Monday, December 21. 2009
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"Sloppy Bookkeeping" that's it????????????????
+Herman re-mortgaged the monastery property more than once and he had no authority to do so. The bookstore was importing and selling goods without paying taxes and the profits were filtered off into personal accounts. Monies were misappropriated again and again and again into personal accounts.
SLOPPY BOOKKEEPING???? How about outright theft?
#1 Anonymous on 2009-12-21 09:06
I am not sold on the idea of a new committee developing a comprehensive strategy for reshaping our Church. Even if that approach were somehow valid (which I would submit, it isn't) the plans I have heard of so far sound misguided, at best. For instance, eliminating parish representation, so some executive committee can take care of things at the AAC. Please, there is no need to trample on Schmemann's legacy so thoroughly.
But how about those exclusive interviews with the Russian media? Meanwhile, His Beatitude leaves American readers in the lurch. All we get is some name-dropping in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Read the profile of Robert George, architect of the Manhattan Declaration. Good to see His Beatitude is wasting time aligning himself with dubious political pursuits.
We lost a true pastor this past week - I hazard to daydream about how different things would be if he had been elected Metropolitan. May His Eminence's memory be eternal.
(Editor's note: Ah, yes - Dr. George. One should only point out that historically the Church allied itself with Aristotleans once before, with dubious results. Fortunately, "Reason" is larger and deeper than the "Natural Law" theories Dr. George currently propounds....)
#2 Nilus on 2009-12-21 13:11
"For instance, eliminating parish representation, so some executive committee can take care of things at the AAC."
Since doing so would need a change to the Statute at the AAC, the parishes themselves would have to agree to this, an unlikely possibility in light of the past few years' events.
#2.1 Michael Strelka on 2009-12-21 19:34
First, there are worse guiding principles at hand than Professor George's Natural Law. George is indeed an accomplished scholar and a first-class intellect, who is admittedly a thorn in the side of liberals--but, is that necessarily a bad thing for a profoundly conservative and fundamentalist church like the Orthodox Church? (Please note that I am using 'fundamentalist" in a limited sense: One who strictly adheres to a set of basic ideas or principles. I would also submit that "natural law" is also a key element of classical liberalism (modern conservatism) and modern republican forms of democratic forms of government. As opposed to the dreaded isms of the 20th Century (Communism, fascism, etc...) and certainly to post-modernism, George's Natural Law is much more in sync with Orthodoxy.
Second, the proposed revision of the All American Councils does not fundamentally alter conciliarity--in the sense of participation by the lower clergy and the laity. The focus simply changes from the individual parish to the individual diocese. While initially the actual number of lower clergy and laity will probably diminish, the ratio should remain the same, of course, if the Diocesan Councils are structured to afford the laity truly conciliar representation.
#2.2 Carl on 2009-12-22 08:48
(From the NYTimes article) Last spring, George was invited to address an audience that included many bishops at a conference in Washington. He told them with typical bluntness that they should stop talking so much about the many policy issues they have taken up in the name of social justice.
They should concentrate their authority on “the moral social” issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, where, he argued, the natural law and Gospel principles were clear.
To be sure, he said, he had no objections to bishops' “making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies. They should stop lobbying for detailed economic policies like progressive tax rates, higher minimum wage and, presumably, the expansion of health care — “matters of public policy upon which Gospel principles by themselves do not resolve differences of opinion among reasonable and well-informed people of good will,” as George put it.
George may be a thorn in liberals' sides, but bishops seem to be a thorn in his. In this context, hearing Carl describe Christ and His Holy Church as "conservative and fundamentalist" and as a result, compatible with George's perspective, is frightening.
The Gospel is a radical message of compassion and a rejection of the ways of this world. But George's Gospel is the mixture of Church and State, allowing 'spirituality' only as long as it's good for Big Business. To suggest that Orthodoxy, because of its Tradition of asceticism and self-denial, is somehow compatible with other "conservative and fundamentalist" ideologies is a dangerous mistake which will ossify the Church into yet another "Conservative Institution."
It's a sad day when His Beatitude and other OCA leaders align us with such blatant political agitation. Shouldn't the Church be standing apart from the political fray, not jumping into it?
Moreover, I see Met. Jonah's participation in the Manhattan Declaration as an unwelcome return to the Kondratick days of political posturing, schmoozing at Manhattan clubhouses, and putting on airs to make us seem like a big player in the religious scene. I thought we were done with that.
Secondly, I think changing the composition of the AAC to reinforce the diocesan nature of our Church is missing the forest for the trees. Our Church is diocesan, but it is centered around the parish, where the Liturgy is served. The fullness of conciliarity is experienced when clergy and laity from every parish community are in the room - a truth admitted even by the Committee, when it retains a provision that each parish would be involved in the election of a Metropolitan. (Although, I would allow, if we had smaller, more numerous dioceses, with a true sense of diocesan community and shared experience, then perhaps this proposal would make sense.) But as Michael #2.1 rightly points out, such a change would never get approved.
#2.2.1 Nilus on 2009-12-23 06:12
Dear Nilus, Christ is Born!
