By Jackie Morfesis
Greek Catholic. Byzantine Catholic. Eastern Rite Catholic. By now, every Orthodox Christian should be familiar with this terminology. But are we familiar with why traditionally Orthodox Christians would become Eastern Rite Catholics? Why anyone would?
I was personally aware of the answer to this question, but it was dramatically confirmed in the year 2000, when I visited Rome, Italy. It happened to be the year of the Roman Catholic celebration of two-thousand years of Christianity, the “Great Jubilee.” This was the year when Pope John Paul the II gave his famous Mea Culpa. His Mea Culpa for all the wrongs committed by the Catholic Church through the centuries. Including against Jews, women, Muslims, indigenous peoples, for the Crusades, including the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, and the Inquisition. Near one hundred apologies were made during the reign of Pope John Paul II. Among them? The subversive tactic of going into traditionally Orthodox countries and converting Christians to “Eastern Rite Catholics.”
Let us unpack the reasoning. Is it because good meaning Catholic missionaries want to save souls? Highly unlikely, given that they are converting those who are already “saved.” Then again, Pope Pius IX stated that “No one can be saved outside the Catholic Church” in his encyclical letter of 1863. But there is another possible reason, a very concerning reason. Eastern Rite Catholics are in full communion with the Roman Apostolic See and with the Roman Catholic Church. They are under papal authority and are dues-paying Catholics.
We know that Jesus paid the ultimate price for our redemption. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Given that the Catholic Church is deemed to be if not the wealthiest institution in the world, including land and property owner, this makes this practice all the more troubling. Not only is the Catholic Church’s wealth estimated to be in the billions, but many also estimate it to be in the trillions.
This practice of the Catholic Church traces back to the 1400s when Catholic missionaries, many of the monastic orders (Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Capuchins) began their crusade for reunification of Catholics and Orthodox. As if the Orthodox left? The Orthodox remained the Early Church. We did not need at that time, nor do we need at this time to be reunified to anyone. Nor reunited. Nor brought back into communion. We never left communion.
I was reminded of this thorn in the side of Orthodox-Catholic relations because retired Pope Francis was recently interviewed in an article published in the National Catholic Register – “Pope Francis Discusses Revising Priestly Celibacy.” It was not so much the debate about celibacy that interested me, but the language he used in his interview: “Eastern Catholic priests”, “The Catholic Church in the Eastern Rites.” Think for one moment, if the Orthodox church did what the Catholic Church has done. Since they have Eastern Rite Catholics – should we have Western Rite Orthodox? So that former Catholics can pay dues to the Orthodox church?
I am not being cynical. Nor overly critical. I am being honest. Pope John Paul II apologized for a reason. Apologies are made based upon fact, are an admission of wrongdoing, and an honest attempt to redress and heal a wrong. Spiritually they are an appeal for forgiveness. However, as in many of the wrongs committed by the Catholic Church through the centuries, apologies are worthless if one keeps committing the same sin over and over. We often cite the scripture when our Lord says: “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). However, very few follow with the rest of the scripture when our Lord says: “Sin no more.”
We should also all be aware of the movement to unite the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches supported by Patriarch Bartholomew and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros. In the year, 2025, according to our respective calendars, we will celebrate Easter together. Powers that be not only hope but are working towards the Orthodox Church and Catholic Church no longer observing Easter on different days. As per the Nicene Creed, we are “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” However, “catholic” in this context is not referring to the Roman Catholic Church. It is referring to “catholic” meaning universal. The Roman Catholic Church believes this only applies to them.
Certainly, the origin, growth, and propagation of Eastern Rite Catholics is not a simple evolution, and I am by no means putting the full blame on the Catholic Church. Those who choose to convert are also responsible. But let us be honest – encouraging, tempting, and coercing others to do something against their own good judgment with the promise of reward, support, or benefit is not the type of seed we want to plant in anyone’s heart. Given the fact that Eastern Rite Catholics are permitted to retain their iconography, liturgy, and other meaningful aspects of worship – it is evidence that this conversion is subversive.
