Engelhardt on the Manhattan Declaration

In a new column, published in the San Angelo (Texas) Standard-Times, Terry Mattingly talks to H. Tristram Engelhardt about the Manhattan Declaration. Englehardt is the author of “The Foundations of Bioethics” (M & M Scrivener Press, 2000).

H. Tristam Engelhardt

H. Tristam Engelhardt

While nothing in the Manhattan Declaration is truly new, arguments about its call for civil disobedience will help draw sharper lines between traditional believers and the powers that be in an increasingly diverse and secular America, said H. Tristram Engelhardt, senior editor of the Christian Bioethics journal at Oxford University.

“This document is the product of a political coalition, but it’s not political in the same sense that the tax code is political,” said Engelhardt, who is advising several Eastern Orthodox leaders who are studying the text. “This is political in the sense that these Christians are working together on certain issues that have moral and public implications.”

The reality is that its authors believe there are “certain God-ordained truths” that continue to have authority and weight in American life, he said. The big question: Are they right or wrong?

“You could make a case,” concluded Engelhardt, “that anyone who recites the Nicene Creed, or anyone who believes that God has established any requirements for how we are supposed to live our lives can now be called a fundamentalist in the context of this secular culture … That is what this debate is actually about.”

Read Manhattan Declaration: Is it noble or just reckless?


  1. George Michalopulos :

    Bravo Dr Englehardt! It is about time that “moderates” in the Orthodox Church understand what is at stake here. Even though they like to think that they are more “elevated” than the traditionalists, Englehardt has distilled the problem of “fundamentalism” to its essence: we are not talking about Genesis-literalism here but whether one simply believes in Christianity. I’m sorry all you worldly Christian elitists out there: if you simply have nothing more than a lukewarm belief in God you are nothing but fundamentalists to the rabid secularists/materialists. You will not have an out when the time comes, except to renounce faith in Christ.

    As for you arch-traditionalists who have disdained genuine ecumenical engagement (not the execrable WCC/NCC kind), you likewise will have to make a choice: either man the ramparts with dedicated Christians of other confessions or retreat into your intellectual ghettos and watch as the world slides ever deeper into the abyss, all the while patting yourselves on the back because we’re “better” than the “heretics.”

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    George, I’m not sure you mean this but it sounds like you are saying Dr. Engelhardt is a “moderate.” He’s not. He takes his Orthodox faith with great seriousness. Just clarifying the record.

  3. cynthia curran :

    Well, I agree that the orthodox should communcate with other christians. A lot of Protestants these days are cut off from the churches past. Granted, not everyone who learns of early church history is going to convert. But the high nationalism on some Orthodox’s part has driven people away in high numbers. A lot of American Christians would like a different view on how to present the moral issues besides the Protestant or Roman Catholic approach.

  4. ” You will not have an out when the time comes, except to renounce faith in Christ.”

    ” …either man the ramparts with dedicated Christians of other confessions or retreat into your intellectual ghettos and watch as the world slides ever deeper into the abyss, all the while patting yourselves on the back because we’re “better” than the “heretics.” ”

    The Orthodox Church lasted trough centuries of Ottoman oppression, shortly followed by the barbarity and cruelty of the communist regime. The later spared no effort to corrupt or alter consciences they could no kill.

    I really do not know ho many of “dedicated Christians of other confessions ” will keep their faith in Christ when the time comes … What strengthens my faith is the example of the Saints (canonized or yet to be canonized). How many of us would stand still after ten or twenty years of physical and psychological torture in prisons? The answer is none. Only those strengthened by the Holy Spirit can resist!

  5. Michael Bauman :

    Two good books: “Christ is Calling You” by Fr. George Calciu of blessed memory and “The Gulag Archipelego” by Solzhenitsyn.

    Father George spoke of his time in Romanian prisons saying that everyday they broke him and every day he went back to his cell and repented in tears.

    Solzhenitsyn pointed out that when the state comes for you, you have to assume that everyone you love and everything you love is already dead or they will turn you. There were priests and bishops who were compromised because they felt they had to protect the Church.

    If we do it on our will alone, we will fail and be counted with the transgressors.

  6. George Michalopulos :

    Fr Hans, not at all! I agree with Dr Englehardt. I’m just taking on those who are “moderates” who will find fault with him. And of course the “conservatives” who despise other Christian confessions.

  7. Michael, you should also know that Fr. Calciu was also a “re-educator” and a known collaborator with the communists. He used his position to turn in other political prisoners in order to get preferential treatment for himself. When he came to America he began coming to he Holy Cross Romanian Orthodox Church in Washington D.C. where my grandfather, Fr. Basil Prisacarou, was the priest. Fr. Calciu quickly undermined my grandfather’s role as pastor and stirred up ethnic tensions in the parish which alienated the American-born members and lead to the parish eventually splitting in half. He used his political clout to get my grandfather removed and had himself appointed priest there (after the English-speaking members left and started another Orthodox church). Calciu liked the location because it was close to Washington D.C. where he could continue his political activities and still collect a salary as a priest while milking the “suffering under the communists” dog and ponny show as long as possible.

    Fr. Calciu is the only priest I have ever heard that dared to compare himself with Christ in his sermons. That should have been a huge warning sign for us and the parish. The fruits of his work in the Falls Church parish, the nasty and dismissive way in which he treated other priest, the vicious manner in which he fueled hatred, spread lies and rumors, used others to undermine another brother priest for his own selfishness and greed, speak volumes of who this man really was.

