Understanding Orthodox Anti-Catholic Rhetoric

There is to be sure a pervasive anti-Catholic mentality among Orthodox Christians. Denying this is pointless and foolish and I have called Orthodox Christians on it both publicly and privately.   But identifying a problem is easier than understanding its causes.  My pastoral experience suggests to me that while anti-Catholic rhetoric can  reflect a lack of charity, it more often is rooted in theological/historical illiteracy.

That said, I don’t think that Orthodox anti-Catholicism is institutional .  While individual Orthodox Christians–laity and clergy–are guilty of this sin, it is not the Orthodox Church as such which is anti-Catholic anymore than the Catholic Church as such is responsible for say the sacking of Constantinople (to pull an Orthodox favorite).

So yes, there is a pervasive anti-Catholic mentality among the Orthodox. But in a conversation about the theological differences between our two Churches this is a red herring. I do think that the psychological question of various attitudes of Orthodox Christians toward Roman Catholics is an important one–as is, by the way, the diversity of not always irenic Catholic attitudes toward the Orthodox–but it seems to me that we must be careful to not mix psychological and theological questions.

I do think that while Catholics are right to object to much of the rhetorical excesses of Orthodox apologists, they are often unaware of how not simply individual Catholics, but official Catholic policy have contributed to the hard feelings.   Let me explain.

Currently I serve as a priest in the Orthodox Church in America.  As deacon I served in the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of Johnstown.  In many ways, these jurisdictions are very different not only in their liturgical and ascetical practice but also their own internal ethos.  They share however a common historical foundation in the experience of those Greek Catholics who lived in America in the  late 19th and ealry 20th centuries.  Central to this experience was the often hostile response of  Roman Catholic bishops and lower clergy to Greek Catholics clergy and laity.

Among contemporary Byzantine Catholics stories of enforced Latinization of Greek Catholic parishes by unsympathetic Latin rite bishops are still told.  The memories of past injustices are still fresh.  These injustices include not only the imposition of alien liturgical customs and practices but  the denial of Holy Communion to Greek Catholic clergy wives in (Latin rite) Catholic hospitals and the denial of admission to (Latin rite) Catholic parochial schools of the  children of the Greek Catholic clergy.

Psychologically and historically one of the most prominent injustices  committed by Latin rite Catholics against their Greek Catholic brethern is Archbishop John Ireland‘s refusal to allow Fr Alexis Toth to serve the Carpatho-Russian Catholic faithful in Minneapolis, MN.  Archbishop Ireland’s justification for this was that Toth was a married (albeit, widowed) priest.  What made Ireland’s refusal so noteworthy is that it was that he did so in direct contradiction to the canonical rights of both Fr Toth and the Greek Catholic community.  Eventually, Toth and tens of thousands of Greek Catholics would leave the Catholic Church and join the Orthodox Church forming the nucleus of what is now the Orthodox Church in America (in 1994, “Protopresbyter Alexis Toth was glorified as St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre).  But this sad chapter did not end the conflict between Latin rite and Greek rite Catholics in America.

In the 1920′s, and again in violation of the canonical rights of their own Greek Catholic faithful in America, Rome suppressed the ordination of married men to the priesthood.  This lead in time to the creation of what is today the Carpatho-Russian American Orthodox Diocese of Johnstown under Bishop (and later, Metropolitan) Orestes (Chornock).

None of this ancient history either for ethnic Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Christians in America.  Nor is it ancient history for their Byzantine Catholic counterparts who share not only a common history here in America but often blood ties.  Sadly, this history is too little known by Catholics outside these circles.  This is unfortunate because while it does not justify the misrepresentation of Catholic doctrine or practice, does go a long way to helping us understand at least one stream of Orthodox anti-Catholicism.

Fr Alexander Schmemann was an Orthodox observer at the Second Vatican Council.  His thoughts on the Council can summarize what is the commonly held complaint by both Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics against Rome.

Responding to Council’s Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches (Orientalium Ecclesiarum),Schmemann  writes,  “The Orthodox appreciate, to be sure, the efforts made in these last years by some spiritual leaders of these communities to represent and voice within the Roman Catholic Church the Eastern tradition as a whole, efforts which were especially obvious at the Council itself and which no doubt greatly contributed to the basic orientation of the present Decree. ”  He goes on to describe the document as a whole as “positive, irenic, and constructive’ (Response to Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches).

Nevertheless, he has several “important reservations” about the document.

First of all, the Decree seems to “take for granted” and to perpetuate the reduction of the differences between the East and the West to the sole area of rites, discipline, and “way of life.” But it is precisely this reduction which forms the basis of “uniatism” that the Orthodox reject, for they affirm that the liturgical and canonical tradition of the East cannot be isolated from doctrinal principles which it implies and which constitute the real issue between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Finally, one word about the communicalio in sacris. In regard to this painful and complex problem, the Decree shows great tact and caution. An Orthodox commentator must stress, however, that even a partial solution of this problem must be a bilateral action and that, given its crucial importance, it must express, on the Orthodox side, the consensus of all Orthodox Churches.

The decree solemnly proclaims the equality of the Eastern tradition yet, at the same time, formulates and regulates it in terms of a Western and even juridical ecclesiology hardly adequate to its spirit and orientations. To a great degree it remains thus a Latin text about the Eastern tradition. The institution of Patriarchates, for example, is not only given an importance it does not have, in fact, in the Eastern Church, but is also defined as a personal jurisdiction of the Patriarch over other bishops, which is alien to the Eastern canonical tradition, where the Patriarch or any other Primate is always a primus inter pares.

