Eastern Catholics: A Confusion to Western Catholics the World Over

Eastern Catholics: A Confusion to Western Catholics the World Over March 19, 2009

It’s a situation many Eastern Catholics face in their life: how do they explain who they are to people who are unfamiliar to the Catholic East. For many, the only kind of Catholicism they know is what is done within the Latin Rite, and anything else is looked upon as suspect. Catholics who chrismate (confirm) children at baptism, and then give them communion? Say it isn’t so! Catholics whose tradition is to have married priests? Are you sure?

Historically, Eastern Catholics have had to face all kinds of criticism and suspicion from Romans in the United States, with one of the most famous cases being that of Fr. Alexis Toth. Upon learning that this newly-arrived Ruthenian priest was married, Archbishop Ireland would have nothing to do with him: he wouldn’t even recognize Fr. Toth’s priestly orders. Is it any surprise, that after continuous mistreatment, Fr. Toth would eventually change jurisdictions, and become a member of the then-growing Orthodox Church of America, taking a good percentage of Ruthenian Catholics with him? (He is now recognized as a saint by the Orthodox!). 

While things have improved, they are not perfect. Even within the United States, I’ve known of Easterners being told they had to be reconfirmed when they changed rites (because of marriage), and any Easterner who complains is told to have a “chip on their shoulder.” We also have to face a large number of “traditionalist” Latin Catholics who are upset about what is happening in their own liturgical tradition come in to our churches, and try to transform us from within, to make us what it is they want out of the Latin rite (what, you don’t say the filioque? heretics!).

Now, where I thought things were going better, an article in Catholica relates how  Easterners in Australia are now facing the same kind of challenges we have had to deal with in America. It’s especially apparent in the schools. Chrismated Catholics who are receiving communion in their local parish are forbidden it, due to age, when at a Catholic school. Eastern Catholic children are forced, against their tradition, to go to mass on Ash Wednesday, and recieve ashes (our liturgical tradition has us, during the weekdays of Lent, not celebrate Divine Liturgy). Indeed, Catholic schools in Australia seem to think their purpose is to help educate Latins, and go about seeking to change Eastern children so their practices would match that of the Latins (which runs against many of the rules of the Church). The article suggests that Australians need to be made more aware of the Catholic East, its traditions, and to follow through with an education program that would help end the second-class treatment (my words, not the article) Easterners tend to recieve. The advice is good, not only for Australia, but for any place where Eastern Catholics have a presence. For then, the Church can begin to breath with both lungs, which Pope John Paul II rightfully is said a necessity for the Church’s healthy future.

H/T to Inside Catholic for this.

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