This study for A Farewell to Rus is of one of the most controversial figures in Russian Church history. Patriarch Sergei Nikolaevich Stagorodsky (1877-1944) is vilified by many in the Russian emigration; he is execrated as a toady of the Soviets and a traitor to the Church. I believe that this reaction is overblown. In fact, he was imprisoned twice by the Reds, in 1921, and again in 1926-27. In short, he did pay a price for his confession of faith. In 1927, he issued a declaration in favour of the Soviet government, but, one has to view this in perspective. This was done only after he had suffered imprisonment, not once, but, twice. I wonder how many of his critics in the West paid such a toll?
He was desperately trying to save a remnant of the Church from the ravening and relentless atheist onslaught of the time. Indeed, that is why his hometown of Arzamas is erecting a memorial to his memory. In fact, one of the most prominent ROCOR bishops (I believe that it was Vitaly Maksimenko, but, I stand under correction in this) wrote that we should “honour the great podvig of Metropolitan Sergius”.
I say that any of us who did not face the ferocious situation that he did have no right to judge him. I know that there are those who shall not be satisfied until all the clergy of the MP kneel on shards of broken glass, beat themselves bloody with whips of barbed wire, and confess that the critics of Sergius in the West were not only completely in the right, but, that they are unfit human beings for having cooperated with the Soviets (Fr Alexander Lebedeff’s imagery in this is completely spot-on!). Such critics are completely off-base, and no decent Orthodox person should pay them any heed. I did not have my head in the lion’s jaws. I refuse to judge those who did. May God forgive all those who had to compromise in order to survive. They faced a terrible and implacable foe.