October 24, 2014

Why is the Orthodox Episcopal Assembly Silent as Religious Liberty Erodes?

Source: Fr. Peter-Michael Preble Blog (The Church Under Attack) | Fr. Peter-Michael Preble

– In the Gospels Jesus warns us that the world will hate us. He is giving us a warning that being a Christian will not be easy and that it will be a fight, every day, for what we believe in. The world is becoming increasingly hostile to the truth of Jesus Christ and I do not see it getting any better.

Yesterday I posted an essay on the Huffington Post Religion Page and before my finger was even off the send button the attackers came out. They hate the fact that the church would dare speak out on issues that affect people and their beliefs, one of the more shocking things was that some of those attacking my words were Orthodox! Yes, the Orthodox Church teaches and preaches traditional family values, well it is supposed to anyway, but I fear that many of my brother priests have not done their job. I know our bishops have not done their job as they have been silent these last few years as the Government of the United States slowly erodes our religious liberty. But it is not their fault.

We need to provide the strength and support to our bishops so they will know that we want them to speak out. We need to let them know that we support the mission of the Church to being the truth to society and we need them to know that we need them to find their voice and find it now! I serve on a committee with the newly formed Episcopal Assembly of Orthodox Bishops. The Committee for Church and Society is tasked with the following:

The Committee for Church and Society will develop a process to determine both the propriety and the priority of advocacy by the Assembly of issues concerning Church, government and society that are relevant to the lives of the faithful in the Region (e.g., same-sex marriage, abortion, war, etc.).

I was appointed more than a year ago, although I found out I was appointed by reading it on the website of the Assembly, but the Committee has yet to meet or begin the work that we are supposed to accomplish!

The bishops of our church are the authentic teachers of the faith. It is their role as Arch-Pastors of His Church to educate the people in the faith and what the Church teaches. This is an important role but I feel many times they say only what the people want to hear. Jesus did not tell the people what they wanted to hear He told them what they needed to hear and most of them did not like it but that did not stop him. He was not concerned with what people would think or whether or not they would put anything in the collection bin, he was concerned with the salvation of their souls, period!

Friends I find it unbelievable when I hear Orthodox people, people who have been Orthodox their entire life, say things like same sex marriage should be allowed in the Orthodox Church. People who believe that sex before the sacrament of marriage is just fine because everyone is doing it, and a growing number of people who believe that unrestricted abortion is an acceptable form of contraception regardless of the reason. I am sorry to say these are not Orthodox positions!

Being a Christian in the 21st Century is not easy and being an Orthodox Christian is even harder. We are a Church with some pretty counter cultural beliefs that we hold dear. We are a Church that still placed requirements on her members and hold them accountable for their actions. We are a church that is supposed to preach the truth regardless of whether or not is it politically correct. We are a Church that preaches confession and repentance and that we are all sinners and that the Church is the hospital for healing not just a place to come to hear your native language and eat foods from the home land.

It is time for the Orthodox Church to wake up and start preaching what we need to preach! It is time for us to wake up and, with love, correct people when they go astray. “We have found the true faith” and that faith needs to be preached as it has been handed down to us and watered down. And it is high time that the Orthodox Bishops in this country find their voice and start to speak. If the leadership is not willing to speak then individual bishops need to do it. Your Eminences and Your Graces we need to hear you, your people need to hear from you, we long to hear your voice and we need your teaching!

Comments

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    Well said Father! You are, sadly, correct that we clergy have failed in our obligation to teach and preach the moral tradition of the Church. God willing the EA will respond to this latest threat to both religious freedom and the moral health of the American people.

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    Amen Father! Sadly the deafening silence and the refusal to teach and preach Christ (The TRUTH) and publicly bear witness how that truth brings LIGHT and LIFE into our lives (in and outside of the Church) by too many bishops and priests has brought us here.

    St. Ambrose exhorted Christians to not only take care of the poor but also to share the truth with others. He said that those that know the truth and fail to share it are just as culpable, or more so, than those that do not do acts of charity for those in need.

    The closest quote that I could find by St. Ambrose that matched the one I heard was this one:

    “Not only for every idle word must man give an account, but for every idle silence.”

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    Andrew says:

    Well said Father -you are of course completely correct. More than a few of us here speculated that the episcopal assembly would descend into irrelevance very quickly. And in two years, I think we have reached that point. The EA is little more than an annual tradeshow for Orthodox hierarchs and overpaid staffers. My suspicion is that the EA does not have much money to function and will be very limited going forward. Likewise, I doubt the Church and Society commissions chair Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh has much time to work with such a group given the amount of time he spends on facebook posting the opinions of others but avoiding taking responsibility for any serious viewpoint.

