By Hieromonk Constantin (Simon); Originally appeared on orthochristian.com
An interview with Fr. Constantin Simon
Introduction by Reader Matfey Shaheen:
Hieromonk Constantin (Simon) Ph.D., born in the United States to a Ukrainian mother and a Hungarian father, is a former Jesuit and Roman Catholic Priest, with an amazing story—he left the Vatican behind to receive the Orthodox Faith, and became a hieromonk in Russia.
In Rome, Father Constantin was not simply a Professor, but was for a time the Vice Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, which is the Vatican’s greatest school dedicated specifically to Eastern Christianity, and as he revealed in part one, was originally founded together with the Russicum as part of a (failed) secret Jesuit endeavor to convert Russia to Catholicism. Ironically or perhaps indeed providentially, Father Constantin left that place behind to move to Russia and convert to Orthodoxy.
Being a Ukrainian American and holding such a high position in the Roman Catholic Church gave him great insight on the Vatican’s policy towards Orthodoxy, the Uniates and Ukrainian diaspora, and the Jesuits—after his conversion to Orthodoxy, this made him the perfect Orthodox expert to explain these complex stories to us.
This interview reveals many shocking stories, which help to explain the Ukrainian issue to us. We also discuss the dangers of liturgical “reform” and renovationism. If the Orthodox go down the liturgical path Vatican II took, it will lead only to the deformation of a beautiful and sacred work of the people—the Holy Liturgy. We also briefly speak on some positives and negatives of Western Rite Orthodoxy.
We discuss how groups of Uniates were transformed from peaceful Ruthenian (Rusyn) shepherds into Nazi-sympathizing Ukrainian nationalists who despised even their Roman Catholic neighbors.
We discuss how a Pro-Vatican, Rusyn Bishop in the English diaspora was violently assaulted by anti-Latin nationalist Greek Catholics, seeking to push the Vatican to recognize their “Ukrainian Patriarchate”—and how the pope supported the powerful nationalist faction and suppressed the old guard Catholic Vatican supporter.
How can the Vatican seek to improve relationships with Orthodoxy and the Moscow Patriarchate while their Uniate subordinates in Ukraine serve in Neo-Nazi styled funerals, assaulting elderly Ukrainian Orthodox parishioners, and calling literally for “death to the enemies” and to the “Muscovite pigs”—as they call their Galician Ukrainian neighbors?
One the one hand, the Vatican is poorly informed by anti-Orthodox media, and by the Uniates who commit these crimes themselves; on the other hand, it seems the Vatican itself is ruled by doublespeak, and they don’t really care about the suffering and murder of innocent Galician Ukrainian Orthodox Christians.
If the Vatican is genuine in their wish to improve relations, they must immediately and categorically condemn violence against Orthodox Christians committed by Uniates, and take action to punish guilty parties. If they do not do this, then their inaction speaks loudly, and they are no friends to Orthodoxy.
We left off in part one with a discussion of how the Ukrainian nationalist school of history is revisionist in character, renaming and reimaging old Rus-Ruthenian, Galician, and even Polish-Lithuanian histories and cultural legacy as “Ukrainian”.
They abandoned the historical name of Kievska Rus’, adopted a name from a transitive geographical region (Ukraine) which roughly means “borderlander” (Ukrainian), and now claim that they are the original Rus’ and more Rusian then the Russians. In part two, we find out what happened, when after the spring of nations, and the chaos of the interwar period, fascism was thrown into that mix.
The Ukrainian situation provides strong evidence for the Czech anthropologist Ernest André Gellner’s theory that: “It is nationalism which engenders nations, and not the other way around.”
—It’s true, Father Constantin, much history has been rewritten in our dear Ukraine. Even ecclesiastically speaking, after Vatican II in the Catholic Church, radical departures from historical tradition has become the theme. You could almost consider Rome two different churches, in terms of its psychology, especially if we understand this word in the Greek meaning—the study of the human soul.
To quote Florovsky (originally in reference to Kievan theology), we may say Vatican II undertook a pseudomorphosis of ecclesiastical theological thought and liturgical practice in the Roman Catholic Church.
So, before Vatican II, how did the Jesuits interact with the Uniates? Did they get along?
—As we discussed, the Uniates resented the Jesuits because of the Jesuit schools, which attracted the more wealthy sort of Uniates, and turned them into Latin Polish Catholics.
—So, what about the modern Catholic Church? Now we are talking about post-Vatican II. Most Roman Catholics, as I understand, are rather unfamiliar with the Greek Rite; so what do you think is the average perspective of an average Catholic in the west, and what is the perspective of a Latin Rite hierarchy to Uniates today?
—To the Uniates?
—Yes, to the Uniates. We can also talk about it relative to Orthodoxy, but let’s talk about the Ukrainian Uniates first.
—The perspective of a Latin Rite Christian, and the Latin Rite hierarchy? It depends on which hierarch you ask, and which Latin Rite Christian you ask, and how much they know about the Uniates. Many Latin Rite Catholics know nothing about that problem, and there are some bishops who also know nothing about it. Some may view them as rather quaint and old fashioned, because their liturgy preserved more elements of a traditional liturgy than the post-Vatican II Latin liturgy.
But Rome? That is a different question…
—And an interesting one…
—Now here, I must make a bit of a digression. You know that after 1945, when Galicia became a part of the Soviet Union, there was a so-called Council of Lvov, during which the Uniates were actually forced by Stalin’s government to accept Orthodoxy, whether they liked it or not.
Now it is not true, that all of them did not like it.
There were many Russophiles and many Orthodoxophiles amongst their clergy, who did it voluntarily.
