The Romanian Church United with Rome (Greek-Catholic) under Pressure: The Roc's Bad Behavior as Good Politics

Article excerpt

Abstract: The study discusses the paradox of the failure of the Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic (RCUR) to assert itself after 1990, in the context of a revival of the life of all other religious communities. The significant decrease in the number of Greek- Catholic believers and the difficulties in exercising their rights are germane to the limits of democracy in Romania. No other vulnerable communities, neither immigrants, gays, Roma,nor Jehovah`s Witnesses, have been denied, all this time, the protection of the Romanian state, as Greek-Catholics have been. The systematic denial of the rights of the Romanian Church United with Rome (Greek-Catholic) is explained by the feature which distinguishes RCUR faithful from the members of other vulnerable communities: their organisation is perceived by the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) as an adversary. The Romanian Orthodox Church constantly proclaimed the illegitimacy of the RCUR in the first half of the twentieth century, and participated in its dissolution when the opportunity arose in 1948. It holds today the same explicit goal. The societal circumstances, specific to anarchic democracy, allow a major player like the ROC to impose its policy of undermining the RCUR. In accordance with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith's concept, the material and symbolic competition between the RCUR and the ROC is interpreted as an example of "bad behavior as good politics". The ROC strategy finds an optimal framework for maximizing gain in the circumstances of the Romanian anarchic democracy.

Key Words: Romanian Church United with Rome (Greek-Catholic), Romanian Orthodox Church, anarchic democracy, procedural democracy, religious violence, religious minority, freedom of religion


The dissolution of the Romanian Church United with Rome (Greek- Catholic) - abbreviated RCUR - in 1948, the coercion of Greek-Catholics into converting to Orthodoxy, the repression that followed and the difficulties encountered by the RCUR after 1989 in recovering its property and conducting a normal religious life, have all been described mainly from a factual-descriptive perspective, and one of ethics and norms. Despite their relevance, these paradigms do not explain why, despite the heroism of Greek-Catholic faithful and of their religious leaders, Greek-Catholics have been gradually marginalized after they received official recognition. It is unclear why the pressure on the RCUR has led to a decline of this church, while the hostility constantly directed toward other religious minorities, in particular Jehovah`s Witnesses, did not prevent the strengthening of their numbers. There are reasons to wonder why, after 2007, when the accession to the European Union should have indicated a higher level of functioning of Romanian institutions, the latter did not show their efficiency in their handling of the Greek-Catholic issue. And it is a paradox that, in Romania, there is no official recognition, until now, of the evidence for the discrimination against the RCUR, despite the well developed EU regulatory framework for combating discrimination. This paradox reflects another - the lack of effect of international criticism about the infringement on the rights of Greek-Catholics although, in the case of other minorities (Hungarians, Roma, LGBT, Baptists, Jehovah`s Witnesses), international pressure led to results.

To answer these questions, we will highlight the developments in the situation of religious minorities, the Greek-Catholic minority among them. We will connect these developments to a general explanatory framework - the political regime in Romania, defined as an anarchic democracy, a political system that allows the promotion of the interests of some private actors even when they are contrary to public values, without thereby infringing the limits of procedural democracy.1 Among the private actors benefitting from Romania's anarchic democracy, one of the most powerful is the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC). …


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