Eastern Catholic Relations with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches

[Many] do not want them to exist–just as [many] Roman Catholics do not know or care that they exist.

The poor Eastern Catholics often find themselves caught in no man’s land. :frowning:

[Moderator Note: This discussion on the relationship the Eastern Catholic Churches have with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches was sufficiently off-topic to create a new thread from them. Please [URL=“http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=213092”]see here for the original discussion.]

Really? Is that so? I’m Orthodox, search my posts. Have I ever said anything you wrote? No, because if you lived where I do you’d experience a whole different world.
The Orthodox and Greek/Byzantine Catholics work together today, we’re friends (and for the most part family too). No one wants to re-live what our people went through earlier last century.
So these days we all go to each other’s funerals, etc…
We’re friends, even lots of the Byzcaths/Greek Catholics come to the Sunday of Orthodoxy (usually like 15 parishes come to one church, it changes every year).
Come here, there are LOTS of Orthodox and Byzantine/Greek Catholics. You’d never hear any of the accusations that are made in this thread.
It’s a rather wide-sweeping assumption that every Orthodox will talk negatively about Eastern Catholics, it’s taboo to do so where I am from. It’s more than taboo, it is completely unacceptable.
I know all the Byzantine and Greek Catholic priests around here and they are all highly respected and wonderful men. Their churches are packed with the best people in the world. Since we are friends and often cousins, sisters, brothers… speaking in any bad manner about them would be considered rude to the highest degree where I live. And they extend the same to the Orthodox as well. When someone passes say an Eastern Catholic, usually even the Orthodox priests go to the Funeral. vice-versa the Byzantine Catholic priests often come to the Orthodox Funerals.
So, if anyone is being rude ignore them. It’s not how it functions in the real world, and in my part of the world is made up of a high percentage of Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics.

And this all reminded me, me and my friends are going to have to schedule our visit to the Byzantine Catholic Church in town. They come visit us for Liturgy and we visit them for Liturgy.

Here are a few of my more memorable experiences when visiting Orthodox parishes. I’ve found that the place and the priest can create very different experiences. In all of them, I was quiet and respectful and allowed them to lead the conversation.

Antiochian Orthodox priest: strongly made sure I understood that Orthodox and Eastern Catholics are not the same thing after hearing I go to an Eastern Catholic church. Very hospitable and frequently asked what he could do for me and invited me to liturgy. Pointed out how many parishioners he had who left Catholicism. Said he had heard bad things about his local Eastern Catholic parish and its priest. Again made sure that I knew that he was not a Melkite and the two Churches don’t work together. Invited me to come again and gave me a bulletin.
Coptic Orthodox priest**: Made sure I knew the customs (take off my shoes, which side to stand on, to remain standing), gave me all the needed books, frequently sent a very young deacon down from the altar to check that I knew when we were changing books and that I was in the right place. Asked about my church’s practices and asked specific questions about my impressions of his church. Welcomed me to come back whenever I would like and said he would like to come visit my parish. He later did so.

OCA priest: Warmly welcomed me and asked where I go to church. Immediately turned around and left without another word when I told him. On another occasion, I was again at his church with an Eastern Catholic priest. The OCA priest treated the EC priest with disgust, made a very rude comment, and refused to greet him as a priest. On another occasion, I was with several of this priest’s parishioners. They said they are specifically forbidden from visiting or supporting an Eastern Catholic parish, they may not participate in a prayer led by any Catholics, and they are taught specifically how to evangelize the “heretic uniates.”

OCA priest #2: Warmly welcomed me and asked where I go to church. Said he had a number of converts from there over the years. Talked about his missionary activity and its success. Invited me to come again.

