Was the Christian church negligent prior to the Bolshevik Revolution?

Apr 2016
13
Mississauga
#1
While we can easily recognize that the decadence of the aristocracy played a big part in the shift of public attitudes to favour Communist ways in the pre-World War I era, one other thing that I have noticed over the years is that many of those who lived in that era saw the Church in the same light.

A case in point is my wife's late grandfather who emigrated from Hungary in the 1920's. He was from a poor family, having worked mostly in farming and rudimentary farming at that, things like tending sheep. Essentially he was a peasant over there, living little better than serfs of earlier times. He only attended enough school to gain a very basic ability to read, but just of the newspaper reading level, and never was exposed to literature or history. He developed a negative attitude toward his birth faith, Catholicism. This was not from a philosophical standpoint, but mostly because he believed them to be in league with the upper classes. I found similar over the years discussing things with the many "older time" people who came into the automotive industry as line workers from eastern European countries, especially the many from the Ukraine. A lot of these people identified with the aims of Communism, if not the methods of implementation.

As one who was raised in an anti-Communist era, the early 60's, it was surprising for me to encounter older people who leaned toward it. Especially those from countries that were seen as then oppressed by the Communists. Also, to see the degree of hatred toward the churches, mostly Catholic and Orthodox. The general impression I got was that the churchmen (and women) over there did little for their flock.

I know a lot about the Catholics, but not the Orthodox, so I will just deal with that first part. It seems that in North America, if you look at the 19th and 20th centuries, we see the Catholic church as very active in meeting social needs for health and education, and especially an expansion of these services toward the people of low income. The Catholic Church even brought in large numbers of nuns and brothers from Ireland and Germany to boost the effort. The Catholic apathy we see here in the present era is more rooted in the deeper question of religious faith, not the lack of what we used to call "Catholic Action". So, what can explain the indifference of the Church in Eastern Europe toward the needs of the masses, back during a time when poverty was the norm? Is there something different about it than the same Church in North America?

Another logical question is why did the Catholic Church, as an organization, ally itself with the Eastern European elite, which completely contradicts Christ's charge and example? From what I can see, some blame for the horror that Bolshevik Revolution was and the later expansion of Soviet influence can be placed on the eastern Church, that by its poor performance, it planted some of the seeds of an atheistic revolution.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2015
277
The Balkans
#2
Another logical question is why did the Catholic Church, as an organization, ally itself with the Eastern European elite, which completely contradicts Christ's charge and example?
How exactly did the Church as an "organization" ally with the "Eastern European elite"?

Anyway, Eastern Europe is a wide term as is the Catholic Church. A lot of lower clergy was connected to the people and was often harboring some social(istic) ideals. They were fully aware of communism and tried to compete in some ways. In some smaller nations like Slovaks and Slovenians for example the national movement was closely related to the clergy and was against the elite which was mostly part of the "oppressor" nations like Germans and Hungarians. Western Ukrainian clergy was highly influential in Ukrainian national movement.

There was also a lot of resentment towards the liberal pro-secularist bourgeois elite by the clericals, criticizing capitalism, industrial revolution and so on. The only kind of wealthy "elite" that gravitated towards Catholicism were conservative landowners and you could argue that higher clergy was an elite in itself.

Also, Catholic parts of Eastern Europe were always extremely anti-Communist, especially in the conservative countryside where Catholic Church had the most influence and power. The only reason why Communism got to power was because of World War II and the Soviet intervention.

I think that the backbone of political and social Catholicism at that time were the conservative middle and lower classes, especially in rural areas. Obviously there could be exceptions but the elite was mostly gravitating towards liberalism. The Church tried to mobilize the lower classes in the same way that the communists tried to do.
 
Apr 2016
13
Mississauga
#3
But, one other question, is not so much the allegiance issue, but the matter of social betterment. Is there much evidence that the Church in Eastern Europe was as active as it was in North America in the ways that benefitted the regular Joe, establishing schools, hospitals, and provision of welfare to the most needy? Those concrete evidences of good works do so much to bond people and to show that faith is not just a set of beliefs but actions.