    My guess Father Peter is that after a few days you wil receive correspondence from 79th Street or Pittsburgh indicating that your services are not needed on this commission any more. 79th Street cannot have people speaking on serious social issues when such advocacy may place our invitation to the White House for Greek Independence day at risk.

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      Fr. Peter says:

      That will not silence me! It should not silence any of us. If we remain silent whilst our relgious freedom is being taken away it does a disservice to all those how gave their life for our faith. I will not let them down, I have been silent WAY too long!

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        Fr. Peter says:

        That should read WHO gave their life not HOW gave their life.

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          Geo Michalolpulos says:

          Fr, thank you for your resolute witness and courage to speak out. I too agree with Andrew that the EA will wither on the vine. However, may I suggest a bold stratagem which may yet breathe life into it? How about publicly addressing Savvas’ committee and then resigning if they do not respond or respond only in anodyne comfort-speak?

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            Andrew says:

            George, this is an excellent idea. If I were to go this route I would phrase the correspondence in the form of something along the lines of “10 Questions on Church and Society for the EA” and present a variety of serious moral question facing Orthodox Christianity in America. Certainly Fr. Peter as a member of the commission is empowered to put forth these questions.

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      Andrew,

      Regarding your observation that:

      Likewise, I doubt the Church and Society commissions chair Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh has much time to work with such a group given the amount of time he spends on facebook posting the opinions of others but avoiding taking responsibility for any serious viewpoint.

      That is precisely what Metropolitan Savas has been doing for the approximately 3 years since he became head of the “Office of Church and Society” in the GOA. He has never written any articles or essays, or issued any press releases that made reference to the Orthodox Moral Tradition and took a Christian stand against critical issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, religious discrimination against Christians, the destruction of moral teaching in institutions, etc..

      Worse still, Metropolitan Savas (Zembillas) has a favorite secular and liberal response he often quotes to anyone who brings up the subject of abortion. Usually that’s all he says! This quote is proudly listed in his Favorite Quotations on his facebook information page. Metropolitan Savas on abortion:

      “Given the demographics of abortion—which shows a terrible over-representation of young, single, urban, low-income African-American women—I do not understand how a pro-life agenda can be divorced from a social justice agenda. It is impossible for a Christian to acquiesce in policies that allow doctors to suck the life out of a fetus—yet it is deplorably common for Christians to eagerly encourage ‘conservative’ policies that perpetuate poverty, substandard education, and inadequate healthcare for these littlest ones, once they have left the womb.”

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        Andrew says:

        Notice the wordplay in this quote on Metropolitan’s Savas’ facebook page. In the womb….its a “fetus” only outside the womb is it a person.

        The $50,000 dollar question for Metropolitan Savas is quite simple “When do human rights begin?”

        The truly tragic aspect of Metropolitan Savas is that once you scratch the surface you see that he is a fashionable fundamentalist. He places a great priority on being socially accepted so much so that he fails in being a a pastor to his flock. Sure his cotton candy variety of Orthodoxy may make him appear to be the “hip and cool” Metropolitan of Pittsburgh with 4000+ facebook friends but the reality is that just a Cotton Candy is just a bunch of empty calories that have no nutrional value so Metropolitan’s Savas’ vision of the Church looks and sounds great but will ultimate leave his flock hungry for a more robust Orthodoxy that does not accomodate the world but rows upstream againist it.

        Too bad he is unwilling to give it to them.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, in your state Chris abortions are perform more on hispanics than Blacks. Ca is about 37 percent hispanic and only about 6 percent black. So, a lot of the abortions in La and Orange and San Diego are on hispanic ladies not black ladies.

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    isaac says:

    Telling non-Christians how they ought to live their lives and then getting a backlash for it is hardly the stuff of persecution. I see no evidence that the first Christians engaged in saying much of anything about how people lived outside the fold. They were people of another kingdom.

    Christians are not known in the US as the people who never have abortions. They are known as the people who have abortions just as often as non-Christians but make a point of telling non-Christians how bad abortion is. If you can’t see how this is a self-defeating approach to interacting with the culture I am not sure what to say. I am all for Bishops speaking to Christians in the fold about all of these issues, but I don’t think they should say a word to non-Christians about anything unless they are specifically asked or invited to do so.

    Christendom is already a wash, but the Church doesn’t have to be.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      So the public square should belong only to radical secularists? I’m not sure if even moderate non-Christians would agree with that. This isn’t ancient Rome where statements against the state were tantamount to displeasing the gods.

