Leadership: Is the microphone on?

Fr. Basil Basil Biberdorf over at The Orthodox Leader laments the Orthodox silence on the recent health care legislation. Some of Fr. Basil’s comments:

Orthodox Leader Blog

The recent turmoil surrounding the recent passage of healthcare legislation by the United States Congress is providing ample opportunity to look at the absence of Orthodox leadership.

Despite the scandalously equivocal language used by the Ecumenical Patriarch in discussing abortion (c.f., here, here, here, and here), the Church’s teaching cannot be misunderstood.

Worse, at least one professor at Holy Cross Seminary is reportedly elated at the passing of this legislation.

To those bishops (especially those whom I have overlooked) and my brethren who are speaking against the wanton destruction of these little ones, I thank you and pray that your efforts would yield much fruit by strengthening and encouraging the Orthodox faithful to stand firm against such wanton destruction of human beings. To the others, the bigger lambs need someone to feed them (Jn 21:14-19), and the littlest ones need someone to speak in their defense. Who will do it?

Read Fr. Basil’s full post.


  1. I am always surprised how silent our bishops are about topics like this. I have to go to the Catholics Bishops to find information to give out to people. Next up is immigration reform. We should have a position and actually we should be out in front on this one! But we are, once again, silent.

  2. Fathers, I fear that the silence may be due to either:
    (a) the bishops agreement with the socialist ideals of ObamaCare,
    (b) their secular or permissive views on abortion (not all bishops since a few marched in the March for Life),
    (c) the bishops’ lack of true moral authority since some have compromised their own character and integrity (ie: OCA spiritual/financial scandals, GOA sexual abuse scandals, GOA honoring of pro-abortion lawmakers, etc.),
    (d) any combination of these factors.

  3. I also can’t help but think that the silence denotes:

    (a) a lack of organization amongst the bishop on moral issues generally

    (b) yet another pressing reason for unity.

  4. In like circumstance, don’t overlook the support now Met. Gerasimos of S.F. gave to gay marriage in both of the San Francisco and Los Angeles newspapers in the interview he gave when he got his present posting.

    Hoping a New Leader Will Soothe Internal Conflicts

  5. George Michalopulos :

    I’m not sure unification is going to solve any of these problems. However, we will be judged because of our toleration of immorality and injustice.

  6. I would hope that unity would give more incentive for both an organized and unified voice, especially on national issues.

  7. Michael Bauman :

    IMO genuine unity would initially create more problems than it would solve, but they would be our problems.

  8. Scott Pennington :

    I’m not sure we need to have an “Orthodox opinion” on every political question that comes down the line. On immigration reform, mentioned above, for instance, is there really an Orthodox position? On the one hand we have millions of people who broke US law to get here, some of whom engage in organized crime and violent gangs. On the other hand, we also have people who simply crossed a pourous border (intentionally left that way, by the way) to seek greater prosperity. Orthodox can differ on that. We can differ on the prudence of the death penalty. On what is reasonable regarding environmentalism (although it is becoming increasingly clear that AGW is a fraud), etc.

    We should pick our fights. Abortion and the restoration of the traditional family should be at the forefront.

    I can see how good stewardship might lead many of us to conclude that the current healthcare expansion is ill advised. However, I don’t know if there is really an “Orthodox position” on that either. I would suggest that the question is not so much our individual, private duties to the poor. The question should rather be framed as the desirablity of taxation and redistribution. You find many references to caring for the needy in the Bible. Precious few though (if any) praise taxation and tax collectors. That’s what we’re really talking about when we talk about government charity.

    On Orthodox unity in North America: It might be an improvement on what we have now but I’m not sure quite why, other than restoring the canonical norm. We’re still going to have the same bishops with the same unorthodox ideas and practices as we had before. Those bishops who have such questionable views would be in the majority of the new synod. Thus they would not only be able to drag their former jurisdictions down but the whole American church.

