Archbishop Puhalo: ‘No angry God’

“Archbishop Lazar Puhalo believes in compassion,” begins the article in the Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine. Reporter Lindsay Tice caught up with the archbishop at a talk he gave yesterday to students at University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College. (HT: OBL News)

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

Dressed in black robes and sporting a long white and gray beard, Puhalo spoke to students over a potluck lunch held in the college’s second-floor lounge. Encouraged by questions, he jumped from topic to topic, covering in two-and-a-half hours: same-sex marriage, universal health care, women’s rights, religious fundamentalism, politics, an individual’s impact on society, ecology, suffering, compassion, fear, hatred, faith, hope and love.

“There is no hand of an angry God. There is no angry God,” he said, adding, “If God’s so full of hate, what’s he got to teach us?”

Puhalo lambasted what he sees as Christian hypocrisy and bigotry, saying too many religious people moralize and judge while too few help and support. He also spoke against politicians’ use of religion and fear to gain supporters, particularly when it comes to universal health care and same-sex marriage — both of which he supports and are already available in his home country of Canada.

Universal health care is an example of basic compassion for others, Puhalo said. And he believes that same-sex marriage is an issue of democratic rights for citizens, not an issue for religious groups.

“We (the Christian church) don’t have a copyright on the word marriage,” he said.

The newspaper identified Archbishop Puhalo as “the head of the North American Orthodox Christian Church and world-renowned philosopher and advocate of human rights, women’s rights, and the environment … ”

But officially, as described by OrthodoxWiki, he is the Most Reverend Lazar (Puhalo) of Ottawa, a retired hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America, and the founding abbot of the Monastery of All Saints of North America, Canada.

OrthodoxWiki notes that the much traveled cleric “is known for his prolific (and, at times, controversial) theological writings, particularly regarding the aerial toll houses.”


  1. I hope the article failed to faithfully convey his message. I have had enough experience with journalists to know that they are more intent on publishing their own message than hearing yours.

    That said, I would note that we do not, in fact, have a patent on the word “marriage.” In fact, we don’t have a patent on any words at all. We don’t have a patent on “cross,” or “prayer,” or “holiness,” either. I don’t think anyone anywhere has a patent on any word in common parlance. Even so, the Tradition does speak clearly about what such words mean – what they must mean – for us.
    His people may well know how to intrepret what he means, but if this is read by others as an “endorsement” of sin, well . . . he may have a lot to answer for. (But, being a moralistic and judgmental person who holds traditional views, I guess I will have even more to answer for than I already thought.)

    Equating the various positions or policies mentioned in the article with “compassion” is sloppy, at best. Every system has both costs and benefits. If you require coverage for everyone, they may actually receive less care (actual coverage) as has been the case in Canada itself, which is increasingly at risk for systemic bankruptcy and which has the “safety valve” of a very responsive US medical system nearby. Here in the US, Medicare declines more proceedures than private insurance because of its financial problems. Imagine how much care will have to be reduced if the Medicare model becomes the only effective option in the US. Which means that, despite all the good intentions, this could actually produce less – not more – compassionate results. (Of course, we’re supposed to give the Left a pass because it “means well.”) His “compassionate” policy would also eliminate the primary driver behind so much of the innovation, development and discoveries that has so impressively extended and improved our lives – including the lives and care of those in countries with socialized medicine. I can’t see the compassion in that either.

    So many of these statements have clearly not been carefully assessed in terms of potential costs and benefits. Of course, jumping to such quick judgments about a society and its systems would be awfully moralistic and judgmental. Oops.

  2. Roger Bennett :

    Some well-intentioned people get so enthralled by separation of church and state that it seemingly never occurs to them that the Church’s position (e.g., it’s impossible for two people of the same sex to be joined in Orthodox Holy Matrimony; just read the Crowning Service’s litany of procreative incitements) just might coincide with sound public policy.

    If marriage has come to mean, in secular terms, so little that two members of the same sex can enter the institution, then it’s time either (1) to fortify the institution so that it will come again to mean something more (e.g., covenant marriage laws) or else (2) to get government out the “marriage” business entirely.

    What stake does the public have in two adults pairing off if it’s not to something like protecting the children that might be born, willy-nilly, if the two are of the opposite sex? If there’s any stake in same-sex pairs, could it not be met equally well with a domestic partner registry? And what business of the public is it whether the domestic partners are homogenitally involved? Aren’t spinster sisters or Norwegian bachelor farmer brothers, in a relationship of mutual support, just as publicly valuable as gay or lesbian pairs – once naturally-conceived babies are out of the picture?

    For the record, I prefer fortifying civil marriage rather than abandoning it. My reasons are as complex as the web of interrelationships that make a good society.

    • Well said. Of course marriage really is about the children. For some reason this is that rare case in public policy where it is actually true, and that equally rare case where it doesn’t seem to count.

      If he’s this casual with such a venerable institution, you might wander how he feels about pre-marital sex – since we don’t have a patent on that word either. Or, say, distributing communion to nonOrthodox. Many people feel that not sharing communion is also a violation of “compassion.” Of course, sharing it IS a violation of integrity, but what’s that in the face of the demands of compassion?

  3. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Heterosexual marriage (is it really necessary to say this?) is within the order of creation. That’s why almost all cultures see the union of one man and one woman as the only morally legitimate marital union.

    I hope Abp. Puhalo does not believe this rubbish. If he does, he implicitly says that marriage (and by extension all social relationships) are merely the product of culture; there is no real moral distinction between homosexual marriage and heterosexual marriage.

    Taking it farther, the only real reason that the Judeo-Christian moral tradition is authoritative is merely because we believe it so. There is no real touchstone beyond your own conviction — just like the gay marriage activist. The slide into relativism is steep.

    He also spoke against politicians’ use of religion and fear to gain supporters, particularly when it comes to universal health care and same-sex marriage — both of which he supports and are already available in his home country of Canada.

    These criticisms don’t apply, I presume, to Episcopalians and other mainstreamers who claim their support of homosexual marriage is “prophetic.” Are we witnessing the Episcopalization of Orthodoxy?

    • Wesley J. Smith :

      Fr. bless: It seems to me that one retired hierarch’s views should not be cause for concern about an “Episcopolization” (nice turn of phrase) of Orthodoxy. Indeed, I perceive that the current growth of the Orthodox Church has occurred precisely because it is not being Episcopalized.

