Saturday, December 29, 2012

In Praise of Eastern Catholics

From here.
I am tired of people equating the Catholic faith as being the "Roman Catholic" faith.  It's time to put this notion to rest.

Roman Catholics are only one part of the Church (for that matter, only one part of the Latin rite of the Church)- there are Maronite Catholics, Melkite Catholics, Syro-Malabar Catholics, Coptic Catholics, Ukrainian Catholics, Chaldean Catholics, and a whole host of others.  It's time they stop being invisible in the Catholic world, if indeed the negative commentaries I have read are true.

Eastern Catholics, in my view, are often caught in between a rock and a hard place.  I am only a humble layman and a nobody when it comes to these kinds of things, but I cannot understand for the life of me why there is any controversy whatsoever over the supposed issue of married priests, why such a thing as "Latinization" ever existed in the first place, or any of the other hardships these wonderful people have been put through in the past.  Let's put this to rest as well.  There is the support of Scripture and Tradition for both married and celibate clergy, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. Latinization - the forcing of Eastern Catholics to adopt particularly Roman spiritual practices and the like - is ridiculous.  The Catholic Church is indeed a "coat of many colours" - let us rejoice in the myriad of expressions of love for God.

There is, in my opinion, support found in Scripture and Tradition for both married and celibate clergy.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  This is not something to fight over.  We are all Catholics, and this Catholic is overjoyed just getting to know the Eastern half of the Church.  Why are others not equally excited?  Why do some instead question them and interrogate them and treat them as second-rate Catholics?  Perhaps because society in general thinks "Roman Catholic", "Protestant", and "Eastern Orthodox", and nothing more subtle or complex than these three giant headings.  For the last time, Roman Catholics are only one part of the Catholic Church - admittedly, a large, visible, and well-known part.  But we Roman Catholics are not the only Catholics.  Frankly, I think the major problem is not necessarily one of latinization or any like thing, but of many simply not knowing about the Catholic East.

I have a tremendous respect for Eastern Catholics.  They have endured much persecution, hardship, forced conformity, misunderstanding, and ostracization - and they have hung on.  They are still here.  They have offered Holy Church a whole crowd of new saints, a joyous multitude indeed.  They have borne martyrs, theologians, and heroes.  And in an age of New Age liturgical nightmares in the Latin West at the hands of dissident movements within the Church, the liturgies of the Eastern Catholic Churches offer welcome relief.

So I want to do something good for the Lord and His Church.  I want to ask you, the reader, a favor - this weekend, find out whether or not there is an Eastern Catholic parish - Byzantine or otherwise - in your area, and make an effort to attend.  Talk to the priest, absorb the holiness of the liturgy, study the saints of the East.  If you cannot attend an Eastern Catholic parish in your area, maybe take a few moments to get to know a few of their major figures, both current and from ages past.  Read about the heroic lives of the Ukrainian Catholic martyrs.  Study the Servant of God, Andrey Sheptytsky, or look into the heroic life of St. Alphonsa of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, for example.  Look, seek, find.  If you have a question, I will try to answer whatever you ask as best I can, or find out the answer for you.

But any kind of non-recognition of Eastern Catholics in general must stop - Eastern Catholics are as Catholic as any hardcore Roman Catholic.  They stand with us because they are us - they just express the same truths in a slightly different way.  They entered into full communion with the Catholic Church (Maronites never left, incidentally!), braving all kinds of mudslinging, hatred, misunderstanding, latinization, marginalization, and abuse.  It's time to give them the respect and attention that they deserve, and if any Roman Catholics treat them as second-tier Catholics, it's time for this kind of thing to cease.

If no one else feels the same, if I am alone in this, if not one other person agrees with me, fine.  Here is one happily Roman Catholic who loves his Eastern Catholic brethren as much as his tiny heart can.

If you are interested, even slightly, in the world of the Catholic East, then this link is for you:

In Union With Rome: The one-stop shop for all things Eastern Catholic.  Links galore, a wealth of information.

Also check out:

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies

Holy Resurrection Monastery

Christ the Bridegroom

Eastern Catholic Spiritual Renewal

Prayer of St. Ephrem

Fear Not Little Flock

Ramblings of a Byzantine Catholic

Byzantine Ramblings

St. Elias...Today!

The Master Beadsman


  1. After I read this post, I decided to look online to see what Eastern Catholic parishes I had in my city, and I found that we have a Ukrainian Eparchy in my city with several parishes (including a Cathedral that I've been curious about for a few years now, but I always assumed that it was an Orthodox cathedral until I found its website, which states it as a Catholic cathedral in communion with the Pope.

    Small question; do you know where I can find resources for learning how to respond to the liturgy in an Eastern parish and how to receive the Blessed Sacrament?

    Thanks for the post, Jason!

