It’s not just about the filioque or the Immaculate Conception, folks. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have encouraged Catholics to reach out to Orthodox Christians, to respect them and learn their traditions. Catholics by and large have accepted that the Orthodox really are very close to Catholicism in many areas. But many would be surprised to learn that some Orthodox hierarchs (and Oriental Orthodox hierarchs) are soft, even permissive on the issue of abortion–soft like Anglicans.
His Holiness, Patriarch Karekin I of Etchmiadzin of Armenia (Oriental Orthodox) who came on a pastoral visit to the US had this to say about the Oriental Orthodox Church’s position on abortion-
“We don’t issue dogmatic statements and impose dogmatic principles. That is intervening and invading on the freedom of the conscience of the people. When a person is Christianity nurtured and his conscience is shaped by Christian principles, that person should have the freedom to manifest his or her attitude toward specific problems such as abortion or the forms of abortion. The church does not get involved in that kind of detail. Jesus never, never imposed anything upon his followers. If you want to inherit the Kingdom of God, do this, do not do this. if you want, that is the greatest characteristic feature of Christianity. (The Washington Post - 1/20/96 p. B6)
His Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople when he visited San Francisco in 1990 made the following statement on the Orthodox position on abortion-
Although the Orthodox Church believes the soul enters the body at conception and, generally speaking, respects human life and the continuation of the pregnancy,” Barthlomew said, the church also “respects the liberty and freedom of all human persons and all Christian couples . . . We are not allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian couples,” he also said. “We cannot generalize. There are many reasons for a couple to go toward abortion.” (San Francisco Chronicle-7/20/90p.A22)
Another important quote of the Ecumenical Patriarch from his book, Conversations with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, page 128, is also very telling. Notice the weasel words he uses so as to be sure not to say anything too definitively:
“As for abortion, this is always profoundly dramatic for a woman and deeply injures her femininity. For this reason, abortion for the sake of convenience is, we cannot deny it, extremely serious and must be strongly discouraged. But there are situations of extreme distress when abortion can be a lesser evil, as, for example, when the life of the future mother is in danger.”
Language such as “profoundly dramatic” are a real betrayal here. How about “profoundly sinful?” “Strongly discouraged?” How about “strongly condemned?” “Situations of extreme distress?” So if you are distressed, you may crush, chemically incinerate or dismember the body of an innocent infant? “Future mother?” Did he really say future mother? If life is really human and sacred from inception, then she is already a mother. To deny that she is already a mother is to deny the personhood of the infant, which is to deny its value, and dignity. If she is not yet a mother, then this “thing” is not yet a human being. This is the language of the pro-abortion lobby. It is exactly this kind of language which, wink, wink, makes abortion kinda sorta okay, wink, wink. Please remember to be distressed before your abortion. The above paragraph could easily have been written by the Dr. Rowan Williams.
Dr. Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church had this to say last year about abortion:
We begin with clear, perhaps absolute, principles and, as we honestly confront a hugely complex world, we recognise that clear principles don’t let you off the hook. There is no escaping the tough decisions where no answer will feel completely right and no option is without cost. But when do we get to the point where accepting the inevitability of tough decisions that may hurt the conscience has become so routine that we stop noticing that there ever was a strain on the conscience, let alone why that strain should be there at all?
In Rowan’s world everything is so complex and filled with confusing shades of gray that apparently no clear moral teaching is possible on abortion–or perhaps anything, for that matter. Notice that nowhere in an essay on abortion does he actually decry this evil act. He only decries the lack of moral compunction over it. Apparently, it is okay to have an abortion in Rowan’s world as long as you have some strain of conscience over it.
Notice the legislation of the Episcopal Church:
1988: “All human life is sacred. Hence it is sacred from its inception until death.”
1994 “unequivocal opposition to any … action … that [would] abridge the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of her pregnancy, or that would limit the access of a woman to a safe means of acting upon her decision.”
Life is sacred, but it can still be snuffed out at the whim of the mother.
"You wrote: 'Then some of the most ancient canons teach clericalism, which seems rather absurd.'
"I agree. It is absurd. Don't you know that when a bishop teaches heresy (and a libertine approach to abortion most certainly is heresy) he loses his authority? Don't you know that wolves in sheep's clothing, false prophets, those who privily bring in damnable heresies, those who offend the consciences of the weak, those who cause the little ones who believe in Christ to sin, would be better off if millstones were tied about their necks, and they were drowned in the depths of the sea? They are condemned by their own evil words, for which each of them will give account at the last judgment.
"You also wrote: 'Then bring charges and follow church law and tradition.'
In Orthodox Tradition isn't there precedent for throwing them over a cliff?"
(I am not really advocating throwing them over a cliff.)