  4. It is one thing for clerics to state that God loves homosexuals as he does
    all sinners, and another thing for an Orthodox Archbishop to suggest
    that this particular lifestyle is acceptable. The Church everywhere is
    obligated to oppose efforts by politicians to redefine marriage. We as
    Orthodox Christians cannot afford to be indifferent to the effects that
    this will have on society as a whole and on our young people as well.

    The pro-gay marriage crowd is not going to stand aside if they win and
    tolerate Christian opposition. Any Christian (or Jew or Muslim for that
    matter) who refuses to accept the line of political correctness will be
    depicted as “homophobe”, “bigot” or worse.

    Both scripture and tradition tell us that marriage is between a man and
    a woman. The Church is obligated to protest any views that contradict
    the scriptures and holy tradition. Same sex marriage is a very loud and
    vocal effort to ensure the overthrow of Christianity from public life.

    Pressure on Churches and religious institutions to conform will come
    about. The last century saw the rise of Communist ideology which
    attempted to wipe the Church out through mass murder and violence.

    I wonder whether a new persecution of the Church is not getting under way
    beginning with the effort to purge any remnants of Christianity from
    public life.


  5. I know a LOT of polygamous Muslims who will be happy to hear that Christians don’t have the copyright on marriage in this neck of the woods, not to maention a few Mormon compounds in Texas and elsewhere….

  6. cynthia curran :

    Well, there are two mistakes in the article. One is that not all people who opposed national health care are against gay marriage- take libertarians for example. Also, some social conservatives are economically liberal. Also, there are plenty of left-wing church members, even in the US, the evangelicals have Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo that support national healh care and gay marriage. Liberal Orthodox sterotype people just as much as Liberal Protestants and Roman catholics.

  7. Btw, reading Savage Love this aftermoon, it seems that there is a People’s veto set for next month to veto the same sex law passed, and there is an uproar about the religiously observant exercising their political rights, as in California. That might be why they took Bp. Lazar out of mothballs and gave him a mike.

  8. George Michalopulos :

    Ted, you are 100% correct. Leaving aside domestic partnerships, etc., the real purpose of all this is to get the Church to compromise. Eventually, the more traditional churches will be forced by “hate crimes” legislation to either sacramentalize a homosexual union or at least force the priest into “acknowledging” the gay couple as a legitimate family unit within the confines of the church. If these pastors refuse, then their churches’ tax exmpt status will be revoked. Eventually, persecution will come, and we’ll look like we deserve it, being “homophobes” and all.

  9. Roger Bennett :

    I can’t agree with George that ” the real purpose of all this is to get the Church to compromise” (italics added). The purpose, I suggest, is less aggressive toward the Church than traditional Christians may feel.

    Consider the escalating demands of the homosexual rights movement over the past 40 or so years since Stonewall. Can we try a thought experiment? Suppose – just suppose – that “the other side” was sincere at each step.

    First, it was just “to be left alone.” No police rousting them out of gay (to use a term coined later) bars and arresting them. No policemen trolling public restrooms to bust people hooking up there. No fear of being the one some hot-dog prosecutor picked to prove his zeal against criminal vice. That’s all. I personally think they meant it. I supported it (I was young a foolish then, but I think I support it still.)

    Yet when homosexuality was decriminalized in most states, that didn’t satisfy. I think they were surprised that they still felt marginal. So they demanded more, believing that normalcy was just one more step away.

    The “more” I most clearly recall was protected class status in employment, housing, public accommodations and such. Perhaps if shopkeepers, landlords and such were forbidden to express disapproval of vice by firmly showing them the door, they’d feel the normalcy that eluded them when police and prosecutors lost the ability to treat vice as crime by forcibly showing them the inside of a jail cell. That’s all. I suspect they meant it. (I opposed it.) But that didn’t work when fairly widely granted, either.

    Perhaps I’m missing a few intermediate steps, but we now come to the demand for same-sex marriage, and the familiar, open-ended, longing-filled bumper sticker with a yellow “=” on a deep blue background. I think they mean it. All they want is complete, unequivocal “equality,” whatever that means. How can anyone disagree with “equality”?

    End of thoght experiment.

    The purpose at each step, I theorize, was to satisfy a desire to feel normal without forsaking homogenital activity. But that desire is insatiable because the unsettled feeling ultimately is rooted in the accusations of conscience, not in some external human disapproval. They know in their hearts “the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 1:32).

    That doesn’t mean George is wrong about the eventuality of their campaign for feeling normal. When gay marriage doesn’t satisfy, they may well surmise that the problem is that people are still allowed to view gay marriage as aberrant, and Churches are allowed to disregard it. There are a few candid gay activist legal theorists like Chai Feldblum at Georgetown who acknowledge the conflict between gay rights and religious freedom, and who think gay rights should win because that cause is more in keeping with America’s highest aspirations – it’s meta-values.

    So the threat is real, but I think we’ll resist more effectively if we recognize that the purpose really is not to suppress us, but to attain the unattainable sense of complete normalcy. Perhaps our best response is to say:

    You are perfectly normal. You’re a human being, made in God’s image, intended to recapture His likeness, beset by sins you have not consciously chosen. Your struggle is the struggle of every Christian. Every unmarried Christian is called to abstain from fornication. Every married Christian is called to practice a chastity that goes beyond not sleeping with someone else’s spouse (it being possible to be unchaste with one’s own spouse). The only difference between you and other struggling sinners is that your call to sexual abstinence appears to be like that of the monastic, spinster or lifelong bachelor: forever.

    Sorry to ramble so. I have little chance to share my theory with intelligent Orthodox Christians. Your mileage may vary, but I wanted to tell you about mine.

    • Roger,

      In graduate school, I read a fair amount of Gay rights literature. Your analysis follows what I read by gay rights advocates written 25 years or so ago. The goal has been to create a society that saw homosexual relationships as normal. The path towards normalization is the one you outlined, a process of incremental steps towards the acceptance of homosexuality. We are now, I would suggest, if not at that point socially, then at the door.

      In Christ,


  10. George Michalopulos :

    Roger, I don’t think we have a fundamental disagreement. I agree with you on the particulars, but since this is blog concerned primarily (not exclusiviely) with the Orthodox Church, I decided to cut to the chase and throw some cold water on well-meaning people (like Puhalo), who don’t hate gays or genuinely feel sorry for them. The cold water is what I said: end will be the destruction of religious freedom and the distortion of the Gospel. Perhaps I was wrong to use the word “purpose” as this sounds rather conspiratorial.