OCA priest #3: Welcomed me and invited me to return. Asked about the lenten devotions in the Eastern Catholic Churches with what appeared to me to be an air of superiority, which I also saw when he talked down about the other local Orthodox Churches’ lenten practices. Spent most of the social time talking with parishioners about where to find fasting foods (all of them appeared to be keeping the full fast) and about the upcoming schedules. His parishioners also said that they may not attend or support Eastern Catholic parishes, that they are specifically taught how to evangelize Eastern Catholics, and they may not participate in prayer led by any non-Orthodox. They were 100% converts from what I could tell (not as a parish, but as individuals), but they had names like Vitalis and Photini which Vladimir (previously Ian, the Scottish for John) explained to me was their Chrismation names. All wore black and gray, the women had full babushkas on, and the formality in speech was unparalleled. In contrast, an OCA woman who had just moved to the area was there for her first time. She was in jeans with no headcovering (which got more than a few raised eyebrows and head jerks between people behind her back) and said she frequently visited Eastern Catholic churches for weekday services, which set off an audible gasp from other parishioners. The parishioners mainly talked about not going to Greek Orthodox Churches because they were too latinized with their pews and organs. They agreed that they would stay at home and pray if their only choice was a Greek Orthodox church when they went on vacation.

Greek Orthodox priest: Had a very balanced conversation about the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. He seemed grounded in his own faith and to have no animosity toward Catholicism. He asked questions about purgatory and talked about the Dormition, pointing out differences in theology and also looking for areas of commonality. Invited me to check out their cultural and social opportunities like Greek class and assured me that all in the community were welcome. Gave me papers on the church on the way out which included a time line that showed how the Catholic Church split from Orthodoxy and sacked Constantinople.

Greek Orthodox priest #2: Made sure I knew the errors of Catholicism, talked about the sack of Constantinople, and told me I should be going to an Orthodox church. Also said he would commune me if I came for liturgy. :shrug:

This is rich: “just as”. While the average Roman Catholic might be largely unaware of of Eastern Catholics, this ignorance is not “just as” the interaction with the Orthodox which, even in the last century, is rife with murder and mayhem.

Dear mgy100:
Thanks for your post, which gives great joy and much hope.

Woodstock would never experience any of the negative things he posted where I live. I am not comfortable with any anti-Catholic attitude that I will say I have heard among non-Catholics that have joined the Orthodox Church. I have made it part of my “mission” to indeed educated and teach those people that their attitude is wrong. They have joined a church that shares so much with the Catholics. It is not right to have resentment against anyone. I think it is more of the fact that they do not understand more than an issue of hatred. This goes for the Catholics that distrust the Orthodox as well. Both sides have this, and we should work to get rid of this attitude. If they had the anti-Catholic view before they were Orthodox than they have to realize they must stop any prejudice against anyone they had prior to joining the Orthodox Church. In my Catholic days we were never taught prejudices against anyone, and I continue that. Why? Because Christ taught love and compassion and forgiveness. While there are differences between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church that doesn’t mean any malice should be expressed by either party when discussing those issues. I do not tolerate the Protestant feel/idea/notion of "my God is better than your God."
If someone wants to know what the Orthodox Church believes you better believe I will tell them. If it is a Catholic and he wants to know the difference I will tell him But that does not mean I would ever impart an air of superiority towards him. I would be simply answering a question. It is hard to get upset at a person for answering a question, and if you are asking one about the difference between Orthodoxy and Catholicism it will show a difference in belief in some areas. That is fact.
I have even taken the Protestant converts to my family’s graveyards to show them the differences. Sounds odd I know. I take them to our Orthodox church and then past the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church were some of my family still attends. I take them to Byzantine Catholic Liturgy where they can meet my friends and the priest, who I admire with the utmost respect. Then I take them to the graveyard. It is basically one graveyard. I think then they realize all the doubt and comments they had were wrong when they see just how close we all are and the testimony to the tremendous struggles and fighting our people had gone through in the past 100 year years in this country, and several hundred years in the Old Country (they also get a history lesson and the speech about Christian Charity and love and not speaking ill of anyone). We seek to work together, not apart. We do not have any resentment against each other. While we do not share from the same chalice, which is the greatest shame and we pray that God re-unites us all… in the mean-time we can work together and be friends, brothers and sisters, and neighbors.
I know not everyone would agree with me. But all I am saying is that in my area the divisions in our families were so bad I don’t even know why our Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church split. It isn’t talked about. Church was the center of life for our people, and it still is. And the Greek/Byzantine Catholics and our Orthodox Churches here share the same family, social, cultural history. We are so close, but yet, due to the fact we can not share the Chalice, so far apart. But we can still get along and the healing has done everyone good. And what I am talking about sometimes is so hard for “outsiders” to understand. If you weren’t Rusyn/Ukrainian and didn’t grow up knowing and having families in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches then it can be hard to understand. It is even hard to understand as second generation Ukrainian-American. The one thing all of us can take from this is that fighting is never good. We may not all agree but that doesn’t mean that we can not extend our hand to each other and be friends.

