#137 OCTOBER 2009 OBEDIENCE

 
 
AMERICAN BYZANTINE CATHOLIC RESEARCH CENTER 1334 RAMONA DRIVE, MOUNT SHASTA CA 96067 ABCRC #137, OBEDIENCE October 2009 OBEDIENCE
 
I love my/our Catholic Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ. I love the Biblical fact that Our Lord CALLED and CHOSE 12 Apostles to be His first worldwide spiritual pastors. I love the historical fact that the First Apostles traveled north, east, west and south to educate the people of different cultures in the One faith as taught to them by Jesus Christ, and in their culture. I love the fact that the Roman Catholic Churches founded by apostles from the East, Peter and Paul, evolved into five distinctive particular apostolic Churches in the West and that the other travelling Eastern Apostles and their successors founded seventeen particular apostolic Churches in the East and together, East and West, maintained an alliance with Peter as ORDAINED BY JESUS CHRIST. The first millennium witnessed a missionary Church through the centuries of very difficult times; Church History presents a relatively compatible time amongst the particular Churches of the One Church. Volumes are available to illustrate both halves of the One Church and the alliance of East and West survived the multitude of oppressions. The second millennium is one of major “separations” from within and does not present the love of Christianity in her best, most reasonable format of the first millennium. The “obedience” between the two halves of the particular Churches of the first millennium dissipated and resulted in centuries of unilateral administration by Church Leaders who placed their particular Church in troublesome circumstances to state the least. Most of the Eastern half of the apostolic particular Churches are known as Orthodox Churches and the Western half of many particular Churches eventually consolidated and are, now, nominally called the Roman Catholic Church even though some fragments of the other particular Western Churches exist therein. The Orthodox Churches of the Eastern half in the One Church of the first 1,000 years have continued to retain their individual self-governing particular Church structure and are in an Orthodox alliance with each other’s Patriarchal Sees, one for each particular Church, as in the beginning. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (often called second Rome) provides a central location for maintenance of the alliance. Any “rule” change requires 100% agreement by each and every one of the Orthodox Patriarchs and, consequently, adherence to the Teachings of the Early Fathers is the norm, their strength therein. The separation of the two halves of the One Church occurred officially in 1054 via the Great Schism and while there was absolutely NO DIFFERENCE in faith and morals between the two halves (in the first millennium), today, the obedience with loving respect of each other is in shatters. The Western half, centered in Rome, tried to impose Roman singular interpretations without consultation with the Eastern Patriarchs and, in turn, have introduced many unilateral interpretations that have changed the first millennium ecumenical achievements. A confrontation concerning “obedience” and the changing of the norms of the first millennium have further separated the two halves of the One Church during the entirety of the second millennium. After 1054, many faithful within the Orthodox Churches of the first millennium sought an alliance with Peter of Rome and this resulted in Eastern Catholic particular Churches being formed but each particular Church was not well received by the West nor the East as noted in their centuries of trials and tribulations. To this very date, the Roman Curia has issued Bullas (an official decree, a bulletin) that constrict the USA Eastern Catholic particular Churches and quite often in opposition to their papal approved canon laws. Obedience becomes a matter of discerning between the following of papal approved Church canon laws or the “whims” of Roman cardinals who place their individual interpretations of Roman “rules” above our papal approved Eastern canon laws. Please do not read Ea Semper (1907) or Cum Data Fuerit (1929) if you wish to think well of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The problem for the Eastern Catholics was contained in the fact that should they obediently follow the teachings of the Orthodox first millennium in which many canons were of the first centuries or, now that they are in alliance with Rome, should they follow the Roman changes; the Roman unilateral rule changes that differ from their millennium- old papal approved, apostolic canons of the One Church. While the “faith and morals” of the first millennium were identical in the Orthodox and Roman Churches, the manmade changes of the West presented the confrontation within “obedience.” In too many ways, the “obedience factor” defined the inability to be obedient to both halves because of the Roman Catholic changes. The Eastern Catholic dilemma was/is the human desire to be in alliance with both the Romans and the Orthodox who, in some ways, both became our oppressors. The penalty has been extreme in obeying each of two halves that have separated from each other and in turn struggle to dominate over my Eastern Catholic Church. In too many ways we are in no-man’s land and as a result we struggle to be obedient to the First Century of Our Lord’s Teachings. To most of us few remaining Eastern