You make your points beautifully but we must remain unreconciled because we may be coming from opposite ends in our understanding of human nature and Divine providence. Unlike Leftists, I do not believe that man can perfect mankind and that there is such a thing as a social Gospel that fits with my understanding of Christianity. What you find objectionable in the passage you quoted above, I find eminently sensible. Finally, I would not conflate our Church, which is indeed deeply conservative (in the sense of conserving) and fundamentalist (in the sense of stressing the fundamentals of the faith as we received it), with secular society, let alone "big" business.
I think it is all right to disagree and remain brothers in Christ. In that spirit, I wish you a prosperous, healthy and safe new year. Carl
#220.127.116.11 Carl on 2009-12-28 13:58
Well Carl, thanks for the compliment and well-wishes. I agree, we remain unreconciled, but I don't see that as a normal or acceptable situation. There's something discordant about the phrase "Christian brothers, unreconciled."
But I suppose I will remain flummoxed by your perspective, incapable of understanding how the OCA's endorsement of a political Manhattan Doctrine is somehow not a union of the Church with "secular society." Or how a social Gospel does not "fit" with your "understanding of Christianity."
In this civil new year, I would encourage you, brother, to abandon 'your understanding of Christianity,' and instead embrace the Orthodox understanding of Christianity.
In borrowed words, "To say that the Gospel principles are inconclusive when it comes to social justice is less credible still. You can split the pages of the Gospels and not find Jesus inveighing against abortion and gay marriage, to be sure. But when it comes to the rich and the poor, the prestigious and the oppressed, Christ's preaching and practice could not be clearer."
Let us part ways with George and his politics. We can defend marriage, and the unborn, but let's not be blinded from - or prevented from - other (perhaps more vital!) aspects of the Gospels and Tradition which our Church is called to proclaim.
#18.104.22.168.1 Nilus on 2010-01-05 09:19
Not all "leftists" believe that man can perfect mankind--likely very few of them do. What you describe as "social gospel" can also be called serving the poor.
The fact that the church is liturgically conservative in no way implies that all orthodox are politically conservative. They are two entirely different realms.
#22.214.171.124.2 barbara on 2010-01-05 16:12
I hope you forgive me for using this reply to also serve as a reply to Nilus. First, I do agree with you that we should not be involved in partisan politics. I simply do not believe that the Manhattan Declaration is a partisan one. I am aware that Democrats and liberals have taken umbrage but that is their problem.
I cannot agree that our Church is merely conservative in liturgics. Please note that I went to great lengths not to conflate "conservative" with the political philosophy associated with that or any political party. The Orthodox Church and her people take pride that She (and they) has conserved the faith of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. If this is not a perfect example of the plain meaning of "conservatism," I do not know what is.
Finally, I apologize for not being clear enough by the term "Leftist." It comes from a little known political taxonomy by an Austrian economist called Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, who wrote the following two books:
- Leftism, From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, Arlington House, Publishers, New Rochelle, NY, 1974.
- Leftism Revisited, From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot, Regenery Gateway, Washington, D.C., 1990.
A monarchist, Professor Kuenelt-Leddihn rejected modern definitions of Left and Right and developed a taxonomy based on whether an "ism" is based on the belief that man can perfect mankind, without Providential help. Leftists generally would say yes, while rightists would say no. Furthermore, all of the "isms" are aligned on a circle, with the north/south placement being predicated on the amount of governmental role that any particular "ism" tolerates/desires. To illustrate, Monarchists would be rightists but they would be placed on the lower right quadrant of the circle, quite close to Communists and Fascists who are o the lower left quardant. To illustrate the upper half of the circle, Libertarians as Rightists would generally fall in the upper right quadrant, quite close to Anarchists on the upper left quadrant. I like this taxonomy because it eschews partisan propaganda and considers belief in God vs. belief in man as a criterion. On the other hand, Western civilization has exalted humanism for so many centuries that this taxonomy has not found much acceptance.
So, on to both your and Nilus's objection to my use of the word "Leftism/Leftist" and to my implication that the concept of a "Social Gospel" is a Leftist ideological and partisan innovation. My problem is not with the Gospel message. My problem is with the idea that it is moral to save the planet, advance the Gospel message, whatever, with other people's money. I have no problem with folks banding together and deciding on equitable contributions to the common good. I have a problem with using/stealing other folks' money to satisfy one's philanthropic, religious or intellectual urges. In short, I am for a true separation of church and state, quite unlike the proponents of the Social Gospel. BTW, how in the world can one translate the teachings of our Lord that were meant for individuals to teachings that would apply to all. In this, I find hubris and humanism--not Orthodox Christianity as I understand it.
#126.96.36.199.2.1 Carl on 2010-01-06 18:12
As someone with whom I normally agree, I must say in this case you have managed, to borrow a phrase, to have skillfully put "lipstick on a pig!"
The intent here is crystal clear--reduce the role and influence of the laity and any independent, self-thinking clergy. Metropolitan Jonah from the moment he became a bishop has aligned himself with those who think the bishops are the primary, if not sole, decision makers, and everyone else is just a handmaid. We are still reaping the bitter fruit of an unaccountable and arrogant hierarchy that gives lip service to the Lord while aping the Pharisees and Sadducees at every turn.
This problem is endemic to hierarchical Christianity throughout the world, and is why an Archbishop Job, God rest his soul, stands out for his essential modesty and conciliar approach in stark contrast to most of his brothers. Hence the hatred, the marginalizing and ultimately the isolation visited on someone daring to walk, however imperfectly, in the footsteps of the Lord.
