July 28, 2014

Silent Bishops

In his post “The Teaching Office of the Bishop,” Fr. Peter-Michael Preble wonders why Orthodox bishops have said so little about the current health care debate.

Recently Dr. Bradley Nassif wrote an article entitled “The Calling of a Bishop is to Preach the Gospel” and this is a good start and a jump off point for this discussion. Dr. Nassif states that “All bishops are to proclaim and interpret the gospel of Christ to the church and to the world.” and what is the Gospel? “The gospel is the “good news” that God became human in Jesus Christ, took upon himself our fallen humanity in order to restore it into communion with God, conquer sin and vanquish death. This he did pre-eminently through Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. This “good news” must be at the very core of every life-giving action in the church – the sacraments and throughout every liturgical season of fasting and prayer.”

My personal belief is that the Gospel also includes the interpretation of events of the day and how that fits in the Christian life. What do I mean by this? An example of what I mean would be the present health care debate. The Church needs to be heard on these issues and the church, meaning the bishops, need to speak on these issues. Catholic bishop after Catholic Bishop have written statements instructing the faithful on what the church teaches on this very important social issue.

A brief check of the SCOBA website will reveal that since that start of the summer the SCOBA bishops have released the following statements:

– Disability and Communion
– ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN PRISON MINISTRY
– College Student Sunday – September 20, 2009

All important topics don’t get me wrong but where is the teaching office of the bishop? Why is silence all we hear on such an important debate?

Read more. (HT: Byzantine, Texas)

Comments

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    Isa Almisry says:

    To be honest, I’d rather they didn’t get involved in the highly polarized “debate” on this. We don’t need to stoke the fires to increase the heat of the moment without illuminating the topic.

    In the interest of full disclosure, Joe Wilson was right.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Isa, re Joe Wilson, AMEN!

    I also am torn. The SCOBA enunciations are nice, but they’re theological pabulum, secondary in importance at best. I’m afraid that until ALL our bishops in America unite NOW in an ad hoc assembly and denouce the culture of death unreservedly, they are not going to be taken seriously. As I’ve said in another forum, the Catholic bishops are right on this one. Moral authority is like capital, it accrues when it is expended on worthy projects, wasted when it follows the whims of the moment. (Although to be fair, the other social things the Catholic bishops have exposited on are pabulum as well.)

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    Fr Gregory says:

    While I appreciate why people would be hesitant to have the bishops offer moral instruction, it is nevertheless their job to do so.

    Granted some might not do it as well as others and if the Catholic Conference of Bishops is any guide, what is produced corporately by the SCOBA bishops might be uneven. But that said, whether it is done well or not, it must be done–it is their obligation before Christ and we must encourage them to do so.

    It is all well and good for us to argue for administrative unity, but unity we seek comes not through administrative structures but human encounters–I suspect that (especially at first) moral teaching offered by the bishops will not be well received. But I for one am hesitant to conclude that a lack of reception is necessarily polarizing. It is rather more likely the case that this is a project that will bring to light the divisions that are already present in the Church.

    Among the lower clergy, I know there is no consensus on matters such as war & peace, economics, or sexual morality (specifically, contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage). I am reasonable certain that there also is no consensus on these matters among the bishops (or the laity for that matter) both cross jurisdictional line or even within a given jurisdiction.

    Simply agreeing among ourselves not to talk about these matters doesn’t make our disagreements go away–it has quite the opposite effect. We have become I think increasingly not to discuss our disagreements so as not to rock the boat. Unfortunately deciding to remain silent only results in more silence and (in order to not break our rule to not disagree) an increasingly guarded stance when we are together.

    If we cannot speak our minds, if we cannot say what is in our hearts but must remain guarded with each other, can we really say that we love each other?

    There is certainly a place for silence in the spiritual life but we cannot be silent about the Gospel–even if speaking means that we are in conflict with each other, to say nothing of the world.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

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    Chris Banescu says:

    How about a simple statement like Catholic Bishop Nickless has issued with regards to the importance of the ongoing debate over proposed reforms of our health care system:

    “There is much at stake in this political struggle, and also much confusion and inaccurate information being thrown around. My brother bishops have described some clear “goal-posts” to mark out what is acceptable reform, and what must be rejected. First and most important, the Church will not accept any legislation that mandates coverage, public or private, for abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem-cell research.”

