Memo to Greek Orthodox Bishops: Stop Honoring Pro-Abortion Politicians

Gov. Cuomo Receives Human Rights Award

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?


  1. George Michalopulos says

    Wonderful essay Fr! May I put it on my blog?

  2. Excellent article! Thank you, Father! We live in the age when many are seeking compromise and even reconciliation with the evil. But, “what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (2 Cor. 6:15)

  3. The issue of abortion is certainly a very serious one. At the same time, I think it’s very important to consider the whole person when supporting any politician–the whole person, and their whole world view, just as we are encouraged to consider the whole person when dealing with anyone–not just the way that they miss the mark.

    In our country, to reject and refuse to support or vote for a politician who is pro-choice results in either not voting, or voting for the politicians who claim to be “pro-life.” It just so happens that those “pro-life” politicians are also pro more tax cuts for billionaires who don’t need them, while cutting funding for programs for the elderly, the sick, and the poor. How would Christ feel about a society that is the richest in the world, but which has the highest rate of child poverty of any major country? How would He feel about passing laws that give tens of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the very richest Americans, while refusing to give our seniors each a check for $250. (This actually happened in 2010–and they continue to cut Medicaid and Medicare, as well as additional tax cuts for those same billionaires). In my state alone, 150 people are dying this year because they have no access to health care, because our obstructive politicians (who claim to be pro-life) refuse to expand Medicaid. They have listened to testimony from thousands of people, know that people are dying, and still refuse to budge. Is this compassion? Is this pro-life?

    It is also a simple fact that during Democratic administrations since Roe v. Wade, the abortion rate has come down faster than during Republican administrations. The politicians who are “pro-choice” are actually handling economic policy and medical care in such a way that fewer and fewer women are seeking abortions. Observe the following graph and figure out who was president during those years of the sharpest drops: you’ll find that they were Clinton and Obama, and that the rate slowed during the Bush administration, and actually went up near the end of his term, when the economy was tanking. Women don’t want to bring a child into the world that they can’t support.

    Our teen pregnancy rate and abortion rates have both gone down dramatically during this last term of President Obama’s. It is now the lowest since 1973. We still have a ways to go. The rate in most Western European countries is lower than ours, although it is legal there, too. Those countries have strong economies, wages are good, standard of living is good, health care is universal. In East European countries, by comparison, the abortion rate is still very high. And interestingly, their economies are still struggling.

    Making abortion illegal doesn’t reduce the rates. Women have been having abortions for thousands of years, whether it’s legal or not. Voting for politicians who claim to be “pro-life” doesn’t reduce the rates as quickly as when the “pro-choice” politicians are in office? Why? I think it’s because the “Pro-choice” politicians are pro-life in a much truer sense than those who claim to be. They support better health care options, more assistance to the poor, more job development, fair wages, more affordable schooling, etc.

    European friends of mine have asked me: why do Americans keep voting for the people who are hurting the middle class, don’t support raising wages, don’t support environmental protection, deny climate change, won’t vote for universal health care, allow the drug and insurance companies to rip the people off, and keep giving more tax breaks to the very rich?

    I think it’s because a huge number of voters are “single issue” voters. If a politician claims to be “pro life,” i.e., is against abortion, then apparently that means to them that he or she is a good Christian and good Christians don’t lie. Therefore, they must be doing the right thing in every area.

    Personally, I think it’s just as dangerous to try and build your politics on one issue as it is to take one verse out of the Bible and build a religion from it, while ignoring the rest of the Bible. Life and society are more complicated than that. I feel fortunate that our Church leaders seem to understand that. They seem to care about the many other positions of these “pro-choice” politicians, such as their concern about protecting our planet and our children and grandchildren’s future, their concern for the poor, the sick, and the elderly, their concern that people have a living wage so that they don’t have to work two or three jobs and have no time for their families. They can apparently also see the data that better and more available health care and better economies lead to lower abortion rates. 

    • Pam,

      Your confusion is palpable. You feel that your leftist politics make you a good moral person with deep insights. And worse, you can’t tell the difference between The Faith and your political meanderings.

      You ought to learn to be silent, and to learn at least the bare beginnings of sound doctrine before speaking. But evidently you find your opinions to be very important.

