Fr. Gregory Jensen On Our (Orthodox Christianity’s) Cultural Failings

Fr. Gregory Jensen wrote the following response to my essay (Catholic Online: The Republic is Finished and the America We Knew is Gone). It’s good, really good in fact, and I am posting it here to generate discussion that not only analyzes the reason for the present decline but to generate discussion of where to go from here.


American Orthodoxy is as secular as the rest of America. Like the Catholic Church and the various Protestant communities…we have discovered that he who drinks the king’s wine sings the king’s song.

Thank you to Fr Hans Jacobse for his recent essay (Catholic Online: The Republic is Finished and the America We Knew is Gone) and for the many thoughtful comments it has inspired.

As to whether or not the latest decision of the SCOTUS supporting the constitutionality of the Patient Affordability Act is the end of the Republic or not I can’t say. If however our’ Republic is rooted in virtue understood as the fruit of human obedience to Natural Law then this needn’t be the end. In fact since virtue grows best in adversity I see this as a potentially good thing since it might inspire just the moral awakening and cultural renewal that America needs.  On the other hand, if our Republic is not really and truly rooted in virtue and obedience to “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” then we are better off for the loss and of our pretense to being a virtuous and “almost chosen people.”

Contrary to what some might want to believe, the American culture were not taken by the forces of moral corruption. Rather I think we are where we are as a People became we became complacent, we withdrew from the Public Square and the culture. We forget that vice is not a real thing but the absence of virtue, of those habits of thought and action that make human flourishing possible.

Vice never wins.

It is rather that we retreat from the hard work of virtue. We see this around us in those who would drive the Church from the Public Square. That some of these voices are Christian, and even Orthodox Christian, is a source of great shame and sorrow to me.

Looking more specifically now at the American Orthodox Church I am saddened by how little this ruling effects the Church itself. Metropolitan Jonah has asked us where are our hospitals, our nursing homes, and our schools. His asking this highlights for me  the fact that we have no hospitals, that  we have only a scant few nursing homes and parochial schools and except for our seminaries no institutions of higher learning. If these things are essential to the faith (and they are) and if they are essential to the health of our Republic (and they are) then as Orthodox Christians we need to shoulder at least some portion of the blame for the Republic’s moral collapse. Why? Because that collapse has is evident   in (among other places) our parishes, our dioceses and our jurisdictions, .

We can bemoan what was decided by the SCOTUS but we are where we are because as a culture we have abandoned the pursuit of virtue. Worse, as Orthodox Christians we have neglected to develop those institutions that foster virtue. We have instead grown slack and lazy preferring the State (or what is only slight better, our Catholic or Protestant brethren) to educate us, to heal our bodies and to care for our elderly.

As citizens we are within our rights to be disturbed–but what right do we have to do so as a Church in America? I’m not so sure we have the institutional right to complain. Yes we have stood up to defend religious liberty in general and the Catholic Church in particular in the face of the HSS mandate and good for us that we have done so. But we can’t forget that personally and institutionally, American Orthodox Christians have profited from the welfare state, public education and the rest.

Putting our tradition aside for the moment, American Orthodoxy is as secular as the rest of America. Like the Catholic Church and the various Protestant communities around the country, we have discovered that he who drinks the king’s wine sings the king’s song. To quote Pogo, that great American political philosopher, we have met the enemy and he is us.


  1. macedonianreader says

    Spot on

    • Thank you.

      I wish I were wrong. 🙁


      • Geo Michalopulos says

        I wish so as well, Fr. Unfortunately, we are complicit in our Republic’s demise. Still, there’s hope and thanks for pointing it out. Adversity may make us virtuous. If not, then we need to stop playing games. The Holy Spirit will not stay where He’s not wanted.

  2. Very well said – and something we desperately need to hear. The current culture, our general affluence and technology have allowed us to arrange life around our own comfort and preferences. While we all want what we want when we want it, the ability to actually do can be spiritually toxic. Nothing feeds the flesh, cultivates pride and enthrones selfishness like being able to avoid discomfort and indulge one’s own satisfaction. Building a school, maintaining a hospital, serving the poor – all require a tremendous amount of commitment and investment. I am no longer surprised that the increasingly few people who are willing to do so are often already overextended; time and again I find that it is the folks who are already doing so much who are willing to make the effort, while those who have little on their plate seem to have difficulty adding more. I suspect that there may be an inertial quality to our lives. The gospels do speak directly the investment of our Talents noting this very thing: that to those who have, more will be given, while those who have little will lose what little they have.
    On a larger social level, it is certainly very reasonable and generally preferable for the Church to seek to avoid persecution or marginalization by gaining the favor of government. But there is always a cost. If we have allowed ourselves to become complacent – or dependent – as a result of the support of the government, we will face difficulties indeed when this support is removed. (And this is inevitable since, as you noted elsewhere, Father, Caesar will ever only seek the things of Caesar.) Then the illusion of our devotion and the idolatry of our self-indulgence is exposed for what it is.
    I have heard it said that nine in ten can survive persecution but only one in ten can survive affluence. We may protest the threat implied by the potentially adverse consequences to the Church and its mission when the government changes a policy or practice, but history shows that social favor only exists for a time and it eventually passes. Eventually we will be forced to gather our own straw to make bricks. Eventually we have to assume the cost – and the cross – if we are to truly follow Jesus. Our culture may let (indeed want) us live as mere consumers, but such can not enter the Kingdom of God. To do that, we must discipline (i.e., ascesis) ourselves to love as He loved. Genuine love – godly love – is a struggle, and a struggle that requires care, lest we end up once again indulging ourselves (this this time with the fantasy of our own value.) To put it differently, “Whatever great struggles we may have endured, if we have not acquired a suffering heart, they are counterfeit and useless.” (St. John of the Ladder)

    • Thanks Chrys!

