Sunday, April 06, 2014

Byzantine snobbery

I recently read the horrible news that St. Elias Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brampton, Ontario, burned down. Nobody was hurt, thank God. On an unofficial Byzantine Catholic message board I remarked on this great loss: "At North America's showplace of high-church, pure-rite Ukrainian Catholicism. Very sorry to hear that." Which got this answer: "Really? 'Pure-rite'? Only a 'High Church' Latin Catholic would phrase this loss as you did. I have to take offense with your tone deafness." That's the way of that particular online culture, like its even more obnoxious anti-Catholic cousin, online Orthodoxy. A compliment from one of the great unwashed is beneath them. Defend moderate traditional latinizations as well as the pure unlatinized form of the rite, as I do, and get smacked with the 2x4 on their shoulder. Thank God you don't encounter that attitude much in person from ethnic parishioners, who are mostly older and not online, but that attitude's a big reason why I don't worship in that rite anymore.

Our goal is neither to turn Orthodox into Roman Riters nor make them into copies of the Greek Catholics past or present. The calling of our unlatinized Greek Catholics such as the Russian Catholics (who aren't ethnic; they're mostly non-Russians), St. Elias in Brampton, and the Melkites is not to snag individual Orthodox or groups of Orthodox but to show all the Orthodox that becoming Catholic isn't the negative thing they fear it would be, a taking away of their traditions. That said, nor should we try to hellenize, russify, or romanize the old latinized Greek Catholics and even former Greek Catholics (ACROD, for example).

The first traditional Catholic liturgy I ever got to go to was at a Ukrainian Catholic parish nearly 30 years ago; the families of World War II refugees, the priest a refugee himself, pastor since 1951.

13 comments:

  1. I suggest you return to the Orthodox Church. You are clearly unable to leave it behind.

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    1. Thanks but no. Funny, that's what some told me, correctly, when I was trying to go along with Orthodoxy (mentally I checked out for good in late 2003) - that I was unable to leave the Catholic Church behind.

      What you see as my being unable to leave the Orthodox Church behind is really part of the Catholic witness to unity. We don't want to leave any Orthodox behind, outside the fullness of the church. Your church can't stand us but we still see you as an estranged part of us. There are many nice Orthodox who don't hate Catholicism (in fact I think most ethnics don't, consciously) but that hatred is a valid Orthodox position, and you are who you are in communion with. Vice versa is not a valid Catholic position. Your church is at heart anti-Western; mine's not anti-Eastern.

      An annoying thing about online Greek Catholicism, like online Orthodoxy - both largely converts, by the way - is its rigid black-and-white approach to latinizations for example. "If you defend moderate traditional latinizations, you must hate the pure rite" and vice versa. In authentic Catholicism, "it's all good": unlatinized, old traditional latinized, and Latin.

      Catholicism convinces me exactly because it doesn't teach me to hate your tradition. Why I still wear a three-bar crucifix, have real Russian icons on a wall, and occasionally still write in Eastern Christian forums and about Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism here and on Facebook. Even though what little praxis I have is traditional Roman. (Unlike much of the traditionalist movement, believing traditional Catholics, such as before Vatican II, often aren't super-pious. That's what I'm like.) I won't rule out belonging to a Greek Catholic church - either unlatinized or traditionally latinized is fine with me. But I'm not called to now.

      My reaction to years of being told my native tradition is worthless: going back to my native tradition. Something blood-and-soil real Orthodox understand and respect, even if they don't like my church.

      Let me put it this way: I'm pro-Orthodox because I'm Catholic.

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    2. "
      An annoying thing about online Greek Catholicism, like online Orthodoxy - both largely converts, by the way - is its rigid black-and-white approach to latinizations for example. "If you defend moderate traditional latinizations, you must hate the pure rite" and vice versa. In authentic Catholicism, "it's all good": unlatinized, old traditional latinized, and Latin.

      Catholicism convinces me exactly because it doesn't teach me to hate your tradition. Why I still wear a three-bar crucifix, have real Russian icons on a wall, and occasionally still write in Eastern Christian forums and about Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism here and on Facebook. "

      when one goes to Poland and Italy (particularly southern Italy and Sicily, though not exclusively there, take St Marks in Venice) you experience a fusion of east and west - interesting you never hear people complain about that. (Fr Zuhlsdorf does complain but whatever i really dont like him.) Unfortunately our North American idea of what the Roman rite's purest form is is its Northwest European expression (nothing wrong with it itself) and the North American (and at time's Vatican's) idea of the Byzantine rite's purist form is that practiced by the Imperial era Russian Orthodox and their modern successors.

      frankly praying my rosary at my Greek Catholic parish (along with may crowning of our statue of the Mother of God) and the good Friday processions and guarding the tomb during Easter weekend at my Polish Roman Catholic parish are both organic developments, anyone against these things can kiss my dupa, if it was good for my ancestors its good for me. While i respect them, I have zero desire to emulate modern Eastern Orthodox liturgical practice which itself, in its Muscovite expression, has developed relatively considerably since the Union of Brest.

      Keep wearing your three bar cross.