    I’m not one given to conspiracy thinking because along the way there are way too many variables and contingencies that can cause a purported plan to go awry. That said, I think we Orthodox Christians have to be cognizant of what “gay marriage” ultimately will mean for our Church.

    As far as our society is concerned, once homoerotic relations are legally equal to heteroerotic ones, then there is no reasonable way our society can deny the same rights to polygamists and polyamorists.

  11. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Roger, yes, I agree with your assessment. I think the engine driving a lot of the “gay rights” movement is a troubled conscience fueled by the (false) belief that rearranging social relationships can quell the trouble. The larger presumption here is that all relationships are cultural constructs; no touchstone beyond private conviction exists. The still small voice in other words, has as its reference not God, but other people.

    But Abp. Puhalo goes further. His statement that, “We (the Christian church) don’t have a copyright on the word marriage,” says that there is no fixed definition for marriage, which is the same argument the same-sex marriage crowd makes as do many polygamous Mormons and Muslims, the polyamorous crowd — actually everyone who wants to see the definition broadened to mean marriage is anything one makes it. These are ignorant words for a hierarch (especially an Orthodox hierarch) and also very dangerous in these dangerous times.

    This is a failure of courage. Abp. Puhalo is correct in that the conscience cannot be coerced. Christ is not coercive (Christ does not force us to believe, let alone obey) and Christians cannot be either. However, the words of Christ are true and commend themselves to the conscience (“To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” — 2 Cor. 2:16).

    Abp. Puhalo missed an opportunity to preach and teach and thus potentially transform the conscience of a reader reaching towards Him who is Truth. Instead he conformed his episcopal authority to the weak and beggarly elements of the world.

    Abp. Puhalo might mean well, but he is also a Bishop. He should know better.

    • Fr Hans,

      I dropped his Eminence a note asking for a clarification. Until that arrives, I think it is best to hold off on any conclusions about what he did or did not intend or if he missed an opportunity to witness to the Gospel.

      Reporters, as my wife reminds me, are not friends and they write to sell newspapers not proclaim the Gospel.

      In Christ


  12. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :
  13. George:

    I thought you might well be speaking casually when you said “purpose,” and I am of one mind with you on not attributing to conspiracy something that can be explained with a presumption of subjective good faith of everyone and a bit of empathy for “the other guy.” I had a theory to unload and took the occasion of a malapropism to unload it. (Whether the whole thing is being choreographed by invisible created beings whose purpose does include destroying the Church is a separate question.)

    I think the Orthodox Church would be among the last to suffer in a regime of SSM because SSM is so patently inconsistent with our Crowning Service: (1) God joins the couple (2) sacramentally (3) for purposes clearly including procreation. All three were missing from my niece’s Lutheran wedding last weekend, though the homilist made some comments that sounded vaguely as if the couple’s union might have something to do with their respective sanctifications. There’s nothing ambiguous in Orthodoxy about those points, and we didn’t write the Crowning Service 6 years ago in response to SSM proposals. That would make it particularly difficult for outside forces to argue that they’re not trampling our core beliefs about marriage, but rather are just inviting us to get over irrational bigotry, by insisting that we solemnize gay unions.

    If the gay marriage regime comes, denominations and independents in which marriage is non-sacramental will have, it seems to me, a somewhat (much?) tougher battle distinguishing their semi-traditional view of marriage from mere bigotry. They can say, ipse dixit, that civil unions are one thing, Church marriage another, but won’t that sound homophobic if it lacks any deep rationale? Will they lose the right to solemnize the “civil union” aspect? Will their members have to stop at the Justice of the Peace office as well as Church to get the full marriage package?

    Of course, the internalization of the contraceptive and sexual revolutions by most denominational and independent Christian bodies goes a long way toward explaining why SSM has gone from unthinkable 50 years ago to well-nigh axiomatic today. My niece’s denomination, for instance, is the one that decided this summer to allow sexually active committed homosexuals as clergy. They’re the mainstream culturally and we’re the outliers.

    I have thoughts on possible coping mechanisms and political compromises should gay marriage arrive unambiguously, but I hope I’ll not need them.

    I’ll respond to Father Hans separately.

  14. Father Johnannes:

    “The larger presumption here is that all relationships are cultural constructs; no touchstone beyond private conviction exists. The still small voice in other words, has as its reference not God, but other people.” I hate to say it, but that seems to be the supreme law of the land, mediated by Justice O’Connor’s infamous “mystery passage” in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”) and elaborated in subsequent cases (e.g., the nationwide “constitutional” mandate to decriminalize sodomy).

    As for Archbishop Puhalo’s comment about “copyright,” there’s a sense in which it’s true as a matter of positive reality, isn’t there? “Marriage” has been debased by the contraceptive, sexual and divorce revolutions of the last 45 years. Nobody has ever gone around civilly annulling intentionally barren “marriages,” let alone in recent years. I say that not to endorse the analogous SSM talking point, but to acknowledge why the talking points seems to have valence.

    But it’s hard not to see such an ingratiating comment to a college crowd – perhaps in the flush of approving nods at how we Orthodox are not fundamentalist gay-basher – as a failure of courage. Better, I think, to insist that Christian anthropology is sound, that the state has an interest in heterosexual pairings that is missing in same-sex pairings, and that sanctioning gay sex (versus merely decriminalizing it) is a net loss to authentic human thriving even in secular terms.

    Caveat 1: I owe a large, tacit debt to Natural Law reasoning, which I seem to have adopted instinctively despite never having steeped very long in Roman Catholic social thought.

    Caveat 2: My natural law approach never seems to persuade anyone except the “choir” when I “preach” it. (It’s so clear to me. Why can’t others see it?!)

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      I’m not so sure it’s the “supreme law of the land” but it certainly is the guiding precept in decisions involving the conscience. It’s in the air we breath.

      I’ve worked with teens for almost three decades. The first generation teens who did wrong knew they were doing wrong. That meant they also knew where home was once they turned themselves around.

      The second generation had more difficulty. They were authentically confused about right and wrong. I could see reason evaporating into sentiment with them. I had to explain the why of things more often.

      The third generation is suspicious of any authoritative claim. I was talking to a group once and I overheard a teen (bright kid too) say to his friend, “He is making absolutist statements.” Clearly he believed that no such thing as certainty, at least in moral matters, exists. These were all Orthodox kids too.

      So, yes, maybe Abp. Puhalo’s comment was a throw-away, easy aggrandizement to an audience that no longer believes certainty exists. But doesn’t that compound the error?

