Is Phyletism condemned in the Catholic Church?

Is it?

uh,what is Phyletism ?

I don’t think there was the same problem with ethnic Churches among Roman Catholics.
I know from my own experience growing up Roman Catholic in England that I often felt more Catholic than English. On a larger scale this was seen to be one of the “problems” of Roman Catholic populations in protestant countries.

I’m not sure if there are any specific documents.

OP, are you specifying within the Orthodox Church, or in both the Orthodox and Roman Churches? I believe phyletism was banned in the Orthodox Church (I only know about this concept because I used to work with a Bulgarian lady), and I may be mistaken but I don’t think it was ever an issue in the Roman church. Although I’ve seen parishes that serve specific ethnic groups (Korean RC Church, Chinese RC Church, etc) I believe it has more to do with catering to ethnic immigrants (offering a Mass in their native language, etc), but it does not exclude anyone.

As a Filipino who grew up Roman Catholic, I can certainly attest that there are many things in Filipino Roman Catholicism you wouldn’t find in Roman Catholic parishes elsewhere in the world. Unless of course that parish has been taken over by Filipino migrants.

But that, plus also (and why I posted this in the EC forum) the Eastern Catholic Churches which are very ethnic. I just wonder if the Catholic Church has officially condemned phyletism.

It has never officially been condemned by the Catholics as it was by the Orthodox in 1872, to my knowledge, and I’d wager a bet that such is due to the fact that the Catholic - “universal” - Church has had much less of a problem with strong ethnic-ism: as St Augustine said, “a doctrine is not defined until it is challenged by those who hate it”, or something to that effect.

Most Orthodox Churches to this day are very strongly ethnic, as one can see from reading the walls of donors, and the last names therein inscribed (in a Greek Orthodox, all Greek names; in a Russian Orthodox, all Slavic - and mainly Russian - names). In my experience, the condemnation of phyletism* has often had little effect. I’ve never seen a Catholic church with the same issue (although there may be some), barring those that have Spanish-speaking priests (as Anglophones are unlikely to attend). Even the most ethnic of the Catholic churches that I have seen welcome several ethnic groups, such as the Melkite Church (all Mediterraneans and most mid-Easterners, both Greek- and Arabic-speaking).

*Often in the sense of “it’s a heresy when you do it, but not when we do”; “phyletism” (“tribalism”) is the heresy of favoring one ethnicity over another in spiritual and ecclesiastical matters, a kind of extreme “parochialism”.

Well, yeah, but it’s only natural that e.g. the Romanian Catholic Church will have a lot of ethnic-Romanians because a lot of ethnic-Romanians live in Romania. :slight_smile:

“Phyletism or ethnophyletism is the principle of nationalities applied in the ecclesiastical domain: in other words, the confusion between Church and nation”

Do not think so, but at the same time, one can still see vestiges of ethnic influence in the Church, even in America as remnants of early immigration.

In the town where my parents grew up, the “four corner churches” still stand - Polish Catholic, Slovak Catholic, Irish Catholic and Rusyn Greek Catholic (as referred to by the locals).

My uncle and godfather attends a so-called Polish Catholic Church (i.e. a Roman Catholic Church attended largely by Polish immigrants) to this day, a church of the Diocese of Metuchen (NJ). It is currently and has historically been served by priests from Poland.

When I lived in Michigan, we were a few miles down the road from the Sts. Cyril & Methodius Seminary. It’s mission statement reads as follows:

SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary (SSCMS) is a Roman Catholic seminary under the patronage of these two great missionaries to the Slavic peoples. The Seminary offers a formation program that prepares men, primarily from Poland, for the ordained priesthood. The Seminary also offers theological degree programs for lay people. Deeply rooted in its American and Polish heritage, the Seminary shares in the mission of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Church to form evangelizers in the Third Millennium.

This Seminary also publishes pew books and hymnals in Polish used in these ethnic parishes.

