What is Latinization, and why is it bad for Eastern Catholics?
Latinization is the practice of making Eastern Rite Catholic Churches more like the Roman Catholic Church by replacing Eastern Catholic customs and practices with Latin practices. A good example of this would be the replacement of Eastern Chants with Gregorian Chant, the replacement of Eastern Catholic vestments with Roman Catholic vestments, the replacement of icons with statues, the unfair banning of Eastern Catholic priests from public ministry because of their giving into marriage prior to their ordination (common in the early 1900’s within the USA), the replacement of Hyssop with the Latin Rite sprinkler for the Holy Water rites, etc.
While it is still very common, the abuse has died down within many Eastern Catholic Churches. The abuse of Latinization has come from Catholics ignorant of the Eastern Catholic Churches and their dignity. It was believed that they were less Catholic because of their differences in practices from the Roman Church. This was especially present among missionaries of the Roman Church that went to evangelize North Africa, The Middle East, and East Europe.
“We gather from many other indications that Latin missionaries devote thought and care to destroying or at least weakening the Oriental rite in the course of converting Orientals from the error of schism to the unity of the Holy Catholic Religion; they induce Oriental Catholics to embrace the Latin rite…” (Pope Benedict XIV, Allatae Sunt, July 26, 1755.)
The missionaries have even come to the point where they demanded that those within the Eastern Rites must become Latin Rite in order to be completely Catholic. Therefore, Pope Leo XIII condemned this practice in his encyclical ‘Orientalium Dignitas’ by stating the following:
” Any Latin rite missionary, whether of the secular or religious clergy, who induces with his advice or assistance any Eastern rite faithful to transfer to the Latin rite, will be deposed and excluded from his benefice in addition to the ipso facto suspension a divinis and other punishments that he will incur as imposed in the aforesaid Constitution Demandatam. That this decree stand fixed and lasting We order a copy of it be posted openly in the churches of the Latin rite.”
However, the Popes have made it know that the Eastern rites aren’t less Catholic.
Pope Benedict XV asserted in the encyclical, Dei providentis, May 11, 1917: “The Church of Jesus Christ is neither Latin nor Greek nor Slav, but Catholic; accordingly she makes no difference between her children and Greeks, Latins, Slavs and members of all other nations are equal in the eyes of the Apostolic See.”
Pope Leo XIII in his Apostolic letter, Orientalium dignitas, published on November 30, 1894, declared:
“The maintenance in being of the Eastern rites is of more importance than might be imagined. The august antiquity, which lends dignity to these various rites is an adornment of the whole church and a witness to the divine unity of the Catholic faith. Perhaps nothing, in fact, better proves the note of Catholicity in the Church of God than the singular homage paid by these ceremonies which vary in form, which are celebrated in languages venerable by their antiquity, and which are still further hallowed by the use that has been made of them by the Apostles and Fathers of the Church.”
Pope Pius XII took a keen and abiding interest in the Ruthenian people. On May 21, 1939, at his direction, a solemn Triduum begun in Rome was concluded in the Vatican Basilica with services according to their own rite. This was in celebration of the 950th anniversary of the baptism of St. Vladimir, the great Ruthenian ruler.
“Each and every nation of Oriental rite must have its own rightful freedom in all that is bound up with its own history and its own genius and character, saving always the truth and integrity of the doctrine of Jesus Christ. … They will never be forced to abandon their own legitimate rites or to exchange their own venerable or traditional customs for Latin rites and customs. All these are to be held in equal esteem and honour, for they adorn the common Mother Church with a royal garment of many colors. Indeed this variety of rites and customs, preserving inviolate what is most ancient and most valuable in each, presents no obstacle to a true and genuine unity.” Orientalis ecclesiae— April 9,1944.
So what does the Church teach in regards to Latinization? Are there any consequences? Absolutely. As a matter of fact, the Church has condemned the mixing of rites as a whole.
Pope Benedict XIV: “Canon Law decrees that the Oriental and Greek rite should not be mixed with the Latin rite. See the entire Decretal of Celestine III in Gonzales, chap. Cum secundum: de temporibus Ordinationum; in the decretal of Innocent III, see chap. Quanto: de consuetudine; chap. Quoniam: de Officio Judic. Ordinar.; and the Decretal of Honorius III, chap. Literas: de celebrat. Missar.” – ALLATAE SUNT, July 26, 1755.
Therefore, regardless of what Sui Juris Church we belong to, we are all equally Catholic because of our unity of faith in Jesus Christ, His Church, and the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.