Thursday, December 20, 2018

Battle of the patriarchs: the church mess in the Ukraine

I go to the Ukrainian Catholic Church for Liturgy and Communion. I go to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose music I know, for Vigil as Communion prep. I see our lack of such services as an ecumenical opportunity: that the Byzantine Catholic churches are not perfect is a reminder that our work is far from done. (Part of that work is explaining the entire Catholic faith all in Orthodox terms.) And why duplicate services? Let's buddy up. Anyway, this whole row in the Ukraine is unseemly and makes our work, of bringing ALL the Orthodox into the church, so much harder. (And yes; it's THE Ukraine, for the same reason I don't say "Paree.") Not Uniatism: we're not trying to break them up. Metropolitan Sviatoslav is canonically in charge — for now. But of course most Ukrainian Christians aren't Catholic — yet. They seem about evenly divided between the original canonical Orthodox there, the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Onuphrey of Kiev, and what was ex-Metropolitan Filaret's Kyiv Patriarchate, now Constantinople's metropolia there possibly becoming autocephalous: Metropolitan Epifany. When you hitch the church to politics, pretty soon it's about the politics, not Christ. Ukrainianness (and Russianness for that matter) is well and good, but God didn't become man, suffer, and rise again to be a mascot for Ukrainianness. Religiously, their independence is a matter of indifference for me. I don't live in the Ukraine.

The Russians are right. De facto, ecclesiastically the Ukraine is theirs; autocephaly is up to them. Metropolitan Onuphrey is de facto the rightful Metropolitan of Kiev, the head of most of the Ukraine's Christians, the Orthodox. If all the Orthodox returned to us, de jure he would be metropolitan; Sviatoslav should either step aside (as Andrew Sheptytsky offered to do) or the two could co-exist but ultimately there would only be the Kiev metropolia. The Patriarch of Constantinople has no right to do what he's doing in the Ukraine.

Sviatoslav is not perfect: he harps on "rights" and religious liberty like a Western liberal. Frankly I tune him out.

Yes, I know the Kiev metropolia, not only all of the Ukraine but Byelorussia, was ours at one point, the 1596 unia, squashed by Russian expansion and persecution, but that's water under the bridge. We ought to be concerned with reconciling all the Orthodox now, not holding grudges.

Remember, our goal is to bring BOTH Constantinople and Moscow back into the church. We are not trying to break up the Orthodox, so we should not try to pit Constantinople against Moscow.

This battle of the canonical patriarchs shows there is no such thing as the Orthodox Church; they're all independent. There is an Orthodox tradition, but only the Catholic Church has authority. But again, we are not trying to break them up. They need to get their house in order in the Ukraine. The best thing we can do is stay out of it and pray.

In practice among the Orthodox around the world it's not a big deal because Russians and Greeks don't mix (they speak different languages and sing different music) and so far the other patriarchs remain in communion with both.

I do think the U.S. government is behind some of the trouble in the Ukraine; they're still fighting Russia. For heaven's sake, why? Our left are angry that it's not Communist anymore and is authoritarian and Christian. Hooray for Putin's Russia. Beats social-justice warrior America. I have a portrait of the Tsar in my living room and yes, I'm Catholic.

The Crimea is Russia; I'm happy for them, getting what they wanted. Arguably so is the eastern Ukraine but I won't push that. Everybody I've known from there, including the Crimea, didn't want to be in a separate country.

P.S. The Ukrainian parish I go to is not very nationalistic. Everybody there I know is like the Rusyns; their families came to America before World War I when there was no nation of the Ukraine and they didn't much care which country their villages belonged to. They were from Austria-Hungary; Galicia. They're second-generation, speaking English, but Ukrainian is their first language and they can switch back to it just like that. The ethnicity is there but not promoted; the church sign says "Eastern Catholic," not Ukrainian, hoping to get non-Ukrainian seekers, who so far aren't forthcoming. Services are 90% English. It's a tightrope: suppress the ethnicity or become an ethnic club and either way the community would be doomed. The parish is doing what it should.


  1. Bring Istanbul and Moscow into the Church? Why don't you work on Bergolio to become a basic Catholic rather than a Marxist subversive. Clean up you own messy church before you invite others in the fray!

    1. We don't have canonical churches anathematizing each other over a turf war. I don't like Francis but he doesn't really bother me. I know he can't change our teachings; that's not how the papacy works. He hasn't undone Benedict XVI's reforms so life in the church is actually better than under John Paul the Overrated. Not liking Francis isn't an excuse to stay outside. And, Father, if you never were under Rome personally I'm not trying to solicit you.


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