      If I may, one of the reasons for the intramural bickering and extramural polemics that we see in American Orthodoxy is I think the result of our material affluence combined with the poverty of our service to others. As you point out, it takes real ascetical effort to run a successful school or manage a hospital. Instead we try and do church on the cheap. But doing this simply means limiting opportunities and so multiple conflict and unhealthy competition amongst ourselves (especially the clergy!) and relative to outside the Church.

      Sadly because we ask so little of ourselves we have become so little and so ready to take offense, to be envious of each other, and to kill each other with our words.

      The way forward for American Orthodoxy is not less but greater material and institutional affluence. But wealth in the service of, well, service.

      Or so it seems to me.

      Forgive me if I have offended!

      In Christ,


      • Yes!!! We have starved ourselves by taking our ease – and so we become “little” in our behavior – fighting, hoarding, politicking – with all the fruits of our selfish indulgence fully on display as described so well by St. Paul in Gal. 5:19-21. We can not continue to direct our efforts toward the desires of our flesh – our own ease and comfort – and hope to see anything else. To see instead something of the fruit described in Gal 5:22-25 will require redirection at all levels, beginning with the ascetical discipline of that flesh combined with full participation in the Eucharistic love of Christ – which means, in short, pouring ourselves out in the service of the Kingdom as He did (Phil. 2) and we are called to do (Phil 3). I believe it was St. Tikhon who observed (as have others) that we get the Church we deserve. Maybe so. . . . and if so, we have also been given, as you have made clear, something of a wake up call.

        • Chrys,

          The Catholic spiritual writer and saint, Francis de Sales somewhere says that our hearts become as expansive as that which we love.

          Love the trivial, become trivial…
          Love the harsh and hard, become harsh and hard hearted…
          Love God, and your heart is able to embrace the cosmos.

          I wonder what our bickering suggests that we love.


          • The quote is simply beautiful.

            As for what we love, the evidence would clearly indicate that it is our (false) selves, our “flesh.” God gave us everything to be fruitful – His Son, His grace, His Spirit, His Church – and yet we are still mere shadows living anemic lives. And I know this – as I know most of what I noted above – simply by looking at myself.

      • Michael Bauman says

        And the only way for most people to live a Christian life of service is to do it locally with those most immediate to them: their family, neighbors and others whom they meet. I don’t know that it takes institutions, although those are valuable. Kindness is a virtue that is often overlooked especially by me and especially on the internet. Take adavantage of every opportunity to give that is presented to you. Combine with others as the opportunity and need arises.

        We depend too much of external rules, regulations and laws to allow us to think of ourselves as ‘good’ rather than concentrating on the life the Church lays before us: prayer, almsgiving, fasting, worship and repentance.

        God forgive me, I’m wholly inadequate in all of them. I’m too tired, too greedy, too hungry, too lazy and too proud. But at least I haven’t murdered anyone today–unfortunately, there’s still time.

        People are governed by the type of government that their level of virtue allows for. John Adams famously said that the Constituional Republic he help found was a governement intended for a Chrisitan people, it was wholly inadequte to any other.

        The less virtuous and Christian we are, personally and corporately, the more law and tryanny fill the void. The less we govern ourselves and our appetites, the more we will be governed.

        • Ronda Wintheiser says

          It’s really hot today here in Minnesota; Carissa is gone being a counselor at camp and Jessica and I are taking refuge inside for the day because we’re such wimps when it comes to heat… 🙂 So I have time to sit and write.

          I will ask you more questions that I said I would, Fr. Hans and whoever wants to answer — the idea you asked Met. Hilarion about of things happening “on the edges”… 🙂 I’m in no rush, though — it IS the 4th and all… although I don’t feel very festive about it this year…

  3. Fr. John A. Peck says

    Bravo, Fr. Gregory!

    The antidote to this, of course, is well known and rarely applied – repentance. A full repentance, not just sorrow for having botched it, but a turning away from the old ways of doing things (a good reminder that one ‘definition’ of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results), and embracing something we haven’t hardly seen in the Orthodox churches of our generation in the United States: Godliness in addressing morality in the public arena, and teaching the applicability of genuine Biblical principles to this issues.

    This is the Biblical tradition. This is the ‘Chrysostomian’ solution.

    • Ronda Wintheiser says

      Well, I’m ok with being included in the “we”. 🙂

      I was hoping you, Fr. Gregory, and you, Fr. John, and whoever else might flesh this out a little bit more. I’m a member of a mission parish, about ten, 11 years old, and already in decline. We have steadily shrunk over the past few years, and I think that is partly due to the fact that parishioners are so very involved in their “local” milieu, if you will — family, friends, neighbors, associates — that either it never occurs to them to step outSIDE that circle, or it’s just too uncomfortable.

