Saturday, 1 May 2010
A Lack of Tact and of Delicacy
The Difficult Relations between Archbishops Sheptytsky and Twardowski of Lviv
Many publications have dealt with the relations between the Servant of God Andrei Sheptytsky and Saint Józef Bilczewski, respectively metropolitan-archbishops of the Byzantine-Ruthenian (Ukrainian) and Latin Catholic archdioceses of Lviv. However, relatively little has been said about the relations between Sheptytsky and Bilczewski’s successor Bołesław Twardowski. The following is a very brief sketch of some of the principal issues of contention between the two prelates, based on Vatican archival materials from 1922-1939.
The poor relations between Sheptytsky and Bilczewski were notorious. The main cause of the conflict was the fact that both were the spiritual heads of two peoples with opposing national-political aspirations over the same territory. Between Sheptytsky and Bilczewski there can be said to have reigned a certain equality. Ecclesiastically speaking, there was no question of seniority between them. Both had been elected metropolitan-archbishop of Lemberg (Lwów/Lviv) in 1900. However, civil inequalities did exist between them. Sheptytsky belonged to a noble family whereas Bilczewski came from humble origins. In should be kept in mind, however, that, in their class system, becoming a bishop was similar to ennoblement. In Christendom, it was accepted that the spiritual realm was superior to the temporal. Therefore, in anciens regimes, the Premiere Estate was the clergy not the nobility. Another point of civil inequality was that, during the Austrian regime, Sheptytsky held influential state offices such as Vice-Marshall of the Galician diet and Privy Counsellor to the Emperor. The divergence between the two ecclesiastics came to a head during the electoral reform of 1913 and, particularly, during the Polish-Ukrainian War of 1918-1920. In both conflicts, the churchmen took opposing political sides.
When Bilczewski died in March 1923, Sheptytsky was still waiting in Rome to be allowed to return to Lviv. Vatican officials were very careful in choosing Bilczewski’s successor, in an attempt to avoid further conflicts between the Latin and Greek Catholics. The papal envoy for Ukrainian affairs, Father Giovanni Genocchi, attended Bilczewski on his deathbed and testified that the future saint sincerely regretted the conflict with the Ukrainians (while still placing the burden of blame upon them). Following Bilczewski’s death, the papal nuncio deputized Genocchi to be his representative at the funeral. Noting that the event had been well attended by the Greek-Catholic clergy, Genocchi commented that “it is said that both Latins and Ruthenians would be content with the Auxiliary Twardowski”. It is likely that Metropolitan Sheptytsky had also been questioned and almost certainly posed no objection to Twardowski’s nomination.
After Twardowski assumed the Latin see of Lviv, the main occasions of contention between him and Sheptytsky were: Twardowski’s choice for his auxiliary bishop; the agreement for inter-ritual marriages; and precedence and hospitality during visits of church dignitaries.
A diocesan bishop’s personal choice is usually given the highest consideration when and if he is granted an auxiliary or helper bishop. But in mid-war Eastern Galicia, each episcopal nomination was wrought with political difficulties. In granting Twardowski an auxiliary, the Apostolic See took the same issues into account that it had done when nominating him. It was vital to the ecclesial and social peace that an opponent of the Ukrainians not be selected. However, only a few months after assuming the archbishopric, Twardowski proposed such a man to the Pope, in the person of Father Miecysław Tarnawski, professor of the University of Lviv. Tarnawski had actually been Bilczewski’s choice for auxiliary because he shared many of his views. Twardowski, widely considered a secondary figure, sought to honour his predecessor’s wish. But Tarnawski had a terrible reputation among the Ukrainians and had even gone on printed record against them. At the bequest of Bilczewski, he had published a pamphlet entitled “The Uniate Church in Eastern Little Poland (Galicia) during the Russian invasion and the Ukrainian coup.” Above all, the pamphlet contained strong criticisms of Metropolitan Sheptytsky and claimed that the Ukrainian independence movement, “based on hatred, sooner or later must unite with radicalism, socialism and materialism.”
As the nunciature’s principal consultant in Galician affairs, Jesuit Provincial Superior Sopuck, had been instrumental in Twardowski’s election and was consulted again regarding Tarnawski. His response was not favourable, because Tarnawski was always considered the candidate of Bilczewski and the Endecja and the Ruthenians would be upset. Given Archbishop Twardowski’s insistence, the nuncio suggested that Father Tarnawski visit Metropolitan Sheptytsky and come to an understanding. Their meeting took place on 3 January 1924. Although Sheptytsky sent a favourable account, he nonetheless considered Tarnawski to be the least desirable candidate precisely because of his public reputation as an opponent of the Ukrainians. Indeed, the nuncio had already written to Tarnawski telling him as much.
Sheptytsky’s opinion was important but not decisive. Based on others’ views, the nunciature had already concluded that Tarnawski, despite his other good qualities, was a poor choice. Archbishop Twardowski, however, blamed Sheptytsky for blocking his candidate and complained to the Bishop of Katowice, August Hlond, future primate of Poland. Not knowing the facts, Hlond lamented to Nuncio Lauri that Archbishop Twardowski had been humiliated because the Vatican had given more weight to Sheptytsky’s opinion over his, in the matter of his own auxiliary bishop. But the Apostolic See would not waver.
