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Sunday, 8 April 2012

Anglican "Uniates"?

By Fr John Salter, Chairman - in Chrysostom, Pascha 2012

Some twelve years ago I was sitting sipping coffee in the common room of the Melkite Greek Catholic seminary at Harissa, on top of a mountain near Beirut, Lebanon, having just attended a magnificent Divine Liturgy in the basilica of the Maronites. The event was the Congress of Eastern Catholic Churches (9th-29th May 1999). The liturgy was concelebrated by seven Eastern Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East, which included Patriarch Maxim V Hakim of the Melkites, the Maronite Patriarch, the Catholikos-Patriarch of the Armenians, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, the Syrian Patriarch, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Papal Nuncio and several archbishops and bishops and abbots and fathers superior of various orders in union and peace with the Holy See. Suddenly I heard a loud hurumphing from the sofa opposite and a voice, saying, “That was the worst sort of Uniatism”.

The hurumpher was Archbishop Elias Zoghby, formerly Archbishop of Baalbeck. The cause of his discontent, he told me, was that there were no Orthodox partaking in the celebrations, although I noticed that there were representatives of other Churches present in the sanctuary, including the Assyrian Archbishop, the Armenians, the Syrians and representatives of some of the Protestant Churches based in Lebanon and Syria. I got the impression he thought the impressive ceremony was too triumphalist and smacked of “Latinization” or “Uniatism”, something he had fought against for years, for it was he who had resigned in protest when Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh of the Melkites had accepted a Cardinalate from the Pope. Archbishop Elias thought, rightly, that Patriarchs out-ranked Cardinals. The Holy See had to alter the description of Cardinals of the Eastern Churches from Cardinals of the Roman Church to Cardinals of Holy Church. Maximos IV's successors did not receive the red hat.

But what is this “Uniatism” that so upset the Archbishop? It is not so much a doctrinal issue as an attitude. There was one Catholic Patriarch who was not present for the gathering in Beirut – the Ukrainian Greek Catholic, and it is to the latter's Church that we must look for the origin of the perjorative word “Uniate”, for it was applied to it by the Russian Orthodox, who were indignant that
Rome had seemingly proselytized a section of their Church, bringing it into communion with the Pope. But history tells a different story. This is Archimandrite Robert Taft, S.J., of the Russicum College in Rome on the subject:
Far from being the result of some preconceived Catholic strategy, “Uniatism” grew out of the difficult situation in which the Ruthenian Orthodox hierarchy of the day found itself, between Moscow and Poland, Reform and Counter-Reformation, and is wholly an invention of the Ruthenian Orthodox bishops themselves. Of course these hierarchs did not see it as, nor desire it to be, a break with Orthodoxy. On the contrary, it aimed to protect the unity of the Ruthenian Orthodox Church, at that time under stress from a multitude of factors, including the desire of the Ruthenian bishops to preserve their independence over against the powerful independent Brotherhoods supported by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Ruthenian lands, the pretensions of Moscow from the East, and the pressure of Reformation and Counter-reformation proselytism from the West. 
Rather than being “forced”, or a Polish Latin invention, initially, at least, the Union was not viewed favourably by any of the three parties – Rome, the Poles, and the Jesuits traditionally indicted in the “received view” of the matter. In the well-informed, balanced and objective view of historian Ambrose Jobert, whom Dupuy cites with approval, “The Union of Brest is not the work of Polish or Roman policies. The Ruthenian bishops, irritated by the reforms of {Constantinopolitan patriarch} Jeremias II, requested it, the Polish court decided, not without hesitation, to risk it, and Rome received the Ruthenians into union without making any precise commitments in their regard. Thus it was that on October 19 1596, in the church of St. Nicholas in the city of Brest, in what was then the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, five of the seven Orthodox bishops in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth entered into union with the Holy See.
In the contrary myth, two intrepid 16th-century Jesuits, the Pole, Peter Skarga, and the Italian, Antonio Possevino, are wrongly considered the instigators of “Uniatism”. But these Jesuits, far from inventing “Uniatism”, took a dim view of Ruthenian Orthodoxy and favoured conversion of the Ruthenians to the Roman Church plain and simple. By then it had become evident that the prospect of a return to the Union of Florence, which had been the aim of the non-Polish Jesuits and the Holy See had been impracticable, and Possevino‟s famous exchange with Ivan the Terrible confirmed it. But the idea of regional corporate reunion based on the precedents established at Florence in 1439 was not the invention of the Jesuits but the plan of the Ruthenian Orthodox hierarchy, who hoped to join the Catholic Church as a body, preserving their own hierarchy and rite. The reluctant acceptance of the plan by King Sigismund III of Poland and by the Holy See marked a radical departure in Catholic policy that has lasted until modern times. Before this, the Holy See had worked for a general reunion with the Byzantine Orthodox while striving at the same times for conversions to the Latin rite.

