September 20, 2014

65 Orthodox Church Bishops Call on Obama to ‘Rescind’ the ‘Unjust’ Contraception Mandate

Source: LifeSite News

NEW YORK, NY, February 6, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The 65 canonical bishops of the Orthodox Church have asked President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to repeal the mandate that religious institutions provide birth control, sterilization, and Plan B abortion drugs in their health care coverage.

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America – which represents 12 Orthodox jurisdictions and three million Orthodox Christians in the United States – issued a press release last Thursday calling the HHS ruling a violation of religious conscience.

“The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion,” the statement says. “This freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for ‘contraceptive services’ including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions.”

“Providing such services should not be regarded as mandated medical care. We, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, call upon HHS Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration to rescind this unjust ruling and to respect the religious freedom guaranteed all Americans by the First Amendment.”

The bishops urged the faithful to take action. The statement calls upon “all the Orthodox Christian faithful to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience.”

Influential leaders in the Orthodox Church expressed their appreciation that the bishops had spoken out. “The statement issued by the Orthodox bishops reflects a welcome voice in the public square that has too often been silent due to our unhappy divisions as American Orthodox Christians,” said Fr. Chad Hatfield, the president of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Syosset, New York, in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com.

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble, an Orthodox priest and writer in Massachusetts agreed, “I don’t think we should shy about controversial topics.” Fr. Preble wrote an article in The Huffington Post asking the hierarchy of his church to publicly address the subject. “This seemed to be more of a national issue that the bishops as a whole had to say something about, and they weren’t, and I was afraid we were losing ground,” he told LifeSiteNews.com. “The Roman Catholic bishops were carrying the majority water on this issue and taking the brunt of the heat, and I just thought we had to do something.”

After reading the statement, Fr. Preble said, “I’m very pleased with the fact that [the bishops] did speak out, and I hope that this is the start of other statements that they will make about other issues, as well.”

The nation’s Orthodox Christians join a growing number of non-Catholics who had officially opposed the contraception mandate, which religious institutions will be required to observe by next August. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on his

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last Tuesday that any law requiring people of faith to violate their conscience “is not only a Catholic issue…our religious liberty is being similarly subverted and attacked.”

Late last year 60 religious leaders, mostly Protestants as well as two Orthodox Jewish spokesmen, signed a letter to President Obama, stating, “It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients.”

The Orthodox Church is the second largest church in the world. The North American bishops posted their press release last Thursday, the date Orthodox Christians celebrate the presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple.

Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America was traveling and was not immediately available for comment.

The statement reads in full:

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, which is comprised of the 65 canonical Orthodox bishops in the United States, Canada and Mexico, join their voices with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and all those who adamantly protest the recent decision by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and call upon all the Orthodox Christian faithful to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience.

In this ruling by HHS, religious hospitals, educational institutions, and other organizations will be required to pay for the full cost of contraceptives (including some abortion-inducing drugs) and sterilizations for their employees, regardless of the religious convictions of the employers.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. This freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for “contraceptive services” including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions. Providing such services should not be regarded as mandated medical care. We, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, call upon HHS Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration to rescind this unjust ruling and to respect the religious freedom guaranteed all Americans by the First Amendment.

Contact Information:
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America

Comments

  1. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    isaac says:

    This is a start, but I don’t believe Obama is backing down on this one until he is in serious danger of losing an election over it. It needs more teeth.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    The loss of Catholic votes is the real threat. I don’t think the Catholic Church is going to implement the policies either. If the HHS does not rescind the rules, we enter a period of civil disobedience warned about in the Manhattan Declaration.

  3. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Here’s a question I have, however. There was considerable criticism towards the Orthodox signers of the Manhattan Declaration when it first came out. I was one of them, and I signed it because I saw at the time that efforts to blunt the authority of those who held and taught the precepts of the moral tradition was inevitable. Radical secularism allows no prisoners. Now I wonder how do they interpret the HHS mandates?

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    Andrew says:

    If I were to make a prediction going forward, I would guess the following. This press release is excellent as is the statement of the EA, however looking from the inside, this press release also shows that 79th Street has lost control over the whole HHS ruling issue. People rose up and spoke their consciences and the EA was compelled to act or else endure a couple of rounds of bad publicity.