But there were some who did not.
Their bishops were, before the Synod of Lvov, imprisoned. And one of the bishops who was imprisoned was a man called Josyf Slipyj1 who was to play a very, very important role in the Ukrainian diaspora.
Cardinal Josyf Slipyj (1893-1984) who considers himself the successor of the ancient Metropolitans of Kievan Rus’, and desired a Ukrainian Patriarchate. Photo: ikomutoprzeszkadzalo.plActually, he was imprisoned, first in Siberian labor camps, then in an old age institution, and he had a rather difficult life in Siberia. And that lasted until 1963, when the American government was very influential with Khrushchev in his liberation.
He returned to Rome and declared that he had suffered.
Why had he suffered? He suffered for the Union with Rome and for the pope. That was his official statement, that was the official line when he returned to Western Europe, and was beginning to lead the Ukrainian diaspora.
He was made a cardinal, and spoke at the Second Vatican Council, and began a second career at a very advanced age. He was a very dynamic person. But the problem was this: it was either he himself, or his advisors—later it was especially his advisors—who began a revolution in the Uniate church.
You know, until that time, the Uniate Church in the emigration was, one could say, one of the most loyal daughters of the Roman Papacy. In all their literature, they always justified what any pope did. Whatever. They were always on the side of the pope.
Now Slipyj and his advisors took a different attitude; they wanted to create what they called a Pomisnaya Tserkov (Local Church), which was to be more or less a semi-independent form of Catholicism, vis-à-vis the Vatican. They were one of those who wanted to create this concept later called the “Ukrainian Patriarchate”, with Slipyj as Patriarch, but this was met with mixed reactions amongst the members of the Uniate hierarchy, some of whom were dedicated papists.
And a revolution ensued; there were two groups that emerged in the Uniate hierarchy—a pro-Slipyj patriarchal group, and a pro-Papist group, led by especially the Basilian Order, which was a very influential group. Most of the bishops came from the Basilian Order, which was a cause of great resentment amongst the Uniate clergy at that time.
Cardinal Heenan (back turned) with the Bishops Hornyak (center, cleanshaven) and Slipyj (on the right, bearded) ca. 1970. Hornyak was the leader of the old guard Vatican loyalists, whereas Slipiy was for a Ukrainian Patriarchate. The conflict resulted in violence and the Pannonian Rusyn Hornyak was physically assaulted. Photo: annalesecclesiaeucrainae.blogspot.com
This is in the emigration of course, because officially the Uniate church didn’t exist in the Soviet Union.
So, they were dived into two camps, and these camps fought bitterly.
In fact, the bishop in London, who was of Rusyn origin, not of Ukrainian Galician origin, was physically attacked at least on two occasions, by supporters of Slipyj, and his ideas of a Patriarchate. This Banderite [Ukrainian Nazi—O.C.]2 movement which existed, still in Poland, and later in the Soviet Union—it became very obvious, that leaders of the Banderite movement were also very much active in the Ukrainian Uniate diaspora in Germany and especially in the United Kingdom.
—So, the Slipyj movement in the U.K. supported the Bandera movement?
—Yes, in fact, the bishop in the U.K. lost almost all his churches and parishioners to the Banderite patriarchal Slipyj movement.
—And what was the name of the Rusyn Bishop in London?
—No, in Coventry and Gloucester. Physically Assaulted! And this was the situation in the diaspora, until the time when the Ukraine declared its independence, and the Uniate church was again free to propagate in the Ukraine; but here everything changed, because the Uniate church in the Ukraine was extremely Latinized in liturgical practice, but almost completely supported the ideas of Slipyj.
And Rome did not know what to do with these people. You know at one point, this Patriarchal movement went to such proportions that, well, you know the Ukrainian patriarchal movement has never, never been officially approved by Rome! And if they are Catholics, it is only Rome who can declare for them a patriarchate; they cannot do it for themselves, although in all their publications in Ukraine, they use the title “patriarch” for the current major archbishop-metropolitan.
—So that’s quite interesting—we can say that they’re a bit rogue.
—They are! So, it was Rome, except for a few friends whom they had during the time of John Paul II, who himself had a very bad conscience, since during his time in Krakow, still as a cardinal, he denied the Uniates the use of a chapel. And so he was almost willing to grant them their patriarchate to provoke Russia.
Now what the Uniates do today in their moves is to completely counter any sign of warmth, or let us say détente, between the Roman Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate. Whenever there is a sign of détente, the Ukrainian Uniates always throw a wrench into it.
Remember what happened, when for instance, there was a sign that better religions were beginning—what did the Uniate Church do? It moved the residence and cathedral of the major archbishop from Lvov to Kiev!
Although the Uniate Metropolitans never in history resided in Kiev. They never in history resided in Kiev!
They typically resided either in Vilnius or Novohrudek, because it was impossible for them to reside in Kiev—because of the Cossacks, who would have murdered them!
—And they made a very, ugly looking cathedral on the other bank of the Dnipro.
—A very ugly looking cathedral, but that is known from the time of the Archbishop Huzar, who made several ugly looking churches during his time as priest in America.
—Yes, it’s quite the eye-sore from the other end of the Dnipro.
—Yes, he liked the modernistic style.
The “Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ” of the Ukrainian Uniates located on the left bank of the Dnipro river. While some may find the modernistic exterior attractive, the interior is sterile white, barren feeling, and does not have an iconostas. The Dnipro Left Bank was a historical/cultural gap which Uniates could not pass. It is visible from the Old City on the Right Bank, and the Caves District—the heart of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Its location on the left bank sends a very strong message of expansionism, both for historical reasons, and because the left side of the city is literally new, even in a post-soviet sense. Note the term “Patriarchal”, which even the Vatican does not recognize.