      Michael said that we have to do service locally to our family, friends, those close to us, etc. And while I don’t disagree, even that represents maintaining a level of comfort. If I do only that, then I will never really meet anyone who is poor, hungry, in captivity… etc. It’s easy to make your own life a kind of cocoon. My life is more circumscribed that most people’s lives because I’m a homemaker and my parish is ten blocks away and my life revolves around those two things, but even if I had a “real job”, I know from past experience that even though that might widen my circle of acquaintances, it wouldn’t net me more contact with… well, the hungry, the unsheltered, the “poor” — most especially the unborn who are the poorest of all.

      So for the past few years I have begun to force myself into circles of life in my town that in the course of my normal daily life I would never have contact with otherwise — an emergency shelter, the local Planned Parenthood, a nursing home, etc.

      But I’m just one person and I have felt acutely the absence of the Church itself in those activities.

      Is that why we should be building hospitals and things like that?

      Regardless, how does that begin? How do we begin to do that? As local parishes, or at the diocesan level? Or what?

      • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

        Ronda, I asked Met. Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church that question in so many words about four years ago. Here was his response (my paraphrase): “Many of the best things in the Church were started at the edges.”

        • Ronda Wintheiser says

          Are you suggesting I’m on the edge, Fr. Hans?


          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

            Well, first I wrote “fringes” (paraphrase, remember?) but then thought that wouldn’t do. So I changed it to edges. 🙂

            • Ronda Wintheiser says

              Well, fringes, edges… whatever… If the shoe fits… one must wear it! 🙂

              All joking aside, though… I have more questions to ask, and I will ask them later…

              But tonight at Great Vespers, singing about Sts. Cosmas and Damianos… it occurred to me that perhaps there is no coincidence that we are commemorating these Holy UnMercenary Healers and Wonderworkers on the Resurrection Day immediately following the decision of the Supreme Court relative to what we affectionately refer to as “Obamacare”…

              I don’t know what that means.

              Michael did say, elsewhere, although perhaps tongue-in-cheek… that we should pray for Unmercenary Healers…

              Perhaps we should pray TO them…

              Holy unmercenaries and wonderworkers, Cosmas and Damian, visit our
              Freely you have received; freely give to us.

              Having received the grace of healing,
              you grant healing to those in need.
              Glorious wonder workers and physicians, Cosmas and Damian,
              visit us and put down the insolence of our enemies,
              and bring healing to the world through your miracles.


              Glory to Jesus Christ.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Ronda, didn’t have my tongue in my cheek but I like your idea too. I know one Orthodox doctor who, with the support of her husband, has an unmercenary practice. Think of what could be done if the Church dedicated a portion her resources to such endeavors.

                BTW, I live in a rual area and the unemployment/underemployment here is rampant. So my friends and neighbors and family (none of whom are Orthodox) are struggling just to keep afloat. But you are right Ronda, we need to extend ourselves as much as we can).

                Before our marriage my wife attended the United Methodist Indian Mission (she is part Native American). It is quite small and no one in it has any money to speak of, but they care for one another and others as well. Their love for one another is palpable.

                We still try to support them as much as we can.

                One side point, a gentleman who just reposed there had a life-long struggle with homosexuality and at one point left his wife and children. He returned to them however and took up the struggle for his soul which included a support group called the Two Spirits Council. He was a pillar of the community and everyone knew of his struggle and everyone supported him as he supported them–in love and service. In that community everybody knows everybody’s business and prays about it with each other. To make small missions grow that has to be a conscious effort by everyone to suspend their own ideas about what is ‘right’ and seek God’s truth for them. It cannot be an addendum to an all ready full ‘life’

                My overall point is the oft repeated, seldom done: charity begins at home. Charity of the heart first, then other opportunities will open. There is pain everywhere and not all of it is economic.

      • macedonianReader says

        Rhonda, hopefully your ministry at PlannedParenthood involves the line to those try to walk in, “move away from the building. Nothing to see here!”


  4. M. Stankovich says

    I am immediately struck by your repetitious use of the plural “we,” as if we all somehow share your sense of helplessness, seated in the rows of a battered lifeboat with neither oars nor admiral: “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, “Lord, save me.” (Matt. 14:30). It seems to me to beg Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s description of events, “standing pitifully before the Lord at the Judgment, hat in hand, eyes averted,” mumbling things like, “Lord, I am weak,” “Lord, I am alone,” “Lord, I am just a man.” And the Lord will respond, “Who told you these things? I created you to rule over all things (Gen. 1:28) and I gave you everything. (Gen. 1:30) I created you as King and Crown of the creation. And I prepared you in advance for glory (Rom. 9:23).” You will pardon me, but yours is an attitude that is foreign to the Faith and Teachings of the Orthodox Church delivered to me so organically by the tradition instilled by my family, the God-given opportunities I have had to experience those who literally suffered oppression for the Faith (including my own father), and the unforgotten teachings and impression made on me from my youth by the fathers and teachers of our generation.

    Whether purposely or mistakenly, it is your pretense to confuse “we” the “almost chosen people” and we the Orthodox, whom the Lord Himself acquired “as His chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” And while this fact alone was sufficient for the New Martyrs but a single generation past, reflecting off them like the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and emanating from them like the Spirit-filled light from the face of St. Seraphim of Sarov, you would paint yourself, and “us” in a pallor of personal shame, disappointment, and sadness over a court decision? “American Orthodoxy is as secular as the rest of America?” Are you disparaging those whose entire “hard work of virtue” is to begin their day, “Lord, have mercy,” and spend their day in honesty, simplicity, and meekness, and at the end of the day simply thankful to God as somehow “slack” and “lazy?” Has the Church, as the Light, the Beacon, and the Guide been diminished? What can you be thinking? And if you somehow imagine it has been diminished, you might consider that the bishops lack moral authority, and the priest are more concerned with the capital-R “Republic” and the capital-P “Public Square” and the culture than being, in their person, the image of Jesus Christ to which they are called in our “collapsed” parishes.

