Doctor Maloney`s incisive analysis demonstrates the poverty of the arguments adduced in the Pope`s letter and underscores the remarkable inconsistency with which the papacy has addressed itself to the question of the Ukrainian Patriarchate. The letter makes clear that what Rome most fears is any diminution of her absolute, centralized authority. It gives no Indication that there has been any movement beyond Vatican I`s vision of the Catholic Church as one large diocese.
What is perhaps most remarkable about this papal missive is the dis juncture between its superstructure-the florid epistolary style which asserts «the respect and the greatness of the paternal love» with which the Pope approached the Ukrainian bishops petition concerning the establishment of the Ukrainian Patriarchate-and its underlying substance which is parochially conceived and narrowly executed.
The writer says that the gravity and importance of the issue impels a new and detailed examination of the entire question in its canonical, historical, spiritual, and pastoral dimensions. However, the negative decision ultimately rendered is in fact based solely upon a simplistic and subjective consideration of canonical factors. The burden of the canonical argument is that if Catholic (Eastern rite) patriarchs were to be recognized as possessing jurisdiction in existing Latin-rite dioceses, «problems would arise» for the Latin-rite authorities. The intent of the final decision is.to safeguard Roman prerogatives on the implicit grounds of the superiority of the Latin rite. In this respect the letter echoes the spirit of an earlier decree of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches (dated July 23, 1934 which stated that outside of its homeland, the Eastern Catholic Church «represents an immigrant element and a minority, and it could not, therefore, pretend to maintain /abroad/ its own customs and traditions which are in contrast with those which are the legitimate customs and traditions of /Latin-rite/ Catholicism…»
The Pope’s manner of dealing with the question of establishing the Ukrainian Patriarchate is a stunning example of how the religious credibility of the Catholic Church is squandered when the functional demands of executing political policy (in this case, the construction of a Vatican-Soviet detente) co-opt curial attitudes. The confusion of ecclesial and political principles could hardly be more blatant. The Pope writes that the Secretary of State (who is also the Prefect of the Council for Public Affairs), chaired «a small commission of Cardinal Fathers», and presented their conclusions to «а meeting of the heads of the Congregations of the Roman Curia.» Contrary to the Pope’s own personal inclination, the cardinals recommended that «the wishes and desires of the Ukrainian Catholic hierarch» be denied. Apparently this organ of Vatican foreign policy feels that the Fathers of Vаtican Council II erred when they legislated in the Decree on Ecumenism (Article 16) that «the Churches of the East… have the power to govern themselves according to their own disciplines, since these are better suited to the temperament of their faithful and better adapted to foster the good of souls.»
1971 will surely be recorded as the year in which the Pope transferred the prerogatives of church government from the curial dicasteries – which have until now maintained at least a facade of pastoral and ecclesiastical concern—to the Secretariat of State, the Vatican State’s office for governmental, diplomatic, and non-ecclesiastical affairs.
* * * * * *
Pope Paul said on February 25, 1965 that by elevating Major-Archbishop Joseph Slipyj to the dignity of cardinal, he wished to give the Ukrainian nation «an authoritative leader, on whom you can rely, and whom you can trust implicitly,… a high spokesman for your unity,…a strong center for your religious and national life.» The oath which the Pope administered to the Major-Archbishop differed in two particulars from that taken by the other twenty-three Latin-rite bishops: hе asked Metropolitan Joseph not for «subjection», but for «brotherhood» and he granted the Metropolitan a title and office not in «the Holy Roman Church,» but in «the Holy Сatholiс Church.» Both of these gestures emphasized that a different kind of relationship exists between the Bishop of Rome and the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from that which exists between the See of Rome and the Latin-rite bishops. The discrepancy between the Pope a speech in 1965 and his letter of 1971 amounts to counter-apologetics by curial fiat. Upon the advice, of his foreign affairs advisers, the Pope has chosen to betray his earlier promises, violate the spirit and the letter of the Decree on Ecumenism and the Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, and assure that the community which he governs will continue for some time to be Roman rather than Catholic.
It is chilling to explore the ramifications of Pope Paul’s letter. Church polity validated by a millennium and a half is being jettisoned; the ecclesiology so carefully elaborated by the bishops of the Catholic world at Vatican II is being reversed; the brutal martyrdom in our day of the largest Eastern Catholic Church is being passed over in silence; and the solemn synodal decisions of an entire national hierarchy are being set aside by the stroke of a curialist’s pen. All this is being accomplished for the sake of political expediency masquerading as a history making ecumenical break-through.
What is especially painful to even the casual reader is the absence of any judgment by the Pope about the 1946 «Synod of Lviv,» the legalistic ploy which served to legitimize the liquidation of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The author invokes a tactful circumloculation: «…the countries in which /Ukrainian Catholics/ live… do not recognize the legitimacy of the Ukrainian Church.» This «policy of irenic silence» is regnant in Roman circles. The rector of the Russian Pontifical College in Rome expressed the same attitude in March 1971 when he explained that Ukrainian Catholics «cannot expect the Holy See to risk the embarrassment of raising the question of the existence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Soviet Union when there is the possibility of having a dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church»
* * * *
What should not be lost sight of is the indisputable fact that according to the most narrow interpretations of Roman canon law the Ukrainian Catholic Church already possesses a patriarchal-synodal, structure of government with all the prerogatives inherent in such a structure, including the universal jurisdiction of the Major-Archbishop over the faithful of his (Ukrainian) rite everywhere in the world. This principle has been clarified, defended, and invoked by the Melkite Patriarchs Maximos IV (Saigh) and Maximos V (Hakim) and affirmed by decisions issued in the names of three Roman Pontiffs: Pius XII, John XXIII, and Paul VI. It is important to note that the Roman decisions in question (those of June 2, 1957; December 23, 1963; and November 28, 1966) did not grant the Ukrainian Metropolitan of Lviv patriarchal character, but rather recognized that that see already possessed such character.
The Pope concludes his letter with the hope that the Major-Archbishop will accent his conclusions «with just evaluation.» A just evaluation of Pope Paul’s letter of July 7, 1971 can only confirm the correctness of his proclamation on April 22, 1967 that «the papacy is the greatest obstacle on the road to ecumenism.»