VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sounded a warning against four excommunicated priests who continue to claim they represent the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the largest of the Eastern churches in full communion with Rome.
Despite encouragement and hopes the excommunicated clerics would reconcile with the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Holy See, recent events and their continued slander demonstrate the leaders are only creating “confusion and havoc in the community of faithful,” the congregation said in a written declaration, dated Feb. 22 and released by the Vatican March 29.
The doctrinal congregation formally does “not recognize the validity of their episcopal ordinations and all the ordinations that derived or will derive from them,” it said.
The men, Fathers Elias A. Dohnal, Markian V. Hitiuk, Metodej R. Spirik and Robert Oberhauser, were expelled from the Basilian Fathers.
In 2008, they said they were consecrated as bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the statement said.
They were subsequently excommunicated in 2008 after being found guilty, according to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, of illegitimate usurpation of authority, inciting sedition and hatred toward people in the church hierarchy, provoking disobedience, and seriously damaging a person’s good name through calumny, the doctrinal office said.
It said the so-called bishops recently sought to register with Ukrainian authorities as the “Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church,” a movement the four, with three other priests, established in 2009.
“The Holy See has followed with great apprehension” the group’s unsuccessful attempt to register itself as part of the Catholic Church and said it was “illegitimate and illicit” for any group not recognized by the proper ecclesial authorities to assume the name “Catholic.”
The doctrinal congregation warned all Catholic faithful to “not belong to the aforementioned group” as it is not in communion with the Catholic Church and to pray for the members of the group “to mend its ways” so as to return to the church.
According to its website, the movement “accepts the primacy of the Roman pontiff, is founded on the Apostolic and Eastern Catholic tradition and, above all, dissociates itself from the contemporary heresies which destroy both the Eastern and the Western church.”
In 2011, the group excommunicated Pope Benedict XVI and most of the world’s cardinals and bishops and declared the establishment of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate, with Father Dohnal as the patriarch.