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        isaac says:

        Fr. Hans,

        I think that to the degree Christians are in the public square it should be for defensive purposes, not for the purposes of attempting to get non-Christians to live as Christians (which Christians do poorly enough anyway). And I think if the bishops and other clergy were serious about these issues they would unite and started proposing things like encouraging all the faithful to cease government based marriages, to withdraw from the military, and to cease to support all public education. These things would be crippling to any politician and my guess is the defense of religious liberty would be secured. I think we have to acknowledge that many people outside the Church see Christians as hypocritical busy bodies who can’t get their own house in order but have no problem using the power of the state to try to force other people outside the fold to get their houses in order. And there is a large grain of truth in that view.

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          Fr. Peter says:

          So when Jesus told us to go into ALL the world what was he saying? Only the places that like us?

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            isaac says:

            Fr. Peter,

            It is odd to me that you wouldn’t at least quote that full verse. Do you not draw a distinction between preaching the gospel and pushing for legislation at the voting booth? And what did Jesus say to do with those who rejected the gospel? Compel them by law? Nothing of the sort. And why does the concept of anathema exist? Because there is a clear distinction between those who are in the fold and those who are outside.

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              Fr. Peter says:

              It is our responsibility too preach the Gospel everywhere. I am not advocating fighting for legislation at the voting booth but fighting to keep rights we already have. We have to speak the truth in all places at all times that is our job. And we mostly have to preach to those in the church who hear but do not believe that is whay the majority of members of Congress who claim to be Orthodox are anything but based on their voting record.

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          I seem to recall many passages in Scriptures that directly contradict the impulse to focus inwardly only:

          “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

          “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

          “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7)

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            Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

            Don’t forget Paul’s appeal to Caesar. Should we not avail ourselves of the civic resources offered us? Paul did. Further, shouldn’t we defend the values that inform and guard those resources even though there are hypocrites among us?

            Acts 25:7-12

            25:7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.

            25:8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.

            25:9 But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?

            25:10 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.

            25:11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.

            25:12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.

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              isaac says:

              Among all these responses I have yet to see a single passage that gives an example of any Christian using the force of law to compel non-Christians to live according to Christian standards, or the discipline of the Church extending to a single non-believer. A person in the fold can be anathematized. A person outside can’t. What does St. Paul say about the spouses of new believers who married before the spouse converted? He puts no injunctions on them whatsoever. All of his words are for Christians only.

              St. Paul, who was ultimately executed by the state, never used the power of the state to compel a single non-believer to do a single thing.

              The world will not be saved at the voting booth or in the public square. At most Christians should strive to be left alone and then, if they are not, engage in the non-violent resistance that was simply a matter of course for early Christians.

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                Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

                Fr. Gregory already answered this below and I agree with him. This issues is not one where Christians are trying to compel the state to impose a particular morality. It’s the other way around. The state is compelling Christians to act in ways that violate their conscience.

                As for Paul, his appeal to Caesar shows a man quite aware of the state and culture around him who revealed no reticence to assert his rights when appropriate. How is resisting the Obama mandates any different given our civic rights (and moral obligation) to engage this argument in the public square?

                I fear that your prescription fosters an increasing darkness. If increasing state encroachment over the moral lives of its citizens requires Christians to adopt a cultural obscurity (the argument you seem to be making), then you have given radical secularists their justification to issue even more onerous dictates. I can’t cede the moral ground in this debate as easily as you think I should.

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          Geo Michalopulos says:

          Isaac, that’s infantile reasoning. The question ultimately is “do you believe that in a democratic republic there is such a thing as the public square?”

          If “yes”, then are Christians allowed to inform it? If “no”, are you comfortable with the resulting tyranny? And yes, we do impose our values on others. The abolitionists imposed theirs on the nation, that’s why we have the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.

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            isaac says:

            Geo,

            What are you attempting to say about abolitionism? You seem to be implying that Christians were united against slavery in the US, which is simply not the case. Many people who called themselves Christian fought to their deaths to keep the right to own other humans. Many abolitionists were in no way Christians. Many Christians who were against slavery nevertheless took their superiority and favored status in God’s eyes as white people for granted. What if, in ante bellum America, Christians had been universally known as the people who never owned slaves, who used their money to buy the freedom of slaves, and who took former slaves in to care for them and help them? Wouldn’t this have been a far more compelling witness than essentially being forced kicking and screaming to give up slavery and racism?

