Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Evening Note for Tuesday, March 7

Thought for the Evening: Of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church

I was interested to see this news item recently, about a meeting of Russian Greek Catholics over the fate of their little sui juris church. The church, which is fully Catholic, is in a bit of desperate state:

About 30 clerical delegates from Russian Catholic communities across the world, as well as laity, will meet in Seriate, just outside Bergamo, Italy, to discuss their future and once again petition Rome for an exarch, or bishop, and the revival of the Russian Catholic Exarchate.

“We have saints and martyrs, many dead in the gulags and shot for their Russian Catholic faith. I can’t believe that was all in vain,” said Fr Cross.

“This is our last hurrah. If this fails, you can forget about the Russian Catholic movement,” he said.

I have discussed the Russian Catholic Church before; it was formally recognized in 1908 by Pope Pius X (although it predates it) as a body of Russian Orthodox in communion with Rome; the liturgy was deliberately not latinized in any way. But it has had continual hard times since then; Byzantine Catholic Churches rooted in Slavonic liturgies were severely devastated by the rise of Communism, which brutally suppressed them whenever it could, and the Russian Catholics, being mostly in Russia, were the easiest to attack. There are now perhaps a few thousand Russian Byzantine Catholics scattered throughout the entire world. Legally, they have an exarchate (two, in fact, one for Russian and one for China), the Byzantine more-or-less equivalent of a vicariate, which is a little bit more organized than a mission (since it would technically be governed by a bishop). But the Russian Catholic Exarchates have been empty for ages -- the Russian since 1951 and the one for China since 1953. That is a long time for a small church to go without active cultivation by a bishop; it means, in practice, that the entire subcommunion is just a bunch of scattered parishes struggling on their own. Every so often, Russian Catholics have petitioned Rome for relief. It has never come, and it sounds like they are increasingly worried that it never will.

It would be a terrible thing. People often treat the Eastern Catholic churches as bridges between Catholic and Orthodox, and they are, but there are many other reasons why a church like the Russian Byzantine Catholic church needs to be cultivated. One that I was pleased to see Fr. Cross in the article explicitly mention was that they are a clear witness to the independence of the Church:

“In the same way that in the 19th century our Church was a rebuke to the [Orthodox] Church for allowing itself to become a department of state … now the same thing has happened,” said Fr Cross, archpriest of the Russian Catholic community in St Kilda East, a suburb of Melbourne.

“We are a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church that says; ‘Stop! Wrong way. Go back. Don’t go into the arms of the state … Soloviev’s message comes back; ‘Brothers and sisters, be careful.'”

And the Catholic communion as a whole needs something like the Russian Greek Catholic Church: the Russian Orthodox liturgy, the Russian Orthodox heritage, the full fruition of the two great Exarchs of Russia of the Russians, Blessed Klymentiy Sheptytskyi and Blessed Leontiy Leonid Feodorov, and also of the Russian Catholic martyrs under the terrors of Communism. Without these things, not just as curiosities but as living and growing parts of the Church, all Catholics are impoverished.

Various Links of Note

* Roger Scruton, If We Are Not Just Animals, What Are We?

* Berit Brogaard, Intuition vs. Reason

* Peter Krasniewski, In Honor of Saint Thomas: A Portion of St. Francis's Litany of the Attributes of God, which is based on praying through the Summa Theologiae.

* Caitlin Green, Global Britain? A brief chronology of an awareness of Britain's existence

* Alex Poulos, Textual Criticism and Biblical Authority in Origen's Homily on Ps. 77

* Edward Feser, Supervenience on the hands of an angry God, discusses Jaegwon Kim's analogy between his 'causal exclusion argument' and Jonathan Edwards's occasionalism.

Currently Reading

Mary Renault, Fire from Heaven
Lois McMaster Bujold, Cryoburn
Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth
Max Planck, Eight Lectures on Theoretical Physics
Scott Ryan, Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality
Hyacinthe-Sigismond Gerdil, The Anti-Emile

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