—And it’s strange, even symbolic that he would pick Left-Bank Ukraine to put it in…3
—Oh, but that was all done on purpose. It was all very deliberate. It was a provocation!
—Well, you’d just think they would want it closer to St. Sophia of Kiev4 or the Lavra perhaps.
—Yes, but no. They would like to be everywhere now in the Ukraine, and they view the whole of Ukraine as mission territory for them to proselytize in. And now they’re celebrating molebens, and panikhidas, and God knows what else, with all the schismatic jurisdictions. And Rome must be aghast at this, because Rome is trying to create better relations with the Moscow Patriarchate!
Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk (center) who claims the title Patriarch of Kiev, praying with self-proclaimed Patriarch of Kiev Philaret Denisenko (right), and later Constantinople-recognized hierarch of the OCU, Makarius Maletich (left), then leader of another schismatic sect.
—That’s an interesting question; actually I wanted to return to that, but first, I wanted to bring up another historical figure who comes to mind, especially with regards to Rome’s desires. One of the most controversial figures in the relationship between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism in the lands of Rus’, is the person of Josaphat Kuntsevich.
His crimes against Orthodox people, in particular, burning alive the local Orthodox populations in the monastery in Vilnius, horrified even the local Catholic rulers, who subsequently said they could not offer him any protection from the people’s retaliation after he had done such a thing. He has been sainted by the Roman Catholic Church, so from the perspective of interconfessional dialog and diplomatic relations between the churches, this is shocking; how can Catholic Popes in recent years start calling Orthodox people brothers, while still formally celebrating among their saints and on their calendar a man who burned Orthodox Christians alive? How is this possible?
—Well, remember that the seventeenth century for one thing, was a very cruel century. Another thing, Josaphat Kuntsevich [in particular] was a cruel person, he was not a very gentle bishop.
Even Norman Davies, who wrote a very popular and very positive book about Poland, says that Kuntsevich was not a “man of peace.”
But I don’t think many Catholics know about the life of Josaphat Kuntsevich; I don’t think they’re very interested. Polish Catholics might know more about him, but of course, for them, he’s a national figure.
There were many [Catholic—O.C.] saints at the time who were quite cruel. Another example is John of Capistrano, who was torturing people around the time of the Inquisition, and later became a saint.
I believe Kuntsevich, if he can be considered a saint at all by the Catholics, was more likely considered a saint by the manner of his death rather than by the manner of his life.
I agree that I never had much devotion to Josaphat Kuntsevich…
An interesting side fact—a very funny anecdote, you know, we had many Orthodox students in Rome. There were Ukrainians amongst them. And the Ukrainian Orthodox who were there, got on quite well with the Ukrainian Uniates. And the Ukrainian Uniates were all working as guards in Saint Peter’s. The Ukrainian Orthodox also wanted to assume such positions, to make money—and the Ukrainian Orthodox ended up guarding the tomb of Joasaphat Kuntsevich!!!
—Now that is astonishingly ironic!!! Then, I wonder were these Orthodox from the Moscow Patriarchate?
—Oh yes! In Rome, they only accepted Moscow Patriarchate. They never accepted the Ukrainian schismatics. The schismatic groups were never ever recognized by Rome. This is why it was so roughish for the Uniates to celebrate with them, when Rome itself never recognized those schismatic groups.
—I understand what you said, that Josaphat Kuntsevich was a historical figure, lost in the quagmire of his times, a product of his times, though certainly a brutal one even for those times. But what bothers me is that if Orthodox people were to canonize, for example, one of the Cossack Hetman, it would most likely receive global condemnation.
People would say, look at all the people who were killed during the Cossack Uprisings; the Orthodox would be condemned and criticized by all sorts of Western media who all of the sudden become Slavic studies experts overnight whenever they want to condemn or make statements about Russia and its history.
But on the other hand, you never hear condemnation for those Roman Catholic individuals who participated in the mass murder of Orthodox Christians, whether in Galicia and Transcarpathia, Croatia or Serbia. It’s a double standard.
—Well that is the media today, which has been since the late 1980s extremely anti-Orthodox. And you know yourself the propaganda which goes on daily in America against Russians—not only political propaganda against Russia, but also against the Orthodox Church.
—Yes, this is absolutely true!
—And against the Serbs! Which was a particularly virulent [anti-Serb and anti-Orthodox] propaganda.
—That’s absolutely right. I recall the story I heard of a Serbian priest, Fr. Slobodan Zivodinovic, whose brother was murdered by Croatian Nazi Ustashi. They were studying to become priests, and the Ustashi Croatian Nazis wanted to force them to become Catholic; they were killing those who would not convert. What happened there was extremely brutal, but it’s a story I’d rather not retell here.
So, did the Vatican have very little control over these people on the ground, or did they control them, and simply tolerate it? I am wondering why they aren’t being defrocked, or excommunicated for these crimes, or at least punished in some way.
—What time are you referring to?
—I suppose that’s an unfair question and I must name a specific time. I mean in general I see this pattern frequently. In Yugoslavia the Polish Pope John Paul II apologized for it, so to speak. But even now in Ukraine, there is much aggression against Orthodoxy. And in all of these cases, where Orthodox people are persecuted by groups in communion [with Rome], I never see Rome condemn these crimes.
—Well yes, unfortunately…
—It’s just swept under the rug and nobody talks about it?
—Yes. They are also very poorly informed, because many times they’re informed by Uniates who refuse to speak about those things.
