Y100B: Confessor Between East and West

Jaroslav Pelikan, Confessor Between East and West: A Portrait of Ukrainian Cardinal Josyf Slipyj (Eeerdmans 1990, 249pgs.)

Maybe there isn’t much more for me to say about this book beyond what I noted earlier this year when I compared it to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar’s recollections. It is, however, a work I return to often, not because of its thoroughness (which is debatable) but because the sad reality is that so little exists in English on Patriarch Josyf and his writings. More than that, however, Peilkan’s portrait (and it is just that: a portrait, not an exhaustive treatment) is personally important to the extent that it helped turn my back to my Greek-Catholic childhood roots after spending more than a decade running away from them, first as an atheist; then as an Eastern Orthodox Christian; and finally as an Easterner in a decidedly Latin environment. Now is not the place to get into all of that; but I wanted to make mention of it if only to offer some explanation as to why I return regularly to a text that is sadly out of print and in some ways incomplete.

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4 comments

  1. It’s always interesting, the things that provoke us in strange ways that are, so often, difficult to explain, often because they are so personal. What in this work (and in you) provoked you so? –how did it prompt so many changes, and changes still?

    1. Well, the short answer is that the book helped drive out some conflicted thinking in my head regarding East/West differences, trying to be a Greek Catholic in a “Latin heavy” environment, and the duty I owed to be faithful to my formative ecclesiastical environment even if proves difficult. The life and thought of Patriarch Slipyj pushed me in that direction and instead of being saddled with the baggage of believing “Uniate” means second-class Catholic (and third-rate Orthodox), it ought to be a point of balanced pride.

      When I left Othodoxy in 2011 I felt like I had to…get away and the easiest way to do that was to hang out in (traditional) Latin Catholic parishes. Keep in mind that my knowledge of Latin Catholicism was never all that impressive; it wasn’t a major part of my childhood or teenage years, so it was a “new world” to me. Sure, I had read Ss. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and a few other Western Patristic theologians, but outside of the Redemptorist order, I had very little contact growing up with Latin spirituality and its various traditions. Also, I’ll be honest. It’s just a lot easier being a Latin Catholic than a Greek Catholic, especially in the U.S.

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