I guarantee if the day ever comes when the Orthodox Church has become Roman Catholic – and under papal authority, that will be the day that I convert to another Christian denomination. To be clear, I am not speaking to the Catholic faithful. Nor am I against, have prejudice, or am discriminatory against the Catholic Church or any other Christian denomination.
But, I personally will not be in communion with a church that was responsible for the warring Crusades and the evil tortures of the Inquisition. And centuries of institutional and systemic emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and cruelty against innocent children in their schools and churches by Catholic clergy, nuns, and teachers. Including acts committed by and protected by the hierarchy of the Catholic church all the way to the Vatican doors. By the way, reports of abuse are still occurring, and lawsuits and settlements are still being litigated. “If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Pope John Paul II’s first public apology for the clergy sex-abuse was in 2001 via email.
Not only is there water under the bridge between the Orthodox and Catholics, there are some very serious issues practical, ecclesiastical, and hierarchical, that deserve deep and thoughtful consideration. I am well aware that as Christians we are “one body in Christ”, however, not only in regard to the Roman Catholic Church but other denominations, our views, understanding, and practice of the faith can be widely divergent. Again, this is not personal to the Catholic faithful nor even an indictment against the Roman Catholic Church as a whole, it is a topic that deserves deep reflection and thoughtful prayer.
There is an institute in the Vatican for every country they want to take back into their fold. San Girolamo for Yugoslavia, San Atanasio for Greece, and so on. THey were all strongly supportive of nazi occupations and ratlines.
There were popes and saints of the Catholic Church who supported and turned a blind eye to the Inquisitions including the horrific Spanish Inquisition.
The Papist Uniate Movement is one of the best examples of the biblical phrase “wolves in sheepskins” that you can find…they literally dress like Orthodox, but have their allegiance with Rome…the sad part today is that many within Orthodoxy (including ample clergy) are either “openly/actively” Uniate, or “passively” Uniate… In times like these remembering what happened at the pseudo-council of Ferrara in 1439 is critical…
On a separate note, time for some fun trivia…the infamous and historically controversial Pericope Adulturae was cited in this article…
“He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7)
1) is not in the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete Greek New Testament manuscript from ~350 AD
2) was never mentioned in St. John Chrysostom’s exhaustive New Testament commentaries
3) was never mentioned in Theophylaktos’ line by line commentaries (~1100 AD)
4) is generally absent from official Orthodox reading cycle of the New Testament (based on official texts handed down for centuries)…
The academic debates about this excerpt are fascinating, though…
Excellent commentary – thank you.
Thank you for sharing. I’m reminded of the stoning of the widow (Irene Papas) in Zorba the Greek. I’m aware that today – in parts of the world, women and girls are punished, even killed for adultery, and for being the victim of assault. I know my Lord has mercy and calls us to have mercy even if this passage of scripture is questioned.
By the way, there are several western rite Orthodox Churches in the USA. I attended one several times in TX.
Thank you for sharing. I was unaware of a Western Rite Orthodox Church and looked up the origin which confirms my thoughts – it was not a systematic plan by the Orthodox Church in the same way it was planned and orchestrated by the Catholic Church. Its origins go back to a Roman Catholic priest who eventually converted to Russian Orthodoxy – Julian Joseph Overbeck.
Many of the differences between the eastern and western churches predate Constantine (eg leavening, celibacy), COnstantine only got them to agree to disagree, but CHarlemagne wanted to break it up. ALthough he first tried to marry Irene Fortipace, he then got the pope to declare him emperor on grounds the throne was vacant, for being held by a woman. and then he got the visigoth filioque to further stir things up.
The part of Lord Jesus telling the adulteress to “Go And Sin No More” is the salient part leftist churches ignore.
their motto is:
“Keep on doing You –
because You have human rights!
