Orthodox Bishops Speak Out Against HHH Mandate

Source: Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops

– The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, which is comprised of the 65 canonical Orthodox bishops in the United States, Canada and Mexico, join their voices with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and all those who adamantly protest the recent decision by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and call upon all the Orthodox Christian faithful to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience.

In this ruling by HHS, religious hospitals, educational institutions, and other organizations will be required to pay for the full cost of contraceptives (including some abortion-inducing drugs) and sterilizations for their employees, regardless of the religious convictions of the employers.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. This freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for “contraceptive services” including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions. Providing such services should not be regarded as mandated medical care. We, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, call upon HHS Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration to rescind this unjust ruling and to respect the religious freedom guaranteed all Americans by the First Amendment.


  1. Bravo! I’ll post this on my parish website immediately, with appropriate links to elected representatives!

  2. Axios! This is VERY encouraging. Our bishops speaking out in society on such a crucial issue is truly the voice of the Church, exercising Her call to be the conscience of society and the voice of Christ to the world. Axios to those who proposed and championed this!

  3. While I too do say AXIOS, I take issue with the fact that it says “…65 Canonical orthodox bishops” which does not comprise the totality of true Orthodox Bishops in the United States and South America whatsoever…

    • Olivia De Bears says

      Joseph Thaddeus Stanford is a registered homosexual sex offender, beware,http://www.pokrov.org/display.asp?ds=Convicted&id=41.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

        Olivia, thank you for bring this to our attention.

        • Ronda Wintheiser says

          So… ignoramus that I am… I have to ask: Is this man — Joseph Thaddeus Stanford — still an Archbishop?

          • As you can probably tell from his comment, Ronda, he is not an Archbishop of any canonical jurisdiction. Click the link on his name and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of information about the group of which he is “Metropolitan Archbishop”, to be precise.

            The canonical bichops that are a part of the Assembly here are found at this page:


            • Ronda Wintheiser says

              Thank you…

              I guess my question is… does someone like this experience something from the Church — has he been defrocked by anyone? Is that the right word? Is there a formal, public statement of some kind, or does the Church just allow people to excommunicate themSELVES, if you will?

              And what would happen should this man truly repent? What would that look like?

              • That’s a loaded question. Firstly, it seems he was never a part of any canonical Orthodox jurisdiction to begin with, so we have no need to or control over defrocking him. The Assembly of Bishops does have one purpose, however, in letting America know who the “real Orthodox” are in this country–the real bishops, parishes, priests, &c. For someone outside the Church who is trying to act as an Orthodox bishop, such would be sufficient in most cases. So there isn’t exactly a formal public statement against someone like Met. Arch. Joeseph Thaddeus per se.

                Does the Church allow people to excommunicate themselves? Sure, those in communion can personally decide to not go to receive the Eucharist on their own (whether or not this is a good idea is a different story). If you mean, can someone kick themselves out of the Church? I’m sure they would use different words to describe their personal choice to exit, but yes, that happens.

                As for repentence, there’s always a chance to be brought into or back into the flock, right up to our death. It could look like a baptism (water or blood), a chrismation (a first or second, &c.), a profession of faith, or some other means. Or at least, that’s what I think would be the case.

              • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

                Pete brings up a good point, Rhonda. With the jurisdictional divisions in America, men can claim to be legitimate clergy without much threat of being discovered. The Assembly of Bishops will be able to provide the means to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Frankly, if it wasn’t for POKROV, many of us would not know who they were.)

                Repentance can be real of course. But men with these problems should not serve in any ordained capacity or have any responsibility. How to handle this? An association with a healthy monastery rather than a parish would probably be best.

          • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

            These guys do their time, buy a kalimafi somewhere, and then go on pretending they are this or that bishop of some organization they made up.

            • A bit off topic, but I just wanted to note that when you wrote “kalimafi”, I felt as though it had been misspelled. Turns out that καλυμαύχι and καμιλαύκιον are both words for the same thing. Something learned everyday.

        • Olivia De Bears says

          Father Johannes,
          Here is a link to a website for his “church” (American Orthodox Church). In the list detailing his “Apostolic Succession” you find the names Michael Itkin and George Hyde, two notorious homosexual activists of the 1960’s posing as Orthodox bishops, http://www.apostle1.org/index.html.

