Diocese of Germany and the United Kingdom

Statement from the Chancery of the German Diocese on the Publication of Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoyís The Law of God in Ukrainian

The book The Law of God was written by Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, in Nyack, NY (USA) in the 1950ís, and went through four editions in the West. From the early 1990ís, it was often republished in the CIS, where it became a standard textbook. Now this book has merited a translation into Ukrainian. This fact should be welcomed--had it occurred in a proper manner. Unfortunately, in this instance we are dealing with a case of theft and false substitution.

The Ukrainian edition includes a copyright symbol, reserving the rights to the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate.” But the publishers did not bother to acquire these rights from their legal owner. The Law of God was printed by St. Job of Pochaev Press in Jordanville (USA) and Holy Trinity Monastery holds the bookís world copyright. In each copy, in accordance with copyright law, the following words are printed, in Russian: “All rights reserved by the publisher.” To place one's own copyright without reference to its owner is outright theft.

Who is this author, whose name is changed to “Slobidskii?” When and where did he write The Law of God? All this is suppressed. The fact that this book, The Law of God, might have been first written in Russian can only be vaguely suspected by the reader in the phrase written by the publishers that in some previous editions, “of a certain Russian dialect,” there were already attempts made to make additions and changes. The changes the publishers allege were made of its historical pages by the publishers of the Russian-language version of The Law of God remain unclear to us.

The publication arm of the UOC-KP states this in order to justify its insertion in the book, moreover, it states its disagreement with some of the authorís thoughts, especially the area concerning the history of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But Protopriest S. Slobodskoy wrote nothing at all about the Ukrainian Church. The history section of The Law of God ends with “The Baptism of Rus,” that is, with the Saints Olga and Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles. In those days, there was only Rusí. Fr. Seraphim does not foist historical concepts into The Law of God, especially regarding Ukraine.

Yet this is done by the Ukrainian publishers: in place of the five pages removed by the UOC-KP publishers, an entire section is inserted under the title “Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” on pages 350-442, that is, one-seventh of the length of the book. This insertion, according to the publishers, was taken “from our manuals,” that is, from autocephalist textbooks. The publishers, assuming for themselves the right to disagree with some thoughts of Fr. Seraphim (without specifying which), do not grant the author any such rights, depriving him even of the right to object to the stuffing of his book with various historical digressions. He could have written about the autocephaly of Moscow, of Peterís reforms of 1721, of the election of Patriarch Tikhon in 1917, etc. But he did not. One should give this some honest thought. The publishers of the UOC-KP had no right to make any “augmentations” to suit its own tastes, even of a book they had liked very much by another author.

The publishers were obligated first of all to have their translation of the book approved by the owners of the international copyright, according to international law. This is the procedure for any translation, into any language. Secondly, the UOC-KP is free to publish as many of its own textbooks and historical volumes, and place their “copyright” upon them, but has no right to insert an existing book into another existing book without permission of the latter's copyright owners. Of course, the publishers note in their Preface that there was an “insertion,” but as a whole this publication carefully hides the source of the text of The Law of God. One thing is clear: we are faced with an intentional false substitution.

The aims of such criminal publishing activity is clear: using the authority of the textbook The Law of God while hiding its genesis, it promotes its own UOC-KP. The promotional intent is apparent in that the inserted text contains more color photographs of the leader of the UOC-KP (23 in all), than the entire book has color illustrations of icons of Christ the Savior (16 in all).

The goal of hiding the origin of the book is also seen in the appeal of the “Foreword” by the author. “The translation to the Ukrainian” besides the first lines, repeats word for word the “Foreword to the Second Edition,” of Protopriest Seraphimís book. Although in the first altered lines there are essentially no new ideas, the words “Ukrainian” is inserted. But the references to “Russian children” in the emigration and the “foreign environment” are deleted. There is minimal adaptation to the circumstances. It could have been explained by a footnote, but then it would have been necessary to divulge the source of the text, personally signed by Fr. Seraphim and dated 1966. A reviewer, and moreso the simple reader, would get the impression that the Foreword was composed specially for the Ukrainian edition (“according to Slobodskoy”), and only a comparison with the original shows that the editors did not labor over this “reworking.”

The editors, besides the first few lines mentioned, simply reprint Fr. Seraphimís "Foreword," deleting the famous discussion by Fr. Seraphim “of the correct execution of the sign of the cross,” not only failing to ask the author or his lawful heirs, but without even inserting an ellipsis. Yet as we see from the (deleted) text, for Fr. Seraphim himself, as the author of The Law of God, this was a specific opening and had a profound meaning in principle. It was precisely for this reason that he ends the passage “on the making of the sign of the cross” in his "Foreword" with the words “May the Lord preserve us from all departures, no matter how minor, from the fundamentally Orthodox faith of Christ.” These words were inserted as a lead-in into the wishes of Fr. Seraphim... But the editors of the UOC-KP publishers threw out these important words. What is the meaning of such disregard for the author, and not only the author?

It is indicated that the edition numbers 100,000. The date 10/7/2003 is shown. The title page says “Third Edition.” Could that be true? No, this is probably a mistake, which happens often with dishonest journalistic operations--this is merely a sign that the theft was committed from the third edition of The Law of God.

All the eloquent expressions on the unity of the Church as the Body of Christ in the "Foreword" and in the historical section imposed upon Fr. Seraphimís work (the criticism of which we will not enter into here), and also the quality of the binding, the color illustrations, all figure against the publishers against this background. But from the practical idea that the text of Fr. Seraphim in and of itself will undoubtedly bring benefit in its Ukrainian translation, one must separate out the fact of blasphemy, to wit: here--in the name of the Church,--theft and cunning deceit is being committed, with the complete disregard of the intentions of the late clergyman, the trampling underfoot of the rights of publishers of The Law of God who have remained faithful to the Church. What incredible cynicism in matters of the Church are in this act of this piracy!

But with all this it is completely clear that the very disregard of the testament “Thou shalt not steal” and others as well, spiritually incriminates these persons who “entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way” (John 10:1).

Protopriest Nikolai Artemoff
Secretary of the German Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Munich, March 18/31, 2004