    If is this truly the way you feel about yourself, and perhaps your “conservative” cohort, than I respectfully submit that you need to clearly make that distinction. I do not believe you speak for nor describe “we” Orthodox Christians or the Orthodox Church in America in your opinion. And while you are able to set your “tradition aside for a moment,” I am not. And this leads me to wonder as to which king’s cup you drink.

    “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)

  5. No worries Fr. Gregory the “elevated” greek community/omogenia lead by its suburban hierarchs will be gathering for a huge party at a five star resort in Arizona. They will will celebrate the delusion that material wealth is Christian leadership along with the idea who they are genetically is more important that who they are morally and spiritually. But shhhhhh…..please do not tell anyone there is suffering in Greece and America we have a Hellenic Party. Lets get it on!

  6. macedonianReader says

    What would it take to build large and influencial Orthodox ‘libarts/classics’ university the size and clout of Notre Dame past?

    • Fr. John A. Peck says

      The will to do it.

    • Ronda Wintheiser says

      Why did you ask that, Mr. Reader? 🙂

      Ms.? :[ Sorry….

    • Michael Bauman says

      The is one that is being built–St. Katherine’s, out in California. Long way to go and not very well endowed yet.

      Personally, I like FOCUS North America better.

      • macedonianReader says

        I agree that we lack will.

        I see our lack of will and selfishness at parish levels as well. We talk a great deal, but very rarely do we try to step out of our comfort zone. I include myself in this criticism. I see a lot of good in youth ministries and organizations like FOCUS. However, I do not see a lot of attempt to effect policy and the insane educational system we have in the US.

        Why do I ask? Because we put a lot of blame on this administration for the recent carnage they’ve bestowed on religious liberty – but there was a pretty big platform that was once a bastion of Christian value and legacy in secular American education that helped Pres. Obama open up his plans. Instead of telling our President to back off and not to tread on these values, this institution raised him up: Notre Dame. Like the prophecies foretell. Our lukewarm and nominalism will assist the anti-Christ if not spring from. I see such cracks in our own Church as well and very few with the courage to speak up and tell these folks to back off.

        I like St. Katerine’s, I like that it exists, but I believe it will not achieve the status we need it to. I hope the Lord proves me wrong. I’ve even seen/read something’s from St. Vladimir’s that raised the hair on the back of my neck.

  7. cynthia curran says

    Well, not certain on the American Republic but Byzantine historians with the exception of John Zonaras who is probably the best medieval historian of the Byzantines didn’t write much about the Roman Republic.

  8. Ronda Wintheiser says

    I’m curious.

    What if one of the options included in the Affordable Health Care Act was the ability to take an elderly family member, or one who is terminally ill or disabled to a freestanding, hospice-like clinic or perhaps a floor in a hospital and put them gently to bed for the last time… ?

    What if that were part of the health care system that Obamacare established?

    You could put your loved one out of their misery in a humane, safe, environment. You could have control over the circumstances of the death, and be sure there was no pain or suffering, so that your loved one could experience a peaceful “death with dignity.”

    What if that were part of health care — as abortion is?

    For those of you defending the Aforrdable Health Care Act, would that element curb your enthusiasm about it?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      Not likely Ronda. The call to care for one’s neighbor in a morally responsible way is very powerful, rooted deep in the moral tradition of Western culture. Yes, I know there have been grand failures along the way, but even the response to the justifiable and necessary condemnations of those failures is still shaped by that tradition. The West allowed slavery for centuries for example. That was clearly wrong. Yet the awakening of the conscience to the immorality of it was because the moral tradition imparted to the people of the West — including who were guilty of the moral crime of owning other human beings — the capacity to hear the condemnation and turn away from it.

      This time it is different. Progressive ideals that used the language of the moral tradition in fact aided in the collapse of the cultural and institutional structures that arose from that tradition. Now we are left with the aftermath, mostly the breakdown of the family. The appeals to tradition are invoked again to deal with the damage and most don’t see that the ideas that ostensibly deal with the damage are even worse than the ones that caused it. Why? Because it still uses that same language of the tradition.

      Western secularism takes this shape because it emerged within Christendom. What we have to remember however is that secularism is not a comprehensive world view. It is merely a layover from one epoch to the next although this trip takes several centuries to complete.

      So no, those who support Obamacare don’t see that the ethic that justifies the aborting of the unborn will be the same that justifies killing the infirm, and then eventually the aged. In fact, they will be offended when you make the point because they will assume you think they are not compassionate. They think that decisions like killing Terri Schiavo is justifiable, not recognizing that the next time the person will not be as disabled, and after that even less.

      But make the point you must, in clear and unequivocal terms. One word of truth outweighs the whole world wrote Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his great and lonely battle against materialist mythology and events proved him right. Now it is our turn because the darkness we face is of the same character and nature that he did although it disguises itself in different dress.

      They won’t like you, and some of the most withering criticism will come from within the Church. But I already know that you know that. I also know you won’t be deterred by it either.

