Less Identity Than History

One of my favorite bloggers, Carolina (do check out the beautiful pictures she posts), asks:

do Eastern Catholics have an identity crisis? I sometimes wonder. Why is it that the creed in the Divine Liturgy isn’t changed to reflect the filioque? Being Catholic isn’t an ethnicity and liturgy is more than the nationalities of the congregation. Also, Catholicism is not a sum of it’s Romanism. It would seem Eastern Catholics go through a great deal of effort to distance themselves from the traditions of Rome so much so one wonders “why not just be Orthodox”. 

I don’t think “identity crisis” is accurate. I am absolutely not going to get into a West v. East, Eastern Rite v. Orthodox discussion here, but I think there are several things going on.

It’s uncontroversial that the Eastern Rite have far more in common with the Orthodox than they do the Latins. Go to nearly any Eastern Rite blog, and find links to Orthodox sites. As far as that goes, go to the web site for an Eastern Rite church, and you will find links to Orthodox sites, such as St. Vladimir Seminary Press. They’re Byzantines. They share that with the Orthodox.

From what I’ve observed, the Latins are blissfully unaware of the Eastern Catholics, even though there are lots of them here. When the Latins are confronted with them, which isn’t often, reactions are not always pleasant. And the history of Roman treatment of Byzantine Catholics in the United States isn’t always pretty. Certainly now, there is a Pope who is open to them and very respectful of Byantine tradition and theology, but this has not always been the case, and there is no assurance that it will be so in the future.

The Eastern Catholics are who they are: Byzantine. It makes perfect sense for them to purge Latinisms that have slowly crept in, otherwise, why be Eastern at all? The filioque is an issue for Byzantines, but not so much for the Vatican, so why not purge it from the Creed, especially since the terms of the union specified that they would not be required to insert it?

I can’t make the same decision for anyone else, of course, but for me, Eastern Catholicism made no sense. They exist for historical reasons that have nothing to do with me, and they have issues to which I am sympathetic, but which I would rather avoid. Orthodoxy is where I am, because it’s where I belong. I think it’s marvelous that some Latins do not ignore their Byzantine brethren, but from time to time attend the Divine Liturgy (see not only this article, but also the comment thread). The Eastern Rites can act as a bridge between East and West. But ultimately, I could not justify Eastern Catholicism for myself.


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