To use a modern idiom, the Latin Council fathers, and Roman Catholics in general, just don’t get it–”it” being the Christian East, Orthodox and Catholic.

Recently I wrote in a comment on another blog (Called to Communion), where I said that I acknowledged that many Protestant inquirers to the Orthodox Church come wanting a polemical presentation of the Gospel.  This is understandable because it is what they know. It is also one of things that Fr Seraphim Rose warned about–the tendency of Protestant converts to bring into the Orthodox Church their spiritual baggage.   Sadly, as one Greek Old Calendar bishop told me, that too many converts to the Orthodox Church see in Orthodoxy a chance to vindicate, at least in part, the Reformation and their own animus toward the Church of Rome. Pastorally this is simply a reality and one which sober spiritual fathers work to heal in their spiritual children.

One cannot fully understand Orthodox anti-Catholic rhetoric without first understanding the real harm Roman Catholics have caused in their mistreatment of Byzantine Catholics.  Too often Latin rite Catholics  have acted unilaterally in matters that effect both Latin and Byzantine Catholics or Catholic and Orthodox Christians.

So what can be done?  I will look at that in my next post.  Until then your constructive thoughts are welcome.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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  • J. Andrew Deane

    Father,
    Thank you for this story. I do not doubt that this is not well known by Roman Catholics, but to what extent would you characterize this as something that Roman Catholics would not lament upon hearing? When you commented on Called to Communion you said that Roman Catholics will not find the story “to their taste” as much as it would to a Byzantine Catholic like me. Is that solely due to our familiarity with the story, or were you implying that there is something bigger that you’ve seen in your interactions with Roman Catholics? Regardless, you point out something that is a very tragic part of our history, and I pray that we all can somehow be a part of undoing the wounds caused in that episode of history.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_55CMZ6VTVM2PKJHKEYWNMP2PVU James Blackstock

    Dr Fr Gregory:
    I read your comments here and on Called to Communion. I tried to engage in the dialogue, but felt that the discussion was going nowhere. I unsubscribed from the thread. Unity with the RC’s seems impossible due to different mindsets (Eastern vs Western) It seems that the only way we can find agreement with them is to acquiesce to their view and come under the Pope, change the Creed, and quit “whining” about Rome’s aggressive and arrogant ways, now, and historically. Personally, I hold on to Theology and Dogma and try to avoid controversies over Doctrines that I disagree with. I have in recent years found a “middle road” and have exercised more Love and Tolerance for other communions, as I am aware that the “letter” of the Law “kills” but the Spirit gives Life. I enjoyed your comments.
    INXC,
    Seraphim

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  • Anonymous

    Father –

    Disclaimer for what follows: I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian who was a Catholic (Latin from infant baptism to age 30, then Melkite Greek-Catholic, canonically as well, for a few years before being received by the Orthodox Church).

    I have thought quite a bit about these issues in the ten years I have been Orthodox (ten years this month, actually, thanks be to God!), coming to Orthodoxy as I did from Catholicism, and having lived Catholicism both as a Latin and Eastern-Rite Catholic. I have come to a few conclusions of my own about the basis for this attitude over the years, and I’ll try to be as succinct as I can (and probably fail at that).

    One distinction I would make, at the outset, is between Orthodox in the USA and Orthodox in Orthodox countries. The issues are different to a significant degree. As you very rightly point out, Fr. Gregory, the issue of the treatment of the uniate churches has had a huge impact on Orthodox attitudes towards Catholics in the US, because a substantial proportion of our “cradle” Orthodox in two jurisdictions here are descendants of former Eastern-Rite Catholics, and the wounds of the past are simply not that old. The residue of bad blood is still present, really, in some of our churches, and this leads to very specific grievances, and not ones from the distant past either, forming the basis for an attitude of suspicion at best. Added to this in the American context is the large number of converts to the Church, of which I include myself as well. It’s a blessing that the Lord has brought so many to the Church in North America in the past few decades, but many bring their own opinions about Catholicism with them – and in some cases these views are encouraged by clergy who are themselves converts and have negative views about Catholicism to some degree.

    Having said that, the issue is NOT an American Orthodox one solely. Orthodox Christians I have met in the Orthodox world (Russia, Romania, Georgia) are also mistrustful of the Catholic Church, for very different reasons than the OCA and the ACROD are. One continuity I have noticed in my travels is that Orthodox have a long historical consciousness. I think this is to be expected in a Church that reveres tradition and continuity with its own liturgical and theological “past”, as lived in the present of course. It spills over into secular historical consciousness as well, and some of the events of history are more present in the minds of Orthodox Christians than it seems rational for them to be, given how old the events we are speaking of are at this point (the Fourth Crusade, the main bugbear, comes to mind). Many Catholics were shocked and scandalized by the nearly empty streets that greeted Pope John Paul II on his trip to Greece in 1996, given how that particular Pope had made such an effort to reach out to Eastern Christians, at least in text. And although the Ecumenical Patriarch essentially reprimanded them for doing so, the Athonites were not quiet about their continued antipathy towards Rome and the Pope of Rome at the time. I believe that this must be understood in the context of a historical consciousness that is kind of natural for Orthodox to have, given the way we experience the Church, but which can unfortunately lead to harboring animosities and grudges in an un-Christian fashion. In short, more Orthodox need to realize that 2010 is not 1204.