      Re-enlightenment (if we can call it that) won’t come through grasping natural law however. It will come when the conscience is awakened through the preaching of the Gospel. It would have been better (as you say) if Abp. Puhalo would have used the occasion to speak on the biblical vision of man (in terms appropriate to the venue of course).

      • Father JJ:

        I agree 100% with your assessment. The sad part is that young people crave real truth and +Lazar gave them counterfeit Christianity ultimately doing more harm to these souls than good.

  15. Nothing is more sad than seeing a Bishop of the Church reject his teaching responsibilities and the universal vocation to chastity. +Lazar should take the step further and say sex outside of marriage is acceptable.

    Why note tell teens its ok to have sex outside marriage?

    This is fashionable fundamentalism plan and simple.

    More and more we see Orthodox leaders preaching spirituality without morality.

  16. Roger Bennett :

    I cannot disagree with anything written since my last post. My native tongue for public discourse seems to be Natural Law, but I certainly won’t disagree with a Bishop proclaiming a biblical vision of man!

    Was it Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind who said that the only thing all college freshmen have in common any more is relativism?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Sure sounds like it could have been Bloom. Solzhenitsyn said that ignorance of Christianity makes one blind to all of Western history. That’s true too. Most people live with absolutely no awareness of the past. They think the way things are is the way they have always been. Their only touchstone for truth is their own experience.

  17. cynthia curran :

    Well, I listened to Johannes speech at the Orthodox Women healing conferance on Secular and Sacred, and Johannes is right a lot of this type of thinking is about how people feel and not about what is truth.

  18. George Michalopulos :

    when all is said and done, all the sturm und drang finishes, the caveats said, the feelings of victims and sufferers (of homosexuals and their families) taken into account –all that being the case–Archbishop Puhalo’s speech is exactly what I mean by “worldly bishops” and/or “worldly jurisdictions.” Basically, laymen, clergymen, and hierarchs who are “conformed to the world.” Usually for the very best of intentions, because they feel the hurt of victims. Still, exhibit A. And the sad thing is, once this view prevails, then there is no turning back except by judgment, because when we get to that point, we see no need to repent: it’s just the way the world is.

  19. cynthia curran :

    Also, I was thinking that even with the problems with the US Health Care System, the Russian Health Care system is worst. Since, the fall of the communists either a private system or a govenment one has been developed there to fill the gaps. Russian men have a third world life expetenacy. White men in Russia like Afo-American men in the States have a rather low life expetenacy, partially due to bad health habits. Russia is a course an Orthodox Country and you would think that bishops in Canada would be interested in thi.

  20. cynthia curran :

    Well,listening to Johannes speech to the ladies at the health conferance, I thought about what he said that most of us don’t want our kids to go to sex and drugs. As he mention about protestant Piety influence on religion being private and having an impact on our culture, I think this is going around philosophically in the Culture. Its kind like the early Byzantine culture habit of watching the chariot races and ending up stabbing someone that belong to a different circus faction like the famous blues/greens and the lewed plays of the day. Public Practice doesn’t matter in people’s minds.

  21. Archb. Puhalo has been a loose canon for decades. It will be interesting to see if his jurisdiction, the OCA, which is currently having talks with conservative Episcopalians, will embrace his positions.

  22. You all are being libelous (and silly) here.

    • Whew! I was afraid that he might have actually meant what the journalist claimed that he said in the article. I am relieved to hear that we were wrong.

      • The libel is in misconstruing what he said in the article. “We don’t have a copyright on the word marriage,” does not imply, let alone state, what has been stated in the comments above as being the Archbishop’s thought. He may well hold to the ideas that have been put in his mouth here, but a source other than that quoted sentence will need to be cited in order to show it. On it’s own, that sentence says only two things: 1. American and Canadian civil marriage are not Christian marriage (uncontroversial, so far as I know, to us) and, given the context the reporter places the remark in, 2. the Church does not and should not govern the civil order (more controversial on the “should not”). Assuming the reporter has conveyed the archbishop’s remarks accurately one could accuse him of being a secularist, I suppose, but calling him, essentially, a relativistic apostate is pure slander.

        • No one has called him an apostate. Sloppy, yes. Relativistic? Maybe. His positions – at least as described in the article (IF accurately conveyed) – could easily be seen as supporting relativistic practice in civil arrangements. Now I suppose that it is theoretically possible to insist on traditional practices within the Church and support arrangements that are at odds with it outside the Church. Possible, but unlikely and incoherent. (Holy cognitive dissonance, Batman.) But, as noted from the beginning, it very much depends on how accurately it was conveyed by the journalist (as I said then, dicey at best).
          No one above is claiming that the Church does or even “should” govern the civil order; but we can not be expected to support something that defies, contradicts or is at odds with the teaching of the Church . . . unless WE are “supposed” to be incoherent – or schizophrenic. This, curiously, does seem to be the demand of the secularist crowd (left or right) which claims to “celebrate diversity” – as long as the differences are, in Aristotelian terms, accidental rather than essential.

          • Chrys,
            There is no dissonance or incoherence. Your “relativistic practice in civil arrangements” is called secularism. If you are indeed not “claiming that the Church…should govern the civil order,” then you are, to that extent, a secularist. Like Puhalo. To “insist on traditional practices within the Church” and allow for (you’d said “support” which is the flaw in logic consistent throughout this thread) “arrangements that are at odds with it outside the Church” is what virtually all of us do. (That’s my assumption, at least. I know a few Orthodox monarchists and theocrats, but have seen no hint of such ideas at AOI).

          • Secularism does not impose silence on the Church; then it would cease to be a “solution” to the myriad voices in the public square and be instead a source of oppression. Rather, it does not permit the Church to define the political agenda for everyone. The Church, of course, is free to assert its voice; indeed, it must – especially on issues of essential moral concern in the society at large. (It may, but probably ought not on issues of prudential concern, over which people of good faith can disagree.)

            As I read it, the best that can be said is that he is washing his hands of the issue. At worst, he is giving tacit support to a position that contradicts Church teaching. Christopher is right: if there issue were abortion, his response would be – at best – grossly inadequate.

  23. Roger Bennett :


    I have no idea why you think this is silly, but I have read nothing libelous (even if true statements weren’t per se non-libelous) until, maybe, the 22nd entry.

    Methinks you’re just flaming, albeit gently.

    Roger Bennett, Esq.

    • The discussion is not silly. Sorry, shouldn’t have said “all”. Personally, I more or less agree with your natural law argument.