    1. Jason,

      My name is Phillip, I run the "Masterbeadsman" blog and am on the board for the "Eastern Catholic Spiritual Renewal" blog. I'm a Roman Catholic that has made the journey East, first with the Ruthenians, then the Melkites. Now, because of a lack of Melkite or other Byzantine parish in my area, my wife and I are worshipping with the Maronites.

      For the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the responses you'd be praying, it really depends on if you end up at a Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Melkite, Romanian, or Russian parish. All of them will use more-or-less different translations and recensions (usages) of the standard liturgical books. The best thing is really to go to whatever parish a few Sundays in a row. Most responses are repeated so many times that they are easily memorized (I think I had most of the responses memorized by my third trip). Otherwise there are some books available from "Eastern Christians Publications" that might prove helpful. Their two-volume "Let Us Pray to the Lord" prayer books are well-worth the money. The Sheptytsky Institute has also published their wonderful "Anthology for Worship," which is worth every penny.

  2. Well said.


  3. Normally in the Eastern Churches, on receives under both kinds simultaneously on the tongue. BUT not all Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Divine Liturgy (the usual word for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, rather than "mass"). For example, in the Chaldean Church, and her counterpart, the Assyrian Church of the East, for centuries one has received on the hand.

    Jason, I can tell you why Latinization existed, and still exists in some Eastern Churches. For centuries Roman Catholics were convinced that the Roman way was the perfect way, and the more an Eastern Church resembled the Roman Church in praxis, the less imperfect it was. As late as the 50's, there were Catholic publications saying that the Roman Rite was the "presidential" (praesentior_ rite of the Church. There are rad-trads that still think that way.

    Many times when Eastern Christians of other churches wished to become Catholics, they were given pre-printed forms to sign, saying that they wouldn't become Catholic unless they were allowed to become ROMAN Catholic. This was too frequently done IN SPITE OF instructions from the Holy See not to induce them to do so.

  4. You can checkout this page. It contains the English translation of the divine liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

    On your first few visits, don't worry so much about following along, just enjoy the beauty of the liturgy.

  5. santimoniacatholic- you could get to the Divine Liturgy a bit early to get a book and ask the priest how he distributes the Holy Communion

    One tip- we cross ourselves every time the Holy Trinity is mentioned, either in a priestly blessing or in the text of the Liturgy

    also- if you are comfortable, you can sing any response that the cantor and people sing

  6. this is a short post I wrote along the same lines

    Thank you Ascending Mt Carmel for this post and the links!

  7. Wonderful post! Thank you for highlighting these often overlooked members of our family. Just last year a wonderful Byzantine priest came to speak at my Parish mother's group and put up a chart of all the 26 (or maybe 28) different branches of the Catholic Church. He kept stressing to us that each and every one of these Churches was truly, wholly, Catholic. It was an eye opener for me, and the first time I'd ever heard of them.

  8. We are blessed to live in an area with several Byzantine parishes. We, too, became Melkite years ago and my husband is an ordained Melkite Deacon. There is no Melkite parish in our area, either. We worship at a Ruthenian parish that is predominately Slavic. But the Divine Liturgy is the same - the responses are just in Slavic. It is like reading a Mass book that has Latin on one side and English on the other. Most Byzantine parishes have books to follow the Liturgy with and usually have them in English and the language of the Rite. Just attend a few times and absorb the mystical nature of an Eastern style of worship. Once it grabs you, it is hard to go back! We tried when we relocated, to attend a Latin rite Church, but we just could not do it. So we are now attending a Ruthenian parish...and learning Slavic!! Just remember, if the word "Orthodox" appears in the name of a local Church, they are not in communion with Rome! Blessings...a Diaconiassa.

  9. Thank you for flagging up this issue. I have for a number of years been interested in exploring the Eastern Catholic heritage and you article (as always) has provided me the motivation to pursue this with greater vigour. I regularly log on to this site and wish you God speed for the coming year.

  10. Awesome post...and know you are not alone. My own dear spiritual mother is a Byzantine Catholic and thank goodness she has introduced me to so many treasures from the East. I still have to get up the guts to go to a liturgy though since I think I will stand out like a sore thumb : ) One of these days...

    Keep up the blessed work Jason!

  11. Excellent post! I've had the pleasure of attending Ukrainian Catholic churches a couple of times in the past and I always find the liturgy so beautiful. The liturgical differences are always great for contemplation as well :)

  12. Jason, I felt somewhat disappointed by your comments and I seem to be the only one. You start off stating basically that the Eastern Catholic Church is being in someway ignored by the 'Roman Catholic Church' then on to a rant about the enforced celibate Priesthood and on to how the Roman (which is not officially catholic)Church is demeaning the vast cultural Christian wealth of the various churches commonly referred to as the Eastern Catholic Church. Now you are more learned than I in this and a brief scan of the Schism of the Church, which all Christians appall, shows some disagreement between same.

    I know there was a more pronounced antagonism between Catholic and Protestant, but you seem to wail that the Roman Church misrepresents all the Catholic Churches with the main crux of celibate Priesthood. Why? I don't know and you don't either by your post. Yet I read your blog due to the valuable research you do, its a shame to ignore your strengths to make a point.