    More generally, leaving aside the differences between Orthodox in various places and their respective backgrounds, I think that the main underlying cause for the Anti-Catholic rhetoric is fear – or rather “fears”.

    One fear, for example, is that the hierarchs or their expertised delegates to the ecumenical dialogue, will repeat Florence in terms of being perceived to have sold the Orthodox faith down the river either because they are outgunned by the Catholics (as I think we were at Florence) or because unity becomes an end in itself, quite apart from the truth of the faith, once the process has sufficient momentum. This may sound like an irrational fear, but given what happened at Florence and its aftermath, I don’t think that’s really the case. I do think it’s highly unlikely, in light of Florence and Lyons and so on, that the hierarchy would do this again, because I think most of them appreciate that it would probably only lead to a substantial schism in Orthodoxy, which would defeat the purpose of the dialogue to begin with (David Bentley Hart, someone who has a quite irenic approach to the ecumenical dialogue with Catholicism has nevertheless written, for example, that unless the Catholics were to agree to remove the Filioque – which he is very insistent is NOT heretical – from the ecumenical creed, any union with Orthodoxy would simply result in schism, and defeat the purpose). But I do think that in light of the history, these fears do have some basis.

    Another fear, as I have mentioned a while ago here, is the fear that a unity with Catholicism will uniatize us, de facto. We know that Rome says it doesn’t want to make Uniates out of the current Orthodox Churches. However, given the size of the Orthodox Church relative to the size of the Catholic Church, the concern is not unfounded. Not many Orthodox want to become what the Byzantine Catholics, for example, are today. And even though Rome itself says that it also doesn’t want that, the sheer disparity in size, resources, firepower, and so on, between the Churches forms the basis for a fear that Catholicism, even if it doesn’t intend to do so, will end up dominating Orthodoxy in a reunited Church anyway, de facto. There is a bit of pride that lurks behind this fear, of course – specifically not wanting to be the “junior partner” in a future united Church, de facto, regardless of what it says on paper.

    Personally I have a kind of “ecumenism fatigue”. I don’t have the constitution for it, and as someone who has trodden the path that I have, personally, in terms of Church affiliation, I have a big conflict of interest in this particular ecumenical dialogue. I think it will take quite some time for these attitudes among Orthodox – both in North America and in the Orthodox world – to change, really. And I also agree with David Hart that any unity will have to be done on the basis of a fairly broad “buy in” among the rank and file of the Orthodox Church, including places like Athos, in order for it to “stick”.

    One final observation. I do think that sometimes we get cheap-shot by Catholics in terms of comparing their more irenic attitude towards us as compared with our less irenic attitude towards them. There are several reasons for this disparity, but one of the most salient is that Orthodoxy poses no threat whatsoever to Catholicism in the context of a future union – none. That’s not really true in reverse, and that, I think, is in many ways responsible for the “irenicisim gap” between Catholics and Orthodox more generally, in addition to the specific factors I’ve noted above. I think that this needs to be recognized more often by Catholics – in terms of why Orthodox feel threatened by them in a way that Catholics do not feel threatened by Orthodoxy. From my perspective, Catholicism can only gain by unity with Orthodoxy, whereas potentially Orthodoxy could lose a LOT by such a union, if it isn’t achieved in a particular way.

    * * *
    “When you commented on Called to Communion you said that Roman Catholics will not find the story “to their taste” as much as it would to a Byzantine Catholic like me. Is that solely due to our familiarity with the story, or were you implying that there is something bigger that you’ve seen in your interactions with Roman Catholics?”

    Andrew — In my own experiences when I have shared this history with Catholics, the response has been mixed – it kind of depends on the disposition of the Catholic in question. Some are horrified and saddened, while others think that the reaction was justified because having married Catholic priests in the US would “confuse” Latin Catholics and undermine their support for the Latin tradition of celibacy (or, as some have put it to me, add fuel to the fire of those on the Latin Catholic “left” who are advocating the elimination of celibacy).

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    • Hirene

      There has to be bridge somewhere, a hybrid, shades of gray. This is where the Uniate Church fits in.

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    • P. McCoy

      An important point here Pope John Paul II was asked to go to Jasnovac to pray for and maybe ask forgiveness for the over 700,000 clergy, men women and children massacred without mercy by the Ustashi, in WWII. The motto of those Catholics was drive out one third of Serbs, convert or threaten to torture till death another third, and just plain kill, the last third. Serbia’s Patriarch asked him to come, but he refused citing security issues. In the 1990′s Germany sided with that same Pope when Croatia, heedless to pleas of discussion, rather than rampant pushing for the break up of Yugoslavia for their own selfish benefit, succeeded in destroying the country, genociding out countless Serbs from the Krajina, where they had lived for five centuries and have been never allowed to repatriate to nor get compensation for their losses. Then the worst of all the loss of Kosovo, their own sacred Jerusalem, to an enemy that kills their men, bombs their churches if they don’t take turns using them as latrines, really, how would you Catholics feel if St. Peter’s Basilica was being used as a latrine , while KFOR troops keep protecting the nuns there from being raped by the Moslems. Yes, indeed you Catholics will have a lot to answer for.

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  • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

    Andrew,

    Thanks for your comment.

