|Renewed Efforts to Organize|
The Vatican’s 1890 decree requiring all Greek Catholic priests serving in the United States to be celibate deeply disturbed the Greek Catholic clergy. Since most of the Greek Catholic clergy were in fact married, they considered the decree to be an outrageous and unwarranted attack on their centuries-old tradition by both Rome and the unsympathetic American hierarchy. Meeting in Hazleton in late 1891, the clergy strongly protested the decree and petitioned the Holy See for the appointment of their Vicar General to administer the affairs of the Greek Catholic Church in the United States. When their protests and petitions fell on deaf ears, the clergy unilaterally acted in 1892 and selected from their own ranks a widowed priest, the Reverend Nicephor Chanat, to be Vicar General. Father Chanat’s role essentially was to act as an intermediary between the American Catholic bishops and the Greek Catholic clergy. Unfortunately, the bishops ignored his appointment and the Greek Catholic clergy refused to follow his leadership. Thus, in 1896, Father Chanat resigned his position.
After the submission of numerous petitions by clergy and lay committees requesting the appointment of a bishop for the Greek Catholic Church in the United States, the Holy See finally acted. In May 1902, upon the recommendation of the Hungarian government, the Holy See named Canon Andrew Hodobay, a member of the Chapter of the Prešov Diocese, as Apostolic Visitor for all Greek Catholics in America. Canon Hodobay’s assignment was to investigate “all aspects of the religious controversy” concerning Greek Catholics in America.
Almost from the start, however, Canon Hodobay’s mission in the United States was undermined by his public admission that he came to America as the official representative of the Hungarian government. In response to Hodobay’s political allegiances, the Greek Catholics in America began to fractionalize along national lines. For example, people who emigrated from the Galician region of Central Europe began to distinguish themselves as Ukrainians, not as Carpatho-Rusyns. In turn, the Carpatho-Rusyns divided themselves along regional lines into two factions: a group identifying themselves from the Prešov region and a group identifying themselves from the Užhorod region. Given his admitted political sympathies, Hodobay’s mission, rather than providing a much needed source of unity and harmony, served instead to expose the divisions within the nascent Greek Catholic Church in America. Regrettably, the constant intrigues and internal rivalries which plagued the mission of Canon Hodobay only served to weaken Church discipline and to exacerbate the problem of schism and exodus to the Russian Orthodox Church.
After five years, Canon Hodobay’s fractious mission in America ended with his recall to Europe. Nonetheless, the Holy See accepted Hodobay’s recommendation that a bishop be named for the Greek Catholic faithful in the United States.