    Whether you are being called to the Eastern Catholic Church who knows? But are you entitled to rail against the Roman Church because you don't know? I try to respect all the expressions of Christian faith, and I haven't ignored any other Christian's because of it regardless of disagreement. Although I do accept historical division and repudiation by all. But why not put forward your case for female priests etc. One thing leads to the next.

    Please accept by apologies if I have misinterpreted your statements or wronged you in any way, I'm going on how I have read your comments and those others.

    1. Chingers,
      So sorry I came off this way - it wasn't meant as an attack on my own rite. I know that the issue of married priests seems to be very misunderstood in the west from what I read. My point, however poorly I put it across, was that Eastern Catholics are just as Catholic as Roman Catholics, and the notion that they are second-rate (I have read some places that Eastern Catholics often feel this way) really made me upset to hear.
      But rest assured friend that it wasn't a slam against Roman Catholics in the least. I know I am not being called to the East - I am very happily Roman. Your idea of talking about women priests is a good one - I am little nervous taking on the task, but I have an idea or two about the issue.
      Anyways, thanks for the compliments, and my apologies for coming off badly on it. I tend to burst out of the gate with passion on things a little too soon sometimes - sometimes, it's better to ruminate longer on these kinds of topics before speaking on them.


    2. -Chingers,
      Jason represents accurately the struggle of many Eastern Catholics. First of all, I hope you understand that there is no such thing as a Eastern Catholic Church. There is only a Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is a communion of over 20 churches including Rome. These churches are all equal and share a common symbol of unity expressed in the Petrine ministry of the Pope. However, this equality has not always been expressed and to some degree has yet to be realized, which Jason in one way expresses. Your thinking that leads you to concluded ideas about female priests proves this point. Married clergy is an apostolic tradition just as much as celibate clergy. Some of our Eastern churches have maintained this tradition. Unfortunately , to this day Eastern Catholics are criticized and to some degree persecuted by Roman catholics on the issue and even on the official level. There is even a ban in effect in America that does not allow some of our Byzantine bishops to freely ordain married men. This ban when it came into force about 100 years ago gave birth pretty much to an Orthodox church in American and to this day it feeds it. So maybe you can understand why some of Eastern catholics are upset on this issue. We are told we are equal but the evidence for this claim is not there.

    3. Jason and Ric, thank your for you replies. But I feel Jason has proved my point by his approach to his article on Women's Ordination,case presented, evidence given and conclusions drawn.

      I don't want to get drawn into critiquing his work but he admits the above was written in a passionate way, nothing wrong with that only I felt the presentation lacked, which I hoped I pointed out with Charity, but I may not have and tried to.

      The 'second rate' jibe particularly irked and for the simple reason is that I live in Ireland and the 'Roman Catholic Church' is under a constant daily barrage from within and without. It really does feel like being in the Spiritual Trenches, so no-one is feeling 'first rate' about much and I'd suspect those who did were out of touch.

      Like what seems the diminishing minority of my faith, I'm trying to live faithfully to the teachings of the Church and Pope and God. I have plenty of questions many which are similar that Jason also has, but I have to remain faithful as to what the Church teaches and are just and charitable, I along with many others would like the luxury of defining the faith for myself, but we cannot.

      So while Jason highlights other problems our brothers and sisters have which allows us to pray for them, remember we all are suffering.

      I hope this explains what I lacked.

      God bless us


  13. Yes, we are one and catholic. On account of language or other identities some variations are there, but not in matters of teachings and faith. Let us rejoice in the different colours of the Church through different Rites and ethnicity

  14. I agree that we should be excited about the beautiful traditions of the East. I do think that you have a simplistic view of the married priesthood. I have been a "fly on the wall" when Byzantines have mocked and belittled my rite- usually about the celibacy requirement or the "awful" liturgies. I realize that most Latin-rite people are ignorant, but I've never received an invite! If you are confused as to "what's the big whoop" about the married priesthood, I suggest you visit a married priest's home. Get to know the family. You may have to go to Europe to do so, but you will find that it does get a little complicated. For instance, should the priest go to his daughter's ballet recital, or go to a dying man's bedside? How much should a priest share with his wife over the struggles of the parish? Should he get a raise every time he has a child? And this does not even delve into how the parish may treat the family! btw It is hard to feel welcome in a church that speaks Hungarian; has Hungarian traditions- when I'm not Hungarian!! Where is the future in that church? God bless you and I hope my comments only provoke more fruitful discussion about East-West relations. *Halve*

  15. While I understand the sentiment, I would suggest that the faithful of the Latin Church specifically are more accurately referred to as “Western Catholics” or “Latin Catholics,” rather than “Roman Catholics.”

    The "Roman Catholic Church" is not a synonym for the particular "Latin Church," but the universal "Catholic Church," in communion with Rome, and therefore "Roman Catholic":

    I have written on this issue here: