September 23, 2014

A Patriarch who ‘Generally Speaking, Respects Human Life’

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By John Couretas

Reading Andrew Estocin’s fine essay, “Constantinople’s Moral Oversight,” I was reminded once again of the long running institutional silence — a scandal really — from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese on sanctity of life issues. But that attitude of indifference comes down from the top — the Phanar.

Here is a direct quotation from a July 20, 1990, article, “SF Shows Off Its Ecumenical Spirit,” in the San Francisco Chronicle. Metropolitan Bartholomais of Chalcedon is the current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Asked the Orthodox church’s position on abortion, Bartholomais described a stand more liberal than that of the Roman Catholic Church, which condemns abortion in all cases and whose clergy have, in some cities, excommunicated leading pro-choice Catholics.

Although the Orthodox church believes the soul enters the body at conception and, ”generally speaking, respects human life and the continuation of pregnancy,” Bartholomais said, the church also ”respects the liberty and freedom of all human persons and all Christian couples.”

”We are not allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian couples,” he said. ”We cannot generalize. There are many reasons for a couple to go toward abortion.”

On the issues of sanctity of life and sexual morality it appears that this patriarch is something of a libertarian. Keep the government (and the priests) out of our bedrooms! On the environment, however, the patriarch is decidedly a believer in grand super-governmental, trans-national solutions, a la the United Nations. Why do greenhouse gas emissions elicit so much moral outrage, but the fate of the unborn meets with silence or evasions?

The quote from the 1990 San Francisco Chronicle story, reproduced below in its entirety with an associated Internet forum discussion, cannot be dismissed as an off-hand comment, a misquote, or a twisting of the patriarch’s true sentiments. He said much the same thing in “Conversations With Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I,” a book by Olivier Clement published in 1997 by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. This is from a section titled “Love and the Church” (p. 128-129):

Love is not justified by the bearing of children, but the child is the normal consequence of the superabundance of love. Do not expect from a patriarch orders or prohibitions about how to love each other! As both Bartholomew and his predecessor, Athenagoras, have stated: if a man and a woman truly love one another, I have no business in their bedroom! Regarding birth control methods, they have their own consciences, their physician, their spiritual father to guide them. It is not my business.

As for abortion, this is always profoundly dramatic for a woman and deeply injures her femininity. For this reason, abortion for the sake of convenience is, we cannot deny it, extremely serious and must be strongly discouraged. But there are situations of extreme distress when abortion can be a lesser evil, as, for example, when the life of the future mother is in danger. In a number of cases, the woman is less responsible that the man, who either commits rape or simply abandons her; or she is less responsible than a society in which the children of the poor are massacred or mutilated to harvest their organs, as happens in many places. The woman needs help, needs reconciliation, needs the healing of her body, of course, but also of her soul. And, when there is yet time, she, together with her child must be offered assistance — this is the duty of the Church, of the Churches.

Certainly, the patriarch is right in identifying the man who pressures a woman for an abortion as culpable. But note what is missing in both of these quotes: An absolute silence about the fate of the unborn. Yes, abortion is surely “dramatic” for the life terminated in the womb, isn’t it? But where is the “reconciliation” for the life destroyed? It is also an inexcusable dodge to shift the personal responsibility for this grave sin to “society.” What, or who, is that? Does “society” drive the pregnant woman and the father of an unborn child to an abortion clinic?

Even more equivocations and confusion-making in Bartholomew’s 2008 book, “Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today” (p. 150):

I also encounter many and diverse issues related to the sanctity of life from birth through death. Those issues range from sensitive matters of sexuality to highly controversial questions like the death penalty. In all such social and moral issues, it is not one or another position that the Orthodox Church seeks to promote in a defensive spirit. Indeed, we would normally refrain from expounding a single rigidly defined dogma on social and moral challenges. Rather, it is the sacredness of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God, that the Church at all times seeks to underline.

Did Bartholomew anywhere here make a positive statement about the moral teachings? God forbid that Orthodox Christians should adopt a “defensive spirit” on moral questions. But who will defend the defenseless if the Church does not? If a clear teaching on the sanctity of life and, more importantly, actualizing that teaching in our witness to American society, is dismissed as morally “rigid,” then we are simply lost as a Church.

This is not merely an interesting philosophical or theological problem. The Phanar’s moral failure on witnessing to life issues has a concrete effect on the lives our our faithful and especially our youth in the largest Orthodox Church in America. The youth have been cut adrift. The “spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians” is telling our youth that the Orthodox Church “refrains” from clear teachings on social and moral questions. And little wonder that so many Orthodox Christian young people have absolutely no idea what the Church’s teachings are on marriage, sexuality, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cells and other important life issues.

Is Bartholomew aware that questions about abortion funding and conscience rights are at issue in the current U.S. health care debate? Perhaps, but when the patriarch and GOA leaders meet with President Obama in the days ahead, and when they break bread with Biden, Pelosi, Reid, Clinton and other progressive elites, you can be sure that there won’t be any difficult and “rigid” moral questions on the agenda. After the patriarch blesses the table, the polite conversation will once again turn to Greek “national issues.” Perhaps the patriarch, or some promising young archimandrite from the Phanariote retinue, will demand with the proper measure of moral outrage that Washington force the Macedonians to stop calling their country Macedonia. Or perhaps, over brandy and cigars, one of the GOA bishops will say, wistfully, “You know, that President Obama really reminds me of Alexander the Great.”

Now, listen to a faithful Orthodox Christian who has labored on the front lines of the great struggle to protect the sanctity of life. This link (select the Real Video option) will take you to the presentation offered by Paula Kappos of Zoe for Life!, to the bishops at the 2006 SCOBA conference in Chicago. Watch the video. It will break your heart.

Kappos related a story about calling a local crisis pregnancy center and telling them that she represented an Orthodox Christian pro-life organization:

When we spoke with them on the phone, they nearly jumped through the phone line in their excitement to talk to us. And we couldn’t understand why and we asked them.

They told us that our [Orthodox] abortion numbers are higher than the national norm, as reported in the media. Well, frankly, we didn’t believe them. And we asked them why.

They said we have two major strikes against us as strong ethnic communities and strong religious communities. And that our children would seek abortion as a means to escape the eye of their parents and grandparents and the embarrassment that it would bring to their families.

Well, I have to tell you, I didn’t believe them. I went back to Fr. Stephen and I asked him, “have you heard about women in crisis pregnancies?” and he said, “Yes, all the time. But in confession, after the abortion had been committed and the child had been lost.”

Well obviously, this galvanized all of us into action and we began to meet to see where we could make a difference.

Kappos told the bishops that, “there are at least two victims in every abortion. The child and his mother. Because she truly feels she has no other option. Zoe was founded to offer her life saving options.”

She also gave the bishops some advice:

If we don’t talk to our children and give them the Orthodox view of pure living, what God wants from each of us, regardless of our marital status, there is no way that they can have any sense of balance or what they’re supposed to do. We have to talk to our children.

Then Kappos ended her talk with a quote from Abba Theodorus, a Church Father who would probably take a dim view of any bishop who offered double-talk instead of clarity on grave moral questions:

It is up to us now either to bury our conscience under the ground or to have it shine forth and illuminate as if we obey it. When our conscience says to us, “do this,” and we treat it with contempt, or it says it again and we refuse, then we are trampling it down, burying it underground. Thus it cannot speak to us clearly because of the weight upon it.

—————————–
Background:

The San Francisco Chronicle
JULY 20, 1990, FRIDAY, FINAL EDITION
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A1

SF Shows Off Its Ecumenical Spirit
Church leaders welcome head of Orthodox Christianity

Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer

Pope Leo IX (1048-54) and Patriarch Michael I (1043-58) would be shocked.

There was Roman Catholic Archbishop John Quinn kneeling down to kiss the ring of Orthodox Patriarch Dimitrios I — only 936 years after leaders of the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople excommunicated each other in the Great Schism of 1054.

Quinn, the archbishop of San Francisco, made his gesture yesterday at an extraordinary ecumenical meeting between Dimitrios, the archbishop of Constantinople and world leader of Orthodox Christianity, and a dozen Bay Area religious leaders.

Actually, the 11th century ecclesiastical curses that flew between Rome and Constantinople, which refused to acknowledge the primacy of the Roman pope, were formally lifted in 1965.

Nevertheless, the two largest and most ancient branches of Christianity remain separate — a division religious leaders in San Francisco are trying to heal in their own small way.

Quinn said it is ”quite extraordinary” that the Orthodox Patriarchate has invited him to preach with Dimitrios at a 10 a.m. worship service tomorrow at Davies Symphony Hall.

”His Holiness’ visit heightens the consciousness of all of us to pursue the road of deeper Christian unity,” Quinn said in an interview.