In this video (with subtitles), a Uniate Priest calls for “assassination and terror”, and says “Our message to [“pro-Russians”] is the message of death by hanging… We want to be sure that our children will go to Ukrainian school… We want to be sure that no Chinese, Negro, Jew or Muscovite will try to come and grab our land tomorrow!” This is a microcosm of what is swept under the rug by the Uniates.
—I see. In the context of them being poorly informed, I can totally understand the average Catholic on the street, the average Catholic priest knowing nothing about this. But if our American readers who read OrthoChristian know about this persecution, I find it very hard to believe that someone as powerful as the Roman Pontiff can be so completely unaware about what his people are doing, despite his friendly statements. Can he really be that ignorant?
—This Roman Pontiff? [i.e. Pope Francis—O.C.]
—I don’t think he cares very much.
—You don’t think he cares about the persecution of Orthodox people?
A video of one of the many times Uniates have attacked Orthodox Christians and seized Churches, from Kolomyya in October of 2017. These sorts of attacks never make it into the anti-Orthodox Western media, and are swept under the rug.
—I don’t think he cares very much. I think this Roman Pontiff is fixated on other issues, especially which concern today’s Latin America. He’s very involved now with this Amazonian Synod, which is, extremely suspect because of its syncretistic aspects, and I don’t think he’s very interested in Eastern Europe.
—Including apparently the suffering of people whom he tries to call “brothers”? That is disastrous, even from the point of view of ecclesiastical diplomacy.
But, he does not seem to be a very intellectual pope, if I may say.
—He is not.
—Also, in the not so distant past, many Galician Uniates supported Nazi Germany during the Second World War. We already talked about the Bandera movement among the emigration in London prior to this. So, would you say that sympathy for Nazism and Russophobia was high among the Ukrainian Uniates of the 1930s, 40s, and onward?
—Well, during the 1930s, among the Ukrainian Uniates, animus was directed mostly against the Poles and the Jews. It was a fascist movement, but at the time, I would not say they were… well… there were ties with the Germans. There were ties, and the movements were similar, but they were still distinct. It was not until the Germans invaded Galicia that… What completely turned the Galicians into rabid let’s say Nazi supporters at that time was the previous occupation of Galicia by the Red Army.
—You are talking about the Soviet Invasion of Poland, around the time the Nazis also invaded Poland, in the fall of 1939—when the godless authorities occupied Galicia?
—Yes. The Red Army had occupied Galicia, then they retreated after the Germans attacked the Soviets, then the Germans occupied Galicia, and then once again the Red Army came. So, it was the first occupation of Galicia by the Red Army, especially by Jews, who occupied leading roles in the persecution of the intellectual elite among the Uniate Ukrainians at the time.
—Ah yes. So, it was the Jewish Soviet godless officials who persecuted Galicians, and this is what made Western Ukrainians perhaps so Russphobic? Or just Anti-Soviet? Is there a difference?
—For the Galicians, to be Russian at the time was to be Communist.
—Quite sad considering that the founding First Hierarch of ROCOR was the Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia, and we have a very “Ukrainian” character to our Russian Orthodoxy abroad, to all the jurisdictions really, certainly the OCA, the former Metropolia, but also the ROCOR. Many figures, perhaps even the bulk of our American “Russian” Orthodoxy, came from what is now the Ukraine. So, it’s quite sad that there is this confusion there. In Lvov at one time there were more Russophiles than in Saint Petersburg!
—Well of course, yes!
—In 1988, underground Uniate Bishops Pavel Vasylyk and Philemon Kurchaba met with the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli. On February 1, 1990, Archbishop Lazar (Shvets’) of Ternopil and Kremenets, quoted at a meeting of Russian bishops one of those underground Catholic bishops:
“Orthodoxy does not have a place in Western Ukraine; they must resettle in the eastern regions. We will create here a Catholic Ukrainian Republic.”5
This was preserved in Russian State Archives. So, were the Uniates receiving or expecting support from the Vatican on this? Or were they acting on their own?
—They were acting on their own. But they have done so consistently, since the time of Andrey Sheptytsky—and that was before the Second World War—but they have always projected this missionary impulse towards what they call “the East”.
Uniate Metropolitan of Galicia Andrey Sheptytsky, lived 1892-1944.—And perhaps this relates to building that very ugly building on the other [east] side of the Dnipro, which mars the view anytime I want to relax in Kiev…
—Yes, but what about their diocese or eparchies, which they have opened in places like Kharkov, where the Uniate population is completely minimal?
They do not realize an important fact—that the Ukrainian nation is an Orthodox nation, not a Catholic nation. It has never been a Catholic nation. Catholics are five percent of the population!
—I understand; we had talked before about how you were a Catholic essentially by chance or circumstance, due to your parent’s compromise between the Orthodoxy of your mother and Protestantism of your father, but in your heart, you always felt Orthodox.
—And I can feel that. It seems quite obvious. So, then, here’s the rather interesting question: How much control does the Vatican actually hold over the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, currently led by Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk?
—Well, let us say he cannot really. As I said before, he consistently makes moves to befuddle any sort of positive development between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.
But let us say, he must do it in a rather, well… You see, Shevchuk is a rather strange person. Even other bishops and the clergy say that he’s quite prone to hysterical outburst and tantrums. He’s quite an unpredictable character. He’s a nationalist of course, but very much aware of his own importance.
Of course, he cannot be completely disobedient to the Vatican; that would be scandalous. But today, after the Vatican Council, bishops are known to be quite disobedient to the Curia in the Vatican. Now, you do know that the Curia and the Vatican has never accepted him as Patriarch?