“Human Rights” is catchphrase
of GOA feckless leaders.
Jacquie I will reply to your reply to me re state of the church but I wanted to reply to this first. .
Firstly I was surprised you were unaware of the western orthodox rite. Especially strong in the USA Antiochan church. .
The western rites before the schism are entirely orthodox and the liturgy of St James is celebrated on Zakynthos yearly and Jerusalem and in the OCA transfiguration skete in NY state . That is a wonderful example of a modern orthodox monastery and community . They were former uniates until the 1960s. They have nuns too and a lay community .
The late archbishop Christodulous of Athens often celebrated the liturgy of St James.
Also many of the ‘ Ruthenians ‘ originally making up the former russian archdiocese in USA and now the OCA , are ,or were former Ukrainian Greek catholic uniates who returned to orthodoxy in 1890s led by St fr Alexei Toth whose relics are in the wonderful St Tikhon monastery in Pennsylvania,founded by archbishop Tikhon ,in 1905 ,later patriarch Tikhon ,first newly restored patriarch of Moscow in 1917;just after the communist take over and now saint Tikhon ,martyr .
The first priest martyr of the communist persecution , brutally killed in Tsarskoe Selo near St Petersburg ,was fr Kochurov who laboured for many years in USA amongst the returned uniates of Pennsylvania ,before returning to Russia with family in 1914 .
Peter Great had abolished the Moscow Patriarchate in 1700 and instituted a Lutheran type synod of bishops with a civil procurator to rule the Russian church. It was restored in autumn 1917 at time of communist take over of Russia.
I have personal experience of the Ukrainian Greek catholic church in London , UK as have Greek catholic Ukrainian friends . Their piety and faith have often moved me as attending a liturgy with the entire congregation of packed church ( several packed liturgies of a Sunday morning ) and Saturday evening ! singing the entire liturgy in their very orthodox traditional Carpathian plainchant. They have also outwardly become more and more what they were , orthodox ,ie the outward appearance of church and clergy ( bearded, iconostas etc ) And the very orthodox piety of the people is deeply moving.
When I compare this to the many churches of the Greek American archdiocese with their dog collared clean shaven clergy and blaring organs and rows of rigid pews ( here in Bulgaria we stand before God) and total lack of orthodox worship in congregation that barely cross themselves as they sit there as in a theatre , well I ask who are the uniates here?
Outward custom you might say. Yes which as an psychologist I can say denotes inward state
Thank you for your reply, history, information, and personal insights and experience on the Western Orthodox Rite. No need to be surprised – I have never presented myself as a religious scholar nor theologian. I write as a follower of Christ, and I write when I am moved by the spirit to do so.
Ps re paedophilia. This is indeed sickening and disgusts me as any human being. Although I fear there are those in our society pushing for paedophilia to be OK’ed.
And as I Christian I feel tainted by the Catholic church. But I want to make a point .
Firstly we must be careful to not cast the first stone as the state of our ‘celibate clergy ‘ may need looking at let alone the bishops of the Phanar who know who they are. I am not accusing them of paedophilia as have no direct proof but certainly a question mark around their ‘ celibate ‘ monk status is well in order .
The scandal in Astoria recently is a warning. I personally am in favour of married bishops. If comes to that I see no reason what so ever to deny the priesthood to the female sex. Nor did Bishop Kallistos ware or Antony Bloom in UK. But that is another discussion. You cannot address yrself to the female while you deny them equal status before God.
Secondly ,against much western pressure over the centuries , the eastern rite churches have maintained a married clergy and as far as I am aware have not been involved in the western paedophilia scandal. Truly the words of Christ re mill stones and little children ,are very apt.