Episcopal Bishop William Swing, in formal remarks yesterday to Dimitrios at the Greek Orthodox Diocesan House in St. Francis Wood, said he hopes the patriarch will ”feel the ecumenical spirit that abides in the Bay Area.”

United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert of San Francisco, a leading force in the National Council of Churches, said the presence of the Orthodox churches in that group helps provide ”balance” to the ecumenical movement. The Roman Catholic Church does not belong to the National Council of Churches.

KEY DIFFERENCES

Talbert said Orthodox and Protestant leaders ”struggle over the role of women in the church,” but he said working together is a way to ”learn how to get along with other people in the world.” Most Protestant denominations, unlike the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, allow the ordination of women.

Dimitrios said his visit has helped him understand the unique ”social and spiritual environment in which you are called to do your work.”

”But at the same time it must be confessed that contemporary societies, with their material comforts and advanced technology, also offer, unfortunately, the means of greater barrenness and erosion of the spirit,” said Dimitrios, speaking through a translator at the breakfast meeting. ”This explains why the occupations of psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and the like are flourishing.”

Dimitrios, 75, has given no news conferences or media interviews since his July 2 arrival in the United States, although the man described by church sources as his ”heir apparent” did meet the press yesterday.

‘NO HYPOCRISY’

”His All Holiness has been impressed with the simplicity and openness of the American people and with their deep Christian faith,” said Metropolitan Bartholomais of Chalcedon, the patriarch’s closest aide. ”There is no hypocrisy. There is a sincereness and simplicity that must be proper to all Christians.”

Asked the Orthodox church’s position on abortion, Bartholomais described a stand more liberal than that of the Roman Catholic Church, which condemns abortion in all cases and whose clergy have, in some cities, excommunicated leading pro-choice Catholics.

Although the Orthodox church believes the soul enters the body at conception and, ”generally speaking, respects human life and the continuation of pregnancy,” Bartholomais said, the church also ”respects the liberty and freedom of all human persons and all Christian couples.”

”We are not allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian couples,” he said. ”We cannot generalize. There are many reasons for a couple to go toward abortion.”

Also joining Dimitrios at yesterday’s ecumenical gathering were Bishop Lyle Miller of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; Rabbi Malcolm Sparer, president of the Northern California Board of Rabbis; and officials representing the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Society of Friends, San Francisco Evangelical Association, the Reform Church of America, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After the meeting, Dimitrios, who is considered the ”first among equals” of Orthodox Patriarchs representing 200 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, headed for Stockton for a parish visit.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=3282.45

While he is in the neighborhood, will Patriarch Bartholomew answer the question posed to him by Father Edward Pehanich in the quoted post below?

(This came to my attention by this post in Orthodox-Forum)

“Dear Constantine,

If the Patriarch’s allowance of abortion concerned such Abnormalities as ectopic pregnancies, then nobody would think twice about it. But the Patriarch has given his carte blanche blessing for couples to make the decision to abort perfectly healthy babies in the womb.

Here are his words:

“Although the Orthodox Church believes the soul
enters the body at conception and, generally
speaking, respects human life and the continuation
of the pregnancy,” Bartholomew said, the church
also “respects the liberty and freedom of all human
persons and all Christian couples. . . .We are not
allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian
couples,” he also said. “We cannot generalize.
There are many reasons for a couple to go toward
abortion.”

I understand that Fr Dr Edward Pehanich (ACROD, founder of Orthodox Christians For Life) who reported all this in an article in oclife.org http://www.oclife.org/vnine.pdf has sought clarification or retraction from His Divine All-Holiness.

As for those who doubt that the Patriarch was honestly reported, why would Fr Edward Pehanich who holds a prominent position in ACROD highlight these remarks in the Orthodox Christians for Life magazine if they were unreliable, thereby antagonising his supreme spiritual authority in the Phanar. I’d say he’s a brave and honest priest.

And Fr Anthony Nelson, a prominent ROCA priest in the Right to Life
Movement, has written:

We at Oklahoma Orthodox Christians for Life also wrote both to the
Patriarchate and the GOA requesting comments/clarification of the comments At the time. Our requests went unanswered.

Fr. Anthony

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Protopriest Anthony Nelson
St. Benedict Russian Orthodox Church
Oklahoma City, OK USA 405-672-1441
Source:https://listserv.indiana.edu/cgi-bin/wa-iub.exe?A2=ind0701D&L=ORTHODOX&D=0&m=998\
15&P=6149

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=23615.0

Comments

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    George Michalopulos says:

    John, thanks for highlighting this. There’s nothing that can be said but what the Apostle James wrote in his Epistle: “Beward the double-minded man, he is unstable in all his ways.”

  2. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Greg says:

    This article reminded me of the shifting position of the Southern Baptist Convention over a 32 year period.

    In 1971 they passed a resolution that called upon “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”

    Over the next three decades they passed 20 resolutions on abortion related topics, not fully seeing the heinous nature of their earlier action until 2003 when they admitted that the 1971 resolution “accepted unbiblical premises of the abortion rights movement.” They confessed that they were “forfeiting the opportunity to advocate the protection of defenseless women and children.”

    And then, in 2003 (finally), they:

    “… RESOLVED, That we (Southern Baptists) lament and renounce statements and actions by previous Conventions and previous denominational leadership that offered support to the abortion culture; and be it further

    RESOLVED, That we humbly confess that the initial blindness of many in our Convention to the enormity of Roe v. Wade should serve as a warning to contemporary Southern Baptists of the subtlety of the spirit of the age in obscuring a biblical worldview…”

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      Christopher says:

      I have said it before and will say it again, If I were not Orthodox I would be a Southern Baptist. I have a soft spot for congregationalism (No confused/modernist leaning EP’s to carry around). Sure, the SBC sometimes lead with a “fundamentalist” sounding left jab, but actions like this repentance reveal a good heart and sound core Christianity despite the heresies.

      I have attended enough SB sermons with family to appreciate the homiletics (which is NOT all charisma and emotionalism). The Gospel is not only preached, but preached better than most Orthodox churches I have been to. One of the attractions of Orthodoxy to me in the beginning was the canonical injunction that the Priest has to preach on the Gospel reading that Sunday, and not on whatever strikes his fancy that week. Unfortunately, I have sat through a number of sermons that barely paid any attention to this injunction.

      I believe that in the coming 100 years or so as our secular culture becomes more aggressive and Christianity is more and more marginalized, the SB will prove better able to stand against and speak to the prevailing winds than the Orthodox. The trend in Orthodoxy in America at least is more, not less acquiescence to the culture in my opinion. There is a reason this EP sounds like an Episcopalian on the moral issues of the day.

      Thanks Greg for pointing this out history of the SB out.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Greg, isn’t it fascinating that the Southern Baptists could admit in writing that they were mistaken at one time? Has anyone ever seen a similar admition of wrongdoing by any of the Phanariote-controlled churches? Isn’t that a shame?

    Think of it, in the GOA, during every Great Lent, are called to “repent” by our priests reading some encyclical from a bishop. Yet these same bishops and their coteries of theologians, functionaries, and whatnot, never once admit that maybe the hierarchy was ever wrong about anything. I’m not talking specifically about abortion here, just anything at all.

    Doesn’t it make you wonder? Do they think that we GOA laymen don’t absorb this unseriousness? We may not consciously think it, but I’m sure its inchoate. Maybe this is where nominalism comes from.

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    Fr. Peter says:

    I am shocked but I don’t know why I am. I should not surprised by anything that happens at the $Phanar$ It is all about money and sucking up to politicians that can forward their narrow minded agenda that has nothing to do with Orthodox Christianity. Tell me Patriarch after you abort all the babies who will care if the world is green or not, it will be running red with the blood of the innocent you stood by and watched get murdered. Shame, Shame, Shame! You have lost all moral authority in my mind. Shame, Shame, Shame!

    • Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
      Greg says:

      who will care if the world is green or not, it will be running red with the blood of the innocent

      THIS should be a discussion topic at every environmental forum.

      (I just noticed that on my computer screen, on the right-hand side of this com-box, is a quick-link to the story “Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: ‘Humans have lost their original humanity.’)

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

    John, this is a wonderful post that is well documented and outlines the thinking of the EP as it truly is.

    What is truly sad is that the EP believes some groups of people have rights and some do not.

    I wonder how the EP would answer the question “When do children receive their human rights?”

    Is it safe to say we have a pro-choice Patriarch in Constantinople?

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

    John, this was a very well-done and thorough post. My deep hope is that HAH will soon correct the mistaken quote. As we saw with Archbishop LAZAR, Fr. Edward was right to seek clarification and correction of the apparent public record. Given the gravity of the subject, a quick response is certainly warranted (though the distortions of a SF journalist may not rise to the EP’s highest level of priority).