    Or how about this:

    “Preserving patient choice (through a flourishing private sector) is the only way to prevent a health care monopoly from denying care arbitrarily, as we learned from HMOs in the recent past. While a government monopoly would not be motivated by profit, it would be motivated by such bureaucratic standards as quotas and defined “best procedures,” which are equally beyond the influence of most citizens. The proper role of the government is to regulate the private sector, in order to foster healthy competition and to curtail abuses. Therefore any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect.”

    More clarity from this Catholic bishop here: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2009/09/07/obamacare-and-catholic-social-teaching/

    Look how much light and wisdom even one Catholic bishop can provide. Meanwhile we have complete silence from all the Orthodox bishops in America on this life and death topic.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Three things going on: 1. Dhimmi attitudes that effectively prevent most of our bishops from anything deemed critical of government; 2. Insular view that does not see any connection between the Church and the culture; 3. the turf wars.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    RE # 3 Fr. Gregory says,

    Among the lower clergy, I know there is no consensus on matters such as war & peace, economics, or sexual morality (specifically, contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage). I am reasonable certain that there also is no consensus on these matters among the bishops (or the laity for that matter) both cross jurisdictional line or even within a given jurisdiction.

    That any priest should have questions on contraception, abortion and homosexual partnerships is a travesty of teaching and spiritual formation. Even using the politically correct term ‘same-sex marriage’ is wrong in my opinion as it denigrates the meaning of marriage.

    Personal opinion rules the day. Five years ago when my son was 18 he started researching the Church’s position on warfare. Two years later he had produced an essay on the topic, The Chrisitan Warrior. He studied and prayed and he reached controversial but defensable positions that are compelling. (conclusions that were quite different from mine originally btw, I argued with him for the majority of those two years). If a 20 year old with limited academic training and experience can do it, why cannot the bishops and priests? (Our priests use his essay when disscussing with young people the military choice).

    Despite a few discussions here and there, he has been frustrated with the refusal by most people to even engage the topic, however.

    I am troubled by the lack of clear teaching on all sorts of issues from the episcopate and the clergy. It seems that the majority of work being done is being done by lay people. Even more troubled by the fear of making such teaching as there is public.

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    Andrew says:

    Fr. Gregory is 100% correct. There is no consensus among the clergy and the hierarchy on the fundamental moral questions of our day. This is sad but it is very true. It is the fruit of the omogenia before Orthodoxy mentality and the “feelings before truth” model of Orthodoxy.

    I know instances where even terms like Orthodox Christian Morality are shunned and I would go so far to say that I wonder if there is even a consensus on sex outside of marriage.

    The inability of the Orthodox Christian Leaders in America to articulate a common sense moral vision based on the Tradition of the Church is the greatest threat to our ecclesiastical health in America.

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    Chris Banescu says:

    Andrew, Yes, this is one of the big threats to ecclesiastical health in America:

    The inability of the Orthodox Christian Leaders in America to articulate a common sense moral vision based on the Tradition of the Church is the greatest threat to our ecclesiastical health in America.

    The others are:
    - love of self above Christ and truth,
    - greed (love of money and love of power),
    - idolization of our Holy Traditions (worshiping the form and ignoring the substance), and
    - not caring about and loving Christ, truth, and their neighbors (fellow bishops, priests, faithful, the unborn, the innocent, the defenseless,).

    How else can we explain the persecution and punishment by some hierarchs of decent, loving, and Christ following priests and laity? “You shall know them by their fruits.”

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Fr Gregory, you are correct. My reticence just comes from a very real fear that if and when our bishops said something, it would not be forceful enough and only on something that is derivative from first principles. I.e. not dealing with the culture of death but something admirable but not earthshaking, like we should be nice to the handicapped.

    The last really bold pronouncement was in 2003 about so-called gay marriage. It was good, really good, we could use a few more like that.

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