Date of Award

August 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Neal Pease

Committee Members

Winson Chu, Christine Evans, Carolyn Eichner, Piotr Wrobel


Catholic Church, Orthodoxy, Russia


Although it was first a sub-commission within the Congregation for the Eastern Churches (CEO), the Pontifical Commission for Russia (PCpR) emerged as an independent commission under the presidency of the noted Vatican Russian expert, Michel d’Herbigny, S.J. in 1925, and remained so until 1933 when it was re-integrated into CEO. The PCpR was given authority over the spiritual and material mission to Soviet Russia, including refugees who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution. While most studies concerning the Catholic Church and Russia are religious or political histories which focus, respectively, on martyrdom or the contest between the so-called free world and Communism, this dissertation is instead a social history which employs religious anthropological categories.

The dissertation argues that soft-Orientalist dynamics were at play in the PCpR through the structures which it managed and engaged– especially the Russian Catholic Church of the Byzantine-Slavonic Rite, and through its mission of evangelization as it managed forms of worship, taught Catholic belief– especially as formulated by Vladimir Soloviev, and enforced codes of behavior– especially concerning clerical celibacy and marriage. The sense of the barbarity of the Bolshevism, which at one point was compared to Islam, justified for the members of the PCpR their sense of superiority over the Russian people.