            I would say that your belief that you can make non-Christians into Christians by having a majority in Congress is infantile thinking.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          What’s more “defensive” than resistance toward encroaching state power over the Church? Without the public square, that resistance would be much more difficult, dangerous, and costly — a direction we are heading towards unfortunately. There are some fundamental civic values that Christians and others share in common that are worth defending (and, I argue, particular to Christendom), and the ostensible hypocrisy of Christians themselves has no bearing on the veracity of those values or our obligation to defend them.

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            isaac says:

            I think I already stated that I support non-violent resistance. This is when the Church refuses to be compelled by the state to do things which violate its teachings. That is a far cry from Christians using the power of the state to compel non-Christians to live according to Christian standards, which is an offensive approach in the public square.

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              Michael Bauman says:

              Why is it offensive Isaac? I’m not talking about ideological political agendas with a Christian patina BTW or specific Dogma, but what is wrong with inforcing basic Christian moral behavior such as ‘thou shall not kill’? Chrisitan morals are already in the warp and the woof of all of our laws any way. To attempt to extricate them will only result in a dark and anarchic society. Is that what you want?

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              Isaac,

              I agree with you that Christian suffering political backlash as a result of our witness in the public square is different than persecution. At the same time, however, witnessing to our moral tradition in the public square and adding our voice as citizens to the legislative debate is different than trying to impose on the rights of others. Forgive me, but who has suggested imposing Christian moral standards on non-Christians (or Christians for that matter)? The Obama administration has adopted policies that mandate that at least some Christians violate their own moral standards as a condition of exercising their own religious freedom. This last point is crucial.

              The matter that Fr Peter addresses in his essay is not why Christians should try and impose our vision of the moral life on society. Rather he raises the not unreasonable concern that the Obama administration is violating the civil rights of religious believers in order to advance his own, personal, vision of the good life and of a civil society.

              This critique, finally, is not unique to those Christians who object on moral grounds to artificial contraception and legalized abortion. Even those Christians who see contraception as morally licit and who might even support legalized abortion find the administration’s policy troublesome on both moral and Constitutional grounds.

              In Christ,

              +FrG

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    Patrick Easter says:

    Well said, Father, and great HuffPo piece. We need make a serious translation in this society from being “a Russian kind of Catholic” or “er, something out of that Greek movie” to living out the fullness of the Faith – of being Christians who mean it, and live it!

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, George I agree with you. Christians are known to do bad things like everyone else but that doesn”t mean as you stated that they shouldn’t fight back. Take the emperor Justinian that wrote laws against child abandoment, child prostutuion, foreced castration and other good laws that was accuse by Procopius and Evagrius Scholastics of letting the blues that got into trouble with the law off the hook or stealing the money or property of wealthy people.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Basil the first was involved in the murder of Michael in order to become emperor. He was another law giver among the Byzantines. Laws that touch on the so-called social issues today. A lot of orthodox probably like the laws regulating interest rates but will not defend those that deal with outlawing abortion and so forth.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Fr Jacobse is right, no matter what your government is, we are responsible. I not as familar with Russian or Eastern European laws prior to the 20th century but most likely on abortion and other related matters they were similar to laws in the west in Roman Catholic or Protestant nations.

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    Greg says:

    What does it say about the Orthodoxy system in the U.S. that a priest feels the need to publically chide his superiors?

    When I read the title of this article I thought I was going to find out why the EA was silent. Perhaps they didn’t believe there was an issue? Were they waiting for guidance from the Mother Churches? Were they afraid of the public’s reaction? But, as I read the article I realized that the question was really that – a question. Father Preble doesn’t know why the EA is silent on this issue, and he’s asking the EA, “Why are you silent?”

    This is a very sad state of affairs. For a priest to call a bishop to account in a public forum indicates to me that the “system” is broken. (Now, to be exact, Fr. Preble didn’t really do that. He scolded the EA as a whole, but if all you have is a committee – and not a hierarchy – you have to go with what you’ve got. ) I would hope that there were a number of private priest-to-bishop conversations prior to this public airing of inertia on this issue, but what is done – is done.

    I tried to think of this in a different setting. What if there was a local bank manager who started to publically accuse his out-of-state superiors of not doing their job? What would I think? Well, I’d certainly question whether or not the bank was reputable. What would I do? If my money was in the bank, I’d move it. If my money was in another bank, I’d be thankful (and I’d probably double check my bank anyway, just to be safe).