    • Ronda Wintheiser says

      Now the comment the fake archbishop made makes sense.

      It seemed… out of order… out of the blue; almost a literal non sequitur?: “…an abrupt, illogical, unexpected or absurd turn of plot or dialogue not normally associated with or appropriate to that preceding it…

      “A non sequitur joke has no explanation, but it reflects the idiosyncrasies, mental frames and alternative world of the particular comic persona….”



      …except that it’s not funny.


      • Olivia De Bears says

        If your read his very confusing website you’ll find statements saying that sexual misconduct on the part of the clergy will not be tolerated yet the statements go on to comment about false accusations and and the Seal of the Confessional. Is he, in a round about way, saying that the accusations against him and the subsequent convictions are false and that to properly defend himself it would have been necessary to reveal things told to him by a penitent during confession and that he is a “fool for Christ” (a term he often uses to describe himself)? Perhaps in his strange world of “ecclesio-psychos” this sort of logic justifies his existence.

        • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

          Not his existence Olivia, his crimes. Arguing that the convictions were unjust and part of a greater service to God is a particularly heinous lie because it draws in the vulnerable, the people most often victimized by sexual abusers.

  4. Bravo Indeed! Thanks to John Couretas, Fr. Peter and readers of AOI and monomakhos who helped push the EA into action.

    Now I believe an investigation is warranted as to whether or not the answer to the question “Does the Orthodox Health Plan subsidize/cover elective aboriton?” is yes or no. If the answer is yes then I believe this issue should be brought into the public square and pressure placed on the Church to resolve this grave oversight and remove this and other “procedures” from the Orthodox Health Plan.

    After all its one thing for the government to force the Church to cover elective abortions, it would be twice as sad if the Church’s health plan voluntarily covered procedures that take innocent human life.

    Does anyone have clear information on this one? Is there anyone who participate in the Orthodox Health Plan who can verify this?

    • Isa Almisry says

      Let’s make sure that when it is posted on the ACOBNCA
      that it gets lots of “Likes”.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Andrew, here is the link: www. orthodoxhealthplans.com/indem.htm

      spread the word!

    • The Orthodox HealthPlan website on its “Indemnity Medical Insurance Plan” page does list (coverage includes voluntary sterilization and voluntary abortion) under the Maternity coverage area.

      According to the site:

      The Orthodox HealthPlan provides benefits for the clergy and lay employees of:
      – The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
      – The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
      – The Orthodox Church in America
      – The Diocese of The Armenian Church
      – The Serbian Orthodox Church of North and south America

      • Michael Bauman says

        Wow. It did not have to be written that way. So much for moral witness.

        • Ronda Wintheiser says

          They should have written it in gobbledygook language so it didn’t sound so bad? 🙂

          Hi, Michael. 🙂

          • Michael Bauman says

            Hi Ronda,

            No, not gobbledygook, whoever made the decision to accept that plan didn’t have to. I’m sure the covered group is large enough that whoever made the decision could have requested that coverage be removed or gone elsewhere.

            Unfortunately, insurer’s are not able to avoid complying with government mandates if they want to stay in business.

      • I have sent emails to the various plan administrators of the various diocese to get their response. We shall what we get for answers.

        • Michael Bauman says

          The plan is insured through Aetna, not my favorite carrier. Whether is is fully insured or partially self-funded can’t really tell. A partially self-funded plan (before Obama’s rules) allowed more flexibility in the coverage offered. I suspect that the coverage for abortion, steralization and contraception are what comes standard with Aetna’s offerings for large group plans.

          It still did not have to be written that way.

          • At the present time we are still operating under the provision that allows exemptions for these particular “procedures” and we will be allowed to for another year unless the decision is reversed in Congress.

            • Fr. Peter, are you saying that the Orthodox Health Plan as of today has the option of excluding voluntary abortion from its coverage but presently does not do so?

              • No that is not what I am saying. What I said was under the present HHS rule religious organizations have the right to do it. I do not know what the church does that’s why the research needs to be done.

          • Ronda Wintheiser says

            What difference does it make, Michael?

            I can’t figure out what you guys are saying. Does the Orthodox health plan cover abortion or not?

