Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine: The Legacy of Andrei Sheptytsky

By Bohachevsky-Chomiak, Martha | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine: The Legacy of Andrei Sheptytsky


Bohachevsky-Chomiak, Martha, The Catholic Historical Review


Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine: The Legacy of Andrei Sheptytsky. By Andrii Krawchuk. (Ottawa: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, and The Basilian Press. 1997. Pp. xxiv, 404. $49.95.)

Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky (1865-1944), a scion of high Polonized nobility, was for almost half a century the metropolitan to Ukrainians, most of whom were poor peasants. Had he remained a Catholic of the Roman rite instead of reverting to the Eastern Catholicism of his distant ancestors, his life would have lacked the sharp poignancy that creates the major interest in his life and work. As a committed pastor of a flock facing discrimination, first within the Habsburg Monarchy, then in the Polish Republic, and ending in the unprecedented tribulations of Soviet and Nazi occupations, Sheptytsky did not have the luxury of simply expounding his views on Christian ethics. The times of his life made the simplest injunction- "Thou shalt not kill," the title of one of his major pastoral letters-a politically charged position.

Placed within the crucible of ideological and geographical struggles, arrested by the Tsarist government, exiled by the Soviets, detained by the inter-War Polish regime, groundlessly accused of collaboration with Nazi Germany, Sheptytsky struggled most valiantly for the souls of youths caught in the vise of economic depression and political repression. He deplored the growth of terrorist nationalism, seeing in it the obverse side of godless communism and a negation of all he and his Church stood for. The affirmation of life runs through Sheptytsky's whole life, and Krawchuk aptly titled the last chapter of this book "The Sanctity of Life: Resistance to Nazi Rule;' that includes a brief discussion of the aid Sheptytsky was able to proffer Jews.

The main value of Krawchuk's study is that he eschews the potential of high drama in Sheptytsky's life to focus on his interpretation of Christian ethics. Krawchuk's research is solid, his expositions carefully presented. The close focus on the topic deprives the reader of a sense of the approachable Sheptytsky, but it provides us with a wealth of information not available previously. The book is comprehensive and balanced to the point of at times being dry. Nevertheless, given the dearth of scholarly material on Sheptytsky, this is a welcome fault. While stressing Sheptytsky's open opposition to Nazi policies, Krawchuk provides a useful appendix on the thorny matter of Sheptytsky's alleged letter of qualified support of the Galician Division, the German-founded military unit that fought briefly on the Eastern front. …

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