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      So in the upside-down world of individuals who ignore the message and blame the messenger, a courageous priest that asks that our leadership speak loudly and defend the Orthodox Christian Moral Tradition and dares to challenge a silent hierarchy is therefore to blame for a dysfunctional Church. Lord have mercy! The pointy finger of indignation is pointed in the face of the righteous priest and he is attacked with the classic liberal/leftist/secularist phrase: “HOW DARE YOU!” Lord have mercy!

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        Greg says:

        Chris,

        It was not my intention to blame the messenger (and, to be honest, as I was writing I did think that some of what I said might sound like I was doing just that). Since you did get that idea, however, let me state CLEARLY that I applaud Fr. Preble for having the courage to speak out for leadership from those who are supposed to lead.

        The point I was trying to make is that Fr. Preble’s action is an indicator of a problem much greater than a lack of action/guidance/leadership by the bishops on this point of “religious liberty.” How long can any organization last, let alone grow and thrive, if those in charge refuse to lead? (Maybe for quite some time, who knows?)

        I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush, however, and must applaud +Jonah and his March for Life leadership.

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          Greg,

          Thanks for clarifying what you meant to say, since it came across as admonishing Fr. Peter. You are right that an organization cannot survive, let alone thrive and grow, if its leaders refuse to lead and “Walk the Talk.” Given the intensity of the attack on religious liberty and Christian teaching, principles, and moral precepts we see all around us, and the continuing danger posed to the faithful, especially impressionable children, teenagers, and young men and women, silence means a betrayal of the message of the Gospels, the teaching of Christ, and the entire tradition of the Orthodox Church. The sheep are under constant attack, while the shepherds, especially the bishops in the GOA are completely AWOL on critical moral issues that endanger young minds and souls.

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    Maxim says:

    Isaac, what do you the purpose of political correctness? Is it not a set of beliefs being imposed on the rest of us? is not everyone expected to follow them? Should secular humanists have a corner on the market of ideas? The truth is the truth and is not dependent on our behaviors. Is the Gospel not the truth? Are we not commanded to preach the Gospel to all nations? If we do nothing, then tyranny will be the logical conclusion. Just look at the average Islamic state. Compare the inevitable results of the strict imposition of political correctness and blasphemy laws under shariah law. I don’t see much of a difference, except for the degree of the penalty imposed on the “offender”. As Christians we MUST engage the “public square”.

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    Harry Coin says:

    Fr. Hans writes in part ..”And it is high time that the Orthodox Bishops in this country find their voice and start to speak. If the leadership is not willing to speak then individual bishops need to do it. ”

    I think here we see a simple mundane political calculation going on. On the one hand, the bishop’s leadership is precarious with the government owing to dubious mostly ordained young never married personnel conduct management. They think if you avoid to engage the stronger the stronger will ignore them. On the other hand, they are bishops so if God isn’t happy with their choices He appears not to have mentioned it persuasively as yet in ways that have effected them personally. Folk with families on the other hand, I mean, you know, more people were part of a young adult group in 1963 than exist altogether in some ‘jurisdictions’ today. So we’ve been affected.

    We hear so much about the importance of these family life issues, how the faith comes from the home but lets ask of current interest as you write about the bishops — the last time they didn’t live alone and were part of family life Gerald Ford was President for most of them, maybe Jimmy Carter for the younger ones. The relationships between the various Gospel phrases and deep meanings bouncing through the old texts, songs and dress and schedules for services– that, they’re good with that. The deep relationships and resonances motivating family life, well, today we get all excited if two decimal places fewer Orthodox show up in one place compared to 1963.

    Mostly for our church it wasn’t that way through the centuries since widowers were bishops all over the place, and so knew of family life. And, folk didn’t make it past 35-40 years old for most of the centuries so even the ordained young never married weren’t too far removed from family life.

    The world has changed. The Gospel calls for bishops to be ‘husbands of but one wife’. We don’t do that, we’ve lost two decimal points worth of youth, but we do call ourselves ‘Orthodox’. Tick tock.

    Want to get it in graphic form? Watch these two in order.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sc4HxPxNrZ0 “It’s not space we need, it’s balance”

    and

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo

    Harry Coin

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      Harry Coin says:

      P.S. 13,000+ Orthodox in one place. You will, for the rest of your life, be able to say, ‘I was there — a participant in the first national gathering of the Orthodox Church in the New World.’ – From the opening address to the full stadium that day in 1963.

      Watch it for yourself: http://youtu.be/z2b24IGxkqk I didn’t believe it either until I saw it.

