April 16, 2014

Seal of Confession Goes on Trial

I only recently heard about this case where a confession being heard by priest in a federal prison was recorded by authorities. It raises the most fundamental legal questions about Church and State separation. Church and State Face Off in Court By Annamarie Adkins SALEM, Oregon, AUG. 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- When Father Timothy Mockaitis heard inmate Conan Wayne Hale’s sacramental confession on April 22, 1996, he had no idea it was being recorded. He also didn't know that the event would spur an unprecedented legal case that attempted to demonstrate that a violation of the seal of the confessional was an infringement on the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Father Mockaitis details these pivotal events in his new book, “The Seal: A Priest’s Story.” The pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church shared with ZENIT how this case involved not only canon law versus civil law, but also a threat to the long term viability of … [Read more...]

Bureaucratic Church and Imperial State

In response to comments here on this blog about whether the Byzantines will one day "save" the American Church, the answer to that, as has been observed, is that there are no Byzantines remaining to save us. What's more, there would be little support among American Orthodox Christians for the sort of deep involvement by the state in Church affairs that was typical of Byzantium. The American Founders, in their wisdom, went to great lengths to make sure that the state would not establish a Church nor would the state control its life. The following excerpt is from "Church Structures and Administration," by Michael Angold and Michael Whitby, in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies. In their broad outlines the administrative structure of the Byzantine Church as systematized under Justinian survived without radical change down to the end of the Byzantine Empire. This was testimony both to Justinian's administrative and legislative abilities and to the Church's ability to adapt … [Read more...]

To Frank Schaeffer: ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it

(HT: Orthodoxy Today) The State of Kansas vs Frank Schaeffer in the Murder of Dr. George Tiller By George C. Michalopulos Recently, the notorious abortionist Dr George Tiller was gunned down in his church in Wichita, Kansas. The killer was a man who appears to be a dysfunctional loner with grave psychological problems. Nobody in the pro-life movement has stepped forward to applaud him or his actions; routine condemnation has been the order of the day. One man however, has bravely stepped forward to take responsibility for this act. Frank Schaeffer, a self-described former member of the “Republican Party hate machine,” a group that included his father Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, and Ronald Reagan among many others, recently offered a mea-culpa in the left-wing journal The Huffington Post. Schaeffer believes that his life’s work as a young man in the Evangelical movement directly led to this incident because he helped create a "climate of fear" with his documentary … [Read more...]

AOCA Verdict: Invalid, Inapplicable, Inconsistent, Ill-Advised

HT: Orthodox Christians for Accountability (Initial summary written by Mark Stokoe of Orthodox Christians for Accountability and edited by AOI.) In a 15-page opinion offered to Metropolitan Philip, the Local Synod and the Board of Trustees of the Antiochian Archdiocese, dated May 13th, the Chancellors of the Archdiocese Robert Koory and Charles Ajalat shredded both the February 24th decision of the Synod of Antioch and the April 24th decision of the Local Synod as "invalid", "inapplicable" "inconsistent" and "ill-advised:" ...the February 24th decision is not a valid decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch. Moreover, even if were, it would have no effect on our Archdiocese since it wasn’t intend to apply to our Archdiocese and if it was intended, it would not apply because it is inconsistent with, negates, and would violate the irrevocable Resolution on Self-Rule, the Archdiocese Constitution and the Archdiocese Articles of … [Read more...]

Using ‘Human Rights’ to Squelch Free Speech

In the June issue of Reason Magazine, Ezra Levant details his long and unnecessary struggle with Canadian human rights watchdogs over charges that he insulted a Muslim extremist, who claimed to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. This sorry episode also cost Levant, the former publisher of Canada's Western Standard magazine, about $100,000. Read "The Internet Saved My Life: How I beat Canada's 'human rights' censors." (HT: RealClearPolitics). Levant sums it up this way: The investigation vividly illustrated how Canada’s provincial and national human rights commissions (HRCs), created in the 1970s to police discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of goods and services, have been hijacked as weapons against speech that offends members of minority groups. My eventual victory over this censorious assault suggests that Western governments will find it increasingly difficult in the age of the Internet to continue undermining human rights in the name of … [Read more...]

Wesley J. Smith: Orthodox Advocate for Human “Exceptionalism”

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Our culture is at a crossroad about the value of human life, argues author and human rights activist Wesley J. Smith in an interview with Kevin Allen on the "Illumined Heart" podcast (Ancient Faith Radio). Do we value human life simply because it is human, or do we value it based on notions and definitions of "personhood" including such characteristics as sentience, awareness, stages of biological development and others factors? The former allows for a universal definition of human rights. The latter reduces human beings to "subjects" that are bound to shifting and often capricious standards that determine who lives and who dies.   Listen here: widget here (43:38) It's a heated battle (one that even spills over into the comments of this blog on occasion). Often, the the level of vituperation in the attacks against religious defenders of human life arise because the utilitarians understand their view allows for no coherent defense of any human rights, Smith says. "They … [Read more...]

Moral Tradition and the Assault of Gay Activists

Over at OrthodoxyToday.org, Fr. Hans Jacobse looks at why gay activists in California are now attacking places of worship: So what explains the aggression of homosexual activists especially toward churches in California and elsewhere? Is it just because they lost the vote or is something else at work? The homosexual lobby argued that marriage is a fundamental right denied to homosexual couples. They overlook the fact that homosexuals already have the "right" to marry. They just can't marry a member of the same sex, just as a man can't marry multiple women, a woman multiple men, a father to a daughter, a brother to a sister, and so forth. Nothing is "denied" to them that is not denied to everyone else. "Unfair" they protested and indeed it is. But fairness to those who seek new definitions of marriage is not a concern of the moral tradition. There are compelling reasons why the convention is what it is (children need both a mother and father being one of them), and tinkering … [Read more...]

The Late, Refined Flower of Culture

Russian emigre philosopher Georgy Fedotov (1888-1951) proposed two basic principles for all of the freedoms by which modern democracy lives. First, and most valuable, there are the freedoms of "conviction" -- in speech, in print, and in organized social activity. These freedoms, Fedotov asserted, developed out of the freedom of faith. The other principle of freedom "defends the individual from the arbitrary will of the state (which is independent of questions of conscience and thought) -- freedom from arbitrary arrest and punishment, from insult, plundering and coercion on the part of the organs of power ... " In an ideal world, all of these freedoms would be present. But Fedotov also cautioned that "freedom is the late, refined flower of culture." For the flower to bloom, the roots need to be watered. A free society, from the ground up, requires a respect for the rule of law, a judiciary and police force that aren't easily bought, a political culture that knows how to rid itself … [Read more...]