All the posts that are sent to him are addressed to him as “Major Archbishop”—and yet he replies as [a self-styled] Patriarch! I don’t think he replies that way to the Vatican directly, but to his faithful, he does.6 And there was even talk of him protesting against that fact—that they send posts to him addressed as Major Archbishop and not as Patriarch.
—Then to summarize, would you be saying then that the Vatican does not really hold much influence over Shevchuk?
—Not really. Especially not in his public pronouncements.
—In 1988, the Russian Orthodox Church possessed 8,500 parishes and 20 monasteries, 4,418 churches and 9 monasteries of which were located in Ukraine.7 In 1990, there were reported to be 2639 Orthodox parishes in Galicia.8 Between 1990 and 1997 the Greek Catholics seized around 2000 churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Uniates have been among the most active persecutors of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.9 There’s a video of a Uniate priest literally calling for “terror and assassination” against their enemies, as well as many Uniate priests serving funerals for member of the SS Galicia Division and their neo-Fascists decedents in full Nazi uniform.
Uniate Chaplain Nikolai Medinsky assaulted believers while seizing a church in October 2017, and he was caught on video forcefully shoving aside elderly women, calling the people Moscow pigs, lifeless biomass, and not even human. These are just some common examples of assaults and persecution committed by Uniate leaders, which raises several questions.
Firstly, seeing that these videos are available to anyone on the internet, is it right to say that the Vatican and Uniate Hierarchs are fully aware of these crimes committed by their clergy? I know we’ve talked about this, but it is just quite difficult for me to understand how these assaults from Nazis in broad daylight are available on YouTube. Are the hierarchs just not aware of this, or…
—I’m sure they share those sentiments.
Uniate “Priest” Nikolai Medinsky in Kolomyya demonstrating how strong a man he is by shoving aside elderly women and stealing their churches. Photo taken from a video by the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
—The Uniate leaders of course share them, but what about the Vatican itself?
—The Vatican? No. I don’t think many of the higher clergy in the Vatican are even informed about those things.
—So, they can just ignore what’s happening there?
—Remember that usually the worst things are happening in isolated villages, and so many of them in the Vatican are poorly informed, and to some degree, informed by the Uniates themselves, who don’t speak of those things to the Vatican.
—So, you think none of this persecution is making it to the ear of the Vatican?
—I think some of it is, but not all of it. The Vatican usually denies most of that, and denies most of the takeovers of the churches, and says that the Orthodox are also aggressive, etc.
—So, how does that affect the relations the Vatican is trying to build with the Russian Church? On the one hand, they come and shake hands with us and say they are our friends, while on the other hand, they just deny that anyone is seizing our churches, or assaulting our family members. And certainly, there are some individuals, who can tell them. You mentioned for example the Ukrainian Orthodox priests who studied in Rome. Don’t they inform the Vatican? It seems to me they’ve had enough opportunities and possibilities to find out what’s happening.
—The students really have very little opportunity, except for one, to come into contact with cardinals or members of the curia who would be influential in such issues.
—And so why is there no outcry? Why is Shevchuk not defrocked, or why isn’t he suspending these priests?
—To the contrary—Shevchuk is not suspending those priests, but his predecessor Liubomyr Huzar was suspending and defrocking priests who proclaimed themselves, traditional Uniates. There is a movement among the Uniates of traditional Uniatism. Did you know that exists?
The Uniate so-called “Patriarchal Cathedral” interior, a modernistic style championed by deceased Uniate leader Huzar, which is a break from both traditional Orthodox and Catholic styles of architecture. Huzar championed a very modernistic style throughout North America and Ukraine.
—Oh yes! There is a movement among the Uniates, a group of Uniates who reject all of the Byzantine accretions to the liturgy that were imposed after the Uniate Church in Ukraine became free. They want to celebrate with all of the Latinizations, (things like Bishops with gloves, and all those accretions that they had in the nineteenth century); and those priests were quite violently opposed to Huzar, Shevchuk’s predecessor, who suspended and I think even defrocked some of them.
Then there was another group among the Uniates, who were interested in quasi-charismatic exorcism phenomena, and that also created quite a stir among the Uniates. And I believe these problems concern the curia of Shevchuk much more then violent displays of nationalism. He himself is a violent nationalist.
—So, when we see people like Medinsky calling for “death to the enemies”, [or Mikhaylo Arsenych calling for “assassination and terror”], obviously this is beyond any scholastic debate; it is anti-Christian devilry. So why doesn’t Shevchuk do anything about this? Doesn’t he even feel, if not as a Christian then perhaps for PR reasons that he shouldn’t appear openly as a Nazi?
—Well. I don’t think he cares very much.
—But I have another example for you. You remember I told you about that bishop in England; do you know what eventually happened to him?
—Do you mean Hornyak?
—Yes, do you know what eventually happened to him?
—Let me tell you what eventually happened to him. He defended the Vatican, and what is known as the Oriental Congregation, to the hilt, against all opponents; he was in it, for whatever reasons, good or bad, but he defended them! He defended them, and eventually he lost almost all his parishioners [to Slipyj].
And at that time, the Pope was John Paul II, who rather appreciated that Slipyj and that movement—not the nationalistic movement, as John Paul II was Polish and the Poles are against Ukrainian nationalism—but let’s say he was more tolerant of them; and during his pontificate, everything seemed to be forgiven—all the abuses that went on during this “patriarchal period” in the diaspora. Because what had been happening in England is that instead of going to the churches, these Uniate Banderite sort of nationalists were gathering in the Ukrainian clubs, which were really taverns, and having suspended priests—suspended priests!—come from Rome to celebrate for them. They were having these masses in the clubs. And of course, the Bishop in England, Hornyak, was completely against that; he said they were all suspended priests, and was defending the Oriental Congregation.
