Clergy

Clergy. In pre-Christian Ukraine pagan priests (zhretsi) probably did not constitute a separate social class. As in Greece, the head of the extended family performed the religious functions. From earliest times in the Christian church the clergy has constituted a group sharply differentiated from the laity by being initiated into the service of God through the sacrament of ordination (laying on of hands). This remains so today in the Ukrainian Orthodox church and the Ukrainian Catholic church. In other denominations, which do not believe in the sacred nature of ordination, the clergy is not as sharply differentiated from the laity, and passage from one state to the other is easy.

In the Ukrainian Orthodox church and the Ukrainian Catholic church, the clergy is divided into the lower (deacons, priests) and higher (the hierarchy or episcopate) clergy and into the secular (white) and regular (black) clergy. The secular clergy lives ‘in the world,’ among the people, and fulfils its spiritual functions among them in their religious communities. The regular clergy, having renounced the world, lives in monasteries and devotes itself to prayer (the contemplative orders) or to prayer and works of Christian charity (schools, shelters, hospitals, and the like); it rarely has charge of parishes. The Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic secular clergy (but not the hierarchy), in accordance with the canons of the Eastern church, have the right to marry, which the Latin clergy has not had since the 4th century. The difference accounts for the special societal and community position of the Ukrainian clergy and its closer ties with the people. Celibacy was introduced in Galicia after 1920 in the Stanyslaviv eparchy and Peremyshl eparchy. Candidates for the Ukrainian Catholic priesthood in the diaspora are now also obliged by the Vatican Curia to take the vow of celibacy. The Ukrainian clergy traditionally wear special black clothing (the cassock). At one time members of the Orthodox clergy also had long hair and beards; this old custom was sometimes followed by Catholic priests.

After the Christianization of Ukraine, the first members of the lower clergy came from the Greek Black Sea colonies and from Bulgaria, while the higher clergy came mostly from Greece. The social and legal position of the clergy in Ukraine was based formally on that of the clergy in the Byzantine church. As in Byzantium, the Ukrainian clergy could marry; therefore, there was a close bond with the people. But in Ukraine there was no subordination of clergy to the state (caesaropapism) as there was in the Byzantine church. Nor did the opposite extreme prevail, ie, dependence of the secular power on the religious (papocaesarism), as it sometimes did in the West.

The legal position of the clergy in Kyivan Rus’ derived from the self-government of the church. The clergy constituted a social class with its own courts, whose jurisdiction extended not only to the priests, but also to groups associated with the church, known as church people (deacons, precentors, sextons, women who made the communion bread, and their families). Church property was exempt from state taxes. The church and the clergy in Kyivan Rus’ received a tithe from the prince's revenue. Sometimes persons of higher clerical rank, because of their education, had an influence on matters of state. The bishops and the metropolitan took part in the prince's councils sometimes directing the proceedings.

A special characteristic of the clergy in Kyivan Rus’ was its patriotism, as evidenced by the literary works of the clergy. Metropolitan Ilarion in his ‘Sermon on the Law and Grace and a Eulogy to Our Khagan Volodymyr’ (see ‘Slovo o zakoni i blahodati’) of the mid-11th century speaks proudly of his homeland as one of the most famous in the world. Hegumen Danylo lighted an image lamp for the princes and his homeland at the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. In the chronicles, which were written mostly by clerics, there is constant concern for ‘the land of Rus'’ and warnings against seditionaries, ‘the destroyers of the land of Rus'.’ In Kyivan Rus’ the clergy was almost the sole disseminator of education, as in Western Europe at that time. Clerics established schools and libraries. The regular clergy, especially the monks of the Kyivan Cave Monastery, were active in education.

Under Tatar rule the status of the clergy did not change fundamentally, for the Tatars were quite tolerant of different faiths. The only limitation they imposed was that the Ukrainians sever all ties with the West. But the leading role of the clergy changed for other reasons. Kyiv, with the Kyivan Cave Monastery and other centers of Ukrainian spiritual and cultural life, was almost totally destroyed; and therefore the standard of clerical education suffered. As a result the clergy's influence on the Ukrainian masses diminished. The transfer of the metropolitanate from Kyiv (see Kyiv metropoly) to Muscovy further weakened the role of the Ukrainian clergy in society. This decline became evident in the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia, where literature and education ceased to be the exclusive preserve of the clergy.