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        Andrew says:

        Harry, I tink your reference to CEOYLA is all well and good but I cannot help but wonder how they failed that is how the momentum of 13,000 Orthodox youth in one place could not be harnessed for positive change even in the area of Western PA/OHIO which now has parishes withering left and right. 1963 in Pittburgh was a differnet world, a different economy and a different culture.

        I am not of the 1963 generation but the way I see it more and more, Orthodox disunity has become a profitable enterprise for a select group of people. Looking at those videos all I could think of was here you have Archbishop Nathaniel talking about the unity of the Church in 1963 and in 2012 the same Archbishop is talking with Bucharest about giving up his diocese’s self governance and returning to being governed from abroad.

        I appreciate the walk down memory lane Harry but I have to tell you that nostalgia will not renew Orthodoxy in America. Until we dismantle the structures that allow people to profit off of disunity in America we will have no American Church.

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    Robert says:

    I am not against the public square (although it is a suspect and loaded construct, that is for another post I suppose) but the objection I have with much that is being proposed here and doc signing elsewhere etc. is that it is so terribly inconsistent. Where’s the outcry for the poor, against government collusion with corporations, against our militarism, our imperialistic projects, our materialism?? I don’t see it, and until we stand for and live consistently according to the Gospel commandments -refusing to be domesticated by Babylon- we will be a farce. When will we change, stop shedding blood, kill -sacrifice- our neighbour in the name of our idol, the true god we serve, the nation state? Isaac is right, as it is now, we have no moral basis to “bring the truth to society”. What is truth, then, which we bring to society?

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, the Byzantines were not always right but they did have some laws which are today called the social issues. Not that I would have capital punishment for homosexaul behavior but why legalized homosexual married. Against war, against Corporations just sounds like a leftist movement. Byzantines wanted to avoid war but developed a strong army against Islam until the 11th century. There were wealthy aristocratics in both the Byzantine and Russian Empires. But Basil Ii return some property to the poorer folks but none of the Byzantines believe in full economic equality. In fact, a study shows the Byzantine empire in 1000 more unequal in wealth than the USA is today. I sometimes disagree with the modern Republican Party on taxes. maybe more taxes are needed to deal with some defense and social security issues. Yes, I think middle class babyboomers should not be totally left out since they had to pay taxes in the system over 30 years or so.. But the far left doesn’t see that not olnly the banks are too blame but a lot of lower to middle class people should not have brought those houses in the first place. And the state was involved in pushing the bad loans as well as the banks and should have regulated the qualifcations to buy the house in the first place.

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    Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos says:

    With the consent of your canonical hierarch, His Eminence Archbishop Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas, I write this day in response to comments made in your recent posting, “Religious Freedom Under Attack” (January 23, 2012, at Huffingtonpost.com; Culture/Religion).

    Most knowledgeable voters would not be surprised at the recent turn of events concerning health care and religious institutions as determined by the administration of President Obama, whose record even as a state legislator in Illinois—a fact discussed during the Presidential campaign prior to his election—demonstrated views on exemptions of “conscience” very similar to those recently announced by the Department of Health and Human Services. If you feel “duped,” as you state it, it is likely to your inattentiveness and ignorance.

    This same inattentiveness and ignorance is obviously displayed later in the same post when you state, unequivocally, that regarding your subject, “as usual our Orthodox Bishops are silent on this.” Indeed, your ignorance of the activities and blatant disrespect for your hierarch and the many others ministering in the United States is demonstrated in the accusation that we, “are more concerned with territory and language than we are with issues that affect real people! It is time for our bishops to wake up and speak out.”

    Perhaps the hierarchs of the Church could decide to participate in civil discourse in the crass political discourse so common on the Internet. Perhaps there is a “more excellent way.” While the Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops has indeed received much attention for their public reactions (over several years—again, dating to a similar case involving the Chicago Archdiocese when then State Senator Obama served in the Illinois legislature) due to their many institutions directly affected by the change in policy, this does not mean that Orthodox hierarchs have been “silent.” The fact that Orthodox hierarchs may have not received the attention of the public media in similar fashion might be admitted, but this is also not the only manner to effect change in governmental policy.

    Furthermore, as a former President of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty, I do not recall your commentary or acknowledgement of our Church’s action at the forefront of the successful efforts to abolish capital punishment in Illinois—an issue that obviously affects real people, including Andrew Kokoraleis, an Orthodox Christian who was the last person executed by the State of Illinois.