    I would actually rather wait and let a kind of darwinian sorting out occur over time according to the practices in the different dioceses. God will separate the wheat from the chaffe in His own good time. Once there is an identifiable body of orthopraxis, that body should declare autocephaly and continue to spread. It would have a distinct advantage and would prevail over the other jurisdictions eventually. (This last observation is just a more elaborate version of what Michael observed in another thread.)

    “Scott, IMO those who really want to participate in the Holy Tradition rather than just reading about it will gravitate toward particular bishops across jurisdictional lines. Those bishops will be despised within their own jurisdictions more than likely or at least have tremendous pressures placed upon them to conform to the way of the world.

    Whether this will result in a schism of some sort or not I don’t know, but it could. “

  9. George Michalopulos :

    Scott, I think you’re prognosis is actually the correct one. As we can see, the GOA is still ambivalent on what they’re about. That really goes to all the other ehtnic jurisdictions as well. ROCOR appears to be an outlier in this regard.

    My greatest fear is the worldly jurisdictions will bring down the rest of a united church to their level. BTW, I consider parts of the OCA to be as worldly as the GOA –let’s not forget the recent kerfuffle at SVS with the conferring of a doctorate on Rowan Williams.

    • Scott Pennington :


      I’m deeply sympathetic to the more conservative elements in the OCA. I don’t sign on completely to their take on the history of ROCOR/Metropolia; however, hopefully that history will resolve itself and fade into the mists of time.

      But there is a dichotomy in the OCA as you observed. What I would like to see happen is a union of ROCOR with an OCA synod that is willing to move, on the whole, if slowly, toward tradition – – at least in those quarters of the OCA that may have strayed somewhat.

      That would signal to me that there’s some substantial reason for hope regarding American Orthodoxy. A commission was appointed several months ago in ROCOR to study what obstacles there were to closer relations with the OCA. I’ve not heard that it has yet reported. Since ROCOR and OCA are already in communion (the priest at the local OCA parish has a ROCOR confessor!), I assume that this commission is addressing obstacles to jurisdictional unity.

      I’ve also heard of a few Antiochian parishes where “semi-traditionalism” has made a resurgence.

      I like my priest and mine is a very friendly church. This is why I stay in GOARCH despite the problems I see nationally. It would be a two hour drive each Saturday/Sunday+ in order to reach the nearest ROCOR parish.

      The Greeks may sort themselves out in time. I truly believe that the writing will be increasingly obvious on the wall. I don’t think they’re so pathological as to jump of the same cliff that The Episcopal Church has. Someday though, they will face a very stark choice.

  10. George Michalopulos :

    Scott, the same dichotomy is coming to the fore in the GOA as well, as can be gleaned by the extreme displeasure that the liberals evince towards the Athonite movement. I don’t know what the future holds for any of the jurisdictions, it just seems that as long as ROCOR holds the line, then the OCA will continue its traditionalist trajectory. And I truly applaud the increasing traditionalism within the AOCNA. You’re right, the GOA is nowhere as liberal (you said “pathological,” I rather like that) as ECUSA but regardless of what jurisdiction we are talking about, all of us are going to have to “face a very stark choice.” I fear sooner rather than later.

    If I may conjecture openly here, I believe that the federal government may enter into this fray in some way or another in favor of making sure that Orthodoxy becomes more worldly. (That is that the traditionalists don’t win.)What do we think was going on with the EP’s visit last Octorber to the Center for American Progress (an NGO funded by the notorious George Soros)? I know this sounds conspiratorial, but why should Soros –an atheist–care what any ecclesiarch anywhere in the world thinks? That’s one reason I can’t get my dander up against the “New Atheists” such as Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, etc. At least they are open in their hatred and contempt for theism. That’s good for us because at least we know where they stand. More importantly, we know that they have absolutely no interest in “reforming” Christianity. For them, all belief in God is tantamount to snake-handling. The Archbishop of Canterbury is no different than a shaman as far as they’re concerned.