      • Ronda Wintheiser says

        Thanks for these thoughts, Fr. Hans. 🙂

        I do think that the scenario I made up will definitely be part of this “health care” system eventually if we don’t repeal it.

        But I didn’t actually intend to say that. What I was thinking is that the people here and elsewhere who are defending and embracing the Affordable Health Care Act even though they are supposedly opposed to abortion are using a similar argument some use to defend Planned Parenthood.

        “Oh look how much good they do! Abortion isn’t that big a part of their business; they do a lot of good for low income women, they do mammograms (lie), they do breast exams, and contraception — heck, they’re trying to prevent abortion! They’re saving lives! So what if they operate a little killing business on the side?”

        I don’t think they see it’s no different from gassing Jews in Germany or starving people on the steppes in Siberia or Pol Pot’s killing fields in Cambodia…

        • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

          No they don’t, and by that you mean (just so everyone understands) that once you institutionalize killing as we do by defending and funding Planned Parenthood, the evil logic that justifies the killing spreads like a virus. Of course it is all wrapped up in a mythology because evil always masquerades as good. The Communists slaughtered millions in service to the secular New Jerusalem. Communism finally ended when it exhausted itself, although it took a generation and oceans of blood to reach it.

        • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

          Ronda, did you see this?

          130,000 elderly patients killed every year by ‘death pathway’, claims leading UK doctor

          Source: Lifesite News | Thaddeus Baklinski | June 21, 2012

          LONDON, June 21, 2012 ( – An eminent British doctor told a meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine in London that every year 130,000 elderly patients that die while under the care of the National Health Service (NHS) have been effectively euthanized by being put on the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), a protocol for care of the terminally ill that he described as a “death pathway.”

          Dr. Patrick Pullicino, a consultant neurologist for East Kent Hospitals and Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Kent, claimed that doctors are putting people on the LCP without proper analysis of their condition, citing “pressure on beds and difficulty with nursing confused or difficult-to-manage elderly patients” as factors.

          According to the Daily Mail, the doctor sounded the alarm that of the approximately half million deaths in Britain each year of elderly people who are in hospital or under NHS care, about 29 percent, or 130,000, are patients who were on the LCP.

          The Liverpool Care Pathway, developed by the Royal Liverpool Hospital and the Marie Curie hospice in the 1990s, and described by its formulators as a “template” to guide the care of the dying, was approved in 2004 by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the government’s health scrutiny body in charge of rationing health services.

          The LCP, reportedly adopted nationwide by more than 300 hospitals, 130 hospices and 560 care homes in England, allows for withdrawal of water and nourishment, and “continuous deep sedation” for patients judged to be incurable. Combined with withdrawal of fluids, deep sedation leads quickly to death.

          Pullicino related the personal experience of removing a man from the LCP who went on to live another 14 months, proving that the claim of the diagnosing doctor that the man had only hours to live was “palpably false.”

          “I found him deeply unresponsive on a Monday morning and was told he had been put on the LCP. He was on morphine via a syringe driver. I removed the patient from the LCP despite significant resistance,” Pullicino told the Royal Society of Medicine. “His seizures came under control and four weeks later he was discharged home to his family.”

          “The lack of evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway makes it an assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway,” Pullicino stated. “Very likely many elderly patients who could live substantially longer are being killed by the LCP.

          “Predicting death in a time frame of three to four days, or even at any other specific time, is not possible scientifically. This determination in the LCP leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The personal views of the physician or other medical team members of perceived quality of life or low likelihood of a good outcome are probably central in putting a patient on the LCP.”

          “If we accept the Liverpool Care Pathway we accept that euthanasia is part of the standard way of dying as it is now associated with 29 per cent of NHS deaths,” Dr. Pullicino concluded.

          According to the Daily Mail, a Department of Health spokesman panned Dr. Pullicino’s assertions. “The Liverpool Care Pathway is not euthanasia and we do not recognise these figures. The pathway is recommended by NICE and has overwhelming support from clinicians – at home and abroad – including the Royal College of Physicians,” the unnamed spokesman said.

          However, Pullicino’s claims echo a similar statement last year by Dr. Clare Walker, President of the Catholic Medical Association in the UK, where she said, “euthanasia is being widely practiced in the NHS in an official way” under the LCP protocol.

          Dr. Walker explained that “she is regularly contacted by distressed healthcare professionals and managers who describe their experience of witnessing repeated instances of unofficial active euthanasia in their local areas,” adding that, “in some hospitals the LCP has become known as the Lazarus Care Pathway due to the number of people who have been put on it inappropriately, are not moribound and subsequently need to be actively treated.”

          Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, responded to Dr. Walker’s statement at the time, saying, “Whether active euthanasia is actually widespread is unknown and anecdotal at best but the reality is that the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition regularly receives phone calls and emails from family members and friends of people whose medical care-givers appear to be intentionally causing their death.

          “Many of these cases are concerned family members reacting to end of life decisions that are made because the person is actually dying, whereas, sometimes these cases appear to be euthanasia.”

          • Ronda Wintheiser says

            Yes, I did. And I know that we already withdraw food and water here in the U.S. — like they did to Terri Schiavo. Families make this decision now — they are OFFERED the idea and allowed to do it if they want to. So now that we have this law, and we have a president who has demonstrated that he has no regard for people’s conscience rights (e.g. that nurse who was forced to perform an abortion or else be fired), not to mention the HHS mandate, I think it will not be long before doctors will be required to perform abortions and begin to put people to sleep like this… It is insidious, as you said, Fr. Hans.

