#296 SEP 2013 WE HAVE A POPE


In my lifetime, we have had many good popes and many accomplishments have been made. However, in the first six months of Pope Francis, we have the beginning of a papal reign that appears headed for a major renewal of the One Church. As a faithful member of the Byzantine Rusyn Catholic Church in the United States of America, a bright new outlook is taking place. There will be many scholars who will view our new Pope Francis with varied potentials and prayerfully they will be patient during our Pope Francis’ implementation of their objectives. We Eastern Catholics may finally remove the heavy cross of being subjected to a painful burden imposed upon us especially during the last 100+ years.

From our particular Church beginning, we have a papal-approved canon in our Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, (latest approval, JP II, 1990), that provides our bishops with the responsibility and authority to ordain married men; but the USA Roman Catholic bishops have convinced Rome to issue two Bullas, 1907 Ea semper and 1929 Cum data fuerit, that deny us that canon. How can one particular Church, the Roman Catholic Church, override the papal-approved canon of another particular Church, the Byzantine Catholic Church? Simply put, the Roman Curia in Rome protects the wishes of USA Roman bishops even at the expense of breaking a law of the One Church.

It is important to understand the objections to a married clergy by the USA Roman Catholic bishops in their century-long requests to Rome. Many excuses are noted but the most common statement is that a celibate Roman Catholic parish priest would be embarrassed if there was a married Byzantine Catholic parish priest in the same neighborhood. That is a common excuse but the most formal interpretation is that Rome has elevated the celibate priest status to be more important than saving the souls of Catholics in a "Roman-claimed" Roman Catholic country.

In my personal lifetime experience, I have witnessed the turmoil placed upon our particular Catholic Church by our Roman Catholic brothers. From civil court cases in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to the Roman Catholic tribunal conducted by Philadelphia Roman cardinal Daugherty, with a tribunal composed only of Roman Catholic priests; Father Orestes Chornock of Bridgeport, Connecticut was found guilty of trying to have seminarians returning from Europe, educated in Carpatho-Rus, ordained after marriage. The result was that over 35 Rusyn Catholic parishes with their priests formed the American Carpatho-Russian Greek Catholic Dioceses, now headquartered in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The USA Roman Catholic hierarchy of bishops continue to illegally demand celibacy for USA Eastern Catholic priests.

The USA Byzantine Catholic particular Churches would suffer countless encounters from 1893 when the USA Roman Catholic bishops became adamant in the protection of their manmade mandate of celibacy of 1139. Despite the persecution of my particular Rusyn Catholic Church, we reached a peak of 312,73 faithful with 202 priests and 110 seminarians. Today in 2013, we have less than 83,900 faithful and seminarians in the single digits for the past 20 years. We are slowly terminating as a viable particular Catholic Church in the USA.

Our Byzantine Catholic Rusyn Church in Eastern Europe was terminated by the Soviet atheists from 1945 to 1989. One-third of our priests were killed outright, one-third were sent to the gulag archipelago, and one-third of our priests went underground. Within 20 years after 1989, every parish was recovered and our seminaries are full with each seminary opening having two vocation candidates. Over 90% of the seminarians will be married before ordination. However, religious freedom, denied by Roman Catholic bishops in the United States, does not exist for my Byzantine Catholic Church.

Pope Francis is our best hope. While Archbishop of Buenos Aires he had the responsibility to bishop a few Byzantine Catholic Churches and when asked of his solution to the Argentina priest shortage, 6,247 faithful per priest (37,003,000 faithful with 5,923 priests in 2010), cardinal Jorge Bergoglio replied, "we may have to ordain married men." In Sep 2013, as Pope Francis, he repeated the statement on a married clergy as the solution to the worldwide priest shortage.

In the USA, our Metropolitan bishop William Skurla of Pittsburgh, PA, bishop John Kudrick of Parma, Ohio, and bishop Gerald Dino of Phoenix, as ordaining bishops of the Byzantine Rusyn Catholic Church (Ruthenian), are now best positioned to duplicate the renewal of our USA particular Church as their brother bishops in Slovakia and Ukraine have completed.

During my youth, my Byzantine Catholic Church in Pittston, PA, provided 7 priests and 5 sisters during the time of 3 married parish pastors and a multitude of "called" vocations await the "choosing" by our bishops. Our USA Byzantine Catholic bishops fought strongly for their canon on a married clergy but the USA Romans had influence in Rome and we were overruled.

Today, 2013, with USA Roman Catholic bishops confronted with a priest shortage in crisis, and a Pope Francis who focuses on the entire Church, worldwide, we have a miniscule opening. When the Catholic media was informed of Pope Francis’ potential of ordaining married men, only a whisper could be read. It is difficult, after 874 years (1139-2013) of celibacy to acknowledge that the ideal of celibacy was not providing an oversupply of priests to "go forth and teach all nations."

Since the "choosing" of married men within the First Twelve Apostles by Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eastern Catholic Churches have always had a celibate and married clergy. With the need of pastors and missionary priests worldwide, our Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air and may we soon focus on solving a second millennium priest shortage and "go forth."