May 27, 2013

Glen Argan’s series on Vatican II is informative, yet his crucial piece on Christian disunity (WCR May 6) does not go deep enough to reveal the hidden roots and causes. Christopher Dawson is an excellent historical authority, but his profound knowledge cannot be simplified into a conclusion that the union was rejected by Byzantine Christians.

Dawson identified the treacherous burning of the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus in 1415 as the first major rift in Christendom. He also pointed out that the first task of the newly-restored papacy was a union with the Byzantines, which was achieved at the Council of Florence in 1439, a joint effort with the 700-person delegation of Byzantines, their bishops, best theologians and scholars.

All these wise men, including the Kievan patriarch Isidor, clearly recognized the Turkish threat, yet shamefully, despite the subsequent efforts of the papacy to organize military help to save Constantinople, no Western aid arrived; only Venetian merchants plundered its treasures.

Byzantium, a Roman-Greek idea once destined to unite the world, vanished, and a new godless enlightened era had begun. This disunity was not due to secularism, theology or even cultural differences, and in the Eastern Orthodoxy only bitter resentment remained for this Western treachery.

As always, pride and greed were the culprits.

The fruits of disunity were nowhere more visible than in the subsequent Hussite movement. Even Luther called himself a Hussite.

As Dawson mentioned, modern secularism has several separate roots.

T.G. Masaryk, the “father of Czechoslovakia,” also saw secularism as an enemy, and, in his effort to resurrect the Byzantine “spirit of Russia” and to save Czechs and Slovaks, he sent 60,000 Czechoslovak legionaries to fight Bolsheviks in Siberia during the First World War. (Incidentally, 4,000 Canadian soldiers were involved as well.)

Sadly, all this history has been forgotten today.

Peter Hala