You are welcome again!
Just to show you more of how it is. I know several Byzantine Catholic parishes that are beside Roman Catholic parishes. I know people that go to these Roman Catholic parishes that are shocked when we would invite them over. They didn’t know they could visit and that they could receive Communion.
Even at our family funerals the Roman Catholics would not take communion at the Eastern Catholic Church. They just didn’t know they could or if they were allowed. Most of the Roman Catholics are not Eastern Europeans here. Many of my cousins that have moved away attend Roman Catholic parishes, that is for a whole different thread. But the Orthodox and Byzantine/Greek Catholics here are all first, second and third, now fourth generation Lemkos, Sub-Carpathian Rusyns and ukrainians. There is that bond that brings us closer. The Byzantine and Greek Catholics are more fraternal with us because we understand each other and know each other. Everyone though sets aside all reservations against the Eastern Catholics and Orthodox when we sell them Kolachy and Pierogies!!!

  • to understand what I am talking about also means a history lesson of my area. No one liked the Slavic people when we came here. We were the outcasts, we didn’t speak English and we “took their jobs.” Although I don’t think you saw anyone else lining up to make steel and dig coal for 18 hours a day. While many people I know are Eastern European descent and don’t realize it until I tell them ( you can tell by their last name or their grandparents), it is amazing that we survived with our cultural and ethnic customs at all. Since we were so hated in this area that many became “American” as fast as possible. Many of my father’s generation shed their Slavic-ness as quick as they could.
    They never bothered asking their parents and those people are gone. So the few in my generation that know anything, which is only a mere percentage of what my grandmother and them knew, are the people our father’s generation turns to for answers. All of the sudden they want to encapsulate a part of their ethnic heritage they were so quick to shed because they were ashamed to be “Hunky” as they called us. Luckily I learned from my grandmother’s generation the very things my father’s generation tossed aside. That and I have been around and know enough people from the Old Country that can verify my answers that I give if I have to question an answer I give someone about our ethnic practices.
    This has been an earful, but I hope it helps people understand how things really work in a very very Orthodox and Byzantine/Greek Catholic part of the United States.

OK, but I have been to more than half a dozen Orthodox churches and never had any bad experiences with the priests. I always told them I was Catholic and they never argued or criticized me. Either way, personal experiences are never good evidence to use in an argument.

On top of that, I find it astonishing that many want Eastern Orthodox arguments to go to the Apologetics and non-Catholic forums. The title of this thread is “Answering Eastern Orthodox Claims.” That said, wouldn’t it only be fair to allow the Orthodox themselves to explain their own faith in rebuttal?

Prayers and petitions,

Thanks indeed mgy100. That is generally my experience and approach as well - I’ve long ago lost track of how many panakhydas, baptisms, weddings, other services on whichever calendar, etc. I’ve gone to or been invited to in the past by Ukrainian and other Orthodox friends.