    To answer your question, I think that RC will find this story distasteful because it really does portray them in a bad light. Promises were made and then broken and broken at the very highest level of the Catholic Church. When I studied moral theology one of the things we often talked about was that the ethical character of a society should be evaluated by how they treat their weakest members. The Church of Rome has consistently abused Eastern Catholic Church. And this abuse is not limited to either the conservative or progressive members of the Latin Church.

    The story is shameful and serves–sadly–as an impediment to Orthodox/Catholic reconciliation.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

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  • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

    Seraphim,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Let me simply say that, humanly speaking at least, Orthodox unity with the Church of Rome is not only impossible but ill advised. Frankly, I don’t see how it could happen.

    That said, I am always mindful of the hymn: “where God so ordains the law of nature are overcome.” I believe God wishes the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to reconcile. But such will be on His terms not mine. Speaking simply for myself, the overwhelming impossibility of reunion reflects both my need for grace and my tendency to rely instead on my own will.

    But like my confessor in college used to say to me, “I knew you a sinner when you came in my office.”

    In Christ,

    +FrG

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  • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

    Brendan,

    Thank you for your comments and very good ones they are at that!

    Two points strike me especially–the fact that the Orthodox have legitimate pastoral concerns even in a true reunion with Rome and that (in the main) Rome has very little pastorally to lose. I had not thought of this until you put it out there but you are right. We need to be concerned that, especially in America and Western Europe, that we will simply be absorbed as have most of the Eastern Catholics. (On that note, I met the Catholic bishop of Madison, Robert C Morlino. He as excited to see me because, wait for it, he was raised Byzantine Catholic. So yeah, your point isn’t simply theoretical.)

    You are right, especially in America and Europe, the demographics strongly favor the Latin rite in any Catholic/Orthodox reconciliation.

    I am curious to see what the North American C/O consultation has to say about all this–it was the subject of their most recent meeting–have you (or anyone) see anything other than the press release?

    In Christ,

    +FrG

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    • Hirene

      The Orthodox Church weakens herself by having so many different churches within their ranks. You think being such a minority would cause the Orthodox in America to put their marbles together to get more accomplished. Building/maintaining churches is expensive.

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  • http://gilgarzaonline.com gilgarza

    Thank you for your post.

    Regarding the affair of Archbishop Ireland and Fr. Toth as an example of Latin mistreatment of Eastern clerics I would like to offer some historical context and propose a reconsideration.

    Ireland, like many Latin bishops in the US at the time were being challenged by so-called National or Ethnic parishes that were threatening the canonical cohesion of the Latin Church in America. Because Latin canon law had not yet been codified, Latin bishops had a difficult time dealing with the requests and complaints for separate jurisdiction that mostly came from immigrant communities within the Latin Church. Eastern Catholic jurisdictions offered a new level of complexity with which few Latin ordinaries were equipped to deal.

    Outside of a coherent canonical framework, National parishes threatened to tear the fabric of the Latin Church apart in America with a patchwork of separate jurisdictions each based upon the country of origin of the community.

    The experience of Fr. Alexis Toth in Minnesota mirrors that of a Latin cleric Fr. Franciszek Hodur, a Polish priest and immigrant to Pennsylvania who, for similar reasons, left Roman communion and founded the Polish National Catholic Church in 1897. These two examples illustrate the canonical knot that the Latin Church in America found itself in rather than an example of Latin bigotry.

    The unfortunate experiences of the Eastern Catholics in the upper Midwest and Poles on the East Coast highlight the cost of pastoral insensitivity during this difficult time in the history of the American Catholic Church.

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    • http://palamas.info Fr Gregory Jensen

      Gil,

      Thank you for filling in the historical context that I neglected.

      If I may, I do think we need to make two important distinctions. First, Toth was not denied faculties because he was Ruthenian but because he was married. This was, sadly, common in America and lead eventually to Rome forbidding the ordination of married men by the Byzantine rite. In fact even while the Latin rite was ordaining married men to the diaconate in great numbers the Ruthenians in America were not (or were not until fairly recently).

      Second, Toth did not represent an ethnic community within the Latin rite but was a priest of what V2 would call a particular Church. His right to serve, and the right of Greek Catholics to a priest of their own rite was a promise made and broken by Rome. This was more, in other words, than a Polish Roman Catholic having to attend Mass in an ethnically Irish parish. Archbishop Ireland committed an offense against an entire Church.

      That all of this was done during an extraordinarily difficult time for the Catholic Church in America is important to keep in mind. But what do we then do with the other abuses and broken promise made by Rome to those Orthodox Christians who re-established communion with Rome?

      For example, rightly, Roman Catholics (and others) criticize the overlapping Orthodox jurisdictions. But Rome imposed the same thing on the Byzantine rites here in America. Or again, the outlawing of a married priesthood for American Byzantine Catholics. I could go on but you get my point–while not wishing to justify the anti-Catholicism of many Orthodox Christians in the US and overseas, the experience of the Eastern Catholic Churches does not encourage me and I say this as an Orthodox Christian who is publicly in favor of closer Catholic/Orthodox ties and prays for reunion.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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  • Anonymous

    Father –

    I’d also be interested to see further details on that discussion by the official consultation, but alas I have not seen anything other than the release either.

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  • http://gilgarzaonline.com gilgarza

    It is important to note that Rome granted the request of Latin Bishops in the US to restrict the ministry of married Eastern Catholic priests in the US in 1929. No such ban existed during the time of (Frs) Toth and Hodur.