            • Michael Bauman says

              Unless there is a specific exclusion for abortion, it covers it. Health insurance and property/liability insurance cover everything except what is excluded or limited.

              Thus the pregnancy exclusion in an Aetna individual policy written here in Kansas reads:

              “(Non-covered services)
              Charges in connection with pregnancy care, other than for pregnancy complications. Pregnancy complications means:
              (skipping two)
              A caesarean section; if not elective; or
              Miscarriage if not elective or therapeutic”

              That means it does not cover an ‘elective miscarriage’, i.e. abortion.

              Group policies generally have more extensive coverage for pregancy and related complications than individual policies do, but one has to read the entire policy to be sure what is covered. I am sure that who ever decided on this group policy did not do that (no employer I’ve ever encountered does), it is a matter of the principal coverages and the cost. That’s about it.

              The larger the group, the more control the group has over the policy or coverage language. I’m sure the Orthodox group is sufficiently large to exercise more control over such things than they apparently did.

        • I received a reply from Archpriest Eric Tosi of the OCA regarding the issue of abortion coverage in the Orthodox Helth Plan. I thank Fr. Eric for his prompt reply and clarification. The link we have been concerned about is for what is called an intermediate plan for those who cannot be covered by the main plan that OHP offers. Fr. Eric thinks there is only one person covered by this and it is becasue they live out of the country.

          The main insurance policy does not specifically state that it does or does not cover abortions or sterilization. He said this is common as if they say they will cover it or not then they would have to cover it or not. Fr. Eric said more research is needed on this and will find an answer.

          Thanks again to Fr. Eric for taking time to answer this questions. This has put my mind at ease as I hope it does yours.

          • Father Peter, please let us know when Fr Eric’s “more research needed on this and will find an answer” is made/given. It doesn’t put my mind at ease to know the main OCA insurance policy does not specifically state that it covers abortions or sterilization. Thanks

      • Peter A Patsavas says

        My question is what exactly is Orthodox about this Healthplan as its title suggests? Also voluntary sterilization , isn’t that exactly the act caused Origin to be excommunicated?

        • Nick Katich says

          No Peter, that is not why Origen was anathemized. I wish people would stop using the Origen castrated himself mantra that seems to have crept into internet dialogue. Nor was he anathemized for apokatastasis. Here is why he was anathemized:

          IF anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that the creation ( thu paragwghn ) of all reasonable things includes only intelligences ( noas ) without bodies and altogether immaterial, having neither number nor name, so that there is unity between them all by identity of substance, force and energy, and by their union with and knowledge of God the Word; but that no longer desiring the sight of God, they gave themselves over to worse things, each one following his own inclinations, and that they have taken bodies more or less subtile, and have received names, for among the heavenly Powers there is a difference of names as there is also a difference of bodies; and thence some became and are called Cherubims, others Seraphims, and Principalities, and Powers, and Dominations, and Thrones, and Angels, and as many other heavenly orders as there may be: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that the sun, the moon and the stars are also reasonable beings, and that they have only become what they are because they turned towards evil: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that the reasonable creatures in whom the divine love had grown cold have been hidden in gross bodies such as ours, and have been called men, while those who have attained the lowest degree of wickedness have shared cold and obscure bodies and are become and called demons and evil spirits: let him be anathema,.


          IF anyone shall say that a psychic ( yukikhn ) condition has come from an angelic or archangelic state, and moreover that a demoniac and a human condition has come from a psychic condition, and that from a human state they may become again angels and demons, and that each order of heavenly virtues is either all from those below or from those above, or from those above and below: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that there is a twofold race of demons, of which the one includes the souls of men and the other the superior spirits who fell to this, and that of all the number of reasonable beings there is but one which has remained unshaken in the love and contemplation of God, and that that spirit is become Christ and the king of all reasonable beings, and that he has created(1) all the bodies which exist in heaven, on earth, and between heaven and earth; and that the world which has in itself elements more ancient than itself, and which exists by themselves, viz.: dryness, damp, heat and cold, and the image ( idean ) to which it was formed, was so formed, and that the most holy and consubstantial Trinity did not create the world, but that it was created by the working intelligence (N ous dhmiourgos ) which is more ancient than the world, and which communicates to it its being: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shah say that Christ, of whom it is said that he appeared in the form of God, and that he was united before all time with God the Word, and humbled himself in these last days even to humanity, had (according to their expression) pity upon the divers falls which had appeared in the spirits united in the same unity (of which he himself is part), and that to


