Orthodox America

  Please, some kindness

We received the following letter to the editor a few years ago and decided that with this issue it was appropriate to resurrect it from the files. The author has since been received into the Orthodox Church. 

       I am writing to tell you of my great appreciation for your efforts to publish a journal which so consistently includes articles of great import for any Christian who seeks to know the Truth in this age of relativism and syncretism, unbridled subjectivism, etc. Perhaps you are surprised to hear this from a priest of the "uniate" church. However, I can tell you that there are those of us who know where our true spiritual roots are to be found. Some of us among the clergy actively do what we can (what we can get away with!) to promote this awareness amongst the people placed in our charge. This is an effort not without its perils for us, and an extremely painstaking and delicate sort.

       For my own part, I have had quite a path to the place where I am now, having been baptized a Protestant at an early age, converting to Roman Catholicism, the faith of my mother, when a teen, being ordained a "Byzantine Rite" Catholic priest five years ago, and now with a steady eye on the Orthodox Church. Perhaps it is because of my own persevering quest for True Christianity that I can understand something of the challenge it is to sift through layers of prior training and indoctrination. I have long been an admirer of Father Seraphim Rose because he, too, undertook this journey. What a light his writings cast into the world!

       It is my fervent hope that Orthodox who, loving their Faith, will do all that they can to make an opening for other Christians to come to a knowledge of the fullness of Faith. As you are surely aware, many are ignorant of Orthodoxy through little if any fault of their own and do strive in sincerity to live in fidelity to Christ in the measure that elements of the Faith have been filtered down and through the many strata of sects and founders. It seems to me that the Orthodox should and can do more to open the door to others. You and your collaborators are, I think, already committed to this objective and it is a source of encouragement to me. Especially needful is an invitation to the "Uniates" to come home, basing such invitation upon a patient, factual historical account of how the unions with Rome came about (and the concurrent break from the Orthodox sees) how the Uniates are a very real stumbling block (among other important matters) to a restoration of communion with Rome from the perspective of the Orthodox, and all of this done in as charitable and non-threatening manner as is humanly possible because, again, many of our people are sincere in their loyalties because they have been taught distorted or incomplete histories and have never known anything else. In addition, they are paranoid enough as to their own identity after five hundred some years of struggle to maintain themselves as a minority "rite" in the midst of consuming giant. Many of our people know of and perhaps have experienced something of the prejudice and intolerance of Roman Catholics over the years, but they are also so thoroughly imbued with a sense of having "suffered" for their loyalty to the popes, far beyond what most Roman Catholics have been called to sacrifice---that by now their loyalty to the pope is a benchmark of their identity, but they would be hard-pressed to clearly identify any other constituitive elements. Our people can be enlightened to the true origins of their "Byzantine" faith, and to a more complete understanding of church history, if this effort is undertaken with a genuine love for them and an interest in their salvation within the fullness of the Church. Instead of condemning Uniates and mocking them, as is most often done, please spread the word from one "inside" that Orthodoxy is missing their chance to reclaim some of her children. Our people need to hear consistently and lovingly from Orthodox hierarchs, clergy and laity that we are brothers and sisters even though we have wandered from home. Such an attitude would greatly help clergy like myself in our efforts to "detoxify" our people from their fear of the Orthodox unknown. As it is, we feel as the most unwanted children, basically ignored by Roman Catholics (except for being kept firmly under control by Vatican higher-ups) and detested by Orthodox

       It may be that "uniatism" is unacceptable as a model for restoration of Christian unity to the Orthodox. I couldn't agree more myself. But when Uniates read of wholesale rejection and hostility of uniatism, they tend to take it personally, and their defensiveness becomes all the more entrenched. When Orthodox hierarchs meet with Vatican authorities in their international gatherings, they could certainly gain more ground with our people by inviting them home than by refusing to talk simply because they exist. Can they realistically expect Rome just to cast us off first and then come back to talk? I believe that Rome could well afford to allow a return of the Uniates to Orthodoxy as a prior corrective action before "ecumenical dialogue'' can proceed. While not conceding anything essential to the fullness of Truth, the Orthodox could do well to be the most hospitable of Christians. It is very destructive when someone like myself tells my people to go to Orthodox services (in hopes that they will feel at home--in contrast to the Roman Catholic masses with women communion distributors, clowns, polka music, etc. etc.) only to endure a feeling of scorn or contempt by the priest or fanatic laity. Together with another priest, I take every possible occasion to visit Orthodox churches, monasteries, etc. in the hope of building bridges. Very often we are received with love, but I can also say that it is disconcerting to be turned away at the door by a so-called Orthodox Christian because we are Uniate, when at the same time Protestants of all sorts arc readily admitted 

      I would ask you to pray for our people of the Eastern Rite, that they might find the road to return to the house of their mother, the Orthodox Church. It would be wonderful if our mother sent our brothers and sisters out into the countryside to search us out and not return until they have found us and can take us back with them.