Another one? Greco-triumphalism trumps the moral tradition — again

Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias and Abp. Demetrios (GOA). Who is looking over their shoulder?

Alexi Giannoulias is the Democratic candidate for US Senate (Obama’s old seat). He crows about his endorsement from Planned Parenthood (“incredibly honored to be the only senate candidate to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood!!” twitter), favors homosexual marriage and wants to repeal DOMA, even marched in Chicago’s gay rights parade (dissipation alert) calling it “a thrill of a lifetime.”

Needless to say, the Greek lobby is ecstatic, “His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America recognized the extraordinary public service of two of the Greek-American community’s brightest young stars at a reception in Washington, D.C. on the occasion of the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama” (from 2008).


  1. What a travesty! The GOA has a long tradition of placing Greek ethnicity above the Orthodox Christian faith and the Moral Tradition. They have proudly supported Senators Olympia Snowe of Maine and Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland who are both passionate supporters of abortion rights and both opposed a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
    Leadership 100 and Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church (GOC) American Archdiocese recently honored Greek-American U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe at its 14th annual conference by giving her an “Award for Excellence.” GOC Leadership 100 and the GOC Archbishop similarly honored Greek-American U.S. Senator Sarbanes at the conference two years ago. Voting records show that Senators Sarbanes and Snowe are among the most pro-abortion senators in the U.S. Senate.

    Olympia Snowe’s Pro-Abortion Voting Record
    – Voted NO on restricting UN funding for population control policies. (Mar 2009)
    – Voted NO on defining unborn child as eligible for SCHIP. (Mar 2008)
    – Voted NO on prohibiting minors crossing state lines for abortion. (Mar 2008)
    – Voted NO on barring HHS grants to organizations that perform abortions. (Oct 2007)
    – Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Apr 2007)
    – Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. (Jul 2006)
    – Voted NO on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime. (Mar 2004)
    – Voted NO on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life. (Mar 2003)
    – Voted NO on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions. (Jun 2000)
    – Voted NO on banning partial birth abortions. (Oct 1999)

    Paul Sarbanes’ Pro-Abortion Voting Record
    – Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. (Jul 2006)
    – Voted NO on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime. (Mar 2004)
    – Voted NO on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life. (Mar 2003)
    – Voted NO on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions. (Jun 2000)
    – Voted NO on banning partial birth abortions. (Oct 1999)

  2. All you can say is that the GOA hierarchy has either been duped (in which case they are hopelessly incompetent in political affairs and basic moral theology) or that they are complicit, in which case, they are evil.

    What a great choice. Sigh.

  3. George Michalopulos :

    John, Lord have mercy. It’s incidents like this that cause sober individuals to look in askance at those of us who criticize the Catholic Church. How dare we? At least we have +Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church to show the way. They don’t care about such worldliness. And God bless ROCOR and the revived OCA as well. Otherwise, Orthodoxy in America would be taken even less seriously than it is.

    • George:
      Please, don’t start this again.

      It’s incidents like this that cause sober individuals to look in askance at those of us who criticize the Catholic Church. How dare we?

      As I said in an other comment there are some things which are of primary importance: The Church dogmas, the Holy Trinity, the Godhood of the Holy Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must be ready to suffer martyrdom for these truths. There are other things which we regret, but they do not have the same importance.
      Pope John Paull II has blasphemed the Lord when he kissed the Koran. Now we have +Bartholomew calling the Koran ‘holy’ while all the GOA bishops are attending the ‘event’.

      I recall the feeling of sorrow I have experienced watching here the virulent criticism of the Orthodox Church and the choir praising the Catholic Church. This was about one year ago. I satyed away from this site for months. When I came back I noticed some changes and I became hopeful…

      What is it that prevents you from joining the Catholic Church? Please do not take this as a personal attack. Consider it a meditation subject.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Eliot, you rebuke me rightly. The reason I don’t consider other Christian confessions is because of our fidelity to Christian doctrine (doxa. However as we all know doxa cannot be divorced from praxis and the accommodation to the world is disheartening. I’m glad you mentioned JPII kissing the Koran, I almost tossed my cookies on that one and felt more than a little triumphalistic (for awhile), that is until the EP gingerly and reverentially placed a “Holy Koran” (his words) in the hands of the president of Coca Cola. The devotion with which he held it reminded me of the devotion which my own priest elicits when he carries the Book of the Gospels during the Little Entrance. Maybe the Lord is allowing our hierarchs to act this way for a season in order to draw out humility on the part of those of us who are ordinarily a little triumphalistic ourselves? (I’ve been guilty myself.)