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    3. Oh my gosh, Saint Mark's in Venice!!!!!! What an utterly magical place. Glimmering mosaics, the Pala d'Oro...yes, indeed, a fusion of East and West. Of course, Venice traded with the Byzantines for centuries, so there was a lot of cultural cross-pollenization.

      The first time I entered Saint Mark's, someone was tuning the organ -- which you may think was dreadful, but no, just the opposite: The sound was eerie and strangely beautiful. Very appropriate in that dusky atmosphere, with the icons and mosaics glimmering in the dim light, so jewel-like and exquisite.

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    4. Alas, I missed my chance to go to Sicily (my dad's family's patria} when I was in Italy as an undergraduate, so I never saw Monreale. :(

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    5. im double jealous! im jealous that youve been there, my knowledge of italy is sadly limited to books and photos - and im really jealous of your sicilian blood! so manyh cool things about sicily and sicilians

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    6. LOL, well, Sybok, it was many, many years ago, and I haven't been back since. (Well, I went back the following year, as part of another study-abroad gig, but that was in the early '70s.)

      I'd go back in a heartbeat if I had a chance. At the time, I wanted to expatriate to either Florence or Assisi. Italy is a magical country.

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  2. Catholicism convinces me exactly because it doesn't teach me to hate your tradition. Why I still wear a three-bar crucifix, have real Russian icons on a wall, and occasionally still write in Eastern Christian forums and about Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism here and on Facebook.

    You're trying to be a Russian-Greek-Latin-Orthodox-Catholic. Just pick one and stick with it.

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    1. Nah. Like I said, what little praxis I have is pre-Vatican II Roman.

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  3. I thought you went from the Episcopal Church to Orthodoxy.

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  4. Not that straightforward. All of my church changes, except the most recent one, were long ago when I was much less mature of course, and often reacting to situations that no longer exist. Born Episcopal, to Catholic 30 years ago, to, put off by liberal Novus Ordo, congregationalist conservative super-high Anglo-Catholic Episcopal, then tried being Catholic again, later going to the Greek Catholics (never canonically switched), then got the convert bug and became Orthodox, switching parishes/jurisdictions once, most of that time (16 years) in a kind of no-man's-land as I didn't buy Orthodoxy anymore early on but it was too difficult to go back because of circumstances, not theology. For about five years during that time, my spiritual second home was, again, a super-high traditional Anglo-Papalist Anglo-Catholic parish (which happened to be in the Episcopal Church), this time a bridge back into the church, not out of it. Then Joseph Ratzinger became Pope, freed up the old Mass, and, best of all, reformed English Novus Ordo so I have no problem with the text. And... my "protector," enabler, what you will, for 14 years, an odd pro-Catholic Orthodox priest, suddenly quit that parish so I was free to go. Been back in the church since Christmas '11. I'm not proud of much of that but I understand it, which is why I'll never do it again. Like I wrote in Owen White's combox under his "on leavings" post, it's not heroic but what was, was. God is patient.

    Recently another Catholic-turned-Orthodox-turned-Catholic asked me if, because of Pope Francis, I regretted being Catholic. Not for a second. Put another way, Francis bothers me a little because I DO care about the Catholic Church, which I wouldn't if I were a convinced Orthodox.

    When I write about Orthodoxy, I'm looking forward, to the unity that God wants.

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  5. i wouldnt put too much into it, i saw the post and the individual in question is a nationalist of a nationless nationality that no longer exists in its national homeland (find a "rusyn" there is like finding a cornwallish nationalist in cornwall, an extreme minority) and blames rome for it.

    im greek catholic, though usually worship in the latin rite, and really i cant help but smirk at the shenanigans of these people at that site who think big bad rome is this monolithic dragon monster, controlling dan brown style the puppet strings of the hapsburgs and hohenzollerns (and their axis successors), determined to destroy eastern catholicism and eastern orthodoxy at any cost.

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    1. Thanks. Good summary of the mindset of forums like that.

      The man in question is usually friendly with me so it was a surprise. He's honest about his jurisdiction's history (ACROD, a schism still barely in living memory so it's very painful, at least to Catholics like me - our churchmen started the fight, but it wasn't about our teachings so it never should have happened) and much less anti-Catholic than most online Orthodox - not surprising since he's ethnic, not a convert. But as a born Orthodox he is committed to that church's line (that his family returned to the true faith) and to his jurisdiction's and family's version of their story: that they heroically returned to their mother church in Constantinople to try to save their culture.

      He and his priest brother are friendly with Greek Catholic clergy in person (the priest does ecumenical work), who have probably told them, and meant it, what I feel: we're sorry and are trying to make this right. Our calling as Catholics is to unity and we let this part of our own people down.

      I know the history of how badly they've been treated, and grieve over it, but as I said answering the post, the angry-victim attitude gets old.

      As you know, at times Poland and Slovakia weren't legally nations either and I certainly don't want to pick on the Rusyns. My guess is their situation and feeling are halfway between those people's and the Cornish. Much like Wales in the UK: an integral part of the nation but their own language (far more distant from English than Rusyn is from Slovak; the Welsh are Celts, the English Germanic) and culture, a culture related to the English but its own.

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