The status of the Ukrainian clergy declined significantly during the Polish-Lithuanian period, first in the lands under Polish rule and then in the Lithuanian-Ruthenian state. Under Poland, and especially in Galicia, the Ukrainian clergy was merely tolerated, for all the estate privileges were reserved for the Roman Catholic clergy as representatives of the interests of the foreign power on Ukrainian soil. The Ukrainian clergy was forced to seek the aid and support of its own community and those nobles, burghers, and peasants who were still adherents of the Ukrainian church. Thus, it lost the independence it had enjoyed previously; it became dependent on the nobility, which had the right of patronage, and on the burghers, who were organized in brotherhoods. This dependence led to difficulties while dependence on Catholic foreigners became intolerable, especially when the estates of Ukrainian nobles were transferred increasingly into Polish hands. Beginning in the 16th century, the power of the landowners (usually Poles or Polonized Ukrainians) over the peasants and the clergy began to increase. Theoretically, even under foreign domination, the Ukrainian clergy preserved its right to self-government and retained certain other privileges, but in reality these were limited, and eventually they were greatly reduced. The Western rule of patronage, that is, the power of the king to designate bishops and archimandrites, began to be applied to the higher clergy. The selection was usually influenced by the local nobles. Unfavorable political circumstances, as well as the decline of Byzantium, which had been an important cultural influence, led to a sharp decline in the level of education among the clergy.

The Church Union of Berestia in 1596, which gave rise to the Ukrainian Catholic church, formally improved the position of the Uniate clergy, although in fact neither the Uniate hierarchy nor the rank-and-file Uniate clergy had rights equal to those of Polish Roman Catholic clergy until the fall of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The educational level of the Uniate clergy was markedly improved through studies abroad in the Catholic higher schools of Western Europe and the founding of Uniate colleges, modeled on Jesuit schools, by the Basilian monks. The Uniate metropolitans and bishops, from the time of Ipatii Potii to the partitions of Poland, fought for the rights that had been promised them by the Polish kings and never implemented; for example, they had been promised senate seats on par with the Roman Catholic bishops, but the metropolitan obtained this right only in the Constitution of 1791.

An improvement in the education of Orthodox clergy, owing to the establishment of such Orthodox schools as the Ostrih Academy, the Lviv Dormition Brotherhood School, and the Kyiv Epiphany Brotherhood School (later the Kyivan Mohyla College, and then the Kyivan Mohyla Academy), was also noticeable. The importance of the Orthodox clergy increased in the Hetman state, where the clergy benefited from state protection and completely regained its former estate privileges (eg, the right to an autonomous church court). Lands belonging to monasteries and churches and clerical estates were exempted from military and other obligations that were imposed on Cossack and peasant-owned land. An important feature of clerical life under Cossack rule was the election of secular clergy to the lower church offices, which had previously been hereditary. A number of agreements between priests and parishioners testify to a certain dependence of the clergy on the congregation. The Ukrainian clergy in the Cossack period was not a closed estate (see Estates): Cossack officers, rank-and-file Cossacks, burghers, and peasants entered the clergy, although priesthood remained a tradition in certain families. Former members of the General Officer Staff (Roman Rakushka, Mykhailo Vuiakhevych-Vysochynsky) and children of the Cossack starshyna became clerics. The clergy of noble or Cossack-officer origin kept their estates and disposed of them freely. The clergy in the Hetman state of the 17th and 18th century played an important role in the political and cultural life of the nation. During the 17th century the Ukrainian Orthodox clergy produced many scholars, writers, and cultural figures. The subordination of the Ukrainian Orthodox church to the Moscow patriarchate in 1686 somewhat weakened the role and significance of the Ukrainian clergy.

Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, the legal position of the Ukrainian clergy was significantly reduced from what it had been under the Hetman state, to that of the Russian clergy. Various taxes were imposed on the secular clergy; limits were placed on the prerogatives of clerical courts; the custom of selection of the priest by the church community was abolished; the priest became more dependent on the hereditary gentry; and so forth. At the same time the Russian government and the Holy Synod of the Russian church tried to Russify the Ukrainian clergy, but they were more successful among the higher clergy than among the lower. The latter remained, on the whole, Ukrainian well into the 19th century.

Under Polish rule the Ukrainian Catholic clergy had to wage a constant battle with the Roman Catholic clergy, which sought a preferential status for itself. Metropolitans and bishops usually came from the ranks of the Basilian monastic order, which had been reorganized in 1617 by Metropolitan Yosyf Rutsky. The Basilians and the higher Ukrainian Catholic clergy, trained in Rome or in other Catholic universities and colleges, received the best theological education, but at the same time became increasingly Polonized. Many non-Ukrainians (Belarusians, Lithuanians, Poles) entered their ranks. The numerous Basilian colleges had a primarily Polish character; many of their students (often a majority) were descendants of the local Polish or Polonized nobility. The growth of Polish influence in the monastic orders and hierarchy of the Ukrainian Catholic church deepened the rift between the lower (secular) clergy on the one hand and the higher and monastic clergy on the other. The former was Ukrainian and democratic in spirit; the latter, Polonized and aristocratic. This was a significant shortcoming of the Ukrainian Catholic clergy and one of the reasons for the weakness of the Ukrainian Catholic church during its persecution by Russia after the fall of Poland (in 1772, 1839, 1875).