House blessings after Theophany, Pascha and Malanka parties, Svyatiy Vechir, all of that. I’ll get a request now and then to go sing for some service by Orthodox priest friends or families, which I usually don’t refuse considering they, like my UGCC parishes, feed extremely well… :smiley:

We read names of Orthodox family members requested by the Greek Catholic side of the families at the Sorokousty, they do the same for us in their parishes. And even more - we could go on forever.

I will really miss Archbishop Vsevelod, vichnaya pamyat Vladyka. He used to come to St. Nicholas Cathedral and Sts. Volodymyr and Olha quite frequently for services and events. I had some wonderful conversations with him that I will never forget.

See Diak knows how it is in the real world. He is right, we could go on forever… but the point is we get along more than the internet could ever express.

Well! This is good to know! I certainly was under the impression that the Eastern Catholic Churches were greatly resented. Thank you for correcting me.

But, I must say that my impression was built on the opinions of several orthodox who post here and also from what I have read on some orthodox websites.

Thank you again and I will be less general in the future.


Here is something from the OP that raises an eyebrow, on me anyway…

The OP says that he finds that the Orthodox are “highly anti-Catholic in nature.” I have found this in my same experience on the part of some people. I have found the opposite to be true, also.

I would like someone to please educate me as to why there seems to be a culture of negativity in some parts of Orthodoxy. I know that there are issues stemming from the sack of Constintanople during the Crusades, and issues concerning theological differences. But, it seems to me that this kind of attitude falls short of the ideals and teachings of Christianity, those of forgivness and reconciliation.

It also seems to me that attitudes are changing especially in the upper hierarchical levels of the Orthodox Church. If so, how might this effect the lower levels and lay people? (If I’m getting too far off topic, I will repost this.)


I think that you might fail to see your own answer to the question that you raised.
There are a couple of sore points, historically, such as the original bull of excommunication, the sack of Constantinople and Ustase problems in WWII. But there are many theological issues that Orthodox may regard as serious and do not like it when Catholics say that the belief that Orthodox are correct on these serious theological issues "falls short of the ideals and teachings of Christianity, those of forgivness and reconciliation.“
Orthodox have serious theological differences with Catholicism and now you are telling us that " this kind of attitude falls short of the ideals and teachings of Christianity, those of forgivness and reconciliation.” while at the same time, Catholics do not want to change their teachings to correspond with those of the Orthodox Church. So one can just as easily assert that this kind of attitude on the part of Catholics, in their refusal to change their Catholic teachings today to correspond to the teachings of the Churches before 1054 AD, falls short of the ideals and teachings of Christianity, those of forgivness and reconciliation.

I understand that and do not dispute it. You would be hard pressed to experience the positive things you posted where I live. That was my point: that it depends on place and priest what the experiences will be.

You and MGY have had positive experiences. I and others have been to over half a dozen Orthodox Churches and our experiences have not all been positive. That was my point: that it depends on place and priest what the experiences will be.

The OP posted a request for “any thoughts?” on the Eastern Catholic board and he seems happy with the responses so far. Wouldn’t it be fair to allow him to explain his thread’s purpose?

The 7 churches I listed above aren’t in the “real world” where only positive Orthodox who love and respect Eastern Catholics live? :ehh:

I’m not saying all Orthodox churches hate all Catholic Churches. I praised the hospitality of several priests, had nothing but a wonderful experience at the Coptic Orthodox church, and had one Orthodox priest offer to commune me. I agree with you that the internet is not a good judge of reality. Someone reading your posts would be blindsided after visiting some of the Orthodox churches I went to while someone reading mine would be pleasantly surprised after visiting some of the Orthodox churches you describe. That was my point: that it depends on place and priest what the experiences will be.

Thank you! Someone who recognizes that bias exists in places Orthodox and Catholic and should be recognized and overcome instead of swept under the rug of “personal experiences.”

Instead of posts like Father Deacon Randy’s and MGY’s coming off as “this is what we can be doing at an individual level,” what I personally understand them to be saying in the context of the thread is more akin to, “I don’t do that and my personal friends don’t do that so your experiences aren’t real.” What Father Deacon Randy and MGY say their experiences are, what I said my experiences with the Coptic Orthodox Church are, those should be held up as examples for what all people should be finding in every Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Church and we should be discussing how we can personally make that a reality, not disputing if negative experiences *are *a reality.