    In addition to my own extensive activities with the Bishop’s Task Force on HIV/AIDS (the first Orthodox ministry established to confront and minister to persons living with, surviving in, and dying in this pandemic) and other social justice ministries here in the Midwest and, indeed, throughout the United States, I would also bring your attention to the lauded participation of numerous hierarchs in right-to-life issues, including the annual march in Washington, D.C. To these we could add the many parochial clergy and monastics in the United States who continually participate in various coalitions, organizations and routinely address such subjects as that of your recent post. To suggest otherwise is a most serious insult to their integrity.

    Of course, I could continue with numerous other examples from personal activities of clergy and laity, of public pronouncements and statements of SCOBA and the particular Orthodox jurisdictions.

    If “our people” are confused and need to hear our voices “loud and clear,” your comments are certainly counterproductive when you suggest, insolently, that His Eminence Archbishop Nicolae, myself, and our brother hierarchs are “more concerned with territory and language.” Your comments only serve to undermine their authority among those less familiar with the activities and teachings of the Church. Indeed, you have only served to ridicule all faithful Orthodox Christians in your caricature and outmoded stereotyping.

    I know not one hierarch ministering in the United States, or anywhere else, that would prioritize territory or preservation of culture and language over matters concerning life and death. I do know that the political and legal ends you erroneously thought you were serving can be achieved in numerous ways, one that does not infringe on the dignity of any of the sisters and brothers of the Holy Church, clergy and laity alike. Perhaps, I pray, you will be more sensitive to upholding that dignity in your public comments in the future.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor
    Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago

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      Andrew says:

      Certainly a more paternal response would have served better than the some of the words chosen in this response. Bishop Demetrios had a wonderful opportunity here to engage both this important issue and the Orthodox Christians who feel passionately about it. Instead, I can’t help but be saddened that he chose to play the “offended hierarch” card. I hope AOI readers will review the bishops statements of fact and respond respectfully and directly.

      For my part, I would like to focus on the following quote and pose a follow-up question:

      Bishop Demetrios writes:

      I know not one hierarch ministering in the United States, or anywhere else, that would prioritize territory or preservation of culture and language over matters concerning life and death

      If this is true then can someone please explain why the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America honors Former Senator Paul Sarbanes and his extensive legisaltive history in creating laws that violate human dignity and promote unrestricted abortion with the Athenagoras Human Rights Award and the title of Archon? Is it possible to support such human rights violations and be considered not only in good standing with the Church but a model Greek Orthodox leader? If matters of life and death come first in the Greek Orthodox Church then why exalt a member of your community who during his career actively legislated and worked against one of Orthodoxy’s most sacred and timeless truths?

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      Harry Coin says:

      Folks this reply apparently by a bishop might be a hoax, replying only to a re-published copy of an article in a discussion blog seems odd for a person who is certainly able to tell the difference. I could only find this reply on this blog/forum, and not the original place where Fr. Peter’s article appears (which allows for comments). So, might not be authentic. Could be, but maybe not.

      At any rate reading it an interview with the former mayor of New York, Ed Koch came to mind. Hizzoner wasn’t happy he was taking heat for failing to aid a great many in one area on the basis of his many other activities. “If we can’t please everyone, we shouldn’t help anyone??” he retorted.

      It’s certainly not unprecedented for the bishops to come together and hold forth on subjects in public when it suits them, which oddly enough the text above mentions. This posting appears to be very strangely silent as to the central question in the whole matter: if then and often, why not now about this??

      I recall when the then new Metroplitan of ‘The West’ or San Francisco whatever for the GOA held forth that legal gay marriage had his wink-and-affirmative nod as a civil political thing he’d support but not bless in church, a short while later a combined statement of bishops came out.

      All the belittling and put-downing… Well I at least haven’t heard that bishop speak in such a way.

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      John Couretas says:

      Bishop Demetrios is obviously an intelligent man, as evidenced by his thoughtful Sanctity Sunday talk. I’m having trouble, however, reconciling that speech with this bullying, blustering abuse of a faithful priest who bravely spoke out on an important matter of religious freedom and personal conscience.

      Phrases like “inattentiveness and ignorance” and “blatant disrespect” and accusations of “insolently” speaking out. Are Orthodox seminarians reading these words and wondering if they’ll get this kind of treatment when they become priests? Some might be considering a visit to the career counselor.

      Here’s an example of how Fr. Preble spoke out so “insolently”:

      The bishops of our church are the authentic teachers of the faith. It is their role as Arch-Pastors of His Church to educate the people in the faith and what the Church teaches. This is an important role but I feel many times they say only what the people want to hear. Jesus did not tell the people what they wanted to hear He told them what they needed to hear and most of them did not like it but that did not stop him. He was not concerned with what people would think or whether or not they would put anything in the collection bin, he was concerned with the salvation of their souls, period!