      For libelous (or at least inaccurate or unsupported), see especially 11, 15, and 18.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Paleocon, how is my statement (#18) libelous? Did I name anybody? It’s a general observation.

        • General statements which were provoked by, and named as example, the Archbishop (or his speech at least): “Archbishop Puhalo’s speech is exactly what I mean by…”

          • I don’t quite understand your position here paleocon. The report is what it is and unfortunately is “supported” by similar statements of the past by this same bishop.

            While I understand that the secular press will get it wrong, and while I understand the need to not only verify by to try to understand the context, you seem to be saying that the bishop did not (or could not?) have said what he said and the report MUST be wrong – and thus we are wrong to reason from it.

            Am I correct?

          • Christopher,
            See 22.1.1. I’m saying that the way the Bishop has been made a foil for arguments against a relativistic culture in this thread borders on false witness (it’s worse even than when the EP is the subject of discussion). Want to speak against relativism? Fine. I’m with you. In fact, I’m likely far more illiberal than you are and would be happy to join everyone here in naming the demons that possess our culture. But stop conflating those demons with a hierarch who happens to hold a political position you (general you) disagree with.

          • I don’t believe you can separate politics and culture from the Church like you have. You certainly can support a secular government without supporting a secular culture or a government that (while being secular) does not militantly push the secular agenda against the more traditionalist parts of society. You can even have a secular government that recognizes the validity of traditional marriage – all the while maintaining a “separation” between church and state.

            Since we have good evidence (this reports and others) that the Bishop does not make these distinctions and supports/accepts certain premises of the secular mindset, then we are in no way bearing false witness against him.

          • Food for thought:

            If the Bishop had said something like “The Church does not hold a patent on the definition of the human person – and thus no definition on the sanctity of life” and thus otherwise supported abortion as a legitimate political position, would you have claimed it is bearing false witness against him to criticize him for his politics? He of course would not support abortion *within* the church but being that we are not in a monarchy or theocracy then of course such a position is merely political and thus we are wrong to criticize it from a Christian moral perspective.

            Hum, perhaps this reveals a limit in the paleoconservative critique…Interesting!

          • “You certainly can support a secular government without supporting a secular culture or a government that (while being secular) militantly pushes the secular agenda against the more traditionalist parts of society.”

            Exactly my point. This newspaper article can only be read honestly as suggesting (not proving) Puhalo approves of the former. The discussion that has followed, though, has assumed his advocacy of the latter (and worse).

            And to be clear, I’m not arguing in favor of secularism or what is today called tolerance or any such nonsense, or even in favor of what appears to be Puhalo’s rather conventional position. I’m likely less of a Liberal than you are. I’m just speaking against the rather uncharitable and unfounded judgment of a brother, an Orthodox hierarch no less, in this thread. You can speak of “other sources” that support your assumptions about him, but you really should show them. The quick check I did showed quite the opposite, really. A man who can write this essay, for example, is no mush-headed relativistic Liberal.

          • Paleocon: interesting link. Thanks. While I am not sure that I agree with his assessment of Personalism, I would agree that it doesn’t comport with the apparent relativism expressed in the article. Given this helpful information, I am inclined to think that it may be (as I noted at the very beginning) more reflective of the journalist than the Archbishop. My own experiences with reporters have been “all over the map,” ranging from respect for their ability to pull out the key elements in complicated issues to . . . well, the opposite. One tends to believe that a published news article is simply giving you an objective representation of the facts. It is more helpful – especially when dealing with reporters – to realize that they have their own, very different agenda. It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that these “quotes” were the reporter’s selective reconstruction of a long, nuanced conversation. (I’ve seen myself quoted more than once saying things that had a pretty tenuous connection to my actual words.)
            As I said, we’ll have to wait and see. Thank you, though, for the link. It was helpful in providing some (corrective) context.

          • George Michalopulos :

            His speech IS an example of secularism and political correctness. It’s not libelous of me to point this out, after all, truth is a defense against libel and slander.

        • Hum, I suppose it comes down to what you think “There is no hand of an angry God” and “he believes that same-sex marriage is an issue of democratic rights for citizens, not an issue for religious groups” can possibly mean. As Fr. Han’s and others have argued, they could be a “throw away” lines that were taken completely out of context. If so, it is interesting how they were interpreted. You at least have a significant failure to understand your secular listeners and speak in a way that can not lead to such misinterpretations. Surely all of us and Bishop Puhalo know what sort of age we live in.

          No, I tend to think there is something deeper here. I was reading the link you gave and found his “Corporatism, Commonweal and the Just Society” in which he joins in the secular lefts manipulative condemnation of Iraq sanctions and “climate change”. He just assumes these things mean what the secular left says they mean and sort of reflexively and uncritically adds it into morality that is Christian. We will just have to disagree on whether these things are open to criticism or not…

          • George Michalopulos :

            Christopher, I for one do not accept many of the premises of the secular Left and its bastardization of science or its political pieties. Example, they castigated Bush for preemptive war in Iraq but they cheered the bombing of Serbia. What’s the difference? Indeed, the latter was far more egregious and unjustified: Iraq had been an agressor against our allies and involved in international terrorism while Serbia had always been ally. I’m not trying to justify Iraq, just wanted to point out the massive inconsistency of what animates the Left.

          • George: I completely agree. One need only consider the past four decades of often disruptive protests (e.g., Code Pink, nuclear freeze, anti-globalists, etc.). After being told repeatedly that such dissent was an important form of patriotism, we are now, suddenly, being told that those very concerned (“well dressed”) and generally well-mannered retirees who are raising a fuss at town hall meetings (a forum ostensibly intended for the airing of political concerns – especially about prospective policy changes that would directly affect them) – NOW such dissent is unpatriotic rabble-rousing (or in league with Nazi’s). Well, it takes an almost complete insensitivity to crass hypocrisy to be able to stomach that. The media has been astonishingly complicit in adopting this perspective, as well. For this they should be ashamed given their repeated and vaunted claims of being the primary “watchdog” of power. (A bit more of a lapdog recently.)
            My (admittedly tentative) sense is that many at the extremes – but particularly on the far Left – have no transcendent values that might check their behavior or call it into question. The lack of a self-critical framework can quickly devolve into a stance where one’s ends (obviously “worthy”) justify any means; this creates the proper conditions for evil behavior.
            Just one more reason that genuine faith is vital for the proper exercise of freedom in society.

  24. Are we witnessing the Episcopalization of Orthodoxy?

    Re-enlightenment (if we can call it that) won’t come through grasping natural law however. It will come when the conscience is awakened through the preaching of the Gospel.