    Needless to say, no leader of the Orthodox Church can or should convey the notion that there is any part of life in which we do not need to be faithful to God. Such a position would, it seems to me, compromise their standing as a faithful Christian, let alone a leader in the Church. I look forward to a unequivocal contradiction of the suggestion that there are any conditions or situations in which the clear teaching of the Church can be dismissed or in which the convenience of the couple takes precedence over the will of God.

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    Very Rev. Edward Pehanich says:

    I consider myself a loyal priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and am proud of the ministry and witness of His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew in the face of frequent threats of violence and death. However I am beyond embarrassed and horrified by his “winking” at abortion. I am embarrased to be Orthodox when I face co-workers in the pro-life movement. Our witness to the unchanging truth of Orthodoxy before Roman Catholics and Protestants in pro-life work becomes a joke!

    Our people need and want guidance from us! They want the hard truth rather than easy lies! Even if they resist what we have to say, it is our responsibility to preach the truth. The Prophet Jeremiah lamented over the shepherds of Israel who were like “dogs who would not bark”.

    I am so very proud of my own bishop, Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos, a loyal hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who has for many years been very vocal in teaching his priests and faithful on the issues surrounding the sanctity of life.

    For clarification, I never requested clarification from the Patriarch on his comments reported in the San Francisco press knowing that I was highly unlikely to receive a reply.

    Fr. Edward Pehanich

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    Christopher says:

    I would be curious to hear from Paleocon, Fr. John and others who believe the majority of posters on this site are ungenerous and reactionary towards the EP. Are we reading too much into these statements? Are we overreaching in when we see a pattern being revealed in his moral positions that reveals a genuine confusion about Christian anthropology and morality – a confusion that just happens to look allot like a “liberal” protestant/modernist position? Can we now say that this is beyond a misguided political ambition or lack of clarity in dealing with the press and admit something deeper.

    I am reminded of the “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”…

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    Andrew says:

    I was thinking that it is quite possible that you can apply the EP’s moral reasoning to justify adultery and polygamy. His do-what-you-will attitude really leads to all types of moral hijinks……

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    Andrew says:

    Alert! EP editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Monday. Its already online.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Abortion is not a matter of “the bedroom.” Abortions don’t take place in bedrooms. They take place in abortuaries.

    We can’t simply reduce the morality of abortion to a matter of private opinion since the reduction encompasses other issues where the value of the human person is in question such as euthanasia, growing fetuses for stem cell extraction, giving animals human rights, etc. This is self-evident and reveals why the moral ambiguity defended by such statements as Orthodoxy does not promote a singular dogma or wants to avoid a defensive spirit is theologically (and thus morally) insufficient.

    The Fathers of the Church understood this (The Fathers of the Orthodox Church on Abortion). No doubt their pastoral care was more gentle than the tone of their condemnations. But the harsh tone was necessary to make the moral prohibitions against abortion crystal clear. Waffle here, and you end up waffling everywhere.

    Perhaps the EP’s equivocations on abortion explains the affinity with the alarmism of progressive environmentalism. The alarmism is essentially misanthropic (mis-anthropos — hate man); it views the human person as spoiler, rather than part, of the environment. (The language of stewardship is used in progressive apologetics, but the definition of the term is reserved for those who hold to progressive cultural prescriptions.) Malcolm Muggeridge wrote about the misanthropic theme in broader philosophical terms back in 1979: The Great Liberal Death Wish.

    Reducing the value of a person to private opinion means that man has no more value than an animal, and viewing man as mere animal is a descent into madness. Human rights activist Wesley J. Smith rightly discerns the barbarous end of this thinking and calls for a new ethic of “human exceptionalism”: Orthodox Advocate For “Human Exceptionalism”.* Hopefully other human rights activists will take heed.

    *Historian Richard J. Wiekart looked at some of the historical antecedents of our cultural devolution: Does Darwinism Devalue Human Life? and Darwin and the Road to Hitler.

    His All Holiness faces a practical problem too. Greece has one of the highest abortion rates and thus highest negative growth rates in Europe. If Greeks keep aborting their posterity, they will hand over their nation to the same Muslims their grandparents fought for independence. In a few generations Greece may look like Constantinople does today. Now that is a real cause for alarm.

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      Christopher says:

      Father, what do you think of the EP’s use of the “lesser evil” principle:

      For this reason, abortion for the sake of convenience is, we cannot deny it, extremely serious and must be strongly discouraged. But there are situations of extreme distress when abortion can be a lesser evil, as, for example, when the life of the future mother is in danger. In a number of cases, the woman is less responsible that the man, who either commits rape or simply abandons her; or she is less responsible than a society

      Fr. Webster calls the use of this idea (a principle it probably is not) a “lesser morality” in relation to the “no just war in the Fathers” thinking.

      I smell a rat here – at least something that if it does have any validity in a proper Christian morality is not being used correctly…

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        I don’t like it either. The distinctions are not clear. I am not sure that when confronted with a choice of saving the mother or aborting a child, the choice to abort the child is necessarily “evil.” (We’ll leave aside the exigencies for the moment; the EP is positing a principle and I am responding in those terms.) I’d call it a grave tragedy of a fallen world.

        Sometimes very difficult choices have to be made, none of them preferable and none without consequence. (Think of the EMT person who comes across a scale of suffering, say, a five car accident and is overwhelmed by the number of injuries he has to treat. Who does he pick knowing that care of one means neglect of the other?) None of these decisions are without consequence, and sometimes these decisions impose another kind of suffering — including on the caregiver. In all however, a positive view of the human person must prevail. Lose that, and the ambiguity degenerates into darkness.

        What you might smell is that the thinking seems to be a reaction to the debased categories used in popular culture. It’s true that women and the unborn are the primary victims in abortion. It’s true that a cultural shift has occurred that favors the promiscuous male. Yet the comments on placing more responsibility on the male or society strike me as not dealing with the foundational ideas that promote abortion (or euthanasia, stem-cell research, etc.) as a social good. Instead, it merely affirms the status-quo, a simple shifting of the plates on the same table. There is no substantive moral penetration — no light — in the statements.

        It’s the same problem with the environmental activism. No one disputes that spoiling the environment is a moral question. No one disputes that we should care for the environment. Yet, the embrace of the progressive agenda indicates that there is no theological rationale in place. If there were, the misanthropic ideas of progressive politics would be self-evident, and the need for some distance between the progressive agenda and the EP would be crystal clear. Pope Benedict has no problem understanding this. The EP and his handlers don’t seem to have a clue.

        Again, the only thing that makes sense is that they are merely reacting to the debased categories of popular culture. Not much thinking seems to be going on.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    re the “in the bedroom” argument. Amen Fr! Every time I hear this silly phrase, I want to vomit all over the person who says it. If there was any hint at all that these misanthropes have no logical leg to stand on, this one is it.

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    Ben says:

    “Regarding birth control methods, they have their own consciences, their physician, their spiritual father to guide them. It is not my business.”

    Forgive me for this but, he IS their spiritual father, as bishop he is even more their spiritual father than their own priest is. If St. Paul can compare himself to a woman in childbirth, I think the good patriarch ought to be able to recognize himself as such and act accordingly. With all the grief that he gets, and all the things that we Orthodox fault him with, at least the Pope has good enough sense to allow himself be referred to as “the holy Father,” and for good reason.

    If the Patriarch ever wants to truly fulfill his role as 2nd in line of honor (and 1st since the schism) and if he wants to pick up the burden of the extended role which he and his prelates are portraying him to have as Ecumenical Patriarch, he ought to stand up and speak up on issues of sexuality. If we can learn one thing from the Episcopals, it is that when a bishop fails to stand up for the truth in one area (what is proper and right in the realm of sexual ethics) the rest of the truth often follows suit and schism will follow. Lord have mercy on us!

    We ought not think that just because we are Orthodox none of those things can befall us, they have (Athanasius was perhaps the one of the only bishops still loyal to the Apostolic Teachings during the Arian crisis, yet God preserved the Church in a few holy men and women)

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    John Panos says:

    Ben

    You are absolutely correct.

    If HAH (an interesting acronym) wants to be the first bishop – which he claims to be – he is following the worst of the EP tradition; following the morality du jour to curry favor with political leaders of the day.

    This is shameful and embarrassing for Christians of good conscience everywhere.

    For Orthodox Christians, it is one more reason NOT to follow him.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Luckily (or should I say providentially), because the Orthodox Church has only Christ as its head, the vast majority of Orthodox Christians do NOT follow him.