Until the imperial and autocratic model of church governance is thrown on the ash heap of history, Christianity, and Orthodoxy, will continue to reap the whirlwind of sin and corruption such presumption entails, i.e. the Grand Inquisitor in bed with the Evil One.
#2.2.2 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2009-12-23 07:42
Dear Kenneth Tobin,
I agree with your summary judgment of autocratic models of
Church governance. Vladyka JOB did try his best to align himself with the Blessed Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, 1956 January 5, 1880 – March 18, 1956 who was the spiritual root of modern day Orthodox Theology at St. Tikhon's Monastery and Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania in which humility instead of hypocrisy was the guiding pastoral care passed on by this archpastor of the seminary and monastery.
I have a very clear memory and pictures of the trip we made with Richard Osacky to St. Tikhon's from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) February of 1973 with Philip Zimmerman icon student of Vladyka JOB and later developer of the Icon Workshop at Antiochian Village in its better days, and the students of the campus OCF for the $1 charge of van rental the university gave us to attend the consecration of Father Joseph Swaiko as Bishop Herman, Bishop of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and Eastern Pa. of the OCA.
Sadly “the voice” exactly in tone and demeanor that Richard prepared for us in his imitation and acting role of the arrogance of the autocrat and egocentric, “I am the Archbishop” was true, of this despot Archbishop Kiprian (Borisevich) (1903-1980. Sadly too it has taken the church too many years to make the attempt to rid themselves of the rotten fruit this despotism brought to the church in America and how it disabled the Orthodox Church in America to rise to the many occasions in the last century when more needed to be done both at home and internationally to respond to the call of the Gospel of Christ which was being sold off by the church mafia and families represented as such.
The time for action is now. I agree with Kenneth Tobin we should be aware of the marginalization the autocratic rulers try to institute. My hearing bears that memory of the autocratic voice imitation, but my eyes hold the memory of the iconography of the scroll held by St. Herman on the ikon written by the same Richard John Osacky for the special canonization in 1970 at the request of his icon teacher Father Vladimir Borichevsky who helped prepare the special liturgical services to be used for the Canonization of America’s first Saint,
"From this day forth, From this hour, From this minute, Let us love God above all."
The words on the Banner held by St. Herman in this ikon written by Vladyka JOB (the younger Richard Osacky (1970) is the best authentic voice of all for me to remember. Vladyka Job’s attempt to share the Gospel as one for all is our memory and passed on to us at Christmas Monastery from his benevolence. This being in contrast to the autocratic Pharisaic dimension of those who preferred the buying and selling of self love at all costs, and only renting out an empty cover gospel with nothing inside but pride and arrogance to use their man made powers for control and abuse.
Dear Kenneth, Christ is Born!
I want you to know that I agree with the thrust of your closing sentence. However, I must disagree with couple of things that you said. First, I do not believe that Metropolitan Jonah "from the moment he became a bishop has aligned himself with those who think the bishops are the primary, if not sole, decision makers, and everyone else is just a handmaid." There were signs of such an inclination in Part I of his ruminations about the nature of the Church; however, they were contradicted by his conciliar vision in Part II. One must also consider the considerable peer pressure he faces, particularly from bishops who are not as open minded as he is; he may be influenced by convertitis, that is, the inclination to be more Orthodox than the cradle born; and he may have to say and do certain things to navigate the OCA in the stormy seas ahead. I think that his view of conciliarity is still developing and it will do no good to write him off prematurely.
Second, my life experience has not caused me to put as much trust as you apparently place in "the more, the better" approach. In may experience, the greater the conference, the less is done, except those issues that had been agreed to ahead of time. In my experience, one brave soul has a much better chance of swaying a meeting if people can readily see and hear each other, without recourse to audio-video systems. Besides, if the laity does not have a meaningful role at the parish and diocesan councils, what makes you thiunk that they will have such a role at the AAC? If they do have a meaningful role and such role is carried forward to the AAC, conciliarity will have been achieved, whether or not parishes or dioceses are represented.
With best wishes for a prosperous, safe and healthy New Year, Carl.
#188.8.131.52 Carl on 2009-12-28 14:16
Nilus, I don't advise letting the New York Times pick your friends and enemies. The paper's writers and editors are hardly impartial and not in any meaningful sense Christian.
#2.3 Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell on 2009-12-23 08:55
To suggest noone on the staff of the NYT is a Christian is rather silly. There are over 1000 journalists on the staff. The bias of the NYT is clear and I won't argue it, but the quote clearly highlights the source of the ManDec.
It wasn't our church leader or any other church leader.
Perhaps we need to add Professor George to the Entrance just before His Beatitude?
The facts are that these things, abortion, same sex marriage, and stem cell research are not things we experience in our everyday lives as Christians. The idea that sick people cannot get help, or that the poor cannot eat, that our neighbors need help seems like its a bigger deal.
Its a good thing we have Professor George telling our young leader what's strategically important? Metropolitan Jonah seems naive.
From my crude hack perspective, understanding Professor George is trying to steer Bishops away from helping the poor through any government action or any tactical approach and instead getting them to focus on gay marriage is a comforting thought. We won't have to worry about anyone who is gay or gay tolerant or poor joining the church or converting to Christianity and we can have an exclusive club!! Yippee!!
Thanks Nilus for the enlightenment.
I wonder if Metropolitan Jonah knew who his leaders were and their political motives when he signed it.
If I seem harsh, let it be known, I worked hard to back off my tone since it'd be so bad for Bishops to bother themselves with the poor in the context of all things.
#2.3.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-12-27 21:19
Father Deacon, are you trying to be ironic?
#2.3.2 Nilus on 2009-12-28 07:26
The problem is less Aristotle than Aquinas. Do we
really want to offer a Thomist justification for our
social teachings? In the Times Magazine article,
Dr. George seems almost amazed that senior
Protestants went along, and toward the end (to
his credit) admits to some fear lest he be leading
the church universal into error by overstating the
case for reason.
Personally, I think the most serious flaw in his
work is not the appeal to rationality but the assumption
that nature is unfallen. To the Scholastics everything
beyond the Moon was perfect -- many seriously doubted
that the heavens would pass away -- so "natural law",
meaning super-lunar natural law, manifested the
divine will. Not even all Scholastics regarded sub-lunar
natural law as having such a degree of moral force, and
modern cosmology wrecks the concept completely.
Hume, Dr. George's bogeyman, completely demolished
any necessary connexion between "natural" and "moral",
using arguments which seem quite irrefutable. To base
any ethical position on pre-Humean appeals to Nature
is to build on sand, and to invite collapse. John Corvino
has successfully answered most natural-law objections
to gay marriage using little more than Hume and
common sense; social conservatives who want to
defeat such champions will need better weapons than
Dr. George's high-mediaeval smithy can provide.
Norman Hugh Redington
#2.4 Norman Hugh Redington on 2009-12-28 21:45
In the current context of the OCA the Russian Church has become a monkey on it's back !
#2.5 ANON on 2010-01-04 17:25
There is no reason to eliminate all parishes from participating in the American Council process. If parishes can participate, great, if not, proxies should be given to others. Why would anyone want to limit full participation in the Church? Representatives are great, but many times don't represent their constituents.
Also, a strategic plan is absolutely necessary. What everyone must guard against are "dumb plans." These are plans geared at eliminating something essential to the Orthodox Church due to false thinking or personal whims.
#3 Another Mouse on 2009-12-22 08:25
Dear Mark Stokoe,
I would like to wish you all the joys and peace of this beautiful season we are experiencing...
I appreciate all you have done this past year for the AOCANA in reporting truth and honesty and uncovering so much. It means a great deal to so many of us as we struggle to get thru each week with more bad news and an uncertain future. You have given us the opportunity to read, to learn and to share with one another the news, our sorrows, our concerns, and this gives us much needed support of one another. You are one of the good sheep.
Even though the website was partially down for 10 days, it was a good break for all of us to focus on the Nativity of our LORD, and to step away from this. I promised myself I would not resume comments until today, and I feel healthier because of it. No matter what we do, anything to great obsession or extremes is not always good for us. Thank you for giving us that break.
May God bless you with good health and a very Happy New Year 2010, as you continue to strive for the righteous and appropriate things in our faith. May you be safe and well, and don't give up the ministry you are doing. It is helping us in many ways, despite what others think.
O.C.A. Hierarchy and members,
We must pause to examine our actions upon turning towards a new year. The egregious behavior that came from within ourselves victimized the very humble within our midst. Being guilty, as the masses within the orthodox community, I can only pray forgiveness from the individuals of the Orthodox Church for the unfounded persecution wielded by a sharp tongue. The intense bleeding of theses loving souls shares an example for all to take lesson. These persecuted Christians managed to continue to serve the Orthodox Church under false accusations, and provide comfort to those of us around them.
If fact we all should have been providing comfort to these persecuted individuals.
As the findings of the special investigative committee reveal no findings of wrong doing, the past will haunt our comfort in the future. We must not regress into denial of what must be done. We must correct the hasty actions from individuals who spearheaded this witch-hunt. The Orthodox Church must reinstate +Herman, and Archdeacon Klimitchev to the positions where God's hand originally placed. It was the intervention of the Evil One, through man, who displaced these martyrs.
We must urge, or furthermore insist, the individuals come publicly to ask forgiveness of these persecuted, and make public the acknowledgment of actions and words spewed unfoundedly. Obviously the extreme efforts of multiple investigative committees, along with public agencies to find wrong doing have come empty handed. In the aftermath it has left many loyal people bruised, and family members confused as to their Christianity. How dare we become judges and cast punishment before accurate facts are revealed. Should we expect this type of treatment from God. Of course not, how absurd. If there is theft, embezzlement, fleshly sins, among other accusations? If so present the facts. There is none. The most wrong doing may only be some sloppy accounting practices. If this is the case we all are guilty of this within our own personal finances from time to time.
+Herman, and others please forgive my hasty belief of the word put forth by the corrupt. Please consider the actions as human, and embrace the Orthodox Church as you did before.
#5 Martin Fraves on 2009-12-27 19:56
Its people like you that gives good people a bad name.get your brain out of stokoes website and you might be saved. Remember this is a gossip website.idoubt if bishop job said anything about st tikhons.however I do know the late bishop met with mt herman and asked for forgivness... What does that tell you about stokoes website...and you surely don't want to hear about the miracle that took place in detroit several years ago..I hope and pray the next bishope shuts down this evil website..
#6 Anonymous on 2009-12-28 15:15
Now that we have begun month #11 of the AOCANA mess, we approach the one year anniversary of our upturned lives in our faith. No one knows what the coming months will bring, and we can only hope and pray that someone will come to our rescue, do what should have been done months ago, and begin the process of healing and restoration of order to our Archdiocese.
I didn't get my December issue of the WORD Magazine. That's two months in a row now. I used to get it monthly by the end of the first week without fail. Does anyone else have this same problem? Have some of us been put on the "naughty" list, people who don't deserve to get their magazines any more, or is this just coincidence? I don't know, but it sure seems strange to me. Something is going on. Maybe someone can enlighten us all.
You might be naughty, but usually the Word gets there. I had to tell them to stop sending it (After a particularly galling photo of Arafat getting a jewelled cross from on the US clergy appeared in it). I think the magazine still has the standard "Address Correction Requested" notation on the back cover. That's particularly good since the Patriarch changed HIS address 1300 years ago and is addressed as "Of Antioch". These things take time, you see.
#7.1 Ba'ab on 2010-01-09 15:21
Dn Brian wrote: "The paper's writers and editors are hardly impartial and not in any meaningful sense Christian."
I would also caution against getting in bed with people who are like minded about abortion and same sex marriage, yet ignore or politically object to a major portion of the remainder of Christian teachings. And, the Sermon of the Last Judgment is, at least by the prominence The Church gives it in our Liturgical life, a major Christian teaching. He clearly stated who would be seen as sheep and who would be seen as goats. Does anyone pay attention when this passage is read - year after year?
Beware of being drawn into a form of political "moral relativism" where one supports the political party who's incomplete commitment to the Gospel of Christ happens to address the issues one thinks are "important", while totally rejecting the remaining fullness of the Gospel. Neither party supports the fullness of Christ's teachings, and neither party should be legitimized by The Church.
But then, it would take real moral courage to stand up and reject both parties, demanding a full adherence to Christ's message to receive our support, wouldn't it?
#8 Overseas Observer on 2010-01-03 10:49
Christianity will never be the basis for a political party in America. It can't and I don't want it to either. It ain't about being courageous enough to 'stand up' to anyone.
A Christian must observe a higher set of laws than the laws imposed on us by our government. Its really quite simple.
From the simplest of notions, 'love they neighbor' is not an enforceable law, for example. The government can't require us to do so. We are taught to and we learn to embrace and love doing so as Christians, or we are at least supposed to...
And, if Christian principle is in direct conflict with freedom, then count America out as a place where that principle will be upheld by the law. But that's okay, because I'd hate for Sharia law principles to be upheld by the law and I have to recognize that as a possibility if I accept or desire the former.
These are why when people say you can't be a Christian and a Democrat or Republican; they are wrong. Agreeing with a political position or a part of one is not equal to following a religion. Thank God.
#8.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2010-01-04 21:37
Our "Overseas Observer" quotes Deacon Brian Patrick Mitchell by way of warning us about political activities engaged with other conservatives.
His quotation from Deacon Brian is very interesting: "The paper's writers and editors are hardly impartial and not in any meaningful sense Christian."
The context of the quotation from Deacon Brian Patrick Mitchell (a friend of mine) indicates that our "Overseas Observer" thought it referred to the Manhattan Declaration.
Let me mention that, since all the principal authors and editors of the Manhattan Declaration are long-time personal friends of mine, whom I know to be very serious Christians, this quotation rather surprised me.
In fact, however, that quotation from Deacon Brian Patrick referred to the New York Times, not the Manhattan Declaration.
Moreover, the Manhattan Declaration steadfastly refused to do what our "Overseas Friend" accused it of doing: take the side of one political party against the other.
In short, our "Overseas Observer" may need to check his navigational bearings, for he is truly out to sea.
#9 Father Patrick Reardon on 2010-01-05 15:37
Very good Father, you caught Overseas Observer on a slip-up. I might not be a "long-time personal friend" of his/hers, but I will say that I almost always agree with what he (whomever he may be) writes, and whether OO's use of that quote is wrongly applied to the Manhattan Declaration, the substance of his criticism still stands.
I would like an an explanation of how your long-time personal friends over at the Declaration somehow avoided the pitfall of partisan politics. I would like to understand how now, in the aftermath of the Bush administration, there is a sudden need for conservative agents to declare "that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence."
I would like to know why the Orthodox Church feels that it needs to ensure legal enforcement of some of its principles (like "sanctity of marriage" or "sanctity of life") but can arbitrarily stop short of other core principles (like "sanctity of liturgy" or "sanctity of eucharist" or "sanctity of charity").
How can Orthodox tell non-Orthodox Americans that they are legally obliged to marry based on our beliefs, but then not follow through? If they're entering into a marriage based on Christian principles, then where are the laws requiring them to go to Church? Have babies? Have them Baptised? Become communicants at a parish?
I would like to know what specific policies, orders, or bills coming out of our government would require the Orthodox Church to "render to Ceasar what is God's."
And I would like answers that don't stop at 'Well, these guys are personal friends. I know they have good intentions.' Because from where I stand, the intentions seem to be to stir the pot, polarize the voters, and reignite the culture wars for political gain.
#9.1 Nilus on 2010-01-06 11:01
Let me expand my post for the sake of those who cannot deal with conciseness.
I am not suggesting that the Church should become a political player. However, if the Church is going to use political means or join in the political fray to further moral principals, then it must consider the total impact of that political action. Calling upon the government to prevent legalizing "Suzie has two daddies" while turning one's back on Suzie having access to routine medical care, food and clothing is not Christian. At least not in the fullness of the Gospel, as we Orthodox view it. Similarly, expecting the government to be the agent to tend to "the least among you" and not also calling upon that same government to protect all life is an equally flawed application of Orthodox Christian morality.
That said, however, it is not the task of the government to spread the Faith, it is the task of the faithful. The message of Christ one of self control, not imposing control on others.
You seem to know more about what I thought than I do. As Dn Brian cautioned against the Times, who's "writers and editors are hardly impartial and not in any meaningful sense Christian", I cautioned against getting into bed other supposed "Christians" who's political message is significantly short of the fullness of the Gospel, and therefore less than fully Christian. Not wanting to, or downplaying Christ's mandate to tend to "the least among us", is patently un-Christian. In short, I used Dn Brian's evaluation criteria for some of the authors of the Manhattan Declaration.
Further, Father, while the Manhattan Declaration does not identify a specific political party, it does, quite clearly identify political objectives that represent a partial, and thereby flawed Christian morality. As I stated, it is not just the Declaration, but the heterodox we climb in bed with to support an incomplete Christian statement that requires more discernment.
If my "navigational bearings" which lead me to expect conformance to the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage and the need to provide for "the least among us" as well as all of the fullness of Christ's Gospel teachings have me "out to sea", where, perchance, are you?
Again, if our Church is going to make a "bold declaration", is it so outlandish to expect that it be a complete and fully Orthodox one, rather than the incomplete message of the "Religious Right", who in so many ways are downright wrong?
#10 Overseas Observer on 2010-01-10 02:38
RE: The Manhattan Declaration
When Mother Theresa scolded President Clinton for his policies on abortion, was she guilty of getting into bed with the Republican Party or Right-Wing politicians? Was she ignoring the needs of the poor?
I am very much afraid that some of our brethren on this site have allowed the media’s interpretations of the Manhattan Declaration to frame their thoughts. It must be remembered that the media (right or left-leaning) have an innate inability to see anything in non-political terms. When a terrorist slips through airport security, for example, the first question from the media’s perspective is, “What implications does this have for Obama’s political future?” For the media EVERYTHING is understood in terms of politics, and we allow their understanding of events to create the context for a discussion that has nothing to do with partisan politics.
It was written here that issues such as abortion and gay marriage rarely, if ever, touch our lives as Orthodox Christians. Apparently there is ignorance of the fact that in some states pharmacists are obligated by law to fill prescriptions for “Morning After” abortion drugs. Apparently there is no knowledge of the fact that some medical schools require students to perform abortions as part of their OB-GYN medical training. Apparently it is not known that some Roman Catholic institutions have been forced to cease adoption programs that receive government funding because they would have been required to place children in the homes of same-sex couples. These are but a few of the coercive laws that are now on the books. Many of them were in effect during previous presidential administrations, but anyone whose head isn’t buried in the sand can see that the dam that held back a flood of such coercive laws has been breached, as many more are now being proposed and promulgated in the name of ‘tolerance’ and ‘equality’ including classifying Orthodox moral teaching as ‘hate speech’ subject to legal prosecution.
Such laws have been passed, and more will continue to be passed unless we stand up and say “NO” with a collective voice strong enough to have an impact on the direction of our legislative agendas. To do so is a political action, to be sure; but it has NOTHING to do with partisan politics or aligning one’s self with the Republican Party (God forbid!).
The idea that these issues do not touch our lives as Orthodox Christians is both a denial of our responsibility as citizens and of our Orthodox anthropology. We are to love our neighbor as our self because our neighbor IS our self.
With regard to the poor, let it be noted that it is the government’s responsibility to PROTECT the rights of the poor. To feed and clothe the poor is OUR personal responsibility. We ought not to equate advocacy of taking other peoples’ money from the public treasury to help those in need with fulfilling an obligation that is ours alone. It is no act of love to dig into another man’s pocket in order to feed, clothe, and visit the sick and imprisoned. It is not the works of institutions, but of rational sheep (persons) that Christ will judge.
I am quite certain I have opened myself to attack with these statements. So be it.
#11 Brian Van Sickle on 2010-01-10 17:47
I won't attack you Brian, but you have missed rational thought in your arguments.
Suppose my family earns an income of 100k a year. Suppose the government taxes us at a rate of 25k a year and for simplicity, 5% for social security. Under your proposal, say we reduce our tax rate to 20k by stopping supporting poverty through government and I'd be investing the other 5k in Bank of America equity securities and the gov stopped social security.
Under your plan, do you really think Americans would all give 5% of their income to stop hunger? And do you think the 5 grand in BoA stock would serve my retirement needs after BoA falls from 50 bucks a share to 4 bucks a share?
An interesting concept Brian but we all know it failed back in the 30s.
#11.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2010-01-28 17:13
I don’t quite know where to begin (although I might begin by suggesting that BOA at $4 a share might be a good buy).
