Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Trying to save the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America

Ukrainian Catholics in North America continue to struggle to develop ways to maintain their Ukrainian religious and ethnic identity amid a larger majority culture that beckons with the siren song of assimilation.

The answer may lie in young people, according to Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the newly enthroned archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, during a June 6 conference on the future of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in North America that he convoked at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
Having been using the Greek Catholic option for sound Catholics three years now in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, this is of interest to me.

A Novus Ordo religious-studies professor:
If Jesus were preaching and teaching today, we might think of him as that millennial hipster with some crazy ideas.
Two of my sayings: "Eastern churches in Western countries fail in three generations" due to assimilation and "everything that's not doctrine is on the table."

There are next to no kids where I go to Sunday Liturgy.

Byzantine Catholic churches often have their wires crossed. On one hand, while the Latin Church was being ripped apart after/because of Vatican II (I don't mean Catholic teachings; those don't change), they were undisturbed, allowed to remain traditional, so 34 years ago a married priest from the Ukraine celebrated my first traditional Mass (not counting Episcopal services) of any kind; it was Byzantine Rite. On the other, they're trying to survive the problem in my first saying, so they're tempted to Westernize by adopting Novus Ordo-ey gimmicks to "relate to the kids" (with predictably poor results both catechetically and regarding retention?). Like in liberal Canada, which has lots of ethnic Ukrainians. Altar girls and Eucharistic ministers!

The answer is what Orthodox jurisdictions in America do: offer a local vernacular version of the old services and good youth programs such as summer camps and of course good religious education.

You can do everything right and still lose just about everybody to assimilation, as is happening to the Orthodox too, but you'll know you did right.
Father Peter Galadza, a Ukrainian Catholic priest and theologian, said the Ukrainian liturgical rites hold an appeal to some non-Ukrainians who have joined the Ukrainian church.
Almost acknowledging people like me who don't like the Novus Ordo, who have saved a few Byzantine Catholic parishes and often become enthusiastic about the authenticity of the rite (even more so than many born members), which is what the church wants. Official church people don't like to admit these refugees exist, and when they do mention it, they're disparaging: "could not accept liturgical change," blah blah. That might be changing as the liberals die out. Of course it's the Byzantine Rite, the Ukrainian recension of it, not a Ukrainian rite.

You've got to be careful with nationalism and ethnicity. The latter has its place in church as long as it doesn't take over. Community. Overdoing or stamping out ethnic culture would kill the parish. Ukrainian Catholicism is very nationalistic culturally but the parish I go to is more like its Ruthenian cousins in that the people are descended from immigrants from before World War I when their villages were under Austria-Hungary. So it's not extremely nationalistic. And I've never been told to get out for not being Ukrainian.

P.S. Why did I become Catholic? Like other Anglicans, when I realized I wasn't. More to the point, when recently asked, because the teachings make sense and I need to belong to something and someone.


  1. Same issues at other Eastern Churches as well - for example, the Malankara Syriac Catholics. Traditional practices require approval of everyone from the local bishop to the Head of the Church, and the Holy Synod - meanwhile so-called "charismatic" made up practices, adopting contemporary music, latinizing (Rosary, Stations, etc - nothing wrong with these per se, but clearly they are not Eastern and should never replace the proper prayer-Rites of the particular Church), truncating prayers/skipping sections or cutting short readings to get ever-closer to the NovusOrdo 1hr timeframe, EMHCs, unleavened bread, Eucharistic Adoration, restricting Communion for child after their real first baptism/chrismation/Communion until the "Age of Reason", lack of married deacons or priests, no real Memorial prayers for Saints (just a mere mention or short prayer, but not the longer Traditional practice), skipping Syriac Lenten Morning or Evening prayers for Stations, Novenas, etc; naming parishes after Latin Saints instead of Eastern Saints, doubling Latin saints on Eastern Saints memorials on the calendar, Mimicking Latin forms of Confession instead of traditional Eastern practice; in addition - failure to evangelize or serve the local population or the fully translate all Liturgical Rites to English speaking youth.

    Seems like a good way to disappear, and also do a major dis-service to the non-Catholics (bad example of unity), as well as the Catholic Church (destroy the catholicity of the Church by just being Latins with some Eastern costumery and strange couple languages)

    1. Thank you for your comment. I mentioned in a later post that this decline is a problem for all Eastern churches in America, plus you've got the pressure of self-latinization old and new for the Catholic ones as you list for the Malankara Catholics, even though the church's official policy is to respect the rites. "Contemporary music" isn't liturgical. I don't introduce latinizations but don't mind them in the parish if they're old, pre-Vatican II, and less than half the parish's practices. Anyway, I'm in no position to tell people what to do so I don't. I revive Orthodox customs by doing them!

      truncating prayers/skipping sections or cutting short readings to get ever-closer to the NovusOrdo 1hr timeframe

      Arrrrgh! Facepalm. Old-country Orthodoxy knows how to do this without butchering/protestantizing the services. The services go on and on and on while the laity come and go as they please.

      It seems that Byzantine Catholic bishops in America decades ago were at least tacitly for their churches disappearing via assimilation. In 1907 when Bishop Soter Ortynsky was put in charge of the new combined Ruthenian and Ukrainian diocese for America (they didn't get along so they got separate dioceses in America in 1924), it had 500,000 people, then the fourth largest Catholic diocese in the United States! Now the Ukrainian Catholic Church here is lucky to pull a few tens of thousands. Why? Says a source, because the clergy rolled over and played dead: "We don't want it." That, assimilation, and the schisms in America to the Orthodox, as recently as the 1930s, that were all our fault (Catholics in America didn't respect the Byzantine Rite custom of ordaining the married and got Rome to ban it here; this has been lifted but the damage was done). And by the way the Orthodox lose their second and third-generation Americans like crazy too.

      just being Latins with some Eastern costumery and strange couple languages

      One of my sayings: you don't have to believe the Catholic churches of the Eastern rites are perfect just because they're Catholic. They're very much not. They often turn into this. The church says not to.


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