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    julia says:

    I find it disappointing and disturbing that you condemn the Patriarch for NOT condemning others. His reluctance to impose a single “blanket morality” on all humans, regardless of their personal beliefs or situations, is hardly heretical in my opinion. To presume that we know God’s will and His express wishes for all people is not Orthodox, not Christian; it is vain and presumptive, even downright sinful. One need only look at the past to see what terrible things arise when men presume to speak for God.

    The statement made earlier in this comment thread (#4) — “who will care if the world is green or not, it will be running red with the blood of the innocent” — seems alarmingly misguided and reactionary to me. Yes, it is the responsibility of parents, both family and spiritual, to discuss matters of sexuality and abortion. The idea that the fate of our planet is irrelevant when we have “more pressing” moral matters to attend to is foolish, and I hope you do not sincerely mean that. After all, if we have no place to live, the rights of the unborn will no longer be an issue. If our planet, God’s Creation, is destroyed by our own hand, isn’t that a sin?

    I find Patriarch Bartholomew’s efforts to bring Orthodox Christianity into the modern age inspiring and heartening, but clearly I’m the odd one out in this particular forum. The world has changed considerably since the Old Testament was written, and I for one am glad to see that we have a leader who is brave enough to recognize that, even in the face of such certain opposition. God gave us each the ability — the gift — to think for ourselves; the Church’s role is to offer guidance, like a parent, and to help us make our own decisions, not to declare them for us.

    p.s. I notice a lack of female perspectives in these comments… interesting.

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      Christoher says:

      Julie,

      In all sincerity it is clear you are mistaking Episcopalian “progressive” religion for traditional Christianity such as Orthodoxy (or RC, or most Southern Baptists, etc.). We do not believe truth is relative, that morality is relative on a situational basis (it is indeed “blanket” as you say), that truth is responsible for evil (men in their sin are), that the progressive view of history is correct (i.e. the “modern age” is substantially different in morals/revelation/truth from any other in the past), that human freedom and will is somehow on it’s own apart from God’s commandments and love, or even that a “female” perspective is somehow fundamentally different than a “male’s” on morality, the truth as revealed, etc.

      Just a suggestion, but you might want to do some basic research into the Orthodox Church (or any other traditional church). Kallistos Ware’s book entitled “The Orthodox Church” is a popular place to start. Also, there are a number of good websites ran by the various jurisdictions that will help you get started…

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    Greg says:

    Is the acceptance, or rejection of abortion a matter of private judgment for Orthodox Christians?

    I know that individuals are free to disregard the teaching of those in authority over them. For example, many Catholics support abortion in direct defiance of their Church (Catechism paragraphs 2270-2275). And I know that almost no Christian takes the issue lightly. Even those Protestants who support abortion understand that it is a serious issue.

    What I am asking about is “the faith once for all delivered to the” Orthodox. Is the right or wrong of cooperating in or procuring an abortion a matter of opinion – a matter of prudential judgment, if you will – in the Orthodox Church?

    Thank you.

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      Andrew says:

      Is the acceptance, or rejection of abortion a matter of private judgment for Orthodox Christians?

      Lets go back in time here in America and do a quick word switch and see how things turn out:

      Is the acceptance, or rejection of SLAVERY a matter of private judgment for Orthodox Christians?

      NO to Slavery, No to Abortion. The Church teaches human rights begin at conception. You can’t privatize human rights.

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        julia says:

        The Church teaches human rights begin at conception.

        Well, there you go. Regardless of what we believe, or what our Church may teach, not everyone on this earth is a member of the Orthodox and/or Christian Church. Religion and belief is a choice, not a given.

        Comparing this issue to slavery is a good tactic but slightly misleading. A slave is clearly a human being, able to communicate, think, feel, etc, and clearly demonstrate his/her ability to do so — an embryo cannot, and thus it is a matter of debate, scientific and spiritual, as to when human consciousness begins. The Orthodox Church may teach that the soul begins with conception, but do not forget that there are many, many people in the world who believe otherwise and can defend their beliefs just as eloquently and soundly as you justify yours.

        We may be certain in what we believe, but until we can listen to and respect the beliefs of others as being valid and important in their own right, we are not truly working for peace and unity on this earth. Condemning others for their beliefs is not an act of love, no matter how carefully we try to veil it as the “will of God.”

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          Christoher says:

          Julia,

          This is simply a modern “progressive” viewpoint. Any traditional Christian (as would any Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, follower of Homer – or any other system of thought that does not accept the presuppositions of secular progressivism) rejects all of it outright.

          We don’t think Truth/Love/morality is what you think it is. We don’t even agree on what “respect” and “listening in dialogue” means in an interfaith context.

          You would be much more comfortable on a Episcopalian or secular blog than this one. You are not going to find your ideas accepted or productive here – our differences go too deep.

          Do some basic research on traditional Christianity (or any traditional religious faith) before you attempt to evangelize anyone with the modern secular progressive religion – only by doing this can you begin to enrich yourself and others who don’t believe as you do.

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            julia says:

            Perhaps I was raised in a faulty Orthodox church community, with delusional priests and uneducated teachers. Perhaps the fact that I have studied my faith for many years is irrelevant, as I have clearly been reading the “wrong” books by the “wrong” writers and priests.

            Or, perhaps, you are opposed to hearing any opinion that does not fit smoothly with your world view, even if it comes from a leader in “your” Church. I have known far too many people who have been driven from religion of any sort by precisely the kind of “dialogue” you seem to espouse here. In my opinion, that is not constructive — it doesn’t “enrich” anyone, or anything but your own self-righteousness. My apologies for treading where I am clearly not welcome.

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            Christoher says:

            Julia,

            You clearly have either not understood (or more accurately been converted) or twisted the meaning of your “Orthodox” upbringing to fit the current age. You start and end with a secular world view on morality, meaning, truth (both philosophically and Revealed), human anthropology (e.g. abortion, our place in the created order), etc.

            Have you attended your local Episcopalian congregation recently? I do not mean this in a sarcastic or critical way in the least: You would be much more comfortable and find many more like minded folks with which to relate with in such a place.

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          Greg says:

          there are many, many people in the world who believe otherwise and can defend their beliefs just as eloquently and soundly as you justify yours.

          And Planned Parenthood is at or near the front of the line of those “who believe otherwise.” How do they defend and justify their beliefs? Let’s take a look at the Planned Parenthood web site:

          Question: My friend says that life begins when the egg and sperm join together. I say that it begins when a baby takes its first breath. Which of us is right?

          Answer: All kinds of people — theologians, philosophers, scientists, lawyers, legislators, and many others — hold very different views about when life begins. In fact, both the egg and the sperm are living things before they meet and join. There’s no real argument there.

          The really hot question is, “When does being a person begin?” Most medical authorities and Planned Parenthood agree that it starts when a baby takes its first breath.

          Some of our oldest religions have changed their views about this question many times over the centuries. Today, some people sincerely believe that being a person begins when the egg is fertilized. Some, just as sincerely, believe that it begins with birth. And lots of others believe it begins somewhere in between.

          What we are all sure about is that a pregnant woman is a person. We know for sure that she has morals, feelings, human needs, and a conscience. Because of this, we know that she is the only one able to make a decision about her pregnancy options. She does it based on her own needs, ethics, and religious belief about when being a person begins. It would be wrong to force her to observe someone else’s religious belief.

          ******************

          “Most medical authorities” agree that “being a person… starts when a baby takes its first breath.” Really? The American Medical Association is the largest organized group of doctors in the U.S. What does the AMA have to say? I found nothing on their web site stating that a person starts at its first breath, but I did find these articles:

          + In this December 1999 article, Embryonic/Pluripotent Stem Cell Research and Funding (Report 15), the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs mentions “the morally controversial issues of whether an embryo deserves the same rights as a person.”

          + In a comment on this Feb 2005 article, Quality of Life and Prenatal Decisions, a doctor states & asks, “Prenatal genetic testing for late onset disorders like Huntington’s disease (HD) is particularly controversial and creates difficult ethical issues… (Is) carrying the HD gene an ethically justified reason for abortion?”

          ******************

          If “most medical authorities” agree with the PP view, then why don’t these AMA doctors simply state that being a person begins when a baby takes its first breath, and be done with it? For them (writing on the official AMA web site) it is “morally controversial” and “creates difficult ethical issues.” Why? Because the position of PP is not what most medical authorities believe.

          The PP article then goes on to dismiss further discussion by saying that “religions have changed their views.” Apparently, abortion is not OK because there is a firm basis in philosophy, psychology, or natural law to accept it; abortion is OK because there are “sincere” people on both sides of the issue who disagree.

          PP gives an unsubstantiated statement about what medical authorities believe, and then discharges religion in four sentences.

          Eloquent? … Sound? … Hardly.

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      Christoher says:

      Greg,

      The answer in truth is no. However because we don’t have a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or even an ecumenical council for 1300 years, one can find hints of a secular outlook on such a question.