    Traditionally speaking 79th Street does not like to enter into the culture wars so I have to believe all of the events on this blog and with the EA make them very uncomfortable. After all if your primary focus is Greek political issues and getting access to the present political power structure then lining up with Catholic bishops and the pro-lifers is not a smart move. And of course the last thing you want as the annual Greek Independence Day party with Obama approaches is to have the GOA bishops cast in the same light as folks the Archbishop Dolan of New York or Bishop Zubnik of Pittsburgh.

    Now my prediction is that we will see a move by the EA or the GOA Eparchial synod that puts some distance between the Orthodox and others on this issue. This move will also attempt to placate the Obama adminstration by indirectly saying “we are not like those people”. It will stress “enlightened Orthodox tradition” and cultural disengagement.

    I would look for some type of statement by the EA/GOA or Church and Society Commission that claims this whole issue has gotten too heated and out of control. The statement will praise vague things like dialogue and a “more excellent way”. It will say things like the Orthodox must take the high road and point out that political activism by Orthodox is not appropriate and not “Orthodox”. It will also slip some praise in for the political powers that their intentions are in the right place and that the real problem is all these right-wing Catholics, Orthodox, and evangelicals.

    Again, There is simply no way 79th Street allows this issue to escalate and for GOA bishops to continue to mentioned along the same lines as Roman Catholic leaders like Dolan, Chaput and Zubnik along with evangelicals like Colson and Moehler. 79th Street needs to reclaim its liberal outlook or risk losing some its political access.

    Anyone think I am crazy on this one?

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      I think you are right on the mark. There is an internal contradiction in the GOA (and to a lesser extent some other jurisdictions) that events like the HHS mandate will lift into focus: the teaching of the Ecumenical Patriarch on abortion has ramifications that serve secular fundamentalism. They are being pushed into a corner where either a break with the letter and spirit of the EA proclamation has to be made, or the teaching has to be repudiated.

      The “more excellent way” so far has been the way of obfuscation, an appeal to tolerance that in fact fosters the greater intolerance of the kind the Obama administration hopes to promulgate. It isn’t going to work; a warning we gave a while back but one they have so far refused to heed.

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        Andrew says:

        Father, you wrote the following:

        They are being pushed into a corner where either a break with the letter and spirit of the EA proclamation has to be made, or the teaching has to be repudiated.

        You forget option #3 which is go after the messenger on this issue. That is paint those pushing pro-life issues and issues of conscience as crazy fundamentalists and disrespectul fanatics who do not reflect “the mind of the Church”.

        This option is very much a reality in my mind and we have already seen a glimpse of it here with the episcopal response to Fr. Peter.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          Yes, but those cannot survive a direct challenge. They serve only to clarify the picture even further if answered responsibly.

          The “mind of the Church” (a concept I find fuzzy overall) is crystal clear on the sanctity of life if we take the Fathers at their word.

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            Geo Michalopulos says:

            Andrew, I don’t know how the Wonder Boys of 79th Street are going to weasel out of this one without looking worse for the wear. I only know two things: 1) they didn’t want to be in this position, and 2) their financial backers are perturbed that things turned out this way. Neither the GOA functionaries/hierarchy or the Leadership 100 bunch have the internal moxie to act appropriately.

            Compare them with the Catholic Church –hierarchy and laity. They know that the Obamacare strictures are wrong pure and simple? Why? Because for them abortion, et al are no-brainers. It’s not even an issue. Sure, there are cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose what they want to believe and practice, but they have no access to the levers of power the Catholicism. Plus, we know that what they believe is what they believe. The fundamental moral theology of the Roman Church is not up for debate. If you don’t want to uphold it that’s your business, you can even leave the Church but you can’t dictate the terms of the debate.

            We Orthodox here in America aren’t comfortable with that because our collective brain-power is lacking. Right now they are literally floundering. Some don’t even know the difference between a miscarriage and an abortion. It’s sad.

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    isaac says:

    It needs to be acknowledged that a big part of the problem in all of this is Catholic duplicity. Probably the majority of people who call themselves Catholic use contraception and actually support this ruling. When the CC failed to uphold its own teachings internally (keeping all people who contracept from the communion cup) they left themselves wide open for this kind of an attack. The CC is a house divided against itself and this is why it is very vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      …and so are we isaac, and so are we over matter far deeper than chemical contraception.