            Here is Obama himself, hemming and hawing around the question, and using contingencies that have nothing to do with the question this woman is asking, to obfuscate and avoid the real question and to put her off…

            Regardless of what his attitude is, though, the reality is that now it is out of our hands. The government will now decide FOR US what treatments and remedies we can have.

      • M. Stankovich says

        We need a theology of culture, even for our “practical” decisions. No real decision can be made in the dark. The dogma of Creation, with everything that it implies, was dangerously obscured in the consciousness of modern Christians, and the concept of Providence, i.e. of the perennial concern of the Creator with the destiny of His Creation, was actually reduced to something utterly sentimental and subjective. Accordingly, “History” was conceived as an enigmatic interim between the Mighty Deeds of God, for which it was difficult to assign any proper substance. This was connected again with an inadequate conception of Man. The emphasis has been shifted from the fulfillment of God’s design for man to the release of Man out of the consequences of his “original” failure. And, accordingly, the whole doctrine of the Last Things has been dangerously reduced and has come to be treated in the categories of forensical justice or of sentimental love. The “Modern Man” fails to appreciate and to assess the conviction of early Christians, derived from the Scripture, that Man was created by God for a creative purpose and was to act in the world as its king, priest, and prophet. The fall or failure of man did not abolish this purpose or design, and man was redeemed in order to be re-instated in his original rank and to resume his role and function in the Creation. And only by doing this can he become what he was designed to be, not only in the sense that he should display obedience, but also in order to accomplish the task which was appointed by God in his creative design precisely as the task of man. As much as “History” is but a poor anticipation of the “Age to come,” it is nevertheless its actual anticipation, and the cultural process in history is related to the ultimate consummation, if in a manner and in a sense which we cannot adequately decipher now. One must be careful not to exaggerate “the human achievement,” but one should also be careful not to minimize the creative vocation of man, The destiny of human culture is not irrelevant to the ultimate destiny of man. Fr. George Florovsky, “Faith and Culture” in Christianity and Culture.

        Perhaps if there were signs of a re-devotion, a re-dedication the size of a mustard size (Lk. 17:6) to reassuming our role as “king, priest and prophet”; an acknowledgment that for each who would save themselves, according to St. Seraphim, “hundreds around you will be saved”; and the words on the lips of the clergy were not verbatim from a Rupert Murdoch “franchise,” I would be content to sit back like a neutered cat, and lick the wounds of being a “withering criticism will come from within the Church.” And, yes, Mr. Bauman, apply a salve to my frostbitten nose. But what I observe is the continuous, unrelenting verbosity of impotence. Fr Florovsky continues:

        The chief danger in our days is that there are too many conflicting “beliefs.” The major tension is not so much between “belief” and “un-belief” as precisely between rival beliefs. Too many “strange Gospels” are preached, and each of them claims total obedience and faithful submission; even science poses sometimes as religion. It may be true that the modern crisis can be formally traced back to the loss of convictions. It would be disastrous, however, if people rallied around a false banner and pledged allegiance to a wrong faith.

        So, I shall gather an Amazon wishlist, a “compendium without stress or offense” Orthodox Christianity for the Cultural Sensibilities of the “Christian Right.”– And here I’m not sure – to be read before or after the “conservative conjecture wishlist,” where God may not necessarily be “all in all,” (1 Cor. 15:28), but the return of “conservative thought” is an acceptable surrogate. Fr. Florovsky observed, “There are so many in our time who have no hope precisely because they lost all faith,” and this is the toothless, “flavorless,” (Matt. 5:13) mediocrity we would offer them.

        Christians are not committed to the denial of culture as such. But they are to be critical of any existing cultural situation and measure it by the measure of Christ. For Christians are also the Sons of Eternity, i.e. prospective citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Yet problems and needs of “this age” in no case and in no sense can be dismissed or disregarded, since Christians are called to work and service precisely “in this world” and “in this age.” Only all these needs and problems and aims must be viewed in that new and wider perspective which is disclosed by the Christian Revelation and illumined by its light.

        “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then said I, ‘Here am I; send me.'” (Isa. 6:8)

        • Michael Bauman says

          My, as much as you have castigated others for ‘Google’ science, it seems as if you practice ‘Google’ theology…and as a long winded as I get, I’ll bet the number of words you’ve posted on the contenious topics is at least equal to mine.

          The opertative stance on these issues, IMO, is resist not evil, do good. That means that each of us needs to find as many ways as we possibly can to help, and fewer ways to hurt. I know Ronda does that a lot more than she talks about it.

          But, most of the debates that you and I have had center on adherence to the traditional anthropology of the Church. Many of the same issues are present in this debate. To me you have a tendency to go after the more modern interpretations.

          Personally, I’d like to go to a lottery system of political office holders and a modified spoils system for the regulators and other civil service bureaucrats.

          For public office take the Consitutional requirements and a few other resonable ones, draw up a list of everyone in the country who qualifies on the basis (excluding former office holders until all others have been exhausted) of the list and pull one out of the hat.

          There would be a term of office for the bureaucrats when the relatively short-term expired, the party in power would nominate two folks and the current holder could re-apply. A panel would decide based upon a blind submission of the qualifications who had the best credentials.

          • M. Stankovich says

            It is certainly interesting that you would refer to Fr Florovsky’s Christianity and Culture as “Google theology.” Such a random reference to treasure.

