To Bishop Basil Takach
Sacred Oriental Congregation.
Prot. No. 572-30
Rome, July 23, 1934
(Borgo, Nuovo, 76.)
It is certainly not without profound pain that the Holy See has had to realize that, among the Catholics of the Greek Ruthenian Rite in the United States of America, and in particular among the clergy and faithful of the Pod-Carpathian Ruthenian Ordinariate, grave agitations and deplorable rebellions are being intensified and expanded on the pretext that this Sacred Congregation had threatened the rights and privileges of the Ruthenian Church.
But your Excellency knows well how, under the appearance of vast questions, there lies prevalently that much more restricted question, which has its origin in the regulation of article XII of the Decree Cum Data Fuerit of March 1,1929, and by which was again decreed what had already been prescribed since 1890; that is to say, "that Greek Ruthenian priests who desire to betake themselves to the United States of America and to remain there must be celibates." This regulation indeed was not and is not a "lex de coelibatu apud clerum graecoruthenum," as some have wanted to affirm. By it, nothing has been modified or changed in that particular Ruthenian ecclesiastical discipline, to which, in so far as it concerns the privilege of a married clergy, the Holy See has consented and still does consent. This regulation arose not now, but anew, from the peculiar conditions of the Ruthenian population in the United States of America. There it represents an immigrant element and a minority, and it could not, therefore, pretend to maintain there its own customs and traditions which are in contrast with those which are the legitimate customs and traditions of Catholicism in the United States, and much less to have there a clergy which could be a source of painful perplexity or scandal to the majority of American Catholics.
And, moreover, when the Holy See recognized the peculiarities of the Greek Ruthenian Church and guaranteed them, it intended principally - as is evident from the Decree of Union of 1596, during the Pontificate of Clement VII, and of the Brief of Paul V of 1615 - to recognize and guarantee the ritual traditions of the Ruthenians.
As regards their particular canonical discipline, the Holy See could not have affirmed its integral application at all times and in all places without taking into account the different exigencies and circumstances. Thus one can well understand how a married clergy, permitted in those places where the Greek Ruthenian Rite originated and constitutes a predominant element, could hardly be advisable in places where the same Rite has been imported and finds an environment and mentality altogether different.
Let it not be said that the regulation of Cum Data Fuerit was new legislation, since the preceding Decree Cum Episcopo (August 17, 1914) - issued as a modification of the Constitution Ea Semper (June 14, 1907) - did not make any mention of it.
The fact that no mention was made of it in the Decree Cum Episcopo was not due in any way to a revocation of the regulation, adopted since 1890 and solemnly called to mind on several occasions; on the contrary, it was due to an indulgent attitude of the Holy See taken in view of the statements of the Ruthenian Bishops in Europe to the effect that the number of unmarried priests in their dioceses was still too few and that they could not very well reduce that number by aligning some of them to the spiritual assistance of the Ruthenian faithful in America. And that this was so is proven clearly by the fact that in the years from 1914 to 1929 - that is during the period in which the regulation in question did not appear - the Holy See upheld in practice the same regulation, which continued to be known to the entire Ruthenian hierarchy and clergy so much so that when the Ordinary of the Pod-Carpathian Ruthenians in the United States of America deemed it necessary in 1925 to ordain some married clerics, he asked the Holy See to permit him, by way of exception to do so. The Holy See in acceding to the request, took care to emphasize the exceptional nature of the permission and to add "exclausa quavis spe futurarum ordinationum."
As the situtation changed for the better, it seemed well that the decree of March 1, 1929, should state again, explicitly, that which in fact had never been abrogated. And so much the more so, because the regulation in question does not concern exclusively the Ruthenian clergy, but applies without exception to priests of all Rites.
But the Decree was accompanied on the part of the Holy See by an attitude of the greatest discretion and indulgence; so that even after it, no action was taken to send away from the United States those married Ruthenian priests who had already immigrated there in opposition to the regulation which would have forbidden them to do so; and these priests were not disturbed even when some of them showed themselves to be partisans of an altogether deplorable movement of hostility against their bishop and against the Holy See itself.
In the face of the simplicity and the logic of what article XII of the Decree Cum Data Fuerit disposes, it seemed immediately evident that some sought to bemuddle the situation, deceiving the ingenuous minds of the faithful by a misleading and a malign interpretation of every act emanating from the Holy See and put into effect by the Ordinary, Bishop Takach. And if there would have been any doubt about this, it would have been dissipated at lengths by what happened in the Convention, promoted by the KOVO and held in Pittsburgh from July 26 to 28, 1933 a meeting of intents and manifestations clearly schismatic, even to the extent of threatening the Holy See that unless it had - within sixty days - granted what was requested in the resolutions of the convention, the delegates at Pittsburgh and the people whom they represented would declare themselves "independent of Rome." A tremendous statement, which, however, was not surprising because it revealed without possiblity of further doubt, the true motives of a complete campaign of the press, of meetings, of protestations, of rebellions, of schisms, which under the cloak of the defense of the privileges of the Ruthenian Church had already grievously offended against the spirit of reverence and obedience to the Ordinary - even to the extent of depriving him of almost every means of substinence - and weakened the very attachment to the Catholic Faith . . .
Therefore, let every dissension and - every suspicion by banished, so that there may be reestablished, in the pride of the common Catholic faith and in fraternal sentiments inspired by a common origin and membership in the same Rite, that mutual charity which should bind closely together all the Ruthenian people in America with their Bishop and clergy, and make of them, even in that land far distant from their native county, a magnificent appeal to dissidents to return to the unity of the Catholic faith.
Your Excellency, who by reason of long practice of office and of affection, has closely at heart the spiritual welfare of the Ruthenian people in the United States, will convey to all the good people, and first of all to Bishop Takach - so sorely and unjustly tried - the trustful word of the Holy Father, who, the guardian of ecclesiastical discipline by reasons of his apostolic ministry, desires that the exact observance of whatever regulations this Sacred Congregation has issued be, on the part of the Ruthenian Church in the United States of America, the most worthy proof of its Catholic faith and of its willingness to live, increase and flourish in works of holiness.
May there descend upon Bishop Takach, his clergy, his faithful - and among them, upon also those who are sorry for their transgressions and return to the proper disposition, the comforting and vivifying blessing of Almighty God, which the Holy Father, through the intercession of the most glorious Virgin Mother, invokes generously and with a fervent prayer that it may be abundant in heavenly graces.
With sentiments of esteem and best wishes, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Luigi Cardinal Sincero
Bishop of Palestrina, Sicily
G. Cesarini, Assessor