      You are important, because you are created in the Image and Likeness of God, and because Christ died for your salvation. Your opinions however at this stage are rubbish.

    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      That was literally the most stupid post I have ever read and one that I have heard, in one version or another, for the last 30 years.

      This is how a Christian conscience is seared and how evil is allowed to remain and grow. With the rise of Brexit and now the coming of Trump people have finally woken up and have realized good cannot be mingled with evil, and have NOTHING to do with evil.

      Rationalizations need to stop, and we need to stand firmly on the Gospel of Christ.


    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      The unborn child is a “whole person.” If you see the developing child as anything less then you are deeply confused.

      • James Bradshaw says

        “The unborn child is a “whole person.” ”

        I agree … if it’s actually a child we’re talking about. In other words, if there’s a heart and a head and a brain, fully formed or not, it’s a “human being”. This is still very early in the development cycle and a position that I’m sure Planned Parenthood would reject.

        At the same time, to insist that a day-old zygote should be afforded the same recognition of personhood as even a partially formed fetus seems a bit of an extreme stance to take … one based more on theological arguments than physiological ones, but I’m willing to hear arguments that would convince me otherwise.

        Of course, our current permissiveness on this in America far exceeds anything that I’d consider “reasonable”, and I’m hoping that the next SCOTUS will undo some of the damage wrought by Roe v Wade.

  4. Cynthia mae Curran says

    Well, there is a third party of Pro-life Catholics called American Solidarity and Terry Matting belongs to that party. I think we are the right can do a conservative version of the American Solidarity party by combing local government money and private charity to helped women that have children out of wedlock-the group most likely to have an abortion. Some conservatives are opposed to freebies but we can have the mother do some part time work to earn her help and have the child watched during the time that the mother does community work if she can’t get a regular job.

  5. Father Johannes, Thank you for sharing. May I put it on my blog as well? Fr. Wade+

  6. Thank you. As a convert to Orthodoxy, it is comforting to know I can still count on the Church to stand firm on this issue, or at least bring folks back into line when opinions on matters of life or death begin to stray.

  7. Luc de Lasalle says

    Meanwhile the head of the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated members of the Italian mafia in June 2014. While not reacting with the same ”hammer” (excommunication) our archbishops could at least show the same courage with pro-abortion politicians! (At least elected officials don’t gun down their opponents!)

    • Actually, Luc, why not excommunicate them? A pre-born infant is a person. Abortion is the premeditated murder of a person, for the personal convenience of another person. If a politician insisted on making and enforcing a law that permitted people to kill anyone else whom they found unbearably inconvenient, should he be admitted to Holy Communion?

      “But, abortion is different,” one may say, “because it involves the woman’s body.” That’s true. It is different: it’s worse. A pregnant woman’s body is designed by God to be a fortress of protection for her child, and she is supposed to be the child’s protector. Instead, a demonized culture insists to her that her proper role is to breach the fortress herself, and murder her own child.

      Excommunication is not a “hammer,” it’s a mercy. It is a way of preventing someone from making rationalizations that will lead him to justify “eating and drinking unworthily,” not to his profit but to his condemnation. It says, in no uncertain terms, “you have placed your soul in jeopardy, and need to confess and reform.”

      These are things we aren’t supposed to say out loud in our demonized culture. The woman is always to be regarded as a “victim” The politician is always to be regarded as “having many good ideas and values that compensate.”

      The woman may well be a victim of whatever situation got her with child in the first place. The politician may indeed have some ideals that are laudable. But if the woman’s life is not actually in danger from the pregnancy, and she then proceeds to have the child killed, she is a murderess. And the “doctor” is a murderer. And the politician is either an inciter or an accessory. It really is just that simple,

      Until these people have been to confession and gotten right with the Lord, can I, or any priest, in good conscience place them in even further danger by admitting them to Holy Communion? And by what logic do I reinforce them in their rationalizations by honoring them in the name of God’s Church?

  8. Pres. Joanna says

    Our clergy are burdened with ministering to the many women who aborted their children by “choice”.
    This is because the human soul knows that it is wrong and God beckons us to awaken to repentance.
    It is God that heals our hearts leading us to recognize our sin and course correct our lives.
    NO WOMAN should have to endure the spiritual suffering brought on by this “right to choose” and more importantly how simple it is to choose wrongly out of fear.
    We should not be honor this right to choose. It distrurbs the soul.