    • Scott Pennington :


      “The Archbishop of Canterbury is no different than a shaman as far as they’re concerned.”

      I’m not sure I would disagree that he’s very different than a shaman myself. What else would you call a self described “hairy lefty”, a feminist, pro-abortion, heresiarch who endorses sanctifying same sex relationships? But, seriously, I take your point. And I don’t mean to disparage the Archbishop’s less controversial scholarship on Orthodox mysticism, etc.

      “If I may conjecture openly here, I believe that the federal government may enter into this fray in some way or another in favor of making sure that Orthodoxy becomes more worldly.”

      I believe that you are also correct here, George. IMHO, we are seeing the beginning of this in the opening salvos of the “anti-discrimination” battles that are beginning to be waged against “open to the public” religious-operated institutions (like Catholic hospitals, adoption services, etc.) which are becoming increasingly unpopular with the secular left that now runs the country. It’s probably a matter of carrots and sticks: Good lapdog religious leaders will get photo ops and whatever favors can legally flow through public or private channels. Bad (read, “faithful”) religious leaders and their believing flocks will be persecuted. You’re right in that this will probably increase. Hopefully it will backfire and fuel public discontent.

      This is one reason the drift toward modernism in the Church in the West concerns me so deeply. I know sometimes I feel like I’m perceived as a reactionary “fundamentalist” in this regard, but the Orthodox need to realize that not only within each soul is the battle of good versus evil waged, life vs. sin, but also in our religious culture. Specifically, whenever we see changes in practices and attitudes that have been recently minted within Orthodoxy, we shouldn’t be too quick to write them off as harmless blending in to the culture. This tacitly endorses the idea that the wider culture is somehow a trustworthy source.

      We should rather ask ourselves what exactly is the impulse, the spirit, the motivation which pushes in favor of accepting these changes. Regardless of whether the change appears on its face, without much consideration, to be innocuous, is it motivated by a valid concern from the traditional Orthodox perspective? Or, to put it differently, but for feminism, protestant influence, progressive liberal influence, etc., would the new practice even be on anyones radar to consider? What impulse is being accomodated by the new practice?

      This is directly related to your point about the left trying to co-opt the Orthodox. It is the means by which such co-opting succeeds: The introduction of seemingly harmless evolutions in understanding and practice.

      On a side note, I actually enjoy hearing or reading Hitchens sometimes. When he’s not bashing religion in general and he’s addressing the liberal West’s response, or lack thereof, to the Islamic terroristic ideology, he’s not so bad. At least not that I’ve seen.

      • Michael Bauman :

        Here is one area where the AOCNA may be stronger than we look. At least in my parish and my diocese (Wichita and Mid-America) there are a high precentage of converts from communions that have taken on the culural milleu or outright apostacized. We wil resist the tempation to go down the same road. It is one of the reasons that you see such a difference between the East Coast Antiochians (and West Coast too to some extent) and the Mid-West between the Alleghanies and the Rockies.

        We may not be traditional as far as ROCOR is concerned, but we value the historicity of the theology and all that goes with it. Time will tell if our children will or not.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Michael, I know whereof you speak. Scott, thanks for fleshing out the cultural battle. I know I sound like a reactionary at times when it comes to the encroachment of Protestant influences in Orthodoxy (pews, organs) but you said it straight. There is a struggle for Orthodoxy in America which leads me to believe that pan-Orthodox unity will not come. Not only are the Chambesy protocols unworkable, but the more rigorous churches will constantly be hounded into becoming more liberal.

          This could backfire –keep your eyes on the Athonite monastic movement in the GOA, they could wind up with the lion’s share of the believers in that jurisdiction. I know this may sound outlandish, but they appear to have all the energy (and money). The ethno-cultural jurisdictions in general look to be going through the motions of religiosity.

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