          restore them he passed through divers classes, had different bodies and different names, became all to all, an Angel among Angels, a Power among Powers, has clothed I himself in the different classes of reasonable beings with a form corresponding to that class, and finally has taken flesh and blood like ours and is become man for men; [if anyone says all this] and does not profess that God the Word humbled himself and became man: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall not acknowledge that God the Word, of the same substance with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and who was made flesh and became man, one of the Trinity, is Christ in every sense of the word, but [shall affirm] that he is so only in an inaccurate manner, and because of the abasement ( kenwsanta ), as they call it, of the intelligence ( nous ); if anyone shall affirm that this intelligence united ( sunhmmenon ) to God the Word, is the Christ in the true sense of the word, while the Logos is only called Christ because of this union with the intelligence, and e converse that the intelligence is only called God because of the Logos: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that it was not the Divine Loges made man by taking an animated body with a yukh logikh and noera , that he descended into hell and ascended into heaven, but shall pretend that it is the N ous which has done this, that N ous of which they say (in an impious fashion) he is Christ properly so called, and that he is become so by the knowledge of the Monad: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that after the resurrection the body of the Lord was ethereal, having the form of a sphere, and that such shall be the bodies of all after the resurrection; and that after the Lord himself shall have rejected his true body and after the others who rise shall have rejected theirs, the nature of their bodies shall be annihilated: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that the future judgment signifies the destruction of the body and that the end of the story will be an immaterial yusis , and that thereafter there will no longer be any matter, but only spirit nous ): let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that the heavenly Powers and all men and the Devil and evil spirits are united with the Word of God in all respects, as the N ous which is by them called Christ and which is in the form of God, and which humbled itself as they say; and [if anyone shall say] that the Kingdom of Christ shall have an end: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that Christ [i.e., the N ous is in no wise different from other reasonable beings, neither substantially nor by wisdom nor by his power and might over all things but that all will be placed at the right hand of God, as well as he that is called by them Christ [the N ous , as also they were in the reigned pre-existence of all things: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that all reasonable beings will one day be united in one, when the hypostases as well as the numbers and the bodies shall have disappeared, and that the knowledge of the world to come will carry with it the ruin of the worlds, and the rejection of bodies as also the abolition of [all] names, and that there shall be finally an identity of the gnpsis and of the hypostasis; moreover, that in this pretended apocatastasis, spirits only will continue to exist, as it was in the reigned pre-existence: let him be anathema.


          IF anyone shall say that the life of the spirits ( nopn ) shall be like to the life which was in the beginning while as yet the spirits had not come down or fallen, so that the end and the beginning shall be alike, and that the end shall be the true measure of the beginning: let him be anathema.

          • Peter A Patsavas says

            True those are the anathemas against Origen’s teachings from the 5th Ecumenical Council in 553 AD, however since the very first canon of the very first Ecumenical Council in 325 AD, convened 70 years after the death of Origen reads:
            Canons of the Council of Nicaea

            Canon 1

            Castration among the clergy
            If anyone due to sickness has undergone a surgical operation, or if he has been castrated by barbarians, he is allowed to remain among the clergy. But if anyone enrolled among the clergy has castrated himself when in perfect health, it is good for him to leave the ministry. From now on, no such person should be promoted to the clergy. But since this applies only to those who willfully castrate themselves, if anyone has been made a eunuch by barbarians, or by his master, and is otherwise fit for office, church law admits him to the clergy.

            These Fathers were very familiar with Origin and no doubt had him in mind during this Canon. When presbyters continued to teach his heresies which in turn increased in more heresies the need for specific anathemas for the teachings became neccessary.

  5. Okay, but they forgot to add their “or what” clause. What are they going to do if he doesn’t rescind?

    • Michael Bauman says

      isaac, I’ve been in the insuance business for 30 years: there is little they can do other than drop any health plans. Even in fully self-insured plans the government requirements would have to be met The only other recourse is to do some sort of ad hoc cost sharing/assesment plan that does not take advantage of any of the IRS tax breaks. Even individual coverage is effected by the same mandate, not just group coverage or formal health plans.