So, it seems that an ethnic character still exists in Roman Catholic circles, even here in America.

I think one has to distinguish between ethnic parishes, inculturation, and phyletism. Phyletism is the specific infusion of nationalistic politics and the Church, and more specifically using the Church as a platform for nationalistic politics. The Catholic Church is negative towards this. A local Orthodox council condemned phyletism in the late 19th century, but one can see that it often still exists.

But just having a parish with a strong ethnic identity is itself not phyletism. Even amongst the Latins the Hispanic parishes have a very strong ethnic and linguistic identity, as well as the example of the Polish parishes already given. And the same exists amongst many Orthodox jurisdictions. I don’t think it is a bad thing necessarily, as often it was the ethnic and cultural identity that allowed some of these immigrants to maintain their faith when they were refugees or victims of oppression. People of common cultural and linguistic heritages should be able to worship as a community.

Agreed. I would also posit that the conditions allowing for Phyletism seem more evident in the Orthodox Church, or that is to say more evident in its ecclesiastical development and history.

I have long felt that Church and politics should never mix, but that is idealistic. Indeed, had not Constantine accepted Christ, we might not be having this conversation. However, the modern world is different. Separation of church and state should allow for Church to serve society as a beacon of hope, moderation and morality. I think people become naturally skeptical of the Church when it becomes too entrenched in the political arena.

Interesting point. But as for the term “Phyletism”, I think there should be sub-forms of the word like – National Phyletism, or Political Phyletism, Cultural Phyletism, Linguistical Phyletism, and then there’s already Ethnic Phyletism (ethnophyletism).

I say this because I don’t think there are two people who can agree on what exactly Phyletism is. Originally, the Greek meaning of the word means “nation”, but the world is a different place these days…

But interestingly, those four parishes were all headed by the local diocesan bishop, right? Meanwhile if your city was large enough it may also have had a Russian Orthodox church, a Greek Orthodox, etc. each headed by a different bishop/patriarch, no?

Before this thread, I’d never even heard the term. But I’ve never encountered any theological favoritism of any particular nationality. I suppose one could describe the now dead tradition (small t) of electing an Italian bishop pope that way, but as the last two popes rather dramatically demonstrate that was never more than a custom, not a theologically principled decision.

Three of the four, Diocese of Scranton (PA). The “Rusyn Greek Catholic” church was (is) part of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic (NJ).

Yes, in neighboring small towns - Ukrainian Orthodox and churches of the American Carpatho-Russian Diocese of the U.S.A.

Very well said, brother.

One of the Trullan Canons actually condemns ecclesiastical decisions influenced by the secular power. I think the initial history behind the multiplication of Patriarchates in the EOC is a direct contradiction of that Canon.

I’ve sometimes wondered about this as an Oriental - do Easterns really think that the many Patriarchates in the Eastern Orthodox Church have an equal standing with the original 5 Patriarchates established by the Ecumenical Councils? In their respective spheres of jurisdiction, I don’t doubt they each have the same power, but speaking in the context of the universal Church, does the Patriarchal see of Rome really only have as much ecclesiastical influence as the Patriarchal See of Romania in the Eastern paradigm?


I lol’d when you said “taken over”. :smiley:

I’ve seen it happen. But, it was bound happen, because where I lived in San Diego, Filipinos are the majority. The Navy base chapel I’ve went to for years had a big Filipino population.

For non-Roman or non-Western Catholics as for orthodox, each church is connected to a national body. For Catholics, each such parish belongs to a “Particular Catholic Church”. For Example, St. Gabriels Parish is Las Vegas is part of the Carpatho-Ruthenian Catholic Church whose bishop is in LA. The same is true for Greek Catholics and Ukraniun Catholics, each has its own bishop and is not under the local Roman bishop. The same is true for all 22
not- Roman Catholic Churches

Thus it is harder not to be national. But they are very welcoming to us Romans anyway…

That had just given me many ideas right now.

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