    What ties Toth and Hodur together during the late 19th century is that both men were clerics ordained in good standing in Europe, both immigrated to the US with their communities and both were denied faculties by Latin ordinaries because they were not Irish. Both men lacked the direct oversight of their own ordinary and therefore were subject to the discretion (lacking any canonical direction at the time) of the ordinary in whose territory they were residing. Sadly, as a result, both left Roman communion with much of their communities to form their own jurisdictions.

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  • http://www.prudencetrue.com/ Prudence True

    Of course we can not understand how the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches can reconcile, but neither can we understand how our faith can move mountains. Faith and the grace of God will reconcile the differences with our concerted efforts at broadening our own limited perspectives.

    No, I’m not a theologian of any sort, and I have only the faintest grasp of the complex issues surrounding the differences between the Churches. But a reconciliation of The Church should be the goal of this generation of Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

    Here are my simple suggestions . . . http://www.prudencetrue.com/blogarchives/july.html (scroll to the bottom)

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  • http://orthocath.wordpress.com/ Dave

    Actually, married clergy for Eastern Catholic priests dates from 1890 and thus does fall within the time of Fr. Toth. See page 135 (148 of the pdf) where this is spelled out in a 1931 letter from the Sacred Congregation of the Oriental Churches:

    http://ia341333.us.archive.org/2/items/HistoricalMirrorGreekRiteCatholics1884-1963/Historical_Mirror_Greek_Rite_Catholics_1884-1963OCR.pdf

    Their point was that the prohibition in Cum Data Fuerit was not new but was following in an established position taken by Rome, dating back to 1890. What was new after 1929 was that this restriction began to be uniformly enforced. Even today, the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church in the USA must get permission from Rome before it ordains any married men to the priesthood. There was an attempt in 1998 to restore their right to ordain married men when the Ruthenian Church first got set to promulgate its Particular Law but after complaints from some in the Latin Church reached Rome that was changed to the current regulation requiring dispensations.

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  • http://orthocath.wordpress.com/ Dave

    Oops. I meant to say “a ban on married clergy” in the first sentence. Sorry about that. :)

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  • http://gilgarzaonline.com gilgarza

    The book that you point to in your post is very interesting. Entitled, “Historical Mirror: Sources of the Rusin and Hungarian Greek Rite Catholics in the United States of America 1884-1963,” by John Slivka, the book gives a very detailed account of the events surrounding Fr. Toth leaving Roman Communion.

    According to the events described by Slivka, Fr. Toth called and chaired the 1st Greek Rite Catholic Clergy Meeting in the USA in October 1890 in Wilkes Barre, PA. The Eastern Catholic clergy present produced several proposals that were sent to Rome which were based upon canonical and pastoral challenges they were having in America. Chief among their concerns was the lack of any Eastern Catholic hierarchy or hierarchical representative in America and concerns about property. Additionally, they proposed that the Eastern Bishops in Europe send only married priests to America because “our faithful accept and highly respect our married clergy more so than the single clergy.”

    Fr. Toth was authorized to send out a newsletter to all the Greek Rite Catholic Societies which he did in December of 1890.

    Rome declined their proposals and responded with the further requirement that married clergy in unfriendly Latin dioceses be recalled and replaced with celibate clergy and that all sacraments be celebrated in Old Slavonic.

    In December of 1891 the 2nd Greek Rite Catholic Clergy Meeting met in Hazelton, PA. All the Eastern Catholic clergy in the US attended including Fr. Toth and resolved as a body to leave Roman communion should Rome refuse their ultimatum regarding an Eastern Catholic bishop or bishop’s representative, the use of the vernacular in Holy Liturgy and married clergy.

    According to Slivka’s account, Rome granted their request in 1892 establishing a Vicar for the Eastern Catholics and allowing the 33 married Eastern clerics to remain in the US but calling for any future Eastern clerics that should be sent to the US be celibate. The issue of subordination of Eastern clerics and property to Latin ordinaries remained a challenge, however.

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  • http://orthocath.wordpress.com/ Dave

    Yes, Fr. Slivka’s book contains a lot of interesting details. As I recall, I believe there were at least two more times before 1929 when Rome insisted that Eastern Catholic priests in the US be celibate. One was Ea Semper (1907?) and I think there was another in 1897. It was a rule that many ignored until Cum Data Fuerit in 1929. Fr. Slivka’s book contains some very detailed reactions to the 1929 “Ban,” which led to the creation of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the late 30s.

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  • AMM

    One cannot fully understand Orthodox anti-Catholic rhetoric without first understanding the real harm Roman Catholics have caused in their mistreatment of Byzantine Catholics.

    I think the rhetoric has little to do with this.

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  • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

    AMM,

    Thanks for your comment. If I may, I’m not sure what you mean here. Could you say a bit more please?

    In Christ,

    +FrG

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  • AMM

    The grievances have given way to an irrational pathology developed by some in the Orthodox Church to foster an identity of otherness from the “Western” (quoted because geography doesn’t mean a whole lot in regards to the church now) Church. This pathology has been readily adopted by people in some cases with no historical grievances to speak of; i.e. Protestant converts. The rhetoric is about the pathology and not the grievances or even more importantly the actual current differences (which really just boils down to the scope and nature of the Papacy IMO). The Catholics of course are not without grievances of their own. Think of the plight of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the 20th century for instance.