      Clearly, the EP is one such person and I have it from a preist friend of mine that the professors at Holy Cross seminary taught an essentialy secular take on this for years.

      The abberations aside the Holy Tradition (going back to Didache and Scripture) is clear.

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Julia,

    what exactly do you mean by “the lack of female perspective in these comments”? If by feminine you mean alarmist vis-a-vis the supposed degradation of the environment as being more urgent than the shedding of innocent blood, then we would do well to avoid such “feminine” logic.

    And please understand, I’m not averse to women on this blog. The more, the merrier. I’ll call out anybody –male, female, transgendered, whatever–on sloppy logic.

    The earth is far more resilient that we give it credit for. Man however “reaps what he sows,” and the shedding of innocent blood is and always will be a great tragedy, far greater than an oil spill in the Prudhoe Bay.

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      julia says:

      Simply that the comments to this post seem to be overwhelmingly from men.

      (The suggestion that “feminine” logic is “alarmist” and misguided… by that definition, as a woman, I suppose I should be offended and start throwing about accusations of misogyny… no worries, I know that’s not what you mean.)

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        Geo Michalopulos says:

        Julia, glad to hear it. We need to hear other perspectives. I however reject completely the spirit of the age which automatically denigrates sound logic and patristic thought.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Well, some people believe no human rights should be granted for three years after birth (post-birth abortions can continue past infancy).

    Somewhere along the human life continuum you will have to decide when human life has value and abandon the dodge that just because people don’t agree that we should value life at its biological starting point, you are free to condemn those who do with the condemnation that they condemn others.

    Work it like this: Start at the point where you think life should be defended. Work back from there. At the point you think life is disposable, locate the reason why it is, and hold it up to the light of reason, tradition, holy scripture, and other authoritative repositories of wisdom and see if it can really stand.

    Just saying that moral judgment should be suspended because people can’t agree on a particular moral issue doesn’t really say much. It is the same logic anti-abolitionists used to avoid making unpopular stands against slavery. In fact, they used it against Martin Luther King a hundred years later.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Julia, I’m sure AOI and most of the posters here welcome anyone who is willing to engage in genuine dialog about the Orthodox perspective on man, nature, etc. Just because your viewpoint is rejected as clearly not Orthodox does not mean that you are rejected as long as you wish to engage the questions.

    Think about a few things:

    Jesus said, only by me can you come to the Father; the Church as part of the preparation and celebration of the Nativity proclaims without equivocation: “Submit yourselves all ye nations for God is with us”.

    To be fully Christian one has to come to terms with the absolute nature of Truth and the Jesus Christ is the Truth. Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, there is no other choice or option. To be Orthodox one must also be comfortable with the fact that the Orthodox Church, despite the plethora of human sinfulness, embodies the fullness of the faith in a manner that no other Christian Tradition does.

    That does not mean forcing anyone to worship as we worship, but it does mean proclaiming the truth as it has been revealed in the Church especially when the modern mind departs from it.

    BTW a study of the Holy Scripture and an understanding of history quickly will show that women only started being considered as human with the advent of the God-man Jesus Christ. Without Him, all women would still be chattel. Of course, Mary’s obedience in accepting the Word and giving Him flesh is a large part of that, but not all.

    Abortion is an all out assualt on women, an attempt to return them to a status that makes them less than human. That is one of the reasons the Church has always opposed the barbarity of such practice. Of course another is that abortion completely devalues all human life and degrades everyone who participates in it. It is a unequivocable rejection of the gift of life that comes from God alone.

    My priest following the lead of my bishop has stated on more than one occasion that anyone who even supports the idea of a ‘woman’s right to choose’ cannot be received into communion or approach the cup.

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      Christoher says:

      IMO Julia has done a good job of engaging the Christian ‘view’point’ or ‘argument’. We of course would not reduce Christianity to a ‘viewpoint’ but the secular mind does:

      Jesus said, only by me can you come to the Father; the Church as part of the preparation and celebration of the Nativity proclaims without equivocation: “Submit yourselves all ye nations for God is with us”.

      “The world has changed considerably since the Old Testament was written, and I for one am glad to see that we have a leader who is brave enough to recognize that, even in the face of such certain opposition. God gave us each the ability — the gift — to think for ourselves; the Church’s role is to offer guidance, like a parent, and to help us make our own decisions, not to declare them for us.

      To be fully Christian one has to come to terms with the absolute nature of Truth and the Jesus Christ is the Truth. Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, there is no other choice or option. To be Orthodox one must also be comfortable with the fact that the Orthodox Church, despite the plethora of human sinfulness, embodies the fullness of the faith in a manner that no other Christian Tradition does.

      “To presume that we know God’s will and His express wishes for all people is not Orthodox, not Christian; it is vain and presumptive”

      That does not mean forcing anyone to worship as we worship, but it does mean proclaiming the truth as it has been revealed in the Church especially when the modern mind departs from it.

      “To presume that we know God’s will and His express wishes for all people is not Orthodox, not Christian; it is vain and presumptive”

      Unfortunately, the differences go all the way down.

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      Geoffrey Deacon says:

      Really? Does that mean that only good Republicans can take communion in your parish? Do you check party registration in the communion line?

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        George Michalopulos says:

        I don’t attend Michael’s parish (though I hear it’s great) but not all “good Republicans” are pro-life, so if I could venture a guess, I’d say “no.”

        sarcasm aside, what is it with Orthodox Christians who wink at the current abortion regime (always, everywhere, and in every instance)? Is it such a trivial thing to you? Do you see why nobody takes hierarchs and clergy seriously? They’re more intent on figuring out which jurisdiction has primacy but castigate those who decry the shedding of innocent blood as being “fundamentalists,” or [gasp] “Republicans.”

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        Christoher says:

        If only it were a party line issue. Yes, there are less Democrats than Republicans who are pro-life. The Rockefeller Republicans who control the republican party use the social conservatives for fodder at the polls. They don’t actually follow through with any socially conservative legislation however (excepting the occasional crumb). Similar to how the Democrats use the African American vote.

        Still, the sincere traditional Christians who vote for the pro-death party are in a contradictory position. I can see how such a person might sincerely believe they are doing the right thing. It is an error, but not one that would rise to the level of keeping one from the Cup IMO.

        Those who do this owe it to themselves first of all to work out a reasonable explanation for doing so. Simply throwing out “religious right!” at those who question this obvious contradiction only digs the hole deeper.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        Geoffrey, you resort to political reductionism and there by miss the point entirely. My bishop and priest are doing nothing more than upholding Holy Tradition. Because they do, they receive both inordinate praise and inordinate criticism.

        I support no political party as I have come to the conclusion that they are all corrupt. I try, mostly unsuccessfully, to allow the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments and the Holy Tradition to form me into a genuine human being. Taking the lives of innocent children has no part in a life focused on communion with God.

        Abortion is the ultimate expression of a nihlistic denial of God and man created in His image and likeness.

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    Andrew says:

    Julia,

    Last time I checked you and I were both embryos at one time……

    You don’t need the Church to see that human life begins at conception. You need common sense and a 4th grade lesson in biology. What the Church teaches is available to those who are outside the Church through the light of human reason.

    Orthodoxy is not about how we feel its about being right in a loving way.

    My prayer for you is that you will come to understand that behind each NO the Church gives us there is a greater and more beautiful YES!

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    I honestly don’t believe that many of the present EP-faddists are serious in their criticisms of those of us who have taken a more critical view. Rather than name names, we have already examined in a logical fashion the arguments of the current Ortho-panentheism. Let us now examine the motives of those who follow this position which appears to be all the rage.

    My feeling with viewpoints like these is that the EP, in a desperate bid to be relevant, has hitched his wagon to environmental alarmism and has (as it logically must follow) developed a complex theology to justify this new position. Some of this theology is sound, some is questionable, some…I’d rather not say.

    That however is his prerogative as a Christian archpastor and believer. We all have freewill. I can come up with a theology of the state that derides republicanism, democracy, or whatnot. In short, we all have our “ideas” about this, that, or the other. They may be good and sound, but because of our fallen nature, they will necessarily contain negative elements. No government is 100% good, Athens was a slavocracy, Sparta a totalitarian oligarchy, etc.) Usually we keep them to ourselves and/or pray about them. In all instances, we must be humble about our reasoning.

    What is troubling however, is that many votaries in the GOA, in order to justify their own secularism, and/or to enhance their own status (which like the EP, they believe to be marginal in the world of Christianity), have hitched their wagon –unthinkingly–to whatever fad comes out of the Phanar.