      This is the cost of governement run health care. He who pays, decides.

      As individuals we each face the same dilemma: at what risk are we willing take with our health and our finances to life in accord with the Church’s moral teaching. As employers and shepards, the bishops and other decision makers have to decide not only for themselves, but for all those covered by the plan.

      If there were an Orthodox cost-sharing plan established, how many of the faithful would participate? It takes a lot of people to make such plans viable. Would it be managed honestly and above board even if it got established?

    • Michael Bauman says

      Of course, issac, our bishops and the RC bishops could always engage in civil disobedience which would put the tax exemption of both communions at risk as well as the finances of individual bishops. RICO was used against abortion protesters. Even though the Supreme Court overturned and invalidated its use, the pro-life groups targeted were put out of business and a general chilling occured.

      Make no mistake the federal government is willing to use some pretty extreme measures to protect their power and the ideological commitment to killing babies. Republican or Democrat doesn’t really make much difference. President Wilson had suffergette leaders arrested (illegally) and tortured back in the early part of the 20th century.

      Would a sufficient number of the faithful (us) stand behind such acts to make the effective? Personally, I doubt it. Not when a significant number of titular Orthodox don’t believe in the Churches moral teaching to begin with.

      If we, the RCC and the Protestants all banded together on a country-wide cost sharing plan–that might work. It would take an incredible amount of work to pull it off, but it might be possible. There are some small Protestant ones out there already, but few Orthodox or Catholics can participate in the ones I’ve seen because they refuse to accept anyone who drinks alcohol or smokes.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Michael, curious: what insurance plan does the RC Church have? Maybe we can piggy-back on that one.

        • Michael Bauman says

          George, I have no idea what the RCC has, but to participate in group insurance that qualifies for tax favored treatment, there has to be an employer-employee relationship (that includes 1099 employees to some degree).

          The only way to piggy-back that I can see is a cost-sharing assessment plan. It’s not really insurance so you loose both the tax deduction and the legal protections afforded by state/federal regulations.

          Still every health insurance policy written in this country in a year will have these un-Constitutional requriements in them. The question then becomes what do I do, what do you do? Not what the bishops do. Currently the group insurance I am covered by does not include coverage for abortions or contraceptives. That will change if nothing is done to rescind the regulation.

          Don’t forget that it is much less expensive to pay for an abortion than it is a pregancy, even a normal one. Going rate here in Wichita when Tiller was alive for an abortion was $5000. A normal pregancy here in Wichita costs $12,000 to $15,000. Since there is no such thing as a corporate conscience, guess what wins.

          How much risk to my health and to my finances am I willing to take to follow the Church’s moral teaching. It is not an easy decision but neither to I think it is a matter of salvation.

      • I wasn’t referring to trying to find workable insurance. I was referring to more radical measures like pulling all chaplains out of the military and strongly encouraging laity in the military to get out and not join up. A military without Christians would be gutted and a lot of Catholics would not join if they knew they would have no chaplains.

        • Michael Bauman says

          issac, tough to see a link unless you are just straight up anti-military. But if you are going that route, why limit it to the military. Have all Orthodox and all Christians quit all governement employement or refuse to do business with anything connected to government contracts.

          Think you’d find less support for that route within the Orthodox communion than trying to do something with the health insurance.

          You are right in one respect: the only thing that will make an impact is some sort of mass voluntary dis-engagement with the government. Given the overall outlook of Orthodox in this land, really not likely to happen.

          Of course, given the coverage in the Orthodox health plan, the EA statement seems pretty hypocritical anyway with about as much intent to follow through as a wet noodle.

  6. Isa Almisry says

    LOL. The difference a day makes.

  7. Isa Almisry says

    The Statement is on the Assembly’s Facebook page, so everyone can-and should-go and “Like” it!

  8. Tyler Hudson says

    “President Wilson had suffergette leaders arrested (illegally) and tortured back in the early part of the 20th century.”
    Could you please cite your source on this, especially the claim of torture at the direction of Woodrow Wilson? Thanks, T.H..

Leave a Reply to Fr. Johannes Jacobse Cancel reply