasteful and not the pornography the church leaders are suggesting. 

            Because this conflict is taking place so far from Moscow and its media, it is uncertain how it will develop; but it is important to take note of not only because family abuse is rife in Russia not only among the lay people but also among priests. How the patriarchate ultimately resolves this case will say a lot about what its values really are. 

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