    Nobody who has enthused about the EP’s visit and his writings on the subject of environmentalism has clearly given it much thought. Far from it. What is offered are merely platitudes and bromides, the majority of which are mouthed by the worldly set that make up the Archons and those that have a real say in the functioning of the GOA (most bishops and priests) but not seriously believed.

    Don’t believe me? If the EP is serious, he would prescribe the ascetic struggle for mankind –all of mankind. We would/should:

    1. eat less meat
    2. consume less material resources
    3. use as much public transportation as possible
    4. stop using hormone replacements
    5. engage only in monogamous, heterosexual relations only on those days prescribed by the Church (good, natural birth control without any side effects)
    6. accept every “product of conception,” as a creature made in the image of God (what do you think the aborturaries do with the discarded fetuses?)
    7. actually TITHE in order to support the Church so that it can more fully engage in its ministries (i.e. help the poor, establish hospitals, etc.)
    8. build churches that are enviromentally friendly (no A/C, no electricity, etc.)

    Let’s just start with these. By following these, we would actually reduce our carbon footprint considerably.

    Any takers? {crickets chirping]

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      Chrys says:

      Amen! Though each of us will have to seek out the particular ways in which we can re-shape the way we actually live around the kingdom, imagine the change this might effect and the witness it would provide.

      If you’ll pardon the aside, this very much comports with something that struck me in my reading today: Luke 8 – specifically the parable of the Seed and the Sower. The one thing that distinguishes the fruitful seed from the other seeds is that the ground was properly receptive. More to the point, the people whom it represents recognize the value of the seed and are willing re-shape their lives around it. They will till the soil of their lives so the ground supports the seed, and pull up every weed as it arises, intent on helping this seed to grow. This seed is given priority and everything is done to cultivate it. They have but one goal: to make this seed grow and become fruitful, even if every other plant around it dies in the process. And, in the end, this is what must happen – for you can not cultivate both the Word of God and your own pursuits and pleasures (Mammon), as the third group found. Yet, since God is the source of everything good, if you do diligently cultivate this seed so that it might become abundantly fruitful, you will have everything else beside.
      I think you are very much on to something.

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      Christoher says:

      Excellent post.

      What about number 9, what to do with the GulfStream Jet? If you sell it and distribute the money to the poor, someone else will just pollute with it. As Julie says it’s been quite a while since the Old Testament has been written so this injuction of our Lord clearly needs to be updated ;)

      Seriously, I think it is hard to overstate the importance of the worldly mindset. Part of this mindset is the unexamined faith in voices of authroity – namely the scientistic class in the universities, government bureaucracies, etc. Anyone (and I mean anyone, including scientists who dare question the current party line) are automatically rejected as unthinking throwbacks and are lumped in with the creationists (who are the Samaritans of our time). Those with the worldly mindset simply don’t have the tools to question critically any aspect of the secular party line – you are asking them to examine a deep aspect of their unexamined faith. The idea that the alarmist position might not be true, or that it might not mean what the scientistic priestly class says it means morally?!?! Who would even propose such a question? Why, a creationist, a persecutor of Galileo, only a FUNDAMENTALIST right wing fanatic would dare utter such a blasphemy.

      Fr. John, Julie, Anthony are unfortunately emblematic of this mindset. Thus, only those with deeply possessed by the alleged sins of the religious throwback (capitalism, fundamentalism, etc.) would question the alarmist paradigm – thus the finger wagging on their part.

      How do you penetrate this fog? I honestly don’t know. Asking them to live their faith un-hypocritically as you have done here I think only has limited value. Part of their faith is the belief in “society” being the problem (and thus the solution), not themselves (as the EP so eloquently states – society is MORE responsible). So grand societal solutions are the real answer – again just as the EP is showing through his actions and words (uncritical support of Copenhagen for society, GulfStream jet personally). When others and not oneself is the problem then “prophecy” and propaganda and not repentance becomes the order of the day. Personally living out the implecations of the gospel of doom? Not nearly as important as propping up the “great moral leader”.

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    “Society” is a weasel-word that ultimately means nothing. At best, if we mean the “state” then we are dealing with a legal fiction (like a corporation). People who use “society” as a catch-all do so to avoid their own culpability. I.e. “I blame society,” etc. It’s so much easier to that than to actually do something right.

    We’re all guilty of this. Myself included. That’s why humility is called for. The issue at hand is blatant and ultimately will fool nobody: in a desparate attempt to elevate the status of his office, the EP is mouthing bromides which nobody really believes (Al Gore has the carbon footprint of Godzilla; there’s a word for that –hypocrisy).

    As I’ve said on more than one occasion, for an example of this reductio ad absurdum of this type of thinking, look to the See of Constantinople which chose to play along with the Kemalist secular government or the native Christian populations of the Islamic world which accepted their “tolerated” (dhimmi) status thinking things would get better or at least the immigrants would send a few dollars every and then to keep things going.

    What is the answer? I don’t know, I guess martyrdom, something I myself would find hard to scare up the courage to do. But martyrdom is coming. The world hates us because it first hated our Master. Look what they did to Him. Do you think we’re going to fare any better? And then what? What difference does it make if the world’s mean temperature only rises 1 degree Farenheit instead of 2?

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    Anthony says:

    No one representing Orthodox Theology can ever back abortion! By trying to play both sides of the fence on this issue, one puts his voice against the united voice of Orthodoxy that has been the same for 2000+ years. The Orthodox Church has ONE Head: Jesus Christ. We are one body with The Body of Christ in Heaven and on earth and we do not have a need for a “vicar of Christ” as the post split church of Rome came up with in the papal supremacy theology. It is an abomination of abominations to have a Bishop or a priest misrepresent Orthodox position on abortion , homosexuality or any other wicked sins. We are called to confess our sins and repent, not to “justify” murder or union with the devil in sexual sins (Apostle Paul 1 Cor 5, 6).

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      George Michalopulos says:

      well said, Anthony.

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      Chrys says:

      Indeed. Furthermore the whole rationale is insupportable. If “we can not enter the bedroom” then presumably we can not enter the boardroom or the wallet or the “environmental political process of other nations” or . . . (Of course, this refusal to enter the bedroom may explain some of the other problems that have received attention on these pages recently.) Is there such a thing as moral absenteeism? moral abdication?

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        Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

        Someone needs to tell the Phanar that abortions don’t happen in bedrooms, they happen in abortuaries. (They’re actually making an argument for abortion as birth control.)

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          Chrys says:

          Touché! I don’t know if it’s poorly expressed, moral cowardice, moral obtuseness – all of which I simply can not believe – or something else, but it’s simply appalling.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Interesting article I read about Ex-President Bush. While I didn’t agree with everything the man did or believe, what is is interesting is there is an article from the wall street journal about Bush supporting a politcal dissident from Syria. It noted that President Obama is less interested in this. Not that I’m saying that there were liberal democratics that supported some political dissidents but it seems that Obama is going up to as long as a anti-US regime does economic justice like Cuba or Hugo Chevez or that we need to befriend Syria, then we don’t need to push helping politcal opponents, this is with a series of other events that are leading me back to the Republicans inspite of their flaws.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Bush’s policies were Wilsonian which demands that ‘democracy’ be spread everywhere regardless of the cost. If the current Syrian rulers are overthrown, it is quite likely that the Patriarchate of Antioch will have to move from Damascus or suffer marytrdom–not the long slide into extinction of the Patriarch of Constantiople, but actual marytrdom at that hands of Islamic faithful.

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      Geo Michalopulos says:

      Michael, there are some who would say that Bush’s original policies were Jacksonian, in that they were reactive to an existential threat. In going over the speeches from the post-9/11 period, I don’t remember anybody in the Administration and/or the Congress talking about Wilsonian efforts at forced democratization. If I remember correctly, the US didn’t even want to stage an election in Iraq but was forced to do so by Ayatollah Sistani, the leader of the Iraqi Shi’ites. (Given that the Shi’a are a majority of Iraq, it made sense that they would want democracy, however it’s defined.)

      As for the decrepit state of the dhimmi churches (C’pole, Alexandria, Antioch) you are correct. Once the secular thugs who protect them are overthrown, then it’s ethnic-cleansing city. This happened with the Shah, with Saddam, and will also happen when/if Mubarak and Assad fall (and the Kemalist state in Turkey). This present state of affairs however is no cause for celebration. It is no great kudo to Christianity to say that it exists at the sufferance of brutal thugs. Indeed, it only increases the rage of the Muslim masses against us. This is especially true because the Christian minorities within these societies tend to be more affluent than the majority.

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        Michael Bauman says:

        George, a Jacksonian approach would have branded Islam as the enemy without exception and attempted to deport as many Moslem’s as possible.

        Jackson was a unionist, and a sort of proto-populist but not a statist. Mostly he wanted things his way regardless of the consequences. He fought with both Congress and the Supreme Court over the perogatives of the office of the President.