And eventually during the pontificate of John Paul II, after the reopening of the Uniate church in Ukraine, somehow all was forgiven, and those priests were reinstated.
Somehow one of them, a ringleader by the name of Ivan Muzychka, was made rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome. Moreover several of the leading patriarchal clergy were given high positions in the hierarchy under John Paull II. And what happened to Bishop Hornyak? He was summarily and essentially demoted by the Oriental Congregation and sent into forced retirement, although he defended the Oriental Congregation for years! Is that any way to behave, to treat him?
—I shall tell you another story about why I became Orthodox, and why I did not stay in the Oriental Institute teaching Russian students. You know we had a very famous Jesuit who taught liturgy in the Oriental Institute. His name was Miguel Arranz; he was a Spanish Jesuit, who belonged to the Roman Province, and was very interested in Russia, making several trips to the Soviet Union.
He was a great friend of Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov), who gave him an honorary doctorate from the Leningrad Theological Academy.
Arranz taught liturgy at the Oriental Institute. I have to say, he was a great friend of Orthodox bishops, he knew the patriarch very well. But his last years were spent in a very lonely state. He alienated himself from the Oriental Institute, and was in part alienated by the Jesuits in the institute. No one seemed to visit or care for him. And he died very embittered and alone, in the Jesuit infirmary in Rome; and he was not even given a Byzantine-rite divine liturgy for his funeral, because he died in the summer when the students of the Russicum were on vacation. He was given an ordinary Latin, very quick mass.
He died very embittered, and I think he felt what very sorry that he had not made the move to Orthodoxy, as I later did.
I meditated very much about him, and thought: “I don’t want that to happen to me.” I want to live my dream—to become Orthodox and to live in Russia, with Russian people. I have always been much more able to understand Russians then I have Italians or Germans, or other Western Europeans. It’s always been much easier for me.
And that was another reason I decided to leave Rome, and the teaching position.
—Rome didn’t have any issue with that? Well, their loss is our gain!
—Well, Rome today does not communicate with me, of course. And the Oriental Institute does not communicate with me. I am a pariah, let’s say.
—Well, their loss is our gain, because as far as I am concerned, you came home.
—Yes. I am very satisfied, I love Moscow, I love being here in the monastery, and I love the liturgies. I love all the liturgies that go on here, and I love the choir, and how the liturgies are celebrated here.
And you know I used to be a complete Orthodox fanatic when I was a Catholic. Wherever I was, I always visited Orthodox Churches. But the Orthodox Churches in the emigration very often seemed to me to be lacking something, especially in the music—very bad choirs. Except in Paris and a few other places.
—You should see the choir of St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio. My friend is the choir director there; he was the former Choir Master of the Hierarchal Choir of Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra in Volhynia, Western Ukraine. He came to America a while ago for rather serious lung surgery—a double lung transplant. But I am happy to report that he still sings magnificently, and never fails to amaze Hierarchs and visiting guests. His choir at St. Sergius is just excellent; his name is Father Serhii Chebotar.
—Yes, I know him!
—Ah, you’ve met him!
—Yes, with our mutual friend.
—So, you know another one of my good friends then. Wonderful. You know, the Orthodox world, especially the clergy and families of clergy like my own, are all just a few steps removed. We’re all like one giant family.
We are so happy you came home to Orthodoxy! The Catholic Church seems to be plagued these days…
—Well the Catholic Church… I have one more thing to say about that, and about its relations with the Moscow Patriarchate. During my last two or three years as a professor at the Oriental Institute, I visited the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy at the invitation of His Eminence, Archbishop Amvrosy,10 and I gave a talk there, after which I gave an interview.
I gave an interview to the students, and I said that I believe the Catholics who are proselytizing in Russia do this against the will of the highest authorities in the Vatican, and the that Orthodox should not—in the opinion of the highest authorities of the Vatican—be proselytized to or made into Roman Catholics.
I said that, and it was published a few months later. After having returned from Australia, I received a letter from the General of the Jesuit Order, and an attached letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who had complained about my statement regarding the proselytizing to the Orthodox. He also complained about my use of the terms for the Uniate movement, which were declared at Balamand—because I quoted the Balamand Declaration11—and also the term “sister Church” for the Russian Orthodox Church.
—So, they complained about your use [of a declaration they themselves agreed to]? They complained that you said the position of the leadership Catholic Church is to not try to convert Russians to Roman Catholicism?
—Yes, they complained about my use of those terms. They said those things should not be said, those terms should not be used, and that it was not the doctrine of the Roman Church!
I said the term, “sister Church” should be used, there should be no proselytizing, and that the Orthodox should not become Roman Catholics! And that was the policy of the Vatican!
And that was denied! Denied by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, or by their representative, and I had to apologize and write letters to the General of the Jesuits and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who said that those were not the policies off the Roman Pontiff or the Vatican. And this was during the time of Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), who was quite friendly to the Orthodox Churches.
So, I must say that in my opinion, there is a sort of doublespeak in the Vatican, constantly with regards to the Orthodox Churches. It says one thing and does another!
It says one thing to someone, but says something completely contrary to someone else. It reminds me of a time when I wrote an article for La Civilta Cattolica, which is the official mouthpiece for the Catholic church in Italy—it is a Jesuit journal—and in that journal, I wrote something about the state of the Macedonian schism.
And I was rebuked by Cardinal Archbishop Colasuonno, who later on was official representative of the Holy See in Moscow, and told that: “Even if what you wrote was true, it should not be written.”