    Most people live with absolutely no awareness of the past. They think the way things are is the way they have always been. Their only touchstone for truth is their own experience.

    As usual Fr. Jacobse you have me thinking. I quote the above three snippets from you because I think they are related. I have in the last year moved into a city where there is only one Orthodox parish in town, and it is a mission parish. When I found Orthodoxy in the mid nineties I would never have believed that the “episcopalization” of Orthodoxy was a real possibility – I just did not see how the conditions could be set up for such an phenomenon. However, the last few years has prompted me to reassess that. It just so happens that my current parish priest is a signer of the “Plea” and displays certain liberalizing instincts that has me weary. Being a mission parish I have gotten to know many more of the parishioners in a much more personal way than any of the Orthodox parishes in my past. It is not an exaggeration to say that half of them would be much more at home intellectually in any of the mainline Protestant denominations than Orthodoxy. Two are Unitarians in all but name. It’s not as bad as my last Episcopal parish where I and maybe two other families where anything close to “traditionalist”, but the percentage of non-traditionalists was an eye opener to me. I can’t really say they are not Orthodox as they are in communion with the Church, but I can’t say I recognize traditional Orthodoxy (or even traditional Christianity) in them. Of course I am not their confessor and certainly not their judge – but I do recognize liberal/secularizing signs when I see them.

    So yes, I think there is a very real under current of secular/liberalizing/cheap grace trend in Orthodoxy. Part of it is generational I think, as the baby boomers seem almost fatalistically predisposed to such erroneous forms of “Christianity”.

    What I believe these folks do is twist and re-re-interpret the Gospel to mean what they want it to mean. They make Christ into their image – a soothing, non-judgmental benevolency that “accepts people as they are” and all the other clichés of liberal Christianity we are familiar with. Such a little god is of course somewhat distant unless he is “not judging” (or not “hating” in the words of this bishop) and helping you on your happy way.

    Perhaps I don’t really understand natural law, but I think it has to be an element in the preaching to these sorts of folks in that it brings a certain touchstone from within. If it is not “from their own experience” then they reject it out of hand. The law “written on the heart” can be a real touchstone for them, if they can be led to recognize it. They certainly will trust it before the distant “testimony” of long dead apostles and fathers.

    In any case, when I converted I had a friend who told me that Orthodoxy in America was 40 or 50 years behind the mainline, but that they were on the same essential trajectory. I thought he was overtaken by cynicism at the time, but I am no longer so sure…

  25. I received an email from Vladkya Lazar last evening. His Eminence was in fact rather seriously misquoted. For the record, he is not a supporter of SSM. If anyone has any questions about his position I would encourage them to contact him directly. He is a very warm and approachable man and well worth corresponding with on this and other matters.

    Might we now leave aside criticism of Archbishop Lazar and focus on the question of the Church’s witness about marriage?

    If I may, it seems to me that while I am not a supporter of SSM, neither am I a supporter of cohabitation, artificial contraception, abortion, and divorce and re-marriage all of which we as Orthodox Christians tend to overlook. We might do well to take a book from the anti-slavery witness of the Quakers who first made sure no Quaker owned slaves. Likewise, we need to make sure that we live among ourselves our own theology on marriage and family life. The first step of this can we not work to make sure our own faithful, and clergy, actually affirm and live what the Church teaches on these matters?

    In Christ,


    • I hope it would go without saying that Orthodox Christians do not support cohabitation, abortion or divorce and remarriage – subject to our Canons (which I understand imperfectly) or other criteria allowing remarriage (without supporting divorce and with a penitential spin to the rite for second or third marriages).

      But I am interested, here or elsewhere some other time, in the Orthodox basis of non-support of artificial contraception. I, too, tend to oppose it, but on prudential grounds that it’s lawful but generally inexpedient and unedifying. I have not been able to accept the fully-articulated Roman Catholic rationale for opposition, and I’m unaware of an surer Orthodox basis than prudential judgments and an inchoate tradition until recent times. And I am aware of at least one Orthodox clergyman who approved contraception the last time the subject came up.

    • Wonderful news! I take considerable comfort from this – as well as more than a tinge of regret for any grief I may have caused.
      I completely agree with you about the need for us to clean up our own house.

  26. Fr. Gregory Jensen says:

    “The first step of this can we not work to make sure our own faithful, and clergy, actually affirm and live what the Church teaches on these matters?”

    Having moved to a new city a year ago with one small Orthodox mission parish, I have gotten to know most of the parishioners in a much more personal way than any of my past Orthodox parishes. As I have said elsewhere, what surprised me the most when getting to know them is how “non-traditional” many of them are. I do not believe it to be an exaggeration to say that intellectually at least you would expect about half of them to be in a mainline church, not Orthodoxy.

    I have also learned that most of them consider me the village traditionalist. I was talking about this with situation with our priest and how it relates to the Church in general and he said something I think applies: We are on a sort of continuum of sorts, in various stages on the way to recovering from the secular mindset.

    This is very difficult as I am sure all of us here can attest to the very powerful temptations that come at us from our culture and our habits of thinking. The secular attitudes from the culture do affect us in many ways we probably don’t even realize.

    So I think Fr. Gregory is right to call us to look toward the planks in our own eyes. That said, it does beg the question as to how we do this “work” as a matter of praxis. I also think that while we sinners are in the Church healing us we also have to remember that the questions of witness to the larger culture still lingers. I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t quite see how Fr. Gregory’s analogy with the Quakers and slavery works this situation.

    Marriage, sexual chastity, children, divorce – all these virtues seem to me to be at once more complicated than the singular issue the legality of slavery. Perhaps not though, in that maybe at the time slavery seemed as daunting and convoluted as these do in our time.

    In any case, Bishop Puhalo being misquoted is not a surprise and points to what one of the purposes of the AOI seems to be to me: What is our situation vis a vis the secular culture/mindset and how do speak to it. Surely we can look to Bishop’s Puhalo misquote (and his own published words on the immorality of “climate change” and the like) for guidance in this.

  27. George Michalopulos :

    I am gratified to hear about this from Vladyka. Perhaps we can ask His Eminence to write a rebuttal on this website so that we are all informed about the inaccuracies and misquotations. This should be a lesson to all Orthodox spokesmen, be careful of the venue in which you speak, as the dinosaur media is not going to be a sympathetic transcriber.