There is a parallel of the Ruthenians' union with the Holy See and that of the Anglican Ordinariate. There have been those in the Church of England who have tended to see the Ordinariate as proselytism on the part of Pope Benedict XVI, but this is to ignore the facts. The move for union came not from the Holy Father, but from groups of Anglicans, not only in England, but also in Australia and elsewhere, who petitioned the Pope for unity. Pope Benedict responded positively to the petition of the Anglicans in Anglicanorum Coetibus. If, in the distant future, the Church of England, or a larger section of it than has joined the Ordinariate, led, perhaps, by the Archbishop of Canterbury or a senior Diocesan Bishop, wished for reconciliation with the Apostolic See, it is the Archbishop or the senior bishop who must ask for the pallium, the symbolic lamb's wool stole worn on the shoulders of an archbishop in union with the Apostolic See of Rome, and not just as a charge on his coat-of-arms. The Holy Father can only treat with an Episcopate. It seems that the only alternative to Catholic Reunion is the disruption of the Church of England; but the prerequisite of Reunion is the conversion of the bishops, or a sufficient number of them. But the Pietas Anglicana must be preserved. Anglicans must have the courage to be themselves and remember that there are Anglicans other than the Anglo-Roman party (who see union as a total adoption of the rites and ceremonies of the Latin Church), namely the Anglican Papalist party, who are longing for an accommodation with the Roman Church. We must remember that quite a lot of the Anglican Papalists have not responded to the Ordinariate and are left in a sort of Non-Man's-Land. Many are what are called “Prayer Book Catholics”, but are open to the claims of the Papacy.

It has been said that the Ordinariate is not a Uniate Church, or the beginning of one. It is from the Western tradition, and like other rites in communion with Rome, such as those of Toledo, Milan and Braga cannot be considered as “Uniate”, any more than the section of the Old Believers, the Edinoverz (United Believers) who are allowed to keep their pre-Nikonian rites, but are only semi- “Uniates”; for their liturgy is only slightly different from that of the Russian Orthodox Church and their spirituality is that of the Russian Church. But the Anglicans, as a whole, are not part of the Pietas Romana.

There is a story doing the rounds, that may be an Anglo-Catholic myth, to the effect that a young priest applying for membership of the Ordinariate was turned down because “You are not familiar with the Roman Rite”. “But I thought the Ordinariate was to bring the Anglican Patrimony into the Catholic Church”, he replied. And there's the rub!

What is the Anglican Patrimony? What is mainstream Anglicanism? One supposes it is what is on offer in the English cathedrals liturgically; and in the writings of Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrews, William Laud, C.S.Lewis, T.S.Eliot et al. The Anglo-Romans seem to be in the majority in the Ordinariate membership. This could lead to ultramontanism, papadulia and, worst of all, hybridization or latinization. One would hope to see a little of the Cisalpine spirit, not Gallicanism, but something which was recognizable as a patrimony over and against the Latin West - otherwise what is the point of the Ordinariate? It must act as a bridge between Canterbury and Rome. The so-called “Uniate” Churches soon began by adopting Roman customs and imitating Latin ceremonies and celebrating feasts days of the Latin West: Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and lately the Divine Mercy cult. It probably arose out of a sense of inferiority, as in the case of those in the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who imagined that Roman or Latin was superior or better, or more Catholic. Even the Orthodox in areas where there was a Latin outnumbering, such as in Austria and Hungary, would adopt Roman purple embellishments to their rasons in exactly the way Anglo-Catholic canons adopt purple piping on their cassocks and High Church bishops adopt fuschia pink soutanes and birettas, lace from paps to knee on their cottas, overlooking the fact that bad taste can lead to bad faith. What is wrong with the elegant black satin chimere? It was good enough for St John Fisher on his way to the chopping block and even the Canterbury cap adorns the corpse of St. John Southwell in the north aisle of Westminster Cathedral. The Eastern Catholics were often given honorific titles by Latin bishops and even the Pope himself, so that the title “Monsignor” crept into the Eastern hierarchy instead of Archpriest or Archimandrite. The same has happened in the Ordinariate. The title "monsignor‟ will put off non-ultramontanist Anglicans. What is wrong
with the title “Canon”? Some cathedral chapters, such as Lyons, have mitred Canons. Or to be more Anglican, what about “Prebendary”? One fears the patronage of Our Lady of Walsingham may not be acceptable to Anglicans of the older generation, who regarded the Shrine church as totally Anglo-Roman, despite the fact that the Anglican shrine now has a much wider appeal.

The “Uniates” have woken up to realizing that they are just as good Catholics with their Orthodox rites and ceremonies and spirituality as the Latins, and are well aware that latinizations cause the Orthodox to be put off union with Rome, because they see their patrimony as Easterners betrayed. This has been the tragedy of “Uniatism” – it has not been an adequate bridge. If the members of the Ordinariate do not wish to be considered “Uniates” they must stop behaving like them. The Ordinariate is only a year old and people are finding their feet and adapting to a new situation. The members need the support, particularly of the Eastern Catholics in the United Kingdom, who have had “To sing the Lord‟s song in a strange land” and know what it is like to be regarded as “Not proper Catholics” by the Latins, and “Not proper Orthodox” by the Eastern Orthodox. The Ordinariate is a unique and exciting phenomenon in the history of the Catholic Church and it is in
very urgent need of funding. Friends of the Ordinariate are raising money so we should support it as generously as we can afford.

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