Those were his exact words!
—That sounds like the definition of doublespeak! Fascinating. That really shows the attitude there.
—Shevchuk once said that the goal of the ecumenical movement is to create a single Ukrainian Patriarchate recognized by both Rome and Constantinople. But based on this, I wonder how much of this translates to reality. Would Rome or Constantinople be interested in this compromise?
—This is a ridiculous proposition, which dates from the time of Sheptytsky. But it was just as ridiculous at the time of Sheptytsky, when the Ukrainian separatist Orthodox invited him to be their patriarch, which was also a ridiculous idea, because there is a difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, and they do not seem to realize that.
For the Roman Church, any Ukrainian Church, any united Ukrainian Church must be under the jurisdiction of the pope—there is no other way for the Roman Church. No other way!
Rome might even be inclined to give way on such topics as the Filioque, but it is not inclined in any way, to give way on the subject of Papal Primacy. Never on Papal Primacy!
—So, from a true Catholic perspective, there can be no church which isn’t under the pope, and from a true Orthodox perspective, there can never be a church [i.e. the entire universal church] which is under the pope.
—So, it’s an impasse. This whole movement certainly is ridiculous then. One thing I seem to remember, especially given the current events, is that Patriarch Bartholomew studied at the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Do people remember his time there?
—Oh yes. He gave a speech even in the Institute. Now I have one comment to make about that, on something I recently heard on the Spas TV Station. They were speaking about the fact that Bartholomew was a student of the Institute, and was influenced by Catholic Theology, and that was the reason why he was doing the things that he is now. That is ridiculous.
—So, you don’t feel his actions are influenced by Catholic Theology?
—No. He is influenced by politics, not by Catholicism. He is Anti-Catholic. Bartholomew is, in the dogmatic sense of the word, anti-Catholic. He spoke about the ontological differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism at Georgetown University, at which Catholics were scandalized, because they thought he was… well… All his ideas about being the “Pope of the East” are his own political ideas.
It’s true that Catholics would like him to become the Eastern Pope, because then it would be easier for them to deal with the Orthodox Churches, because it would all be with one person. So, in that sense, it would be easier for them; but that Bartholomew was influenced by Catholic theology is absolute nonsense. In fact, I think during the time that he was studying in the Institute it was more likely that the Catholics were influenced by him.
—Thank you, I appreciate the perspective, because I often hear one side, but I have never heard this unique insight on the issue.
—He studied canon law. It was at the time when there was no Uniate canon law, the Uniate law had not been published, so he studied canon law—but canon law is not Theology. I don’t even know if he took any courses in Theology there.
—So why, first of all, are there very many Orthodox clergy studying in the Oriental Institute—or are they mostly Eastern Catholics?
—At one time there were very few, but then the communist countries opened and then there was a flood of students. At one point there were many Ukrainians and Romanians. They were not prepared to study, and they were very bad students. Today there are fewer. When I was studying there were almost equally Uniates and Orthodox, but Orthodox from many Churches. There were some Serbs, there were many Romanians, there were Greeks, and there was a Bulgarian.
—So, what would motivate Orthodox clergy to study in theological institutions of a different faith?
—The library of the Pontifical Oriental Institute is one of the best, if not the best library, on Eastern Christian studies in the world.
—I see, so archivism is what brings people in.
—It’s the library, especially the library. It is also for Greeks, I may say; and I must make a negative comment, because many of the students did not use the library, and that was the most important thing.
—So, out of curiosity, what would happen in the institute when they discuss things like papal primacy, or the essence vs. energies dispute at the time of St. Gregory of Palamas? How are conflicting Orthodox and Catholic views handled?
—Both things are taught.
—On another topic, Michael Huffington, who is an openly homosexual12 media tycoon, a member of the GOARCH and a big supporter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, sponsors a center for Orthodox-Catholic dialog via his foundation at the Jesuit Loyola University in California. There’s also the website Public Orthodoxy from Fordham University, which publishes and supports many unorthodox ideas—for example, pro-homosexual content. So, is there a lot of cooperation between Jesuit universities and Orthodox institutes?
—In the United States, Jesuit universities really no longer exist. All the Jesuit universities, with very few exceptions, are in the hands of lay people. They are Jesuit universities only in name; the president is usually a Jesuit, but he has very little power.
Georgetown University, which had a very good academic program, is one of the most liberal universities, and was recently forbidden to use the name Catholic in its title because of its openness to homosexuals, lesbians, and the various sort of sexual perversities which go on in the West.
I don’t know very much about Loyola. The only thing I know is that Kirill Hovorun13 is teaching there.
—Now on the topic of “Western influence”: Some schools within Orthodoxy apply the term, “Western captivity”, as in The Ways of Russian Theology by the great theologian Father Georges Florovsky. I always found it regrettable that some Orthodox people of what we could call a “Pietistic” trend, are allergic to anything perceived as Western—for example, even the Latin language itself.
Many Orthodox Saints used this language, and my “favorite” saint, Peter Mohyla, could even converse in Latin. St. John of Shanghai highly venerated many ancient Western saints, and was extremely knowledgeable about them—his response on these issues may surprise many people.
Saint John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai celebrating the Western Rite with Western Rite Orthodox in Paris. The concept of the Western Rite itself is canonical, but this does not mean all Western rite groups have the blessing of St. John, or are without issues.
Sadly, many Orthodox only seem to focus on the glorious single period of Byzantine saints, and often are unaware of the lives of more obscure saints, and this is unfortunate.