    • Roger Bennett :

      It seems to me that speaking to a group of college students is entirely appropriate, and much of the Archbishop’s message – assuming the Reporter got at least that part right – powerfully contrasted Orthodoxy to some distorted and incomplete religious traditions that surround us.

      I strongly suspect, for instance, that there are spiritually sensitive people, powerfully drawn to the person of Jesus Christ, but unchurched because they are repelled by such things as theories of the atonement that portray Christ’s agonizing crucifixion and death as something that mollified the anger of God the Father. (“He took a lickin’ so that we could keep tickin’,” for those who remember John Cameron Swayzie’s Timex watch ads.) Those folks, as much as Ecclesiology-starved Evangelicals, and probably even more than disgruntled Episcopalians and Lutherans, are good candidates for Orthodoxy. Some of the Archbishop’s comments apparently addressed them.

      Others may be turned off by what sociologist Christopher Smith (I think) called out as “moralistic therapeutic deism” – roughly, that being good is the most important thing, that you can’t be good without God as a sort of booster for the moral immune system – or by the abuse of religion in political causes. Both of these are huge problems (once I heard the brilliant phrase “moralistic therapeutic deism,” I began noticing it everywhere), symptomatic of a secularist worldview in Western Christendom, and it is a good thing, is it not, to let people know that Orthodoxy does not readily lend itself to such distortions?

      You can’t keep reporters from coming to a public meeting that has piqued their interest. But maybe you need to be intentional about collecting the following news reports and correcting misrepresentations or misleading summaries.

  28. cynthia curran :

    Well, I’m glad that he was misquoted. i’m a babyboomer myself and the older I get the more I’m aware of people’s faults.

    • Me, too. I am just a bit south of 50 and experience has tended to surprise me. Most folks have generally failed to live up to the ideals I had the privilege of growing up with. At the same time I have often found surprising virtue in unexpected places. That said, the person who has most disappointed me is me. Despite growing awareness of the depth of my own sinfulness, the saints I have known continue to give me reason for hope. At this point, no textbook, ideal, program or theory – however compelling – could do that; just another reason lived sanctity is so vital – not just to the saint but to those around him or her.

  29. Roger writes: “The “more” I most clearly recall was protected class status in employment, housing, public accommodations and such.”

    Roger, do you believe that any protective status should be given to anyone for their religious beliefs (whether it be Jewish, Mormon, Buddhist, Catholic or Orthodox)? Matters of faith seem to be even more critical distinctions than one’s sexual behavior, and both are lifestyle choices: in terms of morality, I’m not sure that fornication or homosesxual conduct is more wicked than rejecting the divinity of Christ (which all non-Christians do). Yet, the protections in housing and employment remain for them. Is this wrong?

    I know this is an Orthodox blog (I’m more of an RCC in terms of spiritual and moral theology but more Protestant in terms of doctrine), but I’m trying to find out from other believers what degree of influence their religious beliefs should have on civil law. My own idea is that, while our nations founders were influenced heavily by Christian morality as well as philosophical ideals emerging form the Enlightenment, their ideals in terms of governing were to allow for the most freedom and autonomy for the individual.

    • Roger Bennett :


      Religion as a protected class as an analogy to sexual orientation as a protected class is an interesting question. But it is of little use to discuss it with someone who doesn’t understand what protected class status means – and I’m not sure you do, as you have paraphrased this term of art incorrectly.

      My assessment that sexual orientation should not be given protected class status has never been based on any assessment of the relative wickedness of sodomy versus rejecting Christ. It is not based on anything that should be viewed as “religious” at all.

      It is based, first, on my perception, after listening to hours of testimony, that businesses are not discriminating against well-behaved gays and lesbians (presumably because money is green, not lavender or pink).

      It is based, second, on the reality that protected class status for sexual orientation is sought as a badge of moral approval by government – or at least as a sign that sexual behavior is as far beyond government cognizance as is, for instance, religious conviction. As a Burkean sort of conservative, I’m not yet ready to make or endorse such a sweeping and potentially corrosive proposition.

      Your belief that the Founders’ “ideals in terms of governing were to allow for the most freedom and autonomy for the individual” is more mainstream than my curmudgeonly views, essentially having been adopted by the Supreme Court some 16 years ago and acted upon in several cases since. But I still reject it. And if you’re right, I consider it a flaw in the Founders, not a strength.

  30. cynthia curran :

    No orthodox person I know wants to go back to the punishment of castration for homosexuals which was in use during the Eastern Roman Empire.

  31. Paleocon writes: “If you are indeed not ‘claiming that the Church…should govern the civil order,’ then you are, to that extent, a secularist.”

    To what extent is the Church going to guide legislation, and how is it going to do so?

    There are a couple problems:
    a) the Church in America is not just the Orthodox, or Roman Catholics. Of just the Christian varieties, we have Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, evangelicals and other Protestant flavors. Each group has its own ideas of theology and doctrine, and each sect has its own varying set of beliefs on morality. On many things, there seem to be matters over which reasonable people can disagree: the sale of contraception to married couples (or unmarried couples), gambling, the sale of tobacco and alcohol, laws that restrict the types of commerce that can occur on the Sabbath, immigration, gun control, health care, etc.

    If the underlying principle of our civil legislation is enforcing a specific code of ethics, whose beliefs and morals do we utilize?

    b) at what point do such laws infringe on the very freedoms that our Founders set forth as being inalienable rights?

    c) depending on who enacts these laws, some of them may actually impinge on the freedoms of various Churches. Some find gambling of any kind to be a sin: what would outlawing the practice entirely and denying religious exemptions do to Catholic churches and/or schools who use it in some trivial form for fundraising efforts?

    Perhaps these concerns would never come to fruition, I don’t know. However, it seems prudent to limit the scope of how religious ideals alone serve as the guiding principle for civil legislation.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      James, you were told by Roger Bennett you don’t understand some of the concepts you employ. Instead of continuing the argument, ask him what you don’t understand.

  32. cynthia curran :

    Gambling offense, so did the Emperor Justinian. According to John Malalas, he had some gamblers hands cut off. He thought gambling led people to curse God when they would not win a game. Southern Bapists don’t go that far.

  33. Michael Bauman :

    Maybe I’m dense, but I wonder what the degree of influence over the government by the institutional church has to do with salvation?

    Is it not rather that the culure and the government reflect the spiritual state of people (or lack thereof)? Government and culture reflect the orientation of the people.

    So, the hedonistic orientation of today’s culture reflects the hedonism of us, especially those of us who profess Christ.

    Our laws will reflect a Christian understanding when we are Chrisitan, not before.