In Austria-Hungary, to which Galicia, Bukovyna, and Transcarpathia were annexed, the Ukrainian Catholic (and in Bukovyna, Orthodox) clergy had equal rights with the Roman Catholic clergy, and the government looked after the education of the clergy (see Barbareum, Studium Ruthenum). By the mid-19th century the Ukrainian clergy was as well educated as the Roman Catholic and began to play a leading role in the life of Western Ukrainians. The restored Halych metropoly (1808) assumed a prominent position in Ukrainian national life. The Greek Catholic Theological Seminary in Lviv and Lviv University educated the higher echelons of the intelligentsia, which at first was clerical and later secular. Progressive Western influences reached Galicia through Vienna and were quickly assimilated by the Ukrainian clergy, which assumed a leading role not only in religious life, but also in cultural, educational, and community life (Markiian Shashkevych, Mykola Ustyianovych, Omelian Ohonovsky, Mykhailo Verbytsky, Viktor Matiuk, Ostap Nyzhankivsky). During the second half of the 19th century in Galicia, the position of the clergy as the sole intelligentsia was weakened because of the growth of the secular intelligentsia, which consisted mostly of young people of clerical or peasant origin who had been encouraged by local priests to attain higher education. Hence, a particularly close bond developed between the Western Ukrainian clergy and the masses. Many political figures, including members of the Galician Diet and the Austro-Hungarian parliament (Stepan Kachala, Ivan I. Ozarkevych, Tyt Voinarovsky-Stolobut, Stepan Onyshkevych, Oleksander Stefanovych), of the Polish Sejm (Leontii Kunytsky) and Senate (Roman Lobodych), and of the Czechoslovak parliament (Avhustyn Voloshyn, later the president of Carpatho-Ukraine) were priests or came from Catholic clerical families. In Galicia priests established their own vocational organizations (the Society of Saint Andrew in Lviv and the Society of Celibate Priests in Stanyslaviv).

In Transcarpathia a general Magyarization of the Ukrainian clergy, with its consequent alienation from the people, began after 1867. Nevertheless, the major cultural leaders in 19th- and early 20th-century Transcarpathia were, almost without exception, priests, who were called narodni budyteli (national awakeners) (Oleksander Dukhnovych, Oleksander Pavlovych, Anatol Kralytsky).

With the establishment of a theology faculty at Chernivtsi University in 1875, the educational level of the Ukrainian Orthodox clergy improved significantly, and its most gifted representatives participated in the religious, cultural, and political renaissance of Bukovyna (Sydir Vorobkevych, M. Halip, Taras Tyminsky, Yevhen Kozak, Denys Yeremiichuk-Yeremiiv, Teofil Drachynsky, K. Bryndzan, S. Smereka).

Under Russian rule the status of the Ukrainian clergy changed considerably in the 19th century. The higher clergy and the upper monastic stratum became almost exclusively Russian and hence foreign to the Ukrainian masses. Under their authority, the lower clergy also gradually became Russified. The typical Ukrainian village priest, however, did not disappear and still existed at the time of the revolution. Many leading figures in the Ukrainian cultural and national renaissance came from families of the lower Orthodox clergy. Several members of the Russian State Duma were elected from the ranks of the Ukrainian Orthodox priesthood (A. Hrynevych, V. Solukha, K. Volkov, O. Trehubov). Clergymen also took part in the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20) (Vasyl Lypkivsky, Mykola Chekhivsky, Polikarp Sikorsky).

The Soviet regime in Ukraine, as in the whole of the USSR, put the clergy into a difficult and in many ways extralegal position. The clergy was not only dispossessed of property, denied government stipends, and burdened with heavy taxes, but it was also deprived of fundamental civil rights such as the right to vote (hence the designation lyshentsi, the deprived). Children of clergymen were denied the right to higher education and to employment in the civil service. Religious education was forbidden. The authorities also began persecuting individual priests, starting with members of the hierarchy. In the early 1930s the majority of the clergy and particularly the nationally active individuals, such as the members of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church, were physically destroyed. The terror forced many priests to abandon their vocation or to conceal their identity. A partial change in the USSR's policy on religion during the Second World War did not alter the extralegal status of the clergy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church and the Ukrainian Catholic church. Only the Russian Orthodox church and some other denominations existed within the law.

In the period between the two world wars the Polish government in Western Ukraine was hostile to both the Ukrainian Orthodox and the Ukrainian Catholic clergy. Many priests suffered government persecution. The clergy of the Ukrainian Catholic church was protected by the terms of a concordat with the Vatican and enjoyed somewhat better treatment.

Outside Ukraine the Ukrainian clergy is a leading organizing force in Ukrainian community and cultural life, particularly in education. However, second- and third-generation Ukrainian priests, especially Catholic priests, are attempting to introduce the dominant language of the given country (the United States, Canada, and Brazil) into the church and are coming into conflict with clergymen who have arrived more recently. In the early 1970s a part of the Ukrainian Catholic clergy re-established the Society of Saint Andrew and the journal Nyva. The Ukrainian clergy enjoy the same legal status as other clergy in their respective countries of residence; in Germany, for example, clergymen receive a government salary. (See also Theological seminaries.)

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Mykola Chubaty

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]




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