I truly pray one day we all can just lay our knets down and come as One Faith, One Hope, One Body in Christ…but as Our Lord once said…“Men’s hearts must change.” I cried buckets when The Holy Father and The Holy Patricarch met in Turkey last year. May we who are their sheep…also embrace our differences…and come together in ONE Voice…

I am hoping the times here in this place…the virtual “front porch” will open up and be a bridge not a wall…remember some of us are the prodical son’s & daughters coming home to the father…others are the Oldest son…who get upset when he sees the party for his Younger brother…others are the servants of both who are just happy to have a party and a good meal.

But then again, who am I??? Just a “child of God” like every other human being here on school house earth. :slight_smile:

I am perplexed as to why you posted this vitriolic remark. Perhaps you misunderstood–or perhaps you are just looking for a fight.

As a one time Eastern Catholic, I always found myself between two worlds–not understood by Roman Catholics and not in communion with Holy Orthodoxy. It was sometimes a lonely place to be.

While the vast and great majority of my experiences were indeed very positive, in all fairness not every encounter in my experience has been pleasant or positive. Nearly all of my negative profoundly anti-Catholic experiences were within one particular parish with a convert priest and a primarily convert congregation. I literally walked out several times during vitriolic anti-Catholic sermons and eventually took my kids out of their coop school. In charity I will not mention the jurisdiction but suffice to say it is not uncommon within this particular jurisdiction who has accepted many ex-Protestants both as laity and clergy.

I have never experienced such a pronounced thing amongst the Ukrainian Orthodox or other jurisdictions. It is common anymore for us UGCC and the Ukrainian Orthodox to concelebrate non-Divine Liturgy services such as Molebens and Panakydas.

Please read the book “The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology” editted by John Meyendorff. It is a very good read and explains the Eastern view much better then critics of the EO church.

I have many times - it is a great book. In fact Afanasiev’s and some others in that book clearly make the position that Orthodoxy has greatly struggled because of a lack of larger primacy; I would even say that book has been an inspiration for me to remain steadfastly Ukrainian Greek Catholic.

I am sorry that you felt lonely, but that was not was you posted.

Your post contained a comparison of distinctly different conduct as though equivalent - “just as”. But it is simply grotesque to compare ignorance with murder and mayhem. I harbor no bitterness - so your accusation of vitriol completely misses the mark. And I certainly do not want a fight. I simply want reality to be respected.

This is well stated. In fact there is no fine-line between ignorance/indifference and out right hostility. There is a chasm.

My RC neighbors who don’t know what a Byzantine Catholic is, by and large don’t bother me. I don’t take it personally. Honestly, I have found that most people on the Roman end are so parochial they percieve whatever goes on in their local parish to be “normal Catholic” and everything or anythning else interesting variation.

Certain parties in the East know well who we are and resent it. To be sure there is no love lost as all sides have not been sinless. But happier am I with the Roman who passes my domed church merrily thinking it is a mosque with a “t” on top the dome than the Orthodox who well knows what we are and what I am and thinks me a “uniate dog”.

To be sure again, there are plenty of well-informed Romans and hospitable Orthodox with no guile in them. One of these days I will write about the remarkable hospitality offered me by the Macedonian Orthodox community at the consecration of thier Cathedral. Whereas no co-religionists (that schism is beyond silly) were there, the Greek Catholic who showed up to merrily wish them well, was most welcomed and recieved blessings from every hiearch in attendence.

What are you talking about!! I gave my personal experience. If you want to read in strange comparisons based on your prejudice, that is your problem.

That is not reflected in your posts.

Yes, that would be nice…

Or not reflected in your reading.

I don’t see bitterness in his words. Per chance his words could be taken at face value?

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