            The operative stance on these issues, IMO, Mr. Bauman, is that there is infinitely more to be gained in the tactic, as St. Seraphim taught, of “saving yourself and hundreds around you will be saved” than in anything to be found in the public square; that it is infinitely better to have the Psalms on your lips than the “Federalist Papers”; that pretty much anything I’ve seen being sold in the parish bookstores of Orthodox Churches in San Diego is significantly more edifying than anything recommended by this site on Amazon; and who could have imaged that amidst a sea of human détritus, YouTube would be a repository for the sermons of Met. Anthony (Bloom)?

            I am almost embarrassed to note that no one – and certainly no priest – has suggested what the theologian of blessed memory, Fr. Michael Pomazansky, referred to as “the air, the breath, the life of the Church: prayer. For what is the Church itself, if not a ‘world of prayer?'” I am sad to think that we have trivialized prayer to the point that it is no longer seen as a viable “effort” because it is not an “action plan,” “unrealistic,” and “ineffective.”

            Indulge me this “withering criticism from within the Church” which I cloak in “the language of the moral tradition”: George Will sits down with one of the priest/pundit/conservatives and asks, “Father, where do we begin?” “Prayer and fasting.” As a stunned Will looks on, our “Man for All Seasons” rises, turns on his heel and departs.

            I feel better already.

            • Ronda Wintheiser says

              Gee. Why didn’t I think of that?

              Mr. Stankovich…

              That isn’t something that should be taken for granted, or assumed, so maybe from now on every time one of us posts an idea, we’ll start out with a sentence or two about how first of all we should be praying and fasting just to keep ourselves cognizant of it.

              For several decades now, many of us who are activist pro-lifers have regularly — and I mean weekly — met in front of abortion clinics to pray. And since I became Orthodox, I have inserted prayers for all of these things into my morning rule of prayer.

              Ever hear of 40 Days for Life? Ever participated?

              I am being sarcastic, I admit, and maybe I shouldn’t be. But one reason I don’t say anything about that is because it sounds like bragging.

              Your own sarcasm about how we have trivialized prayer because it’s not an action plan deserves a rebuttal as well. And like it or not, I’m going to use another personal anecdote.

              When I realised my little girl had autism years ago, it paralysed me with grief. I was almost catatonic. I could hardly even pray, and when I did it was something like begging. There is no way to describe the horror I felt. Autism in my second born seemed even worse than the death of my firstborn.

              I spent almost two years grieving and praying (begging). I knew that probably wasn’t the right kind of prayer, but I wanted her to be healed.

              During those two years, I read a book about applied behaviour analysis, which is an intense, extremely sophisticated language-based early intervention program for educating young children based on the research of Ivar Lovaas at UCLA that had amazing results: 47% of children in his experimental group lost their diagnosis of autism.

              It required a 40 hours per week of therapy for the child, for at least three years. When I asked local educators about it, it was universally disparaged for various reasons, and one of them was how much work it took and how expensive it would be — how impossible. So I put Jessica into the early childhood special education program that the school district offered. She was there for two years.

              During that time, I continued to grieve and pray for her healing, and I read a book the title I don’t remember now, written by an Orthodox monk who is a bread baker, and he was using breadmaking as a metaphor.

              One day, all at once, reading it, I had a kind of epiphany about my children in that metaphor. I thought that in a way they are like sheaves of wheat given to us by God. And that what we are supposed to do with them is like baking a loaf of bread. You have to thresh and winnow the wheat out of the sheaf and grind it into flour (don’t take that too literally! 😉 ), and then mix it with yeast or leavening of some kind, and salt, and water, and then knead the heck out of it, several times… Punch it down, let it rise, punch it down, let it rise… 🙂

              To me (maybe the monk said this in the book; I can’t remember), the leavening represents the Holy Spirit working, and our prayers.

              But the thing that struck me in my epiphany was a realisation that faith is a two-edged sword, or a coin with two sides… It must include prayer, but it also must include action.

              I realised I had no right to beg God to heal my little girl unless and until I was willing to do something myself. Some kind of action.

              Nothing happened for Jessica in the school district’s program in those two years. She made no progress whatsoever.

              So I decided to put action next to my prayer, and without going into all the big long story of it, I took her out of their program, found a psychologist to train me and a team of high school and college kids, and we had our own ABA program in our little log cabin in the woods for six years.

              Three years in, I felt I had demonstrated to God that I was serious and that I could finally ask Him, formally, to heal her, so I made arrangements to take her to St. Mary’s Cathedral and I asked the priest there for Holy Unction, which she received.

              Jessica has not been healed of her autism. She will be 21 in August.

              Even when you pray, and work, there is no guarantee that what you desire will be accomplished. So just because we are still facing the horror of 56 million babies’ deaths and more to come every day and apathy and this debacle of a law, etc. etc. etc. does not mean that we haven’t been praying.

              Of course we should pray more, and fast more, and work more. But there is nothing wrong with us talking together about what to do, Mr. Stankovich, and I don’t understand why you’re so crabby about it.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Ronda, he is crabby because he is crabby. Being an old crumdgeon myself (in recovery) I know how the poison creeps into anything and everything. Mr. Stankovich, I suggest you read Stanislavsky’s great book on acting: “Building a Character”.

                Although I am sure it is much better in Russian than the English translation.