  4. Groan. Such indefensible endorsements make the Greek community look like they think they are such a teeny tiny immigrant community that they MUST endorse any one of their own – even if he stands for almost everything they claim to abhor. I understand that politicians are elected to serve and generally reflect their communities, but the Church should chastise, not honor, such behavior. The Fathers certainly did. This has the strong stench of philitism.

  5. When Catholic politicians support abortion, the Catholic bishops publicly criticize them, demand that they stop, and even forbid them from receiving communion. When Greek Orthodox politicians support abortion, even partial-birth abortion, and do it for years on end, Archbishop Demetrios and the Greek lobby praise and honor them with awards. You cannot find a starker contrast than this.

    Also, the passionate defense of innocents by the Catholic Church and her bishops and many priests is not a one time event, they are constantly stepping into the public arena to fight against abortion and to take a moral stand in defense of the unborn:

    One wonders whether the success and growth of the Roman Catholic Church, despite their many scandals and mistakes, is not partially due to her hierarchs and priests walking the narrow road and placing Christ front and center in everything they do, especially in the culture at large. Of course the opposite may be speculated with regards to certain Orthodox jurisdictions and even societies.

  6. Michael Bauman :

    The lack of moral consciousness shows a total abandonment of the anthropological and eschatological principals the Church has articulated for 2000 years. It is a form of apostasy.

    The RCC’s stand on the anthropological issues of the day is a beacon of light. The Pope leads, other bishops follow. It is the fruit of the ecclesiology of the RCC — a ‘strong’ ecclesiology (in human terms). Of course, the other organization working most effectively in the anti-abortion area world wide is Islam. T.S. Eliot said, “To do the right deed for the wrong reason is surely the greatest treason”.

    What is lacking for us is that we have Orthodox bishops attempting to act as little popes. We have no fully functioning synods in the U.S. and only the OCA is trying to put one together. We Antiochians are a distant second (there really is movement going on). This it is largely the OCA and the Antiochians who signed and promote the Manhattan Declaration.

    The bishops have no idea (just like SVS in the Rowan Williams affair) that their actions have an impact on all Orthodox believers and those who are considering the Church. They have no vision and don’t really care about America.

    • Above all things we must guard ourselves from that which is worldly and earthly. Some of our bishops are exceedingly worldly. Their action shows that one can not serve God and Mammon without becoming hypocrites, creatures of circumstances or clowns.

      “To do the right deed for the wrong reason is surely the greatest treason” is more perfidious. It means to be a conscious leader of apostasy and having the ignorant following. Most often the ignorants are the younger, filled with ‘missionary’ zeal, but not very smart about it.

  7. Archon Anyone? Its only a matter of time before the GOA makes Giannoulias an Archon and gives him the Athenagoras Human Rights Award.

    Honestly though, can anyone think of an example where Archbishop Demetrios stood against the omogenia and the prevaling political climate to take a difficult stand for what is right?

    • Isa Almisry :

      I’d like to know if they plan on making Harry Markopolos an archon:

      • Isa, Harry Markopoulos is a wonderful example. I was thinking of buying his book. However, I have to ask has anyone ever been made an Archon because of their character, virtue, or service to the Church alone?

        It looks like the awarding of Archon is always connected to the size of ones wallet and the ability to write checks to the EP.

        Am I right or are their people out there who received the honor of Archon solely based on character and service alone?

        • Andrew,

          I believe you pretty much nailed it.