        Jacksonian influence could possibly be seen in the financial deregulation attempts, but that just allowed more financial centralization. Something Jackson would not have liked.

        No, I’ll stick by the Wilsonian.

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          George Michalopulos says:

          Michael, you’re absolutel right about what terminology Jackson would have used in describing the enemy. However, in fairness to Wilson (and it’s hard for me to be fair), he would have used the same type of invective as well, more so in fact because he thought he was doing the Lord’s work. (Jackson was simply reactive, his main idea was that the two different races of the South (Indians and Americans) could not live together in the same place.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Jackson also favored the initiative and entrepreneurship of the frontier people as opposed to the east coast elites (his proto-populism). He was also propelled by a committment to the union that had a similar power in his mind to the Wilsonian idea of doing the Lord’s work (thus his anti-nullification stance). He not only felt that we and the Indians could not occupy peacefully the same space, he wanted them out of the way so the union could expand. It was not entirely reactive.

    Both Jackson and Wilson were rigid, self-righteous, racist and paranoid. However, given Wilson’s more missonary approach to the rest of the world (Jackson hated the British, the Spanish and the French), plus Wilson’s more elitist attitude, I’d still have to give the edge to Bush being Wilsonian rather than Jacksonian.

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Michael, there’s a lot there to think about. I can see where Bush’s foreign policy became Wilsonian (to a degree) but it was only because of a perceived existential threat, which I feel is all too real. I think that if Wilsonianism was the real impetus behind recent American adventurism, then it wouldn’t have stopped at Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed given the swiftness with which these tho regimes were toppled (less than a month), I don’t see how Iran’s theocracy could have lasted. (Again, I’m not talking about an occupation.)

      Jackson’s a prickly character. Very complex. Growing up in Oklahoma, I know how the various Indian nations feel about him (think Hitler) but I also know how the native whites feel about him. He represented the poor white settler class, those who tamed the Cumberland Gap and whose existence was threatened by the Indians. He did what anybody in a similar situation would do, even if it was immoral. That is, save his own people at the expense of another. Especially if he felt that the other people (i.e. the Indians) were complicit with the British and perpetrated atrocities against the settlers. What resulted wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t moral, but this rotten world doesn’t often present us with ideal choices; usually we have to decide which choice is the least awful. In this light, the incursion of American forces into the heart of the ancient Caliphate is a strategic check on Muslim governments of the more extreme variety.

      If I may ramble off-tangent, I don’t believe that Islam will conquer the world, nor do I fear a revived Caliphate. Neither of these things have to happen however for us to lose our freedoms however. Islam will simply gain more control by incremental steps and the loss of Chrisian and Western nerave. Witness the recent Cowardly Central episode.

      Anyway, your point about whether we are in the midst of a Wilsonian era or a Jacksonian one is well-taken (I personaly wish we were in a Jeffersonian one).

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        Michael Bauman says:

        There are Jacksonian influences in every president since simply because Jackson was the man who first developed the power of the office that was inherent in the Constitution. He established the Executive Branch as a fully functional branch in its own right, much as John Marshall did for the Supreme Court.

        Jackson would have put troops on the Mexican border too rather than opening the borders.

        Don’t forget that Jefferson for all his reputation as a high-minded statesmen was one of the dirtiest political infighters amongst the founders. He did it at arms length with a lot of plausable deniablity between him and his henchmen, but he was not nice.

        To bring it around to at least a little relevance to the orignial post–strong leaders are not people who look to make friends with everyone. There are a handful of American Presidents who were genuinely strong leaders (for good or ill). Our bishops seem to want to disapear into their vestments and their office. That is in part due to the lingering influence of the dhimmi culture, but it also speaks to the fact that historically, if they stuck their necks out, they got them cut off–literally.

        From a worldly point of view Patriarch Barthlowmew is in a no-win situation. His fundamental problem, IMO, is that he feels he has to defend the Church and the Patriarchate, that he is responsibile for the continued existence. Such an attitude always saps one’s courage and the ability to witness to the Gospel in an Apostolic manner.

        One of my priests said last night in a class on Orthodox spirituality that he did not care if any of us liked him or not. Christ crucified was what is was about, our salvation was what was important.

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          George Michalopulos says:

          That’s an excellent priest you got there, Michael. He knows what it’s really about. To bad he’s not a bishop.

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            Michael Bauman says:

            He’s young, married and has 3 children, youngest one about 3 months old. Even under Harry’s formula, he’d have over 20 years to wait before he could even be considered. He is an excellent priest.

            He also said the Church is not here to make us happy or comfortable.

  28. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top

    Here is shown the great weakness of the modern Orthodox notion, that we are not saved alone, we are community, no “me and Jesus.” But if those young women didn’t give a damn about pleasing humans, including their parents and grandparents and people at large, only about pleasing God, then they would feel God is looking over their shoulder all the time, and that He is also not only their judge but can help them if they will work with Him.

    “They told us that our [Orthodox] abortion numbers are higher than the national norm, as reported in the media. Well, frankly, we didn’t believe them. And we asked them why.

    They said we have two major strikes against us as strong ethnic communities and strong religious communities. And that our children would seek abortion as a means to escape the eye of their parents and grandparents and the embarrassment that it would bring to their families.

    Well, I have to tell you, I didn’t believe them. I went back to Fr. Stephen and I asked him, “have you heard about women in crisis pregnancies?” and he said, “Yes, all the time. But in confession, after the abortion had been committed and the child had been lost.”

    Here, Orthodoxy is about a social institution that knits a culture together and all that HOGWASH.

    Jesus warned against this mentality when He said, “how can those who seek the honor that is from men, receive the honor that is only from God?”

    Notice also that these women would go to the priest AFTER the abortion, so like the RC stereotype, incl. cross wearing prostitutes and such like, it is sin, get the slate cleared, and sin some more. Confession as a get out of jail free card.

    The condition for absolution should have been a penance, that included PUBLIC admission of what she had done and who with, including denunciation of whoever helped her get it done, and work in some sort of help pregnant women thing.

    The fear of private shame that is cultural only, not shame before God, will lead to all sorts of sin. But if you fear God, you will usually stop before you get very far in the sin.

    If the church is something too holy to get into much, and totally separate from the rest of life, except for some externals like a fasting sequence and who you marry, and some language retention, then it is not going to dictate key decisions.

    One of which should be CHASTITY FOR MEN AS WELL AS WOMEN, St. Paul repeatedly made this clear. A man who is a fornicator IS A GOD DAMNED WHORE. A man who is the penetrator of another man is a homo queer no matter how butch and macho he is, as much as the effeminate gay.

    All these things, and issues of honesty and of loyalty to a mate – which means no adultery, incl. no blow jobs and yes, going to a prostitute IS cheating, and if you have seduced someone you have to marry that person not someone else who is a virgin still – are lost as soon as Christianity becomes a social institution.

    The RC have the right idea with “confirmation,” though I am Orthodox I am uncomfortably certain that the reliance on godparents and parents to catechize is not working, assuming it ever did.

    Catechizing and training of children should be overseen by priests and so forth, you cannot trust laymen.

    I am an Orthodox convert.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Mary Christine Erikson, I too am a convert although the distinction should really be one of who has had an encounter with the living God and who hasn’t and dosen’t care. The lukewarm will be vomited out of our Lord’s mouth (Lord, warm me up!).

      If the priests can’t/won’t catechize the adults (including liturgical discipline for $$ donors, famous people and politicians), having them catechize the children will do no good.

      If the community is not interested in and does not maintain Christian standards then catechizing will do little long-term good.

      Even if the parish community is strong, the family loving, involved and dedicated, the priest a good leader and faithful teacher it can all fall apart quickly when the children spend 30 to 40 hours a week being told that faith and God-centered values are all nonsense, i.e, in government run schools.

      Since there was no Orthodox school when my son was young, my wife and I choose to home-school. At the time the very idea of such a thing was a radical statement in our archdiocese. It was so radical that we received a personal phone call at home one Saturday morning from the archdiocesan director of education (1500 miles away). After saying good morning, he berated us for our choice and told us flat out that we were incompetent to teach our own child anything, least of all the faith. Only the hierarchy and ‘professional public educators’ (like him) could do that. Given the malfeasance, corruption, apathy and down right stupidity displayed by the merry band of which he was a central part over the years, my position has proved to be the sensible one. Not everyone can or should home-school though, we need to work on developing genuine Orthodox primary and secondary schools that teach something besides the old country.