I am thinking particularly of ancient Western traditions that are completely Orthodox. After all, for the sake of emphasizing the universality of the church, Orthodoxy is not an Eastern European phenomenon—it is neither an Eastern nor Western church. It is Catholic, Ecumenical—which is to say, a universal faith.
We confess the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, not the One Holy Greek Church or One Holy Muscovite Church. So, what do you think, should there be more awareness of ancient pre-schism
—I think that the question is valid. I think there should be more veneration. I think one can venerate those saints whom one wishes provided they’re Orthodox. The Western Rite venerates them, and uses this Western Rite liturgy, the La divine liturgie selon Saint Germain de Paris (The Divine Liturgy according to St. Germanus of Paris).
I have to say this: I find the idea wholesome and good. Unfortunately, many of those, who are attracted to such things, have not lived up to expectations. Unfortunately, many eccentrics are involved with these groups. And there are all sorts of aberrations and abuses which go on, which make me slightly suspicious when I look at the Western Rite.
Also, that Mass of St. Germanus of Paris is not a historically authentic thing, but something which has been put together; I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I don’t think that certain things they’re trying to do with the rood screen, for example, are bad—I think they’re very beautiful. But because of the fact that those groups are usually prone to changing jurisdictions, and because of the scandal in France, where they admitted several members of the theosophical society, accepting eclecticism and esotericism, I view all of that with a grain of suspicion.
—And of course, I know that you always personally preferred the Slavonic liturgy and language.
—Oh yes, I prefer only the Slavonic Liturgy and only in Church Slavonic. I have been immune to—by my experience in the Western [Roman Catholic] Church—all temptations of liturgical renovation, or modification, or so-called reform. In the Western church, so-called reform only led to deformation and to the ruin of what was once a beautiful tradition.
—Yes. We’re both obviously liturgical conservatives.
—I absolutely disagree with those who want to have the liturgy in Russian. I am not for the removal of the iconostasis, I am not for any of those strange innovations that were advocated by the obnovlenci (Renovationists). No, I am very conservative in liturgical matters.
—So, what do you think will happen now that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has recognized the Ukrainian schismatics? Will it lead to a broader schism?
—Well of course it will!
—My final question to you as an American of Ruthenian or Ukrainian decent who received Orthodoxy and became a very much beloved hieromonk here in Moscow. Our whole community here very much appreciates your service and your self-evident love for Orthodoxy and the Slavonic language. What words do you have for the faithful of the Ukrainian lands, and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians around the world, in these times of crisis? I am sure they would love to hear from you, as an American who is also one of their own zemlyaki (countrymen). What words would you have for them?
—Stay true to Orthodoxy and Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine!
—Thank you very much Father Dr. Constantin!
1 Pronounced Yosif Slee-peè, almost like the English word sleepy, but with a strong accent on the second syllable.
2 Stefan Bandera was a WW2 era Nazi Collaborator who has been rehabilitated and lionized by Ukrainian nationalists. See this article by The Times of Israel: https://www.timesofisrael.com/ukraine-celebrates-nazi-collaborator-bans-book-critical-of-pogroms-leader/
3 Left-Bank Ukraine, i.e. the eastern half of the country on the east of the River Dnieper which divides Kiev and the whole country in two, is historically considered more pro-Muscovite, whereas Right-Bank Ukraine, i.e. the western side, is considered more pro-Polish. There has never been a Uniate see on the Left Bank.
4 St. Sophia, or more accurately, the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Agia Sophia in Greek) of God is the historical cathedral and seat of the Metropolitans of Kiev, restored from a ruinous state by St. Peter Mohyla. The Cathedral is considered as together with the Kiev Caves Lavra, the most important historical religious site in the city, which already contains some of the most important sites in Russian Orthodoxy. The Cathedral is currently a museum, though schismatics occasionally are granted its use.
5 Российский государственный архив социально-политической истории, ф. 89, пер. 8, док. 41. (Russian State Archive of Social-Political History)
6 As noted, the main Uniate Cathedral in Kiev, which is built unprecedentedly on the left bank of the Dnipro, is called the “Patriarchal Cathedral”, despite the fact that the Vatican—which is the only entity which can create a Patriarchate for Uniate people—does not recognize and has not created de jure a Ukrainian Patriarchate, yet by Shevchuks rogue behavior, one exists de facto on the streets of Kiev and Lviv.
7 Yarema, Archpriest Rostislav. “Interconfessional Conflicts in Ukraine During the Twentieth to Twenty-first Centuries.” Orthodox Christianity, 7/18/2019. Translation by Reader Matfey Shaheen. http://orthochristian.com/122473.html
10 Then rector of Saint Petersburg Theological Academy, currently rector of Sretensky Theological Seminary and abbot of Sretensky monastery. Father Constantine was eventually received into Orthodoxy by Vladyka Amvrosy.
11 A document prepared by both Orthodox and Vatican authorities; in an extremely simplified sense, it recommended against proselytizing one another, criticized Uniatism as a thing of the past, and said the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church are “Sister Churches”. The text may be read from the Vatican website here:https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19930624_lebanon_en.html Father Constantine was essentially criticized by Catholic authorities for quoting verbatim a document which they themselves accept.
13 A Ukrainian Archimandrite who was sent from Kiev to Moscow, and in 2012 was relived of his duties in the Academic Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church. He has for a while now lived abroad, and is percieved by some as supporting “canonical autocephalia” in Ukraine, or other ideas which some consider to be rather “liberal” or “progressive”, in Orthodoxy. Archimandrite Kirill, though formally part of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, is not apparently serving in any official capacity, and is instead working in his teaching position at the referenced Jesuit University in California. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/1314994.html