          Other distinguished Orthodox Christians include: U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe; numerous members of the U.S. House of Representatives; Chief Washington Correspondent for ABC News George Stephanopoulos; recent U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Director of National Intelligence and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte; former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes; and former Governor and Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis.

          Notice some of the common characteristics running through many (not all) of these award recipients?
          – Greek = check
          – Social Liberal = check
          – Rich = check
          – Powerful = check
          – Politically connected = check

          Feb. 19, 2009 – The highest honor a layperson can receive from the Greek Orthodox Church of America, the prestigious Medal of St. Paul, was bestowed on Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, church/community leader, philanthropist and President of AKT Development. It was presented in Washington, D.C. by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who recently participated in President Barack Obama’s Inaugural National Prayer Service. The Archbishop also leads America’s Hellenic community, including at its nearly quarter-of-a-century-old annual White House meeting with Presidents of the United States.

          Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis is one of the few among many distinguished Greek Orthodox Christians in America to have her extraordinary service recognized with this highest honor.

          Did a little research and found this out about the Tsakopoulos family:

          During the past 30 years, the Tsakopoulos family has contributed millions of dollars to, among others, the Greek Orthodox Church, St. Hope Academy, Sacramento Country Day School, the Crocker Art Museum, Jesuit High School, the Roseville Arts Center, the Sacramento Tree Foundation and UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute for the study of neurological disorders. And though his name often winds up on the monumental signage or commemorative plaque of buildings and campuses, his son Kyriakos says Tsakopoulos is surprisingly shy about the accolades. (“Sometimes, things get named for my father by others, out of respect,” he told us in a 2003 interview.)

          As with any powerful family, Tsakopoulos family members are often embroiled in controversy. Although they are ardent, pro-environment Democrats, their building and development activities occasionally put them at odds with segments of that very community. Students of history and founders of the Western Policy Center in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., they’re sometimes characterized by their critics as latter-day Medicis, the money-mad merchants who pretty much ran Italy for three centuries.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Andrew, I’ve heard of only one man who was made an archon because of his service to the church. He’s not by any stretch of the imagination wealthy but a pious man nonetheless. (I truly enjoyed his company for the little time that I spent with him.) I’d rather not give his name out but he’s the father of a bishop. But in my experience, he’s the exception that proves the rule. Most of the archons that I know of are big givers and/or famous names.

          To show you how corrupt the problem is, a GOA priest told me that candidates for archon are submitted by the parish priest. That sounds about right, however when I heard that one wealthy layman in particular became an archon (whom I happen to like btw), I asked this priest about it. He didn’t know about it. It looks like the man in question went straight to the top (either the local Met or NYC, I don’t know). What this tells me is that in too many Orthodox (certainly not just the GOA) circles, things are made up as they go along.

  8. Scott Pennington :

    I’m not sure we can chalk this up to phyletism. If we were talking about a Romanian Church honoring a Romanian or a Russian Church honoring a Russian, we wouldn’t look at it with outrage. The point is that this senator is a pro-choice Greek.

    So the question is why does the Archbishop honor a Greek-American despite the fact that he is aggressively pro-choice, etc.; i.e., why did he not balk in view of the senator’s views?

    I think I know the answer to this and it’s not phyletism. It’s uglier than that:

    There are a number of Greek hierarchs who desperately – – and I mean desperately – need to be seen with the movers and shakers in society, the important people. It bestows on the hierarchy a much needed sense of self worth and a salve for their inherent inferiority complex. I assume it’s a vestige of dhimmitude. You can see it as well in the Archbishop’s comparison of Obama to Alexander the Great.

    He is creating a stumbling block for the faithful. He already has the reaction to the honoring of Sarbanes and Snowe to alert him to the feelings of many Orthodox about these unpleasant mistakes.

    As far as the RCC being better about this than the Orthodox, we should remember that the grass is always greener on the other side. The Conference of Catholic Bishops is quite liberal and, although it is true that some bishops and priests would not give pro-choice politicians communion, I think that many would and do. The Conference seems to have been studying this question since 2004 and has not yet set policy. There have been those inside the Vatican who suggest a hard line, but the Pope has not ordered it in such a way that priests or bishops risk their vocation if they disregard canon law and offer communion to those politicians who are pro-choice.