                I also seem to recall a recent post by Fr. Hans somewhere in which he instructed us to pray about 25 times.

                Here is the thing about pray. It is not really given to us to change things or others. It is given to us to change ourselves so that we might have the mustard seed of love in our communion with God.

                Still, as ususal you argue for empirical fact when it suits you and ‘mystery’ when it does not. The Orthodox faith is incarnational and antinomical. It is not separated into the here and the there the facts and the mystery.

                As I told you once before, if you wish to contend with Ronda, you are going to get in over your head. Seems to me you already have.

                If you are the legacy and she is the fringes, I’ll take the fringes any day.

                I was not saying anything about Florevsky, I was commenting on your penchant to paste proof texts in a manner that proves nothing: That is Google theology. But of course, you know that. You are an intelligent man. You just choose to ignore what I was actually saying.

              • M. Stankovich says

                Ms. Wintheiser,

                I am not crabby, I am shallow.

                Like everyone, I’ll return to work – which happens to be mental healthcare in prison – and I will present myself as honest, trustworthy, respectful, and compassionate. I will not identify myself as Christian, nor will I discuss beliefs, faith, or morality. I will conduct a structured evaluation and promise that, while I will make my best effort to locate the services they need on parole, realistically the service doesn’t exist or they don’t qualify. Realistically, they will get five minutes or less, once a month, with a psychiatrist who may or may not look at them as he writes a prescription. I will attempt to inspire, encourage, and always make it a point to say, “I never want to see you again”; and while they laugh, they seem to grasp the portend. And I always say in my mind, “Lord, have mercy,” even on a day when the man leaving has filled me with disgust. My attempt is simply to leave an impression that they have met with a fair, honest, and respectful man. No illusions. No pretense. No drama. I do what I can to influence my little corner, in my little “ministry” to the best of my ability. I am not a leader, nor an “original thinker, but “faithful over a few things.” (Matt. 25:21)

                I admire your “rapier” responses – post after post – that accentuate my naïveté and foolishness; as Einstein said, “If I was wrong, it would have only taken one.” And while Mr. Bauman insists, “It is not really given to us to change things or others,” Mr. Bauman apparently missed Jonah 3, “having seen how they had turned from their evil ways God changed His mind” [μετενόησεν ὁ θεὸς]. Nevertheless, who among us has not mimicked Ninevah in word and deed and still met with silence? I personally have never witnessed any “victory by anecdote”- I rarely trade stories, one-for-one – but I am not discouraged.

                The essay that began this was not “talking together about what to do,” but proof that one should not hope to find moral authority among the impotent and despondent, beg as you might; and search as you might, “authority” here is either “Christian Right,” “conservative pundit,” or Orthodox theologians who are dead or in a foreign country. Who will staff our new universities?

                I’m already in over my head, Mr. Bauman. The water is muddy.

                • Ronda Wintheiser says

                  Hi, Mr. Stankovich.

                  I’m sorry I was sharp with you.

                  You don’t seem “shallow”. You seem upset. And also, maybe brilliant. Or at least extremely well-educated or well-read.

                  Some of the things you say I can’t follow. It’s over my head. I have no idea what you are talking about, so much so that I can’t even think of a decent question to ask you.

                  There is so much coldness out in the world; such an absence of love, of feeling, of humanity. It’s everywhere — in elevators, on the sidewalk, in the grocery store… People hold themselves aloof. And on a blog like this, or any communication that is only with words and/or intellect, it can seem very impersonal, too — almost “gnostic” — mind to mind. Empty.

                  So I appreciate you sharing about your work. It makes you seem more like a real human being. 🙂

                  Why did you tell it?

  9. Ronda Wintheiser says

    Testimony of Dr. Anthony Levatino before May 17th, 2012 on H.R. 3803, the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”–MhKiaD7c&

  10. cynthia curran says

    Well, I agree with Michael I think Focus North America does a fine job with what they have. I think you had father classes and job training in St Louis and you had dental care in Anaheim and you different types of charity work in Pittsburgh and work in rural North Carolina. It has worked in inter city, large suburban areas, and rural areas.

  11. Michael Bauman says

    Fr. Gregory says in the main post that as Orthodox Chrisitans we need to shoulder some of the blame for the moral collapse of our culture. Actually, we need to shouder all of the blame. Are we not the leaven and the salt? If we have lost our savor and our capacity to leaven, then we are only worthy to be cast out under the feet of others. Seems to me that’s where we are heading and we have only ourselves to blame.

    Still, we are not quite there yet.

    If the legacy is dead, there is still life on the fringes.

  12. Michael Bauman says

    This morning as I was waking up I meandered into a reflection of the reasons we Americans choose to separate ourselves from our earthly King.

    1. He taxed without recourse: everything written, tea, etc.

    2. He force us to quarter his troops at our expense and then they were used against us.

    3. He forced us to buy things we did not want to buy, from sources we did not want to buy from (no locally produced goods)

    4. In general we were not allowed to make our own laws for ourselves but had to endure laws forced upon us from afar without recourse

    5. He blockaded our ports so that we could not trade by sea.

    6. He dismissed us as beneath his contempt and notice. He knew better than we did.

    I could give clear, specific examples about how we have now come full circle, but I’ll leave it up to the intelligence of those who read. Think about it.

    To close I’d like to share a line from perhaps my favorite Protestant hymn: “Rise up oh men of God, have done with lesser things, give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of Kings.”


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