It was surprising to me that out of six paragraphs written, this is the only fault that was found. My point, of course, is simply that the government does not owe its citizens a living (any more than does God); and it never ceases to amaze me how so many of those who will not themselves sacrifice much of anything in terms of almsgiving are the first to suggest that ‘the government’ or ‘the Church’ should do more for the impersonal ‘poor’ as though that were somehow virtuous, all the while conveniently forgetting that they themselves have riches they refuse to share with their neighbors – the specific persons they see and know. I am in no way suggesting this is true of you, Daniel. I was merely pointing to this a spiritual and intellectual snare that should be avoided. Almsgiving is one of the primary ascetic disciplines of Orthodoxy, along with prayer and fasting, but it is the one most of us hear the least about. I have often wondered why this is.
Please do not interpret my “with regard to the poor” paragraph as a proposal. It was nothing of the sort. The topic was the Manhattan Declaration (which did not address issues of poverty) and its critics. Some critics used the lack of mention of the poor as an excuse to decry both it and those who signed it. It is my belief that this argument leads nowhere for all the reasons I just mentioned, and in any case it wasn’t directly related to the purpose of the MD. Somehow, many have been deceived into believing that our tax dollars going to the poor (something to which I have no objection in principal) and almsgiving are the same thing. Clearly they are not, as former is imposed upon us and the latter is done in freedom (and, I would add, for the sake of love and our own spiritual freedom). Moreover, I found it fascinating and highly contradictory that the harshest critic seemed unwilling to have our leaders sign a document encouraging the government to impose Christian morality with regard to abortion or homosexuality, yet he seemed to be more than willing for them to encourage this imposition when it came to the poor.
On the other hand, I wholeheartedly agree with this critic that we cannot impose our Faith upon anyone. To do so would be a denial of what our Faith is. Nevertheless it is silly not to realize that all law is based on SOMEONE’S morality. For a government to make ANY law at all is to impose some form of moral standard on its citizenry. Laws based on Christian morality do not make a ‘Christian nation’, but they can and do protect the freedom of Christians to practice their Faith and create an environment that is conducive to living “a peaceful life in all godliness and sanctity.” Such laws are also pedagogical, for laws do help form public consciousness of what is right and wrong – witness the effectiveness of racial discrimination laws (on the bright side) and abortion laws (on the dark side). Still, we must always bear in mind “that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine…”
Someone’s morality will inform the laws under which we are forced to live; and while we Orthodox certainly would not advocate government intrusion into the private lives of citizens, what is tolerated or imposed in the public arena DOES affect us all, as I outlined in my previous post.
All that being said, I am not at all optimistic that the Manhattan Declaration will have much, if any, impact on the laws of our land. Sadly, most of the citizens of our Constitutional Republic appear to have lost their moral compass altogether, confusing evil with good and good with evil. I personally believe the best for which we can hope is that the primary reason for the Declaration is fulfilled, which is to say that the signers keep their commitment to obey God rather than men even when it becomes costly.
#11.1.1 Brian Van Sickle on 2010-01-30 22:21
I had a long workday Brian, and I'm pretty tired.
Suppose taxes are 25% and we make 100k a year, we'd pay 25k in taxes. If the government decides 33% of the taxes people pay support poverty, because it isn't supported well enough by Christians (and it isn't and you know it), then some 8,333 dollars would go to support poverty. How would you expect me to decide the best way to dispense 8,333 dollars Brian? Would I walk around looking for people that looked homeless and hand out a couple hundreds each Sunday? You and I both understand how impractical this really is..
And the idea that I don't like the ManDec doesn't mean I've lost my moral compass. I have decided I will not be intolerant of homosexuals; even if I accept it as sin. Considering that my maligned behavior toward homosexuals was hurtful and downright mean in my youth, my moral compass WAS off and is NOT any longer. Using the Uganda issue, I've got clear moral clarity in my fatigued state tonight and my awake state tomorrow. I know and understand that giving harsher punishments for 'proven' homosexuals is nothing less than prejudice; no different than the laws to protect selected classes of Americans like Obama did with the tougher hate crime laws. And Brian, sorry, but condemnation of homosexuals and even damning homosexual marriage does not mean we have a solid moral compass. It just means we condemn homosexuals and not a damn bit more. I don't understand homosexuality and I've decide rather than labeling it as perverse and condemning it, I'm going to stick with the facts. I don't understand it and that is it. And I don't care if my ex-classmate Gina decides she prefers the company of women; it ain't my place to decide.
I had trouble with the ManDec. I can't lie. For the very reasons you credit me with! You talk about me accepting welfare and abortion like they are cheese and wine! When, the authors and the signers only discussed the selected items cuz they were the meatier stuff according to the Professor himself.
I'm not perfect and neither are my ideas. I like a lot of your post. I find abortion to be morally completely unacceptable, yet I somehow am willing to allow it to be done in the law.
Those things that we find completely reprehensible to us, are not at all so to others.
And that doesn't mean our personal moral compass is off.
I've enjoyed our exchange. Thanks. Hopefully, I've been as clear as mud..
#184.108.40.206 Daniel E. Fall on 2010-02-02 22:45
Please realize that I love you, and nothing I wrote was directed at you personally. I tried to make that clear, but I must have done a very poor job of it. I know you were exhausted after a long day (I’ve certainly been there).