    “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23) I would not recommend anything that this man had written to anyone, despite the nice wrapping and “saintly” public image he presented to others. He was a ravenous wolf inside. Please stay away from his writing. There are other true martyrs and theologians to recommend.

    “Both Anania and another well-known priest, the American immigrant Father Calciu, are among those who strongly oppose opening the Securitate files of priests. As sympathizers with the Iron Guard (the Romanian interwar fascist movement), they share a common past with those who later collaborated with the communists. Many priests sympathized with the Iron Guard, whose essence lies in its Eastern Christian fundamentalism and nationalism rather than in its other typically fascist traits. Both Anania and Calciu have, in this regard, similar histories of endorsing undemocratic political movements—fascism at first, and communism later on. Younger prelates have only a communist, and probably Securitate, past.” (Church and State in Eastern Europe, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi)


    Among the re-educated in our cell, the most dangerous at that time was one Gheorghe Calciu, a former medical student nicknamed “L’Eminence grise [1] of Director Goiciu. ” He was one of the most devoted and determined products of re-education, and to some extent he took Turcanu’s place. But in the cell, he was not at all on the defensive, as were the others in his group, he was in fact relaxed, almost jovial. He went so far, one afternoon, as to recite the well-known poem by Makarenko, the “Pedagogical Poem!” [2]

    Without going into the cultural value of this verse, the very fact that he would dare to mention a Soviet writer in the cell, even one very much appreciated by the Party, brought laughter, at least for the time. Everyone began comparing Makarenko’s “pedagogy” to Turcanu’s, and the unmaskings at Pitesti were then and there labeled “Pedagogic Poem. ” It wasn’t very long before Turcanu was being called, in the cell, “Evghenii Simionov Makarenko,” and if someone wanted to know whether you had passed through unmaskings, he asked if you had read the Pedagogic Poem. This allusion implied, of course, that the system of re-education was also of Soviet origin.

    If Calciu could no longer even “in part” apply his re-educative methods in our cell, still he could not be prevented from keeping under perfect control those who had been his collaborators in the workshop. He did not stay in the cell very long; he was taken out by the political officer and sent to the infirmary. After his departure the atmosphere cleared completely, and the rest of the re-educated, little by little, without being pushed, or even challenged, began to find themselves. The month of May came, and with it an almost complete healing of wounds with the integration of almost all who had undergone unmasking, into the normal monotony of prison life. (The Anti-Humans by Dumitru Bacu, CHAPTER XXVII – ENDLESS ISOLATION)

    • Michael Bauman :

      That is too bad. That certainly puts him in another light, but the impact of his words (whether he did lived them or not) is still with me. All I have is the book.

      Perhaps a better model is the priest Richard Wurmbrand described who died holding in his arms his former captor and killer forgiving him in the name of Christ.

      If we face the torture and oppression here that those in Communist lands faced, we will have to forgive if we are to survive, we will have to have our faith not in this world, other people or even what we individually think of as the Church as we are, all of us, mostly likely mistaken about what she is anyway.

      Jesus on the Cross pronounced forgiveness to all, we shall be called to no less a trial whether we face worldly persecution or not.

      • The book that you mentioned was written after the re-education ended. It is based on Fr. Calciu’ series of seven Wednesday sermons in the winter of 1978. These sermons sent him to jail for another 5 years.

        “Father Calciu announced plans to give a series of seven Wednesday sermons in the winter of 1978. The sermons attacked Ceausescu’s persecution of religion; after the third, he was thrown out of the church. He then preached on the church steps. The government closed the gates to the seminary, but the faithful climbed over the seminary walls to hear him. The new patriarch expelled the dissident priest, and, deprived of the church’s protection, he was arrested.”

        It is an impiety to judge these people after what they’ve gone trough. St Peter – the Stone- denied Christ three times but he repented and was forgiven.

        • What witness I have provided is my own personal, direct, first-hand experience with Fr. Calciu. I “judge” his actions, lies, and vicious conduct towards an innocent priest, Fr. Basil, his active role in splitting a parish in half, his support in removing a fellow priest for his own personal gain, his sermons where he compared himself to Christ, and the hypocrisy he displayed while scheming to take control of a parish. He never apologized or ask my grandfather (nor anyone else in my family) for forgiveness, or, as far as we know, any of the American Orthodox faithful he alienated from the Holy Cross Romanian Orthodox Church parish.

          Whether he ever repented of these sins is up to him and God. But, I’m not going to sit here and watch folks glorify this man and not witness to the truth of the travesties he was responsible for, not only in communists prisons, but also here in America where he took advantage of his status and popularity for personal selfishness and gains. His lust for power and adulation were nicely wrapped in a public image that conflicted with the maliciousness and lack of humility and Christian ethos we experienced first hand. Not just us, but many families in that parish. I know it’s hard to believe, but then again look at what http://www.ocanews.org has revealed of so many of such wolves in sheep’s clothing.

          • Christ is calling all of us to be like Him! I am sorry to see you in this spiritual state.

            I was referring to sins committed to get a break from torture nor ‘sins’ against you family.

            Fr. Calciu left a parish which is full of young people (his spiritual sons and daughters) even during weekdays.

  8. “There are subjects that are just too big to fit into our little media boxes, and his life [George Calciu’s] is one of them.” http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2059

    Disinformation and lies are the well known tools of the communists.

    With all due respect for your grandfather, Fr. Basil Prisacarou, I have to say that I do not find surprising the fact that the people liked Fr. Calciu.

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