      I rejected that notion at the time of parental incompetence. I told him that what the Church needed to do was work with parents to empower them to tradition the faith rather than demanding the task be taken from the parents. I still feel that way. We need to break down the perfidious and oxymoronic notion of ‘youth culture’ and realize that children are children who need to be guided into adulthood and maturity. They need this most from their parents, but from the Church as well. Programs that integrate them into the community rather than isolate them. Give them responsibility rather than treat them as a people unto themselves. Mentor them in the activities of Christian adulthood, especially chastity, temperance, prayer and alms-giving. In the case of abortion such as you mention not only should the child be given a penance, but the parents as well so that they can be restored to the life in Christ that the Church actually is.

      It begins with the youngest, instead of allowing them to play in the pews, teach them to pray the responses, the Lord’s prayer, the Creed–tend to them even at the expense of your own worship.

      That is what I did with my son. By God’s grace he is involved in the Church, drug free, sexual partner free–a vibrant, caring person a young MAN. His only problem is that he finds it difficult to relate to his peers and to the hypocrisy of the world.

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    I praise God that someone is doing a good job. I get rather
    cynical at times. By the way, the priest where I go
    to church is running adult education classes in
    English on one evening and Russian another evening
    each week.

  30. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Fr. George says:

    This article just came to my attention. I only want to address one issue:

    “I was reminded once again of the long running institutional silence — a scandal really — from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese on sanctity of life issues.”

    What silence, exactly? A very cursory search of the GOARCH website yielded over a dozen responses regarding abortion. A brief smattering:

    From: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7101
    “The Orthodox Church brands abortion as murder; that is, as a premeditated termination of the life of a human being. The only time the Orthodox Church will reluctantly acquiesce to abortion is when the preponderance of medical opinion determines that unless the embryo or fetus is aborted, the mother will die. Decisions of the Supreme Court and State legislatures by which abortion, with or without restrictions, is allowed should be viewed by practicing Christians as an affront to their beliefs in the sanctity of life.”

    From: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8083
    “The Church from the very beginning of existence has sought to protect “the life in the womb” and has considered abortion as a form of murder in its theology and canons. Orthodox Christians are admonished not to encourage women to have abortions, nor to assist in the committing of abortion. Those who perform abortions and those who have sought it are doing an immoral deed, and are called to repentance.”

    From: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8076
    “Eastern Christianity has a long history of opposition to abortion. Its ethical teachings as embodied in canon law and in the penitential books, as well as in more formal ethical instruction, condemn abortion as a form of murder. Because our humanity is a psychosomatic unity and because Orthodox Christians see all of life as a continuous and never ending development of the image and likeness toward theosis and full humanity, the achievement of particular stages of development of the conceptus is not ethically relevant to the question of abortion.

    In his second canon, St. Basil specifically rules out the artificial distinction between the ‘formed’ and ‘unformed’ conceptus (The Rudder, pp. 789-790). Thus, any abortion is seen as an evil. Since the physical and the personal aspects of human existence are understood as essential constitutive elements of our humanity, the conceptus – unfulfilled and incomplete as it may be – may not be destroyed under normal circumstances. Eastern Orthodox ethicists reject as unworthy those counterarguments which appeal to economic and social reasons and so hold fife to be less valuable than money, pride, or convenience. Armed with modem genetic information, they also reject the argument that an abortion may be justified because a woman is entitled to control her own body. That basic affirmation of self-determination is not rejected; what is rejected is the claim that the conceptus is a part of the mother’s tissue. It is not her body; it is the body and life of another human being entrusted to her for care and nurture.”

    I can certainly understand disagreement or outrage with the quote from His All-Holiness, I do think throwing the GOA “under the bus” is a bit hasty.

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      Andrew says:

      Fr. George, can a Greek Orthodox Christian advocate for unrestricted abortion and remain in good standing with the Church?

  31. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr George, I for one am not throwing the GOA “under the bus,” however I must tell you that in my conversations with Orthodox not in the GOA, there is very much concern about the apathy displayed by the hierarchy and the presbytery in this regard. Very much concern.

    The snippets which you stated speak for themselves but it appears that it took some technological skill to highlight them from goarch.org. I can assure you that they don’t appear to be front and center in its webpage.

    Perhaps you as a priest can begin to emphasize the patristic teachings among your colleagues and hopefully bring this to episcopal attention.

  32. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Chris says:

    I think that it’s important that Fr. George pointed out that, clearly, the Orthodox Church is in direct opposition to abortion. The Church covers everything, She covers us. Thank you Father for your leadership!

    Quite frankly, if we make this a jurisdictional thing, we miss the boat. I don’t care what jurisdiction people are in. I do care, however, that millions upon millions of the unborn are being ripped from our mother’s womb and we’re putting moral emphasis on other issues that are important, yes, but nothing compared to infanticide.

    Why else is it important? Because it makes it ever so more obvious that there are many within the Orthodox Church who do not teach this stance on abortion/infanticide. What is even more unfortunate is that it is the some of our more “visible” faithful and leaders in our Church who have forgotten this teaching; who support politicians that are blatantly pro-death, OR are politicians who are pro-death themselves! I for one will not vote for them even if they wear the Orthodox banner.

    Leadership is required on this issue. And these folks need to be addressed, perhaps not called out or embarrassed – but I think we could ask them to forego one speech on global warming or on why Obama is the best and talk about abortion?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Couretas is drawing attention to statements by Metropolitan Bartholomeis of Chalcedon. And wow, these are some pretty “unorthodox” [...]

  2. [...] Couretas of The Observer, the blog of the American Orthodox Institute, notes that Metropolitan Bartholomeis of Chalcedon has [...]

  3. [...] A patriarch who, ‘generally speaking, respects human life’ on the Observer blog at [...]

  4. [...] 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 [...]

  5. [...] Related articles: Senators Sarbanes and Snowe Betray the Moral Heritage of the Orthodox Christian Faith A patriarch who ‘generally speaking, respects human life’ [...]

  6. [...] Related articles: Senators Sarbanes and Snowe Betray the Moral Heritage of the Orthodox Christian Faith A patriarch who ‘generally speaking, respects human life’ [...]

  7. [...] The abortion statement ties the defense of innocent life to a generalized notion of “welfare for every citizen.” Knowing some of the internal debates over this question, I recognize the logic. It’s a restatement of Roman Catholic Cardinal Bernadin’s “Seamless Garment” doctrine and while true on its face, it is used to blunt criticism of an increasingly ambivalence towards the moral tradition in Greek Orthodox ranks (see: A patriarch who ‘generally speaking, respects human life’. [...]

  8. [...] worry. Their reasoning is flaccid, rising no higher than the shibboleths of popular culture (see: A patriarch who ‘generally speaking, respects human life’). A particularly egregious quote: Do not expect from a patriarch orders or prohibitions about how [...]

  9. [...] I am not trying to present controversy here. I love the Orthodox Church and have been attending Divine Liturgy for a long time now and seeking God's direction.(I feel that I have to preface what I say because of my catholic icon). I will defend both churches if put in a corner. But from the research I have done, these statements seem to be true. I can't judge the spirit in which it was said, but I believe that the author of the article that I cited below, gives a good explanation of why the Patriarch should have expounded more on his statement. He is the Patriarch after all and what he says has ramifications for the Church, the lay people, our youth. No, you can't judge the person who has an abortion, but you can judge the act and the effect it has on the unborn. There are a lot of holes in the Patriarch's statement that I am glad that Mr. Couretas addressed, as well as others have. A patriarch who 'generally speaking, respects human life' – AOI Observer [...]

  10. [...] some ways (and we are), but sometimes that fluidity just hides a breakdown of serious thought (see: A patriarch who ‘generally speaking, respects human life’ for example) or moral cowardice, both of which end up affirming the ideologies that war against human value and [...]

  11. [...] leads to all sorts of mischief — from distorting the teachings of the moral tradition (see: A Patriarch who ‘Generally Speaking, Respects Human Life’), to lending the imprimatur of Orthodox moral authority to marginal groups like the National [...]

  12. [...] States today. Take for example Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s statement on abortion (see: A Patriarch who ‘Generally Speaking Respects Human Rights’). He leads the largest, by far, Orthodox jurisdiction in America, the Greek Orthodox. Here the [...]

  13. [...] States today. Take for example Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s statement on abortion (see: A Patriarch who ‘Generally Speaking Respects Human Rights’). He leads the largest, by far, Orthodox jurisdiction in America, the Greek Orthodox. Here the [...]

  14. [...] States today. Take for example Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s statement on abortion (see: A Patriarch who ‘Generally Speaking Respects Human Rights’). He leads the largest, by far, Orthodox jurisdiction in America, the Greek Orthodox. Here the [...]

  15. […] of the unborn life reached no deeper than the shallow logic employed by abortion activists (see: A Patriarch who ‘Generally Speaking, Respects Human Life’) where an ethic of human life according to the moral tradition was never properly formulated. […]

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