  9. Dear Ms. Olsen:

    Your care and concern for the pre-born, elderly, poor, hard-working, disabled are commendable and of course we are called by Christ to help each person and see each person as made in the image of God and to foster a society which does so as well as best we can. As a woman, I also understand how compassionate and maternal your heart may be in what you say.

    Sadly, such compassion has been cleverly evoked by those who actually work against compassion. It sounds as if you have been affected by this psychological ploy by those in the service of the evil one, because your solution is lethal as well as ineffective for all of the above. A compassionate society does not murder and neglect vast numbers to save others economically nor does a compassionate Church or person. In fact, a compassionate society must be composed in the majority of compassionate persons. Voting for someone who will extend the pro-death society through her judicial appointments as well as her own term as president because of concern for the lesser issues you mention (environment, work, financial compensation etc) means voting for a society which murders holy innocents, degrades women, and makes men unaccountable for their actions — all with a coarsening, brutalizing impact on society and its way of relating one person to another. Even relying on society without a mention of what the individual and the Church should do is evidence of that coarsening and lessening of a sense of personal responsibility. Planned Parenthood does NOT encourage pro-life choices such as open or closed adoption — only the abortion funds them. The beauty of open and closed adoption for both overwhelmed birth mothers and grateful infertile recipients is something to see. As is the spiritual growth of the person who takes responsibility for her actions by having the child which a choice for sex created. Psychologically this taking of responsibility at least through pregnancy matures a woman if she has support. She could have your support, your Church’s support, to grow in this way, to become more self-respecting and less dependent on the opinion of an immature male, if that is the issue. And she could learn to prize her body as a temple of God rather than desecrating it and carrying psycyhological and spiritual wounds forever. Please think of her as well as the child, Ms. Olsen.

    Re solutions:

    A flat tax solves your problems with billionaires. May we have one.

    Obamacare itself encourages and mandates neglect of seniors, the disabled, the ill, the mentally ill, the memory-impaired, as well as about to be born persons and most especially African-American babies. President Obama consulted those very insurance and pharmaceutical folks rather than medical advisors as he constructed the legislation~ which I did read, as a physician, despite Nancy Pelosi’s advice that I should have faith in her rather than in God and in my Hippocratic Oath from a Catholic medical school to do no harm. After the 2016 election ~ by design to surprise the electorate after the damage may be done ~ parts of Obamacare will “kick in” that will be chilling for seniors.

    I cannot agree that abortion rates are the same as before Roe v Wade, there is no evidence of that nor does it make sense. Any behavior which is legalized and normalized by society and especially by the Church or medical professions simply increases. This is clearly not the “rare” event promised by Democrats years ago. It is now the birth control of choice for unmarrieds because condoms lessen friction pressure for males. Birth control pills can and IUDs/morning after pills always do cause abortion of a developing human. A pre-born baby writhing in pain and dying because of a desire for more sexual pleasure, more convenience, pleasure without responsibility. Heinous. How callous and inhumane we have become. Sacrificial abstinence in marriage, the work of natural planning in a marriage, beautiful effect on both participants with increasing respect of the man for the woman as well from his loving sacrifice. And what woman deserves less?

    What I see in my office are women so demeaned by their status as sexual objects to be used for a few moments without commitment or protection by males ~ who because of the degradation of life in our society (aided by well-intentioned people such as yourself) are less rather than more respectful of the women they “encounter” but often hardly know. A young woman told me once she was so grateful that the young man she had just met and “hooked up” with, actually put his arm around her afterwards and remembered her name. Can you imagine??? Will you not weep for her and see how this pro-abortion culture encourages her to think of herself as an object? And weep for the young women who are infertile because of abortions and prolonged use of birth control pills. And who have a hard time adopting or resort to IVF which essentially multiplies abortions. Souls and physical bodies are damaged unbelievably.