    Nonetheless, it would be a very good development if we consistently refused communion to anyone who openly, publicly advocated “abortion rights”.

    • Isa Almisry :

      “I’m not sure we can chalk this up to phyletism. If we were talking about a Romanian Church honoring a Romanian or a Russian Church honoring a Russian, we wouldn’t look at it with outrage.”

      Do we see that? The late Patriarch Teoctist single handedly stopped the liberalization of divorce in Romania and led opposition to the new family values of the EU: homosexuality, etc. And Patriarch Alexei and Met. Hilarion weren’t remembered for sweet talking the EU parliament.

  9. Fr. Peter Dubinin :

    I cannot even begin to express how disturbing this report is – for anyone in the Orthodox Church, let alone a hierarch, to endorse a politician who adheres “religiously” (for that is really the place politics and holding high office is for these folk) to moral positions which are contrary to the Truth which Almighty God has revealed to all humanity via the image and likeness and specifically through His Son, Jesus Christ, in His Church. Lord have mercy! Can anyone provide for me or refer me to some source in which anyone within the Church, such as Archbishop Demetrios, actually explain how they can acknowledge so favorably a politician such as Alexi Giannoulias?

    I think and pray for administrative unity of the Orthodox Church in this country as much as any Orthodox Christian, but I gotta say – I’m having second thoughts. I know we move toward unity in obedience to our Savior’s high priestly prayer, but what will be the second, third order of effects of such “unity” with such a blatant disregard for the clear teachings of the Church? It disturbs me as well that the presidency of the episcopal assembly is determined by the dyptychs rather than the consensus of hierarchs within this country.

    Endorsements such as this, regularly given by hierarchs of the GOA should disqualify any of them from leadership of the episcopal assembly, and that goes for any other hierarchs from another jurisdiction. Time to dust off the Brothers Karamazov and explain how some hierarchs are not in fact the Grand Inquisitor; anyone?

    Fr. Peter

    • There is always a temptation for all of us to elevate “us” and “ours” over “God” and “His.” When we do this individually, we recognize it for the sin (idolatry) that is – or we should. As I noted before, I am struck by how small and insignificant a group must feel in order to want to celebrate someone whose positions are so fundamentally at odds with the Church. (Of course, this might be better than the alternative: that they simply don’t see that his positions are at odds with the Church. This, however, I can’t really imagine.)

      The Church must be about the Gospel – in season or out. There have been many times (even in recent history) when this imposed a high political price, but we honor those who paid it. There is no alternative: the moment that the cross becomes inconvenient is the moment we cease to be Christian. My hope is that this is a moment of careless, self-indulgent blindness. The alternative explanations would seem to be much more damning.

      • Michael Bauman :

        Chrys, I’m afraid they don’t see that the pol’s positions are at odds with the Church. One of the real problems with the legacy of dhimmintude is that under dhimmintude, power and survival become the sole criteria rather than witness and faithfulness. Unlike the blatant type of persecution, dhimmi folk are slow boiled like the proverbial frog–life is slowly drained from them. In the EP’s case it has been going on for over 500 years, is still going on. Even by Orthodox time, that’s long.

        Yet each person, lay, clergy or bishop has the new and fresh choice of the Gospel over the way of the world.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Fr, you said it best. I’ve been having second thoughts about unity as well. Forgive me for saying this, but I don’t know how we can be united administratively if we don’t even see eye-to-eye on the important matters. As for the Episcopal Assembly, I have operated under the fear that it would be nothing more than another SCOBA, feckless and irrelevant. That might be the best possible outcome if the other jurisdictions are going to keep on playing footsie with the worldly set.

      • Michael Bauman :

        Similiar to unity with Rome, it can only occur when we are in agreement on matters theological and on the praxis.

        The vast disparity on pastoral matters as well as stances on various social issues is not heartening for real unity.

        The first jurisdiction to establish a real, functioning Holy Synod that is responsive to the clergy and laity as well as having an missionary spirit founded in the Tradition will attract those who are serious. Frankly, I see NO candidates right now. Real obedience is required.