Thank you for your reply. I think it is important when discussing one tragedy not to appropriate it to nor diminish its importance by comparison to anything else. Being “celibate” is not by itself a reason for the sin of pedophilia nor sexual abuse of anyone. Anymore than being married precludes someone from being a predator or sexual abuser. Sexual sin is not the result nor outcome or casualty of celibacy nor marital status. Sexual sin especially against innocent children is rooted in the demonic. This is a deeply broken spiritual condition. This has nothing to do with “casting the first stone.” This has to do with speaking to a horror that must be unveiled, addressed legally, and healed. Beginning a conversation about sexual abuse with “This is indeed sickening, however…” No. It must never be downplayed, compared, nor in anyone minimized by appropriation. As a female, I can assure you I have “equal status before God.” My relationship with my Lord is not dependent on any earthly or spiritual title. I have already been given the greatest title of all – “child of God.”
Women do NOT need to be ordained ie, copy cats of men, to be equal in importance in the eyes of God. Holy Scripture says we are all part of the Royal Priesthood. Men and women ARE different from each other, function differently, but complement one another, and TOGETHER they make up humankind. To suggest that a woman needs to be ordained to be equal to a man in the eyes of God or people is to suggest that her God-given gifts are not good enough, and to degrade her while insulting God.
Irene, you replied to directly beneath my comment. Did you mean to reply instead to Nikos Stone? I did not say anything to support the ordination of women in the Orthodox Church.
don’t be naive – soon as you allow female priests they’ll open gates to homosexuals.
No way – No how!
“ I am well aware that as Christians we are “one body in Christ”, however, not only in regard to the Roman Catholic Church but other denominations, our views, understanding, and practice of the faith can be widely divergent. ”
By this quote, Jackie, I hope you are not suggesting that the Orthodox Church is one body in Christ together with the RC and Protestant churches. Christ instituted ONE Church and therefore ONE Body of which He (and not a Papal figure) is the head. This means that Christ’s true Body, and therefore true Church, cannot be divided. This can only be the Orthodox Church.
Generally agree with this but there is something I’d like to point out. There is only one Body of Christ, and that is the Eastern Orthodox church. No one else, and no one else calling themselves Christian is a part of the Body of Christ. The idea of we’re all just one church among many churches but believe all this different stuff came from Protestantism.
Dear Illumined, thank you for clarifying further. this means that we both reject the decisions of the 2016 pseudo-synod of Kolymbari in Crete, and we believe that all those who signed their agreement with it do not have the Orthodox φρονημα (mindset) at best, and are heretics, schismatics and betrayers of the Orthodox Faith, at worst – something they have done in the name of “love” but this is a misguided type of love as it is devoid of Truth. What Truth? The truth that Christ established only ONE church, one Body, of which He is the head.
There is also another truth as pertains to Love. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38) . This Love means full obedience and submission to the will of God with no compromises. One does not need to be a scholar of Theology to understand this, and yet the pseudo-synod of Kolymbari made many compromises to Christ’s Truth because they wilfully misinterpreted the second greatest commandment: “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:39-40)
Kolymbari made two great errors:
First, they reversed these two commandments in their priority, thereby undermining the the first and greatest commandment. They did this by compromising themselves as gatekeepers of the fullness of God’s Truth that was revealed to the Orthodox Church, the Body of Christ.
Second, they perverted their understanding of what it means to love your neighbour. You love your neighbour in two ways (1) by sacrificing your self for them (this does NOT mean sacrificing Truth because it is not your truth you would be sacrificing but God’s Truth) and (2) by bringing your neighbour to the Truth, which is not accomplished by compromising, diluting, or otherwise perverting this Truth.
Conclusion: the only real love the pseudo synod of Kolymbari demonstrated, was the love of the self, in so far as those misguided hierarchs wanted to popularize themselves and ingratiate themselves with the heterodox for personal/ambitious reasons and to fulfill, not God’s will, but their own misguided and selfish will. What will is that? To be viewed as the secular progressive, “heroes” of our time in moving religious faith closer towards globalism, including one world religion where “everything goes,” breaking down all religious barriers, and with them, the Orthodox Church, the Body of Christ, which is the last bulwark that stands in their way. They have already surrendered themselves to this form of Gnosticism and with it, the promise of a temporal, phony happiness for themselves and all their followers.