      Citing the teachings of our Lord? Impudent priest!

      The bishop also tells Fr. Preble that “the political and legal ends you erroneously thought you were serving can be achieved in numerous ways, one that does not infringe on the dignity of any of the sisters and brothers of the Holy Church, clergy and laity alike.”

      Is there some secret campaign or campaigns that the Assembly of Bishops or individual bishops have underway now to influence the Obama administration on the HHS mandate and other “culture of death” problems? In what way does a bishop taking a public stand and speaking to the issue clearly to his flock and wider community “infringe” on his dignity? Were the apostles and Church Fathers concerned about this curious definition of “dignity” when they went into public places — often risking their necks — to proclaim the Gospel for all to hear? Or did they have “numerous ways” to do this without opening their mouths?

      Bishop Demetrios says that there are “many parochial clergy and monastics in the United States who continually participate in various coalitions, organizations and routinely address such subjects as that of your recent post.” I don’t doubt him. If he would please give us a directory of these “numerous” coalitions and organizations we might be able to help.

      It would also be instructive and edifying to have copies of the homilies, parish bulletin notices, patriarchal and episcopal encyclicals, joint declarations, youth educational materials, oratorical festival guidelines, YouTube clips, web links, and anything else related to GOA hierarchs, priests and monastics preaching and teaching on the subject of the sanctity of life. We can publish and redistribute these materials in various places. We need to educate our people. Maybe we could gather these materials, and those from other Orthodox jurisdictions, along with the directory of the “numerous” coalitions and organizations we have built in the pro-life movement, and build a website around them.

      I’ve been in the GOA my entire life and I’ve never once heard a priest or a bishop or a monastic utter the phrase “sanctity of life” or deliver a sermon or informal talk on the subject. Nor did I hear those words when I lived and worked and worshipped for several years in Chicago. Nor in my visits to GOA churches when I traveled around the country. I know there are many clergy and lay people committed to the sanctity of life cause in my Church, I just haven’t met many of them. I pray their numbers increase.

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        Andrew says:

        Bravo John! I think Bishop Demetrios needs to hear from many people that his words here were a complete failure of spiritual fatherhood. Fr. Peter did nothing nor did he say anything wrong. The real pastoral failure rests not with Fr. Peter but with Bishop Demetrios who hardly shows a servant model of leadership in his response but instead seems consumed with the prestige and honor of his position. Sadly this behavior is not isolated but all too familiar among GOA hierarchs. Why any young man would pursue a vocation and subject himself and possibly his family to such behavior is beyond me. I do not see a pastor in the bishops words. I do not see a teacher or a mentor. I do not see a servant. I just see a bully.

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      Greg says:

      In an open forum a bishop calls a priest inattentive, ignorant, blatantly disrespectful, and insolent. Then the bishop tells the priest that he should have chosen a way that “does not infringe on the dignity” of the clergy.

      Well… if calling a priest inattentive, ignorant, blatantly disrespectful, and insolent does not infringe on the dignity of said clergyman – I don’t know what does.

      And, just maybe, if The Committee for Church and Society would actually meet and provide some guidance then the good Father would not have to resort to “the crass political discourse so common on the Internet.”

      (Speaking of territory, where is Mokissos anyway?)

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    Robert says:

    Thank Bishop for your response. As you well point out there are many other important issues beyond abortion, such as the ones you list and the others I mentioned in my post above. It seems to me that to focus narrowly on only a few at the cost of neglecting others is terribly inconsistent. The alignment with a particular political party and classifying issues as variable Left or Right (such as it appears it is advocated here by some) amounts to a subversion of the Gospel, or so it seems to me. Thank you for speaking up.

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    Robert says:

    Yes I agree the tone is regrettable.

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    Andrew says:

    Fr. Peter, just checking in to see if you are ok? Haven’t seen you post here in awhile and your blog has not been updated in about a month? Let us know you are ok and free to speak.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Preble) who serves on the committee that the Assembly has tasked to speak to cultural issues has dared to criticize his colleagues for their [...]

  2. [...] the happiness of this occasion was diminished recently when Kantzavellos publicly admonished Fr Peter Preble for the latter’s criticism of the Assembly of Bishops and the inertia they [...]

  3. [...] included) indicated that what drove the Assembly to action was the criticism of John Couretas, Fr. Peter Preble and others. Both wrote blistering critiques of Assembly inaction and apparent apathy. Embarrassment [...]

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