By Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse
Giving the Patriarch Athenagoras Human Rights Award to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was a mistake. Cuomo is a defensive tackle for the abortion industry. He uses the power of the state and his bully pulpit to bulldoze anyone who dares defend the unborn. Gov. Cuomo also advocates for partial birth abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy. Maybe you didn’t know.
The award muddies the moral waters. The first calling of Bishops of the Orthodox Church is to “rightly divide the word of truth.” All of us — clergy and laity alike — pray for this every time we meet for worship. Rightly dividing the word of truth applies not only to what is taught inside the church but also to our public witness. And the moral tradition is clear: aborting the unborn is morally indefensible.
This is not the first time the waters were muddied. Paul Sarbanes, the Greek Orthodox former senator from Maryland, was feted countless times with no mention that his abortion advocacy militated against the moral tradition. It scandalized the faithful, so much so that when Sarbanes was appointed as the honorary chairmen of the Twentieth Anniversary Celebration of International Orthodox Charities back in 2012, the faithful protested.
No second-tier moralizing is necessary either. We know that abortions are frequent. We understand that given the cultural climate some women choose abortion out of desperation and confusion. Priests deal with this all the time. But certainly you know that no therapy can be applied until the disease is properly diagnosed and that the unrestricted abortion that infects American society is a cultural disease of the first order.
Sin corrupts and the corruption that abortion fosters affects the larger culture. Do you not understand this? Ask yourselves: Does selling aborted baby parts reveal that we are falling even deeper into a dark pit? If this bothers you at all, then ask: Why give Gov. Cuomo — who defends these practices as a moral and social good — an award for human rights?
Yes, we know that Gov. Cuomo untangled a political knot that allowed the Ground Zero ecumenical structure to be built. We also understand that politics is a complicated business especially in New York. Yet you could have given Gov. Cuomo a certificate of merit or a plaque thanking him for his service — anything that does not muddy the moral waters in the ways that giving the award did.
The waters have been muddied, the public witness of Orthodox Christianity weakened, the meaning of the words “human rights” diminished, and the award cheapened.
Do you not see how this erodes your own moral authority as well?