    We in the Orthodox Church can unify around the Byzantine liturgy, but it seems around precious little else; and the pathology of antipathy to the Rome is always under the surface. So I have little hope any type of consistent relationship with them; and expect our schizophrenic sacramental understanding of things such as how do we receive converts will continue.

    You note that in the Carpatho-Russian diocese there probably is reason for residual antipathy to Rome, but I sense little in it. Whereas in the OCA, it seems different. I do believe for instance believe that Fr. Toth was a good and upright person, but I have no doubt his canonization was motivated by anti Roman prejudice.

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      AMM,
      Forgive me if I wasn’t clear–I only offered this post by way of explanation of some of the hard feelings not as a excuse, much less a justification, for the bias. In fact, I agree with you–we have used past injustices as the pretext for our anti-Catholic, anti-Western animosity. We need to repent of our resentment, forgive past wrongs, and move on.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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    • P. McCoy

      Those Greek Catholics killed Orthodox Christians like dogs Josephat at the forefront he wrapped dead Orthodox Christians in the bodies of dogs too. I could care less about his so called incorruptibility the devil has powers too. I told one GC that putting that man’s relic in their new cathedral in Kiev, the home of Equal to the Apostles Sts. Olga and Vladimir, both whom never wanted anything to do with Latin Christianity or the pope was an obomination . You might as well have put a bone of Hitler or an Ustasha inside that church ;so much for the sisterhood and respectful unity you Catholics claim to want to have with the Orthodox, it’s a fraud. You get what you give, but it was atheistic Communists, not believers that came at in WWII and like you Latin counterparts GC’s had sided with the low life Nazis.

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  • LydiaM

    Father Bless,

    Clearly, old grievences committed by those now dead will always be used against Rome in every Orthodox area of the world. No matter what my Orthodox friends do and say about my Church, I must endure, because possibly I had ancestors who denied Eastern priests marriage or allowed their churches to get sacked in Constatinople.My mother is Catholic and my father is Jewish. I wonder if I should start applying the Orthodox mentality of keeping a list of grievances close at hand if I should visit Germany someday. I can begin to blame young Germans for what their grandparents did to mine in Polish and Russian ovens.

    I read a sliver of admittance to sinful anti-Catholicism here, but not much. There is the requisite, “Well your great grandparents are to blame, Rome, so take it all. Take all the blame until the end of time. Everyone is required to forgive, except, the Orthodox. We can always use your past sins against you without really taking into account both sides of the story either.”

    This is precisely what has driven me back to Rome every time I have wondered about Orthodoxy. No one attacks anyone like they attack the Roman Catholic Church. In every non-Catholic church I have ever visited, I have met up with clergy teaching classes against my faith. This speaks volumes to me, and I know it does to many other Catholics.

    Still, thank you for the small effort. It was probably painful for you since I guess we Catholics are always on the constant attack – historically and presently. For me, it just read as another list of grievances for why the Orthodox can’t stand the smell of their historical sister. It sometimes seems unfair that we Catholics have no extra clause in our Gospel that allows us to sin and then, blame others for it. Everyone tells us how terrible we are, how heretical, how wrong, how deserving of all that non-Catholic religious podcasts, books, blogs and preachers/priests say against us. That is only the tip of the iceberg, too, compared to what non-Christians and the media think of us. We have enough of our own problems. Who needs to be kicked by your brethren when you are already struggling to get back to where you were before you walked off your path a bit? Sometimes, it is too much to take – all of this anti-Catholic sentiment in the world. I would love that the Orthodox Church do as the Pope does as stand up and ask forgiveness publically for THEIR own sins without excuse, and without dimishing their Orthodoxy. Not a theological conversation. Not a compromise or a reunion, just an apology for, ALSO, being human and causing pain to Catholics. Imagine? The world would end. The world needs the Orthodox Church. The Catholic Church needs the Orthodox Church, but she will not see the forest for the trees if every conversation on the Orthodox Church begins with, “Well, we act this way because of what you did to us 50 years ago (or 1500 years ago).”

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    • Nathaniel McCallum

      I’m a protestant convert to Orthodoxy. Unlike what most internet stereotypes would proscribe for me, I love the Catholic church and defend her to all my protestant friends (and even many Orthodox ones). I offer no defence for those who improperly and impiously attack the venerable see of Rome. Rome did not sack Constantinople (it initially had far more to do with Venetian politics) in any way more significant than other regrettable actions that were our fault (for instance the terrible abuses of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church). Those who hold this grudges must forgive. I don’t think I can put it any clearer than Fr. Gregory did below: “We need to repent of our resentment, forgive past wrongs, and move on.”

      Our churches are not one body for what I see as three reasons:

      1. The ancient philosophers and indeed the venerable Fathers of both of our traditions make a very important philosophical point: without a shared set of first principles, no healthy discussion is possible and, if I may extrapolate, no union may be achieved. I think this is precisely the case in one important area between our churches: the first principle of union. For Roman Catholics, this principle is the Roman Pontiff. For Orthodox, this principle is the Nicene Creed. Since our philosophies of what unifies the Church differ, we have no shared first principle of union. This is precisely why Catholics simply do not understand why we can’t just hop under the pope and just accept two creeds. This is precisely why Orthodox are unable to comprehend why Rome doesn’t think the filioque is a big deal. In this regard, we are at an impasse.