Catholics located in the USA, who have become learned of both halves, we treasure our parents’ strength and fortitude in surviving Ea Semper (1907) and Cum Data Fuerit (1929), two of the most punishing documents fostered upon my immigrant parents by the USA Roman hierarchy. Unfortunately, our USA Byzantine Catholic bishops from Bishop Tkatch to Bishop Schott have succumbed to the Bullas of Rome instead of the papal approved canon laws of the Eastern Churches. Obedience is impossible, when the hierarchy above our hierarchy is/are also not obedient. Obedience is a two edged sword and normally only one edge cuts, one at a time; we USA Byzantine Catholics feel both edges at the same time, therefore, impossible to be obedient to both. We USA Byzantine Catholics obediently follow our bishops who disobey their/our papal approved canon laws. As a result, we are in a terminal statistical spiral in a downward mode and our one USA seminary has been near empty for too long. Our European Byzantine Catholic brothers follow the same papal approved canon laws and their seminaries overflow as their particular Church rises from the ashes of atheistic communism’s onslaught during our lifetime. Obedience to grow Our Lord’s particular Church entrusted to us or obedience to the Roman Church that unilaterally demands only her “manmade rules?” The question of obedience is answered straightforwardly by the faithful; we are to be obedient first to God, Our Lord Jesus Christ… and our survival route to allow us to serve Him continuously. The first millennium's seven ecumenical councils provided excellent examples of obedience in which the “accomplishments” were of major importance. Obedience requires a basic understanding as to its definition. Obedience, first, is “obedience to the word and Instructions of Jesus Christ.” The use of “parables” is humbly understood to be the means of testing each of us especially in the interpretation by our Church Leaders, the Patriarchs, and the final approval by the Rock of the Church, Peter. This procedure of “obedience” was fully instituted in the first millennium. The second millennium presented a problem due to the separation by the Patriarch of the West from the Patriarchs of the East and therein the entirety of the second millennium to this very date is one in which “obedience” has taken a beating. The Patriarchs of the East in their wisdom declared that there will be no significant changes to the “canons” of the first millennium and any changes to the manmade “rules” of the Church would require 100% agreement of every Eastern Patriarch. This procedure has been fully honored. In the West, the Patriarchs have contracted primarily into one Western Patriarch, the Patriarch of Rome, and measurable unilateral changes have occurred even to the point were the title, “Patriarch” has been abandoned for the Patriarch of the West, the Pope. The West has, in effect, become less universal than the One Church of the first millennium. In my review of the One Church history of both East and West, for the entirety of the first and second millennium, the greatest advantage of “obedience” amongst all of the particular Churches became impossible because of our separation from each other. However, the penalty has been extreme to the faithful in that the many administrative decisions have wounded the strength of the holy priesthood. The author of this article does not impugn the “quality” nor the “trials and tribulations” of any one holy priest; it is the shortage of priests that has “darkened” the One Church and resulted in the inability to “go forth and teach all nations.” In my personal belief that the One Church through her growing priesthood is fully responsible for the growth of Christianity, we have “failed” during the second millennium because of our separation initiated in 1054. I have written extensively on that unfortunate unilateral decision by the Romans and its consequences. As long as we remain separated our One Church future leads to greater unwanted trials. In my interpretation of the present “gatherings between East and West,” the entirety of the second millennium appears to more seriously harden the differences therein. There is one primary hope as we continue our separation and that is to solve the priest shortage. Obedience enters into the solution. As an American Byzantine Rusyn Catholic, I have witnessed the solution to the priest shortage in my first three pastors when I was a young man attending St. Michael's Greek Catholic Church in Pittston, Pennsylvania. My first three pastors were Father Alexius Medveczky (1921-32), Father Basil Lepeczky (1932-46) , and Father Michael B. Warady (1946-1967). The years from 1930 when I was baptized by Father Alexius, served as an altar boy for Father Basil and as a (loud) choir member for Father Michael, I treasured my Rusyn faith which permitted them to implement the papal approved canon law of a married priesthood. The ten-year renewable decision inherent in the 1929 Cum Data Fuerit did not deter these three pastors from encouraging the vocations necessary to “grow my/our Church.” During the stewardship of these three married priests (with family), (and our 14 coal mining communities that served our parish) who loved and cherished our canon laws provided a CHOOSING of eight men CALLED to the Holy priesthood from but one parish. These priests and their ordination year are Fathers George Bonchonsky (1935), John Powell (1938), George Durisin (1945), Sergius Bachkovsky (1947), Andrew Bachkovsky (1955), Paul Fetch (1959), and John Cigan (1974). Five sisters emanated from the families of St. Michael’s parish and are named Sister M. Paula (Anna Durisin), Sister M. Philip (Rita Durisin), Sister M. Bernadette (Helen Powell), Sister M. Celine (Anna Durovich), and Sister M. Rebecca (Lorraine Mikitish). These are amazing years in our USA Rusyn Catholic Church in that “married priests with family” provided the “icon” of the holy priesthood to assist in the CALLING and CHOOSING of religious servants. Even though these 13 servants of the Lord were professed as celibates the hope for the priests was to emulate their married pastors. While I attended St Michael’s during these years, the story of Father George Bonchonsky is noted. He was one of the last American graduates of the Uzhorod Seminary in 1935 (with Father John Stim) before the atheist communist impact, and the first denied marriage before ordination. As a young man in the 1940’s, my paternal father took me to Father George’s St. Nicholas’ Byzantine Orphanage in Elmhurst, PA, to regularly clean the pigsty. Our “thank you” dinners in Father George’s orphanage rectory are precious in my memory. The story concerning St. Michael’s in Pittston, PA is yet to be told, especially in one of the 14 communities therein. The Pittston Junction, has had many young men CALLED (7 that I can identify during 1948 in but one of 14 communities) to the holy priesthood but the 1949 Roman denial (regular 10 year review of Cum Data Fuerit) of a married clergy resulted in their not being CHOSEN to the married holy priesthood. The illegal denial of the papal approved canon laws by the Roman Curia resulted in a USA priest shortage and as a result the 316,047 USA faithful Rusyns in 1965 now number 89,764 in 2009. Statistically, we are terminal oriented. The real tragedy is not only our numerical decline but instead the “disobedience” required of our USA Byzantine Church bishops in favor of a Roman manmade rule and the Roman hierarchy’s requirement of our “obedience” for “disobedience.” We USA Byzantine Catholics could have been the pioneers of evangelization amongst our USA non-Catholic Christian brothers via our papal approved married clergy. As a former military officer in the USA Army Corps of Engineers, I was “obedient” to my army hierarchy which ordered me to be dropped behind enemy lines to blow up bridges to stop the supply of support services to the enemies front line. Obediently, I left my wife carrying our first child and followed the orders. Without doubt, my martyrdom in obedience to my country was to occur. Fortunately, one million Chinese soldiers retreated from the southern China border because President Ike Eisenhower convinced Mao Tse Tung that the USA was willing to sacrifice the necessary lives to defend all of Indo-China. Obedience in the hands of the authorities that leads our nation, our Church is the foundation of our country and our Church’s strength. To be forced to be disobedient by Our One Church is the cause for the upcoming termination of my/our particular USA Rusyn Church. This situation stems from the 1054 Great Schism when the Patriarch of Rome unilaterally anathematized the Patriarch of Constantinople on self-assumed administrative authority (illegal) in that unilateral administrative operational control of the One Church by One Patriarch was/is not the Instructions of Our Lord Jesus Christ. As a USA Byzantine Rusyn Catholic, I am prayerful that the USA Roman Catholic bishops whose predecessors implemented Cum Data Fuerit will at least read the Bulla, Cum Data Fuerit, and recognize the fact that our priest shortage was/is caused by the work of their office. It is the year 2009 in that their agreed upon ten-year review could salvage my particular USA Catholic Church from extinction. However, based on the USA history of persecution from our Roman Catholic brothers during the last century, there are not enough prayer-years left to enlighten the USA Roman Catholic bishops of their need to expiate their sins conducted upon my people. Must we deny ourselves of holy priests to fulfill an earthly “rule” and disobey a “canon law” in the process? As practicing Byzantine Catholics, we “obediently” serve our parishes and follow the “teaching instructions” of our good holy priests who require us to be obedient to the teachings of Jesus. Now, we await our USA Byzantine bishops to be obedient to the JPII Papal approved code of canons of the Eastern Churches (1990, latest). After nearly one millennium of the Roman half implementing the manmade “rule” of celibacy (1139), a major change from the first millennium and a major difference between East and West, the rapid growth of the faithful in the last century of the second millennium has found the Roman half of the One Church without her precious supply of an overabundance of priests, nuns, and seminarians. The Roman half of the One Church is in a statistical crisis mode and is entering a numerical downward slide that will soon be beyond the point of “no return” for the “education” of her faithful, if not already there. Based on too many years of a near empty USA Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, our USA Byzantine Catholic Church, in my evaluation of hierarchical direction, is terminal. May Our Lord Bless and “forgive” the Church Leadership, East and West. GO WITH GOD, Joseph P. Bonchonsky
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