Monday, August 04, 2008

What the hell?

A Roman Catholic blog published these details just the other day. It makes me glad to be separated from the See of Canterbury. But what's up with Orthodox leaders who ought to be pro-life like us?

Orthodox EP Soft Like Anglicans on Abortion

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.


One person, in an e-mail exchange, defended these bishops, claiming that ancient Canon Law required that we never speak evil of bishops. I replied to him thus:

"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.)


Anonymous said...

Episcopalian life is sacred from its 'inception'. It would appear that inception isn't the same as conception.

Anonymous said...

I have long been troubled over the vague position (or positions) of EO on "marriage" after divorce. Somehow these statements (which could have been authored by the worse TEC revisionists) follow that pattern.

And I'm still wondering about those married bishops in the Russian Orthodox Church!


Anonymous said...

99.9% of Orthodox heirarchs are solidly pro-life. Unfortunately, the few odd-balls happen to be in high visibility positions.

Indeed, The "Patriarch of Istanbul" is oft regarded as Black Bart for reason such as the quote in the post. Also, this is one reason why most Orthodox in the world do not actually regard him as the "first among equals" as he would have been accorded before the fall of the East Roman Empire (Byzantium).

Indeed, the old Pentarchy system is now merely vestigial, and most Orthodox would look to Moscow to preside in honor at any great Council, especially since the repair of relations with the Russian Church Abroad.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a slipping away
from the principals of Christianity
in all major churches.

I've heard Roman priests say that the resurrection of Christ never really happened, but was actually
just a parable from their pulpits in a sermon.

I've heard Roman priests deny the
Divine Being of Christ as the Incarnate Son of God from their pulpits. I've heard them say that the prophesies of the coming of Christ were simply stories told about the birth of an ancient ruler, and had nothing to do with a
Sviour being sent by God to the world.

I guess we should not be surprised that the same trend that has happened to mainline American Protestants and Roman Catholics, is
now starting in the Orthodox Churches as well.

In the Bible, it says that near the end of time, there will be a great falling away from the true faith. Perhaps it is a sign of the times?

1928 BCP Supporter

Anonymous said...

"most Orthodox would look to Moscow to preside in honor at any great Council, especially since the repair of relations with the Russian Church Abroad."

They might have reservations about Bartholomew but that is utter rubbish. Just look at Ravenna.


Anonymous said...

"The above paragraph could easily have been written by the Dr. Rowan Williams."

Ha! That's exactly what I was going say in my comment before I read it in the post itself.

Maybe this can be the start of a new Anglican-Orthodox ecumenical movement called "Affirming Prevarication"!

David said...

I was shocked to find a substantial constituency or theological and social liberals in Orthodoxy. It has been a voice echoing in the back of my head that says something is wrong. In Sacramento we have some very liberal laypeople with great wealth who have a lot of pull with the church. The local RC Bishop condemns the liberal catholic politicians why the Metropolitan embraces liberal greeks and call them good men. Puzzling to say the least.

Anonymous said...

It is not all that shocking, as these types of "progressive" ideas have long been internationalized (the Patriarch of Constantinople is also big on environmentalism, from what I understand). But the earlier commenter is right that most Orthodox bishops, as far as I am aware, adhere to the traditional teaching of the Church on this. I don't think one ought to mistake the opinion of these couple of bishops for any kind of normative belief on the part of the Eastern Churches (and I say this as a Roman Catholic btw; there are probably of Catholic bishops who would agree with them, but their opinions are just that: opinions, though mightily depressing ones.)

Anonymous said...

I recall the controversy a few years back over Kazantzakis novel "The Last Temptation of Christ," which many found to be pornographic. The local Greek Orthodox priest said in a newspaper interview that the only reason people were picking on this lovely novel was that it was written by a Greek and Americans were prejudiced against Greeks.

Anonymous said...

Within TEC, from the '80s there was an organization called NOEL, which was the Pro-life movement, but I don't think it had much influence.

Anonymous said...

Noel morphed into Anglicans for Life awhile back. They still have a website, a regular newsletter, and organize a group for the annual March for Life on the Mall.

Anonymous said...


What does Ravenna have to do with anything?

In my experience, having met Orthodox laity, monks, clergy and Bishops from almost all the North American jurisdictions, including a Metropolitan or two, and NONE OF THEM REGARD THE E.P. AS THE LEADER OF WORLD ORTHODOXY, either in principle or in his current incarnation, save one maybe, who happens to be closely related to this blog's hosts.