      2. For 1000 years, French theology has been normative in the Roman Church. Two points of history are significant here. First, the rise of the unified kingdom of the Franks (later called the Holy Roman Empire) kicked off a period of theological creativity which, not having knowledge of Greek, developed theology in a distinct way from the earlier unified Church. Second, the Renaissance kicked off a resurgence of paganism in the West that dwarfed any previous such movement (it was during this period that St Augustine’s City of God became the pre-eminent theological work in the West). These two steps, the first isolating Western Europe from the Greek tradition and the second establishing new theological norms which have no reference to the Greek tradition, established a theological tradition unknown to and with no input from the Eastern church. The two most significant doctrines in question here are Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception of Mary. While theological definitions canonized during this period may be authentic developments of the French theological school, can they be seen as authentic developments from the Greek theological school? Latin theologians up to this point have been unable to convince the Orthodox that these two doctrines form an authentic development from the Greek tradition. Conversely, as these two doctrines are now enshrined as infallible dogma for Roman Catholicism, there appears to be no possibility for Orthodox to convince the Roman church to abandon these doctrines. Again, we are at an impasse.

      3. This last section I think would best be titled “the difficulties of practical considerations” or as a poignant question: What would a unified Church look like? What happens to Latin churches in Greece, Turkey, Russia, Jerusalem, Egypt, etc? What happens to Eastern Churches in New York, Paris, and Tokyo? Does our Patriarch of Antioch just become the fifth “Patriarch” in Antioch, joining the four exiting RC “Patriarchs”? Does the Eastern Rite get Latinized? Novos Ordoized? Do episcopal elections require papal confirmation? Can the Pope appoint Patriarchs? We then have to ask about some of the serious problems within the Roman communion. For instance, I know of no Orthodox church which would permit itself to be in communion with: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ5it20gKqw or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khco_N-uEOY

      I must say at this last point that most devout Catholics suffer with me when watching those videos and that I do not envy the recent struggles of the Catholic church with this, frankly, liturgical heresy. I should also say that most ecumenically minded Orthodox would like to work with the Catholic church to help solve these problems. However, we have no working example of how in a united East/West church the Orthodox would not simply get absorbed into this mess. This is lamentable for both Orthodox and Catholics and is what makes the examples that Fr. Gregory gives so poignant. If the Orthodox tradition is unable to inform the Catholic tradition in such small areas as Greek priests under Latin Bishops (Toth) and liturgy at Vatican II (Schmemann), how could we ever work with Rome to tackle such travesties as priests and bishops making a mockery of Christ’s mystical appearing in the Eucharistic celebration? It should be clear that this is not an attack against Rome, but the smaller church asking the bigger church to “show us the way.” It is for this reason that the examples that Fr. Gregory brings up are not a replaying of hurt and endless accusation with no forgiveness. Fr. Gregory’s post is an earnest attempt to bring up the point that Rome has not yet “shown the way” and that many of us desire for this to be accomplished. Until this happens, I fear we are at an impasse.

      I should say one last thing in closing, I really feel quite bad for Rome on this last topic. It is largely the Eastern Catholics that are Latinizing and Novos Ordoizing of their own free will. For most Orthodox, if the pope intervenes in the self-selected Latinization of the Greek Catholics he is a tyrant and if he does nothing he’s a despot for allowing Latinization of the Eastern rite. It is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation that more Orthodox need to be sensitive to.

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      • Michael Bauman

        Nathaniel, the points you raise are excellent. No matter how much I may love and respect Roman Catholics, at this point I see no good coming from ‘union’ We can, and should work together in common witness where we can, but the practical difficulties you point out need present insupperable barriers to any course of unity I’ve yet to see.

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    • Michael Bauman

      LydiaM, you are right. I can only apologize for myself. Forgive me. I do want to say that Fr. Gregory’s words here have done much to softening my heart.

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  • Pingback: Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk Gives Hard-hitting, No Nonsense Address to Anglicans My Personal Introspections

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nina-Bryant/100000554648811 Nina Bryant

    I agree that this is sometimes the case–and it is contrary to the prayer of Christ–but–in the Orthodox parish where we are members and communicants, we have great respect for The Roman Catholic Church–even with the differences concerning certain matters.  It is irritating to see intolerance in any church–and it is not Christian in any sense…and Jesus says “For verily if they are not against us, they be for us.”
    God bless The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which even now is learning to heal.
    Christ is Risen From the Dead, trampling down death by death; and upon those in the tomb, Restoring Life! 

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  • Grifd2000

    What should also be mentioned is the Massacre of the Latins in 1182, during which tens of thousands of Latin rite Christians were massacred by the Orthodox across the Byzantine Empire, the aged bishop of the Latin community in Byzantium was hacked to death by howling mobs of Greeks, his head tied to the head of a dog and chased by jeering Orthodox Christians through the blood dreanched streets of the “Holy” city. If this were not bad enough the Orthodox broke into Latin rite churches across the empire despoiling the reserved Sacrament. The Orthodox have never apologised.
     
    In the East, the Byzantines murdered their way through the Oriental Orthodox communities, erecting artificial, and Greek, Patriarchates to supplement those of the Copts and Syrians, destroying the ancient liturgical traditions to replace them with the rites of the Greeks. The Copts and Syrians welcomed the Muslim Arabs as deliverers.
     
    And finally, the Byzantine Orthodox treatment of their small, isolated, and hated western rite communities is well known.