Never did I suggest you had lost your moral compass. That comment was clearly in reference to “most of the citizens of our Constitutional Republic.” Nor did I ever suggest we belittle, berate, or in any way diminish the humanity of any persons, be they homosexual or even worse sinners such as myself. And God forbid that the words, or even the thought, “damn them” ever proceed from my lips.
However, I would ask you or anyone else in as honestly loving a way as I know how to think carefully about the full implications of your statement:
“I find abortion to be morally completely unacceptable, yet I somehow am willing to allow it to be done in the law. Those things that we find completely reprehensible to us, are not at all so to others.”
When we use the word abortion are we not referring to the willful murder of a human person?
Can we at least agree that murder should not be classified among the things that are simply a matter of individual preference?
#220.127.116.11.1 Brian Van Sickle on 2010-02-09 20:19
I nearly entirely agree with your statement on this itself a dying thread.
In theory it is a resoundingly beautiful concept that abortion is murder and I can prove it literally.
A mother goes out to the field and cuts herself deeply with a stick of wood, destroying the life within. It sure is a clear murder by all things we know and understand.
But now, let's prove it like we would in an American court. Were there witnesses, is there evidence? Can we prove it wasn't a miscarriage? For a private life there is no possible way we can go about proving it is a murder by her hands, although if she were to bear the child and walk away from it, it is..
And we know it will and can happen. I've had others twist my too brief explanations, so I've become perhaps disgustingly vidid.
So, in a polarized debate, one says clear murder and another says can't prove a thing. And we move on to the next part of the debate.
OK, so we can't prove it, doesn't mean it isn't murder, right? Doesn't mean we ought to allow doctors to perform the procedures, right? OK, let's go with that for a minute.
Now, when it is made unlawful, the procedure becomes completely ungoverned and backyard doctors do it. And in the polarized debate, the person fighting against the murder says, fine, then let it happen unlawfully and arrest the evildoers. OK, so I'll even go along with that.
At some point we have another issue, which is the doctor says a viable life (the mother) is at deep risk if this child is to be born, or attempted to be born. Is it our place to decide who lives in this scenario? I don't believe it is and I doubt you do.
Another issue is an extremely deformed fetus, with little chance to live. Do we force this on the Mother or do we allow her to cut it away like an infection? Do we want this decision?
At some point, in the argument, when we weigh and measure all things and even a person accepting abortion as lawful agrees its murderous and black as hell, but they'd rather have it performed in a setting where it is safe for the mother, we split apart in our rational debate.
I will never suggest the highly overpracticed action of abortion, call it murder, is anything less than a person cutting themselves intentionally, or anything less than a person cutting the throat of a potential new life, but I will never agree the onus is on government or the doctors that perform the procedures and that making it illegal will stop it (might reduce it some). This is the place where the anti-abortion movement had failed for years. I think they've improved in the last 10.
And believe it or not, I actually am glad we have a movement against abortion. Need it badly. I don't agree that it is wise to spend resources fighting it as a legal matter and fighting Roe v. Wade is one of the biggest wastes of resources ever. Roe v. Wade is really only a case of federal versus state and an ideological argument about government, not abortion really.
The onus for is on the mothers and the best way to reduce abortion (you won't stop it) is to promote motherhood and for men to take wives.
My wife is in her 31st week of pregnancy, wish us luck.
#18.104.22.168.1.1 Daniel E. Fall on 2010-02-19 08:51
Agreed on most points.
We can no more stop abortion by law (Federal or State - it makes no difference) than we can stop theft, murder, or any other crime. This does not, however, mean we ought to make these crimes safe and legal.
In spite of how it may appear, I am not an ideologue. There are times when choices between two evils must be made in order to save the life of a mother, all the while asking for God's mercy. I happen to know personally a rather famous and very godly priest whose pregnant daughter was faced with such a choice, although I know that neither he nor she would have approved had it not been known with certainty that the life in her womb was already dying.
There are sometimes hard choices at the beginning of life, just as there are (FAR more often) at the end of life. Such choices should not be matters of law. But we both know that these 'hard cases' are few and far between when it comes to abortion - used as a weak excuse by TRUE ideologues (radical feminists) to retain their legal right to renounce their own nature. Except perhaps for these few radical feminists, the women of our country in no way felt themselves abused by the law or the medical profession during the nearly two centuries when abortion was illegal in most states. I cannot, of course, give an exact count; but it seems a safe assumption that the number of illegal abortions performed during that entire time was but a tiny percentage of the over 30,000.000(!) that have occurred since. Thus I simply cannot accept the notion that the law makes no difference. It no doubt saved many women - and men- from the temptation to sacrifice their children on the alter of convenience.
Getting off the subject of civil law:
For a truly Orthodox perspective of how we ought to understand 'hard cases' I highly recommend reading the prayers for a woman after misscarriage. Like everything in the Church, these prayers transform us by the renewing of our mind and bring all things into the Light of Truth. We had the sorrowful experience of praying these prayers when we lost our first grandchild.
May you and your wife never be in need of them.
Incidentally, our third grandchild is approximately the same gestational age as your child. I rejoice with you in anticipation.
I have enjoyed our exchange. Have a blessed Fast.
#22.214.171.124.1.1.1 Brian Van Sickle on 2010-02-19 21:50
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