Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but I couldn’t help but notice that First Things posted a critical (some might say damning) analysis of Russian church/state mingling on the anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima’s Miracle of the Sun. Sergei Chapnin’s “A Church of Empire” will be a sobering read for those who believe “Holy Russia” has returned under the gaze of President Vlaidmir Putin and Moscow Patriarch Kirill. Chapnin, an Orthodox believer himself, does not buy the line that a great moral awakening is ongoing in Russia. Rather, the Orthodox Church has become “a post-Soviet civil religion providing ideological support for the Russian state.” It’s difficult to argue with that conclusion in light of both the Moscow Patriarchate’s “Russian World” rhetoric and the dreadful number of abortions and divorces which occur in the country each year. None of this is to say that all is lost, however. Even if the Russian Church lacks living links to its pre-Soviet past, the Russian Orthodox tradition itself holds the seeds for authentic spiritual, moral, and social renewal. The question now is when the upper hierarchy in the Russian Orthodox Church will have the fortitude to truly resist secular political influences on ecclesiastical life. Some are hoping it will come during this generation, but given current circumstances, it may still be a long ways off.
Over at the site One Peter Five, a gent going by the alias Benedict Constable has some sobering words for Catholics. “Getting Real About Catholic History: A Brief Review of Papal Lapses” dumps a bucket of ice water on ultramontane sentiments by reviewing some fairly infamous moments in Church history where popes scandalized the faithful and, arguably, undermined the Catholic Faith. Perhaps it is too early to tell for sure, but there seems to be a slow — but steady — drift away from papal maximalism within certain circles of the Catholic Church, a drift that undoubtedly bodes well for the future as far as both preserving the Faith and improving relations with the Eastern Orthodox are concerned. It is interesting to see that while Pope Francis has done next-to-nothing to curb open dissent against Church doctrine during the ongoing Synod on the Family, several Greek Catholic leaders, including Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), have stood firm for the Apostolic Faith. The successor to St. Peter is not the only one available to shepherd the faithful in these troubling times.
Speaking of the UGCC, I made a brief mention yesterday of an academic article by Fr. Peter Galadza where, inter alia, he examines four 17th C. Kievan Liturgicons (roughly equivalent to a Missal for Latin Catholics), including the first printed 1617 edition which was edited in part by St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, the polarizing promoter of Orthodox reunion with Rome. This foundational liturgical text for the Greek Catholics, which was printed just 21 years after the Union of Brest, includes neither the filioque in the Creed nor a commemoration for the pope. Following proper Byzantine liturgical praxis, such a commemoration would have been reserved to the metropolitan bishop rather than parish priests. Today, regrettably, the pope is given primary commemoration during the litanies despite the fact that he is not the primate of the UGCC. The practice has no support in Byzantine liturgical history and will hopefully be eliminated in due course.