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      Grifd2000,

      Thanks for the reminder that neither the East nor the West have always behaved like Christians!

      In Christ,

      +FrG 

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    • Hirene

      I agree. Orthodox Christians keep a good record of offenses against them, but tend to ignore their misdeeds against Catholics.

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  • P. McCoy

    It wasn’t the sacrament to the Orthodox, they knew that the azyme the unleavened bread was forced on the west by German speaking clergy, that got this from the heretical Armenians, who used it themselves out of hatred for the Greeks. Second, I watched a television special discussing Venice; now after the sack of Contantinople, the Venetians were
    at the forefront of stealing irreplaceable sacred art and holy things from that city. One particularly large icon, which had been dedicated to a patron of some local Saint, had been opened up and the face was repainted to represent some Latin -surely an act of sacrilege if ever there was one. These holy things have never been returned to the Orthodox, instead Venetian brag

    about their treasure instead. Now, you Catholics out there will counter it’s better than what the Ottomans were doing right. Well, the Orthodox don’t feel that way. I had read an Orthodox article discussing the Catholic rape of their art, the craft of glass blowing etc; and saying that justice by God is taking care of the injustices done. Venice is inexorably sinking into the water, their bragging rights will be destroyed and it will be a fitting punishment long incoming. I whole heartedly agree with him.

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  • Dale Griffith

    P. McCoy, my what an Orthodox name that one is, but, are you for real?
    Your posts are so full of hatred and historical revision that it simply
    boggles the mind! One suspects that you must have been dancing with joy
    when Orthodox Josef Stalin “reunited” the Greek Catholics of Ukraine
    with Russian Orthodoxy.

    Also, one should be very careful in
    making any reference to Greek Catholics when Byzantium’s treatment of
    minority rites is truly, truly less than stellar.

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      Dale,

      After checking his comment history on other sites, I deleted P. McCoy’s comments. Please accept my apologizes for any distress you have been cause.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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  • Darrel Slugoski

    As Catholic I find this article balanced and fair. I defend my Orthodox Brothers and Sisters when they are attacked by anti Catholic/Orthodox. I pray God will help us restore unity between us . It will not be an easy task but we are heading in the right direction. I do believe both our Churches have sinned against each other and history has two sides to a story. .

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      Thanks for the kind words Darrel!

      While both our Churches are facing challenges, especially here in America, I do think that it allows both of communities to have a shared culture–or a least a point of shared cultural concern. Whether or not this will bear the good fruit of reconciliation I can’t say but I pray God it does.

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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  • Dale

    I would like to mention that many of the issues between the Greek Catholics and the Irish were more ethnic than liturgical. Please remember that the ethnic bigotry of the Irish not only resulted in Greek Catholics leaving the Catholic church but other Slavic groups as well, both the Polish National Catholic Church as well as the Lithuanian National Catholic Churches are a result of this Irish bigotry, and they are Latin rite communities. The Irish were often so bigoted that even Italian parishes left, and in two cases, aligned with the Protestant Episcopal Church whilst continuing to offer the Roman Mass in Latin.

    Also, as I mentioned before, this ethnic bigotry is not limited to only the Irish, the recent closing of the western rite by ROCOR was instigated more by ethnic bigotry and hatred more than anything else.

    I do have a question, has the Carpatho-Russian diocese dropped the term “Greek Catholic” from its title? What a pity.

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    • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

      Dale,

      Unfortunately ethnic and racial bigotry has been with us since the Tower of Babel.

      My (Roman Catholic) grandparents were Polish and Irish–but from different parishes–and this was quite the controversy in the 1930′s.

      At least on their webpage, the Carpatho-Russian diocese doesn’t use the term “Greek Catholic.” I don’t know whether they do or not on their corporate documents–I suspect they do since these can be a bother to change.

      One thing about ROCOR and the Western-Rite, I don’t have enough information why they closed it. From what I’ve seen online, there did seem to be problems with how things were being administered. This doesn’t rule out other, less noble, motives for closing the Western rite but I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest anything like what you suggest.

      Thanks for the comment and the information!

      In Christ,

      +FrG

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      • Dale

        Fr Gregory,

        I personally know several individuals who were connected with the ROCOR western rite (although the rite was so Russified that calling it “western rite” is a misnomer) and it was very much an issue of ethnic and cultural bigotry as was the closing in England of all western rite communities by the Antiochians. As an example, one of the priests, Fr Monk, who was used as an example of the problems was not actually western rite at all but was Russian rite; but this is never mentioned.

        Although the problems encountered by the Greek Catholics in the 1930′s from the Irish, especially Bishop John Ireland (my mother’s parish was one of those that left over these ethnic and cultural problems), Rome has made great strides in this respect, whilst the Orthodox, unfortunately, have not.

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        • http://palamas.info/ Fr Gregory Jensen

          Dale,

          Thank you for the information. As I said before, I’m not calling your word into question but don’t have first hand information about the Western rite in ROCOR. As for the Antiochians in the UK again, I have no information about that,

          Regarding Nathan Monk, my understanding was that he was a Western rite priest who then became an Eastern rite priest. While I don’t doubt some used his situation to criticize the whole of the Western rite, it does seem (based on what I’ve read) that he was received and ordained without due diligence.

          Finally, I think you are right that Rome has made great strides in softening its attitude toward the Orthodox while we have, sadly, not always responded in kind.

          Thanks again for your comment.

          In Christ,

          +FrG

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