By the way, the RC church and all other protestant and heterodox groups, and other religions are all expressions of Gnosticism – an ancient and insidious heresy that sneaks in through the cracks of the most devout religious centers, as it keeps morphing and reshaping itself into endless phony mirages to trick and seduce even the elect. It requires prayer, fasting, great humility, discernment and constant vigilance to avoid the pitfalls of Gnosticism.
Through the intercessions of the Holy Virgin, may Christ, the True God, have mercy on all of us and grant us the strength to withstand this heresy and not fall victim to it.
Very interesting Theological conversation!
It is known ,that the early christians that were killed during the persecutions by the Romans until the early fourth century for refusing to abandon their faith, did not hold identical beliefs!
As for the Gnostics in google we find this information about them:
How does Gnosticism differ from Christianity?
Gnostics were dualists and worshipped two (or more) gods; Christians were monists and worshipped one God. Gnostics focused on eradication of ignorance; Christian concern was the eradication of sin. Both had a redeemer.
https://link.springer.com › pdf
The Influences of Gnosticism on the Development and Growth of Early Christianity ..
What is Gnosticism today?
Gnosticism in modern times includes a variety of contemporary religious movements, stemming from Gnostic ideas and systems from ancient Roman society. Gnosticism is an ancient name for a variety of religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish-Christian milieux in the first and second century CE.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org › wiki
Gnosticism in modern times – Wikipedia
Is God evil Gnostic?
Gnostic Christians considered the Hebrew God of the Old Testament as the evil, false god and creator of the material universe, and the Unknown God of the Gospel, the father of Jesus Christ and creator of the spiritual world, as the true, good God.
Gnosticism is full of terms in Greek.
Visit Google for more info.
Christian unity is indeed an important and basic principle. This unity however, cannot be built upon anything other than faith in Christ. When unity is based on political allegiances, such as loyalty to the Bishop of Rome or even teachings that are of soley Roman Catholic origin, it is political. Why ever insist upon the filioque? Why invent the teaching of the Immaculate Conception of Mary? Historically Rome has sought to reshape the Church in her own image. We Orthodox have our own sins, mostly of what I would call “ethnic-club-ism” (ethnophyletism) with a shameful neglect of the Gospel. We can talk about the harmful effect Western arrogance has had upon the Church, but we needs must deal with the “plank” in our own eye. I’m sorry to say that many Orthodox parishes I have visited, are filled with folks who do not think of loving God and neighbour first. Too often I have been met with downright hostility when trying to point this out. When we fill our parishes with Christ-loving people, then we will not have to worry about the effects of Uniatism.
One might add to your list “Papal infallibility” in Roman Catholic theology. Also, your pointing out a “shameful neglect of the gospel” – we should each have a Bible – not a pristine Bible that has not been touched but one that is worn, cherished, opened, read, studied, and meditated upon. We should hunger for God’s Word and also know how to pray outside of having a prayer that we read. These are basic tools of the faith and many Orthodox are not taught nor comfortable with either. We are therefore not spiritually equipped to go into the world and to do as you say – truly love God and love our neighbor because we do not even know how to minister to anyone.
In the Gospels themselves Christ is shown to take time apart to pray. For instance, Matthew 14, Mark 6 and Luke 6. It seems to me that so much of Holy Tradition points us toward prayer, that we should find the neglect of it shocking. The “printed” prayers give us models for our own, and I have encouraged believers to allow the texts of the Psalms (and formal prayers, as you say) to inspire personal prayer. Leaving the practice of spiritual life and struggle to others, leaves a person hollow and open to attacks from the enemy.
May God grant you a joyful Pascha!