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      Bill Congdon says:

      isaac, it’s easy to condemn, harder to discern. Yes, many Catholics follow the spirit of the times and use contraception. But the bishops have stood unanimously against the mandate, and many of the laity with them. Our stand is very firm. Read some of the recent articles by George Wiegel on National Review. My church is not divided against itself on this issue. Some of the misguided laity have diverged.

  6. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Andrew says:

    PURE SPECULATION TIME: What would happen if Obama did something like charge Archbishop Demetrios who is a member of his committee on faith based activities with chairing a committee to work out a “compromise” or “common ground” on this issue through “dialogue”? i can see the president trying to dial this down by playing such a card and I can see Orthodox bishops falling for this trap if it is offered to them.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      We call them on it.

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        Geo Michalopulos says:

        Of course we call him on it. But that’s a hypthetical that will not happen. Why? Because the GOA is no longer a serious player in American Christendom. It’s possible it could have been had Arb Iakovos been allowed to remain as primate but even that’s iffy, given that the retrenchment to the ethnic core commenced while during the last years of his tenure. Bottom line: such a confab would never happen.

        Consider: even after certain rogue elements within the OCA did their dead-level best last year to became a Bohunk version of the GOA (and almost succeeded), the Catholic Church recognizes that certain Christian traditions “get it” and some don’t. The GOA has never “gotten it” in the things that really matter. That’s why Met Jonah was invited to open the March for Life. This was worked out weeks in advance and the Catholic Church was signalling important messages to both Moscow and Istanbul. Get on the train or get out of the way. Moscow has been on this train for years. Istanbul doesn’t even know where the train station is.

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          Michael Bauman says:

          Even if Obama rescinds the ruling, he wins the war as long as the nefarious and anti-liberty health care deform is still law. It would be a wise political move that would go along way to silencing the religious opposition if Obama were sacrafice Sebalius and say, “Opps, I’m sorry, you’ve got what you want”. He won’t do that because he is not a pragmatic politician but a convinced ideolog.

          The opposition is to narrow, too parochial and therefore too easily co-opted.

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            Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

            I’m not so sure Michael. I think this is focusing a larger disgust with the contemptuous disregard of this administration to anyone who thinks differently than they do. I read today foreign countries are picking up on the objections are are telling Hillary that her push for homosexual rights (she moved it to the center of American foreign policy) is a attack on their freedom of religion. Religion and morality are being seen as linked here, a very good development so far.

  7. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Andrew says:

    It will be interesting to see what the EA and various Orthodox Jurisdictions do after Obama’s rope-a-dope speech on this issue today in which he seemingly offered some concessions. My prediction still stands 79th street does not want to deal with this issue so close to Greek Ind. Day at the White House. Therefore they will once behave like a lawn chair and fold. They are not going to endure being potrayed with Catholic bishops on this issue for long.

  8. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Michael Bauman says:

    The Obama ruling is a distinction without a difference. It is an un-Constitutional usurption of power to the central governement and the executive branch. Obama is fundamentally a dictator. He will continue to push for the total annihilation of all consciences clauses, abortion on demand and the exclusion of the voice of traditional faith from the public square as he has done his entire polticial life.

    Once the prophectic voice is officially irrelevant regarding public policy, direct persecution is not even needed, although the intrinsic hatred for Christ that is in the hearts of these folk will not allow them to leave us alone even though we have become merely the anachronistic anomalies and can be ignored.

    Let’s see, if health care is a basic human right that ought to be freely avaiable to all (through taxation) which includes the indiscriminate slaughter of children in the womb, then so is housing, food, clothes, schools, sex, cars, cell phones, computers, the internet etc., etc., etc. Let it be written, let it be done. It is all chiliasm and we acquiese and agree to our peril.

    Of course, sooner or later, the governement (for the good of all) will have to take measures to reduce the surplus population of elderly and other non-productive human units and while they are at it, shoot just take over the job of breeding an appropriate number of replacement units in the right productivity slots as needed.

    But, hey, nobody would really do that even though they have the power to do it would they? Naw…..of course not.

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