        It will take at least two more generations of real concentrated effort in terms of living the faith from a significant number of the laity before any dent will be made. We have to want to live in a genuine Orthodox manner rather than in Rome-lite or Protestanized orthodoxy or old-world centered ethnicism.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          From another direction: We are in agreement on moral theology and praxis. The problem here is not disagreement, but Constantinople’s compromise with the dominant culture. Maybe this disqualifies them from leadership, despite their claims to the contrary.

      • The key concern is the priorities that may be at work here. While unity would be impossible if it required perfect agreement, we have it on good authority that you can’t be yoked with another if you are going in two basically different directions.

  10. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Note #2. John Panos says:

    All you can say is that the GOA hierarchy has either been duped (in which case they are hopelessly incompetent in political affairs and basic moral theology) or that they are complicit, in which case, they are evil.

    Calling the GOA hierarchy “evil” is a harsh indictment. It is true that Planned Parenthood is evil. It uses the language of human freedom to shill for the abortion industry thereby deceiving many (abortion is a big — and lucrative — business). The GOA hierarchy is silent on abortion. They may not be evil, but they certainly collude with those who perpetrate the evil. It’s a very dangerous road to walk, particularly for those who fall under St. James’ injunction that teachers are held to a higher judgment (see: James 3:1).

    On the other hand, when you read the Ecumenical Patriarch’s rationale for his silence about the sanctity of unborn life, you discover sophomoric reasoning that reaches no deeper than anything you would find on MTV or in Rolling Stone (see: A patriarch who ‘generally speaking, respects human life’). It’s chock full of “Americanisms”* — facile and glib retorts that reduce the decision about whether or not to abort a child to something no more morally significant than, say, whether to buy Cheerios or Wheaties this week. The unborn, at least in the American context in which his words are read, are presented as nothing more than consumer items.

    Whether he is being misled by American advisers or really believes what he says is hard to say. He should know the moral tradition however, which teaches that abortion is a grave moral offense. The teachings of the Fathers should put the brakes on the glib retorts even if he personally does not believe them.

    In either case, the GOA leadership has become indistinguishable from the pro-abortion wing of the Democratic party about the value of unborn life. What happens when the cost for standing against homosexual marriage increases? Will the leadership fall silent on that too when Greek Orthodox politicians start vigorously pushing homosexual marriage? Giannoulias is their first test, and so far the prognosis is not good.


    *(”We are not allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian couples..” says Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew — as if this retort closes any discussion on the morality of abortion. Two reminders for the EP: 1) How and when to conceive a child touches on the deepest questions of human existence and is properly a subject of moral reflection; and 2) abortions don’t occur in bedrooms, they occur in abortuaries.

    How impoverished has the thinking become? Where is the instruction? Where is the sensibility that the unborn child is more than an inert piece of tissue? Where is the shame that should stir at least a whisper of reticence when other leaders reject such high-minded self-limitation — +Jonah, +Phillip, +Kyrill, +Hilarion, even Pope Benedict, for example?)

  11. cynthia curran :

    Well, according to Bartholomew website he knows both Greek and Latin. So, I’m sure he is aware of the church fathers writings in both the east and west on the subject. He is also aware of the Justinian Code on the subject as well as the laws passed under Basil the first and Leo the wise, or other medieval Byzantine law codes.

  12. cynthia curran :

    Well, I would rather even vote for a mormon than a liberial orthodox person. Terry Matting was on a non-orthodox talk show discussing that among 20-29 year olds that young Roman Catholics are even more liberal than Youths rise in mainline protestant backgrounds. I bet this is the same among Orthodox youth tend to be more liberal also.

  13. cynthia curran :

    The quotes on the fathers was good but some might point out that Tertullian ended up becoming a montanists in his old age. But that doesn’t disqualify him on the subject.


  1. […] this to the impoverished thinking on human value coming out of Constantinople that we have been discussing on this blog the last few days. The reason Constantinople’s compromise with the dominant culture concerning […]

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