    • You are correct in putting the cart before the horse. That said, how do Christians speak to the culture and how does their Christianity affect their participation in the governance of the polis?

      Short of the second coming, not everyone will be Christian before my death. So what do I do in the meantime with the above questions?

      Also, since Christians are in various “states” or “stages” of working out their own salvation (and thus are not fully “Christian” in the sense you appear to mean it), what are we to do with the above questions?

      Simply retreating into the “Christian ghetto” is one answer, but not one I agree with or is even possible if the government/culture won’t let you do it (history shows they usually don’t for very long), so again what does one do with the above questions?

  34. In response to Roger, then: my understanding of a protected class is that it is simply a construct used by the government to group people into various classifications, some of which are based on immutable characteristics and others which are not. If it can be proven that an employer or landlord discriminated against someone on the basis of these characteristics alone, civil action could be taken against them.

    Members of a protected class may or may not have historically been on the receiving end of institutionalized discrimination. (I cannot recall reading of a particular period when Jews or Catholics found difficulty acquiring work, for example, at least in this country.)

    Is this not correct?

    On the one hand, I think employers need to be given some leniency for selecting people they think will be a fit for their particular organization, and this often includes many intangibles. I reject the use of quotas. I also don’t think that being a member of any protected class should grant any person special privileges: if one’s religious beliefs or sexual preference (or whatever) somehow causes discord at the workplace or otherwise impedes one’s or others’ ability to do their jobs, it should not make that employee immune from dismissal or other disciplinary action.

    On the other hand, I think employees need to be judged on their performance and ability to collaborate with the rest of their co-workers only, and that it would be unjust to dismiss someone because of their lawful choices in exercising their personal beliefs and freedoms, whatever they may happen to be.

    • Roger Bennett :

      I hadn’t intended to re-enter this discussion, but since I’ve been invoked by name, by Fr. Johannes himself, I guess I’m obliged. (Father Jonannes was one of my cyber-mentors on my road to Orthodoxy via the old eo-list.)

      James is roughly right about the meaning of “protected class” – too close to quibble at present. But the government creates a protected class for “religion,” not for “Jews or Catholics.” And rightly or wrongly, it was perceived that there had been considerable discrimination on the basis of religion that led to some religious groups being significantly disadvantaged. Ditto “race” and “national origin.”

      Apropos of Comment 31, I’m not sure I agree with Paleocon, but I’m almost positive that that James is oversimplifying with his musings about the legal ramifications of some religions forbidding what others allow.

      Apart from a relatively few things the law used to call mala prohibita (wrong because it’s forbidden; e.g., which side of the road will it be decreed that people drive on?) , most of the law deals with things perceived as malum in se (wrong in and of themselves). That’s ethics, and it’s pretty silly – no, make that pernicious – to insist that religious people, and only religious people, are required to set aside their deepest convictions about reality and synthesize an alternative public ethic based on something “secular.” As someone once put it, secularists can take public positions based on John Dewey, but Christians can’t take public positions based on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (I would prefer “John Dewey’s anthropology” versus “Christian anthropology” as a better formulation, but that’s not how I recall it being phrased.)

      We can legitimately ask of religious people, in my opinion, that they not impose their particular sectarian disciplines on the whole society. Thus, if the Orthodox were a majority, we should not ban the sale of meat, fish, dairy and oil during the great fasts. But the “law of the land,” as decreed by The Supremes in Employment Division v. Smith, is essentially that a law is not unconstitutional on free exercise grounds, either on its face or as applied to a particular religious group, if it is applied across the board. So it would be legitimate to forbid all gambling, even if it constrained a Catholic Church and School fundraisers, if the law contained no exemptions for anyone else.

      That has not been nearly as bad in practice as I feared it would be, since thus far, the efforts to mau-mau particular unpopular religions (e.g., Santeria) have been undone by the carving out of exceptions for more mainstream groups – as when Hialeah Florida forbade ritual animal sacrifice but exempted Kosher butchery.

      May I now suggest that we’ve gone awfully far afield from Abp. Lazar Puhalo’s reported remarks at a college in Maine?

  35. Roger, thanks for the clarification. My intent was to point out (albeit in a very roundabout way) that there might not be reason to find scandal in Abp. Puhalo’s remarks.

    I’ve listened to a number of his commentaries online: he seems to have a deep respect for Scripture and orthodox Christianity (I don’t see him as a “loose cannon”, as one poster described him). He does this while avoiding an overt politicization (liberal or conservative) of the Gospel, which in the end serves as a more authentic witness, in my humble opinion.

    • Roger Bennett :

      Had he said it, I think his supposed support for same-sex marriage would be scandalous because I cannot imagine one who holds any sound Christian anthropology thinking that SSM contributes to human thriving.

  36. Marriage had always meant mother-making, and it was (keyword) an institution actively controlled by the religious institutions in the past, as in it was never in the civil sphere of influence (or the state took a passive role). In modern times it has entered into the civil aspects of society, and is an institution of the state, being AFFIRMED by the religious institutions. The state recognizes the churches authority to grant marriage, but the church does not have to do the same. In both cases the civil authorities still grant marriage (civil union).

    But the word marriage has become a misnomer for society, as it refers only to the religious aspect of the union and its original meaning. The word has gained a multitude of more meanings and the individuals involved have gained EXTRA CIVIL RIGHTS (which the church should have no authority over, the church is not of this world but of the next, Render unto Caesar…). All Marriages done in the church are both a marriage (the proper meaning) and a civil union (after its been affirmed by the state).

    Case in point: why does a “marriage” done outside of the church in a civil court, have to be later “redone” in the church? (I had a friend who had to do that) Or: A divorced couple outside of the church are still married in the church. The answer is obvious, they are two separate things altogether! The error is to refer to both as “marriage”.

    What I believe Fr. Lazar is talking about is the fact that we cannot take claim to the word “Marriage” as it is erroneously, vaguely and popularly used. He is not subverting marriage (the sacrament) in the church. I feel he is reaffirming it. That can only be done by clearly delineating between the terms marriage and civil union, as the two have become dangerously intermingled. The church should not interfere in matters that are of the civil world and the civil authorities must not interfere in the matters of the church. This has been the status quo, and always should be.

    Confusion in regards to the term “marriage” will only lead to sanctions on the church. What the church should champion in the coming future should be clarity in regards to the popular usage of the term “marriage”, vague terminology is the most pressing and dangerous challenge to this most holy sacrament of the church.

Care to Comment?