    African American pastors will tell you about the change in the family structure of those now looking to government (“society”) rather than one another in the Church or in the family for basic support. See Reverent C. J. Bryant’s excellent though badly named documentary “Runaway Slave” or just come out to a street corner in front of Planned Parenthood to see the number of African American women going in, study Planned Parenthood’s celebration of Margaret Sanger, basically a proponent of eugenics herself, listen to Melva King, MLK’s niece, on the subject. You speak of the lower rate of abortion and many pro-life people would attribute that to prayer, pregnancy centers staffed and supported by Christian volunteers who cannot rely on government because of the people in power on the Supreme Court, and countless hours in front of Planned Parenthood offering alternatives to frightened, desperate women now encouraged to go against every truly female instinct given by God to have an abortion. How can you not see the evil one behind the misleading euphemisms, the deceptive advertising, the utter rejection of a consideration of a person’s soul being affected by standing with the evil one rather than God? If you cannot visualize the victims of over one million known documented abortion procedures yearly (because chemical ones may not be known), then please consider watching a film to make it real for yourself. And please consider asking your church and perhaps many individuals to help those in need in your midst, until a particular government wakes up due to your legislative advocacy. Please read the Democratic platform and the Obamacare regulations, consider the avidity with which they pursue death for most of us on the planet, and ask if Christ is with this approach. It is merciless and brutal. And we become so or go into complete denial by pretending otherwise.

    Euthanasia is already in effect in many hospices, disguised yet again to make it palatable and yet causing horrific suffering to the frail who are not yet dying but are denied water and nutrition, yet kept quiet and delirious from the pain of it by medication so they look peaceful but cannot communicate with family or with God. Assisted suicide “for” the mentally ill in one state is also abhorrent to me as this is my field. The untreated mentally ill are the most vulnerable and also the most expensive to the state and therefore least desirable to a utilitarian society. Are you going to vote for people who support this? I pray not.

    Finally, we Christians know that Christ said, Blessed are the poor and the poor will always be with us. And that this life is transient and only a prelude to the true life with Him. Our choices affect our souls and those of others. Please do not be lead astray by thinking or voting as if this life is the only one. May God have mercy on our souls and help each of us be part of His solution and work. He is the only One who truly cares for and understands women and our true needs. Please trust Him and follow His way.

    Your prayers please,



  11. After seeing abortion labeled an “industry” at the beginning, I saw no point in reading the rest of the article. If church officials are going to honor politicians in a secular nation, religious “tests” of any kind are inappropriate. Either the honoree is a worthy representative of his constituents, or he is not. Finally: abortion rights as a political issue were settled in this country by our Supreme Court; this individual’s personal beliefs on the subject have no place in public discourse.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      People who write “this individual’s beliefs have no place in public discourse” (on the “individual’s” blog no less) betray a totalitarian impulse against those with whom they disagree. Furthermore, the construction “worthy representative of his constituents” doesn’t work either if one is a constituent of the group doing the honoring. I’ll overlook the comment on religious tests as well because no doubt this shibboleth is trotted out only with opinions about which the commentator disagrees. Finally, abortion is an industry. Planned Parenthood brought in $1.2 billion last year. Cecille Richards just got a pay raise to $1 million a year. Not bad for being the nation’s chief abortion ideologue.

    • Hi, David–

      It would be unthinkable for, say, the VFW to honor a politician who minimized veteran affairs. It would be equally unthinkable for Planned Parenthood to honor a pro-life politician. The same argument you make about a “religious test” being determinative could be made, without changing anything but the subject word, about a “veteran affairs test” or a “pro-death test.” Would you, though, be as quick to apply your argument in those cases?

      The Church is, in terms of civil society, a religious organization. By what stretch of the imagination or abuse of logic is it then inappropriate for her to apply a “religious test” for honoring a civil servant?

  12. Harold Migias says

    The sad truth is that many of the heirarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church in America (not all of them) are clamoring for acceptance since Orthodox Christianity is such a small segment of the population. Many see themselves as “ethnarchs” of the so-called “diaspora”. So, they take every opportunity for a photo op with a “Greek-American” politician (In many cases a liberal who supports leftist, liberal causes like abortion on demand). They also rush to photo ops and to award any politician, regardless of moral stances on issues, if they give lip service to supporting the Ecumenical Patriarchate, opening Halki Theological School and/or resolution of the Cyprus conflict. Poor judgement can be excused on one or two occasions. However, the above is the established pattern. This is a poor witness to the eternal truths entrusted to the Orthodox Church. Christ’s admonition to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4 is so relevant: The church had grown cold and lost its first love which was zeal for the truth in Jesus Christ.

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