Two years later, Father Tarnawski published another pamphlet entitled “Post-war difficulties of the Uniate Church in Little Poland”, in which he reversed his earlier antagonistic position towards Greek-Catholics. This time, even the Polish primate Cardinal Dalbor opposed the nomination because he considered the second work as insincere. Nuncio Lauri explained to Twardowski that “The Holy See still does not approve of that choice despite the fact that heaven and earth have been moved” to achieve it. Sheptytsky “would not say a word against Tarnawski because he knows that the Poles are convinced that he is the cause of the passed over nomination.” Twardowski then formally pleaded with Sheptytsky, who gave in and wrote directly to the Pope of Tarnawski’s good qualities. Still, the nomination never occured.
The second conflict between Sheptytsky and Twardowski occurred over changes to the agreement on inter-ritual marriages, known as the “Concordia” of 1863. Arguing that the 1917 Code of Canon Law had abolished the accord, Twardowski obtained an apparent relaxation. Sheptytsky insisted that it should remain in force because the Ukrainians in Poland were now in an inequitable position. Ironically, the ‘discord’ between the bishops resulted in the ‘Concord’ being left in force; the only mutation being that permission to change in rite, hitherto reserved to the Roman Curia, was devolved to the apostolic delegates and nuncios.
The third conflict between the two archbishops of Lviv occurred during two visits to the city by Hlond, now cardinal and primate of Poland. During the first visit of 1928, Hlond had led the Eucharistic procession and remarked on the absence of Sheptytsky and his clergy. A scandal occurred when Sheptytsky attended a civil ceremony to welcome the Cardinal but was absent from the religious function. Archbishop Twardowski claimed to have sent an invitation but Sheptytsky claimed not to have received it.
A ray of light shone through the clouded relations in January 1930, when Twardowski attended the celebration of Sheptytsky’s thirtieth anniversary as archbishop of Lviv. Metropolitan Andrei seemed determined to repair any hard feelings. Later that year, at the Eucharistic Congress of Poznan, Sheptytsky and his entourage made a great show of unity and his seminarians sang during the bishops’ dinner.
When Hlond returned to Lviv for a bishops’ meeting, at the end of 1930, in was the Greek-Catholic archbishop’s turn to play host. This time, the grand seigneur demonstrated the best traditions of noblesse oblige. An account by the brillant but tormented ecclesiastic, Count Piotr Tadeusz Rzewuski (who later renamed himself Father Kreuza), described the preparation for the fête:
A three-roomed apartment complete with servants was prepared for him, prepared and adorned with precious tapestries, an abundance of flowers, and works by a famous Polish painter. The archbishop’s servants wore the special livery for this occasion. [...] Kyr Sheptytsky went to meet him at the station with Kyr Budka, the Chapter and the principal priests of the city. The Cardinal took his place in the limousine and was received with the sacred candelabras of the oriental rite. Accompanied by dignitaries and his suite, he visited the Cathedral of St. George’s, kissed the icon of the patron saint, adored the Blessed Sacrament and paused for a moment before the miraculous Virgin of Trembovla, patron of the Union in Lviv.
But the visit and the year that had both begun so auspiciously were to end badly. The differences between the two prelates in class and education came to the fore at the beginning of the bishops’meeting. Twardowski began to pressure Cardinal Hlond to accept his hospitality, which Rzewuski noted was “the first lack of tact on the part of a guest”. Due to Twardowski’s insistence, the grand evening reception at the metropolitan’s palace, prepared and announced by invitation, had to be cancelled; “another lack of delicacy and an insult to the guests.” Twardowski monopolized the rest of the visit and the Cardinal ended by excusing himself thus: “I must leave or there will be a battle.” Twardowski did not show up for the rest of the conference, to the embarrassment of his auxiliary. In the end, Hlond departed for the airport accompanied only by the Ukrainians; the Latin archbishop had not sent his fine automobile, although this would have been proper as his counterpart had been responsible for the welcome ceremony. Whatever his intentions, Twardowski’s comportment had been a fiasco of decorum, something which would have been felt much more keenly by Sheptytsky.
Cardinal Hlond’s visit to Lviv coincided with beginning of a violent campaign. On the very night of his arrival, the police arrested 20 young men from the metropolitan’s orphanage. The day had likely been chosen as a provocation to upset the visit. These events preceded the political crackdown of 1931: the imprisonment and torture of Marshall Pilsudski’s political opponents; and the violent “Pacification” against the Ukrainian villages in response to the vandalism of Polish estates. This apparent lack of solidarity caused a further rift between the Greek and Latin rite hierarchies, the Ukrainian bishops having been hurt by their Polish counterparts silence during the pogroms. It was only Pius XI’s insistence that brought the Greek-Catholic prelates to the Polish Plenary Council, six years later.
Today it is difficult for many people from first-world societies to understand the rifts that existed in the Old Continent between the various nationalities, even among churchmen of the same faith. An objective, non-moralizing, reading helps us better comprehend such complicated events. Reflecting on some of the earlier tensions in the Sheptytsky-Twardowski relationship will help contextualize their Second-World-War correspondence, something which historians are now evaluating more attentively.